After Ruby's defeat and Team PRWN's withdrawal, Shirou had to admit that most of his attention was no longer fully on the ensuing competition. His Master was awake and rolling in agony, barely able to twitch her toes let alone get up onto her feet. She wasn't physically yelling because that would contract her diaphragm and nettle a phantom organ, but she was certainly active. If her garbled mental accusations were anything to go by, she was less than pleased with him, and despaired when he informed her that she wouldn't be free from a man's pain until CRD designated a new 'Reflection' target in their next match.

If Shirou was somewhat smug when he informed Ruby of this, then it was true.

That ominous feeling Ruby had had during the match. That was him sending a mental warning.

He'd actually sent her this warning to act before CRDL could pull off their maneuver, but peer pressure killed her. She sought confirmation from her team not to be ousted as a tyrant of a leader and ultimately let her entire team's complacency lose them the match.

In some ways it wasn't all that bad, and if anything, it was humbling, but that was just him.

The higher pitch of Ruby's mental tones and periods of abrupt silence made it seem as if he was interacting with kid Ruby again. Ah, the quieter days.

"T-Traitor!" She kept accusing him.

'I warned you.' He repeated flatly.


'Now you're just being childish.'

"M-Make it stop!"

'Archer Traced the Baton, look for him.'

"N-Neo looks like she's ready to kill someone! Weiss is mumbling to herself! And Pyrrha's expressionless!"


"M-More importantly, Yang came and is making fun of me!"

And that was probably the real reason, but sisters do that all the time.

Shirou shook his head and left Ruby to her suffering. Lasting lessons were best learned through consequence. He no longer responded to Ruby's mental wailing and returned half of his attention back to the proceeding matches.

CFVY and SEVR were both interesting teams. Both were strong, and both were given Mystic Codes that would bolster at least one member of their team. CFVY for example was given an enhancer type that multiplied the reserves of Aura for those in contact with it. Given the proficiency of team CFVY as a second-year team, there was no telling the extent of damage they could achieve with larger reserves.

In SEVR's case, their Mystic Code centered on the concept of 'Equalizing.' A banner held in Ector's hands was engraved with a Celtic Rune derived from Tiwaz, for honour and fair victory. When erected over the ground, it would create an area where energy reserves equalized. It was practically a direct counter to what CFVY had, but it was still going to be a first-year team vs a second-year team. The gap in skill and experience was something that had to be overcome…well, normally.

"Now if both teams are ready, please step forward into the ring," Glynda adjusted her glasses and beckoned for the teams to take their places.

"You got it teach." Coco, leader of CFVY smirked as her sun glasses slid down closer to her nose. Her eyes sparkled in amusement, peering roguishly at SEVR before readjusting her sunglasses. "This will be over quick."

Vernal growled, while Emerald appeared disinterested. Ector readied his shield and lance, and Ren looked somewhat exasperated at Nora's excessive cheering in the background.

When CFVY and SEVR eventually entered the sparring arena, Glynda nodded and called for the match to start.

For a moment, team CFVY did nothing, staring at SEVR as if giving them the first move as they were juniors, but the moment was short lived.

"Ahem," suddenly Glynda cleared her throat, prompting Coca and her team to pause before committing to any attack.

If there was one thing different about first and second years, it was that CFVY had a healthy understanding of what ignoring Glynda Goodwitch could entail.

She was too much of a scary woman.

"Yes, Ms. Goodwitch?" Velvet from CFVY called curiously, tension leaving Coco as she sighed from the disturbance.

Fox and Yatsu, the other members of CFVY were just as put off, but weren't vocal about it. Instead, they just frowned.

"There's been a malfunction of the Aura reading meters in this arena. I'll have to ask both teams to relocate to the next arena over."

So, a technical issue? You'd think they wouldn't have those in Beacon, but they were actually fairly commonplace with the kind of shenanigans aspirant Huntsmen got up to. Glynda would know. She's the one who deals with such students.

"No problems," Coco answered, shrugging.

