Chapter 1: Shopping in Vale
“Oh, this is pretty.” A young Deer faunus of middling height cooed, draping a short blue dress over one arm for the three boys who stood around her, looking utterly bored.
“Elle… We’ve been in here for an hour already.” The tallest of the group groaned, a brunette boy with a shaggy mane of hair that fell to his shoulders. He wore the same uniform as the other three, minus Elle’s skirt.
“Hour and a half, actually.” The blonde boy added, looking dully around at the other displays of clothes within the clothing store before turning his gaze longingly towards the large double doors of the entrance.
“You were the ones that agreed to come shopping.” The girl shot back, the thin and tall antlers on her head coming dangerously close to the brunettes chin as she spun on her heel to view the rack next to him.
“We didn’t think that that meant every single bloody clothing store in Beacon though.” Aera complained again, he was a lot thinner than the other two boys, leaner and less imposing. But then, he wasn’t their main fighter, and preferred to use firearms and distance during their hunts of the creatures of Grimm. The metal of his left hand glinted slightly under the strong light of the store before it again disappeared into one of his pockets. Like the other two, his shirt was left un tucked, despite Elle’s constant protests that it looked untidy and attempts to tuck them in. He was the only one of the boys to have worn the black blazer lined with strips of blue however, to hide the prosthetic left arm and the gun that sat holstered on his right hip.
“Odd, I thought shopping with Elle always meant that?” The black haired boy teased. He was the shortest of the three boys, but struck the largest figure, what with the big black tower shield strapped to his back. Underneath that, lay a large black greatsword that reached the middle of his left thigh, even though the pommel rose above his right shoulder. He carried the pair almost effortless, clearly used to lugging around their weight. Elle and Nau were apparently the only unarmed pair out of the group.
She shot a sideways glance at Draco and returned to the clothes, flicking through them with a bit more aggression than she had before.
“We should just count ourselves lucky that the Adel girl wasn’t here with us.” Nau added with a grin. “I don’t think her and Elle would ever be able to stop.”
Draco couldn’t stop the groan from forming in his throat as the memory of the meeting between Team CFVY and EDAN just a few hours after they had first arrived. He had gotten on with the members of the team well enough, but they had the hardest time separating the two teams leaders once the conversation of fashion had been struck up by Coco. It wasn’t very often than Elle became as animated as she had at that time, but Draco, Nau and Aera were at once determined and united in their front to never allow the pair so much as a minute together, and if they did to be as far away as possible.
Elle was the sole female of team EDAN, and was the smallest member of the group, though her antlers added much to her height. Unlike the three males, she was tanned where they were pale, with long white and blonde hair.
“At least her team knows how to properly attire and dress themselves.” She said scathingly, looking the boys up and down with a look of utter disapproval. She often tried to dress them, style their wardrobe and generally improve their overall fashion sense, but it never seemed to stick.
“What’s wrong with the way I dress? You didn’t have a problem with the way the leader of SSSN dressed.” Nau bit back, frowning slightly at his own appearance.
“He isn’t a member of an elite military though, and he could at least pull off his look and knew what it was.” Elle said matter-of-factly, not even bothering to look up.
Nau looked over at Draco, utterly bewildered and confused. He really didn’t see how he dressed was all that different. Draco just smiled and shook his head in return. He had learned early on that it was best not to argue with Elle about such matters, it never ended in their favour.
“What time does the first match start?” Aera finally chimed in, breaking the silence that had begun to creep over the teens.
“Mmm… not for another hour I think.” Elle said quietly, pursing her lips as she inspected a bright pink t-shirt with the wording ‘fresh’ emblazoned upon it and quickly tossed it back into the pile of clothes that she had decided were not up to snuff.
The four members had come to Beacon, the major city of Vale to partake in the festivities of the Vytal Festival as members of Atlas Academy. General Ironwood, the school’s headmaster and leader of the Atlesian military had allowed the team to come under a pretense of learning. They were not among the teams from Atlas that were taking part in the grand combat tournament, as they had been away on a mission during the time of selection. Instead, team EDAN had built a case and argument for themselves and appealed to the General directly in an attempt to be brought along anyway.
