Been a while, but here you go guys, another chapter. Enjoy.
Chapter 27. Wings of a butterfly
After a moment of hesitation, Ozpin lifted his hand and gently rapped twice on the wooden door. He had been standing outside for several minutes now, delaying the inevitable when there was no real reason to. Despite all his experience, this situation still felt raw, and several months hadn't been enough to dull the pain. To make matters worse, no one had really spoken to the family behind the door in the same amount of time.
That was a mistake on our part. He was hurting, and we just let him leave. Not that he had given us much of a choice... Sometimes I regret giving him the ability to turn into that bloody bird. Ozpin sighed and waited as footsteps came from the other side of the door.
The doorknob turned, and the entrance creaked open, the visage of one of Ozpin's most trusted men stepping into the view. "It has been a while, Qrow."
The Brawnen's eyes widened ever so slightly, pronouncing the dark circles they carried even more. "Ozpin... What are you doing here?"
And wasn't that the question of the day? Vale had been his home for decades now, and Ozpin could barely remember when was the last time he had left the city to visit someone in person. Such things were always done by messenger or via video call. Alas, Qrow had forced his hand.
"We tried calling, Qrow, multiple times. I know you are hurting; we all are, but it has been months," Ozpin shook his head lightly. "Closing yourself off from the world isn't the way to do this... Especially not when you are taking care of two young children."
Maybe that was the wrong thing to say.
Qrow narrowed his eyes, hands on the door. "I don't have time for this. You have wasted your time coming here, Oz. Go back to Vale."
Before Qrow could close the door, Ozpin threw his hand forward, his cane landing in the way. "Just wait for a moment! I apologize if I overstepped, but we both know that it's true. You have been ignoring everyone, Qrow!" He looked into the vermilion eyes that carried more weight than they should. "Now, can we talk?"
Qrow's grip on the doorknob tightened, his knuckles turning white. However, after a few seconds, his shoulders slumped, and the door swung wide open once more.
"Alright then. Come in," Qrow grumbled, the fight leaving his body as he stepped aside. "Just be quiet. I don't want the girls to wake up."
Ozpin nodded and followed Qrow into the living room. The room appeared unchanged since the last time he had been there. While the furniture had been rearranged slightly, the same decorations and pictures still adorned the walls.
"Have a seat, Oz," Qrow spoke up, the tired edge to his voice becoming a constant. "Do you want anything? Coffee? Tea? We might not leave the house often, but the kitchen is still well-stocked."
Lowering onto an armchair, Ozpin sunk into the soft plush. "A tea if it's not too much of a problem."
Qrow shrugged and departed towards the kitchen. "I wouldn't ask if it was," the man muttered almost inaudibly.
Here is the snarky Qrow I know. At least it's not as bad as I worried. Ozpin mused. I just hope Glynda's idea will work. We can't let the only legacy of Summer and Taiyang wallow in grief forever. They deserve better...
It took quite a while, but soon, Qrow returned to the room, the clinking of ceramic cups filling the silence. He set up one of them on the table in front of Ozpin while taking a seat on the couch on the opposite side, his frame slouching into the cushions.
"What do you want, Oz?" The Brawnen asked simply.
Ozpin sighed and placed his cup back on the table. "We are worried, Qrow... You don't answer the calls, so the only way to check up on you was to come here in person."
Qrow's eyes narrowed, and his jaw clenched for a moment before he finally spoke. "I appreciate it, but I'm fine. We're fine."
Quirking an eyebrow, Ozpin leaned back into his chair. "Are you really? It doesn't seem like that."
A growl escaped Qrow's throat. "Fine! We're adjusting, slowly. That's better? I don't know what else to tell you. Yang and Ruby barely talk, and I hardly know what to do when a single mention of them makes me remember the damn recording... Ozpin, I'm not made to care for children, but I can't let the girls go into the system like every other orphan. I can't."
Qrow's head fell into his hands, and Ozpin watched the broken man momentarily as a heavy silence filled the room. No matter how many lifetimes he lived through, situations like this had never become easier to handle.
