Into The Great Wide Open - Chapter 36 - CV12Hornet (2024)

Chapter Text

Chapter 36

“Took about another week for them to finish preparations and then sail to Pirate Island,” Yang continued. “They gave us discretion on how to get ourselves in, so we decided to go in through the front door.”

“The original plan was to dock somewhere out of the way and enter openly,” Weiss picked up. “We didn’t want Alacrity to get hijacked and taken in the confusion. Sadly, the geography of the island’s harbor doesn’t allow for that, and Smoker guaranteed the Alacrity’s safety for us, so it was time for plan B.”

~o~

Ruby gazed up at Pirate Island as the Alacrity nosed in among dozens of pirate ships. Now that she could see it, the skull rock was too uniform and well-shaped to be natural. There were geokinetic Devil Fruits, she recalled, one of those had probably shaped it. The town itself was almost all densely-packed stone buildings, rising up the hill to the base of the skull rock. Architecturally, it resembled Mock Town, which made sense now that she thought about it.

Alacrity turned into an open berth, and as her team clambered out a half-dozen men ran up to tie it to the pier. Also walking toward them was a pompous-looking individual in silken clothes and a powdered wig, of all things. In his hands was a clipboard. He stopped, scanning their ship.

“A 90-foot schooner,” he mused in a reedy, nasal voice. “Who is the captain of this vessel?”

Ruby shared a glance with her teammates. They… hadn’t worked that out, had they? She was the team leader, but when it came to the ship…

“I am,” Weiss stated, stepping forward.

The man looked her up and down and seemed to agree. “That will be 300,000 berries for the docking fee,” he stated. “Your name?”

Ruby’s eyes widened. You could buy a boat with that kind of money! Weiss, however, didn’t flinch, fishing a wad of bills out and placing it on the man’s clipboard.

“One million berries,” she said sweetly. “And forget the name.”

The man blinked, flicked through the bills, and then smiled sunnily. “Welcome to Pirate Island, Ms. Smith.”

Ruby watched the man over her shoulder as they departed. It shouldn’t have surprised her that what passed for officials were bribable. Maybe she was more surprised that Weiss had thought of that plan and executed it immediately.

“Look at you, bribing a harbormaster!” Yang said, lightly slugging her girlfriend on the shoulder.

“Please, it was simply the easiest way to do things,” Weiss sniffed. “I don’t normally condone bribery, of course. All else being equal it’s very risky. But here? Not risky at all.”

The comparisons to Mock Town built as Ruby and her team proceeded deeper into the town. There were similarities to be sure. For example, the preponderance of bars and ladies of… negotiable virtue, as Weiss had once put it. But a surprising number of inhabitants were just… people, living lives on coin spent by pirates on various services. Stalls lining the streets hawked food and trinkets. Children ran through the crowds with balls and dolls. One of the most common shops were laundry services.

These people deserved to be ruled better than the arbitrary whims of a pirate warlord. And not for the first time, Ruby sent a thank you to whoever was listening that the Fleet Admiral hadn’t gone with the “Storm the Town” plan. The civilian casualties would’ve been horrendous.

No one bothered them as they ascended up the island, aside from a few lecherous jackasses, and the visible weapons they carried stopped them from going further than catcalls and wolf whistles. The problem came when they reached the base: there were no openings, with buildings sprouting straight from the base of the rock.

Blake stepped forward, closing her eyes and placing her hand on the stone. “I’ve got Blackbeard,” she said, shuddering. “He’s like a void, sucking in light.”

Well, if they couldn’t get in by the base…

“Hmm…” Yang hummed, gaze craned up, one hand shading her eyes. “Ruby, think we could get up to those windows without being noticed?”

Ruby glanced over her shoulder, the panorama of the town sprawled out behind them.

“I doubt it,” she said. “Let’s find someplace to wait until the assault begins.”

After a brief search didn’t turn up anything besides bars (open, but all indoors), Ruby simply hopped up to a rooftop to wait, her team following. Pulling out Crescent Rose, she sighted down her scope into town, people-watching. Behind the main thoroughfares, life continued on. Laundry. Cleaning. All the normal things in life. Her eyes wandered over a scene before shooting back. Okay, that was not normal! Fascinated, she watched more closely.

Ruby spent most of the next five minutes in that position, stopping only to check in on her teammates. Yang had produced a piece of metal somewhere, and was twisting it into interesting shapes. Blake sat, cross-legged and meditating, while Weiss drummed a rhythm with her fingers on Myrtenaster’s hilt. Now, that wouldn’t do. Stowing Crescent Rose, she walked over and sat next to her girlfriend, resting her head on her shoulder.

“See anything interesting?” she asked.

Yes, but what would make for a good story… oh!

“I found someone selling what they were advertising as used bathwater!” she declared.

Blinking, Weiss’ fingers stopped, her girlfriend looking at her with a disgusted expression.

“Tell me I heard you wrong,”

“Eh, you know how simps can get,” Yang interjected. “Those degenerates would buy anything if they were told their target had used them.”

“I assure you, I do not.”

Giggling, Ruby let herself just rest. So nice…

About ten minutes later, explosions erupted to the north.

Immediately, three-quarters of her team surged to their feet, only for Ruby to cry out “Wait!”

They froze, giving her questioning looks.

“They need to draw out Blackbeard’s captains first!” Ruby reminded them as she clambered to her feet. “We can’t fight them and Blackbeard!”

