The moment just one speck of the red blade was visible, Minato took one step backwards with his right foot. His whole person followed through while keeping his left foot planted on the ground. Thin air was all that's left of the space previously occupied by his torso until Adam, with one horizontal motion of his sword, cut through it.
With a turn of the wrist, Adam's red blade pointed up to the night sky. He then brought it down, only for the intended target to disappear from his immediate vision. It was followed an upward slice after another turn of the wrist. Once again, the straight, single-edged blade missed its target.
The target in question was a safe distance away after the first string of attacks. No matter, though. A dash step put his target back within reach to begin his next string of attacks, but there was nobody home. Adam kept on the offensive as he constantly closed the distance but, still, the intended recipient was nowhere to be found.
With the explosives deactivated, Minato knew it would take a while for the White Fang to re-arm them, if at all. Therefore, he could afford a little time to size up his opponent. It felt like back in the beginnings of his adventure when everybody had figure out the Shadows' weaknesses by themselves as Mitsuru's Persona lacked the ability to detect enemy vulnerabilities.
"Come on, hit me! Are you just going to keep running away, just like everyone else?"
But that time was running out, so was Adam's patience. While Minato had been able to comfortably weave and step out of Adam's blade, they would both come across, eventually. He would have to react soon while the automatic buffs were still in effect, courtesy of a Persona chucked full of passives being set on the forefront of his mind while the pre-fight chat was taking place.
Heather was no longer hanging around the two of them, evident by the fact that she had disappeared from her resting spot just a few moments ago. This put Minato at ease. Friendly fire was no longer a risk while at the same time making Adam focus on him, and him alone.
Minato's brows slightly furrowed, while his legs kept him swerving here and there, getting him out of the path of Adam's sword. Real separation was all Minato needed to get hold of the Evoker and summon a Persona. A shove of the foot was returned with a shoulder barge, followed by the red sword flying at Minato. A kick to the heel disrupting Adam's balance was replied with the gun on his hip going off, and then another attempting to take the bluenette's head off, which flew past his bangs after a flick of the neck.
Any chance Minato would get to even beg for a little space so he could grab the silver gun and call upon just one of his many Personas, all denied with Adam getting ever so close to make him stand in the effective reach of the sword. When there was clear air between them, shots went off, followed by dashes and more swings. Like cat and mouse inside the mass skirmish taking place around them.
A whole lot of misses, near ones, but no hits. No weapons clashing, either. Nevertheless, it became increasingly clearer for Minato that Adam was not going to let him go about his own business.
A resignation dawned on Minato. The silver gun had to stay in place.
"For someone claiming to be friends with death, you're not willing to set up the appointment."
Minato wasn't one to talk much during combat other than to discuss tactics or relay orders, but even that was mostly on the move and the delivery was to be as concise as possible. Therefore, he paid no mind to Adam's taunt. Even if he would extend a verbal response, he was given no window to do so as Adam went back on the offensive, just like how it had been. His death was a peaceful one, strangely enough. It wasn't one preceded by grave wounds and excruciating pain. The presence of those sharing an unbreakable bond, the joy of reunion, and the sense of accomplishment, knowing they, a bunch of mad men, did it, against all odds, made him feel warm and fuzzy inside.
In any case, Minato felt he had seen enough of Adam's swordsmanship and was ready to apply some countermeasure. Adam had asked to be hit. Therefore, it would be rude to not oblige the request. One way to get back at the taunting, Minato thought. First, though, he needed an opening.
When Minato wasn't using his down time to get some sleep, have a meal, read books, or just strolling around, he scoured the net and played footages from the Vytal Festival tournament on his Scroll. He knew for one that a whole spectrum of responses could be mapped when he put himself in each of his friends' shoes.
That defensive mechanism, one that allowed combatants to receive stabs, cuts, crushes, elemental attacks, and even explosions, all without leaving any marks and wounds, piqued his interest. The tournament footages allowed him to learn some facts about it: There was a system designed to monitor its capacity, it protected each and every single one of them from receiving grave injuries on the spot, some could take an absurd amount of punishment while others only needed well-placed hits to be felled and everything in between within the spectrum.
Whether it was an innate ability possessed by the whole population, whether people could be trained to receive more punishment safely as they either aged or progressed further in training, and whether or not it needed time to be reactivated once it ceased to work; those are some of the key points Minato hadn't been able to put a finger on in the matter of said defensive mechanism. Although, he learned that it had a name, Aura. The commentators went on and on about it every ten seconds or so. It was impossible to miss.
He imagined Junpei would love the video game-inspired monitoring system. Akihiko would try finding out how much he could take by having Shinjiro and Ken hit him until wounds started appearing. Alternatively, the two male seniors might step outside for a fight to first blood instead. Aigis would wonder whether androids and animals possessed it before declaring the facts as inconclusive, although she would deduce that she and Koromaru had it all along out of good faith. Fuuka would think that she lacked the ability only to have Yukari comfort her stating it went into her navigation abilities, all the while Mitsuru would reach out to accomplished academics and experts to get answers from their own perspective.
While Minato's impression of Adam's swordsmanship was that it was formidable, undefeated at first, he began to realize it was rather inefficient. The draws of the sword were getting considerably quicker while maintaining the same degree of control but other than that he failed to see why it was done constantly. Producers and directors would swoon at the showcase, but this was a situation where lives were at stake.
After dodging yet another quickdraw attack, Minato went for it. With the sword in his left hand - his natural off-hand but he received tips from Akihiko to keep the awkwardness minimal – he took one step forward, positioned his right hand at the end of the hilt and got Adam tagged by pushing the tip of the blade all the way into Adam's wide-open chest area.
As Minato suspected, Adam also had Aura. The thrust left no marks, but Adam's whole body glowed while he gasped in response, confirming the hit being registered. It also gave Minato an on-sight demonstration of what he had previously known.
Minato then weaved his upper body backwards, giving nothing but thin air to Adam's return effort. And yet, they were both still within touching distance of each other without having to extend their blades. Seemingly what Adam wanted.
Adam suddenly jerked his left arm forwards and extended his scabbard, revealing the gun which had shot down Nigi Mitama on the balcony of the classroom building overlooking the main square. Minato was at point blank range, Adam would surely register a hit after so much chasing and missing.
But then, the noise coming from the gun being fired was not followed by another indicating something had been hit. No, all it found was thin air, just like any other attacks Adam had attempted.
Bullets, and other small arms projectile, were too quick for the eyes. However, the intended target could be predicted by looking at where the barrel was pointing.
Minato knew this, twisting his body just in time for the bullet to fire out and fly past. Adam was quick to respond as well, turning his gun around to follow Minato's body and have another crack.
This was it. Adam's eyes lit up on the opening, the course of attack was never this clear for him. The end of the barrel rested against its target. It was surely the end. A ruggedly built figure might have a chance to withstand a point-blank shot, regardless of Aura. However, on the opposing end of this one was a rather slender, pedestrian-looking guy with a sword and a much inferior-looking firearm he had successfully managed to keep the guy from using.
But there was nobody home, yet again. This time, however, the shot's direction had been diverted out of the target's own deliberation. A jolt ran up Adam's whole body. A display of such tenacity had left his mind crashing into a brick wall.
Just in the nick of time, Minato had grabbed Adam's gun-holding arm with his free hand and pushed it aside as the trigger was pulled. Adam expended energy in attempt to outmuscle the grip to no avail, Minato had his left hand locked in the opposing left arm tightly, making sure the gun stayed diverted.
Minato's risky effort had produced an unobstructed view of Adam's face from whiskers away. In a split second, Adam came to the same realization.
Adam had his tightly-gripped sword in the other hand, he could still get there and finally get to use his damage absorbing ability at the sight of the guy binding his left arm raising his sword and brought it down. Adam was hoping to get there in time catch the oncoming attack.
Both blades would come across, but this wasn't the case. The window was too wide for Adam to close in time. The attack struck violently off his face, and produced a rattling sound as part of the sword collided with his mask.
Cracked skull and an open gash. They're the kind of injuries one would expect suffer from a sharp blade striking the head. A combination of Aura and his mask prevented it from happening right away, something Adam was relieved of, despite the grunting response.
Minato kept at it, having forced Adam into an unnatural position. A violent lunge of the sword past Adam's own produced another crack on the mask, albeit smaller and shallower than the previous one. Another grunt escaped the recipient's mouth as the sword was pulled back towards its owner.
A clang preceded another attempt from Minato to drive his sword towards Adam. Another clang followed as both swords caught each other. It was succeeded by yet another clang. There was little movement after that, the force of one cancelled the other. Both of them had come to a standstill, awkwardly crossing swords while fighting for the control of Adam's gun.
With grunts, gritting of the teeth, and his feet driven to the ground, Adam slowly tipped the balance in his favour. Never in his mind he perceived the pedestrian looking bluenette would even manage to land hits, let alone turning the fight into such a bind.
And yet, the White Fang leader continued to be surprised when Minato rebalanced the scales, releasing grunts that would otherwise make him sound out of character. It was clearly going nowhere and it wasn't like the world around them stopped to watch them settle it. The sound of gunfire, blunt and sharp weapons clashing were still heard around them.
Adam would've shoved his foot to Minato, had he not been struck in the back of the knee first. Minato let his sword slide down by the edge and past the negligible small round guard - the glowing of the red sword didn't go unnoticed - until it landed on Adam's gun-holding arm violently. Even though the glow of the Aura protected Adam from potentially suffering the same fate as the person receiving an eerily similar attack on the spot, the sting jolted all the way into his brain and he reflexively opened the left hand. The gun-scabbard made a crackling sound as soon as it made contact with the concrete they're standing on.
The blades were no longer locked against each other. Adam's eyes lit up again, looking to get one back after the violent hits to the face and arm but his sword's cutting edge met the false edge of his opponent's sword. Their legs clashed as one tried to gain control over the other only for both of them to lose footing and tip over at the same time, bodies crashing onto the floor.
The good news was that they were no longer in that awkward position due to the fall, and Adam's left arm had been freed. The bad news, for Adam at least, was that his scabbard disappeared. Minato had the presence of mind to throw it into the bushes.
