Here we are again, let's keep it going.

Beta: CrowSkull

The Blind Huntsman

Chapter 98

Volume 3, Episode 17

Qrow Branwen and Taiyang Xiao Long

Qrow Branwen was re-familiarizing himself with the bottom of a bottle of his once-favorite strong alcoholic drink. He paid no mind to the disappointed look his old-time partner Taiyang gave him as when the bottle went empty, Qrow simply dropped it to the floor and reached for another. The glass shattered on the wooden floor as Qrow's foot swung back a little too fast and too hard. "Ah, shit," Qrow mumbled as he let pulled that leg back up and onto the couch, he was currently lounging on. "Shitting bad luck…"

"That wasn't your semblance, Qrow," Taiyang pointed out. "That's just you being a drunk, not paying attention to your surroundings."

"Meh…" Qrow waved his hand dismissively. "Potatoe potatoe."

"No, not potatoe potatoe," Taiyang snatched the bottle out of Qrow's hand and set it down on the coffee table. When Qrow complained and went to reach for it anyway, Tai had to slap his hand away. "Look Qrow, I get how you feel. I actually do. I know what it feels like to lose the one you love with all your heart. I've been there, twice. If there's anyone who knows it better than you, it's me."

"Have you ever lost a daughter?"

"What? Qrow, how dare you!?" Tai exclaimed, pushing Qrow with his leg again and again until Qrow gave up and moved to sit up on the couch. "I know you love Yang and Ruby just as much as I do, to even imply something like that is asinine and I won't have you saying shit like that in my house."

"You still didn't," Qrow burped, the gas that came up from his stomach burned as it exited through his mouth and nose. He gagged and almost threw up, but managed to get control over himself just in time, despite just wanting to let it go right then and there in an effort to get the blonde out of his way. "Malienna… she was such a good girl man," he said in a soft sob. He wanted to cry, but he just didn't have the energy even for that. He felt like all his tears had dried up by now after weeks of grieving already. "She didn't deserve that, why did that happen to her? Marron too, hasn't that family been through enough already?"

Taiyang's glare softened and he took the empty spot beside Qrow, wrapping an arm around his partner's shoulder. Team STRQ may as well not exist anymore, but Qrow was still his partner. Even if he was an asshole most of the time, he had spent the last twenty odd years with him by his side. Which was why it hurt him so much to see him like this. It was the worst he had ever seen Qrow get.

Qrow Branwen was there for him when his sister left him and their baby girl, and he was there for him when Summer Rose died. Tai intended on returning the favor.

"We don't know that they're dead…" Taiyang said slowly.

"I saw the ship explode, Tai," Qrow told him. "I saw the Bullhead get grabbed by a big ass Grimm, and I watched it crash into the city. If by some miracle the crash or explosion didn't kill them, then the Grimm would have after that." Qrow palmed his face and shook his head. He leaned into Tai's touch, practically falling into him in some desperate attempt for comfort. The fact that Qrow was seeking it in him pulled at Tai's heartstrings, he really had no one else.

Ruby was still unconscious, and Yang was unresponsive. After the latter heard the news, she just… shut down and all she wanted to do is lie in bed and try to forget that it ever happened. It didn't help that Blake left somewhere right after they all made it to Patch too. She at least explained to them and Yang why she had to leave, but the fact that she wouldn't tell them where frustrated them all to hell. And Orchid… not only was she not close with either of them in any way other than acquaintances, but she also wouldn't leave Ruby's side even for a second. Other than maybe Raven, Qrow only had him to lean on. Literally in this case.

The less said about Kai the better. They didn't even know if he was alive or not. Last he was seen, he was in Vale fighting the Grimm. Anything more than that was a mystery.

"Why? Why did that happen?" Qrow asked. "Is it because of this stupid bad luck semblance? I knew I shouldn't have gone for anything, I knew it. I'm a literally bad luck charm, all I do is hurt others."

