"I'm telling you man, this is a whole new life for us!" Ras declared while waving his hand to show off the setting sun. "We're gonna be Huntsmen in just a few years! I told you we'd make it." He took a long draw from his cigarette and shook the ashes off the edge of the balcony the two were standing on. They had only been at Beacon Academy for a couple hours, yet they had already managed to find a way into one of the highest towers on campus.
Sage was staring at the shattered moon, rising slowly from the opposite horizon. "I knew I'd make it. How you got in here with only the papers I forged for you is beyond me." He waved away the smoke Ras blew in his face.
Ras grinned maniacally. "Well you clearly did a good job, bro," he assured Sage. Ras looked back toward the bright red hue of the evening sky. "We're making sure we meet in the forest tomorrow, right?"
Sage let himself smile slightly. "Oh absolutely. There's no way in hell I'm letting you run around this place without me." A strand of green hair fell out of place to hang between his eyes. He glared at it angrily. Ugh, I need to get a haircut. He grabbed the lock and pushed it aggressively back into the rest of his hair.
Ras looked back to him and laughed. "Why do you keep doing that? It's just hair." Ras put his hand on Sage's head and ruined all of his careful work.
Sage let out a frustrated groan and tried to push his hair back into position. "Well it's just hair now," he responded, "but how long until I don't care enough to wake up in time for school? How long until I decide eating is too much of a hassle? I have to have control, or everything goes to hell."
Ras took one last breath through his cigar, then threw the stub into the air. "I don't need to have control, I've got the wind to tell me what to do." He glanced over at Sage. "I can show you how it works, if you want."
Sage scowled. "I don't need any of your mysticism crap; there's too much randomness in my life already," he said. "Including the other two members of our team." The idea of dealing with two others made Sage feel sick. All they'll do is slow us down. I don't need two more people to take care of.
Ras wasn't listening to him anymore. He had climbed up onto the railing of the balcony and was pacing back and forth, gripping the thin metal pole with his bare feet. "You know what? Sometime I'm going to fix that thing," he said, pointing to the moon as it made its debut on the horizon.
Sage gave him a look of derision. "Why?" he asked. "It's been like that for ages, what makes you think you can fix it?"
Ras stared down at him with mix-matched eyes. "Because I want to," he responded. "That should be enough, right?"
Sage sighed and got to his feet. "Sure, why not?" he declared, leaning on the railing infront of him. "I mean, all that's stopping you is money, time, manpower, and the fact that you can't fix a moon."
"You're contradicting yourself again."
"That was sarcasm, Ras. You can't fix a damn moon."
Ras rolled off his feet to balance himself on the railing by his shoulders. "Well that's what you think," he said, kicking his legs out into the open air behind him. "But when the two of us work together, we could do anything we put our minds to. If we were one person, we'd be unstoppable!"
Sage grabbed the front of Ras' shirt and pulled him off of the railing. "Please; if the two of us were one person, we'd be insane."
Ras cartwheeled onto his feet. "That's just a matter of opinion; if thousands of spirits can share one air, the two of us could share one mind."
Sage turned his head to him. "One air? Have I ever told you, you make no sense?" he asked.
Ras leapt back onto the railing, repositioning the bar between his shoulder blades and neck so he was balanced upside-down again. "Have I ever told you that you're no fun? You'll have to lighten up while we're here."
"And why are you here?" Sage spun around at the sound of the third member of their conversation. He froze in realisation of just who had joined them on top of the school.
Ras didn't. "I'm here to be a Huntsman. You're clearly too old to be doing that, so I'm guessing you're some teacher here, right?" he inquired while rolling off the railing and back onto his feet. "You look a little frail to be a Huntsman, are you just someone's dad who came with them?"
Sage immediately punched Ras in the stomach, knocking all the wind out of his friend. "I'm sorry for my friend's insolence sir!" he said, then bent down to talk to Ras. "What the hell is wrong with you? Do you have any idea who that is?"
The man laughed softly to himself. "I guess I'm not exactly intimidating anymore," he said, then held out a hand to Ras. "Hello, Ras Aryun. I am Professor Ozpin, the headmaster at the school you're currently attending."
Ras' eyes grew even larger than normal. "Please don't kick me out!" he cried. "Sage's the only friend I've got! I don't want to go home, my dad is mean and his mom doesn't like me very much!"
Ozpin had a slight smile on his face. "Don't worry, I'm not going to kick you out just for being honest. If I did that, there would be a lot less students who graduate." He looked past Ras to Sage. "I trust you'll keep him in line while the two of you are here, Sage?"
Sage smiled and picked Ras up off the ground. "Will do, sir." As he and Ras left the roof, Sage began berating Ras about his actions. "Never do something like that again," he ordered. "You were lucky that was Ozpin; any other teacher would've disciplined you. Then they'd see your records, realize I faked them, and kick you out."
"Well that's not my fault! How was I supposed to know he was the headmaster? I'd think a teacher or something."
Sage stared at him in disbelief. "Well even then, you shouldn't talk to any of the faculty like that. Are you trying to be an ass?"
Ras patted him on the back. "I know what I'm doing. Just trust me."
"The last time I trusted you, you sold our parents' car."
Ras beamed. "Well then you're a little too trusting, Sage."
Before Sage could respond, Ras took off down the stairs. Sage scowled and walked begrudgingly after him. By the time he arrived in the ballroom where the first year students were sleeping, Ras had balanced himself on one hand up against one of the walls. Sage walked up to Ras and crouched to stare at his step-brother's closed eyes.
"What are you doing?" he asked, regretting the answer before it was given.
Ras' green eye opened to look at him. "I'm meditating. Would you like to join me?"
Sage responded by grabbing hold of one of Ras' legs and dragging him over to their sleeping bags. Ras protested loudly, but quickly gave up and enjoyed the ride. Sage arrived at their destination and sat down. Instead of sitting like a normal person, Ras propped himself up on his head and elbows, folding his feet above him. Some of the students around the pair stared at Ras in confusion, but most didn't seem to care that much. Sage took a sandwich out of the pack he had left with the rest of his stuff and began eating it.
"God, there are so many attractive individuals attending this academy," Ras said rhythmically. "And all individuals I'll aspire to achieving amorous associations… um, what's a word that means 'with' and starts with an A?"
Sage looked at him with discontent. "I'm not helping you come up with perverted alliterations, Ras," he said, slouching over his meal. "And for god's sake, sit normally; you look like an idiot."
Ras made a noise Sage could only interpret as a sigh. "I might look like an idiot, but sitting like this allows me to see the world like no one else. It makes for a much better spiritual connection." He stretched out his back, curving his legs until they almost touched the back of his head. He suddenly squinted. "Hey, there's a girl looking at us: Long orange hair with black bangs. You know her?"
Sage rolled his eyes. "I don't know her. She's probably wondering why you're sitting like that."
