Author's Notes: So this is the end of the road for Fire & Gold. I find it amazing that I could feel almost the same sense of relief and pride for just editing a work completed weeks ago and posting them up here, but regardless, this IS the mark of my journey as a writer, so I guess it's all right.
As mentioned before I'll be working on Ruby's Arc, and it should be shorter (yeah right hahahaha even I don't believe myself) than Fire & Gold as the beginning and more introductory story of the entire series. The hardest thing to write, as usual, would be the turmoil of emotions that I hope against hope to present properly. I was unfortunately far inferior in this regard as compared to by friend Ext when it comes to writing emotions; that woman could always make them run with the simplest and easiest of sentences.
Still, lamenting won't change things, and the only way to improve is to write. Once again, I thank you all for reading Fire & Gold, and I appreciate all the support you guys have given me! See you guys in about a month or so then! Ciao~
The next two weeks went by in a frenzy of restoration and rubble digging.
As expected, the city of Jiu Xu has suffered incredible damage and losses in just about every aspect imaginable. Almost all the bombs that had exploded that day were targeted at tall skyscrapers and setup in such a way so that the buildings would topple onto one another like dominos, and at least five thousands civilians were found dead and at with twice that number reported to be missing in action. While it was an impossible task to save every men and women trapped among all these wreckages within such a small window of time, the rescue progress at least has completely exceeded expectation. The constant flow of support such as manpower, capital, food and so on from every corner of Vytal and even the other kingdoms notwithstanding, the infamous elite combat school Beacon Academy too has sent ten Teams of students to aid in the rescue effort, and that equaled a total count of forty Huntsmen and Huntresses. These Aura empowered warriors helped out tremendously as many tasks that were first deemed impossible were accomplished rapidly with their unique Semblance abilities, and hence progress in that regard skyrocketed in earnest.
For the areas that were already cleared out, various reconstruction projects has begun immediately with the utmost haste. The appalling bombings have destroyed quite a number of areas and crippled countless infrastructures, and so entire zones in the metropolis have to be rebuilt from scratch and generally cost an obscene amount of funds and resources to sustain. Ironically, Jiu Xu was never the best planned metropolis since it was basically transformed from the ancient layout forty years ago, and thus the massive destruction has unwittingly opened up opportunities to plan and reform the city into a new and more efficient face. Cunning investors have already begun their move and poured huge amount of capital into Jiu Xu, and combined with the disaster relief donation they're getting from kind hearted people all over the world, the gathered funds might actually exceed their needs. Though of course being an underworld-centric city, no one's complaining about that.
Finally, there was the Yang clan. The truth of course were shrouded in mystery, and while there were people who suspected them to be the true culprit behind the terrorism, no one could deny that they had suffered the most out of every group or individual within the city. Initially, there were a total of four hundred and fifty two official members scattered all over the metropolis, with a concentrated majority of a hundred and twenty men stationed within the fortified compounds of the Yang family residence. And out of these one hundred and twenty brave soldiers, only ten men of them were left standing today and barely alive at the end of the tragic disaster. Even then, the men reported that they would not have survived if it wasn't for the miraculous help they received from an unbelievable source: a police inspector named Falcon who had somehow learned or their dire predicament and led them to the safety of a concealed passage at the inner wall southwest to the grand mansion. Later, as the temporary representative of her clan, Yang Xiao Long would personally walk up to the state police department and salute with the highest honor towards the wheel bound young man amidst the mass of shell-shocked personnel. But of course, she also reported that the concealed passage was now completely filled with concrete, and that he has exactly three days to pull out all of his informers – especially the one who had told him about the secret passage – before they all get a personal 'visit' from her and suffer some very unfortunate accidents. Falcon had simply responded to Yang's nasty grin with a proud middle finger of his own. Whatever the future might held for the duo, the rivalry between them was definitely not done by a long shot.
As for Master Ju Long, the central pillar and absolute authority of the Yang clan had suffered extremely severe physical injuries and was expected to be out of commission for at least a whole year. Even then, the real problem didn't lie with his battered and broken body, but rather the Demon's crude and forceful manipulation of his soul that caused him to lose practically all touch and control over his own Semblance. No one knew exactly how long it would take before the old man fully regained his powers, and it would not an exaggeration to say that Vytal has lost one of the most powerful Huntsmen in the world. Thankfully, the old warrior's psych hasn't taken too much of a hit, and he was too experienced in life to feel much sadness or disappointment over such things. The loss of his men and his family had hit the old man far worse.
Currently with Master Yang unable to assume command of the clan, the Three Guardians have all stepped up to help manage and rebuild the household. Lie Ren was a master of administration and management, and during the Master's absence he had singled-handedly managed the household's finance and other meticulous matters while keeping both vultures and allies dancing right above his palms. Without him Yang would not have been able to negotiate half the successful trades and support they desperately needed, not to mention handle the sea of endless paperwork that threatened each day to swallow her whole amidst a mountain of ink and paper.
