As Shi finished her recording, she got new notifications.
Substories are quests that are not essential to your main goals. You can ignore them, although completing them will net you benefits, and might make things easier down the line.
Now that you've become a member of Class Alpha, it would do you well to get to know your peers. In this new world, you can never have too many friends. Try and get to know some of your peers, who knows what you'll learn?
Reward for Completion
Penalty for Failure
Shi dismissed the notifications and put her scroll away. She was planning on going to meet them anyway, so having a substory telling her to do it just reinforced her decision to do so. She headed for the common area to see if any of the other students were about.
As it turned out, they all were.
The common room was rather spacious, with several couches and armchairs, a large holo-TV placed against the wall, and a game system near it that hadn't been there before. It must have belonged to one of the other students.
Shi saw Verte talking up a storm with Emerald, while Mercury leaned against the wall and watched rather passively. Neo was in the kitchen, eating some ice cream straight out of the tub. The red haired girl wearing the familiar outfit was sitting on an armchair, reading a book.
Shi was about to greet everyone, but her words died on her throat as two people she recognized entered from the hallway opposite to the one she was coming from.
One was a giant of a man at seven feet tall, with a mane of red hair that fell to his broad shoulders, two large bull horns on his head, and green eyes that scanned the room curiously. He was built strongly, with clear musculature, and Shi noticed that he was broad enough that he could probably wrestle an Ursa and win. He wore a dark red shirt and a pair of black sweatpants. His companion, a blonde girl with hair that fell to the small of her back and blue eyes, wore a white nightgown and carried a notepad with her.
Haimon Nikos and Astra Kyanos.
She had watched Haimon die on the streets of Vacuo six years ago, while she'd seen Astra's corpse laying on the ground outside of Shade Academy that same day. The day of the Battle for Vacuo. Shi knew logically that these were different people, or at least different versions of the same people (as confusing as that was to her), but seeing them brought back all of her old memories of them. She had to avert her gaze so they didn't think she was staring at them.
Then, a voice she recognized spoke from behind her, "'Scuse me!" Shi moved out of the way, and her heart almost stopped as she saw Nora Valkyrie walk past with a small smile on her face. She looked just as she did the first time she met her, although she seemed a bit less boundlessly exuberant, had a pair of goat horns on her head, and… there was no Ren. Maybe he was the last person in the class?
She caught a glimpse of a flash of red hair as she looked back the way she had come. Ash had been peeking out of her room, and thus marked herself as the final member of Class Alpha. No Ren… but he could still be in Class Beta, so not all hope was lost.
That was when Verte spotted her and called out from across the common room, "Shi Cadere, the woman a the hour! Why not come and introduce yourself? Everyone's been talkin' about you!"
Well, that wasn't at all nerve wracking. Not even a little bit. Nope.
'Oh Gods, they're all looking at me.'
Shi cleared her throat and raised a hand in greeting to her classmates, "Hi."
The first person to speak was Emerald, who looked at her and smiled, "Hey, I heard about you! You're the girl who caused that big pillar of darkness, right? That's pretty sick! Wish I could do that."
Mercury scoffed, "We all wish we could, Em." He looked at Shi, "Still, it was pretty impressive. Don't think anyone's seen any Warriors of Darkness in years, so you scared the shit out of Emerald here."
Emerald protested with a smack on his arm, which just made Mercury grin, although it was short lived as she smirked, "You mean like how you almost fell over yourself trying to hide behind Haimon over there? Real manly, dude."
Mercury sputtered, drawing a laugh from the others in the room. Haimon took that as his opportunity to speak, placing his forearm over his chest in an Argussian salute before lowering it, "I am Haimon Nikos. Well met, I hope we can spar together some day soon, I hear you're rather skilled."
Astra smiled as she held her notepad against her chest, "I'm Astra Kyanos. It's wonderful to meet you. Don't mind Haimon's desire to spar, too much. He's always seeking to improve."
It seemed that Neo had finally pulled herself away from her ice cream. She blinked a few times before skipping over into the common room and creating a sign in her hand while looking at Shi, "I'm Neopolitan, call me Neo. You look really hot!"
Shi wasn't sure if she should feel more flustered or weirded out that someone that was a younger version of a woman she considered family said that. She settled for using sign language to say, "Thank you, I'm Shi Cadere. I hope we can be friends."
Neo seemed floored and startled by the sudden use of sign language. After she got over it, though, she smiled brightly and nodded a few times.
The red haired woman looked up from her book, light blue eyes watched Shi for a moment before simply saying, "I'm Lilith Taurus." Before she looked back to her book.
'Taurus… I've heard that name before…'
She'd have to check her book later, because she was drawing blanks at the moment.
Nora, who had taken a position lounging on one of the couches, raised a hand and grinned, "Nora Valkyrie! I didn't get to see that pillar thing, but I heard it was super cool!"
Meanwhile, Verte stepped over to Shi and patted her on the back, "And ya already know lil' ol' me, Ash is 'round here, somewhere. She said somethin' about not likin' crowds too much." Verte shrugged, "Well! You should introduce yourself, say more than just hi!"
Shi took a deep breath, already a bit overwhelmed, but she knew Verte was right. She smiled, "Well… you guys already know my name, I'm guessing. I'm Shi Cadere, you can probably guess, but… the headmaster's my dad. That doesn't mean I'm here because of favoritism or anything like that. I can hold my own. It's, uhm… it's great to meet all of you."
Emerald chuckled, "Well, you seem great to me, at least. Good to meet you."
Nora rubbed her chin, "You know, since we have tomorrow off, we should do something together! If we're gonna be going on missions and doing all sorts of class stuff with each other, it makes sense!"
Verte clapped her hands once, "Great idea! Maybe we should go visit Class Beta tomorrow? Get to know them a bit? They're our fellow first years after all! That's at least one thing."
