Things are happening! Slowly...

REAPER IN RED

Chapter 52


I was shaking. Shivering in my sleep.

I think.

I felt a heavy pressure around my body. Not unlike my Reaper's cloak, but not exactly the same. It was scratchy and ill-fitting and lacked the subtle power which engulfed it. I flipped over, my head thumping down on a pillow, while my bedframe shook from the impact.

That chill rolled down my spine and my body shivered with the feeling. Then, it calmed, opening up to the blissful lack of warmth that I had come to expect.

My mind, unlike my body, was filled with turbulence.

Clashing visions. Memories of my past. Shaped and re-shaped to be worse than the truth. More horrible than the last vision, yet not horrible enough for what came next. My mother being struck down. My mother's head on a pike. Cinder's head on a pike. Yang taking the place of her uncle, as mom and me rushed towards her territory and towards safety. Blake slashing through my impenetrable cloak, towards my awaiting neck. Qrow's gruff chuckling, all encompassed by the sound of golden liquid in his metal flask. Interspersed were faint reminders that a discussion with Blake was on the way. That she would run again and tell everyone what I am. That the headmaster was playing a long con on us all, using Cinder as a means to capture and kill even more Reapers.

The sweet voice of my mother, hidden behind the body of Qrow Branwen the Reaper Hunter. "One Reaper for a thousand humans," she was saying through him. He opened up his flask, mixing around its contents and leaning back on air. "That is the dream for every Grim Reaper who follows Salem. Our duty and our life."

Qrow Branwen unfurled his scythe, holding it up to his own neck, even as mom's words rang out from his lips. "It is a silent duty, but one which we pay great respect to. To kill a human is to lose ourselves-"

Her final words were cut off as Qrow's scythe sliced through his throat, sending a jolt of fear, and a pang of sadness through my sleepful self.

Then the scene faded as that song filtered into my dreams. I couldn't recall the words, or if there was even any I could understand. The melody soothed me, though fled from me whenever I tried to grip it and remember anything more than the fact that it was there.

The song was punctuated by happier memories. Me playing with Zwei, while mom laughed. My first Reap with my mom, holding onto her scythe as she plucked the soul of that human. Me running. Oh, the absolute joy of running. That feeling of running alongside my mother. Her smiling down at me with her beautifully crimson red eyes. They were always so kind. So full of life and love.

When they were silver, they sparkled with unmistakable joy. She loved living in those forests and tending to humans. She loved travelling, and I loved travelling with her.

The music spun around me, a dance of sound from a majestic voice. It drew me towards it. It's perfect blend of deep masculine and soft feminine, covered me like the warmest of cloaks. I tried to reach out for it, but could only grasp feather floating in the winds.

There was no pain here. No fear. No difficulties. Just a complete and utter calmness.

And then my eyes fluttered awake.

The sun was just starting to rise into the bright, morning sky. I rolled in bed, looking towards my sister. Her eyes were shut and scrunched in blissful… bliss. Her breathing was soft and gentle. No snoring tonight.

I yawned as I rolled back onto my back. I had been getting more and more tired, this last little while. Sitting up, I checked my border. It had grown a little stronger.

Darn, I thought, sitting up in bed and letting my feet dangle over the sides. There was still so much to do before I could finally solidify my claim to my territory. I had to… wait for the month to be over and then Reap a soul.

Okay, not that much to do. But, judging by how tired I was -unless it was just morning sleepiness, hopefully- there was a chance I'd be pretty much powerless fairly soon.

"I hope you're worth it," I mumbled to myself. I looked down at the bed underneath my sister's.

Blake's bed.

It was so nice to see her sleeping there. So relaxed and without a care in the world. It filled me with joy. Even though I knew a rough conversation was likely coming my way.

Hopping out of bed, I landed as softly as I could, before making my way to the washroom for my morning routine. I let everyone else sleep a little longer. I'd get them breakfast in bed. Do something nice for them.

My journey to the cafeteria was pleasant. There were a few others going in my direction; a nice mix of sleepy night-owls and chatty early-risers. And of course, an utterly exhausted looking Professor Port, who was dragging his way to the teacher's lounge, where I was sure he'd be drinking coffee.