Ras frowned. "I don't think so, she's looking at you." Sage's face turned a bright shade of red; he quickly sat up and brushed breadcrumbs off his shirt. Ras laughed at his reaction. "Dude, what the hell was that? I'm looking at you right now and it's not bothering you." He looked back in the direction of the girl. "Maybe she just wants to say hi." He removed his hand from behind him and began waving. After a moment, he stopped and pouted. "Okay, she saw me, then looked away." He glanced up at Sage. "That's a little rude, isn't it?"
Sage stared at him blankly. "You know what? I don't even care anymore. Good night." He put down his meal and rolled over onto his side.
Ras didn't take the hint to end their conversation. "It's not that late, why are you trying to sleep?"
Sage grumbled to himself. "Fuck off Ras." Ras understood him the second time and left him alone for the rest of the night.
Sage didn't remember when or how he began his first night of sleep at Beacon, but he definitely wouldn't forget his first awakening. He sat up with a pained gasp as Ras' foot slammed into his stomach. He leapt to his feet and took in the unfolding situation: Ras had been backing up from a fairly formidable student with short blonde hair and a furious scowl on his face.
Sage didn't even have to guess who had started the fight. "God damnit Ras, what did you do?" he asked. Just my luck that Ras would get into a fight before we even have our teams. If I'm lucky, he might make it until the naming ceremony before getting booted.
Ras looked at him with his usual innocent stare. "I don't know!"
The other student filled in what Sage needed to hear. "This little punk just stole my phone!"
Sage moaned and put a hand to his head. "Ras, you need to ask people if you can look at their stuff; you can't just take it." He held out a hand, and Ras turned over the device. Sage threw it to the student. "There we go. Now he'll say he's sorry, and we can all move on with our lives."
"No way! I'm not just going to let him get away with that!"
Sage turned back to the angry student. "Look, I'll handle this." He waved the guy away and turned to stand across from Ras. Just as Ras began to speak, Sage threw a hard right hook that landed just above his jaw, causing several students to gasp as Ras fell to the floor. Sage glanced over the gathering crowd, taking notice of a pretty girl with long, orange hair and dyed-black bangs. He hovered on her for a split-second longer, then reached out a hand to help Ras back on his feet. Once Ras was standing again, the group dissipated; each student going off to worry about their own petty affairs.
"Well that was uncalled for," Ras said while wiping the side of his mouth to check for blood. Luckily, he had managed to brace himself in time to not take any actual damage. "I wish you didn't feel the need to hit me any time I do something wrong."
"It's absolutely called for," Sage told him. "You don't learn anything unless I beat it into you."
Ras paused to contemplate for a moment before responding. "Fair enough," he finally said. "I'll allow it." He patted Sage on the head and trotted off toward the bathrooms. Sage went after him to make sure Ras didn't do anything else that might get him in trouble.
He surprised himself by keeping Ras from doing something wrong until the initiation started: the two stood side-by-side on the edge of a high cliff that overlooked a lush green forest, waiting for the initiation to start. Sage looked up and down the row of students that had assembled, trying to evaluate which ones would make good teammates. I'll need to wait until I can see them fight. Ras and I'll have to see what we can do to stack the odds in our favor.
Ozpin had joined them on the cliff. He was giving a speech about what they would be encountering while in the forest, but it was all things Sage had read up on before he had even gotten his acceptance letter to Beacon. He moved his mouth along with Ozpin's words. You will be monitored and graded through the duration of your initiation, but our instructors will not intervene. You will find an abandoned temple at the end of the path containing several relics. Each pair must choose one and return to the top of the cliff. We'll regard that item, as well as your standing, and grade you appropriately. Are there any questions? Sage scoffed at the few other students who raised their voices. He looked down the line, taking a sick sort of satisfaction in the nervous glances of some of the more delicate looking students.
A loud noise came from the end of the line; a figure went flying into the sky above the forest. Sage sighed and braced himself. Here we go. I need to find Ras as soon as possible, then get to the temple and figure out the pairing system before anyone else takes the pieces we need. The sounds began getting closer, and Sage saw Ras fly into the sky out of the corner of his vision. A moment later, Sage was catapulted through the air toward the forest.
Sage pulled Ortus and Occasus off of his waist and spun the chambers to black dust. He leveled them at the fast-approaching ground and began firing both guns off, creating thick, black muzzle flares after each pull of the double triggers on each weapon. The recoil slowed him enough for Sage to crash through the thick forest canopy without much damage. He planted both feet firmly on the forest floor and quickly scanned the area for any signs of Grimm. The chambers of both revolvers snapped out of their places and two charred vials shot aggressively out of them, dropping into the grass while leaving light smoke trails as they fell. Sage pulled two more vials out of his jacket and stuffed them into his guns' chambers, then spun the chambers back into his guns and began walking through the underbrush to try and find Ras.
After several minutes of stumbling through the forest, Sage found him sitting in the centre of a small clearing. His legs were folded and his eyes were closed. "Having fun?" Sage asked while he made his way toward Ras.
Without opening his eyes, Ras looked in Sage's direction. "Sage, is that you?" he asked. At Sage's conformation, Ras cracked open his eyes and leapt to his feet. "See? Told you it'd work," he said. "Ozzy told us that the first person we make eye contact with is our partner; I can't make eye contact if my eyes are closed."
Sage turned to scan the treeline for any other students. "It might be a technicality, but it's a good one." He turned back to Ras a cracked a smile. "Now let's get to the temple so I try and figure out how the teams are getting set."
Ras shot back an identical smile, and the two took off into the forest. Both leapt off the ground and began travelling through the branches of the trees. Ras may have been faster, but Sage was more prepared; he had spent months learning everything he could about the initiation, including the Emerald Forest itself. The Emerald Forest has heavy tree coverage; traveling by tree branches is much more effective then traveling over ground. That species of tree has incredibly soft wood, the branches are prone to bending and breaking. He leapt past the branch, using his revolvers to push himself far enough to land on a thick limb of a much more suitable tree. The average height of the trees in the forest is roughly nine metres, so the average height of branches is about six. He and Ras kept moving, occasionally throwing a long swipe or kick to cut off a limb in their way. Any time an arm fell to the forest floor, Sage could hear Ras give an apology to the spirits of the tree it came from.
Their going was surprisingly peaceful. This is strange. From what I read, each initiate had an average five Grimm encounters. He thought for a moment, then grinned. Maybe our classmates are holding up most of the curve for us. That'll make things easier. A sudden, high-pitched scream made Sage and Ras stop.
"What the hell was that?" Ras asked, perched on a branch a few metres infront of Sage.
Sage rolled his eyes. "Probably one of the other students that ran into some Grimm. She sounds close; let's get out of here before the Grimm finishes her off and comes after us."
Ras stared at him in disbelief. "How can you think like that?" he asked. "We're going to help her."
Sage let out a small whine. "Do we have to? I don't want to risk my neck for someone who can't fight off a couple monsters."
Ras turned toward the direction the scream had come from. "I couldn't live with myself if I knew I could have saved someone from dying. Existence as a spirit isn't much of an existence at all."
