Kyousuke was silent as he lay stretched out on his bed, staring at the ceiling above him. All around him, he could hear his housemates going through their daily rituals. The boy had somehow (miraculously) managed to get through last night's incident relatively unscathed.
He said 'relatively' because although he and Blake had come to no bodily harm — which was always a possibility whenever Yang or Kirino were involved — their already low trust in him regarding such situations had been shot to hell, with them demanding that he sleep with his door open that night. Meekly, he had agreed, bringing an end to the interrogation and allowing Blake to take her leave with little more than a quiet promise to him that she would keep in touch.
Blake Belladonna. Just thinking about her caused a wave of anxiety to wash over him. The Faunus girl had certainly left him with some serious baggage. Svernare's birthday was in less than two weeks, after all.
In less than two weeks time, he would be getting caught up in something way over his head — again. And this time, it wasn't just a handful of friends that would be getting involved; oh, no. This time, his entire damn family would be there.
The boy held absolutely no illusions about their chances. Not as he was now…
"Kyousuke?" Weiss' voice broke him out of his darkening thoughts. "Your mother says brunch is ready."
The black-haired teen glanced up to see her standing in the doorway, brushing her hair. "She's home?" he asked in surprise.
"Apparently she got back early this morning." The girl shrugged. "She looked a bit tired, but still seemed like her usual, chipper self."
"Yeah" Kyousuke sighed, sliding off the mattress. "Mom's always up late, so she can power through the day after an all-nighter like it's nothing."
The teen brushed passed her and closed the door. Weiss nodded at him and replaced the hairbrush in the bathroom before following the boy downstairs, where several voices could be heard murmuring in low tones. Upon entering the dining room, Kyousuke was unsurprised to see Yang half-asleep at the table. Despite her near boundless spunk and energy, his childhood friend had never been much of a morning person.
From her seat next to the disheveled blonde, Ruby smiled at him for a few moments before resuming her devouring of pancakes with great gusto, much to the disgust of Kirino. His little sister looked slightly green as she watched the redhead inhaling what was essentially a mountain of sugar. As they took their seats, Kyousuke shook his head in bemusement.
"Morning, all," he said quietly, receiving little more than a brief glance from Kirino and a lifeless grunt from Yang.
"Gwwwd mowwnn!" Ruby somehow managed through a mouthful of disgustingly sweet pancakes. Honestly. How she wasn't diabetic by now, he had no idea.
"Ugh! Ruby that was abhorrent!" Weiss gave the redhead a look of disgust before turning away with a grimace. "The least you could do is cover your mouth!"
"Chew and swallow?" Kyousuke suggested wryly. The girl did so with a sheepish grin.
"Ah, Kyousuke," his mother said as she entered the room with another platter of pancakes. "The girls tell me you had quite the... adventure last night."
"Whatever they told you, I assure you that it's deeply exaggerated," he replied before giving her a concerned once-over. "You alright, Mom?"
"I've been better." Yoshino gave him a tired smile. "I assume you realize that the company is in a bit of a pickle?"
"That's putting it rather mildly, Professor," Weiss said with a frown, crossing her arms. "How is my father handling it?"
Unnoticed by the others sitting at the table, Kyousuke flinched at the mention of the company president. Silently biting his tongue, he stared down at the small pile of pancakes in front of him.
"He's calmer than he was yesterday," the brunette woman replied with a small sigh. "But I should probably get back to headquarters after this; just in case he decides to take his frustration out on some poor employee."
"Would you mind terribly if I went with you?" the heiress asked hopefully. "I'd like to speak to him in person."
"Sure. I'm sure he'd enjoy a visit," Yoshino nodded, taking a sip of coffee. "But enough of that. What has everyone else got planned for today?"
"I've got a photo shoot with Ayase at the park," Kirino said simply.
"We've gotta check in with Dad," Ruby piped in, while Yang just let out another low groan. "He's expecting a full, personal report from me. And since he doesn't trust Yang by herself, she's supposed to come with me."
The rest of the room's occupants looked at her strangely. "Can't you just do that over a scroll?" Weiss questioned, raising an eyebrow at her.
"He's... different," Yang sighed, properly joining the conversation at last. "Yes... different. Let's just leave it at that."
"I see," Yoshino hid a smile behind her mug. "I suppose that leaves you as the odd man out, Kyousuke. I certainly hope you don't plan to spend the day lazing about." Her eyes were mostly teasing, but there was still a hint of motherly reproachfulness in her tone. However, when the boy didn't even look up, her brows furrowed. "Sweetheart?"
