For the Record
Chapter 1: Reserve thy Judgment
No one in the history of Beacon had ever heard of anything like it. Nobody had ever seen a record like this.
In his three years at the school, Jaune Arc had achieved a perfect 100% loss rate in his practice duels.
In his first year, his losses were expected- though he pushed himself very hard, it was clear that, skill-wise, he was simply behind the other students at the school. But through intense coaching from his partner, Pyrrha Nikos, and his own dedication and hard work, he had become much more proficient in battle. Anyone watching him fight with his team could see it- he was many times the warrior that had first started at the school.
Which is why when he never won a single bout in his second year, it seemed more like an anomaly than anything else- but still, everyone supposed it was possible.
But he kept pressing himself to become better- stronger, smarter, and more skilled. In his third year, he really began to stand out. Other Hunters and Huntresses in training were always glad to have Jaune on their side when they went into combat- on the battlefield, his defense had become legendary at the school. He was able to shake off blows that would take other hunters out of the fight. His semblance had yet to show itself, but many suspected it would be somehow related to his seemingly unending aura reserves and unshakable defense.
So why, then, wondered Blake Belladonna, as she watched Cardin wiping the floor with Jaune yet again, was he so easy to defeat in a duel? It never seemed like Jaune was holding back. But his legendary defense suddenly seemed to become paper thin whenever he was challenged one-on-one.
Blake usually hardly paid any attention to other people's duels- usually she could be found engrossed in a book while other fights were going on. But the strange matter of Jaune's record was enough to pique her interest in the fight. After all, even though she wouldn't consider Jaune and herself to be particularly close, she had fought along side him- she had seen his unshakable defense in action. So even though she had a book open on her desk, she found herself studying the fight more than reading.
Nobody liked to bring up the record in front of Jaune- but after three years of his friends telling him, "You'll get him next time!" and "Bad luck!", it felt hollow not to bring up the record.
Goodwitch called the match when Jaune's aura got low, turning up the lights as she approached the two combatants.
Jaune, out of breath and scratched up, shook his head at new addition to his perfect record. But he wasn't the type to ever give up- so he immediately asked the question he asked after every loss.
"Well, Professor? What do I need to work on?"
She always had an immediate answer to this question- but this time, for the first time, it was different. In fact, she didn't really seem to hear him- her eyes were studying him closely, almost quizzically, as she approached him.
This was not lost on Blake and the class- the silence, though brief, was unusual.
"Was it my stance?" offered Jaune. "Last week you mentioned my stance, so I've been working on it all week. Did it look okay?"
"Your stance was flawless, Mr. Arc." she replied, quietly. Her eyes continued to study him closely.
"Maybe I waited too long to attack? Sometimes I rely too much on my defense, I know you've mentioned that before..."
"No, your attacks were... well timed and well executed," she said. She almost seemed to be more speaking to herself than talking to Jaune, as if she were thinking aloud.
Jaune began to get a little nervous. Goodwitch always had advice- always. That was a constant in the universe, so far as he was concerned. Dogs go bark, cows go moo... and Goodwitch had something you could improve on. Goodwitch had something everyone could improve on. Jaune didn't doubt she would critique Ozpin's combat technique given the chance.
Except today, it seems. She continue to slowly approach Jaune, which only made him more nervous. Three years in her company had not made the professor any less intimidating.
He began to grasp at straws. Goodwitch giving him advice was part of his whole routine-he would get the advice and the spend the week working on it. If she gave no advice... if he had nothing to work on... how could he improve? "Was it my... timing? Maybe I missed some openings?"
She finally stopped approaching him, only a few feet from him. Her eyes were still quizzical and analytical. They seemed to be breaking him down to his very core.
"Professor? Please, what should I work on?"
There was a pause. The whole class was dead quiet as they watched the two. This behavior was so abnormal, so out of left field for the professor, that everyone was waiting with baited breath to hear her response. You could cut the tension with a knife.
And then she said the words that the school would be talking about for weeks. A phrase which people joked Goodwitch had never uttered until that very moment in her life.
"Mr. Arc... I have no idea."
Blake's walk home from that class was one of her favorites- she generally liked time to walk with her thoughts, and the class one of the few where she wasn't going somewhere with one of her teammates. Her three companions each had other individual lessons scheduled- which made this one of her few moments of quiet.
Blake loved her teammates very much- but after three years of sleeping in the same room, going to mostly the same classes, and having the same group of friends, each moment of solitude was a blessing for the introvert.
"Blake! Excuse me, Blake!"
