A/N: FINALLY READY!

Updating early this morning because I may not have time later today...

A few folks have complained about the references/characters from other media popping up. We'll be toning that down after this chapter; given that it was already written in advance. I'm aiming to update this story every Friday now; the feedback really keeps me going.

This is the fifth portion of the chapter, and now the new arc begins.

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. EIGHT 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, Marvel, and other media.

...and at long last, 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~!

"You don't seem to understand the situation. Here, allow me to...educate you.

This is MY city. MY family. MY home. Not yours. MINE.

I swore on my soul that I would protect them all.

So in the worlds of a rather infamous man...

You picked the wrong house, FOOL."

~Naruto.

Prepare the Girls

"So we're at war, then?"

Naruto dragged a hand across his face in a vain attempt to stifle a sigh and looked to the chair opposite him. "Why is it always war with you, Vanessa?"

"What can I say?" Their resident redhead shrugged a bare shoulder and leaned into him with a cheshire grin. "It's what I'm good at. Give me a battle any day, be in on the battlefield or the bedroom. If you can't fight or finesse or otherwise f**k a problem to death, then you're clearly doing something wrong."

Heat speared through his face at her lurid words; even after all these years she still tripped him up at times.

Ann hoisted her bottle with a laugh. "Oh, my! You actually made him blush!"

They were going to be the death of him at this rate. "Can we please focus on the matter at hand?"

"Alright, alright, party pooper...

With the day done, they'd all gathered round the table once more sans Raven, the latter having put the brats to bed beforehand and opting to spend time with Qrow rather than join them tonight. Mizu had reluctantly settled into their little clique with only a bit of awkwardness and a few terse questions besides. His focus wasn't on her at the moment; she'd already retired for the evening with the rest; it was to the others he looked now, in the hopes that another would soon join them.

To his great delight, Raven had actually managed to win her brother over while he taught Mizu a lesson. She was in his room at this very moment, doors locked and windows barred as they discussed something he wasn't privy to. Fine by him. The best laid plans always had a backup plan or two...or three...or nine.

He didn't fear for Raven's safety; Qrow wouldn't try to hurt her, much less escape without his permission. That would break his Deal, you see. Even if he could, his loyalty to Yang bound him to her, and by definition, the manor. He was a Brave birdie, he'd give him that, but he wasn't stupid; it took courage for anyone -man or woman- to throw off their shackles and question everything they once knew.

Small wonder Qrow didn't want to talk to him just yet-he'd shattered his worldview.

Willow laid a hand on his arm to comfort him, distracting him from his dark doldrums. "If its legal matters that concern you, don't worry, the SDC has your back. If that foolish, foolish wizard tries anything against your and yours, I will personally see him buried in litigation."

Vanessa smirked. "That, or Anora will break his legs."

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

Ann clicked her tongue at him in mild repproval. "That said...you really need to talk to her about this, eventually. The sooner we bring her into the fold, the better."

Hrk. And now they came back to the elephant in the room. He scratched the back of his head then looked away, more than a little shamefaced. "I'll ask her...eventually. Nora and Ren are getting on so well, I don't want to get in the way of that."

Vanessa tutted, not believing him for a moment. "How noble of you."

Noble? Selfish, more like. He was afraid of falling for anyone else; wary of drawing them into his inner circle, terrified of them becoming targets.

Raven, Ann and Vanessa could defend themselves. So could Willow now that she'd been properly trained. Malachite had her criminal connections and all those safeguards to keep both herself and her twins safe. Mizu...she seemed capable enough to defend herself. Besides, he was pretty sure she hated him. Right?

.

..

...right?

Anora didn't have those things. She was good, skilled for a Huntress, but she wasn't that good. Better she remain ignorant of Salem and Ozma for now. Ignorance was bliss. Once you became aware of something like that, there was no going back to your normal life. She had her secrets to be sure, -he suspected her real name was something far more elegant than Anora for one- but he had no desire to pry. She hadn't made any effort to dig into him, after all. Let her keep her secrets and he'd keep his. Probably for the best.

Someone coughed behind him, commanding his attention in an instant. "All of you, scram. Blondie's got a busy day tomorrow, and I wanna minute with him before we turn in."

Ah. Raven had finished her little strategy session it seemed. He did so adore her blunt behavior. Never change birdie, never change...

Willow rose and stretched with a languid yawn. "That's our cue. I suppose it was getting rather late."

Vanessa trailed a hand across his arm as she sashayed past. "Tomorrow night, you're mine.

Ann gripped her wrist and yanked. "Nice try, dear! I already called dibs."

She scowled. "Then I suppose there's only one way to solve this.

Kurama offered a low whistle, nothing more.

Gulp.

Raven unfortunately steered him away before a brawl could commence; pity, he would've liked to see how an Assassin stacked up against a Champion.

Bemused, he let her lead him away from the impending catfight, take him by the wrist, and guide him out onto the patio. The crisp night air cooled his head if not necessarily his thoughts, and the moon was...well, not full, it could never truly be full given its shattered state, but it was terribly bright tonight, enough to draw his eye all the same.

If Raven was to be believed -and he truly did believe her- the God of Darkness had shattered the moon in a fit of pique when he and his brother first departed Remnant thousands of years ago. He thought about trying to mend the lunar orb on occasion, but he didn't know where to start, let alone how to go about it.

"Focus on the moon later," Kurama chided him. "Look over there."

Beneath the broken moonlight glimpsed Neo creeping across on the outer garden wall, paint bucket and brush in hand. The little girl saw him, pressed a finger to her lips, and vanished with a crackle of her semblance. A blond brow rose and he briefly considered giving chase before thinking better of it. Did he want to know what his adopted daughter was doing up this late at night?

.

..

...probably not. Ignorance was bliss.

"Alright," he looked Raven's way, noting her silence at last. "What's eating you?

"I could ask you the same thing." she planted her metal hand on a hip and pivoted to face him fully, wearing a scowl. "You've been lost in your head all day ever since you beat that Blue-Eyed Samurai. What gives? Bitch got you that hot and bothered?"

He frowned a little at the casual dismissal of his apprentice. "She has a name."

Raven scoffed. "I'll speak it when she manages to land a hit on me."

He winced at the jab. "That probably won't be anytime soon...

She looked back to the moon. "Then bitch it is."

"I know you didn't just bring me out here for this." plonked down on the porch and beckoned her to do the same, then frowned when she didn't budge. "Raven?" he looked her way, confused. "What's wrong?"

The scarred Branwen breathed out a breathy sigh and plonked down beside him. When she made to lean into him, he didn't think to refuse her, even when her forehead kissed his shoulder. He absently laid a hand on her back, caressing the dark mane of her hair, content to let her lay against him.

