Hey fans, sorry for delays, things have been pretty rough on my end but i'm hanging in there.
Thanks to all those who offered their support. This ones for you guys (and gals).
Chapter 5: Repercussions.
To say the death of Summer Rose had far reaching consequences would be an understatement. Make no mistake, while the effect of her death on her family was hardly downplayed, seeing it referenced in the show paled in comparison to watching it play out in first person.
Because when you got right down to it, Summer Rose wasn't just a mother, and I'm not referring to her nickname of 'Super Mom' either. Nor was she 'just' a loving wife or supportive teammate, a fact I'm certain both Qrow and Taiyang could attest to.
You see, while she was all of the above and a bag of chips, as far as the Island community of Patch was concerned, the loss of Summer Rose was like our world losing Steve Erwin, Robin Williams or any other much-beloved celebrity.
Because Summer Rose didn't just live on Patch, she protected it, enriched it, gave its people purpose. She encouraged you to be better, moved you to be kinder, motivated you to always do the right thing and refused to allow you to give up, all traits she had passed down to her daughter, Ruby.
So great was her influence on the people of Patch, so beloved was she by the tiny community, that the moment word of her death reached beyond the walls of her home the world grew just a little bit darker, just a little less kind, and the people found one more reason to give up.
Because if a woman as kind, heroic and all-around wonderful as Summer Rose couldn't make it in this world, then what possible hope did they have?
I still remember the day of her funeral. There wasn't a body to bury of course, though whether that was because Qrow simply couldn't find it or she'd gotten the same treatment Pyrrha did I honestly couldn't tell you.
A part of me prayed it was the latter, that her body, much like her epithet, had scattered to the winds where Salem and her cronies couldn't defile it any further. That she hadn't been torn apart by hordes of Grimm after exhausting the power of her Silver Eyes fighting against Hazel and God only knows what else Salem threw at her.
It didn't stop me from feeling like dirt as Undyne and I lined up to hear her Eulogy, my friendship with Yang granting us a spot behind the grieving family despite being relative newcomers to the village, as everyone on Patch and their grandmother showed up to see her off.
Hell, even Ozpin deigned to descend his Emerald Tower to offer words of support and to lead the Eulogy alongside a grim-faced Glynda Goodwitch, since neither Taiyang or Qrow were in any condition to do so themselves.
I gotta confess, when I saw the Great and Powerful Headmaster standing at the podium, preaching to the crowd about Summer's 'Heroic Sacrifice', a part of me, the young, juvenile part that was governed by emotion, wanted to get up on the stage and rip the manipulative soul parasite a new one, to remind everyone that the reason she was dead was because he fucked up.
Thankfully, the more logical part of me managed to reign in my temper, opting instead to offer a comforting pat to a trembling Yang, who was holding a confused Ruby in her father's place.
After all, even if Ozpin, or whatever the hell he called himself back then, hadn't created the Maidens, there was no guarantee that Salem wouldn't have targeted Summer. At the end of the day the Silver Eyed Warriors were always going to be hunted down by the Queen of the Grimm. Maria Calavera was living proof of that.
That didn't stop me glaring at him when the time came to unveil her tombstone and Ruby asked Taiyang when her mommy was coming back, prompting him and Yang to break down in tears, hugging the confused Rosebud like she would disappear if they let her go.
To give the man his dues, however, Ozpin chose to abstain from coming to offer his condolences in person, instead entrusting a haggard looking Qrow to do so. Whether this out of respect or a desire to avoid having his head punched off by Taiyang I honestly couldn't tell, but it really made it hard for me to hate the old man.
After all, say what you like about Ozpin, he never once claimed to be omniscient or precognitive. I have no doubt in my mind that if he'd possessed the means of predicting the course of the future, he'd have done everything in his power to prevent it from happening.
And no, the Relic of Knowledge didn't count. Setting aside the bullshit 3 Questions every Century rule, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the God of Light put a bunch of other restrictions on Djinn to ensure Ozma actually had to work for his 'redemption'.
So no, in all fairness, I couldn't bring myself to hate Ozpin. While his good intentions may have paved a path that led to countless lives being lost, at the end of the day he was just another poor bastard screwed over by the Gods and love.
