Chapter Nine: Who's the Loneliest of All?
That evening, teams ORGS and RITB were called into the Emerald Tower, this time with permission. Eight chairs were set out for each of the students. Seven of the eight kids sat there, silently waiting for Mrs. Ozpin who was currently in the nurse’s office helping to attend James Ironwood’s wounds. Each student sat there dreading what the co-headmistress might say. Probably the most worried were Ambrose and Roman, who had never once seen their mother get upset in their whole lives. They were afraid what their mother might do now that she was actually angry with them. Ambrose thought back to the forest when he’d looked up to see her outraged face. That image would be forever burned into his mind; shivers ran from his spine down to his toes every time he thought about it.
The elevator pinged ominously and Mrs. Ozpin walked into the room with James Ironwood walking beside her, her hand on his shoulder. Nobody turned; nobody even dared to breathe as the pair got closer to the desk. Their fate was soon to be decided and they all dreaded what would happen next. Summer gasped when she looked up at James. His right arm was in a sling with a hefty metal cast encasing the injury. His forehead looked even worse and appeared to have some form of alloy secured to it; it looked permanent. He politely dismissed any formal apologies that came from his friends and found the untaken seat next to Taiyang. Everyone was silent; Mrs. Ozpin stared into every pair of eyes, striking cold hard guilt into their hearts. Her face was expressionless; it was the kind of anger Roman had always feared the most. Her emotions were unreadable as she glanced over them one more time before speaking.
“I’m not sure exactly what to make of you eight,” she began indifferently. “You should all be expelled for your unspeakable acts today. Your carelessness nearly cost James his life and it’ll be a miracle if his right arm ever works properly again.” They all stared at their feet, their hearts heavy with guilt. She sighed, calming her near-rage. “I know that you did it with good intentions in mind, but here at Beacon Academy we also have an obligation to protect you in every way possible. If you had died out there today…I don’t know what I’d- Her voice caught. She put her hand on her mouth, choking back tears.
Ambrose looked up, “Mother…”
She took a deep breath and wiped a small glistening tear from the corner of her eye. “I’m sorry, it’s just that…I regard every student here like they were my own children and despite the cruelness of the world…I strive to protect you all as best I can.” She had completely regained her composure now and stared at each of them again. “Your courageousness has shown me that you are all capable human beings and I am proud to have you as students at this school. You have saved Beacon Academy and everyone in it, for this I sincerely thank you.”
Glynda looked at Mrs. Ozpin, confused. “So…you’re not expelling us?”
Mrs. Ozpin smiled and shook her head. There were sighs of relief all around.
They were all promptly dismissed and when the two teams reached the lobby, they each scattered in different directions. Some went in pairs of two, some, like Ambrose, decided to walk alone. When everyone was out of sight, Roman quietly walked over to the bench Summer had decided to rest at and took a seat beside her. She was looking up at the huge fountain that was the centerpiece of the courtyard; she smiled as she listened to the water trickle down to the pool of water at the bottom. Roman just stared at her. For the first time since he’d arrived, he finally got the chance to take in all of her beauty. Her light brown hair flowed in the wind like petals on a great rose, the tips of her hair ending in a brighter red color. Her eyes sparkled like diamonds in the darkness, her smile like beads of pearls. In the moonlight, she looked like a regal princess with her white cape draped majestically over her shoulders. She looked over at him and smiled when she noticed him staring. She looked into his deep green eyes and began to really see him for the first time as well. He was very handsome; his orange hair cascading over his right eye, his smile was warm and kind. She could tell he was trouble, but she didn’t mind, she wanted to know the real Roman Torchwick and she knew that in time she would.
“We’ve never really gotten a chance to talk about ourselves outside of the battlefield,” Summer said, breaking Roman’s trance.
He blushed, “My life’s not very interesting, I’m sure you have lots of amazing stories to tell.” She looked at him pleadingly and finally he gave into her hopeful stare.
“Well, I was born an orphan. My real parents abandoned me a few days after they had me…I never found out why,” he played with his thumbs nervously as he talked, he wasn’t used to opening up about his feelings and he felt uncomfortable. “When I was twelve, the Ozpins’ adopted me; it was the happiest day of my life. Ambrose and I have had some great times together, and I couldn’t ask for a better mother…Summer, there’s something I want to show you…”He slowly reached up to his hat, his fingers pressing lightly on its brim, it waivered there for a moment, his heart and mind fought for the right decision, but he sighed and put his arm back down. He couldn’t tell her, not now. What would she think of him? Could he trust her to be as understanding as Ozpin was when he first saw his ears? He reached into the inner pocket of his jacket and took out the glass red rose his mother had given him the day he left for Beacon. Summer was stunned by its beauty. “My mother…Mrs. Ozpin, gave it to me a couple weeks ago…she said that as long as it’s in one piece, so will I…or something weird and cryptic like that.” Summer giggled, Roman turned to her in earnest. “Here’s my promise to you, Summer; You are my red rose and as long as you live I will always love you, no matter what.” She gazed deeply into his eyes, tears of happiness welling in hers. Roman was so content that he realized he had forgotten their earlier conversation. “So, what about your family?” he asked.
She took a deep breath, “Well…I actually lost my father the year I was born; Qrow was three years old and heartbroken when it happened. He promised himself that he would take dad’s place and protect me from all of the scary things in the world. He was a good brother, similar to your relationship with Ambrose, we played together and trained together and he always cheered me up, but ever since I became a teenager he’s been following me around like a big emotionless bodyguard, never letting me out of his sight. I know he seems rough to you, but Qrow actually saw our father die…and he never wants to experience that kind of a loss again.” She looked into Roman’s concerned and surprised eyes as small tears cascaded down her cheek. She quickly wiped them away and apologized.
