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Legacy of the Heart

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by blitzgamer, Jun 10, 2022.

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  1. blitzgamer

    blitzgamer The Derg

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    Oof, forgot I still had the prologue up on here. Ignore it, start with chapter 1.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2022
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  2. Threadmarks: Chapter 1: A Stranger on Patch
    blitzgamer

    blitzgamer The Derg

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    Chapter 1: A Stranger on Patch


    Yang was angry. No, she was beyond angry, she was furious. All she had wanted was a nice simple spar with her baby sister, maybe help her finally get the hang of hand to hand combat over the semester break while they were back home, when they had been interrupted by not one, not two, but three fucking Ursai. At least unlike the last time something like this had happened Ruby had Crescent Rose on her. The Grimm advanced into the wooded clearing slowly, eyeing the both of them up. Thankfully they all looked to be Minors, so they should go down easily enough. Ruby called over to the blonde.

    "I'll take right, you take left, then we team up on center?"

    Yang smiled. Her little sister had really come into her own as a leader.

    "Only if I don’t kill both of them before you kill yours!"

    She could hear the confidence in her sister’s voice as she responded to her challenge.

    "Whoever kills center gets to choose dessert tonight!"

    Her smile grew into a grin. "You're on!"

    Before Ruby could respond she threw her arms back and triggered Ember Celica, the burst of flame from her gauntlets launching her at the leftmost Ursa. The shadow and bone mockery of a bear roared a challenge as it charged at her in turn. Its right claw swung down, slamming down on her like a sledgehammer as she raised her left arm to block it, her Aura flashing golden yellow in response to the blow. Her other arm jabbed into the monster's gut, firing off her gauntlet's in-built shotgun upon contact. She let the recoil push her arm back, then pistoned it forward again, jabbing twice more in quick succession. She’d need to finish the Ursa off quickly if she wanted to beat Ruby to number three. Hopefully their earlier spar and the hit she had taken would be enough. She activated her Semblance, eyes flashing red as her hair burst into flame, and sent her right fist flying upwards into the Grimm's pale mask, obliterating it with her fist of fury as she channeled all the damage she had taken into the beast.

    She glanced over to her right and smirked. Ruby was still tangling with her opponent, scythe whirling around her as she sliced at its limbs. She turned back to face the remaining Ursa, which had apparently been waiting to see which of its buddies would die first before acting. It reared back, ready to come down on her...

    Only to fall over onto its face, a sword sticking out of its back. Huh. Deja vu.

    From her right the sound of Crescent Rose's in-built sniper rifle firing heralded the death of the final Ursa. Yang walked over to the slowly dissolving body of bear number three, wondering just what the hell had happened. Her sister quickly joined her, weapon now folded up and stowed on her back.

    The weapon that had killed the Ursa clattered to the ground as its victim fully faded away. Ruby let out a gasp of shock at the sight of it, and for once, Yang could see why. Whatever it was, it was no ordinary sword. The blade was made of crystal, yellow at the base, fading to orange before shifting to a deep red at the tip. It was shaped like a blast of fire that curled back on itself at the end, forming a sharp hook. The hilt was equally weird, a big red circle around the handle, with four big spikes coming off at diagonals, and three smaller circles at the sides and bottom. The ones on the side had small spikes as well, but the one on the bottom had a chain trailing from it, ending in a small silver token in the same shape as the hilt, but with a cross shaped handle.

    “That has to be one of the coolest swords I've ever seen!”

    Yang had to smirk, that was too perfect a set up.

    “What, Uncle Qrow’s isn’t cool enough?”

    Ruby scoffed in semi-faux outrage, glaring at her sister and pointing accusingly.

    “I’ll have you know Harbinger is far more than just a sword!”

    Yang just grinned and ruffled the little weapon fanatic’s hair.

    “Heh. You’re too easy sis.”

    “I’d ask if you two are alright, but if you’re joking like that then you must be.”

    The sisters turned towards the voice that had interrupted them, giving them a look at the man who had killed Ursa number three as he walked into the clearing. The first thing Yang noticed was his height. He was tall, over a head taller than her, downright towering over Ruby. He had fair skin with a warm complexion, and his hair was a mass of crimson spikes, all swept backwards behind him, giving the impression that his head was on fire. Soft turquoise eyes glinted with mischief, complementing the wide grin on his face.

    He wore a long black leather coat that hung tightly on his arms, a pair of silver drawstrings hung from the collar, keeping the hood cinched tight behind him. A silver chain strung with five cylindrical metal beads was fastened to a pair of loops near the collarbones. The zipper had two separate sliders holding it closed, and he’d left them pulled together above his heart, leaving the rest open to show off a grey plaid shirt, black jeans, and mid calf boots with two inch heels. He had his hands held behind his head as he approached, but as he reached down to pick up his sword Yang could see that he was wearing gloves of the same material as his coat.

    As he picked up the sword, holding it by the guard and not the handle oddly enough, the crystalline blade seemed to glow internally, light flowing up along the shape of the flame. She heard Ruby give a muttered “Holycruditgetsevencooler!” as the man slung it over his shoulders.

    Yang gave him a smirk.

    “It’ll take more than a few Minor Ursai to give us trouble, but thanks anyway for the assist.”

    The man just chuckled. "Heh. You’re welcome. I’m guessing you two are Huntresses then?”

    Yang opened her mouth to correct him but was cut short by her sister.

    “Yeah, well, kinda, we’re still in school and everything, we’re first year students over at Beacon, haven’t even gone on our first mission yet, we’re home over the semester break and were in the middle of sparring when they showed up and now I’m rambling Yanghelpme!” Ruby’s face was bright red with embarrassment as Yang draped her arm across her shoulders.

    “Easy sis, remember to breathe.” She glanced over at the guy, noticing that his grin had shrunken to a warm smirk as he watched Ruby stumble over herself. “Anyway, what she said. I’m Yang, and the prodigy over here is my sister Ruby.”

    She gave said sister a pat on the head, Ruby’s face getting even more red at the praise, trying and failing to cover her embarrassment with her hands.

    "Ohmygodsshutup! I'm not a prodigy!"

    Yang just booped her sister’s nose. "Getting in to Beacon two years early says otherwise sis."

    Any response Ruby might have had was cut off by the stranger chuckling again. "I'd believe it. A scythe isn't exactly the weapon of an amateur, and from what I managed to catch a glimpse of through the trees before those Grimm showed up, you’re pretty good with that thing!” He shook his head, rolling his shoulders as his smirk widened into a grin.

    “But where are my manners? My name's Lea,” he said, holding up his free hand to poke at his temple, “Got it memorized?”

    Yang couldn’t help but snort at the display, and only Ruby’s quick response prevented her from snarking at the guy.

    “Pleased to meet you! So, what brings you to Patch, Lea?”

    He smiled again, his free hand placed against his hip, sword kept slung over his shoulder.

    “I’m on assignment actually. Investigating reports of strange occurrences. You two wouldn’t have happened to see anything weird recently would you? Strange lights, glowing shapes appearing on walls, anything like that?”

    Yang shrugged. “Can’t say I have, sorry. What about you Rubes?”

    Ruby shook her head. “Wish we could help you more!”

    Lea just waved off their apologies. “Probably nothing, just-”

    He stopped, staring behind them, face set with concern. They turned to follow his gaze, and their eyes went wide with shock.

    Four clouds of utter darkness hung just above the ground, radiating thin black tendrils ever so slightly tinged with indigo. They collapsed in on themselves with a sound unlike any other, rushing wind and displaced air, followed by a chill that seemed to seep into the back of the mind. Where each cloud had been was a creature of pure shadow, humanoid in shape with pitch black skin marred by blue veins. The only feature on their faces were spherical eyes of bright piercing yellow, utterly devoid of life. Two long spindly antennae hung from each one’s head, trailing behind their emaciated bodies. They had pointed feet that were one solid mass, and hands ending in five long clawed fingers.

    Before Yang could blink, Lea was suddenly in front of her, sword held by the guard in a relaxed reverse grip, the tip of the flame towards his body. Without turning to face them he spoke, voice devoid of its earlier warmth.

    “You two, stay behind me. These things aren’t like anything you’ve faced before, got it? I’d rather not lose my new friends so soon after meeting them, so just let me handle things.”

    Some small part of Yang wanted to complain about being sidelined, but the complete reversal in tone from their earlier conversation made her hesitate. She nodded, Ember Celica unfolding as she backed towards the treeline.

    “Yeah, got it.”

    She heard the sound of Crescent Rose unfolding behind her, and glanced over to see that Ruby had it shifted into carbine mode, barrel pointed toward the ground for a quick escape.

    Lea nodded, still facing the monsters as they stood in the clearing, twitching erratically.

    “These things should stay focused on me, but if they don’t, don’t bother trying to fight them. Just run.”

    Before either girl could respond, Lea moved.

    One second he was standing there, the next he was right beside the closest creature, swinging his blade with a quick flick of his wrist into the thing’s side, cutting into it with a blast of flame. The only response from the creature was to lash out at Lea with its claws, but he had already moved out of the way, leaving it to strike empty air. He danced between the monsters, stopping just long enough to lash out with a quick movement of his hand before fading away to strike at another.

    Yang stared, transfixed by the sheer speed he displayed, evading lunging swipes with ease. Soon, two of the shades had been killed, vanishing in puffs of dark smoke. As he moved to deal with the third, the remaining monster faded into the ground out of sight. Yang swung her head around, searching for it, only to get tackled by Ruby in a burst of petals, saving her from being clawed from behind.

    As she regained her footing however, she saw a faint thread of yellow floating to the ground, and she heard Ruby whisper a faint "Ohno" as her vision went red.

    Yang flung herself at the monster that dared to touch her hair with a feral cry, whaling on it with a series of rapid jabs, not even bothering to trigger her guns.

    The thing soaked a number of punches before sinking back into the ground, popping back up on her right side, claws swinging down at her.

    She raised her arm up to block, flaring her Aura to absorb the impact of the strike, but as its claws made contact with her manifested soul, she could only scream as her world became agony.

    It felt as though her soul was being torn away from her by blades of wrathful flame, each separate slice hungrily digging its way into her very core. She collapsed to the ground in a daze, the pain quickly fading as fast as it had come, save for lingering aches where the claws had glanced across her aura.

    She felt her sister pull her to her feet and watched as Lea threw his blade at the monster that had caused her such pain, impaling it from behind as the blade erupted with a blast of flame. Before it had even finished fading he ran over to her, face heavy with concern. Ruby clung to her side, trembling slightly as she stared at where the thing had struck her. The skin where her Aura had shielded her had darkened, a set of ragged slashes just above the elbow. Lea put his hand on her shoulder, blade left abandoned on the ground.

    “Okay Hothead, talk to me. How you feeling?”

    She looked up into the face of the man who had saved them, his smile weary as he took in the damage to her arm.

    “Like someone just tried to rip out my Aura with a flaming butter knife. What the hell were those things?”

    Lea sighed with relief as her Aura flared to life around the wound, the discoloration fading slightly. Ruby let go of her other arm and stared at him expectantly, her weapon still by her side.

    “How was that thing able to hurt her through her Aura like that? It shouldn’t be possible!”

    Lea glanced between the two of them, sighing wearily as he rubbed at his temples.

    “They’re called Heartless. Neoshadows, to be specific. As for what happened to your arm, I have no idea. It should have just been like a normal scratch, albeit a very, very sharp one. Those things are the real reason I was here. Look, I’d love to tell you more, really I would, but it’s getting dark, and I’m worried that scream of yours got the attention of every Grimm within earshot. You two said you lived nearby, right?”