"I thought spirits were a good thing."
Ras glanced back over his shoulder. "They are, but there's so many amazing things that happen while you're alive. Having to lose all those moments because you were left alone is no better than never living at all." He turned back to the dense forest infront of him. "You can go to the temple if you like. I'll meet you there after I help her."
Sage sighed in defeat. "Ah damnit, fine; it shouldn't take too long anyway. Let's go save us a student." Ras gave a cheer and took off across the tree limbs toward the student. Sage muttered to himself and launched off his own perch, following Ras through the foliage.
It didn't take them long to arrive at the scene. A small girl with blonde hair and a boy with a partially shaved head were backed up against the trunk of a great fallen pine. The girl was holding a drum-fed crossbow, while the boy was wielding a long staff. Between the two pairs of students were three enormous Ursa bearing formidable spikes. Great, it just has to be three. If there were two, it'd be easy. Three is such an awful number. He took notice of two other Ursa near the base of the fallen tree; several quarrels were lodged into each beast. So at least they managed to take out a couple of them. Good for us; five Ursa is definitely not worth it. Sage began thinking of possible attack plans when Ras spoke up and broke his concentration.
"I know you always come up with the plans and stuff, but I've got an idea."
Sage turned to him. "Are you sure? I'm always the brains," he told Ras.
"Ya, ya; I'm always the distraction. But this time, I want to be the brains."
"But that makes me the distraction," Sage informed him. Ras nodded in conformation. Sage sighed. "Okay, fine. We'll do it your way. What do you want me to do?"
"Simple. Jump down and get the Ursa to focus on you. I'll climb around behind them and take out the big one in the middle. You can handle the other two, right?" Before Sage could answer, Ras took off across the trees to get into position. Sage cursed under his breath and dropped to the forest floor, not twenty metres behind the Grimm.
"Hey, you furry bastards!" Sage yelled at the Grimm. "Over here!" He pulled Occasus out of its holster and fired a couple shots off into the air. As the three beasts turned to face him, Sage drew Ortus, and flipped both revolvers into long, wide cutlasses. Okay Ras, I've got them distracted. Make your move now. The Ursa began moving toward him, yet Ras never made his appearance. Sage gritted his teeth and took up a stance. Great, the first time I let Ras be the brains, and I'm left hanging.
The two smaller Ursa rushed forward, closing in on Sage. As the Grimm came at him, Sage extended each sword into a short spear and angled the long blades at the throats of the monsters. The silver blade found its way into the base of one Ursa's neck; the gold blade pierced the other just under the jaw. Sage reached forward to get his hands around his weapons' triggers and began firing rounds into each Grimm. After a couple seconds, he pulled his weapons to the side, slicing open the necks of each monster as they fell into the dirt.
The sound of machinery and splintering wood announced Ras' arrival as he shot out of the crown of a tree, the chain-dirk on his legs buzzing wildly. He sailed through the air, spinning as he came down onto the back of the final Ursa's neck. It screamed and tried to reach up to grab Ras, but only for a few moments before it collapsed to the earth to join its brethren. Ras pulled his chain-dirk out of the Ursa's neck, hid the chainsaw, and began mumbling something under his breath.
"Um… what is he doing?"
Sage turned his attention to the male student he and Ras had just saved. "He's wishing the Grimm's spirits well in the afterlife," he said. His revolvers forcefully ejected two more dust vials.
That clearly raised more questions than it answered. "But Grimm don't have spirits…" the girl started to say.
Sage sighed. "I know. Try telling him that," he said while reloading his weapons.
Ras finished his prayer, then spun around to face the two he and Sage had just saved. "So… hello," he started with. "My names Ras and this is Sage. Considering we just saved you, I believe some thanks are in order?" Normally, that kind of speech would get Ras a swift punch in the stomach, but Sage let it slide.
The comment caught the two students off guard. "Oh… um, okay. Thanks, I guess…" the guy said. "So… want to team up to reach the temple? You guys seem really good at fighting these."
Sage almost laughed. "Excuse me?" he asked. "We just saved your ass. We've no more obligations to help." He turned from the pair and waved them away. "But you managed to take out two Ursa yourselves, so, good luck to you; hope you make it out in one piece."
The girl tried to protest, but Ras cut her off. "I'm terribly sorry, but that's the way we roll. Look on the bright side: you probably won't have us as teammates. Sage's kinda an asshole, and I'm terrible to get along with." He ran past Sage and leapt into the high branches, leaving the two students confused and standing in mud, grass, and Grimm blood.
Sage launched himself into the air to follow Ras through the canopy. They continued for several minutes before Ras suddenly froze in place. Sage had to roll out of the way to keep from running into him, instead slamming into the branch he was standing on. "Dude, what the hell?" Sage asked.
Ras pointed to a massive pine to his right. "I can climb that," he declared.
"Yes you can; good to know, Ras."
The sarcasm was lost to Ras. "I can climb up to the top and see where the temple is. It's a good idea, right?"
Sage chuckled to himself. "You know what? Sure, why not? We've got time to kill."
The pair jumped through the trees until they arrived at the colossal pine. It was nearly twice the height of any in the surrounding area, easily dwarfing the rest of the forest; they hadn't even made it up the entire tree before they were more than high enough to see everything the green canopy of the forest allowed. The far side of the forest dissipated into a large crevasse with ancient archways spider webbing their way across the expanse. Everything between the two and the ruins was filled with the deep green leaves of the Emerald Forest, except for a number of small clearings, one of which housed a small, grey rotunda in the centre.
"There she is!" Ras exclaimed. "That couldn't be too far; maybe three or four miles?"
Sage grinned. "I didn't think it'd be this easy." He looked above him at Ras. "Can you see what's going on down there?"
"Sure man, just give me a minute." Ras closed his eyes, then opened his right. Instead of the normal deep blue, it was a startling maroon. "Doesn't look like anyone's down there," he began. "But we're still way too far for me to even begin making out what the relics are. As far as I can tell, no one has gotten there yet."
Sage couldn't have hoped for a better answer. Good. If we hurry, I can keep us from getting teammates who don't know what they're doing. "Good to know; it'll probably take us about fifteen minutes to get there, so we should probably get moving."
He heard Ras groan, and the branches above him began to sway. "Um, can I stop doing this? It's giving me a headache."
Sage chuckled to himself. "Ya, we're fine now." Ras closed his eye again; when he reopened it, it had returned to its original colour. Ras planted his dirk into the trunk of the pine and revved the saw's engine. He flew down the trunk toward the forest floor. Sage carefully hoped down the larger branches until he made it back into the forest ceiling.
Once Sage broke the canopy, he saw Ras carving a picture of his symbol into a tree trunk with his weapon. Sage grumbled to himself. "Really?"
Ras smirked. "I was waiting for you." He climbed up onto the branches of the tree, then pointed off in the direction of the temple. "So shall we get going?"
