Jaune Arc Expelled: Settling Scores – Part 2
(A RWBY Fanfic)
Author’s Note: I don’t think anything I can write will trump Volume 3 Finale. Why you gotta kill my ship, Rooster Teeth?
Jaune’s breath ran ragged as he sprinted across the hard-packed forest ground. It was uneven, cluttered with trees and undergrowth that threatened to trip him up if he made a misstep.
Trailing behind him by only a few steps, Noyuu struggled to keep pressing forward as his ears caught the sound of a motor steadily approaching. “They’re catching up!”
Jaune struggled to hear over the sound of his blood pounding in his ears. They hadn’t even finished restocking at the last village before the White Fang sent pursuers after them. Another town filled with sympathizers and spies in a long list of them.
Their hearts pounded and lungs burned as they ran blindly ahead. It was a good thing there weren’t any clearings around for them to be lured into; otherwise they would have been entrapped again. They had gotten lucky the last time, when the rain was falling and they had gotten their hands on that Lightning Dust, but he doubted they could continue to be that fortunate.
“Jaune, I can’t run for too much longer!” Noyuu warned. His face was flushed from the exertion to a greater degree than Jaune. Made worse was when the tree near his head exploded in a spray of splinters and wood dust from a round of heavy artillery punching through it and he tripped at the suddenness of it. “Ahh!”
Jaune gritted his teeth as he doubled back, gun in one hand and shield in the other. He moved to the front of Noyuu and held the shield in front of him, only to feel the rounds hammering away at his Aura-infused heirloom and breaking upon it into shrapnel. He returned fire, pulling the trigger thrice and sending three explosive rounds ahead to intercept the two four-wheeled ATVs housing four White Fang members. Flame, smoke, and dirt went up in a spray and obscured their path, forcing them to swerve around as Noyuu got back onto his feet.
Layering his Semblance upon his drawn blade and swinging it around, the crescent wave of power smashed into the trees between them. It broke them, shattering them into pieces and carrying them along its path, causing them to collide into others. The net result was something like dominoes, toppling one over another, sending both small twigs and thick limbs scattering about and into the four pursuing them. A second swing and wave added a cloud of dirt and leaves, further obstructing their view.
Both ATVs ended up crashing as their drivers were hit and blinded by the makeshift veils until they ran into a fallen tree, and he moved in while they were briefly dazed. He held his shield held out in front of him to catch the gunfire before he was in striking distance. The point of his sword cut through the air before finding the chest of the first driver, their Aura shielding them from fatal damage at a subsequent loss. He followed up with a shield bash that sent them tumbling back onto the ground and then brought the shield to his rear to intercept another round of gunfire, sweeping his sword upwards to catch the third Faunus before he swung down his axe.
Viridian chains coiled around the one who tried to get around his shield to fire his rifle at Jaune’s forehead. He disappeared into the mess of trees while Jaune slammed the pommel of his sword into the mask of the Faunus that had weathered the point, shattering it to reveal the face of a woman. He introduced it to the flat of his heater shield before jumping out of the way as the fourth descended from above with a spear.
There he stood, shield at the front and three opponents trying to flank him. He spun as he used his Semblance on his sword, creating an expanding ivory halo that slammed into each of them and repelled them backwards as though they had each been hit by a sledgehammer. Viridian chains once more emerged from the rear, coiling around the neck of the woman and pulling her backwards fast enough that it was only spared from snapping by her Aura. One of the White Fang soldiers called out her name and turned his back to Jaune.
He used the opening. Kicking off the ground with his Semblance layering his foot, he was repelled forward as the immovable ground cratered instead. His shield met the spear-using Faunus’ body and followed him as all of Jaune’s weight and speed carried them into a tree that buckled. The tale-tell flicker of a dying Aura signaled for him to bring his sword around, felling the White Fang soldier as it painted the blade crimson and filled the air with the coppery scent.
“You damn human!” shouted the one that had been spared his blade so far. He pulled out a small tube-container that was housing a Fire Dust Crystal and twisted the top before throwing it at him. Jaune’s eyes briefly rose and he braced himself as the mechanism in the top sent a charge through the crystal and caused it to erupt in a billowing explosion that ate the space between them.
The force of it swallowed him whole and spat him out, sending him airborne until he met an abrupt end at the base of a hearty tree. Pain blinded him, a groan of agony leaving his mouth as he rose to his feet. Then he heard a scream and looked towards the source.