To say Adam must not be allowed to get the part firearm part sword protection against the element was an understatement on Minato's part. He stood right in the path to the bushes where he had thrown it away. The straight, double-edged blade pointed downwards and somewhat sideways, with his right foot becoming the leading foot, a change in approach.
It was the same with Adam. No quickdraws cutting through metal like hot knife through butter until whenever he managed to recover the scabbard. Adam went with the standard frontal guard. Both hands grasping the hilt, sword raised at around the same height as where the scabbard would be, pointed slightly upwards towards the opponent.
Apparently, it was still not advisable for Minato to even attempt shoving his free hand into the holster slightly hidden behind his jacket just to undo the button that secured the Evoker in place. Adam immediately had his eyes darted at Minato's hip area and looked to place his blade there.
Minato looked a mixture of lacking the sense of self-preservation and general knowledge in his current posture. However, his response to Adam's oncoming attack was anything but. A simultaneous step back and a flick of the wrist sent his own sword upwards. Adam's sword absorbed the force – the glow of the sword became hard to miss after a couple of contacts – but he forgot that an object in motion stayed in motion with the same speed as he walked right into the pointy end of Minato's sword after it steered his own off course.
Adam reeled back after letting out a shriek, then pushed the tip of his sword towards Minato, who took a step back and raised his sword with to nudge Adam's aside. Adam's body was out of harm's way, but not his arms, which got tagged as Minato's sword came down to return the blow. Despite only a little chink, the impact shot up Adam's arm all the same.
After glancing Adam's thrust to the hip from a resting position, Minato used the excess momentum to again raise his sword and turn his wrist before bringing it down at a diagonal trajectory. A good portion of the edge found its way to Adam's ribs. Again, there was no injuries, but Adam could feel the part being hit throbbing.
Minato pulled back a step, brought the sword closer to his body, swerved to the side after using it to put Adam's sword out of play with both hands grabbing the hilt and then one-handedly returning it with what would have been a cut to the windpipe had it not been for Aura. Adam held his flaring neck with one hand while the other hand kept swinging.
Raising the sword closer to his face, again with both hands, Minato used Adam's own momentum to let an incoming thrust slid just past the cord keeping the pair of earphones in place. With a step forward, the swords grinded against each other but the pointy end of Minato's sword just pierced the clean air, narrowly missing the spot which he just struck.
If there was one thing Minato had to admit was lacking in this fight, it was his basic reach. It wasn't a battle of two extremes – like a toothpick against a spear – by any means, but Adam could be playing keep-away for all he knew, having the longer blade and all, instead of constantly attempting to take his head off. Perhaps it was due to that special attack which could potentially take Heather's life had he not managed to come across in time.
The action around them had gradually been subsiding, and Minato took that as a signal to find a way to finish it, one way or the other. All the hits he had landed felt like hitting a practice dummy due to Aura preventing Adam from sustaining injuries. There was no time to figure out how much more the White Fang leader could take.
For once in the fight, Adam decided to jump back, making them both out of reach of each other's blades. Perhaps this was Minato's chance to finally grab his Evoker.
However, as Minato cycled through his Personas, he saw it. The reds from before. Hair, mask graphics, the sash attached to Adam's hip, all seemed to come to life.
Adam had dragged his sword backwards, mimicking one of Minato's guards from earlier. With a scream from the top of his lungs, he unleashed the red slashing projectile, following an eight-to-two motion of the blade. It was much bigger than last time, easily dwarfing Minato, digging its way into the concrete ground as it curled towards its target.
The projectile would put an end to Minato's valiant effort, had it not for him raising his sword in time to get across. He planted both feet against the ground, becoming the immovable object to the projectile's unstoppable force. The stalemate broke in a blink of an eye, for something had to give.
Minato managed to stay on both feet. The force was as powerful as a speeding truck, and with Minato channelling the raw strength of a Persona he managed to set in the forefront of his mind just in time alongside his own, the double-edged sword cracked along the width of the blade, and then a sizable chunk flew just above his head and into the air, nowhere to be seen or heard again.
Minato blinked once, then once more. His ears immediately picked up a loud scream, and his eyes narrowed when the source was found, an incoming Adam Taurus from above with his sword held up in the air with both hands.
If Adam hadn't made it clear that he was out for blood that night, he definitely did with that exclamation. His eyes immediately sparked right after he heard the sound of metal breaking.
The response Minato could think of in that moment was to put his left arm up, acting as shield in front of his face. Another thing might have to give as the red blade was brought down with power.
However, the blade never went through the unobstructed arm, not even an inch. It was as if it had clashed against a kind of impenetrable cushion.
"What!?" Adam gritted his teeth. He grunted, putting as much weight as possible into the sword, only to have it not budge even in the slightest.
In truth, Minato made the decision to ditch his initial plan of staying well away from Adam's blade and preventing the weapons from clashing out the window before the whole militia and the White Fang were even locked in combat. It was for the best, as he came up with a much sounder tactic: Simply draw the best-suited affinities and/or abilities from the Personas for his own use whenever necessary. In this case, he chose a certain high-level Persona which was able to render the lethality of slashing attacks to zero by its own. All he had to do was bring it to the forefront of his mind, making its innate immunity to edged weapon attacks his. It was inspired by that time he thought he would get squashed to death by a Grimm.
This was not possible at all in Minato's previous life. Despite the Personas' varying affinities and abilities, every direct hit to the person caused injuries, and were lethal if they were either too powerful or placed well enough. This resulted in him getting well acquainted with sustaining the occasional cuts and bruises, yet he soldiered on nevertheless.
While Adam was still processing it all, his sword arm was grabbed, and got pulled violently over the shoulder as his shirt was grabbed at the same time. He was trapped in perplexity, leaving him with little ways to react as he felt his lifted body being rolled in mid-air before he writhed in agony due to the impact of his back violently hitting the ground. He felt his whole upper body going limp, like electricity wired straight into his nervous system.
Minato thought of straddling Adam, but instead had his left knee holding down Adam's right arm which had let go of the sword due to the impact all the while simultaneously holding the shoulder down with his right foot. Having dropped the broken sword before throwing Adam into the ground, Minato reeled back his right hand, balled it into a fist, and sent it crashing down, landing square in Adam's face and breaking through the mask.
If the throw hadn't already knocked the wind out of Adam, the punch certainly did. The mask had been shattered, exposing a burn mark from his past which had rendered the eye it hit bloodied while the other eye had remained perfectly healthy. His shoulder and his back felt numb. Other areas of his body which had been hit earlier was either throbbing or flaring up, despite the lack of cuts and bruises. He couldn't hold back the heavy feeling in his eyes, and they shut shortly after.
On the other hand, Minato was not expecting to knock Adam out cold with just one punch, much less finding his hand wrapped in ice that adjusted to his hand. He watched the ice crept along the shape of his hand, producing small cracking sounds but showing no signs of breakdown in integrity with every squeeze and expansion. He flipped his icy hand over and over, then looked at Adam, and his unmasked face. Even though masks were a part of the White Fang's uniform, he came to understand why Adam would prefer keeping his on.
"Hold him still!"
Minato turned his head and saw Heather running towards them. As he saw the zip tie in her hand, he scooted aside, giving room for her to turn Adam on his belly and tie his hands together, with no resistance whatsoever. Minato placed a knee on Adam's back to prevent any more struggling. Minato breathed a sigh of relief, kneeling beside Heather as she made sure the zip tie was secure by putting on another one.
"Are you okay?" Heather placed a hand on Minato's shoulder. "Wait, your hand…" It wasn't long before she noticed his hand was still covered in ice as she examined her from top to bottom.
The ice receded to the fingertips as Minato gazed at it, leaving only healthy skin in its wake.
"I thought he'd crippled you when you're forced to fight with just your sword." Heather quipped. "But looks like there's no need to worry about it." She looked at Adam, then back to Minato, giving an approving nod.
Minato chuckled at the appreciation while letting out a sigh of relief at the same time. He looked around to locate what remained of his sword only to see it held safely in Heather's hands.
"I guess we'll have to do something about this…" The hilt remained perfectly intact, but only half of the blade was there. In the meantime, Heather handed it back to Minato who just slotted it into the sheath.
"Nice one, dude!" It was Sun's voice. He could finally make time to check out the situation with Adam with Blake on tow. Seeing that Adam had been neutralized, he raised a brow then grabbed Minato's hand and pulled him up. "I'm more of a high-flyer guy, so it's been a while since I last see some good old-fashioned brawling that works."
"I think almost all of you kids are, to a degree." Heather commented on Sun's remark. She placed a foot on Adam's back, hands holding her hip. Some would consider it rude, but when the guy was dangerous, in addition to nearly taking a life, moving the line slightly further up the road was not something to condemn.
In the midst of all that, Adam's eyes fluttered open. Minato noticed this first. Everybody else followed his gaze as they wondered what had gained his attention. As Adam's senses returned, the first thing he felt was his hands being tied behind his back. Then the sight of four people gawking at him. One of them happened to be Blake who was nowhere to be seen before he was locked in combat.
"I'm going to make you regret ever coming back, Blake!" Adam managed to muster enough energy to even be grunting, let alone glancing upwards.
Sun, Heather, and Minato stood in front of Blake in response, as if forming a barrier. No words came out from them, just glares.
"Still too afraid to face me on your own." Adam grinned. He was in a severely disadvantaged position and yet still had the gall to make light of the situation. "Making everyone else do the dirty work for you."
"Them's fighting words. You can't even beat a guy who doesn't use guns." Sun twirled his weapon, a red staff with gold engravings and lever action triggers attached to it. "It's a volunteer gig, by the way."
According to the Student License Heather had forged for Minato, he could've made up words to indicate him being one of Blake's classmates, as it was stated to be issued from the currently not operational Huntsman Academy located almost right smack in the centre of Remnant. Then again, he didn't know what year Blake was supposed to be, only that Huntsman education lasted for four years. Plus, with these institutions having supposedly low admittance rates despite the high number of applicants each year – clearly there was interest for this line of work despite the risks it presented, though it would be nice if he could get an access to the numbers for the sake of fact-checking – declaring that he was her classmate might raise suspicion. Therefore, he chose to not say a word.
