A/N: Hello again. Since RT decided to move their RWBY content off RWBY, re-watching for research purposes isn't going to be possible. Well, at least we still have chibi...
As for the lore discussion, I held off on doing the maidens because there's possibilities here for things to get long. The original story is that an old man granted four sisters special power as a special thank you for all they'd done to encourage him. Some people think the fairy tale is factual and that Ozpin encountered a set of sisters that reminded him of his daughters while others think the four maidens are reincarnations/spiritual successors to the actual four children Ozpin produced. There is also another possibility that is a bit darker but also more...Ozpin. The four sisters were given power not as a gift of thanks from a grateful old hermit, but were given power with the intention of weaponizing them in Ozpin's losing battle with Salem. He's not above giving magic out to others to try to effect Salem's defeat as we easily see in Qrow and Raven (and in producing silver eyed children in a past life, but I don't know if that was intentional or not), but it's also a common topic of discussion in the show: that Ozpin is using the students of the academies to fight his battles for him.
The darkest part of all in my opinion is the thought that Ozpin in one of his lives gave power to four maidens who undoubtedly reminded him of his own daughters, and then in subsequent lives tried to weaponize them against his crazy ex wife grimm queen witch. He wants to weaponize effigies of his daughters against their mother. it's almost vindictive, and it's dark. Ozma may have been been pure of heart, but he could have easily melded minds with someone less virtuous of character and it tainted him for the worse...but that's another theory for another day.
Until then, enjoy the chapter, enjoy Thanksgiving those of you who are stateside and get to enjoy the holiday and enjoy the upcoming holiday season. It's 2020 and we deserve to have something nice this year.
When he didn't come back the first night, Weiss assumed it was just a fluke: that he'd spent the night drinking and would be home when his hangover wore off. Unsure of where to go or who to ask for food and what she was expected to do, she stayed inside the house alone until the late afternoon when two muscular faunus let themselves in with a dust-powered generator. They looked surprised to see her as they set the generator down in the front room.
"Why are you here?" the senior officer asked.
Weiss shrugged. "I'm assigned to Adam's housing, or at least I was last night."
"But why didn't you go with Adam to Vale?"
The officer nodded. "He left this morning. Everyone assumed as his personal servant you would have gone with him. He's going to be gone for weeks." He brushed past her and began searching the house for the circuit breaker
She blinked. "What am I supposed to while he's gone?"
The smaller faunus shrugged dramatically.
"I don't particularly care," the senior faunus said, yanking a door open, and looking inside. "Who do you normally report to if Adam's gone?"
He looked blankly into the closet, it taking a moment to sink in he hadn't found the utility room. "Who after Ilia?"
Weiss wasn't sure. "I don't know…maybe the lieutenant?"
"The lieutenant is gone, too." He closed the door and continued his search. "Personally, as long as you stay out of my way, I don't care what you do." He yanked another door open. "With no electricity and no running water here, your best bet will be to just bunk with the other humans and work with them until Adam gets back."
She did not want that at all. "I will shower and eat with the humans, but as far as working, I'm assigned to the high leader and by proxy, his interests, chiefly the state of his living quarters. I doubt he'll want to come home to a dirty house if I've been here the whole time doing work for other people. He's particular like that."
"Suit yourself," he said, emerging from the utility room looking none too pleased. He'd removed his hood, revealing a large patch of black, reptilian scales covering the crown of his bald head down to the back of his neck. "The wiring is shot; we'll have to come back and install the generator when we get in some replacement wiring. Good news though: the piping and the hot water heater look good. Once we get a consistent water source, you'll be able to have hot showers." He walked past his apprentice and clapped him on the shoulder. "Just leave the generator here. We'll come back to it once we get the supplies we need."
"Yes, sir," the underling nodded, and with barely a look in Weiss' direction, the two were gone as quickly as they had come. She had no idea that this occurrence would repeat several times over the next two weeks as other workers arrived to perform various repairs and rennovations. The reptilian faunus returned a few days later to fix the electrical wiring and install the generator. Electricity was the first step toward the house becoming fully functional.
Carpenters came from the smaller outposts in Mistral to fix the buildings. The roof was patched, broken sliding doors repaired and replaced, coats of paint to both the interior and exterior bringing the architecture of the crumbling village back to its former glory. Exterminators were even brought into the get rid of the insects and vermin.
Faunus delivered furniture, including a bedframe for Adam's mattress, a couch, a desk and chair, a cot for her, and a set of dishes and cookware for the kitchen.
Between the fixing and installations, she cleaned everything. From the scrubbing the floors to the walls to even braving the nooks where the spider webs were the thickest. She enjoyed the solitude and some big project to work on. It helped keep her mind off of him. When she was still at Beacon, Weiss was the only team member that could be considered a neat freak; though she hadn't discovered her love of cleaning until their first dormitory white glove. She found she much enjoyed cleaning, even if it did leave the smell of chemicals on her hands. It gave her some modicum of control and gave her a sense of accomplishment that she could take a step back and see her progress. With two weeks, she was able to wash away months of dust, dirt, and grime to make the building suitable for living.