Nora Valkyrie – to everyone's utter surprise – was actually charismatic in her own dastardly way. She apparently had a real fan club which when told in the past, was completely dismissed as nonsense talk even by her close friend Lie Ren himself. A week earlier, when she had stepped out and sent out a summoning to all of her 'minions' within the city, the Yang clan suddenly found themselves handling a group of five hundred volunteers willing to join the Yang clan and follow to the end of Remnant their one true Viking Queen, Nora Valkyrie. Needless to say, her partner had literally choked on his coffee and questioned in his mind exactly how sane these volunteers were in the mind. They desperately needed manpower however, and after a few vigorous days of testing the Yang clan official admitted two hundred or so people into their household and put them to work immediately, thus relieving a huge burden and worry from the trio's shoulders.
Yang Xiao Long played the charismatic daughter of the Wild Dragon and spearheaded through all the difficult negotiations and meetings to ensure the clan's survival with just as sharp an intuition and boldness as her Da, with the added advantage of her womanly assets to help secure a deal. She was also trusted with the ultimate power to make all the major decisions for the clan, and Yang had assumed the role with such capability and ingenuity no one had expected from the usually careless young woman. Without exception, anyone who tried too hard for the wrong things or thought she was an idiot were taught a rather painful lesson in humility, and not only she quickly restored the full support of the clan's allies, she also gained a high amount of respect and praise normally reserved only Master Yang from both enemies and allies alike. Within the short two weeks it was even rumored that the replacement was permanent, and that Yang Xiao Long was going to succeed her father's place as Master of the clan with aid of the two trusted Guardians of Yang, Lie Ren and Nora Valkyrie.
They could not be any more off the mark, however. Neither one of them had the slightest taste for leadership or management, nor did anyone believe they could stay that way after the too close brush with death and destruction.
"You guys are going to Beacon Academy? That elite combat school?" Yang tried to keep from showing too much surprise, "And in two months' time? Who's going to manage the clan when you're gone?"
Ren nodded apologetically at her apparent dilemma, "I've discussed this with Master Yang. He believes that he will be well enough to handle some of the minor matters again at that time, and apparently a close acquaintance of his named Qrow – another person from his old group, the Rose of Summer – would come over later this week to learn the ropes and help out. Master Yang seemed incredibly reluctant to accept the offer though."
"Haha! Of course he would be! Da hates showing weakness to anyone, friend or not. I guess everything's fine then! I can't wait to see the two of you in uniforms though; it would definitely be… worthwhile," Yang chuckled as she took a small sip from her coke while ignoring the daggers Ren was shooting with his eyes. The two Guardians were currently lounging about inside a nearby café during their small break, and the people bustling about the streets were just about as plenty as ever. If she pretended that the sealed off wreckage just at the corner of her eyes didn't exist, it could be that the disaster had never happened at all.
"Nora agrees to your plan? I mean, I know she follows wherever you go, but…" Yang said.
"She was in fact quite eager to go. I would like to think that even she felt the need to become stronger, but I guess conquering the world is a fine ambition as well," Lie Ren sighed and sipped at his green tea, before pausing for a thought, "Speaking of which, how is Ruby doing? She should have returned from her exploration by now."
A day after their war against the Demon, Ruby Rose has mysteriously disappeared with a note on the table of her room stating that she was going to venture down and investigate the black crevice where the statue had originated from. Ruby had believed that there was a hidden truth that not even the Rose of Summer and her master had uncovered, and she hoped to discover something during the exploration that might shed some light on the matter. Yang thought she was crazy to even think of venturing down that endless oblivion, but there was an undeniable ring of logic to it. If something like this was going to happen again, she wanted Jiu Xu to be at the very least ready for it.
Upon hearing the mention of her new friend, Yang started up excitedly and said, "Ah, about that! She came back this morning and talked to Da about it. Apparently there's a whole underground city beneath this one, and while Da and his old gang knew about it, at the time they were too occupied to do a thorough check. She didn't find anything else except ruins and more ruins though, and that was about all of the results of her exploration."
The blonde woman paused before sinking into a semi-serious expression, "I definitely think that there's definitely something else down there though; something very well hidden from casual view. When Bu Si Mian has first arrived to Remnant, he was described as a four feet tall with the face of a child. The Demon Da and his gang took down was that sixty meters tall giant bust – like geez, how did they even fight that fucking thing? Was everyone in Da's gang monsters? Good god – Obviously something happened in between that time, where Bu Si Mian somehow changed from its human form into that huge ass statue. Ruby deduced that it was a simple transfer of consciousness… and that someone had initiated the conversion by force."
