Once again, the Grimm were keeping their distance, and just as Cordovin burned through the last of her Paladin's ammunition, and was immediately swarmed by Beowolves that leapt atop her mech, and were shot to oblivion by Ironwood. The last one instead leapt at him. Ironwood smacked it across the jaw with the handle of Due Process and blasted it's head off.
All the while, he looked stoic and emotionless, and Ozpin knew that it was his Semblance taking over. In a situation like this that wasn't a good thing, he knew.
"James!" he called out to him.
Seemingly shaken from his stoic daze, Ironwood cried out, "What?!"
"The power of the Relic is keeping the Grimm at bay again," Ozpin declared. "It's time we cut our losses-"
"You mean flee?!" Ironwood shouted, startling the soldiers as they helped Cordovin out of the Paladin.
Surprised, Cordovin parroted as she lifted out of the mech, "F-flee, sir?"
"No, not flee," Ozpin interjected. He stepped toward him, putting a hand on his shoulder reassuringly. "A 'tactical withdrawal'."
"And send a message to the world that Atlas let the Slayer detonate a volcano within its own kingdom?" Ironwood countered. "Atlas would let a terrorist continue to inflict devastation across Remnant?" He balled his hands into fists, "Is that what you want?"
...terrrorist? So, they were going there.
"William is not our enemy, James," Ozpin said.
Ironwood's scroll buzzed. He answered it, the desperation previously in his voice replaced by authority, "Ebi, give me a sitrep-"
Ironwood wince when he heard gunfire above Clover's desperate voice, 'This is..AH... Specialist Ebi, we are fighting withdrawal back to the lobby-"
Ironwood gritted his teeth and exclaimed, "What about Merlot? And Blazkowicz?!"
"SIR! Zeki is KIA and we've sustained heavy injuries," Clover replied. "The Slayer's on his way toward Authority's core and just let us escape with our lives! We need to issue immediate withdrawal from Epsilon now before we're caught in the eruption."
"..." Ironwood gripped his scroll tightly. His eyes narrowed, "I gave you a direct order, specialist."
Winter looked perturbed, "Sir?"
"Respectfully, sir, we are unable to proceed with the mission. We request immediate extraction."
"..." Ironwood didn't answer, again seemingly retreating inside himself.
Clover began to sound like he was losing hope, "...sir?"
"JAMES!" Ozpin shouted.
"Acknowledged, specialist," Ironwood responded. "We'll open the front door for you. Over."
"Yes sir, we're on our way. Ebi out."
Both Ozpin and Winter realized they had been holding their breaths the entire time and quietly sighed with relief. Ironwood made another call. "General Ironwood to Air Fleet. We're pulling out now."
"Affirmative, general. Transports on standby coming down now."
Ironwood gave Ozpin a contemptible stare as he finished, "Ironwood out."
Putting his scroll down he looked over the sea of bloodied, beaten, exhausted faces that looked right back at them. Many of them appeared utterly relieved that they were going to die, either underneath waves of relentless Grimm or from the meltdown of a demon-infested Atlesian research facility. To Ironwood they were fool, unable to comprehend what it was they were doing.
Running away. Running and letting the Doom Slayer once again run roughshod over Atlas.
"What's that? We're leaving?!" Sun cried. He smiled, relieved, "Yeah, I'm cool with that. Really cool with that."
Neptune breathed a sigh of relief, "Ditto.'
"Didn't think you were serious earlier,' Scarlet snarked.
Raven sheathed Omen as she opened a portal right behind her, alarming Yang and Taiyang.
"Wha...? Hey, where're you going!?" Taiyang exclaimed.
Without another word or even one last glance, Raven turned and stepped through, leaving them.
"Coward," Sienna growled.
Ozpin knew where she was going. And he knew how her Semblance worked...
Kingdom of Tyrants XI:
As long as even one silver eye exists, our fire will never be put out.
- Ormero the Father, First King of Argent D'Nur
The Slayer and Qrow ignored the cameras watching them as they traversed the steel hallway leading toward the security door at the other, where they assumed Merlot was waiting for them.
"..." William had his heavy assault rifle out, double-checking the ammunition belt in the feed.
++Qrow,++ VEGA said. ++There's still time for you to evacuate before we collapse the geothermal station within the volcano-++
"Tsh...after all the shit you guys put me, my girls and their dad through? Nuh-uh!" Qrow interrupted him. "I ain't about to turn back now."
"What I expect no less from one of Ozpin's students," Merlot said, his voice reverberating around them. "It's a shame we'll never be able to reminisce on the times we shared, decades ago. Just outside these walls, but out of reach."
"Mine, and – admit it - yours, Doom Slayer," Merlot continued. "So many secrets you had to find out for yourself during your time here, and Ozpin knowing what they were from the very beginning. And, you, Qrow-"
"Hey, leave me outta your bad guy speech will ya'," Qrow groused. "I'm pissed at Oz, too, but he's not the prick I want to get my hands on."
++The experiments. The death. The carnage you have left in your wake,++ it was VEGA's turn to speak. ++For what purpose was it all for? What is it you hope to achieve?++
"I told you, to find the Apex – the perfect vessel – to make this world a better place," Merlot went on. "Grimm. Demon. You."
William cracked his neck as they approached the door leading into the command center.
"There is one constant in this twisted multiverse – the strongest always survive. Twice now, I've been mistaken in my believe there is a superior to mankind. But now, I've found it...him."
"...me?" the Slayer said.
Merlot sounded despondent. "Ozpin's scheming will not save this world. Atlas' ingenuity can only go so far. And those girls will crack long before the end comes. Only the strongest will elevate humanity above everything else that threatens its superiority." His tone resumed being smug, "And I do believe I have just strengthened his will – just as the Argenta tempered his body and the Maykrs reinforced tenfold."
"...my gods," Qrow groaned. He shouted, "What, you're trying to tell us this whole time you were on our side?"
"I don't expect either of you to agree-"
"Only thing we have in common," Qrow snarled. "You're a damn lunatic and nothing you say will justify what you've used the SDC for."
"And you are more than welcome to show me the supposed error of my ways. Qrow. Slayer."
