Disclaimer: I don't own RWBY or Fate.
I got nothing.
On with the story!
Chapter 7: Revelations
"Hey, get back here you little-!" Solid, weighted steel rebounded off of flesh; coaxing out a collective wince from the audience.
"…This seems a little…" Weiss murmured with hesitation.
"Just wait 'til I get my hands on you-!" Metal rattled throughout the air; their song a harbinger to the devastation that followed.
"Maybe a teeny~ tiny~ bit." Ruby personified with her finger tips.
"Come on, face me like a-!" The foot launched upward into the teen's chin, silencing his words with a sharp click of his teeth. His large, armored form suspending into the air far higher than it should have any right to.
"I mean, it is Cardin." Blake colored dully.
Ringlets of chain shot toward the boy's torso; constricting him like a serpent then proceeding to yank him harshly back down to earth. A knee awaiting his return faster than the retort forming in his throat. Aura absorbed the blow; a lucky blessing. Had it not, his nose would have surely paid the price of the impact.
"I get what you mean but…" Jaune voice's voice trailed off sheepishly. Even he was beginning to feel bad for Cardin and this was coming from someone who had been tormented by the guy since the semester started.
A stepping side kick courtesy of the aggressors opposing leg speared into the teen unarmored abdomen so fast that the boy's face had yet to fully recoil back from the previous blow. The limb propelled the teen forward. Aura flared in protest once more as armor plating rebounded off hard concrete. The force behind the strike leaving a near perfect Cardin shaped indentation in the arena wall.
"WOOOO! Kick his teeth in One-Armed Guy!" Nora cheered shamelessly, earning an exhausted sigh from her partner.
"How long has this been going on?" Ren asked from behind his facepalm.
"Ten minutes." Pyrrha answered curtly, surveying the match with a champion grade focus. The longer she watched the further to the edge of her seat she moved. Her heart began to quiver in excitement. A tremble in her hand that wouldn't still. Emotions that had been slumbering for far too long rising to the surface. "He's good."
"…L-Lucky shot." Cardin had the nerve to wheeze through pained breaths. Fingers moved to gain purchase around his weapon only to find them palming at open air.
Eyes shot wide.
His mind reverted back to the moment when the man had sent him flying. It had all happened so fast that he hadn't even noticed it slipping from his grip. The Huntsman in training searched around the concrete enclosure franticly. Only to find his precious mace at the absolute worst place imaginable.
"The Executioner?" The man spoke for the first time since the match had been called. "A bit much," a lone hand retrieved the mace to allow its owner to scrutinize the weapon more closely, "though I suppose it is aptly fitting for this situation."
The Nameless figure stalked toward the boy's downed form. It was funny really. He had always intended to design his weapon with intimidation in mind but it was only now, staring it down himself, that he realized how much he had succeeded.
The blunt end raised high; the dust charge within priming an angry red; accenting the beast's silhouette in a menacing glow. Eyes slammed shut, arms raised up in fear. Despite all his bluster, the boy could not find himself man enough to face the impending doom head on.
"And that's the match!" Glynda Goodwitch called as the wicked mace was within a heartbeat of sealing its betrayal. All motion ceased. Any traces of cold-blooded indifference dissipating with the utterance of a breath.
The Executioner fell from the man's grasp no better than a lead pipe found on the side of the street. The sound of the weapon clattering against the deck knocking the boy out of his stupor. It was only then that Professor Goodwitch's words finally processed within his mind. For the first time since his admission into Beacon Academy, not a single utterance of challenge raised from his throat at his loss. A hiss of pain accompanied the exhale of his breath. The aches riddling his body speaking volumes of the amount of abuse that he had been subject to during the match.
Before he could rise, a hand was offered to him in assistance. He craned his neck in confusion to find his assailant greeting him looking as pristine as a newborn. Cardin almost considered accepting the show of good faith but abruptly squashed down the thought the moment his eyes bared witness the blinking red Aura Meter glared back at him from his wrist.
Had this been the real world, this man; someone who he had deemed an invalid not too long ago, would have killed him. The bite of reality pierced deeply into his flesh. He was supposed to be a Huntsman: a superhuman, monster slaying badass...not some…some helpless child.
Cardin Winchester swatted the hand aside harshly. "I can do it myself." He proclaimed boldly through seething teeth.
Still the man lingered, searing the boy's pride further. It wasn't until Cardin managed prop himself upon the wall that that man began to understand that his help wasn't wanted, returning to Professor Goodwitch's side.
"Good work." Glynda praised.
"If you say so." He replied dispassionately. It certainly didn't feel good beating on a kid, even if he was a cocky, disrespectful punk. "Are you sure this is the way you want to go about doing this? It seems a little…"
"Cruel," Shirou corrected. They were teenagers; most of which hadn't stepped foot out of the kingdoms yet. Their biggest concerns up to this point had amounted to getting good grades and fitting in. They weren't ready for this level of combat.
"I disagree." Glynda's jaw tensed. "This is a school for Huntsmen: a place to mold the protectors of the world. It would be far crueler to send them off on their way ill-equipped for the future. Bruising their egos is a kindness."
"You really are a sadist."
The deadpanned astonishment of Shirou's tone nearly causing the Professor to miss a beat in her step. A poignant glare reversed his way. The nerve of the man; saying such things in the presence of impressionable young minds. Just imagine the number of misunderstandings that could spawn if her students caught wind of such claims. Her reputation would be in shambles.
"Right then…who would like to go next?" Professor Goodwitch punctuated the end of her statement loudly as if to drown out her colleague's words.
The Combat Instructor was met with the roar of an empty auditorium.
