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Fandom Grimm Tale - A RWBY Quest


"Wait and Hope"
Grimm Tale
Chapter IV - Duel <Dua.Nulo>
Voting Thread



"Haaaaah. Haaaaah."

The pants of a wild beast echo in the silence of the night. No, to be more accurate - those shallow breaths belong to you. Your grip tightens on the handle of your blade - a large weapon formed from the very same bones that adorn your stained black body. A slight, red glow tinges the edges of your vision as you stare straight ahead at the slowly approaching figure. A mechanical soldier. Ordinarily, something like that would have been no problem. You take a step forward, hoping to use your enhanced speed to launch a counter attack. The distance between the two of you close as it maintains its measured speed and you kick off the surface to build up momentum for your head-on strike. Both hands fly to the two-hander you wield as you quickly bring it down in a diagonal slash - you're well aware of the reach of your weapon.

Your blade meets unexpected resistance and your assault is immediately halted. Your attention is directed to your enemy's armament - a mechanical spear. Possessing a silver blade and a matte black finish, the spear's polished and sleek appearance is a far cry from the rough styling of your weapon. You lock gazes with the machine for a moment - your lupine mask against its scorpionlike mask. Or, in more accurate terms: a clash between a Beowolf and a Deathstalker. That moment ends abruptly as you feel a hard impact against your mask that sends you reeling backwards. As you attempt to regain your senses, you can hear the faint whirring of intricate mechanisms. Pneumatic or hydraulic? This time, your foe charges forth with a calculated confidence. You snap out of that brief fugue just in time to avoid what would have been a devastating thrust from the polearm. Though you prepare to counterattack, you find yourself instead being forced to bring your sword up to block another thrust with its flat-side. The impact is enough to force you to take a step back as the artificial being switches to a slash without missing a beat. It's enough to catch you off guard as you attempt to bring your sword up to block...

"G-Guh!" You grunt in pain as you feel the cold blade bite into your body - marring your armor and unleashing a torrent of black smoke from the wound. Pain lances through your chest as it presses the advantage. Though you rally strength once more to fight through the pain, you end up barely blocking a leaping thrust. Another step back. Your mechanized counterpart suddenly goes low and attempts to sweep your legs - you barely have enough time to leap. But something like that was anticipated - it plants the glaive's blade into the rooftop and spins around it to deliver a downward kick that propels you into the ground. Your back aches as you grit your teeth under the mask and roll backwards in time to avoid what would have been a lethal thrust. Its blade remains lodged there - but you find yourself unable to take advantage of that brief opening. Instead, you force yourself to another side of the rooftop. At the very least, you had managed to remain aware of the limited space.

You cough out a black ichor from under your mask as your mechanical foe pulls out the spear from the crater with little effort. It's finally occurred to you that your speed has been effectively countered - while it isn't as fast as you are, its strikes are nonetheless precise and quick enough to pierce you no matter where you manage to reposition yourself. You can't help but shiver slightly as the pain in your chest takes a backseat to the instinctual fear that is flooding your mind. Just when you thought you had finally managed to get a good grip on your own powers, you're met with something who excels with those very same abilities.

The enemy takes a stance - almost exaggerated and practically telling you that it'll be rushing you down with a straight thrust. A crackling noise drowns out your own panting as yellow energy begins to arc off it. It lights up a detail of the blade that you hadn't seen in the darkness - lines like circuitry running down the length of the spear's blade. You're familiar with this phenomenon - a single strike capable of rending even the toughest armor and something that could easily be called a "sure-kill technique". While visually distinct, it's something you're also capable of performing: a Grimm End. Frankly, you're not that good when it comes to names. You find yourself lost in thoughts...


Your name is Niles Xenos, a first-year student at the academy-city of Arcadia. More specifically, you're a first-year student enrolled in Arcadia's Huntsmen Program. Those who fight against the beasts of destruction, the Grimm, and keep the peace of Remnant. In spite of your initial lack of skills and the debilitating handicap as a result of your... unique circumstances, you were admitted into Arcadia without any questions and found yourself assigned to Team MGNO (Magnolia). Though you've had your ups and downs with your teammates within the first few months of your new life at Arcadia, you've nonetheless managed to accomplish much more than you would have honestly expected.

Furthermore, you've managed to gain control of your strange, savage powers. Grimm Awakening, the ability to transform into a warrior that draws upon the very enemies of the Huntsmen themselves. Through the manifestation of masks, you've acquired two forms: one that draws on the speed of a Beowolf and another blessed with the incredible durability of a Goliath. Though you were initially plagued with destructive impulses that threatened the very safety of your partner, you've managed to draw upon the willpower needed to wield this double-edged sword.

One thing lead to another and you found yourself facing down this mechanical being. Though you initially overwhelmed it with the power of Grimm Awakening, you quickly found yourself outmatched when it revealed that it too possessed a similar ability: Grimm Initialization. At least, based on its vocal evocation of the ability.

"Charging complete. It seems my concerns were unfounded. Your termination shall be swift Nicht. The results of those atrocities and the dark history of that project shall come to an end tonight." Its cold, processed voice is one devoid of emotions. Its words confuse you momentarily, along with its constant use of that designation. Could it perhaps be linked to your own, unknown origins? No, this is no time for speculation. You're about to meet the business end of its spear. Its feet leave the ground as it rushes towards you...!

Combat Phase Death approaches. Survive your enemy's finishing blow!
1. Put trust into your speed and attempt to dodge the fatal blow.
2. Draw upon your remaining strength and meet your foe's attack in kind: Grimm End.

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Merchant of Death, Quest Log Fanatic
(Don't know anything about RWBY, but your superb writing has convinced me to give this Quest a chance. Hopefully it is not too late)

Option two just seems like mutually assured destruction to me, so let's save our strength and dodge the blow.



"Wait and Hope"
Your body tenses up as your instincts howl at the back of your mind. But, even when faced with the prospect of sudden death, your self-preservation skills force you to bring your weapon up. The red lines that run down your transformed body glow brightly for a moment as strength surges into your arms - and continue on into your blade. The air around the blade crackles with energy as smaller, more natural lines that would otherwise be invisible are filled with that dark red light. All of this happens within the span of a second - but the world around you seems to slow. Your enemy is only a moment away - the yellow glow reflecting against its mask's metallic surface. If you're going to die, you're going to struggle till the very end. You accelerate, one foot forward and your body twists. You throw your entire existence into this one swing. Your red eyes lock gazes with your fated enemy's yellow optics as two opposing forces collide...!


You awaken in an unfamiliar place - your body is prone and you're enveloped in warmth. Gazing about, you pull the thick bedsheets off your small body and take in the features of the room. It's a far cry from the featureless white walls that have been all you've known and the bed's softness, while comforting, manages to unnerve you slightly. Apart from your memories of that room, you can't quite recall the sequence of events that brought you here...

The door to the room opens - though it swings open rather than sliding. You feel as if every hair on your body is standing on end as your curl-up defensively and prepare for the worst. The opening of the door fills you with dread for whatever reason. A tall woman steps into the room - long hair as red as the morning sky and a soft, pillowy chest. For a moment, you stare her down and she does the same. Something within you is warning you of imminent danger - but she merely folds her arms and smiles softly as you pull the sheets up over your knees.

"...Erm, morning kiddo."

You continue watching her carefully.

"I'm... well... urk. Man, this is kinda hard..." She mutters something under her breath as her posture shifts - you recoil as she brings a hand to her chin. You gaze around the room, spotting a nearby window as a possible escape route. She seems lost in her thoughts - you'd probably be able to reach the window if you move right now. But a certain noise breaks her concentration. A low growl - from your own stomach. It's only now that the pangs of hunger make themselves apparent within you.

"...Breakfast! Right, let's do that! Come on, I can probably cook something edible if I put my mind to it."

You cough as the lingering memory of a horrible breakfast fades from your mouth. You're certain that you dreamed something - but you can't quite recall what you saw within the theater of the mind. The events of last night come back suddenly - along with a surge of pain and soreness across the entirety of your body. You gaze around - dirty brick walls, a stray cat, unused fire escapes, and a dumpster next to you. It seems that you've also de-transformed - though your clothes have been roughed up. A typical alleyway on a foggy morning - perhaps it had rained while you were unconscious? You manage to sit up against the nearby brick wall and wince in pain.

Alleyway Morning.jpg
Right, a clash of Grimm Ends. The resultant clash resulted in a volatile explosion - the sensation of air rushing past you and an invisible force catapulting you into the night sky as the air explodes is definitely something you hope to never experience again. The explosion engulfed your enemy, but you're certain that it's still out there. You were far weaker, but even you managed to survive something like that. Upon colliding with the alley wall, your body landed on the empty dumpster's lid and rolled off - after that your memories end. The cat minds its own business as you attempt to stand. But the weakness in your legs turn them into jelly as you crumple onto your knees. You escaped with your life, but you can't find any joy in that. It was a one-sided beatdown. All the progress you've made - it had all been for naught against that thing. Fear wells up inside you - could it perhaps still be hunting you down? The building was pretty tall and you were blownback a fair distance but that artificial soldier seemed like a persistent hunter. Your mind lingers on some of the things it said.

"...Nicht, huh?" It sounded like an Atlesian word. It sounds vaguely familiar at any rate, but you have bigger concerns at the moment. As you place a hand on the dumpster to try and stand once more, you hear the sound of paws scurrying away and footsteps. Slow and deliberate, your other hand moves to your waist holster containing the Ocelot. Slowly, you lean forward just enough to poke an eye around the dumpster's corner. And you find yourself relieved as they come into view.

"...Ah, there you are Niles. Are you alright? I've been searching for you all morning." The soft voice of your visually-impaired friend calms your beating heart as he adjusts his spectacles and makes his way towards you. You can't help but break out into a grin as your savior, Ran, appears before you. Though the lingering worries are still present, you push them aside for the time being to address the Bat Faunus.

"I could be better. One rough night out on the town and I'm sleeping in an alley. I guess that's the full student experience, huh?" Keep the mood light and downplay the severity of the situation. He's not privy to your secret, but there's a good chance that he's at least aware of the reason you're here in the first place.

"Heh, I suppose it is. Can you stand?" You shake your head and he nods - the tall young man turns his back to you and kneels down. Honestly, the whole thing seems kind of embarrassing, but you really don't have any choices. And at least there won't be anyone around to see it. You wrap your arms loosely around his neck as he stands up - each hand under your thighs to support you as he carries you on your back.

"I'm really glad Marche isn't around to see this. I guess Pacifica told you what I was doing?" Ran nods as one hand moves to his pocket to retrieve his Scroll. He quickly pulls up the built-in GPS - you notice a custom marker bearing your symbol: a circle with a diagonal line running through it.

"Yes. Hazel contacted Pacifica and told her about the tracker in your Scroll - though, it seemed like it ran out of power at some point in the night so I had to comb the area. I feel that I must apologize for on my partner's behalf, Niles. It seems her requests were far more troublesome than they seemed."

"...It's fine, you don't need to. I owed her a favor or two and no one could have really seen... something like whatever happened last night happening. There were a lot more of those leftover AKs than I expected and this led to that... Well, the important part is that I survived and they're all scrap." Your voice wavers slightly as Ran continues his slow stroll through the abandoned residential district. It's not just the trauma from the ordeal; Ran isn't privy to your peculiar abilities. Although he's your best friend, you're still not sure how he'd react.

"...Mm, yes. We've missed morning classes, unfortunately. Are you sure that you're fine Niles?"

"Just peachy. Hang on, I think I should be able to walk now." By now, the soreness has already left your body. He sets you down and you slowly rise to your feet. You stumble on your first step but quickly recover - while your Aura is extraordinarily low, it seems that you're a quick healer. It could perhaps be tentatively attributed to your strange, inhuman abilities but that's the last thing you want to think about right now.

"Remarkable, you bounce back rather quickly Niles. In that case, it looks like I won't have to escort you to the hospital." He adjusts his glasses as you stretch your arms out. Your stomach growls in the midst of this, prompting Ran to speak up once more.

"Hmm, shall we grab something to eat then? It seems that there's no point in going to class and I suppose that you must be pretty hungry now."

Choices Grab something to eat with Ran?
1. Yes, you haven't had anything to eat. Some decompression with your friend should help with your frayed nerves.
2. No, you'd rather just ruminate about last night's events in the safety of your dorm room. At least, until you have to head out again for club activities.


