Finally! A chapter with a reasonable word count! I'd almost forgotten what it was like to write one.
Anyway, great news, guys!
First off, thank you to Angel Faux for putting this story on the Fanfic Recommendations page for RWBY Crossovers on TvTropes! This is only my second story to receive such an honor and I am thrilled it is being enjoyed so much! :)
Second, some wonderful person (Angel Faux, if this was you again, thank you again!) has gone to the trouble of creating a TvTropes page for this story! EEEEEEEE! It's not too big at the moment, so if any of you readers want to head over there and add more tropes or awesome moments to its pages, I would be immensely grateful! Watching said pages get built up brings me immense joy! :)
Beta-ed by xenosaiyan
"Nothing," Weiss spitefully grumbled, the heiress's arms crossed over her chest as she impetuously pouted. "Weeks of research through every library and database in Vale and there's nothing about 'Fusion' or 'Fusion Monsters' or even just purple-bordered monster cards!"
"Darn," Yang nonchalantly replied, polishing Bumblebee with a smile as Team RWBY stood with the rest of the first-year class in the middle of an auburn Forever Fall clearing, a scattered few of the students standing by their personal duel runners. "Guess you invented a whole new Extra Deck type, sis. Congrats!"
"Nah, it's not new. Blake and Jaune knew what it was," Ruby remarked. She leaned over towards her black-haired, bow-wearing teammate. "But that means if you'd like to teach me how to summon my new monster friend, I'd love to learn–"
"No," Blake flatly answered.
"Drat," Ruby pouted, pulling back.
"I don't know why you're so dead set on hoarding this knowledge from us," Weiss complained. "We're teammates. Learning about this rare summoning style could make us all better hunting duelists."
Blake glared at the white-haired girl. "I told you. Nothing good will come of those cursed monsters."
"What does that mean? 'Cursed' monsters?" Weiss flailed.
"I've gotta agree with Weiss on that one, Blake," Ruby said. "Some monsters may be more intense than others, but there aren't any 'cursed' ones. It's not Roman Torchwick's Barrel Dragon's fault that its duelist is a jerk."
"The answer is still no." Blake snapped.
Ruby sighed. "Fine. I'll just ask Jaune."
Weiss deflated. "Do we have to?"
"You guys know I can hear you, right?" Jaune pointed out, leaning in from where Team JNPR was standing around Pyrrha's Argus Chariot next to their sister team.
"Eh, don't let the Ice Queen get to you, Vomit Boy," Yang (kinda?) reassured him. "She may hound you for your Onomatopeia Gang lost episode, but she ain't gonna admit that she can learn something from you."
"That's because there isn't anything I can learn from him–you have a copy of the Onomatopeia Gang's lost episode?!" Weiss squealed, whirling on Jaune so fast the blond huntsman had to bend back and nearly fall back onto Pyrrha's duel runner.
"Uh, yeah. I can bring it to our next watch party. And I can totally help you guys learn about Fission monsters," Jaune said, only to tilt his head as if he was listening to someone unseen for a brief moment. He paled. "I mean Fusion Monsters."
He flashed a nervous smile, but Weiss's eagerness had already vanished from his error. She pulled back to her team and gestured to him with an annoyed huff. "Yeah, I don't think we're getting anything useful out of him."
"Come on, Snow Angel. Give me a chance. I can help," Jaune said. For some reason, he shot a pleading look at the empty air next to him for a few seconds, before making a small fist pump. "A Fusion monster is usually summoned by activating a spell card, most commonly Polymerization, but more powerful archetypical versions do exist–"
"Polymeri–what?" Ruby sniggered.
Jaune snorted. "Oh come on, like you've never heard a weirder spell card name?"
"Well, no. But most of them come from archetypes that already have pretty weird names–"
The teens whipped around towards Professor Goodwitch, who stood at the other end of the first years and glared at Ruby, Weiss, and Jaune. The teams immediately hopped back into their assigned positions, Weiss schooling her face into attentive perfection while Ruby and Jaune nervously whistled.
Professor Goodwitch frowned, but let their prattling go as she stepped back to address the entire group next to half a dozen unremarkable Beacon duel runners. "Welcome to your first Practical Duel Runner Training Session, students. While many of you no doubt have your Turbo Dueling license and have participated in matches in official arenas, hunting duelists, team scouts especially, will have to duel over far more hostile terrain in the field. The purpose of these sessions is to acclimate you to different landscapes in as safe a manner as possible, beginning with the forests of Forever Fall. Do not be fooled by the trees' beauty. The Creatures of Grimm roam this forest. Do not venture outside the assigned area–"
Ruby and everyone else in the clearing whirled towards the boisterous hoot, the roar of a motorcycle engine accompanying the joyful shout. The silver-eyed girl's eyes widened as she watched a guy ride his duel runner through the canopy, skillfully bounding from branch to branch. He somehow never picked a tree limb that couldn't hold his vehicle's weight, not touching the ground until he landed in the clearing and skidded to a stop in front of the students.