Lilith hummed, "We'll have plenty of time to get to know one another, there's no need to rush it. That being said, we should meet the other class, too. Just in case they ever have us do missions with them. It's unlikely, but not impossible."
Echos of agreements came from everyone else in the room, and so the plan was set. Shi would have been fine waiting to meet them by happenstance, but if the others felt it would be good to go and talk to the other class, who was she to disagree?
The others kept talking, while Shi felt like she'd already done her mandatory socializing for the day. She started to slip away, back towards her room so that she could maybe get some more sleep, or at least relax on her scroll in beautiful isolation.
However, the ears atop her head twitched, picking up something faint.
As she began to focus, it became clearer.
Singing. Beautiful, angelic singing, a voice unlike any she'd ever heard before.
"I've been away, a little while… Sometimes I just can't help myself… When my mind's running wild, I seem to lose grip on reality, and I try to disregard the crazy things the voices tell me to do, but it's no use…"
Shi followed the sound to a door, the very door she'd seen that shock of red hair prior. This was Ash's room, and that was Ash's voice.
She stood there and listened for a good few moments as Ash continued to sing. It would have been too faint for anyone without enhanced hearing to pick up, and even then, Shi only heard it once she was close enough to the source.
As Ash sang, Shi heard that her voice was breaking up, like she was trying to keep herself from falling to sadness.
"I tried to own it, write songs about it. Believe me I tried, in the end I needed to breathe… Find inspiration, some kind of purpose, to take a second to face the shit that makes me, me…"
The sound was only growing more prominent, and Shi felt that she needed to say something, do something. Anything other than standing on the other side of a door. She knocked on the door, and the singing ceased. Ash said softly, "Verte, I said I'm not coming out."
Shi smiled softly as she looked at the doorknob, "I guess it's a good thing I'm not Verte, huh? Can I come in?"
Silence followed for several long moments, and Shi wondered if Ash was silently telling her no. Just as she was about to leave, Ash finally said, "...Okay, come in."
Upon opening the door, Shi was able to look around the room, and got the feeling that she herself really needed to decorate.
Ash had put up posters of what Shi assumed were her favorite shows on the walls. She also had a laptop on the desk in the room, and her bed was covered in pink sheets and a matching comforter. It all looked very cutesy, and didn't at all fit the mental image Shi had in her head about what Ash was like. The overhead light was off, although the ceiling fan was on, and her nightstand's lamp was turned on, providing soft illumination.
The girl herself was sitting on her bed, wearing a wine red nightgown that had a lacy collar and stopped at the middle of her bare thighs, although as Shi entered, Ash moved to cover her legs with her blanket, "Uhm… did you need something?"
Shi shook her head as she shut the door behind her, "Not really, just… I introduced myself to everyone else, and sure, we already met, but… we didn't really talk that much. I felt like we should." She chuckled softly at her own words, "...It's a bit ironic for me to be saying that. Usually I'm not the one that does the talking."
Ash looked away, seeming incredibly nervous at the prospect. She muttered, "Oh, uhm…" and her words caught in her throat as Shi approached and sat next to her, as if it was the last thing she was expecting, though, in Shi's mind, it was completely normal. The room's lighting might have hid the dark blush that came to Ash's face, if Shi wasn't able to see in the dark. Still, she figured that Ash was just nervous and not used to socializing.
Shi reached to think of something to talk about, before deciding on a simple topic, "So… What do you do for fun?" This was more Shi's element, talking to people one on one. Her father was a man who could turn armies at his words, who could rally the most desperate crowds. Shi, on the other hand, could do none of those things. She took what she had.
Ash seemed uncertain on how to respond, as if she had to remember what she thought was fun, "I read, and I watch a bunch of different kinds of shows. Sometimes I play games. That's… it, really."
"Do you sing?" Shi tilted her head, "I heard you singing earlier, and it sounded beautiful."
Ash looked like a strange mix of emotions. Conflicted, alarmed, and… worried? She shook her head, "P-Please don't listen to me sing, you should never do that." At Shi's confused look, she explained with a clear burden on her heart, weighing heavy enough to make her look down, "My voice… It's like poison. If you listen to me sing, you'll eventually be brainwashed. It's my semblance, and… I can't control it. I don't think talking triggers it, but… singing does, and I don't want you to be brainwashed. So, please… you should probably avoid me for the next couple weeks."
Shi blinked a few times, and noticed that the amulet around her neck had begun to pulse, as if it were doing something. She didn't know what it was, she was just glad that it was invisible, "I don't feel any different, and… if talking doesn't trigger it, why should I avoid you?"
The redhead stayed looking down, "It's… a precaution. You might not feel any different, but you'll think about me more, and you'll think about how great I am, and that's the brainwashing. Two weeks is how long it takes for the influence of my semblance to completely leave, and it won't go away if you're around me all the time."
"Well… I don't think I'm thinking anything like that. I'm just worried about you." Shi shook her head, "It's… not my place to be, but… I know you don't mean any harm. You're not trying to hurt people."
Ash blew air out of her nose, "Worried about me?" She blinked a few times before looking at Shi again, "You don't even really know me, why are you worried about me? You'd be far better off just forgetting about this, just treat me like… another face in the crowd."
Shi, in spite of the circumstance, smiled, "Well, it doesn't really matter that we've just met. You're still a person, and I'm going to worry about you like I'd worry about anyone else, more, even, because you're my classmate. We're on one big team, but the numbers don't mean anyone is replaceable. And… I think you're pretty nice, so why shouldn't I want you to feel better? To be happy?"
Ash's eyes widened, and they glistened as a sudden wave of sadness came crashing down onto her. Not just sadness, but… more. Things that Shi couldn't see. She squeezed her eyes shut and looked down, "Y-You should go. I'm… tired."