The White Fang member had brought his axe around and slammed it into Noyuu after seeing the two others strung up and dead. Noyuu wasn’t much on offense, but strangulation was an easy way to bypass one’s Aura, and those two bound to the trees by their throat were most certainly dead. Unfortunately, Noyuu wasn’t suited to front-line combat and would be killed if he was caught in a second strike of that axe.
Jaune snarled as a dark fire briefly flickered within his body and heart. He was before the White Fang member and lashing out with his shield in mere rampant heartbeats, putting all his strength into knocking the Faunus away from Noyuu as everything went red. The impact was strong enough that it tore through whatever protection his Aura gave them, the brief flicker of fear dancing on Jaune’s tongue with its salivating flavor until the body crashed and broke against the tree like an old doll.
‘A calm soul and a straight head are the keys to survival. A calm soul and a straight head are the keys to survival. A calm soul and a straight head are the keys to survival,’ Jaune chanted to himself, over and over, desperate to quell the dark fire within until it was smothered for the moment. Iria had always said it, had him repeat it as a calming technique for the battlefield. It had its uses even now, driving away the ruinous taste of fear.
Noyuu slowly stood up. There was a somber look in his eyes, and his ears slightly drooped. “Are you okay, Jaune?”
He nodded as the darkness dissipated. “I’ll be fine. Let’s loot the corpses for their Dust and Credits and get out of here. We don’t want to be around when more show up to look for them.”
Noyuu consented with a slight nod and slackened the chains that held the other corpses up, letting them fall gently to the ground. “I really wish they’d stop coming after us. We’ve already had to kill so many of them.”
“We have to put up with it for a little while longer, until we get close enough to the kingdom.”Jaune pulled out his Scroll and brought up the map. “We’re not too far from the next town. If the White Fang had a tight grasp on it, I suspect we’d have been ambushed from both directions.”
That being said, he could only hope that was the case. There was no telling if there were sympathizers lurking there. They would have to be careful, and work to get what they needed as fast as they could before getting out. They couldn’t sit still if they wanted to be safe—or if he wanted to keep the promise he made to get to Vale….
The Present – With Pyrrha
“The food was delicious,” Noyuu said as he finished his plate. He and Pyrrha were in the Beacon cafeteria, after dropping off his cloak to be washed. The various scents that clung to it had been bothering him and she had assured him that they would get it cleaned quickly, before the next airship arrived.
“I’m glad you like it….” Truthfully, she was trying to think about how to broach the subject of Jaune’s nightmare on the airship. There was a lot about him that was a mystery from what she knew, but she was hoping that if she could understand it better, then maybe she could do something about it. “Do you know how long Jaune has had nightmares like that?”
His expression shifted, going from elated at the meal to somber. “Ah…” He set down the fork he had been using and sighed. “I suppose since we were in the Dust Mine.”
That wasn’t the answer she was expecting. “Dust Mine?”
“There was a recently discovered Dust Mine found near the desert town I lived in,” he explained. “An untapped mine, not in control of the Schnee company, naturally drew the wrong kind of attention. A couple of Huntsmen took over our town and put us to work in it—Faunus and Human alike.”
“That’s horrible.” The notion that someone would abuse the profession of a Huntsmen, a protector of the people, to grab power and lord it over people didn’t sit right with her.
Noyuu nodded. “A lot of bad things happened in those mines, but then they dragged Jaune into the camp after finding him in the desert, near a wreck. His scar was bleeding, so it had to be shortly after the ship he was on went down. They figured he would make for another pair of hands to work in the mines, so they didn’t kill him.”
“Excuse me,” a female voice said. They looked up to see Velvet there. She looked a bit concerned.
“How can I help you?” Pyrrha asked.
“I just wanted to say that I saw that friend of yours with Cardin’s group,” she said. “They were heading to the training room. I figured it was strange given what Cardin was saying about getting him expelled last year, and thought I should tell you since he was your teammate.”
Pyrrha felt a sickening sensation lurking in her stomach as Noyuu rose out of his seat and asked, “Did he have something with him? A cloak?”
“Um… yes, actually.” She nodded. “It smelled a bit fresh at a distance, like it had been washed.”
“He’s baiting him,” Pyrrha realized almost immediately. “Probably to get even with Jaune for earlier when we parted.”
“His pride could be the death of them if we don’t get to him,” Noyuu said. “Jaune’s told me a bit about them, and from what I’ve heard they’re a lot alike some of the Huntsmen that ran the mines and along the way here. That won’t end well.”
Jaune kept the dark fire within him in check as he stepped into the training room while Cardin shut the door and locked it.
“Looks like your friend managed to weasel his way out,” Cardin said as he stepped forward, mace in his hand. “Shame, but now we have the room all to ourselves.”
