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"Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life." – Albert Einstein
Chapter 41: Operation Steel Arrow (1)
It's been a while since Sienna had the chance to actually relax while out of her home. Away from Menagerie.
Most of the times she went to either Mistral, Vale, or even Atlas generally saw there usually for formal and work-related reasons. And now she was there on a lovely holiday that she could just do nothing else but relax and enjoy the company of fellow women she grew to appreciate after having bonded with them for so long. No looming paperwork to be pressured into signing and preparing to deliver back to either the chieftain or among the other officers across the kingdoms, no chances of being brought back into a serious situation without an emergency of massive proportions demanding her presence on the field, and definitely no need to do anything big while she was coated in questions and praises regarding her way of tackling parenthood. Being the 'youngest' mother meant that she was the one that had to get subjected to the wisdom and the experience of those that had the chances of enjoying (and suffering) for years now. She knew they weren't trying to frighten her or anything, but she was a little bit worried when they mentioned the first years were going to be incredibly difficult for a first-time mom.
The final months of her pregnancy were filled with so much nervousness on her part when it came to do a fine job as a mother. While her interactions with Ren, Nora, Cinder and even Emerald had Kali telling her that she was more than prepared for the role, she still had some legitimate concerns about her capacity. She definitely was far from the lovey-dovey lady that the stereotypical idea of mother she had about. Even looking at others made the entire hypothetical view of that future quite unsettling, especially on Raven's side of things with how she reacted early on. Still, John was there to offer some serious support every time she had doubts and was the one that 'pulled her through that difficult moment' in her life. If there was a way to confirm a guy was a good husband, Sienna had a fair amount of reasons that expecting a child and going through all nine months was the ultimate way to determine what kind of husband a woman was stuck with.
Did she regret becoming a mother? Never. Despite the loud nights at times and how high-maintenance her cub could get, Damian was still a toddler that was manageable despite how much she heard of children being difficult to handle when they were so young. Not too pushy when he wanted something as he was open to 'exchanges' (instead of an incredibly expensive toy, something that would equally make him happy), but also never too quiet when it came to socializing. In a certain way, it matched with John's own retelling of how he behaved like a child… matched up with her own quiet childhood. Inquisitive, but also quick to back down from pressing too much if a hint of sternness was within his parents' voice, Damian was a jovial child that loved being at the center of attention, but to a limited degree. If there were too many unfamiliar faces, it was expected for him to start crying and ask for either his mom or dad. He was such a sweetheart… and he was her baby cub.
"So, how are you and John handling little Dami?" Summer asked, deciding to break the ice regarding that pleasant opportunity presented by the situation they were in. With the kids wandering around the courtyard with Taiyang, Qrow and Nicholas keeping an eye out for them, the two women that were Summer and Willow had decided to interrogate on how she was handling the toddler. They had asked previously about simple things, but never they had the opportunity for anything to employ the annoyed young mother.
"I believe we're doing fine-"
"Allergy checks?" Willow asked swiftly and the Tiger Faunus blinked.
"For now we got nothing, but we will keep checking until he is a bit older," The tanned woman replied.
"Vaccinations?" Summer rushed in with another query, once again Sienna was prepared for this.
"We already got all those that he can take without any medical problems. He can handle the rest by the dates the family doctor prescribed."
"Oh my, I wasn't expecting you two to be… not that I wish to sound insulting-"
"But you expected us to be clumsier as first-time parents. I can understand that line of thought and appreciate the worry," Sienna interrupted Willow as cordially as she could. "Still, John and I took some serious time while I was pregnant to think how to handle what happened after Dami was born. We studied the case and we prepared to make sure our baby boy didn't ever have to worry about any sickness this early in his life."
"That's the correct mindset to take. Ah, if only I had been a bit more prepared back when I started to take care of Yang, I would have managed to avoid her getting a little cold when she was five."
"But you still managed well enough. I still remember when I realized how tiresome handling two young children was. Differently from Winter, Weiss was… a little more rambunctious than her sister. Particularly eager to get a reaction out of others, even though it meant causing a mess around her room or even by the dining table," The white-haired woman recalled with a tired but amused tone. "She was such a little pest, but at least meant it when she apologized. Now she is… quite restrained, but definitely less formal than her older sibling."
"And I heard she has already been eyeing someone out of romantic feelings," Summer hummed quietly, a small smile on her face, looking surprised when Willow nodded.
