AN: Last chapter brought this story past 400 reviews! Thank you guys so much! Your feedback is always valuable to me.
Also, I still haven't gotten any advice from people about how to issue open writing challenges to others, so any help would be appreciated.
So, without any further ado, here we go!
"Guys?!" Blake asked, looking around for her teammates and professor. She could only assume that she had somehow been sucked into the mirror, but for some reason it only took her.
Guess I'm on my own, she thought, taking a closer look at her environment. While the path she was currently standing on certainly looked like an abandoned mine shaft, it was actually a thin trench of rock floating in the same abyss as the room she was just in. All she could do was move forward for a few feet before the path ended. She could see another rock, but it was too far for her to jump to.
"Now what?" She asked, before noticing another floating mirror. Despite having some severe apprehension about it, she approached the mirror and noticed that it showed an extra rock that didn't exist, but would be exactly what she needed to cross the gap. As she took a closer look, however, she saw the rock disappear from the mirror. And even more miraculously, it appeared exactly where she needed it. At this point, she no longer needed any convincing that she wasn't on Remnant anymore. She pulled out Gambol Shroud, threw it at the floating rock, and used the ribbon to pull herself up, repeating it to get to the pathway she was originally trying to reach.
She was immediately greeted by another mirror, and saw rocks disappear when she examined it closely.
"So that's how it's gonna be," she said.
"Monster," a voice echoed. She instinctively raised Gambol Shroud and quickly looked around her.
"Who's there?!" she yelled, but she saw no one. Still wary, she slowly returned her weapon to her back, and continued along the path before her.
"Man, this sucks," Yang complained, watching Blake through the mirror. "There's nothing we can do to help her."
"How are those rocks just appearing?" Weiss asked.
"Probably magic," Aqua answered. "The mirror that sucked us in here used to belong to this world's Evil Queen, and it had a mind of its own. I defeated it when I was here, but I guess some magic stayed behind."
"Oh, please," Weiss scoffed. "Magic doesn't exist."
"Really?" Yang asked. "After everything you've seen so far, that's too absurd for you?"
"We're not on Remnant anymore," Ruby said. "Different rules. Besides, Mom and I have magic thanks to the Keyblade, even on Remnant. We just don't use it."
"…Whatever," Weiss said, sounding tired of arguing. "Also, how do you defeat a mirror?"
"I was trapped inside it," Aqua said nonchalantly. "The being living in it tried to kill me, and defeating it freed me."
"So, maybe Blake can get out if she defeats something," Ruby suggested.
"I hope so," Yang said
"Whatever it is she'd have to fight would probably be unlike anything she's ever fought before," Aqua said. "I hope that she's up for it."
"She'll be fine," Ruby said confidently. "She's a part of Team RWBY."
After several of those asinine mirrors, Blake seemed to have finally reached the end of the pathway. Even though there was yet another damn mirror, she couldn't see any other pathway. As she approached it, all she could see through it was a pure white void. A bright light flashed, and she suddenly found herself standing in that void. There was a singular mirror in front of her, except unlike the others, this one actually showed her reflection. That immediately made her suspicious.
As she approached it, her reflection stepped through the mirror, and outside of it, leaving her facing a clone of herself.
"Monster," the clone said.
"What?" Blake asked.
"You're a monster," the clone repeated. "Did you honestly think that the others were going to accept you? After everything you did?"
"I've changed," Blake insisted. "I'm not that person anymore."
"Do you think that erases the past?" the clone asked with a sneer. "You have the blood of the innocent on your hands, and no amount of 'change' will fix that."
"I never killed anyone innocent!" Blake yelled.
"Maybe not with your own hands," the clone said. "But you never stopped Adam from doing it." Blake's eyes widened. "You were the partner of the Blood-Soaked Bull. If anyone was in a position to stop him from becoming a murderer, it was you. But you were blind. You wanted so desperately to love him that you deliberately ignored his problems until it was too late to fix him. That makes you just as guilty as him."
"I know that!" Blake yelled at her copy. "I know it's my fault that Adam turned out the way he did. But I'm doing everything I can to atone for that!"