As such, what came next absolutely floored him.

"You're going to be a father again."

"...?!"

Shock. It shook Naruto from head to toe, rattled his very being in ways he couldn't possibly hope to describe. A moment passed as he struggled to process what he'd just been told, to place together the clues and come up with the full picture. Confusion faded, replaced by joy. By the time he rallied it was nearly too late; he almost missed her watery smile.

He expanded his senses and focused on her, or rather, her stomach. Sure enough, he felt it.

A tiny spark, a simple soul.

Life.

"Not you, too?!" he guffawed, overwhelmed and relieved at all once. "Is this some kinda competition between you and Willow or something?!"

She elbowed him. "Don't give me that, I was up the spout before the Schnee, I just didn't feel like saying anything until she did."

A thought occurred to him just then, wonderful and terrifying. "Please tell me Ann and Vanessa aren't pregnant, too."

"Who knows?" she shrugged a shoulder. "I don't wanna talk about the past. Lets focus on the future."

On that, we agree. I don't suppose you've been thinking of names...

Her smirk was fragile. "Maybe."

"You're not going to tell me, are you."

"A few came to mind." she flexed the fingers of her metal hand, idly reaching up to the stars above, as though she would pull them right out the nigh sky. "Aether, Lumine, maybe Yin? Dunno. Probably the last one." her shoulders rose and fell in a slow, sleepy shrug before her gaze sought his once more. "So, I've shared. Your turn. What's got you so twisted up inside?"

How was he to top that?! His world was still reeling from her revelation. Pregnant! Yang and kids were going to scream -with joy!- when they heard the news.

Ah, but Raven was still looking at him however, and as he'd learned with her, honesty was the best policy. "Its like you said, I'm thinking of the future."

...am I still a part of that future?" she asked.

"Why wouldn't you be?"

Because what we have isn't enough." Her smirk was fragile. "It won't be enough. Not against someone like Ozpin; we need more allies."

"Then I'll find them," came the reply. "If you're afraid you'll screw things up here like you did with Taiyang-don't be. We all mess up sometimes." he draped an arm around her before she could think to protest, cutting her short and drawing her close before she could think to bolt. "Its not only inevitable, I think maybe its even necessary for us to grow as people. "But answer me this." Now it was his turn to look her in the eye, and she wilted a little under his burning gaze. "Whatever it is you do now, whatever it is you've become, tell me this, Raven. Are you happy?"

She stiffened in his grasp. "What kinda question is that?"

"An honest one." he kissed her forehead, drawing an incoherent sputter from her. "We all go through pain, we all lose people we care about, we all suffer, we all get hurt. Its the price of being human. But at the end of the day, do you like your life here? Are you happy, Raven?"

Her good eye flitted past him, towar the moon above, then back to the house, followed by him again.

...I am." she spoke after a moment's pause, little more than a whisper. "I really think I am."

"Then that's the only thing that matters, isn't it?"

Evidently, it was the right thing to say; because Raven pushed him down into a shadowy corner of the garden and kissed him so hard that he got...well, the latter went without saying. No sooner had his back bent the dirt than she planted herself in his lap and hitched up her skirt. Clothes went flying and she began grinding herself against him, hips gyrating, mouth seeking his furiously, biting hard enough to bruise. And yet for all her passion, there was a desperation to it. A hunger. Need. As though she were afraid of something, terrified.

What was she afraid of...?

He grabbed her wrist, forestalling her. "What's gotten into you?"

She only kissed him all the more. "You're not allowed to die, you hear me? I'll absolutely kill you if you do."

"Isn't that a bit of a contradiction-ow!" laughter tumbled out of him as she thumped his chest. "Okay, okay. I'll be careful." upon glimpsing the tears in her eyes, he thumbed them away and patted her face. "When you feel like crying, cry. Tears aren't jewels; they're not so precious that they need be contained.

Raven snuggled closer, all but sprawling herself in his lap. She'd never been the sort to beg before, and she certainly wouldn't now. He buried a hand in her hair, laid another on her hip, and leaned up to kiss her.

It was the right thing to do. She came alive in his arms and tackled him down to the bed. In a matter of moments he had her pinned.

She pulled him deeper into the shadows, hooked both legs around his waist, and drew him close.

The night descended into a carnal haze.


(.0.0.0.)


"Watts."

"Yes, my lady?"

"Are the preparations in place?"

"They are. I've accounted for every variable."

"Excellent. The fools will do our work for them, without ever realizing it...


(.0.0.0.)


"How do I look?"

Raven made no move to rise from her bed, but her gaze raked over him with a smug smile all the same. "Like a killer."

Not the angle he was going for today, bu it would suffice. His red suit certainly made him appear dapper enough.

His gaze strayed back to the bed briefly, lingering over her naked form. "Sure you don't want to come with?"

"Nah. Qrow wanted a word with you. I talked him out of it, but I'm sure he's up and about by now. You might want to leave through the window. Go on, shoo." she planted a hand on her chin and waved him away when he didn't budge. "Knock 'em dead. I've got things handled here.

He dove in for a scorching kiss, that left her breathless and marched to the window. A flick of his wrist unlatched it and he clamored up and over.

"And don't forget to come back and pick up Yang for that meeting!" she shouted at his back.

Naruto winked over his shoulder. "Wouldn't dream of it."

Then he flung himself to freedom.


(.0.0.0.)


Come the dawn, he set out with renewed purpose in his heart, intent on filling his promise.

First and foremost, he paid visit his weekly visit to the city orphanage.

He rather enjoyed visiting the orphanages these days.

Not those filthy hovels once utilized by the now-defunct Hana Guild but proper places for children to live, but proper homes of hope and healing.

Shortly after the downfall of the Hana Guild he'd taken it upon himself to inspect every orphanage in the city. None hadn't been up to been up to snuff. So he'd done what he did best. He tore them down and began anew, starting from scratch. Now in place of many, only one remained. A single complex one large enough to house nearly half the city, with every amenity a child could ever want. A lovely building forged of red brick and wood with a matching door and cheerful blue roof, a place with a homey air where all were welcome.

These days, they were calling it the House of the Hearth and those within the Headmaster's Orphans.

Had a nice ring to it, ya know?

Not the best of names, but then again he hadn't been the one to come up with it; that was all Raven's idea. And besides, just as one couldn't truly eradicate crime from a city -not completely, no matter how much they might wish to- neither could they rid Haven of all its orphans. Best to simply be in charge of both.

Striding up the stone steps leading up from a homely vegetable garden, he swung the door open and found a familiar smiling face there to greet him.

"Hello, Father~! You're early! We didn't expect you for another hour!"

