Chapter Eight: Checkmating the Mates
Ambrose had never really pictured himself as a leader despite what his father might say about him and now, just a few days after attending Beacon he found himself about to enter a danger-filled forest with not three, but seven other people counting on him to lead them in the right direction. Ambrose would never admit it aloud, but he was scared. He had hoped that when he attended Beacon that he could skillfully draw attention away from himself and let others take the spotlight while he took the place as the last person in command on the team. Now, he was commanding two teams…a whole team that he wasn’t even meant to lead, into a treacherous battle and if anything happened to any of them he could never live with his guilt.
Qrow sportingly bumped Ambrose on the shoulder and smiled. “Hey, you’ve got nothing to worry about. You are an Ozpin after all.”
‘An Ozpin’; Ambrose had heard that thrown into many conversations in his lifetime. The public seemed to think that the Ozpins’ were the cream of the crop family that never failed or steered in the wrong direction. The only reason that the Ozpin family tree seemed so pure was that all of the bad seeds had been disowned and cast out of the family centuries ago. “I wonder if I’d get disowned for getting a student killed in battle.” Ambrose thought to himself. He looked ahead worriedly at the vast expanse of the Emerald Forest. He then looked around him at his supporters, the seven people who would blindly follow him into this insane deathtrap. Roman walked up to him and hugged him, “The coast is clear in the hallways, now is the perfect time for me to head up to the tower.”
Ambrose furrowed his brow; Roman patted him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, Oz, everything is going to turn out just fine.”
Ambrose took a deep breath and spoke, addressing the whole group, “Alright, first Qrow, James, Taiyang, and I will make our way into the Emerald Forest. Girls, wait two minutes and then set up the perimeter around the border. No matter what happens don’t take down the barrier. Roman, you head to the tower and scan the entire forest using the cameras and give us a location as soon as you can find it.” The two teams nodded in acknowledgement and formed into their groups. Ambrose took a deep breath, clutched his walking stick tightly, and trudged forward into the wood with Qrow, James, and Taiyang following closely behind him. Roman and the girls watched silently as the four boys disappeared into the lush, green forest. As Glynda set the timer for two minutes on her scroll, Roman pulled Summer to the side for a second.
“Roman, what are you doing?” Summer asked. Roman raised a finger to his lips and motioned for her to be quiet.
“I wanted to give something to you,” Roman whispered. He reached into the pocket of his long white trench coat and pulled out a box wrapped with a red bow. He gently handed it to Summer.
She delicately pulled the ribbon off and opened the box. She gasped with delight; inside the box lay a beautiful silver brooch in the shape of a burning rose. She lifted the trinket out of the box and examined it closely. “Oh Roman, it’s beautiful.”
“I was hoping you would wear it to the dance,” Roman said, blushing.
Summer gazed up at him; the look on her face was a mixture of shock and happiness. “Roman…are you asking me to the dance?”
“Y-Yes.” Roman stammered.
Summer smiled and hugged the boy, nearly knocking his bowler hat off. Their happy moment was interrupted by the sound of Glynda’s call.
“Oh, I’d better go or else there’ll be no dance to go to.” Summer said. “All in a day’s work for a huntress I suppose?”
“Slay giant monsters by day and go to parties by night?” Roman joked. She laughed again, and then took off when Glynda called a second time.
Roman’s eyes shifted to the side and a slightly different look decorated his face. He had work to do, and this was the kind of work he enjoyed. He knew that Mr. and Mrs. Ozpin would never approve, but he found this kind of thing thrilling. He remembered one time when he was thirteen and his father had installed a safe in his private study. Naturally, Roman’s curious nature got the better of him and one night he snuck into the study and managed to open the safe without being caught. Unfortunately, nothing amazing was to be found inside the safe, just some sensitive documents that Mr. Ozpin had decided to keep hidden. The point was that Roman loved a good challenge when it came to ‘thievery’ as everyone else called it, but he considered it all in good fun as he secretly returned the things that went missing…most of the time anyway.
This time, he wasn’t stealing anything, just breaking in. As he walked purposefully towards the Emerald Tower, he twirled his cane skillfully in his fingers as though it were a baton of some sort. He thought about whistling, but he figured that might bring about too much attention. He looked at the front door of the tower. It was sturdy and built to last; Roman had done a bit of reading and discovered that the tower was Beacon’s ‘safe house’ in the instance that any Grimm ever invaded the school. The door was built with several layers of steel and embedded with dust crystals for added support. The security system could only be cracked by those who had permission to go inside the tower. But Roman had no intention of busting the door down or hacking the security system. The simple answer to his problems was the ordinary looking cane in his hands. He took a step backwards and looked up at the massive tower which reached above the clouds. Luckily, Roman was a Faunus and could see through the cloudy mist and saw the terrace perched high above the ground. Roman put his hand on the barrel end of the gun and pointed the handle of the cane to the sky. He pressed a small button and the handle launched into the air, a strong cord attached to it. The handle rose higher and higher until it caught itself on the ledge of the high balcony. Roman tugged at the end of it to make sure it was secure, then pressed the button again. He found himself quickly rising off of the ground, the sidewalk growing smaller and smaller below him as he sped towards the terrace. Suddenly, he came to a halt and hoisted himself over the edge of the balcony and onto the reinforced flooring of the outer deck which sat just below a giant clock. Roman quickly found the door and stepped into the inner part of the tower. Roman looked around the room, it was painted in a lime color and was filled with the rhythmic sound of the wheels and cogs of the clock working overhead. Roman found himself standing in front of a solid oak desk which hosted several computer screens, each indicating a different part of the school.
