Saturday, 11th April, 79AGW.
Lux was once again down in the arena, her fourth fight of the day, and this time she was up against a third year.
"Does she ever get tired?" Ruby asked curiously.
"She does," Teak said, smiling, "Lux just really likes fighting."
"The thirds years are so good," Claire mumbled, "That girl doesn't even look like she's trying."
"Two years of combat training is easily enough for that kind of gap," Yang said honestly, "It's like when I train with my dad—have you got any hunters in your family, Claire?"
"Nah," Claire said sheepishly, glancing over at Lima for a moment. "Just me."
"First one? That's pretty cool," Yang said, smiling, "Well, my dad has been a hunter for a while now, and he kicks my ass; I swear half the time he's got his eyes closed."
"Are your styles similar?" Lima asked idly, watching Lux block a series of shots.
"Yeah, more or less the same." Yang admitted, "Everything I know was what he taught me."
"That skews it a bit more as well," Lima offered, "He's using the same style as you—he's had years to figure out the sequences and when to use what, probably knows what you're going to do before you do."
"Exactly," Yang said, nodding.
"That's what it's like fighting Uncle Qrow," Ruby complained, "I don't think I've landed a single clean hit on him yet. So I'm never going to be able to beat him?"
"It's Qrow." Yang shrugged.
"Your styles will diverge eventually," Lima said honestly, "Different builds, heights, strengths, the more they diverge, the better matched you'll be—and the less able to read you he will become. That's not the only factor, but it does contribute a lot more than you might think."
"They both have a really good idea of what we're thinking," Yang said airly, "Dad always tricks me into the same damn things, even when I'm expecting it, he does something similar enough that I try to counter it—only to find that it was just a feint or a setup for a second counter."
"He does that to me too!" Ruby said indignantly, "Then he says the same damn thing—'Ruby, you're a thousand years too early to challenge a member of the coolest team that ever came out of beacon!'"
"Ugh, I've got one of those as well," Lima mumbled before deepening his voice. "'Did you think you were going to land that Lima? I'm pretty sure my mother saw that one coming, idiot!' Fucking Sage."
"Ouch—Maybe it's an old man hunter thing?" Yang grinned, "Seems pretty common, huh?"
"I'm telling dad you called him old," Ruby teased.
Yang just smirked.
"It might just be an old person thing," Claire said, amused, "My parents both say things like that whenever I argue about something with them—not hunter stuff, but you know."
"How about you, Teak?" Lima prodded the quiet boy.
"I don't really argue with my mum," Teak admitted, smiling. "She's super nice—I'd feel really bad, I think."
"Nice—" Lima nodded, clapping him on the back. "Lux is done."
Teak snapped his head around and just caught the tail end of the fight, as the third year ducked under the haft of Lux's Halberd and then snap kicked her in the face after it had passed, dropping her Aura beneath the threshold.
"O-oh," Teak said, surprised. "Lux almost beat her."
The third year's Aura was sitting at just over forty percent; it had been a pretty close match—Lux's semblance allowed her to out damage a lot of people, as even a glancing blow carried much more weight behind it than normal.
"If she was a little bit faster, she would have won," Ruby mumbled.
"Probably—it's something she's been working on—or so she says." Lima said honestly, "You going to fight today, Ruby?"
"Me?" Ruby twisted in her seat, laughing nervously. "Who would I fight—I don't know anyone!"
"Just pick random," Lima raised an eyebrow. "You know everyone in our class as well—you should beat up Jaune."
"That's mean! I can't do that. I know them—besides, if I pick random, what if I get matched against a third-year—or worse!" Ruby said nervously, "What if It picks Yang, and then she hates me forever?!"
"Oh, no," Yang said deadpanned, before rolling her eyes. "It's not like we haven't sparred before, silly."
Ruby just shook her head.
"You don't want to fight her?" Lima wondered curiously. "or is it you don't think you can beat your sister?"
He'd seen them fight, they were on different teams in the warzone—they were both clearly talented—but Ruby was just plain fast—they just needed a little push.
Ruby was growing red, practically vibrating in her seat, but managed to hold her silence.
