Blank.

Ruby Rose awoke inside a blank world, devoid of life, devoid of death, devoid of everything. There was no breeze against her skin, no chill in the air.

It was all blank. Featureless. And she had never felt so afraid.

Oum. Ruby could barely even recognise that she was laying on the ground. How could she? There was no ground. Only an arbitrary rule dictating the current plane as a surface, even if said surface did not exist.

Or, at the very least, she could not see it. She couldn't see anything, save for herself.

No. Wait. There was a girl on the ground beside her. A beautiful girl, bathed in peach-blonde hair. She was wearing an outfit that Ruby Rose could vaguely recall. A frilled piece of innerwear, one that revealed the seams and joints of the wearer- identifying her as a doll.

Clarity barreled into her with the force of a dust-laden shell.

"Kirakishou!" Ruby shrieked, lurching forward and gripping the doll tightly. When Kirakishou did not respond, fear blossomed in Ruby's chest and she shook the doll. "Kira, please! Wake up!"

There was a sudden beat of silence before the doll shook, her lone eye slowly opening to stare up at Ruby Rose in something resembling sleepy bewilderment. "...It's been so long… so very long… since you called me that nickname."

She pulled the doll into a tight hug, clutching Kirakishou with all her might. Slowly, and with trembling limbs, Kirakishou returned the gesture. It was all coming back to Ruby, now. They had been in Atlas. Ruby had somehow figured out that she needed to kiss Kirakishou in order to enter back into a contract with the doll, and when she had… something had happened right after that.

Ruby had first thought that kissing Kirakishou would give her back the memories she was missing. Instead, Kirakishou had stated that her memories would take time to return. Yet, it would seem, something else had been waiting for Ruby and Kirakishou to contract once again.

A flash of white. Everything had changed. Now, she was here.

When Ruby Rose pulled back, she got to her feet, quickly moving to help Kirakishou up when she noticed the doll struggling to follow her. It was clear that Kirakishou was still drained after entering into a contract with Ruby Rose. Something in her mind tingled at the thought. A fragmented memory, of a doll in a similar outfit laying down in a bed, looking as weak as anything. Had something similar occurred the first time Ruby had contracted herself to Kirakishou?

It was such a jarring sight to see. Kirakishou had seemed so strong in their battle, effortlessly countering her moves even if she couldn't match Ruby's strength. Now, however, everything was stripped away. Laid bare.

"Kira…" she didn't even remember saying the nickname. It was something of a half-forgotten instinct. "I don't…"

Somehow, Kirakishou understood, managing to offer a weak smile. The doll tentatively grabbed her left hand, pulling it up to focus on the little ring nestled on Ruby's left ring finger. That one meant marriage, right? She blushed at the notion, and at the touch of her doll.

"We have contracted once again…" Kirakishou murmured, her voice a delicate whisper only audible thanks to the uncanny sterile environment Ruby found herself inside. "Your memories will return in time, Master. Our connection needs to grow, first."

Well. Ruby supposed that Kirakishou could be regarded as the foremost expert in all things N-Field. While she vaguely understood that Rozen Maiden operated using an N-Field and that the contract thusly was both a core component of the Rozen Maiden and therefore connected to the N-Field in some manner, she wasn't entirely sure about how it all came together. She could only hope that her memories would be of some help, whenever they came back.

"...Then… where are we?"

Here, Kirakishou gave something that Ruby would hesitantly label as a rueful smile. "Where we have always been, Master. Right from the very beginning."

"Welcome."

She turned, inadvertently pulling away from Kirakishou's impromptu handhold at the sight of a voice that was decidedly unfamiliar. Reality flickered.

There was a man standing before them. Were Ruby being somewhat generous with her descriptions, she would label the figure as being somewhat similar in build to her own Dad, Taiyang Xiao-Long. Though perhaps a bit skinnier, missing all the muscle. Withered down. His hair was faded. Stringy, almost. She didn't know how to describe it. It wasn't like old people's hair, or like any of the colours or textures she had seen.

The man wore a simple white shirt and tan pants.

And, most notably, he had no face.

Nothing.

It wasn't blank. It was hollow. Like looking into a deep cavern. There wasn't any light there, any ridges of a wall or anything. It was just… gone.

He did not speak. But she had heard him speak all the same, even if the simple action of speech looked entirely impossible to her.

Something in her recoiled at the very knowledge that such a person existed. Some deep, intrinsic fear. She was clutching Kirakishou's arm before she even knew it. Whether it be to assure her that she wasn't hallucinating or to protect the doll from the figure, Ruby wasn't sure.

"...Otou-sama."

Ruby whirled around to stare at Kirakishou as she uttered those words, finding herself witnessing a look on the doll that couldn't match any expression Ruby had ever seen in her life. On the surface, one might say that Kirakishou seemed placid, content, almost. And Ruby knew, with bone-deep certainty, that such a guess would be utterly wrong.

The words, however. She knew. Not from any memories long forgotten and suddenly returned, but because the information was seemingly forced into her head with all the subtlety of a jackhammer by the entity standing in front of the two girls.

Father.

This being was the Father of the Rozen Maiden. The one who had created them all, that had set them out and made them participate in the Alice Game.

The screens. The ones in Atlas, that had gone haywire right before the world had shifted. They had been referring to him.

Father arrival imminent.

The very world had signaled his arrival. This man. This thing. This entity. This figure that went above and beyond the Rozen Maiden to such a degree that their very presence alone was cause for concern. And, as Ruby's mind recalled the words that Kirakishou had spoken to her mere moments ago, she knew that they hadn't been transported to this blank world.

This is the world. It had been changed for him. By him.

All of reality. Reshaped in an instant.

"You're Father…" Ruby could not breathe, but she was forced to breathe all the same. Forced to speak, to voice her thoughts. "You're the one that created the Rozen Maiden. You're their Father."

"Correct," and his very voice alone was a trembling of the world, a soft shudder in a world without movement. "You two have ventured far, to arrive here in this singular moment. As I knew you both would. Or, perhaps, would it be more precise to say that you have not ventured at all?"

His words were damning. She couldn't hear him speak, yet they shouted to her very bones.

"My sisters?" Kirakishou questioned.

She sounded as if she knew the answer.

"Gone."

With a flick of an aged hand, four rosa mysticae were floating behind Father. Once again, Ruby found herself privy to information without a source, as the figure forced her very being to understand the situation.

They were the rosa mysticae of the other Rozen Maiden that Kirakishou had not openly interacted with. Suigintou, Suiseiseki, Souseiseki, and Shinku. The other two, Kanaria and Hinaichigo, Kirakishou already possessed. She didn't know how Kirakishou had come to defeat two other Rozen Maiden before reuniting with Ruby, but she could venture a guess.

They had been in the way, somehow. Attempted to stop Kirakishou from reuniting with Ruby. And Kirakishou had defeated them, in one way or another.

And this entity, Father, had defeated the rest. Defeated everyone, when he remade the world into this nothingness. Nothing else existed at the moment, save for the three of them.

They had all been removed, with all the precision of a surgeon. It terrified her to the core.

"How could you… your own daughters…"

She spoke without speaking, the words forced out of her. She felt like a puppet on a string.

"They were failures. Distractions from the main event. They had served their purpose in the past, and, now, they are gone. That is how it must be."

"Why?"

It was not Ruby who spoke, but Kirakishou. She seemed… sad. Lost.

"They were such beautiful roses, Father. Why destroy something you created?"

"It was necessary."

That was it. No further explanation was given. That was all that Kirakishou got as an answer, and it was all that Ruby needed to ascertain the nature of the figure standing before her. One that went beyond humanity, beyond faunus, less than grimm, less than bandit.

By far, it was the worst creature that Ruby Rose had ever seen in her life. How could someone who had created the Rozen Maiden, created Kirakishou, have sunk so far? It saddened her to know that a person the dolls could label as 'Father' could fall to such a level.

Everything was gone. Everyone was gone. Justified, above and beyond, as necessary.

Unlike previously, Ruby did not require the assistance of some nebulous entity in order to speak her mind. She forced the words out all on her own.

"...What could possibly be so important that you would justify erasing your own daughters?!"

The figure stared at her, then. Even without a visual reference, she knew that it was staring at her. Inspecting her, with the full force of a star inspecting an ant.

"Impressive, to speak on your own," the figure's praise was flat, broken, and withered like every other word it spoke. "To answer such a question; the Alice Game. There was nothing else of singular import that would require such specific sacrifice."

"And for this you destroy them?! They were already doing that! Already fighting, because you made them fight!"

"...Master…" Kirakishou's murmur was little, fragile. And Ruby quickly softened her grip with a muttered apology. She could feel her silver flames, trembling in anger at such a person, and she had forgotten for a brief moment that Kirakishou was standing right there beside her. Thankfully, the doll was not harmed. Most likely, a reaction to their reforged contract.

A hand movement and Kirakishou was forced away from her. No. The world was rewritten, to a scene that kept Kirakishou slightly farther away. Reality was changed, all via a simple gesture.

Just to prove a point.

There was nothing she could do.

"No, Kirakishou, your Master is free to speak her mind. Do not worry for her, as her actions were already predetermined long ago," the figure turned to her, and whatever thoughts Ruby had floating about in her mind ground to a halt. "And, to answer your thoughts once again, yes. Their destruction in the immediate time was necessary. They would have interfered. Interferences are not tolerated in the Alice Game."

She gulped at the finality in Father's words. His tone was blank, concise, but she knew all the same. No amount of pleading would change what he had done, and her outrage would lead nowhere.

Instead… "How would they have interfered?"

"Unnecessary variables are the curse of any true system. The purpose of the other Rozen Maiden was to further the Alice Game in Remnant. Now that they have fulfilled that goal, their very existence is redundant."

Back to square one, Ruby supposed. While Ruby held no good tidings with the other Rozen Maiden, having barely interacted with them during her time within the Branwen Clan's stupid cave system, she still could scarcely bring herself to just accept their sudden and swift defeat.

They deserved better.

"If their reason was to prolong the Alice Game, why did you destroy them? The Alice Game was still going on. They didn't need to go!"

She didn't realise she was yelling until the end. Perhaps, somewhere deep down, Ruby felt a tad outraged on behalf of Kirakishou's sisters. Had she known them prior to her loss of memory? Or, was the sight of Kirakishou appearing upset at their loss enough to prompt her into action?

Father raised a hand, and Kirakishou appeared beside Ruby Rose once again. She took no time in seeking out the hand of her Rozen Maiden, and Ruby found Kirakishou's hand racing to meet hers all the same. It seemed they both were equally as unsettled by this figure's mere presence.

"You misunderstand. The Alice Game is over. Kirakishou has won. She may not have defeated each of the other Rozen Maiden with her own hands, but she has defeated them all the same. The Alice Game was concluded when Kirakishou was able to reforge a contract with you, Ruby Rose."

A gesture was not needed.

The gathered rosa mysticae, which Ruby had ignored in favour of focusing on Father, moved over to Kirakishou. There was no flash of light, no sudden change from within Kirakishou. She looked exactly the same.

And, yet, when Kirakishou turned to smile at her, it was blinding.

A warmth, unlike any other.

"How very fitting," Father spoke, and there was something within the figure's voice. A sliver of some fleeting emotion that Ruby couldn't begin to decipher. "A girl who wishes for nothing, as she is already happy with what she has. Timeless, beautiful."

Ruby shook her head. It didn't matter. Kirakishou had already been perfect to her. Even without memories, she understood. There was no other way that Ruby would meet someone else like Kirakishou. She would never fall so deeply in love with anyone else other than the Rozen Maiden that would go so far for a dork like Ruby Rose. She didn't need some super title or anything.

"Is this why you came here? To end the Alice Game?"

Father stared at her. She shivered, yet she wasn't cold. Kirakishou's grip tightened in her hand, supportive. A flicker of something fluttered in her chest. Warmth. Strength. Support.

Somehow, holding Kirakishou's hand made it bearable.

"You are correct, though you do not understand why, nor how. Yes, my purpose here is to end the Alice Game. It has always been my purpose since the Alice Game first commenced."

But that didn't make any sense. Ruby's brows scrunched up at the very thought. "Why try to end the thing that you yourself started?"

"The answer lies in the Alice Game itself. I believe Kirakishou knows the answer. A tireless answer, to end all answers."

She turned to Kirakishou, and found her doll frowning. It looked decidedly odd. Even with her limited amount of memories, those that were coming back to her were all happy memories. Memories of smiles.

A frown did not suit her. At all.

"Laplace-no-ma," Kirakishou answered.

Once again, horrid clarity was forced upon her.

Laplace-no-ma was the referee to the Alice Game. It, like the Rozen Maiden, was not human. Unlike the Rozen Maiden, however, the character of Laplace-no-ma was absolute. A very function of the world. Somehow, of which Ruby most certainly did not want to know, Father had made Laplace-no-ma subservient to the Alice Game.

"Exactly. Laplace-no-ma. Laplace's Demon. A concept of scientific determinism, one that enforces the absolute power of knowledge, of understanding. What better concept to bind to the Alice Game?"

"It worked too well, didn't it?" Kirakishou spoke aloud, thankfully steering Ruby into an answer that she most assuredly hadn't possessed with her limited understanding of the situation. She had only just managed to contract with Kirakishou and was only beginning to regain her memories, how else could she-

A fleeting memory. Rain. A storm. Fighting Laplace-no-ma. Falling. Failing. It was too powerful. Far too powerful. That creature had been too powerful for something like the Alice Game. For Remnant as a whole. All of her attacks had been anticipated, planned for, plotted, and understood by an entity that none could hope to match.

