Author's Note

This is a rewrite of one of my earliest stories at this point, and I've improved a great deal since then. I knew I wanted to revisit this story, and fix what I felt were mistakes while changing things to hopefully be more interesting. If you've read the old version, there'll be things you recognize and things you don't, and I hope you find what I've done differently to be interesting. Enjoy reading!

Being a Faunus in Atlas was somewhat easier than being a Faunus in Mantle, if only because the more overt racism was replaced with upturned noses and aside glances.

However, racism is still racism, and children learn from their parents, because their parents know everything, right?

So, on a playground one day, a group of children didn't think much of anything about harassing the one Faunus girl they'd ever seen. She had fair skin, her eyes were honey-gold with hexagonally shaped irises, and her then neck-length hair was horizontally striped, alternating between black and gold.

Her name was Orchid Grove, Mantler born and raised, but her family had not too long ago gotten a lucky break. Her father, who worked as a landscaper, was hired on as a groundskeeper at the Schnee manor. Moving from Mantle to Atlas was a culture shock, but between living in a nicer house, having her mother able to start up the flower shop she'd always wanted, things were looking up.


"Hey, Bee! Why don't you make yourself useful and make some honey?"

"Yeah, or sting someone so you can die!"

…The more things changed the more they stayed the same.

Except, this time it was different.

There was a bigger, slightly older boy there too. He seemed to be the ringleader, and as Orchid just tried to step away while looking for a way out, he took hold of a rock, "Listen, guys. We need to teach her a lesson, and she'll never forget this one." He reeled back, preparing to throw the rock…

And that was when a new voice interjected, that of another girl, "Hey! You idiots!"

The girl stomped in front of Orchid. She was pale, with snow white hair tied back into a long ponytail and ice blue eyes. She was wearing a short sleeved blouse with a blue ribbon on her chest, a long blue skirt, and black buckle shoes. She thrust her arms out wide to protect the other girl and yelled with a chastising tone, "If you throw that rock, my daddy will fire all of your daddies!"

To Orchid's shock, the boys hesitated, and began to speak amongst themselves.

"That's a Schnee!"

"Man, I can't get on her bad side, my dad works for the SDC…"

"Yeah, so does mine!"

"Ugh, let's get out of here before she loses her temper and tells on us anyway!"

The small gang fled quickly, and that was when the girl turned towards Orchid, who looked at her with amazement. Her savior placed her hands behind her back and smiled, "I hope you're okay. They didn't hurt you, did they?"


"Good! Hey… Are you new around here? I've never seen you before."

Orchid nodded, "Y-Yes, my papa got a job at the Schnee home just a few weeks ago. I'm Orchid, Orchid Grove."

The snow white haired girl nodded, "I'm Weiss Schnee. Do you… Wanna be friends? You must be lonely." She looked away and muttered, "I know I am…"

Orchid smiled at her, "Yeah…

"That sounds nice."


On that day, the two girls made their first real friends.

Weiss was often too busy with her studies to make any other friends, and so Orchid, once she began to work with her father, became a staple of her life, just as she became a staple in hers.

They would spend what free time they both had together. Sometimes, Orchid would play her guitar, something she had been learning for as long as she could remember. Other times, they would play some game or another, like tag or hide-n-seek. When the weather was bad, or when they were both tired, they would just sit around and talk to each other.

Orchid had school to attend, while Weiss was tutored at home, but she still made it a habit to work with her father so she could visit as often as possible. She made more friends at school, she was a social butterfly (or a social bee, perhaps) and it came easily to her. Making new friends also had the consequence of making it a lot harder for anyone to try to bully her, because she had people that would stick up for her if they did.

Not that she couldn't stick up for herself; she could and sometimes did, but she also knew better than to ruffle too many feathers. Her parents had warned her that even faculty might have biases against Faunus, so it was best to be as upstanding a student as she could be.

However, for as many friends as she made, Weiss was still her best friend. Not only had she saved her, but they both found they shared similar interests. Weiss wasn't allowed to partake in a lot of things, but when there was a book or a movie she could watch, then oftentimes Orchid would find that she shared an interest in it as well.

Years began to pass, as they have a habit of doing, and melted into routine. Both girls had met when they were five, and their friendship continued strong for several years after that. They were certain nothing would get between them, because what was there to get between?

They didn't know that Jacques Schnee was not very fond of Faunus, not at all.

He could bear his daughter being friends with one, sure, but he caught the beginnings of something more, something he very much couldn't bear.

When the girls were thirteen, he found a picture on his daughter's phone, or rather, the maid he had paid to check her phone did. When he saw it, it made his blood boil.

It was a selfie of the two girls. Orchid had her arm around Weiss, and they were both giving peace signs. That was normal, but what got him was that Orchid had kissed Weiss on the cheek, and the picture very clearly showed Weiss' startled and flustered reaction. The fact that Weiss kept the picture meant she clearly valued it, and that, in Jacques' mind, was a problem.

So, he set about making a plan to rectify it. His daughter having interest in another girl was scandalous enough, but he could have twisted that into a positive thing for the company's image. But a Faunus girl? If that ever went public, it would ruin the SDC's image, he knew it would, and it went against his own principles besides.

To say Weiss was shocked when he told her that she was above Faunus and under no circumstances should she be associating with them would be an understatement. The thirteen year old girl was naive, unaware of how things worked in Jacques' mind. She was aghast at the idea of breaking things off with her friend, but he had leverage. He told her that if she wanted to continue pursuing her (in his mind, foolish) desire to be a Huntress, she would do as he said.

He told her exactly what to say, and her only request was that she be given time to prepare. He allowed that much, as long as she abandoned her foolish friendship then he would be satisfied.

Over the next two months, Weiss grew more distant from Orchid, isolating herself from her friend. Orchid herself didn't suspect a thing. In hindsight, she would later think, it was obvious what was coming. But she'd never experienced anything like what was about to happen, and she would have, at the time, gladly dropped everything just to spend more time with Weiss.

After all, she was her best friend.

The day that it happened, Orchid had spent the whole day helping her dad; it was a Saturday after all. Her reward for the work she'd done was being able to rush to Weiss' room and, hopefully, spend some time with her.

