By the way, yes, I know that the Maiden of Spring (Raven) is the one to open the Relic of Knowledge.

Jaune and Qrow do not. If you think who would have told Qrow, and what that individual's feelings are on giving everyone the full story and the full truth, you might be able to guess why they are working on incorrect information.


Cover Art: Jack Wayne

Chapter 2


"Long night?" Peter asked.

"You might say that." Jaune rubbed his eye and yawned. To look at them, you'd have thought Team RWBY a sweet and adorable teem of lovely young girls and their cute puppy. The reality was so much different it hurt. "How was sleeping in the battleship?"

"Capital! Absolutely capital!"

"Good for you." The smug bastard. "What's on the itinerary for today? Actually, scratch that. Where's Glynda?" Jaune looked around, but there was only him, Peter and Bart in attendance. "I think this is the first time I've ever made it to a meeting before her."

"You might want to notice who else is missing," Bart said.

"Roman…" Jaune groaned. "What have they done this time?"

"It appears they had a disagreement on the lawns this morning…"

"As always…"

"And that their verbal sparring may have turned into actual sparring. They're both currently recovering in the infirmary from a few minor injuries and some severe aura depletion. They should be fine. In an hour or so."

"Well, at least I won't have to come up with a punishment if Tsune is looking after them. Men, we have a problem."

"Question," Oobleck said, hand raised.

"Yes?"

"Is this a problem best handled by the three of us? Not to sound like I'm shirking work, but our record of solving problem without Glynda is… ah… not the best." Oobleck scratched his cheek awkwardly.

"That… is a good point." A sad point. A mournful point. "Fine, I'll discuss it with Glynda later. On a slightly lesser problem, we now have no teacher for combat class in fifteen minutes. Ideas?"

"Tell the children to help with construction and frame it as conditioning training. The act of carrying heavy equipment like wounded huntsmen." Peter suggested. "Or that it'll help them in the field if they ever have to repair a village that has been attacked."

"I like it. Let's go with that."

"You think the children will believe it?" Oobleck asked.

"They'd have to be very cynical not to."

/-/

"And that is why you will be assisting with the construction efforts today," the headmaster said. "Remember that in the field we do more than just fight the Grimm. If you ever save a village or town, there may be people in desperate need of assistance."

The headmaster's expression was deadly serious and his words, as ever, captivated the audience sat out on the grassy field of the outdoor training grounds. There were several members of the construction crew hired to rebuild Beacon beside him, ready to offer help in directing the students.

"Here at Beacon, we have taught you how to fight. How to survive. You've been through more than you ought to so far, but you all rose to the challenge when we were attacked. Look around you," he said, indicating the ruined field and the crumbling building. "This is what so many see after the Grimm have been defeated. Homes destroyed, families torn asunder and you, standing as heroes, but unable to do anything to help now that the Grimm are gone."

"That changes today. Knowing how to rebuild is just as important, if not more so, than knowing how to destroy, and this specialised lesson will assist with that." Smiling, Headmaster Arc looked out over his students. "Any questions?"

A hand went up.

"Yes, Mr Winchester."

"Does this have anything to do with Mr Torchwick and Miss Goodwitch being carried to the infirmary earlier?"

"Um. No." The headmaster laughed. "That is all just a coincidence, I assure you."

"it's just that Miss Goodwitch had already made plans for what we were going to do today."

"Plans change, Mr Winchester. After thought and consideration, we, with Glynda's input, came up with this new opportunity. It's a shame she didn't have the chance to tell you herself, but it was only decided yesterday."

"Oh." Cardin looked confused. "Because Miss Goodwitch told my team this morning that we'd be sparring with Team RVNN."

A bead of sweat ran down the headmaster's cheek. "Did she? My, how forgetful of her. Well, if questions are over, I'll leave you all to your lessons." He leapt down off the dais and power-walked away before anyone could as more.

Nora leaned in towards Pyrrha, "Hundred lien says lessons got cancelled because of the fight."

"That's a fool's bet, Nora."

"Hm. Fine. Hundred lien says Mr Torchwick won the fight."

Pyrrha glanced back. "Done."

"Construction," Yang groaned – loudly. "Come ooooonnn, that's so boring."

"I think it's a great idea," Ruby said defensively. "Jaune is right. I'd feel bad if I couldn't help a village rebuild after a Grimm attack. Teaching us this is going to help us save more lives than just by fighting."

"You sure you're not just defending your precious crush?"

"N-No!" Ruby flushed bright red. "That's not it at all!"

"Oh, you're adorable."

"Stop teasing her," Pyrrha said, pulling Ruby over to her side. "Whatever her motives, she's not wrong. We know how to fight. Learning a few other skills won't be bad for us, and even if this is just a ruse, it's still good exercise."

Ruby stuck her tongue out at Yang from under Pyrrha's arm.

"Yeah, yeah." Yang rolled her eyes. "Fine, mom."

Rising with the other students, the two teams joined Team CRDL and followed one of the construction foremen to the cafeteria. It was in a sorry state to say the least, its roof caved in and yellow tape strapped all over it to try and stop students wandering in – as if any were blind or dumb enough not to realise it was a death trap. Their job wasn't to rebuild, but to help in breaking up the rubble and carrying it out.

