Jaune Arc Expelled: Settling Scores – Part 1
(A RWBY Fanfic)
Outline: Asked to come in to speak with Ozpin by Professor Port, Jaune Arc returns to Beacon for a few hours in hopes of learning more about the Grimm that wiped out the group he traveled with and a shorter trip to Vale. A follow up to Jaune Arc Expelled: A Different Path.
(Part 1 -0o0- Start)
The desert sun of Vacuo baked the grains that shifted below Jaune’s feet as he walked, numerous small wounds leaking crimson blood over his breastplate and jacket. His jeans and sleeves were torn, stained red around the edges where the twisted metal had bit into the flesh as he dug through the wreckage of the Vanister in hopes of finding others who had survived its sinking. He had survived his fall at the expense of his Aura, leaving him without its protection as the sun mercilessly glared down—almost as if it was offended by his desperate effort to cling to life.
He carried on while carrying on his back his mentor, who stirred with a rasp. She had been the only one he could find who survived the fall. “Iria,” he said. “Are you awake?”
“Jauney-boy?” she said. The blood in her eyes rendered her blind, sticking stray strands of her hair to her face like glue. “Y-You survived the fall?”
“Yeah.” He adjusted his grip on her as he pressed forward. “Somehow, I made it.”
“The… others…?” she asked in a haggard voice, raw from pain and dehydration. The question brought to mind the twisted wreckage that still smoldered in the distance, acrid smoke rising to the sky in columns that slowly vanished into the cloudless sky. He’d only found half the bodies, impaled or buried under the steel airship they had been aboard. He’d called that ship home for months now and, just like the comrades who he had trained and fought alongside, it was gone.
“No one else made it.” The words stung as they left his mouth. “It’s just the two of us, but I’ll get us somewhere safe so… so save your strength.”
Her bloodied arm, exposed with patches of raw and blacked flesh from the flames, wavered as she weakly held out an envelope and necklace. “Ge… get these to my sister. Ta…take my guns too, always said you needed a set, but kept putting it off.”
“Stop,” he begged, shaking his head in denial. “Please stop talking like that.”
“Y-You live, hear me?” she continued. “Y-you live and re-remember us. Rem…ember who we were. B-Be our legacy.”
“We’re gonna make it!” His voice cracked as he kept pushing onwards, ignoring the sun above and the aches in his body. “Together. You’ll get to your sister alive.”
She chuckled. “You’re a good kid. Makes… make m-me wish… I had…”
Jaune stopped walking as her voice trailed off. His lips trembled, fresh tears stinging his eyes as his breath caught in his throat. Her arm had gone limp, the letter and necklace falling to the sand, and her weight had shifted backwards, no longer supporting itself.
She was gone. They were all dead. Every one of them was dead.
Jaune fell to his knees and set her body down as gently as he could. His tears fell unbidden and were greedily drunken by the arid sand. He pounded his fist against it impotently, only able to wail in misery.
A dark chill ran up his spine as his anguish and despair served as a beacon, frost and rime seemed to eat at his soul as a slowly thickening brume of darkness overlapped the sand. He looked up and ahead, staring into the distance at the source. There, wreathed in the darkness like a cloak blanketing its form, was the Grimm that shifted within the nebulous darkness.
It did this.
Something in Jaune snapped upon seeing it and the tears stopped. He gave his fallen mentor a final glance as he put away the necklace and letter. He’d survive and get them to her sister, but first….
He drew Crocea Mors, letting the sun’s rays shine off the steel of the blade while the sheath remained at his side. A deep breath filled his lungs with the dry desert air, aggravating his body that ached from the pain of cuts and bruises from the fall. He exhaled with a thunderous scream and kicked off the sand.
He charged. He charged with his sword raised, screaming with his throat raw and dry. The cry itself was pure at its core, primal anger and sorrow forced out from the depths of his heart as he ran towards the figure wreathed in the darkness. Fear was forgotten, lost in the roiling sense of loss he felt, drowned by the need for justice—for vengeance!
The last thing he saw as he approached the Grimm shrouded by abysmal darkness was the blade-tipped tendril coming towards his face.
And his cry of anger and sorrow became one of pain and agony before darkness consumed him utterly.
