Well guys, I'm back. Sorry for the long wait. It took me a bit to get back into the swing of writing after the semester started, I actually had most of this done in early January, it took the rest of the month to wrap up the last thousand words or so. Hopefully you all enjoy it.
As always, I'm terrible at giving estimates on how long it will take me to update, but I need to finish catching up with season three before I start planning out the next chapter. I'll do my best now that I'm back in the flow, until then, please enjoy.
"Nothing looks different."
Behind Ruby, Cinder laughed, tracing a finger down the window of the Penthouse. "Only because you're looking with your eyes." She said. "The tension is just beneath the surface, but no one is willing to talk about it."
Ruby blinked, frowning. "… why?" She pointed out at the city, at the people walking on the sidewalks below. "It doesn't look like that at all."
Cinder knelt down behind her erstwhile daughter, tilting Ruby's chin upwards. "That's because you're not looking in the right place." She said, pointing towards the horizon. "There's a reason everyone is so willing to play pretend."
"… The Grim." Ruby said.
"Indeed." After a moment more, Cinder stood. "But that will change very soon. After all, even the people of Vale can only play make believe for so long."
Ruby looked back down at the city. "And then what happens?"
"Oh?" Cinder smirked enigmatically. "Who knows… But if I had to place a bet, I'd put my money on interesting things." Then she sauntered out of the room, "Do try to stay in the penthouse for the week, Ruby." She called over her shoulder, before leaving Ruby looking over Vale in consternation.
A moment later Emerald walked into the room, looking worriedly back the way she came. "Red… is something up with Cinder?" She asked quietly. "She had this really strange expression on her face! It was scary."
Ruby pouted. "She said interesting things are going to happen." She said. "Why do I feel like it's not gonna be the good kind of interesting?"
"Huh? Red, what are you talking about?"
"There's a lot of stuff happening, Emmy." Ruby said. "I heard from Blake that things are getting tense in the Faunus neighborhoods. She thinks there's gonna be a war!"
"Wait since-" Emerald froze. "Since that Lion Faunus guy died right? That's what's got everyone so upset?"
"He wasn't just some Faunus guy!"Ruby retorted. "He was the leader of the White Fang! All the Faunus are so angry… and now, I'm scared that bad things are going to happen."
Emerald quirked an eyebrow. "You sure?" She asked. "I mean yeah, things were getting a little tense, but that's nothing new."
"Emmy I know you don't watch the news much, but seriously?"
"Come on, Red, I can't understand anything from the news." She said, rolling her eyes. "Too much Grimmshit to wade through. I have to be on the streets to if I want to know what's really going on."
Ruby looked back to the streets. "Pretty soon it's gonna be obvious for… oh no."
"Huh? What's going on?" Emerald dashed over to the window. Down on the street below there was a crowd of people marching across the street. Even from dozens of story's up the group seemed massive, covering the entire street from building to building.
The two girls stared at the procession as it crossed the street in the fading light. Shadows lanced across the pavement from where the setting sun. From this high up, they couldn't see if the growing mob, for how could it be anything else, were made up of Faunus or people, but did it even matter.
"Ruby." Emerald said, taking the younger girl's hand. "Let's go spar."
"What?" Ruby looked over. "… No…" She said. "I can't… not when something like this is happening…" She shook her head vehemently. Emerald frowned.
She grabbed Ruby by the shoulders, turning her around. "Let's. go. Spar."
"Ruby." Emerald gestured toward the window. "There's nothing we can do about those people."
"Yes there is! We can-"
"Doing stupid things doesn't make you a hero, Ruby." Emerald said. "It just makes you dead." She continued quietly. "I lost my family once. I don't want to go through it again…"
Ruby's eyes widened. "Emmy, I-" She glanced back to the window, where the crowd was slowly moving out of sight. If she ran, she could catch them, find out was going on, try and do something to head off the feeling of impending doom that had settled deep in her stomach.
