Chapter 8: All That You Are
Another week down, another Sunday open for a weekend of free time as everyone sat down and started eating breakfast. For Nora, Xienna, and Ruby, however, just one of their platters was stacked high and wide with enough food to feed all three of them. Across from them, Weiss stared in both awe and disgust as the three of them, Nora in particular, started shoveling food down their gullets.
"…What?" the ginger of JNPR asked with mouth full of chocolate chip pancakes.
Weiss' unscarred eye twitched, "You three realize that a breakfast that size is meant for people who are about to go work in a field for twelve hours, right?"
"Yeah, well, the rest of the day's open after Combat class so…maybe that's what we'll do." Xienna said as she swallowed a mouth full of bacon and eggs, "What do you say, girls?"
In unison, Ruby and Nora exclaimed "Yeah!" and exchanged high fives with the taller girl in the middle.
"Oh for the love of- how do you put up with her, Ren?" she pleaded with her hands up in the air.
The normally stoic boy shrugged with a smile and simply said "I have my ways."
"If every conversation so far is any indicator, they almost all involve pancakes don't they?" Orion joked as he, Pyrrha, Yang, Blake, and Nemo joined them, their breakfasts considerably healthier with the exception of Yang and her greasy breakfast burrito.
"Is that an actual meal, or a heart burn wrapped in a tortilla?" Nemo asked as he looked back and forth between the burrito in question and his oatmeal and eggs.
"I say why not both?" Yang responded, "It'll at least keep me awake for Grimm Studies. "
"Ha!" Nemo laughed after swallowing a mouthful of fruit, "Implying we study Grimm in that class and not hear Professor Port gloat about his youth to begin with. The closest we get to studying Grimm is when he, somehow, has one caged in the classroom and lets a student fight it so we learn weak points."
Pyrrha chimed in, "I'm still surprised the headmaster lets him do that. There's a lot of liability and potential for blowback if something goes wrong."
Orion stopped mid-chew, and looked at her, "Considering all the stories we heard back home, are you really that surprised?"
A very brief pause of thought and a sip of water later, she laughs, "No, not really."
"Speaking of surprises, where's Casanova? He's usually here by now trying to get a serving of Weiss Cream."
"Yang, you lewd buffoon…"
Marian came up with a plate full of fruit, "Hey Blake whatcha reading? Oh…oh!"
"Huh…oomph!" she grunted as the knight in question bounced off the table and into her gut, sending them both to the floor along with everyone's leapt from her seat to assist her leader, "Jaune! Jaune, are you ok?"
Orion joined her, "Jaune's brain, status report!"
"Blaraghargh," Jaune groaned, fighting the urge to vomit, "Frozen peas."
The two looked at one another, "That's not good."
A few rows away, the source of conflict made itself known as team CRDL, Cardin in particular, laughed the loudest,"That should teach you to steal a better man's meal, Arc. Trying to take the last bowl of grits was a bad move."
Ruby stood up from her seat before Yang could stop her, "You're in a cafeteria, and you beat someone up over food? What's so hard about waiting in line for- oof!"
"Because someone like me doesn't wait for what he wants."
Before she knew it, Ruby was shoved to the ground by Cardin, something that didn't go unnoticed by Yang as she stomped towards him. Before she could get close enough to strangle him, Orion jumped over the table and put himself between Yang and Cardin. The heat radiating from the former made his hand feel like it was stuck in a bonfire.
"You have a lot guts to be putting your hand on a girl," Orion growled.
"Especially when she's my sister!"
Cardin continued to mock her, "What are you gonna do blondie? Hit me? It's funny that the freak is holding you back, because both of you animals need a leash."
The rest of CRDL started to laugh behind their leader until Russell caught the dagger-like glare from Nemo. At their table, Ren helped Pyrrha bring Jaune to the table while some of the others prepared for the situation to erupt. Jaune, still groggy from being tossed, eyed the conflict with disdain.
Orion's ears flattened as he snarled "If you want to throw insults, you better be ready to throw hands too. Go ahead and bring your friends, maybe I'll switch it up and punch them in the face too!"
Dove, Russell, and Sky stood behind their leader, each shooting Orion and the others a look. When Russell made eye contact with Nemo however, he faltered and slinked a step back. Marian and Xienna followed suit and stood beside Orion, eyeing the other two boys and waiting for one of them to break ranks.
"You'll be lucky to last a minute in a fight with me," Cardin sneered. "If you know any better, you'll stay out of my way."
"That's a lot of big talk coming from a coward."
That rattled him, as the larger boy now got in Orion's face, or would be if Orion wasn't chest level in height compared to him. "What did you call me?"
Orion could hear the sound of heels tapping on the floor, and smiled internally, "I called you a coward. Real question is, what are you gonna do about it, Winchester?"
No sooner did he ask that the larger student grabbed him by the scruff of his shirt. "What are you smiling about?"
"So lively in here. You students must be having a lot of fun- Mr. Arguros! Mr. Winchester!" the crowd parted like a sea for an angry Professor Goodwitch, who upon her arrival watched Cardin let go of Orion and step back. "What is the meaning of this?"
Orion was the first to speak, never taking his eyes off the larger student. "Apparently Cardin here thinks that he can assault his fellow students over food instead of waiting for fresh food to be made."
Ms Goodwitch stared a hole through Cardin, "Is that so? Care to elaborate?"
Orion nodded, "Yes, ma'am. He threw Jaune over our table not only for taking the last bowl of grits, but for standing up for faunus students that Cardin and his team were antagonizing."
Yang interrupted, her fists still clenched, "He also put his hands on my sister and shoved her down!"
