"Sergeant? Letter for you."
Ren looked up from his book and smiled at the technician. He recognized the man as PFC Stoli, one of Dr. Shen's technicians assigned to the Hyperwave Relay, "Oh?"
"Came with the latest batch of supplies from Remnant a few days ago. I was supposed to deliver it to you ASAP, but uh... some other stuff came up that distracted me." Stoli said with a slightly guilty face, "A-anyway, foreman guessed it was from your old pal Ozpin, since the shipping manifest had a note from him that specifically requested the letter be for your eyes only." The tech shrugged and handed the letter to Ren, "Hopefully it's something cool."
"Hopefully." Ren agreed, glancing curiously nodding at the technician, "Thank you, Stoli."
"Don't mention it."
Ren looked at the letter once more, turning it over in his hands as he pondered what Ozpin could possibly want to relay to him (and, apparently, only him). He marked his page in an anthology book regarding ancient theories of the soul and carefully opened the envelope. As Stoli had surmised, it was indeed from Ozpin. Ren could practically feel the calm, confident demeanor of his headmaster as he read the handwritten words on the paper.
I trust this message finds you well. For the sake of time, I will dispense with the pleasantries and get right to the point. I wish for you to engage in some research regarding the mind and soul.
Ren glanced at the book sitting in his lap with mild amusement. Either Ozpin somehow knew about Ren's fascination with the various theories of the soul in Earth's cultures, or the headmaster just made a lucky guess. Either way, Ren would be lying if he said he wasn't intrigued by Ozpin's opening.
From my conversations with XCOM's Central Officer and Chief Scientist, it appears that unlocking both the psionic potential and aura of an individual results in, shall we say, detrimental side effects. While our own Ruby Rose has demonstrated that these setbacks can be overcome (or so I'm told), Bradford is hesitant to try and look further into the possibilities of developing soldiers capable of drawing from both sources of power. Given that the stakes are incredibly high in this war, I don't exactly blame him. However, I pride myself on my ability to look several steps ahead in any sort of conflict, and I've spent a not-so-insignificant amount of time pondering this issue.
While Ren's first thought was why Ozpin didn't just say 'significant,' he did agree with the headmaster's point. Once she managed to get a handle on her new abilities, Ruby's psionics proved to be quite the valuable asset in the field. The situation wasn't dire enough yet for Bradford to put some of his psionic operatives through the ordeal, but Ren always felt like Captain Durand would be the first to volunteer if the Central Officer ever got around to starting up such a program.
I believe that there will come a point in this war where the creation of another such binary soldier will not only be helpful, but perhaps even necessary. While I've expressed this opinion to Bradford already, he does not seem to agree. I respect his right as the head of XCOM's operations to run things as he sees fit, but I am responsible for the safe return of eight hunters-in-training after the war's end. It would be folly to just let Bradford's decision be the end of the conversation. If I am correct, it would be for the best if someone were to start investigating the theory and methodology behind safely unlocking the psionic and auric potential of a practitioner. I believe that the best candidate for this research is you.
And there it was. Even though Ren saw it coming from a mile away, it felt good to know that Ozpin recognized and valued his skill at the study and manipulation of Aura. Still, Ren wondered how Ozpin expected him to carry out this research. While the classical books he'd been reading on the philosophy of the soul were certainly fascinating, the views of Earth's ancient civilizations on the subject didn't exactly compare to the knowledge compiled by Remnant's own studies and experiments.
To that end, I've included in this envelope a small attachment of files that you can download to your scroll. It contains some of what I would consider to be the more relevant observations and discoveries made by researchers on Remnant.
Well that answers that.
I understand that all of this is simply theory and won't do much good when it comes to actually applying your knowledge in a field situation, but I do not wish to damage the trust that Bradford and I have built up with one another. He has made it clear that binary soldiers are not to be considered at this junction. If we are to respect that choice, then we must be satisfied with the literature available. Given that the scientists on Remnant are unfamiliar with the psionics of Earth, it may be... difficult to find any concrete answers with regards to how the two forces interact. I know, however, that you are resourceful when the situation calls for it, Lie Ren. I trust that you will take this request seriously and find a way to put the knowledge you gain to good use.
Best of luck,
Ren looked inside the envelope and pulled out the small data packet Ozpin mentioned. He clipped it to his Scroll and watched as an array of six different files popped up on the device's screen. Two were books while the other four looked more like research papers written by various students and professors from all over Remnant. That sort of regional diversity would come in handy, Ren thought. Similar to the various cultures of Earth, each Kingdom had its own flavor of beliefs when it came to the workings of Aura and the soul. They all agreed on the base facts, but opinions varied somewhat when it came time to fill in the blanks.
While Ren felt that he knew more about Aura than most of his peers, he had never come across any of these books or papers during his studies. He would need to suspend his usual meditation sessions until further notice if he wanted to work through these references at a reasonable rate. At the same time, however, Ren felt excited at the prospect of learning more about theories and views on the workings of Aura.
