AN: No, I didn't die, nor did I "crack under the pressure". It's gonna take more than like 3 tasteless reviews to get me to stop writing this monster. I was however taking far more time to really get into the nitty gritty of this chapter considering this is the end of it.
MUY IMPORTANTE INFORMATION AHEAD.
Yes, I vaguely mentioned it last chapter, but this will be the official end of RMS.
Years ago (god it's actually been years) when Volume 3 ended, I went through somewhat of a crisis. Amidst the shambles of dead characters and revelations, I was at a loss of what to do with this story.
When I asked you readers at the time what I should do, a vast majority said to branch off and create my own canon.
Even at that point I had blurred canon somewhat, but you guys were calling for a huge departure, not just slight variations.
In light of what is going to happen in this chapter, I have decided that, Remnant's Maelstrom Shinobi will end here, with this chapter.
But what about truly crafting my own story with the characters and world I've (semi)created? What about all the loose ends!?
I will continue this venture...in a whole new story!
According to the CRWBY, Volumes 1-3 were jointly known as "The Beginning". Naruto was kind of similar in that it split itself, returning as Naruto: Shippuden. Seeing as how my story has reached its own end, I find it fitting that I honor both series and do something similar.
TL;DR: I will be making an entirely brand new story that continues where RMS will leave off - title pending. Keep an eye out for it!
Tracks/Bands that inspired this chapter:
Tremonti (Metal): Bringer of War, Throw Them to the Lions, Make it Hurt.
Destiny Potato (Djent/Prog): Addict, Take a Picture, Lunatic, Blue Sun.
Rabea Massaad (Prog Rock): The Rags, Siggy Pop, Brute Force, Horizon, Sunset.
RichaadEB (Metal/Rock covers): Lunatic Princess, Flowering Night, Shanghai Alice Meiji of 17, Bad Apple.
TesseracT (Djent/Prog): Dystopia, Survival, Utopia, Cages.
Intervals (Prog): I'm Awake, Sure Shot, Libra.
Now, before I let you all get to the behemoth of a chapter I wrote, I would very much implore you to take the time to read the ending AN as it contains some more info some of you would probably like to know.
I apologise in advance for making you guys have to slog through the following. I tried to keep it small, but that didn't exactly work out.
Enjoy the last chapter of Remnant's Maelstrom Shinobi!
"That's number twenty-three for me! Gonna have to do better to keep up with me Nora!" Yang called out with a wolfish grin as she punched the head of a Knight clean off its shoulders.
The blonde's grin fell when she saw Nora unleash a full round of shells upon a group of Grimm. The creatures could do nothing but roar in pain as they were engulfed by the earth-shaking explosion.
Glancing at the fading bodies of the nature-born monsters, Nora counted on her fingers, "That's forty-one-two-three...uh forty-seven for me!"
Yang felt her eye twitch even as she brutally elbowed the White Fang member who attempted to sneak up on her. Turning on her heel, she sent the poor fool sailing with a boot to the chest.
"Twenty-four for me then!"
The two destructive teens carried on with their carnage-fueled game. However, they weren't the only ones taking out scores of Atlesian Mechs, Grimm, and White Fang Members. All around them their fellow students were working their respective asses off to turn the tide of battle.
Working in sync with each other, team JEST had made quick work of various Grimm of all sizes. They had even managed to put down two of the attacking Paladins thanks to Eisen's raw strength and Jester's ability to dance around them.
Team CFVY was quickly racking up their own body count. Swathes of enemies fell to Coco's gatling gun. Any of the poor sods who managed to survive her rain of gunfire found themselves on the receiving end of the Fox, Velvet, and Yatsuhashi trio. Already, the older team had managed to fell a handful of Goliath
Teams SSSN and ABRN were carrying their own weight just as well. Arslan Altan and Sun Wukong teamed up to create a deadly pair of close range fighters capable of toppling even a Paladin.
Meanwhile Blake and Ren, left to their own devices, were proving their own mettle. Utilizing their dexterity, they became a rapid response unit. They were always where they needed to be, always ready to fight. Blake still had some qualms about fighting against members of the White Fang. Here they were, though, threatening all she had come to hold dear. That was all the reason she needed to quash those feelings.
She'd found a new family, she wouldn't let them fall to her old one.
Using the broadside of Gambol Shroud, Blake knocked a Fang member unconscious. Doing a quick scan of the battlefield, she then caught sight of an Alpha heading back towards the lunch hall. Knowing that some people were still being evacuated from Beacon's campus, Blake chased after the Grimm.
Rounding the corner, the sound of an all-too-familiar voice stopped her dead in her tracks; the threat of the Alpha forgotten. As she turned her head to confirm it was who she thought it was, Blake prayed with every fiber of her being that she was wrong, that he wasn't here.
Any doubts she had were washed away when she caught the gleam of Wilt's angry crimson blade as it was plunged into the sternum of a wide eyed Atlesian student.
Blood splashed against the floor as Adam Taurus ripped his sword free of the student's rib cage with all the delicacy of a butcher.
"No," Blake whispered out in morbid horror as her former partner turned his gaze to her.
Adam could only grin as he laid eyes on the partner who had left him stranded on a Schnee loaded transport train almost two years ago.
Without tearing his gaze away from her, he used Blush - his scabbard/rifle - to knock another Atlesian student to his feet. With a vicious grin on his face, the horned Faunus planted his boot firmly onto the struggling student's face, grinding it in.
"Hello, my darling."
A shiver of disgust crawled along Blake's skin, as she unconsciously took a step back.
"What's wrong, aren't you happy to see me after all this time apart, my love?"
Seeing the amber eyed Faunus shakily begin to back away, an ugly frown crossed Adam's face.
"Running away again? Is that what you've become? A coward!?"
Still struggling to get her body to listen to her, Blake could only ask, "Why are you here? Why are you doing all of this?"
Adam sneered in response.
"You and I were going to change the world, remember? We were destined to the light fires of revolution!"
Switching his grip on Wilt, Adam made to plunge it into the crying Atlesian student's body, just as he had done to the previous one.
"Consider this...the spark."
The faces of her teammates and the friends she had made during her stay at Beacon flashed through Blake's mind. However, the image of a pair of cerulean eyes stared back at her, the will and determination that they carried served to remind her of the reason she now fought for.
An inner fire roared to life inside her.
Blake exploded into a flurry of motion, Gambol Shroud clashing against Wilt, the blades' respective owners glaring into the other's eyes.
"I'm not a coward and I'm not running, not anymore," Blake all but growled out.
Adam looked into his former partner's eyes, ready to find the frailty and indecisiveness that was usually there. What he found instead was cold determination glaring back at him.
With a cry of effort, Blake shoved Adam back, quickly lashing out with a flurry of swipes from Gambol Shroud's blades.
Still thrown off by the difference in Blake, Adam quickly found himself on the defensive as he tried to regain his footing.
"Enough!" Adam roared out, using his superior strength and Blush to swat aside one of Blake's slashes. Having put her off balance, he plowed his foot into Blake's sternum, sending her stumbling backwards. Brandishing Wilt with a sneer of disgust, the bull Faunus stalked towards his former partner.
"I don't know where you found this...courage, but I'll make sure to hunt down whoever gave it to you... and strangle the life out of them."
Still recovering, Blake gave a half-assed swipe to buy her some time. Adam was having none of that. Easily batting the sorry excuse of an attack away, he then moved in close.
Blake found herself gasping for air as Adam wrapped a hand around her throat.
"I will hunt down and destroy everything you love with my own two hands. Then, you'll be all mine once again, my darling."
Blake refused to back down though. She stared straight into the eyeholes of Adam's mask with an intense defiance and rage, one that was quite unlike her.
A knee to his abdomen forced Adam to release his grip on Blake. Gulping in some much needed oxygen, the teen Faunus steadied herself and brandished Gambol Shroud.
"At one point in my life, I loved you Adam. I thought the world of you and would've followed you anywhere." Finally gaining back her footing, Blake stood tall. "But now, I see you for who really are, a monster whose only goal in life is an endless pursuit of revenge and a world where everyone bows to your every whim. You don't care about Faunus rights or about equality, you only care about yourself!"
Adam said nothing as Blake shouted at him, as she attempted to verbally tear him a new one. Once she was done, the bull Faunus shook his head.
"I don't know who filled your head with this nonsense, but I'll be sure to help set you straight when this is all over."
While she had long since accepted how twisted Adam had become, Blake could only stare aghast at how delusional he sounded.
That shock cost her.
A horrid crack was heard as Adam quickly closed the gap between them and smashed Blake across the head with Blush, sending her sprawling to the floor.
Yang panted as she caught her breath, finally getting a small respite after her little game with Nora.
The two of them had managed to take out a bulk of the enemy forces. The others could now take over while she and Nora took a moment to rest. Yet, as the blonde bombshell watched her friends and fellow students put down more enemies, she felt something...off. Scouring the courtyard, Yang realized what that feeling was.
Blake was missing.
"Hey, Nora," catching her attention, Yang continued, "have you seen Blake around?"
Nora took a moment to think to herself.
"The last time I saw her, she was headed towards the lunch hall. I think she was chasing after an Alpha."
Yang knew Blake was a formidable, experienced warrior. However, her instincts were whispering to her that something was wrong. With a furrowed brow and a concerned frown, the blonde set off towards the burning lunch hall.
"I'm gonna go check on her, be back!" Yang shouted to Nora. So concerned for her partner, Yang didn't wait to see if Nora even heard her.
Yang weaved around the few straggling Grimm that remained in a bid to save some energy. She could feel the voice of her instincts growing louder till it was all but shouting at her to find Blake.
The sight she came upon stopped her dead in her tracks.
Peering through the shattered window pane of the lunch hall, Yang saw Blake sprawled out on the floor, parts of her wavy locks now dyed a deep crimson from her own blood.
Looking up, she saw the one responsible as he pinned her partner with a foot on her chest and a blade held high, looming over the cat Faunus like a guillotine.
Before the logical part of her brain even knew what was happening, the instinctual part of her had activated her Semblance and began to fire off a barrage of shells from Ember Celica.
"GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM HER!"
Despite the gravity of the situation as well as the literal war going on around them, Pyrrha couldn't help but blush in embarrassment.
Here she was, laid out on the cold floor of the Academy's secret bunker, clad only in her skirt, boots, gloves, and her chest bindings as her boyfriend's Shadow Clone painted an intricate array of glyphs and symbols onto her lower abdomen.
While this was far from the first time Naruto had seen her in such clothing - they did train together near every day - it didn't help that she also had the scrutinizing gaze of her Headmaster on her as well.
Looking to her immediate right, any sense of embarrassment died when saw the still form of Amber. The comatose Fall Maiden already had what the Shadow Clone referred to as "a new and highly modified version of the Hakke no Fūin Shiki" inscribed on her abdomen as well.
While she had no idea what any of the symbols meant or the intricacies of the process, her boyfriend's clone had explained the basics of what was supposed to happen and what the end result would be, mostly to assuage her worries.
Still, it was comforting to know that she could gain the power of the Fall Maiden while retaining who she was. Amber would even get to live on, albeit as a spirit inside of Pyrrha. The catch to this would be that she technically would not become the Fall Maiden herself. This meant that wielding the Seasonal Maiden's powers would not come as easily. She would have to put that much more effort into training to use them while cooperating with Amber.
Thankfully, Ozpin assured the both of them that there should be no issues in gaining Amber's cooperation.
In a fit of childish jealousy, Naruto's clone muttered something about her having it easier than he did.
Pyrrha let go of the breath she was holding as the clone leaned back, heaving out a sigh.
Ozpin took a moment to survey the two sealing arrays, verbally noting the differences between the one on Amber and the one on Pyrrha.
The clone answered as it began to draw up the necessary chakra for the ritual, "Well, the seal on Pyrrha is way closer to the one that keeps Kurama tied to the Boss, but the one on Amber is actually closer to the Shiki Fūjin (Dead Demon Consuming Seal) and Edo Tensei (Impure World Resurrection)."
At the mention of the two Kinjutsu, Ozpin glared at the clone.
The steel in the normally lax Headmaster's voice caught even Pyrrha off guard and caused her to glance at her boyfriend's clone in concern.
While the clone was surprised by the fact that Ozpin apparently knew what the two Kinjutsu were, it quickly explained what it meant to put any of the silver haired Headmaster's fears at ease.
"Boss had to figure out a way to move Amber's soul into Pyrrha. There are a few jutsu he knew of that had to do with souls and stuff, but the only two he had access to were the Edo Tensei and Shiki Fūjin. So, he tore apart the two jutsu to find out how it was they actually moved a soul into another vessel. The Shiki Fūjin wasn't much help seeing as how the Shinigami was the one actually moving the souls, but the Edo Tensei was a little more helpful."
"Does he know how to perform either jutsu?" Ozpin asked with a serious frown on his face.
The clone grimaced.
"Well...theoretically? Yes. He had to dig into the two jutsu so he could understand how they worked, but the boss never actually used either of them, nor does he intend to."