The door opened and they stepped through into Authority's command center, and the crosshairs of a few platoon's worth of Atlesian Knights armed with assault rifles from elevated positions from the pyramid in the center of the room. The corpses of the human support staff were littered all about the joint...
...the Slayer almost stepped onto on, instead stepped over it. Somehow, the heavy assault rifle became that much lighter in his hands as the impulse to kill that self-important dickhead was as its strongest. Qrow, on the other hand, was wary of all the robots presents and how open the two of them were. And seeing as how currently Merlot was sitting at the top of the pyramid above them where he might as well be wearing a bullseye on his forehead, he knew any second now those knights were going to open fire.
"It took longer than expected for you to finally reach me..." Merlot declared, his voice suddenly gaining a demonic inflection. He smirked, "Tell me, during your time here have you come to see-?"
The scope of the Slayer's heavy assault rifle was already pressed against his visor and he took the shot before Merlot even had the chance to finish asking his inane, villainous question; a precision shot reducing his head to a red mist, causing the body to slump forward over his console. The knights immediately opened fire on the Slayer and he returned fire with more precision rounds, taking their heads off. Another wave of Knights...
...were slashed to steel ribbons by Qrow, culminating in putting his fist through the mechanical skull of the last one, tearing its CPU right out.
"...ow," Qrow muttered, shaking his hand as the pain lingered. He had forgotten they hadn't just been fighting. He looked up to see Merlot's headless corpse. "Ah, well...guess that's that-'
The door behind them suddenly shut, sealing them within the command center. Every monitor in the room was hit with white noise and the consoles began to let off electrical sparks as their systems became overloaded, shortening out almost every electrical device in the room.
"VEGA?! Wanna do something about this?"
++He has uploaded his consciousness into the facility's mainframe. He has locked me out, Branwen.++
"What, now he's decided to keep you from screwing things up for him?"
"That truth? Yes, I could have done so at any time. But-"
"You wanted to see what Blazkowicz and VEGA can do, right?" Qrow exclaimed. "Does that include killing you?"
The Slayer cracked his neck, exchanging his assault rifle for the super shotgun, the blood long dried on the meathook.
"I do not plan to die here, Branwen. Not when there's so many more experiments to perform," Merlot replied. "And hundreds of 'volunteers' to assist me. Like one half-breed superpowered to godhood...and a certain team of trainee huntresses."
"..." the fucker dies now.
Qrow snarled, "VEGA, how we do kill him?"
++The Self-Destruct Sequence can be triggered from his terminal-++
A mechanical tentacle suddenly burst out of the nearly wall terminal, Qrow proved quicker on the draw and slashed it right in half, spraying black liquid all over himself.
"AH! WHAT THE FUCK!"
The Slayer spun around and, with one hand on the trigger, blasted another tentacle in half before grabbing what was left and tear it right out of the way, more black liquid that resembled oil sprayed out of the hole. William looked up at Merlot's pyramid to see its segment expand outward, his headless corpse suddenly propping itself up against his seat.
"I knew you would go straight for the kill, so I came prepared."
FACING THE SPIDER
- ANDREW HULSHUlT, IDKFA
More tentacles burst out of the walls and floor, the Slayer and Qrow immediately on the defensive as they fought them off, the Slayer with the Sword in one hand and the chainsaw in the other. Then all of a sudden, the tentacles slithered back into their holes, only for the source of all of them to suddenly appear full force as the eastern part of the pyramid opened to reveal...
"Oh, what the fuck?"
...something that caused Qrow to openly express his disgust. And that was Merlot's torso grafted onto the body of what one could describe as a massive robotic cyborg mantis – enlarged bladed forelegs, six jointed legs attached to a thorax, tentacles emerging out of his front and back and ready to strike. His mechanical head activated as Merlot transferred his consciousness to the man-mantis cybernetic abomination, his eyes opened to reveal blazing red pupils, followed by a face splitting smile.
"..." if one could see the Slayer's eyes through his visor, they'd see tired resignation.
Of course, Merlot turned himself into an insect-based biomechanical abomination.
"How about we even the odds? In MY favor!"
However, neither the Slayer or Qrow were prepared for what came next.
Atlesian soldiers found themselves rushing civvies into the dropships the second they lowered their ramps after touching down, with Cyril recording the evacuation on his scroll, until...
...a soldier smacked the scroll out of his hands and herded him in with the rest of the evacuees. This didn't go unnoticed by the Schnees – Willow and Whitley as they were escorted onto another dropship that was half full, personally by Winter.
"This will take you non-stop back to Atlas," Winter assured them. "Long before...whatever happens."
"W-what about you?" Willow asked.
"...I'll be right behind you," Winter assured her. "But you need to leave, now."
"And Weiss?" Whitley asked next.
"..." Winter was nearly taken back by her younger brother expression genuine concern for Weiss. Jacques getting hauled away, far away from her family was already working wonder. "She'll be fine."
Willow looks disheartened and was mumbling to herself, "Those things she said, about her family name-"
"Mother, please. This isn't the time."
Panic ensued as the Grimm resumed their attack, Winter turning to summon a Nevermore that kamikazed itself into a flock of its Grimm counterpoint, exploding in a hall of Ice Dust that froze them all in midair, where they fell to the ground and shattered upon impact, and nearly on top of Team RWBY and Taiyang as they fought on.
"WEISS!" Willow called out, futilely reaching for her as the ramp to the dropshop raised itself and the aircraft took off, joining the dozens of others that were ascending toward the Atlas fleet.
"I think your folks are clear, Weiss," Ruby said.
Weiss snorted, "I have eyes, Ruby." Her momentarily being distracted allowed a Sabyr to ram itself into her side, knocking her into the snow and forcing Winter to intervene, rushing to throw herself into between her and Grimm and slicing the monster across its chest as it reared up on its hind legs and killing it.
"Then use them!" Winter snarked. She addressed the team, "Civilian evac is almost complete. We need to-
Suddenly, Ruby was caught in a tethering field which lifted her up into the air.
Yang had barely any time to react, as she suddenly propelled herself up toward her sister...
...hearing her father call out to her in panic as she blasted Ruby with a left hook to the chest that knocked her clear of the field. Everyone present were blinded by a flash of white, and when it faded they saw Ruby lying in the snow, dazed by still amongst them. Yet Yang was nowhere in sight.
