Hi and welcome to my very first RWBY fanfiction! Obligatory introduction follows.
For those that know my works in the Raildex universe, the style for my RWBY stories will pretty much be the same: Fast-paced, adventurous, plot-driven stories with a lot of focus on making the ride as fun as possible. Mainly by putting our beloved characters in testing, terrible, and/or crazy situations. And don't rule out a little romance, even if it isn't the main theme.
I hope to expand my experience in story-telling and genres and hopefully, maybe some of you will like what you see here. For this story I've worked on "getting it done" which means I've focused mainly on moving the plot ahead and finish the story, and not so much on the exposition and plot-unrelated details and lengthy editing. I won't bore you with the writing jargon, just know that this means other stories could be executed slightly different, especially depending on any feedback here and as I become more familiar with writing for this fandom.
It also means this story is already completely written and will be posted as quickly as I can get the edits finished on each chapter. This is my little contribution to the ocean that is RWBYs amazing fanfiction writers and stories. Judging by how much fun I had writing this, it will hardly be the last.
While parts of this is beta-read, any and all atrocities are purely my own doing and not the fault of the wonderful people trying to teach me better English (valiant efforts have been made).
Beta: Skarlashka, TPK
When the Story Ends
Chapter 1: Frozen
Flap… Flap… Screeech!
The familiar sound was almost nostalgic, now. Ruby hadn't heard a griffon since Vacuo, where they'd laid waste to an entire flocks of them. Laying here, atop Beacon tower, watching one griffon circling around high above, was almost calming in its own way. Silver eyes trailed the flight path over and over as the beast continued to soar, never coming closer. Her red cape pooled below her, the soft hood cushioning her head. A single Grimm was nothing exciting. In fact, the entire area was crawling with Grimm, but on top of the tower, Ruby was left all on her own. It was one of the few places she could be by herself these days, what with refugees crowding every nook and cranny of Signal Academy.
Vale was still in disarray after the Fall of Beacon, and the following three years with constant Grimm attacks didn't make things better.
With a small sigh, Ruby closed her eyes. Right now, at least, nothing of the sort demanded her attention. That is to say… she turned her head to look at the gaping maw frozen in time on top of Beacon Tower. In part, it was the reason why Ruby could lay here undisturbed. Though the Grimm were drawn to the majestic dragon, they tended to stay at a certain distance. It made the ruins of Ozpin's old office the most peaceful patch of land in Vale right now.
Peaceful, yes, but sooooo boring. Ruby ached to go hunting with Yang or play with Zwei or something, anything but this! Uncle Qrow would hoist her up on his scythe again if she showed up without even making an effort though. Oh, and Ren had said something about pancakes when she returned~
Feeling a bit rejuvenated, she sat up and faced the dragon once more.
Its frozen maw gaped harmlessly in her direction, saucer-sized eyes staring silently at a point beyond herself.
"You know, your mistress is gone," she said, cocking her head to the side, "you're the only one left."
The dragon didn't answer. It never did. She still imagined it could hear her, through the petrified surface of its body. Not really rock, but a substance no one seemed able to explain. It was like its very body had crystallized from the inside out rather than turning to dust like most Grimm did.
Ruby kept talking. "Well, I guess some of her henchmen are hanging around still, but they're not exactly a threat anymore. You wouldn't believe how great Hazel is at stitching! He even fixed my cloak, see?" She tugged at the cloak near her shoulder, where a row of stitches adorned the red cloth. The cloak had taken a hit courtesy of a particularly vile nevermore back when they flew in to Vale. "He only had white thread though… oh! I bet you'd be excited to hear that Cinder's still alive too. Um… kinda." Her eyes glanced away from the dragon. "She's not… really all there anymore. But she's the one saying you're the last Ancient left in the entirety of Remnant, and I guess after everything she's been through, there's no reason to distrust her."
Her conversation partner remained silent. Ruby flopped back down on the floor.
