The Aftermath/Festival of the Lost/Moving on
RWBY= Rooster Teeth
Let's do this.
The Iron Lord
Cayde-6: So...Remnant huh? Man, why can't we go to such nice places...
Ikora Rey: A new planet with humans. An intriguing destination but with how busy we are I'm afraid there isn't much we can do to actually head out there.
Zavala: With SIVA still a threat we are still needed here. Cayde, have you been in touch with Shiro?
Cayde-6: Yep, he's up at the peak right now with Saladin...and one of my top guys. What was his name? Marc? Er...Mason?
Ikora Rey: I believe his name is Marcus, Cayde.
Cayde-6: Right, right...Yeah, he's solid. Almost as much as Holden so I've been told.
Ikora Rey: Indeed...
Zavala: So why exactly did you put him up on the list as part of the reinforcements we're sending to Remnant?
Cayde-6: Hey, I figured if he could beat the hell out Aksis he'd do more good with the Ifrit against whatever's out there on Remnant.
Zavala: He was just inaugurated as the first Iron Lord in centuries, Cayde. His presence is needed here.
Cayde-6: Look, as much as I would say no I can't really say no...He actually demanded the assignment. So, yeah. He's headed up there whether we want him to or not.
Zavala (sighs in disgust): Fine. But you better fill in the paperwork this time.
European Dead Zone, Earth, Several Years ago...
He knew the wound was devastating. "I can fix this..." Kevin repeated, stammering. "Carla, it's going to be okay."
The Warlock held his lover close even as he did his best to keep her warm. Why was she so cold? He laid her down and started bandaging Carla's wounds, ignoring the voice that told him that it was too late, that there was nothing else he could do to save her.
"Carla...I can fix this..." Kevin repeated. "Just hang on."
She smiled at him gently. "Kevin..." She said quietly cupping his cheek. "Kevin...It's all going to be okay..."
"No...No, no, no." Kevin stammered, as he held her hand. "No. No. No. I can still fix this... I can still..."
She wasn't talking anymore. Everything was still. Everything turned silent. Kevin Holden dropped the bandages and looked down at Carla. "Carla..." He shook her, as though it would bring her back. "Carla...I can fix this. Just wake up. Please."
But she wasn't waking up. Her eyes looked up at the grey skies forever. The Guardian that loved her stammered a denial. He stayed there for hours until nightfall. The Guardian stood up, carrying his woman after closing her eyes for the last time.
Fireteam Jackknife/Emeici Billet, Island of Patch
Jaune blocked Kevin's sword stroke.
"Move your feet Jaune." Kevin said as they stepped back from each other. Jaune exhaled, his breath misting in the cold.
"You can do it Jaune!" Ruby cheered. Pyrrha smiled as she sipped her cup of hot cocoa. Kevin raised Bolt Caster as Jaune did the same thing for Crocea Mors.
"I'm ready." Jaune said again. Kevin nodded.
"Good. Then let's get started." Kevin rolled his shoulders then adjusted his grip on his sword, the point directed at Jaune's throat. He was alone right now. John and Hestia were out on a scouting run near Beacon Academy. That would be the next objective and this time the Huntsmen and Huntresses of Vale were leading that operation. They claimed that any Guardian support "would be most appreciated."
Patrol was boring but necessary work, especially with what most Cryptarchs were paying out right now for information on Remnant and the city of Vale. There were still Grimm to kill, technology to analyze and most of all rebuilding efforts had to start sometime soon.
As for the others, Xia was back inside watching a movie. God knows what Ivan was doing although scuttlebutt said that he was seen around with a certain ice cream themed girl...for some odd reason. That was funny, she had tried to kill him a few weeks ago didn't she? Whatever. Kevin was not one to judge. Ivan could take care of himself, even if he was a bit young.
Yang was with Blake who was currently being debriefed by the Commander. "For emotional support" Yang had told him when he asked why she was going with Blake. Kevin shrugged. If anything at least it was Edgar doing the debrief. Miss Keina was the nicest sort but some things were best left to people who still had a semblance of normalcy.
As Kevin sidestepped one of Jaune's strikes, he just realized that he had made a pun.
"Would you like a cup of tea Miss Belladonna? Miss Xiao Long?" Edgar asked Blake who was staring with a mortified expression at the ghastly tea pot that Edgar was using to pour out said tea. Beside her Yang was having an extreme amount of difficulty stifling her laughter. It was an eye sore, a bright baby blue with eye searing pink smiling elephants dotting its surface. Blake forced her eyes away from the garish teapot and looked Edgar right in the eye. It took a sheer amount of will to do so.
"Um...Sure..." Blake said hesitantly keeping the teapot at the corner of her eye. Edgar set a cup, thankfully a white one, down in front of her and poured out a generous portion.
