A/N: Warning! This chapter's vicious, sassy, and makes no apologies.

...I had intended to update this two days ago, but I recently received some concerning news. My sister is out of immediate danger, but now I'm told she may have cancer, located in a tumor/cyst in her chest. I'm hoping, praying, begging that's not the case, but I won't know until the tests come back. We've taken her for bloodwork to make sure everything clots properly, but even then, its all up in the air and a lot of the jargon flew over my head.

Still, here we go. Three chapters for this story in ONLY THREE DAYS. Hope you enjoyed them; I'm utterly exhausted.

I hope everyone appreciates this, and the multiple timeskips that take place in this chapter.

We didn't hit that sooner because, yes, while it would be easy to just jump ahead, want this to be good story, not a simple "Naruto bangs a, b, c, d, and so on and so forth." His actions have consequences; his words and will shape the world around him; I wanted this to reflect that.

And ohhhh does it show in this chapter.

RWBY may have been canned by Warner Bros, but we fanfiction writers are out here trying to keep the light alive, as it were. So here we go. The fate of this story depends on you, the reader. Your feedback determines the fate of this tale, and many others. Roman was a delight to write in this; in part because he's radically different from how I usually portray him. As was Ann. She gives off serious Velvette levels of sass this chapter.

As ever, I own no references, quotes, themes or memes. They're tributes to legends far greater than little 'ol me.

Hazbin Hotel references are for entertainment, tributes, and tastefully done; I own nothing~!

Have your timeskip at last! It's toward the end of this chapter. Off we go!

Verbatim for Volume Five and a certain jolly professor, too~!

Solo Leveling moments ahead as well.

"Humanity's got this neat trick up its sleeve.

Whenever we're faced with a problem, our inclination is to find a solution.

Hardship forces us to adapt. We're stronger together together after all...or we were.

And speaking of strong, they got a nickname for the Headmaster of Haven these days and his training methods.

Don't get me wrong, he's brutal, but effective. That's how he earned the title.

These days, they call him the Headmaster of Hell."

~Qrow Branwen.

Defy the Girls

Two dozen children.

Twenty four kids.

Twenty! Four!

Naruto wasn't sue if he wanted to thank Ann for what she'd done...or give her a good hard shake! Truth be told found himself torn somewhere between the two; caught somewhere in the middle of delight and dismay. On one hand, yes, orphanage bad; any place that was taking in kids and treating them like that deserved to be dismantled. On the other! Orphanage on fire! People dead!

This was going to be one helluva headache for him, he just knew it.

Thankfully she'd seen fit to turn the tykes over to Sanctum, rather than the authorities. Which meant they fell under his nominal purview. He'd promptly declared them all wards of Haven and sworn to see the lot of them put up in proper homes with loving families AND free scholarships to both Sanctum and Haven, should they desire either. Maria had expressed interest in having an apprentice; maybe she could be tempted to take some of them off their hands.

Others, like young Roman, had expressed a desire to stick around in the interim; those that did clung to Ann like glue.

They were still sorting through the rest; it promised to be a long night.

Unfortunately, not everyone was pleased with her actions.

In the end, Ann's one-woman-crusade saw their little family gathered around the kitchen table once more -he was sure he'd have to field questions from Maria and the other teachers tomorrow- with many a mouth to feed and plenty of shadow clones to keep the lot of them company. They'd never be able to keep order otherwise.

Order...bah! Order was boring. Let chaos take the world, he sad; so long as he was the one causing said chaos.

"Seriously?" Raven crossed one leg over the other as she flounced down onto a chair opposite him, idly balancing Yang in her lap. "Are we running a school or an orphanage here?!"

Willow touched a finger to her lips and to hide the smile there. "Considering Ann just raided the hell out of one?"

Vanessa made no such effort. "I think it was grand!"

"I'm sorrrryyyy~!" Ann buried her head beneath both hands with a pitiful whine. "I couldn't help myself! And that place wasn't an orphanage!" just as quickly, she recovered to round on Raven. "It was a front for thugs and drugs and gods-know-what-else!"

Raven rolled her eyes. "So you may claim, but-

"No butts!" a finger stabbed forth, jutting against her nose now when she made to protest. "You saw the state of those kids! They haven't had a good meal in ages! I had to carry some of them out of there before I burned that place down!"

"That was you, then?" Naruto hummed, silently pleased by the revelation. "Place went up like a match."

"Indeed." Vanessa seconded him with a wince. "Most of Mistral saw the blaze."

Here at last, Willow winced. "That...might have been overkill."

"Oi!" Ann stood her ground, bless her. "I saw an injustice and I fixed it while you lot were busy," she glared pale daggers at Willow, drawing a soft sputter from the latter when she made to protest, "You were teaching," her gaze sought out Vanessa next, who looked away with an embarrassed flush, "And while you were home with the kids!" here at last, Raven came under attack. "Some warrior queen you are!"

Raven naturally took the barb and barbed back just as hard. "Is that why you raided the orphanage? Or did you want to be a mother hen that badly?"

Something cold dawned in Ann's eyes, causing her to surge up to her feet. "Take that BACK you BI...!"

Naruto lurched to his feet ready to thrust himself between them before they came to blows.

He needn't have; one of the new kids tugged at Ann's sleeve, cutting off her rant.

"...ma'am?"

Idly he took note of the little one; this tiny, gaunt girl, wrapped up in a white shirt several sizes too large. Even that did precious little to hide her emaciated frame. Her dark hair was dirty, her cheeks sunken, amber eyes faded and dull. She could hardly stand on those weak little legs of hers. Yet despite that, or perhaps in spite of it, she yet clutched at Ann's hand.

"I want more food."

Ann quirked a brow at her. "Cinder, what did I tell you about manners?"

The lass wilted a little at those words and ducked her head low, chin tucked into her chest. "...food, please?"

Naruto's heart kicked painfully against his chest with a heavy thud. Poor thing. It looked like she hadn't eaten in a week. Unbidden, he found himself reaching out to comfort her as he had Roman; only to wince when the girl took one look at him and skittered back behind Ann's skirts.

...was he really that scary?

"Easy, you're alright." Ann patted the orphan's head, placed a hand on her back, and gave her a nudge. "Go see Roman in the kitchens. He's helping Winter and the clones hand out food. I'm sure there's plenty left to go around."

Cinder scarpered without so much as a backward glance.

Naruto lowered his hand with a sigh, feeling more than a little chagrined. "I didn't mean to spook her...

Vanessa sat beside him, bumping her hip against his. "She'll warm up to you eventually. Don't mind her, she's shy.

Raven rolled her eyes anew "Not like that other one."

