Beta: ShadowMeister234

Penny flew towards the guardian of Cryphilictal with incredible speed. Within seconds the two not-quite-humans were facing each other high above the clouds. The angel was confused by the being in front of her. It was clearly a golem but not crafted with any materials the angel was familiar with. It also seemed to have a soul which shouldn't have been possible. Had humanity managed to create a crossbreed while she had been trapped in that accursed city?

"Salutations, I am Penny. May I ask what to call you before we engage in mortal combat."

"I have no name."

"That is most unfortunate. I have been told that without a name one cannot have a proper identity. Would you like me to assign you a name?"

"You may call me what you like, but it shall not be my name. I doubt you shall live long enough to even consider one." The angel clapped her wings together and the shockwave they produced pushed the clouds away. Penny was hit directly and her body creaked. Her diagnostics informed her that several internal components were knocked loose, but none of them were critical. The information she gained from analyzing that attack was worth the minor damage.

[Strength input to strength output not consistent with expected physical laws. Adjusting parameters.]

The angel swung her wings again, but this time Penny dodged the attack with ease. "You will not be able to hit me with those simple swings any longer. My estimated evasion rate is now 99%."

The angel tried to hit the robotic girl with her wings a few more times, but when her attacks came nowhere close, she was forced to concede to Penny's words. "Fine, I recognize your skills. Clearly you are no ordinary construction, but my creation has no equal." Her wings split apart into their individual shards and flew towards Penny like a swarm of birds.

Penny opened her back and deployed all the swords she had. They hovered in front of her and struck the diamond-shaped shards as they came. Her blades weren't strong enough to cut through the shards but she was able to knock them off course. Unfortunately, the sheer number of projectiles were a problem. Her blades would not be able to deflect all of them, and based on her calculations her aura would break, and thus she'd be destroyed, in approximately 47 seconds if nothing was done.

She switched from defense to offense by positioning her swords to form a large spinning circle in front of her to focus her high-powered energy laser. The shards continued to strike Penny, dropping her aura by twenty percent, but when the angel realized a powerful attack was being aimed at her, she was forced to recall her wing shards to create a floating shield.

Penny's laser struck that shield and while it did not penetrate through to the other side, many of the shards that took a direct hit were melted down into sludge. "So, this is the amount of force required to destroy your wings? Very intriguing."

The angel was very much not intrigued. It glared at Penny with heated fury. "How dare you! I will reduce you to mist." She clasped her hands and sang with an otherworldly voice that no living being could hope to reproduce. Perhaps it was a mercy that most who heard it were captivated by the sound since it was more often than not the last sound they heard.

Penny was suddenly crushed between two gigantic hands that seemed to appear from nowhere. They looked like they were made from clouds, but touching them would reveal that they were harder than steel. It should have been impossible for anyone to survive that attack, but the angel would not underestimate this new breed of golem. She sang a few more verses and the cloud hands turned gray and stormy. Lightning danced inside the hands and subjected the object caught between them to an untold amount of electrical current. Even this golem crafted from metal and machines would be fried beyond recognition.

Strangely though the angel could still feel resistance. Something was trying to push the hands apart. Worse, it seemed to be succeeding. The iron grip of the cloud hands was coming loose and through the gap the angel could hear a sound. It was a song, HER SONG!

The hands were fully pushed away, dissipating into nothing, and what emerged was Penny singing with the angel's voice. From her back sprouted two wings not of feathers or of metal but of flesh and bone. It was grotesque. The red and pink flesh, like that of a skinned animal, fell down the bone scaffolding like it was melting. Chunks of bone and loose teeth dotted the wings in random patches as if they had once been people splattered against a wall. None of this seemed to bother Penny. In fact, she looked at her new wings like a mother would her newborn child.

"Isn't this interesting?" Penny said. "By copying your voice with my synthesizer, I was able to trigger my own awakening. Uncle Watts believed this would be the case but I doubted he imagined I would create organic wings while keeping a mechanical body. Though, maybe it's not so strange. You have inorganic wings while keeping an organic body."

"Die already you disgusting creature!" The angel swung her wings at Penny as hard as she could and Penny blocked with her own. The angel experienced a sensation she had never felt before in the form of nausea as her wings continued to clash against her foe. In terms of sheer strength, they seemed to be evenly matched, but with every clash the angel felt her wings growing a bit weaker. She couldn't understand why this was, but during one practically hard clash she saw it.

Every time their wings touched the flesh of Penny's wings latched onto hers and expanded ever so slightly to cover the metal plates. Then when the angel pulled back those plates remained with the flesh before being absorbed completely. The realization hit the angel like a meteor. Her wings were being devoured.

