They had been five when they first arrived at Vale, each with their own specialties. One had been removed from the equation after proving himself incapable. He was the least of the five and his lack would not reduce the rest of their team's effectiveness.
The fools at Vale had gotten soft since the last incursion. They believed that the grimm wouldn't return so soon after being pushed back. They also had become too dependent on their technology. Listening in to the calls had been simple for one of his underlings. Unlike the other two he had been a member of White Fang. He had eagerly accepted what they offered him when he was recruited. Now the other two were freshly fed and ready to use their barrowed semblances in the coming gambit. It was unfortunate that the huntsman hadn't survived, but it was an acceptable loss.
He had expected the thorough check of the area, so he hadn't risked a trap that would warn them they were here. Instead he sent them in armed with a single dust crystal each. Its composition was so fragile that it hadn't been discovered by anyone else. The mining processes that was most commonly used destroyed them.
All it took was a simple toss. They disintegrated where they landed and became powder, light as talcum and air born. From there it would unfold with only a few words.
Coco and Fox finished the sweep of the building they were going to be using, and then settled until their friends' arrival. There were not enough of them to thoroughly protect the area. At least one team should be on the inside, and a roving team to cover beyond them, but given their limited resources she agreed with Jaune's plan.
Only seconds after giving Jaune the all clear she heard a sound similar to a small fragile glass breaking. Instantly alerted she turned ready for a possible attack. Her gatling gun had been out and ready already, so swung with her. Beside her Fox had also started preparing for the unknown.
Neither of them had radioed in the sound. It had been slight and unlikely to be anything. By the time they saw the orange dust float towards them it was already too late. All she could do was stand and wait. She screamed at every muscle to move, and none of them did, not even her eyes. She felt a presence approach. Her aura was so prickly she practically wanted to scratch her skin raw
"Your team was humiliated by Jaune," she heard whispered in her ear. She had never thought that before. She was confident both in herself and her team. There were none better and she knew it. It didn't matter what anyone else thought. They would continue fighting and kicking ass and let the results speak for themselves.
With those words she no longer could think that. Her team had been besmirched in the worse way possible. A second rate general directed a third rate team in their place because of a biased perception, or outright favoritism. It wasn't about the glory, it was about the respect they were deserved.
They had to pay.
Coco liked to taunt. It was her strongest weakness, but when you were assured victory rubbing it in their faces was acceptable. She let Jaune know why he had to die, but kept it as cool as a cucumber. Let's see if he's as good as he thinks he is, she thought to herself. She began firing off an unending stream of bullets meant to kill as Fox disappeared to finish the job.
Nora was relaxed, not expecting anything to come of all this. Jaune was obviously overreacting. What were the odds of someone knowing there was a meeting happening? A half hour ago it hadn't even been planned. Ren was being a bit too serious though, so she started talking and bouncing ideas off of him.
She started with how to help Ruby and Weiss. Ren didn't really like how she meddled. That only made him a better sounding board. He was both objective and cautious to be sure that whatever advice he gave wasn't going to backlash.
When that didn't yield any results she moved on to Yang and her two love interests. That one was a bit more interesting with the new developments in Neptune's health. There was no looking slick and cool with the scars he was going to be left with. He wasn't going to take it well and it was a fifty-fifty which way he was going to fall, but he would fall.
"Yeah Re..." Her nose suddenly got a small tickle that made her want to sneeze, but it wouldn't come out. Nothing would come out; not even the last letter of Ren's name. Every muscle, every hair as far as she could tell, had stopped moving. She wasn't sure which was worse: the need to sneeze, or the inability to talk. She was fairly sure she was going to go insane from either.
The sound of gatling fire and an urgent call from Jaune made her want to move, and after hearing "Kill the traitors" whispered in her ear she could. Both her and Ren answered their leader's call and left knowing full well that CFVY had turned on them. Nora cracked a smile. This was going to be a fun fight! Grimm were okay, but huntsmen would be a much better challenge, especially now that the training wheels were off!
His underlings returned to him only moments before their semblances ran out. They had lasted long enough. The limited time of their use had necessitated hiding at first. When the time came they used them to completely mask their presence. Delivery of the preplanned messages, limited to a single sentence by the properties of the dust they used, was simple with those advantages.
Watching from his perch he saw one fly in the ointment approach; an unexpected player. "Angie" they had called her. She shouldn't have been there for the meeting yet. It didn't matter though; who won or lost was of no interest. Only that they fought.
"RWBY, abort. I don't know what has happened but your bullhead is a sitting target for Coco," Jaune's voice yelled over the coms. "Fox, what's going on over there? Everyone else, converge on Coco's location under maximum cover."
"Roger that," Their pilot said as the team felt their plane shift off its preplanned route.
Ruby was the first to react. "No, they're going to need us if something's wrong! We need to get there faster not turn around."
"Sorry ma'am, orders from the headmaster. If something went wrong I am to immediately leave the area with you."
Ruby didn't bother arguing. "Yang; door."
