Follow-up to the last chapter, picking up from the moment Whitley is sent to his room. This time, we see one of the more immediate effects of Jacques' pre-mature death, this time on people whose opinions actually matter.
On with the show!
Chapter 2: Consequences.
'That boy bears watching.' I vowed to myself as I watched Whitley slither off to do whatever it was he did whenever he wasn't sucking up to his father.
Not that I expected him to try anything mind you, as much like Gelè, Whitley was a coward at heart, solely dependent on having others, typically his father, resolve any problems he might face. Bereft of Gelè's influence, and lacking the ability to use Aura, never mind the Schnee Family Semblance, and the threat he posed to anyone, let alone his relatives, became so minor it was almost laughable.
"Is…everything alright, mother?" Weiss inquired, snapping me out of my musings to find her glancing uncertainly between Willow and the door to the study her brother had just slammed behind him like the petulant child he was.
"Nothing important." Willow assured her daughter, though despite her mask she couldn't entirely hide her disappointment as she stared at the door "Enough of that, please, have a seat."
"Allow me, Miss Weiss." I offered, smiling as I pulled out a chair for the young heiress, who jumped slightly, having not noticed me appearing at her elbow "Would you care for some freshly brewed Vacuoan Blue Mountain Coffee?"
"Ah, yes, thank you." Weiss stammered as she took her seat, accepting the proffered cup with the grace befitting one of her standing, humming in contentment as she took a sip "Thank you, this is very well made."
"Though not as good as Klein's, I wager." I mused, chuckling slightly as the heiress flushed at being caught out "I'm not insulted, Miss Weiss. Klein has had years to perfect his craft, I'm merely grateful that he took the time out of his busy schedule to coach me in what little he could."
"You do yourself a disservice." Willow chided, the ghost of a smile adorning her features as she sipped from her own cup of coffee "Klein has professed considerable approval with your development, especially given your lack of experience. I dare say you have very little left to learn from him."
"Perhaps, though I've yet to wrangle his crepe recipe out of him." I chuckled, unable to help the feeling of pride I felt at the older butler's faith in my abilities. As one of the few decent people in Weiss life, and arguably her oldest friend, the fact that Klein Sieben deemed me worthy of praise was a high honour indeed "I'm certain you'll miss them once you're at Beacon."
"What?" Weiss blinked, the heiress looking honestly confused for a moment before the light of realization appeared in her eyes "Oh, right, I suppose you haven't been informed yet."
"Informed of what?" I asked, feeling an odd chill go down my spine as I glanced between Weiss' downcast expression and Willow's suddenly arctic frown "Did I say something wrong?"
"Not at all." Willow assured me, her tone deceptively calm as she raised her coffee cup to her lips, a stark contrast to the look in her eyes "It would appear that Weiss will not be attending Beacon this year."
"…I'm sorry, could you repeat that ma'am?" I asked, blinking at Willow in disbelief as I tried to process the bombshell she'd just dropped on my head "Miss Weiss won't be attending Beacon?"
"It would appear that Winter felt it would be too sudden a change so soon after Jacques death." Willow elaborated, hiding her sneer at the mention of Gelè by sipping her coffee with the grace befitting noblewoman "A sentiment shared by General Ironwood, since they have yet to acquire any leads as to the identity of this 'Red Hood' or his employer."
Though spoken casually, as if commenting on the weather, I couldn't help but flinch as her words dug into my flesh like barbed spears. Thankfully, Weiss seemed too preoccupied with her own coffee to notice my discomfort, though the slight tremble of her hands at the mention of her father's killer only served to add another twist of the knife.
"As such," Willow concluded, the sound of her coffee cup resting on the saucer akin to a guillotine in the tense atmosphere "Weiss has agreed to attend Atlas Academy instead, whilst also continuing her education to succeed me as head of the SDC."
"I…see…" I managed to say, glancing between mother and daughter only to find nothing that implied Willow had strong-armed her daughter into this. Not that I truly expected to find any mind you, after everything Jacques had put them through, there was no way Willow would ever consider such a thing "And you're certain this is what you want, Miss Weiss? I recall you seemed rather set on attending Beacon over Atlas."
