Well, hello there!

I'm Deferonz, and this is to be my first story in the RWBY fandom, despite the fact that I have been a member of it for about nine years (and have been writing fanfiction for like 4 years, so really, I have no actual excuse for not doing this sooner).

As you might have been able to gather from the synopsis, this story is a tad bit weird.

So I'll cut right to the chase. This is, somehow, not a crack fic. It will take itself seriously and will, again, somehow, have an actual plot with actual character growth. It will have romance, as you may be able to tell already given the summary. It will also attempt to be humorous (hopefully it will succeed).

This results in a rather unholy trifecta I like to call the Romantic Dramedy.

…And if that didn't make you close the window at maximum speed, then welcome aboard! Without further ado!

Paved with Bad Intentions

Chapter 1

Cinder Fall considered herself to be a rather powerful woman.

This was not at all a secret, or something she tried to keep under wraps. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Cinder relished just about every opportunity she had to show off that hard-earned strength, the ability that she'd cultivated over the years in order to become the most powerful person on Remnant.

She was rather close to her goal already; easily the third strongest on their miserable little rock. Surely, her mistress, Salem, was perhaps more powerful, and in a grand sense, Ozma, her mistress' ex-husband – that was vastly oversimplifying things, but it would work for now – could probably outmaneuver her.

…Well, she meant over the course of a century, of course. In his current incarnation, as Ozpin? That bastard had grown old and far too comfortable. It was not at all arrogance to believe she could flay the man's flesh from his bones. So, really, didn't that make her the second most powerful person on Remnant? The thought brought some warmth to her breast, and she let out a haughty breath as she mentally applauded herself.

And truly, Salem didn't really count as a person, did she? Sure, she'd been a person, once, but at this point, she had to be mostly Grimm, right? Didn't that, by technicality, make Cinder the strongest person on Remnant?

Yes, she was liking this line of thinking more and more by the minute!

Actually, I will admit I became somewhat distracted complimenting myself… what was I doing?

A glowing, purple mass of rock and stone rocketed towards her, and Cinder had just enough time to remember that she'd been rescuing Roman Torchwick from a botched Dust robbery of all things before the bullhead she was in wrenched violently to one side, nearly causing her to topple forwards.

Ah, yes. Work.

The telekinetically guided material ricocheted off the side, pinging off of it with a series of metallic bangs. Cinder reassessed the situation as Roman righted their vehicle once more, and she got her first good look at her opponent.

She was older than Cinder, that much was for sure. Platinum blonde hair was drawn up in a bun behind her head, while curled ringlets ran down one side of her face. She wore a pair of glasses that framed her sharp expression well, giving her a rather dangerous edge. It was nowhere near Cinder's own, but she could respect the attempt, at least. Her outfit seemed determined to draw the eye, what with the window of cleavage and short skirt, though the – she hesitated to use the word 'cape' given how spindly the thing looked, but cape would have to do – betrayed the fact that she was clearly more than capable of holding her own against anyone who might get any ideas about either.

The riding crop in one hand seemed to be her weapon of choice, and as it shifted, so too did the hovering pieces of the rooftop Roman had previously been rescued from.

That woman… there was something about the way those eyes locked onto hers, something about the way the green orbs within narrowed as she wound up for another attack. Cinder found herself drawn in as she flared her power to counter the woman's effort, melting away the bits of stone that her adversary had used to attack them.

She conjured forth a few more glyphs on the ground below, forcing the blonde woman to throw her quarry forward, and dash backwards herself. In that moment, she tapped her hand against the wall that led towards the cockpit, giving Roman the go-ahead to leave.

"Don't have to tell me twice!"

Even still, as they pulled away, and the bullhead door began to shut, Cinder's eyes never once left the figure below her.

Something… there was just something about her.

There was a faint stirring within her breast, almost like…

Cinder shook her head, dismissing it as nothing more than the lingering heat of battle as she settled into a seat, and allowed Roman to ferry them both back to base.

Roman's fist slammed into the warehouse door, causing a rattling noise that had some of their White Fang friend's peeking up from their assigned tasks. None saw fit to continue peeking when it became clear just who had entered.

"That was Glynda fucking Goodwitch!" Roman swore, shaking his head frustratedly as he removed his bowler hat and ruffled his hair. "Gods dammit. Y'know, Cindy, I really wasn't looking for this kind of attention!"

She chose to ignore the nickname, understanding it merely as the last remnants of stress that Roman must've been under from that narrow escape earlier. And it had been narrow, for her to need to be called in.

Still, the fact that she had been forced to bother at all when she was supposed to be enjoying a quiet evening. Well…

He could stand to squirm a little for that.

"You would've had it regardless in due time, dear Roman." She teased as his eyes drew down to her, and he wisely closed his lips before he could say anything that would agitate her. He may've been a mere pawn in the game that was to come, but she could credit intelligence where it was due. "Think of this as motivation to acquire the rest of the dust that we'll need in short order."

"Yeah…" He brought out a cigar, likely to calm his frayed nerves, and gave a single puff before continuing. "I suppose I'll do that."

He knew better than to talk back to her. The one time he'd tried, well…

A few of his men had suffered for his indignance.

Roman was a quick learner. He hadn't needed to learn his lesson twice.

Regardless, Cinder really hadn't intended on working that evening, and she was no more willing to start now than she'd been a few hours prior.

"I will leave you to it, Roman. I trust I am no longer needed?"

No matter the man's real feelings, he had only one answer.

"Yeah. You…" Roman looked like he'd have rather been mutilated than continue, but once more, self-preservation won out over pride. "You have my thanks. For getting me out of there."

"Hmm." She hummed contentedly; eyes lidded. "Why, you're very welcome."

Oh, she knew his thanks was fake. Only to placate any possible retribution. But watching him have to grovel like that before her? Because he knew he had no other choice but to bow?

The rush Cinder felt never failed to invigorate her.

As she stepped away, she spared the briefest moment to take in her surroundings. The warehouse was abuzz with activity, lending in large part to just how busy Roman and Adam's White Fang were and would continue to be. Stealing enough dust for what they had in mind was neither a quick, nor easy task.

They would get it done anyhow, and sooner rather than later if they knew what was good for them. Because at the end of the day, what Cinder Fall wanted…

Cinder Fall got.

The warehouse would not serve her needs now, however, and so Cinder decided to retreat to her own abode for the evening, a quaint apartment that had been rented out under a pseudonym. It was already paid off for a good six months into the future, insurance in case any parts of their plans were to hit a snag. Still, her funds were generous, and having a place away from Roman's little gang was important.

She wouldn't have wanted to have to replace any of them if they tried anything untoward.

She waved hello to the attendee at the help desk, chatting for a minute or two with her about the recent weather, and her opinions on the small uptick in crime in the area (it helped, she'd learned early on, to have one's false character be as inconspicuous as possible, and thusly, she played the part of a young adult, who had nothing at all to hide) before taking an elevator up to her floor.