He rolled his eyes, but let the nickname slide.

"Good morning to you too, Lynette."

Most Faunus possessed a single animal trait, but Lynette was unique in that regard; in that she had to both cat ears and a tail.

Do not pull the tail. Many a fool had learned that lesson the hard way. He pitied them.

Wrapped up in a checkered black-on-white-gown with matching sleeves and leggings, his assistant was ever the picture of discretion, eager and pleased to see him as always. He tousled her hair with one hand, drawing a pleased purr from as he walked past, idly hanging his crimson jacket on a nearby hook -he'd only get it dirty here- before pivoting to face her again.

"How's your brother?"

Her face lit up. "Quite well! Lyney speaks most highly of you."

"I'm sure he does." he hid a chuckle behind a hand and let her lead him away. "Team LSTR is rather famous these days, though not always for the right reasons."

Her ears drooped. "Oh gods, what did he do this time?"

"Something good, actually. He's going to be participating in the Vytal Festival."

The faunus nearly tripped over her own feet, but rallied remarkably well. "He is? He didn't tell me!"

Ooops? Seemed that cat was out of the bag, or perhaps the hat, as it were; he might've ruined the surprise. He'd have to make it up to him later...

"What can I say?" he shrugged a shoulder and settled for a selfsame smile. "He has an exceptional talent. Now ,why did you want to see me?"

"I did," Her smile faded a little as they fell into business. "You asked us to keep an eye out for any aspirants who showed promise.

Oh? More candidates for Sanctum and Haven? "You have their names, I trust?"

"I do". she handed him a clipboard bearing a lists of curious names.

His eyes widened at the list, and the high test scores within. "There's quite a few here." Thirteen in total. "Why so many?

She granted him a small half-smile. "You'll understand when you meet them."

"Speaking of understanding, our Mother isn't in today?

Lynette squirmed a little, feline ears drooping atop her head. "Well, she is, but she asked not to be disturbed."

Oho? He smelled gossip. "And why is that?"

Lynette looked left.

Lynette looked right.

Lynette didn't see a soul in sight.

At length, she beckoned him closer and ducked her head, keeping her voice low. "Can you keep a secret?

His grin grew. "Cross my heart and hope to cry."

"Isn't it hope to die?"

He smirked. "Yes, but I won't be doing that.""

She leaned in closer still. "Mother went out to buy a dress. I saw her holding it! It was so pretty...

An adjacent door clicked open behind her to admit a new arrival. "Talking about me behind my back, are we, Lynette?"

The poor faunus mewed like a kitten with her paw caught in the catnip and pivoted thrice as fast, red as a rose. "N-No! Not at all!"

"Now, now, what did I tell you about lying...?

The newcomer sported dark eyes with frightfully vivid red X-shaped pupils alongside layered black and white hair, styled in a long-yet-loose ponytail with asymmetrical bangs. She favored a white-gray coat sporting a red trim and black gloves to match her trousers, alongside wickedly sharply high heels that clicked against the cobblestones with each, and she knew how to use them. Her gait was slow, almost lazy; more a strut than a walk, really, hip swaying as she slunk his way. Indeed, one could be forgiven for thinking her slothful, indolent, even. He knew better.

Dangerous.

Very dangerous.

Terribly, horribly dangerous.

Good. He liked that; because right now, danger was needed. The first time they had met, they'd leveled a district and nearly killed one another. Good times! She was like him in a sense; in that she also went by many names. The Knave, Arlecchino, or as he knew her by her true name, Peruere. He knew she wasn't strictly human in the conventional sense but that was fine; after all he was hardly human himself. The more monsters the merrier.

She smiled at him and sketched a bow, one he returned as she spoke. "Thank you for answering my invitation, Father."

He winked back. "But of course, Mother."

Those titles had become something of a running joke between the two of them these days, though he sometimes thought the title of Father suited her better than him. She acted stern, and perhaps she was, but he knew she was secretly a softy where her children were concerned. Another aspect they shared. He really had gotten lucky encountering her after the Hana purge.

A shame she wasn't interested in teaching. She would've been...sensational.

Ah, but she was staring at him and he must attend to her. "You look well."

"As do you. Here to snatch up more of my children, are you?"

"You know its not like that-

Her hand moved.

Dark light flashed out in a blur as a blood-black-on-red scythe tickled his neck, ready to slice through his aura, cut a red smile across his throat and lop his head clean off his shoulders. Lynette yelped and fell back onto her hindquarters, startled by the sudden display of visceral violence.

Naruto didn't budge.

"Unflinching as always." Arlecchino's smile radiated approval. "Are you still set on this foolish crusade of yous?"

"I am." He leaned into the edge of her weapon, uncaring as it drew blood. "You'll have to do better than that if you mean to deter me."

"Hmhmmhmm." she swept her hand back with a pleased hum and that blood red reaper vanished into motes of ether. "Is that why you wear red, I wonder? So no one can see you bleed?

His grin grew. Why don't you try me and find out?

"Perhaps I will."

A small part of him welcomed the challenge; his blood was still up from fighting Mizu yesterday. For all her fire and fury, the Blue-Eyed-Samurai hadn't given him a good fight. He knew Arlecchino would-

"No!" Lynette bodily thrust herself between them and pushed the two of them apart. "No fighting in the House!"

Arlecchino made an annoyed noise and glanced down to her "daughter", then back to him. Those bloody eyes flashed, and for a fleeting instant he could've sworn he glimpsed a crimson wing over her shoulder. Was she going to try anyway? Always unpredictable this one...

.

..

...in the end,she closed her eyes, exhaled softly and the moment passed. "We'll take a raincheck on that rematch for now."

A pity. She really was hard to read sometimes. It was almost refreshing. "Onto business then?"

Her gaze met his. "If you insist."

Wuh-oh. He knew that look. "Let me guess, you want more funding for the House...?"

The Knave lifted her chin stubbornly to meet his gaze. "Mistral has no shortage of orphans. I would have a Hearth in every kingdom if I could, but its just not possible."

Qrow's words came home to roost. "You can't adopt 'em all, pal."

...maybe I can't, but we can."

She tilted her head. "Did you say something?"

He chuckled ruefully under his breath. "Just thinking of a old friend. He's given me an idea."

A coy smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. "A recent acquaintance?"

"Something like that."


(.0.0.0.)


Qrow awoke with a jolt, brow soaked in sweat.

Froze now, as he beheld his reflect in the mirror across the room.

No." he lurched upright, balked now, as he pawed at his hair. "No, no, no! What the hell?!"

Someone had dyed it orange. Orange! Did they have any idea how long that was gonna take to wash out?!

