A Hero is one who strives forward when everyone else turns the other way against insurmountable odds. It's their tenacity, character, and wit that enables them to overcome even the deepest despair. It emboldens them, tempers them, and shapes them from naïve to pragmatic idealists with a knack for gathering another's hopes and guiding it to fruition.

A Hero is what Ruby Rose aspired to be. Just like the story books.

In that vein, it was no wonder that the one to answer her summon was no one else than a hero who just didn't want to see others cry.

Ruby knew it, deep down and from the dream cycles about the type of person Shirou was.

Beyond her mother, to Ruby, Shirou was her goal and idol as the Huntsman of Red.

That was why if he stayed by her side, there was nothing that couldn't be achieved.

Ruby truly believed so, and the remaining two Command Seals were all the proof she needed of their connection.

Seated in the arena waiting room with a view of the battleground and the spectator seats, Ruby pursed her lips while shifting her weight from foot to foot. Since the start of this day, she'd been paying attention to everything around her.

Various teams from numerous locations across Remnant had flown in to participate in the tournament, and that meant a high concentration of talented individuals in one place.

Based on descriptions of people made by her future self, Ruby could even pick certain people in the crowd acting as guards, enforcers, and tournament staff.

The one with the white hair and a stick up her bum like Weiss was likely Winter Schnee, the elder sister of the Ice Queen.

Then over there was Uncle Qrow, for once deathly alert and not drinking on the job.

Even Ozpin was here with a troubled look on his face in the VIP seats with James Ironwood and other kingdom representatives.

Ruby noted her mom, Summer, being antsy while out on patrol in the stands.

Then there were the instructors of the Academy Teams. Archer acted as Beacon's representative in Glynda's place, while an uptight man stood in for Atlas, a nervous spectacled woman for Haven, a smiling man from Shade, and Adam Taurus for Vermillion- wait was that Blake?

Ruby's thoughts monetarily jarred to a stop.

No one else had noticed as they were too focused on the Vytal festival rather than their surroundings, but Ruby could see Blake shamelessly sneaking towards Vermillion's camp.

Ruby's brow twitched. Now she didn't want to jump to conclusions, but if she suddenly sent an annoyed text to Yang about 'traitors!' then that wasn't her. She was the good one. The apple of the eye, not the tattle teller.

Ruby clapped her cheeks and tried to focus.

Regardless of whatever anyone else was doing, what mattered now was what would happen today.

The Vytal festival had been going on without a hitch. The first few days were running as normal and many teams either advanced to the finals or were eliminated.

Beacon was showing an exceedingly one-sided performance in this aspect, few if any underestimating them after team CRDL's initial showing and the unfortunate 'male' team they were first up against.

Jaune's help had been imperative to CRDL's success as Jaune was more than willing to help a fellow classmate out against other rival schools. He needed only to heal one or two people from CRDL in their matches, and it not only caused other teams to be wary of Beacon, but it earned Jaune CRDL's appreciation. Of course, Jaune would refuse service when it came to Beacon teams squaring off against each other.

Archer's lessons were not to be underestimated. It made the pressure of the other teams look tiny in comparison.

As a result, many of Beacon's teams made it to the finals including Ruby's. The only other teams that managed to defeat or even tie with Beacon were from Vermillion…

Ruby shot Blake a suspicious glare at the reminder, but soon returned to her thoughts.

It wasn't a bad thing to be in the finals, but Ruby couldn't help but start to get nervous.

Everything is supposed to happen on the day of the Vytal Festival's Finals. Today.

Ruby was aware of the heightened security and tense expressions on Ozpin, Archer, her uncle Qrow, and everyone else's faces in the know.

The decisive time was now, and Ruby was the only one of the students who really knew that.

"Are you alright, Ruby? You look a little out of it?" Pyrrha nudged Ruby on the side.

Despite their misgivings about how the two had gotten partnered up, it didn't mean they didn't know how to cooperate when it mattered. And right now, it certainly mattered considering they were in the top eight of the final matches.

The rival team Ruby and the others would be facing were not to be underestimated.