CFVY watched as SEVR exited the current sparring arena and entered the other, before team CFVY followed them.

It was only when Coco and her team got ready to face SEVR again that they blinked in confusion when SEVR's members vanished out of thin air.

The hell?

"CFVY disqualified. Out of bounds." Glynda's flat tone snapped CFVY out of its daze.

"What sort of bullshit-!" Coco nearly threw her sunglasses off before she turned to the arena her team had just left and saw SEVR still standing there with Glynda.

Ector and Ren were sighing while Vernal was giving them the finger.

Meanwhile, Emerald was on the floor, a trail of blood leaking from her nose, but a satisfied grin on her face while recalling Coco's own prior cockiness.

From the perspective of everyone else, Team CFVY had walked right off the stage the moment the match began.

Shirou should have known this would happen.

SEVR had Emerald and Vernal on the same team, and both were not above opting for the easy way out. But Shirou had to admit that Emerald had been working hard on her Semblance. It only helped that she'd been exposed to the light of the Saint's Banner, giving her even greater control.

"Teach, that can't count!" Coco was beyond furious, she felt cheated. The Mystic Code her team had been given was something she certainly wanted to keep. It was just too good to lose it in this way!

Glynda seemed to agree, and it wasn't helping that Vernal kept cussing CFVY as bitches and losers, but a loss was a loss. Semblances weren't banned from these spars, and Emerald's Semblance as a Rose Mercenary wasn't really a secret.

"Manners, Ms. Vernal," Glynda warned darkly, causing Vernal to stiffen and retreat with her tail between her legs. Then, glancing at Emerald who was recovering from her Semblance's use, Glynda nodded. This was still an acceptable victory. "Winner, team SEVR. Both teams, please return to your seats and allow the next teams to step forward."

" #*#$*!"

Velvet had to hold Coco back. If a glare could kill, then the one Coco directed at Vernal and Emerald would have turned them into smolders. What was even more painful was when Shirou stepped forward and took back team CFVY's Mystic Code, unaffected by any kind of 'haggling' (Begging) that it wasn't fair Coco employed.

When matters were eventually settled, several other matches ensued until every team had fought at least once.

Team BAYN had faced off against a third-year team, but had managed to pull off an easy victory. Jaune wasn't allowed to use the Saint's Banner, but there seemed to be an unnamed rule not to go too hard on him due to his future prospects. That didn't mean he wasn't quickly ringed out though when he got cornered by the entire enemy team.

Why did he get cornered?

Jaune's eyes were still twitching incessantly.

Blake and Yang had been too focused on wrestling each other for who got to use their magic artifact and left Jaune and Nora to the wolves. When Jaune and Nora were barely able to hold out, the other team then decided to pick them off one at a time, which worked. Jaune was eliminated then Nora by ring-out.

Neither Blake or Yang batted an eye, not that it really mattered when Blake finally got one over Yang and shoved her out of the ring.

Left to deal with the enemy team on her own, Blake seemed more concerned with gloating at Yang who Glynda had to restrain from jumping back into the arena.

The situation was one against four, but team BAYN's artifact centered around 'Life steal.' For every attack Blake landed, she'd recover her Aura by taking it from her opponent. Add in her autonomous Shadow Clones, and her sustain was ridiculous.

Unless she was instantly defeated, Blake would simply recover her Aura levels back to the green.

If Yang had won instead, the situation would have been similar, but arguably more painful due to Yang's Semblance. The more damage she took, the stronger Yang's Semblance became, but with Life Steal, she'd never tire.

It was no wonder Blake and Yang had been at each other's throats about who got to use it. It worked wonderfully with either one of them.

"Victory to BAYN," Glynda announced, Blake hardly noticing Glynda's disapproving stare. This was supposed to be a team effort.

Just as BAYN and the other team were leaving the arena, Glynda stopped Jaune in place.

"A word Mr. Arc, but a leader should manage the team before a live showing," Glynda advised, patting Jaune on the shoulder.

