Chapter 34. Reconnected - Disconnected

"Yeah. I probably deserved that," I grinned at the one who punched me. "Hello, Neo. Did ya miss me?"

The grown-up woman moved again, her hand descending towards my face to deliver another slap. Only this time, I didn't let her and quickly snatched the incoming limb with my own hand. I understood she was still mad, but we had an audience. If she wanted a fight, I would give it to her, just not today.

For now, I just stood up, and with Neo's arm still in my grasp, I pulled her towards me, enveloping her in a tight hug. At first, the girl tensed, but with each second, she relaxed into my hold as her entire body began to shake with silent sobs.

"There, there. Everything is alright. I'm back, Neo," I pretty much cooed, tightening the hug. "I know I already said that, but I'm sorry. I'm sorry for leaving you on your own."

The small woman sniffled, and suddenly, some text appeared in front of my vision. "It's fine."

My eyebrow raised slightly at the new development, but I refined from asking. This wasn't the time for that. I just continued to hold the crying girl as her arms also finally enveloped me in an embrace.

Well, here goes my plan for this morning. I sighed, looking up at the other occupants of the room. They all watched us with smiles on their faces and looked so knowing that I had to avert my gaze. Okay, it's getting a bit awkward.

I cleared my throat, not letting go of the girl in my arms. "Sooo... I know you all came here because I wanted to talk, but... You won't mind if Neo and I take some time to talk alone, right?"

Ozpin chuckled. "Of course not. Go on, you two. We can continue this in a few hours or even tomorrow. Take your time and call me when you are ready."

I nodded and tugged the girl along as I stepped towards the elevator. The headmaster was right; I had to take my time with this. After everything Neo had told me through the scroll, I couldn't put this off for later. She deserved more than that.

The lift's door soon snapped shut, leaving us alone. With the embrace finally broken, for a moment we just stood next to each other in complete silence. Silence that I knew I should be the one to break.

There goes nothing. I took a deep breath and spoke up. "So... Ten years, eh?"

"I never gave up. I never stopped searching for you. I knew you would come back." Once more, the answer appeared in the form of a floating text.

"You really shouldn't have. Ten years of your life spent on..." I shook my head, refusing to dig deeper into this subject. "No, it doesn't matter. What's done is done. Why don't you tell me how you achieved this," I motioned to the text. "That's new."

So what if I was avoiding the really important subject here? We didn't need to jump into the deep end right away. With ten years passing since our last conversation, I would rather do it all slowly; let us get familiar with each other again.

"It's my Semblance," a new string of words appeared before me. "Talking with scroll or sign language got annoying after some time, so I decided to come up with something new. My illusions became an obvious answer. I can do it almost instinctively nowadays."

I smiled just a bit. "Good. Good, very good. I'm glad you found a nice alternative." Even as I said that I couldn't help but grimace. In need of another subject, my eyes landed on the two hilts peeking from the top of Neo's cloak. "Double swords? I see you've decided to stick to the same style. How is that going?"

The girl shrugged. "I tried other weapons, but they just didn't suit me. The short swords you bought me spoiled everything else for me." She smiled, but it didn't reach her eyes. "Unfortunately, they didn't last long... I wanted to repair them, but..."

"Neo, hey," I placed a hand on her shoulder, making her look at me. "I know it was a gift from me, but those were still only weapons. You don't need them to remember me any longer. I'm back, and I'm not leaving. Definitely not for another ten years. I had enough time-travel for a lifetime."

This time, the woman gave me a full smile, not a fake one. "You better keep your promise this time. I will kill you if you won't."

I chuckled. "I will. Don't worry, I will." I glanced at her weapons again. "Only swords, or do you have something else? Dust?"

Neo shook her head. "Firearms aren't for me. As for dust, I only use it raw. With Bob's help, that's always more than enough."

Bob. So he really is with you. I mused just as the elevator opened and let us out. We quickly stepped out of the tower's lobby and just started walking along the empty campus paths.

"How is that little wyvern doing? Still hitting trees like a total dumbass?" I finally asked.

"He's grown quite a lot since you disappeared." Neo shot me a look as if she knew something I didn't. "He can be a bit stupid from time to time, but even if he can't talk, he is still my best friend. Nothing will ever change that."

My eyebrows shot up. I had expected Bob to stick around Neo if he was still alive, but to hear that she considered my old subordinate her best friend? I honestly had no idea if I should be concerned or not.

Man, ten years really is a lot, hmm? And here I thought I had already accepted this. Seems not. With a sigh, I pushed this issue for later. "So where is he now? Left him outside Vale?"