Shi hesitated, but she could tell that Ash was going through some heavy emotions. She wanted to help the other girl, but what could she do? Not much at the moment, so she got up, "Goodnight, Ash. I'll see you tomorrow." She made no mention of avoiding her as she walked out.
As Shi shut the door, she missed the first tears starting to sting Ash's face.
Once Shi got back to her dorm and shut the door behind her, she received a notification.
Though brief, and a bit bumpy, you still started the path to friendship with all of your classmates. Who knows where these paths will take you?
Shi didn't feel any different from the reward, but maybe it was more subtle than that. Regardless, she decided to do some basic stretches before going to bed, as she didn't doubt that the next day would hold more socializing.
She woke up early the next day, and after going through her morning routine, she headed out towards the Dining Hall to get some breakfast.
She was in the courtyard not far from it when she heard a boy's voice call to her, "Shi!" She turned around in response to look at the person calling to her.
He looked to be her age, was fair-skinned, and had dark red spiky hair that he seemingly had made a vain attempt to comb, yet still looked wind-swept. He had bright silver eyes that seemed to glitter in the sunlight.
He was wearing a white shirt, black pants, combat boots, and a dark red fur-collared bomber jacket. He had a pair of bracers on his wrists, and two sheaths tied to his right and left sides. He looked a lot like the First's Damian, except he had no wings, and Shi had the distinct feeling that his hair was dyed, considering neither her dad nor Salem had red hair.
He came to a stop a few feet across from her and panted while his hands were on his knees, "Man, you move fast… Thought I'd have more time." He looked at her and grinned, "I'm Damian Cadere, nice to meet ya sis! I heard about you all through yesterday, and Dad told me some stuff about you too."
Shi would have been alarmed if she hadn't been told of him prior. Instead she was feeling incredibly awkward, because she had no idea what to say. She swallowed a lump in her throat and smiled, "Hey, Damian. It's uh… nice to meet you. What'd you hear about me?"
Damian stood up straight, being a few inches taller than Shi at 5'10'', and he rubbed the back of his neck, "Mostly just stuff about how you're a Warrior of Darkness, and the headmaster's daughter. Dad had more to say, but he told me that he wanted to let you decide what you want to tell me. He did tell me about the… interesting reason why you're here. Pretty cool if you ask me, crossing planes of existence just to see him again."
Well, at least that was one more person Shi could talk to who knew the whole story. Shi nodded, "It was a lot, but… it's all I've wanted for a long time. Now that I'm here, well… I'm not going anywhere for a while, I know that much." She started towards the Dining Hall again, and he followed her while she asked, "So… what was it like? Being raised by him and Salem."
Damian rubbed the back of his neck as he thought, "Ah, well, it was… interesting, to say the least. I couldn't get anything past either of them, that was for sure. Turns out having thousands of years of experience means that they're really good at telling when someone is lying to them. At least, they were good at telling when I was lying when I was younger." He chuckled, "I learned pretty quick there was no point to trying that."
"It, uh, also meant I had to get pretty wise with people." He sighed, "I'm still not super great at it, but I can at least tell when someone's only trying to hang out with me because of my name. Turns out being the son of the two most powerful people in Vale attracts a lot of people who just wanna be close to the source. Or, if they're my age, they're just trying to get perks. Can't tell you the number of people I had try to ask me out because of the name…"
He laughed awkwardly, "Did uh, did you have to deal with anything like that? I know dad wasn't in any place of power on the First…"
Shi thought for a moment before nodding, "Dad is known as a great hero who sacrificed himself to save everyone. His whole group are famous, the Saviors of Remnant people call them. Sometimes I'm lumped in with them, but I really didn't do that much. I was ten when it all started, and twelve when it ended. My name got me some attention, but not that much. After a certain point I started more looks and glances than anything else. Dunno why."
Damian blinked at her a few times, "You don't?" She shook her head and he smirked, "Sis, I think, uh… you should probably know why. It feels fucking weird saying this, but, like, objectively speaking, scientifically speaking, even, you look attractive. I'm sure you could ask anyone here and they'd tell you that much."
"Whaat?" Shi shook her head in disbelief, "No, there's no way that's it. I don't look that good compared to the average person, especially the average Huntsman or Huntress. I mean, have you seen some of the people just walking around? They look much more impressive."
Damian rolled his eyes and pointed at a random girl that was passing them by, "You! What do you think of her? Does she look hot?"
"Drop dead gorgeous!"
Damian waved as they kept walking, "Thanks! See what I mean?"
Shi was flustered as she shook her head, "O-One person. That's not a good test pool—and no, that's not an invitation to ask more people. Let's move on, what about you? If we're going into love-lives, do you have one?"
He chuckled awkwardly, "A-Ah, uh, no. Like I said, most everyone that's asked me out was in it for the name. I want something real, y'know? I'm sure I'll find someone eventually. Maybe. Hopefully. What about you?"
As they entered the Dining Hall, Shi smiled, "Well, I'm certain you'll find someone eventually. As for me, I'm not really looking for anyone. I've always been focused on becoming the best Huntress I can be, so that sort of stuff never really came to mind. It'd be nice if it happened, but I'm not gonna go looking for it."
The Dining Hall itself was just like Beacon's in many ways, having large tables that held the majority of students, and a small army of professional chefs who cooked everything before putting it out so students could take it, some of them serving the food directly. The primary difference was the addition of smaller, circular tables that were clearly designed for overflow. Most of them were taken, but Shi and Damian managed to find one to sit at after they got some trays of food to eat.
Once they were sitting, Damian joked, "Ms. Business, huh? Got any hobbies other than fighting Grimm and doing other Huntsman stuff? I play video games mostly."
