Not just in the City of Mistral, but for all of the kingdoms. Flocks of would-be students who had passed entrance exam qualifications would be coming into the city for an assembly and initiation assessment. Some would come by rail, others from air. For a select few Mistral was their home and their feet would take them to the westernmost plateau where Haven Academy stood quietly waiting for this year’s flood of recruits. Young men and women who desired to be huntsmen and huntresses, for some personal reason.
Seeking out to become a protector against the darkness was no easy feat so whatever those individual reasons were, it was not going to be easy. By all measures one was not a student of Haven, or any other mainline academy simply by passing a test, getting a recommendation, or some other metric. Attending meant passing initiation tests and much like how Beacon Academy handled things, in Haven one would arrive before heading to the assembly in the grand hall and following instructions. On the next day the weak and unworthy would be weeded out one way or another. For some it would end in a funeral rather than a great personal shame. This was not a lifestyle for the meek and unprepared.
It was an hour after noon when a crowd of new students reached the open gates of Haven Academy. From the plateau one could see Mistral Central Station in the distance, downward on the stairwell that rose along the incline upwards to the plateau. The sound of the train that went from Mistral to Argus could be heard as a soft wind blew across Haven's academic grounds.
Once through the gates one would enter the quad with the grand hall in the center with two transmit towers to its left and right. At the center stood various benches and hedges. Some of the returning apprentice huntsmen and huntresses could be seen finishing up their lunches or talking things over with friends or visitors. Each bore a uniform of Haven, a conservative yet stylish blend of black and white. It would be what each of the new students would be wearing if they passed initiation. In fifteen minutes they would be drawn into the great hall to hear what the headmaster’s instruction would be.
It would give them some opportunity to bump into other would-be students, some more literal than figurative…
"Oh I've been waiting for this day for so long, I almost couldn't fall asleep last night. But here I am, Haven at last!"
The young man was metaphorically skipping up the long, some might find exhausting, flight of stairs, talking to himself along the way. He was practically bouncing with joy and excitement, beaming and humming happily to himself as he made his way upwards to the place he'd been dreaming of heading to, and doing everything within his power to reach, for quite a number of years now. Sure, he was as young as the majority that made it this far, but he wasn't going to let that discount the effort it took! He had to make his parents proud, for his dad who'd seen him off a few weeks ago so he could make the trip with time to spare and get a feel for the capitol, with enough funds stashed away for a rainy day. For his mom, who's letter wishing him the best and with some extra spending money tucked inside arriving only a few days prior to him leaving home for the foreseeable future. That extra money had to mean she was doing well with her contract abroad, hopefully between that and his own planned successes they could afford to get out of Kuchinashi and away from the people who had given them trouble for almost as long as he could remember.
With his wandering train of thought, Midori barely noticed when he reached the top of the stairs, stumbling as he tried to take another step that was simply not there for him to step on, though he shook it off with a trademark grin and chuckle. He had to pay attention, after all, who knows whether or not he'd run into one of his future teammates already! It was possible, and he'd hate to make a poor first impression just because he was almost day dreaming and ended up running headlong into someone or something! It was quite crowded after all, plenty of people around his age looking to make their mark and earn their place in the academy. There was a lot of people, sure, but Midori wasn't going to let that bother him. He knew his worth, and just how much he'd given in getting this far. Nothing like a little competition and reminder of just how desired these roles were to really reinforce how vital being a huntsman or huntress was. Being a bit early was nice for another reason as well, one that was a bit of a guilty pleasure.
So many new weapons! Midori had seen plenty of different components, styles, and designs working with his mom, but seeing so many different combinations, constructions, and design philosophies in one place was absolutely astounding in the best way possible. Given it seemed there was some down time before they were being ushered anywhere, well, that just gave the redhead time to promptly start wandering around, admiring the various weapons and equipment other would be students had brought with them, chattering at whoever made the mistake of actually listening or responding positively, or at all even, to his probing remarks and questions. Some might see it as trying to gather information on rivals, but for Midori, he just wanted to get to know all he could about the various weapons. Who knows, maybe there would be design ideas that he could adopt and modify into his own personal weapon, Promise, and improve overall! With a giddy, friendly smile he'd set to wandering and talking, chattering and enjoying being finally at Haven with so many others who'd, hopefully for the most part, genuinely earned their way here and not rode in on the coat tails of others.
"Even still, how did they manage to convince the headmaster to take in a common thug like that."
"Not even born in Mistral, though he'd fit right in with the gangs like all the othe-"
"Ssssh, he's looking this way."
Silme walks into the quad area with an irritable expression, bag slung over his shoulder as glares towards the gossiping upperclassmen that he'd heard talking about him. He had expected it from kids in his class, doing his best to not let his annoyance at their muttering whispers show on his face. It had been like this the whole way up(so much so he'd taken to jogging up the whole thing in order to get away from the chatter), though luckily there was another celebrity to take the attention off him in the class. Some rich heiress or something whose biggest accomplishment as far as he was aware of was getting kidnapped as a kid. Reine had talked about it when mentioning a colleague of theirs, but he wasn't that interested in an aspiring damsel in distress.
She'll probably flunk out and go back to sucking on her silver spoon before the year is out. Silme sapres a quick glance in the rich girl's direction but doesn't really pay her much mind as he goes back to grumbling under his breath, standing tall even under the weight of more than a few suspicious stares. As long as I don't have to deal with her. The last thing I need to tell Reine is I flunked out of this school because some princess couldn't carry her weight.
Taking a moment to look behind him, Silme noted a familiar face amongst the crowd, leaping about without a care as if he was getting high off the air.
