Disclaimer: I own nothing of RWBY.
No matter how he held Crocea Mors—it never felt right.
Maybe the problem laid with the blade?
Jaune Arc knew the problem, and it wasn't the sword's fault. It was him.
Perhaps this was the reason this blade belonged to his great-great-grandfather and not his own hands. In a sad, ironic twist of Fate, all of it started to make sense to him to why everyone created an individual weapon before attending Beacon Academy, or any Huntsmen Academy for that matter.
Huntsmen didn't create the weaponry they yearned for; they forged the armament that felt right.
Crocea Mors didn't feel right.
No matter how many times he swung. No matter how firmly he held the grip. No matter how many times he merely only held it.
It never felt right—ever!
As cliché as it sounded, he stubbornly refused to believe it at first. Devoting his time and energy to training, he kept practicing day and night whenever he had time, sparring with Pyrrha as much as physically possible—never wanting to believe he couldn't suitably wield Crocea Mors—but over time he slowly noticed how his partner's smile got thinner after spars. More forced. Like whenever she said I'm sorry. Eventually, he dubbed it her I'm Sorry Smile that contrasted heavily against her Hello Again Smile, a grin filled with harmony and no ill-intent. She even began choosing her words more carefully, going as far to say nothing at times with an uneven posture, pretending nothing was wrong.
Of course, she never outright said it, too kind, but Jaune Arc ultimately figured it out.
He wasn't improving and admitting that hurt worse than any flesh wound.
Alone in his team's room, skipping breakfast, Jaune Arc sat on his bed, silently running his hand over his great-great grandfather's blade with a heavy heart. Sunlight peeked on through, reflecting his grim emotions on the blade's metal. It had taken some thought—some sleepless nights—but he finally came to terms that the sword would never feel right in his hands. No matter how much he wanted to deluded himself thinking otherwise.
Didn't mean he was quitting. Above all else, he still yearned to fight with a sword. Arc tradition demanded he wielded one in battle. Even if he was unfamiliar with his ancestor's blade, training came out of it. To a certain degree of skill, he knew how to handle a sword and shield. No point in damaging his progress by learning a new weapon and forgoing everything he had learned up until now. Best try to create a new blade from scratch. Something that felt right to grip. Oum knew he didn't want to make all of Pyrrha's time and training go to waste.
The only problem though, he couldn't very well create a weapon here at Beacon. A shortage of materials, lien, and knowledge of blade crafting, much less any semblance on where to begin, held him back. So as much as he hated to admit it, he was stuck at square one. The very same square from when he forged his way into Beacon Academy.
"Why me?" Jaune sighed, placing Crocea Mors under his bed before falling helplessly flat on the floor. "Why does it always seem like the universe is out to get me? What'd I ever do to it?"
He waited patiently for an answer and received nothing but the soft blowing of winds from outside his window. He probably should close that? Catching a cold was the last thing on his list he needed. Damn the universe. Damn his resolve. Damn it all.
Not actually getting off the floor, he tried to count the specks of dust bits in the ceiling and air to kill time. Mild distractions. In a strange roundabout way of thinking, the specks somewhat resembled him and how little his place in the world rightfully was. Just an extra bit of dust in this infinite cosmos, irrelevant, but abundant. Like him in Remnant.
Dust to the wind.
It sounded poetic, but he wasn't much of a poet, and he gave up counting around fifty and scoffed at the assumption that Nora counted them all. No way. There was just no way that she did. No matter how much she bragged, and Nora Valkyrie loved to brag.
He sighed. Strangely, this wouldn't be the first time such thoughts crossed his mind, him contemplating his place in the observable universe that was. The Arc always pictured himself insignificant compared to everyone else around him. Not in the brooding sense, but from a realistic standpoint. Compared to an ant, he was gigantic. Compared to this academy, he was small. However, compared to everyone else, he was normal, but none of that mattered when compared against the universe as a whole. Everyone was insignificant then. No one was special. A comforting thought that always made his soul feel much lighter.
It filled him with hope.
Feeling a gust of wind hit his face, he glared tiredly, figuring he should probably close that pesky window before he did end up sick.
Lazily getting up, he failed to spot one of Nora's grenade canisters lying on the floor, beside his foot, and unknowingly stepped on it. It didn't explode upon impact—thank Monty Oum for small miracles—but losing his balance was all still fair game, and the Arc had never been known to be a good player.
He stumbled, tripped, and fell straight toward his bedpost, hitting his head hard on the hardwood. The pain was quick and inevitable, and he remained on his knees, clutching the aching bruise already forming, grumbling in annoyance. Despite that, as quickly as it came, it vanished. Just like that, gone. He felt much better. Like the pain never existed?
It demanded a reason.
Standing up, he experimentally rubbed his head, searching for the pain between his locks of hair, not finding any. Not that wasn't thrilled there wasn't any, but an injury like that shouldn't just go away as if nothing happened. The pain came from somewhere. Injuries equaled pain. He was Jaune Arc, which meant aside from being Vomit Boy, he was more prone to injuries than the average person. As such, Jaune Arc was susceptible to distress. Common Sense one-o'-one right there, yet the equation wasn't adding up. A hidden variable, something he forgot to divide or multiply, factored in and alleviated his pain.
Confusion gripped him. He pulled back his arm to see a low luminosity glow of white-emitting shine coming from his hand, already fading out, along with any numbing feeling. Just like that, he remembered the reason for his relief.
"Oh yeah." Jaune grinned weakly, watching the white slowly fade from his arm. "I have Aura." Funny how a person could forget the littlest things. "I keep forgetting that's like some invisible armor or something. Weird."
Great! Problem solved! Feeling much better, he shut the window closed and sat on his bed, watching the rest of his Aura glow out in boredom. It was cruel in a mocking sense, Pyrrha said he had a ton of Aura, but he hardly used the darn thing outside of healing his wounds after a spar or acting as his second layer of armor for whenever he fell and hurt himself. Even then that was all an unconscious act on his part, one-hundred percent instinctual.
Seemed like such a waste if someone asked him. Aura was just such an awesome power, astonishing even. It healed wounds and made everyone so much stronger. He once witnessed his buddy Ren fight a Grimm barehanded while using Aura alone. The things Aura could do just amazed him to no end. The power was practically a weapon all on its own. Weapon? That was a better word to explain it. Powerful and—!
