A/N: Please read this note, would you kindly? It explains my absence.

I'm aiming to update this story every Friday now; the feedback really keeps me going.

This is the fourth portion of the chapter -split into fifths now!- ...and it just...kept...GROWING...

On a more somber note, my aunt has passed away. Funeral has been held, and I'm still in mourning. And on top of that! I've now been informed that my sister -the one who lives with me and that I care for- needs to have several tumors removed forthwith, which means she'll be off for at least a month, meaning I need even more hours to make up the difference in rent/expenses/electricity and etc. I'm already working crazy hours at both jobs, but now I'll need even more, which means no days off for a bit, most likely, which translates to less time writing...

Thankfully, I've prepared a few chapters for other stories in advance, what with Slifer and Advent helping.

Still, here we go. SEVEN chapters for this story in ONE MONTH. Hope you enjoyed them; I'm utterly exhausted. I wanted, and still want this to be good story, not a simple "Naruto bangs a, b, c, d, yadda yadda yadda." His actions have consequences; his words and will shape the world around him; I wanted every chapter to reflect that. Hopefully, I succeeded.

RWBY may have been canned by Warner Bros for now, 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.

As ever, I own no references, quotes, themes or memes. They're tributes to legends far greater than little 'ol me, made solely for entertainment and the sake of laughter. Seriously, I own nothing.

This, and the following chapters will have some fun references to the following; Fallout, Hazbin Hotel, Genshin, Shogun, Epic the Musical, Avatar, alongside Equalizer and other media.

...and later, Land of the Lustrous and Blue-Eyed Samurai. If you haven't seen those two, they fit perfectly with RWBY.

You all know them well~! Now that we've gotten that out the way...Let's begin~!

I've not forgotten the NarutoxMizu fight...

"You don't seem to understand. That man won't quit; because he doesn't know how; because he's strong; because when he gives one hundred percent to something he GIVES one hundred percent. He tackles his problems with absolute focus, and woe betide whomever gets in his way. His word is his bond. His deal. His promise. You think being Headmaster is a game to him? That he'll simply give it up because things are tough? You have no idea the monster you're meddling with.

But you will.

This is the beginning of end for you.

And I can't wait to watch both of you BURN.

~Raven.

Attack the Girls

The second Yang made it upstairs, she came under attack.

Her aggressors were upon her in an instant; she never saw them coming. There was no time to defend herself, much less cry out. Scarce had she cleared the steps than they pounced from the shadows and grabbed her, laid hands on her, hauled her away into her bedroom. She was rather proud of that bedroom; less so who was currently waiting within.

All her brothers and sisters awaited here there with eager eyes...as did the twins.

For you see, the Malachite Sisters had come to pay them a visit.

Of course they had. Damn brats.

It was hard keeping track of them sometimes, Melanie liked white an' preferred using her heels, while Miltia adored red with her claws. Anyone could see that she was trying to emulate Dad. Couldn't really blame her for that. Dad was awesome. Of course folks wanted to mimic him.

Yeah, the Malachite Twins fell into the in-between-category. She wasn't quite sure if they were her cousins or her sisters, and if they were, Mum and Dad weren't talking. They had black hair but that could've been dyed, or maybe miss Malachite had been dying hers blond all this time and her hair was really like Mum's. Who knew? Nobody. Therein lie the crux of the matter; there was no really way of knowing; short of shaving their heads and letting their hair grow back.

She scowled at them. "Melanie. Miltia. You look awful."

For their part, they winced. "Blondie...

"What're you doing here?"

Miltia bridled. "Are we not allowed to visit?"

Rigged question, much? "You are, but what do you want?"

The twins exchanged a look between themselves. "Mama wants a word."

"Yeah? Well, dad's busy."

Melanie sniffed imperiously. "We know. That's why we're here. So? Who's this uncle of yours?"

"Why you little...!

A muscle jumped in her jaw as her temper rose, surging to the fore...where she stomped it down.

No, no, no. Don't focus on them; don't let them get to her. She had other concerns.

As in two dads. Double dads. The Daddening.

Pretty neat, huh?

Yang certainly thought so; most people only had two parents, but she had a bunch! Really, she reveled in it, the certainty that no matter what happened, she'd family for days. Life was good aaaaand aw crap, her siblings were staring at her, and here she was, daydreaming. She should probably say something before-

Too late. Weiss seized her by the shoulders and gave her a shake. "Spill! What was he like?!"

Yang was more than happy to do just that; with so many siblings and cousins, bragging rights were few and far between. "Uncle Qrow's awesome!"

Her words set off an avalanche of questions and in no time at all, she found herself forced to field them, both large and small, not the least of which were asked by the Malachites. Why did he look so scary? What was his weapon like? Was he really Raven's brother.

Winter plonked down on the bed beside her and sniffed her disdain. "From what I saw, he's a drunk and smells like a brewery."

Her eyes flicked with fire. "Hey, that's my uncle you're badmouthing."

Weiss flopped down beside her. "I wish we had an uncle."

"We all do. We have uncle Lee."

The heiress huffed. "That doesn't count! He's hardly ever around."

Yang winced a little at that. She might be four-going on five!- yet she wasn't stupid, nor was she blind to the reasons for said absence. Uncle Lee was awesome, yeah, but there was a reason he kept himself at a distance and wasn't around all that often. Mum and Dad never quite said why, but it wasn't hard to figure it out.

Uncle Lee loved Mama Ann, or had once; mall wonder she and Renny had him wrapped around her finger.

Maybe they should find him someone. Auntie Anora was nice. And if they got together, that meant Ren and Nora could be together-together down the line. Yeah, that sounded nice, real nice-

Winter coughed into a fist, subverting her thoughts before they could finish taking root. "I know that look. You're matchmaking again."

"Who, me? She tried to bat her lashes like Mum did when she wanted something, but failed. "No idea what you mean...

Drat, she'd cottoned onto her. "Yang Branwen, you stop that this instant!"

"Aw, whyyyy? Its not like you and Roman or anything-

Winter squawked and walloped her with a pillow. "We are not anything!"

The boy in question barked a laugh. "I dunno, you seemed to like the rose I got you the other day-

She thumped him over the head with two more pillows, driving him down with a startled yelp as the others laughed.

"Ow! "Can we not start another right?" Roman made a show of dusting off his coat. "I just got this thing cleaned."

"Feh, spoilsport!" Yang looked past him. "What about you, Neo? You game?"

The smaller girl grinned and flicked her a thumbs up.

"Aaaaay. I knew there was a reason I liked you."

She flashed her a peace sign.

"Savages, the lot of you." Winter made a face. You're worse than Cinder; that girl is savage and she acts like one."

Said girl, silent until now, wilted where she lay sprawled amongst her pillows. "M'sorry...

Yang came to her defenses. "Hey, be nice. She's had it rough."

"She could at least eat with utensils!"

Roman winked. "Utensils or not, she sure whooped your butt in that food fight, though."

