A/N: PLEASE READ THIS NOTE, WOULD YOU KINDLY? It has some important information.
Howdy~! Sorry for vanishing like that.
I think it needs to be said; at this point, that ghastly ending of Volume Eight is starting to affect my writing. Its just got me so damn depressed, to say nothing of real life issues. On that note, I'm Trying a bit of a different format for this chapter; lets see if folks notice. Hopefully this will life me out of my funk; because I've been in a right sour mood as of late They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, no? Well...lets just say I've got a lot of lemonade.
As ever, thanks in advance for the feedback. Reviews keep the inspiration going. Without it, I simply cannot write. Love you all~!
In other news, I've found some good music from this chapter
"Thunder Shroud" by Brandon Yates-aye, the one from Death Battle!- really encapsulated the opening bit. "Ride Into Hell" was pretty good as well.
Now then! Question time! Lets answer some interesting ones:
:Q: More family walks? Very ENTHUSIASTIC walks? With explosions? Canons? All of the above?
:A: You know not what you ask for...but sure, why not. This chapter is TAME compared to what I have in store.
:Q: Can we have more P.O.V.'s from the rest of the cast?
:A: Ask and you shall receive!
:Q: Is the cast the same, or different?
:A: That's the thing about this story. Some characters, while still themselves, have become warped in other ways. Case in point! I'll name a few. Nora's a little rougher, Ruby's still a little angel, but she'll break your EVERYTHING if you touch her family, and Ren is more withdrawn than ever before. Blake all but sees Salem as a second mother; to which she's actively out and about gathering allies for Salem waay out in Menagerie until she's called back in this chapter.
Since she and Adam never met...well...lets just say Illia might hav an actual chance in this story.
There are other pairings in here of course; still, I don't want to reveal those; after all, what's a good story without a few surprises, no?
Likewise with Winter and Weiss Free from the shadow of Jacques, they're truly able to grow. Of course it helps that Weiss houses the Remnant version of freaking VENOM inside her and Winter's basically death on legs at this point. To say nothing of Willow. I'm saving her for a crucial part in this story ;D
I could say more buuuuut that way lay spoilers. Alrighty, then. I've kept you long enough~!
As ever, I own no references, quotes, themes or memes. Not a wit or a one!
Buckle up, because its time for the good stuff!
"They're destined for greatness. They shouldn't be mucking around like this.
And they will be great someday. But right now they're still children, so why not let them play the part? After all, it isn't a role they'll have forever.
~Salem and Ozpin/The Calm Before the Storm.
Going for a Walk (Part II)
Nora was a simple gal.
You see, she liked to smash things.
Enemy? Smash it. Problem? Smash it? White Fang? You guessed it.
With a triumphant cry, Magnhild came crashing down in an overhead slam to sunder ground and flesh alike. Bloody red dirt burst into the air; members of the White Fang flew with it like toy soldiers. Their brethren were still airborne when Salem's resident Valkyrie whipped her hammer back around and set still more screaming into the skies above. More than a few unlucky souls vanished beyond the horizon entirely. Oops. She winced a little as they fell to their deaths upon the mountains below.
Those who survived the impact...
Well, it wouldn't be her hammer that would kill them.
Yup. Surely was the sudden stop that did them in! Totally not her fault!
"Booyah!" she planted her weapon and set one hand to her her eyes as she watched her victims arc helplessly overhead. "That's ten for me!"
"Twenty!" A grinning Winter skated past on a glowing road of glyphs, flanked by a murder of Nevermore.
"Hey!" Nora stomped a booted foot at the sight. "No fair using your summons! That's cheating!"
Weiss zipped by and webbed up a score more. "I'm sorry, did you say something?"
"Showoffs, the lotta ya!"
Nora didn't have a transformation to fall back on; nor a fancy Grimm parasite to rely upon. Just her strength and her hammer. Maybe that did make her simple. Maybe not. She wasn't one for strategy; just point and smash. Some called her broken for that; others claimed she wasn't good for anything other than swinging a hammer. She wasn't clever like Winter and Weiss; couldn't eviscerate people with a glance like Cinder. She didn't possess Yang's bombastic personality, or even a fifth of Blake's patience. Ruby could run circles around her, to say nothing of the rest of their Family.