"Then maybe she shouldn't have gotten involved," Cardin sneered. Orion growled in response
Weiss scoffed, getting Nemo's attention when she muttered something about faunus. "Are you really taking Cardin's side? Especially after he just shoved your leader, your partner, to the ground? Wow, you Schnees really are selfish."
"As if your family is any better. Besides he has made points about them before, and Orion's just going to prove him right. Resorting to violence just like the White Fang."
"Not every faunus is a violent radical like the White Fang's lot, and that still doesn't explain your lack of care towards your teammate. I've seen plenty of good faunus back home, some who have to do what they can to survive. And that's what separates Vacuo from Atlas: if you can pull your weight and survive, you're welcome. Atlas...so much judgment and vitriol it's a wonder things get done."
"And yet your own father is pushing for or siding with conflicting ideas. Don't try and throw shame at my family when yours is just as bad. "
A vein was now pulsing on Nemo's forehead as he growled through clenched teeth, "The only thing they and I share is genetics and a surname. Besides, we don't have slaves, but the SDC sure does now don't they?"
Weiss slammed her hand down and stood up. "Alright, that's enough from you! I will not let you slander my family and get away with it!"
The professor glanced up at the two arguing students,"Hm, perhaps I can arrange something for today. I have already spoken to you all about the qualities of a Huntsman; The devotion to improving your skills as wells as believing in those skills. Nothing is more important to a Huntsman. However, responsibility for that power goes hand in hand with that ideal. In any situation, one must ask themselves if they should use that power," the professor cast a glance in Cardin's direction," and whether it is the place for such as well."
As Goodwitch walked away and Cardin stalked off with a huff, Orion made his way back to the table. He clapped Jaune on the back, "The guy may be strong, and while you may not have to match guys like him or I, it's still good to be able to pack a punch and find another way to win. Didn't you have a gym where you're from?"
"Oh, yeah, I'm a gym member. I try to go four times a week, but I've missed the last… twelve hundred times," he laughed nervously, noting the facepalms seen and heard from Orion and some of the others.
"Do you at least have some sort of calisthenic workout you do in your dorm?" Orion sighed, his face still buried in his hand.
"It's called the Placebo workout: I move around and believe I'm getting in shape but-"
"You're not," Nora finished for him. "You're still a string bean of skin and bone."
"Thank you, Nora." Orion looked at Jaune, "When there's some free time, I'll send you my routine and I'm sure Pyrrha can keep an eye on you to make sure you do it."
"Uh, sure, I'll give it a try," the blonde knight chuckled nervously. As he stood up he winced, "I think I might've pulled something on the way down."
"Can't pull what you don't have, Jaune," Xienna quipped, getting a chorus of laughter from the others.
Come Combat Class, Professor Goodwitch wasted little time after the lecture to begin the matches for the day. "Our first match will be Weiss Schnee and Blake Belladonna of RWBY vs. Orion Arguros and Nemo Outisseus of ONAX. Combatants, come to the stage, please."
As the four made their way down, Orion whispered to Nemo, "Alright, I have a plan. When Goodwitch starts the match, we cut across and take the other's opponent."
Nemo thought about it, and it did make sense. "And if we begin to have troubles with our opponent?"
"Then we switch again."
When the students lined up across from each other, Orion across from Weiss and Nemo across Blake, "Begin!"
The four charged at each other when the Orion called "Switch!" and crossed over his partner at Blake while Nemo slid under and blasted Weiss back with a forceful gust of wind.
Blake paused for split second at the trick, "What?!"
"Surprise mother-wha?" Orion slingshot himself with Arktouros' grapple cable at her, only to seemingly miss. 'Where did she go?"
A kick to the back and a missed slash of Gambol Shroud answered his question. "Surprise-"
Orion didn't let her finish mocking him as he grabbed her by the leg on the follow-up kick and tossed her aside. Mid-flight, she changed the ninjato into a bladed pistol and opened fire. Orion blocked with his gauntlets, rushing through the stream of bullets to engage her once more in close-quarters. To his surprise, the bullets stopped, but only because she flung the gun at him, attached to the ribbon on her arm.
'That looks like it'd suck if it hit-' it stopped short in front of him, and opened a cover that revealed the muzzle, 'Me? Oh, crap…'
Nemo and Weiss' battle was more at range, the former's aerokinetic winds dueling with the latter's Dust and glyphs. Weiss' Myrtenaster's chamber clicked until Nemo saw the blade glow red and Weiss slash a wave of fire his way. He countered with a strong gust that blew the attack back at the heiress, who barely dodged it in time. Seizing the moment, he comboed off a pair of gusts with several shots of Nautilus as he closed the distance. As he prepared to lunge at her, he felt himself trapped in place; looking down, he saw a black glyph holding him down. He looked back up just in time to block a charging stab, Weiss' focus on him having dissipated the glyph.
"What makes you think you know anything about me?" Weiss snarled through gritted teeth as she and the taller Nemo clashed once again. Her fencing contrasted greatly with his unpredictable slashing, but she couldn't help but feel that despite their differences they shared more in common then she thought...or refused to believe.
"You come from a family of business, I from politics."
"Two not so different pieces of the same shady only difference between our losses is that I've had to see them first hand and while your father actually made an effort to make them seem right-" Nemo kicked her away and re-engaged "Mine didn't lift a finger, no matter how close they were."
Weiss' mind raced to all of those cold nights in her family's mansion, when messengers or crying relatives came to the door. Her older sister Winter and their butler Klein would try to keep her and Whitley calm, even if her brother stubbornly refused it, while father paced back and forth in rage. When the train car of Dust went missing, that was the straw that seemingly broke the camel's back. But if what Nemo said about his own household was true, she was the luckier of the two. She could never imagine having to watch her friends and family die.
