Chapter Twenty Seven: Split
Try something else; if you don't, you'll only end up hurting yourself.
The words echoed in Pyrrha's head as she stared at the city lights twinkling in the darkness. The concept itself wasn't exactly a world-shattering revelation, but it did give her renewed clarity. Especially given that the past handful of weeks had become almost tortuous to her- no, they were tortuous. Trying to act like nothing had changed was just not working.
Which was why she was going to do something rather… bold. Something that she should have done last time instead of just wallowing in silence, doing nothing. She could no longer bear the burden by herself.
The door to the roof creaked open as a familiar blond mess of hair came into view, right on schedule. "Hello, Jaune."
"Hey, Pyrrha. Sorry I'm late, I was, uh… busy." The boy awkwardly adjusted his hoodie, guiltily staring at the floor. A single red eyebrow rose, but Pyrrha quickly noticed a rather telling string of dark marks running the length of his neck, which even the hoodie couldn't hide. An amused smile quirked her lips. Ah. Velvet. "Anyway, so what's today going to be? More aura training? Sparring?"
"Not quite." Pyrrha tapped her chin for a moment before frowning. There really is no good way to say this, is there? "Do you mind if we talk for a bit?"
Jaune slowed his gait, eyeing Pyrrha cautiously. "Um, sure?"
Pyrrha took a deep breath in before letting it slowly out, calming herself. "I have a crush on someone."
"O-Oh." Blue eyes blinked, the gears behind them not turning for a few moments before starting again. "That's great?" The boy awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck. "It's not me, is it?" If only he had asked before Velvet… yet Pyrrha slowly shook her head as Jaune let out a sigh of relief. "What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing." A smile tugged at the corners of Pyrrha's lips. "It's just… it all feels so strange. She's kind and gentle… and always brighten my day. I guess she's the sort of person who makes me want to be a hero, and…"
"…s-she makes me feel happy. "
"Sooo… what you are telling me is that you got the hots for Pyrrha?"
Ruby's cheeks turned a deeper shade of crimson than they already were as she shyly nodded. Why does it have to be this hard to talk about it! There was something about hearing her sister actually say it out loud that made Ruby ever so uncomfortable, as if talking about the purple elephant in the room.
"I see, I see." Yang nodded sagely to Ruby, stroking her non-existent beard. "And…?"
Ruby blinked. "And…?"
The elder girl snorted loudly. "Who doesn't have a crush on Pyrrha? I mean, have you seen her hoot-"
"Yaaaang!" Ruby chucked the corgi-pattern pillow at her sister's face, delivering a satisfying smack with it. "That's not funny!" The younger girl's lips formed into a pout.
"Sorry, Rubes." Yang cocked a cheeky grin before shaking her head. "It's just… kinda obvious that you've been crushing pretty hard on Pyrrha since, like, at least summer break?"
Ruby's stomach sank. "Wait, does everyone know?!" If they did and everyone had just been too polite to say anything, Ruby was pretty sure she was going to die from embarrassment. Just the thought of it made her red cheeks burn. It was only as the urge to hide under her hood flared up that a comforting weight came to rest on her shoulder.
"No, no, I don't think so, Rubes. I haven't seen anyone collecting dirt on you. Yet!" Yang playfully stuck her tongue out to accentuate her point.
"O-Okay." So only Yang and Nora know. Okay. You can do this, Ruby!
"Not that it isn't great to be sharing and all that good stuff, and I appreciate being in the know, but…" There was a curiosity twinkling in Yang's eyes, making the unasked question clear.
Why am I telling her this.
"Um… I wanted some advice…"
"Oh?" Intrigued, Yang shifted around until she was comfortable, ready for Ruby's story-time.
"Well… uh… what do you think…"
"…I should do about it?"
Jaune dumbly stared at her for a moment before speaking. "And you think I'd know what to do because…?" he deadpanned.
"Well, you're the only one I know that's in a relationship." Pyrrha simply noted as her fingers fidgeted with the hem of her skirt. "So I thoug-"
"Aren't Nora and Ren together?" The blonde scratched his chin. "They've been together longer than we've known each other, so they'd probably be better at that sort of thing…"
In her surprise, Pyrrha couldn't stifle a giggle, hiding her mouth behind the back of her hand. "Jaune, they aren't together."
"Wha-what? Are you sure?" Pyrrha gave a small nod, causing the dumbfounded teen to drop his prized family heirloom from shock. He barely fumbled to catch it before the sword could chatter to the ground. "Man, I always thought that they were!"
"I thought that too, but Nora was adamant about it. I really don't think they are together-together." The redhead gave a tiny shrug and switched her gaze to the shining points of light in the sky. "So that's why I'm asking you."
