The pounding on the door was almost as loud as the pounding in her chest. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as she stood with her back pressed up against the door, holding it shut like her life depended on it. It probably did.
The White Fang were out there and desperate to get inside.
Melanie could feel the thumps of fists and rifle butts on the other end of the door as she stood side by side with Ruby. The shorter girl mimicked her actions, and her heels dug into the ground as she too leaned against the door which separated them from the outside of the underground cavern of Mountain Glenn. It was the only entrance to the old abandoned building they'd found themselves in. It was their only respite from what was against them outside.
Thud! Thud! Melanie grit her teeth together and squeezed her eyes shut as she felt the door move from behind her. Each slam against it moved it inward by an inch before her own weight on it pressed it back closed. If they got some real hardware or some heavy weaponry then this would be over in no time. The door would be blown right off its hinges, and her and Ruby with it.
As fear of what would happen washed over Melanie, she couldn't help but feel the regret of jumping into the hole Ruby had fallen into in order to try and rescue her. The sentiment was only fleeting, however, when she opened her eyes and regarded the younger girl beside her. A little sister. Short dark hair. Clad in red and black. An innocent and almost wholesome demeanor. Miltia may not have been anywhere near Ruby's level when it came to that sort of attitude, but her younger twin was certainly a better person than Melanie herself could ever hope to be. In that moment standing next to Ruby as they fought for their very survival, Melanie could only see her own younger twin in the young huntress.
She may have never been much of a responsible older sister for Miltia, but here and now she could be that for Ruby in Yang's stead.
Ruby's own silver eyes were squeezed shut and her jaw was clenched tightly as she fought with all her strength to keep the door closed to the White Fang terrorists outside. Her strength was lacking, and without a weapon she was all but useless in a fight. Standing here next to her would only sap what little strength remained in the little huntress' body. There was, however, another option available to them…
"Ruby," she whispered desperately, prompting the other girl to open her eyes. Melanie's own glanced over to one of the bodies of the White Fang member's she'd incapacitated. "Go over there and grab a gun."
Ruby's focus shifted to where Melanie was looking for a moment before looking back over. "What about the door?"
Melanie shook her head softly. "I'll be fine. Just do it."
With a hesitant nod Ruby rushed over to where one of the fallen rifles lay and scooped it up. Melanie was used to seeing her holding a giant scythe rather than an ordinary gun, and despite the fact that it was the more normal of the two it appeared unusual for Ruby to be holding a standard issue dust rifle.
Thud! Thud! Thud!
Melanie's back nearly gave out, and her footing was nearly lost when their assailants made a particularly mighty push against the heavy metal door. It took all the strength Melanie had not to collapse and allow their enemies access to the building.
"Melanie!" Ruby cried, lowering her rifle and rushing toward them.
The older girl's head snapped up, staring at Ruby with intense emerald eyes.
"Stay back!" she ordered. "And keep your gun aimed at the door."
Ruby did as she was told, and shaky hands raised her weapon up, trained not directly on Melanie, but slightly off to her right where the door would swing open.
Adrenaline surged through her body after that close call. This was it. Her own strength was nearly at an end. At some point she would have to abandon the door in order to conserve enough energy to use her own bladed heels against their foes. When that time came she could only hope that Ruby would be able to inflict enough damage with her rifle before the stream of White Fang terrorists poured through. Only Melanie was equipped for close quarters combat. She would need all the help she could get before it came to that.
"I- I don't wanna hit you by mistake," Ruby said nervously. Melanie could see the unsteady weapon in her hands. "I don't know if I can do this…"
Big sister instincts she never knew she had were kicking in. Maybe it was because Ruby was actually a good three years younger than her rather than simply being born a few minutes later like Miltia that did the trick. She needed to do something to relieve the stress on Ruby's mind. To calm the panic in her body. Maybe she'd even be able to calm herself down a little bit.
"You're not gonna hit me," Melanie smiled with as much reassurance as she could muster. "I'm pretty fast, you know. Maybe not as fast as you, but…"
The compliment earned the slightest crack of a smile from Ruby. Her shaky hands even seemed to settle down a little bit while she smiled. Good. Very good.
"Heh, yeah. I'm pretty fast too…"
Melanie winced. She couldn't hold on indefinitely. She just needed to prepare Ruby for what was to come. She had to look out for the little huntress as if she was her own sister. If their situations were swapped and it was Miltia and Yang down here instead she was sure the blonde girl would have done the same. Yang would have kept Miltia safe. Despite the fact that Melanie hated Yang, she would look out for her sister.
"What should we do?" Ruby asked. She may have been a team leader, but maybe she felt less sure of herself without her trusty weapon at her side. Maybe she realized how useless she was in combat with only her fists. It looked like Melanie really would need to be the big sister here in this moment.
