The constant beeping of her scroll was starting to grate on Glynda.
Actually, that was inaccurate. It had started grating on her days ago. Now it was taking every ounce of self control she had to not telekinetically slam it into the wall over and over. The fact that she had to check each message made the issue go from an auditory nuisance to something that was actively distracting her from everything she was trying to do.
She checked the latest message, fully expecting it to be another useless ‘update’ that wasn’t actionable. As was the case in most situations, she was right.
Cpt Hightower: 2 True moving into VC proper
Cpt Hightower: Black confirmed not in contact with son.
Cpt. Hightower: We are fairly certain he’s not in Saffron Hills
Nothing for Glynda to do with any of that, and Glynda wanted to smack this captain’s hands with her riding crop for sending this useless information as three separate messages.
Ozpin had spoken to the Chairman of War and Peace, a serious man that would be healthier if he took exercise as seriously as he took his responsibility to keep the people of Vale safe. They’d decided that Ozpin, the professors of Beacon, and Qrow would be added to the city-wide police message chain that was created upon Marcus Black entering the city.
Ozpin had also decided (though he didn’t tell Councilman Barnes) that he’d bring Amber in on the manhunt if that flighty, foolish girl ever checked back in with him.
Unlikely. She’d be too busy chasing butterflies and trying to ‘discover herself’ and her purpose to pay attention to something like a deadly threat in the heart of the kingdom.
Glynda sighed and put her scroll and her bitterness away. Ozpin had told her not to be so hard on the ‘girl’, that she just needed time to come to recognize and accept the responsibilities that came with her powers. Glynda always argued that Amber was twenty-two, she wasn’t a child. There were actual children that had already decided to dedicate their lives to protecting others. Glynda had made that decision herself when she was ten. From what Summer told them, her little daughter Ruby had made that decision when she was three. So why Oz was being so patient with Amber when she had so much potential to do so much good that was currently being squandered, Glynda didn’t understand.
What she’d be able to do with the power of a Maiden…
Bah, what ifs. It wouldn’t be such a big deal to Glynda if it weren’t for the recent agitations in Grimm around the world. Ozpin was concerned about what it meant, which meant she was too, and at the moment they only had the power of one Maiden fighting for the side of good, Winter Schnee. Amber was out wandering around with Ozpin’s blessing, the Spring Maiden was missing, and the Summer Maiden was a warlord in Vacuo. If something big happened… the good guys didn’t have a whole lot going for them right now.
Glynda tapped the handrest on her keyboard repeatedly in agitation. She’d finished writing up her grading of Team RWBY’s performance the other day almost half an hour ago, though she had kept it open to fill in more details as they came to her, like she always did. It was unfortunate that she was so distracted right now.
She blamed the constant beeping of her scroll.
It was ten till 10 am. She’d need to meet with Ozpin and Team RWBY soon. She’d sent Oz the video file from Friday, so he’d have that ready. All that was left was to print out the grading rubric and get the girls up to Ozpin’s office.
She set the page on her screen to print and fished her scroll back out to text Ruby.
Me: Good morning, Miss Rose. Your team’s review session is in ten minutes. Would you all like to meet me at the entrance to Beacon Tower? We can all go up to the headmaster’s office together.
She’d rather be texting Weiss or Blake. In Glynda’s opinion, they had much better temperamentstemperments for being team leader. But Ozpin insisted on giving Summer’s daughter a chance, and Glynda trusted him. He had never led her astray before. He’d thought she was team leader material, so clearly he had a good system to figure this out. How that system had resulted in him making Glynda and Ruby Rose both team leaders seemed strange, though…
‘Maybe old age has made him senile,’ Glynda joked to herself with a smile.
Her scroll dinged in her hand and Glynda amusingly found herself hoping it was Ruby, if only because it meant it wasn’t the simpleton police.
Ruby Rose: Suer! On our way!!! 😀
‘Does she just not have autocorrect turned on?’ Glynda wondered to herself. She still smiled at the sweetness of the message; it was very Ruby. She still was doubtful it was the personality of a good, effective team leader, but Summer Rose had been strikingly similar and she’d been incredible at leading her team, which had been one of the most successful in huntsman history. Until it wasn’t.
But it had produced Qrow, who was one of the most capable and dedicated servants to the greater good that they had right now.
She gathered up the printed out rubric and hole punched it, binding it into the folder she’d prepared for Team RWBY. It also held the analyses Nidas had written up of the girls’ sparring performances from last week (he was supposed to have given them this binder last week, but he’d finished it late, just like most of his schoolwork when he was still a student here).
It was a binder meant for Team RWBY to keep a physical documentation of their progress at Beacon. Assuming Ruby didn’t lose it.
… Maybe she’d hand it to Weiss instead.
To finalize her preparations, she donned her Dust-threaded jacket and her Dust belt. She wouldn’t need them until later today, and the cloth of the Dust-threads was deceptively heavy to the point the clothing often felt irritating, but it was important to show the girls that a professional huntress was always prepared for combat.
A short walk and trip down the elevator later and Glynda was standing just outside the massive doorway of Beacon Tower. The day was overcast, a visible storm rolling in from the north, currently greying out the horizon and sky above the ocean. She had less than a minute to take the scene and weather in before Team RWBY came into view, the four girls walking together around the corner from where their dorm building stood. It took her a moment to figure out which girl was which from this distance, mostly because it seemed the girls had all decided to color swap today. Ruby was wearing black and grey, Weiss was wearing red, Blake was wearing either yellow or a bright orange, and Yang was in a deep purple.
‘At least they all have very distinguishable hair.’
Glynda waited patiently while the girls strolled over. At a couple points Ruby decided to do a couple laps around her team, leaving them all batting away at the rose petals floating into their faces, but none of them seemed to mind.
The third time she tried it, though, a black glyph appeared underneath her as she ran and she tripped over herself, becoming a ball of violently explosive petals as she fell and rolled in her semblance. Weiss cackled in delight, and Ruby exited her semblance to let out a betrayed wail that made the other two start laughing too.
It seemed even Weiss had a childish side to her now. Glynda sighed. No doubt this was the influence of the overly excitable team leader. She was fairly certain Ozpin would tell her something along the lines of “Let them be children while they still can”, and she strove very hard to dismiss her judgemental disapproval.
She’d liked to joke around and have fun a little bit at their age too.
Subdued, Ruby and her team walked without incident the rest of the way to Glynda.
“Good morning, girls,” she greeted them.
“Good morning, Miss Glynda,” they all said in unison, sounding amusingly like a group of elementary school children.
“Are you okay, Miss Rose?” she asked with a straight face. “I saw you fall over there.”
It was interesting to note the different reactions the girls made. Ruby’s cheeks turned bright pink and she pout-glared at her feet, but the smile on her face was unmistakable. Her c—sister laughed loudly, giving Ruby a light punch in the shoulder, and Blake grinned openly, watching the embarrassed team leader. Weiss, on the other hand, kept both eye contact with Glynda and a remarkably straight face, though the corner of her lips might have been turned up a bit. Glynda wasn’t familiar enough with the girl’s features to be 100% sure.
“Oh yeah, I’m fine,” Ruby mumbled at the ground. “I was just betrayed!” She did a small hop and turned to glare at Weiss, her tiny fists balled at her side.
Weiss worked very hard to maintain her composure, looking directly at Glynda, but then she made the mistake of glancing at her partner out of the corner of her eyes and let out a quick giggle.
Ruby gave a longer one in response and soon they were both giggling like Peter and Bart used to every time they failed at stealing Glynda’s food in the cafeteria all those years ago.
Glynda took a moment to take stock of the girls, see how they were doing. Nidas and Peter had said that Teams JNPR and CRDL were pretty wiped out during their reviews yesterday, still recovering from their Hunts, but these girls seemed totally fine.
They also, Glynda noted, all had very crisp, clean new clothes. Not only had they color swapped, it seemed they style swapped too. Ruby was wearing a black skirt, a grey dress shirt with tile pattern of thin, black fleur-de-lis embroidered on it, and a black suit jacket, while Weiss was wearing dark jeans and a black, tight-fitting tube top under a red faux-leather half-jacket that looked like something out of Barts’s anime shows. The other two had also seemingly swapped, Blake in short jean-shorts and a loose, sleeveless yellow blouse with a cut under the arms that gave two ample windows to her ribs, and Yang was wearing a dark violet sleeveless turtleneck and jeans.
Was it Glynda’s imagination, or were the freshmen classes getting better and better looking every year? Ever since Coco got here, it seemed like all the new students were fashionistas with model-level looks.
“Shall we?” she asked, gesturing into Beacon Tower.
“Yeah!” Ruby cheered, skipping ahead. Weiss hurriedly shuffled after her, chastising her about how she needed to comport herself more professionally.
“Does Miss Rose know where she’s going?” Glynda asked nobody in particular.
Yang snorted. “Nope.”
They followed, Glynda hurrying through the winding hallways built like a circular labyrinth to catch up to lead the bumbling child in the right direction.
“Is this supposed to be an elevator?!” Ruby’s voice echoed down one of the passageways.
The lucky girl found the right path on her first try. Hmph.
Following the sound of a bossy, bickering voice that could only be one person, Glynda led the other two girls over to Ruby and Weiss, the first of whom was hopping up and down on the gravity Dust platform that served as the elevator up to Ozpin’s office, the second of whom was grumpily glaring at her partner off to the side with her arms crossed. Glynda imagined she probably looked similar back in the day whenever Peter made one of his not-jokes about manly men’s manliness.