And that...was okay.
She wasn't terribly smart, or even particularly fast compared to the others. But she was loud and proud. She was strong. If someone upset her, they got a hammer to the head. If someone laid a hand on her, the hand came off. Because you see, Nora was simple. She liked simple. Simple was good. Simple had given her friends, family, and people she loved. She liked simple people like Salem and Naruto; for if the former gave her a place to belong, then the latter truly made that place a home.
Ren...well, he didn't understand sometimes, but that wasn't his fault. He'd see someday. She would make him see.. He thought the Pool of Darkness would change her; but he didn't get it. Nora already who she was; with or without him. Be strong and hit stuff. That was her. She DID that She was the one you sent in to break legs.
Speaking of which! "FORE!"
Magnhild swept up under a tank, catching the vehicle in a vicious broadside.
Bereft of balance, the hulking metal craft crashed backwards, now little more than a tumbling mess of metal and death. Wait. Why did they have a tank? Nora squinted after the blocky white-and-black thing as the vehicle kept rolling; watching it flatten a score of rather unlucky terrorists that didn't get out of the way in time. Huh. That was new. The tank, not their overall stupidity. Since when did the White Fang have tanks? This was supposed to a simple outpost. Had they landed in a stronghold by mistake?
Such thoughts shattered as a stray shot struck her in the chest and pinged off Aura. It did nothing to lessen the impact.
"Aaargh! Right in the boob!" she doubled over with a growl and straightened thrice as quickly. "You'll pay for that!"
With a mere flick of a wrist, her devastating warhammer became a growling grenade launcher.
"Don't you know how to treat a lady?!"
Apparently not; because they opened fire on her with gusto. She tumbled out of the way and came up firing as she ran to the right. Clouds of pink smoke and the pained cries of her prey rewarded her. The gunfire fell still and a strange calm fell over the killing grounds, broken only by the distant sound of combat. Was that it? Her shoulders began to slump. Alright! That settled-
Something hit her.
In hindsight, Nora didn't so much see the round as she did feel it; for a powerful explosion crashed into her back and send her crashing into the muck. Head spinning, knees weak, arms heavy, she thrashed upright to find herself face to face with a looming barrel. Literally. It pivoted down, and too late, she realized what she'd failed to see. Her ears rang. Someone called her name. Stunned and dazed, she couldn't even find the strength to move, let alone stand.
Because there was a second tank.
The barrel barked and Nora closed her eyes against it.
Her aura was already low after the first shot. A second at this range would eviscerate her.
Someone's pale hand swept in from the side and closed around the long barrel, crumpling hardened metal like tinfoil. With nowhere to go the dust round slammed forward and detonated against the sealed casing with a dull whump of sound. It detonated in all its fiery glory. Nora flung up an arm against it in a desperate attempt to shield her face, but the blast never reached her. Something simply sucked all the heat away; as if a black hole had opened within the blaze.
She soon saw why. Naruto stood tall through the fire and the flames, cloak trailing embers of light.
Fully transformed, he looked just like his mother. Eyes the color of blood swept down and found her at his feet. Narrowed. When he saw her sprawled down on hands and bent knee his mouth settled into a grimace, veiny whiskered cheeks dimply in mild concern. His gaze swung back to the tank and its now ruined barrel.
"That," he all but growled up at it, "Wasn't very nice."
To the pilot's credit, they realized their peril immediately and tried to reverse course. They didn't get far. The Prince of the Grimm yanked on the barrel and reeled them back in. Then he punched it. Just one punch. Little more than a flick of his wrist, really. Clenched knuckles barreled into the vehicle and the casing flew apart like a house of cards, spraying metal in every direction. Within the-now-skeletal frame trembling member of the White Fang gazed back at them. Their hands rose in timid surrender.