The bespectacled Headmaster heaved a sigh as he massaged the bridge of his nose.
"If it were anyone else, I would fear the horror those two jutsu would bring upon this world once again, but I trust Mr. Uzumaki to keep to his word. It is his nindo after all, isn't it?"
The familiarity and casual ease with which Ozpin mentioned Naruto's way of life made the clone pause in shock. Caught completely flat-footed - something that was happening pretty often tonight - the clone uneasily nodded, "Uh, yeah."
Ozpin nodded and gestured to the two young women on the floor.
The clone nodded, stringing together several hand seals in quick succession before slamming both hands onto the ground between Amber and Pyrrha.
An intricate array of seals flowed out from where the clone's hands touched the ground, forming a sprawling spiral of black ink. Out from the main spiral came a simple line of the same ink-like substance, connecting the two young women and their seals to it. With another burst of chakra and a grunt of effort, all three sealing arrays begin to glow a vibrant blue.
A low hum began to ring throughout the room, growing steadily louder yet maintaining a gentle and soothing tone to it.
Pyrrha's brow furrowed as her whole body was suddenly overcome by a strange feeling. The sensation was neither comfortable or uncomfortable, simply...odd. If she had to, she would be hard pressed to find any words that described whatever it was her body was feeling.
Meanwhile, for a brief moment at least, Amber seemed to awaken, her eyes fluttering open.
The only one to notice it was Ozpin. The two stared into the other's eyes, an unspoken, but much needed conversation taking place. The moment was made all the more heart-clenching when the young woman looked at him with eyes filled with curiosity and forgiveness, as if she knew what was about to happen to her.
The next moment they closed shut as the seal on her stomach began to glow a dull yellow.
Following that, the glow that no doubt represented Amber's soul and Maiden powers began to make its trek across the sealing array that Naruto still had his hands on and into the one on Pyrrha's lower abdomen.
Ozpin's fascination with the entire process was ground to a sudden halt as his instincts alerted him to an incoming threat.
In a move borne from years of experience, the silver haired headmaster spun on his heel and struck out with his cane, shattering an obsidian arrow.
To his horror though, he watched almost in slow motion as the obsidian dust that had made up the arrow reformed into a dozen smaller shards.
They moved far faster than he was prepared for.
Turning around, Ozpin's eyes widened.
Naruto's clone stared down at the obsidian needles that littered his form before erupting into a cloud of smoke.
A gasp of pain drew Ozpin's gaze to Pyrrha who was grimacing and grabbing at her stomach as she was suddenly overcome with a less than pleasant feeling of something trying to fight its way out of her.
Thankfully the spike of pain was brief as the ethereal Aura of the Maiden's powers began to leak out of the seal. Once the entirety of it had gathered into an amorphous blob of energy, it lingered for a moment seemingly debating its choices before racing to join its other half.
In that moment, Cinder felt a euphoric grin stretch across her face as she was cocooned by the full warmth of the Fall Maiden's powers. Flames began to circle around her form, lifting her off the ground as both her eyes were lit with an inferno of power.
Ozpin knew full well what had to happen now.
The Headmaster barked out at the still recovering Pyrrha, "Leave here! Go get Naruto, Qrow, any of them! The tower must not fall!"
Struggling to collect herself, Pyrrha spared a glance at the taunting smirk on Cinder's face before steeling herself, "I can help though!"
Before the redhead could even move to collect her weapons, Cinder fired off a beam of searing flames straight at her.
Pyrrha could do nothing but stare in horror as the concentrated conflagration roared towards her.
However what followed made her realize just how out of her depth she was.
A transparent and opulent green shield of pure energy formed around her as Ozpin slammed the butt of his cane into the floor with enough force to shatter it. The flames battered the shield, but were ultimately unable to break the Aura-made structure.
The marble floor around the Headmaster and his student was not spared though, turned into a liquid sludge under the intense heat of Cinder's attack.
As the inferno finally died out, Ozpin repeated his orders, "Go! Now! You'll only get in the way."
Pyrrha found herself at a loss for words, now realizing why her headmaster and general was calling for backup from someone like her captain.
With only a nod, she used her Semblance to collect her armored corset and weapons before racing towards the elevator.
Cinder allowed the redhead to leave unimpeded this time, her eyes trained on Beacon's Headmaster who was attempting to a bore a hole into her skull with a glare alone.
"This whole time, right beneath our feet. She was right about you, such arrogance."
When Ozpin didn't rise to her taunts, Cinder scoffed, "An arrogance that will now cost your students their lives."
Ozpin's glare intensified as he switched his grip on his cane, now wielding it like a sword.
However, the ground began to shake causing him to stumble slightly. Confused by the odd tremor, Ozpin felt a cold pit of dread form in his chest as Cinder seemed wholly unperturbed by the quake.
"She didn't," the Headmaster whispered in horror.
The new Fall Maiden shrugged as flames began to circle her again.
"She felt that he's been asleep for far too long."
Ozpin's grip on his cane tightened.
'Naruto, do what you must.'
"Futon: Shinkūha (Wind Release: Vacuum Wave)."
A compressed stream of wind cut clean through a dozen Atlesian Knights with ease, tearing the mechanized soldiers into scrap metal.
Unsheathing the blade of Hi no Ishi, Naruto spun in a circle with the blade held outwards.
"Futon: Kazekiri no jutsu (Wind Release: Wind Cutter technique)."
The area around the blond was torn to shreds. Invisible blades of wind sliced clean through the Atlesian robots as well as the buildings behind them. Sheathing his weapon, Naruto surveyed the area around him, taking in the raw destruction he had unleashed.
Needless to say, not a Grimm or Atlesian Knight moved.
"Been a while since I've had to use so many jutsu like this."
Kurama padded up to his partner and shared in the view of destruction.
"Probably been even longer since this world has seen jutsu of such potency."
The brief moment of respite was ruined as the memories of a dispelled clone slammed into Naruto. Turning to look at the tower where he had just left Ozpin and Pyrrha, the blond growled out, "Cinder!"
Leaping up to the rooftops, the blond Uzumaki began to race towards the tower. However, mid-way through his trek, he had to right himself as a tremor shook the earth.
"Gaki, this can't be good," Kurama intoned as he felt his Negative Emotion Sense suddenly overcome by what could only be described as a massive blight given sentience.
Turning to look at what his Bijū partner was talking about, Naruto stared in curiosity as huge chunks of Mountain Glenn began to fall to the earth with each tremor. Thanks to his enhanced vision, the former shinobi could just make out blotches of black and white moving around inside of the crumbling mountain. A string of curses slipped passed the blond's lips as Mount Glenn all but exploded outwards.
From within the bowels of the mountain emerged a horrid and twisted creature of nightmares, its blackened form and white bone like armor making it clear that this was some ancient Grimm coming out of a deep slumber.
Even as far from it as they were, both Kurama and Naruto could sense the literal weight of its aura as it unfurled its wings and took flight. A horrid, ear-piercing screech echoed for miles as the Grimm Wyvern opened its maw all the way down to its throat.
Looking at the approaching behemoth of a Grimm, Naruto simply asked, "Think you can take it Kurama?"
The kitsune Bijū licked his chops, crimson eyes alight with excitement.
"I am the mighty Kyūbi no Kitsune! Of course I can take this thing!"
Without needing any further goading, Kurama began to gallop across the rooftops, his form becoming progressively less corporeal and more chakra based with each second. In the blink of an eye, the Bijū had crossed the entirety of Vale and made it to its outskirts. With a mighty roar of power that echoed throughout the entire city, Kurama leapt into the air.
The deep orange flames of the Bijū's chakra lit up the night sky before they coalesced into the towering and gargantuan form of the Kyūbi no Kitsune, fully unleashed.
Nine tails whipped to and fro, slamming into the ground with enough force to cause earthquakes. Opening his maw, Kurama let loose another roar that was sure to be heard across the entire continent of Sanus.
Without any sort of preamble, the unleashed chakra beast launched himself at the Grimm Wyvern, tackling it out of the air.
The ancient nightmare let loose its own screech as it beat its bat-like wings and attempted to sink its teeth into its opponent's throat. Kurama put a stop to that, using one of his many tails to bludgeon the pinned Grimm across its gaping jaw.
In answer, the twisted creature let loose a stream of green, gaseous flames, the acrid scent of which could be smelled from within Vale. The Kyūbi roared in pain as the acidic inferno ate away at his form.
Released from the Nine-Tails' hold, the Wyvern took to the air once more.
Naruto spared one last glance at the battling titans before racing back towards the CCT tower.
"Woah," Ruby openly gawked at the sight of Kurama duking it out with the monstrous Grimm that had emerged from Mt. Glenn.
"Ruby, pay attention! We're approaching the Airship!" Weiss snapped. Though, internally, she had to agree with her captain.
Sure, Naruto had made it clear that Kurama was a force of nature unto himself, power and chakra given form and sentience. But, to actually see what had once been a tiny fox kit take the form of a beast the size of a mountain and literally shake the earth with each of his steps was as beyond belief as it was terrifying.
Still, she and Ruby had their own mission to complete while the two titans of raw power and destruction duked it out.
Gripping the controls in her hand, the Schnee heiress mentally thanked her sister for having given her a rough crash-course on flying an Atlesian ship. Sure that had been years ago and she had never actually had any sort of formal training, but she had managed to get herself and Ruby airborne, so that made it okay...right?
'Oh god they're rubbing off on me,' Weiss gasped in horror. She really needed to spend less time with that blond knucklehead and her captain after this. Bringing herself back to the task at hand, Weiss turned to her captain.
Ruby looked outside the window of the ship they had…"commandeered" to see the last remaining Atlesian Airship to their side. Steeling herself, the silver-eyed teen nodded.
Pressing a button, Weiss opened the bay doors of their ship, grabbed Myrtenaster and leapt out, followed closely by the rose petal form of her captain using her Semblance.
Using her Glpyhs, Weiss landed on the moving airship with all the poise and grace she was known for.
Ruby landed just as easily next to her, Crescent Rose at the ready.
"There should be an access hatch up ahead!" Weiss called out over the roar of the winds.
Ruby simply nodded her head and began to make her way forward.
Much to the annoyance of both, a small flock of Nevermore accompanied by a single Griffon swooped down, blocking their path. The partners exchanged a brief glance, wordlessly agreeing on a plan of attack.
Weiss stepped forward, seamlessly weaving together a sizable Glyph that burned in hues of red and orange in front of them. Ruby followed that up by transforming Crescent Rose into its scythe mode and using its blade to anchor it into the ship.
The flock of Nevermore shrieked in pain as a volley of baseball sized fireballs consumed them. However, the Griffon easily shrugged off the small flames and charged forward, its bone white beak opened wide.
Without so much as a flinch, Weiss twirled, Myrtenaster glowing a vibrant purple.
Right as the Griffon was only a few feet from her, the Schnee heiress touched the tip of her rapier to the ground, the Gravity Glyph she and Naruto had developed coming to life below the Grimm.
Within the blink of an eye, the monstrous black nightmare was ground to a halt. The next second it collapsed to the ground, struggling in vain against the increase of gravity.
What followed wasn't exactly...pleasant.
The creature roared in agony as it clawed at the ground in an attempt to escape the increasing pressure. As Weiss powered a little more Aura into the Glyph, the sound of bones being snapped echoed. A pitiful squawk left the Grimm's beak before its insides were liquified and its bones turned into a fine powder.
Before either Ruby or Weiss could comment on the brutality of the Glyph, a flash briefly stunned them.
Blinking out the spots in their vision, the members of team RWBY donned a frown.
Standing before them with her signature grin and a Scroll in hand was Neo, garbed in a - no doubt stolen - Atlesian military uniform.
As if to disprove their theory on where the pint-sized teen had gotten the uniform, a wave of light rippled over her body, revealing the outfit she usually wore.
The mute then winked at them.
Ruby and Weiss gripped their respective weapons tighter.
After Yang had been expelled from the tournament and Naruto revealed that Cinder and her gang were pulling the strings - and after Pyrrha had "disciplined" him for keeping secrets again - the whiskered captain had given them the rundown on what to expect from the opposition.
While he knew next to nothing about Emerald and Mercury's Semblance at the time, he was intimately acquainted with Neo's.
Fighting against someone who could create very realistic mirages was not going to be easy, especially with as nimble as the diminutive teen was.
"Snow Storm!" Ruby called out, already speeding towards Neo with Crescent Rose powering her forward.
Weiss said nothing, creating a Glyph array that glowed a bright white behind her.
Neo easily slid under Ruby's swipe, expecting the Schnee heiress to be left wide open.
Instead, a heavy gust of wind carried a veritable wall of snow and ice straight into her, sending the parasol-wielder tumbling back towards a waiting Ruby.
As Crescent Rose was about to bite into her, Neo exploded into so many shards of glass.
The two members of of team RWBY were punished brutally for their mistake. Roman suddenly appeared and smashed his cane into Ruby's cheek while Neo plowed her foot into Weiss' exposed back.
"Well look what we have here Neo, Little Red and Ice Queen trying to play heroes," Roman taunted.
