Once upon a time, Kirakishou had occupied most of her free time tending to the dreams of Ruby Rose, pulling her Master ever deeper into the N-Field and enriching her life. Now, as she lay within the N-Field, devoid of her Master's embrace, Kirakishou had found herself with an extraordinary amount of free time.

Some new little would-be seedlings had recently found themselves falling into her influence, chased into the physical plane formerly containing the entirety of Vale by outside aggressors with a hidden agenda. Atlesian soldiers hailing from Argus, those who chose to sacrifice the lives of others in order to ensure their own survival, those who doomed the city of Argus to a terrible fate in order to continue living for another day. Kirakishou didn't particularly enjoy their presence occasionally entering her Palace of Beginnings, nor did she enjoy interacting with their strings for her own purposes, but she found little else to do in order to further ensure her own return to Remnant.

Ruby Rose would have used her powers on them. She would have turned them into statues, or potentially even added their strength to her own through the use of Solemn Grove. Kirakishou knew this fact, intimately so, because ultimately it had been Kirakishou that had fostered such development within her beloved Master. Were it not for the actions of others, tearing her Master away from her, Kirakishou could have watched as the girl she loved grew ever stronger. A beautiful garden would have arisen, and the materials of both crystal and rose would have been forever linked.

Instead, Kirakishou found herself tending to her Palace of Beginnings, weaving her vines around more and more subjects, when she could instead be cuddling, nay, kissing, the one she loved. Her N-Field felt... odd, without Ruby's constant presence. She had grown used to her Master's constant warmth, and to be left without it was a uniquely dissatisfying feeling.

Her Palace of Beginnings had grown restless as of late, and Kirakishou had discovered a whole new set of issues presenting themselves as a result of her sudden and unexpected return to the immaterial plane.

There were too many seedlings contained within her own unique N-Field. Too many nutrients were being produced at any given moment, and it was beginning to become a critical issue. One that Kirakishou could only attempt to temporarily relieve, rather than outright solve on her own. She could allow their nutrients, their aura, to dissipate and enrich the atmosphere, but even that process was far slower than the current generation rate that her seedlings were outputting.

Aura, as a whole, was a distinctly spiritual component that humans and faunus condensed into physical energy in order to defend their bodies. However, as both Kirakishou and her seedlings were in a world without the aspect of physicality, the resultant aura her seedlings generated was unable to manifest and, thus, remained wholly permeable. It was a sordidly disquieting motion for a gardener to allow her N-Field to tremble and shift in apparent discomfort. Kirakishou needed to find a more permanent solution, or else the discomfort would grow and grow, eventually leading to wide-scale devastation.

Furthermore, Kirakishou only retained a limited understanding of 'aura' in the first place, having originated from a reality devoid of such a concept. Thus, she had no idea as to the potential ramifications of enriching the atmosphere with aura, or holding more aura than her world-space could rightly handle. Even her hundreds of thousands of dreamers, pretty little things that they were, held little-to-no pertinent information regarding the concept of aura beyond their own experiences with aura throughout the years in either battle or training. None of them had come close to the situation that Kirakishou was experiencing as of the current moment, and simulating the event in the dreams of aura-wielding seedlings resulted in solutions outside the realm of possibility for even her vast powers.

All that she understood, from her own experiences, is that the single most draining use of her powers was a physical manifestation of said powers into the material world, which was currently impossible without a proper connection to Remnant. Instead, Kirakishou needed to find a new method to drain her darling N-Field of nutrients without potentially harming the seedlings or damaging the garden itself.

So, she began some playtime of her own, making sure to expend as much aura as possible.

It was all she could do, really, while the toys outside of her N-Field moved about in their day-to-day machinations. It would take time before she would be able to create any true firm grip on them.

And, when Kirakishou decided to play, she naturally decided to think about what her Master liked to do for fun. Something that involved manifestation, that involved aura.

The creation of a weapon.

Personally, Kirakishou believed she had no real need for such a device, one similar to those wielded by the many huntsmen and huntresses that now lay sleeping within her Palace of Beginnings. When her own powers could be directed with a thought, it made the use of any one weapon wholly restrictive in a certain sense. Her control was wide, overwhelming, and all-assuming. A single wave of her hands could direct the more difficult expressions of her power to some degree, and, with enough time, Kirakishou could enact changes suitable to whatever she needed at the time. Thus, she did not necessarily require a weapon for general day-to-day use.

She did, however, appreciate the sentiments behind a weapon- what the device truly meant to the wielder.

Take Crescent Rose, for example- the choice weapon of Ruby Rose. Crescent Rose represented Ruby's life as a huntress, her Master having chosen to become one in order to follow the footsteps of her departed Mother Summer Rose. The size of the blade captured both her impressive drive to prove herself and her errant longing for Summer Rose, modeling the length of the blade after one of Null Value's own sizeable blades. The versatility of the weapon, capable of both long and close-range feats, showed that Ruby Rose held a tactically-inclined mind that chose to eliminate her own weaknesses in order to push forward in life.

Kirakishou was aware that Crescent Rose's scythe form was modeled somewhat following the scythe form of Qrow Branwen's weapon, Harbinger, the elusive man being Ruby's mentor and Uncle. She held little outside information regarding Qrow Branwen, barring the touch of her N-Field of course, but her bond with Ruby Rose had easily shown Kirakishou the man's deep emotional connection with her Master.

And yet, for all that Qrow Branwen had done for Ruby Rose throughout her life, she had never stopped yearning for her departed Mother. She had never failed to emulate herself after Summer Rose, to hold on to every shred of memory and emotion pertaining to the legendary huntress that had seemingly shaped every fibre of her being. Crescent Rose was, in every way, a physical manifestation of Ruby's heart, shaped by her many experiences throughout life.

When Ruby Rose handed over her weapon to Kirakishou during the epitome of her Palace's construction in Vale and Beacon, it was a gesture that showed how deeply Ruby cared for her, choosing to protect Kirakishou over herself.

...Master… Even now, the depths of your love continue to inspire me.

Kirakishou wished to create a weapon worthy of her Master's feelings.

...She remembered that Ruby had liked her crystals. During one of the many times that a sleeping Ruby had visited Kirakishou's N-Field, she had commented on their beauty. And, when Ruby forgot their time together upon waking and promptly returned to Kirakishou's N-Field the next night, she would comment on the crystals once again.