Though clearly unhappy about it, her teammates hunkered down to wait. Thankfully, the captains moved fast: no sooner had everyone dropped back to the roof when multiple strong Auras moved out from the skull, followed shortly by the titanic form of San Juan Wolf rising above the mountains to the north, and then a small army of Grimm, of all shapes and sizes, from common Beowolves to flying Gryphons.

Yang gulped. “Y’know, I’m kinda glad we don’t have to fight that guy. Or the Grimm army.”

Ruby nodded in agreement. She didn’t recognize several of those types. She glanced over her shoulder. The townspeople and pirates were evacuating, too – right into the Marine battleships that had crested the horizon and disgorged their Vice Admiral contents. Hopefully, if the fight spilled into the town there wouldn’t be any civilian casualties, then.

Finally, the last large signature that wasn’t Blackbeard exited, a sickly old man riding an equally sickly horse. Ruby gave it a few more minutes, and then shouted “Go go go!” before kicking off the roof in a spray of rock dust.

Ruby was the first in, rocketing off the rooftop to cannonball through the wall right into the face of a startled Blackbeard. Credit to his situational awareness, he immediately raised his hands to retaliate, but to Ruby he might as well have been molasses for how slow he was moving. Crescent Rose flashed out, but had to contend with a strong layer of Aura that the blade only barely sliced through, leaving behind a thin red line on his chest.

Ruby came back to normal speed, scowling at the lack of effect, just behind Blackbeard, who attempted to whirl around, one hand glowing with what she assumed was the energy of the Quake-Quake Fruit.

Of course, that was when Yang, Blake, and Weiss arrived. Blackbeard was forced to abort his spin in favor of meeting Yang’s reared-back fist with his own. Earthquake energy met a burst of destructive Aura, the two exploding outward in a wave of demolition that wrecked the room they were in and blew out the exterior wall entirely. Ruby, along with Weiss and Blake, was forced to pause and brace – a pause Blackbeard took advantage of to try and suck them in with his Dark-Dark powers.

Ruby leaped back, her Semblance countering the force of the pull. Blake let a clone get sucked in and punched to shadows. She slashed at his legs, doing only about as much damage as Ruby.

Weiss, the absolute madwoman, let the force pull her in, conjuring a glyph over the darkness and another to catch the punch Blackbeard launched at her, and stabbed him clear in his massive gut. Like her teammates’ blows, the attack only barely pierced through his stout Aura. But unlike those strikes, Weiss had a little extra oomph to put into the stab.

Flaming-hot Haki burst into the wound, exploding in a small flare of fire. Blackbeard howled in pain, the darkness vanishing in favor of quake power coating his fist, reared back to slam onto Weiss.

Yang took that opportunity to deliver a powerful body blow, and Ruby to shoot him in the back. Blackbeard’s head swiveled between Yang and Ruby and a backpedaling Weiss, unable to decide who to attack first.

Blake took the opportunity to dash in, Gambol Shroud flashing in and out of its sheath, tearing a deep gash in Blackbeard’s back.

With Blackbeard reeling, Ruby opened her mouth to order everyone to rush in all at once. Before they could, however, Blackbeard stomped the floor.

And abruptly, a huge chunk of the skull structure shook to pieces.

Very suddenly, Ruby found herself forced to implement a landing strategy. A kick of her patented combination of Moonwalk and Shave took her clear of the collapsing debris, and would take her down shortly. Safe, she scanned the battlefield with Observation and her eyes.

She cursed, darting for the deck. Blackbeard was already on the ground – he must have dove deliberately – crouched down.

“Nice try, girls!” he announced, placing a palm to the ground. “But that was your last, best chance to kill me! Black Hole!”

Darkness bloomed out, heedless of the bullet that Ruby fired into the arm generating it, and spread out. It swallowed up the ruins of the skull rock, and worse, several blocks of the town, buildings and screaming human beings alike sucked into the black vortex. Careening toward the ground, Ruby had to slam on the brakes, hop onto a sinking building, and then kick off into the air.

“Scatter!” Ruby screamed at her still-descending teammates. They reacted with admirable speed, but Ruby could see that they were too slow.

“LIBERATION!”

All at once, the debris sucked up was forcefully ejected in the world’s largest shotgun blast. Ruby, out of the blast radius, escaped unscathed. Yang, Blake, and Weiss were all swallowed up by the mass of rocks, vanishing.

They’d be fine. This was what they’d trained for.

Swallowing her worry, Ruby landed on the ground, alone. She glared at Blackbeard, but made no immediate move to attack. Mostly because Blackbeard wasn’t attacking herself, seeming to recognize her.

“You’re the little reaper from Mock Town…” he said thoughtfully. “I gotta say, I expected us to cross paths again, but not like this.”

“Oh?” Ruby asked, monitoring the settling pile of rubble her teammates were (presumably) trapped under with her Observation. Alive. They were alive, and ready to keep fighting. She just needed to buy a little time. “And how’d you expect it to go?”

“Zehahahaha! With that Straw Hat kid joining the charge, obviously! He’s gonna do big things, I can tell!” Blackbeard laughed. “But no. Here you are, without him, bound and determined to kill me! Probably because of my little jaunt in your homeworld.”

A chill ran down Ruby’s spine. She’d wondered, constantly, what Blackbeard had done in Remnant. To be confronted with the possibilities again…

“What did you do!” she shouted, slamming Crescent Rose into the earth, muzzle aimed at Blackbeard’s smug face.

“Me? I didn’t do anything!” Blackbeard said with false innocence. He even had the hand on his heart, the jackass. “I didn’t need to. There were a great many people quite determined to do that job for me!”