Water was the last thing to be hooked up. It took awhile for them to find a viable water source, choosing to subversively divert a portion of the nearby river into the currently existing well that was already plumbed to bring water to the houses. From there, dust operated purification systems and electrical heaters provided both clean and hot water to the houses, making the village habitable and able to function to its fullest. Life began to flourish again in this new village, and the supply ships with aid came less and less the more independent the headquarters grew.
With no one to see or judge her, she slept in Adam's bed. She wasn't going to deny herself the luxury of sleeping in a bed when she was the one working so hard to make the place habitable.
Ten days after Adam left, someone knocked on the front door. It was the only time anyone had knocked on the door rather than just letting themselves in. She was a lanky girl, tall and thin with wispy blonde hair and brown eyes with thin horns that circled from the beginning of her hairline and encompassed her ears. Heavy eye make-up and her vibrant dress gave her a look of the eccentric, but also that she made a considerable amount of money.
"Hi, I know this must be weird, but my mom sent me here. She says Adam's ordered you to have a haircut."
"Oh," Weiss opened the door fully to permit her entrance. She entered with one hand holding a footstool and another a shiny caboodle.
"It's easiest to do this in the bathroom if there's room," she said.
"It's upstairs," Weiss pointed before leading the way herself.
"It'll do," the stylist said. "Grab a chair and I'll get started."
She fetched a chair from the kitchen set and the faunus got to work.
"Can I ask you your name?"
"And Adam sent you to give me a haircut?"
"Not exactly." She unpacked the caboodle and removed the plastic cape to wrap around Weiss' neck. "He asked for volunteers and my mom asked if I'd like to help out here. I decided to come down for a week." Now, let me see what I'm working with."
She began combing through Weiss' hair, stopping frequently to either spray it or just shake her head in displeasure and say: "Oh honey."
"What's the damage?" Weiss asked.
"You've got one patch here that's completely melted. You've got hair scorched off, split ends…I'm going to have to take off a good bit to get it looking good again."
Nessa scrunched her lips as she thought. "I think I can layer it to cover up the most of the damage and since your bangs are grown out, I'll blend those into your layers." She grabbed a piece of hair between her index and middle finger to show Weiss in the mirror. "Maybe six inches? It's a lot, but your hair will have a chance to grow out healthy again."
Weiss nodded approvingly. "I trust your judgement."
"It'll certainly give you a more mature look." She took her time to measure out the first cut and began to work. There was something to the touch of her scissors and her demeanor that indicated she was a professional, and probably a good one.
"Do you work at a salon? I mean, is that what you do for a living?" Weiss asked.
"Yes. I am a stylist in Argus. I work for the Papillon Noir."
It was a name Weiss recognized; one of the most expensive salons for the upper crust in Argus. Weiss and her sister had even had their hair done there once for a business event when they were younger.
"Your mother must be very proud," Weiss commented.
"I worked my butt of in school to get the job." Nessa said. "She wanted me to have a respectable job so that humans would respect me. Not like her I guess."
"So, you're not part of the White Fang?"
"I'm not a member, but if they need me, I'm always happy to oblige. I don't agree with everything they do but they saved my mom's life when she needed it and got her out of the dust mines."
Despite their frames being almost opposite, her coloring and caprine features made it obvious she was Lehela's daughter. Weiss understood now why Lehela had such animosity toward her the first time they met.
"Can I ask you something? Personal?"
"Um…yeah? Sure," though Nessa sounded far from it.
"Are you treated differently because you're a faunus? Not necessarily in general, but where you work."
"From my boss or from the clientele?"
"I had to prove myself at the salon when I first got taken on. There were rumors of me only getting hired as a token faunus, but the owner made it very clear that I was expected to pull my weight. The other stylists don't care since I wasn't stealing any of their clients. The customers are a whole different story." She fell silent as she concentrated on a few cuts before continuing. "What few faunus clients we have prefer me, and most of the Atleseans don't care; a lot of the upper crust of Mistral and the Atlesean military officers will refuse to let me do their hair, but I make enough without them to let it bother me. The Mistralians are crappy tippers anyway." She finished and gave Weiss a mirror so she could see the back of her hair as well as the front.
"I love it." Weiss said. Her entire life, she'd tried to find that perfect balance of looking stylish and feminine while also keeping it out of her face for combat. She once considered her long mane a point of beauty and was even hurt when Adam initially forced her to cut it. But this…she liked this: chin length, no bangs and just enough layers to give it texture. It was still feminine but it was modern and light and gave her features a much needed update.
