I Can't Be a Huntsman!

The Gala - Part 2 (Finale)

Screaming. Gunfire. The clashing of steel. Those were the only sounds echoing through Kyousuke's still-ringing eardrums as he lay sprawled across the rubble-strewn ground. With a pained groan, he propped himself up on his elbows. Forcing his eyes open, all he could see were blurry outlines of moving figures as guests attempted to evacuate the hall and security forces clashed with their aggressors. Chaos. That was the only word to describe the situation he suddenly found himself in.

"Wh-What the hell?!" Kirino shouted from beside him. Following her gaze, Kyousuke saw the Atlesian Paladin that Svernare had brought as a demonstration. The mecha was brandishing one of its arm cannons at a small security detachment, smoke still rising from the barrel. That must have been what caused the explosion that knocked him out.

"H-How did they commandeer it?" the boy hissed, grimacing as he shoved a large piece of debris off himself and stood on unsteady legs. "No; more importantly, how did they get inside in the first place?!"

"What the hell is going on?" his sister demanded, shakily getting to her feet as well.

"It's the White Fang." Kyousuke explained, only for his eyes to widen as a stray plasma bolt nearly blasted him in the face. He quickly grabbed his sister by the arm and took cover behind an upturned table. "They're attacking the hotel!"

"The White Fang?" Kirino paled slightly. "But… how? The entire premises was locked down tight. They would have had to fight their way through security to get in!"

"That's what I want to know," he said with a grimace.

"Kyousuke!" A voice snarled. The boy turned to see a livid Lightning rushing towards them, dragging a dirty and shell-shocked Svernare with her. Slung across her shoulder was a large duffel bag which she reached inside of and tossed his gunblade towards him and — surprisingly enough — Kirino's bowsword as well. "Where is she?"

"Wha— I— When—" His sister sputtered, staring down at the weapon in her hands. "Starseeker? But how did you—"

Ignoring her questions, Kyousuke glanced around, searching for the mysterious woman he'd been speaking to earlier only to find that she had disappeared in the chaos. "I-I don't know..." he muttered.

"Damn it!" The pinked-haired Huntress snarled. She reached down and tore most of her skirt off, revealing several hidden pouches strapped to her thighs. She ripped one of them off and tossed it to her apprentice.

"Your father and General Ironwood are evacuating the guests. The two of you need to go meet up with Blake by the entrance. Ignore the small fry for now; just let security deal with them. Eliminating that mech is priority!"

"And you?"

"I need to stay close to the President." Lightning grimaced. "She's here somewhere. I can't afford to give her any openings."

"That was Anri...?" Kyousuke murmured, an unnerved expression forming on his face. "But... How did she get in? How did any of them get in without us noticing?"

"I don't know," the Huntress said grimly before shaking her head. "But we don't have time to worry about that. Go. Now!"

"Wait one damn minute!" Kirino snapped as Kyousuke took off without a moment's hesitation. "Just what the hell is going on here?!"

"I said we don't have time for this!" Lightning snapped, digging into the duffel bag and shoving a quiver of arrows into her arms. "Go support Kyousuke. Now!"

Muttering few choice words to herself, Kirino scrambled after her brother. The pink-haired Huntress let out a deep sigh before returning her attention to the room as a whole and the terrorists rampaging throughout the hall.

"Get down." She hissed towards the stunned Svernare. When he didn't comply immediately, she growled and roughly shoved him beneath the cover of the upturned table. Then, with a dark glare, she returned her attention to the ongoing battle and raised a single, glowing hand.

Kyousuke parried an incoming thrust from a random opponent, which Kirino immediately took advantage of — cutting the man down before he could react. However, before either of them could resume their path towards the Paladin, they suddenly found another terrorist taking the last one's place. Out of the corner of his eye, Kyousuke saw several more dashing towards them.

"We don't have time for this!" Kirino snapped as she blocked the man's slash. Kyousuke made to assist her when he suddenly felt the entire room starting to grow hot and everything being illuminated by a bright red glow.

"Shit!" He cried out. "Get down!"

"Wha—" Kirino squeaked as he suddenly tackled her to the ground. Their opponent made to take advantage of the opening they'd created when his vision was suddenly engulfed by a field of flames. The two teens flinched as they heard the man's screams of agony. All around them, they heard similar screams as blasts of fire rained down on them from above. A glance upward showed a firestorm engulfing the entire room, as though the Gates of Hell had just been opened.

Chancing a peek behind him, Kyousuke spotted Lightning standing atop a table, both arms wreathed in flames as she mercilessly mowed their enemies down. The woman paused only momentarily to send him a dark glare.

"Go!" She roared at them.

"Why is your teacher so damn terrifying?!" Kirino shrieked as he hauled the girl to her feet.

"I ask myself that every day," Kyousuke muttered. "Let's go."

With Lightning cutting a wide swath through the battlefield, the siblings sprinted towards the hijacked machine that was currently making its way into the courtyard, chasing after a familiar black-clad individual.

"Blake!" the boy shouted as the Faunus girl leapt away from another swipe at her person. Beside him, Kirino drew an arrow from her quiver and shifted her weapon into bow-form before drawing back the string. When the arrowhead burst into flames, she let it fly; where it exploded on contact with the Paladin and caused it to stagger backwards.

However, the pilot was quick to retaliate and launched several missiles towards them. Kyousuke leapt aside, Kirino doing likewise. But the explosion still caught him in the back, sending him crashing into the ground some yards away. A shout from his flank alerted him to a hostile presence, and he quickly rolled to avoid a crushing blow from the enemy's mace.

"Watch it, kid!" An unfamiliar voice growled out and the teen glanced up in time to see large, grizzled man ramming a fist into his attacker's face. Seizing the opportunity, the boy swept the Faunus' feet from under him. As he began toppling over, Kyousuke shifted his gunblade and fired directly at the terrorist's chest, sending him flying into a nearby pillar.

Releasing a deep breath he wasn't aware he'd been holding, Kyousuke looked up to see his savior offering a hand. Taking it, the boy allowed himself to be pulled up and nodded gratefully. "Thanks."

"No problem." The security officer grunted before giving him a once-over, his brow furrowing in thought. "You… Yer that Kousaka kid, ain't ya? Farron's apprentice?"

"Yeah…" The boy sighed and took a moment to glance about, surveying the ongoing battle. Scores of masked individuals were all around him, clashing with the security forces throughout the courtyard. Pained shouts and screams from all directions caused a small pit to form in his stomach and silently, he clenched his fist.

"Nasty, ain't it?" The large man grumbled. "While we were ready for an attack like this, what we weren't expectin' was fer that mech to go on a rampage. Honestly, yer friends are handlin' it better than we could."

"Expect the unexpected..." Kyousuke muttered. With a deep grimace on his face, he scanned the battlefield for signs of Blake or his sister. Another explosion drew his attention upward, where Kirino was firing a string of Dust-infused arrows at the Paladin's cockpit from the relative safety of an overhanging balcony.

"That's no good." The man grimaced. "The cockpit's the most heavily armored place on that thing. Yer maid friend's been giving it hell fer a good five minutes but there're no significant signs of damage."

"But it does cause one hell of a distraction," Kyousuke murmured as the pilot opened fire on his sister, who simply took cover behind the stone divider. "That thing is tough, but its movements and tactics are sloppy. There's no way the pilot has any real experience in the cockpit."

"So, the bastard'll focus on what he thinks is the biggest threat to 'em," the officer said, nodding in understanding. "Like yer friend's explosive arrows."

"She's my sister." The teen corrected absentmindedly, his mind searching for a way to defeat the machine.

"Really?" the man raised an eyebrow. "Ya look nothin' alike."

The boy almost face-faulted. "Thanks," he said sarcastically.

"Kyousuke!" a familiar voice called out. Surprised, he turned to see Blake dashing towards him. "Are you alright? Kirino said she lost sight of you after that missile hit."

"Yeah, I'm fine thanks to…"

"Sergeant Martin." The man grunted. He paused and glanced up at the towering construct once again. "I hope you kids've got a plan fer that thing."

"Something like that," Kyousuke muttered. "We're gonna need to get closer, though. Sergeant Martin, can you and your men keep the White Fang off us?"

"Ha!" The officer chuckled. "We'll do better than that, kid. We'll drive the bastards clear outta Vale."