"Well, didn't expect to see you here gear-head."The young faunus just gives a nod of his head, his face and voice remaining neutral even if the distraction of a faint acquaintance helped to take his mind(and temper) off of the rumor mill forming around him. "Hope your gear manages to hold up better for the test than it does when I use it."
H A V E N A C A D E M Y E N T R A N C E K I N G D O M O F M I S T R A L
It seemed like there were an endless number of stairs that led up to Haven Academy. Not that it really mattered all that much to Bren, the monotony of steps let his mind calm down a bit as the nerves he hid so well began to rear their ugly heads. He was further away from home and his parents than he'd ever been in his entire life, but this was what he wanted. He had argued with his parents repeatedly to convince them to let him go someplace other than Atlas Academy, and he wasn't about to let cold feet stop him from doing what he loved. A quick mental shake was all he really needed to push those emotions back down and focus more firmly on his surroundings. He felt a bump against his side and let himself glance down at the spectral canine that was currently walking up the stairs next to him. A collection of purple and black energy that bled of in small wisps around the form of one third of his semblance in the shape of a large wolf-like entity. This particular spirit being the first of the three that he summoned while training with his mother, and was the most relaxed of the three, always calmed his nerves even further than he could on his own. Something about it reminded him of home and that was enough to completely put his mind at ease. He gave the spirit a pat on its, mostly, incorporeal form before continuing on. Hopefully he'd be allowed to keep the spirit present, the instructors in Atlas had never really had much of an issue with it, but he didn't know what kind of rules were present at Haven.
There were plenty of people, his own age and older, heading up the stairs and he couldn't help letting his gaze wander to try and get an idea of the types of individuals he may end up on the same team with. Everyone had their weapons and the upperclassmen were clear to see as they walked with a bit more confidence than the rest of the group. He could overhear some of the conversation, something about a person named Reine which was not a name he recognized; probably some famous Mistrali hunter if he had to guess. Eh, if it's important I'll hear about it later. He was at Haven to learn after all.
The quad was much more open than the stairs and that was something Bren greatly appreciated. While he had no problem being around people it made his skin crawl to be packed in with so many at once without much personal space. Not many people caught his attention has he stepped up the final few steps, though he could see a red-headed young man who appeared to be in several places at once with how quickly he was moving as well as a silver haired individual who looked more than a little pissed off. He made a quick mental note to keep his distance on that one...last thing I need is a fight on my first day at Haven. He'd also heard mention of someone who was from a wealthy Mistrali family, he wasn't sure if it was someone his family had dealings with as they were more on the technological side of things, but he supposed there was always the possibility.
A quick sweep of his eyes allowed him to find a space by a bench somewhat away from everyone else where he could post up and continue to people watch to his heart's content. He found it was the easiest way to get an idea of who he would be dealing with, especially if someone didn't know they were being watched. He let himself sink down onto the bench, maybe the stairs had taken a little more effort than he would've liked, and snapped his fingers to command his spirit to post up underneath his legs. He had no intention of letting anything go awry, having just one of his spirits present took very little effort anymore, but it wasn't worth the risk. However, he simply decided to watch and wait to see what he could figure out about the unfamiliar space.
Sepia Al Mond hadn’t had so much attention on her in months, not since the regional tournament at Sanctum Academy.
She had done well enough in that tournament, but she hadn’t been a crown victor or anything. A girl from Kuchinashi’s combat school had bested her in the second round. People had told her it had been an embarrassing defeat but she had just laughed it off. By the four maidens, she laughed it off now. The brown-haired heiress, or she supposed soon to be ex-heiress, felt some degree of uncomfortable. It was always one or two ways people looked at her—walking on eggshells around her or being in resplendent awe that they could breathe the same air as her. Well, actually, there was a third. It became clear when the people who had flocked around her, some of them upperclassmen, mentioned how a faunus was giving her the stare of death. She didn’t hear it much, though; the only thing she could hear was noise.
Should she have worn a cloak? or maybe a mask. Not having people recognize her would have been a net benefit, but taking punches of all kinds was kind of the job she had signed up for. While she was stressed by the crowd, she knew she had to keep that under wraps. She wasn’t going to make it look like she was weak. The goal was to use Haven Academy as a stepping stone for her career as a huntress and to not ever feel like that again, so a bunch of people hating her or fake-liking her wasn't going to throw her off her feet!
“Geez, guys.” She managed, “It’s not a big deal.”
Whatever they had said wasn’t. The big deal was everyone getting a chance to become real deal apprentice huntsman and huntresses. After all, this was the academy that built up living legends like Fern Vermillion. Someday Sepia would be able to be as confident and strong like her idol. Someday soon.
As her eyes averted from the crowd and on the grand hall she could feel an excitement build in her stomach. In a few minutes, the door to being a Grimm exterminator and protector of justice would be open and her calling in life would be all in her grasp! She could barely hold her excitement inside as a wide, soft smile formed on her face as she looked onward as her right hand tightened on the handle of her suitcase. She was going to pass whatever initiation they threw at her. There was no way she wouldn't!
To be a huntress of Mistral... there was no other option.
The journey to becoming a huntress was, in truth, long underway for Dune - but today was the day it finally felt like the ship would leave the port. With every step she ascended she felt the excitement building up within her - but she knew she had to stem the flow of emotions within her that would surely be felt by everyone else as well. Even though the events that brought her here had been unfavorable, to say the least, she couldn't help but admit to herself that the aspects of becoming a huntress found a place in her heart that stirred more than the desire for vengeance. The training so far, although basic, just made her feel stronger. The weapons fed her curiosity. The trek to her true goal had only just begun, but it had already helped to make her feel something. But she knew it would only be temporary until she did finally achieve what she started this journey to achieve.
