Okay! New chapter for everyone! Hope you enjoy. Oh, and happy Thanksgiving weekend, if you celebrate such a Holiday!

Start Chapter 52

Ironwood knows they're in Atlas, but not their location, which is good enough news for Jaune, really.

They've been camped out in the ruins of the Glass Unicorn at this point for a good few days, biding their time and trying not to attract any unwanted attention. They're also doing their best to scope out the situation in Atlas, and learn as much as they can about just what it is that's going on around here.

So far, they've managed to learn quite a bit. Thanks again, in large part, to Raven's semblance.

It really is stupidly powerful.

"So, Ironwood's effectively a dictator." Raven speaks as she steps back into the Glass Unicorn that morning, having gone on a scouting run. "No one's saying it, but his face is plastered all over the holo-screens throughout the city, and whether they like it or not, Atlas is taking orders from him and him alone. Their 'council' is for show."

They all nod at that. It's not new information, given that they've been picking up bits and pieces of the truth for a while now, but it confirms what they've been suspecting thus far.

"Unfortunately, Ironwood's also put out a notice." Raven speaks, turning towards Jaune, Ren, Nora, and Cinder. "All four of you are to be reported to the authorities on sight."

Jaune sighs. "Great. Sounds like an average Thursday for us at this point."

Blake snorts. "He really doesn't like you."

"No, no he doesn't."

"If I could only make to speak with James, I'm sure I could convince him as to the purity of our intentions." Ozma speaks from within Oscar, taking control from the boy. "Though unfortunately, I believe that ship may've sailed. In a scenario like this, I believe it will not be him we would speak to, but Mettle."

"His semblance?"

"Mm." Ozma shakes his head, sighing. "It's a powerful thing; the ability to think wholly heartlessly; without doubt or emotion playing a part. But to exist without one's heart… it is far more a curse than a gift. Unfortunately, James has never seen it that way."

"He often chose to exist without his brain, too," Raven sneers, "So I suppose he was never really able to make the distinction."

"Yes, well…" Ozma sighs, evidently thinking about responding to Raven's criticisms, and deciding in the end not to. "For now, I would advise we attempt to access the Winter Maiden."

"For the vault?" Cinder asks.

"Mm. Fria is the current Winter Maiden. She is old, and unfortunately, she shows no signs of becoming fighting fit once more. She will… likely pass within the year, if not sooner. It was a part of the reason that James and I were working to invent the Aura transfer machine; we saw it as a far… kinder form of passing on her powers to the next Winter Maiden. Unfortunately, the transfer machine was unable to transfer the Maiden's power alone, and took the aura of the host with it as well, effectively stripping the host of their soul. Thusly… well, we scrapped that particular project."

"So, it wasn't designed for Amber?"

"No. It just so happened that Amber's condition was more serious; and more desperate, than Fria's." Ozma turns to stare at Cinder out of the corner of his eye, and Jaune's soulmate doesn't meet his gaze. "Suffice it so say that if the powers pass from Fria to whom I believe they will, our chances of entering into the vault will plummet rather drastically."

"What do you mean 'who you believe they will'?" Raven's brow furrows in annoyance. "Stop being secretive and clingy; just tell us what you know."

Ozma seems to hesitate on that for a moment, before realizing that he has no real reason to keep such a secret.

"My apologies; habits die hard." Ozma clears his throat. "James has been preparing Winter Schnee to serve as the Winter Maiden for years now. He wished to transfer Fall into her if he had the chance, but I did not wish for one individual to ever possess the power of two Maiden's at the same time. Let us simply say that that much power can… change someone. Even someone as strait-laced as Winter."

"So Winter is going to be the Winter Maiden?" Nora mutters. "…So, is that like a coincidence, or…?"

"As far as I am aware, yes." Ozma laughs. "Even if it does seem quite unlikely. And no, Ms. Valkyrie, Summer Rose never became the Summer Maiden, nor was she ever being prepared for the position, before you ask." Nora pouts, but puts her hand down. "Believe me when I say that stranger things have happened, however. Still, if Winter becomes the Maiden, I do not believe we would be able to convince her to betray James; which means she cannot become the Maiden."

They all nod at that.

"Alright, so where is the Winter Maiden?"

"Last I knew, James had moved her into the Atlas militaries' main compound," Ozma speaks, and Jaune feels like he probably could've guessed that, really. "As for the exact location, I am afraid I do not know. It has been nearly six months since I was last in contact with James, and nearly a year since we discussed Fria. It is very likely she has been moved from the chamber that James had been storing her within previously."

"Storing her… you make it sound like she's a thing." Ilia murmurs, her brow furrowing.

"It is somewhat… complicated, Ms. Amitola. Fria is… she is a step away from being considered in a vegetative state; unable to truly communicate or respond to those around her. She is, ostensibly, a game piece that must be guarded more than she is a person, at this point."

Ilia frowns. "That's not right."

"It isn't; I agree." Ozma sighs. "Unfortunately, such are the things that I was forced to do to combat Salem; to combat the end of the world. Few are pretty."