"I'm here for Haven." Blake gave Adam a frosty look. "…Not you."
Adam's face turned sour. For the first time, he found it difficult to respond in a verbal exchange.
"You can try making me regret coming here, Adam..." Blake continued. "But honestly, I've got more important things to deal with."
Upon hearing that, Adam almost wanted to let out a laugh, but he settled on chuckling. "You are still afraid…and you should be." He kept coming back to the subject of fear. Perhaps his obsession with Blake had grown to even more dangerous levels. "I've made powerful friends while you've been awa-"
Adam was abruptly stopped by a foot stomping the back of his head, driving his face to the ground. He didn't make anymore sound as it knocked him unconscious again. The three teenagers would have to thank Heather for that.
"HUSH!" Heather yelled at the top of her lungs, index finger pointing at the head she was putting her foot on. "Sorry. It's grating to listen to." She looked at Blake, worrying she might take it the wrong way.
"That's…one way to shut him up." Blake remarked. The mixed feelings of relief and pity were written on her face.
"Eh, he deserves it anyway, for what happened at Beacon." Sun was supportive of what Heather just did. "It's high time everything he's done comes back to him."
"Was he always like that, trying to get into your nerves?" Heather asked the two teenage Faunus, taking her foot off Adam's head.
"It's part of his repertoire." Blake answered with some brevity. "Still, thank you." Her lips developed into a gentle smile, extending the gratitude towards Heather and especially Minato.
Heather returned the smile with a grin, while Minato only nodded. Blake and Sun could've sworn they saw the corner of Minato's mouth quirk up ever so slightly.
"Where did you go? You just straight up disappeared earlier." Heather moved on to the questioning, shooting one at Blake who was nowhere to be seen in the square until just now.
"I picked up Minato's last-minute tip and decided to check inside the hall…" So far, every little change and turns of events had been relayed through the communication device Heather provided. "…then I saw my teammates." Blake finished her explanation.
"…Oh." Heather comprehended in an instant. "They might be part of the group of eight you saw entering before we showed up." She addressed Minato while making sure Adam's unconscious body was comfortable enough to be used as a cushion. She then sat on it. Exhaustion was written all over her face.
"You guys better surrender, 'cause we've got your boss pinned down!" The fighting around them had been gradually dying down, but with Sun's exclamation, it finally came to a halt. The staff he was holding transformed into a nunchuck which he pointed forwards like pistols. Apparently, that's what the triggers were for. That's three out of three weapons with firearm modes Minato witnessed in person. "Or are you just gonna ditch your lord and savior?" Challenging words directed at the White Fang members came out of Sun's mouth.
Having dropped their weapons and put their hands up, the White Fang members noticed some gaps and immediately broke through the crowd of militia, going to different directions either on their own or with their comrades. Naturally, the whole militia went after them.
"It's the latter…" Minato quipped.
"That's a surprise…" Heather's brows perked up.
All that time, the group were wondering where Ilia were until she suddenly emerged from the crowd of Faunus chasing the White Fang members. "You got Adam?" She jogged towards them.
"Yep." Heather put emphasis on the P, nodding at Ilia.
"What do we do now?" There was little pause as Ilia skirted it aside for the time being, standing by for Heather's next instruction.
"You join the chase." Heather immediately addressed the question, to which Ilia nodded and went off right away.
Next was Sun. "You keep watch right here. Once the police come here to help me take Adam away, you're free to join Ilia."
Lastly, Blake. Heather perked her head to the direction of the hall ahead. "If you wanna get back in there, then go. Take Minato with you."
Minato was standing beside Sun but then turned around to face Heather after his name was mentioned.
Heather let out a chuckle while flapping a hand in front of her face. "I just remembered Ruby is Blake's teammate." She explained the reason behind her instruction.
Minato's eyes widened slightly as he heard it. He stole a glance at Blake who instantly turned her head towards Heather. The probability of Blake being in the party of four girls Elizabeth encountered increased tenfold.
"…How did you know?" Blake blinked once before asking the question.
"Watched you guys compete at the Vytal Festival. Team RWBY, right?" Heather crossed her legs, eyeing Blake in her reverie.
"Would've made the finals if it wasn't for Mercury provoking Yang after the fight." Sun chimed in.
"Yang was right after all?" Blake stared at Sun.
"Heh, believe me, I know when someone's trying to drag the other guy down with 'em." Sun grinned, his jovial tone was followed by one of confidence.
"Is that so…?" Heather asked sarcastically.
Minato had zero idea what they were talking about and was just standing there, waiting for Blake to lead the way.
"Check on Lionheart if you find him." Meanwhile, Heather had something else to add before Minato and Blake left the scene.
Minato had nothing to say about it, choosing to nod in response. Not for Blake, though.
"Professor Lionheart is fine…" She opened her mouth, delivering the good news. "But I don't think he's on our side." Then the bad news, which if true, would potentially far outweigh the good one.
Heather thought she could finally breathe a sigh of relief until Blake dropped the bombshell. Minato blinked at Blake, his visible brow furrowed ever so slightly.
"What?" Heather gasped. Her jaw momentarily dropped before closing it almost right after, still processing what Blake just said. "How?"
"He might have let the White Fang in, along with the same people responsible for the Fall of Beacon." Blake explained. Aside from the choice of words, her tone was one of certainty.
"Don't just jump into conclusions, Blake." Heather wore a sceptical look on her face. She had to be sure, all the while holding back the feelings of surprise and disappointment. "…And are you implying the White Fang weren't only the ones responsible for that?"
"There's no time to explain!" Blake's tone rose. She turned to the hall, and then back to Heather. "They're inside, fighting my friends. I need to help them!"
Minato had been watching the conversation go on as he connected the dots inside his head. Even before proceeding into the establishment, something about how the White Fang getting in just like that was off. Granted, the academy was on a break, yet it was strange that there was next to no security presence.
"Then go! They could use it right about…now." Sun stepped in, ending the conversation between the two females, and urged Blake to get a move on. Heather had no choice but to concede for the time being.
"Don't get killed, you two." Despite being left hanging and puzzled, Heather didn't forget to warn the two teenagers going off ahead.
"Back at you, Heather." It was the first time Minato actually addressed Heather by her name, almost the same way it took him a long time to address Yukari by her name. They hit it off much sooner than that, though.
"Be careful." Blake approached Sun and patted him on the shoulder.
"No promises." Sun received the caution with great appreciation, his lips quirking up.
Before they went on ahead, Minato unclipped the sheath of his now broken sword from the white Evoker belt and gave it to Heather for her to hold onto. She needed no words as her glance met his calm, yet reassuring gaze projected from his one visible eye instead of the usual dead fish-like gaze that she couldn't really get a read on. She knew not everybody were chatterboxes but never before she witnessed that much emotion conveyed through just one part of the face.
Once Blake and Minato were at the hall's doorstep, they steered clear of the huge opening and pressed their backs against one of the intact wooden doors, watching the events unfolding inside through the holes which previously had decorative glass panels installed.
"Why did she mention Ruby?" Blake spared a momentary glance at Minato, then continued to examine the situation inside the brightly lit open space just beyond them.
It was a fair question. One that Minato knew would catch up to him. Although, he was hoping it would be sometime later. With Ruby Rose herself reported to be inside the hall they were about to enter, he hadn't come up with a good enough explanation for it.
"Acquaintance of my associate." It was the best answer Minato had for the moment. They were a little tight on time, as well.
"What do you want with her?" Blake prodded. Yellow irises darted at the rather indifferent look of Minato's. What turned out to be another healthy grey iris peeked through the slight gap of the swiping blue bangs which meticulously covered a good half of his face as he ever so slightly turned his head towards her. She was slightly taken aback as the gaze meeting her own was rather piercing, despite the lack of frowns on his face. She had previously assumed he was hiding a condition underneath that much hair, too.
"I'll explain later." Minato directed his gaze away, prompting Blake to do the same. He sighed, getting the feeling she was not letting it go, if the frown written all over her face was of any indication. "I mean no harm, if that's what you're asking."
Whether it was assuring enough or not was up in the air. Nevertheless, there was no time to let it interfere with the more pressing matter. The exchange of words came to a halt, with Blake keeping her eyes darted to different directions while Minato's were focused on the giant, not-so-tangible yet solid enough to inflict and take damage bee hovering above the combatants inside. Despite its appearance Minato couldn't help but having images of Grimm flashing in his memory.
"Who do we fight?"
Minato fired the question. He had the slightest of ideas about who was on which side, but he'd rather have the utmost conviction about it. Knowing was half the battle, as he could attest.
Blake took a quick second to identify the hostile party, before lifting an index finger, using it as an indicator of some kind. Minato glanced at the finger, then trailed the direction it was pointing.
"That one, Emerald…" First was the girl in green, in her hands were what looked like sickles which doubled as guns. "Mercury…" Then to the kick-happy guy who just fired a shot from his heels. "The big guy, but I don't know his name…" Next, the guy from earlier who had crystals embedded in his arms as Minato recalled. "…and Professor Lionheart." Lastly, the man with a mane of brown hair and equally as amazing beard standing on the staircase located to the far side of the hall.
Minato jutted down his mental note, focusing on the four identified hostiles as the giant bee got hit with fire coming out of the circular gauntlet attached on Lionheart's left arm. At the same time, Blake started scooting closer to the huge opening. She momentarily stopped, as she looked back to see him remaining stationary.
"Are you coming or not?" There was no time for Blake to be annoyed at Minato's lack of urgency as she looked around to find a higher vantage point. Meanwhile the giant bee had been reduced to nothing after taking another raging fire, this time from the big guy.
"Go on ahead." To which Minato replied as such, watching Blake climbed onto a higher vantage point to then turn his attention back to the conflict inside.
Minato watched Blake make her supposed re-entry, taking her place beside the girl wearing a combination of red, black, and cream; and another friend of hers, clad primarily in blue and had hair which colour reminded him of the snowy days during the build-up to the final battle atop the dreaded tower. In other news, he finally had the opportunity to take out the silver gun and brought it up. He then tiptoed his way to the entrance, waiting for the triumvirate comprised of the unknown big guy, Mercury, and Emerald to converge.
