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Chapter 12 – Every Now and Then


Then

Jaune Arc hit the ground. Hard.

"Get up," the girl standing over him commanded without sympathy. "The more time you waste getting knocked down is all the less time we have to train."

Eleven year old Jaune groaned as he tried to pick himself up on his knees, reaching over to grab the wooden practice sword he'd dropped.

Don't cry, he commanded of himself, clenching his teeth to try and ignore the pain of the newest welt on his upper arm. Don't start crying, darn it.

"Maybe taking a break would be prudent," the other girl in the clearing suggested. Jaune saw through bleary eyes the worried look Magnolia was giving him.

"We don't have time for breaks," the sixteen year old Mordant Arc rebuked, standing tall and twirling her own practice sword around as she waited for her brother to get up. "Jaune has less than hour today to train, and we've already used up half of that. Combined with the rest of the past week that's barely been five hours. The Entrance Exam is a month from now, and Jaune will never get in if we take a break every time he gets a boo-boo."

She was of course talking about the test to get into Watchtower, just about the only thing Jaune coveted in this world. Like most days when the free spots in their school schedules synced up, Mordant and Jaune found themselves in a wooded clearing just outside of his middle school's perimeter. As she often did, Magnolia tagged along as well, sitting on a tree stump as she watched the siblings duke it out.

"I'm fine," Jaune moaned, finally staggering back to his feet. "I can keep going."

Even though Mordant's face was stone wall of emotionless determination, Jaune saw her eyes light up with pride. He knew how she hated weakness, not to mention she'd just put him through the ringer more if he complained. The best Jaune could do was square his jaw and prepare for another bout.

Mordant got back into a combat stance but didn't make a move yet. "Do you know what you did wrong?"

"I… lunged when I shouldn't have?" Jaune tried, mirroring her stance. Mordant nodded, but he got the impression she was still waiting for more. "And that left me open for your attack."

"Almost." Mordant sprung toward him at speeds that shouldn't have been possible for a normal human being. Jaune barely had enough time to bring his sword up and block the high attack. More familiar with his sister's style by now, Jaune instinctively twisted his sword and parried the next strike aimed for his side, and he used the opening to go for a diagonal strike.

If Mordant was impressed by how quickly he learned she didn't show it, instead taking a half step back and deflecting his attack with ease. "You should never let your opponent have control over you," Mordant instructed calmly while their swords clashed.

She kept taking small steps back as Jaune continued his assault, on the defense for once. But Jaune still couldn't get a hit on her, and he pursued Mordant relentlessly, yearning for that fateful strike.

"Or else you'll let your opponent lead you where they want you to go." Jaune aimed high, but instead of parrying the attacking like he thought Mordant would, she deftly spun under the blade and let it sail past. The uninterrupted momentum pulled Jaune forward and the boy stumbled to keep his footing, which was all Mordant needed to shift behind him.

The wooden sword smacked his upper back, the clearing briefly filling with a loud crack and Jaune's cry of pain. He lost his footing altogether, and Jaune's face became intimately familiar with the dirt. Again.

Don't cry… don't cry.

"Mordant!" someone barked, causing them all to flinch. Jaune wearily picked his head up, expecting the worst, but was relieved to see Ginger coming upon the clearing. There was a fierce scowl on her face, aimed solely at the combatant still standing.

"What do you think you're doing?" the oldest sister demanded.

"Obviously I'm training Jaune," Mordant answered casually. "That's what we all agreed to do, wasn't it?"

"Training, yes! Not beating him into a bloody pulp!"

"There's no teacher better than pain."

"Stop trying to sound so edgy and above it all," Ginger admonished. "We can't unlock his Aura, remember? So that means every bruise he gets is another chance Mom or Dad could notice he's injured, and then everything we've done so far will have been for nothing!"

"She has a point," Magnolia agreed. Hearing her friend take sides with her sister was enough for Mordant realize her mistake and back down a bit, turning her nose up at the ground like an accosted child.

"I was only hitting him in the spots his clothes covered," she muttered.

"That doesn't change anything," Ginger told her. "We're trying to help, Jaune, not beat him down to nothing."

"I'm right here, you know," Jaune pointed out, who by now was standing again, not that either of his sisters would have noticed.

"This is how we help him," Mordant refuted, still continuing to ignore Jaune as if he weren't a living person. "I break him down and then you build him back up. I don't see what's so wrong with that plan."

"I need something left to build up!" Ginger spazzed, throwing up her arms. "There's more to being a Huntsman than pretending to someone else's punching bag. He needs to actually improve."

Something flashed in Mordant's gaze, and stood to her full height to meet her only older sister eye to eye. "Were you not just watching the last bout? He is getting better, I can assure you that."

"Maybe he is," Ginger allowed, lowering her voice again. "But the fact remains we can't push him too hard, or else someone is going to notice. And then we're all screwed."

"If we don't push his boundaries then Jaune will never grow stronger and be ready for the Entrance test, and if he fails, then everything we've done will have been for nothing."

"I can take it!"

Whatever Ginger's retort was going to be died in her throat. Yet again Mordant's eyes lit up, but she made no moves to capitalize on the apparent victory. Even the normally teasing Magnolia wisely chose to stay quiet.

Slowly, Ginger turned to Jaune, finding him standing there with the practice sword clutched tightly in his hand. Jaune knew he didn't exactly cut an intimidating figure. He was short and scrawny for a boy his age, covered in dirt and bruises. Be that as it may, it didn't do anything to deter the fierce look in his eye or the ready stance to his shoulders.

"I can take it," he repeated, more quietly. "I have to get stronger. I have to get better. If that means getting hurt along the way, then I can take it."

Despite the pitying look Ginger gave him, the pride was also clear in her gaze, though different from Mordant's. Hers was less looking upon something she helped create and more surprised by what Jaune had created for himself.

"I'm just trying to look out for you, Jaune," she told him.

"I know you are, Ginger, but so is Mordant. Just because what she thinks is best is different from what you think doesn't mean it's any worse. If we had more time, maybe we wouldn't have to go so hard. But we don't, so we have to."

"The boy says it's okay," Magnolia said for them all to hear. She always liked to play the mediator for the sisters during these clandestine training sessions. "If Jaune thinks it's best that's probably the optimal course of action."

Ginger took a long breath, coming to terms with how she'd have to alter her moral compass in regards to Jaune and his training. "If that's what you want, Jaune, then we can work with that. This is your future we're talking about; it's not like Mordant and I can be the ones to decide it for you."