    Yang glanced over at her sister, who smiled and gave her a nod in return. The guy had probably just saved their lives, the least they could do was offer him dinner. Plus, he had technically won their bet.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2022
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  3. Threadmarks: Chapter 2: An Unexpected Visitor
    blitzgamer

    blitzgamer The Derg

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    Chapter 2: An Unexpected Visitor.

    Never before in her life had Ruby Rose known this level of sheer rage. A great injustice had been perpetrated, and she would not rest until it had been corrected.

    “So, you’re telling me, that this man, has a weapon, called a gunblade....
    AND IT CAN’T ACTUALLY SHOOT ANYTHING?”

    Lea chuckled at her from the other side of the table.

    “Nope. The way he describes it, he pulls the trigger just as he connects, and the force of the blast causes the blade to resonate, increasing the damage of the strike. Of course, why that means he has to have a revolver grip instead of a handle I couldn’t tell you.”

    He shrugged and went back to his food.

    Ruby’s head was spinning.

    “But, but... WHY? There are so many better ways to do that! That kind of repeated force would RUIN the blade without Aura reinforcement, and actually reinforcing it would lead to your Aura draining every time you fired! And a PISTOL GRIP? ON A SWORD?”

    “Hey, Blake’s sword is a pistol isn’t it? And you fire Crescent Rose to enhance your cuts!”

    Ruby whirled on her sister, eyes burning at the insinuation of her baby having anything in common with that abomination.

    “One. Gambol Shroud is usable as both a sword, AND as a pistol.

    Two. It has a proper handle for being used AS a sword. Blake isn’t screwing up her wrist whenever she swings it.

    Three. When I fire Crescent Rose, I use the recoil to enhance the cutting power along the path of the cut itself. I’M NOT MAKING THE BLADE ITSELF VIBRATE!”

    She counted the points off on her fingers, daring Yang to interrupt her.

    At that moment, Ruby Rose made a vow. She would find Squall Leonheart and destroy that vile crime against engineering, then drag him kicking and screaming to a workshop so she could build him something worthy of the title Gunblade. She’d get Weiss to help. Myrtenaster was basically a revolver rapier. It just shot Dust instead of bullets! Of course, with a longsword the blade would push the barrel farther off-center, so she’d need some way to compensate...

    Her train of thought was derailed by her dad.

    “Okay Ruby, before you go off on your righteous crusade to enlighten this poor soul, I’m gonna play the dad card and say you need to at least graduate Beacon first.”

    “UGH, FINE! But if I ever meet him in person before then I make NO promises.”

    Lea gave another chuckle.

    "Don't worry Tai, I'm pretty sure she's not going to be running into Leon any time soon."

    Finished with his meal he reached down to pet Zwei, the black and white corgi sitting protectively next to Yang’s injured side.

    “Is that a fact?"

    "Yeah, he tends to stick close to home, more defense than anything. The chances of Ruby running into him before graduation are pretty low."

    Anything else he might have said was cut off by a loud knock at the front door, causing Zwei to rush off to see who it was.

    Startled by the sudden movement, Lea leaned back in his chair, his other hand knocking his glass off the table, causing it to shatter.

    "Ah crud, sorry about that! I'm usually not that clumsy."

    Tai just waved it off.

    "It happens. After what you did for my girls, a glass isn’t a big deal. Ruby, why don't you go see who's at the door while I clean that up. Yang, you mind getting dessert ready?"

    Ruby left them to their tasks as she made her way to the front door, idly wondering who could be visiting them at this time of night. Blake and Weiss were both back at Beacon, having declined her invitation to stay over the break, citing a need to decompress after the... incident.
    Ruby wasn’t sure how they’d be able to do that while sharing a dorm room, especially with her and Yang gone, but she wasn’t going to force the issue.

    She gently moved Zwei away from the door before opening it, revealing the visitor as “UNCLE QROW!”

    She pounced on her uncle, wrapping her arms around his shoulders in a tight hug, causing him to grunt as she knocked the wind out of him.

    “AAAA! It’s so good to see you! Did you miss me? DID YOU MISS ME?”

    He quickly recovered, chuckling as he tousled her hair.

    “Nope.”

    The two smiled at their shared joke.

    “Uh, Pipsqueak, as much as I enjoy you hanging off of me, I’d like to actually come in.”

    Sheepishly, she released her uncle, running a hand behind her head in slight embarrassment.

    “Right, sorry.”

    He laid a hand on her shoulder reassuringly, a warm smile replacing his normal smirk.

    “Hey. Never apologize for showing people that you love them. Life’s too short to let things go unsaid.”

    He gave her shoulder a slight squeeze before gently turning her around and pushing her inside the house, stopping to place Harbinger in the rack Tai kept near the front door for visitor’s weapons. Turning to look into the dining room, he caught sight of Lea, his coat hanging off the chair behind him.

    “Who’s the redhead?” he asked, jerking his thumb at the visitor.

    “Oh! That’s Lea! He helped me and Yang deal with some Ursai earlier. Then these weird not-Grimm things showed up and he dealt with them too. Yang got kinda hurt, but it was weird, her Aura was up, but it still managed to leave a mark on her. I was just about to ask Lea about it when you knocked. You kinda scared him, he knocked a glass off the table. Well, Zwei startled him, you just got Zwei’s attention.”

    Their talk had carried them into the dining room, where Tai was disposing of the shattered glass, and Yang was busy scooping out bowls of pale blue ice cream. Qrow’s eyes widened as he took in the ragged lines marring her arm.

    Taiyang interrupted his train of thought.

    “Oh, hey Qrow! I thought that might be you! What are you doing here?”

    Yang glanced up upon hearing her dad call out her uncle, and gave the dark haired man a grin and a wave before grabbing an extra bowl from the nearby cupboard.

    “Well, I just happened to be in the neighborhood, figured I might stop by and visit.”

    He gave his brother-in-law his trademark cocky grin, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. Tai picked up on it, giving him a questioning glance, but Qrow gave him a familiar look, one that said “Not in front of the girls.” Qrow turned to the redheaded guest, taking in the strange weapon leaning against the dining room wall.

    “So, Lea right? Ruby tells me you helped her and Yang out of a tight spot.”

    Lea gave the older man an awkward smile.

    “Just doing my job. I’m sure anyone in my position would have done the same. Just wish I could have gotten all of them before Yang got hurt.”

    Yang winced slightly, rubbing at the darkened skin of her arm.

    “Well, I probably would have been fine if I had just run like you told us to, instead of going berserk.”

    Taiyang put a hand on his eldest daughter’s shoulder.

    “And that’s why, starting tomorrow, you and I are going to be spending the rest of the break working on that temper of yours. Those gashes are bad enough, any deeper and you might have lost your arm.”

    Yang and Ruby both winced at the idea. While cybernetic limbs existed, they were rather expensive, especially combat capable models. And while the Xiao Long-Rose household wasn’t poor, they didn’t exactly have that kind of money set aside.

    Lea interrupted the discussion with a polite cough.

    “It uh, would actually be a bit worse than that if it had managed to really get its claws into her.”

    Four heads turned towards him in unison. Lea grimaced slightly, running a hand behind his head.

    “I had been hoping to save this conversation until after dinner, but obviously that’s not happening. You all might want to sit down.”

    Ruby and Tai both made their way over to the table. Yang had finished preparing dessert during the conversation, and handed it out before taking a seat on the kitchen counter. Qrow just leaned against the wall with crossed arms, waiting for Lea to explain things. Said redhead had already started on his ice cream, nostalgia flashing across his face for a moment as he did so.

    “So. Heartless. First things first. They aren’t Grimm. Completely unrelated. Sure, they’ve got some similarities, but fundamentally they’re very different. Grimm just want to destroy, tear everything down. But Heartless? They’re after something specific. They want your Heart. And no,” he said, spoon pointed at Yang, who had started to interrupt, “Not the one in your chest. It’s a bit more... Metaphorical. The Heart is the core of your identity. Who you are as a person. Memory, emotion, all the things that make you, you. That’s the Heart.”

    Lea took a moment to let the information sink in, looks of dawning horror on his audience’s faces as the implications arose. He continued, not wanting to lose momentum to any questions.

    “Now, it isn’t the Heart specifically that Heartless are drawn to. You see, inside every Heart, there exists both Light, and Darkness. And the Darkness is what draws in the Heartless. They’re made from it themselves. And once they’ve gotten their claws into your Heart, they’ll find the Darkness within it. Pull it out into the open. And then there’s one more Heartless in the world.”

    A tense silence settled over the room. Ruby had both hands clasped over her mouth, silver eyes wide with horror. Yang wasn’t faring any better, left hand gripped tightly over the marks on her right arm. Qrow had been in the middle of taking a swig from his flask, and had nearly choked, eyes bulging.

    “Those things used to be people?”

    Ruby’s voice was quiet, almost sad. Lea quickly shook his head, a slight frown marring his face.

    “The ones from earlier? No. If they had, when I killed them their Hearts would have been released. Neoshadows like that are what’s known as “Pureblood” Heartless, which are directly spawned from ambient Darkness. Those rifts they popped out of.”

    Taiyang took this moment to finally speak.

    “So, why haven’t any of us heard of these things before now?”

    “A few reasons,” Lea said, raising a hand to list them off. “First, they tend to avoid highly populated areas. It’s very rare for them to show up in a city. Second, the Grimm attack them on sight. No idea why. Maybe because they can sense the lingering humanity, maybe because Darkness is so close to negativity. They just do. Third, the group I work with does its best to wipe them out before they have a chance to do any damage, and we’ve been doing it for a long while. Put all that together, most Heartless get taken care of before anyone not in the know gets a good look.”

    Qrow, having recovered from his choking fit, gave an exaggerated scoff, partly to clear out the lingering booze from his throat. He exchanged another look with Taiyang, and years spent working together compounded in a quick non-verbal exchange of information.

    Yang piped up before her uncle could say anything

    “Should you be telling us all this? Kinda sounds like it’s a big secret.”

    Lea just grinned and ran his hand through his hair again.

    “I mean, you’ve already had a run in. So it’s better you know what’s going on rather than get blindsided if any more show up. Just don’t go spreading this around? Last thing we all need is a Grimm attack because people start panicking.”

    Anything more he would have said was interrupted by the sound of music coming from his pocket. Hastily he pulled out what appeared to be a heavily reinforced scroll, the back of the case marked with a stylized crown. The lyrics of the music played out, sounding like an old love song.

    “When the moon~ Fights a horde~ With a big~ Freaking sword~ That’s claymore!”

    Lea took a moment to look embarrassed before speaking.

    “I gotta take this. My partner gets antsy if I don’t respond.”

    With that, he exited out the back door, leaving the two girls, their father, and their uncle to stare at each other in silence. Qrow broke it with a cough.

    “Tai, I’m going to head out and make sure we didn’t attract any Grimm with how we reacted to those uh, revelations.”

    He left before anything more could be said, grabbing his weapon on the way out.

    - |VV| - |VV| - |VV| -

    On the other side of the cabin, Lea was speaking with his childhood friend turned partner.

    “Hey Isa, sorry it took so long to answer.”

    The voice that answered was serene, but Lea had known it long enough to detect a hint of worry.

    “Lea. Did I call you at a bad time?”

    The redhead made sure to add levity to his voice as he responded.

    “Nah, you're fine. Just got me at an awkward moment. Had a run in with some locals, then Neoshadows showed up, fought them off, got invited to dinner, had just finished telling them about what happens to a Heartless’s victim when you rang. Actually, something strange happened during that fight. Still not sure what to make of it.”

    “Oh? What happened?” Isa’s voice had a hint of intrigue. Lea told him of his meeting with Yang and Ruby, the attack by the Neoshadows, and Yang’s agonized scream as one had clawed her.

    “Fascinating. And this Aura you mentioned? I can’t recall ever hearing of it before.”