When they did, it was his cue. With a heightened sense of urgency, Minato pointed the cold metal of the summoning device at his head and pulled the trigger. Another Persona was about to be introduced to the harsh world he had only been on for the better part of five days.
Drawing from prior experiences in regards to keeping things in place, Parvati was selected. Mothman and Black Frost were not the only Personas of his to possess powerful enough abilities while also being not as taxing to field for extended periods of time.
With its hands clasped together, Parvati made barely any sound, step by step entering the battlefield. A few steps later, it opened its eyes, hands grabbing the piece of clothing twirling around it, gaze directed at the three converging enemies.
The ground they were standing on suddenly felt cold to the touch. Solid ice immediately billowed from right underneath their soles, making its way up to wrap their feet. Before they could even do as much as trying to jerk free, their lower limbs became completely encased. It eventually covered them from head to toe, with the reflective surface becoming duller and much less translucent due to the massive increase in density.
Minato's gaze darted to the staircase, spotting Lionheart aiming his weapon at Parvati. While not particularly weak, Parvati wasn't one to take hits. He had a Persona at the ready as he placed the barrel against his head again, all the while remaining relatively undetected.
Orpheus was already in its flying posture when it manifested into tangibility. It raced towards the staircase, blowing a gust of wind as it grabbed Lionheart with both hands.
The grasp squeezed Lionheart tightly. He shivered as the one visible orb of magenta pierced right through his own. His face became completely devoid of colour, his lips trembled, and he couldn't even find the energy to move his arms or look away from it.
In an instance, the magenta orb glowed, and Lionheart felt himself exploding while being thrown to an inferno and back at the same time. Whether he should be grateful or not to find out that he was still breathing, although shallowly, after he was put down was open to interpretation. Orpheus had left him with torn clothes, burnt skin, and nothing left in the tank. Perhaps if it wasn't for Aura, he wouldn't remain in one piece. Then again, it was probably an overkill in the first place.
It was such a horrifying sight that didn't go amiss by everybody watching. As Blake eyed the floating figure with her eyes wide, she realized it bore a like-and-like resemblance to someone just stepping into the hall.
"Minato?" Blake called to Minato, walking around the three figures trapped in ice accompanied by a lady figure taller than him, wearing an outfit of unknown origin. Although the lady had its eyes closed, she somehow felt deeply gazed into, something the two girls beside her were also experiencing, if their bodies reeling back ever so slightly as it towered over them was any indication.
Having remembered the characteristics Elizabeth mentioned, Minato had ample conviction that he was looking eye-to-eye at the girl.
"Ruby Rose?" If Elizabeth could remember Ruby's full name without fumbling, so could Minato. His dull grey iris locked onto Ruby's glossy, silver ones. He didn't miss the sight of the white-haired girl tilting her neck up and down, gawking at Parvati. She sported a cut mark in her dress and there was blood around it. However, there seemed to be no wounds, leading Minato to safely assume that she was previously hurt but had been healed.
"Y-yes?" Ruby did her best to keep her breathing stable amidst the sudden jump of having a complete stranger address her by her full name. "Who are you?".
"This is Minato." Blake extended her free hand towards Minato, as if inviting for a hand shake. "He's a friend…apparently." Although, it was all she could say. There had been no time to get acquainted, after all.
"Nice to meet you." Minato nodded. Hearing the confirmation brought a stream of relief to him, also because Blake was convinced enough to at least not tell everybody to have a piece of him. Most importantly Ruby was here, and she was alright. Exhausted, but alright nonetheless.
"How did you know my name?" It was a natural question to ask.
Unlike Blake's prodding earlier, Minato seemed to have an answer ready for that one. That being said, they were in the midst of a conflict. Therefore, a short one would have to suffice.
"Elizabeth sent me." Minato stated, banking on the meeting Elizabeth mentioned actually happening. Whether or not Ruby caught her name was another issue.
"Elizabeth?" Ruby held her gun with one hand and her chin with the other. "I…"
They were interrupted by a cracking sound. Even the adult and the kid at the far side had their heads turned, immediately picking up where it came from. Minato's eyes ever so slightly narrowed as the largest ice trap in the middle kept producing the same sound. Truth be told, he thought it would stay firm for just a little longer until he could at least learn why a fight was taking place, and whether they knew they might have walked into a trap.
While the enemies were still encased, Orpheus took the time to grab the string instrument floating on its back and strummed gently. On cue, warm yellow light highlighted Minato, Ruby, Blake, and everybody else considered to be allies, followed by a glowing ball of white which disappeared shortly after. While a welcome addition, he vividly remembered it needing a partner to perform that one. Perhaps it learned something new when he was in an inactive state.
"Whoa…" The white-haired girl was struggling to not let her jaw drop and her eyes open wide.
"What...did that just do?" Despite earlier scepticism, the features on Blake's face had softened up towards Minato.
"It feels refreshing!" Ruby's tone was quite jovial, despite the situation they were currently in.
"It's like my Aura has been regenerated." The orange-haired girl not too far away from them described the refreshing aspect.
"I feel like I can move through the air. Thanks!" The blond wearing armour over hoodie, carrying a sword in one hand and a shield in the other sounded his appreciation. His remark of the agility enhancer spell's effect was quite accurate.
The responses didn't overlap the most pressing matter, that the three people encased in ice from head to toe could be free any moment. Minato stepped forward, with Parvati taking its position beside him.
"Take five." Minato addressed. He had to raise his volume a tiny bit, since everyone was scattered here and there.
Despite having a hands-off approach to leadership, it wasn't the first time Minato offered to take over in combat. During those moments, his true role as the one giving the final push to get them over the hump shined.
"Not to be rude, but she doesn't look like the fighter type…" Though obvious, the white-haired girl pointed it out. While it could be considered a throwaway line, the assumption that she was also part of the group Elizabeth met grew.
Minato had considered bolstering the ice traps, but immediately came to a realization that they would eventually break anyway. Therefore, Parvati was allowed to be pulled back. It became translucent, then broke into shards that disintegrated into nothingness. The white-haired girl was a little taken aback at the sight, having thought he wasn't listening to her at first.
There were three enemies. With Parvati withdrawn, Orpheus was the only Persona out. It occupied the space above Minato, slightly to his right. However, the disparity in numbers would soon be no more as he had something in mind. For that, lifted the silver gun he had been holding in his right hand, placing the cold barrel against his head.
"What are you doing?" It was the long-haired guy in green who shouted first.
"Hey, stop!" The older man stretched an arm out.
"This isn't the time for suicide!" Then the orange-haired girl.
"Wait!" Surprisingly, the last line came from the kid who held onto his cane for support.
In all fairness, those words were considered fair reactions upon witnessing somebody pointing a gun to their head.
Nevertheless, Minato ignored them. His left hand was out of the pocket, fingers flexing outward. With his eyes shut, he reached deep into the Sea of Souls for a suitable Persona. One of them immediately stepped forward before he even began roll-calling. It did so, because it had been longing for the opportunity.
With only the cracking sounds as the guide, Minato waited. The ice trap on the big guy was rapidly deteriorating and yet it felt like an eternity. At the sound of the loudest crack, Minato's brows furrowed, then his eyes jerked open, and his finger squeezed the trigger.
This particular Persona had been getting the honour to be Elizabeth's vanguard during her many escapades, despite her ability to use whatever at her disposal. She also managed to basically retrain it, giving it versatility. On top of all, she was preparing it for him. While the Evoker, the sword, the photographs, the Lien, and the other items were important, she considered this Persona to be the most important of all, for it was her parting gift.
It wasn't just any Persona. It was bestowed upon Minato in the middle of a tragic event that took lives of his loved ones. Years, and a startling revelation later, made him perceive it as a curse. Yet not once did his companions blame him, not once did they ever think of abandoning him. Instead, it gave them a meaning, a purpose which they carried for the rest of their lives, perhaps also passed down to future generations. On top of all, they managed to form an unbreakable bond in between them. One that transcends time, space, and even death.
On a more personal note, it served as a symbol of friendship between Minato and the person who once assumed the form. He, along with all the other resident of the Sea of Souls, was more than happy to welcome it back with open arms. Now, he would award it with its first outing since its return.
The gun went off, but instead of blood, translucent shards of light popped from the other side of Minato's head accompanied by the sound of glass breaking. A vortex appeared in an empty bit of real estate between Minato and the group behind him. The same translucent shards converged in several places.
Starting from the bottom, they worked their way up, taking on the tangible form of a pair of legs in thigh-high white sleeves. At the same time, fingers extended into whole arms, wrapped in a pair of white gloves stretching just past its elbows. Eight identical coffins came into shape, each notched to chains attached to a red shoulder belt at the other end. The torso was clad in a form-fitting long coat shaded similarly to the clear night skies, unbuttoned from the waist down which the sleeved legs. A red belt emblazoned its waist with a golden circular buckle with the image of a skull jutting out locked it in place. Said belt had a sheathed sword attached to it. The shards had just finished constructing the whole torso, then more converged, creating a blank head finished by a white outer shell protruding out at the top and bottom of the head while leaving a huge opening in the middle, a form akin to an open beak. A hole on each sides of the shell completed the mask, giving the God of Death its face.
If its size didn't make everyone shrink, the ghastly wail Thanatos released to the air as it stretched out its limbs surely did. It hovered level to Orpheus, who was already standing by right above its user.
Said user dug his right hand into a pocket inside his jacket, pulling out a pair of fingerless leather gloves which he immediately put on. Another dig into the same pocket later, he fitted a pair of metal knuckles which had rubber bands as grip extension over his fingers. He acquired the piece of equipment for basically next to nothing after having a little conversation with the Market District's weapons merchant earlier in the day.
The two figures gained a special attention from the white-haired girl. While the fairly light-colored one didn't exude any particular feeling just like the impassiveness of the person sharing its likeness, the coffins of the other being sent shivers down her spine. Even so, she just couldn't shake the familiarity around the latter. "Call me crazy, but I think I've seen those coffins before." She muttered.
"That gun he's using also looks familiar..." Blake chimed in.