"Although as older sisters, it is our right to point out when you pick a path we think is stupid," Mordant acquiesced, uncharacteristically offering an olive branch to Ginger for once.

"Thank you, both of you, for all of this," Jaune told them. "I'd have nothing if it weren't for you."

"You do have a pretty cool family," Magnolia noted with a smile. She then clapped her hands and said, "How about as a compromise Ginger takes over training for a bit while Mordant takes a break? You can help me come up with a prank to pull on the teacher for giving us that pop quiz yesterday."

Mordant rolled her eyes at her friend's childish attitude but didn't say anything to deter the thought. Instead she pivoted the sword in her hand and passed it handle first to Ginger, who took it with a nod. As she went to join her friend, Ginger and Jaune squared off against each other, weapons at the ready.

"While I don't agree with her methods, Mordant had a point earlier," Ginger said, a teacher-like tone to her voice. "Don't let an enemy manipulate you to their own benefit. Both on and off the battlefield."

Jaune nodded, storing the information away with all the other lessons his sisters have taught him over the last couple of weeks. He ran through everything he's absorbed as Ginger struck at him, her attacks more designed to force Jaune to cycle through all the moves he knew. Ginger liked for Jaune to improve his technical ability, as opposed to Mordant who focused more on upping his raw skill.

While he agreed Mordant's method proved to be the more brutal one, Jaune always forgave her. He knew Mordant wasn't the one who pushed him the most. He always rose to the challenge because he was the one who pushed hardest. Jaune had to, or he'd never overcome those who would hold him back.

I'm going to show you how strong I can be, Jaune vowed, matching Ginger blow for blow. I'm going to grow strong and make you proud, Dad.


Now

It's alright, this is fine. You have nothing to worry about, Blake. It's perfectly normal for the Headmaster of Beacon Academy to want to talk to prospective students after they're done with the exam. There's no way he could know you're a former terrorist who used forged transcripts to get into them in the first place.

Despite constantly repeating the mantra in various different ways for the last several minutes, it did little to quell Blake's rising panic. She'd been prepared to meet with a scout who was in the audience, as that wasn't unheard of. Blake was far less prepared to meet with Professor Goddamn Ozpin of all people.

Sat on a somewhat isolated set of bleachers within the gymnasium where the testing was held, Blake's knee was pumping up and down at an astounding rate while her hands gripped each other tightly enough to pop out the kinks. While it probably would have been perfectly natural to appear nervous at the prospect of meeting the Headmaster, Blake feared she looked more like a worry ridden mess of a person, which might cause the professors to become suspicious, which in turn would lead to more invasive questioning, and all that did was cause Blake to freak out even more.

It was probably her own fault. Blake hadn't necessarily been trying to stand out, just good enough to be considered within the better upper half of the applicants. However, when you compared a battle hardened former terrorist to a bunch of school children, it would have been difficult not to see Blake as a league above them even when she was intentionally handicapping herself.

She'd aced the theory tests, made short work of the obstacle course, and weathered through the combat test without so much as a scratch. The only area she was lacking in was conditioning, and even then she was average at worst.

Certainly good enough to catch the eye of any scouts, but the Headmaster of an academy? What was a man like that even doing wasting his time at events like these? Shouldn't he have been too busy running an entire school to take time out of his schedule and attend a relatively small Entrance Exam, much less talk to a single applicant from it?

The questions and useless reassurances all fled from her mind when Blake heard the sounds of footsteps coming toward her, and she snapped her head up to see none other than the vaunted man himself coming toward her. Professor Ozpin didn't exactly cut an intimidating stature, considering his walking cane, simple dark green suit, bespectacled brown eyes, and white hair that betrayed his age. But Blake knew appearances could be deceiving, and in all likelihood Professor Ozpin probably could have killed several city blocks worth of people before someone finally managed to stall him.

There was also a mug in his hand, with the symbol of Beacon emblazoned upon it. For the life of her Blake could not accurately make out the aroma wafting off of it.

Behind him, the woman who had previously introduced herself as Deputy Headmistress Glynda Goodwitch followed, attention focused solely on the Scroll tablet in her hands which she used to work on something. She had blonde hair, fair complexion, piercing green eyes, and had a riding crop of all things holstered on her hip. Blake wondered if it was just for show or if it actually served a practical purpose.

"Good afternoon, Miss Belladonna," the Headmaster greeted when he was close enough. "I do apologize for the sudden request for an interview. I hope I'm not keeping you from anything important."

"Of course not, sir." Blake had no time to wonder if her words sounded as cagey as she thought they did, as she quickly rose from her seat and accepted the handshake Ozpin offered her. "It's an honor to meet you."

"A sentiment shared," said the Headmaster with a slight incline of his head. "You performed quite well today. While the tests we hold at examinations like these aren't quite up to the same level as what you'll experience at an academy, they do provide an excellent baseline for seeing how the next generation of Huntsman and Huntresses will perform in the line of duty. And I must say, if today is anything to go by, then you have a rather bright future ahead of you."

Blake flushed at the praise, seeing as how it was coming from what was probably one of the outright strongest people in the world. So far his words and actions had been nothing but amicable, but that wasn't enough for Blake to let her guard down completely.

"Thank you, sir, that means a great deal coming from you. But if you forgive me for asking, why exactly are you speaking with me personally?"

"I make time to attend all of the Entrance Exams in Vale to gauge prospective students," the man answered honestly.

"No matter how much it eats into the schedule time," Miss Goodwitch added behind him. She somehow managed to sound completely neutral while still communicating a disparaging underlying tone.

Professor Ozpin must have been expecting the response as he went on talking without missing a beat. "And if an applicant stands out among the crowd, then I take the time to meet with them as well, to gain perspective on whom they are as a person."

"Perspective?" Blake wondered, failing just a bit to keep the worry out of her voice.

"Yes, an understanding of the individual and the events that shaped them. Take yourself for example, Miss Belladonna. In order to pass these rigorous exams, most students spend years training at one of the numerous intermediary schools around the world." Something indeterminate passed through his gaze. "You, however, are one of the few who did not, and yet you passed with flying colors."

Blake resisted the urge to wince at the subtle accusation. "I grew up outside the kingdoms, sir. If you don't learn to fight and fend for yourself, your chances of survival diminish greatly."

"Of course, I meant no disrespect for your upbringing," Ozpin genially told her. "Any experienced Huntress or Huntsman will tell you time spent out in the world provides far more worthwhile lessons than the ones you'll find in a classroom. I've known several associates in my time who have spent much of their lives braving the untapped wilds of Mistral. Not an impossible feat, but still certainly an admirable one."