The angel ceased all offense and tried to put as much distance between her and the monster as possible, yet no matter how fast she moved the monster was always in front of her. "How are you keeping up!" she screamed.

The monster only smiled like a proud student being called on to answer a question. "By creating an environment where my body has a constant unchangeable observed speed, like the speed of light, I can execute actions and reactions that will always be a set amount faster than you. This is only possible by maxing out my design specs and overclocking my processors. Combining this and the form that my awakening has taken has dropped your chance of victory to 0.0076%. Your chance of survival however is at 4.59%."

The angel fought as hard as it ever had. Nothing worked. Her wings continued to be devoured by the monster. Escape was impossible. Eventually the monster was able to get on her back and straddle her. That's when the feast really began. First her wings then her body was taken by the wings of flesh. All the angel could do was scream.

The angel had been summoned in response to a dice throw. Her appearance was an objectively bad event, but the dice were meant to balance each other out, so what was the good event that came from it?

That would be the destruction of Amity. Without the colosseum to act as an enhancing array the misfits' spawn rate plummeted. With no more reinforcements Beacon was quickly able to dispatch the remaining misfits and focus their attention on the major threats. Qrow, Tai, and Junior were taken down, and an exhausted Yang and Pyrrha were captured a little later.

This was a disaster for the SDC magic division, but when looking at the big picture to pretty much everyone on Remnant the collapse of a Beacon invasion could only be considered a good event.

With the drastic and sudden shift in balance the magic division was only left with Jaune and Emerald along with a dwindling time limit. If they were to win it would have to be soon which was why Emerald was frustrated enough to slam her fist into the elevator control panel. No matter how many times she pressed the button the elevator refused to show up. Sulfur must have done something to sabotage it. Well, if he thought that would be enough to keep her from Jaune then he was sorely mistaken.

She wedged her blades between the elevator doors and forced them open. The open elevator shaft greeted her and looking down she could see the actual elevator at the very bottom. It would be a long climb down, but Emerald was prepared to make it when her scroll began to ring and it was Jaune of all people.

She quickly answered it. "Jaune are you alright? I'm on my way to help you right now."

"No, don't!" Emerald froze worried that something had gone horribly wrong. "I'll be fine on my own, but something's happening up there, isn't it?" Emerald hesitated for a moment before telling Jaune that their invasion had fallen apart. They couldn't fight their way out of this. The only way to win now was to prove Sulfur was evil.

Jaune cursed and Emerald heard someone fire a gun on his end. "Okay, that's even more of a reason for why you can't come down here. I found Ruby but whatever Sulfur is using to alter everyone's memories isn't here." Jaune was rushing through his words. "He's hidden it somewhere and I don't know what or where it is. I'm sorry but you're going to have to find and destroy it on your own. My memories of Ruby came back the second I saw her, so destroying the object should return everyone's memories immediately and then Beacon will know something is wrong. Sorry, I have to go now. I love you."

Emerald couldn't even get a single word in before Jaune hung up that call. Even with his warnings, Emerald was still tempted to descend the elevator shaft and help him, but eventually reason won out over feelings and she backed away.

How was she supposed to find this mysterious object though? She didn't have any information and chasing down magic items was usually Jaune's thing. Still, Jaune trusted her, so she'd be damned if she didn't try her best.

She thought about everything Jaune had tried to teach her about magic. She knew that most magic was created by forming connections between things, so theoretically there should be a logical connection between every one's memory loss and the object causing it. Emerald had no idea what that could be though. Maybe some kind of medical device, so maybe the infirmary? Emerald shook her head loose of those thoughts. She couldn't go running off with half-baked ideas. Going to the infirmary would take time that she didn't have, not to mention all of Beacon would be looking for her by now.

She needed to change her thinking. She couldn't think of this from the perspective of a caretaker. She had to come at this from what she was good at and that was being a thief. If she had a valuable treasure that she couldn't let anyone get a hold of, where would she put it? Any place that had too close a connection to her was a no go, so the object definitely wouldn't be in Sulfur's room. Any easily accessible public place was also unlikely. Even if she could hide it in plain sight, she'd be way too nervous about that one-in-a-million chance of some idiot accidently breaking it. For her, it would have to be somewhere secure but not obviously so.

Beacon's secret basement was the clear winner there, but Jaune said it wasn't there, so that only left supply closets, maintenance rooms, or personal offices. Of those, Emerald was leaning towards an office. She doubted the object could take a form that wouldn't stand out being in a supply closet and it would be too suspicious for a student to enter a maintenance room. Beacon had a ton of teacher offices though, so which one could it be?