"John already told me of the situation and I see no issue with it. Weiss isn't exactly going to marry Nora anytime soon and it's just for them to decide if this relationship can work or not," The woman explained. "Still, I believe it's only cautious as her mother to be watchful over the two and keep them from… straying too much."
"Are you referring to going too 'far' with it?"
"They are young, and love is a feeling that drives many to drop many restrictions at times. It made people do silly things and… I want these two to have the best kind of future, and one that isn't filled by regrets of going too far too fast," Willow argued and Sienna smiled in agreement.
"They could make a mistake and we need to be there to help them not be forced into anything."
"...I didn't expect you to be this open about it. Not that I was expecting less but-"
"We never had this conversation before, Summer. And since my upbringing would make people expect a more traditional view, I don't see it as an insult," Willow interjected the caped woman. "Although, I admit I have not much experience… handling a possible daughter-in-law. I always thought of being there, holding my blade and threatening the unfortunate boy my daughter found ravishing to not hurt her and to always protect her."
"But you can't do that with Nora," Summer hummed with a nod. "How about John?"
"I think he is already expecting that, hence why he came forward about it and tested the waters himself," The Schnee matriarch answered with a hum. "He can be quite thoughtful when it comes to this, especially when it comes to taking some of the 'troubling attention' right at himself."
"He is a man prone to danger," The Tiger Faunus agreed. "And I doubt he lost that flaw of his even after so long."
Summer merely thought about it, knowing that John was so much closer to Qrow than how both expected. One had the semblance that threw him in bad situations, while the White Fang supporter was more of a danger-attracted individual, even though both did what they did for good reasons inside their hearts. Deciding that the argument was turning a bit dry by now, the Schnee matriarch redirected her attention to a detail she hadn't inquired about just yet.
"Still, I thought Raven was going to come here too. Since it is about the tournament and the fighting-"
"She would have jumped the 'fun' wagon without hesitation," Summer agreed dryly. "I think she was planning to but she had some other issues to take care of. She didn't mention much, but she said something about an idea she was working on for a while."
"Did she look any tired in those days?" Sienna asked with a frown, aiming her gaze to the caped woman. "I mean, she spent a lot of time in Patch so I wish to know if you noticed any issue like that since I saw her drained in these last few days."
"I think I noticed she was a bit distracted. She didn't eat as much and seemed to spare a lot of time for Yang but… wait, why are you giving me that look?"
"I'm just focusing on this matter since I think I know why she is doing that," The tanned woman answered, her feline ears twitching in minor frustration. "Still, it shouldn't be anything worrying- or at least anything serious for the time being."
"Is she expecting?" Willow flatly asked, and her inquiry got a pair of wide-eyed looks from both Sienna and Summer.
"I-I don't think that's the reason. There would have been more signs and..." The Rose's voice slowly turned down as she realized that the reason why the Tiger Faunus was reacting with wide-eyes was more tied to another kind of shock. "You don't mean that-"
"She is not pregnant, I would have noticed and… actually, I think you and Taiyang would have picked up that kind of news first since she spent most of the time with you two and Yang," Sienna argued with a serious tone. "But I know that she is planning to have another child. At least that is what I got out of her actions while she is around at home."
It's been something that Sienna had expected to happen eventually. Damian's birth only reinforced that simple idea and made Raven genuinely ask herself if she should try to do something about it or not to the very least. Something that was upsetting for the young mother, but she couldn't blame this thought to gain this prominence after being so open towards Raven. She had been the one to make things a bit… spicier between the three, and even though a kind of affection shouldn't mean the other is attainable, Raven has been the one that took a long time 'studying' a possible relationship that stemmed beyond the simple and mere desire. As much as Sienna hated it, there was a strong logic behind that development, but that didn't prevent her from being particularly irritated by the subject. John might be suspecting, the Tiger Faunus knew the man had to have spotted some of the signs and drawn these conclusions himself, but he was tactfully trying to not shake the boat just yet. Not until he could see if he could do something without ruining everything else.
"And she is reacting like this… why? I would have expected her to be more direct- subtle, but definitely bold about it," The white-haired woman pointed out and Sienna gave her a difficult look to decipher. Not because she was trying to hide away her feelings in that regard, but rather she was unwilling to offer a clear grasp of the matter she had herself. It was so confusing and dreadfully perplexing that she doubted this was going to end well for them any way that future talk was going to have.