"I'm going to go ahead and give you a deep conditioning while I'm here. I can tell you used to take care of your hair, but you probably don't have the product to keep it as shiny and silky as it was.
Weiss half laughed. "Yeah, life as a political prisoner of the White Fang does have its drawbacks."
Nessa squirted the conditioner into her hands and began massaging it into Weiss scalp. "Adam must at least have some amount of respect for you."
"What makes you say that?"
Nessa shrugged. "You're the only human getting a haircut. Adam's instructions were to provide haircuts for the officers first, then you, then anyone else in the camp who needed it, and the rest of the humans were to have their heads shaved."
"That sounds like him." Weiss replied sardonically.
They sat for a few minutes in silence before Nessa rinsed the conditioner out and blew her hair dry. It was such a small thing, but this was the closest thing Weiss had come to being pampered since being allowed to take hot showers. She relished it, and was genuinely sad to see Nessa go. She seemed like a nice person.
The train station in Mistral was particularly busy that day. Two weeks after the attack on Haven, the remaining student body of the academy were all trying to purchase tickets west, probably planning to catch one of the ferries going to Vale and then an even longer train ride to Vacuo. There was also a suspiciously large herd of faunus trying to catch a train east to the bay; several of them mentioned something about having a boat to catch. Among the huge surge of passengers that day, the relatively small group of teenagers and a bristly old chaperone went mostly unnoticed.
Ruby teased Yang about her Winter Holiday gift as Blake stole away for a moment to say goodbye to everyone. In the upstairs food court overlooking the platform, she tried one last time to talk Ilia into coming with them to Argus but she refused.
"I have work to do in Menagerie," she insisted. "You parents are trying to heal the faunus community right now and that's where I need to be." She hugged Blake tightly. "I'm going to miss you."
"I'll miss you, too."
She stepped out of the way when she saw Sun approaching. Neptune was quick to strike up a conversation with his cheesy pickup lines to give Blake and Sun some privacy, but Ilia didn't seem to mind.
"Are you excited about going back home?" Blake asked.
"Excited yes, but also I know I've got my work cut out for me. Vacuo is a different sort of place and it's kinda up to me to make sure everyone adjusts ok. It was my idea to have the Haven students transfer to Shade and Professor Theodore is pulling all kids of strings to accommodate all of us on such short notice."
"I'm sure you'll be an asset to the school."
"We'll make sure to be ready if Shade is attacked next." He lightly punched his opposite palm in confidence. "And I'm sure you'll do the same in Atlas. Ironwood will be lucky to have your team on board."
"I won't lie, I'm not looking forward to that talk with Weiss' sister."
"Hey," he placed a reassuring hand on her arm. "We promised Weiss we'd take her message to Winter. If she saw that as a priority over her own freedom and safety, I trust her judgement. Fulfilling her wishes and relaying all that information to her sister is the best thing you can do. Besides, if anyone has the power and the reason to take action to save the SDC heiress, it's the Atlas military."
Blake's ears flattened against her head as she sighed. "I know it's just…." She didn't finish her sentence.
"You think Adam is going to hurt her?"
"No…I don't…" She couldn't find the words. After foregoing a chance to kill her and Sun, she was confident that Adam wasn't going to hurt Weiss, but that didn't alleviate her fears. In the six years she'd known him, he hadn't raised a hand against her until they fought at Beacon, but that didn't mean she never lived in fear of what he was willing to do. It was an odd, unsettling feeling, but Blake knew dumping that emotional baggage on Sun wasn't fair, or even if it was well founded.
"I'm sure you'll find her." Sun assured her. "Your team has come from all over the world to come back together. I'm sure wherever Weiss ends up, she'll make her way back to you. Teams have a way of finding each other. I found my way back to mine."
"I'm going to miss your optimism," she admitted, finally cracking a smile.
"I'm going to miss you."
His sincerity caught her off guard. A sudden surge of guilt that she was leaving him behind surged over her. "Sun, I don't think I'll ever be able to thank you for everything you've done."
He posed dramatically and stared out into the middle distance. "I go where I'm needed! And right now, you don't need me anymore. My team and my classmates need me in Vacuo, and your team is heading off to Atlas."
"I don't like saying goodbye."
"Don't worry. I have a feeling you haven't seen the last of me." He smirked at her.
She stood on her tiptoes to kiss him goodbye on the cheek, before descending the stairs to wait with the rest of her team. Neptune returned and the two of them exited toward their waiting area, a look of disappointment on Sun's face. Neptune furrowed his brow in concern.
"I don't know, man, it feels like you're letting her go." He was trying to be helpful, but Sun didn't particularly like his tone.
"We have too much at stake right now," he replied unfolding his hands, "Blake needs to be with her team and we need to get twenty something students enrolled in Shade."