"I had to be the breeze that blew against the current. I made a promise to those I lost that I would fight to bring their killers to justice, one way or another. You need to open your eyes, calve from your father's overshadowing glacier, and realize that not everything-" He parried a thrust that served to disguise a glyph behind her that nailed him in the chest with a ball of ice. He continued, coughing as he blocked another stab,"that you were raised on is as black and white as it once seemed."
While Weiss was now in a frenzy to shut Nemo up, Orion and Blake engaged in a game of cat-and-mouse, or in this case, bear-and-cat. The two nimbly dodged each other's shots, but the advantage was soon Orion's as a pair of bolts tipped with ice dust cut off her escape route by exploding into small icy formation. As he closed the distance, Orion growled "How can you sit back and watch as people like Cardin bully around faunus and those who support them?"
"I'm not," Blake growled back, jumping off of the ice chunks ungracefully when Orion slammed his axe down where she was less than a second ago.
"So, what, you're scared of conflict? You're just gonna turn belly-up and run?" He snarled. That set her off, as Blake now rushed at him with both blades drawn. 'So the sheath is also blade? Sneaky...I like it.'
Orion blocked each slash and swing with his gauntlets until he could find an opening. Blake tried for a spinning one-two slash that was blocked and left her flank open. Orion pounced on the moment to swing with a wild left, hitting only smoke as she retreated and left a clone in her wake to take the hit. Just as quickly as he struck, Blake kicked out at his side and repeated the use of her semblance when he retaliated.
'So she can create shadow clones?' Kick, swing, miss, repeat, 'That's going to get old real qui-'
Blake caught him right in the side of the face with her heel. 'Correction: it's gotten old,' he ground his teeth in frustration. He brought his gauntlets back together to form Arktouros' ax form, swinging it quickly to block a hail of bullets to his left.
"SWITCH!" Orion looked over and saw Nemo halfway stuck in a block of ice, fending off Weiss as best as he could despite one arm being caught inside the ice. Orion shot a pair or stone-dust bolts near the dueling pair before freeing Nemo with a bolt of fire-dust and switching back to the ax. He selected kinetic dust in the revolving dust chamber and slammed Arktouros into the nearest formation of ice. The resulting explosion of ice sent Blake scattering out of the way of frozen debris and closer to their partners. Orion dodged the incoming Gambol Shroud in its kusarigama form, grabbed the ribbon, and heaved.
"Let's go for a spin!" he chuckled, swinging the weapon, and Blake, around in the air above him before letting go. Blake went flying towards Weiss, who was now on her heels trying to fend off Nemo's attack, and almost crashed into her were it not for a last minute gravity glyph.
"You good, air-head?" Orion asked as he rejoined his partner. He took notice of the vicious glare the heiress shot him
"I'm freezing and my arm's numb. Not exactly the definition of good," Nemo said through chattering teeth.
Weiss was too busy berating Blake for being sent flying to notice that their opponents had made their move: Nemo circled around them and gathered wind in his hands while Orion stood by the rocky bursts where the bolts hit. "Hey!" he shouted getting their attention, "Are we fighting or what?"
No sooner did he get their eyes on him that Weiss' rapier glowed red and she slashed a trail of fire his way. Orion leapt onto the other stony cluster and egged the two girls on into engaging in a close quarters fight, tapping Arktouros' edge on the side of it in challenge. Nemo nodded in silent agreement, knowing that was the signal to try and finish this. He cast one hand behind him and barreled into the monochrome team towards Orion's position.
'I will not go down like this!' Weiss screamed internally, casting a pair of glyphs: one to launch her at Orion, and the other to blindside him with ice projectiles like she had with Nemo earlier. She leaped just before Nemo could ram her and Blake into the stone, Myrtenaster glowing red and ready to meet Orion. The faunus was ready for it, his own weapon charged with Dust, but he still hadn't recognized the threat behind him until a block of ice nailed him in the back of the head. He stumbled to regain his footing as one of his feet slid off the stone, but he didn't have the luxury as Weiss jabbed towards him.
'Gonna have to improvise' he thought as he flipped upwards, narrowly avoiding Myrtenaster. The area it stabbed into was now glowing red-hot with the energy from the Burn Dust that Weiss intended to use. Orion quickly shift from axe to crossbow, held down the trigger that engaged Arktouros' Dust cylinder, and rained down a volley of various bolts. Satisfied that the rocky post was now a powder keg ready to blow, Orion brought Arktouros back to its axe form and plummeted down to meet Weiss. He slammed the kinetic Dust-charged axe down where Myrtenaster was stuck and-
"Son of a bitch!"
"Son of a bitch!"
"SON OF A BITCH!"
"Yang, that's a lien in the swear jar!"
"Holy hell!" Xienna cried out. "Can anyone see anything down there? Or the big screens?"
"Nothing yet. The smoke's too thick," Ren replied, surprisingly still calm.
Marian looked at him, "How are you so calm after that explosion?"
"Have you met Nora?"
"Point taken," Marian smirked. The rest of the crowd was murmuring now that the smoke started to thin out. When it finally cleared where the screens were-
"And it's a tie!" Professor Goodwitch called out. The combatants down below either lay in a dazed heap or leaned on their weapons to catch their breath. Orion and Blake helped up Weiss and Nemo, respectively, or tried to in Orion's case. Weiss swatted his hand away, snarling that she can stand herself up, and stomped away to the locker room.
"Let's wait until she leaves to go put our stuff away," Nemo said as he and Blake walked up to him. The latter shot him a look as she followed her teammate.
Orion looked at the rebel, "What did you say to her?"
"What needed to be said. Guess the truth hurts."