"I think she is worried about the implications that would cause. Not only she would have to take the brunt of having to bridge up Yang to a new sibling. That would be a mess to face for her and at that point there would be no running since John is the kind of man that would hunt down someone if they have slighted him that badly," The young mother explained properly. "Which is why I think she is so reluctant about it and why she is taking so much time to come up with a 'plan of attack'."
"But would John- I mean, are you even fine with this?" Summer snapped with a concerned tone. "You just had Dami, and John is your husband."
"And I had time to consider the weirdness of the relationship we have with Raven. John has been the more reluctant of the two to begin accepting Raven, so I know I'm to blame in some aspects," The fellow mother replied nervously. "Also, I wouldn't say she is planning to marry, but she is sticking by John's side a lot while she is visiting. Especially at night."
"No way," The caped girl muttered in shock. "You… you three didn't really… do it. Right?"
"I think her smug grin says a lot, Summer," Willow replied quietly, sounding a mixture of perplexed and impressed. But her surprise wasn't tied to the fact Sienna had opened up quite happily to a broader relationship, rather tied to something else about it that she found worthwhile to expand on. "But how would that situation unfold? I mean, John is not exactly someone that would merely accept that."
"Which is why I know he will take time to reflect on it. He isn't exactly someone that likes to make those kinds of decisions. Tough decisions that will regardless of the choice taken create issues for others one way or another," Sienna agreed, sighing tiredly while thinking about it.
John wasn't going to be happy about it. She knew he was aware of what was going on, and Sienna knew also that Raven had picked up on his awareness too. This was going to be a complicated conversation to face and that didn't make her worries about other matters any better… but Sienna doubted it was going to end the worst way possible, not when these two had that whole 'therapist-patient' kind of conversations so frequently making it easy for both to come out clean and understanding to each other. It felt odd to say, but as much as John 'clicked' well with Sienna, so he did with Raven in some topics. In fact, had Raven met John before she had Yang, the Tiger Faunus would have seen the two slowly but definitely sticking to each other like buddies and even more. Not only because Raven wouldn't be tied to Ozpin, but also because she would have the means to keep being a warrior/huntress without having to worry about being the traditional housewife to keep watch over her children.
Willow seemed to grow a bit distracted by the conversation while Summer grilled Sienna some more to learn as many details as she could on this situation. This was the first time she heard of this, so she was trying to do her best to wrap her head about this very matter. Not a very easy task, but she was trying. The Schnee matriarch was also thinking of this matter and comparing it with the conversation she had with John. It was definitely going to be a mess to deal with once Vytal was over but… she couldn't help but see higher chances of success compared to Raven due to what she asked wasn't as damning as the one thing the Brawnen woman was seeking out of John. Regardless of that, the white-haired woman knew that she would have to wait and see, with high hopes of things going positively once her youngest daughter managed to make something meaningful out of the opportunity presented by the approval of her mother.
The tournament was around the corner now and the first matches were due to happen relatively soon…
"This is quite odd," I muttered quietly, staring at the report that Ironwood had just received.
The man had been a bit reluctant to reveal the grim elements that had him change expression from neutral to outright upset, but considering the situation over security, he was willing to show it to the fellow headmaster and 'I mistakenly ended up catching a long glimpse of the documentation'. What I got out of what I was looking at was that something was cooking just outside of Mantle. The pictures recovered didn't help me think of anything I might know about this group and I was… really worried this was the very point Salem recruited a large group of people I'm not aware of. It was the counterpoint to the fact I had her minions erased or put out of reach for her to gain, and left me a bit off the ground on what to do about this. Of course, I wasn't planning to dictate any line of action due to the fact I knew little of the matter and I doubted James would have appreciated any imposition from my part due to the fact he was my 'senior' on several aspects and this was, by all means, Atlas' affairs. In a sense, it reminded me of the situation that happened in OTL's Fall of Beacon, except I wasn't Ozpin and I was fitting James' role in this situation.
Jumping the gun about it as myself would just prove to be as detrimental on a reputation-based situation and a strategic perspective. Atlas had the resources to repel any external attacks, but I was more worried about an internal strike that could be created through some clever moves. The group could be replacing the White Fang as the main force for an attack, with others acting as… double-agents. It was possible that the whole 'action, distraction, and infiltration' tactic was being used in this very instance, which meant that I would have to keep an eye out for anything strange within the military as soon as a big distracting move happened. I was, of course, theorizing right now as I couldn't think of anything concrete from just discovery. I couldn't decipher the plan that Salem was aiming for and… not even Ozma seemed able to help beyond a couple of curt thoughts on the matter.