"I'm fine," Ruby brushed Pyrrha's concern off, laughing awkwardly. No one bought it for a second, but Ruby couldn't care too much.

More than just the tournament, the entire world's fate was at stake here.

The attack would start from Vale's north, followed by the south before defenses break and a horde of Grimm storm Vale central. It was fortunate that the Vytal festival competition was being held on a floating venue which keeps them safe from many Grimm, but the same couldn't be said for those in Vale propper.

Was everything going well?

No matter how much her mom insisted that they'd done the best they could, Ruby couldn't calm herself down.

With Shirou by her side, she didn't worry about her own life, but that of others.

Ruby hoped she wasn't acting too stiffly today, but who was she kidding. Her team could easily see that something was eating at her.

"Ruby, get your head in the game!" Weiss scolded, forcing a smile to come off as less controlling. "We're going against Ector's team next round. This is no time to day dream."

Indeed, Ector's team was the team Ruby was going to face to qualify for the top four of the tournament.

'~You just don't want to lose in front of your sister.' Neo held up a sign saying sis-con next to Weiss who shrieked when the camera panned in on their team.

Media attention was already centered on the two teams due to Pyrrha Nikos's publicity and Ector who managed to fight the Invincible Girl to a stand still at a Mistralian tournament.

Shoving Nero to the side, Weiss coughed into her hand and composed her expression. As the Schnee Heiress image mattered to her.

"Go team," Weiss said in off hand commentary.

Neo dead panned, while Pyrrha inwardly hated experiencing her celebrity life all over again.

Ruby eventually tuned her team's voices out, focusing on the link in her mind instead.

"Anything?" She asked.

'Nothing in sight in the north in the position you specified. At least not yet.'

Ruby felt her palms growing clammy. She'd sent Shirou to guard the north where the first horde of Grimm was supposed to arrive so that he could handle them and let Vale's forces congregate to the South. If neither the South or North fall, then the invasion into Vale by Cursed Arm should fail.

"Keep me posted. If you see any groups of Grimm, you're free to attack them."

'-I see them.'

Ruby blinked at Shirou's words before hastily calling out to him.

"Don't let them near Vale!"

'Understood.'

Ruby cut off the communication with Shirou, trying to let him focus on his task. She worried more about distracting him if she kept pestering.

Running a hand through her hair, Ruby swept her gaze towards the VIP seats where Ozpin and the other kingdom representatives sat. Her mom told her that Headmaster Ozpin would handle managing the personnel and aid to the South using his diplomacy skills. Said diplomacy skills were proficient enough to delay the news of what transpired in Forever Fall even now. Those deaths could be grieved later after more people were saved by stopping panic and outrage.

"Please welcome two of Beacon's Huntsmen Teams with seated odds to win the entire tournament!"

The voice of the announcer echoed as Weiss urged Ruby and the others to stand at attention and wait to be called into the arena.

"On the left side, and remaining undefeated throughout the tournament, Team SEVR!"

The stage lights flared in tandem with the music and smoke as Ector, Emerald, Vernal, and Ren walked onto the arena. Cheers echoed from the stands, but Emerald only cared if Archer was cheering, Ren and Ector were indifferent, and Vernal was relishing in the fame.

"On the right side, and also undefeated for good reason, Team PRWN and Mistral's own Invincible Girl!"

"Elegant, graceful, shoulders broad, back straight," Weiss hissed through her teeth at Ruby and Neo while their team took to the stage with a sighing Pyrrha trailing behind.

Many in the audience seats perked up as the two teams began preparations for combat. Unlike CRDL who quickly became feared for their quick matches and mutual pain inflicted, PRWN and SEVR were pure technical and theatrical fighter teams.

The crowd loved them.

Ruby took in a breath and slowly let it out while shirking like a mouse from all the attention. Gripping onto Crescent Rose, Ruby focused ahead on Ector's team.

No matter how concerned she was about the events that would transpire, she also trusted her mom. Her mom said they'd made all the preparations and Ruby had to believe in that.

Her part was to simply do her best in the tournament. After all, her involvement wouldn't solve anything on the level of a Beacon First-Year student who entered two years earlier than her peers.

