The two of them eventually crossed into the town after half an hour of briskly jogging through the snow. Ruby could hear Maia muttering under her breath about the "damned cold" the entire time, only briefly pausing every few minutes to adjust her parka and shiver a little.
The town was, for the most part, quiet. The streets were nearly deserted, most people unwilling to face the bitter wind. A few brave souls were vainly attempting to clear the snow building up at their doorsteps, their faces hidden deep within their hooded cloaks as they fought the constant flurry.
Maia turned around, her hand clenching the sides of her hood together. "Looks like these shops are all closed," she said, her voice muffled. "You probably won't have much luck looking for the stores on the list I gave you. If you're feeling better, you could go back to camp for supplies, or you could just rest at home and get some more sleep."
"Don't worry, I'll find a way to get the supplies," Ruby promised. "I'm not going to let you down."
Maia frowned a little. "Just don't do anything… illegal, alright?"
"Sure!" Ruby answered, then whispered to herself, "At least I'll try not to."
"I heard that," Maia said, rolling her eyes.
"No fair," Ruby complained. "You have a hood covering your ears."
Maia grinned and turned back around, resuming their walk. A few of the main roads had been half-heartedly cleared with a snowplow, but the sidewalks were still covered in a thick layer of powdery snow.
"Aren't the roads just going to be covered with snow again?" Ruby pointed out. "You guys aren't using road salt or anything."
Maia shrugged. "I don't decide how the town uses the snowplows. I think we have road salt, but no one bothers to use it because so few people even use vehicles here."
The police station was just as Ruby remembered it—the dull, rectangular building built with yellow and white brick, the curtained windows spaced across the front. An iron fence surrounded the building, and the entrance was a metal gate with a scanner on the side.
"Well, the lights are on, so someone must have arrived already," Maia decided, pulling out her card and pressing it to the scanner. The gates clicked and began to slide open.
"See you later, I guess," Ruby said dejectedly, giving Maia a hug.
Maia smiled and tousled the young girl's hair. "Stay safe."
Ruby waved and watched the rabbit faunus longingly until she entered the building. Brushing the snowflakes off of her eyelashes, Ruby took out her tablet and swiped it open. After it loaded up, Ruby opened the message Maia had sent her and began going down the list of potential stores.
After a few minutes of browsing and thinking, Ruby realized that the names didn't really mean anything to her. She didn't actually remember their locations or even recognize them.
That's fine, I'll just go down the streets I know and see if any of the stores are open, Ruby thought to herself. I'm sure I can find some of the shops that way.
She began retracing her steps from the police station, trying to find the butcher shop they had stopped by only two days ago. It took her a while to make her way to the store, but she eventually found her way there. Unfortunately, a "closed" sign hung in the front window, and the chair behind the counter was empty.
Ruby sighed and adjusted the bandages around her eye. Next, she grabbed the doorknob and ripped it off, then smashed her fist through the wooden door and ripped the bolt out. Shaking the wood splinters off of her hand, she pushed the door open and walked inside, taking a quick peek behind her before closing the door. She attempted to shove the bolt back through the ruined door and into the slot in case someone attempted to come inside before setting the doorknob onto the counter.
A stack of paper bags lay on the counter. The display cases were empty, but Ruby was sure there'd be meat in the store room. If not, well then she'd have to go look for another store, or go hunting. Whichever one was faster.
She grabbed two bags and hopped the counter, heading for the door behind it. A hallway was to her left, but she ignored it, assuming that the storage room would be closer to the display cases.
The door to the storage room was, surprisingly, unlocked. The odor of frozen meat and blood greeted her as she walked into the decently-sized meat locker, racks of ribs and slabs of meat hanging on the hooks suspended from the ceiling. Her breath fogged the air as she took a deep breath and exhaled it. She looked around the room, wondering what to take.