    “Something local. They say it’s the soul manifested, which, if true, has some interesting implications. Wouldn’t explain why Yang reacted like that though. Soul isn’t vulnerable to Darkness. Not like the Heart is.”

    “Hmm. I’ve got a hypothesis, but without being able to see it in person I won’t be able to say for certain. Any luck finding the keyhole so far?”

    “Ha. I wish. I can’t even go the usual route of following the Heartless. The Grimm seem to attack them on sight. If only the things weren’t also out to kill every person they saw, they’d make great pest control. I’ll find it eventually, but it might take awhile. What about you? Any luck on finding where X got spirited away to?”

    Isa let out a long sigh of frustration.

    “No. Sadly not. I’ve been going over the records, but it seems that whoever took her was very thorough in cleaning up after themselves. My next step will be conferring with Master Yen Sid. He may have some insights as to her identity. If that fails, Ventus has recently begun recovering some of his memories from his time before his apprenticeship under Master Xehanort. Perhaps something might come of that.”

    “We’ll find her. I know we will.”

    He could feel the smile on Isa’s face as he responded.

    “I know. It’s just a matter of time. I’ll speak with you again soon.”

    The two spoke in unison, words they knew by Heart.

    “May your heart be your guiding key.”

    Lea ended the call, smiling slightly. It didn’t matter how long it took. They’d find their friend. Someday.

    “So, you wanna explain what all that was about?”

    Lea’s head snapped to turn at the voice, revealing Qrow standing by the eave of the cabin.

    “It’s probably none of my business, but over the years I've picked up a real nose for trouble.”
    He took a swig from his flask. “And you are definitely trouble. Still, you saved my nieces, and that counts for something.”

    Lea placed his hands behind his head, cocky smile on his face not quite reaching his eyes.

    “I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about. Just checking in with my partner after a long day.”

    Qrow quirked an eyebrow, taking another quick sip of booze.

    “Right. Well, if you're looking for someone, I might be able to help. I can get you an appointment with Professor Ozpin over at Beacon. If anyone could help, it’d be him. Plus, I’m sure he’d want to be made aware of these Heartless things.”

    Noticing the hesitant look on Lea’s face, Qrow continued.

    “Don’t worry, the man can keep a secret. I can probably get you in to talk to him tomorrow. So, you in?”

    He took one last chug from his flask as Lea mulled the offer over.

    “Eh, why not. I’m in.”
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2022
  4. blitzgamer

    blitzgamer The Derg

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    So. I have this already posted on SB and Ao3, figured I'd leave it here too.
     
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  5. Threadmarks: Chapter 3: Chance Encounters
    blitzgamer

    blitzgamer The Derg

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    Chapter 3: Chance Encounters.

    Weiss hated being alone. It was rather ironic, really. Her entire childhood had been spent surrounded by people. Servants, tutors, reporters, fans, rarely did she have a moment to herself. But throughout it all, she’d always been alone. Isolated. Only upon arriving at Beacon and becoming a part of Team RWBY did she finally feel her loneliness fade. Sure, Ruby might have been childish, Yang, a brute, and Blake... She didn’t know what to think about Blake at the moment. But despite everything, they were her friends. They’d accepted her, reached out to her, included her. They didn’t care about Weiss Schnee, Heiress to the Schnee Dust Company. They cared about Weiss, member of Team RWBY. Their friend.

    And then she’d had to go and jeopardize those friendships by saying such vile, hateful things. She’d unknowingly insulted her teammate, several times, right to her face! Made her feel so unwelcome that she’d run off with that stowaway. And then, when they’d finally all reunited, she’d made Blake feel like the guilty party. Gods, it’s exactly what Father would have done. She’d tried so hard to escape his influence, but it had touched her more than she realized.

    All these thoughts and more were running through her head as she wandered the grounds of Beacon Academy. The semester break was two weeks’ long, and while Yang and Ruby had invited her and Blake to visit their home, Weiss hadn’t felt like she deserved it. She needed to figure out what to say to Blake, apologize for her bigoted words, deprogram all that hateful rhetoric from her brain....

    Her thinking came to an abrupt halt as she collided with a wall of black and fell to the ground, the impact and the sound of something clattering to the ground disrupting her thoughts. Taking a moment to come to her senses, she realized she was at the courtyard next to the airship docks, and she had just knocked over a red-headed man wearing a long black coat.

    She scrambled to get to her feet.

    “Are you alright?” No, wait, maintain the Schnee dignity. “My sincerest apologies for running into you.”

    The man waved off her apology as he began to push himself back up, which she took as an opportunity to help, pulling on the outstretched arm.

    “You’re fine, I should have been paying more attention. Saw that clock tower, got lost in nostalgia for a moment.” He dusted himself off, turquoise eyes glancing around at the ground. Weiss spotted what he was looking for easily enough. A strange crystalline weapon, perhaps some kind of experimental Dust sword? Playing the part of the dutiful heiress, she picked it up and extended the hilt to him, idly noting how the blade seemed to glow as she held it. Some kind of Auric resonance?

    The stranger took the offered weapon, his black gloved hand brushing against hers. Weiss felt a small spark of static electricity as their hands connected, causing her to quickly release her grip. The red-head didn't notice, instead examining her face, free hand on his chin, expression one of intense concentration.

    "Hey, wait a second... I know who you are!" He snapped his fingers, a broad smile settling over his face. "You're Weiss Schnee, right?"

    She winced internally. Oh joy. He recognized her. What would he be, she wondered idly. A fan of her singing, begging for an autograph? Someone looking to make a quick buck, suing her for running into him? Some secret White Fang member looking for misplaced retribution?

    "Yang and Ruby told me all about you!"

    Wait, what?

    “Gotta say I disagree with Yang. I’ve met Ice Queens before. You’ve got fire in your heart, I can tell.”

    It was at this point that befuddlement was pushed aside by outrage.

    “Ex-cuse me!?” Who was this man, and where did he get off talking about her like that?

    His face shifted from analytical to slightly ashamed as his free hand rose to meet his forehead.

    “There I go again, forgetting my manners. I swear, it’s something about this place.” He shook his head and, with a shrug and a smile, extended a hand.

    “Let's start with an introduction. My name’s Lea. I had a run-in with your teammates recently, helped them out with a tight spot, and they invited me for dinner. They shared some stories about the illustrious Team RWBY. That collision must have knocked my memories around, along with my manners. So, what do you say? I forget you ran into me, you forget I ran my mouth?”

    Part of her wanted to turn away in a huff of dismissal, but she’d begun to realize just how much that part of her sounded like her father, so instead she gave a small smile and took the man’s hand.

    “Weiss. A pleasure to meet you.”

    Lea’s smile broke into a grin. “Pleasure’s all mine.”

    “Say,” he said, ending the handshake, “Mind telling me where the headmaster’s office is? I’ve got an appointment to meet with him later, but my contact neglected to actually mention where his office is.”

    Weiss nodded. “Central tower, top floor.” She pointed towards the clock tower that dominated Beacon’s skyline. Her face took on a quizzical expression.

    “Hold on, if you’ve never been to his office before, why were you getting nostalgic looking at it?”

    Lea chuckled. “Me and my team used to always hang out at a local clock tower after every mission. Seeing Beacon’s brought those memories roaring back. Anyway, thanks for the directions. See you around, maybe. Oh! And tell Little Red Reaper and Hothead I said hi for me?”

    Weiss felt herself let out a giggle. Those nicknames were entirely too accurate. Not to mention they'd be perfect comebacks for the next time Yang called her Ice Queen. “I’ll be sure to do so.”

    - |VV| - |VV| - |VV| -
    Frustration flared through Blake’s mind as she aimlessly wandered the grounds of Beacon Academy. So many problems that needed to be dealt with, and she had no idea where to start. So many questions that needed answering. Why was the Fang working with someone like Torchwick? What did they need that much Dust for? Was he involved with any of this? What would she tell her team? How would she tell her team? Would Weiss still not care when she learned what she had done?

    In her peripheral vision she saw something that made her stop dead. Red hair, black clothing, hand on hip in a swordsman's stance. She turned slowly, ready to run at a moment's notice. As she took in the full picture, she let out a sigh of relief before mentally chastising herself. The man in front of her was entirely too tall, his hair far more wild, and he was wearing a coat, not a suit. Not to mention the lack of a mask and horns. She was safe. He couldn't get to her at Beacon.

    “Hey, are you okay?”

    Blake turned to face the questioner, only now realizing that she had been holding her breath. She was greeted by a smiling face, concern manifesting in turquoise eyes. The vibrant red hair that had caught her eye was slicked back by a black gloved hand. She gave him a small nod, control slowly returning to her.

    “Thought I saw something, but it was just my imagination.”

    The man nodded in turn, the concern in his eyes fading slightly as he looked her over. He extended his off hand out to Blake, a welcoming grin spread across his features.

    “Name’s Lea. Pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

    Hesitantly, the hidden Faunus took the offered hand and shook it, casting an appraising look at Lea’s face as she did so. Everything about him seemed... warm. His smile, his eyes, the way he held himself, it all came together to paint a picture of kindness and easy camaraderie. Feeling herself relax slightly, she responded in kind.

    “Blake.”

    Lea’s eyes widened slightly in surprise, followed shortly by his grin.

    “Heh, what are the odds? First I run into Ruby and Yang on Patch, then Weiss literally runs into me, and now here I am running into you!”

    He shook his head at the absurdity of the situation.

    “As much as I’d love to stay and chat, I’ve got an appointment to keep. Take care of yourself Blake!”

    With a wave, he headed off towards the CCT tower, leaving a very confused Faunus behind.

    - |VV| - |VV| - |VV| -

    The door to the elevator opened, and Lea whistled as he took in the headmaster’s office. It was expansive, far more so than he was used to. Between Ansem the Wise and Master Yen Sid, he’d gotten used to powerful men having small, closed in work spaces. Obviously Professor Ozpin belonged to a different school of thought. The room took up the entirety of the floor of the tower, glass floor and open ceiling revealing massive clockwork mechanisms. Ozpin’s desk was exceedingly large, a wide semicircle braced on four mechanical legs, a large metal chair sitting behind it.

    The man himself was staring out the window that doubled as the clock face for the tower, mug in hand as he watched over the school that was his charge. At the sound of Lea’s whistle he turned to meet his visitor, only to stop and blink rapidly as his eyes fell towards the weapon on his hip. His eyes flitted back up to Lea, then down to his mug, then back to Lea again.

    “Well, now. When Qrow Branwen informed me that he’d managed to find someone with knowledge about the unusual creatures that had been appearing recently, I was unsure of what to expect. But to have said informant be an honest to the gods Keyblade wielder...”
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2022
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  6. Threadmarks: Chapter 4, Dive into a Frozen Heart
    blitzgamer

    blitzgamer The Derg

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    Chapter 4: Dive Into a Frozen Heart.

    Weiss was sinking. Adrift in an endless ocean, water all around her, but she was dry, her lungs still full of air. Downwards she sank, gently floating to stand atop a vast dark expanse.

    The water around her slowly faded, until she was standing alone in the dark. She looked around her, but all she could see was the empty darkness. Hesitantly, she took a step forward, and the black ground around her took flight, a flock of white birds scattering into the void, revealing what lay hidden beneath. A circular platform of stained glass, with an image that made her gasp.

    It was Ruby. Her scythe balanced across her shoulders, left arm along the haft, right cocked to support the handle, that silly smile on her face, cloak billowing in a nonexistent wind. Before she could fully process the image, a voice spoke, both inside her mind and without.

    Don't be afraid.
    We have much to do, and there is little time.
    But take your time.
    Let your heart guide you, and step forward.