"Just stay behind me, okay?" she answered. I'll protect you, she mentally added.
Melanie would do everything in her power to prevent herself and Ruby from being captured. Scratch. Bite. Gouge. Any and every weapon was on the table. Bladed heels probably wouldn't be enough when confronted by a gang of thugs who hated humans.
"Okay…" the redhead replied uncertainly. Probably not used to standing back at range and not being in the thick of things.
"I mean, your sister would never let you live it down if you got captured," she joked, trying to mask the direness of their situation. "You don't wanna live with Yang holding that over your head for the rest of your life, do you?"
Another nervous chuckle came from Ruby's lips. Melanie didn't want to come out and say that they were in a bad spot. Desperation would only make Ruby more nervous. Nervous hands made one a bad shot. Right now they couldn't afford for Ruby to miss.
"So yeah, if they come in here, just shoot them," she ordered grimly. "Just like you would a Grimm. These are… bad people… and you're a good guy. Right?" And evil men do evil things.
She didn't want to voice her thoughts on the possibility of being raped by the White Fang. They were the scum of the earth, after all, and she knew what scum would like to do with a pretty little thing like Ruby. Taking advantage of helpless young women wasn't an uncommon occurrence in the gutters of Vale. There were plenty of evil lowlifes up in the city where law and order was supposed to reign. Out here in Mountain Glenn no one would hear you scream.
Ruby's silver eyes had gone wide at the harsh words Melanie had just uttered. As much as she didn't want Ruby to panic, even she had to know that they were in a tight situation. This could very well be life or death, just as it was with any battle against the Grimm. Ruby was a huntress. This was the life she had chosen. A life where people died. She would need to be prepared for that.
"I… I understand," Ruby nodded gravely. As uncomfortable as she appeared when she spoke the words they seemed to strengthen her own resolve, and she held the rifle steady with the butt pressed against her shoulder.
Gunfire sounded from outside. It appeared they were indeed finally bringing up some actual weapons. They sounded heavier than mere rifles, yet Melanie could feel none of the impacts on the door. Were the warning shots? Test shots? No… that didn't make any sense. Nor did the cries of panic they heard from the other side of the door. The lessening of the impacts on the door…
Until they stopped completely.
An eerie silence befitting of the tomb that was Mountain Glenn settled over the empty room Melanie and Ruby stood in, and for the first time in many long minutes Melanie allowed her muscles to relax. A deep breath slipped through her lungs until she realized what must have scared them off.
Melanie recalled her and Miltia's battle against a single Beowolf. She didn't know which would be worse to encounter right now. The White Fang, or the Grimm. At least one would offer them a chance at survival, but that same one could offer an entirely different kind of torment on their bodies.
Soon only the dull thuds of Ruby's boots on concrete sounded as the girl approached her. "That sounded familiar…" she spoke softly. Her eyes were narrowed and her head was tilted slightly, listening for more sounds from outside.
"What, Grimm?" Melanie wondered worriedly. In an instant she pressed her back firmly against the door again. "Did you hear Grimm out there, Ruby?"
"No, no," Ruby insisted, waving her free hand to clarify. "Like Ember Celica."
"Yang's shotgun gauntlets," Ruby explained.
Ember Celica. Was that what they were called? What kind of a pretentious cunt named her weapons?
A glance back at Ruby made Melanie feel just a slight twinge of guilt. Right. Ruby's own lost scythe had a name. Huntresses did that…
Melanie leaned her head back against the metal door and closed her eyes. Loathe as she was to admit it, she had been on the receiving end of Yang's shotgun gauntlets. She'd been up close and personal with them and had heard the roar of their blasts. Come to think of it, some of the shots she'd heard outside did sound like the weapons which had destroyed Junior's nightclub all those months ago…
"Melanie," the older girl heard, causing her eyes to open.
Ruby peered up at her with a new sense of resolve in her gleaming silver eyes. It was as if they'd traded places now, and Ruby had opted to take charge. The mere thought of Grimm had forced Melanie to shrivel up like a coward. She hated that weakness, and especially in the face of the little huntress who only moments ago she had been determined to protect herself.
"I'm going to take a look out there," she said. Her voice was filled to the brim with newfound confidence.
A part of Melanie wanted to protest and give in to the fear of the Grimm. However if it really was Yang out there then perhaps there was some sort of rescue being mounted. If the White Fang had been driven off then this was their best chance to escape and make their way back to the surface.
The girl in white reluctantly removed herself from the door and expected someone, or something, to burst through a moment later. It never came, and it was Ruby who reached with her free hand to pull the door open and reveal the dark, murky underground city.