Hung among the produce like another slab of meat was the shopkeeper, his arms impaled on two of the hooks, a third hook going through his back. Blood slowly dripped out of his lacerated arms and the multitude of holes decorating his body. He was nearly naked, only wearing a pair of boxers, as though he had been dragged out of his bed.
Ruby blinked in surprise and moved forward, extending a hand to touch the bear faunus's body. His pale skin was cold, his eyes closed. Yet in spite of his deathly appearance, his body suddenly shuddered as he took a labored breath, perhaps in response to her touch.
It took her a moment to recover and consider her options. On one hand, she could call the Maia, and thus the police, and possibly get in trouble for breaking and entering. On the other hand, she could call the police and possibly save this person's life…
She pulled her tablet out of her pocket, then remembered something and nearly snapped it in half when she involuntarily clenched her hands. Didn't Maia tell her not to do anything illegal?
She decided to call the police directly instead, attempting to remember the short string of numbers from when Maia dialed the police. The man left out a soft moan as she swiped her tablet open and she began dialing.
It was a few tense moments before someone picked up.
"New Haven police services, how may we assist you today? We are currently receiving a high volume of calls, so please bear in mind that assistance may come later than usual."
Adopting a breathy, whispery tone, Ruby gave the dispatcher a fake name and told the dispatcher the street the butcher shop was on along with the details of the situation. The dispatcher immediately sounded alert, her voice changing in intensity.
"Thank you, ma'am. Our officers and an ambulance will arrive shortly. Please stay where you are so we can ask you a few quest—"
Ruby immediately hung up and tucked the tablet back into her pocket. She ripped two sizable chunks of meat off of the nearest rack of ribs, then dropped them into her paper bags before sprinting out of the room. She hopped the counter again, ripped the bolt back out of the door, then ran down the nearest alleyway.
She came out on the other side of the alley, fortunately in a place she recognized. Slowing her pace, she attempted to casually hold her two bags of stolen goods as she walked down the road. The snow was still falling quickly, ice and flurry settling on her hair even as she brushed it off.
The dim morning light guided Ruby as she made her way to the noodle shop that catered to herbivores. That entire area was filled with shops that sold mostly vegetarian food product and vegetables. She doubted any of them would be open, but it wouldn't hurt to try. Besides, she could always break in and leave the money at the counter.
A little past the noodle restaurant was a grocery store that was not too unlike the stores back in Vale. The door at the front was locked, but Ruby once again broke off the doorknob and forced her way through the bolt. There was a little bit of noise as she opened the door, but it was otherwise mostly silent.
The grocery store was not too large, but it was still large enough to have a wide variety of produce to sell. Each of the shelves had a small misting device that seemed to periodically spray the leafy produce so constant maintenance wouldn't be required. Ruby wasn't really sure what Maia liked, so she just grabbed three grocery bags from the stand near the front door and began filling them with vegetables that she knew tasted okay.
Ruby was almost done filling up her third bag when the sound of slippers against wood emanated from a door in the back of the store. She quickly dropped her bags and began pulling lien out of her pockets, counting out the price listed on the shelves as the person hurried down the stairs.
She had taken the lien from her pockets and was holding it out as a peace offering when someone burst from the back doors holding a shotgun that was aimed at Ruby's face. The stranger wore a turtleneck sweater and woolen leggings, her hair pulled back into a ponytail. She had gleaming black feathers in her hair, light-brown skin, and was now staring at Ruby, teeth bared.
"You think you can rob my store just because you're a snake?"
Ruby blinked. "Uh, err, no? …Wait, yes?"
The woman snarled. "Don't play dumb with me!" She waved the shotgun menacingly. "You know, ravens kill and eat snakes all the time. I don't think anyone would doubt me if I told them I killed you in self-defense."
Ruby looked at her doubtfully. "Okay, I'm just going to leave now, alright? I'll leave the money here and—"
The raven faunus looked past her and frowned. "You broke my door," she said accusingly. "Did you leave enough money to cover that?"