"Nobody can beat me," Yang smirked, checking her nails.
"I can definitely beat her," Ruby cried, "I just don't want to make her mad at me! Because when I win, she'll hate me, and then I'll have to spend the rest of my time—"
"Nuh-uh," Yang laughed. "Besides, if I get mad, I'll just win faster."
Ruby grabbed her sister by the shoulder in outrage, throttling her back and forth.
"Liar!" Ruby cried indignantly.
"Didn't they make Ruby the leader because she was the strongest?" Claire chimed in, clearly fanning the flames. "That's what they did on our team—Teak is a wrecking ball."
Teak turned to her in horror.
"Claire," Teak said flustered, "Don't make things up!"
"They wanted me to be the leader because I was the strongest, but I let Ruby have it, so she didn't cry!" Yang said quickly, grinning.
Claire gave a very unladylike snort before trying to muffle herself, embarrassed at the noise.
"Nooooooo!" Ruby cried. "That's not true, Yang!"
Lima decided to throw some more Burn Dust on the fire.
"I don't know, Blake tried to shank me in the forest the other day, remember?" Lima said, laughing, "I'm pretty sure she might be better than both of you put together."
"What? She's not that good!" Yang said quickly, "It's definitely me."
"It's not!" Ruby denied.
"Where does Weiss sit in the rankings?" Teak asked curiously, unintentionally reigniting the mess.
"She's talented," Yang said quickly. "I'm not sure, though—the rankings are pretty much me, then the rest of these guys—"
Ruby punched her in the leg and gained a yelp out of her sister.
"Ugh!" Ruby huffed. "Weiss is really good—but I'm the best."
The conversation stalled for a moment as Lux returned to the group looking tired but pleased.
"Nice fight," Lima greeted, "Teak was just telling us about you've inspired him to take on Yang next round."
Lux's eyes lit up.
"Hell yeah!" Lux said excitedly, "Kick her ass, Teak."
"I didn't!" Teak said immediately, trying to plead his case.
Lux was having none of it as she tugged the boy out of his seat and moved to lead him towards the console. Yang hopped up to follow them, looking amused. Teak just looked stunned that he'd suddenly been thrown under the bus.
The androgynous boy turned to face them for a moment, looking nervous.
"Lima?" Teak said panicked, "This is a terrible idea—"
Claire cupped her hands over her mouth for a moment.
"What music do you want to be played at your funeral, Teak?" Claire called grinning.
Teak shot a panicked look over his shoulder, but Yang placed a hand on his other shoulder, steering him back forwards.
"That was mean." Ruby snickered.
"Well?" Lux said pointedly, "What did you think?"
Lima crossed his arms solemnly and leaned back into his chair.
"I think your head was really attracted to that girl's foot," Lima said seriously. "It was almost magnetic."
"There were definitely sparks," Claire added cheekily. "It's a perfect match."
Lux flushed, leaning forward to stare them down better; Ruby popped forward on the other side of Claire and smiled.
"You're really good!" Ruby said excitedly, sticking her tongue out at Lima. "That move where you like did that cartwheel thing and smacked her on the shoulder—that was awesome!"
Lux flicked a loose lock of hair over her ear, pleased at the praise.
"Thanks!" Lux said happily, "I saw you beat up that guy with the scimitar in class—how long have you been practicing with a scythe?"
Saturday, 11th April, 79AGW.
Malachite Dorms, Beacon.
"Why are you upside down?" Lima asked curiously.
Claire bounced her heel off the wall above her, back flat on the floor, before glancing at him.
"Hmph!" Claire said, pouting. "From my perspective, you're the one whos upside down."
"Today was really fun," Teak said warmly, hugging his knees to his chest. "We have one more day off—what are we going to do on Sunday?"
"It was so fun," Lux said dreamily, "We should go back to the duels tomorrow—"
"Denied," Lima called immediately.
"We spent all day there," Claire huffed, "Let's do something different!"
"Teak!" Lux rolled over to meet his eyes from across the room.
"I got beaten up twice," Teak said, smiling. "I'm voting something else."
The image of the end of his second fight came to Lima's mind for a moment.