Wait? Weapon? Jumping right off his bed, he stared wide-eyed at his hand, almost shaking at the sudden thought. Aura? A possible weapon? Could he? No. Was it honestly that simple? No? Couldn't be?
"Is it possible?" Jaune wondered, twisting his hand into a familiar position. He outstretched his palm out, making out the white glare with curiosity fit for a child. The thought alone turned gears. "Is there a way to do this? Can I do this?"
Possible? Maybe? Could he potentially figure out a way to use his Aura as a weapon? Was his idea feasible? Did potential lay there? He'd never heard of anyone ever doing that with Aura. Granted, he only just learned about Aura roughly two months ago, so his understanding of the stuff was practically nonexistent. Even his control, or lack thereof, was imaginary. Still, he'd never seen any other students using their Aura in the way he was contemplating.
A reason probably existed for that though. Some unforeseeable obstacle. Maybe it couldn't be done? Mayhap it wasn't even possible? Not conceivable. Perhaps the manipulation required an Aura control that was astronomical compared to novice standards? Maybe, just maybe, no one else had considered the insane theory? Why would they? They have weapons! Years of training under their belts, and even amazing Semblances, but he didn't. He had zero of that. Zero! At this late into the game, Jaune Arc was desperate and just insane enough to try!
It wasn't as if anything would change if proved faulty, that'd only put him back at square one. A not so terrible rebound, but one that sounded remarkably unpleasant the more time he devoted to sulking over it. Besides, Pyrrha mentioned he possessed a vast amount of Aura. That had to count for something in the grand scheme of things. He just knew it did! It just had to. He was running out of options to look elsewhere now. The gap between him and his friends grew further by the day. Sooner or later, Jaune would become a burden to them, an idea that left a hole in his heart.
Time to throw caution to the wind and jump for it!
Smiling the only way Team JNPR's Fearless Leader could, Jaune Arc, for the first since attending Beacon, headed to the library to pick up books on Aura manipulation and anything else remotely Aura related. If he couldn't create or wield a sword out of metal and wiring, then he'd merely have to learn to make and use one out of Aura. Now time to see if he had what it took to turn those dreams into reality.
Okay! Reading! Not his strong suit. Now he knew that.
No matter what he did, whatever he read, it didn't stick! Not in the way he hoped. Not in the way he wanted! The words on the page only seemed to get lost within seconds as he tried to read them, recite them and then memorize them. That plan didn't work out too well. There were still holes in his memory, and the ones he somewhat recalled; he couldn't understand their meanings, anyway. They were only random words he had forced himself to remember. The worst part about it, it wasn't him, it was the worthless books. The reading was all dry, lackluster. Way too technical! Nothing popped at him. Nothing appeared interesting. None of it! The information written within, and their crisscross theories, couldn't be broken down by him.
"Well, okay then." Jaune frowned, placing the book back into the bookshelf. That failed. Fine. No harm done. He had always been more of a notetaker, anyway. Planning his next move, and not shaken up in the slightest, he wandered off. "Maybe I'll look online instead? There's got to be A Dummy's Guide for Aura somewhere online? Maybe even a book, if I'm lucky."
Finding a spot to sit in some random corner, he checked his Scroll for anything related to Aura and weapon-based Aura manipulation. The endless searches came up practically the same as the book, but it was slightly easier to understand and digest the info. Soon it became simple to follow that the use of Aura for increasing physical strength, be it in punches, kicks or overall body, was indeed a common practice done by Huntsmen. Even the notion of heightened agility and reflexes control theories were drawn-out through trial and error. However, the actual method of creating a weapon from Aura alone was bitterly absent.
No Huntsmen had ever done it before or even attempted the idea for that matter. Aura remained too much of a mysterious force of the macrocosm to learn. To unravel the secrets of Aura would be like attempting to learn the secrets of the Grimm. Couldn't be done.
Or it hadn't been done yet.
"My life just keeps getting better."
Jaune laughed weakly, banging his head on the wall. He shut off his Scroll, busy staring at the library's ceiling, counting the specks of dust again in the air. He got to two-hundred thirty before giving up. Still, no way Nora counted them all. Never happened!
Eyes closed as he quietly contemplated what to do next. He understood he needed to practice with his Aura. He got that. What he lacked was the knowledge of the how, what, and why of creating a blade out of Aura, or weapons for that matter. Nothing had ever been attempted, tested or conceived. Jaune was walking blindly with this one. No one was going to help along the way or hold his hand, and that sad thought made him weakly chuckle for a moment.
How sad that he still needed someone to guide him, even this late in the game. Gave a whole new definition of laughing at one's self.
What was stranger was his current situation kind of reminded him of his ongoing predicament, when he lied his way into Beacon, he had no one and nothing but the clothes on his back, his ancestor's sword, shield and a web of lies. No matter how he looked at it, or how much he squinted, there were no two ways about it, Jaune Arc knew he was a liar. His team may have accepted him, but that hardly erased the turmoil burning in the depths of his soul.
The training wall he hit had only worsened the feeling and all after he thought he made some headway with his training. Killing that Ursa Major and saving Cardin's life a couple of weeks back had given him the confidence he needed, for a while anyway. What a fool he had been. One win did not merit results, and he only came to terms with that now.
That didn't mean he couldn't improve. As far as he knew, Pyrrha believed in him and so did Ren and Nora. Why else would they follow a leader like him? A liar? Somewhere, someplace, in some hidden crevice, they must see some potential in him, where even he was blind. More than his parents, that was for sure. So what if he couldn't find the answers to his questions right now? Then he'd look harder! If push came to shove, he'd wing it! Never stopped him before! Somewhere out there in the cosmos was his silver lining, and he was going to find it.
No matter what.
Laughing tiredly, he banged his head on the wall, hating the irony of not finding the answers he searched for in the library or on his Scroll. Slowly he stood, using the last moments of his whimsical curiosity to stare at his hand. He attempted to focus a little to get some of his Aura to appear in the shape of a sphere or any physical form, but only a faint, white hue surrounded his body instead.
Oum! He had such a long way to go, but Jaune Arc was determined if nothing else.