Weiss had been practicing her fencing form in her room when Orchid opened the door and greeted her with enthusiasm, "Weiss! I'm done for today!" Weiss, startled by Orchid's sudden arrival, messed up her footing and almost tripped, causing Orchid to gasp, "Oh, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to startle you."

Weiss huffed in annoyance, "I've told you repeatedly to knock before opening my door, Orchid!" Orchid bowed her head apologetically as Weiss set her rapier down and looked out the bedroom window. She had never required Orchid to knock until two months prior, she used to be happy to see her no matter what, but Orchid felt that she was quickly becoming nothing but an annoyance to the heiress.

But, Orchid was desperate to try and ignore that, because she didn't want to imagine that she was losing her best friend. So after a few moments of silence she began speaking again, "W-Weiss, if you're done practicing for today we could-"

Weiss' response was blunt and immediate, cutting off the other girl, "No. I need to focus on my training. If I'm going to live up to my family name, I need to dedicate myself wholly to my craft. I don't have time for… petty distractions."

Orchid stammered as she tried to come up with something else, "W-Well I could-"

"Enough!" Weiss turned around, her eyes filled with annoyance and anger, her posture standoffish, shocking Orchid to her core, "You don't understand what I have to do! How could you? You're not training to be a Huntress! You've been taking up my time for years now, and I realized that it was a waste! It was tolerable to a point, but now? I have no time for someone like you! I'm a Schnee! A Huntress-in-Training, and you… You're nothing!"

Orchid recoiled, her eyes wide and brimming with tears that threatened to spill from her sudden cutting words, and yet, Weiss wasn't done, "To make matters worse, you're… You're one of them! Do you understand what your people have done to my family, to our business? I can't tolerate it, or you, anymore! Faunus are nothing but degenerates, one step away from joining the White Fang, and I won't have it!" She turned away, crossed her arms, and said, "So… get out of here, and don't bother me again, Garden Girl."

Orchid's tears finally spilled over, wordlessly she turned and ran out the door. The crushing feeling of sadness and hurt, the deep cut of betrayal, the idea that Weiss was really just like the very people that had tried to hurt her those years ago… It tore her apart and made her feel as if frostbite was encroaching on her heart and soul.

She might as well have stabbed Orchid with her rapier, the girl would later think, it would have hurt less.

She pretended everything was fine when she got home, as to not worry her parents, only to cry into her pillow until her eyes were burning and she had used every tear she had.

Her parents learned the truth eventually, Orchid wasn't one to keep secrets. They were livid and saddened in equal measure, and they helped her try to move past it and recover, to return to some semblance of normal. Although it was still different from what she was used to.

After all, Weiss had been her normal since they were five.

More years passed, and Orchid still saw her around the manor when she worked with her father, but Orchid never approached her, and Weiss never even looked at her. She felt she might as well have just not existed, and of course, she felt, why would Weiss care about her?

If she was so high and mighty, so above a simple garden girl like her, then Orchid felt it was better that they never spoke again.

Except they did speak one more time, five years later. The day Weiss was going to leave for Beacon, Orchid was working in the garden when she saw Weiss walking with Klein through the courtyard. For one reason or another, Klein had to go and do something for a moment, so she stood there staring at the sky.

Orchid didn't look up from the garden she was working on when she asked, "Off to Beacon?" Her voice remained entirely neutral, she tried her best to hide the whirlwind of negative emotions and opinions she now held about the Schnee heiress.

If she had been looking, she would have seen Weiss' eyes widen for a split second in surprise before she closed them and nodded. Then, she spoke the first thing she'd said to her in years.

"That is correct."

Then, Klein returned, and Orchid was left working in the garden, just as she had done her whole life, and likely would do for the rest of it, while Weiss went off to become a Huntress.


A great deal happened that year, but Orchid was unaware of most of it.

She had heard of Beacon's fall, and the collapse of the CCTS was felt across the world, but other than not being able to look at anything not hosted in Atlas, not much changed for her.

She had heard Weiss returned to the Schnee manor, but she didn't give it much thought. However, the knowledge had stirred something in her, a song she had written not long after the fact.

She hadn't practiced it in a long time, so it took awhile for her to get back into the swing of it, but eventually she did. She had something of a reputation for playing music or singing at various places around Atlas. She wasn't a celebrity, but more than a few locals knew who she was.

The song she sang proved to be something of a hit, and she was glad, because she didn't get tired of singing it.

That was why Orchid, by now age eighteen, decided to play it in her backyard, sitting on the grass in the middle of her yard. She had grown a great deal since the old days, she now had an oval shaped face, her hair went down to her shoulders, and her build was fairly average, if fairly curvy around her hips. Her mother told her that anyone would want her, that she should try to find someone nice to think about settling down with, but at the age of eighteen, she was far from wanting to think about anything like that.

She was dressed in a black T-shirt, jeans, and dark blue running shoes, a simple outfit for, by her own admission, a simple girl. Other than the sound of the wind and birds, the air was filled with the noise of her guitar, and her voice as she sang the song she'd titled Good Riddance.

As she strummed out the first few notes, she sang softly, "Farewell, to all the earthly remains. No burdens, no further debts to be paid. Atlas… Can rest his weary bones… The weight of the world, all falls away. In time~" She drew out the last bit of the verse, letting it carry with the wind.

She continued to sing, albeit her mind was far, far away, "Goodbye, to all the plans that we made. No contracts, I'm free to do as I may. No hunger, no sleep except to dream. Mild and warm~ Safe from all harm… Calm~"

She drew a breath as she continued, "Good riddance, to all the thieves, to all the fools that stifled me! They've come and gone and passed me by! Good riddance to all~" She meant it, as well, good riddance. Good riddance to the people who held her back, or mistreated her.

She drew the song to its closing verse, "Farewell… To all the earthly remains… No burdens, no further debts to be paid… Atlas… Can rest his weary bones, the weight of the world… All falls away, in time~" She finished the song, and she thought about how, more than anything, she felt glad to be rid of the one who had hurt her the most.