Yang didn't waste any time either. Standing quickly she headed towards the side hatch, but before she could swing the pilot tilted the bullhead one direction and then another, knocking her off her feet. "I'm sorry ladies, but I have my orders."
"And we have friends who need our help!" Ruby stood and then knelt when the pilot tried the same maneuver on her. She pulled out Crescent Rose. "I'll be sure to let Ozpin know you tried your best," she told him as she turned her weapon into a Gun Scythe.
The hook of the scythe dug into the floor of their plane, making the shot steady, as the high impact rifle fired and knocked the door off its hinges. The armored plating had worked against it. Anything more flimsy and the bullet would have just punched a hole through it and left the rest intact.
"Let's go," she told her team.
During all of this they could hear everything said through the coms. None of it made sense, but it was clear by the time they jumped out of the plane that something very wrong had happened.
Individual landing strategies were good, but team strategies were better. It was a good thing too, because they were dramatically higher than the cliffs of their freshman year.
In this situation Yang's portion was simple: fall. Her semblance would insure she not only lived, but benefited from the impact. Recoil from Ember Celica's shots directed her to a landing spot that wouldn't involve destroying any property. This also meant she landed first, which was also part of the strategy. She could clear the area of any potential threats while her team was vulnerable.
The other three had developed a tag team system. Blake acted as a bridge as she held on to Ruby, and Weiss held on to the ribbon on the end of Gambol Shroud. During their decent Weiss and Ruby traded off. Weiss would use her glyphs to stop her downward momentum for a couple of seconds, and then Ruby would use Crescent Rose to reduce her downward momentum to a crawl. Through this they "stepped" their way down and used Yang's brightly glowing hair as a target.
With this approach at least one of the trio was in a position to fight off any unexpected attack, or at least slow it down long enough to land safely. It also minimized how much of their aura they used. In this case there were no complications.
Ruby heard Nora's maniacal laughter the entire way down through the coms, and she saw the pink explosions in the distance. What could have gone so horribly wrong?
"Yang point, Blake rear guard. There's no time to lose." Wistfully she remembered when she would have left without her team using her semblance. It would have only taken her moments to get there and she knew they would catch up. With age came the maturity to know that the one who finished first doesn't always win.
"You haven't figured it out yet, have you?" a strange voice came from all around them.
Yang stopped dead and instantly went to a boxer's crouch. "It's him," she whispered, her voice shaking.
A condescending low chuckle met Yang's words. "I stand corrected. You know, don't you?"
The voice was echoing off the walls of the buildings making it hard to pinpoint where he was. There was rustling from all four directions. They were surrounded. Ruby's mind sprang to action. "Checkmate," she yelled, pointing behind them. "Fire blossom," she continued and pointed ahead.
The indicated pairs ran where she'd told them. Ruby could have kept them together and punched through in a specific direction. It was logical, but she had also learned that their enemies were adept at taking down groups when too close together. She was hoping this minimized that without taking away their team advantage entirely.
Yang's reflexes were slower. Most wouldn't notice it, but her teammates had trained with her too long. "Get him out of your head sis!" she yelled as they moved forward.
"No!" Blake yelled behind them with anguish. Ruby had to trust that they were okay, because their opponent was now before them.
All she could see clearly was a shadowy cloaked figure with a Grimm mask. "Are you afraid of the dark?" he asked as the crystal light columns around them all shattered and fell. Ruby thought she saw spikes fly at each but it had happened so quickly she couldn't be sure.
"You won't make a fool out of me again!" Yang screamed in a sudden rage, her hair, which had already been glowing, intensified. Ruby was sure that her eyes were not only red, but lit like a grimm's. That is until she fell to the ground grabbing at her face and screaming in pain. Ruby looked around in the dark for a cause but couldn't find it.
Enough of this! Placing the head of her scythe behind her, Ruby fired off a round. The recoil propelled her at an enemy she had come to truly hate. She had never in her life taken human blood, and, though she dearly wanted to, she wasn't going to tonight either. She calculated the timing so the blade would miss him, the shaft would do the damage instead.
The swing went off course however when Weiss screamed behind her. Not that it would have connected anyways. With a speed equal to her semblance he sidestepped the attack, and then pushed her past him by the back of her head like she was a kid. It was as if he was just toying with her, because he was.
"So ready to protect the weak and make things better; never realizing that her sister's the weak one, and there is no way to make anything in this world better."
Ruby tuned him out. She wasn't going to let him taunt her the way he had taunted her sister. She attacked again, using skills that at this point surpassed her Uncle Qrow, who was reputed to be the best Scythe wielder on Remnant. Realizing how good her opponent was she lost all inhibitions and went for blood. It was the only way she was going to win this match and losing meant death for everyone she cared for. He was still talking, and she knew it was more taunts, but they didn't register beyond that. Her mission was simple: take him down.
She couldn't tune out the sounds of battle behind her though; especially every sound of pain that left Weiss's lips. That fight was not going well. The longer she took here the longer it would be before she would be able to help them.
