Jaune sighed softly as he looked over his status one last time, grimacing a bit as he did so.

Name: Jaune Arc

Title: Underdog, Master of Life and Death

Age: 11 years

Aging rate: 48.75% normal human rate (inapplicable until 18 years of age)

Lv: 165

Health: 33610 [100%]

Health regen: 15.36% per minute (reduced by 90% during combat)

Aura: 64920 [100%]

Aura regen: 15.73% per minute (reduced by 90% during combat)

Vitality: 526 (1610)

Endurance: 469 (1436)

Strength: 497 (1522)

Dexterity: 621 (1901)

Intelligence: 521 (1596)

Wisdom: 481 (1473)

Stat points: 0

Luck: ?

Charisma: ?

While his stats had apparently increased at a bloated rate over the course of the last 6 levels, Jaune was well aware this was a rather hollow increase, for the most part. While his Aura mastery leveling up by 1 had been a portion of the spike, the largest contribution came from Crocea Mors passing another threshold in aura resonance, raising the rank of its User strengthening somewhat and increasing the blade's bonus from a +40 bonus to all base stats up to a +80 bonus, which -after his aura modifier- basically translated to an additional 120 points in all of his stats.

Unfortunately, he was only just barely passed the threshold at which he acquired this bonus, meaning that an aura over-limit of any level would undoubtedly drop Crocea's reserves back below said threshold, effectively dropping his stats by around 20 levels worth of stat points, on top of the fact that his blade's stats would drop along with it.

He was at the point (thanks to the now awake Crocea's help) that he could more or less control smaller aura over-limits, although it was limited to tiny bursts (which was more akin to a somewhat overpowered aura infusion) or everything (which might cause damage comparable to the bomb the fang had planted and simultaneously send him into a near death state at best), the latter of which was useless if he hadn't already dealt with nearly everything and the former having the aforementioned consequences of dropping his stat points drastically for a single empowered attack. Given a few more days, Jaune would've been able to build up enough additional Aura within his blade to use a handful of bursts, but a few days were far more than he had at this point.

While there were only 4 opponents (that he knew of, at least) working with the White Fang that posed a real threat to Jaune (Adam, the Albain twins, and to a much lesser extent the Lieutenant) he remained worried simply because of how confident Adam was about the operation. The White Fang Knew that Jacques Schnee would be accompanied by 2 of the B-rank combatants he'd hired (the 2 A-rankers and handful of other B-rankers were apparently deployed to guard certain shipments and oversee business operations elsewhere) yet Adam and the level 120 lieutenant were apparently the only ones (discounting the rank and file) that would partake in the assault on the SDC head. This was apparently not an issue as Adam professed to having an 'Ace in the hole' that he said he'd unveil just before the beginning of the operation.

While Jaune's Dexterity could be considered well into low B-rank with Crocea mors' increased enhancement, the rest of his stats were still High to Peak C-rank. Use of his now level 12 «Limit Cut» skill could boost his physical stats by around 15%, but the cost of that was his stamina depleting at nearly fourfold its normal rate alongside eventual health loss over time, and even that boost only brought his weaker physical stats up to low B-rank at best and his Dexterity to slightly below Mid B-rank. His skill levels were somewhat higher, fortunately, with both his swordsmanship and shield mastery pushing into the upper 40s as expert tier skills that -augmented by his preternatural eyesight's pseudo precognition and Crocea mors' supernatural sharpness and balance- meant he didn't fall behind on that front.

In fact, if it was just a matter of fighting Adam Taurus in an open confrontation Jaune was quite optimistic about his odds, even if the terrorist was a good 24 levels above him. The problem was that it wasn't that simple and that Adam was apparently confident he could defeat or bypass 2 B-ranks, specifically 1 Mid B-rank and one high B-rank, both of which were equipped with top of the line gear from the SDC. While it was possible that Adam was just an arrogant douche getting in over his head, the sheer amount of planning and effort put into this horror show of an operation put it falling apart over one man's arrogance into the realm of a near impossibility, particularly considering Adam had been on an international wanted list for the last year and a half and had all but assuredly dodged opponents he wasn't able to defeat numerous times, suggesting some awareness of his own ability and limits.

The Fang had been given outright terrifyingly precise information regarding the SDC's security systems and who would be present at the party by their benefactor, up to and including patrol routes, paladin numbers, and a full bio on any prospective attendee with even a shred of aura available to them. Jaune's suspicions that Rook was their benefactor had only heightened, especially when he learned that in the preceding days multiple A-rank hunters had been called on an emergency mission en mass in order to respond to a surge of high level Grimm drawn towards a wave of negative emotions from a satellite town around an hour from Atlas by bullhead.