The rider had a mop of blond hair under a golden helmet, an open Ra Yellow jacket that showed off his perfectly sculpted abs, and a monkey tail coming out the back of his waist, but Ruby honestly didn't care much about that, her eyes attentively focused on the new runner. It was yellow, paler than Bumblebee, but a lot more scratched-up, like it'd been ridden through a sandstorm every other week. Despite its beaten-up look, Ruby could tell at a glance the ride was top-notch, the suspension customized to easily be able to handle the deft tricks the rider had been pulling off up in the canopy.
Yet, when the guy took off his helmet and flashed a dashing smile, it was that which caused half the students to swoon. Ruby rolled her eyes. Seriously, did no one but her and Yang appreciate a well-crafted duel runner anymore?
"Mr. Wukong," Glynda dryly intoned, the serious professor most definitely not swooning at the new arrival. "You were supposed to remain in the cleared area."
"Sorry, prof. It's my first time in Vale. Couldn't resist taking in all its natural beauty," the monkey faunus said, actually sounding genuine. Of course, immediately after, he shot a flirtatious wink at Blake. "I'll admit though, Forever Fall's got nothing on the beauty here."
Blake blushed at that, the demure duelist suddenly fidgeting like the schoolgirl they often forgot she still was, what with her usual stoic and quiet routine.
Professor Goodwitch sighed, turning back to the students. "Everyone, this is Sun Wukong from Haven Academy. Like you, he is a first-year, an admission to the Cultural Exchange Program of this year's Vytal Festival. He and our other guests will be serving as teacher assistants in their specialty areas in addition to continuing their studies. As his showboating has displayed, Mr. Wukong is an expert in Duel Runner hostile terrain handling. I expect you to give his words the same weight you would mine."
"Cultural Exchange Program?" Jaune muttered, quizzically leaning over to Ruby. "Did I miss something?"
"Did you see that Haven kid with the silver hair napping during Professor Port's lectures?" Ruby asked. "Or that weird Atlas girl who could actually keep up with Professor Oobleck's?"
"They're from other schools? I was wondering why their uniforms were different."
Ruby snickered. "Most of the other academies' students aren't arriving for the Vytal Festival until next semester, but Professor Ozpin's started up a program this year where one student from each year of the other schools can come early. And, you know… exchange culture."
"Pfft. Most of them, maybe," Weiss sneered under her breath. "I've heard of this faunus rapscallion."
"So much that you focus on him being a faunus," Blake scowled.
"And a rapscallion," Ruby noted. "Whatever that means."
"He wasn't chosen for the program," Weiss growled. "He stowed away on the ship bringing the actual Haven exchange students."
"That's just a wild rumor," Blake argued. "You can't judge him based on something that probably didn't even happen."
"Oh no, that totally happened."
Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Jaune all turned to find Sun merrily waving at them only a few feet away, Ms. Goodwitch leading away the students with personal Duel Runners along with a few other students, including Ren and Nora. Yang merrily waved to them as she corralled Bumblebee away at the back of the line, Pyrrha calling back a faint "I'm sorry," to her left behind friends as she walked side-by-side with Yang and Argus Chariot.
"I couldn't wait to come to Vale, so I hitched a ride," Sun smiled. "Professor Goodwitch wanted to send me back in a body bag if you know what I mean, but Headmaster Ozpin let me stay and take one of the Shade slots."
"And what about the actual Shade students?" Weiss huffed. "I don't suppose you cared about taking one of their slots."
"I mean, I would have, but it turned out they didn't send anyone."
Sun chuckled. "I grew up in Vacuo. Take it from me, you gotta be stubborn to survive the desert, but it's not always great when it comes to little stuff like international cooperation. Headmaster Theodore apparently didn't like the idea of Ozpin trying to 'weaken his best students' before the Vytal Festival by having them learn at Beacon."
Jaune cocked an eyebrow. "But, isn't Beacon the best of the academies?"
"Don't tell anyone from Shade that. Or Atlas," Sun furrowed his brow in thought. "You could probably tell us Haven guys that. Headmaster Lionheart's great, but none of us are really singing the school's praises."
"That's about what my uncle's told me," Ruby piped up. "So, Sun, why exactly is Professor Goodwitch walking away with most of the students including my sister, who between this and when we arrived at Beacon I should really put a bell on to keep her from suddenly abandoning me?"
