Betcha didn't expect this now didcha? Okay. Stopping that, forever. Either way, I finally figured out what I wanted to do with this... 'pseudo-arc' and boy do I like it. As such, this chapter was written in 2 hours. Sometimes the juices just flow and I know what I want to do.
I'll talk a bit more about the chapter after it's ended because there are a few things I want to mention. But I'll get to that.
Before I forget, thank you kyrogue23 for the review, but, uhh, they're always kind of a summation of the chapter. I mean, I'm genuinely impressed with how well you summarize it every time which to me is like a gosh-darn miracle (lord knows I suck at telling things succinctly, as evident by my AN's.), but, uhh, I'd love to know what you actually think of the story.
Anyways, I want to keep the ramblies here short. So I am going to. Enjoy Chapter 31: Setbacks
Chapter 31: Setbacks
During their boat ride, Jaune and Ruby were finally to get some sufficient rest. When they were together, they mostly talk, cuddled or just slept. Ruby spent sufficient time servicing her other love, Crescent Rose, to make sure it'd function to peak performance. Jaune had laughed as she had spent three full days on fixing it and he returned to her covered in grease every time. Meanwhile, his weapon hadn't needed much maintenance because it used only his aura. No gunpowder or Dust that could clog it, although Jaune did have to get the dents out of his armor.
As they neared the harbor, the both of them packed up once again, they looked as the iced cliffs of Atlas harbor came into view. It was positively alive as airships from all sorts of different levels of the Atlesian Military came and went. Even one of the few 'Titan' class airships the Atlesian Military had departed undoubtedly on its way to Mistral or Vale.
"No place like temporary temporary home?" Jaune remarked in a questioning tone. Ruby just hummed next to him as she was deeply in thought. In the distance, Mouth Lyth was clearly in view. Climbing it, even with me and Jaune, will probably take a few days. Ruby thought, already thinking of a plan on how to get there.
"Already thinking about climbing Lyth?" Jaune asked.
"Yeah. The file they had on the Winter Maiden said she'd be on Mount Lyth. So I guess that's the best place to start looking." Ruby said, sighing.
"If it's any consolation, I've helped a small town further up the mountain once after a Deathstalker broke their barricades. I'm sure we'd be able to stage there first before we make the final climb to the last part." Jaune said, flexing his fingers making each of them pop. Both were fully dressed in their armor again, as was expected of them during 'duty'. In Atlas, there were quite strict rules regarding military uniforms. While Jaune and Ruby had taken some liberties, their armor still also showed their rank and as such was expected to be worn during most if not all events.
As the boat slowly drifted into the harbor and connected to the port itself, Ruby instantly felt a shiver run up her back. Something was off, but she couldn't place it. It was as if she was being hunted already, but looking around she could see nothing.
"You okay?" Jaune asked. Ruby looked at him warily. Jaune knew that look and readied himself just in case and nodded at her. As they continued through the military checkpoint, they were immediately hailed.
"Ms. Rose? Mr. Arc?" a white-haired man, or rather more teenager, asked them.
Ruby looked at him curiously before answering. "Yes?"
"My name is Whitley Schnee. I'm the heir to the Schnee Dust Company." he said. Ruby immediately felt disgust rise. "I'm here to bring you to my father. He wishes to speak to you both."
Ruby faked a smile to him. "Well, Whitley Schnee, tell him this from me, Jaune and a friend of mine you might perhaps know."
"Tell him that his slimy, villainous, hateful practices are not well regarded and that I will not listen to a word he says. I answer only to General Ironwood and will have no further dealings with the Schnee Dust Company for what you've done to Weiss." Ruby said, staring Whitley down as she did. "Now if you'll excuse me, Jaune and I have to find someone in order to fix this mess of a world, and you're not helping.".
Jaune chuckled as the both of them walked away, Ruby huffing in anger at the arrogance displayed.
"Ms. Rose, Mr. Arc, I do very much implore you to come with me. I do suspect in some way our goals align. If not those of my father, it will be those of myself." Whitley retorted. "It might also be very important to share with you the fact that the both of you are not currently well regarded in the Council of Atlas and as such your trustworthiness is being questioned by it. Perhaps to stay in the good graces of the Council, it might be wise to do listen to them."
Ruby stopped. "Why is the Council involved in this?" she asked, clearly confused.
"You are supposed to be the champions of Remnant, yet you were, and I say this from their perspective, unable to defend Mistral from annihilation. Surely you must see the implications that forms on the spotless record of the two specialists from Vale who came here to become legends and save Remnant." Whitely continued, his expression neutral.