It probably hadn’t changed all that much over the years.
“Yes, Miss Rose,” Glynda answered. She considered adding something about how if Ruby had simply waited, Glynda would have explained… hmm. She couldn’t decide on a good way to word it. No matter. Weiss had been giving the girl a good bit of chastisement anyway, not that Ruby seemed to be particularly cowed by it.
“But where’s the buttons?” Ruby asked, looking around the empty, buttonless platform.
“Where are the buttons,” Weiss corrected.
“No buttons,” Glynda said, gently nudging Ruby out of the way so she could stand on the silver plate in the middle of the circle. “Everyone on, please.”
As the other three members of the team got on the platform, Glynda expanded her aura through her feet, into the metal pad beneath them. She kept pushing out. Her aura didn’t want to flow into the stone of the rest of the platform, nor into the large flow cannisters of gravity Dust set into the bottom. But when it reached the cannister of Dust she was attuned to, her aura flowed through and triggered the gravity magic and they began to rise.
The girls all reacted in surprise in their own different ways, the sisters vocally, the other two expressively. Glynda smiled, enjoying her little moment to impress them.
Other than hers, there were eight other gravity Dust cannisters set in the elevator, each attuned to a specific individual: Ozpin and the other professors, Bart, Peter, and Nidas; the other three headmasters, James, Leo, and Theo; and, of course, Qrow. The nine of them were the only people in the world that could get into Ozpin’s office sans flying capabilities.
Save Ruby, the girls all seemed a little spooked to be suddenly and quickly rising in an elevator with no walls or even rails, but they were all capable enough that even if they somehow fell off, Glynda wasn’t all that worried about them. Below them, the maze of the ground floor of the tower was revealed, the clockwork layout reminiscent of the design of Ozpin’s emblem. Massive bronze gears were set in places, giving the impression that the floor actually was some sort of mechanism, though Ozpin had told Glynda it was purely aesthetic. That he just really liked clocks.
“This is soooo cool!” Ruby cheered happily, leaning precariously over the edge of the platform to try to see the underside. Nothing to be concerned about, though–she could fly.
“Indeed,” Glynda remarked even as Weiss tugged her teammate back away from the edge.
The elevator rose slowly, the climb to Ozpin’s office at the top of the tower taking over a minute and a half. Along the way they passed through holes in the floors beneath Oz’s office, three stories that held the professors’ offices, living quarters, and the small but state of the art Dust lab and training room that was usually occupied by Glynda and Bart.
“Whoa,” Weiss whispered as they passed that last one, only getting a few seconds to take in the shining centrifuges, compressors, refiners, and other machines in the lab.
“Whoooooooooa!” Ruby exclaimed in agreement.
Blake looked over at them with a grin. “Whoa?” she asked.
“Whoa,” Yang confirmed.
“Do you girls do this often?” Glynda asked.
“Only when we’re out of Jell-o,” Yang answered.
“What?” Weiss and Belladonna said together.
They reached the top floor, the lobby in front of Oz’s office, and Glynda pulled back on her aura output to bring them to a stop while the platform was within the bounds of the floor. She used her semblance to flip the switch on the dashboard built into the ground in front of the platform, activating the clamps that would hold the elevator in place.
The lobby was a teardrop-shaped room, the round end where the elevator let off and the point where the two large oak double doors opened into Ozpin’s office. Soft orange covered the walls sprinkled with yellow and white gears and connecting lines. The curved wall behind them sported a mural showing a distant view of Beacon at midday, blue waves crashing into the island, the towers of the school spearing into a slightly clouded sky. There were pairs of cushioned benches set against the walls near the doors.
“Have a seat, girls,” Glynda ordered, gesturing to the benches. “I’ll bring you in in just a moment.”
As she headed in to make sure Ozpin was ready, she heard Ruby whispering behind her.
“Weiss, look! It looks like your painting!”
“But way better,” Weiss muttered back.
Glynda smiled at the compelling argument, then pushed the double doors open and closed them behind her.
Ozpin’s office was very nice. Teardrop shaped like the lobby, though a bit wider and shorter. Along one of the straight walls was a minibar; a long countertop with an espresso machine and milk steamer, drink shakers, wine bottles, and garnishes. The cabinets and fridges below held milk, cream, liquors, and mixers. The other straight wall sported a massive flatscreen TV and an array of plushy couches set up in front of it. The curved wall was nothing but window looking down on the school grounds and out across the bay to the skyline of Vale City. In the origin of the semicircle formed by the windows sat Ozpin’s desk, and at the desk sat Ozpin.
His laptop was out despite the fact that he had a desktop computer in front of him, which told Glynda he was ready or getting ready to move to the couches and play the videos there.
“Good morning, Glynda,” Oz greeted her. “Is Team RWBY ready?”
“They are,” Glynda nodded.
Glynda’s eyebrows raised at that and Ozpin gave her a dry chuckle.
“Help me sync this stupid thing to the TV,” he requested, tapping his laptop screen.
Glynda offered a laugh. “I forgot what a technologically challenged old man you are,” she teased as she walked over.
“I’m not–! It’s just this stupid new BSI syncing feature! I have no idea how to find the room’s network, much less connect to it.”
With a roll of her eyes, Glynda carried the laptop over to the TV lounge area and got to work. It took almost a minute to get everything set up, but that was because Ozpin hadn’t had his laptop on the network to begin with. It would take seconds to connect from now on.
“Hm…” Ozpin intoned as she finished and handed him back his laptop, acting like he was doing some deep, insightful thinking as was his want. He took the laptop back and blinked at the screen blankly for a moment. “Ahem! Thank you, Glynda. Please bring the girls in.”
The girls had all grouped up together around one bench, which said a lot about them. There were two benches on each wall, each capable of seating two people. The team could have spread out, one member per bench, or everyone sitting along one wall as Glynda still remembered her team doing. Instead, only Ruby and Weiss were sitting on a bench together. Yang was standing by her sister, a hand on the younger girl’s head, slowly and absent-mindedly rocking it back and forth like a grandfather clock while Ruby jabbered to her partner. Blake was leaning against the wall next to her own partner, the two of them listening to Ruby and laughing together at whatever she’d just said.
“… so then logically we can assume that the King Taijitu’s greatest weakness is Jell-o!” Ruby declared.
“Team RWBY,” Glynda announced herself to the distracted girls.
“Ohthankgoodness,” Weiss exhaled, quickly standing. “Thank you for saving what little of my brain function survived this conversation, Professor.”
“Some Jell-o will fix your brain right up,” Yang told her, stretching her arms out wide and not-so-subtly wrapping one around her partner’s waist. Blake raised a bemused eyebrow at her, and Yang winked back at her.
“Come on in,” Glynda told them, pulling the doors wider and biting back a smile at these antics. “We’re ready for you.”
“Wooho–!” Miss Rose cheered before collapsing-and/or-exploding into a shroud of petals and rushing through the door so fast Glynda’s brain took a delayed second to figure out what strange breeze just blew her hair back.
She heard Oz in the room behind her exclaim, “Oh! Hello, Ru–okay, can we stop getting roses all over my–thank you.”
Glynda let the other three in and turned to find…
There were rose petals all over the TV lounge, carpeting the tiled floor, the couches, the coffee table.
“Miss Rose! What on Remnant possessed you to do this?”
Ruby gave Glynda a grumpy little pout at the chastisement. “I’m excited!”
‘Oh, well I guess it’s fine then.’
“It’s fine, Glynda,” Oz told her, gesturing for everyone to sit down. “It smells nice.”
“And they disappear in a couple hours!” Ruby chirped. “No cleaning necessary!”
“If only you realized your laundry isn’t the same,” Weiss muttered with a tiny grin.
“Hmehhh!” her partner whined back at her, not disputing the claim.
The TV screen showed the paused image of the forest when Glynda had turned on the camera after landing, streams of early morning light piercing down through the canopy of leaves above and kaleidoscoping across the undergrowth. There were several lines of orange segmenting the scrubber at the bottom where Glynda had marked the moments she wanted to go over with the team.
Ozpin and Glynda sat together on the loveseat while Team RWBY all got situated on the four seater, out of order. The two sisters sat next to each other in the middle, with their introvert partners on the outside.
“Alright,” Ozpin stated, bringing everyone into focus. Hopefully. “Glynda, would you like to start?” he asked.
“Ahem! Of course.” Glynda stood a bit to lean across and handed… Ruby… the binder she had prepared for the team. “Firstly, this is your Mission Binder. You should have gotten it days ago, but…” Glynda spared a glance at Ozpin, who was frowning at her admonishingly in that very grandpa way he had. “… well, no matter, here it is.” Ruby reached out and grabbed the binder excitedly, childish silver eyes wide, but Glynda kept a firm grip on it until the girl met her eyes. “Don’t lose it,” Glynda told her sternly.
Ruby gulped and nodded at her quickly. “I won’t!” she squeaked.
In all honesty, it wouldn’t be bad if she did. All the professors had copies of the teams’ files, and they were stored on the cloudslate. A new copy could be printed at any time should the team leaders ever misplace their Mission Binders. But it was a matter of teaching organization and responsibility!
“Mm,” Glynda replied, releasing the binder. Ruby bounced back to her spot on the couch and eagerly opened the binder, her teammates all leaning in to inspect it with her.