Her personal room was remarkably bare, a single room apartment with a small bathroom. It contained the amenities one needed to survive, and little else. It certainly seemed more befitting a struggling college student than a masterminded maven, but she supposed in this case that subtlety best suited her purposes. This way, she was completely and utterly unremarkable.

Even if, rather self-explanatorily, that lent to her nights being completely and utterly unremarkable.

They would become far, far more so in time. She reminded herself of such things over and over again as she planned and counter-planned for every little piece and part of her grand scheme, growing tired of debating the same contingencies. There was only so many occasions she could account for the Vale Council's pride potentially preventing Ironwood's intervention into the Vytal festival, for example, before she wanted to drive one of her blades into the wall and carve out a large chunk of it.

What else was there to do, however? Cinder had no hobbies, she did not go out and cavort with the lambs who roamed the outside streets, nor did she wish to associate with anyone so filthy as Torchwick or his goons. And she especially wasn't interested in any such carnal fantasy as indulging herself, or any others.

And yet, telling herself that did not prevent the truth from bubbling up.

She, Cinder Fall, prime servant of Salem, and coveter of the world…

Was bored.

And so it was that she found herself not scheming, nor planning, nor doing anything of note whatsoever, but instead thinking.

Thinking on that feeling that'd run through her earlier at the sight of the Huntress who'd assailed them. At the way the woman's verdant eyes had connected with her own, even shrouded in the dark of the bullheads interior as Cinder had been. How the contact had caused her heart to beat, her body to heat up…

The woman had presence, that much she could not deny. Yet Cinder could not, for the life of her, understand just what that feeling earlier had been. What exactly it was that'd coursed through her veins.

Which meant…

Glynda Goodwitch, then?

It was time to figure it out.

Normally, this was the kind of task Cinder would've left with Emerald – not Mercury, she was fairly certain the boy hadn't been taught to read – given that looking up information about potential enemies was useful, yes, but not enough for her to waste time on it. Still, in this particular case…

There was something about her. This Glynda Goodwitch.

Cinder didn't know what the faint stirrings within her were, but she knew trouble when it reared its putrid head.

And this felt like trouble.

No, despite the indignity of it all, Cinder Fall would be doing her own research tonight.

Research had been far easier than Cinder had expected.

Barely ten minutes of faffing about with her scroll looking up information, and she'd acquired nearly everything she needed to paint a picture of who she was dealing with.

Glynda Goodwitch, thirty-three years old. Deputy headmistress at Beacon Academy. Decorated huntress who turned teacher after apparently finding her calling. A dedicated, hardworking disciplinarian who, despite a rough outer shell, undeniably wanted the best for all her students.

Most importantly, however…

Right hand to headmaster Ozpin.

The information should've meant more to her, honestly. She'd fought against a woman who was almost certainly a part of Ozma's current inner circle. That information would go back to him, and thusly, information about her would circulate throughout the entirety of his sphere of influence.

But for some reason, she focused instead on the picture of the woman there.

On platinum blonde hair. On verdant green eyes. On the way her glasses made her look refined in an almost unapproachable way. On the way her top gave a rather pertinent view at just what lied beneath.

Cinder's heart beat faster.

…She had no idea what that was about, but it was certainly something.

Hm… perhaps my instincts are reacting to a threat that my mind cannot yet sense. Cinder rationalized, stroking her chin with one hand absently. It is a shame to simply ignore such a warning… unless…

Cinder Fall was many things. A murderer, for one, which was usually the only thing people cared about on the list for some reason. But she was also pragmatic, and realistic. Very few things drew a reaction out of her. And the things that did?

They were worth paying attention to.

The beginnings of a change in her plan formed almost instantly, one that would account for this new, unforeseen variable. Cinder Fall had not become as refined, as intelligent, or as dangerous as she currently was without being both ready and willing to adapt to that which came her way.

…And though she'd never admit it, the boredom she'd been dealing with likely factored in, too.

Emerald and Mercury would, for the moment, still be at Haven, establishing enough of a cover through osmosis that, come time for the festival, the four of them would have a potent alibi with the population, one not just acquired through Lionheart's word.

…But really, that wasn't so important. Lionheart's word would likely be good enough, and, well… they wouldn't need a cover at all if they weren't in Haven.

Surely, some things would move forward more quickly than previously foreseen, but that was not necessarily a bad thing. If she could adjust to that, she could even have it work in her favor, creating a new cover for herself and her followers that would be almost as, if not more airtight than their original, whilst still allowing them to act out of Vale if needed.

Of course, they would be somewhat limited, but no advantage came without sacrifice of some kind.

Cinder found herself humming as she allowed the minutes to tick by. What had been a mere thought just a half hour prior was now a complete addendum, fully taken shape. She'd convinced herself, which was the hardest part of this little change, and now she had the less than stellar honor of convincing someone else…

Namely, Salem.

Convincing Salem had, also, been far easier than Cinder had expected, and perhaps that should've been the first sign that somehow, someway, something was going to go very, very awry.

"I trust in your judgement, Cinder." Salem's voice betrayed nothing, not pride or trust, nor cynicism or suspicion. "If you feel the choice you are making is justified, then I believe it to be so. If you require aid, ask, and it shall be provided."

She would not, and the woman offering knew it. Cinder did not consider her ego a weakness, far from it, it was one of the many things that kept her strong, but she knew that Salem did. Even if the woman approved of her, well…

She always took the chance to needle where she could.

It would've annoyed Cinder more were it not completely necessary that she put up with it. As it were, she'd adjusted to her mistress' tendencies long, long ago.

"Thank you, Mistress. I shall not fail you."

"See to it that you do not. Yours is to be the first step on our grand plan. Already has our plan been delayed. It shall not be again."

Everything rides on you. Salem did not say but was heard regardless. Fail me, and your place in said plan is void.

Cinder also got the feeling that Salem didn't particularly care if she failed. After all, Cinder had already failed to obtain the Fall Maiden's power once. She'd gotten a piece, but that wasn't good enough, not for either of them. If she didn't succeed now… then Salem would find another who desired power as she did. Simply put, if Cinder thought a risk worth taking, then Salem didn't care enough to stop her.

"I understand. I shall report back to you when possible."

The eldritch woman hummed as the seer before her disengaged contact. With a quiet breath, Cinder allowed her posture to slip slightly, but only slightly, as she stood from where she'd been kneeling within the small tub of her bathroom.

Some people might've thought her shower an inconvenient place to store a live Grimm, but then again, some people likely didn't understand how difficult remaining in contact with the Queen of the Grimm was when traditional scrolls didn't quite reach the Grimmlands. Nor, likely, did those same people understand how difficult it was to hide a live Grimm within Vale.