Winter made angry Winter noises under her breath. "Torchwick, I WILL stab you...

"You wish!"

Yang would've laughed too, if a certain someone hadn't grabbed her from behind. In an instant she found herself hoisted upright and dragged into a crushing embrace.

"Ack, Cinder?! What the heck?! Lemme go!"

The older girl most assuredly did not.

...thank you."

Blast it. Since she'd overcome her fear, Yang realized something. Cinder was a hugger. Not simply the act of hugging either, but of being hugged. She craved physical contact and affection. Good on her. Hugs were nice. But did she have to squeeze so hard...?!

Weiss came to her rescue, poking the taller girl int he ribs. "Cinder, let Yang go before you break her ribs, or heavens forbid, burn her. You'll hurt the poor girl. Go hug Winter. She's sturdy." And then, sly as a Schnee, she added, "Doesn't she deserve that for being mean to you?"

Cinder paused. Blinked. Considered. Smiled, now.

Then she jumped Winter.

Yang flopped into her bed with a groan, but bounded back quickly; there was only one way to repay her kindness.

"Weiss!"

She saw the look in her eyes. "Yang, no."

Yang opened her arms. "Weeeiiiss!"

"Absolutely not!"

Yang jumped her with a delighted squeal." Weeeeiiiissss!"

Down they went in a tangled tumble! "Yang Branwen! Unhand me this instant"

"Never!" she nuzzled her face close, cheek to cheek." You're my favorite sister and I looooove you!

Big families were the best families insofar as she was concerned. The more the merrier. And a little sister?! She couldn't wait to meet Ruby. Or Mama Summer. Taiyang sounded pretty cooll, too.

Speaking of family...she poked her head up and realized they were missing someone. Several someones, actually.

Lifting her head, she performed a quick headcount and frowned. "Has anyone seen Ren and Pyrrha? Or Nora?!"

Melanie shrugged. "Outside, probably, knowing those battle junkies."

Miltia poked her head out the window. "Make that a definitely."

Yang frowned. "What makes you say that?"

An explosion shook the house.


(.0.0.0.)


Pyrrha went flying.

It was something of a short-lived flight mind you, but what a flight it was. She wore the biggest smile as she hit the ground shoulder first, used the momentum to tumble to her feet and brought her training to bear.

Well that she did too; because Ren was on her in a instant, his fists a wild whirl of motion; one she met in kind.

She swayed backward from the barrage, grinning like a loon as they traded blows.

This was fun!

Granted, she might not have proper weapons yet, but she knew what she wanted when her time came. She'd grown skilled not just with the sword and spear, but the rifle and shield as well. It wasn't enough. Father was different; his staff was a part of him, he could reshape it into whatever he wished thanks to his chakra, but the rest of them weren't so fortunate.

She needed a mechashift, yet something also allowed her to use dust as the others did. Cinder didn't have anything just yet but Roman had his explosive rounds, the Schnee Sisters had their glyphs, and Yang already had plans for her gauntlets. Where did that leave her? Stuck somewhere between Ren and Nora. She needed to be stronger. When she hit someone, they got back up. Daddy hit them and they stayed down. She didn't have the patience of Ren, nor the brute strength of Nora...

.

..

...wait.

Where was Nora?

"COWABUNGAAAAAA!"

Down came her cousin from on high, smashing into the ground like a falling star to blast her and Ren apart. Pyrrha used the chance to sweep his legs, catch Nora's hammer and knock her down. Victory was hers-or so it should have been; before the latter tackled her into a bed of flowers. Down the three of them went, sprawled atop each other in the dirt.

Nora spoke first. "This is fun~! We should make a team when we're older."

Ren concurred. "I agree. We just need one more person.

Pyrrha perked up. "Someone blond. Like daddy."

Ren slapped a hand to his forehead.

Nora giggled into a hand. "Pyrrha, no!"

Pyrrha, yes! Their fourth member absolutely had to be blond. Preferably with blue eyes...oh, and he had to be strong. After all, Mommy said she couldn't marry Daddy, but that didn't mean she couldn't find someone who looked like Daddy to be friends with and-

A portal slashed open, cutting off that thought. Raven emerged from within, blade in hand. "C'mon kiddos, time for a lesson. Your old man's gotten into himself into a bit of trouble...

The rest sprang to their feet and ran off, eager to see results.

A rush of air heralded the warp as they stepped through

Oh! Father was fighting another assassin.

Most children wouldn't be excited by such. Maybe that didn't speak well for her mental state, but still, she didn't much mind. She was safe here. Mama Raven had a bond with all of them bar Cinder and she was sure to make one in time. If anyone tried taking them they'd be eating Omen for breakfast. And besides, this looked fun.

Pyrrha settled in to watch the dance of death.


(.0.0.0.)


He was smiling.

Mizu despised that smile, hated all that it represented, loathed what it was, all it would ever be.

She silently swore to carve it off his insufferable face or die trying; one way or another, she would take his head!

.

..

...or so she kept trying, but he was just so blasted agile!

For every swing of hers Naruto struck back thrice as hard, rattling her with every hit; sending shocks of pain blossoming down her arm with each riposte. Worse, she had the sinking suspicion he was taking it easy on her. No matter what tricks she tried, be it her arms, legs, even reversing the grip on her blade to strike from above instead of below, she simply couldn't break through his defenses.

The same could not be said of him; he was strong.

Not simply stronger than she'd expected; far stronger than he had any right to be. It was galling to realize just how powerful he was; how much she'd underestimated his strength. She'd spent the last three years training, honing her skills, sharpening her blade under any who dared challenge her and growing stronger with each brush against death.

But this was an altogether different challenge.

This "Headmaster of Hell" fought like his namesake, always smiling, never once giving ground. He smiled like a loon and struck like a snake, forcing her on the defensive with sharp blows, aiming not for her center as one might expect of a proper opponent, but rather her arms. He was putting on a show for his students, playing a game, not taking her seriously. It was infuriating!

"Do pay attention!"

A grimace split her lips as he stepped in, forced her to block and backhanded her with his staff. His pupils cheered him on. She held no ill will towards them; they could kill her afterward for all she cared, so long as she killed him first. She did not seek happiness, or joy, or love in this world. Only satisfaction. And she would have it no matter what-gah?!

Stars burst before her vision as his staff struck her upside the head again, drawing blood and forcing her to backpedal lest his knock her down.

His staff might be a blunt instrument, but it still stung terribly. He'd nearly knocked two tooth lose just now. Bastard...

Straightening up, she wiped a thin scarlet line from the corner of her moth. "You think you're tough, is that it?"

"Tougher than you~!" he tittered merrily. "After all...

She rushed him, sword in hand.

"...you lack discipline..."

He gave ground, swaying back.

"...control..."

His head tilted aside, letting her blade whistle by in a wild lung.

"...and worst of all..."

Without warning, his grinning face filled her vision.

"...YOU'RE SLOPPY!"