"Well, I-" Shi's words died in her mouth as she rubbed her chin, "Uhm… I… used to be pretty into soccer? And I used to play video games, but I stopped caring about that stuff once I got deeper into Huntsman training. Sometimes I browse the internet…"
Her brother had a smirk on his face, "So, what you're saying is, you've got no hobbies."
Shi deflated as her ears flattened against her head, "Yeah. It's kinda sad when you put it like that. Am I really that boring?"
"Aw, don't think of it like that." He smiled, "You're here at Sanctuary now, I'm sure you'll find some hobbies. If not on campus, then in Vale. Maybe you'll start playing games? Or take up clubbing? Gambling? Something less destructive? The sky's the limit."
She rubbed her chin and nodded as her ears unfolded and stood up straight again, "You're right! I'll just have to… find some hobbies. I'm sure I'll have time for that between classes and stuff like that."
The question then became: Where to start?
She didn't know, that kind of thing was something that was always difficult to ask and even more difficult to answer. Growing up in the middle of a war had thoroughly erased any ideas of what 'fun' was supposed to be. Fun to her was fighting Grimm, and now fighting Nephilim. Surely, there was more to it than that?
Well, she supposed she'd find out sooner or later.
After she finished eating with Damian, it was about the time that Class Alpha had planned to go visit Class Beta, and so the two headed for Beta's dorm.
When they walked into the dorm, they were immediately hit by the sound of music. A bouncy tune, and a girl's beautiful voice sang out from the kitchen, "I'm not the damsel in distress. I'm not your girlfriend or the frightened princess! I'm not a little bird who needs your help to fly! Nope... I'm the bad guy!"
Shi's blood went cold, because she recognized that voice, though it was dampened, because on the first, she'd sung her last song five years ago. Damian led her into the common area, but everyone that was in the area was in the kitchen, most of them were sitting at a long dinner table.
However, the first person she focused on was the one doing the singing.
She looked different… but ultimately still recognizable.
Her hair was all black, save for a single streak of gold dyed in. She was fair skinned and had honey-gold eyes, but lacked the hexagonal irises and pupils that Shi remembered. She wore a pink T-shirt, jeans, and shoes as she danced around the kitchen, cooking breakfast: from the smell and sight of it, bacon, eggs, and toast.
She continued to sing, "All these former villains that you see~! Each of them, with shaking knees, has knelt. Before. Me! So I'm not your teammate or your partner in crime~!" Then she called out, "What am I, boys?!"
Four people, including Damian himself, responded to the call, "She's the bad guy."
The first was a woman that looked tall, at least relative to everyone there, although it was hard to tell her exact height because she was sitting. She had pale skin, curly ginger colored hair that fell to her upper back, and a very freckled face. Her eyes were a dull maroon, and she was very well-built: curvy, filled out, and very fit.
She wore a burnt orange crop top with long sleeves, leaving her midriff exposed, a pair of shorts that stopped at her mid-thighs, and a pair of black boots with red lacing that formed a cross pattern that stopped just below her knees.
Her style of dress reminded Shi of Yang, although this girl seemed a lot more calm, at least at a first glance.
The next one was actually somewhat familiar to her. She'd seen pictures of this girl back on the First, Ilia Amitola. Apparently, she was one of Blake's friends; although, unlike her counterpart, this Ilia had skin free of any mottling. She was wearing a simple black T-shirt, jeans, and shoes.
After her was another woman. She had fair skin, brown hair tied back into a ponytail, teal eyes, and a button nose. She was wearing a purple peacoat with golden buttons and a yellow scarf that was thrown over her neck a few times, with the ends hanging off the left side. She also had white tweed pants on and brown boots with small black bows on the sides. Her final piece of attire was a purple rimmed hat with a yellow ribbon around it, finished off with a bow.
She looked graceful, but there was something about the glint in her eyes, of mirth and amusement, and of the smile on her lips, so slightly twisted, as if she was having fun while also planning just what she'd do next. Shi got the strange feeling that this one was a trickster of some kind.
Orchid continued singing as she went through the motions, "Oh, it's magic~ To watch a planet… Shrivel up and die! Oh, it's thrillin', to be a villain! I destroy their homes and then I watch. Them. Cry. Cause I'm the bad guy!"
She began to make the plates of food, all with flare and pizazz while continuing to sing, "Oh, ain't it fantastic? I see something, I blast it! And let me tell you why… I've always had a weakness, for barrenness and bleakness! I crush all your hopes and then I watch. You. Cry!"
She began to bring the plates to the table, setting them down while continuing her song, "See, I find this business rather fun~! I don't want your assistance or your ad-u-la-tion! I'll vaporize your galaxy and bid ya bye-bye~!"
Then she twirled and ended up near Shi and Damian, asking them with a smirk, "Why~? Come on! Guess!" She grinned with theatrical malice, and Shi could practically see the burning manor surrounding them, as her Dad brought down one of the evilest people Shi had ever seen.
"Uhm…" Shi looked at Damian, and he looked at her with a look that said 'Just go along with it', and so both said, "Cause you're the… bad guy?"
Orchid snickered, "Or, well, girl!" Before laughing and making her way over to where she left her scroll as the music ended, cutting it off.
Damian smiled, amused at her shenanigans, "Orchid, I haven't known you for very long, but I'm pretty sure you'd cry if you saw someone accidentally kill a bee. You don't have a single bad bone in your body."
"Details, details!" She waved her hand dismissively as she turned around, "So, who's your friend? Ooh!" She walked over and looked Shi over, much to the girl's discomfort, "This is that Warrior of Darkness that's supposed to be your sister, huh?"
Damian nodded, "Yep, Shi Cadere, number one in Class Alpha! Apparently the rest of her class is gonna come over soon so we can all meet each other."
Another voice came from the hallway, one fairly androgynous, "Maaan, and you didn't say anything?" Shi looked back to see who was talking.