After Yang's randomized matchup against Sky Lark ended in a near-literal curbstomp within seconds, Ruby walked down to the floor to meet Cardin Winchester, feeling more than uneasy about it. It wasn't so much that she was going to be fighting someone much bigger and stronger than she was, but because she could feel almost all of the eyes in the room focusing on her, not without a good reason though; she was the youngest among her peers, and a team leader to boot.
Speaking of her peers, RWBY, JNPR, and ONAX all rallied, Yang cheering the loudest among them, "YOU GOT THIS, RUBES! FINISH HIM IN ONE HIT!"
"I think she looks a little bit off, Weiss commented, still trying her best to avoid sounding like a sore loser.
Without looking at her, Ren added, "You think?"
Yang stiffened, causing Marian to look over her shoulder at Yang, "What is it?"
"Crap! I forgot that Ruby freezes up in front of crowds." Yang was now wide-eyed and afraid for her sister's well-being. A Ruby who was locked up with stage-fright in the middle of a fight would not fare well at all.
"Wait, aren't you her sister?" Weiss asked with an arched brow.
Jaune glanced in the blonde's direction, "How do you forget something like that?"
"...Shut up, that's how."
"Nice come back," Orion chuckled, and was slugged in the shoulder right after.
Down below, Ruby was indeed having a mental breakdown as Cardin sneered across the arena from her. 'What do I do, what do I do, what do I do? Everyone's looking at me and Cardin's staring me down like I'm an injured rabbit…' she gulped, 'I'm scared! How did I end up fighting in this situation?!'
Her eyes drifted to the large mace in Cardin's hand, her knack for weapons taking over as she analyzed it, 'That's a handmade, titanium flanged mace. If it hits me, I'm doomed! It looks like it might have a trick too; that red orb in the center looks like Dust, so the trigger must be somewhere near the handle. It doesn't look like it has any mechanical parts either.'
'With that kind of mass, it can probably crack though a Death Stalker's shell. Conclusion: I don't wanna be here! I want to go home and look at cute pictures of puppies on the net!'
"Hey!" Ruby was snapped out of her thoughts by her opponent, "Quit your yapping, we can all hear you!"
"Wha-?!" She cried out, unaware that she really was thinking out loud for many to hear. At this point, she was on the verge of tears from embarrassment. "Sorry Mr. Mace Wielder!"
"It's Cardin!" the larger student then began to laugh, "Man, Team RWBY, you guys got one idiot of a leader!"
Yang glowered at Orion, who had moved to keep her from jumping down to absolutely level Cardin, "If he says one more thing or decides to fight dirty, I'm kicking his ass and then I'm kicking yours if you decide to try and stop me!"
"By all means, I won't stop you. Hell, I might join in after this morning's incident." Orion grinned, "I wouldn't worry about it though; Stella's somewhere up there for moments like that."
Yang sat back down and huffed, never taking her eyes off of the combatants,"I'm her sister, I'm supposed to worry."
Behind them, the icy heiress shouted "Ruby! Is that red cloak just for show? All you're doing right now is embarrassing yourself!"
"Or dealing with stage fright, because that's not a real fear or anything," Xienna snipped.
"It's actually very common around the world, too" Ren added.
Ignoring them, Weiss continued "You want to become a Huntress, right? You are the leader of Team RWBY, right?"
Orion messaged Nemo on his scroll, "Whatever you said to her while you two fought must have worked."
'Good question,' Ruby let her partner's words sink in when Professor Goodwitch, now accompanied by Ozpin, shouted "Begin!"
Beside him, Yang internalized both hope and scrutiny. Ruby had never really fought one-on-one, even at Signal. At some point she had to put her fighting abilities to use without her big sister to save her...as messed up as it sounds, she won't be there forever. 'Show me all that you are, without me. You're by yourself, there's no one. Show me you can do this, sis.'
Without wasting a second, Cardin brought his mace down and missed as Ruby jumped away from easily read attack. Cardin swung wildly again and got the same result as Ruby dashed away once more. Ruby opened fire with Crescent Rose, hitting him in the chest and engaging in hit-and-run combat.
'I probably should have wanted to be a normal girl-' she wondered as she zipped behind him and slashed several times across his back. After he took a swing and missed, Ruby shot once more and hit him in the armpit, knocking him off balance. The next slam down, and Ruby raced up his arm, planted her foot on his face, and kicked off with a backflip.
"Did you seriously just do a freaking flip off of me?" Cardin roared at where she landed, a cloud of rose petals being the only evidence she was there a fraction of a second ago.
"DAMMIT!" Cardin swung back blindly once more, hitting only air.
'But that isn't me.' Ruby once again weaved through the storm of petals her semblance left behind, using the cover to jab the butt of Crescent Rose into his chest before swinging the blade down on his chest plate. 'So I'm going to continue on at Beacon. Continue swinging Crescent Rose. Together with everyone!'
"See, you can do it," Weiss grumbled in the stands. By now Ruby was a blur to most of the crowd, hacking and shooting down the larger Winchester who could only stumble trying to follow her. Several more gunshots rang out and hit him in his blindspots
"Finish him!" Orion shouted, unaware someone on the other side of the stands shouted the same thing. Ruby hooked Cardin's legs and yanked him down,laid in a side-plank across Crescent Rose's snath and pulled the trigger; the shot hit Cardin square in the back, and the recoil sent Ruby flipping and landing it in style. Xienna, Yang, and Nora held their scrolls up with a large '10' as if they were judges while the rest of the students applauded.
"And that's the match! Victory goes to Ruby Rose." the professor turned to staggering student on her left, "Perhaps you can learn something from this, Mr. Winchester. Rushing into a confrontation is not always the answer; sometimes you need to assess the enemy before swinging like a blind man in a broom closet."