It's possible that the Queen might be using the same tactic, yet… I find the armors particularly familiar. I have seen those before.
Any hints of where? Maybe excluding… Atlas or Mistral?
Those definitely didn't feel close to what I knew about both nations' cultures. Maybe Vale but… this was definitely a new sight for me. I might have a hobby of studying military stuff, but I had trouble nurturing it with Remnant's equipment due to how busy my life was between family and work.
No, Valean Armors were much lighter and-
"These are Vacuan armors. Straight from the Great War period," Theodore muttered quietly, a confused look on his face. "The markings, the plates- this… I can't believe it, someone is actually still using those."
"Maybe a cult tied to the worshiping of the old Faunus Queen?" The General guessed, pausing for a moment and sighing in frustration. "Either that or it could be some extremists that might have rallied under that idea."
2And… I believe those are from the White Fang?" The Headmaster of Shade Academy brought it up. "Anything you can expand on, John?"
"Variants. More… 'aggressive-looking' versions of what we use. I would say that this might be tied to a few issues we had about some 'strong elements' that wanted to be more violent in the approach of the Fang. Some were expelled, others were outright reported to the various police forces around Remnant but… I guess that didn't do any better if Salem managed to rally so many in so little time," I admitted grimly. "I believe the Queen is planning something to try and create her version of it. And I… think she can create something- not strong enough to match the current White Fang, but enough to be a nuisance to a kingdom."
"And I suppose you and your wife are willing to aid Atlas with this problem," James offered. "Even so with a statement."
"I will see to prepare some paperwork, but I know for a fact Sienna will be angry at this matter. She isn't really… that happy of those that try to exploit the organization's reputation to gain momentum," I commented with a dry tone. "Plus, the fact this is happening during a vacation away from normal work and due to some extremists is going to set her off to be quite compliant to an aggressive response."
[Rightfully so. That sounds like the worst way to ruin one family's vacation. I would exact a death penalty on those that dare to ruin the precious memories of my youngest child too.]
How do you know Sienna will ask that?
[We women share a common sense of frustration and righteousness when it comes to protecting our children's happiness. Especially when they are so young.]
Ironwood's lips twitched, a mixture of relief and worry clashing to muster an appropriate response in that regard. Meanwhile the Headmaster of Shade Academy chuckled and nodded in agreement to my words, taking a moment to still glance at the pictures.
"Still, I believe it would be best for me to contact the council. While Atlas is the one meant to guard the event, it would be best to study the matter back home and see if there is indeed a connection with the Faunus Queen," Theodore offered with a nod. "We'll keep in touch about this, but for now I will take my leave. I have much to do and think."
As Theodore left to attend his other businesses my attention shifted to another interesting element I wished to address with James. Specifically tied to my concerns about any internal issue.
"I would like it if you had Ruby to investigate any possible infiltration," I hummed quietly, while gaining James' focus on me. "I know you're already planning something like that to prevent any surprises in that regard, but she will do the best job at that."
"Are you referring to the Fall of Beacon that happened in her timeline?"
"She was the one that discovered the first signs. While I would be more than happy to limit her capacity to not… exaggerate with her paranoia, I still believe she would be your best choice."
"I don't disagree with your choice, but you understand that it would take a while to warrant her participation in the investigations. I need to issue papers to confirm that this is being taken care of by special operatives," Ironwood remarked and I nodded.
"I don't wish to impose this decision, but trust me when I say that we need someone that doesn't have any major contact within the Army. It would prevent any issues with the investigations."
"I agree, Ruby would act without ruining her chances to avoid another Fall but… I hope you understand I will also have to tell her that you were the one to ask her for this job."
I frowned. "Did I do something to warrant this much punishment?"
"It's more of a punishment for her. She will have a reason to willingly seek you and I want you two to talk it out regarding her condition. She needs to talk more than just once in a while with real people."
"You're making it sound like she is having some serious problem."
"That's because Ruby is already showing some serious problems. Sometimes she 'forgets' of turning up punctual to lectures at the Academy, she blames forgetfulness, but I have reason to believe she has been drinking. A lot."
"I didn't catch on anything when she visited a while ago," I hummed with a hint of concern. "Are you certain?"