Professor Ozpin paused a moment to take a sip of his mystery beverage. "Obviously your upbringing was no exception, to gain the attention of Mr. Acajou. I have never met the man myself, but I'm told he is an excellent judge of character, even if his commendation rates are a bit lower than the average."

He was talking about a Mistralian Professor named Mr. Acajou, a man Blake has never actually met. In order to receive a commendation, a prospective student must prove themselves proficient to a combat instructor with the proper credentials, like Mr. Acajou, and then they would sign off on the appropriate paperwork.

While it was true Mr. Acajou had rather high standards for the students he taught or came to him, he was also somewhat easily exploitable. Blake didn't know his exact age, but he was certainly old, and like many other elders throughout the globe he had an obsession with resisting the technological revolution as much as he could. Which meant all commendations he gave out had an extensive paper trail behind them, with very little information recorded digitally until the student made it through the Entrance Exams.

Fortunately for Blake, every once in a great while a new name could be slipped into that cornucopia of tangled paper trails, with no one being the wiser unless they spent the time and resources going through the whole thing bit by bit. Not to mention if someone wanted to check with Mr. Acajou directly it would be a far more arduous affair because he didn't use Scrolls of any kind.

Blake's forgeries could certainly fail if they came under the eye of someone who knew Mr. Acajou more personally, or at least professionally. Which was why Blake had no intentions of going to Haven Academy, much less an Entrance Exam in Mistral, though it wasn't as if she could have afforded the trip.

"I only knew Mr. Acajou long enough to earn my commendation," Blake lied to the Headmaster. "In that time I learned he was… an interesting person, to say the least." She couldn't say anything specific about the man, lest it somehow reach the ears of those more familiar with him and trace the conflicting information back to her. Only briefly knowing Mr. Acajou would lend credence to Blake's apparent naivety.

"'Interesting' about sums up what I've heard of him as well," Ozpin agreed. It didn't seem as though he caught on to her mistruths, but there was still something he appeared to be grappling with. "However I must confess I am somewhat confused as to why you would travel all the way to a separate Kingdom just to attend an Entrance Exam, when surely there must have been those in Mistral as well."

Her nostrils flared, Blake's only outward reaction to being caught in a partial lie. Luckily, she'd been smart enough to anticipate such a question from a recruiter. "I understand it may seem odd, but I never had any intention of attending Haven Academy. There are… acquaintances I had in Mistral, and things ended poorly between us. Staying to study at Haven Academy would have only led to more problems."

It wasn't so much a lie because it was closer to fact rather than fiction. Being in Vale when Blake broke ties with the White Fang had actually been something of a stroke of luck, as the contingent Blake and Adam were part of had only been transferred to Vale a few months prior. Most of Blake's time with the Fang had been spent in Mistral, and she knew Adam and his men were bound to return there in a few months' time, if they weren't already back now. At the moment, avoiding any encounters with the White Fang was Blake's top priority.

"In truth I had been hoping to secure a position in Beacon Academy," Blake continued, a slight inflection of hope to her voice. "I moved here a few months ago to become better acquainted with the Kingdom and its customs, so I would not be unprepared when the school year began."

Ozpin made a thoughtful sound and nodded. "While it brings me no joy to say this, there is a reason I spent so much time securing a place for myself in Vale. Despite developing a great deal since The Great War so long ago, change has always come the slowest to Mistral, and its people do little to rectify that. The kingdom lives by its divisive nature, and I fear any meaningful change is still a ways off."

That was an awfully controversial thing to say, especially from someone as renowned as Headmaster Ozpin. If the wrong sources got wind of how poorly he thought of another kingdom, calling it a scandal would be putting it lightly. But Blake was certain there was no one else around to hear them, and evidently he trusted Ms. Goodwitch enough that she wouldn't reiterate his words to anyone else.

It might have surprised Blake to be privy to the headmaster's thoughts, were it not for the fact she agreed with them wholeheartedly. The class divide in Mistral was greater than any other kingdom's, and only Atlas matched their racial divide. There was a reason the White Fang's presence was greatest in Mistral.

"I try to be a little more homogeneous in how I conduct my school," Ozpin went on, though he did not sound braggadocios about his claims. "At least in Beacon, all students are treated equally. Be they rich, or poor. Human…"

His dark brown eyes zeroed in on her, and Blake felt she could be forgiven for flinching.

"Or Faunus," he finished.

Ah. It always comes back to that, doesn't it?

"To the untrained eye you would appear as human as any of the other students here today," Ms. Goodwitch observed, finally tearing her attention away from her Scroll. "Of course, your transcripts say otherwise."

"As they should," Blake agreed. As bold as she was being in this moment, Blake felt adding on lying about her species to all the others would have tipped the scales out of her favor. She inclined her head and said, "I have a second set of ears beneath my bow." She twitched them slightly, safe in knowing only the two teachers could see.

"People often underestimate the potential of hiding in plain sight," said the headmaster. "Though I must assure you, Miss Belladonna, at our school we do not teach our students to hide who they truly are."

"That's good to hear, sir, but this is by my own choice." Blake straightened with a sigh, doing her best not to let the decades old bitterness seep into her words. "Even if you accept the Faunus, Headmaster Ozpin, most of your species does not. I would prefer to avoid any unnecessary attention. I want people to see me for who I am, not what I am."

"And what are you?" Ozpin asked.

"I…" she blinked, mind drawing a blank instead of an answer. "I'm not sure I understand the question."

"That's quite alright, I wasn't expecting an answer." The Headmaster smirked like Blake had told him a joke, which only confused her all the more. "And do not worry, Miss Belladonna, we take the privacy of our students very seriously. Of course the staff will be informed of your true lineage, but they will also be instructed not to disclose that information under any circumstances you do not deem appropriate, lest they face severe contractual punishment."

The train of confusion didn't appear to be coming to a stop any time soon. "I don't know what to say, sir. I mean, I appreciate the gesture, but wouldn't all this be purely hypothetical until I was accepted into Beacon?"

"Ah yes, it would appear I'm getting a little ahead of myself," Ozpin confessed, chuckling slightly. He waved his cane toward the Deputy Headmistress. "Glynda, if you would, please?"

"Of course." While Ozpin took another drought of his beverage, Miss Goodwitch circled around him and approached Blake. Faster than even Blake's trained eye could see, Goodwitch whipped an envelope out of a discreet pocket and presented it to her. "Here is your acceptance letter, Miss Belladonna."