“Heehee, Team RWBY,” the girl giggled, pointing at the team name printed on the cover page.
‘This girl is supposed to host a goddess?’ Glynda sighed to herself. There was no way that made sense, but… she’d thought the same about her mother too.
This Goddess of Light had very deranged standards.
“Use this binder to keep track of all your mission rubrics and combat writeups that you gather over your years here. And keep them in chronological order so you can easily see the progress you make.”
Weiss seemed incredibly happy with the binder, which amused Glynda. She’d been the same. “Are these from Professor Rustheart?” she asked as her partner flipped through the first few pages that held the writeups from the girls duels over the past weeks.
Blake leaned further in to read the pages and squinted. “I… can’t really read his handwriting…”
Glynda buried her face in her hands with a groan.
“Ahem!” Ozpin said in place of the laugh Glynda suspected he was holding back. “Yes, well you also have your rubric from Friday’s Hunt. Professor Goodwitch would like to go over it with you now.”
Ruby flipped a few more pages fast enough that Glynda was worried they might tear. “Aha! ‘First Hunt’!” she announced, smacking a tiny index finger down on the page.
“SIXTY-FOUR?!” Weiss shrieked. Then her eyes went wide and she covered her mouth, suddenly self-conscious at the noise she just let out, but then they quickly flicked back to the grade total at the bottom of the sheet, her eyebrows doing subtle dances between emotions that Glynda couldn’t quite place. Anger, disappointment, shame, maybe?
“Out of eighty, Miss Schnee,” Glynda informed and reassured her.
The slim girl deflated a bit. “Oh. Alright. That’s, what, an eighty percent?” She sneered the number out like it was the worst insult she’d ever had hurled at her.
Glynda quickly did the mental math herself and…
Weiss tensed right back up.
“Hey, eighty’s pretty good!” Yang exclaimed happily. She gave her sister a one-armed sideways hug with the words while Ruby wiggled her shoulders and hips back and forth… in some sort of strange display of happiness?
“It most certainly is not!” the heiress huffed back.
“For our first Hunt?” Yang said. “Heck yeah it is!”
Weiss’s eyes went wide and she looked at her partner, her expression saying ‘Are you hearing this?’
In response, Ruby smiled. “An eighty is eighty points better than a zero!”
Weiss’s face went blank and she blinked twice, then looked across the couch at Blake. “Are you fine with an eighty?” she demanded.
Glynda noticed the bow hiding Blake’s cat ears twitch slightly. “I… I dunno?” The girl turned to Glynda and Ozpin. “Is an eighty okay?”
“Very much so,” Oz answered. “You all performed very well, and have some things to work on, as expected.” He gave Weiss a pointed look. “You’re student huntresses, not professional huntresses. The reason you’re here is to learn and improve.”
Weiss cowed a bit. “Okay…” Then her default haughty tone came back. “Was this graded on a curve?” she asked Glynda.
That made Glynda snort out a small laugh. “Four teams aren’t enough data points to create a very good bell curve, Miss Schnee.”
The girl’s shoulders slumped again. “Oh. Right.”
“What’s the highest a team’s gotten on their first Hunt?” Ruby asked. Her eyes were wide and excited. She wasn’t asking to find something to compare to, she just… what, really wanted to hear about other teams being exceptional?
“Hm. I believe it was a sixty-eight out of eighty, so… an eighty-six perc—”
“Oh, we didn’t do too bad then,” Weiss whispered to herself with an air of revelation and relief like she hadn’t believed it the one thousand times her teammates and professors had just told her that.
“Mm,” Ozpin agreed.
The eighty-six… That had been Team STRQ. They’d been almost as good in combat as these girls, but better communicators, from what Glynda remembered of the younger team bragging in the cafeteria (mostly Tai), and the Branwens both already had a mission oriented mindset so they never let their professor/civilian get attacked.
That group had come in with less raw talent and power than this one, but there was less conflict between them. On the battlefield, at least. Lady knows they had their issues off of it. It didn’t help that these girls were all so slightly cracked, each carrying their own traumas.
Glynda had raised concerns about how broken these four were to Ozpin, but he’d been undeterred.
‘Each on their own, broken, perhaps,’ he’d said, ‘but together the pieces could make something strong and beautiful.’
Glynda was much one for spirituality or philosophy, but she trusted Ozpin. He had centuries of experience on her, after all.
“Who was the team?” Ruby’s voice jarred her from her thoughts.
Glynda made sure not to even glance at Ozpin, in case that itself said too much. If he wasn’t going to tell them, she wouldn’t either.
“Not important,” Oz declared, “because we’re here to discuss you. Let’s start with the scores Professor Goodwitch gave you on the different aspects of your Hunt.”
Glynda had spent enough time and thought on the numbers that she had them memorized.
Communication – 14 / 20
Combat – 24 / 20
Objective – 12 / 20
Efficiency – 14 / 20
Ruby scooted the binder to rest on her and her sister’s leg so Blake could read more easily and all four girls bent over to do as Ozpin said. Three of them all spoke at once.
“The heck?! Do we, like, suck at talking or something?” Yang said.
“What do Objective and Efficiency mean?” Weiss asked.
“I think you miscounted on this Combat score, Professor,” Ruby told her, looking up to meet her eyes.
Blake, unsurprisingly, stayed quiet.
Glynda caught all the various, simultaneous questions, but she opted to wait and let the girls realize they needed to ask one at a time.
The silence that followed stretched a beat more than Glynda felt it should have.
“Professor?” Weiss finally prompted.
“What do Objective and Efficiency mean?”
After taking a moment to smooth her skirt, Glynda assumed her ‘Professor voice’ an answered, “Objective is just that: how well you girls both focused on and achieved the objective you were given, which in this case was to protect me, your… ‘useless civilian’—” she smiled a little “—and get to the relic point.
“Efficiency is simply how well you girls used your time and resources and skills.”
As she spoke, Weiss pulled a pen out of her clutch and tugged the binder closer to herself to write down some notes.
“What did we do wrong on those?” Blake asked.
“The things that need improvement,” Glynda stressed, “for your Objective score were, well, the obvious one of letting your useless civilian get jumped by a Stalker—”
“Oof,” Yang breathed with a self conscious smile.
“Mm. Additionally, when you girls jumped into the canyon to fight the Nevermores, you left your useless civilian alone at the top of a cliff.”
Weiss hissed out a long breath, her expression a subdued look of disappointment.
Glynda could offer placations and platitudes, but shame and disappointment in oneself could be powerful motivators, and Team RWBY definitely needed to learn to focus more on protecting their charge.
“And Efficiency?” Blake asked.
“You girls made decent time. You stopped to talk about formation a bit too much and too long, and a lot of time was wasted after Miss Rose so heroically concussed herself.”
Ruby let out a groan and buried her face in her hands, prompting her sister to laugh and wrap an arm around her shoulders to give her a shake.
Glynda smiled at the small girl. “You did get some points back for making good use of everyone’s skillsets, though. And Miss Belladonna, you did a great job navigating to the relic point.”
The faunus girl gave her a small smile and a soft “Thanks” in reply.
“And now that you girls have figured out a couple escort formations and your roles in them, you should hopefully improve quickly at this aspect in the future.”
Ruby bounced in her seat suddenly, startling both her teammates and Glynda. “Gasp! We should name our formations!” Weiss sighed and rolled her eyes, but her animated partner was undeterred. “We could name them after… um, song names! Or, like, animals! Or… video games!”
It was difficult to suppress her laugh when Glynda saw the tired expressions on the two non-sisters’ faces, but she kept her calm professor composure intact. “I’ll leave that to your discretion as a team. Moving on to the other points, though—”
“Combat!” Yang cheered.
“Let’s save that for last,” Glynda suggested.
“Aw,” Ruby pouted.
Weiss gave her partner a light elbow. “So Communication,” she surmised.
“Right,” Glynda said. “There was a lot of arguing between all of you.” Weiss and Yang both opened their mouths–presumably to argue with her, ironically—but Glynda raised a hand to silence them before continuing. “Now understand that I do not just mean that there were disagreements on how to handle situations. Those are, of course, natural. However, there were a lot of squabbles that were simply personal in nature, and those have no place out in a Hunt when there are people’s lives in your hands.” All four of the girls expressed various forms of dejection at her words, but Glynda was not moved to pull her punches here. Harsh criticism now would help them fix things later.
Ozpin also decided to step in. “Also, it is important to realize that while disagreeing on how to handle situations is normal—good, even—, the middle of a fight is not the place to discuss it. Yang and Ruby, you two had a bickering match while being divebombed by two Nevermores.”
“I—” Yang started, her hackles rising.
“No,” Ozpin said sternly, raising a palm to her. “I heard everything and can infer a good deal more. I understand your reasons, but that was not the time or place for a discussion. You needed to listen to your teammate’s call and go with the plan.”
Ruby gave a smug little grin and gave her sister a tiny poke in the rib cage, which made Yang lightly slap her hand away and playfully bite at her face.
“That is not to say that your team leader is a dictator,” Ozpin said.
“I’m not a whatnow?” Ruby replied.
Ozpin focused on making eye contact with the other girls as he continued. “You can and should all make calls out in the field, not just your team leader.”
“What?!” Ruby squeaked. “No, don’t listen to him, team! He’s trying to deceive you! I am your one true ruler!”
“Shush!” Weiss hissed at her.
“Okie,” Ruby cowed.