If something as frivolous as her race had caused Weiss to abandon her, then she would relish in being free of her. There was nothing left to tie them together, and the song was therapeutic for getting out the deep-seated resentment she felt.

Her eyes had been closed while she was singing, and as she opened them, she was surprised to see a familiar face standing at the sliding door to her backyard, just outside of her home: one of her coworkers.

Klein was as she remembered him, the same as he had been for years. Short, slightly heavyset, balding brown hair and a large mustache, light brown eyes, and wearing his butler uniform. His hands were behind his back and he was smiling. Orchid smiled back, "Hey, Klein, bit of a surprise. I thought doctors didn't make house calls these days?"

He chuckled, "Oh, in my days as a doctor I did make more than a few house calls. That's not why I'm here, however." He raised an eyebrow, "Unless you're sick?"

She shook her head as she stood up, her acoustic guitar held in her hand and said, "Nope!" with a poppin' P, "So what's up? Am I needed at the manor for something?" She couldn't fathom why else he would be there, not that Klein was an unwelcome guest, but he had a routine, one that was almost never deviated from, unless there was some pressing matter at hand.

Klein's face fell slightly, "Well… truthfully, it's not a matter that I think you'll be happy about, but… I need your help with something. I loathe to involve you in anything that would put you in jeopardy, however, I've run out of options." The look of concern on Orchid's face must have been all the signs he needed to continue, "It's… Miss Schnee. Weiss."

Orchid tensed up and her smile disappeared in an instant. She looked away and asked in a guarded tone, "What is it?"

He sighed, seemingly having been anticipating this. He explained, "Miss Schnee was taken back to the manor against her will, due to the attack on Vale. With Beacon no more, her father saw it as the perfect reason to bring her back, and to try to push her to give up on her dreams. Recently, however… He's disinherited her."

That was a shock, Orchid's eyes widened at that, but they quickly returned to normal. Klein stepped forward, "She's terribly unhappy in the manor, locked away in what should be her home as if it were a prison. So… I wanted to help her escape." Another shock, Orchid finally looked at him again, and he nodded, "It's going against the will of Mr. Schnee, but… some things are more important than a job. I was going to sneak her out of one of the servant's tunnels, but recently, Mr. Schnee has barred entry to them. He claims it's to reduce the risk of break-ins, but I think he suspects that Weiss will try to escape."

He sighed and looked down, "There's only one chance. Mr. Schnee will be occupied with a meeting in his office tomorrow night, and while he's occupied, I intend to spirit Weiss away… out the front door. However… I dare not leave the manor myself, lest Mr. Schnee calls on me and realizes that something is off when I don't respond. Weiss can't walk to her destination, and she will need a place to stay for that night, before she is to flee via an… associate. You're the only member of the staff that I trust to take her from the manor and house her without turning her over to her father, or worse, some criminals looking for a quick payday. So… I ask you-"

"No." Orchid cut him off and shook her head vigorously, and her words were laced with venom as she said, "She made her opinion on me quite clear years ago. I'm a 'waste', a degenerate, a distraction. I'm nothing to her, Klein, have you forgotten?" She held up her hand, mimicking holding something up, "She took my heart in her hand," she closed her hand, "and crushed it. I don't want anything to do with her. Not now, and nevermore."

Klein looked close to tears, and he stepped forward a few more paces before doing something that shocked Orchid. He got down on his knees, clasped his hands together, and lowered his head, "Please, Miss Grove, I'm begging you. You're the only person who can help me, help Weiss, and she's seen much death and destruction since the old days… She is a very different girl now than she used to be, and she greatly regrets everything she said to you. I know it, as I know her better than anyone, even her father. You know I do. Please… I'm not asking you to be friends with her, I'm merely asking for you to host her for a single night, and then escort her to her flight. You will never have to speak to her again afterward, should you not wish to."

Orchid's eyes widened as she gaped in shock. She had never seen Klein like this; even in front of Jacques, he maintained decorum and a sense of pride, yet here he was, the kindest and most generous man she'd ever known, on his knees and begging not just anyone, but her of all people. She could tell how much this meant to him, and while she wanted nothing to do with Weiss, she couldn't bear to hurt Klein; he was like the grandpa she never had.

Thus, with her hands tied, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath before sighing. She then opened her eyes, "Okay. I'll do it. Not for her, but for you, Klein. You've always been good to me." She managed a smile, "What do I have to do, exactly, and when?"

Klein broke into a broad smile as his gaze turned hopeful. He stood up, "Thank you, Orchid! I will send the details to your scroll, I owe you a huge favor, and Klein Sieben never forgets his debts." He checked his watch, "Oh! I really must be going, though. I have to pick up some groceries, and if I'm late Mr. Schnee might ask questions. Again, thank you."

They said their goodbyes, and just like that Klein was gone, having walked back into her house and out the front door. Her parents probably thought it was just a work call, and maybe it was, in a way, but…

Nothing like they'd have expected.


Orchid spent the rest of the day and most of the next stressing out. Her parents had no idea. She hid that kind of thing well, and she was glad about that. She was going to need her dad's truck for this, and she knew if he knew what she was doing, then it was entirely possible he would ground her for the next several years.

Or worse, he would make her pay rent. There were limits to her daughterly influence, and she feared that no amount of pouting would save her from that fate if he caught her doing what she was planning.

The least complicated solution was to not get caught, and so, that night, Orchid prepared.

As night fell, she dressed in one of her regular pink shirts, a pair of thick winter pants, her black boots, and a pair of gloves. When she left her room, she went to the kitchen quietly and took her dad's keys, before sneaking over to the garage and hitting the button to open the door.

'I'm lucky Mom and Dad are such heavy sleepers…'

She had never, not once, done something this out of line. She was a very 'color inside the lines' type of girl. She went to school, got straight A's the entire time, never once used any drugs or drank any alcohol despite having been offered a few times, all of the sorts of things that might have labeled her a 'goodie goodie', and she was!

So, to suddenly be borrowing her dad's car without permission and sneaking out to the Schnee manor to save a princess from her metaphorical castle? It was unthinkable, and nerve wracking. Yet, she'd agreed to help Klein, and he was counting on her, so getting cold feet wasn't an option.

