Well, here we are, chapter 19.
A tad short. And prolly some people are going to be a tad disappointed by the length. But them's the shakes. Chapter sets up some important things and I'm finally getting to the bits in the story I was really rearing to write. It sets those up, basically. But it's kind of an interim.
Why did this take ten months to write? When COVID started the company I work at laid off half the engineering team, of which I am a part of. January of this year they laid off half of who remained.
Our workload was not halved along with that ax blow. Doing the work of three people on a thinky job equals 'brain melting out the ears at the end of the work day.' Not exactly a good headspace to do any writing whatsoever. With the weekend being just long enough that I recovered enough to get back to work and be utterly exhausted by the end of the work week again.
So bits and pieces of this were written five words at a time every couple of weeks. Then my workload lightened halfway through this month and I finally had the energy to do any writing at all. And wrote out the rest of CH 19. A short chapter that sets things up for the climax of the arc.
Bruh. This year has been exhausting.
Anyways. Things are already looking like they'll be picking up pretty soon at the start of the year. So I cannot guarantee there won't be another months long wait till I can get to ch 20. It is what it is, I got debts.
Long story short. Shit still be whack yo.
Here's the chapter. Hope some of y'all find it enjoyable.
Penny idly waited for the opportunity to provide Shirou with twenty seconds of hug. Theoretically, there would be no better time than the present, as—ensconced as they were inside the SkyBus, protected by its point defense weapons, and currently on a flight path that led them away from the numerous Tyrannies and Murders circling Amity Arena—they were in a much safer location that did not require Penny to maintain constant vigilance in order to keep him from harm.
Practicality however…Vernal the Possible Gang Lieutenant was keeping a very close guard and she had shown a habit of snarling at and threatening anyone that got too close and ignoring Shirou's pleas to be nice to people.
Penny would be upset at her, but her scans of the woman's biology reported heightened adrenaline and hydrocortisone levels as well as a tendency to put herself between Shirou and anyone coming near them, shielding him as best she could with her body. This led her to denote Vernal's aggression as a threat display on a mistaken assumption that those near Shirou could be a detriment to his safety.
She started another search into the Dauntless' database to look for the best ways to calm someone suffering from paranoia, she set a subroutine to inloading the data she received a—&$%&^%!# *(&$^!(#$^(!
Penny reset her background subroutines three times as she folded her ocular covers over her ocular receptors two times in quick succession. She noticed that her software had quarantined her from the Dauntless' datalink as it had begun streaming a code that her subroutines had marked as malicious.
She quickly set to breaking the code apart to inform herself of its function, and learned that it utilized a backdoor access to override the IFF of all Atlesian Knights and Paladins connected to the Dauntless. Had her father not written her software personally, Penny would now consider all of her friends to be her enemies.
Penny did not waste time drawing back her ocular folds to denote dismay. She immediately hacked the SkyBus' communications equipment and brute forced herself into a connection with the General's personal communicator. "General Ironwood! All combat robots are now enemies! The Dauntless' mainframe has been—!"
The people in the bus gasped as numerous Bullheads listed, fell out of the air, or exploded. Penny ran to the viewing port and frantically scanned for the General's personal Bullhead and saw it plummeting down to the ground. She felt something in her chest constrict in pain, which was strange as there was no subsystem there capable of either constriction or pain simulation. She absentmindedly started a maintenance scan and slaved it to a subroutine.
"Thank you for the warning, Penny," the General's static-filled voice said into her communicator an instant before a large, glowing, winged Schnee construct flew out of the ship with two humans on its back. Penny reset all of her subroutines, then remembered to put her hand on her chest and explosively release a large breath to showcase her relief. "Continue on your mission and do what you can to spread the word, I will take back th—"
As the General's voice was fully swallowed by static, Penny turned to Shirou, who was now being seemingly held in place by Vernal. She could see his entire body quivering, his hands balled into fists as he glared at the fallen airships.
The SkyBus shuddered with the roar of its point defense weapons before an impact made it jolt so hard that some of the Escort Group nearly lost their balance. A few moments later, the pilot's voice crackled over the intercom, warning them that they'd have to set down in an area teeming with Grimm.
Penny resolved herself not to fail on her mission, not because the General had ordered her, but because the Sword Hunter was a symbol of hope to the people of Remnant.
She would make sure Shirou survived, no matter the cost.
Yang watched in ill-concealed trepidation as the SkyBus' ramp lowered, she could hear the baying of a pack of Beowolves scratching at the metal of the ramp as it dropped, ironically keeping those inside in relatively greater safety by figuratively holding the door.
The very instant there was enough room for a particularly thin cat, red rose petals burst by them all as Ruby dashed through with her Semblance, slipping through the too-small opening, and screaming out a clarinet war cry. The roar of Crescent Rose slammed through the opening, accompanied by rumbling growls and the sound of tearing flesh.