While it might seem like bad luck, the rush of negative emotions within that satellite town was the result of 'bureaucratic errors' that somehow left the entire town without any power or method of communicating for days on end as people froze to death only for said communication error to be resolved just in time to force immediate deployment of whatever high-level hunters were available, i.e. the A-ranks kept in reserve, in order to ensure that the town wasn't overrun which would only lead to further panic. While none of Atlas' A-ranks had been killed or even significantly wounded descriptions of the fight suggested they had burned through a lot of aura culling the horde -undermanned as they were- and Jaune had even seen an image on the dust net of James Ironwood looking downright exhausted when he'd returned. It had reminded Jaune of just how damn lucky he was that his aura regenerated so quickly, and that others with immense reserves required upwards to entire weeks to fully recover after expending their reserves.

To give a short overview of all this; The majority of the A-rank combatants in Atlas were low on aura just before what would potentially be the largest terrorist attack in decades because of 'bureaucratic errors'.

Considering the numbers Jaune had crunched, the required specs of an airship capable of generating enough power to quickly detonate the prospective black dust bomb after it passed the 70% threshold limited it to super-prototype Atlesian airships now, and what would presumably be top of the line ones 4 and a halfish years from now when the black dust bomb would have originally detonated in Vale. The apparent ability to go about 'Misplacing' a top of the line airship for a long enough period of time to install a specialized explosive and then bring it over to Vale before anyone even thought to ask, 'where is that multi-billion lien shiny again?' screamed of a top-level executive suffering from similar 'bureaucratic errors' aka setting the whole thing up and probably framing some poor pencil pusher for the whole thing and getting away scot free.

Seeing as some poor (and unsurprisingly low ranking) bastard had gotten the blame for the current mishap, Jaune was fairly certain that Rook's prospective rotten executive had set up this little mess and gotten away clean. Of course, perhaps he was just being naïve hoping that only one high executive was corrupt enough to let hundreds or thousands of people die for personal gain and this had nothing to do with Rook at all, is what he be tempted to say if the movement of Grimm hadn't been the way it was. Which is to say that the high-ranking Grimm that would've slaughtered the settlement in minutes (removing the need for a rapid response) were both just slow enough that the A-ranks could reach the settlement if they left immediately and just fast enough that they couldn't wait to call back some B-ranks from various missions lest the settlement be overrun. Additionally, while the Grimm didn't arrive all at once like they did in Kuroyuri, almost all of the stronger ones had been part of the first wave, with only lower level Grimm remaining by the time the other hunters arrived.

Considering the rest of Atlesian security protocols, it was sadly unsurprising to Jaune that it was likely possible to do a merry little jig around morality and shove off the blame to someone else with a little creative bookkeeping, so to speak.

Regardless the point was that Rook (and Jaune was pretty damn sure it was them) was comprised of (or at least lead by) a bunch of crafty motherfuckers, and they wouldn't let what was now little more than a gang screw up their careful planning. If Adam said he had an Ace in the hole, then he had an ace in the hole. Not because of his own merit or because he was well prepared, but because Rook wouldn't let it be otherwise.

This meant that Adam was confident he could overwhelm two B-rank hunters considerably stronger than Jaune and that Jaune somehow had to deal with something those 2 B-rank hunters couldn't if he didn't want his chances of finding Rook to plummet, and that's not even mentioning the fact that he had to deal with the fang's bomb beforehand, which would likely mean overwhelming 2 peak C-rank combatants.

While he'd sort of strong armed both Roman Torchwick and his accomplice Neo, the two of them were probably an even match for the Albain twins at best, and they wouldn't be the three musketeers by any sense of the phrase. If things went badly they'd probably ditch him, having someone out for your head -no matter how dangerous- was definitely the lesser evil compared to losing your head, meaning that if it was a life or death situation he couldn't count on them to keep fighting.

Yet as much as he'd like to try and improve his odds somehow, the whole thing was going down in less than 2 hours and anything he could possibly do wouldn't take effect in time for it matter by now. He simply had to accept the shitty odds and do the best he could with them, something that was an annoyingly familiar thing for him, to be honest.

He had received one more boon a short while ago in the form of the trait he had been told was close to manifesting finally appearing, something that had had happened back when he was level 163, but although it had considerable future benefits and some immediate ones, it also ended up raising quite a few questions; Namely if he was tricking Roman as much as he thought he was.