No, as irritating as relocating the blasted thing every morning whenever she wanted to so much as bathe could be, it beat having to trek out beyond the walls anytime she wished to contact her mistress.

Such thought could be pushed to the back of her mind for now. Instead, she cleared her throat, drew the shower curtain back into place to conceal the tentacled-beast, and moved back into her main room. She wasted no time in reaching down towards her scroll.

Five rings later, and a half-confident, half-confused voice echoed out of it.

"Ma'am." Emerald's voice sounded almost worried from the scroll she held to her ear. "Is something the matter? I thought you didn't wish for us to contact you until later this week."

"No need to worry, Emerald. Nothing untoward has occurred. Something has happened, and because of that… I have decided that our plans are changing. I have received my mistress' word as well."

Emerald let out a small breath, seemingly out of surprise, and that was due to the fact that Cinder rarely brought Salem up in conversation. Neither of her minions had ever so much as seen the immortal woman, and that would likely remain true until their plans for Vale had concluded. Still, they knew that if Cinder bowed to anyone, then they were worthy of their respect, if not their fear.

She was pleased her servants were intelligent enough to recognize that of their own accord.

"I understand, ma'am." Emerald claimed, despite the fact that she likely didn't. "Is there anything you need from us?"

"Yes. You may expect me sometime in the coming days. We will be having a… chat with Lionheart about my newest addendum."

"Oh? If you don't mind my asking, ma'am, just what will you be asking of him this time?"

She smiled, even as a part of her reminded Cinder that she should rebuke her minion for daring to try and read into her intent. She pushed away such concerns, however. Emerald required a more… delicate touch. Far easier to sway not with jabs and discipline, but with soothing words and affirming hints.

"Tell me, dear Emerald…" A small, self-satisfied smirk came languidly to her lips. "Has Beacon's term started yet?"

"So, you'll do it?"

"I shall, o-of course, I shall!"

Leonardo Lionheart, once famed for his vim and vigor, his courage to inspire all around him, enough so to gain the trust of even Ozma himself, looked almost broken as he gestured to the monitor he'd swung around to face them.

"I've contacted Ozpin. Obviously, if he denies it, I won't be able to do much, but he owes me a few favors. I'm sur– confident he won't."

"You needn't pressure the poor headmaster so much, Emerald," Cinder placed her hand upon her agent's shoulder, drawing the woman back a step with a coy smile. "I'm sure Leonardo is doing his very best for our sakes, am I correct?"

"Y-Yes, yes!" The man practically shouted, before coughing into one fist at his own outburst. "I… I will see it done. You have my word. There may be some complications about when you shall arrive, as going in before Beacon's own classes have begun would seem… well, overly ambitious, perhaps?" The man winced at having to question her at all, and she internally savored that timidity. "I feel you should wait a week or two, simply to avoid any unpleasant inquiries."

"I shall trust in your discretion, then."

She placed the onus of the decision on Lionheart, once more feeling bubbly at the way the man seemed to shrink in her presence. Truly, Leonardo was one of her more favorite people to interact with, because of how easy it was to manipulate him into whatever it was she wanted. He had the countenance of a Huntsman, but the spine of a rat.

And unlike one, even whilst cornered, with his entire Kingdom constantly ground into dust beneath Salem's heel, he did not even try and lash out. No, defeated, he merely allowed himself and his people to die a slow, agonizing death, content that at least he might be last to face oblivion.

Truly, she could not think of a more wretched, shriveling, pathetic excuse for a being than Leonardo Lionheart.

And Cinder just adored the man for that.

"We shall take up no more of your time this evening, headmaster. See to it that you've sent the details of your conversation with Ozpin to myself later tonight, understood?"

"Y-Yes!" Lionheart, with what seemed to be a shred of the man he'd once been still lingering within his breast, couldn't seem to meet her eyes as he spoke.

"It…" And then that shred, too, withered away, replaced only by a broken man. "It will be done as you say, my lady."

She could've purred.

The bullhead shook ever so slightly as a minor bat of turbulence hit. None of its occupants cared a lick for such a thing, either too focused on their upcoming 'mission', as it were, or otherwise indisposed.

The latter was mostly Neopolitan, who Cinder realized, almost astonishedly, had fallen asleep.

That girl was an agent of chaos at the best of times, and the fact that Roman Torchwick of all people had managed to bring the seemingly feral creature to heel was a truth that grew no less baffling the more Cinder interacted with the diminutive woman.

Neopolitan had pointedly not been pleased with having to fly to Mistral just to fly back to Vale to establish their cover, but given she'd had little choice in the matter, the girl had instead grumbled voicelessly. As it was, any manner of protest she'd originally put forth had faded away, and she now seemed determined to sleep through every hour of travel instead.

Cinder couldn't really find it in herself to think much on the girl's 'plight', given she'd had to do the very same, admittedly with a week or so in between trips.

Still, Cinder considered herself fearless, but even she would not be foolish enough to sleep amongst those whom she could at best be considered collaborators with. It was half the reason she'd gotten an apartment for herself in the first place when she'd been bringing Torchwick and the White Fang to heel.

Did the fact that Neopolitan thought not of such things make her more fearless even than Cinder, or simply too much of an idiot to consider the risks?

No sooner had that internal question been asked than Neopolitan jolted awake, looked around, catalogued the fact that she was still onboard a Bullhead, picked her nose with her pinky finger, swatted the booger she'd dug out away, and then fell back asleep in the span of roughly seven seconds.

Emerald just stared.

Mercury snorted.

Idiocy it is.

The pilot came on over the intercom to inform them that they would be touching down at their destination within the next few minutes, and each of them did their best to ready themselves for what had, up until recently, been an event only to consider on the horizon at the soonest.

Now, they were staring it in the face.

From outside the small window beside her, Cinder could make out the tall spires of Beacon Academy shining brilliantly atop the cliff it rested upon. The lights from inside illuminated it against the backdrop of the dark, starry sky, and the viridescent green glow that shone from the tallest tower drew Cinder's gaze.

There was power, there. It would not have been Ozma's cradle without housing such, but she couldn't help but feel there was something more to that as well.

Such thoughts can wait for later. Cinder remarked mentally as their bullhead rumbled softly, touching down after a few hour-long flight from Mistral.

For now, they had to make themselves known.

And, she supposed, make a good impression.

The bullhead doors opened, and she and her 'team' stepped out into the crisp night air. It was caught between summer and fall currently, which meant that while the evening breeze was cool, the temperature never dropped into ranges that would require an extra layer.

Speaking of layers, she herself had decided to wear what would be her standard combat outfit whilst at Beacon. The red dress she normally wore was just a bit too recognizable, and so she'd foregone it entirely to pick something that seemed more at home with the martial fighter she was pretending to be.