Naruto didn't grant them it; instead his frown redoubled. "Did you show her any?"
The man wilted. His masked gaze flitted between the two of them. He reached for his sidearm-
A knife sailed from Naruto's sleeve and struck the Faunus between the eyes just above their mask. They slumped over at the wheel, dead as the snow underfoot.
With that, Nora released a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. And yet a seed of envy took root in her heart. This was power. If she just had that, he wouldn't have to save her. Again. She was so tired of being saved. First by Ren so long ago, then Uncle Hazel, and now Naruto himself.
How could she help others when she could barely help herself?
One of their more plucky assailants came at her with an ax out of the smoke; they received a rousing roundhouse for their troubles and crumpled bonelessly to the floor. Another came at Naruto from the right, only to be met by a wave of red light. It cut the poor bastard in half. Yet a third fell to a strange snarling sphere; that one didn't so much die as he did cease to exist, shredded apart as the keening blue light expanded into a great globe and whisked them away.
"Watch your flank." he clasped her hand and hauled her into his side. "You can't regenerate like us; your aura can only take so much."
She flinched but a little beneath his blazing gaze. A booted foot scuffed the ground as she looked down. "M'sorry."
"Don't be sorry." he clapped her shoulder once and gave it a firm squeezed. "Be better."
"Gotcha!" she forcing a smile to her face, one she didn't quite feel.
That's what it came down to in the end. Being better. For all her bluster and bravado; she just wasn't equipped to take on an army by herself. Not yet. Maybe she was looking for validation in the wrong places. Maybe it wasn't that Renny didn't want to understand her; rather, he couldn't. At least Naruto didn't chastise her for being herself.
With a nod he shot past and threw himself back into the fray. As did the others.
Weiss ducked a fresh volley of fire and used her parasite -symbiote!- to restrain a group of terrorists in noxious black webbing. Winter wasn't nearly so gentle. She was an angel of death, gliding across the field of battle, sparing naught who crossed her path. By contrast, Naruto was downright restrained. He cracked heads with the best of them, without a weapon of his own at that. He was forced to use his fists and other...more esoteric techniques. He straight up punched shit to death. Really, it wasn't fair, she wished she could do that.
Nora bounded after them, hammer in hand.
Still, the White Fang were unusually organized today - in that they were putting up more of a spirited fight than usual. Ordinarily they were comprised of chaff and weaklings; little more than disposable soldiers for the cause. Fools who fled at the first sign of trouble or fought and fell within minutes. This lot was...
She ducked as a chainsaw blade nearly took her head off.
...surprisingly well trained.
"Filthy human bitch!" a man's voice bellowed. DIE"
She found herself face to face with a great hulking brute of a Faunus, easily head and shoulders above her. Scars lined thick forearms honed by years of training, hardened muscle, coupled with sheer resolve. That was all well and good, but it was his weapon that truly caught Nora's eye. He had a chainsaw! Now that was metal! Wait, what had he called her-
"I'm not a bitch!" she cried out, indignant with rage. "I'm Nora! Take that back!"
He attacked with a roar of his own.
That awful weapon revved and cut down at her face, forcing her to block with the haft of her hammer lest she lose a limb. The sheer force of it sent her skidding away. Her heart skipped a beat and not from fear. She surged back in Finally! A real fight! Nothing like those silly spars back in the tower. This man was trying to kill her!
A grin tore across her face. Good. That meant she could kill him right back.
Hammer met chainsaw with bonecrushing force; such that the earth split beneath their feet and blasted both their weapons blasted back. Nora steadied herself easily enough, even as her foe staggered Magnhild swung up with sound and aplomb, forcing him to block. He cried out in pain; the noise stirred something in her. Something dark. Something angry.
"C'mon, big boy!" She all but howled the words, grinning from ear to ear. "Show me what ya got!"
Years spent in Salem's domain had honed Nora's skills to a razor's edge; lent her a raw mastery over Aura and brute strength that she never would have otherwise possessed. She used those skills now. Shrugging off hits that she had no business taking, barreling through blows that should've disemboweled her.