"Okay!" Forming a fist, he grinned with his arms out and feet spread apart. "It said on my Scroll that I have to concentrate to use my Aura. I have to find my center, whatever that is. I'm hoping it's not hard to find. Please don't be hard to find."
"Oh no!" Jaune panicked upon hearing his Scroll ring. He was already running through the library like a madman. "I'm going to be late to Professor Port's class! There's no way I'm getting his detention! I can't stand any more of those stories!"
Only a minute late to class. A new personal best. Jaune staggered in, trying to catch his breath as he sat beside Pyrrha, ignoring some of his classmate's nasty stares as he took his seat. Before the partners could say so much as a word to one another, Professor Port went off on some tale of him ripping apart a Grimm with his bare hands. Soon the lecture turned into a bore, and he fought to stay awake. A minute later, his boredom overcame him, and he allowed his eyes to wander. Something flourished to life in his chest, inspired by the little sketches Ruby was doing in her red, worn-out notebook when she assumed no one was looking. They appeared to be old and new designs for her precious baby. Doodles or not, the sketches were good, and as she flipped through the pages, he partly saw past prints and markings of an early design of Crescent Rose.
It made him think. Ruby must've kept the old details for later use. That way she could go back and improvise or improve on a past design. A splendid idea. One that forced him to admit to its ingenious design. He should do something like that. Actually? Why didn't he? If he was going to take this Aura control stuff seriously, best to keep everything he learned in a journal of some kind—jumbled notes were so last season—and he had just the perfect notebook for the job! The one his adorable, younger sisters gave him before he headed off to Beacon.
The little ones that adorably believed in him and his misguided dreams.
Brand new and never been used! Perfect! He was going to use this notebook for studying and scribbling down notes whenever possible, but this was a much better cause. Seriousness outweighed uselessness any day, and he had trouble thinking of anything more useless than Professor Port's Tales of Youth.
Reaching into his bag, he took out his white notebook and began brainstorming any idea for Aura his mind mustered up. His heart just wasn't into Professor Port's lesson, well, not any more than usual. Instead, he continually wrote little ideas he wanted to try, things that might improve his control over Aura. Possible techniques here and there he'd skimmed over at the library and on his Scroll. They were limited and random and one-hundred percent hypothetical, yet, they were all he had to rely on for the time being. Now nobody couldn't say he wasn't determined.
Noticing that their Fearless Leader wasn't paying any attention to the lesson; Pyrrha tapped him on the shoulder, not exactly worried. "Jaune?"
He looked up, eyes innocent. "Yeah, Pyrrha?"
"Um?" Pyrrha leaned over to see the random doodles he did. All of their meanings remained lost to her. "What are you doing?"
For a second he panicked.
Only a second.
What was his next move? It wasn't that he didn't want to tell Pyrrha, because he certainly wanted to, but couldn't. Not yet. This goal belonged to him, not her. She'd helped him so much already. As an Arc, he wanted—needed—to do this alone. Selfish? Maybe considering he had a team, but he'd lied his way into Beacon Academy, it was time to honor the Arc name and make something of himself by himself. Not off fake transcripts or from borrowed help from others. Not anymore.
"... Uh?" Jaune not-so-subtly glanced over his paper, stalling for time. Screw it! Time to wing it! "I'm practicing my drawing skills?"
Suspicion arose. Pyrrha didn't know whether to squint her eyes or reprimand him for not paying attention. Her leader technically wasn't lying, not from the random scribble scrawled across the page, but she would be a fool to believe he was acting entirely honest. Meanwhile, her partner kept giving her his best winning smile, pressing his forearm on his master plans to shield them from her suspicious stare. She glared between him and the paper a few times, considering the idea to snatch it away and catch him in some act that was in no way beneficial to his class grade, before reluctantly giving him the benefit of the doubt.
"I can see that, Jaune." She agreed, focusing back on their lesson. "But we're in the middle of a lesson, and you need to pay attention." Pyrrha's eyes softened, and she lightly played with her pencil. "I don't want you to get bad grades... and then kicked out."
Seeing the sad smile on the corner of her lip, he reluctantly pushed away his master plan, favoring another blank sheet of paper from a different notebook. He gently smiled at her, already taking what he called notes from Professor Port's Exaggerated Tales.
His master plan could wait.
Jaune never looked forward to Doctor Oobleck's lecture. Not only was it the last class of the day, but it followed right after combat class with Professor Goodwitch, which in turn meant for a sore body and bruised ego. A combination of all that easily sucked the joy out of listening to a man talk at inhuman speeds. At least for a male, and Monty Oum did that get old fast. Not to mention everyone was sweaty, and it just left a sour taste in the air, and history, like hard-covered books, had never been one of his strong suits. So the class was just a terrible experience right from the start.
Plus the doctor talked too much for his liking.
On the bright side, he at least sat away from Pyrrha during this period. She preferred to be up front, with Weiss, taking all the notes they could under Doctor Oobleck's mile-a-minute-mouth, subjecting themselves to that torment personally. Why? He hadn't a clue. He couldn't say he felt envious of their position, because he didn't. They could have all the learning they wanted, he was perfectly fine back here, where Oobleck wasn't watching him like a hawk.
The man lived to hand out Saturday detentions.
Flipping open his new Aura notebook, he glared at the random doodles he'd previously sketched. They were inconsistent and directionless—sketches of a madman. Maybe he needed to take a different approach to this whole inspiration thing? It didn't appear as if any payoff would come from this, and none of them made any sense.
He was about to rip the page out, but Oobleck's voice spread through the room like a disease. "And so class, in conclusion! Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it!"
Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it.
Jaune couldn't fathom out why, but that quote left a bitter taste in his mouth, almost like Doctor Oobleck himself was speaking directly to him, stopping him from tearing that page out from his notebook. He couldn't fully wrap his mind around it. None of it made sense, but then his attention hovered over Ruby's shoulders, where he got another glimpse of her working on more Crescent Rose's attachment sketches. Whenever she turned the pages, he saw some worn-out pages in-between, some filled with spectacle designs, and others filled with utter nonsense.
Like the page, he was about to rip out.
Releasing the sheet, he glimpsed down at the shapely doodles littered across the paper. Would tearing out this page set him back a step? Throwing away these sketches might come back to haunt him, and who knew? He might be able to work off them in the foreseeable future, or at least someone else might be able to.