(Jaune -0o0- Arc)
Jaune shot awake, lurching forward in his seat only for his forehead to smash into something equally hard and elicit a minor grunt of pain.
“Oww…” Pyrrha leaned back, a hand held to her forehead and one eye closed as she rubbed the sore point.
Jaune quickly apologized. “Sorry, I—”
“Its fine,” she said, sitting back in her seat next to him.
“Was it another bad dream?” Noyuu asked from the seat opposite him, next to their bags.
“Just remembering something from the past,” he said. No matter how much he wished it was a dream, it was a memory. It was something that happened, a regret he looked back on bitterly. “I’m fine now.”
A lie, but not one they pressed him on when they were nearing Beacon. He looked out the window to see the Forever Fall Forest below, a perpetually red canopy that shifted with the winds as they passed overhead. Professor Port had told him that Ozpin wanted to talk to him, and the ride would make getting back to Vale faster with their supplies intact and guarantee their safety—no more ambushes.
He was still hesitant to go for a multitude of reasons. But Ozpin had tolerated his forged transcript and allowed him the chance to enter in the first place. It would’ve been rude to refuse.
Noyuu at least seemed captivated by the sight of the forest below. It was his first time seeing it. The faunus had been living around a desert town until he was made a slave when that group moved in to tap a dust mine there, just like Jaune had when they plucked him out of the desert. Things got worse before they got better after that, so anything that helped him get over it was good. Jaune wished the same could be said for himself, but the memories were just as everlasting as his scar.
“It was last year when we were last here, gathering Red Sap,” Pyrrha said, a note of nostalgia in her voice. It turned sullen as her eyes dropped. “Right before—”
“I had to leave,” he finished for her in a flat tone. “I stood up to Cardin and he took the information to Miss Goodwitch, the one person he knew would see that the rules were followed. It’s old news now.”
“Even so, I should have known that he had been blackmailing you,” she said. “I was careless on the rooftop and he overheard us. I never expected he would have gone to her even after you helped him with that Ursa.”
“You saw that?” She nodded, but didn’t say anything more. “It doesn’t matter now.”
He took a moment to change the topic. Cardin was the last person he wanted to think on right now. “So, what’s new with your team—besides the new guy?”
“Nora and Ren are dating now.”
Jaune blinked in surprise. “They weren’t before?”
“It took her a while to just admit to him. Then it was a little awkward when she tried to mimic other couples instead of being herself…” She looked over her shoulder to the couple in question, Nora keeping her voice low but moving excitedly while Ren smiled. When he said something in response, she blushed and then slapped him on the shoulder.
“Looks like it still worked out though. Good for them.” Jaune put on a small smile at the sight. Then his eyes wandered to Aladdin, quietly fixated on a Scroll with headphones attached. “What about you?”
Pyrrha followed his line of sight and then shook her head and hands. “No! I’m not seeing anyone, especially not Aladdin—our relationship is purely professional and he’s involved with someone else… what about you?”
“Not a lot of time for dating when I was with the group.” Or afterwards. Between being put to work in the mines, then running from the White Fang, and then everything else, romance and relationships were put as far down on his list of priorities as possible. “I was one of the younger members and most of my time was eaten up by Iria, our leader. She was constantly trying to make sure I was up to snuff and didn’t slow the others down—running around the deck of the airship, pull-ups using pipes, practice with wooden sticks before moving onto actual swords… I’m surprised the bruises healed, actually.”
He could suddenly feel the weight of the pendant necklace in his pocket. He withdrew it and held it tenderly in his palm, showing the chipped and worn exterior. It had been through a lot, some of the nicks were there before it came into his possession.
“She died on my back,” he continued with his tone measured, hiding the deeper feelings of cold hatred and sorrow. “I promised I would get this to her sister in Vale. That promise held me up for a while now, and gave me strength when I needed it, along with the memories of our time in Beacon.”
Pyrrha carefully placed her hand over his palm and the pendant, meshing the warmth of her body against the cold surface. Her other hand supported his from below and she smiled gently at him. “I’m sure that she’d be happy that you made it this far. I certainly feel that way after going so long without knowing where you were.”