When taking into account their age and energy requirements to support their daily level of activity, a budding class of potential Huntsmen and Huntresses could be quite an excitable bunch. Awareness of this only made the uncharacteristic silence of the class all the more disconcerting. Though, she supposed she couldn't blame them. Delusions of one's mortality were strong within children their age; doubly so for those with Aura's unlocked. Few of them could picture even the weakest of them succumbing to anything less than one their peers. And yet here they were, their very world shaken to its core.
Say what you would about Cardin Winchester, be it his deplorable attitude or his disgustingly skewed sense of ethics, at the end of the day he was a strong candidate for a Huntsman. His immense strength coupled with his surprising levels of durability made him a difficult foe to tackle outside of the likes their own Yang Xiao Long or Team JNPR's Pyrrha Nikos. For this outsider to have replicated such a feat so handily was a chilling sight. A sense of apprehension was the least the man deserved.
But she was different.
She did not have the luxury to shy away from a challenge. She had a duty to uphold, a legacy that demanded correcting. She could not simply stand idly by when such an opportunity to validate her worth presented itself.
"I will Ma'am." Weiss Schnee heir apparent to The Schnee Dust Company declared to the world proudly.
"Excellent, right this way Ms. Schnee." Professor Goodwitch adjusted her glasses in approval, directing her student to the changing room to prepare herself. The man nodded toward the Professor; the tiles of the arena rising to reveal the modest armory hidden underneath once more.
"Whoa, who knew Shirou could move like that." Her partner and Team Leader uttered. Weiss' ear drowned out the hum of the arena in an instant, hanging on to Ruby's every word. Her descent down the stands paused for but a moment. She didn't recall Professor Goodwitch mentioning the man's name.
"You know him?" Blake questioned in place of the Schnee.
"Not really, ran into him at Hephaestus' place. He's an electrician…er…or at least I thought he was." Ruby quickly corrected with a scratch of her head. "He knows a lot about weapons."
"That's a strange subject for an electrician to be familiar with." Pyrrha noted with intrigue. Outside of maybe the fine electrical components found in some of the more advanced Atlesian weapons, the two skillsets wouldn't normally translate to one another.
"I thought so too. He even knew enough to smooth out some of the kinks that have were bugging Crescent Rose. It was pretty cool at the time; didn't think anyone but Hephaestus herself could do something like that." Ruby adorned a thinking pose of her own. "Weird, he didn't seem like a fighter. I guess you really can't judge a book by its cover, huh?"
"Yeah." Blake agreed timidly, absentmindedly tightening the loops of her bow.
Weiss mulled over the information in preparation for her match.
Shirou: a supposed electrician with enough knowledge about weapons to preform maintenance on a Huntsman-Grade Weapon on a whim. It wasn't a lot to work with but she would take whatever advantage she could get. Unlike Cardin, she didn't have any intentions of underestimating the man.
Her reputation would not allow her to fall to a lowly technician.
Shirou Emiya considered each weapon presented to him with the same level of care as a jeweler would a priceless gem. At a glance, he drank in their history; every tempering strike, every swing, every beautiful imperfection that made each blade standout from their brothers. Like the finger prints of human hands, each was unique in their own right. Most had arrived at Beacon as blank slates, mass-produced in a factory among hundreds indistinguishable from the last; some had been donated by hands who had grown weary of battle; others pried from the frozen clutches of some poor, unfortunate soul in the middle of nowhere. If left to his own devises, he could have stood there all day listening to their tales but the synthetic sound of the changing room door was quick to remind him that he didn't have any time to spare on the matter.
Garbed in all white with red accents, she looked every bit like the princess she was in all but name. Her attire was rather unorthodox for a combatant but he supposed that dresses and heels were something that one could get away when something as extraordinary as personal, soul empowered shielding existed. Metal and leather would only grow to become a hinderance when one could bear their very spirits as a means of defense.
It was a sound assessment on paper…but one that didn't render so seamlessly when put into practice. Out there beyond the walls of the kingdoms, besieged by Grimm for dozens of hours at a time, vanity would only serve as a hinderance.
Bronze drifted over to the thin form of Mytrenaster dangling from her hip. At least she knew how to use her weapon.
He returned back to the weapon rack, considering his options meticulously. Finally settling on a simple, straight bladed saber of Atlesian make with a crested guard upon the hilt. A single touch was all he needed to exile his indecision; making his way to the center stage to meet his next foe.
"A sword this time?" The Schnee questioned, she was under the impression that chained whips were his weapon of choice.
As expected, there wasn't a single response to counter her own.
"Humph, suit yourself. But I should warn you."
Her chin pointed up; shoulders leaned back; knees bent; right foot crept forward; her breathing slowed to a crawl in preparation for the perfect moment to strike. A stance chiseled in fine marble, wound tight like the trigger of a gun.
"I'm different from that blowhard Winchester."
"Are both participants ready?"
The Deputy Head Mistress took the synchronized silence as a "yes".
As the Professor's hand completed its descent, a white glyph formed at the heiress' feet; a hammer to ignite the charge. Like a speeding bullet, she flew straight and true at her target. Mytrenaster aimed to pierce at the portion of the man's abdomen furthest from his remaining hand and the weapon in his grasp. Logically speaking, he should have angled his body so that that his sword hand would be ready to intercept any attempts at the glaring weakness. It was his fault for overlooking such an elementary mistake. You couldn't blame her for taking advantage of it.
Curiously, instead of the equal resistance of Aura pushing against her blade she was met with open air. The momentum of her initial strike forcing her to sail past her intended target. Eyes widened in shock, if she didn't do something fast, she was going to smash right into the wall!
With a will of effort and a quick swipe of the hand, a solid black glyph formed. It's unique properties draining all forward motion in an instant.
She quickly whipped around to face her target once more. The surprise was clear on her face.
What had just happened? She could have sworn that her sword was guaranteed to hit.