"Don't underestimate them, Sergeant," Blake said with a small frown. "They may be green, but their numbers are nothing to scoff at."

"Right, right." Martin grumbled. "And just call me Marty, kiddos. Everyone else does." He spat on the ground and hefted his gun over his shoulder. "Just take that thing down. Leave the small fry to us."

"We're counting on you," Kyousuke nodded as the man strode back into the fray, shouting orders to his comrades as he did. The black-haired teen shook his head and turned to his companion. "Kirino is providing cover from the balcony, but she can't hold out there forever. You up for running interference?"

"As long as you know what you're doing," the Faunus said, crouching low to the ground. "On your count, then."

"Wait for it…" he murmured, likewise lowering himself into a ready position. "Come on, Kirino…" Just as he spoke those words, his sister peaked out from her cover and fired another explosive arrow at their bumbling opponent. "Now!"

Blake wasted no time dashing forward, firing her weapon at the mech. Predictably, the pilot responded by firing several rockets at her. Leaping into the air, the Faunus suddenly split into several copies of herself of which only one was actually hit by the projectiles. As she hit the ground, she once more split herself into a small squad of clones, which promptly surrounded the machine.

In the cockpit, the pilot grit his teeth in frustration. "The hell is with this maid?!" he snarled.

Missiles ready for deployment. A computerized voice said crisply.

"Then fire!" The man snarled. "Fire everything!"

Immediately, several dozen missiles launched from of the mecha's back, straight into the air before homing in on the circle of targets on the ground. A harsh cacophony of explosions wracked the courtyard as the projectiles found their mark, throwing up an enormous cloud of dust in the process.

Visibility lost. Activating secondary sensors.

"Shit." The pilot grumbled as he scanned the battlefield for his opponents. "Come on you bastards… Where are y—"

Warning! Hostile detected. Initiating defensive protocols.

"Huh?"

Kyousuke dashed forward, navigating his way through the dust by releasing weak electromagnetic waves and turning himself into a makeshift radar. Shifting Blazefire Saber into Blade Mode, he pulled the trigger and leapt up towards the cockpit.

Only to find a cannon in his face.

Boom!

The teen barely had time to focus his aura into a shield before finding himself being blasted aside by a plasma bolt. Crashing harshly into the ground, Kyousuke found himself gazing up at the Paladin through swimming vision.

"Kyousuke!" He vaguely heard Blake scream as the pilot brought the mech's foot down upon him.


Lightning grunted as she felled another over-eager terrorist with a flick of her gunblade. Igniting her hand once more, she lashed out and struck down another several yards away.

"How many are there?" Svernare asked quietly from beneath the cover of an upturned table. The Huntress glanced at him.

"Scores of them," she said stiffly. "They outnumber your security forces 2:1 at the very least."

"This is my fault." The man grimaced. "I should have seen this coming. The White Fang hates us. I shouldn't have brought the Paladin. I should have prepared for this."

"Spare me the pity party!" Lightning snapped. "Just focus on staying alive."

"If that's your concern, then I should have evacuated with General Ironwood."

"That's exactly what she wants you to do." The pink-haired woman scowled. "Anri specializes in assassination through infiltration and misdirection. Killing you in a chaotic crowd like that would be child's play for her."

"A-Anri?" Svernare paled significantly. "That witch? She's here?"

"Yes." Lightning grunted, her eyes scanning the battle. "As insane as it may sound, the safest place for you right now is by my side on an open battlefield. So, just—" Her eyes widened as a loud creaking noise reverberated through the chaotic din. "Shit! Get down!"

Feeling himself being forced to the ground, Svernare glanced up to see the massive chandelier falling from the ceiling — directly towards them. Lightning swiftly ignited both her hands and engulfed the ornate light fixture in a whirlwind of fire. The chandelier was quickly reduced to molten bronze, which the Huntress wasted no time in freezing with a blast of icy cold wind.

Suddenly, that same ice was quickly formed into razor-sharp icicles and sent hurtling towards them. Lightning flicked her wrist and shattered them into tiny lumps of hail.

"Ara, ara..." A smooth, sensual voice purred out. "No fun at all, are you?"

Turning toward the voice, the Huntress saw the familiar sight of a red-clad woman balancing atop a table several yards away, her Faunus features clearly displayed for the world to see. Covering her face was a white and red mask in the shape of a fox, but Lightning knew that beneath it, the woman was sporting one of her infuriatingly serene smiles.

"It's been a long time, Claire-chan," Anri giggled, her tail swishing playfully.

Without warning, she leapt off the table and kicked it toward the Huntress at breakneck speeds. Lightning was quick to blast it apart with a ball of fire, but out of the ensuing explosion came a hail of kunai. The pink-haired woman raised her gunblade — which was enveloped in a green glow — and slashed through the air, sending razor sharp blades of wind to intercept the knives.

"Tch." Anri clicked her tongue. "This is taking too long. Ne, Claire-chan, could you just step aside and let me kill Mister President over there?"

"Did you really think that would work?" The Huntress raised an eyebrow at her.

"No, but it was worth a try." She shrugged before lashing a glowing arm out and resuming their duel once more.


"Kyousuke!"

The teen snapped to attention as a loud, screeching sound reverberated through the courtyard. Glancing up in shock, he saw Penny standing before him, her arms outstretched as she held off the Paladin using little else but sheer strength. With a great heave, the redhead shoved the mech away, causing it to stumble backwards and into a nearby pillar.

"You will not harm my friend," the girl said with a dark glare.

Kyousuke could only stare at her in open-mouthed shock. "P-Penny? I— You— Wha—"

"Are you alright, Kyousuke-shi?" Another voice called out to him. The boy turned in alarm to see Saori striding towards them carrying a strange, spear-like weapon.

"Saori?" he asked incredulously. "You too?"

"But of course!" The green-haired girl grinned. "I am a Huntress-in-training, after all. Tis my sworn duty to protect those in need." She emphasized this by giving her weapon several experimental swings. "Hmm... But I'll admit; this weapon is a bit strange. I procured it from one of the fallen White Fang members, so I'm uncertain as to the extent of its capabilities."

"Do not worry, Friend-Kyousuke," Penny said cheerfully. "We're combat-ready!"

"I shall name thee Gáe Bolg!" Saori declared with a toothy grin, twirling her new lance several times before ending in a single thrust. "May you bring me glory as you did Ireland's Child of Light."

"I had no idea light was capable of reproducing!" The redhead blurted out, examining the weapon curiously.

"Oh, no, no, no!" The green-haired girl chuckled. "You see, it was actually a reference to my favorite visual novel, Destiny/remain evening."

"I hate to interrupt," Blake said in a dry voice as she strode over to them. "But we're still in the middle of combat here."

The sound of someone landing behind them alerted them to Kirino's arrival. "No kidding." His sister scowled before giving him a once-over. "You okay?"

"Yeah," Kyousuke sighed before returning his attention to the mecha as the pilot regained his bearings. "But we need to take that thing down. Now."

"Well?" Blake prompted him. "Any more ideas?"

"Just one." He nodded. "If this doesn't work, then I don't know what will."

"Well, don't keep us in suspense, Kyousuke-shi!" Saori grinned. "Enlighten us with your masterful strategy."

"That thing is equipped with automated defenses," Kyousuke explained. "There's no way the pilot was able to see me in that dust cloud. So, we're gonna need to disable those defenses. I've never tried it before, but if I can release a powerful enough EMP, we should be able to do just that."

"I see…"

"The thing is, I'm gonna need to get close for it to be effective on such a large machine," the boy continued. "Blake, you're gonna need to run interference again."

"Do you really think the pilot will fall for the same tactic twice?" The Faunus raised an eyebrow at him.

"No," Kyousuke admitted. "So, we're gonna need to slow that thing down. Don't give him time to properly react."

"I can do that!" Penny exclaimed.

"So can I." Kirino nodded.

"Good; we'll need both of you," he said. "Another thing. I'm gonna need to focus all my concentration on the EMP, so I'm not gonna be able to take care of the pilot. Saori, that's where you come in. Can you handle it?"

"Leave it to me, Kyousuke-shi!" Saori smiled. "I am certain Gáe Bolg will be up to the task!"

"...Right," Kyousuke muttered. He just hoped he wouldn't come to regret this decision. "Let's do this."