"Soooo hoooow do we go about removing you…"
The frozen dragon wasn't exactly something they could simply move. Destroying it had proved impossible, even with Nora's mighty hammer or generous amounts of fire dust. With the added condition of avoiding as much damage to the tower as possible, the job was even harder. Ruby honestly didn't have any good ideas, it seemed like other people had far more luck coming up with clever ideas for how to unfreeze the thing.
Which was why she was stuck here, every day, trying to… something. Apparently, someone believed that the one who froze the dragon could also undo the action and get the thing killed.
"Skreeeeeee!" The griffon had finally overcome its primal fear and landed on the edge of the tower, screeching in Ruby's direction. She turned her head, watching it curiously.
"Skreeeeeeee!" Huge wings flapped angrily. A second later it charged – and burst into flames, crumbling beneath silvery tongues of fire until only sparkling dust remained. It vanished into thin air, leaving no trace of the griffon behind.
Ruby's lips tugged upwards, until a throb pierced her head. Her hand automatically shot up to her nose. Just a small trickle this time. She wiped the blood on the floor and grimaced, vowing to bring a tissue next time.
"Yeah, so it'd be cool if you'd let me do that thing to you," she stated towards her frozen friend. "Seems like whatever happened to you is a lot more complicated though."
She eyed the beast, then stood and walked closer. Looking into its frozen eyes, poking at ancient teeth, and running her hand along the jagged spikes on its jaw. It was like touching glass. Once, she'd been overwhelmed by the sight of the monster, but since that night she'd seen far worse. It was an Ancient though. Capable of spawning more Grimm, and the only spawn point left in Remnant.
Removing it meant the end of thousands of years of conflict. If only Ruby could figure out how to do so.
Growl! Her stomach decided to break the silence.
"Pancakes!" Ruby jumped to her feet, eagerly pulling Crescent Rose from the clip on her back. Her trusty old scythe still held on, although multiple parts had been replaced since she first left Beacon. Now she swung it around, extending it into its full scythe form. With the blade hovering above the ground behind her, she grinned at the dragon.
"I'll see you tomorrow, stone face!"
A single gunshot sent her flying, and her semblance did the rest. The Grimm below only saw a blur hurtling across the edge of the tower, leaving behind a trail of rose petals.
Signal Academy was bustling with life. Not only did it act as team Good Guys™ headquarters on the island of Patch outside Vale, but it was also the main refugee encampment for Vale citizens who'd lost their homes to the Grimm.
"It feels great to be back in action!" Yang stretched her entire body.
"And I set a new record in bench presses!" Beside her, Nora proudly flexed her arms. The two of them had earned themselves the title of Signal's newest muscleheads since they'd arrived a few weeks ago. Sadly, not much action had been seen for the two warriors since landing in Patch, apart from the rare Grimm packs straying into Vale every now and then.
"Let's host an arm wrestling tournament with the gang later," Yang grinned, "I'm aching to crush someone's pride."
"I wanna crush some Grimm~" Nora sing-sang, clasping her hands behind her back and strutting ahead cheerily.
"Could always go hunting in Emerald…" Yang trailed off as her eyes caught the movement of a bullhead outside the windows. Its wooden wings slowly flapped as the airship soared across the cloudy sky from the direction of Vale. Yang's heart made a little jump of excitement.
"Already? I thought she wouldn't be here until tomorrow?" Nora shielded her eyes as she stared out the window, squinting hard. "How do we know they're not criminals from Vale? Ooooh!" She grabbed her weapon from its holster with a sinister smile. "We better go check."
"Way ahead!" Yang ran along the hallway, familiar with Signal's layout and every shortcut after spending four years in this very building. That felt like another life, a life in which Yang the teenager had yet to see single drop of blood spill on a battlefield. So much was different now, but the school hadn't changed at all.