His eyes rose from her slender hands to her emerald eyes, framed by the soft and inviting curves of her brows. The soft scent coming gently clinging to her slipped down his throat with every breath he took. His head drifted closer, allured at her gaze but cautious still. When she made no effort to withdraw, he leaned forward a little more and closed his eyes—
The darkness eclipsed the sky, spearing down and through the Dust-Mage he was supposed to protect with spear-tipped tendrils. Theia looked into his eyes in confusion, fear fogging her pupils before death claimed her. The glass dome shattered as she closed them and fell onto the cold, metal hull of the airship, and Iria screamed for her best-friend to respond over the ear-piece.
—he pulled back, turned his head downwards, and removed his hand from her grasp. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I… just can’t.”
“No, I get it.” She turned away, a minor crimson hue on her cheeks as she stared down at her lap. Her brows fell slightly in what could have been disappointment or shame, either one.
Silence hung between them for the rest of the trip to Beacon.
(Pyrrha -0o0- Nikos)
Escorting Jaune and his friend into the Clock Tower while the others parted ways to deal with their reports, Pyrrha couldn’t look her former teammate in the eyes after what almost transpired on the airship. She couldn’t put it into words what she was thinking at the moment. It was just that, when she was around him, she felt like she could drop her guard and be her.
Maybe that was why she was disappointed when he pulled back. Not that she didn’t understand why he did it—he had clearly lost people who he had gotten attached to, a pain that wouldn’t go away as the one who survived when the others didn’t. It was like he was standing on a mountain of corpses that he recognized, only able to look down and see how high they stacked to keep him propped up.
Pyrrha was blessed with fortune and talent, refined by training and tempered over time. But it put her on a pedestal of a different sort for so long that she was often alone, made worse that she was now their team leader and thus in a position to command her teammates, naturally putting her a level above them in terms of the chain of command and responsibility. Jaune had handled it well somehow, despite his lack of knowledge or training, but it only served to prop her up further on the pedestal.
She struggled to connect with people as she did with Jaune from the moment they first met, something that she desperately missed. And, even though she was truly happy for her other teammates, there were moments when she admitted to herself that she was a bit jealous of what Ren and Nora had. The dance in the second semester had certainly been a depressing event on her end, though she hid it well.
Jaune and his companion had different expressions as they entered the building. Jaune had a soft, nostalgic look in his eyes, no doubt remembering when he was there. Noyuu seemed amazed at the decorum and architecture. Then again, it was kind of grand if you weren’t used to it.
“Look who it is?” said a grating voice that immediately shifted the atmosphere. It was Cardin Winchester, strolling in from one of the corridors with his team in tow. His lips were turned up in a smirk as he came to a stop in front of Jaune. “You look like you’re doing well, Jauney-boy.”
Pyrrha frowned. Of course he would show up now. Apparently having his legs broken and taking a beating during the sparring rounds wasn’t enough to stop him from showing up when Jaune did.
“I’ve got nothing to say to you,” Jaune said with an undercurrent of barely bridled rage just beneath the plain tone he spoke in. “And I don’t ever want to hear you call me that again. Use my proper name or not at all.”
“Well, excuse me for being friendly to a pal I haven’t seen in a long time,” he said, not hiding the sarcasm in his tone at all. He pointed to Jaune’s scar. “I like that look you’ve got going on there.”
“Look, he brought his pet mouse with him too.” Russell reached out to grab Noyuu’s ears. “I wonder if—”
Jaune stuck his dominant hand out, with a finger chambered by his thumb, and flicked Russell on the forehead. Pyrrha assumed he layered his Semblance onto it, because there was a flash on contact. Russell’s head was knocked back, his body following it on an unexpected trip to the marble floor.
Cardin and the rest looked stunned at the act, but their leader quickly regained his composure and cracked his fists. “So you think you’re tough enough to go around picking fights just because you got a scar on your face?”
“It’s called self-defense.” Jaune told him, tilting his head slightly as his eyes met Cardin’s… no. They were going past him, to the Glynda Goodwitch walking up right behind him. “We aren’t here as students, but as guests on the Headmaster’s request. Harassing a guest speaks poorly of his self-control. Don’t you agree?”
“I most certainly do.” Cardin stiffened as he heard her voice. “Though retaliating in such a manner speaks ill of yours to a degree as well.”
