Disclaimer: I own nothing of RWBY.
No matter how he held Crocea Mors—it never felt right.
Maybe it was the sword?
Jaune Arc knew the problem and it wasn't the sword. It was him.
Perhaps there was a reason this was his great-great grandfather's sword and not his own. In a sad, ironic sort of way, it all started to make sense to him why everyone created their own weapon before attending Beacon Academy. Huntsmen didn't create the weapon they wanted to wield; they created the weapon that felt right.
Crocea Mors didn't feel right.
No matter how many times he swung it. No matter how firmly he held the grip. No matter how many time he simply just held it.
It never felt right—ever!
As cliché as it sounded, Jaune Arc stubbornly refused to believe it at first. Devoting his time and energy to training, he kept practicing day and night when he had time, sparring with Pyrrha as much as he could. Never wanting to believe he couldn't properly wield Crocea Mors. But over time, he slowly noticed how Pyrrha's smile seemed to get thinner after their spars, more forced, like whenever she said I'm sorry. Eventually, he dubbed it her I'm sorry smile. It contrasted heavily with her Hello Again smile. She even began choosing her words more carefully, going as far to say nothing at times with an uneven posture and pretend nothing was wrong.
Of course, she'd never outright say it, but Jaune Arc eventually figured it out.
He wasn't improving.
And damn did that hurt to admit.
Alone in their team's room, skipping breakfast, Jaune Arc sat on his bed, silently running his hand over his great-great grandfather's sword with a heavy heart. It'd taken some thought—a lot of it—but he'd finally come to terms that the blade would never feel right in his hands. No matter how much he wanted it to.
Didn't mean he was quitting. Above all else, he still wanted to fight with a sword. It was Arc tradition that he fought with one. Even if he was unfamiliar with his ancestor's blade, he'd still trained to some degree on handling a sword and shield. No point in damaging his progress by learning a new weapon and forgoing everything he'd learned up until now. Best try to create a new blade that felt right in his hands instead. Monty knew Jaune 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. He didn't have the materials, lien, or even the knowledge know how to create weapons for that matter, very less any clue where to start on creating a new sword. So as much as he hated to admit, Jaune Arc was stuck at square one again. The very same square for when he lied 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 got nothing but the soft blowing of winds from outside his window. He should probably close that. Getting a cold was the last thing he needed right now. Damn the universe. Damn his resolve. Damn it all.
Not actually getting off the floor, Jaune tried to count the specs of dust bits in the ceiling and air to kill time. In a strange sort of way, the specs kind of resembled him and how little his place in the world truly was. Just another speck of dust in this vast cosmos, insignificant, but plentiful. Like him in Remnant. Dust to the wind, and in a way, it was kind of poetic. But he was not much of a poet, and he stopped at around fifty and scoffed at the assumption that Nora actually counted them all. There was just no way that she did. No matter how much she bragged.
And Nora Valkyrie loved to brag.
Strangely, this wasn't the first time such thoughts crossed his mind, him contemplating his place in the universe that was. He'd always pictured himself insignificant compared to everyone else around him. Not in the brooding sense, but in a realistic way. Compared to an ant, he was gigantic. Compared to a building, he was small. And compared to everyone else, he was normal. But none of it matter when contrasted to the universe as a whole. Everyone was insignificant then. A 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 darn window before he really did get sick.
Lazily getting up, he failed to see 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 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 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, yelling out a few words ranging from ow to arg! But as quick as it came, it was gone. Just like that, he was feeling much better. Like the pain never existed?
Getting up, he rubbed his head, searching for the pain between his locks of hair. Not that he wasn't happy there wasn't any, but pain like that shouldn't just go away as if nothing happened. Pain came from somewhere. Injuries equaled pain. He was Jaune Arc, which meant he was more prone to injuries than the average person. As such, Jaune Arc was susceptible to pain. Common sense one-o'-one right there. Yet, the equation was not adding up. There was a hidden variable he'd forgotten to divide or multiply—some factor that alleviated pain.
Confused, he pulled back his arm to see a low glow of white-emitting from his hand, already fading out, along with any numbing feeling.
"Oh, yea." Jaune grinned weakly, watching the white slowly fade from his hand. "I have Aura." Funny how a person could forget the littlest things. "I keep forgetting that's like some sort of invisible armor."
Feeling a lot better, he closed the window 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 ever 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. And even then that was all a subconscious act on his part. Completely and totally instinctual.