"Yes, Laplace-no-ma was a problem that required solving. Before Laplace-no-ma, the Alice Game was nothing but a foolish idea. A tale of grief and longing. However, with the guidance of that creature, the Alice Game was forced to endure, such was its duty."

"Duty?" Ruby parroted, confused. This was all so far above her that it wasn't even funny.

The figure, Father, did not move nor react in any visible way. For a moment, everything was painfully still. Tense. Silent until it became unbearable. Agony. Only then, did the Father of the Rozen Maiden deign to speak.

"Laplace-no-ma was created with a single goal in mind; the continuation of the Alice Game. And, so, that is all the creature seeks. Endless turning of a game long since meant to end. And it has done so with an unrelenting determination, a concept of scientific determinism distilled into a single creature. One armed with a singular duty. And, to my misfortune, it succeeded. Every time."

Well, that was horrifying.

A game that never ends.

For a group of sisters forced into a game that would see them target each other, Ruby Rose could not even begin to imagine a worse fate. Having experienced the creature known as Laplace-no-ma firsthand, she knew that there was no possible manner of defeating such an entity. It was so overwhelmingly above everything else. The Rozen Maiden wouldn't have had any other choice but to comply.

Endlessly.

She shivered at the very thought, cold in a space without temperature.

"Ah, but something changed, did it not?" Kirakishou's voice pulled Ruby out of her downward spiral, and she turned to focus on her doll. There was a certain sense of determination that Ruby could easily identify, even with her utterly terrible track record with recognising emotion in others.

And the entity, Father, nodded. "This world was deemed uniquely suited for disassembling the entity known as Laplace-no-ma."

Kirakishou was quick to catch on to the same thought that entered Ruby's mind following Father's reveal. "You were the one to send me to this world, Father. My arrival in Remnant was not happenstance. It was calculated."

Once again, Ruby Rose found herself forcefully made aware of a scenario that her memories were struggling to corroborate.

The Rozen Maiden were not from Remnant. They had never been from Remnant.

"More than you know," Father stated with a motion vaguely reminiscent of a nod. One that appeared decidedly unsettling when the user had nothing resembling a face whatsoever. She felt Father turn to focus on her and promptly cringed at the entity's attention. "Your first meeting with Kirakishou was not happenstance."

This time, she needed no overwhelmingly forceful attempt at understanding, for her own memories seemingly chose that moment to connect.

She had been down at the Vale docks with the rest of Team RWBY because Weiss had wanted to scout out the competition for the upcoming Vytal Festival Tournament. They had stumbled upon the end result of a robbery, and then been drawn toward the harbor where she had met…

Kirakishou.

Seeing that doll for the first time… even if she hadn't known that Kirakishou was an artificial being at the time, she had been able to tell that Kirakishou was vastly different from any other person she had met in her life. Ruby had been head over heels at the mere sight of her. And when they had spoken, only Ruby had been the one to understand what was happening. She had been the only one to care.

And it had meant the world to Kirakishou, and to her.

Oum. Ruby had felt so alone before she met Kirakishou, and she hadn't even realised it until that moment.

"Now, you see," the entity spoke up in a blank tone, forcefully drawing Ruby out of memory lane. "Kirakishou's arrival in Remnant, in Vale, was timed down to the second. And the moment that you two met, the Alice Game began to turn once again. However, this time was different. For the first time since the beginning, the Alice Game spun to my own design, rather than that of Laplace-no-ma."

To think that their meeting had been planned out to such a meticulous degree…

"Master," Kirakishou pulled on her hand, drawing it up to rest on Kirakishou's chest. The movement was so unexpected that Ruby Rose didn't even have the chance to blush before Kirakishou was speaking once again. "Whether our meeting was happenstance or the will of Father, I am glad that I met you. I love you."

Tears were falling from her cheeks before she had any say in the matter. Ruby hadn't even begun to comprehend what she was feeling in the wake of Father's words, and yet Kirakishou had completely understood and taken the time to reassure Ruby as to exactly how the Rozen Maiden felt about her.

And she knew, even with her fragmented memories and the constant overwhelming revelations forced upon her, that she loved this Rozen Maiden.

Kirakishou held her heart. And she held Kirakishou's as well. Nothing that Father said could hope to dissuade that notion.

With that in mind, she turned from Kirakishou to glare at Father, pulling away from the doll while defiantly holding the Rozen Maiden's hand in spite of everything that Father had revealed.

"So what?" she narrowed her eyes, feeling silver fire burning beneath her skin. Somehow, she knew, that this fire would not harm her Rozen Maiden. Whether it was due in nature to their Rozen Maiden contract or to the immense bond they shared as lovers, Ruby wasn't exactly certain. But the metaphysics of it all didn't matter to her.

Father did not outwardly react to the question save for a prolonged silence. Only this time, the silence did nothing to dissuade Ruby Rose, as she continued to glare all the same. From the corner of her vision, she spotted Kirakishou mirroring her. They were together. Partners. And they would not be quelled by some outsider.

Only they mattered. Nobody else.

"Impressive. Laplace-no-ma was right after all. Twin pillars, rising together. A flame that burns ever stronger," Father mused blankly. Was she missing some reference, here? "However, we have diverged from the current topic. To surmise, this world is a lie."

What.

Kirakishou turned to her, then, drawing her attention. And it dawned on her that Kirakishou did not appear nearly as confused or surprised by the notion as she did. In fact, she was not shocked by the words in the slightest.

She knew.

But, Ruby did not point fingers. Instead, she waited patiently for her doll to explain. It was all that she could do.

"Master, if there is one thing about the Rozen Maiden that has manifested differently in Remnant, it is our design."

She blinked, confused. "What do you mean? Your design?"

"Our appearance, our construction," Kirakishou smiled at her. A tiny little smile. A pained one. "The Seventh Rozen Maiden is supposed to be an astral entity, possessing no physical body of her own. Prior to my arrival here, I had attempted to rectify this and obtain a body of my own, but I was stopped by my sisters. How, then, did I arrive in Remnant possessing a physical body? The answer is quite simple," Kirakishou paused, turning to face Father. "I did not. This world held no such limitation because this world is an N-Field. A decidedly immaterial plane made to imitate the material world."

An N-Field. She knew about N-Fields. The Rozen Maiden functioned by using the N-Field. Ruby Rose could scarcely label it as something akin to a dream world, but she knew that it was closer to an immaterial world that held the potential of materialising if the right actions were taken- Kirakishou's own N-Field was proof of that. Or, apparently, it had been. If what Father was implying was true.

But… it couldn't be.

The entire world?

What could that even mean?

And… an N-Field, especially. Ruby Rose herself also possessed an N-Field. A fleeting little thing that paled in comparison to what her memories labeled as Kirakishou's own Palace of Beginnings, but an N-Field all the same. How could Ruby Rose, someone who was decidedly not a Rozen Maiden, possess an N-Field… inside of another N-Field? None of it made any sense.

How could she have been inside an N-Field this whole time?

What did it mean, that this world was a lie?

If she was in an N-Field, and this world is indeed a false one, then what of everyone else that's inside it? Are they all illusions? What of her team? Her sister?

Is Summer Rose alive in the real world?

"Now, the height of the matter hits you," Father observed clinically. "If this world is a lie, then what is the truth? If this world is fake, then what have you missed? Pointless observations that pull you away from the main point."

"And what point is that?" Ruby hissed, glaring at the figure hatefully. "Why do all of this? Create a false world? Bring Kirakishou here? Engineer the both of us meeting each other? Why?"

"For the same reason as every other action that I have taken; the Alice Game. Creating a false world, an N-Field, allows the user to manipulate certain events through a connection to all those inside. Past, present, future. All are malleable to a practiced wielder. Your Rozen Maiden, Kirakishou, is an expert in such affairs. But her power alone pales in comparison to mine."

Past.

Present.

Future.

Father had messed with them all.

She could barely comprehend the scope of such abilities, let alone their potential. And Father was implying that Kirakishou was capable of something similar? That all the Rozen Maiden were? If Ruby held an N-Field of her own, does that mean that she is also capable of such things?

"Materialising the immaterial is not without cost, however," Kirakishou denied with a frown, before shaking her head and appearing somewhat thoughtful. "Ah, but if you did not truly materialise it in the first place…"

"Yes, it proved to be something of a cost-efficient strategy," Father hummed, the sound distinctly unsettling coming from someone without anything resembling a face. "Illusions are far cheaper than manifestation. You yourself learned of this, the first time that you reached out from your Palace of Beginnings and into the material world."

And, like that, Kirakishou and Father inadvertently confirmed that manipulating reality with their N-Fields was indeed possible to learn for anyone with an N-Field. However, it appeared to come with something of a high cost.

Then, the memories came to her.

She remembered, now. Ruby Rose and Kirakishou had been fighting some people in a spar over in Beacon Academy. Emerald Sustrai and… Mercury Black? Yes, that was right. Ruby had taken a hit for Kirakishou and the Rozen Maiden had retaliated with a show of force that went beyond anything she had seen prior to that.

Before that moment, before the reveal of Summer Rose and-

SUMMER ROSE?!

"You resurrected my Mom?!" Ruby blurted, wide eyes turning to face Kirakishou.

The peach-blonde doll only giggled, shaking her head in bemusement. "Of course, now is the time when your memories come racing back. You've always been one to reflect during times of conflict, haven't you?" Kirakishou smiled, fondly. With a warmth that made Ruby's own cheeks heat up. "Yes, I did, Master. I used my gathered abilities, your stored memories of Summer Rose, to craft an artificial body for your Mother. It was my gift to you, for everything that you had done."

Memories.

Yes. That was it.

The N-Field was more than just an immaterial world, a dream world, or whatever. It was connected to the material world, connected to each and every person. Father's meddling notwithstanding, the N-Field was shaped by these connected people. By their unconscious thoughts, desires, and memories.

Ruby Rose had held on to her Mother's memory for so very long. From her first thought, she had held on. And Kirakishou had used this, her deepest memory, to return Summer Rose to her in the only way that she could.

She knew that Summer's nature as an artificial being probably became something of a point of contention when it inevitably was revealed to the world. Yang, especially, would have caught one whiff of Kirakishou's involvement and sworn off Summer Rose as nothing but a copy. A fake.

And Yang was wrong. At least, to Ruby.

Summer Rose meant everything to her.

"And, thus, the potential of an N-Field is witnessed by the world," Father interrupted her thoughts with the precision of a scalpel. "Kirakishou choosing to use your memories to recreate Summer Rose was unexpected, but her involvement played a critical role in further destabilising the Alice Game. Through Summer Rose's revival, you chose to connect with Kirakishou and become her Master. The Alice Game became something different, as another force entered the mix. A new tool for the Rozen Maiden to manipulate."

A new tool?

Oum. Father had anticipated even Kirakishou's actions after she had met Ruby Rose. It was beyond unsettling to realise just how much of her life had been carefully controlled and plotted by the figure standing in front of her.

Even Kirakishou appeared vaguely disquieted by the notion, which even Ruby was able to understand to be something out of the ordinary for the infallible Rozen Maiden.

She supposed that, as Father had said, Kirakishou was also capable of using her N-Field to affect the world to some degree. Meeting one more capable than even her form of reality-warping must be an odd experience, let alone when that figure turns out to be her very creator, who had engineered a fair portion of her life.

Come to think of it, she could only imagine just how Kirakishou was taking things. While Ruby Rose herself was somewhat out of the loop until she either remembered what had occurred with the Alice Game or had the memories forced into her mind, Kirakishou possessed a far greater understanding of current events.

But, Ruby knew that beyond all of Kirakishou's power, beyond her artificial nature, Father's relation to her and his very presence seemed more than enough to unsettle her.

They would endure this. Whatever this was.

They had to.

She had only just gotten Kirakishou back. She couldn't lose her, now. She just couldn't.

But why had Father done this? Manipulated events in such a way?

Father had said it, before. This entity had manipulated events, captured unknown amounts of people, and forced them into an N-Field just so that Ruby Rose and Kirakishou could meet up. Father had been aiming for this, for them to pair up. And, Father had said that it had opened up a new avenue for the Alice Game.

The Alice Game, that saw Rozen Maiden contract to others. Kirakishou, she knew, was unique compared to the others in regards to her nature of contract. As a doll without a material body, she needed to attach herself to others in order to stay alive. She needed their energy.

No, wait, aura.

But, wait, did aura-

"...Aura," she breathed. "That's what was introduced."

Even from the beginning, Kirakishou remarked on the people of Remnant. She had been overwhelmed, to such a degree that it was hard for her to even talk when they had first met. Kirakishou had been difficult to converse with, even for her, but the longer she spent in Remnant, the stronger she became.

And, when Ruby contracted with Kirakishou, the Rozen Maiden, who had been incapacitated following Summer Rose's resurrection into a doll body, was miraculously healed.

Because, now she had access to aura.

Ruby's aura.

Aura had changed everything. Somehow, the people of Kirakishou's original world either lacked aura or possessed meager reserves. So, when Kirakishou had come to Remnant and contracted with Ruby Rose, the strength of her abilities increased astronomically.

"Yes, aura. Something of a revolutionary concept, one that allowed Kirakishou to rapidly accelerate her plans. Aura was, indeed, one of the major deciding factors that came to choosing Remnant and its people as a staging ground for the Alice Game."

Kirakishou giggled, the sound was enough to momentarily draw Ruby's attention away from Father. The doll seemed faintly amused.

"Ah, a rose was somewhat surprised by the strength of aura. She should have known that such a thing hadn't been given to her through sheer chance."

A rose? Oh. Right. Now she remembered. Kirakishou liked to refer to herself in the third person on occasion. Ruby had found it cute when she first learned about her partner's little speech quirk, and she still did now.

