A/N:...hey. Not a lot of feedback with the email notifications broken again. That's a spirit breaker...T_T

Bit of an interlude chapter this time around; because I can't get any sleep. I'll try to update twice this week to make up for it. My blasted sister, who I am currently caring for, keeps waking me up again and again, messing up my sleep schedule. Result? I sleep until RIGHT BEFORE WORK, meaning less and less time to write!

*weeps in frustration*

I'm preparing a bunch of Elden Ring and GOT updates, given what's right around the corner, but this chapter fought me tooth and nail; in part because there's so much going on. Ideally, Foxfire will be updated this week, now that we've got an idea of what Season 2 looks like. Doozy of an episode, that.

So bloody busy these days, but I finally seem to be shaking off the lingering effects of long Covid -lungs are getting better- but car costs are still skyrocketing, to say nothing of taking care of my sister, who, I've now been told, can't back to work until sometime in July.

Meaning all the bills fall to me. Because of course they do. I hate being the oldest sometimes...

Still, here we go. More than THIRTEEN chapters for this story in TWO MONTHS. 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. You all know that well~! Now that we've gotten all those words out the way...Let's begin~!

The myriad misunderstandings between characters remain GLORIOUS as ever.

"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 daughters alone. Call it a day. For your sake.

~A Legend.

Brace the Girls

The news broke soon thereafter.

In truth, the ensuing fallout was both less and more than Naruto hoped for; more, in that much of Mistral was quick to rally around him. Most were currently singing his praises to high heaven while denouncing the two heinous "criminals" that dared to assault him. Of course it helped that he had several witnesses to the fact; work was already underway to repair and rebuild that poor Dust Shop among the other buildings Taiyang had wrecked during his attack.

Young Ororo Monroe and her family were also quick to speak out in defense of him and his promise to rebuild their admittedly humble home, which only further endeared him towards the already smitten populace. For if people loved children, then they adored the children of Huntsmen and Huntresses even moreso, as well as all those who aspired to become such...

.

..

...unfortunately, that left the city howling for the heads of those who inflicted the damage in the first place.

So, yes, therein lie the rub, as it were.

Before he'd fought Taiyang and Summer, Naruto might've just given the people said heads and called it a day. Now?

Not a chance he knew Yang would never forgive him if he let her kin die. Certainly not Ruby.

So he did what he did best; he talked and made people listen.

In the three days that followed, he wasn't given any time to relax as he might've liked; it was one meeting after another, constant interviews, a veritable media blitz that focused firmly on the circumstances of their attack and mitigating the damage that followed. He ate, he slept, he won the hearts and minds of his people... and he made damn sure Summer and Taiyang didn't leave the cellar and shove their foots in their mouths.

While refusing to answer any and all calls from Ozpin, of course.

He expected a visit from the Old Wizard, and soon.

But that was another battle for another day.

Come the end of it, Vale's reputation took a heavy hit. That couldn't be helped and frankly, he didn't give a flying fig about that kingdom.

Nor could he get Summer and Tai off scott-free. It just wasn't possible. They'd attacked him in in broad daylight and destroyed a business. There was no prettying that up. They had to be punished.

Summer was easy to negotiate for, she hadn't done any real damage to him and while she had tried to take Yang, Raven fought her off admirably.

Heh. Poor birdie had fans of her own crooning over her for that; she didn't much like the spotlight.

Taiyang...was another matter.

He'd broken buildings, sundered streets, destroyed a dust shop and gone on a rampage. There fines for that, and then there were FINES. Even now, he winced just thinking of the number. Tai was a seasoned Huntsman with many a mission under his belt, and he could probably pay that off in time, but it was still a lot.

In the end after much negotiating -and a few pointed arguments toward Mistral's inept Council- he convinced the courts to remand them into Haven's custody.

Which made them his problem; they would be confined to the kingdom of Mistral for a probationary period of no less than five years, or until such a time as Taiyang paid off his debt. Were they to act out or deliberately harm any innocents in that time, the full weight of their sentence would come crashing down on their heads.

Twenty five years.

A fourth of their lives, gone, just like that, if they made even the slightest mistake.

Which brought him to his present predicament, the bane of all Headmasters everywhere...

.

..

...paperwork.

"There." he whisked his pen furiously across one last form, leaving a rough signature behind in its wake. "That's the last paper signed and sorted." pushing the paper away as far away from him as possible, he slumped in his chair with a relieved sigh. "Case closed."