She heard Ruby gasp. Just when she was about to grab the other girl's arm to pull her back inside, Ruby rushed out and screamed a name which up until today would have made her blood boil.
Melanie hurried out after her to find not just Yang and her friends, but her own happiness as well. Relief washed over her as an all too familiar girl clad in red had turned her head to the voice who'd just cried out. In tow were two men who she'd never have expected to find down here.
"Melanie!" Miltia yelled, and broke into a run toward her. Melanie would normally have wanted to appear cool and collected, not giving into sappy emotional reunions and all that crap, but she herself found herself running full speed toward her younger twin sister.
She had no idea how long they'd been separated, but as the twins embraced one another it felt as though they'd been apart for years. Melanie could explain what had happened later. For now the shared empathy they felt through their Semblance would have to tell the entire story.
"Don't you ever do something like that again!" Miltia cried, quite literally too, as she buried her face into Melanie's shoulder. "What were you thinking? Do you have any idea how scared I was when I woke up alone?"
Melanie held her sister close, running a hand soothingly through short black hair. Of course Miltia thought that she had done something stupid and reckless. How could she not? It was who she was, after all. It was the girl Miltia had grown up with. The girl she was constantly pulling out of all sorts of messes thanks to her hotheadedness.
"I'm sorry," Melanie offered. Not for what she'd done, but for the trouble she'd caused. If she was being honest with herself she would jump in after Ruby all over again. She couldn't imagine what might have happened to the idealistic little girl had she been down there alone.
"You idiot, you damn idiot," Miltia wept, clutching her close. Yet Melanie still felt little regret for her decision.
"I know. I'm sorry."
She wondered if this was how Miltia herself had felt when their situations had been reversed back when the nightclub had been bombed. When Miltia had selflessly thrown herself atop Melanie's body in order to shield her from the blast.
"It's not her fault," a tinier voice offered from beside them.
Miltia's head came up and both twins looked over to Ruby and Yang who stood nearby. Two pairs of sisters stood opposite of one another. Each had come close to losing the one they loved. Each felt the relief and happiness of the emotional reunion.
"The street collapsed and I fell down here," Ruby continued, taking a step toward Miltia. Melanie saw that her weapon had been returned to her, and Ruby held her compacted scythe in her hands. "Melanie came down here after me. She… she saved me…" she admitted, turning her appreciative gaze on the elder twin.
"You saved Ruby?" Miltia asked with a tearful smile. Luckily the tears were beginning to dry up now, leaving only red, puffy skin in their wake.
Melanie glanced the other way, unable to meet so many admiring gazes. She wasn't a hero. She'd never wanted to be one. "I mean…" she offered halfheartedly, not quite knowing how to respond to all of the positive attention. "It's just whatever…"
"It's not whatever," a stronger voice protested, and Melanie saw Yang step forward now. She reached out and grabbed one of Melanie's hands with both of hers to squeeze it tightly. Her first instinct had been to pull away. Her second had been to fight. Both feelings had to be squashed as Yang stood before her with intense lilac eyes staring into her own. "You saved my sister. Thank you."
Being thanked by the bitch… the girl who had trashed her home and business was the last thing Melanie would have expected. The idea of Yang being in her debt might have once been a tempting one. However, Melanie couldn't bring herself to find any reason to gloat or hold it over the blonde girl. Not out of any sense of righteousness or duty like a huntress might have possessed, but simply because it had been the right and decent thing to do. It was what any older sister should have done for any younger sister.
"I mean…" she trailed off once more, still not knowing how to handle the genuine praise. Melanie Malachite had always been the fuck-up of the two sisters. She wasn't used to pulling other people's asses out of the fire.
"I'm all for heartwarming reunions, but can we remember that we just chased a whole group of White Fang down the street?" Junior said, stepping forward. "It's still dangerous down here and we need to get out."
Right. The White Fang. Now that they were out of any immediate danger the memories of her interrogation began flooding back to Melanie. They were down here. There was some sort of operation going on. An infestation of the terrorists who had destroyed their home.
An infestation of terrorists in their old, destroyed home.
"Roman Torchwick is down here too!" Ruby hurriedly told them.
"Torchwick?" Blake questioned, the former terrorist having remained quiet up until this point.
"They said something about loading dust onto a train," Ruby continued. "I don't know what they're doing, but it can't be good."
That was an understatement. This many men down here, and with Roman Torchwick leading them, had to be something big. Something dangerous. Something bad.
"A train?" Dr. Oobleck wondered. "That's preposterous, these tracks don't lead anywhere. In fact the tunnels connecting them to Vale are completely sealed up. There's no way it would be able to reach the city."
"Unless they blew their way through," a gruff voice offered.