Seemed like such a waste if someone asked him. Aura was just such an awesome power, amazing even. It healed wounds and made everyone so much stronger. He had once witnessed Ren fight a Grimm barehanded while using Aura alone. The things Aura could do just amazed him to no end. It was practically a weapon all on its own. A weapon. That was a better word to explain it. Powerful and—!
Jumping right off his bed, Jaune stared wide-eyed at his hand, almost shaking at the sudden mere thought.
Aura? A possible weapon? Could he? No. Was it really that simple? No? Couldn't be?
"Can I really?" he 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 was turning gears. "Is it possible? Is there a way to do this? Can I really do this?"
Could he possibly figure out a way to use his Aura as a weapon? Could he really do what he was thinking of? He'd never heard of anyone ever doing that with Aura. Granted, he only just learned about Aura less than 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.
There was probably a reason for that though. Maybe it couldn't be done? Maybe it wasn't even possible? Maybe the control required an Aura control that was astronomical compared to regular standards? Maybe, just maybe, no one else had considered the insane theory? Why would they? They've got weapons, years of training under their belts, and even amazing Semblances. But he didn't! He'd got zero of that. And Jaune Arc was desperate and just insane enough to try!
It wasn't like anything would change if it proved faulty. That'd just put him back at square one. A not so terrible rebound, but one that sounded terribly unpleasant the more time he devoted time to sulking over it. Besides, Pyrrha did mention he had a large 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 was growing wider 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 just 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. He knew that now.
No matter what he did, whatever he read, it didn't stick! Not in the way he hoped. 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 actually did recall; he couldn't really understand their meanings, anyway. They're just random words he'd forced himself to remember. And the worst part about it, it wasn't him, it was the books. The reading was all dry and lackluster. He just couldn't break down the theories or information written in them.
"Well, okay then." Jaune frowned, placing the book back into the bookshelf. That didn't work. He'd always been more of a note-taker, anyways. Planning his next move, and not shaken in the slightest, he wandered off. "Maybe I'll just look online instead? There's gotta 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 understand 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 concept of speed and reflexes heighten control theories were drawn-out through trial and error. However, the actual practice 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 was still 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 specs of dust again in the air.
He got to two-hundred thirty before giving up.
Still, no way Nora actually counted them all. Never happened! Nope!
Closing his eyes, he quietly contemplated what to do next. He understood he actually had 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. It'd never been done. Hadn't been tested. Nor had it been 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 actually made him chuckle weakly for a moment.
How sad that he still needed someone to guide him, even this late into 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. And 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 had done little to erase the turmoil burning in the depths of his soul.
The training wall he'd 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 equal results. And he'd only now come to terms with that.
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? They must see some potential in him? Somewhere where even he couldn't even see it. More than his parents, that was for sure. So what if he couldn't find the answers to his questions right now, he'd just look harder. And if push came to shove, he'd wing it. Never stopped him before. Somewhere out there 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 was looking for in the library or on his scroll. Eventually, but slowly, he did stand up, using his last moments of curiosity to stare at his hand. He tried to focus a little to get some of his Aura to appear in the shape of a ball or any physical shape, but only a faint, white glow surrounded his body instead.
Monty! 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 gotta concentrate in order to use my Aura. I have to find my center. Whatever that is? I really hope it's not too hard to find."
"Oh no!" Jaune was panicking upon hearing his scroll ringing. 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!"
Only a minute late to class, he tried to catch his breath as he sat beside Pyrrha, ignoring some of his fellow classmate's mocking stares as he took his seat. Before they said so much as a word to each other, Professor Port was going off on some tale of him ripping apart a Grimm with his bare hands. Soon the lecture turned into a bore, and Jaune had to fight to stay awake. A minute later, he got 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 designs for her baby. Doodles or not, the sketches were good. And as she flipped through the pages, he could partially see 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 notebook of some sorts. 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 actually believed in him and his crazy dreams.
Brand new and never been used, Jaune was going to use this notebook for studying, but this was a much better cause. Seriousness outweighed uselessness any day! And Jaune couldn't think 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 could muster up. His heart just wasn't into Professor Port's lesson. Well, not any more than usual. Instead, he was constantly writing little ideas he wanted to try to maybe get better control of his Aura. Possible techniques here and there he'd skimmed over at the library and on his scroll. They're weak and random and completely hypothetical, yet, they're 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 actually paying any attention to the lesson; Pyrrha tapped him on the shoulder, not exactly worried. "Jaune?"