A leather vest overtop a few layers of cloth wrapping, alongside a shoulder guard and fingerless gloves, with some jean-like pants and high-heeled boots. One might think trying to move around and fight with high heels on would be a problem, but then, 'one' also probably hadn't been kicked in the face with a stiletto.

The offensive capabilities spoke for themselves, even if it came at the sacrifice of some practicality.

Everyone else was wearing their normal combat attire, aside from Neo, who'd shifted away from her normal appearance and into her 'Mint' persona thanks to her illusions. A frilly black top that cut off to show some of her belly, before ending in a rather short skirt. She doubted Neo cared about modesty. She had her hair tied into black pigtails, and her eyes were a bright green. It would be her default appearance during their stay at Beacon, though she would be dying her hair and changing her actual outfit for the majority of it, given that even for her, it seemed keeping an illusion going at all times would begin to tax.

Cinder snapped back into reality as two figures stepped up to greet them at the landing area. Each drew her attention in their own ways. The first was Ozma's current incarnation, the headmaster of Beacon Academy. He stood resolutely, radiating a sort of peaceful calm. Cinder wanted nothing more than to sneer but held herself back from making any overt gestures.

And the second, the object of the unknown feeling that had drawn her here, was the deputy headmistress of the academy, Glynda Goodwitch herself.

She looked much the same as she had a few weeks ago, when they'd fought atop that building in Vale, though her expression was far lighter. Other than that, Cinder didn't have the time to identify anything else about her before the two new arrivals were upon them.

"It is wonderful to meet you all, Team Chamomile." Ozma, or Cinder supposed she should get used to calling him Ozpin even mentally, lest she suffer an unfortunate slip of the tongue, greeted warmly. "Welcome to Beacon Academy. I hope your flight over was enjoyable?"

"It was." She answered the man with a smile of her own, her eyes closing to give off a serene ambiance. "Headmaster Lionheart wished to thank you once more for accepting his offer." Cinder bit down on the immediate distaste she felt as she bowed her head in "thanks". "Know that we, too, are very grateful for you allowing us to study at Beacon so soon before the other teams will be arriving for the Vytal Festival."

"Nonsense. It's my honor to play host to a team Leonardo recommended so highly. I had heard some of his staffing issues, and if he truly believes that the four of you will flourish more here, then I would hardly be a proper headmaster myself if I didn't make the transition as easy for you as I can."

That had been the excuse she and Leonardo had cooked up, and it was based in truth, as all good lies were. Haven Academy had a shortage of teachers, on account of Mistral's huntsman and huntresses going missing in droves. Of course, the real source of that was Leonardo himself, but…

Well, it served her purposes, so who was telling?

Ozpin began rattling off some rather simple explanations of where they were and what parts of Beacon they would be heading to, but given Cinder knew just about everything already, she tuned the man out.

Her eyes drew, instead, to the woman standing behind Ozpin, who regarded each of them with a critical eye. It seemed she wished to gauge something in each of them, but whatever it was she saw, Cinder could not gleam from facial expressions alone.

She zoned back into the conversation just as Ozpin, seemingly satisfied with what she had to say, beckoned Cinder and company to follow behind the two of them as they set off towards the academy proper.

"As much as I'd like to give you all the grand tour myself, I'm afraid I'm rather busy at the moment. Glynda, or, Ms. Goodwitch, I should say, will be your guide. She'll escort you to the room you'll be staying within and answer any questions you may have along the way."

The man broke off with a small nod to them all, and Goodwitch coughed into her fist to get their attention, even if such a thing hadn't really been necessary. They were paying rapt attention. She was used to dealing with flighty teenagers, not at all a well-trained team of terrorists masquerading as such.

"I will show you to your room for tonight, given how late it is. Tomorrow morning, I or one of the other teachers will give you a small tour of the premises."

They all nodded. It might've been a pain had they anything to do, but Cinder's plans for the next few months at least were merely to make sure Roman kept himself busy. As for her personally, she had very little to do at all.

Which, once more, had absolutely nothing to do with why they were here.

A part of Cinder, one she'd ignored in the last few weeks as she'd adjusted her plan, couldn't help but pulse indignantly.

Like it knew something she didn't.

"Here you are." They stopped in front of a rather plain looking dormitory, and as they all stepped inside the room, they found it was the same as any of the other student dorm rooms at Beacon Academy. "This will be your room for the next few months. We hope you feel welcomed and settle in quickly." Glynda Goodwitch gave a look that could've been construed as a smile, Cinder supposed. "I will leave you all here for the evening. Once more…"

"Welcome to Beacon."

A good thirty minutes later, 'Team CMME' had finished unpacking their sparse belongings, and getting their room into some semblance of working order. Emerald and Neo had done an initial sweep to check for any cameras or listening devices, but it seemed that they weren't suspected of anything, given they'd found nothing of the sort.

The only problem Cinder could find with the room was that there would likely be complaining and squabbling from Emerald and Mercury about how close their beds were to one another, but that was their problem, and if they knew better, then they wouldn't make it hers.

"So, this is Beacon, huh?" Mercury sat on the edge of his bed, bouncing slightly as he tested the springs in his mattress. "Can't say I'm impressed."

"Ah, yes, because that was what they set out to do," Emerald rolled her eyes. "Impress you."

"Children," She cut them off before any such arguments could kick off. "Enough."


"Yes, ma'am."

She let out a quiet yawn, intending to simply rest until sometime in the midmorning, but a voice interrupted her before she could.

"So, boss," Mercury, once again. "I know it was always our plan to come to Beacon eventually, but we're here, like, four months early."

The unspoken 'why?' didn't seem to be a question unique to the silver-haired boy, as both Emerald and Neopolitan were watching their little exchange, even if neither offered anything.

"Place your trust in me, Mercury."

"I do, ma'am. Just kinda' wondering what caused this."


It was not normal of Mercury to push at all, even if it was just the tiniest of nudges, but even so, Cinder nipped it in the bud with a less than subtle glance his way. He prudently nodded his head in deference, not meeting her eyes.

"I'll tell all in good time. For now, focus on settling in, and remember our cover. We are a second-year team from Haven. We are skilled, but not obscenely so. Don't draw any more attention to yourselves than necessary, but otherwise, you may be your normal selves unless my orders supersede that."


"Yes, ma'am." Emerald bowed her head towards her.

Neopolitan simply nodded with a small, amused smile.

That brought calm back to her, normalcy settling back over the room as Mercury pulled out a pair of earbuds and presumably listened to music, and Emerald laid down. Neopolitan was, of all things, reading, which wouldn't have been odd, except that Cinder genuinely hadn't been able to picture the woman so much as sitting still until that moment.

Still, a part of her couldn't help chiming in as she laid her head back against the pillow beneath her, and settled in.

Why are we here? It asked judgingly. For what purpose did we alter the plan we spent such time creating… why would we come here?