He almost got up to talk to Dr. Vahlen about his new information until he reminded himself of Ozpin's admonition: this project had to stay with him for now. That detail put a small damper on Ren's spirits. How did Ozpin expect him to make any progress without the opportunity for practical application? Theory never matched up with practice, and Ren was certain Ozpin knew that. If the headmaster wanted him to gain a deeper understanding of the interactions between Aura and psionics, to learn which hypotheses in the papers worked well and which didn't, he needed to see how the two powers really interacted with each other.
"Hmm..." Ren vocalized, which actually caused several heads to turn in his direction. The hunter smiled serenely and returned the curious stares with a friendly wave before returning his focus to the matter at hand. He picked up his things and strode out of the lounge. Even though he decided to put off meditating until those papers were read, he felt that one more session would be useful in determining how to approach his new situation.
The hunter looked up to see the cheerful face of Ruby smiling back at him.
"Good afternoon, Ruby." Ren answered, maintaining his trademark neutral tone, "Are you off to supervise more simulation training for the upcoming base assaults?"
Ruby shook her head, "Nope. Gonna go visit Annette, actually. She helped work out some of the kinks in my noggin back before the terror attack in St. Louis, so I figured it would be a good idea to see if she could do anymore voodoo magic before it's time to hit the aliens where it hurts."
Almost immediately, the cogs began to turn in Ren's mind. Standing before him was the only test subject available for studying the dual nature of Aura and psionics. While Ren felt slightly dirty (and Vahlen-like) for identifying his friend as a test subject, the fact remained that Ruby was very likely his only opportunity for analyzing the effects of the two power sources interacting with each other. And from what Ruby just told him, Ren now had a perfect cover for observing how his friend's Aura interacts with her psionic ability. He could make notes of his observations, compare them against the literature provided by Ozpin, and determine if there was a way to force the two antagonistic energies to cooperate (at least to some degree).
"If it's not too much trouble, may I join you?" Ren asked, "I know that it can be somewhat painful when Captain Durand tries to... adjust your psionic conduits. Perhaps having someone skilled in the manipulation of Aura could try to keep yours calm while Annette does her work?"
Ruby, initially surprised by Ren's offer, nodded after a moment, "That sounds like a great idea! But... it wouldn't be too much trouble for you, would it? I don't want to assume you have nothing better to do than help me with my Aura problems."
"On the contrary, I can't think of a better use of my time." Ren answered.
"Oh! Well in that case, by all means! I'm sure Annette won't mind."
As the two of them walked towards the psionic labs, Ren felt a twinge of guilt for deceiving Ruby. However, he really did believe that he could help Annette with her efforts to improve Ruby's mental abilities. And if he just happened to collect some useful data on the interactions between Aura and psionics during the process? Well, that would just be a fortunate coincidence.
He just hoped it was worth the trouble.
A/N: Hey all, I threw this short chapter together real quick for two reasons: first, I wanted to round out my collection of chapters that focus on the "Main Eight" from RWBY and JNPR. Ren had a small role in Nora's chapter, but I felt he deserved his own as well (plus, I always meant to explain what was in that letter that Ozpin sent through the relay).
Second, I wanted to talk about the sequel to RWBY Within. I've already begun the process of writing the first couple of chapters, though I'm also hammering out some of the narrative kinks in my high-level outline. I'm really excited about the story I want to tell, and I hope I'll be able to do it justice. After today's post, I'll probably be quiet for another month or so while I build up a nice pile of content that I can put out at a regular pace. The last few weeks at my current job have taught me that I won't always be able to rely on my evenings for writing (given that I spent 60% of my weekdays in the office until 7-9 pm... startup companies are crazy), so I want to have plenty of chapters ready to go to account for events like that in the future. As requested by multiple readers, I'll be posting a 'heads up' chapter to RWBY Within when I get closer to the sequel's release.
One thing I do want to comment on with regards to the sequel, however, is how it will handle the show's canon. In RWBY Within, I opted to treat RWBY's canon very gently, only mucking with a few things that technically didn't contradict what the show had already established. While I'm very proud of my work, I also agree with some of my readers that RWBY Within felt like an 'XCOM cake with only a few RWBY sprinkles.' So I made a decision early on in my planning for the sequel: y'all better call Flynt, because the canon's about to get funky. Again, I'll do my best to avoid contradicting what's been established in the lore, though that won't be too difficult given that not much lore has been established in the first place. But the main reason I've made this decision is because I want the crossover to really feel like a crossover, not just a case of 'X has been transplanted into Y.' I'm really excited about how everything is going to play out, and I hope that you'll all be able to enjoy the weirdness for what it is.
If you have any questions or comments, I'll do my best to answer them via PM in a timely manner. Suggestions are always welcome, though I can't promise that I'll be able to incorporate them into the story. That's... about it, really. Thank you for taking the time to read my work, and I'll see you all in about a month.