A/N: Chapter three, chapter three, where can you be? Oh, right here! Took me a while but I finally finished it! Actually, to be perfectly honest, I wrote way more than what is in this chapter, but I realized I that the pacing was way too fast for a single chapter, so I cut it off at an appropriate point. I hope you all enjoy it to your heart's content!
A quick shoutout to those who took the time to review the alst chapter and give me their thoughts! They are appreciated more than you know! ultima-owner, garoorar, Warden of Lore, Tchami, YharnamHunter2092, neo567, A Whimsical Seishin, Slayer of The Abyss, Akshka, Basia Orci, Rook115, The Baz, Matemeo3, doughxDude87, The Twin Wraiths, The Great Half-Dragon, BIONIZARD55, desdelor97, Mrcrazyman94, themaskedswordsman, Axcel, Demondash666, Kaioo, Metronome I hear, Ryoji Mochizuki, and every unregistered Guest as well!
Now, let the hunt (story) begin!
Measured by Manners
Many hold dualism as truth. That all things are of two aspects; two perspectives. Black and white, good and evil... But this is not reality. The world is not just black and white. And good and evil…? Hardly so.
We can see these things as only because we wish to find some form of order in the chaos. In fact, even order and chaos are unique or foreign in human conception. But the truth is much more convoluted. An action made for the benefit of another, what a common individual might call good, may irrevocably injure or harm another. To feed a starving family member, one must steal from an honest baker. To protect a fellow soldier, you must bring harm to the opposition.
There is no rhyme or reason to goodness or malevolence in this world I think. There is only prey and predator.
Assuming that to be the case, what then is the nature of balance? Is powerlessness evil? Is strength righteous? I heard this question echo through the Dream, spoken by another, far, far away, and I had no answer.
But that was a long, long time ago, and I have grown much since then.
This world is, as all worlds are, filled with those who use their unique talents and gifts to gain an advantage over their contemporaries. I cannot abide them, though in notable irony that is exactly what I am.
When I was young I thought to myself that I must have been unique to have done what I had, and to have become what I am today. I realize now that that is simply a subjective opinion based in a void of counter-positional stances. Though I was ascended to such a state of divinity that any common man could correctly attribute me to a god – or devil I suppose – my heart was still with those who had yet to glimpse the true nature of the callous and unforgiving eternity in which they unwittingly resided. Not unlike how one might observe a nest of ants, many look down on humankind. But they can not understand the depths of our limited vision. Imagine seeing in all directions at once. A vision spanning all three hundred and sixty degrees.
Now try, if you can, to comprehend narrowing that gaze to only a single cardinal direction. A nauseatingly restricted perspective.
In the same way, these magnificently terrible beings cannot understand just what it means to be Human. To be so much less than they are.
I trust no equal, so I must have no equal. I will be the only apex. The only thing worth being feared. I will hunt the world to extinction if need be. But, recall, dualism is not truth. There is predator, and there is prey, but what about prey that rise against the predator? This is the third species.
There is no righteousness in strength, but rather strength in righteousness.
Yes… I can accept these anomalous deviants, for they are my kin in spirit.
They are… mine.
Hunter's eyes twitched, his vision focusing and focusing in irritation as he beheld the portly gentleman who called himself "Professor Port." All along the white boards, which were apparently different from chalkboards, were all manner of anatomical depictions of the creatures Grimm. Along with them was a large number of books and crates. Honestly it looked as if the man had just returned from an expedition and had yet to properly clean up the place. Nevertheless, what truly set his nerves on edge was that this boisterous, bloviating, mustachioed meat-bag was the very same one who'd coordinated his defeat at the border. How were the children ever supposed to be prepared to fight Grimm when all he seemed interested in was recounting glorious battles of the days of yore?
But a man must be allowed his eccentricities, he supposed. Surely some value lay deep in the tales he wove but for Hunter's part, he couldn't see it.
Beside him sat Blake, nose deep in a book wholly unrelated to the subject of the day. Such was her prerogative. Hunter noted her sharp eyes and the manner in which she would occasionally jot down a sentence or two on the notebook in front of her. It was evident she was capable of concentrating on two things at once, which was a trait not often observed in girls her age. But then, bookworms like her were often a cut above the rest in intellectual faculty. Beyond her sat Yang, the golden-haired girl resting her heard against a loose fist as she listened, clearly uninterested, but no less attentive. Across the room sat the two remaining members of team RWBY, the aloof Weiss Schnee and titular Ruby Rose. Weiss was paying attention, though it looked to him by the pained look on her face that it seemed it cause no small amount of discomfort to do so while Ruby sat with her head buried into the crook of her elbow, no doubt dozing off as the professor babbled on.
He leaned over and murmured to his black-haired companion. "Does the man usually exacerbate so much?"
His answer came with a wry nod. That did not bode well for the rest of the semester.
However, in between the many hyperboles were glimmers of truth which bit by bit pieced together an image of what the Grimm were and how they had for so long infested the world. But the tidbits of truth were too far and far between for his liking.
"I don't know… he seems pretty chill today," came Yang's counter as she gave a shrugging dismissal. "He's actually being pretty informative today."
Hunter's eye almost twitched. This was informative?
Resisting the urge to palm his face, a jolt ran through his body as the shrill bell rang, signaling the end of the class. Finally.
He stood with a groan, feeling the stiff muscles stretch beneath his skin. "Alright!" Yang cheered as she stood, stretching one arm over her head. "Don't worry if you missed any notes. We all just copy off of Weiss."
Hunter blinked. He was supposed to be taking notes? Oops. "Right. I suppose if she's fine with that then I'll accept." He flipped open his scroll, the device still so distinctly foreign to him. If there was one thing that still eluded him about the world it was the nature of technology and its immense progress past the age he was born into. How a transparent piece of glass was able to display moving pictures and react to touch he hadn't the foggiest idea. Nevertheless, he forced his wonder down. An inhabitant of this world would not be surprised by such things and he had a part to play after all.
Meandering through the steps he'd forced himself to memorize, he selected his daily agenda and perused its contents. "Next we have combat class." He pursed his lips. "Am I reading this right?"
Yang patted a hand on his shoulder. "Just think of it like a gym class, except every day is dodgeball day."
He gave a hesitantly nod. Subtly, he had to look up what "dodgeball" was on his scroll.
Modern society was very queer.
"I suppose I'll follow you then," he announced as the girls met in the center of the class and ascended the stairs out.
"Don't worry, professor Goodwitch isn't that scary, at least not when she's teaching," Ruby said with a smile, walking backwards in front of them.
Hunter recalled the looks the blonde woman woman gave him when they first met, frowning. "I'll contend that point."
Ruby gave a satisfied smile and nodded her head, "Thank you," before slinking over to Blake and whispering, "what's 'contend' mean?" to which Blake could only give a smirk and a roll of her eyes while shaking her head.
"It means 'argue,'" Weiss explained simply.
Ruby let out an "Ooooh…" before readdressing the boy in front of her. "Really though she's not as bad as she seems. She's actually pretty nice!"
Yang shrugged. "I actually have to agree with Rubes on this one. Goodwitch's stickler for the rules, but that is her job, so…"
"I suppose I'll take your word for it," he conceded, albeit reluctantly.
Between her and Ozpin, she seemed the less enlightened, but certainly the fiercer. If his instincts were right, and they were rarely wrong, she would viciously protect herself and her students if it came to a fight. He wasn't keen on experiencing that fury.