"Hm?" Kyousuke jumped slightly and glanced up to see his housemates staring at him strangely. "Oh, I'm sorry. What were we talking about?"
"Did you have any plans today?" his mother asked gently.
"You wanna come see our dad with us?" Ruby offered. "He'd be happy to see you again. He's always liked you."
"Ha!" Yang scoffed. "Like him? Dad acts like Kyo's the son he never had. He's always going on about how we should be more like him; more 'level-headed' or whatever it is he always spouts."
"Perhaps you'd like to see my father with me?" Weiss asked, causing Ruby to send her an annoyed glare. "I'd like to inform him about our translation of my mother's journals. And I'm sure he'd like to see us together more often."
Kirino rolled her eyes and sent him a hard glare. "Just stay away from the park. I don't want my friends to get the wrong idea."
"Oh, give it a rest, Washboard," Yang scoffed.
"First of all, I'm not flat, Blondie." The younger girl's eyes narrowed. "And secondly, your sister is even smaller than I am. Wouldn't that same brusque logic apply to her?"
"That just adds to her innocent charm!" The blonde grinned. "And besides, everyone is flat compared to moi."
"Even Ice Queen?"
"Oh, don't even start!"
"Will you stop calling me that?" Weiss snapped, throwing both of them a venomous glare. "And stop talking about my breasts!"
Yoshino watched them all; her eyes growing more concerned the longer Kyousuke remained silent. "Sweetie, are you okay?"
"I'm fine," the teen said with a tired sigh, running a hand through his hair. "It's just… I've been thinking." He paused for a moment and scratched at his recently-healed scar absentmindedly. "Maybe it's time I talked to Sensei and resumed my training."
Immediately, the ambient conversation in the room ceased. Weiss looked around in confusion as the others turned to stare at him in shock. "Sensei? Who's that?" No one answered. "Hello?"
"E-Eh?" Ruby blinked at him. "But I thought you had a falling-out with your teacher?"
"I did," he admitted with a deep grimace. "And it's not going to be easy talking to her after all this time."
"Kyousuke," Yoshino asked, worry evident on her face. "I'm not saying I'm against it, but where's this coming from? It's been nearly three years since you even mentioned your training and now you're suddenly deciding to pick it back up?"
"I know," Kyousuke muttered. "It's just… I've been doing some thinking recently." He let out a sigh and turned to stare out the window. "So much has happened in the last few weeks, whether I like it or not. Everything is changing… And I'm just starting to realize how utterly unprepared I am."
'Woefully so.' The teen grimaced slightly. 'Just how the hell am I going to pull this off?'
Slowly, his fingers balled into a tight fist. 'How am I supposed to protect Svernare…? Weiss… Mom… Everyone?'
The simple answer was he couldn't. Not like this. Frankly, he would need all the help he could get. And if that meant going to his old teacher, getting on his hands and knees and begging her to train him, then dammit! That's what he would do it.
Yang, who had remained largely silent after he'd first stated his intentions, finally spoke up. "Kyo…" she whispered breathlessly. "Y-You're really going to do this?"
"I'm sorry," Weiss interrupted, a frown on her face. "But what exactly are we talking about?"
"My brother used to be the apprentice of a rather well-known Huntress," Kirino said, staring at him with an odd look on her face. "But he stopped about three years ago and never went back."
"Truly?" The white-haired girl raised an eyebrow. "I suppose you did tell me that you were out of practice after our bout with the Giant Armor…"
"Yeah," Kyousuke nodded with a small frown. "I'm going to go to her house after this and ask her to train me again."
"Doesn't she live, like, on the other side of town?" Kirino asked.
"Yes," he muttered. "South of the agricultural district; on the shores of Lake Bresha, near the outskirts of the city. There used to be a monorail that went in that direction, but they shut it down a few years ago."
"Then it's a good thing I came home this morning." Yoshino smiled playfully, prompting the boy to turn to her curiously. "Tempest finally came back from the shop."
"Seriously?" Kyousuke perked up. Yang did likewise, a wide grin forming on her face. "No!" He immediately snapped upon catching sight of the look. "You're the one that crashed it in the first place. My dad grounded me for a month because of you!"
"Excuse me," Weiss broke in, raising a hand to cut off the sharp retort forming on Kyousuke's tongue. "But, what exactly are we talking about?"