"It is of no issue, you were far too focused on Ruby Rose to notice the peculiarities of this world of Remnant," Father deferred. "Your sister, Shinku, was somewhat close to uncovering the truth. She recognised the oddities of this space the moment she entered it, but was made to be preoccupied in order to prevent discovery."

Shinku. The blonde-haired twin-tailed doll, the one that really liked her tea done a specific way. Ruby remembered that doll from her time in the Branwen encampment. She had been close to figuring out everything? Oum. Ruby couldn't imagine what would have happened if Shinku would have figured it all out.

As a result, Father could not allow such a thing to occur. And, before Shinku had learned the truth, Father had destroyed the world.

No.

Not destroyed.

Her eyes widened in a sudden clarity.

This world is false. Father had said exactly that just before. Shinku had not been destroyed, she had been removed. Ruby had known that from before, but only now did she understand exactly what it meant. Just like all the other Rozen Maiden, they had been used for the sole purpose of pushing forth conflict for… the Alice Game. And, yet, unless Ruby was missing something, the other Rozen Maiden had never battled Kirakishou in the false Remnant.

They hadn't battled Kirakishou at all while in Remnant. They had assisted in breaking Ruby's contract with Kirakishou, sure, but they had never actively fought against the youngest Rozen Maiden.

So, had their purpose been to break Kirakishou's contract with Ruby?

No. That didn't make any sense, either. If Father had wanted to change the Alice Game by introducing aura and promoting Kirakishou's growth, why, then, would the entity conspire to break their contract?

So, therefore, the Rozen Maiden had to have a different purpose.

Or, else, why bring the Rozen Maiden to Remnant in the first place?

Their rosa mysticae were indeed real, as Father had given them to Kirakishou, so their owners had to have been real as well. Therefore they had been brought to Remnant, and promptly erased by Father.

Was their purpose to be erased?

Just more fuel for Kirakishou?

Didn't the Alice Game end if a single Rozen Maiden triumphed over all of the others? Did that mean that the Alice Game was over?

Yes. The Alice Game is indeed over, but it isn't due to Father's sudden erasure of the other Rozen Maiden. If Father had been capable of erasing the Rozen Maiden beforehand, it would have done so had it desired such. But, it didn't. Not until now. So, what happened?

What changed?

The only thing that had occurred recently had been-

"...Me?"

Now, both Father and Kirakishou stared at her.

Then, something unexpected happened.

Father laughed.

And the sound, one that should not exist, sounded like no laugh she had ever heard. Robotic? No, not like Penny's laugh….

Hollow.

It sounded so very hollow. Devoid of actual feeling.

"How hilarious," it spoke, blankly. "Once again, you arrive at the correct conclusion for all the wrong reasons. Yes, the Alice Game ended due to your appearance. However, conversely, the Alice Game did not end due to your own actions. It was due to the actions taken by the one in pursuit of you."

Here, Father merely turned to Kirakishou, and as Ruby followed suit and moved to focus on the peach-blonde doll, Kirakishou blushed bashfully.

"...Reuniting with you, Master, was no easy feat. Laplace-no-ma… it had never wanted us to be together, seeing this world of Remnant as an unnecessary diversion in the Alice Game. A threat. So, when my sisters succeeded in voiding our contract, Laplace-no-ma took certain steps to ensure we would never contract again. Overtaking an entity capable of anticipating all outcomes was a feat beyond the abilities of a pure rose."

Ruby scowled at the thought of a creature like Laplace-no-ma ever trying to keep Kirakishou away from her. Personally, Ruby knew that she had always been something of a possessive girl, with her short list of relationships prior to meeting Kirakishou always marred by her overwhelming desire to not be alone, a facet that most people tended to have trouble handling. Kirakishou, though, even in the short time that she had reunited with the doll, Ruby could tell that Kirakishou was exactly the same.

Therefore, she knew that Kirakishou would have gone to extreme lengths to reunite with her, even if the rest of the world would despise her for it- because nothing was more important than their relationship. Nothing would get in her way. Not even her sister. Therefore, it stood to reason that Kirakishou would have conspired to defeat her sisters, should the need have arisen. And, considering that they had apparently played a part in erasing Ruby's memories, Kirakishou wouldn't have had any reason not to work towards their defeat.

But… what extreme existed in the world capable of circumventing the literal personification of scientific determinism? Wait, how did she even know what scientific determinism even-

She glared at Father.

No. Ruby shook her head. She wouldn't let Father get the last laugh. Instead, she turned to focus on Kirakishou.

"What did you do in order to find me, Kirakishou?" she paused, before chuckling weakly. "I know that, whatever you did, Atlas certainly didn't like it."

Her poor attempt to improve the mood was met with a weak giggle from Kirakishou, the doll smiling at her. "Atlas, indeed, did not like it. However, using Atlas was the only way that I could get to you, Master. One of the Four Relics, the Relic of Choice, pointed me towards Atlas. And, even if it did not, the memories of my gathered seedlings indicated that you had been in Atlas shortly after the dissolution of our contract."

Ruby looked down at the reminder. Atlas… That was right. She had indeed been in Atlas for a brief amount of time. Team RWBY had worked alongside several of Kirakishou's sisters to venture into the N-Field and break her contract with Kirakishou. Somehow. She was still a bit hazy on the details, but she knew that whatever fight Ruby had put up had been utterly crushed.

But, a relic? "What's a relic?"

Kirakishou shrugged her shoulders. "Ah~ I'm not exactly sure, Master. All that a rose knows is that there are four unique relics that are scattered throughout Remnant. General James Ironwood, the former General of the Atlesian Military, had used one of the relics in order to allow Atlas to ascend to the skies."

She blinked. "...Huh. I'd always thought that the amount of gravity dust required to keep a city afloat like that would be beyond even what the Schnee Dust Company could refine," she murmured. Utilising the properties of dust in the construction of large devices had been a part of an assessment she had done in Signal, once upon a time. "So, you're saying it was this relic thing that did it instead?"

"Yes, Master," Kirakishou nodded in satisfaction, visibly preening as Ruby followed her words. She smiled. Kirakishou's affection was rather infectious, apparently. "This Relic, the Relic of Creation, can be used to design an object using information supplied by the wielder. I supplied your location, and the Relic did the rest. Without the Relic supporting Atlas, the city fell."

"Which was why you moved the civilians away," Ruby followed along, eyes wide. "And when we battled, the civilians were drawn back to the ruins and our N-Fields swallowed them up all the same. Zero losses."

It was…

Wow.

She was absolutely shocked that someone had gone so far, all for her. Some dorky little girl.

"An ingenious plan, is it not?" Father interrupted, forcefully drawing Ruby away from Kirakishou with a casual reshaping of reality. She hadn't realised that she was leaning toward Kirakishou for a kiss until just then. "A plan that, while feasible, was one that decidedly thwarted Laplace-no-ma. Curious, is it not? Per Laplace-no-ma's own design, the plan should never have reached fruition. And, yet, it did."

Come to think of it, Laplace-no-ma should have been able to stop such a plan with little difficulty. If it knew everything that was happening at any given moment, at least pertaining to the N-Field, why hadn't it been able to stop Kirakishou from reuniting with Ruby?

It couldn't have even been one of those plans that worked alongside another plan, like in the movies, because Father had said that Kirakishou reuniting with Ruby spelled the end of the Alice Game. There was no way to plan around an absolute end like that. Laplace-no-ma had to ensure that Kirakishou's plan failed.

Yet, it had succeeded.

How?

Father waved a hand, and a small crown appeared atop Kirakishou's head.

Right between her braid, situated at the exact point in her hairstyle to complement the piece. The crown completed her outfit.

Yes. That made sense. Ruby had noticed that her hair seemed odd, braided in one small part. Like something had been missing.

This crown.

She had taken it off before meeting with Ruby. And, yet, Father had implied that the crown had assisted Kirakishou in some way. She didn't understand.

Kirakishou, meanwhile, cocked her head to the side. She seemed confused.

"The crown has served its purpose. Now, it holds the same function as any other crown. Nothing more, nothing less."

The blonde doll blinked, before turning to Ruby. The confusion must have shown on her face because Kirakishou was quick to explain.

"Ah, this crown used to be another Relic, Master. The Relic of Choice. It once held the power to give a user visions of future events, to help them decide a potential avenue of action. I used the crown to devise a plan that was capable of eluding Laplace-no-ma and allowing me to reunite with you at long last."

Another Relic. Not one, but two mysterious devices had been used by Kirakishou to reunite with her. And, apparently, this one was strong enough to go up against Laplace-no-ma.

But, really? Visions of the future?

Wow.

"Naturally, Kirakishou chose to remove the Relic of Choice once it had served its purpose. A wise decision. The future is best experienced in the present. She did not wish to spoil her time with you, Ruby Rose."

Ruby blushed at the thought. Kirakishou did much the same, taking the time to also remove the crown with a simple gesture.

Father continued speaking, undaunted by Kirakishou's and Ruby's shared embarrassment. "The Relic of Choice was the key reason that the world of Remnant was chosen, that the world was emulated and the people taken. The Relic of Choice defeats Laplace-no-ma."

That was why.

Kirakishou, the Rozen Maiden.

Father had used them all. It had taken Ruby's people, the people of Remnant, and forced them to play to his strings, all in order to push Kirakishou toward the Relic of Choice and force her into devising a plan capable of defeating Laplace-no-ma.

That was why Father has laughed when Ruby had implied herself to be the key element. She was, but only in that her presence was the motivation Kirakishou needed to locate and utilise the Relic of Choice in the configuration that Father desired. It created a situation in which Kirakishou was forced to devise a plan that would see the destruction of the Alice Game and the defeat of Laplace-no-ma.

"...Ah. I didn't realise that you were so involved, Father."

Kirakishou sounded odd. Befuddled, almost. She had sounded that way for a large amount of their time with Father, actually. Clearly, the Relic of Choice hadn't given her a future that involved Father. Perhaps, by design.

"You would be surprised," Father spoke blankly. The world was rewritten in an instant, and they were standing on the docks of Vale. Nobody was around save for them. "Kirakishou's destination was always to be Vale, the city closest to Beacon Academy, where the Relic of Choice was held. From there, all that I needed to do was ensure that you two met. Save for a few choice actions, my involvement was rather limited."

She… never did find out why exactly Kirakishou had been aboard that cargo ship. She figured that Ozpin was going to investigate, but he never-

...Ozpin led her Mother to her death.

...She really hated her memories chiming in at the worst of times.

"No. That's a lie," Father was suddenly focusing on Ruby, and she shivered at the attention. Kirakishou reached for her, grabbing her hand for support. "The legend of Summer Rose is unknown to me. Ozpin's involvement was a fabrication, one meant to remove his influence."

Another manipulation.

She had hated, and forgotten, and hated, the wrong man? All because Father wanted to get rid of him?

Father had fabricated her Mother's life story?!

"What else have you done?!" she hissed.

Her silver flames roared to life, threatening. Kirakishou was not harmed, despite her proximity. Ruby would never allow herself to hurt the one she loved, and her flames knew that. They were an extension of her.

If Father appeared disturbed by the appearance of her flames, it did not physically show. Instead, Father continued speaking.

"Silver Eyes, for instance."

Ruby blinked. "What?"

"Silver Eyes," Father reiterated, gesturing to her. "There is no legend connecting the Girl Who Fell Through the World and the supposed Silver-Eyed Maiden that you now are. The upper echelons of Atlas were led to believe this myth so that they would target Kirakishou at the appropriate time. As a matter of fact, the Silver-Eyed Maiden does not appear in history whatsoever. You are the first, owing to your manifested N-Field bridging the two abilities."

What.

Altering perceived history… just to force Atlesian officials to target Kirakishou even harder than they were going to in the first place?

Oum. She hadn't even understood what she was, and yet apparently there had been a group that not only knew about Ruby's powers but were actively attempting to prevent her from bonding with Kirakishou in fear of what she could unleash.

Whatever that was.

Because, apparently, she was the first.

Though, she supposed that it made sense. If her crowning as a Silver-Eyed Maiden was only made possible due to an N-Field, and the N-Field came from the Rozen Maiden who were decidedly not from Remnant, then Ruby had to be the first. Kirakishou had only arrived in Remnant at the time that Ruby was around Vale, after all.

Unless…?

Nah.

Even for Ruby, that was too convoluted to think about at the moment.

It was all just so strange to imagine, right now. Everything that had occurred, from the very moment she had gone to the Vale docks with Team RWBY, had been engineered in order to promote Kirakishou and Ruby's meeting. All so that it would systematically alter the Alice Game into the configuration that Father desired.

Ruby Rose didn't know what to think.

She could only ask one thing.

"What else?"

Father chuckled. An odd sound, once again. "Smart of you to suspect more alterations. Very well, if we are to proceed, then I must explain it all. I shall surmise the remaining points we have not yet discussed; the Rozen Maiden were all altered in height, and their need to sleep in cases was removed. An outside adversary, known as Salem, was made to target Kirakishou. The N-Field of Remnant was made to be malleable, supporting the Rozen Maiden as much as possible while hindering Laplace-no-ma to the same degree. Certain figures were removed at potentially difficult times, namely moments where either of the Branwen siblings could have harmed you. The original world of Remnant is at a standstill, until such a time that our business concludes."

There was a pause as the silence stretched on, as Ruby realised that Father was finally done with the world-shattering revelations.

Father was giving her time to process it all, as was Kirakishou. Ruby did not need to read their expressions in order to understand that.

She needed to step back and take a moment to think about things.

A gesture from Father and Kirakishou both, and Ruby was sent away, to a place that she vaguely recalled.

A balcony.

