Chapter Title: A Fated Meeting, Part 3
DISCLAIMER : I DO NOT OWN RWBY.
CREDIT GOES TO (RWBYGOD) MONTY OUM AND ROOSTERTEETH.
OC TEAM COVE BELONGS TO TehUnoman.
I CLAIM OWNERSHIP OF THE OTHER ORIGINAL IDEAS AND/OR CHARACTERS.
Rou stared ahead with a blank facial expression as the various aircraft flew overhead, the jetstreams carving out graceful curving lines on the blue sky. "Wow... Look at that Rou, it almost looks like an airshow," Libby breathed out in awe as her head swiveled, following the aircraft's flight path yet somehow still being able to avoid bumping into other people walking towards the opposite direction.
The white-haired Faunus' ears twitched ever so slightly as a group of students dressed in black with a white bands on their left arms passed them by. They were softly discussing something among themselves, and their voices dropped considerably as they approached.
Something about the golden-eyed, black-haired girl in the middle of the trio made Rou uneasy, but he chose not to show it. Libby would probably blow it all out of proportion, and end up with an unnecessary quarrel. "C'mon, Libby. We have to get to the airports. Father will be arriving today."
"I know, I know," the brown haired girl chirped as she skipped beside the white-haired fox. "Why did he come alone, though? I would've liked to see Dad or Mom..."
As the pair flagged down a taxi, which sped off after roughly thirty seconds, an expensive-looking gray car pulled up almost immediately behind them. Rou only gave the car a passing glance, thinking it was with whoever brought the air fleet. Probably, yet another show of force. In the fox boy's opinion, this was unnecessary; downright wasteful, even.
Why put on a display of military might when there are other, more practical ways of showcasing it?
Case in point: the Vytal Festival Tournaments, which Rou had every intention of joining. It would be a challenge to uncover his opponents' skills, while at the same time using only a tenth of his own.
Being quite far out of visual range, neither Rou nor Libby noticed as the lone occupant in the back of the gray car opened the door and stepped out of the vehicle, his long silver-gray hair fanning about gently.
The moment the elderly-looking man did so, almost everyone present nearby seemed to take notice and either slow down, or plain gawk at him. He was undoubtedly Faunus, as evidenced by the pair of triangular fox ears on top of his head, but what took the students' attention was his almost regal bearing, and the expensive-looking, downy white scarf draped over his right shoulder, covering part of his bluish gray long-sleeved coat. His voice held a note of approval as he took in the surroundings. "Hn. So this is Beacon Academy... Quite the visual spectacle, I see."
The elder fox started walking forward, but stopped after a few steps and turned around, addressing the two men that came out of the other side of the car and immediately headed towards the car's trunk. One of them had it open and had his arms ready to lift something, when the gray-haired Faunus spoke. "Ah, please leave that stone there. I will not have need of it immediately."
Without checking if he was obeyed, the elderly fox turned again and made for the academy's main doors.
Thirty minutes later, Beacon Airport
Rou calmly stood his ground, watching everyone who passed by. At his side, Libby had her brown eyes narrowed with one hand above them, as if shielding them from glare. "What time was he supposed to arrive?"
The fox boy's ear twitched slightly before speaking. "Father was supposed to arrive roughly half an hour ago."
"Huh." The human girl turned this way and that, scanning the populace. "Well, I don't see him... I'll go ask around!"
Before Rou could turn and stop her, Libby was already off and chattering happily with several of the airport guards. A few minutes later, she bounded back, while waving goodbye to the guards who were walking the other way. "They said he had arrived earlier, thirty five minutes ago, and had left immediately in an expensive gray car."
Rou's eyes immediately narrowed, his head tilting down slightly as his hand went up to his chin. "A gray car...?" It only took him a few seconds for him to raise his head. "Damnit, Father... He's already at Beacon. He got there just as we left."
At the same time, in Beacon Academy...
The gray-haired fox Faunus sat himself in one of the trench tables, quietly observing the student populace as he slowly set down the plate of flan, and started with a small spoonful. He barely contained the smile of pleasure from breaking out on his face after the spoon (and its contents) touched his lip. Damn, they make good sweets here, he thought to himself.
He continued eating quietly as two Beacon students approached him. "Excuse me sir, but are you an exchange student?"