Ruby had some words, although the gears inside her head were spinning at maximum speed to find a way to articulate them. It was like having all the pieces to make a puzzle but not knowing what it was supposed to look like. She quizzically looked at the two figures, then the blue-haired boy standing underneath them.
Speaking of which, it wasn't like Minato couldn't hear all the quips, but he chose not to comment for the time being as he watched the ice traps beginning to lose huge pieces.
"The big guy is the strongest of them, most resolute too. Watch out for him."
Minato glanced at the source of the voice, the adult man kneeling on the ground to the far left. He gave the man, assumingly a Huntsman, a calming nod as a form of appreciation. As he turned his attention back to the three men still trapped in ice, Orpheus grabbed its lyre and held it with one hand, while Thanatos reached for the sword with its right arm and pulled it out, releasing an even louder wail than the previous one. Perhaps he needed to calm it down a little, because the slightest of unrest would lure Grimm to the area.
While there was still time, Minato took it to attempt yet more techniques he just discovered while he was doing a little shakedown in the middle of the day. Balling his left hand and bringing it close to his chest, he let an air of red seep through the fingers. Then it exploded, momentarily highlighting him with red light traveling upwards. Next, he opened the same balled hand and performed a pushing motion forward. Light blue honeycomb momentarily surrounded him from underneath his feet, confirming its application.
At the sight of their user balling his arms and raising them, Orpheus held its lyre with both hands while Thanatos pulled its sword back and let the pointy end rested on its free hand. The ice trapping the big guy blasted into pieces, and Thanatos immediately called dibs and executed a giant swing with the sword, carrying enough force to launch its recipient through a pillar supporting walkways around the perimeter of the room before coming to a stop at the wall. The big guy became trapped in the rubble, caused by the platform collapsing. Although, with the big size came equally as much, if not more, strength, as he blew the pieces away and crawled from within. Thanatos tugged the chains that controlled its coffins and placed them upfront, bringing them until there was zero gap in between to take the brunt of the debris flying towards it.
The bits of the collapsed walkway flew to other places, most notably the two ice traps. One of them was big enough to completely shatter the ice encasing Mercury, allowing him to simply walk free. Emerald wasn't as lucky. Despite the debris also hitting her ice trap, it only knocked off enough ice to expose her entire upper body. As she was dragging one of the sickles back, Orpheus ran its fingers through all of the strings in its instrument, the magenta orbs glowed immediately after followed by a screech. The explosion shattered the remaining ice trapping her, and launched her into the air at the same time.
Thanatos, with its far superior reach, grabbed the big guy and sent him flying across the hall with while Orpheus shot a trail of fire along the floor which forced Emerald to dodge while recovering before it chased after her. Seeing that, Minato set his feet on the ground and pushed against it, launching his whole person at the direction of Mercury who had his sights distracted after dusting off the ice. Mercury reacted just in time to jump backwards and release a spinning thrust kick that collided with Minato's fist coming at an overhead trajectory.
Mercury rushed in after landing on his feet. The two had a clash of shins, then he swung and missed with his other foot. A fist would have landed on his liver had he not lower his arm enough. With the other hand, he turned a cross aside. Both of them appeared to be equal in defending, as a kick aimed to the abdomen got deflected away.
Minato attempted to straddle Mercury after converting a side kick into a hip toss but had to get out of the way to avoid getting swept off his feet. However, the show of athleticism stopped and he immediately dashed to close the range. He threw a quick jab with the left hand, then a cross with the other, finished with a quick check at the liver, all nullified effortlessly. The path to the solar plexus was open, but Minato was forced to pull his head back to avoid getting a boot mark on his face. He immediately did the same with his body.
The two previous kicks had missed but Mercury had the optimal distance for another thrust kick to the head. Suddenly, the swiping blue hair wasn't there as he let one fly. Instead, his neck experienced a violent jerk as a fist landed square on his face. He was able to recover from getting rotated as a result of the punch, using his heel guns to propel himself into the air before landing gracefully with both feet.
Both Mercury and Minato could be going at it for another exchange of blows, but instead they kept themselves reasonably out of reach. They danced around, attempting to out-circle each other. Mercury lifted a foot and immediately pulled it back, no response. He spun on his heels before shifting forward, but stopped it midway. Again, no response. The neutral expression already made Minato hard to read, the lack of response to the feints didn't help.
Eventually, Mercury blinked first. He went for the ankles, but almost got a foot to his face for the punishment of missing the target. The next two kicks from a grounded position and was met with equal resistance as well. He had to put his hands up on the way back to his feet otherwise his face would've been caved in.
Switching his leading foot from right to left helped close the distance, and allowed Minato to apply pressure. He let the jab get neutralized and then saw the opening to get an overhead swing in. Yet, it never came. An uppercut with the leading hand was launched in its place which did nothing more than grazing the chin after it was diverted at the very last split second. It was immediately countered with a heel kick that met a blocking arm. Minato crouched forwards and let the foot going around to tag him on the other side of his head miss.
There was nothing between them after Minato executed the immaculate footwork he learned from Akihiko. There were multiple options to choose from, but he went with the uppercut again. This time, the window was too big to close in time, and he could feel the metal knuckles pressing against Mercury's chin.
The counter-hit would have caused Mercury to stumble away but Minato wasn't going to let the gap open up. Therefore, he reached out, firmly grasped Mercury's arms, then tugged his whole person back into his own range, but was met with some resistance. Knowing this, Minato took a step forward and jammed a knee to the lower ribs, sending a sting sharper than the real ones that shot all the way into Mercury's brain.
Mercury hunched sideways, right into the path of a sharp elbow to the cheek. Next thing he knew was he got launched back first into the wall behind him, courtesy of a punch to the solar plexus which power was akin to that of someone he just faced earlier. He had to escape an incoming flying kick by launching himself off the wall and landed right in the middle of the hall.
Despite having the protection of Aura, the accumulation of all the hits made his senses send all kinds of reports to his brain. Still, it wasn't the worst thing to happen to him by a long shot. There was no time to think about that as the stranger in blue hair got close to him again. In prior experiences, he had been able to create enough separation to execute some of his more personalized moves. So far, it wasn't the case. It was one of those fights where he had to really work for it. Naturally, they were also the most rewarding upon victory.
After the brief observation from outside and the exchanges of blows, Minato figured out one thing about Mercury; he had a favourite move. As Mercury jumped and tucked his leg in, Minato stepped forward, opening his arms. A Persona helped lending its strength in the forefront of his mind, allowing Minato to catch Mercury in mid-air before the kick came out. Minato immediately wrapped his arms around the hip and locked his hands together.
Mercury paused at the realization that he was being held in the air. Although, he immediately pulled himself back from the stupor, grasping the arms wrapped around him and used all of his power to pull them away, kicking his legs out at the same time to help squirm free, but to no avail.
A lightbulb immediately lit up in Mercury's head. Knowing that he could generate lift from the guns attached to his feet, he fired them forwards. The recoil managed to lift Minato's feet off the ground. Surely, he could turn things around.
Out of sheer reflex, Minato arched his back in mid-air and flipped Mercury over his head.
A sudden coldness hit at Mercury's core. It turned out to be the worst idea of all just as the back of his head and neck hit the ground, crushing the floor underneath. After letting out a squeal, his mouth remained agape and his eyes rolled. The rest of his body immediately shut down and went limp. Gravity did the rest.
It grabbed everybody's attention.
"Mercury!" With Emerald being the most animated. She had been fighting on the other side of the room, struggling to get away from the giant figure carrying a stringed instrument, occasionally having to take the brunt of the fireballs it hurled with the degree of accuracy only matched by a dear friend of hers.
The moment of distraction was all Orpheus needed. It pulled the lyre back and jammed it at Emerald's body, launching her into the air. She tried hurling a chained blade at it, but a fireball got to her first, plummeting her into the floor and ended up smashing the floor near where Mercury was lying helplessly. They were joined by their other associate shortly after, managing to stay on both feet, though only just, after being pushed to the corner by the other floating being seeking to chop his head off.
Orpheus and Thanatos converged with Minato as he shifted backwards after letting Mercury's limp body drop to the floor. The big guy was close to dropping, while Emerald was on all fours, clutching her abdomen. After just regaining consciousness, Mercury clutched his neck and slowly got to his knees.
Minato had been wondering whether Aura had a knock-on effect on a person's resilience. The sight of Mercury and Emerald slowly getting up made him raise his fists again, with the Personas assuming their battle postures. Regardless of how much they had left in the tank, he was aware that the next hit that landed may be lethal for them. Still, he had all the right to defend himself if they came rushing back.
Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on who was asking – it was not going to happen. Ruby and her companions of same age were done resting and had stepped in, each with their weapon brandished. Minato allowed himself to relax and slightly lowered his hands.
"That's enough!" Ruby pointed her gun at them. "Just give up."
Mercury grunted loudly, lifting an arm but found it hard to slam down on the floor, instead grabbed the neck which had constantly been throbbing.
"It's not over, Cinder will come back. She'll have the relic and she'll stop all of you!" Emerald was certain of it. Even in the face of defeat – or death if it wasn't for the progressions being halted - nothing was going to deter her conviction. Nothing. "She won't let us down."
The sound of gears interrupted them. As it so happened, there was a sizable hole on the floor lined up with the one taking a good portion of the landing at the centre of the staircase. From it emerged a platform supported by a statue. Standing on it was a blonde girl holding a lantern in her hand. It didn't take long for Minato to figure out who the prosthetic arm belonged to. The platform itself stopped at the staircase's landing.
With relief washing over the faces of Ruby and her companions, Orpheus and Thanatos immediately moved over, hovering just in front of the one-armed girl. Minato followed them and stopped in front of the statue before turning around to face the hostiles again.
Speaking of the hostiles, there was a stark contrast in their reaction. Resignation of defeat. The big guy let out a mild grunt that echoed across the area, and tears began wallowing in Emerald's eyes.
The blonde girl – named Yang, as Minato overheard Ruby call to her – was surprised at the two figures hovering in front of her in a protective manner. It was only momentarily, as her features softened, returning the relieved faces of the people to her right with a smirk.