Yes. She knew this balcony. It was the one on her dorm room floor in Beacon Academy. She had… visited Kirakishou here, at one point. Sometime early on in their relationship. It had become something special to them both. A place of reflection, solace, and warmth.

A fitting place for Ruby Rose to reflect on everything that had occurred.

Taking a seat on the stone bench, she overlooked Beacon Academy. There was no wind, nor sky, nor sun, nor stars. Yet, Beacon Academy existed at this moment because Ruby Rose demanded its existence. It had been made for her, by Kirakishou and Father both.

She knew that.

But… what Father had said…

She didn't even know where to begin. It was all just… so much.

The easiest of them all to consider was that the Rozen Maiden had been adjusted to be more suitable for interaction with others. Removing their need to sleep in a 'case', implied a staggering change to their height. After entering into a relationship with Kirakishou, she researched a bit about dolls and learned of the varying sizes and shapes of dolls. Most were rather small. A case, therefore, would likely be one made for both transportation and protection of the doll and would probably be of a scale that was easy for owners of dolls to use.

So… her Rozen Maiden was a little smaller than she previously knew. That didn't change much for Ruby. It probably had changed a fair bit for everyone else, though. She imagined that her sister Yang probably would have been far more averse to their relationship if Kirakishou was so blatantly artificial. It likely would have led to a lot of arguing and some strain on their relationship, which Ruby was glad to be without.

She had enjoyed all of her time with Kirakishou and would continue to do so, forever.

She loved her doll. She didn't care if Kirakishou had been a little smaller once upon a time. Technically speaking, so had Ruby.

Which crossed that one particular revelation off her list, unfortunately leaving the rest of the revelations wide open for analysis.

An outside adversary was made to target Kirakishou.

Salem.

Ruby Rose didn't need to know anything about Salem to know that the person was bad news. Anyone that would expressly target someone as powerful as Kirakishou to use in their plans was, likely, comparable in power to the Rozen Maiden herself. Considering all that she had learned regarding Kirakishou's power so far, namely toppling Atlas and resurrecting her Mother as a doll, Ruby could only infer that this Salem person was crazy strong to try and fight Kirakishou.

Furthermore, Ruby knew, with bone-deep certainty, that Kirakishou would not have hesitated in using Salem in her plan to rescue Ruby. Kirakishou was the type of doll that could expertly weave a web of connections between people. Throughout her time in Beacon Academy, that of which she could remember, Kirakishou had run circles around everyone there, up to and including Ruby's big sister.

This 'Salem' figure would have been just another toy for Kirakishou to play with until they served no further use for Kirakishou. The youngest Rozen Maiden only possessed an interest in Ruby Rose herself. Everybody else was only a tool to be used, and Ruby wouldn't have it any other way.

Perhaps she was a little weird in the romance department, and her partner's views on people were a little bit out there, but Ruby wouldn't have it any other way.

Kirakishou had seen something in her and hadn't let anyone else get in the way, even if the doll's actions had turned the whole world against them. Not that she really cared about what the world thought about their relationship.

She smiled at the thought.

Yes. That was right. Salem was nothing to them. Their love would endure, no matter who they faced.

Moving on, Ruby thought of the rest of Father's revelations. The N-Field of Remnant being made to be malleable for the Rozen Maiden meant little to Ruby, as it dealt primarily with how Kirakishou impacted the world with her abilities. If it was more powerful, then Ruby was happy. Kirakishou being more powerful had kept the doll safe. If she was going to go to the real world with Ruby, then it was up to her to keep Kirakishou safe! Or, now that Kirakishou had won the Alice Game, they could protect each other?

Oum. She could feel her memories flooding back now, alongside the associated feelings.

Memories of joy. Of pleasure. Of experiencing the viscerally satisfying feeling of, well, feelings.

Memories of strength. Of battles endured.

Memories of power. Ruby Rose had possessed an N-Field ever since Kirakishou had first contracted with her. The Rozen Maiden had been using her abilities to coax Ruby's Solemn Grove into fruition. As the N-Field was tied to her psyche, this led to a change in her behaviour. One that Ruby had welcomed with open arms.

Memories of a Knight. The Knight of the White Rose. Her innermost self; a fusion between Ruby, her powers, and Kirakishou's influence. It had fought Team RWBY and a majority of Kirakishou's sisters for as long as it could, before eventually falling.

The Knight of the White Rose had grown significantly once the Rozen Maiden contract had been rendered null and void. It had overgrown, and Ruby had felt the effects personally. The N-Field was a part of her, and its health correlated alongside her own. Her mounting frustration with the Branwens had forced the Knight into action, and Ruby had attacked.

Contracting with Kirakishou had stabilised her N-Field once again.

But… the Branwens… Raven Branwen and… and…. Qrow. Uncle Qrow.

Father had removed them, at a time when they could have hurt her.

Not just Raven, but Qrow as well. Which implied that Qrow would have attacked her. The sheer idea of such a thing happening to her was… well, she knew that it was a possibility… but still. Qrow Branwen had been the central figure that had trained her in using Crescent Rose. She considered Uncle Qrow to be as close to her as she was close to her own Father.

And, as her memories had shown her, Taiyang Xiao-Long was dead.

She… remembered when she had figured it out, inside the Branwen camp. Ruby had been so distracted with everything happening in the camp she hadn't even taken the time to properly grieve.

Another member of her family, cut away from her.

Could Kirakishou bring him back?

...Was Taiyang Xiao-Long even dead? Laplace-no-ma had used his body, supposedly, but Laplace-no-ma had also done the same with Qrow and Qrow was still alive to the best of her knowledge. And would it even matter, anyway, if this world she had been living inside was a fake world? Could it be different in the real world?

No. She was distracting herself from the truth.

Uncle Qrow would have attacked her, were it not for Father's apparent intervention. Considering Qrow's nature and his profession as a lone huntsman, alongside his relation to Raven, Ruby figured that Qrow probably would have attacked her sometime in the Branwen camp. He was spying on her. And, when he didn't like what he saw, he attacked.

Or, well, would have attacked, if not for Father.

In the end, even her own Uncle was just another person trying to keep her away from Kirakishou. She had always feared that Qrow would take Yang's side during their time at Beacon Academy. She should have figured that something like that would have happened eventually. Not like she even had a chance in planning for such an outcome. She had barely been keeping herself together inside the Branwen camp, let alone after she had snapped after Vernal had betrayed her.

Witnessing Qrow Branwen, her Uncle, trying desperately to prevent her from leaving the Branwen camp, would have driven Ruby over the edge. It was a cut that would have gone too deep, a betrayal that would have harmed her very self in a way that Ruby could scarcely imagine.

No. That was a lie. She could imagine it, and it hurt more than anything else. Father moving Qrow out of the picture was a small mercy, even if she knew that the entity had no real sense of value for Ruby besides using her as a tool to end the Alice Game. Somehow.

That was a lie. She didn't know that. Father didn't fit any picture that Ruby painted it in. It. Him. Whatever. She knew that Father wanted the Alice Game to end, and that was all. Everything else was speculation based on Father's actions. Moving some key figures could mean anything, really.

Furthermore, if Qrow was moved out of the way, then it stood to reason that Raven Branwen was also prevented from crossing Ruby's path. Ruby had seen the leader of the Branwen Clan fighting against both grimm and rival bandits alike with the same detached savagery that set her out as a target unlike any other. Raven Branwen was strong. Very strong. Strong in a way that made her powers roar in indignation, desperate to attack a figure that would dare use her strength for mere banditry.

To be perfectly honest, Ruby agreed. She would have happily attacked Raven Branwen had she the chance to do so, as the only thing holding her back in the past had been her relation to Yang Xiao-Long, and that bridge was burnt a long time ago.

Now, in part due to Father's interference, Ruby knew that she probably would have lost that fight. And she doubted that the likes of Raven Branwen would ever allow Ruby Rose to live after all that she had done while in the Branwen compound. She was just too dangerous, and Raven wouldn't hesitate in eliminating the threat. Ruby would have died. That was it. She believed that nothing else would have prompted Father's interference.

And, finally, the last of Father's reveals.

The original world of Remnant is at a standstill, until such a time that our business concludes.

Remnant. The real Remnant. It was still strange for Ruby to know that she had been inside an N-Field for so long, likely ever since she first met Kirakishou back at the docks in Vale. If the original world of Remnant had been frozen since that moment, would it mean that it would resume from that moment when Ruby returned?

If Ruby returned.

She still wasn't sure about what Father planned to do with her, in order to end the Alice Game.

But… if she did survive this meeting with Father, then what would it mean for the real world? Ruby would be going back a changed girl, potentially returning to a time when she was back together with Team RWBY as they gossiped about the Vytal Festival of all things. After all that she had been through, it just seemed so very odd to return to that point in time.

Not to mention, if everybody returned to Remnant at that exact moment prior to the Vytal Festival, it would put Ruby right next to her sister. After their last battle, and all that Ruby had been forced to put up with even before that, she felt that her powers would immediately act up and reduce her team to statues. Ruby's N-Field would take them, and her powers would grow ever stronger.

Right in the middle of Vale.

Now, Ruby had been somewhat detached from the people of Vale ever since Kirakishou placed her Palace of Beginnings atop Vale, but even she knew that a sudden burst of silver flame right inside the city would lead to a mass panic. And panic would bring the grimm. And her powers wouldn't hesitate to destroy each and every one of those pathetic creatures, potential civilian petrification be damned.

It would be pure chaos.

And… if everyone returned to Vale… would Kirakishou be coming back with her?

Would Kirakishou still be standing out by the docks, waiting for Ruby to find her?

Would…

Tears filled her eyes.

They were burning.

Everything was burning.

If the Rozen Maiden's reason for entering Remnant was just for the Alice Game, now that Father had ended the Alice Game, what would happen to Kirakishou?

Would she even exist in the real world? Kirakishou had said it herself, after all. The Seventh Rozen Maiden is supposed to be an astral entity. Without a body, she needed to attach herself to others in order to live. And, even when she had gained a body in the false N-Field Remnant, the need to attach herself to others had still remained. It was a part of her.

But, in the end, Kirakishou was an immaterial being. She could distort the world as much as she was able to with her powers, but it was a stopgap at best. Father's intervention had allowed Kirakishou a chance in Remnant, but it had used an N-Field as a medium. She hadn't ever been physical. Therefore, it stood to reason that the same would occur in the real world.

Kirakishou wouldn't exist.

She would be alone. Again.

And… Ruby could not have that.

"...Master."

Ruby jumped in surprise at the sound, whirling around from her position on the bench to see Kirakishou standing near the door leading to the dormitories. She was wearing the outfit that she had first been wearing when Ruby first met her on the docks- her original outfit. Her peach-blonde locks were back to their own signature style, hanging loosely with little flowers growing in her hair.

She looked so pretty. So very pretty. It hurt to imagine a world where she would ever be without this girl. This doll, that had captured her heart.

"Master," Kirakishou moved closer to Ruby, and Ruby herself barely even needed to think in order to extinguish her flames, such was her desire to be near the doll. "I could sense your distress. Father bade me visit you, to make sure that you're alright."

Even now, when they were facing an adversary powerful enough to rewrite the world on a whim, Kirakishou was still looking out for her.

As the doll sat beside her, Ruby did not hesitate to rest against the doll, taking Kirakishou's hand in her own as the two stared out into the artificial distance of the simulated Beacon Academy.

"It's just so much, Kira," Ruby confessed. "Hours ago, I was fighting grimm in a cave. After that, I was fighting my own team. My own sister. Now I'm here, and everyone else is gone, and your Father reveals that our entire time together was planned to such a degree of complexity that I can hardly understand it. What in the world am I supposed to think? How am I supposed to respond?"

She was lost.

Utterly, completely, lost.

It had been so very long since she had felt this way. Ever since she was a little girl, locking herself in her room and refusing to leave, unwilling to ever allow herself to process the fact that her Mother had-

AND SHE DIDN'T EVEN KNOW IF THAT WAS REAL OR-

...It hurt.

It hurt so, so much.

"...Ruby…" Kirakishou murmured, pulling Ruby closer to her. She didn't resist the motion and soon found her head resting in Kirakishou's lap. "...I cannot begin to tell you how to feel, how to act. You are your own person. Father has done things, many things, to coerce us into meeting, but he did not force us to be together. In the end, that was your choice, and yours alone. I did everything in my power to be yours, yes, but it was always your choice in the end."

To some degree, it fascinated Ruby how Kirakishou could still refer to Father as a person, rather than some nebulous figure. Perhaps it is due to her connection to Father. Despite her artificial nature, Kirakishou is in essence her Father's daughter. As Ruby knows all too well, the bond of family is a bond that is impossible to break.

People are so very strange. Ruby had never understood anyone else, apart from her Mother. When Kirakishou had come along, she had swiftly become the only other person that Ruby found herself comprehending. And she could see, blatantly displayed on the doll's face, that this Rozen Maiden would stand by Ruby's side regardless of their history, and regardless of whatever choices Ruby made in the future.

"...Then… what are we supposed to do?"

Kirakishou gave a weak giggle, running her hands through Ruby's red-tipped hair. Her jointed fingers felt strange to Ruby, but it was a good kind of weird that Ruby found herself enjoying to a degree that surprised her. Though, she knew she had always been something of a weird girl.

"Father wishes for you to see to the conclusion of the Alice Game, Ruby," Kirakishou stared out at the distant view of Beacon Academy, voice distant and as soft as a breeze. The doll seemed lost, almost, the same as how Ruby felt. "It… admittedly, is not the ending that pure rose would have desired. Becoming Alice this way… it felt…"

She trailed off, and Ruby found herself completing Kirakishou's words almost without realising it.