"Wait and Hope"
"Mm, sounds like a plan. I can probably ask the others for notes later. Ran, did you have a place in mind?" You nod and smile, it's been a while since you've gotten to hang out with Ran - you recall that Team CHRM was gone last week on an away mission.

"I do, the Cooking Club opened up a new location. Apparently, it's fairly popular - though Pacifica had a reservation placed ahead of time... I believe she intended on asking someone to accompany her, but our schedule didn't allow for such an excursion. In any case, I'm looking forward to some high-quality Arcadian cuisine Niles. Oh, but I suppose that discussing last week's events is best left over some fine dining."

"Hmm, the Cooking Club? I guess they're sort-of our competitors so I can pass this off as researching the enemy if someone happens to see me or something. I'll warn you right now though Ran, don't expect the dessert to be on the same level as what we can whip up."

Your bragging brings a smile to the Bat Faunus's face as he pulls out his Scroll and accesses the GPS function. As you follow Ran through this abandoned part of Arcadia, you end up checking your own Scroll. Thankfully, it seems that the fall you took last night didn't crack the screen or anything - in spite of Arcadia's more amateur industry, it seems that their Scrolls are quite durable. It did, however, run out of power. That's likely due to your own negligence when it comes to charging your devices, however.


It doesn't take long for the two of you to end up back within the safer boundaries of Arcadia. Though you've acclimated well to the life of a student, the pseudo-Kingdom's rustic charms never cease to amaze you. You can't speak of Vacuo or Atlas, but cities like Vale and Mistral have been subject to increasing modernization. With CCTS, the exchange of ideas has never been so widespread and accessible. And perhaps, because of this, those kingdoms have begun to adopt a unified architecture with their spires of glass and steel. Mistral, at least, does cling to its more traditional organic architecture and preserves their more culturally relevant locations. Meanwhile, Vale's few remaining older buildings are practically replications of some past civilization's architecture - you think you might have read once that they had actually moved ruins into the Kingdom and then used them as a foundations for their earliest structures.

Perhaps it can be said that Arcadia is a product of the Great War - and the remnants of Mantle's vision. As Ran continues on at a steady pace, you glance around briefly. The stone-paved paths here aren't busy this time of the day and you rarely have a chance to visit this part of Arcadia. When a foreigner thinks of Arcadia, this area is probably the first thing that pops into their head. The shop fronts here are advertising some high-end merchandise, mostly crafted but some are clearly imported. The few vehicles here are brand new and sleek, their metal chassis sparkling in the sunlight. You're almost hesitant about your own scent after a night outside, but Ran assures you that you're quite alright. What makes this area truly iconic, however, are the unique canal system that is concentrated here - something you won't find anywhere else on Remnant. Like veins, these channels of water run through the city like rivers. Visitors and foreign dignitaries are oftentimes invited on small sightseeing boat rides as a result. And so, it has been informally referred to as "The Blue District" by Arcadians and tourists alike.

You definitely don't make enough Lien to even consider heading here for a weekend with your Team so something like this really is an experience to be cherished. Though, you can't help but feel a certain amount of regret that your first time is with your best friend rather than some cute girl. You bring a hand to your chin as you walk - at this point, you've become acquainted with quite a few girls. And, perhaps (un)forunately, you've also been assigned to a team with three girls. There are times, of course, when it does get somewhat awkward to be dorming with them - you briefly recall the steam-censored look at Lila's body before suddenly recoiling from the memory of her punch. Still, you can't really say you see any of them, let alone any other girl you know, as romantic interests. Not yet, at least. And at most, your experience with romance comes from a few translated manga that are about 25% comedy, 25% romance, and 75% melodrama. But you quickly push all these thoughts aside as you enter the restaurant with Ran.

It doesn't take long for the two of you to be seated and introduced to the menus - some fresh-baked bread is placed at the table with a large knife and what looks to be freshly-whipped butter. The water, however, is contained within large jugs at your table. The lighting is perhaps not as dramatic as it would be at night due to the natural sunlight flooding in, but the atmosphere maintains a certain sense of elegance between the dark wood and gold detailing that's uniform throughout the restaurant. The Cooking Club is definitely an economic powerhouse in Arcadia, and this high-end restaurant is probably the most overt symbol of their affluence.

"Interesting. Have you decided on your order yet Niles?" Ran briefly lowers the menu from his face - even with those glasses it seems that he's impossibly nearsighted. You've set the menu down on the table as you finish buttering up a fist-sized portion of the bread.

"This Cheesesteak Omelet sounds pretty good. I've sort of got a craving for meat right about now. You?"

"Nn, this so-called "quiche" looks good. I find that establishments like this tend to have food that looks quite like the prepared menu images. You get exactly what you order, I suppose."

"Hooh, you've been to places like this? Mistral, I'm guessing?"

"You're correct Niles, though the restaurants there were strictly Mistralian offerings. It was expected of our family to dine with Mis-" He pauses briefly - the pause is almost sort of awkward as you turn your attention back to your companion. Though, that silence disappears quickly as Ran motions towards the approaching server. And you're met with instant recognition when you catch a glimpse of the waiter's silver hair.

"My apologies for the wait dear patrons... Oh, Niles. What a pleasant surprise. Out with your friend then? I do hope you're not skipping classes." A slight smile appears on the man's face as he recognizes you. This is the last place you ever expected to run into Ray - moreso because it doesn't seem like Sonnet's anywhere to be found. You briefly introduce the older Huntsmen to Ran and vice-versa. Though Ray's not exactly the best at emoting, the mood nonetheless lightens when he drops his pretense of a sophisticated server with the two of you.

"You're really high-spec, huh Ray? To think that one-half of Arcadia's most famous Huntsmen pair was also part of the Cooking Club." You smirk as you heap praise on the upperclassman. He seems like a nice enough guy once you get to know him, even if he does seem slightly awkward at times. You also can't help but wonder if Sonnet has some sort of costume fetish - Ray sort of seems like the kind of guy who can wear anything.

"I appreciate the compliments, but I'm merely filling in for someone tonight. During my first-year, I worked on both the floor and the kitchen at another location, but with SMRK's current situation, I've been largely excused from my duties."

"Interesting. Perhaps you and Niles can exchange cooking tips then? I'm not sure if he's told you yet, but Niles is quite the pâtissière."

"Is that so? Well, perhaps we can discuss that later then Niles. Admittedly, I'm not well-versed with those sorts of dishes."

"Yeah, that sounds like a plan. I already handle a good chunk of the cooking for my team, and stew gets sort of bland after a while."

The two of you exchange numbers before Ray jots down your orders and heads back to the kitchen. You pour out a glass of water for yourself and Ran before splitting the remainder of the bread with him.

"So, what's been going on with you Ran? Didn't you have an away mission last week?"

"Oh, yes, that's correct. I wouldn't call it quite as difficult as the one your team was on Niles, but the locale was definitely a challenge. I don't want to seem predjudiced when I say this, but Vacuo is in rather dire straits. It's located in Sanus's desert region, as you know, and I dare say that it'd be a stretch to call it a Kingdom. Rather, Vacuo is more like a collection of innumerable settlements loosely united within a certain distance of Shade Academy. I suppose, it's like a larger Red-Light District of sorts as terrible as that sounds. Moving on, however, we were tasked with dealing with an infamous criminal ring, smuggling and trafficking Dust, that had finally gained enough notoriety to be targeted by the government. This was also a joint operation with Shade Academy students. Aside from us, Team ABRN was also assigned to the same mission. You should be acquainted with one of their members... erm..."

"...Oh, that Huntress girl from that time I had lunch with your team. The shortstack with a hothead, right? Man, I can't imagine how awkward that must have been."

"That matter's been resolved, one way or another I suppose. Rather than being eager to fight Cole, it seems that Miss Raspberyl has made a complete 180 - she's been fawning over our leader in her own, harsh way. I don't think it'd be inaccurate to call her a tsundere, as strange as that might be to hear. I did notice some tension between Cole and Team ABRN's leader, Azur. A difference in philosophies, I suppose? The students from Shade also looked down on us - it seems that they just generally view everyone who isn't from Vacuo as soft-bellied... is that the right word? In any case, we were met with clear condescension and derision from our would-be collaborators."

"I think, in general, Arcadia tends to generate that sort of response when we get sent out to intervene. It might be a case of national pride. No one wants to rely on a tiny island's Huntsmen if it means acknowledging aid from them. Though, I guess the top brass around here are pretty good with relations if they still manage to keep us on our toes with all these opportunities."

"That sounds quite accurate Niles. Continuing on, we spent the first few days simply patrolling around the city. I suppose that Cole was being considerate at one point, as he ended up pairing up with another girl on Team ABRN when Piper and Raspberyl simply wouldn't stop bickering over who got to head out with him. Then, the two of them promptly went missing for an entire day. When we finally found them, it seem that our targets had already been taken care of. When we asked the two of them, it seems that Miss Nieve had gotten kidnapped - Cole immediately went after them to save her and in the process managed to single-handedly shut down their hideout's operations. Of course, there was still clean-up to be done, but just that was enough to earn Shade Academy's respect."

"That sounds like an adventure. But, uh, you sound more like a side character Ran."

"Hehe, I suppose that's one way of putting it Niles. It can't be helped though, Cole can honestly be likened to a light novel protagonist. A skilled combatant with a strong drive and an affinity with women. With someone as charismatic as him, I suppose it's hard for others to not get sidelined. The rest of the mission was more of a vacation than anything - oh, I should have brought back a souvenir for you."

"Nah, it's cool Ran. Just being able to do stuff like this is pretty nice."

"Quite. Ah, there's Mr. Ray with our orders."

The rest of the brunch goes well with small-talk at that point simply shifting to the seasonal offerings of anime and some discussion of manga. The cheesesteak omelet is pretty delicious and you manage to finish it in one go. Ran, however, decides to take the leftovers back to the dorm. You spend the remainder of the time just sight-seeing and getting a general feel for the Blue District before the two of you split up to head to your respective shifts. Your shift at the Confectionary Club goes normally with Mr. Dearg chewing out your Faunus coworker with a profanity-laden tirade before moving on to the others for some minor mistakes with the sponge cakes they were handling.

Once that's done, you head straight back to the dorms to regroup with your team. Though initially fraught with some concern and anger, Hazel ultimately ends up embracing you as Ouka shyly joins in. Lila being Lila remains as aloof as ever, though you can't help but detect a sense of consideration even in that cold tone that only slightly thaws when she removes that mask. You also manage to secure the Atlesian's notes once more - just a quick scan shows that today's lecture was just a general overview of Vacuo. Nothing too significant, though she ends up snatching the notebook back when you catch a glimpse of some sketches of sorts.

Putting that aside, you end up on cooking duty with Ouka tonight. While you handle the dessert, Ouka handles the main dish. As partners on the battlefield and in the kitchen, you've more or less settled into certain, unspoken rhythm with the pale-skinned girl. Stew, as expected, though it's also accompanied by noodles and some imported ingredients from Mistral. Costly, perhaps, but you can't help but feel that Ouka's probably the most well-paid out of the four of you thanks to that position on the Arcadian Orchestra. You also make a mental note to ask about that later - it'd probably be nice to head to her first live performance as a team.

As you sit down to eat, however, you find yourself hesitant to discuss the events of the previous night. And it seems that Hazel's perhaps being considerate as she isn't drilling you about it. Neither is Lila, nor Ouka - though the shy girl seems as if she wants to say something. As you stare down into the bowl of homemade ramen, you come to an impasse. On one hand, you're part of a team now. But on the other, the Atlesian Automaton you faced seems to be linked to your own past. Not to mention just how dangerous it was; even if Hazel's the second rank when it comes to First-Year Huntsmen and both Ouka and Lila can definitely hold their own, there's still no telling just how much it's capable of. You're aware of how versatile your masks make you, so the though of basically better and more experienced version of you is incredibly terrifying. Either way, you probably won't be heading out at night for a while - even the rooftop seems dangerous enough.

You contemplate your next course of action carefully...

Choices You decide to...
1. Keep quiet and enjoy the meal. This is definitely something you don't want your team getting involved with. For now, your team has more pressing concerns in the upcoming weeks.
2. Tell them everything about your mechanical counterpart. Though, you'll also make it clear that this is probably personal business that you'll have to deal with by yourself.