Cardin used his mace to push himself up, breathing heavily even to a poorly trained eye."She got lucky. Besides, I wasn't feeling all that great to begin with."
"Could that be because you were too busy antagonizing others instead of actually eating?" The Headmaster added when he heard a loud rumble come from Cardin's stomach. "I thought so. A good meal is always important to any Huntsman, but time that could be spent gaining energy should not be spent wasting it."
Before the knight could retort, Goodwitch cut him off with a glare that would stop a King Taijitu in its place, "Class dismissed."
Ruby was making her way to her team and friends when a voice from the corner of the section of stands she walked past stopped her, "That was an amazing fight you had down there."
Ruby turned and saw another student looking at her. A boy, roughly the same height as her sister with black hair and amber eyes clad in Beacon's attire approached her, "Oh, uh, thank you."
"Really awesome how you fight with that scythe of yours too. Don't see enough of those, which is honestly kinda sad. The name's Jesse. Jesse Burnside."
Just before she could respond, her stomach did it for her and growled loud enough to shock a few nearby classmates. The new boy raised an eyebrow, "You hungry?"
"No, I'm Ruby." Ruby scratched her head sheepishly, "I might have overdone it with my semblance…what are you doing?"
He was digging through his bag until pulling out a rather large chocolate chip cookie, "Here. I was planning on eating it later, but-" Ruby's stomach growled once more, "-it sounds like you need it more than I do."
Before he knew it, the sweet was devoured in a matter of seconds. Judging from the look in her eyes, it hit the spot. "I just realized that was my last cookie. Eh, guess, I'll have to make more later."
"Wait, you made that?" Ruby asked incredulously. That cookie felt she got punched into a sugary plane of existence before falling face-first on Remnant. She inched closer, staring him dead in the eyes, "Teach me!"
"Maybe another time-" He laughed when a huff of agitation was heard a few feet away at the exit and he shot a deadpan glare in its direction. Ruby spotted a trio of boys waiting by the door, one of them with charcoal grey hair and dull red eyes shouting over the crowd "Jesse, c'mon! School's out today and we have to close the S-Mart tonight!"
Another, his hair looking like a flame, shook his head at his teammate. "Relax Ash, you'll have plenty of time to get slapped by the cashiers. Pretty sure Dahlia's still looking to hurt ya some more."
"You say that like it's not a recurring thing, Johnny," The third, this one with spiky blonde hair and electric blue eyes, laughed. "But seriously, hurry up Jesse!"
"Alright, alright, Sturm, hold on." The amber-eyed boy jerked his thumb to the other three, and Ruby couldn't help but notice the sweat starting to pour from his head, "My team's getting antsy about work, and there's a blonde girl standing right behind you who's staring daggers into my soul."
Ruby sighed, "Are her eyes lilac?"
Jesse nodded, "They were, now they're red."
'Yup, that's her.' Ruby pinched and rubbed the bridge of her nose with a sigh before looking back up at Jesse, "Alright, uh...maybe we can catch up again some other time, but you should probably go catch up with the rest of...what's your team, again?"
"BAJJ. Maybe when Ash gets a day off that works out, we can all hang out. See ya, Ruby."
"Bye, Jesse, it was nice meeting you!" As BAJJ left, Ruby rounded on her sister, "Seriously Yang?"
"What? I didn't do anything." Yang said with mock innocence.
"You scared him!"
"Hey, I just walked around the corner of the stairway and saw some guy handing you a cookie. What were you expecting me to do, not stare him down?" Yang raised an eyebrow before an impish grin spread across her face "Aww, does Ruby have a cru-gah! Why?!"
"You know what you did. Bad Yang!"
"He doesn't look like a bad kid though, I'm sure dad and uncle Qrow will approve- ow! Stop flicking me on the nose!"
"Uh, hate to break up the sister moment, but Weiss is storming out again," Blake interrupted. Ruby and Yang followed her finger to the storming heiress, as did Orion and the others
Eager to get away from Yang, Ruby volunteered to go after her partner when Nemo shook his head and decided to go instead. "No, I'll talk to her. I'm pretty sure I'm the one she's mad at anyway."
"For what?" Orion asked, masking his curiosity as best as he could.
"Let's just say she and I had a difference of opinion earlier this morning. I don't think the talk we had about it during the match helped any either."
Orion shrugged, "Just let her be then. She'll come around later during dinner, I'm sure."
"Well, today's been a roller coaster," Yang yawned.
Pyrrha nodded, "Agreed." The two of them had run into each other later that afternoon in the garden and decided to walk and chat, with the day's events being at the front of the conversation.
"Think Cardin's going to try and come after someone else we know?"
Pyrrha slowly turned her head, venom lacing her every word, "Let's pray he's that stupid." The two of them walked around the courtyard for a few minutes until something off about one of the buildings caught their eye. Noticeably, an engraving on the wall next what looked like four separate webs of cracks on the stone floor.
Team Gents of Teams STRQ & LEAD: We aimed for the bushes
"Team STRQ...that was the team my parents and uncle Qrow were on! But why does Team LEAD sound so familiar?"
Pyrrha looked at the engraving and her jaw dropped, "No way."
Yang looked at the shocked Mistrali, "What? You know who they are?"
"Know them?" A smile grew on Pyrrha's face, "Team LEAD was a team consisting of both my, and Orion's, parents!"
"You're clowning!" Pyrrha stared at Yang unamused. "You're not clowning? I sensed clowns."
"Well, you're half-right, I suppose…"
[Many years ago in that very spot]
"You thinking what I'm thinking, gents?"
Taiyang Xiao Long and Dilios Nikos looked at each other, then back at Leonidas. "Aim for the bushes?" Dilios asked, a mischievous smile across his face.
