Late the next morning, the four Black Paradoxes headed for one of the forested areas surrounding Vytal, hoping to find some Grimm to get their eye in with their Otherworld skills.
One and a half hours in, something else found them.
Mato had just raised her Black Blade to cut down a particularly annoying branch when a blast of light reduced it to ash. Everyone whirled around, weapons at the ready.
Standing some distance away through the trees was a man clothed in black and green. His white hair glowed in the dappled light, giving him the feel of a fae creature.
“I was wondering which fool child had wandered into this forest.” He called over. “But from your power signatures I can see that you are no ordinary humans.”
Mato summoned the Rock Cannon. “Who are you?”
The man raised his head, his green eyes as hard as emeralds. “I am Lirio, of the Seven Apostles. And this forest will be your grave. Seishin toitsu: In!”
Mato just had time to think Mental what? before Lirio vanished in a flicker of movement.
Something pricked Saya’s instincts and she brought King Saw around to meet a ballistic ball of green energy. “Oi! Get back here you bastard!”
Mato lit her flame and opened her senses, scanning the trees with her cannon.
A wash of air - no, he was past it.
A flicker near a trunk.
A flash at crown level -
Mato opened fire with a round that exploded on contact, shredding every tree in a hundred foot radius and knocking Lirio to ground level. His landing was solid, but his speed boost was gone.
The white haired man spat at the ground. “Good shot, Kuroi. Let’s see if Yuu can keep up!”
Man and girl clashed violently, supertough bow against heavy metal arms. Yuu growled and caught the bow in her fist, but try as she might she couldn’t crush it. “The hell is this thing made of?!”
“Something something advanced alien alloy.” Lirio remarked dryly as he leapt away, reloading his strange bow with a sound like a super sized shotgun. “You’re next, Irino!”
Saya was all too happy to introduce King Saw to Lirio’s face, but the Apostle kept his distance, hammering her with more green energy bolts that she either blocked or cut through. Eventually one of her slashes opened a tear that she leapt through with a savage yell. Lirio countered by crouching right down and leaping at least five stories into the air.
“Ryodan-shiki Eakonka kai!”
Saya emerged where the Apostle used to be just as the first energy ball came screaming down. “Overheat!”
The balls were batted away with a single swing of King Saw, and a line of tears opened in the air. Saya leapt through the first one and came flying out the second into the third and so on, each tear increasing her speed by a factor of two. The end result of all this was that King Saw made contact with Lirio at roughly the speed of a bullet train, sending him crashing down to the forest floor. Saya flipped in midair and fell back into the tear, coming out at ground level as the dust billowed up from the Apostle’s landing. Saya smirked. “And that’s that.”
“Not quite.” said a voice from behind them. Yomi whipped around and brought her scythe to bear just in time to knock the mechanical bow off course so that the energy ball detonated on yet another tree instead of her head, then summoned her skulls and a chain with a single gesture, forcing Lirio back.
The man executed a low backflip, moved into a roll, and came up looking none the worse for wear. “Hm. You are all weaker than I anticipated. Make sure and get stronger, won’t you? If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a lack of challenge. Primeval Jammer!”
A small sandstorm kicked up, obscuring Lirio’s form for a moment, and when it cleared, the Apostle was gone.
Mato let out a great huff of breath and leaned on her cannon. “What the hell was that?”
Saya’s face twisted. “He was playing with us. We couldn’t so much as scratch him that whole time.”
Yuu folded her giant arms. “Well, now what do we do?”
Mato dismissed her cannon and turned to the others. “We contact Ozpin-san and let him know what we saw. With any luck, he can find out who these Apostles are and what they’re doing.”
Opzin leaned forward in his seat slightly, attention on the vidscreen set into his desk. “Apostles? I don’t recall any organisation with that name. I’ll have some agents do some digging. In the meantime, head for the forests on the other side of Beacon. Tomorrow’s initiation day and I don’t want you to be seen. Your identities are still technically supposed to be secret, after all.”
“Will do, Ozpin-san. Mato out.”
Opzin sank backwards in his seat, suddenly very tired. Glynda came up on his right side. “Is something wrong, sir?” The grey-headed man rubbed his eyes behind his glasses. “The Apostles are here, Glynda. And if they’re here... then she is here.”
Glynda’s eyes widened. “Professor, you can’t possibly mean...”
Ozpin sighed, feeling the weight of his many years first as a young Huntsman running with his team, then time as Headmaster of Beacon. “Sing Love. You could never be content with staying on your plane of the Otherworld, could you?”
He reached out across his desk and took hold of a white knight, before lifting it up and past the row of pawns on the board in opposition to the advanced pawns and bishop on the black side.
“Your move, Sing.”