[-|Back in the Game |-]
Author’s Note: This Chapter is also known as ‘How Asuna Got Her Groove Back – Part 1’.
[Chapter 5 -o0o- Start]
[SAO -o0o- LH]
“Do you feel you can trust them?” Asuna asked Kirito over their mental link as she strolled through the open market with her daughter perched on her head, looking for new ingredients to experiment with. He had just informed her of his discussion with the Enchanter he had become acquainted with.
‘It’s… not that simple,’ Kirito stated. ‘He honestly sounds concerned, and he’s one of the few people who are doing something. On the other hand, he pretty quickly jumped on the idea of taking power into his own hands and wants to take a monopoly on this to build himself up a powerbase. An idea that I gave him, meaning if he does go too far….‘
“You’re worried about a repeat with Kibaou, right?” she guessed. He had been pretty quick to jump on the opening Diabel’s death left and coining the whole Beater-thing, using it as a banner to build himself a platform to stand on and gathering a greater deal of the players into trying to clear the game. “You said you told him how corrupt the Army became. Do you think he’ll end up like them?”
‘No one thinks of themselves as being corrupt or evil,’ Kirito said. ‘Kibaou didn’t when tried to arrange for Thinker’s death, and Kayaba didn’t when he started SAO in hopes of fulfilling his dream. This guy seems to be aware of how slippery a slope it is, but who can say he’ll notice when he’s gone over it?‘
“Personally, I think he’s onto something. People won’t move unless you push them along sometimes and give them direction. If he doesn’t do something then it’ll be like SAO all over again, with people sitting on their butts until the very end. ”
‘Maybe we should give it a chance since I don’t have an alternative idea yet. I just don’t want to be hasty in deciding and end up making another mistake that causes more problems. Not again.‘
“As long as you do what you can, that’s all that matters,” Asuna told him. “Anyway, two players contacted me before in hopes of exchanging information. I can use them to help with keeping up-to-date on information here and then feed that back to you, if you’ll do the same.”‘
‘Okay. I’ll tell him. Talk to you later?‘
“Tell me how it goes,” she answered. “Love you.”
“Bye Papa,” Yui added, joining in.
‘Love you both too.‘
When their line was severed, Asuna focused her attention to the Market and their lack of goods. Something was off and she couldn’t cook like this if she didn’t have ingredients to work with. Her eyes settled on two female NPCs talking to one another, a contrast from when they would simply stand in place and wait to be spoken to like in SAO. Maybe there was a quest or something going on?
Asuna approached them and said, “Excuse me.”
They both seemed somewhat surprised before the dark-haired girl spoke. “We’re closed at the moment. There’s nothing we can sell you.”
“I can see that. What I want to know is why? Normally this place is stocked every day, but now it seems like things are missing. ” Her answer, if anything, only seemed to further fluster them, leading to them to talk in hushed whispers while giving her glances. Odd… NPCs in SAO didn’t have this level of reaction.
“See, they aren’t acting normal,” the brunette of the duo squeaked out. “They don’t just stand there quiet-like anymore. I told you nothing has been right since a few days ago.”
“You know, I can hear you, right?” Asuna stated, placing her hands on her hips and narrowing her eyes in suspicion as she stepped closer. She didn’t take being ignored well. “What do you mean—”
“MARIN!” screamed a tiny voice that cracked from down the street. All four of them turned their heads towards the owner, a small girl with pigtails and a dress that was dirty and torn around the hem.
The brunette NPC ran from behind the stall and headed off the little girl who was crying her eyes out, chest rising and falling as she feverishly panted. She grabbed her as she stumbled forward into her apron-covered dress and kneeled down. “Olive, what are you doing here!?”
“Marin, help!” cried the little girl, Olive. “The farm and Daddy are in trouble!”
“Did you run all the way from there to get here?” When she nodded her head, pigtails bobbing in the process, the older NPC girl raised the child’s dress to see that her feet were swollen and blistered. “We need to do something before they become infected. I think the pharmacist should be in his building.”
“But Daddy is fighting them all alone!” She tugged on the older girl’s dress. “He needs help!”
Asuna glanced down at the child’s face, flushed with desperation and framed by sweat and tears. Seeing them, she felt compelled to ask what was happening and crouched down so they were eye-level with one another. “Who is your father fighting?”
She sniffled. “The crabs! Big crabs that eat everything! They came out of the water everywhere and Daddy started fighting them so they wouldn’t get to the farm! He’s still fighting them!”
“Branch is strong, he’ll fine. Now come on, let’s get those feet seen to.” Marin, as the child called her, picked her up and turned towards the west where the building that the pharmacist NPC operated out of was.
Standing up, Asuna held her hand to her chin in thought. A part of her wanted to simply brush it off as a part of the game, believing it would simply be a quest from which the NPCs would just respawn. She had capitalized on that in SAO for the sake of defeating a boss on the 56th Floor, so it shouldn’t be so hard to just walk away from it….
“Mama,” Yui called softly, her eyes and tone carrying meaning within them as she watched the child crying her heart out while clinging to the older girl and calling for her father.”We can help them, can’t we?”
…It would be the same as dismissing Yui’s existence if she ignored the child’s cries, something that she wouldn’t do. Besides that, the child’s tears seemed so real, as did the desperation in her voice and the damage to her feet. Such vivid displays of emotion and injuries were too much for her to brush off as being computer-generated.
“Give me a second,” she said, patting her daughter on the head with a finger as she opened up her Friend’s List with the other hand. The mental connection was forged with a press of a button and she turned her attention to the other end. “Galantine, is there a quest or something that involves a bunch of crabs raiding a farm?”
There was silence on his end for a moment, as if puzzled by the sudden question being something so off-tangent. ‘… Now that I think about it, there is one that happens around this time of year—a seasonal event. There are farms along the coast with some flavor-text that states that coastal temperatures make it ideal for growing plants. Every year around this time young crabs would surge up the coastline in pockets as a sort of active event. Players could form pick-up groups and eliminate them to get rewards from the NPCs living there out of gratitude and drops.‘
“But that was before we got sucked in and everyone started going into hiding and waiting for help to come.” Asuna reached to her bag slung over her shoulder and started combing through the supplies there. “If there are no Adventurers to deal with them, what happens to the NPCs on the farms?”
‘Not really sure. When the game was… well, a normal game, there were always new players or people grinding off of them. I know chefs usually found it an easy way to get a bunch of ingredients and Crab Meat.‘
“That’s convenient.” Her fingers glided along the glass vials tucked neatly into the section of the bag designed to cordon it off, maps and other items filling up the other space, until she finally found what she was looking for. “How many are there to deal with? What are the average levels?”
‘Is that really important right now?‘
She pulled out the Horse Whistle. “Humor me.”
He sighed. ‘I can’t say how many offhand and remember the specifics, but they’ll likely be around Level 5 – 10 since they’re Rank 1 monsters.‘
“Okay, I’m going to go deal with this since no one else is. When I’m done, I’ll talk to you about an offer I got from my contact in Akiba.”
‘Couldn’t you tell me now?‘
“It’s a lot of information that isn’t going anywhere and I don’t like being distracted when I’m getting ready for combat. I’ll call you when I’m done.” Asuna disconnected the telepathy link before turning to the remaining merchant NPC with a stern expression on her face. “You know where this is happening, right?”
The black-haired girl with braids and round glasses half-jumped at the question. “Umm…yes, ma’am?”
“Great, then you’re coming too.” Asuna used the Horse Whistle.
[LH -o0o- SAO]
Galantine sighed again as the telepathy link was severed from the other end. From the sound of it, Miss Asuna seemed to have decided to involve herself in the game rather than prioritizing escape. That or there was something he was missing.
“Peh!” His Viking companion spat out to the side before tossing the glass mug onto the ground, breaking it. “I need a real drink and real food!”
“You’ll simply have to make do with what we have for the time being, Mina.” Not that she was wrong. The food and drink were seriously lacking in flavor.