"Oh no, I'm not. In fact, it's my son who will be an exchange student here." He wiped his mouth with a table napkin, then turned to the students. "I am here as an emissary, but I am simply hungry after my journey. I could not wait any longer, so my easiest and fastest way to get food is the cafeteria."
The two Faunus students from Beacon, a mouse and an owl, glanced at each other as the elder fox took another spoonful of his food. Weren't envoys and emissaries received in the Headmaster's Tower? This certainly didn't bode well for Beacon's reputation.
The fox Faunus didn't seem to mind that one bit, instead focusing on his food before turning his attention to the two of them. "Well, seeing as you both are students here, can you lend an old fox a hand? I have informed the headmaster of my arrival, but in my haste I forgot to ask for directions. Would you two be so kind as to point me the right way?"
"Thank you very much, ladies. If you ever come across me again, remind me of this little favor and I'll be sure to reward you in some way." The elderly fox nodded to the two Faunus, one hand raised slightly as if in blessing. The two youths merely smiled back in response, before walking briskly away with a happy bounce in their steps, excitedly talking in low voices between them.
No sooner than the old fox Faunus turned with one hand in the act of grasping the door latch, he stopped short of touching the bronze metal handle. His eyes narrowed slightly and stepped to one side away from the door, almost seeming as if he was a statue guarding the wrought iron door to the tower.
A few seconds later, General James Ironwood emerged from the tower, his brows slightly creased in thought. He suddenly stopped several paces away from his car, waiting at the end of the short path, and glanced back.
Finding nothing out of the ordinary, he shook his head and stepped inside the waiting vehicle. Once it was already in motion, the white-garbed man allowed himself a small sigh. I could've sworn I saw him there... Must be my imagination. There's no way that old fox would head all the way here.
Just as General Ironwood's car disappeared from view, the old fox Faunus relaxed his stance, seemingly appearing from nowhere. Huh, what's he doing here? From what I've heard he's heading a military and an academy as well... He must have been on business with Beacon. Ah, stop your overthinking, Cendres Renard Gregale, you're too old to be doing that anyway!
With a soft sigh, the gray fox opened the door to the Tower.
In the end, he had to wait several minutes, but the fox didn't mind. After all, he had never been to Beacon before, so damn if he wasn't going to enjoy the sights.
"The Headmaster will see you now, sir," the pleasant-faced receptionist's voice broke into the Faunus' thoughts. He slowly turned his head towards her, and nodded with an equally pleasant smile.
"Thank you," he tipped an imaginary hat to the receptionist as he stood, shifting the fluffy white scarf on his shoulder. He saw a mix of admiration and envy on the receptionist's eyes as soon as he traced where she was looking at. "If you're wondering, that's 100% synthetic material, but perfectly replicates the look and feel of natural fox fur. Want to touch it?"
If there was such a thing as overly large googly eyes, the Faunus certainly hadn't heard of it before - but here was proof of it, right in front of his eyes. The female receptionist's voice was nothing short of awed as she asked with a hushed voice, "Really?"
With a soft chuckle, he approached the receptionist's counter and gently extended a hand towards her, the soft gray scarf draped on his palm. "I'm sorry I can't give you the whole thing, since the other end is stuck on the back of my trousers." He gently turned to show the human girl.
However, it seemed she was smarter than he had given her credit for. Her brows scrunched cutely as she took a few seconds to switch glances between the fox's hand and the other end of the 'scarf'. "Wait... This is your tail, isn't it?"
"Smart girl." He smiled and playfully tapped his temple. "Keep that intellect and curiosity up, my dear. Goddess knows we need more curious minds, hungry for knowledge." The fox Faunus felt the human girl's eyes still on his back as he made his way towards the elevator, visual contact broken only after he stepped inside the metal box. He gave a slow, deep sigh before pressing the button for the topmost floor.
"I'd better stop being too nice. I've had enough of being misinterpreted and misrepresented as a womanizing geezer."
Within a mere half minute, the elevator doors opened with a soft chime, indicating he had reached his destination.
"You must be the envoy. This way, please."
A blue-eyed, blonde woman greeted him as he stepped out of the elevator. Before he could speak, she turned and started walking, continuing her speech as they walked around the curving hallway. "My name is Glynda Goodwitch, and I am the school's administrator. The headmaster's office is in here." She stopped in front of another wrought iron door, and pulled it open.