The bullhead had barely landed by the time they reached the docks serving Signal Academy. They waited beyond the safety line while the ship's thrusters slowed its descent and finally touched down on the landing area. Nora gripped her hammer with a grin, and Yang's grin grew broader and broader as her stomach soared. As soon as the ship stilled and the door opened with a release of air pressure, Yang stood outside waiting. A few White Fang goons spilled out first, tossing her curious glances, but Yang kept grinning until her target showed up. Before the black-haired woman even got a look at the docks around them, she was caught in a sudden hug and lifted off the ground in a twirl.
"You're back! You look great!" She put the girl down to give her a once-over. Her old team partner had surely matured into a beautiful woman, but Yang's scrutinizing eyes were looking for something in particular.
"Hmmm. No hickeys? Man, what's Sun even doing, not marking his prize properly?"
"Oh my god, Yang!" Blake's ears lay flat against her head as she pushed the blonde away, blushing furiously. Yang only laughed at her. "Really, you're acting like it's been years."
"Well, it's been months!"
"Only a couple." Finally, Blake smiled. "It's good to see you again, Yang."
Around them, the White Fang members unloaded crates and boxes. It was still unfamiliar seeing them without masks, and the well-known white tunics with red emblems had been changed for blue and white.
"Looks like you've got 'em well trained." Yang teased.
"They're my comrades, not soldiers. We brought supplies from Menagerie and Vacuo. How are things here anyway?"
"Oh come on, I just got back from the gym and I'm starving. Don't go all politics on us first thing! You're starting to sound like Weiss." Yang propped an arm around Blake's shoulders and pulled her along. Blake rolled her eyes but still smiled, looking back over her shoulder to address her White Fang companions.
"Ilia, I'll find out what we're doing for sleeping quarters."
The freckled woman made a quick salute. "Of course. I'll take care of the cargo."
"Thank you. Keep in touch."
At that, Blake followed Yang along.
"Welllll trained~" Yang snickered, earning herself another eye roll. Upon seeing Nora waving her whole arm, hammer and all, a small smile appeared on Blake's lips.
"Good to see you, Nora." Blake greeted. She'd been a bit apprehensive about returning to Vale, with how many memories lingered in this place. But seeing her friends again chased all of that away.
"This is great!" Nora cheered as she joined their side heading back towards Signal. "More of us mean more people for our tournament! Oh, and for fighting the Grimm too!"
"It'll be fun to see something else than mountains of paperwork and shady business partners," Blake admitted. "Do we have a plan for the Grimm here yet?"
"Oh you know," Yang grinned, "bash as many heads in as you can."
"I take that's a no."
"Aw don't be difficult. We're just waiting for Weiss to bring in the new transmitter and for Rubes to handle the dragon thing, and we're all set to go on the big offensive."
With a feeling of the old camaraderie, the three of them entered Signal Academy through the main entrance, which opened to a big auditorium. A reception desk adorned the middle of the floor, and people of all ages lounged in the many chairs and couches spread around like an impromptu living room. Some played cards, others gathered around the TV on one of the walls to catch the latest news.
"How many refugees are here right now?" asked Blake.
"A few hundred," Yang followed Blake's gaze across the room. "Mainly from Vale, where Grimm have been continuously attacking ever since the fall of Beacon. Signal is using all the classrooms they can to accommodate them and the rest of Patch is pretty full too. Thanks to donations we've got just about enough quilts and rags for everyone to sleep comfortably. Issue is food, we have no real funding and while the Vale government is doing what they can, it's not exactly a simple situation. Grimm attacks are mainly focused on the southern agricultural district and along the border to Forever Fall in the north, forcing us to split our numbers."
"Not to mention the robberies and vagabonds prowling the streets looking for unsuspecting victims," Nora added with a fierce glare. "Someone's gotta smash their heads in."
"So yeah, we've got our work cut out for us. Don't worry though, Patch is relatively safe."
At the reception desk stood a petite woman who seemed to know everything worth knowing about Signal. As Blake approached her to ask about accommodations, the woman happily told her that they were cleaning out an old classroom for them to use.
"Please feel free to freshen yourselves up in the meantime!"
