The Shot Heard Round the World
"Quite the performance we've had today, don't you think?"
"I agree completely, Reggy! Despite their youth, this year's first divistion put on a terrific show."
Reggy smiled. "And let's not forget the older years. I'm sure that the combat academys are just itching to get their hands on one Lavender Wryn."
"Indeed." The other caster nodded. "But I think we all know who the real start of this tournament was. In fact, it would surprise me if she started receiving scholarship offers as soon as she recovers!"
"Oy yes, everyone, whether you're watching in the stands or at home, give up for Vale's very own darling! The one and only Ruby Rose!"
"I can feel those applause from up here." The caster said with a chuckle. "For those of you who were wondering, and believe me we've had plenty of questions during her last bout, yes, Miss Rose is actually much younger than everyone else in the tournament. She was admitted to Signal two years early because she had unlocked her semblance prior to that."
"And she put on quite a show with that aura of hers, didn't she, Gerard?"
"That she did, Reggy, that she did."
"For those of you who missed the first day of the tournament, Miss Rose absolutely dominated in her age group, going undefeated during seeding. Though she was knocked out in the first round today, she performed excellently against Schwarz Adler, outspeeding the fifteen year old who literally ran circles around the rest of the competitors."
"Mr. Adler ended up calming second in ladder ranking, and was barely edged into third place on overall points."
"Looks like someone purposely threw some of his matches on day one."
Reggy nodded. "Ruby's Rose's overall standing by points is nnth, which is the same as her ladder rank. And I'm sure we'll see great things from her as she grows up."
"I do to Reggy." Gerard said. "But, there's one thing that we saw from her today that I personally was interested in."
"Oh really? What was that?"
"That animal tooth necklace she was wearing on both days. In fact, it doesn't really go with her ensemble at all."
Reggy nodded. "I was interested in it as well." He said. "So, in between matches on day one, I called some friends of mine to do some digging. They just got back to me this morning. Apparently, that necklace a token of trust given to people who, wait for it, are involved with the White Fang!"
"No- you're sure?"
Reggy grinned. "Without a doubt. It's actually pretty well known in in certain circles."
"Well that is shocking." Gerard said. "But it does explain how Ruby Rose turned into such a monster in the arena!"
"Oh I bet her training regime is beastly."
Both the casters laughed.
"But, Gerry, we're not here to talk politics. So, let's move on to our other noteworthy contestants."
"Hmm, well we did spend a bit too long talking about Ruby I suppose."
Reggy shrugged. "Well, maybe she's picked up some animal magnetism."
"Oh ha ha."
Cinder slowly set the remote down.
There was an odd expression on her lips, some twist between a smirk and a frown. "Of course it will always come back to my little Ruby." She said with a sigh. Standing, she strode out of the room, a number already ringing on her scroll.
A gruff voice came over the line.
"There are some arrangements I need you to make…. The usual amount of course, please don't be so insulting…. Good. I'll forward you the details." She laughed gently to herself after she ended the call. "Truly, why leave things to fate when I can just take matters into my own hands."
She called the car around. No time for dilly dallying. She had places to be, people to kill…
Kingdoms to topple.
Ruby had only remained conscious long enough to hear the Hunter call the match in her opponents favor.. Perhaps it was amazing that she held on even that long.
When she woke up in the hospital, the doctors told her passive aura protection had been shattered with enough left over damage to bruise her internal organs. Currently, she was bed ridden in the hospital, and even moving her arms was a challenge. On top of that, she would be feeling lethargic for the next few days as her aura became focused healing internal damages, as opposed to fueling her ridiculous energy levels.
Until she was suitably recovered, Ruby was confined to her bed in the hospital and told that if she needed anything (even a bathroom break!) to press the call button. She wasn't allowed to so much as stand and stretch her legs.
According to the doctors, there was no internal bleeding, but if she stressed herself too much and that changed, she would require surgery. In other words, she was stuck in bed on pain of an even longer and more boring hospital stay.
It was, in Ruby's estimation, her own personal slice of hell.
After what felt like hours alone, the door to her room finally opened, letting Qrow into the room, Yang tagging along at his side. After a quick reminder from that nurse that visiting hours ended at five, she left the three of them alone in Ruby's room.