Ozpin gave a pointed ‘Ahem!’ at Ruby and continued. “You all will have different perspectives and experiences that will lend to your judgements being better in different situations. Part of what I hope you will learn together in the next four years is what situations you each excel at, so when you are in situations that require quick action and one of you makes a call, all of you trust it.”
“Already on it, sir!” Ruby chirped. “I listen to Yang on everything food” —Yang rolled her eyes with a smile— “and Weiss on everything about homework or fashion” —Weiss looked very pleased at that— “and Blake on everything… um… Blake, you don’t really talk much, do you?”
Blake shrugged lightly and ducked her head down.
“Not… quite what I meant,” Ozpin said slowly with an easy smile.
“Perhaps you could learn to listen to Miss Belladonna on the benefits of staying thoughtful and quiet,” Glynda suggested to the young team leader.
“Kek. How am I supposed to listen to somebody being quiet?”
Glynda blinked. “Quietly.”
Ruby’s cheeks lit up, but before she could sputter out a reply, her partner pinched her arm.
“We’ll work on it, sir, ma’am.”
Glynda nodded and let Ozpin continue. “Of course. I saw you all improve even over the course of this Hunt. Learn to trust each other, learn each others strengths and weaknesses. You are all incredibly talented, powerful, and smart. If you can work together as a team, I have no doubt you girls will become the best huntress team the world has ever seen.”
Glynda wasn’t herself one for flowery compliments like this, but Ozpin had his style and she’d respect it. Ruby beamed at the praise, Yang leaned back against the couch smugly, Blake scrunched her eyebrows together in thought, and Weiss straightened her back and balled her fists in her lap, looking determined.
“Which brings us to the final section…” Oz trailed off, gesturing to Glynda, who finished his sentence.
“Woohooooo!” Ruby cheered, bouncing again and jostling everyone on the couch. The binder almost fell to the floor but for Weiss quickly catching it with an impatient huff. “Did you give us extra points because we’re, like, super duper awesome?” Ruby asked.
“Well… yes,” Glynda admitted.
“Haha!” Ruby cheered again, raising her hands to give her teammates high-fives. Yang returned it with enough strength to knock the poor girl into her partner, and Blake reached over to give a light followup.
Ruby turned to Weiss, waiting for a high-five, but Weiss just glared at her grumpily.
Ruby waved her hand back and forth a bit as encouragement.
Ever so slowly, Weiss raised a hand and… poked Ruby’s palm with a pointy index finger.
This was evidently a satisfactory reciprocation, because Ruby (and then the rest of the team) all turned back to Glynda. She waited a moment, looking between the four girls to see if they were actually done, then continued.
“You girls vastly surpassed all of the metrics for a starting team’s combat capabilities, and save for a couple hiccups you all were incredibly coordinated. Now I was wearing a camera on my lapel and managed to get a good recording of pretty much all of it save for Miss Roses escapade through the forest when she drew the Nevermores away, and the headmaster and I wanted to go through some of the footage to point some things out to you that you should work on.”
Ruby leaned forward excitedly and rubbed her hands together. “Ooooh,” she cooed, “tactical feedback!”
“Mm. Quite.” Glynda gestured to Ozpin to start the video. “Now, against the Lesser Pack at the river…”
Twenty-eight minutes later, Glynda and Ozpin had exhausted all the points they had wanted to make. It left Glynda with the beginnings of a headache; Ruby wanted to stop the conversation every time a team maneuver was brought up to give it a name, Weiss spent half her time bickering with her partner and the other half asking Glynda and Ozpin ‘If we fix this, would we get all eighty points next time?’, Blake was reluctant—to the point of almost refusing—to engage in any discussion that involved improving her combat skill, and Yang didn’t like taking any criticism at all, or listening to anybody criticize her little sister.
This career and lifestyle tended to attract more eccentric individuals, often exacerbated by Semblance-Induced Personality Shifts, so Glynda was used to dealing with difficult students. She’d had many that were far worse than any of the members of Team RWBY, but this team might be the most difficult to deal with when added up.
“Well that’s all we’ve got, girls,” Ozpin announced. He looked over at Glynda. “Unless you had anything to add?”
“Not much. You girls did well. Think about and practice the things we’ve talked about. Have you all finished your homework for my class tomorrow?”
Glynda wasn’t surprised at Weiss’ response, but Ruby’s… She raised eyebrow at the girl.
“What?!” she squeaked. “I did it yesterday!…” Her eyes darted to the floor and she mumbled, “… Weiss made me.”
A brief, involuntary laugh slipped out of Glynda, but by the time Ruby looked back up at her with a grin, her expression was set back to Stern Professor. She looked over at the other two sheepish girls. “Make sure you have the assignment done for tomorrow.”
“We will,” Blake agreed heavily.
“Hopefully Weiss helps us too, and doesn’t just play favorites with Ruby,” Yang grumbled with a teasing smile.
“I told you two to do it with us!” Weiss shot back, not picking up that the jab was a joke.
“But I wanted to read!” Blake protested.
“Yeah,” Yang agreed, “and I wanted to… not do homework.” She glanced sideways at the two professors, wide-eyed, and Glynda crossed her arms and frowned at the girl. The disapproval just made the buffoon bust out laughing though.
‘Children,’ Glynda sighed to herself.
“Well, if that’s everything,” Oz said, “Glynda will see y—”
Ruby’s hand shot up. “Wait! I have a question!”
Ozpin’s eyebrows arched up in amusement. “Yes?”
Ruby took in one long, deep breath, like she was preparing to spew out everything in one go. “Okay, so I’m gonna go in to fix Crescent Rose today, but Weiss and I were looking to rebuild the blade and bladewell with upgrades to add Dust ports and stuff and I was wondering if we have the equipment and stuff for that and maybe if someone could help us actually put it together maybe?”
Ozpin gave a hearty chuckle. “Equipment? Most likely, unless you need something very particular. Resources, probably, and if we don’t you can ask Master Onyx to order whatever you need. Unless it’s obscenely expensive, he’d likely approve of it. He’d also be the one to ask for help with any forging or construction you’d be doing.”
“Master Onyx?” Ruby asked.
“Indeed. He’s a master weaponsmith. Beacon graduate, gave up Hunting to pursue weaponcrafting many years ago. I’ve more or less put him in charge of the workshop. Big man. Ram horns. You can’t miss him, and he’ll be very happy to help.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Glynda noticed Blake wring her hands together and glance at Weiss, who looked impassive.
Ruby’s hand shot up again. “Wait! I have another question!”
Ozpin’s lips pressed together, though Glynda could see the faint upturns at the corners. He gestured for Ruby to continue.
“Are we allowed to go train and spar and stuff in the Battle Center on our own time, or is can we only do it during Professor Rustyboi’s class?”
“Ah, yes, of course you can. Although we do require that first years have professor supervision. Just to make sure you don’t kill or horribly maim each other by accident.”
“Naturally,” Blake drawled with a smile.
“If you send a message to BeaconProfs we’ll all see it and more likely than not at least one of us will be available to come down for you.”
“Okay, awesome!” Ruby said happily.
“Any more questions?” Ozpin asked, looking pointedly at Ruby.
Undeterred, Ruby cupped her chin between an index finger and thumb and said, “Hmmm… I don’t think so. Oh! Can you tell the cafeteria people that they should stop making oatmeal cookies ‘cause nobody likes that fake cookie garbage and make snickerdoodles instead?”
“Ruby!” Weiss huffed while Yang erupted with more laughter.
A pang reminded Glynda of her quietly building headache, and it took everything she had not to roll her eyes, and Ozpin was clearly having similar difficulties with not following Yang’s lead. “… I’ll go talk to the, ah… ‘cafeteria people’ about it,” he hedged.
“Niccce! Well, that’s all I got! Thanks, Professor!” Ruby turned and marched comedically towards the door, her team following behind her.
Well… most of her team. Yang stayed there in front of them, eyes on her feet, one hand scratching at the back of her head.
“Did you have a question, Miss Xiao-Long?” Glynda asked.
“Um… maybe. I think so. Um…” She glanced back and met Weiss’ eyes and they shared a look that made it clear they both knew what she was going to ask, and that Weiss disapproved. Then Weiss turned and corralled her other two teammates back out into the lobby, despite their (very squeaky, in Ruby’s case) protests.
“So… yesterday,” Yang started, “I—we—um, kinda ran into a girl. A homeless girl. And, uh, she’s got aura. And a semblance. Some sort of mind illusion projection thingy, or whatever… And she said she’s decent in a fight! So, uh… I dunno, I kinda wanted to help her not be homeless anymore or whatever, so I told her I’d ask to see if maybe she could, like, do a tryout or something to see if she could get into Beacon next year. Oh, and she’s sixteen. So, like, the timing and age stuff and things would make sense. And. Um. Yeah.”
The girl’s nervous rambling finally over, Glynda glanced over at Ozpin to gauge his reaction. He looked thoughtful, quiet, serious. The usual, really, though his eyebrows were creased together slightly more than usual. Glynda herself was concerned that there was just a child wandering around on the streets alone, but… she’d let Ozpin take the lead first.
“I commend you for your empathy and wanting to help those in need,” he started.
“O-oh. Yeah, okay, that’s fine,” Yang mumbled like she hadn’t really heard what he said. She turned and started to walk away, assuming the answer would be ‘no’, apparently.
“One moment, Yang,” Ozpin said gently but firmly, prompting the girl to turn back around, confused. “I was not being dismissive.”
