Slate left blank is stained with tears,

Flowing from eyes of a mourning hound

Cyan sky shall be closed to a brawler

Jumping with iron legs fueled by wrath

Fuchsia flower is scorched with embers,

Accepting garden nowhere to be found

Rufous house shall be lost to an engineer

Toiling with weary hands in rocky path

Cinereous paths crossing as they walk by

Together they walk under the ashen sky

Remnant.

Throughout thousands of years of history, hands of millions of poets wrote poems praising its beauty. Nourishing milk and sweet honey flowed in the veins of fertile fields. Mountains lined with verdant forests held precious minerals inside. Oceans overflowed with delicious fish and unending opportunities, open to any fisherman and seafarers. Wide sky tilled the earth with gentle weather at morning and touched the minds of the curious with wonders hidden in its brilliant stars at night. Blessed were mankind to be born in to such abundant and beautiful world.

However, as with light came with shadow, with blessing came curse. Before mankind could even taste the true beauty of the world, they realized that it was under subjugation of a being beyond their comprehension and power. The force that embodied the very darkness and the unknown that mankind feared so much, was determined to shake its very existence to the core. Mankind called this enemy Grimm, for upon their first encounter with them, they received a grim reminder: For all its achievements and monuments, they were tiny and feeble beings on the brink of total annihilation.

Mankind, not one to let the cruel take its breath away, engaged war with Grimm for centuries. Alas, the sheer difference in power between them crushed down on them. The strongest warriors they could raise, the smartest tactics they could think of, only made the futility of resistance clear even to the most dimwitted and idealistic fools. Hope for victory, hope for freedom, and hope for survival dwindled with repeated crushing defeat. For a moment, mankind truly believed that all was lost.

However, their struggle was not in vain. Merciful Earth could not stand to watch its children under suffering anymore, and started to give them a chance for fighting back. After many centuries of desperate struggle, its tenacity and ingenuity finally led to the discovery of this motherly gift, something that proceeded to turn the tide around. When mankind saw it burning through an army of Grimm like a ray of light vanquishing shadow, they saw the very embodiment of the nature's wrath. In reverent awe, they called it Dust.

The spear of retaliation, spiraling with the power of Dust and mankind's will to fight, pierced through the heart of this tyranny, breaking the leash strangling them for centuries. As early mankind prevailed over beasts with discovery of fire, now confident mankind lit its way through the darkness, exorcising the demons within. Soon it regained its freedom, the right to breathe and create. Mankind feared extinction no more.

The beautiful world was once again theirs, thanks to millions of the most brilliant and noble Hunters, people who dedicated themselves to fighting off these threats. Mankind were once again free to live, its civilization free to thrive and expand all over the world. Millions of stories glorifying the deeds of the Hunters were written, and mankind's superiority in this world has become absolute, a fact that fills its heart with pride. And it was well earned, for there was no foe that could pose a true threat to it, for they had all the knowledge and methods of war.

Such was the shallow truth that they gorged on. Soon the joy of survival became the arrogance of domination. Mankind eventually grown quite fond of recounting the exploits of heroes and villains, forgetting so easily that they were remnants, byproducts, of a forgotten past. Some past was forgotten, but some past was hidden. History is written by the victors. History is filled with liars. When one man lived and one man died, the victor's truth become written, and that of the defeated was lost.

For Grimms had no historians of their own, tales of the hunt would forever glorify the Hunters. There was more to the matters than that, something far beyond, but very few men were willing to dig through the mysteries to find the real truth. The absolute majority of the people were content to just live while believing in their false superiority and security, condemning few dissenters as enemies of mankind. Victories were emphasized and defeats buried.

The force of denial was so strong, that there were few who even fail to realize that, despite all their strength, they were still confined in only four nations, for all the other parts of the world was still to be reclaimed. Whenever anyone tried to venture further into the unclaimed world and became devoured by the monsters, it was hidden, explained as missing at worst. As far as they were concerned, Grimm was not a threat to mankind, despite undeniable evidence.