"I heard that, you dusty old bird!" Speak of the devil and he shall appear; the redhead in question poked his head around the corner with a scowl, wielded a cutting knife in one hand and a ladle in another. "I need some help in here! Little miss ice queen over here can't chop carrots to save her life!"

An outraged squawk answered him from the kitchen. "As if you're any better, ingrate!"

"Oi!" Roman craned his neck back, brandishing the knife. "Less talk, more cooking!" A frying pan winged his way, artfully dodged at the last instant to wedge itself into the wall. "Cut that out! I don't have aura!"

"Winter Schnee!" Raven shifted in her chair and leaned over, dark mane falling over her lost eye as she raised her voice. "If you don't stop throwing things this instant, I'll come in there and tan your bottom!"

The poor girl's gulp was audible. "You wouldn't dare!"

"Wouldn't I...?"

Yang cooed happily in her arms, blissfully unaware of the impending violence. She really was her mother's daughter.

Willow fanned her face and held out a finger for baby Weiss to grasp. "So nice to see my girl finally finding a nice boy her age."

"Mother, no!" Winter didn't dare show herself, not after Raven's threat just now, but she did howl with rage. "He is not my boyfriend!"

Willow merely smiled. "Dear girl, I never said that...

Winter made angry Winter noises as Roman cackled himself hoarse. "Ha! I like this broad!"

In the end, Naruto conjured two more clones and waved them toward the kitchen; if only to prevent the poor girl's imminent meltdown.

As the oldest -and quite possibly most ambitious- of the Orphans, the flame-haired boy had taken it upon himself to look after the other urchins to the best of his ability. Good on him. Mistral had developed a rather nasty moniker before he came here; one he was trying to eradicate even now. Folks called it the place where the weak went to die. He was pleased to see someone else working so tirelessly to defy that namesake. Warmed his tired old heart, it did.

There was even another tyke here for crying out loud! Her parents -some rich ponces visiting from Vale apparently- had just...thrown her away in the gutter one day, if Roman was to be believed. And make no mistake, he did believe the boy. You couldn't fake that kind of horror or disgust. He'd been looking after her ever since; she wouldn't have survived without him.

He hoped, for their sake, that they never visited Vale. He'd never seen Raven sharpen Omen with such intensity.

He'd gotten a passing look at the poor tyke before they put her to bed. Strange little thing with brown hair, mismatching eyes...and no voice. It wasn't that she'd lost it -which would've been bad enough- but rather that she'd simply been born without the ability to speak. She'd been in poor health when they'd first, but a bit of healing chakra on his part and formula courtesy of Vanessa helped set her to rights. They'd see how she fared come morning.

He had a bit of a running bet in his head as to who would try and adopt the nameless girl first. Raven hadn't said anything just yet, but he'd seen her side-eyeing the kiddo with a broody look about her...now there was a thought. Maybe he ought to try fixing the babe's vocal chords once things settled down-

"Alright," Raven relented with a sigh in response to something he hadn't heard. "You've made your point. Maybe you spirited those brats away out of the goodness of your heart after all."

"I did!" Ann glared over shoulder, pink eyes gleaming as she growled. "The rest of them will be looked after by the city council."

Naruto pinched the bridge of his nose to stifle a sigh. "You do realize I'm currently sitting on said council."

"Exactly." she preened. "You'll make sure those bastards don't take advantage of them."

He'd have to, wouldn't he? Or he'd never be able to live with himself.

But there was more to it than that, he knew; much more. Taking in the runts was all well and good, but they were just treating the symptoms of the disease, not the cause. The criminals who used and abused those kids, who starved them, fed them drugs and gods know what else...they were to blame for this fiasco. This probably wasn't the only orphanage they had either, and if they were hurting other people, other KIDS...!

They had to die. No two ways about it. He'd kill them with his bare hands if he must.

"Careful. You're bleeding killing intent."

He was, wasn't he? Gotta watch that.

And then Ann twisted the proverbial knife in his chest. "Did you know those criminals were abusing the children there? Roman told me everything."

Naruto twitched.

Raven saw what she was doing and gave him a nudge. "They weren't even feeding the poor dears, you know? Isn't that sad? And they'll probably take more...

He let the words wash over him and buried them deep in his heart. Calm. He couldn't rush off half-arsed here. "What do you want me to do, butcher them all? I don't even know where they're hiding out.

Vanessa clicked her tongue in mild admonishment. "Don't forget, we have another term coming up."

They did. Another thing to worry about...yet he could feel his family looking at him.

Pyrrha cooed softly from her mother's arms and looked up at her. "Tem?"

Vanessa cooed happily. "That's right, my little warrior." she nuzzled the toddler's cheek with her own, beaming as only a mother could. "Mama's gonna make you strong. You'll be playing with the big boys before you know it."

"Do what you will, Raven clicked her tongue at her in mild admonishment. "Just don't make her soft."

Green eyes went half-lidded. "My offer to spar still stands once you've recovered, Branwen."

"Bitch, please. I'll kick your ass once I get better."

Yang clapped her hands. "Bitch!"

Ann choked on her drink. "Now look what you've done!"

Right, better cut that off at the pass before they came to blows again.

"A true huntsman, or huntress," he took a sip of his non-alcoholic beverage, raised hos vice and conceded a nod to the ladies at the table, "Must be honorable. They must be dependable. They must be strategic well-educated, wise...and not afraid to bend the rules if it means saving lives."

Raven rolled her eyes. "You and your bloody rhymes."

Vanessa delivered a swift peck to his cheek. "I rather like it."

"Hush up, you." he laughed a little and let his gaze sweep over the rest of his allies. "I'm not done. All of you have those qualities, even you, Ann. I'd hand you a license myself if I could, but-

"I know, I know," the former murdered mumbled under her breath. "I have to pass my own exam." So she did; he knew she'd ace the practical skills, it was the written portion that concerned him. "Don't worry, I've got this." she thumped a fist down on the table. "I'll be fully licensed by next year. Just you wait. Then I can help out more around here."

He didn't miss the shadow flitted across Raven's face.

"My my, such an inspiring speech, Naruto." Willow touched a hand to her cheek. "You rather remind me of a certain up-and-coming general."

Raven gagged almost immediately. Yang mimicked her mother, bless her simple soul

Naruto laughed despite their disgust. "Please don't compare me to that Ironbark guy," he must've said the name wrong, because Raven fell clean out of her chair which had Ann and Vanessa startled giggling all over again. "I've heard more than enough about his methods these days."

"Puhlease," Raven clawed herself upright, carefully protecting her daughter with one arm. "You're nothing like Jimmy Irondick." Alright, now she was enjoying herself. "You actually get results, which is more than I can say for his so-called campaign against the White Fang."

"Its not a war yet." Leave it to Willow to defend her home. "The White Fang are still a peaceful organization."