Emerald looked back at the elevator shaft. If she went down, she'd end up in the secret basement, but if she went up, she would be in the Headmistress' office. It couldn't be there, could it? It would be a place most students couldn't get into unless they were part of the student council.

Emerald started to climb up not because she was certain the object would be there, but because it was easy to get to right now and she didn't actually know the location of any other offices.

The Headmistress' office felt very unlike her. It was probably because this used to be Ozpin's office not too long ago. He seemed like a person who would enjoy having a ton of moving gears in his walls and ceiling. The office was also sparse with no cabinets or other decorations. It was just the desk and a few chairs. If Sulfur had tried to hide anything here the Headmistress would have discovered it immediately.

Emerald considered just leaving right then, but she supposed she should at least be thorough and check the desk drawers. The only thing she found inside them were some papers that looked to be financial reports. Emerald tore them in half on the off chance one of them was the object, but as expected, nothing happened. The only thing left was the computer which was currently displaying a screen saver. Emerald went to shake it awake hoping that she could find something to help her out when she heard a quiet sound from behind her.

That was the only thing that saved her from taking a shotgun blast to the back of the head. She dove over the desk and saw the last member of Sulfur's entourage as she rolled. Mercury Black stood behind the desk with an outstretched leg and an annoying smirk. He must have been hiding within the gears. "I'm impressed. Most people would be face down in a pool of their own blood."

"Well, I'm not most people." That Mercury was here at all was a big surprise, but not an unwelcome one. If he was here, then there was something here worth guarding and he didn't seem keen on her messing with that computer.

Mercury jumped over the table and held his hands up in a boxer stance. "Yeah, I heard. You used to be a street rat before meeting that Jaune guy, right? Why don't you just scurry back to whatever gutter you came from and leave the fighting to the professionals? You'll live longer that way."

Emerald pulled out her blades and held them at her side. "You should take your own advice. Why are you even working with Sulfur? Do you even know what he's trying to do?"

"Don't know and don't care. I'm just around because my previous employer caught a bad case of death, and Sulfur seemed as good of a replacement as anyone else."

"You're nuts," Emerald decided.

"Guess I am, but I could say the same about you. Us wretches of society never get to choose how our lives turn out. We just bounce from one handler to another. I'm sure if things had been a little different the two of us would have been good allies."

"I highly doubt it." Emerald launched her chained blade at Mercury which he easily kicked away, but that was fine. It was a chance for Emerald to catch him in her semblance, but Mercury had other plans. He threw a metal canister on the ground and Emerald braced herself for it to be a bomb or a flashbang. Instead, it played a horrid ear-piercing noise that nearly brought her to her knees. Keeping her semblance active was impossible.

Mercury wasn't so much as inconvenienced. Emerald had to clumsily scamper away to avoid getting her head caved in. A swift kick to her side that sent her flying halfway across the room showed that her escape wasn't perfect. Her head cracked against the wall hammering her already abused ears. She barely rolled away from another shotgun blast and used that time to fire her own bullet at that canister. The awful noise ceased meaning Emerald could finally concentrate again. "Are you deaf! How can you stand that noise?"

Mercury circled her while still wearing that stupid smirk. "Nothing some earplugs can't solve. It's much better than having to deal with your semblance." Emerald hissed, upset that Mercury knew about her semblance, but before she could comment on it, he threw another canister. Emerald quickly shot it out of the air, but Mercury used that time to close the distance between them.

They traded blows for a while, but it was an exchange Emerald was losing. The gray-haired boy was clearly a close-ranged fighter while Emerald was more comfortable at mid-range. She tried to shake him loose, but he was sticking to her like glue. The exchange came to an end when he pressed his foot on the inside of her leg and fired a shotgun blast at point blank. Aura protected her kneecap from being blown out, but it still hurt and dropped her to one knee lining her face perfectly for Mercury to kick it in.

She collapsed on her back, blood running down her face from her now broken nose. She still had some aura left but it was definitely in the red while Mercury was probably still solidly in the yellow. The second she tried to get up Mercury's boot pressed down on her neck. If he fired his gun right now, Emerald didn't think she'd survive. If he fired twice, she definitely wouldn't.

"Looks like this is the end," Mercury bragged. "Shame, I thought you'd put up more of a fight than this."

"Don't count yourself so lucky yet asshole." Emerald smacked her hand on the ground bringing his attention to the etch she had drawn on the ground using her own blood. Mercury's smirk finally vanished as he jumped away in fear. It would seem that Sulfur really did give him the whole rundown.