“You can drop the act,” he said as he took up his shield and sword. “You’d have to get past Pyrrha to get to him. That’s something you’re not capable of. You just bought me out here to put me in my place, right?”
He gathered his Aura and shifted his footing, deciding on which one to go after first while he ignored Cardin’s follow-up. The only reason he’d gone with it was because… well, frankly he had been in a bad mood on the way down. Perhaps he was projecting a bit, but everything he’d lost could be traced back to Cardin getting him expelled.
Had he remained at Beacon, he would have remained lackluster, but he would have been happy. He would have certainly had less blood on his hands, and likely would have been able to pursue a relationship with Pyrrha. It was a flimsy justification, but ultimately he was just pissed off after everything he’d learned in Ozpin’s office and Cardin’s group was the nearest punching bag. As far as he was concerned, they bought it on themselves and he could justify it if he got in trouble by saying that they mentioned kidnapping Noyuu.
When they finished talking and started circling him, Jaune picked out the first target to deal with and turned towards Russell Thrush trying to position himself behind Jaune. He kicked off the ground with his shield raised to his chin, layered his Semblance to his upright foot while Russell was preparing to try and avoid, and then stomped.
The abrupt acceleration beat out Russell’s expectations when it came to dodging, causing him to take a trip into the air and into the back wall with Jaune crushing him between it and his shield to break through his Aura shielding. For a moment, he was tempted to swing the blade and end him, but he couldn’t justify murdering students—and he didn’t want to be someone who would even try. So he pulled back.
“Uuhhh…” Russell collapsed, sliding down to the ground.
“Russell!” Jaune heard one of them yell as he reached into his pouch of supplies and pulled out a coarse cloth housing Fire-Dust and an adhesive on one end. He rubbed it onto the metal of the blade fast and hard, causing it to spark. Fire erupted and clung to the blade, as it would until it burned up the adhesive or he used his Semblance on the sword.
“That’s one down,” Jaune said as he tossed the expended cloth behind him to land on Russell’s downed figure. “Who’s next?”
The door was locked when Pyrrha and Noyuu arrived at the entrance to the training room, so they opted to go to the stands instead. The barrier between the arena and the stands was up and the lights were off, obscuring them from view of the four still fighting and leaving them to watch.
There they watched as Jaune drew the firearm housing Ice Dust rounds, aimed for another of Cardin’s entourage, and pulled the trigger thrice. Cardin blocked the shot that came for him, shattering the thick ice that coated his weapon by slamming it into the ground, but Dove Bronzewing wasn’t so lucky. The brown-haired boy was caught at the foot and head, anchoring him in place and encasing his head in a block of ice. Unable to breathe and caught off-guard, he tried desperately to break the ice with the pommel of his sword to no avail.
“Dove!” Sky Lark called. He moved to help him, but Cardin immediately grabbed and pulled him away. It was all that saved him from losing his arm as Jaune closed the distance with a Repulsion Step and swung the flaming sword between them, the flames promising to cleave-off and cauterize his arm should his Aura give out.
Another broad swing forced the two back, allowing Jaune to layer his Semblance on his shield again and mercilessly bash the pinned member of Cardin’s team in the chest. The blow pulled his foot free with a twist, and his muffled scream from within the ice died when his head hit the ground hard enough to shatter the ice. It knocked him out.
“That’s two,” Jaune said as he brandished his flaming sword towards the surviving pair. Sweat dripped from their foreheads, whether from the heat of the flames or nerves of dealing with him. He locked eyes with Sky Lark and then swung the sword, releasing a flaming crescent that smashed into the ground and flared bright enough to claim their sight for a scant second.
In that moment, Jaune closed the distance and delivered a trio slashes upon the grey-haired body’s armored chest to send him staggering back, the four that followed slamming the butt of his sword into his face before Jaune turned to block the overhead blow that Cardin brought down. The strength behind the blow brought Jaune to one knee, but he leapt off to the side with his planted foot and rolled back into a fighting pose as the two re-orientated themselves.
He pushed back further, expanding the distance between them as Sky Lark twirled the halberd in his approach. Jaune reached into his cloak and then pulled out a pouch that he tossed at the gray-haired boy. He immediately hit it with the end of the halberd as Cardin rushed behind him to get to Jaune.
The impact scattered a mixture of powdered Fire Dust and herbs that immediately exploded when it came into contact with the lingering flames from his earlier attack. The two members of CRDL began to scream, stopping their advance to cover their faces, with Sky Lark dropping his weapon entirely.
“Ouch,” Noyuu said with a wince.
