A loose brick struck a glancing blow to Jaune's temple and promptly shattered on the shimmering white glow that clung to him like a second skin. All he felt was a small bump.
Blue eyes narrowed at the rapidly-expanding mass of the falling apartment building. Even with his semblance activated, this was going to hurt. A lot. In the fours years since its emergence, he had learned much about his semblance. Like how it protected his body from direct harm. And that there was a limit to how much it could do. Like any armor, an attack or blow that surpassed a certain threshold of force would definitely impact him through it, if not break through it entirely. Countless sparring sessions with Pyrrha had given him a good idea of that threshold, and what would leave him with a scrape or a bruise.
Jaune was pretty sure that a building would do a tad more than give him a bruise.
Hell, he may even break a bone. Wouldn't that be something? He'd finally get to see what Nora was complaining about when that Ursa 'caught her at a bad angle' and she had to walk around with her leg in a cast for the next month. Ah, who was he kidding? Even if he survived the building crushing him, there was no way he would be surviving Pyrrha. She was going to murder him when she found out he had stood under a collapsing five-story ton of bricks. Especially since he was doing it for her.
Yes, Jaune Arc was a dead man. He just hoped his fiancé would be gentler than the building.
The blond summoned up all of his Aura and sent as much of it blasting upward at once as he could. A few individually falling bricks rapidly switched directions as his Aura flung them away with little effort. The central mass barely seemed to slow at all, though, which was exactly what he had been afraid of. He gritted his teeth. Sorry, Pyrrha. There's no way in hell I'm leaving you alone. He lifted his shield in front of him. If he was lucky, between his semblance and the shield, he'd get away with just a broken left arm.
When the apartment complex was almost entirely horizontal, not ten feet from Jaune's determined face, there was a flash of light, and a glowing glyph sprung into existence on its side. Jaune's eyes widened as several more appeared up the entire height of the building, all shining a brilliant blue. The structure shuddered as its momentum ceased.
"You're useless, Jaune Arc," came a voice from behind him, and Jaune couldn't hold back a smile as he glanced over his shoulder.
She looked as regal as ever, despite the carnage around her. Her white boots were spotless, her shirt, vest, and jacket all immaculately unruffled. There was a gleaming rapier clutched in her left hand, and her right was stretched out, two fingers extended to sustain the glyphs. Ice-blue eyes regarded him coolly, but Jaune knew that is was just for appearances sake. She was probably just as glad to see him as he was her.
Well…perhaps not just as much, but he was sure she was at least somewhat pleased…maybe…
"Hello, Weiss," he greeted.
"You should have known you couldn't stop that thing with just your Aura."
Jaune bit back a sigh. That was Weiss. As prickly as ever. "Pyrrha's in there, on the fifth floor, I couldn't do nothing."
"I know; I can feel her Aura."
"She won't leave as long as those civilians are in there with her, and the whole collapsing thing is kinda ruining evacuation."
Weiss pursed her lips. "My glyphs won't hold it forever."
"I don't need forever." He sheathed his weapons. "I'm going in after her. Buy us as much time as-"
Weiss rolled her eyes and interrupted him, "I know you're rather fond of risking your neck for absolutely no reason, Jaune, but why don't we pursue a different route, hmm?"
Jaune opened his mouth to protest, but two people burst out from behind Weiss, and his words died in his throat as his face split into a wide smile. "Nora! Ren! What are you guys doing here?"
Ren shook his head. "Later," was all he said. Jaune nodded; he was right, after all.
He turned his attention back to the situation at hand. With the arrival of his teammates and Weiss, he had options. As a leader and strategist, he liked options. Options were good. Jaune closed his eyes for a moment, allowed his thoughts to order themselves into a plan, and then snapped them right back open.
"Nora!" he called to the hyperactive ginger. She looked at him, aquamarine orbs burning with barely contained anticipation. "Window on the fifth floor. Pyrrha's in there with a bunch of civilians. Ren, Weiss, and I are going to stabilize the building. Whenever we do, you get up there and help her get them all down."