    Reassured by its words, Weiss stepped forwards into the center of the platform. She took in the image of her friend, standing in her usual ready stance, with her emblem filling the space behind her, red against black. A circle of swirling rose petals framed the central image, and around the edges of the platform, were six small circles, evenly spaced, each containing a portrait, separated by repeating rose designs.

    On the top left she could see one depicting Yang, smiling with warmth and affection. The bottom left showed Blake, calm and composed with ears uncovered, a hint of a smile on her lips. The one at the very left, however, made her smile. It was herself, radiating confidence and dignity.

    The portraits on the right she didn’t recognize. At the top was one showing a woman who looked identical to Ruby herself, eyes closed and face serene. Below it was a man with tanned skin and blonde hair similar to Yang’s, his eyes kind and smile heartfelt. Finally, at the bottom was one showing another man, one with pale red eyes, smirking at a joke only he knew about.

    Once more the voice spoke.

    There is great power within you.
    Already it has begun to take form.
    But to fully awaken it, you must give up something in return.


    Two pedestals of shining white stone rose from the platform on either side of her. They reminded her of the walls of her home, ornate and cold in design. With flashes of brilliant light, each had an object appear above it, hovering in place. To the left, a plain longsword, hilt adorned with the image of three circles, two smaller ones perched atop a central one almost like a pair of ears. On the right, a heater shield, similarly marked.

    The path of the Mystic waits in front of you. Wonder and Ruin, brought forth at your command.
    What shall you cast aside? The Strength and Courage of the Warrior? Or the Care and Protection of the Guardian?


    Weiss let her mind wander as her eyes darted between the two options. What would she be willing to part with? She looked at the blade, thoughts going to her beloved Myrtenaster. Without strength, she would never have passed her father’s “test”. Without courage, she would never have bothered to try. She cast her eyes towards the shield. Care. Protection. She’d given up on those things a long time ago. The choice was obvious, really. She made her way towards the shield where it hung in the air, and placed her hand upon it.

    “I cast aside the power of the Guardian.”

    With yet another brilliant flash of light, the shield vanished, leaving the empty pedestal behind.

    The power of the Mystic, at the expense of the Guardian. Is this the path you chose?

    Weiss nodded. "Yes, it is."

    So shall it be.

    There was a harsh rumbling sound as the twin pedestals buckled and sank into the platform. It was soon replaced with a crystalline ringing as the edges of the platform cracked, and Weiss could only stare in horror as the image of her friend shattered from the outside in, fragments vanishing into the void. Surrounded by glimmering shards of red, she fell.

    - |VV| - |VV| - |VV| -

    Time seemed to lose meaning as Weiss fell headfirst into the endless darkness, until finally, she caught sight of something below her. A brilliant white against the darkness. Another platform came into view below her, and she felt herself gasp once more. It was her. Standing tall, poised in a fencer’s salute, Myrtenaster pointed towards the sky. Her expression was focused, gaze steeled straight ahead, mouth a thin line of determination. Her ponytail hung behind her perfectly straight, and the family emblem was positioned behind her, pure white against icy blue.

    Again portraits lined the outer ring of the platform, Eight of them this time, separated by gusts of snow. Ruby, smiling like an idiot. Yang, grinning and ready for a fight, then Blake...
    Her face cold, unsmiling, ears still covered by her bow. Weiss felt her smile fade. The next portrait soured her mood further. It was her father, that fake smile plastered on his face. The image itself was heavily cracked, the colors faded significantly. Beside him was an image of her mother, her expression distant, the colors of the image also seemingly faded with time. Next was her brother, Whitley, his face turned away, casting her a backwards glance. Her spirits brightened at the next image, however. Winter, her older sister, face the picture of discipline, save for a slight curl at the edges of her mouth and a light in her eyes. Rounding out the collection was a person she didn't expect to see. Her faithful butler Klein, with his irises shining and iridescent, colors shifting from moment to moment.

    As she took in the tapestry of glass below her, she felt her body spin in the air, coming down to land feet first upon the platform.

    You have gained the power to fight.

    There was another brilliant flash, and a short staff appeared in her hand. A bright green haft, capped in white, with bands of gold separating. Topping it was a brilliant blue ornament of three spheres, placed to form that strange symbol, held in place by a bronze setting in the shape of a stout urn. It was a far cry from her beloved rapier. She gave it a few testing swings, noticing how it seemed perfectly balanced for her hand.

    Use it to defend yourself and others.
    There will be times you have to fight.


    There was a sound like rushing wind, and wisps of shadow began to leak out from the cracks in the image of her father. They coalesced in front of her, forming into a short, hunched over creature. Its head was spherical, a pair of spindly antennae poking out and hanging over its bulging eyes of solid yellow. The thing leapt at her with its clawed arms, but she sent it flying with a well placed swing of her staff. It hit the glass of the platform and disappeared in a puff of smoke.

    Behind you!

    Caught by the urgency the voice displayed, Weiss turned and hopped backwards, narrowly avoiding another creature as it leapt at her. With a scowl, she brought the staff down upon its head, a follow up swing sending it colliding with another creature as it rose up from where it had been pressed flat against the floor. With all of them dispatched, Weiss allowed herself the smallest of smiles. It quickly faded as she noticed that the shadows leaking from her father’s portrait were quickly expanding to encompass more and more of the platform. Horror overtook her as she began to sink into the darkness, struggling and kicking to keep her head in the light.

    - |VV| - |VV| - |VV| -

    Smooth coldness brought Weiss back to her senses. She rose from the prone position she had taken, finding herself once more standing upon a platform of stained glass. This one was different however. Instead of a singular central image, it was divided into four sections, each featuring a silhouette. As she cast her gaze over it, she realized that the sections were each themed after one of the four seasons. Her eyes widened as she looked at the autumn section. It was divided in half, a jagged crack separating the two different images.

    A faint beam of light drifted down from above, and where it shone, an ornate brown door began to fade into existence. Weiss made her way towards, seemingly drawn in. As she approached, the door began to open outwards towards her, and she was blinded by the radiance that shone out from within.

    As the light faded, Weiss found herself back in her dorm. Sitting on the haphazard bunk beds were her teammates, each wearing their uniform.

    Hold on. The door won't open just yet. First, you must know yourself.

    Wondering what the voice meant, she looked up to Ruby, who was sitting on her suspended bunk, legs hanging over the side.

    "What's most important to you?"

    The question caught her off guard. What was most important to her? Her mind went to the portrait of her grandfather. Of the stories her mother had told her as a little girl.

    "My family legacy. That's what's most important to me."

    Ruby cocked her head to the side, a quizzical look on her face.

    "Is legacy really that important?"

    With a huff, Weiss turned away, finding herself face to face with Blake, whose ears were still bound by her bow.

    "What are you most afraid of?"

    Images flashed in her mind. A towering knight of steel. The profile of a snarling wolf backed by three ragged claw marks. A mustached face, gazing down at her sternly, utterly devoid of warmth and love.

    "Loneliness. I'm terrified of being alone."

    Blake’s passive face stared back at her.

    "Being alone? Is that really so frightening?"

    Weiss simply shook her head, casting away the thoughts currently swirling inside her. She glanced upwards to where Yang was laying down, head peeking down over the side of her bed.

    "What do you want out of life?"

    Weiss froze. What did she want out of life? She'd spent so long thinking about her duty, restoring the Schnee name, all while keeping her father placated. What did she want? The answer came to her in a flash.

    "Freedom. I want to be free."

    Yang's face smiled down at her.

    "Freedom huh?"

    You care about your family legacy.
    You're afraid of being left alone.
    You want to be free.

    Your adventure begins at midday. Keep a steady pace and you'll come through fine.


    There was yet another brilliant flash as the dorm room faded.

    The day you have waited for is both far off and very near.

    - |VV| - |VV| - |VV| -

    As the light faded, Weiss found herself back in the void. She looked down to see what the platform would be this time. The image of Blake looked back at her. Ears unbound for the world to see, right hand reaching back for Gambol Shroud, amber eyes steeled with determination, mouth set in a smile, as if daring the world to try and stop her. Her hair hung loosely behind her, as if she was facing into the wind. Framing the faunus was her nightshade emblem, done in purple against black.

    There were seven portraits this time, separated by coiling black ribbons against a background the same dark purple of Blake’s Aura. At the top was Ruby, mouth a manic grin, eyes open wide with wonder. To the right was Yang, radiating confidence and power as always. And on the left was herself, face neutral, not giving anything away. It was better than she thought it would be. She’d half expected to see her face turned up in a huff, every inch the spoiled heiress. The next two she didn’t recognize. On the left, a man with a massive beard. On the right, a woman with a set of feline ears even larger than Blake’s. Their yellow eyes were warm and kind, and the smiles on their faces radiated the kind of love she hadn’t seen in years. She felt a pang of envy as she realized that she was looking at Blake’s parents, but quickly cast it aside. It wasn’t Blake’s fault her father was a monster. Jacques Schnee was solely responsible for that.

    Next was a girl with tan skin and brown hair, her face a mess of freckles. And finally... A man wearing a Grimm mask. Red accents stood out against the pale bone white. A pair of dark horns curved back against crimson hair streaked with brown. And that smile. The only word that could describe it was "predatory." At least, that's what she could make out amidst all the cracks. The colors hadn't faded however. Whatever had happened, it must have been recent.

    Raising her eyes away from the floor, Weiss looked around for any sign of what she was supposed to do next. The answer came in the form of a shaft of light in the center of the platform, like a spotlight shining down upon a stage. Weiss strode into the light as she had dozens of times before. As she did, the light faded, and with a shuddering sound, more of those creatures rose up from the floor to circle around her. Staff in hand and a smirk upon her lips, Weiss lashed out at the shadows with wide, sweeping swings, her usual precision forgone in favor of sheer strength. Whenever one of the shades swung at her, she would leap over them, bringing the staff down upon them as she spun through the air with brutal overhead strikes. Whatever these things were, intelligence wasn’t one of their strengths, as aside from flattening themselves into the floor to avoid her swings, they showed themselves unable to adapt to her hastily put together fighting style. In a matter of moments, the malicious manifestations were quickly massacred, leaving naught behind but quickly fading wisps of darkness.

    As the smoke faded, the light shone down once more. Weiss stepped inside, and, in a fit of whimsy, brought her right arm into her chest while sweeping the other wide, twirling her staff taking a bow for her flawless performance. After doing so, the light moved on, heading towards the edge of the platform, whereupon it vanished, and a series of smaller, rectangular platforms of chaotically arranged colors sparkled into existence, creating a winding, rising path. As the path reached its end, a final grand cylindrical platform faded into existence, its sides marked by ornate glass patterns, circular ones at the top separating larger sections that extended upwards from the void, curving inwards at the top to form pointed peaks. While the interior patterns held a variety of colors, hinting at the image adorning the pillar’s top.

    As she ascended the top of the winding pathway, Weiss’s suspicions were confirmed as she beheld the grinning form of Yang Xiao Long. She was depicted mid stride, walking in a way that could only be described as a strut. Her arms were at her sides with Ember Celica fully extended, hair billowing behind her, face the picture of cocky confidence as she prepared to lay a beating upon whoever stood in her way. She was framed inside of her emblem of a burning heart, standing within the opening at the top. All of this was contained within a large sunburst, its rays spreading out to the ring that contained the expected portraits. Once again, there were seven of them, but the arrangement was peculiar. They were arranged similar to how Ruby’s had been, even containing the same figures, save Yang herself being swapped out for a grinning Ruby, her eyes shut with the sheer force of her happiness, and were separated by coiling lilac dragons. All save for the seventh, which was wedged between the images of the two men. It depicted a woman who looked nearly identical to Yang, save for the fact her hair was the same raven black as the man below her, and her eyes were the crimson hue that Yang’s acquired when her anger spiked. The portrait actually covered over one of the dragon decorations, adding to the feeling that it had forced its way into the picture. Not to mention the blank expression on her face. It reminded Weiss of her own mother. Another light shone down from above as Weiss took in the image, beckoning her forward. As she did however, the voice returned.