Neo laughed soundlessly from her perch in the rafters above.

Worth it! She'd be a prankmaster in no time.

Just like Dad and Roman.


(.0.0.0.)


"You've got that look in your eye again...

"Do I?" Naruto whistled innocently, refusing to rise to the bait. "I've no idea what you mean...

...fine, keep your secrets." Alrecchino relented with a huff. "Phos, Bort, and the other girls are just this way." She indicated a nearby arm held out her arm to him. "Walk with me."

He looped his arm in hers and did just that, bidding farewell to a dazed Lynette. The poor faunus fled with her tail between her legs. Literally.

In short order, the Knave led him to an adjacent sitting room; one that appeared to empty...

.

..

...or so he thought.

Before he could think to stop her, the Knave brought her hands together in a sharp clap. "Children! Present yourselves!

A door opened on his left and said "children" reluctantly filed through, one after the other.

His eyes went wider still at the sight of them and their wild hair and glowing eyes.

Was that hair they had? He couldn't be sure.

So bright! So many colors! He could scarcely catalogue them all; red and blue and pink and green, and peppermint, whites and silver a deep blue, glowing black, and the last one a great flaming red, as thought someone had taken raven's long hair and dyed it the color of blood. Each child wore the signature black uniform and breeches of the Hearth, but they couldn't have been more unlike. Some stared at him them with open curiosity, others shied away and hid, while some looked downright hopeful...

"Their names are rather peculiar, as are they, but they're good girls." Alrecchino swept a hand toward each of them as she spoke, passing from left to right in quick succession, "The quiet one hiding in the corner with the white hair is Antarticite, then we have fragile Phosphophyllite or Phos for short," she indicated a girl with peppermint green hair, while that surly child with long dark hair calls herself Bort...

He glanced at the girl, idly realizing her hair was two-toned, black n the outside, and dark brown on the inside. "I take it she's the one glaring at me?"

Arlecchino smirked at him. "Quite so. Then there's...

He tried to keep up, but it was no use, her finger flitted from one to the other and it soon became almost impossible to keep track of them all; his head was left spinning by the end, trying to keep up with the colors she'd just listed. In the end, he took snapshots with his memory and resolved to come back to them later as an amused Arlecchino droned on.

...Diamond," well that one lived up to her name with prismatic eyes and short-cropped hair that shone in the light, "Jade goes without saying," and she did with her deep green hair, "Morganite is the pink one over there with Goshenite," wait, wasn't that just a sneezing pun waiting to happen for the poor silver-haired girl? "The one who looks like she wants to dissect you would be Rutile...

Reddish brown and golden-yellow hair with deep glowing eyes...

"Obsidian...

Gaze and hair dark as her namesake, the latter cut in a medium bob...

"Alexandrite...

Long turquoise hair and eyes, like the summer sky...

"Benitoite...

Pixie cut hair to match her eyes, both deep n' blue as the ocean true...

"And the last one," Arleccchino indicated a girl leaning against the wall bearing a glimmering red mane and bloody eyes, "Would be dear Padparadscha...

He tried to pronounce her name, only to wind up biting his tongue with a yelp. The girl actually granted him a grin for that and waved his way.

Gems, he realized. These girls were all named after gems or minerals -or some manner of Dust, perhaps?- he could see why given their pale complexions, bright eyes, and vivid shimmering hair. They would undoubtedly need nicknames for these runts, because some of their names were just too long for him to remember. Still, they formed a perfect dozen. Enough to form three separate teams someday, assuming they chose to become huntresses. The oldest, Bort, couldn't have been more than Roman's age.

And yet for all that, they regarded him warily.

"Wait," he frowned, "You said there were thirteen. I only see twelve here."

Here at last, Alrecchino frowned. "Well, young Cinnabar is a bit of a recluse. She's one of the few with Aura, and her semblance is rather dangerous, so she prefers to isolate herself."

Did she now? He wouldn't forget number thirteen. Had to pay her a visit after this. "Where did you find these girls...?"

"We didn't. Someone brought them here."

"And you didn't think to ask who?"

"Didn't care to. Go on," the Knave released his arm and nudged him forward. "Say hello. You came all this way to meet them."

He had, but he hadn't expected to find girls who literally had Dust in their veins. He could understand why she'd kept them hidden here now; why they were so pale, jut why their hair shimmered and shone in the light. For all their appearances, they weren't entirely human. He could see the cracks in their some of them, the veins within their skin. But children they were, and as Headmaster, no, as a father, he'd made a solemn oath.

Save every child he possibly could.

He let his facade slip for them and crouched down to their level. "Hello, girls. Its so nice to finally meet you."

One girl with long, segmented dark hair stepped forth and flung her arms wide as though to shield the rest from him.

Brave little thing.

He recalled the name Alrecchino had mentioned her name in passing, but when he looked to her for some semblance of advice, she had already departed on him; he glimpsed a wisp of her hair, then she was gone, slipping the door, leaving him alone with the lasses. He heard the lock click behind her.

Traitor!

"So," he looked back to the girl, "You're the strongest here. You must be Bort."

She lifted her chin and glared at him. "Whaddya want, old man? We don't need your help."

Why was everyone so determined to call him old, oi-no, nevermind that. Her emotions said otherwise; they were an open book to him, page to cover. Fear. Guilt. Hesitation. He grimaced a little at the strength of them. No child deserved to suffer such, nor wear a look like that. None would under his care.

"I'd like to invite you to Sanctum." He offered the guardian girl a hand. "That, and offer treatment for your conditions."

One of the girls, a slender waif with bright eyes and glistening green hair looked his way. "You can help us?"

"Certainly!"

A ripple of excitement passed through the rest.

"Bullshit." Bort bridled and held up an arm for him to see, revealing the viscous veins and the cracks therein. "We can't be cured. We're broken."

Everyone always thought that at first; until they realized they weren't.

"Only insomuch as you believe yourselves to be." he held up his dominant hand, letting it shimmer with golden light, causing a few of the smaller girls to coo curiously. "I'll do my very best to help; you have my word. Now why don't we settle down and talk this out...?

Bort certainly didn't; the surly girl looked ready to tackle him if he tried to push past her. Pity pricked at his heart, a thorn of empathy preventing him from doing anything rash. Behind them, her "sisters" watched him like little baby bunnies, ready to bound away the second he frightened them.

Was this how Iruka felt when he taught class back in the village? Naruto facepalmed. "For crying out loud, Iruka-sensei would laugh his ass off if he saw me like this...

The children tilted their heads and belatedly he realized he'd spoken aloud.

Bort squinted at him. "Sensei?"