"Um...No thank you."
Blake waited for the tea to cool down a bit before trying it. She was surprised. It was rather refreshing, the bitter aftertaste didn't bother her at all. This was some pretty darned good tea.
Edgar smiled, making Blake realize that she had spoken out loud. "My thanks, my wife does a better job of brewing but I managed to ask her for a few pointers."
Yang blinked. "You're married!?" She asked.
"Why, yes." Edgar answered. "My wife made the teapot."
Blake suddenly felt a little ill and strove to avoid looking at the damn thing before it blinded her.
"So she did." Santiago remarked by Edgar's head. The Ghost floated over the teapot. "Now can we actually take it off the desk before it causes my photoreceptor to implode? We're supposed to be helping Miss Belladonna, not subjecting her to eye strain."
Yang giggled as the pair glared at each other.
Edgar leaned his head back, looking very dignified. Santiago made an annoyed sound before settling back behind Yang and Blake, hovering in place.
"Well, now that you have managed to get some rest Miss Belladonna I believe it is time we got to business." Edgar said.
"Wait...You guys said something bad happened to-to Adam. What was it?" Blake asked.
"He has been granted a very terrible power." Edgar spoke. "Once someone has been taken by the Darkness there is no coming back, our enemies have the backing of someone very dangerous." His tone was grave.
"So what do we do now?" Yang asked worriedly. "We just sit here and wait?"
"Our first objective is to re-establish communications to the other kingdoms." Edgar explained calmly. "With your Cross Continental Transmit Tower down, we've been relying on our own communications grid. Which sucks mind you." Edgar took a sip of tea. "We get that set up we can share more information with the world. The Nautilus is currently scanning for any unknown signatures headed here."
That was sobering. The thought of an alien invasion was something Yang and Blake weren't ready for. Yang thought it was dumb. There were video games out there talking about green space aliens wanting to experiment on Remnant's people. But now she knew better.
John, Kevin and Hestia had told her enough horror stories about the insidious Vex, the cruel Fallen and the monstrous Hive. She didn't know how bad it could be, out there in the universe. The fact that the Guardians were the ones who faced off against them constantly made her encounters with the Grimm and the White Fang seem...paltry.
Blake's thoughts were as equally depressing. She was already in enough trouble seeing as she was a former member of the White Fang. Someone in the Council had wanted her head but the good thing was that Edgar had personally vouched for her and her fate would be decided today. She wasn't expecting to walk away free.
With all of what was happening in Vale, she was ready for the worst.
Edgar noted how dour they were and gave a smile. "Regardless of our current situation we still managed to push the White Fang back and rescued some very influential people from further harm. A small victory, but a victory nonetheless." He told them. "What we can do now is hope for the best...and prepare for the worst."
The Commander now leaned forward, putting his hands in a steeple. "Which is why I will be permanently assigning Ruby's team to Fireteam Jackknife and Mister Arc's to Emeici. I've been hearing that all of you have been working together throughout the beginning of this...crisis."
Yang nodded. "Yeah...We have." She said and then scowled. "What about Blake?"
Edgar frowned. "Of course, as Miss Belladonna's status as a former White Fang member has come to light amongst the leadership there are some calling for her immediate arrest." He spoke seriously. "There are some who were more vocal and less wise that have called for me to hang you for what has happened to Vale. I'll be quite frank, they want someone to pin this disaster on. Meaning you."
Blake looked pale as she looked down at her hands. Yang's fists clenched as her lilac eyes burned red slightly.
"Rest assured however that Headmaster Ozpin has vouched for you." Edgar said to them both blithely. "And I would be most irritated if someone were to try something right under my nose." Blake looked up at him.
Edgar blinked. "Why what?"
"Why...Why did you help me?" Blake asked.
"Blake..." Yang started saying before keeping quiet.
"I...I did some bad things. I thought I was helping the Faunus have a voice. And then-And then Adam..." Blake trailed off.
"Miss Belladonna, there is no reason for me to imprison you. Not when you are trying to atone." Edgar said standing up and looking outside. "And that will be all I will say about this subject." He looked back at the two girls. "Our business is concluded, ladies. You may go."
Yang and Blake stood up.
"Thank you, commander." Blake said softly bowing her head. "For the tea and...listening to me."
Edgar gave a smile. "It was no trouble at all." He said to them both. "Have a good day."
That was that.
She was cleared of all charges. Blake Belladonna was relieved. She didn't have to hide who she was anymore. She was free.
"Well, that was...something." Yang said as she scratched her hair before pulling her beanie on. Blake just closed her long white coat, a gift from Yang. "Blake, you okay?"
