Chapter 87: A Brief Debrief

The Next Day

"Sun! C'mon, Sun, slow down!"

Sun ignored Neptune as he marched through the First Year dorms, his monkey tail swishing behind him in agitation. Neptune struggled to keep up, dodging around students while simultaneously side-stepping and walking backwards to keep his friend's face in view.

"Dude, you cannot just barge into their room like this!"

"It's not like they're leaving us much choice," Sun growled irritably.

"That doesn't mean- dude, stop!" Neptune finally grabbed Sun by the arm, yanking him to a halt two turns away from the RWBY's dorm.

"What!?" Sun ripped his arm out of Neptune's grasp, whirling around to face him. "Nep, they ran off to fight the whole White Fang, and we didn't find out until we heard Weiss nearly died. They left us completely high and dry even after we helped them track down the Fang in the first place!"

Neptune looked skyward for strength. "They didn't exactly ask us for help then, Sun. You kind of just volunteered us to tag along."

Sun waved him off with a scoff. "That's beside the point."

Neptune leveled him with an unimpressed glower. "It's really not."

Sun put his head in his hands, letting out a frustrated groan. "Okay, man, look. You're right, okay? You're right. We ain't entitled for them to tell us anything. But that don't change the fact that they ran off towards certain death again, and we had to find out about it on the damn news! Friends don't do that to each other!"

Neptune wilted a bit, both at how Sun was clearly getting worked up and at the stares they were drawing from the passing students. "Okay, but-"

"Now, I kept my mouth shut all last week because of how broken up they were about the whole thing-" Neptune threw his hands up as Sun started pacing, resigning himself to his friend's rambling. "-I'm not that much of a bastard to grill them while Ruby is moping around looking like a kicked puppy. But after last night, I'm drawing a line. You saw that thing, Nep! A giant ass red Nevermore trailing lightning and rose petals!"

"Alright!" Neptune cut in, matching Sun's raised voice with his own. "Yes, that thing screams Team RWBY! I'm just as curious as you are, man. And yeah, I wish they'd let us in the loop too. These are things we need to talk to them about. I'm right there with you with that. That's not the problem here!"

Sun blinked, pulling back as he finally registered Neptune's agitation. "Then what is?"

Neptune growled, his hands coming up to pantomime them going around Sun's neck. "The problem is you wanting to burst into their room at 8:00 in the morning on a Sunday!"

"Gah!" Sun waved him off, turning back around and continuing down the hall. "Blake said we were always welcome to come and say hi."

"Okay, one," Neptune said as he kept pace, thankful that Sun was walking at a normal pace instead of his previous mad marching. "You're not going to say hi. You're going to interrogate them. Two: whatever went down last night, they probably didn't get to bed till real late. Ergo, they're probably still sleeping-

"Who the hell says 'ergo'?"

"-Ergo, do you really want to deal with all four of them pissed off at you for waking them up? Cuz I for one don't want Yang to throw me out a window for interrupting their beauty sleep."

Sun grimaced, likely because he knew Neptune wasn't just being hyperbolic. "Look, we're almost there already. How about I shoot them a text before knocking, make sure someone's actually awake?"

Neptune let out a sigh. "That's probably the most I could have hoped for out of you. Frankly, I'm just thankful you didn't try to go through the window like you wanted to last time."

Sun let out a sharp bark of laughter. "And risk getting an eyeful of something? Dude, they're an all-female Mated quartet, each one with enough power to level a city block. Even I'm not dumb enough to-"

As they rounded the last corner, Sun came to a sudden stop, his words catching in his throat. Neptune jolted mid-step with him, turning to see what he was gawking at.

At the door to team RWBY's room, a familiar girl with brown and pink hair knelt by the doorknob, clad in an oversized pink t-shirt and white shorts. In one hand she held her parasol. In the other, a bobby pin. The girl's tongue stuck out slightly in concentration as she wiggled the thin metal around in the keyhole.

Sun and Neptune could only stare, gobsmacked at the sudden reappearance of Roman Torchwick's partner in crime, blatantly trying to break into their friends' dorm.

After a few moments, the only sound in the empty hallway being the faint scrabbling of metal on metal, Neo finally felt their eyes on her. She turned slowly towards them, looking up in surprise at them.