"His car," Yoshino explained, reaching into her coat pocket and tossing Kyousuke a set of keys. "The SCHN-33 TEMPEST: the latest in the Schnee Company's line of high-performance vehicles."
"It was an early graduation gift," the teen said, sending a dark glare at Yang, who simply started whistling innocently. "But I only got to drive it a handful of times before someone asked to try it out and ended up crashing it."
"I thought it would be the same as driving a motorcycle," the blonde said defensively.
"Except it's nothing like a motorcycle," Kyousuke deadpanned. Yoshino chuckled for a moment before checking her watch.
"Well, while I'd certainly love to watch this play out, I'm afraid I should get going." The woman wiped her mouth before standing. "Just leave the dishes in the sink. I'll take care of them when I get home. Weiss, are you ready to go?"
"Yes, Professor." The white-haired girl stood with a small nod.
"I should probably get going, too," Kyousuke muttered. "I don't want to drag it out any longer than necessary. Does anyone want a ride before I leave?"
"Me!" Yang immediately exclaimed while Ruby just nodded with a small smile.
"Alright," the black-haired teen nodded in return before glancing at Kirino, who was still staring at him with a strange look on her face. There was probably no point in asking, but he supposed he might as well. "What about you?"
Much to his surprise, however, she nodded. "...fine."
"Well, then," Yoshino smiled and kissed each of her children on the cheek. "I'll try to be back in time for dinner. Stay safe." With that — and a quiet goodbye from Weiss — the two took their leave.
Kyousuke just nodded to himself before standing as well. "Alright, let's go."
On a small bench situated on the corner of Farbe Street sat a stunningly beautiful girl. Her long hair was the color of the night sky and her eyes were shimmering pools of violet. Her skin was a creamy white that provided a striking contrast with her dark hair.
And although her choice in clothing was rather conservative in nature, they did little to disguise the girl's feminine curves and somehow managed to make her look both provocative and prudish at the same time. Needless to say, she found herself the center of quite a bit of attention.
"Hey, there," a smooth, male voice called out as the raven-haired girl was checking her scroll. Blinking slightly, she glanced up to see an admittedly handsome young man standing before her.
"Oh, hello," the girl said with a polite smile.
"What's a beautiful girl like you doing sitting all by herself?" the man asked with a charming smile.
"I'm actually just waiting for a friend of mine." She emphasized this by taking a glance down the street. But alas, her friend was nowhere in sight. There was some rather peculiar music coming from somewhere down the street, though.
"I see." He nodded. "I hope I'm not being too forward when I ask this, but how would you feel about stopping by the Moonbucks just around the corner with me while you wait?"
"I'm sorry," the girl said with a slightly strained smile. "But my friend should be arriving any moment. We're in a bit of a hurry, you see. We've got a shoot to get to."
'Oh, Kirino, please get here soon,' she thought tiredly to herself. To her annoyance, the music was starting to get louder.
"A model?" The man crowed. "I should have guessed! What company do you work for? Perhaps I have heard of you."
"Oh, I'm just a small-time model." The girl grit her teeth slightly. "I doubt you've heard of me."
'Calm down,' she chided herself. 'Remember your training.'
A proper Huntress did not clock random people in the face, regardless of how much they deserved it… But this man was certainly trying her patience. And that ridiculous music was not helping!
"Mayhaps you can give me your name, fair lady?" He smiled, further infuriating the girl before him. "I could spread the word that I...met… such a… gorgeous..." The man grit his teeth, turning to glare down the street furiously. "Where is that god-awful music coming from?! It's completely ruining the atmosphere!"
As though waiting for these very words, a sleek midnight-blue car suddenly came hurtling around the corner; its radio speakers loudly blasting a Mexican folk song. The two of them watched in shock as the car skid to a stop right in front of them, its only form of identification being a license plate reading in bold, blocky letters: T-E-M-P-E-S-T.
The two stared in stunned silence as the car roof slid open, revealing a group of four people sitting within. Immediately, the girl's attention was caught by the driver, who was a comely black-haired boy and was currently being strangled by...
Said girl froze mid-action as she turned to face the speaker. "A-Ayase!" Kirino squeaked, though her voice could barely be heard over the blaring music. "W-What a surprise!"
"B-But you said this is… where you were... meeting," the boy in the driver's seat coughed, rubbing his abused throat gingerly. Kirino turned to glare at him murderously.
"I told you to drop me off a few blocks away!" She hissed. "Especially with this absurd music your radio plays!"