"You really want to atone?" The clone asked, reaching behind it for its own Gambol Shroud. "Then die for your sins!"
Her doppelganger charged at Blake, and the Faunus used her Semblance to leave behind a shadow clone, allowing her to dodge the attack while she drew her weapon. She was barely able to raise her sword when the ribbon of her opponent's weapon wrapped around her wrist, yanking her towards it. She used a clone to dodge again, this time appearing above her doppelganger, and delivered an overhead swing.
The clone disappeared after it was struck, and reappeared farther away. Blake changed her weapon to its pistol form and fired at it. The clone kept teleporting to dodge the gunfire, and suddenly appeared next to Blake, kicking her in the wrist and making her lose her grip on her weapon. The katana clattered to the ground, and Blake was barely able to bring her cleaver up in time to block a strike from her copy.
"Dying won't fix anything!" Blake yelled, pressing her cleaver against her clone's katana. "I still believe in equality for the Faunus, and I can't achieve it if I'm dead!"
"How would you even accomplish that?!" The clone yelled back.
"I don't know!" Blake screamed, using her Semblance again to dodge around the clone, landing next to her fallen sword. "But I owe it to the Faunus, and to the people I've hurt to try. I can't let everything I've done be for nothing." The clone sneered and charged at her again, and Blake left behind another shadow clone, backflipped, and swung both of her swords horizontally at the clone, bifurcating it at the waist.
Before her doppelganger faded away, she thought she saw a faint smile on its face. A bright light consumed her before she could dwell on it too much.
When the light faded, she found herself standing back in the hallway, her team and the professor standing around her, with Weiss checking her over for injuries.
"Oh, good, you're okay," Weiss said in relief.
"Didn't realize you cared that much," Blake said.
"You're my partner!" Weiss said indignantly. "Of course I care about you!" Blake just gave her a small smile to let her know she was joking.
"That was wild, though," Yang said. "Fighting yourself like that."
"Yeah, it was," Blake said sadly.
"We couldn't hear anything that you said," Ruby said, and Blake would be lying if she said she wasn't a little relieved at that. "Do you want to talk about what happened?"
"Not really," she said. "I have some things to think about first."
"That's fine," Ruby reassured her. "You can tell us when you feel ready."
"Thanks." She knew that her team would eventually have to know about her (after all, wearing that bow to sleep was incredibly uncomfortable), but she wasn't sure she was ready yet. She had a pretty good idea how her team felt about the Faunus, their willingness to protect Velvet from Cardin being the biggest clue. But she didn't know how they would react to learning about her past with the White Fang. Especially Weiss.
"Well, since you're okay, we should work on figuring out a way out of here," Professor Branwen said. "It looks like these mirrors are the key." She pointed behind them, and Blake turned around and saw that the mirror she was just trapped in was cracked.
She didn't know that a broken mirror could feel so satisfying.
The group approached the second mirror of the batch, and saw a staircase in the image.
There was a flash of white, and Weiss disappeared, only to reappear in the mirror, just like what happened to Blake.
"I guess it's my turn," Weiss said aloud as she looked at the staircase in front of her. "Well, nowhere to go but up."
She walked up the first few flights of stairs, only to walk into something, letting out a grunt as she faceplanted.
"What the-?" She asked, feeling the air in front of her. She felt a glass wall when she touched it, and then she was warped back to the beginning of the staircase.
"Well, that's weird," she commented. She walked up the stairs again, only to run into the same glass wall and teleport again.
She repeated this process three more times before she finally decided to sit down on the stairs to think about her next move.
And then she saw it.
"Oh, you have got to be kidding me," she said, looking at one of the floating mirrors floating in the space that used to be behind her. With a sigh, he stood up, walked towards the mirror, and was taken by a flash of light.
Weiss found herself in the same white void she previously watched Blake occupy, with the single solitary mirror. She drew Myrtenaster from her belt and faced the mirror.
"Let's just get this over with," she said.
"Are you really that eager to fail?" her own voice said to her as her doppelganger stepped out of the mirror. "Like you've failed at everything else?"