Sage wove his fingers together and popped his knuckles. "We shall." The two began leaping from tree to tree once more, racing the rest of the students and each other toward the temple. Sage was delighted with the fact that, other than a small group of Beowolves that didn't last long against the two, no Grimm encounters were made by the time they reached the temple. Sage slowed himself and stopped on a branch just before the clearing. Ras didn't realise how close they were, and sailed past the trees to smash into the ground.
Sage laughed at him while walking over to help dig Ras out of the dirt. "Grade A landing there, bro."
Ras climbed unsteadily to his feet. "What are you talking about? That was a terrible landing." Sage's few seconds of silence were enough to drill through Ras' head. "You're fucking with me aren't you?"
Sage patted him on the back. "Good; you're learning." He walked past Ras, making his way toward the circle of stone pillars that marked the temple. As he entered, Sage scanned each pedestal, noticing thick rectangular objects on each. What he was more concerned about were the three pedestals that were empty. Well it was to be expected; of course we're not the first ones here.
"Hey, what are these things?" he heard Ras ask. Sage spun around and saw Ras holding one of the objects. "They're playing cards or something."
Sage furrowed his brow and grabbed one of the cards off of a pedestal beside him, a card boasting a picture of a man in a carriage being drawn by two sphinxes on it. So, these are what Ozzy chose; it's clever. He put it back down on the pedestal and turned back to Ras. "Hey, these are Tarot cards, see if you can find two of the same one."
Ras nodded and began looking at all of the relics spaced out around the rotunda. After a few moments, he spoke up. "Sage, it'd be a crime if we didn't take this." Sage went over to join Ras at the card he was looking at. Once he saw the card, Sage grinned.
The card had a large sun in the centre, with a young child riding a white horse in the foreground. Sage and Ras looked down at the tattoos they both had gotten on their right forearms. While both were of their respective family symbols, each tattoo had a sun in the centre.
"Well, the sun's a good one: opportunities, success; endless possibilities." He patted Ras on the back. "Good choice, bro." He scanned the rest of the cards until he came across another sun card. Sage showed it to Ras, then slipped both into his jacket.
"So what do we do now? Just sit around and wait until you give that card to someone?" Ras asked.
Sage chuckled to himself. "Better than that. I know how the teams are set up; I can put almost every person in our class onto the perfect team." He found his way on to the top of the rotunda. "Essentially, I have the ability to make every team the way I see fit; I'm not passing on an opportunity like this."
Ras looked out over the clearing, then shrugged and climbed up beside Sage. The two laid back on the hard stone slabs, discussing future ideas and plans for their time at Beacon. Periodically, a group of students would come crashing through the underbrush, sometimes being chased by monsters, sometimes not. Ras would greet them with enthusiasm while Sage pointed the pairs toward relics that would get them a good team. And some say I only help myself; most of these people would have no idea who they'd be getting if not for me.
After sitting on the top of the temple for nearly twenty minutes, Sage noticed that there was only a third of the relics remaining. "The pool is running low," he mentioned. "Most of the students have been through already, and I still haven't found a pair that'll work well with us." As his mind ran, he suddenly had an awful thought. "Ah shit, what happens if I don't find anyone, and we get stuck with the two we met earlier?"
Ras pointed out toward the tree line. "I doubt it, look who just showed up." Sage looked to where Ras was pointing.
The black-haired boy and his blonde partner were pushing their way through the dense forest foliage. The boy was waving his staff infront of him; the head of which emitted a pale green light that was withering the plants infront of him. His partner was pointing her crossbow into the forest behind them. Sage watched the pair as they finally broke out of the brush and came toward the rotunda.
The girl was wearing a white plate skirt that ended just above her knees, and a silver cuirass with a small azure cape falling over her left arm. Her hair had lines of blue crossing through it and a small gold ringlet keeping most of her hair out of her eyes. Her partner had a pair of plain cloth pants with a large silver belt to hold them up. He was wearing a light shirt with a high collar underneath a heavy black cloak that split in two at the base of his neck, fanning out to each side as he walked. They both kept their backs to the rotunda, scanning the forest for something.
When the pair had made it halfway to the rotunda, a herd of eight Boarbatusk came crashing through the treeline. Ras leapt to his feet, but Sage put a hand on his chest before he could jump into action. "Don't. I want to see how they fight; if the situation gets bad, we can jump down to help." Ras glanced down at the gathering group of Grimm, then nodded and rolled back onto his shoulders.
Sage heard the girl yell something at her partner, who nodded and began spinning his staff lazily in his hand. As several of the Grimm charged toward them, he swung his weapon to make a large green glyph, which fired several small beams that each sought out and pinned a Grimm in the air. The girl started forward, firing quarrels from her crossbow into the soft underbellies of each monster her partner was holding in the air.
Several more Boarbatusk rolled toward the girl. Her partner drove the head of his staff into the ground, making a wave of energy that slammed into the Grimm and knocked them out of their rolls. The girl expanded her crossbow into a long halberd, then dug the point into the earth and vaulted herself over the corpses of the monsters she'd already killed. As she landed she spun her halberd again, this time landing the sharp edge of the weapon on the skull of one Boarbatusk, cleaving its head in two. She decapitated the remaining stunned creatures, then gave an enthusiastic fist pump. Sage couldn't help but be surprised by the pair's improvement from their last encounter. Why weren't they doing this before? As the pair came toward the rotunda, the boy noticed Sage and Ras on top of the ruins.
"What the hell are you two doing here?" he asked. "Sitting around, waiting to gloat about how awesome you are?" He collapsed his staff and slid it into the folds of his cloak.
Sage chuckled to himself and leapt down to speak to them on equal ground. "Oh no, we're just waiting until another pair comes by that I want in our team." He motioned toward the Grimm corpses scattered across the clearing. "And I have to ask; why weren't you two fighting like that when we ran into you guys before? That's the kind of stuff I'm looking for."
The girl answered him this time. "We weren't working together, you just caught us at a bad time!" She paused for a moment, taking in all of what Sage had told her. "And what if we don't want to be on your team? What'll you do then?"
Sage laughed. "Oh please, I've a better pair for the two of you. Neither I nor Ras can take a hit very well; you'll be needing a tank."
The other pair looked at each other in confusion. "A what?" the girl asked.
Ras stepped in to take her question. "A tank. A person who can take some hits, so you don't have to rely on running around all the time during a fight. We've been waiting for a pair with a tank for about a half-hour now, but none of them have matched Sage's standards."
The boy raised his hand. "Quick question; how do you know who you'll be getting? Professor Ozpin never told us how we were being teamed up."
Sage gave a snide smile. "Oh, my dear, naïve… um, what's your name?"
The boy sighed. "Terran."
Sage snorted. "Really?"
"You're named after a plant."
Sage's smug look quickly faded into a frown. "Okay, fair point." He pulled the two Sun cards out of his jacket. "These are the relics Ozzy chose; they're Tarot cards. When Ras and I arrived, we noticed that there were two of each type. That means that each team is made by putting together the pairs that choose the same cards."