Neo tilted her head, slowly approaching the downed teens with her parasoul on her shoulder, silently mocking them.
Weiss was the first to react, lashing out with a salvo of ice shards from a Glyph.
Her aim struck true only for Neo to seemingly go up in smoke.
The Schnee heiress cried out in pain as the pint-sized girl appeared right in front of her and kicked her wrist, knocking Myrtenaster out of her hand. A brutal snap kick to the jaw followed and sent the snow-haired teen tumbling.
"Weiss!" Ruby cried out, already swinging Crescent Rose into motion.
Neo used the handle of her parasol to hook herself onto the massive scythe and hitch herself a ride. Using the momentum of the multi-purpose weapon, the heterochromatic-eyed girl swung herself into Ruby.
Crescent Rose clattered to the ground while its owner was sent skipping.
Struggling to get to her feet, Ruby glared defiantly at the approaching forms of Roman and his sidekick.
"Why? Why are you doing this!? Without these ships the Grimm and White Fang will overrun Vale!"
Roman shook his head in faux disappointment.
"That's the point, Red!"
Ruby ducked under a swing from the ginger haired crime boss and made for Crescent Rose. Her rose petal sprint was halted by Neo coming at her with a harsh kick to the cheek. Flowing with the momentum of her attack, the pint-sized teen cartwheeled over the dazed Ruby, catching the cloaked captain with a kick to the jaw that lifted her several feet into the air.
Stunned and in pain, Ruby was left wide open to a point black shot from Torchwick's cane.
Rolling over and clutching her side that was currently screaming in pain, Ruby glared at the two criminals.
"But why!? What do you get out of it!?"
Again Roman shook his head in a manner none too dissimilar from a parent scolding a child.
"You're asking the wrong questions Red! It's not what I have to gain, it's that I can't afford to lose!"
Despite the pain she was in and the severity of the situation, the crime boss' words caught Ruby off guard and left her confused. As far as she knew, Roman Torchwick seemed like a pretty straight forward criminal. For as many times as she had encountered him, he always gave off the vibe of someone who was in it for himself, a greedy man who was simply looking to get himself wealthy off of misdeeds.
What did he have to lose that was so precious to him that he was willing to side with Cinder?
Any further thoughts on the matter were quickly shelved after she saw said crime boss motion for Neo to take care of the still downed Weiss.
The twisted grin accompanied by Neo's mismatched eyes sent a shiver down Ruby's spine.
In a bid to help her downed partner, the silver eyed captain attempted to bum rush Neo from behind, exploding into a flurry of petals.
Despite this, Roman was easily able to catch the young teen by lassoing her with the tether hidden in his cane. With a quick tug, the effeminate crime boss simultaneously pulled Ruby towards him while recalling the head of his weapon.
Team RWBY's captain cried out in pain as the butt of Roman's cane was jabbed right into her back. A blow to the back of her knees sent her to floor. Using his foot, Torchwick turned Ruby over before grinding his cane into her cheek.
Peering down at the helpless teen, Roman shook his head in faux disappointment.
"You've got spirit, Little Red."
As if to prove his point, Ruby grabbed his cane with both hands and tried to shove it off her face. She got a stomp to her ribs for her troubles.
"But this is the real world. The real world is cold!"
Torchwick crouched down and gripped Ruby's face in his hands, forcing her to stare into his eyes.
"The real world doesn't care about spirit Little Red."
Ruby spat at his face.
Torchwick, in turn, sneered before slamming her face into the hard metal of the Atlesian Airship. Wiping the spit off his face, he then grabbed a handful of her red and black hair.
"I may be a gambling man, but even I know there are some bets you just don't take."
Ruby could barely hear what Torchwick was going on about, her head still pounding from the previous blow. As her vision cleared, all she could see was Neo with her needle like blade poised high above a still downed Weiss.
Tears filled her eyes as she struggled with all her might to free herself.
Despite her squirming, Torchwick managed to keep a firm grip on the teen.
"Like it or not, the people that hired me are going to change the world. You can't stop them, I can't stop them and you know how that old saying goes; 'If you can't beat 'em'-"
Despite the roar of the winds, that one singular word was heard by every single person atop the Atlesian ship.
Having worked closely with a certain blond on pranks, Neo knew exactly what followed that word, so she was slightly more prepared. Roman had no such luck.
Under both Roman and Neo's feet, a Glyph array spun to life, already glowing in shades of orange, red, and white. In the blink of an eye following that, two mighty explosions rocked the ship to its core.
Adam mentally cursed as he narrowly avoided a heel drop that shattered the floor. Using Blush, he then blocked a side swipe from Gambol Shroud. Using his strength to shove Blake off-kilter, he attempted to go for a stab with Wilt only to have his blade clash against Ember Celica.
The White Fang leader growled in pain as he felt Gambol Shroud's smaller blade bite into his side. Lashing out on instinct, his blade met only air as the image of his former partner faded away.
All-too-familiar black ribbons wrapped themselves around his arm, temporarily trapping him.
Yang capitalized on this, acting quickly and lashing out with a savage right hook to the face that sent Adam flying into a pile of rubble.
"Keep it up! It's going to take a lot more than that to keep him down!" Blake called out, already unloading a salvo of shots from her weapon.
Her busty blonde partner wanted to ask how she knew that, but decided that was a question for a later date. Cocking both of her shotgun gauntlets, Yang unleashed a firestorm of shells.
"Shit!" The blonde cursed as she and her partner rolled to either side, dodging out of the way of a crescent energy beam.
Rising to her feet, Yang was barely able to catch the sight of Adam smashing Blush into Blake's abdomen, sending her to the floor gasping for air.
The blonde growled as she leapt at the masked Faunus.
Adam dodged the initial strike, weaved around the follow up kick, blocked a fist with Wilt and then lashed out with Blush.
"Fuck!" Yang cursed as the crimson blade cut into her thigh.
"I will be taking Blake back with me," Adam spoke for the first time in awhile.
Despite the pain in her thigh, Yang shook her head and grinned.
"No, you're not, because I'm going to beat the shit out of you right here and now."
"Cocky words for a weak human who can barely stand."
Glaring straight into the eye holes of Adam's mask, Yang cracked her knuckles.
"Funny thing about that is, the more damage I take," flames engulfed the blonde as her eyes turned a light shade of crimson, "the stronger I hit!"
With a war cry, Yang charged, her fist held back.
Blake's cry came all too late.
A flash of crimson was the last thing Yang saw before all she knew was pain.
Adam calmly wiped the blood off his blade as he stared down at the crumpled form of the troublesome blonde.
"Funny, I can do the same."
The bull Faunus took a step towards the unconscious teen, intending to finish her. However, a dozen hazy shades of Blake suddenly appeared in front of him, blocking his path.
"What!?" the masked Fang member cried out, never having seen his former partner be able to produce so many clones of herself, even in such poor quality.
With a swipe of Wilt, he quickly dismissed the illusions.
A growl escaped his lips as he caught sight of a retreating Blake carrying Yang.
"You will be mine again, I promise you that, my love."
"Pyrrha-chan!" Naruto called out, leaping from a nearby rooftop as he caught sight of a familiar head of crimson locks.
"Naruto!" the redhead answered back, throwing herself into his waiting arms.
The couple's moment of comfort was brief though, both knowing there were far more important things going on.
"Is Professor Ozpin alright?"
Pyrrha bit her lip.
"I'm not sure. This is the first time I've ever seen him fight, but he was able to easily hold back one of Cinder's attacks. He told me to find you, General Ironwood and the others though."
Closing his eyes, Naruto let his other senses take over.
Much to his shock, he could feel two massive sources of energy clashing right beneath their feet.
One was clearly Cinder's as it was heavily made up of Natural Energy, the tell-tale sign that she had gathered the rest of the Fall Maiden's powers.
By process of elimination, that meant that the other energy source was Ozpin. Just as he had suspected as well, the Headmaster of Beacon was unleashing huge amounts of some type of power. Whatever it was, Naruto wasn't sure as it contained trace amounts of both Natural Energy as well as what felt like a bastardized version of Chakra.
Yet another thing he would have to ask the enigmatic Headmaster after this was all over.
Any plans to ask those questions were quickly erased though as he felt Ozpin's power take a sharp and sudden dive.
The sound of Cinder ascending to the top of the tower could only mean one thing, a conclusion both he and Pyrrha seemed to share if their grim look was anything to go by.
"I need you to go and do as Professor Ozpin said; find Glynda, Ironwood, and Qrow. I'll take care of Cinder in the meantime."
Pyrrha clenched her fists, wishing that she could argue against her boyfriend, that she could follow him into this battle. But, she knew that she couldn't.
Ozpin's last words to her rang in her head.
'You'll only get in the way.'
It was a bitter pill to swallow.
This all felt far too similar to what her life had been like during her days at Sanctum. However, there was now some sense of horrible irony seeing as she was now the weak one looking up to people who stood head and shoulders above her.
She knew Naruto was far and away her superior in terms of combat, despite any of his words to say otherwise. Sure she was able to push him further than most people, but even then, he was always holding back.
Not because he worried that he would hurt her - she'd earned enough bruises from him to say otherwise - but because he was on an entirely different plane than her.
The class of warrior that Naruto sat among were the stuff of legends, the monstrous entities that could shift entire battles to their favor. She'd seen it firsthand several times. With a single Rasenshuriken, her boyfriend could level whole plains.
That was also the type of combatant he would be going up against. Cinder was no thug or garden variety enemy. Even before she had gained the rest of the Maiden's powers, the amber eyed woman had handily beaten her without using her Semblance or Aura.
Recalling the searing inferno Cinder had casually created to try and erase her, Pyrrha shuddered.
Staring into the sapphires of her significant other, Pyrrha swore to herself then and there that she would get there someday. One day, she'd be able to confidently stride into a battle like this with him.
Until then, she was going to do all she could to support him.
"Kick her ass."
Following that up with a quick yet scorching kiss, Pyrrha left Naruto temporarily dumbfounded.
Regaining his senses, the blond nodded to his partner and girlfriend before launching himself up to the side of the CCT tower. Using chakra, he began to scale the building with practiced ease.
Pyrrha spared one last glance at the tower before dashing off to do what she needed to.
"It seems the boy is capable of unleashing Kurama and a great deal of his strength, something I was not expecting."
Cinder gazed out at the sight of the Bijū currently tangling with the ancient Grimm Wyvern, their battle having turned the remnants of what had once been Mountain Glenn into nothing but flat lands.
"You mean this isn't the Kyūbi's full power?"
Her mistress' laugh caused her to turn and look at the jellyfish like Grimm that floated at her side.
"Foolish child, if the boy had allowed Kurama to truly unleash himself, half of Sanus would have already been nothing but ash. No, as he is now, it seems the child is either only capable of or okay with letting Kurama use up to five tails of power."
Looking back out at the horizon, Cinder fought hard to repress a shudder of fear. A gasp escaped her though as the fearsome chakra beast let loose a hellish stream of blistering flames, literally lighting up the night like a miniature sun.
Before the newly minted Maiden could question if the Grimm Wyvern had any chance of matching the Bijū, her mistress spoke.
"The boy approaches. Prepare yourself and do not underestimate him. It will cost you your life. Remember our plan and the Relic will be ours."
Without a word more, the Seer floated away, disappearing into the shadows of Ozpin's office.
Cinder rolled to the side, swinging her arm out to summon up a wall of flames.
The fires were all but eaten up by the drilling nature of the ball of chakra, but the hastily thrown up defense served its purpose as Naruto narrowly missed his target, instead boring into the marble of the floor.
Rising to his feet, the whiskered blond casually backhanded an obsidian arrow that had been aimed for his head. The next instant he vanished from normal sight.
The next thing Cinder saw was a flash of fox-like, honey colored eyes glaring at her. Then there was pain.
Naruto was not content to let the raven haired Maiden gain back any sort of footing.
Speeding through a set of seals, the blond calmly intoned, "Fūton: Fūryūdan no jutsu (Wind Release: Wind Dragon Bullet)."
A vacuum of wind condensed around the blond, eventually forming into the shape of an opaque, serpentine dragon poised to strike. Letting out a dry, harsh roar, the beast surged forward.
The woman cried out in pain as the jutsu slammed into her with all the force of a train.
Again, Naruto was quick to not let up, already charging in with a Rasengan held in each hand.
Thankful that her Aura had managed to dampen the power of the jutsu, Cinder rolled to the side, the wall behind her being completely destroyed as the first Rasengan exploded.
The newly minted Fall Maiden then swiped a glowing hand across the floor.
Turning on a dime, Naruto used the remaining Rasengan to power through the wall of Cinder's glass needles.
The brief second that took was all the Maiden needed to conjure her signature bow, three arrows already nocked.
Without needing to use any hand-seals or even needing to verbalise the technique, the blond shinobi pulled off a Kawarimi, a chunk of what had once been the wall taking the arrows for him.
Steel clashed against glass as Hi no Ishi collided against Cinder's twin obsidian blades.