Focus set, the Arc didn't tear out the page but merely turned it to begin sketching once more. This time he drew more precisely with his sketches, keeping them toned down to the basic trio. The square, triangle, and circle.
Now came the hard part, shaping the Aura.
Between a square, triangle, and circle, Aura molding sounded the easiest with a ball. Square had pesky edges, and a triangle had it worse. He thought of this as clay. Making a clay ball came easy compared to a triangle and square, so that was the shape he should focus on first, a sphere. Idea set, he practically tuned out the remainder of the class but was pulled back in when the word Aura popped up.
"Now! Can anyone tell me how a Huntsmen fights without a weapon at their disposal?"
Questionably enough, Lie Ren rose his hand up in an near desperate fashion, beating everyone else. It had been a tad too slow to be called determined, but he clearly showed more incentive than usual, and that was asking a lot from the sloth of the group. Now he was sorely curious to Ren's answer. Might prove enlightening.
"They usually end up fighting with their bare hands or using the area to their advantage. With the use of Aura, their physical power can make up for the loss of their weapon. It's not the most practical way of fighting if you're not accustomed to hand-to-hand combat, but it's better than nothing."
Oobleck huffed in a good way. "Very good! Now? How does one train their Aura? A strong Aura means a stronger body."
Ren shrugged. "Aura training is subjective. It comes from your soul. Some Auras grow on their own while others prefer to train the mind and body. Others do both. My method is meditation. A clear mind can make control all the simpler."
"Correct! Very good! Now!" Professor Oobleck began lecturing on the various ways to beat someone into submission, Grimm or human, and why that could potentially lead to an economic collapse, so Jaune tuned him out again.
His eyes found their way toward Ren, who sat a row below him, notetaking in the driest sense of the word. The leader found in odd. Ren never took notes, but regularly appeared to have the answers for questions concerning training with Aura. Then again, this was the guy who enjoyed studying in the library. All those boring books had to be good for something. So there was that.
Jaune grinned, finding it bewildering. By a stroke of luck, he learned something about Aura, and from Ren of all people. The guy was usually so monotone about everything. So the small pitch in his voice was like the volume of Team RWBY's snoring. In other words, Ren must practice Aura control in his free time.
Good to know.
In reality, he wasn't all that surprised. Ren, Aura, barehanded, of course, his friend knew a thing or two about Aura. For such a sloth, he moved swiftly and precisely in the heat of battle but lazed around with the barest of effort. Something had to make him tick, and Aura was the magic answer. Another reason why he had to figure out a way to make Aura work for him like that.
Tracing that same circle in his Aura notebook, he sighed. The words meditation and clear mind bombarded his thoughts like a blast from Nora's grenade launcher. Those came up in the books, too. He had no way to fault said logic, knowing little to nothing about Aura, which meant he was tempted to try Ren's idea of Aura control training. Anything to make the first step of this new journey.
The leader got so lost in drawing the endless circle he barely realized that class ended. Only Nora's yell out for food brought him back, which the Arc shared in her sentiment, just as starved for a healthy meal. Skipping breakfast proved to be one of his less than stellar decisions in the passing day if the uneasiness in his stomach was any inclination. Lunch unquestionably got devoured during combat class.
Aura practice would come later.
Holding his Aura notebook up, he frowned as the rest of the class headed off for dinner. The plain circle glared back at him, while Ren's knowledge fueled his thought process, and the gears in his head churned. Breaking it all down, he had a design, a method, and an idea to turn this dream into a reality. It wasn't much—hardly anything—but it was all he had.
For now, that was more than enough.
Having consumed his dinner quickly this night, Jaune was residing in his team's dorm in what he called a meditative position. The lights were off to keep distractions away. He'd been trying relentlessly to manipulate his Aura into even the rough beginnings of a ball, but only so far had gotten his snowy Aura glow instead. It haunted him like a shadow, but brighter.
For more than a week, he'd been doing this in secret and had no success whatsoever.
"How does Ren do this?" Meditation was hard. His feet were cramping up. "I don't even know how to clear my mind! What does that even mean?!"
Trying yet again with his palm flat out, he focused hard on forcing his Aura toward his palm but nothing. No new results to catalog. He went through the process for a whole hour with no change worth nothing. Curse the universe.
"Ah! Damn it!" Jaune fell flat down onto the floor, arms out. He tiredly looked under his bed to see Crocea Mors just collecting dust. The sight unsettled him. An unpleasant-butterfly like feeling stewed in his stomach. "I need to figure this out."
Easier said than done.
No matter how hard he tried, or how much he focused, he couldn't seem to focus his Aura in the right way. Team JNPR's leader wasn't remotely positive if he was trying to adjust the Aura in the correct mold! Hell! He didn't even know if he'd been doing anything marginally accurate! He had no results to show for it. Nothing major had changed since he started simple meditation. He couldn't even figure out if his control over Aura had changed at all.
Maybe it really couldn't be done?
Lifting his hand above his head, he focused once more, eyes narrowed, and studied the way his hand glowed snowy white. He tried to keep his focus, painstakingly so, but suddenly got distracted when a lone speck of dust, floating in the air, passed his line-of-sight.
Such a distracted limited his vision toward the ceiling, where he found himself counting the specks again, and once more he questioned his place in the vast universe. Even these tiny specks of dust, floating in an open space, seemed just as large as he was when his thoughts drifted together. Stars—galaxies—the moon! All of it! They all made him feel so tiny, yet, comparing everything else around him, they were just as small as him. No matter how hot the stars, or how bright each was, there were much brighter and hotter ones out there. Made dust counting not seem so trivial compared to how utterly insignificant everything around him surely was.
Lost shuffling between all the dust particles floating in the air, it wasn't until he was at one-thousand, two-hundred, twenty-seven that he remembered he was supposed to be focusing, not counting!
Free from his distraction and glaring back at his hand, his eyes went wide as he quickly sat up to stare at his open palm. Right there, in the dead-center of his hand, was his Aura in roughly the shape of a sphere. It had some edges, continually sputtered in and out of existence, and had small bits of Aura the size of dust surrounding it, but it was there! Right there!
Brighter than anything else in his team's room!
"No way!" Jaune beamed wholeheartedly for the first time, standing up slowly in the bright room. His grin stretched wider as the ball of fizzing Aura became more permanent with the edges smoothing out. "There's just no way!"