Of course, did not stop some leaders from painting it as a great danger to turn people's attention away from their own wrongdoings and keep the status quo. With the threat of Grimm gone, at least in people's minds, people started to turn towards each other. This is not to say that mankind were completely united in their fights against Grimm, nor were they in peace before. The rich oppressed the poor, the majority silenced the minority, and the strong ruled over the weak.

Perhaps the biggest truth hidden by history was that mankind and the Grimm were not so different, and that the biggest enemy of mankind were the mankind themselves.

- From Critique on Modern History: Achievement in Ignorance, by Prof. Ashley Brown


Under the Ashen Sky

Prologue - Slate

Very few non-governmental organizations on Remnant had more resources and power than Schnee Dust Company, its annual revenues far surpassing most small nations. It should be expected, as Dust used by any person, of any continent, for any purpose, was most likely touched by ever widely touching hands of the megacorporation. Of course, it was not to say that Dust was the only area it dominates. On the process of developing its Dust monopoly, it also took over other prominent businesses as well, such as transportation, construction, medicine, and weapons.

Due to its massive influence, it have affected many nations and their people for a long time, and naturally it made a lot of enemies, whether out of its own fault or not. Many people point out towards the latter, due to its now infamous practice of using controversial labor forces and suspicious business partners. The president of the company was a "man who shall not compromise in the face of adversity", as he described himself during his bestselling memoir, and true to his words, refused to change its practices and policy, not even one iota.

Instead, he chose to deal with the problem by using extreme force on those who oppose him and his empire. If a professor wrote an article that condemns the company, he would have the man expelled from educational field. If a company refused to deal with the company, he would have it shut down. If a revolutionary leader rallied people against the company, he would have the man disappear. The list went on.

Even though nobody ever managed to actually prove that the company was behind all the ruined and mysteriously disappeared lives, people of Remnant were no fool. Even if there were millions of people who held hatred against the company, most people unable lacking resources and courage to fight against the untouchable titan just kept their sentiments to themselves. The company knew it, but its business was not influenced one bit, and it was all that mattered to him.

As such, most people could not join White Fang. They opposed the company, particularly due to the fact that the company was affiliated with the politicians who were against Faunus rights, and its "controversial labor force" often involved exploiting Faunus labor as well. White Fang made sure that absolutely everyone in the whole world knew about their stance. They would boycott its products, hijack its shipments of dust, and inflict deadly harm to important personnel.

Surprisingly, outside of few extremists, the White Fang was not viewed as freedom fighters. This in part had to do with the fact that they also oppose peaceful protest for and by Faunus as well, to the point of executing one outspoken peaceful protester. One pro-Faunus critic condemned White Fang as nothing but violent terrorists who only gave majority of Faunus bad names, and another remarking that it truly takes a monster to fight monster.

Because of how dangerous White Fang and other enemies of the company have become, SDC increased its budget on private security, costing the company hundreds of millions of lien every year. The fact that the company can afford it was a testament to its resources. Several security companies were contracted, with various results; none of them had a complete success rate, few companies even giving up due to White Fang threats.

One of the largest contractors among them was International Security Support Elements, also known as simply the Company. Other than the fact that it started as SDC's cyber security branch, barely anything was known about it until recently. Due to its lack of combat personnel, Schnee depended on thousands of security androids from AK Industries for traditional security, due to their relative affordability. They were placed everywhere, from Dust mining compounds, transportation, and in some case, home security.

However, things changed with AK's spectacular display of ineffectiveness during a recent train robbery. Security feeds showed a platoon of its supposedly the most reliable androids getting completely overpowered by only two White Fang operatives. The representative of AK Industries tried to defend itself, saying that the assailants in question were mid to high ranked operatives and that the androids were simply not equipped to deal with such a level of threat.

Unfortunate for them, the damage was already dealt, and the Company rose as the biggest partner of Schnee in security. Compared to other major security companies, it had very small number of combat personnel. Like its namesake, its primary business focused more on cyber security contractors, and other forms of security support. Even after rising as go to company for security, it got most of combat capable security personnel from other security companies.