"For now." the ex-bandit countered. "They won't be much longer, mark my words. Words mean nothing without action."

Willow frowned. Was it just him, or had the temperature dropped just now? "Are you advocating violence? There are children present."

"Princess, I am ALL about violence. Just like this guy." she jabbed him with an armored elbow. "Maybe he's too merciful at times, but hey, we can't all be perfect."

Weiss started squirming in her mother's arms suddenly, demanding attention.

Willow preened and rose from her seat in a swirl of silk. "Oh, my. Someone wants her papa...

"Now wait just a second I caaaaaaaandholdinghernow." his worlds trailed off into a sigh as the heiress plopped her youngest tyke in his arms; naturally, the moment she did, Weiss quieted down. "Spoiled!" an exasperated noise parted his lips as she snuggled up against him. "You were fussy just a second ago!"

Willow made smug Schnee noises. "What can I say? Weiss wants what she wants."

Raven chuckled. "Softy."

"Hey!"

A ripple of laughter crossed the table.

"Speaking of action," Ann interjected, "That brings us back to the Goliath in the room. What're we going to go about this kidnapping gang? I saw their Symbol, but I've been out of the loop too long, I don't even know who they are."

"You're looking for the Hana Guild."

All eyes turned toward Raven. She preened like her namesake and tossed her hair behind her shoulders.

"What did you expect? Traders and thieves flock to Mistral for a reason. Be glad this isn't Wind Path or Kuchinashi. Those places are even worse than Mistral's underground.

Vanessa flung up an arm. "That still doesn't explain how you know these ruffians."

"Its not a long story. Bastards tried to muscle in on my turf and take a few kids back when I led the Tribe." A tribe that no longer existed, and he saw the pain in her eyes for it. "I took a few heads, sent 'em packing, you know the drill. Didn't think twice about it now."

Willow pursed her lips, forming a thin line of displeasure. "That's all well and good, but knowing their name doesn't help us much."

Raven saw her chance and swooped in. "We may not know where they are, but a certain Spider does."

His eyes widened in realization. "Malachite. I can give her a call."

Ann scoffed into her right hand. "You think she'll cooperate?"

After he'd scared the daylights out of her? She'd better.

"Wait, wait, wait." Vanessa shook her head, nearly smacking Pyrrha with her ponytail, "What are you suggesting? That we just...wipe them out?"

Raven spat her disapproval. "There's no point in trying to eradicate crime completely; believe me, Team STRQ tried that once in Vale." A flicker of nostalgia flitted across her face, there and gone before he could comment on it. "Doesn't matter how many bastards you butcher. More always take their place. Fear works for a bit, but only a bit. Better if we control it and keep it clean. But people like this? They need to go."

"Agreed."

An idea dawned just then.

Willow saw his smile and sighed. "Dear, I adore you, but you do realize you can't be seen to eliminate those thugs all by yourself. That's not exactly keeping a low profile. Do you intend to involve the authorities?"

"No. They could be in on it for all we know; they probably are, knowing this city. But I won't be alone." he steepled his fingers. "Not at all! I just need to have word with SLVR, HCCN, and CBLT...

Vanessa recoiled. "Why those teams?! Whatever for?!

"You said it yourself," he shrugged a shoulder her way, "They're restless. Our students could use some live fire training, and it would improve our standing with the city. Two birds with one stone...

"Naruto, no!" she slapped a hand against the table. "You can't mean to send those children into battle alone; not against hardened criminals."

"I won't. Each team will have a teacher with them. I'm sure Pickerel and Valkyrie will be up for it. Think of it as...advanced initiation."

Ann touched a finger to her chin, considering. "And yourself?"

"I'll be leading the charge, of course." he grounded a fist into his palm. "We're going to wipe them out in one night."

Her eyes went half-lidded. "Now that's a plan I can get behind...

"You can't be serious!

Raven tilted her head. "Why so afraid, Nikos?"

"Unlike you, I have plenty to lose!"

"Coward!"

Naturally, that set Ann right off. "You're one to talk!"

Willow raised her hand. "Lets calm down...

Gods, he felt tired.

Excusing himself from the rising argument, Naruto rose from his seat, handed Weiss back to Willow, and paced away to the living room. Raven cast a confused look his way, but he didn't linger to see if she followed or not. His mind was already focused on other things, thoughts rapidly churning into a fresh frenzy as his legs carried him away. I

n time the pleasant sounds of dinner faded away, taking the chaos with them.

He slumped down onto the couch, covered his face with one hand, and heaved a sigh.

Being the Headmaster of Haven was...tiring at times, if he was honest. Not the paperwork, he could handle that even if he hated it, but the realization that he had to keep forging ahead, keep pushing, keep trying his best, even when it felt like the city itself was set against him. Maintaining the facade was difficult. The Smiling Man. Monster of Mistral. Headmaster of Hell. His hard work had earned him all manner of nicknames and more, but while he'd been focusing on the future, children like Roman were suffering, and he never would've noticed if Ann hadn't...!

A weight settled on his lap.

His lips pursed in a slight frown. "Not now, Raven. Ain't in the mood...

No response. His guest remained silent as the grave, not budging an inch.

His temper flared as he took his hand away, opened his eyes and growled, half-expecting to find Raven there.

It wasn't Raven.

Young Yang stared up at him from where she sat in his lap, grinning gormlessly, fiercely fearless in the face of his anger-no. Any ire he might've felt withered and died the moment he laid eye on her. His scowl softened into a smile, not the toothy sneer he wore to intimidate his adversaries or the silvery smile to charm his foes, but something more genuine.

"Hey, kiddo. You're getting big...

The ruse didn't fool her for a moment. She patted his cheek with a tiny hand and looked up at him, lilac eyes shining. "Papa sad?"

Ouch. His heart nearly cracked in half. She really was starting to talk, wasn't she?

"Yang Branwen, who taught you to talk like that?"

His sunny little dragon beamed. "Mama!"

A blond brow rose. "Which one?"

"Mama."

He sighed. "I'm not sure why I expected anything less. You're not going to tell me, are you?"

She cuddled closer, hands balling at the red fabric of his jacket. "Sad?"

"Not sad, just tired." he tousled her hair. "Where's your mother...?"

He craned his neck back in search of Raven and found her sauntering back his way, hips swaying, bottle of beer in hand. It was more of a stalk than a walk really, another sign that she was near a fully recovery. She sat in the chair opposite him, face pensive, and cracked said bottle open, but didn't immediately offer it to him. She knew him too well; he wasn't one to drink when Yang was awake, much less while holding her; the kiddo kept him calmer than any booze ever could.

"You sure you don't wanna swap?" Raven cracked it open with her artificial arm and offered him the bottle. "You look like you could use this more than me."