As he had done with the receptionist, the gray-haired Faunus tipped an imaginary hat to her. "Many thanks, Miss Goodwitch." He soundlessly stepped into the room, taking in the gears that whirred and whirled overhead with awe.
"Welcome to Beacon Academy. I trust you had a safe trip here?" The gray-haired, brown-eyed headmaster greeted the newcomer.
"Yes, indeed I have. In behalf of the Sacred Order of the Six Wards, I stand here as the official envoy and liaison between your esteemed institution and our little organization." He offered his hand to Ozpin, who took it in a firm handshake. "I am Cendres Renard Gregale, current head of academics in the Order. I believe my son is currently a guest here, yes?"
"Yes, he is. I have heard that he is a quiet, observant young man with a rather advanced and unorthodox style. Would you care for some coffee, sir Gregale?" Ozpin gestured to the desk, where a fresh pot and a few empty mugs stood.
"Ah, yes please, thank you. I could use an extra gulp or two, the flan I ate earlier only shows its overly sweet side after a time." The fox Faunus took a seat, settling himself comfortably. "Oh, and please, no need to be so formal. I prefer to be addressed as Renard. I've done some researching and it turns out my name actually means 'fox'. Quite apt, if I may say so."
Ozpin wore a small smile on his face as he poured a mug for both of them. Just as he was about to speak, a beep sounded from his desk, and a light green panel lit up. "Ah, about time. My son has found me out, I take it?" The fox questioned with a raised brow.
"He is currently at the lobby." Ozpin took a small sip from his mug as he gave approval to have the newcomer proceed. "By the way you word it, it sounds like you have deliberately... Pranked your own son."
"It was unintentional. My flight schedule merely got bumped up three flights earlier. And I always make it a point to be in the airport at least three hours before my flight, just to be on the safe side."
"I see." Ozpin allowed himself a small chuckle as the Faunus made a tiny shrug on his shoulders. "That reminds me. During the short time that your son was attending some freshmen classes, I've been informed that he could very well pass all the subjects easily."
"But of course. The Gregale clan traces its roots from the ancient guardians and safekeepers of treasures and knowledge." The elder fox Faunus shifted in his seat, letting his long tail curl up and drape over his shoulders, wrapping around him exactly like how a scarf would. "It's an inborn trait for us to be naturally inquisitive and knowledge-seekers. It comes with a not-so-pleasant side, though. All children born into the Gregale name have some degree of mischievousness and being pranksters, and almost all of them carry that even into adulthood. I, myself, am one of them, although I try to keep it only when there is a need to lighten the mood. I am proud to say no prank has ever actually hurt their targets, intentionally or not. And every few hundred years or so, there are an odd few who are born that do not have this... Trademark of mischievousness, if you will."
"And Rou happens to be one of these rare children?" Ozpin asked quietly as the door slid open, revealing Rou holding a stone hammer and flinging it wordlessly to the elder fox.
For a split-second, Glynda looked alarmed at the stone hammer flying their way, while Ozpin only raised an eyebrow. Without looking, the gray fox merely raised his hand and projected his blue-gray Aura outward from his hand. The hammer spun in mid-air, its long handle finding its way towards the Faunus' hand which grasped it firmly.
"Thank you for bringing my Stonerune. You needn't have bothered." The gray fox nodded towards the brown eyed headmaster as the younger fox took the other seat beside his father, who lowered the stone hammer as if it was nothing. "As to your question, headmaster, that's a yes. These quiet ones usually inherit the goddess' full power. They are the almost always the only ones who have the ability to conjure, and control, the Fox's Fire."
Glynda narrowed her eyes slightly, curiosity readable in her blue eyes. "'Goddess', you say? Can you elaborate further?"
Rou answered for his father. "We do not speak her name, Professor Goodwitch. However, we venerate her presence. We believe she lives in every living being, every plant, every soul. Human, Faunus, or animal, it doesn't matter. We believe she exists in us all, with the exception of the soulless Grimm."
