AN: I'm glad people responded so well to what happened last chapter! I was a little concerned.
I would like to address a couple of guest reviews I got that talked about Oz being worse than Xehanort. I'm going to have to respectfully disagree entirely. Xehanort is way worse.
And to the guest reviewer Heaven's Light, the chance of that happening is very low.
Once again, I would like to thank Lord Maximus for the help with this chapter.
"AAAAAAAAHHHHHH!" Pyrrha screamed at the top of her lungs, the lower half of her body feeling like it was on fire.
"You're doing great, Pyrrha!" One of the nurses said, standing in front of the young woman and observing the entire process.
Pyrrha was lying on a maternity bed, her legs held up in the stirrups. She was back home in Argus, and had been looking into where she could think about opening up a training hall after her son was born, when she suddenly went into labor.
Which brought her here, in a hospital, feeling like her guts were being pulled out through her pelvis.
The classes she had taken had tried to warn her that it was going to be painful, but no amount of warnings can ever truly prepare someone for this.
"I can see the head!" the nurse reported. "Come on, push!"
"I AM PUSHING!" Pyrrha screamed.
"You're doing great, baby!" her mother said, holding her hand. "Just think about the reward when this is all over."
"Mom, you aren't helping!" Pyrrha said. "AAAAHHH!"
"One more push," the nurse said. "You can do it!"
Pyrrha decided right then and there:
When I see Jaune again, I'm going to punch him!
With one last scream, and a final push, she felt relief flood over her body as her baby finally finished his journey, loud crying filling the air.
Pyrrha was never one to say that she disliked children, but she never thought the sounds of a baby's wailing could be so beautiful.
That was probably because the baby currently wailing was hers.
Or she was just delirious from hours of intense pain and the crying meant she was finally done.
"Congratulations!" the nurse said, holding the screaming newborn. "It's a boy!"
After a few minutes spent trying to catch her breath and re-hydrate, the doctors handed her a small bundle. Holding onto him carefully, making sure to support the head like she was taught, Pyrrha looked down at her son. He had stopped crying, and was looking at her.
He had a tuft of bright red hair on top of his head, and big, beautiful, blue eyes were looking up at her.
"Oh, he's beautiful," Pyrrha's mother said, her voice quiet and full of awe.
"He is," Pyrrha said.
"What's his name?"
"Achilles," Pyrrha said, looking down at her son and doing her best to snuggle closer to him without hurting him. "Hello, Achilles," she said to him. "I-I'm your mommy."
Verbalizing it helped make it real.
Pyrrha was this small, beautiful baby boy's mommy.
She cried, tears of pure happiness rolling down her cheeks as she held her son for the first time.
Aqua roamed the halls of the Schnee Manor, still wearing that ridiculous outfit Jacques forced her into, a feather duster in her hands. Jacques had taken up the habit in the last few days of giving her absolutely mundane and time-consuming tasks to complete. The current task was dusting all of the sculptures in the hallways of the manor.
And for some reason, he had a lot of sculptures.
As humiliating as her role as a maid was, and despite her having no intention of staying after Klein finished setting up transport for them, Aqua still had no intention of giving Jacques any reason to shock her with that collar.
Not that he needed a reason to.
She started to dust what felt like the thirtieth bust of Jacques when she heard a familiar voice from a room near her.
"Are you jealous?" She heard Weiss ask, prompting her to step closer to the door. "Is that it?"
"Whatever do you mean?" a boy's voice asked, likely belonging to Weiss's brother Whitley.
"Is that why you hate me? Are you jealous of my abilities? Of Winter's?"
"Hmmm… No, not really," Whitely said. "Honestly, I find it barbaric. It's beneath people like me. Like Father. What can a single Huntsman possibly do that an army cannot? That's why we have one, even if it is run by a fool."
"Huntsmen are barbaric, huh?" Aqua asked, stepping into the room, surprising the siblings. Weiss gasped at seeing the outfit her former teacher was wearing, while Whitley just looked annoyed. "That's ironic coming from you, considering you have the blood of a Huntsman in you. Or did no one tell you about Nicholas Schnee, the very man who built your so-called empire?" Whitley frowned.
"You should watch how you speak to me or my father—"
"Will do what? Shock me?" Aqua asked, rolling her eyes. "Please, he uses that to wake me up in the morning. If you want to threaten me, you'll have to do better than that."