Grinning sheepishly, she gave them a weak wave.


Playful yips and snarls filled the air as three forms tumbled through the long grass. The forest's trees gave way to a sprawling savannah, perfect for the two large felines to move around as they play-wrestled. The panther lept onto the lioness's back, the golden-furred feline rolling with the impact to tangle their limbs together. As the two big cats rolled through the grass, the wolf jumped excitedly around them, barking and yipping as she circled them.

Just when she saw an opening to leap into the fun, something moved in the corner of the wolf's eye. Panting hard, her tongue lolling out the side of her mouth, the wolf faced the flash of white.

It was their fox, her fluffy white tail swaying in the air as she watched the three from her perch atop a large boulder, resting at the edge of a large mountain lake.

The wolf cocked her head to the side. Something was… off about their fox. She seemed well enough, Feeling Content as she watched the three play, but… there was something in her eyes. Like she wasn't just watching them, but… observing. Waiting.

Curious, the wolf padded up to the boulder, the fox's attention zeroing in on her as the cats continued to tumble. The fox started to climb to her feet, only to wince and stumble, starting to fall off the rock.

The wolf rushed forward, catching the smaller being with her snout as rose petals danced around them. She heard the fox trill in thanks, sliding down the wolf's snout until she was stable on her paws, her chin resting on the wolf's nose. The fox didn't move further than that, just staring intently into the wolf's eyes.

The wolf let out a curious whine but didn't move. She wasn't sure what the fox was doing, but she didn't mind just staring into her eyes. Their fox had such pretty eyes.

Though…

Had she always had that scar under her eye?

"...y…"

The wolf flicked her ear against the faint breeze whistling past, her eyes narrowing slightly. She couldn't have missed that scar all this time, could she?

"...by... ca….r..."

No... she couldn't have. It looked too… familiar.

"...ese, R… an y... e…"

A huff left the wolf's throat, her ears pulling back. She wished the wind would die down. She was trying to think, and the noise in her ears wasn't helping-

The wolf blinked, surprising the fox as her head jerked up slightly.

...wait… wind?

Since when did they have wind here?

Suddenly, she felt their fox's ears perked up, her tail swaying faster behind her.

"...by? Can y… ea m…?"

The wolf's ears shot up. That… wasn't wind, wasn't it?

"...lease le...is b….king. Ru…"

a voice?

"...uby?"

Yeah… a voice. In fact… it almost sounded like…

She stared into the fox's eyes, shining and excited, and… suddenly so, so familiar.

"...Wei-?"

BANG!


Ruby awoke with a jolt, almost headbutting Blake as the Faunus's panicked eyes shot open. A sleepy curse above them said that Yang had been awoken as well, Ruby being forced up as Yang unconsciously stretched the leg she'd been using as a pillow. Sunlight streamed through the curtains to their left, filling the room with soft morning light.

"The hell was that?" Yang growled blearily, trying to force the sleep out of her voice as she shifted her arms to properly hold Weiss in their upright sleeping position.

"I'm not sure," Blake said hesitantly, stretching quickly as she started rolling off the oversized mattress. "I think it came from the hall."

Ruby barely heard them, her mind still overtaken by the dream she'd just had.

The dream she remembered.

"Ruby?"

She lifted her head sharply, instantly finding wide crystal blue eyes staring back at her.

The same crystal blue eyes she had just seen on…

"...fox?" she breathed.

Weiss's breath hitched. "You remember," she murmured in awe.

Ruby nodded slowly. "I remember…"

Yang leaned to her right so she could look between the two of them, shooting Blake a confused look. When Blake only shrugged back, just as lost, Yang asked, "What about Fox?"

Ruby blinked, startled out of her stupor. She turned to Yang, bemused until she realized what her sister was asking. "Oh! No, not… it…" Realizing she had no actual answer, she turned back to Weiss. "Weiss… what was-"

BANG!

All four of them jumped when a heavy impact shook their door. They heard a second muffled impact, followed by a raised male voice. A female yell sounded immediately after, then another impact.

"What the hell is going on out there?" Yang sat up fully, all signs of tiredness gone as she held Weiss protectively against her chest.