"In my language, it means teacher." he made to hold a rueful chuckle behind one palm then thought better of it. "And I swear to you, should you become my wards, you will never go a day without; you will be protected, care for and loved. This is my solemn vow to you, not just as Headmaster of Haven, or Sovereign of Sanctum, but as a Father myself."

A ripple passed through the group. The girl with the peppermint colored hair -Phos?- raised her hand. "Will we get lots of tasty food?"

He laughed despite himself. "You have my word."

"And new friends?"

He recalled all those he'd taken in, and the dozens of students housed at Sanctum and Haven. "More than you can possibly imagine."

Bort didn't budge.

She squirmed restlessly before him, averting her gaze. Nothing else for it, then.

"Alright, who here knows what aura is?" The girls -sisters perhaps?- looked amongst themselves with varying degrees of confused consternation. "No one?"

"I know!" A pale hand shot up and waved frantically; bemused, he looked their way.

"Phospho...no, that's just too long. I'll call you Phos. That alright with you?"

She snapped off a clumsy. "Yessir!"

"Don't do that." he waved her down. "This ain't Atlas, and its no dictatorship. Do you know what aura is?"

She touched a finger to her chin. "That Hunter had it, right?"

"Oh!" Jade slapped a fist into her palm. "The big one with the muscles!"

Diamond -maybe he'd just call her Dia for shot- hummed happily in agreement. "I liked him. He was nice."

Big hunter with muscles? That sounded an awful lot like Hazel...but that couldn't be right. Ann had killed him. Hadn't she? Sure, he'd never seen the body, but she'd shown him the bloodstains and Raven had been quite vocal about the manner in which the big brute died. Screaming and in pain as Ann's semblance savaged his body.

So what in the hells was a dead man doing dropping kids off at an orphanage?

Shunting that thought aside for later, he looked back to the girls. "Yes, Hunters have it, as do Huntresses. I'm willing to unlock yours." he offered them a hand. "That might help fix the "cracks" on your limbs."

Bort's dark gaze flicked up and down the length of him, quietly intent. "Will it make us strong?"

Naruto nearly sighed. What was it with everyone and power?! Alright, miss mini-Sasuke! Keeping an eye on you!

"It certainly will." he plastered a smile on his face for her regardless. "You might even unlock semblances of your own."

That got their attention, sure as a shooting star. Rutile hummed curiously. "Superpowers?"

Antarticite, silent until this moment, finally spoke up. "Wait, you mean like Cinnabar?"

Obisidian wilted, losing some of her luster. "Nooo! I don't want poison like hers!

Poison?

And just like that he understood why only twelve of the thirteen selected children were present today. Children had a tendency to ostracize their own, especially if they were different. Of course, he could hardly call them out on it-and why should he, when he could simply teach them to be better? Back went the Headmaster persona once more. "Each of you semblances will be different when you gain them, I can assure you. But first, a question...

All eyes turned to him, as planned. Good. He had their undivided attention.

"Do you any of you know what is required of a Huntress?" he tapped his staff on the ground for emphasis, letting the echo ring through the room as he conjured a small stone pillar to sit upon. "No? Don't worry. I'll gladly tell you. Gather round."

With one hand, he beckoned them closer. Some, like Bort and Phos, even complied.

"Some might say strength, others intelligence, still more dexterity, perhaps even faith and charisma. But one mustn't forget kindness." idly crossing one leg over the other, he paused for effect before continuing. "All the strength and speed and smarts in the world won't matter one bit if you don't have the spirit to back them up. Do you have that spirit?" his shoulders rolled in a shrug. "I can't answer that question for you. Its up to you, girls. You can decide whether or not this life is for you. Be it now, or later down the line. But for now, you deserve a chance to rest. Now who wants their aura unlocked?

Before his very eyes, the girls crowded into a rowdy line.

He was mildly amused to find Phos first; somehow she'd managed to squirm to the front.

Weakest of the lot though she might be, the girl certainly had spirit one her siblings seemed to lack.

"Alright, then." He laid a hand on her hair, looked down into those eager mint-green eyes, and began the chant to unlock her aura. "For it is in Smiling that we inspire those around us, and terrify our enemies. 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...

A faint emerald light stemmed forth from her body, drawing a gasp out of the other girls.

And then, just as he had done for everyone while releasing their aura, he found the girl's latent potential and released that as well, giving it a nudge in the right direction as he healed her. It wasn't difficult; if anything it was easier to do for her than anyone else. Being a Sage had its benefits after all. Why settle for merely unlocking someone's aura when he could unlock their potential as well?

There was a reason Mistral had the best Hunters these days.

"Whoa!" Sure enough, Phos bounded backward with a pleased noise, balking at herself as the fractures in her arms and legs receded. "That feels good, really good! What did you do?!"

He raised a finger and hummed. "That's a secret. Would anyone else care to try?"

It was the pebble that set off the avalanche.

A ripple passed through the other children, like a pebble flung into a pond, spreading now as they glanced at one another. And then...

"SENSEI!"

...they tackled him.

Headmaster's Orphans indeed! Laughter bubbled out of him as they drove him to the floor.


(.0.0.0.)


Life was good.

Yang would be the first to admit she wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed, but she didn't have to be; because she knew her strengths and her weaknesses. Besides, she was the strongest. Wasn't pride, that, just the honest truth. She could fly, punch people, and shoot lightning at fools.

So, yeah. Life good. Yang, happy.

So when her "real" dad asked her for help with Work, she didn't hesitate, no siree, not her.

She hopped through the portal without a second thought.

Life was goooood.


(.0.0.0.)


Showtime.

Naruto took a moment, adjusted his smile in the mirror, nodded once to Yang, clapped his face with both hands and paced to the door. From there, he flung it open.

His first thought of Ghira Belladona was thus.

BIG.

The man absolutely loomed over him in that chest-bearing getup of his; a lifetime ago, he might've been intimidated.

By contrast his wife, Kali, was downright petite.

"Hello~!" he sang happily. "You must be Kali and Ghira. Do come in. Oh, is that your daughter?" he sketched a bow to the little girl clinging to Ghira's hand; the best of both her parents. "My Yang's about the same age. I think she's hiding somewhere around here...

"Hi!" she poked her head over his shoulder, grinning ear to ear. "I'm Yang!"

Little Blake tilted her head, startled by the display. "Hello...?"

Kali smiled softly. "She's an energetic one...

"And who's this with her?"

She indicated one of the three children beside her, a boy with stark red hair and horns. "This is Adam.

The younger met his gaze evenly. Bold boy.

And the shy wallflower hiding by my Ghira is little Illia.

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

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...