There was no time to react; the sudden switch from defense to offense did more tan catch her off-guard, but over extended. He drove two fingers down into the point of her elbow, stabbing the muscle, grinding the nerve and drawing an agonized cry from her. The battle nearly ended then and there; it was only sheer force of will that allowed her to keep hold of her blade. She swept a leg out, trying to unbalance him, only for him to take it on the shin, pivot and block her heel with his own.

"Well," he allowed with a hum. "Maybe not so sloppy after all. However!"

His forehead kissed hers in a bruising headbutt that left her seeing stars. She reeled and he caught her by the shirt, drawing her back in. Her heart quailed a moment at the sight of those sharp teeth; she feared he might actually bite her.

"Do try to smile a little." instead, a hand tugged at her lips, forcing them upward. "After all, you're never fully dressed without one!"

Mizu snarled and drove a knee up at his groin, prompting him to block with one of his own; it gave her the chance to scramble backward to safety; unfortunately said safety sent her stumbling right into the Headmaster's audience-namely, his pupils. They weren't having that-or her for that matter. Strong hands seized her shoulders and shoved her right back into the fray.

Naruto was waiting for her in the ring, staff already swinging back, and with it, the world dissolved into a whorl of violence.

Her blood was pumping, pounding, rushing through her. She parried furiously, turning the first crushing blow aside, only to be struck with another, then another, and another. His staff smashed down into her blade on the the fourth strike, forcing their weapons together. Frantic, she braved her blade with both hands and tried to push back-

For once in her life, she did not succeed.

His staff smashed through her defenses and struck her right shoulder with an audible crack. She felt something come loose and with it an agonized cry escaped her lips.

Dislocated, a small rational part of her mind observed as she stumbled back. Need to set it. Quickly!

Mizu slammed it against the first solid surface she could find -a nearby locker- and grit her teeth to stifle a pained howl as she set it. She'd never forget the awful sound it made; the sheer agony spiking up her arm, fiery pain so hot that it nearly caused her to black out.

Naruto could've finished her, then.

Any wise warrior would have.

But he didn't.

Instead he waded her way with slow, purposeful steps, dragging his staff against the floor, sending sparks skittering across the ring.

For once he didn't speak; there was no need to. His smile said it all.

Prepare yourself.

Mizu did just that; switching her sword to her good arm, she raised the other, palm outward to ward away any trickery. There was none. Only measured aggression. His staff flicked in and her sword swung up to meet it in a baleful blue arc, only to be swept aside; in an instant she found herself on the defensive again. Punishing blow after blow rained down upon her, one even nearly knocked her out, but she fought on, waiting her for her moment, her opportunity...

Aha! There it was! An actual opening at last!

She flicked her blade to the left and dove right, forcing a block and drawing his weapon out of position for a crucial moment; one she immediately capitalized on as she'd been taught so long ago. Her blade swept in toward his face, striking at an angle to seek out his eyes. Ha! Victory! She'd slash out those beautiful baleful blue orbs and-

.

..

...why wasn't her blade moving?

Mizu glanced down, alarmed to find his free hand wrapped around the naked edge, holding fast. His aura sparked gold but held as his gaze met hers.

Oh.

Five finger fingers came flying in, clenched into a claw. They slammed into her unprotected torso with impossible force. She bent double blood blasting from her lips. As such, she didn't see the miniature sphere contained within his palm until it was much too late. But she did hear his voice...

"Rasengan."

...and feel what followed.

Wall. Ground. Blood everywhere.

Distantly she became aware of her body sprawled out in the ring, of the gaping tear in her torso, and the startled gasps of his students that followed. No, that couldn't be right. She was supposed to win. This couldn't be her end. She tried to rise, only to flop down in an ever-growing puddle of her own blood. Everything was going numb...

Naruto crouched down before her, grabbed her by the hair, and forcibly lifted her head to make her look him in the eye.

"Well?" She heard him tut through ringing ears. "Was that worth it?"

A knife kissed her throat...

.

..

...and the world snapped back like a rubber band.

In an instant Mizu found herself standing before him once more, unharmed. His hand was pressed flat against her stomach as before...and yet there was no pain. No spiraling sphere to disembowel her, no blood, nothing at all. He simply stared at her, and in those eyes that she beheld his pity.

She retreated with a startled hiss warding her blade before her body.

Impossible. She'd seen her death just now; glimpsed it, and it frightened her. "What did you do?!"

"You're asking the wrong question, miss samurai." The Headmaster of Hell shouldered his staff and tilted his head a fraction of an inch to the right. "Ask not what I did, but what I could've done to you just now." A fresh flicker of pity gleamed in his gaze. You're an amusing contradiction, you know that? You act like you don't care if you die, yet here you are. Hesitating.

Had he revealed her own death to her just now? What witchcraft was this?!

Naruto spread his arm wide with a smile. "Care to try again?"

Run, a voice -hers!- gibbered in the back of her mind.

'What? she blinked, surprised. 'No, never.'

Run away.

Mizu grit her teeth and braved her blade with both hands. 'I won't!'

We can't beat him! Run!

She squeezed her eyes shut and grit her teeth to stifle a snarl. 'Shut up!'

I don't want to die! RUN!

A kick cannoned into her chest and sent her sprawling. Her skull struck the wall and in an instant she found herself catapulted into he past.

I'm not a child anymore.

No. That child would look at you and run.

That child understood the meaning of a sword; the line separating life from death.

Reality snapped back as a second strike sent her reeling, returning her to the painful present once more. Knees weak, arms heavy. Woozy, pulse pounding in her ears, heart hammering in her chest, the dry taste of blood in her mouth. Her blood. She was losing, and losing badly. They both knew it; and the knowledge galled her.

'He's in my head. How did he get in my head...?'

"Tell you what," The headmaster slammed his staff down and the very shadows writhed beneath him. "Lets make this lesson interesting."

She blinked pained tears from her eyes. "What?"

"Its simple, this isn't satisfying." He opened his coat, dragged his arms from the sleeves and swept his arm out, letting the jacket billow out and drape down his back, leaving him to brandish his staff as though it were some sort of club. The gesture was clear, the meaning implicit, but his words drove the point home. "Overpowering you with aura and jutsu...that's not fair. So let's even the playing field."

Keen blue eyes settled upon her limbs.

"But first, take those ridiculous weights off. You'll never beat me like this.

He knew about the shackles she wore on her arms and legs?

She didn't want to do anything he said; didn't want to comply with him in the least. But what choice did she have? He had a point, loathe though she was to admit it. If things continued as they were now, if she fought in such a sloppy manner, he'd have her head on a spike. Just the thought of it made her jaw clench.

She glared heatedly at him, wishing she could burn him to ash. "...I will have my revenge."

His toothy smile returned with a vengeance. "We'll see."

Mizu reached up to her wrists.