She got into the truck and started it, turning on the engine before backing out and closing the garage door behind her. She turned on the radio as she hit the road, hoping that music would calm her nerves. At the very least, it got her mind off of the possible ramifications of what she was doing.

Orchid got incredibly nervous when she stopped at a red light next to a cop car, even though she wasn't breaking any laws nor did she have any reason to worry. She was just so certain they'd find some reason to pull her over and catch her in some lie. However, when they looked in her direction, Orchid just put on her cutests smile and waved at them. The cops, seeing an innocent teenage girl who looked as if she'd cry if she killed a bee, just waved back and returned their focus to the road.

Thankfully, the rest of the trip was uneventful as well. Not a single cop looked at her with suspicion, no meteors fell from the sky, no giant whales crashed on the truck and killed her. She was fine. Soon, she was parked in front of the Schnee manor, and she parked the car before killing the engine and checking her scroll.

There was a text from Klein, and her eyes widened when she read the message, "Apologies, but Jacques' meeting concluded early. I need you to get Weiss for me, while I keep him busy. Be swift!"

She muttered, "Fuck." before folding and stowing her scroll in her pocket. She had to go in, there was no other choice. Otherwise Klein would be let down. She got out of the car and locked it behind her, hoping that any security who might see it out front would just assume it was a night call for an employee (given that the truck was SDC branded) and leave it at that.

Once she was inside the manor, she looked around, checking for security or staff, before heading up the large stairs and towards Weiss' room. She still remembered the directions, how could she ever forget? Once upon a time, taking this path had been routine.

Each step felt heavier than the last as she trodded along the carpeted path. When she eventually got to the doors to Weiss' room, she took a deep breath before trying the door, finding it was unlocked, and pushing the door open.

Weiss was looking towards her window when Orchid first laid eyes on her again in over a year. Her dress was short and glittering, having a color gradation of gray blue to pale blue at the hem. A white sash wrapped around her waist and over her outfit was a slightly sheer long-sleeved gray bolero. On the back of the shrug was the SDC symbol, and finishing off her outfit was a pair of gray blue wedge heels. As she heard the door open, she started to speak as she turned around, "Klein, what took-"

Her eyes widened as she saw Orchid, and she gasped slightly, "O-Orchid? Y-You…?"

Orchid shook her head and stepped into the room, shutting the door as she did, "Klein asked for my help." she stepped up the two steps into the room proper, "We need to get going, grab your stuff. Time's not on our side, he's only going to be able to keep Jacques distracted for so long."

Weiss seemed to get over her initial shock fairly quickly. She shook herself out of it and nodded. She said nothing as she sheathed her rapier at her side and grabbed a case with the SDC logo on it—likely for her Dust, Orchid felt—and then moved to follow her out.

Orchid wasn't going to question the Dust case, she had no clue what Huntresses needed out on the battlefield, even if she personally would have thought it would be important to have some changes of clothes.

They made their way out of the room and down the hall, back the way she came. There was a brief moment of panic when they had to hide from some passing staff members, but once they passed, they were able to make it to the front door without any fuss.

They piled into the truck and Orchid wasted no time in getting them onto the road. The manor was behind them, and she took a deep breath before exhaling. She then turned on the radio, and one of her favorite songs was on, 'Gives You Hell' by All Atlesian Rejects. She hummed along to the song as they rode, while Weiss shifted in her seat awkwardly.

Orchid muttered, "When you see my face, hope it gives you hell, hope it gives you hell… When you walk my way, hope it gives you hell, hope it gives you hell…"

To say the car ride was awkward would be an understatement. You could cut the awkwardness with a knife and serve it with a side of toast. Yet at least it was relatively brief. Her townhouse wasn't too far from the manor, given that they had moved up to Atlas to work there in the first place.

When they got back to her home and were parked in the garage, she killed the engine and took the keys before stepping out of the truck, "Well, come on. I'm supposed to keep you overnight then take you to where you'll be leaving tomorrow night."

Weiss followed her wordlessly inside, and Orchid took her to the guest bedroom, which was a bit risky, but as long as Weiss wasn't a loud sleeper Orchid figured it'd be fine. If she was discovered, well, they could cross that bridge when they came to it.

After leaving the girl to settle into the room, she went back to her own. Her room had blue carpeting and dark green wallpaper, her window sill had a planter filled with roses and marigolds, magnolias and more, and her guitar rested near her closet. Now that she was back, she sat down on her bed and let out a heavy sigh. She was so tired that all she really had the energy to do was remove her pants, boots, and gloves. Afterward, she slipped into her covers with a sigh.

With the worst seemingly behind her, she fell asleep easily.


The next day, after going through her morning routine and dressing in an outfit not dissimilar to the one she had been wearing the night before, she went to the kitchen. When she got there, however, she froze in place as she saw exactly what she didn't want to see.

It seemed like her parents had found out about Weiss, because she was sitting there looking rather pensive. Orchid cleared her throat, "Okay, guys, I can explain-"

Her mother had golden hair done up in a ponytail, with eyes that were much the same color as her own, with hexagonal irises and pupils. The start of wrinkles were clear on her face, although she had always done her best to fight against it with makeup.

Her dad was a regular human. Tall, broad-shouldered, and barrel chested. He looked like a man who valued hard work, which is exactly what he was. He had brown hair and green eyes, his eyes holding an unreadable expression on his face as he looked at Orchid's mom and then back to the girl herself, "So… we want to hear your explanation for this, Orchid. We heard Weiss'."

Orchid took a deep breath before she clapped her hands together, "So! You guys remember Weiss. Recently, she's been disinherited from her position at the SDC. Her dad was keeping her from doing Huntress work, and keeping her from going back to her team, so… Klein asked me to help take her back. I'm supposed to take her to a hanger later today."

Her parents looked at each other, a silent conversation, one of the many they'd shared over the years, Orchid knew. It was her mom who finally said, "Well…"

Her dad picked up, "This is probably the most reckless thing you've ever done. You risked your job, jail time, and… so much." He shook his head, and just as Orchid began to grow nervous, her tension was dashed by his smile, "But you're also sticking it to Jacques, and doing exactly what we taught you to do."