Blake nodded. She had been resting for all these weeks. Yang and Ruby's father had let her stay with them since it was going to take a while to get a tent for her in the refugee camp. Ruby and Yang had filled her in on the truth about Kevin, John and the Guardians. They told her what they knew.
She had talked to Kevin privately after her rescue and knew she still had questions, questions that needed answering. Yang stopped and there was a loud buzzing noise as a Guardian Fireteam passed by on their hover bikes. Sparrows, they were called.
Yang whistled. "I'd like to get me one of those." She commented and smiled at Blake. "Come on, let's head back and see what Kevin's doing."
"Sure." Blake said still feeling tired. While she had recovered from her imprisonment, she was having trouble sleeping.
Yang grinned. "You still tired Blake?" She asked.
"Not really but...I just want to get back to reading for a little while." Blake answered softly.
They eventually made it back to the billet where they watched Kevin and Jaune finish their spar. Jaune was leaning on his sword as Kevin told him something. The blonde smiled and shook hands with Kevin who returned the handshake. But not the smile, much to Blake's amusement.
His eyes landed on Blake's and he nodded to them both.
"Yang! Blake! You're back!" Ruby cried out and ran to give them both hugs.
"Yeah we figured you guys were running around in the cold and doing dumb things so we made sure to tell the Commander we had a schedule." Yang joked. "But seriously though, Blake's a free girl now. Her 'charges' were dropped."
"That's wonderful!" Nora cheered. "Oh, would you like pancakes? Ren says he'd cook us a lot of pancakes for breakfast today!"
"Nora...It's almost noon." Ren reminded her.
"What exactly did he say, Blake?" Pyrrha asked sighing as Nora began babbling to Ren again.
Blake answered. "I was on trial when I wasn't there. But the commander and Headmaster Ozpin spoke up for me to the Council." She shook her head. "I wasn't expecting to get off scot free."
"But you did, so that's good." Kevin said calmly. "Come on, let's go inside. I hate the cold."
"Hey Xia." Kevin said as he held the door open for Ruby and the others to head inside.
Xia waved her hand as she opened up another movie on her Scroll. Kevin turned to the side to see Ivan and Neopolitan already at the bar. Ivan scowled as he moved a chess piece on the board. Neopolitan smirked as she took the pawn with her queen.
There was a rustling sound as Blake reached for the hilt of Gambol Shroud. She glared at Neopolitan who looked surprised to see her there.
"Oy, cat girl." Xia spoke up before Blake could draw her weapon. "Don't draw that here please. Some of us are trying to relax eh?"
Kevin put a hand on Blake's shoulder. "Yeah, I figured Yang forgot to tell you that Roman and his partner are working with us for the time being."
Yang scowled. "Sorry Blake." She said throwing a nasty look that Neopolitan returned.
Blake narrowed her eyes. "So why is she here?"
"Because she's irritating." Ivan answered for Neo. "But useful." Neopolitan winked at him as she moved her Knight into position. "And a surprisingly good chess player."
She mouthed the words 'checkmate' to Ivan who exhaled through his nose in irritation as he looked at the chessboard to think about his remaining options. Then he sighed and gave up which caused Neopolitan to hide her smirk behind a gloved hand as Ivan began setting up the game pieces once more.
"Right, I haven't introduced you yet." Kevin sighed. "Blake, the woman wrapped up in the blanket is Xia Zhang. Leader of Fireteam Emeici and my former tutor. The one with Neopolitan is Ivan Searle, my replacement on her team."
"Aye." Xia waved a hand again, further wrapping herself up in her blanket. "If you got any questions girl I'll be happy to answer them after this movie."
Blake started saying "nice to meet you." but stopped because she was a bit shocked that Xia was Kevin's former teacher and was not seeing it.
"Don't look so shocked yeah?" Xia turned and stared at Blake at the corner of her eye. "I don't like getting my feelings hurt."
Blake felt that she was dangerous and decided to drop the subject. "It's nice to meet you Xia." She finally spoke, lamely. To her surprise Xia turned to Kevin and looked back at Blake again.
"She'll do." Xia told Kevin who shrugged. "Won't be surprised if Cayde-6 picks her up to join the Hunters."
"Yeah, figured as much. Blake's not a slouch either." Kevin agreed. "A few patrols and she'll be good to go."
Blake looked to Yang and Ruby. "What was that?" She whispered to the both of them.
Ruby and Yang looked at each other. "Well, um...They're scouting us." Ruby told her.
"For what?" Blake asked again.
"They think we're Guardian material." Yang said smiling. "So they want to see how awesome we are."
"Oh..." Blake looked to Kevin who was still discussing things with his old teacher. She didn't realize that. There was still a lot of things Kevin hasn't told her but she knew he would. If there was one thing Kevin wasn't, he wasn't a liar. He was honest with them, except for why he was at Beacon.