"Oh. Huh. Anyway, why don't you just ask Ruby out?" Of course, Pyrrha had already considered that option, but given how her first reaction had been to bury her feelings... "That's what I did with Velvet and it's worked pretty well so far…"
With a knot forming in her stomach, Pyrrha shook her head.
"But what if…"
"…she says no?"
Calloused hands gently clasped around Ruby's, pulling her attention back to Yang. "Ruby, do you really think she'll say no?"
That was the million lien question: what if I actually was brave enough to confess and she shuts me down? If Yang had asked that question a few weeks ago, Ruby would have had said yes in a heart-beat, but now she wasn't so sure…
The way that Pyrrha's face lit up redder than Ruby's cloak, or how she was acting like how Ruby was… or even the fact that Ruby swore she felt those emerald eyes linger on her whenever she wasn't looking- not felt, I've caught her staring, Ruby corrected herself, like at the library.
Almost imperceptibly, Ruby shook her head.
"So what if she says no?" Yang continued, countering her sister's unspoken anxiety. "It won't be the end of the world if she doesn't want to go out with you, even if she'd have no reason to not go out with you…" That last part came out as almost a growl, making Ruby wonder about Pyrrha's safety if she happened to say no…
"Well, what if she isn't into, um, girls…" That was another what-if. "What if she gets really creeped out or something when she finds out… or it ruins our friendship… maybe it'd be better if I just didn't mention anything!"
Silver eyes met the unflinching, hardening gaze her big sister was giving her. "Do you really think that Pyrrha 'I am the nicest person you will ever meet' Nikos would do that to you? To her best friend? Even if she's straight, I don't think she's the kind of person to think less of you for it." The younger teen already knew the answer to that question. "Ruby." The girl in question let out a undignified noise. "Ruby."
The bed creaked as Yang plopped down next to her. "Do you really think Pyrrha would let it affect your friendship? You guys are two peas in a pod and she…"
"…thinks the absolute world of you."
There was a swell of heat in Pyrrha as Jaune went on about how much Ruby valued her, coming from the very center of her chest and outwards in every direction. It was almost euphoric, thinking how the person she cared so deeply about thought so highly of her in return. It was why a bright scarlet colouration had come to Pyrrha's cheeks, but she didn't mind the blushing this time. Nor the growing smile that was tugging at her lips.
Maybe… maybe Jaune is right? Perhaps it wouldn't be so hard to just ask her out. Her smile wavered. No, it'll be hard, but not as bad as I thought it would be? Or… I don't HAVE to ask her out, but at least I shouldn't be so terrified of her finding out. Her smile deepened. Perhaps everything truly will be alright.
It took a while for the words to return to Pyrrha's lips. "I think I'm going to…"
"…ask her out."
The noise Yang made was high enough of a pitch to make Zwei bark in distress, yet low enough that Ruby wish she couldn't hear it all. "Of course you should!"
"You… you really think so?" Ruby hesitantly asked after a moment, still not completely sure of the course of action. "You think Pyrrha will say yes and won't hate me?"
"She won't hate you and of course she'll say yes, Rubes." A reassuring smile tugged at Yang's lips before she flicked Ruby's forehead. "Why wouldn't she, dummy? Heck, I'll be there cheering you on if you want me to."
"Really?!" Yang barely got to nod before Ruby pulled her into a hug, only to be out-bear hugged by the larger teen. "Thank you so, so…"
"Uh, it's no problem." The blonde teen awkwardly patted Pyrrha's back. "Just kinda surprising."
The two pulled away after a moment from the hug, with Pyrrha's head tilting ever so slightly in confusion. "What's surprising about it? That it's Ruby?"
"No, you guys spend, like, a lot of the time together." Jaune shrugged. "I guess, it's just..." His hands gestured in vague shapes, as if uncertain about what he was actually trying to say.
"Jaune." Pyrrha's voice became a shade gentler, as if reassuring him that it was fine to take his time. "What is it?"
"So you are just going to do nothing?"
Pyrrha's brow furrowed. "What do you mean, 'do nothing'?"
Jaune's frown deepened, still unsure. "I kinda thought you were asking for advice on how to ask Ruby out- I mean you did look a bit, er, out of it, but I thought it was just nerves?" The boy let out a chuckle. "I never thought I'd see you nervous…"
Pyrrha's smile fell as her lips formed an uncertain line. "That was never my intent, Jaune." Crimson hair swayed as she shook her head. "I'll admit, I was a bit nervous and pretty concerned, and maybe I do need to think about this more, but at the present that's not what I intend to do."
"Then why did you want to talk to me about this?" Jaune snapped back with no hesitation, frustration seeping into his tone. "It's not that I don't appreciate this, really, that's not it. I just don't get why you wanted to talk about it then."