He shook his head. "Nah, I'm good."

She shrugged and knocked the bottle back. "You're the boss."

Yang curled up against him with a merry giggle, little legs kicking. "Papa boss!"

Laughter bubbled up in him, echoed by the chaos in the kitchen. It sounded like Willow had finally taken pity on Winter and gone to help while Ann and Vanessa talked. Fine by him. He didn't want to be crowded right now. There was a strange gleam in Raven's eye eye just now, one he couldn't quite quantify.

"You really do care, don't you?" there was the slightest twang to her tone that left him blinking. "I thought you might be faking it a couple times...but after today, there's no denying it."

His head tilted. "Care for who?"

"All of us." she took another swig of her bottle. "That bleeding heart of yours will be the death of you yet-

"Nope."

She scowled. "Don't you start with that again!"

Yang clapped her hands and echoed him. "Nope!"

Raven flung a finger his way. "Now look what you've done!"

It really was too easy to make her flush. "I said I love you, too, remember?"

Yang's mother sputtered, which set Yang to giggling again. Ahhh, sweet, sweet serotonin.

When she moved to sit beside him, placing Yang between them both, he knew the conversation was about to veer into darker waters.

"Things are going to get rough from here on out." she seemed to physically grapple with herself for a moment, took a breath and barreled on. "I wanted to talk with you before they did." She looked back to the empty bottle in her hand, set it well out of Yang's reach, and allowed her to play with her false arm instead. "To tell you the truth." her good hand bit down into the couch cushions, betraying her stress. "Even now there's a part of me that doesn't want to say anything; to keep things as they are. But if I stay quiet any longer, this is gonna blow up in my face. So you deserve it. The truth."

"What truth?" his brow furrowed.

"The truth," Raven grit her teeth and seemed to choke on her spit for a moment before rallying. "Is that the "truth" is hard to come by. The story of victory for one person is the story of defeat for someone else. And yet Huntsman and Huntresses think they're making the world a better place. They're not pragmatic, not like you and I. Honestly, its disgusting."

Something in her words stung him. "It's what they do. You know that."

"Not all of them." she shook her head, setting her hair swaying, causing Yang to grab at it. In a rare moment of weakness, Raven actually let her, even as her good eye swung back his way. "Some people are just in it for the money and the fame, but there are even more that are just looking to get stronger. I guarantee you, not all of your students are looking to make the world a better place. At least some of them will be enrolling to learn how to kill huntsmen...just like I did."

The foundation he'd built his new life upon cracked, just a little, but he held firm. "Well, aren't you a suspicious thing?

"Paranoia kept me alive." she grimaced as Yang gave her coal-black-tresses a hard yank, grit her teeth, gulped once, then barreled on. "You said you wanted the truth? Then I need to start from the beginning. My brother Qrow and I, we didn't attend Beacon because we were good people. We went to kill Huntsmen.

His eyes widened. "Oh."

"Surprising, isn't it?" the mother of his daughter flashed him a bitter grin. "Aside from the Grimm, Huntsmen were the only ones capable of ruining our raids and hunting us. Back then, my tribe needed a counterforce, and we were the perfect age. Beacon's entrance exams were child's play compared to what we'd already been through."

She'd told him a little more than he knew, but there was something sharp behind that red eye of hers. "Is this leading somewhere?"

"I'm getting to that, patience." Raven absently rocked Yang on her knee, drawing a pleased burble from the girl. "We were good. We were very good. So good in fact, that we caught the attention of Beacon's very own headmaster.

"Ozpin." it wasn't a question.

"The very same." She punched the couch with her false arm." I already told you the important bits awhile back, the broad strokes of things, but never the specifics." her good eye went misty, recalling some distant memory only she could see. "After we were put on a team, I could tell he was keeping an eye on us; back then, I thought it was because he knew who we were, where we came from, but it was Team STRQ he was interested in, not us. You know each team is composed of four members, correct?

He granted her a nod. "I'm aware. Vanessa and I had plenty of trouble picking out names for the teams this year.

Still, they'd come up with a few good ones. SLVR, HCCN, and NCKL among them. CBLT and HZRD were a bit of a joke, to say nothing of NUKE, he'd had a good laugh at that one, given their overpowered weapons and semblances...

"Then you're gonna love ours." Raven held out a hand for him to see and counted down off four fingers as he looked on. "Summer Rose. Taiyang Xiao-long, myself, and Qrow Branwen. We received near constant attention from ol' Oz, extra training sessions, turning a blind eye whenever we happened to break the rules and land ourselves in move trouble than we should have-and on did we land ourselves in some.

"What's your point?"

"My point is this." she turned to face him fully and laid her real hand on his. "How much do you really know about this world, about its people and the forces that work in the shadows?

"Not enough, beyond what you told me already," he admitted. "And I'm still having trouble with that most days."

"Exactly." her head bobbed. "The world would have you believe Ozpin is a prodigy, one of the youngest headmasters to be appointed to a school. Because that's how he planned it. We know he designed these schools, that he as followers in every Academy on Remnant loyal to him and no one else...or he did, until you took over Haven. You broke the cycle. In acting here, you not only saved dozens of Huntsmen and Huntresses who would've otherwise died, but you've shifted the balance of power, possibly forever.

Which meant Ozpin would pay him a visit, sooner or later, if only to recruit him. "Thanks ever so much for the reminder...

"It bears repeating." she chided him with an elbow to the ribs. "Ozpin will kill to keep his secret; one that could spread fear and terror across the world; one that you know, one that he eventually entrusted to our team so long ago. And once I knew, believe me, there was no going back. I needed to know more. But with every new discovery I made, the more horrifying the world became."

...this is why you left your team, isn't it?" he had the sinking suspicion there was more to it than that, that she was about to torpedo whatever he'd thought of her.

"Now you're catching on." Raven inclined her head in a small, sad nod. "All my team did was OBEY, they swallowed Ozpin's poison willingly and never once thought to question him, never thought the old bastard might be in the wrong, never thought they might be in danger. But me? I questioned everything. They were blind. I wasn't." She took her metal arm and tucked it into herself. I saw the writing on the wall...and I ran."

"I know that already-

She squeezed his wrist.

"I know you do." her good eye began to water. Here it was. The moment of truth. "But did you know I was married?"

Of all the things he'd expected to hear, that wasn't one of them.

His breath hitched in his throat. "What?"

"I had a husband. Yang's father."

"Did he die?"

He has to ask, even if he already knew the answer.

...no." Raven met his incredulous stare head on. "He's very much alive. Yang is his daughter." Her face closed down even as she said he words, speaking them seemed to take something from her. "I could've left her with him when I first fled, but I just couldn't." her gaze flitted down to Yang, snug and content between them, safe from all the evils of the world, already beginning to drift off. "I looked at her, this little mewling pink thing I'd given birth to, my daughter, my Yang, and I couldn't bear the thought of her becoming another pawn in Ozpin's suicidal war...