For Blake, it was a personal problem because she knew Adam had been a part of this. Had been, and still was – remaining at large and having escaped Beacon with the remnants of the White Fang. He'd want revenge, that much was certain.

It was hard to resist the call to find and deal with him.

At least until she imagined how much longer her punishment would be extended to if she did. She'd run off once to the docks and been stuck on paperwork duty for what felt like a year. If she did it again, she had a feeling the headmaster would keep her as his assistant until retirement age.

"I don't like the look on your face," Yang said.

"What?"

"That's a `I'm going to look for the White Fang` expression."

"Don't be ridiculous."

"No, it is," Ruby said, lugging a much smaller piece of debris out the cafeteria. "I think Weiss had the chart on her scroll, but that's a `Blake being Bad expression number three` I think."

Blake glared at them. "You did not categorise my expressions."

"Nope."

"Good."

"Weiss did."

Blake growled.

"And for good reason," Yang added. "I mean, you were running off all the time back then. Level with me, kitty-cat. You're not going to do the same again, are you?"

"Don't call me that."

"What? You never had a problem with me calling you it before."

"That was before Torchwick took it as his nickname for me," she hissed. "But no, I'm not going to go chasing after the White Fang. I don't think it's necessary now."

"Yeah?"

"Yes." Blake sighed and wiped some sweat from her brow. "The main reason I wanted to before was because I didn't think anyone was taking the matter seriously. I could see a plot coming into action, but no one was doing anything to stop it. Now? Everyone knows what they're capable of. I'd be surprised if the police aren't scouring Vale for them."

"When they're not trying to arrest the prof, you mean."

Blake rolled her eyes. "Do they even try at that? It's just to appease Atlas."

"I'm not sure Jaune has actually left Beacon since the attack."

"He hasn't," Blake confirmed. As his indebted-assistant she would have known if he had. "To be fair, there's too much to do here as it is, and I don't think there's anything he would need in Vale. He'd also be swamped by people asking him questions."

"Tell me about it. I got swamped by journalists just for being a Beacon student…"

"I know," Blake hissed. "Because you tripped and threw me at them as a distraction so you could escape!"

"Yeah." Yang smiled fondly. "Good times."

One of the foremen caught them dawdling and shouted for them to get back to work. There was only eleven of them at the cafeteria, so three hanging around talking was noticeable. Grumbling, the girls got back to it, Yang smashing a larger rock into pieces and then smaller ones so that Blake, Ruby and her could carry them out.

"Weiss should be – huff – glad to miss this. Ugh." Yang dropped a boulder that had been just a little too big for her. "Hell. Pyrrha wasn't wrong. This is some intense exercise…"

"Yeah…" Ruby panted and massaged her shoulder after bringing another. "Though I wouldn't say no to her glyphs right now. Or just Weiss in general…"

"I know, sis. I know. We all want her back."

"Speaking of," Blake said, her voice lowering to a whisper. "I did a little looking through the headmaster's paperwork last night…"

Yang, sensing the tone, leaned in. "You could get in trouble for that."

"Please, I'm the one he gives it to. Not my fault if he accidentally left something in there I'm not supposed to see, and I'm pretty sure he didn't want me to see this one."

"What makes you so certain?"

"There was a little note on the top in red saying `Don't let Team RWBY know`."

Yang and Ruby blinked. "Yeah, I… guess that would be some strong evidence. What did it say?"

"There's a charity dinner the teachers have all been invited to, along with a few students. It's to the Schnee manor in Atlas, hosted by Jacques Schnee. It's supposed to raise money toward repairs for Beacon."

"Why would the SDC care about Beacon?" Yang asked, lifting some more rubble. "I thought they were a soulless company that only cared about profit."

"Oh, they are," Blake said with the easy certainty of the totally unbiased. "But the academies are still important. It's why I was so amazed the White Fang would actually attack Beacon. Huntsmen protect everyone from the Grimm. With the SDC, even though they're in Atlas, Grimm overtaking Vale is bad for business. Vale buys a lot of their dust."

"Makes sense. So, they're going to raise money for repairs. Sounds good. Why wouldn't the prof want us to know about it?"

"Because Weiss is going to be singing there."

Ruby dropped her rock immediately.

Yang howled, clutched her foot and topped like a felled tree.

"Weiss is!?" Ruby gasped. "We have to go there!"

"Shh, shh!" Blake covered Ruby's mouth with one hand, release her own piece of rubble.

Yang howled again.

"I know, I know. That's why I read through it all." Looking around to make sure they hadn't been heard, Blake whispered, "The invite said it was for the teachers and a set of students, anywhere from four to eight. There weren't any mentioned by name, so it's probably the teachers who get to decide."

"Mmmbl umblll…" Ruby said past her hand.

Blake let go.

"How do we get picked?"

"I'm not sure. The note pretty much says the teachers aren't going to pick us, and for good reason. They know we'd want to bring Weiss back. I don't think we're going to get to go even if we become exemplary students. We'll need to be sneakier. Make it so that the headmaster has to take us along."

"How… agh." Yang rolled some rubble off her foot and clutched it with both hands. "How the hell are we supposed to do that? By making it so that no one else wants to go? Breaking the legs of everyone who gets picked until no one is left?" At their silence, Yang added, "That was a joke. We're not `Nora`-ing this."