"Wait and Hope"
Hazel opens her mouth to speak - it seems she's noticed your brief bout of silence. But you've already decided. You end up recounting the previous night's events to your teammates. As you play recap episode with them, you note their expressions. Hazel nods occasionally with a stern face, her ears twitch perhaps once or twice. Even without her mask, Lila can pull off quite the poker face, she leaves little to go on as she sits through the story without even the slightest hint of emotion. Ouka's concern is written all over her pale face - though when she meets your gaze she draws back in her seat and directs her gaze down at her plate, only to stare back when your attention shifts to someone else. It's actually almost sort of amusing, so much so that Lila has to clear her throat and remind you that you're in the middle of something and not just playing peekaboo with your partner.

"So yeah. That's the end of it and why I wasn't around for class today. Well, not entirely. I ended up grabbing food with Ran at some fancy restaurant in the Blue District. Oh, and our server ended up being Ray, so that was kind of neat."

"Ara, that is quite interesting. I suppose that he would look quite good dressed as a waiter..."

"Ahem. Getting back on topic, for the second time this night, regarding the automaton you spoke of. There's very little chance that it was dispatched alongside Wolfsmund - although they're one of Atlas's special operations groups, there's no way something that advanced could be fielded. And Stark..." Lila pauses mid-sentence and looks as if she tasted something foul. "Stark would have informed Arcadia about the presence of such a unit - this whole situation has been swept under the rug but something like this would only give Arcadia more leverage and more reason to play their hand."

"B-But it did look like an Atlesian Knight, r-right? M-Maybe..."

"Well, anyways, I'm going to deal with this on my own."


"Niles, you're not serious are you?"

Of course, just because you've opened up a discussion with your teammates doesn't mean that you're open to their help with the matter. Although your actions may seem contradictory, you press on with an explanation.

"Look, we all know that this thing is dangerous, I don't have to run that by you guys again. But what I'm really worried about is that thing finding out about you guys - it's only seen me transformed. And considering the fact that it's probably still lurking in Arcadia, there's a chance that it'd go after us in our own dorm or something if it were to put two and two together. So that's why I've decided on it. That I'll deal with it on my own."

You nod solemnly as you finish speaking. But, it's not entirely for their safety - you're concerned about your own origins as well. The fact that it may be linked to that mechanical being. If the truth really is something unpleasant, you'd much prefer to keep it a secret from the team.

"...I understand. I don't like it, but you are looking out for the team that way. But, I don't want you heading out tonight. Or anytime soon. If it's only here for you, it might just stay passive and wait it out. It could try and force your hand, but since it doesn't know what you actually look like or who you are, it'd perhaps have to resort to indiscriminate violence to draw you out in an attempt to appeal to your Grimm-ness. Ara, I suppose that doesn't sound too strange, does it? Grimm-ness..."

"A-And training! T-Training with Miss Walkure starts tomorrow. A week with one of the best Huntresses on Arcadia and her partner might help. I-I mean, you're not exactly someone who goes out and trains on their own."

"Geh!" The white-haired girl's words pierce you like an arrow.

"Ni- Xenos. I have to agree with both of them. Particularly with Ouka - even with those powers, your form is sloppy and you're too reliant on your instincts."

You clutch at your heart as Lila's words pierce you from behind with an icy bite.

"Ugh, noted. I'll stick to that then - though I really hope that it doesn't make a move."

You sharply exhale as you lean up against a wall before sliding down to sit. After wiping the sweat from your brow with a towel around your neck, you take a long sip from your water bottle. As promised, Team SMRK has begun training you. Although you're already half-way through the week, you've found yourself nonetheless struggling with these training sessions. It's not the rigorousness of the training that's been giving you trouble, however.

Ouka approaches and offers you her hand. You take it and get back on your feet - you can almost hear her making some sort of noise of some sort, but you're too tired to properly pay attention. Aside from physical exhaustion that comes naturally when you're trying to keep up with someone like Ouka who has plentiful Aura reserves, you haven't had a good night's sleep in a while. As much as you may hate to admit it, it seems that your defeat at the hands of that robot did some serious work on your psyche. Your nights have been plagued with nightmares of your mechanical counterpart, while your days have been dyed with a tinge of paranoia.


"Huh? O-Oh! Ah, sorry about that Ouka." You only realize that you never let go of Ouka's hand at this moment - her pale cheeks are tinged a rosy red.

Ray approaches as he roles his shoulder and sheathes his training weapon - a single-edged, blunt sword. He was left in charge of you and Ouka whereas Sonnet took on Hazel and Marche. You can't really complain about that - there's just no way either of you could last more than a few seconds against someone like her. Ray's been considerate with the two of you as well - these sparring sessions were done while he was low on Aura. Even if he's not quite as strong as his partner, he's still got the marks of a good Huntsman.

"Good effort out there you two. Ouka - your accuracy is impeccable as always. But you're still having difficulty dealing with close-range threats effectively. It may work well against some Grimm, but something like that simply won't work in the Vytal Festival. As for you Niles, even with your limitations, you're quite proficient with that weapon. I would recommend getting some more sleep - it seems like you're already tired before the sparring even starts."

Although Ray hasn't been using his Semblance, these sparring sessions during the past few days have been enough to give you a good read on human enemies. Someone like Stark couldn't be counted among that number due to the equipment he used. With someone like Ray, you've been forced to watch his movements carefully and react even faster to changing strategies. The two of you nod as the three of you make your way across the now deactivated segment of the Arcadia Training Center. Just a few minutes ago, you and Ouka were fighting Ray in a sandy biome and yet you're now walking through the same area - now just an endless, repeating pattern of white tiles on the floor.

The three of you step off the raised platform and head over to the second simulated arena - this time it's a dense forest not unlike the "Freshman Forest" you were sent to before. Ray picks an appropriate position along the perimeter of the arena and directs your attention to the combatants. Sparks fly in the air as Sonnet's training spear arcs through the air at high speeds. Marche narrowly avoids the blow as it scores a glancing hit against the heavy lance she's wielding - though the second-year Huntress quickly transitions into a thrust that Marche... once again avoids through the slimmest of margins. Replaying the scene in your head with your newly trained observational skills, you realize that Marche had actually already begun to move before Sonnet's attacks were put into motion. Her Semblance, perhaps?

There's a white flash as Sonnet leaps back - Hazel leaps into the fray from a blind spot within the trees before quickly bounding away. You recall her simple weaponry - it seems like she has to rely on these hit-and-run tactics against someone like her. This momentary distraction is enough for Marche to charge in - but light erupts from Sonnet's back as she quickly maneuvers around the masked girl and slams the blunt end of her spear against Marche's back. She stumbles and falls - though Hazel bursts in once more. You actually find it hard to focus on her as she leaps away after failing to land a hit against Sonnet... has she gotten faster? Marche recovers in time to get forced onto defense against Sonnet's relentless assault.

This cautious strategy continues on for just a little more - Marche keeps Sonnet occupied while Hazel attempts to land a sneaky hit. But, even as Hazel continues to build up speed, Sonnet's semblance gives her a burst of speed that allows her to avoid their hits even as they push her into disadvantageous situations. The true nature of her Semblance only becomes apparent when that light takes shape - as a pair of ethereal wings. The sparring session ends fairly quickly when Sonnet accelerates to absurd speeds and engages in a high-speed assault that not even Hazel can keep up with. Though they don't seem to enable flight, Sonnet's Semblance combined with her use of the trees to kick-off of give her the illusion of flight. The two of your teammates are left exhausted and slightly bruised - Ouka already thought ahead and has the first aid kit on hand for immediate care as the arena deactivates.

And so, another training session ends as usual - Team MGNO completely exhausted and decisively defeated. It's not as if it's a bitter defeat though - Hazel's giddiness comes back in full-swing once the match is over and you feel as if everyone's managed to learn a thing or two from these matches.

? Point Earned!

"Ara~, it's been fun hasn't it?"

"Fun? I suppose you'd see it that way Greyguard, seeing as how you're probably Walkure's biggest fangirl on campus. This past week has been educational, however. It's not often that we get to test our skills against other Huntsmen."

"Man, you guys have it easy though. At least with your Auras, you two heal up fast. I'm still sore from yesterday. Plus, I can't really train at my full potential."

"I-It can't be helped Niles... O-Oh! It's happening this weekend, isn't it?"


"Ara ara, that's right Ouka. I suppose that we've all managed to forget because of what's been happening, but it's Visiting Weekend."

"I never forgot. But it's not something I can look forward to."

You keep your mouth shut because you realize the implications behind Lila's statement and the fact that she stares down into her bowl of ramen. You almost blurted out something like "Oh right, your entire family's dead." but thankfully you're not that dense. You also don't want another fist in your face. Before a somber mood can settle over tonight's dinner in your dorm room, Ouka speaks up.

"A-Ah, Niles. Won't your mother be coming..?"

You blink. Carnelia Xenos. Your mother. She'll be coming to Arcadia for two days. A Huntress whose boundless strength is legendary all across Remnant.

The sort of person who sends you a bucket of fried chicken and some dirty magazines in your care packages because she's a firm believer in the philosophy that "teenage boys only need fried chicken, porn, and manga to survive." Also the sort of person who brings you out on fishing trips when you'd rather be inside but packs high-grade explosives and Fire Dust instead of fishing poles.

There's no way in hell she's not coming tomorrow.

1. Horrified. Partially because your mother will certainly cause a big stir in Arcadia but also because you've neglected to actually contact her on your Scroll since the beginning of the semester.
2. Elated. Though you're silently dreading it because of the fact that you forgot to contact dear old Mom, she's always been fun to be around - even if her version of fun tends to tire you out very quickly.
3. [Write-In]
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"Wait and Hope"
"...Something wrong Niles? You've gone silent on us."

In an instant, you've brought both hands to each side of your head. Pure, primal dread fills your heart at this news. And with it, a fear of the coming day. It's not because your mother is a bad parent persay. She raised you right and you grew up with everything you really needed. You have your fair share of complaints, of course due to your her... "wild" personality, but you certainly couldn't wish for a better mother. The horror that overwhelms you and causes your legs to shake is the simple realization that you forgot to contact her. Even as the care packages came in and the amount of illicit reading material under your bed grew to the point where you now have several sealed boxes, you simply haven't had the time to contact dear old mom. There's also the issue of your mother's (in)famous reputation. If she's not out exterminating threats in some remote part of Remnant, she's being hounded by news-hungry journalists who are either brave or stupid enough to try and interview her.

"A-Ah! Niles fainted!"

"Ara ara, he must be excited for tomorrow then..."

Hazel's words are the last things you hear before your mind can no longer handle the fear. You fall into the depths of unconsciousness as your vision fades to black.

The day begins early for you - it seems that you've managed to get a good night's rest thanks to the shock. No nightmares of your mechanical foe nor of a recently slain Grimm that will become the basis for a Mask. That's something you've only realized recently - the fact that you haven't had any recently also means that you can't rely on a new Mask to catch that automaton offguard during your inevitable rematch. You shudder as you put on your casual wear - a white shirt, dark jeans, and a parka with a fur-lined hood. You glance around at your teammates who have already finished their own preparations. As expected, Ouka's wearing the nicest kimino she has. It fits her name - the cloth features a pink gradiant and an elaborate depiction of cherry tree in full bloom. Hazel's going with a white sweater and black pants. Lila, however, is wearing one of her nicer dresses - she sort of gives off the impression that she's going out on a date.

"Ara, I suppose they should be arriving soon. And, this is also where we'll be parting ways for the day."

"Y-Yes..." You can hear a faint trace of disappointment in Ouka's quiet voice.

"Mmhm. Greyguard, Xenos, I hope you have fun with your families today. And, I suppose I can only wish you luck with your family, Moto."

"...Are you sure you don't want to tag along with me Lila? A day like this must really be..."

"It's alright, I've already made plans ahead of time."

"Oh, so you are going on a da-"

"Don't be absurd. I'm merely spending the day with a friend."

"Wait, you have a frie-"

"I'm this close to punching you."