“Varn,” she insisted, pouting in a manner that just seemed wrong considering how she had built her character. “I’m Varn here. You promised!”
“That was before we got stuck here.” Galantine rubbed the creases forming in his brow at that, blaming no one but himself. Mina had been pressured by her parents to do well in school to an enthusiastically unhealthy degree. As her tutor, he recommended that she used games as a form of escapism. They often partied up and she had been so excited to get online when the next patch update went live and… well, here they were.
He supposed he had no choice but to wait for Miss Asuna to finish whatever it was that she set out to do, but there was no telling how long that would take. Really, at this point he was grateful for whatever news he could get from her on what was happening elsewhere. His efforts at finding a way out of the game had been for naught given how few players would so much as attempt to speak with him. He could see others on the mini-map if they weren’t in a private area like their guild halls, but every person he had gone to was just as clueless or wary, content with sitting down and waiting for help to come.
“What did she say?” Mina asked him after a moment. Once Galantine gave her the gist of it, she hopped up onto her feet and then grabbed him by the shoulders. “Let’s go as well! Anything is better than sitting here waiting for something to happen.”
Galantine wasn’t sure she wanted to be disturbed, but Mina did have a point. It was boring doing nothing and he could use the practice, should the need to fight to clear the game become apparent. Besides, sooner she handled her business, the sooner they could advance onto more important topics.
“Fine,” he told her as he rose to his feet. “I suppose we can help out. If I remember right, we need to leave out the exit near the Market and go along the shore there by the beach.”
“Isn’t that the one with that Dwarf farmer who hated Adventurers?” she asked.
He nodded. It was a minor NPC that always claimed that any Adventurer could swing a sword but he’d like to see one raise a successful farm. There were always characters like that in this sort of game, jealous of the protagonist because they could do something the NPCs can’t. It was part of the power fantasy that came with being the hero, having people be jealous of their talent while most others were grateful.
The two set out towards the Market, whereupon they came across a small girl arguing with an older NPC girl in the middle of the road.
“I have to go back!” the child said hotly, struggling from the older girl’s grasp around her wrist. Her feet were bandaged from toe-to-ankle.
The older brunette held fast. “No way. It’s too dangerous to go alone, and you were told not to run while the salve was doing its work. Leave to that Adventurer with the rapier!”
The child pouted. “But Marin—”
“Excuse me,” Galantine said, drawing both of the attention to his well-polished armor that glinted in the sunlight. The old NPC used the distraction to lift the small child up and hold her in place. He blinked at the sight before continuing. “What were you saying about an Adventurer with a rapier? Did she have long-hair?”
The NPC nodded. “She asked us why the stalls didn’t have as much produce as before when Olive came looking for help. I took her to have her feet treated and when I came back the others told me she left with my stall-partner.”
Galantine’s eyes spanned the Market and took notice of how empty the stalls were now that she had mentioned it. That was strange. Normally stall there would have an infinite stock. “Why are the stalls so empty?”
“No one has seen Adventurers in the last few days except here,” she explained. “Normally, you lot would be roaming the countryside and killing anything thing that moved, so usually caravans and cargo could be moved without any worry over monsters getting to them. Since none of you are out and about, they have to get other help.”
He brought his hand to his chin in thought. With no one killing off the monsters to grind experience, normally safe travel ways would have become bogged down with them. They would have to arrange for mercenaries and the like to protect their cargo, and he imagined merchants wouldn’t be so eager to shell out so quickly for that when only a few days have passed.
“Mister Adventurers!” the child called to them from her position in the girl’s arms. “Please, help me get back home! Daddy’s still fighting!”
“Escort missions are the worst,” Varn mumbled.
“Hush, Varn.” The self-stylized Paladin took a moment to think on it. If Miss Asuna had been questioning them then this was the quest she had likely taken. Though he hadn’t participated in the event in the last few years, it had never been an escort mission before… then again, they were all heading in the same direction and there couldn’t be any harm in it, right?
“Very well, we’ll escort you to the farm,” he settled on. “The long-haired Adventurer that left out was an acquaintance of ours, so we should have the same destination.”
The child’s eyes brightened. “Thank you! Thank you!”
[LH -o0o- SAO]
Branch hated Adventurers. He never hid that fact. At the same time, he never denied that they had a purpose.
Some things were just beyond the ability of mortals to handle and he had been raised to believe as much growing up. The golden rule had always been that if you needed something delivered or killed for sure, hire an Adventurer to do it—no sense in risking your own life in doing so if you only had one life to live.
But he always felt that the price of that usefulness had been the pride of those who weren’t immortal. In leaving their protection in the hands of the Adventurers, the People of the Land became reliant upon the immortals that only seemed to exist to take coin and carry out a task with the efficiency and rigidity of a golem.
Despite knowing that, Branch had dreamed of adventure when he was younger. He dreamed of using his fist to overcome the challenges in front of him and becoming a legend in his own right as he explored the world. To that end, he trained and trained until he was capable of being a mercenary, working towards earning enough to finance his traveling expenses.
That ended when he faced a group of monsters that were clearly above his level and watched his group be slaughtered. It was only by chance that an Adventurer had come by and saved him, but he almost wished that they hadn’t. After all, how could he take pride in his own fist when he had to be saved?
Alcohol became his best friend and he drank and drank at the closest Inn while reconsidering his life. It was there he met his future wife, a farmer’s daughter. He may or may not have been a little drunk when he let it slip that he was reconsidering the direction his life was going, but she had told him that her father could use another set of hands.
Branch seriously considered it. He thought he could at least take pride in the fact that the Adventurers could never truly create or be one with the land as they could. So his last act as a mercenary was to escort her home, where upon he then took on the sub-class of a Farmer.
One thing led to another. Some death threats were made by her father, may his soul rest in peace, and they got married shortly afterwards. Despite that, he never looked back. After all, he could take pride in the fact that he could raise a family.
That was a right exclusive to the People of the Land.
But he still hated the immortals that could freely travel the world whereas he was limited to where his Level and fists could take him, which wasn’t very far. Why did they have so much freedom? Why couldn’t he have been born lucky enough to be an Adventurer?
As his [Farmer’s Spade] shattered, Branch spat on the patch of land where sand and grass met while astride the corpse of an Ascot Crab. The farming tool wasn’t meant to be used like a Monk’s Spade. It was a joke weapon for all intents and purposes, but it was all he had at the time to deal with these pests.
He’d started hating Ascot Crabs the moment they started popping out of the ocean and scuttling their way towards his farm an hour ago. They made for a decent stew sure enough, but they were always pests that would normally be stomped on by Adventurers before they became this much of a nuisance. Now though? Now he was all that stood between the farm uphill that passed from his father-in-law to his wife and himself at present and the sandy shoreline ahead of him, pocked with seaweed, shells, and smooth stones, being besieged by a horde of the large brightly-colored crustaceans rising from the depths like bubbles.
He tossed the broken tool away and then began layering on the few skills he knew. He started with Hard Body to raise his defense and then used Rafting Taunt to boost the range of the Hate he could earn while the buff was active by carrying his voice further. He followed it with Beat Up by bragging over the corpse of their fallen as his fighting spirit manifested in the form of flames that seemingly danced around him. He earned a significant amount of their ire with and several surged towards him in a funnel.
Rather wait for them, he jumped off the corpse and delivered a Wyvern Kick that sent him sailing across the distance to nail one of the oversized crustaceans in the center of the horde. He then followed up with a Lightning Straight-enhanced blow from his stout fists to leave it open for another strike.
A heavy-claw hit him in the back as he killed the primary one, staggering him forward a step as his buffed body weathered the blow. He turned around and punched it with another Lightning Straight, letting the stun take effect long enough for him to evade as another tried to do the same. Rinse and repeat, using the corpses that were left behind as a shield when he could and moving between them, that was all he could do to defend his home with his own two fists until the sheer numbers overwhelmed him.