But for now, as she ascended towards the assembly area of Mistral up the seemingly endless stairs, that goal was a far ways away.
Dune shook away her thoughts and spared a few glances to the people around her. She wondered how many of these prospective students would really make it as huntsmen and huntresses. It was hard to judge just off of idle demeanor, but there were a few who seemed pretty composed. Others.. not so much. She wasn't concerned about her own success - success was the only choice for her. She simply had no other options.
Eventually she reached the peak of the stairs, which opened into a wide, populated plateau upon which rested the renowned Haven Academy. It was the visage of this academy in the distance that had helped spur her to train harder and harder each day as this moment came closer and closer. While she wasn't entirely fond of crowds, hopefully she could manage to limit the number of people surrounding her - but even if she couldn't, that wouldn't dissuade her from taking in this momentous occasion. She let an idle hand move to feel the leathery case that was clasped to the back of her waist. Of course it would still be there, but just feeling that her weapon was nearby comforted her.
Dune closed her eyes and took a deep breath as she stood at the top of the steps, the soft breeze brushing her tail as she took in the mountainous air as if for the first time, despite having lived there for years. Her eyes opened again and scanned the area for somewhere for her to await the assembly's commencement soon. She wandered around for a short time before finding a tree to post up against, leaning to it and letting her eyes wander from underneath the coverage of her sleek black bolero hat.
Of all of the places that Mistral could receive air traffic from, Kuchinashi had to be among the top rankings for danger. As a home to many individuals from the darker, more criminal walks of life, everyone making their way off a Kuchinashi airship was watched suspiciously by the receiving officials. It was likely that the staff didn't trust any kind of security checks from their Kuchinashi counterparts, reinforced by the increase of 'random searches' conveniently around the time one of their airships did arrive. Travelling out of Kuchinashi by air was more expensive than by rail however, and so there were thankfully some leeway compared to the groundside arrivals. Plus, air arrivals typically arrived at the higher locations of Mistral city, which was far more pleasant. There were many reasons why Cleaver had picked travelling by air for Azure, but the girl wasn't focusing on the reasons for the method of transportation; Even as she skipped her way toward Haven Academy, her mind was still glued on the aerial view of the city from her time gazing out of the airship's window. Which, admittedly, had been the entire flight. Thankfully, she wasn't daydreaming hard enough to forget her suitcase nor weapon case, the latter of which held Starsweeper within.
Mistral city seemed to be a lot cleaner than back home. A lot friendlier, a lot safer, but the level of mistreatment was almost similar if the signs on a few doors were to judge - Azure paused to glance at a No Faunus poster beside a shop's entrance, before carrying on her way. Azure hadn't had to worry too much about such matters back home, being the daughter of a large gang's leader was a free pass, though she only really tried to get into them if there was something spectacular inside to lure her in. Away from home, the young Faunus girl decided to avoid them as much as she could, though there was no telling when she'd spot something to take her chances at. She knew that a quick exchange of lien-for-item was hard for a shopkeeper to ignore if it was swift and with little fuss. A hat or hood would help, too. Azure allowed such thoughts to overtake her in an effort to ignore the countless amount of stairs that she had to climb. She didn't want to tire herself out thinking about how many there were left to go. As Azure began to near the top, her excitement also grew. She could see the top of Haven Academy peeking over the last step, her view increasing with every step. When she finally reached the top Azure took a moment to examine Haven from her position with the largest of smiles on her face, before raising her arms in the air (almost tossing her weapon case away in the process) and whooping, causing a few others that were scaling the steps to take glances at her. She had seen images of Haven before, but to see it in person was spectacular.
"It looks amazing!" Azure exclaims, letting her arms drop down from their elevated positions and making her way forward once more. Her eyes flickered from the building to all of the other students. So much variety, people from all sorts of walks of life. People with different appearances, different weapons, many from what looked like different school years - she could pick out who was new just from those who didn't have uniforms yet, just like herself. Deciding that she was going to approach one of them, Azure did so, making her way toward one of the girls, one that was definitely a bit taller than herself. "Isn't this fantastic? Haven looks wonderful in person!" A bright Azure spoke gleefully, hopping a little on her feet in excitement.
Midori had been practically bouncing from person to person, cluster to cluster, chatting with folks and pestering them with various questions about their weapons, who they were, and so on, when his latest victim person to chatter at got a moment's reprieve when an aquaintance decided to get the young man's attention with a remark on not expecting to see him here. The poor soul he'd been bothering had taken the chance to make themselves scarce, though Midori wasn't going to really worry about that. Instead, he walked on over to... Slime? No, no Silme! That was it, and Midori kept that light hearted grin on his face as he ignored the looks and remarks he had heard from before aimed at Silme. The comment on sturdy equipment got a sheepish chuckle and he scratched his head briefly, ruffling his hair unintentionally though it left it about as it had started.
"I wouldn't miss this for anything Buff, been my life's dream for quite awhile now. And you know the design was solid, but we just cannot get the materials to stand up to the sheer stress you put those poor tools under. Maybe Haven can help out with that and make it easier to get sturdy enough materials?" Midori treated Silme much like he treated most other people, tone friendly and just as open as ever. Sure, he saw the various looks and heard the remarks about the poor kid as he bounced around, but that didn't matter. They were all here to be huntsman and huntresses, and the nice thing was it didn't matter what got you here, if you didn't make the cut you didn't make the cut. He was pretty sure Silme would manage just fine, from what little dealings they had prior to running into each other again here, but it was always nice to see someone he recognized.