However, in regards to combat personnel, what the Company lacked in number, it more than made up with quality. Its combat personnel were mostly made of former special operations and law enforcement units from all over Remnant. When several companies provide SDC with thousands of contractors, it was a handful of contractors from the Company who were placed in charge of them and their training. In addition, Schnee relied on it for the protection of the highest-profile personnel, such as the president and his family.

If Schnee had a lot of suspicious business partners, the Company would have been the most suspicious of all, due to its numerous involvements in several black operations. Allegedly the "contractors" from the Company even went so far as to scorch an entire village in order to keep the mining operation going. Besides that, it was accused of heinous crimes, such as corporate espionage, blackmailing, bribing, kidnapping, murder, and tax evasion. None of the charges ever stuck, but these did not help its reputation one bit.

Schnee kept on exploiting Faunus labor, to which White Fang kept violently retaliate. Just like that, the machine went on, and it cumulated into Operation Falcon Claw, in which the top operatives of the Company, named Task Force 142, attempted to assassinate White Fang's general. Due to unknown complications, however, TF142 was quickly intercepted and fell under vicious counterattack. It was only then the existence of the Company came into surface and subsequent attention and investigation started to reveal more and more about its darker operations.

Of all the things done by the Company, the Operation Falcon Claw gathered particular amount of attraction due to its scope and wide range of connection. As such, the Company spent a lot of resources to keep the ones who knew about the operation quiet. At the very least, it was not too hard to keep the Company personnel, as all of the operators who participated in the operation were killed in action.

All except one.

One surviving operator was quickly sent to Schnee Dust Company's secret hospital, a place only those affiliated with the company knew. He was released after unknown length of intensive care and disappeared. Journalists, government organizations, and White Fang intelligence network tried to locate him with various agendas, but none of them had success. It was as if he disappeared from the face of the planet, and soon he became a subject of rumors, which got more outlandish as it went, to the point of making him a boogeyman to White Fang.

The fact that it had some truth in it probably helped.


A lean, grey haired young man yawned loudly and stretched in his hospital bed. Now out of his patient gown and in his own clothes, he neatly made his bed and swept the floor, and made sure nothing in the room was broken. When he was done, he looked around the room one last time, nodding in satisfaction to see the room was as clean as the day he entered it.

"This should do it."

Then he turned his eye to the window, covered by sterile white curtain that gave the room a comfortable shade. With a cautious hand, he approached the window and opened the curtain just a little bit. His haggard eyes observed verdant hospital yard, occupied by patients in various conditions. Then he turned his eyes to the sun, shining ever so brightly, until it hurt his eyes.

"Urgh."

Turning his eyes, he closed the curtain and sighed. He then sat on the best his just made, staring at the window with a blank look. That year alone, he had been in the hospital for at least two months. Must he leave just when he was getting used to the place? Still, he had no reason to stay there. The longer he stayed, the longer he owed, but not necessarily monetarily. Packing his belongings, he left the room, letting it be filled with sterile silence. He walked down the long hallway and did not encounter anyone until he encountered a nurse.

"Good morning." He curtly nodded.

"Hey, Shepherd! You really are leaving today, huh?" The nurse replied in a disappointed tone. The young man smiled at the way she pronounced his name; it was Schiefer, but everyone called him Shepherd because it was easier to pronounce. In fact, most people thought that was his actual name.

"As much as I dislike it, yes."

"Oh man, kids are going to miss you so much! You've been so nice to them, you know? Handling them became a lot easier with you around. Not to mention all the cleaning and other menial works you've done."

Well, they shouldn't. I'm not exactly a role model. Besides, I had to occupy my time somehow.

"Is that so? Why, I am flattered. I am glad that I was of help." Schiefer gave the nurse a weak smile.

"We will never have one like you around here anymore, will we? That's a shame, really. By the way, when you are out, try getting some new clothes."