Emerald's conviction crumbled, much like she dropped her weapons then dropped herself on all fours, gasping loudly, unable to hold back her tears. Her two companions began stepping back.
"Emerald, get up. We need to go…" Mercury reached out, and all Emerald had for a response was a shake of the head. "Emerald…"
Emerald looked to the right, left, then clutches her head, screaming at the top of her lungs.
While the others had more animated reactions, Minato only blinked to make sure his eyes didn't deceive him as the surroundings turned grey and the lights turned red. A section of the floor was covered in black smoke.
From the smoke, a figure rose, that of a woman, towering over all of them. Black dress swiping the floor, bone white hair and complexion, red veins running along the visible skin. Every bit of it gave Minato the impression of Grimm. Its completely black eyeballs and red pupils only made the impression all the more accurate.
The figure wailed at them, its magnitude rivalling that of Thanatos'. Speaking of which, it flew at breakneck speed at the figure and managed to land its blade at it, only for the figure to completely disappear like a shadow. With its disappearance, everything returned back to normal. The three hostiles have disappeared along with it, leaving no traces whatsoever.
Minato showed little to no reactions, but everyone else couldn't hold back the shivers. "What…what was that?" Blake spoke up, looking to everyone. He too would like to know the same thing.
"An illusion, but an accurate one." The kid, holding on to what looked like a cane, spoke. "That…was Salem." Then he gave it a name.
Everyone lowered their weapons. Minato blew a sigh of relief, followed by Blake immediately after. Thanatos was about to raise the coffins chained to its back and try giving chase, but Minato had to deny the idea. It instead took the time to circle around the hall, all the while Orpheus got into its idling position, grabbing the musical instrument and played some calming tunes.
When Thanatos was done with keeping a brief watch, it returned to hovering beside Orpheus. Thanatos couldn't help but look on, like the gazes Minato sometimes receive courtesy of his impassiveness.
Sun, along with two Faunus entered the hall. The latter two immediately embraced Blake. Meanwhile, it just hit Minato that he left in the middle of a huge skirmish happening outside. Therefore, he approached the group of Faunus with the intention of asking for sit-rep.
"The police rounded out the White Fang members. Haven is safe." It was the female Faunus sporting the same type of ears as Blake who spoke first
"Fortunately, with Mrs. Shields' help, we have also managed to detain Adam." Continued by the elder male Faunus, who Minato could safely assume to be the chieftain.
"Heather was just taking him away." Sun chimed in. It gained the attention of the two elder Faunus. Blake, despite already knowing the real turn of events, looked at him regardless. "This guy here did the dirty job. Took on Adam by himself while we were busy." He pointed an index finger at the approaching Minato in a casual manner.
"Mrs. Shields must've forgotten to tell me about it." The elder male Faunus easily dwarfing Minato in size raised his eyebrows.
The elder female Faunus suddenly shrieked. Personas, especially Thanatos, tend to have that effect on people.
"It's okay, uh..." Minato noticed this and tried calming her down. Not knowing her name made addressing her a bit of a problem.
"These are my parents. Mom, Dad, this is Minato." Helping to fill the blanks was Blake.
"Ah yes, I believe we haven't been introduced." The chieftain extended his hand. "I'm Ghira Belladonna, chieftain of Menagerie. This is my wife, Kali. And I assume you've met my daughter here, Blake."
"Minato Arisato." Despite not knowing much about the political system in Remnant, it didn't go amiss for Minato that he was talking to an influential person. He extended his own hand and shook the chieftain's along with his wife's. "It's an honour."
"The White Fang, particularly Adam Taurus and his splinter group, have been causing unrest amongst not just the Faunus, but also the society, with their acts of terror, ever since their partaking of the Fall of Beacon." Ghira pulled his hand back while giving a little run-down on Adam. "You have our utmost gratitude for what I assume to be a tremendous effort in taking him down, Mr. Arisato."
Minato nodded back, appreciating the gratitude.
"What…are those!?" Kali went back to the two figures floating in the distance.
"It's okay, Mrs. Belladonna. They have no intention to harm anyone." Minato calmed Kali down.
"Do you possess command over them?" Ghira asked.
While they were in the middle of the conversation, Ilia joined in.
"Adam and his splinter group aside, I have to admit that we've been fighting amongst ourselves for too long. Perhaps it's time for a new brotherhood. A new family for Faunus truly working towards a better world." Ghira turned his attention to the whole group of Faunus.
Minato found it wise to just shove his hands into his pockets and scoot away, as it was something of an internal issue that he felt wasn't his to take care of. He then watched Blake walk up to the three girls huddled together. It didn't take long for her to fall into their embrace, and he couldn't help but feel content at the sight. It was always a nice feeling, as he first found out when he witnessed Fuuka and her then-bully Natsuki develop into close friends.
"She's been away from them after what happened at Beacon." Sun commented, having stood beside Minato after pushing Blake towards the embrace of her teammates. The bluenette needed no reminder of how severe it was, not to mention the ramifications, having heard about it all from Elizabeth. "Not to say I didn't try talking her into coming back, but I'm happy that she's reunited with them. I wasn't expecting them to be here either."
"I think nobody did." Minato had to concur with Sun. He had been tasked to find Ruby but it all had been down to banking on mere possibilities. Thankfully, the odds favoured him.
"That's true… I wonder what they're doing here…" Sun commented back.
Minato stopped near his Personas who had been idling around and was immediately approached by the girl dressed primarily in pink, carrying a hammer.
"That was awesome! How did you do all that? What are these? Are these your semblances? How come they have their own semblances? Why did you sho-" She bounced from foot to foot at the sight of the Personas and their user's showcase of combat, and wouldn't have stopped talking had it not for the guy with long black hair wearing primarily green putting a hand over her mouth.
"Sorry… She can get really excited." The guy in green explained sheepishly.
The four girls were in their own world for a while but had gotten back to their feet. They kept huddling.
"That's…" It's the white-haired girl who spoke up. "Thanatos, isn't it?"
While Minato put full faith in Elizabeth's words, he couldn't help but stare while nodding at her to answer the question. Not only did she recognize Thanatos by sight, but she knew its name as well.
"I once met a lady in blue who can summon it too." She continued. "Must be the Elizabeth you mentioned earlier."
Elizabeth's story was true. Minato couldn't help but develop a slow smile. The four girls she had mentioned were standing in front of him.
"I knew it! I've seen it before too!" Ruby's eyes had been sparkling the whole time, as it turned out.
"And I've seen that gun, too." Blake gawked at the Evoker.
"I'd hate to interrupt you guys…" It was the old man and the kid. "But we still have that to take care of."
They looked at the staircase, especially at Lionheart.
"Seriously, I thought you'd killed him."
"Oh yeah…" It just hit Ruby. "What are we going to do with him?"
"I think it's best that he receives medical treatment." The kid spoke. "And then we'll go from there."
Minato immediately reached for the earpiece.
"Everything okay in there, Minato?" It took the Huntress on the other side of the call quite a bit to answer.
"A lot, but we're all in one piece." Although he chose to not comment in much detail, he put an inherent trust in Blake's words after seeing Orpheus' actions which had left Lionheart severely injured.
"How about Lionheart? Is he okay?" Heather was still sceptical about Blake's tip. Nevertheless, she needed to know. There was a slight hint of terror in her voice.
"He needs medical attention." Minato looked at the headmaster's body laid on the stairs' landing.
"Is he…" Heather paused, the feeling of dread kept on rising from within her chest. "Is he dead?"
"No. But he might not have much time." Minato didn't answer with much exclamation in his tone. Concerns from the person at the other end of the line was pretty much warranted, though.
"Alright. Hang tight!" Nevertheless, it was enough to get the message through.
"What's the name of the other one?" As soon as Minato took his hand off the earpiece, another question was fired at him. Again, it was the white-haired girl. Her interest over the Personas was clear as day.
"This is Orpheus." Orpheus momentarily stopped playing the lyre and nodded at the white-haired girl.
"And that one is actually yours, since it looks so much like you?" The white-haired girl's eyes kept darting at the two Personas, despite having the person she was addressing standing next to her.
"They're both mine." Minato sighed. Though, he couldn't help but wonder why he was the only one whose Persona strongly resembled him.
"If the lady earlier was yours too…then that means you have three of them?" Not quite close to the real number. "How is that possible?" The white-haired girl finally turned her gaze towards Minato.
"I'll answer your questions…but this doesn't seem like the time and place to do it." To which, Minato answered such. His head was beginning to throb, hence the remark.
"He's right." The old guy came to them with the lantern in hand. "Come on kids, let's get outta here." Paramedics came rushing in, going straight to getting the helpless Lionheart off the stairs and putting him in a stretcher.
As if on cue, the Personas assumed their stand-by posture and hovered over Minato. With a nod from its user, they were both pulled back into his mind. Everyone watched the Personas curtly bowed their way before losing their tangibility and deforming into translucent shards of glass that evaporated into thin air.
After directing the paramedics to go inside the hall, Heather waited outside. Not long after they came out carrying Lionheart in a stretcher. A sheet covered him from the chest down. Shortly after, everyone else emerged out. Minato, the first one out of the bunch, immediately walked into her direction. He could see that she was holding different things in each hand. In one, the broken sword, sheathed and all. In the other, a sizable fragment of the blade that flew off when fighting Adam.
Heather handed the sheathed part first, then the fragment. "I found this after doing a little sweep around."
Minato was already feeling apologetic when he first witnessed the sword breaking. Having found out that the weapon wasn't close to being put back together after he lined up the piece, he cast his eyes slightly downwards. He wasn't really a weapon romantic, and the sword didn't even come close to having the same level of versatility as Heather's or even Adam's weapon, but it was his regardless.
Part of the reason why he felt rather down was because of how much he would have to spend to get it fixed or get a new weapon altogether. The gloves and knuckles didn't hurt his pockets by much after he did some favours for the weapons merchant, but he was far from expecting the same level of kindness the next time.
Gears began spinning in his head. Perhaps he could run some missions, taking advantage of the fake license for as long as possible. Or he could simply just set up shop or apply as an employee at an establishment.