It was too much. The twitching of Jaune's brow only got worse as a result. It wasn't as if he didn't try!

Getting back to their seats, Jaune could already see Yang about to march up to Blake who still had their team's magic artifact in her possession. Irked, he sent Nora on them. He would no longer hold Nora back!

Meanwhile, Glynda glanced at Shirou, nodded, and then moved on.

If Glynda was the only instructor running this competition, she would have had words with BAYN's team dynamic right there and then, but this was a co-venture.

Glynda could only drop the matter and bring it up at a later date. Turning her attention to the distant projector, the second round of team battles was set to occur. Half the competition was already eliminated, so all the teams left were all those that had already proven themselves and had already won once.

Waiting for the images to stop, Glynda then called out the teams for round two.

"Team SMGS vs Team CRD, please step forward."

It was another higher-year team vs another first-year team. Considering the outcome of CRD's first opponent, SMGS was not going to be taking this lightly.

Just as Glynda began to organize the match, an unexpected variable put a halt to everything.

Qrow Branwen came crashing down from the arena ceiling, bumbling in a terror-struck panic as he hit the ground and tumbled into an inelegant halt.

Glynda didn't know how to react to what she was seeing, and the silence ended up stretching before Qrow shot up into a seated position, beads of sweat matting his brow.

He was anxiously patting his chest. All the while, the colour was drained from his face. It wasn't until he felt the rhythmic beating of his own heartbeat that he began to settle down and splay his limbs over the ground in relief.

Too close. Too damn close.

Qrow laughed hollowly, high on adrenaline.

Everyone then looked up in the direction Qrow had come from. A portal?

Few if any knew what this meant, but Yang was one of them. She knit her brows and stewed in an onset of insecurity and doubt.

Her mom was here? She must have been spying on the current competition, opened a portal, and then Uncle Qrow jumped through it?

Still, why should Yang care what her mother did? Not like it had anything to do with her, after all. But uncle Qrow was different.

She'd never seen him so unsettled, and Ruby would feel the same way.

"Uncle Qrow?" Yang called out. She jumped over the arena stands to run up to him and left Blake relieved that Yang had stopped fighting her over their team's artifact.

As Yang drew near, it became more and more apparent to her that her uncle was both spooked and unnerved.

"Are you alright? You don't look so good." Yang moved to support Qrow, but the moment she got her hands on him, she frowned at the feel of his rapid heartbeat and dilated eyes. The hell happened to him? "Nurse, let's get a nurse." She quickly decided before looking back to her team. "Hey dumb cat, we need a nurse and you're faster than me! Go call one!"

"That does not endear me to your request. At all." Blake replied flatly, before pausing and realizing she'd responded to 'dumb cat.' She scowled, forcibly stomping her fluster into paste and growling. "I do not listen to would-be criminals, and the teacher's are already here!"

Jaune, Nora, and Yang all stared silently at Blake. "..."

Yeah, the teacher's were here, but none of them were medical staff.

Blake grumbled, and quietly left to notify Beacon's infirmary despite her complaints. She wasn't heartless. However, she frowned at the thumbs up Jaune and Nora sent her when she returned. Jaune's was more genuine, but Nora's was irking. Nora had apparently started a bet with Ren about Yang or Blake upping the other over petty reasons, and it was clear that Nora had bet against Blake.

Blake had a couple choice words for both Nora and Yang, but she could sense that the gravity of this matter wasn't as light as it seemed.

"I'm fine Yang, I don't need that crazy nurse to put her hands on me," Qrow shuddered and pushed himself up on shaky knees.

Yang wasn't stupid and grimaced. She could tell her uncle was putting up a front. The hell happened to him?

Ozpin suddenly stood up and moved from the stands, nodding at Glynda before personally ushering Qrow to a private room.

Yang moved to follow, but froze when Raven of all people appeared, jumping down from the arena roof. One look, and it was clear to Yang that Raven seemed just as unnerved as Qrow. Ignoring Yang, Raven glared at Ozpin, but then relented and silently followed. Whereas Yang just stood there dumbly at Raven's appearance.