"Blame dad for that!" he cried out, wildly gesturing at the radio in question. "He's the one who refused to let me get it repaired! Teach me a lesson my ass..."
"What are you talking about?" the gorgeous blonde in the passenger seat exclaimed, a wide grin on her lovely face. "This song is awesome!"
"It is kinda catchy," a cute, young redhead sitting next to Kirino said with a sagely nod.
"Ugh!" Kirino covered her face, humiliation emanating from every pore. "Never mind. Just get out of here!" The girl hopped out of the car and sent one last glare at the driver before stomping over to Ayase and the stunned man next to her.
"K-Kirino…?" the black-haired girl stammered, watching as the blue convertible sped off down the street, the Mexican folk song slowly receding into the distance along with it.
"Sorry you had to see that, Ayase," Kirino said with a sheepish smile.
"Ah!" she exclaimed, waving her arms frantically. "It's fine!"
The brown-haired girl nodded before turning to the man, who was still staring at them with a dumbfounded expression on his face. "...the hell are you?"
"O-Oh, well, I'm—"
"Never mind; I don't care," Kirino sighed, shaking her head. "Let's go, Ayase."
"R-Right!" The black-haired girl smiled 'politely' at the man. "Sorry, we've got to go!" Kirino turned to go, prompting the man to open his mouth to issue a hot retort.
Only to freeze as Ayase's eyes suddenly lost all sense of life as she stared the man down. He could feel chills riding down his spine as she gave him a look that clearly said, 'Follow us and you're dead.'
"Ayase! Are you coming?"
"I'll be right there!" The man could only watch in shock as she suddenly began smiling again as though nothing had happened. Thankfully, she trotted off without another word and the two gorgeous girls disappeared into the bustling streets of Vale.
"Honestly," Kyousuke muttered to himself, rubbing his throat as he rounded another corner. The radio was still playing that ridiculous folk song… Los Dos Laredos Acordeones or something like that.
It was the song Yang had been listening to when she crashed his car some months ago. And although the rest of his car had been repaired to its original condition, the radio was unable to play any song other than this one. Neither was it able to be turned off and the best he could do was lower the volume to slightly less ear-splitting levels. It was his father's idea of a moral lesson.
'Never let Yang drive it again,' Kyousuke thought grumpily to himself.
"I'm telling you, this song is godly!" said blonde exclaimed, bobbing her head in time with the music, her hair blowing wildly in the wind.
"So, that girl was one of Kirino's friends?" Ruby shouted over both the radio and the wind, her arms wrapped tightly around her cloak to keep it from billowing all over the place. "Her name was Ayase or something, right?"
"I wouldn't know!" Kyousuke replied in an equally loud voice. "I didn't even get a chance to see her. Too busy being strangled by my ogre-armed sister!"
"Too bad!" Yang said with a grin. After all, one gorgeous black-haired girl in Kyo's life was bad enough. There was no need to bring in more potential competition!
"Whatever you say, Yang," the boy said with a sigh as he pulled into the driveway of a medium-sized house. The sound of barking drifted over from inside the house as an older man poked his head out the door, obviously drawn out by the music still blaring from Tempest's radio.
"Hey, Dad!" Yang waved at the man energetically. "Kyo got his car back!"
"Turn it down!" the girls' father shouted back, a grimace forming on his face.
"I can't, sorry, sir!" Kyousuke replied loudly before turning to the girls hopping out of the car. "I gotta go. I don't want to disturb the neighbors any more than necessary."
"See you later!" Ruby waved as he quickly pulled out of the driveway and took off down the street once again. They stood staring after it until the sound of music finally died down before finally turning and making their way towards the house.
"Well, that was quite an entrance," Querv remarked, shaking his head with a small sigh. "How have you been, girls? I hope you haven't been giving the Kousakas trouble."
"No, sir!" Yang said with a grin. Their father stared at her for a moment before turning to his youngest.
"Actually, things have been going pretty well," the redhead reported with a smile. "We even made some new friends."
"I am not friends with Ice Queen," Yang muttered, crossing her arms with a small pout, prompting Ruby to elbow her sharply in the ribs. "Ow!"
"You did?" Querv blinked in surprise before a wide smile spread across his face. "That's good! I know how hard it is for you to talk to people, Ruby, so I was worried."
"I'm not that bad, Dad!" The girl protested. "Besides, the Kousakas are hardly strangers."
"I know, I know." Their father chuckled slightly before turning back towards the house. "Why don't we head inside? I just started making some cookies."