He looked up, eyes innocent. "Yea, Pyrrha?"
"Um?" She leaned over to see some random doodles he'd done. All their meanings were lost to her. "What are you doing?"
For a second he panicked.
Only a second.
It was not that he didn't want to tell Pyrrha, because he really wanted to, but he couldn't. Not yet. This was his goal, not hers. She'd already helped him so much already. As an Arc, he wanted to do this alone. Selfish? Maybe considering he had a team. But he'd lied his way into Beacon, it was time he honor the Arc name and make something of himself by himself. Not off fake transcripts and borrowing the help from others when he should have never needed it to begin with.
"... Uh?" He not so subtly looked over his paper, stalling for time. Screw it! Time to wing it! "I'm practicing my drawing skills?"
Pyrrha didn't know whether to narrow her eyes or reprimand him for not paying attention. Her leader technically wasn't lying, but she'd be a fool to believe he was being completely honest. Meanwhile, Jaune 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, Jaune reluctantly pushed away his master plan, favoring another blank sheet of paper from a different notebook. He lightly smiled at her, already taking what he called notes from Professor Port's extravagant tales.
His master plan could wait.
Jaune never looked forward to Doctor Oobleck's class. It was always after combat class, so he was always sore right from the beginning. Really sucked the joy out of listening to a man talk at unnatural speeds. At least for a male. And Monty did that get old fast. Not to mention everyone was sweaty, and it just left a sour taste in the air. And history had never been one his strong suit. So the class was just a terrible experience right from the start.
Plus, the man talked too fast for his liking.
At least he sat away from Pyrrha this time. She preferred to be up front, with Weiss, taking all the notes they could under Doctor Oobleck's mile a minute mouth. 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.
Flipping open his new Aura notebook, Jaune glared at the random doodles he'd already sketched. They're mismatched and directionless—sketches of a madman. Maybe he needed to take a different approach to this inspiration thing? Didn't seem like any payoff could come from this. And none of them made any sense.
He was about to rip the page out, but Oobleck's voice cut through the room like a disease. "And so class! 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 figure out why, but that phrase left a bitter taste in his mouth. It was almost like Doctor Oobleck was speaking directly to him, stopping him from tearing that page out his notebook. He couldn't really 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. Whenever she turned the pages, he could see some really worn-out pages in between, some filled with spectacle designs and others filled utter nonsense.
Like the one he was about to rip out.
Letting go of the page, he looked down at the shapely doodles littered across the paper. Would tearing out this page set him back a step on his journey? Throwing away these sketches could come back to haunt him. And who knew? He might be able to work off them. Or at least someone else might be able to.
Focus set, Jaune didn't tear out the page but simply turned it to begin sketching once more. This time he was more precise with his drawings, keeping them toned down to the basic trio. The square, triangle and circle.
Aura shaped like a square? Sounded hard. Aura shaped like a triangle? That sounded even harder. Now Aura in the shape of a circle? That actually sounded doable. There were no pesky edges to worry about. Kind of reminded him of clay. The easiest shape to mold was always a circle. So that was the shape he focused on first.
He practically tuned out the remainder of the class, but he 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?"
Surprisingly enough, his teammate Ren beat everyone else to the punch, raising his hand up in an almost desperate fashion. It had been a tad too slow to be called determined, but he definitely showed more incentive than normal. And that was asking a lot from the sloth of the group. Now he was sorely curious to Ren's answer. Could 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. Some Auras simply grow on their own, some like to train the mind. Others do both. My method is meditation. A clear mind can make control all the more simpler."
"Correct! Very good! Now!" Professor Oobleck began lecturing on the various ways to beat someone into submission, Grimm or human, so Jaune tuned him out again.
His eyes found their way toward Ren, who sat a row below him, note taking in the driest sense of the word. Jaune actually found it odd. Ren never took notes, but always appeared to have the answer for questions pertaining to training and Aura. Then again, this was the guy who actually studied in the library. All those boring books had to be good for something. So there was that.
The Arc actually found it bewildering. By a stroke of luck, he'd learned something about Aura and from Ren of all people. Not to say he didn't expect anyone in Beacon to not know what Aura was, just that it was weird to hear it from his friend. 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.
Tracing that same circle in his Aura notebook, Jaune sighed. The words meditation and clear mind bombarded his thoughts like a blast from Nora's grenade launcher. 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.