Daggers glared at the empty sleeve that hung limply at Shirou's side. It's position now shielded behind the weapon arm when it clearly hadn't moments ago. Could he have possibly shifted his stance at just the right opportunity when she committed to her strike? The level of precision required to pull off a maneuver like that was just insane.
There's no way he could have reacted so quickly given the speeds that he had moved against Cardin. It must have been a fluke, a minor miscalculation on her part.
Weiss gathered her bearings much more slowly than she had at the start of the match; her gaze thinning with focus.
It was humiliating. Just a single thrust and already the flow of battle was slipping out of her control. She couldn't allow things to continue on like this. She had already seen what it was like when this man was directing the flow of combat. If she wasn't careful, she just might be reduced to the same level as Cardin.
Her gaze drank in every tiny detail about her opponent to determine the best course of action to take next. Unlike the casual posture he had opened with, he had actually assumed a stance this time-an astonishingly adequate one at that. His chin raised up; shoulders leaned back; knees bent; right foot forward…
Snow white brows creased in confounded recognition.
"That stance…where did you learn it?" Weiss glowered at her opponent.
His gaze trailed low to the saber in his grasp: a nameless blade forged by a blacksmith without an accolade to his name. It had spent years collecting dust on a back shelf of a weapon shop on the edge of Mantle. It wasn't until a rebellious young woman's arrival, fleeing the suffocating embrace of her legacy, that the weapon was finally purchased.
It was not a glamorous weapon, nor was it the finest that she had ever held but it was a weapon that did not belong to the striking white of her hair or the biting frost of her eyes. A truly unremarkable blade but it was hers. And that made all the difference.
The gesture, however, only served to dip her mood further. He was goading her, The Thief. Her family had spent countless generations refining a style best suited to complimenting their semblance. That swordsmanship was just as indicative to her family as the crest on her back. Those movements belonged to the Schnee family; an outsider didn't have the right to use them as they pleased.
The vein in her temple throbbed as she delved deeper into the pale imitation. A foot slightly too forward; grip far too relaxed; shoulders far too tense; one by one the microscopic faults began to pile up like ants running down her neck. This man had stolen the fruits of her family's labors and had the gall to perform it incorrectly within her presence.
Pearly white incisors bared with malice. It looked like she would have to educated this swindler in the proper manner with which a Schnee brandishes their blade.
She approached slowly, methodically; judging each micron of movement with the eyes of a hawk. She circled her prey, testing the fortitude of his guard. His blade tracking her approach as steadily as a needle pointing north. That's when she saw it: a moment when the tip of his blade stuttered in its pursuit.
"You're open!" She cried; her sword arm blurred.
Steel remarkably met steel. Fingers that had once been slackened wound tight. Weiss' rapier thrust halted in its tracks upon the space between the guard and the saber's edge. The saber proceeded to sweep wide, completely redirecting The Heiress' strike.
Unperturbed by the surprise deflection, Weiss switched targets to the right leg contrasting inelegantly compared to the ideal Schnee stance. She slashed low, aiming to topple his foundation; only to once again find her efforts thwarted as the leg tucked inward by the slightest of margins. The tip of Mytrenaster scrapping uselessly upon the arena floor in a shower of sparks.
Weiss stifled the growl from reverberating in her throat. She retreated a step back to reevaluated her situation. Her scowl deepening as she witnessed the openings that had been glaring back at her sealing up one by one.
Her arm tucking inward; a piston chambered to fire. Caution fluttered in the wind as she desperately pursued vulnerabilities fleeing into the mist. A hailstorm of thrusts hunted after Shirou's form relentlessly. But, like a cunning fox, his body eluded capture at every turn. The confidence of the proud hunter dipping with each subsequent failure.
With a sharp growl of discontent, Weiss redirected one of her botched thrusts into a horizontal slash. Only for the man to bend backward at the hips, effectively allowing the rapier to sail past the area where his head had been just a second prior without compromising his footing.
"What's going on?" Shirou heard Ruby pose the question. "Weiss is usually better than this.".
"It's that stance." Pyrrha specified with one hundred percent confidence. Her gaze remaining locked on to the engagement currently at play.
"An astute observation Ms. Nikos; care to elaborate on your observation?" Glynda questioned her students.
"Of course, Professor." Ms. Nikos took a moment to gather her thoughts. "It's a lot like Weiss' own only…not quite right, off. It makes Weiss want to correct it so that it fits the way she thinks it should be. By doing so he is capable of leading her throughout the battle as he wishes."
"Brilliant but do you have anything else to add?" The Professor inquired, less as a question and more as a means to uncover what she was certain the redhead already knew.
Pyrrha, however, seemed uncomfortable with piling on to her analysis. Criticism like this would surely save lives but this was the first time in years that she had made any sort of meaningful connection with…well anyone really. She didn't want them to think badly of her…even if it was the truth. Luckily, one Blake Belladonna was there to unknowingly rescue the girl from her reservations.
"Weiss doesn't know how to fight." Blake answered in her matter-of-fact tone.
"A bold statement Ms. Belladonna."
The teen had hoped that would have enough to placate the woman but it was clear from the Professor Goodwitch's expectant stare the was looking for something more. A Combat Instructor's equivalent of asking them to "show their work" as it were.
"Weiss knows how to fight Grimm but she doesn't know how to fight people. A person can plan, prepare, think; in the real world a fighter isn't just going to let their opponent return back to their starting position every single time."
"Well said you two." Professor Goodwitch nodded in approval. "Grimm may be the most prevalent of the evils you may face but they are not the only ones who wish to do the innocent harm. It's not uncommon for a Huntsman to face the very humans they swore to protect out in the field. If you do not wish for your storied careers to come to a tragic end, I would suggest honing allaspects of combat and not just those useful for disposing of mindless beasts."