“Given how the last time we met it wasn’t on the best of terms, I did my best to keep calm,” Jaune said unflinchingly. “However, I’ve lost too many comrades to let one of them being harassed for their race in front of me slide by. I used minimal force.”
“Next time, find a member of the staff and report it instead.” She turned to Cardin and his team. “Your conduct here has been noted and your punishment will be determined later. For now, I would suggest if you do not have business here you go elsewhere.”
Cardin glared at Jaune. The look Jaune gave him in return sent a chill up Pyrrha’s spine, and she felt as though something passed between them. Fortunately, Cardin and his team left the way they came.
Then Glynda turned to Noyuu. “I’ll be escorting Mister Arc alone from this point,” she said. “You may wait for him here, or in the cafeteria. I would recommend taking the opportunity to sample some of Beacon’s fine dining.”
“Oh, thank you.” He gave a small bow of his head as Jaune boarded the elevator with the teacher and waved before the doors closed.
“I’ll accompany you,” Pyrrha told him. Perhaps that way she could ask him more about that look Jaune gave Cardin near the end. It… didn’t seem like him.
“Cardin still hasn’t change from the look of it,” Jaune said as the elevator lurched upwards. “I get it, you need everyone possible to fight the Grimm, but I’ve seen how people who act like him become when they get into a position of power outside of the Kingdoms. If you don’t rein him in, he’ll meet a very ugly and well-deserved end.”
“He will be reprimanded for his actions today,” she said in a disciplinarian tone. “We can only disciple him for the actions that we monitor and have conclusive evidence towards. It is up to him to change his behavior in private.”
“I suppose you’re right.” Riding in the elevator felt strangely nostalgic, though he couldn’t be certain if that wasn’t an omen instead. He stared up at the light on the ceiling of the elevator car, thinking back on that time. “You weren’t wrong when you said that I wasn’t ready back then. If you hadn’t, who knows how things would have turned out?”
“And yet you chose to become a mercenary without the necessary training.” Her hair swayed softly as she shook her head slightly. “I can’t say that you are fully-qualified now.”
“One path was closed to me, so I took another to get the training I needed to return.” His shoulders rose and fell casually. “I’m alive at least, and I did help people.”
“Regardless, it is… a welcomed sight to see a former student alive and well,” she settled on as the elevator came to a stop. “Many aren’t so fortunate.”
The doors to the elevator opened. Jaune stepped out to see that Ozpin was at his desk, gesturing for him to come forward. He did so and, to his surprise, Glynda took the elevator down, leaving them alone.
“It is good to see you again, young man,” the Headmaster began as he sat down. “I had hoped you would have returned for the Entrance Exams and was disheartened upon not seeing you. And then I received a call from your mother.”
Jaune winced. When the ship went down and all of them were listed as KIA, their final pay must’ve been sent to those listed on their registration information. That meant his mother and sisters received a notice of his death and the money that had been earned for the Vacuo assignment, revealing all the lies he had told then.
“How mad was she?” he asked.
“Very,” Ozpin said in a dull tone, using a stirrer to slowly swirl the contents of his cup. “It was through her that I learned of your presumed death.”
He was not looking forward to that discussion, but he owed it to them to tell them that he was safe now that they were in Vale, and not being chased anymore. He’d probably leave out the brief slavery stint and spending the last few months on the run. “I had every intention of coming back, but there were complications—”
The Nevermore circled around, only for a streaking shadow to appear from underneath while their eyes were focused on it. Krist pushed Theia aside and ended up caught in the Grimm’s talons as they clamped shut. Jaune’s blade came around to cut it down, but it beat its wings and twisted body to dodge while flinging him far over the ledge of the ship. A ball of searing flames struck the Grimm in retaliation and immolated it, but the damage was done.
Jaune spared a moment to stare at where the man had fallen. He wouldn’t survive the fall, not with how much of a beating his Aura had taken in the continuous fighting. They’d lost another one, a jovial and lighthearted man who never stopped talking about his family and newborn son.
“—of various kinds.” He took a moment to breathe and then nodded. “I couldn’t go home and let my family know that I forged my transcripts to get into the school only to be kicked out. So I figured I would train to pass the entrance exam and saw that they were recruiting. I got in and stuck around for half-a-year until the airship we were on was attacked.”