He looked at what he was wearing; slate combat jacket, silver gloves, grey shirt, ash grey cargo pants, and black combat boots. After examining them for a moment, he turned to the nurse and replied.

"I…fail to see a problem here." This caused the nurse to rest her face in her palm.

"Grey! Sooooooo, much grey. I mean, really, your hair is grey, you have that hollow eyes of a grizzled veteran, and you dress like you walked out of those old timey black and white movies. And you wonder why kids call you Uncle Shepherd?"

"But...uh…okay…? I will…uh…get to that. Yeah…"

Of course he wouldn't.

"Just…take care of yourself, all right? You are alive. Try to act like it."

"Duly noted. Thank you for your concern, and everything you've done for me during my stay here."

"Don't mention it. It really was nice to have you here. Besides, I was just doing my job…and I'm sure that so were you."

"…Yes. Yes I was. Good day."

With that they walked away. When the nurse wanted to say something and turned around, he was long gone.

The sun shone down on him painfully as he took a step outside the hospital, and he was forced to cover his eyes. He was never been too fond of summer, mostly because of how bright sun burned. Raised in a northern forest region where temperature easily dropped to minus 60 Celsius during the winter, he couldn't handle the heat.

In addition, bright light always made him feel as if someone was watching him. That day, it really was the case. As soon as he stepped out of the hospital, a black car stopped practically in front of him. Recognizing the car, he entered the car without any word when the door opened. The black car was far larger in the inside, with the seat covered in fine material. A man wearing sunglasses was driving the car. The man sitting in the passenger seat, waiting for him was a man wearing silver suit, red tie, and dark blue shirt.

"It's been a while, Master."

Schatten Condottiero, the CEO of International Security Support Elements.

Name was the only thing most people knew about him, and even his name was highly likely to be fake. Despite being 49 years old, well-combed blue hair, bright green eyes, and fit body made him look as if he was still in 20s. On his wrinkleless face was a mischievous smile fitting for a schoolboy.

"Oh for god's sake, how many times I told you to stop calling me that…you know what, forget it. How are you doing, son?"

"I feel great, thanks to you."

"Good to hear that. Son, I know I said this millions of times by now, but please, next time you carry out a suicide mission, have the decency of letting me know, all right? That way I can prepare an extraction or at least a funeral."

"Forgive my rash conduct. It will not happen again."

"Nah, it was a pretty badass thing you did, so I guess I'm going to give you a pass. Still, you got hospitalized for a three weeks, got out, and then two days later you got readmitted for five weeks. That's frankly ridiculous. And here I thought you were done with all the insanities after that time in the train."

"I still consider myself justified that time. This time, however, I have no excuse. Perhaps I will take things a little bit easy."

"Unfortunately, that would be out of option."

The executive handed the operator a folder, which the latter took and open. He examined the contents, which were mostly several documents. As he read the paper, however, frown started to form around his haggard eyes.

"Master, what is this?"

"Admission papers and academic transcripts."

The operator paused. His throat felt dry as ominous feeling started to overtake him.

"I believe I am going to regret asking this, but…for what?"

"You, will be entering Beacon."

Silence.

With the papers still in hand, he raised his head and slowly turned to Schatten, the edges of his eyes twitching. In that position, he stared at his boss for a whole minute. He did try say something, but words failed to escape from his mouth.

"Beacon Academy."

"Yes."

"Me. Entering Beacon Academy."

"Eeyup."

Schiefer looked like he wanted to say something, and in a very, very loud volume, at that, but he swallowed it.

"So let me get this straight. You want me…to become a Huntsman."

"Correct."

"Why?"

"Why not?"

"Why not? Master, I am 20 as of this year, I am too old. Also, I never went to any school, let alone a Hunter training academy. It would be like trying to go to a college without even attending elementary school."