"I was…and a part of me would still love to go." Weiss confessed "However, my duties as heiress to the Schnee Dust Corporation come first. With Father's…passing, and Winter having rejected her claim, mother will need all the support she can to ensure the company doesn't fall apart."
As admirable as that sounded, it still left me sweating buckets to hear her say that. While the argument could be made that Weiss' role in the initial Seasons was relatively minor compared to, say, Blake, she was still a key member of the cast whose absence would have long-standing consequences. She was the 'W' in RWBY for crying out loud!
Still doubt me? Then allow me to pose a quick question to anyone who might be listening: Is there anything more terrifying than the unknown? And I don't mean those useless Alphabet Pokémon, I mean that intangible, nerve-wracking feeling you get when faced with a situation or obstacle you lack the knowledge or ability to comprehend or resolve?
Now don't get me wrong, fear is an excellent motivator, hell, some of mankind's greatest innovations were probably only made possible because we wanted to alleviate those fears, to tame them, to make them ours. Primitive man only discovered how to make fire because we feared what lurked in the darkness, hell, the more jaded and skeptical of us claim we only invented religion because the thought of there being nothing after death terrified the living shit out of us.
Whether that's true or not I'm not qualified or willing to debate. Take it up with your Preacher, Rabbi, Imam or what have you if you really feel the need to punish yourselves. Point of the matter is, our innate fear of 'The Unknown' is so great that humans subconsciously avoid it, or at the very least find it very hard to resist the siren call of the familiar, the safe, trusted, tried and tested things that they know won't hurt them, or at least not immediately.
It's one of the many reasons that people in my situation rarely, if ever, try to deviate from canon despite their very existence being a major deviation. At the very most they'll try to effect minor changes to things they personally disagree with, like saving the life of a beloved character or trying to ensure their favorite ship sets sail, but for the most part they'll try to leave the overall story alone. After all, what's the point of winding up in a story if you can't predict the outcome?
In short, to quote the legendary Crimson Fucker, I'd done goofed, and was now on the verge of sailing into unfamiliar waters, and there were worse things than sharks out there.
'Maybe this can still be salvaged.' I mused, going over various scenarios in my head that could be used to convince Weiss to change her mind, only to blink as I caught the pair looking at me "Forgive me, ma'am, you were saying?"
"I merely noted that you seemed rather shaken by Weiss' decision." Willow noted calmly, her cool blue eyes peering into my soul as she assumed Gendo Ikari's iconic pose, somehow managing to make it more intimidating despite the lack of sunglasses "Is there some reason you feel she should attend Beacon instead of Atlas?"
'Aside from trying to salvage the plot?' I scoffed internally, though I wisely kept such thoughts to myself as I fumbled for an excuse "I was merely concerned for her image, Ma'am. After all, she was rather vocal in her desire to attend, they would be most disappointed to hear she's changed her mind."
"I've already contacted Professor Ozpin regarding the matter." Weiss pointed out, to my distress "While he did confess some disappointment, he understood that my first priority is to my family and has assured me that I'd be more than welcome to transfer the following year."
'Fat lot of good that does-!' I mentally cursed the immortal headmaster, though in hindsight I really should have seen this coming. Magnificent Bastard though he might be, Ozpin had always espoused the importance of choice. Certain Fanfics aside, if Weiss truly believed her place was in Atlas, the Great and Powerful Oz would have done little, if anything, to change her mind, even if it did cost him a potential Maiden Candidate.
"Are you sure there isn't some other reason that's bothering you?" Willow pressed, her gaze piercing through me in that knowing way that only mothers can achieve, the one they use when they know you're hiding something but are waiting for you to incriminate yourself "You're not hiding something, are you?"
'More than you'd be able to forgive me for.' I confessed, even as I wracked my brain for a response that wouldn't paint me off as some sort of whack-job. While Willow had accepted many of my idiosyncrasies during our time together (oh I wish), claiming to have knowledge of preordained events was a good way to get yourself committed, not to mention the risk of rendering said knowledge moot.