"He does what?' Weiss asked, horrified by what she was hearing. Aqua sent her a reassuring look before returning her attention to Whitley.
"Let me guess, your view of Huntsmen is the same as his. And yet it was a Huntsman that built this family company and amassed its fortunes that you now enjoy. It was a Huntsman who found the Dust mines that your family profits from. And it was a Huntsman who created the legacy your father thinks he controls," Aqua continued, not even giving Whitley the chance to argue. "And he didn't do it by sitting behind a desk. He actually showed he was capable of not only working alongside the people he hired, but he also risked his life for them, which earned him a lot of respect. Respect I'm told the Schnee Family no longer has."
"And where did that get him? Working in the Dust mines was what led him to an early grave," Whitley retorted. "How is that any better than what my father has done? He gets results and he's already older than my grandfather was when he died."
"And I'm sure your grandfather would be pleased to see how much you honor him and his hard work," Aqua replied. "Just like I'm sure he would be pleased to see what's been done to his legacy that you'll be entrusted with. I hope you don't let him down."
"What do you know?" Whitley asked angrily. "You talk about the strengths and merits of being a Huntsman, but here you are, a former Huntress, reduced to a maid because my father outsmarted you. What did your strength get you? Absolutely nothing. And it's that same honor you talk about my grandfather having that keeps you trapped here. What use is power, what use is honor, if it prevents you from getting what you want? I can't think of any benefits you have over me, or my father."
"No benefit?" Aqua asked with a small smile. "I think being a Huntress has one benefit that all the money in the world can never buy."
"And what's that?" Whitely asked.
"Well, are you asking me to tell you, or would you like me to show you?" Aqua asked, bringing a hand to her chin. "You're not afraid to participate in a little experiment to see if I'm right, are you?" Whitely looked surprised, but then his frown returned.
"You cannot goad me, but for the sake of seeing whatever you might have to convince me, I'll allow it. Show me." Aqua held out her hand.
There was a small summoning glyph, and from it appeared the crystal copy of the small fairy girl. Whitley stared at the copy, not looking impressed as he looked up at Aqua.
"And this is?"
"Someone who makes dreams come true," Aqua as Tinker Bell flew around Whitley and sprinkled pixie dust on him.
"Hey, these clothes were just washed," Whitely protested, trying to wipe it away.
"Oh relax, they'll disappear when Tinker Bell does," Aqua said as Tinker Bell floated back to her. "Now then, you want to see what being a Huntress has to offer. I want you to think about something that makes you happy."
"What?" Whitley asked, staring at her.
"You said you wanted me to you what makes being a Huntress so great, well first off I need you to cooperate. Don't worry, you won't be hurt," Aqua replied. "Just close your eyes and think about something that makes you happy. A memory, a dream, or even a favorite food. Anything that makes you genuinely smile."
Whitely stared at her for a moment before complying with her wish and closing his eyes. After a moment, Aqua could see the ghost of a smile appear on his face.
And after a few more seconds, he started floating off the ground.
"Whitley!" Weiss gasped.
Opening his eyes, Whitely gasped when he realized that he was up in the air near the ceiling. The surprise broke his concentration, causing him to fall, but Aqua leaped up and caught him, softly landing on the ground. Whitley instantly pulled away from her.
"What was that?!"
"The benefit of being a Huntress. My Semblance summons copies of people I've met become friends with and their abilities. Tinker Bell's ability is to sprinkle people with pixie dust, and when they think happy thoughts, it allows them to fly, like so," Aqua said as Tinker Bell flew around her covering her in pixie dust. A second later, Aqua was hovering off the ground and floating up to the ceiling, much to the surprise of the two Schnee siblings. She then floated back down and dismissed Tinker Bell, opening her eyes to see the surprised Whitley. "So tell me, do you think it's barbaric to be Huntress when you have the ability to fly? You wanted to know what's so great about being a Huntress, and what we have that you don't. My answer is freedom. The freedom to choose your own destiny, to do good things, and live life the way you want to, not the way you're told to."
Whitley looked down at the floor, before his hands clenched into fists.
"I don't have to be told about freedom from a woman who threw hers away, all for a girl that isn't even her family," he said, before storming out of the room. Aqua sighed.
"You know he's going to tell my father," Weiss said.
"Let him," Aqua said. "He can do his worst to me, and it won't be enough. I just wish he listened to what I was trying to tell him."