All eyes turned to Junior, and the giant man leaned heavily on his own bludgeoning weapon. He still towered over the second tallest man in the cavern even when he stood slightly hunched over.
"Blew their way though?" Oobleck questioned. "What in the world are you talking about? A train couldn't possibly ram through the solid concrete barrier between Vale and Mountain Glenn. The amount of explosives necessary for such destruction-"
"Have already been stolen in the last few months," Blake interrupted. "By Roman Torchwick."
"Dust," Weiss gasped with a single word. It needed no further explanation, but the Schnee Dust Company heiress offered it up regardless. "If they're loading dust onto the train, that's a bomb waiting to go off."
It was in this moment that Melanie realized how completely in over her head she was. How much they all were. This was a professional huntsmen type crisis, and luckily for them they had one fully licensed huntsman and four talented students to handle it. Still, if the White Fang were planning on bombing Vale, just as they had Junior's nightclub, could she really stand by and do nothing?
Could she really pass up this opportunity for revenge?
"I'm sure you'll find a way to handle it," Junior said. All eyes fell on the largest man in the bunch as he lifted his massive weapon to rest it over a shoulder. "We'll leave it to the professionals."
It was as if he'd been reading her mind. It wasn't much of a stretch considering that he'd raised her and Miltia for the last decade. Still, his presence along with Jaune's down here in Mountain Glenn could only mean one thing. They'd come for their girls. Now that they'd found them, the only thing left to do was leave. Knowing Junior, he wasn't about to get mixed up in some actual huntsman business.
A glance over at Miltia showed that she had no reservations in this plan. Even Mister Hero himself Jaune Arc didn't protest Junior's decision. His only concern must have been finding Miltia and making sure she was safe.
Team RWBY and Dr. Oobleck appeared indifferent to the decision for the most part. That was fine. They didn't exactly have the best relationship, after all. Especially with Yang. Besides, she and Miltia weren't even supposed to be here in the first place. It would only be a good thing if a bunch of civilians got out of their hair then, right?
Or so it would have seemed, until Melanie felt Ruby's fingers lightly graze her arm, earning the older girl's attention. Ruby peered up at her with hopeful silver eyes. "Hey, um, if you wanna stick around we could use every hand we could get here…" Ruby smiled weakly up at Melanie with all the innocence and earnestness she'd come to expect from her. "You really saved me earlier, and I think you could do a lot of good if you came with us."
Stick around on some dangerous huntsman mission? The girl Melanie knew she was would have normally scoffed and blown off such an offer in a heartbeat. However…
Memories of all Roman Torchwick and the White Fang had done to her and Miltia were still fresh in Melanie's mind. Those bastards were down here not only planning on some sort of fresh destruction against the innocent people of Vale, but desecrating the very tunnels the twins once called home. Before the fall of Mountain Glenn. Before being rescued by Junior all those years ago.
Melanie snorted a soft, indignant breath. "You know I'm not a hero, little huntress. Right?"
Ruby shrugged. For all her strength and resolve, she really could just be a shy little girl at times. "I mean… you don't have to wanna be a hero to do the right thing. A lot of people could get hurt if the White Fang do whatever they're doing. I don't know if it really is a bomb, or some other kind of attack, but they're-"
The girl in red and black never got a chance to finish her train of thought before a burst of gunfire sounded, and bullets began riddling the air all around them. Striking the ground and concrete buildings all around them, the group of huntsmen and civilians were all forced to hit the ground and take whatever cover they could find.
The noise was deafening, and by the sound alone Melanie could tell there were a lot of guns being fired their way. Luckily the White Fang were for the most part just a bunch of untrained civilians themselves and not professional soldiers, and so from long range couldn't hope to do more than simply pin them down under the threat of fire. It didn't help that their little group was woefully lacking when it came to ranged weaponry to return fire.
"What the fuck, you assholes!" Melanie screamed. She knew they couldn't hear her, but she was beyond pissed off that the White Fang had regrouped and decided to start shooting them. "We were gonna fucking leave!" At least she and her group was.
Now, however, they were stuck here. Stuck until the White Fang could be dealt with. There was only one way this could end.
Even through the gunfire, however, what came next rang loud and clear through the concrete jungle they were in.
"Get to your places, we are leaving now!" a voice over a loudspeaker echoed through the cavern.
The sound of an engine could be heard as clear as day. The squeak of wheels. The lurching of train cars. The blaring horn.
Roman Torchwick, and the train bound for Vale were on the move. That meant Ruby and her friends were quickly running out of time.
"That was Roman!" Blake shouted, and in her hands was what appeared to be a pistol. She peeked over the concrete she sheltered behind, and brought her arms up to pop off a few shots in the direction of their attackers.