Nora grinned and saluted. "Aye aye!" She grabbed Magnhild from her back and unfolded it into its hammer form. She placed the tip against the ground and angled the entire thing to launch her straight up at her target.
"Hurry it up!" Weiss said, her outstretched arm beginning to tremble a little. Holding up an entire building with a few gravity glyphs was not an easy task.
"Ren!" The dark-haired man needed no further instructions. He moved forward and laid a hand on Jaune's shoulder. "You ready?"
Ren closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and nodded. Jaune gave a small grunt of effort. Ren gritted his teeth and let out a small hiss as Jaune's Aura slammed into him and burned its way up his arm. No matter how many times they had done this, it always exceeded his expectations. The sheer amount and potency of the blond's Aura was unreal. The trade-off, of course, was that he could only manage the basest level of control. Which was where Ren came in. As gifted as he was with Aura transfers and manipulation, channeling Jaune's over-abundant Aura through himself wasn't terribly difficult. Thus, together, they could wield that vast well of Aura with pinpoint precision.
People often said 'brains over brawn.' Jaune and Ren preferred it a different way. Brains and brawn.
Ren shaped his leader's Aura into a giant wall, solid and unrelenting, and forced it upward, bracing the entire apartment complex. A slight pink glow began to emanating from him, and he felt heat began to spread throughout his body. This amount of Aura was difficult to handle for very long, even for him. His eyes flew open, the magenta irises burning brightly. "Nora!" he growled through the pain creeping up his spine.
Before he even finished saying her name, there was a loud boom, and she was sailing through the air. She somersaulted, somehow managing to fold and store Magnhild on her back and caught herself on both hands and feet on the window. She leaned her head in and said something, but the ringing in Ren's ears prevented him from hearing exactly what. He bit his lip as the pain reached his shoulder blades and spread down to his fingers. He wouldn't be able to hold this much longer.
Fortunately, it looked like much longer wouldn't be necessary. Nora emerged from the window with two children in her arms and one clinging desperately to her neck. She hit the ground, knees bending easily to compensate for the force. Pyrrha following shortly thereafter, hair flowing in a crimson waterfall behind her as she dropped, a teenager in her right arm, and a young woman in her left. The instant her feet touched the scorched ground she was running out from underneath the building and toward the emergency vehicles. Nora was doing the same.
"Weiss!" Jaune hollered, because he knew Ren couldn't. His friend's eyes were screwed shut, his teeth clenched tightly. The white-haired Huntress twisted her wrist deftly, summoning a line of glyphs on the side of the structure. Her hand flew to the right, and the glyphs changed from blue to red. The building groaned and began to shift to the side. Ren summoned the last of his strength, pulling the Aura under his control to the same area as Weiss' glyphs. Together, they forced the entire apartment complex from overtop of them and off to an empty space to their side.
Ren released his hold on the Jaune's Aura immediately, and the mass of bricks plummeted the remaining distance to the ground, shattering into an impressive mess upon contact. The young Huntsmen dropped to one knee as his vision swam. The burning began to retreat from his body, but he still felt drained. Handling that much Aura was no easy feat, especially whenever it wasn't his own. Doubly especially whenever he using it to hold up an entire building. He took a few deep breaths, regulating his own Aura back to its normal state.
Jaune visibly gulped before looking down at his friend. "It was good knowing you, Ren. Tell them it was a heroic death." The blond turned to face his impending doom in the form of his crimson-haired fiancé. She stalked up to him, boots clacking harshly on the rubble. She stopped in front of him and leaned inwards, emerald eyes starting hotly into sapphire ones. There were few things in all of Remnant that could infuriate Pyrrha Nikos. Chief among them was putting her friends or loved ones in danger. Her wrath was fiery and potent against any perpetrator who did so, even if the one who put them in danger was themselves.