From what he understood her parents were poor miners in Mantle hoping to earn a better life for their daughter. He wasn't surprised they'd sent her here. And why wouldn't they? He was offering essentially free tuition to every disadvantaged student. Especially if they were Faunus. Sure, it riled some of the old foggies on the council, but what did he care?

Meeting them in his office was probably for the best; at least here he needn't worry about any bugs or prying eyes and noisy cameras. He'd considered showing them around Haven but thought better of it for now. Perhaps later, once he had the teams settled and sorted

"Its a pleasure to meet you, Ghira.

She gasped his right hand between hers and shook it gently.

...greetings." the giant faunus gripped his palm and squeezed hard; a gesture he reciprocated in kind until he felt the man's aura begin to trickle away under his grasp. "You have a strong grip."

"Stop that!" Kali smacked his leg. "We aren't here to cause trouble, remember?"

The larger man relented with a rumble. "Yes, of course. My apologies. I forgot myself."

She patted his arm. "Don't mind my Ghira. He's always been rather enthusiastic, shall we say. Sienna wanted to be here, but unfortunately she fell ill...why don't we let the children play?

Yang perked up. "Can we?

Blake whined a little. "Aww, but mom!

No buts. Adam, be a dear and look after them, won't you?"

The children scarpered and Naruto gestured to his desk with the two chairs placed before it.

"May I just say how much we appreciate this?" Kali was the one to take the lead and sit first, surprising him once more. "Leonardo wasn't nearly as receptive to our cause."

'Oh, I just bet he wasn't.'

He'd been Salem's man for along while; it was only natural he might've wanted the Fang to go violent. but of course, the Belladonnas had no way of knowing that.

Leo always said the right words, but he put us off with his attitude and platitudes.

"The man was a coward."

Kali made a face. "Is it alright to speak ill of your predecessor like that?

"I don't see why not." he leaned back in his chair with an audible creak. "Leo left Haven in my hands and ran off to the wilderness. If that's not the mark of a coward, I don't know what is. Now then, what would you like to discuss?

"Straight to business, then." Ghira granted him a nod. "I appreciate that. Ideally, we would like to enroll a few Faunus children in Sanctum, perhaps Haven when they grow old enough.

Done." he waved them on. "All are welcome, provided they pass the entrance exams.

Kali winced. "I hear they're rather rigorous these days."

Nothing but the best for my students. And what of the White Fang?"

They shared a glance between themselves. "What of it?"

"I was under the assumption your organization was peaceful," he smiled

"It is...

"And if it becomes violent?"

Ghira growled a little. "It won't."

Did they honestly think he would let them go with that? "But if it does?"

...then we shall handle the matter internally.

He pinched the bridge of his nose. "Swear that you won't step down as High Leader and I'll accept those students."

"We understand your concerns-

"No," he temporized with sharp smile, "I don't think you do. This means you're not allowed to quit ever, barring your death. Break your deal and your people don't get my training. Simple as that.

"Its not that simple."

"Then simplify it for me." He laid both hands down on the desk, fingers splayed to show himself unarmed. He wasn't of course, his body was a living weapon of mass destruction, but they didn't know that. Ignorance was bliss, truly. "You say you lead the White Fang, yet in all the years you've led them, you scarcely made any progress."

"Not for lack of effort-

He pounded his desk with a fist. "Then you need to try harder!"

Ghira and Kali exchanged a long, lingering look between one another. The former found their voice first. "I must admit, you're not at all what I thought you would be."

He steepled his fingers and laid his chin atop them. And who did you think I would be?

"Many things," the latter admitted, but not this. "Truth be told, we didn't think you'd be suc a success.

"Success?" he rolled his eyes. "You want to talk about the story of my success? You can see the story of it in the face of every student, of everyone I've protected. Since I've become Headmaster, most, if not all of this city is loyal to one man. ME. I offered them the chance of a lifetime, the chance to reclaim lost glory, and they jumped on it. I don't pay them to love me, if that's what your asking. I teach them to be better. At the end of the day that's what I am. A teacher. I won't step down, I won't retire early. I'll be Headmaster for as long as Haven and Sanctum will have me. I believe in survival of the fittest. Haven IS the fittest. In all levels of life.

Ghira made a face. "Thats a rather stern outlook on things.

Whiskered cheeks dimpled in a smile. "Would you believe me if I told you that, when I was young, no one gave me the time of day. No one cared. So I MADE them care. I played pranks, caused mischief, wreaked havoc. My whole life I was surrounded by people like looked down on me. I earned everything. Blood sweat and tears. My friends, my power, my family? All of that? ME. Of course I have a stern outlook on things. At the end of the day, nothing can beat hard work and determination.

Kali laid a hand on the desk before Ghira could think to interject again. "With all these titles of yours, I thought you would be terrifying. But you're not a monster. You're just a man."

He shrugged, somewhat nonplussed by the observation. "Man, monster, they're both the same thing; it gets the job done."

"Nevertheless, a great many faunus have come to Mistral as a result of your actions."

A blond brow rose in quiet consternation. "My actions? I haven't done that much"

Ghira and Kali shared another look. "You weren't aware of it?"

His brow furrowed further. "What're you talking about?"

It proved to be a long afternoon.


(.0.0.0.)


Yang flung up her arms with a happy cry as they sauntered down street. "That was a looooong talk."

Naruto hummed under his breath and kept walking. "Yup."

"Like, really long."

Yup.

"I didn't understand what you were saying at all!"

Yuuuup.

Yang grabbed his right hand and glowered up at him. "Is that all you can say?"

"Nope." He reached down and booped her nose, briefly causing her to go cross eyed as she tried to glare at the offending finger.

"Daaaad! Quit it!" she squirmed away, clutching at her long golden mane. "Not the hair! I still don't get why we're walking when we can just portal home...

"Because walking builds character." he booped her again for good measure, smiling at the irritated noise she made. "I want you to see the city.

She yawned. "The city is boooring."

"It wouldn't be if you got to know it better. There are good people."

"And bad people. I know, I know...

They walked in companionable quiet for a moment more as Yang stubbornly worked to smooth the kinks out of her hair. Naruto let her be, content to give her time to think. He wouldn't be around forever after all; it only made sense that he prepare her for the future. Not that he'd ever tell her that, of course. Yang would fly into a panic and that was the last thing he needed. So he settled for silence instead.

Eventually, it grew too large, even for him. "We can't use your mother's semblance for everything, yaknow."

"Can and will!" Yang stomped a foot and held up her arms. "M'tired. Carry me."

A blond brow rose. "What's the magic word?

"Please?"

"Alright." He swept her up into his arms and tickled her briefly, drawing a giggle from her before she could fend him off. "Happy now?"