Ruby squeezed the trigger, only for Blackbeard to catch it with a small Black Hole.

“Ohhhh, hit a nerve, I see.” He turned toward the rubble. “Your friends seem like they’re ready to join the fight again, so I think I’ll let you chew on a little something I’ve been saving for a situation like this! Liberation!”

The portal yawned, growing wider and wider. Ruby stood paralyzed, unable to move, from the sheer hate emanating from the void, hate that coalesced into a massive draconic form.

For the first time since returning from Remnant, the Wyvern returned fully to reality, opened its jaws, and roared.

“Zehahahahahaha!” Blackbeard cackled. “Behold! The mightiest specimen of Grimm yet! Now, make a choice: kill me, or stop this Grimm!”

With that, the Wyvern turned towards the town, full of panicking citizens and pirates. With growing dread, Ruby realized that even if Blackbeard weren’t in full control of the Grimm, it would’ve headed toward the town anyway.

But if Blackbeard thought this was an actual choice, he didn’t know Huntsmen. Besides, tactically speaking the last thing they needed was the Grimm blindsiding them at the worst possible time.

He did get a little taste when Yang, glowing with Aura, burst out of the rubble, dashed in faster than before, and slugged Blackbeard in the face hard enough to spin him around.

“You throw another city at me again, and I’m gonna lose it!” Yang snapped as Blake and Weiss, disheveled but mostly unharmed, jogged up. “Ruby, plan?”

Gritting her teeth – she hated this particular plan – Ruby shouted “C2!” before leaping after the Wyvern.

‘Yang,’ she thought as she soared. ‘Hang in there.’

~o~

“Ruby…” Qrow breathed. “What did plan C2 entail?”

Ruby closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and explained, “C2 was designed for if we needed to chase after something and leave Blackbeard behind. The core of the plan was to have Yang grab Blackbeard’s attention, and hold it for as long as it took for us to take down whatever threat demanded our attention.”

There was a moment of silence, and then everyone erupted all at once. Ruby winced and wilted under all the shouting, which prompted quick action. Yang put her fingers to her lips, and blew out a shrill whistle.

“Hey, I appreciate the concern, but I agreed to all of this!” she said. “So sit down, shut up, and stop berating my little sister for a plan we needed to make.

~o~

At the shout of “C2!” from her sister, Yang planted her feet, squared her shoulders, and looked Blackbeard right in the eye. The C-series of plans Ruby had come up with on the journey here all had one element in common: they all required Yang to fight Blackbeard, alone, for a significant period of time.

Ruby had fretted constantly over that. But they needed the contingency, Yang was the only one who could probably stand up to Blackbeard that long in a straight fight, and frankly?

She was eager to punch that smug bastard’s face in.

“Zehahahaha… looks like they left you behind, blondie,” Blackbeard chuckled as her teammates leapt after the Wyvern, and oh she was not just going to let that stand!

“Get one thing straight, asshole!” she replied, jabbing a finger at him. “We all agreed to this, even me! Those girls, my friends and my sister, they have a dream of a better Remnant, and our first step toward it is going to be taking you down!”

At that, something in Teach’s expression briefly softened. Then, it was gone, and Blackbeard lashed out with an earthquake strike.

Yang was already in motion, reappearing out of Shave to slug him in the face. Staggering the pirate, she laid into him, punch after punch battering his flesh.

Suddenly, as she was planting her left foot for another punch, it sank several inches. Yang had to abort her attack to regain her balance, seeing that her foot had sunk into some dark hole.

A second after that, Teach punched her square in the head.

Her Aura absorbed the worst of it, but as off-balance as she was her chances of parrying any of the follow-ups was slim. So she didn’t, and instead just punched back.

Blows flew back and forth. Yang’s Aura absorbed the worst of Teach’s punches. The same could not be said for Blackbeard, who grimaced in pain with each hit, bursts of destructive Aura creating livid bruises all over his hands and arms. Worse for him, the punches were getting stronger.

‘Hope the girls get back soon,’ Yang thought to herself. ‘Pretty soon I’m going to need to use all this energy.’

Abruptly, the suction on her leg vanished. Caught by surprise, Yang stumbled, and stared down an earthquake-coated punch heading right for her. There was no time and no balance to dodge or block.

“Iron Body!”

The punch landed. To Yang, it felt like that one time she’d sat on a massage chair, except ten thousand times stronger. She could feel bones creaking, muscles tearing-

And then it was over. She was sprawled on her back on the ground, pain radiating out from her gut. Her Aura blazed, but all that power was useless when she couldn’t stand. Oh, and Blackbeard was raising his foot to stomp her.

Arm quivering, Yang held up her middle finger as a last act of defiance.

That was when an ambulatory tree crashed into Blackbeard, sharp-pointed branches lashing out and trying to stab him. Yang blinked at the sight, especially when the tree walked over to her in a wake of flowers. She recognized the face burned into the bark.

“Aramaki?” she croaked. “Aren’t you supposed to blockading the port?”

“Yeah,” he admitted. “But Maynard and Smoker can handle that, and I can’t let a beauty like you get roughed up like that.”

He held out his hand, a blushing Yang taking it. That sufficed to get her back on her feet, but she immediately staggered, her legs like jelly.

“Hmm. Yeah, that’s a problem,” Aramaki mused. “Hang on, lemme try something.”

A couple branches moved out, before stabbing into her arms. Warmth flowed into her, warmth that transformed into strength.

“Thought that would work,” Aramaki cheerfully said. “Now, you’ll still need a medic after this, but that should-!”

