The Days After
How many years has it been since he had been back in the tribe?
The only answer that Qrow could come up with was, not enough. There was nothing good about the tribe and he missed nothing about that lifestyle. He just couldn't understand what his sister saw in living among those bandits. Was it really a lifestyle worth leaving her own daughter over? They were nothing but murderers and thieves in his eyes, and he regretted every last second he had spent in that damned place.
And yet, here he was again, staring at the very same place that he had once sworn to never return to. Qrow could only shake his head and take a long drink from his flask before he stepped out of the trees and walked towards the gates. The brat hadn't really left him with much of a choice in the matter, he had tried to track the kids down himself, but being the damn genius that the brat was, he hid their tracks well. It was almost frightening even, to think that a kid could outmaneuver him like that, forcing him to rely on his sister.
The things that one does for their family.
One of the guards stepped up and was about to pull out his weapon before he paused and furrowed his brow.
"Qrow, is that you?" The guard asked in bewilderment.
"Yeah. Yeah, it is." He gruffly replied. "Been a while, Zeke."
"Huh… Never thought I'd see you back here."
"Didn't expect to be back." Qrow dryly replied with a shrug of his shoulders. "Place still looks as run down as before, I see."
Zeke crossed his arms over his chest. "... So, you just here to talk shit? Or did you finally come to your senses and decide to rejoin the tribe?"
"I'm here to see my sister." Qrow said as he held his hand over the handle of his sword, tapping the pommel with his fingers for good measure. "Are you going to let me through or not?"
For a moment, the man didn't say anything and Qrow thought he was going to have to fight his way in.
"... Yeah, just don't cause any trouble." Zeke eventually replied before he stepped out of the way. "Boss lady's in her tent."
"Trouble? Who me?" Qrow chuckled. "I'd never."
"I'm serious, Qrow." The man warned. "You might be the boss lady's brother, but don't think that you'll be able to walk around like you run the place."
"Yeah, yeah. I'm not that stupid." Qrow waves off as he stepped through the gates. "I'll be seeing ya."
The inside of the tribe was the same as the one from his memories. A bunch of rundown encampments and equally fucked up people lounging around. A real damn paradise for the wicked if he had ever seen one, and one that he was all too glad to no longer be a part of.
The Branwen tribe liked to move around a lot, but the structure that they built their camps in didn't ever change, so he still knew his way around pretty well. There were a few new faces here and there that he walked past but the layout was more or less the same. It was why he was able to find Raven's tent relatively quickly. She always did like to place it smack dab in the middle of their camps.
It didn't come as a surprise for him to find her waiting inside. Word traveled fast among knaves and cutthroats.
"Hello, brother." Raven calmly greeted, as she gestured towards the empty seat at the table. "It's been a long time."
"Not long enough." Qrow dryly replied, taking a seat at the table and glancing around the tent. "I see that you've redecorated. Real homely vibe you got going on here."
She just snorted in response. "What is it that you want, brother?"
"Straight to the point then? Alright, works for me." He answered before taking out his flask and downing the rest of it. "I'll just be straight with you, I need your help, Raven."
"Of course you do." She rolled her eyes. "Family, only coming by when they need something."
"I wouldn't need to if you never left in the first place." Qrow bit back, a little bit of anger seeping into his voice. "Or did you forget that you had a family?"
"Is that how you speak to someone that you need a favor from, brother?" Raven sneered in response. "I expected better manners from Ozpin's dog."
"This isn't about Ozpin. This is about Yang, Raven." Qrow growled out. "She's missing."
"Oh? And what does that have to do with me? Weren't you the ones busy playing house with her?"
"Damn it, Raven! You owe the girl, at least once." He put his hands on the table. "Follow through on your own damn rules at least. You owe her protection."
Raven narrowed her eyes but didn't say anything in response.
A thick silence hung in the air as a pair of red irises glared at their twin counterparts. Their arguments always did boil down to a staredown in the end, and he couldn't help but reminiscence about earlier times with his elder twin. For a moment, Qrow thought that his sister was about to throw him out before she finally spoke.
"Just as our parents had done for us, I will do the same for Yang." Raven eventually declared without an ounce of emotion in her voice. "She will have my protection this one time and no more."
Raven stood up and drew her sword. A single cut into the empty space in front of them was all it took for the red portal that would lead Qrow to his nieces to appear into the air. His sister gave him a look before she sheathed her sword in one fluid motion and stepped through the portal.
"... Real mother of the year material right there." Qrow muttered to himself as he followed after his sister through the portal.
Why couldn't he have a useful Semblance like his sister?