“It’s okay,” Roman said, taking a chance and putting an arm around her compassionately. The two sat there for a while, Summer crying softly and Roman hugging her tightly. They had never been happier.
Raven sat at a computer desk in the library, researching an article for a school project. Taiyang sat across from her, writing in his journal and biting his pencil thoughtfully whenever it left the page. Raven looked across and happened to read the first few lines of what he had written.
“‘Mirror, Tell me something. Tell me who’s the loneliest of all?’ Wow, that’s deep.” Raven said, quoting his journal. Taiyang looked up, startled.
“I didn’t know you were looking…” he blushed.
“You shouldn’t be embarrassed,” Raven said, turning back to the computer screen. “It’s actually really good, but I know that behind every poem is a meaning.” She clicked out of whatever page she had been looking at and stared across at him with her full attention. “So, who’s the loneliest of all, Taiyang Xiao Long?”
He looked back and forth between his journal and Raven for a few seconds, silent. He sighed, “Roman is going to ask Summer Rose to the dance.”
“Qrow told me that you had already asked her.” Raven stated matter-of-factly.
“No, that’s just what he wanted me to do.” He put down the book and rubbed his eyes in frustration.
“And what do you want to do?”
“If you could pick any girl in Beacon to go with, not under the ruling of Qrow, who would you pick?” she asked.
“Well…I…I don’t know.” Taiyang admitted. He looked down at his feet, then rose, suddenly having an idea. “Raven, would you like to go to the dance with me?”
She blinked in surprise. “What?”
“You and me, we could go to the dance together…that is, if you don’t already have a date.” Taiyang said.
“N-no! I mean, no I don’t already have a date.” For the first time in her life, Raven was actually caught off guard. She quickly regained her composure, “Yes, yes I would love to go to the dance with you.”
Taiyang had never realized it before, but Raven’s bright red eyes were actually very pretty and for the first time in a while he actually felt the weight of Qrow’s expectations fall off his shoulders.
Although they had each left the tower and started walking in different directions, Ambrose, Glynda, and Qrow all ended up in the dorm hallway at the exact same time. Since Roman was absent, Ambrose decided to invite Qrow into their dorm for a bit of coffee. He gladly accepted. Now, the two boys sat across from each other at a desk inside the dorm, drinking coffee and playing a skillful game of chess. Ambrose had the upper hand, but Qrow was cunning and was able to take out both of his rooks quite easily.
“Not bad, Ozpin,” Qrow commented as Ambrose took one of his knights.
“Hmh, you should see my mother play, she’s a world champi-
Ambrose was cut off by the sound of something small hitting the window glass. All three students looked up and watched the window for a minute. THUNK! A tiny pebble hit the window. Curious, Glynda tore herself away from her homework and walked slowly over the window. She opened it and had to duck aside swiftly as a third pebble came sailing through the window, missing her by inches. Her face was bright red with rage.
“HOW DARE YOU! YOU LITTLE…James!” she looked out the window and was shocked to find James Ironwood, cast and all, standing on the lawn below. “What are you doing out there?”
James cleared his throat softly, then carefully got down on one knee “But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Glynda is the Sun…” he recited.
Her face suddenly lit in anger at realization, “ROMAN, WHERE ARE YOU?!” she screamed, knowing that the orange-haired trickster had put James up to this. Behind her, Qrow and Ambrose were both trying to suppress their laughter.
James looked up at her hopefully, “Glynda Goodwitch, will you go to the Vytal dance with me?”
She smiled down at him awkwardly, her face still beet red, “Just a second.” She stepped away from the window, leaving her lover waiting on the misty lawn.
She turned sharply to Ambrose and Qrow, “What do I do?” she whispered urgently.
“Well, you can’t turn him down,” Ambrose whispered back, taking a sip of coffee. Glynda looked at him skeptically. “Glynda, the man’s in a cast because of us, the least you can do is give him this little satisfaction.”
“You know Roman put him up to this.” She scowled.
Ambrose looked at up at her casually, “Maybe it’s best for the both of you.”
She crossed her arms defiantly, “I already told you I’m not going to the dance and if you think guilt will-
“Oh for Pete’s sake,” Qrow rose from his chair and strode over to the window. “Hey Ironwood, she said yes!” he yelled to his teammate below. Glynda’s eyes widened and she fought to get to the window sill, but she couldn’t move the tall and sturdy Qrow out of her way. Qrow laughed heartily at the incredibly pleased look on James’s face. He suddenly, looked in the other direction however and saw a strange sight; Taiyang and Raven strolling across the campus holding hands. The smile instantly faded from his face. Qrow sped out of the door in a flurry, not bothering to tell anyone where he was going. He rushed across the lawn and caught up with his friends, now exhausted from the quick dash.
“Tai…yang…what…are…you…doing…?” he panted, his hands on his knees.
“Um, walking with Raven…” Taiyang answered, unsure.
“That’s what I mean, why are you holding her hand?” Qrow’s voice rose with mounting anxiety.
“We’re going steady, Qrow.” Raven said; actual happiness in her voice for once.
Qrow’s heart was racing in panic, “But, but you said you were dating Summer…whose taking her to the dance?”
Taiyang’s slow reply made Qrow’s eyes light up with a raging, burning fire. When he found that sneaky little red-headed liar he was going to make him pay for what he had done to his sister.