It was a beautifully endless scenario, cyclical and pure, showing the innocence of her beloved Ruby Rose. A cycle, as one fought to bloom, only to rest and eventually try to bloom once again, forever growing and experiencing the beauty contained within her N-Field.

Truthfully, their time at Beacon Academy had been quite something for Kirakishou. They were a chrysalis, a budding unison waiting to blossom and become whole. And, when the Vytal Festival Tournament had entered its final throes and her Palace of Beginnings had been unleashed, Ruby Rose had bloomed, and Kirakishou followed soon after.

An idle thought and Kirakishou is there again, present inside her dorm room as she patiently awaits a visit from Ruby Rose, clad in the undergarments that her Master had so earnestly admired, laying down on her vine-laden bed and staring up at a crystalline ceiling. Ruby Rose had been unable to witness her influence over the world at the time, as Kirakishou hadn't wished to overtax her beloved during a stressful event. But, even in the brief periods when her control slipped during amorous moments, Ruby Rose only had eyes for Kirakishou herself.

She squirmed pleasantly at the memory, humming.

What type of weapon would be a suitable choice for Kirakishou, she wondered?

A gesture of her hand and she was in the courtyard of Beacon Academy, laying in a field of crystalline roses overtaken by her N-Field's innate power. A collection of teal-green crystals floated overhead, nurtured by a steady stream of ambient aura flowing out of the ground and being absorbed into the crystals, causing them to grow at an accelerated pace and take shape. They were guided by Kirakishou's own thoughts and recollections, as she lay within this crystal-laden world.

Kirakishou needed only to glimpse the dreams of her beloved a single time in order to gain access to a veritable collection of weapons of varying shapes and sizes, each and every one of them loaded into a number of configurations. Through her studious comprehension of Ruby Rose, she held within her mind a great understanding of weapons that would be both fitting and practical for a pure rose. But which would be suitable?

Crystals grew and took shape, as a multitude of tools presented themselves to her. Blades, bows, daggers, projectile weapons, lances, hammers, and a number of combination weapons of all sizes.

A copy of Null Value, constructed from memory, only to be tearfully torn apart once upon a lonely night by a little girl that had lost her Mother and was trying to fill the hole in her heart. She… at the time, Ruby Rose hadn't even been able to lift the weapon that she had assembled, no matter how hard she tried. Even as Kirakishou accessed the memory, the pain of it was still present, clinging to her.

The sight of little Ruby Rose... trying to lift her Mother's legacy and failing time and time again...

She shook her head. She needed to focus.

Kirakishou… she wanted to use the weapon. She did. Null Value, or the faithfully-reconstructed replica of Null Value, signified Ruby's inner yearning and her desire to be just as strong as her Mother. But, she knew what effect the sight of it would have on Ruby Rose. Kirakishou knew that Null Value could only be wielded, truly, by either Ruby Rose or Summer Rose. She was simply not applicable.

And so, the crystalline duplicate of a copy faded away, crystals collapsing and falling apart all around her. A weight that should not be lifted by a pure rose such as herself. All that was left, now, were the hundreds of other variants.

And they, too, suffered from the same issue.

Each weapon, each construction and configuration, had proved lacking in the end. For what else could they be when in comparison to Crescent Rose? They had been an attempt by her Master to prove herself strong that had momentarily succeeded in little more than paving the way for a new idea, one that had eventually led to the creation of Crescent Rose as it stood today.

Somewhere not here.
Somewhere that wasn't Kirakishou's Palace of Beginnings.

Kirakishou almost wanted to laugh. She could grasp an entire city, an entire land, even as she was forcibly returned to her N-Field, and yet she couldn't even hold on to her Master's treasured weapon. It could be anywhere, now. Yet, Kirakishou knew, that neither Kirakishou herself nor her beloved Ruby Rose held the weapon. Thus, it could not be wielded. It was lost, as was she. As were they all.

And, now, her Master had been stolen away, their contract ruined and broken, and she didn't even know WHY.

The world shook as Kirakishou shook, and even the pleasantly pure roses growing beside her could offer no companionship.

"I love you, you know? I love you so much, Kirakishou."

She could hear her Master's voice, her thoughts, her heart. An idle collection of words muttered in a hazy dream once upon a time as Ruby Rose slumbered. Her Master likely didn't even remember uttering the words, but she did. And they were all that captured her.

It hurt… it hurt so much…
...She wanted to be with her Master… to hold her again. To be held and loved by the one girl that understood her, that chose to stay and love her, that nurtured her when all else could not.

Kirakishou pushed herself up off the ground, forcing herself to stand up on her own two feet.

"...Master. I will find a way back to you."

Aura shuddered and trembled alongside the world, as Kirakishou exerted her influence once again. The crystalline weapons were torn apart, vanished, and removed from their manifestations. They were stepping stones, once for Ruby Rose and now for Kirakishou herself. She would continue searching for the appropriate weapon worthy of Ruby's appreciation.

...If Ruby Rose's Crescent Rose signified her life, her heart, what, then, was suitable for Kirakishou?

The world twisted in response to her desires, and Kirakishou found herself transported to another separate location.

Ah. Yes. This place. She had never ventured here in person, content to know that it existed through the dreams of her would-be seedlings and the retelling of her Master during their time together. From what Kirakishou understood, this place had been something of a hidden location for all those who attended Beacon Academy, known only to a select few.

A place that was once hidden beneath Beacon Tower. A place that now lay open to her.

During her initial venture into Beacon Academy, when Ruby Rose had escorted her to the elevator at Beacon Tower, her small little N-Field had sensed the presence of the Maiden sleeping below, Amber's call more akin to a vibrant star amidst a world of empty lights than any true secret to be hidden away. Through great effort on Kirakishou's part, she had ensured that Amber would serve a truly special purpose; becoming the first to slumber within Ruby's Solemn Grove.

Amber had been the one who had set Ruby Rose on a new path, with Kirakishou's intervention ensuring that Ruby Rose was given the gift of the Fall Maiden power that Amber carried within her body. Even as she lay sequestered away from the world through the machinations of others, Amber had continued to dream, to hope for a day when the world would be safe and pure. Perhaps, now that Amber lay within Ruby's Solemn Grove, Amber would feel content that her dream would be realised through Kirakishou's beloved maiden of the red rose.