"No..." Blake breathed out in panic.
"NO!" Taiyang thought his heart gave out right there and then when he saw his eldest disappear right in front of his eyes.
It was a Ruby, however, who acted out their shared grief...
...and rage as she got back up and sliced an Ursa right in half, and proceeded to hack away at the pieces before they faded away. Taiyang stared on, horrified to see his daughter again deteriorate mentally before him.
Winter was taken back too, and was convinced she was staring at what was afflicting Weiss.
(Back to the fight...)
"...not whom I was after."
Dizzy and groaning from the impromptu interdimensional tethering, Yang had no time to get her bearing before she noticed several metal tentacles connected to a giant robotic praying mantis with mechanical tentacles with Merlot's head on it went for her.
Merlot grinned, "But you'll do nicely!"
Yang was understandably panicked...
...and leapt to avoid several of them as they pieced the ground where she had been standing, quickly reloading Ember Celica in midair and firing several shots at Merlot directly into the Mantis' face. Merlot snarled and extended his bladed forelegs at the brawler...
...Yang cursing wildly as she ducked under the forelegs...
...and uppercutting the mantis-borg underneath it's thorax and rocketing it into the air, where it landed at the top of its pyramid.
"Yang!" Qrow exclaimed, quickly rushing toward her. "What're you-?"
"W-wha-wha-?" Her eyes were wide and she and nearly hyperventilating at the thought of being skewered by a dozen metal tentacles. "Is that Merlot?!"
"Yes," the Slayer bluntly replied, swapping the lock-on mod for remote detonation and firing up at Merlot. The mantis-borg side stepped side stepped the rocket, which William detonated behind him, knocking him right off the top of the pyramid and crashing into ground level.
"He just tried to teleport Ruby here!" Yang cried. "I didn't let him!"
"Bastard," Qrow seethed. He noticed the blonde in his niece's hair slowly become brighter. "Yang?"
Grimm. Demons. Demon lords. And now mad scientists slash cyborg abominations want to lay their filthy, violating hands on her baby sister.
She noticed the Slayer had drawn his super shotgun and moved toward Merlot, to finish him off.
She ran right past him, maddened rage all over her face.
"GODSDAMMIT, YANG!" Qrow shouted angrily.
Yang propelled herself into the air with Ember Celica and prepared to bring her fist down on the man-mantis' head, and was immediately entangled by the man-manti's tentacles that wrapped around her arms and legs.
"LEGGO!" Yang shouted.
"Recklessly throwing yourself at a much superior opponent?" Merlot smugly asked out loud. "The Slayer sells it better."
The Slayer fired the meathook at the mantis, hitting him in the chest and dragged himself toward Merlot. With Yang entwined in his tendrils, Merlot moved until he was scaling the walls of the command center backwards, and brough his right foreleg to shield his head from the Slayer's buckshot, before bringing his blade down onto the hook's chain just at the Slayer made a reach for Yang's hand, and Merlot's foreleg swatted William off himself.
The Slayer got backa and ready to jump back in, but stopped when Merlot brought his left bladed foreleg underneath Yang's leg. Merlot grinned, his mechanical tentacles poising themselves to strike at the Slayer. The Slayer reloaded his super shotgun and slung it over his shoulder, his right finger on the trigger as his left hand gripped the Relic of Destruction tightly, the Brother of Light's power emanating off it and pointing it threateningly at the man-mantis-cyborg as he descended from the ceiling, with a struggling, cursing Yang still in its tentacles.
The Slayer glared at the abomination, then at Yang.
"..." any second now.
"You want this, don't you?" Merlot indicated Yang. He scowled, "Why? What's she worth to-?"
Yang erupted in a blaze of fire as her Aura ignited forcing the tendrils off herself before grabbing hold of one of them and tearing it right off of Merlot before she fell to the ground on her side. Merlot leapt back up to his deck, avoiding the business end of the Relic as the Slayer accelerated forward and unleashed a frenzy of swings. He followed up with a blast from his super shotgun, hitting Merlot in his thorax and legs. The mad doctor let out a cackle and sent his tentacles straight at the Slayer, the tips scraping against the floor as they went for him, intent on ripping him to shreds.
Gripping the Sword tightly with one hand, the Slayer sliced the tentacles in half as they burst out of the ground, drawing his attention away from as Merlot as he descended from the air. He brought his forelegs down toward William. The Slayer aimed his super shotgun away from the Merlot toward the wall and launched the meathook, pulling himself away from Merlot's blades as they smashed against the floor.
Merlot bellowed in anger, and looked up to see push himself off the wall, now launching the meathook at him, the blade hitting his chest and sinking into his steel chassis. Merlot's maddened eyes blazed red before firing off a beam of red laser, the Slayer avoiding them by engaging his boosters and dashing sideways, swinging around the mantis-borg as he closed the distance, the Sword in his free hand and slashing Merlot's across the chest.
And Merlot caught a still fiery Yang's explosive punch to his mechanical face, blowing off the right side of it. And rounding off this trifecta was Qrow coming at him from the side and bringing Harbinger in its war scythe mode...
...down on the back of his thorax, and with all his strength he pushed hard on the handle and forced Merlot down to the ground. The cyborg redirected his tentacles to go for him, and were shot in midair by the Slayer with his rocket launcher, homing mod attached. The explosions tore chunks out of Merlot's back...
...the cyborg growing through clenched teeth as he felt burning pieces of himself fly right off him, and his internals taking severe damage as Yang wailed away at his torso with fists, her face reddened with anger and hatred, until she was hit by a red energy blast from a cannon that sprung out from Merlot's back, sending her flying into the wall, her Aura shattering and she slid to the ground.
"YANG!" Qrow cried. "ASSH-ARGH!"
Merlot released a burst of static electricity from his thorax, hitting Qrow and knocking him down off the pyramid and hitting the ground. The Slayer snarled angrily, and was alarmed when Merlot growled and sent one of his tentacles straight at Yang. She gaped in surprise...