They were fair-skinned, with a fairly androgynous body hidden under a baggy blue hoodie, and cargo pants. They had white hair that was cut short in a boyish sort of way. It was messy and slightly fluffy, overlapping itself in several places and falling to just barely cover their eyebrows and the top of their ears. Their eyes were crimson, and blinked with clear tiredness, they had only just gotten up it seemed.
They were about Shi's height, and they crossed their arms before huffing, "What the hell, Damian? You can't just dump shit like that on us. Is this gonna become a habit or something?"
Damian rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, "Yeah, sorry, Kera. I kind of only figured it out myself recently."
Kera huffed, "Guess it can't be helped." They walked past and into the kitchen, where Orchid had already made a plate for them. It seemed to shock them, but they accepted it all the same.
The next two to enter were a pair that Shi had never seen before. A girl with fair skin, orange-brown hair, green eyes, and a small peppering of freckles on her face. The other was a boy with tanned skin, a muscular form, and a strong jawline. He had black hair and wore a pair of glasses over his brown eyes.
Damian smiled at them, "Hey Deery, Perry. Get good sleep?"
Deery nodded and gave a small smile before heading past silently, while Perry gave a more stern nod, "The accommodations at Sanctuary really are the best. I don't remember there being anything this good back home. Truly, superb." He smiled and then walked past, both of them being given plates of food just the same as the others.
'What the hell kind of name is Deery…?' Shi asked herself, but she decided that maybe it was better if she didn't think about it too hard.
The next to enter was also a pair, although these two seemed to be twins.
The first was a pale-skinned girl with long black hair, straight fringes that covered her eyebrows, and pale green eyes.
She was wearing an off-white strapless dress that gradated to a cyan towards the skirt, a cyan layered feathery tulle that hung longer than the dress, and a small bow at the top center of the dress. She wore white thigh-high boots with red lace-up detailing.
The other seemed to be her twin, with pale skin, short black bob-style hair with a straight fringe and pale green eyes. She was wearing a red strapless dress that was patterned with what looked to be newspaper headlines.
Damian's smile grew shy as he looked away from the two, "H-Hey, Melanie, Miltia. Good to see you two."
They both smiled, Miltia seemingly a bit shyer than Melanie, who carried herself with far more confidence, "Good morning, Damian." They both greeted in unison, before walking past to get their breakfast.
Damian let out a sigh as they were gone, and Shi hummed, "Are you scared of those two or something? You seemed completely tense."
Damian shook his head, "N-No, not scared… Well, not scared in the way that I'm afraid of them. Scared in the way that they're kinda scary, get it?"
"Not in the slightest."
"...I'll have to explain some other time."
Not long after that, the rest of Class Alpha showed up. It got crowded in there, but luckily between the kitchen and common area, they had enough space to be comfortable. Ash was there, which was a bit of a surprise, but she was just standing in a corner looking slightly overwhelmed. Shi sympathized, and she wanted to go talk to her, but Ash was already worried about her having somehow been affected by her semblance; she didn't want to add fuel to that paranoia.
They spent a lot of time talking, and Shi was able to glean some things that she might not have otherwise. For example, Ren just… wasn't there. Nora spoke of a friend she had, but got evasive when it came to answering any questions about him. That didn't bode well, to say the least.
Emerald and Mercury had apparently known each other for some time in this timeline, although it was a bit of a strange combo, considering Emerald had a fairly safe life, and Mercury had been raised by a bounty hunter who killed dangerous Nephilim and criminals alike, Marcus Black. Neo mentioned via sign language that she had a friend in an upper grade that she was hoping to talk to later, and Shi was only slightly surprised to find that his name was Roman Torchwick.
The girl with the scarf and fancy hat, who turned out to be named Eris, proved to be a being of utter chaos and unpredictability. She somehow stuck a piece of cheese in Shi's pocket without the girl noticing for the first few minutes, and then she tied Damian's shoes together. Why? Because it was funny. Shi wasn't sure if she liked Eris or if she felt the need to keep her distance.
Allumette, who was the tall ginger girl, proved far more agreeable, being something of a team mom of Class Beta. She minded the others, and helped keep things orderly, while still being polite, gentle, and wise. Shi was reminded of both her aunts Yang and Pyrrha in equal measure, except without the anger issues of the former. At least, as far as Shi could tell.
Shi didn't get to spend as much time there as she might have, since she wanted to gather as much information as she could about the classes to figure out what was different. Instead, she received a text from her dad, asking for her to meet him at… one of the training arenas? Shi was curious, to say the least, so she excused herself and went to meet with Neve.
Admittedly, she was a bit grateful. For as much as she wanted to learn more, being around that many people for what had become a couple hours had made her want to get away from it for some time. The training room that she had been directed to was a larger one. Still just a singular room, but it was built for two or more trainees to fight without worrying about collateral damage.
However, standing in the middle of the room was not another student. She was shocked to find Neve standing there, but not in the suit from before. He was wearing what appeared to be a copy of his old outfit—his original one, the one he had been wearing when he saved her. A long white coat with a white furred hoodand a shoulder-cape that was accented with gold and two snowflake decorated shoulder-pads. He wore his scarf, wrapped several times around his neck, with its two ice Dust infused gems at the end of either side. He also wore a pair of black winter gloves under a pair of bracers with both snowflakes and autumn leaves on it. Underneath that, he wore a black loose turtleneck sweater, a pair of black winter pants, and a pair of boots with orange laces crossed in X's.
The Long Memory was planted on the ground in front of him, and his hands rested atop it. He smiled as he saw Shi approaching, "Good noon, Shi."
Shi furrowed her brow, "Dad… What's this about? Your old outfit and everything…"
He smirked, "To put it simply… I want to test you. You killed a Nephilim, true, but with the power of darkness. I need to evaluate your strength as is, without your eyes bailing you out." He nodded towards a wall, where Theta rested, "I retrieved your weapon. Take it."