Yes. Amber. She was a truly pivotal point in Kirakishou's relationship with Ruby Rose. A Fall Maiden, a hero, one who resonated so deeply with Ruby Rose. Would they have been friends, Kirakishou wondered? Would Ruby have enjoyed Amber's presence in the real world, had the machinations of others not gotten in the way?

Kirakishou could only wonder. She knew, with some amusement about the very idea, that her beloved Master was very protective indeed. Amber's involvement in the real world held quite the potential for inevitably leading the former Fall Maiden back into Ruby's N-Field after some degree of time.

But, she could understand that. There comes a time when it is best to pack the toys away, so that one may look forward and experience the present time without any distractions in the way. Penny Polendina had taught her that.

Kirakishou walked with practised intent, her boots resonating against the aura-infused crystalline floor. Much of the space below had been used to house the many denizens of what had once been Beacon Academy, and their slumbering forms were visible beneath the translucent teal-green ground. She continued moving until she found herself standing in front of a broken crystalline replica of the aura transfer device that had been used to grant her Master the powers of a Fall Maiden. She had since repaired the roof and ground from the mass release of silver flames generated by her beloved, leaving a ruined collection of crystalline debris where the once-used transfer device had stood.

These crystals were special, and beautiful for what they had seen. These teal-green crystals were the first to witness Ruby's change from Silver-Eyed Warrior to Silver-Eyed Maiden. Kirakishou would use them in her design for a weapon in order to symbolise her power over the N-Field and her connection to Ruby's history.

An idle gesture with her hand had the crystals melting down into a resinous and malleable material. Kirakishou had an idea on which to base her design around… but she wasn't exactly certain of the mechanics of the device itself once Kirakishou found herself eventually returned to the material world.

After all, her weapon of choice would not be following the fundamental nature of Remnant's weaponry, of the dust-centred schema that so many of the world's denizens based their weaponry around. Instead, Kirakishou wished to use her own N-Field as a central component, for her ideal weapon would not be a mere tool to be swung around, but an accessory to be wielded and used to enhance her powers.

She wasn't…


Kirakishou glanced upwards, momentarily surprised, as her lone slit amber eye found itself focusing on what could be nothing else but an N-Field portal. The portal was of relatively small size, indicating a less-than-ideal scenario for activation on the inbound end. Which, considering it was still somehow able to catch Kirakishou off guard and pierce her own fortified N-Field, was nothing short of phenomenal.

But, who was it? Who was connecting to her? Did Suigintou want a rematch, after destroying her dolls and stealing away her beloved Master?

The portal shuddered, as a small form pushed itself through.

Surprise made itself apparent.


With some degree of courage, the short-haired blonde doll flew down from her N-Field portal, arriving to stand in front of Kirakishou. Her immediate older sister sniffed, with tears in her eyes. Had something happened?

To say that Kirakishou was intrigued by Hinaichigo's arrival was somewhat of an understatement. She hadn't expected the pink-dressed doll to ever wish to personally visit her Palace of Beginnings after what Kirakishou had done to her in the past, where she had attempted to use Hinaichigo's body in order to house her own rosa mystica. Considering how Shinku had reacted to Kirakishou's attempt, with scorn and grief, Kirakishou had assumed the newly-revived Hinaichigo to have acted similarly upon her arrival in Remnant.

"...K-Kirakishou… I'm sorry for coming here, I didn't want to… but I don't know where Shinku is and I really need someone to talk to at the moment. Is that okay?"

An unexpected development. Clearly, something had occurred of sufficient ire as to cause poor Hinaichigo some manner of upset, which considering the girl's temperament could be practically anything of circumstance. Hinaichigo choosing to visit Kirakishou after being unable to connect to Shinku was interesting, as it implied that Hinaichigo knew the location of Kirakishou's N-Field, but not Shinku's.

Well. She supposed that she hadn't really kept the location of her Palace of Beginnings a secret, in thanks to everything she had done in order to support her Master's growth. Such was the bane of any gardener, having to compete for space with all the other gardeners and their subpar designs.

Kirakishou smiled, gesturing with a hand and summoning a plush couch for the little childish doll, who accepted the notion with a gasp of delighted surprise, before leaping to collapse on the offered seating.

"Of course, little one, you're always welcome in here," Kirakishou pleasantly stated, eyeing the short-haired doll speculatively.

Her previous attempt had failed, but would Kirakishou be able to use Hinaichigo's body this time? She considered the notion, intrigued.

"T-Thank you," Hinaichigo sniffed, trying and failing to manage a simple smile, the attempt coming off as more a lopsided frown than anything else. "I just didn't know who else to turn to, and I know that we weren't really friends beforehand, but… I just don't want to be alone right now. Is that selfish of me?"

"It's not selfish at all," Kirakishou shook her head, moving to be seated beside Hinaichigo. The little doll tensed at the brush of their bodies, cheeks reddening slightly, before visibly forcing herself to relax. "And I never believed that we were on poor terms previously, Hinaichigo. For all of our differences, I never wished for your rosa mystica, only for your body so that I might experience the world that was denied to me by Father."

Her words caused somewhat of an unsuspected response, as the tiny blonde latched onto Kirakishou and began sobbing uncontrollably, as she did her best to soothe the doll's emotional ailing.

Naturally, Kirakishou had left out the part about her current quest for freedom. She didn't wish to startle the little pink rose that had found itself willingly growing within her garden.

Hinaichigo eventually pulled away from the impromptu embrace, cheeks puffy from her tears. A spike of Kirakishou's power and the two dolls were clean once again. "I-I'm sorry for… that. I just… it's been so hard recently, Kirakishou. When I came here, I was afraid that you'd attack me, or try to trick me…"

With some degree of trepidation, Kirakishou avoided the errant thought of simply kissing Hinaichigo and attempting to use her body again. While it would be something of a blunt action, the little blonde being so very close by, Kirakishou decided against the motion for the current time. Previous experience would imply that such an attempt would only lead to failure, after all.

And then Kirakishou would be alone again, stuck in the N-Field as she waited for the world of Remnant to turn in the way that she had designed. Perhaps, instead, she could come up with another solution.

"Poor, poor Hinaichigo…" Kirakishou murmured lowly, cupping the doll's cheeks with her hands. She felt Hinaichigo still at her touch, the doll's eyes wide as saucers as a heated shudder of nervous interest escaped her lips. "We're sisters. Why would I want to do something like that?"