Kirino nodded and withdrew an arrow from her quiver. The arrowhead shifted into a grappling hook, which she fired onto the balcony. A long cable attached to her belt extended, which she promptly used to propel herself up once more. Penny simply ran to the far side of the courtyard, on the other side of the mecha.

"Ready?" Blake murmured. The other two nodded and the Faunus dashed forward, splitting herself into several copies as she did.

In the cockpit, the pilot raised an eyebrow. "This again?" He smirked, reaching for a lever on his right hand side. "I'm not falling for that twice, bitch." The Paladin raised its right arm cannon and began charging a plasma bolt.

Out of nowhere, a large sword impaled itself on the mecha's arm, sending the bolt astray. "What?!" the pilot exclaimed. He reached for the left hand lever to remove the sword, but another sword suddenly impaled itself on the machine's left arm.

Two more swords impaled themselves on each leg and two more on the mech's torso. Each of these swords were attached to long cables and the pilot suddenly found himself completely bound; unable to move even an inch in any direction.

From the balcony, Kirino drew another arrow. This time, the arrowhead gave off a white glow as the girl drew back the string. With a twang, the arrow flew and upon making contact with the Paladin, enormous columns of ice formed on the mech's armor. Three more arrows swiftly followed, nearly freezing it solid.

"It's now or never!" Kirino barked out but Kyousuke was already in motion.

"What the hell?!" the pilot roared, furiously slamming his fists into every button he could reach in hopes of freeing himself.

Warning! Mass buildup of electromagnetic currents! Danger! Da-D͈͈͖ḁn̵͖̳̫g͠e̘̯̜r̨̲͚͖̝̱̳͉!D̶͕̘̭̥͝͡ͅá̺̠̜̥͓̺̟͟n̛̖̹͍͚͖͇̻g҉̲̹͎̖͇͓̦e̢̨͉̬̮͕r̭̱!̷̘͈͓̯͕̺̪͖I̶̯͕̰̘̤̤̠͖͔̣͇̮̙͖̲͢ͅm̪̦̮̹͝͝m̵͝͏̘̭͚̘̲̮͎̘̠̞͚͕̠̱̺͈̰͜e̵̡̧̳̥͈͉̰͕̠̳̕͢ͅd̴̨̧̲͕͖̟̺͚͔̬̥̲͍͚͙͇̺̘͘í͔̞̲̺̩̤͙͖̞̖̫͡͝ͅͅͅa̶͘҉̫̣̖̳̹̥͔̠̜̮͎̰̭t̴̺͔̖͔̫͘͜͡-̨̱̻̗̭͇̗̯̳̻̹̬̞́͘͟͝

"What the fu—" The pilot was cut off as the cockpit went pitch black.

"Any time, Saori!" Kyousuke bellowed; his entire body surrounded by a rapidly expanding bubble of electricity.

"This is our time to shine!" the green-haired girl declared, spinning her lance in a rapid circle as she charged forward. Sliding to a halt, Saori crouched low to the ground, her legs enveloped in a bright white glow. Then, faster than the eye could perceive, she leapt high into the air.

"GÀE…" Her weapon began to glow with an intense green light as she rapidly descended upon the Paladin. "BOLG!"

"Holy shi—" Kyousuke could barely get those words out before a massive explosion wracked the courtyard. He barely had time to escape the blast radius as Saori's weapon connected to the mecha's cockpit; causing the ensuing explosion to send him flying.

Landing several yards away, the black-haired teen glanced up to see the mighty Paladin collapse in a flaming heap, finally falling silent. The clicking of heels alerted him to Blake's presence as she quietly made her way over to him.

"You okay?" she murmured as she helped him to his feet.

"Me?" Kyousuke asked incredulously. "What about Saori? She—"

"Ohohoho!" A familiar voice giggled from behind him, prompting both teens to spin around. "That went better than expected! Gáe Bolg truly is worthy of its name."

"Saori?!" the boy exclaimed, glancing back at the destroyed mecha. "How…?"

"We just barely avoided the blast," Saori admitted with a small smile, she pointed towards her feet and he glanced down to see the pilot face down on the ground, unconscious.

"That weapon really is something," Blake noted, gazing warily at the halberd.

"Ohoho…" The other girl smiled sheepishly. "While I'd like to agree, I believe I simply got lucky in skewering the machine's control panel. That's what caused the explosion."

"I see. Well we should—"

"Hey!" Kirino's voice called out to them. "I hate to break things up, but we've got a problem!" The three turned to see her pointing to the other side of the courtyard. Kyousuke followed her gaze, only for his heart to drop.

There, lying amid the rubble — burned and battered — was Penny.

"No!" The boy shouted, dashing towards the fallen girl. The others were not far behind him. Skidding to a halt, Kyousuke lifted the silent girl into his arms and brought his ear to her mouth. "She's not breathing," he said urgently.

Blake placed two fingers against her neck. "No pulse either."

"No…" Kyousuke whispered. "No, no, no no… You can't do this, Penny… PENNY!"

"Yes?" the redhead questioned, opening her eyes.

"Gah!" The boy jumped slightly while everyone else let out sighs of relief. "P-Penny?"

"Yes, Friend-Kyousuke?" she smiled at him. "Are you uninjured?"

"Me? What about you?" he countered. "You were even farther away from the explosion than me. Why didn't you escape? How did you survive?"

She didn't answer immediately. Gazing at the group before her, she blinked. "You are… concerned for my well-being?"

"Of course!" Kyousuke smiled weakly. "We're friends, aren't we? Friends worry about each other."

"I see…" Penny whispered.

"Hey…" Kirino spoke up awkwardly. She seemed to be gazing down at Penny's body. "You should probably take a look at this…"

"What? But she…" He resisted the urge to glance downward, as the explosion had burned off most of her clothing.

"Seriously," Blake piped in, staring at something on the girl's person. Were her injuries truly that grievous? Steeling himself, Kyousuke shifted his gaze downward, only for his jaw to fall open.

Instead of burned flesh, all he could see was silver as Penny's metallic body glinted in the low lightning. "W-What?"

"I suppose there is no more hiding the fact," the redhead said sadly. "I… I am not a normal girl. I am an artificially created human; commonly referred to as an 'android'. When Kyousuke released his electromagnetic pulse, it affected my systems as well and I was unable to escape the blast radius." She met Kyousuke's eyes and smiled sadly. "I apologize for deceiving you. I have read that lies are socially unacceptable, so I understand if you do not wish to remain friends with me."

"To hell with that!" Kyousuke snapped, causing the girl to flinch in shock. "You saved my life, Penny. I can never repay you for that. So what if you're a robot? You're still you. You're still that socially awkward girl from earlier. You're still the girl that doesn't know how to dance." He smiled at her. "And you're still my friend."

"That's right!" Saori grinned. "Penny is Penny. That's all there is to it."

"I guess you were pretty cool back there," Kirino said, not meeting her eyes. "D-Don't get me wrong, though! I still think you're weird. Just… not as weird as before."

"Yes." Blake smiled softly. "Thank you for your help tonight, Penny."

The orange-haired android could only stare at them in open shock. Blinking slightly, she could only say one thing. "T-Thank you…"

"No, thank you." Kyousuke smiled. They were silent for several moments before the sound of shouting and gunfire reminded them that there was still a battle to be fought.

"We should get back," Blake said. "Can you stand, Penny?"

"I apologize." The android shook her head regretfully. "But my systems have still not recovered from the electromagnetic pulse."

"We've got no choice, then." The boy grunted and turned to his sister. "Kirino, can you and Saori get Penny back to her father? One of you will have to carry her while the other escorts you two."

"What? Why do I have to?" She protested.

"Because one of us needs to check in with Mom and Dad," Kyousuke explained. "And I'd feel a lot more comfortable knowing you were protecting them."

Kirino blinked at him before flushing slightly. "I-It can't be helped, I suppose," she conceded. "We'll take her."

"Thanks." He nodded. Saori grinned at him as Kirino reached down to lift the redhead into a fireman's carry. As the trio took off towards the lobby, Kyousuke turned to the girl beside him. "We have to get back to Sensei. Who knows what's going on in there?"

The Faunus nodded her agreement and with that, the two made their way back into the fray.