Annoyance laced Yang's features that she had balked at the mother who thought so little of her again and again. Fire crept into her eyes, sparks of lightning crackling over her head, barely suppressed.

Yang began to stomp after them, but promptly reconsidered. Any words of protest or insistence left her when Qrow shook his head at her. His expression was serious, nothing like the laid back demeanor she was used to.

What was going on?!

Suddenly, her team's victory or defeat in the current competition was the last thing on her mind.

The same went for Vernal as soon as Raven had popped up.

The moment the door closed behind him, Qrow did not waste a moment to find something to sit on. His wobbling legs wouldn't have carried him any further anyway, so he settled on stubbornly sitting on the ground right there and then. He just had to catch his breath was all, and then come to terms with the fact that he nearly just died, Aura levels withstanding.

Rather than call the area a private room, Ozpin had just relocated everyone to Glynda's original lecture hall. It was vacant with the competition hosted elsewhere, and that was enough for all three adults present.

While Qrow caught his breath, Ozpin glanced at Raven who immediately caught on to Ozpin's intentions before the man could even open his mouth.

She unclicked the latch over her sword's sheath, and then glared at him, daring him to try.

Raven wasn't about to get roped into Ozpin's pace ever again, and the best way to deal with smooth talkers or conniving snakes was to not give them the time of day.

"Pretend I'm not here." She hissed, sneering. "I'm not speaking to this manipulative bastard."

She would only listen, and that was all. She, like Ozpin, was just as in the dark about Qrow's encounter as she'd only caught the tail end of it.

Ozpin grumbled and frowned, but he could live with the arrangement as he still understood his priorities. His attention refocused on Qrow, who by now was looking less like death, and more a sober drunk staring into the air in a daze.

"What happened on the mission, Qrow?" Ozpin broached the subject.

Raven's brow twitched in realization.

"Of course, it had to be another one of your missions." She seethed, red eyes narrowed almost into slits. "Was Summer's case not enough for you?"

Raven blurted the words scathingly, only to remember her indicated stance as only a listener and promptly scowled. She clearly wasn't as unaffected by recent developments as she let on.

Ozpin grit his teeth as Raven picked at sore wounds, but now wasn't the time.

"Was the information inaccurate?" He turned back to Qrow.

Has it all been a trap all along? Ozpin had his reasons to be suspicious. Convenience was often a sign of a ploy.

"It's not that." Qrow denied the implications by shaking his head and gathering his thoughts. "It was real. There really was a scythe there that matched the description Archer traded. I'm willing to bet it does what it's supposed to be able to do too. Trust me, the problem wasn't the artifact."

Positive news? It was the first time in a long time that Ozpin felt hope rising for the end of this age-old conflict. He couldn't help himself, and coughed into his hand to conceal his eagerness given Qrow's current state. It would be terribly improper to look so elated. There had to be a downside to all this.

"Then I assume that you weren't able to retrieve it given its current absence?" Ozpin knew he was asking a rhetorical question, given he had working eyes, but vocalizing observations were better than leaving them unsaid.

Qrow tightened his expression, taking another moment to gather his thoughts and give an explanation that didn't end with 'fuck this shit.'

"You know that 'Bad feeling,' Archer talked about?" Qrow began, scratching the back of his head before he took in a breath and leveled even with Ozpin's gaze. "Yeah well, there was a genuine reason for it, and mistakes were made. Mistakes were made, Ozpin. To the point that I don't think Salem's going to be the only problem anymore."

Ah yes, the catch. Something Ozpin noted even Raven looked stressed over, and that's saying a lot for a woman who constantly harped herself as strong.

"...What do you mean?"

The Branwen siblings would have to excuse Ozpin if he sounded a tad bit too calm. He'd experienced far too many things in his life to get caught up in any feelings of crisis or panic. It never helped to have a rattled mind. Decisions become careless, and impulse becomes the bane of common logic.