And yet again, it all boiled down to that strange feeling in her chest. Sure, she'd been bored waiting for Roman to gather the dust, but that waiting had been planned. That strange feeling hadn't flared up when she'd seen the woman again at the bullhead docks, and she subtly wondered why that might've been. It could've had something to do with the fact that, instead of trying to kill her, she'd instead been escorting her and her team to their dorm.

Both Cinder and Goodwitch been completely relaxed. Perhaps that was why? If it was something that only showed its face during combat, for instance, then that might explain it.

Given Cinder had no other ideas, she'd accept that for now.

And so, with some small doubt still wriggling at the back of her skull, Cinder Fall allowed herself to sleep.

It'd been two days since they'd arrived in Beacon, and things had been normal. Mercury and Emerald had rather predictably been at each other's throats from minute one, squabbling and already beginning to irritate her to no end. She didn't hate the bickering – had she, it wouldn't have been allowed to continue this long – but it wasn't exactly her favorite state for her minions to exist within, either. She'd rebuked them and let them know to give it a rest, and each of them was smart enough to at the minimum tone it down.

No, as much as it annoyed her (and, though they could never know, occasionally acted as a source of amusement), Cinder Fall was better off dealing with the two's incessant arguments. They played the part of teammates well, and no one seemed to have any doubt in them. Neopolitan, or 'Mint' as she would be known during her stay in Beacon, was as much an enigma as ever, though the girl seemed almost pleased to roam the halls on her lonesome, spending as much time as she could away from the rest of her 'Team'.

Something was deeply unnerving about Neopolitan being allowed to roam the halls of a school for children unsupervised, Cinder couldn't help feeling. At the same time, she knew at the very least that the woman was adequately mature so as to not do something stupid enough to blow their cover. For the moment, Cinder had larger things to worry about.


"Our third matchup today will be Cinder Fall vs. Coco Adel. Please make your way down to the arena."

Cinder wasn't at all surprised to find her name being called during Glynda Goodwitch's second-year combat class. She was a new face, and therefore, an unknown. Surely, the staff could've simply gone with what was written upon her transcripts, or the words of Lionheart himself, but at the end of the day, why not test them?

As she made her way into the arena, she spared the briefest glance at her opponent. She'd have defeated anyone Beacon could send her way, including staff themselves, but this student at least seemed capable for her age. Black sunglasses, a beret of all things atop her head, and a stylish wardrobe that drew the eye.

She didn't care to study anything about the woman's potential fighting style, or any such nonsense. Instead, her eyes roamed over to the blonde deputy who would be officiating their little bout, and Cinder felt a small chill run through her as their gazes met. Her body seemed to grow antsy; her fingers twitched, waiting for action.

Cinder wasn't sure why, but…

Some part of her wanted to win. It wanted to win in front of this woman. To prove herself, perhaps? To show that she, too, was dangerous, worthy of respect? Of fear?

Cinder wasn't sure, and that fact continued to irritate her.

"Very well." Glynda Goodwitch stepped out of the arena, before drawing her hand up, and then swiftly down. "Begin!"

Instantly, her opponent's purse unfolded into a minigun easily the size of her.

To most people, that probably would've drawn at least a raised eyebrow, or caused them to panic, or maybe even reconsider their life choices entirely.

But Cinder Fall had seen some shit. It would take more than a minigun leveled at her head to make her hesitate.

Against a powerful ranged weapon, one closed the distance. Her opponent wasted no time firing off shots, and Cinder flooded her aura to her front, and to her legs, using her speed to dodge the first volley. Adel adjusted, however, catching her with a few rounds as she juked away from the hail of bullets.

Still, that was fine. She brought her arms up, channeling aura into them as she charged forward. Her aura would be taking damage this way, but the sooner she was on her opponent, the sooner the stream died.

In less than a second, Cinder was on her. She used her left hand to lift the barrel of the minigun ever so slightly, causing the rounds to sail over her left shoulder as she dodged into the student's guard.

Adel clearly wasn't helpless in a melee, but at the same time, she wasn't nearly as good as her. Cinder broke through her guard quickly, landing three solid blows on the girl's chest, and one final kick with her boot that sent her to the edge of the arena. In a fight to the death, she would've closed the distance there, and finished her downed opponent off.

But this was a spar. And Emerald and Mercury had been annoying her all morning.

Unfortunately for this Coco woman, she was about to serve as prime stress relief.

She held her hand out, smirking cockily as she gestured for her opponent to come and get her.

Her foe could've retreated – should've – it was evident to Cinder that the woman's only chance was at range, but instead, she snarled, and transformed her minigun back into its purse form. She swung it towards Cinder's body with a force that belied her appearance, but Cinder was not the average combatant.

She was used to sparring against monsters like Hazel and Tyrian, or at the very least, taking on both Emerald and Mercury at once to keep her skills sharp whilst they'd roamed around gathering allies. This girl, even with a weapon as unique as her own, and even with Cinder limited only to her martial abilities, proved easy to deal with in comparison.

She could duck every blow, she could abuse every opening, she could teach this girl more in a single spar than she'd likely learned in her entire career at Beacon.

Expose the true weaknesses that everyone else was too feeble to reveal.

When Coco Adel struck the mat some two minutes later, panting desperately and completely spent, a dull murmur had already begun to spread amongst those in attendance. A hushed conversation about her, about the ability she'd shown…

…Which, now that Cinder Fall thought about it, was pretty much the exact opposite of what she'd wanted. She'd desired to blend in, to be good but not great, to attract no more attention than was necessary. And then she'd gone and mercilessly picked apart one of the better second-year fighters that Beacon had.

She eyed that infernal woman, the cause of all of this, and felt her teeth clack together as the woman approached, clapping her hands.

"An excellent match, you two. Ms. Adel, I would say that you should work on your retreat patterns. It seemed that, when confronted by an opponent superior to you in some respects, you initially intended to retreat, but were cut off. Such things are obviously hampered by the arena we use to fight in the first place, but I feel the real reason you sought to engage your opponent in melee was not at all because you felt you couldn't escape, but that you did not want to. Restraint. Today, your lack of it was used against you."

Coco Adel rolled her eyes behind her dark shades – once more showing the truth of what the disciplinarian spoke of – but nodded her head as she forced herself up and walked back to her team in the stands. They supported her, and offered what seemed to be words of encouragement, not that Cinder cared.

"On the other hand, excellent work, Ms. Fall." Glynda Goodwitch turned to her, now, and the words she'd spoken brought an odd fire into her limbs, even if they were only barely strained. "You were in control of the fight from beginning to end, and you never allowed Ms. Adel to utilize the range advantage she possessed. You also capitalized excellently on Ms. Adel's initial frustration and baited her into a melee where you were superior. If there's anything you might need to work on, it is perhaps a finishing move, as you had multiple openings during the fight that, if you possessed such a technique, would've allowed you to cut your opponent down much earlier.