Neo shook her head. "Nope, he is here, just behind the academy where not many people go. Do you want to see him?"

I paused mid-step. "Hold up a second. You're telling me that you flew over Vale and landed inside the campus on a Grimm? How the hell does that even work?"

Neo sniggered silently as she stopped before him. "I have to be careful when I come here, but for the most part, people know about Bob. It was pretty impossible to hide his existence when they found us together back on Vytal."

"Huh," I blinked, still not sure I heard it right. "And people just accepted it?"

"After some time, yes," she replied as we resumed our walk. "I still try to stay out of sight with Bob, but even when people notice us, they at least don't cause mass panic anymore. There've been some incidents in the beginning."

"Yeah, I can only imagine," I muttered dryly. It definitely wasn't like I had a few incidents with my own dragon form. Nope, never. The few completely terrified villages probably didn't exist anymore anyway.

"Don't worry, Umbra," Neo grinned at me. "I have everything under control... And when I don't, Ozpin does."

Of course, he does. He most likely enjoys it, too. I snorted. "Alright, so led me to your trusty steed. I gotta see how far Bob progressed since I disappeared."

"Speed up then, old man!" The girl shot me a wink and ran ahead. "See if you can keep up!"

"I will give you old," I grumbled, springing after the woman. "We're almost the same age now, you pipsqueak!"

"In your dreams! Ten years is ten years!"

I growled.

Someone got even cheekier.

"My, my, my," I muttered, gazing at the Swift Wyvern I apparently captured over then years ago. "You've definitely grown, Bob."

While my past subordinate didn't look all that different — apart from some new visible scales — Bob's size changed quite a bit when I was gone. Although, maybe growing twice as large in ten years wasn't that big achievement. If I had this much time to develop, I could definitely see myself becoming large enough to flatten the entire Vale.

Interesting thought for the future. I snorted and called the system. It was time to see how much exactly Bob had grown and why my connection with him was practically gone.

Name: Nameless

Race: Bonded Grimm (Swift Wyvern)

Level: 33

Evolution Stage: N/A

Tier: C+

Current Evolutions and abilities: Full average armor, Very high movement speed, Low intelligence, Very advanced senses, Negativity absorption, Bladed wings, Strengthened scales, Dust absorption, Dust breath

Motherfucker! He is higher level than me! I gaped, rubbing my eyes to make sure I wasn't tricked. Nope, still there. Shit... I guess you weren't lazing around for the last ten years if, even without me, you managed to reach this level. And those evolutions... interesting. System, anything you want to tell me?

[Even if we weren't there, Bob was still your subordinate; thus, he received some advantages from being somewhat connected to me. Not as many as if we were present, but he definitely grew much faster than normal Grimm. You only need to look at his evolutions to see that. Ten years isn't even close enough to develop dust absorption. ]

Alright, that makes sense to some degree. I conceded. But what's going on with our bond? I can feel it even stronger now, but it just doesn't seem to work.

[That's simple. As it is now, Bob is bonded to Neo. Not in the same way as he was to you, but still bonded. I can easily break this and reconnect you two if you want. If you don't, then I can completely disconnect him, and he will stay as Neo's pet. The choice is yours.]

I frowned, not sure why the system would even give me a choice. Bob was mine; what could I possibly get from releasing him to Neo fully? It just didn't make any sense.

[It really does, Umbra. If you give up Bob, I will give you another chance at getting a subordinate. This way, you can get something stronger to help you later on, and the little girl keeps her so-called best friend.]

I guess you're right... Alright, do it.

[Acknowledged. Bob, the Swift Wyvern, has been released from your service. Bond fully transferred to Neo. One subordinate spot is now open.]

And it's done. I smiled, feeling the link vanish from my mind. Not even a single trace remained of it. Now, only the tiny woman next to me could command Bob. Though, I was kinda curious if he would listen to me in my Grimm form. Another thing to check later.

"Umbra? Is everything alright? You spaced out." The sudden emergence of floating text brought me back to the real world.

I sighed before giving Neo a wry grin. "It's nothing... I'm just happy that during all those years, you two at least had each other. Let's keep it that way, shall we? I think Bob will be better off with you."

The girl's eyes widened as she stopped patting Bob's head. "But... but... I... We were only taking care of each other until you came back. Now that you did..."

I raised my hand, stopping more text from appearing. "That's enough, brat. Listen to me; even if Bob was mine in the past, it's obvious where his loyalty lies now. It's for the best, really. Besides, you two are a team, right? I don't want to break it up."