    The closer you get to the light, the greater your shadow becomes.

    Her shadow? She turned around to look at what the voice meant, and could only stare as her shadow grew in length, elongating as though being stretched by an unseen hand. It thickened outwards, as though whatever light was casting it had dropped down behind her. Then, out of the darkness she cast, it came. A massive clawed steel gauntlet, the normally grey metal stained a pale indigo by the shadows it emerged from. Weiss stepped backwards, eyes wide in sheer terror. No, NO! It couldn’t be that! She’d killed it! Another gauntlet emerged, gripping at the edge of the shadows. The fingers of both curled tightly against the floor of the platform, and with a mighty heave, it began to pull itself out of the darkness. As the plate metal helm rose from her shadow, Weiss realized that it was indeed not the Arma Gigas her father had pitted her against, it was far larger, and staring out from within the helm were a pair of lifeless, solid yellow eyes.

    But don't be afraid.

    As the thing pushed out from within the shadow, the pool began to draw inwards, allowing it to rise up more and more. Tendrils of pitch darkness hung out the back of its helmet, twitching and swaying in a non-existent wind. As the chest piece rose into view, she saw that it was adorned with an emblem of its own. A heart, pure black, outlined in red, crossed with a pair of thorned lines. Instead of a pointed tip, it swept out into a set of three tails like a fleur-de-lis.

    And don't forget...

    The Umbra Gigas rose to its full height, armored head thrown backwards in a silent roar. Weiss took a step backwards into a low ready stance, staff held out and off hand held up in guard, steeling her resolve. Whatever this thing was, she had killed its like before, and she could do so once again. She might not have her beloved blade, but she was still better armed than this creature. The armored giant lowered its gaze. Lifeless yellow locked with icy blue. And battle was begun.

    Darkness gathered around the armored fist of the Umbra Gigas as it lurched towards her, the creature inside seemingly unused to the weight it carried. It was far slower than the Arma had been. Good, she could work with that. She tensed her legs as it approached, and as the shrouded gauntlet slammed down towards her, she leapt, rolling out of its path. Darkness pooled around the impact as the Gigas fell to one knee. She rushed in, letting the momentum of her run add to the impact of her swing against the plated fist. The monster's head turned its empty gaze down upon her, but otherwise remained unresponsive. She hammered the fist with repeated strikes, keeping a loose grip to allow the rebounds off of the armor to conserve her strength, but was caught off guard as more of the smaller creatures she had fought earlier began to rise out of the pooling dark. With a practiced twirl, she swatted the shadows away, staff held out at full extension. The additional enemies thus dispatched, she returned her attention to the larger threat.

    The armored giant rose once more, bringing its hands together for a crushing hammer blow. With a short leap backwards, Weiss evaded the crushing strike, mind already looking for a way to take advantage. None of her hits had gotten a hint of a reaction from her opponent. Either it just didn’t react to damage, much like the smaller creatures did, or its armor was strong enough to absorb her strikes. Either way, best to aim for where the armor was thinner. Or in this case, non-existent. She leapt atop its laced fingers, using them as a stepping stone as she flung herself at its unprotected face. She stabbed into the opening of the Umbra’s helmet, and into its eye, lamenting the lack of Myrtenaster and its longer reach. The Gigas remained unresponsive despite the clear strike to its face, leading Weiss to believe that it did indeed share a lack of pain reaction with its smaller kin. She pushed off from its faceplate, launching into a backflip for distance as it staggered back from the force of the strike. It might not feel pain, but it could be off-balanced.

    She rushed towards her opponent as it reached down at her, its clawed hand coming down in a grasping motion. She slid under the outstretched gauntlet, bringing her staff down against the titan’s ankle as she did in a heavy overhand strike. Now behind it, she laid into the back of its foot. She wasn’t sure if this thing had any tendons, but the armor there would have to be thinner for flexibility. As the Umbra Gigas started to turn and try to face her, she clutched her staff in both hands, bringing it around in a full body swing at the spot she had just weakened. Caught with one foot already in the air and the other sliding out from under it, the armored monstrosity toppled backwards, arms flailing to try and maintain balance, before slamming into the floor with a cacophonous clang of metal on glass. Weiss rolled away from the knight as it landed, turning to face her fallen foe, readying herself to launch another assault, but as she did, her staff vanished from her hand. A pool of darkness began to leak out from the Umbra Gigas where it lay. Outwards it spread, engulfing more and more of the platform, leaving Weiss with no option but to scramble backwards away from the expanding darkness. In her haste however, she tripped, landing hard on her back.

    But don't be afraid.

    The darkness spread underneath her, denying her hands purchase as she tried to push herself to her feet, The Umbra Gigas slowly rising once more.

    You hold the mightiest weapon of all.

    She spun onto her front, trying and failing to claw her way out of the spreading shadow as it dragged her downwards. The Umbra Gigas towered over her as she fruitlessly reached out to grasp at salvation.

    So don't forget:

    She spun once more onto her back, staring upwards into those lifeless yellow eyes, gazing uncaringly down at her from within their shell of shadowed steel. Her eyes went wide with fear, a wordless cry on her lips as she sank below the surface.

    You will be the one to seal away the dark.

    Hey everyone. I am super freaking proud of this chapter. I put a lot of thought into how to adapt the Dive to the Heart sequence for Weiss, along with what choices she would make. A few things you might have noticed is that she came with the path of the mystic pre selected. Considering her Semblance and how much it already resembled magic, it made sense to me that her Heart had already started her on that path, and just needed to make the final sacrifice to fully embrace it. As for giving up the shield, it's mainly because canon Weiss is fragile as hell. Hopefully some training will fix that. As for Weiss not questioning anything, the Dive has always been depicted as a dream, so dream logic is in play. I don't think Weiss is a lucid dreamer. Watch as Ice Queendom goes and proves me wrong lol. As for why Wiess isn't using her glyphs? That's a bit spoilery and ties into how I'm having Aura mechanics work in this crossover. Suffice to say it ties into the fact that the dive takes place within Weiss's heart itself. Finally, the boss. The Umbra Gigas. Picture a Darkside wearing an Arma Gigas, and have the armor itself colored a mix between steel grey and the Darkside's usual skin tone. I took away it's sword because there's no way Weiss would have room to properly dodge a sword sized for a Darkside on the usual dive platforms. The thing is also far slower than the Arma Gigas, given that there's an actual creature inside the armor, instead of the armor itself being the enemy. That same slowness is why Weiss is able to avoid taking any hits. She freaking danced around the Arma Gigas, even without her glyphs, only really taking one hit. No way she'd get hit by this lumbering behemoth. As for the name, I took the usual Geist naming convention and replaced armored with shadow. I debated calling it either the Dark Armor or the Heartla Gigas, but decided since it's Weiss facing it and she's never encountered Heartless before, it would makes sense to go with a name based on what she was familiar with. Anyway, I hope I managed to do the fight scene well. As always, enjoy!
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2022
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  7. Deltron3030

    Deltron3030 Champion of Owio

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    Alright, This is a solid read, I'll be saving this one.
     
  8. Threadmarks: Chapter 5: Out in the Open
    blitzgamer

    blitzgamer The Derg

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    Chapter 5: Out in the Open

    Darkness. All around her was darkness. She clawed at the shadows, struggling to find the light.

    "-iss?"

    The darkness cloaked her, pressing down on her, refusing to let her go.

    “-eiss!”

    Shaking, shuddering, the darkness closing in.

    “Weiss, wake up!”

    Weiss catapulted awake, sitting bolt upright in her bed. The blanket she’d been struggling with was flung to her feet, cold sweat dripping down her face. Her breathing was shaky and uneven as she came to her senses, taking in the dorm room around her. Blake was standing over her, eyes wide with concern, one hand gripping the hanging upper bunk. As the heiress’s thrashing ceased, she let out a sigh of relief.

    “Oh thank goodness. I thought you might be having a seizure; you were thrashing around so hard. Are you alright?”

    Weiss took a moment to steady herself. Already the memories of the dream were fading. Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, she turned to her teammate. Blake was standing at her bedside, wearing her normal sleepwear of a long-sleeved black yukata, purple undershirt and skirt, and a black ribbon obi that matched the bow upon her head. Weiss had always wondered why the blackette wore said accessory to bed. Not such a mystery anymore.

    “I’m fine Blake, just a rather vivid nightmare.” the heiress replied. She paused for a moment, face a blank mask to the faunus, then continued. “Thank you for your concern.”

    The black haired girl raised an eyebrow at the oddly formal response. “Are you sure you’re alright? That must have been one serious nightmare to leave you thrashing like that.”

    Weiss just shook her head. “Simply a bad dream, one that I’ve already started to forget.”

    Blake sat down on her own bed across from her taciturn teammate. “Just, let us know if it becomes a problem, alright? We’re your team, you can come to us with this stuff. Gods know I should have.”

    Weiss flinched as she was reminded of her admonishment of the faunus. While what she said had been true, she couldn’t help but wonder if some part of her had been seeking to deflect blame away from herself. Taking a deep breath, she faced her teammate.

    “Blake.” The black haired girl turned to look at her. “I owe you an apology. I was... Quite frankly I was horrifically racist. Those things I said about Sun, the way I have been acting towards you...” The heiress to the SDC took a deep breath. “I came to Beacon in an attempt to escape from my father’s influence, but my actions only show just how deeply it runs. I wish I could promise you that I’ll do better going forward, but I can’t trust myself. But I will promise you this. I’m going to try.”

    Blake rocked back slightly in shock. Had anyone told her five years ago that a Schnee would be apologizing to her for racist behavior, much less promising to do better... Well, she would have been twelve so she’d probably just ask something stupid like "Are you psychic?" but after that she would have said they were lying to her. As the shock subsided, a small smile settled on her face.

    “Weiss. Thank you. That... That means a lot. And don’t sell yourself short. The fact that you actually apologized shows me you can get better.” She let out a deep sigh as her face grew serious. “That being said... I have my own apology to make.”

    She looked the heiress dead in the eye, steel in her gaze.

    “Back when you were talking about how the White Fang had wronged your family, you mentioned the theft of a train car full of Dust. The one you were talking about, it disappeared in the middle of Forever Fall, right?”

    Weiss felt her eyes narrow involuntarily. “Yes, it did.”

    Blake gave her a small nod.

    “The last thing I did as a member of the White Fang was help steal that car.” Seeing Weiss’s eyes widen, she held up a hand in a placating gesture. “Before you say anything, please, hear me out.”

    Doing her best to keep her expression neutral, the heiress gave the ex-terrorist a nod. “Explain.”

    “It was supposed to be a simple extraction. Go in, get the Dust, get out. But my... partner, Adam...” Blake had to stop and take a breath to steady herself. “Once we had taken care of the security bots, he told me to start planting explosives. He wasn’t content to just steal the Dust. He... He wanted to take out the entire train. Crew and all.”

    "That was when I knew.” Her eyes fell down toward her lap, where her hands were laced together. Her bow strained as her ears tried and failed to lie flat against her head. “That the organization I'd dedicated myself to, the one my father founded to bring about equality, had become nothing more than a spiteful mob lashing out at the world."

    Looking down as she was, Blake didn’t see Weiss’s eyes widen at the revelation of just how deeply tied her teammate was to the organization that had targeted her family.

    “So, I did the only thing I could think of.” She raised her head once more, and Weiss could see the faint shimmer of tears in her eyes. “I cut the connection between the cars, and I left him behind.”