"Sounds like a fight." Ruby rolled to the foot of the bed, reaching for their weapons leaning up against the wall beside it.

Blake's ears pinned back as more voices sounded. "Definitely a fight. It…" Her ears then shot high, her eyes going wide. "Crap, I think it's Sun! And… Ilia!?"

"Ah, crap." Yang groaned as she untangled herself from Weiss. The heiress tried to follow her out of bed, but a hiss escaped her as she stretched too far and her chest throbbed. Yang was quick to put a steadying hand on her shoulder, kneeling and putting herself between Weiss and the door. "Don't even think about it, Snowflake."

Weiss shot her a weak glare but didn't argue, just shuffling to sit on the edge of the bed.

More voices sounded in the hall, along with the noise of combat. Blake and Ruby locked eyes. Ruby gave a stiff nod, Crescent Rose unfolding in her grasp. Blake nodded in return, catching Gambol Shroud when Ruby tossed it to her. Together the two started towards the door.

However, right as they reached it, a new female voice rang out, loud enough for them to hear.

"Hey, all of you… there's no need to… Everyone, time out!"

Ruby and Blake stiffened as multiple heavy impacts sounded in quick succession, ending with a massive thud. There were a multitude of gasps, then deafening silence.

Ruby and Blake slowly looked at each other, unsure how to proceed. There was a muffled voice from behind the door, sounding surprisingly calm, then a soft shuffling sound.

Knock-knock-knock.

Ruby tilted her head in bemusement. Blake was similarly perplexed, a confused trill escaping the back of her throat. After a few seconds, the knock came again. With one last look, Ruby moved for the door, Blake at her back.

Opening it a crack, Ruby blinked. "Jaune?"

The blond gave her a grin that was part sheepish and part freaked out. "Hey, Ruby! So, we've got a bit of a mess out here, and they said we should get you to help clear it up?"

Ruby's brow furrowed. "Who's 'they'?"

Jaune cringed slightly, looking over his shoulder. "Well…"

Curious, Ruby opened the door all the way. Her eyes went wide, and she heard Blake gasp behind her.

Burn marks and cracks littered the hallway walls, parts of the carpeting were smoldering, and shallow gouges ran across the walls and floors. Nora and Ren stood across from them at their door, staring down the hall towards Sun and Neptune, both sporting ruffled clothes, and a shallow cut across Sun's cheek. Ilia was just behind them, Ciel poking her head out the new team's dorm door, horror-stricken by the damage done to the hall. Save Sun and Neptune, everyone was still decked out in sleep clothes.

But they weren't what drew Ruby's attention. No, that was who stood in the middle of the hall, drawing the shocked attention of everyone else.

Everyone stared open-mouthed at Pyrrha, clad in her orange tank top and red pajama pants, as she held both arms over her head, hands wreathed in silver particles. The girl herself stared up in openmouthed shock at the collection she had stuck to the ceiling with her Semblance. Sun's nunchucks, Neptune's rifle, and Ilia's sword were pressed flat against the ceiling right above their owner's heads. Neo's parasol was stuck open, its point buried in the ceiling as the girl herself dangled from the handle with both hands, looking confused at how she'd ended up in this predicament. And right next to her were four of Penny's blades…

And the girl herself, clad in a simple mint green sleeping gown, glued to the ceiling between them, her whole body enveloped in Pyrrha's Semblance as she blinked down at them all in stunned bemusement.

Ruby just stared for a moment, at a loss for words. At last she managed to stutter out, "Wha… why… how did…?"

Pyrrha slowly turned towards her, her arms staying frozen in place. "I… only meant to disarm everyone." She turned back to Penny, at a complete loss. "I… I don't know how I..."

Penny's eyes turned towards the newcomers. She looked contemplative. "Friend Blake?" she called out.

"Y-Yeah?" Blake spluttered.

Swallowing nervously, Penny bit her bottom lip. "Would it be inappropriate to say 'the cat's out of the bag?'"

It took Ruby a moment to process the question. In that time, Blake slowly dropped her head into both hands, letting out a low moan.

Behind them, Yang's startled cackling echoed from their dorm.