Anri scowled slightly as she was once again forced back by her opponent. "What's the matter, Anri?" Lightning questioned coolly. "You're barely even putting up a fight."

The black-haired vixen blinked. Slowly, her face split into a smile. "Oh, my..." She giggled. "And here I thought you were just buying time for a plan, but it seems you really are clueless."

"Sensei!" The Huntress frowned as she spotted Kyousuke and Blake re-entering the ballroom.

"What are you talking about?" She demanded.

"I mean, you haven't even figured it out yet!"

"Answer the damn question!"

"Do you not find it strange that they would only send little-old-me and a handful of footmen to this little shindig?" Anri giggled. "You know very well that if we really wanted that person dead, I would have done it without any of you noticing. All this hustle and bustle… This meaningless showmanship... I mean, really!"

Lightning's eyes widened before her mouth fell into a stern line. "So, that's your game," she said, her eyes narrowing into slits.

"What is she talking about, Sensei?" Kyousuke asked, staring at the red-clad Faunus warily.

"They played us for fools," the woman explained, shaking her head. "They were never after the president. This entire thing was—"

"A distraction?" The fox-woman grinned. "Got it in one, Claire-chan!"

'What?' Kyousuke wondered; his brow furrowing. 'A distraction? But what could they be—' The boy felt his blood chill as his eyes scanned over the room and he came to a horrifying realization. There were only two other people the White Fang could possibly care enough about to go through all this trouble. Two people who he hadn't seen in quite some time now.

"...Where are Weiss and Winter?" the teen asked, his eyes desperately scanning the chaos surrounding them for a head of white hair.

Blake's eyes widened. "T-They left to take care of something," she whispered; a horrified expression creeping onto her face. "This was over fifteen minutes ago..."

"Kyahaha!" Anri burst into laughter. "Oh, the looks on your faces! They're priceless!"

Svernare's face twisted into a terrified rage. "What have you done to my daughters, you Faunus bitch?!"

"You're in no position to be making demands of me, little man!" The assassin giggled. "But I'll humor you. Your precious little girls are probably being stolen away as we speak."

"Go!" Lightning ordered. "I'll keep things under control here." Kyousuke wasted no time dashing towards the exit, Blake just a step behind him.

"Ara, do you really think I'm just going to— " The vixen's sentence was cut off as she was forced to dodge another blast of fire.

"You're not going anywhere," the pink-haired Huntress said coldly.

"Oh?" The fox woman cocked her head. "So, now you're distracting me? You honestly think your cute little protégé will be able to do this all on his own?"

"I know he can." Lightning grunted. "After all, I trained him myself."

"Always so confident." Anri giggled. "It suits your little nickname, which I have always adored. So ephemeral it is, lightning."

"Oh, I'll show you how lightning strikes!" She snapped as the two clashed once more.


Kyousuke dashed through the hallways of the hotel with a frantic look on his face. 'Damn it all!' he mentally roared. 'I should have seen this coming!' Weiss was the heiress to the entire Schnee family. Of course she would have a huge target on her back. He was such an idiot! Why didn't he think of this until now?!

"Kyousuke!" Blake's shout broke him out of his panicked thoughts. Skidding to a halt, he followed her gaze to see a white-haired figure collapsed beneath a small pile of rubble in one of the adjoining halls. The slow rise and fall of their chest indicating that they were still alive, at least.

"Weiss!" Kyousuke exclaimed in relief, running towards her. He crouched down and carefully pulled her out of the rubble, only for his face to freeze upon realizing who it really was.

"Ugh, those barbaric curs..." Winter groaned, rubbing a rapidly forming lump on the back of her head.

"Winter, where is Weiss?" Kyousuke asked urgently, shaking her slightly in an attempt to get her to focus.

"Oh, don't mind me," she snapped, her voice positively dripping with sarcasm. "I'll be fine."

"Winter, please!"

The white-haired girl just sighed. "They stormed inside just a few minutes ago." Winter explained, her face twisting into a sneer. "Those wretched beasts caught us off-guard. They incapacitated me, grabbed my sister and escaped. It looked like they were headed towards the rear parking lot."

"The rear parking lot?" Blake murmured. Her brow furrowed as she glanced down the hallway to try and get her bearings. "From here it should be… that way."

"Thank you," Kyousuke said with a tight smile. "Find my dad and sister as soon as you can. They've evacuated the other party guests to the lobby. And stay away from the courtyard. That's where the majority of the fighting is happening."

"Ugh, if I must..."

Once he'd gotten the girl's affirmation, the boy rose to his feet. He exchanged a quick nod with Blake and the two dashed towards the parking lot Winter had directed them to.

'Just hold on!' Kyousuke thought as the two frantically sprinted towards the back exit. Finally, they rounded one last corner, where they came across a steel door marked 'Emergency Exit'. As they approached the door, they began hearing a commotion from the other side. Several voices were shouting to one another, but one stood out amid the rest.

"Unhand me at once, you foul miscrea— mrnk!"

"Weiss!" Kyousuke shouted as the two teens burst through the door. He was met with the sight of a White Fang member shoving the bound and now-gagged heiress into the back of a black sedan.

"Get her out of here!" One of the terrorists ordered.

"No!" Blake exclaimed, dashing forward as the car began to pull out of the parking lot. Another of the terrorists intercepted her and swung a large mace at her head, forcing the girl back as his allies quickly moved in to join the attack. Blake flipped backwards, deftly dodging a strike aimed at her throat before throwing Gambol Shroud and ensnaring one of the kidnappers' legs.

Kyousuke wasted no time charging forward as the man began toppling over, slashing him through the chest. Leaping over the fallen man, he thrust his leg forward, kicking another of the terrorists in the face and sending her flying into a nearby car.

As Kyousuke landed, Blake dashed forward; flipping over him and firing her weapon at the goons desperately trying to stall them. "We don't have time for this!" she shouted at him. "They're getting away!"

"I know!" The boy growled, watching as the car pulled out of the parking lot and began rapidly picking up speed. He glanced at the encroaching Faunus before turning his attention to the weapon in Blake's hand.

He had an idea.

"Blake," the teen murmured urgently. "I'm gonna need a lift."

The girl glanced at him before following his gaze. "...Got it."

Just as another of the kidnappers lunged at them Blake tossed Gambol Shroud towards her partner, who deftly grabbed it. Shifting his gunblade, Kyousuke started firing upon them as he began running in a wide circle around the girl. Blake remained stationary, merely tightening her grasp on her end of Gambol Shroud's ribbon and spinning around in conjunction with her partner.

Suddenly the smell of ionized oxygen reached all of their nostrils as Kyousuke began rapidly increasing his speed. His figure becoming little more than a blue and black blur, the boy jumped. Taking advantage of the momentum his running had created, Blake began spinning the boy in a wide circle around herself and the terrorists could only watch in stunned horror as the duo transformed into a cyclone of electric death.

And then, Blake lashed out, her partner's gunblade slashing through their opponents with ease. The kidnappers attempted to scatter to safety, but the duo's combined range was simply too great and within seconds, they'd been utterly decimated.

Still not letting up, Blake began picking up speed. "I hope you know what you're doing!" she shouted just before the boy released his grip on her weapon, sending himself hurtling through the air… straight towards the escaping car.

Kyousuke grit his teeth as he felt the wind rapidly whipping about his face. He steeled himself and shifted his weapon into Blade Mode... Only for his eyes to widen in shock as the car's sunroof suddenly opened. A masked man popped out with a rocket launcher in hand and took aim straight at the black-haired teen.

Grimacing, the boy brought up his arms to shield his face and focused his aura into a force field around him.

BOOM!

With a great roar the rocket burst upon contact with the force field, engulfing Kyousuke in a fiery explosion. Crashing harshly into the pavement below, he glanced up — too stunned from the explosion to stand — and saw the car rapidly gaining distance on him.

'Shit!' Kyousuke thought furiously as he watched the car retreating further and further into the distance. 'What now?! Think, Kyousuke, think!' Then, his eyes widened.

Wait...!

Reaching back underneath the collar of his dress shirt, the teen began to grasp wildly until his fingers wrapped around something small and metallic; something he would have easily missed had he not been actively searching for it.