...and her eyes nearly bulged out of her head in pain as the tentacles slammed into her chest plating, Yang coughing up blood as she was lifted off the ground and pinned to the wall. She grabbed the tentacle as it continued to force her against wall, gripping it tightly as she forced it off her, the tip of the tendril slamming into the wall beside her. Qrow swung Harbinger and severed the tentacle right of Merlot, and as Merlot turned his laser cannon onto him, it was immediately blasted off by the Slayer, the steel flechette severing the cannon right off it's back and its smoking wreckage landing on the ground, which the Slayer grabbed as he charged right at Merlot...
...and swinging it right into Merlot's face, sp;attering blood, bone, muscle, metal and wiring all over the ground. The mantis-borg swung away at the Slayer with his forelegs, knocking the Sword right out his hands and forcing William dashed backward to avoid them, drawing his combat shotgun and firing an explosive shot, destroying Merlot's left foreleg off, and quickly switching to his gauss cannon as he double jumped to avoid Merlot's charge, slotting the precision bolt mod into the firing chamber took aim and fired, shooting his right foreleg off.
William switched the gauss cannon for the chainsaw just as Merlot's sent his remaining tentacles up at him, and were cut to absolute ribbons by the Slayer's frenzied slashes as he plummeted feet first into Merlot's head, hard enough to bring Merlot down once again. And using Merlot's head as a launching pad as he leapt off it and landed right in front of Yang.
Yang grinned painfully, realizing that her armor had once again saved her life. 'Heh...worth the squashed tits after all...' she thought snidely.
She looked up to see the Slayer extended his hand. She reached up and grabbed his forearm, allowing him to lift her back up to her feet.
"...you good?" William asked.
Yang coughed, grimacing when she saw blood in her palm. She knew it wasn't her imagination she could see the apprehension in his eyes through his visor. Brushing her hand against her thigh she said, "Think...I got one last punch in me..." she noticed the energy around the Slayer's fist. "You?"
Fists clenched, they turned to see Merlot, finally devoid of human reason, threw himself at them, intent on crushing the two of them underneath their weight. Qrow gritted his teeth, forced himself up and sprinted their way, and noticed out the corner of his eyes the Sword shining brighter as both the Slayer and Yang reared their fists back and hurled themselves at the Merlot, Yang regaining that yellow shine in her hair, her eyes blazing red as she opened her mouth in a war cry.
The Slayer, however, heard a voice in his head...
...as the golden static that had emanated from the Sword of Destruction enveloped his gauntlet, the Slayer's dull grey eyes lighting up and becoming pure silver as they shone brightly as both he and Yang punched through's Merlot's mechanical thorax, splitting steel right in half as that golden energy sheared his robotic hull right in half.
"WHAT?!" came Merlot's outraged response. "ARRGHHHHHHH!"
Merlot quickly detached his torso from the rest of his body as its internal systems overload and explosions tore right out of it. Hurtling upward in the air, Merlot redirected himself in midair...
... and he lunged at him, slobber falling from his partially-cybernetic face. The Slayer proved too fast, spinning around in time to grab the cyborg by the throat, drawing his chainsaw from his pack with one hand...
...the blades already going as he thrust it into Merlot's stomach. Qrow and Yang watched with horror as blood sprayed all over the Slayer's stoic, emotionless face; the Doom Marine grip on Merlot's paling throat tightening as he spilled the twisted cyborg's guts all over the snow as he drew the chainsaw upward. Merlot's mouth was open in a silent scream, the only sounds that could be heard from him were that of machinery abruptly shutting down, eyes rolling into the back of his head.
The Slayer released his hold on him as he severed him in half from his belly up. Completely drenched in human blood, William let the now dead remains of Merlot fall into the snow...
...where he crushed both halves of Merlot's sliced brain under his boot for good measure.
He raised his chainsaw and flicked the blood right off the blade like if it was a proper sword.
Yang was the first to speak up, herself pale with fright at the gruesome display before her, "...William?"
The Slayer turned to face her. Yang staggered back at bit; hands raised as if afraid the Slayer would turn on her next.
"...done," William simply replied.
He approached the Relic and picked it up, narrowing his eyes as continued to feel the presence emanating from within.
"..." something else Ozma neglected to mention: An obvious presence within the Relic. Relics.
- ANDREW HULSHULT, IDKFA
"So, what was that?" Yang asked, pointing at his still shimmering fist. "An asspull?"
William shook his hand and the golden mystical power faded. He raised the Sword, "A gift."
Spitting blood, Yang groaned, "...whatever...oh...shit..." she staggered. "Blackin' out."
William caught her with her arm. And the way Qrow was glaring at him as he lifted her up and carried her in her arms, it was like the Huntsman was trying to set him on fire.
++You will live. Your Semblance is partially to thank for that,++ VEGA bluntly reassured her.
Yang grinned painfully, "Just in case...hold me tighter, would you?"
And Yang did so. William sat her down gently on the floor, propping her up against a console.
He felt the impulse to brush a lock of her hair away from her face.
"HEY!" Qrow called out. "Are we gonna do this?"
William up the curved steps toward the top of the platform, and Merlot's console. Qrow following behind him, Harbinger still extended in his hands. The terminal's holoscreen appeared in front of him.
"…." the Slayer didn't look at all fazed when he felt the scythe of Harbinger prick against his neck.
++I assume there is an explanation for this?++ VEGA inquired.
"Yeah," Qrow replied, grimly. "You won't be detonating a volcano after all."
"I think I know what your problem is, Blazko. Care to guess?"
"Fuck me sideways, I can tell you're not used to thinking about the consequences of your actions," Qrow explained, his voiced laced with anger. "I kinda' understand, though. Millenia in Hell and everything there is something to kill, no innocent people to get in the way." His tone became increasingly furious, "But we're not in Hell anymore, are we?"
"..." by now, William would have snapped the scythe right off the rest of Harbinger and decked him in the head, lay him low like the VD-riddled drunk he was. But right now, this felt like something he needed to hear.
He glared, "What, just because I said 'fuck you' to Ironwood it means I don't agree with him? He's a prick for trying to get me to commit suicide by coming at you you head-on, sure, but he's not wrong about everything else. If you go through this, all you'll be doing is making all of our lives harder. Much, much harder." He tightened his grip on his scythe, "And, honestly, I'm through letting you run roughshod over everyone."
"You think we're all as tough as you?!" Qrow yelled, steadily growing agitated. "That we'd just fearlessly throw ourselves into Hell, over and over again? We can only take so much without breaking down. You don't have that problem, you're a god, or whatever it is that has the fear knocked out of you..."