"Whitley is honestly a lost cause," Weiss said, crossing her arms. "I tried to connect with him years ago, but he's not like me and Winter. He's too much like our father."
"I wonder…" Aqua said, looking back at the door the boy had left through.
Ruby looked warily at the silver-haired swordsman standing in front of them. Jaune and Nora were just as cautious, and Uncle Qrow's hand slowly reached for his sword. Ren looked at Sephiroth in pure fear. Behind her, Cloud struggled to stand, leaning on his sword for support. Ruby could tell it wasn't going to be enough, and the mercenary was liable to collapse at any second. She regarded the long-haired man again.
"Um, hi," she said. "You're Sephiroth, right?"
"I am," he answered, being far more willing to talk than she initially feared.
"Thanks for killing that Grimm for us," she said.
"'Grimm'?" the man asked. "Is that what that creature is called?"
"Yeah," Nora said. "It's a creature of Grimm."
"Interesting. Regardless, it was in my way." He raised his sword, pointing it at Cloud. "I'm here for him."
"Why?" Jaune asked.
"We're connected, him and me," Sephiroth answered. "And I've been looking everywhere for him."
"Please, we don't have to fight," Ruby said. "He's been poisoned. He needs help."
"That's a shame," Sephiroth said. "I was hoping to get a challenge out of him, but I suppose it can't be helped."
Faster than any of them could react, Sephiroth suddenly disappeared, only to reappear right next to Cloud, his sword raised.
Ruby quickly summoned Crescent Rose, throwing it at him to deflect the weapon, allowing for Cloud to bring his own sword up for a lazy block. The force of the blow brought the blond man to his knees. Ruby called her weapon back to her hand, and Sephiroth looked at it curiously.
"I thought I sensed something in you," he said. "You have a Keyblade." Turning away from Cloud, Sephiroth held his sword in a combat stance, the blade held horizontally in front of him. "I wonder if you'll do any better than the last one."
"Do you mean Sora?" Ruby asked.
"I didn't bother asking for his name," Sephiroth said. "But in the end, he was a disappointment. I hope you'll fare better."
"Wait, we don't need to fight!" Ruby said.
"I know," Sephiroth said. He swung his sword, way faster than it should have been possible given its length. Ruby managed to duck under the swing, only for a tear to inexplicably appear in her stockings, on her left leg. Her eyes widened as she quickly backed away from him.
She was certain she only saw him swing his sword once, so where did that slice come from? Did he have some kind of Semblance that allowed him to slice through the air independently of his sword? Or was he just swinging it that fast?
Either way, she had a feeling that he could have sliced more than just her leg if he wanted to. And even more incredibly, he managed to slice her stocking without getting close enough to her skin for her Aura to kick in.
Cloud was definitely right about how dangerous this man was.
"What's wrong?" Sephiroth asked tauntingly, raising his sword again. Nora suddenly yelled, jumping up in the air with her hammer raised. Sephiroth only spared her a glance before he seemed to warp behind her. Nora landed, and she was suddenly bombarded with slashes, her Aura instantly shattering. The ginger girl screamed in pain as her body became riddled with cuts.
Sephiroth was suddenly on her again, grabbing her by the throat and lifting her up, making her drop her hammer to try and pry his hands off.
"Pathetic," he said.
"NORA!" Ren yelled, firing his guns at the silver-haired man's back. Sephiroth didn't even flinch, turning around and holding Nora out in front of him, forcing Ren to stop shooting to avoid hitting her. Sephiroth smirked, throwing Nora at Ren. Ren dropped his weapons, reaching out his arms to catch his friend, but Sephiroth flew faster than her, slashing his sword as he passed Ren. His Aura instantly shattered, and Nora slammed into him, sending them both sprawling to the ground.
"Fira!" Ruby shouted, launching a fireball at the man, only for the spell to fizzle out as it reached him. "What?!"
"Magic doesn't work on me," he said, only to raise his sword up without looking to block an attack from behind by Jaune. Uncle Qrow ran at his front, trying to get him while he was distracted, only for Sephiroth to jump over his attack, landing behind them.
He swung his sword, sending a shockwave at the duo, which was blocked by Jaune's shield, a white glow indicating that he was using his Semblance to boost their Auras. Ruby charged in, swinging her Keyblade at the man. He stepped to the side, bringing his sword down, but she dashed to the side, hitting the back of his knee with her weapon. The man stumbled slightly, and Jaune jumped up, trying to slash at him. Sephiroth reached up, grabbed Jaune by the collar, and slammed him into the ground. The blond was embedded into the cement, instantly being knocked unconscious.