Unfortunately, this wasn't just some simple 'crisis.' Qrow scowled.

"What I mean is that the scythe wasn't the only thing buried in the ruin. Hell, the reason I'm guaranteeing the scythe as a genuine article is because of the bastard who has it. You should know him. I'm sure you kept your eyes on Archer's lectures and those ancient Dark Champions?"

Ozpin did not deny the point, but instead grew pensive at the implication forming in his head. Qrow continued, all but verifying it.

"The most recent showing, the one with my supposed ancestor and the Dark Champion that teamed up with some sort of ancient floater Grimm, that bastard's alive. Maybe even the odd Grimm was there too. It was hard to make out in the darkness of the temple."

This was something Ozpin had failed to consider. Just as the God of Light had Championed him in his time of passing centuries before, why could the God of Darkness not have done the same? Ozpin was well aware of the task he'd been issued by the God of Light, but what sort of task would have been given by the God of Darkness?

In retrospect, this Dark Champion was likely even older than Ozpin himself, meaning that Ozpin may not be able to readily determine what goals and aspirations this Dark Champion had.

No. No. Surely he was just getting ahead of himself. It wasn't yet truly confirmed.

Ozpin wet his lips, tentatively broaching the subject of false-positives. "Maybe you were just seeing-"

"Here's the thing Ozpin." Qrow would have no denying the issue here and interrupted Ozpin. "The bastard looked me straight in the eyes, and I swear I saw recognition. Normally, when you run into a new enemy you test their capabilities to feel them out, but no. The moment our eyes locked, he didn't bother engaging in a melee as if he knew it was worthless. Rather than seeing me, he might as well have been taking me for someone else with how he acted. If I hadn't spied on Archer's explanation on curses, I probably would have died there. If Raven was any bitchier, I would have died there."

The sheer gravity of the explanation drew Ozpin aback, and Raven was unable to even deny the accusation. A hair's breadth. It was that close.

"That dire?" Ozpin muttered after a muted pause.

"Do you know what it feels like to have someone palm your heart?" Qrow shivered, even as Raven grew solemn. She'd been there to see that part. The siblings also knew what would have happened if the heart in the Dark Champion's hands was crushed. "The bastard could have ended it, but he took his time squeezing and squeezing. It could just be anxiety, but the pressure in your chest starts out light then grows more and more acute like you're crushing a water balloon. How do you face that unless you get the jump on him? It's crazy."

"Easy." Raven finally put aside all notions of staying out of the conversation and just listening. She had a plan. A relatively benign and simple one, but it was better than cowering. "I get the family spear back from Archer, and I activate its curse before the masked freak can use his curse. Our Branwen ancestor would have won that past battle if that other Grimm wasn't around to interfere."

"Or, you get that spear, and then you run away?" Ozpin held back no punches, but Raven did not rise up to the jab.

"Not this time." Raven shook her head, grimacing at Ozpin. "That's a killer, and he must have recognized us as Branwens. Salem might have left the tribe alone if we didn't provoke her, but this is different. The bastard saw both Qrow and I, and there's no way he's not going to hunt us down. Better to strike first than wait. I'm not the only one with my face, and I still owe Yang her single instance of help."

Qrow suddenly paled at the trail of thought. Raven had always been the more prudent of the Branwens.

"Shit. I didn't even consider that angle." Qrow cursed. He and Raven weren't the only Branwens left.

Pressing as revealed matters were, it didn't stop Ozpin from fixating on a larger problem. "And you're telling me that this Dark Champion is the one in possession of the artifact that can kill immortals?"

Arguably, this point was the most relevant to Ozpin. As a Champion given a mission by the God of Light, it would only be natural for a Champion of Dark to come after him if his status was discovered.

"Yup." Qrow was absolutely certain, his features grim while facing Ozpin. "You really can't risk yourself dying this time because it might be final. Who knows though, perhaps Salem would encounter him, tick him off, and then get herself killed permanently. It would at least solve one headache, right?"