Oz rubbed his chin for a moment before continuing. “Tryouts are not something I do very often, but I have done them before.”
“You have?” Yang asked, perking up with hope.
“Indeed. That’s how your mother and uncle got into Beacon, actually.”
“It-it was?” Yang stammered, deflating back down. “I… didn’t know that.” Her tone was one of pure dejection. “Why… I should have known that… I guess I never realized that you guys, like, knew my mom, huh?”
There was an awkward stretch of silence and Glynda knew Ozpin reached the same conclusion she had about what was going through this young girl’s head right now. Glynda wasn’t qualified or eager to help someone deal with their mother leaving them, and it appeared Ozpin wasn’t either, because he talked right around the issue.
“We did indeed. Do you think, based on yourself and your classmates, that this girl has the skills and selfless spirit to be a huntress?”
“Huh? Oh, right.” Yang scratched the back of her head as she returned her focus back to the topic at hand. “Um. I’m not sure. I haven’t really seen her fight. As for the selfless spirit, she’s at least nicer than Cardin, so… there’s that.”
Glynda snorted a laugh at that and quickly covered her mouth, though Oz shot a disapproving frown her way regardless. She hadn’t been happy with the Winchester boy’s admission here, but the school needed funding, especially if Oz wanted to continue to be able to give out things like full scholarships to Ruby and Nora and Ren. Between the generous donations they’d received from Winchester Arms and the Schnee Dust Company this year, they’d be able to completely afford the renovations to the Battle Center this winter and then some.
Money shouldn’t be something that let people like Cardin into Beacon, but alas, the world was not perfect, and Ozpin knew that better than anyone.
“Hm,” Ozpin intoned, turning back to Yang. “Well if you can give me a confident ‘yes’ that you believe she’s Beacon material, then I’d be happy to give her a private tryout in December when we start to look at next year’s admissions.”
Yang blinked. “Um… alright. I guess I could, like, spar with her, see how good she is.”
Ozpin gave a small nod. “What was this girl’s name?”
“Oh, Emerald. Uh, Emerald Something. I don’t think I ever got a last name.”
“And is she aware that there are shelters and youth homes she could go to?” Glynda asked, feeling the need to bring this up.
“Yeah,” Yang answered. “She said she’d gone to them before but they try to send her home ‘cause her parents are still, like, alive and here. But she doesn’t like them, so… yeah. She’d rather live on the street than at home, I guess.”
This sounded like something the police needed to get involved in. The look Ozpin gave her told Glynda he was thinking along the same lines.
Well, they had a first name. At least, hopefully it was her real first name. There might be missing persons cases for an ‘Emerald’ that would help them narrow down where to find this poor girl and help her and see what was going on with her parents. It wouldn’t do to tell Yang this, though; if the girl got any hint that Beacon was working with the authorities about this, she might not show up.
“Well, if you give me that recommendation, Yang, I’ll happily set up a time for her to come in,” Ozpin said in his typical grandfatherly tone.
Yang’s response was nervous, awkward, and relieved, all in one. She let out a puff of air and then slowly punched a thumbs up at the two adults. “Cooool… Thanks, Brofessor… Iiiii’ma go now… ‘Kay.” She turned and walked out, overly-casually sticking her thumbs in her pocket.
Glynda and Ozpin shared a look between them, then Glynda followed her student out.
Yang’s teammates seemed to notice how off she was. Weiss just tilted her head and squinted quizzically, but Blake was waiting closest to the door and quickly moved to Yang’s side to put a hand on her back and ask, “Hey, you okay?”
“Yeah, thanks.” She glanced at Weiss and gave her a small smile and nod. “Ozpin sa—”
A swirl of petals slammed into her and turned into Ruby, wrapping her much bigger sister in a hug. “Hi!” she chirped.
“Oh, you’re approaching me?!” Yang said in a gruff, cartoonish voice. “Are you here for some Ursa hugs?!” She scooped up the little Ruby and squeezed her back, the poor girl’s feet left dangling inches from the ground as she giggle-grunted for air.
“N-Yang! Ack! Sto-heehehe! Stop it! Yang-uh! Ahahahha!”
With that, Yang unceremoniously started walking back down to the elevator, carrying a swinging, kicking, giggling huntress in front of her. Ruby interspersed her kicks with light headbutts to Yang’s nose that had absolutely no avail, which just made her giggle more. Blake and Weiss rolled their eyes and followed like this was a perfectly normal occurrence.
“I’ll have you flogged for insubstantiation!” Ruby cried.
“You mean insubordination?” Weiss asked.
“Ruby, do you even know what ‘flogging’ is?” Blake asked her.
Ruby paused her wiggling to frown thoughtfully. “It’s when someone hits you with a flag, right?”
Glynda couldn’t help joining in on the laughter.
“Yeah, that’s it,” Blake agreed.
When they all situated themselves on the platform, Glynda released the clamp and started to let them down. Going down still required her to pour aura into the platform. Gravity by itself would send them plummeting down, so she had to use the gravity Dust to push against it enough to slow them down, but not so much as stop them. Easy as breathing now, though control like this was hard when she’d been a student. Aura was hard to control enough to output an even flow for the unexperienced.
Ruby quit her kicking in Yang’s hold to crane her neck and look around as they descended back down to the lobby.
“How much you want to bet I can beat this thing to the bottom?” she asked.
“Why on Remnant would I take that bet?” Yang asked her.
“I dunno, ‘cause yer dumb? Ack!”
She squealed and coughed and laughed as Yang squeezed her harder.
“What did Ozpin say?” Weiss asked.
Yang looked over and a silent conversation passed between them. “He said maybe, if I can vouch for her.”
“For who?” Ruby asked with a few small kicks.
“Yer face,” Yang answered.
Ruby scrunched up her nose and leaned back to get a good view of Yang. “You’re vouching for my face?”
“I said ‘if’.”
“You’re not vouching for my face?” Ruby asked, offended.
“Not sure I like it yet.”
“You’ve seen it for almost sixteen years!”
“Guess I’m dumb.”
The elevator reached the base at the bottom and clicked loudly into place.
“Alright, girls, good meeting—” ‘for the most part,’ she thought to herself “—and good Hunt. Enjoy the rest of the weekend and be ready for class tomorrow.” Was there anything she was missing? Some piece of adult or professor advice or instruction that was slipping her mind? “… Don’t be late.”
She’d said it because it was just a thing professors were supposed to say, but when the girls all gave varying degrees of flustered response, it reminded her of their late arrivals on their first day of class.
‘Good job, Glynda. You’ve got this professor thing down.’
Team RWBY all gave their goodbyes in their various ways, Yang casually, Blake quietly, Weiss formally, and Ruby breathlessly because she was still being crushed by her sister for Light knows what reason. With them off to their dorm rooms, Glynda headed back up to Ozpin.
He was still sitting in the love seat, staring off into space, thinking about… whatever it was a man that was millenia old and remembered a time when gods and Grimm first arrived and walked on Remnant thought about. Hopefully it was the same thing on Glynda’s mind right now.
“I have some concerns that Tai hasn’t helped his daughter cope with Raven leaving very well,” she said firmly.
Ozpin stirred from wherever his head was at and blinked at Glynda heavily. “He’s doing the best he can. The Branwens proved to be excellent huntsmen and awful parents, and Summer…”
Summer had been a great person and parent. She was gone now because of several reasons—her hero complex, her desire to get Raven to come back, her refusal to use Aurora’s power, and chief among them that she hadn’t trusted Ozpin that Salem was dead. She’d been right, technically, though Glynda wasn’t sure finding out that truth was worth her life. And she knew Tai felt the same, and was certain Ruby and Yang would too, if they knew.
When they knew. It would surely come up when Ozpin felt it was time to tell Ruby what she is.
It wasn’t worth arguing about though. It would just turn into Glynda accusing Ozpin of making a stupid mistake lying about Salem and he would just recite all the reasons he’d thought he’d been right to. They’d get nowhere.
“And this Emerald girl?” she asked instead.
Ozpin shrugged and stood, striding back to his desk. “We’ll give her a tryout if Yang is confident she belongs here. And we’ll have Child Care Services here to get her home afterwards.”
“Should we not look into her parents, make sure it’s a safe home to go back to?” Glynda worried. Children often overreacted to things, especially where parents were concerned, but not always, and there was always something there for them to complain about. And if the ‘complaining’ was a girl running away from home to live in the streets, there was likely something significantly wrong going on in that home.
Ozpin sighed and slumped into his chair. “We are a bit busy, Glynda, and proving and litigating domestic abuse cases is incredibly time consuming and difficult.”
Glynda crossed her arms and frowned at her mentor.
“And victim and main witness is living out on the street and likely not willing to provide testimony,” he added.
Glynda maintained her glare.
Ozpin waved a hand tiredly. “We can give the case to the police and encourage them to launch a thorough investigation.”
That would help. The police, at least in Vale and Atlas, tended to defer to huntsmen. Ozpin’s ‘encouragement’ would make them take this potential domestic abuse case seriously, something they didn’t do more often than not.
“Should we have them talk to Miss Xiao-Long?”
“No,” Ozpin said quickly. “It would make her uncomfortable and feel like we betrayed her trust, and she might tip off the girl. Besides, I think she needs to feel like she’s helping this Emerald.”
True. Glynda couldn’t imagine abusive parents sat any better with Yang than absentee ones.