Jaune was so lost in drawing the endless circle, he didn't realize that class ended. Only Nora's yell out for food brought him back. Which the Arc shared in her sentiment, just as ravenous for a good meal. Skipping breakfast may have proved to be one of his less than stellar decisions if the rumbling in his stomach was anything to go by. Lunch certainly got devoured during combat class.
He'd get some Aura practice in 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 constantly to manipulate his Aura into even the rough beginnings of a ball, but only so far had gotten his white 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. And 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 got absolutely nothing for results. He went through the process for a whole hour with no change worth nothing. Damn the universe. Darn empty space had it out to get him.
"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 even sure if he was trying to focus the Aura in the correct form! Hell! He didn't even know if he'd been doing anything remotely right! 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, Jaune focused yet again, eyes narrowed, and watched as his hand glowed the comforting white Aura he'd grown accustomed to. He tried to keep his focus, he really did, but he suddenly got distracted when a lone speck of dust, floating in the air, passed his line-of-sight. This focused his eyes back toward the ceiling where he found himself counting the specs once again. And again he but wondered his place in the universe.
Even these tiny specs of dust, floating in an empty space, seemed just as large as he was when his thoughts drifted together. Stars—galaxies—the moon! They all made him feel so small. Yet, comparing everything else around him, they were just as small as him. No matter how large the stars, or how bright they were, there were just as much larger or even brighter than those out there, somewhere. Really made dust counting not seem so insignificant compared to how utterly insignificant everything around him really 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, Jaune's 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, was constantly fizzing 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 grinned wholeheartedly for the first time, standing up slowly in the illuminated 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 ball of Aura finally became stable and its glow brightened the semi-dark room, practically washing away all the shadows hiding in the corners. The glow was draining to look at. It hurt. But that was probably due to him being locked in a room with nothing but darkness hanging over his shoulder for the better part of a few hours.
"I did it?" he laughed, not believing even his own words. It was just too much. Too much! "I actually did it!"
Taking a leap of faith, Jaune slowly closed his hand around the ball of Aura, and prayed it wouldn't die out with his breathing getting heavier by the second. 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.
For a moment, just a moment, Jaune considered jumping up for joy and running out to his teammates to show him what he had accomplished. But he crushed that planned immediately and instead stared intently at the white ball of energy and heat in front of him.
How exactly did he manage this?
Ground-breaking accomplishment aside—he was damn near crying tears of joy at this point—but he'd rather know how he did this than brag that he actually managed to do it. There was a huge difference. Jaune Arc preferred to know the how and why, rather than the see and look. As far as he knew, he'd done nothing different from the previous nights he'd 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 ball far closer to his face, he almost flinched at how bright the orb had managed to get. Luckily, it wasn't too bright. It was actually kind of warm and he marveled at how easy it was to maintain once he actually managed to create it.
It was almost like breathing at this point.
Daring himself to do it, he allowed the ball of Aura to die 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 normal layer of white Aura covered his body. However, the panic quickly died when he saw—no!
When he felt the Aura manipulating into a sphere.
Tiny specs of Aura, in the shape and size of dust particles, started to bridge away from his hand to slowly condense at a center point that was above his palm. The process soon picked up and the Aura sphere started small, but 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 really doing it!" The ball of Aura glowed brightly to Jaune's emotional outburst. It really was like breathing at this point! "I actually somehow found a way to—!"
Knock! Knock! Knock!
Whipping his head toward the door, he panicked and peered 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 sword. Nothing to write home to his seven sisters about.
Opening the door, he came face-to-face with Weiss. 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'd 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 come get you and drag your butt over to the Mess Hall. They don't like 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 almost felt like arguing, but he paused. He did just get 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 did say 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 a bit awkward—only a bit.
It wasn't like he'd been avoiding them. That idea of tension hanging over their heads was but a fool's dream. He'd 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 was feeling 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!"
Jaune didn't know where she came up with that assumption, but he did answer her with a large bite 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 latched onto Ren's arm, shaking him relentlessly. Nora even went as far as to pout her lip with her head pressed into 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 specs 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 specs of dust in the ceiling and air when—!
Wait a damn second!
Ignoring the jab of syrup on his shirt, he recalled the moment when he was lost counting the specs of dust. His focus at the time had been focused on only one thing and one thing only. Everything else around hadn't distracted him. He had been free from it all. His mind had been cleared.