She glanced back to Emerald, who was looking at her sadly. Ruby slumped. "Fine, let's go spar…" She said. With one last glance to the city outside, she let herself be pulled out of the room, to train.
"Next time, though." She whispered to herself. "Next time I'll be stronger. I won't sit on the sidelines anymore."
"Hmm?" Emerald glanced over her shoulder. "Did you say something, Rubes?"
She shook her head. "Nothing important." She said. "I'm just… worried. Some of my friends are out there… I've never seen a mob like that before."
Emerald snorted as the entered the training room. "Weren't you in that Faunus group that attacked the Schnee factory?"
Normally, Ruby would have been offended on her friend' behalf, after all, there's a difference from attacking and being attacked. But right now she just shrugged, "Yeah… it was terrifying, being surrounded by all those mercenaries, all those guns." She gave Emerald a week smile. "Sometimes I think half that's half the reason I love weapons so much?"
"What, being attacked by them?" Emerald cocked an eyebrow.
Ruby shrugged helplessly. "Gotta take back control somehow?" She said. "Anyway are we starting yet?"
Emerald blinked. "Huh, yeah sur-" Then Ruby vanished in a swirl of rose petals, Emerald felt a rush of air, and she dodged to the side on an instinct, there was a flash of black as Ruby's boot went sweeping over her head.
Emerald grinned as she rolled across the mats, but then Ruby's dagger buried itself an inch in front of her face.
Her skin, dusky as it was, grew somewhat pale at that. "Uh… a bit much don't you think."
Ruby smirked. "You're the one who wanted to distract me with sparing." She said, taking a few steps back as she twirled her dagger around. "So come on, distract me. But just a warning, you're gonna have to work for it, I'm nationally ranked after all!"
Emerald sighed fondly, getting back to her feet. "Cocky brat," She said as she pulled her own weapon out of its sheath. Chains of her kusarigama clinked against the floor. "Don't get such a big head."
Ruby lay in bed, quietly worrying at her bottom lip. Emerald was curled up in a ball behind her, snoring gently. Back when she lived on the street she would have appreciated the body heat. At the moment, she just wished that she wasn't running the risk of waking someone up.
In her hand she held her scroll, smothering the light it gave off with her body, as she looked at the first piece of news she'd seen from the outside world in far too long.
'Going out 2night. Could use some1 to watch my back. Meet at Bookstore.'
For the past month, Cinder had clamped down on both of her wards. Michael picked Ruby up immediately after school, and she knew that the same happened for Emerald. Furthermore, none of the faunus kids had shown up since the day Arthur had died, not even Blake. This was the first time Ruby had heard from her best friend in that time.
On the streets, things were getting tense, but everyone was still holding onto the façade of normalcy. In the good neighborhoods, like where Cinder's penthouse was located, it was almost possible for Ruby to believe that the 'Civil War' didn't exist.
Until she got a text from Blake.
Finally she made her decision. Glancing over her shoulder once more, Ruby slipped out of the bed and crept over to the door of her room. She eased it open slowly, peeking out into the living room, only to freeze when she saw the back of Cinder's head over the back of the couch.
Holding in a gasp of surprise, Ruby withdrew back behind the doorway. Slowly, she began to inch her way back to the bed.
If Cinder was awake at this hour, there was no chance of her escaping. Then she turned her gaze back to her bed, where Emerald had sprawled across the covers.
Ruby groaned quietly, getting back into bed now would wake her sister up for sure. And then would come the awkward questions, and then Cinder would think to check her scroll, and then-
An exasperated sigh drifted through past the door, and for a second Ruby thought she'd been made.
"Why are you all so hard to find…" Cinder murmured.
Ruby blinked and, after one last moment of indecision, crept towards the door. But whatever Cinder had been working on was out of sight. Still, Ruby continued to watch silently as Cinder retired to her room, toying idly with her scroll.
Ruby remained there for a few moments more, half from the confusion of Cinder's statements and half from the suspicion that Cinder would come back into the main room. But when she reached no epiphany and Cinder failed to reappear, she made her way into the penthouse proper.