"I hope you have a good reason for why you were just going to stand there and let a building fall on you." She didn't raise her voice, which honestly just terrified him even more.
"You, um, you were still in the building and, um-"
"So you decided to put yourself in danger to help me?"
"I couldn't just leave you!" he cried in protest, despite the logical part of his brain acknowledging that what he had done had been beyond stupid.
"Jaune, sweetie, I love you and I love that you want to protect me, but there was absolutely nothing you could have done."
He flinched and hung his head at those words, and Pyrrha felt her anger evaporate. Part of it was just that she couldn't stand to see Jaune look like that; it made her chest physically hurt. The other part was that she knew Jaune still had deep-seated feelings of guilt over her injury in the Siege, despite her constant assurances that it was not his fault at all. Being told there was nothing he could've done would was sure to have struck a very painful chord for him. She stepped forward, rested her hands on his cheeks, and drew him forward for a brief kiss.
"I'm sorry," she said gently when they separated. "I just don't like seeing you in danger. Especially whenever you're doing it for me."
He raised an eyebrow at her. "When else do I put myself in danger?"
"Pretty much every opportunity you get."
Jaune smirked. "Only because I know you've got my back."
Pyrrha sighed and rubbed a thumb over his cheek. "You're going to be the death of me, you know that, right?"
He opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off by a forceful cough. They both turned to find Weiss watching them. "If you two are quite done with your shameless flirting, perhaps we could focus on the task at hand?"
"O-Of course, Weiss," Jaune stuttered. No matter how much time passed, he didn't think he'd ever be able to not trip over himself around the heiress. Beside them, Ren rose to his feet as Nora bounded back over, her load of civilians deposited into the authorities' hands.
Weiss glanced around, face set in a grim expression. "Where's Blake?" she finally asked.
Jaune and Pyrrha exchanged a look. "I'm honestly not sure," Pyrrha said, brow furrowed a bit in worry. "Perhaps she's already at one of the other buildings, or back with the Shadowswift?"
"If they had gone back to the Swift, I think I would have seen," Jaune pointed out. "Maybe they're-"
"Right here," he was cut off as Blake landed in between JNPR and Weiss. Yang followed shortly thereafter, though she almost didn't seem to have noticed they had stopped. She was still glancing over her shoulder in the direction they had come from. Blake straightened up and addressed them, "Sorry, we got a little sidetracked." Golden eyes turned to the white-haired Huntress waiting with crossed arms and a sour expression. "Weiss!" she cried happily, moving to her teammate.
The shorter woman's frosty facade melted away in an instant with that one word, and a smile pulled at her mouth. "It's good to see you, Blake," she said with a warm tone reserved only for those dearest to her. They embraced tightly, and Weiss gripped Blake's forearms when they pulled apart. The warmth of the moment didn't last long, however, as Weiss's eyes slid over Blake's shoulder, catching sight of the blonde now watching the two wearily. Ice blue orbs immediately narrowed as Weiss' face hardened.
Yang opened her mouth to say something, anything, but Weiss spoke up before she could, "We'll catch up later. Right now we need to focus on helping the AERF as much as we can." She was using what Blake had dubbed her 'Vice President Schnee' voice, a tone that was level but carried so much authority behind it that no one who heard it could even think of disobeying. Not that Blake would.
The faunus nodded in agreement and pointed in the direction she had been heading before she and Yang had chased the bomber. "There's a building over that way that I think has a few civilians trapped inside. We should get started on that one if that AERF hasn't already."
"Show me." Weiss turned around and set off toward the area that Blake had indicated. Her black-haired teammate took a step after her before pausing and turning to Yang. She opened her mouth as if to say something, but stopped and closed it again. She glanced away from Yang's violet gaze, gave a slight shake of her head, and continued on after Weiss.