She knew Kevin hated lying to people he trusted.
Emerald Forest, Beacon Grounds, Vale Dead Zone
The Boarbatusk only managed to squeal once before John ended its life with a controlled burst from his rifle. The Sunsinger exhaled as he hit the magazine release and replaced the empty mag with a fresh one.
"John, a message." Jingles reminded him. "I've been trying to ping you for the last thirty minutes."
"Shucks, sorry." John chuckled as he fished out his Scroll. His brow raised in surprise. "Wow. It's that time already?"
"Yes, the Festival of the Lost is coming up." Jingles said. "Are you going to attend? The Embassy is asking for volunteers to help out." The Ghost stared at him. "And I'm pretty sure they will ask you to speak for the opening ceremony."
"Aww...But I wanted to go around scaring people with masks." John complained.
"I am sure the Commander will allow you to do that after the formal ceremony." Jingles admonished him. "And the wait is worth it right? Loki volunteered to make the masks again."
John had to admit that was true. The Festival of the Lost wasn't just about mourning for the Guardians. Sure it was a time for reflection for those they had lost, but it was also a time of celebration of being reborn again in the Traveler's Light, to laugh and smile and eat a huge amount of candy.
Or raisins. If you were a party pooper like Eris Morn. Or a health nut like Kevin Holden.
The Sunsinger sighed at the thought of making a speech. It was always him, a tiring affair. He was always John the Ifrit to many, and John Holden to his teammates. He smiled, banishing such thoughts.
He was strong. He had to be, otherwise he would never make it out of this alive. Or sane. And neither would any of his brothers and sisters in arms.
"Speech huh? " John said as he shouldered his weapon and hunted for targets. "I wonder..."
Armory, the Nautilus
Blake had never seen such a huge amount of guns in one place. She had agreed to accompany Kevin up to the frigate, not knowing what to expect but she had to admit that she was in awe most of the time. She was in space, in orbit around Remnant and there were view ports where she could see her home planet below her.
Kevin had also told her about other planets he had been on. Mars, with its red deserts. The mysterious Venus, with its jungles and thick vegetation. Earth, with its glorious cities shattered and the place the Guardians called home. There was even Europa, a frozen moon that Kevin had only visited once. She stopped looking through the view port as she heard Kevin's footsteps.
He dropped a case of armor and weaponry down for her approval. Blake blinked. It was apparently the same as Yang's but was much lighter. There was also a rifle and a semiautomatic pistol as well in the case.
"Try these out." Kevin said. "I'm sure you're getting bored so we're going on patrol in the Vale Dead Zone today." The Warlock seemed at ease. "What?"
Blake simply smiled. "A bit too early for presents isn't it?"
Kevin shrugged. "It was John's idea, not mine." He told her. His face was impassive. Blake chuckled.
"Okay. Thank you though."
Kevin shrugged his shoulders again. "Call me when you're ready."
Blake tugged at her gauntlets as she looked herself in the mirror. The armor was light, it wouldn't reduce her natural speed or dexterity by much. According to Kevin, this armor was the same used by Dead Orbit's marines in combat. The one piece suit underneath the plating was also designed to stop small caliber rounds and most attacks. It, theoretically, shouldn't interfere with her Aura or her use of Semblance. It was a new design from the Cryptarchs, researchers who were aboard the Nautilus.
The rifle was a bit different. She preferred handguns and her own Gambol Shroud of course but the weaponry in a Guardian's arsenal weren't made for using Dust based powders. They were killing tools, not for tourney use. She shuddered at the thought that Kevin and the others had used, and probably mastered, several of the armaments at their disposal.
Blake picked up the weapon, the white and red casing indicated it was called a Suros PDX-45.
The sidearm was one of Kevin's old pistols, named the JabberHakke. Blake slung her rifle over her shoulder and tried the pistol. She liked it, it reminded her of Gambol Shroud's pistol form. Her signature weapon was strapped to her back, unused for now but the weight wasn't bothering her at all.
Blake exhaled. "Alright, I'm ready."
Patrol duty wasn't exactly exciting work, but Blake managed.
She and Kevin were moving through the urban devastation known as the Vale Dead Zone, looking for a nest of Grimm to wipe out. Blake would have balked at doing something so brash but she felt a lot more confident with Kevin around.
The Stormcaller moved, his Lyudmila-D in his grip as he swung his legs over the railing. His helmet swiveled left to right, looking for any sign of Grimm in the area. Blake did the same, rifle shouldered before she ducked behind an abandoned car. She waved Kevin over.
"So...how are you holding up?" Kevin asked quietly as they continued down the street, Kevin leading the way. "Is your stomach okay?"