"No, I wasn't about to suggest it, just…" Blake looked around nervously. "I might have an idea, but I don't think the teachers will like it. We might get in trouble. No, we'll definitely get in trouble. The question is whether it's worth it."

"If we get to see Weiss again, I think it is." Yang said. "Ruby?"

"I'll accept any punishment to make sure she's okay…"

"Looks like we're in. You gonna tell us this plan of yours, Blake?"

"Fine. It's risky and is going to require a lot of things to go just right. I'll actually need your help to set the stage for this, Yang. I need you to do something."

"Yeah?"

"Be yourself."

Yang crossed her arms. "Meaning…?"

"Be yourself around headmaster Arc, but…" Blake sighed and wondered if she's be going to hell for this. "Crank it up to eleven."

Her partner's eyes glinted maliciously.

"Ooh. Yang likey."

/-/

"You wanted to talk to me?"

"Yes. Thanks for coming, Glynda."

"No problem." The deputy headmistress, and the woman he'd been dating for a while (though that was up in the air now) stepped easily around the unusual protrusions coming out the floor of his battleship office and took a seat opposite his desk.

It was hard not to mention her black eye.

Very, very hard.

Her glare said it would be the last mistake he ever made. And, to be fair, he'd seen Roman limping around earlier with a split lip.

"I wanted your opinion on this," he said, pushing a latter across the desk.

Glynda took and read through it. Her eyebrows rose above the letter as she did, her entire body leaning back in her chair as if she didn't know what it was she had in her hands. When she was done, the slapped it down.

"This has to be a joke…"

"That was what I thought at first, but she wants to set up a meeting."

"Sienna Kahn is the leader of the White Fang. The same terrorist group that attacked Beacon. You cannot be thinking of meeting with her. You've made a number of ridiculous decisions in the past, but this takes and cake and I-"

"What ridiculous decisions…?" Jaune asked, hurt.

Glynda froze, then coughed into her fist and settled down. "Sorry. I forgot myself there and thought you were Ozpin."

"Ah. All forgiven."

"Quite." Coughing again, she adjusted her glasses. "So, you want my opinion? That's a good start. Ozpin would just bullishly drive ahead with whatever asinine idea he had. Like tossing the students off a cliff instead of, say, using the Bullheads we have to deliver them safely to the bottom. It's a miracle we avoided a lawsuit that day…"

"I thought Beacon was covered if students died?"

"In Grimm-related incidents or as part of training accidents where there is no negligence. People accept a certain amount of danger. Using catapults to launch people off a cliff? I dare say that doesn't count. Anyway, this isn't about initiation. Sienna claims she had nothing to do with the attack. What do you think of that?"

"I don't know what to think," he admitted. "On the one hand, it was a small group of the White Fang who attacked, and we know Cinder manipulated them like she did me and Roman. On the other, Sienna is still a wanted terrorist. It kind of doesn't matter if she meant to attack Beacon or not."

"My thoughts exactly. Although…"

"What?" he asked. "You can't be suggesting this is a good idea. Ironwood will flip." Jaune paused. "Again! More than usual! He'll go absolutely insane if I meet with the leader of the White Fang. He'll literally froth at the mouth and ride a missile to my door personally."

"All true, I'll admit, but this does produce something of an opportunity. It's a dangerous one, I'll admit, but this hints at a schism in the White Fang." Glynda tapped the signed missive. "If Sienna Kahn had no input in the attack and condemns it, that might mean that the White Fang is not entirely in league with Cinder and Salem. Yet."

Jaune winced. "Yet…"

"If we ignore this, there's no telling what will happen. It might be Salem's plan to force us into a confrontation. With this attack, the White Fang are essentially at war with all of Remnant. If we do the obvious thing – which is to do nothing – then Sienna might be forced to work with Cinder, if only to keep her people alive."

"Ugh." Jaune groaned and dropped his head onto the table. Against the wood, he mumbled, "Which means the correct thing to do is to meet with her and try to bring a ceasefire, letting the White Fang go back to just being terrorists."

"Better terrorists than working directly with Salem, yes. Although better neither, obviously. That's not going to happen, though."

"Great. So, I need to meet with her."

"It would be both a wise and unwise decision. I'm sorry I can't offer more. My only advice would be for it to be in a neutral location and with as many of us with you as can reasonably be allowed. They attacked us, so you should be fine to make a few demands of them."

"You think she'll come to Beacon?"

"No. And I don't think it wise to invite her here, either. If the media got wind of it…"

"It would seem like I was legitimising her. Got it. That does leave Mistral as a possible meeting spot, and we'll be going there once Ozpin reaches it."

"Picking up Ozpin and meeting with Sienna Kahn?" Glynda's ill look made it clear what she thought of that. "I suppose it would be best to get it out the way as quickly as possible. Before Cinder can make a move to finalise the White Fang's allegiance." She groaned. "It's as good a time as any. I shall make arrangements and speak with Leonardo Lionheart to arrange for use of his facilities. I shall reply to this `Sienna` as well," she said, taking the letter. "It would show more respect than she deserves if you were to respond to her directly."

"Sure." He smiled and let her go. "Thanks for your help on this, Glynda. I mean it."