“Now I need to do the review with Team KORL, then we’ll get Nidas and finally go clear out that cave,” Ozpin said, standing back up and pulling out a scroll. “It needs to be safe for whenever it is time for Ruby to claim Aurora’s light.”
“Assuming she wants to,” Glynda amended for him. It was the girl’s own mother that had decided to put it there.
“Assuming she wants to,” Oz agreed.
Glynda would have preferred having Peter or Bart over Nidas—not because Nidas was bad in a fight (he was quite good, in fact), but because Pete and Bart were her teammates and she was more used to working with them. Unfortunately, Pete was visiting family in southern Vale and wouldn’t be back until tomorrow morning and Bart had decided to stay because they always needed a professor on campus and he said he’d rather work with the police to find Black than dive into an Elder Hive on a Sunday.
Which was fair.
“I’ll see you at the airstrip in an hour,” Ozpin said.
A little over two hours later, Glynda, Ozpin, and Nidas were standing above the hole at the top of the cave that held the statue of Aurora, the pearlescent marble woman in full view and reflecting light more than marble ought to. And within the lantern hanging from her hand was the shining light of Aurora’s power that Summer had decided to lock away years ago to silence the goddess in her head.
Behind them, the Chariot that brought them here hovered twenty feet above the canopy, the force from the gravity engines bending the boughs beneath. Ozpin had told them to stay airborne for safety’s sake.
“So this is where Big Magical Light Lady landed, huh,” Nidas remarked. This was his first time out here, his first time seeing the statue. “After she, uh, crashed through the moon?” He had a wry grin on his face like he thought this was a strange joke.
“Yes,” Ozpin replied. “Though I daresay it’s much prettier now.”
“How are we doing this?” Glynda asked. She was certain Ozpin would use his semblance here, but wasn’t sure how.
“You gonna ‘split the timelines’ or whatever?” Nidas asked.
“I already have.”
“Was I supposed to feel something?” Nidas asked, patting himself like he was trying to find his car keys in a pocket.
“No,” Ozpin answered with a wry smile. “I’m running only a little bit of Aura in this branch. Let’s just jump down and see what’s what. I’ll have us wait in the other and we can change our plans accordingly.”
“There are webs on the ceiling in this corner,” Glynda said, pointing to the southwest side of the hill. “Nidas, find targets as soon as we drop.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he replied, defaulting to the student-professor relationship they were both familiar with despite them technically being peers now. He pulled out the single-edged scimitars (one side bladed, the other a thin metal blade well set with gears and catches holding the bowstring) strapped to his back, gave one a twirl, and slammed the ends of the hilts together. Mechanisms crunched and whirred as the swords affixed to each other, then the gears that divided the blades into thirds rotated the blades inward, converted a dual-bladed sword into a longbow. There was a *twang!* as the bowstrings on both ends were hot with a burst of pressure and connected. Blue lights lit up on the string-connecting device and in the connected halves of the pommel, hard-light Dust mechanisms. Nidas’ right hand had a peculiar mechanical glove on and he tapped his index and middle fingers together twice and blue circles appeared at their tips as well. He reached down to the string connector with those fingers and tugged a bit and an arrow of pure hard-light projected between the string connector and the adjoined pommels. “Ready.”
“Kids these days and their overly complicated toys,” Glynda muttered with a smile.
“Don’t be jelly, Professor,” Nidas grinned at her.
“I would never be ‘jelly’,” Glynda bristled.
“Alright, children,” Ozpin smiled. “You two lead. When I said I only have a little aura right now, I meant it.”
“No worries, Professor. I got this.”
With that, Nidas tipped over the edge of the skylight and fell in, doing a quick front flip and kicking his fire Dust boots on to slow his fall as he twisted in the air and released an arrow at something out of view.
Glynda dropped down after him.
She landed with a soft splash, slowing herself with her telekinesis to slow herself before the impact of the thirty foot drop could make her stumble. As soon as her feet touched ground, she sent a focused thread of aura down the inside of her left sleeve, along the line of lightning Dust woven into her clothing. The charge of lightning built in her hand and she held it, letting it charge and bounce between her fingertips as she wheeled around to where Nidas had been shooting.
In the darkness, red eyes were shining, one set of eight much bigger than all the others, rearing back to jump.
Glynda let loose the lightning in her hand—not throwing it or pushing it, but just letting it go with a bit of guidance. The bolt crackled across the cavern faster than a blink and detonated with a thunderous crash in the Elder Weaver’s face. The creature let out a hideous screech and reeled, the impact shaking it and the web that it and all its little hivelings clung to.
Still standing, though it looked like a couple of its eyes went dark. Probably gorey smears now, though it was impossible to tell with it lurking in the dark.
Nidas reached down to his belt and pulled out a small crystal of fire Dust that he pinched between his two arrow-drawing fingers and drew his bow again. The arrow that formed was compacted flame with lines of blue hard-light running parallel to the shaft an inch away and pans of hard-light hexagoning conically just beyond the arrowhead. He let the arrow loose with a quick flick that Glynda wasn’t even sure he’d aimed, but it exploded perfectly above the Elder, right between its four front legs.
The resulting explosion burned the underside of the upside-down Elder and incinerated a couple of the smaller Weavers nearby, but most importantly it burned up the webbing the Elder was sticking to. It tipped, its front six legs scrabbling at air as its back two tried to maintain a grip on the webbing that had survived the explosion. The full weight of the Elder Weaver was too much on that small of an area, though, and the web stretched to the point it couldn’t anymore and ripped, sending the massive monster falling on its back with a ground-shaking thud.
Nidas immediately rushed forward, trying to close the forty foot distance to the creature to do some damage, but the other broodlings were crawling out or dropping down to them now, and were quickly a wall of legs and skittering evil between them and the Elder struggling to flip itself.
With a quick flick of her crop, Glynda sent a wave of fire out in front of her. She bent the flames around Nidas and incinerated most of the smaller Grimm around him. The flames wanted to continue to the curved movement despite her wishes otherwise, and instead of fighting it, Glynda doubled down, pushing the fire in two separate circles. Soon there were two towering tornados of flame tearing through the cave. She pushed one straight ahead to the Elder, clearing a path for Nidas, the other she had spin circles around her student fellow professor to help keep him from getting piled on.
As the flaming cyclone spun around him and to his right side, Nidas shot an ice arrow into one of the bigger Weavers on his left. The frost explosion encased the creature, blades of ice spearing out behind it. Nidas pointed a commanding finger at it and the ice then ruptured, then exploded, spinning blades sent flying out away from him into the ever increasing throng of Grimm racing at them. Several died, and many more were amputated, some losing enough legs that they couldn’t properly continue fighting.
A bit of teacher’s pride flared in Glynda’s chest at her former student’s capabilities. He hadn’t been able to do that before he came to Beacon. She’d actually taught him herself how to manipulate Dust post-casting.
“Don’t focus on killing them!” Ozpin’s voice shouted behind her. He was standing underneath the statue-goddess’ lantern, peering into the darkness where the Weaver Queen was. “Focus on figuring out where they’re coming from!”
Glynda pushed the fire slowing dying fire tornadoes forward, toward the far wall, but knew they’d need more to see. For reasons nobody quite understood, Dust fire burned dimmer but hotter than natural fire, and wasn’t a terribly reliably source of light.
Not compared to the crystal of light Dust that Glynda pulled out. She crushed it in her palm and poured aura into it, then flung them out. She willed hundreds of tiny little points of light into existence and sent the floating into the darkness. The tiny sprites of light would have made this area quite beautiful if it weren’t for the fact that they illuminated a horde of corrupted arachnid monsters.
There were three massive webs along the far wall, each replete with small to medium sized Weavers. More were crawling out of two cracks in the wall, one from the floor to the ceiling, another running at a diagonal the branched out from the first. There was also one more web on the ceiling, though most of its occupants had dropped down by now.
“The fack?!” Nidas yelled, expressing a similar sentiment.
“We need to find all the holes they’re crawling out of!” Ozpin ordered.
Were there more? It looked like this was everyth—oh.
“There!” Glynda shouted, pointing and sending some of the blips on light over to illuminate. There was a crack in the floor to the south where it met the wall, and a few Weavers were squeezing through the space and jumping out to join the fight.
Right after that there was a horrible scream, like a cross between a banshee shriek and a six year old gargling toothpaste, and Glynda turned to see that the Elder had somehow gotten itself to the wall and back onto its feet. It launched a wide web out at Nidas, who was still looking at where Glynda had pointed.
He reacted fast, though, spinning his bow and creating a Dust-summoned slash of air that split the web in two and sent the halves floating harmlessly to his sides. One flew in such a way that it started to drape itself onto the statue of Aurora, but when the corrupted black silk came within a foot of the marble it seemed to evaporate into nothingness.
Unfortunately, though he dealt with the web, it was not nearly as easy for Nidas to deal with the throngs of spiders that were now close enough to him to be a problem. Two smaller ones jumped towards him and he sliced one out of the air and punched the other, but then a bigger one jumped on his back. Glynda blasted it off with gravity Dust, but the thing had left webbing on Nidas’ back that anchored him to the floor.
Glynda brought the tornados of fire back, both now smaller than some of the spiders they were fighting, to try to clear some space for Nidas and burn the silk off his back.