Blake knew what he was talking about. The food she received during her stint as a prisoner wasn't always fresh. She had a bad bout of indigestion but the doctors were able to help with that. Kevin did as well, suggesting what kind of foods to avoid while having said indigestion. It amused her to think that Kevin was such a big health nut but it was useful in a sense. He always watched what he ate to an obsessed degree.
"Yes." Blake said. Both took a count of three before they kept moving forward into cover again. "Are we almost there yet?"
Kevin checked his HUD and realized they were already near the ruined store they were supposed to clear out. "Yep." He switched to his Conspiracy Theory shotgun, pumping the slide. He noted Blake staring. "What? It's close quarters work."
She just shrugged and Kevin led the way, shotgun raised.
The store was rather large but there was enough crap in here to make it difficult to see. Sparky's light gave them some visibility. Kevin whistled. "Man, it's dark in here."
Blake stepped lightly over the rubble. "You know, I would have thought twice about taking out an Ursa nest like this." She said.
"It's just Ursae." Kevin remarked. "I think every Guardian I know who has been on patrol hates Deathstalkers more. Seriously, even the little ones take a lot of ordnance."
"Little ones?" Blake asked eyebrow raised.
Kevin waved a hand. "The ones not the size of a bus. Yeah I was speaking relatively." He heard a growl. The Stormcaller smirked underneath his helmet as two large Ursa approached, disturbed from their sleep.
"Well, looks like we came at a bad time." Kevin said coldly. "Blake, you get the one on the left."
Blake chambered a round into her rifle and took aim.
Kevin faced the other Ursa calmly as he raised his shotgun, waiting for it to charge. And charge it did, with a roar the Ursa went for the Stormcaller with a mighty swipe of its paw. Kevin sidestepped, moving swiftly he put a blast of shells into its head cracking the skull mask. The sound of Pulse Rifle fire alerted Kevin that Blake had already started on her own target.
Pumping the slide Kevin shot the Ursa again and again, the Void infused shells knocking the big burly bastard down on its side. Kevin didn't hesitate and put the last shell in its face, bone fragments scattering in the air alongside brains. He turned to see that Blake had already cut down her own target, using Gambol Shroud's sword and sheath to cut its head off with a flourish.
She looked a bit sheepish as she picked up her discarded rifle. "Sorry."
Kevin shrugged. "It's fine. That's why you have secondary weapons." He told her. "Let's clear the rest of this place and move on."
Once that was done, Kevin and Blake headed out into the cold air once more.
"Oops. Almost forgot." Kevin said. "Sparky, get me that patrol beacon."
As the beacon materialized into Kevin's hand Blake couldn't help but watch. "That's pretty convenient." She told Kevin.
The Stormcaller shrugged. "Yeah, I could never figure out how people live without transmat." He said as he pushed a button for a spike to appear on the bottom. He then looked around for a suitable area and just shoved it into the exposed dirt on the concrete. "And there...We're done. The engineering crews can check this place out to see if it's viable and the scavengers know it's clear for them to do their own magic."
"That's our third beacon, right?" Blake asked. The last two were easier, since they were just small stores.
"Yes." Kevin said. "And I for one am in the mood to eat something." The Stormcaller said. "Come on, we're gonna head out again at night anyway. Might as well head back to Patch for the time being."
"At night!?" Blake looked surprised. "But that's a lot more dangerous!"
Kevin agreed. "True. But John wants to see how you're doing, and we are the ones scouting the four of you. Hestia already took Yang and Ruby out here a few nights ago. They did well, as far as I'm concerned." He looked at her a bit sternly now. "Are you saying you can't handle it?"
"Well...No, that's not what I'm saying at all." Blake said. "I can handle it."
Kevin bobbed his head. "Good. I'm more than confident that you can do this." He told her. "Let's move on now."
They made it back to the docks in an hour's time.
Kevin and Blake were seated at a noodle stand. Blake, as usual, was staring at the large amount of fish in her ramen. Kevin's bowl of soba noodles looked a bit small but he also had a cup of fried rice.
Both were drinking tea since it was a bit cold. Kevin ate quietly, letting Blake ask questions about actually being a Guardian.
"It's one part waiting for deployment, another part going on patrols and the biggest part is defending the City." Kevin told her when she asked what he did. "Some of us work in the City when needed. Sure, it's pretty intimidating to the normal folk when we're around since...you know." Arc energy sparked as Kevin raised his hands. "We're superhuman."
Kevin looked into his bowl before finishing his food. "Other than that, there really isn't a command structure. But there is an important lesson to know." He looked at Blake. "There are those who are far stronger and far more wiser than you."
"You mean like Commander Gein?" Blake asked.
"Yep. And even he has to answer to the Vanguard." Kevin answered. "They're the ones who organize missions, give out bounties. All sorts of things."