Small arms fire would do little from such range, however. It wasn't until Ruby deployed her scythe to its full size and length that they stood a real chance in the firefight.
The crisp snapping of large caliber dust rounds echoed loudly, and a grim, determined Ruby Rose knelt down behind a pile of concrete rubble in order to not only shield herself, but use it as a brace for her large sniper rifle. While Melanie couldn't see the results, a part of her knew that the skilled huntress was hitting her shots.
Once she'd unloaded an entire magazine, Ruby growled softly as she switched it out for fresh ammo. "We have to go now!" she stated with urgency to the rest of her group.
"There's too much enemy fire!" Weiss argued. True enough, there was no way the huntresses would make it far under the weight of bullets being rained down on them.
In Melanie's periphery she saw Jaune move. More specifically, his shield. The device expanded to its full size, while at the same time a glowing white color pulsed over his body and limbs.
"Then I'll draw it to me!" he shouted, coming up to stand on both feet, though still crouching down behind his own cover. "When I jump out and get their attention that's when you move! Got it?"
A look back over at Ruby showed her nod with grim determination. Gone was the uncertain girl from before. Gone was the boy who'd wanted to leave this place with Junior. In their places were two leaders capable of making decisions under pressure. Though only one was officially a team leader, Jaune was showing leadership and poise under fire.
"Jaune, no!" Miltia screamed, but it was too late.
Jaune leapt over his cover like a soldier bursting from the trenches during the Great War. He rushed forward, his body rippling with white Aura strengthened by his Semblance and his shield raised in order to protect his large torso and ducked head. Almost immediately the bullets which had been firing indiscriminately in their direction found him, and they began to loudly clang off his sturdy metal shield.
Ruby and her friends needed no further signal, and the four girls along with Dr. Oobleck moved on the opposite side of Jaune. They hugged cover wherever they could, making their way forward toward the mouths of the guns, and toward the train which was quickly getting away.
Melanie watched them go. Girls who were younger than her by a year. In Ruby's case, three. Girls who showed no fear in the face of danger and overwhelming firepower. Girls who were running straight into the jaws of war and death. They wanted to be heroes. Today they were going to get their chance.
The girl in white wasn't certain of what the White Fang was planning. She didn't know what they intended on doing with a train full of dust. She had no idea if people might die if the train was able to reach its destination. Maybe none of that mattered at all. Maybe it did. Either way, she made her decision in an instant.
Fuck being a hero, it was time to crack some skulls. If she just happened to be doing the right thing and saving people because of it then so be it. It was payback time for the bomb the White Fang had set up in the club.
For the second time today Melanie took off after Ruby. Not to save her this time, but to inflict must-deserved punishment and vengeance on the terrorists who had taken so much from her. It would feel good to take from them. To not only hurt their bodies, but to hurt their plans. Whatever they may be.
She heard Miltia's voice from behind her, but she had no time to turn around. Her sister would be in good hands with Jaune and Junior. Melanie herself would be in good hands with Ruby and her teammates.
Jaune was doing an admirable job of drawing most of the focus on him, and the group of huntresses was able to make their way toward the moving train. Each had their own unique was of getting aboard. Yang propelled herself atop the cars with her shotgun gauntlets. Blake used the blade and ribbon of her own weapon. Ruby's speed was able to get her onto the back of the car. Melanie on the other hand…
"Grab my hand!"
Ruby was hanging off the last car of the train. It was picking up speed. She wasn't going to make it up there on her own. As much as she hated to admit it, she needed help.
With one final leap of effort she reached out, jumping at Ruby's outstretched hand and finding purchase on small but strong fingers. Ruby pulled her aboard with all her might, and Melanie slammed against the smaller girl's chest before being caught and steadied by her as the train sped forward.
"I got you," Ruby assured her, and the girls settled down on their feet to balance themselves.
Melanie took a step back and ran her hands down the front of her dress to flatten out the wrinkles. Like it would really matter when she was about to kick some ass in only a matter of seconds.
A look up at Ruby showed her smiling. Melanie's nose twitched. "What?"
"I knew you had it in you to do the right thing."
Melanie's tongue clicked. "Tch. As if I'm doing this because it's the right thing," she protested. "I'm here for me."
Ruby's annoyingly innocent smile never wavered. "Either way. Glad to have you on board."
That she was, both figuratively and literally. Melanie could only hope she wouldn't regret the decision. She was sure to get an earful from Miltia when she got back, and she would make it back. After all, she had Ruby-fucking-Rose here with her.
Never in a million years did Melanie think that she would team up willingly with huntresses, but life had a strange way of making bedfellows out of the unlikeliest of partners.
Ruby and her team were gone. The train was gone.
Melanie had gone with them.