You promptly clam up as Lila raises her clenched fist with a restrained smile. Though, you really can't help but wonder who Lila could be referring to. After all, she only really seems to hang out with the team. Maybe it has something to do with that club she recently joined - something to do with illustrations? Though, given her persona as Marche, it's really hard to imagine her making any friends with that get-up. You check the time on your scroll and do some quick maths. You and your mother lived out in an isolated house somewhere on Sanus. She'd likely have to take an airship instead of a ship to travel to Arcadia and the air traffic over the island should be busier than usual. Adding on the fact that Arcadia's CCTS tower is also its airport, you're looking at about an hour of pr-

A hard knock at the door silences the dorm room. Given its loudness and the tremor that rocked the door, you're amazed that you weren't met with an axe blade breaking through the wood. Another knock rocks the door as Lila blinks and opens the door. You unconsciously reach for the Ocelot - only to realize that you're not carrying your weapon today. If it's who you think it is, you definitely don't want to be the one to open that door. On second thought... you grab your weapon from your bedside nightstand's drawers and fasten the holster over your belt. Now you're ready.

The next few moments seem to slow as you fight down the fear welling in you. You gulp as Lila's hand turns the knob and the purple-haired girl slowly opens the door.

"All set Lila?"

"Mm, yeah."

A certain blue-haired girl pops her head out from behind the door and peeks into the room with a smile. Though, when her gaze falls on you, it seems to morph into a small, smug smirk. As luck would have it, it's just Pacifica. Though, that would mean that Lila's friend is Pacifica. Upon reviewing what you know, it's not too far-fetched. After all, she's the only one outside of your friend group that knows her true identity as well as the one who pulled the strings to keep her safe from Atlas. You observe her making small-talk with your teammate - the sort of capricious and calculating feeling she gives off around you disappears when she speaks with Lila. Your body relaxes as you take a seat on your bed and slowly calm dow-

"So, this is where my son's been slumming it the last few months. Not too shabby."

The door opens fully - and behind Arcadia's princess is a tall woman. Her long red hair is the first thing that stands out about her, followed by her sizable bust and the various scars on exposed portions of her skin. Although she's in her combat attire, the amount of skin that's exposed can make one question just how protective it is. And on her back is an long, wrapped object. The Huntress's weapon of choice. Her green eyes flit around the room before homing in on you. Your mother, Carnelia Xenos, has arrived.

Your head snaps back at the window as you scramble across your bed in a frantic attempt to escape - but a crushing pressure squeezes the back of your head. You're sweating bullets right now as you're forced to come face to face with your mother. You force out a grin - you know from experience that playing dead or trying to sucker punch her will end in failure.

"...Good thinking. I've got a fun day planned for us and you had the foresight to bring that peashooter of yours. Wahahahaha!" Her laughter fills the room as she releases the vice-like grip on your head and folds her arms. The word fun is subjective - for you, it's hanging with your friends and engaging in your hobbies. For your mother, however, it's combat. As she puts it, "The ultimate thrill is putting your life on the line and butting heads with someone!" There's no doubt in your mind that this means some sparring. Coincidentally, your mother also doesn't know what excessive force is.

"Miss Xenos, Niles has been a great teammate. I'm Hazel Greyguard, the leader of Team MGNO." You almost expected Hazel to start gushing, but it seems that she's being cautious with her interactions. Compared to the other red-haired Huntress she's acquainted with, your mother probably seems more like a monster than a human just based on the intensity that radiates off her.

"Lila. It's a pleasure to meet you Miss Xenos. Your son has done a lot for me." For a moment, you swear that you can see Lila's cheeks redden. Your mother doesn't seem to connect the dots between her name and the team's name. The less said about it the better - she probably won't even realize it until she's gone anyways.


"Hmm...? You look familiar..." For some reason, however, your mother leans down and inspects your partner's face carefully. Ouka, for all of her timidness, doesn't even flinch as your mother brings a hand to her chin and circles her with a discerning eye.

"And, once more, I am Pacifica Koenig. Your daughter-in-law~! Though, I must say, you look more like Niles's big sister than his mother~."

You break into a coughing fit and double over as you barely wheeze out a response.


"Oops, I forgot to add 'future' to that. In any case, I do hope that you were satisfied with Arcadia's VIP treatment my dear future mother-in-law."

"Mm, that airship was super-cushy - not having to wait in those damn lines was great too. I have to say, she's quite the catch Nil-"

"She's joking Mom! Look, she's giggling right now. We should get going! We need to make the most out of our day! T-Training Center! Let's go to the Training Center! Right now!" You spaz the fuck out because you're definitely not looking to lock in a route now be embarrassed to death by your mother. You grab her hand and pull her out of the room - you can tell that she's willing to follow and spare you the teasing because you wouldn't have been able to do that otherwise. Your mother waves goodbye to the other occupants in the room as you exit as fast as possible.


"Ara, I don't think I've ever seen Niles blush. How cute."



Surprisingly, you don't go to the Arcadia Training Center as your first destination for the day. Instead, you end up bringing your mother to a trendy little cafe in the Blue District when she mentions how hungry the flight made her. Outside of a few of the Huntsmen upperclassmen recognizing her and asking for autographs, it's been mostly peaceful. That may also be due to Arcadia's unique status and the current difficulty of traveling here today, but this is perhaps the first time you've been out with your mother without the constant pressure of paparazzi following in your footsteps.

"Sweet~! This crepe is super-delish~! I mean, not as good as your cooking, but after a flight with just peanuts this is some high-quality dining."

"Jeez Mom, don't make a scene. I can't imagine how many people would be shocked if they found out you had such a girly palette."

"You sayin' I'm not a girl?"

"N-No, not at all! But, I mean, most people probably think you're carnivorous or something. Ow!"

She jabs you in the forehead with a finger. You put a spoonful of hash browns into your mouth and down it with sip of orange juice before rubbing your forehead. A flick from her would be more than enough to shatter your Aura, though that's not saying much.

"Carnivorous... Bah, gorillas are hella strong too but they're all herbivores. You know, I've been really missing your cooking. The least you could do is send some dishes back home or something."

"Since when do students send reverse-care packages? Besides, you've been busy with work, right?"

"Meh, White Fang here-and-there and the occasional Grimm hordes going after isolated villages. Nothing that doesn't get cleared up in a few hours." She flexes before taking another bite from the chocolate-laden waffle that's been drowned in cream and syrup. If there's one thing you missed about being home, it's the meals you shared with your mother.

"Oh right, how's Tyto doing?"

"Ah, your little pet's doing fine - I've been taking him on my missions for that fresh air. Didn't think you could teach owls to carry ammo bags. Sucks that I couldn't bring him along, but you know how he gets on flights. Wouldn't want to repeat that last visit at your old combat school."

"Ha. Ha. Yeah." Somethings are better left forgotten.

"Speaking of school, you really lucked out with that team, huh?"

"Yeah, I guess I did. I mean, our teamwork has only been improving and we've been doing well on our mis-"

"Of course you're doing well, you're my son after all. And that Hazel girl's got some serious potential. But I'm talking about the fact that you're surrounded by girls. Living with 'em. And that Pacifica girl really wants to jump your bones. With the way things are, I'm not going to be surprised if I've got a grandkid by next year." This is accompanied by your mother making a hole with one hand and an obscene gesture.

"J-Jeez Mom. It's platonic. Pla-ton-ic. It's way too early to be thinking of stuff like that."

"Sure, sure. But, you've gotta have a girl in mind already."

You think long and hard about this....

Choices You contemplate your relationships and your own preferences. The first girl who comes to mind is...
1. Hazel
2. Lila
3. Ou-

"Waaaay too early. Besides, it's not like you've-"

You can sense death approaching as your mother's eyes narrow. You decide not to point out that the years she's been single equal her age.

"Hey, Niles. You got those care packages I sent you, right?"

"Yeah. Nearly had a heart attack when I opened one up the first time I got one. It's hard to get actual cleaning done when I've got to hide those things."

"All a part of growing up healthy son. Fried chicken for the body and porn for the mind. Speaking of which, have you developed any new fetishes? It'd help when I'm picking stuff out for the next box."

Choices After all you've gone through and all the care packages that your mother has sent you. you've developed a new fetish!
1. Hand-Holding
2. Femd-

"Mooooom! Time and a place! The fact that you can talk about this so openly never ceases to amaze me." Even as you say that, you realize that your mother really is getting a kick out of your growing embarrassment. As intense as she can be, teasing you has always been her hobbies. After all, someone who stands on her level is pretty much immune to shame. Or something like that, your mother's always saying stuff like that with a "Wahahaha!"

After finishing your brunch with your mother, the two of you head off towards the Arcadia Training Center. Ah. You just realized that the brunch was actually your last meal and that the atmosphere has only deluded you into forgetting that you're basically on death row. Regardless of whether or not your mother is hiding her anger at you, whatever sparring she's got planned is probably going to be more dangerous than any other mission you've been on. Especially as you've now proven yourself as a Huntsman. Sort of.

Choices. While on your way to the Arcadia Training Center for some family bonding time with your mother, you encounter...
1. Arcadian "Royalty"
2. A kimono-clad girl and her family.



"Wait and Hope"
Though Arcadia's particularly busy today, it seems that the closer you get to the Arcadia Training Center, the emptier the streets get. After all, Huntsmen students only make up a small part of the student population. And, it's more than likely that most of said students wouldn't even think about training at a time like this. Even if people don't recognize your mother, they nonetheless make a wide berth as the two of you continue on towards your destination. It's probably the danger that just emanates off of her - if you weren't her son, you'd likely avoid her like the plague.

You make small talk with her once more - apparently, her last mission involved scouting out the Mountain Glenn for Vale. Perhaps they were planning on reclaiming it at some point, but she keeps quiet about their motivations. Business as usual, in other words. In spite of her, at times, crude nature, your mother is quite the professional when she needs to be. As you're about to move onto another topic, you spot a tall individual's jet black hair just further ahead. A perfect opportunity to get your mother's mind out of the gutter about the people you associate with and introduce your best friend.

"Hey, Ran...? Eh?"

It only becomes apparent when you get closer that it isn't Ran. She turns around with an unreadable expression on her face and a small murmur of confusion. She's wearing a maid outfit. A traditional long-skirted garb, mind you, and not the sort you'd find at some café in Mistral. She's quite beautiful, with sharp features and pale skin. The woman sort of reminds you of a porcelain doll and you can't really get a good read on her. Still, you can't help but sense some sort of resemblance to Ran. Her sharp eyes seem to pierce you as she brings her gaze squarely on you.

"Is there something wrong Rin? Oh, Niles~. Fancy meeting you here~." Just up ahead, a girl's voice rings out - seems like you couldn't have gone an hour without running into Pacifica again. She steps out into view after poking her head out behind the maid. And, as expected, Lila reveals herself as well - it seems like you've run into her entourage. Though, that would also mean...

"A friend of yours, Pacifica? ...Ah, you are... I see." A man steps forth as the maid silently moves out of the way. His hair is a darker shade of blue than his sister's, but the family resemblance is noticeable. You note a slight limp in his step and the gold-handled cane. The pinstriped suit he's wearing cuts a sharp figure on him - stylish enough to fit his relative youth but respectable enough to denote his station in life. Unlike his sister, he's definitely not a Huntsman by any means. But, you can't help but feel a sort of resolve as he brings his attention to you. After a few moments of silence, the headmaster's expression softens and a small smile appears on his face.

He extends his gloved hand towards you and you shake it. Aside from the gravity of meeting Arcadia's effective king and worries that your handshaking skills might be sloppy, you also feel as if someone's stare is burning a hole in you. You can't pinpoint from who, however. You keep silent and gulp, the fact that he's simply out and about in the city must surely mean that he's got a cadre of trained soldiers shadowing his movements or something - you really don't want to get on his bad side.

"Nice place you've got here Koenig - seems like I made the right choice sending my boy here." Your mother speaks up and places a hand on your shoulder as you release your hand from his grasp. Given the circumstances of your enrollment, it's more than likely that the two of them are familiar with each other. The Headmaster smiles and nods.

"I'm glad that Arcadia lives up to your expectations Ms. Xenos. From what my sister has told me, Niles has been doing quite well in his studies - I'm sure he'll be a fine asset for Remnant at this rate. She's talks about him quite a bit actually - it seems that little Pacifica has taken quite a-"

"N-Nave! We're on a tight schedule right now and I'm sure the Xenos are busy with their own plans as well! L-Let's just get going." And, for a nice change of pace, it seems that Pacifica's been genuinely flustered for once. Her reddening cheeks are a rare sight as well as her sudden meekness as she tugs on her brother's sleeves. Lila sighs before speaking up.

