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Ebony Azoth

"Learning is essential to growth. If you never learn, you will never be able to move forward."

0 · 265 views · located in Reverie

a character in “RWBY - Keep the Faith”, as played by TheKeeper

Description

Name: Ebony Azoth

Meaning: Ebony, a shade of very dark grey, nearly black
“Azoth” is another word for the legendary Philosopher’s Stone, the ultimate goal of all Alchemists, and also a burgundy color in most depictions.

Nickname: Some of her teammates would call her “E-bone” while they were together, but she will almost always go by Ebony.

Sex: Female

Age: 44

Height: 5’9

Weight: 150 lbs (about 68 kg)

Team: (Formerly) EBNY
Occupation: Huntress/Instructor of Battle Tactics & Strategy for 4th year students, Instructor of Weapon Concepts and Theory for 1st year students

Hair and Eye Colors: Her hair is a dark ebony color, and her slightly narrower eyes are a pale yellow. Her hair is long, and is often left alone to fall just past her waist.

Personality: Ebony is an imposing, distant woman. Those who hear of her describe her as terrifying, those who know her describe her as solitary. She is very authoritative. She almost always scares her first year students, but is far more lenient with her older students. She is very intelligent and perceptive.

Physical Appearance: She is porcelain-skinned with a sharp jawline, and possesses a curvy figure. She has more defined and obvious muscle than some men of her height and stature, leaving her with a rather intimidating look about her. Her attire will normally consist of a form fitting blazer that is buttoned up and worn over a white dress shirt(the inner side of the blazer is a burgundy color). The blazer is decorated with epaulets, cords, and gold trim. She wears a pale gold tie, and black gloves with this. Her legs are adorned by fitting ebony slacks and fashionable burgundy ankle boots with a three-inch heel. Underneath the blazer and shirt she wears white sleeves infused with dust, and in order to use them must remove the blazer and roll up the sleeves to her shirt. The white sleeves are worn only over the arm and not the fingers, held in place by a ring over the middle finger on each hand. Her symbol, an ebony flower, is tattooed on the back of her neck. She also wears a gold ring on her right pinky with this symbol. Her sword is kept at her left side, and her dust is kept in a pouch slung from her right side. When she is reading or grading assignments, she will wear a pair of glasses to help her nearsightedness.
Color Scheme: Ebony, white, pale gold, burgundy

Symbol: A stylized Ebony flower with five petals.

So begins...

Ebony Azoth's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: [NPC] Bartender Character Portrait: T'wulf Lupus Character Portrait: Viridian Boudic Character Portrait: Wynn 'Leo' Leon Character Portrait: Phenix Sovereign Character Portrait: Indu Tzu Character Portrait: Ecru Talon Character Portrait: Yale Khamun Character Portrait: Jasper McTavish Character Portrait: Raven Coeur de Lion Character Portrait: Arsenic Arisen Character Portrait: Regalia Kitsu Character Portrait: Damask Cruci Character Portrait: Kamar Lucifer Character Portrait: Merkur Quinton Character Portrait: Ebony Azoth Character Portrait: Sienna Seraphim
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In the Mess Hall
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As Sienna led her companion through the cafeteria, she strode with her arms behind her back. Her sharp features and cold gaze should have been intimidating to the younger teacher, but the auburn-haired woman kept striding forward as though she weren’t in the presence of one of the most dangerous Huntresses in the world. Her black-haired companion trailed a step behind her, allowing herself the space to be able to both listen, and to survey the eating space. Her eyes scanned as a machine would have, taking in the more notable faces of the first years as she passed them. Her heels clicked on the cement floor as the tables around her would whisper of her coming, some of them in awe and others in fear. Sometimes, she couldn’t actually tell the difference. She had often noticed that teenagers were harder to read than most people.

“I’m telling you,” Sienna gushed. “That team is going places.” Her darker haired companion frowned and furrowed her brow a bit.

“I agree,” she stated in a quiet, yet authoritative tone. "Although, you shouldn't play favorites." Sienna looked back at her, a patient smile ever present on her features.

“Team PWTR is a gem,” she repeated, the pride evident in her voice. “They’re a very well coordinated and balanced team, and that is rare among first year students.”

As the two of them continued walking, a commotion drew their attention to the edge of the cafeteria. Both of them looked on, one in slight indifference and the other in irritation, as the members of team IVRY and team JADE faced off in a verbal confrontation. Or, at least what looked like a verbal confrontation that had yet to turn physical.

Of course, Sienna had turned the corner so to speak, her smile and patience both gone in a flash. The older woman at her side couldn’t help but raise a brow slightly as she watched the young teacher fume about in her way. It was then that the two of them noticed Kamar, another colleague, breaking up what would have soon turned into a violent and destructive deathmatch. Sienna was noticeably calmer at the sight of him, and turned on her heel to leave the cafeteria as Kamar escorted team IVRY away, leaving team JADE behind to talk amongst themselves. The older woman stood, looking quite uncomfortable and awkward, her black hair twisted into a tight, braided bun, and her heels suddenly feeling less stable than they had a moment ago. She crossed her arms, her yellow eyes following the six figures that disappeared behind the doors of the mess hall entrance.

She was well aware that the students were watching her. She was tall, very tall with her heels, and quite intimidating with her broad shoulders and hardened muscles. Her jaw clenched as she exhaled sharply through her nostrils, causing a few of the nearer teens to flinch, and she made her way outside and into the hall to find Kamar and Sienna confronted my Merkur, who had idiotically drawn his weapon. She waited for the inevitable, and stifled a quiet snort of irritation when it came.

“How dare you draw your weapon on campus, Mister Quinton,” Sienna scolded. He frowned, looking quite taken aback.

“Wha? I was just-”

“A-bup-bup,” she interrupted sharply, holding a single, accusatory finger inches from his face. “I don’t care what you were doing, Merkur. You know the rules! Teacher nor student is ever allowed to draw their weapon on campus unless in sanctioned areas.” She scowled when he refused to respond, lowering her hand and placing it on her hip. “I think you should come with me,” she said, leading him away by his ear. By this point he had put his weapon away and was complaining that she was pulling too hard. He was hunched over as she led him towards Ijsbrand’s office, making him look rather pathetic.

The three delinquent students of team IVRY stood not far off, two of them watching with amused faces as Sienna and Merkur eventually walked out of sight. It was then that the older woman approached Kamar quietly, his gaze shifting to her as she moved to his line of sight. He smiled to her.

“Ebony, hello,” he greeted with a wave and a forced smile. “I see you’ve returned,” he remarked, gesturing to the small travel pack that hung from her left shoulder. She grunted. “How did everything fare? The job went well, I presume?” She shifted the bag a bit and looked away before answering.

“About as well as it can go when the only thing your patron wants you to do is gather the bone masks of dead Beowolves. It was rather disgusting, actually,” she spat, bile rising in her throat. Kamar gestured to the bag.

“I assume that’s what lies in there?”

“Yes,” she deadpanned, her stare just as blank and expressionless as her words. Kamar laughed before he turned to look through the windows at the clocktower that lay on the other side of the courtyard. “Ah, I should be going. Classes will be starting tomorrow, and lesson plans are always a good thing to have. I’ll see you later, Ebony.” He nodded his farewell to her as he turned, heading to the largest winding staircase a little faster than was necessary.

Ebony turned, catching the eyes of Indu, Viridian, and Raven. She cocked her head at them for a moment, and the largest of them spoke up.

“Ebony? As in, Ebony Azoth?” Viridian asked, almost sounding impressed. Almost.

“Indeed I am. You would do well to remember that while in my class,” she remarked. She shot a look at each of them in turn, her eyes lingering on Viridian before she followed in Kamar’s footsteps, making her way to the central staircase of the Academy.