The etch didn't do anything of course since Emerald had no idea how to draw one, but Mercury didn't know that. In his panic to avoid the imaginary attack he failed to avoid the real one. Her chain wrapped tightly around his leg then she shoved her entire weapon in between the gears on the wall. Her weapon bent and crunched as the gears pulled it in along with the chain and Mercury. He tried to untangle his foot from the chain, fell on his ass, then shot at the gears in a last-ditch effort to keep his body from being pulled into the machinery. It didn't work and his foot entered the gears.

Emerald closed her eyes. She had seen a lot of messed up things in her life, but she wasn't ready to watch a guy get crushed to death. She only opened her eyes when the crunching sound stopped and was surprised to see that not only was Mercury alive, he was pretty much uninjured. Sure, he was missing a leg but there was no blood and gore spilling from the stump, just metal and wires. He had prosthetic legs. "Well, looks like we're both down a weapon," he grumbled from his position on the floor. Emerald pointed that remaining weapon at his head, but he held his hands up in surrender. "I give, I give. You win. It's not like I can hop on one leg to fight you."

She considered shooting him anyway, certain he would have done the same to her if their position were reversed, but she decided against it. Someone who could confirm Sulfur's evil intent would be helpful in justifying this whole invasion. "How about you tell me what's on that computer that's so important?"

"Don't know. Sulfur just told me to kill anyone that tried to mess with it."

So basically, he was useless. Thankfully Emerald hadn't held any expectation for him in the first place, so she avoided being disappointed. Without consulting Mercury any further she walked to the computer and turned it on. There were only a few icons and folders on the desktop and none of them looked out of place. Emerald tried clicking on a random folder, but was greeted with a pop-up asking for a password. Clicking on several other icons yielded the same results.

Great, so she could get into the computer without a password but she was locked out from actually opening anything. In theory, Sulfur would have run into the same problem. It was possible that Sulfur got the Headmistress' password somehow, but Emerald didn't think so. If that were it, he wouldn't have put Mercury on guard duty. If Emerald hadn't been attacked, she never would have bothered trying to break her way into the computer. Mercury was here because Sulfur thought that anyone who tried to get to the computer would already know what they were looking for. That meant whatever it was had to be easy to get to.

Emerald took a closer look at the monitor and discovered a program minimized on the task bar. Opening it revealed video footage of several locations around the school. It was Beacon's security and surveillance system. She didn't know what to do with that knowledge. Was there something recorded on here that Sulfur didn't want anyone to see? She didn't know how to use this system if there was. Besides what would be the point of guarding footage of something instead of the actual thing.

Emerald tried thinking about the magic side of this again. Everyone in Beacon were missing their memories of Ruby, but Jaune said that all his memories of her returned when he saw her, so did it have something to do with sight?

Out of sight out of mind.

The realization hit her hard and fast. The security system didn't reveal the object causing the memory loss; it was the object. That's why only Beacon was impacted because the security cameras only covered Beacon (plus part of the Emerald forest). Emerald felt like a genius even if she had no idea how any of this actually worked, but if she was on the right track then disabling the security system should disable the spell.

Emerald frantically clicked around the program to try and find out how to shut it down, and she was rewarded. A popup asked her if she was sure she wanted to shut off the cameras. Her mouse hovered over the confirm button. "I hope this works."

She clicked.

Suddenly Jaune's memories of Ruby became sharper, more real. Judging from Sulfur's stiff posture the same thing had happened to him. That could only mean one thing. "Looks like Emerald did it. She broke your stupid spell." For the first time, perhaps ever, Sulfur looked deeply frustrated. Jaune held his sword out. "It's time to give up. With everyone's memories back even if you do beat me all of Beacon will know what you did. Your plan is completely busted."

Sulfur growled. His boisterous carefree attitude was nowhere to be found. "Don't get so cocky. Memories are just that. As long as they don't see Ruby, I can convince them that you implanted false memories in their brains." It seemed more like he was trying to convince himself of that as he dragged his hand down his face. "This is fine. You need some tension in the final act. This is the climax. No more time for playing around."

Jaune couldn't agree more. The fight hadn't really progressed since Sulfur had rolled his dice which he recovered soon afterwards. Jaune had gone after that annoying revolver robbing Sulfur of his ability to pester him with it. Technically, Jaune could use the revolver now, but there wasn't much point when Sulfur could render any shot inert with his staff.

From there they had just descended into yet another cat-and-mouse chase since Sulfur was confident he would win if he just ran out the timer. Emerald's success had drastically changed the situation though. Now Sulfur was the one on the clock. The longer Beacon had to collect themselves and figure out the truth the worse it was for him.

Jaune knew Sulfur couldn't afford to stall any longer, but didn't expect for Sulfur to completely change his strategy. Sulfur had been avoiding close combat this entire time, and now suddenly, he was charging right into it. That was fine with Jaune. He was sure he could out duel someone who was holding their staff like a club.

