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Half Past Heaven

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The pitter patter of rain masks the huntress's footsteps as she leaps from roof to roof. The only indication of her presence is her silhouette against the dull glow of the Vale skyline. She vaults over an alleyway several stories below and roll as she lands, pausing with one palm planted against the rooftop as her feline ears twitch to and fro. After she tests the silence and discovers nothing amiss, she stands straight and walks instead of runs. It's a quiet first night and she’s not complaining.

A glance at the moon's position tells her it's time for a break. She notes with amusement that it's a new moon tonight. Only a white ring of light is visible save for the sun's rays that shine through the lunar cracks. The huntress takes a seat on the railing and stretches. Acting on instinct, she stretches her shoulders and tests that the familiar weight of her sword, Gambol Shroud, is still there on her back. She would have noticed if it were somehow gone, but it's comforting to remind herself that it’s present.

“Finally on your own, Blake,” she mumbles to herself. “And already with a ‘job.’ Lucky me.” For whatever reason, the thought doesn’t spark much joy. She slips her legs over the rail and sits on the edge, boots twiddling against each other as they overhang the city street below. Her thoughts trail as they often do when she meets her old friends, peace and quiet.

Blake’s official title is huntress, but not the kind the populace is familiar with. She doesn’t hunt grimm. Her prey is much worse. Fairy tales are common on Remnant, and Blake has long since learned that they always have a bead of truth to them. That includes the creatures of darkness that lurk in the backdrop of darker tales: demons. Violent, manipulative, and having a fond taste for human and faunus souls, the race of magical beings exists on the fringes of society and within a plane of their own. The latter Blake can’t say she knows much about. Most mortals are taken there against their will and don’t return. At most, they’ve heard rumors of a hierarchy ruled by a lone Queen. Lovely place.

Naturally, an order of mortals rose to combat the demons. That's why she's the newcomer on the block. Weeks ago she graduated from a very select, very private academy that trains her breed of huntresses. In her view, ‘graduated’ might be giving her too much credit considering she was assigned a patrol route a year earlier than usual. Loathe as her higher ups are to admit it, their eternal conflict against the forces of the dark has swayed against them in recent decades. There’s a shortage of capable huntsmen though they’d never use such a word to describe it, as that would require acknowledging the increasing fatality rate of the profession. Bureaucracy, effective as ever.

A handful of forged documents later, and Blake finds herself deployed to the city of Vale to replace a hunter who disappeared without a trace. She has a quaint little apartment to herself, a paying job, and attends her senior year at a local high school (as if she’s ever attended a normal school in her life, but they insisted on enrolling her). Some people would say she’s living the dream, but that’s before they find out that her job requires frequent duels to the death.

For Blake, it’s another Tuesday night. It may be a new environment and her first assignment on her own, but patrols aren’t anything new. In a way, they’re more comfortable than the new environment she’s having to adapt to.

She stretches her arms and shoulders again and… Oh no. The huntress reaches to grasp the handle of Gambol Shroud and grasps at empty air. So much for staying alert. She takes a deep breath to steady her nerves and turns her head with caution. If there’s something behind her that separated her from her weapon, she’s in for one hell of a skirmish. Her feet continue to dangle over the edge. It’s a rather disadvantageous position, she thinks, realizing how easy it’d be to get shoved off.

When Blake looks behind her, she’s not met with the usual type of adversary. For one, there’s a distinct lack of claws and fangs. Instead there’s a girl who looks to be around the same age, tall and bearing a fluffy mane of blonde hair all the way down to her hips. She’s dressed casually in shorts and a jacket that can’t be doing much to ward off the chill that each evening breeze brings. What catches Blake’s eye is her own sword being swung back and forth like a toy.

“Ahem,” she says as she twists her body back onto the rooftop, sensing no immediate danger. She keeps her guard up though. The blonde doesn’t register as a threat, but Blake knows better than most that the greatest dangers can come from the most unexpected sources. Sometimes literally considering that shape shifters are a thing she’s once had to deal with.

The newcomer stops and freezes mid-swing as if someone pushed the pause button on her. Her mouth hangs agape in surprise which strikes Blake as rather silly. It’s not like she could have forgotten that the owner of the sword she stole is still sitting there. Then a smile crosses the girl’s face and she twirls Gambol Shroud, pointing the tip against the ground. “Cool sword! Thanks for letting me try it out. Must be worth a pretty penny, huh?”

Trying it out is a nicer way to put it than what Blake would have come up with. She holds out her hand, fingers outstretched. The thief stares at it with a blank expression, and Blake deadpans. That seems to get the message across because her property returns to her with a toss through the air. “Ask next time,” she says, catching it.

The blonde shrugs. “I thought about it, but something tells me you would have said no.”

“Correct.”

“Exactly my point,” she says, planting her hands on her hips with a wry expression. Was… that a pun? A terrible one too. Well she’s certainly quippy. Blake hasn’t yet decided whether to think of her as clever or annoying, but she’s teetering towards the latter. Brushing the thought aside, Blake looks her up and down (the girl winks when she sees it happen, forcing Blake to suppress the urge to roll her eyes). Just how exactly did she sneak up and pluck her sword without being noticed? Stealth is supposed to be Blake’s forte. She can’t remember the last time someone caught her off guard without giving away some kind of tell in advance. This girl might be worth keeping a tab on.