"That's not true," Taiyang said. "Remember how you were when we first joined Beacon? That was the time where all you wanted to do was hurt others, seriously, you were worse than Raven." He laughed at the memory. It took Summer and him ganging upon him in order to finally reign him under control. "Summer and I had to beat your ass black and blue before you finally realized who was in charge."

"Heh… I think I still have the scars." Qrow said, lightening up for just a second.

"I wouldn't be surprised if you did, Summer cut you pretty deep, even if it was by accident. Your dumbass didn't even have a scroll so you couldn't tell when your aura was getting low." Tai laughed. "She panicked so hard when she saw your blood splatter on the floor… she thought she killed you."

"I recovered in like, three days."

"You recovered after three months," Tai corrected, patting the slightly older man on the back as they shared another laugh. "And Raven, hah! She took care of you for those three months! I think that was the only time she was ever really concerned about someone. She hated Summer for a long time after that, but she came around soon enough."

"Raven has a heart," Qrow said, nodding as the memory came back to him as well. "It's just hidden after twenty layers of bitchiness. She showed some of that to Malikai once, but I think it was more lust and attraction than any real feelings for one another. Anyways, back then, it was just her, me, and our parents back in the tribe. They abused us, forced us to get strong, and then sent us off to Beacon when we didn't become strong fast enough. Ray and I got back at them for that… a long time ago."

"Seems that once upon a time, Raven was truly loyal to someone. Not by any sense of obligation or anything," Tai remarked. "But genuine, true love for her little twin brother."

"Heh… I don't think she loved me anymore." Qrow sorrowfully added. "After she found out something about Salem and Oz that we didn't know about, and that argument… I think that was when she and I stopped being brother and sister."

"Don't say that," Tai squeezed his shoulder. "You're the only one of us that she still talks to, meets with, excluding Malikai's kid, anyway."

"She cares about him," Qrow admitted. "A little too much, but I think I but an end to that relationship too… Kai was that vigilante, Stone Face." Taiyang was mildly shocked to hear that. "It doesn't matter who knows and who doesn't anymore, but she was the one who encouraged him to take on that stupid mask, even if subtly. I… I tried to protect him, and I told her to leave him alone for good. I felt that since I dating his mom, I had to start treating him as if he was my son," He laughed bitterly at that. "Mistake after mistake… Kai didn't need a new dad, nor did he want one. He just needed someone good to look up to. And all he had was Raven."

"We didn't get the chance to warn him about her," Tai said. "He was just a kid when Raven found him, and it took months before any of us found out about it."

"She definitely succeeded in making him strong though," Qrow chuckled, moving on. "Stronger than any of us were at his age, stronger than even Malikai. Hell, he's probably stronger than me now. But he's going down a much darker path, and… I don't think we can save him anymore."

"He could have…" Tai let the unsaid words hang in the air.

"No, there's no fucking way a Grimm would be the one to end him," Qrow said, somewhat offended by the very thought of it. "He's still out there somewhere, the last Matsuoka, and he has no one to hold him back anymore."

Taiyang didn't know what to say to that. He was hardly someone very close to Kai, at least not after Mistral. They drifted apart quickly once he found out that Raven was training him and not her own daughter. He would freely admit that it was a petty mistake on his part and he regretted it, but it was too late to say sorry now of all times. He didn't know Kai as much as he wished he could have before Vale fell.

"How did you do it?" Qrow asked, suddenly feeling a lot heavier in Tai's arms as he slumped.

"How do I do what?"

"Not lose yourself, not go crazy, not succumb to depression, and the urge to just end it once and for all. You lost Raven, and then you lost Summer, and in not that long a time frame. How did you manage to come back from this?"

"Oh." Taiyang realized what he meant quickly. It was true after Raven left and Summer died, he was in a very dark place. He might have ended up committing suicide, even though he never got close to actually doing it. "I had two daughters to take care of," Tai began. "They were always there for me, even if they're too young to remember it now. Yang always made me give her attention and taking my mind off it. Hmph, she had to remind me to take care of Ruby a few times. But it wasn't just the man, it was you too."