The elder placed a gentle hand on his son's shoulder, and continued. "The old texts say that she was known as a prankster and a laughter-loving soul; however she was faced with a terrible dilemma one day. This caused her to enter a deep meditative state; she started to reflect on everything she had done, and the paths she could follow. She was said to have achieved enlightenment after intense fasting and reflection for twenty-eight days, and found a way to unlock her latent power on her own. It was also said that she changed into a nine-tailed fox, and raw power can be felt coming off of her in waves, even by those who did not have the ability to channel." He gave a soft sigh, smiling slightly as he did so. "Our unusual Aura techniques are part of the goddess' heritage. The swordsmanship is something that was passed on from the start, in honor of her first disciple - the founder of the Gregale clan, Darin Carature Gregale."
Ozpin took a small sip from his mug, noting with slight displeasure that it was empty. "And I thought you followed your Order's religious doctrines. Is that not the case?"
Rou shook his head. "It's a common misunderstanding, sir. We do follow the Sacred Order's teachings and doctrines. Our veneration of the goddess is restricted only within the Gregale."
"I see." The gray-haired headmaster leaned slightly backwards on his chair, calmly regarding the Faunus father and son tandem in front of him. Rou was his father's spitting image, save for the hair color. The only other key difference was his eyes' expression: where the elder fox's eyes had a warm, slightly playful look to them, the younger fox's visage seemed perpetually somber, hiding the sharp, cunning mind beneath a veneer of near boredom.
If he were to hazard a guess, the elder Gregale would have an equally, if not more powerful, mind and body as his son's. He would have to have both, given that he was wielding a stone hammer that reacted to Aura, of all possible things. Ozpin had no doubts that some of the students would find that interesting, especially one warhammer wielder by the name of Nora Valkyrie.
It was a shame, really, that they were already under such a large yet under-represented group, which also stayed clear of world politics. If any of the four youths - the hotblooded tiger Faunus, the flaxen-haired High Acolyte, the brown-haired pilebunker wielder, or the quiet fox sitting in front of him - decided to enroll in Beacon, he would personally see to it that their development was maximized, and would turn out to be a very successful Huntsman or Huntress. To have three teams of prodigies - teams RWBY, JNPR, and now possibly MSRL - enrolling in a school is any headmaster's dream.
Ozpin smiled to himself. Perhaps a little showing off was in order. He turned his head slightly, one eyebrow arched slightly higher than the other. "What do you say to an exhibition match, Tournament Duel style?"
"Don't get me wrong. Rou's swordsmanship is nothing to sneeze at." The elder fox looked on with concern in his eyes as majority of the student populace filled the indoor arena. "I fear not for him... But for the unlucky opponent who will be able to disarm him of Futsuno."
Ozpin seemed to think his words over for a minute. "So I suppose it was the reason why he challenged one of our best students, the Schnee heiress no less, to a duel?"
"He did what now? Challenged a known fencer to a duel?" One gray eyebrow went up slightly. "Then he must be preparing, even as we speak. He knows that his swordplay style is strong, yet far from perfect, and has plenty of loopholes that can be exploited."
The brown-eyed headmaster chuckled softly. "You seem to know much about his progress, even if I hear you were occupied at the time."
"But of course. I am not a fox for nothing." A slow, sly grin crept up the handsome yet weathered face. "And I did not earn the name 'Le Renard' during my short stint in the Atlesian Military for nothing, my dear Headmaster."
"Oh? Pray, tell me, how do you manage to keep tabs on him and his progress?"
"It's a simple thing," The gray fox allowed a small smirk to cross his lips. "Well, two things, actually. The first is an embedded weapon and usage data recording system with a built-in outgoing data packet transmission function, triple-locked and secured with multiple encryption keys, within his greatsword. The second is surprisingly simpler: Libby calls me nightly, and delivers her updates with some personal touches. She does it every single night, without fail."
"Rou Gregale and Sky Lark, please come up on the stage." The speaker blared with the announcer's voice.
Rou stepped up to the stage, Futsuno Mitama in its sealed form and strapped to his back. Sky walked up to the other side of the stage, his halberd tapping softly on the tiled floor, a grin on his face. "'Sup, mutt?"
The white-haired fox gave no response, just hefting his greatsword. As soon as the signal was given, Sky immediately dashed forward, thrusting his weapon towards Rou's shoulder. The fox Faunus deftly avoided the strike, leaning to his side and spreading his legs to a lower, wider stance. Rou retaliated with a sweeping slash that sent the blue-haired boy's weapon arcing wide.