"No thanks necessary. And thank you for bringing it to my attention and not rushing off into something foolish." Glynda opened the door and almost bumped into another blonde. "Miss Xiao-Long? What are you doing here?"

"I needed to ask the headmaster something. Oh wow, is that a black eye?"

Yang's question never got answered as the girl suddenly tripped over the same hand railing Qrow had, tumbling to the floor.

"Watch your step, Miss Xiao-Long. The floor isn't even."

The door closed.

"B-But I didn't even take a step forward. Something pushed me." Brushing some dust off her arm, Yang shrugged. "Eh, whatever. Hey prof~"

"Yang." Jaune leaned back as if he were dealing with some venomous snake. With Yang, it wasn't far off. "Or Miss Xiao-Long…"

"Call me Yang."

"That would be inappropriate."

"Why? You call Ruby and Blake by their names."

Yes, but they don't scare and entice me in equal measure.

It had been particularly bad today for some reason. He hadn't been able to walk in the same corridor as her without her brushing up against him, jumping in front of him or just shaking her hair in his direction, making her soft locks brush against his arm.

Yang knew what she was doing. The problem was that she was too damn good at it, and that she had no qualms about pushing her limits whatsoever. Probably helped that despite him being a teacher, he was still her age. At best, she thought him two years older.

"I was just Yanging around having some fun, and I thought; hey, why don't I see how the prof is doing?"

"The Prof is doing busy." he lied. "Lots of paperwork."

"Yeah, Blake told me. You sure you're not using her for unpaid labour?"

"The only thing I'm sure of is that I have no idea what you mean."

"Riiiight." Yang winked at him. "I'll buy it. You know, if you wanted someone to help you with work, you could ask me."

"I've a feeling I wouldn't get much work done if I did."

"Oh?" Yang's expression said he'd made a mistake in admitting it. "Really now," she cooed. "I wonder why that is?" She stepped forward, swinging her hips – and was it his imagination or was she wearing her skirt a little higher than usual?

As a teenage man, he noticed these things.

"Is something about me distracting you…?"

"No," he lied. "What did you want with me, Miss- Yang?"

"I came for counselling."

"I'm no longer the school counsellor. Sorry, but there just isn't the time anymore, even if people probably need it now more than ever. I'm looking for someone else to fill the role, but it's not going as well as I'd like."

The options were painfully limited. Really, it came down to Glynda, who scared people. Port, who scared people for a very different reason and would probably talk over them. Oobleck, who was just a little too hyper and a little too busy to do it. Roman, who… well, enough said. Tsune… no student deserved that.

And Neo…

No.

Just no.

"It's up in the air. The moment I find someone suitable, you'll be the first to know."

"Poo." Yang hopped up onto his desk, sitting on the corner of it. Her thigh was perilously close to his face and he couldn't look away from it. Why did she wear stockings that stopped mid-thigh? It couldn't be comfortable, and the tempting expanse of skin always drew his attention.

Oh wait, that was the reason wasn't it?

He tore his eyes up.

Yang's grin said she'd noticed him noticing and liked it.

"That's my desk," he said.

"Yeah. A very sturdy desk. Easily handles my weight."

Jaune's cheeks heated up. "You're being… surprisingly forward today."

"Eh. What's the point in beating around the bush? I like you and you know I like you. I could be a shy and reserved maiden about it, but I'd rather not lie to your face like that. Besides, I'm up against some stiff competition, so I figured I should up my game."

"Oh Gods…" And he'd thought Sienna Kahn wanting a meeting was the real bad news for the day. Now he couldn't stand up without poking Yang with his `not-so-little problem` under the desk. "I really think you should go back to your dorm, Yang."

"Will you come with me?"

"No. Absolutely not. That would be…" A host of positive adjectives came to mind. "A bad idea," he said weakly. "A very, very bad idea."

"Laaame. All work and no play, prof."

"I'm your headmaster!"

"So? You won't be forever, and I'm not interested in a one-time encounter." Yang winked and blew a kiss onto her fingers, then pressed it against his cheek. "Give it a few years and I'll be a huntress. What you going to say when you can't hide behind the teacher excuse?"

"Yes?"

Her eyes lit up. "That a promise?"

"I – I didn't mean that," he hissed, face flaming. Curse his stupid brain. "Y-You really have to go now. I have work to do and detention with Blake."

Leaning forward, Yang grinned. "You sure you don't want to give me detention, too? Like you said, I'm being way too forward. Am I not a nighty girl who needs to be punished?" Slowly, Yang liked her lips. "Are you going to punish me, sir?"

The door to his office opened.

Blake stood there, looking a little uncertain.

"Blake!" he gasped, more relieved than he cared to admit. "Hi, yes, perfect timing. Come in. Yang was just going." Sweat pouring down his face, he looked to his faunus student desperately. "Weren't you, Yang? Just going? Yes?"

He wasn't sure if it was mercy or privacy, but Yang laughed. "Yeah, sure. I was just on my way out.

As she passed by Blake, the blonde gave her partner a grin and a wink.

"Um." Blake looked as embarrassed as he felt. "Do I want to know what that was about?"

"No. No, you don't." Groaning, Jaune covered his red face with his hands. "Your desk is over there, as is the paperwork for the night. Do what you have to. I'm going to try and find us a counsellor before your teammate proves the death of me."