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In the Dorms
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Phen collapsed onto her bed with a heaving sigh, while T’wulf sat by her with a much less audible one. Wynn and Regalia both inspected their side of the room, looking at the knick knacks that had been used to decorate it. There were several writing utensils scattered on dressers and desks, and many packets of unopened paper. Both sides of the room looked as though they had been poorly prepared for their new inhabitants, and it was visibly irritating the four of them. They had all expected a nicely kept room with four beds, not two. Regalia turned to Phen and T’wulf.

“These rooms seem a little small for four people, don’t you think?” she asked earnestly, twirling one of several ownerless pens between her fingers. Phen shrugged.

“I’d say it would be reasonable for two people, maybe three.”

“Four is a stretch, though,” Wynn finished for her. He turned to face them as well, gazing around the room as a whole. “Classes start tomorrow, sure, but how are we supposed to wake up on time if we can’t even sleep?”

“That’s a good question,” Regalia agreed, humoring him. “We can’t share beds can we? It would end up being quite awkward because of the one boy we have on our team,” she said, gesturing passively to Wynn, who nodded his agreement vigorously.

“I’d rather not be bedded on the first night.” He waggled his brows, causing Phen and Regalia to laugh.

“It’d be easier if we had the correct number of beds, too,” T’wulf added, causing another round of laughter. Wynn smiled.

“I’m only hoping that IVRY has accommodations as annoying as ours,” he joked.

“Wynn.” His eyes shot to T’wulf, who had spoken rather quietly.

“Yes?” he questioned, forcing them all to become aware of the deafening moment of silence T’wulf had caused.

“What was with Yale?” She cocked her head to the side curiously, as though she were a dog. “He seemed to be very impatient towards you.”

“I know him. He’s a real prick, that one,” Regalia answered for him. “Like I said, he’s racist. Dislikes Faunus to his very core.” T’wulf frowned, and so did Wynn. “But I’ve never heard of someone getting so irritated by a faunus so quickly, not even Yale.” Phen nodded.

“It seems to me that you in particular are more maddening to him,” the redhead observed. “Maybe he knows you from somewhere?”

“Or maybe he’s just bitter,” T’wulf reasoned quietly, her eyes sliding to the window and drinking in the night sky carefully. Wynn watched her for a moment before looking to Phen quizzically.

All she could do was smile and wave his unspoken question aside.

“I’m sorry, I can be a downer sometimes,” T’wulf apologized, freeing her gaze from the moon. “Just comes with the lack of social skills, I guess.”

“Nah, you’re not as bad as some people I’ve met,” Regalia reassured her. “Despite it being the first day, I’ve noticed a lot of people already talking about you.”

“Who, me?” T’wulf said incredulously, sincerely confused.

“Well, you are a looker, and you seem to have a following already,” Phen answered, nudging her with a playful elbow. Regalia, Wynn, and Phen all laughed at T’wulf’s innocent blush.

“That’s not funny, Phen,” she sighed with a light and exhausted smile, placing her head in her hands. Phen patted her on the back.

“Aw, Cub. Don’t worry about anything. We’re all kinda awkward on the first day.” Phen kept a reassuring hand on her shoulder as T’wulf looked up at each of them in turn.

“No more fanclub jokes,” she insisted, shooting a glare at her longtime friend. Phen laughed.

“Alright, Cub. Alright.”

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Central Tower
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Ebony looked over her papers, studying the name and face of each first year student. Her eyes scanned their profiles systematically, only shifting from paper to paper every so often, and lingering on those she found intriguing. As she finished, she quietly swiveled in her chair, taking in the night sky through her large office window. She took a deep and calming breath, standing from her chair to move soundlessly closer to the glass, her heels having been long discarded underneath her desk. Her bare feet thanked her every step, and she curled her toes as she stood before the open expanse of the autumn forest. She placed her fingers upon the cool surface, leaving nary a fingerprint behind as she studied the land outside, as she had done thousands of times before, before allowing her eyes to find their favorite sight: the moon.

She contemplated the day to come as the clock struck midnight and let it’s chime ring throughout the campus. It’s melody reminded her of her own first night as a student, feeling both fear and anticipation of what was to pass. Her eyes softened as they found the silvered light washing over her as a cloud moved by. Her heart beat in the rhythm of the clock tower’s song, and her teeth chattered every time a new note was struck. After what seemed a rather enjoyable eternity, it ended. The tune echoed for several seconds afterwards, leaving her with an empty thought of sleep.

She didn’t outwardly react to the shuffling she heard, instead allowing it to continue for a moment longer before acknowledging it. Shaking her head to rid it of tiredness and turning it slightly to see behind her, she regarded Sienna with little more than an exhausted grunt.

“You seem tired,” the younger teacher remarked, stating the obvious as she stepped around Ebony’s desk to join her by the window. Her words were met with silence - an occurrence that was not uncommon when talking to the world-weary huntress. For most, the silence would have been awkward and uncomfortable, but Ebony knew that Sienna didn’t mind it. “I know you turn it down every time, as you have ever since I began working here, but my offer for a neck rub still stands, you know,” she spoke with a noticeable tone of mirth, breaking Ebony’s quiet stupor. The older of the two allowed her eyes to meet Sienna’s for a moment, fully acknowledging her for the first time since she had entered the room.

“When have I ever said yes to your neck rubs, kid?” she replied, demonstrating her rare sense of humor. Sienna laughed.

“I knew you’d say no. Just thought I’d continue my routine of checking on you to make sure you aren’t being all broody.” She turned, her socked feet making hardly a sound against the marble floor of Ebony’s office.

“Those notes you left,” Ebony whispered suddenly, yet quietly. “You want me to use them, correct?”

“Yep,” Sienna affirmed with a nod, not turning to look back as she opened the door with a slight squeak. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Ebony. Or rather, today,” she whispered, throwing her a smile as she shut the door behind her with a soft click.

Ebony looked at the black lacquered door for a moment before she returned her gaze to the vast expanse of dangerous forest and hillside. She listened through the glass to the howls of Beowolves and the screeches of Nevermores.It was shaping up to be an interesting year - in more ways than one.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: T'wulf Lupus Character Portrait: Wynn 'Leo' Leon Character Portrait: Phenix Sovereign Character Portrait: Regalia Kitsu Character Portrait: Merkur Quinton Character Portrait: Ebony Azoth Character Portrait: Sienna Seraphim Character Portrait: Laurel Epyon Character Portrait: Oxford Legend Character Portrait: Krimm Sohn Character Portrait: Honey Theo
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Central Tower
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Merkur paced in his office. It was a standard office, practically identical to those used by the other teachers at the academy, until it was assigned to him. The walls were plainly white, the desk was a bunch of chrome rods welded together and topped with a glass sheet. While other teachers had their offices rather spacious, with some standard ornaments and their weapons neatly mounted somewhere, Merkur had steel cabinets and tables cluttered with assorted parts, wires, piping, circuitry, and things some would refer to as "junk". On one of the tables was a machine similar to Merkur's weapon, Bite the Dust, albeit smaller, comparably incomplete, and bearing a "02" painted on it. Merkur sat in his office chair, one of the only two things left from the original office (the other being the door), and looked at his computer.

"Well well well..." he told himself, "What do we have here?" Merkur gazed upon a set of blueprints sent to him by a colleague of his in a joint program of the kingdoms of Remnant. The plans were for a proposed mechanical suit that would be used to aid Huntsmen in dealing with Grimm. It was...less to say "different" than most mechsuits, mainly due to its shape. Before Merkur could finish looking at the designs for the weapons, he heard someone knock on the door.