The sword lock was brief, Naruto having created a Shadow Clone that was now rushing towards Cinder with a Rasengan in hand.
Although she saw the clone, the raven haired woman had no other outward reaction to its presence. Instead, she stared her opponent down as her body was wreathed in flames.
Naruto cursed as the flames then exploded outwards, threatening to consume him. Then again, having had an Uchiha as a teammate/rival meant he was no stranger to fire based attacks.
Thinking quickly, Naruto used the Replacement jutsu yet again, sacrificing his clone to give him enough distance to escape Cinder's flames.
Deciding to take a page out of both his girlfriend and Asuma Sarutobi's book, Naruto coated both halves of Hi no Ishi in a hefty amount of wind nature chakra. The blade portion was thrown like a javelin while the staff/sheath was launched by a chakra powered kick.
Naruto didn't end it there, creating another clone. Together, the pair of blonds sped through a chain of hand-seals.
"Katon: Karyū Endan (Fire Release: Dragon Flame Bomb)."
"Fūton: Fūryūdan no jutsu (Wind Release: Wind Dragon Bullet)."
Twin roars were heard, each resonating in a different key and timbre, causing an ear aching dissonance. However, it was as one that the two jutsu moved forward, coiling around each other and eventually melding into one monstrous behemoth.
The ensuing explosion rocked the tower and engulfed the entire office in a hellish pyre.
For a brief moment afterwards, nothing moved, only the crackle of the remaining fires filling the void.
Just as quickly as it had come, the silence was broken.
Whatever flames remained from Naruto's combined attack were suddenly sucked into a single spot.
Cinder emerged from a pile of rubble holding a highly compressed ball of fire. Using her control over the element, she split it in two.
Holding a miniature sun in each hand, the raven haired Maiden took a page from her opponent's book and charged forward.
Naruto sidestepped the initial swipe then used the backside of his hand to smack Cinder in the wrist. Ducking under the follow up, the blond went for an uppercut. To the Maiden's surprise, despite dodging the actual attack, she felt something slam into the underside of her chin with enough power to lift her into the air. Grabbing Cinder's leg, Naruto then spun and sent the woman careening into a wall. Moving in a burst of speed, he collected both pieces of his weapon.
The durability of Hi no Ishi's blade was put to the test though as Naruto used it to cut through the two concentrated orbs of fire Cinder had launched at him. Having channeled a hefty amount of chakra into it, the chokuto was able to easily cleave through them with no damage to itself.
Naruto grimaced as several high pitched whistles suddenly assaulted his ears. That brief moment cost him as numerous black and orange voids spun into existence all around him.
Beacon Tower was yet again victim to another massive explosion, gouts of flames pouring out its long destroyed windows.
Panting, Naruto held back the urge to scream in pain as he could feel his natural healing ability try to heal the now heavily burned flesh on his right arm and leg.
Knowing he couldn't afford to stay down for long, the blond called upon his partner's chakra, coating him in its shroud. His Uzumaki vitality powered by Kurama's chakra accelerated the healing process, the old blackened flash literally flaking away to reveal perfectly unmarred skin. Taking a moment longer, the blond decided to take it a step further, calling forth even more of the Kyūbi's chakra. The once hazy shroud began to grow far more vibrant as several chakra tails sprouted from his backside.
Feeling the Natural Energy of his Sage Mode and Kurama's chakra fighting against each other and his own chakra, it took some effort to perfectly balance out the three energies inside of him. However, he was well rewarded for that effort.
Naruto stood to his feet as his four tailed Bijū cloak went from a malicious reddish color to a much more serene and controlled golden hue.
Whereas before the four tailed cloak of chakra had literally burned his flesh away and boiled his blood, it now coiled around him protectively, gently swaying like golden flames.
Opening his eyes, sharp ambers took in the remains of Ozpin's office with a preternatural level of calm. Flexing his hand, Naruto could feel the thrum of untold amounts of power as Nature Energy and Kurama's chakra raced through him alongside his own chakra.
The moment of awe was ruined as a column of flames consumed him.
However, it was Cinder who felt the icy hands of fear grip her as Naruto simply walked out of the column, completely unscathed, looking only mildly irritated.
Holding both hands out, Naruto easily created a Rasenshuriken in each.
Wide-eyed and knowing exactly what the jutsu was capable of, Cinder flung herself to the side, just barely avoiding the first one's blades. Rolling, the Fall Maiden then pushed herself forward with a burst of flames to avoid the second.
The twin jutsu easily tore through the walls of Ozpin's office before Naruto allowed them to detonate miles away.
While she had escaped the S-class jutsu, Cinder was not able to avoid Naruto himself.
Literally disappearing in a flash of raw speed, the Sage appeared right in front of the Fall Maiden.
A gasp was all that Cinder was able to get out before Naruto grabbed her face and plowed her straight into the ground. Far from done, one of his cloak's tails grabbed the raven haired woman by her leg before sending her skipping along the ground.
Struggling to her feet, Cinder attempted to shroud herself in her own cloak of flames to match her opponent's and possibly provide her with some level of defense.
Naruto's fist slamming into her sternum violently robbed her of both the idea and the air in her lungs.
The following backhand thundered into her ribcage with so much power that Cinder could feel her Aura shield literally shatter before she was once more sent careening into a pile of rubble.
Her body screaming in pure agony, the Fall Maiden could do nothing as Naruto coiled one of his chakra tails around her throat and lifted her into the air.
Naruto narrowed his eyes at the struggling Maiden.
"Because I swore to myself that I would never let what happened to Konoha happen again."
"There's more going on here! You're defending the men who would sacrifice the people they protect for their own gain and benefit!"
Naruto shook his head.
"I told you before, I'm not siding with anyone. My end goal is a world where true peace through understanding one another is achieved - a world that my father, my godfather, and cousin gave their lives for."
"...she was right about you, so naive."
That was the only warning Naruto got.
Cinder superheated her hands, allowing her to burn through the chakra tail that was holding her up.
The amber eyed Maiden quickly reached into her pouch and pulled on a pristine white glove that had an intricate sealing formula written on its palm.
Moving in closer to grab Cinder again, Naruto realized too late that was exactly what she wanted.
"Guys! What's going on!?" Ruby called out as she and Weiss raced to meet up with their friends.
Both looked worse for wear, their clothes heavily singed while patches of soot covered their faces and hands. However, the sight they came upon made them realize just how lucky they had gotten.
Blake sobbed as she looked between a clearly shaken up Ruby and an unconscious Yang.
"Ruby...I...I...this is all my fault! I didn't mean for this to happen! I...I wasn't strong enough and Yang...will never be the same because of me…"
Hanging her head, the raven haired Faunus felt hot tears cut trails through her bloodied and dirty face, mentally trying to prepare herself to hear both her captain and Weiss scream at her, to hear them say that they hated her and never wanted to see her again.
Instead, she felt a pair of arms encircle her. Terrified of what she might lose and shaken up by all that had happened, Blake instantly latched onto the younger teen and let the tears continue to flow.
Together they cried, one for her sister and the other for a friend she hoped and prayed she wouldn't lose after tonight.
Weiss knew that Ruby was the best and only person who could help Blake right now and so decided to check up on the rest of their friends. The Schnee heiress frowned as she did a head count, noting that not everybody was with them.
Seeing Nora and Ren supporting each other, both heavily bandaged in places, the snow haired teen asked, "Where are Naruto and Pyrrha?"
Ren frowned and shook his head.
"We don't know. We haven't seen them since we landed and they ran off to meet with Professor Ozpin."
Nora hissed in pain, her very tender ribs protesting against her attempts to stand.
"There's no way we're leaving without them!"
Ren cursed under his breath. The unlikely duo of an Atlesian Paladin and Ursa Major had been too much for the childhood friends. Had it not been for Velvet's timely arrival along with help from her team and the guys of team JEST, he and Nora may not have made it.
Now here they were, too hurt to go find and help their missing friends.
The Schnee heiress sighed and shook her head, mumbling to herself, "That idiot better be okay."
Straightening her posture and grabbing Myrtenaster, Weiss steeled herself before nodding to the pair.
"I'll go and find them. Knowing that dolt, he's probably in the thick of it and Pyrrha will more than likely be there supporting him."
"I'm coming too," Ruby chimed in, Crescent Rose resting across her shoulder.
Sharing a look, the two turned to leave.
Ruby paused though, turning to look at a still sobbing Blake who was clutching onto Yang's remaining hand like a lifeline.
Kneeling down she whispered to her teammate, "Take care of my sister for me."
And just like that she was off with Weiss.
"No, no, no, no, no!"
It was the only thing Pyrrha could even think as she sprinted back towards the tower, not even sparing a glance at the Grimm or fleeing White Fang members.
She had just about made it to Vale proper and had even caught a glimpse of Professor Goodwitch helping to set up a safe zone, but the sudden disappearance of Kurama from the battlefield stopped her dead.
The look of surprise and concern on the Bijū's face told Pyrrha all she needed to know.
Ice filled her veins.
Without even realizing it, her body had gone on autopilot and sent her racing back towards the tower, only one person on her mind.
Seeing the Grimm Wyvern, heavily wounded and bleeding from its bout with Kurama, perched at the tower's top sent a chill of fear down Pyrrha's spine.
The monstrosity had been terrifying miles outside of Vale. This close to it, it was almost hard to breathe, her heart threatening to beat out of her chest from sheer terror alone. While she didn't have the sensory awareness her boyfriend had, the red haired teen could still feel the almost miasmic and oppressive aura the ancient creature gave off.
Even still, the thought of Naruto in danger was enough for her to shake off the fear. Moving Miló and Akoúo into her hands, Pyrrha charged forward. Boarding the elevator, or what remained of it, the redhead closed her eyes, mentally loosening the restrictions she usually put on her Semblance, knowing she was going to have to use every power at her disposal to even stand a chance.
All at once, the area around her began to hum and rattle as a murky grey suffused the walls around the emerald eyed teen.
Pyrrha clenched her fists.
The elevator exploded upwards.
"How!? How can you still fight!?" Cinder rasped out, running on fumes at this point.
She had been winded after her fight with Ozpin, the old professor having proven very well why her mistress was wary of him. Fighting Naruto had pushed her far past being just tired. But, she had gotten the seal off and shut off his link to the chakra beast within him while also throwing his whole chakra pathways into a flurry.
Even still though, the whiskered teen kept on going. Sure he could no longer dish out jutsu or even amplify his striking power with his chakra, but it was clear that Naruto had trained himself to not rely solely on either of those things.
Tired? No, Cinder was not just tired. Hell, not even exhaustion could properly sum up what she felt right now.
Naruto simply laughed as he weaved through another shower of crystal needles.
"This isn't the first time I've had to fight with my chakra all screwed up and it probably won't be the last!"
Using the staff/sheath of Hi no Ishi, the blond batted aside an arrow and sliced through the one that followed. Ducking low to avoid the swath of flames that Cinder launched out of her hands, the handicapped Jinchūriki caught the exhausted Maiden with a swing to the ribs from his weapon's ebony staff.
Cinder returned the favor in kind, blasting the blond with a beam of concentrated flames.
Naruto grunted as he was slammed into one of the last remaining walls of Ozpin's office.
Catching movement out of the corner of his eye, Naruto cursed as he ducked low, avoiding a gout of noxious green flames.
"Two on one? That's just not fair!" Naruto complained even as he weaved around another of Cinder's arrows.
The ding of the elevator, the door of which having somehow survived, caught the attention of everyone, even the Grimm Wyvern.
A second passed.
The three combatants stared at the doors, waiting.
They didn't have to wait long - a familiar red and gold javelin flew out of the doors. Cinder rolled to the side and avoided the weapon.
The Grimm Wyvern perched behind her was not so lucky.
A hideous cry of pain echoed as the javelin pierced into its snout.
Just as quickly as it had come though, the weapon was called back to its master, a murky gray aura yanking it from the Wyvern even as the beast took flight once more.
Cinder frowned as she stared down the couple.
While Naruto was severely weakened thanks to her mistress' seal, he had proven himself to be a formidable opponent still. Pyrrha Nikos, while not as powerful as her boyfriend, was still an extremely competent warrior in her own right and would prove to be an annoyance.
Had this been an hour or so ago, before she fought Ozpin and before she had thought it smart to tangle with Naruto, Cinder knew she could have taken the two with some effort on her part.
In her current state of fatigue - her Aura shield now gone - Cinder had no illusions of where she stood.
Squashing down that feeling, the raven haired Maiden hoped the Grimm Wyvern her mistress had summoned would prove itself useful despite the wounds it bore from its battle with the Kyūbi.
Avoiding a hail of glass needles, Naruto mentally thanked Pyrrha for her timely appearance.
While he would be far happier knowing she was safer away from here, he also couldn't discredit her for being here either. Hell, had he been in her position, he would've done the same thing, consequences be damned.
The blond grimaced as Cinder blasted him with another wave of flames. However, this left her open to an assault from Pyrrha.
Seeing his girlfriend slam into their raven haired opponent's side with Akoúo, Naruto was reminded of why he was grateful for her being here though.