A god? Is that what he's called now?
"...and we're only human! My Semblance has given me and everyone I love nothing but misery since the day I unlocked it and your war is going to finish us off sooner than Salem will." He calmed down, "The Slipgate is destroyed. No more demons are coming through now. You've won! Now-"
Qrow paused when he thought he heard the Slayer mutter, "What was-OOF!?"
Sharp pain hit him in the left side of his ribcage where the Slayer's elbow had cracked a rib, William right hand grabbing the blade of his scythe and pushing it away from his neck. He felt his heart sink when he thought he heard him chuckle miserably. He turned around to face Qrow, the venom in his eyes enough to cause Qrow's heart to stop beating out of fear.
"...you don't know 'misery'."
The Slayer's backhanded the side of Qrow's head hard enough to floor him, the side of his head bouncing off the ground, rendering him still, motionless, bleeding from his right ear, yet alive.
"…." William stared down at an unconscious Qrow.
++I deduce that his Semblance was the cause for the minor malfunctions your weapons experienced while in his presence. A 'bad luck' Semblance perhaps?++
What's a lousy Semblance compared to a thousand lifetimes in Hell?
++You did not kill him. He most likely thought you would,++ VEGA said
"..." William took his photo parchment out and wrapped it around the ring.
++For Team RWBY?++"
++I have access to the Tethering systems. Co-ordinates for outside evacuation site set.++
Yang stirred as she slowly came to, realizing the Slayer was kneeling in front of her. He offered his hand to her, and crossed his palm with hers. She noticed Qrow as unconscious.
"Q-Qrow? What happened"
William didn't answer. Instead he put the photo in her hands.
"Hold this for me."
"...an' keep on fightin'."
Suddenly both she and Qrow were lifted into the air as teleportation fields encased them.
Yang called out desperately to the Slayer as the two of them vanished in a flash, leaving the Slayer alone in the control room.
Ruby and Taiyang took off running toward Yang and Qrow the second their appeared out of a flash of blue and into the snow.
"YANG! UNCLE QROW!" Ruby was shouting after them, before she practically tackled the both of them in a hug.
"Uhhh...fuckkkkkkkk..." Qrow cursed painfully, feeling a cracked rib and a burst ear drum from the Slayer's blows.
Taiyang's did a worried double take, "What happened?"
"We took down Merlot, that's what happened!" Yang exclaimed as Ruby helped up to stand.
"And the Slayer's a few buttons prompts away from burying this whole site under an exploding volcano!" Qrow exclaimed.
"WHAT?!" Ironwood shouted from the Bullhead. "You-"
"Attacking him from behind didn't work either, Jimmy," Qrow growled.
"...wait...WHAT?!" Ruby cried, in disbelief that Qrow would do that.
"WE HAVE TO GO, NOW!" Blake called out from the Bullhead.
"But he's still in there!" Yang exclaimed.
Satisfied that there was now no one else to stop him, he turned back to the console.
PROTOCOL FOXTROT UNIFORM CHARLIE KILO ATLAS ENGAGED
++Please note that the consequences of your actions here are irreversible.++
"..." his finger hovered above the holo-screen as it projected the question...
FINAL WARNING: Geothermal systems will overload and will result in volcanic eruption. Evacuate high-priority artifacts, purge unnecessary personnel, save research data offsite and release cover stories to every media site in the kingdoms before continuing.
William felt his finger still hover above the YES button.
Qrow was right. He never had to deal with the consequences of his actions. It was always other people that dealt with it. The billions on Earth facing an energy crisis. The families of the living he had killed or left maimed, directly by his hands or indirectly by the Grimm sat off by his rage. And now, countless were about to suffer, to stop Hell from gaining another foothold on this cursed rock.
He pressed it...
SEE YOU IN HELL, MARKACC. SHOW ME AROUND SOMETIME.
Immediately the lights in the control room turned red, klaxons loud enough to burst a normal person's eardrums rang out as alarms sounded off all around him. Putting his helmet back on, he didn't count on the effects of overloading the geothermal systems to be near instant, as he felt himself lifted off into air as explosions started to tear through the center...
...which could be seen half-a-mile away as the Atlesian Air Fleet pulled away, the dome surrounding Epsilon disintegrating from the fire erupting out the sides of the volcano as the geothermal plan within collapsed.
Yang's eyes widened in horror, "Oh, no..."
"William!" Ruby exclaimed, anguished.
Lying on his back, William found himself pinned underneath a collapsed piece of the ceiling. He looked to the side to see the Relic of Destruction lying some feet away.
++I...miscalculated the time it would take to evacuate. I apologize, Epsilon's tethering system is now permanently offline.++
The Slayer ignored him as he pushed his hands against the debris pinning him down. Just as he felt it begin to lift, he saw a familiar red portal open some feet away, and Raven Branwen step out of it and through the flames toward him. Or the Relic, rather, as she got down on one knee and picked it up.
"..." the Slayer glared at her as she turned to leave. Suddenly, he called out, "Yang's...safe..."
...and stepped through.
++Her Semblance is our only way out. We must leave, now.++
Pushing the debris off himself, the Slayer rolled over onto his stomach, pushed himself off the ground and sprinted off toward portal in pursuit and leaped through after her. It closed right behind him, just as the command center went up in flames...
...followed by the rest of Authority as the volcano erupted, powerful enough to destroy the dome covering Epsilon as the entire site was buried underneath the lava, secondary explosions destroying the buildings and the ruins underneath and extinguishing all demonic life still within the complex. Team RWBY, the Huntsmen from Vale, Team SSSN, the White Fang and much of the Atlesian forces had a front row seat as they watched the destruction unfold before them all.
Ruby fell to her knee, wringing her hands together fretfully as she thought the worst...
"Hey!" Yang exclaimed, dropping her hand firmly on her shoulder, nearly causing her to jump. "He got out; I know he did!"
"OH SHIT! TWELVE O'CLOCK HIGH!" Sun shouted, pointing toward Epsilon, and what was rising above the lava.