First her right arm, followed by her left. Then her right leg, and lastly, the left. One by one her restraints fell, clattering down to the ground until she'd freed herself fully. Her body rejoiced at the freedom it found in their absence; at how light she became in their wake.

Three years since she first donned them. Thirty-six months. One thousand and ninety-five days.

No longer.

She stood, cracked her neck, and retrieved her weapon. Brandishing it in a flourish, she stalked forward.

"That's much better." Settling into a stance of his own, her mother's murderer beckoned unto her. "You want my life? Come and take it."

She blitzed him with a snarl and their weapons clashed anew.


(.0.0.0.)


Vanessa frowned.

...are we going to stop them?

"Don't worry. He has this under control." Raven planted her chin against a fist as she watched the duel. "That one has fire in her...


(.0.0.0.)


He was slowing down.

Or had she become that much faster?

Mizu wasn't entirely certain-regardless, it elated her.

Her sword sang as she drove him on the backfoot once, twice, thrice now until he finally laughed and countered with a rousing overhand smash. She made the mistake of blocking that and her arms -shoulders!- howled in protest as she was sent skidding back. Alright, blocking him directly was right out.

He closed with her and she shifted her strategy accordingly.

Deflect, divert, dodge.

Except that didn't work either! Outlasting him wasn't an option. He kept coming; each strike left her rattled, shaken, tattered.

Yet for all that, she almost found herself smiling, her heart skipping a beat with each clash.

He was like her, wasn't he? Not consumed by hate, but something else entirely. Years of hard choices and brutal training had hollowed something in him, pushed him past the point of humanity. He fought like a demon, an unstoppable force of nature, and it became all she could do to land the occasional hit.

"Impressive!" Naruto applauded her as he swayed under a sweep that should've shortened him by a head. "Most impressive. You're skilled with that sword. But you aren't a master yet. Your breathing gives you away, like so!"

He struck like lightning, his staff sweeping up under her guard before spinning round, wrenching her weapon away from his face and send it flying.

His staff tapped down and he planted both hands upon it, his unspoken command clear.

"Pick it up."

She did so. "You show honor for a murderer."

His head inclined just so in a shallow nod. "As do you."

Foolishness. "Honor is for the dead. I have no honor. All that matters is your death."

He shook his head, setting those long blond bangs bristling. "I disagree."

She scoffed. "Then why haven't you killed me?"

A fresh peal of laughter was her reward.

"My dear, if I meant to kill you," he tilted his head just so and his blue eyes, so unlike her own, gleamed with a hint of madness. "I would've already done so. Let's kick it up a notch or two, shall we?"

As she looked on, he tapped his staff down and before her eyes, the rippling black metal shifted like water losing its shape and coherence as he forced it into another form. This wasn't a mechasift, or some transforming weapon, no, this was something else, something new, something altogether more terrifying...

In a matter of moments he held a jet-black naginata in hand, a weapon reminiscent of a glaive, but far deadlier. His smile was equal parts toothy and vicious as he held it up, brandishing it her way. "You were shown your place, but you didn't care for it, you've run your race, and have no ace to show for it...

What manner of rhyme was that?

Naruto clicked his tongue, equally nonplussed. "Really, Vanessa? She keeps buffing me with that Semblance of hers...

Rhymes aside, why did she suddenly have a bad feeling about-meep!

His naginata whistled past her face, forcing her to block or risk losing an arm to the blade. Even then the backlash behind it tore a thin slice in her cheek as it whistled past. It struck the wall with an audible crunch, all but splintering it, burying it deep.

She looked back, quivering a little despite herself. He'd thrown it. Actually thrown it at her.

What kind of madman up and threw their weapon in a fight?!

This one, apparently!

Naruto grinned and ripped it free from the wall with a laugh. "Was that a squeak I heard just now?"

Her face flushed bright red in equal parts shame and fury. "I made no such noise."

"Pretty sure you did...

She swung at him, only for him to thrust an arm under her wrist, preventing her from completing her attack. She stomped down on his foot in retaliation to stop him, but it was already too late; he took the hit on his aura and surged in, looped an arm around her elbow and drove two fingers into her eyes. She flinched; couldn't help herself, and in that second, her grip wavered.

It was enough; no, more than enough; he snatched her sword from her grasp, kicked backward to evade the grab that followed, and landed a yard away.

"A fine blade." he considered her weapon with a keen eye. "You've taken good care of it." frowning, he tapped a knuckle against the blade and listened to the metal sing. "This isn't any ordinary ore, is it? How did you forge this weapon?"

Mizu glared bloody blue daggers at him. "Give it back!"

He saw her concern and emulated it with a smile. "What's wrong? Did you lose your nerve when you lost your sword?"

Not at all; but she wasn't foolish enough to rush him unarmed; not when he held his weapon and hers.

"Don't make that face." he clicked his tongue at her. "I'll be sporting about it. Here-catch!"

He tossed her his naginata and, in a moment of weakness, she caught it with both hands. Light. That was her first thought as she cradled it in her grasp; her next wavered a little when she realized just how foreign the material felt; how strange. It almost seemed to pulse in her grasp, like it wanted to be used...

...no matter, she had trained to use all manner of weapons. Whereas he looked lost with her sword in his hand. Surely he didn't know how to wield a blade like hers-gack?!

"En garde!"

That thought fizzled as Naruto crossed the distance between them in a whirl of movement, braved his borrowed blade between both hands and slashed down into her guard with devastating force. She tried to parry and instantly regretted it; the mere act of deflecting him nearly tore her weapon from her grasp in a single stroke. Startled, she reeled back, only for him to pivot and lunge in, blade seeking her throat.

Enough!

Sweeping her new naginata wide, she forced him to back off, if only for a moment.

The reprieve was short-lived; he stepped back in with a thrust, smacked her weapon down and swept her feet.

"Why the long face?!" his laughter chased her as she tumbled to safety. "You should know that a Headmaster earns their position by strength!" His grin wasn't feral, not quite, but it was close. "And I've learned so much from so many. Raven, Ann, Willow, Vanessa, Anora, even a few dirty tricks from my less than reputable friends...like this!"

He flashed forward and she saw the feint too late; he sidestepped her thrust, stomped down on her weapon to hold it in place, kicked it away, and stabbed forward.

Mizu scowled as her own blade tickled her throat, forcing her head back. "...finish it, then, monster. Send me to my mother."

He did no such thing. Instead, those bright blue eyes pierced her very soul. "You don't have aura, do you?"

"Of course not." She wouldn't grant him the satisfaction of begging for her life even now; she absolutely refused. "Aura is a warrior's weakness. They grow over-reliant on it." She could feel his students bristling, glaring at her even as she said the words, but what of it? She cared not for their attention, for any of them, only the murderer before her. "I don't subscribe to such stupidity."

Naruto remained undaunted. "You couldn't find anyone willing to unlock yours, could you?"

She grimaced, face flushing from shame. But the blade wouldn't let her move.

Damn it. Damn him. Damnitall.