"...Perhaps we should get going; that reservation is waiting on us. And, as you can see Niles, I'm having a wonderful time with my friend and her family." There's a slight shift in the maid's stance as Lila finishes speaking. Nave pulls an old pocketwatch from his breast pocket and checks the time. He silently nods to Rin before returning it to the confines of the suit and smiling.

"It's as she says, perhaps we'll have another opportunity to talk sometime in the future - and hopefully not under the sorts of circumstances that would usually land a student in my office. Auf wiedersehen, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your day. Now, which way was it again...?" He gives a slight bow before turning on his heel. Though, he remains still and at the front of the entourage before the maid speaks up.

"...This way sir." Her voice is husky, and barely louder than a whisper.

"Ah, I see. Thank you Rin." And with those words, they continue on their way. The two closest to royalty within Arcadia, along with the last surviving descendant of Mantle's royal family. It's not every day that you get to experience such a high-profile encounter on Arcadia's streets. Your mother removes her hand from her chin - it seems she was lost in thought as well. The two of you continue onward towards your own destination.

"Ara ara, I suppose it's only natural that we'd meet here. Were you watching us spar Niles?" She takes a moment to wipe some sweat from her brow with the towel around her shoulders. Regardless of the outcome, she seems just as perky as ever. Her rabbit ears are drooping slightly upon further inspection, but that seems to be the only real visual cue for her current state. You quickly avert your gaze, however, when she notices you looking her over and smiles smugly. Before you can get a word in edgewise, however, your mother forces her way into the conversation.

"Damn right we were, that was a great fight missy. I've gotta say, I'm more convinced now than ever that Niles is in good hands. And... fights like those get me really pumped up, y'know?" Carnelia wraps her arm around your neck. Rough affection, but affection nonetheless. She playfully grinds her knuckles against your head as you giggle before Hazel's training partner approaches. He's... quite interesting to say the least.


"One of Hazel's teammates, right? I'm her... father - a pleasure." He keeps his distance and nods in your direction. The first thing that stands out about Mr. Greyguard is the fact that he's human. No tail or ears nor animal features to be found. The next is the sullenness in his eyes - they're like a rotten fish's. His hair has prematurely grayed and in all likelihood, he's probably younger than he looks. His voice is deep and almost monotone. As great of a fighter as he seems to be, he's the very image of a man who's been worn down.

The black long coat he wears is armored - though it seems that he's removed insignias and patches - there are lighter patches of black where they would have once been. His pants have a faded camouflage pattern and his jackboots are slightly discolored near the soles. His short sword, a gladius upon further inspection, is just as basic as Hazel's own estoc. It seems just as worn as him, the old saying that a weapon reflects its owner comes to mind.

"Mm, you raised a fine daughter." Even your mother's usual enthusiasm seems subdued around this man. A zombie comes to mind, he seems more dead than alive at this point.

"...Yeah, I guess I did." He smirks, almost painfully. You can't help but wonder what sort of relationship the two of them have. And you don't really want to ask Hazel at this moment. It seems like a complicated situation. You've got experiences with that after all.

"Well, we should get going then. All that sparring's left us with empty stomachs. I guess I'll see you at the dorms later then Niles." Hazel breaks the awkward exchange and tugs on her father's arm. And, almost on cue, a low growl comes from his stomach. He gives a slight bow as Hazel practically drags him out - she waves back at you before leaving. She was certainly in a hurry though - it occurs to you that she just ran out in her combat attire. And sure enough, after you and your mother step into the arena, you spot her quickly rushing in and out of the locker rooms with a duffel bag.

Much like the Greyguards, you're forgoing the use of a simulated setting for this sparring match. A few of the tiles do slide up to form columns - the barest minimum of cover that can probably keep you from getting blown away. Your mother has already unwrapped her weapon - a miniaturized artillery gun. She throws it into the air and catches it by the barrel - a few metal plates slide into place and suddenly it's functional as a club. It's an exceedingly simple weapon that nonetheless works simply because of its immense destructive potential. You can't help but pitifully gaze down at the Ocelot. Regardless of how intimidating your mother is at the moment, you take your stance.

"Oh yeah! Doesn't this bring back memories son? All those times I spent teaching you how to fight - the basics of CQC, reloading under fire, and the important stuff like surviving artillery strikes."

"Hehe... Yeah. But erm, that last part hasn't really come in handy - I don't think there's any Grimm or bandit with access to firepower like that." You chuckle sheepishly, only barely hiding your fear as you watch your mother load a full magazine into her cannon. As expected, she's using live ammunition.

"Aside from your cooking, this is one of those things I miss about not having you around the house anymore... That reminds me. You never called me since you came here, did you?"

A string of profanity races across your mind as you feel a sort of tranquil fury settle in your mother. Or rather, perhaps it's been there from the start and she's been playing the long game. Your body shudders in anticipation of the pain that's soon to follow.

As expected, there's almost nobody at the Arcadia Training Center. Save for a certain student and her sparring partner. After changing into your combat attire, you notice your mother silently watching an intense sparring match. And surprisingly, you find yourself being entranced by the fight as well. Steel rings out like a melody as sparks fly between the dancing blades. Pure swordsmanship is on display here as neither combatant stands their ground. Though, it seems that the girl's movements become harder to follow as time goes on - her strikes become more intense as the man she faces coolly focuses on maintaining a strong defense. It seems like they've been at it for quite some time now - they've also dispensed with any sort of simulated arena for this sparring session.

Though her speeds continues to increased exponentially, you note her blows growing weaker each time. And although their clashes are doing a number on their Auras, the girl is clearly being worn down at a faster rate. And although he's practically standing there as she zooms around the area to build up momentum for her fierce assaults, you note his deliberate footwork and his subtle bladework - much of the energy of her blows ends up being redirected into the ground. After several more minutes, the fight finally ends when her last, desperate strike is turned and she falls to the ground in exhaustion. The man sheathes his short sword and helps her up - it seems like you've managed to catch another rare glimpse today. The first time you've seen Hazel actually losing.

Team MGNO's places her hands on her knees and takes a few short gasps of air before exchanging a few words with her sparring partner. Then, the two of them make their way to the sidelines - where you and your mother have been watching. While the fight has left you slightly reeling by the fact that Hazel was completely shut out, your mother is smiling. Not the motherly smile that you've grown to love - the sort of bloodlusted, crazed sort that usually graces her face when she's about to drag you into something ridiculously dangerous like explosive fishing. Hazel's eyes widen as she notices you and waves - she's probably pretty sore after that match but the Rabbit faunus is doing a good job of hiding "WAHAHAHAHA! Quit hiding and take your lumps like a man Niles!" An explosion rips through the pillar next to you as hastily reload the Ocelot. You poke half your body out and quickly fire off two shots - Fire Dust rounds. Even with your good aim, however, they fizzle out and crumple upon reaching your mother's Aura. Your instincts kick in and force you to make a mad dash to the next pillar - just in time to narrowly avoid a sudden shelling at your previous position. The shockwave knocks you down for a moment and you can feel the heat behind you as you scramble to your feet and bring your revolver up to pop off a few more futile shots... only to find that your mother's no longer there.

"ORAAA!" Her voice booms out and your head snaps in that direction - just in time to see your mother rushing you down with her weapon in its club form. Your finger flies to the hammer of the revolver as you fire off a few more rounds that just bounce off her. Though her strength is the scariest thing about her, she's also fast and durable. A truly terrifying opponent who's definitely holding back against you. You switch the Ocelot into knife mode as she swings the club horizontally towards you. Amazingly, the blade doesn't shatter on impact - your meager Aura is completely depleted, however, and you're sent flying across the arena.

However, as mad as she might be, this is definitely strange. She normally doesn't go for a killing blow like that right off the bat. Most of the time, she simply wears you down with artillery shots and prolongs the fight by intentionally missing or taking time to reload. Hell, this is the first time she's ever really just charged in like that. As you roll onto your back and pick yourself up, you expect her to call the match - she's quite aware of your Aura after all. Instead, you're greeted with a mostly intact pillar soaring through the air towards you. It comes down with an enormous crash and kicks up clouds of dust as you barely manage to roll away - just in time to spot her silhouette taking aim within the smoke.

"Come on come on come on! Why are you holding back right now? Fight's not over Niles! Not by a long shot!" The boom of her artillery gun rings out as you fire into the smoke - you manage to intercept one shell before narrowly avoiding the second. It explodes behind you as you run through the raised pillars - you can hear her loud footsteps behind you. For a moment, you're overwhelmed with a certain memory...

You struggle to breath as you sprint through the darkened forest - that woman's voice echoes in the night air behind you. You're terrified right now. Of her strength. Of the sudden situation you've found yourself in. Her strange behavior. They never acted like that before. In your young mind, you determined this to be a cruel trick. Another one of those horrid tests. That shark-like grin. Those shining lenses. She had been there - surely this was just a ruse. You never really left that place.

"Hey! Come back! It's dangerous out here!"

You ignore the woman's cries. This time, for sure, you'll escape. You don't know where you'll go or what will happen next - you just want to escape. To live. To be free. Your instincts pump you with adrenaline and force you forward. All you have to do is keep running. All of it will disappear over the horizon...

And that's when you run straight into something. The sensation is indescribable - almost flesh-like, yet completely taut. As if there's something rock-hard underneath. Red lines burn through the darkness and help illuminate the bone-like plating on the creature's hide. The monster's red eyes open and as you slowly crawl backwards, you find yourself face to face with the aberration. You both remain still - as if confirming each other's existences. Inhuman, and yet familiar. It lets out a snort and begins to grind into the ground. Steam escapes its snout as you stand - it seems like it doesn't like you. You let out a low growl of your own - if it's a fight that it wants, you won't be the one dying.

And then... it curls up into a ball. Its bony quills become spikes to impale things upon and tear through the ground. Its round form begins to roll in place with a squeal as you ready yourself for a desperate struggle. You can feel your small body changing; drawing out the power that lies deep within your existence. Pitch-black and eldritch. An affront to humanity. You let out a roar as the boar-like creature charges you head-on.

You roll forward in desperation to avoid an overhead smash from your mother's club. She's already caught up and could have easily killed you for real with a point-blank salvo. But even as you face her under the direst circumstances, you still feel as if you're being taught. It was a violent and crude method, but education nonetheless. Your mother's swings come fast and hard, you're barely dodging them now as you weave through pillars that she simply smashes out of the way. Fatigue is kicking in now and it's only a matter of time before she catches up with you.

"NIIIIILLLLLEEEEESSSSSSSSS!" You turn - that's the only response you can muster. Your mother brings one foot forward and twists her body. Rather then crushing your with her weapon, she's instead opted to pulverize you with a punch. You no longer have enough time nor the energy to avoid her attacks any longer. Cornered and at wit's end, you solemnly prepare to take this attack head-on. Even as your instincts roar out at the back of your mind, you accept the end.

You're sent flying into a nearby tree, the small lacerations and wounds that line your shadow-clad body leak out a black smoke. Your very essence. It was only natural for things to end up this way - you're still so immature and ignorant. Though, even as you struggle to remain conscious, you're certain that you'd rather face a grisly end at the hands of this beast rather than remaining there. Maybe, maybe things are better this way. Your short existence, one filled with suffering and one that couldn't quite be called living, would finally be put out of its misery.

But. Even so. Even so, you quietly sob. Your voice, distorted by your twisted form. You never got to live. As much of a mercy death could be, you don't want to die. You don't want to die without living.

The monster swings its head around - it senses you at death's door. Rather than curling up into a deadly wheel, it has decided to end your life with its tusks. Truly, the fear and misery within you was a great feast for it. And so, it charged forth as you found yourself unable to move. You can't help but cry quietly.

But. The end never comes. You realize that at the last moment, you brought your blackened arms up in a feeble attempt to defend yourself. But that's not why you haven't died. Before your eyes, you see her. That woman. Her hands grip the creature's enormous tusks as she grits her teeth and lets out a yell. You can hear some cracking under her immense grip strength as it tries to push forward. It's all in vain, however, as she lifts it up into the air before slamming it into the ground. The monster's body crumples from the force as it is unable to stand. She continues and repeats that action - another slam. And another. She only stops when it finally stops twitching. The woman turns her attention to you. You, clad in the wretched form of a monster.

"I'm sorry! I'm so sorry! Was it the cooking? Are you hurt?"