Shirou returned his attention back to the Schnee. The pair's assessment having crashed into The Heiress' pallet with a bitterness rivaling the most potent of medications. Hesitation and instinct jerked at her muscles for control. The pride she had expressed in her capacities only moments before now spoiled under a layer of scrutiny.
He flashed a guilty look her way, all but confirming the suspicions of her peers.
Yet, still she remained firm.
The tension within Shirou's muscles defused at the sight of the Schnee's discipline. Wishing to test her resolve, his torso came forward from behind his guard and into clear view. His lone arm positioned low; the tip of his blade pointed upward as if inviting his opponent to strike at his exposed center mass.
Her expression twitched in discomfort. Dainty, manicured nails tightened their grip on the weapon sitting in their palm. Years of formal training thinly suppressed under the gnawing of her bottom lip. The perfectionist beaten into Weiss' core screamed to act, to make right what was wrong. Nevertheless, even with her urges screaming within, she did not relent; her rapier not daring to fall for such a blatant trap regardless of how much she wanted to.
Shirou's brow raised, half in astonishment and half in approval at the young Huntress' self-control. His respect for the rose by a degree and with it his willingness to do more than just play with her emotions.
His stance echoed Weiss' own once more. From the bending of his back leg and the energy building within his hips, she could see from a mile away that he would be the one taking the initiative this time. For all the good that knowledge did her she might as well remained ignorant.
He was fast. Weiss had thought she had known that from his prior performance but viewing it from afar and actually witnessing it firsthand were two very different things entirely. Within the time she could blink he was already upon her. His arm struck in a standard Schnee Style diagonal slash. It was only thanks to all the blood, sweat and tears that she had spent under Winter's tutelage that her body managed react where her mind had failed.
The gravity of the impact that followed sent the muscles in her arm into shock, her off-hand immediately shot up to support Mytrenaster's spine lest she fold beneath the pressure of his intent.
"That blow had enough force behind it to rival an Arma Gigas!" For a lone man to generate that much power in a one-handed slash spoke volumes of his strength. The Heiress, unfortunately, could not afford to dwell on her opponent any further as the nameless saber trailed down the defending weapon. Sparks squealed upon her blade in anticipation as it edged closer and closer to her forearm.
Unwilling to test the durability of her Aura against this kind of foe, Weiss inelegantly shoved the man away from her. A black Glyph forming at her feet as insurance for her retreat, boosting the motion by several meters. High-heels dug into smooth tile, fighting to bleed her momentum. Her escape only trailing to a halt once the back of her coat found purchase on the rounded edge of the arena wall. She gave consideration to the barrier with a curse sealed behind unsullied lips.
Blue eyes flashed a cursory glance at their opponent. The likes of which had yet to give chase in his offensive. He loitered with an unnatural calm; devoid of even the smallest speck of agency.
This Shirou person was equally swift as he was strong. He would overwhelm her in an instant if she allowed him to get close. Regrettably, the nature of their environment left her with only so much ground that she could put in between them. Traditional methods had already proven to be more than useless here. If she wished to succeed, she would have to try something much more unorthodox.
The barrel of her weapon spun with a rhythmic tumble before alighting the inscription of her blade with a hue of blue. All the while, the two pointer fingers of her off hand tranced the air; willing the power of her soul to manifest into an array of symbols overhead. Spears of ice formed at their center ready to fire at a moment's notice: a wall of death eager to vanquish her foes. With a gesture of her hand, ice sailed through the air in a deadly sheet of white.
He dodged. The opening salvo veered wide, shattering useless upon the adjacent wall. A twirl of motion from the Schnee and the Glyphs primed and fired. Another burst awaited milliseconds behind the first. The momentum of his dodge had yet to bleed off, the second collection of projectiles leading in such a way that it was bound to intercept him the moment his feet touched down on to the tile.
Metal sang. Gray streaks arced, weaving together into a protective mesh of steel that craved away the incoming shards of ice Dust in quick succession.
His display was impressive but it was not without cost. The brief period in time spent deflecting the projectiles providing an opening sizable enough to leave him susceptible to another volley of ice angled toward his side.
Seeing that he wouldn't be able to engage the attack without compromising himself, Shirou cut his losses and propelled into a diagonal sprint in The Heiress' direction. In response, the Schnee increased the tempo of her attack; exchanging the shotgun method that she had been utilizing up until this point for a more consistent stream of suppressive fire. Foot falls erupted with discharges of frozen magic as he made his advance. Within a heartbeat he was already halfway across the arena; his position favoring the right-hand half of the floor rather than the immediate center that he had been dominating up until this point.
It was then that Weiss added another layer to her offensive. The glow decorating her weapon shined with a renewed splendor. Dust gathered, concentrating into a single point that flashed magnificently just as Mytrenaster plunged into the floor. Geysers of ice ruptured the tile flooring with jagged vengeance, intent on impaling the man upon spears of frost.
Once again, he eluded capture. However, the wall of ice was the least of his worries as The Schnee swooped upon him like a bird of prey would a trapped rodent. His range of motion severely limited by the manmade barrier cutting the arena in half.
She engaged him with a ferocity never seen by her before; one that he responded to in kind with a ferocity of his own. Like two halves of the same coin, they danced around each other in a shower of sparks and swords. Elegance clashed upon brutal utility; splendor against simplicity; form versus function. From an outside perspective they looked evenly matched. But from one of their perspectives, however, the victory was painfully clear.
The grip upon the nameless saber tightened. Its traditional spine being pushed further and further back by its straighter more advanced cousin with each engagement.
"…So, this is your limit, huh?"