Silently grabbing her prototype version of Crescent Rose, she opened the door to the hallway and eased it shut behind her. Walking slowly down the hall and too the elevator was the most nerve wracking thing she'd ever done, and she let out a breath of relief when the door slid shut behind her.
She arrived at the bookstore with petals on the wind.
Blake was sitting on the rooftop of Tukson's book trade. "I was starting to think you wouldn't come." she said in a whisper. There was a look of relief on her face, though Ruby only noticed it because she'd known Blake for so long.
"Psh." Ruby gave her a small grin. "You asked for my help, of course I came… I just had to wait until everyone was asleep to sneak out."
Blake nodded. "We'll be leaving soon. Actually we have to get to the staging point soon." She said, walking to the edge of the roof. "Technically, both of us are too young to be doing something like this," Even in the dim like Ruby could see the determined lines Blake's face was set in. "But with how things are now, I doubt anyone will object."
They both leapt out to the next rooftop. "How are things now?" Ruby asked. "I mean, I haven't been able to get out of the penthouse except for school in the past month. And the news doesn't say anything I can't already figure out for myself…"
"Bad," Blake said. "Despite the 'best efforts of police and investigators' the murderer hasn't been found. Oddly enough we tracked him down after the first week. There were people who wanted to go after him then and there… but Adam-" She cut off as their soared over a particularly large gap.
"Adam said to wait, gather evidence. In memory of Arthur and what he stood for, we should at least give the police a chance to get it right. The new leaders though he had a point."
Ruby's expression soured. "And then the police did nothing."
"Nothing at all." Blake hissed out "We even had people watching the police station, some of the cops were making jokes that, if they ever actually found the guy, they should recruit him to the force."
Ruby glanced away. Her feet pounded across the rooftops, drawing closer to their destination. She had to work up the courage to ask. "So tonight, is the White Fang going to…"
"Yes." Blake said. "It's not… It's not how it should be." She admitted quietly. "But Arthur deserved better than- better than be to shot for having the courage to speak up! For having the wherewithal to tell everyone what's wrong with society." She gulped. "And so… if this is what it takes to bring him justice… I'll do it. With a smile on my face."
Ruby looked at her friend for a few more moments, before nodding. "Okay." She said. "So what's our… job… going to be?"
"Lookouts." Blake answered. "We need people watching every direction, and to throw off pursuers. Not a single faunus is going to die tonight if we can help it."
"And since the two of us are so fast?"
Blake shrugged. "Mostly because I'm so impossible to catch. The guys sometimes joke that I have nine lives." She smiled wanly. "But no one, no one, will argue against you being there. After all, Arthur's the one who gave you that pendant.
Ruby frowned. "Are you sure? Because, it's kinda my fault that all of this happened…"
"Nobody thinks that." Blake said. "It's rare to find people who are willing to stand up for us. That you did so, that you wore our pendant on a kingdom wide event, earned you a lot of respect from… well, from pretty much everyone. If anything, showing up here will only get you more."
Ruby smiled weakly. "Thanks." She said. "I was, aha, a little worried that people might not be so happy to see me around."
"Don't worry Ruby." Blake said. "Even if everyone there is against you, which they won't be" She added quickly. "I've got your back."
Ruby nodded. "And I've got yours."
They arrived at the 'staging ground' shortly after. Blake led Ruby to an unobtrusive shipyard towards the south end of the docks. The shipping crates in the area were worn and rusted through, and the piers made of half rotted wood. The only inhabits were the faunus, about a dozen or so, standing in the shadow of one of the crates.
It was hard to tell in the dark, Ruby didn't have night vision after all, but the group looked to be made up of mostly younger faunus. The oldest seemed to be the three standing near Adam, all in their late teens or maybe early twenties. Everyone was armed.
The youngest, other than her, would be Blake. Despite that, Ruby did her best to stand tall as the rest of the faunus turned to face her and Blake as they landed a few feet away.