"But...what about the Traveler? The big object in the sky on Earth that you told me about?" Blake looked at Kevin curiously.
"It...Well, some call the Traveler she, is the source of our strength." Kevin said. "No one knows why but it sacrificed itself for us to live on. I believe that is a debt we should all strive to repay." He sighed. "One day, that debt will be paid...heck, maybe I might consider retiring when that happens."
He smiled at Blake serenely. "Maybe might go around collecting movies you know?"
Blake laughed. "What?"
"Hey, we're all not just some trigger happy nut jobs!" Kevin told her. "Hmm, let's see...He may not look like it but Commander Edgar is good at dancing. Guy teaches ballroom in his spare time."
Blake looked like did not want to believe him. Kevin shrugged. "Ask when you get the chance, trust me. It'll surprise you."
"This is so weird...What else are you going to tell me?"
Kevin rubbed his chin. "Loki-99 likes to fix clocks and watches in his spare time." He said, describing the EXO Titan on Fireteam Knight. "Keina brews tea, does cross stitching, and she even does pottery. John likes going for a swim. Xia lounges around like a housecat, Nils can sing if you can believe that. Ivan likes board games, strange I know but I don't bother trying to beat him in chess. Unless you're Neopolitan of course."
Blake gaped at him. She didn't think that the Guardians did such mundane things outside of combat. It honestly surprised her.
"I think it's a good thing." She told him after a pause. "It proves that you guys are...well, normal human beings. Most of you, no offense."
Kevin smirked. "Yeah, none taken."
Kevin and Blake turned around to see Sun Wukong and his friend Neptune walking around. How Sun managed with keeping his shirt open in cold like this was beyond him.
"Hey Sun." Blake smiled warmly at her fellow Faunus. "How are both of you doing?"
"We got back from Beacon actually." Neptune grinned. "We've cleared out most of the Academy, so I guess we might be getting communications back soon."
"Awesome." Kevin nodded, he sounded relieved. "I guess that means we can contact the other Kingdoms now."
"Anyway." Sun said looking at Blake. "I heard from Ruby that you're cleared of charges Blake?"
Blake answered. "Yeah. I'm free now, I don't have to hide who I am anymore."
Sun's grin was infectious. "That's-That's awesome Blake!" He said enthusiastically.
Kevin watched them chat animatedly then finished his tea and joined in the conversation. Today was a good day.
He decided to keep it that way by not worrying.
Xiao Long Residence, a few days later...
Yang's Scroll went off as soon as she stepped out of the shower drying her hair with a towel. "Huh?" She picked it up with one hand and flipped to a new message screen.
It was from John.
FESTIVAL OF THE LOST
Hey Yang, it's John. Hope you guys have been good so far.
Anyway, I'm inviting you, your Dad and Ruby to the Festival of the Lost tomorrow night. Don't worry it's not as bad as it sounds. It's just a little tradition back at the Tower to celebrate us being awesome and laughing in the face of death.
PS. There's a lot of candy involved. And cookies. And really goofy masks if you're interested.
PSS. There's no dress code. Just be sure to have a shirt on. And pants. Yeah.
There was an attached flier that explained a little bit more. It was a celebration and a time for mourning those who had been lost. Yang smiled and answered John that she'd be there with Ruby and Dad.
"Yang? You in here?" She heard Ruby calling.
"Yeah, just finishing up." Yang said as she pulled a shirt on. "Did you get a message too?"
"From John?" Ruby smiled. "Yeah! This Festival of the Lost thing sounds really cool! We should ask Dad to go!"
"Sure thing, Rubes." Yang said looking at the message again. "Sure thing."
The Festival began at nightfall. Yang and Ruby walked into the compound where the Earth Embassy was and all of them were surprised to find that the lighting was dim, candles were everywhere.
Guardians were in full armor save for their helmets. Many were bareheaded, catching up with friends and acquaintances. Ruby saw Jaune and his team there was well, chatting with a tall Guardian in heavy armor. She even saw CFVY, Coco laughing at a joke Nils made. He noticed Ruby and Yang and waved them over.
"Glad to see you guys made it too." Coco commented. "We just came to check things out and decided to stay."
"How are you doing?" Velvet asked Yang, knowing full well she had lost an arm but got a replacement.
"I've been doing good." Yang said. "You guys?"
Behind Coco and Velvet Yatsuhashi just gave a serene smile while Fox shrugged. "Don't know what we're expecting." Fox commented. "Or why we were invited to something so...formal."
"Trust me it's not." Nils told them both. "We just got to get the more important stuff out of the way. I hear the Ifrit is making a speech so we don't wanna miss that."