Ruby give an awkward smile, "Um… hey guys."
For a moment, the room was silent, and drops of sweat began beading on Ruby's brow. Should she have let Qrow or Yang talk first? What if they were mad at her for not coming home?
Then Qrow cracked a smirk. "Not bad, girl." He said, yanking a chair and more or less collapsing into it. "Next time, more with the hitting and less with the dashing. Yah don't win fights running away.
Yang gave Ruby a smile as she hopped up onto the bed, taking care not to sit on Ruby's legs. "Tough luck with the last round sis
"Thanks guys." She said, "Sorry I didn't make it to the finals."
Qrow rolled his eyes. "Always reaching too far." He said, though his small smirk undercut his sharp word. "You're nine years old, and already aiming for first place?" He shook his head. "Dust save us from cocky brats."
Ruby blinked at the remark. But that was her uncle, snarky commentary coupled with backhand compliments. And people still though Yang got her personality from their dad.
"Gee, thanks uncle Qrow." She said, smiling slightly.
"Don't think that it'll be easy though!" Yang warned with a grin. "Starting next year, I'm gonna be competing as well."
Ruby smirked back. "Oh? That should be a free round for me then, right?"
They both laughed. "Not likely!"
The three of them spent the next few hours talking, but towards the end topics turned back to Ruby's last match in the arena.
"I just…" Ruby frowned down at her sheets. "He was so fast! Almost as fast as I was, and he was better at it too, kept dashing out of sight so I couldn't keep track of him!" She complained. "I'm supposed to be the fast one, how does he have like, the same semblance as me?"
Qrow rubbed his chin. "See, that's what you got wrong." He said. Ruby looked at him in confusion. "His semblance is closer to Yang's here than yours kid."
The girls both blinked, sharing a glance. "Whaddaya mean, uncle Qrow?" Yang asked.
"He doesn't have speed. He has impact." Qrow said. "He increases the amount of force he puts on an object, like the handle of his sword."
Ruby cocked her head sideways. "But what does that that have do with how fast he was?" Yang looked equally confused.
Qrow sighed, smirking lightly. "This is why I hate being a teacher." He joked. "He's increasing the amount of force he puts on the ground each time he takes a step." Qrow said. "It's just like jumping, the harder you kick off, the higher you go, but he's-"
"Using it to run FASTER!" Ruby shouted, throwing her hands into the air. Then she stiffened, collapsing back to her pillow. "Ooww." She pouted, rubbing her stomach. "I think I get why the doctors told me not to move around…"
Qrow laughed. "As damn excitable as ever." He mutter. "But yeah, got it in one."
Yang re settled on the bed. "That's… pretty cool, I guess." She shrugged. "Lucky him right? I mean, I couldn't do something like that with my semblance."
Ruby nodded, "Yeah, me neither…"
Qrow stood up, and ruffled Ruby's hair as he walked over to the door. "Really?" He asked. "You sound awfully certain, don't cha. Ready to go Yang?"
The two sisters shared a glance, then Yang hopped off the bed. "Yeah…"
"Rubes." Qrow said as Yang walked over to him. "You did good. Next year, if you want some more hands on instruction with that scythe of yours, let me know."
Ruby blinked, then smiled. "That would be… nice." She said quietly. Qrow nodded back as he swept out of the room.
Yang, on the other hand, paused at the doorframe. "Hey Ruby…"
"I'll stop trying to… hover over your shoulder all the time." She said. "I get it, you can take care of yourself."
Ruby frowned. "Yang…"
"No," Yang shook her head. "It's like… my fault, right? I shouldn't be whining that I don't have any big sister privileges when I'm the one that gave 'em up." She flashed Ruby a quick smile, almost bright enough to cover up the sadness on the other side. "I'll just have to find some other way to make it up to you." Then she stepped out into the hall.
"Yang, wait." Ruby reached towards the door.
"Hey, don't worry Ruby!" Yang called back as the door closed. "Big sis has got this one!"
The door closed.