She sighed quietly. The universe, it seemed, had other plans for her moment of quiet. She turned behind her and saw Pyrrha approach her on the path.
"Hello, Pyrrha," she greeted once the Amazonian had reached her.
"Blake, hello! I hope I'm not interrupting- Do you mind if I walk with you back to the dorms?"
Blake couldn't help but smile at Pyrrha, and her perfect politeness. Blake had no doubt that if she told Pyrrha she wanted some alone time, the warrior would leave her be.
But Blake wasn't pushing people away- not anymore. "Sure, Pyrrha."
The two walked on the school grounds for a few moments before either said anything. Blake appreciated the quiet- and she never once in her left felt the need to fill silence with unnecessary talk.
"So, how have you been, Blake?"
"Classes going well?"
She couldn't help but shoot a look Pyrrha's way. Rushing over to catch her after class, then suddenly making small talk... just seemed unnatural. "Classes are going fine," she replied after a beat.
There was another short pause before Pyrrha said anything else. Based on Pyrrha's tone, though, this question actually held some weight. "That was... a pretty strange class today, don't you think?"
Blake thought back to the class- it was pretty strange. She'd never seen the Professor act like that- and certainly had never seen her withhold advice. Which had to be the case, right? It's not as if the professor Goodwitch could actually... have nothing to say?
"It was odd," said Blake carefully. She didn't know where Pyrrha was going with this, so she chose her words carefully. "I don't think Professor Goodwitch should have said that to Jaune. I'm not sure how he'll take it... I'm not sure how I'd take it."
"I saw you watching some of the fight- what did you think?"
Blake blinked at Pyrrha. "What did I think of... Jaune's fight?" The redhead nodded. "I'm no teacher, Pyrrha- and I didn't learn my skills through any classical training. I hardly feel qualified to-"
"Blake, please," cut off Pyrrha, stopping on the path. "You're one of the most skilled huntresses in our class. What would you have said, if you were in Professor Goodwitch's shoes? What do you think he should work on?"
Suddenly it clicked for Blake, and she looked directly in her friend's eyes. "This... this is about your training with him, isn't it? You're not sure what to work on, either."
Pyrrha's guilty face said it all, and wore a sad smile as she spoke. "It seems I'm... a bit of a failure as a teacher, I'm afraid. Three years, and he hasn't won a single bout, and I'm... just not sure what to help him with anymore."
Blake shook her head. "You can't think that way. You're a great teacher- we've all seen him on the battlefield... he's nearly invincible against the Grimm. Everyone knows that was your training. And in team matches, he performs really well." Never as well as his teammates, but... Blake didn't feel the need to add that last part.
Her smile brightened up at that. "Well, Jaune had a lot of talent. But I still can't figure out why he has such bad luck in the ring against any of us."
"I'm just not sure I'm the right person to ask- I bet Ruby would have some good advice-"
"Please, Blake. I've... rarely heard your take on combat technique. It would mean a lot to me."
Blake sighed, but closed her eyes, thinking back on the fight. She thought about his stance, and his attacks, and his defense- everything seemed in place. "Everything seems... fine. I mean he's not perfect, everyone has something they need to work on, but..."
"But it seems like he's doing a lot worse than his technique should allow him to, right?" Completed Pyrrha.
"Especially against a sloppy technique like Cardin's," joked Blake with a smile. "Look, I'm sorry I can't be of more help. I just don't see anything to fix."
Pyrrha walked over to a nearby bench and sat down with a sigh. "You aren't the first person I've asked, and they all say about that exact thing. I'm just not... sure what's wrong. He's become strong, and fast, and talented, but he can never... he just always seems like a different person in the ring."
Blake sat next to her. "Listen, whatever the problem is, it certainly is not your teaching. Maybe he just lacks... natural talent for duels. It's not like the skill is the same as fighting Grimm. But whatever the issue, you shouldn't be beating yourself up. And hey," she added with a small smile, trying her best to cheer her friend up, "it's way better that he's great against the Grimm and poor in his duels, and not the other way around. Then he might actually be in danger!"
Pyrrha looked at her and gave her another sad smile. "You're right, Blake. I hadn't thought of it like that. You're good at cheering people up, you know that?" Suddenly Pyrrha looked serious again. "Actually... do you think you could do me an enormous favor?"
"Favor?" Blake didn't like the sound of the enormous part.
"Do you think you could find Jaune, and... make sure he's okay about all this?"
Blake blinked in shock. "Me? Pyrrha, I hardly know Jaune. I'm sure he'd rather talk to you."