“Hey, Navy man!” Blackbeard shouted. “Butt out! This is a fight between ideals! Don’t get in the way!”

“Sorry, man, but I can’t do that,” Aramaki replied. Yang watched him continue to try to grab or stab Blackbeard – the branches kept getting sucked up by Blackbeard’s black voids. Short version: he wasn’t getting anywhere. But he was distracting Blackbeard real well. The blonde stacked her fists over each other-

And then had to abort the attack when Blackbeard summoned an enormous sucking vortex, bigger than anything she’d ever seen. Buildings, rubble, Aramaki’s vines – all threatened to be sucked in. Yang herself only avoided that fate by being able to brace herself behind Aramaki, who had rooted himself to the ground. Dammit, this was why they’d planned to rely on speed against Blackbeard, so he couldn’t pull a big move like this!

“Give it up, pirate!” Aramaki barked. “You’d need to level the entire island to uproot me now!”

“And we can’t have that, zehaha! I still need a town afterward!” Blackbeard crowed, lifting his other hand oh sh*t! “But who said my plan was to suck you in?”

Earthquake energy lashed out, splitting the earth, Aramaki, the sky, the sea, and one of the Marine ships that had been unlucky enough to be in its way. Sundered, edges glowing with black Aura, Aramaki collapsed in an unmoving heap. And yet, from one of the flowers dug into the ground, he rose, uninjured.

Unfortunately for him, Blackbeard used the time to get up in his strike zone and punch him clean off his feet. One burst of earthquake energy later, and Aramaki arced into the sky, clearly set to land miles away and thus become irrelevant to the battle.

And that was when Yang struck.

“Six Dragons Cannon!” she roared, slamming her fists into Blackbeard’s side and expelling her full charge in a burst of Internal Destruction. On impact, Blackbeard… rippled. There was no other way to describe it. Waves rose on his flesh, culminating in him spitting out a gallon of blood and staggering back on his feet. Astoundingly, he remained standing and clearly in fighting trim. Yang was not – that attack had expended all of her boost from Aramaki, leaving her to collapse to her knees.

Never in her life had she been more happy to see Weiss, who dove in and stabbed Blackbeard in the shoulder.

~o~

Once again, the room was silent, but this time in awe. The battle described was truly a clash of the titans, one that showed just how powerful Blackbeard, Aramaki, and Team RWBY all were.

“That… was… AWESOME!” Nora screamed. “The teamwork! His void tricks! That Aramaki turning into a fighting tree! The Six Dragons Cannon!”

“Oh, it’s a great move,” Yang preened. “Suuuuper destructive.”

“What a monster,” Taiyang breathed, slumping back in his seat. “I can’t believe you fought him alone, Yang.”

The blonde sobered up at those words. “Yeah, it was dicey. If Weiss had shown up five seconds later, I probably wouldn’t be here talking to you guys.”

~o~

“What’s the plan?” Ruby heard Weiss shout as they sprinted after the Wyvern, bounding over the intact rooftops. It didn’t seem to have a breath weapon, thank the Brother Gods, but the Grimm it was spawning in its wake were almost as bad.

“We need to get it to the ground!” Ruby shouted back. “It’s too hard to attack otherwise! Weiss, we’re going to need you to take care of the Grimm on the ground!”

“I’m on it!” Blake declared. Leaping up, she bounded off a building, then off a few puffs of Moonwalk to get her higher. One more jump aimed her at one of the Wyvern’s wings, summoning four clones as she went.

“Four-Clone Stri-!”

As if it had eyes on the back of its head, the Wyvern whirled around, wings smacking Blake and her clones before she could react. Ruby grimaced. Of course it couldn’t be that easy.

Feeling in her Observation that Blake was fine, and also Weiss going to town on the ground-based Grimm, Ruby wracked her brains for a plan. With her speed, she could probably outspeed any retaliation, but she just couldn’t cut as well as Blake. Good odds she wouldn’t be able to cut through one of the arm-wings.

Still, she needed to think of something fast. The Wyvern was getting dangerously close to the harbor. Though… there was a silver lining to that.

On a billowing plume of smoke, Vice-Admiral Smoker rocketed up, Vice-Admiral Maynard slung under him. With a roar of exertion, he heaved his fellow officer straight at the Wyvern, Maynard’s black fists impacting the Wyvern straight on the nose.

The Grimm reared back, shrieking, and that was when Blake reappeared in the air, four clones up. This time, the attack landed.

“Four Clones Strike: Hazy Cross!”

All four clones struck at the same spot on the wing joint. Individually, they probably wouldn’t have been able to do much damage. Blake’s new sword techniques boosted her attack power, but not by that much. But for strikes at the same spot?

The Wyvern’s wing came clean off, the Grimm shrieking.

That was Ruby’s cue to strike. She too leapt off a building, but did so as a stream of rose petals, petals that passed through the membrane of the wing before resolving into her in the air above. Pushing off the air, she once again blurred out of sight, this time driving Crescent Rose through the wing joint. As expected, she didn’t go clean through it like Blake – but it was bent, gouged, and crooked, and coupled with the imbalance from only one wing, and the destroyed membrane, the Wyvern hit the ground, hard.

Ruby landed safely a few seconds later, warily eyeing the Grimm.

It was then that the sound of clashing steel drew her attention. Turning, keeping one eye on the Grimm (which was getting up, having shrugged off the high-speed impact like it had just belly-flopped onto bed) she saw Maynard and Smoker on the ground, bleeding, while Weiss fenced with… empty air? Her mind flashed back to the briefing. sh*t! That had to be Shiryuu of the Rain!