Ripping the object off his clothing, Kyousuke loaded it into his gunblade; the auto-adapter instantly adjusting the chamber to accommodate it. Shifting his weapon into Assault Mode, the teen took aim and fired. Gritting his teeth, the boy waited with bated breath as the sedan got farther and farther away. When he finally heard the distinctive sound of metal contacting metal, the boy sagged in relief even as the car rounded the corner and he lost sight of it.

"Kyousuke!" Blake's voice called out. Said boy turned to see her running towards him, a frantic look on her face. "Where are they?"

"They got away," he said with a pained grunt, shakily rising to his feet. The girl grit her teeth.

"Damn it!" She snarled, her hand clenching into a tight fist. "So, we failed? All of this was for nothing?!"

"We haven't lost, yet." Kyousuke growled. He stumbled towards a nearby building and leaned against the wall for support before pulling out his scroll.

"Who could you possibly be calling right now?" Blake demanded as he searched through his contact list. Finally finding the correct contact, he called.

The two waited in tense silence as the dial tone rang. Finally, after several agonizing moments, someone answered. "Hello?"

Blake frowned in confusion. "Is that... Yang?" she asked incredulously as the blonde girl appeared on the small screen.

"Yang, I need you to tell me where I am on your tracking device," Kyousuke said urgently.

The girl in question choked. "H-How do you know about that?"

"I've always known!" He snapped, causing her to flinch in surprise. "Now, please, answer me! Weiss' life is on the line!"

Yang gaped in mute shock at the utter desperation in his voice. Swallowing, she checked her KyoDar to see a blue dot rapidly moving towards the northwestern section of town.

"It looks like it's headed to the industrial district," she told them. "Judging by its movement patterns, it looks like it's headed towards the dock warehouses."

"Thanks, Yang." Kyousuke smiled tightly.

"Kyo, what's happening?"

"I'll explain on the way there," he said, nodding at Blake. "First, we need to get to my car. I'll be keeping this channel open. Do you still have Bumblebee with you?"

"It's just outside."

"Then grab Ruby, gear up and meet me at the docks."

"Kyousuke?" Blake questioned.

"We're gonna need all the help we can get." He said firmly as he began leading the way back towards the hotel. "No one is dying. Not tonight. Not on my watch."

'Not again.'

Never again.


Anri grimaced as she was sent skidding back from one of Lightning's overwhelming barrages, another set of her kunai shattering into tiny fragments. As Lightning raised her gunblade into another defensive stance, the fox woman took a moment to survey their surroundings.

The ballroom — if one could call it that anymore — had been ravaged beyond recognition by the two women's duel. The marble flooring had been reduced to rubble, creating an unstable battlefield where the slightest misstep would quickly result in defeat. Any furniture in the room had swiftly been incinerated into ash by Dust firestorms and every window shattered by shockwaves.

And even now, Lightning still had not gone all-out on her. She'd been playing a defensive game the entire battle, mainly to keep herself as an impenetrable wall between Anri and Svernare. And from the sound of things outside, their forces were slowly being driven back by the Schnee security force.

The Faunus knew that if this fight dragged out any longer, she would lose. Anri was confident in her abilities but she wasn't a fool. There was absolutely no way she would be able to defeat the Huntress in a fair fight if Lightning decided to go all out.

"Ara, ara..." The fox woman giggled despite her increasingly bleak situation. "This isn't like you, Claire-chan. You're the type who takes charge during battle, not react to others."

"Perhaps," Lightning said neutrally. "But it's still more than enough to deal with the likes of you."

"Che!" Anri spat, her ears twitching in irritation. This was another thing she absolutely despised about the pink-haired woman; her infuriatingly cool persona. It made it nearly impossible to get a rise out of her. "So smug. You've become so boring now that you've taken your little boy-toy back."

"My apprentice hardly has anything to do with my personality," the woman said coldly, her cheek twitching ever-so-slightly.

Oho?

Anri's ears perked up, her mouth curling into a smirk. "Oh, but he does," she insisted, giggling slightly. "You were so angry when he left you three years ago; so easy to rile up. I remember those times quite fondly."

"Don't talk as if you know me," the Huntress said in a low voice.

"Oh, but I do," Anri simpered. "When you took him under your wing, he reminded you so much of a certain someone."

Lightning grit her teeth and her grip on her gunblade tightened, her knuckles slowly turning white. "Shut up."

"Someone you loved oh-so-dearly," the Faunus continued with a cruel smirk forming on her face. "Someone you can never see again, thanks to little-old-me."

"I said shut up!"

"I wonder if he'll scream the same way your adorable little sister did after I gut him?" Anri sneered. "And he lies broken and sobbing at my feet?"

"You traitorous whore!" Lightning roared, her face twisting into an enraged snarl. All reasoning lost, she rushed towards the woman in a mad frenzy, absolute hatred gleaming within her eyes. "I'll fucking kill you!"

Perfect.

Faster than the human eye could perceive, Anri disappeared in a red flash and reappeared directly behind the Huntress. Lightning quickly spun around and slashed the woman through the chest, only to watch in shock as her body shattered into a cascade of cherry blossoms.

Shnk!

Slowly, almost disbelievingly, Lightning looked down at the blade piercing through her chest. She stared in stunned silence as drops of blood began to slowly trickle out the corner of her mouth. Calmly, the black-haired woman leaned over her shoulder, her breath tickling the Huntress' ear.

"I win this time, Claire-chan," Anri whispered, withdrawing her blade and stepping back.

'Anri!' A voice grunted through her earpiece. 'We've got her. Fall back.' Shaking her head in wry amusement, Anri watched her opponent fall to one knee, clutching her wound as she began coughing up blood.

"It looks like you've lucked out, Claire-chan!" The vixen giggled, casually flicking the blood off her dagger. "We're done here. Make sure you give that adorable protégé of yours a kiss for me, okay?"

"Anri!" Lightning snarled as the woman began walking away. Slowly, the Huntress rose to her feet and hefted her gunblade at the retreating Faunus. "We're not done here!"

"Oh, but we are," the black-haired woman said offhandedly. She lifted her dagger up so the Huntress could see it clearly. "Ah, you recognize it, don't you? You should. It's the same blade your sister bought you for your birthday all those years ago."

The pink-haired woman just grimaced, not dignifying her with a response. Anri simply giggled at the hazy look of hatred being sent her way. The Huntress could barely stand on her own at this point.

"You can feel it can't you?" She asked with a grin. "You see, this lovely blade I introduced to your bloodstream was coated in that special paralytic poison that I love so much. You couldn't come after me even if you wanted to."

Anri turned and smiled at her as Svernare ran over to support Lightning's wobbling form. "Well, it's been fun." She giggled as her body was slowly enveloped by a cascade of cherry blossoms once again. "I hope to see you again soon, Claire-chan!"

"Damn it!" Lightning snarled as the woman disappeared. She had escaped her yet again. "I can't believe I let her get in my head. She played me like a goddamn fiddle!"

"Nobody is perfect, Master Farron," Svernare said as he helped her limp over to a nearby wall. "Now, please conserve your energy. I'll find you a medic."

"Don't bother." She grunted. "I've shrugged off worse before. It's this damn poison that's keeping me down."

"All the more reason you should see a medic." The man countered.

"No, I'll be fine." Lightning grimaced. "I'm familiar with the poisons she uses. This particular one is powerful and has no known antidote, but it comes at the cost of being non-lethal to humans. I'll have to let it run its course."

"I'm surprised she let you and I live," Svernare mused. "She had the perfect opportunity to finish us off."

"Do you really need to ask? She's clearly insane." Lightning scowled and spat out a mouthful of blood. "Probably just wants the opportunity to torment me in the future. She's always had a particular knack for it."

"Now that you mention it, the two of you did seem to know each other quite well."

"And quite frankly, it's none of your business." The woman grit her teeth. "There's bad blood between us. That's all you need to know."

"I see..." The man didn't look satisfied, but let it go as another voice called out to them.

"Father!" The two adults turned to see a white-haired girl gingerly making her way across the rubble, a grimace on her face.

"Winter!" Svernare cried, a wave of relief washing over him before dashing towards the girl and enveloping her in a hug. "Thank God you're safe!"

"Likewise, Father." Winter smiled before turning her attention to the injured woman. "Oh, Master Farron! Are you hurt badly?"

"I'll be fine, kid," Lightning grunted. "Where are Kyousuke and your sister?"