"I understand," Ozpin uttered, keeping his voice down. "As long as you don't give up, things will only get better. The pain might never disappear, but it will fade into the background, allowing you to focus on what's important. And Qrow, nobody was made to care for children. What matters is that you are here for them."
Qrow let out a bitter chuckle. "Is this what you keep telling yourself when everyone else around you fades away and you're the only one left standing?"
Ozpin grimaced but nodded nonetheless. "I do. The weight of immortal life taught me as much..."
A blanket of silence fell upon the room after the last words left Ozpin's lips. There was still much left to be said, but they both needed this moment to think. He still needed to find a way to broach Glynda's idea while Qrow was likely trying to gather his thoughts.
"You aren't the first to visit, you know?" The other man finally muttered.
Raising his gaze from the cup, Ozpin met Qrow's eyes. "Indeed?"
"Raven... It wasn't even that long ago, a week at most." the Brawnen snorted as Ozpin's eyes widened. "Trust me, you aren't the only one surprised. Ever since she left, I doubted we would ever meet again, at least on friendly terms, that is."
Ozpin furrowed his brow. Raven wasn't seen in Vale since she left Yang with Taiyang. Her disappearance almost destroyed the rest of SQRT, so for the woman to come to Patch now...
"What did she want?"
Qrow chuckled, probably louder than he should have, considering the warning he had given Ozpin just a few minutes ago. "I don't think even she knew the answer to that..." He sobered shortly after, "I even shut the door in her face at first. I had enough to worry about, and Raven was the last thing I wanted to think about. Especially after she just left us."
Understandable. I can see other people reacting the same.
"But she didn't leave," Qrow continued, not even looking at Ozpin any longer. "For hours, Raven kept knocking, begging me to open the door. And I did..."
Ozpin nodded, "She is still your sister, after all."
"It wasn't about that," Qrow shook his head. "I didn't want to let her inside, but then I finally looked and saw the same thing I see every day in the mirror. A broken husk of a person. It was the most emotions I had seen on her ever since you told us about Salem."
"She is blaming herself," Ozpin concluded. Despite what many thought about her, Raven was a troubled woman, and just like Qrow mentioned, something changed within her when the truth about Salem was revealed.
Often Ozpin thought about that day in Beacon's tower, where he told them almost everything about the immortal witch. He should have known better than to drop all that information at once. Alas, even people as old as him could make mistakes, and Raven's disappearance was the price in this case.
"She does," Qrow's voice jolted him back to reality. "I doubt she is over her cowardice yet, but what happened to Tai and Summer brought back a part of my sister that has been missing for years. I saw it when she watched Ruby and Yang curled together, and I saw it when she promised to visit soon."
"Do you think..." Ozpin trailed off. They both knew what he meant.
"Maybe? I don't know?" Qrow shrugged. "It's still Raven we are talking about. She looked sincere, but I'm going to reserve my judgment for now. Let her actions prove that she had changed for the better... Oh, and she confirmed your theory. Or at least added another proof to it."
Ozpin frowned. "I understand you are talking about Summer and Umbra time traveling, yes?"
"Aye," the Brawnen nodded. "Her Semblance is a good way of finding out if the people you care about are still alive. Raven's link with Tai might be gone, but the one with Summer remains."
Of course. Kindred Link, Raven's Semblance, functions only due to the bonds she makes with people. If there is a person that can prove that Summer lives, then it's her.
"Did she try to create a portal?" Ozpin asked, already expecting the answer.
"She did, to no avail," Qrow scowled. "Raven said that their link was strong in the beginning, but with each passing day, it grows weaker and more distant. She fears it will eventually break, too."
This shines some light on this problem. Even if anything I come up with is still a theory, nothing else. Sighing, Ozpin took another sip of his tea. "I wouldn't be surprised if it breaks soon, as, from what I assume, Summer and Umbra are still traveling through time, frozen in the timestream. We don't know what will happen when their trip ends. That is, of course, if Raven's words are anything to go by."