/-/

"Drink it. We paid for it."

"It tastes horrible."

"Stop speaking out loud. I'm in your head and you're making a scene. Drink it."

Oscar Pine grimaced and drew the white cup up to his lips, sipping on the tar-like substance. It was hot, thick and tasted like burnt food. Unrecognisable food. Horrible food. His eyes rolled back, and he shuddered, swallowing as quickly as he could to get it over with.

"Yesss," the voice in his head said. "That's it…"

This sounds far too much like grooming for my liking…

"And now my enjoyment is ruined," Ozpin sighed. "While I would equate a good cup of coffee to the act, I can assure you that – physical limitations aside – I have no interest in you."

But you do want my body.

He could feel Ozpin rolling his non-existent eyes.

"Honestly, if I had a choice over bodies, yours would be at the very bottom of the list. I'd have enjoyed being in Mr Arc, if I can be honest. Young, in a position of power, banging Glynda."

"Who?" he asked out loud.

"Trust the mention of sex to catch a teenage boy's attention. And you can stop looking at that waitress, Oscar. So long as I remain in your head and you remain underage, the closest you will come to a woman is within shouting distance."

Oscar's face flushed bright red and he hid it in another sip of coffee, mostly to shut Ozpin up. He was so embarrassing sometimes, and it felt like nothing was private. He couldn't so much as look at a pretty girl without Ozpin either commenting on his low odds, reminding him of their true mission or, worse, offering the woman a score out of ten.

Usually very poorly.

"A four at best. You really have no appreciation for mature women."

I'm fifteen!

"What fifteen-year-old boy does not look at older women?" Ozpin sighed in absolute disappointment. "For shame. To be locked in the head of such a person. Regardless, that is not important. We are on a mission of grave importance here."

Is that why you demanded I stop for a cup of coffee…?

"Yes. Coffee is fuel for the tired mind, so stop whining and drink some more." Oscar did. "Good. We're making decent progress towards Haven, but we're going to have to trek through the forest between it and Mistral."

Isn't that full of Grimm…?

"Yes, but not to worry, I was the headmaster of Beacon. I know a thing or two about fighting Grimm."

Yeah, but I don't, Oscar pointed out.

"You should have some of my muscle memory."

What use would that be? Apart from making no sense whatsoever, muscle memory wouldn't fix the fact that he had no muscle to speak of. He was a kid. A kid who had never trained to fight before. Even if Ozpin's memories could tell him how to do so, it wouldn't change the fact he wasn't strong, fast or fit enough to put up with such an ordeal for any amount of time.

"Yes, you do have a lot of deficiencies," Ozpin agreed. "We'll have to do something about that."

Well excuse me! It's not like I expected to become the host for someone like you!

"Poor planning on your part then."

What…? How…? That didn't even make sense! Oscar ground his teeth together and tried to think of calming thoughts. Ozpin over a burning fire. Ozpin over a burning fire. Ozpin being tortured in a vat of boiling coffee.

"Cute."

I hate you so much…

"I'm sure I'll break down in tears any moment now." He paused for sarcastic effect. "Ah. That's better. Now, you're going to need a weapon if we're to approach Haven. That means we'll need resources, and you're rather lacking when it comes to lien."

I'm fifteen!

"Have you ever worked a job before?"

I'M FIFTEEN!

"Lazy, too, by the sounds of it. Very well. We shall have to fashion a weapon from some supplies of our own. A solid branch ought to do."

Can't we just call your friend to help us? The Qrow guy? Or maybe even the headmaster of Haven, who you keep saying is on your side. If he runs the school then he can send a Bullhead to fetch us, can't he?

"That may well alert our enemies to our position."

Your enemies.

"Our enemies," Ozpin corrected. "While I trust Leonardo implicitly and am an excellent judge of character, there is always a chance he may trust someone who is not. Not everyone can be as perfect as me."

Oscar groaned.

"As such, we will make the journey on foot. Team RWBY should then arrive with Qrow, and we will embark on our journey."

Despite the risk and everything else involved, Oscar perked up. Team RWBY? That's the team of girls you told me about, right?

"Down boy. Down."

Oscar blushed. I wasn't thinking anything like that!

"Need I remind you that I share your mind? Anything you feel, I feel. That you are attempting to make me feel desire towards children is troubling enough. Could you pour some bleach into that coffee for me?"

I think that would kill me…

"Yes. And I'll get a chance to respawn in a new body. Preferably one that isn't going to pitch a tent at the first sign of underage women."

Ouch. They weren't underage for him, so that wasn't fair. He was a growing boy and huntresses were always like celebrities. Beautiful in an unattainable way. Being a farm boy, he'd never thought he might have a chance.

Having Ozpin in his head, he probably didn't.

"When you are eighteen, I will deign to consider the possibility."

Yeah, and you'll vet anyone I choose…

"Admittedly. Look on the bright side, you're infinitely more likely to actually be able to impress a woman thanks to my knowledge and experience."

Hey! I can talk to girls just fine.

"Oh yes, I believe it. I've seen your memories of you trying."

Oscar growled as Ozpin laughed in his head. It wasn't fair that Ozpin could read his thoughts and memories easily, while he was only beginning to get little glimpses of Ozpin's. Most of that came in distant and hazy feelings instead of memories. Rather than see an image of the past, he'd feel a distant emotion towards something.