The sphere of Aura finally became stable, and its glow brightened the semi-dark room, practically washing away all the lingering shadows hiding in the corners. The radiance itself hurt to look at it, draining in a sense, but that probably related to being locked in a room with nothing but darkness hanging over his should for the better part of a few hours. Sudden brightness on ill-prepared eyes would hurt anyone. Still didn't burn away the growing smile stretching across his cheeks.
"I did it?" Jaune laughed, not believing even his own words. It was just too much. Too much! "I did it! I actually did it!"
Throwing caution to the wind, he gently closed his hand around the sphere and prayed to Oum it wouldn't burn out with his breathing getting denser by the breath. A moment later, when he reopened his hand, it was still there, brighter even. He would even go as far as to turn his hand upside down to see if it would fall.
It did not.
Why gravity failed to capture the Aura, he hadn't a clue but didn't care. For a moment, just one joyous second, he considered jumping up for joy and running out to his teammates to show him what he had accomplished, but crushed that planned immediately and instead stared intently at the white ball of energy and heat in front of him.
Precisely how did he manage this?
Ground-breaking accomplishment aside—damn near crying tears of joy at this point—but he rather know how he did this than brag that he managed to do it. A tremendous difference existed between the two. The leader preferred to understand the how and why, rather than the see and look aspect of his accomplishment. As far as he knew, he'd done nothing different from the previous nights he tried focusing on his Aura. Just sit and concentrate. That was all he'd been doing, nothing new. Nothing different.
So what changed this time?
Moving the sphere closer to his face, he nearly flinched at how brilliant the orb became over the short span of time it breathed life. Sort of resembled a star, like their sun. Bright and full of energy. Lucky for him, it wasn't too bright. A pleasant heat radiated from the ball, and he marveled at how easy it was to maintain once he managed to create it.
It almost felt like breathing at this point with every breath he took making the Aura pulsate, varying brightness.
Daring himself to do it, he allowed the ball of Aura to burn out and almost hit himself for doing something so stupid, but instead, he extended his palm out and focused once more, searching his soul for his Aura. At first, he was scared—terrified—when only his regular layer of white Aura engulfed his body. However, the panic instantly died when he saw—no—when he felt the Aura manipulating into a sphere!
Tiny specks of Aura, in the shape and size of dust particles, started to bridge away from his hand, his Aura, to slowly condense at a center point that was above his palm. The process soon picked up, and the Aura sphere started small, building upon the dust-sized Aura particles, and became whole once more, idly hovering over his palm in a constant glow of light and comforting warmth. Breathtaking didn't even come close to describing the phenomenon.
"I'm doing it! I'm really doing it!" Jaune laughed freely. The sphere of Aura glowed brightly to his emotional outburst. It truly was like breathing at this point! "I've actually somehow found a way to—!"
Knock! Knock! Knock!
Whipping his head toward the door, he panicked and peeked down at the sphere of Aura in his hand, willing it away in haste. Best not to show anyone just yet, surprise and all. Besides, it was a ball, not a blade, nothing worth writing home to his seven sisters.
Opening the door, he came face-to-face with Weiss. Automatically he couldn't help but be surprised. He was pretty sure she knew the rest of his team were down in the Mess Hall with her own. It wasn't like he'd made it a secret he had been eating in his room recently. Everyone knew that. Her presence just baffled him. Still, it was Weiss.
"Snow Angel!" Jaune smiled automatically, enjoying the way her cheeks puffed out in irritation from her nickname. She was almost Ruby level adorable whenever she did that. "What brings you here? Not that I'm complaining."
Weiss decided to ignore his flirting and instead crossed her arms. "Your team sent me, they wanted me to retrieve you, and by Nora's words, not mine, drag your butt over to the Mess Hall. They don't enjoy how their Fearless Leader is spending his dinnertime in his room over them."
He tilted his head. "Why didn't they just come and get me?"
She huffed. "Because you won't say no to me."
Jaune felt like arguing, but held his tongue. He did merely take a step closer to discovering a way to making his Aura based sword and weaponry. Maybe he could indulge himself with a well-earned break and delicious food? Science said a full stomach was better for the mind.
Lowering his arms out, he gestured for her to move. "Lead the way, Snow Angel."
"Stop calling me that!"
Dinner with his teammates was somewhat awkward—only a bit.
It wasn't like he had been avoiding them. That idea of tension hanging over their heads was but a fool's dream. He had just been a little preoccupied as of late. At least he got something to show for it now.
"So, Jaune!" Nora hummed as she absently stabbed into her dinner pancakes drenched in a criminally insane amount of syrup. "What were you doing in our room alone? Something naughty? Was it something top secret? Oh! It is! Isn't it!" She slammed her hands onto the table, leaning as close as possible toward him from the other end. "Tell me! I can keep a secret!"
"No, you can't." Jaune eyed his sandwich. He felt quite peckish.
She stood up and pointed accusingly at him, threatening him with all her five-foot-one majesty. "So it is something top secret! Now you gotta tell me!"
The Arc wondered where she came up with that assumption, but he answered her by taking a large bite out of his sandwich, mumbling complete nonsense to his bubbly teammate. He shrugged as a mock apology when he knew she couldn't understand him, smirking a little into his meal. Victory never tasted so good.
Never one to give up on anything, she turned to her secret weapon, Ren, and latched onto his arm, shaking him relentlessly. Nora even went as far as to pout her lip with her head pressed against his chest. "Ren! Make Jaune tell me his secret."
Pyrrha only watched in amusement as Ren easily folded under Nora's pout. She had him practically wrapped around her trigger-happy finger. It was cute in a not together-together sort of way.
Unable to say no to Nora, Ren sighed. "Jaune—?"
Ren halfheartedly shrugged with Nora still clinging to his arm. "I tried, Nora."
"Aw!" Huffing, she stabbed her pancake and chewed it strongly. Then her eyes grew in size as she leaned forward to poke Jaune with her syrup-covered fork. "You were trying to count the specks of dust on the ceiling, weren't you? Don't deny it, mister!"
Jaune flinched, pausing in the chewing of his meal, finding it amusing that there was indeed some truth to Nora's claim. He had been counting the specks of dust in the ceiling and air when—!
Wait a damn second!