"Jaune!" Ruby shouted, raising her Keyblade into the air. "Heal!" A green light covered Jaune, Ruby making sure he didn't have any broken bones, but he remained unconscious.
Uncle Qrow charged in, his sword changing into a scythe, and delivered rapid swings at the swordsman, spinning the weapon in intricate patterns to try and catch him off-guard.
He blocked every one of Uncle Qrow's attacks.
Ruby joined in, transforming Crescent Rose into its scythe form. She and her Uncle danced around each other, swinging their weapons wherever the other wasn't.
Miraculously, he kept blocking.
Ruby and her uncle eventually separated, launching themselves froward and spinning in circles, their scythes turning into deadly wheels. They rapidly approached him from both sides, hoping that he wouldn't be able to block both simultaneously.
He raised his sword, holding it at an angle to catch both scythe-wielders' weapons.
Ruby's eyes widened in shock.
Sephiroth smirked, swinging his sword hard to separate their weapons, before kicking Ruby hard in the stomach. He slashed at Uncle Qrow's stomach, the Huntsman barely able to block the attack, before Sephiroth quickly stepped closer, grabbing Uncle Qrow by the face and causing a small explosion in his hand. Uncle Qrow staggered backwards, before Sephiroth stabbed him the shoulder. Her uncle screamed as the weapon impaled him, Sephiroth slowly lifting him up off the ground.
"NOOOO!" Ruby screamed, before a bright light shone. Sephiroth turned his head, only to be body-slammed by an elephant with giant ears. The impact sent him flying into a nearby house, and caused him to drop Uncle Qrow.
"I-It's you…" Ruby said, remembering this as the creature that helped her at the Fall of Beacon. "Thank you."
With a swing of his sword, Sephiroth sliced the house in half, slowly stepping out of the rubble with a black Aura flickering around him.
"Finally," he said. "It's getting interesting."
"ARGH!" Aqua yelled in pain, the electric shock lasting for several seconds longer than usual. Behind her back, her hands clenched into fists, a leather belt having been tightened around her wrists to bind them.
"Honestly, you had to know this was coming," Jacques said, finally letting his hand off the button. "I thought I told you I didn't want you talking to Weiss. Not only that, but you decided to antagonize my son."
"I-I wasn't antagonizing him," Aqua said, panting heavily from the pain. "I was just trying to explain to him why I'd rather be a Huntress than end up like you—AAAAGH!" The shock came back again, even more intense than the last one, causing Aqua to collapse to her knees.
"And still you're so defiant of me," he said. "This is only going to keep getting worse until you learn to stop talking back. This stubborn pride of yours isn't doing you any favors."
"Pride?" Aqua asked him, looking up.
"Of course. What else could stop you from just giving up and submitting?" Aqua chose to say nothing, just glaring at him. He raised an eyebrow, before giving her another quick shock. "Now, are you going to keep talking back to me?" Aqua continued to glare at him, until he held his finger near the button again.
"I won't," she said quickly. He looked at her expectantly. "I-I'm sorry," she said, the words making her want to throw up.
"You're sorry…" he goaded.
"…Master," she said, doing her best to hide her disgust.
"That's better," he said, finally putting away that damned remote. "On your feet." She rose to her feet, having a little difficulty with her hands still bound. "Now, why don't you make yourself useful and tend to the garden?"
"Are you going to untie me?" she asked.
"Of course not," he said. "Consider it part of your punishment."
"How exactly do you expect me to tend to the garden without my hands?"
"You're a capable woman, I'm sure you can figure it out." She sent him another glare, before turning around to leave. "Oh, and one more piece of advice. Do try to smile more, dear. That scowl ruins your pretty face."
Aqua struggled with the leather belt trapping her wrists behind her back, trying to pick at it with her fingers.
She was playing along with her captivity for now, but the restraint wasn't staying on for long if she had anything to say about it.
She had made it into the garden, making sure she was far away from Jacques before removing the belt.
She was able to twist her body in a way to allow her wrists to be seen, using the telekinesis she had been working on to undo the buckle, freeing her arms.
She rubbed her wrists, wandering deeper into the Manor's gardens, before she spotted a small table with a white-haired woman sitting at it. She recognized the woman as Willow Schnee, Weiss's mother and Jacques's wife.