Acceptance… what?

Blake just stared at it. Were they… being serious? Was this some kind of trick? Did they know Blake was lying and this was all part of some game to catch her with more damning evidence? Despite the worry her hands were already starting to inch toward the piece of paper, hovering in the air.

"That's it?" Blake gasped, wide eyes switching between the two professors rapidly. "Just like that I've been accepted into Beacon?"

"Of course," Ozpin told her, smiling enigmatically. "As I mentioned, you are extremely talented, Miss Belladonna, and I do confess to being a covetous man. When I find a student with great potential, I endeavor to sink my claws into them as quickly as I can, before the other headmasters catch wind and steal them out from under me."

That sounded a little creepy to Blake, imagining an older man doing his best to ensnare impressionable children before any other could. It was stranger still to think the different headmasters worked against one another to secure the more promising students. But Blake was still young, and she didn't confess to know what kinds of politics were warred between the different Hunter academies.

It sounded too good to be true, being offered a place at one of the influential schools in the world. Blake knew it was her paranoia doing most of the talking at the moment, but it's served to help keep her alive plenty of times over the years, and she wasn't going to stop listening to it now.

"I understand if this feels somewhat surreal," Ozpin went on, giving her a sympathetic look. "This is highly irregular, I must admit. But then again you are a highly irregular student, and more than anything else I would hate to see your talents squandered in another school."

"This is just… a little overwhelming," Blake admitted. She wanted to take the envelope. By the gods she wanted it. But was it safe?

The professors appeared to believe the story that Blake grew up outside the kingdoms, her training a result of living a rugged life instead of going to a combat school. Headmaster Ozpin agreed with her Haven Academy in Mistral was a bit of a lackluster choice to attend. And he gave Blake every assurance her Faunus identity would be her own secret to bear, and they would not force her to come out of her shell before she was ready.

These were extremely odd circumstances, but looking back Blake realize this was the culmination of a series of extremely odd circumstances. It started on the train, when Blake decided she would no longer play a part in breaking the world apart even more. Then it continued in the house, when Blake encountered a family who would rather help a burglar than condemn them. At last it boiled over when a chivalrous knight went against his morals and secured an illegal means of entry for her.

Maybe it was about time Blake stopped focusing on how strange her life had become?

Slowly, gingerly, Blake took the envelope from the Headmistress' hands. She opened it, marveling at the letter held within and its words telling her dream had at long last come true.

"You will also need to sign here, to make this official," Miss Goodwitch told her, swiveling the Scroll around for Blake and offering her a stylus. Still gawking like a fish, Blake dimly nodded and signed her name where she was directed.

"Welcome to Beacon, Miss Belladonna," Ozpin nodded, his mysterious smile just a bit wider.

"Thank you, sir." That didn't seem like enough, so she bowed slighlty to the both of them. "Thank you both so much. This… this means a great deal. I promise I won't disappoint you."

"On that, I have no fear," Ozpin told her, voice free of doubt. Then without preamble he turned and began to walk away. "I look forward to seeing you in the spring. I expect great things from you, Miss Belladonna."

Great things indeed. Blake felt like she was having an out of body experience, still not quite believing she'd done it. She'd made it into Beacon, and thus far her most damning secrets haven't dragged her down yet. It was impossible to describe what she was feeling, happy and nervous and giddy and queasy all rolled into one.

"In the meantime, I was hoping to discuss your living arrangements through the winter," Miss Goodwitch said, dragging Blake down to Remnant. "Where are you currently living?"

"Oh, a motel on the outskirts of the city." It was a dank and dingy place, its sole redeeming quality being how low the rent was. Despite the money and food Jaune's family had given her, Blake still had to be as frugal as possible if she was going to make it through the winter. As it stood with what she had, Blake theorized she could stretch her resources until just a few weeks before initiation.

After that? Well, Blake could only plan so far ahead.

"Assuming this motel doesn't have some emotional connection for you, I believe we can find you better living arrangements," Miss Goodwitch told her. Before Blake could ask what she meant Goodwitch quickly flicked through a few screens on her Scroll and presented it to Blake once more. Blake viewed what appeared to be the web page of a hotel she wasn't familiar with.

"This is the Emerald Tower," Miss Goodwitch explained. "While it does function as a normal hotel for any guests seeking lodging, Beacon Academy has an arrangement with the Emerald Tower wherein we direct enrolled students who need better lodging, and in return they receive a reduced monthly rent for temporary apartments, which the school will also pay a portion of."

Blake quickly scrolled through the page, skimming over the more important points. The rent was a bit larger than what she was paying now, before whatever percentage the school would pay. But Blake also saw the package deal came with two free meals every day, so that meant she wouldn't have to devote as much of her Lien to buying her own food. Coupled with the vastly more comfortable accommodations, it likely would be worth the extra money she'd spend every month.

"This is awfully generous," Blake worried. Again it sounded too good to be true. "Especially for someone who isn't even officially a student yet."

"This is to ensure all applying students have a fair chance in the initiation test. Students like yourself are more common than you might think, either those with no home of their own, or those who found their old life unpalatable and moved to Vale in the hopes of starting a new one. This way we can ensure the students who don't have a home in Vale are still rested and ready come the spring. Besides, you'll still be managing the majority of the bill yourself, so this comes as little expense to the school."

Well if anyone qualified as being adrift and in need of a safe place to weather the winter, Blake was certainly it. "Thank you, Miss Goodwitch, this will help immeasurably. Is there anything I have to sign or apply for?"

"The Emerald Tower will take of that," the professor assured her. "I will call ahead and let them know to expect your arrival." Miss. Goodwitch powered down her Scroll and adjusted her glasses. "If that will be all, thank you for your time, Miss Belladonna. If you'll excuse, I must follow after my employer and ensure he does not create another fiasco I will have to deal with."

As the professor turned and made her leave, Blake got the feeling she was only half joking.


Then

The wooden sword in his hands banged against the leather bound strut before it could strike his head. Jaune then retracted his arms, bracing his stance to block the mid-level strut before it too could hit him. The dummy jittered to a halt, and breathing heavily as he was, Jaune stepped back to take a moment's break.

The air of his house's dojo was tepidly warm and still, doing little to help alleviate the sweat beading his brow and back. Jaune reached for a nearby bottle of water, also warm now as he's been practicing for so long, but that didn't stop the liquid from refreshing his parched throat.