The girl furrowed her brow. "And what happens if you're wrong?"
"If that's true, um…" Sage motioned to the girl, trying coax a name out of her.
She rolled her eyes. "Cielo."
"Ah, thank you. If that's true, Cielo, then every first-year team at this school is going to suck." He walked into the rotunda and grabbed one of the cards. "Here you are, The Centurion. A pretty good one: honor, pride, victory, and the like. The other two are a redhead with a fancy fragmentation sword and that really pale girl who juggles scythes."
Cielo took the card and began to look over it. "So are you sure this is right?"
"What, do you not trust me?"
Terran answered for her. "To be honest, we don't really have that good a reason to trust you. What if you're purposely giving us terrible partners to make it harder for us here?"
Sage sighed. "If there's one thing you can rely on me for, it's to make sure that everything is as good as I can possibly make it." He pointed off toward the school. "You'll want to head out that way; it'll take you about an hour to make it back, so long as you don't run into any problems."
Terran still seemed suspicious, but Cielo decided that Sage's explanation was good enough. "Well alright then, I guess we'll see you later!" She spun around and began marching toward the distant school. When she noticed that Terran wasn't following, she gave a cold glance back. "Why aren't you coming? I said we're leaving, and you're not leaving. That is treason."
Terran frowned. "I'm sorry, but I don't think we should take it." He turned to address Sage. "I'm not sure we should trust you; why would you waste so much time out here, just to give yourself the perfect team? I think you're trying to sabotage everyone else while you're at it."
Cielo gave Sage no time to respond. She quickly grabbed the edge of Terran's cloak and began dragging him toward the forest. "I don't care if he's given us the worst team on the planet; the picture on the card looks cool and I want to keep it." Terran tried to protest, but was consistently quieted by Cielo whenever he began to speak.
When they reached the treeline, Cielo let him regain his footing. "Are you sure it's a good idea to take it?" he asked.
"Yes, and since I'm the one with the card, I get to make the decisions. Now, let's go!" Cielo took off into the trees, with Terran reluctantly following her.
As the pair disappeared from sight, Cielo singing a marching song while Terran walked in silence, Ras tapped Sage on the shoulder. "So he was totally whipped, right?"
Sage grinned. "Oh, religiously."
The next ten minutes occupied the two by giving them three more pairs, each one being passed off by Sage. He and Ras handed out the three remaining cards to the pairs, leaving the second card in Sage's jacket the only relic left.
"Oh my god," Ras remarked. "You seriously didn't pick a single one. The only people left are the ones who took the longest to get here." He laughed to himself. "You pissed?"
"Yes I'm pissed," Sage growled at him. "I should have gone with the guy that had the flail and the girl with the harpoons." He stared out at the forest. "But now we're stuck with whatever failures finally pull themselves out of the woods."
"What happens if the two we're waiting for died?"
"Then I guess I'd consider us lucky." Sage raised both of his revolvers above his head and began firing them as fast as possible. Hopefully our little teammates can pull their heads out of their asses long enough to see this. After reloading, he stretched out on the temple and stared at the sky. This is going to be terrible. We were the fourth pair out of twenty; what happened to get us stuck with the last people to show up? He propped himself up on his elbows, looking toward the school. We could have made it back to the school by now. He slammed his fist into the stone. Fuck! It wasn't supposed to go like this! The sounds of breaking branches made both of them jump to their feet.
"Did you here that?" Ras asked, crouched the edge of the stone slabs.
Sage narrowed his eyes. "Yes. This must be the second half of our team." He looked down at Ras. "Ready to see what we're stuck with for the rest of our time here?"
Moments later, the trees exploded into the body of a large King Taijitu chasing two girls. The students rolled away from a bite from the black half of the beast and tried to draw its attention away from the ruins. As Sage watched, he realized that one of the girls was the same one Ras had been talking about the night before; her long orange hair flying out behind her as she continued to dodge the Grimm. Her partner had oil black hair that was held up in a thin ponytail, giving it the appearance of a whip. The redhead was unarmed as far as Sage could see; the other girl was holding a large red shield and sword, each trimmed in bright gold.
As the black head chased after the red-haired girl, the white one moved toward the girl with the sword. As it moved closer, the handle of the girl's sword expanded and its blade broke into three parts, giving her a large trident she began jabbing at the head with. A loud crack brought Sage's attention back to the redhead, who was firing lightning bolts out of her hands at the head nearest to her. The attacks didn't seem to hurt the monster, but it was enough to drive it in the direction of the other student.
As it came down on her, she slid her sword into her shield and shoved it into the gaping mouth of the dark head. She cranked the handle, and the shield and sword expanded into a heavy-bladed battle axe that broke the jaw of the Grimm as it grew. The monster screamed and began flailing its head. The redhead yelled something to her partner and held out her hand to form a small golden glyph that shattered, sending the other girl flying into the air. She spun around and came down hard on the middle of the Grimm, cleaving the King Taijitu in half.
As the girl pulled her axe out of the ground, she took notice of Sage and Ras standing on the top of the rotunda. "Why are you two not helping?" she yelled out to them.
Ras opened his mouth to speak, but Sage quickly stopped him. "You are not saying anything. Let me talk." Ras nodded, and Sage dropped his hand and jumped down to talk to his new teammates. "Oh please, it's just a little Grimm; you seemed to do well enough by yourself."
The redheaded girl ran up to them, gasping for breath. "Are you kidding me? That's, like, the tenth one we've fought today!" She leaned on her knees and looked toward her partner. "Right Aruna?"
Aruna wasn't breathing as heavily as the other girl. "More or less." She returned to speaking with Sage. "So, you two just got here as well?"
Ras leapt down, laughing. "Nope! We've been here for over a half-hour!"
The other girl cocked her head to the side. "Why? We're being graded by how fast we get back."
"Ya, but I don't care much and Sage's more anal about making us the perfect team rather than getting back early. Although it didn't work the way he wanted; we just got stuck with the two of you."
Sage could see anger flare up in Aruna's eyes and was able to smack Ras in the side of the head before she had a chance to hit him herself. "I'm terribly sorry for my partner; he has a problem with not knowing when to shut the hell up." He looked back at Aruna and gave a small smirk. "Although he is right: the two of you are the last ones here, so the four of us are going to be a team, whether you like it or not." He held out a hand. "My name is Sage Appolis. My partner's name is Ras Aryun."
Aruna gave him a sturdy handshake. "Aruna Saranyu: Huntress-In-Training."
"Oh, you don't say? What a surprise to meet a future Huntress in this neck of the woods!"
Aruna's eyes narrowed. "You don't have to be snide."
"Well you don't have to be uptight."
Sage could see Aruna's jaw clench. Before she could say anything, the redhead coughed awkwardly, causing all three of them to turn and look at her. "So, um… hi," she started with. "My name's Lylla Heliod, nice to meet you." She brushed her bangs off of her face, but they fell back over her eye again. "Wait, aren't you two the guys who got in a fight earlier today? It's a little awkward to be on a team now, isn't it?"