For a moment, Ruby's hand remained outstretched before she slumped back into the bed. Silver eyes blinked dully up at the ceiling. "Uhg, My family's exhausting." She murmured. Still, it was much better than the boredom that came after they left.
Ruby was tired enough to sleep for some of it, and a nurse came to give her a light meal.
But then, the waiting set in during the long quiet hours where Ruby really couldn't justify pushing the call button just to have some company.
She kept glancing towards the door, hoping that Blake or Emmy or Cinder or someone would walk through the door so she could stop focusing on how much her tummy ached. But eventually, the shadows grew longer, and the moon crept up into the sky, its soft light lulling Ruby to sleep.
It was twenty past midnight when Ruby's window opened silently, letting a small shadow with amber eyes sneak into the room. Quiet as a cat, the shadow crept over to Ruby's bed. The only noise it made was a sigh of relief upon seeing that Ruby was alive and well, resting peacefully.
"Surprisingly predictable of you, Blake."
Blake spun around, eyes flashing in the moonlight as she turned to face the source of the voice.
For a moment, even her own preternatural eyesight caught nothing, until a breeze ruffled the curtains along the window frame, revealing a figure leaning against the wall where her stillness could conceal them within the shadow of the drapes.
Blake blinked, eyes adjusting quickly. "Cinder…" She took a step backwards, her back bumping into Ruby's bed. "Ah, why are you here so late?"
"You know." Cinder began, "I could ask you the same question." She stepped languidly from the wall, advanced on Blake in slow, deliberate, strides. "Visiting hours have long since ended after all. And with the way you came in, I might almost believe your intentions were less than pure."
Before Blake could get out of the way, Cinder grasped her shoulder with one smooth hand, gripping tightly through the fabric of Blake's shirt.
Blake let out a small hiss as she felt Cinder's nails dig into her skin, but the older woman wouldn't let her slip away. She struggled silently for a few seconds before she realized the futility of her actions. With a huff she looked down at the floor, body tense.
"What's the matter?" Cinder asked. Blake could hear the condescending smirk in her voice "Cat got your tongue?"
There was a loud smack.
Ruby stirred gently in her dreams, before sinking back into the depths of her slumber.
"Temper, temper." Cinder chided. Her hand tightened around Blake's wrist. "Best keep those claws sheathed for now, kitten."
"What do you want." Blake said. She winced as the bones in her wrist grated together. Cinder was strong.
"You were the one who made her wear the necklace in the tournament."
"What?" Blake blinked, shaking her head. "I didn't make Ruby do anything!" She said, still trying to keep her voice down. "She was as worried about Rust as any of us!"
Cinder laughed low in her throat. It was not, Blake realized, a nice sound. "Don't act like an ignorant child, Blake." Cinder whispered. "It does you no favors."
Blake looked away, trying to snatch her wrist away once more, this time Cinder let her. "I suggested it, when she was thinking about withdrawing from the tournament." She admitted. "We thought it would send a message."
Cinder casually slapped Blake across the cheek. The girl gasped as she went sprawling sideways, landing on the cool tiles of the hospital.
"Next time," Cinder said. "it would be better if you considered, for just a moment, what message your actions would send."
Blake scrambled backwards, "What do you mean." She tried to get back to her feet, but a quick burst of flame vaporized her clone and then Cinder's heel was pinning her to the floor.
Her expression still a composed mask of condescension, Cinder reached into her pocked and pulled out her scroll. Flicking it on she pulled up an article and held it out for Blake to see.
The cat faunus blinked.
"The White Fang steals our best and brightest." Cinder said, before flicking to the next article. "Corrupted, or Co-opted? And in depth look at the leadership of the White Fang." Another change, "And of course, my absolute favorite, 'Lost Gems: Vale's diamond in the rough'."
Blake shook her head, "What does that have-"
Cinder pressed down with her foot for just a moment. "Not the most inspired titles, but then, this is Vale's public media, not something I usually concern myself with." She said, looking down at Blake. "Until some foolish, self-obsessed, child makes it my concern."
She leaned forward, slowly increasing the weight on Blake's chest. Her smile remained unchanged as the breath was forced out of Blake's lungs, the girl sputtering out like a fire denied that same resource.