"So you took the girl."

"I took the girl." her head bobbed. "Took her and ran, as far and fast as I could, brought her to the tribe. And for awhile, life was...better. Not necessarily good, but better...until She came."

Salem. Or her agents, at the very least. It went without saying.

Raven flexed her false arm, reliving that night. "That damn scorpion faunus brought an army of Grimm to my doorstep. He used them to hunt me down, tear out the tribe by its roots, and nearly killed me before I killed him. My power passed to Yang when I died." she looked down to their daughter, who gazed up at them without fear. "And then you came along to drag me back." Her metal arm creaked under her grip. "You know the rest."

He looked down to Yang; the sleepy girl yawned once and curled up between them.

Suddenly the lights in her eyes made sense, the intermittent flashes of flame.

It all made sense; but Raven wasn't yet done with him.

"I know more than you realize," she swept up a hand an inch shy of her collarbone. "Not just what I've heard, or what I've been told, but things I've seen with my own eyes. I know people can come back from the dead, I know magic is real, and I can prove it, beyond what I've told you."

She placed Yang in his lap and scooted back a bit on the couch.

Before his very eyes she shrunk, her body sprouting wings and feathers, then a beak besides. He looked down, alarmed to find himself staring at a small black bird. No...a raven. Curiously enough, she had both her eyes and wings in this body; somehow he doubted the change would carry over to her true form.

Yang crooned and made a delighted grab for transformed mother. "Birdie! Wanna play!"

"Huh, neat." he hummed, reeling her back before she could pounce or be pecked. "So you can shapeshift. And this changes things how?"

Raven shifted back to her true form, jaw hanging open. "Ha? Did you not hear a word I just said? All this time I've been keeping secrets from you, holding out on you-

He placed his fingers under her chin and gently pushed it up, forcing her mouth shut with an audible click. "I already knew you ran away, just no from what. If they really are as reckless as you say, then that wasn't a god place to raise Yang. Bringing her up in the tribe, yeah that sounded like shit, but they're dead now, so that's water under the bridge as far as I'm concerned."

"You're okay with this?!

...I am." the admission surprised even him. "Slightly upset to find out you already had a husband, much less ran out on him, but I assume you've long since burned said bridge by now."

Raven looked away. "They probably think I'm long dead."

"And there you have it."

Why should he weep for a group of strangers he'd never met? That was selfish of him perhaps, no, it definitely was but again, he no longer had the capacity to care overmuch for people he'd never met, for those who were not in his immediate vicinity. Yeah, it sucked that Yang's original father hadn't gotten to know her, but he always could in the future. He'd happily allow him that much. A father -a good father!- had a right to see their child, after all. But if he thought to shatter their little family, or worse, tried to take Yang away...

.

..

...yikes, was he seriously thinking of ripping someone's arms off? Just how twisted had he become?

"You already know the answer to that."

Of course he did. That was a rhetorical question. One could only be exposed to so much chaos and strife before it altered the very fundamentals of their being. Even he was no exception to that rule. Maybe he'd been pure before this; when he first found Raven in the rain. Mistral had stripped that away from him, or rather, the people he'd met here had. Malachite, Jacques, Lionheart, each had been another step on a slippery slope. And now this?

He could hardly condemn Raven for what she'd done; that would be the pot calling the kettle black.

So he laid his hand on hers.

Raven went berserk.

"You don't know me!" She batted his hand away, heedless of Yang's petulant whine. "The real me! You only know the pretty picture I've painted for you! You don't know the choices I've made, what I've done to survive! I hurt people! I've killed people! I'm not a good person!"

"You're right.

She faltered. "I am?"

"You are." he bobbed his head in agreement. "I don't know you, I only know what its like to look at you, live with you, love you after all this time." Her pale face had grown increasingly flushed as he spoke, but now? She was red like roses. "You're troubled, complicated, and a pain in my ass, frankly. But you're courageous when you want to be. Sure," he scooted closer to her, "You've made mistakes, but haven't we all? Your loyalty can't be bought. You fight for what you believe in. I like that-no, I love that. Just as I love you.

"You don't get it!" He could feel her wavering, see her inability to look him in the eye." I've stared death in the face over and over again, and every time I've spat in that and survived because I'm strong enough to do what others won't!"

"It doesn't have anything to do with strength." his hands settled over hers. "You might be powerful, but that doesn't make you strong. You've gained strength in other ways."

She bridled. "Who are you to lecture me, sitting there, smiling like that?!"

"Someone who loves you very much." he leaned into to her and pressed his forehead to hers. "Someone who will stand beside you." a tremor run through her at that; he felt every bit of it. "I won't run away, I won't throw you to the wolves, and if you have a problem with what I'm doing, I promise I'll hear you out. That's my oath to you."

"So you're not mad?"

He chortled a bit at that. "Do you want me to be?"

Her good eyes flitted this way and that, searching for an escape. "...no."

"Then what's the problem?"

"Yang's the Spring Maiden!" The words burst out of her in a rush. "That's the problem! If someone -anyone!- takes her, they can open the vault beneath the school, nab the Relic and-

He planted his hand on the back of her head, wrapped the other around her shoulders, and drew her in for a hug, quelling her words. "And if Yang is this Spring Maiden, all we have to do is protect her, teach her how to use these powers of hers, and be there for her. She'll be untouchable."

He could see it now; a blazing blonde brawler trained by the best, better than the rest, anyone who tried to fight her would be laid to rest.

Oooh! That was a good one. Maybe he ought to write it down for Vanessa to use for her Semblance...

Raven's fingers fisted into his jacket, reminding him where he was as she buried her head in his neck. "And if Tai comes knocking?"

"I'll knock right back." he'd been ready for that and said as much. "We'll talk. I'll explain things."

She hiccuped once. "I'm a terrible mother."

He scoffed. "I've seen worse, trust me."

Much, much, MUCH worse.

Kaguya came to mind.

Raven was hardly mother of the year material, but at least she'd cared enough to bring Yang with her on this grand misadventure. Yes, it had caused chaos and hurt people, but the fact remained.

A soft, warbling noise escaped her lips. One could almost call it a sob. He'd never say it aloud, of course; he knew she'd try to stab him if he ever insinuated any sort of weakness on her part. So he didn't say anything at all. He simply held her, rocked her back and forth, with Yang nestled between them. When the tears came, he didn't insult her; he let them flow freely, uncaring of the stains she'd surely leave on his jacket.

Raven Branwen trembled against him and with a whimper broke down at last. "I'm sorry...