Sage rolled his eyes. "We didn't get in a fight, I stopped Ras from getting himself beat up."
Ras came up and threw an arm around Sage. "Besides, the two of us are brothers!"
Sage grabbed Ras's arm and pulled it off his shoulder. "Step. Brothers."
Aruna shrugged off the pair and walked into the ruins. She looked around, noticing that there weren't any cards left for her to take. "What the hell? Where's our relic?"
Sage and Ras looked at each other, then laughed. "Right, forgot about this." Sage reached into his jacket and pulled out one of the cards, then tossed it toward Lylla. "There's your relic; welcome to team us."
Lylla looked over the card. "How do you guys know that we're all teammates?"
Sage groaned. "Do I have to explain? I've had to go through this every other time someone showed up." Lylla nodded. "Fine. Ozpin said that each pair would be made up of a student and the first person said student made eye contact with. Ras and I were able to rig that part easily enough. The other two are determined by which item each pair chooses from the temple ruins. Ras and I managed to get here before most of them were taken, and see that there were two of each type of Tarot card. I took both the sun cards, and we've been waiting for a pair that I wanted to give it to since."
Lylla looked confused. "How do you know that the cards work like that?"
"Because I know how the system works!"
Sage rolled his eyes. "Because I can actually think for myself instead of having to waste the time of others by asking stupid questions. Because, out of the hundreds that applied, I was the best of the best. You're here because you're the best of the best too, right? Although I wouldn't put it past Ozpin to let in a joke every now and again."
Lylla's face darkened, and she looked toward the ground. "Oh," she mumbled, "sorry for asking too many questions. I'll try to keep quiet later." She spun around and ran out of the centre, taking a seat at the edge of the ruins.
Aruna shot Sage a cold look, then started toward Lylla. Sage put a hand on her shoulder to stop her. "Don't. I said it; I should apologize," he told her. Ozpin's watching; if I let that outburst slide, there's no way in hell he's making me leader. Aruna paused for a moment, then nodded and stepped aside. Sage walked to the edge of the rotunda and dropped down beside Lylla. "Look, I'm sorry for that; I didn't mean it."
Lylla whipped her hand across her eyes before responding. "It's okay. I've always been too sensitive for my own good. This is a premier Academy after all, I should be able to do things myself."
Sage forced himself not to take her words at face value. If I can't fix this, Aruna's probably going to be leader. He sighed to himself. "No. It's not okay. I don't want you to spend the next four years hating me because I said something stupid." Sage nodded toward the body of the King Taijitu. "You've got just enough reason to be here as me; I don't have any right to say you don't. You're easily the most talented Caster I've seen today."
Lylla gave a weak smile. "Makes sense, I guess; I am a prodigy."
Sage grinned. "Really? You don't say." He glanced back at the Grimm. "Remind me not to get on your bad side."
Lylla giggled. "Better not. I'll crush you like a grape."
"Oh is that a threat?"
Lylla made a fist; a small golden glyph formed above it. "Damn right it is. You won't be so cute once I'm done with you."
Sage raised his brow at her comment. "What was that?"
Lylla's face reddened. "No, wait! That, um… I mean…" She didn't have time to finish her thought before Aruna shouted something and Ras flew past them, slamming head-first into the ground. Lylla put her hands over her mouth. "Oh my god! I'm so sorry for that!"
Sage groaned. "Don't worry; whatever happened, Ras deserved it." He got up off the ground and turned to Aruna. "What did he do this time?"
Aruna collapsed her battle axe back into a sheath. "The pervert asked be what my bra size is!" She slid the sheath onto her waist, then brought her arms up over her chest. "What makes him think he can ask something like that?"
Sage rolled his eyes. "Nothing; that's his problem." He held out a hand to Lylla. "So we good?"
She smiled and took his hand to pull herself onto her feet. "Ya, we're good."
Sage forced a similar smile, dropping it as soon as he turned away from his teammate. Great; just as I fix a problem with this over-sensitive wreck, Ras has to go and open his mouth. He walked over to Ras and pulled him off the ground. "What's the one thing I always tell you?" he asked, lifting Ras a couple inches off the grass.
Ras shook his head, sending dirt everywhere. "Don't take candy from strangers?"
"Everybody sucks; don't get attached?"
"…When in doubt, rub one out?"
Sage threw Ras back onto the ground and bent down to look him in the eye. "Don't say anything without thinking it out. You've already had one incident today; I'd rather not have to escort you around every waking moment. You need to try and think about what you'll say to people, okay?"
Ras nodded. "Okay."
Sage narrowed his eyes. "No, I want to hear you say it."
Ras sighed. "I will think about what I'm going to say before I say it. Good?"
Sage smirked and stood up, pulling Ras to his feet. He turned back to the girls in the temple ruins. "Okay, we're all good here. Shall we head back for the worst marks of the class now?" Aruna rolled her eyes at the comment; Lylla giggled to herself.
The quartet left the temple, stumbling across the forest floor toward the towering spires of Beacon. Sage was muttering to himself the entire walk. This would go so much faster if these two could travel by tree, instead of having to drag their knuckles across the ground. While Lylla had caught her breath since her fight with the King Taijitu, Aruna seemed to be in worse condition than when they had arrived. Despite Lylla's insistence that they give Aruna a chance to catch her breath, Sage refused and kept pushing on.
After a half-hour of Lylla asking Ras about his tattoos, they broke out of the thick woods into a small clearing on the side of a small hill. Lylla suddenly spoke up. "Oh, hey! This is the spot where me and Aruna ran into each other!"
Sage rolled his eyes. "Aruna and I."
Lylla punched him playfully in the arm. "Oh, like it matters." She glanced over to Aruna. "Do you think there's any more Grimm around here? The last time, this place was filled with Taijitu."
Aruna took a deep breath, bracing herself against a tree. "Don't say something like that, you'll just jinx it."
Ras spoke up. "But aren't you jinxing it by saying she jinxed it?"
Lylla turned to look at him. "But now you've jinxed that; don't we go back to the beginning again?"
All four of them looked at each other for several seconds before Sage broke the silence. "I think we might be over-analyzing this." The other three agreed hastily. Sage looked out past the tree tops, barely able to see the tallest spire of Beacon. "Let's go, we have a better chance of not running into Grimm if we keep mov–" A loud growling noise brought everyone's attention to the top of the hill. "Ah shit, we did jinx it."
The trees at the peak of the hill parted to make way for a long snake head pushing its way out of the forest. The lone head was soon joined by five others, each as dark as the other. The heads pushed through the wall of trees, and Sage realised they were all connected to the same long, reptilian body.
"Oh my god," he heard Lylla say. "It's a Hydra." She grabbed the back of Sage's jacket and pulled him behind a tree. Aruna and Ras took cover behind the fallen trunk of another giant.
"How did one get so close to a city?" Aruna asked, trying to keep as quiet as possible. "I've never heard of them being within a hundred miles of civilization."