This time, it was Jaune who reacted in anger and disbelief. "Are you saying they're blaming us for what happened in Haven?" he shouted.
"Blame is a harsh word. But put simply, yes. They attribute the destruction of Haven to your failure to defend it alongside Haven's own defensive squad." Whitley said.
Ruby felt her rage boil over. In a way she thought it was funny, it was like Yang must've felt when something just didn't sit right. But this injustice was ridiculous beyond measure. In a flash, she was next to Whitley and held him up by the perfectly pressed shirt.
"Listen to me. Haven was the second time I saw a town destroyed but this time it was done on such a scale that it was irrecoverable unlike Beacon. I saw millions of people lose their lives as they defended their homeland." Ruby said, clearly seething in anger. "I murdered a legion worth of Grimm including three Dragons. But still you try to play this as if it was our fault?"
Whitley held his hands up. "You are misconstruing my words. I do not think so. The Council thinks so. I know very well of the true nature of your actions in Mistral which can only be described as heroic. But they must have someone to blame for losing one of their most important allies. So if you'd please release me, I'd be willing to tell you how to convince them otherwise."
Ruby let him go, sending him stumbling to the ground. "Thank you." he said with slight sarcasm in his tone. "Now, Father has planned to talk to the both of you and organize a .. 'high profile' beneficiary event in order to raise funds for the revalidation of Mistral as had been done for Vale. His plan is to have the both of you be there to be either the scapegoats or the heroes you're painted to be. As such he can try and take away power from General Ironwood or garner more good graces and as such influence within the council. For him, it'll be a win-win situation. For you, a coin flip as to what he'll do."
Jaune had now joined them as Whitley continued. "However, I am willing to help spin it more towards the narrative that you're heroes that rushed into 'the valley of death, fearing no evil' and came out largely unscathed. Of course I can't do this out in the open, however I'm already trying to influence my father to present you as heroes."
"Alright. But that still doesn't mean you're taking a lot of time away from us." Jaune remarked. Whitley nodded.
"You're correct Mr. Arc. However, my father is a very influential man. Being in his good graces offers many boons to one or in this case, two." Whitley remarked.
"This still doesn't explain why you're doing it however." Ruby said, crossing her arms.
"Although my sisters and I do not share the best of bonds, I have never actively acted against them. Not with Winter's doubtful choices and not with Weiss' sudden departure. However, I know of you, Ms. Rose, being Weiss' partnered during your time at Beacon. As such, and knowing my sister to be the person she is, I have reason to trust you more than my own father at this current time as she trusted you enough to come to Vale and look for you. And I also know that I must do everything in my power to help you if Weiss has decided to forge her own path alongside you two and your friends." Whitley said.
"Your sister? But she was disowned." Jaune remarked, peering his eyes at him.
"Again, We do not share the best of bonds, but we're still blood. I am willing to see that even if my father won't." Whitley retorted with a tone of annoyance.
"Okay then. What's the plan?" Ruby asked after, still hesitant to trust the well-spoken boy.
"Simple. You attend the beneficiary, you talk about the experiences you've had and as such appease the Council and my father." Whitley finished.
"And that'll be it?" Jaune asked again.
"Yes. However, I will tell you now that if you do this well enough, you will not leave empty handed." Whitley said.
"We don't need money. Especially not from a beneficiary event." Ruby remarked sharply.
"Ms. Rose, I was not talking about money. I was talking about information. If my sources are correct and I have reason to believe they are, you are a Maiden of Summer, a legendary gifted warrior blessed with the power to control wind as they defend against the Grimm." Whitley said. Ruby didn't react, she had expected the story to spread by now.
"However, that also means the other Maidens exist. And the reason you're here can only be to find them as else you'd be fighting to defeat whoever did this." Whitley continued.
Ruby replied in a deadpan tone. "What makes you think they're not here?".
"Simple. If they were, I'd have known by now. You underestimate the power of influence Ms. Rose but I don't blame you for that. So I presume you're looking for another Maiden." Whitley finished in his almost matter-of-factly tone.
"Theoretically if we were, what of it. What is it to you?" Jaune said.
"Well Mr Arc, Ms. Rose, I stated before that my father is a very influential man. That means he also is quite knowledgable about what happens within the Kingdom" Whitley said, his perfect posture finally breaking through to show a smug grin. "I said my father could provide you with information. I am going to be more specific now."
"I have reason to believe he knows exactly where the Maiden of Winter is."
Hesitantly both Ruby and Jaune had stepped into the limousine with the Schnee symbol on it and were driven to the Schnee Mansion. "What happens to us if your plan fails? There is a lot riding on it." Jaune said, fumbling with his hands, somewhat anxious. Although he wasn't the same social awkward person he used to be, he still felt disconnected from the higher echelons of society that Atlas very clearly had. Ruby felt very much the same kept twirling one of her dust rounds around to curb her anxiety.