    She met Weiss’s gaze, amber and ice locking together.

    “So, I’m sorry. Sorry I was too much of a coward to see the truth until it was right in front of me. That I -”

    “Blake, stop.” Weiss shook her head, not wanting her teammate, her friend, to keep denigrating herself. “Do you know how many workers there are on a Schnee Dust transport train? Between engineers, maintenance staff, and security monitors, there were twenty one living people working on that train. Twenty one innocent workers, just doing their jobs. Thanks to you, they were able to get home safely to their families. Because you had the courage to stay true to your convictions.”

    Blake looked at Weiss as though she had grown a second head.

    "Me, courageous? Weiss, I'm a coward to my core. Even my Semblance is running away and letting my clones take the hits for me!"

    Quick as a blink, Weiss was on her feet, looking down at her teammate with fire behind her eyes.

    “A coward wouldn’t have saved those people. A coward wouldn’t have left an organization that went against what she believed in. And a coward wouldn’t have gone to the top school in the world in an attempt to join the most fatality prone occupation on Remnant! You are not a coward Blake Belladonna, and I refuse to let you insult yourself like this!”

    Anger fueled the heiress’s words. A raging inferno born of righteous indignation.

    “I know what a coward looks like Blake. For the last 17 years I've lived with one. A man so afraid of failing he stole a legacy of honor and integrity after the hard work had been done, only to twist it into a mockery of cruelty and greed.” She ran a finger along the scar that traced a path over her left eye, her voice going quiet at the memory. ”A man so terrified of losing control he forced his own daughter to fight a towering monster of metal and darkness before he would allow her to go to school in another kingdom.”

    Seeing the shocked look on Blake’s face at her moment of oversharing, Weiss quickly decided to change the subject.

    “What about you though? What does your father think about you leaving? Isn't he the leader of the White Fang?"

    Shock quickly gave way to anger on the dark haired girl’s features, her concern for her teammate giving way to anger at the implication.

    "Weiss, my father stepped down as high leader five years ago! He refused to take part in the escalating violence. Sienna Khan is the leader of the White Fang.”

    Weiss winced at her faux pas, mentally chastising herself for yet again unknowingly insulting Blake.

    "Oh. I'm sorry, I'm... not exactly well versed in the hierarchy of the White Fang."

    Blake let out an amused snort. “Why would you be?”

    Internally sighing with relief, the heiress sat back down on her bed. She couldn’t help her curiosity, however, and soon found herself speaking in an effort to fill the silence. “So, Sienna Khan. I’m guessing she’s the one responsible for the White Fang’s current actions?”

    Blake shook her head, a frown on her lips. “Sienna’s a lot of things, but she always had a reason behind the violence. Every riot she led started as a protest. Any attack happened as a response to actual discrimination. I might not agree with her methods entirely, but she makes sure that there will actually be results from her actions. But the robberies in Vale? Working with a bigot like Roman Torchwick? I can’t see how she would be okay with any of it. She doesn’t get anything from it.”

    Weiss pondered Blake’s statement, before a moment of realization struck her.

    "Wait. Let me get this straight. An organization that your family founded changed leadership, and as a result achieved greater results at the cost of becoming morally bankrupt. You eventually became fed up with it and ran away to Beacon."

    At the other girl's nod, the heiress felt a set of giggles escape from her lips, eventually giving way to a full blown laughing fit. Her teammate's face grew outraged at what she saw as a complete lack of empathy to her plight, but before she could say anything to that effect, the white haired girl managed to regain enough composure to speak.

    "How is it that that, of all things, is something we have in common?"

    The darker hair girl blinked in surprise. As she mulled over the blanchette's words, she couldn't help but snort in turn. Her snort was answered by another giggle, and soon enough both girls were doubled over laughing at the sheer absurdity of their lives.

    - |VV| - |VV| - |VV| -​

    Inside his office at the top of Vale’s CCT tower, Professor Ozpin smiled as he sipped from his mug. Today was looking to be an interesting one, all told. He sat at his desk, preparing for the meeting that was about to start, waiting on Glynda to ready their guest.

    How very strange it is, to not have all the answers for once.

    His musings were interrupted as the elevator door to his office opened, his dutiful second in command striding into the room, the staccato click of her heels bringing him back to the present.

    “Ah, Glynda, is Lea situated?”

    Beacon Academy’s combat instructor gave her nominal superior one of her trademark glares in lieu of a response.

    “Ozpin, are you sure that this man is a reliable source of information? He seems pathologically incapable of taking things seriously.”

    The headmaster of Beacon Academy hid his smile behind his mug as he took another sip of hot chocolate and prepared a response.

    “Well, he did come to me at Qrow’s recommendation.”

    As his subordinate fixed him with a withering glare, he raised his free hand to placate her.

    “Kidding, kidding!” He set down his mug and gave her a serene smile. “Rest assured Glynda, he is indeed our best source of information on the strange circumstances our world finds itself under. All will be revealed in due time.”

    Glynda kept her stare fixed for a moment, only for it to dissolve with a huff as she rolled her eyes at her employer’s eccentricity.

    “You know Ozpin, it’s moments like this that make James think you aren’t telling us everything.”

    The elder Huntsman simply maintained his air of calm as he brought up a holographic screen over his desk, preparing what he liked to call “Roundtable Protocol.” Glynda made her way to stand beside him, form never wavering from perfect posture, her weaponized riding crop hanging from her hip.

    With the press of a button a series of signals went up into the massive transmitter crowning the tower they sat within; three messages going out to the distant corners of the world, calling together the most well connected and influential people on the face of Remnant. Three holographic screens sprang into being around the open space at the center of the room, each showing a different face.

    At his right, the bearded and bespectacled face of Leonardo Lionheart, headmaster of Haven Academy in Mistral. To his left, the chiseled visage of Professor Theodore, headmaster of Shade Academy in Vacuo. And finally, across from him, stood the steel gaze of General James Ironwood, headmaster of the unimaginatively named Atlas Academy.

    “Leo, Theodore, James, thank you for joining me on such short notice.” He said, greeting each of his contemporaries in turn. “I’m sure you’re all wondering as to the purpose of this meeting.”

    “You called all three of us Oz, you don’t do that unless something important is happening.” James replied. To his right, Theodore nodded. “Is the big one making waves?”

    Ozpin smiled. “I am happy to say that the ongoing situation has nothing to do with our mutual enemy. Rather, it has everything to do with the unusual creatures that have been sighted recently. I’m sure you’ve all seen the reports. Bodies of pitch black, lifeless yellow eyes, all strangely humanoid in proportion?”

    Three nods answered him.

    “I’m assuming you’ve managed to find out what they are?” James inquired, his holographic image shaking slightly as he settled himself in his seat.

    Leo raised an eyebrow. “They’re surely just some new form of Grimm, yes? They certainly behave like it.”

    Ozpin shook his head. “I’m afraid they are the symptom of a far larger change.”

    Theodore cocked his head as he regarded that statement. “A symptom? What change are you talking about?”

    Ozpin laced his hands together atop his desk, regarding each of his subordinates in turn. He trusted each of them quite literally with his life, along with the lives of every young hopeful wanting to make a difference in the world. And while he might not have told them the entirety of what he knew, what was happening now was far too large to conceal. It took him but a moment to find the words.

    "Legends,” he began. “Stories told through time. Of everyone on Remnant, there is perhaps no one who understands the power they hold more than I.” He glanced around at his subordinates, a faint smile on his lips. “After all," he continued, "I'm responsible for so many of them.” He took a small sip from his mug while the gathered conspirators laughed at the byplay. Once they were finished, he resumed his speech. “There is one story, however, that until yesterday I had thought long lost to time. A tale that my father told me when I was just a child.”

    As looks of startled realization slowly formed on the faces of his co-conspirators he continued undeterred.

    “But as has been made apparent time and again, within every story, there exists some measure of truth. And the threats that have begun to make themselves known extend far beyond the borders of our world. So then. Allow me to tell you all my favorite fairytale.”

    - |VV| - |VV| - |VV| -​

    The assembled conspirators all stared at their leader as he finished his tale. The room had gone quiet, with only the faint hum of holographic projection and the rhythmic clicks of massive clockwork filling the air. Ironwood was first to break the silence.

    “Oz, the fact you're telling us this now...”

    Theodore shook his head. “It’s pretty obvious why James.”

    Leo looked between the two, his face the picture of disbelief.

    “Surely not? I mean really, other worlds, realms of darkness, weapons of living light? It’s a little hard to believe.”

    “Oh, you had better believe it.”

    The three absent headmasters all looked up in shock as a rift of pure void opened in the air before Ozpin’s desk, out from which strode the cloaked figure of Lea. He looked between the three of them as he lowered his hood, drawing on years of experience to play up the part of the mysterious stranger.

    “Your little corner of the universe has had its doors flung wide open,” he said, throwing his arms out in emphasis. “And those nasty little things that have been popping up? They’re just the start of your problems.”

    Hey all, finally got this done to a point I'm satisfied with it. The conversation between weiss and blake is something I put a lot of thought into, because it needs to be believeable. Something similar had to have happened in canon, because there's no way Blake would let Weiss's racist comments stand, but sadly budget limitations most likely kept it offscreen. Do let me know how well I've done. Also, how well do the new linebreaks work? Anyway, Thanks to *FuryouMiko, Miss Peacecraft , JustAnotherCatGirl, Wheatstick, Sylnarri, and Kiaori for help in writing this chapter!
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2022
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  9. Threadmarks: CHapter 6 Everybody Hates Expostiton
    blitzgamer

    blitzgamer The Derg

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    Chapter 6: Everybody Hates Exposition.



    Lea looked between the various screens, studying the three men his host had wanted him to meet. His mouth curled into a smirk. Showtime!

    “Allow me to introduce myself,” he said, placing his right hand against his chest in emphasis while gesturing with his left. “The name's Lea.”

    He dropped his left arm down and threw his right out to the side, hand reaching as if to grasp something. With a flick of his wrist and a wash of embers, Flame Liberator flashed into existence in his grip. He twirled it by the guard before bringing it to rest against his shoulder. His other hand rose, index finger pressing against his temple as he cocked his head left.

    “Got it memorized?”

    The reactions to the display were varied, a mixture of shock, wonder, and amusement in equal measures. Glynda pinched the bridge of her nose, muttering under her breath about “overgrown children.” Ozpin simply chuckled at the extravagant introduction before rising from his chair to stand beside Lea, the tap of his cane against the plate glass floor punctuating his steps.

    “Before you all bombard our guest with questions, allow me to explain a few things.”

    He glanced between his subordinates, taking particular note of the growing frustration upon the face of the Atlesian General.

    “Ten days ago, I received reports about unusual Grimm appearing upon the island of Patch. Given his familiarity with the island, along with his personal ties, I dispatched Qrow Branwen to investigate the reports. Upon his arrival eight days later, he visited the house of his brother-in-law, Taiyang Xiao Long. Tai’s daughters, Yang Xiao Long and Ruby Rose, both first year students here at Beacon, had been aided in an encounter with said creatures earlier that day by Lea. Upon learning that Lea had in-depth knowledge of these creatures, known as ‘Heartless,’ he set up a meeting with me.”

    Beacon's headmaster chuckled slightly as he recalled that initial meeting.

    “I must admit, when I first saw Lea walk into my office with a Keyblade on his hip I thought that Qrow had spiked my cocoa again.” He held up his mug for emphasis.

    “I questioned him, and he confirmed to me that the old legends were indeed true. Remnant is not alone in the universe. There are countless worlds out there besides our own.”

    That sentence hung in the air, heavy with the sheer weight of it’s implications.