As Nicholas Cage once said: the future changes once you've looked at it, precisely because you've looked at it. Normally it's only a small change, something in direct relation to you, but the butterfly effect can be a bitch when it wants to be, and I'd clearly underestimated the impact Gelè's death would have this early into the game. My only solace was that whichever depth of hell the asshole was sent to, he would be too busy being tortured to laugh at my expense.
'Damned E Rank Luck.' I swore, despite being well aware of how redundant the meme was. Mind you, being ten times luckier than I was in life worked both ways, and I'd been pretty fortunate up to this point so I was probably long overdue for a reality check.
"You do seem rather distressed by all this…" Weiss noted with a frown, only to blink, a look of sudden understanding blossoming in her eyes "Were you perhaps hoping to accompany me to Vale?"
"I…won't deny the thought had crossed my mind." I confessed, managing a small smile at being 'caught out' by the heiress "I've wanted to visit Vale for the longest time and this seemed the best opportunity."
I wasn't completely bullshitting her either. My original plan had been to accompany Weiss to Beacon, sneaking off after helping her settle in to 'remove' certain pieces from the board before returning to Atlas. Yes, I'm well aware that doing so directly contradicted my previous statement on altering canon but I defy anyone to stand back and simply let the events of the Breach or the Vytal Tournament happen, knowing they possessed the power and knowledge to do something about it.
Did I intend to confront Cinder directly? Hell no. I'm an Assassin, both by class and by trade. With the exception of King Hassan, we typically don't do direct combat unless all-else fails, and I had no intention of painting a target on my back in the event I fucked up and word of me got back to Salem, who was about the closest thing to Angra Mainyu I was likely to run into in this world.
'Lord knows the Beowolves have more than a passing resemblance to his shades.' I mused, shuddering at the memory of the First Avenger's Noble Phantasm, only to blink as I found Willow staring at me, her arctic eyes unreadable "Something wrong ma'am?"
"How old did you say you were again?" she einquired after a moment's silence, earning a look of surprise from both Weiss and myself at her train of thought "I know you're not that much older than Winter…"
"Something like that." I lied through my teeth. I don't know if it was a prank on Zelretch's part but needless to say my appearance was neither that of my birth, nor of the Counter Guardian I'd been cosplaying prior to manifesting in the alley. Rather, I resembled a bizarre, mixture of the two, as if we'd put on a pair of Potara Earrings or I'd been corrupted by his Class Card.
While this made it relatively easy for me to blend in as a 'homeless waif' that had rescued Willow in her time of need, it still chafed to be referred to as 'boy' by Gelè and those loyal to him for so long. Still, as satisfying as it was for that nonsense to have ended, I failed to see what Willow was aiming at with her train of thought, after all, my age had never really been much of an issue before now.
"Mother, you can't seriously be proposing what I think you are?" Weiss demanded, quirking a brow at the Schnee Matriarch in disbelief "I know you're grateful to him for saving your life, but there's a big difference between fending off a group of street rats and hunting Grimm!"
"I am well aware of that." Willow assured her daughter, though her eyes never left my own as she spoke "It is precisely for that reason that I think he'd be more than qualified for what I have in mind."
"I'm sorry, did I miss something?" I asked, glancing between mother and daughter in confusion, only to shiver as Willow smiled at me.
Now It should be noted that it had been a long time since Willow Schnee had ever truly smiled, which was only understandable, as following her father's death and the revelation of Gelè's true colours, she had a lot less to smile about. And I don't just mean the subtle upturn of the corner of her lips that she would occasionally permit to grace her features whenever we were alone, but proper, cheek stretching smiles that were forever immortalized in the pictures of her childhood.
With that in mind, you can probably imagine how privileged I felt to have played a role in helping the Schnee Matriarch learn to smile again. Say what you like about the Irish, we know how to make people laugh, both with us and at us, and we're stubborn bastards to a one.
Still, as proud as I was of my ability to put a smile on the woman's face, that didn't necessarily mean all of them were necessarily good. For every amused up-turning of the lips that had become the mainstay of our interactions there was always the occasional self-mocking smirk, the haughty sneer, the wistful sigh and the patented 'the only thing keeping me from throwing this wine-bottle at your head is because it's a good year' grimace.