Right on cue there was a bell. Guardians began to file into the Embassy to listen to the Ifrit make a speech. Yang didn't know John was known by so many people, then again from what she had heard from Kevin and Hestia, John was a war hero. He was also one of the best Guardians on Earth.
She wondered what he was going to say.
"Miss Goodwitch, Headmaster." Edgar spoke bowing formally as the pair finally arrived. "Good to see you both during this solemn celebration."
"Indeed." Ozpin looked around at the dim lighting and the candles. "It seems surprising for a warrior such as yourself to be so involved in this."
Edgar shrugged, knowing full well that Glynda was staring at the pointed wizard hat perched on top of his head. "Would you like one, Professor Goodwitch?" He asked. "Loki is quite good at making masks as well if you wish to partake."
"Pardon but what does a wizard hat have to do with this festival?" Glynda asked.
"It's also a celebration, my dear." Edgar said smiling in pride at the large hat on his head. "And one we are all excited to partake in. There's sweets involved if you are inclined for such things."
Ozpin smirked. "How intriguing." He said. "Where can I get a hat?"
Glynda stared at him as though he were joking. Edgar laughed at her expression.
"Ah? Is General Ironwood not attending?" Edgar asked.
"Unfortunately not." Ozpin answered as he finally managed to get his hands on a pointy hat that highly resembled Edgar's. "He's much too serious."
"Pity." Edgar said. "I had hoped he would have some fun before we start fixing the Cross Continental Transit Tower at Beacon."
"He's not very fond of parties." Ozpin said. "I'm afraid James is missing a lot, considering that Glynda had decided to attend."
"Do not even start." Glynda snarled.
Both men chuckled, much to her chagrin.
"Well, it's good to see everyone's still intact." John Holden was a very informal speaker. That much was true, Blake mused as she stood with Kevin and Hestia in the crowd. "We've been through a lot of stuff since coming here after all. What with the Grimm, the White Fang and this whole mess in the Vale Dead Zone."
The crowd chuckled in unison.
"Right, so I'm sure you guys are all happy and all but..." His tone turned somber and he regarded the crowd with a serene look. "We should remember that it ain't just our butts on the line. We're not doing this for ourselves, the City's counting on us to do good here too. Remnant may not be the City, or Earth. But I sure as hell am not going to let the Darkness take it. No way, no how. We are stronger together, that's what we were taught. We shouldn't forget that. No one stands alone. No Guardian fights on his own."
John chuckled. "Though some of us often do."
"Like the Ifrit!" Someone yelled as the crowd burst into laughter.
"Alright, alright. Fine." John said. "I'll give you guys that. Bah, enough with the formal stuff let's get it out of the way."
He cleared his throat. "The Festival of the Lost begins now!" He spoke louder. "May the Traveler's Light guide you all in the upcoming endeavors!"
The Festival began in earnest, there was food, sweets, drinks passed all around and a generally happy atmosphere amongst the Guardians and those native to Remnant who were invited to participate.
Kevin in particular was nowhere to be found.
Yang walked around looking for Kevin. Honestly, it was really difficult to find Kevin if he did not want you to find him. The blonde brawler closed up her leather coat feeling a little chilly. She managed to find herself in a secluded section of the embassy. She walked up to the sign and read it. Things made sense now as she grimly stared at the words.
"For the Fallen."
Yang walked in silently, respectfully. There were a lot of candles here, the light was dim. She moved, making sure not to disturb any of the Guardians who were paying their respects to dead teammates and loved ones. Even Guardians had lost people.
John was worried about Kevin so she asked her to check on him. She thought he was joking but the solemn look on his face made the occasion a lot less funny. Yang found him eventually, stooping down to place a picture in front of a row of candles. The young woman in the picture had red hair and was smiling. She also had a young boy nestled in her arms, giving a toothy grin. Behind them was Kevin. That shocked her to the core, because the gap between the serene smiling Kevin in the picture and the haunted, lifeless Kevin today was immense.
Yang covered her mouth as Kevin stood up and turned around. She had never seen so much pain in his eyes.
"Hey, Yang." His tone was low and sad.
"Was she..." Yang swallowed the lump in her throat. "Was she your wife?"
Kevin nodded. "Hans isn't mine though. Carla's husband died a long time ago. I guess...we just bonded when I helped her caravan out."
Yang was almost afraid to ask but she had to. She just had to. "What happened?"
"She died." Kevin answered. "Hans died with her. I failed them both, because I wasn't fast enough."
"Kevin, I'm sorry." Yang whispered. "I shouldn't have asked about this."
"You should have. You were going to find out anyway." Kevin said quietly. "It's fine."
Yang bit her lip. Kevin nudged his head. "Come on, let's go somewhere else." He said softly. "I need a damn drink."