Assassin's Lineage: Although previously buried under the Heroic Lineage inherent to the Arc clan, your continuous usage of covert skills and abilities has resulted in your aura and semblance bringing this disposition to the surface and out of dormancy. You are a descendent of a family of assassins so skilled that few knew they ever existed; although, when exactly such individuals intermixed with the Arc clan is unknown to you. +2 Dexterity and Endurance per level. Increases the potency and growth rate of all stealth based skills by 20%.

While it had been momentarily jarring to realize that at least some of his ancestors were at some point hired killers, it had been something Jaune had come to accept rather quickly. His own progression rate in regards to covert skills had been nothing short of insane, even accounting for his semblance, and it actually made sense that he'd inherited the talent for it somewhere, even if said talent hadn't been entirely manifested until now. It was unfortunate that the stat bonuses didn't apply retroactively, but an additional 2 dexterity and endurance each level from now on was still a substantial boost, even if it didn't really help him in his current situation.

Pulling himself out of his introspection Jaune pulled his mask on and slipped from the shadows revealing himself to Roman and the leaders of the various criminal groups Roman had recruited to try and 'clean up the white fang's shit' as the thief had so eloquently put it.

'Well' Jaune mused to himself 'its show time, I guess'.

"This can't be happening" A gray haired man groaned for the fourth time "So much work down the fucking drain." He complained.

"So you've said, so I know, so quit complaining about it and use whatever braincells you can scrape together to work towards stopping this as best we can." Roman Torchwick shot back in aggravation "as I've told you half a dozen times, if this shit storm goes out in full force Atlesian officials are going to be given a bloody blank check to do whatever the fuck they want to weed out everything not shiny and law abiding, rights be damned, and people are going to be far too scared to complain about it."

The man growled before quieting down, after which another man -the leader of a mid-sized gang- spoke up "Where's that short bastard that told you about this shit show anyway, did he ditch us and leave?" the man complained "Cause if he did I swear ill hunt him down and gank him after this."

Neo grinned sadistically as the man spoke before holding one finger up and twirling it around.

"What the hell does that mean?"

Roman sighed looking over the man's shoulder "it means turn around, that 'short bastard' is-"

"Behind you" a new voice chimed in, causing the man to jump and spin around, finding himself faced with a pair of apathetic blue eyes looking at him from between his two guards who also jumped in shock at the figure's sudden disappearance.

"Fun fact" Roman smiled "That short bastard is actually an assassin on par with Neo and I'd hazard a guess that he's been in the room with us since the meeting began"

"I've been here long enough" Jaune said noncommittally slipping past the two stunned guards at a sedated pace, his movements such that half the room momentarily lost sight of him as he walked around the table to an empty spot. As Jaune causally took a seat, his manner calm and unruffled like he owned the place, the rest of the table -save Roman and Neo- focused on him with a mixture of shock and awe.

"A semblance!?" the man who had seconds ago threaten to gank Jaune accused, attempting to hide his fear with bluster.

"No" cut off an interested looking young woman with purple hair and piercing golden-yellow eyes "Skill." She stated with surety "He didn't use a scrap of aura, so it wasn't a semblance, besides, I've seen someone move like that before -Once- although theirs was a bit more refined than yours." She noted directing the last part at Jaune, pausing for a minute in thought "Funnily enough, she was blonde too, although I never caught her name."

Jaune let off an amused huff "Funny indeed." He replied neutrally, mildly noting Roman paling slightly out of the corner of his eye and deciding to credit this one to his Luck stat and simply appreciate the fact that his story had been backed up by coincidental evidence "but not a pressing issue at the moment, considering our current time constraints."

The woman huffed "Fair enough" she acquiesced "Also," she began shifting her attention to another target "Roman I'm totally calling bullshit on the little wolf over here only being on par with your little ice cream demon, cause either she's been holding back or you're spewing shit."

Jaune let out a low laugh "From what I can tell about him from the few weeks I've known of him, your best guess is probably a bit of both."

Roman scoffed "I'm glad our time together has been so special to you that it already feels like we've known each other for weeks now, considering we met yesterday." He shot back, clearly having noticed that fact that Jaune and the woman were quickly gaining control over the meeting.

Jaune snorted "No Roman, you met me yesterday" he corrected "I met you two weeks ago during that dust heist of yours when I was seeing if you'd finally cross the line on how much you could steal at a time -everyone knows you've been toeing that line for months- so I could get away with stealing your stuff without the rest of the Atlesian underworld cutting me off." Jaune sighed morosely "While I was sad at the time, I suppose it was a good thing you didn't take that last box of Grade 10 fire dust you found on that bullhead. That stuff is expensive and it would've put you and yours way over the cost limit." He finished mildly.

The woman snorted at that "He almost took it didn't he."