"Anticlimactic?"

The doll giggled. A soft little sound, sounding almost like a reflex than anything else. Ruby found herself giggling as well at the thought. Perhaps 'anticlimactic' wasn't the exact way she would describe her feelings regarding the Alice Game, but she wouldn't deny that it was still rather odd for Father to pop up out of nowhere.

Deep down, Ruby had been preparing herself for the Alice Game to end violently. She had been preparing to potentially attack the other Rozen Maiden in order to protect the doll she loved. Yang's interference had muddled the waters somewhat and slowed down Ruby's planning, so to speak, but she knew that she would have done anything to protect Kirakishou. Even if it meant that Ruby would be defeating the other Rozen Maiden herself.

All that Father's intervention had accomplished, in the end, was saving Ruby from having to do the deed herself.

"Yes, Master. It was very anticlimactic," Kirakishou readily agreed, nodding. "Did you know, Master, that the Relic of Choice could not predict what would happen upon Father arriving in this N-Field?"

Blinking, Ruby shook her head a little. "Um, no..?" She didn't know anything significant about the Relic of Choice that Kirakishou had used to bring her to Atlas and free her from Team RWBY, so she didn't know if the relic failing was significant. She'd figured out that Kirakishou wasn't being guided by the Relic during their conversation with Father, but she hadn't known that the Relic wasn't able to model Father whatsoever.

"Well, it couldn't," Kirakishou gave a little hum, amused. "I was rather surprised, myself. Every time we reunited in my visions, my knowledge of the timeline faded away shortly after. No future to be seen. Perhaps it was a blessing, really. I had removed the Relic of Choice for that very reason, as I did not want to know about our time together before I had a chance to experience it. Although, if I knew that Father's arrival would have led to the loss of the other roses…"

Ruby knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Kirakishou still would have gone through with the plan in spite of losing her sisters, but the knowledge of what she had to do would have pained her greatly. And, even now, losing the 'other roses' as Kirakishou put it, was still causing Kirakishou some degree of distress.

Personally, she didn't much care about the other Rozen Maiden, as they seemed determined to stop her from meeting with Kirakishou and had acted borderline compliant with Yang's over-protectiveness, but she supposed the feeling was different when they were her actual sisters. Ruby certainly knew that she felt somewhat annoyed that Father had wiped out the N-Field of Remnant, containing everyone that she had interacted with over her life.

Having Kirakishou with her was, quite literally, the only thing stopping her from attacking Father and demanding that the entity return things to the way they should be. She was an introvert, yes, but she was a possessive introvert and Kirakishou was hers. Even if Ruby knew she would lose the battle with Father, she would try regardless. Because there was nothing else worth fighting for.

The Rozen Maiden would be her past, present, and future. No matter what.

Perhaps, conversely, Kirakishou felt the same. Even if she fought against her sisters, they were still her sisters at the end of the day.

Even if they did everything to stop her, she still cared for them. Even if she shouldn't.

"...I know what you mean," Ruby admitted lowly, sighing. "Even after everything that Yang has done, she's still family. I wouldn't like it if Father got rid of her, and I know you don't like that the same thing happened to the Rozen Maiden, just so the Alice Game would be forced to a close."

Kirakishou smiled at her. "Thank you, Master. I knew you would understand, even if I do not fully understand it myself."

The two giggled then, and Ruby resisted the urge to swoon over the doll who loved her. The emotion, and the hormones, stuck her fiercely, and she struggled to resist the urge. Now was not the time for some hot and heavy action, even if she craved it with a degree of desperation that took Ruby by surprise.

"How does it feel, being Alice?" Ruby asked after a moment.

The doll paused, looking away from her. She seemed conflicted.

"...It is a strange feeling, Master. I feel so very powerful, not unlike when my N-Field is full of aura, but I also feel… something. I'm happy, Master, but arriving at this point in such a way, having the rosa mysticae of my sisters forced on me in such a manner, it feels…"

Huh. It's funny. She had all this uncertainty regarding the word 'anticlimactic' before. But, now? Now Ruby knew exactly what the doll was feeling.

"Wrong," Ruby finished for the doll yet again, and Kirakishou nodded, staring at Ruby as if she held the secrets to the universe or something. She blushed at such a heated look, but continued on. "What did Father say before? 'A girl who wishes for nothing, as she is already happy with what she has.'"

Kirakishou made it abundantly clear that she caught on to Ruby attempting to change the subject, sending her a look, but nevertheless acquiesced and gave Ruby the answer that she was seeking.

"It's to do with the Alice Game, Master. At the end of the Alice Game, it was believed that Alice would be able to make a wish. A single wish holsing infinite implications. I wanted for nothing, as you are all I wish for."

She smiled, feeling the heat of her blush creep a little lower down at the admission. But, still… "What about your sisters? If you just said that it feels wrong to end the Alice Game in such a way, are you really happy?"

"I am, Master," Kirakishou's response was immediate, as the doll stared at her. "I am with you. I am happy, always, because you are with me."

At that moment, Ruby realised that it was not Kirakishou who was unhappy, but it was her.

Ruby was unhappy that Kirakishou had been pushed to this point, to the point of unleashing her N-Field on not one but two separate occasions, just so that she may continue to be with her. Kirakishou had been fighting, endlessly, in order to be with Ruby Rose. The very world, her own Father, had worked to push Kirakishou in such a way that she would reach this exact moment, and Ruby felt that it wasn't fair.

She shouldn't have had to have fought at all!

None of the Rozen Maiden should have been fighting.

Her Team, Team RWBY, shouldn't have been forced to pick sides, to split up and to argue over Ruby and Kirakishou.

Yang shouldn't have been so opposed to Ruby spending time with Kirakishou.

Ruby shouldn't have been made to defend herself.

Kirakishou shouldn't have been made to go to such a length over something so beautiful as love.

Yet, all of them had done it, anyway, Ruby included… because they all believed in their own intentions. They all had their own individual wants and desires, and fought against the world in order to achieve what they desperately wanted. Everyone had been fighting for so long, so very long, and Ruby…

She didn't want anyone to have to fight, anymore.

She… she just wanted to be free to spend time with the one she loved, without the world on her heels.

It wasn't fair.

Ruby sat up, and Kirakishou looked at her inquisitively.

"...Can you take me back to Father? There's something I need to say."

Whether Kirakishou was surprised by her sudden request or expecting it, her expression remained carefully collected in a small little smile, as the Rozen Maiden gave her something resembling a curt nod.

"Hold my hand, please."

Needing no further assurances, Ruby eagerly grabbed the doll's hand, feeling a peculiar tingle in her body at the feeling of Kirakishou's jointed digits. She had always enjoyed the sensation of her partner's artificial joints and seams, feeling the distinct uniqueness of her lover. It held a particular reassurance to Ruby that she would forever cherish.

Kirakishou is hers.

As Ruby held Kirakishou's hand and the world before them faded out as the colours of Beacon muted into a stark white tone. Unlike when Father and Kirakishou had first sent her to the illusionary Beacon, the change was gradual this time. Soft and soothing, gently drawing Ruby back into the moment. It was something of a unique contrast between Kirakishou and Father, in how they used their abilities. Without Father's influence, Kirakishou's own style became apparent.

"You've returned."

This time, Ruby did not shudder at the sound of Father's voice, nor did she feel revulsion at his mere appearance. Instead, she saw him as nothing more than another threat to Kirakishou. An all-powerful one capable of shaping the very world, yes, but a threat nonetheless. One that was acting uniquely placid around her, despite being more than capable of ruining everything that Ruby Rose had built for herself and for Kirakishou.

"I have, and I have a few words to say to you."

Kirakishou made to step away, to allow Ruby and Father a moment of conversation, but Ruby stubbornly held the doll's hand tighter and refused to let go. This was to be a moment for all of them. The Rozen Maiden sent her a brief smile and relaxed.

"As expected," Father nodded his head, sighing despite the obvious physical impossibility. "Speak what is necessary, and I shall both listen and understand to the best of my abilities."

Ruby took a deep breath.

"...You're a terrible Father."

And it felt so very satisfying to speak the words aloud.

Kirakishou snapped to stare at her, her lone slit amber eye appearing wide and utterly shocked by what she said.

Father, meanwhile, slumped as if wounded. "Yes, I am."

Now it was Ruby's turn to be surprised.

"You agree with me?"

"I do," Father gave a simple nod, and Ruby noticed that he had been remarkably emotive ever since she had come back with Kirakishou. "In my grief, I created the Rozen Maiden. Surrogates. Dolls in lieu of her. However, in the end, I was still their Father. And a grieving Father should never take out his grief on his children. I failed."

"Father…" Kirakishou murmured, lost. It was odd. The doll seemed genuinely surprised by Father's admission and seemingly didn't know what to do with herself after hearing it. Ruby could only imagine how the doll felt after hearing that. Oum. Kirakishou had been trapped in the N-Field for so long, and still technically was given the state of Remnant, and likely hadn't experienced much in the way of paternal interaction. Let alone paternal affection.

Ruby had felt much the same for her Mother, Summer Rose. When Kirakishou had returned Summer Rose to her, the feelings inside her had been staggering. More than she could handle, more than she could ever hope to properly express. Ruby had been trapped in her own little world for so long, that the sheer experience of seeing Summer Rose again had shaken her to her core. Every word, every single movement Summer Rose had taken, had been etched into her soul.

"...Well, I'm glad that you understand, then," Ruby felt the wind taken out of her sails by Father's admittance. However, she forced herself to continue regardless of her feelings. "Why did you do all of this? Bringing Kirakishou here, making Remnant into an N-Field? Why go to all of this hassle?"

There it was.

The questions that needed to be answered.

"I wished to make amends," Father turned away from her, and the world changed.

They were in a small room. Wooden. A house, maybe? There were doll parts everywhere. Discarded tools all over the floor. Paper, so much paper. Designs and drafts, compounded and changed and forgotten time and time again. All sitting there, surrounding Father as he sat in a small chair, facing away from Ruby and Kirakishou, with his hands on an aged wooden desk.

"Creating the Rozen Maiden was not without cost. The rosa mysticae that Kirakishou now holds were all once pieces of my own soul. I gave up everything to create the Rozen Maiden, all in the hope that I would somehow stumble and recreate my original daughter. Yet it never worked."

"It couldn't work," Ruby realised aloud, voicing words that needed to be voiced. "No matter how many times you try, each person is unique. And, it's the same for the Rozen Maiden, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is," Father sighed. "Even twins are similarly dissimilar. Perfection is imperfection and even a doll forced into the immaterial world may materialise, if she wills for such. In my grief, I attempted to simplify the soul."

"And the Alice Game?"

"Another attempt to fix what was never broken. When all of the Rozen Maiden had been created, I had become a shell of a man. Consumed by the past. I believed that, if the rosa mysticae were imperfect, they could be made perfect by combining them. Thus, the Alice Game was born. The idea of Alice, the perfect girl, was realised as both a possibility and an impossibility. Sisters fought Sisters, all because I couldn't let go."

"If you hated it so much, why didn't you try to stop it? Why did you bring the Alice Game to Remnant? Why did you manipulate everyone? Why repeat what you hated?"

"Necessity. The people of Remnant, and Remnant as a whole, provided a unique playing field capable of rendering the Alice Game essentially defunct given the right setting. The utilisation of an N-Field provided both a malleable landscape to manipulate and freedom for the people of Remnant once the Alice Game was concluded."

Ruby shook her head. "That's just justifying the actions you took. It's a bad justification, but I can understand wanting to right your own wrongs. You didn't need to kidnap an entire world to do that."

"In a perfect world, no, my actions would not have been required. However, the introduction of Laplace-no-ma into the Alice Game created a game that never ends, forever monitored. Breaking the Alice Game required Remnant and the tools that it possessed. I do not regret the actions I took in order to right my wrongs."

Ugh! It was just so frustrating, dealing with Father. She had thought that she was making progress, getting him to open up, and suddenly it almost feels like she was back to square one!

"So, in order to right your wrongs, you would commit countless more?"

Father stared at her, silently, for a moment. Ruby felt the odd sensation that he was mad at her. Frustrated, perhaps? She couldn't be sure. Oum, Ruby wasn't even certain how she could pick up on his emotions in the first place.

"And that leads us to the core of the matter. The Alice Game is over. We can argue about the details and the strategies taken to lead to this scenario, but, in the end, it is still done. Now, however, we must look to the future."

Something about those words made Ruby feel cold.

Kirakishou tightened her grip on Ruby's hand for a moment, and Ruby felt the sensation lessen. She sent a thankful smile over to the doll and reigned in her nerves once more. When Ruby turned to focus back on Father, she maintained a calm and collected front.

"What are you planning?"

Here, Father chuckled.

"Not me. To the victor goes the spoils, and I did not win the Alice Game."

Ruby made to turn to Kirakishou, only for Father to draw her attention once more.

"No. Not Kirakishou. You, Ruby, hold the future in your hands."

Silver Eyes fluttered in confusion. "...Me?"

"Yes. The victor of the Alice Game is able to cast a single wish. Kirakishou, for all of her time as a Rozen Maiden, wishes for nothing. She is happy, because she has you. However, the Alice Game still calls for a wish, and you must take responsibility. That is my 'plan', so to speak. I wish for you to make a wish, and in doing so, rewrite history."

...A wish?

She… it… it just sounded so… fantastical.

Ruby knew that Father wasn't attempting to deceive her, albeit not through a complete and utter lie, as he had mentioned something similar regarding Kirakishou after she had been forcefully given the other rosa mysticae of her sisters. Kirakishou had wished for nothing, because Ruby was all Kirakishou desired, to a point where any wish she made would be rendered moot. Pointless.