"I was gonna say that we're probably dead meat for being late to that study session, but hey, it's one way to make an entrance," Qrow laughed.
"Tai," Leonidas said before they jumped off the tower, "cue the music."
"~There goes my hero. Watch him as he goes!~"
Down below, Raven Branwen and Atalanta Chalyvas parried each other's strikes, practicing their respective techniques. The two swordswomen, even with just sticks in hand, inspired fear in passerby with their intensity. The other girl, smaller and covered in a white cloak, was reading through the assigned chapters for history against an oak tree when a thought occurred to her.
"You two don't think the boys got lost, do you?"
Atalanta gave her a reassuring chuckle, "After the last 3 years here, I doubt it Summer. Yeah, the guys are a bit dense, but they can't be that-oh no!"
"What's wrong Atalanta?" Summer asked, only to receive no answer as her warrior teammate floundered for a response. Following her gaze, Summer's jaw dropped, "Oh no...wait, is that who I think it is about to-"
Raven's red eyes flicked down to the open doorway leading from the campus to the gardens, spotting a certain pair of bear ears belonging to Atalanta's teammate, "This will not end well…at all."
"Hey girls, are the guys still not...where's that music coming from?"
"~There goes my~ -"
"WHAT THE HELL, LEO!"
Leonidas slowly picked his head up from the concrete with a pained grin, "Hehe, hey there Estéri... "
The maned leader of LEAD then noticed the mess of food between them, and looked up to see her vermillion eyes burning in anger. "Ehehe, uh...food's on me? Wait what're you-"
"No, now it is, and it better be when we go out like we planned to on Saturday." She then laughed as she helped him up and stood on her toes to kiss him on the cheek, "Now come on you clown, we have a history class to study for."
"Wow, my dad and uncle always talked like they were the kings of the hill."
"Not if those two had anything to say about it." Pyrrha pointed to the L and D of LEAD, "Never knew their teams knew each other."
"Would make for a hilarious reunion, wouldn't it?" Pyrrha and Yang turned to find Xienna looking up at them, several beads of sweat running down her forehead.
"What's got you burning up, Xienna?" Yang asked.
Pyrrha raised a questioning brow, "And how long have you been there?"
"Maybe a few seconds reading the writing on the wall. And to answer your question Yang, just hanging out with Ruby and Nora like we planned to this morning. We had a race; Nora came in last, and Ruby beat me by half a step."
"Yeah, you might be the only person here with a shot at beating her in a foot race, so keep at it, Xienna. I'm gonna go walk around for a bit...catch you guys later!"
"So long, Xiao Long!"
Yang called back as she walked further away,"That was bad and you should feel bad, Xienna!"
The two had walked and talked from there, mostly about their respective teams within the dorms until a crash broke off their conversation about Nora's antics and Nemo and Ren's shared tidiness quirks. The two ran to the source when a trail of smoke above them caught their eyes.
"Is...is that a rocket locker?"
"It is, and-" Pyrrha's eyes grew wide, "I hear someone screaming inside!"
"Who is it?"
Pyrrha's scroll rang, and when she saw that it was Ren, she answered immediately. "What happened?"
"You've got three guesses, and the first two don't count."
Pyrrha growled, keeping her eyes trained on the locker, "Cardin?"
"Nemo reported the incident; I guess Russell had 'tripped' while they were attempting to run away. Team JSPR was sent out to retrieve him."
Xienna watched the locker, worried not just about Jaune, but about the possible team warfare this will lead to after this morning. She was about to walk away when she noticed something odd: the locker was somehow slowing down and descending much closer than it should. "Huh, I guess there's a defective locker the staff needs to look at. I'm sure he'll be fine Pyrrha...Pyrrha?"
The Mistrali was silent, her eyes still focused on the locker. Xienna couldn't blame her; that was her team leader and partner in that locker. If any of the others in ONAX, by some stroke of luck by their attackers, got forced in those lockers like that, she'd feel the same…'Wait a second, how is it falling so sharply like that?'
The locker tilted and descended sharply before it reached the peak of its arc, seemingly guided towards the edge of the Emerald Forest. Xienna was more and more convinced someone or something was doing this when she noticed a film of black surrounding the locker. From the corner of her eyes, the same glow of black emanated faintly from Pyrrha's hands.
Pyrrha snapped back out of focus, the locker just as quickly falling. "You saw that, didn't you?"
"It's kinda hard to miss your friend zoning out and guiding a locker down with...magnetism?"
"Can you do me a favor? Can you keep that- my semblance- a secret?"
Pyrrha looked at her pleadingly, "Please?"
"Doesn't Orion already know, though?"
"Yes, but he and I have also promised each other not to reveal the other's semblance, just as we had with our teammates in Sanctum. Surprise is a key element in combat, so when you have all the aces, you don't bet large immediately...you build up to that final push and then hit them hard."
"I'm guessing it's a Mistral thing?"
"It's a LEAD thing. He and I learned from our parents at a young age before we went to Sanctum. It quickly became an OPAL thing when we worked with Lance and Azura and shared our knowledge."
"And that must have been interesting during the Mistral Regionals. Honestly, I watched those matches every year at Signal, and knowing what I know now about the bond you two have...I envy you."
"I never really had a true friend growing up. All I knew was my family and their employees. Yeah, there were people at Signal, but they were only hoping they could get discounts from my dad's weapons business. I could count the number of legitimate friends on a few fingers and even they had other motives!"
"I'm sorry to hear that Xienna," Pyrrha put a calming hand on the now seething speedster's shoulder. "But think about this: you've made it to an academy, and in the span of a few weeks, have doubled if not tripled that number of friends between both our teams, team RWBY, and some of the other students around campus."