Despite however much time he spent with the practice dummy, Jaune knew it would never equate to the real training he had with Ginger and Mordant. But he was content to do something so mundane and monotonous, even if it would never provide him with the same level of experience as his sisters did. There wasn't as much need any more to train so hard and so fast with them, and Jaune enjoyed slowing things down a bit now since there wasn't a looming deadline on the horizon.

"You should try holding the sword closer to your chest," a gruff voice spoke up behind him.

Jaune jumped, hacking past the water he nearly choked on. He didn't wait to get his breathing under control before spinning around, coming face to face with his father. Henry Arc leaned on the door frame, dressed in casual wear, watching his son with a passive expression.

"You overextend yourself," the man went on. "You may be keeping up with the dummy, but you're tiring yourself out quicker than you need to. In a real right, keeping up your stamina is just as important as matching your opponent's blows."

"Okay," Jaune nodded. He didn't really know what else to say. It was good advice, something he should have already been aware of but neglected. It was the fact the advice was coming from his father that threw him for a loop. They haven't exactly been on speaking terms the last few weeks. Or months.

Henry Arc caught on to his son's wariness, which made him shake his head with a labored sigh. He pushed off the frame and said, "Would it be alright if you took a break for moment? There's something I was hoping to show you."

While the request didn't abate his confusion, Jaune nodded all the same. He wasn't like Mordant, questioning everything their father said. Henry had already said he wouldn't stand in Jaune's way anymore, and while it was obvious for anyone to see the tension was still there, Jaune wasn't looking distance himself from his dad completely.

Jaune took a second to properly store is training weapon away before following after his father. They didn't go very far, just to his father's office. Jaune marveled at the sights while his dad flicked the lights on. He's seen them a few times before, but never with the chance to fully examine everything. The suit of armor was hard to miss, its metal layers not quite to the same level as the knights of old, but still far bulkier than what you'd see most Hunters wearing these days. The shelves were populated by old tomes with funny names Jaune didn't quite understand and knick-knacks his father like to boast as 'treasures from past victories.'

Of course, the one item that truly drew Jaune's interest was hung up on the wall, freshly polished and almost glimmering with ancient energy.

Henry noticed his curiosity but didn't comment on it, instead moving behind his oak desk and sitting in his chair. He gestured to the one across from him and said, "Please sit, Jaune. I'd like for us have a talk."

"About what?" Jaune asked cautiously, taking the seat.

"Nothing terribly important. How are your classes going?"

Jaune straightened in his seat, not expecting the question. "They're alright, I guess. A lot of the basic stuff is pretty close to what we had in normal school. I'm kind of behind the other students in the physical classes, but the teachers keep saying I'll catch up."

No thanks to you. He chose to keep the last comment to himself, even though he knew Mordant would have encouraged him. Jaune would be lying to himself and everyone else if he said he didn't feel at least a little bit of resentment toward his father. But he didn't try to be a resentful person.

"That's good." If he sensed his son's displeasure, Henry didn't act on it. In fact it seemed more like he was purposely remaining calm and passive. "Training and sparring can be difficult, especially when you and your opponent both know he has more experience. But this is the time in your life when you can afford to make a few mistakes, so you can learn from them."

Jaune nodded to show he understood. He didn't want to get his hopes up, but his father sounded almost… happy to be talking about stuff like this with him. But what did that mean for the two of them?

Henry leaned back in his seat, folding his hands together. "I noticed you always use the practice sword at home. Have you tried branching out to different weapons?"

"Sure," he shrugged. "But other weapons feel weird in my hands. Axes and maces are too top heavy, daggers and spears feel too light, and the pop guns make me freak out too much. Swords are basic, but I understand them. I'm good with them."

"I see," Henry nodded. He didn't frown, but there was a stony quality to his expression. Henry started to say something, but then thought better of it, choosing instead to rise from his seat. He grabbed the vaunted object off the wall and placed it on his desk, where Jaune's eager eyes could devour it in its entirety.

"You know this weapon's name, yes?" his father asked.

"Crocea Mors."

The ancestral blade of the Arc family. Forged by his great-great-grandfather, it had been wielded by the eldest Arc son of every generation, used to undo evils and help those in need. The sword and its sister shield were made of the same silvery metal that wasn't quite steel, and Jaune knew in his youth Henry Arc had modified the shield so it could collapse into a sheath and store the sword. It was a simple instrument, but still beautiful without compare.

"I have used this sword all my life," Henry went on saying. "The same can be said of my father, and his father before him, and his father before him. This sword has seen countless battles across all manner of dangerous creatures, both those of darkness and those of light. It is a tool designed for one thing and one thing only.

"Killing, both Grimm and people."

A shiver ran down Jaune's spine. He knew his ancestors had fought in wars, and that meant people fighting people. But the world wasn't at war, and he had no intention of going down such a dark path.

Henry Arc circled around the desk and knelt in front of his son, taking Crocea Mors and holding it between them. The pain was clear to see on his face, but Jaune didn't know what to say.

"Jaune, I… I think I've made it rather clear I never wanted you to wield this sword. I wanted a better life for you; something better than a mere Huntsman or soldier. Something to be proud of."

"But I want to be like you," Jaune argued, confusion marring with grief. "You kill the monsters and save people from them. What's better than that?"

"Maybe, but that was never the life I chose for myself." Jaune cocked his head, not understanding, so Henry sighed and said, "Because of who I was and the family I came from, it was always expected of me to follow in my father's footsteps. Take up Crocea Mors and commit myself to a lifetime of fighting. It wasn't until I was much older that I realized I never had the chance to choose for myself what life I wanted to live. I don't regret the good I've done for others, but I've never stopped wondering if there was more good I could have done by being something else – by being someone else.

"And I wanted that choice for you, Jaune. I wanted you to have the chance to be better than I was, to become someone you were proud of." Henry wetted his lips, looking down at Crocea Mors with sorrow in his eyes. "I realize now by trying to better than my father I sank down his level. In trying to give you a choice I took it away. And I'm sorry for that, Jaune. So deeply sorry."

"I-it's okay, dad," Jaune muttered. He had no idea what else to say. He was too young to fully absorb everything his father was telling him.

"It's not, but I'll do everything I can to make it right," Henry vowed, looking back up at Jaune. He raised Crocea Mors and said, "This sword is your birthright, Jaune. It was wrong for me to deny it to you, I see that now. And in truth I still don't want you to take up this sword, and by extension the life that will come with it. But your life is not mine to decide; it's yours." Henry presented the sword to him, awaiting to see if Jaune would take, but the boy was stunned into inaction.