A particularly vicious back-hand sent him flying backwards into an ugly tumble. He felt bruised and battered, blood dribbling from his chin and other parts of his flesh where the rough carapace of the crabs’ exoskeleton had rubbed it. It hurt just to stand, but he refused to die like this—on his belly. Sadly, the best he could do was get onto his knees when three of the Ascot Crabs got within striking range.
“Come on then!” he taunted a final time. “Give it your best shot!”
The one in the center raised its claw to do just that. He closed his eyes as sweat dripped down while the claw descended. The sound of it scraping against metal and a grunt of effort reached his ears, just as a soothing sensation washed over him and knitted his skin. He forced his eyes open to a dark-haired female pixie as she fluttered in front of him.
“Hi!” she said. “I think that I helped a little, but my healing isn’t really that good.”
“Yui, get back to the horse and the girl,” said another woman, using a rapier to hold up the claw. An Adventurer. “I’ve got it from here.”
“Okay! Good luck, Mama!”
The pixie fluttered away, leaving the two of them. The Adventurer performed a Whirlwind to scatter them some distance before she pulled a phial and held it out. “Drink this and then get back.”
His lips curled at the offer. He was being saved again! “I won’t run away and leave this to some Adventurer!” he said with a snarl in his voice. “I’ll fight until my last breath!”
She raised her rapier and used it to block an attack aiming for them before slashing with the blade and severing one of the arms with a lucky critical. “If you want to fight, I won’t stop you. I can even respect that you’re putting your life on the line!”
She thrust it forward and pierced the assailing Ascot Crab, depleting the remainder of its health. It collapsed, coins crowning it. “But at least drink the damn Elixir! I didn’t come all this way just to tell your daughter you died on your hands and knees while your farm got leveled because you were being stubborn!”
Branch still hated Adventurers. That hadn’t changed in the least bit. But she was right. He couldn’t defend his home if he was dead. He grabbed the Elixir and chugged it down, strength returning to his body and mind as he stood up again with his fists ready.
“Let’s do this!” He entered Tiger Stance, wreathing his feet in a red glow and allowing his spirit to manifest into a tiger and take on its ferocity. “Don’t let a single one reach the farm!”
Asuna nodded. “Just keep up.”
Then they went back into the fray.
[Chapter 5 -o0o- End]
Name: Level – Class (Species – Build) and Sub-Class
Galantine: Lv. 90 Guardian (Human – Paladin Build) with Holy Warrior sub-class
Varn: Lv. 90 Swashbuckler (Dwarf – Viking) with Berserker sub-class
Branch: Lv 15 Monk (Dwarf – Farmhand Fighter) with Farmer sub-class
Notes: This fic is working on the assumption that, rather that the People of the Land gaining memories and food with flavor and such once the Catastrophe happened, they were simply catered to other Landers and weren’t suitable for Adventurers due to the constraints of the way they interacted with one another (a video game). The People of the Land were simply in a state of eternal stagnation (or at least an incredibility slow rate of advancement) until the Adventurers came along and brought along innovation and creativity.
Likewise, Branch is basically to a Rudy who had dreamed of obtaining the same freedom and power as an Adventurer but had the dream crushed early on and became resentful of them because of it. He’ll serve as a perspective character in how the changes in Nakasu will affect the Landers in the Nine-Tailed Dominion.
Incidentally, the actual Rudy has already left the Nine-Tailed Dominion at this point and is on his way to Akiba.
Read the rest of the comics at Snafu-Comics – See more at: http://snafu-comics.com/swmcomic/violated/#sthash.fniLoCGl.dpuf
Me thinks that this was a set up.
“An amarok!?” Sean’s voice blurted out, his voice filled with disbelief as he stared up at the enormous creature standing over us. “They want us to fight a fucking amarok?! Who okayed this shit?!”
“No way,” Sands’ voice came through the pin. “They wouldn’t. They couldn’t. Something’s wrong.”
The wolf, or amarok apparently, responded by lunging down with its massive mouth wide open. I yelped out a warning, but Sean was already reacting. He gave that huge gun of his a heave, and Vulcan transformed back into his dog form just in time to crash into the much larger beast’s descending snout. In spite of the size difference, the mechanical canine was able to knock the monster’s lunge off target. The amarok stumbled off to one side, the ground practically shaking beneath its staggering paws as it proceeded to knock over one of the nearby trees that happened…
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You can never have a big enough stick, Flick. Never.
“So you grew up around all this stuff,” I whispered to Sean as the two of us picked our way around the lake. We were moving slowly and using the treeline as cover, hopefully avoiding the attention of the creatures inside the cabin in the distance. “Can I ask you something about how all this works?” While speaking, I pressed my finger into the slight depression in the staff where the small button was and held it. The black ends switched to a softly glowing blue as they began to charge up with kinetic energy.
The Hispanic boy turned his gaze away from Vulcan, who was busy sniffing ahead of us. His voice was equally quiet as he nodded to me. “Yeah, sure, what do you wanna know, Flickster?”
I waited another few seconds, scanning the shadows ahead of us before whispering again. “Let’s say someone graduates from…
View original post 2,829 more words
Jaune Arc Expelled: Settling Scores – Part 1
(A RWBY Fanfic)
Outline: Asked to come in to speak with Ozpin by Professor Port, Jaune Arc returns to Beacon for a few hours in hopes of learning more about the Grimm that wiped out the group he traveled with and a shorter trip to Vale. A follow up to Jaune Arc Expelled: A Different Path.
(Part 1 -0o0- Start)
The desert sun of Vacuo baked the grains that shifted below Jaune’s feet as he walked, numerous small wounds leaking crimson blood over his breastplate and jacket. His jeans and sleeves were torn, stained red around the edges where the twisted metal had bit into the flesh as he dug through the wreckage of the Vanister in hopes of finding others who had survived its sinking. He had survived his fall at the expense of his Aura, leaving him without its protection as the sun mercilessly glared down—almost as if it was offended by his desperate effort to cling to life.
He carried on while carrying on his back his mentor, who stirred with a rasp. She had been the only one he could find who survived the fall. “Iria,” he said. “Are you awake?”
“Jauney-boy?” she said. The blood in her eyes rendered her blind, sticking stray strands of her hair to her face like glue. “Y-You survived the fall?”
“Yeah.” He adjusted his grip on her as he pressed forward. “Somehow, I made it.”
“The… others…?” she asked in a haggard voice, raw from pain and dehydration. The question brought to mind the twisted wreckage that still smoldered in the distance, acrid smoke rising to the sky in columns that slowly vanished into the cloudless sky. He’d only found half the bodies, impaled or buried under the steel airship they had been aboard. He’d called that ship home for months now and, just like the comrades who he had trained and fought alongside, it was gone.
“No one else made it.” The words stung as they left his mouth. “It’s just the two of us, but I’ll get us somewhere safe so… so save your strength.”
Her bloodied arm, exposed with patches of raw and blacked flesh from the flames, wavered as she weakly held out an envelope and necklace. “Ge… get these to my sister. Ta…take my guns too, always said you needed a set, but kept putting it off.”
“Stop,” he begged, shaking his head in denial. “Please stop talking like that.”
“Y-You live, hear me?” she continued. “Y-you live and re-remember us. Rem…ember who we were. B-Be our legacy.”
“We’re gonna make it!” His voice cracked as he kept pushing onwards, ignoring the sun above and the aches in his body. “Together. You’ll get to your sister alive.”
She chuckled. “You’re a good kid. Makes… make m-me wish… I had…”
Jaune stopped walking as her voice trailed off. His lips trembled, fresh tears stinging his eyes as his breath caught in his throat. Her arm had gone limp, the letter and necklace falling to the sand, and her weight had shifted backwards, no longer supporting itself.
She was gone. They were all dead. Every one of them was dead.
Jaune fell to his knees and set her body down as gently as he could. His tears fell unbidden and were greedily drunken by the arid sand. He pounded his fist against it impotently, only able to wail in misery.