Part of her wanted to bite back at the fact that there was anything that Cinder Fall lacked, but it wouldn't have quite been true in this case. This was, after all, not her actual fighting style. She was without both bow and blade here, forced to utilize only her body. To be able to so effortlessly pull apart a second-year Beacon student, and a good one, was still impressive for what was, essentially, a fallback pattern.

…Well, and she'd purposefully dragged the fight out in order to satisfy herself, but that was neither here nor there, really.

"If you would, Ms. Fall, please stay behind after class, I wish to have a word with you."

And then the fire died, replaced by an icy feeling that suffused her entire body. One question immediately rang out inside her head.

Does she know?

…No, of course she didn't. If she did, she would not give her so much warning that she was going to be alone with her. If she'd known who Cinder was, then last night, when they'd retreated to their rooms, they'd have found a veritable army of huntsmen and huntresses waiting to arrest them.

No. Unfortunately, Cinder likely had no one to blame for this, other than herself.

Because she'd gone and stood out. Gone and drawn attention. Specifically, the attention of the woman she'd found herself so inexplicably drawn to.

"Now, our next fight will be Emerald Sustrai, and…"

The voices faded into the background as she made her way back to the stands, head hanging as she internally cursed herself.

For a moment, a disorienting feeling washed over her that she recognized as Emerald's semblance, and she looked up to see an illusionary copy of the girl walking beside her.

"How do you want me to perform?" The mirage asked, sounding both concerned and confused. "You told us not to stand out too much. Has that changed?"

She shook her head, disguising the motion as wiping away some sweat on her brow. Even if no one else could see the illusion, it would've been rather bizarre had she suddenly started talking to herself.

Emerald seemed to want to say more, but she relented. A moment later, the illusion faded, and the real Emerald stepped down into the arena, standing across from some completely unimportant second year.

Cinder sat herself down next to Mercury and Neo and let out a quiet sigh. Both of her 'teammates' regarded her… not oddly, but differently from how they normally would.

Like they had a question they wanted to ask but couldn't. Literally, in Neo's case.

To her, it was apparent what said question was.

Wasn't the whole plan to blend in? To not be noticed?

And the answer was even more apparent.

I made a mistake.

Cinder Fall wasn't exactly a person prone to making mistakes. She'd made a few in her life, no one, not even the few people who might be stronger than her, could claim otherwise. But…

This felt obvious, even to her.

It was that feeling, that damndable feeling that once more flickered at the edge of her mind. That feeling that had her heart beating, her gaze flickering to and from that woman as she drew Emerald down to spar with some meaningless man from another team…

She'd made a mistake. And if that feeling was going to affect her in this way, then perhaps coming here at all was a mistake.

Regardless, there was nothing she could do about any of it now.

No, once again, Cinder would simply have to make a good impression.

The class finished some hour and a half later, and as the rest of the second years filtered out, including her own 'team', Emerald shooting her a worried look before she disappeared out of sight, Cinder was left alone with the woman who'd brought them all here in the first place – even if she couldn't have known such a thing.

Luckily, from the expression on Glynda Goodwitch's face, it seemed the woman didn't suspect her of anything… inappropriate.

"I understand this was your final class for the day, so my apologies for preventing you from getting on with the rest of your day. I'm sure there are a lot of places you'd rather be." The woman opened with what seemed to be a joke, of all things. It wasn't what Cinder would've expected from her, but she knew how to act the part.

She let out a small laugh. "It's fine, Ms. Goodwitch. I must admit though, I was curious as to why you wished to see me. Was there something wrong?"

"No, no. If anything, there was something right." The teacher confessed with a small smile. "I admit, you impressed me today. I chose Ms. Adel specifically to test your abilities, seeing as how she was one of the stronger First Years in classes last year. That has been consistent through the first few weeks of term this year as well. That you managed to beat her, and make it seem so effortless, speaks well to your training. In that same vein, your team are second years from Haven, correct?"

She nodded, already preparing to answer the woman's questions according to the faked transcripts that she and the rest of her team would've had sent ahead during their transfer here. Each of them had spent many a night in the last week or so memorizing every bit of information on them and were prepared to act and answer questions accordingly.

"Pardon my questioning, but you look a fair bit older than the standard eighteen or nineteen that would befit someone of that level."

That would be because she was somewhere around twenty-three or twenty-four. She'd known her exact age while serving in The Glass Unicorn (given that she'd intended to become a huntress when she turned seventeen), but she'd honestly lost track during training under Salem. It wasn't like she'd thought to celebrate her birthday while serving the Queen of the Grimm. Still, she knew she was somewhere in that range.

Her transcripts, however, claimed otherwise, and thusly so would she.

"I'm twenty-one years old." Cinder lied easily, having long since grown used to spinning such webs of deceit. "My other teammates are younger than I am."

"Ah, that would explain their seeming deference to you." Glynda Goodwitch nodded her head. "Once again, I do not mean to offend, I simply found myself curious about the team Leonardo – that is, Headmaster Lionheart – sent to us so early."

Ah. Yes. Now that she thought of it, that would have drawn attention.

Once more, the more rational part of her brain reminded her that she was an idiot for following that indescribable feeling inside of her to come here, but she pushed down on it and continued speaking.

"We are rather skilled for our Year." Cinder supplied simply. "I suppose that might've been a part of the reason the headmaster sent us so soon. As for myself," She decided it would be better to leave this topic of conversation behind entirely, lest the woman continue to ask more and more difficult questions, and her have to evade them. "I am older than my peers because I did not decide to become a Huntress until a little later in my life. By the time I applied for Haven, I was already nineteen."

"Oh?" Ms. Goodwitch seemed curious. "Why was that?"

Hook, line, and sinker. Cinder mentally sneered.

"Ah, well," She did her best to put on the airs of a saddened, but hardy woman, someone who had lost things, yes, but was trying to push through regardless. "I was from a small village in the wilds of Mistral. It… the Grimm destroyed it when I was very young."

Ms. Goodwitch let out a quiet gasp, and almost instantaneously placed a hand on Cinder's shoulder. At any other time, and from any other person, such contact would've drawn a feeling of disgust from out of her. That anyone had dared put their hands upon her, dirtied her…

Now… for some reason, she did not quite mind it. If anything, the small warmth felt… good.

"I'm terribly sorry, Ms. Fall. I did not mean to dredge up bad memories."

"No, no, it's fine, honestly." She waved away the woman's concern with a smile that appeared as if she was just keeping it together, even if such a thing was somewhat strained. "It was a long time ago. I can… I can barely remember anything about the place these days."

That was important to add, given she'd never actually visited the Village she'd claimed she was from in her transcripts, hadn't so much as heard of it when she'd pulled its name off a list of destroyed Mistralian settlements, and taken it on as a part of her disguise.