"Nooo! It's broken!" Minato was broken out of his stupor by Ruby who saw the broken equipment and yanked it away from his hands. She was struggling to keep her eyes from welling up the whole way. "Who did this to you…!?"
Minato couldn't help but feel a slight bemusement at the sight. Yes, there were cases of broken weapons, be it his or Junpei's or Aigis' or just about anybody's. None of them ever showed such seemingly exaggerated response, despite knowing how significant it was.
"She gets all geeky when it comes to weapons." It was Yang who had to explain the reason behind Ruby's sudden interest and showcase of sympathy. Minato chuckled lightly. The closest expert on armament he knew back then was a tie between Mitsuru and Aigis. The former for trying out many weapons before choosing to stick with thrusting swords, and the latter for having a knowledge on every weapon in history plus modern ones in her database.
"Take this arm." The prosthetic was primarily yellow, just like the gauntlet in Yang's other arm. Both pieces of equipment had a muzzle protruding from the side. It seemed similar in principle to Aigis' rotating cannons and the variety of attachments they could be swapped for. "She's been cooing at it since she first saw it."
"Crying over it isn't going to make it fix itself, Ruby." The girl in white deadpanned.
"I know. Sorry…" Ruby rubbed her eyes before handing both pieces back to their owner. "It's just a sword, but…poor thing."
"Fortunately, it's the only victim Adam claimed." Heather jumped into the conversation, letting out a giggle.
"Adam was here?" Yang perked up after hearing the name mentioned.
"We took him down. No worries." It was Sun who butted in this time.
Meanwhile, Heather spotted a man amongst the students, who she could safely assume was a Huntsman.
"You were looking for me, Qrow Branwen?" She spoke up, arms crossed.
The man, Qrow, heard his name in full and approached the Huntress. He replied the question with his own. "And you are?"
"Heather Shields." Heather pulled out her scroll, displaying the Huntress License. "My husband told me you visited when I was away." After putting the Scroll back, she gave a brief explanation.
"Ah...yeah." Qrow scratched the back of his head. "I ended up thinking you've gone missing or dead like every other Huntsmen I searched for."
"Would be, if it wasn't for this guy." Heather reached out and grasped Minato's shoulder. She then looked past Qrow, directing her gaze at gaping part of the hall's façade. "You're in town with students from out of the continent, looking for Huntsmen? And you didn't know the White Fang were attacking this place?"
"It's…kinda complicated." Qrow pulled out a flask from inside his jacket. "But yeah, we didn't know they were coming." After taking a sip of what assumedly was liquor, he put it back inside the jacket.
"Why were you looking for Huntsmen? Got a mission in the area?" Heather just couldn't help but ask. She had been wondering why someone would go as far as visiting her house.
Qrow sighed. "It's just to fish out some bandits, but the intel was bogus. I had to call it off."
"What about Lionheart?" Heather looked around warily before asking the question. "Blake told me you guys were on opposing sides."
Qrow took a minute to come up with answer. "Well, his position in all this is…kinda complicated. I haven't been able to wrap my head around it, either." After blurting out the best answer he could think of, his gaze met that of Minato's. He then decided to change the topic, so the Huntress wouldn't pry any further. "You fight like a seasoned Huntsman but look the same age as those kids over there…"
It could be taken as either a form of belittlement or praise. Yet, Minato didn't mind it, whatever the intention actually was.
"He's just a student I've personally taken under my wing since the academies go on break." At first, Minato was grateful to have Heather who had been covering him in these situations. But, as he slightly narrowed his eyes at the Huntress' nudge of an elbow, he slowly dug inside his pocket to take the Scroll out and showcased his license by projecting it right into Qrow's vision.
"Minato Arisato… You sound like a local but you go to Beacon, huh?" Qrow commented after taking a good look at presumably the part of the license stating the place where it was issued. After glancing to his right and left, he wore a rather perplexed look on his face. The student all by himself, save for the Huntress. "Where're your teammates?"
Minato really should've seen the question coming as soon as he was given the fake license, coupled with learning that students were divided to teams of four during education. Now, he must drum up an answer on a whim.
"They…died during the Fall of Beacon."
Even though it sounded generic, it was the most believable answer he could come up with. The lowering of his tone and gaze should hopefully help sell it.
"I'm…sorry to hear that." And it seemed to be working as Qrow nodded heavily, hunching himself over while shoving his hands into his pockets.
There was a bit of a tension in the air. Both parties couldn't think about what else to say.
"Anyway, thanks for helping us back there." Qrow decided to end the conversation, tapping Minato in the forearm as a form of appreciation before walking away.
Minato let out a subtle sigh as soon as Qrow was out of earshot. Heather understandably did the same.
"He's pretty well-known. Though, last time I heard, he was teaching at a primary combat school in Vale." Heather kept eyeballing the Huntsman who just converged with the bunch of students he was seen with. "…Not anymore, I guess." It was Heather's turn to shrug.
There was a piece of equipment still stuck in Minato's ear, which he took off and handed back to its owner. As Heather received it, something important hit her. She immediately reached for her own earpiece.
"Sun, Ilia, Blake!" Without it, Heather would have to look around to spot the three teenage Faunus. They immediately jumped out from the crowd and came over in response.
"First of all, I'm gonna need those earpieces back, please..." Heather pointed at the one she was wearing. The three Faunus teenagers immediately removed theirs and put them on her open palm. She then placed them, along with the one Minato just returned, into a special case which went into a pocket in her trousers.
"So, debriefing time?" Sun crossed his arms.
"Actually, I don't think I need to say much." Heather had to pause for a little, thinking of what to say. "…Other than it's important to communicate with each other when we have to do things strategically."
Fortunately, having tactical approaches in combat wasn't something Minato ever had problems with. Still, he took the time to pay attention to Heather.
"I don't really consider the lack of it a fatal error but it depends on the person. For example, as long as you make it back in one piece if you work in Vacuo, then there's no problem. On the contrary, Atlesian Huntsmen are strict about these sorts of things. Straying off, let alone doing it without relaying to the others, may lose you connections, your job, or even your life."
It was to be expected that everybody had different methods, even though they all had went through the same type of education. Or the programs also differed in each academy, so long as they fit the four-year duration?
"How do you know so much? Are you from Atlas?" Blake raised the question almost immediately after Heather finished.
"Atlas, Mantle, it makes no difference. But I've worked with a bunch of them over the years." Heather waved it off. "Moved out to attend Haven since I find getting coerced into the military to not really be my style. But I go back every now and then since my parents live there." She gave everyone a little run-down on herself before anyone could inquire about it any further.
No further comments were made by everyone.
"Well, any more questions?" Heather rubbed her hands together, looking a little jumpy.
After looking at each other, everybody eyed Minato, who just shrugged it off. He found nothing wrong with the speech, and the operation. He already knew that communication is essential. Nevertheless, it was interesting to learn the contrast in the conduction of proceedings from one region to the other.
"We thwarted the White Fang's attempt to bring down the CCT Towers, and bagged Adam Taurus." Those were the major wins from the whole event, as Heather re-capped. "I declare this one a success!" She clapped following a subtle fist pump, which prompted everybody to follow. Cracks of smile and flashes of satisfaction crept into their faces.
"I'll go do the talking. You guys enjoy the rest of the evening." With that, Heather concluded the little meeting. Ilia, Blake, and Sun immediately walked off, presumably approaching their friends, while Minato stood by alongside Heather.
"Mr. Branwen!" Bringing her hands close to her mouth, Heather raised her voice, intending to call over the Huntsman in the distance.
"What?" Fortunately, it didn't take long for said Huntsman to respond.
"We have to give statements to the police and media first. It won't take long." Heather pointed her thumb at the commotion near the entrance.
"Ah, yeah, right…" Qrow seemed rather reluctant to do it, but chose to do it anyway. They were the only licensed Huntsmen around.
"Be right back." Heather left with a wink to walk alongside Qrow towards the crowd, leaving Minato just standing there.
The only pain Minato was feeling was the throbbing in his head. But even that had been gradually subsiding due to having a Persona perform a recovery in the forefront of his mind. While he probably should have look for somewhere to sit down for a bit, having people constantly intruding his personal space made it a bit difficult to do so, until now.
Weirdly enough, there were no benches in the surroundings. Minato had to make do with the stairs leading up to the hall. After all the chaos, he could finally find the time to put on the music from his own device. He had always been content with hanging in the background, letting the others talk while he observed. It was no different here. He watched Ruby and the others converse with excitement inside their own circle. The lantern which was initially in Yang's hand had been left hanging by her hip. There was no help but wondering what was for. After a while, he diverted his gaze to Heather and Qrow addressing some people. The former did the talking for the most part with the latter just hunching over and digging out the flask to have a drink.
It wasn't long before the two Huntsmen finished addressing the curious. Minato let his earphones hang around his neck and turned off the music player and got up, walking to the middle of the square where everybody had been hanging out in one way or the other.
"Hey, how about you come visit our house some time?" Qrow grabbed Minato by his shoulder, stopping him from walking for a moment. He looked ahead to the group of students in the distance as he continued speaking. "Looks like they're interested in you…and we'd also like to repay you for helping us."
Minato saw no reason to refuse the proposition, simply deducing the interest over him as a given. "Sure." Until recently, there was only one person on his list of contacts: Heather Shields. After the little exchange, there was a new entry: Qrow Branwen.
"The tower's still standing, meaning the comms are up." Qrow extended his hand, which Minato shook in kind. "Keep in touch."
The students were walking back towards the entrance but stopped midway, just nearby where Minato was standing.
"We haven't properly introduced ourselves!" Judging by how they seemed to be rallying around her, Minato deduced Ruby to be the leader of the collective.
"Ruby Rose…" Ruby lifted her right hand in almost a saluting gesture but slightly bent her knees while doing it.
"I'm Weiss Schnee. Nice to meet you." Next was the white-haired girl with a vested interest in the Personas.
"Yang Xiao Long, Ruby's big sis." Not only did the two supposed sisters look different, but their names didn't indicate them being fraternal sisters. Adopted, perhaps?
"Jaune Arc." The first thing Minato noticed about the blond guy wearing armour was how much taller he was.