Raven barked out a laugh. They'd never be that lucky, and this was Qrow speaking. Luck did not run in the family.

"In exchange for dealing with a variable we know nothing about, it's hardly comforting news," Ozpin answered, keeping his personal thoughts hidden, and his expression neutral.

It had been a long, long time since Ozpin had ever felt so in the dark about current matters both past and present.

"We'll have to ask Archer for any information he might have on this Dark Champion. His history, his means, and his ambitions, all will be relevant to determine a proper course of action."

It wasn't even a second after Ozpin decided on a course of action that a new variable appeared to intercede.

"A-Actually, I think I might be able to help better with that."

Raven stiffened at the voice, awkwardness pervading the air, while Qrow and Ozpin were more than welcoming of the newest arrival.

The front door of the lecture hall gingerly clicked open to reveal Summer nervously making her way in. Something about her was off. Was it the tension around her, or just her general demeanor? It didn't matter. She looked both shaken yet resolute, hands trembling yet balled into fists.

"Summer?" Qrow was the one who ended the sudden silence before he shook his head. Right now it was better to be frank. It was obvious Summer had been listening in. "How do you think you can help?"

Summer wet her dry lips, her mouth suddenly dry, but she still proceeded onward with information that no one was expecting from her.

"The person you set free is known as the Cursed Arm, a corrupted hero who took a contract with the God of Darkness." Summer revealed. The response was muted. She wasn't deterred and continued while she still had the courage. "His goal is to kill all Humans and Faunus, and he won't stop until he's put down. On the day of the Vytal Festival, he will arrive in Vale."


Ozpin visibly reacted the most. The news certainly was critical, but at the same, that posed an obvious question.

"Where did you learn this from?"


Summer was put on the spot between a rock and a hard place.


-Beacon Academy Medical ward.


Ruby believed she had many virtues, but patience was not one of them. And enduring pain was most certainly not one of them. Gods knew how long she'd spent curled up like a cooked shrimp writhing in agony while waiting for the effect of Team CRDL's artifact to wear off.

She'd just heard CRD called up again on the infirmary's loudspeakers, so it shouldn't be for much longer!

At this point, Ruby had no consideration that Sky was feeling the same agony right now in the next hall over. She just wanted it to stop!

And stop, it did when CRD began its next match.

That feeling of sudden relief was glorious. Her stomach stopped cramping, and her legs finally stopped squeezing together to mitigate the pain. Across from her, Neo was on her feet in an instant, vanishing in an illusion of cracking glass, no doubts about where she was heading. Weiss stood up and left next, dark clouds hanging over her head and utterly silent. Meanwhile, Pyrrha stared blankly at the ceiling, processing this kind of loss, and unable to bring herself to accept it. It would have been fine if the method used was anything else, but she, like most of her team, felt wronged.

Pyrrha eventually wandered off, sharing one thing in common with both Weiss and Neo: They were all hobbling from phantom pains.

Therefore, Ruby felt justified that she did the smart thing and stayed on the infirmary bed. At least she didn't have to hobble.

Left on her own, Ruby took the time to finally ease herself down after the pain stopped flooding her mind with 'kill me, kill me now messages.'

Better yet, at least Yang wasn't around anymore.

Yang had been gloating at Ruby's misfortune until she was dragged back by her team to participate in the competition. Well, rather than dragged, it was more like Nora informing Yang that Blake was about to pull a fast one on their team's magic artifact, and Yang reacting to that information.

In any case, Ruby suddenly felt miffed at herself. Not just for failing to heed Shirou's warning, but for her own lack of details!

Ruby grimaced before pulling out her future diary and looking flatly at the day's current entry. The diary had been altered after the mix up between the original RWBY and PRWN. It was like it had received an update, and at first, Ruby was ecstatic, but it meant little when the future she wanted to change still remained unchanged.

[Team PRWN loses the competition. Shirou's mean! And it wasn't fair. I demand a redo! Who's the leader? Me or Neo?! I have to be more assertive like Yang.]