Out of the many surprises Jaune had experienced today, witnessing Melanie run off with people she claimed to hate was one of the last he could have expected. Melanie, while at her core a decent person, was also a selfish one. She didn't have any illusions about this either. She was all about her sister's and her own self preservation. That sort of thing didn't usually mesh with running after a speeding train loaded with dust and terrorists as part of some evil scheme. Yet here she was doing just that. Here they all were.
No longer needing to be a decoy, Jaune ducked down behind the nearest cover as bullets from the White Fang's weapons continued to fly through the air overhead. As he pressed his back against the broken concrete he nearly jumped back up when he saw red in front of him.
"Miltia!" he shouted as his girlfriend ducked down beside him. The sight of her made his heart skip a beat, and for the first time it had nothing to do with the love he felt for her. "What are you doing?"
"What are you doing!" she echoed angrily. Not for the first time he saw very real anger on her face. She pointed to his shield. "Are you trying to get yourself killed?"
Jaune flipped the heavy device over and his eyes widened at what he saw. His trusty and sturdy shield had been riddled with dents from the impact of bullets. Pristine white paint had been chipped away to leave bare metal all over the device's surface. His great grandfather's weapon may have been from another era, but it was more than capable of standing up to modern technology.
"Is she trying to get herself fucking killed…" the girl asked next.
He didn't need to ask to know who Miltia was talking about. Her anger here was entirely understandable and justifiable. They'd set off from Team RWBY's camp because Melanie and Ruby had gone missing. Only a couple of minutes after reuniting they'd gone off again out of duty, and this time Melanie had gone with them willingly. Miltia was right to be pissed off at her impetuous older twin sister.
However, at least Melanie had backup. The best backup she could possibly have. He could only hope this fact would put the younger twin's mind at ease.
"She's with Ruby," he reminded her. "She'll be okay. I trust Ruby."
"She should be here," Miltia argued.
His words did little to comfort Miltia, and Jaune couldn't blame her. He couldn't imagine how he would feel if one of his sisters had jumped aboard that train to battle terrorists.
"But now that they're gone we need to get out of here," he urged. "We can't sit here and wait for them to come back."
Miltia nodded in agreement. "I know that, but still…"
Easier said than done, however. The men the White Fang had left behind to cover the train's escape had them pinned down with gunfire. Jaune knew he could use his shield again, but it would be much more difficult going backwards than forward.
Perhaps the only way to escape was indeed to keep moving forward then. Right into the faces of the enemy.
Jaune drew Crocea Mors from his deployed shield-sheath, and the scrape of steel on steel rang in his ears even as bullets flew overhead. He stared down at the polished metal of his family's blade. Its razor sharp edges. Its deadly tip. A sword which had tasted blood decades ago in the Great War. A blade which had tasted blood down by the docks not too long ago.
For the first time today since going after Miltia and Melanie with Junior, Jaune felt fear in his heart.
The Grimm were one thing. Unliving. Uncaring. Born to kill the innocent. Jaune had destroyed the foul creatures of darkness without a second thought. However, a human life, a faunus life, was an entirely different matter. He had already taken one of those and it had nearly ruined him. How could he possibly put himself in a position to potentially take another?
He hadn't realized his hand was shaking until Miltia took it in her own and squeezed it. Steadied it. Warmed it even through his leather gloves.
"Jaune," she spoke softly, somehow soothingly even amid the roar of gunfire. "Tell me what you're thinking."
Even in the chaos of battle Miltia somehow possessed the strength and poise to focus entirely on him. Entirely on his feelings. Entirely on his wellbeing.
Trapped in no man's land and under attack from an unknown number of White Fang terrorists, there were few options available to the two teens. The only way out was forward.
"We have to take them out," he told her. "It's the only way."
To Jaune's surprise she nodded. At least he wasn't totally crazy. At least his plan made sense. Still, he could only hope he would be able to execute it. He hadn't swung his blade in anger at another person since the night at the docks. Adrenaline could only do so much for him now that his mind was focused on what he was about to do. On the people he was about to fight once again.
With her hands holding the one that gripped his sword, Miltia urged it down. He allowed her to lower his weapon hand to his side. "You don't have to do this."
Jaune shook his head. "It's the only way out of this."
Miltia shook hers in turn. "Let me be your weapon."
He glanced down at Crocea Mors momentarily before focusing on her beautiful green eyes once more. "Mil?"
"And you'll be my shield." She leaned into him and pressed her forehead against his own. Their height differences meant nothing crouched down behind the cover of concrete. "You keep me safe and I'll keep you safe. I'll take care of you. And I'll take care of them."
Take care of them. Jaune knew what she meant by that. One look at the long, curved claws she wore on her wrists told the entire story. Claws painted red. Red would hide the blood. Blood was sure to be spilled here today.