Once upon a time, Ruby Rose would have thought the same about herself. The world could have burned for all she cared because it seemed that everyone she met had tried their hardest to get in the way of her relationship with Kirakishou. Now that she knew the truth, that Father had manipulated the world so that he could end the Alice Game, Ruby found herself contemplating her feelings toward the rest of Remnant.

Now, she found herself holding the potential to rewrite history, whatever that meant.

Well, she supposed the best way to figure out everything was to ask the only two people who knew anything about it.

"Rewriting? What do you mean?"

"Outside of the N-Field, Ruby," Kirakishou took the chance to explain. "Father brought all of us to an N-Field of Remnant, and your wish will determine the state of the material world. You could wish for anything. Past, present, future. All of it is in your grasp. You wish could be simple, or it could be complex. A singular wish, or many. That is the power you now hold."

"Know, however, that regardless of your choice, this N-Field will be removed. You will return to the material world, and this N-Field will cease."

"So, Ruby, choose."

"Choose what you would like."

...Choose.

It felt so weird, to be given a choice in something so… grand. So over-the-top. While she knew that Father wasn't attempting to deceive her, she knew that Father likely had some sort of plan in mind that ended all of his failures once and for all. Father was remorseful, somewhat, and had taken actions to end the Alice Game. For that, she was thankful, even if she thought he was a jerk about it all. Father had essentially created a situation that she needed to resolve.

Because she couldn't let the world stay like this.

If she wished for nothing, and Father somehow let it slide, she could just imagine what it would be like.

Ruby would return to Remnant, likely at the same time she had first met Kirakishou. Father had said that the original world was frozen in time, after all. She would return to Remnant, and everybody would hate her.

She didn't even know if Kirakishou would be there. And that, above all else, terrified her beyond belief.

Oum, she had thought about this very same possibility just before, and here it was, legitimately possible. Ruby had every possibility at her fingertips, even the bad ones.

She couldn't allow Remnant to exist without Kirakishou standing beside Ruby Rose. That much was a given. Even if their relationship hadn't started in the most organic of ways, it was their relationship and Ruby would defend it as much as possible. She was in love, and nothing would change that. Even herself, with this stupid wish.

But what about the others?

Prior to her kidnapping at the hands of her team, Ruby Rose had been quite content with Kirakishou keeping people inside her Palace of Beginnings. They were all dreaming their own idyllic dreams while supporting the Rozen Maiden that Ruby Rose loved with all of her heart. They were free from the grimm, free from panic, free from everything bad. They were happy.

Ah. That reminded her. The grimm needed to go. If her wish allowed her to change all of history, then those things were being wiped from existence. It was as simple as that.

For everyone else, though…

While Ruby understood Kirakishou's need to capture people inside her Palace of Beginnings, after doing something similar herself with the citizens of Atlas and Mantle during her fight, Ruby thought that the world would be a little… weird if everyone barring Ruby and Kirakishou was either crystallised or petrified. Especially if they had been manipulated by Father in the past and were effectively innocent. Why force people into an idyllic life if they are already happy where they are?

Therefore, if she removed Kirakishou's necessity to attach herself to others using her N-Field, then it would free up the people and give both Ruby and Kirakishou some people to play with as they spent their lives together.

Oh, and Ruby wanted to spend an eternity with Kirakishou. Just because she can. She's not going to just rewrite all of reality and then have to suffer arthritis or a bad back or… whatever else that old people dealt with.

...And, perhaps, she was a little bit curious to see how it felt like to be a doll. Very, very, curious.

She wanted to feel Kirakishou's hands on her body… like that time in that abandoned village…

What would it be like, if the two of them had artificial bodies? Lovers frozen in time? Laying down on a nice bed… Perhaps one of those four-poster beds? With a silk sheet? Kirakishou, right there, laying down on her back, hair going everywhere like a sheet of its own? Ruby, moving closer and closer~

Hubba hubba.

Shaking her head to dismiss her increasingly lewd thoughts, Ruby refocused on her potential rewriting of all reality. Because, apparently, that was a thing she had to deal with now.

So, if Ruby became a doll, what of the other Rozen Maiden? She had felt particularly defensive of Kirakishou's sisters after seeing their untimely end at the hands of Father, tossed away like nothing. Even if she didn't rightly care about the dolls that much, they were Kirakishou's sisters and deserved more than being just a footnote in Ruby and Kirakishou's life. Perhaps she could do something for them?

Ruby figured she owed them that. Even if they did try to fight her.

On a similar note, Ruby Rose was keeping her powers. As was Kirakishou. So, to be fair, so was everybody else. Except for the people that directly interfered with Kirakishou.

Right. Cinder and whoever that Salem person was. They were out. Laplace-no-ma, too. Father had said that Laplace-no-ma was defeated, but she would wish it defeated as well. Defeated and removed. Just to be certain.

Ozpin? Well. Father had said that he didn't know anything about Summer Rose, and made up her story. So Ozpin was actually innocent. Or, at least, innocent for Father's story. So she supposed that Ozpin was alright. He did have that cool older teacher vibe going for him, even if he was the headmaster and likely didn't even teach any classes.

Come to think of it, Ruby really enjoyed her time at Beacon Academy. Barring the explosions. Well, barring the explosions that she didn't cause. That one with Weiss was actually pretty funny in hindsight.

She enjoyed meeting up with Kirakishou inside Beacon Academy. There was always something so exciting about it. A secret little meeting~

Oum, Ruby was weird. But she liked being weird.

Speaking of weird, Summer Rose was coming back to her. That was that, end of story. So was Dad. They deserved to be happy together.

And… Yang deserved a Mother, too. Ruby didn't want to go too weird with her wish and rewrite personalities or anything like that, so making Raven not abandon her was off the table. Though, if Summer was brought back she wondered if Raven would just rock up and join the group or something. She did used to be in a team with Ruby's Mom, after all.

Speaking of, Qrow was coming, too. She didn't care that he was going to attack her outside the Branwen camp. He was nice, and funny, even if he drank a lot and cheated in video games. Without the Alice Game, there would be no need to attack Ruby, anyway.

Yes, that was it. N-Fields or not, they were all going to be happy. Everyone would be happy.

They didn't have a choice.

"I wish…"


Ruby awoke with a subtle purr, squirming pleasantly as she felt ball-jointed fingers running across her body. With a little peak, she confirmed the truth. Kirakishou had stolen into their room again. The little Rozen Maiden was snuggled up against Ruby, nuzzling her head into the crook of Ruby's neck, smiling pleasantly in her sleep.

More than likely, Kirakishou was off tending to her N-Field again. She had been doing that quite a lot, recently. Something to do with her Palace of Beginnings.

Armed with the knowledge that her doll was fast asleep, Ruby stretched her own ball joints, relishing the experience of feeling the doll's artificial skin against her own. Ruby had found herself growing more comfortable with her body as of late and had worn a simple oversized shirt and panties to bed. As it would appear, one of Kirakishou's hands had slid under Ruby's shirt to rest on her collarbone, while the blonde doll rested her smaller body directly atop Ruby's own body.

Kirakishou had opted to wear her signature ornate undergarments, a frilly singular piece of cloth that felt so very smooth against Ruby's surprisingly sensitive artificial body. She had always admired the garment, one that highlighted Kirakishou's beauty in a delightfully intimate manner.

The sound of a sudden click filled her with dread.

"Well, well, well! Look what we have here!"

Oh, no.

A bunch of giggles were the last thing that she wanted to hear. And, yet, it still occurred in spite of her wishes.

"Looks like someone had a visitor last night!" none other than Yang Xiao-Long crooned victoriously, a devious smirk on her face. A smirk that was matched by her two other traitorous teammates, Blake Belladonna, and Weiss Schnee. All of Team RWBY was dressed in their nightwear, indicating that the girls had only recently woken up.

Probably because Ruby had been making… noises. She tended to talk in her sleep ever since she had met Kirakishou, and having the other doll in such close proximity… touching her… was more than enough for her to-

"Eep!"

Kirakishou shifted and murmured in her sleep, and the hand that had been holding onto Ruby's shoulder slipped a little lower, while the Rozen Maiden nuzzled against Ruby in a way that set her artificial body aflame.

A trio of giggles echoed from around her, and Ruby glared mutinously at the three traitors. "Not a word," she hissed.

Raised hands signaled surrender from the interlopers until Weiss Schnee decided to open her big mouth and ruin everything.

"We don't exactly need words when we have all the pictures in the world."

Pictures. Plural.

Oh, Oum. Why did this have to happen to her? She was just a normal doll! She shouldn't have to deal with this! Ah, this was so embarrassing!

And how was Kirakishou still asleep?!

Well…

Huffing to herself, she decided to take the only action she could and activated her semblance. A flutter of silver petals later and she was standing on the ground with the rest of her team.

Wait. If she had been in her bed, her bunk bed that was raised high, then how did the rest of her team manage to take pictures of Kirakishou and Ruby from the ground?

Oh.

Turning back to Kirakishou, the blonde little doll that was groggily shifting about now that her favourite Ruby plush had been removed, the evidence became clear. Ruby had fallen asleep in the wrong bed last night, having tired herself out from studying and collapsed on Weiss's bed instead of her own. Kirakishou had, evidently, stumbled across Ruby slumbering on Weiss's bed and decided to join her. Considering that the rest of the team had been out late last night, they probably would have arrived back to their dorm room to find Ruby and Kirakishou snuggling.

For hours.

"You guys are the worst!" Ruby grumbled petulantly, crossing her arms and pouting.

"Now, don't be such a baby!" Yang teased, triumphantly showing off her collection of stolen photos like a crook teasing an agent with their hidden prize. There were so many, too! "I didn't know that you could be so bold, oh sister of mine! And on the Ice Queen's bed, too! How scandalous!"

"Hey!" Weiss swatted Yang's arm with a glare on her face, before turning her ire over to Ruby. "And you! Your own bed was right there! Why did you have to collapse on mine?"

Uh.

Ruby was about to respond when the sound of a cute yawn drew her attention. She turned to Weiss's bed, spotting a certain Rozen Maiden sitting up on the bed and stretching her arms. Even sitting up straight, Kirakishou's hair was so long that it fell across her back and pooled over the bed, touching the ground. With the light shining in from the curtains, her peach-blonde hair shined vibrantly, and as Kirakishou's lone slit amber eye opened, it found Ruby immediately.

"Ruby…" Kirakishou mumbled, evidently still a little sleepy. "Why did you have to get up? I wanted to snuggle some more. You're so very warm for a doll."

Said doll blushed bashfully at the inadvertently embarrassing words, while Blake elbowed her from the side, serving only to inflame her blush even more. Ruby wasn't entirely certain how far her blush could reach, but she figured that it was going pretty strong right about now! She just had to stumble onto Blake's little hidden stash of racier literature while studying last night, didn't she? Now that she was seeing Kirakishou, right there, it was giving her ideas.

At the worst time, too! Ah!

A low shake of Blake's head and a chuckle caught her attention momentarily. "Honestly, Yang, when you hatched this plan I didn't think that it would pay off. Then, your doll of a sister does her best tomato impression and I'm immediately proven wrong. Impressive."

"That's the Xiao-Long mind for you! Always planning," Yang visibly preened, puffing herself up in the most obnoxious way that Ruby had ever seen.

Kirakishou cocked her head to the side, quite visibly confused, and Ruby's shoulder's slumped. The peach-blonde-haired doll looked to her for guidance, and Ruby managed a shaky smile. "Don't worry about them, they're just a bunch of dorks."

With something resembling a shrug, which did absolutely wonderful things to her ornate nightwear, Kirakishou accepted Ruby's words for what they were. The other doll had always been like that. As long as she was with Ruby, Kirakishou was as happy as can be. Everything else had such little value to the doll, serving only as a manner to entertain both Ruby and herself.

Something that Ruby found herself enjoying as of late.

Moving in a way that she was certain was purposefully done to draw her eyes, Kirakishou got up and made a beeline for Ruby, embracing her in a gentle hug. Ruby's arms wrapped around the smaller doll, before Kirakishou tilted her head up and the two dolls met in a chaste kiss. Behind them, the other members of Team RWBY cooed and catcalled in their own ways, but Ruby paid them no mind.

When they separated from the kiss, Kirakishou smiled pleasantly at her, before turning to the team. "Ah. Apologies for interrupting your night. I could not resist."

Weiss was first to respond, the Schnee Dust Company heiress rolling her eyes as she flicked her hair. "It is of no bother. Besides, perhaps having you around more often will ensure that our gracious team leader does something other than studying herself to exhaustion every night."

Ruby pouted, while Yang whistled. "Wow," Yang shook her head, grinning all the while. "Never thought I'd see the Ice Queen advocate something other than study!"

"Oh, please," Weiss tittered, sniffing at Yang disinterestedly. "I am merely looking out for my team leader's health, as is befitting of a member of Team RWBY. There is nothing wrong with that."

Said team leader felt like she was about to pass out from mortification.

Or blurt out some convenient excuse that got the rest of Team RWBY out of the room so she could play with her doll.

One of the two, really.

"...We probably should get ready for the day, now," Blake was ever the voice of reason, the feline faunus already grabbing a bundle of clothes. Oh. Right. School day. "We've got sparring with Goodwitch first up. The last thing I want to do is fight the likes of Suigintou or someone with an empty stomach, so we better get to the cafeteria ASAP. Also, shotgun."

And with that, Blake Belladonna activated her semblance and was in the shower before Yang could think to stop her. Ruby giggled. Seems that someone was learning. After having to deal with her sister stealing all the hot water for so very long, it served her right to be forced into taking a shower later.