Then Cinder removed her foot, leaving the girl gasping and clutching at her chest. "That's twice now you've endangered my little Ruby." She said congenially, as if discussing the weather. "If you do it a third I will end you."
"Wha-" Blake coughed out, struggled up to a sitting position. "What? How is she in danger?"
"You say you know Ruby Rose." Cinder said. "Tell me, will her life be better, now that everyone in the City of Vale is talking about her? And not about how well she did in the tournament." She scoffed. "Walk down the streets some time Blake, and listen to what people are saying."
Cinder moved to the window. "Because it doesn't matter what you were trying to say, foolish little girl, all that matters is what everyone else hears."
Blake flinched, glancing away for a moment, when she looked back, Cinder was gone.
A few minutes later, a second shadow drifted away from the second story of the hospital, leaving Ruby Rose asleep and completely unknowing of her two midnight guests. When morning came, and she woke up, Ruby was only left wondering why neither Blake nor Cinder had come to see her during the day. Even Emerald had snuck in right before visiting hours had ended, though she'd had to run when a nurse came in with dinner.
But in any case, Ruby's second day at the hospital started with another round of checkups and yet more bland hospital food, before the doctor said that she was well enough to go home if her parents decided that was best.
"Usually I'd recommend you stay for a few more days." He said with a friendly smile. "But you're recovering fast enough that I don't think a further hospital stay will give you anything a few days of rest and relaxation at your own home won't accomplish."
"I thought it was really serious though." Ruby said wrinkling her eyes. Yes she felt better today than yesterday, still a little sore but strong enough to move around as long as she wasn't running or anything.
"It was a rather serious injury, especially for a child your age." The doctor said. "But there's a large amount of variance in recover speed from aura user to aura user. You seem to be towards the faster end of that spectrum. A few days off and you should be right as rain."
"Oh okay." Ruby smiled. "Thanks you for helping me get better then. I there anywhere I can use a phone?"
Half an hour later, Ruby got into the back of Cinder's limo. She waved to the nice doctor, who walked her to the front door when her ride came. He waved back, a complex expression on his face. Then the chauffer closed the door behind her, and Ruby relaxed into the plush leather seats.
"So much better than a hospital bed." Ruby said.
"Thank you for the compliment, Miss." The driver said, eyes crinkling as he smiled. "I picked them out myself.
"Really?" Ruby asked, giggling. "Do you think you can help me pick out a mattress then?"
He chuckled, and took a turn onto the highway. For her part, Ruby just leaned back in her seat, resting her head against the winder, and watched the city scroll past. She had a happy smile on her face the whole drive. It was a good feeling, going home. She could just close her eyes, and let the world slip away.
Until, of course, reality came crashing down once more.
Adam cocked an eyebrow, "You're late."
Blake shrugged, crossing to the small minifridge in the back room where they kept the ice. "I ran into some trouble."
"More than some." Adam said.
Blake sighed. "It's… getting pretty bad."
"Like I don't know." Adam said, rolling his eyes. "There wasn't any practice for you to miss today, actually. Whole dojo had to head off some gang bangers who thought they were hot shit." He snorted. "They fucking trashed Norlin's Nest."
Blake grimaced. "Is he gonna repair the shop?"
"If he sticks around." Adam said. "Lot of people are talking about heading for Vacuo. 'At least the grimm won't discriminate', someone said."
Adam shrugged. "Nobody has the money for airship tickets." He said. "And I can see the appeal."
"What?" Black hissed. "Getting your family killed over your own stupidity."
"Dying for something that might actually matter, instead of this battle of inches in the Vale." Adam replied, fingering the handle of his katana. "If things keep going like this, we're all going to die. I can understand the people who want to pick how they eat it."
"Don't even say that."
Adam laughed. "Not saying anything but the truth, kitten." He said. "This whole city has turned into a powder keg, ready to blow. All it needs is the right spark."
Turn on the screen and watch a subtle war unfold.
"… don't think that our children should be cavorting around with potential terrorists. It's not only dangerous, it's flat out irresponsible."
"Well what do you think we should do then, looking forwards? Clearly this Ruby Rose is already in deep with the Fang, but what about other children?"