"Yes!" Ruby cheered. Querv smiled at her enthusiasm and opened the door, only for a small, brown blur to come barreling through, nearly tackling the girl to the ground in the process. "Ack!"
"Zwei!" the dark-haired man exclaimed. "That's enough! Down, boy!"
"Z-Zwei!" The red-haired girl managed through her giggles as the small Corgi began lapping at her face. "Haha! I missed you, too!"
"Aw, come here, little guy!" Yang grinned, grabbing the dog and peppering his head with kisses.
"Well, then," Querv said with a bemused smile. "Whenever you're ready, I'll be in the kitchen."
"Will do," the blonde replied as he went in ahead of them. "Now, who's a good boy? Huh? Who's a good boy?"
Ruby watched as Yang proceeded to rub Zwei on the belly, much to the dog's delight. She was silent for several moments before glancing down the street where Kyousuke had disappeared.
"Yeah?" The older sibling hummed, glancing up at her.
"Do you think Kyousuke's teacher will agree to train him again?" the redhead asked, a look of concern crossing her face. "They had a falling-out, right? What if she says no?"
Yang frowned slightly, taking a look down the street as well. "I… I don't know," she admitted. "She definitely won't be too happy to see him. Kyo told me that they had a huge argument when he quit three years ago. I wouldn't be too surprised if she's still feeling bitter about it. Hopefully, he comes home in one piece today."
"You don't mean that, do you?" Ruby asked, horrified. "Is his teacher really that scary?"
"Of course not," Yang said, causing her sister to sigh in relief. "I know for a fact that he's going to be missing a few extremities; maybe a finger or two at least."
"I'm being completely serious." The blonde shook her head with a small frown. "There are some people you just don't wanna piss off and Master Farron is at the top of that list."
"Wait." Ruby froze. "W-What did you just say?"
"That I was being serious?"
"No, after that."
"You don't want to piss off Master Farron?"
"That's it." The redhead stared at Yang in shock. "Big Bro's teacher is Master Farron; as in Master Claire Farron — the world-renowned Huntress?"
"Ah," Yang smiled sheepishly. "So, you know her?"
"Know her?" Ruby repeated incredulously. "Yang, she's one of — if not the — greatest Huntress of our era! Legend says that she single-handedly defeated an army's worth of Grimm during the crisis of '07!"
"Ah, I guess so," the blonde said with a small shrug. "I always just called her That-Scary-Lady-That-Kyo-Is-Always-Following."
"Y-You… called her…" The younger girl looked slightly woozy as she stared at her sister incredulously. "I-I don't…"
"Ruby?" Yang asked as the redhead fell over. She scratched her head slightly, staring down at the unconscious girl in confusion.
"What's her problem?"
Kyousuke was silent as he slowed his car into the driveway of his teacher's lakeside home. Immediately, he killed the engine, lest he draw her wrath with Tempest's insufferable radio. Letting out a nervous sigh, he took a moment to steel himself before popping open the door and stepping out of the car.
Looking up at the deceptively serene-looking building before him, he took a deep breath and made his way up the steps leading up to the porch. All too soon, he found himself standing in front of his teacher's door; one that, just three years ago, he'd been capable of opening without a second thought.
The off-white double doors had never seemed as ominous as they did in that moment. They seemed to tower over the boy, as though warning him the dangers that lay within.
'You can do this, Kyousuke,' the teen thought as he took a deep breath. Steeling himself once more, he raised his hand to knock...
"What are you doing here?" a cool voice said from behind him.
"Gah!" Kyousuke spun around to see a familiar pinked-haired woman leaning against the porch rails. "S-Sensei! Where did you come from?!"
"Humph," the woman scoffed. "I'm not your sensei anymore, kid. I heard you coming five miles away, what with that ridiculous music you listen to. Your inability to sense me flanking you was shameful."
As she spoke, Kyousuke took the opportunity to really look at her for the first time in three years. She had changed remarkably little. Physically, at least, she still looked exactly as he remembered. Her long, rose-colored hair still fell to her shoulders in waves and her pale, aqua eyes still glinted fiercely as she stared him down.
Perhaps the biggest change had been to her wardrobe. No longer did she dress like a soldier. Instead, she wore a simple, black leather vest and a pair of tastefully ripped, navy-blue jeans. Her preference in footwear still seemed to be combat boots, but the black boots she now wore seemed more fashionable than practical — something that would have boggled his mind three years ago.
"You've changed, Sensei," he remarked quietly.