I piled a plate high with a mixture of food options. Fruits, pancakes, toast, oatmeal, strawberries -wait, wasn't that a fruit?- eggs and bacon. A separate tray held each of my teammates drink of choice. It was a little tricky carrying the trays, with one in each hand, but moving slowly, I was making good progress.

At least, until I noticed a table jam packed with students of various years. All of them were surrounding none other than Reaper Hunter Qrow Branwen himself.

He looked downright miserable, coffee in one hand, and flask in the other. So many children pestering him with questions.

"Have you killed any Reapers?"

"Yes."

"Are you really strong?"

"Yes."

"How many Reapers have you killed?"

"Not enough."

"Can I be a Reaper Hunter?"

"No."

"Hey! Why not?"

"If you gotta ask, you're not ready."

His terse answers to the students would be hilarious, if not for the topic of discussion. I felt his eyes drift towards me, then turn back to the steaming cup in front of himself.

I decided that that was enough interaction between myself and dear Uncle Qrow for one day, and continued on my journey.

"Are you here to hunt any Reapers?"

I stopped dead in my tracks.

"Ya," another student chimed in. Wait, I recognized that voice. It was Nora's. "I heard there was a Reaper in Vale a while back."

"What?!" Shouted another student, this one I definitely didn't recognize.

"Oh ya, totally!" Nora exclaimed, bouncing with excitement. "My friends fought it! Or should I say, they escaped it. But it's totally true! Not even a dream, nor a -heh, Nora- friend of a friend of a friend type of story."

Before Nora could continue speaking, Qrow's hand was covering her mouth. I didn't even see him move.

"I'm just here to see my niece… erm, nieces. Nothing more. Nothing less. Got. That." Nora nodded into his hand. "And even if I was here for less than pure reasons, it is a good idea to never ask a Reaper Hunter about their mission until it is completed. Clear?"

A table full of nodding students.

"Now, buzz off."

I continued on my merry way back to the RWBY dorm room. Getting inside would have been extra tricky, seeing as I had no hands to open the door with, but luckily, Weiss was awake and very grateful for her coffee.

"I knew there was a reason I wanted you as my partner," Weiss said as she held the warm cup up to her lips.

The statement earned a pleasant snort from Yang. "Ya. Wanted. Sure." She reached for her glass of orange juice.

Giving Yang a snooty look back, Weiss grumbled, "but what person actually likes their partner right away?"

"Hey! Blake and me were total besties from the get-go! Right Blakey?"

Blake silently reached for her own cup of coffee, her eyes flicking up to me for an instant.

"Blake? An answer would really help my case here."

"Oh, I think her silence is answer enough."

"How could you Blake! I thought we were the golden girls! The two amigos! The hot girl and the bookish girl!" Yang's begging earned a little smirk from the Faunus.

"Are you saying I'm not hot?"

Yang froze up immediately. "Well, um… but- no. Blake!"

I let out a little laugh. My sister sure was funny. It quickly turned into a yawn.

"Actually, Yang, Weiss. I just realized I have an overdue book that I should return to the library before class starts. I'll be taking Ruby with. Let you two fight a little more about who has the better partner."

Blake grabbed onto my lapel, pulling me out of the room. "But-but breakfast!"

As the door closed, I heard Weiss shout, "I'll save you the strawberries!" while Yang's cry of "how can I choose between Blake and my sister!" echoed in the halls.

As we -me and Blake- stood outside, she swivelled to face me. Eyes serious and steadfast.

I gulped.

Then I yawned.

Blake did not enjoy me yawning in her face. She scrunched up, rolled her eyes, then sighed. "Okay, I think we've spent enough time not talking. I… am sorry for running off like that. But in my defense, you are a literal hell-spawn capable of mass destruction and death."

I raised my hand; way too fast judging by Blake's wince. "Not a hell-spawn. No death. Maybe some mass destruction, but no more than Nora when the cafeteria refuses to make her pancakes. And-" I looked around the hall, not enjoying this topic of conversation in such a public area. "-We should go somewhere quieter."