Winter didn't respond immediately, causing both adults to stiffen. "Winter..." Svernare said slowly, a tone of dread seeping into his voice as he stepped back to look at her. "Where is Weiss?"

"I-I don't know, Father," the girl said, unable to meet his eyes. "...The White Fang took her."

"No..." The man whispered, his face losing all color. "Oh, God. Please, no..."

"And where is my apprentice?" Lightning demanded. Winter flinched under her furious gaze.

"He and your maid went chasing after them," she said quietly. "I haven't heard from them since. Father... I'm sorry I failed you."

"Weiss..." Svernare murmured, collapsing to his knees; his hands trembling uncontrollably. "Please, not my little girl..."

"Get a hold of yourself!" The pink-haired woman snapped. "This isn't over yet. Kyousuke is still on their tail as we speak."

"With all due respect, Master Farron," Winter spoke up, seeing as her father was still in shock. "I don't see how your apprentice is going to be able to take on those scum all by himself."

"That just shows how little you know him, brat," Lightning retorted. "And you're forgetting one very crucial detail."

The white-haired girl's cheek twitched slightly. "And what's that?" The Huntress turned to gaze out one of the shattered windows at the moon now high in the night sky.

"He's hardly alone."


At a large shipyard, a sleek, black sedan slowly came to a stop in front of a massive transport crate. The driver-side door opened and a masked, gruff-looking man stepped out. The Faunus opened the back seat door and glared at its occupant.

"Out!" He snapped, roughly grabbing the white-haired girl and dragging her outside.

"Mphgl!" Weiss glared at him, still gagged. With a grunt, she violently shrugged her shoulder out of his grasp.

"Quit struggling!" Another masked man snapped as he stepped out behind her, pointing a gun at her head.

"You're lucky, girlie." The first man growled. "If it had been up to me, you and your bitch sister would've been executed on the spot."

"Now, now…" Yet another voice said. "Let's not treat our… guest so harshly."

"Sir!" Both men snapped to attention as a tall, red-haired man stepped out from behind the crate. He wore a red and white mask and had a pair of bull-like horns protruding from his head. In one hand, he carried a simple wooden chair and in the other he carried a sheathed katana.

"After all, she is a Schnee." The tall man sneered at her, to which Weiss glared straight back. "It's only right we make her as comfortable as possible for her execution. Isn't that right, Miss Schnee?" He reached forward and ripped the gag out of her mouth.

"You filthy scum!" The heiress immediately shrieked. "Do you honestly think you'll get away with this?"

"Hmph." He scoffed. "Just as loud and self-centered as she said you'd be." The man gestured to the chair. "Bind her."

"She?" Weiss repeated furiously as the two men forced her into the chair and began tying thick cables around her. "Just who is 'she'?"

"Oh, nothing." The man chuckled. "I was just talking to myself." He paused for a moment. "Ah, that's right. I haven't introduced myself, have I? Pardon my terrible manners, Miss Schnee."

"I couldn't care less what your name is, you cretin." The white-haired girl huffed. "And would you kindly stop using my surname as though it were some kind of slur? And turn off that atrocious music while you're at it!"

'Music?' The two goons thought in confusion.

"Oh, but it is a slur." The red-haired man grinned. "It's a slur every Faunus knows. One that they all hate unconditionally."

Weiss watched with growing dread as dozens of masked individuals emerged from the shadows. Each of them stared at the white-haired girl, hatred visibly radiating from their profiles. And for the first time this night, Weiss was starting to feel actual fear.

"Schnee bitch!"

"Make her bleed!"

"Kill her, Captain!"

"Oh, she will bleed." The man chuckled. "But not before she experiences all the pain and hatred we have all felt. All the misery inflicted upon us by the wretched Schnee Company!"

"Yeah!"

"Do it!"

"Now, Schnee." He sneered. "Now you… You will… feel— feel the… pai—" He grit his teeth and spun around to glare daggers at the crowd of Faunus behind him. "WHO THE HELL IS PLAYING THAT DAMN MUSIC?!"

Right on cue, a sleek, midnight blue car suddenly came vaulting over one of the transport crates, its radio loudly blasting a Mexican folk song. Weiss and her captors could only watch in stunned silence as the car landed on top of a group of men and began running over the large crowd of White Fang members as though they were nothing more than bowling pins.

Suddenly, the car roof opened and a large, mounted, Vulcan machine gun emerged with a familiar green-haired girl behind it.

"Get rekt!" Saori roared gleefully as she pulled the trigger, showering the frantically scattering terrorists in a storm of bullets. "QQ moar, you filthy casuals!"

"Is this the same Saori we know?!" Kyousuke shouted, staring at the girl fearfully as he continued running over the fleeing Faunus.

"Muwahahahaha!"

"Why is your car even equipped with a machine gun?!" Kirino demanded as she fired a barrage of Dust-infused arrows into the crowd, the resulting explosions sending their opponents flying every which way.

"Sensei said she left me a gift, but I think this is pushing it!" The boy exclaimed, still mildly disturbed by the sheer destruction being caused.

"Can we not focus on that?" Blake cried, clutching onto her seat for dear life as the car rocked violently. "Ugh, I think I'm going to — Hrk!"

"Not in my car!"

"Ugh, that's disgusting, Blackie!"

"Die, scrubs!"

"..."

"D-Don't just stand there!" the red-haired Faunus shouted at the two goons standing beside him. "Stop them!"

"Y-Yes, sir!"

"I can't believe this..." the man muttered furiously, rubbing the bridge of his nose.

"So..." Weiss smiled at him mockingly. "You were saying…?"

"Don't look so smug!" He snapped. "I still have you as leverage, Schnee."

"Well, we'll just have to see about that, won't we?"

Kyousuke swerved wildly to the left to avoid driving over the edge of the docks and came skidding to a halt. Taking the opportunity, Blake gladly leapt out of the car, kicking an encroaching terrorist in the face. Using the man as leverage, she leapt up, disappearing in a show of pure speed and reappeared behind him.

Crouching down, she swept his legs from beneath him, allowing Kyousuke the opportunity to jump out and land harshly on the man's stomach, knocking him out. Drawing his gunblade, he deflected a slash from another Faunus before striking him across the face with its hilt and kicking him away.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a familiar man with a rocket launcher crouched down atop a nearby crate. "Kirino!" Kyousuke shouted as the man pulled the trigger.

Immediately, his sister fired an arrow at the incoming rocket, freezing it solid and causing it to crash to the ground, inert. The Faunus cursed and made to retreat, only for a second arrow to freeze him to the ground. A third arrow struck him in the chest and exploded, sending him flying into another crate.

Seeing as the last of the foot soldiers had been dispatched, Kyousuke turned towards the man holding Weiss hostage.

"Don't. Move." The red-haired man snarled, pointing a shotgun at Weiss' head. In his other hand, he leveled his katana at them.

"A-Adam?" Blake whispered.

"Feh!" He scoffed, staring at the girl coolly. His eyes scanned her maid uniform contemptuously. "Blake. It's only been two weeks and this is what you've been reduced to? A servant?"

The girl grit her teeth. "It's not like that!"

"Then what is it, Blake?!" Adam snarled. "You betrayed us! For what; them?! The goddamn Schnee?!"

"Of course not!" Blake shouted, glaring at him furiously. "I left because what you're doing is wrong! Look at yourself, Adam! Look at yourself and tell me that what you're doing is really for the good of all Faunus!"

"Of course it is!" The red-haired man hissed, glaring back at her just as angrily. "Everything I do is for the good of all Faunus. We can't live alongside these humans anymore, Blake. That's why I'm going to destroy every last one of them. Starting with this one."

"Adam, please!" The girl cried, her voice cracking in desperation. "Don't do this! We can live in peace!

"No, we can't," he said coldly, pressing the gun closer to the rapidly paling Weiss. "Any last words you'd like to say, Schnee?"

"Actually, I have something I'd like to say," Kyousuke spoke up, prompting everyone to turn to him in surprise. "Just three words." Adam raised an eyebrow as the boy smiled pleasantly. "Deus. Ex. Machina."

"Wha—" The man's eyes widened as he felt his aura prickling the back of his neck. Desperately, he pulled away from the girl just as a crimson-red scythe slashed through his shotgun, right where his wrist had been just moments before. Leaping away, the man glanced at his now-destroyed weapon and grimaced.