Ruby hastily pulled some more lien out of her pocket. "Is this enough?"
"Are you stupid or something? Doors aren't cheap, especially not here in New Haven." The woman thought for a moment. "Alright, don't move an inch. I'm going to call the police and we're going to get this settled out."
"I would really appreciate if you didn't call the police," Ruby pleaded.
The woman scoffed as she slowly circled Ruby at a distance, heading for her counter. "You'll get everything that's coming to you, thief," she spat.
Ruby slowly set the bags down, careful not to damage the items inside. An explosion of rose petals later, she was standing right behind the raven faunus, one hand gripping the faunus's slender neck and the other ripping the shotgun out of her hand.
"Please don't call the police," Ruby repeated, the faunus choking due to the sudden lack of air. "Just forget I was here and—"
In a sudden whipping motion, the faunus grabbed the shotgun back while simultaneously elbowing Ruby in the head, disorienting Ruby despite her aura and making her head snap back. The surprisingly strong and agile bird faunus took the opportunity to force her way out of Ruby's grip, leaving a bit of her skin behind as she tore her way free.
In a single fluid motion, she turned around and pressed the shotgun against Ruby's chest before firing. The pellets slammed into Ruby's chest and made her grunt, knocking her back a step. The faunus's eyes widened just the slightest as the metal beads clattered to the floor, but she didn't hesitate in pulling back the slide to fire off another round.
Ruby attempted to sweep to the gun off to the side, but the faunus had already backed away out of her reach. The raven fired again, the bullets managing to rip holes in Ruby's shirt as she was pushed back, her aura beginning to fade. Ruby dashed behind the faunus in a shower of rose petals, but the when she arrived the raven already had the shotgun shoved up against her chest.
A wisp of dull black aura swirled around the opening of the shotgun. "Predictable," the faunus said, smirking as she pulled the trigger.
The dust-infused pellets sunk into Ruby's chest as they flung her backwards and into a shelf of vegetables, the leafy greens crunching underneath her as they cushioned her fall. Despite being disoriented by the roar of the blast and the force of the bullets, she still had the sense to drop to the tiled floor and mostly dodge the next shot, some pellets ripping the fabric of her sleeve.
Ruby found herself within arm's length of her bags of groceries. She scooped them up in an instant and dashed to the door, a trail of rose petals drifting behind her as she tumbled outside into the snow and made her escape. An outraged cry came from the shop as Ruby stumbled into the nearest alley and began moving forward, the thick snow slowing her progress down considerably.
Ruby clutched the five bags of groceries to her chest, ignoring the blood that was staining them, and began running horizontally on the walls to the sides of the alley, pushing herself off of the walls to build speed as she approached the dead end of the alley.
The moment she reached the brick wall, she jumped and slammed her boots against it, transferring her moment to run up the vertical surface. The sound of gunfire and a spread of bullets cracked the wall where she had just been as she ran up the wall.
Ruby cleared the roof with a few extra feet to spare, briefly soaring through the air, then landed on both feet and continued running. After a few seconds, she glanced back and saw the bird faunus hauling herself over the roof and glaring at her, the shotgun holstered on her back.
"I left all my money in your store!" Ruby shouted as she ran across the roof.
"It's not enough!" the faunus shouted back.
Ruby reached the edge of the roof and leapt to the next building. The raven faunus did the same, but her jump carried her much further than Ruby's jump, almost as if she were flying. She landed only a few feet away from Ruby, the roof shingles shattering underneath her feet despite her graceful landing, then whipped out her shotgun and took aim once more.
Attempting to do something unexpected, Ruby dropped to her stomach and slid over the edge of the roof, letting go of the shopping bags as she dragged her body and hands against the side of the building to slow her fall before landing in the snow.
The bags had luckily landed upright, most of the groceries still inside. Ruby grabbed them with her bloody fingers and ran down the alley. The raven landed in the snow behind her, ready to fire, but Ruby had already turned a corner and left her field of vision.