"Hold on a sec!" Merkur shouted, closing all windows displaying the blueprints and the computer itself. He then opened the door, only to find Krimm standing in front of him, with his usual blank expression. "Come in." Merkur said, moving aside to give way for the boy. Krimm entered the room and stood still near Merkur's desk.

Merkur sighed as he closed the door and sat behind his desk, motioning Krimm to face him. "You have summoned me." Krimm said with some irritation.

"Yes, I did." Merkur replied, dropping a few folders onto his desk. "The higher-ups are not-so happy about today."

"Why? I did pass the initiation, and I did not compromise the project in any way." Krimm said, returning to his usual monotonous voice.

"No, no, that's not it. They were not pleased with your performance with your team. Can't believe that they'd really expect real people to be similar to the simulations, especially the ones who're working with you..."

Krimm sighed. "Perhaps they are disappointed in the manner I led the team. I knew it. It is difficult. I was not programmed for this."

"You did splendidly, Krimm. They're not pulling the plug on this, okay? Relax."

Silence fell upon the two. The only sounds heard were those of the air conditioning unit and the echoing of the sounds of the Grimm outside.

"She would be proud of you, kid." Merkur said in a melancholic tone, looking at a photograph. The photo was of a couple, a man and a woman, at a seaside park. Upon close inspection, one would notice that the two are wearing identical rings.

"She would." Krimm said, looking at the picture as well, focusing more on the woman. The two were quiet, once again. The veil of silence was broken by a beep from Merkur's communicator.

"Ebony..." Merkur mumbled, standing up and grabbing a few files. Krimm stood up as well, opening the door for Merkur. "See ya around, kiddo." Merkur said, patting Krimm's head before walking to Ebony's office.

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Dorms
-------------------


Honey, Oxford and Laurel looked around their dorm room. Before they placed in their things, the room had a pair of bunk beds, one of which has its posts wrapped in duct tape, a couple of desks, some pens, pencils, papers, and books that were not theirs, and the ripped, indistinguishable remains of a poster. Now it had a three beds, one placed at the end of the room. There were also two desks, each with labelled containers, and had whatever collectibles or items the team's members wanted to decorate them with. A few new posters were placed, and the old one was the first resident of the new disposal bin. The room is comparably cleaner, more organized, and less of an eyesore. There was, however, one problem left...

"I am not getting on that bed." Laurel said, pointing at the one at the end of the room and shaking his head. Honey and Oxford sighed. The bed had one of its legs glued together and wrapped in a thick layer of duct tape, like the other legs, but this one leg in particular looked as if it would give in at any moment.

"Well neither am I nor Honey here." Oxford mockingly said. Honey nodded to this, and her face bore a concerned expression.

"Maybe Krimm wouldn't mind..." Laurel said, smiling weakly.

"He wanted to get rid of it! You're the one who told him to keep it, bozo!" Oxford shouted, slapping Laurel's hat off the faunus' head.

Laurel pushed Oxford onto one of the desks before picking up his hat. "Don't touch the hat, boy..." Laurel growled, poking Oxford with the hat before putting it back on his head. Oxford shook his head and reorganized the scattered objects, just in time for Krimm's return.

"I'm back." Krimm said, closing the door behind him. When he tried to lock it, the door fell down (for no apparent reason) on the hallway's floor with a loud "thud!". The four of them looked at it for a while, nervously hoping that nobody else has noticed.

But of course, somebody noticed. After the door hit the floor, Krimm was alerted by a shift in attention from a few beings in the rooms next to theirs. The room left of Team KOHL's had what appear to be three girls and a boy, the boy and one of the girls being Faunus. They appeared to be alerted by the noise, logically, as Krimm notes. Krimm ignored the inhabitants of the room to the right of his, but he was certain they were alerted, too. What would happen next would depend on how they would act.

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Central Tower
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As Merkur was going to grab the doorknob of Ebony's office, he stepped back as someone opened the door from the inside. Much to his chagrin, it was Sienna. The mad professor shot the woman a displeased look. This look, combined with his messy hair and unkept labcoat, made Sienna make a similar face, but she quickly cracked a small smile after a second or so. Sienna closed the door behind her, leaned against it, and folded her arms.

"Sienna." Merkur said, putting his free hand to his hip, slightly turning his head away from her, then shifting his eyes to look at her.

"Merkur." Sienna smirked.

Merkur dropped the pose and sighed. "Did you offer her another neckrub session? Come on, why don't you offer me any?"

"Because, Mister Quinton, you are..." Sienna circled Merkur, thinking as his gaze followed her. "...well, less to say, you are annoying, loud, and you smell." she said, ending with a smirk.

"So, kinda like you then, eh?" Merkur smiled back.

The two smiled at each other for a while, then Merkur remembered his business with Ebony. "Well, nice talk." Merkur said before implying (through some rather quirky motions) that he wished to enter the room. Sienna seemed to understand this and slowly walked away, looking at him all the way. Merkur looked back at her as he entered the room and shut the door. Afterwards, the two sighed and continued with their business.

Turning around, Merkur saw that Ebony was busy with something. He opted to leave until he saw the document she had in her hand. It was a profile of Oxford Legend, one of Krimm's teammates. In her other hand was Krimm's profile, which was held with a couple of other profiles. Merkur coughed, hoping he got her attention. Ebony lifted her head.

"So," Merkur started, "you wanted to see me?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ijsbrand Schnee Character Portrait: Merkur Quinton Character Portrait: Ebony Azoth
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Ebony looked up from the student profiles, eyeing Merkur blankly for a moment before she stood. He was obviously surprised by her lack of formality, with her discarded heels and untucked shirt - not to mention the lack of a blazer. She sauntered towards him quietly and quite near shoved the profiles of Krimm and Oxford into his hands, catching him off guard and causing him to stumble awkwardly into the door. When he looked up, her eyes were burning into his own, and he nearly faltered under her intense gaze.

“I did want to see you, Merkur,” she almost whispered, looking as tense as she sounded. “It’s not about the students, however.”

“It’s not?” he questioned immediately, curiosity piqued. “Then what else could this possibly be about? I have work to do, you know.”

“We all do,” she snapped, fixing him with a cold glare before she returned to her desk. He followed her for a few steps, standing quietly before her rather expensive-looking black desk as she folded her hands and rested her chin atop them. She was still staring at him. “You know that because of our lack of contact with the outside world, Reverie has been relatively cut off from the other kingdoms.”

“Yes,” he agreed, nodding as he shuffled the papers in his arms.

“The Cross Continental Transmit System,” Ebony said plainly, as if she assumed he already knew what she was asking of him. “It is essential that we become a part of it. Our lack of contact with the other kingdoms, along with the civil unrest we have been seeing for the past thirty years, is crippling us. Without the intervention of an already existing government, the Equalist party may very well be overrun by one of the Supremacist parties. We cannot have that.” Her eyes narrowed as she shifted her gaze to nothing in particular, thinking about possible outcomes for such a future. None of them were bright.

“So, you think that the CCTS is the key to stability?” Merkur inquired. Ebony nodded, swiveling in her chair to face the window yet again.

“It is absolutely the key. Without it, we are silenced,” she replied. “It is one of the only ways, if not the only way that the suffering in this place can be ended.”

“But the Grimm…” Merkur began, only to be interrupted.

“The Grimm are not as unintelligent as the rest of the world seems to think they are,” Ebony interjected, looking back at her colleague. “They are smart, and because we spend so much of our time defending against them we ought to know that by now.”

“And just how, exactly, does becoming part of the CCTS tie into stopping the Grimm and saving our people?” he asserted, glowering at her as she contemplated her answer. He waited, for several agonising seconds, before she answered.

“Because if we do not, Reverie may very well be destroyed.”

Merkur’s eyes widened, and he looked as though he’d had the breath knocked out of him. Ebony took that as her cue to continue.