It wouldn't be long before he would be forced to use something more than just the Schnee style of swordsmanship. Though he supposed the result was to be expected given the saber's original owner. To her, bladework had never been the primary facet of her fighting style. She wasn't like her father: whose swordplay had been forged in the fires of war, tempered in blood and violence. Rather than a way of life, her skills were nothing more than a means to an end; something to fall upon should her Semblance prove ill-suited for the occasion. In much the same way that a soldier treated a sidearm or a caster treated a mundane knife, the saber's first and only wielder had only trained herself up to a serviceable level of proficiency. When comparing the rudimentary forms stored within the saber before the wealth of experience accumulated over Mytrenaster's relatively short lifespan there was simply no contest.
Nevertheless, just as Shirou was about to switch to a more fitting style to use against his opponent, the engagement suddenly came to an abrupt halt. His confusion lasted for only a moment as the girl's fingers ignited with power once more, sweeping vertically through the air in an upward motion. Before he could even look down, he was already airborne, propelled upward so high that his scalp was tinkling the rafters.
With a flick of the wrist and the orchestra of Glyphs heeded their conductor's command. Flinging themselves from their stationary positions on the wall to lockdown the airborne man's limbs in a manner not unlike the Arma Gigas their master had felled months prior.
Channeling the strength of her past, Weiss leapt into the air after her instruments. A rune of white welcomed her in mid-air. She crouched low upon it, storing as much energy in her legs as she could to compound with the power of her semblance. Her body angled at just the right position to meet her now falling opponent. Then, like a rope binding the tension of a trebuchet, the tension snapped. And she descended.
"Weiss look out!" An unknown voice sounded in alarm. The tunneling of her vision expanded; bringing awareness to the arm that had broken free of her bindings. The saber that Shirou had been brandishing now on a collision course with her plummeting form. But with no time dodge the blow completely and no possibility of redirecting the projectile heading her way, Weiss did the only thing she could do.
Chancing a moment to glance at the indicators hovering above the arena floor, it was clear that she was not at her best. Healthy green long since dipping into a worrisome yellow. It would have to do.
Time came to a crawl as her brain calculated the area with the highest probability of impact. Then, at the last second before the impromptu projectile made contact, she angled herself away.
The saber sailed through the air in a pinwheel of death but against the might of the soul, of Aura, it was merely an inconvenience. Like the rounded edges of a shield, the blade glanced upon the surface of Weiss' defenses; dampening her momentum and stealing a sizable chunk of lifeforce but ultimately leaving her course unimpeded.
Seeing that he would be unable to escape her strike in time, Shirou allowed a smile to flash in Weiss' direction. She had performed much better than he had expected. But that didn't mean he was just going to roll over and die for her.
Words that had become lost in the confusion of conflict fell from his lips. Currents of power filled his body with heat. A single arm lashed out in defiance. Fingers aspired to halt the rapiers edge but only served to guide it along its course. The aberrant singing of metal grinding against metal clawed at the Schnee's ears as her blade struck her target's chest. The forward momentum of the attack carrying the two headlong into the nearest barrier.
As the dust settled, the sight of red glared back at her upon Mytrenaster's edge. For a moment she considered the color upon her weapon with a puzzled expression. She had been so accustomed to her weapon exiting combat with a factory level sheen that the viscous substance seemed foreign upon its edge. It was only when that pungent, metallic smell reached her nostrils that she awakened to her senses.
Her expression came alive with horror.
What was going on? When? How? Had she misjudged the integrity of the man's Aura? Guilt gripped her heart. She had aimed to win but she had never intended to cause him any harm. She moved to cry out for Professor Goodwitch to call the match when a grip of iron clamped down on her weapon.
Weiss' mind lagged with confusion, helpless to prevent the arm from retching the double-action dust rapier out of her grasps and sending the weapon clear over the barrier of ice and on to the other side of the arena floor.
Disbelief filled her before it was snuffed out by the unbearable pain courtesy of the knee planted firmly in her gut. She folded; spittle bursting forth from her lips. A fist more akin to the heft of a sledgehammer proceed to strike her temple, sending her sprawling. Aura flashing in a brilliant display of white as it flaked off her body.
Shirou advanced upon her downed form, fist raised high. His intent ready to deliver the final blow.
"That's quite enough Mr. Emiya." The aloof pitch of Glynda Goodwitch intervened. She approached the pair with as neutral of an expression as a woman of her stature could manage.
"Ms. Schnee do you require assistance?"
A very unladylike groan was the instructor's response. The pain in her temple leaving her incapable of preserving her dignity despite how much she wanted to. "…No, Professor. I can do it myself." Weiss decreed on legs about as steady as a newborn foal.
Glynda allowed her student to hobble to her feet, standing idly by in the event the girl had overreached in her efforts. Once she was confident that The Schnee was fully capable of making her way back to the locker room she then redirected her attention over to her companion; closing the distance between them just enough to keep her words undiscernible from the chatter of the surrounding students.
"She exceeded my expectations." Shirou merely shrugged off.
"Will this be a problem?" Glynda asked, trailing her eyes between the slight entry wound on his chest and the sliced flesh of his palm.
He brought his hand up for closer inspection; fancying it in the same manner that another would a light bruise. "There will be an annoying stiffness for a while but nothing that I can't manage."
Green eyes widened a margin as she witnessed what looked like miniature blades begin to slowly nit the laceration shut. "I see."
Noticing the inquisitive lilt in her tone, Shirou took a moment to contemplated just how much information he could part with. A reluctant sigh escaped him. If he left her cold turkey, she would only become that much more suspicious in the future. If he wished their relationship to remain civil, he would need to meet her halfway.
"Reinforcement…is a bit more~…versatile than I had originally given it credit for."
"Quite," she answered with a notable frown on her face. "We'll speak more on this later."
Shirou suppressed the desire to itch the back of his scalp lest he get blood in his hair, allowing a nervous smile to squirm upon his face as he surveyed the psychic undo any of the damage that had taken place during their match.