Neptune shrugged and didn't say any more on the matter. He knew Sun was going to miss her, but he wasn't going to press the issue. If he wanted to open up about it and talk, he would eventually.
As the three trains headed from the station, one east, one west, and one north, no one would have suspected only two would make it to their destinations with all of their passengers. The Argus Limited, however was fated to derail, a group of brave huntsmen electing to stay behind to allow the front cars to speed away to safety. Two huntsmen died on impact when the cars flew off the tracks, the remaining six forced to brave the elements of the harsh north on their own.
Weiss returned from dinner in the house that had been converted into a mess hall for the humans. True to what Nessa had told her, all of the slaves had been shaved bald, women and men alike. It was degrading and humiliating and Weiss genuinely felt sorry for them, though her pity only seemed to draw their ire even more. Seeing her with a professional looking haircut coupled knowledge that the order came from Adam himself, the rest of her own people refused to so much as look at her.
They resented her.
She understood why.
Weiss asked if she could eat her meals back and was firmly refused. She would eat and use the utensils where the guards could keep an eye on everyone, her included. When Adam came back she could eat under his supervision, but until his return, she had to remain with her "peers" in the bottom floor of a modest sized house. Grabbing a tray of food, she found a secluded spot in the farthest room from the front door where the fewest humans were coming in to eat. Despite still having to haul water by hand and manage the rations of food, the food was good.
Back in Adam's house, she ascended the stairs, deciding to change into her pajamas and read on the balcony of the master bedroom. With spring well under way and the summer months approaching, the days were getting longer, meaning she'd be able to read in the sunset for longer each day…at least until Adam returned and made sure she never had a moment to herself again. In the same thought she both wished he'd return so things could go back to normal but also wished he'd stay away and give her as long of a reprieve as possible. Once he came back, they'd have to go back to their routine, he'd go back to being a terrorist, she'd go back to being his spoils of war but worst of all, they'd have to talk about what happened the night he left.
She'd changed into her pajamas and had dug a book out of the closet (the previous owner was gracious enough to leave behind a stack of pulp novels which were hardly literary masterpieces, but still worth a single read through) before she noticed the black case sitting on her cot. Almost four feet in length but still reasonably thin, it looked like a long skinny briefcase, complete with silver clasps holding it shut. No one had been in the house earlier today to her knowledge, but there was a bow tied around the corner and an envelope addressed to her tucked into the ribbon. She removed the card first and opened it.
I'm sorry I wasn't able to be there to give you your gift in person.
Her birthday wasn't until tomorrow, but perhaps it wasn't his fault that the gift arrived on the wrong day, or perhaps she wasn't intended to find it until the morning. She slid the ribbon off the case and undid the clasps.
Sitting in a padding made of red velvet was Myrtenaster. The cylinders were bare of dust, but it was definitely her sword, cleaned, oiled, and in the same condition she'd left it in the night she was taken from Atlas. For what seemed like an eternity, she just stared, too afraid to reach out and touch it, fearing it might be just her imagination. When she finally gathered the courage, she picked it up and took a few swings with it. It was like reuniting with an old friend. She took her stance, back straight, one foot slightly in front of the other and began her practice routines. It was like she'd never been without it, her arms and hands immediately adjusting back to the weight of the rapier rather than the bulky and heave tsurugi she'd been practicing with.
She couldn't deny: it was a touching gesture from her captor. Was it his way of saying sorry? Perhaps it was his way of letting her know he wanted her to be herself around him as much as possible and that he appreciated her for what she brought to the table. He didn't stand to profit anything by putting her own weapon back in her hands; if anything it was a risk, but she was deeply and truly grateful for it.
Having her own weapon back was a sensation that was simultaneously comforting and empowering. As her confidence surged, she swung the sword with greater force, greater speed and precision.
Her tiny upstairs bedroom was too small of a practice space. She quickly went back downstairs and pushed the furniture of the living room up against the walls, giving herself as much floorspace as the house could give her.
She lunged, she parried, she threw glyphs on every surface, and then she focused and performed a summon. It was possible to do without the sword, but something about having her own blade back in her hands gave her the added focus and resolve she needed to bring the boarbatusk to life. She forced it to vanish and summoned the gigas, then a flock of nevermore. She kept going until her aura was drained. Her fights with Adam, however intense, never gave her this level of satisfaction, this kind of completeness.
By the time she was finished, the sun was completely down and the clock was approaching midnight. Exhausted, she stored her rapier back in its case, but brought the case with her to Adam's bed, eventually falling asleep with the case clasped in her arms. This was the best birthday present she'd gotten in years. She'd gone so long without her personal weapon she'd almost forgotten what it was like to feel whole again. Tonight however, she felt more than just complete, she felt unstoppable.
It was the best sleep she'd had all year: deep, dreamless, and full of contentment.