"I just can't get him to open up about his dueling record. I think he feels like because I've trained him so much, it reflects badly on me, so... he likes avoiding the subject."
Blake almost laughed. Her? Comfort Jaune? "What about Ren? Or Nora? Surely he would rather talk to someone on his own team."
"He's their leader, Blake- he's been working so hard at become stronger, that I think he hates talking about his losses in front of them."
"Then why not Ruby, or Weiss, or Yang?" Or just anybody but me, she thought. Of all their friends, she and Jaune had spent almost no time together. She wouldn't even know what to say.
"Yang can be very sweet, but sometimes she can also be..." Pyrrha's voice dropped off, looking for the right words. Blake knew what she meant- Yang wouldn't handle the situation delicately if it was required. "And he'd never open up around Weiss... you know how he is."
Blake groaned. Three years and he still is harboring that crush? He stopped asking her out every week, so Blake had just assumed his affections had gone too.
"So Ruby?" asked Blake, begging for Pyrrha not to have a reason.
Pyrrha looked meaningfully at Blake. "I... I could ask Ruby, if you really don't want to do it."
Blake looked back into Pyrrha's eyes. Pyrrha was being polite again- giving Blake an out to take, seeing that she really didn't want to do this. And the words, "Yes Ruby" were on the tip of her tongue when she froze.
Realizing she was being a coward again. Realizing that this was just another form of running- letting someone else shoulder a friend's burden.
And she was never going to run again. She promised too many people that.
So she frowned and finally sighed, "No... no, I'll talk to him. Just tell me where he is."
Pyrrha's smile could have lit up a room, but all Blake felt was dread.
Blake would never have found Jaune if Pyrrha didn't know exactly where he was.
"Jaune's spot", as Pyrrha had described it, was on the outskirts of the campus, on the edge of the cliff overlooking the water. She said to look for a large oak on the cliffside, and Jaune would be sitting against it, looking out over the cliff.
Walking along the cliff, she finally spotted him. She took a deep breath- and though part of her body was telling her to run away, and not deal with all this crap- she signed, and walked over to him.
He didn't notice her approaching at all- he seemed to be totally lost in his own thoughts. His eyes were hard a focused, seeming to concentrate on nothing in particular on the horizon. Every now and then he would gently throw a pebble off the cliff, clearly just something he did when his mind was occupied on other things.
It took Blake clearing her throat, only feet away from him, to notice she was there.
"Ahh!" He yelped in surprise, dropping the pebble he currently held. "Jeez, you scared me... Blake?"
He seemed surprised. She couldn't blame him- this was the only time she could think of in all her time at the school that the two were alone together.
"Hi, Jaune," she said simply.
"What... what are you doing here?" he asked, still recovering from his shock.
Blake blinked. It was the obvious first question, but she hadn't thought of an answer for it. Should she tell him the truth? That Pyrrha was worried about him, so she sent Blake to make sure he was okay? Or would that cause him to close up? Ugh, what she wouldn't give to just go home, get in bed and just read...
Wait, that's it! "I was just looking for a good spot to read when I saw you."
"Ah," he said, nodding. "Well, you've certainly found a good spot. I've read many a good book under this tree."
He had? "You... have?" Blake had hardly ever seen a non-academic book in any of her friends hands, let alone Jaune's.
"Sure. I read to unwind." He noticed the incredulous look on Blake's face and chuckled. "I mean, don't get me wrong, Blake- as many Comic books as anything else, but... I like a good novel." He picked up the stone he had dropped, as he gestured next to him. "There's a pretty good root that you can sit in right here, if you want to read some."
She glanced at the spot he had gestured at- the tangle of roots did seem to make a pretty perfect chair, but she couldn't help but note it was only a foot or so from the spot he sat in.
He registered her hesitation, before having his own realization. "Ah, of course! Stupid Jaune. You came out here to read alone, not next to the village idiot. Well, you know what, I should probably start heading home anyway, I've got a lot of..."
"No!" Yelped Blake, much louder and faster than she had intended. The last thing she wanted to do was have to find him again and start this process all over.
"No?" Jaune eyed her, suspiciously.
"No, really, don't leave on my account." She settled into the nest of roots, finding it even more comfortable than she had imagined. "I get pretty lost in books, anyway. Don't worry about me."
"I'll stay quiet then," he said with a smile.
Normally she would have appreciated the sentiment, but since she was here to get him to open up...
But she settled in and pulled out her book- carefully finding the place she left off. Half her mind was content to let it be- he clearly seemed fine, and it was nice being able to just be with someone without them constantly interrupting her reading. She could just go back to Pyrrha and tell her Jaune seemed fine.