“Think about it. The CCTS, for as long as it has existed, has allowed for almost instantaneous communication with those that live across the world from one another. That means it can provide instantaneous warnings, instantaneous information, and under the right circumstances, very reliable protection. The other kingdoms are able to live in a somewhat peaceful harmony because of it, but we are outside of it’s protection. If we were to be integrated into the system, it would provide us with allies and a wealth of information that we do not yet have.”

Merkur blinked, nodding in understanding and turning his gaze to his feet, still covered in an odd residue he had yet to clean off. He suddenly seemed to remember something, and snapped his head up, nearly shouting; “What about the smaller relay compounds they set up in the south and southeast? Those should have already connected us to the system.”

Ebony nodded from behind her hands. “It is true that the smaller towers allow us access, however limited it may be. But you must remember, Merkur, those are just relay towers. Smaller stations with satellites for maintaining their loop of communications. They are similar in function to a mountain outpost: meant to let them keep watch over a region that is unfamiliar to them. One of them was already destroyed, and they are located so far away from any viable human or faunus civilization that they are completely useless to the people of this kingdom.”

Merkur seemed to be at a loss for words, struggling to formulate a response.

“We lack the ready access to the security that the CCTS provides for the rest of the ‘civilized world,’” she remarked bitterly. “That is why a proper tower is needed in order for us to reach the stability and peace we have strived towards since the inception of Reverie.”

“Then what do you suggest we do?” he managed to bite out through his teeth. Ebony could clearly see the conflict in his eyes; could see that he was imagining the destruction that could follow.

“First, I suggest that we bring this to the attention of Ijsbrand,” Ebony said. “We cannot do anything without his say so.”

“Well we certainly can’t get involved with the parties under the name of Faith Academy,” Merkur reasoned, placing the files gently on Ebony’s desk. “That’s against the Headmaster’s policy.”

“You are exactly right. Which is why we won’t address them as teachers, but as individuals. With Ijsbrand to give us leverage, they will likely at least listen to our words.” Ebony rose from her seat, tucking her button-up into her slacks and grabbing her blazer from the back of her chair. As she pulled her blazer back on and buttoned it up, she bent down to reach for her heels. “He’s a night owl, similar to myself. If we’re going to bring this to his attention, it needs to be now.”

Merkur nodded his agreement as he followed her swiftly out the door to her office, and they began following the long, winding halls of the upper floors of the academy.

Ebony began to walk the path to his office by instinct, allowing herself time to think.

The CCTS would give us a great edge against the Grimm. Being able to instantly communicate with one another would be a blessing in this young kingdom. No longer needing landlines would save us from having to send civilians to their potential deaths in attempts to repair them, and we could protect them much more effectively. And how to convince the parties to agree with us? The Equalists will no doubt see reason, but the Supremacists… they will be another challenge altogether.

“Ebony?” Merkur said quietly, jolting her back to the present. She grunted her acknowledgement and he continued a bit shyly. “Why did you choose to share this information with me?”

“You mean to ask why I shared it with you - and not someone else?” she spoke matter-of-factly as she rounded the corner.

“Yeah,” he replied sheepishly. “It seems more like something you would have discussed with Sienna or Kamar.”

“They were my first choices, and I have spoken about it with them before” she affirmed with a slight nod, taking the wind out of Merkur’s sails.

“Oh,” he responded meekly, rubbing the back of his neck and watching the wall as it passed.

“But if you must know, I told you this tonight because you are intelligent, Merkur. That is not to say that Sienna and Kamar are not, but you have a certain conviction that I knew would help not only to convince others of the importance, but could also be the very thing that carries this vision to fruition. I know I cannot do it without Ijsbrand, and I decided to ask you for your help because you would not only ensure that it is done, but done well.”

Ebony could practically feel Merkur swelling with pride behind her as they came to a halt before the office doors of the Headmaster. They stood in hushed silence before Ebony finally opened the larger double doors and entered with her colleague in tow. As the doors came to a close behind them, surprisingly quiet for such large things, the both of them took a moment to take in the oddly decorated space.

The office itself was an awkward crescent shape, and with windows allowing in great amounts of natural moonlight, it was bathed in an eerie silver glow. Directly to their right was a radio console in relatively decent condition, although there were obviously frayed wires and a lot of makeshift patchwork on the metal frame to the console. The screen itself displayed almost perfectly, however, and on it was a list of known contacts. To the left of the desk located central to the room was an easel, used by Ijsbrand for painting. Ebony had lost count of the number of times she had entered to find him hard at work on one of his masterpieces. He also loved to draw, made evident not only by the large stack of blank paper on his desk, but also by the numerous pieces of pencil art he’d strung up around his office. In fact, the walls were nearly plastered with them. Ebony could clearly make out the scenes of several illustrations, but the ones that caught her eye time and time again were the portraits of every graduating class. He did them each year, and would even go so far as to draw every team a picture of themselves as a graduation gift. Ebony had even once noticed a picture of herself hard at work teaching her fourth year students, but she had yet to guess when it had been drawn, or when he had been in the room to see it.

On the other side of his desk sat a long, rectangular case meant for storing the extra blades to his weapon. It sat at a neat angle to the curve of his desk, running parallel to his arm as he sat watching them patiently. He smiled as they finally looked his way, and invited them to sit.

“Ijsbrand,” Ebony greeted curtly, taking a seat in one of three chairs set before the desk. Merkur sat politely in the seat farthest from her.

“Welcome,” he greeted with a serene smile. “What on Remnant could bring you to my office at this hour?” he asked patiently.

“A proposition,” Ebony explained. “To become a part of the system that has joined all of Remnant together.”

His features hardened, and his body tensed ever so slightly. “The Cross Continental Transmit System,” he mused, filling in the obvious blank. “Why would we do that?”

“I knew you would do this,” Ebony sighed, partially to herself. “But you must understand. This system has been proven to work much more efficiently than what we have at our disposal here in Reverie. It could provide us with the connections we so desperately need.”

“And would thus involve us in things I would rather not be a part of,” Ijsbrand interrupted sternly.

His cold stare met Ebony’s, and they were locked in a silent battle for a few moments before she calmly replied, “Then would you rather that the people of Reverie are slaughtered?” Ijsbrand raised a brow at that.

“What?”

“You heard me, Ijsbrand.” Ebony watched as his conflicting emotions ate at him, remaining rather impressed at his ability to outwardly compose himself.

“Tell me what you have in mind,” he finally answered. “Then I will make my decision.” His gaze shifted quietly to Merkur, lingering there before shifting back to the woman before him.

“Time is our greatest enemy, Ijsbrand. You’ve seen how the Grimm attacks are becoming more frequent. The teachers here are called off on jobs far more often than we should be, and the people of this kingdom are frightened. The politics of the land are more convoluted and complicated than ever before. We are in the dark, and have been for quite some time. Reverie is young, and has been blundering about blindly ever since its creation. If we cannot see the trail we’ve left behind, how can we avoid repeating our mistakes?”

“Which mistakes are you talking about?” Ijsbrand questioned. “Specifically.”

“The way the Faunus have been mistreated, the abuses of dust, alcohol, drugs, the corruption in the political world that is tearing this country apart, the poverty among common people, and the lack of settlement,” Ebony shot back, furiously listing anything she could think of. “Not to mention the terrible state of the Reverie Communications Center.”

“The people of Reverie must go through their own trials and tribulations, Ebony. How would we learn to grow if we can’t come out of this on our own? These are necessary evils. The kingdom must learn to deal with them.” Ijsbrand challenged. Ebony shot an incredulous look his way.