She could see a wine bottle on the table in front of her, but no glasses, which likely meant she had been drinking directly from the bottle.
Oh, boy, she thought. She approached the woman, making her jump when she realized someone was there.
"You're Willow, right?' Aqua asked. "Weiss's mother?"
"I-I am," Willow said, visibly relaxing. "I remember you. You're that woman Jacques accused of being my daughter." She looked Aqua's uniform up and down. "I can see he sunk his claws into you."
"He hasn't," Aqua said. "This is only temporary."
"You keep telling yourself that," Willow said sadly. "Jacques always gets what he wants."
"He won't this time. I can promise you that."
"Uh-huh," Willow said, totally unconvinced. She took a swig directly from the bottle. "I was like you, once. Young and naïve. Thought that the concept of human emotions applied to him. I was wrong then. Just like you and Weiss are wrong now. There's no defying him. The only question is how much of you he'll strip away before you finally give in."
"Like you did?" Aqua asked.
"You say that like I had a choice," Willow said.
"What about Weiss?" Aqua asked. "She wants to live her dream as a Huntress, but Jacques would rather keep her locked up here. Are you saying it would be better for her to just shut up and become his little angel? She's your daughter. Why not fight to protect her? Why not stand against him and stop him from disgracing the legacy of your family?"
"Do you think I didn't try?" Willow asked, looking at Aqua with a glare. "Who are you to judge me? You said so yourself, you're not a Schnee. How is this your concern?"
"As I said before, I was Weiss's teacher. It was my job to guide and protect her until she was ready to stand on her own. Not only that, but I'm also a mother like you. If someone treated my daughters as horribly as your husband than I would stop at nothing to make them pay, even if it goes against the teachings of my master," Aqua said, remembering her lessons of restraint and not using the Keyblade for reasons that didn't involve protecting the hearts of the people and worlds. "Your daughter became very close friends with mine, enough that I consider her a close friend myself." To illustrate her point, Aqua raised one hand. "Weiss."
Willow watched as a star-shaped glyph appeared, and from it appeared a crystalline copy of her own daughter.
"I've been told repeatedly that my Semblance resembles your family's. However, it only summons copies of people who I have bonded with as friends or family," Aqua explained. "Weiss joined the team my daughters were put on at Beacon. It was a rough start because her upbringing clashed with theirs, but as time passed, they became good teammates and better friends. She thought about leaving Beacon because things were hard, especially during the few scuffles she had with my daughters and their other teammate, but I convinced her to try and bond with them, not as the Schnee heiress, but simply as Weiss. Things got easier for her, even after she thought I was some long lost Schnee, and she became a great student."
Aqua could tell that Willow was listening closely, likely happy to hear that her daughter had made such goods friends at Beacon.
"This is why I asked these questions. I want to understand why you say it's hopeless and let her simply stay in this cold mansion with no hope for making a future outside of what her father wants from her," Aqua explained, having the crystal copy kneel next to her and stare Willow in the face. "Look at her, Willow. Is that the future you want for her?" Willow sniffed as tears threatened to spill and against all logic, she latched onto the Weiss copy, hugging it tightly. "No… No, I don't. But I can't help. I spent so long fighting, trying to keep this family together, trying to keep my children happy only to realize it was never together in the first place. He only married me for my father's money, and I had wasted my life."
The crystalline Weiss reached out and hugged Willow back, holding closely. Aqua looked saddened as well.
"You remind me of my husband." Willow glanced up at her. "When my oldest daughter Yang was born, her mother, his sister, ran away, abandoning her. Their father then got together with his other teammate, and they had their own daughter, Ruby. Then her mother disappeared, never coming back from a mission. Their family was devastated. Their father shut down and started drinking while the girls were still very young, and Qrow… he kept his distance because his Semblance made him bad luck to be around," Aqua explained. "Then they met me and slowly things became better. I helped take care of the girls, which eventually caused them to adopt me as their new mother, Qrow and I fell in love, and I helped him face his fear of his Semblance to help me look after the girls. Before I met them I was left alone when my family was lost. And their father, he's alive but he struggles just like you."
With that the copy of Weiss dissolved and Aqua grasped Willow's hands, surprising the Schnee matriarch.
"I've come to know this pain you carry, having seen it in the people who became my new family. Tell me, say your life was wasted on your husband, but is there nothing good that came out of it? Wouldn't your children be one thing, perhaps the only good thing to come out of it?" Aqua questioned.