This was all that Ruby's future self wrote. There was hardly anything she could go off of, but then again, Ruby herself felt like she wouldn't have wanted to write down the experience of low blow pain anyway.

Honestly, it was predictable because her own present diary entries were like that too…and that was why she was miffed at herself. It would only be later when tragedy after tragedy changed Ruby's light-hearted entries into rants about failures and regrets that no detail was missed.

The thing is, Ruby didn't want things to get to that point!

Tucking her head between her shoulders, Ruby stressed while rolling herself in a bundle of blankets. She was a cocoon with only her head peeking out and glaring at her future diary which she kept within view.

Clack, clack, clack.


Ruby hadn't been expecting any more visitors. She rolled over and pulled the blankets off of her to look more presentable before she paused the moment she took in just who had come.

"M-Mom?" The words were stammered shakily out of Ruby's mouth.

Summer stood by the entrance of the infirmary, peeking her head in before hesitantly slipping her body the rest of the way through. Then, shutting the door behind her, Summer tried to force a smile, but couldn't even muster the courage to take her mask off and show it.

If Archer was going to force a meeting, then Summer concluded that she would rather do it on her own terms. With Ozpin, Shirou, Qrow, Raven, and Glynda all in the general vicinity if things went awry, Summer finally convinced herself to try. Besides, it wouldn't be private if she waited for Archer to set everything up.

Rather than have spectators, this was still a family thing, and like her daughter, Summer had performance issues when under scrutiny which led to the current situation.

"Y-Yeah, Little Rose. It's me." Her voice was filled with the kind of false cheer only children fell for.

Ruby subconsciously moved to throw herself into a hug, but Summer instantly backed away, eliminating much of the initial distance Summer had closed to draw near. What was once just two feet away from Ruby had swiftly become three meters.

"D-Don't." Summer stammered apologetically, guilt twisting her features when Ruby flinched but that was it. Just guilt. Summer would not give concessions. "Let's just stay like this. I-It's a good distance."

To say Summer was nervous, was an understatement. This was her own daughter and Summer looked ready to bolt at a moment's notice.

"That's fine!" Ruby was all too quick to play the reaction down. "Ah, uhm, anything's fine!"

Ruby was willing to put up with her mother's distance if it meant she would stick around and actually talk in person. There was just something too lonely about only keeping in contact through texts. It hurt when she rejected her advance, but Ruby would try to understand. Shirou told her that her mother was terrified of a repeat of their last encounter happening, so the fact she was even in front of her now was progress.

"Y-Yeah, anything's fine," Summer quickly agreed. "Have you been doing well?"

"I lost," Ruby pouted.

"I saw it!" Summer let out a giggle. "STRQ would have never made that kind of mistake. We would have ended it in an instant."

Ruby frowned, feeling wronged. If anything, that approach was fishy. "Would it be over because of you, or because of uncle Qrow?"

"...Raven actually," Summer admitted, nostalgia mixing into her tone. "She was ruthless if not more so than your teammate Neo. Unlike Neo, Raven wouldn't have played with them, and would have instead gone for the jugular."

"Doesn't that mean you would have just stood there like I did? You know, because of trusting your teammate?" Ruby accused.

Summer gloated, crossing her arms and childishly refusing to acknowledge the point. "Back in my day, I had Raven, and right now, you have Neo. That's the difference."

"That doesn't count!"

"Ara ara. Whatever you say, little rose."

The two fell into a mutual silence, both simply content to indulge in the other's company. What do you know? Archer had been right. Summer felt more relaxed talking with Ruby than she had in the months she's spent in her new form.

Be that as it may, the silence was stretching, and Summer was never quite good at small talk. Therefore, she looked for a visual cue to act as a supplement.

Eventually, Summer found something.

"Say Ruby, I didn't think I'd ever see you read something that isn't a comic?" Summer said good naturedly, not realizing that Ruby had abruptly snapped all her attention on Summer. "That book must be interesting for you to hold onto it on a sick bed. What's it about?"