At the very least, I couldn't bring myself to hate him as much as I hated myself for allowing this to happen. If I'd just opened my mouth, if I'd simply provided them with some proof, I could have averted this, I could have saved Summer, hell I could've derailed the entire first three Seasons before they got started.
And all it would cost was my freedom as I willingly threw myself into the perpetual clusterfuck that was Ozma and Salem's Millenia-spanning lover's spat. Because even if things went tits up and Ozpin got killed, there was no way Ironwood and the rest of the Ozlupinati would let me go.
Even before Summer left on her mission, I'd have nightmares where the General would find some bullshit excuse to have me thrown in a cell and interrogated for information, or of Salem's faction learning of my existence through spies and dragging me before her in chains. Sometimes both.
I won't say the nightmares got worse since then, but they certainly didn't help me overcome my feelings of guilt regarding Summer's death. To compensate for this, I instead threw myself into my studies, both mundane and magical, pushing myself to the point of making myself physically sick at times due to stress and over-work.
Because even if I avoided the plot, sooner or later Salem was going to make her big push, and I needed to be ready to push back, preferably before I ran out of reference material to predict her next move.
San's Lovely Suite...
You need to slow down. Rest a little.
"I am resting." I croaked out between gasps for breath as sweat dripped off my face, only my hands resting on my knees keeping me from falling flat on my face "Won't start running again till the burn dies down."
That is not what I meant and you know it.
"You're the one who taught me a sound soul dwells within a sound body." I reminded him with a shaky grin as I wiped sweat from my brow "I figured you'd be all for me toning up."
A sound Body and Mind. While I cannot fault your desire to improve your physical health, it will serve no purpose if you do not allow your mind time to rest.
"You saying I'm going insane Doc?" I quipped, offering a wry smirk at the skeletal face leering up out of my shadow "Cause last I checked talking to voices in your head only counts as insanity if they don't really exist."
It is not your mental stability I question. Rather, it is your current state of mind. You have not been the same since Summer's Funeral.
"And you know damn well why." I snapped, all hint of humour gone at the reminder "I could've saved her Doc. I could've done something. She died because I was scared of changing too much."
Would Summer Rose's survival have affected the plot all that much? Undoubtedly. If Salem deemed Maria Calavera, a woman with no clear ties to Ozpin, dangerous enough to warrant sending bounty hunters after her, she'd probably mobilize every Grimm at her command if she learnt Summer had survived Hazel's ambush.
Summer Rose died doing her duty. You had no cause in her death.
"No, I just did nothing to prevent it, which is worse." I countered bitterly. While I could appreciate Gaster's attempts to help me get over Summer's death, it would be a long time before I could look myself in the mirror without being disgusted at what I saw "You got anything else to say, or can I get back to my run?"
Are you planning to see Yang today?
I grimaced, glaring down at the shadow in a feeble attempt at intimidating the eyeless skull that only I could see gazing back at me, only to sigh as the silence wore on with no clear victor "We'll see…"
It has been almost a month since the funeral. She misses you.
"I'm…just not ready yet doc." I confessed, recalling the last time Yang and I had properly spoken to one another. She'd been given time off school, officially to mourn for Summer, but everyone knew it was because Taiyang had suffered a mental breakdown and needed his daughters there for support.
I, coward that I was, had opted to steer clear of their home since the funeral. Despite every attempt by Undyne, Grillby and Gaster to have me check on the girls, I always found myself making some excuse to avoid going under the pretence of letting them mourn.
Well, not so much a pretence as a matter of fact. You don't just get over the death of a family member overnight, especially not one as beloved as Summer Rose had been. Cowardice aside, I couldn't help but feel it'd be bad taste to show up on Taiyang's doorstep as if nothing had changed when he was struggling to pull himself back together.
So with all that in mind, you can probably understand my confusion when Yang finally returned to class the next day, though it took me a moment to actually recognise her until she called me out by name.
Patch Primary, the next day...
"Hey Sans." a familiar voice called out, snapping me out of my meditations as I waited for class to start only to find myself blinking at a morose blonde with a faded, wistful smile "Long time no see."