With awkward silence setting in, the huntress takes the initiative. “You aren’t going to ask why I have a sword?” If prior experience is any indication, that's the first thing she gets asked when spotted.

“Nah.”

Blake’s brow furrows. “Then why--”

“But since you suggested it,” the girl interrupts, still grinning, “Why are you running around with a sword on my roof?”

“...Your roof?”

She nods and jabs her thumb behind her. The roof access door is ajar. “This is my apartment. Why else would I be here? You think I run around rooftops at night like a weirdo?”

Blake huffs, not bothering to dignify that comment with a response. Well, at least she has a reason to be up here. Less reason to be suspicious is a win in Blake’s book. Though she still thinks the blonde is an odd one. “Who are you anyway?” she asks.

She must have said the words the girl has been waiting for ‘cause a toothy grin spreads across her face. She points at herself in a dainty little pose. “Oh, me? Yang. Yang Xiao Long. Just about the coolest person you’ll ever meet.”

“I’ll take your word for it.”

Yang saunters forward with a carefree step in her stride as if she has all the time in the world. Blake figures she should be getting back to her patrol right about now, but darting away without another word might come across as rude. Her reputation with Yang is already teetering.

“You didn’t answer my question, y’know,” Yang tuts. “What’re you doing up here? Who are you?”

Ah, that. Hoping she’d slipped away from having to answer was a fool’s errand. The truth certainly can’t be given, but she has an alibi prepared. “I’m doing my job. I’d rather not give my name. I’m sure you understand.” Okay, it’s not much of an alibi but it gets the point across.

“I understand literally nothing about this,” Yang replies. This time Blake actually does roll her eyes, but then the snarky reply on the tip of Blake’s tongue doesn’t get to let loose. Something darts away in the peripheral of her vision. All at once, she snaps back on guard, sword held tight in her grip. Leading with the front of her boots, she takes one silent step after another and scans the rooftop.

“You alright?” Yang asks, only to be shushed by a single finger to her lips. Getting the message, she thankfully clams up and follows Blake's lead. Blake nods in thanks without peeling her gaze away. She wasn't sure if Yang would make a fuss or not, and it wouldn’t have been something she’d appreciated if there really is an unwanted presence with them.

Her stare burns holes into the spot she thinks she saw something. It’s just beside the corridor into the apartment complex in the shadows cast by the emergency light above the door. Circling with her sword at the ready, she plots her course of action should she find anything. First and foremost - identify the type of demon. She gets closer and closer, thankful that her status as a faunus improved her night vision, and peeks past the door… finding nothing.

Words from her past teachers replay in her head. Only trust your senses when all of them are in agreement. Her eyes are betraying her right now, but they don’t catch any other anomalies. Even she isn’t a stranger to seeing things that aren’t there, but the uneasy feeling in her gut doesn’t pass.

A weak poke on the small of her back brings her out of her concentration. With a sigh, she lowers her sword and spares a glance at Yang. It’s to be expected that she’s curious what Blake is doing after a display like that, and that’s exactly what her expression is showing. If her snickering is any indication, she’s amused as well.

“Should I even ask at this point?"

Blake shakes her head, thankful for the out. "It's best not to get mixed up with me."

"Funny, they usually say the same thing about me." She doesn't elaborate further, instead stretching her arms above her head and yawning. "It’s pretty late. I’m heading back inside. If you're ever stomping on my roof again sometime, feel free to say hi."

Don't plan on it. "Noted."

Without anything else to say, Yang turns and waves as she saunters back towards the hallway. Blake tenses slightly considering that's where she thought she saw something, but there's no sign of anything still being there, or having been there at all. She keeps an eye on Yang just in case.

Yang flashes her one last toothy grin before she pauses at the corridor. "See ya tomorrow."

Blake tilts her head. "What makes you think I'll be here tomorrow?"

"Not here," Yang says lazily. "In class. I caught a glimpse of the roster and noticed the new transfer student. I'll catch ya then… Blake Belladonna."

She slips away and slams the door closed before Blake can say a word. Welp. So much for keeping her name a secret. Or hiding the fact that she’s a faunus. Though her secrets wouldn't have lasted long anyways once Yang recognized her in class. If she were still being taught, her professor would lecture her for an hour for getting herself caught on the very fight night. She grimaces and dismisses the thought. So what if one classmate knows she patrols? If anything, she probably thinks Blake is a huntress of a grimm and not… other beings.

If Yang knew who she was this whole time, then was she… toying with her? The blonde is a bit hard to read, ironic considering that title usually belongs to Blake. At least she'll know someone in class who's friendly (whether or not she'd use that word for sure is debatable).

In any case, Blake is behind on her patrol. She consults her mental map of Vale and sheathes Gambol Shroud. With a running start, she leaps to the neighboring building, her head awhirl with thoughts of her work, her new life, and the strange girl named Yang who managed to find out more about her than she would have ever intended.