Ten Minutes Later.

"I understand that tensions are high right now," Goodwitch said, her voice carefully controlled as she paced up and down the damaged hall, the members of Penny's team and Team RWBY on one side, Sun, Neptune, and Team JNPR against the other. Everyone shrunk against the wall as she spoke, their heads hanging. Ciel looked close to tears. "That is the only reason I'm giving you all a pass this time. But I warn you, this had better never happen again. If any of you dare bring your weapons to bear against another student in these halls, I'll see that you serve detention until you graduate!"

"But, Ma'am-"

"Mr. Wukong, regardless of which school you go to, I will make it happen! Am. I. Clear?"

Goodwitch eyed the collection of chastised students with a narrowed gaze, daring them to argue. When she received only mumbled acknowledgment and mortified apologies, she gave them a stiff nod. "Good. Now, I suggest you all make yourselves scarce for the next few hours while I see about repairing this damage."

Sun cringed as the professor started eyeing the slashed wallpaper and cracked flooring. "Yes, Ma'am. I'm sorry for overreacting." His tone then shifted, frustration on his face as he looked across the hall. Neo stared back with her arms crossed, sandwiched between Ruby and Ilia, looking more annoyed than chagrined. "But-"

"No 'buts', Mr. Wukong!" Sun yelped as Goodwitch's whip struck by his feet, making him dance back a step. Goodwitch took a calming breath, rubbing tiredly at the bridge of her nose. "I understand your actions, and in fact commend your sense of duty. But you need to remember, all of you," her voice rose as she swung her head to meet the eyes of every student. "It is not up to you to provide security for this school. If a situation like this arises again, your first and only action is to contact a member of the faculty. They will then advise you whether to take action or hold back. Do you all understand?"

A chorus of "yes, ma'am", "of course, ma'am", "we're sorry, ma'am" echoed throughout the hall.

Goodwitch took another deep breath. "In that case, I'll take my leave. I'll send up some repairmen within the hour. Unless you wish to listen to construction for the rest of the day, I suggest you all be elsewhere." With that, she marched away down the hall, sending the eavesdropping students poorly hiding around the corner scattering.

The chastised teams watched her go. Once she'd rounded the corner, Sun, Neptune, and the JNPRs all turned towards Ruby and Neo.

Neo merely raised a challenging brow, while Ruby shrunk at the attention. "It's a long story?" she answered sheepishly.


"Okay, so-" Jaune ran his hands through his hair, a struggle visible on his face. "Just to clarify: the same day you four became Mates, you all decided to investigate the White Fang with Sun and Neptune's help. That's when the big fight against Torchwick happened, right?"

"Yup." Ruby nodded, the two leaders sitting across from each other at a picnic table. All fourteen students had gathered in a quiet corner of the courtyard after hurriedly getting ready for the day, no one wanting to push Goodwitch's wrath any further. Ruby had the odd urge to laugh at the sight of them all strewn about, sitting at or laying across a slew of picnic tables. In their mad scramble to leave the dorms as fast as possible, all of them had thrown on the first clothes they'd gotten their hands on. Blue jeans, sweatpants, and plain t-shirts and skirts dominated, Nora's short shorts and Yang's knotted flannel shirt being the exceptions. They all looked more ready for a lazy stay on the couch than a day out on the town.

Jaune's face went flat at Ruby's careless agreement, but he took a deep breath, continuing. "After that, your estranged mother showed up-" He looked to Yang, who bobbed her head in a 'more-or-less' gesture. "And she, your dad, and your uncle tell you that you and Ruby don't actually share a father, you both share a mother, her."

Ruby and Yang gave each other an appraising look. "Kind of…?" Ruby supplied.

Jaune waved a hand in frustration. "Yeah, I get that it's more complicated than that, just… let me keep it simple in my head. Your mom then also tells you that the supercriminal Torchwick is actually your uncle, and she-" He pointed to Neo, who smirked back. "Is your cousin."

"Ya-huh," Ruby smiled, ignoring Sun's grimace.

"Right. And the reason your family showed up to give you this world-shattering news is because they caught wind of a plot to kill the four of you, because of your jealous ex," he looked to Blake, "Who just so happened to be the leader of the White Fang."