You expected the woman to turn her brutality on you. But instead, she's wrapped her arms around you. The monstrous you. Her hand cradles the back of your head as she brings your small body close. It's warm. So immensely warm. You didn't think humans could be this warm. And soft. Slowly, you can feel your wounds closing - the same essence that flows from the creature's corpse is quietly absorbed into your very being. And soon enough, you return. Back to being a human. Slowly, but hesitantly, you try to wrap your arms around her as well. You feel something wet hit your cheek. A tear, from the red-haired woman. One born of relief, grief, and worry.

A tear from your mother.


But, in your mind, you knew you were never in any danger. She's your mother. Someone who had suddenly came into your life - who taught and nurtured you until you finally became someone who could stand on your own two feet. And so - you answered her just as she wanted. Power surges through you - inhuman and eldritch. It courses through your veins, a pitch-black existence that lies within you. You catch her punch with one hand as it manifests - a belt of bone forms around your waist first. The buckle opens - and reveals an red eye. Malevolent and monstrous. The sort that belongs on a Grimm.

As she brings her arm back, your body shifts. Featureless and black - a living shadow. And yet, your transient being is enough - you block the roundhouse kick that aimed at your head. Your forearms hurt from the impact, but you force that pain away as she leaps back and stares you down with a smile. One of pride and eagerness. She rolls her left shoulder and cracks her neck before returning both hands to the handle of her club.

"Awaken!" The first time you've ever felt compelled to yell it out. To vocalize the raw power surging through you. What you need to do next is clear. Your mother is a woman who admires strength, revels in it. And so, you recall the memories that led to the very first time you wore the mask. They come out from within you once more - three masks this time. A Mask that rushes forth - Beowolf. A Mask that endures - Goliath. And a Mask that rampages - Boarbatusk. But you already made your choice. You note a symbol appear within the eye on your belt as the Mask slams onto your face. Armor of bone and scarlet lines race down your body.

You summon your weapon - the enormous warhammer that you had subconsciously based off your own mother's club. Heavy and unwieldy, yet the perfect extension of your body. You take it in both hands as you bring your red gaze onto your opponent. Her smile breaks out into a toothy grin as she charges forth. And then - your weapons slam into each other. Like an earthquake, it sends tremors throughout the arena - the sheer force of your clash resounds with an enormous boom. It's enough to send both of you sliding backwards. You throw down your warhammer as she does the same with her weapon. The woman cracks her knuckles - silently, you know she'll be going all out with this attack. And so, you concentrate your power into a singular point. Your fist. The dark red light erupts within your right fist and crackles with an unnatural energy.



Your fists collide.

"...Honestly, I can't believe you forgot about that first night. Maybe if you'd remembered earlier, I wouldn't have had to rough you up so badly. Or try and push you to your limits every time we do this sort of thing. Heh, you even forgot you could do that until now. I thought you were just being careful!" Your mother finishes wrapping up your right hand in gauze - it's not broken but it's definitely sore. Even fully powered up, it still felt like you were punching a tank. If you had been in any other mask, you probably would have broken your fingers doing that. You shake it - it's still sore. You're also still transformed.

"I mean, I am careful! The only people who know about this are my team. Tch, that still smarts. And you know I'm a forgetful person Mom. Or maybe there's an issue with my memories - I still can't remember anything from before that memory and there was that one summer when I was 9..." You look around once more to make sure that there's no one around - your mother insisted on having you remain transformed because it seemed like a funny image in her head. The fact that your voice is distorted as well only seems to amuse her further.

"Oh right, that one's erm... I'll tell you later. But, as for the rest, I guess you want the full story, huh?" You look down at your body and nod vigorously. Your mother stifles a laugh before clearing her throat and speaking.

"I guess it's about time you learned the truth Niles. To start with, we're not related by blood. You're adopted, I guess."

"That's obvious, isn't it? I mean, I've never seen you with a ma-" She cracks her knuckles and you shut up.

"AHEM. Moving on, you were involved in some nasty experiments conducted by the Schnee Dust Company - I was working for them at the time. They were collaborating with another company - I can't remember the name off the top of my head, but the guy they brought in was an expert in Grimmology. The whole point was to weaponize Grimm - turn them into ready-made soldiers. They're already a force of nature aren't they? I'm not sure how or what the details were, but they somehow found a way to fuse a Grimm with someone."

"I see. So then, why was I involved?"

"At the time, they were taking orphans from all across Remnant as test subjects - exploitable and limitless. Honestly, you're better off not knowing the full extent of their experiments - the things they did were straight-up atrocities Niles. In the very end, you were the only successful subject - you survived. But it left you a husk - it was like you were emotionally dead. Hell, you might have been in a coma for a while. When I found out about this whole thing and found you, I decided that the best thing to do was torch the place and run with you."

"If that's the case, then why hasn't the Schnee Dust Company come after you?"

"They care about their PR - with my reputation, if I spoke out they'd be in some real deep shit. Atlas would drop them faster than a sack of bricks. I burned down the research facility they had you locked up in and the lead researcher just went off the grid after that. And, to make sure that they couldn't find you, I picked the most remote place I could think of and had a house built there. I guess you forgetting about your 'Grimm Awakening' or whatever ended up working out for the best - I'm not sure if you would have been able to stay undiscovered at that Primary Combat School."

"Wait. Grimm don't have souls, and so they don't have Auras so..."

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure that those experiments really did a number on your Aura. You probably had little to begin with, but after the fusion it's practically zero - a stiff breeze used to be enough to deplete all of it when you were younger. All's well that ends well though, you ended up growing up into a fine lad - it's always strange to reminisce when you weren't as lively as you are now."

"Hmm. So then, did you mess with my program when I enrolled here so that I could master my powers or something?"

"What? No, I just wanted you to follow your dreams Niles. You were always running around talking about how you wanted to be me when you grew up. A Huntsman. And, even though I knew that your Aura was handicapped, I knew you'd be able to overcome it all. I believe in you, you're my son after all."

"J-Jeez." You bring a hand to your eye now - something got in your eye. You're certainly not overwhelmed with emotions.



"You can change back now, it's kind of creepy seeing you cry when you're like that."

The rest of the night is spent eating dinner with your mother before parting ways and heading back to the dorm. It seems that she actually has some solid plans for tomorrow - though they still involve the Arcadia Training Center in some way. By the time you get back to your room, the others are already fast asleep. During the following morning, you all go over your plans - and as expected everyone's spending time with their families. Or in the case of Lila, the Koenigs. In any case, you're fully prepared for a productive day with your mother.

After breakfast, the two of you immediately head off to the Training Center - much of your previous experimentation with your Grimm Awakening has been done with hordes of the creatures. Sparring against your mother is incredibly useful - even if she's holding back you're getting a better feel for more experienced and aware enemies. You also take the time to test out the Boarbatusk Mask against her. Oddly enough, it doesn't seem to possess any sort of special abilities or concentrated boosts. Its weapons are a pair of large sickles connected by chains - they greatly resemble the boar-like monster's tusks. For now you've decided to hold off on using it an actual fight; not unless it suddenly reveals some hidden capabilities.

The training session finishes up quickly - you're rather sore but end up recovering quickly. Next on the schedule, after lunch, is a trip to the Automotive Club's garage. As it turns out, your mother brought a surprise - a motorcycle. Or rather, what was a motorcycle. It's little more than a collection of parts in the shape of a motorcycle - according to her it was a prototype that was discarded after testing and budget calculations. You've never been much of a grease monkey, but your mother is surprisingly skilled. At most, you hand her tools and tighten some bolts but you do learn a bit about your new ride this way.

"So, you said you were being hunted by some sorta robot earlier, right? And that it had the same sort of Grimm powers as you?"

"Yeah, that's right. Except it says "Intialize" instead of "Awaken". Do you know anything about it Mom?"

"...Nothing comes to mind, but it's definitely connected to the same research that led to you. Hmm, if I had to hazard a guess, it's probably some sort of precursor - must be pretty advanced if its as sapient as you're making it seem. But, there's gotta be a reason why they moved from souped up AKs to orphans."

"Mm, I see. Come to think of it, there was an incident a few weeks back where we had to deal with an Atlesian black ops group called Wolfsmund here. I ended up having to use Awakening to deal with their boss - they probably passed on the information to SDC. Thankfully, they only saw me transformed so I don't think they'll be able to track me down."

"Wolfsmund, eh? Can't say I've heard of them, but that's probably a good example of why they were sent to infiltrate Arcadia. That's probably why that thing showed up, yeah. Niles, you might have lost the last time, but you're even stronger now than ever before. No tin-can's ever going to kick my son's ass. Besides, I think it's time to pass down the secret Xenos family mantra to you."

"We have one of those?"

"Yeah. It's "Hit 'em harder.""

"That's it?"

"'Course. Works every time."

After a few more hours of work, the bike's completely repaired - it seemed that your mother also managed to restore its extra capabilities. You're starting to wonder where on Remnant she managed to find something like this. Maybe it was some sort of high-end luxury model proposal in its previous life. It's a lot heavier than it looks as well - in spite of its small silhouette, it's packed to the brim. She's rather cryptic about the sorts of things it can do - seems like that's part of the surprise as well. You can't say that you've ever rode a motorcycle before, but your mother insists that it's easy - like riding a bicycle. Which you never had the opportunity to do either.

Afterwards, the two of you head out for dinner one last time - you also end up being coerced into making some preservable desserts for her when all is said and done. All in all, this has been a formative weekend. The bike is apparently being tuned up by the Automotive Club - it should be ready for pick-up tomorrow. Though, once you return to the dorm room, you can't help but feel a certain hunger flaring up. The presence of a Grimm to devour within Arcadia. You sleep, knowing that a confrontation will happen sooner or later.

The day after visiting weekend happens to fall on a "School Improvement" day for the faculty. In other words, it's a cool-off day for the students - no classes nor official club activities. You all end up splitting up for some needed grocery shopping - naturally, you and Ouka get paired up. You're partners after all, even if that sort of distinction has slowly been phased out as more emphasis on just general teamwork has arisen in the curriculum. She did insist on accompanying you, however, and you barely got to talk with her at all these past few days. Buying the right vegetables didn't take too long either - Ouka has quite the eye for that sort of thing.

As you're walking with the kimono-clad huntress with a few plastic bags worth of food in your hands, Ouka directs your attention to a certain pair just across the street. You blink - it's Kalt Schnee and Ray. They seem to be conversing as well - friends perhaps? Though, when you bring up that possibility, Ouka shakes her head and pulls out a magazine from the confines of her outfit - a trashy publication from the Red-Light District's Illegal Newspaper Club. Apparently that's a thing. She flips through until she finds a page with some clandestine photos - seems like those rumors that Hazel mentioned aren't entirely unsubstantiated. They seem particularly close, at least, but they seem more like good friends rather than lovers.

Though, even on a peaceful day like this, the hunger pangs continue. There's no doubt in your mind that your mechanical foe is lurking around Arcadia tonight, eager to to finish the job. However, you feel ready this time. You've got a feeling like you can't lose. Or something like that. Either way, it ends tonight. Once you pick up your motorcycle from the shop first.


Arcadia Panorama.jpg

A cool night breeze flows through Arcadia's lit streets - you're currently zooming through Arcadia's streets on your new bike. In spite of your inexperience, you've managed to learn how to ride it quickly. The crash course earlier in the day courtesy of your team certainly helped. You did inform them about what was going on - though, you held off on giving them some spiel on what they'd need to do if you didn't return. That simply wasn't an option on the table anymore. Your hunger grows as you near closer to where you believe your opponent to be. Halfway through the ride, you shift into your base form. It should be sufficient enough to deal with it until it Initializes.

Surprisingly, the bike also seems to react to your transformation - it transform and assumes a more aggressive shape along with a lower profile. At the very least, this explains why it was so heavy to begin with. It also seems like your mother was thinking ahead with this model - it'll be hard to trace this form back to its smaller, more typical one. You accelerate once more, coaxing out more performance from the motorcycle as you head towards a climax.


Stairs Dark.jpg

You eventually come to a stop at the bottom of an enormous staircase - informally known as the "Odessa Steps" after their architect. Notable in that they were constructed in a way that from where you're standing, the landings are invisible. And, from where the automaton is standing at the top, the individual steps are likewise invisible. Normally, these stairs are a formal entrance into Arcadia's largest park. But, it seems tonight, it will serve as a backdrop for your showdown.