"Huh, you wanna prolong your agony? Fine." Sky charged again, Rou impassively facing him.
Their fight dragged on for quite some time, and both appeared to be on equal footing.
Rou snuck a glance towards the large display several minutes later. Neither of their Aura gauges were at the 80% level yet, but they were already at the nine-minute mark. I think I've shown enough, the fox boy thought to himself. Time to end this display.
Rou charged forward, intending to deliver a spinning slash at close range. The blue haired boy seemed to anticipate this, and quickly spun to deliver an overhead chop, which forced Rou to change tactics and bring Futsuno up to block the blue-haired boy's attack squarely. Again, a grin spread on Sky's face as he twisted his grip slightly, locking the bottom of the halberd's axe blade against Rou's greatsword. "Oopsie," Sky taunted as he yanked his weapon down and to the side, dragging Futsuno Mitama away from the fox boy's grip.
A gasp of surprise sounded throughout the auditorium as the headmaster and elder fox looked on. "Oh boy. He's just signed his defeat," the gray fox stage whispered to the coffee-sipping man beside him.
Just as the greatsword clattered away noisily, Rou looked surprised, then worried, finally blank. A slow grin grew on his face, and his eyes flickered red-violet for a split-second, as the ghost of a smirk appeared at the corners of the fox boy's eyes and mouth.
Sky was surprised at the turn of events. Why did he seem pleased to be disarmed, of all things? Before he could process it further, he felt anger bubbling up within him; it felt that Rou was mocking him, as if saying he did not need the greatsword to defeat Sky.
By the time Sky had noticed it, Rou was a good distance away, making a beeline for the greatsword. Roaring in rage, he lunged and thrust the halberd, aiming at Rou's heart.
What happened next surprised everyone present. It only took about ten seconds from start to finish, but it seemed to take much longer, particularly for the two on the stage.
Rou spun, and his eyes seemed to be glowing white. At the same time that he turned, three glowing spheres surrounded him, one of which was in his left hand. It also seemed that his Aura was pulsating off of him in waves, and a small handful noted that energy formed behind the fox Faunus in the form of nine white tails.
With a quiet growl, Rou sidestepped the halberd thrust, and using the momentum, slammed his palm onto the bicep of Sky's extended arm. The orb in the Faunus' hand visibly exploded on contact, making the human boy grimace in pain.
Without waiting to check the damage done, Rou spun towards the other side, the second sphere floating into his grasp. Sky reacted a little too late, and felt the fox boy's palm connect with his midsection, another explosion making him wince and stagger back, this one a little less powerful than the last but by no means less devastating.
Sky wisely took another step back to take a deep breath, his head bowed down with unspoken pain. As he did so, a boot slid into his peripheral vision, kicking up a small dust cloud.
When the blue-haired human boy looked up, Rou's glowing eyes and blank facial expression greeted him.
The next thing Sky knew, he felt the heat of a small, compact explosion on his solar plexus, driving out what little air he was able to breathe in. The bang that accompanied it also disrupted his balance, the blue-haired boy only belatedly noticing he was flying backwards. Sky dimly remembered fighting for his balance, propping himself up with his halberd.
Both combatants fell to their knees, but one second later, Sky pitched forward, unconscious. The glow in Rou's eyes died out, leaving him gasping for breath. He turned his head to look at the display, and both of them now showed below 15%. Sky's showed just a thin red line, barely still on the bar, while Rou's still had a small sliver left.
"The Fox's Fire."
Ozpin turned to the elder fox beside him. "Is that what that was called?"
"Yes. You see now why I am worried; he can summon and control the Fox's Fire, but my son does not have enough skill to control the power output." Renard's eyes clearly held concern. "I know that my son was aiming for the traditional Three Strikes of the Goddess: three consecutive balls of super-condensed Aura that are used as projectiles or explosives at short to medium range. It's supposed to be of increasing intensity, but as you saw... Well, it's clear he's not yet quite there."
"Interesting..." Ozpin muttered. He bit the inside of his cheek slightly in thought, and his gaze returned to the panting form of Rou. "Could he be able to control it in time?" he asked Renard.
"It's possible, but that would take him many more years to fully rein in the output of the Fox's Fire. Unless you have an idea that could help shorten the length of time needed...?"
"Oh, trust me; he'll be interested," Ozpin replied, pulling out his scroll.