It was well-known fact that any huntsman or huntress could unlock a civilian's aura, but none had been willing to do so for her. What few she'd tried to force in the past gave her a thrashing and sent her packing for her trouble. In the end she gave up on it. She didn't need some mystical forcefield or a semblance to be strong, surely.

...thought so~!" Naruto beamed suddenly, whiskered cheeks dimpling in a smile." The silence is your answer. That's good!"

She balked, flabbergasted. "It is?"

"Yes!" he pivoted away from her with a laugh, leaving her to rub her throat as he presented his back to her. "Aura, like a smile, is a wonderful tool, but too many Huntsmen and Huntressess rely heavily upon it. Most favor offense instead of defense and take unnecessary hits, believing themselves to be invincible. That's right," he scowled over his shoulder at those watching them, "I'm talking to all of you over there! So many of you charge in recklessly, relying on your aura to tank damage for you...

A good chunk of his students winced under his smiling stare; some even looked away, more than a bit shamefaced.

...and some suffer from the opposite," he tutted with another glance. "I'm looking at you Miss Shields. Or would you prefer Maple? What have I told you about favoring defense over offense?"

The girl in question scratched the back of her head sheepishly. "Aheheh...

"Then we have those like you!" Mizu jolted as he brandished her own blade at her once more. "You're the last of a dying breed; those who grow up and learn to fight without aura learn a key lesson!"

She couldn't cross the distance between them in a single leap, so she edged forward instead, pretending to indulge him. "And what's that...?"

He slashed out at her, forcing her to tumble aside or risk losing an eye.

"To dodge!" he sang the words like praise as she surged back to her feet. "Its such a simple concept, yet so many struggle with it. For those who can, once they finally unlock their aura, they become downright deadly. So few learn this way...

One of the students, a winged redheaded faunus girl warily raised their hand. "Like Miss Branwen...?"

"Well said, Miss Demona!" Naruto pivoted her way with a proud smile. "Believed it or not, Raven Branwen wasn't able to unlock aura until her teen years, while our friend here," he bowed to Mizu again, preventing her from attacking when his back was turned, much to her annoyance. "Looks to be somewhere in her early twenties and has not only honed her evasive maneuvers, but amassed significant experience in unconventional weaponry as a result. All without so much as a drop of aura! Remember class, aura does not make a huntress, nor a huntress aura!"

Blasted braying blond. She'd finally crept closer, able to reach him at last. "Are you done talking?"

"Almost." The hyperactive headmaster held out a hand to her. "Let me unlock your aura."

"What?" She bridled at the sheer stupidity of such a request. "Are you insane?"

His smile didn't waver; not once. "Trust me, you'll need it in a second."

"But I'm trying to kill you!"

"I know~!" he barked a surprisingly boyish laugh that only further proved his youthfulness to her. He really wasn't that much older than her, was he? "That's what makes this such a good lesson for my students in the first place! Remember class," back he went to lecturing them again, much to her eternal pain and chagrin. "Not all battles will be sanitized affairs like those in the Vytal Festival. In a real fight you can find the high ground, seize the objective, or even run away if you feel you can't win. And in reality, someone like miss Mizu here would've been wiser to ambush me, or wait until I was alone, perhaps poison me in advance...

Damnit, why hadn't she thought of that? No, wait. Her heart already knew the reason why.

She had to kill him by her own hands.

Nothing else would do.

"Now then," Naruto abruptly discarded her weapon, stepped in, and laid a hand on her shoulder. "Lets even the odds a bit."

Wait, was he going to...?

"No!" Incredulous, she tried to squirm free from his grap. "I don't want it! Don't touch me!"

"And I didn't want to be interrupted while teaching today." he sang back. "TOUGH."

One of his students chuckled in the background. Mizu never knew who.

It drove her mad; and in that madness she lashed out, digging her hand into Naruto's arm; nails biting deep into his wrist, trying to make him let go. No such luck. Aura sparked and held. She couldn't break through. What was he, a human battery?! No matter how she squeezed he wouldn't budge; worse, he was speaking now.

"For it is in Smiling that we inspire those around us, and terrify our enemies...

Mizu drove a clenched fist at him to no avail; he lazily batted it aside with his fee hand.

"...Through this, we become a sword to carve through the unjust and bring others to glory..."

Her heel smashed into his shin, yet he took the blow without flinching, whiskered cheeks dimpling.

Unbound by morals and empowered with purpose, I release your soul, and by my shoulder teach thee...

A snarl tore out of her as outright clawed at him; it was too little too late; her bare hands scraped harmlessly against his swelling aura.

And then she felt her own; the power welling up in her, suffusing her every pore. It swelled around her from head to toe in a glowing tide of deep, dark azure, engulfing her entire body. Despite her initial angry disbelief, she glanced down at her hands and took a moment to marvel at it, balking a bit as her minor injuries mended.

Something flew through the air toward her; instinctively, she caught the offending item.

It was her sword. Wait, why give it back to her unless...?

"Blue aura, eh?" Naruto looked a little winded from releasing her aura and with it, her potential, but no less satisfied for it. "That's rather rare. Use it wisely. Focus," he urged her on. "Imagine it as a protective force field over your body at all times, and be sure to use that force for good. It'd be a shame to take it away from you."

Her eyes widened. "Take it away?" No, irrelevant. "I'll still be taking your head-

A clawed hand closed around her face and slammed her into the ground with a grunt.

Her newfound aura crackled angrily; somehow saving her from a broken back, but not the pain.

"Miss Mizu," she could just make out his smile between his fingers as he hummed down at her. "Since it seems you're unfamiliar with the proper application of aura, allow me to give you a crash course. Do pay attention, students!"

Realization broke like dawn, and a bitter one it was.

Oh.

Ohh.

Ohhh dear...

.

..

...this was going to hurt, wasn't it?

Naruto spun and launched her into a wall, wedging her there like a human scarecrow.

"Lesson one!" his voice rang over her ringing ears. "In a close quarters fight, you must always be mindful of your surroundings, ready to bring your aura to bear at any given time, no matter the attack. Be sure to create some space if you prefer long range attacks. Intimidation is always effective."

Mizu ripped an arm free from the plaster and he was on her. His fist rang her blade like a bell and the wall burst against her back. Pain blossomed down her spine.

"Lesson two!" Naruto thrust his face against hers, grinning ear to ear. "You can conserve stamina and aura by waiting for your foe to make a mistake. More of then than not, they will, be it through anger or-

She stabbed at his torso and buried her blade there, to no avail. His aura turned her weapon aside, just in time for a spinning kick to launch her skyward towards the vaulted veiling above

"Lesson three!" somehow she still heard the words, "Aura is powerful, but while it may mitigate damage, it does not negate it. Case in point. First gate, open!"

Mizu blinked blearily down at him. "First wha-

BOOT!