"Nora Valkyrie!" Quite arguably the most energetic between all of them. The fact that she was lugging a hammer which looked difficult to control made her deceptively powerful.
"Lie Ren." If there was one thing Minato could tell about Ren, it was being somewhat of a polar opposite to Nora. Plus, there was of similarity between them. Not quite like talking to a reflection, but there seemed to be similar traits.
"My name is…Oscar Pine. Nice to meet you, um…" The boy's voice sounded different, as if there was a sudden shift in mannerisms.
"Minato Arisato." They hadn't caught the full name, so a reiteration was needed. "No need to be so formal."
"Well, there's so much to talk about but it's getting late, so…we'll meet again?" Ruby looked at the clock in her Scroll.
"Sure." It wasn't difficult to accept the proposition since they both shared the same sentiments. "Just find me in town."
"Or…we could keep in touch." Before the group left, the two people of completely opposing colours exchanged contacts. In fact, Red was generous enough to give out the contacts of all of her friends, which also included Sun, and a guy the bluenette had never met named Neptune Vasilias.
Though they had only just known each other, it appeared the group had an inkling that they could at least feel easy around Minato. It would take more to find out whether they would go past being acquaintances, however.
"See you 'round!" Ruby waved her hand, with the others following the gesture as they continued walking towards the entrance of the academy.
Apparently, Heather had been watching the exchange taking place with a grin that subconsciously kept getting wider. She cleared her throat after Minato spotted her in the distance and glanced her head towards the entrance.
"So, what are you gonna do, now that you've found Ruby?" The walk back to their stakeout spot in the nearby luxury hotel was a quiet one until Heather initiated the conversation.
Minato pondered about it for a minute. The plan hadn't even crossed his mind at all. On the other hand, Ruby had stated the intent to meet again.
"Catch up and go from there." Supposedly, it could happen in the not so distant future.
"Would they believe you?" Heather eyed Minato sceptically. "I mean, I bet you've introduced yourself, but…stranger danger. You know how it is…"
"They recognized one of my Personas…" Minato pointed out. "I'll take that as a good start."
"Persona? That's the name of those summons of yours?" Heather tilted her head to the side.
Minato nodded, then silence overtook. He looked up to the night sky, and the brightly-lit shattered moon. Though it seemed improbable at first, it was a marvellous sight regardless.
"Are you Minato Arisato?" If it was the Huntress working as hotel security approaching the two, Minato would've assumed he was in trouble because the Student License was discovered to be fake. Thankfully, it was just a regular employee walking up to them as soon as they entered the hotel. Though, the uniform being more on the formal side compared to the receptionists, for example, gave the impression that the man sat quite high in the hierarchy.
In any case, Minato found it safe to just nod at the inquiry.
"We'd like you to accept a little gift from us." The hotel employee gave Minato an envelope. Inside, as it turned out, was something similar to a card, about the size of a Lien bill. "You may stay here and use all facilities and services for up to two weeks, free of charge. All you have to do is pick a room."
Minato didn't know the line of work was that romanticized for him to receive such a proposition, or maybe the people were just that generous. Despite having no intention to make others' lives hard in expense of his, he found the offer hard to refuse, as he was starting to run low on Lien.
"Why don't you take the room I've booked?" Heather suggested. "I've paid for it up-front so somebody has to stay in it, and that's not gonna be me. I have a husband and a daughter who're probably worried sick right now."
There was nothing wrong with the reasoning, which made it even easier for Minato to decide.
"I'll keep using the room already booked under her name, please."
"Okay, I'll make the adjustments…" The hotel employee took out a Scroll much larger than his and began tapping his fingers. "…and done. You will be listed as the room's main tenant starting tomorrow, Mr. Arisato."
A skim at the form from top to bottom confirmed what the employee just said.
"Please sign here." There was a blank space in the bottom of the form, and Minato reached for it with the pen-like device in his hands. After writing down his full name in signature form, he handed the device back to the employee.
"Thank you." The employee kindly received it. "You may use the key you're currently holding but it appears the original key is still in the room." He added.
"You didn't take the key out when you left the room?" Heather's head perked up and immediately looked at Minato. Up until that point, she was busy with her own Scroll.
"Heat of the moment, no time." Minato gave a brief answer. "Sorry." He still found himself guilty for not doing something that simple, nevertheless.
"No, no, I didn't mean to chastise you. I was just surprised…" Heather realized the response was quite unwarranted after remembering what might be in the room. "Unless you consider donuts and coffee to be valuables, I don't think anything would be stolen."
"As I said earlier, you can keep using the original key, but if you want to swap them by tomorrow, that's fine too." The employee reiterated after witnessing the brief exchange between the two.
"I see…" Minato comprehended.
"Then, enjoy your stay, Mr. Arisato." The employee bowed, then walked away, leaving the two to just stand in the now quiet lobby.
"Well…" Heather shrugged. "You just got a lodging upgrade! Free too! Lucky…" She lightly punched Minato in the forearm.
It was quite late, but they could use a supper. Therefore, they headed to the hotel's restaurant. Sadly, since the freebies were available starting the next day, they would have to pay for it. Thankfully, Heather got it covered. Still, Minato decided to order the cheaper ones. It would be a different case if he was the one paying.
After the meal, they sat down for a while as visitors came and go.
"Let's see… We were on a stakeout, then I went off to meet the militia from Menagerie, then we raided Haven, arrested Adam Taurus, and saved the CCT Tower, though I almost died again, for the lack of a better word." Heather did yet another re-cap of the whole evening. "What a night, huh?" She spoke again, just so that the conversation didn't get stale. The only reply she got was a chuckle. Even so, she couldn't help but feel content and thankful for having a capable person like Minato working with her.
Ever since Minato awakened to his powers, he had been involved in numerous of those what-a-night's. This was up there with the rest of them. Never would he imagine to be involved in a mass skirmish with a Huntsman Academy at stake.
"I guess it's time to go." They both got up after the bill was paid.
"I'll walk you home." Minato immediately offered. "Your family would love to see you come back safely."
Heather paused for a second before coming up with her own reply.
"Alright. Wanna drop your stuff first? I'll wait here." There was no response, leaving Heather slumped into one of the lobby's sofa as Minato walked into a lift.
After letting the sheathed broken sword rest against the room's wall, Minato returned to the lobby and began walking Heather out of the hotel. Of course, this time he didn't forget to lock the doors and removed the key before coming back down.
The walk was silent. They went through some of the city's crowded areas but their lips remained shut. Only when they've arrived at the neighbourhood in the Huntress was living in did they start conversing again.
"What makes you say that?" Heather couldn't help but feel curious at the sudden act of chivalry by the guy who supposedly looked bemused at almost anything he faced.
"I'm an orphan." Minato caught on with the question and immediately answered. "Lost my parents to a car crash when I was 6." He made sure to check if cars actually existed in this fantastical world before saying it. There was a lack of them around the area in general, other than the ones which had the hotel's logo on them parked, leading to the conclusion that they were company-operated.
"That's…" Heather was at a loss for words. "I'm sorry to hear that. Must've been hard for you." She cast her gaze down.
Even though it had only been a few days since they first met, Heather felt closer to Minato than before. On the other hand, despite the lack of voices ringing inside his head, Minato felt the bond between them getting stronger. Whilst the bonds came with the boon of added power, they were all genuine. The bonds he had formed were the cornerstone in his overall improvement as a person.
Shortly after that, they arrived at Heather's home. The door was opened as soon as she knocked. The daughter, Talia, immediately jumped to her mother's embrace.
"Talia... It's late and you haven't gone to bed?" Heather picked up her daughter.
"I was waiting for you to come home." Talia immediately buried her face into her mother's shoulder.
"Well…I'm home." The embrace of the mother tightened.
"Welcome home, mommy." And it would appear that Talia wouldn't want to let go anytime soon.
The sight made a smile dance on Minato's lips. It was like Maiko all over again. Difference was this family didn't show any signs of crumbling anytime soon.
Also, compared to last time, Talia seemed to have opened up to the bluenette. "Good evening, mister." She waved at him.
"Evening…" To which Minato waved back.
In the meantime, the husband, Kaelan, came to the door and greeted Heather as well. "Welcome back." It was Heather's turn to fall into an embrace, that of her husband's.
"Thanks for taking care of her." Kaelan sighed in relief before expressing the gratitude. He went back inside after letting go of the embrace.
"Well, thanks for walking me home. I'll see you around?" Heather extended her fist.
"Yeah." Minato extended his, letting both fists bump with each other.
"Good night, mister!" Talia waved enthusiastically at Minato. All he did was turn back and wave at the family before heading to his new lodging for the next two weeks.
Behold, the longest chapter I've ever written!
This took way, way too long to finish, because there's a lot more going on than I've outlined. Nevertheless, I'm proud of this. I'm not sure if I feel I've gone from strength to strength, but I always try to find ways to keep improving my writing. Anyway, sorry for the long wait. I did a lot of research before putting the ideas and converting them.
This just about ends V5 in RWBY, in which, as I've gathered, there seems to be a consensus among fans that it was...not the best of the bunch. All I can say is that I understand where they're coming from. My opinion on it doesn't matter much.
As we wait for V8, I'm still thinking of whether I should stay in course with the show's main plot or divert it a bit. People are saying a lot of things about this show, good and bad. I just hope the crew can do a good job of picking up where they left off in V7.
Remember when I asked about weapon ideas? Well, it was actually for Minato. The reason I chose him as the centre is because he's the only one who can use multiple weapon classes, as seen in FES. As such, it wasn't difficult to determine what his RWBY-styled weapon would be like. Feel free to drop in ideas for a suitable name!
Thank you for the kind words, it means a lot to me. To answer user KurumaFan's question: I don't really set hard rules in place, but I always keep a sense of progression in mind. I just look at the list of Personas, their highest attainable levels, and decide which ones are going to be featured. And yes, I'm considering adding Personas not found in P3 some time down the road. Hope this clears up how I use up the compendium to everybody else as well.
All in all, I hope this was worth the wait as to me this was worth spending my free time. We're still in the middle of a pandemic so I hope you guys stay safe and stick to the set protocols while enjoying life.