Her mom nodded, "You're sticking up for someone in a tough spot, I don't think we can be mad that you're doing exactly what we taught you to do." She sighed, "Just be careful, okay? Don't take any detours, when you take Weiss to that hanger, you see her onto it and then come right back, alright?"

Orchid smiled softly and nodded, "Thanks guys. I'll be careful, and once this is over… Trust me, you won't see me doing anything like this again." She scratched her cheek and looked away sheepishly, "Just doing this has made me really freaked out…"

Her parents shared a laugh at her expense, and they had enough time to enjoy breakfast before it was time to go to the hanger.

She took her mom's car this time, just to avoid possibly jeopardizing her dad's career. At least her mom's position owning a flower shop wouldn't be jeopardized by anything Orchid could do with it.

The hanger was at the southern end of Atlas, and while no part of Atlas was shady, it was certainly the most… out of sight place in the city. Cops didn't see fit to patrol around there very often, from what Klein had told her, and so it was the ideal spot for a clandestine meeting.

When Orchid parked the car, she killed the engine and got out with Weiss, much to the other girl's confusion, to which Orchid just explained, "It's good manners to see your guest off."

Weiss nodded, of course she understood her politeness; Orchid had been keeping her interactions with the other girl prior to her leaving and coming back to purely politeness and pleasantries.

The hanger they ended up walking into was mostly empty, save for a single Cargo Airship and a pilot. The airship had a bulky hull with two large wings and three smaller winglets on top of it. There were three engines on the back of it, as well. The pilot wore a white uniform with black gloves, a vest, and black chaps over white pants. He wore a white helmet with a black visor that concealed his face and hair, and his skin looked tan.

Weiss explained to him as they approached, "Don't worry about her, she's just here to see me off. You're Fenix Atar, right?"

The newly named Fenix nodded, "That's right, the best damn pilot this side of Remnant. You're the one I'm supposed to take with me to Mistral, then?" At her nod, he chuckled, "Alright then, get on and we can-"

He was cut off by the sound of banging on the door, and all three looked startled as someone called out, "Police! We know you're in there, Fenix Atar!"

He swore under his breath, "Now, of all times?! You two weren't followed, were you?" At the shake of their heads, he swore under his breath, "Shit… Alright, new plan! Get inside, both of you!" As Orchid's eyes widened, he grinned reassuringly, "Don't worry, after I'm done in Mistral I'll take you back with me, okay? Free of charge. Think of it like a vacation."

Orchid didn't even have time to question it, Weiss grabbed her wrist and practically dragged her onto the ship. Before she knew it, she was having to strap into a chair on the bridge and hold on as Fenix took to the sky and fled the hangar, just narrowly avoiding the police in the process.

It all happened so fast that she wasn't even really able to process what had happened until they were leaving Atlesian airspace. She tried to keep herself calm as she unstrapped herself from her place sitting in the chair and tried to get a handle on everything, "Okay, this is fine." She tried to talk herself into it, "Just a fun little vacation." She started to pace, not noticing the jingling sound coming from her pocket, "Mistral and back, easy, I'll be home before I know it. Everything's going to be fine."

Weiss cleared her throat as she watched this unfold, "Uhm… Orchid? There's something in your pocket, I hear it jingling."

Orchid stopped and reached a hand down, touching her pocket, and feeling the familiar sensation of her hand touching metal. Keys.

She still had her mom's keys.

Orchid's heart dropped in her chest, and as she stood there unmoving, she felt as if her mind was being overtaken with TV static. It was an unfamiliar and scary feeling, but her mind was stuck on the keys, she still had her mother's keys.

Her mom wasn't going to be able to use her car.

A dark, foreboding feeling began to claw at her heart, her mind, her being. It dug its claws into her and dragged her down, and it refused to let go.

Her legs felt weak.

The rug had been pulled out from under her, she felt she'd give out. She tried to sit first at the very chair she'd first left, but quickly found that it did her no good. She felt like she was going to fall, she was too high up. She needed to be steady. She moved and sat on the ground against the wall next to her chair instead.

She felt it before she heard it. The steady beating of a drum, but the player was relentless. They beat the drums harder and faster, and she felt it in her ears. Once steady and calm beating became an erratic crescendo, like the drummer had lost her head.

'Oh Gods, she needs that car to get to work. Dad will have to take her. She might have to start opening later. No, she will. Then she'll start falling behind on orders, and they'll know it's my fault. Mom'll lose her job and then we'll lose our house and…'

Her breathing grew erratic. She started to hyperventilate.

Her mind spiraled, it fell and kept falling. The static was growing, the haze threatened to subsume everything.

Why were her fingers tingling?

Not just them, her toes too. It felt like they had fallen asleep, and no matter how she squeezed her hands or curled her toes, they wouldn't wake up. She hadn't even begun to notice that her right leg started to bounce, nor did she completely register how much her hands were shaking.

She almost didn't hear Weiss' concerned voice, "Orchid? Orchid, you're having a panic attack…"

A panic attack?

'It's just a panic attack. I need to calm down, it's nothing, it'll be fine.'

'Why can't I calm down? Why isn't this working, what's wrong with me?!'

She tried to steady her breathing, she didn't need to hyperventilate, everything was fine.

She felt like she was drowning above water.

Her slow gasping breaths couldn't steady her, she was drowning. She was drowning. She needed to breathe harder, faster. She needed to, or she'd drown.

She felt a hand on her knee, and that was what got her to notice that Weiss was kneeling next to her. Weiss had Orchid's scroll, and she wasted little time in playing a song, "Focus on this, okay?"

The violins. She heard the violins, then the lyrics, so pleading.

'Achilles, Achilles, Achilles come down. Won't you get up off, get up off the roof? You're scaring us and all of us, some of us love you Achilles, it's not much but there's proof. You crazy-ass argonaut, remember your virtue! Redemption lies plainly in truth. Just humor us, Achilles, Achilles, come down… Won't you get up off, get up off the roof?'

The lyrics pleaded, and continued to plead, the virtue of life. Come down, come off the roof. It feels pointless and gloomy. There may not be any distinct meaning, but she could find it. She just had to come down.

Off the roof.