Sure, he had the stamina to continue duking it out with the newly minted Fall Maiden, but with Kurama's seal tightened yet again and his chakra pathways thrown into a dizzying mess by whatever seal Cinder had used, his entire jutsu arsenal was just outside of his grasp. Hell, his chakra was so messed up he couldn't even summon a Shadow Clone, something not even Orochimaru's Gogyō Fūin (Five Element Seal) had stopped him from using back during the Chunin Exams.
All he had to rely on now was his own strength, skill with Hi no Ishi, and good ol' fashioned grit.
Ducking under a swathe of flames, Naruto scored a decisive kick to Cinder's solar plexus. Pivoting on his foot, he spun back around and delivered a solid backhand to her spine that sent her right towards a waiting Pyrrha. Rushing forward, Naruto had to admit, it had been his own grit and determination that had gotten him through countless other battles in the past.
What was one more?
Cinder growled as she used a blast of flames to direct her away from the business end of Pyrrha's javelin. Swinging her body low she avoided the open palm thrust from Naruto that followed. Grabbing him by the same wrist to temporarily hold him, Cinder placed her open palm flush against his right side.
An explosion sent him flying.
Coating her hands in a layer of flames, the Maiden grabbed Miló by the shaft. Pulling a surprised Pyrrha in by her own weapon, Cinder gave the redhead the same treatment she had given to the Jinchūriki.
Panting, Cinder took a moment to gather the necessary energy for her next attack.
Naruto and Pyrrha weren't going to let that happen though, both rising to their feet and racing towards the immobile woman, weapons raised.
Cinder roared as she let loose the energy she had built up. With her own body acting as a focal point, a literal dome of searing flames exploded outwards.
The two members of team NNPR could only brace themselves.
"What was that!?" Ruby called out even as Crescent Rose bisected a hapless Creep.
Weiss shook her head in exasperation as Beacon Tower was literally engulfed in flames.
"Probably where that idiot blond and Pyrrha are!"
Any further quips were quickly put on hold though as the two teens watched the behemoth Grimm Wyvern ram full force into the tower, completely destroying the entire top half of the structure.
"That...can't be good," Ruby muttered.
"You don't say!"
Shaking herself out of the brief reverie, the younger of the two steeled herself.
"We've got to hurry!"
"Pyrrha!" Naruto called out, tossing aside the chunk of concrete that had fallen on him.
Forcing himself to his feet, the blond could feel his entire body light up in excruciating pain causing him to fall to his knees in agony. Taking a deep breath, the blond took stock of his injuries. Any attempts at moving his left hand resulted only in a bit more than just discomfort. Looking down at the limb, it was easy to see why.
'Pretty sure my arm's not supposed to look like that.'
Feeling a constant throb from his right arm, the whiskered teen didn't even bother to look at it, already knowing why.
'Trying to block a literal wall of flames with just my right hand was probably not my brightest moment.'
Peering around him with only one eye and feeling a warm, coppery liquid drip past his lips was enough to let him know that he was also steadily bleeding from a wound on his head somewhere. Despite the less than stellar condition he found himself in, the blond growled as he once more pushed himself to his feet.
'All in all, not the worst I've ever had.'
Looking to his left, a relieved, yet strained, smile crossed his face as he spotted Pyrrha clambering out from underneath her own pile of rubble, looking pretty banged up. She was however nowhere near as egregiously injured as he was, no doubt thanks to her Aura shield.
The redhead was likewise just as thankful to see her boyfriend still alive. Seeing a chunk of his normally bright mane of hair dyed a ruddy crimson from his own blood was not what she wanted to ever see. To her growing horror, that was not the worst of his injuries.
Both of his arms simply hung at his sides, looking completely mangled and lifeless. With his jacket and shirt completely burned away, she could see ugly black and purple bruises already forming on his body. Whatever part of him hadn't been bruised by the tower literally falling on them was instead charred a horrendous black from Cinder's flames.
Seeing tears bubbling on his girlfriend's face, Naruto tried to put on a brave face for her.
"Hey! It's gonna be fine! I've had worse than this!"
Shaking her head, Pyrrha undid the clasp on the stretch of cloth she kept tied around her waist. Rolling it up, she used the soft fabric to clean her partner's face, allowing him to open both of his eyes. In response, he gave her a toothy grin.
The bright smile didn't last long as another flash of pain shot through him.
Gritting his teeth so as to not scream, the blond stared into the worried eyes of his girlfriend.
"Why aren't you healing like you normally do!?"
"Cinder used some seal to screw up my chakra and cut off my link to Kurama. I hate to do this, but I'm gonna need you to distract her while I try and remove it."
Without even tearing her gaze away, Pyrrha used her Semblance to call Miló and Akoúo to her.
"I'll try and buy you as much time as you need."
"Please be careful."
The two shared a chaste kiss before Naruto settled himself into a meditative position.
"I've bested you once before, foolish girl!" Cinder snarled, batting aside a swing from Miló.
Pyrrha frowned at the reminder of their 'spar' all those months ago. Taking a quick scan of the area around them, the redhead smirked.
"That was when I wasn't using my Semblance:"
Cinder's eyes widened as she heard movement from behind her.
Ducking, the Maiden just barely avoided being slammed into by one of the large gears that had made up Ozpin's office.
Swinging an arm out, Cinder used a gout of flames to melt the following piece of metal into sludge as it neared her. Rising to her feet, the Maiden raced towards Pyrrha, all the while dodging or melting any obstacles the redhead summoned up.
Forgoing her tactic of attempting to pelt Cinder, Pyrrha readied her weapons and charged to meet her opponent.
The red and gold of Miló clashed against the deep ebony of Cinder's obsidian blades. Akoúo just as easily stopped a strike from the second of the twin weapons. Using her superior strength and leverage, Pyrrha pushed forward and shoved Cinder stumbling back.
Spinning on her foot, the redhead sent Akoúo spinning straight for the Maiden.
Although Cinder was able to bat aside the shield and regain some of her balance, Pyrrha did not let up on the assault and was already right in front of the raven haired woman with Miló poised to strike. Knowing she had no Aura shield to defend herself from the multipurpose weapon, Cinder instead coated her hands in flames and grabbed the weapon with both her hands. With a great heave of effort, the raven haired Maiden pivoted and sent her opponent flying.
Righting herself midair, Pyrrha launched Miló with all the pinpoint accuracy she had trained for.
Using the same tactic she had with the shield, Cinder deflected the javelin. A cocky smirk crinkled Cinder's face as she created her signature bow and arrows, a kneeling Pyrrha in her sights.
That cocky smirk was wiped off her face as a massive girder slammed into her.
Forehead dripping in sweat, Pyrrha's entire body was covered in the murky gray aura of her Semblance as she literally bent a girder around Cinder. Panting, the redhead called her weapons back to her with nary a thought.
'Naruto, please hurry. I don't know how much longer I can do this.'
As if hearing his partner's thoughts, Naruto grunted as he finished unlocking the first portion of whatever seal Cinder had used on him.
Using his control over his own mindscape, the blond had summoned up a geyser of water that raised him up to the middle section of the massive gate that had housed Kurama for the better part of his life. While previously the massive iron bars had been held shut by the tiny seal that represented the Eight Trigrams Seal his father had used, thanks to his own tweaks to it, the gate had been opened partially - allowing Kurama the freedom of coming and going as he pleased.
Sure, the Bijū could only use as much power as Naruto allowed him, but being able to move his conscience mind to a corporeal body created from his own chakra had been a much needed breath of fresh air for the kitsune themed chakra monster.
However, thanks to acquiring Konoha's Scroll of Seals and his growing bond with Kurama, Naruto had been able to almost entirely wrench the gates open, giving the pair that much more access to the Kyūbi's vast powers.
Whatever seal Cinder had used on him had completely erased all that progress through, the gates of the Hakke no Fūin Shiki replaced by two massive iron doors, numerous locks and lengths of chain covering them.
As if the numerous locks weren't enough, the chains themselves were literally crawling with two different types of Grimm.
While Naruto recognized the ghoulish form of several Geist haunting the chains - something he was completely not okay with - he had never seen the other, much smaller Grimm so much as mentioned in his research on the creatures.
The insect like Grimm was so small that Naruto had almost completely missed seeing them when mixed in with the Geist, chains, and overall imposing structure that was his seal. However, he been forced to notice them when they attacked alongside the Geist, shooting a tar-like substance from their mandibles. While the substance in and of itself posed only as a minor irritation for the shinobi, it was what the insectoid Grimm was able to do with it that was the real issue.
Through some unknown, to Naruto, ability, the tiny pests were able to siphon off his chakra through the tar-like substance and filter it elsewhere, in this case being its fellow Grimm or the very chains it crawled on.
Obviously this was not a good thing at all, what with Naruto's Uzumaki heritage gifting him with incredibly potent and dense chakra.
So, not only did he now have to contend with the mental task of deciphering whatever seal Cinder had used, but also combat the various Grimm trying to stop him from doing the aforementioned task.
Luckily, he was a master at being able to split himself between multiple tasks, one with no parallel if he was being boastfully honest.
"Kage bunshin is the best jutsu ever made," Naruto muttered to himself with a grin.
That grin widened as he managed to successfully break another lock open.
"-umaki and their damn seals! When I get out of here I swear I'm going to destroy any and all seals I come across!"
Naruto sweatdropped as Kurama's voice boomed throughout the halls of his mindscape as the doors of his seal were cracked open.
"Good to see you're as much of an angry asshole as ever you dumb furball!"
"Gaki!? I swear to Kami if you don't open these damn doors right now and let me use that raven haired wench as a toothpick for the rest of my life, I will make sure you never have a headache free minute ever again!"
"Would you shut your damn mouth!? I'm already working on it and your screaming isn't exactly helpful!"
"Helpful!? You want helpful!? I'll give you helpful!"
Curious, Naruto leaned over to peer into the slight crack that had opened between the gates. Seeing a familiar ominous purple glow, the Jinchūriki's eyes comically widened before he flung himself as far to the side as was possible.
As the light of the Bijūdama died down, Naruto surveyed the iron walls only to see that any and all of the Grimm that had been polluting his seal had been completely erased.
"Huh, that actually was helpful."
"Good. Now get me the hell out of here you useless monkey!"
Naruto blew a raspberry at the single crimson eye glaring at him from the crack in the seal even as he and his clones got to work on the other locks.
Grumbles of "ungrateful foxes" followed soon after.
However the mood was completely soured as Kurama suddenly spoke in a much more urgent voice.
"Shit! Gaki, you need to get out of here right now! Pyrrha needs you more than I do!"
Naruto didn't even offer a verbal response before ejecting himself from his own mindscape.
A cry of pain echoed across the night as Pyrrha was thrown into yet another pile of rubble.
While she had initially been able to keep pace with the weakened and very tired Cinder, any sort of advantage she may have had was reduced to literal ash as the Grimm Wyvern made itself known once more, apparently having recuperated somewhat.
Between dodging the creatures massive talons and gouts of noxious green flames as well as Cinder's own attacks, Pyrrha had been fighting a losing battle.
Even still, she did all she could, pushing her Semblance to new heights as she used the rubble of Ozpin's office to both attack and defend. The redhead formed huge constructs of metal that just barely managed to weather the heat of the Grimm Wyvern's acidic flames. Rebar was fashioned into cheap Miló copies and used as projectiles against the monstrous nightmare.
Cinder was forced to contend with Miló and Akoúo, Pyrrha showing just how deadly the two weapons could be when used in tandem with her Semblance.
Despite her best efforts though, the redhead was only human and had her limits. Grunting in pain as Cinder used her signature explosions to destroy Pyrrha's Aura shield, the emerald eyed teen could safely say she had reached those limits.
Weary and eager to finally get rid of a rather pesky thorn, Cinder strode up to the redhead and grabbed her by the ponytail, forcing her to look straight into her eyes.
"I must admit, I'm somewhat jealous of you Ms. Nikos. Hailed as an invincible fighter, adored by many for your beauty, a near spotless and flawless school record, gifted with a Semblance of immense power and potential, and in a relationship with a man every bit as powerful and gifted as you are, if not more so."
An ugly sneer crossed Cinder's face as she pulled Pyrrha in even closer.
"In other words, a person with everything I never had."
Throwing the redhead to the floor, Cinder conjured up her ebony bow as she slammed her foot into Pyrrha's abdomen.
Pyrrha screamed in pain as an arrow was launched straight into her thigh.
"Do you believe in destiny Nikos?"
Pushing herself even further, Pyrrha used her Semblance to direct Miló at Cinder's exposed back.
Sensing the danger quickly flying towards her, the raven haired Maiden moved to the side and avoided being run through by a vengeful javelin.
Pyrrha used this opportunity to struggle to her feet. Directing a heated glare at her opponent, the redhead steadied herself as best she could what with her injured thigh.
"A few years ago I may have said yes, but after meeting a certain someone, I've learned that we are the ones who ultimately decide our own fate."
Cinder only sneered.
That was the only warning Pyrrha got.