"It won't. Trust me if I say I wouldn't have approached you with the news if I hadn't thought of a way to help you. Preparation is half the plan, so the saying goes." Whitley said as he looked out the window.
"I presume we must dress up? I doubt our armor will hardly be appropriate in such a setting?" Ruby asked, already not liking the prospect of having to be forced to wear a dress. When she had gone out with Jaune it had been… different. Special. Now, it felt as if she was truly pretending, smiling and waving as if she would be put on display.
"Yes. Although with some help I have some items that should be suitable to your wishes. Again, I'm trying to help, not control you. It's unfortunate that these measures have to be taken however my father can be quite.. Strong-willed." Whitley sighed.
"You mean he's an arrogant selfish idiot, right?" Ruby said.
A silence hung in the air before Whitley broke it with a chuckle. "Ms Rose. You'd be surprised you don't even know the half of it."
After they had arrived at the mansion it was clear that they had already prepared days in advance for the beneficiary. This was indeed clearly not a spur of the moment decision and was thought up during their travel time to Atlas. As Ruby and Jaune followed Whitley inside they could hear a clap reverberate along the marbled walls and pillars, it almost booming like a gunshot.
"Ah, our venerable guests. Mr. Arc and Ms. Rose. I was expecting you earlier." Jacques said, a hint of annoyance in his tone as he threw a sideways glare towards Whitley whom didn't flinch. "The name's Jacques Schnee. Please call me Mr. Schnee."
Ruby decided to play along and attempt to appease him. "Thank you Mr. Schnee for the invite. Unfortunately our lateness was due to problems getting through the checkpoint. My weapon requires a lot of maintenance to function properly and as such I carry much replacement parts with me. Turns out that the Atlesian Military had forgotten about my rank and as such continued their duties as normal."
"Ah. Well. It could happen to anyone." Jacques said in a tone that told them he didn't believe them. Jacques nodded a little beyond them as the driver from before was now in a butler outfit and stepped forwards. "Klein here will take you to the guest room. For as long as you stay here you may use it, within decency of course. For now, I will have to speak with Whitley in private as we prepare for tonight's event. Do prepare appropriately, Whitley should have provided you with ample clothes for such."
As Jacques forced a smile, it was clear it quickly faded as he walked up the stairs again with Whitley following in tow.
"This way please, Ms. Rose, Mr. Arc." Klein said as he continued down the hall of the mansion. As Ruby looked around, she felt small. Incredibly small. She couldn't even imagine how it must've been to grow up her, much less with how very clear it was what kind of a person her father was. She was shaken from her thoughts by Klein asking a question.
"How is Weiss doing?" Klein asked, his voice calm although hopeful. "I know she left to find you, but you came here alone. Is she well?"
"She is doing well. Right now, she's on her way to Vacuo." Ruby said. Jaune looked in awe around them and at the armors that were in the hallway.
"I'm glad to hear. I've been worried for her." Klein said before the silence stayed once again. In these grand halls, it hung even heavier. Ruby and Jaune had felt they had been walking for a good minute or two down the hallway before Klein stopped and opened a door, wide enough for both the Hunter and Huntress to enter.
Ruby couldn't believe what she saw. This must be the fanciest room I've ever seen and I think this still doesn't top what's in this place. "If things are not in order, please do call for me, I'll be willing to assist you in any way I can. Oh, and give Ms. Schnee my regards next time you speak to her please. It'd mean alot to an old butler." Klein said before departing.
"This place.." Jaune started. "Is ridiculous."
"You're telling me. Now I get why Weiss is the way she is. This place is a castle." Ruby breathed in awe.
"Anyways, considering we're here to convince some people and not guffaw, I'd say we get ready for it." Jaune said before zipping open his bag and undoing his armor and weapon to place in it. Ruby followed him in undressing and opened what she assumed to be the wardrobe. In it hung dresses and suits ranging in a variety of colors, patterns, models and styles from very simple to well cut on the suits and from quite simply designed to very revealing.
"What in Oum's name have we gotten ourselves into Jaune." Ruby breathed as she looked through, her stomach fluttering as she went through the dresses in order to find one she might like.
"Not a clue, but it feels like I'm a stranger in a strange land." Jaune said, taking what looked to be a very business oriented suit from it, before putting it back and taking something navy blue out from it.
"You know, it feels like the dance. Where you came in a dress?" Ruby said before grabbing a scarlet dress. Of course it'd be scarlet, she thought to herself laughing at the irony inward.