"Weiss!" Kyousuke shouted. "Now!"

Immediately, a white glyph appeared on the ground below the heiress and sent her hurtling towards them. Blake leapt into the air, slashing through the girl's bindings and chair, allowing her to fall back down unimpaired. Before she could hit the ground, Kyousuke deftly caught her in a princess-carry.

"You're late." The girl huffed, smacking him on the chest, though the beaming smile on her face ruined the effect.

"Sorry." He chuckled.

Adam grit his teeth at the scene and glanced up at the person who'd attacked him. "Darn it," Ruby groaned, hefting Crescent Rose over her shoulder. "I missed."

The sound of an engine revving caught his attention and he turned to see a blonde-haired girl on a motorcycle slowing to a stop next to the redhead. "Sorry we're late, Kyo!" Yang said with a grin as she removed her helmet. "I hope you saved some bad guys for us!"

"Apology accepted!" Kyousuke chuckled.

"Don't act so smug!" Adam seethed. "This is not over!" As though awaiting these words, several cars pulled into the pier and dozens of White Fang members poured out. Judging by their wounded and weary appearance, this must have been the force that attacked the hotel.

"Well!" Yang's grin merely widened. She cracked her knuckles and activated Ember Celica. "Looks like we came just in time after all!"

"Just don't get too cocky," Kyousuke warned. "You girls take them out while I—"

"Kyousuke," Blake spoke up tersely. "...I want to fight him."

The boy turned to her in surprise. "You sure?"

She nodded. "...I must."

"Well, alright then..."

"I'll join you," Weiss said coolly. "I have a score to settle."

"Then you'll need this!" Saori called out from the car, tossing a long, silver object at her. The heiress raised her hand and deftly caught it.

"Myrtenaster?" she asked in shock. "But how— You know what? Never mind; this just makes things much simpler."

"Alright then," Kyousuke grunted, hefting Blazefire Saber at the rapidly approaching Faunus. "You two be careful, okay?"

"Of course," Weiss nodded as she and Blake dashed towards their opponent.

"Let's go, punks!" Yang roared as she bull-rushed the oncoming horde of terrorists. Ruby did likewise, her semblance allowing her to quickly out-speed her sister and barrel through them, spinning her scythe rapidly.

Kyousuke sighed and sprinted forward as well. He ducked beneath an incoming slash at his jugular and swept his attacker's feet from beneath him. Yang wasted no time in slamming her fist into the man's gut, forming a large crater and causing him to bounce back into the air. The blonde girl grabbed the Faunus by the legs and promptly began using him as a makeshift bludgeoning tool.

"Is that really necessary?!" Kyousuke shouted as he watched her swing the man in a wide arc, sending several of his allies flying.

"You gotta make do with what'cha got, Kyo!" Yang cackled, slamming the abused man back into the ground. "Just like old times, remember?"

"You and I remember old times very differently!" He grunted as he kicked another Faunus away. Suddenly, Kyousuke felt a wave of cold wash over him and turned to see several men frozen solid right behind him.

"Pay attention!" Kirino snapped. With a flourish, she jumped onto his back and, using him as leverage, leapt high into the air. Aiming down at the White Fang below, she released a volley of fiery arrows that exploded on contact before landing next to Ruby further into the fray.

"Oho!" Saori chuckled, tapping the frozen men with her lance. "Those sisters of yours are terrifying."

"No kidding," Kyousuke muttered, watching as the two girls made short work of their opponents. "They aren't considered prodigies for nothing."

"I hope Blake-shi and Weiss-shi are doing as well as we are."

"Yeah," the teen said, glancing in the direction the two girls had left. "I do too."


Adam backpedaled, easily deflecting a flurry of Blake's slashes, before spinning his blade around and slamming the hilt of his sword into her stomach. His mouth twisting into a snarl, he kicked her away and leapt backwards just as Weiss came charging towards him, thrusting her rapier straight at his heart.

The white-haired girl didn't falter and used her momentum to flip into the air. A glyph appeared mid-air, sending her hurtling towards the man once again just as Blake quickly dashed around his flank and made to attack him from behind. Adam simply sidestepped, allowing the two girls to slam straight into each other.

"Watch where you're going, Belladonna!" The heiress snapped.

"Me?" Blake demanded. "You watch where you're going!"

"I don't—" Weiss was cut off as they were both forced to dodge a slash from Adam. Leaping apart, they turned to glare at the man.

"This is pathetic." He scoffed. "The two of you are like oil and water. You're going to end up killing each other before I ever get the chance to."

"Adam, please," Blake said imploringly. "Just stop this."

"And then what?" The man snarled. "Kiss and make up with this Schnee? I'd sooner bend my knee over the chopping block."

"The feeling is mutual!" Weiss spat. "And that wish can certainly be arranged, scum."

"Weiss!" the black-haired girl hissed.

"You're defending him?" The heiress demanded. "This man destroyed the hotel, killing who-knows how many people and even tried to take my life! I will see justice done!"

"I-I know that," Blake whispered. "But, I..."

"What's wrong, Blake?" Adam asked coolly. "We're always supposed to go for the kill. If you side with them, then you'll have to kill me too."

"Adam, please!"

The red-haired man just shook his head. "This is war, Blake." His voice almost sounded regretful as he stared at his former-partner. "Figure out which side you're on."

Without warning, the man crouched down and dashed towards them. Weiss flinched as the clashing of steel resounded across the pier. Looking at the other girl in surprise, she found Blake standing beside her, blocking the redhead's strike.

"If this is how the White Fang chooses to be," the black-haired girl whispered. "Then I want nothing to do with them."

"I see..." Adam leapt back and sheathed his sword within his ruined shotgun before lowering himself into an iaido stance. "Then you choose them."

"Adam..." Blake murmured, her blood running cold as she recognized his lowered posture. Before any of them could make another move, however, the roaring engine of a Bullhead drew their attention upwards.

"Blake! Weiss!" A familiar voice called out from behind them.

"Kyousuke?" Weiss exclaimed as he jogged towards them.

"You two okay?" he asked, staring at Adam warily. The redhead just stared straight back at him.

"As well as I can be given the situation," the heiress nodded.

Adam simply stared at the boy, recognizing him from two weeks prior. He was the same boy he'd found with Blake outside the cemetery. "I see..." He murmured before shaking his head. "It looks like we'll have to cut this short." Out of the clouds, the Bullhead descended and opened its side doors. Barely visible through the dark gloom, Anri stared at them with a curious expression on her face.

"Oh, no you don't!" Weiss snarled.

"Wait, stop!" Kyousuke shouted, grabbing her by the arm. He stared up at the woman in red. "We don't want to deal with that woman. If she's here, then that means..."

"She got past Master Farron...!" Blake's eyes widened. The boy nodded grimly. The three teens could only watch as Adam leapt into the Bullhead and turned to face them once more.

"You lucked out this time, Schnee!" he shouted over the roar of the engine. "Next time, we will end your wretched bloodline."

"Not if we stop you," Blake murmured as the Bullhead took off into the night sky. The three teens watched it go with varying emotions on their faces.

"Hey, Kyo!" The boy turned to see Yang jogging towards them with the others in tow. "Did that creep get away?"

"It was three on one!" Kirino snapped. "How could you let him escape?"

"Because reasons," Weiss said stiffly before turning towards the black-haired girl beside her. "So, Belladonna — if that's even your real name. I believe you have some explaining to do..."

"Weiss—" Kyousuke began.

"...is what I should probably say." The heiress continued. "But I've pretty much already figured everything out from your conversation with that man. You're not really Master Farron's servant, are you?"

"...No," Blake said softly.

"Yes, of course." Weiss nodded. "And you used to be a member of the White Fang, meaning you're a Faunus."

"...Yes."

"I see." She sighed. "Well, whatever."

Blake blinked in surprise. "E-Excuse me?"

"After all, you risked your life to help Kyousuke rescue me," the heiress said. "And as a Schnee, I cannot ignore that." Looking the other girl in the eye, Weiss smiled ever-so-slightly. "Thank you, Blake."

"I... You're welcome." Blake said, still too stunned to say much else.

Nodding, the heiress turned to the group as a whole. "All of you, as well. Thank you."

"Aaaaaww!" Yang cooed with a wicked smirk. "Ice Queen! I knew you liked us!"