Surrounded by that evil energy, the broken pieces of the Slipgate rose above the volcano and reformed itself, the power radiating from it lifting rock off the volcano and starting floating around the ring when it suddenly reactivated itself, the crimson energy flowing forth, turning the sky red. Those gathered close to the edge of the cliff quickly stepped back as a black mist suddenly surrounded them.
And a shadow materialized out of that mist in front of Ruby, causing her to trip and fall on her behind. She looked up, and shrank back in fear when she saw the silhouette of a tall, muscled man staring ahead toward those that were gathered before him, their weapons drawn and pointed at him.
Ozpin knew whom stood in front of them, "The Dark Lord."
- ANDREW HULSHULT, THE ANCIENT GODS PART 2 OST
(0:00 – 0:56)
The Dark Lord seemingly paid no attention to Ozpin identifying him
"I needed to see with my own eyes those that oppose me."
He swept his gaze over the Huntsmen and Huntresses-in-training - Teams RWBY and SSSN...
...Qrow, Sienna, Ilia, Ironwood, Winter, the Ace Ops...
...and came to a stop at Ozpin.
"...and an Old Man who continues to cling to his false gods."
"...you...you..." Winter stammered, feeling like she was having trouble breathing, her fear was great. The Dark Lord looked the Atlesians' way.
"You are unprepared. Against the Whore and against my children."
Ironwood glared defiantly right at the mist, "You sound so sure of yourself. The Kingdom of Atlas will-"
"You are an open book to me, Ironwood."
The general wasn't expecting a god of evil to say his name.
"The fear, the paranoia itself radiates off you, you are like a shining beacon in an infinite night."
"...what?" Ironwood staggered back, in shock.
"Hell does not need to do anything else to your precious, infallible Atlas. You will bring it down yourself, as monarch of a Kingdom of Tyrants."
The Dark Lord's eyes narrowed, Ironwood visibly shaking before him...
"Just like so many kingdoms rose and fell throughout the epochs. Fallen to the machinations of a Whore..."
He turned his evil gaze on Ozpin.
"And a Betrayer. So many times, on this cursed world...Ozma."
Ozpin resisted the urge to avert his gaze away from the Dark Lord for as long as he could.
"...Ozma?" Ruby questioned,
"..." Ironwood glared at the Headmaster of Beacon.
Ozpin stepped forward and stared defiantly up at the shadow.
"To put a stop to the madness the Kingdom of Immora started millennia ago."
"Immora?" Ironwood questioned.
The Dark Lord's eyes became redder. He cast his gaze over the mortal gathered before him, reveling in the fact his presence was causing all of them no end of existential terror, that they all stood before his presence. He sensed their horror, their dread, their...hope?
Ruby inhaled sharply when she saw the Dark Lord's gaze upon her, she stepped forward.
"Ruby!" Taiyang shouted.
Startled, Yang also cried, "Sis!?"
"We know demons can be killed, and we won't rest until we've beaten every last one on Remnant," Ruby stated, glaring defiantly up at the Dark Lord. "The Slayer...William...will stop you, and we'll be there to see him do it."
"He's not in this alone," Ruby added with finality. "Not anymore."
The Dark Lord said nothing, save for his gaze upon Ruby.
"You are the Wayfarer's daughter."
"...wh-what?" the confidence was immediately sapped from Ruby.
Taiyang was startled to hear that, "Wayfarer? Summer?"
"Her corpse slowly rots within its prison."
Ruby's eyes bulged in horror as she felt herself begin to hyperventilate. The Dark Lord turned to Taiyang, the man visibly shaking as tear welled in his eyes, his fists clenching and unclenching, then onto Yang, and how she looked ready to throw a punch at the shadow.
"You are devastated. I understand."
His next words sounded bitter...
"I know all too well the feeling of parental abandonment-"
Ruby bellowed angrily, drawing Crescent Road and swinging it at the shadow. He extended his hand and grabbed the scythe.
"A mere child resorting to violence so soon? Truly, you are Silver-Eyed. Less than a half-breed, but still a Silver-Eyed."
Ruby's eyes widened as the shadow grabbed her by the throat and lifted her into the air, so that their faces were level.
"And your fate is to die like the rest of those that stand in the way of MY VENGEANCE!"
A single tear fell from Ruby's left eye, as she began to shake in fear.
Taiyang leapt right up at the shadow...
"LET GO OF MY LITTLE GIRL!"
...bellowing angrily as he threw a left hook, which the Dark Lord caught with his free hand. Everyone drew their weapons and pointed them straight at the three of them.
"STOP ALREADY!" Qrow grabbed Yang when she also tried to intervene, gripping her arms tight enough to hurt.
"LET GO OF ME!" Yang screamed; eyes red as her hair slowly turned golden through rage. "LET GO OF MY FAMILY!"
Ozpin glared as Ruby struggled against the Dark Lord's shadowed grip.
"This is the company you choose to keep? Had I the power to extend myself further from my prison, I would obliterate all of you in a heartbeat, put you all out of your misery and my victory over this world would be assured. But you know I am a patient man, awaiting..."
Taiyang continued to struggled, intent on punching the shadow's head clean off...
...only to feel his fist slowly start to be crushed...
"Enough, Davoth!" Ozpin exclaimed.
"Tell the Slayer to find me at the Ingmore Sanctum. I will be waiting."
The Dark Lord – Davoth - released both Ruby and Taiyang, tossing them both onto the ground.
His shadow form faded away just as the Slipgate in the far distance deactivated itself for the final time. Afterward, it crumbled and broke apart, the pieces falling into the lava that spewed from Epsilon's volcano.
"That...that's the guy we're up against?!" Marrow cried.
Sun nodded, pale, "Yeah, the god of evil himself." He turned to Ozpin, "And he mentioned you by name, Ozma."
"And you know his name?!" Harriet exclaimed.
"..." crestfallen, Ozpin visibly struggled to respond. "I..."
Ironwood glared, "I knew you were a man of secrets, Ozpin, and I accepted that to a degree. But I never imagined you would keep this from all those that have given you your trust."
"...you don't under-"
"Would have been great if you told us you were on a first name basis with the Lord of Hell himself, Oz," Qrow interjected. "And this Kingdom of Immora? What the hell is that?"
Right there on that plateau, underneath the gazes of a hundred people – many of whom had placed their trust in him – Ozpin felt like the smallest person in the universe.