They hadn’t really expected for it to work, as despite being a school for young up and coming hunters and huntresses such as themselves, the school adopted a militaristic style of behaviour and teaching. On paper, the team appeared to be among a number of escorts serving as protection for one Winter Schnee, a military elite and daughter of the president of the Schnee Dust Company. Of course she didn’t exactly need their protection, being an accomplished Huntress herself and being that she was already surrounded by her own unite of military members as her rank allows.
Elle’s main bargaining chip had been that as a member of the Schnee family tree, it would not be right to allow Winter to come to Beacon without some form of protection, even if she is such a high ranking member of the military. The Schnee Dust Company would never allow for it, and it was therefore important that the Atlesian Military at least appear to have her health and wellbeing in mind. Especially as the youngest daughter of the family had essentially gone rogue and joined Beacon Academy without the approval of her father and family. General Ironwood had begrudgingly relented after a few hours of this argument being driven to him by all four members of team EDAN, and had made them all swear to act with honour at all times, and to avoid conflict.
Aera had been the only team member who had complaints about their plan. Despite being a humean, Aera had grown up in a Faunus village and one that had strong ties to the Schnee Dust Company in particular. He had seen some of the worst racism towards the Faunus kind during his time there, and thus harbored a deep resentment to the Schnee’s in particular. He hadn’t been too thrilled when the group had discussed their plan to serve as protection to one of its members.
Even now that they were in Beacon, Draco wasn’t entirely sure if Aera would be able to keep his contempt hidden for much longer from their commander. He couldn’t even look at Winter without balling up a fist out of rage. Draco and Nau, under instruction from Elle, often spent most of their time since arriving trying to keep Aera as far away from Winter as they could.
Then there was the simple and unstated fact that the vast might of the Atlesian fleet was stationed above Vale currently to make matters worse. It was a show of power that the team couldn’t quite understand. The sheer scale and number of the military might from Atlas currently in Vale didn’t make sense. It was almost as if General Ironwood was afraid something might happen. It had only been recently that he and the Atlesian scientists had developed those new drones that would serve as the bulk of the army in the next few years. But even if this was merely to show those soldiers off, it still didn’t make sense to bring such a number of them and ships here, a nation that they were allied and at peace with. Wasn’t their enemy the creatures of Grimm, those foul abominations that were attracted to negative emotions and fed on all living beings?
Draco was reminded of a conversation EDAN had the night they were to leave for Vale. They had been packing their things in the common room of the dorm they shared together, idly talking about the places they planned to visit when they arrived, where they thought the teams would place in the tournament until Elle had broken the casual tone of their conversation.
“Was it just me, or did he seem a lot more tense than normal?” She had asked, halfway through folding one of her shirts. “The general I mean.”
“I didn’t really notice a difference.” Draco said, zipping up his plain suitcase, looking around at the rest of them.
“We were making it hard to argue against us.” Nau said, stuffing his own school uniforms into a backpack that was already overful with other things.
“But the way he kept looking at his scroll.” Elle said, looking up from her nearly packed suitcases for a moment to survey her team.
“And now we know why, he plans on bringing most of the fleet with him.” Aera said, lounging across one of the desk chairs as he cleaned the many parts of his weapon Estelle Idalia.
“Which makes this whole thing even more troubling.” She shot Nau a frown, shaking her head as she watched him pull another bag over the top of his rucksack as it proved impossible to zip up.
“You make a good point.” Draco said flatly, moving towards the middle of the room to help Nau. “Why would he need us at all with that much of the fleet there in the first place?”
“Perhaps he just rightly thinks that we need some vacation time.” Nau suggested, tossing the two bags across the room after finally depositing the first into the second and successfully sealing it. That had earned him a dirty scowl from Elle, clearly thinking the line of thought to be wrong.