Kevin looked into his glass. Yang sat there and watched him as though he was a bomb waiting to explode. The bar was loud but enough Guardians were here to dissuade any public intoxication. Guardians didn't get drunk too easily, unless they were John. Or Nils.
"Sorry, I'm here shitting up your day when it's a festival." Kevin said finally after a long pause. He turned in his seat to face her.
"Don't apologize." Yang answered. "I shouldn't have pried into it. John just wanted me to check on you."
Kevin smiled. "Hah, he worries all the time." He said. "I should message him and tell him I'm okay."
"Is this why you're...hesitant? You know? About...us?" Yang asked.
Kevin gave a grunt. "Yeah." He said. "Yang, you're a good person. I..." He looked down in shame. "I don't know if I am worthy of your love. I just hope that I can still try."
"You don't have to." Yang held his hand. "And if you need someone tonight. It's okay."
Kevin squeezed her hand "I still regret you losing an arm."
"Pshaw!" Yang waved her prosthetic. "I got a new one!"
Kevin chuckled. Yang smiled even wider. "Come on, I'm sure the others are going to worry."
"Back to our billet then." Kevin agreed.
The bar was festive. But the center of attention was Ivan and Neopolitan who were playing chess. Yang watched on in confusion but stopped when she smelled something real good and headed to the kitchen. Hestia and John were cooking in the back. Nils was out buying some drinks with Xia. Blake was watching over the chess match and was keeping score, while explaining to Ruby just what exactly was going on as she had no how to play chess, let alone understand the many complex strategies in the game.
It wasn't just them though. JNPR and Fireteam Grendel were there. Jaune and Pyrrha were listening attentively to Karl as he told them about several combat operations he had participated in.
"Welcome back." Martellus told Kevin and Yang. "Just get settled in, we're having some food."
"Again?" Kevin raised a brow. "And why didn't John tell me he was cooking?"
"Well, technically John isn't really helping." Jingles popped up as she floated over. The Ghost rolled her photoreceptor. "It's mostly Hestia doing the cooking and John handing her the utensils and ingredients."
Kevin shuddered. John meant well but the man was not to be left in the kitchen without supervision, actually Kevin thought he should stay the hell away from a kitchen at all times. The memory of John putting the entire mess hall out of commission back at the Tower still gave him a headache.
"That is so bull!" Kelly dropped her controller as Ren won for the umpteenth time.
"I'm not very good." Ren said shrugging. "I just know how the character's moves need to be set up and work from there."
Levi laughed. "Ren's gonna give you a run for your money, Kelly. Now it's my turn."
"Ugh!" Kelly made a disgusted sound as she gave the controller to Levi. Nora leaned her head against Ren's shoulder grinning.
"Your streak ends today Lie Ren." The Warlock said.
"That depends entirely on you." Ren spoke calmly.
"What are you guys playing?" Yang asked.
"Street Fighter II." Levi answered. "It's a classic...Jesus, Ren's kicking my ass."
Yang sat down to watch with Kevin. The Stormcaller didn't react merely watching attentively as Ryu threw Guile around on the stage. "Wow. He really is kicking your ass."
"Says the guy who couldn't get through the first boss in Dungeon Crawler." Yang muttered. Kelly snorted at that.
Kevin shot her a glare as Yang laughed. Levi shook his head as his character was knocked out. "Damn. He just blitzed you at the end."
"Yeah, figured as much." Levi said. "We still got one more round until the fight's over."
"Food's ready!" John called from the kitchen. "We're bringing it out now!"
"Sweet." Levi said. "Might as well not embarrass myself any further."
"Finish the fight, Lev." Kelly muttered. "Stop being such a pussy." She took a swig of her drink. "Beat his ass."
"It doesn't really matter-" Ren started but Nora overruled that by slamming her hand into his mouth.
"No way, Rennie won't lose!"
The little party lasted well into the night. Kevin escorted Yang and Ruby home. Yang was hauling her sister on her back. Ruby was already asleep. Kevin kept an eye out. Sure, the festivities were probably still going but that would end soon enough. There was a lot of work to be done in the coming days.
"Thanks for walking us back, Kev." Yang said. She grinned. "It was fun."
Kevin shrugged, it was no trouble. That, and he did draw the lucky straw as to be the one who avoided cleaning up the mess. It was a clear night, still cold and snowy. The warlock scratched his nose.
"Say, Yang..." He said. "Wha do you say to having some coffee tomorrow?"
Yang looked over. "Huh?"
"Would you like to get some coffee tomorrow?" Kevin asked. "I managed to score a day pass."
Yang smiled. "Sure." She said, realizing that Kevin just asked her out on a date. She was so not going to let him live this down. He looked so shy and embarrassed. Good old, stubborn Kev looking as bashful as they come.
She was going to enjoy this. And she hoped he would too.