"I know you are." he massaged the small of her back. "That's the first step."

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorrrrrryyyyyyy!"

She didn't try to kiss him, she was much too devastated for that, but it didn't stop her from clinging onto him for dear life. He would've felt a fiend if he took advantage of her now. So there he sat, letting her weep and wail as she hadn't in years. He wasn't sure how much time passed. Minutes? An hour? In truth, he couldn't be sure. Eventually she slumped against him, and he realized she'd fallen asleep. Even then she maintained a death grip on him, so distraught was she.

His heart kicked painfully against his chest. This was quite the mess she'd landed him in. But he would endure; he would find a way through; he always did.

He blew out a sigh and dared to kiss her forehead. "Such a troublesome birdie...

Kurama coughed in his ear. "You do realize we've had an audience for the last five minutes."

Belatedly, he looked over his shoulder, somewhat nonplussed to find Willow and the other girls peeking around the corner.

"Alright, spill. How much of that did you hear?"

Willow looked away, whistling innocently.

"Enough." Vanessa winced.

Ann didn't say a word.

Naruto exhaled slowly. Right then, that settled it. All this nonsense had made Raven cry. Slaughtering the Hana Guild sounded like an excellent way to bleed off his anger.

"...alright." he set Raven down, tucked Yang into her mother's arms, then draped a blanket over them for good measure. From there, he rose with a flourish and snatched up his staff. "It's high time I reminded Mistral why I am HERE."

Ann gulped a little at his sudden burst of enthusiasm and raced after him pink eyes widening just so. "Uh-oh."

Vanessa and Willow balked, yet it was the latter who spoke. "Whaddya mean uh-oh?!"

"His eyes are red! Nothing good ever happens when his eyes are red! Move it!"


(.0.0.0.)


The very next day, he had the leaders of team SLVR, HCCN, and CBLT brought up to his office.

Not the entire teams all at once of course, bringing everyone up altogether would leave his office much to crowded and would defeat the purpose; better to broach this subject now, with the weekend here. He wanted to see how they would react to his words, then broach the subject to their teammates later. It was something of a thought experiment.

That said, the leaders were certainly an eclectic group.

Shiro Wan, leader of Team SLVR lived up to his namesake at least, a tan youth with hair white as snow and eyebrows to match. His eyes were a sharp piercing gold, his body wreathed in red and black, bearing a bow of similar colors between his shoulders, and a pair of shortswords at his sides. He looked capable. Confident. Strong. And very much confused to be called up here out of the blue.

"You...wanted to see us, sir?

"Just a moment." He slipped back into his Headmaster persona, held up a hand, and looked to the others. "Miss Shields, you look nervous. Is there a problem?"

Heather Shields, leader of Team HCCN or Hyacinth for short, wore a long combat dress and light muted colors like her namesake; in fitting with her surname and dark hair, she favored a rather large black-plated shield and a wicked looking flanged mace at her side. Both mechashift, no doubt. Why her teammates had nicknamed her "Maple" was beyond him. Poor girl looked fit to faint from right.

"You...remember me, sir?"

"Of course I do." he smiled for her sake. "I had quite some trouble coming up with a name for you team. Hyacinth was rather difficult."

She sputtered and studied her shoes.

"C'mon now," a new voice thrummed, "Show some confidence, girl! You can't hide behind that shield forever!"

Last came came the leader of Team CBLT, one Carmine Escalados a colorful redhead in a fashionably absurd outfit so outlandish and barely there that he didn't even want to look her way. If this weren't a weekend, he would've sent her back down to the dorms to get changed.

Honestly, it was too much of a headache, so he just chose to ignore her garb outright.

Her named sounded oddly familiar, but who was he to guess at it? Supposedly miss Escalados originally hailed from Vacuo; she'd come a long way to Mistral. He wondered why. What could make them want to leave their home? He knew Vaccuo was a shit place to live on a good day but still, they seemed decent enough...for now.

His brow furrowed. ""Tell me how fond are you of criminals?"

Shiro blinked." Sir?

"Fighting villains, then?"

Heather frowned. "I'm afraid we don't follow?"

He heaved a sigh in mild irritation. "Extra Credit?

Carmine winked. Sure thing, hot stuff! Whaddya want?"

"Miss Escalados, please refrain from flirting in my presence."

The redhead pouted and scuffed the floor with her boot. "Boo...


(.0.0.0.)


Malachite gave them good intel.

Three locations. Three strikes. Three victories

The Hana Guild were wiped out completely overnight.


(.0.0.0.)


A warehouse door ripped itself free from its hinges.

Naruto stomped in, grinning like a loon, Vanessa only a step behind him.

"Good evening!" A score of startled thugs stared back him as he flourished his staff. "Might you fine fellow be associated with the Hana Guild?"

One of them sputtered in disbelief at the sight of him. "Who in the hell are you?"

"Naruto Uzumaki, pleasure to be meeting you, quite a pleasure!"

His staff tapped down with an audible crack.

"I'm about to end your LIVES."


(.0.0.0.)


The news spread like wildfire.

Haven students fighting criminals.

An entire gang eradicated in a single night.

People loved a scandal almost as much as they did a tragedy.

Alas, the council of Mistral didn't take kindly to such heavy-handed practices.


(.0.0.0.)


Was he dreaming?

Roman tried pinching himself, just to be sure, but he didn't wake up. The sharp sting on his arm only served to reaffirm where he was, what he'd seen, what he was currently experiencing. It was madness. Stark raving insanity at its finest!

Warm clothes, food in his belly, and a good night's sleep?

Check.

All the other runts safe and stowed away where those Hana bastards couldn't get them?

Double check.

The Headmaster of Haven about to tear the Mistral Council a new one?

Triple check!

He wished the other kids could be here to see this; hells, they were probably glued to the television back home. Most likely were.

After all, this was the big leagues. Here he stood on the stand beside the very Headmaster of Hell himself before the Council of Mistral, unflinching, uncowed, unbowed.

They tore Naruto apart.

"Of all the reckless things to do!"

"Involving students?! Have you taken leave of your senses!"

"We have half a mind to remove you at once! Explain yourself, Headmaster!"

Naruto weathered the storm patiently. He was the very epitome of style and grace, a smile on his face. His eyes radiated vitality, no more than that, confidence. He was the one being attacked here, he was the one on the defensive, he was the one left to fend for himself, and yet despite that, he couldn't be happier. He'd known people like this; folks who thrived in adversity; madmen who lived for a challenge.

Roman wanted that-no, scratch that, he wanted to BE like that. Invincible. Important. Immortal.

Naruto tapped his staff on the podium, smile never fading. "May I speak now?"

An old biddy waved his way. "You may."

Naruto kept that terrifying smile on his face, steepled his fingers and swept forward.