Being the man he was, it wasn't long before Shirou had grown restless watching Glynda repair the arena and decided that the least he could do was return the weapon that he had borrowed back to where he had found it.
"Right, well we have just enough time for one more match with Mr. Emiya here. Do we have anymore volunteers?" Unlike the stifling silence following the previous match, this time, a hand was quick to rise to the challenge.
"I'd be happy to oblige Professor!" A voice rang like bells dancing in the autumn breeze. Her hand raised and swinging with a poorly restrained fervor.
"Ms. Nikos? You seem uncharacteristically eager today." Professor Goodwitch mused much to the girl's expense. Her embarrassment doing little to quell the bounce in her step.
An auburn brow rose at the playfulness in the woman's tone. It wasn't often that Glynda was this way once the "Instructor Persona" was in place. That girl must really be something else if she wasn't being lumped her in with the rest of her class.
"Very well, please come forward." Pyrrha preened in excitement, anxious to break a sweat for once.
Just as he heard the student begin shuffling out of her seat a particularly pungent odor wafted into his nostrils. Suddenly, all sense of ease forcefully expelled from his body. Eyes snaped wide open; muscles tensed; canines clenched shut; his body noticeably thrummed with warmth; his hand clenched and ready to call upon weapons that weren't there.
"If I may interject?" Shirou snapped in the direction of the newcomer's voice, refusing to relent a single percentage of focus to stray off of the thing casually perched amongst the student body.
"Professor Ozpin? What a pleasant surprise."
"Good morning Glynda, I hope you don't mind the intrusion." The supposed professor articulated with measure and purpose. His presence transforming from something borderline indistinguishable to blindingly charismatic at the drop of a hat. The Headmaster's identity having a cascading effect on the student body as they began to steadily straighten themselves to attention while basking in his glow.
"Of course not, by all means." Glynda said, quick to pass the torch over to her superior.
"While I'm sure you're keen on measuring your prowess against someone as skilled as Mr. Emiya here," The graying man gesturing a mug to the volunteer in question. "His patronage, unlike myself or any of the other instructors of Beacon, is not something that will be readily available to us on a daily basis."
A look of recognition formed on the world-renowned fighter's face at what the headmaster was insinuating. "Ah, I'm sorry. I was under the impression that Mr. Emiya was going to be assisting Professor Goodwitch with lessons from now on."
"It's of no harm Ms. Nikos. Huntsman and Huntresses are human beings no different from anyone else. You are allowed to be excited from time to time." Professor Ozpin waved off. "That being said, we still have to pick another candidate to preform next. Hypothetically speaking, out of all of you, who do you think would serve to benefit the most from a match with Mr. Emiya?"
As one, the class of aspiring Huntsman and Huntresses rotated over to one such individual in particular.
"W-Why is everyone looking at me like that? There something on my face, or something?"
The young man stared down the grizzled war veteran as if he were death itself. It was a surreal sight to behold: a fully armed potential Huntsman quaking in his boots before a man that looked better suited for taking a trip to the grocery store. Had it not been for the sword in his hand, clutched so tightly that the cut from his previous match had wreathed the appendage in a film of blood, even he might have been fooled.
"What am I even doing here?" A question that he had been asking himself a lot lately. He peered down at the sword and shield in his grasps as if beckoning them to answer.
Crocea Mors, a weapon of legend first used by his great-great grandfather in the Great War; a bastion of hope wielded by his great grandfather in the reformation efforts not long after; later taken up in support of the oppressed peoples of The Faunus Right's Revolution by his grandfather; and finally swung in the defense of Mountain Glen by his own father. Amidst the grandeur of its previous bearers, he felt embarrassingly small by comparison.
Jaune Arc: the fool.
Jaune Arc: the coward.
Jaune Arc: the liar.
He was nothing more than a dreaming farm boy yet here he was now: a student of the revered Beacon Academy and leader to one of the most promising teams of potential Huntsmen in the entire school. But for all his fortune, he still had a long way to go before he was worthy of anything.
Which is why for the life of him he couldn't understand why Professor Ozpin deemed it so fit to throw him to the wolves? Ruby had claimed he was an electrician but obviously that couldn't have been true if someone as important as the Headmaster of Beacon Academy was vouching for his time. A match against someone like Pyrrha, Nora, Blake, Ruby; hell, anyone else in fact; would have been more exciting than with some nobody like him? So then why was he, a guy with nothing but an old sword that he barely knew what to do with, the one who was standing here in the ring?
Speaking of which, he was surprised he was still standing at this point. With how much time he'd spent in his head he would have thought that the guy would have mopped the floor with him by now. As Jaune returned to the present he was surprised to see that the man had yet to move an inch from his starting position, still clutching on to the saber he used against Weiss like his life depended on it.
Unlike, his last two fights though, the man's attention seemed to be focused strictly in the direction of The Headmaster himself; or more specifically the man's cane. It was a cool weapon sure. The gears gave it a real steampunk vibe and the way he used it made him look really mature and important looking (which he guessed he was considering he was in charge of a whole school and all). But it was just an old cane; outside of maybe secretly also being a gun, there was nothing special about it. Then again, Ruby had said he she had met him at a weapon shop. Maybe he was just as much of a nerd when it came to these things as she was?
With the supposed veteran Huntsman's attention so taken by The Headmaster's cane, Jaune decided to take his chances, tiptoeing his way closer to the man from the behind the safety of his shield. Nonetheless, even with his vision preoccupied, the man could still hear the heavy rattles of clumsy footsteps a mile away.
Before Jaune could even get into striking range, the force of the man's blade was already streaking across the shield's surface. The power behind the lightning-fast strike rattling his unsteady grip and knocking the shield against his chin. The unexpected retaliation nearly causing him to bite his own tongue; his vision swimming all the while.