But she also didn't strike him as the kind to charge dumbly headlong into battle; far from it in fact. If she was teaching these tactics and battle strategy, then he was certainly inclined to hear what she had to offer.
Presently they made their way to the cafeteria, the long lines of tables already filling with students as they funneled in from their dismissed classes. What he saw made him pause. On each table lay an enormous amount of food. Fit for a feast. Fit for a king! He'd scarce seen such delicious morsels in all his days. Was food so abundant that they could afford such a banquet?
"Remnant to Hunter… Still there?"
He blinked as he eyed the four girls. Caught him staring did they? "Forgive me… I've never seen so much food in my life," he said with genuine honesty. It was true after all, and it must have shown on his face.
"This? This is every day for us."
He found himself at a loss for words. Almost immediately, Blake's eyes widened slightly, and she placed a hand on his shoulder gently. "This must be so strange for you."
He noted her gesture and nodded breathily. "It is."
A faint expression of… something… crossed Weiss' face as she went ahead, presumably to reserve seating for the five of them. Ruby's eyes softened as she realized just how privileged they were at Beacon and imagined what it must feel like to see so much food in one place when the only things you've eaten are what you could scrounge on your own.
Yang noticed the somber noted in the air and smiled despite it, patted his back, pushing him forward. "Well, feel free to eat your fill. There's plenty where this all came from."
Hunter nodded absently as the girls led him over to where Weiss was waving for them to join her.
He settled for sitting beside Ruby and Blake, with Weiss and Yang sitting across the table, rapidly putting various foods on their plates. He followed suit, adding things that looked appetizing or familiar and some that did not. Of course, there were certain customs that seemed to be observed when eating a meal, which they quickly took upon themselves to show him. Putting gravy and butter on top of mashed potatoes, salting… pretty much everything, lining salad leaves in a viscous liquid dressing he'd never heard of, dipping stalks of celery in an unappetizing mud they called peanut butter… And it went on.
The process was both amusing and humbling to the girls, and he could see it on their faces. How strange it was to him to see all these different foods he'd never had, and how strange for them to imagine never having access to such sustenance.
When they'd managed to acclimate him to what they called "the basics" they turned their attentions to their own meals, vigorously consuming large helpings of, well, everything. And despite himself, he found that he followed their lead. Much like the night previous where calamari was the menu, he ravenously devoured each new thing that was recommended to him. Of course, that took a turn for the worse Yang began suggesting some outrageous combinations. He learned to tread carefully when considering her proposals.
Soon the gluttony diminished, and their appetites were sated. They continued to eat small portions of what was left on their plates as they settled down. It was an interesting phenomenon, the silence of satisfaction. It allowed him to closely examine each girl individually. Yang seemed to be the easiest to wrap his mind around; she was a fighter through and through, her muscles toned well, her ample bosom exposed just enough to distract, her sly nature no doubt a boon in combat… And more than enjoying life, she enjoyed living.
Weiss was aloof, always willing to state her opinion as fact, and content to assume she was right until proven otherwise. But she was sharply intelligent, perceptive, if a bit too arrogant to take advantage of it. She had the air of a noble or a princess, which led him to wonder if the Schnee were some well-to-do family that garnered respect. Oh, and dainty. She was the only one who used a napkin.
Blake was quiet, contemplative. She preferred to observe, like himself, but the kinship between her and the other girls was so obvious that he wondered what her secret might be. How one who keeps to herself could become so close with other people. But what confounded him was the strange scent that crossed his nostrils when he focused on her. It was not human, that was for sure, and immediately he felt concern weigh on him like a heavy blanket. Grimm were beasts of a different type; humans weren't at risk for… Grimmification? Grimm just were, which was why it was so confusing that the girl smelled so much like a… something not human.
Ruby was the most interesting of the bunch. She was small; if he stood at his full height she would be two heads smaller than him. But she was lively, springing with the energy that came with pubescent youth. Her excitement was infectious as she spoke in such tones that compelled his interest even in subjects he knew nothing about. She was sensitive, as a young girl should be, yet so few were. Her empathy was a credit to her character, and she bore further examination. Strangest of all though was that she was so much younger than anyone else who he'd seen at Beacon so far. If Beacon were a school, then was she perhaps a genius of some sort? He needn't make a mental note to find out more.
A commotion across from the way drew their attention away from each other. A young man was poking fun at a girl with…
"Are those rabbit ears?"
"That's Velvet," Yang said with no small amount of pity. "Cardin likes to pick on her because she's a Faunus."
Hunter eyed his companion curiously. "Faunus?" He asked, brief flash of recognition in his mind as he recalled Ozpin mentioning them in passing. To Hunter, the girl was as much human as anyone else, save for the singular trait of her ears. When asked whether the Faunus were the product of some sort of plague, Ozpin was quick to deny it. He seemed rather insistent that they were due the proper common decency and respect any other human was. It was curious concept, a human that was also animal…
He blinked as scent entered his nostrils. She smelled like…
His eyes flickered to the bow-bearing girl across from him. Before she could notice his gaze, he noted the particular disgust with which she regarded the boy teasing the brunette. He sharpened his gaze.
Ah… So that was it.
Blake was suddenly aware of him staring within her peripherals and turned her attention to him. As soon as she did, his eyes turned away so fast she wondered if she'd actually seen it. But she had; she was sure. It was such an intense look of poignant scrutiny that she felt the hackles of her neck rise.
"Is this commonplace?" he asked as soon as he averted his gaze, to which Weiss nodded.
"There's a lot of animosity between Faunus and Humans. I speak from experience…" Her somber expression spoke of shame ass she lowered her eyes to fixate on her plate, all pretense gone.
Hmm, perhaps there was more to the girl than prideful bluster… He'd make sure to explore that point at a later date.
He returned his eyes to the scene, the girl, Velvet timidly asking the boy to stop, which he didn't.
Hunter sighed and looked down at his meal. "As petty as it is for the arrogant to pick on the weak, she could certainly try standing up for herself," he said with a sidelong look at the commotion. Of course, as expected, the looks from the four girls told him all he needed to know about their stance on bullying, or maybe just Cardin in particular. Or maybe it was because the Velvet girl was a Faunus? But as right as he was, he knew his words would ring hollow in their ears. After all, in a world that emphasizes forward thinking and the value of positivity, it made sense that the youth hold to some measure of idealism that adults had long since cast aside in favor of "reality." In that regard he was very much like Weiss; he spoke from experience.
He took a vicious bite from a drumstick that nearly tore the whole of the meat off the bone.
"I don't... disagree with you," Weiss began carefully, "but I certainly don't think it's right to pick on someone based on what they are."
Hunter eyed her, chewing thoughtfully. Blake seemed to be growing more and more irritated with the scene, less concerned with him or his opinions than with what was unfolding in front of her. He had little doubt if it went on for much longer that she would intervene. Which made perfect sense if his suspicions were correct.
His eyes flitted to and fro, looking… searching for something. He frowned. He didn't find it. With whirl, he turned on the bench and stood. Before any of the girls could realize what was happening, Hunter was gone.
Ruby had only turned her eyes away from him for a second while Weiss was talking! When she turned back he'd disappeared. Turning left and right, she whirled as she watched the boy approach where Cardin and Velvet were standing. For a second Ruby was worried Hunter was going do something rash, like hit him. She felt a sigh of relief leave her lungs when Hunter walked right past them.