"I guess I could use a shower after that long flight," Blake pondered.
"And I'm still sweating like a pig," announced Yang with a grimace. "Let's hit the showers, then grab a bite."
The cafeteria in Signal Academy was not as big as the one in Beacon, but still spacious enough to accommodate four long tables around which several refugees and other inhabitants of the school sat enjoying their rations. Blake looked around with a sense of nostalgia when a shrill cry tore through the room.
"Blaaaaake!" A flurry of rose petals followed and Blake was knocked back by an overly enthusiastic Ruby, who gave her much the same hug as Yang had. "I'm so glad you're okay!" The short-haired girl squealed, looking Blake up and down. "You are okay, right? Right?"
"I'm fine, Ruby." Blake smiled. "Our stopover in Vacuo lasted a day shorter than we thought, so we even made it here with time to spare."
"Oh, so that's why you arrived early," Yang said, combing fingers through her still damp hair. "And here I thought you just couldn't wait to see me."
She received a sharp elbow in her side from the cat faunus.
"Oh, it's great here!" Ruby chirped, grabbing Blake by the wrist and pulling her along to the table where she'd been devouring a plate full of pancakes. "We've got so many people helping out, and we're making huge progress against the Grimm too! Vale will be back to normal in no time!" Already at the table was Jaune, waving cheerily at the newly arrived member of their group. The scarred stump of a missing ear was barely visible beneath his blonde mess of a hair, which had grown longer since Blake last saw him. The small ponytail actually looked quite good on him.
Nora had already vanished into the kitchen, most likely to devour all the syrup, so Blake and Yang sat opposite Jaune and Ruby. It didn't take long for the old camaraderie to return, and soon enough it felt like they'd never been apart.
"Weiss should be coming in a few days too!" Ruby kept making a mess out of her pancakes, as if she was too excited to eat properly. "We'll be back together in no time!"
"She better have brought some reinforcements," Yang said.
"Isn't Atlas in a state of emergency right now? I mean, didn't her brother fall ill too?" Blake asked, mainly directed at Yang, who shrugged.
"She didn't say much before taking off, but that's the gist of it. I suppose even Weiss has a soft spot left for her family after all."
Nora's voice rejoined them as the girl walked over, a tower of pancakes on a tray, Ren in tow. "Family's great! You're all our family, so we're gonna make sure you're well fed!" Two more plates and the tower of food joined the table, and Yang smacked her hands together in eagerness. The clang from her metal arm could double as a food bell.
"Now this is what I call lunch!"
"I… thought resources were dwindling." Blake eyed the food-tower, only for Nora to wag her finger in her direction.
"Nuh-uh. Not with pancakes. There's always enough pancakes."
"We actually got a shipment of flour just the other day," Ren clarified. "It's enough to keep us going for a few more months."
Soon, they all ate, chatting and laughing in each other's company like they were back at Beacon, in a time when not a single worry marred their minds. Everyone carried scars now, both physical and mental – Ren had a long one across his face, evidence of the early rebellions in Mistral.
It was hard to forget what they'd been through, but right now all those worries existed outside the pancake-scented cafeteria of Signal Academy.
"I'm… gonna burst…" Jaune moaned into the table. For once he wasn't wearing his armor, speaking volumes of how safe they felt here compared to elsewhere in the world. His sword still hung at his waist though, like everyone else it always stayed close.
Yang's content grin became a solemn smile. "It's hard to believe we've all come this far. I mean, at one point during the war I was sure the best we could hope for would be some sort of deadlock. And now look at us! Eating pancakes at Signal like it's just another day in school."
"Which we never even graduated," Blake added.
"Speak for yourself. I, for one, have a proper Signal Academy diploma hanging on the wall in my bedroom." Yang thumbed her chest proudly.
Blake smiled in mild exasperation. "Congratulations on graduating elementary school."