"Nope. Don't worry about those fair weather friends you had in Signal, or that we'll be anything like them. All of us, we'll all have each others back, you can count on it." Pyrrha's stomach growled loudly, her face reddening with embarrassment, "Would you like to come with me to the dining hall? We can talk some more over a snack if you want."
Xienna smiled, "Sure. Let's get going before there's nothing good left."
That night, Orion had gone to his usual spot, staring up at the stars on another sleepless night. Out of his team, no one snored louder than Marian, and he hoped by the time he got back he was tired enough to sleep through the raucous. He talked to Jaune about what happened, but Jaune declined to discuss it out of obvious
"This spot taken?"
Orion turned around to find a set of amber eyes glowing from the doorway. "Depends...you gonna share that fish?"
"Do I have to?"
Orion's stomach growled loudly in place of him saying yes. With a roll of her eyes, Blake sat beside Orion and handed him a large filet of fish that he happily took. The two of them sat in the moonlight, eating their midnight snack in silence until Orion decided to break it.
"Sorry if I seemed like an ass earlier. It's just-oh man, this halibut is good- that incident in the dining hall, the constant trash talk against faunus...it had my blood boiling. I still want to punch Cardin in his smug face, but...how come you just let it slide?"
Blake stopped mid-chew, swallowed, and looked at him, her shining eyes now dimming with memories she'd rather forget, "Because I'm not like you. I can't afford to let my heritage show because I've seen how humans treat our kind. It's better to hide in plain sight than throw it out there and get what I've come to expect from people like Cardin."
"But why hide who you really are? Is it out of fear to escape whatever it is you're running from, or shame of what you might've done?"
Blake stopped eating and turned swiftly, staring at him. Despite not looking the part, he was definitely perceptive. "There's...a lot to me I'd rather leave behind."
"Understandable. But sometimes that will always be there, and it will never go away. I've learned that over the last few years, and it's not like I can ignore it...it stares me in the face every day."
Blake immediately wondered what he was talking about until she realized what he was referring to: the scars across his eye. She looked back at her fish, "Maybe one day I can be strong enough to accept it, but for now it's just too fresh in my mind to do that. I think you know that feeling too."
Orion let out a heavy sigh, "It's like that book about the man with two souls...you know which one I'm talking about, yeah?" As she nodded, he continued "A part of me wants to forget, great Oum above do I want to forget, but at the same time, you can never change what happened in the past, y'know."
"There was something I remember reading a while ago on the web, something that I've always thought about. I might have butchered it here and there, but I think it went something like this," she cleared her throat and closed her eyes, a small tear snaking by as she recalled the quote. "The Ghost of Days Gone By will haunt here and there to remind you of your past. It's up to you whether it holds you down, or makes you a stronger, better person. It's one thing to reminisce, but another to let it consume you. So as time runs out, make the best of today because the Days Gone By will always be replaced by the Days Yet To Come."
She opened her eyes, and if she noticed Orion's dropped jaw, she didn't make it obvious. "The past is what molds us into who we become in the future, but me...I won't let it define me. I refuse to let the things I've done be what makes me me. As much as I don't want it to consume me, every day I spend here makes it that much easier to let it do so. Every day I wonder, 'Will this be the day someone figures out what I am?' or 'How will my team react?' 'Will I be forced out of Beacon?' It drives me insane."
When a stray tear fell from her eyes, Orion picked his jaw up, and remembered a quote himself, one he held dear from his parents. "The past doesn't define who you are, it just gives you the starting point for who you're going to be. For what it's worth Blake, I'm sorry, I really am."
"As am I, Orion," the two locked eyes for a brief moment before she held up her remaining bit of food as one would a toast, "To troubled pasts."
Orion picked up his last chunk of fish, "To troubled pasts."
After a few minutes of silent eating, Blake had bid him good night, but before she left, " Blake?"
"When I said I was sorry, I didn't just mean for your past." She looked at him quizzically until he said, "That quote you said...I wrote that a few years ago."
"Hm, and here I thought you were just a bruiser with only some creativity," she smiled.
Orion just looked at her, unamused, "Haha, very funny. Words hurt y'know?"
The next day after class, Orion had decided to look through his text messages until he found his conversation with his father. They had talked about how things were back home, recent missions that Leonidas and the 300 have gone on, Orion's time at Beacon, and more. But when Orion had brought up the recurring nightmares, the legendary Huntsman didn't seem to reply for a while until Orion's scroll buzzed. The message read 'Most things are forgotten over time. Even the war itself, the life-and-death struggle people went through is now like something from the distant past. We're so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about everyday, too many new things we have to learn. But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away.'
'They remain with us forever, like a touchstone. As a man, you will need to learn that the trials and tribulations you come across in life will try to bring you down. No matter what the problem will be, the real pressure will be your ability to handle these problems "head on" while still maintaining your sanity and not to run away like so many men in society do when it comes to responsibility like "being a father". I am proud to be your dad and I do believe you possess the strength to handle these types of problems should they ever cross your path in life!'
"Whatcha reading there?"
"Gah!" He closed his scroll and put it in his pocket. "How does someone as loud as you sneak around so quietly?"
Nora grinned, "Ren and I would play Ninjas as kids, and I'd say I'm kinda good at it."
"Aren't ninjas supposed to be quiet and stealthy?"
"She's still learning that bit," Ren said suddenly from behind him. "Are you and the rest of your team free for the rest of the day? Jaune wants to do a game night and we were wondering if you would all like to join?"
Nora flashed a devious smile, "I have Cards against Remnant!"
"That's something I haven't played in a while. Yeah, I don't think we have any plans so I don't see why-" his scroll buzzed with a message from his father, "Hold that thought."