"Yang?" I asked hesitantly, half expecting the girl to laugh and correct me, only to realise it was indeed the younger Xiaolong, though my confusion was only to be expected, given her overall change in disposition.
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't as if her overall appearance had changed dramatically since the funeral, it was simply as if everything about her had been muted, toned down. Nowhere was this more evident than her hair, which while brushed to perfection lacked its normal golden sheen, and her eyes, once vibrant and brimming with life, now gazing dully at the world, as if she lacked the energy to greet it.
I'd seen similar looks on co-workers who'd lost family, particularly on those who had to step up to fill the void said loss had left. It was a burden that no child should have to bear, and I thanked whatever Gods were listening for Qrow Branwen, for all he was a dick.
"Good to see you back." I greeted, exchanging the usual high-five greeting as she slipped into her desk next to mine before handing over the class notes I'd been taking for her "How's your dad?"
"Dad's…getting better." Yang replied evasively, her smile not quite reaching her eyes as she slipped into her seat "He's not well enough to come into work but Uncle Qrow figured that was no excuse for Ruby and I to skip school any longer."
"Bet Ruby wasn't too pleased about that." I quipped, earning a snort from the blonde, as like most kids her age Ruby would much rather play than be stuck indoors learning "How'd he get her to tag along?"
"He took us out for breakfast and bought her a whole platter of strawberry pancakes, extra syrup." Yang confessed, a warm smile adorning her features at the memory of her little sister's face.
"Ah, bribery, that makes sense." I acknowledged, mentally applauding Qrow's tactics even as I offered a prayer for Ruby's homeroom teacher, as I'd seen first-hand the horrors that Ruby could unleash when stuffed to the gills with syrup.
"Still a shame he chose today of all days to act all responsible." I mused, smiling coyly at the blonde as she quirked a brow in confusion "If he'd waited till tomorrow you could've avoided the pop quiz that's coming up."
"Aw man, seriously?" Yang exclaimed, gaping at me in disbelief only to slump in defeat as the rest of our classmates grimly nodded in confirmation, her golden curls hiding her features from view as she faceplanted the desk "Damn it Qrow."
"What'd you expect? The man might suck at his job, but he's still a teacher." I reminded her, earning a menacing growl from the little sun dragon as she glared at me from beneath her curls "Seriously though, have you been sleeping alright?"
"No worse than usual." Yang sighed, rising from the table and resting her cheek on her palm, a ghost of her old smile returning "Qrow's been helping out whenever he can, but after what happened with Dad…"
She trailed off, prompting me to grimace at the forlorn look on her face. From what little I'd managed to gather from the regulars at Grillby's of late, it seemed things were rather rocky between the two male members of Team STRQ.
To his credit, Qrow was going above and beyond the call of duty for his family, doing his best to help out around the homestead or simply checking in to ensure Ruby and Yang were being taken care of. Not that Taiyang would ever purposefully neglect his daughters mind you, but the man had always been emotional since Raven left, and this time he didn't have Summer to help him get over the pain.
Unfortunately, as noble as his intentions might be, the Branwen's time was not entirely his own, and while Ozpin was nothing if not sympathetic, the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few, and the Great and Powerful Headmaster needed his best (and only really) agent back in the field.
Had Taiyang been in his right mind, he'd probably have understood his brother-in-law's actions. As a (former?) member of Ozpin's inner circle, he knew all too well how important it was for Qrow to be out in the field, tracking the movements of Salem's subordinates in order to prevent anyone else from suffering the same tragedy that had befallen their family.
But grief has a nasty habit of bring out the worst in us, and it just so happened that Qrow's marching orders would prove to be the straw that broke the camel's back, the two having come to blows after Qrow stumbled across Taiyang drunk off his ass and made the mistake of attempting an intervention, despite knowing all too well what it meant to rouse the sleeping dragon.
I won't go into the specifics of the dust-up between the pair, primarily because I wasn't present for it, but according to Undyne the entire town Militia had been called in to separate the pair, and suffice to say the only reason blood hadn't been spilt was because Qrow wasn't about to draw Harbinger on his mourning brother-in-law.