"She didn't lie about this. I would know," Qrow denied vehemently. "But Oz, does this mean that they are going forward?"
Ozpin closed his eyes momentarily. "I'm not sure. They can either still be traveling forward, as you said. Or... or they are going so far into the past that they won't even be alive during our lifetime. We won't know for sure until the link stabilizes or breaks altogether."
Ozpin smiled grimly. "Because either I will suddenly remember them from one of my past lives, and this timeline might even cease to exist, or nothing will happen. Meaning that they landed somewhere in the future."
"That's a lot of assuming, Oz, even for you," Qrow grumbled as he fell back into his seat. "For once, I would like to get a straight answer. The girls deserve as much."
Here is my chance.
Clearing his throat, Ozpin nodded. "On that, we can both agree. I also hope you agree with Glynda that you three shouldn't be spending all this time alone."
Qrow lifted an eyebrow. "Yeah, so Blondie is right once more. What's new."
Ozpin chuckled. "Not much, my friend, except for the invite for you three to join us at Beacon for a while or even permanently. We all want to help you, so please let us. Trust me, you don't want Glynda coming down here to give you the invitation in person."
Just maybe Ozpin's timing wasn't as good as he had thought. Or he could have at least waited for Qrow to finish drinking...
"W-what?" The Brawnen spluttered, spitting out the tea.
I really should have let Glynda take care of this. Ozpin shook his head as a patter of feet came from the ceiling.
"Yang doesn't want to attend Signal," Qrow announced before promptly dropping his body onto one of the office chairs inside the room. It was comfortable, all things considered.
Glynda, the blonde menace that was the source of this problem, looked up from her documents on her desk. Her glare drilled holes into Qrow; if it was any other man, they would already be running out of this office.
"Qrow," Blondie almost growled. "If you haven't noticed, I'm working."
Qrow only grinned. "And if you haven't noticed, I don't care. You created this mess, so now you fix it."
Glynda sighed deeply, closing her eyes. Qrow knew her well enough to notice that she was counting to ten right now. You never change.
"Ignoring the fact that you and the girls would have been a complete mess if you didn't come to live at Beacon, please tell me that you at least asked Yang if she wanted to become a Huntress," she drawled out.
We would have been fine... probably. Qrow scowled. Years might have passed since then, but he remembered those dark days well. Just as Ruby and Yang did, partially in the former's case.
"You know I did, and that's the worst part," Qrow grumbled. "She wants to learn how to fight. She likes fighting, but that girl has no desire to become a Huntress by herself. She only wants to protect Ruby on her quest to find Summer. I swear this is all yours and Neo's fault."
"This is something we have been well aware of for years, Qrow. I really don't see the problem," Glynda said with another sigh and once again ignored his dig at her.
Qrow threw his hand in the air. "It is a problem because Ruby wants to become a Huntress! In two years, she will want to go to Signal, and of course, where Ruby goes, Yang follows. Only it will be too late, they don't take in kids older than fourteen, and Yang will be fifteen by then."
Qrow couldn't understand why no one else was worried when it was such a straightforward matter. Ruby and Yang were always a package deal; one couldn't be separated from the other.
"And what is Raven's opinion on this?" Glynda spoke as she rubbed her brow. "I saw her here a few days ago, so I take you talked about it."
Slumping in his chair, Qrow crossed his arms. "She said that if I don't figure something out, she will take the girls and just teach them herself. Blasphemy! As if I would leave Raven alone with them for longer than a day. Vale would go up in flames or, worse, become a crater."
"You are exaggerating again."
I wasn't. Well, maybe just a bit. Qrow slumped further into the chair. His sister might try to act aloof all she wanted, but when Raven was with the girls, the trio became a hurricane. A dangerous hurricane. And why do I always have to be the target of their antics...
"Qrow," Glynda's voice brought him back. "Maybe Raven wasn't wrong? What if you just train the girls without making them attend Signal? They already know more about Grimm than most Beacon students, and they aren't exactly defenseless. You don't live at Huntsman Academy for years without picking up a thing or two."