A dark chill ran up his spine as his anguish and despair served as a beacon, frost and rime seemed to eat at his soul as a slowly thickening brume of darkness overlapped the sand. He looked up and ahead, staring into the distance at the source. There, wreathed in the darkness like a cloak blanketing its form, was the Grimm that shifted within the nebulous darkness.
It did this.
Something in Jaune snapped upon seeing it and the tears stopped. He gave his fallen mentor a final glance as he put away the necklace and letter. He’d survive and get them to her sister, but first….
He drew Crocea Mors, letting the sun’s rays shine off the steel of the blade while the sheath remained at his side. A deep breath filled his lungs with the dry desert air, aggravating his body that ached from the pain of cuts and bruises from the fall. He exhaled with a thunderous scream and kicked off the sand.
He charged. He charged with his sword raised, screaming with his throat raw and dry. The cry itself was pure at its core, primal anger and sorrow forced out from the depths of his heart as he ran towards the figure wreathed in the darkness. Fear was forgotten, lost in the roiling sense of loss he felt, drowned by the need for justice—for vengeance!
The last thing he saw as he approached the Grimm shrouded by abysmal darkness was the blade-tipped tendril coming towards his face.
And his cry of anger and sorrow became one of pain and agony before darkness consumed him utterly.
(Jaune -0o0- Arc)
Jaune shot awake, lurching forward in his seat only for his forehead to smash into something equally hard and elicit a minor grunt of pain.
“Oww…” Pyrrha leaned back, a hand held to her forehead and one eye closed as she rubbed the sore point.
Jaune quickly apologized. “Sorry, I—”
“Its fine,” she said, sitting back in her seat next to him.
“Was it another bad dream?” Noyuu asked from the seat opposite him, next to their bags.
“Just remembering something from the past,” he said. No matter how much he wished it was a dream, it was a memory. It was something that happened, a regret he looked back on bitterly. “I’m fine now.”
A lie, but not one they pressed him on when they were nearing Beacon. He looked out the window to see the Forever Fall Forest below, a perpetually red canopy that shifted with the winds as they passed overhead. Professor Port had told him that Ozpin wanted to talk to him, and the ride would make getting back to Vale faster with their supplies intact and guarantee their safety—no more ambushes.
He was still hesitant to go for a multitude of reasons. But Ozpin had tolerated his forged transcript and allowed him the chance to enter in the first place. It would’ve been rude to refuse.
Noyuu at least seemed captivated by the sight of the forest below. It was his first time seeing it. The faunus had been living around a desert town until he was made a slave when that group moved in to tap a dust mine there, just like Jaune had when they plucked him out of the desert. Things got worse before they got better after that, so anything that helped him get over it was good. Jaune wished the same could be said for himself, but the memories were just as everlasting as his scar.
“It was last year when we were last here, gathering Red Sap,” Pyrrha said, a note of nostalgia in her voice. It turned sullen as her eyes dropped. “Right before—”
“I had to leave,” he finished for her in a flat tone. “I stood up to Cardin and he took the information to Miss Goodwitch, the one person he knew would see that the rules were followed. It’s old news now.”
“Even so, I should have known that he had been blackmailing you,” she said. “I was careless on the rooftop and he overheard us. I never expected he would have gone to her even after you helped him with that Ursa.”
“You saw that?” She nodded, but didn’t say anything more. “It doesn’t matter now.”
He took a moment to change the topic. Cardin was the last person he wanted to think on right now. “So, what’s new with your team—besides the new guy?”
“Nora and Ren are dating now.”
Jaune blinked in surprise. “They weren’t before?”
“It took her a while to just admit to him. Then it was a little awkward when she tried to mimic other couples instead of being herself…” She looked over her shoulder to the couple in question, Nora keeping her voice low but moving excitedly while Ren smiled. When he said something in response, she blushed and then slapped him on the shoulder.
“Looks like it still worked out though. Good for them.” Jaune put on a small smile at the sight. Then his eyes wandered to Aladdin, quietly fixated on a Scroll with headphones attached. “What about you?”
Pyrrha followed his line of sight and then shook her head and hands. “No! I’m not seeing anyone, especially not Aladdin—our relationship is purely professional and he’s involved with someone else… what about you?”
“Not a lot of time for dating when I was with the group.” Or afterwards. Between being put to work in the mines, then running from the White Fang, and then everything else, romance and relationships were put as far down on his list of priorities as possible. “I was one of the younger members and most of my time was eaten up by Iria, our leader. She was constantly trying to make sure I was up to snuff and didn’t slow the others down—running around the deck of the airship, pull-ups using pipes, practice with wooden sticks before moving onto actual swords… I’m surprised the bruises healed, actually.”
He could suddenly feel the weight of the pendant necklace in his pocket. He withdrew it and held it tenderly in his palm, showing the chipped and worn exterior. It had been through a lot, some of the nicks were there before it came into his possession.
“She died on my back,” he continued with his tone measured, hiding the deeper feelings of cold hatred and sorrow. “I promised I would get this to her sister in Vale. That promise held me up for a while now, and gave me strength when I needed it, along with the memories of our time in Beacon.”
Pyrrha carefully placed her hand over his palm and the pendant, meshing the warmth of her body against the cold surface. Her other hand supported his from below and she smiled gently at him. “I’m sure that she’d be happy that you made it this far. I certainly feel that way after going so long without knowing where you were.”
His eyes rose from her slender hands to her emerald eyes, framed by the soft and inviting curves of her brows. The soft scent coming gently clinging to her slipped down his throat with every breath he took. His head drifted closer, allured at her gaze but cautious still. When she made no effort to withdraw, he leaned forward a little more and closed his eyes—
The darkness eclipsed the sky, spearing down and through the Dust-Mage he was supposed to protect with spear-tipped tendrils. Theia looked into his eyes in confusion, fear fogging her pupils before death claimed her. The glass dome shattered as she closed them and fell onto the cold, metal hull of the airship, and Iria screamed for her best-friend to respond over the ear-piece.
—he pulled back, turned his head downwards, and removed his hand from her grasp. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I… just can’t.”
“No, I get it.” She turned away, a minor crimson hue on her cheeks as she stared down at her lap. Her brows fell slightly in what could have been disappointment or shame, either one.
Silence hung between them for the rest of the trip to Beacon.
(Pyrrha -0o0- Nikos)
Escorting Jaune and his friend into the Clock Tower while the others parted ways to deal with their reports, Pyrrha couldn’t look her former teammate in the eyes after what almost transpired on the airship. She couldn’t put it into words what she was thinking at the moment. It was just that, when she was around him, she felt like she could drop her guard and be her.
Maybe that was why she was disappointed when he pulled back. Not that she didn’t understand why he did it—he had clearly lost people who he had gotten attached to, a pain that wouldn’t go away as the one who survived when the others didn’t. It was like he was standing on a mountain of corpses that he recognized, only able to look down and see how high they stacked to keep him propped up.
Pyrrha was blessed with fortune and talent, refined by training and tempered over time. But it put her on a pedestal of a different sort for so long that she was often alone, made worse that she was now their team leader and thus in a position to command her teammates, naturally putting her a level above them in terms of the chain of command and responsibility. Jaune had handled it well somehow, despite his lack of knowledge or training, but it only served to prop her up further on the pedestal.
She struggled to connect with people as she did with Jaune from the moment they first met, something that she desperately missed. And, even though she was truly happy for her other teammates, there were moments when she admitted to herself that she was a bit jealous of what Ren and Nora had. The dance in the second semester had certainly been a depressing event on her end, though she hid it well.
Jaune and his companion had different expressions as they entered the building. Jaune had a soft, nostalgic look in his eyes, no doubt remembering when he was there. Noyuu seemed amazed at the decorum and architecture. Then again, it was kind of grand if you weren’t used to it.
“Look who it is?” said a grating voice that immediately shifted the atmosphere. It was Cardin Winchester, strolling in from one of the corridors with his team in tow. His lips were turned up in a smirk as he came to a stop in front of Jaune. “You look like you’re doing well, Jauney-boy.”