Hear the bells. Heed the challenge. Face life as an opponent, and don't listen to the voice inside.

The song continued, battling itself before coming back together. She focused on the song.

Minutes passed.

Her breathing followed the violins.

She didn't know how long it was before the haze finally entirely relented, but the song was drawing to a close by then. She reigned in the beast and banished it, her mind calmed. She felt her body still shaking, but it was far less extreme than it was before.

Weiss was still kneeling there next to her, her hand hadn't left her knee. She asked softly, "How do you feel?"

Orchid nodded, "I-I'm okay. I'm alright…" She leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes, "I'm just… a bit tired."

She couldn't see Weiss' small smile, "Get some rest. We've got a ways to go before we get to Mistral."

Even if she wanted to, which she didn't, Orchid was too tired to refuse.

She fell asleep in no time flat.


She was woken by a sudden jolt as the ship jostled her around. She blinked her eyes open and stood up.

Just in time to watch as a swarm of Lancers began to tear apart a Mistrali passenger ship, prior to one dive bombing it and causing it to explode. She gasped and her eyes widened, fear struck a chord in her heart, but Weiss seemed determined. She turned and hurried over to the ladder, disappearing down into the cargo bay. Fenix asked over the radio, "What are you doing, kid?!"

To which Weiss replied, "What we should have done from the start! You're carrying Dust, right?"

"Officially? No. Actually? Yes."

Weiss and Fenix continued to communicate before eventually Fenix called out to Orchid, "Strap in! This is gonna get rough!"

She did as she was asked, sitting in one of the chairs and holding on tight. For a time, they merely flew in evasive maneuvers, but when Weiss gave the word the cargo door was opened, she began to fight back.

Orchid couldn't see what she was doing exactly, but she saw fireballs, bursts of air and ice, and some icicles flying out of the back and to the Lancers. Eventually Orchid squeezed her eyes shut and tried to think about anything other than what was happening right that second.

She was certain they'd get crushed when they flew between two islands and had rocks falling on them. She was certain they'd die after that when the lancers began to hook into the ship again. Just for a little while, Orcid began to believe that maybe they were safe.

She even got out of her chair and went down the ladder to make sure Weiss was okay.

Then the Queen Lancer showed up.

Orchid had one hand on the ladder when it happened, she had just gotten off at the cargo bay to greet the other girl. Weiss yelled, "Queen Lancer! Orchid, hold on!"

Orchid held on to the ladder tightly and once again shut her eyes tightly. Weiss began to do battle with the thing, using dust attacks and then dumping all of the Dust on it. Yet this Queen Lancer remained strong, its armor incredibly difficult to break.

So, Weiss summoned her Arma Gigas, and told Fenix to go up. Orchid had to hold on even tighter as that happened, and then again when they were turned upside down. She was incredibly lucky that she had enough upper body strength to hold on through it all.

And then the ship jolted, and Fenix came on over the radio, "Brace for impact!"

Orchid felt cold terror gripping her heart even harder than it had previously. Weiss gasped. The ship seemed to slow down as she used glyphs to catch it, and while her glyphs could slow its approach, they couldn't fight gravity itself.

The ship crashed into the lands beneath them, and Orchid's vision went black.


Her ears were ringing, and she couldn't make out the voices that spoke around her.

At first, there were multiple, and she had a vague recollection of being moved.

The voices grew in number before they diminished, and she still couldn't tell one from the other.

Eventually it became one voice, though Orchid could tell it was a girl, she couldn't tell who it was at first.

Then, Weiss' voice became clearer and clearer.


"…Orchid please…"


"I won't let you!"

"You can't leave me! Not like this!"

Then her sobbing became clear, and she heard Weiss' plea, "Open your eyes…"

As Orchid blinked open her eyes, and her vision slowly began to focus, the nebulous pale blob surrounded by darkness came into focus, and she saw Weiss. The girl's head was bowed, and her hands were on Orchid's shoulders.

Orchid looked down, and she saw that, while she still had her clothes, they were damp with blood, and her whole body was wracked with pain. Her throat felt dry, and she barely managed to whisper, "W-Weiss…?"

Weiss' gaze shot up to her, and that was when she noticed that her face was stained with tears. The look of relief that washed over Weiss' face was palpable, "Oh thank the Brothers. For a moment I thought…" She looked down again before shaking her head, "W-We've been captured by a group of bandits, the Branwen tribe. They think they can ransom us back to my father, but… once they figure out that he wouldn't pay for your return…"

She left that hanging in the air, and switched topics, "L-Look, you're hurt. They let me bandage you up after I said I'd play nice if they did, but… It's barely enough. You're still way too hurt, and if it's left like this, you might…" Her mind seemed in a thousand different places at once, as she switched again, "I-I need to unlock your aura, that's the only way, but… I wanted to wait, to ask you first, because once I activate it, there's no going back. Your emotions will be much more noticeable by Grimm, and it'll make living a normal life a lot more difficult…"

Orchid, not for the first time in the past couple days, felt terrible apprehension and fear. But did she really have a choice in the matter? She could feel it, her body was getting weaker. The fact that she'd woken up at all was practically divine providence. It was either die now, or delay the inevitable and hopefully find a way back home, so she could live without worrying about Grimm, back in Atlas.

"O-Okay… do it."

She could deal with the fallout of this decision later.

Weiss nodded and moved her hands, gently placing them on Orchid's cheeks before leaning forward and pressing her forehead against Orchid's, who was far too tired and in too much pain to think about the strangely intimate positioning. Weiss' aura manifested, ice blue, and she whispered words that held far more weight than any shout, "For it is in defiance that our chains are broken and we achieve freedom." A strange warmth took hold of Orchid's heart as Weiss continued, "Through freedom, we become beacons of hope and progress, sovereign hearts unbound from legacy." The warmth Orchid felt pushed outward and enveloped her whole being as Weiss finished, "I release your soul, and by my hand, set you free."

The feeling grew stronger and manifested visibly, Orchid's aura exuded outwards with a powerful glow. It was a dark pink that one could easily confuse for a light purple at first glance. Orchid knew that this color was her namesake, and if she were more awake, she might have thought it fitting, but there would be time enough for that later.