"If you don't mind me asking," Ms. Goodwitch pressed on, seeming determined for some reason. "What Village were you from? We have a few students this year in Beacon from Mistral, perhaps some might have known of it?"

She doubted that. The chances of any of the students of Beacon being from, or knowing of, the exact settlement she'd declared herself a former resident of were slim to none. Shrugging tiredly, she spoke without any real reservation.

"I don't mind. It was a small village out in the wilds of Mistral, a fair distance from the capital. It was called Kuroyuri."

Apparently, bad things did happen to bad people.

That was the sole thought that ran through Cinder's head as she stood beside Glynda Goodwitch with a painfully forced smile, staring at two first year Beacon students, who were staring back at her far harder.

"Miss Fall, may I introduce Lie Ren, and Nora Valkyrie." The woman sounded almost excited, another emotion she wouldn't have expected to hear from out of the mouth of someone she'd initially pegged as a stern disciplinarian. "They themselves hailed from Mistral, from the exact same Village that you did. Kuroyuri."

That had both of the students before her, Ren, and Valkyrie, apparently, looking positively flummoxed.

Cinder, for her part, could already feel a headache beginning to form, knowing her day had just gotten a hell of a lot more annoying.


"Wait, you're from–"

"Oh, my gods," The redhead practically pounced on her, which, in any other situation, would've earned her a knee to the stomach if Cinder were feeling kind, but in front of one of the teachers she had to keep herself composed. "That makes us like, Village-Siblings!"

"Nora," The green one, Ren, argued softly. "I'm fairly sure those don't exist."

"Well, they do now!" Said pinky, practically hanging off of her as she giggled to herself.

Luckily for Cinder – and luckily for this girl, for if she had placed her weight on her for any longer, she was going to be turned to cinders – Valkyrie glowed purple a moment later and was deposited next to her partner with a small "Oof".

"Ms. Valkyrie," Glynda Goodwitch huffed annoyedly as she re-sheathed her riding crop, regarding the girl as if this show of seemingly infinite energy was a completely normal thing. "I understand you are excited, but please control yourself. Ms. Fall is a transfer student from Haven, and thusly I would appreciate if you would put in the effort to make a good impression upon her for the sake of our Academy."

She found herself appreciating the woman even more as Valkyrie brought her hand up in mock salute, standing ramrod straight. "Will do, Big G!"

"I will have you in detention for the rest of the year if you so much as utter that again."

"Er… Will do, Ms. Goodwitch!"

"Better." The woman sighed, before turning back to Cinder and offering a tired, but no less satisfied smile. "My apologies for Ms. Valkyrie. She can be… rather excitable."

Yes, she'd gathered that. Still, best not to earn the ire of someone she found herself… intrigued by.

"I understand. Believe me, Mint, my teammate," She used the cover they'd produced for Neopolitan. "Can be…"

"Difficult?" Lie Ren supplied, seemingly from experience.

"Let's go with that." She found the small chuckle that poured out of her after that didn't require so much effort to fake.

In this Lie Ren, she could see somewhat of a kindred spirit. An adult, that had to put up with far too rambunctious a child.

Or children, in Cinder's case.

She was brought out her own head by a question from the black-haired boy. "If I might ask, what part of the Village did you live in?"

Ah, the dreaded question. Most villages in Mistral were built off a standard layout, but that was now. She had no idea how long Kuroyuri had stood for before being destroyed. It was possible it had been created long before the models had been normalized.

Thusly, it was time to use her faux emotions once more.

"I'm sorry." She made to look like she was ashamed, her gaze unable to meet with that of either of the two in front of her. "I don't… I was very young."

Far from being suspicious of her, the boy before her gave a sympathetic nod. To her surprise, the redhead did the same, going from laughing and joking a second ago to looking like she might burst into tears at any moment.

"I understand. You've likely blocked out much of the Village due to your trauma." He gestured to the girl beside him, who waved weakly, and smiled in what she seemed to hope was a comforting gesture. "Nora was much the same for a few years after."

"Yep. What the Grimm did that day…" Valkyrie shook her head. "I think it's fine to not want to remember that. I can't blame ya'."

To Cinder Fall, infiltrator of Beacon, that was a victory. But Cinder Fall, former resident of Kuroyuri, nodded her gratitude to the two's easygoing natures.

"Forgive me."

"Hah." The young boy chuckled easily. "There's nothing to forgive."

Before the conversation could continue any further, the redheaded perpetual motion machine was on her once again.

"Oh, oh!" She excitedly exclaimed, pulling on her arm like a lever. "You like, have to meet the rest of our team! Jauney, that's our leader, he's super nice and cool, and Pyrrha, she's some super strong fighter. Oh! She's also from Mistral, too! Maybe our two teams can all like… talk or something!"

Pyrrha Nikos? The championship fighter? Well, given that said woman was on the list they'd compiled of possible candidates for the Maiden's power, perhaps this had not been a waste of time after all.

Her 'teammates' might complain about being forced to interact with rowdy teenagers (one particularly rowdy teenager specifically), but if it benefited their plans, then they could and would suck it up.

"That sounds lovely, Nora." She forced herself to lie in such horrible fashion. "We'd be honored. If you'd like, we can exchange scroll numbers?"

"Oh yeah! Everything's comin' up Nora!" Said girl turned to her… friend? Boyfriend? Slave? All of the above? "See, Ren, I told you I was good at making friends!" She punched the boys arm with strength enough to bruise, somehow not even eliciting a reaction out of her partner. "And you said I was too pushy. Hah, you big goof!"

Ren shook his head amusedly as Nora went on and on about how she was the "Absolute best friend maker this side of Remnant!", before turning to Cinder and mouthing 'thank you'.

She nodded his way as she took the scroll that was held out to her and typed in the number of the Beacon scroll she'd been given. As she handed it back, she found herself glancing towards Glynda Goodwitch, towards the woman who'd inadvertently eased her plans by introducing these two to her and caught the almost proud smile on her face.

And Cinder understood.

Ms. Goodwitch had pulled her aside, set the three of them up together, and got them talking with one another, all for no real gain to herself.

She'd done so out of the goodness of her heart.

It wasn't that she was suspicious of her, then. She was one of those people. A genuinely good person.

She was not a great person, no. Nor, seemingly, did she want to be one, either. She was not the type who would have tales told of her valor in a hundred years' time, or someone who wished to shape the world in her own image. Great acts like that had no meaning to someone like her. No, Glynda Goodwitch sought to do good. For her, It would be enough if even one of her students thanked her for her efforts, it would be enough if even one of them remembered her as they went out into the world. It would be enough if even one of them, because of her training, survived when they otherwise would not have.

She was the type to be content with that.

Such a thing was pure drivel to Cinder Fall. She desired greatness. Authority, subservience…


But even so, there was an almost miniscule piece of her that could respect the woman stood across from her, smiling down at her proudly. A part of her that could respect a simpler, more down to earth happiness.