Blake grimaced at the reminder. "Unfortunately."

"And the only reason they found out about this is because of Torchwick, who's last name's not actually Torchwick, it's Rose, told them, because he's not actually a criminal but an undercover Hunter."

Weiss let out an undignified snort. "That's the official story…"

"And while all this is going on, Blake's parents, the King and Queen of Menagerie-"

"Technically, we're not royalty, so-"

"-The King and Queen of Menagerie, made their way up here without telling anyone, bringing Blake's old White Fang friend with them to play double agent."

"In their defense, they didn't plan on meeting me."

"So, with the help of all of them, along with General Ironwood, an entire army of bandits and a secret Atlassian super-robot - which, by the way, is extremely cool-"

Penny blinked as he looked at her. "Thank you?"

"-you go through a massive battle with the White Fang, themselves using an army of giant mechs, while Headmaster Ozpin uses the whole thing as a distraction to capture the leader of the White Fang's leader, who was posing here at the school as a visiting student. You somehow manage to take them down along with Blake's ex, though not before he stabbed Weiss- by the way, you're sure you're okay now?"

Weiss rubbed the place where her scar was, grimacing as she leaned into Ruby's side. "It still feels really tender, but I'm well enough to be out and about."

"Good. Seriously, that's great. So, since Weiss got hurt, Ruby decided to train with summoning glyphs in secret to make it up to her. Which led to last night, where she ended up riding a giant Semblance-using Nevermore halfway across the continent to rescue Weiss, because her jerk of a dad kidnapped her out of the infirmary without anyone else noticing."

Weiss's eyes narrowed at Ruby, who shrunk under the glare. "Yes, and as thankful as I am that she did, we will be talking about that later."

Jaune nodded sharply, a tight grin on his face. "Right. Great. And on top of all of that, the school leaders decided to take the super-robot, the ex-White Fang, Torchwick's right-hand woman, and an Atlassian prodigy, and throw them all in a Beacon team together." He looked around at the gathered parties. "Did I miss anything?"

The RWBY's all shared a look, shrugging at each other. "I think you covered everything," Yang supplied helpfully.

Jaune gave another nod, the smile on his face not reaching his eyes. "In that case, I just have one question."

Ruby's brow rose slightly. "Sure. Wha-"

She then leaned far back in her seat as Jaune practically launched himself across the table, his stressed face filling her whole vision. "WHY THE HELL DIDN'T YOU TELL US ANY OF THIS!?"

Ruby nearly fell off the bench trying to get some distance, Blake having to balance her with a hand to the small of her back. "It… there really wasn't time?" she squeaked out.

"You said you took a week to plan for the White Fang fight," Pyrrha said quietly. She and the other JNPR's looked just as distressed as Jaune, staring at the RWBY's in various degrees of shock from their shared table. "You could have asked us for help. We would have."

"Definitely," Nora piped up, looking visibly put out with her arms crossed. "I even asked you to include me the next time you fought giant robots…"

Ren rolled his eyes at Nora's pouting but wore a deep frown as he looked towards the RWBYs. "Regardless of that, you charged into a deadly situation and we were none the wiser. Had things gone even more poorly, we wouldn't have known until it was far too late."

"Yeah, no kidding." Sun glowered at them as he crouched on the edge of the JNPRs table, his tail swishing irritably. "Hell, me and Neptune helped you out once. Why was this different?"

Yang scowled at the onslaught, standing just behind Ruby. "How about a gag order?"

Sun's anger abated for a moment, Yang's blunt words startling him. "Huh?"

Blake was a little kinder, sympathy in her eyes as she faced the monkey Faunus. "Sun, this whole thing blew into… well, basically an international incident. We weren't allowed to talk to anyone about it. We still aren't, for some things."

Neptune frowned. "But… then why were you allowed to fight, then? You're all just students."

Neo rolled her eyes, Weiss letting out a scoff. "Because we were the targets, Neptune. The only reason Taurus showed up in the first place was because he knew we would be there."

"As for my team," Penny jumped in, to most's surprise. "I was there because I was involved as part of Ironwood's forces, Ilia held a position as our 'double-agent', and Neo…" she paused, turning towards the girl in question. "Um…"

Neo snorted, quickly typing something out on her scroll.