Yang, thankfully, took the ribbing in good stride and playfully swatted Blake's semblance-generated doppelganger to dispel it, as the girls all dispersed to grab their clothes for the day. Kirakishou quickly stole the moment and gave Ruby a quick kiss on her cheek.

"I shall go meet with the rest of my team now, Ruby. I'll… meet you at the cafeteria?" the doll whispered, sounding hopeful.

Oum. The sheer concentrated cute was enough to make her swoon.

"It's a date," Ruby whispered back, nodding. As she nodded, she accidentally bonked her head against Kirakishou and the two giggled. She didn't mind that her little commotion with Kirakishou probably set her back in the race for a shower. She could always use her N-Field to clean or to force the others to give her the next place if she felt like it.

As Kirakishou left, Ruby moved back to her bed and sat down, sighing pleasantly.

"Oum, it's something of a minor miracle that you two dorks ever managed to get together in the first place," Weiss playfully chided, the heiress digging through her dresser to grab out a copy of her huntress gear. Having sparring class first up dictated that students come wearing their huntress gear rather than their uniform, which was both a blessing and a curse for poor Ruby Rose.

She may have something of a fascination with seeing Kirakishou in the Beacon Academy uniform. Ruby always knew that she held somewhat peculiar interests, and Kirakishou pushed all of her buttons in the most delightful way. Especially after that time when Ruby had dared Kirakishou to try on her huntress outfit. It had taken mere seconds before she was pulling the outfit off Kirakishou, along with everything else.

Oum. Just the thought alone was enough to make her-

"And she's off to fantasy land," Yang jeered, snapping Ruby out of her pleasant daydream as she glared at her meanie of a sister. "Oh, don't give me that look. I knew the second that you started dating that it was going to be a wild ride for everyone around you. Kirakishou's sisters probably think the same, to be honest."

"Oh, I can guarantee that they do," Weiss confirmed with a conspiratorial giggle. "You should have heard what Suiseiseki said to Souseiseki after class yesterday…"

Ruby tuned out the gossip, having learned full well that it wasn't worth the effort it took to listen. Team ROZEN, which included all the Rozen Maiden and Sakurada Jun, was somewhat infamous in Beacon Academy. As an eight-person team, one that didn't follow the standard naming conventions in the slightest, they were all something of a source for gossip around the academy. The Rozen Maiden tended to stick to themselves for the most part, but the group had been slowly opening up to the others recently.

Though considering her somewhat blatant relationship with Kirakishou, she figured that it was only a matter of time before the other Rozen Maiden started interacting with everyone. Not that she really cared about all that relationship drama and stuff. She just liked how their semblances were super crazy strong. Watching the Rozen Maiden spar, let alone actually fighting one, was an experience that Ruby absolutely enjoyed.

And, on the rare cases that Kirakishou herself actually decided to spar, Ruby often found herself weak in the knees just watching her beloved doll bounce around the room, as a menagerie of white vines and teal crystals popped up all over the place. Kirakishou's skill with her N-Field was leagues above any of the other Rozen Maiden, and even Ruby Rose with her own N-Field couldn't hold a torch to the seventh Rozen Maiden.

It didn't matter, though. Kirakishou was still teaching Ruby how to handle her N-Field. In time, she would get better at using it on the battlefield. And, then, those shades wouldn't know what hit them!

Then… she could challenge Kirakishou to a spar… and get an edge on her lover… and she would…

Ah!~

Time passed, and fantasies continued to flicker through her mind as Ruby went about her day. Ruby soon found herself in the cafeteria, eating her breakfast beside Kirakishou. A secretive handhold occurred beneath the table, something of a playful game between the two dolls. The other members of Team ROZEN were all in attendance as well, save for Sakurada Jun and Souseiseki. Sakurada Jun was nowhere to be found, though she supposed the boy was off cleaning up after the Rozen Maiden. They were all a lively bunch, and poor Jun had taken it upon himself to play caretaker. Meanwhile, the more boyish Rozen Maiden liked to go for jogs in the morning before classes started, typically alongside a few members of Team JNPR. Perhaps Jun decided to take up jogging alongside Souseiseki?

Early in the morning was a pretty good time for a run, Ruby supposed, as most people tended to filter into the cafeteria. Even if Ruby and the Rozen Maiden didn't technically require food and drink in order to function, they all seemed to enjoy the activity regardless. As did Ruby. Kirakishou, especially, seemed to love it whenever Ruby dared to try her skills in the kitchen. Even if Ruby considered herself something of an amateur cook, as the Emerald Forest Fire could attest to, Kirakishou still always looked forward to her next Ruby-cooked meal.

And Kirakishou loved helping out in the kitchen, too. Even if the two of them tended to get distracted by each other quite a lot, often requiring one of their teammates to come and break them apart. It was something of an unwritten rule after Ruby inadvertently glassed half the Emerald Forest that one time. It wasn't her fault, though! Kirakishou had spilled some cookie dough on her dress and Ruby just couldn't let it go to waste, and she discovered that the doll was ticklish on this one particular spot and-

Oum. This always happened, now, whenever she was in the cafeteria with Kirakishou.

Unbidden, the Rozen Maiden sent her a knowing smile from her position next to her, and Ruby guiltily smiled back.

"Look what I've found," an all too familiar voice called out from behind her, and Ruby stilled. Oh no.

"Indeed, you have. And look at this!" another voice pointed out her most devious secret. "They're holding hands underneath the desk, too!"

Ruby was grabbed and smothered immediately, as her CRUEL AND TERRIBLE ASSAILANT forced Ruby's blush to reach new levels of mortification. The other Rozen Maiden stopped in their tracks, halting their breakfast activities and turning to face the exact two people that Ruby didn't want to see at this very moment!

"Oh, Tai! My daughter is the cutest! Look at my little girl! Isn't she adorable? Isn't she?"

"Yes, dear, she's very cute," Taiyang Xiao-Long answered with a long-suffering sigh, having grown used to Summer's antics a long time ago. The little smile creeping up on the edges of his lips confirmed that which Ruby had always feared- that her Dad was nothing but a traitor.

"Mom!" Ruby spoke the words in a way that only a teenage daughter could, whining petulantly as she forced herself away from her insufferably embarrassing mother. And, by Oum, if Summer Rose didn't have the most foxlike teasing grin on her face right about now! Oh, she was gonna get them back for this! "Dad! Do something!"

Taiyang merely shook his head, and Ruby wallowed in defeat as the gathered Rozen Maiden all giggled at her misfortune. A sound echoed by what felt to Ruby like half the damned cafeteria!

"It's good to see you, Miss Rose, Mr. Xiao-Long," Shinku spoke dutifully, sparing Ruby further embarrassment as the red-clad Rozen Maiden calmly placed her cup of tea down on the bench and regarded the two teachers with a polite smile. Ruby rolled her eyes at Shinku's adherence to formality. She always referred to Mom and Dad in such a way. Something about their choice of names. Not that it really mattered. "Would you both care to join us?"

"If only to hear more baby stories about Kirakishou's Master," Suigintou 'helpfully' added, as Ruby shot the silver-haired Rozen Maiden her meanest death glare. Oh, come sparring class she was going to definitely exact her revenge!

Summer Rose giggled, latching onto Tai's arm like the lovesick schoolgirl in a teacher's body that Summer Rose was, shaking her head and pouting. "Oh, I'd love to, but I'm just passing through. Technically, I'm supposed to be teaching the second-years right about now, but I heard that my little daughter was grabbing something to eat and I couldn't resist seeing her!"

The gathered Rozen Maiden collectively chuckled at the tried-and-true response. Summer Rose had made something of a habit of checking up on Ruby each and every morning, even if she had classes on that morning. As second-years started an hour earlier compared to first-years, any classes starring Summer Rose in the morning were typically delayed as Summer took the time to dote on her daughter.

It had happened so often that, supposedly, Headmaster Ozpin was thinking about setting second-year classes back an hour just to accommodate for Ruby's eccentric Mom.

And she wasn't even going to start thinking about her Dad and his own choice of schedule. The less that was said about his work, the better.

How embarrassing! Ahh!

"Well, be sure to eat your greens, missie! I want you to be good and ready for when you join my classes! Just because you're my daughter doesn't mean that I'll go easy on you!"

"Yes, Mom," Ruby murmured under her breath, blushing. She's a doll, anyway. It wasn't like food really did much. But still, her Mom always wanted the best for Ruby.

Huh. Summer really loved her that much. She was so happy to have parents that cared for her to such a degree, even if they liked to embarrass her at times.

They loved her. And it was all that mattered.

She couldn't stop the smile on her lips from appearing, which clearly had been exactly what both her parents had been waiting for. She jumped into their arms in a flair of silver petals and the three of them spun around a little bit, laughing all the while.

When the chuckles died down and both Summer and Tai left, Ruby quickly returned to her seat. Chatter resumed in the cafeteria, and things were back to normal.

"Ruby?"

Drawn out of her thoughts, she turned to the source of the question, finding herself staring at Hinaichigo. The pink-clad Rozen Maiden was typically pretty quiet, choosing to spend time in Team ROZEN's larger dorm room. According to Kirakishou, she liked drawing and playing games, but was incredibly shy.

The other Rozen Maiden, apart from Kirakishou, were pretty protective of the girl, which is probably why they've gone silent following Hinaichigo's sudden question.

"Yes, Hinaichigo?" Ruby turned to speak to the girl with the softest voice she could make. "Sorry if I wasn't listening, before. I tend to get lost in my thoughts."

"...Would you like to come over to my dorm room after class, today? I want to draw some things, and I could really use your input."

Ruby blinked, surprised at the question. She hadn't really been inside Team ROZEN's dorm room that much, excluding the times when she'd fooled around with Kirakishou. But, well, that had all been limited to Kirakishou's bed. And the shower. And the bath. She hadn't really paid that much attention to the rest of the room.

And drawing? While it was sweet that Hinaichigo was opening up to her, she didn't really have that much interest in drawing, at least when the drawings didn't involve weapons. And, well, Hinaichigo didn't seem like much of a weapon schematic type of girl.

"Well…" Ruby paused, glancing at Kirakishou. She had kinda been planning to go out to Vale with Kirakishou after classes. From what she heard, there was this big festival occurring at the moment and Ruby really wanted to explore the festival with her doll. From what Ruby could remember, it was some kind of celebration. Something to do with the other Kingdoms.

"...Please," Hinaichigo pulled out the big guns.

Ruby melted almost immediately.

"Well… okay, but only if Kirakishou can come as well!"

Hinaichigo's eyes immediately flickered over to Kirakishou, and the two Rozen Maiden stared at each other. There was something in the way that Hinaichigo looked at Kirakishou that briefly made Ruby feel somewhat uncomfortable before she dismissed the feeling as nonsense. Eventually, Kirakishou smiled and Hinaichigo quickly looked away from the doll, her eyes finding their way back to Ruby.

"Okay. I'll… meet you two after survival class with Professor Branwen?"

Ruby nodded with a smile. "We'll be there!"

She didn't need to ask Kirakishou if she was alright with the sudden change in plans. Ruby knew that Kirakishou didn't particularly mind where they went. In truth, neither did Ruby. She was happy.

Besides! A new experience would be fun! She wondered if Kirakishou knew how to draw. Could she draw Ruby, perhaps? Could she draw Ruby naked?~

Ah. She had it bad. It was such a shame that she hadn't had a chance to be alone with Kirakishou since the last time. Everyone seemed to hover around Ruby and Kirakishou today, and she was getting a bit pent up.

"I think that we should get to classes, perhaps!" Kanaria jumped from her seat, proclaiming the words with such force that she seemed more like a naval officer addressing a fleet than a little girl declaring her intent to get to class really early.

"...Classes don't start for another twenty minutes, Kanaria," Suigintou drawled. "That's more than enough time to finish our food in peace, and make our way over-"

"No! We have to go, now!"

And, they went.

After all, Kanaria had won the bet yesterday.

She knew she should have picked the monkey that one time. Foiled again!

And, as Ruby soon found herself in combat class, Ruby admitted that it was probably for the best that they had gotten to class early. Ruby was able to meet up with the rest of her team, apologise for sitting with the Rozen Maiden once again, and share notes with everyone. Today, they were studying auric reinforcement, and Ruby had found a really cool technique that theoretically should work on people without a full-fledged N-Field.

Naturally, the best way to learn how to reinforce aura was while under duress. And, a certain Nora Valkyrie got to play the 'duress' today. She was saddened that it wasn't Suigintou being the one to fight them all, but Ruby supposed that the winged Rozen Maiden would probably just fly overhead and pelt them all with feathers. While Ruby had a few ideas on how to counter such an assault, namely by using her silver flames and a barrage of shots from Crescent Rose, it wouldn't be that entertaining of a battle.

But, that was fine. There were always other times when a good fight would occur. As a huntress, Ruby Rose was going to be fighting her fair share of battles. Likely quite a few, considering she was a doll that didn't have to worry about the same things that other humans or faunus fretted about all the time.

Another thing that Ruby Rose was able to enjoy was that her partner was a doll as well.

Playtime with Kirakishou was always an exciting event, and Kirakishou tended to come up with some very intriguing ways for the two of them to spend their time together. Ruby Rose had always found herself to be something of an affectionate person when she was around Kirakishou, and the peach-blonde doll knew a variety of ways to prompt Ruby into acting in ways that were… well, it would certainly be embarrassing if someone discovered them.

Nevertheless, classes for today weren't that much of a struggle. Professor Doctor Oobleck was off ranting and raving about the history of Remnant, assigning the class an essay that Ruby Rose was pretty confident she could have handled in no time. She'd been studying a fair bit, after all. Anything to provide for the rest of Team RWBY. She wanted to be the best team leader in the history of Beacon Academy! Considering Team RWBY's grading so far, Ruby figured that she was doing a pretty good job!