Shi was already walking towards it, but still, she hesitated as she grabbed it, "Dad… Is this really a good idea? You've got your injuries, you can't push yourself that hard…"
He chuckled, "Don't worry about your old man, Shi. I can handle a spar with my daughter. Now…" He took one hand off his cane and reached back, under his cloak. A click, and then he unsheathed a long blade that started black at the bottom and faded into a sky blue at the top. His sword, Dawn. "Are you going to worry over me all day, or are you going to prove to me that you've grown as a fighter since we last trained, those long years ago?"
She was still hesitant, but she saw his point. She had been bailed out of that fight; if it weren't for her eyes activating suddenly, she would have lost. She couldn't rely on something like that to bail her out all the time, especially if it came with a great amount of fatigue. She shifted Theta from its folded state into its gunblade, digging out some cartridges from her satchel and loading them in, "Alright, Dad…" A sudden growing burst of elation filled her, and she grinned, "Don't blame me if you bruise."
Then, Shi shot forward, bringing back Theta while holding it in both hands and then thrusting forward, towards Neve's stomach. He jumped backward, and as he did, time slowed down. In front of her eyes appeared a pair of glass slippers, cracked and close to shattering, pressed against each other in the form of a heart, and behind them was a clock, its hands ticking forward, well past midnight. Over it all, came text.
HEADMASTER OF SANCTUARY ACADEMY
THE STORYTELLER OUT OF TIME
HERO OF YESTERDAY
The symbols and titles vanished as time sped back up, and as Neve landed, he lunged forward and swung his cane. Shi parried it and detonated a Dust cartridge, causing his cane arm to get knocked back. This would have left him open, had he not instead stabbed forward with his sword, a move that Shi was able to dodge by leaning to the left.
Shi dropped low and swept her leg, forcing Neve to jump over it. As her leg missed his, she dropped to her back, keeping the momentum as she kicked upward, catching him as he started to come back down. It would have knocked the air out of his lungs if it wasn't for his aura. Shi placed a hand on the ground as Neve used a gust of wind to pull himself back, using it to backspring before she flipped in the air and landed on her feet.
Neve grinned as he landed and then rushed forward, bringing up his cane and trying to swipe at her. She ducked under it, and he began swinging several times in rapid succession with both of his weapons, with her dodging each one, moving her head to the right or left when he tried to thrust his cane forward, sidestepping, ducking, and jumping over other strikes, and parrying others with Theta.
He laughed as they continued, "You've gotten much faster! I can see you took to Neo's lessons well. Not as reliant on your semblance, either; back in the day you'd have already tried it several times." He stabbed forward with Dawn and managed to catch her stomach, causing her to grimace in pain before she knocked it away.
"I took everyone's lessons to heart!" she responded, "Qrow and Jaune taught me a lot about using swords. Qrow told me that using my scythe on a human opponent was a bad idea." She stepped forward into Neve's guard after parrying yet another attack and swung Theta, detonating a Dust cartridge as it connected with its target. He staggered backwards, and Shi continued, "Ruby taught me that the scythe still has its uses, even against human opponents."
Shi's weapon shifted quickly, turning into its much larger scythe form, she swung it at Neve and then yanked it back as the blade ended up behind him, pulling him closer to her before she kicked him in the gut and raised her scythe into the air, shifting it back into its gunblade form, "Mom helped me gain better control of my semblance." Her left side ignited with fire while her right cooled the air near it. A gout of fire pushed Neve away, while her right side iced the area around them.
Neve recovered and grinned, "You learned a lot! Course, you're still a newbie." He planted his staff on the ground as another burst of fire came towards him, and an emerald green shield bubble formed around him, protecting him from the blast before it pushed outward and exploded with kinetic energy, sending Shi flying back against a wall.
Shi recovered and pushed off the wall while deactivating her semblance. She charged him and raised her gunblade, moving to deliver a downward strike; however, he blocked it with his cane while slashing at her stomach with Dawn, causing her to yelp and stagger before she kicked on her semblance again and sent a wave of ice towards him.
He jumped backward to avoid the rising tide of ice and tutted, "Shi, you should know better than this." The temperature suddenly dropped, and Shi's eyes widened as Neve's semblance took affect, before a blizzard exploded outward, originating from him. Snow and wind raged, and Shi tried to activate her left side, kicking it on as high as she could to try and beat ice with fire, but she found it was doing nothing to the blizzard. She looked around and tried to see if she could find him, but she heard him first, "You should know that using ice against Jack Frost is folly."
Again, she tried to activate her fire, turning it up as high as she could, but the fire was quenched, suffocated by the cold, and she was forced to turn off her semblance. Neve chuckled, "Your mother tried the same thing once, at the stroke of midnight." She turned towards the sound of his voice and swung her blade, but found it hit nothing. Instead, she yelped as she received a knock on the head from The Long Memory with enough force to make her fall to the ground.
She rolled onto her back as the blizzard ended and the temperature began to steady, but before she could sit up, she froze as she found herself staring at Dawn's blade. Neve was smiling, "You've read how that went, I'm sure." His smile turned proud as he sheathed Dawn, "I think I've seen what I need to." He held out his now free hand, planting his cane with the other, "You're much better now, and though I haven't gotten the full scope of your abilities, if you took to the training so well, I'm almost certain you've more surprises for me."
Shi smiled, took his hand, and stood up, "Thanks, Dad. I've had some pretty good teachers."
Neve nodded, "I'm glad you never lost heart." Then he let go of her hand and turned around before suddenly gasping in pain, he fell to one knee and winced as his free hand went to his side.