Weiss let go of her after that and sat on the ground across from her. For a moment, she looked tired, but it seemed that it didn't stick. Her aura faded back into her, while Orchid's seemed to already be working. She could feel the pain slowly fading, the wounds awash with energy that started to mend them. Weiss smiled at her, "Your aura is active now, and you have a lot of it, kind of like another friend of mine."

It was then that Orchid noticed it was dark outside, "How long have we been here…? What do we do? I'm… scared, Weiss." That was an understatement, she was terrified. Her exhaustion was the only thing keeping her from spiraling just as she had prior. Her exhaustion and the girl across from her, her only friend in this wilderness.

Weiss nodded and spoke in as soothing a voice as she could muster, "I understand, but don't worry. I'm not going to let them hurt you, we're getting out of here. We'll get to Mistral, and we'll get you on the first plane to Atlas. For now, you should try to get some sleep. Your aura will do most of the work, but you'll heal faster if you're sleeping, and you're going to need that energy in the morning."

Orchid didn't need much of an excuse, she nodded and closed her eyes. Though she was resting against steel bars, she wasn't in a state to be picky. One of the last things she heard before sleep took her was the sound of Weiss' semblance activating, as she set to work on freeing them.

When Orchid woke, it was daylight. Nobody was around the cage, and Weiss was awake, presumably having slept at some point, given that she didn't look tired at all. She gestured to her right, and once Orchid looked, she saw a hole in the cage big enough for both of them to climb out of, with a miniature version of the Arma Gigas standing there with its sword on its shoulder. Weiss whispered, "We should get going, while it's still early. Eventually this place will be swarming with them, and we don't want to be here when that happens."

Orchid was still aching all over, but her body aching and complaining to her was far more preferable to being in a cage, "Okay..." She muttered softly, still feeling incredibly parched. Weiss was quick to move, easily slipping through the hole, while Orchid herself was much slower. Aura or no, she was still injured, and it would take more than one day for her to heal.

At the very least, she could walk. That was enough, for the time being.

It took a lot of effort to not make any noises of pain when her body jabbed against the bars in certain places that were still heavily injured, and that was how Orchid discovered that aura didn't mean an absence of pain, just a…blunting of it.

Once both girls were standing, Weiss led them to the back of a tent. She held up her hand, silently getting Orchid to stop moving as the two of them heard some bandits talking, "So, did you guys find that pilot?"

"No, we wanted to pick his corpse clean, but… he just wasn't there."

"Well, I'm sure if he escaped that mess alive then we'll find his corpse somewhere in the forest later. If he hasn't been eaten by Grimm already."

Weiss and Orchid shared a look, because that didn't sound right, and it raised a lot of questions on the state of their pilot. Yet they couldn't dwell on that. Weiss gestured for them to start moving, but before they could, the sound of a commotion filled their ears. A whole flurry of footsteps sounded out as someone drew the camp's attention, which was a blessing for the two escapees. Soon, however, they heard a girl's voice, and Orchid noted mentally that she sounded angry as she said, "Mom."

A woman's voice responded, "Yang. So, after all this time, you've finally decided to come visit."

Orchid remembered that name from watching the Vytal festival, one of the other members of Weiss' team. The two girls shared a look of shock, and waited where they were to hear what would happen next.

For a time, the two continued to have a terse conversation, which didn't seem to be going the way either of them wanted it to. The name Qrow was tossed out, along with reference to Yang's dad, her desire to get to her sister, Ruby, who Orchid knew was the leader of Team RWBY, although she didn't know much of anything about the girl beyond that.

Orchid hoped that this would end, and soon. If something happened to reveal their position, she wasn't sure Weiss and Yang would be able to hold off the camp.

Of course, as if the Gods were laughing at them, that was when the sound of fists connecting with someone rang out through the camp, and before the two escapees knew it the tent in front of them had collapsed in on itself. The entire camp was staring at them now, and Weiss sighed, "Well, I guess subtlety is out the window."

The Arma Gigas grew to a staggering height, matching a full grown oak and causing Orchid to start to back away from it on instinct. Weiss put a hand on the other girl's shoulder before smiling, "Come on." She hurried away, and Orchid tried her best to keep up, through all the pain. Weiss called out, "Yang!" in a tone that mixed relief and happiness.

"Weiss?!" Yang sounded more surprised than anything else, "What're you doing here? What's that giant thing?" She had yet more questions as they closed the distance, she pointed at Orchid, the girl who looked like she'd fought a battle against an Ursa and lost, "Who's this?"

Weiss huffed and went down the list, "We were kidnapped by the leader of this place, that's an Arma Gigas, don't worry about that. This is Orchid, my friend from Atlas."

Yang seemed overwhelmed, "W-Woah, woah woah!" She held up her hands, "Arma Gigas? My MOM kidnapped you two? You had a friend before you met us?!"

Weiss looked shocked and added to the pile of questions, "That's your mom?!"

One of the bandits cleared their throat, causing the three to look at the assembled bandits. Orchid started looking for a way to escape, however, Weiss, Yang, and the Arma Gigas seemed to have another idea as they prepared to fight.

Just as they were about to engage, a lightning bolt appeared in front of them, slamming into the ground and causing the three would-be fighters to stop in their tracks while Orchid leapt backwards and fell on her ass in shock. A new voice, likely the one who had caused the lightning, yelled, "Enough!"

Poor Orchid didn't even really have time to question the lightning, it must have been a semblance. Her mind was almost frozen with terror, and the black haired woman that must have been Yang's mother spoke up, "Thank you, Vernal. Give her back her weapon." Lightning Girl—otherwise known as Vernal, but Orchid would keep referring to her as Lightning Girl—did as she was asked, albeit with clear confusion across her face.

Yang's mom then looked to the rest of the camp, "If you people don't keep it together the Grimm will be all over this place." Then she looked between Yang, Weiss, and Orchid, with her gaze briefly lingering on Orchid for a moment before she chuckled and looked back to Yang, "You three, in my tent, now."

Yang crossed her arms and asked, "Why?" Orchid would have loved for Yang to not challenge the woman with the girl who had lightning powers, but she wasn't going to be the one to bring it up.