Alright, she is not exactly wrong. Still, there was one problem with this idea. "And what about later? You want them to just take the licensing exam? Those are only granted under special conditions that don't apply to Ruby and Yang... Besides, I don't want them to be in the field while they are so young."
Glynda rolled her eyes. "Sometimes I wonder how a person can be so stupid at one moment and intelligent at another," she muttered, and Qrow bristled.
"Listen. As much as I hate playing favorites, you seem to be forgetting that Ozpin is the Headmaster of Beacon. He has a lot of pull in many areas, and Huntsman licensing is one of them."
"Doesn't change the fact that I don't want them in the wilds too early," Qrow scowled. So maybe he had forgotten about Ozpin; it happened to the best.
"Then I'm sure Ozpin wouldn't be against putting them in Beacon together as students when they are older," Glynda shot back. "It has been done before."
Qrow opened his mouth, ready to retort, only to close it again. He couldn't really find anything wrong with Glynda's suggestion.
"I hate it when you are right."
Glynda offered him a rare smirk.
Ozpin tapped the screen, and the image immediately shifted. "Hello, Neo." He smiled as the grown-up woman grinned at him. Although grown-up definitely couldn't be applied to her height. Even after all those years, the girl barely grew a few inches.
"Ozpin," Neo nodded under the hood of her grey cloak as the text appeared on the screen. "You asked me to call as soon as possible."
"That I did," he sighed. "You have been off the radar for almost a month. We were starting to worry."
Neo shrugged, the two swords on her back coming into sight with the movement. "I told everyone I would be gone for a while... The energy scanner picked up a lot of new readings all over Atlas, and I wanted to check them up before they disappeared. Besides, I had Bob with me."
Ah, yes, Bob... Ozpin had long since given up on understanding how that beast functioned. It followed Neo's every command, and despite not being that large, it was still a bit bigger than any other Swift Wyvern Ozpin had encountered. And it is still growing. Slowly, but growing nonetheless...
He shook his head. "Neo, you two aren't invincible."
The girl scoffed as new words appeared on the screen. "I know that, but it was worth it. The energy readings are even stronger than the ones in Mistral, Ozpin. I didn't even need the scanner to feel it. They are close, I know it."
Despite all the worry Neo put her close ones through, Ozpin had to smile at that. They had been chasing those aura explosions ever since Atlas created a scanner capable of searching for energy that matched the one from the crater on Vytal.
At first, it was a miracle when they managed to find one of those explosions, but now? After all those years? They had become almost a common occurrence, and even people without a special scanner could easily encounter spots where everything in a small radius looked like a post-hurricane site.
There had been a few accidents in recent months, but thankfully there were no fatal casualties. Ozpin just hoped that the explosions' ever-increasing strength wouldn't change that.
"I'm glad to hear it, Neo. I understand that with your task in Atlas finished, you will return soon?"
The girl grinned, tilting her head. "Yep. I want to check the last two sites, but we are flying back to Vale after that."
Ozpin nodded. "Good. I think that Qrow will soon be as gray as I am with how much Ruby has been pestering him about you in the last week."
A much softer smile took its place on Neo's lips. "Tell Ruby and Yang that I miss them too. I really don't want to call them now. Better to face their wrath all at once when I get back."
"I will pass the message," Ozpin chuckled. "Good luck, Neo, and please stay safe."
The girl winked as one last message appeared on the screen that went black a moment later.
And so the butterfly took off. There are a few more changes that weren't mentioned (Okay, a lot more changes), but I hope you enjoyed what I revealed here.
I won't bore you with longer AN, so I will just say thank you all for reading, and have a good day/night. Also, check out the links below!
Linktree: linktr. ee/Chaos65 (Delete the space) | Also you can read my original story "A Universe of Bloody Evolution" on RoyalRoad. 100k word (As of now) story with a gamer system focused on growth while fighting against monsters of the void.
PS: You can find me on the Emerald Library discord server: discord. gg/elibrary