Pyrrha frowned. Of course he would show up now. Apparently having his legs broken and taking a beating during the sparring rounds wasn’t enough to stop him from showing up when Jaune did.
“I’ve got nothing to say to you,” Jaune said with an undercurrent of barely bridled rage just beneath the plain tone he spoke in. “And I don’t ever want to hear you call me that again. Use my proper name or not at all.”
“Well, excuse me for being friendly to a pal I haven’t seen in a long time,” he said, not hiding the sarcasm in his tone at all. He pointed to Jaune’s scar. “I like that look you’ve got going on there.”
“Look, he brought his pet mouse with him too.” Russell reached out to grab Noyuu’s ears. “I wonder if—”
Jaune stuck his dominant hand out, with a finger chambered by his thumb, and flicked Russell on the forehead. Pyrrha assumed he layered his Semblance onto it, because there was a flash on contact. Russell’s head was knocked back, his body following it on an unexpected trip to the marble floor.
Cardin and the rest looked stunned at the act, but their leader quickly regained his composure and cracked his fists. “So you think you’re tough enough to go around picking fights just because you got a scar on your face?”
“It’s called self-defense.” Jaune told him, tilting his head slightly as his eyes met Cardin’s… no. They were going past him, to the Glynda Goodwitch walking up right behind him. “We aren’t here as students, but as guests on the Headmaster’s request. Harassing a guest speaks poorly of his self-control. Don’t you agree?”
“I most certainly do.” Cardin stiffened as he heard her voice. “Though retaliating in such a manner speaks ill of yours to a degree as well.”
“Given how the last time we met it wasn’t on the best of terms, I did my best to keep calm,” Jaune said unflinchingly. “However, I’ve lost too many comrades to let one of them being harassed for their race in front of me slide by. I used minimal force.”
“Next time, find a member of the staff and report it instead.” She turned to Cardin and his team. “Your conduct here has been noted and your punishment will be determined later. For now, I would suggest if you do not have business here you go elsewhere.”
Cardin glared at Jaune. The look Jaune gave him in return sent a chill up Pyrrha’s spine, and she felt as though something passed between them. Fortunately, Cardin and his team left the way they came.
Then Glynda turned to Noyuu. “I’ll be escorting Mister Arc alone from this point,” she said. “You may wait for him here, or in the cafeteria. I would recommend taking the opportunity to sample some of Beacon’s fine dining.”
“Oh, thank you.” He gave a small bow of his head as Jaune boarded the elevator with the teacher and waved before the doors closed.
“I’ll accompany you,” Pyrrha told him. Perhaps that way she could ask him more about that look Jaune gave Cardin near the end. It… didn’t seem like him.
“Cardin still hasn’t change from the look of it,” Jaune said as the elevator lurched upwards. “I get it, you need everyone possible to fight the Grimm, but I’ve seen how people who act like him become when they get into a position of power outside of the Kingdoms. If you don’t rein him in, he’ll meet a very ugly and well-deserved end.”
“He will be reprimanded for his actions today,” she said in a disciplinarian tone. “We can only disciple him for the actions that we monitor and have conclusive evidence towards. It is up to him to change his behavior in private.”
“I suppose you’re right.” Riding in the elevator felt strangely nostalgic, though he couldn’t be certain if that wasn’t an omen instead. He stared up at the light on the ceiling of the elevator car, thinking back on that time. “You weren’t wrong when you said that I wasn’t ready back then. If you hadn’t, who knows how things would have turned out?”
“And yet you chose to become a mercenary without the necessary training.” Her hair swayed softly as she shook her head slightly. “I can’t say that you are fully-qualified now.”
“One path was closed to me, so I took another to get the training I needed to return.” His shoulders rose and fell casually. “I’m alive at least, and I did help people.”
“Regardless, it is… a welcomed sight to see a former student alive and well,” she settled on as the elevator came to a stop. “Many aren’t so fortunate.”
The doors to the elevator opened. Jaune stepped out to see that Ozpin was at his desk, gesturing for him to come forward. He did so and, to his surprise, Glynda took the elevator down, leaving them alone.
“It is good to see you again, young man,” the Headmaster began as he sat down. “I had hoped you would have returned for the Entrance Exams and was disheartened upon not seeing you. And then I received a call from your mother.”
Jaune winced. When the ship went down and all of them were listed as KIA, their final pay must’ve been sent to those listed on their registration information. That meant his mother and sisters received a notice of his death and the money that had been earned for the Vacuo assignment, revealing all the lies he had told then.
“How mad was she?” he asked.
“Very,” Ozpin said in a dull tone, using a stirrer to slowly swirl the contents of his cup. “It was through her that I learned of your presumed death.”
He was not looking forward to that discussion, but he owed it to them to tell them that he was safe now that they were in Vale, and not being chased anymore. He’d probably leave out the brief slavery stint and spending the last few months on the run. “I had every intention of coming back, but there were complications—”
The Nevermore circled around, only for a streaking shadow to appear from underneath while their eyes were focused on it. Krist pushed Theia aside and ended up caught in the Grimm’s talons as they clamped shut. Jaune’s blade came around to cut it down, but it beat its wings and twisted body to dodge while flinging him far over the ledge of the ship. A ball of searing flames struck the Grimm in retaliation and immolated it, but the damage was done.
Jaune spared a moment to stare at where the man had fallen. He wouldn’t survive the fall, not with how much of a beating his Aura had taken in the continuous fighting. They’d lost another one, a jovial and lighthearted man who never stopped talking about his family and newborn son.
“—of various kinds.” He took a moment to breathe and then nodded. “I couldn’t go home and let my family know that I forged my transcripts to get into the school only to be kicked out. So I figured I would train to pass the entrance exam and saw that they were recruiting. I got in and stuck around for half-a-year until the airship we were on was attacked.”
“The Vanister was the name of the ship, correct?” The Headmaster brought up a menu on his Scroll and then searched through files to bring up a holographic display of it. The Vanister was an Atlas-made military model, rendered obsolete by a generation or so and bought by the company the group was a part of. “Used by the Fifth Division of the Iridescent Sabers, a group that specializes in Grimm Extermination—”
“Led by Iria Dores.” Jaune finished for him. “That’s that ship I served on before it was attacked half-a-year ago, over a desert in Vacuo.”
Ozpin took a sip of the fine coffee he had and then set it down. “The Kingdom of Vacuo received a distress message from there, and shortly after experienced a surge of Grimm attacks roughly six months ago. Forgive me ahead of time, but I need you to listen and confirm what you are about to hear.”
Ozpin pressed the button. The audio file played and—
Gun, cannon, and dust-fire thundered in the sky. The air was filled with various elements and ammunition as the group let loose every ranged option available. Flaring stars that shot forward like comets blossomed into explosions of fire and smoke on impact. Coruscating tails of icicles spread like an infection and covered Grimm in a thick layer of hoarfrost, invading their bodies from the inside out and dropped them like stones from the sky. Crackling and streaking bolts of lightning speared through entire hoards and then spread out to catch nearby Grimm in an electric web until they burst from the inside out.
Many Grimm died. More took their place, even as turret-and-cannon fire further thinned their ranks. Nevermores and other assorted aerial Grimm were closing in, led by a truck-sized Stormraven.
—Jaune shook his head, trying to not to recall the call for help as he listed the recording. But the desperation in the voice of the operator as—
A formation of elder Grimm closing in as the cannons and turrets tried to blast them out of the sky. Younger Grimm became shields for them and soaked the damage as they closed in. Everyone was put on defense as they performed a strafing run with their various abilities. Blinding and searing streams of flames, spear-like feathers that could pierce steel, and forked tongues of lightning, all rained down upon the surface of the airship.
Jaune was nearly blinded as a dense, diamond-like dome encompassed him and several others courtesy of Theia. The entire ship shook as something exploded and the bulwark cracked as the sharp plume of the Elder Nevermore penetrated it to the extent they stopped just short of their heads and raised shields.