Pyrrha was silent, her fingers once more playing with the hem of her skirt, the only real sign of any of something outside of her usual calm. "Can I ask you a question?"
"What does Velvet mean to you?"
Blue eyes blinked in surprise. "Umm... I don't know. That's kind of a loaded question. I mean, I love her, obviously. But I don't know what exactly that means. She's fun to be with. I like the way her ears do all kinds of different things based on her mood. Sometimes I do things just to see what kind of reaction I'll get. Stupid stuff like that. It's what makes being together with her wonderful. I guess... doesn't sound like much of an answer, but it's what I got."
Pyrrha blankly stared at him for a moment. "You're dating her because her ears do different things?" She couldn't keep the amusement out of voice, but at the very least, kept from giggling out loud.
"No. Yes. Look, this is why I said I don't know. There's too many different ways to put it and my answer feels like it's always changing every other day. All I know is I like her, isn't that enough?"
"I suppose it is." Mirth still creased Pyrrha's brow.
"Why do you ask?" Jaune finally blubbered out, as he fought down the embarrassment. "Unless it was just to make me look like an idiot."
"No, it's just…" Pyrrha let out a sigh, her head slumping forwards. "I don't even know if I could describe what Ruby means to me." An almost pained smile crossed her face.
"She's my best friend… I couldn't imagine spending a day without her." Emerald eyes guiltily looked down at the ground - that doesn't sound creepy at all. "It's like whenever I'm around her, the world has more colour to it. Whenever I make her laugh, or just make her eyes light up, it feels like I'm on top of the world."
Pyrrha pinched the bridge of her nose, disgusted with how sappy this was starting to sound, I sound like a lovesick puppy! Yet all of it was true, which was perhaps more alarming if she hadn't fallen so hard for Ruby already. "She makes me feel like I'm special… that I matter." A deep red blush returned to her cheeks. "When I'm with her, it feels better than winning any tournament or getting any kind of award… like nothing could damper my happiness when Ruby is around." Pyrrha had the distinct feeling that if she were in Jaune's position, she'd be feeling more than a little disgusted with hearing such a blatant and sappy declaration of love.
"She is the kind of the person that makes me want to become a huntress; I'd give my everything to protect her… to keep her happy and smiling. Anything to keep her happy." An edge was starting to leak into her voice as Pyrrha went on. "I'd do anything to make it so she could achieve her dream, and that is my plan." She meant it, too; I'll make sure Ruby can become a huntress. That's her dream, after all.
Finally, Pyrrha looked up, her sight still focused on the ground – fully expected to find her partner perhaps more than a tad weirded out by what she was saying about his first friend at Beacon - only to find Jaune wiping his eyes. "J-Jaune?"
"Sorry, um, just something in my eye." Jaune sputtered unconvincingly. "But, uh, that doesn't answer my question."
Pyrrha's head tilted ever so slightly, as she wracked her brain for the aforementioned query. "And that is…?"
"Why don't you ask Ruby out, especially, ESPECIALLY if you feel that way about her?"
"Precisely because of how I feel."
The way Jaune looked at her with uncertainty made Pyrrha feel uneasy. She paced around the rooftop for a while in silence, head deep in thought of what to say next. She leaned back against one of the nearby ventilation apparatuses once she felt that she had her thoughts collected.
"If there was even a one in a million chance for this to go wrong, I'd try to avoid it… and asking her out would have far greater odds than just that, I would think." Just the thought of not having Ruby as a friend anymore made her shudder. "I might… like-like her, but I'm not going to put that to chance, because if it goes wrong, I might lose her."
Pyrrha's eyes found the rooftop again. "Moreover, it could hurt Ruby." Her lips formed a hard line. "It'd be selfish of me if I were to cause something to happen to our friendship and hurt her, just because I have a crush on her. It's not just a one-way street; I'm her best friend as much as she is mine. I don't want to make Ruby lose that."
"I'm more than happy with what I already have, Jaune… it's not like I need to get further with our relationship… I'm not that greedy to ruin it for my sake."
Jaune regarded her pensively for a while. It seemed as though he had something to say but didn't quite know how to say it, as half-words formed and died in his mouth. This hesitation made Pyrrha uneasy; perhaps she was making the wrong choice if her trusted partner was so indecisive. When she thought the awkward silence might kill her, Jaune finally spoke clearly.
"I… I trust you, Pyrrha. I know you know what's best for you - after all, you always seem to know what's best. So if this is the way you want to take things with Ruby, I'll support you. Besides, caution can't hurt, right?"