Ironwood sighed, "We can't stay here, the Grimm will return soon. I...I need to return to Atlas, to oversee our defenses in case of another attack," Ironwood explained. He frowned, "And we will have a discussion regarding 'trust' in the near future." He paused, and glared, turning toward where he thought he last saw Sienna, "As for-"
In the confusion of the Dark Lord's appearance the High Leader of the White Fang had disappeared along with Ilia. Blake knew they had been missing, but decided to keep her mouth shut.
"..." Ironwood bit back the rage, before composing himself. "As for Blazkowicz, if any Atlas forces encounter him-"
"Then may the best man win, James," Ozpin quietly interjected, getting the last word in. "He won't stop for anyone now."
With tears in her eyes and in denial of everything with Vine's death still fresh in her mind, Harriet nearly choked on her own rage as she grounded, "He's just one man-"
"Not a man," Qrow shook his head, hopelessly. "If he ever was, he's not one anymore."
"..." Ironwood looked bitter when he noticed Catrice standing close by, and how she went stiff when he noticed her looking at her. "Arrest that woman."
"WHAT?!" Ruby cried as two soldiers grabbed by the arms, and she nothing to resist. "Why?"
"She helped us!" Yang exclaimed.
"And she is complicit in the atrocities committed here," Winter explained. She scowled, "What use did Merlot have for a 'behavioral therapist'?"
Catrice lowered her head in shame, "To monitor and evaluate...the test subjects. I was...part of the Incubus Project."
Elm and Harriet looked ready to pounce on Catrice and tear her to pieces. Team RWBY all appeared shocked, and only Ruby became saddened, "But...why did you help us?"
"...I owed him," Catrice admitted. "He helped me...not be afraid of Merlot anymore." She turned to Ironwood, "I'll...be cooperative, General."
"I know you will," Ironwood nodded. He gestured for her to be hauled off.
Catrice gave Team RWBY and SSSN an apologetic smile as she was shoved onto a waiting Bullhead. Ironwood and Winter turned to leave as well.
"James?" Ozpin called after him.
"..." his head down, Ironwood didn't bother to say another word as he headed off for evac. And the remainder the Atlesians turned to board their dropships and return to the fleet.
Heaving a disappointed sigh, Clover said to his teammates, "Let's go."
Leaning on Marrow as he helped her to walk, an angry Harriet, her voice low as she shook her head, mad that there was nothing they could do to stop the Slayer, "...fucking assholes."
Weiss noticed that Winter hadn't said anything to her before following after the general. Not even a goodbye or 'best of luck', "Winter?!" She looked hurt as Winter ignored her as she boarded the Bullhead along with the other Atlesian personnel.
On the other hand, it was Marrow that, after helping Harriet into the Bullhead paused to give Team RWBY an apologetic smile and said, "Blazkowicz...tell him I said thanks for trying to save everyone back in the labs."
"..." Blake nodded, sadly. "He tried."
The Atlesian forces all departed, leaving the Huntsmen and Huntresses from Vale and Mistral, along with two Atlas Bullheads to take them to their own destinations.
Ozpin turned to Team SSSN. He never looked so apologetic, "You cannot even begin to imagine how sorry I am for everything you four have gone through."
Sun glared, "Merlot got his in the end, right?"
"Make sure you tell Professor Lionheart everything that has happened," Ozpin said.
"We won't leave out a single dete." Neptune added. He shot Team RWBY a flirtatious smirk, "Well, it's been fun, ladies."
"..." none of the girls couldn't bring themselves to humor him.
Neptune realized this, looking regretful as he rubbed the back of his head, "...yeah."
Qrow glared, "Tell Leo everything that went down here. Don't leave a single thing out."
Sun sighed, "Yeah."
Both Huntsmen and Huntresses from Vale and Mistral soon parted ways in their Bullheads in the opposite directions, toward their respective kingdoms.
(Some distance away...)
Pulling the snowmobile to a stop, Watts wrapped an arm around his still injured torso as he looked over his shoulder, smirking painfully at Epsilon's now active volcano erupting in the distance, and the Atlesian air fleet pulling out.
"...heh...just as advertised, Doom Slayer," he muttered. "...ah...ow...shit..."
Producing his scroll, he opened up his quick dial menu.
"...Watts," the other end responded coolly.
"Inform our benefactor that the Slayer just crippled Atlesian R&D for a least a decade," Watts said. "Just as she said he would. If Ironwood ever intended to use either Sentinel or Hell tech, he won't get the chance now." He frowned, mentally adding, 'That only leaves Pietros and his toy doll, and Ironwood is probably going to sic her on Blazkowicz as soon as possible.'
"And, regarding his current whereabouts..."
He opened another file on his scroll, displaying grainy surveillance footage of a Relic of Destruction being picked up by a certain Masked Swordsman, and the Slayer chasing her through her own portal. He smiled.
"...Professor Lionheart should know he'll be in possession of two Relics soon enough...along with a bullseye on his forehead."
(On the Bullhead bound for Vale...)
All was quiet.
Until Qrow broke the silence.
"This is the universe we live in," Qrow lamented bitterly.
"All of us - humans, Faunus, miscellaneous sentient and non-sentient beings - we're ants underneath the feet of gods, monsters, demons and every other overpowered ageless avatar of destruction. All of em', every shade of murder-happy psychopath driven insane by eons, upon eons, of killing one another and we're the ones getting stepped on the most." He glared at Ironwood, "And we can't do a single thing about it. An' every time we try, they'll just tread on us and keep right on truckin'."
"..." Ozpin couldn't refute any of that. Everyone that had gotten in the Doom Slayer's way suffered, or stepped out of his way and still suffered at the hands of his enemies.
Wasn't going give Qrow any kind of vindication, though.
"Grim, ain't ya?" Yang asked.
Qrow shot Yang a look of bewildered contempt, "Thought all he was the big badass ancient alien super soldier they trained from the cradle into the biggest genocidal asshole in the universe and it turns out he's some kind of demigod. The biggest asshole demi-"
Ozpin sighed, "Qrow..."
"What?" Qrow smiled, mirthlessly. "He's not around to hear, isn't he?"
"...for now," Ozpin said. "He's most likely pursued Raven through her portal."
Taiyang blinked, "You mean-?"