Only to recoil in shock as she saw Hunter turn, wrap his arms around the boy's midsection from behind and lift. For a brief moment, Cardin's face was one of uncomprehending surprise as he balanced on Hunter's center of gravity. The next instant, food was flying in the air as both sides of the table snapped upward, the center crushed by a devastating suplex that left Cardin's head spinning and rear end in the air.
The entire cafeteria went silent save for exclamative murmurs as every eye turned to the source of the commotion. With a flutter of clothing, Hunter stood again, brushing stray foodstuffs from his shoulder. Noting the many eyes upon him, Hunter opted to ignore then, turning to the human-hare. "Miss Velvet, I believe?"
She gave a startled nod. "Y-Yes. And... you are?"
He gave a curt bow of his head. "Hunter. Are you hurt?"
She took a moment to contemplate whether she was or wasn't. The shock of the sudden intercession was quickly wearing away. "No, I'm fine. Thank you."
He nodded to her. "Good. For a moment, I feared his grip on your ear would turn vice-like."
The brief, almost imperceptible pause between "your" and "ear" was hopefully lost on the girl. He spoke before thinking to observe whether the ears were actually ears at all. Although Faunus might possess animal traits, he hadn't thought to question whether they were superfluous or not. As he spied, the red head did have human ears of her own. So perhaps the animal traits were simply evolutionary additions? He'd ponder that later.
As if to double-check herself, the girl reached up and gently stroked the ear that had been under Cardin's ministrations moments earlier. After an unsure second, her smile returned. "No, still attached," she said with a light chuckle, though whether it was genuine or in an attempt to diffuse the suddenly tense atmosphere he didn't know.
Cardin spoke up from his place as he brought himself to his feet. "That remains to be seen," he growled. Although Scarlet had been the target of his teasing, his gaze now fell solely and heavily on the interloper before him. There was a red in the boy's face that was likely a mix of embarrassment and rage. Hunter wasn't about to give him room to decide which it was.
Hunter turned to him fully. For a moment, even the hushed murmurings that had once been lively commotion a moment prior went silent. Everyone knew what it was. Both made themselves to be as imposing as possible, raising themselves to their full heights and doing their best to glower down at the other, though Hunter's height gave him quite the edge in that regard.
"Who do you think you are?" Cardin asked after a long moment of silence.
"What do you think you're doing?" Hunter countered with his own question.
Cardin blew out a puff of air. "We're just having a little fun. Is that a crime or something?"
Hunter felt a twitch threaten to assault his face, but he schooled himself. "Whose fun? Your fun? My fun? Her fun?" Hunter grunted dismissively. "Grow up."
He made to turn away before a rough hand turned him around. "The hell'd you say?"
Instantly they were separated by team RWBY, with Yang standing imposingly between them, her violet eyes mostly turned toward Cardin, though she saved a cautionary glance or two for Hunter as well. "That's enough!" she commanded, even as the rest of team CDRL suddenly caught up to support their leader.
Hunter allowed Ruby to drag him backwards two or three steps, keeping his eyes on Cardin as he raged. "Out of my way blondie!" Cardin demanded. "You gonna defend him? This freak who tried to kill us out on the border?" He scoffed. "Why are you protecting him?!"
"Headmaster Ozpin, made the decision," Weiss reminded coldly. "If you have a problem with that, then you can go talk to him."
Some of the wind seemed to blow from Cardin's sails at her reminder of the current authority but his fire was still going hot. "Just because he's the headmaster doesn't mean he's always right," he said with an accusing finger pointed at Yang. With a shrug of his shoulders, he freed himself of the hands that held him back. With a glowing look, he turned and made for the opposite side of the cafeteria.
The girls around Hunter slowly lowered their guards as he the boy distanced himself from them, and he gently brushed their steadying hands from his person. Yang was the first to speak as she turned from Cardin's back to Hunter's face.
"I'll be honest, that was pretty awesome what you did."
That hadn't been what Hunter had expected her to say. Given her character, he anticipated she would be the least likely to begrudge him a moment of passion. But he hadn't expected her outright praise. "I... Thank you."
Weiss on the other hand...
"What in the world were you thinking?!" He did his best not to flinch as she rounded on him. "Did you think you'd just fight it out and no one would stop you? Do you realize how much trouble we - you would be in if that had happened?"
He paused to consider her words and he found himself laughing despite himself. That caught the Schnee off-guard. It had been some time since he'd considered the ramification of his actions in regards to authoritative repercussions. And now he was reminded that he had to, for all intents and purposes, "behave."
What a world, what a world.
"Forgive me, I don't mean to make light of your concern," he said as he suppressed his humor. "Just wanted to teach him some manners is all."
If there was a phrase that the girls had been expecting him to spout as an excuse, that wasn't it. If Yang had been drinking milk, it would have shot out of her nose as she tried and failed to hold in her laughter. She held her sides as she laughed, Ruby and Blake joining in in due course, though not nearly as boisterously.
Weiss failed to see any humor in it at all, but she offered no more protests, only sinking to shaking her head and palming her face in bewilderment. To be fair, she was far too sensible to be a on a team with these three. But for all her sense, his actions, too, were logical. After all, if there was one thing that Hunter understood, it was that pain was the greatest disciplinarian. He wondered if she thought contrarily.
"Man, you are just a riot," Yang declared smacking him across his shoulder. "I wish I had your..." she trailed off waving her hands around her pelvic region. "You know. I'd have knocked Cardin through the window!"
Hunter raised an eyebrow and looked around the room. "Which window?"
Yang blinked and followed his gaze thoughtfully. "Probably all of them."
That drew a chuckle from him. "I appreciate your praise, but its nothing so heroic. It's just who I am; I see a problem, I take care of it the only way I know how."
Ruby rubbed up next to him. "Wiiiith overwhelming force?"
He gave a noncommittal shrug, grinning all the way. "Preferably."
When the excitement of the lunch hour spat had passed, they collected their things and headed off for their next class. It was when they were half way there that one of them realized that it was combat training class with Goodwitch, which meant they'd be seeing Cardin again very soon. In all likelihood, he and his team would call them out for sparring practice. If all went as usual, then Goodwitch would only permit matches between students she selected, but it was not unheard of for her to honor challenges from one student to another.
Ruby hoped that Cardin would let it go and not bother. Though, she knew she was hoping against hope in that regard. She especially didn't want to see Hunter get hurt in a grudge match, especially when he was simply doing the right thing by standing up to Cardin... if not in the most appropriate manner (though with a sister like Yang, who was she to judge?). But the more she thought about it, the more concerned she grew for Cardin, not Hunter. After all, it had taken the combined efforts of three teams of junior huntsman and huntresses to bring him down in the first place. And that was when he was going coo-coo for Coco Puffs. She couldn't put her finger on just how he had managed to do that actually... Usually when one fighter holds out against several others, like in the movies, there was a checklist of reasons why they were able to do so. Personal skill and experience played a large role, as did the weaponry of the combatants. But in their fight, all Ruby could remember was always being on her toes, either to defend, attack or support. She just couldn't place what Hunter's strengths were.
In fact a itty-bitty teeny-weeny tiny-whiny part of of her hoped Hunter would get called out. If only so she could watch him in action without actually being a part of the action. ...Did that make her a mean person? Ahh, best not to overthink things.
"No but seriously, if he calls you out, wipe the floor with him."
And apparently everyone else was thinking the same thing.