Many reasons. Kirakishou's sisters had always been mean to her, refusing to understand the feelings she felt inside her. They had fought against her at every opportunity, and some of them were the potential culprits behind Ruby's disappearance and the destruction of their Rozen Maiden contract.

However, all it took was one look at Hinaichigo to know that the little doll had nothing to do with the loss of her Master. And, so, the number of potential dolls behind her suffering was lessened by one, and Kirakishou's words suddenly became truthful.

"I-I guess," Hinaichigo stuttered and squirmed, so Kirakishou retracted her hands.

"Why venture into my Palace of Beginnings, Hinaichigo?" Kirakishou questioned, now that Hinaichigo had calmed down from her initial bout of sadness. "A pure rose wasn't expecting any visitors to her garden for quite some time. Or did another rose send you here, perhaps?"

"Um, nobody sent me," Hinaichigo scrunched her brows, confused at the very notion of simple subterfuge. Well, it didn't hurt to be sure. "I'm, well, I don't…" tears began building once again, so Kirakishou moved quickly and wiped the tears away. Physical contact appears to be effective on Hinaichigo, and her efforts were rewarded as the doll quickly stilled once again.

"Please, Hinaichigo, tell your younger sister what has happened."

"...She ruined them."

Kirakishou blinks, taken aback as she hears the anger in Hinaichigo's voice, the confusing mix of grief overlaying with a tinge of betrayal as the doll angrily shifts even under her tender ministrations. She hadn't seen Hinaichigo exhibit legitimate anger ever since her Master in the wound world, Tomoe, had upset Hinaichigo by refusing to play with her, and even that had been a significant deviation for a fun-loving innocent little doll. This upset appeared to be several degrees more severe than her previous displeasure with Tomoe.

"Who did, Hinaichigo? And what did they ruin?" Kirakishou gently inquired, idly rubbing Hinaichigo's cheeks to remove the tears rather than removing them with her power. Tender displays of affection had helped soothe her Master in the past, and a simple helpful gesture appeared to do the same for Hinaichigo.

"...The Witch…" Oh? "She… S-She calls herself Salem, and my Master listens to her. She's really scary-looking, but when we talked I thought we had come to an understanding…"

A delicate touch of her N-Field connected to Hinaichigo and provided an image of the Witch, as Hinaichigo visibly recoiled at the sight. Kirakishou idly soothed her immediate older sister as she inspected the figure, comparing it against the compilation of memories she had collected and inspected from her many slumbering seedlings.

The name 'Salem' featured predominately in the memories of one General James Ironwood, with thoughts regarding the Witch being that of one supposedly with the power to control the beasts of dark that roamed the world of Remnant. Information attained from secret meetings with Ozpin..? A pity, once again, that she did not hold the man in her garden. This Salem appears to be an intriguing entity, however, her demeanour left much to be desired. From what Kirakishou could glean from James Ironwood's memories, and Hinaichigo's apparent ire, was that Salem was something of a negative figure.

Hinaichigo's Master, on the other hand, appeared to possess a far more gentle image, enough to the point where the mere image of this 'Hazel' notably made little Hinaichigo stifle her sobs and perk up.

"That's my Master, Hazel-chan!" Hinaichigo pleasantly supplied with a happy little giggle of contentment. She smiled at the image alongside Hinaichigo, bemused by her antics. Kirakishou idly wondered what her interactions with the little pink-clad Rozen Maiden would have been like, were it not for Father's design forcing her hand.

"Can you tell me what Salem did, Hinaichigo? Just before, you said that she ruined something. What exactly happened that made you come here to see me?"

"H-Hazel-chan, my Master… he likes my strawberries, you see? The ones from my vines?"

Kirakishou stared, amused, as Hinaichigo up and summoned forth a multitude of strawberry vines that overtook a vast portion of Beacon's hidden room, turning her crystal-laden area into a garden positively swimming with the little red treats. She turned to look back at Hinaichigo, to see the doll looking momentarily embarrassed by her lapse of control. Clearly, she hadn't meant to grow so many.

"It's a beautiful little power, Hinaichigo," Kirakishou soothed gently, "there's nothing wrong with using the gift that you developed, though I would prefer to use this space in my N-Field sometime in the near future."

Hinaichigo blushed demurely and nodded her head, calling on her power once more as the strawberry vines shifted to crawl along the walls rather than overtaking the entirety of the room as they had been prior to Kirakishou's request.

"...Is that okay? U-Um… because, well, they don't really have anywhere else to go…"

Kirakishou smiled softly. "Of course," she nodded her head, before moving to pull the little doll closer to her body. Hinaichigo squeaked in surprise, stiffening momentarily, before tentatively relaxing and moving her arms to Kirakishou's sides, eyes seeking Kirakishou's own eye for reassurance. "It's okay, Hinaichigo. I'll take good care of your vines, don't worry. Please, continue with what you were saying before. You mentioned that Hazel-san liked your strawberry vines?"

The little doll smiled, gripping Kirakishou tighter as she nodded enthusiastically. "Uh-huh! Hazel really likes them! He says that it reminds him of a better time… though, hmm, he never actually said what the better time was… though I want to beat it one day and make our memories the best!"

"Of course you do," Kirakishou smiled warmly, choosing not to voice her thoughts regarding the doll's ignorance over Hazel's history in favour of admiring her beautiful innocence. A simple glance at Hazel-san's demeanour with her N-Field was more than enough to convince Kirakishou that the man needed someone like Hinaichigo in his life to garner so much as a simple smile. And, Hinaichigo was more than willing to accommodate, even if she didn't necessarily understand the reason behind it.

It was only natural for a Rozen Maiden to wish to improve their Master's life, and Hinaichigo was a shining example of how a Rozen Maiden would act were they no longer burdened by the Alice Game. After all, if they were so intimately connected by the Rozen Maiden contract, then it was in their best interests to nurture such a connection. Without the Alice Game, deep connections would eventually emerge between all the Rozen Maiden and their chosen Masters.

They could be happy.

Instead, they had all been forced to participate in the Alice Game. Either out of a sense of purpose or a sense of necessity.