"Any suggestions?"

"Emerald Forest," I responded at once, nodding at my solid choice. It was perfect! Nobody there but Grimm, zombies and chimera. Out of the way, so people wouldn't stumble across our conversation. And it looked really pretty!

"No, too secluded. I know a secret that can shatter the world as we know it. I may have been friends… friendly with you in the past, but I can't take the risk of something happening to me."

"Pfft-" I chuckled. "You're not the first person to discover a Reaper's" -Blake flinched- "human guise. Ozpin knows all about them-"

"-What?!"

"-And besides, I could have done something in your sleep loads of times! It's actually a lot easier when they're asleep to be honest. Makes no sense to wait until we're in a forest."

I looked up, trying to get a handle on my thoughts. Had I missed anything? No, I felt that it all sounded perfectly reasonable. Nothing amiss there. Just nice and honest truth.

I smiled at Blake. Her face was ashen.

"Oh." Well that wasn't a cheery sound.

Grabbing onto her hand, I somewhat lead, somewhat dragged the girl down the hallway, carefully down the stairs and over across Beacon to the Emerald Forest.

Blake still looked totally out of it when we got there. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why. Was it something I said? I knew that she found me scary. And yes, it did hurt when she said we were only friends in the past, and not right now. But I couldn't blame her fully for that. I did drop a huge bombshell on her.

Was it something about her not being the only person to know about me? Maybe she thought she was the first? Or was it about me being able to change her memories while she was asleep, so that she would have no idea that I had even shown her my true form, and possibly even change all her memories so that there was nothing but positives and happiness between the both of us.

Ya, it was probably that. Now that I'm thinking about it, that does sound a little frightening.

"Sorry for scaring you?" I mumbled out. "I promise not to do anything to you in your sleep."

I paused.

"And I definitely did not mean that in a 'Yang' way. Sorry, I think I've been living with her for too long."

Go me! Starting to understand Yang's terrible and disgusting human jokes.

Blake snorted. Oh good! A real reaction out of her that isn't frozen terror. That was a good sign, right?

I let her take in a few deep breaths, pulling herself out of the funk she was in. I found myself a nice little rock to sit down in, just as a beowolf charged at me.

Blake's swords were out in an instant, honed by thousands of repetitions and years of training.

I turned and punched the beowolf in the face. Huh. It didn't die. I yawned. Oh right. I'm exhausted. I punched it a second and then a third time, watching it exploded into Grimm dust.

Blake blinked rapidly. "What?"

I frowned. "What?"

"You- you killed that beowolf with your fists. I knew you were strong and all, but isn't punching more Yang's thing?"

"Hey! Technically it was mine first. I'm way older than her."

She stared at me, weapons still raised.

"How old again?"

"One hundred and fifteen!" I told her, smiling wide. "And a half!"

"Right…" Blake sighed, lowering her weapons, but not yet putting them away. As she looked for a spot to sit down, I caught her mumbles. "This is going to be one long conversation…"


Was thinking about the entire conversation with Blake happening this chapter, but I ran out of time. My bad!

ShadowMurlock - Indeed

Nekojules - Hi! Love the new name! And Ruby definitely thinks toilets are even grosser now.

Dklett - Gaslight. The best kind of lighting! or is it the best kind of gas?

TM Calypso - I can't believe it! Is that a call for more Blake chapters I see?

zharsoul - hmm, interesting. May need to check it out.

Dragon Lord Draco - I can confirm now that Ruby did not rewrite any of Qrow's memories.

firewyrm2 - Yes! A talk is very much needed between them. And yes, Raven is dead in this. Why? Mainly because I didn't want to write her.

Sm0keyPanda - Yup. Tied to that his semblance for bad luck, it is definitely a rough life.

Haley Earthstone - Definitely a plan to help you all reconcile the differences. You guys need a real understanding of Reaper history! There are two (maybe 3) important Reaper history moments that are important to this fic which will clear up a lot of confusion behind this. I am excited for their eventual reveals.

DrTheo - Okay?