"I saw that fiasco and I couldn't resist." a merry little titter escaped him. "I haven't been this entertained since...well, you don't need to know about that." if he was putting on an act, it was a damn good one; he could't tell the difference. "I did what you were unable to. In a single night, I eradicate an entire criminal organization; all without my students taking a single injury. I dare say that's worth celebrating. Haven academy has seen a massive upswing in applications because of this.

"Because of your foolishness!" A reed-thin man with silver hair and golden eyes scowled his way. "Your associate raided an orphanage and made off with the children within. She then returned to said orphanage and set it in on fire, which prompted you to lead an assault against the criminals of the Hana Guild with three teams of students and teachers. If you had failed, the fallout-

"But I didn't fail now, did I?" he bared his teeth in a fresh smile. "So I fail to see the harm."

One of of the council-members, a gaunt woman with blue hair and piercing brown eyes glared at him. "Headmaster, you cannot be serious. The other gangs will never tolerate such heavy-handed behavior, you'll start a war!"

"I most certainly will, miss Verdant~!" It was all too easy to slip back into his teaching persona, he could tell. "My associates liberated this boy," Roman jolted a little as he found himself gestured at, "And nearly two dozen others from an orphanage that was abusing them, and brought them not to you, but to me. Which makes those children now wards of Sanctum, and by definition, Haven. Ergo, mine. They'll make fine huntsmen someday. Which means this gang, this so-called Hana Guild you so fear, which has been destroyed by the way, has no hold over them, nor do you. They are MINE."

"You cannot simply-

Naruto tapped his staff and the lights dimmed.

"You don't seem to understand." he tapped his staff upon the ground again, summoning a scintillating scarlet spark to light the gloom, "The only reason you're still alive is because I have no desire to rule this city...at the moment."

He let his words hang over them, a guillotine ready to drop on their heads.

"I'm content to remain as Headmaster. Because frankly," he shrugged one shoulder. "This city needs one. None of you are fit enough to do it."

"You're mad!"

"WRONG!" He thrust his staff their way with a laugh bordering on a snarl. "I'm sane. There's nothing more dangerous in this world than a sane man."

An old, portly man bridled. "Nonsense! You owe your position solely to Leonardo Lionheart-

"Name one person in this room who can remove me."

Silence reigned supreme.

Roman whistled.

"Dear council members," Naruto continued with a hum, "If I wanted to hurt anyone in this room, I would have done so already. No, I'm here because I want to help. Not this ridiculous city you're trying to run, no, no, no," he waved a hand flippantly. "I couldn't care less about that. You can all tumble down into the fiery pit of failure for all I care." He shook his head yet further, "I'm far more interested in the future. Its going to be grand!" Up came his staff again, lending him the image of a grand showman. "Under my guidance, Mistral will become the greatest of the four kingdoms, with the finest of huntsmen and huntresses, heroes the likes of which you've never seen. In this, you have my word. However...

In that moment his shadow twisted behind him, becoming something monstrous; something with nine tails...and it looked hungry.

...if you insist on blatantly obstructing me...

He leaned forward, and the almighty shadow moved with him, looming over them all.

...disrespecting me at every turn...

Someone whimpered. Roman never knew who.

...getting in my way...

Was the air thin in here, or was it just him?

...then I'm not above seeing you replaced." Naruto finished with a toothy smile that would've made a Grimm cry, voice rumbling darker than the deepest pit. "I'm not blind to your vices or your incompetence; I have ignored them thus far because frankly, they don't concern me. Make no mistake, just because I don't want to run Mistral doesn't mean I can't."

His promise hung there, sharper than any blade.

Roman shivered a little at his words, and what they promised.

There he was. The Smiling Man. Headmaster of Hell. Monster of Mistral.

So too did the Counci shiverl They looked amongst themselves, and came to consensus. It was almost laughable how quickly this gaggle of goons folded.

The old biddy -Verdant!- banged a gavel. "The Council of Mistral does not bring any charge against you at this time. This meeting is adjourned."

That eerie shadow above them vanished like so much morning mist, leaving Roman to wonder if he'd imagined it at all.

Naruto tapped his staff and sketched a shallow bow. "I yield to the wisdom of my esteemed council members."

"Out with you!"

In short order they were swept out the chamber and into the hall. He didn't miss the way Naruto preened, there. "That was a productive meeting...

"You sure that went well?" Roman glanced at him askance, nearly jogging to keep up. "Felt like you were threatening them."

Naruto winked down at him, cheery as can be, and patted his head. "Having strength lets you do a great man things...

Strength? Something in his words tore at Roman, unleashed his temper at long last.

Did he have any idea how terrifying that was?!

"You think I don't understand?!" He smacked the headmaster's hand away with a snarl. "I got teased because I'm weak. I got mocked because I'm weak. I'm ashamed of myself, okay? I don't have Aura, or a Semblance. But I looked after all those kids in the orphanage, not because I waned to, but because I had to; because they would've died, otherwise!"

The headmaster only hummed. "And a fine job you did, keeping them safe."

Was that it? Praise? That was all he had to say?!

"You don't get it!" he raged at him anew, heedless of who saw. "If someone is strong- if they have overwhelming strength like you do, they go into every situation with an advantage. But when you're powerless like me," his hands balled into fists at his side. "there's nothing you can do around the strong...nothing at all, besides quiver in fear and stand around helplessly...

Naruto's smile split his face like that of a proud parent. "And what will you do about it?"

Blind to his meaning, Roman ranted on.

"You get looked down on when you're weak. You can be knowledgeable, you can be creative, you can be considerate, but when faced with something strong, none of it will save you! Kindness won't save me! Not like that lady did! So I'll become stronger! That's why I came this far! I've gotta get STRONGER!"

"That's what I like to see!" Naruto beamed at him and thrust out his hand right in his face, causing him to jerk back. "So what will it be? Will you work with me?"

Roman hesitated. "What kinda work we talkin' about, here...?"

"The best kind," the Headmaster of Hell smiled. "I can give you what you want, but not for free. You'll sweat and you'll cry, hell, you might want to die, but I can give you this guarantee. You'll be the author of your own destiny."

Another rhyme. Ominous.

But what choice did he have?

Roman seized his hand with gusto. The moment he did, he felt it. Something coursed through him, cold and sharp and...powerful.

"For it is in smiling that we inspire those around us, and terrify our enemies." Naruto's voice resonated lowly, sharp and poignant in his ears. "Through this, we become a sword to carve through the unjust and bring others to glory. Unbound by morals and empowered with purpose, I release your soul, and by my shoulder protect thee...

Roman staggered, eyes wide as a sharp orange glow enveloped his skin. He gazed at his hands in awe. "Is this...?"