"Well it's not huge; maybe no one's noticed it yet," Sage replied.
Lylla prodded Sage in the back. "We should run back to the school and say something. Maybe some of the professors can come out and take care of it."
Ras raised his hand and began waving it wildly. After a few moments, Sage acknowledged him and asked for his opinion. "Let's kill it!" he said. "Can you imagine how cool we'll be if word gets around that we took down a Hydra?"
Sage laughed. "Sometimes you surprise me."
Aruna's eyes widened in alarm. "Wait, you two aren't serious, are you?" They both nodded simultaneously. "That's insane! I've never heard of one being taken down by anything less than a pair of Huntsmen!"
"Well good thing there's four of us; that should be more than enough cannon fodder." He dismissed the rest of Aruna's argument and peeked out from behind the tree to watch the Grimm.
The beast had similar heads to a King Taijitu, only boasting ones with hard black scales. All six heads connected to a long, thick body and were covered with the same hard, bone-like structures that covered every other Grimm in Remnant. The heads kept darting around, their six tongues tasting the air for the scent of human. It wasn't as big as some of the others Sage had read about, but it was still large enough for its heads to reach above the treeline.
As Sage watched the Grimm, one of the heads looked in his direction. He ducked behind the tree and began thinking of ideas. For the first time since they met, Sage was happy that Aruna and Lylla were with them. Aruna's got her shield and that axe; she's got more than enough strength to be able to cut off that thing's heads. He glanced over his shoulder at Lylla. She's got lighting dust, which should do the trick to cauterize its wounds.
"Alright, I've got it." He moved over to hide behind the same tree Aruna and Ras were behind, motioning for Lylla to follow him. "Okay, Aruna: I'm going to need to do the decapitating. Your battle axe was enough to chop a Taijitu in half, it should be more than capable of severing this thing's heads." He turned to Lylla. "I need you to shoot lighting into the wounds to cauterize them; we don't need more heads than there are already."
She grinned, then snapped her fingers to make a small flame above her palm. "What if I use this?"
"Don't be stupid, you know that'd work better." He finally turned to Ras. "Ras, I want you to–"
"Distraction?" Ras asked, cutting off Sage's sentence.
Sage smiled. "Yes. Distraction. Now, what we'll do is–"
"Hold on," Aruna said. "Who decided that you're the one making the plan? Why not let Lylla or I think of something?" Ras started to protest at the exclusion of his name, but was quickly shut up by Sage.
"Why? Do you have a better idea?" Sage asked. Aruna thought for a moment, then reluctantly shook her head. "Right, that's what I figured." He pulled one of his guns out and began drawing his plan into the dirt with its point. "Hydra heads are known to be largely independent of one another, so by fanning out, we should be able to keep the heads from all attacking the same person." He drew a circle with six lines coming out of it, and four stick figures positioned around it.
Lylla snorted. "Is that supposed to be the Hydra?"
Sage shot her a cold look. "Oh, sorry. I figured I could get away with a little artistic licence right now."
She paused a moment, looking over his illustration. "Well it's incredibly realistic; I'm quivering in my boots." She pointed to one of the stick figures. "Is that me? I don't think I'm quite that tall."
"Stop patronizing me." He pointed back to his drawing. "Essentially, Ras and I will skirt the heads, while you and Aruna attract them one at a time. You launch Aruna into the air, she decapitates it, and you sear the wound. Good?"
Lylla shrugged. "Why not?" She glanced over to her partner. "But you're really tired, are you sure you'll be able to pull this off?"
Aruna climbed unsteadily to her knees. "I'll be fine, I just have to get going."
That was a good enough answer for Sage. "Alright then, let's get this started. Ras?" He turned to were Ras had been sitting, but realized that his step-brother had departed some time ago. Sage rolled his eyes. "Of course." Sage took off through the woods to get into his position, and had only made it halfway to his position before he could hear the sound of Ras' chainsaw revving. God damnit Ras, wait a minute!
Ras didn't. From the cover of the forest, Sage could see Ras launch himself out of the treeline, delivering a long, shallow slash against one of the Hydra's heads. The head snapped at Ras, barely missing one of his arms as the other heads took notice of Ras and began to converge on him. Ras danced away from the heads as they slammed into the ground, keeping just out of range of the Hydra while making as many cuts in the beast's heads as he could.
Sage grumbled to himself, then broke out of the forest and began firing his revolvers at the Grimm. He caught up to the monster in time to drive a silver sword into the eye of one of the heads just before it attacked his partner. The head screamed and ripped the sword out of Sage's hand, eventually slinging it into the trunk of a nearby tree. He and Ras began fighting off the heads, slowly falling back toward the foot of the hill.
"What the fuck? Can't you wait?" Sage yelled at Ras.
"I had an opportunity; it didn't work," Ras replied with, jumping back as one of the heads smashed into the space he had been standing in. Ras leapt onto the head, then rode his chainsaw up the Grimm's neck while making a long cut in the scales.
Sage rolled his eyes, then side stepped to avoid the gaping maw of another head. He rolled away from two more, firing his remaining revolver at them. As he tried to move away from a third, a sharp pain shot through his left leg as he was thrown through the air. He slammed into a tree, falling in a pile at its base.
"Oh my god, are you okay?" Sage looked up to see Lylla standing over him.
"Took you guys long enough."
She frowned at him. "Sorry, Aruna wasn't in shape to run over here," she told him. "Although she seems to be doing fine now."
Sage looked past Lylla to see Aruna and Ras doing battle with the Hydra. Ras was flying around wildly, barely touching the ground while making small cuts in the body of the beast. Aruna had a much more basic style of standing firm and beating back any head that came near her. All the fatigue that had been bothering her seemed to have left as she parried strikes and stabbed at the Grimm.
Lylla bent down to help Sage sit up. "They can buy us some time, so let's see how you're doing." As she helped him roll over, Lylla looked down at his leg and gasped. "Oh my god!"
Sage followed her gaze and realized that a long, thin fang was pierced through the back of his leg. "Oh damn, that's what hurts," he said. He tapped the end of the fang, trying to get an idea on the extent of his injury. It didn't hit the bone; at least I'm lucky with something today.
Lylla glanced back over to the other pair. "We should just get out of here; I can carry you out."
Sage chuckled to himself. "No need." He put a hand on each side of the fang, braced himself, and then forced it through his flesh. He focused, and a bright white glow began to surround the wound.
Lylla had a horrified look on her face. "What are you doing?"
"Healing. It'll take a bit before I can walk normally, but this is good enough to get into cover." Sage pulled himself to his feet; instead of pain, his leg gave off a numbing sensation. He hobbled around to the other side of the tree and collapsed. "I'll be fine, go help the others!"
Lylla nodded, then turned in the direction of the fight. Her eyes widened. "Uh oh."
Sage began panicking. "Uh oh? What uh oh? What's happening?"