Though, when all of those people from the other Kingdoms were scheduled to come over for some big tournament thing, Ruby wasn't certain how her team would perform. She knew that they would do well, of course, but would they win?

She knew that a lot of the Kingdoms were rumored to have strong fighters. They were the only types of rumors that she listed to, after all. And, according to her sources, Mantle, in particular, had a bunch of really strong teams. One of the students, a girl named 'Megu', supposedly had a really strong semblance. And Ruby had heard similar tales about a student at Haven, too, regarding a soft-spoken girl that was undefeated in battle.

Team ROZEN would absolutely demolish any competition, she bet. But that was just because that team was bonkers. In a tournament setting, they would probably have to do an 8v8 set with two teams against Team ROZEN, or they'd be forced to separate into 4v4 with only a select group of dolls. She hoped that if the latter was the case, Kirakishou would be selected to join the group.

Well, maybe not. Because then there was a chance that Team RWBY would have to battle Team ROZEN for first place. And, well, Ruby didn't know if she could handle having to fight Kirakishou like that. She, um, imagined that they would get… distracted. With each other.

The last time they did a mock battle, they almost broke curfew! And Ruby needed to buy Kirakishou a new dress. She, um, may have gotten a little bit handsy at one point. But Kirakishou was asking for it! Dressing so cutesy.

It was not fair!

Stupid cutesy lace-up thigh-high boots. Stupid ornate dress.

Would she look good wearing something like that?

No. Wait. Ruby had tried that before. And it led to more distractions.

Ah. She was blushing again.

Class with Professor Doctor Oobleck ended soon enough, and Ruby moved with the rest of her team over to Professor Branwen's class.

Apparently, Qrow was teaching today. She much preferred it when Raven was teaching the class, as Yang tended to embarrass herself fangirling. Survival class was always really fun for Ruby. Professor Branwen, whichever one of them, tended to lecture them all on real-world practical advice, which was downright therapeutic after a history lesson.

Team RWBY tended to excel quite a lot in survival class, as they had more than a few real-world survival stories to their name already, despite being first-years. Ruby happily took notes, making sure to assist her team as necessary. Weiss tended to struggle with the more Vale-centric knowledge snippets, while Blake tended to get worked up whenever Professor Branwen talked about faunus capabilities. Which, considering the history of both professors, typically revolved around strength optimizations for allies and weakness capitalizations against enemy faunus in a survival situation.

Meanwhile, dealing with Yang in survival class was essentially just making sure that Yang didn't volunteer herself every time. Practical knowledge was good and all, but Yang's repeated assistance with Professor Branwen tended to paint a target on her blonde sister's back, one that distracted her from proper training as she dealt with the bullies in the one way that Yang knew best.

Which was precisely why Yang was on Professor Peach's blacklist after the professor had been forced to deal with all the people Yang sent to the infirmary. While Professor Branwen, especially Raven, tended to approve of Yang's approach, Ruby knew that it was just a result of their history. Familiarity or not, she worried that Yang would one day go too far to be considered self-defence.

Thus, it fell on Ruby Rose to look out for her big sister.

Oh! There it goes. Classes were all done. Filing out of the room, Ruby distributed her notes for the class and set up a time in the weekend for her team to go over what they had learned, to a collection of good-natured groans, before she met up with Kirakishou outside of Professor Branwen's classroom.

Kirakishou had a different class this afternoon. Biology class with Professor Peach? Something like that, Ruby assumed. It was an elective that Ruby hadn't bothered to take. Kirakishou had been interested, however, and Ruby had encouraged the peach-blonde Rozen Maiden to take the course despite the lack of Ruby's presence.

She regretted that. Her mind tended to wander without Kirakishou nearby.

Ah, the sacrifices the made for the betterment of the one she loved!

"Hello, Ruby~" Kirakishou greeted her with a quick hug that Ruby happily returned, as her Silver-Eyes oh so greedily admired Kirakishou clad in the Beacon Academy uniform. The doll pecked her on the cheek, before moving out of the hug. "How was school today, beloved?"

Preening at the constant confirmation of her relationship status, Ruby Rose grinned widely. "Oh, it was just great! Sparring was really fun today. Nora Valkyrie, one of the members of Team JNPR, was fighting a bunch of us today in a training exercise. I think my aura got a bit stronger from that! Your idea about using the N-Field to reinforce auric flow during battle was really helpful, too. It helped me keep going far longer compared to anyone else. Professor Goodwitch was really impressed!"

Kirakishou had been there. However, Ruby knew that Kirakishou had a habit of tending to her N-Field whenever she wasn't actively participating in a spar. Thus, Ruby liked to fill her in regarding current events.

The peach-blonde doll smiled at her exuberance, giggling. "I knew you could do it, Ruby!" Kirakishou excitedly praised her, causing Ruby to preen further. "You're getting much better with your use of the N-Field. Soon enough you could prove a challenge for any of my sisters."

Ruby took the praise at face value, knowing all too well just how powerful the Rozen Maiden could be. Especially when they used their N-Fields. As the foremost expert on N-Fields, an assessment like that from Kirakishou was high praise indeed.

"Thank you very much!" Ruby grinned before a certain tingle made itself apparent and she leaned forward. "I'll be sure to show you my appreciation later~"

Kirakishou blushed bashfully, looking away. Ruby was about to tease her doll further when another presence caught her attention. Oh, that's right. After the hectic day that she'd had, Ruby had forgotten about meeting up with Hinaichigo.

Hinaichigo walked over to them slowly, and carefully, weaving her way through the other students that meandered out of Professor Branwen's classroom. The blonde doll was carrying a pink textbook in her hands, one that she recognised Hinaichigo holding whenever she went to art class. Ruby assumed that Hinaichigo had just finished art class and came to wait for Ruby and Kirakishou. Considering that art class was on the other side of the academy, and had likely just finished at the same time as survival class, Ruby was pretty impressed at how fast Hinaichigo had been able to meet them here.

For a brief little moment, Hinaichigo just stared at the two girls, her eyes immediately flicking over to focus on Kirakishou. Something prodded Ruby to cough, if only to draw the doll's attention, and Hinaichigo quickly moved to look over at Ruby. It was then that Ruby noticed she had grabbed Kirakishou's hand, tugging the peach-blonde Rozen Maiden closer to her body. Kirakishou, for her part, seemed happy to indulge.

"It's good to see you, Hinaichigo," Ruby smiled as gently as possible, reaffirming to herself that it was only natural that Hinaichigo would be more comfortable around her own sister instead of Ruby Rose, a girl that she barely knew. "How was class?"

"Fine," Hinaichigo shrugged, unconcerned. She paused for a second, looking thoughtful, before blushing. "Um. Would you like to come back to my dorm, now, or do you want to change or something?"

Looking over to Kirakishou to see that the Rozen Maiden was unconcerned either way, Ruby could see that the figurative ball was left in her court to decide. While Ruby wasn't all that used to using the N-Field to change clothes yet, not like Kirakishou, she also had something of an interest in keeping her partner wearing the Beacon Academy uniform. If Ruby changed clothes, then so would Kirakishou.

"I-It's fine!" Ruby cursed her stutter, blatantly ignoring the heat in her cheeks that had been surfacing periodically for the better part of the day. "I've still got my drafting supplies in my bag," Ruby ruffled her backpack for emphasis, "would that be enough?"

Faced with a familiar subject, Hinaichigo nodded happily. "That should be fine," turning toward Kirakishou, she made a questioning hum. "Ah, but what about you, Kirakishou?"

Kirakishou merely turned to Ruby and gave her a hopeful smile. "May I borrow your supplies, Ruby?"

She sent the girl a heated look in response. "Oh, I'm sure I can arrange that…" Ruby murmured, tightening her grip on Kirakishou's hand.

A cough from Hinaichigo brought the two girls out of their fantasy, as both Kirakishou and Ruby sent the girl apologetic smiles. They tended to act like a couple of dorks around each other.

"Um… if that's all, can we go, now?" Hinaichigo thankfully directed the subject away from anything that her budding libido could latch onto.

Ruby nodded with a smile. "Lead the way!"


"...No change at all. Still. It's fascinating."

Suigintou nodded at Shinku's words, crossing her arms. "It's almost like she doesn't even remember the previous world in the slightest. It doesn't make any sense to me why someone would wish to erase their own memories in place of this… fantasy."

From his position between the two dolls, Sakurada Jun released a low sigh. The boy was propped up against the wall of an empty room that the Rozen Maiden had appropriated for their weekly meeting.

"I wouldn't be so dismissive, Suigintou," Sakurada Jun shook his head, looking down at his own hands. "Have you never wished that prior events would have occurred differently? To change the past and correct the present? Kirakishou herself promised my unwound alternative a similar fantasy, once upon a time. It should be of no surprise that Kirakishou's own Master would choose to do so when given the opportunity."

Suisuiseki grumbled from her position on the bed, occupied alongside her twin sister Souseiseki and Suigintou's immediate younger sister Kanaria.

"But to waste the Alice Wish on something like this?!" Suiseiseki crossed her arms, glaring at nothing in particular. "It's barbaric. Why change the world to such a degree?"

"Who even knows with those two, anymore," Suigintou scoffed distastefully. "She remakes the world in her own image, into this idyllic academic setting, then forces herself to forget what's occurred? Why, then, allow us to remember?"

"I do not believe that she intended for us to remember at all," Kanaria spoke up. The little doll, formerly contracted to some high-up Atlesian bigwig, had been rather conflicted ever since the Alice wish had occurred. "And, despite what it may seem, Ruby's wish was made to specifically include all Rozen Maiden and Sakurada Jun. Just… it seems like she forgot to remove all trace of the former Remnant."

"Removing the beasts of dark and replacing them with these… shades, was an interesting choice. Why didn't she just wish for the complete and utter eradication of the creatures? Why replace them?" Souseiseki wondered aloud. "It seems something of an odd decision."

"Considering how she was acting in our last battle in the former Remnant, Ruby Rose may just enjoy fighting," Shinku theorised. "Thus, she wished for opponents that may give her some challenge. Or, perhaps, the appearance of these creatures was a consequence of the specific phrasing of her wish?"

"Either result is equally possible," Suigintou allowed, with a noise of discomfort following alongside her. "Although, at this point, the only thing that I'm certain about is that Ruby Rose has no memory of the former world. There's no way that the girl would act as friendly to us were that not the case."

General noises of agreement echoed throughout the room from the gathered Rozen Maiden and Sakurada Jun.

"I've noticed that Kirakishou's N-Field is behaving differently in this world, as well," Suiseiseki tentatively admitted. Suigintou had suspected this, of course, but hadn't been certain. "Her range has expanded to an extreme degree. I would not be surprised if it covered the globe at this point. However, there has been no reported incidents of any disappearances, nor have I detected any change in her aura."

"More than likely, she's using all of your gathered rosa mysticae to fuel her abilities beyond that which her seedbed was able to reliably generate before," Sakurada Jun suggested. "Ruby's wish likely ensured that Kirakishou kept the rosa mysticae that she gathered in the former Remnant, while somehow still allowing for all of you to still function."

"Which doesn't make any sense, but that's a wish for you," Suiseiseki huffed in a blatant display of annoyance. "So, what do we do, now? We're still not even certain if Kirakishou remembers, let alone if she's planning anything for this new Remnant."

"Oh, I guarantee that she's planning something," Suigintou groused.

"For now, all that we can do is to continue to observe Ruby and Kirakishou. Provided that the two continue to live out their own idyllic time together, I believe that we shall be relatively free to do whatever we desire," Shinku admitted. The red-clad doll paused a moment, before purposefully moving her hand to rest atop Jun's hand. The boy jolted at her touch, before sighing and relaxing. "We need to stick together. All of us."

"Agreed," Suigintou nodded alongside all the other dolls. Before she smirked and placed her own hand atop Jun's other hand. This time, all the other dolls reacted with varying degrees of indignation, lunging toward the silver-haired doll. A flicker of her wings saw the group of dolls mock fighting in the small room, while a certain spectacled Master looked on in exasperation. And quite the luminescent blush.


Deep within her field of vines, Kirakishou eyed the other roses. As Ruby Rose and Hinaichigo continued with their drawings, Kirakishou surveyed her sisters as they plotted. The other Rozen Maiden believed themselves to be secure, having used Hinaichigo as a distraction for Kirakishou and Ruby Rose, but they had not counted on Kirakishou being able to view her N-Field even while interacting with others in the physical world.

She was learning such interesting things from the other roses, as well. What was this about another world? A wish? Kirakishou had suspected that her Master had made a wish, of course, but she hadn't anticipated a wish quite as complex as the one that the other Rozen Maiden believed had occurred.

Not that it mattered, in the end.

Kirakishou loved her Master very much and would do everything in her power to ensure that Ruby Rose was as happy as could be. The other roses would make useful toys for the two of them.

She always did enjoy playing with dolls.

END.


A/N:

Imagine.

As a writer, you wished to design a character. One character. One that encapsulated everything about you. About your goals, your desires, your need. They were to be your masterpiece.

Imagine, one day, you stumble across your character. You find that she has already been made.

What would you do?

Would you war with yourself? She can't be your masterpiece. There's no way.

Would you stagnate? She already exists. There's nothing you can do.

Or, would you contribute?

I chose to contribute. I saw a lonely doll in a forgotten story and did all that I could to contribute. To add just a bit. Just a little bit, to a character I so adore.

That was this story. It may not be vastly popular, or some bestseller or anything like that, but it's mine. Just my little way of contributing.

Thank you all for reading my story.