"Raven most likely now has the Relic of Destruction" Ozpin explained. He turned toward Team RWBY, Yang specifically. "Blazkowicz is most likely somewhere in Mistral, where your mother is-"
"This is bad, Oz," Qrow interjected, panicked. "She doesn't know what-"
Yang looked angry as it was her turn to cut in, "She's not my mother."
"Yang..." Taiyang cut in.
"Don't start!" Yang snapped. Seeing how hurt her father looked, she become apologetic, "I...I'm sorry, I-"
"It's fine," Taiyang shook his head, smiling sadly. "Not the time or place to talk about this?"
Yang suddenly remembered as she reached into her pocket, "Oh, crap, I..."
Pulling it outs she noticed something fall out of a piece of parchment, which Runy caught. And she thought her heart stopped beating when she saw...
Ruby looked bewildered as she stared at what laid in her hand, "A ring?"
"An engagement ring?!" Weiss shouted. She would recognize one when she saw that.
Ozpin smiled, "I think Blazkowicz intends for you to hold onto that until..."
"...until he comes back to Beacon?" Ruby asked, hopefully.
"..." Blake felt like there was something off about that.
Yang was blinking rapidly, face lighting up in embarrassment, "Uh...I...uhhhh..."
"...uh, yeah," Taiyang reached toward it. "No way you're holding onto something like-"
"It's ok, dad," Yang quickly pocketed the ring back. "I can hold onto it and give it back the next time we see him."
Taiyang frowned, "That wasn't what I was thinking at all."
The whole time Ruby had unwrapped the parchment. Everyone saw that he was staring at it very intently.
"...shit," Qrow muttered, depressed.
- BUCKETHEAD, A REAL DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH
Blake's eyes widened, "...is...is that-?"
Though aged and worn over the millennia, one could easily see a family on the photo-parchment. A husband and wife and their two sons, standing on a stone balcony overlooking a medieval-like city, with mountains in the far distance. The man was tall, blonde, blue-eyed with broad-shoulders; the woman had long-brown hair and silver eyes, the eldest son of five years sharing his mother's hair and eye color whilst the youngest three-year old had his father's hair.
She recognized the woman in the photo.
Ruby sniffed. Free of any scars and captured in that moment, William was happy. The happiest she had ever seen him. All from a bygone age.
The girl found herself tearing up as she held the parchment delicately in her eyes, afraid that she might accidentally rip it face, overwhelmed when she recognized the eldest boy in the picture, and how happy he – his whole family – looked. All from an age long passed, and forgotten by the rest of the universe.
She barely registered Yang throwing her arms around her and hugging her tightly as she stared, transfixed at the parchment, the tears flowing when she finally understood where all of the Slayer's anger came from, why he was the way he was. Being torn away from what she realized she had always for granted – family. Wiping her eyes, she couldn't keep herself from smiling tearfully now, overwhelmed to see the Slayer – William – at one point captured perfectly in time – so happy.
Sitting at the opposite end of the captain, Ozpin silently watched as everyone else crowded around to see the parchment, a flurry of emotions on each of their faces.
Qrow blinked as he stared at parchment. He shook his head, and in spite of everything the Slayer had done, he couldn't help but feel pity for the guy.
Guess it had to have been a loving union, after all.
The Slayer realized he had run right over the side of the cliff once he reached the other side of Raven's portal. He instinctively grasped behind himself onto the rock, clasping his super shotgun tightly with his other hand, glimpsing down at the forest way at the bottom. Looking up he saw Raven staring down at him, alongside a young woman with tanned skin, short brown hair, her icy blue eyes accentuating the smirk she had as she watched the Slayer hold on for life, dressed in a light brown vest and maroon-colored jeans.
The Slayer began scaling the cliff as fast as he could, switching to his boosters once he was close enough to the top, just as both women stepped backward. By the time he reached the top they had already gone through another portal, leaving the Slayer alone.
AT DOOM'S GATE
MICK GORDON, DOOM OST
++Accessing local maps and geography...we have arrived in Mistral, approximately one hundred miles west from its capital,++ VEGA said. ++And Haven Academy.++
Mistral. Where Marcus Black and the cults were operating. How fortuitous.
His grip on his weapon tightened as the Grimm approached, seemingly in their hundreds. All attracted by the rage that radiated off him.
Every single one of them were demonically possessed. And he was all alone, once again; free to charge with reckless abandon.
++Do you intend to go to Haven Academy and consult Professor Lionheart on what Salem's next move will most likely be?++
Slapping some shells into the breech of his super shotgun as the Grimm charged him, the Slayer once again threw himself back into the fray.
The Slayer's eternal war continues...
A/N: And that's a wrap. Considering how long it finally took to get this chapter out (from now on its 4,000 to 5,000 words a chapter for this fic and any other project going forward), I'd be lying if I didn't say finishing this arc feels like a colossal relief and I can finally put it on hiatus, recuperate a bit and deal with A LOT of real life stuff.
I've wanted to cue Buckethead in my fic for the longest time. His music helped out of a couple of dark places in the past few years, I figured some of ya'll could use a listen. ^_^
I'm aware of how Raven's Semblance works. How is she bonded to the Slayer? Question to be answered...in the foreseeable future.
So, Grimm Eclipse is getting a re-release. And one of the uniform options is 'power armor'. Heh...
I thought it was strange that 'Dash' and 'Blood Punch' were never given codex entries in DOOM Eternal. Though, judging from where you pick up Dash in Exultia it must have been an upgrade to the suit, while Blood Punch might be an aftereffect of the Divinity Machine. And in this fic, it was awakened by the Relic of Destruction.
Lastly, big shout to symptom99 on deviantART for drawing all that Remnant Inferis: DOOM fanart.
Now, for the stinger...
(Volcanic Ruin That Used To Be Epsilon)
Marv painfully moaned, the heat radiating off him melting the snow around him.
Slowly, he felt his charred, incinerated flesh peel off him as it slowly began to regenerate as he dragged himself away from the lava. Rolling onto his back he could see that his mechanical hind legs were damaged behind repair.
Twisted both his ankle, he tore them right off the prosthetics, eliciting another shrill cry of agony from him.
He then continued onward, dragging himself into the Solitas tundra to parts unknown...