Unfortunately, you didn't have to get physical with someone in order to leave a permanent wound, a fact that Taiyang, through a combination of alcohol fuelled grief and misplaced anger, took full advantage off as he publicly blamed Qrow's Semblance for Summer's death.
Now I'm sure it goes without saying but when it comes to Semblances, most Pro-Hunters tend to play their cards close to their chest, very rarely divulging the inner-workings of their semblance outside of their team, and even then, only to better co-ordinate their abilities.
Case in point, while Pyrrha was without a doubt the Top Huntress Candidate of her generation, she'd likely kept the nature of her Semblance a secret until Forever Falls. The very fact that Cinder had Mercury challenge the Invincible Girl, something she shouldn't have needed with the Lionhart in Salem's pocket, made it clear that not even Haven's Headmaster had known her semblance's power.
With that in mind, you could probably imagine the pain and betrayal Qrow had felt when Taiyang, not just his teammate, but his brother-in-law, had spilled the beans on Qrow's Semblance for all to hear.
Thankfully, most of those gathered hadn't put much stock by the words. After all, Tai was clearly drunk off his ass and grieving. However, word spread fast, and it wasn't long after that some of the more superstitious assholes in town were eying the Branwen warily from a distance, and not just because they knew he could kick their collective asses six-ways from Sunday.
While Qrow didn't blame Taiyang for his thoughts, hell, no-one despised his semblance more than Qrow did, the fact he'd blown the whistle on it like that had cut deep. Tai, likewise, wanted to apologise for the incident, but couldn't bring himself to do so because, on some level, he did blame Qrow, and through him Ozpin, for Summer's death.
Needless to say, things were kinda rocky between the male members of team STRQ, and unfortunately, they didn't have Summer and Raven around to knock some sense into them anymore.
"Dad didn't mean it." Yang insisted, gripping her elbows tightly as she stared at her desk "He knows Uncle Qrow can't control what his semblance affects…" she lowered her head in a failed attempt to hide her tears "I wish Summer was here…"
"Summer?" I repeated, blinking at the blonde in surprise, as that was the first time I'd heard her refer to the woman as anything other than 'Mom'. Yang stiffened, as if realising her mistake, glancing around warily as she reached for her pocket, only to stiffen as the bell rang for the start of class.
"Tell you at lunch." She whispered, patting her pocket for emphasis as she sat up in her seat, her eyes lighting up with a hint of her old fire as she turned to face the front of the class, where our teacher was handing out the pop-quiz, leaving me feeling conflicted.
On the one hand, it was good to see some of the old Yang back, but a part of me couldn't help but eye her pocket warily, already suspecting the contents and dreading what it meant for the future.
Sure enough, the contents of Yang's pocket turned out to be a picture of her birth mother, Raven Branwen, the little sun dragon having uncovered it whilst cleaning up after one of her father's brief fits of drunken anger had dislodged the photo from its hiding place.
Needless to say, as young as she was, Yang wasn't stupid, and it didn't take a genius to figure out the resemblance between her and the red-eyed woman with raven (ha!) coloured hair, especially considering the woman was carrying an infant Yang in her arms.
'She almost looks…normal.' I mused, marvelling at the difference between the younger Raven in the picture, who seemed so uncertain of herself, and the cold, pragmatic bandit leader who murdered the Spring Maiden and even betrayed her own brother in order to obtain power for herself.
Make no mistake, Raven Branwen wouldn't be winning any mother of the year awards anytime soon, but up until season four, we'd all assumed she at least cared enough about Yang to step in if need be. Needless to say, her actions at the Spring Vault did little to endear her to the fans.
'At least Yang finally got to speak her mind without anyone to intervene.' I mused, a surge of pride rushing through me at the memory of Yang defeating her mother not with strength, the only language Raven understood, but with conviction "So what're you going to do with it?"
"Isn't it obvious?" Yang asked while puffing out her, still under-developed, chest "Dad needs help but is too stubborn to apologise to Uncle Qrow, so we're gonna go find my mom and have her sort them both out!"