"I suppose that is a way of putting it. Still, you are entering. You are going to do this, for the company, for me, and for yourself."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Let me explain. Initially, Hunters were only used to fight Grimms. However, recently there are Hunters who join private security contractors. Because of their combat capability and expertise in Aura and Dust, our potential clients are preferring companies with a lot of Hunter-contractors. As much as I hate to admit this, I never foresee this development, and we are completely lacking in Hunters. As such, I'm doing my best to recruit graduating Hunters to our company.

"That's where you come in. I need you to become a bridge. I need someone who is knowledgeable in the arts of both Hunters and contractors, so the former can be integrated into our Company's ranks more smoothly. You have been a part of the company for almost ten years but still young, so you will do perfectly. Before you say anything, no, you are not that old. I've known some Hunters who entered Beacon at somewhere around 22 and 23. You would do pretty well, seeing how much combat experience you will no doubt have compared to most freshmen."

He just stared at his boss, his mouth open. He shook his head a bit before opening his mouth again.

"Okay, I believe I understand what your intentions are, Master."

Even if he did not, he would not dare to defy his Master's order. It did not mean that he should not let his mind heard.

"I…I still have my doubts, however. I mean, four years in a completely new environment? It sounds a little bit unreasonable."

"You say things like that even after working in this company for 8 years? All right, how about I give you something extra to motivate you? There is something that you need to do for the sake of yourself. Turn to the next page, will you?"

As soon as he flipped the folder he was given, he saw a picture of a white haired girl whose sapphire blue eyes shone like stars, looking somewhere between 13 and 15. He frowned again as he recognized the delicate face very well.

Weiss Schnee, the heiress of Schnee Dust Company.

"…Pardon me, but I fail to see how this is supposed to motivate me."

"Really now? Oh come on, kid, I assigned you as one of her bodyguards! If I remember correctly, you two got along pretty well too."

"Master, that was years ago. I am most certain that she does not need any bodyguard at this point. Should she truly require one, she deserves someone more competent than me."

"And there you go again." Schatten rolled his eyes. "How many times do I need to tell you? You were the best protection she had short of gods themselves."

Schiefer bit his lips and clenched his fist at this, silently shaking. Schatten looked at him with a raised eyebrow.

"I let it happen to her. I know that you are going to tell me that it was not my fault, but for heaven's sake, I was right there, I should have done something, anything other than nothing!"

Schiefer's eyes widened as he started to breath heavy. Schatten opened his mouth to say something, but just closed it again. For a moment he thought about what words he should choose to deal with situation.

"I know that you are blaming yourself for that incident, and I can see that no words from me can convince you that it wasn't your fault, so I'm not even going to try. What I am going to try, though, is to remind you the danger of Grimm."

Schiefer stared at Schatten.

"As you know, once she enters Beacon, she will have to deal with Grimm pretty frequently. People tend to underestimate Grimms, thinking that they are something that a proficient Hunter can just mow down by dozens. But not only you faced plenty of them in the wild, you've also been to Unwissend, what Grimm have done to that town and people who lived in it. I know how scared you were, even from simply watching the aftermath of the massacre.

"And I know, that right now you are being haunted by the thought of your lady will be out there, fighting them in all their violent nature. Do you think she can handle all of them on herself? I don't. She's going to get herself hurt really bad. If…wait no, when she does, you are never going to forgive yourself, for letting it happen to her again. Am I right or not?"

No words came out of Schiefer's mouth as he covered most of his face with his shaky palms. His eyes stared at the ceiling of the car. He stayed in that position for at least five minutes before speaking up again.

"Yes. I will take it. For her."

"No, for yourself. Look, son, I know you have your doubts. But believe me, you're gonna have a great time there! I'm a graduate myself, and I tell you, it was some of the most fun years in my whole life. Think of this as a long and intense break. I know you never took any break, and I think you really need it right now."

"I do? My apologies, then."

"Ahahahaha, ah…you just don't change, do you. Read over those papers thorough, you are going to join it in about a week from now."

"…A week? Oh well, I suppose I have been given shorter time to prepare for bigger assignments."

Then he remembered something.