"Don't call me that!" the woman snapped. "I'm not a Huntress anymore and I'm pretty damn sure I'm not your teacher either. You made sure I understood that the last time we met."
Despite having fully expected a cold welcome — or lack thereof — the teen still flinched. "I apologize... Lightning."
That was the name most people knew her by. It had been her codename during the crisis eight years ago and she greatly preferred it over her true name — in regards to those not close to her, that is.
He held no illusions about which category he belonged to at this point in time.
"The question still stands," Lightning grunted, pinning him in place with her icy glare. "Why are you here?"
"I-I came here to beg your forgiveness," Kyousuke said, bowing to her deeply. "I never meant for you to think that I was ungrateful for your training. It's just... I was going through a rough patch and I needed space."
"Ha!" The pinked-haired woman scoffed. "It took you three years to figure that out and you come here trying to make amends? I don't buy it. You forget that I know you, brat. You came here for a reason. Now spit it out. I have company and I can't spend all day babysitting you."
The black-haired teen flinched at his motives being sniffed out so easily. "I-I came—" Kyousuke paused and took a deep breath. "I came to ask you to train me again."
The silence that followed was palpable. Kyousuke, who was still dipped forward in a deep bow, had no idea how she was reacting. The silence stretched on for what seemed like an eternity, much to the teen's distress. Then, it was finally broken in a way the boy had not been expecting. Lightning slowly began to chuckle as she stared at the boy in front of her. Kyousuke smiled weakly as the chuckle turned into a full-blown laugh.
"Ha!" The former-Huntress scoffed, all humor draining from her face. "You have some nerve, brat. Showing up here after three years of silence and asking me to take you back as if nothing had happened."
"I... I know that," the boy whispered, a grimace forming on his face.
"Then you know what my answer is," Lightning said coolly. "Go home. And don't come back here again."
The woman ignored his attempts at reasoning with her, instead brushing past him and towards the door. Feeling a sense of desperation wash over him, Kyousuke reached out to grab her hand. "Wait, Sensei!"
Then — faster than he could have possibly reacted — Lightning grabbed his wrist and twisted it to near-breaking point. Spinning around, she viciously punched him in the stomach, her fist completely shrouded with Dust. Feeling his entire body locking up, the teen was sent stumbling backwards, but his former teacher refused to let up on him. With one last, Dust-infused kick to the chest, she sent the teen flying off the porch and onto the sandy beach several yards below.
Kyousuke landed hard on his back, completely breathless. He vaguely registered the sound of his teacher landing next to him but it was only when she grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and lifted him until they were eye-to-eye did he finally regain his senses.
"I won't repeat myself," the woman whispered harshly. "Get out of my sight."
And with that, she threw him back roughly into the sand. Kyousuke watched in numb silence as she leapt back onto the porch and entered the house, slamming the door as she did so. Flinching at the noise, Kyousuke lay there staring up at the clouds, drifting through the skies without a care in the world. But the longer he stared at the sky above, the more he felt feelings of humiliation and frustration begin to seep out through every pore.
Gritting his teeth, the teen shakily stood. He reached back, drew Blazefire Saber from its holster and with an enraged snarl, began tearing into a nearby palm tree. Unaware of everything around him, he hacked and slashed at the unsuspecting tree in blind fury.
'Damn it...' He had seen this coming, and yet he'd still held hope.
'Damn it...!' Hope that maybe he would be able to pull through. That it wouldn't be like last time...
'Damn it!' That people wouldn't have to die because he was too goddamn weak.
"DAMN IT!" he roared slashing the tree clean in half. The tree fell over, throwing a cloud of sand into the air.
Kyousuke stood, breathing heavily as the dust settled around him. He was broken out of his own misery by the sound of his scroll letting off a series of noises. With a deep sigh, the teen flopped down onto the newly created stump and pulled the device out.
"Kyousuke, are you there?"
Despite his rapidly deteriorating mood, the boy managed to blink in surprise. "Blake?" There was no video feed, but he could recognize that voice anywhere.
"Yes, it's me. Sorry there's no video, but I'd rather be safe than sorry in regards to the White Fang. I called because I wanted to know what you're doing to prepare for what's to come." The girl paused for a moment and when she continued, there was a clear tone of confusion in her voice. "Are those waves I hear in the background?"