More started piling in an him in the meantime, biting and swiping at him while he was bound down. He released a burst of gravity Dust magic in a sphere around himself, a simple but effective technique that Glynda had taught him in his first year at Beacon, that pushed everything around him away and snapped enough lines of silk that he could pull himself free of the rest.
There were just so many.
“We got what we needed!” Ozpin shouted. “I’m cutting this line!”
A shiver of fear ran down Glynda’s spine, even though rationally she knew there was no reason for it. Just the idea that the her of right now would completely cease to exist was… terrifying. But it would be okay. There was another her in another timeline that would never even be aware of the fear she was feeling right now, and she wou—
“Was I supposed to feel something?” Nidas asked, patting himself like he was trying to find his car keys in a pocket.
“No,” Ozpin answered with a wry smile. A moment of silence stretched before he spoke again. “We’ll be clearing the cave in this line. Be ready for a fight. I’ll see how the scouting goes and then we’ll go in.”
There wasn’t much for Glynda to do to prepare, so she just stood there with her arms crossed, tapping her crop against her bicep in a steady rhythm like a grandfather clock.
Nidas, on the other hand, pulled out the single-edged scimitars (one side bladed, the other a thin metal blade well set with gears and catches holding the bowstring) strapped to his back, gave one a twirl, and slammed the ends of the hilts together. Mechanisms crunched and whirred as the swords affixed to each other, then the gears that divided the blades into thirds rotated the blades inward, converted a dual-bladed sword into a longbow. There was a *twang!* as the bowstrings on both ends were hot with a burst of pressure and connected. Blue lights lit up on the string-connecting device and in the connected halves of the pommel, hard-light Dust mechanisms. Nidas’ right hand had a peculiar mechanical glove on and he tapped his index and middle fingers together twice and blue circles appeared at their tips as well. He reached down to the string connector with those fingers and tugged a bit and an arrow of pure hard-light projected between the string connector and the adjoined pommels.
“Is it just me, or are there somehow more gears on that thing than there were last week?” Glynda teased her former student.
Nidas smiled and glanced down at his weapon, then at Glynda’s riding crop in her hand. “Yeah, I stole them from your stick.”
“It is a crop, Mister Rustheart, and I will smack you with it.”
“Ssshh,” Ozpin hissed gently. “Get ready. There are a lot of them. It looks like you were right, Glynda. The Elder is up here.” He pointed to a spot on the hill a little ways to the southwest.
Had Glynda said that? She didn’t remember saying that. It fit with what she remembered of when she was here last, though.
They waited for another protracted moment. Glynda tapped her crop. Nidas tested his bowstring. Ozpin twirled his cane a couple times, then stuck it into the ground and began getting shards of Dust out from his belt pouches. He placed two slim crystals of earth Dust on opposite sides of his upturned palm and between them a gravity and a fire crystal.
He crushed the Dust and immediately the ground began to rumble.
In the space between where Glynda and Oz stood, violet aether and bright red flames swirled into being together, starting off as pinpricks and expanding rapidly into an impossibly large humanoid form. Rock cracked beneath it and pulled up, slowly encasing the wild eddies of magic. First boots, then legs. As the earth casing went higher, it started to pull chunks of rock from further and further away, until Glynda had to step back as the ground beneath her was broken and yanked from underneath her to complete the final parts of this elemental being’s head.
Before her stood a twelve foot tall man made of solid rock, the cracks in between the pieces that made it up all glowing purple or red with the magic inside. It was shaped like it was wearing armor, with a chin guard rising up from a breastplate, ridiculously large pauldrons, and even what appeared was a chainmail skirt, the flowing, cloth-like bit formed by a veil of gravity magic and small pebbles dotting it to give the impression of links of chain.
And at the very top the thing wore a crown. Every other spike in the circle was taller jutted out a bit and curved back, with tongues of flame cresting out behind and above them.
The elemental’s eyes glowed an intimidating, unblinking purple. Its face was otherwise featureless, a nostril-less form of a nose and no mouth, making it look almost like a demonic mannequin.
It held its left arm out and closed a fist, and there was another cracking of earth. Pieces flew to its arm and soon it had a broad kite shield, so large it was almost a tower shield, the cracks between the sections glowing violet.
It extended its other arm and chucks of rock flew into it, quickly forming a large sword hilt in its massive hand. The elemental flicked once and suddenly an obscenely large blade of pure flame erupted from the crossguard, wide, straight, pointed, and almost ten feet long.
With that, it struck a battle stance, staring down into the hole they were all gathered around. For a moment, all was silent save for the loud cracking and rumbling sounds passively emanating from the Dust knight.
“… Uh, what?” Nidas finally spoke.
Ozpin picked his cane back up and stuck it in the ground at his feet, both hands resting on the pommel, and straightened his back. “Now when we drop, I’ll handle the Elder. Glynda, I need you to cast some light in the room as soon as you land.”
“Once the room is lit, you should be able to see the cracks in the wall where the Weavers are pouring out from. There are two on this wall—” he pointed into the west side of the hill “—and one where the floor and the wall meet over there.” He pointed to the southern side of the hill.
Glynda idly wondered what they did or were doing in the other timeline to get that intel. Did the fight go well? It was weird to think she might have died and not even know it. Though she was certain Ozpin wouldn’t let that happen, even knowing that timeline wasn’t going to be permanent.
“Once those are sealed, just focus on clearing out the smaller Weavers in the cave and keep them off my back. I need to see what I have this guy swinging at.” He looked up at the massive knight’s unmoving, expressionless face.
“So you’re directly controlling this thing?” Nidas asked. “It’s not autonomous?”
Ozpin chuckled. “No, Nidas. I cannot grant something a consciousness.”
“So… this isn’t some weird pseudo-god magic shenanigans or like a second semblance or something? It’s just… Dust casting?”
Ozpin smiled and nodded.
Nidas looked at the knight, then back at Ozpin. “So theoretically I could learn how to do that?”
“Theoretically,” Ozpin agreed. “Though it took me several centuries to get it down myself.”
Glynda felt a pang of… well several pangs of several different feelings. Dejection knowing that despite being considered a master Dust caster by the rest of the world, she would never ever be able to come anywhere close to Ozpin’s level. Determination seeing something like this was technically possible for her to do. And jealously of Ozpin being able to spend eternity mastering Dust casting—and anything he wanted to, really. From the mural on the wall and some of the other things she’d seen, he was a master painter. From the statue beneath them she could surmise he was also a skilled sculptor.
As far as Glynda knew, the only thing Ozpin had no skill in was programming. He told her he had no interest in learning, though had also conceded immediately after that the personalities of any of his future hosts might change that, so he’d probably end up mastering that too.
Glynda knew that it was a lonely and hard existence, but she had a very hard time putting aside her own desire to be immortal.
“Damn it,” Nidas muttered. “… Maybe you just suck though.”
That made Oz let out a full-bellied laugh. “Perhaps. Now, shall we?” He gestured down the hole with his cane.
With that, the Dust knight dropped down the hole, landing in the pool near the statue of the Lady of Light with a crash. Ozpin followed immediately after, landing on the other side.
Glynda dropped, spun, slowed herself with her semblance, and sent out a shower of white Dust, hundreds of points of light spreading across the southwest section of the cave.
The dozens and dozens of malicious red eyes the light revealed made Glynda partially regret that. Not scary—she had too much experience to be scared at this point—but incredibly creepy. That was an image that would stay with her when she closed her eyes to go to sleep tonight.
She shrugged the feeling away and focused on what she needed to do. She suspended herself where she was, using her semblance on her boots to pseudo-stand in the air, and scanned for the cracks Ozpin had tasked her with sealing. Easy enough, since she knew where to look. The slimy Weavers crawling out of them helped.
She could pinch the cracks shut with earth Dust, but she didn’t have quite the range or power with earth as she did with ice.
With precision most huntsmen could only dream of achieving, Glynda used her aura to activate a series of ice Dust threads in her jacket, summoning a sphere of cold magic in one hand. She could just throw these at the cracks, but they were too long to be covered by two blasts. Instead, she flicked her crop, splitting the magic in her hand in two and sending one half as a stream of missiles that arced through the cavern and impacted on the crack between the floor and southern wall.
One hit a stupid spider that skittered in the way, but the rest connected at points along the line and their detonations of ice were enough to cut off the entire entrance, ending the stream of Weavers coming from that direction.
She turned to take care of the cracks in the other wall and…
Something had burned the web on the ceiling of the cave the Elder was lurking on, and as Glynda turned it crashed to the ground. Less than a second later, the Dust knight slammed into it with its shield, strong enough that it was sent rolling into the wall.
Weavers were lunging at the knight, several crawling over it and trying to bite or hack into it, but the stone golem was unperturbed. It lashed out with its sword, the blade of fire expanding and stretching with the motion, and a huge mass of Grimm were incinerated before the hit connected with the Elder, cutting into two of its legs and making it screech. An ugly sound, that, like a cross between a banshee shriek and a six year old gargling toothpaste.
Nidas was splashing about in the pool, blitzing this way and that with his swords to slice up Weavers that were rushing at Ozpin, who looked to be ramping up a big casting with Earth dust while he watched his knight, the dark green magic swirling and swelling between his hands.
Glynda sent her other salvo of missiles at the two branching cracks in the far wall, though she wasn’t able to completely freeze shut one of them. Maybe she could have, if she’d focused more on spacing them out to maximize their detonation radius, but she was a bit distracted watching the knight in action. She quickly amended the error, pulling more ice Dust from her skirt and sending the missiles across the cavern, then returned her attention to the knight.