When the ramp finally finished lowering and they all rushed out, Ruby stood amid at least a dozen beowolves, caked from head to toe in Grimm blood and viscera. She absently wiped her mouth and pointed at her team. "Blake, move out and give us warning of anything coming at us! Weiss, stay near Shirou and be ready to form a barrier! Yang, go up front, you're the Vanguard! Any Grimm that moves toward us dies! Any that move away from us are ignored until we've dropped Shirou off somewhere safe! We'll make for the Ballroom and if it's fallen we'll fight our way to the infirmary! Go go go!"
She then rushed off at the nearest group of approaching Grimm.
"You heard her guys!" Jaune said, waving his team forward. "We'll provide a close escort while team RWBY thins out the Grimm! Nora! You and I will hold the right flank, watch the grenades, we cannot afford to make his injuries worse! Ren, stay near the Sword Hunter and be ready to use your Semblance on him! Pyrrha you take the left flank, call for help if you need it. For years, the Sword Hunter has looked out for the people of Remnant, now it's our time to look out for him! Let's go JNPR!"
Team JNPR formed up around Shirou and his rude girlfriend as Noname Bitchface did her best to drag him forward, Penny trailing close behind them.
As team CFVY jogged past, Yang caught Coco's voice. "—eaves a bad taste in my mouth that we'll be shown up by firsties, but we can't afford to be reckless with half the team still in single digits of Aura reserve. So, Yatsu, Velvet, both of you stick close to the Sword Hunter, Fox and I will hold the rear, Velvet, use up however much Hardlight Dust you thi—"
Yang looked at the three groups of Huntsmen in training as they ran. Just what the hell was so special about Shirou that everyone bent over backwards for him? That Yang's own moth-Raven had chosen to raise him? She worked her aching jaw and shook her head. Her team needed her; Ruby needed her.
Suppressing her need to break Shirou's jaw, Yang ran to catch up, her sister a red blur that mutilated Grimm as it swept by, the teams around Shirou releasing a sporadic torrent of fire any time a group of Grimm got too close.
By the time Yang caught up they were halfway to the Ballroom, suddenly Shirou planted his feet and stared out into the sky, ignoring Bitchface as she tried to make him keep going. Great, his concussion was probably acting up.
"Shirou, this isn't the time!" the girl growled.
Shirou shook his head, then almost tilted over. "You don't understand, there's a Wyvern, a Grimm Wyvern."
"What's a Wyvern?" asked Coco as she revved up her minigun.
"A type of Dragon," Shirou said as he held the side of his head. "Much smaller, less intelligent, and less powerful than Western or Eastern Dragons. But that's not important."
Yang wondered for a second what he was on about. Dragons? What do fairy tales have to do with the city wide emergency?
Shirou continued before Yang figured out what to say. "That Wyvern is spawning other Grimm, a lot of them, the City Wall's guns aren't firing either. It's coming toward the city while building up a horde. I have to take it down before it has a chance to engage."
Ruby arrived, her clothes smoking with Grimm blood as sweat poured down her face, her breathing erratic. "Guys! Why did you stop!?"
Bitchface took hold of Shirou's collar. "Shirou, you can't, it's too far and you have a concussion! Please! For once in your fucking life just stop!"
He shook his head slowly and deliberately, then extended a hand. With a crackle of cerulean lightning, an utterly massive black bow appeared in his hand. "I can't allow it to cause any more harm."
The girl opened and closed her mouth several times, before planting her face on his chest and muffling a furious scream. As she pulled her head back she growled, "Fuckin'…Fine! The fuck do you need from me!?"
"Thanks, Vernal." Shirou gave her a soft, warm smile before replying. "Just help me stand steady."
She moved to do just that as he closed his eyes and muttered something that was lost as a gust of wind buffeted them. He created a long, highly impractical looking corkscrew arrow and nocked it, then pulled the massive string unsteadily to his cheek as the bow groaned out a screech of tortured metal.
Everyone watched enraptured as he aimed at something only he could see, the sound of fighting itself seeming to pause as he concentrated. As Yang watched, luminous fractures spiderwebbed across the length of the arrow with a sound not unlike breaking glass, spikes grew haphazardly throughout its length as it exuded an indescribable pressure.
He opened his eyes slowly and serenely, Yang had expected him to glare at his target, to smirk as she and Ruby would when they lined up the perfect shot to blow some Grimm's head off. But it was like he wasn't even there, there was no emotion in his eyes, only a slight squint of his eyes, a small furrowing of his brow giving any indication that he hadn't fallen asleep with his eyes open.
"Roar!" The scream caused everyone but Vernal to jump. "Caladbolg!"
There was a monstrous scream, the slam of the bow's limbs as they punched back into their resting shape causing a shockwave that ruffled Yang's hair. A bright kaleidoscopic line shining into the distance.