Silence reigned for a few moments.
"Who brought the babies?" Someone asked.
"We brought ourselves." Blake answered, she looked over the rest of the assembled faunus, amber eyes meeting each and every gaze. "And don't you dare say that we aren't fucking perfect as lookouts."
One of the older guys, a bear faunus, chuckled. "Look who grew some claws." He said, prompting a murmur of agreement. Then Adam stepped forward, and the crowd quieted.
Blake nodded. Adam turned to Ruby.
For a moment, Ruby shivered under his gaze. It was like standing before a stampede.
But then, even this man was not enough to turn her aside. Ruby also had a bad habit of being bullheaded at the worst of times.
Instead of speaking, Ruby yanked her pendant out from under her shirt, letting the unadorned white fang hang silently from her hand.
Adam continued to look at her for a second, before nodding. "Don't let me down." Ruby gripped her scythe tighter, and steeled her resolve once more.
"We're seriously bringing the kids?" Another faunus asked, "You can't be serious!"
Adam turned back to the rest of the group. "They deserve this just as much as the rest of us." He said. "Cut the chit chat." Ruby and Blake quickly walked over to join the other group where Adam held out a battered looking scroll for the cat faunus to take.
They waited a few more minutes in tense silence for the last few arrivals, then Adam told each group their destination and which approaches they were supposed to watch.
"We split up here." He said. "Stay out of sight. Don't be stupid. Let's move."
Ruby and Blake shared a glance as the group started to disperse. "I know that area a little." Ruby said. "It's where I go to get weapon parts, there's a building we can get to the roof of with a good view of the streets."
Blake nodded. "Lead the way."
The trip was quick, silent, and tense. Barely any time passes before they arrive at their destination.
Roughly half a block away from the target's house, Ruby and Blake quietly scale a four story department store. At least one story higher than all the buildings surrounding it, the vantage point gives the girls an excellent view of the surrounding streets. They set up, weapons in easy reach.
Then the waiting sets in.
After five minutes, Ruby starts shivering gently. She didn't bring her cloak with her tonight, thinking that the bright red fabric would be too distinctive. Instead she only brought a thin black jacket, but in the middle of the winter, it was a bit too light.
"Cold?" Blake asked in a whisper.
Ruby shrugged. "A little." She whispered back. "I'll be fine." Blake just smirked.
"Here." She reached into the small bag she'd brought with her. Moving a little closer to Ruby, she threw a blanket over both of their shoulders. "Try and keep your hands warm." She said. "It would be bad if you fumbled your weapon."
Ruby nodded. "Kay."
The streets remained silent.
Blake waited patiently, almost motionlessly, as the seconds ticked by. Ruby tried. But she had too much energy to keep completely still. It was all she could do to not get up and start pacing, waiting for things to start happening.
At one point, Adam and two of the other older faunus walked past them on the street below. He glanced once in their direction, a small twitch of his lips the only indication that he approved of their hiding spot. And then nothing.
For long minutes nothing happened, no word came over Blake's scroll. She even began to feel a little drowsy, insulated against the cold by her blanket and Ruby's body heat.
Before she could fall asleep however, Ruby jabbed her in the side. "Blake!" She whispered. "I think we have a problem."
Coming down the street, going the same way that Adam and the others went, were three cops.
They were moving slowly down the street, but there was an air of inexorability in their movements. It was in the stony expressions on their faces and the way their hands lingered near their holsters, fingers brushing against the gleaming metal grips of dust pistols.
Blake hissed lowly at the sigh. "Those aren't standard issue." She whispered. "Most of the time cops only have nightsticks."
Though Blake could easily see in the night, Ruby was forced to squint. The streetlamps only provided so much illumination, but then the glint of the police men's badges caught her eye.
"They're S.P.D." She whispered. "Look, the badge." The Special Police Department was a small offshoot of the Vale PD, composed primarily of those graduated Signal or one of the other combat schools, but lacked the ability or determination to make it at Beacon.