"Yeah," Kyousuke sighed, glancing at the lake blearily. "I tried to get my old teacher to help train me again, but... Let's just say I came out of it worse than how I went in."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that I realized that we're fucked!" The boy snarled, a feeling of bitter hopelessness settling into the pit his stomach. Rubbing the scar on his face, Kyousuke let out a deep, shuddering sigh. "I-I can't do this, Blake," he whispered, his voice cracking slightly. "I'm just not strong enough. People are going to die and there's not a damn thing I can do about it!"
"I haven't done any serious training in three years — and it shows," he continued. "My teacher kicked my ass without even trying. She took me down with three moves. Three! If she had wanted to kill me, I would be dead right now. How the hell am I supposed to stand against the White Fang? How the hell am I supposed to protect everyone?!"
"Kyousuke!" The boy actually flinched at the volume of her voice. "Listen to me. We can do this. You can do this."
"Please, just trust me." There was a small hint of warmth in her voice as she said this. "You gave me your trust before. And now I'm giving you mine. I saw what you're capable of back in that alley. You can do this. We can do this. I know we can."
"Blake..." Kyousuke was left utterly speechless. There was a series of muffled noises in the background on Blake's end that prompted the girl to curse.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I've got to cut this short. Are you going to be free tomorrow? Maybe I could meet up with you." The boy did not reply right away. "Hello?"
"No, I'm not," Kyousuke said, a determined glare forming on his face.
"I see. Well, we'll figure something out. Just remember what I said. I believe in you." And with that, she ended communication.
"Well, that was certainly cute," a cool voice said from behind him.
The teen stiffened for a moment but to his credit, did not jump in shock. "Sen— Lightning." He corrected himself. "I thought you had company?"
"They can wait for a few more minutes," the woman said lowly. "I thought I told you to leave. Instead, I find you destroying public land — with the very blade I entrusted to you. I'm not sure if you're just thick or if you're actively trying to disrespect me."
"That was never my intention," Kyousuke replied, turning to look her in the eye. "And I can't leave. Not until I get you to agree."
It seemed that she'd taken the opportunity to change out of her civilian clothes while she was inside. She now wore a white flak jacket over a black, sleeveless turtleneck. She wore no leggings and instead had a brown miniskirt and matching boots. On her left shoulder was a green pauldron with yellow stripes — denoting her former rank of sergeant before resigning from the military. And draped across her right shoulder was a bright red cloak, partially concealing her gunblade, Overture, holstered at her waist.
"I already told you," Lightning snapped, a cold glare on her face. "I'm retired. I don't babysit anymore."
"Then it seems I'm going to be here awhile," the boy replied, glaring right back at her.
"Is that so?" the woman asked coldly. Kyousuke stiffened as her fingers brushed against Overture's hilt. "Then perhaps I should teach you? A lesson on why not to cross me."
"Sen— Lightning," the teen said, lowering his body into a defensive posture as the former-Huntress slowly slid her weapon out of its holster. Kyousuke placed his hand on Blazefire Saber's hilt and took a deep, calming breath…
Suddenly — like the electrical phenomenon she was named for — his teacher streaked across the beach, crossing the distance between them in less than a second and burying the hilt of her white-gold gunblade into his stomach. Kyousuke's eyes bulged as pain shot through his entire body. Lurching forward, he fell to his knees, dry heaving for several moments.
"Pathetic," Lightning spat, staring down at him with cold eyes. Gritting his teeth, the boy drew his blade and stood on shaky legs. Glaring at her heatedly, he leveled his weapon into a defensive position and waited. "Are you just going to stand there all day?" the woman asked, scowling. "The first rule of combat is—"
Before she could finish her sentence, Kyousuke shot forward. "—always control the flow of battle." He said through grit teeth as she effortlessly parried his strike. "I know."
"Wrong," she snapped, flicking her wrist and ripping the teen's blade out of his hand. Then, with a savage kick, she sent him flying backward. "You must be the flow."
'The flow isn't something you can just read,' His teacher's voice from a lesson long past echoed through Kyousuke's head as he picked himself up, spitting out clumps of sand as he did so. 'You must become the flow.'
"You've gotten so… weak," Lightning said quietly as she stared down at him, her face emotionless. Slowly, she reached down and picked up his fallen gunblade. She looked it over, an unreadable look on her face, before tossing it to the ground before him. "You're not cut out for this. Not anymore." She shook her head with a sigh. "Just go home."
"I…" he said through grit teeth.
"What was that?"
"Just spit it out!"
"I CAN'T!" Kyousuke snarled, glaring at her fiercely. "I can't give up. Not now!"
"Then tell me why!" Lightning snapped, giving him a sharp glare of her own.