"I'll certainly do my best," Hunter agreed as they made their way into the classroom. Although he was acting modestly, it seemed to Ruby he wasn't the least bit concerned; the way he smiled and seemed to take in their surroundings with a curious eye as they walked betrayed no trepidation on his part for the upcoming class.
The room had a warm, welcoming sandy wood color to it, punctuated by cyan safety glass that edged the elevated semi-circle viewing stands above the depressed arena floor below. On either side of the stands were stairs that curled town to the floor. In the back of the room was a door that led into the locker room where each student's weapons were kept in storage, which they hurriedly entered.
Finding his locker, and quickly checking his scroll for the relevant data, he keyed in the random string of numbers that acted as his pass code. The coffin shaped storage unit opened with a hiss, revealing an all-too familiar rustic-red gleam of ancient iron. It hung on a prong, carefully placed just so. Next to it was another prong, upon which hung the familiar cylindrical mass that was his trusty blunderbuss. He noted that at the bottom of his locker there was a case. Curiosity prompted him to stoop and open it. Inside was an assortment of shells of varying colors were lined up in neat little groups, nestled within a dark spongy material that cushioned each casing. On the inside of the lid was fastened a letter bearing the singular word, "Hunter." Peeling off the sticky strip of material that held it there, he opened it and read.
"Hunter. I hope this letter finds you in good spirits. If you are reading this, it is more than likely that you are about to participate in your first combat training class of the semester. Bearing in mind your hesitation to use modern materials to upgrade your equipment, I had a friend prepare some ammunition for your rifle. The slugs you find in the case before you are comprised of Dust, which I hope by now to have sufficiently educated you on. Due to the unique nature of your firearm; specifically its reloading mechanism and barrel dimensions, these rounds are custom made to fit your weapon and your weapon alone. If the use of Dust gives you cause for concern, feel free to experiment with them at your leisure.
Blessed are the gifts given unexpectedly. Hunter made a mental note to thank the headmaster regardless of whether the rounds worked or not. Also in the case were the quicksilver bullets that had been on his person before his equipment had been confiscated. He stuck the letter onto the wall of the locker and began collecting the rounds. Although the use of new Dust cartridges intrigued him, walking into a fight with untested equipment was a catastrophe waiting to happen, so he, with great reluctance, only slipped two red casings into his bandoleer, filling the rest of the empty pouches with more familiar ammunition. Satisfied they were snug in their places, he gripped the pommels of his weapons with two hands and withdrew them, the familiar weight and heft settling over his shoulders and grounding him. To any proper fighter, a weapon must be to the warrior as your own limbs are to your body. Usage must be instinctual. Thoughtless. And one must know their limits.
Ah, but what comforting things limits are.
He nudged the door closed with the barrel of his gun. He was greeted with the sight of Yang adjusting a form-fitting yellow top around her chest.
"Oh, hey. Don't forget to double check you've got everything you need," she advised as she slipped her arms through the sleeves of a brown jacket. If memory served correctly it was the same outfit she'd been wearing when they'd first met in Ozpin's office.
Except he was fairly certain she'd been wearing a skirt before.
"I... did you just... right now...?"
She quirked an eyebrow at him curiously as she zipped the jacket together. Even after a few seconds of studying his expression, no light-bulb went off.
"...I have so many questions..."
She confusedly cocked her head to the side as she tried to discern what he was talking about. Following his gaze, she looked to herself. "Um... yes?"
The face Hunter made would forever be marked in Yang's memory as the most amusing expression of disbelief she'd ever seen.
"...Let me clarify, just so I have things straight," he began his face still scrunched up. "You took off your uniform, stripped down to your undergarments, and put on a whole other outfit all while a man was standing not a single pace from you?"
Yang let her eyes dance as she bounced on the balls of her feet. "Yyyep, pretty much."
"...Have you no decency at all?"
She might have though he was joking, but even she could tell much of the humor had gone out of his expression. She might have taken offence to such an accusation, but she quickly remembered he wasn't from Beacon, and she wasn't up to snuff on the social policies in other areas of the world. That, and Hunter did seem to lean a tad on the conservative side. Now she felt kind of bad.
"Is that not common where you're from?"
Hunter opened his mouth to respond, but quickly thought better of it. He was coming from a place of personal history, but "Hunter" was from Vacuo, a nation on Remnant. Standards were bound to be different, but he hadn't expected such a difference. "I... no, it's not. Forgive me, I'm just gobsmacked. I understand that those who fight together as a unit should live together, but even the changing room is communal?"
Yang made an -Oh- face as she began to put the pieces together. "Ohh... Well, first off I'm not exactly shy, so I don't care much myself regardless. But I think the concept is that, since we're all training to be huntsmen and huntresses, and people can die during missions, even those provided by the school, if we're mature enough to be sent out to fight genocidal monsters, we're mature enough to handle a little..." She searched for a word he might appreciate. "...undress."
Hunter's eyes narrowed. "I... see. Forgive me, it just... surprised me."
Yang almost let out a reflexive consolation, when a curious thought struck her. Narrowing her eyes as well she took a step closer. "You haven't ever... seen a girl... have you?" she said in a lower tone.
Despite everything that Hunter was, he couldn't stop a surge of heat from rushing his face. More by reflex than by intent, he pulled the mask around his neck over his face, hiding it from view. His eyes refused to look at the girl, or her partially revealed assets. "No." He said simply, slightly annoyed that he was suddenly so flustered at the girl's question.
For several seconds, Yang fought the urge to laugh and almost failed as a snicker puffed her cheeks out, caught before leaving her mouth by a hand to her lips. That and she felt bad for almost carelessly exposing Hunter to something he might have considered... special? Or something.
Sucking in her humor as best she could (but failing to completely wipe away the ear-to-ear smile on her face) Yang composed herself. "Sorry, sorry, I know that shouldn't be funny. Tell you what, if it bothers you, I'll try to be more conscious around you. Deal?"
Hunter cleared his throat as the awkwardness turned to business. "Yes... Yes. Agreed. Though I don't mean to make you feel uncomfortable either..."
For a moment, Yang almost let out an awww. Here she was making him feel out of place, and he was worried about her comfort. This guy was a gentleman. And not the teen-kid-dressed-in-a-suit-and-tie, holding-the-door-open-for-the-ladies gentleman. But a real, genuine respectable gentleman.
"No, no, that's OK! It doesn't bother me. I just didn't expect you to be so..."
"Proper?" he completed.
"Yeah," she agreed. "I mean, to be honest, I thought guys like you died out centuries ago."
Hunter felt a twinge of irony at her words. "You have no idea." He shook his head as Yang slipped on a pair of gold bracers over her wrists. "Though, I did notice there was a shower room off to the side," he said pointing in the direction he'd spotted it. "Are those also...?"
This time Yang shook her head. "Nope. The showers in the locker rooms are separate. I mean, pssh come on! There's maturity and then there's tempting fate, am I right?"
Hunter seemed to breath a sigh of relief. Not that he had room to judge the day's set standards of decency, but at least it wasn't all chaos. "Thank goodness... Wait, does that mean the others-"
"Hey guys! You all ready for a rip-roaring rodeo of regicide?!" Came Ruby's voice from behind Hunter, nearly making him jump in surprise. Behind her were both Blank and Weiss. They too had completely changed their attire.
Yang leaned in to murmur. "Yes, yes it does."
A barely visible shudder ran through Hunter's body as he learned in to murmur back. "We need to set some ground rules when we get back."