Kirakishou hadn't particularly minded how her older sisters decided to spend their time, up until their actions had culminated in tampering with the contract she had with Ruby Rose.

They had ruined everything. And, for what felt like the very first time in her life, Kirakishou was displeased.

...But, Hinaichigo was not involved. She was nothing but an innocent to the machinations of the Alice Game. A little pink rose that just wanted to grow on her own. Kirakishou could easily understand such a motivation. Hinaichigo was a pure flower of her own design, and she couldn't help but admire the girl to some degree.

"Mhmm~" Hinaichigo hummed, "Hazel-chan liked it so much, that one day he came to me and said that he wanted to build a strawberry garden! Can you imagine? I was so happy! The strawberries had been growing in the lower levels of the castle for some time and they weren't getting that many nutrients. Or, um, any… I had to supply them with my own power just to keep them alive…" the little doll trailed off, frowning.

Hinaichigo lived in a castle, growing strawberries. Kirakishou idly connected her N-Field to Hinaichigo once again and was rewarded with an image of the little pink-dressed Rozen Maiden plowing soil on the outside of a poorly-designed castle, all while Hazel attempted to help despite his obvious lack of gardening talent. She couldn't help but giggle, finding the image of such to be amusing. The little short-haired blonde puffed up her cheeks at Kirakishou's giggling, shoving her down.

"Not funny!" Hinaichigo pouted, crossing her arms as Kirakishou fought off her giggles, pushing herself back up and momentarily dispelling the connection to Hinaichigo's N-Field.

"...Sorry, little one," Kirakishou found herself legitimately apologising, something of a first for her. It was an odd feeling, decidedly uncomfortable. "The image of you growing strawberries in a castle was just too adorable not to giggle at. I didn't mean to offend you."

"Oh, um, that's what you were laughing at?" Hinaichigo softly asked, cheeks reddening further, much to her increasing confusion. Her own Master had acted similarly during odd times during their earlier times spent together. Perhaps it was a natural reaction to conversation? Or, was it limited only to certain individuals, and both Ruby and Hinaichigo qualified?

It was all very confusing.

Kirakishou cocked her head, staring at the adorable doll that made such little sense to her at times. "Of course? What did you think that I was laughing at?"

"N-Nothing! Never mind!" Hinaichigo gave a quick answer, twice in rapid succession, blushing all the while. "U-Um, anyway… er, where was I?"

Perhaps she needed to control her giggles around Hinaichigo, if this was going to be the outcome. "You were talking about creating a garden alongside Hazel-san," she gently reminded the doll.

"Oh… Right…" Hinaichigo murmured under her breath, visibly shifting in place. "Um, Hazel-chan liked the strawberry patch and I thought Salem did too because she'd liked everything else that I had done, except for the permanent markers, but still…"

Kirakishou very wisely refrained from questioning Hinaichigo about the permanent markers, having witnessed the results of Hinaichigo's former Master Tomoe asking a similar question, only to find much of her home newly decorated in Hinaichigo's own particular brand of artwork. She did not wish for her own N-Field to find itself... redecorated... under Hinaichigo's tender care.

Instead, she simply decided to follow up on another avenue of discussion. "Did Salem do something that changed your perception of her?"

Hinaichigo nodded, sniffling as the poor little doll seemingly wilted right in front of her at the very notion. "T-The Witch, Salem… she heard about what happened, about how you disappeared… and she flew into a rage. She destroyed the garden in the middle of it, along with half the castle and a big amount of the neighbouring terrain…"

Once more, her N-Field connected with Hinaichigo's retelling and provided an image of the events that had culminated in the loss of the pink-dressed doll's garden. And, immediately, Kirakishou found herself intrigued. This Witch, Salem, the powers she displayed were unlike any semblance that Kirakishou had witnessed in the world of Remnant. They went beyond the capabilities of any semblance in her vast collection of gathered memories, with no regard for the stores of 'aura' which were used by the denizens of Remnant to power their semblances. And the only powers that Kirakishou was aware of that did not require auric expenditure were Maiden Powers and Silver-Eyed manifestations.

And this Salem was no Maiden, nor did she possess Silver Eyes.

How very curious.

Naturally, upon viewing the memory, it became clear that Salem's temperament could be appropriately titled as 'volatile' at the very least, seemingly flying into a rage to the point where she had become destructive to her very own castle, sabotaging those she gathered with little regard to their own personal growth.

A weight settled on her chest, and Kirakishou found little Hinaichigo hugging her for dear life, clutching her form tightly and openly weeping as the doll rested against her body. Kirakishou moved to embrace her pink-clad older sister, pulling and adjusting Hinaichigo's position to better provide comfort for the doll, as Kirakishou rubbed soothing circles on her back.

Ruby Rose had enjoyed similar movements. It had been one of the many facets regarding her Master she had gathered from her memories. Physical intimacy was regarded as something special, a feeling with which to be desired.

"There, there," Kirakishou murmured to the little weeping doll, focusing her attention on Hinaichigo even as her nearby strawberry vines thrashed about in seeming response to her despair. "Focus on my voice. The event is over, Hinaichigo. She's not here. You're safe. Now, if you would, please focus on me. Can you do that?"

Hinaichigo sniffed. "...O-Okay…" the little doll attempted to follow her instructions, pulling herself back from Kirakishou's chest and focusing on Kirakishou's lone slit amber eye.

"It must have been difficult for you when you learned what happened. I'm sorry that it happened to you, Hinaichigo."

Hinaichigo tried to laugh. It sounded strange to her. Like a burble of a giggle mixed with the pain of a sob. It was a sound she hadn't heard from the doll before.

"...That's not even the worst part, Kirakishou… S-She saw what had happened, I was right there in the garden with Hazel-chan and… she didn't care. I could see it in her eyes. All she wanted was to destroy everything. She's not nice, or pleasant underneath her scary shell, she's just a mean old lady hiding her anger all the time."

Kirakishou wondered how emotionally invested this Witch had to have been in order to throw a tantrum of such epic proportions as to provoke Hinaichigo into coming to Kirakishou herself for support. She was, of course, aware that Hinaichigo had attempted to contact Shinku before her pure self, but the fact that Hinaichigo had still connected with Kirakishou afterward spoke of just how deeply the doll had been affected by Salem's destruction of her strawberry garden.

"And what happened next, Hinaichigo?"