N-No way. Ruby shuddered before nervously pointing at the book in front of her, and then to Summer who looked at her with a questioning expression.

This wasn't a reaction Summer had been expecting at all.

"Y-You can see this?" Ruby bolted upright, looking at Summer like a drowning swimmer seeing land.

"I wouldn't be asking if I couldn't, now would I?" Summer pursed her lips, suddenly doubtful.

"Well, it's called…The Sword of Remnant." Ruby closed her eyes as if she was taking a risk; she didn't dare open them again to look at the book as if it would vanish.

Summer's current frown only grew more pronounced at Ruby's behavior, but Ruby wasn't even paying attention to that. She remembered from prior experience that the book would fade if she so much as tried to share its existence with others.

When Ruby eventually opened her eyes again, felt the book still in her hands, and saw that the book was still there; her expression finally changed entirely.

Meanwhile, Summer was still processing the title before it clicked. "Did you say, the Sword of Remnant?"

"Yeah." Ruby answered, reeling in delight at the current implications. S-She wouldn't have to do this alone! "You sound like you know it?"

Summer clicked her tongue.

"I do. It was a fictitious and sad story of a hero who saved everyone but himself written in an observation log by a man named Kischur. Details, names, and events were left out or poorly detailed as if the author got lazy, but the overall impression remained." Her features darkened. "I read it once, but could never seem to find it again, but enough of this. We're getting off topic. It may be a bit different, but on closer inspection, that book you're reading looks awfully familiar to your current diary."

"T-That's because it is," Ruby swallowed apprehensively, but clung to the only lifeline she could now see. There was no way she could do this on her own when she was already floundering every step of the way. "It's my future diary."

Objectively, everything was from Ruby's future perspective, so there may or may not be biases or inconsistencies, but it was still fairly accurate. It would only take a quick read through as well as a few days of verification to realize it was real! Heck, even past events could be cross-referenced.

"It's your what?" Summer's mind blanked, followed by a bout of schadenfreude that her daughter would actually try to pull a fast one on her.

Annoyance caused Ruby to pout at her mother. If none of her words were going to get through to her, then fine.

"J-Just read a few pages." Ruby pushed her future diary into Summer's hands. "You won't believe me otherwise."

Summer gave Ruby a look, but still indulged her.

At first, Summer was playful, but that began to change quickly as the speed of her page flipping increased. The more Summer read, the more panicked her demeanor grew. Eventually, she just skipped to the end with bloodshot eyes. It wasn't until Ruby tentatively took the diary back that Summer just stood there, still as a scarecrow.

"M-Mom I don't know what to do on my own. I-I need your help, but you can't tell anyone or my future diary disappears. I don't know why it doesn't work that way with you, but I-I can't do this alone. We have to stop this! I don't want that future!"

Summer wasn't listening, her feet staggering back before she took back Ruby's future diary, flipped several entries, and then pointed at a specific one.

"T-This segment here," she stressed with wobbling knees and hunched shoulders. "W-Who does it say killed, who?"

Ruby's features dimmed. She was not intent on playing the blame game right now.

"I-I don't know what you're talking about. It's not going to happen." Ruby stubbornly refused to answer. What mattered now was what they could do here. "There were some things that I tried to stop, but either made it worse or couldn't, but if I'm not the only one trying, then maybe we can pull it off! We know what happens! We can stop it! We have to!"

Summer took a breath, then two, before cold rationality and experience drowned out the panic welling within her.

"Yes." Summer muttered, tone growing resolute. She was the adult in this situation. "We can't let the things written here happen. That's why we can't just stand here and do nothing."

"Where are you going?" Ruby called as Summer moved to run towards the door.

"Vale can't fall." Summer answered with growing conviction. "There are some things you can't do as a student, but I can do as an adult with more information on how the world works."

"Then, you're going to get help?" Ruby immediately grew hopeful.

Summer did not deny it.

"I'm going to try."

Thanks for reading!

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