She didn't see him move, but she felt what followed; his fist slammed up into the underside of her chin and sent her rocketing higher into the air. He reappeared over her, fist reared back. She somehow got her blade up to barely block him in time; even then his fist rang her blade and the sheer momentum her slamming facefirst into the ground.

Dust and dirt burst forth, blinding her as she stumbled to her feet.

She lay there for a moment, eyes wide, wasted and gasping for air that refused to come.

...and just like that, she took everything she'd ever said about aura back. Without it, she'd be dead by now.

"Second gate~!" an all too familiar -and exasperating!- voice hummed within the haze, forcing her to her feet. "On your left!"

The Headmaster of Hell was as good as his word; and once again, she wasn't ready.

This time, when she brought her blade to bear, she paid for it.

Dearly.

Clenched knuckles metal the edge of her blade to produce a sonorous gong. She blocked that first strike, grimacing as her arms creaked. The second strike hurtled in faster, another roundhouse, and her blade keened as it struggled to contain the power behind it as they traded blows. Upon the third she sought to slash him in retaliation, desperate to sink her steel into his black, heartless soul and-

It was just one punch, seemingly no different from any of the rest.

The overwrought steel of her blade couldn't handle it.

Her sword shattered.

Mizu swore she would forever remember that moment for the rest of her life; the second her steel failed her, when her sword was sundered, when her weapon broke and all her hopes and dreams -the very way she viewed the world!- came flying apart like so much broken glass. A stray shard raked across her right eye and blood spilled forth, blinding her. She went down with a yowl, clutching a savaged hilt.

Naruto's fist found her face and down she went, flung out of the ring.

She barely felt it; her mind was too subsumed by her failure, by the pain, by the sheer shame of it all.

"This isn't over...!" she dug a fist into the ground, bloody fingers scrabbling for purchase. "I'll get stronger...be better...perfect my skills...!"

"Perfect?" A boot found her ribs, rolling her over as he clicked his tongue at her. "Don't be absurd. If something is truly perfect, that's it. No room for imagination, no space for intelligence or ability or improvement. Why would you ever want to be perfect?" his head shook in admonishment. "Perfection is a dead end; once you reach it, there's nothng left. Always strive to be better than anyone or anything that came before you, but not perfect. You of all people should know better than anyone what a soul can accomplish when they take charge of their own fate."

His staff came up under her chin, poised to strike.

"What is yours, Mizu? To die here? To me?"

Was it?

Her mind raced. She could practically hear his muscles tighten, coiling in preparation to strike. He was pure power, sheer speed, towering terror, focused firmly on her to the exclusion of all else. A single swing would end her life, sever her head from her shoulders. The thought should've relieved her. And yet all she felt in this moment was...

...hate.

Naruto saw it, and his smile dimmed. "Don't make me destroy you."

She spat blood onto his shoes, but couldn't find the strength to rise, only to crawl. "Like you destroyed my mother?"

"Your so-called "mother" trafficked children, like every other member of the Hana Guild I massacred that night." his rejoinder sent a shiver shooting through her. "She sold flesh to the highest bidder, no matter the age or inclination." here at last, those peerless blue eyes softened upon her, gleaming in the low light with pity. "You probably weren't the first "daughter" she had, hell, I wouldn't be surprised if you were one of her victims."

Breath hitched in her throat, burning with bile. "That's a lie! You're lying! That's impossible!"

"Is it?" he took his staff from her throat. "When you've eliminated all the possibilities, all that's left is the impossible. I'm sorry for your loss, but I won't apologize for killing her."

Her world bled red as she slammed a fist into the mat.

Anger gave her strength, she surged to her feet and seized him by the collar, slamming him against the nearest wall. "Shut up!"

"I WILL NOT!"

His body blazed gold and a mighty kitsune loomed large over him to snarl its fury at her.

"What the hell...?!" The sight brought Mizu up short.

Just like that, the tables turned; Naruto headbutted her, driving his skull into her damaged eye. Pain blinded her and she flinched; in that moment he seized her by the throat and slammed her down.

"Listen to yourself!" he snarled at her, face inches from her own, voice rolling with the thunder of ages. "You kill and you kill and you kill, lashing out like a wounded animal, all without thought or cause! How has that worked out for you? You stormed in here thinking you could take me on in the prime of my life. But you couldn't." when she made to speak, he snapped his teeth at her in a snarl, cutting her off with a resounding click. "I beat you bloody. Oh, and lets not forget your brilliance in attacking while I'm surrounded by my finest students. What was your plan, exactly? Defeat me before my academy so you can have a shot of revenge? No poison, nor plan, just bullheaded stubbornness. If only someone could have warned you against such a miserable idea. Oh, wait!"

She knew what was coming next; felt it in her very bones. He didn't disappoint her.

"I DID!" his forehead slammed against his and his words rattled her still-ringing ears, leaving her reeling. "But you pushed ahead," he stabbed a finger into her face, driving it against her bloody brow, pinning her with words rather than weight. "And you lost it when all you had to do was come to me and talk! But noooo! You think you're entitled to everything just because you've suffered, but suffering isn't enough! You can't just be strong, you have to be SMART! You can't just be deserving, you have to be WORTHY! But all you have ever been! Is a bloody! MIGRAINE!"

His words broke something in her, fractured the bitter strength she'd come to rely upon for so long. "Who are you to call me that?!"

"Someone who's seen where this road leads!" he shouted back. This path will make you a monster! Just like me!"

Tears stung her good eye. "If I'm a monster, its because you made me one! My mother was innocent!"

"There are no innocents!" His fangs flashed in her face, less than an inch from biting her throat out. "Not anymore! Not where we adults are concerned!"

A fist slammed into her gut, driving her breath -the fight!- from her lungs.

His peace said, Naruto dropped her, let her crumple to the floor. She lay there for what felt like an eternity, retching, curling inward on herself., gasping for air that never seemed to come. Through dim eyes she watched the blinding glow fade from his body, leaving him mortal once more. He donned his crimson coat again and fixed his tie as she looked on, reclaiming the facade of humanity once more.

Somehow, that frightened her more than the rage she'd sene before.

"And that's alright." quick as can be, the Headmaster of Haven knelt before her. "I'm not innocent, you're not innocent, none of us are. We've all sinned, which means we're all sinners, one way or another. You've killed people too, haven't you? She didn't answer, but something in her face must've shown through, because his expression softened. "Ask yourself this, how many orphans have YOU created since you swore vengeance against me?"

Shame flushed her face as she sat up. "That's not-

-the same?" His smile flashed out at her again, but this time, she didn't fail to notice the caustic edge to it. "It is. I know you, Mizu, and I know you need to change."

Never! Not until her sword found his heart! "You don't know me at all."

He saw the smoldering spark simmering in her soul and scoffed at it. "On the contrary, I know you very well indeed; just as I know the madness that haunts you. Your life is battle and nothing more. Mistral should be your home; instead its become your battlefield. All that rages roars in your head, singing to your heart. What began in pain and rage is now lost in that sound. What happens when you kill me, hmm?