Finally, the day came when Artemisia could finally head to the Academy with the rest of the would-be Students. She actually had arrived a few days prior but mostly remained by herself in a rented room, waiting for this day to come. She did not waste those few days, though, keeping to her training and placing her things in good order for when she'd leave this temporary rented room for the Academy's rooms, most likely.
Now reaching the top of the plateau, she could see some small girl with blue hair jump around in excitement, her head disappearing further out of her field of vision. Soon enough, Artemisia reached the top of the stairs herself, removing her sunglasses and hanging them on her shirt's collar. Now she knew why the blue-haired student seemed happy - it was a sight to be sure. Haven had a certain charm to it, and Artemisia did not try to hide the smile that drew on her lips as she kept on walking.
To her right was a decent gathering of people around...someone? Some kind of big shot, probably. There was also the girl from earlier, but the Atlasian's gaze did not linger there. No, instead her eyes fell upon yet another small group of students. She wasn't walking to them per say, but her path led her close enough and she heard some of the comments of students around.
There was a tall, silver-haired Faunus walking up to a smaller guy. From what she gathered, the tall guy was supposedly bad news, or something along those lines. By the time her curiosity got picked and she had gotten closer, she could hear the small exchange that happened between the two students...and that was it. Without fully understanding the bigger picture or even being sure of what happened, she walked in. To her, tall guy looked and sounded like a bully and she disliked that - so she acted.
"Or maybe..." she said as she walked beside the smaller student, crossing her arms and looking up at the Silver Faunus. Artemisia wasn't small for An Atlesian, but this guy was way taller and she was close enough that she had to look up. Yet, to anyone that would be actively looking for it, there was no trace of doubt or fear in her eyes - only defiance. Her physique also spoke tons, as she looked liked she could hold her own even against that monster of a Faunus.
"...Maybe the fault's with the user? Y'know, there's such a thing as mis-handling gear. Takes time, and practice, but I guess that's why we're for, right? Betcha, we'll all get along just fine, am I right?"
"Sure, gearhead, or maybe your folks taught you to look at issues in too much of a box." Silme shrugs his bag off his shoulder, seeming ready to continue when a voice suddenly interjected itself into the conversation. Lilac eyes narrow at the newcomer, the low undercurrent of irritation spiking as the redhead swaggers onto the scene as if she owned the place. While Silme wasn't aware of her heritage, he could instantly recognize the swaggering walk of an Atelsian blowhard. He'd seen more than his fair share back when he lived in Mantle. He had used to try and play nice and make friends, but right now, he was in no mood to let someone come and berate him.
"...Maybe the fa-" Artemisa would find the rest of her tirade muffled in a moment, as Silme stepped forward to meet her, clamping his large hand over her mouth as he glared down at her with an open sneer.
"Not in the mood and don't care for whatever you have to say, Tiny. I'm sure you were a big shot where you came from, to feel like you can just barge in like that, but this ain't there." With no small level of force, Silme pushes the girl away, teeth gritted as he felt the stares being thrown his way.
Yeah. . . yeah that must look really bad huh. . . fuck it. Fuck them. Fuck me for being an impulsive idiot. Silme couldn't help but kick himself internally as he reflected on where he was, but he wasn't backing down now. It was her fault for suddenly sticking her nose where it didn't belong. Why did she even have to come bother me? What did I even do!
" . . .I'll talk to you later gearhead." Silme doesn't turn to address Midori as he grumbles, simply moving to walk away from the whole scenario if he could, his face still curled up into an angry grimace. "Prob best not to be seen hanging around me for the first day here." @FrogRFlowR@Eisenhorn
Heather sat among a small circle of her peers from Sanctum in the quadrangle of Haven academy. She’d struggle to call them friends as none of them were particularly friendly towards her. They viewed her as some charity case, needing to be plucked from the bowels of mediocrity by their graces. Still, it was better than being perceived as some sort of weird loner. The girls had insisted on meeting early to grab some coffees to go before heading up the laborious stairway, now perched to observe the flood of prospective students. They eagerly exchanged gossip as a few persons of intrigue passed through the gates.
“Is that the Al Mond heiress?” One girl said, her cheeks flushed with bewilderment. “Do you think I should ask for an autograph?”
“Desperation isn’t a good look for you, Olive.” Another giggled, the group chiming in to offer their own equally vague and uninteresting opinions on the matter. They made little effort to include Heather in their conversations. It would seem they were just as content to keep her on the periphery of the social circle as she was to remain there.
Don’t make waves, Heather. Those were the last words she heard from her Aunt Camelia that morning as she departed. They had certainly dampened her spirit somewhat. Her aunt was never one to shy away from praise or offer support, but she had made her disapproval of Heather’s ambition to attend Shade apparent ever since she expressed an interest in the entrance exam.
“Hey Heather, look over there.” Gwyn, the ringleader, pulled Heather from her train of thought, drawing her attention to a silver haired faunus who they were all too familiar with. Silme. He’d garnered quite a reputation for his violent outbursts and callous attitude. “You know,” Another girl began, sneering sidelong at Heather whilst talking to her friend beside her in a whisper loud enough for the group to hear. “I thought allowing her admission was just the Headmaster being generous, but if they’re letting him attend then clearly whoever’s in charge has a screw loose.” “Do you think the school has some sort of benefits program for troubled youths? Maybe they’re trying to rake in the Lien.”
Heather dug her nails into her palms, staring down at the grass whilst the gaggle of hens cackled away. Don’t make waves. Don’t make waves. She repeated the words again and again, bringing herself to her feet with as much poise and dignity as she could manage in the face of their jabs. “If you’ll excuse me, I’d like to take a walk.” Heather snapped, staring daggers at the girls. They took little notice of her departure, their attention drawn to another student. She practically stormed off from them, reassuring herself with the same mantra that had gotten her through Sanctum.