Yang gave a wink and a nod. "I'll talk to them tonight. A solid from me."
He followed with a nod of appreciation.
This exchange was missed however as Weiss was busy correcting the youngest member of the team. "No one royal is even participating in the class, so it cant be regicide. I mean, besides me of course." Blake rolled her eyes so visibly, a man standing on the broken moon could have seen it.
Hunter opened his mouth to object before he quickly shut it again. Thankfully his mask hid this action. Gods he loved his mask. He absently pulled it back down. "I wasn't aware you were from a noble family, Ms. Weiss."
The looked at him blankly for a moment before frustration marred her face. "What is it with half the population of Beacon not knowing who the Schnees are?!" Though it was a general question, she seemed to be shouting it to Ruby in particular. The girl in red seemed to look askance with a wry, embarrassed smile and a scratch of her cheek.
Her question went unanswered, so she composed herself (with an indignant huff) and gestured to herself. "My family is the foundation for the Schnee Dust Company. We ship dust all over the world and are its largest supplier. We have money, influence, and prestige. So, while not 'royal' per say, the Schnee family is pretty big deal." By the time her explanation had reached its end, her indignation had cooled to a textbook explanation.
Hunter realized there was a lot about these four girls he had no idea about. Another box to check off his list later.
He gave a hesitant nod. "I see." He grinned playfully. "Perhaps then, Ruby intends for you to be the target of said regicide."
Weiss blinked stoically for a moment before rounding on her teammate with both hands on her skirted hips.
"Hunter! Don't tell her my secre- oh, whaaaat? No I don't, that'd be dumb, who'dwanttohurtWeissomg..." She trailed off sarcastically, fidgeting under the Schnee's glare, not meeting her eyes.
Hunter couldn't resist a laugh. These children were so fully of life and energy. Would that he could relive childhood's beginning with girls like these.
A tone echoed through the locker room prompting those still loitering exit out to the classroom. "That's the bell," Blake explained. "We'd better get out there."
Hunter nodded. "Agreed. Can't be late to my first class, can I?"
The gallery was populated with students, all from the same year. in addition to himself and team RWBY, there were at least thirty-six other students, not all from Beacon; some from Haven, some from Atlas... Even three or six from Shade Academy. Some were more obvious than others. The Atlas troupe seemed to all ware a white uniform that looked both functional and militaristic. Shade Academy students seemed to be less well dressed than the others, favoring instead a light enemble that would do them well in the hot heat of the desert region. All were dressed for combat and armed with an assortment of impressively varied weaponry. Below them, on the stage stood the familiar blonde form of Professor Goodwitch. Though her words were primarily to the students, he felt her eyes linger on him more than once during her preparatory speech. She was, naturally, wary of him. Even if Ozpin seemed to trust him, it was clear she wasn't entirely confident in her compatriot's judgement. To be honest though, if he were in her position, he would be just as distrusting as she was.
"Any of your friends from Shade?" Ruby asked, leaning in to whisper to him, an excited smile on her face. He recalled that to the young girl, meeting new weapons was like meeting new people. The relationship between weapon and wielder was intricate and personal. And with each student in this world seemingly encouraged to make their own weapon which they would use throughout their career, each one spoke volumes about the wielder. Hunter understood her fascination well. Very well indeed.
"No," he said plainly. "I'm not the friend-making type, here or there."
Ruby almost frowned, but found her smile again as she cocked her head at him. "You did good with us," she said, as if to prove him wrong.
He allowed a smile to reflect on his own face. "Well, that seems to be true." His eyes sparkled with something she could not see, and glinted with a warm light. "Miracles do happen now and then."
"Now, who wants to be our first participants of the day?" she asked, having gotten through the announcements which Hunter hadn't been focusing on. She turned to one student in particular. "Mr. Winchester?"
The boy stood with a growl. "Sure, I'll go first. And I know exactly who I want to fight..." He was looking directly at Hunter.
THis fact did not escape Glynda. "Ah yes. Looking for a little payback for lunch, Mr. Winchester?" Her words snapped his gaze back to her worriedly. "Yes," she confirmed, though he hadn't asked anything. "We're aware of your little... scuffle earlier."
Hunter breathed a breath out his nose as all eyes turned to him. He frowned and shrugged his shoulders. "I decline."
A wave of murmurs passed through the crowd, sending Cardin into a tizzy. "What do you mean, 'decline?' You were acting all brave earlier? Whatsamatter? Scared now that you can't sneak up on me?"
Antagonistic. But it was a valid question. RWBY looked from one boy to the next expectantly. Yang gave him a thumbs up followed by punching her fist into her hand aggressively.
But he shook his head, mostly for their benefit than his own. "I'm not interested in fighting you in the slightest," he said simply. One of the other spectators, a girl with a pink skirt and mango colored hair cackled uproariously.
"HAHAA! Cardin got dumped!"
This spawned a few fits of laughter from the other students as well, and Cardin's fury began to boil. "Shut up Valkyrie!" he said with a pointed finger before returning his attention to his target. "I'm challenging you newbie! Fight me fair and square!"
Hunter fixed him with a blatant stare, standing up to address him from across the room. "And I'm declining your challenge. You're a bully. You have neither my respect nor my attention."
Cardin opened his mouth to retort but no sounds came out. What could he said that might strike a nerve under the new student's skin? Nothing that professor Goodwitch wouldn't berate him severely for later. He wisely kept silent.
"Well," said professor interjected in the ensuing silence. "There you have it, Mr. Winchester."
Cardin ruefully sat down, stewing in frustration and disdain. A myriad of emotions flashed over his face and none of them were pleasant.
Meeting Cardin's silence, Goodwitch proceeded. "...Anyone else, Mr. Winchester?"
Cardin huffed and rested his arms behind his head dismissively. "It doesn't matter."
Goodwitch rgarded the young man for a moment before looking down at her scroll thoughtfully. "I see... I suppose I'll have to choose for you. How about team CDRL..." All eyes widened. A team fight? But versus who?
A commotion sprung up around the classroom. Switching from a mano a mano duel to a team fight was one thing, but stacking one team against a single opponent? That was absured. But at the same time, Hunter heard them all excuse it; "It is Pyrrha Nikos after all." By the words of the many, it did seem Ms. Nikos had a bit of a reputation as a capable fighter, even among those from other schools. This intrigued him. Was she really capable of competing against four young men? She would need considerable capability to keep up with the strength and vigor of the four boys making their way down to the stage. He leaned forward in his seat, taking a keen interest from the offset.
They lined up and faced each other, and with a signal from the professor, the fight began.
The sights and sounds of Beacon were alarmingly much for the four as they made their way through the bustling city streets. The noise of many beings speaking all at once, some in conversation, some hocking their wares, and others calling for transportation from the many taxis or buses on the street. It was a far cry from the gentle secluded forests she was used to, the quiet streams and flowery meadows... Still, she bore with the oppressive atmosphere as well as any of her teammates. Jericho, Janus and Proteus couldn't stop their eyes from wandering as they made their way to the center of the city, the academy of Beacon itself. Their arrival had been without fanfare or obstruction and, after announcing their arrival to the city's law enforcement, they were given passes which would indicate them as participants in the Vytal Festival. Calipso clutched the pass close to her chest, as if it would disappear if she let it go.