Yang's mom rolled her eyes, "If you're going after your sister, you need to know the truth." Then she turned around and headed into her tent.

Weiss placed a hand on her chest in relief as she placed her sword where it belonged, on her hip. Yang started to speak, "Sorry about-"

Only for Weiss to turn to her and give her a hug, practically lunging at her, with her legs hanging off the ground as she spoke softly, "I missed you so much."

Yang returned the hug, "I missed you too."

Orchid didn't think much of it, her mind was in a thousand places at once, and while she was glad that Weiss had found a friend of hers, they were still in a bandit camp. Orchid had once assumed Yang was some kind of brute, but it seemed clear that she wasn't. Maybe she'd changed since Vytal?

Once they were all inside and sitting at a table, Lightning Girl made the four cups of tea. Weiss and Yang were trying to make a point by not drinking any, but Orchid didn't care much about that. She drank down her tea with much the same fervor a dehydrated man in a desert would drink water.

Yang's mom smirked as she looked at Orchid, and the girl felt as if she was being dissected just by her gaze alone. It made her shudder. The woman, Raven, began to speak, "Well." She looked at the others, "At least one of you has good sense. It's better when it's hot, you know."

Weiss shot back, "You know, you're really obnoxious." Which made Orchid so desperately want to smack Weiss on the back of the head, to get her to not antagonize the woman with a camp will of bandits and a girl that could summon lightning.

Yet, the woman didn't seem to care. She launched into an explanation about things that were way over Orchid's head. She spoke with disdain about Huntsmen, then went on to talk about how she and this mysterious Qrow person went to Beacon to learn to kill Huntsmen. The other two were incredibly shocked by it, and the idea shocked Orchid as well, but it was diminished somewhat by her lack of knowledge on the subjects at hand.

She just wished she was back home, in her nice warm bed, and not in a camp with some bandit queen pontificating about Huntsmen. Yet, there was nothing to do about it, she just stayed quiet.

The conversation continued, names were thrown around, concepts that Orchid couldn't even begin to grasp, and something about the former Headmaster of Beacon, Ozpin, having great secrets. Apparently he was the one who built the schools, which didn't make any sense. Ozpin looked middle aged, and was known as the youngest Headmaster in history, there was no way he could have built the schools!

Eventually Raven said something bad about Yang's family, her father and uncle, and set the blonde off. Yang's hair burned and her eyes turned red, a similar look to the one Orchid had seen on TV, although seeing it up close was a different kind of scary. With one punch with one of her gauntlets, she shattered the table. Orchid stayed rooted in the seat while silently feeling glad that she had been holding onto her cup the whole time.

Lightning Girl returned and told Yang to calm down while brandishing a shotgun. Orchid wasn't sure if the shotgun would have done much against Yang, but this was the girl who could summon lightning, so she could probably shoot something far worse than bullets if she wanted to.

Weiss got Yang to calm down with a gentle plea and a squeeze of the hand. It worked, thankfully, and the conversation continued with Yang's mom standing and beckoning the three girls to join her outside so that she could prove her claim that magic existed. Orchid followed the three numbly after leaving her teacup on a table that had been spared, an act that seemed to amuse Raven. Orchid didn't focus on that, however, her body still ached, the wounds under her clothes had closed at least, but she knew that that wasn't the end of it, and that they'd need new bandages.

Once they were outside, Orchid looked worriedly at Yang. She couldn't follow ninety percent of what had been said back there, but what she did understand was that what had been said had cut deep into Yang's heart. Orchid spoke her first words to Yang in a soft tone, "Are you… okay?"

She and Weiss both seemed thrown off balance by Orchid's words, as if they'd forgotten she was there. Yet, they recovered quickly enough, and after Yang took a deep breath, she nodded, "I'll be okay, thanks." She looked between the two girls, "You two didn't believe her… did you?"

Weiss was quick to shake her head, "Of course not. I mean, we have dust, aura, and semblances, but… magic?"

Orchid looked uncertain, "A lot of stuff you guys do looks magical to me, so… I don't know."

A raven flew through the air and landed a few feet from the three, as if it wanted to join the conversation. Yang squinted at it, confused, "Wait…I've seen that bird before."

Weiss had the logical answer, "Maybe it belongs to your mother?"

A logical answer didn't help much in what Orchid was quickly realizing was an incredibly illogical world.

In the blink of an eye, the bird was gone, and Raven was there. All three girls recoiled in shock while Raven just placed a hand on her hip.

Yang voiced the girls' shared question, "H-How did you do that?"

Raven turned this curiosity to her advantage by drawing her sword and slashing the air, creating a portal, a display of the semblance Yang talked about. "I could answer that, or you could go ask your uncle."

Weiss seemed just as confused and taken aback as Orchid was, which was a weird solace for the girl in and of itself. Weiss was experienced, if she was unsure, then Orchid could at least feel like she wasn't the odd one out.

Of course, Yang wanted to go to her sister, and at this point Orchid could only agree as well. Not just to get away from the camp, and the terrible people in it, but to be somewhere safe, and to meet the people Weiss crossed half the world to see. It was something to focus on to keep her mind from splintering and shattering like glass under all of the new information she'd been given.

Orchid knew she wasn't even one of the people who were meant to have that information. She was given it by proximity, and she hadn't even had an aura before that day. Yesterday she was worried about sending Weiss home and getting back to her normal life, the same she'd been living for awhile by that point. Now she knew that magic existed, that there was some never-ending war going on between the alleged Queen of the Grimm and Ozpin, and a bevy of other things that she was unable to sort out at the time.

Similar to how her aura was unlocked, however, there was no going back. She couldn't unlearn what she had discovered, she wasn't capable of changing that. She wasn't capable of changing anything. She was just the garden girl.

So, the three girls squeezed onto Yang's motorcycle. It was tight, but Weiss was small enough that she could sit between Yang and Orchid without risking falling off. Raven warned Yang that she wouldn't be so nice next time, and Weiss pointed out that she wasn't very nice this time either. Then, the motorcycle started forward, through the portal.

In a blink, they were on the streets of Mistral.