"...Hazel-chan could see it as well, that Salem wasn't sorry for what she did. And he couldn't even do anything. He just… sent me to my room, and told me that he'd do what he could to fix the garden… but, I don't think he will…"

"And why is that, Hinaichigo? Why do you believe that your Master won't fix the strawberry garden? He seems to like you quite a bit."

"B-Because Salem won't let him. Because she doesn't actually care about me. Not really. Everything she did and said was all just an attempt to learn about the Alice Game and the Rozen Maiden. Because she wants you, not me."

Kirakishou smiled, amused at the very thought. She had spent quite some time attracting others to the vicinity of her Palace of Beginnings ever since Ruby's disappearance, and it would appear that there was a toy working for her already.

Now that she was aware of Salem's interest in her, specifically, Kirakishou found herself connecting deeper to Hinaichigo. Unlike previous connections, however, Kirakishou avoided displaying the results of her findings to Hinaichigo. The last thing that she wanted was to cause undue stress to the poor girl.

"I see… Hazel-chan must be feeling quite sad right now," Kirakishou idly mused. As expected, the tiny little Rozen Maiden that had connected with Hazel was startled at the very thought of such a travesty.

"What? Why?"

"Well, his Rozen Maiden is away from him, while he is forced to suffer under the tyranny of an irate Witch that doesn't understand the value of those surrounding her. That must be a difficult burden to bear for any human, let alone one like Hazel Reinhardt."

Hinaichigo gasped, rocketing out of her position in Kirakishou's embrace and standing up. Kirakishou silently followed the doll's actions, standing up to join Hinaichigo.

"You're right! Oh, he must be so very worried…" Hinaichigo fretted, wringing her hands. "I have to get back to him! I've already been away for so long… Ah, I've been a bad doll…"

Kirakishou giggled softly, stepping forward to thread a hand through Hinaichigo's short blonde hair. "You haven't been bad at all, sister. It's only natural to feel the way you did, there's nothing wrong with it. And you feel better now that you've talked to me about your feelings, yes?"

Hinaichigo trembled at her ministrations, nodding as Kirakishou pulled her hand away. She moved forward even as Kirakishou's hand pulled away, only to quickly stop herself and blush bashfully. "U-Um… Yes, I do. Very much."

"Then, I'm happy to help," Kirakishou smiled warmly at the little doll that had inadvertently given her so much information to play with. It had been an oddly pleasant endeavour to meet with her fellow Rozen Maiden, far outside what she had been anticipating from a confrontation with her sister.

Though, she supposed that Hinaichigo simply had that effect on others. After all, it had been that very same purity that Hinaichigo displayed that had attracted her to gathering the doll in the first place.

"Right! Thanks again for everything you said! It really helped a lot!" Hinaichigo gave her a quick hug much to her surprise, before detaching from the sudden embrace and summoning up an N-Field portal. As she was about to leave, she turned to look at Kirakishou. "And, um, thanks for being so friendly. I didn't know what to expect when I came here, and I'm really bad at expressing how I feel sometimes, but I did really enjoy talking to you, even if it was a pretty heavy subject. Can I visit you again sometime?"

She gave a soft nod of acquiescence. "Of course, Hinaichigo. You're always welcome here."

The little doll blushed, squeaked, and ran through her portal.

Kirakishou watched her leave, smiling all the while. The N-Field twitched and shifted in response to her thoughts, as aura burst from the ground and coalesced around her. Kirakishou's attention turned inward, searching. There had been something else that she had discovered when sifting through the memories of her flowerbed.

Something else that was hidden. Something that would be of great value to her. Kirakishou had been planning on developing her new weapon first, but…

"...It would appear that a pure rose will need act quicker than anticipated," she idly mused to herself.

Deep within the Northern Auroral Mountains above Lake Matsu, Ruby Rose slept like a baby, lulled into a deep sleep by the soothing semblance of one of the cutthroat bandits that had stolen her away from Atlas. Slumbering placidly in the arms of Raven Branwen's second in command, a fierce woman by the name of Vernal, Blake Belladonna could only wonder what was going through the minds of the rest of her team. Somehow, she doubted that any of the remaining members of Team RWBY would be sleeping as soundly as their Team Leader.

Perhaps, they too would require the services of Raven's semblance-enhanced bandit, the dirty blonde-haired man named Shade, that had simply tapped Ruby on the shoulder and sent her unconscious. A terrifying semblance to be wielded by a pack of bandits reaving their way across Remnant, but one that was uniquely suited towards quelling their Team Leader before she could so much as think to question the rest of her team. According to Vernal, Shade had only recently unlocked his semblance and was having a joy testing it out at practically any given opportunity, to the dismay of his fellow tribe members.

Regardless, Blake Belladonna would very much prefer to keep away from Raven's so-called tribe as much as possible, having known all too well just how certain factions outside the scope of the law tended to operate. Being forcefully rendered unconscious was far too dangerous to consider, even if it would bring her peace.

Hah. Peace. What an absurd notion.

Blake Belladonna had experienced peace, a temporary peace at the very least, when she had been staying inside the Schnee family mansion alongside her lover. And, what had happened? She had been antsy. Worried. Concerned about the fate of the world. It had taken Jacques Schnee to console her, to give her focus.

...She would admit it, if only privately. Blake Belladonna had been wrong about the man that Weiss called her Father. Jacques Schnee was a noble man, fighting for what he believed in. He certainly held an agenda, that much wasn't in question so much as blatantly obvious for all to see, and yet he still operated in a way that had bettered the world. He hadn't needed to host a commemorative gala for the people of Vale, and yet he had anyway. There was also the matter of the Alice Game, where Jacques had taken measures to not only learn about the Alice Game but to actively work to dampen the potential destruction caused by Summer Rose. Yes, the shield that Jacques had activated to stop Summer's approach had been swatted away with little regard by the doll, but Blake couldn't forget that it had been Jacques that had moved Raven to a secure area before she summoned Ruby back to them.

What would have happened if Summer Rose had appeared in their bedroom, in a confined area surrounded by everyone that had just ruined her daughter's contract with Kirakishou? She certainly hadn't wasted any time in ripping into Yang, reducing the brawler to tears through sheer words alone, before actively attempting to kill her. Were it not for the precautions Jacques had taken, however meagre they proved to be in the end, there was a very good chance that every living presence in the Schnee mansion would have been killed by Summer Rose before the doll fell apart.