"Yang's right though," Ruby said, picking at the last pieces of her lunch with the fork. "We've done so much since we left Beacon. Bad guys vanquished or reformed, we've killed enough Grimm to land them on the endangered species list, Weiss is getting reconnected with her family and you and Sun are taking over the reformed White Fang from your dad." She looked at Blake, whose smile had softened in return. It was true, all the heartache and pain of the last few years finally seemed to have gotten them somewhere.
"And we're gonna be parents!" Nora added, causing everyone to sputter in shock – Ren included.
"Relax, relax~" Nora sang, with the biggest shit-eating grin ever. "I'm jo-king."
Ruby's expression went from shocked to troubled. "…for a second I was genuinely happy for you guys."
"Aw no worries, we'll definitely have children after this. Ren and I are planning to find a home riiiight here in Patch. Maybe Vale? Or Mistral!"
Ren, the other part of this relationship, looked like he'd melted into the table. Yang poked him with her fork, eliciting no more than a twitch.
"We're actually thinking of starting up a restaurant," Nora said, "Ren's cooking is good enough that the refugees here all praise him daily. And no, Yang, that's not just because they're otherwise used to scraps and leftovers."
"I didn't say anything."
Blake smiled at the banter, admitting that she'd actually missed it. "Well, it is a sign of progress that we're able to talk about settling down."
Since reviving Ren wasn't working, Yang plunged her fork into the remains of a pancake. "I dunno, I don't feel ready for that sort of thing yet. Which is why I'm going with you guys!" She slapped Blake's shoulder, jarring the other girl. "You're gonna need some muscle to hunt down those break-offs and traitors! I know at least a couple faces I'd personally like to smash in."
"Your hunger for violence never ceases to amaze me."
Yang flashed a proud smile.
Looking like he'd rather do anything but move, Jaune weakly raised his head. "I guess there's not much else for us to do once the Grimm stops."
"Oh don't worry Jaune, I'm sure you'll find something to do. Hey, I've always pictured you working in a noodle stand, ya know? Bet you'd make some killer noodles." Yang tried to cheer him up in a very Yang-like way. It didn't work much, as Jaune simply groaned and put his head back on the table.
"So how's that going, anyway?" Blake asked, turning her attention on Ruby.
"Eh?" She looked like a deer caught in headlights.
"Duh, sis, the Grimm dragon! You know, the only thing keeping the Grimm around and the last thing stopping us from getting on with our lives and all that?"
"Oh! Uh, yeah, that's, uh, we're making progress." Ruby's eyes darted all over the table, never meeting Yang or Blake's. "We, we're trying some different things, doctor Oobleck thinks we'll get it any day now."
"Hell yeah! Then you'll get to go total silver-eyed warrior on its ass!" Yang pumped her fist.
"It's… it's not that easy…"
"Pffff, easy? Please, after what you did to Salem, that overgrown lizard ain't gonna be a pebble. You just blink and go wooooooosh – blitz! And then kriiiiiiiiissj—" Yang's recount included a range of hand gestures that suggested both fireworks and crumbling rocks.
Ruby awkwardly rubbed her neck. "Yeah, but it's never been as strong after that day, and I keep getting nosebleeds…" Her voice trailed off.
Blake and Yang exchanged a glance, and the faunus shrugged. "Stress?"
"If that's the case, I know just what you need!" Nora leaned forward eagerly. "A hot, steamy, bubbly bath!"
"I dunno, I'm thinking maybe a fist to the guts would do the trick." Yang's menacing grin made Ruby gulp.
"Do you guys actually have a bathhouse here?" Blake asked, immediately catching Yang's attention. Naturally, the faunus must be tired from the long trip, and Yang's body was aching too from the day's workout.
"You bet we do! Alright gang, it's decided! Today's the big steamy relaxation day! Oh, sorry, girls only," Yang added at Jaune and Ren. The only answer was Jaune's trembling thumb up.