'Oh yeah, I can totally see that happening.' I groaned, shivering at the image of a thoroughly pissed, apron clad 'Mama-Raven', a wailing Ruby tucked under one arm and her dust-katana held in the other as she loomed over Qrow and Taiyang as they knelt Seiza style before her "Do you even know where she is?"
"Well…no…" Yang confessed, some of her earlier enthusiasm melting away as she was made to acknowledge the first roadblock to her plans "But I remember Uncle Qrow mentioning an 'old house' when he stopped by to help clean up last time, it might be the house she and dad lived in before he moved in with Summer?"
I grimaced, not only from the memories of just what awaited the girls at the derelict cabin, but also because I still wasn't used to her referring to Summer by name as opposed to 'mom', nor did I like the implications that she was able to bring herself to do so within a day of learning Raven's existence.
"Isn't that outside the village walls though?" I pressed, a part of me praying that Yang would listen to reason despite knowing full well how bull-headed she could get once an idea got in her head "Maybe we should wait till your uncle comes back from his next mission."
"It's not that far away." Yang protested, and in truth, it probably wasn't that far away for her adult self, but for a pair of children not even in their teens? They were lucky to have gotten to the cabin just as the sun was beginning to set if Yang's flashback was to be believed "We can get there and back before anyone notices we're missing."
"I dunno Yang…" I pressed, really trying to sell my discomfort with the idea, which in all honesty wasn't that hard of a stretch. After all, I still had nightmares about the boarbatusk incident, only this time Summer Rose wouldn't be there to pull my fat out of the fire "If your dad finds out…"
"Dad spends most of his time either crying in his room or drunk off his ass." Yang cut in, giving me a glimpse at the bitterness and frustration she'd been bottling up inside all this time in order to help care for Ruby and her father, a burden no child should have to experience "He won't notice we're gone till we get back."
As much as I wanted to refute her claims, it was kind of hard to considering what little I'd seen and heard about the elder Sun Dragon on the Grillby grapevine. Put simply, the man was a mess, spending his time either mourning after Summer or taking a page out of Qrow's book and doing his level best to bury his feelings by hitting the bottle until they started hitting back.
"Sorry Yang..." I sighed, shaking my head to avoid looking the blonde in the eyes, rubbing my cast with my good hand for emphasis "I wanna help, I really do, but it's too dangerous out there to go alone."
"So you're just going to let Ruby and me go off by ourselves?" Yang pressed, the blonde firecracker covering up her hurt expression at my refusal with childish anger "And you call yourself a man?"
"Yes I do, and I like my balls where there are, not halfway down a beowolf's throat." I snapped back, perhaps a little harsher than intended "Wait, you're taking Ruby with you?" i exclaimed, as if i didn't already know what she was planning "Are you crazy?!"
"Well what else am I supposed to do?" Yang demanded petulantly, her eyes flashing between distressed purple and enraged red as she spread her arms "I can't just leave her at home with dad the way he is!"
"So you're going to drag her into the woods filled with Grimm on the off chance this woman you think is your mother can magically fix everything?" I pressed in a final bid to make her see sense "If you're that desperate to get yourself killed then fine, but leave Ruby out of it!"
"SCREW YOU!" Yang shrieked, her eyes flashing red as she lashed out with her fist, the world going tits up as she struck me solidly in the jaw, sending me sprawling ass over tits down the hill as she turned on her heel and ran "I HATE YOU SANS!"
"You and me both kid…" I assured her, opting to lie there for a few minutes, both to give her time to cool off and because that little tumble had me seeing stars. It wouldn't be until long after the bell rang for the end of lunch that I eventually stumbled my way to the nurse's office, intending to spend the rest of the day avoiding the younger Xialong where possible.
The end of the school day couldn't come soon enough, though I made good use of my temporary stay in the nurse's office to feign sleep while planning out the best way to proceed with the scenario. If all things proceed as canon, the girls should set out for the cabin sometime after they get home, hopefully reaching the shack not long after sundown.
By that point, either Qrow or Taiyang should have pulled their heads out of their respective asses long enough to realise the girls were missing, just in time for Qrow to swoop in and earn his big damn hero moment, cementing Yang's protective big sister tendencies and Ruby's obsession with scythe-shaped tools of death for years to come.