Something in how that last word hung tenuously in the air did not reassure Pyrrha. She was happy to have Jaune's support - his thoughts really did matter to her - but it did not comfort her when she went off back to the dorm room. It did not comfort her as she showered off the day's grime. It did not comfort her as she lied in bed, staring at the ceiling, unable to rest.
Am I making the right choice?
HUZZAH ACCEPTANCE IS TWO YEARS OLD NOW! :D :D :D :D
Finally got this chapter out! I actually had it mostly ready for the 15th of March, on the two year anniversary of the first chapter but I got forced to make the decision if I wanted a 'good' chapter or a 'rushed' chapter. This might become a rather long ramble, so sorry in advance!
This chapter is unique to me in the sense that the original concept was to have a split dialogue, where I had two rather identical conversations going on in parallel, intercutting in-between them rapidly, much like you see in a visual medium. Honestly, I was so surprised at how well it actually worked out. It supremely expedited the conversations that the two had, and made it so I didn't happen to have two extremely similar ones going on. The flip side of course, was that I had thought it'd take something like twice the length of what it actually did and I didn't want to publish a 1600 word chapter. Several different versions of the last 1300 odd words came and went, and the final result is a bit under 2900 words, which is still under my 3000 minimal limit, but, yknow, had to publish it at some point.
Also interesting is that it creates a convention and then turns it on its head, which I hoped some people picked up on :P Essentially you get the idea that Ruby and Pyrrha are having the same conversation and originally I was going to just have Pyrrha say "I'm going to be Okay" instead of "I'm going to ask her out" and have that flip, but it works better to think of it as Pyrrha having an entirely different conversation than what Ruby was having with Yang: Ruby's conversation is what you think it would be and Pyrrha's conversation requires a second read through to get the full depth of what the hell she is talking about. Especially when taken into context what she says after the intercutting ends.
Wow, I rambled a lot about this. Um. I do have to ask, did it work out well in the end? Was the effort well warranted?
Okay now on to housekeeping things;
I actually got a new job recently, one that pays significantly better than my old job (yay author-sama! :D ) however it requires far more of my time, hence why writing has become more sparse. Actually that's not completely accurate; it's more like the stress of getting the job was the reason the writing became more sparse and the lack of time is why that trend continues.
My tentative goal for chapter 28 is going to be earlyish June. After that I might put Acceptance on hold for a few months until Volume 5 so I can work on a side project (I haven't done anything new that wasn't for a competition in a LONG FREAKING WHILE), and by side project I mean a lengthy one-shot.
I swear I had far more to say than just this… bluh, lack of sleep and excitement at FINALLY GETTING THIS PUBLISHED is making me forgetful… OH RIGHT; I might be also publishing something, which might also be another time drag, though I suppose that'd make me a professional writer of some measure? :P
As always, thank you so much to everyone who reviews; those things (no matter how short they are) are why I keep finding my drive to finish this story when I'm stressing the hell out! :P Seriously, thank you guys and girls :D
Thank you for reading, I hope everyone has a wonderful day! :D
Omake – Guest Author: Super Saiyan Cyndaquil:
"Umm… why are we doing this again?" Jaune asked, shifting his balance from foot to foot, trying to remain light on his feet so he could bolt at a moment's notice.
Standing directly across from him on the battle arena floor was Coco Adel, bag hanging off her shoulder, eyes hidden behind fashionable sunglasses, and a wide terrifying grin. Sitting alone in the stands to watch their battle was his girlfriend, the rabbit faunus waving encouragingly down at him. "You'll be fine Jaune! She doesn't mean to hurt you…" She sent Coco a not-so-confident glance. "...Right?"
"Not at all…" Coco drawled, tone carrying the exact opposite intent of her words. Oh, she meant to hurt him, that was for sure. She meant to hurt him good. "I'm just testing him out. Leader to leader. I swear I'm not picking on him to make sure he's good enough to date you or anything. I would never do something like that." She placed a hand over her heart, as if wounded they would even insuate such a thing.
Liar! Jaune physically bit down on his tongue to keep from shouting just that. He actually bit down hard enough to draw blood, causing him to wince and for his Aura to dip before the match even started.
"Are you both ready?" Yatsuhashi asked, stepping between them and holding his hand in the air.
If the upperclassman heard him, he didn't show it. "Then you may both begin." He dropped his hand and quickly retreated out of the way. Jaune wasn't sure when it happened, but at some point when the huge Mistrali boy had stepped between them and backed up, Coco's bag had transformed.
Now he was staring down the barrel of a very massive gatling gun, the weapon making a soft humming noise as it whirled to life.
"That would be so cool if it wasn't about to kill me."
The gun roared to life, firing bullets faster than he could count.
And the next noise that left his mouth was a scream several octaves higher than even his girlfriend was capable of making.