"I can't let you do that alone," he insisted. He would never want to force the burden of violence on anyone. Not after what he'd been through.
Miltia's lips curled into a genuine smile. "I won't be alone. I'll have you with me." She nodded down to the shield he held in his other hand. "You're my shield, Jaune."
He knew she meant that in more than just a literal sense. He didn't need any deeper thought to know that he provided Miltia physical as well as emotional support and protection.
Miltia glanced down at her claws. "I used to be afraid of what you'd think of me if you saw… what I do." Emerald orbs flicked back up to meet his eyes. "But we totally didn't ask for this fight. We have to do what we have to do to get out alive."
It was the mentality of a soldier. Perhaps even that of a huntsman. It was us or them. Kill or be killed. While Jaune had no intention of killing anyone today, he also had no intention of letting him or the ones he loved die either.
"And I know you love me," Miltia said, finding his lips with hers.
It was perhaps the worst possible place to share a moment with his girlfriend, but Jaune surrendered to the brief but passionate kiss. He did indeed love this girl. He loved her more than anything. There was no way he would ever think less of her for what she did. Especially not here and now. Not when their lives depended on it.
With a hastily put together plan in place Jaune sheathed Crocea Mors back into his shield. He squeezed down tightly on the handle, bringing it up into place along his arm so that he could raise it to protect both him and the girl who would be behind him. His eyes locked with Miltia's and they shared a wordless nod in preparation to move forward.
Just as he was about to dash out from behind his cover, Jaune put the brakes on immediately when he saw a gargantuan metal monster approaching in the middle of the street. Mechanical legs stalked ponderously as its torso swiveled back and forth, and the long-barreled guns it possessed in the place of proper arms were pointed forward as it seemed to be searching for targets.
Until it found one.
Jaune's eyes went wide and he sucked in a breath as the metal beast halted and trained its weapons on him. He doubted that even his shield or Aura would be able to withstand firepower of this magnitude.
A series of explosions rocked the mech, nearly sending it toppling backwards. Jaune whirled his head around to see the source of the blasts. He'd never been happier to see a dangerous crime boss more than in this moment.
"Hei!" Miltia shouted in relief.
Junior stood a few yards behind them, the large rocket launcher steadied on his right shoulder still smoking after firing on the deadly mechanical terror which stood poised to kill them all. The pilot must have seen that Junior was a far greater threat to him than Jaune and Miltia were, and so turned his attention to the big man rather than the pair of teenagers.
"Go!" Junior shouted before taking aim at the beast once more.
Jaune didn't need to be told twice, and as Junior fired again he saw five more small rockets smash into the front of the metal walker. Its right arm was blown clean off from the blasts, but it still possessed enough firepower to give anyone a difficult time.
Rushing out from behind the concrete rubble, Jaune raised his shield to cover his head and torso and let his Semblance go to work once again. Boots crunched on rocks and debris as he hurried toward the White Fang's defensive position. He felt Miltia's hand on the back of his armor as she kept pace with him every step of the way, even in heels. His girlfriend was just amazing like that.
Bullets clang off his shield, and others impacted on his Aura-covered legs. He grunted and grimaced at the impact, knowing that they wouldn't break through his protection, but he felt them nonetheless. Aura Amplification made him a walking wall of steel which was nearly impervious to the danger of small arms fire. At least until he ran out of Aura. He would need to use it wisely, especially since Miltia was with him.
The closer he drew to the White Fang's position the clearer he could see them and their telltale white Grimm masks. Masks he had grown to hate so much over the last few months. Masks which despite the rage they provoked, also brought back chilling memories of what he had done at the docks. He couldn't focus on those thoughts now, however. Not when Miltia's life was on the line.
"Duck!" he heard the girl shout from behind him.
Jaune obeyed in a heartbeat and dropped to a single knee, planting the bottom of his shield on the ground in order to protect his whole body. A second later he felt a foot on his shoulder, and Miltia used him as a springboard to leap high up into the air and fly forward into the entrenched position of the White Fang.
She was too fast and the attack too unconventional for mere normal faunus to react to. Miltia came down on them hard and fast, using the body of one of the terrorists to land on when her heeled feet hit his chest. The man hit the ground like a ton of bricks, undoubtedly knocked unconscious as his body slammed unceremoniously down onto the concrete.
Seeing Miltia in the thick of it Jaune rushed forward once more, and as he neared their confused and disorganized line gripped his shield tightly to use as a weapon of his own. He may not have found the nerve to use Crocea Mors again, but the shield itself could be a useful blunt force weapon.