"How could I forget. I was in a dress." Jaune said, putting on the dark navy suits' pants.
"I know you killed the dance floor with your team then." Ruby said, putting on her dress. It was quite long, almost as long as the armored skirt she wore nowadays. It split at the side halfway down her thigh, giving her enough ability to move around. The upper part of the dress from her chest to her neck was covered in a more sheer material embroidered in dark red lace. Ruby swore she saw roses in the pattern but looking at it more closely she could see she was wrong.
"Wow. It's almost like that was made for you." Jaune said before putting on his vest over the shirt. He then held up a tie and held it to his neck. "Tie, no tie?"
Ruby smiled at him before walking over to him with soft taps of her feet on the marbled floor. She took the tie and compared again before unfolding it and throwing it around his neck and tying it for him.
"And yes. We did kill the dance floor. I never told you we had practiced all the time for that after you guys had the idea, right?" Jaune said as Ruby focussed on tying his tie.
"Really? I thought it was like some kind of team synergy thing, like it came naturally. I mean, you're a great dancer and I know Ren's a big fan of it too, although mostly using those arcade games." Ruby said as she finished tying it.
"Yeah. Still didn't mean we didn't have to practice. In all honesty, it was Pyrrha then who had a little trouble at first, but she was always a quick learner. So, you know. Yeah." Jaune said before scratching the back of his head and looking away. Ruby immediately knew he was thinking of the past again. He had done it a few times before on the boat and she knew sometimes he just needed some time to himself. After all that had happened, she figured some old wounds reopened. Oum know it happened to her.
She took hold of Jaune's chin to make him look at her before giving him a loving kiss. They stood there, their heartbeats and the kiss itself the only thing mattering at that moment. As Ruby detached after what seemed an eternity to them, she looked into his eyes. They spoke the words he needed. You're not alone in this.
Jaune smiled back at her and nodded. "Sorry."
"Don't be. Just making sure you know." Ruby said before pecking him on the lips again before walking back to the wardrobe to find shoes. She had hoped for flats that would be good enough, but all there were was heels. Sighing, she put a fitting pair on that actually didn't feel as uncomfortable as she thought. Remembering Whitley's words, she decided to take a step extra and do her hair and maybe some makeup. Grabbing her toiletries, she made her way towards the bathroom to find what she thought was the largest bathroom she'd ever seen. Shaking her head at it's, to her, almost comical size, she continued to prepare herself.
It didn't take long before there was a rap on the door to the guest room. "It's Whitley. I need to speak with the both of you."
Jaune opened, standing ready. Whitley looked him over and hummed in approval. "If I hadn't known better, I might've guessed you would've been some rich fellows' son. Don't ask me whether that's a compliment or not.".
Jaune rolled his eyes. "Where's Ms. Rose?" Whitley immediately asked.
As Ruby finished up, she stepped outside the bathroom. She had done her job best she could, even tried to make it even fancier using some techniques she remembered Weiss teaching her. Jaune looked pleasantly surprised and almost awestruck as both his eyebrows were raised in disbelief at her looks. Whitley only smiled at her. Ruby though she could almost see the same look Weiss gave her whenever she was impressed with Ruby.
"While the plans have changed and the event will start sooner than I had intended, I doubt my concerns were founded." Whitley began. "I do have one question however."
Ruby tried to reply nonchalantly. "Ask away.".
Ruby smiled. "Weiss.".
In that moment, her confidence for the plan was reinvigorated. "Well, let's not keep our guests waiting. Or rather, let's not waste any more of both your time." Whitley said before motioning the both of them through the door.
Remember that end thing I wanted to mention? Hello! o/
Okay, jokes aside, I found that trying to balance two parallel storylines was already quite tough. Now I technically have three. So what I'm doing is focusing on each arc separately. So for know I'm going to stick with Ruby and Jaune whereas later I will talk more about the character development of Blake and Yang in Menagerie and Weiss and Neo in Vacuo. How I'm going to do that and how much time I'm spending on it, I have no idea yet. But that's the way I want it to work since Ruby and Jaune have been somewhat neglected in fluff after everything went to shit and there's a lot going to happen with them.
Also, I don't believe Whitley is a bad guy. He's just a little shit (excuse-moi for the language) whom was groomed a little too hard by his father to become like him. I know that people change as they become older and I think Whitley is a much more "I will use all the resources I can get in order to get to what I believe is supposed to be." type of character, that's just my personal opinion which very well could be proven very much wrong. I do not proclaim I know what the hell's going on in the heads of Kerry and Miles. Although, Hiatus time is already making me itch. Anyways, until next time.