"What…" Willow sniffed and grasped Aqua's hands. "They are. The only good thing to come out of this sham marriage. I tried so hard to keep them happy, and when Weiss chose to go to Beacon, I was beyond happy. But now she's trapped here, to be her father's slave again. As are you."
"We don't have to be," Aqua said, holding up her hands and making Willow look her in the eyes. "Weiss and I are planning to escape soon. I promise Jacques will never touch her again."
Willow trembled as she held Aqua's hands.
"Why? …Why do you care so much? You don't know me or what I allowed to happen when I married… that man."
"Because I'm not just a Huntress," Aqua answered solemnly. "I'm also someone who was trained to protect the hearts of the innocent. I see the pain in your heart, and I know that pain hasn't been kept inside. It's touched the hearts of your daughter and the rest of your family." Willow stared at Aqua, surprised by what she said.
"Yes," Aqua said with a nod. "It's easy to overlook, but it's there, and we easily forget how strong it is, and how easily it can break in the darkest of times, especially when it's all alone. I've felt that similar pain before, and that's why I understand it so well. But it's not something to be ashamed of." Aqua placed Willow's hands on her lap as the Schnee Matriarch stared at her, feeling so confused by the woman's kindness.
"And you think you can heal me? Even after all these years?"
"I never said I can heal you," Aqua answered. "But I have to wonder, what is it that really makes you so sad?"
"Sad?" Willow seemed confused, but Aqua brought a hand up and wiped away a tear that had slipped down.
"Was it really the pain from what your husband has done? How he told you he only married you for your money?" Aqua asked, slowly reaching out to her. "Is that really the source of your sadness?"
Tears rolled down Willow's cheeks again, as Aqua reached out and hugged her. It was in this moment that Willow Schnee broke down and cried into Aqua's shoulder.
"Winter… Weiss… Whitley."
"Your children," Aqua said.
"I could have done so much for them. Any joy they could have had was ripped away by their father when it didn't suit him. Winter disowned herself and ran off to join the military. Weiss ran to Beacon. I was so proud of them both for breaking away from him but," Willow sniffed. "They left their brother behind. They left him with us… And now she's becoming like his father and there's nothing I can do. He feels they abandoned him and is bitter to them. My children, hurting each other because of me."
Aqua softly rubbed her back.
"It must have been painful to watch."
"It was… Do you really believe you and Weiss can escape?" Willow asked, pulling away from Aqua's embrace.
"We can. Neither Irownood nor Jacques can stop me," Aqua answered with confidence. "I'm assuming you want her to leave?"
"Yes." Willow pulled away. "I do. I want her to run far away, to never look back and be with people who treat her kindly. The team she was on… Your daughters are friends with her?" Aqua nodded.
"What are their names?" Willow asked.
"The eldest is named Yang Xiao Long, and the youngest is Ruby Rose. Both of them are strong, brave, and kind, even though both are very different from each other and your daughter," Aqua said with a smile.
"They sound like great friends," Willow said. "I'm tempted to run away with her but I need to stay… For my son. What is your name again?"
"Aqua Branwen," Aqua answered.
"Aqua… I can see why Weiss admires you. Please, promise me you'll take care of her."
"I will," Aqua said. "You have my word."
Suddenly the collar activated, making Aqua yelp in pain.
Oh, yeah. Jacques had also started using the damn thing to let her know when he wanted her for something.
"Are you okay?" Willow asked.
"I'm fine," Aqua said. "Your husband wants something from me." Aqua looked back down at the leather belt, and then looked sheepishly up at Willow. "Um, I know this is going to sound weird, but I need to you to use this to tie me up."
"Ruby," Cloud said, still struggling to stay upright next to her. "We need to leave. You can't kill him."
"I don't think he's going to let us," Ruby said, pointing her Keyblade at Sephiroth. The man had been tackled by a freaking elephant, and only came out mildly annoyed. She didn't see how running away was even possible at this point, especially with how fast the man had proven himself to be.
"Enough talk," Sephiroth said, dashing forward, he slashed his sword forward, and Ruby just barely managed to roll out of the way, as pillars of flame erupted from the wake of his sword. Her summoned elephant (she really needed to learn his name), swung its trunk at him, but Sephiroth batted it away. Ruby dashed forward, slashing him multiple times with her Keyblade. He deflected all of her attacks, only for the elephant to spray him with water from its trunk. He braced against the attack, not even flinching, when Ruby focused on him, locking on her Shotlock.