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 was a distraction? Perhaps all he needed to realistically transform the Aura into a sphere was to just unconsciously do it? Like breathing or moving? As strange and impossible as that sounded. And it did sound painstakingly impossible. The logic behind it was simply 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 focused back on her, smiling 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 specs 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 own hand to point at Jaune. There was a fire gleaming in her eyes. "No one but Ren and I know how many specs there are!"
"Just to clarify..." Ren added. "I don't."
"Yea!" Nora ignored him, stabbing her delicious pancake with emotion. She was still using Ren's hand. "So just give up! Only the chosen ones can count them all!" Their leader almost choked on his food. Chosen ones? Really? Sometimes Jaune didn't know if Nora was being 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."
"Nope!" she stubbornly refused. "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 stared. She was being 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?
"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." She'd 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. 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 anticipation. "But if you can't... I-I get to give you a haircut!"
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 could see it through her eyes that his progress had not furthered. Even adding Aura to Crocea Mors during their sparring sessions hadn't made the blade feel anymore 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 was too nice for her own good. A blessing and a curse if he ever saw one.
It had taken him a little over a week, but he finally managed to do two Aura balls in both hands at the same time. He was still trying to find a way to transform the balls into something else like a line. For now, though, they're just spheres of Aura. A blessing was his large Aura reserves allowed him to constantly practice without too much trouble. 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 Monty for small miracles.
Surprisingly, the counting of dust really did help—silly as that sounded—and he felt the Aura control in his body sharpen more and more as the weeks rolled on by. Jaune was starting to think that maybe he found a shortcut to Aura manipulation? For it shouldn't be this easy to control and manipulate Aura. There had to be some sort of catch he wasn't seeing.
Maybe it correlated with the vast amount of Aura he had? Aura weapons could require a certain amount of Aura to conjugate. He simply couldn't imagine everyone having a vast amount of Aura at their disposal. Not after what Pyrrha told him. It must vary from each person. He doubly couldn't imagine Aura weapons needing only a small garner of power. That didn't make too much sense considering the scope of the problem. Really, the question was up in the air. Better left to someone with a better grasp of the concepts of Aura.
Of course, there was always the off-chance he was some sort of Aura prodigy. Not likely, but a small chance.
Eh, who was he to complain?
Lost again at counting the specs in the air, he stopped around at thirty-five thousand, seven-hundred, one. He then looked at the spheres of Aura in his hands and frowned at their circular shape.
Progress remained fruitless for the past week.
"Darn!" He huffed before sitting up, glaring weakly at the two of them. "What does it take to make you change?"
Moving the Aura between his palms, he occasionally combined them together and then split them apart. That trick alone took him two days to successfully pull off. He didn't even want to imagine how long creating a sword was going to take.
Crushing the balls of intangible Aura in his hands, he could see the light of his Aura seeping through the shadows of his fingers. Every few seconds, he opened his hands, hoping to seem some kind of change. But nope! Nothing! There was never anything new to add to his Aura notebook. And he'd already filled the first few pages with whatever notes he could figure out.
Frustrated, Jaune banged his head with his hands, falling flat back onto the floor while releasing a puff of air. He soon stopped banging his head and instead settled to wrap one hand around his fist, watching the glow of Aura grow brightly due to his flaying emotions. Something he'd come to learn about Aura as well. Emotions could 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. There was a small collection of grime 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 clawing back to Jaune, some good and some bad. He still remembered when he first picked it up as a child, and the lectured his parents gave him afterward. He could remember swinging it for the first time and falling from the heavyweight, and how his grandfather helped him up right after. He could even remember polishing Crocea Mors over and over after killing his first Grimm and every other Grimm after that.
They were all good memories.
Feeling a little 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 almost hurt to look at. He almost wanted to close 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. This might be his only chance. He'd come too far to back out now!
He 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 white Aura glowed impossibly brighter, blinding even him for a short second, before he finally managed to pull his hands apart.
Jaune actually 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.
And Jaune Arc managed to do it all by himself.
He panicked. Who wouldn't? He was afraid to actually move. Eventually, out of fear and curiosity, he slowly 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 touch, and he forced as much Aura as possible into his arm to keep it from breaking.
He barely saved it.
Chuckling, he stood up, using the wall as leverage to stand. 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 luck of his creation. Cracks still remained and here and there, but if it was anything like the sphere, time would fix that.
"It's weak..." he 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 could manage it once, then it was definitely 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 tried to focus his Aura again. A pull from his soul shook his body. Light, blinding in color, washed over the room and Jaune considered buying shades to protect his eyes. Aura just had this shine that challenged the sun.