The smile that currently graced her lips, however, is one that I had never seen personally. It wasn't a blatantly obvious kind of smile, nor was it remotely intimidating, merely a slight upturning of the corners of her lips that served to highlight her beauty, and yet for some reason it had every single one of the instincts I inherited from EMIYAssassin screaming at me to run like hell.
God Damn if it wasn't sexy as all fuck though.
Schnee Manor - Courtyard - 15:00 pm.
"Thank you for agreeing to this, Winter." Weiss offered, looking on with a smile as her elder Sister finished her tea "I understand you've been very busy of late. Has there been any headway with your investigation?"
"I'm not at liberty to discuss the ongoing investigation with non-Atlas personnel." Winter recited over the rim of her cup, having no doubt memorized the response by now, given how doggedly the media were trying to get anything on the case "General Ironwood sends his condolences, by the way."
"James always was a gentleman." Willow mused, a small smile adorning her lips at some distant memory, only to wave it aside with a slight shake of her head "And you're certain he won't mind you taking a break from the investigation?"
"If anything, he insisted I do so." Winter confirmed with a resigned sigh, though I didn't miss the hint of a blush that adorned her cheeks at the mention of the General's concern "Though I must confess, this wasn't what I had in mind when I received your invitation."
"On that matter I agree with you, Miss Winter." Her mother's valet concurred as he stepped forward to refill her mother's cup, placing another pastry on Weiss' plate with his free hand before stepping back to his position behind Willow's chair.
Back when word had first reached Winter of the attack on her mother, it had taken all of her considerable self-control, and a direct order from General Ironwood, not to seek retribution on the ones responsible. For one thing, the offenders had already been dealt with, quite effectively it should be noted, and while Atlesian Science was touted as the best in the world, raising the dead was still outside the realm of possibility, so attempting to interrogate them was out.
For another, while there was no question that the issue could have been circumvented if her father, no, Jacques Gelè, had bothered to afford her mother a proper security detail, there was no evidence to prove he was involved in the attack, so she couldn't take her anger out on him either, no matter how satisfying it would have been to be able to do so.
However, as relieved as she was to learn of her mother's safety, the means to said safety left Winter feeling conflicted. On the one hand, she felt personally indebted to her mother's savior, despite all assurances that the young man in question was quite content with his current position. And to be fair, serving as her mother's personal Valet was undoubtedly an improvement from living on the streets.
On the other hand, as grateful as she was to the dark-skinned butler, Winter hadn't earned her position as a Specialist by simply accepting things at face-value, and his sudden appearance in the back alley just as her mother was assaulted had seemed just a little too convenient for her liking. Add in the fact the man had lacked any official documentation in any of the kingdoms and you could probably understand how she might feel a bit skeptical towards him.
However, as the months passed without incident and her responsibilities began to mount, the eldest Schnee Sister began to relax her stance on the newest addition to her former household. It certainly helped that Weiss had nothing but praises to offer about the young man, to say nothing of how his presence seemed to have improved mother's temperament, which had nosedived since Gelè dropped his guise of loving husband.
And so Winter found herself in the awkward position of feeling both indebted and suspicious of her mother's Valet. While the young man had thus far conducted himself as nothing less than a gentleman, there was still that niggling feeling of doubt that the elder Schnee sister just couldn't shake.
"I must confess, when I first heard your proposal, I was rather skeptical." She professed as she sat down her teacup to address her mother "Not to disregard his abilities, but simply growing up on the streets does not substitute for proper training."
"While I do not refute that, I have absolute faith in his ability to perform." Willow mused, earning a sharp look from her elder daughter and a blink from her younger at the double-entendre "However, knowing your skepticism, I proposed this little match to remove all doubt from your minds."
"If it's any consolation, Miss Winter, I'm just as shocked about this as you are." The subject of their discussion confessed, affecting a nervous smile at the Winter's quirked brow "I'd completely understand if you refuse to go through with this."