Yang sank into deep silence again, and Lie Ren looked equally as troubled. It took her a good ten seconds before she realized the effect of her words and quickly added, "Ah damn, you're wondering whether you should go to Beacon, aren't you? Don't worry, nothing should happen for now – besides, we have this Qrow guy coming to our city, right? If he's really part of Rose of Summer then it should be fine. Just imagine it, Ren – another super elite Huntsman that is as good as my Da. I almost feel sorry for the Demons themselves, haha!"
"… I guess you're right. The way I am now, I cannot be of any help to Master Yang anyway," Lie Ren sighed and half-glared at his own reflection on the tea. Normally Yang would've teased him on the subject, but even she understood his feelings all too well. Instead the blonde woman simply lifted her coke in a gesture of understanding, and with a small smile the duo sipped their drink in mutual silence.
"So. When are you leaving?"
Yang very nearly spat out her mouthful of coke. After a rather arduous and clumsy attempt to swallow the liquid, the brawler glared at the nonchalant gunner, "Don't just go and say something like that while I'm… like why do you even want to know?"
"Because you already know about mine and Nora's?" Oh, she really regretted not spraying coke all over his smug little face, "Because it means that our work load would double in size? Besides, anyone with half a brain would know that you won't stay still. You're going with Ruby, aren't you?"
Yang threw up her hands into the air in dramatic fashion and said with a hint of disbelief, "If you already know then why do you even ask? And am I really that obvious?"
"We grew up together, Yang. Besides, what I guess does not translate to what you do," Ren picked up his spoon and began stirring his green tea with uncharacteristic hesitation, "Still, are you sure you want to do this? Master Yang understands your Semblance better, and he – perhaps even our new guest, Master Qrow – can help with your training. You won't fall behind."
The hidden meaning of his words need not be said. What Ren had said was in fact exactly the dilemma she has been struggling with for the past two weeks. Ever since Ruby's arrival and the near death encounter with an entity she thought to be a myth, Yang Xiao Long has been feeling incredibly restless and impatient. Back then, at the end of the darkest day of her life, she thought she had resolved to search for her lost friend Lily and save her from the hands of the mysterious group of warriors. Then there was the matter with the Demons too; she just couldn't ignore them now that she knew about their abominable existence. Yang had a feeling that if she travelled together with Ruby Rose, she would eventually run into those people again, and with luck and perhaps a little bit of force, the blonde woman had no doubt that she would definitely meet with Lily once more.
However, when she saw her Da struggling between the brink of life and death; that her supposedly invincible father was so weak that he could barely lift up a spoon left her both shattered and extremely hesitant. She wanted to stay behind and take care of him, and yet this desire was in direct opposition with her wish to find Lily. Also, if she simply wanted to become stronger – she did want to grow stronger – she could've just stayed and be tutored by some of the most prestigious Huntsmen to ever live in Remnant. She would in fact face far less risks and perhaps still be as strong as compared to travelling with Ruby Rose, where every stop may mean a fatal encounter with one of the most dangerous enemies of mankind.
In the end though, she had to make a decision. Ruby Rose would not stay forever, and she wouldn't even be surprised if the young girl was leaving this very moment. She had a goal she needed to see through, and after two weeks of delay it was in Ruby's best interest to hurry on her journey. There was no longer any time left for her to ponder and brood – she was no longer a child after all.
Yes… she was no longer a child.
Abruptly, Yang stood up from her seat and placed some Lien on the table. Lie Ren stared with a little confusion as the young woman turned her back towards him and walked straight for the exit. Was she angry? Perhaps he should not have asked her so directly.
Right before she opened the door though, she turned her head sideways to stare back with a twinkling violet eye and cocky as hell smile,
"Do I look like a coward to you?"
Yang hiked up the small hill with little difficulty, golden hair gleaming like an angel's halo underneath the bright, fine-looking sun. Standing right on top of it was a figure of black and red whose crimson cloak fluttering free as the wind. As she approached her, the young girl turned around with a mixed look between mild annoyance and a gentle smile,
"Finally made up your mind?"
"Yeah. Sorry to make you wait," Yang walked until she was right beside her, and looked downwards to admire the beautiful city of Jiu Xu. While it was partially destroyed by the hands of malice, and the scars of that war were all too visible from the view above, it was regardless still her beloved home that she was about to leave for perhaps a very, very long time. She was going to miss it. She was going to miss it so much that she might even cry in her sleep. But she will come back; and when she does, she's going to bring along a resident who has been missing her home for a very long time too.
"It's time we go," said Ruby Rose as she collected herself and trekked on without waiting for Yang. The latter quickly followed behind her footsteps and was soon walking right alongside her.
"Hell yeah, big sis! Epic adventure of all time and Remnant, here we come!"
"… Are you still not done calling me that?"
"Aw, but you're the boss, sis! Besides, don't you think it fits ya really well and is kinda cute?"
The duo warriors of bright colors, one red and one yellow bantered all the way until they reached some thick foliage and finally vanished from sight, leaving behind their trail only a petal of rosy red, and a spark of golden fire.