Ignoring the jab of syrup on his shirt, he recalled the minutes before, when he had lost himself to counting the specks of dust.
At the time his focus remained on dust counting, mind drifting between nothing else. Everything else around hadn't distracted him. He had been free from it all. His mind had been clear.
Just like what mediation required—a clear mind!
Except for the only difference, he hadn't been focusing on trying to transform his Aura into a ball at the time. Maybe that remained a distraction? Perhaps, maybe, to realistically reconstruct his Aura into a sphere came unconsciously? Like breathing? As strange and impossible as that sounded, and it sounded off his rockers impossible. The reasoning behind it was missing.
Of course, it was all just a theory.
A theory he planned to test later.
Feeling a jab from Nora's fork again, he shifted his focus back on her, grinning much larger now thanks to her help. He'd find a way to thank her. Jab! Jab! Jab! Maybe he'd find a way thank her.
"Yup!" Jaune dodged Nora's fork, sliding just out of her reach. "Sometimes I'm counting the specks in the ceiling and the air. It gets easier each time I do it."
"Well, you can just stop right there, Fearless Leader!" Nora declared, using Ren's hand to point at Jaune. A fire, hotter than the sphere of Aura, burned in those eyes of hers. "No one but Ren and I know how many specks there are!"
"Just to clarify..." Ren added. "I don't."
"Yeah!" Nora ignored him, stabbing her delicious pancake with emotion. She still used Ren's hand. "So just give up! Shoo! Only the chosen ones can count them all!" Their leader almost choked on his food. Chosen ones? Really? Sometimes Jaune didn't know whether or not Nora was acting serious or not. Hard to tell. "Tough luck."
He grinned, playing along for his benefit. "Then I guess I'm going to be a chosen one."
Nora stubbornly refused, shaking her head. "Nope! Nope!"
He raised a brow. "Yup-yup. You'll see."
She slammed her hands down on the table. "Ha! If you can actually count them all, then I will quit eating pancakes for two months! But that's not possible! Case closed!"
Oh? Jaune blinked. She was one-hundred percent serious. No pancakes for two months, a bold bet for one named Nora Valkyrie. Did the Arc dare accept her game and poke the Ursa with a stick, or did he tiptoe away? Then again, if he backed out, mutiny might drift into his territory. Couldn't have that on the S.S. JNPR. Not with their too friendly second-in-command and lethargy crewmate.
"But I can..." he mocked, bluntly ignoring Ren's warning signs not to fight her. "I know I can, so you best pick a new favorite food to eat, Nora, because your pancakes are as good as mine! I'll have them all counted by the end of the month." Nora had never been one to back down, especially not when it was a sure thing, and that was the bait he was throwing out there. "Unless you're scared? You can still back out. You know what they say, I am pretty fearless."
"Fine! I accept your challenge, Fearless Leader!" Nora stood up, pulling Ren alongside her. Pyrrha couldn't stop drinking her juice in acute obsession. "But if you can't... I-I get to give you a haircut!"
She threw her hand out, grinning sharkishly. "Put it there."
Inspecting the hand, he braved a face and took another bite of his meal, cheeks puffed with food. Jaune accepted her hand's poisonous grip easily enough, and she tried squeezing it, but Aura prevented any pain. Nora knew this. She knew this the moment he grinned from a mouthful of sandwich.
Hook, line, and sinker.
After their little bet, Jaune used up all his free time manipulating the ball of Aura in his hands whenever the chance came up. He kept up his training with Pyrrha to get rid of any suspicion, though he saw it through her guilt-filled eyes that his progress had not furthered. Even adding Aura to Crocea Mors during their sparring sessions didn't make the blade feel any more right in his hands than before.
Surprisingly, it didn't bother him as much as it probably should. He couldn't blame Pyrrha for still trying. Sometimes his partner acted too nice. A blessing and a curse if he ever saw one.
It took him a little over a week, but he finally managed to summon two Aura spheres in both hands at the same time. He still stressed trying to find a way to transform the balls into something else like a line. For now, though, they were merely spheres of Aura. A marvel in disguise was his vast Aura reserves. That enabled him to practice regularly without much difficulty of Aura shortage. It also didn't hurt that most of the Aura he used, tended to come back to him, as long as he didn't forgo control.
Thank Oum for small miracles.
Interesting enough, counting specks of dust indeed helped—silly as that sounded—and he felt the Aura control in his body sharpen as the weeks rolled on by, like a blade. A few times during the week, he wondered he found a potential shortcut to Aura manipulation. For it shouldn't be this easy to control and manipulate Aura. There had to be a catch he wasn't seeing.
Maybe Aura manipulation correlated with the vast amount of Aura he possessed? Aura weaponry likely required a certain amount of Aura to conjugate?
Realistically, imagining everyone having a vast amount of Aura at their disposal was foolish, not after what Pyrrha explained to him. It must differ between each person. He definitely couldn't imagine Aura weapons demanding only a small portion of power. That didn't make too much sense considering the scope of the problem. The question was up in the air. Best left to someone with a sounder understanding of the principles of Aura.
Of course, there was always the off-chance he was some unknown Aura prodigy. Not likely, but a small chance.
Eh, who was he to complain?
Lost again at counting the specks in the air, he stopped around at thirty-five thousand, seven-hundred, one. Shaking his head, he looked down at the spheres of Aura in his hands and frowned at their circular shape.
Progress remained fruitless for the past week.
"Darn it!" Jaune huffed before sitting up, glaring weakly at the two of them. "What does it take to make you change?"
Moving the Aura spheres between his palms, he joined them together on occasion and then split them apart. That technique alone took him two days to successfully pull off. Thinking how long forging a blade was going to take made his skin crawl.
Crushing the balls of intangible Aura in his hands, he saw the light of his Aura seeping through the shadows of his fingers. Every few seconds, he opened his hands, yearning to seem any variety of change, but nope! Nothing! There was never anything new to add to his Aura notebook, and he already filled the first few pages with whatever notes he could figure out.
Frustrated, he banged his head with his hands, falling flat back onto the floor while releasing a puff of air. He quickly stopped pounding his head and settled on wrapping one hand around his fist, watching the light of his Aura grow brilliantly due to his out-of-this-world emotions. Something he came to learn about Aura as well. Emotions could potentially affect the strange power. Depending on how he acted, the glow varied.