"Yeah, you guys were talking through the prof's explanation of that," Sun said. "She's taking the students that scored high marks on their Duel Runner aptitude test from your entrance exams to learn more advanced stuff, while I help out you beginners."
Weiss crossed her arms and turned up her nose at Sun. "As if we could learn from a showboating rulebreaker like–"
"Beginner?!" Ruby squawked, for once out-indignation-ing her partner. "I am not a Duel Runner 'beginner'! What test are you even talking about? I didn't take any Duel Runner test!"
"You didn't?" Sun queried. He pulled out his scroll and searched through several lists before coming to Ruby's Beacon I.D photo. "You're Ruby Rose, right? Wow, early admission! Nice, girl! You must be an awesome duelist!"
"Why thank you," Ruby preened. "But again, what test? Why am I in the beginner group?"
"According to this? You're fifteen. Minimum age for a duel runner learner's permit is sixteen."
Ruby suddenly went pale, Weiss, Blake, and Jaune all turning to her, confused.
"If you don't even have a learner's permit, how are you not a 'beginner' on a duel runner?" Blake inquired.
"Heh, my uncle considers small laws like that, and a few big laws, as more 'guidelines'," Ruby revealed, nervously rubbing the back of her head. "Don't tell my dad."
"Done and done, dude," Sun said, shooting Ruby a thumbs-up and a reassuring smile. "According to this, Ozpin got special permission from the council to let you operate a runner in class, but, officially, it's your first time driving. Got it?"
Ruby sighed. "Got it."
Sun clapped his hands and rallied them and the other students to the three Beacon standard duel runners. "Okay everybody, gather round. To start off, I want everyone to get on one of these runners and do a lap around the clearing. You can go as fast or slow as you're comfortable with. This is just to let me know what you all can do. So, who wants to go first?"
A hoard of hands went up among the students.
"Me!" Ruby squeaked.
"Me! Pick me!" Jaune called, his fingers high in the air.
"Alright, I saw you, you, and…" Sun cycled through two students near the front before spotting Jaune's hand. "You. Alright everyone, come on and pick a runner."
"Yes!" Jaune cheered, running forward. "Time to make Saphron proud!"
"What?! No fair! My hand was up before his," Ruby whined, petulantly crossing her arms. "This always happens when I stand next to a tall person. They never see the short person standing next to them in the back. It's discrimination, I tell you."
"It's really not," Blake groaned.
The black-haired girl pulled her X-Saber deck out of her Gambol Shroud duel disk and started idly shuffling them to keep her hands busy. Weiss walked over to Ruby and gave her partner a soft pat on the back.
"Don't be so glum, Ruby," Weiss comforted her, before glaring at Sun as he helped Jaune and the other two students onto the Beacon runners and sent them driving around the clearing. "If your uncle has already trained you, I doubt this scoundrel has anything to teach you."
Blake frowned, the speed of her shuffling increasing. "Oh, I don't know about that. From the sounds of her uncle, Ruby learns best from scoundrels."
Ruby sighed. "He did take me from garbage to awesome in–"
"She's not in combat school anymore," Weiss said, turning towards their other teammate. "Skilled or not, Beacon shouldn't foist criminals into positions of authority."
Ruby cocked an eyebrow. "I mean, stowing away on a ship hardly makes him Roman Torchwick–"
"Criminals in positions of authority? Really, that's your problem, Ms. Jacques Schnee?" Blake challenged. "Or is it something else?"
Ruby's head whipped between Weiss and Blake, the pair glaring at each other. "I get the feeling I am no longer a part of this conversation."
"I don't care for what you're implying, Blake," Weiss icily replied. "But I will point out that the kingdom's recent string of dust robberies are incredibly similar to the rash of White Fang train hijackings of SDC shipments that have been occurring in this very forest for years. Reports of black duel runners riding in from above, crashing through windows, I'd be surprised if the Odd-Eyed Bandit herself wasn't behind it–"
Blake's eyes narrowed and she missed a beat in her shuffling, her deck exploding all over the ground. "You don't know the White Fang is behind those robberies!"
"Ah, Blake," Ruby spoke up. "Your cards–"
"I read the news!" Weiss spoke louder. "The police have been quite upfront about the robberies' culprits."
"They don't have anything but circumstantial evidence! The White Fang don't go after small-time dust stores!"
"What do you know about White Fang tactics?!"
Ruby groaned, kneeling down and gathering up the scattered X-Sabers back into a deck. When she looked up and saw Blake and Weiss spatting more and more fiercely, their arms flailing about to help emphasize their fiery points. Not really having an opportunity to safely replace the deck in Gambol Shroud, the red-hooded girl settled for stowing them away in the deck box on Blake's hip. Fortunately, it was big enough that the new cards fit just a bit snugly beside the deck already inside.