On your right.

Jaune defended his right side only for Sulfur to strike his left. Jaune grunted in pain while wondering what the hell had just happened. He had been positive Sulfur was attacking from the right, yet his confidence had been completely wrong. Just what trick was Sulfur using now? Jaune kept his eyes focused as he tried to figure out what happened.

From above.

That information entered Jaune's internal thoughts before his eyes saw anything and he knew that, but he had survived many fights by relying on his instincts and couldn't just ignore the advice his brain was telling him. So, he prepared for a strike from above. Of course, Sulfur jabbed his staff right into Jaune's stomach.

Jaune heaved and scooted back. He was frustrated. Somehow Sulfur could hijack his internal monologue. Planting fake thoughts in Jaune's head with either magic or even a semblance. Thankfully, it didn't feel like it was straight mind control. If Jaune could just ignore those intrusive thoughts, he should be fine.

On your left.

Jaune automatically defended his left side.

Damn it!

Sulfur struck Jaune's undefended kneecap, dropping him onto his hands and knees. In that position, Sulfur was free to beat him over the head with his staff. Jaune could hear Ruby screaming his name and Sulfur's victorious laughter. Sadly, for Sulfur his laughter was abruptly cut off when a light spear emerged from the ground. There wasn't any time for Sulfur to use his staff, and even if there was, it was facing the wrong way. Jaune smiled as his plan worked perfectly. While on his hands and knees, he was able to shoot a light spear right into the ground and have it dig right under Sulfur without him knowing until it was too late.

The light spear hit Sulfur directly in the jaw, and this was an attack that was capable of damaging the wings of Cryphilictal's angel. Compared to that Sulfur's aura may as well have been paper.

There was a definitive crack as Sulfur's jaw shattered and Jaune felt blood land on his back. He quickly got to his feet and even he was a little sickened by the sight of his handiwork. Sulfur's jaw hung loosely from the skin on his cheek and his tongue spilled out like an unrolled carpet.

The fight might have ended right there since Sulfur was sure to pass out from pain, but from the collar of his jacket several tree root tendrils crawled out. Sulfur looked down at them with a worried expression, but wasn't capable of stopping them as they stabbed into his bleeding jaw and wiggled their way inside.

Jaune (and Ruby) could only watch in horrified fascination as the roots, working like artificial muscles, cracked and tore Sulfur's jaw back into place. By the time it was over you would have never guessed it had been broken in the first place. The only evidence were the brown tendrils crisscrossing in and out of his skin to hold it all together. Sulfur did not look happy about his miraculous recovery. In fact, he looked down right furious as he rubbed his hand over his corrected jaw.

"How dare you. Where do you get off treating me like this? Just die already!" Sulfur did the unthinkable and dropped his staff while shoving both of his hands forward. From his palms grew multiple tree roots that shot forward at speeds that rivaled Jaune's light spears. He wasn't fast enough to avoid it so he had to block with his shield. He felt the roots impact his shield but they didn't stop moving. They grew up and around his shield to continue to chase him. He had to let go of his shield and he expected it to disappear back into his "storage," but the shield remained trapped and tangled by the roots. Somehow the roots had broken the shield's connection with the Apeiron, not good.

Jaune knew he couldn't avoid the roots for long. They were just too fast and grew without end. At least Jaune could use magic again since Sulfur had discarded the staff. He fired his last light spear at Sulfur, but the roots grew to form a defensive wall in front of it. The spear burned and broke through many of the roots, but it dissipated long before it reached Sulfur and didn't slow down the roots chasing Jaune at all. For his second attempt, Jaune pulled out the antique revolver he had stolen from Sulfur and pulled the trigger. The bullet would have to hit Sulfur.

It didn't.

The roots were quick to wrap around the bullet and encase it in an airtight sphere. Jaune could still hear the bullet bouncing around inside trying to escape, but that wasn't going to happen anytime soon. He tried shooting the revolver again but no bullet came out. Jaune was quickly running out of options and the roots were closing in. Maybe he had time to draw an etch on the back of his hand. The roots were made of wood so hopefully fire would burn them.

He would never find out. The roots pierced the pouch where he kept his supplies spilling the chalk all over the floor. There was no time to even reach for them as the rest of the roots latched onto his body. He could feel them digging into his aura trying to break through while pulling him back towards Sulfur.

Sulfur didn't look too good. In fact, he looked terrible. He was horribly pale, almost stark white, and was wobbling like he couldn't support his own weight. Jaune was even starting to wonder if Sulfur was already dead and the roots were just using his body as a puppet.