Yang stared after her retreating form, feeling every single one of her footsteps as a knife in the heart. Go after them, a voice in her head whispered. Don't let her just walk away. But she didn't move. She just continued standing there, watching as her partner vanished into the smoke. Blake had left her. She knew it shouldn't have been a big deal. After all, her partner was just going to help people in the best way she saw fit, at the moment. She knew that. She knew it, but a part of her couldn't help but see this as a rejection, as Blake turning her back on her once and for all.
With what Yang had done, what she had caused, Blake had finally had enough, and deserted her at the first opportunity. She had gone with Weiss, who hadn't even acknowledged her existence. Yang felt the tenuous amount of emotion she had begun to regain over the last few days tremble pitifully inside of her, and she couldn't stop her body from shaking. Without Blake, she was entirely alone. She was nothing but a broken shell that couldn't be called a person. Something less than even a shadow. She was nothing.
Already, those around her had forgotten her. Jaune and Pyrrha were making they're way toward the man who looked to be in charge of managing the AERF's teams. Ren and Nora were gone, and she wasn't sure when they had disappeared. She caught a glimpse of them over with the wounded. Ren was walking from one bed to the next, laying his palms on each victim for a moment before moving on the next.
Yang felt her body shift slightly in their direction, but she remained rooted where she was. Where should she go? What should she do? She wanted to help these people, to do something, but she didn't know who to talk to, or even how to. She had been so long removed from normal life that interactions of any sort were beyond her now. She had been getting better, but now, without Blake, she felt that clawing anxiety and nervousness roaring in her stomach again, and she was reminded vividly of why she had isolated herself in the first place. The world had become too overwhelming after Ruby's death, and she no longer knew how to handle it. The world felt like it was crushing in on her from all sides, and Yang didn't know how to make it stop.
Lilac eyes desperately swept around, looking for something, anything, she could use as an escape. Her gaze fell on one particular person as they emerged from what looked, at one point, to have been a small storage shed off of what had once been an alley. Despite her small stature, Britain moved with purpose, brown eyes hard and determined. She glanced from side to side, seemingly looking for her next objective. Without really being aware of what she was doing, Yang felt her feet begin to carry her toward the other woman.
Britain noticed her when she got closer, and turned to scrutinize her. She looked the blonde up and down, eyes narrowed and searching. Yang could think of nothing to say. Given that they had almost had a fistfight on the bridge, she wasn't even sure why she had gravitated to her. Britain studied her for another moment before jerking her head to the side.
When the weapon specialist set off again, Yang silently followed close behind.
It was hours later before the Yang found herself in a cozily furnished conference room with Weiss, Blake, and JNPR. She wasn't really sure how they had gotten here, nor when, only that they were here. Her mind was still reeling from earlier. They had continued helping the AERF long after the sun had gone down. They had trudged into burning and destroyed buildings, pulled survivors and corpses alike from the rubble and carnage. Too many of those corpses had been too small.
More children's blood she'd never be able to wash from her hands.
When they hadn't been on search and rescue, they had been tending to the injured. Yang had cleaned so many wounds, wrapped so many limbs, and bandaged so many bloody lacerations that her fingers ached done to her bones. At some point, one of them must have decided they had done all they could. She couldn't recall who it was or even how far they'd gone to reach where they were. No one had said anything to her on the way here; she would have remembered if they had. To be fair, she couldn't remember any of them talking to anyone, though, not even the few glimpses of them she caught while they were helping. She wasn't surprised. She had spent the entire time with Britain, and neither of them had said one word to each other. No one really had the time.
Weiss muffled voice pierced her tired brain, and she brought herself back into focus, barely managing to catch the words, "company building." She glanced around, taking note of the glass-topped table that dominated the center of the room, and the comfortable enough looking armchairs spread around its perimeter at regular intervals. The carpet was a dark blue, speckled through with black and white. The walls were a soft grey. Gleaming silver letters on the side of the room opposite the metal double doors declared 'Schnee Dust Company,' with the family's signature snowflake symbol resting behind them.