He charged into the first man he saw shield-first, slamming into the man's shoulder while his attention was focused on Miltia. Size and momentum made all the difference as Jaune sent the terrorist sprawling down to the ground, and followed up quickly as he knelt down on the man's stomach and began striking him with a fist. Blow after blow rained down on the White Fang member's face, and with Jaune's Aura-enhanced hand the man's nose quickly spurted up blood from undoubtedly shattered cartilage. Jaune breathed heavily as he relented, leaving a mess of red on the parts of the man's face he could see, and a cracked mask over what he could not.
Jaune stood up over the man to check on Miltia, and what he saw was perhaps the most beautifully horrifying sight he'd ever laid eyes on.
Clad in her red dress and high-heeled boots she fought with all the grace and skill of a ballerina performing on a stage. She was a young woman with a dozen dance partners as she bobbed and weaved through them all, claws lashing out and rending through clothing and flesh alike. Ducking and twirling. Slashing and slicing. Weaving her delicate dance of death.
One man raised his rifle to block her claws only to find the weapon cleaved in two and holding the useless metal in his hands. Twin blades slashed through his chest and he screamed as he staggered back to fall onto his backside. She ducked under the fist of another and spun around behind him, raking her claws down his back before kicking him forward so that he fell face-first onto the ground.
Rather than feel the fear that Miltia herself feared that he would at the sight of such a thing, Jaune was merely awe-struck. This was Miltia unleashed. The Miltia she had always feared to be in front of him. He already knew that she was an amazing person, but here and now he saw for the first time just how much of an amazing fighter she was. Miltia was indeed his sword right now. He would be her shield.
Seeing another man raising his rifle to aim at Miltia's back, Jaune was on him in an instant. Just as he collided with the terrorist he heard a spray of gunfire which had luckily lost its target. Jaune grappled with the man and heard another burst of bullets fly harmlessly over his shoulder.
"Die, human!" he heard the man snarl as they wrestled with each other for dominance.
Using his superior strength Jaune was able to push off of his foe and lashed out with his right leg. A steel toed boot connected squarely between the White Fang man's legs, and in that moment Jaune knew that Melanie would be proud of him for fighting dirty. As she'd always said, in a life or death moment there were no rules when it came to your own survival.
The terrorist doubled over in the agony of being kicked between the legs, and Jaune finished him off quickly by slamming his shield against his enemy's head. The man remained curled up on the ground holding his crotch and squirming in pain. Jaune stood up straight and looked around to find Miltia once more, but was stopped when he saw a new challenger approaching.
Dragging what appeared to be a massive chainsaw on the concrete ground, a man nearly as big as Junior stalked menacingly toward him and Miltia. His mask was sleeker than the rest and his bare arms bulged with muscle, the left one being covered in tattoos that wrapped around it. Jaune took a deep breath, sensing that this man, this fight, would be different from the rest.
Raising his battle-worn shield up in front of his chest, Jaune charged at the large White Fang terrorist, determined to keep him away from Miltia as she finished off the few remaining grunts that stood in their way.
Author's Note: It's been a while. More than two years. Before I get to an explanation, however, I just want to thank a few people first.
I wouldn't be here updating this story without some good friends of mine. Four in particular. First let me express my gratitude to both ImSoAwesome and Constable Paperbag for always being there for me and offering help when it came to trying to work through the issues I was having with this story. You two are awesome, no pun intended. You're also paper bags.
Then there's Mike the Remnant Paladin, who's a longtime friend and a longtime fan of this story who recently expressed doubt that I would ever update it again. Well as I told him, spite is a powerful motivator, and you better believe that I was spurred to update this partially out of spite. So, Mike. Suck it, nerd!
And finally ApocsHiccup. I may not have known you as long as the others, but the heartfelt passion you have for this story was a powerful motivator for me as well. It feels amazing to know that someone cares as much as you do, and I hope that as I wrap this story up its just as good as what's come before it.
So with that out of the way, what happened? Why did it take almost two and a half years to update? Well, a number of things. I lost the passion to write it. I honestly didn't feel like anyone else cared about it anymore, and that in turn made me stop caring about it as well.
Additionally I just changed as a writer. I feel as though I found my niche doing more lighthearted and comedic stories. Then a little story known as My Abominable Monster Classmates Can't Be This Cute came along and became the most popular thing I ever published, and that definitely made me not feel like updating this anymore.
Finally, there was just good old fashioned writer's block. I encountered a roadblock in how I wanted to wrap this up. I wasn't satisfied with my original plans for how I wanted it to end. And that in addition to the other factors really just killed any motivation I had to continue. Until now.
So here we are now in the final few chapters of this story. I plan to finish it. It will be abandoned no longer. So if you're still around after all this time, I appreciate it. Please let me know what you thought, since I don't know if I've done a good job of picking things back up after all this time.
As always, thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it.