"Because it's exactly like you said!" the teen roared. "I'm so goddamn weak!" Kyousuke clenched his fist until he began to draw blood. "Three years ago, my best friend was killed because of me. I was right there, but I couldn't do a damn thing!"
The woman was silent as she watched her ex-pupil's body begin to shudder beneath the weight of three years-worth of repressed emotions. "For three years, I thought that if I gave up that life, then no one would have to get hurt again... because of me."
Kyousuke snarled as he violently punched the ground beneath him. "But everything is falling apart again, even though I've been struggling all this time to just be normal."
He turned to look at her through angry, red eyes. "The people I care about are going to get hurt, just like before; they're going to die because I'm too pathetic to do anything. Something like this... You… You wouldn't understand."
Even before he finished his sentence, Kyousuke knew that had been the wrong thing to say. He saw her entire body stiffen and watched with sullen eyes as she stormed towards him. But nothing could have prepared him for what she did.
It was all he could do not to gape in shock as she knelt down and pulled him into an embrace. "I do understand," she said softly into his hair. "I know what it's like. To feel powerless when someone you love needs you... and being unable to do anything about it."
She pulled back and raised her hand to gently trace the scar on his face. "But you're wrong. We both were," the woman continued. "You're not weak... You proved that just now."
"S-Sensei…" Lightning sighed at his emotional distress and just stroked his hair in an attempt to calm him. They were silent for several moments before she spoke again.
"That's enough, Kyousuke," the pink-haired woman said quietly as she stood and began brushing the sand off her clothes. "Compose yourself. You should head home now."
"Head home," Lightning repeated, turning around and striding back towards her house. "Get a good night's sleep. I want you here at 0600 hours." She paused and turned to send a sharp glare at his shocked visage. "And remember; I don't tolerate tardiness."
"Y-Yes!" Kyousuke exclaimed, immediately standing at attention.
"Yes, Sensei!" Shaking her head with a bemused sigh, Lightning entered the house and gently closed the door behind her. Kyousuke just took a moment to let the reality of what had just happened sink in. He started chuckling for a few moments. It soon blossomed into a full belly laugh as he fell back onto the sand once again, grinning up at the sky. He had done it. No longer was he plagued by fear and doubts. Oh, he knew that it was far too soon to be celebrating, but for the first time since this whole mess started...
He felt hope.
Lightning sighed, the barest hint of a smile gracing her face as she gently closed the door behind her.
"Well, now." A male voice suddenly spoke up from her couch on the far side of the room. "I'd say that went rather well, wouldn't you agree?" Immediately, the soft expression on the woman's face fell apart as she sent a dark glare at the grey-haired man calmly sitting in her house; sipping his coffee as though his presence here was an everyday occurrence.
"I should have known you would be involved in this somehow, Ozpin." The pink-haired woman grunted, crossing her arms. "I thought something was fishy when you showed up here out of the blue this afternoon. You never do anything without a reason."
The Headmaster just chuckled and took another sip of his coffee. "I assure you that I have no idea what you mean, Miss Farron," he said with a smile. "Is it truly so hard to believe that I simply wished to visit an old friend and colleague?"
"Yes." Lightning snorted. "It's all just too convenient. You know that I've never cared for your scheming, regardless of how noble your goals may be."
"Be that as it may." The man conceded with yet another smile, sipping his coffee once last time before placing the mug on the table before him. He looked up at her, an expectant gleam in his eyes. "However... I do seem to recall speaking to you a few weeks prior."
"Oh, I recall," she droned, her arms still crossed as she leaned against the wall.
"The offer still stands," Ozpin said, leaning forward on his cane. "Have you given it any consideration?"
"Like I said; it's all just too damn convenient." The former-Huntress frowned at him deeply. "Talk to me straight, Ozpin. You knew he would come seeking my help eventually, didn't you?"
"I knew from the moment I saw your gunblade in his hands." The man said seriously, folding his hands in front of his mouth. "The boy is lost, Claire — in need of guidance. I have pointed him in the right direction, but I'm afraid only you can lead him there."
The two locked gazes for several moments. The pink-haired woman probed his eyes intently, trying to find his angle. Finally, after several minutes of this, she sighed. "I'll play your little game for now, Ozpin," Lightning said grudgingly. "But only because our interests align."
"That's all I ask." Ozpin chuckled before standing and holding out his hand with a wide, beaming smile on his face. "Well then, let me be the first to welcome you as the newest member of Beacon's teaching staff, Professor Farron."