The seven exhausted warriors slumped into the seats. Blake took the chair to Yang's right, giving her a small but gentle smile as she did so. Yang couldn't find it in herself to respond in any capacity, and her face remained blank. She watched Blake's brow knit together as her smile faltered.
When they were all settled, Weiss, seated at the head of table took a deep breath, clearly about to launch into a lengthy tirade.
She didn't get the chance though, as she was interrupted by a shockingly loud, "Yaaaaaaaaaaaang!" The blonde jumped in surprise and glanced up. Nora was literally diving across the table, arms outstretched. Yang haphazardly caught the other woman, who enthusiastically wrapped her arms around her shoulders and squeezed for all she was worth. The orange-haired Huntress nuzzled affectionately into Yang's neck. "I missed you! Where have you been?!"
Yang tried to reply, but Nora was cutting off all air to and from her lungs. She desperately tapped the ginger's arm in a plea for oxygen, but her silent cries went unnoticed. By Nora, at any rate.
"Nora," Ren remarked calmly, and his partner glanced back at him, "let her breathe. You can catch up later."
Nora pouted a little, but released her death grip on Yang, who took a greedy gulp of air. She shot Ren a silent look of thanks as Nora made her way back to her seat beside him. He nodded to her in return.
It was easily the most simple and underwhelming of all of her reunions with her old friends. She wasn't really surprised. It was Ren. They hadn't been particularly close, and he had never been one for words and emotions, and his personality seemed only more muted now. A nod was probably the most she would get from him.
Not that Yang really cared at the moment, honestly. Neither Nora's nor Ren's reactions to her reappearance managed to faze her. She didn't deserve any kind of acceptance they showed her, not after what she had done.
There was only one person left in the room who had yet to acknowledge her, and Yang looked up the table, meeting the glacial stare of her one time teammate.
"So," Weiss began, voice cold and sharp. All eyes snapped to her as the tension in the room skyrocketed. Yang searched the heiress' expression, but detected no hint of friendliness, no warmth, not the barest hint of understanding. "You finally decided to show your face again, I see." Each word bit more harshly than a glass dagger. Yang had already had some idea as to what Weiss thought of her, but her ex-teammate's next words still ripped her recovering psyche to pieces.
"Tell me, coward, why exactly are you here?"
A/N: I'm back! Again! Barring anymore unforeseen curveballs from life, I'll be back on schedule from here on. I apologize for this being a day late, but once more, I got super busy. Anyway, I've got a couple things to say
First of all, to those of you who reviewed, commented, or PMed me to send me your condolences, thoughts, prayers, and well-wishes about my grandmother, thank you all so much. Last week was pretty rough, and I cannot properly express what your kind words and understand meant to me. I love every single one of you so very much. I wish I could had more to
Secondly, HOLY SHIT RWBY VOLUME 2 IS REAL AND IT'S PREMIERED AND IT'S GLORIOUS AJSHDKSDHJASKDJASd. Okay, calming down now. But seriously, the first episode was great and everything I could have asked for. I think I have two new favorite characters to add to my roster, Emerald and Neptune. Emerald is the most adorable little shit ever, and Neptune just seems cool as fuck. Can't wait for the rest, it's gonna be a good volume! Also, on a related note, please forgive any and all discrepancies that are sure to appear in abundance between RWBY canon and the Rending Trilogy
Anyway, yes, the chapter! What did everyone think? This one definitely deviated from my original plan a bit, and I might have to rework a few scenes later in the story because of it, but I think it makes more sense/is better this way.
But yeah, poor Yang, right? finally starting to crawl up on out of that hole, and she just gets slammed right back down. Next chapter will be a bit of fun. You'll finally discover the identity of Weiss' bodyguard, so look forward to that!
Okay, I think that's a big enough A/N. I love you all. Until next time, friends!