"The way Yang carried you out of the arena—like a newlywed couple!" Lima swooned, "My little heart just about burst!"
"Lima!" Teak whined, flustered. "Stop teasing me."
"Let's go into Vale," Claire said suddenly, kicking her feet in the air. "We can go do something actually fun, like go shopping!"
Shopping was fun, Lima had to admit.
"Only if we get to jump off the cliff—" Lima said gleefully.
"Denied," Teak said immediately, crossing his arms. "Let's take an airship. They leave every hour, I think."
Lima groaned in disappointment—one day, he'd convince them.
"I do need to buy some things soon anyway," Lux mumbled, "Alright, fine, we're going shopping!"
"Yay," Claire said happily.
Sunday, 11th April, 79AGW.
Airship, Skyport, Beacon.
"All aboard!" Claire said happily. "We're going shopping!"
"Yay," Lima said, bemused.
Claire gave him a look before leaning forward at the window to watch as Beacon fell away below them. Teak moved to a different window and peered out.
"Lima looks," Teak said urgently, pointing at a circle of dull grey far further into the forest than any of them had been before.
"What is it?" Lima said curiously, "More ruins?"
"Exactly," Teak admitted, "That disc was originally an observatory, but it was destroyed over a hundred years ago."
The cause didn't need to be stated because the four of them were quite familiar with the premise.
"Further out," Teak drew his finger along the glass, pulling their attention with it, to a line of grey that almost reached the cliff edge. "That was the original outer wall for the first settlement that would later become Beacon, its at least three hundred years old—based on tests conducted on-site."
"Really?" Lux said curiously, "It's so far away?"
Teak just nodded, drawing a much larger outline across the landmass below.
"The original plan was a much, much bigger city up here—a second Vale," Teak said excitedly, "A string of accidents started occurring about the same time they started building the observatory I showed you, it ended up drawing the attention of a massive force of Grimm, and the settlers were pushed back."
"That must have been back before Atlas released those city expansion guides." Claire wondered, placing her chin on Teaks shoulder to look out the window. "A city of that size needs to be built in steps, right?"
Teak was a bit flustered by the proximity, but he nodded.
"A smaller settlement or an 'efficient core' needs to be built first off-site—that's all the machinery and necessary components for a functioning town, before being airdropped into the area." Teak rattled off from memory, "Teams of hunters are sent in to clear the entire area of Grimm before anything else takes place. The size limit of the crew needs to be less than twenty for the first phase, with at least six teams of hunters on-site permanently—it usually takes anywhere between six weeks and six months to get that sorted."
"How do you even remember all this?" Lux mumbled, "So this city obviously didn't get built like that—what did they do?"
"They sent up teams of builders, each with a hunter escort," Teak said easily, "They used the forest as resources to build the first settlement, cutting down trees mostly. They had to have food delivered up there every week, and then one day, the food caravan left Vale but never showed up."
Lima's mind was already racing ahead to slot the pieces into place. No food for a week wouldn't kill you, but moral would have been gone completely, which would, in turn, bring the—
"The workers, hungry and exhausted, waited it out, arguments started as frustrations built," Teak said quietly, "The negativity drew the Grimm, and then that was it, the falling rock had become an avalanche."
Another advancement by humanity that had been stripped from them by the enemy—they were an ever-present threat, but they really did have a penchant for attacking at the worst possible moments.
"Fucking Grimm," Lima mumbled.
Sunday, 11th April, 79AGW.
Cafe Sunrise, Vale.
"I'm just waiting on the rest of my group," Lima said to the waiter, "They'll be here in about ten minutes; I'll order then."
"Very well, sir," The man said pleasantly, "If you change your mind, please do not hesitate to catch my attention."
"Thanks," Lima smiled, heading for the balcony.
There were three other groups already out at the tables there, spread far enough apart that no matter where he sat, it would be close to one of them. He chose the one in the middle, next to the man with purple hair and a cane resting on his lap, and the short woman with black and blonde hair, a parasol leaned against the railing at her side.
He'd broken off from the group, heading for one of the many dust stores—the requisition process for gravity dust was taking longer than he liked, so he'd tried his luck in the city. The others had headed straight for a mall, intent on dragging Teak to the nearest women's clothing store, much to his embarrassment.