They raged back and forth like monsters, tearing into one another without a care in the world.
Before long, Nora realized someone was laughing. It was her. This! This was what she craved! What she'd been born to do! Swing a hammer and smite her enemies! No need to fret or think or feel any guilt towards any of her decisions. It gave her a gift she'd not been aware of. Never in her life have she needed something so much and never known until she received it
This gave her an outlet.
And by the gods did she need it!
All of her stress, all of her pain, all her fear, every bit of it.
And then. Quite suddenly. Her adversary died. She didn't even mean to kill him; the brute simply mistimed a block; to which her instincts sang and struck. Magnhild swept through his defenses to find his skull. One swing was all it took; a simple solid strike and his head flew from his shoulders. Left behind, his body crumpled bonelessly to the floor.
Someone screamed. "She...she killed Banesaw! Monster! Demon!
Banesaw? What kind of silly name was that? No. Not enough. He'd died too soon. Not satisfied, she rounded on another Fang member with a snarl. The man saw her and crashed backward as he babbled for mercy. Nora didn't hear him. He stopped moving when her hammer met his head. Someone screamed and she pivoted, driving her hammer between their ribs. Followed by a third. A fourth. Then a fifth. Blood spattered and she gave into the madness, destroying any who dared to cross her. There was only the battle; only the glorious chaos of carnage.
Rip and tear. Until it is done.
Someone's hand came down on her shoulder; she rounded on its owner with a snarl and brought her hammer crashing into their face.
A hand caught it.
Steel folded beneath their grasp.
"Hey." Gentle blue eyes met hers, rooting her in place. "Its done. They've surrendered."
She snarled back at him. "I'm not done! RIP AND-
He flicked her forehead with two fingers.
There it was. That was the word; the one she held so near and dear to her heart. Reality snapped back like a rubber band. Her hammer fell, and the haze with it. She blinked rapidly as the world swam into focus. Pain was slow to return, but when it did she found herself slumping, weakened as the adrenaline left her system. Even now her body craved it, and it was all she could do just to ignore the urge to rend her enemies.
Naruto beaked back at her.
"Yeesh, if you're this strong before taking a dip, I can't wait to see what you'll be life after."
Hazy, exhausted eyes met his.
...you're not mad?"
"Why would I be?" his smile shone like the sun itself. "We're family." he spread his arms.
"Well, Ren doesn't like it when I get too crazy-
"I'm not talking to Ren." Naruto's golden brow turned stormy. "I'm talking to you."
Something shifted in Nora's heart.
She craved that smile, the raw admiration in those soft azure orbs like nothing else. Maybe she wasn't to blame after all. Ren was Ren. He would always be Ren, ever a part of her world, but now...well. Maybe it was time she did something for herself. Maybe she ought to be selfish. Just this once.
Her legs spurred her forward.
Her hands closed around his face and dragged him down.
Her lips sealed against his, stifling any and all chance of protest on his part.
As far as first kisses went it was a clumsy one; little more than a peck, really. But for the first time since she'd met him, Naruto didn't have a comeback. He just...stared at her. Gaped, even as she pulled away. Uh-oh. Had she broken him. That wouldn't do. She knocked him once on the head, and that seemed to stir him somewhat.
"Marry me." the words tumbled out of her mouth before she could think to hold them back.
"Wait, what?!" Naruto choked on his spit. "Excuse me?!"
"You're excused." she chirruped. "Now, then-
"What's going on here?!
Any response he might've given died a bitter death as someone stumbled out of a tent. Well, one of the few they hadn't burned down. Nora had all of an instant to take in golden eyes, tan striped skin, and dark hair before she was upon them. A chained whip flicked into her hand and despite her best efforts, Nora winced. Looked like she knew how to use that thing, too.
"Aw, crap." she heard Naruto hiss under his breath. "That's Sienna Kahn. She's not supposed to be here."
Winter flourished her Saber. "She's about to be a dead Kahn."
Their Prince reached around and pushed her Saber down. "Maybe not..."