Like the coffee. He physically hated the taste of it, but his hands would cup the mug with an almost familiar and fond motion. Similarly, when the woman behind the counter asked if he wanted Atlesian Black, he felt a rush of disgust and anger before Ozpin piped up.

"With good reason, Oscar. With good reason…"

If you say so… Oscar's eyes drifted around the little diner they'd stopped in. Even that wasn't a safe haven for him.

"Is that a Vale newspaper!? Quickly, grab it!"

Sighing, Oscar got up and collected the thing. It was a day or two old, but if it kept Ozpin distracted, that was fine. The good thing was that Ozpin could read through his eyes if he just kept them focused on the page. He didn't actually have to read the boring news himself.

"World news is not boring. And I want to find out how Beacon is doing in my absence. I don't imagine there should be any problems. Glynda and Jaune are both very good at what they do, and with the support of James they should-"

Ozpin trailed off.

Curious, Oscar looked down at the headline.

General Ironwood declares international arrest warrant for Jaune Arc. Atlas closes borders.

"Huh," Oscar said. "News is interesting."

"I'm dead for three weeks and this happens…" Ozpin groaned. "Damn it, James…"

/-/

"We need to strike now while he's distracted!"

"We all saw how that went the last time. Whatever happened to your little minions, Cinder? Oh yes, they were killed. And your attack on Beacon? How was it? Ah, I remember. A failure. A complete failure."

Cinder snarled at Watts, the motion tugging at the skin and making the scars bleed. She could hear Tyrian cackling from off to the side but could not see him because of the eye Jaune Arc had stolen from her. Her hands shook, fire swirling about her fingers as half the Fall Maiden's powers reacted to her temper.

"Calm yourself, Cinder," her mistress said. "And Watts, stop baiting her."

"Yes, my Queen."

"Yes, Salem," Cinder answered, sitting. She took a deep breath to compose herself. "I stand by my suggestion, however. Beacon is weak right now and time will only let them grow stronger."

"And what can we do?" Hazel asked, curious rather than dismissive. "We attacked in force with the White Fang beside us and were rebuffed. You killed Ozpin but were only able to gain half of the Maiden's powers. Something we did not know was possible. We don't even know if you can open the vault in Vale."

"Or where it is," Watts added, "Meaning that it's a waste either way. As for Beacon, the political pressure alone will keep them busy. It wouldn't be too hard to add to it."

"Sienna has made overtures towards Beacon," Hazel reported.

Watts frowned. "Then she will have to be dealt with."

"Cinder can direct Adam towards that," Salem said calmly. The unnaturally pale woman sat back in her chair, far more composed than any of her minions. "Make no mistake, Cinder. I am… troubled by the fact that Beacon still stands. Ozpin's death is good news, but it makes no difference if he is replaced by someone better than him." Her eyes narrowed. "You are sure of this boy? This Jaune Arc."

"He's a tactical mastermind," Cinder said. "How else could he have beaten all of us? He was outnumbered, outgunned and in the palm of my hand." Her hand clenched, as if she could crush him in it. "He played me. He played me for a fool from the start."

"Does that make him a tactical mastermind or you a colossal failure?" Watts wondered.

"I slew Ozpin. If my attack fooled the genius that is within him, then it was not reckless!"

"Cinder speaks truly," Salem said. "Ozpin is not one who trusts easily, yet this boy was able to fool both him and Cinder, and then turn aside an invasion which would have brought Vale to its knees. In doing so, he also turned one of Cinder's own agents against her." Salem's eyes narrowed. "This boy, this man, is not to be underestimated. He is a genius of the highest calibre and you will treat him as such."

"We're going to kill him then," Cinder said, trying to hide the pleasure in her voice.

"Perhaps."

"W-What?" Cinder roared.

Salem raised an eyebrow.

Cinder slumped down. "I-I am sorry, my Queen, I…"

"You are angry and emotional." Salem's eyes closed softly. "I will let it go this once."

"Thank you." Cinder bowed her head in clear subservience. "I will not let me anger get the better of me again. If I may ask… what reason would there be not to deal with him now? He is a clear threat to both us and our aims. His very existence makes Vale stronger than it has any right to be."

"That is the reason I am considering a cautious approach, my dear. In war, not every battle must be won. Unlike Ozpin, this Jaune Arc is not eternal. I may simply choose to save resources and wait for time to take care of the issue."

Cinder, Watts, Tyrian and Hazel all swallowed nervously. While it was certainly an option for Salem, it wasn't for them. Jaune Arc was younger than some of them by ten or twenty years. If Salem decided to wait, then it would be until after their lifetime. Cinder could feel the promise of power slipping away.

"S-Surely we can change your mind," she said.

"Yes," Watts agreed, for once coming to her aid now that his own ambitions were on the line. "As you said, my Queen, not every battle must be won in full. Though we failed at Beacon, the academy has been destabilised greatly, and Ozpin scattered to the winds. If we can reclaim him and continue to damage Beacon's attempts to regain its footing, we might yet prevail."

"Hn," Hazel agreed with a grunt.