“The kingdom is falling apart,” she hissed. “These necessary evils are slowly destroying us. Think about how many Hunters and Huntresses have died because they couldn’t call for help when they needed it. The landlines are periodically destroyed by Grimm, civilians are sent out to repair them regularly with bodyguards watching their back - and you wonder why they’re afraid?”

Ijsbrand remained silent, his features softening in understanding.

“The connections that the CCTS would provide for us could change the face of this Kingdom. Not only could we communicate in safety, but it would give us the ability to contact other kingdoms. It would provide a form of stability that this young nation has not seen since its first charge.” Ebony put one hand on the desk’s smooth surface. “Please, Ijsbrand.” He sighed.

“You know I can’t do that,” he answered empathetically. “That would require us to get involved with the parties due to the politics of the situation. It’s something I can’t allow.”

Merkur cleared his throat. “Well, sir, I think she has a very valid point. Our resources are being wasted trying to maintain the mainframe of communications. We’ve spent so long trying to both defend and fix that piece of our infrastructure that the defense against the Grimm is becoming weaker and weaker. It’s been this way for a long time,” he pointed out, leaning back a bit in his chair and raising a leg to rest on his knee.

“Exactly,” Ebony confirmed. “The last time those coms went out we-”

“-lost a very talented Huntress, and close friend,” Ijsbrand finished. “I remember that day. I was the one to dispatch her, after all.” Merkur shifted positions again, resting both elbows on his knees.

“All the more reason to become a part of the CCTS. These land lines have become very unreliable, and the wireless connections that those towers provide the other kingdoms would be invaluable to us.” Merkur looked at Ebony, who was nodding her agreement.

“Communication is our lifeline in Reverie,” Ebony pushed. “If we don’t have a reliable means of sending or receiving help, then we are as lost as the history of the nomadic tribes that once lived here.”

“Keyword being ‘once,’” Merkur added. Ebony gestured to him and nodded, as if saying ‘Thank you.’ Ijsbrand ran a tired hand through his long, white hair. There was a long, tense pause as he closed his eyes and breathed deeply. He opened them slowly and rose from his seat, moving soundlessly to the windows. He stood there, one hand placed upon the clear surface and the other tucked behind his back out of habit, obviously struggling to come to a decision. Ebony went to stand by him, placing a hand on his left shoulder.

“Ijs, this isn’t a political issue, and you know it,” she said gently. “It’s an issue of safety, and one that must be addressed soon or we are all lost.” Ebony simply stood with him for a moment in comfortable silence, listening to the quieted sounds of the wilderness through the pane of glass before them.

Merkur, on the other hand, was sitting back with a raised brow. He had never seen that side of Ebony before. The normally cold and distant teacher was showing a care that was almost motherly, and she was visibly more relaxed than he had ever seen her. Not to mention the nickname she had used just then. It was foreign to him - but of course he would be telling Sienna about this(after all, how could he not?). He was brought hack to the present moment by the soft sigh of the headmaster.

“Very well,” he conceded. He let his head fall back slightly as he rubbed his neck before speaking again. “I suppose I will have to be the guiding hand, then. Reverie must begin to move forward, and the CCTS is our best hope.”

“Then what will you have us do?” Ebony quired. He hummed for a moment, deep in thought, before he turned to the both of them.

“The first thing that must be done,” he began as he returned to his seat, “is that at least some of the other staff here must be informed.”

“Who do you mean?” Merkur asked.

“Kamar, of course, as well as Sienna. So, they must be told of this.” Ijsbrand took a moment to look back and forth between them both before cracking a smile. “Ebony, perhaps it would be best if you were to inform them individually. Discreetly.” Ebony nodded.

“And what shall I do?” Merkur asked.

“Keep it all as low profile as you can,” Ijsbrand replied simply. “We don’t want the students to hear whispers of ‘Reverie’s doom!’ or ‘impending political collapse!’” he explained rather eccentrically. “It’d be less of a concern with the older students who understand the politics of the land, but the young ones… keep it as far from their minds as you can.”

“Thank you, Ijsbrand,” Ebony spoke as she stood. Merkur stood as well, albeit a bit more slowly, stretching as he did so.

“You two should get your sleep,” the Schnee commented as he watched Merkur with an amused eye. “I shall arrange for you to appear before the parties in the Capital Hall. Once you have told the others, please come back here and we will discuss it further.”

“We will,” Merkur affirmed with a tired thumbs up and a yawn. Ebony made a disgusted noise at his behavior.

“Yes, well goodnight, you two.” Ijsbrand waved to them both as the door was opened and closed a moment later.

The two of them walked silently down the hall for a moment before Ebony stopped him. “Thank you for helping me with this,” she said suddenly. “It would have taken much more convincing if you hadn’t been there, or he may have just refused altogether. I’m glad to have your help in this.”

“Wow,” Merkur spoke after a moment, expressing his surprise. “It’s rare for you to be so relaxed, Ebony. What would the others say if I told them how sincere you’ve been tonight?”

“What, is it that unbelieveable?” she scoffed, shaking her head and continuing down the hall at a rather curt pace. “In any case, I meant what I said. Now go get some sleep and please, for the love of all that is good in this world, take a shower. You smell like fuel, Merkur.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: T'wulf Lupus Character Portrait: Viridian Boudic Character Portrait: Wynn 'Leo' Leon Character Portrait: Phenix Sovereign Character Portrait: Indu Tzu Character Portrait: Ecru Talon Character Portrait: Jasper McTavish Character Portrait: Arsenic Arisen Character Portrait: Regalia Kitsu Character Portrait: Damask Cruci Character Portrait: Ebony Azoth Character Portrait: Sienna Seraphim
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JADE had exited the classroom with no enthusiasm, walking in twos down the hall as they talked. Arsenic and Damask walked ahead of Jasper and Talon, speaking quietly to one another as their steps fell in time to the quiet music being played over the speakers. For whatever reason, Nic had chosen to wear her hair up, a detail that hadn’t gone unnoticed by her team.

“You sat quietly and listened to the lecture today,” Dama remarked in her usual quiet fashion. She quirked a brow at Nic. “I’m impressed.” Nic scoffed playfully, placing a hand over her chest in mock offense.

“You wound me, Dama,” she exaggerated. “I have the capacity to sit still and be a good student like you.”

“But only when you want to,” Talon commented.

“Oh hush,” Nic retorted, turning to shush him in one fluid movement. She turned again and continued walking along.

“Seriously, though, Nic. You’re kinda weird,” Jasper observed nonchalantly. Nic winced a bit at the comment before recovering swiftly.

“Weird how?” she questioned, shooting him an unreadable look.

“You always do something different,” he answered instantly. “It’s like your personality is changing all the time.”

“You know me,” she responded with a loud huff of laughter, “I’m just oh so very adaptable.” The two of them laughed while Dama and Talon rolled their eyes at the pair.

As they continued to walk along, other students passed them by with nary a glance. Of course there had been talk of Talon’s duel with Indu, and of course JADE as a whole had received a bad reputation for it. The rest of the school didn’t see eye to eye with Jasper and Talon - and truthfully neither did Nic or Dama. Nic herself had agreed that it was cheating, based upon the rules agreed upon by Talon and Indu, but Jasper had a point. That’s how life is, out in the wilds. Especially in Reverie. She frowned - The other teams could do well to teach themselves that, Nic thought to herself. Dama herself had voiced her distaste of the situation after the fact, with a stern, “I understand your feelings, but there were terms for that duel and you broke them. It wasn’t necessarily an ‘anything goes’ type of match.”

As they arrived back at their dorm, schedules devoid of classes for the rest of the day, Jasper and Talon broke off from Dama and Nic, continuing down the hall towards the courtyard.