"What. The hell. Was that?" Velvet said into the quiet.
Shirou clicked his tongue in irritation and muttered, "It dodged."
Yang scowled; she'd had enough. "Dodged wh-?"
A blinding flash of light drew every eye, a bright glow that vanished the night, like a sunrise composed of all colors of the rainbow. The clouds being pushed away from the point of origin of the light, leaving a perfect circle of bright cloudless sky. As the distortion in the sky reached them, they were assaulted by the rumbling snarl of what could only have been a volcanic eruption, the wind it displaced strong enough to make them all stagger.
"What. The hell. Was that?" Velvet repeated in a whisper after the wind had died down.
"That was Caladbolg," Shirou said in a conversational tone as another monstrous metal arrow with gratuitous looking spikes appeared in his hand, this one was black and glistened almost like glass. "The Spiral Rainbow sword, bane of Cú Chulainn, and hills. I tried to hit the Wyvern with it, but it dodged."
"I-I understood…some of those words," Coco said, lowering her sunglasses to stare at Shirou with wide, fearful eyes.
Shirou hummed. "It's no longer building up its horde, but now it'll get here sooner." He pulled back on the monstrous bow. "This time, it won't matter if it dodges."
Everyone was looking at the Sword Hunter with new eyes. Their reactions ranging from Velvet's, Jaune's, and Ruby's open worship, to Ren's fearful caution. Yang? Yang could only clench her fists in mounting anger, while her heart sank.
She'd thought she'd seen what he could do…what he was capable of. Yes, he'd beaten most of the school's students bare handed. Yes, he was apparently a literal Weapons Master. Yes, he could turn a wall of swords into an artillery barrage. Yes, he'd bested Pyrrha Fricken Nikos in a one on one spar. But even through all that, if Yang were to fight him, she'd have had a chance.
If she could withstand enough of his shots, power through whatever screen of swords he put up, if she used her Semblance at the right time. All Yang needed was one good hit.
And now…now she learned that she had never really seen him cut loose. She probably still hadn't! He'd thrown out what looked like an uncontrolled Dust mine explosion, while sporting a concussion, and the bastard didn't even have the decency to look winded!
How the hell was she supposed to match that? How the hell was she supposed to prove that she could be just as good as him?
In short…she couldn't.
And that made her angry.
The sound of gunfire snapped her out of her thoughts. Looking around, she saw that there were a lot of Grimm converging on their location. Shirou was still staring at the distance, an ominous glowing red smoke emanated from his metal arrow, and there was a heavy scent of blood in the air. Everyone with a gun had formed a firing line and were blasting at the incoming Grimm, doing what they could to whittle down their numbers, trusting Shirou to know what he was doing as they bought him time.
Yang bit her lip so hard her Aura flared, then ran to the firing line and started putting rounds through Grimm. Taking off limbs or knocking larger Grimm to the ground so they'll slow down or be killed by the stampede. But no matter how many they shot; the horde kept coming.
Penny stepped forward, bringing her swords out and making them rotate in front of her, she unleashed her Semblance, bringing a massive green laser to bear that punched holes ten Grimm deep into the tide. But even then they didn't falter.
Yang grit her teeth, it would go into a melee, but even then, they wouldn't be able to stop the Grimm from literally washing over them.
"Seek!" Yang could not stop the relief she felt at Shirou's shout. "Hrunting!"
The deafening slam repeated itself, which was great, they could finally get moving!
And that's when the swords started falling, skewering through the Grimm.
Oh right, they had the Sword Hunter. How could she have possibly forgotten they were only buying time?
Except, a lot of them were missing. They hit next to the Grimm, or rebounded off the floor and smacked into one. They landed short or went wide. The only reason a lot of Grimm were dying was a combination of the amount of Grimm and the number of swords Shirou was pumping out. When a gleaming silver sword smashed into the ground next to her, the eruption of stone and dirt sending Yang stumbling back, she looked over her shoulder to glare at him, and the sight made her blood run cold.
Shirou was on his knees, his stupid girlfriend trying to get him back on his feet, his left hand was extended toward them and the Grimm, the lines that always appeared on him when he used his Semblance glowing a fitful green. As she watched, he leaned forward and retched, all while swords kept appearing and shooting themselves in the general direction of the horde.
Yang's heart sank further. Shirou's injury had finally caught up to him.
"Ruby!" Yang called to her little sister, "We need to move!"
Ruby glanced at her, before looking at Shirou, her eyes going wide as saucers. "Everyone! Fall back! We've gotta run!"
There was another flash, not nearly as bright as the first, a floodlight where the other had been a sunrise. She looked over her shoulder to see the light dying out, the sound of thunder reaching them instants before a stiff breeze ruffled their clothes.
Shirou looked over his shoulder and grunted. "Oh it's still alive…well, that's not good."
And that's when the Grimm tide finally slammed into their thin defensive line.