Shi's eyes widened in shock as she exclaimed worriedly, "Dad!" While hurrying to help him, kneeling next to him and putting a hand on his back, "What's wrong? Are you okay?" Her tone grew guilty, "D-Did I hurt you?"
Salem's voice suddenly came from the doorway, "Don't blame yourself, Shi." Shi looked and saw Salem walking over, her face the picture of worry, "I told him not to do this, but he insisted. I understand wanting to make sure that you're ready, but he's pushing himself too hard."
Neve chuckled, still in pain, though it seemed to be lessening as his grip on his side loosened, "I did what I had to in order to make sure my daughter is strong enough. I expect this school year to go well, but my assumptions have been shattered before. Too many times."
Shi groaned at the joke, "Daad!"
Salem rolled her eyes playfully, "Of course, dear. You make that joke every chance you get." While Shi helped him stand, she said, "Just because you're ageless doesn't mean you're immortal, I shouldn't have to remind you of that."
Shi blinked in confusion, "W-Wait, what? Ageless?" She knew how Neve's immortality was supposed to work. He was supposed to reincarnate, just like Ozma did!
"You haven't told her, Neve?" Salem asked.
"No." He sighed as he leaned on his cane, "But I suppose we should do that now." He looked at Shi, "Come with us back to my office. I withheld a lot of things from you yesterday to avoid overwhelming you, but now is as good a time as any. I try not to keep too many secrets these days, but… old habits, as they say."
The three of them headed out and back to Beacon Tower, the walk was silent, and they drew some attention, as expected. No doubt Neve and Salem walking around drew eyes, and Shi wondered how people felt about her being his daughter. She hoped they didn't think of her as being there because of favoritism, though she'd gladly prove them wrong if they did.
Soon, they were back in his office, and Neve moved to sit at his desk while Salem went about making tea from a setup in the corner, a small kitchenette that seemed a bit odd and out of place, but if the two spent that often there, she supposed it made sense.
He gestured for Shi to sit down across from him, and so she did. He smiled, "I'll skip asking you what your favorite fairytale is. So, you know on the First we have the Relics of Knowledge, Creation, Destruction, and Choice, correct?" Shi nodded, and so he continued, "Things are a bit different here. Creation and Destruction are still called such, but their functions are different. Creation is an artisan's tool. It can make anything, and those things can persist after another is created, but… It can only ever make one of something, and you can be general with its description, but it is better to be very exact. If you ask it to make a gun, it will never be able to make a gun again, but if you ask for a specific make, model, that sort of thing, it can make others in the future. Destruction can completely destroy something, down to the last atom, but the user must completely understand what it wants destroyed, what makes the item, down to every last detail. Even more so if it's a person, you need to know exactly who they see themselves as."
Shi blinked, "Both of those seem a lot more limited than their counterparts on the First… What about the rest? And what about your 'agelessness'?"
He chuckled, "Patience, Shi, I'm getting there. There is no Relic of Choice or Relic of Knowledge here. Instead, there's the Relic of Obligation and the Relic of Ignorance. The Relic of Obligation can allow the user to see a choice made by another person present, and it will show them both the absolute worst possible outcomes as they affect the user, rather than the one making the choice. Thus, indirectly obligating the one making the choice to choose differently."
Salem finished making the tea, and brought over a tray with three cups and an old, fancy tea kettle. She poured three cups, and Neve smiled at her as he took one, "Thank you, dear."
"Well, I can't let you drink hot chocolate all the time. It's not healthy." She smirked as she took her own cup and began to sip from it.
Shi took one and tried the tea, a delicious, sweet tasting blend, although she obviously didn't know its name. Neve returned to his explanation after taking a sip of his own drink, "The Relic of Ignorance has the ability to remove a person's memories and knowledge of something, be it the user or someone else, although it can only be used three times every century. It could give someone amnesia, or even remove their knowledge on breathing… Its uses are endless, and catastrophic in the wrong hands. Naturally, all four relics are hidden very securely, but there are two more. Two 'minor' relics, similar to how the Relic of Progress is a relic without being one someone needs to summon the Gods on the First.
"The Relic of Despair is… one we know very little about, other than its existence. It's been impossible to locate, the only reason we know of its existence is Salem having learned about it by way of the Gods. Finally, there's the Relic of Stagnation. It can put a stop to something, preventing its progression, just one at a time. This could be the growth of crops in an area, or the building up of a volcano, or… one's aging."
Shi gasped and her eyes widened, "And it's being used to stop yours? Why?"
Salem stepped closer to Neve and put a hand on his shoulder, the two shared a smile before she looked at Shi, "Though he is not Ozma, he is so very similar to him, but… better, in every way. When I first heard of what the First was like, and who he shared a soul with, I was elated. Though it took time, after we became a couple, I convinced him to use the Relic of Stagnation to stop himself from aging. I lost Ozma to his own inflated ego and sense of wrongful righteousness, I wasn't about to lose Neve to the tides of time."
Neve nodded, "And since the minor relics don't attract Grimm, I've been able to keep it on me." He reached into his shirt and showed that he was wearing a necklace. It looked like a pocket watch on a chain, except it had no cover. The clock was frozen, with both hands on '12', and it was accented dark purple with the clock itself being black.
There was so much Shi could say about this, but she didn't want to think about it. She didn't want to think about what the years would do to her mom or her aunts and uncles while Neve remained, because she was still young, and that sort of thinking was the kind she pushed away. Instead, she said, "I… I see. What about the Maidens?"
Salem explained, "There are no Maidens, though Neve has told me about them. Here, there are the Knights. I won't go into too much detail, but… Four noble gentlemen sought me out when I was feeling forlorn, and they sought my help to solve the ongoing war that threatened to turn humanity to nothing but a memory. They helped lift my spirits, and I sent them on a quest to find the Relic of Obligation. When they returned, I gave them some of my vast reserves of magic, and since then, the Knights have been guardians of the relics. Mayhaps you will meet the Knight of Obligation someday soon. He does so love to wander… It was a miracle that I was able to convince him to travel with an entourage, to prevent any ambushes from occurring."