I will not let that woman define me. I’m here to become a Huntress and that’s what I’ll do. No two ways about it. The affirmations failed to invigorate her as they normally would. No amount of manifesting positivity could hide just how nervous she was. She found herself leaning against a tree in the courtyard, slumping down into a seated position with a forlorn sigh.
“I’ll be better off if I never have to speak to those nasty, vapid cretin’s again.” She cursed aloud, turning her head to the side to notice that the tree in question was already being occupied by another girl. Startled to her feet, Heather’s cheeks went beet red. No doubt the gray haired girl had heard her and the idea of airing her business to a complete stranger by accident was mortifying. She’d need to think fast. “Wh-what I mean to say is, uh, what a lovely day we’re having isn’t it? Truly splendid.” Truly splendid. Who talks like that anymore? Today was her chance to redefine herself among people who had no idea who she was. She’d hoped to have a bit more class than to out herself as a nervous wreck and a dweeb to the first stranger she met.
"Well you make a good point, maybe I should go with a cylinder, maybe a sphere? Not sure how easy gripping and carrying a sphere would be though!" Midori didn't even seem to be bothered by the remark, making a joke out of the whole thing, although that was all cut short by another prospective student, with brilliant red hair and she seemed to think Silme was causing him trouble? Oh he wasn't at all, but before Midori could get a word in edge wise, Silme took matters into his own hands, well hand in this case, and didn't really let the poor girl get a word in edgewise before heading off. Midori did call after him, subtly placing himself in the way between the young woman and the silver haired faunus as he departed.
"It was good seeing you Buff, I'll catch up later. Don't be a stranger!" The young man waved after Silme regardless of whether he'd see it or not before spinning on heel, offering the red headed girl a smile, probably looking slightly upwards at her given he was, well, pretty short for his age. He didn't mind, and it didn't bother him at all, but it was just the way things were. He extended his hand as he spoke to her now, part of trying to keep things from getting out of hand so soon after getting here, last thing anyone wanted was a fight breaking out after all!
"Sorry about that, he's really not that bad, he's just rough around the edges. First days nerves must be getting to him, I hope you understand? Never mind that all those awful things people keep saying when they think he isn't looking or listening aren't helping either. My names Midori Yoake though, it's nice to meet you! I know how that probably sounded but he wasn't giving me any trouble, I do appreciate what I assume was your concern though. Guessing from his remarks your not exactly from around here?" Midori was doing his best to try and smooth things out, as friendly as he ever was regardless of whether or not she shook his hand or not. He wouldn't be offended if she didn't, not everyone went for that sort of thing after all. His tone was also chipper and upbeat, as was his stance as he casually rocked from one foot to the other, almost like it was hard for him to ever stay in place or stay still for terribly long.
Mentions: Heather (@Cello) Location: Haven Academy
Dune found her thoughts wandering once again. It was easy for thoughts to wander when all you had to keep you company was your own thoughts. It perhaps sounded weird, sure, but despite the crowds around her, Dune felt even now that she was alone. Not that that was a bad thing - she may have preferred it that way, even if it hadn't been the only thing she had known in a long, long time. Her idle gaze followed the slowly, gently twirling shape of an irregularly deep orange leaf falling gently from a high perch. The leaves didn't seem to mind being alone, they were beautiful nonetheless - perhaps moreso for it.
But that's not what Dune's wandering mind was leashed to, no, she had long grown accustomed to keeping to herself. Instead, she thought more about what was lying ahead for her, rather than what or who was currently beside her. If an entire village shoulder-to-shoulder couldn't save her parents, what could she expect to gain from a simple singular acquaintance? No, this was a journey she planned to take on her own. Of course she knew from here-say that the academy put prospective huntsmen and huntresses into teams - but it was a temporary arrangement. After graduation, a huntress could carry on by their lonesome, if they so wished. Admittedly, when Dune had tried to think that far ahead before, it seemed like a distant dream - but today...it was different. Reaching the point where she could finally take a true step towards becoming a huntress was so much more real now.
She was so distracted by the roaming of her thoughts that she didn't even notice another girl tramping over to the very tree she was posted up against herself. It was the exasperated sigh that snapped the Faunus from her absence of mind. Dune turned her head to look sideways at the auburn-haired girl, her arms crossing across her chest as she caught just the last half of whatever it was she was saying to herself. She raised a brow at the measurably shorter girl's...mature-sounding curses, reckoning that someone had gotten the better of her for her to get so worked up.
Dune watched her expression as the other girl turned and seemed startled by her presence, the red-head's face flushing in surprise as she shot to her feet. The girl was quick to try and change the subject as the Faunus just watched her coolly. Dune turned her gaze away and looked around them, the soft breeze and equally as soft sun smiling back at the attention.
"It is, isn't it?"
Her eyes unfocused for a moment. Those were the first words she'd said to someone her age in.. a while. Usually she just ignored anyone who tried making small talk with her - not out of rudeness, moreso out of tunnel vision to whatever she was actually doing at the time - which if it wasn't training, it was reading in most cases. Why now did she opt to engage with a complete stranger? Well, if she were ever to do it, at the academy would probably be a better place than nowhere. After all, this girl might be a future "teammate" of hers, even if unlikely.
Her gaze turned back to the flustered girl. She studied her for a brief moment, the cogs within her head turning stoically as she looked her up and down shortly. Her lips parted slightly, as if to begin speaking, but after a slight pause, she silenced herself again, turning her golden eyes back to watch the crowds once again. She considered offering advice to the girl regarding whatever it was that ailed her, but decided against it - she had never been good at giving advice, usually just regurgitating things that her grandparents or tutors told her - plus, she had no idea what the girl's problem was. It was simpler to just let it figure itself out.