Likewise the sound of her sister crying and whimpering in pain was unbearable. This ended now!
With one perfectly timed swing she caught his obfuscating cloak with the point of her scythe and ripped it off. What was beneath stopped her dead.
"Like what you see?"
Weiss and Blake ran where they were ordered, but not for long. Within moments Blake stopped as something ball shaped was thrown in her direction. In the light all Weiss could make out was white with red fuzz on half of it. Out of pure reaction Blake chopped it in half before it hit her, and it exploded in a spray of red. Most of it landed on Blake, but it was close enough that Weiss could smell it: blood.
"De'ja'vu," they heard ahead of them as one of the halves came close enough to a light. It couldn't be real, but it was a very convincing copy of Adam's head. His grimm mask fell off along the line it had been cut that matched the rest of his head. "Did you enjoy it more the second time?"
Fire ran through the Snow Queen's veins realizing the psychological attack this was, and the pain her friend would be feeling now. She was tired of the taunting. The fire in her veins was matched by the fire she shot at a human shaped shadow in front of her through Myrtenaster. Its light revealed a cloak billowing from a nonexistent wind and a grimm mask.
From the corner of her eye she could see Blake. She hadn't been completely disabled by the mental attack, but she was definitely slowed. Not good. What's with the mind games? She asked herself. I understand a few to get under our skin and take us off our game, but this is well beyond that.
Realizing that the attack on Blake had been just as much an attack on her, she slowed herself and left the anger behind. She was smarter than this. She was smarter than them.
"No games for you, just pain."
Weiss had been keeping an ear out for the other enemies still unaccounted for. Sidestepping one as she heard it charge, she didn't hear the second one as it raked claws across her side. The cloth shredded and the skin flayed. The scream was primal as the pain ripped out her lips.
"Your mate must have enjoyed that. Let's give her some more music to hear."
The scream seemed to bring Blake back to full awareness. It was possibly too late. Three on two were bad odds, especially when they knew everything about RWBY, and RWBY knew nearly nothing about them. Teamwork only went so far in the face of those odds.
Trying to keep herself in the fight she applied her aura to heal the wound in her side. She couldn't tell how bad it was with the adrenaline kicking in, and she couldn't afford the time to look. It must have been worse than she initially thought. Before her aura really had a chance to start the pain intensified. Fearing that she might be bleeding out Weiss shunted any aura she could to the wound as the pain continued to increase.
Already nearly disabled by pain, an unexpected new weapon was used. A spike had been fired and successfully impaled her foot. The spike looked similar to bone, and it had gone not just through flesh and bone, but pinned her as it went into the ground beneath her.
Weiss realized the only reason they hadn't gone for the kill yet was because they were enjoying toying with them. They were making her hurt so it would in turn hurt Ruby. She bit down on the screams as much as she could but was not noticeably successful. Once they were done playing with them it would be over, but she wasn't going to go down without a fight.
The smile was impossible to not cross his lips. So predictable. Put their friends in danger and RWBY comes without a second thought, or anything similar to a plan. Their route was equally predictable: a direct line from where they got off the plane to where their friends were fighting. It had made the ambush simple.
That nasty little surprise he'd left in Yang's eyes would bring her down quick enough once she was angry. If RWBY stayed together the odds would be three against four. If they split one would confront whoever Yang was with, the other three would take on the other two. The odds were good.
It went even better when Ruby had been the one with Yang. It allowed them to play on her emotions as everything around her went to hell and she was unable to do anything to stop it. Their strongest fighter was sure of that. That was him of course.
She was better than he had expected if the truth was to be told. He'd prepared several barbed taunts, and she ignored them all. The sounds of her mate's screams, however, broke through that calm determination of hers.
It pushed her to a new level. When she got the hit that removed his shroud it had been to complete surprise. Well, he could kill her, or he could see how this played out.
"Like what you see?"
Sage and Scarlet snuck into the Headmaster's office slowly, quietly. They had camped outside and waited as inconspicuously as possible. As soon as he left with both cane and coffee they moved. They weren't sure how long they had before he came back, so they went directly to the most likely spot, his desk. Beyond their amazement they found his computer unlocked and powered up. A few clicks on the most recent items and they found what they needed.
"I believe that is everything you are looking for," The Headmaster said behind them. "Or, at least, all the information you are looking for that I have," and then he quietly turned and left his office. It was as if it was perfectly normal to have two Huntsmen, who had graduated from another school, break into his office. As if the information on his personal terminal was public records.
They didn't waste any further time, and gave up on anything similar to stealth. "What do you think that was about?" Sage asked.
"He wants us to have this information," Scarlet said with certainty. "Do you think maybe he knows we're going to fight, no matter what he says, and wants to give us a chance?"
Sage didn't answer directly at first. As he stared at the screen he set his scroll to download the information, and the blood drained from his face. "We'll need it."732Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡhAsLgYPdEtns 184.108.40.206da2