Crocea Mors could be his? Jaune wasn't sure how to process that idea. Ever since the argument over dinner so many months ago, Jaune had reluctantly grown accustomed to the fact he'd never see the fated sword beyond fleeting glances. And now he was being given the option of wielding Crocea Mors to do with as he saw fit.

He wanted it. Oh, how badly he wanted it. Jaune's dreamed of himself, holding Crocea Mors in his hand and slaying great beats of darkness, a hero in every sense of the word.

But was his dad right? Was the life of a Huntsman really as lackluster as he said it was? Jaune knew his father would never lie to him, and if Henry thought his life was wasted being a Huntsman, then he truly meant it.

Jaune couldn't believe that. He'd read the letters from people thanking Henry for saving them and their love ones. He watched the news reels about the Grimm invasions Henry helped to stop. He knew the stories of how his father's Beacon team all hated one another in the beginning of their time together, and how through their work they grew past their differences and learned to love each other as if they were family.

And most of all Jaune couldn't believe it because he still saw his dad as a hero. Even through all of the trials and fights they had been through the last half year, Jaune never once thought of his father as anything less than a hero. Not a perfect one, but the real heroes were flawed, choosing to continue forging onward in spite of their shortcomings.

That was man Jaune saw his father as, the kind who kept doing their duty even if they knew there was something – or someone – else they could have been. Because that was the right thing to do. It's what the hero would. And Jaune's always wanted to be a hero.

Slowly, gingerly, Jaune reached out and touched the sheath for the first time. Henry took his hands away, and Jaune truly learned how heavy Crocea Mors was. Weighed down both by the metal it was forged from, and the burden that came with it. Jaune quickly realized he wouldn't be swinging it around effectively for quite some time, but he would grow and get stronger. And when he was ready, Crocea Mors – his sword – would be waiting for him.

Jaune looked up, finding his father had moisture in his eyes. The look he gave his son wasn't sad, but it wasn't entirely happy, somewhere in between. But the pride was still there, Jaune could see that clear as day.

"I'm going to earn this," Jaune vowed to his father. "I'm going to prove I deserve to hold Crocea Mors. And I'll be better than you, if that's what you want. I'll become someone you can be proud of, dad."

"Jaune," the man sighed, breaking out into a watery smile. He cradled his son's head and placed a kissed atop his hair. "I am already proud of you, I want you to know that. And nothing will ever change that."

Tears stung in his eyes, and Jaune couldn't stop himself from launching out of his seat and wrapping his arms around his dad for what felt like the first time in ages. Henry did the same, the pair of them not-quite-crying.

And even if his dad said it was alright, that night Jaune swore he would never break his promise.


Now

"So just sign here, here, and here," the hotel concierge instructed, and Blake did as she was told. Once she was done he swiveled the documents back toward himself and gave them a cursory look through to ensure everything was in its proper place. "And that should do it. Welcome to the Emerald Tower, Miss Belladonna."

As the man went through the provisos and guidelines she would have to abide by during her stay, Blake internally marveled at this latest development. She had been accepted into Beacon completely out of the blue, and now the school was posting her up in an above average abode until initiation next year. Was this what it felt like to be a Hunter? To have the basic necessities provided for you so long as you continued to perform a highly dangerous job few others could?

Blake didn't fool herself into thinking the stroke of good luck would last indefinitely. In the license agreement she read through Blake saw this deal was only given to students initially applying for Beacon. Next year when the school year let out she would be expected to find her own arrangements. Still, this would be nice while it lasted, and Blake was grateful to Professor Goodwitch pointing her in the right direction.

Money would be tight though. Blake had barely enough money to last all winter in the motel she'd originally been staying at. The rent here wouldn't be too much larger, but the cost difference would still mean having to head out weeks earlier than she initially. Blake wasn't keen on dipping back into her life of crime, so maybe it would be prudent to try looking for a part time job again.

That was a dilemma for another time however, and Blake tuned her attention back to concierge as he got to the important bits. "Now all that is left is the matter of your room. Do you have any preferences? A view of the city or perhaps one facing toward the ocean?"

"The view is of no great importance," Blake informed him. "The only consolation I might ask for is a room tucked away from the main thoroughfare. I enjoy my privacy."

"We can fast track you for a room on the top floor then," the man decided. "Those will be among the last we assign to students as they trickle in over the next few months. For the time being it would just be you and one other pair of students already sharing a room."

"That's sounds ideal, I'll take one of those rooms if you please." The man nodded and quickly typed out a few commands on his computer. A moment later he handed over a pair of key cards and instructed her which way to go.

One elevator ride later, Blake stepped out into the hallway with her meager possessions. As she walked and counted off the rooms she passed, Blake immediately took note of how quiet the floor was. With only one neighbor to worry about, Blake looked forward to many a night spent in peaceful silence, curled up with The Strange of Dr. Jonquil and Mr. Hyde to read.

Hearing there were multiple people sharing one room didn't surprise her. Blake knew the Hunter academies had teams of four students spend the fours years together in the same room, no matter what composition of boys and girls they were. Blake idly wondered how she'd manage having to sleep in the same room as hormonal teenage boys, but decided that too was another problem for another time and filed it away.

Finally Blake came upon her room, situated nicely at the end of the hallway where there wouldn't be constant foot traffic to distract her. Blake keyed the door and pushed it open, pausing in the doorway to take stock of her new abode. It wasn't spectacular, which was to be expected considering the price she was paying for it was much less than the norm. It was basically one large room, with a bed against the far wall, a small kitchenette by the doorway, and a couple of doors separating the closet and bathrooms.

Nothing special, there wasn't even a television, but most TV was garbage so that suited Blake just fine. But it was cozy and peaceful. Overall she decided she liked it and looked forward to spending her time in her very own room. With the happy thought in mind, Blake hiked up her bags and made to move in.

"Hiya!"

That is, until an impossibly loud voice sounded off behind her, causing Blake to stop in her tracks. She slowly turned to address the newcomer, and came face to face with a pair of aquamarine eyes framed by a shock of orange hair sitting atop a girl much shorter than herself.

The ginger held out her hand, smile so wide it hurt for Blake to look at it. "I'm Nora!"

"Uh, hi," Blake greeted warily. She readjusted her grip on her bags to indicate she couldn't shake hands, and while the strange girl got the hint and retracted her hand, it did nothing to stop the way she was positively beaming at Blake. "I just moved in," Blake explained, not sure what else to say.