I mean, he had to be, right?
She glanced up at him- he, lost in thoughts, seemed not to notice. His eyes, unmoving, gazed at some point in the horizon. He played with the single stone in his hand.
There was something odd about watching him in his thoughtful state- his eyes, and even the way he held himself seemed completely different from how he usually was. He looked calm, but worried. Focused, but intense.
It didn't feel right. Something was weighing on him.
Crap, thought Blake. I've got to ask.
"Hmm?" he hummed, snapping out of his thoughts.
"What did you think of today's class?"
He looked at her quizzically. "Today's...?"
"Today's class. Your duel." He didn't seem to register her words. "What... Professor Goodwitch said."
He continued to look at her incredulously, until there was a flicker in his eyes, and then he started laughing. This caught Blake completely off guard, as she could not imagine what was funny about the situation.
"Oh Blake," he chuckled sadly, finally calming down, "Who put you up to this?"
She felt heat in her cheeks at being caught. "No... no one put me up to this..!" she began to sputter.
"Come on, Blake. I'm not that stupid." He chuckled a bit again at himself. "Well, okay, I know I'm not the smartest guy, but... come on! We've hardly talked in three years! Suddenly you're showing up, asking me about my day? Did you owe someone a favor?"
"Plus you're blushing right now. I think this is the first time I've ever seen you look flustered, since I met you." He smiled, sadly.
She opened her mouth for another protest, but... closed it and sighed. This wasn't working. She would have to try something else. She could feel her ears flattened back in her bow. "Okay, yes. Pyrrha asked me to come see how you were."
Jaune groaned. "I knew it."
Now Blake was in. "And I can walk back and find her, and tell her you're perfectly fine. Or I can tell her whatever you think she wants to hear. But I can tell there's something on your mind, Jaune. And if you want to talk about it, I'm here. I can tell you're putting on a brave face for those around you- I understand that. Maybe nobody understands that as well as I do." He looked doubtful. "Look, I'm not going to pretend I would have searched you out and found you if Pyrrha hadn't asked." She raised an eyebrow. "I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to if I had tried. But if I really can help- if there's something you want to talk about- I'm here, okay?"
The look on his face was one which she had trouble reading. "What?" she asked, feeling the heat in her cheeks again at his steady gaze.
"Nothing, I... just think that's the most I've ever heard you say."
She rolled her eyes at him.
"I'm kidding! No, thank you Blake, that, uh... that means a lot. Really." He stroked the back of his head.
"So?" she asked, after a moment.
He sighed. "You have to promise me something, first. You won't tell anyone about this- okay?"
"Of course," she nodded.
"Nobody. Especially not Pyrrha. Okay?"
He chewed his lip, thinking of the right words. "So, there's the matter of... my record."
"The perfect loss record?" As soon as she said it, she wished she hadn't. It seemed a little mean said out loud.
He flinched, but continued. "Yeah. You know, it's obvious to me that I'm the worst in the class-"
"Jaune, you're not-"
"I mean... combat wise. You don't have to make me feel better, Blake, I know this about myself. I'm the worst combattant in the class." Blake still wasn't sure if this was true or not- she'd seen him on the battlefield, after all- but she let him continue. "So it makes sense that I'd be losing all my duels, you know? That adds up to me. But I'm that way because my classmates- you guys- are especially talented, and I started way, way behind you guys. But as long as I keep driving, training as hard as I can... and I'm better than I was the day before, I'd be okay with that. You know? As long as I kept improving as hard as I could, being last... wasn't so bad."
"But that's the thing. When the Professor said... she said she wasn't sure what I should work on- there's really only two ways to interpret that. One, that I'm so freakin good, I don't need any more help from her..." he chuckled at this idea. "and the other is that I've sort of... reached my potential as a Hunter. If she feels she can't train me anymore- then the only real possibility is that... that's the end. I've become my best, and my best is way, way behind everyone else in the class."
"I'm sure that's not true," said Blake.
"That's the only possibility I see," he said quietly.
"I don't care what she said," said Blake, shaking her head. "And I don't care what you say. Look, I know your dueling record is- poor-"
"Putting it lightly."
"But I've seen you fight the Grimm- you are clearly just as strong and skilled as anyone else." She could feel herself blushing again- it wasn't in her nature to openly flatter anyone. But if anyone needed it, Jaune did. "Sure, you started out at Beacon a little behind, but you've caught up."
"So why can't I seem to touch any of you? Why is it that Cardin- who hasn't spent an extra hour training since the got here- can still wipe the floor with me, every time?"