"It is." the headmaster hummed, all smiles. "I used my Aura to unlock yours, but the energy that protects you now is your own. Congratulations. And an orange aura? First time I've seen that...

Laughter bubbled out of him, high and wild. This...this was more than he'd ever hoped for; more than he could ever dream for.

Was lady luck finally smiling on him...?

"I was always at the bottom. The runt of the litter. I know what its like better than anyone. But I could never give up on striving for more. With this...I'll be someone." his hands curled into fists but this time with joy rather than fury. "This...I won't forget it, boss. I'll be the best huntsman in Mistral, no, the world!"

"Splendid!" The headmaster pattered his head. "There's just one more tip I can give you."

Roman looked his way with a skeptical smirk. "And what's that?

Naruto winked down at him. "Smile like you mean it."


(.0.0.0.)


Time waits for no man, shinobi, or even a jinchuuriki.

And with it, three years passed by in the blink of an eye. Naruto knew he was no exception to this ironclad rule; even so he found himself somewhat startled by just how quickly time all went by. Yang grew like a weed, to say nothing of Weiss, Winter, Pyrrha and...Lie Ren.

A son. His never thought he'd have one of those, ya know?

Naturally, there were other surprises to be had...

...but not all of them were pleasant.


(.0.0.0.)


Qrow kept drinking.

It pushed the pain away.

Fuck Mistral. It took his sister and his niece. Whole damn place could burn for all he cared.

If there WAS a Maiden in Mistral, she was doing a damn good job at keeping her head down. Better than the other ones-

"Watchoutwatchoutwatchouuut~!"

Buzzed or no, Qrow still had a Hunters instinct; he heard the vice and stepped aside with seamless grace; dodged a tiny flash of long, tawny blond hair, watched it kick off a nearby wall and keep running. Lively lilac eyes flashed over her shoulder as she grinned back at him, never once pausing in her stampede. Couldn't be more than four, probably.

"Sorry about that, old man!" her voice trailed after as she hurtled around the alley and out of sight. "Have a great day!"

"Bah. Cute kid." He ignored the girl's halfhearted apology and drank deeply from his flask. "Seems familiar...

Blond hair. Lilac eyes. A lively energetic blond girl who was the spitting image of...

Realization clicked. His eyes bulged. Booze sprayed the wall.

"Waitaminute!"

A/N: THE TIMESKIP IS AT HAND!

Kudos to you if you figured out who "Shiro" and "Heather" are meant to represent. Carmine's appearance is...very much out there. Wow.

We'll cut it there for today. Would you like an update tomorrow? More family moments with everyone are coming up soon, don't you worry~!

Now, then what say you? Would you prefer another timeskip next chapter? Or should we keep the current pace going? Really need to hear from you here. RWBY may have been canned by Warner Bros. but we fanfiction writers are out here trying to keep the light alive, as it were. So here we go. The fate of this story depends on you, the reader. Your feedback determines the fate of this tale, and many others.

So by all means, speak up! Raise your voice! Make yourself heard! Your reviews matter!

That's no joke! I can't write without feedback. Guess that makes me weak...T_T

So in the Immortal Words of Atlas...

...Review Would You Kindly?

And enjoy the previews!

Potential ones at that.

Also, references.

(Previews)

It is indeed a dark day, when a good man...or woman...should go to war. For there is no wrath greater, no fury stronger, no hatred purer, than one so kind and so caring, should they take up the sword.

For there will be no kindness, no forgiveness, NO MERCY."

"Demons run when a good man goes to war. Night will fall and drown the sun when a good man goes to war. Friendship dies and true love lies, night will fall and the dark will rise when a good man goes to war Demons run, but count the cost. The battle's won, but the child is lost."


"Sooo, how do I look?"

"Not bad." He chuckled at Roman's new ensemble. "Not bad, kiddo. Not bad at all. A weight settled against his shoulders and he sighed as bright hair tickled his face. "Neo, what did I say about jumping on me?!


"Team SLVR." he greeted them at a glance. "Shiro Wan, Lin Fucshia, Victor Farrow, Rory Andrews. By all means, come in! He granted each of them a smile. "How are you settling in?


Team HCIN, welcome. Heather Shields, Caroline Teal, Ivy Altham, Inigo Nash. Tell me, how do you feel about entering the Vytal Festival?"


Team CBLT. Carmine Escalados, Bertilak Celadon, Lali Choi and Caroline Teale. I take it you're here to enter the Vytal Festival?


Phone call for you, headmaster.

My thanks. He set it to his ear and smiled. Naruto speaking?

...you don't know me, but I know you. The signal was grainy; the figure almost indistinct. Pity his eyes were sharper than most.

Who you are is immaterial to me; you're even less entertaining than dry cereal.

"You think this is a joke?!" The man on the other end -Watts!- sputtered spectacularly, black mustache bristling like some great hungry caterpillar. "I'll show you suffering-

The image on the other end crackled; he sneered at it. "Oh, no! Your signal is buffering!"

"I'll destroy you! You little-

The scroll winked out.

"I'm afraid you've lost your signal.

He closed down his scroll, pushed back his chair, and began to hum under his breath.

"Let's begin...


Three times.

"What?"

Three times you tried to kill me. Did you think I'd forget? And now you want mercy...? No. What happens in Mistral stays in Mistral...


"You're a lot stronger than I was at your age." He ruffled her hair with one hand. "I couldn't do half of what you're doing at three."

She peeked up at him through her messy hair, eyes shining. "Really?"

"Yes, really." Dry your tears, Yang. We're going to the park.

She pumped a fist into the air.

Yay!"


"Yang," Weiss slapped a palm to her face. "You are a horrible sibling and I love you."

"Better than Winter?"

"I'm not saying that within earshot."


"I wanna fight!"

Naruto rolled over on the couch with a sigh. "Lets not. I'm sleepy.

"Fine. Reeeeeen! Help me tackle Dad!"

A soft sigh was his only warning before the little gremlins jumped him.


Naruto's head snapped to the side, a sole grunt of pain her only reward.

Bemused blue eyes blazed a baleful red. "You call that a punch?"

Little Yang gulped. "Aw, crapbaskets...


Little Winter glowered at him. "Why're you always smiling? Its scary."

His grin grew. "Let me ask you a question, Winter...what purpose does a smile serve?"

The little Schnee tilted her head. "...I don't know? That's why I asked you."

"Go on," he waved a hand at her and crouched down. "Think about it."

Her pale brow furrowed. "Because it makes you seem strong?

He patted her head.

"Good girl."

EDIT: Hey, thanks for reading!

Feels good to write another chapter for this. Hope you enjoyed it!

So by all means, speak up! Raise your voice! Make yourself heard! Your reviews matter!

Hope you have a great day~!

R&R~!