If Silme wasn't too focused on his own anger, he'd notice immediately that the strength he used to push Artemisia away was met with a surprisingly similar level of resistance by the red-haired girl standing in front of him, who took the shove and barely took a step backward despite the Faunus being bigger and looking larger than herself. Although even if she did not physically react too much, her mind was running wild.
Cutting her off from speaking was bad enough, but his whole deamenor was way off. Acting like a big shot, her? Did he even listen to himself talking? Acting like he could say whatever he wanted, walking like he owned the place. Artemisia's mind was burning as she was losing control of her emotions again. She took a step towards the Faunus, now himself walking away but was stopped by something. A voice? She looked slightly down to see the student from before - smiling, with his hand extended.
"... it's nice to meet you! I know how that probably sounded but he wasn't giving me any trouble, I do appreciate what I assume was your concern though. Guessing from his remarks your not exactly from around here?"
Now cut off from the source of her anger, and taken aback by the surprisingly jolly attitude from a guy Artemisia thought was being bullied, her anger slowly faded. And as that wave receded, the rest of the information Midori gave her began to sink in. Her eyes went from him to the Faunus once again, but also to the other students around them staring at the silver giant with either disdain, anger or disgust. She heard some comments about him and almost felt sorry for the tall jerk.
As quickly as the storm came, it left Artemisia's eyes. Midori's smile was matched by Artemisia's, who then shook Midori's hand with just a bit too much strength.
"Not all that bad, huh?" she said as she readjusted the duffle bag she was carrying over her shoulder "Seems to me like he was being a real jerk, but then again maybe I barged in too hard. And, well, now that you mention it I guess he's not the only one being an ass." she told Midori, clearly reffering to the students whispering among themselves about either Silme or any other gossips of the day.
"The name's Artemisia Argent, by the way. Sorry if I came in too hard I'm uh... I'm kind of like that. Glad I ran into you and not more of his kind, though, I'll tell you that much. Never mind all that, though!" She said as she turned to the Academy's gate, taking the sunglasses from her shirt and putting them on as she looked up at the structure. As she looked back to Midori, she raised them on her forehead. "This is what we're here for after all, right? I bet you're just a stoked as me. Oh and I'm from Atlas, by the way." she finally answered as she turned and pointed to the Atlas crest on her military jacket's right shoulder.
Midori maintained his smile while putting himself firmly in the path of the lady he was addressing. Sure, he knew full well how infuriating being treated like that could be, but he really was trying to keep any trouble from kicking up on day one. Before the initial speeches and talks were done no less! No, no, he was going to do what he could to keep the peace, they were all here for the same reason after all! She seemed to be cooling off, relatively speaking, as he watched her gaze wander slightly. Probably processing his words, good, she wasn't the type to heat up and just, well, keep on cooking. That was a huge relief, the little tells were there that he didn't have to potentially brace to avoid being bowled over by someone fresh on the war path. Silme had been pretty rude, sure, but poor guy was the target of a lot of nasty words himself so he was going to stick up for him best he could. Even if that was just stopping a fight from breaking out so soon. She seemed nice enough as well, so no sense letting her run off into trouble so soon!
"Oh it seems that way, I know, but its reactionary. He's being treated awful, so it's only natural to react accordingly. Trust me, even with my less than plentiful dealings, he's really not that bad! I think you missed some context but, hey, you meant well so that's nothing to fault." Midori was the picture of a friendly, cheery young man, grinning even as she shook his hand a bit too strongly. His was surprisingly calloused, sturdy but not anywhere as overtly strong, plain indications of a craftsman of some variety prior to trying to be a huntsman. He seemed to be paying close attention to what she had to say, eyes practically flaring with light as she mentioned being from Atlas, all but bouncing where he stood with excitement. Sure, the odds of her having even ran into his mom, let alone recognize her, were slim to none but someone from Atlas attending here? He was practically ecstatic to have ran into her. Pretty much polar opposite of the response she got from Silme.
"You came all this way from Atlas, really?! Mom is working abroad over there right now Red, sorry nicknames are easier for me hope you don't mind, working with some of the weapons manufacturers over there to help with designs! Oh of course I'm stoked to try to be a Huntsman, its been a dream of mine ever since I got a hand on one of their weapons, and then when I heard about how they lived? Doing good for so many people, no matter the status or origin they came from? I did everything I could to make it here, literally, and there is no way I'm going to let anything get in my way of reaching my dreams! How is Atlas, by the way? I've heard it is far more uptight and regimented, not sure how some people could even live in that kind of life, let alone thrive!" The mention of Atlas seemed to practically set Midori's motor mouth off, rambling and prattling with a grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye. He was taking the fact she was from abroad not as a concern but an opportunity to potentially hear about his mom, or more likely learn about the land she was working in!
Or, well, most of them did. A lone student had approached Sepia, cheerful and completely oblivious to the conversation that had just taken place. As her chipper voice broke through Sepia’s concentration on the grand hall broke and she looked over to the younger faunus.
“You bet! Don't let all of the bright lights of Mistral blind ya! This is the real deal.”
As the Mistral-born huntress-to-be turned her head back toward the grand hall her smile remained on her face. It was a sight to see, wasn’t it? Sepia had looked down upon it from the upper plateaus her whole life and at its sister academy she had stared through her window every day longing to be in the “big leagues”. She was finally here and now that everyone had stopped swarming her like a queen bee she could finally feel her nerves. What kind of initiation trial did they exactly do? It wasn’t something that was talked about and Sepia had never met someone who had failed and wanted to reapply, so she didn’t exactly have a cross-reference. It was hard to plan around that, though Sepia quickly reminded herself that she wasn’t much of a planner. It had been one of the central criticisms her instructors back at Sanctum had mumbled about.