Signal Academy had become a stronghold for the huntsmen and huntresses defending Vale, people laying their lives on the line to bring the Grimm down once and for all. In the headmaster's office, noticeably smaller than Ozpin's old office, a round table made for a strategy board containing a holographic map of Vale, Beacon and Patch. Several chess pieces stood at various points in the hologram, including a knight at Beacon tower, a king in Patch, and several pawns, bishops and rooks along the borders of Vale.
Five people had gathered around the table, sporting various degrees of serious expressions.
Qrow Branwen favoured his left leg while leaning on the table, gazing into the hologram like it would whisper him secrets. Beside him, Glynda Goodwitch tapped her riding crop to her arm, frowning menacingly at the holographic Beacon tower. Signal Academy's headmaster stood broad and tall by the end of the table, with Taiyang Xiao-Long at his side, looking troubled. Their last member was the tall and slender council member, Aspen Ash. His pale features only added to his skeletal appearance.
"Food supplies are of the utmost importance," his raspy voice accompanied a slim finger pointing to the southern border of Vale, where four pawns and a rook currently resided. "Vacuo no longer wishes to supply us as readily as they have, more interested in their own wellbeing. The board requests that you fortify the defences to secure our farms down south."
Glynda looked like she'd rather chew his ear off. "We already have our resources spread thin along the northern border. The Grimm is more active in the north. Perhaps instead of worrying about the Grimm you should look to your own government—" She cut off when Qrow put a hand on her shoulder, slowly shaking his head. Obviously displeased, she pursed her lips tightly and resumed tapping her riding crop with increased vigor.
"Ash," Qrow addressed the council member, "we have a limited number of huntsmen at our disposal and they can't be everywhere at once. As long as the Grimm keep attacking our borders we can't—"
"I don't want your excuses, Qrow, I want results." Ash bit him off, waving a hand in displeasure. "This has gone on long enough! If it is as you say and the main threat is already taken care of, how is it that such a minor inconvenience is still making our lives so difficult? The CCT is still down and will continue to be so until that thing has been removed! You know very well we don't have the funds or resources to build a new tower, especially not when every Grimm in Remnant is drawn to that thing's presence and constantly putting our lives in danger! Our citizens live in fear every day!"
Qrow let out a deep breath. Getting angry with the council was going to get them nowhere. "I know. We know. That's why we have people working on finding a way to unfreeze it as we speak."
Ash scoffed. "And how wise is that, unfreezing such a giant monster? Do you even have a plan beyond unleashing yet another terror on the good citizens of Vale?"
"We…" Qrow paused, looked at Taiyang, who nodded. "We have a solution in mind."
Ash, having caught their exchange, rolled his eyes. "Let me guess. We're placing our faith in a little girl again, aren't we?"
"She's one of the silver-eyed—"
He threw a hand up, cutting Qrow short. "I don't care if she's a walking machine gun. Can you guarantee that the lives of our citizens are in safe hands when you put a girl in charge of such an important operation?"
The urge to grit his teeth was overwhelming, but Qrow bit down on it.
Headmaster Kong glanced down at Taiyang. "She's your girl, isn't she, Tai?" His booming voice rattled the chess pieces on the table.
"Right." Tai lowered his head. Qrow knew how reluctant he was to let Ruby sit with all this responsibility. Hell, Qrow felt the same way. After Salem, he'd have liked to let all of those kids off on a good, long vacation. As it was though, they had no choice. His only comfort was that, this was the last phase. Maybe he'd take a long vacation too. Menagerie was pretty pleasant this time of year…
"Then I assume you'll take full responsibility should it not work like you tell me." Ash said, with a sick little smile that would have been a delight to wipe away. Alas, punching a council member was generally frowned upon.
"….right." It was rare to see Tai look so small.
"This is ridiculous," Glynda muttered darkly. Headmaster Kong looked at her, then at Qrow.
"Once the dragon awakens, we cannot risk it running amok throughout Vale city. With this in mind, I ask you, Qrow, Taiyang, Glynda…" His yellow eyes hardened at them all. "Can the dragon be slain where it stands?"
Qrow straightened, meeting the headmaster's gaze directly.
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