A general awkward silence pervades the air around them for a moment, before Ozma shakes his head and says, "But regardless of such things, we have sat within this place for long enough. Fria's time is fading; perhaps it has already faded. And I doubt we will be able to discover much about the current Winter Maiden from within here."

"So, we make to obtain the Winter Maiden's power?" Jaune asks.

"It is our only option." Ozma agrees. "The vaults… they were created when I was far richer in magic than I am now. In an age past, I might have been able to pry them open with force, but time has not been kind to me. It is the Winter Maiden or bust, I am afraid."

"Then let's go." Raven speaks. "Even if we're on a soft time limit, I'd certainly rather be ahead of the clock than behind it."

That seems to be that. Their band stands and begins to pack up the scant few things they'd managed to procure from the Glass Unicorn that will actually be useful during their time in Atlas. A few coats that suit the warmer weather, some toiletries they can bring with them, and some useful things they'd found in the backrooms like rope and matches. Still, they don't take everything, nor try to, since they'll likely have to use this place as a base of operations if they somehow fail to obtain the Winter Maiden's magic during their trip, given that it's not like they can simply rent a room.

They are wanted, after all.

Their trek out into Atlas proper is cold, for one. Jaune finds himself wishing the coat he'd picked up from the Unicorn – or his normal hoodie beneath it – were just a bit thicker than it is, but luckily, Cinder brings him against her, and, with a brilliant application of her semblance, heats up her body enough that she's nearly blazing to the touch.

Still, through the gloves and Jaune's hoodie, alongside Cinder's own warmer outfit she'd gotten from out of the Madame's stores, it isn't enough to actually burn him. It's a pleasant, if somewhat extreme heat.

"Rennie, why don't you do that!?" Nora pouts at her own soulmate, who just chuckles under his breath as he pulls a now smarmy-looking Nora against him.

By the time they make it into areas that actually have civilians moving around, their gang has donned the disguises they'd picked up to hopefully dodge Ironwood's prying eyes. The glasses and beanies they're wearing probably won't do anything to fool trained soldiers, but hopefully they'll manage against the casual glances of the average civilian as they walk by them on the street.

The problems, really, take a while to set in, but, when they do, they become rather frightfully obvious.

Mainly that a city under lockdown and ostensible martial law is utterly littered with soldiers.

Their band is nearly caught by no less than five different patrols of soldiers as they attempt to make their way towards the central sections of Atlas. They barely seem to make it more than a kilometer in two hours due to the number of patrols lining the streets, and by the time they're beginning to grow frustrated about such, Jaune decides that they likely need to back off for now, and reformulate their plan of attack.

"So," Jaune begins as they all step into a back alley. "That's a bit of a problem."

There's a murmur of assent at that.

"Raven, could we wait this out, or is it this bad around the clock?" Jaune has to ask.

She nods. "Frankly, I had a hard time finding a path or road up in the upper-crust of Atlas that wasn't being patrolled by guards of some sort, even in the middle of the night. Our chances of getting past them without some sort of distraction are slim to none."

"So, we need something, or someone, to act as a distraction?" Blake questions.

"We're not risking anyone. Not for something we might be able to get around." Jaune declares, and he's glad no one tries to fight him on that.

"Our options are slim in terms of avoiding the problem." Raven speaks. "I could get us past the patrols, but the problem is just going to persist the closer we go. Hell, I could fly us on top of Atlas Academy, but that isn't going to fix the innate problem that this entire place is swarming with guards."

Jaune nods. For once, it seems they're faced with a problem that Raven's portals can't solve.

"So where does that leave us?" Emerald asks.

"If we had someone that we could trust that in turn was trusted in Atlas, we might just have a chance." Blake concludes, and Raven snorts.

"Yeah, somehow, I doubt someone's going to suddenly pop up in the upper-crust of Atlas that wants anything to do with any of us."

A nearby tv broadcast suddenly catches their groups attention.

-in other news, Weiss Schnee, the previously missing former-heiress to the Schnee Dust Company, has returned to her family's home here in Atlas. Sources from inside the manor are telling us that the reappearance of Ms. Schnee has been both a source of happiness and trouble for aspiring Councilmember Jacques Schnee, who–

Jaune pauses a moment.

"Huh. Well, that's suspiciously convenient."


Weiss Schnee has had a hell of a last month or so.

It had all started when she'd tried to escape Atlas, and meet up with the other members of Team RWBY. Things had honestly gone off mostly without a hitch on that particular issue, and really, that perhaps should've been the signal to Weiss that things had not been about to go her way.

In that time, she'd been kidnapped by bandits, subsequently broken out of said kidnapping by her sister team, recruited into said sister team's efforts to assist the same people who blew up their school in retrieving a dangerous and mysterious artifact, figured out that Leonardo Lionheart, one of the most trusted and respected men on Remnant had actually been working for that same terrorist group, figured out said terrorist group to actually be led by the same person who commanded the Grimm – oh, and there is someone who commands the Grimm, that's fun – and that they're hellbent on destroying the world.

Then she'd gone off on her own, failed to meet up with her teammates, and subsequently ended up back in Atlas.

It had been quite the round trip.