“Maybe it’s all for that Schnee Bitch.” Aera said, almost too lightly despite the rigidness of his voice.
“Aera.” Elle warned, turning her frown towards him.
“What?” Aera said with a shrug of his shoulders, turning to face her in return. “I wouldn’t put it past that lot to pay off the entire fucking Atlesian Military to act as their personal bodyguard. Especially with how active the White Fang have been recently.”
“Dude, you have to let that stuff go already.” Nau said, shaking his head as he opened a bottle of water and began to drink generously from it. “We get it, you hate the Schnee’s, their company and everything they stand for.” He rolled his eyes.
The argument had turned into a row between Aera and Nau at that point, and it made Draco sigh from just the memory of it, earning him a quizzical glance from both Nau and Elle. “Sorry, was just thinking about something.” He said quickly in recovery.
“I asked who you think the winners of the singles rounds are gonna be.” Nau said, watching Draco with a raised brow.
Draco hummed to himself as he thought back to the contestants of the singles round of the tournament. Yang Xiao Long, the fiery blonde who had punched her way to a victory alongside Weiss Schnee against team FNKY, both members of team RWBY, a new team made up of first years. She would be fighting against Mercury Black an unknown from Haven Academy alongside Cinder Fall, and Emerald Sustrai, the last member of their team Draco didn’t know the name of, he only knew that she was good in a fist fight based on her abilities in hand to hand combat that she displayed.
Then there were the over two, Pyrrha Nikos against Penny Polendina. Everybody knew who Pyrrha was, she was a minor celebrity even amongst non-hunters for her above average combat history, going so far as winning the Mistral Regional Tournament for four years in a row, and going on to be the mascot for an appalling cereal named Pumpkin Petes.
Penny on the other hand was an oddity. She was another Atlas student, supposedly. Draco could not recall ever seeing her on campus, though, nor did he know which year she was from. This coupled with the fact that the girl was very talented, and uniquely strong having easily dispatched the opposing teams mostly on her own left Draco feeling rather unsettled. None of the other members of team EDAN could recall the girl either when he had asked them.
“My money is on the hot blonde.” Nau said confidently, folding his arms behind his head.
“What a surprise.” Aera retorted sarcastically, rolling his eyes. “Can we go yet Elle? I still want to check out that one weapon store.”
“Oh, the one from the magazine?” Elle asked animatedly, pulling herself away from the clothes for the first time since entering the store. Weapons and good fashion, the two sure fire ways of getting Elle’s supreme attention. Draco could only chuckle as he and Nau exchanged weary glances.
“Just remember you two, we will be there to browse, not buy.” Nau said, already walking towards the front doors of the clothes store.
“I know that.” Elle said with only a hint of disappointment in her voice. “I’m just hoping to pick up some tips and ideas. Besides, it was Aera and Draco who spent all of the money from that contract on dust and gun parts.”
“I seem to recall we needed that dust though, after the experiment you and Aera cooked up leading to the depletion of our remaining stock.” Draco added firmly, following the rest of the team out onto the sunlit cobbled street.
The crowds of the busy shopping district were abuzz with talk about the upcoming final rounds of the Vytal Festival, with more than a few people talking about which teams they had wished, and were sure would make it this far. Most of the conversation surrounded Xiao Long and Nikos however given than they were both Beacon students, and first years to boot.
“I still proclaim that experiment as a success.” Proclaimed Aera, walking next to Nau with both hands in his pockets and slouched over slightly.
“That success destroyed a building and meant the total reconstruction of a road.” Nau said with a groan, no doubt remembering that General Ironwood had tasked team EDAN themselves to help with the repairs which had resulted in a solid two months labour work, on top of homework and school.
“And we had to dig Elle out of the ground that swallowed her upon impact.” Draco said softly. “Not to mention it depleted her aura and would have killed her had her semblance not have taken the brunt of the impact.”