There'd been a time in her life, after all, where Cinder had longed for nothing more than freedom before such innocent desire had been so viciously stamped out.

And that feeling – that strange, mysterious feeling, swelled just a little bit more.


"So, what are your thoughts on them?"

The halls of Beacon Academy had quieted this late into the evening, and though she would've liked to be back in her office either doing paperwork or sorting through upcoming detentions while nursing a hot glass of tea, she was instead in the headmaster's office, reporting the day's findings.

Or, well, the lack thereof.

"They are completely normal." Glynda Goodwitch found herself stating as she stared into the face of Beacon Academy's headmaster, and resident immortal, Ozpin. "I spoke with their leader, and she did not seem at all like she had anything to hide. If anything, the amount of attention she drew to herself in combat class makes me think she has approximately nothing to hide."

"That's good," Ozpin admitted, sipping out of his mug as he seemed to think on what to say. "But that could be just what she wants us to think. Do not let down your guard so soon, Glynda."

She rolled her eyes, even as Ozpin sighed out.

"Once more, you have my apologies for putting you up to such…"

"For making me interview a team of transfers under the guise of helping them settle in while actually monitoring them for any suspicious activity?" Glynda asked, silently relishing in the way Ozpin's body wilted subtly. "Yes, well, let us simply say that you owe me a favor for that, and we'll call ourselves even."

"I am sorry, I hope you know that. With preparations for the Vytal Festival underway, I simply don't want us to have to deal with any unfortunate surprises."

She understood that more than well enough, which was why she'd agreed to such a duplicitous action in the first place.

Honestly, she hadn't become a teacher so she could suspect her students. She'd become a teacher at Beacon Academy to help people. She had rather pointedly not become a teacher to join a secret sect of powerful and influential people led by an immortal wizard dedicated to protecting the world from evil!

Unfortunately, life often had a way of surprising her.

In any other scenario, she would've turned down Ozpin's request without question.

But even she could admit that having a full team transfer in from Haven for the Vytal Festival half a year ahead of when the others would be arriving was at the very least odd. In lieu of Qrow, who was absent on another mission, it had been her who Ozpin had trusted to gather information on their newest students, with he himself being far too conspicuous, and Bart and Peter being…

Well, rather clearly not the types for subtlety.

It seemed he needn't have bothered, however. From what she'd been able to gather from Ms. Fall, alongside word from the other teachers in the classes they'd attended thus far, their team was the picture of normalcy. Skilled, like their leader had implied, perhaps more in line with a third or fourth-year team judging by the way she and her other teammate, Ms. Sustrai, had fought, but not skilled enough to be worthy of doubt.

And she'd found it incredibly rewarding to get to introduce Ms. Fall to Lie Ren and Nora Valkyrie as well. The three of them had seemed to get along rather nicely, and even if Ms. Valkyrie had come on perhaps a tad bit strong, it seemed they would become fast friends, with the two teams perhaps becoming strong allies in the future.

She made a mental note to check in on that some time. Just to make sure all had gone well.

"I will not ask you interview their leader in so obvious a manner again. But perhaps you can keep an eye on them? At least for a while?"

She found herself sighing as she pinched the bridge of her nose with one hand, pushing up her glasses absent-mindedly.

"Ozpin, I do not much enjoy interrogating my students, even if it is for a good cause."

"I know. But you would know better than I that an unknown assailant of Huntress-level is working with Roman Torchwick. Something is happening in Vale, and I don't want us to be too late to respond to it. With Amber here…"

Ozpin trailed off, and though Glynda wanted to protest, she couldn't. Instead, she just nodded her head.

"I will ask a few follow-up questions with Ms. Fall as to our earlier conversation and see if I can't try to speak with her other teammates in due time. I'll ask them about how they're settling in while layering in more important questions, and I will call them up to spar more than I normally would. Hopefully, that should not come off as terribly odd."

"Thank you, Glynda."

"You're welcome, Ozpin. I just…"

"I know. It pains me, honestly, to make you have to doubt your students, but I fear we simply have no alternative. If this is Salem's work–"

"Might I remind you again that we have no evidence that it is." She shot back, earning a small wince.

"If this is Salem's work," Ozpin continued, not ignoring her, but choosing to make his point regardless. "Then we had best be as prepared as we can be."

She agreed, despite her reluctance, even as she gathered her paperwork, and shuffled out of Ozpin's office.

On the elevator ride down to the school proper, she found herself pondering silently that which she had seen earlier that day.

The way that Ms. Fall had seemed so sad, so hurt when talking of her old Village. How patient she had been with Ms. Valkyrie, and how excited she'd seemed about getting to talk with other survivors of her Village. But she'd seen the way the woman had been hiding something else behind that gaze.

There was pain, there. Longing, too.

She'd seen that look before.

Those were the eyes of someone who'd been, in some way, irrecoverably damaged.

They were the eyes Ozpin wore, when he thought no one was looking, or that Qrow possessed before he'd drunk enough for the day to bury them. Or eyes she'd seen on survivors pulled from the wreckage of their Villages, never to see their families again. That they would appear on a student was not unheard of, but…

…Perhaps Glynda could turn this to her advantage as well?

After all, if she could offer a shoulder to lean on, a strong presence to reassure, then perhaps she could help the young woman. At least that'd let her feel it was worth the underlying reason for her presence. That it was worth interrogating her, practically accusing her of being one of Salem's pawns.

Yes. It was decided.

She would meet with Cinder Fall again.

And she would do her best to help the woman with whatever it was that haunted her.

Glynda owed her that much.

End Chapter 1

Alright, that was chapter 1!

I've got the first four chapters of this fic outlined, and chapter 2 is completely finished as well, so expect that sometime within the next week or two. I have a rough plot synopsis for the whole thing, but my character arcs have been figured out, and they're really what's carrying this fic, so hopefully that'll be good. This story will mainly focus on Cinder, Glynda, Emerald, and Mercury, though some of the supporting cast will be met in this and the next chapters. I won't spoil anything, but JNPR and RWBY will feature in this as well.

Just want to preemptively cut off any people who might say, but I'm aware that I don't think Cinder knows about Ozma. I realized that a little too late into writing this that that was the case, and, as all good authors do, simply refused to change my story at all, and said screw canon, in this story she does know! (Don't do this)

Anyways, let me know what you thought in a review if you'd like! I certainly appreciate them (more like they're my lifeblood, and every review makes the next chapter come out faster, but that sounds manipulative). I intend to update this story around biweekly? Maybe a little longer, maybe a little shorter, depends on how I'm feeling. I'm actually working on two other RWBY stories atm, one a shortish (think 8 to 10 chapters kind of thing) fic, and the other a oneshot. So perhaps stay tuned for those as well!

Alright, see you all next time!