The two girls entered their room quietly, the door clicking shut softly behind them. Dama stood by the bunk they shared as Nic flopped down on the mattress with a squeak. She sat with her head resting in her hands for quite some time before she raised her gaze to Dama. The latter watched her patiently, attempting to read the distraught look on her face. Eventually Dama ended up sitting next to her, a hand placed tentatively on Nic’s shoulder.

“I’m not that weird, am I, Dama?”

There it was.

“No,” she answered softly, voice unusually laden with emotion. “You’re not.”

“Then why do I feel so out of place here?” Nic pleaded. “This school is supposed to be for the best of the best in Empyrean, and everyone just thinks of me as a slacker with no real talents.”

“They have no idea who you really are under that facade you wear,” Dama asserted, taking Nic off guard. The blue-haired teen stared at her, eyes confused.

“They’ve never seen you fight,” Dama insisted. “We’ve only been here a few weeks and classes only started recently, Nic.”

“There’s more to being a Huntress than fighting,” Nic bit back with a humorless laugh. She shrugged Dama’s hand from her shoulder, turning her face to the wall. “I want to prove to them that I deserve to be here. To show them that my teammates aren’t burdens to me.”

For a moment, Dama was quiet. Nic thought she had simply decided to let the conversation end there - and wished that she would have. Instead, after an uncomfortable shuffle, she spoke.

“Is that all we are?”

Nic tensed, realizing what she had implied far too late. Her throat closed up and her eyes stung with bitter, unshed tears. Dama seemed to take her silence as affirmation, and rose from the bed in a hurry. Nic reached after her, but found that she was already gone, the door closing solidly behind her. Nic’s outstretched hand fell limply into her lap, and all she could do was stare at the door. Frustration boiled to the surface and Nic flopped backwards onto the mattress, flinging her fist into the sheets with a grunt. She’d said the wrong thing as always. She lay an arm over her eyes.

Great.

*****

Sometime after class, team PWTR had separated to spend time relaxing. T’wulf had insisted on being with Phen at first, but Wynn had convinced her to go with him to the courtyard to do something that Phen hadn’t been able to hear. The redhead in question sat against the headboard of her shared bed with a folded book in her hand. Her eyes skipped over the words as she munched wordlessly on a chip from the near empty bowl at her side. Regalia sat at one of the only desks in their room working diligently on an assignment. She would pause occasionally to adjust her posture, and then continue on quietly. The only sounds heard in the room were the flipping of pages and the tick of a pencil writing rather aggressively. Phen’s eyes shifted from her book to her teammate, whose shoulders were raised with tension and fists balled unconsciously. She sighed softly and raised herself from the mattress.

“You won’t get anywhere if you study while your mind is preoccupied,” Phen noted, leaning on the back of Regalia’s chair. Regalia sat back, huffing.

“That isn’t going to stop me from trying,” she grumbled, clearly irritated. Phen frowned at this.

“I can tell something’s bothering you,” Phen stated as though it were a fact. Regalia laughed once and lolled her head to look her leader in the eye.

“I must be an open book,” she joked.

“Well, I do love reading,” Phen retorted without missing a beat. Regalia groaned at the joke, but smiled regardless. “Maybe we should do something to take your mind off of whatever it is?”

“Like what?” Regalia asked, stretching her arms over her head with a slight pop of her back. Phen thought for a moment before her eyes drifted to a board that lay atop their table.

“Chess?” she suggested. A devilish smile split Regalia’s face from ear to ear.

“Oh, you’re on.”

---

Within minutes the board had been set up and the two were after each other’s kings. Each move was planned and served a tactical purpose. As the two of them played together, Regalia felt the rest of the world melt away - only the two of them remained in their quiet dorm room, and the soft clicks of the pieces on the board were all that could be heard. For awhile, they played in silence. Neither one spoke until what was well over halfway through the game, when Phen groaned.

“Really? A King’s Gambit?”

“It’s a good strategy,” Regalia declared proudly, watching as Phen removed her sacrificed pawn from the board. “You could have denied it, you know.”

“Where’s the fun in that?” Phen questioned as she looked over her own pieces, a hand over her mouth in concentration. Regalia looked on in amusement as Phen scanned the board as only a true tactician could.

Regalia continued to watch Phen as she pondered her next move, finding herself much more relaxed than she had previously been. Resting one elbow on her raised knee and her other hand against the floor, Regalia leaned back and observed her leader’s expression. She almost laughed at how childish and innocent Phen looked as she weighed her options, taking chess as seriously as she would have taken a life-or-death battle. It was quite endearing, really. Her gaze shifted to the window, and she watched the evening light fade below the horizon. With each moment the sun sank lower and the sky burned a brighter shade of orange until it almost matched Phen’s fiery locks. She let out a puff of laughter, and Phen looked up.

“Is something funny?” she asked, her piece - a Rook, Regalia noted - gripped between her thumb and forefinger.

“Thanks for this,” Regalia said suddenly, and a startled Phen dropped her piece with a loud clatter. She fumbled for a moment, trying her best to catch it before it eventually rolled off the table and onto the floor. Regalia burst into a fit of laughter as Phen reached all the way across the floor to grab the rook with a groan of embarrassment that she hardly stifled. Sitting back up, she slammed the piece into place and glared at Regalia who was still laughing quite hard.

“It’s not funny.”

“You looked like a scared toddler, oh my god!” Regalia sputtered through her fits of earnest laughter. Phen’s brows only furrowed further and she crossed her arms over her chest with an indignant grumble.

“You did that on purpose,” Phen accused her. Regalia sat up again, wiping tears from her eyes as she continued to giggle.

“Did what?” she questioned innocently.

“Scared me!” Phen whined, sounding very much like a child and not the grown woman that she was.

“Phen, I said thank you,” she pointed out as she reached for a bishop and moved it across the board. Her red-haired companion sneered.

“You said it really loudly,” she pouted, eyes once again looking over the board thoroughly before she grabbed at her knight and blocked the path of Regalia’s pawn.

“I wanted you to hear me,” Regalia answered truthfully. “You get really lost in thought when you play chess.” She moved her queen in to take care of the knight Phen had placed a moment ago, opening the way for her pawn and a rook she had been saving.

Phen only grunted in response, throwing another bishop in her queen’s path. Regalia smiled and took the bishop, placing Phen’s king in check.

“You actually get lost in thought a lot,” she noted as Phen moved to counter. She winced when her leader took the queen with a second well-placed knight. “What’s that about?”

Phen looked up at her quizzically, eyes searching for any reason or meaning behind the question. All she found was genuine curiosity. She sighed as she placed a pawn in the path of one of Regalia’s own. “That’s just how I am.”

“I know that,” Regalia drawled. “But why are you like that?” Phen recoiled a bit at the phrasing of the question, but answered nonetheless.

“I can’t really be as forthcoming with my emotions as others because of my semblance,” Phen admitted, her eyes focused hard on something that was beyond the board or the girl across from her. Regalia sympathized with her. “I have to be rational and calculative with everything I do, so I think about everything.” She shrugged after she finished speaking.

“I see,” Regalia mumbled as she moved to complete her strategy and place Phen’s king in check for the second time. The redhead moved the king one space to the left in response, placing it behind three pawns. She once again put Phen’s king in check by taking the right-most pawn.

“What did you thank me for?” Phen asked. Regalia looked up from the board and then back down again, watching the leader’s moves.

“For taking my mind off of it,” she uttered almost lamely. Phen laughed.

“Right; it. What was it, again?” Phen grinned when Regalia shot her a look.

“Shut it,” she warned, her tone laced with mirth. Phen grinned, moving to rise from her spot on the floor.

“Yeah, okay,” she drawled as she rose to her full height. “As much fun as this has been, I have to return a few books to the library before it gets too late.”