"A-As if!" Weiss huffed, crossing her arms and turning away from them. "Just for the record, this does not make us friends. Do you hear me?!"

"Aaaaand she's back." Ruby sighed, shaking her head with a bemused smile.

"Ah, Weiss-shi!" Saori cried out, a wide grin on her face. "I had no idea you were a tsundere! To think... a tsundere ojou-sama..." She shook her head and turned to the sole male of their group. "Kyousuke-shi, I wish you luck!"

The boy just chuckled in response, simply glad that everything was over. "Thanks, I guess." He frowned. "But, it looks like there's one last thing before I can call it a night."

"Master Farron!" Blake blurted out, her eyes widening in realization. Kyousuke nodded and began making his way towards his car; his comrades just a step behind him.


"Father!"

Svernare's head snapped up as his daughter's voice pierced through the ambient noise of the lobby.

"Weiss!" he cried out upon seeing his daughter weaving her way through the police to get to him. He leapt to his feet and met her halfway, completely ignoring the reporter he'd been speaking to.

"Thank God you're safe," Svernare whispered as he swept her into his arms. He looked over her shoulder to see Kyousuke and a small group of teenagers approaching them.

"Thank you," he said, staring at the boy; thousands of different emotions simmering in his eyes. "Thank you so much, Kyousuke."

"I can hardly claim all the credit." The teen shrugged. "My friends deserve just as much recognition; if not more so."

"But you did organize us," Yang piped in from behind him. "And without your quick thinking with the KyoDar we never would have found her."

"You led us brilliantly, Kyousuke," Blake said with a small smile. "I honestly don't think this could have gone any better."

"I guess..." He sighed before shaking his head. "Excuse me, sir. But do you know where my instructor is?"

"I believe she is with the medics right now," Svernare said gesturing towards a row of stretchers being led outside to the waiting ambulance. Sitting not too far away from them was his teacher, speaking in murmured tones with a senior medic.

"Thank you," he said quietly. Kyousuke nodded at his friends before making his way over to her. Lightning noticed his approach and dismissed the medic.

"Are you alright?" she asked once he was in speaking distance.

"I could ask the same to you," he countered. "What happened?"

"I slipped up." Lightning grimaced. "And I paid for it."

"Sensei..."

"Never mind about that." She sighed before nodding at him. "It looks like you got her back safely. You did well tonight."

"Not well enough," Kyousuke shook his head, looking at the body bags being pushed out of the lobby. "...How many?"

"Don't do this to yourself," Lightning said sternly. "Don't take this 'time of peace' crap so literally. Our world is a dangerous place, Kyousuke. People die every day; whether it be to the Grimm or their fellow man. It's sad, but that's the truth of the world."

"Damn it..." He grit his teeth. She placed a hand on his shoulder.

"You did the best you could." The woman's expression softened. "I know you want to protect everyone, but that way of thinking is innately flawed. It's a path of self-destruction; you'll only end up hurting yourself. It's impossible to save everyone, Kyousuke. Just focus on keeping yourself and your loved ones alive."

'You're wrong, Sensei,' the boy thought. 'There is something I could have done...' He was broken out of his rapidly darkening thoughts by a tap on his back. Turning around he saw Weiss standing behind him, looking oddly flushed. "...Weiss?"

"I'll leave you two alone," Lightning shook her head and walked off.

"I... never got to thank you myself," the heiress said softly, fidgeting beneath his gaze.

"You already thanked us back on the docks," Kyousuke assured her but the white-haired girl just shook her head.

"Not just for the rescue," Weiss explained, looking up at him with soft eyes. "I know we haven't known each other for very long, but ever since I met you, I've been... happy."

"Weiss...?"

"When we were translating my mother's journals and practicing her song," she continued. "When we fought together and danced together... I felt happy. You were right. I'm not alone. Not anymore."

"I'm glad you feel that way." Kyousuke smiled, only to gasp in shock as Weiss grabbed him by his necktie and forced him downward. Any protest died on his tongue as he felt their lips connect.

He could only stand in shock for several moments until she pulled away. "Thank you," she whispered. "For everything."

"I- W-Wha..."

"Oi, Ice Queen!" A familiar voice roared. "What the hell do you think you're doing?!"

"Simply showing my appreciation to my savior, Honey Badger," Weiss countered, flipping her hair over her shoulder as Yang stormed over to them, her face livid. Blake followed her at a much more sedate pace.

"That sure as hell wasn't just appreciation!" The blonde snapped.

"That did seem quite inappropriate considering the situation," Blake spoke up.

"Hmph, think what you will," the heiress said haughtily.

"Damn it!" Yang snarled. "I'm not losing to you, Ice Queen!"

Without warning, she grabbed Kyousuke by the lapels and shoved her tongue in his mouth. "Yang!" Blake squeaked.

"Now that was inappropriate!" Weiss snapped; dragging the blonde off of the dazed boy. "Ruby, control your brutish sister!"

"She's over talking to the reporters," Yang said; wiping a trail of saliva from her mouth with a small smirk.

"Wait, what?" Kyousuke demanded; finally snapping out of his daze.

"She, Kirino and Saori are talking about the events that took place tonight," Blake explained. "Several different news stations seemed very interested in your exploits."

"By this time tomorrow, the whole city will probably know what happened," Yang said.

"With our company involved?" Weiss raised an eyebrow. "I wouldn't be surprised if the whole world knows who you are tomorrow."

"...Shit," Kyousuke's face rapidly paled. It seemed he could kiss any sense of normalcy goodbye for the foreseeable future.

"You okay, Kyo?"

"No. No, I'm not." The boy sighed. "But when has my opinion ever mattered?" He rubbed the bridge of his nose as a wave of exhaustion washed over him. "We'll talk about this later." Kyousuke looked at Weiss and Yang meaningfully. "But right now, all I want to do is go to sleep."

The teen could sleep for days on end if how his body felt was any indication. Too much had happened tonight and his mind was a jumbled mess. He could sort out these feelings and thoughts later.

One more week till Beacon.


Adam snarled to himself as he paced through their hideout; his hand twitching towards his katana every few seconds. "Ara, ara..." Anri simpered from her lounging position atop a large crate. "So agitated, Adam. Care to share?"

"Why do you think?" The red-haired man snapped. "Everything that could have gone wrong tonight, did go wrong. Those damn kids knew we would be there. They were ready for us."

"I'll admit, I wasn't expecting to run into Claire-chan tonight." The vixen smiled coyly, leaping down from her perch and striding over to him. "But that just made things so much more interesting."

"For you, maybe," Adam growled. "I don't understand why you didn't end her. You had the perfect opportunity if what the men who escaped say is true."

"Hmm? Me? Kill Claire-chan?" The woman raised an eyebrow. "I don't want to kill her. I mean, what would I do with myself if I didn't have someone like Claire-chan around? It's always so hard to make her crack, but when she does... It's glorious. Addicting, even. And one day, she won't just crack. She will break. And I will be there to witness it."

"Pah!" he spat. "Even so, we still missed our single biggest opportunity to end their bloodline."

"There will always be chances in the future," Anri said soothingly. "Especially given our special little friend on the inside."

"I don't trust her." The man scowled darkly. "I would never trust a Schnee, let alone one that would sell out her own kin."

"Be that as it may," the vixen said, laying a hand against his cheek. "You will continue to follow instructions. You remember what Cinder-chan said, right?"

"You still haven't told me just what you two are planning," Adam frowned.

"In due time," Anri assured him. "But for now…"

"I know," he grunted. "I'll follow orders. But that doesn't mean I have to like it or our little 'friend'."

"Winter Schnee may be incompetent, but that's the price we pay for having such an easily manipulated pawn," she said with a fox-like grin. "Try and tough it out for me. Won't you, sweetheart?"

Adam just made a small grunting noise before nodding and walking away. Anri shook her head in bemusement before turning her gaze up towards the moon high in the sky.

''It seems you were right, Cinder-chan.' She thought with a wry smile. 'The boy does merit further observation. I'll be watching your progress with bated breath, Kyousuke-kun.' The black-haired woman gazed down at the dagger in her lap and giggled to herself, her tail swishing back and forth in barely suppressed glee.

"Who knows? You might even prove to be more fun than Claire-chan!" Anri grinned. "Until we meet again, Kyousuke-kun."

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