Penny's eyes flashed briefly as she read the message aloud. "Where Roman went, I went. Someone had to help keep him alive.'" Penny grinned widely. "See? And Ciel did not participate because she was not part of a team yet."

"I'm… fine with having missed all that, by the way," Ciel muttered, just loud enough for them all to hear even as she cringed away from the attention.

Ilia eyed Ciel for a moment, bemused, then focused on the others. "Honestly, Sun, Ozpin and Ironwood weren't exactly thrilled with us being there. If we all hadn't been involved already in one way or another, they probably would have tried to keep us out of the battle entirely." She narrowed her eyes when Neo let out an amused huff, making known her thoughts on how well that would have gone.

"If it makes you feel any better," Ruby perked up, sitting up again as Jaune relaxed back into his seat. "We do feel bad about leaving you all in the dark the whole time. We would have liked your help, but…" She trailed off, unsure how to finish.

"Honestly," Yang jumped in, coming to Ruby's rescue. "The whole thing was a complete chaotic cluster. Yeah, you guys probably could have helped, but you might have also added to the mess. And we had enough to worry about just watching each other's backs. And even then, we screwed up." She grinned slightly as Weiss leaned back to wack her in the shoulder, likely Feeling the Melancholy tinging her humorous tone.

Sun grumbled under his breath, then let out a sigh, sitting down properly on the table. "I guess I get that, but… don't mean I like it."

"I'm right there with you, man," Jaune agreed. "You girls are our friends. We don't like worrying about you either. Can you at least let us know something's going on if this happens again, even if you can't tell us what?"

Ruby hummed. "I don't think that'd be a problem. Though…" She gave Weiss a hesitant look.

Pyrrha looked between them as the two had a silent conversation. "What? What's wrong?"

Weiss grimaced, then let out a grumble. "Just something that'll probably become a problem very soon. I don't think my father is going to stop after last night."

Sun, Neptune, and the JNPR's stiffened. "You think he'll try to kidnap you again?" Ren asked.

Weiss's shoulders slumped in defeat. "Or something in the same vein. He… doesn't like to be defied."

The group fell silent as that sank in. Then…

"I'll break his legs."

Everyone turned towards Nora in shock. Not at her words, but her serious tone. There was no trace of her usual impish exuberance, replaced instead with a stormy look in her eyes.

Ren gave his partner a long look, then faced Weiss. "I agree with the sentiment. What he attempted last night was unjust. We will stop him if he tries again."

Jaune and Pyrrha shared a look, their faces determined as they met Weiss's eyes. "Ditto," Jaune said.

Weiss blinked in surprise at the sudden declaration. Her eyes unconsciously drifted towards Sun and Neptune.

Sun was already smirking at her. "Help out a friend and piss off Jacques Schnee? Like you have to ask."

Neptune looked skyward, shaking his head slightly. He still gave Weiss a grin. "Well, I guess I have to try and keep this guy alive." He gave Sun a mocking shove, grinning when he received one in return. "So I'm in."

Warmth bubbled up in Weiss's chest, her throat feeling thick as she looked around at her classmates.

Her friends.

She felt her eyes grow misty, focusing on the pressure of Ruby's hand squeezing her own to hold herself together. "Thank you," she whispered thickly.

A moment of contentment spread out throughout the group. Of course, with this particular group of personalities, it didn't last long as Nora's voice rang out, boisterous once more. "Okay, enough of this gloom and doom stuff. We need to go do something fun! And I think I know just the thing."

Ruby looked up as the bubbly girl bounced forward, curious. "What's that?"

"Well, with all the spy stuff and battle planning, I have a feeling a little something slipped your minds," Nora grinned wickedly. "Just out of curiosity, what dresses are you going to wear next weekend?"

Blake's ears pulled back, her confusion clear at the completely random question. "Dresses?"

Nora's snorted, her grin somehow growing wider. "I knew you forgot." At their continued perplexed looks, she giggled. "For the dance, dummies! It's next Saturday."

The RWBYs blinked back at her. Then, at the same moment, the Link exploded with the same emotion from all four of them.