"No, I will do it, if only to rouse you from your fantasies, even if they are admirable ones." Winter assured him as she rose to her feet to stand at ease, with her hands clasped behind her back "While it is one thing to admire Huntsmen, it is quite another to aspire to become one."
"On that, we can certainly agree." Willow concurred, Weiss likewise showing her support of her elder sister with a genteel nod "That being said, might I make a suggestion before you begin?"
"Do not worry, I have no intention of going full-out against a civilian." Winter assured her mother, only to blink at the Willow's decidedly ungenteel scoff, the Schnee sisters turning as one to gape at her in surprise, only for Winter to stiffen as a wave of killing intent washed over her the second she took her eyes of the valet, the elder sister drawing her sword to defend herself, only to find the man gone.
"Hold back?" Willow repeated, her mother's voice and Weiss' shocked gasp sending a shiver down Winter's spine as she turned to find the dark-skinned man using his handkerchief to remove a dollop of cream from her sister's cheek, the younger Schnee looking just as shocked as Winter at his sudden appearance at her side "Quite the contrary, Winter, I want you to take this seriously."
Schnee Manor - Courtyard - Shortly after.
"Was that really necessary, Ma'am?" I asked, looking on as Winter began her warm-up routines with Weiss looking on from the side-lines, torn between her desire to cheer for her elder sibling and her desire to not annoy her by acting like a teenager.
"Would you rather Winter have an excuse on hand when you prove your ability?" Willow countered, and at any other time her confidence in my ability to do so, evident in her using the word 'when' as opposed to 'if', would've been flattering, though now it only served to make me sigh.
"I'm more concerned with her safety to be honest." I confessed, my face completely serious as I looked her in the eye "I won't be able to hold back against a Specialist of Miss Winter's calibre. At the very least, I cannot promise her pride won't be hurt."
"All the more reason to take her seriously." Willow opined with a finality that brooked no argument "My father used to say that too much pride could kill a man. I never truly understood those words till I met Jacques, and I would rather my daughters learn that lesson now than on some distant battlefield."
'If I had my way they'll never have to learn that lesson at all.' I groused internally whilst inclining my head in understanding, only to look up as Klein arrived, bearing with him an attaché case "Ah, Mr. Sieben," I greeted with a nod "Sorry for the trouble."
"Think nothing of it my dear boy." Assured Weiss' former caretaker and the current head butler of House Schnee following the purge, I mean dismissal, of all those loyal to Gelè "What with how short-handed we are at the moment, I felt it prudent to bring this to you personally."
'That, and you wanted a front-row seat for my match with Winter.' I scoffed, noting several other members of the Manor staff, and Whitley, peeking through the upper windows. Rather than calling the older butler out, however, I instead accepted the case from him and set it on the nearby table, opening it to reveal my weapons.
Now just to clarify, when I say 'weapons' I don't mean the tools afforded to me by the Counter Guardian EMIYAssassin. For one thing, I had no intention of seriously hurting Winter, and for another it would lead to too many questions as to where I'd acquired said weapons for the duel.
No, by weapons I referred to my own, personal weapons that I'd requisitioned from a secure source during my employment as Willow's valet. Due to the exact specifications behind their make, they hadn't been ready for the hit against Gelè, but I now saw that as a blessing in disguise, as it meant I'd have something to fall back on that didn't tie me to the 'Red Hood'.
'Seriously? Of all the names they could've come up with?' I sighed, shaking my head in exasperation even as I set about checking over the weapons within. At first glance, one might mistake them for a simple pair of bayoneted handguns were it not for several discerning factors.
For one thing, considering the calibre of the ammunition they used, it was perhaps closer to refer to them as hand canons, and for another, the blades themselves resembled a certain pair of Chinese Falchions than bayonets.
'Let it never be said becoming a Counter Guardian never came without it's perks.' I mused as I finished loading the magazines, thumbing the safeties as I struck a pose for the audience before turning to face Winter, who had finished her warm-ups and was waiting patiently for me. "Well then, I do believe I've kept the lady waiting long enough."
"Yes, terrible show that." Klein chuckled knowingly, earning a slight upturn of the lip and an eye-roll from Willow as he closed the case to refresh her drink "Do try to avoid stepping on the flowerbeds?"