"Yes!" she thrust a finger forward, jabbing at their home in the distance. "Forward, noble steed! Dinner awaits!"

He was all too happy to do so, idly listening with one ear as she went back to babbling.

-and Mom's semblance is awesome! I wish I had one like that!"

"You can literally control the weather."

"But she can teleport. That's wiiiiiiiiicked!"

He chortled softly. "And your friend Neptune can control water. Everyone's different."

She huffed. "Don't like Neptune. He's a dork."

Good. She was much too young to be interested in boys!

"I'm sorry to hear that." He wasn't at all. "I'm sure you'll find other friends here in Mistral."

She turned a megawatt grin upon him. "But I like Blake and Illia! They're nice!

Urk.

"Adam seemed pretty cool, too. He showed me his sword."

Double urk!

"Like father, like daughter. She just haaaas to go for the harem route...

What's a harem, papa?

He flushed. "I'll tell you when you're older.

She remained undaunted. "Is that what you have with Mum and-

"Lalalala!" he planted both hands over her mouth. "We are not having this conversation!"

Yang wriggled free with a scowl. "But you started it!"

"And now I'm ending it!"

Despite his concern he fought himself caught somewhere between concern and parental pride. Whether she knew it or not, Yang had done more to win over Kali and Ghira than he ever could. Her very presence had served to cement his talking points and prove his trustworthiness to them. Still, to think he'd had that much impact on the faunus people as a whole...

"Did Kali give you their Scroll numbers?"

"Yeah!" Yang held up her phone with a triumphant smile. "I love them!"

He clicked his tongue at her. "You love lots of people."

"Like you?"

Triple urk.

...lets change the subject."

"M'kay." her head bobbed a bit too fast and he knew she'd been waiting for this. "Will I get to meet my other dad soon?"

Ouch.

Naruto fought down a flinch and forced himself to keep walking, idly dodging a cart of cabbages. Yang was so smart in some ways and yet so innocently naive in others. He honestly envied her that. Must be nice, seeing the wold through the eyes of a child. Everything was so much simpler.

"Soon." he muttered under his breath. "You'll get to see Taiyang soon.

He had to be honest with her, if only because he knew Taiyang would come crashing down on him like the fist of an angry god the second they met. He wouldn't be a proper father if he did anything less. He couldn't even bring himself to be angry about the impending battle; he'd probably do the same if someone spirited away one of his many children.

"How do you feel about meeting him?"

Yang fell silent for a long moment, idly scuffing a boot against the ground as they walked. I guess I'm kinda curious? Mum and Uncle Qrow told me loads about him and Auntie Summer, but I wanna see what they're like for myself."

Naruto winced despite himself. The was a confrontation he wasn't looking forward to. "Curiosity is all well and good in moderation, but I wouldn't get your hopes up."

"Awww...

He tussled her hair before she could fall into a pout. "Its alright to have questions, ya know."

"Mum's not leaving with my other dad is she?"

He scoffed aloud at that. "That broody bird? Not a chance."

Her hand tightened in his. ...you're not giving me away, are you?

Parental instincts kicked into overdrive. Give her up? After all he'd said and done to keep her safe? After what he'd sacrificed. What he'd become? He'd sooner lop off his arm.

"Never." he all but bit the word out. "I'd die before I let anyone take you away."

If her smirk was any indication, that anger seemed to please Yang for some reason. He wondered why.

"Hmm." She granted him a toothy grin and nodded once. Good. I like Mistral. All my stuff's here."

...stuff, she says." he rolled his eyes her way." you're definitely your Mother's daughter.

"That's a good thing, right?"

He made a noncommittal noise and waffled his hand in the air. "More or less."

Yang looked away, considering his words for a moment. "We're all family right, so we should get along. We're stronger together."

"Greedy little daughter of his. "You just want another father and mother."

"All the mothers!" she chirruped her agreement. "Like miss Mizu!"

"You do realize that woman wants to kill me."

"But you beat her already"

"Still an enemy, Yang.

His daughter shrugged. "Meh, enemies are just friends you haven't beaten up yet."

Naruto opened his mouth to refute her...and paused as he considered his track record. "Huh. That's one way of looking at it.

"Hehehe, what can I say? I'm smart."

More than she could possibly imagine. "You certainly are."

She grinned ads she never had before and her lilac eyes burned with a brief burst of violet flame.

"Careful," he chided her with a note of caution. "Don't let folks see that.

The little Maiden huffed, and the light dimmed in her gaze. "I won't."

He tousled her hair again. "That's my girl."

...hey, pops?"

"Hmm?"

She gripped onto his hand. "I'm glad you're my dad."

Parental pride coursed through him and he nearly choked on it. "Love you too, daughter of mine. Whaddya want for dinner tonight?"

Yang gave his words all the consideration they were due, which was to say none at all. "Pizza!"

"Sure, so long as you clear all the vegetables of your plate first."

She gagged and made a retching noise. "Boooo...

He laughed at that; was still laughing when a white cloak flashed across his vision.

Someone bumped into him, checking their shoulder against his.

Sorry, a woman's voice muttered.

He shrugged. "No, its fine.

Waitaminute.

In hindsight, he couldn't rightly say what set him off; was it her voice or the way she walked? She'd dropped something, a small item of some sort, and without thinking, he knelt to retrieve it.

Yang tensed. "Wait a sec-

An electric charge shot through his body as his hand grasped the device; every muscle locked down at once.

Naruto looked down in confusion and the world went up.

Quite literally; the street shot up under his feet, devastating his balance and catapulting him into the air. Dust, or a semblance that allowed them to manipulate matter?

Irrelevant. The attack had separated him from Yang and he could see her below, scrambling back from the woman in white, who seemed intent on grabbing her.

Something ugly twisted in his chest at the sight.

Shaking off his still tingling muscles He kicked off the air, caught a telephone pole and swung himself back down, aiming for them.

A shadow fell over him.

"Dad!"

Yang needn't have shouted; his sixth sense shrilled a warning and he swayed to the right as a baleful blue gauntlet dark as night smashed through the space where his head had been a moment prior to strike the street in a dazzling explosion. The ground didn't so much burst as it did rupture, sending fissures of dust arcing out in a baleful arc of destruction.

Right, don't get hit by that. Those might actually hurt.

Alighting upon a nearby rooftop, he whistled sharply for Yang; his daughter recognized the signal and launched herself up after him, narrowly escaping the woman in white and her grasping hands. When she sought to give chase and leap up after her, he delivered a vicious roundhouse to her cheek and flung her back down. Her companion stopped short, either unwilling or unable to give chase without checking on her safety. Fine by him; he would seize the reprieve while he could.

'What in blazes is this...? Who could be stuid enough to attack us in broad daylight?'