"Well Jaune," Sulfur said proving there was still some life left in him, "this is the end, for both of us. Definitely not the conclusion I wanted, but we had fun along the way, didn't we?"

Jaune's aura finally broke and the roots pierced his veins, drinking his blood. He struggled desperately against the roots, but it was pointless. He couldn't physically fight his way out of this and he didn't have any magic left to use, or did he?

With a shaky hand and vision that was starting to fade away, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the two dice he had taken from Sulfur's room. He had no idea if this would work, but it wasn't like he had another choice. "It's not over yet. Let's see what the dice decide?"

Jaune didn't so much roll the dice but more let them fall from his hand. It was enough. The dice bounced and fought each other in an energetic dance until slowing to a stop. They were just about to reach their final resting position when the roots wrapped around them and crushed them.

Jaune wheezed as his last hope was cruelly snuffed out. Sulfur gave a dry heave that may have been a chuckle. "Sorry, I'm not interested in any last-second twists. This story is ov—"

A green blade pierced through Sulfur's chest cutting him off. Behind him, holding the blade, was Emerald with a furious look. "Let him go!" Jaune felt the roots binding him loosen and he was able to move a little more freely.

Despite striking right where his heart should have been, Sulfur continued to move, twisting his head to look at her with cold contempt. "This doesn't concern you." A root suddenly wrapped itself around Emerald's neck and lifted her into the air. Emerald clawed at the root strangling her, but it didn't budge and Sulfur quickly lost interest leaving Emerald to her fate.

His attention returned to Jaune, but instead he came face-to-face with the silver-eyed staff. Jaune had managed to pick it up from where Sulfur had dropped it. It shouldn't have mattered. That staff wouldn't hurt a normal person, but Sulfur's body was basically all magic at this point. "Now it's over," Jaune said.

The rosebud opened and the silver eye wiped the roots in its sight from existence. The roots that weren't in the affected area quickly withered and died while Sulfur's lifeless body collapsed. Jaune collapsed too barely holding onto consciousness with all the blood he lost.

Emerald racedto his side, red-faced and hacking for air. "Jaune! Are you alright?"

Jaune looked up at his girlfriend with a goofy smile on his face."We did it, we won." Then the world faded to black.

The dice Jaune rolled might have been crushed but even if their roll was never seen it still existed. Sulfur had ended up on the unlucky side of that roll while the angel of Cryphilictal had fallen on the lucky side. Not too lucky though. Her wings once made from thousands of diamond plates were now reduced to a measly lopsided five. Her actual body had fared little better, losing most of its mass and shrinking down to the point that she barely stood above six inches. Never again would she be the dominating presence that protected Salem and guarded Cryphilictal. She had become a common pest. A weak little fairy. The former angel wondered what would become of her now. Even if that horrid monster didn't descend to finish the job, she doubted she could survive in this form for long.

A rustling of leaves and tree branches alerted her that the end might be coming sooner than she thought. What emerged from the forest bramble was a short (though much taller than her now), bald man who couldn't have looked more out of place if he tried. "There you are," he laughed. "Glad to see that Arthur's contraption didn't completely destroy you."

"Here to finish the job yourself?" The man in front of her was brimming with power. Even had she been whole this man would have been a troubling opponent.

"I would not be opposed to it. You did kill a lot of my friends back in the day though I doubt you remember." He spoke with cheer but she could tell there was a significant anger burning underneath. "However, I prefer to disregard the past in favor of the future, and you my dear could be a very important piece in that future."

She almost laughed. "You must be mistaken. Take another look at me. I shall never again be of use to anyone."

"I disagree. While you may lack power your knowledge is still intact. I have someone in mind who could make great use of your expertise."

"Am I to forge a contract with this person?" She wasn't exactly in a position to disagree.

The man hooked his hands behind him and turned his back to her. "I should think not. I believe the two of you would be better suited as partners rather than master and servant. You provide the knowledge while he provides the protection. I should think this agreement would be rather enticing for a being like you that has only ever known enslavement."

She felt a tingle in her stomach. It was true that since her creation she had always been at the mercy of a higher power passed from Salem's father to Cryphilictal. This offer of limited freedom did appeal to her. She flew to be by the man's side. A clear sign of acceptance.

"Excellent! I'm sure Master Whitley will be thrilled, but I'm getting ahead of myself. My name is Klein Sieben, head butler of the Schnee Mansion. May I ask what your name is."

"I don't have one. Perhaps you could give me one."

"Nonsense. You are a person not a pet. You should come up with one yourself."

She had never given the idea any consideration before. A name was something she had never needed before and so struggled to think of one.

The man seemed to notice her dilemma. "No need to decide now. There will be plenty of time to think, and I'm sure a name will come to you. Until then, let us head back."