Qrow slowly looked at him through the corner of one of his red eyes.

"You took me out drinking, you kept me in shape, and you even went as far as to become a teacher alongside me at Signal just to make sure I was - how did you put it? 'Making sure I wasn't spreading my depression to the students.'" Tai laughed. "You are my best friend man, even if we get at each other's throats every once in a while. You were one of the hands that pulled me out of that dark pit of a mine, and I am going to be damn sure that I'm here for you, so I can return the favor and not let you fall any farther than you have already."

Qrow started to laugh, from genuine amusement at first before it went hysterical. After several moments of slowly degrading to sobs and finally letting the tears burst through the dam that was his emotional barrier, Tai held him as he let out all of his pent up emotion. Tai sighed and just stayed there with him, being there for him when he needed it most. It was all that he could do, but he had a feeling that it would work.

Qrow's life wasn't done just yet, he still had two nieces, and a nephew if you counted Kai into the mix, to look after. He had a feeling that when Ruby woke up and Yang got herself out of her own home, they weren't going to be done with the fight. And when Qrow sees that, he isn't going to be done fighting either. That's what he was, a huntsman through and through. There was a reason to how he became the strongest huntsman in Vale and kept that title, he was damn determined.

And the man didn't know it yet, but it was inspiring. With Vale's fall and the presumed deaths of Ozpin and Albedo, Patch and Signal weren't safe anymore. Which meant that Tai was going to have to defend his home or try and find out where he and the girls could move. Mistral was closest, but Atlas was safer. Either way, however, perhaps it was time that Taiyang Xiao Long came out of retirement.

Raven Branwen

"Eat," Raven Branwen commanded as he threw an entire loaf of bread into the little girl's lap. "You are hungry."

"'M not…" Malienna complained, drawing the blanket over her entire body and head.

"Yes you are," Raven said, tearing the blanket off the girl and pushing the bread into her hands. "And you will eat because I command it."

"You're not my mom," Malienna whined.

"I'm not, you're right," Raven scowled. "But since you are now in my care, you are living in my tent. You should know the rules that come with that, my tent, my rules. So eat, or else I will make you eat."

Malienna gasped before grabbing the loaf and proceeding to shove it into her mouth. The bread was a little stale, but it came from Raven's personal food stash, which was the best of the best foods that she and her bandits could pillage. It was the freshest bread that she could find, at least.

"You're scary…" Malienna said as she chewed her food.

"Good," Raven smirked, sitting down in front of the girl. "That means that no one messes with me."

Malienna found that amusing, for some reason. Raven tilted her head in confusion but let the girl have her enjoyment. She was in a better state after grieving for her mother as long as she had. It was starting to get annoying, always having to let the girl climb into bed with her for comfort, always holding onto her hand, and generally bother her about every little thing that crossed her mind. Raven bared it purely out of sympathy. The girl had nearly been killed and lost her mother, so it was understandable at the very least.

"When is my brother going to come?" The girl asked as she nibbled on more bread.

Raven frowned and looked away. "He should be on his way. Don't worry, you will see him again."

"I want to see him now… can't you do that portal thingy to bring him here as you did with me?"

Raven wanted to growl but held herself back. She already tried to do just that! But while she could sense that Kai was still alive, he was refusing her. She didn't even know that was possible, but he wasn't letting her create a portal to him. That, or he wasn't...

If that was the case, even Raven couldn't just tell a little girl that the older brother that she looked up to so much that he was dead. She just… couldn't.

"I can't," Raven said instead. "It was… a special case with you. I sensed you just in time and created the portal through your mother. I need a special bond, you see. A bond is what allows me to create a portal to someone anywhere in the world." She realized it the moment she said it. Had her bond with Kai been broken? It… wasn't that far off. After Vale especially, the death of his friends, and his mother. It made sense that he could just be untrusting of anyone and everyone, even her. "I don't have a bond with him anymore…" She said slowly, more to herself than to the girl.