"Really? That's so cool! My friend and I moved in a few weeks ago, and we think it's great! Aside from the fact they keep moving us around to different rooms again and again, but that's what makes it so exciting! We never know where we'll go next and who we'll meet there, and this time we get to meet you!"

My brain… it aches. Blake had no idea how someone could fire off so many words in such a small space of time without going down even a single decibel in volume, and it was already taking its toll on her.

"Nora, at least give her a chance to get settled," a masculine and much calmer voice advised. Blake looked over the Nora girl's head (Which wasn't hard to do, she and Napier would probably get along famously) to see a boy their age standing in the kitchenette of the room across from Blake's. He had pale pink eyes to match the single pink lock nestled in his dark hair.

"Hello, my name is Lie Ren, and this is Nora Valkyrie," the boy introduced whilst stirring batter in a mixing bowl.

"You can just call him Ren," Nora added. Ren didn't seem to care much at all to have the girl determining what people could and couldn't call him.

"It's nice to meet you both. I'm Blake Belladonna."

"Are you going to Beacon?" Nora asked without preamble.

"I would imagine she is if she's staying here," Ren answered for her, unperturbed answering a clearly ludicrous question.

"Oh yeah," Nora realized, poking a finger into her cheek. "You're so smart, Ren!"

"Yes, well, I have to get my things unpacked," Blake said, slowly backing into her room and hoping the ginger would get the hint.

She did not. "Oh! Do you wanna come over for dinner once you're ready? Ren makes the best pancakes!"

"Pancakes?" Blake wondered. It was past six in the evening, who had pancakes at this time of day?

"Whatever Nora wants," Ren said with a beleaguered expression. "I can also make you a salad if that would be more palatable."

Blake didn't have to be a genius to understand Lie Ren was trying to apologize for Valkyrie's actions in his tone. It started to make sense why these two were the only other people up here, away from all the other guests.

A few months ago Blake might have immediately fled back to the reception area and demanded a new room when she had the chance. But looking at Nora's wide, innocent eyes and earnest smile made her remember an extremely girl with light blue eyes and pale pink hair.

So she mustered up a believable smile and said, "That sounds lovely, just give me a few minutes to get my things in order."

"Awesome!" Nora cheered. "You're gonna love Ren's pancakes, I just know it. And there's so much we can talk about! Like how weird Vale's laws are, what kinds of classes Beacon might have, the weapons we use- ooh! Do you like explosives?!"

This is going to be a long winter, isn't it?


Author's Note: Nothing super exciting this chapter, sorry for that. Mostly just more backstory and exposition. But with Blake's new life comes even more changes from canon, and I didn't want to introduce those changes without any warning we we got to Beacon. So fr now this chapter and the next are all about how Blake spends her time between meeting the Arcs and the start of the school year.

As always, thanks for reading and leaving me your thoughts. We have another Omake as well, a continuation of the Jaune Harem AU that everyone's been so keen to read more of!

Omake – The Best Ending: Meet the Belladonnas


It's okay, Jaune, just remain calm. You've done this plenty of times before, so there's no need to worry. I'm certain Blake's parents are going to be kind, rationale people, and they'll understand I'm only trying to help.

Jaune took a long, deep breath to stem his nerves after her heard the doorbell ring. Together he, his mother and father, and Blake all made their way to the front door to greet the guests they had been waiting for. Behind his parents' backs, Jaune and Blake shared a discreet look and nodded to each other.

Henry Arc opened the door to reveal a large, burly man with jet black hair and beard, decked in regal looking clothes befitting of a chieftain of a small country. Jaune's father immediately took note of the man's size and was inordinately pleased, already imagining how large his future grandsons would grow.

Next to him stood a shorter woman who looked remarkably similar to Blake, though obviously older. She had a kind smile, and like his own mother was still quite the beautiful woman despite her age. Blake must have somehow sensed that last thought because she elbowed him in the side.

"You must be the Belladonnas!" his father greeted. "Please, come in and make yourselves at home! We have so much we'd like to discuss with you."

"A pleasure to meet you as well," Ghira Belladonna returned, sharing a high octane hand shake with Jaune's father that sent small tremors spiking throughout the immediate area.

Kali Belladonna sidestepped them all and made a beeline for her daughter, ensconcing her in a tight hug. "Oh my baby girl," she sighed whilst vigorously rubbing Blake's feline ears, "It's so good to finally see you again."

"I… I missed you too, mom," Blake replied, patting her mother on the back. She actually looked to be verklempt over the reunion with her family, and Jaune feared she might forget their plan altogether.

Thankfully Blake still remembered, carefully extricating herself out of her mother's grasp. "Mom, dad, you already know Mr. and Mrs. Arc from when they called you. I'd like to introduce you to… my betrothed… Jaune Arc."

Their two sets of amber eyes focused on him, and Jaune stood a little straighter to try and hide his nervousness. He held a hand out and said, "It's an honor to finally meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Belladonna."

Ghira hummed thoughtfully as he inspected the younger man before him. "So this is the boy who thinks he is worthy to marry my daughter." He roughly grabbed Jaune's hand and gave him the most violent handshake he'd ever experienced. "I hope you live up to the title your father has painted for you."

"You'll have no worry of that!" his father argued happily, seemingly oblivious to the sound of his son's knuckles fracturing in multiple places.

"It's nice to meet you," Kali said with a smile, quietly urging her husband to let go of Jaune's bruised hand. "It's such a treat to meet all of you. And I must thank you for opening up your home to our daughter."

"Our home is always open to family, which will include both of you as well after this weekend," June Arc assured her. "Speaking of which! I have a scrap book full of all the ideas I want to use for the wedding and I've been just dying to see what you think!"

The laughter Kali responded with was just a tad too shaky to be entirely believable. Her eyes sought out her daughter, but Blake could only shrug with a slight wince.

"And while they're going over plans for the wedding, I was hoping I could give you a tour of our house, Mr. Belladonna," Jaune's father offered. "Show you just how much a good home this'll be for the all the grandkids to play around in."

Blake's gaze snapped to Jaune's, her eyes wide and beseeching, and he nodded back to give her the go-ahead. "Actually, Mr. Arc, I heard Nora was heading to the weight room, and she was boasting about how she could lift more than you?"

Henry Arc made a sharp intake of breath. "A challenge of strength? I'm sorry, Mr. Belladonna, but a man of your stature must understand I cannot simply ignore a challenge to our honor!"

"I… understand, I suppose," Ghira acquiesced. He looked to have already gotten to the state where he didn't question Jaune's parents' eccentricities.