She set her aching jaw. "I will be satisfied.

"Yes, but what then?"

She hesitated.

He smile was the wisdom of ages. "You haven't given any thought to it, have you? Do you intend to die here?"

She snatched up her shattered hilt and dragged herself upright. "If that is to be my fate, so be it."

"But what happens if you live?"

Mizu grit her teeth. "Then it is no concern of yours."

"I think it is." he crossed both arms before his chest. "An old sage man once imparted a bit of wisdom to me. If you're unhappy, share your thoughts with your friends. Good friends, nice friends, real friends. Talk it out with them, find a positive solutions. Instead here you are, alone, drowning in your guilt.

Fury sparked back to life in her heart. "What am I guilty of?"

"Frankly?" his staff flicked her way in a lazy arc. "Foolish decisions. But I can see I'm not getting through to you. So I'll tell you what...

His staff struck the floor as he spread his arms wide and lowered his aura.

...stab me. Go ahead; right in the heart. See how that works out."

She balked. "...you can't be serious. After all that...?"

He winked. "Try me."

Opportunity knocked and Mizu answered with a furious cry, lunging in to run him through with her broken blade.

Naruto made no attempt to dodge, let the sundered steel slam through his chest, just above where his heart should be. It was a good strike all in all; instant death. Her hated foe grunted once, coughed blood, smiled, then slumped against her. His chin came down over her shoulder but only for a moment. His legs buckled and he toppled backward like a fallen tree to strike the mat.

His students gasped.

And what did she feel, now that she'd done the deed?

Nothing. No, less than nothing. No glory, no relief, no satisfaction. Only ashes.

She'd avenged her mother at long last, yet she felt...only absence. Killing him hadn't brought her back; hadn't given her anything at all. It shouldn't be like this. Angry tears burned in her eyes and she dashed them away with the back of a sleeve, leaving her foe frozen on the floor.

She turned her gaze upon the assembly.

A faint sigh behind was her one and only warning.

"Sorry," a hand closed around her shoulder from behind. "But there are reasons I can't die just yet, ya know."

No. Impossible. She'd killed him, felt his heart stop! And yet when she turned right round...

There he was, broken blade jutting out of his chest, smiling, happy as can be.

She damn near choked on her own spit. "Don't tell me you're immortal."

"Not at all!" His denial proved strangely loud, determined, even, as though he had double reason to deny it. "I'm mortal, just have a strong reason to live, ya know. Do you?"

Her gaze strayed to the hilt still sticking out of him, wedged within the bones of his chest. "I pierced your heart!"

"So you did," he permitted her a grave nod. "But there's just one problem with that. "I don't care."

"What...?"

"You heard me." his reply cut her retort down surer than any sword. "I don't care what I have to sacrifice, I don't care what I have to give up, I will do right by that girl. I belong with her and she belongs with me. I won't die and leave her alone in this world. To that effect, I promised I would always make it home to her, not matter what.

There was something about the way he'd said that just now. "What girl? Who are you talking about...?"

"Ouch!" He laughed as he tore her blade from his chest, uncaring of the blood that spattered the floor. "Well, I mean my daughter of course.

Mizu's mouth went dryer than the dunes of Vacuo. "Daughter?"

"Daughters, actually." Haven's Headmaster began to count off on his fingers. "And sons. Nieces and nephews, too." he gestured back to the stands behind him. "They're watching us right now. Tell me, how do you think they're going to react if, by some miracle, you managed to kill me?"

She already knew the answer. It would be just the same as before. His children would hunt her down to kill her, and assuming she had children of her own somewhere along the line, they would chase them in turn. On and on it would go, a cycle of revenge without end.

"See what I mean?" something softened in his face. "Revenge is a one way street-for all parties. Is that really what you want?"

She wanted peace; she wanted it to end, wanted to say it wasn't her problem.

Her blade tumbled to the floor.

...she couldn't do it; couldn't consign another child to the life she'd lived.

"See?" Naruto chirruped happily. "You're a good person. I welcome all to my academy, everyone with potential. You're no different."

Gods be good, he really was insane. So was she, for even considering this. "I'm a murderer. I tried to kill you."

"But you didn't succeed. For that you've earned a second chance. So?" He offered her his hand. "Whaddya say? Lets make a deal."

Mizu dithered, uncertain what to make of this sudden offer; or him. "What kind of deal?"

"I won't press charge or attack you any further for this, and in exchange...

Her brow furrowed.

...in exchange?"

Rather than retort, he laid a hand over her eye and healed it. She jolted, surprised at having her vision restored so seamlessly. "How did you...?!"

"Easily." He handed her back her straw hat as she scowled. "That wound was fresh; easy for me to fix. And besides, you're not stubborn, unlike a certain birdie."

"Birdie...?"

"You'll understand someday.

She donned her hat and scowled at him, to which he bopped her over the head with his staff-the attack wasn't fatal but she recognized the message behind it. He could kill her at any time. Her hat, not so much; light as it was, it went flying to land on a nearby student's head.

"Hey teach." the white-haired boy waved it his way. "Can I keep this...?"

Mizu hissed. "You cannot!"

"Sorry but you heard her." he beckoned to them. "That belongs to my apprentice. Give it back, Shiro."

Mizu bridled. "Apprentice? I don't remember agreeing to that!"

"Weeeell," he hummed, accepting the straw hat and offering it to her once more, you're roughly the age of a held-back fourth year student here, but you still have much to learn. Likewise, putting you on a team...probably wouldn't end well. So I'll be instructing you personally."

"I know plenty!"

A blond brow rose. "Enough to beat me?"

Her jaw clicked shut in stubborn defiance.

Naruto grinned at her, his smile saccharine in its sweetness. "I thought not."

Something uncoiled in her chest just then, like an old knot tied too tight for far too long. A lone tear welled up in her right eye, rolled down her cheek, dripped off her cheek to strike the floor. To her, the sound was louder than any broken glass. "You shouldn't trust me...

The blond beamed. "Why not?"

Wasn't it obvious? "I'll probably kill you someday."

He shrugged. "Maybe so but not today. Are you ready to turn that corner, open the curtain and let the light in? To do yourself a favor and try the impossible? Make yourself happy?

Mizu was not one to weep; she disdained such weakness; of course that wasn't to say she was unaffected by his words.

Really, she just couldn't help herself. She began to laugh; it bubbled out of her, leaving her helpless.

She shook his hand, clasped their fingers tight, squeezed until her entire palm ached.

And then one of his brats raised their hand. "Did we just get another Mother?"

Mizu made embarrassed Mizu noises.

A/N: Take notes, Watts.

Next chapter will have Taiyang in it, provided folks enjoyed this.

Would you like another early update next week? By that, I mean Friday. Perhaps even earlier?

Do let me know; we'll be picking up here, but with the notifications down, I 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.

And as ever:

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!

SPOILERS AWAIT THEE~!

YE BE WARNED~!