Plans were for thinkers. Sepia was more of a do-er.
She chuckled, “Last chance to run away if you're nervous.”
And by proceedings, generally it meant the Headmaster being cold to pretty much everyone in attendance. Though, this was not uncommon. Goldi Lockhart had a reputation long before she was tasked with overseeing the next generation of Huntsman and Huntresses. As far as the blonde-haired thirty-year-old was concerned the last thirteen months had been a demotion. She wanted to be in the field. Hunting Grimm. Fighting criminals. She had come a long way from the little girl in Argus. But responsibilities were responsibilities and Goldi took those things seriously.
“Look at them. All of them.”
“The students, m'am?”
“No. Pretenders.” The blonde looked over to her assistant with a glare, remembering how many times she had fought the formalities.
“Posture is all wrong. That one could be knocked over by the wind. It’s… they won’t survive in the trials.” She sighed, although remaining as stoic as she could as she stood arms-crossed eyeing the crowds that were coming into the great hall. “Hm. Well, looks can be deceiving, I guess. Sorry. Talking to myself. Again. I suppose I should get this thing ready and we can talk about tomorrow later.”
In a few minutes all of the prospective recruits had been ushered into the grand hall while the second and third year students had already moved forward to their respective classes. Headmaster Lockhart stood in the center stage with her assistant standing by.
“Welcome to Haven Academy.”
The blonde huntress adjusted the collar of her jacket as her eyes scrawled across the room. She saw familiar faces from Sanctum, the largest combat school in the region. Some were notable faces, others not so notable. There were some she remembered the dossiers stated were from out-of-state. Interesting to crawl so far away to get a chance at becoming a Huntress. How many times would they have to fail to find their footing… or know their place? It was a question. She had been the outsider once, thrown against the wind expecting to fail. She could relate to the drive to prove everyone wrong about what her purpose was in life. Those with the most wrinkles tended to fight the hardest, even if it did come with a price. She looked intensely at the red-haired outsider, a little longer than she had silent observed any other student. You’d have to be paying attention to notice.
“My name is Goldi Lockhart and I am the headmaster here at this academy. My job is to make sure you’re good enough to be one of us. The job you want us to instruct you in is hard. Dangerous. There are tons of threats, both unseen and seen.”
She thought to the consequences. A idle memory of her own trial in the academy some decade-and-a-half ago.
“I was in your position once.” She stated, as if emphasizing this part of her little speech prominently. “Everyone expected me to fail. A fragile girl surrounded by Grimm. But I survived. The trials at Haven Academy have not changed in their exuberance and toughness. You might die tonight and I will have to write a letter to your guardian expressing my sympathies about your fate. I don’t want that to happen, but it will probably happen. You’re all weak. Fragile.”
A light smile. Slightly warm.
“In Argus we have a saying. The result justifies the deed.” She chuckled, “It’s stupid. But, it is what it is. The best of us are tempered by the fight. Some are just suited for survival. I just hope I don’t have to bury too many of you come dawn.”
Her hands moved from her arms, digging into the podium itself.
“In your pamphlet, or whatever, there is an identification card good for tonight and tonight only at a hotel called The Celestial Swan. You will head there, representing Haven Academy; representing The Kingdom of Mistral. Your first trial is your patience. You will stay within the walls of this establishment until sunfall, of which,” Headmaster Lockhart motioned to her assistant, a woman with purple hair and amber eyes, “Miss Sang will be there to collect you and you will be taken to our hunting grounds.”
It sounded more complicated than it needed to be, but tradition was tradition and Mistral liked tradition more than Atlas liked airships. She heard other academies held their recruits in barns, which sounded a whole lot simpler (and less expensive!) than a stay at one of the better hotels across the way. That aside, Goldi didn’t mind too much, it allowed her to do a bit more reading on this year’s group of recruits and see how they’d react. She had a particular Argus-style way to kick off the night in mind.
“Then… well, the proof is in the pudding.”
After a full minute of silence and confusion she blinked. “What are you doing? That’s it. That’s the whole bit. Go to the hotel and follow orders!”
In due time the various newcomers and prospective students were properly ushered into the great hall, and Midori's excitement only grew. It was finally time to hear from the Headmaster, and there was a name he'd heard thrown around quite a bit once his interest in being a Huntsman began. Goldi Lockhart, apparently incredibly focused and cold, a figurative ice queen. Well he couldn't say whether he believed it or not, rumors were nasty things, despite how many peddled them, and he was more interested to see how the Headmaster carried themselves before making his own judgement. Way he figured, she earned her place as the first and foremost in raising the next generation of Huntsman and Huntresses, regardless of demeanor, that wasn't something you sort of accidentally fell into. The murmurings and whispering finally died down once everyone spotted the Headmaster and she began speaking, and had Midori's rapt, and full, attention. This was going to be a moment that lived in his memory for the rest of his life, one way or another, and he wasn't ever going to let himself forget it.
She began by reiterating how hard this life would be, something he'd been hearing time and again, over and over, from people trying to dissuade him, and all they ever did was steel his resolve further. This was no exception, sure it was going to be hard, but what worth doing was easy? If this hadn't been worth doing he would have given up long before standing here, and anyone else who was standing here should be thinking the same! Still, something caught his eye about her stance and gaze had lingered, pausing just long enough for him to wonder who had caught her eye. He hoped it wasn't Buff, poor Silme couldn't catch a break if he was already being singled out by the headmaster. He needed to figure out something that would stand up to the sheer abuse his friend put anything built through, he had ideas but it wasn't like he could do anything with them right now.