"What do you mean?" Weiss asked. "What have I failed at?"
"Where should I start?" the clone asked. "Your scar? The child you call a leader? Or maybe the fact that out of everyone on your team, your combat skills are the worst? Do you really think that's fitting of a Schnee? If your father could see your performance, he would send you back to Atlas in a heartbeat. I'm amazed you haven't given up on being a Huntress yet."
"I need to be a Huntress," Weiss said fiercely. "It's the only way to restore my family's honor."
"Like that'll ever happen," the clone sneered at her. "Do you really think that your father would let a Huntress take over? And besides, is the Schnee name even worth saving?"
"What are you talking about?" Weiss asked. "Of course it is!"
"Just stop and think," the clone said. "Where do you think the most vicious rumors about your family came from?"
"From the White Fang spreading lies, obviously!"
"And yet, how did they get so many Faunus on their side? Surely, they would be in the best position to point out how untrue their statements are. Instead, their words against your family are used as a rallying cry. Just face it, the SDC's reputation is irreparable. You just want to make a name for yourself as a Huntress. The SDC can burn for all you care."
"That's not true!" she yelled. "The SDC is everything my grandfather built and I won't let my father ruin it! I will become a Huntress, and I will redeem the company!"
"Then why don't you prove it?" the clone said, raising its own Myrtenaster in a copy of Weiss's combat stance.
Weiss slowly circled around her clone, the copy doing the same. Finally, they struck.
Mirrored blows matched mirrored blows as two Weiss's dueled with everything they had.
"What hope do you have at taking over the company?" the clone taunted. "Winter couldn't, and she's better than you in every way!"
"I know Winter is better!" Weiss yelled. "But I can't afford to lose!"
"Just leave the company to Whitley," she said. "Become a Huntress and leave it all behind."
"Whitely will just be like Father. Nothing will change with him in charge. If the Schnee name is to be saved, it has to be me!"
Their duel continued. A thrust. A parry. A repost. A counter.
"Do you really think your father will let you?" the clone asked.
"If he won't then I'll do it my way!" Weiss yelled. "The Schnee name will mean something again! Something more than just wealth! And if he has a problem with that, then he can GO TO HELL!" Weiss thrust Myrtenaster forward, but was shocked when she saw her clone lower its sword and smile at her. Weiss's weapon plunged into her doppelganger's chest, and her copy looked her right in the eyes.
"Good," it said. "Remember that resolve when the time comes. I'll never forgive you if that conviction wavers, even for an instant." With that, the clone faded, and Weiss was consumed by a bright light again.
When the light faded, Weiss was back in the chamber they started in, with the mirror behind her having shattered. After making sure she was okay, the group wasted no time going to the third and final mirror. The usual flash of light occurred, and this time Yang disappeared.
"Looks like I'm up," Yang said, cracking her knuckles and taking a look around. She was in a black void surrounded by pillars. The floor seemed to be one giant mirror, as the pillars were reflected underneath her. As always, her own reflection didn't appear. Up ahead, she could see a large gazebo with a mirror in the center. "Well, let's try out the direct approach first," she said, and walked straight towards the gazebo. As she approached it, though, it gradually began to fade away, only to reappear much father away. "Should have figured it wouldn't be that easy." She scanned the environment again, and saw that there was something strange about one of the pillars. She could see cracks forming at its base, and in the reflection, there was a chunk missing.
"Maybe they need to match?" she thought out loud, cocking one of her gauntlets and punching the cracks, breaking open that section. And then her stomach dropped as she felt her orientation completely flip and she was now standing upside down. "Oh man, I hope not all other worlds are as freaky as this one," she said, trying to get used to walking around upside down.
She quickly found another cracked pillar, and just like before, with a well-placed, shotgun-powered punch, she broke open the section, flipping her orientation yet again. She noticed that the gazebo with the mirror was now well-lit, and approached it again, with it staying put this time. Just like her teammates, as she walked up to the mirror, she was consumed by a white light and ended up in a void.
She cocked her gauntlets as soon as she teleported, but she didn't see a mirror. Instead, she saw a small, blonde-haired girl with her back turned to her, punching at a training dummy with her little fists. Yang lowered her weapons and approached the girl.