"Master, what was the last one?"

"What?"

"No, you said there were three reasons why I'm entering Beacon. One for the company, one for myself, but what about yourself?"

"Oh. Well, about that…turn to the next page."

Schiefer complied. The next page, showed a picture of a red haired girl wearing a headphone, sitting in a café, more or less stuffing her face with cookies and milk. She couldn't have been any older than 13, in his opinion.

"Who is she?"

"Ruby Rose, she is a student at Signal Academy. She was just in the news this morning, didn't you watch?"

"Was she? My room's TV was out and I was mostly cleaning, so I could not have. What about her? She is not your hidden daughter or anything, is she?"

"That joke was so Natalie." Schatten rolled his eyes. "No, I have no relation to her in any way, be assured of that. But I do know her, in a way. She's entering Beacon this year, and I want you to keep an eye on her."

"Wait, what? She looks barely old enough to enter Signal, let alone Beacon."

"She's 15, actually. She was just admitted to Beacon for her exploits during the Dust robbery. Done by old Roman, no less."

This made the grey haired young man perk up at the familiar name.

"Wait, Roman? As in, Roman Torchwick? Where did this robbery take place?"

"In the Vale City. Why?"

"Oh, I just want to pay him a visit. I have not seen him since that job there. I would not have been able to completed it without his help."

"Well, all right, I remember how that operation went, so I guess I can't stop you. I can't quite recommend it, though. I'm sure he's pretty tense right now, even more than usual. He also started to work with this ex-Huntress named Cinder Fall, and from what I gathered, I saw nothing but bad things about her. Things might get ugly, you know."

"I am certain that at least he wouldn't try to kill me. I cannot comment on this Ms. Fall, but I am sure she is not someone who would kill a stranger during in her first encounter. Or maybe she is and I am simply being too optimistic."

"If you really want to pay him a visit, make it quick. The entrance ceremony is in a week, and I'm sure finding him would take at least 3 days, even for you."

"A half-day will suffice." Initially Schatten looked surprised, but just nodded in understanding.

"...Well, I suppose for a hunting dog like you, it really is. Should things come to the worst, just go ahead and kill him, I'm pretty sure I can provide you an alibi and such. "

"I only wish to have a little chat. Nobody will get hurt, I assure you."

"I hope you are right. I can't afford losing someone like you, after all."

"…Uh, thank you, Master. Now, going back to the topic, why do you need me to keep an eye on her? What is the deal with her?"

"Oh her. Well…let's just say I have my reasons, personal, at that. If you must know, I suppose I can call it an unfulfilled promise."

"What do you mean by that, if I may ask?"

"Sorry, not right now. I will tell you when the time comes. I'm sorry, I know you hate when I things like that, but I really want you to understand, okay?"

"There is no need for apology. You gave me a job, and even if it involved dying for no reason, I would have done it with all my capacity."

"I know. That's why I can count on you."

After that, there weren't much talk between each other. The operator simply stared outside, his mind empty as the sight of summer scenery flowing into this haggard eyes. Green leaves of the passing trees rustled in the hot wind and people stayed under their pleasant shades, taking refuse from heat rising from concrete and cement that makes up a lot of the city. He remembered visiting the city years ago, and things have changed so much. The time flowed by without every waiting for him, and he wondered exactly where in the point of time he would be standing when his breath stops.

Something came to his mind, leading him to check the photograph of the red-haired girl once again. His eyes widened as he noticed a particular detail of the girl.

"What is it, son?"

"Silver eyes…"

Suddenly things made so much more sense. That was the real reason.

Schatten then grabbed his operator's head and pulled it towards to his, their foreheads touching each other. Previous mischievous smile and jovial attitude in the executive evaporated like a mist, his bright green eyes filled with mixture of sadness and wrath.

"…Yeah. You know what that means."

"Yes, I do."

Those were the eyes that started everything, the eyes that made them what they were.

"Good." The executive did not speak further.

"So I will be doing this job, after all."