Panic!

"Crap, we forgot!" Yang put both hands on her head.

"Oh, no…" Weiss despaired, pressing her head against the table "I had the perfect dress picked out weeks ago, but I forgot to buy it."

Blake and Ruby shared distressed looks. Neither of them had spared a thought about the Beacon dance in weeks, and they didn't even know where to start thinking now.

Nora let out a cackle at their freaking out. "Okay, Pyrrha, it's decided; we're taking these four on an emergency shopping spree!"

Pyrrha's shoulders slumped, recognizing that there was no arguing with the manic gleam in her friend's eyes. "I suppose we don't have anything else planned for today…" she said resignedly, though an amused grin tugged at her lips.

Meanwhile, Jaune had gone stock-still in his seat. He turned sharply to Ren in a panic. "Dude, did you already pick out a suit?"

Ren gave his leader a flat look. "Yes, weeks ago."

Jaune hung his head. "Aw, crap…"

A chuckle sounded next to him, startling him into looking up. Sun had leaped over, grinning down at the fellow blond. "Well, luckily for you, me and Neptune haven't either. So if you want, we can all suffer together today."

Jaune practically leaped off the bench, grasping Sun by the arms desperately, nearly in tears. "Yes! Please! Help!"

Neptune let out a groan. "Oh, boy," he looked over at Ren, the two united in their exasperation of their leaders.

Ilia watched this all with a sinking feeling. She hesitantly looked to Penny. "We have to go to that, don't we?" she asked, already dreading the answer.

Penny looked perplexed by Ilia's lack of enthusiasm but smiled back anyway. "It's expected for the Vytal Festival fighters to attend."

Ilia winced. "I knew it. Gods, I hate dressing up."

Neo just looked amused at the entire debacle. She glanced over at Ciel, who looked back in confusion. The prodigy gave a weak shrug. "I guess I can look up what the dress code for the dance is supposed to be… assuming this school even has one," she finished, muttering under her breath.

At this, Nora was practically bursting with excitement. "Awesome! You guys can come with us! We'll make a party out of it ourselves." She suddenly grabbed Ruby and Penny by the arms, yanking both of them to their feet and taking off at a run. "C'mon, let's go!"

Ruby and Penny let out startled yelps as they were pulled along, the rest of the teens sharing startled looks before following at a slower pace.

"Hey, Neo?" Blake asked cautiously. "Why... were you trying to break into our room in the first place?"

Neo gave her a flat look, then pointed between herself and Ruby, and briefly brought her hands up in a boxing pose. She rose an expectant brow.

Blake got it after a second. "The spar you wanted? Neo, you didn't have to try to break in! You could have just knocked!"

Neo gave her an 'are-you-kidding-me' look. She quickly brought up her arm and tapped her knuckles lightly between Blake's eyes, startling the Faunus.

Ilia let out a snort at Blake's disgruntled look. "I think she's trying to say she did. None of you answered."

Weiss let out an offended squawk. "There's a few avenues she could have gone through before 'breaking and entering'!"

Neo threw her hands up in the air, her expression screaming 'take-away-all-my-fun,-why-don't-you?', earning an amused snort from Yang.

Sun sidled up to Ren as they moved up the path, whispering. "Dude, is your partner always this…"

"Manic?" Ren supplied with a raised brow. "Every day."

Sun let out a low whistle. "Damn, man. That must be exhausting."

Ren let out a sigh. "Very. However, it does have its perks."

Sun rose a brow, a sly grin forming on his lips. "Oh?"

"Indeed," Ren confirmed, ignoring Sun's clear implication. "For instance…"

He looked around at the group of students, all talking and bantering as they left the grounds, not a frown among them.

"She always manages to make things brighter."


A/n: Here you go: a big heaping helping of our M.I.A. JNPRs! I swear I have a plan for them moving forward.

And yes, alas, there will be no dress-wearing Jaune in this fic. Honestly, I doubt I could do it any better justice than the perfection we got in canon.

Next chapter: shopping spree shenanigans, Semblance talks, and Winter just being the best big sister ever.

Hope everyone's doing okay, and I'll see you all at the next one!