Raven's boots sank a bit into the snowy dirt as she stepped through the portal.
The snow was too light for it to have been in Atlas, so they were probably still somewhere along the borders of Vale. The colorings of the trees surrounding them seemed to match the flora in Vale. The area actually looked somewhat familiar, she was pretty sure that the tribe had an encampment out here in the woods in the past.
A pair of silver and lilac-colored irises stared at her, eyes wide.
It was her daughter and in her arms was another younger girl with silver eyes. It was Summer's girl, Raven was sure of that. The girl had the same colored eyes as her former partner after all.
Qrow had rushed past her and scooped both of the girls up into his arms without a second thought. Raven simply scoffed at the sight.
How was Yang supposed to grow up strong if Qrow was just going to coddle her like this? She didn't need these overly affectionate gestures, she needed to understand that the world was a cruel place. It was a place where only the strong survived and the weak perished.
Raven let her eyes wander around, not wanting to see or hear any more of her brother attempting to play house with her daughter. There was a rustle in the woods, and a boy eventually stepped out from the trees, catching her attention. He looked young, barely any older than her daughter. There was a stain on his shirt, blood from what it looked like, but he didn't seem to have any visible injuries on him.
Not his then, she thought to herself.
The boy also held a pair of strange weapons in his hands. Too long to have been a dagger, but the grip was too short for it to have been a sword. Perhaps it was a weapon that was meant to be thrown? Raven couldn't help but doubt the effectiveness of such a weapon, but since she had not seen it in action yet, she still kept her guard up. Child or not, there was no reason to be so arrogant as to drop one's guard.
The boy simply stared at her for a moment, as if trying to judge her intentions.
After a brief moment, he put his weapons away, hiding them within his sleeves. The boy seemed to almost be ignoring her as he walked by, over towards her brother and the girls in his arms. Raven was curious, but she had already done her part and was finished here. She had already fulfilled what was required of her creed. Yang had received her protection, even if it was only in the form of delivering her brother to her.
She glanced back towards her daughter one last time.
Yang stared back at her with wide eyes.
"M-mom?" The small voice tentatively called out.
Raven simply turned her head and stepped into the woods where the boy had come from. She wouldn't acknowledge her daughter, not until she had grown stronger and proved herself. Only then would Yang have her acknowledgment, just as her parents had required of her. It was the way of the tribe, and she intended to follow their creed. So, she continued to wade deeper into the forest instead.
The body that was slumped over on a nearby tree caught her attention.
Judging from his appearance, he was a bandit. At least, he had been a bandit, until someone had punctured a hole into his heart. She knelt down and took a closer look at the corpse. The wound was small but precise. It was plausible for it to have been done by a throwing knife, just like the one that the boy possessed.
It seemed that her daughter and her companions had been attacked by bandits.
Raven found another body deeper in the forest with a hole in his back. Another shot to the heart. This trend continued for another four bodies. The killing blows had been precise, almost surgically so.
It was safe to say that she was rather impressed.
The bandits didn't look like anything special, even the weakest of her tribe would have probably been able to handle them, but they were also fully grown men. For a young child to have been able to wipe them all out? There was potential there, to become a powerful warrior for the tribe.
Strength was a valued commodity in her tribe after all.
The boy didn't look like Tai's and he couldn't have been Summer's, the timelines didn't match up, he was too old for that. Perhaps her brother's then? No, he didn't share the famed red eyes of the Branwen's for one and she doubted that any woman could stand being with her fool of a brother anyway.
Was he one of Ozpin's agents?
Raven was curious.
Perhaps it was worth looking into in the future, the tribe could always use stronger warriors after all. But for now, she was finished here, it was time to return back to the tribe. In one fluid motion, she drew her sword and cut through the air. Her Semblance handled the rest and a portal opened up. Raven took one last glance back towards the direction her daughter was in before she stepped through the portal.
One day, Yang would seek her out on her own power and succeed, she was sure of that.
But today was not that day.
Taiyang didn't typically drink, not since having kids.
After what had happened though? He couldn't help but crack open a cold one. He had made sure to put all of the kids to bed anyway. Qrow seemed surprised, but the last person he wanted to hear talk to him about drinking was his old partner in crime.
"So, how was the talk with the kids?" Qrow asked as he poured himself a cup from his bottle. "You ground them for the whole month?"
Tai snorted. A month after a stunt like that? And Qrow said he was soft.
"More like the whole year."
Qrow just whistled in response. "Sheesh. Talk about Mr. Hardass."
They both couldn't help but chuckle at that. After downing a couple more cups, Tai figured he had enough and passed the rest of the bottle towards Qrow. His partner just smirked knowingly in response before he downed the rest of it.