“I was fiiine.” Whined Elle, frowning over her shoulder at the three boys behind her.
“To be honest, I’m just glad that Ironwood didn’t expel us.” Draco rubbed at one of his ears as he recalled the furious shouting they had all received from the Headmaster when he had arrived at the scene of the experiment.
The rest of the hour before the match was due to start was spent idly perusing a weapon store that was oddly well equipped, much to Draco’s worry. He and Nau had to practically drag Elle and Aera away from the shops owner, despite his urging that he needed to close ready for the start of the final round. They lead the way to a small cafe situated on the very edge of the shopping district, with a great view of the ocean and port. The small rustic cafe had one large tv on it’s west wall, and was filled with people at the tables, all turned to face it with drinks in their hands. Many such places throughout the city were holding small parties such as this one for the final round, for those who could not attend in the stadium itself.
They sat themselves towards the back of the cafe, near a group of huntsman who all stood cheering as the festivals anthem flared and rung in their ears before Professor's Port and Oobleck welcomed everybody to the final round. Team EDAN would have liked to be in the stadium with the raucous crowd, however it had proved impossible to obtain tickets at such short notice. Many of them had been booked months in advance.
Chapter 2: The Cracks
After receiving their cups from a harassed, who clearly would much rather be watching TV instead of serving the customers their drinks, EDAN all turned their attention to the screen. The big flat screen was showing highlights of the previous rounds of fights with narration from the two Beacon professors.
“I wish we could have entered.” Murmured Nau to his team, barely audible of the cheers of the crowd.
“Yeah, I bet we would have been more than a match for that team RWBY.” Aera said, watching the highlight of Yang Xiao Long and Weiss Schnee’s defeat of team FNKY’s Flynt Coal and Neon Katt of Atlas. He gripped the mug of tea a little too tightly between his hands, shaking slightly. Both Draco and Elle exchanged wary glances, expecting Aera to explode in rage like he had done several times before when that particular match came up.
“Yeah, you and Elle would have won that easily.” said Nau, not once looking away from the screen as the rules of the upcoming matches were explained. The team had agreed and discussed who they would have sent to the doubles round of the tournament the night after the final first round match had finished. Elle because of her strong defensive capability, her position as team leader, and because of how well she synergised with each individual member of the team. Aera because when it was announced that RWBY would be sending Weiss Schnee, it made all other arguments obsolete.
“Oh I don’t know.” Draco said, despite the cautionary glance from Elle. “I think Xiao Long’s semblance would have been a tough match up for Elle’s.”
“Nothing has broken through it yet though.” Countered Nau, sipping at his tall glass of chilled soda. After the experience EDAN once had where Nau had been allowed to drink coffee, they had vowed to never allow him to consume the beverage again. The term bouncing off of the walls, couldn’t quite do the lion faunus justice.
“You know I don’t like using it very much though.” Elle complained, lazily stirring her cup of sweet green tea. Elle’s semblance, which she had dubbed Allotrope, allowed her to completely encase herself in a hard shell of a pale iridescent gem like substance, which was nearly impenetrable. In it’s dormant state, her semblance created small inflections upon her tanned skin, in places easily hidden with clothing. She often complained about how it made her look whenever she used her aura to boost the area it covered. When particularly hard pressed, Elle could even create a sort of bubble around her and those close to her, though this left her very weakened and tired afterwards.
“The Schnee looks like a cake walk.” Nau said, sensing the dip in the mood around the table and trying to change the subject before it worsened. Draco didn’t necessarily feel as though this was the right direction, as Aera tensed and frowned up at the screen. “She seems a lot weaker than her sister is.”
“Would have been fun to utterly humiliate her in front of so many though.” Aera’s lips curled into a vindictive smile.
“Aera.” Elle said sharply, the authority in her voice clear.
“What?” He snapped back, turning on Elle now. “Like you wouldn’t have enjoyed it.” Even Nau sat up straight now, watching Aera carefully.