“I guess this is it,” Roman said to himself.
He sat down at the computer and looked at the different screens intently. It was at that moment that he realized that he had no idea how to work any of these computers and cursed himself for dropping out of his technology course on the first week of class.
“Having trouble, Roman?” a haunting voice echoed contemptuously throughout the chamber. Roman stood, a shiver running down his spine. She emerged from behind a tall pillar, dressed simply in a plain black dress that fell to her ankles. Although she was still half in shadow, her piercing golden eyes blazed through the darkness like a burning fire.
Though he was uncertain of what she might do, Roman put up a front and acted as though she didn’t bother him at all. “What are you doing here?” he asked suspiciously.
“I might as you the same thing, only I’ve been watching you lately and know exactly what you’re up to.” The girl slowly walked towards him in an air of grace, her heels clicking on the smooth floor as she drew nearer.
“What’s so special about me? Why do you even care?” Roman asked, becoming more frustrated by the minute.
“The way I see it, I do you a few favors and you do me a…substantial one in return.” She was standing right across from him now, the only thing that separated them was the desk, but she leaned in so that he could feel her cold breath on his neck.
“What favors? What are you talking about?” Roman stammered. He was thoroughly freaked out by this girl now and he wished more than anything to get away from her. Something about her made him distrust her and he didn’t want any part in the ‘favors’ she planned for him.
She touched his face with her hand and he froze. He was literally frozen in time as he had no idea that the girl had woven ice and time dust into her clothing and trapped him as long as he was within her reach. At this time he could not see or hear her and wasn’t even aware of what was happening.
She laughed; a low, cruel laugh. “Oh, Roman, it would be so easy to crush you and your precious school…right….now.” Her hand fell down to his neck which she grasped tightly as though she might choke him. She looked up at him slyly and loosened her grip. “But… you have something I want…and you may be valuable to me in the future…so I must let you grow stronger, more driven before I snap you…and the funny thing is that you won’t even see it coming.” She released him completely and the power of the dust dissolved back into her gown. Roman blinked a couple of times; not showing any signs of knowledge of what the girl had just done to him.
She grinned sinisterly, “Listen, I know my way around a computer and I might be able to help you track down these Grimm Breeders that you’re looking for.” Without waiting for a reply, she sat down at the desk and rapidly began pushing buttons. Roman watched her curiously as her fingers flew across the multiple screens, searching for any signs of human activity in the forest. Suddenly, the girl stopped and stared intently at one of the screens which showed live camera feed in the northern edge of the forest. Suddenly, two huge Grimm appeared in the shot. They looked like Beowolves, only their fangs were like those of a King Taijitu and their hides were as thick as Boarbatusks. Also, they were noticeably larger than any of the normal sized Beowolves, they almost measured higher than the trees and their claws alone were almost as big as a student.
“Well, I may not have found your hideout, but I think I just found the original mates.” The girl said. Roman took out the walkie talkie that Ambrose had given him before entering the forest and pressed the call button, “Ambrose, can you hear me? This is Roman.” There was static for a few seconds and Roman was about to send out a second call with Ambrose replied, “I hear you Roman, what’s the news?”
“We couldn’t find the hideout, but we found the original mates. They’re in the northern part of the forest, they’re huge. You can’t miss ‘em.” Roman reported. More static buzzed for a few seconds before Ambrose called back.
“Alright Roman, thank you,” Ambrose replied. “Wait…what did you mean by ‘we’?”
Roman looked at the girl who put a finger to her lips. “Uh, I meant ‘I’ when I said ‘we’. You know I never did well in Grammar, Ambrose.” This time the static lasted a little longer. Roman knew that Ambrose was doubtful of his explanation.
“Well, Okay…if you say so…wish us luck.”
Roman did; then put the walkie talkie away until he might need it again. The girl rose from her seat and walked towards the elevator at the other end of the room.
“Wait a second,” Roman called as the elevator door opened. The ebony haired girl looked back at him inquisitively. “What do I call you?”