The next instant, Cinder was flying straight at her, holding what could only be described as a cheap mockup of a Rasengan made of flames.
Knowing she was in no state to dodge the attack, the redhead threw up what defenses she could muster and with as low as she was on energy, those defenses were her own two weapons.
Akoúo was tossed in its usual deadly buzzsaw fashion.
Having been thoroughly annoyed by the redhead and her weapons, Cinder used her imitation Rasengan to literally burn straight through the bronze shield, cleaving it in twain.
While saddened by the loss of part of her beloved weapon set, Pyrrha focused on the task at hand. With a bit of quick, and painful, footwork, the redhead managed to just barely twirl out of the way of Cinder's initial strike. Flowing with her sloppy spin, Pyrrha made to attack her opponent's exposed back with Miló.
Despite being as tired and exhausted as she was, Cinder was still able to easily redirect herself and catch the weapon in her hand. With a strong grip and a little heat, the blade met the same fate as its brother.
Weaponless, injured, drained, and in such close proximity, Pyrrha could do nothing but watch as the broiling orb of raw heat came ever closer to her chest.
Pyrrha accepted what was to come next. It was an inevitability she had known could come at anytime as a Huntress, but one she had sincerely hoped to not meet until she was wrinkled and gray. Even still, a smile crossed her face.
She had met so many wonderful people, people she was more than happy to call her friends and - in the case of her teammates - some she dared to call her family. Hell, she had even managed to snag herself a boy...no, a man, who had brought a vibrancy into her life like no other, a man who saw her and loved her for everything she was.
Feelings she more than reciprocated.
She had hoped to see what the future may have held for them, but it seemed her visions of blond haired kids with emerald green eyes were to remain only as daydreams of a girl smitten.
'Naruto...I love you.'
Pyrrha Nikos was not happy about her approaching death, but she accepted it all the same.
"Don't you fucking touch her!"
Four sets of eyes widened.
From her new position on the floor, Pyrrha found herself looking up at a scene that would forever haunt her.
A scream full of a horrid, soul-wrenching sadness pierced the night.
In the blink of an eye, Pyrrha's world shattered into so many pieces and became so disjointed that she was completely unsure if the scream had come from her or not.
Despite the tears burning her eyes and the horrible shaking that she just couldn't stop, the redhead managed to scramble on her hands and knees as Cinder removed her hand from the hole that she had burned into Naruto's chest cavity.
Completely ignoring the seemingly shocked Maiden, Pyrrha cradled his head in her lap, fingers shaking as she stroked his dirtied mane.
"Naruto? Naruto? Please, answer me!"
Bleary sapphires cracked open.
"Can't a guy get some rest around here?"
A small spark of hope filled Pyrrha heart as a ghost of a foxy grin crinkled whiskered cheeks.
"I'm sorry, but you'll have plenty of time to rest after Kurama heals you, right?"
The grim look that crossed her partner's face caused a fresh cascade of tears to fall from emerald eyes.
Ignoring the gaping fist sized hole in her boyfriend's chest and the multitude of previous wounds that had yet to heal, Pyrrha cupped his whiskered cheeks.
"Kurama, I know you can hear me. You're already working on healing Naruto, right? He'll be back on his feet in no time right?"
From within a quickly fading seal, the great Kyūbi no Kitsune could do nothing but decry the gods who had put his host on this cruel path. Although he heard the redhead loud and clear, there was no way he could respond. Even if that was possible, he would've still held his tongue, unwilling to further destroy the poor girl by telling her that no, Naruto would not be getting up from this one.
To tell one of the few humans he could stand that, due to whatever seal Cinder had placed on Naruto, he was unable to use his chakra to supercharge the blond's Uzumaki healing factor. In fact, as it stood, that same healing factor and what chakra he could get through were the only things prolonging the inevitable.
Angry crimson orbs snapped open as the Kyūbi no Kitsune rose to his feet and began to exert the full force of his chakra.
From behind the twin steel doors that kept him from helping his partner, Kurama raged, unwilling to lay down and let his host die, Kami and the Shinigami be damned. He and Naruto had not come this far for it to end like this. He refused to let it all end here.
Perhaps that infamous Uzumaki stubbornness had rubbed off on the Bijū.
Despite the best efforts of his Bijū partner, Naruto could feel the cold fingers of the Shinigami already grasping at him.
"Sorry, I couldn't undo the seal fast enough…"
That was the last thing Pyrrha could handle, sending the redhead into hysterics as she engulfed Naruto in her arms.
Standing over them, Cinder looked at her own hand, the very hand that she had just ripped from the blond teen's chest.
Murder and death were nothing new for the Maiden. The death of her father had left her to wallow in a horrid life of servitude, but it has been an act of murder that awakened her Semblance. Now, years later, it was through the death and murder of another that she gained the powers of the Fall Maiden.
And yet, watching as once vibrant electric blue eyes began to dull, Cinder couldn't shake the feeling of wrongness that now hung over her.
Shaking her head, the raven haired Maiden spared one last glance at the couple before looking up at the younger teen who had just arrived on the scene.
Any and all of Cinder's thoughts were ground to a sudden halt as her gaze was met by a pair of hateful silver eyes. The look of pure loathing on the young woman's face was far removed from what many would agree to be Ruby's usually cheerful disposition. However, what caused a thrill of fear to shoot up Cinder's spine was the fact that the scythe wielder's eyes were literally glowing, wisps of a milky white smoke swirling and coalescing around her eyes.
"Silver eyes," Cinder whispered to herself in sheer frightened awe.
The distant roar of the Grimm Wyvern ripped the raven haired woman from her reverie, alerting her to its quickly approaching form. Knowing that the behemoth was meant to finish tearing down the CCT relay, Cinder beat a hasty retreat.
As Ruby unfurled Crescent Rose and made to follow, Naruto calling her name shook her out of her fury induced trance, any traces of her eyes glowing with power vanishing with a blink.
Grimacing in pain and finding it especially hard to breathe thanks to the lack of a lung, Naruto knew he had little time to do what he had to.
"Ruby, I need you to get Pyrrha and yourself out of here, now."
The two young women were quite vocal in their protest of this, but Naruto wasn't hearing any of it.
"That thing is coming to finish its job and destroy the rest of the tower and I'll be damned if this place becomes a grave for all of us."
Turning himself inward, the Jinchūriki addressed his partner for what would be the last time.
'Got enough juice for one last one Kurama?'
There was a moment of silence before the chakra beast answered.
'Just enough to get them clear of here, but not much farther and it's going to hurt like a bitch.'
'It'll have to do. Thanks Kurama.'
Using what strength he could muster, Naruto grabbed Hi no Ishi and held it out for Ruby to take.
The younger team captain choked on a sob as she tearfully took the weapon, knowing exactly what she was meant to do with it.
"Ruby, promise me you'll watch over Pyrrha for me."
Swallowing the lump in her throat, Ruby gave a firm nod of her head.
Turning his head, Naruto smiled as he looked up into a tearful pair of beautiful emeralds.
"Pyrrha-chan, I'll always love you. I'm sorry."
Fighting through a grimace and a howl of pain, Naruto forced what chakra he could from himself and Kurama through the seal Cinder had placed on him.
In a poof of smoke, a much less injured copy of the blond shinobi appeared. With a nod to its creator, the doppelganger moved to pick up Pyrrha. However, the redhead fought against the clone's grasp reaching out and attempting to grab a hold on her partner. In her scramble to latch onto the blond, she grabbed a hold of his headband and held tight.
Using a little more strength, the clone managed to pull Pyrrha away, the redhead taking his headband with her. Nudging Ruby away, the group moved to the edge of the tower.
With one last glance back and a soul wrenching cry from Pyrrha, the three disappeared from sight as they leapt off the tower.
Gazing up at the stars and the shattered moon above him, Naruto allowed a serene smile to cross his face.
"So, done in by someone shoving their hand through my chest. Probably some cosmic irony in there somewhere. Think Cinder is related to Sasuke or something?"
Kurama let out a laugh at the morbid joke.
'Raven hair, pale skin, some sort of power hungry complex, and an affinity for fire? Might be onto something there, gaki.'
The two began to laugh uproariously as images of Cinder wearing what they had fondly dubbed as Sasuke's "purple ass-bow" flitted through Naruto's mind. Admittedly the raven haired schemer pulled it off far better than the emo wonder ever had. However, imagining Sasuke wearing Cinder's signature maroon dress sent the Jinchūriki and Bijū pair into hysterics.
A screech in the distance alerted Naruto to his quickly approaching doom.
Instead of fearing it, the blond only grinned.
"Ready to see what the great beyond has in store for us?"
Despite the grim reality of the situation they were in, Kurama scoffed and shook his head.
'No, but when am I ever ready with you?'
Naruto chuckled at the truth of Kurama's words even as the Grimm Wyvern plowed into the tower with explosive force. As the CCT relay tower began to collapse in on itself, the mortally wounded blond spared one last glance at the shattered moon.
Feeling himself sliding into the dark abyss below, a stream of tears began to trickle down his cheeks.
'Sorry everyone, looks like I failed again…'
Pyrrha fought with all the strength she had left in her, raging against the pair of familiar arms that were carrying her away from Beacon Tower. Despite the familiarity of the arms though, there was something innately wrong about the thing that was holding her.
There was a certain...warmth that Naruto's clones lacked, a certain brightness that was unique to their creator alone, a small detail that seemed even more noticeable in this moment.
Any thoughts she had on the difference between Naruto and his clones were slammed to a full stop as the Grimm Wyvern crashed through what remained of Beacon's namesake.
The monstrous nightmare was far from done though.
Hovering above the remnants of the once mighty structure, the beast spewed out a gout of vile green flames.
Pyrrha and Ruby could only stare in sheer horror as the veritable wave of sickly, noxious flames consumed almost the entirety of the surrounding area, lighting up the dark of the night with a pale, emerald glow. The stench of the conflagration was something neither of the teens had ever smelled, something they could only liken to the smell of rot and decay.
But their horror-induced trance was broken as Pyrrha suddenly found herself on the cold, hard ground. Blinking away the brief confusion, ice filled Pyrrha's veins as realization set in.
The shadow clone that had been holding her had dispersed, because its creator was no more.
Naruto was no more.
Naruto Uzumaki was...dead.
A wail of pure anguish left Pyrrha's lips as the cold reality of the situation set in.
Ruby pulled up the hood of her cloak in an attempt to hide the cascade of tears, but she could do nothing to mask the shaking of her shoulders as sobs wracked her body.
The two remained rooted to their spots, each trying, and failing, to come to grips with everything that had happened tonight.
In only a few hours, it seemed like the end of their world had come. Their school was all but demolished. Their friends had all been injured egregiously. They had lost Penny, a life taken by Pyrrha's own hands. Professor Ozpin had fallen to Cinder. And now, here they were, watching from afar as Beacon Tower was consumed by an almost literal funeral pyre, a macabre memorial for the blond Uzumaki who had brought a vibrancy to their lives.
But it seemed the world was intent on continuing to run them into the very dirt.
The horrendous, ear-aching roar of the Grimm Wyvern tore Pyrrha and Ruby from their mourning. Wide-eyed and damn near exhaustion, the two could only watch as the nightmare given physical form landed before them, the light of the burning Beacon Tower acting as an all too fitting backdrop.
For a moment, the two only stared, paralyzed by the sheer physical weight of the beast's oppressive aura.
Seeing the thing come closer to them, something in Pyrrha snapped.
"Enough….enough is enough!"
The redhead shakily stood to her feet and glared defiantly at the behemoth before her. The murky gray of her Semblance began to cover her body as raw anger and a deep loathing bubbled in her. Anger at the creature before her, anger at her own weakness, and most importantly, a deep seated loathing for the woman who had orchestrated all of this.
Her mind clouded by the blaze of fury that had consumed her, a single thought process began to race through the redhead's mind.
'This thing took Naruto from me. I want it gone, I want it erased, I want it destroyed!'
Feeling something within her bubble up and beg for an escape, Pyrrha splayed her hands out in front of her and simply...pushed. She pushed against the boundaries of her broken and tired body, pushed against the beast before her, and pushed against the very world itself.
Out from her hands came a hazy wave of an almost sludge like essence, colored the same shade of gray as her Semblance.
Deeming whatever it was as harmless to it, the Grimm Wyvern charged forward, its great maw opening wide.
However to the shock of everyone watching, as the wing of the Grimm came into contact with the wave of murky grey matter, the fleshy red membrane of its wing began to literally fade away. Screeching in agony as whatever Pyrrha had unleashed literally ate away at its left wing, the Creature of Grimm lashed out with its tail.
Far beyond exhaustion and confused as to what she had done, Pyrrha did nothing as the massive black and white limb slammed into her.
"Pyrrha!" Ruby cried out, helplessly watching as the redhead was launched back towards the Emerald Forest.
Before the young team captain could race to catch her friend, the rampaging ancient Creature of Grimm moved to attack her, green flames broiling at the back of its throat.
Seeing the physical personification of rot and decay racing towards her, Ruby felt overcome by the wave of emotions she had experienced in a short few hours. Fear, anger, and sadness threatened to drown her as she gazed helplessly at her approaching doom.