The first few days after the invasion were chaos both inside Beacon and without, but before long things started to calm down. Sulfur's scheme had been exposed, Ruby had been saved, and all members of the SDC magic division were let go. Beacon was still grappling with everything that happened, but the future looked bright.

Jaune and Emerald sat on a beach in Beacon's courtyard just looking up at the clear blue sky. "It's so strange to think that I wanted to get into Beacon so bad that I was willing to send in forged transcripts to do it."

Emerald smiled and leaned her head on his shoulder. "You know if you just asked Headmistress Goodwitch, I'm sure she'd open up a spot for you. It would be the least she could do."

Jaune laughed and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "I don't know. I get the feeling she wants me as far away from Beacon as possible. I think she sees me as some kind of disaster lightning rod. Besides, being a huntsman isn't my dream anymore. It hasn't been for a long time."

"I won't let you leave me anyway." Emerald leaned even further into Jaune making herself comfortable. "So, what's the plan now that Sulfurs has been defeated."

"What do you mean? We continue to be caretakers of course. If anything, this whole mess has been a detour from our actual job."

"I was afraid you'd say that," Emerald huffed. "Just promise me we'll try and take some jobs that aren't as dangerous to our health as these last few have been."

Jaune massaged the back of her neck. "I'll try, but I can't make any promises. There's a lot of people out there experimenting with all sorts of magic now. Who knows how many future Sulfurs we'll have to deal with. "

Emerald elbowed his ribs. "That's entirely your fault."

"At least our jobs will never become boring."

"If I didn't love you, I'd hate you so much right now."

"Hey! No PDA on school property," a third voice yelled cutting into the moment. "You could get a detention for that, you know."

Jaune tilted his head to look up at the interloper that had appeared behind them. "Hey Yang, how's Ruby doing?"

Yang held out a thumbs-up with a beaming smile. "She's going to make a full recovery with all her vision intact. Guess all that magic stuff was good for something. Her eye was in perfect condition to transplant back in. Still wish I could have decked Sulfur a few times for what he did to my sister, but I'll take his death as a consolation prize."

"I'm happy for her and for you. Do you think you two will be put on the same team when everything is all cleared up?"

"Actually," Yang rubbed the back of her head, "I told Lady G that I'm dropping out."

Jaune was shocked. "I thought being a huntress was your dream."

"Nah, I've always just wanted to have an adventure and being a huntress seemed like the best way to do that, but now I've got my eyes on a different career path."

Emerald stiffened. "Don't tell me you're thinking of becoming a caretaker."

Yang burst out laughing. "Don't worry, I'm not looking to take your spot. It's actually a job Whitley offered me."

Jaune raised an eyebrow. "You're going to work for the SDC. Well, I hope you like wearing white."

"Yeah no, I made it clear that if he tries to force me into a stuffy uniform then I walk."

"So, what is he having you do that's enough to fuel your adventurous spirit."

"Well one of Whitley's new priorities for the new SDC is making sure faunus are being treated fairly. The problem is that with how remote a lot of the mines are he can't really know how the workers are being treated at any given site. My job will be to travel between them and make sure everything is how it should be and crack a few heads if it's not."

"Sounds like something you'd enjoy."

"I know, empty roads with nothing but my bike and the wind in my hair. I'm excited although I wonder how long it will be before he calls me back to help with his new scheme. You two heard about it, right?"

Neither Jaune or Emerald could keep themselves from chuckling. "Yeah, he talked to us about it right after he played the video recording of Weiss apologizing to him for teaming up with a person trying to destroy the world."

Yang groaned. "He showed that to you guys too. I swear he made me watch that video four different times."

"I'm pretty sure all of Beacon has seen it by now. He just won't let it go. I feel a bit bad for Weiss, but at the same time as a younger brother myself I totally get why he's doing it. As for his new idea, I like it. A school to teach magic is something that's definitely going to be needed in the future. May as well have it bankrolled by the most profitable company on the planet. Not sure why he's so worried about people not wanting to attend though. What kid wouldn't want to go to magic school?"

"He told me that the Atlas elite would be scared to send their kids to something they see as a risky career path instead of more proven ventures like business school or a huntsman academy. I'm pretty sure he's just overthinking things, but I'm not about to stop him when he wants to offer scholarships to any children of SDC miners who want to attend so he can boost enrollment. Of course, most of those scholarships would go to faunus, and there's nothing those Atlas elites hate more than being outshined by "animals". Whitley thinks those families will send children who aren't likely to inherit the family business just in case."

"And I'm sure that's exactly how Whitley wants it."