—he could recall the entire ship shaking from the attack and screams being cut short by those who couldn’t mount a defense in time. Tears stung his eyes as—
Jaune rose to his feet, coughing as the heated air choked his noise with smoke, ozone, and the scent of burning bodies. His sword nearly slipped from his grasp in horror as he looked at the unfolding Hell of bodies that had been split in half and impaled upon the deck by the spear-like feathers or charred until they were blackened and twisted replicas of people. He could barely make out Blair’s body and the slag that her weapon had become once her Aura had been overwhelmed and no longer reinforced it.
—he couldn’t listen anymore. “Enough!” Jaune demand with his voice haggard and rough, strained. He covered his ears. “I’ve heard enough. Turn it off. Turn it off now!”
Ozpin did so. “My apologies, but I had to make certain that was the ship you were aboard and that you can confirm what occurred there. The information we are about to discuss is of the utmost secrecy and not a pleasant topic.”
“I was there, okay?” He struggled not to throw himself out of the chair and throttle the man for making him relive that battle. “Stormravens, Nevermore, Whirlcrows, Blightareials, Duskwyrm—hundreds, if not thousands of flying Grimm were there. We tried to get away, but a number of them broke off and came after us. We fought back, used everything to survive, and just when we thought we had taken care of them, when so few of us were left, it appeared.”
“A Grimm that was draped in darkness?” Ozpin offered. “Wreathed in it like a veil of night that chills you to the bone, and blades tipped on its ends that can pierce armor and Aura alike. It shifts forms within the shroud, sometimes that of a beast and other times that of what appears to be a man, but otherwise its form is obscured.”
“That’s it.” Jaune’s heart sped up at the first lead he had towards it, after going months without any sort of clue. “I searched every catalog of Grimm I could get my hands on during my journey here, but there was nothing like it there.”
“I’ve seen it once,” he said. “You will not find it in the catalog because it is registered as classified information and a mere tale of fantasy to those who have not been in its presence and survived. Part of the reason I am telling you this is so that you understand the consequences of divulging this information. It cannot be made public that something we aren’t capable of killing can exist or it would lead to fear—and that fear would attract more Grimm.”
“What was it?”
“A Progenitor,” the Headmaster said, rising to his feet and walking over to the window. One hand rested on his cane, while the other held his cup. “A Primordial Grimm, among the first in existence that served as the bane of mankind by spawning the soulless monsters that we face even today. Most Huntsmen and Huntresses never encounter them, and those that do usually don’t survive. While my team was fortunate at the time to make it out alive during one such encounter, it was not without its cost for the others with us.”
“How do I find it?” Jaune asked next.
“So far we haven’t been able to track the movements of such Grimm. At best we have a hypothesis that whenever an area outside of the Kingdoms looks to be on the verge of being reclaimed by humanity after a number of their kind is killed, they appear briefly to spawn more. The fact that the group you were a part of ran into it could simply be considered bad luck.”
“Bad luck?” He couldn’t keep the heat out of his voice. “That thing sent Grimm after us by the hundreds over a desert! Nothing we did could hurt it! Our Auras were paper-thin to it! Everyone I had fought alongside died—and you call that mere bad luck!?”
Ozpin, for his part, remained passive. “Luck often plays as much a part in victory or defeat as skill. For example, your survival at the Entrance Exam and having your Aura unlocked by Miss Nikos could be considered as such… as is the fact that you are still alive in the wake of what transpired when no one else survived.”
Jaune clenched his fists until his knuckles turned white. “They had dreams, goals, family—and they died so suddenly, far away from everything they cared about. Being the only one that lived just to watch them die can’t be considered good luck.”
“It is the reality of the world we live in,” the Headmaster bluntly said. “The world itself is cruel and merciless. Otherwise, things like the Grimm would not exist. We endure and survive. That is all.”
Jaune trembled, negative emotions stirring within him. “I can’t accept that. I’ll hunt it down, no matter how long it takes.”
“I implore you, Mister Arc,” he said. “Do not let the need for vengeance consume you like so many others I’ve seen in my lifetime. Vengeance against the Grimm is pointless by itself, but against this one it is ultimately an act of self-destruction. Just having an obsession towards it could cost of you everything.”
“It already cost me everything,” Jaune said. “You said your team managed to get out alive, but would you have been able to let it go if they hadn’t?”
“Yes,” he said bluntly. No hesitation in his words. “Because, I know that it is a meaningless way to die. Instead, I came into a position at an institution of learning where I could guide others so that they would hopefully make fewer mistakes and survive where many of my peers didn’t to lesser threats, let alone this one. I believe firmly that one day we will find a way to deal with the Progenitors, but we must survive to that point.”
“… If there’s nothing else, I’ll be on my way then.” Jaune rose from his seat. “Thank you for your time, Headmaster.”
“The next airship to Vale will be here in an hour. They’ll take you into the city, if that is what you wish.” Ozpin said. “Just keep in mind, Mister Arc, you haven’t lost everything. Not yet.”
Jaune paused at that, standing before the elevator as the doors opened—
Explosions from the engines made the entire ship violently shake as it lost altitude, and the world seem to slow as one in particular jostled Jaune from the top of the bridge and over the side. His body twisted as he reached for the rail, only for his grip to slip from the sweat and he spiraled out of control, slamming his head against the metallic surface with a loud thud.
His consciousness grim dim and he thought he heard someone screaming his name as the blaring sirens of the Vanister grew distant. Then even that scream was drowned out by the thunderous sound of a final explosion that blew away his lingering thoughts and awareness.
—he shook his head slowly and then boarded the elevator. Once the doors shut behind him and it began its descent, he slammed his fist against the side. His mood only continued to worsen as the ride down came to an end and he found Cardin at the exit with his team.
In his hand was Noyuu’s robe.
Jaune’s fist clenched, unaware of the nearly imperceptible and ethereal shadows that clung to it as his scar ached.
(Part 1 -0o0- End)
End Note: This is basically a ‘What-If’ scenario that I came up with because things weren’t really settled between Jaune and Cardin, and people wanted to know more about what happened. I had the idea nagging at me for almost half-a-year now, but I was too busy so putting it into words wasn’t so easy. In the end though, I had to split it up to get the Xmas release ready, so this is Part 1 with Part 2 about a fourth of the way done.
I like learning about more uncommon mythological figures. That’s one of the perks of reading Original Writing.
“Let’s contain the giggles and gossip for just a few seconds here so I can talk, all right?”
The moment that Deveron said those words, all while continuing to flash that cocky and uncaring smirk, I immediately caught Avalon by the arm before she could throw herself at him. The muscles in her bicep flexed against my grip, and she turned her death glare from the boy to me until I released her. Still, it was enough of a delay that she wasn’t about to lose control completely and choke the prick.
And it gave Sean time to speak up, drawling a casual, “Well fine lil sweetness, if you insist. But only if you promise that we can do our hair up all nice and get some mani-pedis if we do a good job.”
Beside him, the metal dog made a soft little ruff noise of agreement, and…
View original post 3,701 more words
Vim & Vigor 3
(A Worm/Bioshock Fanfic)
Greg Veder’s Home, April 10th
I couldn’t help but yawn by the time I was done with my half of the report. Scion’s death wasn’t officially confirmed by Protectorate or anyone in the know, but everyone basically assumed that he was long gone. After all, he hadn’t been seen since 2008.
There were a couple of theories flying around, so I would have to use those, along with references to official sources while keeping my personal opinion out of it. I could just copy and paste, knowing Mr. G wouldn’t really care if I could spin it right, but that was being lazy and I had to make sure it was good enough to meet Taylor’s standards. I didn’t want to do it by halves and run the risk of her getting a bad grade when she trusted me to help her out.
It wasn’t like we could rely on Sparky—not when every other grouping we had with him left the two of us doing the majority of the work. He had his own thing and wasn’t into the cape scene like we were, so he’d just leave it for us to deal with and coast by. Not fair, but it wasn’t worth picking a fight I couldn’t win over. Plus, I’m thinking he might be stoned a good portion of the time anyway.