Hours later, Team COVE's location (I FORGOT WHERE THEY ARE, SHIT!)
The odds of Coronox catching a break to relax was almost zilch.
I was slightly confused as to why he disappeared so suddenly after the impromptu performance I did. At first, I thought he didn't like it, until I noticed his hand twitching slightly. Getting the full story from him, I soon realized that he needed to shove away the damn life-drinker from coming onto him - which, if Vik was in his shoes, would've taken the opportunity. Not too many people can say they've had a good time with a vampire, and didn't get turned in the process.
Lucky - and stupid - bastard.
However, now that I know that Reaper's waiting for us to leave, Coronox and I were trading ideas as to what we should do to get away from the inbound carnage - with precious cargo in tow - and soon enough, just gave up for the night. I sprawled onto the bed, exhausted, and waited for the gunslinger to begin his special meditation. It was somewhat soothing, witnessing the state of zen Coronox places himself into, and move the shadows like an ocean. Unfortunately, his damn scroll rang, and I sighed in frustration, making Coronox look at me weirdly-while wearing his sunglasses.
"I know, it's your scroll and whatnot, but I happen to enjoy the meditation every night," I state, making him shrug in the process of opening his scroll.
"To whom might this be?" he began.
"Hello, Mr. Kardas," the headmaster's voice replied.
"Ozpin? Why are you calling at this hour?"
"I'm adding another part to your job of protecting Miss Ventego - which you can perform alone this time, if you choose," he stated.
"Dear Oum, headmaster," I started, "there's already enough to work on as is. What is so important that it couldn't wait 'till morning?"
"Simple. Fox's Fire."
I could've sworn Coronox's breath hitched for a few seconds.
"Wh-What about it?" he hesitantly asked.
"Apparently, one of Mystra's comrades - a fox Faunus, no less, named Rou Gregale - houses its full power, and can summon it at will," he said. "However, he cannot seem to control its output, and you might be someone that could help retain it, seeing as though you contain-"
And now I can see the rage emanating off of his tuxedo. Wonderful job, Ozpin!
"What you need to understand is that Fox's Fire is nothing compared to the Flare, so if you think that I'd help this student, then there's another problem you'll need to solve without me," Coronox stated harshly.
Flare? I pondered. What the hell does he mean by 'Flare'? I know it's not the gun from the way he said it, but what is the 'Flare'?
"...Coronox, this is a part of your mission," Ozpin restated.
"And just like any other mission, I'll decline," Coronox spat.
"Then consider this, Mr. Kardas: if he couldn't control the Fire's power, and you weren't here, then what would the result be?" the headmaster retorted, sounding agitated.
"...You have a point, sir. Fine, I'll be leaving for Beacon in the next few days," Coronox said after a few seconds.
"Good, I'll see you - and anyone else that you might bring along - soon," Ozpin replied. He hung up a few seconds later.
We just sat there for a minute or two, not saying a word. The silence was somewhat comfortable, but also tense. Though I don't know anything about this 'Flare' Coronox stated earlier, I do know - from secondhand experience - about Fox's Fire: unbridled strength from 'the goddess', whatever or whoever that is, to dish out unbelievable damage to opponents that underestimate them. I wasn't on the receiving end at the time, but a poor soul that I took witnessed it firsthand.
"If it means anything," I began, "at least you can get away from that goddamn cat."
"You're the one that has the problem against her, Eclipse; I'm not too concerned about what she thinks of me, as long as she doesn't get in the team's way. However, if you choose to stay, then you could settle the issue between the two of you with a friendly duel," Coronox replied.
"Wait, are you saying that I can go with you?" I ask hopefully.
"Yes, why does that ma-?"
"I'M GOING WITH YOU!" I declare proudly, cutting him off.
"...God damnit, Eclipse..."
And that's yet another chapter done. Phew.
Mucho arigatou for TehAwesomeness, TehUnoman for helping me shape things here.
Hmm. No one's giving any guesses... Meh, that means less stuff for me to worry about. (See, I knew the universe loved me back in some way. This would be it).
Ehhh... I'm too tired to write anything else... I'm gonna go try to watch the newest RWBY chapter when I get home... If I'm lucky I can get it downloaded onto my phone.
Read, leave a review for anything except death threats, all that jazz.