The girl grinned and stepped into the elevator, “It’s Cinder Fall.” She said as the doors closed shut and the elevator whirred as it traveled down to the first floor. Roman wondered how she had managed to get into the building without proper clearance, but then again that young woman was so mysterious that he decided he didn’t want to know. He plopped down at the desk and watched the elder Beowolves on the screen, waiting for signs of Ambrose and the others. As he watched and boredom began to manifest him, he didn’t bother to stir when he heard the elevator whirring again. He startled, however, when the doors opened and his mother walked into the room.
Her eyes widened in shock, “Roman, how did you get in here?” she cried. Her voice was extremely distressed.
“I, uh, took the back way?” Roman nodded nervously towards the terrace.
Mrs. Ozpin’s gaze suddenly fell to the computer, which still showed the footage of the elder Grimm. Her pupils dilated with fear as a figure appeared on the screen; his walking stick poised in a defensive pose. “Ambrose!”
Ambrose stood in the middle of the clearing, the two elder Grimm facing him menacingly. They growled harshly, but did not attack him. They had seen these types of humans before and knew that they had a few tricks up their sleeves. Ambrose eyed the two warily, striking a defensive pose with his walking staff. He knew that they were waiting for him to reveal his full weapon so that they would know what they were up against before they attacked. They were clever and calculating and circled their opponent like boxers in a ring, waiting for the right moment to strike down their prey.
“Ozpin, what do we do?” Qrow called out to his commander.
“Don’t…move…a muscle,” Ambrose said slowly and cautiously. “And don’t take out your weapons until I tell you to.”
“Do as I say!” Ambrose said through gritted teeth. Trying to keep a level head as the Grimm continued to circle him. He could tell that they were quickly getting bored and doubting that he was a threat, which was exactly what Ambrose wanted. The first Beowolf, the male, had finally had enough and charged forward towards the black haired boy. Ambrose took a deep breath and planted his feet firmly in the ground.
“Ozpin!” Taiyang called out as the Beowolf drew nearer.
The Grimm came down upon Ozpin, its claws poised to kill. Ambrose skillfully ducked under the claws and thwacked the Beowolve’s knees with his cane. The Grimm howled in pain and fell to the ground, its kneecaps broken.
“Ironwood, now!” Ozpin shouted.
The boy reached into his long-coat and took out two blades that appeared to be axe-heads. He tossed the blades which cleanly slit the creature’s throat and then returned to his hands like a boomerang.
“Well, that was easy.” Ironwood said, his voice filled with pride.
Ambrose frowned. “Killing the male is the easy part. Killing the female-” He was cut off as the female Beowolf smacked him with the back of her paw, knocking him into the base of a nearby tree.
“Ozpin!” Qrow shouted with fear. His eyes narrowed as he charged towards the creature that had hurt his comrade. He swiped at her with his scythe, but she cunningly avoided the blade. The she-wolf’s red eyes glowed with a joyful malice as she knocked the sniper-scythe out of Qrow’s hands and pinned him to a tree, ready to slit his throat just as Ironwood had done to her mate. Taiyang came up behind the Beowolf and began punching her with his gauntlets. Three small daggers extended from the tip which aided him a little in cutting into her thick protective coating. He managed to sever one of her claws, which only agitated the she wolf even more. She growled evilly and kicked him into the foliage of a nearby bush. She turned her head back to her original prey and almost seemed to smile triumphantly. As her claws drew nearer to Qrow’s neck, Ironwood threw his axe-blade boomerangs again. Unfortunately, his weapons rebounded against the Beowolf’s thick hide. One landed in the base of a tree, treacherously close to Ambrose. The other came around and grazed Ironwood’s forehead, a few drops of blood leaking from the wound. He staggered back, holding his hand over the cut and groaning in pain. The she-wolf turned, smelling the scent of fresh blood. She hung Qrow helplessly on the limb of a tree and crouched above the injured Ironwood. He tried to back away from her, but she was too quick for him and she scraped her claws across his right arm provoking a scream from the terrified boy. Just as the she-wolf raised her claw for the killing strike, something silver drove into the center of her heart. The Beowolf groaned, then fell to the ground. Ironwood, shaking uncontrollably with fear, looked up to see Ambrose Ozpin digging his cane out of the she-wolf’s back.
“Y-you just saved my life,” Ironwood stammered, his pupils dilated in terror. Ambrose knelt beside the boy, examining his injuries.
“You’ve been badly hurt,” Ambrose stated, analyzing his wounds. He took off his jacket, ripped off a strip of fabric, and wrapped a tourniquet around Ironwood’s arm. “We’ll get you back up to the school as quickly as possible. I’ll call Roman and tell him to send a doctor.”
“There’s no need for that.” Ambrose turned to find his mother standing over him. An expression of absolute rage blazed on her normally calm face. His eyes shown with a fear he’d never known before; at this moment, Ambrose would rather face the she-wolf again.