Neo gulped visibly, turning to Bob, who still had his massive head perched on her shoulder. "Are you sure? I know I said he was my best friend when you were gone, but if you need him back, I..."

"No," I stopped her again. "My decision is final. Now, enough about that. Come, let's take a seat. I want to hear what you were up to when I was gone."

And so that was exactly what we did. Sitting underneath a tree, we talked for hours, or well, it was Neo who mostly typed out her story. A story of how Ozpin helped her settle and offered her a chance to receive a proper education, first in Signal on Patch and then in Beacon. She apparently didn't attend the academy like other students, but it also didn't stop her from getting her own license.

You know how to choose them, don't ya Ozpin? I sighed. If I ever find out you tried to manipulate her, we are gonna have another long talk, old man...

Time continued to fly by as Neo talked and talked. From the way her brow scrunched or how she sometimes looked at the ground, I could see that she definitely omitted some stuff, or that some particular memories were hard on her. However, not everything was bad. Somehow, she managed to make friends within Ozpin's secret circle and even befriended Ruby and Yang.

How exactly that happened, she refused to tell, but it didn't matter. As long as she had some people at her side when I was gone, I wouldn't complain. Though, I had to stop myself from asking how the two other girls were doing. The curiosity was killing me.

Oh well, I will just have to ask during the meeting. The stuff I'm gonna tell them will flip their world anyway. No point in beating around the bush... For now, though, let's relax...

"Summer still with the kids?" I asked as Neo and I stepped back into the headmaster's tower.

The usual trio turned towards us, but it was Qrow who nodded. "They are glued to each other." He snorted. "I tried to make her come here, but the girls just wouldn't let go. They are still in shock."

Dropping into an empty seat, I shrugged. "Well, happens. You're gonna need to pass all I tell you to her. I don't like repeating myself."

The Branwen threw a mock salute in my direction. "Aye, aye, Captain. Now, what do you have for us? Ozpin refuses to tell us anything you said to him yesterday."

"That's because I didn't say anything important. I just showed him the wrongness of his choices, that's all," I explained. "As for what I have for you today? More than you can imagine. So please listen, and when I ask a question, try to answer. It will make this entire thing much easier."

"Because that doesn't sound ominous at all," Qrow muttered. "Sometimes I wish I still had my flask with me."

I ignored the ex-drunkard and looked at Ozpin. "As I've already told you, I know everything important about Salem, relics, maidens, and you, Ozma. And that's because, when I arrived on Remnent, I had knowledge of the future and some of the past planted in my head. Don't ask me why; that's a secret I'm taking to my grave."

"Excuse me, Umbra," Goodwitch spoke up, just as I feared. "You said 'arrived.' Does that mean you aren't originally from Remnant? What do you mean exactly by that?"

I sighed and just decided to recite the answer I prepared for this. "No, I'm not from here. I was sent here. Again, don't ask me why or how. Even I don't know this."

This time, it was Qrow who spoke, his brow furrowed. "Let's say we believe you. Then tell me, if you knew the future, why didn't you prevent this entire mess from ever occurring? You missed ten years... and Tai..."

Yet another question and complaint I expected. They really were predictable.

"That's simple," I offered him a sad smile. "I had no idea about that attack. I didn't know Salem would send one of her minions after me. Yes, I know about the future, but the knowledge I have never had me in it. I was the wildcard that could have fixed everything before the information in my head even mattered. Fucking ten years..."

As I finished speaking, it only took a moment for Qrow to turn his glare towards me. "So if not for you, Summer and Tai would have never dis..."

I clicked my tongue. "No, no, no. Let me stop you right there, Qrow. My existence changed their fate; that's true. But if you really want to know, Summer would have died on some mission instead, leaving Taiyang alone. Raven would have never come back. And you? You would stay drunk, always keeping your distance from everyone due to your Semblance."

That shut the Brawnen completely, leaving him gaping. I didn't plan to reveal this before, but it was better than getting blamed for Taiyang's death. I wanted them as allies, not enemies.

At least for the time being. Once I have all the info I need, I don't care about anyone here aside from Neo. Given time, I can deal with everything on my own...

"Awesome... If nobody else has any more accusations to toss my way, I guess I'll keep going," I snorted, giving everybody a quick glance. "As I mentioned, my trip ten years into the future made most of my knowledge quite useless. Don't get me wrong, I still know some stuff you don't, but now I need to confirm it all. That's mostly why I even came here."

"So," I grinned. "Let's begin, shall we? Cinder Fall, rings any bells?"