“I’ve already made my points on the matter clear.” The doe said firmly, purple eyes trained onto the Aera’s own of green.
Cheers rang out through the cafe now as the match between Yang Xiao Long and Mercury Black finally started, eyes all trained upon the TV screen.
Draco reached forward, gently touching the fingers of Aera in the hopes of bringing pulling his attention away from Elle as the pair glared at each other, and out of fear that he might break the delicate cup in his vice like grip. Aera flinched and pulled back from the contact, and looked about to say something before the sound of an explosion cut him off.
All drinks and conversations were forgotten as the cafe’s patrons, team EDAN included, stared up at the TV just in time to see Yang activate her semblance. She defeated Mercury with a flurry of quick punches, ending the match in quick fashion.
“She’s pretty good.” Nau whistled as the crowd cheered.
Draco glanced worriedly at Aera, and turned his eyes down to his milkshake when the sound of an echoed gasp was met by stony silence. He turned his brown eyes back to the screen, wondering what could have happened to be greeted with the scene of Mercury doubled over on the floor of the sage, clutching at his leg. Then the replay showed, displaying Yang breaking the boy’s leg after shaking hands at the end of the match.
“What the…” Elle said quietly, voice drowned on amid a sea of boos and jeers directed to the blonde haired member of team RWBY. The crowd was in uproar as Yang Xiao Long was escorted from the arena, surrounded by a group of heavily armed soldiers, and her opponent was stretchered away. Even the two professors seemed confused and outraged by what they had just witnessed when the camera cut back to them.
“Why would she do that?” Nau asked, turning to face the rest of his team once more.
“Clearly the students here lack discipline.” Elle said, shaking her head disapprovingly.
“What a way to spoil a good fight and throw away victory.” Nau’s voice was full of disappointment as he spoke. Draco knew that he had longed to fight the bruiser of the Beacon himself at least once.
“Watch her get off scot free though because of her Schnee friend.” Aera said bitterly, draining that last few dregs of his coffee, and earning an exasperated sigh from Elle.
Eager to get the crowd back under control, the next match was quickly announced and the contestants took to the stage to begin. Draco hoped that this one would last long enough for Aera to cool off a bit, or was at least fast enough that they could all get back to their hotel room where they he could do little but rant to them about the previous match.
“C’mon, let’s just enjoy this one. It’s the last Atlas team member after all.” Draco said, poking at Nau’s arm as the faunus slumped in his chair.
“Fine.” He groaned, turning half heartedly towards the screen. Draco glanced at Elle, arms folded across her chest while her foot tapped impatiently upon the tiled floor, before he too turned his attention to the match.
The match was over in almost an instant. Penny lay on the hard stone floor, broken and in several pieces, eyes cold and dead. Because of the damage caused by the wires she used to control the many blades, it made it obvious why none of EDAN had ever seen her before this tournament. She wasn’t human. She was some form of robot, that was now broken and mostly destroyed before the stunned Pyrrha Nikos.
A pin could have dropped at the edge of the city and all would have heard it, it was that quiet. The tension in the air was thick, and Draco could feel an odd buzzing in his ears that he felt sure was rooted by it. He could scarcely believe what he was watching, and similar expressions of horror contorted the other team members faces.
He faintly heard the faint voice of a woman, near the front of the cafe whisper. “She killed her.” It all seemed so surreal to him.
Angry voices kicked up at once then, the table next to them all rushed to their feet in outrage.
“That fucking Atlas lot! They cheated!” The mohawk clad leader yelled in protest, spit flying in specks from his mouth. One of his team members pulled on him arm and gestured to Elle, Nau, Aera and Draco, all garbed in the Atlas uniform.
“Got anything to say for yourselves?” He glared at each member in term, eyes popping in rage. They all remained quiet, but Draco noticed a vein bulge on Aera’s temple as he struggled to contain his temper.
“Oi, you deaf?” Another of the group shouted, all eyes turned to the two tables now.