'They'll be fine…' I assured myself, fighting down the memory of Summer's trusting smile as she asked me to look out for her girls 'They don't need me looking after them…if anything they're better off without me.'
"Hey freak!" a familiar voice called out, my eyes practically rolling in their sockets as I pointedly tried to ignore the shaved orang-utan that was waiting for me outside the school gates with his usual cronies in tow.
"Heard you and Xiaolong got into a fight earlier." Fugly noted, earning a row of snickers from his cronies "From the sound of things, she seemed pretty pissed, you cheat on her or something?"
'The hell kind of seven year-old asks that?' I demanded, sorely tempted to expose this missing link to the scrutiny of The Rock's Eyebrow, only my knowledge of the futility of feeding a Troll keeping me from opening my mouth,
Unfortunately, it seemed the knowledge of the falling out between Yang and I seemed to have emboldened Fugly somewhat, as rather than content himself with insults, he deliberately interposed himself between me and the exit, his cronies taking up positions around us to cut off all escape.
"Guess that means she isn't here to save your freak ass this time." Fugly grinned, trying his level best to intimidate me by popping his hairy knuckles while the rest of his cronies began egging him on whilst chanting vulgar words in my direction.
Freak. Fat Ass. Lazybones. Short Arse. Wuss. All the familiar stereotypical bullshit you'd expect to get your average prepubescent's dander up in arms. Still, give them due credit, none of them made any cracks about my living with Undyne, so at least racism was something the people of patch didn't tolerate.
"What's the matter freak?" Fugly demanded, clearly not appreciating my lack of reaction to his provocations, as if I had insulted him by not reacting like a petulant child "Sad you have to go back to sucking up to Undyne now that Xiaolong's mom is dead?"
No, seriously, did this fat piece of shit seriously just say what I think he said? Judging by the stunned expressions on his companions, they couldn't believe it either, so yes, it seems he did indeed just say what I think he said.
"Yeah that's right, I know all about your secret freak." Fugly sneered "The only reason you befriended Xiaolong was because you wanted to spend time with her mom!"
…wow. I didn't think it was possible for someone to be this much of an asshole from birth, and I hailed from a world where people still butchered each other over the colour of their skin.
"Not that I can blame ya, Mrs. Rose was one hell of a chef." Fugly continued to posture, clearly believing my silence to be all the confirmation he needed "I'd certainly want her as a mom over that psycho fish-bitch-!"
That was as far as he got before the business end of my cast, reinforced with magic to ensure the safety of the arm within, slammed into his teeth with all the force my four-foot frame could put behind it.
I don't know whether it was the suddenness of the blow or the sheer surprise that I'd actually thrown a punch after a lifetime spent avoiding confrontation, but none of Fugly's cronies moved to jump me, opting instead to gape at his wailing form as he tumbled onto his back, legs kicking in the air as he held his ruined face with both hands.
"You know…any other day, I'd have just laughed this all off and gone about my business…" I confessed, surprising myself with how calm I sounded, a stark contrast to the cold in my gut as I turned to face the suddenly nervous boys "Y'all know me, not one for getting into fights."
"But as it turns out…you caught me at a really Bad Time." I intoned, my lips twitching upwards of their own accord as I levelled a skeletal leer at my would-be tormentors "So bad in fact, that I feel like sharing the pain a little..."
By now the bullies had started backing away from me, some of them choosing to straight up turn tail and run, the rest bracing themselves despite the look of concern on their faces.
"So how's about it fellas?" I called out, face set in a wide grin as I advanced on them, good hand resting within my pocket while the one in the cast, still dripping with Fugly's blood, hung leisurely from my side "You all ready for a Bad Time?"
For a moment there was silence, interrupted only by the pathetic snivelling of Fugly as he lay forgotten on the floor, so obsessed with his own little world of pain he couldn't even fathom what was going on with his group of decidedly less confident thugs.
In the end, however, they simply stepped aside and gave me passage, some of them even going so far as to skirt past me to check on Fugly as I made my way towards Grillby's uncontested.
Yeah, don't push the Summer Button.
Y'all won't like Sans if you push the Summer Button.