Lylla didn't respond, instead forming a large golden glyph between them. It shattered, sending out a shockwave that sent both of them flying in opposite directions. When Sage regained his bearings, he saw that the tree he and Lylla had been hiding behind moments before had been trampled by the Hydra. Ras was still sliding around the heads while Aruna was moving back, barely able to fend off the heads of the beast. Just beyond the Grimm, he saw Lylla recovering against a tree. A tree with a large silver revolver imbedded in the trunk.
"Lylla!" Sage yelled. "Grab my gun and start shooting!" He propped himself up against a young tree and began firing Ortus off at the heads surrounding Aruna.
Lylla nodded and pulled Occasus out of the tree. She looked over it a moment before yelling to Sage, "How does it work?"
Sage rolled his eyes. "It's a gun: you point it and pull the trigger!" He ducked behind his cover as a head came closer than we would have liked.
"Which trigger? There's, like, three!"
"Doesn't matter! They all do the same thing!" Sage heard Lylla yelp in fright. "No, not all at the same time! That turns it into a sword!" He heard the faint sound of his weapon shifting forms again, soon accompanied by harsh cracking sound and another yelp from Lylla. "Don't use gravity rounds! Those things have a range of, like, five feet!"
"Fuck it!" he heard her shout back. Occasus suddenly sprouted from a tree behind him.
Sage shrugged and pulled Occasus free from the trunk, then returned to firing at any head that came to near. Lylla launched herself behind Aruna and began helping beat back the Hydra with glyphs, fire, and lighting. Ras continued sliding around the necks of the Grimm, doing no real damage but keeping the heads more than annoyed. As the rest of his team battled the monster, Sage took his chance to think of a second plan. Now that we're stuck in the forest, Aruna won't be able to get high enough to cut through the armor; we'll have to try and cut it open from underneath. He watched for several long moments and took notice of the length of Aruna's trident as she expanded and contracted it during her fight.
"I've got an idea!" he shouted. "Aruna, I'm going to need that sword for a minute!"
Aruna bashed a head with her shield and parried a strike. "What? Why?"
Sage unfolded Ortus into a sword. "It'll take too long to explain! Just trade!" He held the golden sword above his head and loosed it toward Aruna. She paused for a breath, then chucked her sword at Sage and grabbed Ortus out of the air, returning to her fight. Aruna's blood-red sword impaled itself in the earth just infront of Sage. He pulled it from the ground and tested its weight. God, this thing is big. He smiled to himself. Good, this'd never work otherwise. "Lylla! Can you get me under it?"
"Of course," she yelled back. "But what kind of plan is that? You'll just get yourself crushed!"
"I know what I'm doing!"
Lylla shrugged and pulled back her fist to form a glyph infront of her. Sage glanced over his shoulder and saw that a larger version of the symbol had appeared behind him. He braced a foot against it, then shot forward as the glyph exploded. He slid under the belly of the Hydra and jammed Aruna's sword into its stomach. The sword expanded, lifting the front of the monster high into the air as Sage slid out from underneath it.
Sage got to his feet and ran back toward the exposed stomach of the monster. He slid past the only head that was still focused on him and sank Occasus hilt-deep into the chest of the Grimm. All the heads screamed in unison as the beast began to fall back down to the ground, giving Sage barely enough time to pull his sword free and fire off a gravity round to get away from it. As it landed, Aruna's trident burst out of its back, exiting just to the left of the creature's spine.
Ras finally landed on solid ground, looking somewhat saddened by the death of the Grimm. "It's okay," he said, patting one of the Hydra's heads. "I wish you a better afterlife than the life you had to live here."
Both Aruna and Lylla gave Ras a quizzical stare. "What is he doing?" Aruna asked Sage.
"Apologizing to the evil monster," he replied, climbing up to the top of the Grimm and beginning to dig Aruna's trident out of the Grimm's back. "Don't know why, he does it with everything; even food." Sage managed to pull the weapon through the Grimm and collapse it back down into a sword, which he tossed down to Aruna. "What did I tell you? I know what I'm doing."
Aruna dropped Ortus and caught her own blade, wiping it off on the grass before sliding it into her shield. "Barely. That might have just been one of the stupidest ideas I've ever seen."
All the enjoyment Sage had from his victory was replaced with annoyance. "Oh, why? Because I killed it, not you?" Sage slid down a neck and bent to pick up is golden sword, collapsing it and returning it to his empty sheath.
"No, because you're ignoring everything we've been taught. That thing would have crushed you if not for the rest of us."
"And that's what I was counting on. I've thought this through a lot more than you'd expect."
Aruna scowled at him. "And your kind of thinking involves complete disregard for the tactics and systems that have been created by people much more qualified than you?"
Sage laughed. "Not more qualified; just older."
Aruna glared at him for a moment longer, then stormed off toward the forest. Sage grinned. Look at that; she doesn't get her way and she sulks off. There's no way in hell I'm not going to be leader now. She swung her sheath, expanding it just in time to slice a young tree in half, then disappeared into the undergrowth, Lylla talking with her in an attempt to calm her down.
Ras came up beside him and kicked his leg softly. "Hey, what happened here?"
The fight had taken Sage's mind off of his injury; the numbing sensation and light surrounding his leg faded as he stopped healing. "One of the fangs went through my leg; should be good by now." He bent down and lifted up his pant leg, revealing a dark, ugly scab on the back of his leg. "Aw, now that's just gross."
Lylla suddenly crashed through the foliage. "Guys, I need your help! Aruna just collapsed and–" She stopped herself halfway through her sentence when she saw Sage's leg. "Ew!"
Sage dropped his pant leg down and got back on his feet. "Ya, that's what happens when something goes through your leg; I'd suggest not letting it happen."
"And you can walk with that?"
Sage walked beyond her, patting her on the head as he passed. "That's the beauty of my Semblance; feels like it happened weeks ago." He reached the edge of the forest before turning to look at the other two. "So what happened to Aruna?"
Lylla paused for a moment, as if she'd forgotten why she came back. "Oh right! Aruna collapsed just back there!" She ran up beside him and pointed into the forest. "I think her adrenaline wore off; she's not looking to hot."
Sage scoffed. "She never did." The comment gave him a sharp glance and slap across the face from Lylla.
"This is why she doesn't like you."
"And yet strangely, I'm over it." He walked into the underbrush toward Aruna.
They found Aruna a few dozen metres away, breathing heavily and propped up against a tree stump. When Sage offered to carry her back she refused, but after trying and failing to stand, she reluctantly allowed Sage to carry her on his back. After trudging through the forest for longer than Sage would have liked, the group finally returned to the school. Immediately after arriving, all four of them were rushed toward the amphitheatre for the Naming Ceremony.
As the four entered, Sage scanned the room, taking notice of who was being grouped up together. To his enjoyment, all but two teams were built just the way he had planned. Well, well, look at that. Let's see any of these cretins doubt me now. They were ushered to the back of the theatre and told to wait until called upon. Sage stood tall and calm, waiting for his turn to walk on stage and be announced as the leader of his new team.