    “I’m sure that you all want proof of this claim, outlandish as it is. I’m not so arrogant as to believe you would accept it based merely on my word. But I will allow our guest to show you himself. Lea? You have the floor.” His piece said, the headmaster of Beacon returned to his chair, giving Lea full control of the conversation. The Keyblade wielder turned slowly, flashing each member of his audience a small smile. He dismissed his weapon with a flourish of his hand, the only sign of its presence a few rapidly fading embers.

    “Alright then. Now, I’m sure you’re all wondering just what the heck is going on. Normally I wouldn’t be allowed to tell you all about the bigger picture, but since Oz over there,” he said, jerking his thumb over his shoulder at said headmaster, who gave a polite nod, “was so thoughtful as to clue you all in beforehand, that means I can go ahead and give you all the full breakdown. So get comfortable, because we’ve got a lot to cover.”

    The redhead moved to the side of Ozpin’s desk opposite Glynda, pulling out what appeared to the others to be a heavily reinforced scroll. With a quick nod to Ozpin and a few keystrokes the holoprojector in the center of the room activated. Lea fiddled with his device, muttering to himself as he did.

    “Okay, link's going strong... Looks like Ienzo’s patch is holding... Aaaand, got it!”

    The projection in the center of the room was suddenly filled with a spinning icon in the shape of a three-pronged crown. Lea gave his audience another grin.

    “Alright, connection’s all set so let's get started. Apologies in advance, I know not everybody enjoys exposition, but this stuff is important so we might as well get it out of the way now. First, my credentials. Let me prove to you this isn’t the only world out there.”

    He tapped at his scroll, and soon the crown was replaced with a Photograph. One showing the face of a grinning Lea... and behind him a night sky in which hung an unbroken moon. One distinctly different in appearance to Remnant’s. All around the room, eyes started to widen.

    “And before you think that’s just something I threw together in an editing program...”

    The image began to move, Lea turning whatever camera was recording to show off the surroundings. He was surrounded by various buildings, towering giants of metal and glass. The sky was filled by strange fish-shaped devices that were tethered to various buildings. As he swung the camera around an enormous red suspension bridge came into view, its towers reminiscent of Mistralian shrine gates. The headlights of multiple cars could be seen journeying across. The camera returned to Lea’s smiling face once more before the video ended, replaced once more by the spinning crown. The implications were clear. No place like what had just been shown existed on Remnant. Lea grinned as he looked at the shocked faces on display.

    “There you have it. Your little world is just one of many. Crazy, I know. Now, as for why you’re only learning this now?” He held his arms out in something that wasn’t quite a shrug. “Well, that’s where things get complicated.”

    He fiddled with his scroll once more, and the spinning crown in the center of the room was replaced by a single slowly spinning sphere, one enshrouded by a shimmering translucent barrier.

    “Up till now, Remnant’s been divided from the wider universe. Sealed inside what’s called a Gummi barrier. Goofy name, I know, but damn near indestructible. Thing is, just recently there was this massive event, real big ‘Fate of the Universe’ thing. Long story. Like, 13 freaking years long.”

    Noticing the incredulous looks he was being given he held up his hands in a halting gesture.

    “Seriously. Don’t. Ask. I was part of the damn thing and I can barely make sense of it all. All you need to know is that as a result of this big cosmic clustercrap Remnant and who knows how many other worlds have had their barriers broken, waking them up to the wider universe.”

    The shell covering the sphere shattered into pieces, some of which floated out into the open void, others falling back down to the globes they had guarded. Lea gave a knowing look to the various headmasters.

    “I'm guessing there was a meteor shower pretty recently? You might want to get people on top of recovering any pieces you can find, Gummi pieces are tough stuff, with a lot of fun applications. Less delicious than they sound though, don’t eat them."

    Ironwood made to speak at that but was quickly cut off by the Keyblade wielder, who raised a finger to silence him.

    “Please hold all questions until after the presentation!”

    James looked past Lea at Ozpin, annoyance plain on his face. His friend and mentor simply gave him a nod. The general sat back in his chair, fingers steepled in front of him in his desk, eyes narrowing. Interruption dealt with, Lea continued.

    “Now thing is, those barriers breaking is only a side effect of what’s really going on. And this is where things get... Metaphysical, let’s say.”

    At the center of the globe a small cartoon heart manifested, with a line leading out to the surface of the sphere. At the point where it intersected a small icon hovered, shaped like an old fashioned keyhole.

    “Every world has a Heart. A core to its being. From this Heart, life flows into a world. Same with people. Memories, emotions, identity itself. All those and more are contained within the Heart."

    "Normally a world’s Heart is sealed away, safe from influence. But there exists a gateway to each, known as the Keyhole. And it's the opening of that gate that causes the barrier to shatter.”

    A new set of images appeared. Photographs, each depicting various different locations. The only commonality was the appearance of a singular glowing hole shaped exactly like a stereotypical keyhole set amidst a vertical surface. The rather literal appearance drew a few questioning looks, which Lea took notice of.

    “Yeah, better get used to things being on the nose like that. Universe has a weird sense of humor, make no mistake.” He chuckled to himself before restoring the previous diagram.

    “Now obviously, anything happening to the Heart of a world would result in disaster. That’s where we Keyblade wielders come in.”

    Flame Liberator flashed back into existence, twirling idly in his hand as he spoke.

    “A Keyblade is able to permanently seal a World’s Keyhole, keeping the Heart nice and safe.”

    He dismissed his weapon once more before straightening his stance.

    “The problem lies in finding it. Before something else does.”

    He tapped his device once more; replacing the world diagram with a sinister emblem. A black heart, bordered in red, crossed by thorned lines of the same color. The bottom point of the heart split into three tails, the ones to either side curling slightly upwards. The symbol hung spinning in the air for a moment, letting the various professionals get a good look. After a few moments it was swept to the side as a new image rose in its place.

    The creature was small, with a bulbous head topped by antennae reminiscent of an ant. Spindly arms ending in sharp claws were matched by wiry legs ending in long pointed feet that lacked any discernible digits. It was uniform black in color, all save for the eyes. They bulged out from the thing's head, twin orbs of solid yellow. They were eerie in how utterly dead they were. There was no dark intelligence, no animalistic rage, not so much as a spark of cunning. They were just... Empty. Hollow. Soulless. The only signs of life from the thing were in its hunched posture and the erratic twitches it made.

    “Meet the Shadow. The most basic of Heartless.”

    All traces of levity had fled from Lea’s voice. His posture had straightened, bringing the totality of his height to bear as he looked over the assembled.

    “Now, the thing you need to understand about the Heartless is that they are, first and foremost, creatures of Darkness. Capital D. And Darkness is more than simple negativity. It’s raw. Primal. Rage, despair, vengeance, greed, hatred." He listed the various emotions rapidly, his voice growing harsher until on the last word it was almost a snarl. "All those things that leave a person hollow inside. Darkness clings to those emotions. Enhances them. Feeds them. And the deeper you draw upon it for strength, the more you let those emotions define you? The Darkness will take its hold upon your Heart, leaving you more and more open to its influence, until eventually there’s nothing else left. And all that will be left of you is an empty husk... And another Heartless.”

    A disturbed silence filled the room as his audience reacted. Glynda's hand flew to her mouth in shock, her eyes wide with horror. Leonardo's mouth hung open as he tried to understand how such a thing was possible. Ozpin beckoned Lea to continue.

    “There are two kinds of Heartless. Purebloods, like the Shadow here, are manifestations of raw Darkness. They mainly form within the Realm of Darkness, opposite to our own Realm of Light.” He stopped and took a deep breath. “And then... there are the Emblems.”

    The image of the Shadow vanished, only to be replaced by a new creature. It stood a good foot taller than the previous Heartless, and was noticeably wearing actual clothing. Its head was protected by an old fashioned metal helmet, one decorated with a pair of angular spirals reminiscent of eyes and topped with a curling silver plume. It wore a dark bodysuit, the chest of which was marked by the thorned heart from earlier, with maroon patches on the knees that were inverted silhouettes of the same shape. A pair of silver bands braced its wrists, and on its feet it wore a pair of black leather shoes with curling pointed tips. That was where any signs of humanity ended. Its fingers ended in vicious red claws, and peering out from under its visor were those same lifeless yellow eyes.

    “This is a Soldier. The most common of the Emblem Heartless. Not that much more dangerous than a Shadow all told. But where Purebloods could be considered ‘natural’ Heartless, the origin of the Emblems is far more disturbing.”

    He paused for a moment, rolling his shoulders back before starting again.

    “Now then, a while back, I wanna say ten years?” He tapped his chin as his gaze went back towards the ceiling. After a moment of thought he snapped his fingers. “Yeah, ten years ago. There was this scientist who was studying the Heartless. Crazy bastard somehow got it into his head that it would be a good idea to artificially replicate the process by which a Heart falls to Darkness. He ended up succeeding, and the Emblems were the result.”

    Lea gave a quick glance around the room to take in his audience's reactions. Leonardo was horrified, Theodore appeared furious, and Glynda's face was somewhere in-between. Only Ozpin and Ironwood remained stoic. The Keyblade wielder swiftly resumed his explanation.

    “The strange thing is that even now, long after his experiments have ended, Emblem Heartless keep popping up. And unlike Purebloods, Emblems seem to take in parts of the people they once were. They aren’t wholly made of Darkness.”

    He gave a shrug.

    “Regardless, all Heartless, whether Pureblood or Emblem, share the same goal. Seek out Hearts and extract the Darkness within. The darker the Heart, the more powerful the resulting Heartless. And every Heart has Darkness inside. Including the Hearts of worlds.”

    His posture straightened once again.

    “That’s why it’s so important that a world’s Keyhole is found and sealed. Because if the Heartless get to it... Well the results aren’t pretty.”

    Lea was unable to fully suppress a shudder as he remembered the stories he’d been told about the fate that awaited those worlds consumed by the Heartless. Empty landscapes twisted into grotesque parodies of their former selves, trapped within a realm where time seemed to lose all meaning.

    “So, that’s why I’m here. And in exchange for your help in finding the Keyhole so I can lock it tight, I’m willing to give you information on the Heartless and how best to counter them.”

    The otherworldly visitor took a step back; offering the floor for whoever wanted to speak, an invitation Ozpin accepted.

    “Now, far be it for me to put words in the mouths of others, but I feel that this is an offer we should accept. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by aiding Lea in his endeavors. We already have the Grimm breathing down our necks, the last thing we need is to have the very world torn out from underneath us.”

    Leonardo nodded his head vigorously in agreement, and Theodore gave a curt nod of approval. James, however, found his eyes narrowing at the mysterious stranger.

    “This is quite the story you’ve told,” he said, unfolding his arms, “and you certainly know how to put on a show. But this all seems a little too good to be true. A massive threat only you can deal with? Offering aid for comparatively nothing in return? Call me paranoid, but I can’t help but think this is a trick of some kind.”

    An exasperated Glynda cupped her face with one hand, fingers massaging at her temple as she sighed in frustration.

    “Really James? Aside from the fact that he’s already saved the lives of two of my students, it’s not as though the things he’s saying don’t have a basis in fact! The meteor showers two weeks ago, the sightings of these Heartless creatures days later, the timeline fits. And need I remind you” she said, pointing at him with her riding crop, “that the only reason he’s here in the first place is that Qrow extended him an invitation?”

    Before the general could offer a rebuttal Lea stepped forward once more.

    “Ironwood, right?” he asked, pointing a finger at the man in question. “Gotta say, I can’t blame you for being suspicious. Some random stranger pops up out of nowhere with a crazy story, talking about concepts no one else has ever heard of before? I'd be hard pressed to believe it myself! And even if what I'm saying is true, who’s to say I’m telling the whole truth? Heck, for all you know I could be some crazed assassin, secretly employed by a nebulous shadow organization, actively manipulating you all to further my nefarious agenda."