It was a footnote he learned early on.
Overlooking his hands, he tilted his head toward the direction where his great-great grandfather's sword Crocea Mors had been resting. A small collection of grime existed on it now from the weeks of misuse and neglect. Only areas where the blade's metal had made contact with other weapons was free from dirt. That and the handle.
Some memories of that sword came crawling back to him, some good and some bad.
He stilled remember when he first picked it up as a child, and the lectured his parents gave him afterward. He remembered swinging it for the first time and falling from the heavyweight, and how his grandfather helped him up right after. He even remembered polishing Crocea Mors over and over after killing his first Grimm and every other Grimm after that.
They were all good memories.
Feeling somewhat better now, he relaxed, no longer feeling conflicted and pulled his hands apart. As he did, a powerful white glow emitted from his palms as he began to separate the two.
Eyes wide, Jaune stopped to see a line of pure white extending out from his fist and connecting to his open palm. The glow was so damn bright it hurt to look at, he almost closed his hands to push the light away—almost. Instead, he pulled his hands away, allowing the light to extend. He found it harder and harder to separate his hands apart like the Aura was working against him, but he didn't falter. He came too far to give up now!
The Arc jumped up, struggling to pull his arms apart. "C'mon! I can do this! Please! Don't go out on me now! I need you! Please don't go out!"
As if to answer his call, his snowy white Aura glowed impossibly brighter, blinding even him in a breath of power, before he finally managed to pull his hands apart. He fell back from the sudden release of his hands, crashing hard into the wall. The pain immediately blurred away, just like the first time he hit his head, and when he glared down at his hand, he saw a line of cracked, white Aura glowing beautifully between his fingers. The glistening radiance mocked the understanding foundation of Aura to its core.
All thanks to Jaune Arc, Fearless Leader of Team JNPR.
He panicked. Who wouldn't? He was afraid to move. What if by accident he willed the blade away? What if it never came. Fear froze him in place. Darkness clutched his heartstrings, but a dazzling light filled with hope and warmth broke through to him. Eventually, out of curiosity, he gently touched the line of Aura with his free hand and didn't feel anything threatening. The line unbelievably almost shattered in his hand, cracking from the mere force, and he willed as much Aura as possible into his arm to keep it from breaking, not even sure if it would accomplish anything.
He barely saved it.
Chuckling, he stood up, using the wall as leverage. There existed soreness in his eyes, timeworn tiredness from finally accomplishing his goal. Of course, he couldn't help but tilt the line of Aura, wanting to get a good look at his creation. Cracks remained along the edge of the blade, but if this was anything like the sphere, then all he needed was practice.
"It's weak..." Jaune grinned. "But I finally did it!"
Allowing the line of Aura to fade out, he tried to produce the line again, but nothing happened. If this had been a couple of weeks ago, Jaune Arc would've panicked liked crazy, but this wasn't a couple of weeks ago. He had a far better handle on his Aura now. If he managed it once, then it was possible a second time. Just another footnote he picked up.
Retracing his steps, he closed his hand, forming a tight fist. He then peered over at his other hand and slowly overlapped it with the other. Finally, he concentrated his Aura again. A pull from his soul shook his body. Light, blinding in color, washed over the room and he considered buying shades to protect his eyes. Aura just had this shine that challenged the sun.
Slowly drawing his hands apart, he saw the line molding between his fingers, and he felt an opposing force working against him again. Some unknown power, only this time it was weaker than before, lines came out sharper without cracks, but the blade was there when he finally pulled apart his hands, scarcely longer than Crocea Mors.
"I finally did it!" Jaune stared at the barely mediocre sword of Aura with awe. "I finally created my own weapon!"
It was boring, dull, and had no outstanding features except for its straight line, but it belonged to him. He created it—forged it from the depths of his soul.
And Jaune Arc couldn't be prouder.
Pyrrha Nikos was worried.
Beyond worried even, and it all had something to do with her clumsy, easy-going, blond noodle of a leader.
She couldn't be accurately sure when her anxiety first started. Was it the day Jaune's skills hit a wall? The day there sparring session turned into her daily lie, lie, and lie some more routine in an attempt to protect him or the day when her leader felt obligated to eat alone in their team's room for whatever absurd reason he conjured up for himself?
She lost track of the days.
Waiting for her team to grab their dinners, she occupied the table, alone, allowing her thoughts to run rampant at trying to find a solution to a problem that hadn't even revealed itself to her. Foreign, different, unknown, that was how her leader was acting, and none of it made any sense whatsoever. None.
Perhaps, if she sincerely thought about—looked hard enough—remembered strongly enough, she could recall when his strange behavior started, but in all honesty, the action was a complete waste of time. She already knew when his attitude changed, differed, altered.
It wasn't the training, nor the lying of his transcripts, though, to be fair, that did change her perspective on her leader. No, none of this kept her up at night. The moment occurred during the class trip to Forever Fall when he rescued Cardin Winchester's life after she intervened and altered his path. Protecting them both from an Ursa Major and allowing him to come out the hero. A push in the right direction.
A small push that came from her Semblance, and even then that push had been too hard. Too much.
At first, she had been so proud of him. So proud of his accomplishment. Too proud even.
Now only regret hindered her.
Because in hindsight, as gruesome and terrible as it sounded, Pyrrha probably should've allowed Jaune to taste the feeling of defeat in a life and death moment. Failure drove others to work harder, practice harder. Disappointment was an awful taste. No one loved the flavor. No one wished to experience the sensation face-to-face again.
Maybe that was where she screwed up? By not allowing her leader to lose, his drive remained unchanged. Undeterred by an environment and profession that truly mattered, and now he must've discovered the wall he hit in training or at least assumed. Assumed that nothing had changed. Assumed the Cardin fiasco had all been a terrible fluke, and if Pyrrha had learned anything about her leader, anything at all, he was prone to excluding himself whenever a problem presents itself.
For all she knew, he'd fallen back into hiding behind smiles that may even be more convincing than her own. Fooling everyone around him except for the people purposely trying to see underneath the underneath. Beneath the subtext, maybe even lower than that.
Well, it wasn't so plain and simple anymore. Jaune still trained, still fought every night with her with grins she couldn't even be certain were fake. She wasn't going to give up on him. That much was certain. She couldn't. She wouldn't!