"I should tell you, I talked to my sister." Qrow casually began.
Tai froze at that. "... About what?"
"Not about what you're thinking." Qrow waved off. "I needed her Semblance to find the kids."
"Ah… I see." Tai slowly replied. "Did Yang…?"
"Big sis gave her the cold shoulder." Qrow scoffed to himself. "Some more of that tribe mentality bullshit."
Taiyang frowned at that but didn't say anything in response. He shouldn't have even been surprised, not after how Raven had left. He could already feel the headache coming from the conversation he was going to have to have with Yang about her mother.
"Oh, and there was one more thing." His partner continued unperturbed. "Some bandits tried to capture the kids before I managed to find them with Raven. Probably looking to make a quick buck off a ransom or something."
"That's not too surprising, there's been a lot of banditry reports going around lately." Taiyang replied, the frown on his face growing hard. "I'm assuming you and Raven took care of them?"
"It would have been better if that was the case. They were already dead when Raven and I stepped through the portal. Kirei took them all out himself, a dagger through the heart in each one of those poor sods."
Taiyang blinked at that.
"Kirei? He killed them all?" He repeated, more to himself if anything, "Just like that?"
"Yeah. Didn't seem too bothered by it all that much either." Qrow put his arm on the table and leaned forward. "Listen, Tai, I'll be straight with you, we all knew the kid was a bit messed up in the head. But to just kill those guys like that without a single afterthought? Even Raven and I weren't that bad, and this is with our pops beating the whole tribe mentality thing into our heads."
"So what do you want to do about it, Qrow?"
"I'm just saying, we should get him checked out by a psychiatrist or something. That is, unless you want him to grow up like yours truly." Qrow pointed at himself. "Or even worse, my sister."
Taiyang just looked over towards his kitchen shelf, he really needed another drink for the rest of this conversation.
Kirei hadn't expected for Qrow to have been able to find them.
He had made sure to hide their tracks well, enough that even an Executor wouldn't have been able to track them down. Qrow's sister's Semblance had caused all of his efforts to be for naught, however. He hadn't had any knowledge of her or her abilities, but even if he had, he doubted that he would have been able to do anything about it.
At the very least, Yang was able to meet her mother.
The woman had outright ignored her however and left her behind once again. Kirei didn't think that he would ever forget the face that Yang had made afterward. He honestly hated how it made his heart dance every time he thought about it.
Yang was… a friend. Fundamentally, he knew that it wasn't right, to find joy at the expense of anyone, much less a friend. And yet, whenever he thought of that moment, to his horror, he couldn't shake the feeling genuine happiness.
It didn't help that the specter that plagued his thoughts only laughed at him the entire time.
"So, kid. Any reason why you thought it was a good idea to let Yang talk you into trying to find my sister?"
Qrow was leaning against the wooden wall of the Xiao Long household, the shadows doing a good job of concealing him. It would have been intimidating if it weren't for the fact that Kirei had worked with much more threatening figures as an Executor.
"She would have simply gone by herself if I didn't agree to help." Kirei replied with indifference. "I went along to make sure that nobody actually got hurt."
"And you couldn't just talk her out of it?"
Kirei just gave Qrow a blank stare. "It's Yang. Could you?"
The man just snorted in response. "Alright, you got me there. You should've at least told Tai about it though."
"With the state that he was in? I doubt that he would've even listened to me."
Qrow just took a drink from his flask and didn't say anything more, so Kirei just continued to chop up some more wood for the fireplace. He had been 'grounded', but that didn't mean he couldn't leave the house to do chores. Qrow only watched him the entire time, sipping from his flask all the while. Kirei knew that Qrow always did like to drag out the conversation, but he was almost done chopping up firewood for the entire week and the man still hadn't gotten to the point.
Kirei just let out a sigh. "What is it that you want to say, Qrow?"
The man just stared at him for a moment, before he downed the rest of his drink.
"... About what happened with the bandits. If you need to talk about it. I'm here." The older man eventually began, rubbing the back of his head with a sigh. "For what it's worth, I think you did the right thing."
Kirei blinked and then everything seemed to click. "I think that you're misunderstanding something here, Qrow."
"Yeah? And what's that?"
"This is not the first time that I have killed someone."
Author's Note- Been a while since I worked on this fic, but I finally got into the mood for it and managed to get this one out in one go. If there are any typos, that's probably why. Planning on a big time skip soon, to get things more in line with the actual show. Maybe in the next chapter or the one after, I'll see whenever I get to writing it.
On another note, writing Raven's pretty fun. I might have to feature her a bit more in this story.