She knew she was probably too nervous about this than she should have been, a fact that Janus would chide her for, and Jericho would tease her for. Proteus, of the three of them, was the one she got along with best. He wasn't as outgoing, and so was easy to talk (or vent) to. He didn't instinctively control the conversation like the others. He preferred to take a step back and observe the situation before getting involved, partially so that he could dissect what he was seeing, and also because he wasn't as confident as the others. He was the kind of guy who had to be sure about something before capitalizing on it.
Conversely, Janus had no trouble speaking his mind, more often than not correcting one or all of them them about one thing or another, which was understandably irritating. But even she had to admit that most of the time it was warranted; He was usually right, and he at least practiced what he preached.
Jericho on the other hand always had something negative to say about everything, or dismissively ignorant of things he didn't care for. He was an arrogant SOB that drove her up the wall whenever he spoke. But what annoyed her even more than his egotism was his battle-sense. Between the four of them, he had an unnatural instinct to sense when danger was near and react before she could think to the same. He refused to give credit to anybody for them, claiming that they were an evolutionary symbol of his superiority. He also wasn't as dumb as she'd like to believe either.
All this to say she wasn't perfect; she had her share of flaws that she hated as much as the next girl. But she had goals. Unlike her teammates who seemed content to kill Grimm, eat, sleep, rinse and repeat, she wasn't keen on settling for a mundane life like that. No one ever got anywhere by being content. This sometimes (often) bled into her interactions with her team in the same way. She had no doubt she probably made a fool of herself more than once, but she'd requested more than once to be transferred to a more... professional team, one that might more appropriately assist in accomplishing her dreams.
These three though? Ugh... Half the time they behaved like children, but the most infuriating part was when they actually nutted-up and looked the picture of professionalism. It made her physically unwell. They were perfectly capable of behaving like professional huntsmen, but they always regressed to childishness. Of course she'd gone to the headmaster about it, asking, begging him to transfer her to a new team. He refused, citing some age-old adage about pottery never looking like anything until time and effort was put into it. Only her pride kept her from storming off.
Today was a good day, where none of them had any particular gripes to share or grievances to air. She suspected the unfamiliar city had their senses on edge and their wanderlust drifting.
"Well, since we've got nothing to do for the day, what say we all grab something to eat?" Janus suggested his brown eyes fixing on a street-side vendor several blocks down. He was always one to catch and cook his own food, so she was surprised how often he would opt to eat out at a restaurant when given the opportunity. Not that she disagreed with his suggestion, though she'd die before eating street vendor food.
Much to her distaste, neither Proteus nor Jericho dissented. "I could go for a bite," Jericho said, though he was looking at another establishment across the street.
"Sounds good to me. But I think we should find our hotel first," Proteus stipulated, checking his scroll and swiping to a map of the city whereupon was a legend of the various sights to see and places of interest to visit.
She found herself shaking her head. "Uh, no thanks. I'll... I'm gonna go look around. I'll find my way to the hotel one way or another."
All three boys looked at her. Jericho was giving her that look again. She hated that look. He was contemptuous by nature, and as much as he was a pain in her neck, she knew her more individualistic nature rubbed him the wrong way. There goes loner-Cali again, she's too good for our company. And he knew she knew it, which made it all the worse.
Janus regarded her for a moment, but eventually nodded. "We'll see you there then. Do you want us to pick you up something or...?" To his credit, for all his high-and-mighty attitude got to her, he did care about the team's well-being, though he wasn't perceptive enough to notice all of the little interpersonal tensions that existed between them all. His concerns were almost purely in the physical, which made for some very blunt, and very awkward comments sometimes. Sometimes.
"Don't bother," she said pointing to her scroll. "I want to go check out one of the open classes. If I run I can make it."
Open classes were a thing that Beacon was doing this year, allowing traveling students who were residing in the city to observe classes while they waited for the Vytal Festival to begin. Some huntsmen and huntresses would attend for the simple interest in the class, but she had a whole other reason for angling for one class in particular.
"And that's the match."
The fight was over. Pyrrha Nikos had, to use the colloquialism, wiped the floor with team CRDL. And the amazing thing? Not a single strike from them had as much as scratched her skin. It was a fantastic display of skill and finesse. Hunter wished he could watch it again. Applause came from the many around him and he found himself joining in their adulation.
"Winner, Pyrrha Nikos." Professor Goodwitch eyed the groaning, barely-ambulating boys from CRDL and gave a disappointed look. "Perhaps you four will take what you've learned here to heart, yes? An outnumbered opponent isn't necessarily an outmatched opponent." The collective groans of the boys as they almost crawled off the stage was enough of a confirmation on their part.
She looked down at her scroll. On it was a list of students, and a checklist of those who had and had not participated in class for the past few sessions. She scrolled through it, noting that one name stood out from it. She paused over it. The fact that the name was there meant that she had to act within her faculties as a professor and include everyone in the class. Even those she would prefer did were not present.
The boy in question raised his brow and pointed to himself, as if there was another person named Hunter that she might have called. But her direct gaze was indicative enough that she did in fact mean him. Many of the students were looking his way, trying to spy who it was she was talking to, who they were next going to spectate as they sparred.
As soon as his brow raised, it furrowed, and Glynda had a feeling she understood why. He was confused. Perhaps he thought that because of whatever deal he'd struck with Ozpin, he was safe from class participation. Well, even if he was something special, that didn't mean he could shirk off his classwork. And if that meant sparring, then that damn well meant sparring. Not that she was keen on allowing someone who had just fought against (and lost to) her students in the field in a bout of heat delirium (she seriously doubted the validity of that claim) fight against some of those same students now, but she figured that if he was to do so at all, it would be best under her watchful eyes.
She nodded to him. "How do you feel about a spar? I hear its great for getting those first day jitters out of the system." She let a small smirk grace her face as some of the students chuckled under their breath. Truth be told, this was exactly how she would treat a new student who had just transferred, as was Hunter's alibi.
Slowly, warily, Hunter stood to his feet and nodded. "Very well. On one condition."
Now it was her turn to raise an eyebrow. "And that is?"
Hunter pointed his finger to the only other person on the platform. A glint in his eye spoke of something Glynda had seen all too many times; a desire to prove oneself. To challenge.
"I'd like to fight Miss Nikos."
She frowned. "Miss Nikos has just completed a match. I'm afraid you'll have to choose someone else or, of course, I can choose someone for you."
But to her surprise the girl waved her off. "No, that's fine," she assured with a matching expression in her own eyes. "It'd love to give it a go."
Glynda gave her a skeptical look. "...You're sure Miss Nikos?"
"Absolutely." To her credit, the girl had a winning smile.
Glynda felt a breath leave her chest. "Very well."
Hunter descended the steps and walked up on the stage, he kept his eyes on the gold and scarlet clad girl, looking much, aesthetically, like the soldiers of antiquity. In her arms and legs he saw the firm muscles of a warrior and her core was solid and grounded. During her previous fight, her center of gravity never once shifted out of place. She was in complete control of her body, as a warrior should be.
Compared to the boys she all but trashed, she was like a god. He wondered how she would fair...
But his attention was diverted to her face as she spoke. She wore a bright, warm smile that contained no hostility whatsoever. Perhaps a hint of challenge to it, but that was to be expected in anyone who looked forward to competition. "We got off on the wrong foot the other day," she said, and he realized that she must have been one of the ones to subdue him. He'd thought she looked familiar! "My name's Pyrrha Nikos. A pleasure to meet you." She twirled her weapon in hand idly.