“The Vanister was the name of the ship, correct?” The Headmaster brought up a menu on his Scroll and then searched through files to bring up a holographic display of it. The Vanister was an Atlas-made military model, rendered obsolete by a generation or so and bought by the company the group was a part of. “Used by the Fifth Division of the Iridescent Sabers, a group that specializes in Grimm Extermination—”
“Led by Iria Dores.” Jaune finished for him. “That’s that ship I served on before it was attacked half-a-year ago, over a desert in Vacuo.”
Ozpin took a sip of the fine coffee he had and then set it down. “The Kingdom of Vacuo received a distress message from there, and shortly after experienced a surge of Grimm attacks roughly six months ago. Forgive me ahead of time, but I need you to listen and confirm what you are about to hear.”
Ozpin pressed the button. The audio file played and—
Gun, cannon, and dust-fire thundered in the sky. The air was filled with various elements and ammunition as the group let loose every ranged option available. Flaring stars that shot forward like comets blossomed into explosions of fire and smoke on impact. Coruscating tails of icicles spread like an infection and covered Grimm in a thick layer of hoarfrost, invading their bodies from the inside out and dropped them like stones from the sky. Crackling and streaking bolts of lightning speared through entire hoards and then spread out to catch nearby Grimm in an electric web until they burst from the inside out.
Many Grimm died. More took their place, even as turret-and-cannon fire further thinned their ranks. Nevermores and other assorted aerial Grimm were closing in, led by a truck-sized Stormraven.
—Jaune shook his head, trying to not to recall the call for help as he listed the recording. But the desperation in the voice of the operator as—
A formation of elder Grimm closing in as the cannons and turrets tried to blast them out of the sky. Younger Grimm became shields for them and soaked the damage as they closed in. Everyone was put on defense as they performed a strafing run with their various abilities. Blinding and searing streams of flames, spear-like feathers that could pierce steel, and forked tongues of lightning, all rained down upon the surface of the airship.
Jaune was nearly blinded as a dense, diamond-like dome encompassed him and several others courtesy of Theia. The entire ship shook as something exploded and the bulwark cracked as the sharp plume of the Elder Nevermore penetrated it to the extent they stopped just short of their heads and raised shields.
—he could recall the entire ship shaking from the attack and screams being cut short by those who couldn’t mount a defense in time. Tears stung his eyes as—
Jaune rose to his feet, coughing as the heated air choked his noise with smoke, ozone, and the scent of burning bodies. His sword nearly slipped from his grasp in horror as he looked at the unfolding Hell of bodies that had been split in half and impaled upon the deck by the spear-like feathers or charred until they were blackened and twisted replicas of people. He could barely make out Blair’s body and the slag that her weapon had become once her Aura had been overwhelmed and no longer reinforced it.
—he couldn’t listen anymore. “Enough!” Jaune demand with his voice haggard and rough, strained. He covered his ears. “I’ve heard enough. Turn it off. Turn it off now!”
Ozpin did so. “My apologies, but I had to make certain that was the ship you were aboard and that you can confirm what occurred there. The information we are about to discuss is of the utmost secrecy and not a pleasant topic.”
“I was there, okay?” He struggled not to throw himself out of the chair and throttle the man for making him relive that battle. “Stormravens, Nevermore, Whirlcrows, Blightareials, Duskwyrm—hundreds, if not thousands of flying Grimm were there. We tried to get away, but a number of them broke off and came after us. We fought back, used everything to survive, and just when we thought we had taken care of them, when so few of us were left, it appeared.”
“A Grimm that was draped in darkness?” Ozpin offered. “Wreathed in it like a veil of night that chills you to the bone, and blades tipped on its ends that can pierce armor and Aura alike. It shifts forms within the shroud, sometimes that of a beast and other times that of what appears to be a man, but otherwise its form is obscured.”
“That’s it.” Jaune’s heart sped up at the first lead he had towards it, after going months without any sort of clue. “I searched every catalog of Grimm I could get my hands on during my journey here, but there was nothing like it there.”
“I’ve seen it once,” he said. “You will not find it in the catalog because it is registered as classified information and a mere tale of fantasy to those who have not been in its presence and survived. Part of the reason I am telling you this is so that you understand the consequences of divulging this information. It cannot be made public that something we aren’t capable of killing can exist or it would lead to fear—and that fear would attract more Grimm.”