Unbidden, a familiar face came to the forefront of her mind, an almost forgotten memory coming with it. For a brief moment, Ruby could've sworn she saw a pair of silver eyes much like her own staring back at her, untold amounts of love flowing from them.
The smiling face of her mother, Summer Rose, was the last thing Ruby saw in her mind's eye before everything went white.
The dull throbbing of a headache woke Ruby from her sleep, causing her to wince as she gingerly liftered herself into a sitting position on her bed. Massaging her forehead in an attempt to soothe her pounding head, the young teen took in the sight of her bedroom with no small amount of confusion.
How had she gotten back to Patch?
Also why did it feel like her brain was going to ooze out of her nose at any given moment?
Blinking in confusion, the young silver eyed teen was shocked as the familiar arms of her father wrapped her in a hug. Unsure of why her father seemed so relieved, the young team captain awkwardly patted him on the back.
"Uh...Dad? How did I get home?"
Taiyang Xiao-Long heaved a sigh of immense relief as he backed away, keeping his hands on Ruby's shoulders. It almost seemed like he needed to reassure himself that she was alive or something.
"Your uncle Qrow found you unconscious. He got you out of Vale and brought you home with everyone else."
A smile lit up Ruby's face at the mention of her friends.
"Everyone else is here too!?"
As if summoned, a stampede of familiar faces barged into her room.
The first person she could distinguish from the mass of people was her sister who had thrown an arm around her and was crying tears of relief.
"You're okay! My baby sister is okay!"
"Yang! Stop! I'm fine!" Finally managing to pry her sister off of her, Ruby winced as another lance of pain shot through her skull. "But, my brain does feel like it's gonna melt or something."
Concerned for his youngest, Taiyang knelt at her bedside and looked her over carefully. Seeing no external reason for her pain, memories of a certain lover of his in a similar situation years ago reminded the father of Yang and Ruby that the latter had obviously unlocked the same power her mother had been known for.
Deciding to bite his tongue - for now - Taiyang instead sighed and shook his head.
"It only makes sense after what you did to that massive Grimm."
Yang butted in with her usual grin, "Yeah sis, you did one hell of a number on that ugly thing."
Blake nodded along with her partner.
"Whatever you did to that thing made it a little easier for Professor Goodwitch and the others to finish setting up a safe zone in Vale."
"Wait, wait," Ruby interrupted, waving her hands frantically. Seeing that she had everyone's attention, the red and black haired teen looked up at those present with confusion written clearly across her face, "What did I do?"
No one said anything for a moment, the younger teens of the group having no answer for her, just as in the dark as Ruby herself. Turning to observe the two older males, everyone was confused to see the heated stare the two were locked in.
Qrow Branwen, the usually laidback and carefree uncle, had a look of exasperation and tiredness that really showed just how old the grizzled Huntsman was. His faded crimson eyes looked surprisingly dull as he looked at his technical brother-in law.
Taiyang meanwhile seemed angry with his former teammate, the look of a pissed and protective father replacing his normally goofy grin.
Yang and Ruby seemed especially thrown off by the silent interaction.
Sure, it had always been a sort of unspoken thing that their father and uncle disagreed on a lot, especially when it came to raising them. Despite that though, it was clear they had an underlying respect for the other, something no doubt born from the years they spent as team STRQ.
In this moment though, it was almost like years of an unspoken animosity came to the forefront.
"Tai…they deserve to know."
"I will not have my teenage daughters swept into this mess, Qrow!"
Qrow shook his head and let out a hollow laugh.
"These kids just came out of a literal warzone, Tai. It's a bit late to try and protect them from the big bad world out there."
Tai all but snarled as he clenched his fists. As much as he wanted to argue, the eldest Xiao-Long knew that his alcoholic brother-in-law was right. For all his attempts to keep his daughters away from it, the world that had brought team STRQ to its knees and shattered it was back and knocking at their front door.
He could try and fight it, but in the long run that would only hinder them.
It was the only thing Taiyang could say as he crossed his arms and leaned against the wall.
Shaking his head again, Qrow grabbed a nearby chair and slumped into it. Reaching into his shirt, he pulled out his signature flask and took a pull from the liquor in it, knowing full well he was going to need it.
As the burn of the whiskey ran its course, the dusty old crow stared straight at his youngest niece.
"What was the last thing you remember Ruby?"
Blinking in confusion, Ruby wracked her brain for a moment.
"I remember running up the side of Beacon Tower. When I got to the top I saw...I saw…"
As the memory came to mind, Ruby couldn't fight the tears that came, her voice catching.
"I saw Naruto...protect Pyrrha. Cinder...she burned a hole straight through his chest…"
Silent tears and choked sobs echoed around the room as Blake, Nora, Ren, and Yang heard the official account of what had happened. Qrow had told them that he had been unable to find the blond and with Pyrrha all but catatonic, they had been unsure of his fate, but held out hope that he had somehow survived.
Something was off though as everyone there all knew that the blond had an unbelievably broken healing factor. Nora and Ren had seen the scar and heard bits of the story, and so they knew that the blond had survived a similar wound in his past. Surely he would've been able to do the same now, right?
They held their questions though, needing to hear the full story from someone who had been there.
"I don't know why but...he wasn't healing at all. He gave me his staff and told me to watch over Pyrrha. Knowing that...Grimm was coming back to destroy the tower he created a clone and told me and Pyrrha to leave. So we...we left him there."
Taiyang could only stare from afar as he watched his daughters break down into tears over this Naruto. While he had initially had his misgivings about a boy being so close to his kids, through his talks with both of them, it was clear that the kid had been an amazing friend to Ruby and someone Yang deemed "just as fun and badass" as herself.
Looking at the crying faces of the other teens in the room, it was clear to him that this Naruto kid was someone he would've liked to meet. It was a terrible shame that would never happen.
Another bright life taken far too soon by the machinations of those in the shadows.
Qrow, having met the teen, could not begrudge the teens their right to mourning. Hell, for as brief as their interactions had been, the scythe wielder had honestly grown to like the boy. He saw a lot of himself in the younger male, sharing the same smartmouth and disregard for those in authority. From the stories he had from his nieces, the whiskered teen had even been one hell of a prankster, something Qrow could appreciate.
Even Ozpin had liked the kid and mentioned a number of times that the teen would be able to help them in dealing with Salem and her group. Seeing as the kid had apparently gone toe to toe with Cinder who has now the Fall Maiden, the blond was no slouch in combat.
However, it seemed like both Ozpin and Naruto had been buried under the now destroyed Beacon Tower.
Trying in vain to stem the flow of tears, Ruby shored up what strength she could and continued her tale.
"We got as far as we could before that Grimm attacked the tower and burned it up. Then...Naruto's clone popped…"
The meaning of Naruto's clone dispersing was not lost on any of the teens. Any hope they had of their friend somehow managing to survive was dashed when they heard that.
"Then that..thing came after me and Pyrrha. I don't know what she did, but Pyrrha managed to wound it somehow. That only made it angry though and it attacked her-" realization dawned on the young teen as she recalled the last she had seen of the redhead, "-Pyrrha! Is she okay!?"
Qrow looked unsure of how to answer that question.
Seeing her uncle clam up almost sent Ruby into a fit of hysterics.
However, Ren, fighting through his tears spoke up.
"Pyrrha is here and healing, but she's not...okay."
"What do you mean? Is she in a coma or something!?"
Blake stepped up to the plate with a shake of her head.
"She's awake and can function but it's almost like she's...not here. She won't answer anybody, we have to force her to eat, and all she does is stare at his headband."
Although she was happy to hear that Pyrrha was alive, the apparent catatonic state she was in was worrying. However, after all that had happened to her, Ruby couldn't blame her. With her promise to Naruto in mind, Ruby decided to check on the redhead ASAP.
"After it attacked Pyrrha, that thing came for me. I remember seeing...mom. Then everything sort of went white."
Qrow and Taiyang shared a look at the mention of Summer Rose, someone the two held in high regard.
Taking a moment to take another swig from his flask, Qrow asked, "The night you met Ozpin, what was the first thing he said to you?"
Thrown off guard by the seemingly unrelated question, Ruby wiped away some tears before answering.
"I...I don't remember. I think it was something about my-"
"Silver eyes." Taking note of the looks of confusion he was getting from everyone in the room, Qrow continued, "That's an extremely rare trait, a trait your mom had as well."
Still completely lost, Ruby couldn't but to shrug. From both stories and pictures, it was clear as day that she was an almost miniature version of her mother, why was that such a big deal now though?
Qrow sighed as leaned back into his chair.
"You're special Ruby, and not in the 'daddy loves his precious little girl' way either."
Taiyang groused none too silently at the jab at him.
Qrow however ignored him and continued.
"Your mom was an amazing woman. Both me and your father could go and on about how amazingly kind she was, how forgiving she could be, and how much she loved both you and Yang. But, Summer was also an exceptionally powerful warrior. She could do things that no one else could, fight at a level that was almost unbelievable." Here, Qrow leaned forward and stared into his nieces eyes. "Do you know why?"
Ruby blinked, "Because she trained really hard?"
Qrow laughed, a genuine one at that.
"As true as that is, she also had something else going for her. You see, Remnant's full of legends and fairy tales, some of them true, some of them not so much. But there's one Oz told me about, one older than any of the Kingdoms. Back before Huntsmen, before even Dust maybe, it was said those born with silver eyes were destined to lead the life of a warrior. They were the best of the best. Even the Creatures of Grimm, said to be darkness incarnate, were afraid of those Silver Eyed Warriors. It was rumoured that with a single look, one of these warriors could cut down any Grimm."
Scratching her head in disbelief, Ruby could only ask, "So you think that me and my mom are...related to those warriors?"
Qrow grinned, "Well there's currently a giant Grimm frozen at the edge of the Emerald Forest, heavily wounded as well. And here you are, safe in bed with only a little headache."
Despite the oddness of being told that she was apparently a descendant of some ancient race of badass warriors, Ruby all too easily accepted that as fact. It did make sense in the context of what had happened, but Naruto himself had been from a time of even more powerful warriors. He had also had a teammate who came from a clan whose eyes gave them the ability to do some pretty outlandish things.
So, to Ruby and everyone else present, this wasn't all that far removed from the realm of possibility.
Still, there was something else that wasn't adding up.
Blake was the one to speak up about it.
"Wait, how would you know what Professor Ozpin told Ruby?"
Qrow chuckled at being discovered by the raven haired bookworm.
"Good catch there kitten."
Blake leveled a bland glare at her teammates' uncle.
"You know those missions I'm always going on, the ones I can never talk to you about? It's been for Oz." Rising from his seat, the grizzled Huntsman moved to stare out the window, "but now he's missing. Something has been set in motion, and I'm gonna have to be the one to pick up the pieces."
While each of the teens could tell the older male wasn't telling them everything, they couldn't call him out on it either, seeing as how they were keeping some secrets to themselves as well.
Knowing that the threat of Naruto's ancestral grandmother was still prevalent as well as the threat of Cinder and whoever her boss was, Ruby shared a look with her teammates and friends. Unspoken, they all came to the same agreement.
Ren stepped forward.
"We want to help."
Qrow looked at the resolution clearly painted on each of the teen's faces and was only mildly surprised. Quirking a brow, the caped Huntsman asked, "You really want to help? Heal up, take some time to grieve, and take even more time to train. After all, our enemies' trail leads all the way to Haven, and that's one hell of a trip for a bunch of teenagers."
Sharing a pointed look with Taiyang, Qrow made for the door. Tossing out a two finger salute, the red-eyed Huntsman left.
"See ya around kiddies!"
Shaking his head at the antics of his once upon a time teammate, Taiyang gave his daughters a hug before making to leave as well.
"I'll give you kids some time to yourselves."
For a long moment, none of the teens said a word, trying their hardest to come to grips with all that had been said within the last few minutes.
Wiping the tears from her eyes, Ruby allowed a small smile to cross her face as she took in the faces of her friends. Sure, they had each lost a lot, far too much to possibly ever quantify, but they still had each other. It would be hard to move forward, possibly near impossible, but they owed it to Naruto and Kurama.
However, something finally struck Ruby as out of place. Squinting her eyes as she surveyed her room, it hit the young teen like a train.
Blake and Yang shared a look, the blond playing with her hair as she tried to find the words to explain the Schnee heiress' absence.
Thankfully, Blake elected to step up and explain the situation.
"Weiss was taken back to Atlas by her father."
"What? Why!? Is she okay!?"
Ruby had lost too many people already, there was no way she could also stand to lose her partner or hear that she had somehow been gravely injured.
Seeing her sister about to possibly have a panic attack, Yang moved to sit at her side, bringing her into a much needed one-armed side hug.
"She's perfectly okay," Blake rushed to explain, hoping to ease her captain's mind. Seeing the younger teen relax, the raven haired Faunus continued, "It looks like someone was purposefully filming what happened that night. The last thing anybody saw on that recording before the tower went down was Atlas attacking Vale alongside the White Fang and the Grimm. People are terrified that this could be the start of another war. Because of that, Weiss' father came to take her back to Atlas where he thinks she'll be safe."