"...Response is within expected parameters. Nicht. I will eliminate you."

"...Bring it on."

The two of you stare each other down in your basic states. All is still for a few precious moments; a calm before the storm. And then, in a split second, the two of you call forth your collection of masks - three to you and four to it.



Combat Phase Defeat the Automaton!
1. [Beowolf Mask] Second time's a charm, bring out your greatsword and launch a fierce assault! [ROLL]
2. [Goliath Mask] Play it passively - endure its opening moves and strike back with a massive counterattack! [ROLL]
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"Wait and Hope"


Grimm Initialization - Deathstalker Mask

Ability: Negate Beowolf Mask abilities.

The cold, arachnid mask attaches to the machine's face and portions of its body shift to reveal glowing yellow lines. Four optics gaze down at you momentarily before the automaton leaps into the air. Your own selected Mask snaps onto your featureless face as its glaive appears in its manipulators. You remain still as armor plates hewn from bone appear in the air around you - but its steel form is already descending towards you with its polearm's blade ready to impale you.

Stone explodes from the impact and a cloud of dust expands from where you're standing. The artificial warrior is the first to move - yellow lines trace its motions. It jerks back, trying to bring its weapon back. But it's no use. You've taken a gold of the shaft with your left hand - your own strength has been augmented immensely by your selection. It struggles just a while longer as your red eyes flash. Even if it had the high ground, it was like charging straight into a wall with your Goliath Mask.

Grimm Awakening - Goliath Mask

Ability: Ignore 1 Failure per Combat Phase and treat it as a Success

You don't let this chance pass by - you slam one foot into the ground. The resulting tremor ripples through the area in front of you - a sizable crack rips through part of the Odessa Steps. It's enough to force your enemy to regain its footing. With a roar, you lumber forward within that split-second and bring both hands together. Like a hammer, you bring it down on its right shoulder - there's a loud clang as it drops its weapon. You can feel its armor cracking under the weight of your blow. It recovers quick enough to try and throw a jab - you follow-suit with a cross counter. The two hook punches fly out.

Naturally, its arm is quicker - you feel a metal fist smash against the side of your mask. But speed is all it has at the moment - you don't feel a thing as your armored fist connects with its head. The blow rattles its cranium and before it can fully recover, you've already begun setting up your next attack. You call forth your warhammer - it emerges from mid-air in a wisp of black smoke. Bone plates shift around as you take a mighty swing that makes full use of your strength. You can almost hear glass breaking as your weapon's skull-like visage makes contact with the automaton and send it flying.

Metal crumples as it slams into the second landins. You kick the glaive aside as you begin to ascend the steps. Each footstep makes a mighty thud against the stone steps as its metallic form remains still. You figured that something like that was enough, but it finally manages to pick itself up as you make it to the first landing. Your hands tighten around the handle of the weapon as it grabs its mask.

Combat Phase
??? Saves 2/3

"...Initialize." For a moment, you can almost make out the contempt in its synthesized voice as it rips off the Deathstalker Mask and selects a new one from its rotating selection. The damaged armor plates detach and disappear as a thicker, bulkier set materializes to replace them. They snap into place as its yellow optics shine through the new Mask's two eyes. You can make out the chestplate that mimics musculature with geometric features and enormous gauntlets with pistons emerging from the back. As the yellow lines glow once more in the night, it raises both arms and adjusts its feet to take on a new stance - and likely, a new fighting style.

"I'll break you in half." The pale moonlight reflects off the skull-like metal mask that adorns its face.

Grimm Initialization - Beringel Mask

Ability: Negate Goliath Mask abilities.

Combat Phase Defeat the Automaton!
1. [Beowolf Mask] You can't get hit if you're faster. Take a hit-and-run approach against it. [ROLL]
2. [Boarbatusk Mask] Try out your new Mask in a new fight. Maybe its true potential will reveal itself now. [ROLL]
3. [Goliath Mask] Continue using your current Mask and engage it in a close-range slugfest. [ROLL]


"Wait and Hope"
"Try it!" You snarl out a response as you remain resolute. Even in spite of the fact that you have a bad feeling about this match-up. The steel-clad enemy moves - though weighed down by its new armor, it's still much faster than you are. It throws a straight punch - the massive gauntlet flies out towards you like a cannonball. You barely manage to block it with the shaft of your weapon. But the sheer power behind that one punch forces you to take a step back. Air rushes past your face as you attempt to re-position yourself; you don't want to get knocked down the stairs. As you move to the side, your counterpart throws a mean left hook. You're prepared this time, however, and manage to bring your armored forearm up near your head.

Combat Phase

Failure. Goliath Mask disabled.

2/3 Saves

Your eyes widen as the punch never connects - its arm retracts as it takes a step forward. You see it coming, but you're simply too slow to react as your enemy uses the power in its legs to launch itself upwards with its fist aimed right at your face. An uppercut. The mass of metal slams into your chin - the pain is so immense that you drop your warhammer and bring both hands to your masked face. The automaton is quick to capitalize on its success - it begins to pummel your armored form with a series of body blows. Light jabs become freight trains with the strength of its mask. You can hear the bone armor crack with each impact as you stumble backrwards - but it doesn't let up.

The disorientation is enough to ruin any situational awareness you may have cultivated - as you instinctively continue to back away you make a mistake. There's simply no more of the landing to retreat upon. The robot's next punch misses you entirely as fall down the Odessa Steps. And, in spite of your heft, you roll down those stair steps pretty well. Hopefully those cracks in your armor aren't permanent. Your body, wracked in pain, comes to a stop at the bottom. It's a new experience that you never want to try again. Your Mask also slips off your face and vanishes, leaving you in your basic, shadow-y state. Another first, though you're thankful that the damage wasn't enough to completely knock you out of your transformation.

"As expected, the Beringel Mask is a flawless counter to that troublesome form... your destruction is assured, but this is a good opportunity to gather data on this prototype."
The automaton looks down upon your battered form from the landing as it moves a hand to its face and tears off the metal mask. Then, bringing out its collection of four once more, it stops on another skeletal mask - one bearing two long horns. You struggle to get back up as it places the mask on its face.

"Initialize, Nuckelavee." The Beringel Mask's armor disengages from its metal frame and dematerializes. In its place, far thinner armor appears and slides into place on its body. On first glance, the machine's new form isn't threatening in the slightest. It's barely more armored than its initial state and really shows off just how thin it is. But, steps to the side and nods. From the top of the Odessa Steps, you hear the roar of an engine as it starts. You grit your teeth as you sense something coming - you force yourself to lunge forward. Just in time to avoid being crushed by an enormous motorcycle that comes barreling towards you at high speeds. A metal skull resembling a horse's adorns the matte-black vehicle. As you scramble to your feet now, the motorcycle donuts and adjusts to face you - yellow lights emanating from the skull fall on you like spotlights.

The automaton leaps high into the air - and lands upon its mount. It twists the throttle and forces a roar from the engine. As fast as you are now, there's no way in hell you'll avoid getting turned into roadkill. It doesn't seem to have any external weaponry - perhaps a result of its status as a prototype. It brings it horned head down and steels its yellow gaze upon you as the bike rushes forth...

And, at the very last second, you instinctively grab onto something. The handles of your own motorcycle. You're pulled into the air as it runs up the stairs and balances on its front wheels as it reaches the first landing before falling backwards. The impact of falling right onto the seat is lessened by the seat cushions you picked with your mother. In its transformed state, it almost feels like an extension of yourself - black haze bellows out of its exhaust and the roaring of its engine almost sounds bestial - alive. The space between the two of you remain still - it's then that you decide to try something.

"Awaken. Boarbatusk!" You slip on the seemingly powerless Mask upon your blank face. Armor plates slip on once more and the two tusk-like chained sickles rest on your pauldrons in a way that makes them look even larger than they actually are. You feel as if you're one with the ride. A world of speed has opened up before you. A boar-like mask has also appeared on the front of your mount. Another mirror-image in your powersets. The automaton brings its gaze around once more before turning its bike around towards the entrance. You're aware of its intentions - it's not retreating. Rather, there's simply no space here for the climax. No, there's only one place in Arcadia that you'd be able to settle this.

You shift your bike into action as you pursue the automaton out of the park's entranceway and out onto the empty steets. At this time of night, traffic has essentially stopped - especially in a more reputable part of the city like this. Outside of a few night-running trucks, it's unlikely that you'll really run into any opposition during this high-speed duel. You remain on its tail as it weaves through the streets. Where as it seems to glide with each movement, your motorcycle throws its weight around and powerslides - almost like a wild beast. The roar of twin engines echoes as the finale begins.

New Mechanic - Ride Phase: A special Combat Phase for high-speed battles. Three d20 rolls, one from each player, are tallied up and compared against three d20s rolled here. Critical Successes and Failures are not applied here. Instinct Rolls still apply here, but rather than being an automatic success, they modify qualifying dice into 20s. Saves from the Combat Phase carry over into the Ride Phase.

Grimm Awakening - Boarbatusk Mask

Ability: Once per Ride Phase, remove one dice of your choice from the opposing roll.

Ride Phase Defeat the Automaton! [ROLL]


"Wait and Hope"

You can't help but click your tongue as you find yourself pursuing the mechanical rider. Although it seems that your Grimm-enhanced rides are more or less comparable in terms of performance, the gap between the two of you in terms of driving skills is stark. The machine's gliding motions are efficient - any loss of speed is minimized as it weaves through the streets. You, on the other hand, are barely holding on. Even when you wore the Beowolf Mask, you've never been subject to this sort of speed. Nor have you ever had to push your bike this far - you've only had it for a short while anyways.

The rear tire slips as you poorly swerve around a truck - its blaring horn is enough to disrupt your concentration. In a way, it appeals to your own human instincts and the by-the-book driving knowledge you acquired from a Driver's Ed course you elected to take back during your Primary Combat School days. Still, you regain your bearings and force yourself onwards. Your opponent plays a dangerous game of chicken with you - you're so focused on keeping on its tail that you end up being forced to try and replicate its last second swerves out of the way of oncoming traffic. It gazes back at you for a moment - an unreadable yellow gaze.

That's when the trouble starts.

Ride Phase
1/3 Saves Left

The Nucklavee Grimm is a strange creature - possessing an equine-like lower body and a wiry humanoid body on top. In legends, it's been equated with that of a vengeful horseman or an evil entity assuming the guise of one. Its primary mode of attack, other than simply trampling hapless Huntsmen, is its arms that can stretch to unnatural lengths. And of course, your mechanical opponent has recreated this function. It brings one arm back and glances back at you - the forearm transforms as armor panels slide apart and shift into a firing position. A silver claw flies out towards you.

You're too focused on driving to remove your sickles from your shoulders - you only manage to barely avoid the claw as you tilt your body to one side. Unfortunately, this also causes the bike to shift to one side - your leg smashes into a parked car. Pain shoots up your right side - even if the armor blunted the blow, it's probably broken. The claw shoots back as the automaton notes its success with a silent glance back. Then, repeating the action once more, it fires the claw - this time aiming to your left. As it reaches its maximum length - your enemy swings its arm. You can only raise your left arm up as its mechanical claws slam into gauntlets now. This time, you've managed not to hit anything - the pain is intense but it serves as a grim reminder that you need to balance fighting with riding. You lower your body, avoiding the automaton's next swing and accelerate.

"Results fall within expected para-"

Your foe's voice is cut off by the sound of grinding - an unnatural amount of smoke bellows out from the bike's muffler. Your foe's bike starts to lose speed. It mentioned that this was an opportunity to test out a prototype... perhaps the high-speed chase had pushed it too far. Even with its efficient movements, it was probably only a matter of time before this happened. In any case, this is the chance that you've been holding out for. You grit your teeth - there's only two outcomes now. Live or die.

Ride Phase Defeat the Automaton! [ROLL]


"Wait and Hope"
Closer... closer... You don't hesitate to take advantage of your foe's mechanical failure. As you pick up speed, the pain in your leg dies down as pure adrenaline settles in. And you almost feel one with your ride. The Automaton glances back - it falters between trying to pierce you with its claws or trying to outmaneuver you. Surprisingly, it chooses the latter. The Automaton's engine seems to stabilize as you draw closer - you've almost managed to reach top speed.