If I was allowed to use my personal theory, I’d say that Scion was the source of all powers to begin with. I mean, the moment he went pop was about the same time that some people had their own powers turned against them upon triggering, being too powerful for them to contain. You never knew how the next trigger event was going to turn out—either you were going to get a cool power, a crappy power, or end up in a state of constantly melting and reforming into what looked like new age art sculptures while feeling every bit of pain until the PRT took you off and put you in stasis. But no, I couldn’t use that since it counted as a personal opinion, as there were no solid or proven facts to back that up.
I sighed as I gave it another read-through and then sent the report to Taylor as an email attachment, to get her opinion on it. If she needed me to revise it to match her tone then I could do that later. That left me a few hours of free time to myself….
I guess I’d go out to the Market then. There was no point in poking around on PHO since TinMother accused me of starting a flame-war. I swear she’s biased against me. Besides, I could find some things to improve my costume with my allowance there.
My vision briefly blurred until I rubbed my eyes—too long on the computer and the bright backdrop again. Closing the laptop perched in the main niche of the computer desk, while game boxes were lined and stacked next to one another on the sides, I got out the swiveling chair. My bones cracked as I stretched and turned to the opposite wall, the shelf of which housed my books, and walked out the door to the Living Room.
Dad was at the table, looking at a bunch of papers dealing with his job. He only stirred when my shadow blocked the light for a moment. “What is it, Greg?”
“Can I get my allowance?”
He didn’t look up as he pulled out his wallet with one hand and wrestled out a fifty with two fingers. “Don’t spend it all in one place.”
“Not so fast.” Mom came out of the kitchen and plucked it out of his hand before I could get it. She had a look on her face that she got when she had something she wanted to say, which could be good or bad or downright awkward. Case in point being when she tried to ask me if Taylor and I were intimate a day after what happened to Taylor that night I caught her out during her cape thing.
Not the type of thing you wanted to talk to your mother about under any circumstance, but the cover story we had used involved saying we were going on a date to test the waters when one of the Merchants attacked Taylor while trying to get away from her cape alter-ego. It still sounded loads better than what may have been construed as me stalking her one day after class until I uncovered her secret. That’d come off as me being a creeper when I was just concerned about her.
I had been worried about her since she had been acting strangely for a while after the Locker Incident. It was hard to put into words, but she carried herself differently. Before it happened, Taylor would try to avoid the Mean Trio and always had this hurt look on her face after they messed with her.
After the locker, she honestly didn’t look like she gave a damn anymore. She just put up with it before hopping on the computer. Not that anyone else noticed. They were usually either laughing or trying to look away so they didn’t end up the next target. I… was no better.
I never laughed at her, that stuff wasn’t funny. But I was coward for not sticking up for her before, powerless. Maybe that was why she didn’t talk to me too often, despite us having a lot of the same interests. Who’d want to be friends with a coward?
Anyway, I went online and managed to piece together the sort of things that some parahumans went through to trigger, information that was a lot scarcer than you’d think for the record. Between the constant bullying and being shoved into a locker full of that filthy stuff, how could she not trigger? It was common sense.
After that, my first thought was to go tell her I figured it out and to be careful in hiding her secret identity. I didn’t plan on blackmailing her or anything with the information, which would have been stupid. I just wanted to be someone she could vent all her cape secrets to and be there for her when she needed to talk to someone in the know about both her identities.
So I followed her with a pair of binoculars and found her secret base. She went out in costume, I followed. Bad things happened, Taylor’s leg was broken because I distracted her before she could get away completely, and I was fairly sure a Merchant got his eyes pecked out by a bunch of crows.
Even with the cover story, Mister Hebert was not pleased when he picked Taylor up from the hospital. He probably blamed me his daughter got hurt. To be honest, I blamed me too.
Still, I think Taylor’s forgiven me as long as I help her out and we’re getting along now. I’m okay with being her replacement until she gets back on her feet. After that we could be a hero-duo.
I could see it now—Vim and Vigor, heroes of Brockton Bay.
“Greg!” Mom snapped her fingers in front of my face. “Did you hear me?”
“Sorry, got distracted.” I winced when she frowned. “I’ve just had a lot on my mind, Mom. Say it again.”
She put her hand on her hips in that ‘Mom’ way, eyes narrowed. “Did you call your grandmother?”
“I’ll do it later.” Honestly, I was relieved it was a safe question that I had tuned out by accident. “It’s like two in the afternoon so she’s probably sleeping. I don’t want to wake her.”
“Hmm, is that right?” She crossed her arms. “And when are you going to actually introduce us to this girl you were seeing? It’s been some time and you won’t even give us more than her first name.”
And there’s the not safe question. I sighed. “We’re not like together-together. The hospital trip and leg thing kind of put a damper on that. Plus her dad scares me.”
“That’s what fathers do,” Dad decided to chime in. “Your mother’s actually threatened me with a baseball bat and a warning if I didn’t have her one minute after nine he’d ‘aim for a homerun’. Joke was on him, we left the movies an hour early and—”
“—we’re just friends for now.” I finished, cutting off wherever that was going. Could have been innocent, probably not. I was not prepared to listen to it either way.
“I’m sure both of them will come around eventually. You’re a sweet boy, just like your father was at that age in some aspects.” She eyed Dad for a bit and nodded to herself. “And when she does, you will….”
“Introduce you, got it.” I’d better end this conversation before she gets to the point of wanting grandkids next or keep making those lovey-dovey eyes at Dad. I’d rather deal with the Merchants than sit through either of those. “Can I get my allowance now? The bus will be at the stop in a couple of minutes and I want to go to the Market.”
She leaned down to give me a kiss on the forehead and then gave me the money. “Be back by dinner time.”
The Market was busy like always on the weekend. It made getting through it a pain, but it was worth it just for the hot dogs sold at one particular cart here, between the pretzel guy and the ice cream lady. The guy running it, who struck me as a Bob, knew just the right way to mix chili, coleslaw, ketchup, and honey-mustard into a work of art I couldn’t copy at home.
I’d love to just sit and enjoy a few of them all day, but I came out here for a reason. People often rented the stalls here to sell their stuff, like some classic action figures, neat handmade jewelry, and things like that. It was basically a super thrift-garage sale, cash exchanged and no receipts.
That meant I could find the next piece of what I was looking for to make my costume without someone tracing me through online purchases.
I dressed down in jogging pants and an old jacket with a few tears, keeping my hood up and my head down. I normally did it because I didn’t want to look like someone who you’d get anything out of if you mugged them. But as long as no one got a real good look at my face I could pass as just another blond-haired, blue-eyed white male in a city where the E88 have a pretty solid footing. No one would be able to easily identify me from wearing a dyed version of something I bought from them.
I still had no real solid plan with how the costume would look. I was putting it together piece-by-piece, based on what I needed and what I could afford, rather that the appearance. After all, I could spread an Invisibility field over myself and whatever was in my empowered hand when I activated the power now. If they see me then either I’m blasting them with lightning or I’ve done something very wrong.
All the same, I did need something to block bullets and knives in the event that someone got the drop on me and I couldn’t get the protective field that blocks metal up in time. Or they actually use something not-metal, like a baseball bat. It’d be embarrassing to get taken out by some mook with a baseball bat. But going to someone like that Rogue who did costumes was expensive and so was tinker-tech.
Tinker-tech would be best, but I saw the price on getting an undersuit made of the stuff and nearly spat out my drink. A bullet-proof vest was reasonable and more economical, but I wasn’t likely to find one of those here. That being said, I did see one guy who had a chainmail shirt for sale that could probably stop a knife the last time I came by.
Actually, I should probably get that now, to be safe. I finished off the last bite of my hot dog, wiped my mouth with the napkin, and tossed it into the trash bin that was overflowing with disposed papers and wrappings. Then I went over to where I last saw the chainmail guy.