The solemn remark that she would be burying many of them and that, well, she would have to write home to their guardians about their passing would have been sobering for most, but Midori didn't let it dampen his spirits. It was going to be hard, sure, but from the few he'd interacted with, well, he wasn't going to let the idea of so many of the people around him living their last days get to him. No, he'd see the dawn and he'd most certainly see it alongside plenty of the others here too! Sure, they were inexperienced and new to the lifestyle, but what good was an initiation that killed off too many potential recruits? It was poor design to throttle supply that much, and he wondered if it was as much an effort to scare off those who weren't as committed or certain in their decision. A smarter man might worry he'd be proven wrong come the next day, but well, for now, Midori remained confident in not just his ability to pass the trial, but that of the others he'd dealt with. Silme and Artemisia could probably do this with one hand tied behind their backs, so he had a lot of work to do to get up to their levels!
As soon as the speech had begun, well, it was already over and they were being told to report to the hotel. Checking his pamphlet, Midori indeed found the voucher good for tonight at the Celestial Swan. That was...serious money for someone like him, and even if they weren't going to spend the night there, getting any time at all to spend there would be a grand experience! He grinned once they were dismissed, and decided there was no point just taking off alone, might as well find someone to walk and talk with! Maybe he'd end up tracking down Silme or Artemisia, or maybe a new friend. That would be nice, new friends were a welcome addition, especially since maybe he'd be lucky and meet a future teammate! With that he practically bounded off, seeing who he could end up running into and chattering their poor ears off. Running into was going to be figurative, but given the high energy the young man had, well, literally could be a possibility too.
Despite being a joke, there almost was some truth to the other student's words. Mistral was a bright place, well lit, at least on the upper levels where they were now. Back home in Kuchinashi, there were many dark, unlit areas where less-than-desirable individuals lurked. Regardless, Azure's face remained smiling as brightly as the lights in the city around the students. Her hands gently squeezed her suitcase and weapon case, casting a wonderous glance at the entrance to Haven Academy's interior, before fixing her gaze back at the taller student with a little laugh. "Yup, it's your last chance," Azure replies with a nudge.
. . .
During the opening speech, Azure's excitement did not die out - it grew, even if the speech was a touch sombre at a few moments. She did not know too much about Goldi Lockhart other than the most obvious bits and pieces; Azure knew that her father saw Goldi as a target. It wasn't about money or a bounty, he had told her. It was about making the gang even more known that it was. Already, Last Ones Out already performed various large criminal acts - The burning down of a few homes, attacks on various police departments, the festival kidnapping - but to attack a headmaster would boost their reknown. At one point, Azure would have agreed with such an act. But now, hopping up and down on the spot with a beaming smile resting on her lips, she wasn't a part of that life any more. Cleaver had changed her mind on the matter, and had assisted her in going to Haven to make her the Huntress that she now wanted to be. Until she had completed Haven Academy, she was a student. After that, she could take any path she wanted, even if that meant going back to her father.
Though they were given access to a hotel, Azure wondered if she was going to get any sleep. Her mind would be running all night, envisioning what tomorrow could bring. The hunting grounds sounded particularly interesting, though Azure wondered what the students would be hunting. It seemed obvious that it would be Grimm, however she wondered if there would be some kind of twist involved. Or, perhaps she was just overthinking things. As Goldi concluded her speech, Azure patted herself up and down to make sure that she had remembered her pamphlet, and was relieved that she had.
Finally, Azure turned back to the taller student that she had been hanging with ever since they had started to talk outside. "Tonight is going to be fantastic!" She exclaims, resting her chin on her hands. "There's just so much to take in!"
It was right on schedule that the masses of would-be Huntsmen began to be ushered into the lofty interior of the Great Hall of Haven Academy. It was finally time.
Dune could feel the excitement welling up further within her, but she made a point of forcing herself to keep calm, trying not to focus too intensely on the path to come and instead keeping her attention open to her surroundings. She could see the excitement in the eyes of many around her reflecting what she suppressed within herself - while in others she could see clear anxiety. While she was hardly one to talk about expressing emotions, it was difficult not to wonder how one could wish to undertake such a path and not show confidence in their own abilities. One could only imagine the heroes monikered "Huntsmen" would be the most confident of individuals -- for how could thousands of people rely on you to protect them if you weren't?
Though to be fair, not all wore their emotions on their sleeve. One fine example stood before all of them in the form of the Headmaster of Haven Academy - Goldi Lockhart. Dune watched the woman even as she scanned the lot of them herself. There were lots of rumors about the Headmaster of the academy, but that was to be expected of anyone of renown, really. Regardless, the Faunus' attention was glued to the woman as she spoke. The speech wasn't exactly.. what she expected, but truthfully a grand pep-talk wasn't too realistic for this line of work, now was it? What may have been disparaging sentiments to some only rolled off Dune's skin. She had long-since decided to devote what life she had to becoming a Huntress, and she had long-since started ignoring those who told her she couldn't or shouldn't do it. By now it was second nature to tune out all doubt.
The golden-eyed girl patted her pocket, feeling the shape of the pamphlet through the fabric as it was mentioned by the Headmaster. The process behind the initiation was a bit weird, but she could only assume this was how it was always done - and she wasn't one to argue with results.
Before she could even finish her thoughts the room fell silent -- the speech had finished as abruptly as it had started. And it was at that very moment that the first step of their first trial began. Dune had no intention of dawdling about - almost as soon as the headmaster shooed the would-be Huntsmen away with her order, the gray-haired Faunus was turning away and drawing the pamphlet from her pocket, her eyes scanning it as she began walking.