He nodded eyeing both it and the shield she bore. "The same. Forgive me if I seem," he paused, "distant. I don't recall much from... well, from before." Her look of recognition indicated she knew what he was talking about. he gave a small bend at the waist, bringing his right arm over to his right. "My name is Hunter." He reached behind him and withdrew his weapons. "It's an honor to meet you in combat properly."
She quirked a small, humored smirk "This is basically a Welcome-to-Beacon bout. The honor of first impressions is mine."
She eyed them for a moment, as a warrior might, taking in their size, their apparent function, weighing them against her own arsenal of equipment and capabilities. From the hardening look on her face, as well as the eager grin that joined it, it was obvious she considered him in a different league than the CDRL boys.
He pulled his mask up over his face. He'd be damned if he disappointed.
"If you're both ready..." Goodwitch glanced between them both judging their preparedness and raising a hand to signal the match, "...begin!"
Unlike Cardin and his ilk, Pyrrha didn't immediately rush in for the attack. Instead, she crossed her legs, one over the other and began to circle him. He followed suit, watching her shifting stance for an opening to exploit. From her performance before, he'd seen the uses of her weapon. Fashioned after the head of a javelin, it was effectively a short sword and a variable rifle. Her left hand held a bronze shield, circular and thick, yet held with such grace he almost believed it was weightless in her hands. What confounded him was her choice of armor. He understood that armor was relatively redundant in the Grimm-hunting profession due to the existence of aura.
Where physical and metaphysical met, there aura existed. It was the primary source of protection against harm. Thus, he deduced that any indication of actual armor was likely just an aesthetic choice, which was the only way he could rationalize the way her armor was designed. Vast swathes of her body were left unprotected. A pity the aforementioned aura kept him from exploiting them.
In an instant, her spear shifted into a gun and she raised it to her shoulder. He felt the familiar prickle of danger on his neck; he was moving before the bullet left its chamber. Left, right, left, left, right. He rushed her, bringing his saw to bear. She backhanded it away with her shield, her weapon shifting again to the blade. She retaliated, not only slashing, but striking with her legs and arms. He'd seen her do this before, and it was beautiful to watch, but facing the onslaught himself, he realized just how complicated fighting against her actually was. Steel scraped steel as their weapons met, sparks causing neither to so much as blink.
She was still smiling.
He deviated, whirling and striking with his blunderbuss which she caught with her shield, spinning and swinging with her blade. He stepped back to dodge it, but the handle to the sword extended and slid from her grasp. She caught it at right before it would leave her reach and it slashed him across the chest. He felt pain radiate from the slice and he stumbled backward. He dropped to a knee, his weapon clattering against the floor as he instinctively brought a hand to his chest. He let out an instinctive groan and embraced the pain. He hadn't actually expected her to land the attack. Evidently neither did she.
Her grin vanished, replaced by stunned inaction. She clearly hadn't thought she'd actually cut him. "W-What?! But I... I didn't..."
Goodwitch's reaction was much the same. According to her device, which he had noted was capable of monitoring one's aura level, his aura was still at one hundred percent, while Nikos' was much the same. She was as much stunned to silence as her student was. Nikos glanced from her victim to her professor as if begging for an explanation, or perhaps vindication. She'd done nothing out of the ordinary after all. Even if she'd hit him with her strongest attack, she shouldn't have been able to breach fresh defenses. And yet she had. Trivially. Effortlessly.
But this was, to some extent, to be expected. He grinned beneath his mask as he angled his gun at her and fired. The shot slammed into the red-head full force, sending her staggering back several steps. With a lunge, he grabbed his fallen weapon and lurched forward, swinging in a wide arc. Staggered though she might be, Miss Nikos was certainly something spectacular, as she found her footing just in time to step back out of reach of his weapon. But her's was not the only weapon capable of extending its reach.
With a rustic grinding of gears, the saw blade swung out, long enough to catch her in the side, and with enough force to send her tumbling across the stage. Without even waiting for her to stop rolling, his gun's break-action lever ejected the spent shell as he loaded a fresh one in, closing it with a flick of his wrist and firing again. But this one wasn't a quicksilver bullet. This one was one of the red-dust rounds bestowed from professor Ozpin. If it functioned as he suspected...
She had just enough time to hear the shot and raise her shield in front of her body before it hit her full force. The explosion sent a cloud of black smoke bursting from the impact point, no Pyrrha Nikos to be seen. The entire hall was silent as he peered into the smoke. He waited for movement. For her to come barreling out of it toward him. Instead, the low-profiled golden discus-of-a-shield flew straight for his face. he raised his gun in time to deflect it, and succeeded in doing so, though he lost his grip from the force of the throw.
Both secondaries were tossed into the air. Behind it trailed the girl, the pleasant smile gone from her face and fierce determination replacing it. Her right hand brandished her weapon. As did his.
He retracted the weapon back into its compacted form and readied himself. They met blade to blade, her more acrobatic combat style gaining her ground as he backpedaled. But as soon as she had the advantage, she lost it. In a flourish of movement that she knew had no chance of hitting her, she found herself at a loss for breath as a deep gut-wrenching pain slammed into her midsection, only slightly nullified by her aura and armor. As she stumbled back, she was also trying to understand how he'd just managed to slip inside her guard. But she was quick on her feet as she spun her blade up and transformed it into a rifle again spraying accurate shots in his direction, again, dodged by uncanny movements that shouldn't have been possible to execute.
Another oddity she couldn't understand. Unless he was bolstered by some sort of semblance-enhanced speed, there was no chance her shots should miss, and she wasn't so inaccurate as to miss in the first place. And yet, he clearly wasn't; his form was indelicate and rudimentary, with some of his moves both telling and sluggish.
He kicked his lost weapon back up into his left hand and fired. She had to brace herself as the buckshot slammed into her aura shield and sent her sliding back by inches. She grit her teeth and shook her head. She hadn't expected him to have a second round loaded in the chamber already. He'd reloaded after only one shot before... Was his rifle capable of holding more than that? Had his reload been deliberate? To lull her into a false sense of security?
He rushed her. Both hands swung wildly, but dangerously. Even if the rifle was no more than an iron club without ammunition (and she wasn't taking any chances thinking it wasn't loaded) it was still a strike that would do damage if it connected. Her shield reappeared on her arm. If its appearance surprised him, it didn't show, for what expressions on his masked face might be worth. Edge met edge, gun met shield. Whatever shock she'd had at the appearance of his wound had passed and she focused herself on subduing him. But she noted how with every clash they had, his strikes became more accurate, his movements more fluid, and his hand-to-hand combat more pronounced. He was beginning to use his legs more to strike, maintain his footing, and to disrupt her own.
If she'd had the presence of mind to think, she'd think it was as if he were adapting (with uncanny efficiency) to her fighting style. He twisted, stepping away and whirling his extended blade at her with a blast of ominous wind and iron. She quickly activated her semblance, nudging the flying blade ever so slightly off course, which she emphasized by smacking it away with her shield. Why he felt like it was a good idea to throw away his weapon, she didn't know, but regardless if it might be a trap or not, it was the perfect moment to claim victory.
She spun her spear around her neck, catching it with her right hand and managing to slash it against Hunter's throat. She made a conscious effort to stop the blade before it cut through his flesh.
His right hand was outstretched, naught inches from her face. Whatever his next move had been, he'd stopped mid strike. Her left, shield-bearing arm was swung down to her right side, knocking against the barrel of his gun, keeping it from aiming towards her.