He knocked five bucks off of it from the last time, so it was only half of my allowance. That left another twenty for me to burn, which I considered using on a pair of brass-knuckles next but ultimately decided against it. Going mano-a-mano was liable to get me beaten up without years of martial arts training to back it. Plus, it was kind of redundant when I could fling lightning at bad guys.
Bag of chainmail in hand, I went to the bus stop to wait for the next one to get back home. I was in the middle of checking the time over the phone when a slim and dark hand held my wallet over my shoulder. I looked up to see that it belonged to a girl who looked a few years older than me.
She had dark olive-skin with similarly dark hair, which had two streaks of red going down the front. She also smelled a bit like a distillery, but I tried to ignore that. “You dropped this.” She lowered it into my lap. “Be more careful, your ID and everything is in there.”
“Thank—” She walked away before I could finish, pulling up a hood over her head and crossing the street. She came to a stop at the mouth of an alley and just sat there, back against the wall.
I opened my wallet to check and see that everything was still in there. She didn’t take anything. When I looked up I saw that she had turned her head away from me in a hurry. Crap, I hope I didn’t insult her by doing that in front of her.
She looked my way a final time and then disappeared further into alley. So that would probably be a ‘Yes’ on the insulting bit. As if I didn’t have enough to feel guilty about.
I sighed. She seemed a little older than me, yet she was on the streets and smelled like booze. My brain couldn’t help but go to the logical conclusion that she was either homeless or a runaway. That was a shame, especially given how nice she was to return my wallet to me, but there was nothing I could really do about that.
Just having powers isn’t enough to fix everything.
I pushed the depressing thoughts back and focused on what I would do my next night out. By then Taylor would have a new power waiting for me. I couldn’t wait.
End Notes: Shorter than I like, but that’s all I got for the moment.
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Time for the Hunt.
“So, I know you’re a Silverstone and all, but you do know that tonight is kind of a big deal, right?”
I blinked once at the boy who was talking. He was one of the other students in my year, a thin and aristocratic looking guy with hawkish features and a thin nose with a golden stud in it that was shaped like a heart. I hadn’t interacted with him much over the last few weeks, but I knew his name was Zeke, and he was on a team with Vanessa and Erin. That team consisted of those three, Zeke’s roommate Malcolm, as well as Travis and Rudolph, the two guys that Columbus and Sean hung out with.
“Yeah, sure,” I replied to him after a second. “Some kind of once a month team exercise thing.” Belatedly, after letting my eyes move over the crowded patch of grass…
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Two sides to every story. Nice angle with the forbidden fruit, explains why it’s named Eden’s Garden.
Six years ago.
“I said Black Forest!” The sound of the shout filled the living room of the small apartment, echoing throughout the tight confines just before a glass bottle punctuated the bellow by shattering noisily against the far wall, “Not this fucking Asp’s light shit! It’s the green god damn bottle! The green one! Are you so stupid you don’t even know what the hell the color green is, you retarded little fuckstain?”
Standing before her drunken, towering father, eleven-year-old Hannah Owens quivered a little, reflexively cowering from the man’s glare. “I… I… I…” She was too frightened to force the words out.
“I, I, I.” The man repeated mockingly before making a noise of disgust before his fist lashed out, striking the girl across the face with enough force to knock her to the floor. “Shut the fuck up, brat.”
Hannah had seen the…
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Okay, running late for this week so I thought I’d cover last week’s episode on top of this one.
This episode starts with Penny and her teammate (who honestly doesn’t have much of a personality beyond being a strictler for rules) stomping two minor members of Cardin’s team before Penny tells Ruby she wants to go to Beacon, which Ruby notes isn’t liekly with the leash Ironwood has on her. Then Weiss and Yang go against a pair from Atlas, one of whom has a minor grudge against Weiss for her father’s actions, and the others who is a basically a troll. The two work together to harass the pair until they split Yang and Weiss apart, with Neon Katt being too quick for Yang to land a decent blow and the Jazz magician using a sentienal approach to handle Weiss. Ultimately, Weiss has to throw both herself and the Jazz dude into a Lava Plume to weaken him enough for Yang to take him and then Neon out. As the Episode ends, Cinder gets her hands on Penny’s schematics and possibly control over her, while Ozpin has called Pyrrha up to his office to be the next guardian.
So this episode was… mostly set up for the next. The fight was subpar, but I did like the music. The real meat comes at the end, where we see two different plots unfolding, which I will go into next.
The episode starts with Pyrrha being called to Ozpin’s office. To summarize the entire thing, there are four women who have so much power they embody the seasons and the current Fall Maiden, Amber, was attacked by Cinder and had half her power stolen. Pyrrha is who they want to replace her before she dies, but to do so they’ll have to literally shove her Aura and Semblance into the younger woman, which they admit they don’t know what will happen to her.
Then we get to the first round of the finals and have Mercury vs Yang like the openings have been promising forever. These two go at it hard right until Yang goes Super Saiyan on his ass. Unfortunately, after she stomps him, Mercury cheats like a little bitch and makes it seem like Yang broke his leg unprovoked with either Neo or Emerald’s help and get her arrested.
I liked the exposition in the chapter and foreshadowing, but screw you Cinder and Mercury. She earned that win and you took it away… and if all it takes is a little panic like that to incite the Grimm, it’s a miracle these kingdoms hadn’t been overrun by now.
Cliffhangers. A reader’s worst enemy and a writer’s best friend.
My first temptation, to grab the picture and run after Deveron so I could shove it in his face and demand answers, was almost impossible to resist. I had to physically will myself not to, repeating in my head several times why it would be a bad idea to show my hand so easily. Even then, it almost wasn’t enough. My muscles tensed up, and I stared down at that picture of Deveron beside my mother.
In the end, I carefully spread the photograph on the grass and took out my phone. Lining the screen up just right, I used the camera app to take a picture of it, checking afterward to make sure it looked right.
With that done, I folded the photograph up once more and put it back inside the hole before replacing the brick. After taking…
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You should listen to the teacher, Flick. She has a point on that link thing.
Wood cracked against my arm, drawing a sharp yelp from me that was swiftly followed by a curse.
“You’re still too slow,” Avalon informed me unnecessarily. The pain in my bicep was already doing a fine job of making that point for her. “Keep your guard up. The staff has two ends, and you can use either of them. Don’t forget that. Make me watch both of them, not just the top half. Keep it moving, end over end, back and forth. Vary your speed, vary your rotation. Never let me see a pattern, or—”
Without further warning, the wooden staff that my roommate was holding lashed out to smack my other arm this time. While I yelped, she stated flatly, “Or, if you’re lucky, you’ll regret it.”
“And if I’m not lucky?” I asked while taking a second to rub my arm. “Because this feels not lucky.”
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The investigation commences!
Before he moved with my mother to the much smaller and quieter Laramie Falls, my father’s work in Los Angeles had sent him to a lot of disturbing scenes. He wasn’t a cop, but in some ways, his job had been almost as dangerous. He had investigated serial killers, arsonists, child abductors, and worse, all without the benefit of a badge. He’d carried a small gun for protection after an incident where a man followed him home, but for the most, it had been up to him to keep himself out of too much trouble.
Of course, he’d gone right into trouble, because that was where the story happened to be. Dad’s primary purpose and goal had been to expose those monsters, to drag them into the light of day and tear away the shadows of mystery that kept people terrified of them. He used his writing to…
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The episode starts with Coco and Yasuhashi against Emerald and Mercury. To say it was a curbstomp battle is an underestimation, but it was. Mostly I blame the fact that they chose the slow tank and the long-range fighter against the quick close-range fighter and assassin. That was a poor match-up and the villain duo are clearly experienced mercenaries, so that beating was legendary with amazing music.
Then we get shots of Qrow with Ruby and Yang, and Weiss with Winter. These two family moments essentially give us more insight into how their home lives and their thoughts, ultimately revealing that Weiss wants to move under her own power and likely has trauma due to her encounter with the knight, and that Qrow is looking at a bigger picture.