The man at the table over from him, with his purple hair, drew his attention again; it was such a bright shade that he couldn't help but be impressed by his confidence, and moments later he found himself listening in on the very interesting, but one-sided conversation he was having.
"According to my source, they have a much larger stock than the last three combined," The man said pleasantly, voice quiet. "Good for us. Obviously, it will put us ahead of schedule again, especially with the mishap from last time—but it also means we need to get a hold of another truck before Wednesday."
The woman tilted her head, and the man seemed to take it as a response.
"We'll be stealing it from a different location this time. I don't want to draw too much attention to our method of transport; calling in the airship isn't a good idea right now—she made her displeasure known about being forced to participate last time." The man said wryly, lifting his cane up and picking at a lock of his purple hair. "Neo, was this really an appropriate choice?"
Neo smiled widely for a moment but still didn't respond, the cane tapping idly on the ground.
"Young man, you know it's quite rude to eavesdrop," The purple-haired man said suddenly, staring at the window to his side.
Lima checked the reflection and laughed as he was clearly visible in it.
"Sorry about that. I was so amazed to see an eggplant talking that I just couldn't help but listen in," Lima grinned. "You are very well dressed for a vegetable, you know?"
Neo let out a few bursts of air that sounded quite reminiscent of laughter.
"Cute." The man groaned and let the hair drop from his fingertips.
"What do you need to steal a truck for?" Lima said curiously, "Going to save the rest of your brothers from the dreaded vegetarians?"
The man sighed.
"Well now, it does look like we've been discovered," He said dryly, "Bother, now we'll have to make a mess."
He'd stumbled into something dangerous, huh? How interesting.
"Maybe talking about stealing stuff in broad daylight wasn't the best move?" Lima said, amused, "Not that I care, you do you, buddy."
"Uh-huh." The man said, surprised, "How, nonchalant of you—what's your name, kid?"
"Sorry, I'm not interested in older men," Lima snickered, "If your friend there asked me? Well, who knows, maybe I'd even give her my number."
Neo leaned to the side just enough to meet his eyes before she winked at him.
Lima grinned—He was waiting for the inevitable, hand tapping a quiet rhythm on the table, keeping his attention focused on moving in case he needed to react. Either they were about to attack him, or they'd take his word that he didn't care enough to report them.
"You're too confident for a normal brat," The man said slowly, still facing away from him and watching in the reflection. "Hunter in training?"
"Got it in one, Aura and all," Lima said easily, not the hardest deduction to make given he was wearing his uniform. "Unless you're actually a Grimm hiding under that wig of yours, I couldn't care less what you're up to."
The man looked a bit lost for a moment, and Neo shrugged.
"Huh," The man said bemused, "Well, this is new. Come then, Neo, we've got work to do."
Lima watched the two collect their things and head back inside the building. His mouth had gotten him into trouble again—he wondered if he was ever going to learn. At least it didn't end up as a fight right there in the café.
That was likely the main reason the man had chosen to leave—a battle between two people with unlocked Aura was neither quiet nor fast—it's why he made sure the man knew that his was unlocked. It would have drawn the attention of every fighter in a two-block radius and ended with the two of them in chains.
There was a reason most crimes happened at night, after all when the vast majority of the population was at home or asleep and unable to interfere.
"Sir?" The waiter from earlier approached a minute later, holding a tray. "A man and his companion purchased this for you as a thank you."
"Huh," Lima blinked as the tray was placed down in front of him. "Thanks."
He snatched one of the donuts up and took a bite—Criminals were weird.
I’m a fantasy author from Australia, and if I were to describe my work in a single sentence it would be; Realism contained within an unrealistic backdrop. I aim to put out high-quality, original, long-form written content that will entertain, and engage you. Expect dark themes, characters making costly mistakes, and unreliable narrators.
My standard process starts by releasing draft chapters to my Patreon, and then to everybody else online. Once the story is completed, I convert it into a more conventional eBook. I also routinely go back and revise, edit and enhance my older work as I improve as a writer.
I now have a website that has links to all of my original works to date.