    Lea leaned forward slightly, giving the Atlesian headmaster a perfect cheshire grin. He’d taken notes from the original, as it happened. For a few moments he locked eyes with the man’s rapidly narrowing gaze, only to abruptly draw upright and turn away dismissively.

    “But thing is, there’s nothing that you have that I really need. Money? You can’t pay me in a currency I can use. Shelter? If I need to I can pop home whenever I want. And the only resource you can offer me that’s actually unique to this world, that being Dust, is something that’s completely useless once I finish up and leave!"

    The Keyblade wielder turned back around with an exaggerated shrug before facing Ironwood once more

    "But really,” he said, raising an eyebrow while gesturing offhand. “Is it so hard for you to believe that I'm doing this out of the goodness of my Heart?”

    He made a show of looking around the room, taking in the various headmasters each in turn.

    “After all," he said, gesturing at the assembled educators, "isn't cultivating that mindset the reason why you're all here in the first place?"

    Silence hung in the air as Lea and Ironwood locked eyes. Then, after a few tense moments, the stern-faced man gave the Keyblade wielder an almost imperceptible nod.

    "What would you have us do, then?"

    A soft smile broke out on Lea's face. Gotcha.

    "It's pretty simple really," he said, turning to address the room. "The Keyhole for a world is usually found in a place of significance. Somewhere that holds deep meaning to the world as a whole. The site of a major tragedy, a place of peace, sometimes the site of major religious worship. Just so long as it's somewhere important. So, if you could all figure out a list of places like that, maybe have a few people check them out for me? It would definitely make things go a whole lot faster. In the meantime I can deal with any Heartless that pop up for you."

    "Now hold on a moment," Theodore interjected. "I thought you'd be teaching us how to deal with the Heartless ourselves!"

    Lea turned to the Vacuan headmaster, running his hand through his hair as he did.

    "Yeah, well, that's the thing. While anyone can disrupt a Heartless, sending it back to the Realm of Darkness, only a Keyblade can truly destroy them." He manifested Flame Liberator, holding it in front of him.

    "Bombs, bullets, magic for those worlds that have it, unless it has the power of the Keyblade behind it any attempt to get rid of the Heartless is temporary at best."

    He gave the musclebound man a shrug before slinging his weapon across his shoulders. As he did, he noted the distinct lack of a reaction at his mention of magic.

    "That's not to say there's nothing you can do. Because of their more… metaphysical nature, Heartless have some unusual behavior patterns. One of the most relevant to this discussion is the fact that, while drawn to the Darkness within people’s Hearts, they are also repelled by areas that have strong feelings of comfort and safety. That’s why it’s so very rare for them to appear in larger, more well defended settlements. Kudos, by the way.” He said, turning to Ozpin, “I haven't seen a single one inside of Vale.”

    Ozpin gave him a smile and a nod.

    “If that is indeed the case then we are rather well suited to the task. We already work to foster positive emotions so as to keep away the Grimm. This simply serves to reinforce our existing goals.”

    Lea nodded in turn.

    “There’s a few other reasons why I would prefer to be the one dealing with any Heartless that pop up. For one thing, during my little fight a few days ago there was a weird interaction when Yang got attacked. Her Aura blocked the hit, but she felt like it was being ripped away from her. Left a damn nasty mark too.”

    He glanced around at the various worried looks.

    “Yeah, Aura is actually unique to Remnant for all I can tell. There are those who’ve been able to draw upon the soul before, but never the way you all do. I’d love to compare notes, but that can probably wait. As for what happened to Yang, there’s too many things that could have been responsible. Was it the type of Heartless she was fighting? Something to do with her Semblance?” He shrugged. “Not enough data, and like hell am I going to try and experiment. As for the other reason?”

    He smiled as he pulled up his device once more. The image of the Soldier vanished. In its place was a simplistic human form, containing a stylized heart and seemingly filled with lines of glowing energy.

    “Now, a person is made up of three distinct parts. The body, which grants form. The Heart, which grants identity. And the soul, which grants life.” The corresponding elements lit up on the diagram as he spoke. “So, what happens to the body after the Heart is gone? In most cases, it simply fades away. Without the Heart, there is no mind to direct the soul. Without the soul to properly maintain it, the body becomes unable to support itself, falling apart on a metaphysical scale.”

    He got a few strange looks from his audience, but they seemed content to go with his explanation for the time being.

    “There is, however, an exception. Should a person’s Heart be strong enough, possess enough sheer force of will to continue on no matter what, then that strength will force the body to continue existing on after the Heart has been removed. It will not, however, be unchanged. The resulting being is something completely lacking in Light, Darkness, and identity; becoming a void in the fabric of existence. Due to this lack of identity, these beings were named Nobodies.”

    The projection shifted once more, showing a new symbol, this one seemingly an inversion of the Heartless emblem. A pure white cross with the top and arms ending in spearpoints, the bottom flaring out into an upside-down heart with two circular sections removed near the join. The symbol shrank down and was shifted off to the side as a new image appeared.

    It was a thin, sinuous creature, Its body seemingly a mockery of human form. Its large cylindrical head had a flat top marked with the aforementioned symbol, and it seemed to be completely covered in a jumpsuit colored a grey so light it was neary white. Its zippered "mouth" had been undone, revealing a grey, sharp-toothed mouth underneath. No other traces of its face could be seen, the outer jumpsuit lacking even holes for eyes. A black line ran down the sides of its body, and its feet and hands were pointed and lacking digits. Said hands each sported two black bands around them, and it appeared to be fairly muscular despite the thinness of its arms and legs. The assembled headmasters all stared at the creature, expressions ranging from disgust to fascination.

    “This is a Dusk, the most common type of Nobody. Think of them as the counterpart to the Shadow. Unlike Heartless, which get larger and more monstrous with strength, Nobodies instead increase in how closely they resemble their original form. The strongest of them are actually nearly identical in appearance. For example, this,” he said, bringing up a new image, “was my Nobody, who went by the name Axel.”

    The assembled professionals all stared in shock as the new image loaded into view. Even Ozpin’s ever stoic visage shifted to one of disbelief. It was indeed identical to Lea save only for the eyes, which were emerald green compared to his normal turquoise, and the small purple reverse teardrop markings underneath them.

    “Yeah, weren’t expecting that little tidbit were you? This is why it’s so important that the Heartless be killed and not just dispersed. Should someone have both their Heartless and Nobody be destroyed, then their Heart will rejoin with the lost body and soul, restoring the individual through a process known as Recompletion. They will reform in the same location that they originally came apart in, completely unchanged save for whatever physical changes would have happened as a result of normal aging had they stayed whole. My colleague Ienzo actually got to skip puberty, the lucky bastard.”

    It was several moments before he got a response. His audience was too busy trying to reconcile what he had just told them.

    "Well now," Ozpin finally said, readjusting his glasses after the lengthy silence, "I can certainly understand why you would wish to make sure that any Heartless encountered would be dealt with properly, if it means restoring life to their victims."

    "Bingo," Lea confirmed, giving the resident headmaster a finger gun. "As for Nobodies, they can be killed by anything, but they're a lot stronger than they look. Especially the ones like Axel. Being a Nobody means being a walking paradox, a wound in the fabric of reality. And with that comes a lot of power. Thankfully, when Nobodies form they only do so in a few specific spots. I’ve got a buddy of mine keeping their eyes out. But still, better safe than sorry.”

    He dismissed the image of the Dusk, replacing it with one of the device in his hands.

    “Right, this here is my personal Gummiphone, so named due to the technology used in its construction. It’s basically the same as one of your scrolls, except Gummi-tech lets it work between worlds.”

    That statement drew more than a few awed looks. Lea held up a hand for silence.

    “Before you ask, I don’t know how it works, and even if I did I wouldn’t be allowed to tell you. I’m already bending the rules into a pretzel. That being said, I have managed to patch into your local network. A friend of mine is a real wizard with all things data related, and he came up with the trick once we noticed how many worlds have some form of localized data networks.”

    Noticing the worried look on Ironwood’s face he gave the general a smile.

    “Don’t worry, it’s just surface access. My phone’s just making the network treat it like another scroll. It does, however, let me do this.”

    He tapped a few times on his scroll, and seconds later a series of beeps rang out from each of the holographic monitors.

    “I’ve just sent each of you a pack of files full of info about Heartless and Nobodies. They’re divided by subtype, habitat, and general strength level. As for how you divulge said information?”
    He shrugged. “That’s up to you.”

    The Keyblade wielder stepped back, ceding control of the room and the display back to Ozpin as he did. The headmaster nodded in thanks before addressing his confidants.

    “It is as he says. We have been granted a tremendous opportunity to better safeguard our kingdoms, one that we would be fools not to make use of. How we do so, however, can wait for another day. I fear I’ve kept you all long enough. I’ll be forwarding Lea’s contact information to all of you should you require his assistance. Don’t be afraid to call on him, he’s quite capable of making the trip.” He smiled at each of his contemporaries. “Good luck, each of you. Remnant is counting on us.”

    After each headmaster returned the sentiment, Ozpin cut the connection. As the call ended Beacon’s headmaster visibly sagged in relief, a sigh escaping his lips. Even Glynda found her posture lagging as a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding let itself out.

    “They took that pretty well, all things considered.” Lea remarked, his arms comfortably folded across his chest. “I wonder how long it’ll be before they’ve got Gummi blocks under a microscope.”

    Ozpin chuckled at the mental image that conjured.

    “Knowing James he’s already putting a team together to go look at impact sites, not that I can blame him. Long range communication has always been a problem, even with the CCT. Having devices capable of connecting with each other from anywhere would be a tremendous boon.”

    Lea gave the headmaster a knowing smirk.

    With all the fancy tech this place has I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a working Gummi Ship in just a few years. Be nice to have another world added to the greater community.

    “So, what now?” He said, shelving his thoughts for the time being. Ozpin smiled at him as he tapped away at his keyboard.

    “Our first step will be getting you registered as a licensed Huntsman. It will allow me to send you out on missions against the Heartless without raising suspicion, alongside allowing me to pay you for your services. As we don’t know how long it will take to find the Keyhole, you will no doubt be in need of accommodations.”

    Lea shot the headmaster a confused glance.

    “Uh, Oz, I already told you that Lien’s not really useful outside of Remnant. And I can just portal home at the end of the day.”

    Ozpin frowned slightly before turning to meet Lea’s gaze.

    “True as that may be, I feel I must offer you something in the way of compensation for your efforts. And treating you like just another Huntsman will keep people from asking questions I’m sure you would rather not have to give the answers to.”

    Lea considered the headmaster’s logic for a few moments before nodding in agreement.

    “Fair enough. Probably save time in the long run anyway.” The redhead chuckled slightly as he ran a hand through his crimson mane. “Heh. It’s funny. I don’t think I’ve ever had an actual job before. At least, not an official one, what with paperwork and all.”

    Ozpin let out a small laugh of his own.

    “Right then. Glynda, would you be able to assist Lea with that? I’m afraid I have a message of my own to compose with the data he’s provided.”

    The deputy headmistress gave her superior a sharp nod of confirmation.

    “Of course, Professor.” She turned to leave, beckoning for Lea to follow her. As the elevator began to descend, Ozpin started work on his message.

    Ghira, my old friend, I do hope you and yours can weather the storm to come.

    Hey everybody! Sorry for all the exposition, hope I made it palatable. This scene was one of the ones I've had kicking for a while. Hopefully my explanations for why there are safe areas in the games makes sense to you all. Thanks to Wheatstick and *FuryouMiko for their help with betaing.
     
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