Regalia simply hummed in acknowledgement as she, too, rose to return to her studies. Phen gathered a book bag that looked entirely too heavy, and made her way to the door as Regalia stretched. Just as she swung it open, the hinges creaking loudly and causing both of them to flinch, Phen turned back to her with a sly grin.

“By the way - checkmate.”

She shut the door behind her just as Regalia noticed the rogue knight that had cornered her king.

*****

Damask sat, sipping water with a towel slung around her neck and her big-ass cross taking up several feet of the bench next to her. She surveyed the shooting range with a twinge of satisfaction. Seeing shattered targets had always calmed her nerves when she found herself in a mood. Taking another swig from her bottle, she capped it and set it by her feet, hanging her head between her knees as she cooled off from her workout.

It was late, as it often was when she came here. Dama found she could work much better when she was alone and it was dark. She thrived in the dimly lit training center, though now that she was still, her bitterness overcame her.

She knew that Arsenic hadn’t meant it that way, but from the start she had known that the blue-haired girl didn’t trust Talon or Jasper. After all, she had brought it to Dama’s attention multiple times after their team had been formed. It had been so unlike Nic to show that much distrust of others, especially people she was supposed to be working with. She scoffed at the thought.

She should have known that distrust would eventually extend to herself. Nic had always felt inadequate compared to others, and Dama was no exception. Arsenic was often scolded for her laid-back attitude towards everything, while Dama was praised for being quiet and doing well in her studies. But Damask knew how smart Nic was. She knew how capable she was.

What she hadn’t known was that she could be so spiteful. Her face soured at the thought of Arsenic acting even remotely as such, but the seed had been planted. She mentally kicked herself for thinking so negatively of her best friend.

Dama knew she didn’t mean it that way. But it still stung, and she was still irritated.

She reached for her crucifix again, hoisting it over her shoulders with ease and walking sluggishly towards the center of the training facility as it whirred to life around her.

*****

T’wulf still had trouble remembering why she had agreed to climb into the tree with him. Had it been his constant and unwavering insistence? Had it been his kitten eyes that he used on anyone he wanted something from? Had it been that she was simply annoyed and wanted him to be quiet for five minutes? All three?

“Why is everyone looking at us so funnily? All we did is climb a tree,” he spoke, his voice unusually shrill.

It was the last one, mostly.

T’wulf sighed, a sound muffled by the crook of her elbow that her face was currently resting in. “Wynn, we’re in the only tree in the courtyard,” she quipped, quirking a brow at him when he pouted. “You also yelled something about wanting to build a treehouse here, and I’m pretty sure everyone else thinks you actually plan to go through with that treason.” Wynn shrugged and held his hands up defensively.

“What’s wrong with wanting to have a treehouse here? I think it would look fine,” he replied, to his credit, with an earnest lilt that T’wulf hadn’t expected. It only made her incredulous expression seem all the more uncalled for as she stared at him. She elected not to bring it up, because she’d already had to suffer through thirty minutes of him talking about how he would create said treehouse, and she would rather not repeat that.

Instead, she shifted her weight and laid back against the trunk of the tree and sprawled her legs haphazardly wherever there was another branch to hold a foot or leg. “So you dragged me here just to talk in a tree?”

“Um, yeah?” he shot back, as though his reason for doing so was obvious and T’wulf was missing the point. She stared at him and blinked twice before she sighed again.

“Why?” she questioned, both genuinely curious and too exasperated to really care.

“Is it so bad that I want to get to know my teammates?” Wynn practically whined.

“But in a tree?”

“Well what do you suggest, Wulfie?” Wynn bit back, the use of her nickname intended as a joke. T’wulf scoffed.

“Uh, the roof, maybe?” Her eyes locked with Wynn’s, and he smiled sheepishly. “And don’t call me Wulfie.”

“Wait, why not?” he asked, his voice raised to a whine for the second time in thirty seconds.

“Only Phen has ever called me that, and that was when we were kids,” she explained without missing a beat. “It makes me sound too soft and… squishy.”

“Pfft!” Wynn was obviously having trouble holding back his laughter. “Squishy?”

T’wulf shook it off, instead looking to the cobblestone below and scanning the throngs of people that had decided to join them in the courtyard that evening. As the sun set, she began her usual habit of turning her ring around her finger over and over again. She watched until the sky was painted unearthly shades of red and violet, and by that point she had half a mind to jump down from the tree. Wynn seemed to notice her sudden silence and was taken aback by it.

“Do you not want to talk?” he asked. “Because we can always do this another time.”

“It’s not that,” T’wulf assured him, making eye contact. “I just don’t understand why you insist on trying to be friends with everyone.” Wynn grinned, the type that would hurt anyone else's face, and let out a laugh.

“I’m not trying to be friends with everyone. I’m just trying to be friendly,” he corrected her as though it was the greatest play on words there had ever been. T’wulf cocked her head, much the same way a confused dog would, and made a noise of amusement.

“Really? Because if that were the case you wouldn’t have half of IVRY after you,” she spoke, throwing him a knowing smirk. Wynn just laughed and looked down at the courtyard, seeming to spot something. T’wulf, curious, followed his gaze and tensed when she saw Talon and Jasper moving toward the tree. It didn’t look as though they were there to seek them out, but T’wulf sat on the branch, bewildered nonetheless.

“What would they be doing out here? I never pegged them to be the courtyard-y type,” Wynn mused with a frown.

“Maybe we should get out of the tree,” T’wulf suggested. “You know, before they decide to double-team one of us.” Wynn cracked a smile before nodding his agreement.

“After you, milady,” he spoke with a courtly tone, gesturing to the ground as though it were the marble floors of a well-kept castle. She decided to play along for once.

“Why thank you, kind sir!” she acknowledged as she dropped from the branch and onto the grass below. Wynn joined her not a second later, and they began their trek back to the dorm in comfortable silence.

At least, until a large group of students who had once been admiring the sunset spotted their favorite underclassmen, and swarmed T’wulf. She stood stock still in the center of the group, sending a pleading look Wynn’s way as he stood outside the circle and laughed.

“Sorry, Wulfie! You’re on your own,” he shouted above the chaos as he turned and made a mad dash for the first year tower. T’wulf simply frowned, slightly angered by his use of her nickname, but then turned to those that surrounded her, shaking her head with a small smile that many girls squealed at. She supposed she would have to get him for this later.

*****

The following day was no less tense among the students. They were, after all, still getting used to one another. Ebony knew she couldn’t expect a high caliber of participation from them, given their awkwardness, but still she tried to facilitate some discussion.

She strode into the classroom, the mere sight of her quieting any chatter. The discomfort was palpable. She sighed, quick and sharp, as she dropped her papers onto her desk with a loud thud. The students visibly jumped, affording her a rather base form of satisfaction.

“I don’t know how many times this has been addressed by my colleagues, but it is mandatory for first year students to sit with their assigned teams.”

Many of the students glared at her.

“I understand that some of you,” she continued, her eyes narrowed at IVRY, “do not mesh well together. That is fine, however in my classroom the rules will be followed regardless of your personal feelings.”

The students shuffled in their seats, their dislike of Ebony already apparent to the raven-haired instructor. She almost smiled in amusement. Almost.

“You may be surprised to hear that I am far more lenient with my fourth year students,” she spoke over the noise of shifting chairs. “Those particular rumors are true.” A collective whispering from the students confirmed her suspicion that her reputation had, indeed, preceded her. As usual. “Do not expect me to treat you as such, however. Both literally and figuratively, you are all still children. I will not baby you, but you will not receive the same freedoms that other instructors may be a bit too willing to hand to you.”

“That’s pretty bitchy of you,” a lone voice sounded from the left side of the room. Ebony quickly pinpointed its source. Front row, sitting just in front of team PWTR, closest to the door, as far away from the team leader as possible - Viridian.