The clatter of rubble brought her attention back to the Wyvern. It was getting up, eyeing not her, not even the downed Marine officers, but the crowds she could faintly hear at the waterfront. No. Absolutely not!

“Blake, Weiss!” she barked, firing a few rounds into the Wyvern as it stood. No effect. Of course not. “Castling!”

A fiery glyph bloomed in front of Weiss, footprints appearing in the ground as Shiryuu backpedaled. In this opening, Weiss darted away – and Blake darted in, sword unerringly aiming for Shiryuu.

“I can hear you, asshole!” she roared as clones formed from her to flank the enemy swordsman.

Satisfied that part of the battle was in hand, Ruby turned to the Wyvern. It was lashing out, its movements and more summoned Grimm keeping Weiss on the back foot. Activating her Semblance, Ruby rushed in, two strikes with Crescent Rose deflecting a bite and a claw swipe with its good arm, her rose petals continuing on to shred the lesser Grimm being summoned.

That only bought a bare second before the Wyvern moved to attack again. But it had only just opened its jaws when a rock fell out of the sky and slammed into its back, pinning it in place and prompting a pained shriek.

Ruby blinked. ‘D-Did that just happen?’

Weiss picked that moment to Shave into striking distance, stabbing the Wyvern deep in the neck.

The resulting explosion of Aura carved out a huge chunk of the inky blackness that formed the Grimm. The Wyvern shrieked, recoiling away, but it wasn’t fast enough. Weiss blurred out of sight again, reappearing over the draconic Grimm, and stabbed into its neck again. Another explosion of Aura burst into the beast, darn near severing the neck entirely.

That job was for Ruby, who sprinted in past the minor Grimm appearing out of its bleeding ichor and swung Crescent Rose up to cleanly sever its head.

That, as it turned out, was too much for the Grimm. It began to dissolve into the usual black smoke, though Ruby still kept Crescent Rose aimed at it, just in case.

“Thank God that’s done with. Where did he even find this thing?” Weiss wondered, panting lightly.

“I have no idea,” Ruby said, shaking her head. This was not the time to worry about her home, especially now that the Grimm’s death had cleared up everyone’s Observation. “We should go help-“

The reaper turned around to see Blake standing over a vanquished, bleeding, and very visible Shiryuu.

“Never mind, she’s got it,” Ruby said. “We should help Smoker and Maynard-“

“Ah, I recommend you girls get back to Blackbeard,” came the voice of Kizaru from a Transponder Snail on Smoker’s belt. “Aramaki won’t- oh, there he goes! That’s some mighty impressive distance!”

Several things hit Ruby’s senses all at once. First, a voice she did indeed recognize as Aramaki soaring overhead. Second, Yang’s Aura, guttering like a candle in the wind right next to Blackbeard’s yawning void. Third, as Weiss took off in that direction, Smoker shakily getting up on his elbows.

“Go! We’ll survive,” he growled. “Take down Blackbeard!”

Closing her eyes, Ruby took all her bad feelings, and shoved them in a box to be examined later. She needed to focus. Their battle wasn’t over.

When she opened her eyes again, it was to Blake giving her a concerned look. “You back with us?” she asked.

“Yeah,” she said, hefting Crescent Rose. “Let’s go.”

And with that, the two rushed to rejoin the fight.

Ruby, of course, arrived first, just in time to see Weiss stab Blackbeard and shred his shoulder. Yang was sprawled on the ground, struggling to stand, and though the reaper was of course happy to see her alive she also seethed at the damage she’d taken. She tensed her legs to jump back into the fight-

And then it all went wrong.

Blackbeard, despite what must have been excruciating pain, reached up with his bad arm and grabbed Weiss by her sword arm. Wrenching her out, he slammed his other fist, bristling with earthquake energy, into her right side.

As Ruby launched herself at Blackbeard, the snapping of bone was clearly audible.

What felt like an eternity ago, during that awesome foodfight in the Beacon cafeteria, Ruby had used her Semblance to rush past the whole room and lift up everyone and everything in its wake. She hadn’t used it since; it was a little too indiscriminate, and at the time she hadn’t thought of a way to really make it damaging.

That was before Garp’s training.

This time, when Ruby launched herself at Blackbeard with all the force her Semblance could muster, the resulting wind was concentrated into an air hammer about six feet wide that, even catching Blackbeard by its edge, hit like Garp going all-out. The passing slash with Crescent Rose added further injury. But, when Ruby came to a halt and swung Crescent Rose around, she found Blackbeard standing, and worse, reacting. A Black Hole met Crescent Rose’s blade, promptly wrenching it out of a surprised Ruby’s hands and into the void.

The end result was that Blackbeard, despite wetly wheezing, despite one arm being only half-functional, was now looming over her in melee range, and Ruby with no weapon. For all that she’d developed some level of hand-to-hand skill, Ruby was no match for Blackbeard in a fistfight and she knew it.

So she’d never been more happy in her life to see Blake leap in.

~o~

Once again, the narrative pause was welcome. Everyone needed to catch their breath after that.

“So, invisible swordsman,” Jaune remarked. “That sounds like a nightmare.”

“Yeah, we weren’t expecting him, and with the Wyvern right there it was drowning out Observation,” Ruby said. “And the Wyvern was really tanky, too.”

“But Friend Ruby, from your description he was only invisible in the visible light spectrum,” Penny said, head tilted in confusion. “Why could you not simply see his infrared signature?”