Ruby coiled her fists around her comforter fighting back tears of frustration.
For the first time, Nora spoke up, in an uncharacteristically subdued tone.
"This is all one big mess…"
No one could find it in them to refute her claim.
The only sound made following that was the wooden floorboards creaking as Ruby cautiously stepped into one of her home's spare rooms. The silver eyed scythe wielder bit her lip as she observed the redhead.
Stepping further in, Ruby's heart broke as she got a good look at the almost lifeless young woman.
Waves of a once vibrant crimson were now a dull and lackluster red. Emerald green eyes that had shined with kindness and caring stared blankly at the heavily damaged and worn headband Naruto had worn near constantly in some fashion. Even Pyrrha's near flawless and soft alabaster skin now looked far too pale and clammy.
Reaching a hand out, Ruby sighed as the redhead remained unresponsive.
"Pyrrha...I don't know if you can hear me, or if you even want to hear me, but I just want you to know that I'm...sorry. I wish I had gotten there sooner. Maybe if I had been a little faster, he'd still be here, helping us get ready to fight whoever was responsible for all of this. I...I miss him."
Tears splashed against the wooden floor despite Ruby's best efforts to hold them in.
"He...he was my first real friend at Beacon. I was so nervous and scared of how everyone was going to treat me, because I was so much younger than them. Even my own sister left me alone...but he came to help me, just because. Even when I acted like a total dork with him, he only laughed and I asked if I felt better. He helped me deal with all the stress I had about being a team captain. He never made fun of me for being so interested in weapons. He was...just...always there for me whenever I needed him. It was almost like I had found the older brother I never knew about."
Ruby rubbed her eyes furiously, trying and failing to stem the flow of tears. Through the blur of her watery vision, the young woman choked back a sob as she realized that Pyrrha had still not moved a single muscle.
Swallowing the lump in her throat, Ruby steeled herself as she quickly left the room only to come back a certain staff.
"I know you're trying to deal with all of this in your own way, we all are. But, I just want you to know that we're all worried about you and ready to help you as best as we can when you're ready." Gently placing the chakra conductive weapon against the wall, Ruby spared her friend one last glance. "I know he gave this to me so you could have it. He'd want you to use it…"
The gentle click of the door closing echoed around the deafeningly silent room.
Following that, no other sound was made.
Then, the sound of the bed creaking was heard as a pair of somber green eyes stared longingly at the ebony staff that had belonged to Naruto Uzumaki.
"You going to be okay?"
Blake spared her partner a sidelong glance as the blonde took a seat next to her.
The amber eyed Faunus took a moment to collect her thoughts, in the meantime her gaze returned to stretch of pure white snow that occupied the Xiao Long/Rose home's "backyard".
"...No. It...hurts. I think the only reason I've stopped crying is because I've run out of tears."
Yang found herself with no words. There was nothing she could say. After all, she was in much the same boat as everyone else. They all felt...lost. It was almost like the very sun itself had been taken from their world. Despite putting up a brave face, she couldn't deny the pain she felt in her heart at having lost someone she considered such a dear friend.
With that in mind, the usually brash blonde simply said nothing, sitting in silence with her partner.
"I'm catching the next boat home to Menagerie."
It was the only thing Yang could think to ask.
"When I left home all those years ago, I wasn't exactly on the best of terms with my parents. It's been so long since I've seen or even talked to them. With all that's happened, I think it's time to go back and apologize to them."
While it wasn't outright said, Yang got the message loud and clear. After that night, she found herself trying to spend as much time with her own family as well. She couldn't say Blake was wrong for wanting to do the same.
"You better keep in touch. If I don't hear a word from you, I'm riding out to Menagerie and giving you an earful, ya hear?"
Blake rolled her eyes, before giving her partner a tight hug.
"The same goes for you and Ruby."
A grunt of pain slipped past Ren's lips as his fist plowed into the trunk of a tree. Despite the droplets of blood leaking from his knuckles and the sweat occasionally blurring his vision, the long haired teen continued with his training, wanting to push his body past its limits.
Not too far from him, Nora was likewise pushing her body to the breaking point, her fists leaving indents on the poor boulder she had chosen as her practice dummy.
The two hadn't spoken much since the fall of Beacon. Knowing how tight-knit team NNPR had been, everyone knew that the death of their captain and Pyrrha being rendered all but comatose had hit the two the hardest, so they had been mostly left to their own devices.
While the others had only seen the two spill a few tears, it had been in private that the two longtime friends had mourned their loss. The pair had, for all intents and purposes, drawn into themselves. For as close as they had been before, it was almost like they were now terrified to leave the other's side.
Unknown to the others residing in the Xiao Long/Rose household, this wasn't the first time the pair had done this. However, training themselves this rigorously, Ren and Nora were intent on making damn sure that it would be the last time.
"You surprise me yet again Cinder. Not only did you secure us the powers of the
Fall Maiden, but you have also put down two of our biggest threats. Well done."
"I aim to please."
"I'll be sending some Grimm to secure the Relic and see if there is any way we can collect any of Kurama's chakra that is no doubt lingering in the area. Hopefully we can do so before the beast reforms. We'll also need to find the boy's body. Dr. Merlot seems to be interested in using his blood in some of his experiments."
"What of the girl with Silver Eyes?"
"You need not concern yourself with her, she will be taken care of. For now, it would be wise of you top spend your time mastering the powers you've acquired."
Beacon Academy had been a shining symbol of hope for many. Its beautifully designed towers and its position overlooking the city of Vale acted as a much needed sign to the people that there still remained a light in the dark.
That light had been snuffed out.
The once masterfully designed and built towers that gave Beacon its name now lay in ruin. Once home to hundreds of Huntsman in training, the prestigious academy had been overrun by an innumerable amount of Grimm, all drawn to the lingering miasma of negativity that hung in the air.
At least it seemed so to the untrained eye. What would surprise many was the fact that the Grimm seemed to be searching for something, turning over mountains of rubble to do so.
One particular Alpha, surrounded by other large Grimm like it, was using its hooked claws and strength to dig through the remains of what had been the CCT relay and Beacon's namesake.
The creature, having lived a countless number of decades at this point was confused when it encountered what looked to be the arm of a deceased human. Not one to turn down a free meal, the Grimm began to excavate the area around the corpse. It began to salivate at the mouth as it uncovered what looked to be an almost fresh body, somehow well preserved with only a handful of serious wounds.
Reaching down, the Alpha used its massive paws to lift the corpse up.
'Think it'll work?'
'Not at all.'
To the surprise of the Grimm, the corpse moved, placing its hand on the creature's snout.
A howl of pain left the Alpha as it could feel its life literally being drained from it.
Naruto collapsed to the floor in a heap as the Grimm that had been holding him up faded from existence. Feeling the twisted form of Nature Chakra course through his body, Naruto could feel himself almost overcome by the darkness that every Creature of Grimm seemed to be born with.
However, Uzumaki Naruto was not exactly known for being weak of will.
Fighting through the darkness, the Jinchūriki put the Nature Chakra he had absorbed to work, using it to heal some of his more egregious wounds that remained.
Actually being able to move, the blond forced himself to his feet. Gasping for air, the blond knew he had to get to a safe place. Although he had managed to heal most of his wounds, he still needed more time and rest to get back into tip-top form. Looking at all the Grimm surrounding him, this probably wasn't the most ideal spot for that.
'Let me take over. You work on undoing the last of that damned seal and I'll use what chakra we have to get us out of here.'
As Kurama took over control of his partner's body, Naruto's normally bright sapphire blue eyes bled into a much more sinister shade of crimson.
Funneling as much of his chakra as he could through his Jinchūriki, Kurama pushed Naruto's body to the brink, forcing it to move as fast as it could without breaking any bones. Coming to edge of the cliff that seperated Beacon from the rest of Vale, Kurama took a chance and leapt forward.
Halfway through his freefall, the Bijū managed to summon up enough of his chakra to create a tailless shroud. Confident the chakra shroud would absorb most of the damage, Kurama pushed Naruto's body into a nosedive.
All that could be seen from a distance was what looked like a reddish-orange missile plowing into the water at almost terminal velocity.
Using chakra, Kurama pushed Naruto's body to the surface.
'Crap, it looks like that was all your body could take, gaki.'
Taking control of his body once more, Naruto growled out in pain as he could feel a multitude of wounds reopening.
'Could've warned me you were going to try and commit suicide you ass!'
'You should be grateful I got us out of there you ungrateful brat!'
'Lot of good that did us! I can't even move my body and I'm pretty damn sure I'm about pass out from pain and exhaustion! And would you look at that, we're floating on our back in the middle of a freaking lake!'
The irrevocably bound pair went back and forth for a few minutes, continuing to insult the other with scathing words and childish retorts. Seeing as how he could barely even move a finger at this point, Naruto accepted the fact that his course was now entirely up to wherever the gentle waves of the lake pulled him.
Hopefully Lady Luck would do him another solid and send him floating back to his friends.
Thankfully, Naruto felt himself finally drift into something solid.
"Well, well, would you look at that Neo, looks like we bagged us a new fish species. Think it'll go good with some tartar sauce?"
Naruto used the last bit of his strength to turn his head. He was greeted by a familiar pair of heterochromatic eyes and a shock of flaming orange hair that seemed to just piss him off.
'Well...shit,' was the blond's last thought before the sweet darkness of unconsciousness took him.
AN: IT'S FINALLY FUCKING DONE. DEAR FUCKING CHRIST I AM FINALLY FREE OF THIS DAMNED CHAPTER. ';JKLSDVC;KJBSD
Alright, I am so sorry this chapter took so long to come out you guys! I know I said that I had chopped this chapter in half so that it WOULDN'T be a bloated chapter of epic proportions, but 20k words later and well….yeah obviously that didn't work out.
First things first. A HUGE thank you you to fellow author CruelRuin who was insane enough to agree to beta-ing this monster. He deserves a goddamn medal for putting up with me and slogging through this thing.
I had enlisted his help, because - if I was going to end this, my magnum opus - I wanted it end it with a bang. I wanted this last chapter to be something epic, to be worthy of the praise so many of you heap on it.
So, again, thank you to CruelRuin for cleaning up my mess and even giving me some ideas of how to handle this whole thing. Seriously, go check out his stuff, dude writes some quality stuff.
Also, as a favor for helping me out, I popped in on a podcast he and a bunch of other talented Fanfic authors do over on Twitch. The podcast is under the title of Fanfiction Contempt Theatre 9001 and under TrueSneakyDevil's channel on Twitch. The archive for the stream is kicking around somewhere, so go check it out. Had a fun time and I definitely plan on popping in a few more times.
Now, onto this!
Yes, if it wasn't obvious from the beginning AN, I am officially ending this story. Plans for the future? As I've already said, I will be making a sequel to this on a separate story post, but (PLEASE READ) do NOT be expecting that story to come anytime soon. As much as I love doing this story, I'm honestly kind of burned out on it. I'll be working on it, as I'm honestly pretty eager to continue, but I also really want to work on some other stories I've been meaning to.
That said, I do have tentative plans to work on a sort of sister fic to this one involving the plot of the RWBY game, Grimm Eclipse. As made evident by the end of this chapter I do have plans to use that plot and its characters.
ALSO, if there are any fans of my last Naruto/DxD fic (The Auspice), I will be picking that back up again. I also have plans to officially start work on that Yandere Hinata story I had briefly mentioned some time ago. I have a draft of the first chapter kicking around somewhere, so keep an eye out for that.
Beyond the world of Naruto, I also want to start work on a Harry Potter fic I've been meaning to get to.
There's also a part of me that wants to pick up my Bleach and Pokemon stories again as well, so we'll see about that.
That all said, don't expect me to all of sudden start pumping out chapters for those stories though. I am also forcing myself to actually work on my own original music with a buddy of mine plus all the shenanigans of life.
I do want to write more and such, so I'm going to try and be little more proactive about posting here, but I make no promises.
If you want to tide yourself over with some RMS, go check out Sanderpwally and Dylan Millwood's respective readings of this story. Who knows, if you pester them enough, they may actually update them haha.
Speaking of being proactive though, I am sorry to the people who have PM'd me within the last few months. I recently added the FF app to my phone and found a number of messages that I was never notified of on the site. I'm not sure if, for whatever reason, the app messages are separate from site messages - which is exactly what it looks like - but going forward I will try and answer messages on both the app and site.
Now, before I add even more to this behemoth, I want to thank all of you who have read, reviewed, followed, and favorited. Four years, four fucking years of my life I've spent working on this and that is insane. This story has been in my life longer than my own father and has gotten more attention than most of my girlfriends.
Jokes aside, I really am beyond grateful. I look back and yeah I cringe at some parts of this story or think "that could've been better" but, overall, I am immensely proud of what I've made here.
Thank you guys for sticking through this with me.
Remnant's Maelstrom Shinobi, Book 1….is done.
See you all for Book 2!