Tyrian remained silent, though he was stabbing his steak with a knife, taking out his own rage on the innocent piece of cooked meat. None of them had taken defeat well. Individually, it might have been a source of mockery for one another, but here, with Salem suggesting a wait until the next generation, the four of them had become united.

"Hmmm." Salem regarded them. "Very well. If you are all willing to work together on the matter, I shall allow it. No more games, however. No more arguing amongst yourselves. Use whatever tools you have at your disposal to deal with this Jaune Arc once and for all. Kill the one who holds the other half of the maiden's powers, bring Beacon to its knees and I will continue with our plans in this generation. Fail me," she warned, "And I shall content myself to sit back and wait for this mastermind, this threat, to fade into memory."

Cinder swallowed and bowed low. "Yes, my Queen. I, we," she added with a look to the others. They all, even Tyrian, nodded back. "We will not fail you this time. Jaune Arc, and Beacon, will fall."

/-/

Approval for Roman's mercenary advertising; Signed.

Approval for structural integrity tests on battleship; Signed.

Approval for credit towards builders for the repair jobs; Signed.

It was ridiculous how much of this had to be signed even though he, and the ones submitting it, knew it was important work that had to be done, his approval or not. Glynda and Roman knew the builders were necessary and should have just paid them, but red tape held them back. They weren't allowed to sanction large expenditure without his signature.

On Roman's account, that was probably a good thing.

Invitation to attend a council meeting via video call?

"Huh. I wondered how they'd find a way around that." Annoyingly, it meant his handy excuse not to attend had worn dry. Damn. He'd have to attend this one since they'd bent over backwards to make it happen, and he didn't need Glynda to tell him he couldn't fob the Council off forever. "Ugh, what a pain."

They were going to ask how repairs were going, he just knew it.

But… they held the funding for Vale and all the tax money. Money that could really do a lot of good thrown in their direction. They were also the ones who ran Vale, and Beacon had enough political problems without pissing them off.

He wished he could send Glynda in his place. She was better than him in every regard, and yet sending an underling would be an insult, despite that it should have been the highest compliment for Beacon to send Glynda – fixes everything – Goodwitch to meet with them.

He was the insult.

Damn it all.

"Sir…?"

"Huh? Blake?" Shaking his head, Jaune looked up to his assistant, who really deserved to be paid for her work. Not that they had any money to pay her with. Most of the construction crews were being paid on credit, with Beacon basically pretending it had the money to cover the costs of a 60-day grace period.

More of Roman's creative accounting. Beacon had such a good reputation, and credit rating, that people didn't even bother to wonder if they had the money or not. Two months credit before payment? Yeah, sure. What's the worst that can happen?

"Sorry," he said, "What's up? And you can call me Jaune when we're in a counselling session."

"Counselling, yes, sure." Blake rolled her eyes. "I finished the paperwork you wanted me to go over, but they all need your signature." Blake laid several dossiers down, all with the bottom sticking out where the signature was necessary, so that he could just sign them all in one go.

"Thanks, Blake. You're a lifesaver."

He checked the first one and saw that Blake had filled it in perfectly. Beacon was her home as much as anyone else's, and she took her work – or punishment – seriously. It was an insurance form Roman wanted finishing so that Beacon could pay no tax this year due to catastrophic circumstances.

The irony was that despite Beacon's attack being all over the news everywhere on Remnant, the insurance companies were still trying to wriggle out of having to pay up. In their defence, Beacon had claimed for a lot more than it had ever had, thanks to Roman obviously, but, eh, it was for a good cause.

"Looks good." He signed the bottom.

"The next is an injuries report of students," Blake said, yawning. It was gone ten and they were both exhausted. "Nothing too bad, thankfully, but it's mostly assurances that Beacon will take them back once they're better and cover their hospital fees."

"Of course, of course." He signed both forms on it. "They were injured in the defence of Beacon. We'll not forget that." Yawning himself, he turned to the next one and groaned. "I guess we do need more security, but this new system seems so expensive…"

"It's not the school needing it," Blake explained, "More the insurance companies refusing to re-insure us unless we have the best security lien can buy. If we don't have insurance, we technically can't run a school."

"Right." Signed and signed.

Blake opened her mouth to explain the last one, but Jaune didn't pay attention. He ran through them, signing wherever he could. Between Sienna, Glynda, the council and Yang stalking him throughout the day, his focus was shot.

He just wanted to go to bed.

"Signed, signed and signed," he said, dotting the last one and yawning again.

"I'll take them," Blake said quickly, collecting all the documents before he could even touch them. "I'll see them taken to the right people, or posted out," she promised, smiling. "You can count on me, sir."

"Huh. Okay." It was unlike her to be so helpful, but he wasn't going to complain. "Then thanks. Take the rest of the night off I guess."

"Thank you, sir!" Blake bowed and hurried out, all the paperwork clutched to her chest.

/-/

Blake practically skipped out of the battleship – and literally did in one case, nearly tripping over a gun locker that was now on the floor of all places. Without guns obviously, but still with all the latches and pegs sticking up precariously.

She didn't even care when she dropped the hated paperwork.

In fact, she laughed.

There, among the signed forms, down at the bottom, was the one from Jacques Schnee of the SDC, stamped and marked with the snowflake emblem. On it, a well-written response in black pen.