"And Jaune Arc's the first person to make a lap!" Sun announced, giving Jaune a friendly clap on the back as soon as the other blonde got off his duel runner. "Congratulations, man. That was some smooth riding."
"Thanks. It was like riding a bike," Jaune nervously replied, unable to hide his hands' slight shaking as he took off his helmet. "Which was really good because my sister really undersold how hard those things are to control."
"Horsepower has that effect. You'll get the hang of it. Just be glad you don't have to do anything tricky on it yet. Remind me to tell you about the time I had to skip Golden Nimbus over there across the Vacuo dunes, through a sandstorm, while being chased by a pack of Deathstalkers. Of course, back then it was called Banana Slamma, but my partner begged me to change it when we met at Haven, and you know what, I'm getting off-topic," Sun said. He turned back towards the rest of the students. "Okay, who wants to go next–"
Ruby's arm shot into the air as soon as he spoke the first word, but, once more, she was cruelly betrayed by a friend.
Blake whipped out of her argument with Weiss and stomped through the crowd like a living wrecking ball, students fearfully leaping out of the way of her furious glare. She marched up to Sun and Jaune, plucked the safety helmet from the latter's grip, and put it on over her long ebony hair in the same movement as she claimed the training duel runner for her own.
A roaring rev of the engine and she shot away like a bullet. Except bullets didn't curve like she did.
Blake ollied her duel runner up to one wheel and yanked it up with her aura-enhanced strength. The bland motorcycle launched up into the air and came down on the thick crook of a mighty oak. Somehow, Blake angled the vehicle, which did not have the customized suspension that Sun's runner had, so that its wheel touched the wood so perfectly that her momentum took her further into the air. In the blink of an eye, she was up in the canopy, dancing across the branches, keeping to the edge of the clearing while still easily speeding fast enough to pass the two riders tepidly taking the smoother path on the ground.
Which meant she reached the Beowolf that burst out of the woods first.
"Woah! Everyone get back!" Sun shouted, stepping in front of the startled students and deploying his duel disk, already pulling a card from his deck. "Blake, peel off!"
Ruby dashed forward with her semblance, a card already on Crescent Rose and Roxrose Dragon summoned behind her. She was pleased to find Weiss only a step behind her on her glyphs, the heiress flanked by two Phantom Knights. Ruby suspected that her and Blake's mutual negativity had drawn the Grimm to the clearing, but no matter what arguments they might have been having, the Schnee girl would always strive to protect her teammate.
Fortunately, Blake didn't need protection.
Without missing a beat, the dark-haired girl's runner bounced off her latest branch and she flew at the Beowolf, Predictably, the lupine Grimm saw her coming and lashed out, its vicious claws streaking up to smash the motorcycle. Except the moment its blow struck, Blake and her duel runner disappeared like a shattered holographic monster, the shadow clone dying as the genuine articles were shoved right above the Beowolf's head.
Far too close to be stopped, all seven hundred pounds of Blake's duel runner dove down into the Grimm and smashed its skull into the forest floor, the dark beast's skull ground into dust.
At the head of the group, Ruby, Weiss, Jaune, and Sun's jaws all dropped as the dark-haired Ra Yellow nonchalantly finished her lap of the clearing as the Beowolf's body disintegrated to black ash behind her. Ruby imagined that all the students behind them had similar expressions of awe on their faces. When Blake parked the runner and took off her helmet with an exaggerated flip of her flowing obsidian locks, she could have sworn she heard one of the aspiring hunting duelists swoon and faint from an overload of awesomeness.
"Hot damn!" Sun exclaimed. "That was the most badass thing I've seen all week."
Blake sauntered over to him and handed dutifully handed him her helmet. "What can I say?" She shot Weiss a cutting, victorious smirk. "I have a good teacher."
Weiss was knocked out of her stupor of admiration by that, crossing her arms and snorting in a huff. "Please, don't give this numbskull credit for your excellence."
"Oh? How unlike the Schnee heiress to be so dismissive of her teachers," Blake pricked, Weiss turning the same shade as a Mystic Tomato.
"No, she's totally right. I haven't taught you guys anything yet. That badassery was all you," Sun said, not noticing the silent grudge match playing out before him. He pulled out his scroll and began searching through its lists again. "How'd you even score low enough on the test to be in this group? There is no way you shouldn't be in the advanced group."
Blake didn't answer his question. The proud Ra Yellow merely stalked over to Ruby and Weiss and fixed the latter with another piercing glare, the Obelisk Blue eagerly returning the vicious stare.