"Hello?" she asked. "What are you doing?"
"Training," the girl answered. "I need to be stronger."
"Why?" Yang asked. The girl turned around to look at her, and Yang's eyes widened at seeing lilac eyes looking back at her, realizing that she was looking at her own younger self.
"I need to be strong so Mom and Ruby won't abandon me," little Yang said.
"Why do you think they would abandon you?" Yang asked. "They love you. Or us, or whatever."
"Everyone else did," the girl said, and turned around to start punching the dummy again. Yang felt her heart drop, knowing exactly what the little girl was referring to, but not wanting to admit it.
"My mother abandoned me," the younger blonde continued. "Then Mommy died. Then Daddy gave up. Mom, Ruby, and Uncle Qrow are all I have left, and if I'm not strong enough to go with them when Ruby has to go on her quest, then they'll just leave me behind. Then I'll be all alone." The girl stopped punching, sat down, pulled her knees up against her chest, and started crying. "I don't want to be alone."
Yang stared at her younger self, tears starting to well up in her own eyes. She knew exactly what this little girl meant, as she found herself worrying about this sometimes, too. She knew she was wrong to think that way, but sometimes she just couldn't help it. She sat down next to the girl, and wrapped an arm around her shoulder.
"Mom and Ruby wouldn't just abandon us," she said, trying to convince the both of them. "They love us."
"That's never stopped anyone before," the girl said, leaning into the hug.
"The way I see it, Mom chose to stay. She chose to take care of us and love us."
"The only reason why she stayed was because of Ruby's Keyblade," the girl said. "I don't have one. I need to be strong to make up for it."
"That may have been way she stayed at first," Yang said. "But we're a family now. She'd never want to leave us. Neither would Ruby. I trust that they won't abandon us."
"I trusted that Mommy would come home," little Yang said. "She didn't. I trusted that Daddy would get better. He didn't."
"Love is like that sometimes, I guess," Yang said sadly. "Sometimes people let you down. You never know what might happen in the future. But there's one thing I know for sure."
"What's that?" the little girl asked, finally looking up at Yang.
"Whether or not I'm strong enough, I will never abandon them. And I'll never abandon you, either. Of course I'm sometimes scared as hell that I'll be left behind, but we've been a family for so long. Sometimes, you just have to trust that the people you love, love you just as much. So even if I'm not as strong as Ruby, I know that she'll always love me. Same goes for Mom and Uncle Qrow. And sometimes, that's enough. Just to know that you're loved."
There was a flash, but Yang wasn't teleported. Instead, the little girl had transformed, and Yang was looking at a reflection of her modern self, a serene smile on her clone's face. The clone held out a fist, and Yang smiled before fist-bumping it. There was another flash of white, and Yang was removed from the void.
Yang was still smiling when she returned to the central chamber.
"Something good happen?" Ruby asked, before being pulled into a tight hug by her sister.
"I guess you could say that," Yang said. "I love you."
"Love you, too, sis," Ruby said, wrapping her arms around Yang to return the hug. After a few seconds, they pulled away.
"Now, what do you say we get the hell out of here?" Yang asked, holding out her fist. "Together."
"Together," Ruby said, bumping her fist into her sister's.
AN: I had Persona 4 in mind when I was writing this section, and decided to make this more similar to confronting their Shadows rather than just fighting a clone of themselves. In fact, it took all my willpower to not keep referring to the clones as "Shadows". That's also why each clone acted differently. It's meant to be more symbolic than anything else, and I hope I did a good job getting my point across. I especially enjoyed writing Yang's part.
I also threw in a little bit of extra info about what's been happening in the Rose/Xiao Long/Branwen family.
So, I hope you guys all have a wonderful Thanksgiving in two days. Or at least, as good of a Thanksgiving as you can have this year. If you have people over, be extremely careful and make sure that they've been following social distancing properly. Don't put yourself at risk. If you need to, use Zoom to see your family. The important thing is for all of you to stay safe.
As always, thank you all very much for reading, and I'll see you all next time!