"Fast... Though, let's see how well you handle corners."
You almost hear a faint trace of smugness in the robotic being's voice. Or perhaps, uneasy bluffing. It executes a sharp turn - something that's impossible at your current speed. At this rate, you'll crash into a storefront - and probably end up being finished off on foot. Your eyes home in on a certain facet of the passing scenery - a street light.

Ride Phase
??? Saves 1/3

You pull one of the sickles from your shoulders and realize just why you've been armed with these. There's barely any time to aim and you're not quite sure it'll work, but you do so anyways - you toss out your sickle at a streetlight on the corner. It hooks on and you force the bike to slingshot around the corner at your current speed. It's rough on you, but you continue to grit your teeth as you successfully avoid crashing. Ahead of you, the Automaton seems focused on the road ahead - it's slowly regaining speed. But you won't let this opportunity slip by.

"EAAAAAAATTTTTT TTTHHHHHIIIIISSSSS!" You can't resist screaming at the top of your lungs as you accelerate in a straight line. The automaton turns its head towards you... and meets your high-speed fist. The blow causes your enemy to go limp for a moment - Masks are surprisingly resilient though. You speed ahead now - it's your turn to go on the offensive. The passing brick and mortar buildings and parked cars disappear into the distance as you enter the final stage of this duel.


Bridge Night.jpg

You take one good look forward before speeding up and widening the gap. Just enough distance so that you can suddenly brake - you shift your weight and force the bike to stand on its front wheel - your body instinctively shifts as you imagine the end result. It swings in the air before finally landing its rear tire on the ground. You're now facing the incoming automaton. It's a flashy maneuver and there were better ways to accomplish this, but you can't help but style it up. As you ready a sickle, you see that it has managed to recover from the blow. It lowers its body close to the chassis; it really doesn't want to suffer another hit like that.

This is how it should be - at least, that's what you think. You spur the bike forward. The two of you lock eyes as it becomes a test of wills. For the first few moments, neither of you seem to even consider swerving to the side. It's only when your foe raises one arm that you finally act. Predictably the claw fires forth - you force your bike to tilt as low as it can without crushing your already broken leg. This is enough to make sure that you don't crash into the robot but also gives you the best shot at taking it out. You toss your sickle - not at the passing bike but directly in front of it.

Your timing is impeccable - the machine can only stare back as its front tire catches on the enormous tusk-like hook. It flips into the air at impossible speeds before smashing into the bridge's pavement. The bike continues to skid for a fair distance, dragging its rider along all the while. When it finally comes to a halt and the sparks stop flying, you're left with the sight of the mechanical being trapped under its own ride and heavily damaged. It still stirs slightly but its completely vulnerable.

The fuel gauge is looking pretty low on your motorcycle. It seems like you'll have to finish it off on foot - the remainder will need to be used getting home. As the pain settles back in your leg, you dismount and begin limping forward. In its current state, you probably wouldn't even need to use a Grimm End to finish the job. The distance between the two of you seems infinitely long - moreso because of the pain shooting back through your right side.

It occurs to you that your foe is on its last legs anyways - you could simply leave and let it expire there. Or, even if it does survive, it'll likely end up in Arcadia's hands. You could maybe even butter up Pacifica to get some information out of it. Though, you still owe her a favor. You draw out both sickles to try and distract yourself from the pain. You make your choice.

Choices Your enemy is vulnerable. You...
1. Go in for the kill. You're not about to risk dealing with a recurring threat. You'll find the answers on your own.
2. Walk away. The fight took a toll on you and you'd rather just leave now and let whatever happens happen.


"Wait and Hope"
Your grip tightens around each handle as you approach. You're going to nip this problem in the bud. The answers you're looking for will have to wait - Arcadia's public safety is more important right now. Each step feels weighed down with lead as you approach - the yellow optics within its cracked mask continue an unbroken stare. The machine seems sapient enough - you immediately begin to wonder what sorts of emotions it's feeling right now - fear, anguish, despair? Though, if it held those emotions, you're not sensing any of them. Nothing to nourish the hunger within you.

And you halt mid-step as you catch the faintest trace of a whistling sound overhead. You take a step back an object falls from the sky like a meteor - the pavement in front of you cracks and sinks into a crater as you instantly recognize the weapon - a winged spear. Red energy bursts forth from the Fire Dust crystals slotted into protrusions on either side of the spearhead. Overhead, a red glow illuminates the bridge as the red-haired huntress hovers with another spear in her hand. Energy radiates from the metal skirt-like armor that houses even more Fire Dust. The maiden's eyes glance down at you with a cold contempt.

Sonnet Walkure. It seems, at the very least, that noisy battle has managed to catch someone's attention. Even if you were in perfect condition, you're well aware that you'd stand no chance against her. It seems the spear has even gotten the automaton to look up at the valkyrie. You place your sickles back on your shoulders and call forth your bike. As she begins to descend, the motorcycle makes a wide turn and cuts in front of you - you've already grabbed the handles and are now speeding away in the opposite direction. There's been enough fighting for one night, and given the machine's Grimm-like nature, she'll probably end up finishing it off for you. Or even capturing it for Arcadia.

What's clear, however, is that you managed to triumph over that metal facsimile. There's a lot to consider and more worries ahead but for now, rest is your main priority. You make a note to enter the dorm room as silently as possible - having Hazel drag you to the hospital in the middle of the night is way too much of a hassle. You might regret that however.

"Alright, come at me! All three of you at once!" Sonnet's voice is answered by the battle cries of your three teammates as they charge forth with their weapons drawn. As the sound of clanging fills the air, you watch from a distance - as it turns out, sleeping on a broken leg is not a good idea. As soon as Ouka noticed it and squeaked out the news to Hazel, she carried you to the hospital where a doctor with a healing Semblance treated it. Though, it seemed that it was less effective on you for whatever reason - you'll be wearing a cast for a week while it heals at a slightly accelerated rate.

"Exciting, isn't it?" Ray takes a sip from a thermos as he sets his crutches against the bench and takes a seat next to you. Coincidentally, it seems your upperclassman suffered some injuries recently as well. A bandage is wrapped around his head and he's wearing some sort of leg braces. When you asked him about it earlier, he mentions falling down a few flights of stairs. You never thought of him as the klutzy sort, but you figure that stuff like that happens.

"I guess. I mean, even with the three of them it's totally one-sided." Your remark is timed perfectly - Marche is sent flying into Ouka as Hazel is forced to take cover behind a simulated rock as Sonnet's spears fly through the air like rockets. Seeing her now, you're absolutely terrified at the prospect of her not pulling her punches. Like say, against a transformed you. You scratch at your cast with a sigh - it's already covered in messages from your classmates. Ran wrote something that you can't read but you can only assume it's something nice. Or a mantra. As the fight concludes with Hazel finally yielding, you pull out a marker and turn towards Ray... who's suddenly standing.

"Apologies Niles, I've got to take this." He points at his Scroll and heads out towards one of the hallways. In the mean time, you get up and hobble over to your teammates and Sonnet - a signature from Arcadia's valkyrie is probably something to brag about. To Hazel, at least.


Side: Zero


"Concerning Nicht, it's shown some surprising adaptability. The Nuckleavee equipment requires some significant fine-tuning - consulting the collected data should increase both effectiveness and reliability. I'll admit, it was my hubris that lead to those results - an untested prototype should be used under controlled conditions. But even so, the next encounter will be the last. The last remaining traces of that man's sins will be wiped from the records." Memories of the previous night's battle linger in your thoughts as you speak into the Scroll. You're leaned up against a wall in an empty hallway of the Arcadia Training Center.

You are Ray. Otherwise known by the designation Zero. You've recently come into contact with the last remaining trace of the Schnee Dust Company's dark history; Nicht. From what you can surmise, it seems to have taken on the role of a student in Arcadia. How it managed to survive after disappearing from the burning remains of the lab is unknown, but the fact that it has managed to acquire several Masks does not bode well. To say that the fight ended poorly would be an understatement. You received repairs but several internal components will need to be replaced.

"Right, right. Big talk for someone who had their girlfriend bail them out." A flippant response. It's only natural, even if the voice on the other end of the line is essentially your handler and main source of maintenance and repairs. A man who bridges the gap between Atlas and Arcadia - Kalt Schnee. A flippant man who's insistent on calling you his older brother and treating you like one - the circumstances of your relationship with him and your role as an un-aging caretaker for him seem to be the main reasoning for such. You recall how he dragged you off for some brotherly bonding last weekend instead of inviting his actual family. To say that their relationship is strained is putting things mildly.

"She's just my partner, you know that as well as I do... We're getting off track. In any case, I'll continue to monitor the situation." You decide not to linger on that subject too long. You can hear some sort of commotion - a girl's voice, some cawing, and Kalt's frantic shouts. You end the call, knowing that he's managed to get caught up in that girl's flow again. A sigh escapes your mouth as you cycle out warm air from your systems.

Nicht is a danger to Arcadia - especially if it continues to grow in power. You underestimated your target, you won't be making that mistake again, however. What makes this matter even more difficult is the fact that you haven't managed to figure out who Nicht is. They could be a teacher, a student, or even part of Arcadia's inner circle for all you know. Not even the motorcycle it rode matched up with any registered vehicles in the city's database.

You pocket the Scroll and begin to walk back towards the combat areas. The investigation will take some time - for now, you should focus on training Team MGNO. Niles looked like he wanted you to sign his cast as well. You can only hope he gets well soon - you've enjoyed watching this so-called underdog improve under your training. He'll probably make for a good Huntsman if he keeps it up. You nod - you'll redouble your own efforts and train harder as well.

You'll be the one to end the threat of Nicht.


Chapter IV - Duel <Dua.Nulo> COMPLETE

"Do you guys ever get the feeling that someone's watching us?"

"Don't. They made their own bed any now they'll lie in it."
"Give him back."

Next Chapter - Evanescent Adolescence


"Wait and Hope"
Chapter V - Evanescent Adolesence <Perdis.Somero>
"...Geez, where is it?" You're currently crouched down, head tilted to one side as you use your Scroll's flashlight to search through the murky darkness underneath your bed. Your name is Niles Xenos, and you're a first-year student at the independent city-state of Arcadia. Located far from the other kingdoms of Remnant, you've travelled far from your own home in a non-descript and isolated territory of the world to fulfill your dream of becoming a Hunter! You stick an arm underneath the bed and wildly grab around - if you were in a manga you'd have surely gotten into some contrived, perverted situation doing so. But no such luck in reality.

It's been five days since your confrontation with the mysterious automaton who matched you blow for blow and even shared the same abilities as you. And in those four nights that followed, you've seen no sign of your metal foe. Right now, however, you're concerned with more pressing matters. Namely, that more and more of your belongings have been going missing. It started small, with a Dust round or two missing - something you could brush off. Then, a notebook. Clothing - socks at first, and then you realized that your wardrobe was practically shrinking outside of your multiple uniform sets. Right now, you're looking for one of the gloves to your combat attire.

You've brought this up over dinner a few times now with your team. While Lila chided your own paranoia (and subsequently missed the hypocrisy in doing so) and your theory that the dorm was compromised by some crazed stalker-thief, Hazel tried to reassure you that the locks on your door - both physical and electronic were completely functional. As for your partner, Ouka seemed the most shaken by your theory. She barely spoke up, even less so than she normally did with that timid, quiet voice. You stop in your search for a moment - it dawned on you that you didn't know that much about her. She was from Mistral... and she wanted to become a Huntress to meet someone? Maybe a long-lost childhood friend? You chuckle softly as you give up the ghost and stand. That sort of story belonged squarely in the realm of fiction. Or, at the very least, a cliche romcom manga. You made another mental note to message Kuro about this week's chapter of Tsuki ga Suki da yo~!

As you take a seat on the bed, you reflect on certain things. Of just how much has happened to you within a short span of time. The friends you've made. The strength you've gained. The life you lead now is one that's so far-removed from when you first came under your mother's care that it's hard to reconcile the two 'yous' as the same person in the end. You smile softly as you slowly reminisce on the past... all the while pushing aside the small thought in your head that you've forgotten something important.


Color Scene - Momo.png
"Let's █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ !"

A sharp pain assaults your head and forces you to grab at your temple. That foreboding feeling, that you've forgotten something that you absolutely must not have, is in full force as you glance around the room. Even if your mechanical rival has been laying low and may have even just shut down after the thrashing you gave it, you've never quite shaken off that feeling that you're being watched. Even in the sanctity of Team MGNO's living quarters.

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