“C’mon Deer-y, spit it out.” The one with the mohawk rounded on Elle as she sat in her seat. He was wearing the beacon uniform, like the other members of his team, and was broad of shoulder. She just looked up with him with cold eyes, staring intently back.
“Don’t.” The warning voice came from Nau, which sounded odd to Draco as he was the most laid back member of their group. He then noticed that Nau’s hand was placed on Aera’s arm, holding it in place even as the boy reached towards the holster on his belt.
“We’re leaving.” Elle spoke clearly, rising from her seat and nearly goring her antler upon the Beacon teams chin because of how close he stood. Draco and Nau rose with her, Nau pulling Aera up by his elbow.
“What about you eh?” The male walked around the table to stand in front of Draco, even as Draco placed the tower shield and greatsword onto his back. He was briefly aware of a females voice coming from the TV’s speakers now, but it also seemed to radiate from every other speaker in the city too, as it was far too loud, and echoed just slightly.
He pushed past the mohawk Beacon team member, following Elle, Nau and a reluctant Aera through the cafe’s front door. As they reached the dimly lit street, night had fallen over Vale during their time in the cafe, a dull thundering boom resonated through the ground.
“What was-” Draco started before the other team bustled out of the same door they had just exited.
“Oi, we aren’t done with you cheating pricks yet.” Came the same voice from behind them as the ground trembled and shook beneath them.
Elle’s expression turned from one of annoyance, to one of worried confusion as she trained her eyes down to the ground at her feet. Draco looked all around, wondering to himself what could have caused a tremor like that. It had been no earthquake, there wasn’t enough noise, nor had the ground really moved enough for that to have been the cause.
“I think we should teach this Faunus and her little reverse harem some respect.” A distant cracking like noise echoed on the gentle breeze from somewhere far away.
Draco and Elle looked at each, both exchanging nervous glances. Something wasn’t right, the whole world felt wrong at that precise moment.
In what seemed to be a matter of seconds, several things happened at once. Aera pulled his gun from his hip, and spun on his heel to face the Beacon team, face full of rage and malice. He grit his teeth and squeezed at Eustella’s trigger, just as Nau grabbed hold of the prosthetic arm holding it. Just as the shot fired, a shrill scream filled the night sky, followed by the joint roar and scream of a great number of Grimm. Cargo ships flooded the sky, even as hordes of Nevermore, giant and otherwise blotted out the stars.
The bullet ricocheted off of the stone wall of the cafe in the direction of Elle. Without having her aura or semblance activated, the shot ripped through her clothing and into her right arm, eliciting a hiss of pain from between her lips.
Draco hurried over to her, inspecting the damage. Luckily the bullet had only grazed, leaving a deep red weeping wound in her flesh before passing on. He was about to turn on Aera, who was still glaring angrily at the Beacon team, all the while hurling insults at Nau as more screams filled the city, both human and Grimm.
“Shut it!” Elle barked at Aera through clenched teeth. Her eyebrows furrowed and wrinkled as she winced in pain, clutching at her injured shoulder.
Aera lowered his gun and turned to face her, attempting to apologise. The city was suddenly awash with noise as gunfire, shouts and screams began to flood it. People ran in several directions, attempting to find shelter and hide from the invading Grimm and the members of the White Fang that had brought them. A group of Beowolf and Creeps charged down the very street EDAN were currently on, heading towards them all the while pouncing on anyone that came between them.
“Enough.” Elle said firmly, turned her attention to the oncoming Grimm. “We’ll deal with it later.” There was steel in her voice now, and she walked forwards, in front of her team as she readied herself for the fight that was coming.
Draco pulled the tall shield from his back that was nearly the same height as him, eyeing the Beacon team that had hounded them.
“Run or help, either way stay out of our way.” He said firmly, and then tossed the tower shield with one arm towards the small faunus in front of him. The team gaped as the piece of black and silver metal hurtled towards Elle who snatched it from the air as easily as though it was made of paper.