She didn't have an answer.
He began to stand up. "Look, I appreciate you saying all that. But no matter how hard I've pushed myself, I can't win a single bout. I think Goodwitch is right- I think this is just... as good as I can be."
"I'm just not at all of your levels. And that's okay, Blake. You guys are so incredibly talented, I'm glad I even got close. It's just a..." he looked out towards the horizon again. "...a hard pill to swallow, I guess."
He brushed his pants off and stood up. "Thanks for listening, Blake, but... I think I'm going to just walk for a little while."
She opened her mouth up to say something to stop him, but she couldn't find any words to say. He seemed much more broken up about this than she had expected. She wanted to find Pyrrha and tell her what was wrong- she would probably know what to do for Jaune- but she had made a promise, and she keeps her promises.
But what had Professor Goodwitch meant by what she said? Could she have really meant that Jaune had reached his peak? It seemed so unlikely, so unlike her to mean that.
Well- there was one way to find out. She groaned- she was about to get herself a lot more tied up in this than she wanted.
But Jaune was a friend. And this was the right thing to do.
Blake rounded the corner near Professor Goodwitch's office, still not even sure what she would say. "Hey Prof, what the heck was that in class today?" didn't seem like it would go over well, nor did "You kind of broke Jaune, what the hell."
She was still trying to think of an actual question, when she heard voices from the Professor's office.
"...heard about your little outburst today, in class," said Ozpin's quiet voice from the Professor's office door. Blake stopped in her tracks. She doubted anyone but a fanus would be able to hear the conversation through the thick, closed door.
"You mean to Mr. Arc?" relied Goodwitch. "I'm frustrated, Oz. We should tell him."
"Glynda," came Ozpin's softer voice. "You know why we must, for now, keep this a secret."
"Even from him?"
"Just for now. His semblance may be hindering him, but if it was discovered in the wrong way..."
"I suppose you're right. I don't like it, though. What am I supposed to teach him?"
"It won't be long now, Glynda. I promise. I'll tell the boy myself, so long as his-"
As soon as Blake heard the door knob jiggle, she moved as fast as she was able, jumping away from the door, and around the corner. Besides Ruby, after all, she was on of the fastest at the school.
What on earth were they talking about? A semblance, hindering a person? Did that make any sense at all? And why keep it a secret from him? How could they know when he didn't?
It didn't make any sense.
Curiosity getting the better of her, she headed to the library. She couldn't think of a semblance that would make anyone weaker- but there were so many volumes on the phenomenon of semblance that she was sure she could find an example of at least one.
Arriving at the Library, she quickly found the area of books she was looking for. After all, there are few places on earth she was familiar with as this library.
She finally found a book that might help- "Common and Uncommon Semblances". It was a tome of a book, and as she flipped through it, it seemed to be an encyclopedia of all documented- and some undocumented- semblances. She sat down in front of the bookshelves on the floor, and began to flip through it.
The book seemed to be divide by how commonly the semblances occurred. She started, most logically, with the common ones. Elemental control, illusions... no, those didn't make any sense. Heightened speed, strength... nor those. She continued to flip through the book. All the ones she read about made no sense.
So she started looking at the rarer and rarer ones. Healing, and teleportation... no. Telekinesis and polarity? No, no. She kept flipping through, quickly skimming the definitions of the ones she had never heard of.
Finally, when she was nearly finished with the whole book- by this time hours had gone by, and it was dark outside- she found it. Something she had never heard of in her life- a power that made everything about Jaune click.
Pyrrha nearly jumped out of her chair in her room when her door slammed open. She turned around to find Blake, out of breath, holding an enormous book.
"B... Blake?" she asked. "Is everything...?"
Blake was relieved Pyrrha was the only one here. "It's his semblance," Blake said with confidence. She brought over the book, and placed it in front of Pyrrha. "That's what's causing it. His semblance is causing him to lose the duels."
"His... semblance? What? That's impossible- he doesn't even know what it is yet! How could it be making him-?"
"Because, Jaune's semblance doesn't make him stronger." She pointed to the definition in the back of the book. "His semblance makes everyone around him stronger."
Pyrrha looked. "Theoretical/Undocumented Semblance: Bestower."
Hello! Yes, you there, reading this right now! The fact that you've gotten this far makes me very happy.
New chapter soon, I promise! There's a lot I have in mind for this story, and a lot of questions still to be answered. Why all the secrecy? Why would that power be dangerous?
I guess you'll have to wait and see! Reviews are loved, no matter what they say.