Ebony’s stare seemed to encourage her further, and she sneered.

“So what you’re basically telling us, right off the bat, is that this class isn’t going to be any fun? Good to know - I guess I’ll be skipping it from now on.” She laughed heartily, and a few students hesitantly followed suit.

Ebony simply stared at Vi until the laughter died to just her own. “It seems that your sense of humor is not quite similar to my own, Miss Boudic.” Her tone stung like bitter cold, and all other students visibly tensed - some even bit their lips to keep themselves from gasping. “I will have you know that I also employ a much stricter attendance policy. Any unexcused absences are dealt with accordingly.”

“By doing what?” Vi spat. “Sending me to His-Royal-Ignorance to get a slap on the wrist and a stern talking to?” This elicited more laughter than before.

“Essentially,” Ebony confirmed with a slight nod of her head. “Although multiple absences will be met with confiscation of weapons, and excessive absences will be punished with expulsion.” The students were quiet once again, including Vi.

“I suggest you hold your tongue, Viridian,” Indu hissed above the quiet. Vi opened her mouth to retort, but Ebony beat her to it.

“I quite agree with Miss Tzu.” Both Indu and Viridian looked at her. “You would do well to listen to your leader, girl. She’s got a good head on her shoulders.” Indu visibly straightened at the praise, which Ebony mentally noted. She would need help to keep her team under control, and Ebony would offer that help - at a later time.

“If by a good head, you mean she’s enough of an idiot to fall for the mirror trick JADE used on her, then yeah. I guess,” Viridian spoke coldly, directing a nasty glare at Talon and Jasper. Ebony followed her gaze, noting the other two members of team JADE intentionally looking away.

“I would rather not speak of the display from either team,” Ebony answered. “Both were quite sloppy: forms wrong, stances imperfect, weapons ill-maintained.”

Both IVRY and JADE seemed to bristle at this, one team substantially more than the other, but Ebony lifted a hand to silence any possible reply.

“That is not to speak of the skill the fighters obviously possess. On the battlefield, there is little time to assess one’s own footwork, form, or weapon. From what I happened to witness, both parties are formidable opponents indeed - simply in need of improvement. However, on a true battlefield, unfortunate things can happen at a moment's notice. There are no rules. There are no feelings. There is only you…” Ebony trailed off, running her fingers along the skull of a Tarandrus kept atop a stack of dusty tomes. “... and them.”

With that, Sienna emerged from the hallway. She strode along the tiled floor and stood at Ebony’s side, grinning to those she recognized.

“It seems that Ebony here has done an excellent job of turning a disagreement into a lesson,” she remarked with a pointed look at Viridian. “Now that it’s over, I will be joining you for this first class, demonstrating for all of you along with Ebony.”

As the two women gathered their weapons and began to move into position, a student - Damask, she recalled - spoke up. “Miss Azoth - demonstrating what, exactly?”

“Demonstrating how the proper weapon can aid its owner in battle,” she spoke through her teeth as she prepared further. She shed her blazer and unbuttoned her dress shirt, revealing a black tank top underneath. Many of the students either whispered or whistled quietly at the sight of her well-muscled back and arms. Even Viridian seemed slightly impressed at the sight of her abs beneath the cloth of the top.

“Is it really necessary for you to strip half-heartedly in front of the students?” Sienna joked as she rolled her hair into a bun and fastened it into place.

“No,” Ebony admitted, doing the same with her own hair. “But I rather enjoy the freedom of movement that it offers.” Many of the students laughed at this, save for JADE and IVRY.

Ebony pointed to the hand raised just behind Viridian’s head as she continued doing small stretches.

“Is there anything specific you’ll be showing us?” Phenix questioned. Ebony shook her head.

“Aside from showcasing our own weapons, this is purely for demonstrative purposes. You can take from it what you wish - but ultimately the purpose of this is to show all of you how important it is to have a weapon that balances oneself well.”

Both instructors moved into position, each gripping their swords loosely at their sides.

When it came down to it, not a single student could have really said who made the first move of the two of them.

Sienna was on Ebony in a split second, swinging her sword in a wide arc. Ebony easily blocked the strike and limboed beneath it. She spun to Sienna’s backside, thrusting her jian forward. The younger instructor sidestepped and countered with her own thrust, blade extending far beyond its intended target. Ebony parried, the blade now in her left hand, and slammed her palm to the floor.

Sienna’s balance was thrown as the tiles began to rise in columns. Ebony traversed them as they rose, approaching her counterpart swiftly. As she watched Sienna ready her sword Ebony spun, gaining momentum. Their blades clashed with a shockwave that sent many students to the floor.

Ebony quickly withdrew, juking to Sienna’s right and grabbing her sword arm. She brought it upward and moved to strike with her left hand. Sienna jerked from her grip and ducked, swiping with her leg in retaliation. Ebony grabbed her ankle, pulling her forward as she thrust with her right hand again. Sienna straightened her back and watched the black blade pass before her eyes. She twisted her body in Ebony’s grip, yanking the older instructor with her down the newly formed mountain of tiles. As they fell, each found their balance atop a lone column and stood to catch a breath.

Sienna hadn’t seen when Ebony had inserted a vial of dust into her sword, but could tell from the way the blade was sparking with embers that it was now superheated.

The raven-haired woman leapt toward her opponent, catching her ankle with her own and throwing her off balance. The two of them fell from atop the column, struggling as they went. Sienna managed to kick Ebony away from her and landed on her feet before skidding to a halt some meters from her.

Ebony flew much farther than expected, and Sienna had thought she wouldn’t be able to regain balance before she landed. However, Ebony corrected herself expertly, slamming her jian into the floor to halt herself before she launched herself upward again using the hilt as leverage. As she rose higher, the temperature dropped and spears of ice formed around her. With a simple movement she directed them forward. Sienna moved gracefully as she evaded them, leaping over some and sliding beneath others.

Ebony landed hard, her hand already gripping the hilt of her blade, before she spun on one knee. Her sword erupted in flames, and a wave of fire was sent Sienna’s way. The latter easily flipped over it, following through with another strike carried by her momentum. Ebony rose to her feet before she jumped, placing a hand on the blade as it passed below her and kicking her legs out for balance. As she came down from the maneuver, she crossed her right leg over herself and brought the left down in a drop kick that connected with Sienna’s shoulder. Sienna stood slightly taller, not even flinching at the blow to her shoulder, and spun. Ebony mimicked the move in the opposite direction.

The duel ended with their blades to each other’s neck and resounding applause from the students. The two withdrew from one another and Sienna gave the class a grin. They both bowed simultaneously.

“Settle down,”Sienna spoke above the chaos. “While I’m sure you enjoyed the duel itself, please remember that it was not just for your entertainment. Ebony and I were holding back a great deal of our power, but this should have been enough to illustrate the point of this lesson.”

“The proper weapon in essential to the user,” Ebony continued. “Some may use bludgeons, some may use blades, others firearms. Each offers its own set of pros and cons, and one must be diligent when choosing a weapon for themselves.” The class was now listening intently, staring at the two instructors. “There are even some weapons,” she said, looking to Arsenic and Indu, “that do not fall into one category alone. Dust is one of those weapons.”

“Now that is done, please excuse me,” Sienna said, bowing to the students once again. She exited quietly.

“Our next class will be at the same time next week. We will be talking about the application of dust and semblances to weapons in order to make them more effective.” Ebony slid her arms into the sleeves of her blazer, turning away from the students to face the windows that afforded quite the view. “You may go,” she said, waving her hand dismissively.

If the chatter as the students exited was anything to go by, there would be no skipping classes from any of them. It was a good sign, as far as she was concerned.