Vanessa leaned over his shoulder and planted her chin there, idly pressing her cheek to his as she cuddled close. "Everything seems to be in order...you did well."

"Doesn't feel like it." He sank into his seat with a sigh and gave his desk a kick.

"Being good seldom does." she delivered a swift peck to his cheek.

...whatever you say." Waving his hand, he conjured a pair of shadow clones and handed off the documents in question for them to be double checked.

Vanessa leaned into him as the doppelgangers did their work, pressing the full of her body against his back. Her arms looped lazily around his chest, holding him in place as she snuggled closer. This close the scent of her perfume washed over him a strange heady thing of coconuts and cinnamon. His heart skipped half a beat despite himself and unbidden, he found himself easing into her.

"That was a wonderful thing you did, sparing them." her breath ghost against his neck, sending a hot flush racing down his spine. "Yang will be sure to thank you for it."

"If you say so." He looked to the window and mumbled into his palm. "Sun's nearly down again. Being in charge sucks...

"I wouldn't be so certain," she leaned closer, crooning softly. "There are certain perks to the job, after all...

A blond brow rose her way. "Such as?"

Vanessa Nikos hummed at him.

It was his only warning.

He was still trying to figure out what in blazes Pyrrha's mother was up to when she took the initiative; surprising even him. His thoughts piqued into a surprised grunt as she vaulted over him -so damn limber!- and planted herself in his lap, spreading her legs on either side of him to pin him in place, once more.

Atten-SHUN!

He had time enough to perk up before the ravishing redhead began kissing his throat, then his chin, followed by his cheek now before she finally lost her patience and took ahold of his face to steer his mouth to hers. There was no chance to protest; not that he wanted to; her lips found his in a fiery kiss that left him breathless, fingers trailing lines down his jawline, and his neck, followed by his chest as she loosened the tie there...

Not one to be outdone, he grabbed her by the rear in retaliation, dragging her closer.

She made a pleased noise and smashed her bosom against his chest in response, biting down on his lip hard enough to bruise, drawing a growl from him.

"There you are." Vanessa broke the kiss for air and leaned back at last, face flushed, cheeks dimpling in a smile as his fingers dug into her. "I like it when you let that smile of yours slip."

He snorted and reached up, tugging her hair from its braid. "And I like you better with your hair down."

Green eyes sparkled. "Then you'll love this...

As he looked Vanessa ground her hips against his ever so briefly and began unbuttoning her blouse, exposing a tantalizing glimpse of the bountiful valleys within. He glimpsed a scrap of scarlet fabric within as her fingers found the third button and his throat went dry.

Red lace, his dazed mind supplied helpfully.

Alas, his tongue wasn't half as loyal. "We really shouldn't do this here...

..that's half the fun." she winked his way and shucked her blouse entirely, sending the pale garment fluttering to the floor. "Its late and we're the only ones here this evening. Which means you're all mine, and I can finally do this..."

There was a spark of something set between her breasts, tucked into her bra. He noticed it a split second before she acted.

Vanessa slid out of his lap with sinful grace, leaving him high and dry as she dropped down to a knee.

From there, she held out a hand, revealing the item in question.

Several things happened at once.

First, Naruto finally noticed what Vanessa was holding; not a weapon or any such, she wasn't the sneaky sort. She'd always been too blunt for that. Second, he realized she was holding out said item towards him, which in turn allowed him to get a very good look at said item in question. And third...

A ring.

Vanessa was holding a ring.

But not just any ring, no, no, no.

Really, it was very nice ring at that, dare he say beautiful? Seemingly a simple gold band at glance revealed it as embossed with a leaflike design leading up to a brilliant rose red ruby at the center, bright as Vanessa's own hair. There was an inscription beneath the gem itself but he couldn't quite see it at this angle...

And she was offering it to him.

"I've never been one for beating around the bush," Vanessa Nikos tilted her head, a faint flush creeping up her pale face. "So...marry me?"

Kurama whistled softly. "Damn."

Naruto's heart damn near stopped.

His jaw opened. Closed. Opened again. "I have...several questions."

"If you're worried about the other girls, don't be. I know for a fact that Raven and Ann and Willow have surprises of their own planned, but since I'm the latecomer, I wanted to be first. Sooo..." A rare, sheepish expression flashed across her face. "Surprise...?"

Raven would be furious that Vanessa beat her to the punch. So would Ann and Willow.

"I don't even have a ring for you!"