(Previews)

"Miss Illia Amitola, was it? Welcome to Sanctum."

The girl beamed and her skin flushed with glee. Literally.

"Well, well." he laughed a little. "Another Faunus! By all means, come in! You'll fit in just fine with Yuma and Trifa...


"Someday, if you ever have a child...the first time you look them you get a feeling all at once, that you'd die for them. Little thing you never saw before, and you would stone cold die for them. That feeling doesn't go away. You might forget, but it's always there...always there.

"I want you to leave my daughter alone.

Call it a day.

Please.


"You don't treat your savior like a slave."

"But he is supposed to save me , serve me and..."

"You see, that's where you got it all mixed up...HE ISN'T.


Do you have any idea what it feels like? Having terrible power, a curse you can't control?

I know exactly what it feels like, more than you can ever imagine.

Then kill me!"

He crouched down before her.

"I am a teacher. I judge, yes, but I also train. For those who aren't ready, I make them ready. That is not only who I am, but what I do. And who are you?"

The battered, bloodied girl, this child who had accidentally killed so many with her Semblance, looked him in the eye at last.

...Jean Grey."


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."


EDIT: Equalizer references are entertaining, as always~! A shame I can't bring the main man himself into this story...

We all end up where we're supposed to be. Some of us just take a little longer to get there. Which means your man on the left, he's got his finger on the trigger but she's a foot too close, which renders your man on my right dead already. He just doesn't know it yet. I feel sorry for his family. Nine seconds. That's what you have to decide your fate. Nine seconds.

His smile split his face as he began to count down.

Eight...Seven...


So we're at war, then?

Naruto dragged a hand across his face. Why is it always war with you, Vanessa?

She shrugged a bare shoulder and leaned into him. It's what I'm good at. Give me a battle anyway, be in on the battlefield or the bedroom.

Heat speared through his face. Oh, my! You made him blush!

Willow laid a hand on his arm to comfort him. If its legal matters, don't worry, the SDC has your back. If that foolish, foolish man tries anything against you, I'll see him buried in litigation. That, or Anora will break his legs.

He laughed despite himself. "Sounds like something she'd do.

That said...you really need to talk to her about this, eventually. The sooner we bring her into the fold, the better.

I will...eventually. Nora and Ren are getting on so well, I don't want to get int he way of that.

How noble of you.


You don't know what death is. You have no IDEA what death is! Five pounds of pressure on a trigger. That's all it takes to end a life. That's all.


Pickerel raised his gun and blew smoke from the barrel. "I bet all that aura makes you feel like a big man, don't it? I did too, until I fought a bastard that cut right through it. Y'see, there's just one problem with aura. Most people I know, they have to consciously keep it active. I wonder if you can manage that?

One of his attackers fell with a bloody gurgle.

A grin split his face. "I guess not."

Then he was among them.

Guns blazed in the dark.


"Ren, my friend!" Roman slung an arm around his shoulder. "You and I are the only men in this menagerie of women. We gotta stick together.

Easy for you to say, Roman. You're older.

"Wiser, too! A man must sometimes be insolent to make his dreams a reality!"


EDIT: Avatar reverence is obvious...and fitting, given Ozpin.

Time. Ozpin chuckled once. Time's a funny thing. The past, the present, the future, for me, it all mixed up. There's only one way to keep it straight. By remembering what really matters. Of course, keeping sight of what's important can be had. Sometimes it feels like we will always be alone and the only thing keeping us company is our own pain. We tell ouselves we are the problem. Especially when things we can't control come our way. Tha's why we must let go of our pain and regrets and remember what is we are really fighting for. The ones we love. Let that be the light that guides you through the most treacherous of times...and the darkest of nights.

Its amazing how far we'll go to hide our true selves from others; because we don't want people to know how much they really mean to us, which is funny, because the truth is, we would do anything for them. We travel incredible distances, risk our lives, fight monsters. But I suppose it can be scary to admit you need people; some might see that as a weakness, a liability. After all, what greater pain is there than losing someone you love, or worse, discovering someone you love has left you behind. I suppose that is why we feel the need to hide away and protect ourselves at times. So we put on a mask Its hard to understand why, almost as hard as knowing that sometimes...the mask is who you truly are.


So, you thought you had all the pieces right where you wanted them.

There are so many moves I've yet to play.

You should've stayed away.


"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, Nova Carillo, 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?


"I'd almost forgotten. The weak always get taken from. Thats how it works here. Which means you guys understand how it works too, right? Those who prey upon others should be prepared to be preyed upon themselves.

"I'll give you whatever you want! Please! Just let me live! I'll pay you double, two times-

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...


EDIT: Tribute to Blue-Eyed Samurai here~!

Listen up, Students of Sanctum! A weapon is the soul of every Huntsman and Huntress, and so it must match them. Not solely in outward appearance, but their nature. Some weapons are rigid and thin, others large and powerful, others flowing like water. When crafting a weapon we beat the blade to remove the impurities from the steel, and thus harder the harder it is, but too pure and it becomes brittle. We must leave something of how it was made. Some might say any and all impurities must be removed. Perhaps, yet an impurity in the right place strengthen's one's weapon. Soft steel in the center, hard steel for the edge. Place the two together and you can have greatness. But what is a weapon? It is a line. On one side of that line is life, and the other, death. The edge you forge here today will cut the between the two. Now then...

He stepped back.

...craft your weapons."


The single quality that is common across every living creature on this planet.. is Fear It's funny then, that as common as fear is. We so easily underestimate its power Fear of growing close to someone. A subsequent fear of loss, a fear of failure. And as more people depend on you. Those fears can take on greater power. But fear itself isn't worthy of concern. It is who we become while in its clutches. Will you be proud of that person? Will you forgive them? Will you understand why they felt the need to do the things they did? Will you even recognize them? Or will the person staring back at you be the very thing you should have feared from the start?..I suppose we all find out sooner or later.


"You call yourself a Headmaster?! What is wrong with you?! How can you be so broken inside...to shatter our lives, our team, and then rub it in our faces like its something to be proud of! All with that damn smile on your face! I'm gonna make you pay for what you did! Do you hear me?! Well?! SAY SOMETHING!

...please stop shouting. You're scaring Yang, and I don't even know who you people are."

It was not the response he wanted. "SAY THAT AGAIN! I DARE YOU!"

Blue eyes widened. "...you're Taiyang, aren't you? I'm so sorry."

Too little, too late. Far, far too late. He saw red.

A fist slammed in at Naruto's face.

He caught it.

"You hate me, Taiyang. That's fine. I can understand that." blue eyes shimmered beneath his blond bangs. "Am I any better than you? Of course not. But I'm not any worse. Do you ever question it? Why you believe in Ozpin? Why you drag me in here, even knowing I've done no wrong, not really.

Of course you don't; you just do it. You know why? Because you think he's good.

Because he looks like one of you.

And I...look like one of me."

EDIT: Hey, thanks for reading!

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

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