Ruby's rapturous awe instantly deflated. She really hoped this wouldn't become a trend.
"At least the White Fang can drive a runner without wobbling!"
"I told you, I wasn't used to it! Nana Schnee's Graceful Blizzard had a different balance!"
"Because it's a tricycle!"
Back in Team RWBY's dorm room several hours later, Ruby found her hopes denied. Yang leaned over to her.
"So… I heard Blake divebombed a Beowolf with a duel runner, which side note: hot," Yang remarked, her lips pursed as she looked ahead at Blake and Weiss with distaste. "But how does that fit into this?"
"And how do we make it stop?" Nora groaned, her face pressed into her palm hard enough to leave an impression. "Ren, can you semblance them?"
"Without their consent, it would be unethical," Ren noted, his own face drooped. "Though, perhaps not inconvenient."
Ruby sighed, unable to argue with her friends as Weiss and Blake continued to spit arguments and glare at each other. It had been hours! And if anything they'd just gotten worse! It was Inter-Team Onomatopeia Gang night! Couldn't they cool it just for a bit!?
"Hey guys!" Jaune said, entering with Pyrrha behind him and a disc in his hand. "Good news, Weiss. I have the lost episode!"
Weiss paused and turned away from Blake for the first time in hours, her eyes locked onto the lost episode disc. "Thank you, Jaune."
A faint smile pricked up on Ruby's lips. Could great and wholesome children's television be the key to bringing a moment of peace?
"Thank you for bringing it," Weiss whirled back to Blake and stomped towards her. "Which was pulled from the air because the White Fang bombed a cultural center!"
"They bombed the Lagune Center of Mistralian Culture. A building named for an incompetent racist responsible for thousands of innocent deaths." Blake spat. "Oh, but I'm sorry you lost an episode of tv."
"There were people in that building when those animals blew it up–"
"Okay, that's it!" Ruby yelled.
Blake and Weiss both whirled on their leader, shocked that a third person had dared shout over them. Ruby took advantage of their distracted state to march over to their desk and grab Myrtenaster and Gambol Shroud. She then stomped up to her teammates and latched each of the devices over their arms, reaching into each of their deck boxes on their hips and loading the cards into their duel disks.
"You two have been arguing for hours and made zero progress," Ruby declared. "So book a sparring arena and let your cards do the talking. Duel! And your feelings will reach each other better than if all you do is talk."
Blake and Weiss blinked at the red-hooded girl for a moment, then their duel disks. Then their eyes found each other and the glares returned.
"I'm game," Blake taunted.
Weiss sneered "I couldn't agree more."
The black and white stormed out of the room.
"They really should have renamed that cultural center," Ren noted. "General Lagune wasn't even from Mistral."
"Plus he lost the war. Really dumbly," Nora added. "Why would they name anything after him in the first place?"
Yang carefully walked up to Ruby. Both of them looked out the open doorway, their teammates leaving a miasma of trepidation in their wake.
"You sure a duel is really gonna help them?" Yang asked.
"It always helps me," Ruby shrugged. "And if it doesn't, at least we'll be a bit farther away from the shouting."
All the times Blake had imagined facing down a Schnee in a duel, it'd been a dramatic battle atop the roof of their burning mansion, their ivory tower brought to rubble as she drove the final nail into their coffin of oppression. Instead, she was facing off with Weiss as a teammate, albeit one she was currently supremely vexed with, while their other six friends observed from the stands. What unexpected turns life took.
Still, she wouldn't let Weiss's bigoted, sheltered, brattish views stand. Sure, it wasn't exactly the grand fight against systematic oppression that she'd always imagined, but it wasn't a match she could afford to lose either.
The arena's protective energy barrier for the audience flared to life, Gambol Shroud and Myrtenaster both expanding into their active states.
Blake Belladonna: 4000 Life Points
Weiss Schnee: 4000 Life Points
Both hunting duelists drew their hands in the blink of an eye… and Blake immediately paled as soon as she saw hers.
"I'll go first!" Weiss shouted.
"What?" Blake stammered. "Wa–wait a sec–"
"I'm summoning a monster in defense mode and then placing two cards facedown!" Weiss announced with a flourish, the three cards manifesting before her. She pointed an accusatory finger across the field. "Your move! Or are you too scared to put your cards where your mouth is?"
Blake's stuttering immediately ceased, her amber eyes narrowing. That was most certainly not the issue.
The issue was that the cards in her hand weren't X-Sabers.
She could see exactly how it happened. Ruby collecting her scattered X-Sabers and putting them in her deck box in Forever Fall, pulling out a random deck from the box when she gave them the angry order to duel, Blake herself not checking before the match in her rage. All that led her to hold a hand from her real deck in her grasp.