So really, when a bird perches itself on her bedroom window, and starts tapping on it roughly three times a second for a full minute, Weiss Schnee feels she is completely and totally justified in throwing a hissy-fit.

"Would you shut up!?" She screams, throwing her pillow right at the window to scare the creature off.

Unfortunately, the bird is either the single bravest corvid the world has ever known, or has a death wish, for it doesn't so much as budge at Weiss' pillow throw. It stands there, stares at her for three or four seconds…

And then taps its beak on the glass again.

Weiss just about busts out Myrtenaster.

Except… right before she can begin thinking about recipes the house staff could cook up that involve raven's, she sees a familiar face doing what seems to be jumping jacks off in the distance. Or, well, not jumping jacks. It's probably a motion to catch someone's attention.

Probably a motion to catch her attention.

Weiss stares at the blonde boy, who, now that he sees that she sees him, is waving her way, and gesturing for her to open the window.

And she can only really sigh.

She walks over to the window, goes almost completely ignored by the raven from earlier – who flies over to the window beside that one, and quietly sits down, apparently having been in collusion with her visitor – and says, "Jaune, what the hell are you doing here?"

"Uh, well…" The man calls out to her, laughing a bit awkwardly from beyond the fence that keeps out intruders onto their property. "We're sort of uh…"

"Wanted by General Ironwood?" Weiss cocks an eyebrow. "Yes, yes you are. I take it that's why you're here, so I can do something about that?"

"…Would you believe me if I said we just wanted to visit?"






"…So can you let us in, or–"

Weiss can only really sigh.


Luckily for them, apparently Weiss' father is out at the moment, busy with some duties that pertain to the upcoming council election, which he's apparently running for.

Weiss' expression when they comment on that tells Jaune that they're not to ask about that.

So instead, they fill her in on current happenings.

And it occurs to Jaune that there's an awful lot to tell Weiss.

"Wait, Ruby's mom is alive!?"

"Well, uh… kinda'?"

"She's half-Grimm." Cinder explains.

"I… okay." Weiss looks down and away, muttering something under her breath. "And… the gods are going to destroy the world?"

"Basically, yeah."

"And… Salem and Ozma have teamed up to try and stop them?"

"Also, yeah."

Weiss looks like she needs a stiff drink.

"Okay," Weiss rubs at her eyes with both hands. "So… how're Ruby and Yang, Blake?"

"They're okay. They've wanted to be with their mom a lot of the time." Blake says. "I can't blame them. If my mother were in a similar scenario, and especially if I hadn't seen her in years, I… I would want to be there."

"I think I would as well, even with how… troubling my own relationship with my mother is." Weiss clears her throat. "Well, what is it you wish for me to do, exactly? Because as much as I'd like to offer my assistance, I think you grossly overestimate just how effective I can possibly be. I have next to no authority here in Atlas, and my father has placed me under house arrest. I'm doing my best to try and convince Winter that General Ironwood is taking things too far, but unfortunately in this singular instance, my sister is an incredibly loyal person. I am finding such negotiations… unsuccessful thus far."

"You don't think you can sway her?"

"Perhaps if I were given another few months," Weiss answers with a wan smile. "I'm afraid that with your current time frame, however, I will not be able to, no. Nor has she shared any information about a Maiden, or anything else with me. My sister takes military confidentiality quite seriously. I didn't even know she was a specialist until she'd already been among their members for a good year and a half."

"Do you think explaining all of this to her might work?"

"Maybe, but I doubt she'd listen unless it came from out of the mouth of someone she could reliably trust, and… well, no offense to any of you, but that starts and ends with myself."

Jaune takes no offense; it makes a good deal of sense, in truth.

"So, what do you suggest?"

"Well… I suppose I can speak with Winter later on in the evening. She's been dropping by more often this week to see me. It's been nice, even if the topics of conversation haven't been. I'll try and convince her of what you're telling me without revealing where I've obtained the information."

"That won't be easy." Raven comments. "You're going to sound like a clairvoyant; that or someone being given outside information. And given who she is, I don't think it would take her very much to jump to the correct conclusion as to your supplier."

"I don't exactly have a better option." Weiss responds, eyeing Raven. "And hang on, weren't you the woman who kidnapped me!?"

Raven's eyes suddenly widen. "Oh, uh… no?"

Weiss glares, and Jaune holds both his hands up in surrender as he steps between the two, preventing a fight from developing.

"I guess we'll just get out of your hair for now, then, and hope you can put in a good word for us?"

"That…" Weiss sighs. "Yes. I suppose that's as good an idea as we can come up with for now. Be careful on your way out. I wouldn't want any of the house staff to spot you, or else they might report back to Winter that you were–"

The door at the back of the room opened.

"Weiss," The figure, with a small smile, turned towards them. "I thought I'd come and surprise you for lunch–"

And then she stops, and stares at them.

Their group stares back, caught like a deer in the headlights.

Because Winter Schnee is staring right at them.

And she… doesn't look terribly pleased.

End Chapter 52

Huh. Awkward.

Welp, we'll see what happens there next week! For now, I'll see you all then!