-/-

Dear Jacques Schnee,

We would be honoured to attend this dinner in support of Beacon. Please find listed below the guests as listed:

Jaune Arc

Glynda Goodwitch

Roman Torchwick

Ruby Rose (Team RWBY)

Blake Belladonna (Team RWBY)

Yang Xiao-Long (Team RWBY)

Yours sincerely,

Jaune Arc

Headmaster

Beacon Academy

-/-

And below that, the ever-important signature. The headmaster had been so distracted after a long day's work and an even longer night's paperwork that he hadn't thought to check what he was signing, just as Blake knew he often didn't.

Once the letter was sent and the invitations from the SDC came back, the teachers wouldn't be able to stop them from coming. Mission complete, Blake whistled her way to the school's admin office, ready to post off the various forms.


Blake, you sneaky cat. You will be punished for this. The paperwork shall be immense.

Anyway, last chapter people were asking for omakes, and the truth is that I meant to write one, but just forgot! In the spirit of Professor Arc, the omakes shall return.


Omake: Coeur al'Aran


Weiss looked up as the door opened, a barb on the tip of her tongue and a lashing ready for whichever fool now thought it safe to intrude on her domain. If it were Winter or Ironwood again, she had a particularly vile set of insults ready.

To her relief, it was neither.

"Hello friend Weiss!" Penny said, closing the door behind her. "I hope I am welcome."

"Of course you are, Penny. Honestly, I'm glad to have someone to talk to." And never let it be said Weiss didn't see the irony there, considering her first reaction to the overly excitable girl. In Atlas, however, Penny was quite easily the only person on her side.

"There's no need for the frown, friend Weiss. I come bearing good news!" Penny looked around suddenly to make sure no one was watching. "I have made contact with the flower garden."

It took Weiss a good fifteen seconds to translate that.

"Ruby?"

"Flow garden sends its regards."

"Penny, we're alone. Code names are not only not required, but more suspicious than using names…"

"The Bumblebee also says hello."

"Okay, that one was less obnoxious, but only just." Despite herself, Weiss couldn't help but smile. "Did they… Were you able to smuggle anything in?"

"I was!" Penny said, full of pride. "My last three attempts met with failure due to the screening process." The girl slumped, disappointed with herself.

"It's okay, Penny. You tried your best. It's Ironwood who makes people look through any communique sent to me." She spat the name and shook her head. "But you said you managed to smuggle it past the censors? How?"

"By learning from the masters of smuggling; other humans!"

"I… don't understand."

"I watched a documentary on how people smuggle illicit contraband across the border."

"Oh. That makes sense." Learn from the masters indeed. "I can't say I'm an expert, but if they can get past security forces the world over, they can get past Atlas Academy's. Can I have whatever it was?"

"Yes."

Penny turned around and leaned forward.

Weiss waited.

Nothing.

"Um. Penny…?"

"I am waiting for you to take the contraband, friend Weiss."

"You… are…?" Weiss tilted her head to the side. "I think I need some context…"

"I understand, friend Weiss. One of the most common methods of smuggling contraband into other Kingdoms proved to be not upon, but within their person. The smugglers would keep the contraband in a sealed container and then insert it into themselves to be removed later."

Something about Penny's position, bent over in front of her, clicked.

"You can't mean…"

Reaching back, Penny pulled her trousers down. "Please remove the goods from my anal cavity."

Weiss had never backflipped over a chair faster. Hiding behind it, her face burned bright red and she pressed her forehead against the cool material. "PENNY!"

"What is it, friend Weiss?" With no regard for the fact she had pulled down her pants in front of her, Penny looked back. "Do not worry. The goods are perfectly safe. I simply need your help in removing them. Insertion has proven easier than withdrawal."

"T-I… Is that so…?"

"Yes. I was able to get them inside rather easily, but my hands do not fit inside quite so easily."

Weiss let out a desperate and pained sound. This… It was too much. And yet Penny had already done this, and she did need whatever it was, and she couldn't exactly just leave it inside of Penny like that. Plus, it was a way past the censors.

Mind breaking, Weiss dared to look up.

And see a mechanical compartment open where Penny's behind should have been, revealing a neat and metallic square box with a white envelope plainly leaning on the bottom half. Weiss all but collapsed in relief.

"Penny, when you said anal cavity…"

"Yes? My subdermal compartment functions as a cavity in the anal region. Was this not the correct term?"

"I… It's…" Weiss sighed and came forward, kneeling down and reaching inside. "Never mind. I'll explain in a moment."

The door opened.

"Weiss, I think we need to taaaaaaaallllkkkk…." Winter Schnee trailed off, eyes wide as she watched the scene of her little sister kneeling behind a girl who was bent over, her trousers down.

Penny looked up with a happy smile. "Hello Specialist Winter."

Weiss looked down to her arm, to Penny's backside, to the compartment, and then to where Winter stood, unable to see both the compartment and the contents, but with a marvellous view of what must have looked like her sister burying her arm in another woman up to her elbow.

"Wait, Winter! It's not what it looks like!"

Slowly, Winter backed away. "I can see that you're busy," she said, voice strained. "I… I shall come and talk to you later."

The door clicked shut.

"I think that went well!" Penny declared.

Weiss could only weep.


Starting things off classy!


Next Chapter: 14th March

P a treon . com (slash) Coeur