Slowly pulling his hands apart, he could see the line forming between his fingers, and he felt the resistant force working against him again. Only this time it was weaker than before, lines were coming out sharper now without cracks, but the sword was there when he finally did pull apart his hands, barely longer than Crocea Mors.
"I finally did it!" Jaune stared at the barely passable sword of Aura in his hand with awe. "I finally created my own weapon!"
It was plain, boring, and had no other features except for its straight line, but it was his. He made it.
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 exactly 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 effort to protect him. Or even the day when her leader felt obligated to eat alone in their team's room for whatever crazy reason he'd conjured up for himself.
Really, she'd 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 completely 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 truly thought about—truly looked hard enough—remembered hard 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 completely fair, that did change her perspective on her leader. No, the moment was during their trip to Forever Fall. When he saved Cardin Winchester's life, after she intervened, saved 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 around 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. Defeat drove others to work harder, train harder. It was a taste no one loved and wished to never have the experience of coming face-to-face again.
Maybe that was where she'd 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'd 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 was not 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.
But how could she help someone who'd somehow closed himself off to his team while remaining unconditionally the same? That therein laid the problem.
Playing around with the food on her plate, her eyes remain 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 managed to add his family's crest as the hilt to his new Aura blade anytime he summoned it. He'd even improved the overall durability of the sword with heightened control, keeping it from breaking from a simple touch. And through tiring manipulation, had 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 Jaune 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 was repeatedly slashing 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. He couldn't even feel the weight of the blade in his hands, totally foreign to the effects of gravity. Dropping the blade made it dissolve in seconds, and the sword seemed to never bend under pressure either. Not like he expected it to.
Jaune didn't think Aura could bend or break.
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 honestly came down it. It felt like he was just swinging his hand whenever he slashed. Plus, with his heightened Aura control, he felt much faster on his feet as long as he constantly kept the Aura blade existing.
Just another note added to the Aura notebook. Along with other observations he'd 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.
Note aside, he'd forgo trying to add Aura to Crocea Mors altogether. Adding Aura to a sword didn't exactly 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. He felt that his senses had become sharper to a point from his better Aura control. His agility was better and his muscles enjoyed the extra the firepower from using his Aura blade. There was always a small drawback from slight discomfort whenever he willed his Aura control away, but he didn't think much of it. Muscles soreness couldn't possibly be that tasking on his body.
Adding Aura to Crocea Mors didn't give him any of that, sometimes it felt like Crocea Mors was actually rejecting his Aura. What was even worse than the idea of rejecting his Aura, Crocea Mors also appeared to disrupt Jaune's Aura control to practically nonexistent. The darn sword did not like Aura. That conclusion hurt to admit, almost as much as not being able to wield Crocea Mors or the weakness reflected back in Pyrrha's eyes.
Of course, that could all just be his limitless imagination.
Still, he learned trying to keep Aura constantly locked. Pouring Aura within his great-great grandfather's blade was far too troublesome versus keeping his Aura blade flowing, which was far easier, safer, and overall just plain better.
Seriously? Why waste the Aura?
Alone in his team's room, he was sitting 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?" he mused, tilting the blade. He'd long gotten used to its impressive glow. Apparently, it came with having the Aura. "Do you have any idea how much meditation and spec counting I did in order to create you? The caliber 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!"
Jaune was about to make the sword vanish, as it was lunch and he was famished when his eyes widened in thought.
Ex... caliber? Ex-caliber? Excalibur?
"Hey? Now that sounds awesome!" He 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.
Smirking, 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 had stopped their conversation as well, knowing full well of the bet going on between the two. The story was coming to an end. Time to see the end results.
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 specs 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. What happened next would never leave their memories.
Falling to her knees, she hung her head in total defeat on the floor, whimpering a long sad no at the sudden loss of her beloved pancakes. A random storm cloud hovered over her defeated form, drenching the Valkyrie in a hailstorm of rain and regret. Turned out that storm cloud was Ren, and he was hovering over Nora, shaking his head in defeat. But at least he was comforting her with a simple hand-to-shoulder gesture, the best he could do for now. After all, he was not allowed to cook her pancakes.
Meanwhile, Team JNPR's Fearless Leader savored each and every bite of Nora's irreplaceable pancakes, enjoying the sweet, savory taste of victory.
Author Notes: Edited - 4/29/2018