"I believe it's not truly grave, but I don't wish to wait until it becomes truly an issue before asking for an intervention."
I shook my head. "And to believe I would have heard those words used for someone like Ruby and… not Qrow. Or Raven."
Just as we finished agreeing in that regard, I was about to take my leave when someone suddenly barged in with a serious face… that faltered as soon as she noticed me.
"General Ironwood, I wish to speak with you… urgently," Robyn Hill stopped herself as soon as she realized that the man wasn't alone in his office right now. Robyn was much older than how I remembered her being. Not in a 'wrinkly-kind' of odd, but she definitely looked tougher and more mature after years spent as a leader of an active huntresses team.
"Ms. Hill, at ease," James muttered with a polite tone, clearly annoyed by this abrupt interruption. "I hope there is a good enough reason to interrupt us so suddenly.
"Sir, I wish to know why my request to have my team further… expand on the situation we learned has been denied."
"That's because the scope of this mission requires special forces which, from what I know from your denomination, you're not part of."
"It's not negotiable, Ms. Hill," The General interrupted. "But still, I suppose your presence here comes at a fortuitous moment since I believe the current development led to a… difficult circumstance."
His gaze was upon me and… I frowned back at him as I had a strong feeling I wasn't going to like the next words he was going to utter.
"Mr. Bukharin here is now a possible target together with his family of the group you have found. I believe it would be the minimum we can do if we provided a prominent team such as yours to keep guard over them," Ironwood finally explained and now I was glaring at him.
"We agreed to-"
"To not provide you with a heavy guarding force considering you were going to keep away from a dangerous situation," He interrupted to finish that sentence himself. "Yet things have changed, and it would be quite discourteous if I didn't update your security to match the current predicament we are in."
I wanted to refuse despite the fact I knew he wouldn't have listened, but I knew better than just slamming my head onto something that I found so difficult to convince. I could say that it wasn't the worst idea possible due to how things could escalate without a proper look into the infiltration possibility, so a team of huntresses was actually very needed. And I felt so angry about being wrong about it right now.
It's standard rules.
[If it isn't, it should be. Think about Damian-]
Don't give me that! I know that Dami could be hurt if things really go bad, but I can't exclude the chances of even worse things happening. What if the council decides to send another attaché? At that point, I doubt I can 'refuse' their 'kindness'.
And they would have the means to control John or Sienna through that security situation. Not a convenient situation.
"Sienna will not be happy."
"And I'm sorry for that, Mr. Bukharin. But your wife will have to accept the fact that extra protection is needed for this very instant. I assure you that once the trouble is over, the security will be reorganized to the one before this issue."
No chance of rebuttal, I surrendered to this very idea and I hoped that James knew what he was doing and that this issue was going to be solved at once. But while I was done with this, well, Robyn had yet to begin.
"Sir, I understand the need but-"
"Your team is specialized in this kind of task. I don't see the issue there."
"Beyond the fact that we could do more in a direct way? Without trying to disrespect Mr. Bukharin, I doubt my team can handle this big of a task."
Ironwood merely nodded. "While I value your concerns greatly, at the same time I know that you served a brilliant streak of successful missions, Ms. Hill. Your team doesn't need to burn out because of eagerness to show your worth. And you should know by now that not all missions are meant to be extremely difficult and risky."
Much to my surprise, Robyn looked ready to push more but went quiet at the long stare the General was aiming at her. With Ironwood scoring two wins in that regard, the only thing that remained was leaving to try and address the matter at once with Sienna before the Huntress got her team to reach us and establish our current security arrangements. It wasn't going to be easy, but I could at least say that I wasn't responsible for this sudden development.
At least it wasn't two teams but just one…
Motherhood, what a troubling phase at times but also one full of fond memories to remember when the kids are older. At least, that's how many mothers describe it being, same for mine. But would I define the situation in the first section as normal in RL's instance? Nah, not with how messy things would get regarding Yang's uncle becoming step-dad and her cousins becoming step-siblings.
RL News: I finally left Uni. It was a decision I have been gauging in the last six months and I feel relieved I did so. Things are just too 'unpleasant' as they are at Uni right now.
Lastly, Vtuber news: Kiryuu Coco will graduate on July 1. Immensely sad day, but rumors mention that she might actually become a manager in the future. If you spot a 'C-Chan' as a new Manager, then she's back.