Which was a problem given that using it threatened to unravel all her efforts to keep a low profile at Beacon. Her blowing up at Weiss about all this in the first place and revealing her true duel runner handling skills in a fit of childish schoolyard flexing was already pushing it, but certain cards in her deck would certainly arouse suspicion and her ace would make her identity undeniable.
She could reveal that Ruby had accidentally put the wrong deck in her duel disk. Weiss was, for all her faults, honorable and cared about facing her opponents at their best, she'd let her switch out and restart the duel, even if she grumbled about already having made her turn or gloated about Blake being unable to beat her current board. But the thing was, Blake couldn't Synchro Summon. X-Sabers were not her specialty and she couldn't use them to their full potential. There was a reason her entrance exam duel test with them had only put her in Ra Yellow.
She couldn't beat Weiss with both hands tied behind her back. But maybe with one. Depending on what the heiress drew, Blake could take her without going all out. She could win.
And Blake really wanted to win.
"I draw! I activate the contentious spell card Bubble Barrier."
Weiss blinked in surprise as the spell flashed into being, giant bubbles with stars in them surrounding her opponent. "Bubble Barrier? That's not an X-Saber card. That's… I don't know what that is."
"Oh, look at the poor support card heiress. Finally figuring out she doesn't know everything. I summon Performapal Salutiger!" Blake yelled, a humanoid tiger in a decorated military uniform appearing before her (ATK 1700/ DEF 500). "Attack her monster!"
The tiger saluted its duelist and leapt forward to claw Weiss's facedown monster. The White Stone of Legend (ATK 300 / DEF 250) was revealed and destroyed. Blake didn't smile though. Weiss immediately used the beaten monster's effect to add Blue-Eyes White Dragon to her hand when it hit the graveyard.
Fortunately, she wasn't the only one with such a trick.
"When Salutiger destroys a monster by battle, I get to add a certain kind of Performapal monster from my deck to my hand," Blake said. "I pick Performapal ClassiKuriboh."
"A certain kind?" Weiss queried, before shaking her head. "No matter. I activate my trap card, True Light. This card has a passive effect to keep you from targeting my Blue-Eyes White Dragons with card effects. But it also has two activable effects, of which I'll use the second, setting a spell or trap from my deck that mentions 'Blue-Eyes White Dragon'. I choose Bingo Machine, Go!"
An ancient tablet with the glowing outline of a Blue-Eyes carved into it burst from the ground behind Weiss, towering over the heiress. A reminder of her family's austere power.
Blake scowled. She set a card facedown, knowing an all-out assault was coming. "I end my turn."
"ClassiKuriboh?" Ruby muttered, before a smile sprang to her face. "Yang! Blake has a Kuriboh! Just like Uncle Qrow!"
"It's not exactly an uncommon card, Ruby," Yang chuckled, the blonde Obelisk Blue leaning over the stand rail next to her Slifer Red sister. "Though, Blake's is certainly better dressed."
"But what's with the new archetype? It's not X-Sabers," Jaune asked. "I know I don't know as much as you guys when it comes to this stuff but I've never heard of Performapals before."
"I can't say I have either," Pyrrha admitted, the Mistral Champion's emerald eyes narrowed at Blake's tiger in curiosity.
Nora's brow furrowed in thought, the excitable Ra Yellow pensively rubbing her chin. "Performapal… Performapal… I know I've seen that before, but I can't remember where."
"The dumpster," Ren bluntly stated. "The posters in the dumpster."
Yang turned to face him and cocked an eyebrow. "The what?"
"The dumpster! That's it! Nice memory, Ren," Nora said, leaping forward to take over the story. "Okay, so like six or seven years ago, Ren and I were living out of this dumpster outside the Higanbana Inn."
"You were… living out of a dumpster?" Pyrrha repeated, horrified for her teammates. "Nora, I'm so sorry."
"Yeah, yeah, that's not the point of the story," Nora waved off. "The inn was throwing out a bunch of old posters they'd had in inventory for years one night, made some pretty good bedding for us for the next few nights. And the ones at the top of the pile were for Mr. Diamond's Circus of Wonders."
"Mr. who?" Yang queried.
"An old business rival of Mr. Heartland from a few decades ago. Got run out of business when the Heartland Corporation got big real quick," Ruby said. "But what does that have to do with Performapals?"
"Because the headliner was The Calamitous Kali and her Wonderful Gang of Acrobatic Performamages and Performapals," Ren informed them.
Jaune quirked his head. "The Calamitous who?"
"Some cat faunus woman," Nora clarified. "She was some sort of combination magician and acrobat, I think. Also, she was really hot. I mean, those posters were years old even back then, but mmmm. Don't you agree, Ren?"