It charged the Elder, slamming into the monster with its shield to pin it against the wall, then started hacking into its face with its fire sword. A few of its eyes popped, black gore erupting out of the sockets as the thing screamed.
A brutal scene, made even more disconcerting when Glynda remembered Ozpin was controlling this thing.
He was actively controlling it, the same way Glynda would control a Dust tornado or whip or storm or missile, right? She should be able to do this, it just required focus and precision of thought. If anything, it should be easier to move Dust around like a human than a tornado because Glynda knew what it felt like to be human, right?
It definitely wasn’t going to be that simple, but it helped Glynda to simplify things like that to force herself into overcoming the obstacle. If it was simple, there was no reason she couldn’t get it.
Another Elder scream pulled her out of her considerations. The thing had scrabbled until it was able to get its feet against the wall the knight was pinning it to and pushed the night back. It started skittering up the wall to try to get away.
A flash of blue speared across the cave, an ice arrow from Nidas. It struck the lower joint on one of the Elder’s legs, the expansion of ice catching another and anchoring both to the wall. The monster slipped, started to fall, then caught itself and managed to pull its frozen legs apart, breaking the encasement and sending icicles raining down.
Before it could continue its climb up the wall, though, Glynda sent her aura down her sleeve to trigger gravity Dust and conjured the magic above the Elder, right in its face. She used her aura to invert the base magic, making it push instead of pull, and then pushed a huge amount of aura into it in an instant.
The resulting sudden expansion of the gravity sphere sent the Elder slamming back down to the ground where Ozpin’s knight was waiting to resume its onslaught.
Glynda held the sphere in check (it wanted to continue expanding because gravity Dust only wanted to move one way—in or out), then pulled it down to the ground, moving it past the Elder and then towards the statue, knocking Weavers aside as it went. Once it got into what was more or less the center of the fight, Glynda let go of the magic, then quickly reclaimed it, now using her aura to flip it back to its natural state of Pull. A useful and difficult trick, and the most efficient way of reversing already activated gravity Dust.
The result was a gravity well in the middle of the battlefield that pulled everything in. Weavers were dragged across the floor or flailed through the air towards it, and the radius caught almost all of them.
It caught Nidas too, but he flared his aura out to resist the effect and jumped back to Ozpin, out of range.
Just then Ozpin clapped his hands together, the magic he was building up finally going off.
A deafening rumble shook the cavern, then suddenly on either side of Glynda’s gravity well rose two thick walls of rock. They climbed up almost to the ceiling, stopped for a moment, then clapped together, much like Ozpin’s hands had done but much, much louder.
The Weavers caught in the well were squashed, some of their black blood spurting out from between the two immense slabs of stone.
Glynda’s gravity magic was also crushed, something she consciously felt as her ability to influence the Dust winked out.
There were a little over a dozen Grimm left in the cavern now. Glynda and Nidas picked off the smaller Weavers with missiles and arrows while the knight battled the Elder.
It looked like that fight was starting to go in the Elder’s favor. It beat back the knight and started taking chunks out of its torso with its disgusting pincers, purple and red magic inside pluming out of the wounds.
The knight pushed the monster back to make space, then raised its shield and charged again.
This time, the Elder Weaver met the charge, rearing back on four legs and then slamming into its opponents. The resulting impact shattered the knight’s shield, rock scattering and gravity magic dissipating along its forearm.
The knight, now beaten down to one knee with the weight of a biting Elder Weaver hammering on its upper body, flicked out its now free hand. Purple magic coalesced around it and then around the Weaver’s torso, looking almost like the knight was Dust casting itself.
It pushed and the Weaver was slammed back into the wall, pinned by magic, its legs swiping fruitlessly at the air as it screeched. The knight held its sword out to its side and the flames of the blade flickered out. Confusion knotted Glynda’s brow but for a moment, because the blade then quickly returned, this time in the deep violets of gravity magic. The knight extended the new blade behind it, toward the walls of rock that Oz had conjured, and pieces and chunks broke off from the structures to speed toward it and encase the gravity magic, forming a blade of stone.
With the other hand still held high to hold the gravity magic pinning the Weaver, the knight pivoted towards it, lunged forward, and thrusted its new sword deep into the evil creature’s abdomen.
Its scream was louder and shriller and more blood-curdling than any it had let out yet.
With one final motion of effort, the knight sent a burst of fire down its blade, and when it got to the Weaver the magic erupted in a fiery explosion that made Glynda squint and raise a hand to block the light.
Brighter than the average Dust flame.
The Elder’s scream ended, its corpse already dissolving amongst the conflagration. The knight turned their way, more visible as a silhouette against the flames than anything else. Its sword arm had been blown off in the explosion, as well as its sword, trails of magic swirling from the stump, the purple contrasting against the fire.
It gave them a brisk salute with its remaining hand, then crumbled away, leaving behind one last small burst of violet and red as it left, the remaining Dust magic that had gone unused burning up.
A deafening silence stretched as the battle ended. Glynda lowered herself to the ground, landing lightly in the pool and extending her aura out a bit so her heels wouldn’t get wet.
She stood quietly and watched the flames of the Dust knight smolder and slowly sputter out, taking in what she’d just watched. The knight…
She could do that. She would do that. She hadn’t really learned anything new in Dust casting the past couple of years, instead just mastering finer control as she taught her students. But that was enough complacency; she needed to push herself to improve again, like she had when she was a student herself. This seemed like a worthy goal. If she could summon a t—
“Did you just… salute yourself?” Nidas asked, breaking the silence.
“That’s what you took away from that?” Glynda said. She was tempted to give this clown detention. She could do it, too, despite him being a professor. There was no doubt in her mind that Nidas would begrudgingly sit and pout in her classroom for an hour if she told him to.
Ozpin just chuckled though. “I’m sure you’d find some enjoyment in it to, if you were able to do it,” he said lightly.
“Nah, I’m more mature than that.”
Ozpin raised an eyebrow, his eyes twinkling, then turned to Glynda. They rolled their eyes at each other and said in unison, “Children.”
While Glynda walked over to him, Ozpin raised a hand out in front of him, palm down, and lowered it like he was slowly pushing down on something. With the motion, the two walls of stone he’d raised began receding back down into the ground with a rumble.
With that, the cavern was more or less clean. The ooze of decaying Grimm was fading away, the fires had died out. There were just a pile of rock where the knight fell, a few craters that Nidas had created, and a groove in the far wall that trailed down to and across the floor where Glynda’s gravity sphere had compressed the stone.
Ah, and the iced over cracks.
Glynda headed over to the two walls, using her semblance to levitate an inch off the ground to move faster, and sealed the cracks shut properly with earth Dust. The disgusting creatures lurking inside the walls would starve out eventually.
When she came back to them, Oz and Nidas were both standing in front of the statue, staring up at it.
“I think we’re done here,” Glynda announced.
“Mm,” Ozpin replied.
Glynda couldn’t imagine how surreal of an experience it was to be standing in front of a statue you carved in another lifetime, with people standing at your side that wouldn’t have been born for generations back when you were making it.
That weirdness, however it felt, probably explained Oz’s non-committal response.
“So that’s a goddess, huh,” Nidas remarked, pointing at the silvery-gold light inside the statue’s lantern.
It took a moment for Oz to stir from and blink away whatever thoughts he was lost in. “Just a large chunk of her soul. Her aura, if you will. Not her consciousness.”
“Right, because that’s in… Ruby?” Nidas continued, his tone displaying his skepticism.
“Mm,” Ozpin agreed.
“Is she the goddess of hyperactive goofyness and friendship or something?”
“You’d think so, wouldn’t you,” Glynda grinned.
Ozpin cleared his throat and met their eyes solemnly, like he was about to say something serious. “If this heightened Grimm activity is building up to something, I need you two to remember this place if something bad happens. If something happens and our world ends up in danger, make sure Ruby gets here. I have a feeling we’re going to need Auora to wake up and help us fight.”
“Fight who? The Salem lady?” Nidas asked.
Ozpin closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Yes, Nidas. Probably the Salem lady.”
“Have you tried just, like, asking her out to a movie or something?”
“Nidas!” Glynda hissed.
“I’m just saying, maybe she doesn’t have to be a bad guy!”
“She killed, absorbed, and became the god of chaos centuries ago,” Ozpin said tiredly, almost sadly. “I think she’s well past the point of redemption.”
Glynda waved the idiot child away and faced Ozpin full on. “Why are you telling us this? Are you thinking you won’t be here to bring Ruby yourself?”
“Oh no, I’m sure I will be,” Ozpin answered. “I just want to make sure everyone is on the same page. Make sure Bart and Pete know too, and I’ll tell Qrow.”
“Ah yes. And Tai.”
The frown that creased Oz’s forehead told Glynda he was thinking the same thing she was: that would be a tough sell.
Ozpin glanced up to the skylight and let out a long breath. “This can wait ‘till later. I could be totally wrong and we might have nothing to worry about. Focus on what we know we must do, and that’s train our young students as best we can. Regardless of Salem, we will need our huntsmen at their best. Now let’s get back to our sc—”
He was cut off as all their scrolls buzzed. Glynda had a suspicion what it would be…
Cpt Hightower: True have left VC. Investigating to determine what they were doing.
Wonderful. Another interruption with absolutely useless information.
Glynda rubbed at the bridge of her nose. “I need tea.”