And, Team RWBY had so much as left Jacques Schnee to the wolves the moment that Atlesian officials had come sniffing at the door. And as Blake gazed at the glimmering contract ring clad on Yang's ring finger, she remembered that even Suigintou, the Rozen Maiden that was contracted to her very own partner, had been left in Atlas alongside the rest of her gathered sisters to deal with their own mess.

Blake could only imagine just how the meeting between the Atlesian military and the Rozen Maiden was panning out at the moment, with Jacques Schnee and Sakurada Jun stuck in the sidelines. With tensions rising and the Rozen Maiden having all been fighting tooth-and-nail for the better part of an entire evening, even Sakurada Jun's healing semblance would be hard-pressed to keep them in fighting condition. And for all the political clout that Jacques Schnee had gathered over the years, none of it would matter in the face of the Atlesian military, who would see him as little more than an accomplice who chose to house those connected to the very event that Jacques claimed to be sympathetic towards.

It was hilarious, really, how their relative peace could fracture and change so quickly. Everything had been fine in Atlas until they all ventured into the N-Field in search of their departed Team Leader. So much had happened following that decision, and her fragile peace had been broken.

The Knight of the White Rose… Summer Rose… Even Ruby Rose herself…

They were all such influential pieces, connected to Kirakishou through their own unique nebulous ways, and Oum only knew just how Kirakishou was dealing with the ramifications of Ruby's sudden disappearance. She had seen the two girls together, Ruby and Kirakishou, during their time in Beacon Academy before the Vytal Festival. They had been very much in love, and despite everything that Yang Xiao-Long claimed to believe, Blake personally believed that the love they shared was genuine. Even if Kirakishou had been found to have manipulated Ruby Rose, actively interfering with the lives of both RWBY's Team Leader and all those surrounding her, she could tell that the doll had done it out of her own twisted perception of the world.

Sakurada Jun had inadvertently admitted such when he spoke of just how Kirakishou operated. And, Blake Belladonna herself had seen firsthand just how the youngest Rozen Maiden actively altered the futures of those surrounding Ruby Rose for their Leader's perceived benefit. The love she, personally, felt for Weiss Schnee had only been created following Kirakishou connecting her memories to that of the Schnee Dust Company heiress. Only then had Blake learned of just how much Weiss had suffered, of how she truly felt as a person, deep down inside her heart. And Kirakishou had been the one who had caused it, all because Ruby had been upset that Blake and Weiss were arguing.

As a result, the love between Weiss and Blake had been formed simply because a reality-warping doll wanted her Master to be happy.

Now, Team RWBY had actively taken away the bond that Kirakishou shared with Ruby Rose. They had acted openly antagonistic to the Knight of the White Rose and to Summer Rose herself, the latter of which Kirakishou had proved herself more than capable of resurrecting time and time again. Even if luck was on their side, which Blake firmly believed it was not, it would only be a matter of time until Kirakishou uncovered what had transpired inside Ruby Rose's Solemn Grove.

Solemn Grove was also an issue. Their very own Team Leader had, at least during her contract with Kirakishou, grown to possess an N-Field just like Kirakishou herself. The very same power that had given rise to the destruction of Vale. Oum, Blake could still remember the tension in the air, the fear that the world felt as the greatest Huntsman Academy Blake had ever witnessed was torn apart at the height of its power. Did Ruby Rose still hold access to Solemn Grove? Now that her memories had seemingly reverted to a previous state, what was happening inside her mind? With the Rozen Maiden still inside Atlas, Blake didn't know any method to check on Ruby outside asking her. And she certainly wouldn't do that.

The other Rozen Maiden had spoken about the N-Field. They had said that it was connected to the human subconscious, actively shaped by their unconscious thoughts and desires. Did that mean that everyone possessed an N-Field?

Why, then, had Shinku and the other Rozen Maiden been so shocked upon entering Solemn Grove?

And, why did Ruby Rose have such an entity like the one they had fought housed at the centre of her mind? Why had the image, holding Ruby's likeness, fought so desperately to stop them?

They were all questions that Blake Belladonna wished she didn't have to deal with. She despised this, this ruined peace. Hiding in caves alongside bands of cutthroat murderers that, thanks to her horrid feeling of hindsight, acted so uncomfortably similar to how her previous White Fang cell had operated under the command of Adam Taurus?

Oum… she didn't even know how the faunus movement was going. Blake hadn't the slightest clue how was Lady Khan operating the White Fang, now that one of the greatest bastions of strength had been overturned and the world's Kingdoms almost entirely cut off from communication. She could only assume that the faunus in Menagerie would be even worse off with limited communications, being unable to call for help if it was needed, limited entirely to the supplies and strength they could maintain in Menagerie.

...There was the chance that her parents were dead, and Blake Belladonna would never get the chance to tell them that she was sorry for leaving and that she hadn't meant the words that she had said. And there was nothing that Blake could do about it, stuck inside one of the many caves dotting the Northern Auroral Mountains. There had been nothing that Blake could do in Atlas, either, but at least there she had felt safe.

Here, Blake Belladonna felt like little more than a stranger in her own skin, fighting for survival. Little more than a cog in a giant machine. Never before had she felt so helpless, so helplessly outmatched and outgunned by everyone around her.

A hand grasped her own, and the eyes of her lover greeted her.

"...Are you okay?" Weiss murmured to her as Vernal left with Ruby at Raven's command, low enough so only Blake's faunus senses were able to detect her. A little trick they had learned following their immense time spent together amongst the more politically-inclined denizens of Atlas.

Blake shook her head, grimacing, as Weiss's hand tightened its grip on her own.

"You done?"

She twitched as Raven glared at her lover, the Branwen leader having apparently overheard Weiss's attempt at a private conversation as she was addressing Yang. The blonde frowned at her Mother, yet remained silent.

"We're just tired," Weiss deflected with the skill of one who had spent years navigating around intrusive questions, a skill that Blake found herself lacking. "Fleeing from the military and moving to an entirely different timezone mere hours after fighting inside a dream world against an overwhelming force will do that to you," she deadpanned.

Raven grunted in affirmation. "Good to see that the heiress has some balls on her," Raven chuckled even as Weiss ground her teeth at the remark and Yang noticeably relaxed. "We're done here, you two can go get some rest. There's a bunch of empty tents at the lower levels. Ask around and some of the men will lead you both there. Just find an empty one and fall in it."