"Mmm… that sucks." Malienna eyes dropped, and the now half-eaten loaf of bread was set aside. "I'm not going to see him for a long time… am I?"

"I don't know." It really depended on how long it would take for Kai to get to Mistral, and even then if he even wanted to come to find her and the tribe. Finding him was going to be nearly impossible, for he could be anywhere from Vale all the way to Vacuo and back to Atlas. Which properly covered every continent on the planet. Searching for one person out of all that, even in her bird form, was going to be impossible. "I'm sorry." She didn't know why she felt the need to apologize, but it made the girl look up at her.

"It's okay." She said, smiling softly. "It's not your fault."

But it was. If she still had a bond with him, he'd be there right now.

"Thank you," Raven said, smirking slightly. An idea came to mind as she looked at the girl in the eyes. She was young, very young, but that was around the same age she and Qrow started getting strong. "I have an idea. It is something that can benefit both of us, and perhaps one day you will be the one searching for him, not the other way around."

"Really?" Malienna asked, excited suddenly. "What is that?"

"Do you want to become strong?" Raven asked, leaning in closer to the young silver eyed Matsuoka. "Because I can make you strong."

"You can?" Malienna eyes were flush with confusion. "How?"

"I trained your brother to be as strong as he is now. He had other teachers, of course, but I was the one that trained him for the longest time. I can offer you the same training, it is good to start when you are young as you are now, did you know that Little Kai started training when he was just a little older than you?"

Malienna shook her head.

"Well, I think you have the potential to become just as strong as him, perhaps even stronger. I sense that you have your aura unlocked, good, that will make this even easier to get you in shape."

"W-Wait… I've never fought before. I'm weak." Malienna pouted as she admitted that. "I need to be protected."

"Soon enough, you'll be more than prepared to protect yourself," Raven flicked her forehead. "You have silver eyes, which means that you can make the Grimm fear you. How old are you? Four?"

"I'm almost six..." Good, she didn't question her about the silver eyes, which means she knows what they mean. That saved Raven a long conversation explaining it to her.

"Then tomorrow," Raven smirked. "Tomorrow you shall become my student. Would you like that?"

"Do I get to get strong like my brother?" Malienna asked.

"I can make you even stronger," Raven said. "It will take time, years, but we have plenty of time." Especially now that Vale had fallen and Mistral already attacked once, it would take much time for Salem, Cinder, and their forces to devise a plan good enough to bring it down. Mistral is not like Vale, they have higher walls, better defenses, and a standing military-like Atlas. Perhaps by the time Malienna was twelve, she'd be strong enough to make a difference, however small. "Do you accept?" Call it manipulation, but Raven needed something to do in the meantime anyway. Malienna would make the perfect student bring up from under her wing. Yang came to mind as well, and Raven considered her but didn't allow herself to think more on that matter. The world didn't need Yang Xiao Long, the world needed silver-eyed warriors who knew how to fight.

"Y-yeah!" She was nervous about it, but Raven was pleased when Malienna reached and grabbed her hand with both of hers. Good, thankfully the promise she was forced to keep didn't say anything about taking this one as her protege, and if Salem and the others thought she was dead? Even better.

She had all the time in the world, no one would be coming after her, not soon anyway. It provided her with the perfect cover.

And there we have it. I decided to throw Raven in here because, well, I felt as though we needed an update on her and Malienna. Now, I understand that there is just a slight issue with the fact that Malienna is just four years old, but that's where another idea of mine comes in.

I honestly just wish I don't go too fast and end up catching up or passing the events of RWBY itself. I've already done that once, and it took a LOT of thinking and planning and work. Thankfully, so far for Volume 8, I am actually interested in what they do, so hopefully, by the time I get to Volume 6, Volume 9 or 10 are out as well. Wishful thinking, of course. This is all me speculating and hoping for the best possible outcome. But worse comes to worst, I'll find out a way to end off this story in a way that feels satisfying and worthy for the story.

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