“What was that?” Pyrrha asked.
“It’s a hunting trick that we picked up in one of the out-of-the-way places we visited,” he said. “Basically, you take a slip of fabric, pour in a little Fire Dust inside of it, and tie it into a ball. Then you bundle that into another cloth with a lining of some dry or powdered plants that acts as an irritant and stops it from going off easily. When something hits it hard enough it, you shoot it, or place it near an open flame, the Fire Dust combusts and the explosion makes the pouch burst open, at the same time burning the dry materials to create a smoke screen that irritates the senses—it’s especially bad for animals that have keen senses.”
“That’s an improper method of handling Dust,” another female voice abruptly noted, causing Noyuu to jump. Somehow, Weiss had gotten next to them, along with the rest of their teams. “You’d be fined for that since it presents a clear and present danger to the public.”
“Where did you come from?” he asked, looking to the rest. Nora waved at him.
“We ran into Velvet,” Blake explained, before turning to Weiss. “And that’s only in the Kingdoms, where there’s someone who’d be likely to enforce the law. Remember, most smaller villages don’t have that sort of luxury and are self-governing or self-sufficient. If I had to guess, it’s used to make hunting easier for anyone who lived on the outskirts, and they would have gotten out of range before it went off.”
Noyuu nodded. “It’s not very useful against Grimm since they can sense your fear, but it’s been useful for dealing with… other problems.”
“What kind of problems?” Pyrrha asked.
He fidgeted slightly under her gaze. “I didn’t finish telling you that the White Fang was ultimately the ones who put an end to the mines… Most of the Faunus who were enslaved ended up joining their ranks and the Humans there….”
“Ended up becoming sympathizers, right?” Blake finished for him. He nodded. “The White Fang were originally for equal rights between Humans and Faunus, but they can’t operate on Faunus solely. Either the Faunus who are in high positions in society aren’t members or they cover their tracks well, but the authorities rarely look at another human with suspicion when it comes to their crimes. They’re beneath notice.”
Noyuu looked crestfallen. “The ones in the mines continued to work in the mines at the promise of better treatment—their way of saying that even if their fellow man treated them like animals, the Faunus themselves were better than that. It made the White Fang feel superior to the downtrodden, which only feeds further into their behavior. They had nothing left, while Jaune only had a promise he made to get back to Vale keeping him going and thoughts of all of you. He was barely out of the town before they tried to kill him so word didn’t get out, and I… did what I had to.”
“You helped him escape,” she realized. “Even if that meant you’d be seen as a race traitor?”
He nodded. “He was broken, but I would have died down in those mines if he didn’t help me during a cave-in.” His fingers tightened into balled fists. “And when I couldn’t work from the injury and they cut my food and water, he offered up half of his own until I was back on my feet. So I helped him and then we fled together ever since.”
The conversation died there as ivory light clung to Jaune’s blade and he released it with a mighty swing. It smacked a stumbling, pain-laden Sky Lark hard enough that he went tumbling into the air and slammed smack against the privacy barrier hard enough that he lingered there with his face pressed against it like a glass pane before sliding down with a groan. He didn’t move when he hit the ground.
“And then there was one,” they heard Jaune say.
End Note: Had to split it up again, but Part 3 should be out a lot sooner with the end of the fight. I originally wanted to incorporate a bit of Volume 3 into the story, but then the finale came on and ruined my happiness. I mean, first Penny, then Roman, Ozpin, and Pyrrha. Roosterteeth got darker than anything I could write.
Incidentally, I did get an idea for a fic that would be a sort of ‘Bad End’ where Pyrrha inherited the powers of the Fall Maiden and Jaune became the next Progenitor (that dragon thing from the finale would fall into the same category), leaving them opposites one another. They would meet on the battlefield alone, engaging in a sorrowful battle to the death as Jaune is overcome by the darkness, knowing that the true role of the Maidens are to wipe away the Progenitors that spawn them—four Maidens to nurture the world and humanity, four Progenitors to wipe them away.
In the end, it’s a mutual kill. Jaune’s blade cleaved her open from hip to shoulder while her spear gouged out his heart. He dies after thanking her with a smile on his face, eyes wide open as he was finally freed of the darkness. Pyrrha struggles to crawl next to him as the blood loss robs her strength, only able to barely grasp his hand and tearful states that she won’t let him leave her again. When the others find them, the two are holding hands on the ground and dead.
Beautiful and tragic at the same time….
Of course, after the Volume 3 Finale, I’m fairly sure that would get me a lot of pissed off PMs, so it’s there for anyone who wants to take a swing at it.
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.