"What about me?" Yang asked, seemingly singled out by the woman that called herself Yang's Mother.

"You're staying in my tent. We've got some things to talk about before retiring for the night, and it'll be easier to talk there, without any prying eyes. Besides, it'll send a good impression amongst the others."

"Sounds good," Yang shrugged. Blake would need to be blind to not notice the reluctant elation simmering beneath Yang's seemingly nonchalant response. She supposed, in some deep and sordid manner, that her own Mother would be the same if Blake were ever to return to Menagerie.

...And, now, she felt terrible again. Wonderful.

"Don't forget," Weiss felt the need to push forward, directing her steely-eyed gaze towards the two Branwen women. "Ruby will be demanding answers the moment she wakes, and I'd rather not get on her bad side right after we've retrieved her just because we were all too scared to-"

"We get it, girl," Raven cut in with a glare of her own, easily enough to shut down Blake's partner. "It will be dealt with. Now, go and get some sleep. Oum knows we all need it."

"Fine," Weiss scowled, marching away.

Blake followed behind without a word, eager to get some shuteye. She could only hope that she would be knifed in her sleep. Though, at this point, she wondered if she would care.

Why had everything needed to go to shit now? Blake had been happy in Atlas, damn it. Or, at least as happy as she had felt in a long time.

Hinaichigo returned to her room with little fanfare, simply plopping out of the N-Field portal she had summoned and waltzing over to her bed. It felt stuffy, too tight, and far too cold for her liking.

She hadn't ever really used it, anyway. Even if she didn't need to sleep in her case anymore, on account of being much much larger than normal, she still preferred not to sleep in a bed of her own and to instead sleep next to Hazel-chan in his own room.


When Hinaichigo had found herself inadvertently flung into Kirakishou's N-Field when searching for Shinku, she hadn't really known what to expect. But, even the wildest of her thoughts hadn't anticipated for Kirakishou to actually console her, and tell her to support her Master. The Seventh Rozen Maiden had acted wildly different than what Hinaichigo had been led to believe by her actions in the past, and the result left Hinaichigo feeling confused… and oddly warm…

...And the doll was so very grabby, too. N-Not that she didn't enjoy all the attention, of course, it was just that Hinaichigo wasn't really used to such things. None of her Masters in the past had been that into cuddles as much as Kirakishou seemed to be, and Hazel-chan still tensed up whenever she so much as smiled at him, let alone asked for cuddles. Kirakishou, meanwhile, had done a lot more than little touches here and there… even if the first time she had done that had led to Hinaichigo's disassembly.

She could still remember the feeling of what Kirakishou did that time, in order to get Hinaichigo to lower her guard. And it made her blush every time.

But, this time, Kirakishou hadn't disassembled her. Kirakishou hadn't hurt her at all, in fact. They had just sat together and… talked. Hinaichigo had opened up about her feelings, slowly but surely, and Kirakishou had been all too happy to listen even as Hinaichigo prepared for the worst only for her disassembly to never actually happen. And, then, Kirakishou had been happy to hold Hinaichigo's strawberry vines until Hinaichigo could find a better spot for them.

It was weird.

How did Kirakishou feel about her, really? Could they be considered friends now? Could Kirakishou help Hazel-chan fix the garden?

Privately, she didn't think that she would ever find a better spot for her strawberry vines outside of Kirakishou's N-Field. Salem was very much a mean witch, exactly as her appearance would suggest, and Hinaichigo knew that there was nothing that Hazel-chan could do that would ever sway Salem's heart. The woman was cold, cruel, and extremely volatile at the best of times.

To think that Salem had been so much of a meanie as to try and pretend that she liked her!

S-She never really did like Hinaichigo's drawings… did she?

That… actually hurt to think about…

And, worst of all, she was incredibly powerful. It was like she had the powers of a Rozen Maiden, if a Rozen Maiden was entirely focused on destruction and making those weird beasts of dark that prowled around the place. Once Salem had flown into a rage, even her mighty Master hadn't even so much as thought to oppose her.

Hazel-chan was a nice Master. But, Salem was a horrible witch. Why would Hazel-chan ever work for her in the first place? Why did he listen to what Salem said? Perhaps she needed to speak with him sometime?

Kirakishou… she had said that Hazel-chan must be feeling lonely because Hinaichigo had run away… and Hinaichigo was inclined to believe her younger sister. Kirakishou seemed pretty good at understanding people, considering how she had effortlessly handled Hinaichigo herself and helped calm her down. So she had to kind of understand how Hazel-chan was feeling, right?

She wasn't very good at expressing her feelings no matter how hard she tried to get better at it, but at her core, she did care for her Master a whole lot and she wanted him to be happy. A-And she knew that Hazel-chan felt sad sometimes, even if he wouldn't tell her why he felt the way he did. It was up to her as a Rozen Maiden to make her Master happy.

When it was all done… Hinaichigo wouldn't be opposed to spending some more time with Kirakishou, provided that her younger sister gave out more cuddles. And, well, she wouldn't mind if they did more than that. A long cuddle, just feeling more of that warmth. And... smiling. She really enjoyed smiling. She wondered, would Kirakishou like to watch Detective Kun-Kun one day?

She would have to-

The door to her room swung open and Hinaichigo flinched at the sound, as the Witch entered her room. Crimson eyes snapped to her, as a burst of energy sent Hinaichigo sailing backward until her little body roughly impacted against the wall. She struggled with all her might, but her body refused to obey her. Something was holding her tightly, wrapping around her body.

"Berry-" Hinaichigo tried to summon her artificial spirit, only to find a dark materialisation moving over her mouth, silencing her.

"Hinaichigo," Salem greeted her with an amused nod. "You've been gone for quite some time. How very… unfortunate. Poor Hazel was quite upset to see you depart."

She struggled against the confines, glaring at the woman even as more dark limbs clutched her form and pulled her tightly against the wall.

"Now now, don't struggle," Salem stepped forward. "Please know that I do not do this because I want to, as I have actually learned to enjoy your presence to some small degree. However, recent developments have forced my hand."

Salem stepped forward again.

And, as much as Hinaichigo wished she didn't, she cried.

And, once again, nobody cared for her tears.