There was a longer, more awkward pause.

“Penny…” Pyrrha said, very kindly. “Organic people can’t see in infrared.”

“Ohhhhh…” Penny said sagely. “Suddenly many things make much more sense.”

“We are perhaps straying from the topic of importance,” Winter interjected. “Weiss, are you-“

“Fit as a fiddle, Winter, don’t worry,” Weiss replied. “It was not a fun experience, but I have not suffered any permanent damage. Quite the contrary, in fact.

~o~

Weiss’ world was pain. She’d thought, back on Skypiea, that getting fried by Enel would be the worst she’d ever feel, and credit to the mad Logia user, it was a very close second. But the electrical burns and minor nerve damage hadn’t made it painful to breathe. Every breath scraped her shattered ribs raw, and she could feel fluid building up in the nearest lung.

Still, adrenaline, the first scraps of fresh Aura, and indomitable will allowed her to push past the pain, and take in the battlefield from her vantage point embedded in a large rock. This was just in time for her to see Blake, flanked by three clones, launch her Hazy Cross attack on Blackbeard. Blood gushed from deep wounds – it seemed Blackbeard’s Aura was spent – but the pirate stayed upright, Blake only avoiding getting sucked back into melee range by a weapon-less Ruby stabbing him with a Finger Pistol.

And really, a weaponless Ruby just summed up how sideways the situation had gotten.

Slowly turning her neck, Weiss searched for Yang, finding her just staggering to her feet. The heiress winced; Observation told her that Yang was basically spent, her Aura down to the dregs and pain clouding her thoughts. ‘Don’t do it,’ she mentally pleaded as Yang shuffled over to where Blackbeard was fending off Ruby and Blake.

And doing a frighteningly good job of it, too. He was using his darkness full-time, slowing both Huntresses down with sucking singularities in the air and on the ground. They were doing a good job staying ahead of his actual attacks, but it was clear that the minute either slipped up it was going to be painful.

Were Yang healthy, or even just charged up, that would have been a fatal mistake. But the blonde’s feeble punch just saw her get idly kicked away by Blackbeard. Frighteningly, she coughed up blood on hitting the ground.

The full-body flinch from both Blake and Ruby was enough for the pirate to hit them with a wide blast of earthquake energy.

It almost didn’t matter that Weiss could feel that both of them were alright. Blackbeard took the opportunity, with the two recovering, to charge his Quake-Quake powers higher, and higher. Weiss couldn’t hear his ranting, but the plan was obvious:

Sink the whole island out of pure spite.

And there was nothing they could do.

Well. There was one thing they could do. One thing that Weiss had never, ever been able to pull off.

‘But I- we have no choice.’

Shakily raising her good arm – her sword arm – Weiss fought to concentrate past the blinding pain. Concentrate not just on the familiar movement of Aura, but also on her sister’s words from so long ago.

‘Your summoned foe must be one that has pushed you past what you were, and to who you are now.’

And with those words in mind, there was only one foe she could summon. One foe that was going to appear, damn all her failures in the past!

Were her lungs in the shape for it, Weiss would have roared. At least the wheezing hiss she managed to produce sounded angry. A snowflake-shaped portal opened in the air, snow-white arm passing through, sword in hand. Weiss had gotten this far before. But always she’d been missing something. It hadn’t made sense. She’d poured her determination, her will into the summon.

And it was at this moment that clarity struck. It wasn’t just determination she’d felt that battle. It’d also been fear, and desperation. It had been her last chance to get out from under her father’s thumb, and a foe she wasn’t sure she could’ve beaten. And now, for the first time, she felt that fear, that desperation again. She poured those feelings into her Aura.

And out stepped the spectral form of the Arma Gigas she’d fought.

It loomed over Blackbeard, who seemed stunned to be seeing it. That gave it time to raise its massive sword like an executioner’s blade, and bring it down, tip-first, into the pirate’s torso.

That was all Weiss saw, because immediately after the strain became too much and she passed out.

~o~

“Oh, Weiss,” Winter and Ruby said in unison, the latter also leaning in to hug her.

“Don’t worry, both of you,” she said softly. “Those days are over now. I’m just happy I can perform the summons, now.”

~o~

Blake ached. The kind of ache of overdoing it on her workout. Still, she was at least still combat-capable, which was more than could be said for Yang, Weiss, and to a lesser extent Ruby. She’d been all set to rush and try to kill that bastard before he could destroy the island. But she wasn’t so set that she couldn’t appreciate Weiss swooping in with (presumably) her first Summon.

“Blake! He’s still alive!”

Eyes widening, Blake jogged up. Sure enough, despite the six-foot stab wound that covered almost his entire torso, Blackbeard was still breathing, albeit barely. And this after everything else they’d done to him. His endurance was astounding.

But he’d also clearly reached the limits of it. His eyes were glassy, and his wheezing gasps were steadily weakening. Left like this, he’d probably bleed out pretty soon. Probably. It wasn’t a chance she was keen on taking.

Drawing Gambol Shroud, Blake walked up to his head, raising the blade.

“Are you sure it has to be you?”

Blake paused, looking over her shoulder at Ruby. Her leader looked… resigned. It wasn’t a look she liked on the girl. At the same time…

“Are you volunteering?” she asked, getting a flinch. “Look, I’m h- willing to do this. And I know how hard this has to be as it is.”

Stricken, Ruby looked at Blackbeard, then back to Blake. “N-No, I should do it,” she said, holding out her hand.