"No promises." I offered even as I made a mental note to do so, as the head gardener could be a holy terror when crossed, before turning to make my way towards Winter, stopping when there was a five or so metres between us. Apparently, my impromptu display earlier had served it's intended purpose, as her guard was up and would remain up until the conclusion of our duel
"I must confess, I was, surprised by mother's request." she stated, her tone calm and composed, a stark contrast to the wariness in her eyes "Even more so when I learnt you were to be my opponent, I was unaware you held such aspirations."
"In truth, I do not." I confessed with a shrug "I am wholly in agreement with you that the life and commitments of a Hunter are not to be taken lightly." I glanced over at Weiss "However, as I also share your mother's opinion that Weiss would be better off pursuing her education at Beacon, so regretfully we find ourselves at an impasse."
"And just why, pray tell, do you believe my sister would be better off?" Winter challenged, a hint of professional pride in her tone as she narrowed her eyes "Are you saying the Courses provided by Atlas are insufficient?"
"Hardly, you and General Ironwood stand as living proof of just how effective the system is." I countered with a shake of my head "However, therein lies part of the problem. If Miss Weiss were to attend Atlas, she would forever be in your shadow, in addition to all the expectations that come from being both a member of the Schnee Family and the heiress to the Schnee Dust Corporation." I nodded at Weiss whilst keeping my eyes on Winter "At least at Beacon, she will have a chance to come into her own identity, and perhaps make valuable allies who won't befriend her simply as a means to an end down the line."
Winter blinked, and for a moment I entertained the notion that I might actually be able to get out of this without a fight, for while there was no denying that Winter could be hard on Weiss, in the end it was only because she cared for her younger sibling and wanted her to succeed. Heck, it was Winter who, in her own way, convinced Weiss to sever her reliance on Gelè, back when he'd petulantly cut her off from her accounts just to get her to talk to him.
Sadly, a glance at Weiss saw the moment pass, Winter's eyes narrowing in determination as she turned to face me, though her earlier animosity seemed to have evaporated somewhat in the face of my speech. "Be that as it may, I still cannot accept your proposal at face value." She declared, drawing her sword and entering the same fencing stance from when she challenged Qrow "If you truly wish to change my mind, you will have to do so with steel."
"Like mother like daughter…" I sighed, shaking my head at the similarities between the three Schnee women, even if Weiss seemed a bit lacking in the figure department "I suppose I should have expected as much."
"Are you familiar with the standard dueling rules?" Willow demanded, referring to the officially sanctioned rules that all Huntsmen had to abide by in a tournament setting "We shall both continue until either our Aura drops into the red, or until the referee deems either of us unable to continue."
"I shall be acting as referee." Weiss declared from the side-lines. Were they anywhere else someone might have protested the decision, citing her inability to remain impartial with her sister as one of the contestants. However, Winter had nothing but faith in Weiss integrity, not only because she knew her sister better than most, but because Weiss knew precisely what would happen if she attempted anything underhanded to her opponent during an official duel "Are you both ready?"
Play: The Battle is To The Strong.
Winter nodded, her features settling into a solemn mask, eyes narrowing in irritation as she took in the relaxed stance of her opponent. As expected, his form was full of holes just waiting to be punished, something she fully intended to do the moment her sister dropped her hand.
'I'll summon a glyph under his feet and send him flying backwards.' She plotted, keeping her eyes firmly locked on her opponent's, both to watch for any sudden movements and to distract him from her left hand, hidden behind her back due to her fencing stance, her fingers aimed at his feet 'Once he's stunned I'll close in to disarm him and end this farce once and for all!'
"Begin!" Weiss cried out, Winter moving to put her plan into action, only for her eyes to widen as her opponent, in the span of an instant, somehow managed to cross the distance between them, only her reflexes, honed through countless drills and missions for the Atlesian Forces, allowing her to raise her blade in time to intercept his, the sheer force of the blow actually driving her to her knees.
'He's fast!' she exclaimed, eyes widening in alarm as she brought her hand up to support the back of her sabre as he continued to press down 'And strong…far too strong for someone without combat experience-!'