Neve nodded, "After the mistakes made on the First, well… It's better to be safe than sorry. Needless to say, I have my top agent working with him, though I imagine the two spend as much time bickering as they do anything else…" He smirked and shook his head, "But I think we've taken up enough of your time. Shi, you can return to… whatever you were doing before, if you'd like. Or you can sit here and listen to me ramble for around another four hundred thousand words, it'd be just like me reading you the book, or you can listen to me tell you to get a shirt. Either works for me."
Shi giggled, glad that at least for the moment, Neve had only joked about her outfit instead of telling her to get something more modest, "I think I'll pass, I loved reading your book, but I want to see how the others are doing. I'll see you guys later." She bid farewell, and they did in turn, before she left and headed for the dorm, figuring by that point maybe some would have come back.
She said she wanted to check on the others, but as she left, she doubted herself. She was feeling pretty tired from all the socializing, sparring, and learning. She decided to just go to her dorm room, sitting on the bed. She debated making a video diary entry, but decided that she was fine without one for that night. Instead, she took out a book and decided to relax with it.
Somewhere in the Valean Countryside
Two people traveled by horseback, following a trail through the peaceful wilderness, one in a black cloak with its hood pulled up, the other in an azure one, also with the hood pulled up.
Well, it would be peaceful, but…
A woman's voice spoke with annoyance, "You have an annoying habit of sticking your nose in other people's businesses, you know that?"
To which a man responded, "What was I supposed to do? That family was overjoyed to have me there to show off some magic tricks for that girl's birthday."
The woman pulled back her hood, revealing crimson eyes, fair skin, and long black hair. Raven Branwen scoffed, "More like they were ogling you, you fool. You take this whole 'pure of heart and mind' thing way too seriously."
The man pulled back his hood as they both came to a stop and he looked over at her. He had fair skin, strong features, blue eyes, and dark blue hair that was kept short and orderly. Underneath the cloak, he was wearing a set of dark blue colored plate armor, "I haven't the slightest idea what you're talking about, Raven." He huffed, "You always assume the worst in people, everyone has good in them somewhere."
"I have to assume the worst in people." Raven frowned, "That's my job, you idiot. If I don't, then someone might get the jump on us and kill you. You might be this grand 'heroic' protector, but there are still people who want your power for themselves. Like hell am I going to let that happen."
"Aww." Cobalt smirked teasingly, "You think I'm heroic, Raven? I'm flattered, and honored by your willingness to protect my life. I couldn't have asked for a better protector."
Raven wasn't sure which was worse, that he was teasing her, or that in spite of that, he meant what he was saying. She just decided they were equal and scowled, shaking her head, "Whatever, let's get-" Suddenly, she spotted smoke rising in the distance, "There's a fire, Cobalt, let's go the other way."
Instead, when Cobalt saw it, he urged his horse to race towards it, causing Raven to swear under her breath before she followed after him.
They arrived at a burning village, seemingly having been attacked and set ablaze. Cobalt waved his hand, and with that wave rain fell on the town, quenching the flames slowly but surely. Raven reached his side, "You need to stop doing that." She looked at the town, her scowl remaining, "A Nephilim attack?"
Cobalt nodded, "It seems that way… Bandits wouldn't have set this place ablaze, lest they wanted to light a signal flare to every Huntsman in the area." They slowly trotted forward on their horses, "The question is, what could have caused this attack…"
Raven spotted something, "I think I found the answer." She pointed to a fallen banner. It was burned, but from what could be discerned, it seemed like there was some kind of festival, "They didn't bother to hire protection, or their protection was shit."
"Damn it…" Cobalt muttered, then he noticed something moving in the wreckage of a house. He urged his horse over to it cautiously.
There, he spotted a man and his teenage daughter cowering in the wreckage and greeted them, "Ho, there. You're safe now, I am Cobalt, Knight of Obligation, and this is my protector, Raven Branwen. What happened here?"
"The Nephilim…" The shell shocked man responded, "B-But there were more of them this time. They weren't just fighting us… It seemed like they were fighting each other over us. I don't know why, but…" He shook his head, "I-It was terrifying."
Raven frowned, "Nephilim fighting each other isn't rare, but in a village, and over the villagers? That's strange. We need to report this, and get these people to safety."
Cobalt nodded in agreement, "Come, you two." He got off the horse and helped them over to them, before helping the daughter onto Raven's horse, "We will take you back to Vale, you'll be safe there."
After Cobalt got on his horse again, the four were off, leaving behind the burning wreckage that was once a town.
The fact that the Nephilim were behaving this way was strange, to say the least. There were only a handful of their tribes in this area, so one would think they'd be more cooperative, but it seemed that the opposite was true. He had to wonder what it was for. Resources? Slaves? Territory? Supremacy? Maybe some mixture of the four, but battles that engulfed entire villages as collateral were enough to worry about without trying to figure out what it was over.
Raven heard the girl crying behind her, sobbing to herself, and it made her grimace. She had to wonder what had been lost, besides the village itself. Family, friends, loved ones, all gone. It was a familiar sight, and a familiar feeling. One she had caused before, but now she tried to do differently. However, every day, she had to wonder if she was doing enough. Not that she would ever voice this question, because she knew that the answer would present itself eventually, when she was strong enough to find it.
Natural rain clouds were forming in the sky, and thunder rumbled. Some small Nevermore watched them passively as they traveled past, and Cobalt wondered if they were an omen. Them and ravens alike were omens in certain cultures, and while Cobalt was not the superstitious type, it didn't bode well.
He already had a bad luck charm, he didn't need another.