Wordlessly, Blake handed over Gambol Shroud. Ruby trudged over, pausing. Some words passed between her and Blackbeard, though even with her ears the Faunus couldn’t make them out. After a few sentences, Ruby brought the sword up, and swung down, neatly separating Blackbeard’s head from his shoulders.

It was an anticlimactic end to the battle, and Ruby would need help to unpack it later, but it was over.

“Oh no, Weiss!” Ruby immediately shouted. “Check on Yang, I gotta go find her!”

Ruby zoomed off almost before she’d finished speaking. Blake shook her head. Leave it to Ruby to distract herself like that. She walked over to where Yang was lying face-first on the ground in a crumpled heap. The Faunus knelt down next to her partner, lifting up her head. Good. Conscious and lucid.

“Hey, Blake,” Yang weakly said. “So, we won?”

“Yeah, we did,” Blake said, probing the blonde’s spine. “On a scale of one to ten, how much does it hurt?”

“Seven. Maybe an eight,” Yang reported, wincing at some of Blake’s touches. “He got me with one of those earthquake punches right in the gut, definitely broke something squishy there. And the normal hits weren’t exactly fun, either. Guy hits like a train.”

Satisfied that Yang didn’t have any serious spinal injuries, Blake carefully flipped her over, nonetheless eliciting a groan of pain. It was easy to see why: her partner’s gut was one giant bruise. Internal injuries, for sure, and serious ones.

“’M not feeling blood loss, if that’s what you’re wondering,” Yang chimed in. “Not yet, anyway.”

Ruby suddenly reappeared, a welcome distraction.

“Okay, just letting you know that I’m gonna go run to get some Marine medics here, because Weiss’ entire right side is a china shop post-bull and she’s unconscious and I can’t wake her up.”

As suddenly as she’d arrived, Ruby was gone again.

“Yaaaaay, medical help…” Yang cheered.

Blake sighed. A talk was going to have to wait.

~o~

“Dare I ask what Blackbeard said to you?” Ren remarked.

“It’s a secret, sorry,” Ruby said, a little melancholy.

There was a pause, before Taiyang said, “Ruby, are you-?”

“Don’t worry, Dad, I’ve processed it,” Ruby replied, a sad smile on her face. “I don’t like it, don’t think I ever will, but I’ve come to terms with that… kill.”

Taiyang nodded solemnly at that.

~o~

The sun was setting by the time Blake and Ruby, exhausted and hungry, staggered back onto Alacrity. Yang and Weiss were in the capable hands of the Marine surgeons, and they had been reassured that with their Aura they would make a full, if lengthy, recovery. Now, all the pair wanted to do was eat something, and then collapse into bed. By unspoken agreement, any talk about Ruby’s first kill could wait until they felt human again.

Once on board, both headed for the pantry, Blake grabbing one of several dried herrings and Ruby grabbing a strange fruit with a swirly pattern on it. Had she been more awake she would have tried to stop Ruby from eating it, but as it was her eyes slid off the pattern entirely without registering the sight.

So she simply grabbed her fish, flopped onto one of the dining room chairs, and had just taken her second bite when her ears were assaulted by a scream of “AUGH, WHY!”

Blake whirled around, hand darting to Gambol Shroud, but there was no enemy. Just a decidedly green Ruby, with her hands over her mouth, and that weird fruit on the floor. With a bite taken out of it.

“What happened? Is the fruit poisonous?” she asked urgently.

“N-No, it just tastes… really, really bad,” Ruby wheezed. “Like someone mixed together pig sh*t, rotten onions, and turpentine, and then garnished it with a really well-used gym sock.” A pause. “Uh, please don’t tell Yang I used the word ‘sh*t’.”

“I should probably be telling you to spit up whatever you swallowed, but I’m too f*cking zonked to deal with this,” Blake said, staggering out of the kitchen. “I’m going to bed. Try not to die.”

“Don’t worry, I feel fine now that I don’t have to taste it. Though… that’s weird…”

Ruby trailed off, and Blake turned around in time to get her second shock of the night: tumbling out of a black portal was Crescent Rose.

“My baby!” Ruby wailed, hugging the gun-scythe, and it was at that point that Blake’s brain packed its bags and bought a ticket direct to the Land of Sensible Dilemmas. The rest of her, bereft of rational thought, decided that sleep was the only sane response, and so Blake simply staggered to her bunk and flopped down onto it, not even bothering to change.

~o~

“Ohhhhhh, so that’s how you got it…”

~o~

Blake speared a chunk of pancake on her fork, slowly moved it up to her mouth, and chewed, her eyes never breaking off of Ruby. The reaper fidgeted under the intense gaze, unable to meet it.

“So,” Blake said, with all the finality of a gunshot to the head. “You’ve got Blackbeard’s powers now.”

Wordlessly, Ruby held up a finger. A small spot of darkness appeared above it. Still not looking at Blake, she pointed it at her plate, where it hoovered up some syrup.

“Right.” Blake took another bite, and then viciously stabbed her fork into the pancake before throwing up her hands. “How?!”

“I think that weird fruit I ate last night was the Dark-Dark Fruit?” Ruby asked more than said.

“Again: how?!”

Ruby shrugged. “I’unno. The Marines probably do, though, we can ask when we go see Weiss and Yang today.”

“And how are we going to do that without giving away that you ate the damn thing?” Blake asked.

Left unspoken was that of course they weren’t going to reveal that. Blake had her own reasons for the secrecy, and she suspected Ruby shared them.

“I’m sure we’ll get an opportunity to ask,” Ruby said cheerfully.