"Naruto?" Weiss released her symbiote and emerged, looking deathly pale. "What now?"
"Now, you trust me." he muttered softly. Then his gaze fell to Sienna. The ghost of a smile touched his lips. "Why, hello there! I wasn't aware we were in the presence of royalty."
Sienna bridled. "Says the boy who serves a Schnee."
"Serve?" Naruto tilted his head. "I serve no one. Think of us as...partners, of a sort. Why don't we stop all this unpleasantness and just...talk?"
"There's nothing to talk about." The Leader of the White Fang crossed her arms. "We're on a peaceful mission distributing aid."
A blond brow quirked. "With tanks?"
"They were meant to protect us against the Grimm." she spared a glance at the ruined weapons. "So much for atlas tech."
Yeah, bullshit. Nora didn't believe her for a second.
"I understand, Sienna. Really, I do." Naruto's already pleasant voice dropped to a low, persuading throb; the kind he used when he really, really poured on the charm. "We needn't be enemies." He extended a pale palm in friendship as a bemused Nora looked on. "If we'd known you were here; that you were taking these supplies to innocent Faunus across the globe, we never would've attacked-
"You killed our people!
"Only those who attacked us." He steeped his fingers. "And we're sorry for that."
Nora blinked. Once. Twice. Thrice. Realization broke like the dawn. "Uh-oh. He's using the voice again."
"Voice?" Weiss whispered aside to her. "What voice? What're you talking about? Did you hit your head back there?"
The Sisters Schnee pressed in around her, idly fascinated as the unlikely duo began to bicker. Well, Sienna did the bickering. Naruto deflect her every argument into the dirt. Whatever she said, whichever insult she flung at him, he simply redirected with ease of a skilled negotiatior.
"His persuading voice, silly!" Nora hushed her. "Just watch. He'll win them over in three...two...one...
Sienna eyed Naruto's now-open hand like a King Taijitu. Eventually, she accepted it.
Naruto beamed as they shook. "Welcome to the Family."
Winter sighed softly to herself.
"That is utter BULL-
-shit!" Salem finished as he watched the bullhead return with a keen eye. "How does he keep recruiting nearly everyone I send him to slay?!"
"It would seem he's made new friends."
She huffed and crossed both arms beneath her bosom. "New friends, indeed!"
"They're destined for greatness." she sulked as Ozpin stepped up beside her. "They shouldn't be mucking around like this." a pale hand waved flippantly as a rather shell shocked Sienna stepped out of the craft after him, golden eyes gone wide. "How will they be feared if they befriend every enemy they meet?"
"And they will be someday. We already know this." Ozpin laid a hand on hers. "But right now they're still children, so why not let them play the part? After all," he nudged her a bit, showing the landing part. "It isn't a role they'll have forever. See for yourself."
Together they looked down, only to find that his arrival had drawn attention in other ways as well.
Below their vantage point, Naruto's scowl became a dopey grin as a dark streak slammed into his legs.
"Aha!" he looked down with a smile. There you are, Elsa! Who's my favorite sister!"
She wrinkled her nose at him."I'm your only sister!"
He laughed. "Precisely!"
Ironwood tore at his hair.
It was all falling apart.
All of it.
Salem had agents everywhere; in Vale and Vacuo, Mistral and Menagerie, now even Atlas itself. He'd heard of the White Fang attack. There was more than meets the eye here. He knew it. He just knew. Some said he was jumping at shadows; that he insisted upon seeing enemies where no foes were to be found. Ozpin wouldn't see sense. Leonardo fobbed him off with false promises of aid. Theodore was less than useless, content to bunker down in the natural defenses afforded by Shade rather risk himself on the field.
Fools! The lot of them. They were blind. But he would make them see. He would save the world; even if he had to drag it kicking and screaming to safety. He wouldn't let this happen. He knew what wast best for Atlas. Best for REMNANT. He would protect this world. Even if no one else would-
His fist swung the door to his office open.
There was someone waiting for him there; sitting behind his desk.