They all shared a good laugh at that before Yang bid them farewell. "Make sure to get a room if you two decide to get frisky."

Emerald raised her hand to flick her off, but once Yang was out of sight, she turned to Jaune with a naughty look in her eyes. "You know maybe we should find a room."

Jaune suddenly felt himself become incredibly hot. "You sure? I thought you said you wanted to take it easy."

"I said I wanted to take easier jobs. What happens outside of that is a completely different matter."

Jaune tugged at his collar. "I'll get us tickets for the next flight out of here."

Emerald pressed her hand to his cheeks. "I don't think I can wait that long. How about a treat for now." She pulled his head forward and their lips locked.

Memories of the future

Dear Diary

I arrived at Caretaker Academy this morning and it's everything I could ever hope for from the floating library to the everlasting waterfall. I can't believe I get to be a student here. I also can't believe just how many other faunus there are. I knew this was one of the only schools where the majority of the students are faunus, but seeing them all just made it feel so much more real. They all looked so happy too. It makes me hopeful I can actually make friends.

There was one weird part about the day when Headmaster Whitley came to give the introduction speech to all the new students and started it by playing a video of his sister. I'm not sure what we were supposed to get out of it. It was just some cringy apology video, but after it was over, he acted like he had given us some divine wisdom. I didn't really hear what he said after that. I was more focused on the cute fairy sitting on his shoulder. I wonder what she does?

What happened after the speech was totally not cool though! The headmaster said that even though we had been accepted into the school, we'll only become students if we pass tomorrow's initiation.

What the hell! I thought this school is supposed to teach you magic? How are we supposed to pass any sort of test if we haven't learned anything yet? I was so nervous that I wasn't paying attention and ran headfirst into some girl and nearly knocked us both down.

Thankfully she was quick on her feet and kept us both from failing. This girl was beautiful by the way. A human a bit taller than me with dark skin and with gorgeous hair in a lime-green color I have never seen before.

Anyway, we didn't get off to the best start. She seemed really mad about the crash and only calmed down after I apologized like a hundred times and explained how nervous I was.

I don't think she had it in her to be mad after that and told me not to worry about it that the initiation shouldn't be that hard. She was so confident about it that I had to ask if she'd help me and she actually agreed! Then she gave me her name and I couldn't believe it!

My new bestie is Jade Arc.

With her by my side there's no way we can fail.

An: After half a decade this story has finally reached its conclusion. It was a blast every step of the way, but I won't lie and say I'm not happy it's finally over. A lot about this story and my life has changed since I first started, and I learned just as much, which I hope is supported by the fact of just how different this chapter is compared to the first.

When I first started this story, I wanted to create an epic tale and for the most part I think I succeeded, but I realize now just what a huge undertaking that was and I don't think I was completely prepared for it. At some point this story just got away from me with trying to balance RWBY lore, a new magic system, main RWBY characters being on opposing sides, and a romance between Jaune and Emerald. It all just became too much which is why I think some of those things suffered as the story went on.

If I was to write this story all over again, there are two main changes I would make. First, I would want to try and make a better overarching theme than what is presented here. When I first started writing it was my opinion that themes were for literary snobs and that the plot and characters were far more important. I know now that was a mistake. The theme is what ties your story together and dictates what you write and why. Without a theme the story is just a bunch of loosely connected events that I thought would be cool to write which this story certainly suffers from.

The second change is a lot more concrete and one that a lot of readers realized from the start. Sulfur should have either been removed or cast as a different character, and this was a problem born from me sticking too close to the original draft when it was clear something wasn't working.

If you remember from the first few chapters this story was supposed to have fourth-wall breaks but I removed them after the negative response. The problem was that I had written the outline with Sulfur in mind to be a character that in-universe had gotten his hands on the RWBY show and thought it would be fun to play god in it. Obviously that idea was dropped, but in my infinite wisdom I kept Sulfur in basically as is despite that crucial part of his character being completely absent, and by the time I realized my mistake it was too late to go back.

I did heavily consider retconning Sulfur into being Oscar in a disguise who was doing all this because he somehow knew he was next in line to be Ozpin's successor and was doing everything in his power to change his personality to prevent that. That idea was scrapped though after I couldn't figure out how to make it work with what had already been written without it coming off as a completely unplanned twist (because it was).

That's enough self-doubt for now though.

I don't know what my next project will be, if there even will be one, I have a few more RWBY ideas in my head but I would also like to try my hand at writing an original novel. Me and a friend are even thinking about working on a visual novel game together, so who knows what the future will bring.

Thank you to my beta, ShadowMeister234, for looking over nearly every chapter, and of course thank you the readers for supporting this story and making it all the way to the end.