When the world refocused, he returned to sight of a twin pairs of bronze staring back at him with an unnerving level of scrutiny. "Ah, is there something wrong?"
Those piercing eyes shined like pools of liquid metal under a head of fire, flashing from Professor's Ozpin's cane back to Crocea Mors in his hands alight with suspicion. "Maybe…I'm not exactly sure yet."
Jaune blinked it surprise at the response, not actively expecting a reply given the firm silence that he had maintained up until this point.
"That's an interesting weapon you have there."
"Um…Thanks? I guess?" This was the first time that anyone besides Ruby has said anything good about his weapon. Most just wrote it off as relic the moment they saw that it didn't have a gun slapped on to it. Having someone acknowledge his family's weapon was kind of nice.
"I apologize, I would love to spend more time with it but I'm afraid I'm going to have to end this quickly."
The Arc took a moment to process what Shirou had just said before proceeding to take the only appropriate action that made sense for someone as unskilled such as himself: turtling up behind his shield. Now, one misconception that novices make about using a shield is treating it as little more than portable cover. In Jaune's mind, as long as he grits his teeth and stayed behind it, he would be safe. Positioning and visibility of the enemy hadn't even occurred to him as something he should be keeping track of. And it was because of this oversight that he never saw the man's attack coming.
A cut along his thigh; a slash along the inside of his wrist; a thrust under his armpit; a swipe to his spine; a chop to the back of his neck. The blows descended upon him like fingers running down the keys of a piano, rhythmic and precise. By the time Jaune peer up from his cover it was already over. The pain factor was still at play but it was bearable. He had a lot of Aura; he could afford to take the hit. As long as he had that he could keep going no matter how many times he was knocked down.
Clenching his teeth, Jaune spun around to face his opponent. The man's back was turned. It would be easy to get a hit in. His lungs bellowed out a war cry. His sword arm raised high and wide; fully intent to strike at the Shirou's exposed flank.
However, before he could meet his foe an alarm blared; shaking him from his trance. "That will be enough Mr. Arc."
"Huh? What? Is there something wrong Professor?"
"Why yes there is Mr. Arc. Your Aura has been depleted." Professor Goodwitch answered plainly. "At this time, you are currently unfit to continue the match any further."
"Wah, I was sure I had-?" Jaune scrambled to check the Aura counter on his Scroll. A look of disbelief forming once the claim had been confirmed to be true. "But how?"
"You focus the majority of your barrier over your head and chest." Shirou informed.
"It's a poor habit that those still growing accustomed to projecting their souls outward as a force tend to rely on." Professor Goodwitch clarified. "Doing so is much simpler to execute than evenly distributing it but at the cost that any punishment taken in those thinned areas are treated as more aggravated damage to the Aura layer as whole; resulting in the body to expend more energy to compensate and shield the host from harm. This effect, in particular, is magnified even more so if the damage would be considered lethal."
"Very much so." If the Professor had detected the unsettled quiver in the teen's voice, she did little to show it; continuing on with her explanation unperturbed. "The first strike alone would have rendered you unconscious from blood loss within the next fifteen minutes were it not for your Aura."
"…Oh…well I suppose that's good to know…" Jaune chuckled nervously, chancing a fearful look at the man's blade. Silently he thanked his lucky stars that all the blood on the weapon had belonged to its temporary owner. "…I think?"
"Proper Aura management is essential to the survival of all those who share this profession. It's far too often that trainees such as yourself perish due to overestimating the extent of punishment that they can take. Hopefully, this match will be a helpful reminder of what your limitations are and how best to improve upon them."
It was sound advice but it did little to settle the rollercoaster of emotions twisting in his gut. Up until this point, his plentiful energy reserves had been his only saving grace, the one thing keeping him aloft with those who really deserved to be here. He figured that as long as he could take the hits for those that can actually fight then at least he wouldn't be completely useless.
…Five hits…that's all it took to dismantle the defenses that he had been so proud of…
If he couldn't even stand as a human shield, what good was he?
"Its to be expected." He heard Ren casually voice from his potion in the stands; less in consolation and more as a statement of fact. "The difference between a first-year students and a fully trained Huntsman are simply far too great."
"Yeah Professor, what gives?" Russel Thrush voiced. "If you were going to put us against a Huntsman you should have placed us in teams."
"One-on-One just makes no sense!" Dove Bronzewing added.
"Its plain suicide is what it is!" Sky Lark yelled out as the final member of Team CRDL. Only the team leader remained silent as the rest of his teammates devolved into a frenzy of outrage. While the rest of the teams present didn't favor the disruptive nature of the three, they couldn't argue that they weren't curious to the nature of today's lesson as well.
A clearing of the throat and a swift glare was all it took to hush the group of troublemakers. "It would seem all of you are misunderstanding something." The Professor's reputation for harsh and swift remediation preceding her in garnering the attention of the entire class in an instant. "Normally, you would be correct in your assessment. However-"
Shirou flashed a knowing look in the Professor's direction. Her persona clamping down hard lest she allow the smile creeping underneath her exterior of professionalism to tarnish her image forever.
"Mr. Emiya here is not, nor has he ever been a Huntsman or any of their equivalents. He is nothing more than a man of many talents."
"HUH?!" The class screeched in unison.
Jaune Arc, being the closest, was the first to recover from the revelation; swiveling in the direction of the man. "Wait! So what Ruby was saying was true? You really are an electrician?"
"Mechanic, handyman, bartender, custodian, and cook as well to name a few." The man listed plainly and without a dreg of shame.
"Wait, are you're telling me I lost to a freakin' Janitor!?" Cardin bellowed, breaking his silence. His humbled state shaken loose by the impact of the revelation.
"Then how did you lose your arm? Surely, it must have been lost in the defense of the innocent?" Weiss declared in protested, desperately clinging to the hope that the man had some semblance of formal training to speak of.