"I don't recall perfectly," Ren confessed. "But I was going through puberty at the time, so it is likely I found her picture highly attractive."
Jaune held up his hand. "Okay, that's a bit too much information, bro."
"My move!" Weiss called from the arena, the spectators' gazes turning back to the duel. "I activate my facedown Bingo Machine, Go! Now, I select three Blue-Eyes monsters, or spells or traps that mention them, and you randomly pick one to add to my hand. I select three Blue-Eyes Alternative Dragons."
"My role's mute then," Blake snarked.
Weiss scowled and revealed the regular Blue-Eyes in her hand to special summon her Alternative Dragon onto the field (ATK 3000 / DEF 2500). "I activate the first effect of my True Light. I special summon a Blue-Eyes White Dragon from my hand or graveyard. So from my hand, emerge! The pride of the Schnee family, Blue-Eyes White Dragon!"
The True Light tablet suddenly blazed a blinding white, Blake and the spectators forced to shield their eyes from the glare. Still, they couldn't miss as a flesh and blood creature sprang forth from the ancient markings, the same majestic dragon that had menaced Ruby, its pure sheen contrasting the subtle glow of its alternative version (ATK 3000 / DEF 2500).
"I'll then summon The Phantom Knights of Stained Greaves," Weiss said, her possessed armor (ATK 1200 / DEF 600) rising beneath her mighty dragons. "Now, Blue-Eyes Alternative White Dragon, attack Performapal Salutiger!"
The glowing dragon unleashed its beam of furious lightning… which was immediately blocked by the rampant bubbles permeating Blake's side of the field.
"Huh?" Weiss squeaked.
"My Bubble Barrier prevents me from taking any damage from a battle involving my Performapals," Blake revealed. "Each of my Performapals also can't be destroyed once a turn."
"And you think that'll keep you safe from my Blue-Eyes? Guess again! I activate my trap, Phantom Knights' Sword! It equips to my Phantom Knights of Stained Greaves and increases its attack by eight hundred," Weiss announced, her spectral armor gaining a new dark blade (ATK 2000). "Attack! Remind that tiger to keep his neck washed in that uniform!"
"Keep his neck washed?" Ruby muttered confusedly.
"In ancient Mistralian culture, warriors who failed were allowed to commit ritual suicide to redeem themselves," Pyrrha explained. "They washed their necks and then waited for their attendant to cut off their heads."
"Ergh," Ruby cringed.
"Weiss has a weird way of trying to be clever," Yang shrugged, Phantom Knights of Stained Greaves slashing through Salutiger, Blake standing impassively as her Bubble Barrier shielded her from the shockwave. "Though given what Blake reads, she might actually get it."
"Whether she gets it or not, she's in big trouble now," Jaune remarked. "Weiss has a clear shot at her life points."
The Blue-Eyes White Dragon raised its head, a thunderous tempest crackling in its jaws, ready to obliterate most of Blake's life points.
The stoic hunting duelist just snapped her fingers.
"Reveal facedown. The spell Illusion Balloons," Blake proclaimed, her card flipping up and shooting out five colorful balloons as she pulled up the top five cards of her deck. "If a monster under my control was destroyed this turn, I can excavate the top five cards of my deck and summon a Performapal from them. Let's see… oh yes, I was getting hungry. For victory! Performapal Sword Fish!"
The balloons popped in a great chorus and a fish with sunglasses, a bowtie, and a sword taped to its head flopped out from the middle one (ATK 600 / DEF 600). Blue-Eyes's White Lightning screeched towards it, but Bubble Barrier swooped in to stop the attack cold. Performapal Sword Fish flopped in victory, slashing the air with its awkward armament.
The tiny shockwaves of the attack streaked across the field and tore into both the Blue-Eyes dragons (ATK 2400) and The Phantom Knights of Stained Greaves (ATK 1400).
"Blue-Eyes! Stained Greaves!" Weiss yelped in concern. "What did you do?"
"That's just Sword Fish's special ability," Blake smirked. "When it's summoned, all your monsters lose six hundred attack and defense. Speaking of, I believe you're out of attackers. Anything else?"
Weiss grit her teeth. "I end my turn."
Blake snorted. "Typical Schnee. All that bluster, all that throwing your weight around, and in the end, you don't know what to do if people don't just roll over."
"Just take your turn!"
Nora leaned into Yang. "So, has Blake always been this good at pressing Weiss's buttons?"
"Not that I knew. She's always been so quiet," Yang frowned. "Heck, I would have thought X-Sabers would fit her better than some wacky circus animals, but she's running rings around Weiss."