"-Is what you're thinking, right?" her opponent mused, Winter's eyes widening as she realized he'd somehow recited her own thoughts out loud "It's true, I've never had any official training…however, I think we can both agree there's no better substitute for live combat?"
"Tsk-!" Winter grimaced, forcing herself back to her feet in order to plant a boot in his gut, both to drive him back and use him as a base for another glyph, this one designed to propel both of them away from one another, the elder Schnee using her momentum to flip through the air, summoning several glyphs from which she intended to unleash a hail of Nevermores, only to gape as the thunder of gunfire shattered them like so much glass.
'A single handgun…did that?' she marveled, gaping down at the smoking firearm in her opponent's grip in amazement even as she dropped to the ground 'Just what kind of ammunition is he using?!'
"Should I take your silence as a sign of your surrender, Miss Winter?" Her opponent inquired in the ensuing silence, the politeness of his tone a stark contrast to the sharpness of his eyes as he tracked her movements "If not, shall I take it as an invitation to make the next move?"
Winter scowled but otherwise did not respond, her mind working a mile a minute as she tried to formulate a new plan of attack. While it wasn't unheard of for her glyphs to be destroyed in combat, never before had she encountered a scenario when someone was able to do so from range.
Contrary to their appearance, the Schnee Family crests were far from fragile, indeed, if her mother's stories were to be believed, her grandfather had often employed them as shields to gain much needed breathing room.
While Winter's summoning glyphs were nowhere near that strong, they still shouldn't have been shattered so easily, or at least not with the kind of ammunition that could be fired from a handgun. Even with aura-enhanced strength the recoil alone would have ruined the shot, to say nothing of the damage to the user's wrist.
Before she could ponder the fact further, she was forced into action as her opponent once again lunged forward, though nowhere near as fast as he had prior, as Winter was clearly able to see his movements this time despite the impressive turn of speed.
'Is there a limit to how often he can use that speed? Or is he simply holding back because he knows I'll be expecting it?' she pondered even as she readied her hidden blade, deploying it as he lunged forward once more, allowing her to defend against his assault with her sabre whilst using the dagger to aim quick strikes at his vitals.
'His firearms are powerful at range, but this close they're awkward, best suited for defence.' She noted, forgoing the use of glyphs for now in favour of getting in close and personal, landing several glancing blows that caused Weiss' scroll to beep, tallying the damage to his aura 'So long as I keep chipping away, he'll eventually-!'
"-hit the red." Her opponent once again unnervingly finished her thoughts for her "A sound strategy, given the limitations of this duel." He applauded, even as he deflected a strike to his midriff with his free hand 'However, I'll thank you not to assume I'll just sit back and let it happen."
Before Winter could retort, she found herself stumbling forwards, completely caught off balance as her opponent released his grip on his weapon. In that instant, before she could recover her composure, he took a step forward, Winter's eyes widening as his right hand, moving deceptively slowly, reached out as if to cup her cheek, the feel of his knuckles against her jaw sending shivers down her spine as they came to rest beside her ear "You-!"
Her words, along with her thoughts, were immediately silenced in the ensuing explosion.
And I'll just leave off there for now.
Just what is Mama Schnee thinking, having our hero face off against Winter? You'll have to wait and find out, but rest assured, everyone's favourite Snow Angel will be attending Beacon as canon.
And before anyone calls foul, the handguns in this chapter are NOT EMIYA Alter's modified Kanshou & Bakuya. They are simply replicas made in their image at our Hero's specifications by an associate of the Schnee Family, most likely the same one who provided Weiss with Myternaster.
And yes, Klein bringing the weapons in an attache case and Winter's reaction to their firepower was indeed yet another reference to Hellsing. As to Winter's claim that Glyphs can be used as shields, this was originally a head-canon of mine until I learnt of the 'Deflection Glyphs' Weiss can apparently use in the RWBY board-game.
For those curious, aside from Checkmate, pairings remain undecided at this point in time. Again, if you have a request, at least make it a reasonable one in a review or PM.
Till then, this is Kyugan signing out.