Eventually reaching this conclusion, Ruby opened her mouth as Team PRWN's leader.

"Alright team, we carry out operation Zweiii!"

"We did not agree to that name," Weiss deadpanned, grinding her teeth while taking a stance and waiting for the match proctor to call an official start.

"No. No we didn't," Pyrrha said without reservation.

'Too childish.' Neo picked at her nails.

"Hey! Don't make fun of Zwei!" Ruby yelled, miffed.

The tension in the air heightened the moment the match proctor walked up to the middle of the arena and raised a hand and a whistle to his mouth.

The arena terrain was designed with urban warfare in mind. Several dilapidated structures mimicked ruined buildings in the lands mankind reluctantly ceded to the Grimm. In the event the kingdoms eventually sent Huntsman and Huntresses back out to reclaim lost land, the arena simulation was a boon that would save lives.

Different from Ruby and her team however, Ector had live experience in Mt. Glenn, and both Emerald and Vernal weren't shy of playing dirty if need be. Ren appeared the easiest of the four, but his presence was always muted. Which was honestly quite dangerous due to his agility and precise aim.

Pyrrha would deal with Ector, Neo against Emerald, Weiss against Ren, and Ruby against Vernal. Should any of her teammates defeat their opponents first, they were to aid the teammate struggling the most.

Ruby nodded her head in confirmation and trained her eyes on the proctor.

The proctor swung his hand down and blew the whistle-

Bang!

W-What?

Ruby yelped, shielding her face from a shockwave of wind much like everyone else in the crowd. Then there were the blaring alarms and the contant flaring of Aura in the stadium proper.

"Up there!" Pyrrha said through gritted teeth, expression paling at a familiar figure.

Ruby hastily craned her view up and froze.

In a show of sheer agility and magic, two figures suddenly appeared in the sky overlooking the floating arena of the Vytal Festival Tournament.

One was none other than Cursed Arm, the other, a pale witch of white skin, red veins, and darkened irises.

Escorted by Cursed Arm, the other appeared to have coordinated everything.

Ozpin stood up on his seat, pupils constricting.

"Who is that next to him?" Weiss asked, more than a little concerned. "S-Sister?!"

In a flash, Winter was running on floating glyphs towards the two, followed by Qrow and Summer who moved in with scythes extended.

It was too late to do anything.

"Do it." Cursed Arm's detached voice echoed out.

Some laughed as if it was merely part of the spectacle, not having caught on to the sudden breach of security, others turned deathly pale.

Salem, Witch Queen of the Grimm, snapped her fingers and a veil of magic covered the skies in a black fog dotted by numerous pairs of unblinking red eyes.

Magic was freely used by the hands of someone more versed in its applications than even Ozpin himself.

The signal was given.

At a distance, Arthur Watts curled a finger around an impeccable mustache before initiating a kill switch. He didn't know who was skilled enough to plant the bombs undetected, but Salem merely assured him that the job would get done.

His role was the technical aspects.

The Vytal Festival's floating arena abruptly exploded, screams echoing as everyone was blasted out in different directions.

"RUBY!"

The ground gave way in a great roar, making it impossible to tell who was calling her.

Ruby only had a second to glance up through the smoke and rushing air to see everyone drifting away from her in the ensuing blast.

A shield of white light flashed in Jaune's direction, while everyone else from Beacon's initiation had their own experience about landing from high places.

Glyphs appeared as jumping platforms while the echo of Dust bullets reverberated in Ruby's ears.

Unfortunately, not everyone directly spectating the tournament were combatants.

Civilians screamed as Cursed Arm's blurred shadow reaped them one by one mid fall, depositing them in an all consuming darkness.

Ruby's pupils dilated as she tried to maintain her composure.

…T-This wasn't in the diary?

Ruby unfolded Crescent Rose and used the recoil of her sniper rounds to reduce her momentum. Unfortunately, each shot forced her to drift further and further away as the recoil was too great and the heated winds too forceful.

.

.

.

-The battle for Vale had begun.


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