"Eh, it's not that surprising when you think about it," Ruby shrugged. "Blake's semblance is a Shadow Clone after all. It's all about misdirection, illusion, wearing her opponent down while she sets herself up in a better position."
"Yeah, but still," Jaune remarked, eyeing Performapal Sword Fish's… unique appearance. "Who'd expect Blake to play monsters like that?"
Ren's eyes narrowed in focus at Blake's black and white outfit clashing with her outlandishly colorful field. "The greatest illusions guard their substance with more than one layer."
Ruby agreed completely. Blake had done even better against Weiss's opening dragon attack than even she had, not losing a single life point to the Blue-Eyes's mighty assault. Already this duel was a vast improvement over their previous arguing in the silver-eyed girl's mind. She was getting the chance to see what her most mysterious teammate could do when she had a deck she could use to its full potential. After all, there was only so much an X-Saber deck could do in the hands of a duelist that couldn't Synchro Summon.
But if Blake was so determined to win that she was using her real deck…
Ruby grinned. Maybe she'd get to see how a Fusion Summon worked after all.
"I draw," Blake declared, pulling a card from her deck to bring her hand to five.
And what a hand it was. Drummerilla, ClassiKuriboh, Partnaga, Fire Mufflerlion, and Performance Hurricane? Combined with Sword Fish, she could wipe Weiss out even without using her ace. But she'd need to provide another hint at who she really was.
She remembered Ilia's stories of Atlas schoolgirls laughing at the news of the mining collapse that had killed the chameleon girl's parents. She remembered caressing Adam's brand to reassure him in their most intimate moments.
It'd felt so good to make a fool of the Schnee heiress so far. Why stop now? It wasn't as if only faunus could do what she could. Professor Goodwitch was proof of that.
"I normal summon Performapal Fire Mufflerlion," Blake said, a lion with a fedora, a bowtie, and a mane and tail that were literally on fire appearing before her (ATK 800 / DEF 800).
"Hm," Weiss observed, pursing her lips in grudging admiration. "You know, he's actually quite dapper. And cute. Does he give rides?"
"All the way to defeat," Blake taunted, plucking two specific cards from her hand and placing them in the spell & trap card zones on either end of Gambol Shroud. "I set the Pendulum Scales with Scale 3 Performapal Partnaga and Scale 8 ClassiKuriboh!"
"You set the–" Weiss exclaimed, her crystal blue eyes wide. "What?!"
Two pillars of light appeared on either side of Blake, a red and yellow snake with a top hat and a hand on its tail and a furball with claws and suit rising to the top within them. Between the columns, the ghostly image of a crystal pendulum traced a glowing arc in the air between them.
Happier memories this time. Of clapping along with the protest caravan as her mother put on a show with her monsters, of smiling wide as she sat on her father's broad shoulders, of Sienna happily helping her get down the tricky differences between playing her Pendulum creatures as monsters and as spells. Of showing off to Adam and Ilia after her mother helped her forge her dancing ace.
Happier memories… now long gone. Yet now, Blake felt like she could take back just a small fraction of the pride that'd been stolen from her and her people.
"Rise from shadows, my monsters. Carve an arc upon the world and reclaim our destiny," she furiously whispered, a confident smirk on her lips as she thrust her hand to the sky and snapped her fingers. "Pendulum Summon!"
For those of you who were wondering when Pendulum was going to show up, BEHOLD! My answer. :)
Blake's deck was probably the one that gave me the most trouble to decide on out of Team RWBY. I considered a lot of options for her: Ninja, Evilswarm, Darklords, Dark World, Gladiator Beasts, at one point I actually was going to have her play X-Sabers. But, the more I thought about it, I realized I was thinking too edgy. Because in the end, despite her quiet and mysterious first appearances, Blake's not really an edgy character. She is, if anything, a good kid who thought she needed to be edgy to help people and realized just how much she'd messed up when she realized exactly what that meant. Blake's goal has always been peace and equality. She will fight for them if she must, but in the end, she wants everyone to be happy, even if that reality is a fairy tale that may never come to be.
Then it got me thinking about a certain Yu-Gi-Oh! character that also wanted everyone to be happy, to smile. And the more I thought about it, the more I liked it, especially when I noticed how Performapals' tendency to evade, wear down, and rarely engage in a fair fight fit with Blake's canon fighting style.
Blake is not Yuya by any means, but I appreciate the intertextuality foil nature of them sharing a deck. Especially as this story advances and they find themselves on very different paths.
Remember to check out and add to this story's TVTROPES PAGE! I check my stories' pages often and I always enjoy it when they grow. :)
Thank you for Reading! I hope you enjoy what comes next!
Go Forth and Conquer!