Ruby was panting at this point, desperately covering her mouth as she attempted to muffle herself. She was already injured and nearly out of aura, so she realized that she had to turn back and fight now, or else she'd eventually be shot in the back.
Thus, when the raven faunus came around the corner, Ruby was prepared, her fists slamming like a hammer into the raven faunus's midsection and her legs then swiping the faunus's feet out from under her. The black-haired woman let out a surprised gasp before thudding into the wall face-first with a crunching noise, blood spurting from her nose as she fell onto her back in the snow, gasping and dazed.
Ruby kicked the faunus in the side to flip her over, the raven's weak aura flickering out to the sound of snapping ribs. She then stood there for a moment, the faunus's heaving body that was wracked with coughs inducing visions of bloodlust in her head. She knelt down and gripped the raven's jaw, wrenching the faunus's neck awkwardly to the side as she gazed into the injured faunus's furious liquid black eyes.
Ruby gently brushed a few strands of black hair from the raven's cheek. The faunus responded by spitting blood into her face as she spat curses.
Ruby blinked and settled back.
"Sorry," Ruby said apologetically, wiping the saliva and blood off of her face. "I'll come back around with the rest of the money next time, promise. How much was it again?"
The raven tried to say something but only ended up coughing again, a rattling noise emanating from her chest as she turned her head to the side and dribbled blood onto the snow.
"Uh, I didn't quite catch that."
Ruby leaned in closer. "What?"
"Fuck… you…" the raven wheezed, weakly reaching for her shotgun.
Ruby pulled the shotgun out of the holster before the faunus could grab it, then, as an afterthought, stripped the faunus of her holster too.
"I'll, uh, give this back to you with the money," Ruby promised. "I just don't really feel like being shot again."
The raven glanced at Ruby's chest wounds and shook her head. "Freak," she muttered while coughing.
Ruby strapped the holster to herself and tightened it. "Well I'm going to go now," she said. "You need a lift back?"
The raven stared at her, eyes squinted. "What?"
"Do you need a ride back?" Ruby repeatedly slowly. "I can carry you."
"Is this some sort of trick?" the faunus coughed. "I get it, you got me already, you don't need to gloat anymore."
Ruby watched as the snow piled onto the raven's body. The faunus had one hand covering her nose as she stared into the sky, lightly coughing, blood trickling out from beneath her fingers. Another arm was wrapped around her midsection as she began to lightly shiver.
"If you die, I can't pay you back," Ruby said helpfully. "Unless you can call someone for help right now?"
"Tablet's back in the shop," the faunus simply said.
Ruby shifted a little on her feet and glanced at her groceries. "Well, um, I should really get going soon. Are you sure you don't need any help?"
The raven attempted to sit up, but immediately collapsed in pain, taking shallow breaths as she held her side.
"Ah, fuck it," the raven groaned. "You got me good. I think you broke my ribs. Sure, whatever, take me back. Let's just get this over with."
Ruby slipped the handles of the bags over her arms, then crouched to pick up the faunus, cradling her in Ruby's arms.
"Oh god, this is embarrassing," the raven faunus moaned. "I hate you so much right now."
"Don't try anything funny," Ruby warned her.
The faunus only coughed in response.
Ruby brightened up a little as they began walking. "Nice to meet you, by the way. I'm Rose. What's your name?"
"That's a nice name. Do you live by yourself in your store? Your store is nice, by the way. Sorry about the door."
Roxie sighed, staring into the sky in an attempt to distract herself. Hopefully she won't kill me before we get back.
THANKS TO MY EDITOR POZSICH FOR HIS AMAZING EDITING HE IS AWESOME FOR PUTTING UP WITH ME. Check out his stories!
Nothing else much to say here. Sorry about the super long hiatus. Next chapter hopefully within a week, along with the monochrome fic, although I might have to start revising some plans based upon the new information we're getting from Volume 2.
If you're still reading this, thank you for sticking with me!