Taking a moment to catch his breath, his gaze raked over the dynamic duo at a glance, this brave blond brawler and his woman in white, no, she wore red beneath her cloak and her eyes shone silver. Her weapon looked to be some mad bled of an ax and a rifle and by the looks of her she knew how to use it. Huntress trained most likely, which meant the man beside her most certainly was. How annoying...

Yang whipped a nearby pot at them, causing the blond to bound backwards. "Leave my daddy alone!"

His words seemed to physically pain the man. "He's not yours!"

"Not my what?"

"Eaaaasy now." Naruto held up a hand and temporized, tryng for a smile. "There's no need for this to get messy. "Why don't we hash this out over a bowl of Ramen?"

The cloaked woman paused. "Honey, maybe we should listen...

The man did not; those wicked gauntlets on his arms spat steam as he adopted a ready stance. "There's nothing to talk about."

"I disagree." He called his staff back to his hand in a rush of black light and brought it about to ward them off. "We have a great deal to discuss. You two clearly aren't from around here, so allow me to simplify things for you. You've just attacked me, the Headmaster of Haven, Sovereign of Sanctum, Monster of Mistral, and my daughter in broad daylight. Now maybe things are different where you Vale folk come from, but here? We don't take kindly to that. So I'll say it again-

"You call yourself a Headmaster?!" The blond man went off on him suddenly, cutting him short with scathing fury. "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!" a lone tear rolled out his right eye and tumbled down his chin. "All with that damn smile on your face! I'm gonna make you pay for what you did!

Pay for what? He'd never met this man.

"Do you hear me?! Well?! SAY SOMETHING!"

Yang looked to him with a grimace and ducked behind his leg.

...please stop shouting." he dug a finger into his ear. "You're scaring Yang, and I don't even know who you people are."

Judging by the man's reaction, it was not the response he craved. "SAY THAT AGAIN! I DARE YOU!"

Realization dawned and his eyes widened. "...you're Taiyang, aren't you? I'm so sorry."

"Wait." Yang squinted at him, curious, only to scowl. "You're my other dad? Jerk!"

Too little, too late. Far, far too late. He felt the man's psyche snap.

"Yang!" he flung up an arm! "Get Back!"

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 as he planted his feet. "Am I any better than you? Of course not." he gripped his fist, drawing him in. "But I'm not any worse, am I? Would you have done the same if you were in my shoes?"

"Don't give me that!'

"Do you ever question it?" he ignored the man's fury and talked over him, teeth gritted." Why you believe in Ozpin? Why come after me 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."

"SHUT UP!"

"You'll have to make me, I'm afraid."

Something flickered in Naruto's peripheral vision.

It was his one and only warning; faster than he expected.

Taiyang's fist smashed into his face and barreled him into a building.

A/N: THE BRAWL BEGINS.

We'll call it here for now. 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, especially with the site glitched.

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)

He stood and dusted himself, grimacing in pain.

"Alright, that semblance is busted...


Yang, don't worry! I'll save you!

Save me...? She looked between them, baffled. Oh! You must be Auntie Summer! Hiiii! Are we playing a game?

How do you know me?

Uncle Qrow told me, of course!

Qrow's actually here?! Where is he? What have you done with him!?

Ah, his dear demented daughter. Always seeing the best in people.

Don't look at me like that..

Yang!" he whistled. "We're playing keep away!

She jumped backward. Summer might be a huntress, but he'd been training Yang from the moment she could walk. Perhaps had she actually been trying to hurt her, she might've succeeded. But she was too busy trying to catch her, capture her, contain her. Yeah, good luck with that. Yang hadn't even busted out the Maiden powers yet.


"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.


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.

You strike me as a rather sentimental man, headmaster. That's surprising, given what I know of you. Fortunately, I don't possess the capacity for that. I could never understand what comes from feeling that way except...weakness. Our queen feels much the same.

Our queen?

But of course.

Watts, was it? Ordinarily I'd say what you do is not my concern, the world is full of people like you. Perhaps in a perfect world, everything comes with a price. But this isn't a perfect world. People do bad things, and if you're lucky, you get a chance to set it right, but most of the times it goes unpunished. This isn't one of those times. You take one step toward me, or my family, and I'll kill you. The only disappointment for me in all this, is that I'll only get to do it once. What you say to me 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. "Don't you dare ignore me! 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...you're gonna wish I never came along...


"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. For your sake.


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...


EDIT: Viva la Reacher~!

By not telling me everything you know, you're protecting the people who want to kill my family. Which makes you an enemy of Haven, and by default, me.

I'm not gonna waste my time with enhanced interrogation techniques. I'm just gonna squeeze the life out of you.

So if at any point before you die you feel like fully unburdening yourself, blink.

They blinked, eyes bulging in their head.

I'm sorry, I didn't catch that.

They blinked harder.

One more time.


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...


Someone had dyed his hair orange. Orange! Did they have any idea how long that was gonna take to wash out?!

Neo cackled soundlessly.


Cinnabar heard the laughter.

She was poison.

She always had been, always was, always would be, for as long as she could remember. She couldn't be touched, couldn't draw near.

The door creaked open.

Stay back!

I don't want to dirty anything more than I already have. I don't want to be seen. It's shameful. I don't want to fight...then you won't have to.

"What do you know?!" she glared at him. Someone like you, beloved by all they couldn't possibly now what it feels like to be lonely.

Honestly, he tuted softly like an amused parent. Everyone's making this mistake. Its your semblance. You control it. Not the other way around.

Don't doubt yourself. Doubt kills. That's who are you, who you've always been, who you always will be. Sometimes we make the wrong choices to get to the right place.

No! I'm poisonous! You can't touch me-

You can't possibly adopt everyone.

I am running effectively running two academies in Mistral. Sanctum, where children learn what it is to be a Hunter and Haven where they BECOME Hunters.

Is this going somewhere?

The point, dear girl, is that I consider each of them my children. You're hardly the most difficult case that's come to me. I know someone who sprouts claws from his knuckles, a girl capable of wiping minds, and a boy who literally cannot open his eyes without incinerating someone. Then there's this rather surly gargoyle girl -fairly certain she's a faunus- who seems convinced that I'm out to kill her, to say nothing another student with six arms who enjoys kicking temari balls around. Oh, and my daughter flings lightning bolts when she's angry.

Her head was spinning. "And your point...?

"My point is, a bit of poison won't bother me.

She hiccuped once.

She melted into him.

Cinnabar.

Cinna, then. He patted her head. "Welcome to Sanctum."


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.

EDIT: Hey, thanks for reading!

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

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Hope you have a great day~!

R&R~!