Often Aura active, the members of the SPD were considered the next best thing after Hunters, especially for domestic cases.
"What?" Blake said with frown. "That makes even less sense, why would they need guns. It's like they're planning to fight a war."
"Or a just a bunch of 'faunus terrorists' that they happen to stumble across." Ruby said.
Blake's frown deepened. "I have to call Adam." She said, retreating from the balcony. She pulled out her scroll, quickly calling their contact in Adam's group.
Blake told him what they'd seen in hushed tones, hanging up a few moments later. "He told us to stay put for the time being." She said. "And be ready to pull back soon."
A few minutes later Blake's scroll buzzed with a message. "We have to go to point A." She told Ruby. Then she grimaced. "We're supposed to distract any pursuers."
Ruby stood. "Then let's go." She said quickly, "We can't let anyone get caught."
After a moment, Blake nodded. "Okay." She was about to jump off the rooftop, but then Ruby reached out and grabbed her shoulder.
"Hey- um…" Ruby opened her mouth a few times before glancing away. "Nevermind…"
"What." Blake asked, when Ruby shook her head again Blake sighed. "Ruby, tell me, or we won't make it on time."
"Well… remember that thing we did when I woke your aura?" She asked quietly. "If we did it again we could…" She trailed off, glancing up at Blake nervously.
Blake was silent for a moment. Then she silently held out her hands, palms facing. Ruby slipped her fingers over Blake's.
For the eternity of eleven heartbeats, they were swept up in a vortex of red and black wind, hiding them from sight. When it calmed both girls shared a nod, and spoke as one.
As they took off over the City, Blake said, "Hopefully there won't be any trouble."
"You will be coming home immediately after classes end today." Cinder said.
Ruby froze at the door. Emerald, who was already in the hallway, looked at Ruby with a raised eyebrow.
"I noticed you little midnight jaunt." Cinder continued, looking for all the world to be comfortably reading her scroll in its expanded form. "So tonight, you will not be going out. You will be coming back here." She looked directly at Ruby, eyes flashing. "Is that clear?"
Ruby slumped in the doorway. "Yes Cinder."
"Off you go then."
Ruby nodded, and stepped out into the hall. Cinder heard the start of Emerald's "What was that all about?" Before the door swung shut. Cinder let out a sigh as she rubbed her forehead wearily.
Tilting her head back to stare at the ceiling, she unmuted her scroll, letting the sound of the news report wash over the penthouse.
"-police men were injured when they attempted to apprehend the murderers. Investigators are saying that the entire event was planned out by a Faunus Terrorist group to give them the best chance to sneak into Mr. Stark Hunter's neighborhood and kill him during the night."
"There have been allegations brought against Mr. Hunter in lieu of the propaganda pamphlets containing 'evidence' stuck to the front of the apartment building where Mr. Hunter lived, however the Chief of Police said, and quite frankly I agree with his assessment, that we cannot take the words of murderers and scoundrels at face value."
"As for the wounded police officers, witnesses report that a flash of lightning light up an alley way off of Ivy Lane, where a member of the SPD was pursuing the fugitives. Whether this originated from a specialized weapon or was a spell cast using dust still remains to be seen.
"In any case, the investigation of Mr. Hunter's potential involvement with the Death of Faunus Right's Activist Arthur Ironfur must be put on hold until these criminals have been found, if only to prevent them from striking out again, against the innocent citizens of the Vale and their protectors."
"In other news-"
"Dust and Darkness," Cinder Said with a groan.
Flicking her fingers across the screen, she brought up a picture of the front of 'Mr. Hunter's' apartment building. There were dozens of pamphlets, along with newspapers detailing the investigation of Arthur's murder. A high caliber dust rifle was nailed to the wall.
Directly above it was the crucified form of Stark Hunter.
The truth of the matter, Cinder thought, was easy to see. But then again, few would look past the man who had been nailed to the wall.