Not when he was trying so hard to better himself.
How though? How could she help someone who somehow closed himself off to his team while remaining unconditionally the same? That therein laid the problem.
Playing around with her plate of food, her eyes remained unfocused, even when Nora unmistakably destroyed something across the Mess Hall.
"Jaune... what's wrong?"
Spending the last couple of weeks on his Aura control, Jaune Arc managed to add his family's crest as the hilt to his new Aura blade anytime he summoned it. He even improved the overall durability of the sword with heightened control, keeping it from breaking from a simple touch, and through tiring manipulation, managed to lower the brightness that came from it. Other than that, the sword of Aura remained relatively the same. There was no point in changing up the grip.
It never hurt him when he bent his hand at an uncomfortable angle.
No matter how he held it—the sword always felt right.
Near the edge of Emerald Forest, he repeatedly slashed his new blade against the trunks of nearby trees. Testing the strength and durability in secret, he discovered no matter how little or how much Aura he placed into the blade, at least now when his control was better, it never got any sharper or duller. No weight existed either, entirely foreign to the effects of gravity in his hands.
Anytime he released the sword it evaporated without a sound. Any pressure proved pointless. He learned that much by striking and pushing rocks against the tip of the sword. All in all, an excellent sword worthy of the Arc name. Jaune didn't think Aura could bend or break at this point.
He also never felt it falter in his grip.
Well, maybe felt wasn't the exact word he would choose. Since the blade of Aura didn't exactly have any balance, weight, mass, or a physical form when it came down it. It honestly felt like he was only swinging his hand whenever he slashed. Not to mention his heightened Aura control made him faster on his feet as long as the Aura blade remained existing. Strength wise, well, the trees made for perfect dummies.
Just another note added to the Aura notebook, along with other observations he had made over the past month. Words such as manifestation and soul made him wonder—made him think.
Jaune Arc couldn't help but question if the Aura blade was an extension of his soul?
Training with Pyrrha still hadn't changed.
He had made very little progress in that department, and Pyrrha still refused to tell him that, hiding behind her empty words and lost smiles. Maybe he should finally confront her about that? Couldn't be too good to keep bottled up.
Point noted, he abandoned trying to add Aura to Crocea Mors altogether. Adding Aura to a sword didn't do much except maybe increase the sword's durability. If anything, the actual power came from the user, and since Crocea Mors still didn't feel right in Jaune's hand, he'd settled to using his newfound Aura control on his body instead.
The effects were somewhat noticeable when he wasn't using his Aura blade compared to when he was in Emerald Forest. Senses turned sharper upon using his Aura. Footwork, agility, and speed all worked better. His muscles enjoyed the extra the firepower from using his Aura blade. In spite of that, not everything was sunshine and Forever Sap. A small drawback became apparent the more he used his Aura and willed it away, but the Arc hardly thought much of it. Muscles soreness couldn't possibly be that tasking on his body.
Adding Aura to Crocea Mors didn't reward him any of that, sometimes it felt like Crocea Mors was rejecting his Aura. Worse than the concept of denying his Aura, Crocea Mors appeared to upset his Aura manipulation to nearly nonexistent. The dreaded sword did not like Aura.
Upon discovering that conclusion, it hurt to admit, nearly as much as not having the ability to wield Crocea Mors or the weakness reflected from Pyrrha's eyes in the sword's metal. Of course, that might all be his limitless imagination.
Still, pouring Aura into his great-great grandfather's blade was far too troublesome versus keeping his Aura blade burning. His Aura weapon was far safer and overall better.
Seriously? Why waste the Aura?
Alone in his team's room, the leader sat on his bed, staring at his unnamed blade, trying for the life of him to come up with a super awesome name for it. Maybe something with an Ex? Words with Ex have always sounded awesome! Like extreme or explosion or even execution!
Dear Monty did those sound cool!
"Hn?" Jaune mused, tilting the blade. He had long gotten used to its impressive glow. "Do you have any idea how much meditation and speck counting I did in order to make you? The caliber of thinking needed to make you was... ugh! Heck! I don't think caliber is strong enough of a word to describe you! You were beyond extreme! Excruciating! Ex-caliber even! And that's not even a word! That's how impossible you were."
He was about will the sword away, as it was lunch and he was famished when his eyes widened in thought.
Ex... caliber? Ex-caliber? Excalibur?
"Hey? Now that sounds awesome!" Jaune laughed, making the sword disappear in a flash of light. "I'll call you, Excalibur! It's short, sweet, rolls off the tongue, and the ladies will love it!"
In line for lunch, Jaune glared over to find his team enjoying their meals with Team RWBY, laughing at some joke he was sure Nora would tell him as soon as he got there.
Speaking of Nora.
The Arc smirked. He walked confidently over to his friends and stopped and stared at his intended target who had a certain gleam in her eyes. Everyone else stopped their conversation, hush-hush, knowing full well of the bet going on between the two. The story was coming to its end, now time to see the finale.
Ignoring the rest of his friends, Jaune grinned in only a way that Yang could pull off, swiped Nora's pancakes away from her fingers and pushed a fork into them.
"Hey!" Nora yelled, reaching out for her pancakes. "You can't just steal my—!"
"There are one billion, sixty-five million, four hundred twenty-seven thousand, three hundred twelve and a half specks of dust in our ceiling." Jaune gently flicked Nora on the forehead, taking a bite of one her pancakes.
Everyone waited in anticipation for Nora to call his ridiculous number wrong, but what happened next burned forever in their memories.
Nora Valkyrie staggered back, grin gone. Her legs wobbled, pupils grew, balance trembled. Then she fell to her knees in defeat. She whimpered out a long, remorseful no at the loss of her beloved pancakes. A random storm cloud hovered over her defeated form, drenching the Valkyrie in a hailstorm of regret and rain.
That storm cloud turned out to be Ren, hovering over Nora by her shoulder, shaking his head in defeat, but at least he comforted her with a simple hand-to-shoulder gesture, the best he could do for now. After all, he wasn't allowed to cook her pancakes.
Meanwhile, ignoring all the melodrama, Team JNPR's Fearless Leader savored each and every bite of Nora's irreplaceable pancakes, enjoying the sweet, savory taste of victory.
Author Notes: Rewritten.