"Good evening, General." The hooded figure tilted their head, and for a moment, he thought he had the impression sight of a smiling face beneath the cowl. "Won't you come in?"
Whoever they were, he couldn't see their face; hidden as it was behind a mask.
Due Process snapped up, cocked and ready to fire. "And who are you?"
"My name isn't important." a gloved hand waved carelessly. "Just think of me as...a friend. One with a vested interest in the destruction of your enemies." he tittered at some unspoken jest and James suspected there was a smile behind that ugly facade of his. "I hear you have a Salem problem."
"And you know this, how...?"
"Knowing is my business." the masked man steeped his fingers and laid his chin atop them. "That's what I do, general. I know things. I make problems go away. What would you do if I told you I could rid you of yours?" A hand rose. His fingers snapped, producing an audible click in the office. "Just like that?"
It was too good to be true. All things where. "And what would you gain from this?"
"Your undying love and affection?"
His finger tightened on the trigger.
"Alright, alright, have it your own way." The masked man straightened, dropping his jovial tone. "She...has something I want. Or I suppose you could say, someone. So?" his hand came down, palm splayed in friendship like a long lost comrade. "What say you?" he knew the bastard was grinning. He just knew it. "Care to hear me out?"
He ought to shoot him. By all rights, he should. And yet...
Damnit all. Reluctantly, Ironwood lowered his weapon. "I'm listening...what did you have in mind?"
"Time, dear general." the masked man reached up, removing his porcelain facade. "All I need is a bit of time, a few years and...well, a few men you won't miss."
James winced as he finally beheld the visage within. A migraine manifested between his temples and pinched the bridge of his nose to shake it off. Strange. What was that sensation just now? Whomever this stranger was, he didn't recognize them. Moreover, they suddenly sounded so reasonable. What was the harm in giving this fellow a few men? This was for the good of Remnant. Surely a few sacrifices were worth that?
He cleared his throat and spoke the words that damned him. "...you'll have them."
The Masked Stranger chuckled softly.
"I knew you'd see it my way."
A/N: I'll say this now about our Masked Stranger; its not who you think it is. I ain't THAT obvious.
Aaaaand now we're into the next arc. Rather ironic, given that we finally get to SEE a certain Arc next chapter. Wherever has he been...?
Forces are stirring in the shadows; you get a cookie if you guess what I'm planning. Who knows, I might even do a request for you if you guess correctly~!
Soooooo in the Immortal Words of Atlas...Review, Would You Kindly?
Reviews keeps this sickly man alive. Without them, I'll just vanish into the void. Poof. Gone.
So here, have some previews while I rest and recover from this one.
Writing/updating this rapidly really takes a lot out of me...
Nora gazed down into the pool.
"Well," she gulped. "Here goes nothing."
She stepped out over the abyss and plunged in.
He pinched the brow of his nose.
His head rose. "You will all die screaming."
"So? How were the parents?"
Blake flopped into bed. "Don't ask me. Ask Illia."
Naruto quirked a blond brow at their resident chameleon.
Wasn't hard to see why; because Illia was grinning from ear to ear.
"You may be powerful, but your power means nothing to a shinobi. We are shadows. We strike in the dark. We. Do not. Play fair."
Cinder quirked a brow. "You do realize, this means war."
Winter stepped forward and pressed her forehead to hers. "May the best woman win."
"Go to Beacon, they said. It'll be fun, they said...
Ozpin resisted the urge to smile. He failed. "Its only for a semester. You'll have fun. With your skills, initiation ought to be be a cakewalk."
"Oh, I know it will." Naruto blinked back at him with a guileless smile as he sipped his tea. "Its the others I'm worried about...
A distant explosion put paid to his words.
"I'LL BREAK HIS LEGS!"
Ozpin quirked a brow. "Nora?"
"Yup." the blond smacked his lips. "I'll have a word with her...
"Merlot. No. Bad idea. Even for you."
The mad scientist remained undeterred. "But the priiiize!"
Salem rose from her throne with a languid smile. "Welcome to the family."