"Actually that could give Mr. Belladonna and I some one on one time," Jaune suggested. He pretended he didn't cower when Blake's father slid his gaze over to him. "You know, man to man."

"Sounds good to me!" his father decided. He clapped Ghira on the shoulder and said, "Go easy on my son, will ya? He's still got a ways to go before he can measure up to men like us!" His raucous laughter echoed throughout the house as he made his way to the weight room to face his opponent.

"Well, we better get started on that scrapbook!" Blake said, failing somewhat to not sound too eager. She placed her hands on the backs of both the mothers in the room and forcibly pushed them toward the kitchen. "Wouldn't want to waste any time!"

Once they were gone Jaune took a long breath to steel himself and turned back the father of his bride to be. "Would you like to move to the living room, sir?"

"Certainly," the man agreed. One scene change later the two men found themselves sitting on the family couch, Ghira with his hands in his lap and looking like the very epitome of calm yet deadly below the surface. Despite his best efforts Jaune couldn't keep from dry washing his hands, unable to look the burly man in the eye.

"Just so you are aware, in our culture it's considered an insult to not seek the father's blessing before proposing to his daughter," Ghira told him, a dangerous edge to his voice.

"That's along the lines of what I wanted to talk to you about, sir," Jaune replied, his Adam's Apple bobbing wildly. "There wasn't exactly a proposal, per se."

"I'm aware. Blake broke into your house, and instead of calling the authorities your parents instead decided to force her to marry you. I feel I shouldn't have to point out indentured servitude is also usually seen as an insult, though not just to Faunus in this case."

"And believe me, I understand that! If I were in Blake's shoes I'd hate it too. That's why I'm trying to help her and ensure this marriage doesn't happen."

Ghira's eyes narrowed at him. "You don't want to marry my daughter?"

"I've known Blake for less than a week, sir. Yes, she's beautiful, smart and capable, but that isn't nearly enough time to decide if I want to spend the rest of my life with her. More importantly Blake's made it abundantly clear she doesn't want to marry me, and I don't want to force her into anything she's against."

"I must say that's very noble of you, Jaune Arc," Ghira praised. Jaune didn't even try to hide how much he preened at his kind words. "But do you really think you can convince your parents to let my daughter go?"

"I'm sure of it. Despite how eccentric-"

"Batshit crazy."

"…eccentric my parents can be, they're not malicious. If both you and your wife don't give consent to this marriage, they'll let Blake go, I promise you that. Then you can return home with your long lost daughter and we all get our happy endings."

Ghira cupped his chin in thought. "I have to say this isn't how I foresaw the day going. I expected to fight tooth and nail for my daughter's freedom, and yet here you are freely me handing me the key."

Jaune just shrugged. "Even if we don't know each other that well, Blake's happiness is more important to me than having another wife."

"So you really have a harem then? How many wives do you have, if you don't mind me asking that is?"

"Technically eight, if you count the guy who got dragged into this by his girlfriend." They could just barely hear the orange haired girl shout something about how they weren't like that even though everyone knew they were totally like that.

"And they're all happy here, living with your family?"

"Sure, or at least I think so. We don't exactly act like husband and wives around each other, since this is still relatively new for us all, but I still care about them as much as anyone else in my family. My wives are happy and well looked after, and I try to attend to whatever needs they may have. Given how well we get along I don't see why that friendliness couldn't develop into love down the road. It's not the typical romantic tale, but it works for us, and I'm fine with that."

"That's surprisingly mature of you, young Arc. Most men your age would be clamoring to have even one betrothed as beautiful as the women in your flock, let alone several of them."

"Well, it's not like I don't want a girlfriend," he shrugged, feeling somewhat guilty. "But I'd have preferred actually courting them myself though, to make the bond between us pure."

"I see. You've given me much to think about, Jaune Arc, and yet the answer to my troubles is exceedingly quick to ascertain."

"Sir?" He was confused as to what that meant, and even more so when Mr. Belladonna didn't immediately respond. Instead the man rose from the couch, urging Jaune to do the same. The two faced each other, standing at their fullest heights, and Ghira looked down to him with a warm smile.

Ghira clapped his hands down on both of Jaune's shoulders, practically grinning ear to ear. "My boy, I think you'll make an excellent husband for my daughter."

What?

Pieces of drywall and plaster exploded throughout the room after Blake burst through the wall, a distraught look on her face.

"WHAT?!"

"Ah, Blake there you are!" he greeted happily, pulling Jaune into a friendly yet smothering side hug. "I was just letting your fiancé here know that he has my blessing to marry you."

A glare with the intensity of a thousand suns was squared directly on Jaune, and he swore he heard the fireplace behind him catch on fire. "I thought you were going to try and get me out of this!" she accused.

"I did, I swear! I told him everything!"

"Indeed he did," Ghira agreed. "In just one conversation I learned Jaune Arc is an honest, trustworthy, honorable young man. What more could a father want in the husband to his baby daughter?"

"But but but daddy!" she pleaded. "His parents kidnapped me!"

"Because you broke into their house."

"That's beside the point! How can you just stand there and let me be married off? Don't you want me to come back to Menagerie with you?"

"So you can run off to join a terrorist organization again?" he asked.

Blake's face went ghostly pale. "Uuuuuhhh…"

"Do you know how worried your mother and I were, Blake?" her father continued. "How many sleepless nights we spent thinking about all the danger our baby girl could be in? The fact there was nothing I could do to help you brought me no end of anguish."

Then he gestured to the house they were in now, breaking out into a large smile. "Then we receive word our daughter is in the hands of people who can not only capture her, but also keep her from going anywhere! Better yet, they've provided her with food, a home, and a strapping young man to keep her happy. And you think I'd just give that up? Ha! Fat chance!"

"But…" Blake looked widely between the two of them, lost for words. Even if Jaune weren't being crushed into the man's side, he couldn't think of anything to say to make this situation better either. "But…"

"Speaking of butts, I can't help but notice you inherited your mother's magnificent rear," Ghira went on, and both Jaune and Blake went green in the face. "I simply must see the wedding dress and determine if it brings out your best features. Oh, there's so much planning we need to do in such a short amount of time! Jaune, do you think your parents will let us invite a few friends from our country? Say, a few dozen of them?"

As Ghira rambled on about the wedding, with Jaune slowly but surely losing consciousness, he watched as Blake raced to the nearest window, ripping the entire thing out of the wall, stuck her head out of the gaping hole, and screamed her lungs out.

"FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU-"