It was by no means a clean touché, but between her blade and his open-handed strike, she figured she had the advantage.
After several seconds Hunter let out a long breath of air and he noticed just what he was about to do, what was about to strike the girl from all sides. What she couldn't even begin to perceive. He withdrew his limbs, and she did the same, stepping back to appraise one another.
Hunter smiled. "Well fought, Miss Nikos," he complimented with a nod as he pulled his mask down to his neck.
"Pyrrha, please," she corrected, before asking what was so powerfully on her mind. "Are you... okay?" She knew he shouldn't be, but the way he was nonchalantly carrying on, the way he behaved... it was like he wasn't even registering his earlier wound.
He patted his chest where she'd cut through his cloak. "No need to worry," he said with a sly grin. "It's my semblance."
She raised her eyebrows, glancing to Glynda as if for confirmation. "...Your semblance?" But the blonde was equally in the dark as she.
Hunter nodded. "My semblance is rather unique. Instead of manifesting my aura as a protective coat of arms, it instead translates damage I inflict as healing to myself." he pulled the slip clothes apart to show her the flesh beneath. It wasn't a complete heal, she noted, but the thin white scar-line that was where she doubtlessly caught him was nothing like the open wound she expected to see. "Perhaps I should have warned you before," he added with mirth as he gave himself a satisfactory pat over his non-wound. "But I wanted to see your reaction."
"Ignoring how dangerous that is," she began, though she tried to reciprocate his humor, "that's a bit dirty, don't you think?"
His smile dimmed a touch, and she thought she saw genuine sorrow... of some sort... inside his eyes.
"Yes... Sorry. I'm used to fighting Grimm, not people. I'm more of a, 'a win's a win' kind of fellow. Treat every fight like its for your life, because the one time you don't, you'll lose it."
Pyrrha couldn't help the frown on her face, and though she couldn't see it, Hunter beheld an empathy he hadn't expected in a girl as young as her. "I won't say that's not wise, but at the same time that's so..." she searched for the words, "sad." She didn't speak with sarcasm or sass, and the tone of her voice pulled at something inside him.
Gods, the girl was mature beyond her years.
Hunter considered those words. Ozpin had implied the dangerous connection between emotions and the lure of the creatures of Grimm. He supposed, fighting another student in what was essentially a competition of skill and technique should committed with more levity and entertainment. He let out an ironic laugh. When was the last time he had fought with those emotions in his heart? He couldn't remember a single instance.
It was all so very... pitiful, really. The only readily available comparison he could bring to bear was the thrill of the fight, which for a hunter was a very, very dangerous thing indeed. He felt his mask slip. Not the mask of cloth about his neck, but the one he wore over his face, over himself. That was an utterly perceptive statement from one so young. So honest, so true.
"It is," he agreed, giving her a strange look. "Perhaps a dose of friendly competition is exactly what I need?" He laughed off his gloom dismissively. Of course, she was a child. Barely a newborn babe. She didn't know the horrors that awaited those who lived long enough to experience them. But why expose her that that abyss? So few could face it without blinking. Let her have her youthful callowness. He eyed the many spectators watching them. Let them all have their innocence. Sooner or later, they will face the deep, more than one of them will flounder there and drown.
But the deep was his domain. None would be lost while he patrolled those depths. That, he asserted.
Pyrrha returned his smile, though it seemed a bit forced. "Well, I don't think it would be a bad thing. For you or anyone really."
He smiled at her thoughtfully. "Pyrrha Nikos. I'll remember that name."
"And I'll remember yours, Hunter." She extended her hand and he looked at it for a moment before clasping it.
Glynda smiled at them both and stepped forward to address the class. "Winner, Pyrrha Nikos. Well fought, both of you." She eyed Hunter warily, but her words seemed to be genuine regardless. He returned her look with equal wariness. He doubted this was a woman he would ever fully get along with. Nevertheless, he bore her no ill will. He just found her continued skepticism... wearying. But to each their own.
Neither of them noticed the figure in the back of the room watching with intense curiosity.
Calipso had entered the room in the middle of the fight, and she had to shake her head to make sure she wasn't just seeing things. She had traveled quite a ways and perhaps she was more hungry than she thought. But no, she wasn't imagining things. There, center-stage was one like them, a huntsman who fashioned himself after the style of the old headmaster.
Everything about him screamed familiarity. His weapon was rough and rudimentary, but so very like those that the Old Man had shown them when they joined the school. No, it was unmistakably a saw-cleaver; a weapon of the hunters of old.
And the blunderbuss with the break-action loading system, the rustic iron texture of both weapons... And his attire! The drab black cloak, the full length leather gloves, boots... The mask. The cap. He was, element for element dressed in the trappings of their school's uniform. But he was no student she'd ever seen. Even from a distance he carried himself with an uncanny air that set all her senses screaming. He reminded her so much less of a student and more like... like...
The realization dawned on her like strange epiphany. "Professor M," she whispered without realizing it. He had the same distant look in his eyes, the same mildly apathetic smile that held so little real emotion; she could see it even under his mask. Maybe these other students didn't notice, but she was intimately familiar with it; she'd spent enough time with the woman to know that expression when she saw it. After all, in addition to being her squad's mentor, she was also Cali's idol, though she'd never let the boys know that.
Was he some sort of impostor? She debated how likely that scenario was... and she had to admit, watching him fight, she found that hypothesis very strong indeed.
As the fight climaxed, she found herself blinking at the vitreous humour that evaded her vision. She rubbed a tired eye. Perhaps she should have taken her team up on their offers for food after all. She blinked away the black spots in her vision, formed from the force of her massaging, and watched as the familiar stranger picked up his discarded weapon and made to return to his seat.
She knew Pyrrha Nikos by reputation, and her face was on the face of every Pumpkin Pete's cereal box. The legendary warrior was known throughout the Vale by even the youngest aspiring huntress, and even outside the Kingdom, tournament aficionados would know her by even the slightest glance of her red pony-tail.
For a nobody, he put up a good fight. She'd seen enough of Nikos' fights on the net to know the girl's tactics and habits. She also knew what the girl looked like when she was pressured.
She looked aside and saw a student sitting close to the center aisle. She approached and tapped him on the shoulder. "Hey, did you catch the name of the other guy?" she asked, indicating with a finger to the person in question.
The student followed her gaze and nodded. "Yeah, I think his name was Hunter... or something."
She almost balked at the words that came out of his mouth. "...Hunter?" It was less of a question than she intended.
The boy nodded. "Pretty sure, yeah."
She took a moment to digest that before she returned his nod, muttered a quick "thanks," and rushed out of the room to find her team somewhere within the labyrinth of the city.
They were not going to believe this.
A/N: And there you have it! Chapter three done and dusted! I'll be absolutely frank with you all, I didn't want to do this one. Rather, I didn't want to do the whole cliche, "New guy's first class is combat class" trope, but The more I thought about it the more I realized it would progress the story in the proper manner that I have planned. There was another way I could have done it, but I wasn't confident that it would be entertaining to read. I foresaw that path taking far too long to ramp up. So here we are.
But of course, WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!
Hunter has a semblance? Wait, he has an aura?! What? How? Why?! I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS!
Fear not, all will be revealed soon enough! For now, feel free to speculate and wonder the how-so's and the why-for's to your heart's content! I'll see you all on the next one!
Soon. Very soon... ;)