"More like a job, training, and vacation. It's a complete package!"

"If you say so."

The operator chuckled. It was short lived, as his heart was filled with sense of uncertainty and nervousness. Then he remembered something.

"Master, do you mind if we stop by somewhere?"


Schiefer entered an empty cemetery, filled with nothing but occasional trees planted between rows of irregular looking tombstones. On his hand was a fake flower with vibrant colors of red, yellow, and purple. He walked towards a tombstone and laid the flower, staring at the newly placed slate with a hollow look

"Hey, Gordon."

Heavy silence was the only response he got.

"This is it. This…will be my first mission since that operation. Also, this might just be my first solo mission. You told me that I would be taking these kinds of missions in the future...and it turns out you are correct after all."

Although he checked it while entering, he looked around his surrounding once again just to make sure that he was alone.

"I am a little scared. Natalie would probably make fun of me, but perhaps that makes what I am feeling right now normal. Truth be told, I do not think there was any mission where I was not scared. There are too many unknowns in our work, and they always made me doubt myself. But you, Ulrich, and Natalie were all with me, so I felt okay. Now…though…I am not sure if I can do this. I know. I just…know that something, something beyond my control, is going to happen. When it does…I have no idea if I would be able to handle it. I…"

He tried to continue, but something stuck in his throat, stopping his voice. After struggle, though, he decided to continue on.

"I…I…am nobody on my own."

That was about as much as he could go on before he felt a hot tear flowing down his cheek. He immediately wiped it off. Looking around to see if anyone saw him.

Time he left. It cannot be helped.

"I will be going. I will…see you around, Gordon."

With that he walked back to the car with empty hands, wind gently ruffling his grey hair.

"I am done." He spoke as he took a seat in the car.

"That was quick."

"I said what I wanted. Why did you not come with me?"

"Considering what I have done, if I did, he would have risen from the grave just to strangle me."

"That so."

"Yeah." Schatten gave his driver the order to start the car again.

The engine of the car gently hummed as it rolled down the road. At one point, the operator noticed his hands shaking and could not help staring at them. Why were they? What was he afraid of? Was it simply the new mission? No, it was something more than that.

"Master." He asked, his eyes still fixed on his shaking hands.

"What is it?"

"Do you think a man can change?" This made Schatten turn to his operator with a curious look. Then he had a thoughtful look as he deliberated this himself.

"I can't say. Certain natures of a person are so fixed that it's simply impossible. Most men die the men they were when they came out of their mothers' womb. Perhaps you are not most men, and can be changed. Should you truly wish to do so, but find it impossible no matter how hard you try...maybe you should try changing your approach."

"Such as...?"

"I don't know, get help from someone other than yourself. Frankly, I don't have any answer myself. Your sessions with therapists didn't go very well, but it seems that you can't find any answer on your own."

He did not respond to it and just looked up to the sky. Wide layer of cloud formed above of the cemetery, with sunlight shone through it irregularly. To the young operator, it looked as if the whole sky had turned into cinereous grey.

Little did he knew, he was not the only one whose eyes held ashes.

To Be Continued


AN: Normally I read and write fics with canon characters only. However, Monty Oum made this series' setting too inviting for original characters for me to resist (the whole naming rule, which made team creation a little bit more complicated, though)! As such, I gave into the temptation. I wanted to try something different. OC fics are incredibly common, especially in this fandom, but they tend to get...less than positive reputations. That's why I wanted to challenge myself and write an OC fic that is just as great as fics that feature canon characters, and brings something new to the setting.

But most importantly, I wanted to have fun and write a fanfic that is fun and interesting to read. As such, I would greatly appreciate if you guys tell me what you liked and disliked about my fic. I would appreciate it even more if you point out grammatical and spelling errors, awkward phrasings, et cetera. I am not good at catching those myself, and I need those pointed out, so I can improve the story and in the process, my writing. As an aspiring author, feedbacks in general mean a lot to me, especially constructive criticisms.

Thank you for reading, and have a nice day. :)