“What was it?”
“A Progenitor,” the Headmaster said, rising to his feet and walking over to the window. One hand rested on his cane, while the other held his cup. “A Primordial Grimm, among the first in existence that served as the bane of mankind by spawning the soulless monsters that we face even today. Most Huntsmen and Huntresses never encounter them, and those that do usually don’t survive. While my team was fortunate at the time to make it out alive during one such encounter, it was not without its cost for the others with us.”
“How do I find it?” Jaune asked next.
“So far we haven’t been able to track the movements of such Grimm. At best we have a hypothesis that whenever an area outside of the Kingdoms looks to be on the verge of being reclaimed by humanity after a number of their kind is killed, they appear briefly to spawn more. The fact that the group you were a part of ran into it could simply be considered bad luck.”
“Bad luck?” He couldn’t keep the heat out of his voice. “That thing sent Grimm after us by the hundreds over a desert! Nothing we did could hurt it! Our Auras were paper-thin to it! Everyone I had fought alongside died—and you call that mere bad luck!?”
Ozpin, for his part, remained passive. “Luck often plays as much a part in victory or defeat as skill. For example, your survival at the Entrance Exam and having your Aura unlocked by Miss Nikos could be considered as such… as is the fact that you are still alive in the wake of what transpired when no one else survived.”
Jaune clenched his fists until his knuckles turned white. “They had dreams, goals, family—and they died so suddenly, far away from everything they cared about. Being the only one that lived just to watch them die can’t be considered good luck.”
“It is the reality of the world we live in,” the Headmaster bluntly said. “The world itself is cruel and merciless. Otherwise, things like the Grimm would not exist. We endure and survive. That is all.”
Jaune trembled, negative emotions stirring within him. “I can’t accept that. I’ll hunt it down, no matter how long it takes.”
“I implore you, Mister Arc,” he said. “Do not let the need for vengeance consume you like so many others I’ve seen in my lifetime. Vengeance against the Grimm is pointless by itself, but against this one it is ultimately an act of self-destruction. Just having an obsession towards it could cost of you everything.”
“It already cost me everything,” Jaune said. “You said your team managed to get out alive, but would you have been able to let it go if they hadn’t?”
“Yes,” he said bluntly. No hesitation in his words. “Because, I know that it is a meaningless way to die. Instead, I came into a position at an institution of learning where I could guide others so that they would hopefully make fewer mistakes and survive where many of my peers didn’t to lesser threats, let alone this one. I believe firmly that one day we will find a way to deal with the Progenitors, but we must survive to that point.”
“… If there’s nothing else, I’ll be on my way then.” Jaune rose from his seat. “Thank you for your time, Headmaster.”
“The next airship to Vale will be here in an hour. They’ll take you into the city, if that is what you wish.” Ozpin said. “Just keep in mind, Mister Arc, you haven’t lost everything. Not yet.”
Jaune paused at that, standing before the elevator as the doors opened—
Explosions from the engines made the entire ship violently shake as it lost altitude, and the world seem to slow as one in particular jostled Jaune from the top of the bridge and over the side. His body twisted as he reached for the rail, only for his grip to slip from the sweat and he spiraled out of control, slamming his head against the metallic surface with a loud thud.
His consciousness grim dim and he thought he heard someone screaming his name as the blaring sirens of the Vanister grew distant. Then even that scream was drowned out by the thunderous sound of a final explosion that blew away his lingering thoughts and awareness.
—he shook his head slowly and then boarded the elevator. Once the doors shut behind him and it began its descent, he slammed his fist against the side. His mood only continued to worsen as the ride down came to an end and he found Cardin at the exit with his team.
In his hand was Noyuu’s robe.
Jaune’s fist clenched, unaware of the nearly imperceptible and ethereal shadows that clung to it as his scar ached.
(Part 1 -0o0- End)
End Note: This is basically a ‘What-If’ scenario that I came up with because things weren’t really settled between Jaune and Cardin, and people wanted to know more about what happened. I had the idea nagging at me for almost half-a-year now, but I was too busy so putting it into words wasn’t so easy. In the end though, I had to split it up to get the Xmas release ready, so this is Part 1 with Part 2 about a fourth of the way done.