Privately, Blake disagreed, but from that line Ruby wasn’t just going to ask willy-nilly. Good enough.

“And don’t think this’ll get you out of a talk about killing Blackbeard, young lady,” she added, punctuating the statement with jabs of her fork. “Take it from someone who’s been there: repressing just makes things worse!”

“I know, I know…” Ruby sighed.

~o~

“- and we got the Quake-Quake Fruit, too! Just popped up in the galley of the Majestic! Heh, we’re lucky no one ate it before the cooks noticed.”

“Wait, wait, hold on,” Blake interjected. “It just appeared?”

“Yeah, didn’t you know?” the sailor leading them to the medical quarters said. “User dies, and the Fruit reincarnates somewhere else, taking over normal fruit.”

“Huh. And this ‘somewhere else’ can be anywhere in the world?” Ruby asked, getting a nod. “Wow, you guys are really lucky!”

“Yup! Sure wish we could’ve gotten this lucky with the Dark-Dark fruit, though. The brass really, really want that Fruit under control, especially with these damn portals still popping up.” They passed through a door, and emerged into a massive sickbay, lined with beds full of bandaged Marines. Despite being inside the hull, the room was well-ventilated, if smelling strongly of disinfectant. A nurse, who despite her crisp white uniform looked like she’d throw down with the Fleet Admiral if she had to, walked up to them, clipboard in hand.

“Ruby Rose and Blake Belladonna?” she asked.

“That’s us!” Ruby said cheerfully.

“Alright, follow me,” the nurse said, their escort taking the opportunity to make himself scarce. “We’ve got them a private cabin, otherwise they’d be swarmed right now. Everyone’s talking about that takedown you guys pulled off.”

“How are they doing, by the way?” Blake asked as they started walking.

“Well, your description of Miss Schnee as ‘china shop post-bull’ was quite accurate, Miss Rose,” the nurse reported. “Her arm and ribcage were both in pieces, and were a significant challenge to set properly. As for your sister, her internal injuries were serious but not overmuch an issue to treat. I will say, though, your use of Armament Haki in self-healing has been a major boon. Both would be looking at months of recovery time without it.”

Blake and Ruby grimly took that in. They walked in silence past the beds – the former steadfastly ignoring the cheering from the bedridden Marines and the latter giving them a wave of acknowledgement – before reaching a door set in the wall. The nurse swung it open, where they were immediately met by Yang, thankfully wearing a simple shirt and pants instead of one of those awful hospital gowns.

“Hey guys!” Yang said, which was as far as she got before the nurse grabbed her by the upper arm and started dragging her back to her bed.

“Miss Xiao Long, I don’t care how well you say you feel, you will park your ass in that bed until we say otherwise!” she ranted on the way. Ruby and Blake followed her in, finding Weiss calmly in her bed, her arm held up in a cast.

“This happen often?” Blake drawled.

“Third time since she woke up this morning,” Weiss sighed. “It’s entertaining, at least.”

Turning, both Huntresses watched Yang get manhandled back into bed. That done, the nurse turned to them and said, “Now, the visiting hour is just that: an hour! I don’t want you staying any longer than that! Am I clear?”

“Clear as crystal, ma’am!” Ruby declared.

Nodding in satisfaction, the nurse swept out. Blake’s ears swiveled, tracking her departure, and once she couldn’t hear her she quickly checked her Observation.

“We’re clean,” she reported. “No eavesdroppers, and no Transponder Snails listening in. I don’t think they’ll have anything electronic.”

“Good enough,” Ruby said, suddenly dead serious.

This change in demeanor did not escape either of their other teammates. After a look at each other, they both gave Ruby concerned looks.

“What’s going on, Rubes?” Yang asked.

In a wordless answer, Ruby reached behind her back and unfolded Crescent Rose. Though Weiss just looked confused, Yang hissed in a shocked breath. Then Ruby summoned up another ball of darkness, and there went the heiress’ confusion.

“That’s-!” Weiss hissed, getting a nod. “How-?”

“Apparently,” Blake drawled, “Devil Fruits reincarnate when the user dies, on a suitable normal fruit.”

Yang and Weiss both gaped, open-mouthed, at that answer, before the blonde threw up her hands.

“This f*cking world, every time I think we’ve got a handle on it!”

“And you just… ate it?” Weiss demanded.

“Hey, I didn’t know it was a Devil Fruit! And besides, I only ate a bit of it!”

“We’re getting a bit off topic,” Blake interjected. “We brought this up because we need to keep this a secret from the Marines.”

That got nods from the two injured. After Mariejois, and Ace’s execution… Yeah, none of them were keen on letting the Government have the Dark-Dark Fruit’s ability to control Grimm.

Control Grimm…

A smile bloomed on Yang’s face. It was a decidedly mischievous smile. She opened her mouth-

“No, I’m not going to make a dance video with Beowolves,” Ruby deadpanned.

And then closed it into a pout.

~o~

“Awwww, I wanted to see that,” Nora groaned.

“Pardon me, Friend Blake, but I must have misheard,” Penny sweetly interjected. “Did you say that Devil Fruits reincarnate?”

“Yup. They do,” the Faunus answered.

Hiccupping, Penny stood. “Excuse me one moment.”

Everyone watched as she walked out into the hall, just as everyone flinched at the distorted electronic shriek that sounded out a second later.

“I think that’s a good place to stop things,” Ruby said hastily. “Good night, everyone!”

Into The Great Wide Open - Chapter 36 - CV12Hornet (2024)

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