She shrugged. "We can work on that. Your answer is all that matters."

He could hear her heart beating, a benefit of his superior senses. She was terrified of his answer.

And he kept thinking of how sad little Pyrrha would be if he said no.

"Did you even have to ask?"

Vanessa's face fell.

He took the ring from her and slid it onto his finger. "My answer is yes."

Vanessa froze. Blinked. Twice, now.

Then she leaped into his lap with a delighted cry and kissed him fiercely.

As if summoned by that very action, someone knocked heavily on the twin doors leading to his office.

Vanessa absolutely hissed.

One really should know better than to tempt fate.

Her voice fell to an annoyed whisper. "Maybe if we keep quiet they'll ago away...

The knocking intensified.

Vanessa kissed him again. "Ignore it."

He did and another knock came, harder than the last.

Exasperated, his secretary drew herself up out of his lap, buttoned her blouse, and adjusted her hair with a snarl leaving him aching for more. It took a physical act of will on his part to stand after her. Adjusting his tie, he ran a hand through his hair quickly, following in her wake.

"We're coming! Hold your horses!"

Just like that, knocking on door ceased.

Vanessa held a hand and pressed a finger to her lips.

Naruto stilled beside her, idly conjuring his staff to his right hand.

She flicked said finger his way. The gesture was abundantly clear. On three.

He counted and swung the door open...

.

..

...not an enemy. On the contrary.

"Mr and Mrs Belladona." he blinked, genuinely surprised to find Blake's parents at his door, much to his and Vanessa's annoyance. "To what do I owe the pleasure?

No, not pleasure. Their terrified, stricken faces rooted him where he stood. He could feel the fear rising from their very souls.

"What's wrong?" he looked to each of them, baffled, and reluctantly ushered them in. "Did something happen?

Kali was the one to find her voice first. He would soon wish that she hadn't. "Blake! Adam! Illia!"

He didn't have a chance to ask what she mant.

Ghira seized him by the shoulders.

"Someone took them!"


(.0.0.0.)


A burning brand hovered inches from Blake's face.

She had an awful view of it, bound in the chair as she was, unable to look away as the searing metal inched closer.

The little Belladona reared back in her chair with a hiss, struggling to put as much distance between her and it.

Eyes wide, heart hammering in her chest, it was all she could do not to cry.

Who was this man? Why was this happening to her?

What had she done wrong?

"Terrible bit of business, this." her captor, a mustachioed man with a lilting accent, heaved a sigh. "I do so dislike getting my hands dirty and honestly; I abhor violence on principle. I'm a doctor, a scientist, not a warrior." Tutting softly at the sound she made, he dared to pat her head, idly squashing her ears. "But sometimes, if one wants something done right, you must do it yourself. Now then...

Tears welled up in her eyes as her kidnapper unbound the gag in her mouth and handed off the brand to one of his thugs.

They raised it high, their message clear. Defiance would only result in pain.

The "doctor" smiled at her. "Will you be a good girl, answer my questions, tell me what I need to know...

He waved a hand and the man brought the brand closer.

In it, she could see the cherry red letters carved within.

She knew them all too well. The S.D.C.

...or must we make this painful...?"

She ignored him, mind whirring. This man clearly wasn't with the S.D.C. now, was he? This was a trick. A ruse. An awful feeling welled up in her heart.

Across the room, Adam howled furiously into his gag as Illia wept into her own.

She had to be strong. Not just for herself, but them.

They'd taken her to hurt momy

Steeling herself, she looked her captor in the eye. "He'll stop you. He'll come for us. For me."

"Your new Headmaster?" The man-with-the-mustache smiled. It was not a nice smile. "My dear, I am counting on it."

Her heart sank into her stomach. A trap, then. They were the bait.

Blake closed her eyes and prayed for strength.

A/N: The plot thickens!

But if Blake and the kids were taken, that means she might...oh. Oh no, no, no...

That said, would you like another early update this week? By that, I mean Friday or Saturday hopefully. Perhaps even earlier?

Do let me know; feedback is important, especially with the app and site occassionally glitching out, I really need to hear from you here, give the site issues.

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)

The door crashed open.

We have you surrounded!

All I am surrounded by is fear...AND DEAD MEN."


"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.


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...


"You keep…calling me the good guy."

"I'm not the good guy."

"I'm the bad guy!"


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 (Live Action Version on Netlix) 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...


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."


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!

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

Hope you have a great day~!

R&R~!