He opened the message, "Figured I'd send you some stress relief. Be ready for a call from Glynda, son."
'What is he on about?' No sooner did he finish that thought that the professor in question called him, "Mr. Arguros? You have a delivery at the airship docks that requires your attention."
"Okay, thank you Professor." He hung up and looked at Ren and Nora, "Sorry, gotta go pick something up at the dock, but yeah, I don't think the others would mind joining you guys for some gaming."
"Thank you Orion. Just give us a call when you're all free and we'll unlock the door."
On his way to the docks, he kept thinking about what it could've been that his dad sent him when someone blurted from the gardens, "Hey slugger, where're you off to?"
Orion looked to find Yang walking his way. "Heading to the docks to get something. What're you doing?"
"Nothing, was just enjoying the weather don't mind if I join, do ya?" she asked, already joining him with arms crossed and behind her head.
Orion smiled, internally unsure but positive if he needed to talk, she'd listen, "Sure."
After a few minutes of silent walking minus their fellow students, the two pugilists shared jokes, stories of their times in Sanctum and Signal, and the occasional side glance until they reached the dock for the airships. Orion was stunned with a smile on his face, and for the first time since they'd met, Orion found Yang almost speechless. Both were staring at a dark-but-faded blue chopper with a turbine under its headlight, and two thick bulges of plastic and metal embedded between the handlebars and motor. "I-is...is that what I think it is?" Yang fumbled, eyes wide and jaw agape.
"A Jaeger? Specifically the Mark III Gipsy Danger V2?" Orion gave a devious grin, "Possibly."
Yang was both amused and yet not, "I don't think you understand. I love motorcycles, and I've always been a fan of Hansen-Pentecost, but I've never gotten to see one of these bad boys up close and personal." She rubbed the leather seat and stared Orion straight in the eyes, "Is it really yours?"
Orion nodded, "Yeah. My dad and I built it a while ago during a...rough time in the family. He has one too, a Mark I Brawler Yukon. Whenever I'm feeling down or something, or just need to get out to cool my head, I just take Gipsy here for a cruise and get some air. Wasn't expecting Pop to send it all the way from home."
Yang listened, thinking very much of some of her night rides. A stormy afternoon carrying a red wagon with Ruby inside, the many times she'd witnessed her own father break down...she shook her head of the memories. Orion noticed but decided it best not to ask before the two took the beast of a machine to the student garage. It wasn't what he'd expected, but Yang turned out to be as big a nerd for motorcycles as her sister was for weapons.
"So is it true that the Dust Vortex Turbine can also fire a concentrated blast of heat if needed?"
Orion nodded, "It can, but it also takes a good chunk of fuel to do it so if you're gonna use that, you better have a full tank and make it count. And before you ask, yes, the chainswords do make it like a modern war chariot."
"What about the gyro-stabilizers? Are they as good as they advertise?"
"Their mechanic Tendo wasn't kidding when he said they'd make every ride a smooth one. Hasn't been a road yet that gave that bike trouble." Orion found an open spot, or rather was lead to it as Yang's bright yellow sports bike Bumblebee occupied the space to the left. To the right was another chopper, this one black and grey with a skull-shaped handlebar mount and very skeletal design.
"Can you imagine if that thing was on fire?" Yang thought aloud. "What if the rider got caught on fire too?"
"What, like some kind of Ghost Rider? It'd be a cool party trick on Halloween, but I don't see any other reason for that."
"Good point." Yang shrugged, then gave him a sly look, "Soooo when can I take this beast for a ride?"
Orion grinned, "The same day you let me ride Bumblebee."
"HA! In your dreams, Orion!"
"And there you go." Orion snorted as he walked out of the garage, leaving Yang for one of the few times in her life fumbling for a retort.
[Later that night]
Jesse was getting ready to close the register down as Ash, Johnny, and Sturm cleaned up around the store. Or at least Ash and Johnny were; Sturm was caught playing air guitar on aisle six. 'Just ten more minutes, Jesse, just ten more minutes…' he mentally repeated. He occasionally found himself thinking back to that final match between Cardin Winchester and the little speedster Ruby; something about the way she fought brought to mind the way he fought with Dead Master...the way he was taught by-
"Hey kid, ya still there? I'll take these." Jesse snapped out of it to a man with graying black, spiky hair, red eyes, and slight stubble along his jawline. He wore a gray dress shirt with a long tail, black dress pants, black dress shoes and a red tattered cloak. Around his neck was a crooked cross pendant and on his right hand were three rings, one on the index finger and two on the fourth finger. On the counter in front of him were two handles of whiskey...very strong whiskey at that.
Jesse sighed, "Paper or plastic?"
"The usual, neither." He opened one of the bottles and took a swig, "Don't forget to meet at the usual place and time to continue your training and lessons. Tomorrow we cover the Schnee Dust Company, so you better get comfortable. It'll probably take twenty hours, and I only enjoy telling it in five minute intervals."
Author's Note: 1 year, 20 days, and God knows how many setbacks later, and I finally bring to you all Chapter 8. I thank all of you who have stuck by and patiently waited for this to come out, and also thank my asshole coworker/friend for supplying the caffeine to make this happen.
BAJJ (pronounced Beige) is a team of characters that NSZ, a friend of mine from Toho Kingdom, and I created, and Jesse Burnside is an OC briefly mentioned in passing in his own fanfic, Dark Times at Hellview High! You may notice a bit of a theme to them, and their profiles will be posted shortly on my bio. And as usual, easter eggs and references for you folks to enjoy!
Until next chapter, please fave, follow, and keep those reviews coming to show your support! This is SpanishBulldog63 signing out and saying Happy Reading!