"Lost it in an accident when I was younger. Natural causes from what I've been told." Shirou replied with a shrug, it wasn't that much of a big deal. There were plenty of ways that people could lose a limb in this world. He wasn't sure why everyone assumed he lost it in some kind of fanciful, world ending event.
The Schnee appeared to be at a loss for words, cradling her head in her hands. Today had been a crippling blow to her sense of reality. "First I find out Blake is a bloody pervert and now this?"
"He is also incapable of producing a forcefield with his Aura." Glynda added plainly, drenching the tire fire with a healthy dose of gasoline.
"That's why his Aura levels weren't displayed." Pyrrha commented as if discovering the last piece of a puzzle. "Isn't that a little dangerous Professor?"
Ozpin allowed a chuckled as if amused by a joke that only he understood. "Really now, Ms. Nikos? I hardly imagine Mr. Emiya needed the help given his performance."
Pyrrha merely took a moment to evaluate The Headmaster's words before yielding to the logic behind his explanation.
"And what do the rest of you make of this matter? What lesson could Professor Goodwitch be wishing to impart on the rest of you that required her to invite such a person to spar with you all today?" Professor Ozpin inquired with a punctuating sip from his ever-present mug.
"Keep better track of my Aura."
"Unarmed combat is an effective substitute when disarmed."
"Not every person missing an arm is a wuss."
"All excellent points, but not quite what I imagine she was intending with this exercise." Circular rimmed sunglasses trained on to one of the few students who had yet to provide their input. "Ms. Belladonna."
"Yes, Professor." She replied attentively and respectfully, unwilling to give the Combat Instructor anymore reason to add to her impending punishment.
"Why do you believe that Professor Goodwitch invited a man like Mr. Emiya to spar with you all today?"
A bewildered expression made its way to Blake's features. She took a moment to analyze the man standing next to the blonde woman before coming up with an assessment of her own.
"Because he's unassuming."
The look that Professor Ozpin flashed her way urged for her to continue. She sighed internally; teachers really were all the same no matter their station. Gathering her thought into more than just the monosyllables she was accustomed to, she harkened back to her own experiences in life.
"Just because a person isn't a Huntsman or doesn't have their Aura unlocked doesn't mean they aren't dangerous. On a mission, the person you underestimate the most could just as easily be the one who ends up killing you in the end."
"Marvelously stated Ms. Belladonna." Headmaster Ozpin applauded. "In this world, not every threat is the one we suspect the most." His attention focused on to the man cleaning the layer of blood that had trickled on to the weapon during his last match. "Sometimes, those we write off as insignificant are much more threatening than we can ever imagine."
Shirou Emiya looked back upon the shrinking cliff face from the safety of his Bullhead window. He offered a halfhearted wave to his host which she returned just as gently. She smiled back at him; a soft, subtle thing. It was a beautiful smile; devoid of underlying intentions and honeyed words, honest and kind. For all her pomp and circumstance, Glynda Goodwitch was a straightforward woman through and through: a heart of glass confined within a monolith of featureless concrete.
Her superior, on the other hand, was something else entirely.
"Did you catch it?"
"Catch what Professor Ozpin?"
"Come now Glynda, did you think I wouldn't notice?"
"No." She had hoped she had been wrong.
"Near the end of Ms. Schnee's match; it was faint, nearly indistinguishable from the magic invoked when utilizing a Dust crystal, but it was there. If I hadn't opted to check up on your "guest" when I had I might have very well missed it." Ozpin stared out at the retreating Bullhead, his beverage in his hand having gone cold long ago.
Bronze gravitated toward The Long Memory in the being's grasp. It was a truly ancient thing; forged and refined over countless centuries by seemingly unrelated men. The potency of its Mystery unparalleled to anything he's ever seen on Remnant's surface. The raw stench of Od wafting off the Mystic Code remained clear in his mind even now. Pure unadulterated power folded upon itself over and over again for literal centuries at a time, hiding in plain sight as an assuming walking stick.
He could never forget it. The taste and feel of that power, lost to time immemorial. So similar yet at the same time incomparable to the remnants that proliferated modern society. Vestiges of a bygone age, unbeknownst to all but a select chosen few. A few that, up until this point, he thought he had full accountability for.
Everything was beginning to fall into place.
The amount of latent Prana that filled the air of the kingdom; the unnaturally chipper attitude that the people went about their day in this bleak world; the unwillingness of the Grimm to approach Vale's borders despite there being enough variants of the beasts to renders the supposed "natural barriers" moot; even Glynda Goodwitch's fortune in stumbling upon him that fateful night.
The inconsistent reports of the man's semblance; his undeniable battle prowess despite claiming to have never served as a Huntsman himself; the unexplainable series of events that followed him wherever he went; and, most importantly of all, his ability to recognize what should no longer be recognizable.
There was only one explanation.
"Professor Ozpin is-."
"Shirou Emiya is-."
"A Magus. / A Wizard."
Before any of you start it is actually referenced by Ozpin himself in Fairy Tales of Remnant that Dust is a form of magic. From that we can infer from that, while it can be classified as such, it is many ways inferior and restrictive to what Ozpin, Salem and The Maidens are capable of using.
On another note, to be honest I probably could have released these two chapters two weeks ago but my anxiety in ensuring that I at least delivered a good product after so long without an update forced me to review my work way more than I honestly should have. Hopefully it was worth it.
I've actually had a Fate x Highschool DxD fic idea that's been cooking in my head for a while involving a Shirou growing up in a Fate Illya-esc home in the DxD universe with a bisexual genderbent Issei but I'm not too sure I should give it a go considering how much trouble I have keeping up with this one story alone. Let me know if it it's something you guys would be interested in and I'll see what I can do.