"We need to send them a message, and tell them to stick to the dust forsaken rules! If they don't want to be treated like animals then they shouldn't act like them!"
Voices that reach from across kingdoms, debating, clashing over what it means to be human. And what it means to belong.
"… and although you are here to learn of battle and bloodshed, do not forget that the world requires diplomats and peacemakers just as much as it does hunters and huntresses. In times of civil unrest, it is simple to shut out the world and focus inward, leaving the problems of the Kingdom for others to face. However, it is only through trust and cooperation that…"
Disagreements spark tension, matches burning off their wicks, into embers that are dancing over a sea of oil.
"With all due respect, Professor Ozpin is a young man, not someone I think should be dictating sociopolitical theory. Clearly, the faunus, and the White Fang in particular, are getting out of hand. The government needs to contain the situation before the unrest spreads any further. It's not about race, it's about our survival as…"
"…Leaders of the rally say that this is going to be the 'first of many' protests against the liberties the faunus have taken in society, citing incidents including the violent conflict between the Iron Fur 'neighborhood watch group' and peaceful protesters last week…"
The Vale descending into a cold war, a battle of voices and ideology. Of Identity and Will.
"It's dangerous to be out alone after dark, you know. And don't get me started on down town. I mean, no one ever wanted us there in the first place, but now there are mobs! With weapons!
"… new controversy over the 'No Faunus Allowed' movement that many shops in the business district are subscribing to. Are shop owners allowed to pick and choose their customers? Many…"
People are watching, waiting for the spark.
"We will not be ignored! We will not be marginalized! And we will not be tread upon by the uncaring masses who dare to call us less than human!"
Pressure builds, from without and from within. No one wants a war. No one seeks a war.
"Grimm attacks have been intensifying. Nothing we can't handle, but if this keeps up we're going to need more…"
But even then, the voices of peace and truth seem to fall silent.
"Frankly, there's nothing he could say that would make me…"
"Iron fur will provide security. You may keep you policemen."
"… don't listen, we'll make them listen!"
They are drowned out in cacophony of hatred and rage, of fire and ice. People screaming for justice and freedom, for power and dominance.
"Turnout projected in the thousands…"
"Back to Menagerie!"
And if those who speak for peace, and kindness, and empathy will not be drowned out…
"…leader of the white fang will be giving a speech in the face of increased discrimination against faunus. He said to interviewers the last week that 'he hopes he can quell the tide of violence before it spirals out of control'. Martin, what do you think about…"
"Arthur! Arthur! Arthur!"
"I do not believe that the bank of Justice is Bankrupt!"
If those who say that tomorrow will be a brighter day will not hold their tongues-
"I have a dream that my children will one day live in a kingdom where they won't be judged by the formation of their body, but by the content of their character! I have a dream today-!"
They will be silenced.
And as the leader of the White Fang falls to the ground, the Vale will erupt in an honest war. Raising up their weapons, men and women and children will battle for their right to speak.
But those, instead, who listen, take heed:
There will be no victory in strength.
And that's a wrap. My thanks go to 'Trying to Put a Pen to Paper' for Betaing this chapter for me, along with all of you who reviewed. Believe me when I say that every review helps me keep writing when I'm facing writer's block. Or even just trying to formulate the scenes I know I need to make.
I hope this chapter does a good job setting the stage, as it were. This is my first major divergence from cannon, after my premise of course. In Canon, 'Arthur' the old leader of the Fang stepped down. Allowing for more militant leaders to convert the organization into the terrorists we see in canon. Here, with his death being a polarizing element, things will play out differently.
That said, I am considering skipping to the 'end' of Vale's brief Civil War. I'm not altogether confident in my ability to write it, and I know where I need to end up. That said, I would like to hear what you, my readers, think. Should I do my best to show the rapid swell of violence? Or should I skip to the end when I can show the effect of the civil war on my major characters? Because really, if there are gangs on the streets, Ruby (and Blake as well, as much as she will hate it) aren't going to be doing all that much.
Cinder and Roman, however, would be very active during this time.
In any case, hope you all Follow, Favorite, and Review! I hope you enjoyed the chapter!