She dashed past him repeatedly, slashing at him every time she did so, and finally delivered a powerful slash to his torso, finally making him stagger backwards.
"Not bad," he said. "You might actually be worth something someday. But now…" He flapped his lone wing, launching himself up into the air, as a purple glow surrounded him.
"No!" Cloud shouted. "Ruby! Stop him!"
"Descend…" Sephiroth said, and a halo of light began to form around him.
Ruby jumped on the elephant's back and rushed upwards.
She launched herself off the elephant's back, her Keyblade poised to strike.
"…Angel," Sephiroth finished chanting. The halo of light surrounding him exploded, and Ruby felt like was hit in the face by an airship, her Aura instantly shattering.
She fell back down to the ground, landing hard on her shoulder, gasping for breath all of a sudden.
She had never experienced an attack like that before. He hadn't even hit her, and suddenly she felt as if she were on death's door.
She raised her Keyblade to try to cast a healing spell, but only caused a headache.
"W-What?" Ruby asked. That attack had also somehow drained her energy for her magic. She looked up at Sephiroth in terror as he slowly descended.
"And in the end, another Keyblade Wielder leaves me unsatisfied," he said. "A shame. It seems Cloud truly is the only one that can defeat me." He slowly walked towards her, raising his sword. She tried to crawl away from him, only to back up into a wall. Sephiroth held his sword above his head, reading to strike.
"RUBY!" Uncle Qrow shouted, jumping in front of her and holding his arms out to the side. Sephiroth brought his sword down…
And a black-gloved hand caught it, stopping the seemingly unstoppable man's attack. Ruby looked up in surprise, seeing that the man who caught Sephiroth's blade was a man wearing a familiar black coat, the hood covering his face.
"Sorry," the Hooded Man said. "But I need him alive."
"I-It's you," Ruby said.
"Who are you?" Sephiroth asked.
"Doesn't matter," the man said. "But this has gone on long enough. They've had a rough couple of days. Wouldn't you rather let them recover so they can fight you at full strength? Especially Tall, Blond, and Spiky over there?"
"…Fine," Sephiroth said, gently lowering his sword. He looked back towards Ruby. "Remember this fight, girl. Next time we meet, I hope you'll have more to offer me. Until next time, Cloud." With that, Sephiroth flapped his wing, and took off into the sky.
"Honestly," the Hooded Man said, looking at Ruby. "I leave you alone for five minutes, and you pick a fight with him, of all people?"
"Who the hell are you?' Uncle Qrow asked, still standing defensively over Ruby.
"He- he pulled Mom and the team into a dream, right before the Vytal Festival," Ruby said. "He tried to kill us." Uncle Qrow growled angrily at the man in response to that.
"Oh, relax, old man," the Man said. "I already told her, if Terra really wanted her dead, she wouldn't have lasted thirty seconds. That was a test. One she failed miserably, I might add."
"A-And this?" Ruby asked, finding it harder to keep her eyes open. "Was this a test, too?"
"Nope," the man said. "You stumbled head-first into that mess all on your own. I may be a bastard, but even I wouldn't throw you to Sephiroth for a test. That being said, good job not running away this time. Though, just this once, I'd advise you to do that if you ever see him again. Or at least let Cloud handle him."
"So, does this mean you're on our side?" Uncle Qrow asked.
"Couldn't say," the Man answered. "You're welcome for saving you, by the way. Try not to let it happen again."
"I'm not exactly in the habit of almost getting myself killed. It's not like I could've just let that psycho kill her."
"No, I suppose not," the Man said. "That being said, your life has a lot of value to it, too."
"Well thanks for the concern," Uncle Qrow said. "Any other advice for us?"
"Yes, actually. You might want to catch her before she collapses."
At that moment, Ruby finally gave in to the exhaustion, falling forward into her uncle's arms.
The last thing she saw before losing consciousness was his concerned face.
AN: So, I actually was planning on having Achilles's birth happen at the very end of Volume 4, but decided that you guys might want to have a nice, happy moment before we jumped back on the pain train, considering this chapter was more of Aqua's captivity and the curb-stomp that was the fight with Sephiroth.
I threw in a little detail with that fight that I hope people notice as being kind of weird.
So, next time, we'll be completely wrapping up Volume 4!
As always, thank you very much for reading, and I'll see you all next time!