"He must've stared at it conflictedly like a child choosing between two puppies for fifteen minutes before leaving it behind" Jaune confirmed mildly "Well, regardless that was how I knew enough about him that I figured he'd be able to organize a meeting like this, at least."

Roman grimaced "Yes, yes, yes" He chided, unsuccessfully -in the case of Jaune and the woman at least- attempting to distract from his somewhat pale visage "Now that you kiddies are done gossiping let's get back to the meat of the matter."

"Indeed," Jaune smoothly cut him off "speaking of which Taurus says he's got a trump card, one which he believes is enough to get them by the 2 B-rankers the SDC head has guarding him -and yes, the Fang do know that- and while I know most of you won't be heading anywhere near that little catastrophe, there's no guarantee it is anything resembling precise in application." The surrounding criminals nodded at this as Jaune gave it a moment to sink in before he continued "Also, speaking of cats, bull-boy's little apprentice seems to be one Blake Belladonna -yes that Belladonna- and while she did appear adverse to this little shit-storm she's still here and part of it, if only due to peer pressure. While Menageries' chieftain has cut ties with the fang, his daughter being killed will likely make any reservations he has towards blowing people up go away." Jaune paused again before reiterating "For those of you who don't understand context clues; Don't kill the kitty or else the Fang will probably swell in numbers with Ghira's -Who is the chieftain of Menagerie and the aforementioned kitty's father, for those of you who are idiots- support."

The room exploded with chatter at this, many of the criminals looking alarmed at the prospect of accidentally making what amounted to a kingdom's leader an enemy, before the woman Jaune had been talking with earlier took charge again.

The golden eyed woman's voice cut through the chatter with ease "Why would she even be here? You'd think her father would've dragged her back home" she noted directing her question to Jaune.

Jaune shrugged "The problem about giving up control of a massive global organization, is that you're no longer in charge of a massive global organization" he noted dully "He probably hasn't seen hide nor hair of his daughter since he stepped down, I can hardly see the current leaders being enthusiastic about losing their only tie to the man. As for the girl, well, she's, what 11? They're probably keeping her compliant through peer pressure and what remains of her positive feelings for the fang from when she was younger. To be honest I don't think the fang's higher ups particularly care if she lives or dies though, so long as she doesn't leave, it's the only reason I can find for them putting her on an operation like this."

The woman raised a single eyebrow "Well they need manpower, don't they."

Jaune nodded "Yes but from what I can tell the girl's only about on par with the average member of the rank and file, perhaps a bit above. From another perspective she's already that good even though she's only 11, you don't waste that kind of talent for the future by using her as a mook when she's young." He shrugged "It's pretty brutal, but I think their high command would prefer it if she died, since it would probably bring her father and all the influence he has back behind them, so long as they play her death off in a certain manner, grief can blind even the wisest of men after all."

The woman grimaced "Yeah, I know I'm a criminal myself and all but that's a little…"

"Fucked up?" Jaune replied "Yeah, to be honest I'm thinking of snatching her up as this mess dies down and then dumping her back at her parents' house." He shrugged "Should be worth a favor or two, and I get to go to sleep at night with a light heart" he finished semi-sarcastically.

The woman snorted at that "Wow, you're a real hero, aren't yah little wolf." she drawled with amused sarcasm.

Jaune huffed in amusement "Yep, I'm a regular old cannibalistic wolf in sheep's clothing." He joked before growing serious again "We have about an hour and forty minutes now before the explosives are set to detonate, Taurus should set off for his position near the SDC party in about twenty minutes after which he's ordered the rest of the fang to enact radio silence until the operation starts, I went ahead and tinkered with their main communications systems so that I can make that less an order and more a technical absolute at the push of a button. Taurus' infiltration point is an old disused maintenance tunnel, so he'll be far and away from any of the secondary bomb sites, meaning we have about an hour and twenty minutes to disarm as many of the explosives as we can without Taurus noticing anything and detonating them manually. I assume you all have your people in their places by now, right?"

Roman jumped at the chance to try and regain control of the meeting "Yes, I've already arranged that while you were snooping around for scraps throughout those animal's dens, no thanks to you." Jaune scoffed in amusement as Roman forged on "There's a reason you had to come to me to get this whole thing done after all, Mr. Zero-underworld contacts."

"It's a leadership skill called delegation, Roman, I tell you things you're wholly incapable of noticing by yourself -such as this whole shit show, for example- then I tell you what to do and you deal with the nitty gritty details." Jaune fired back mildly "Now if you're done trying to jockey for influence that really doesn't matter at the moment, we have work to do. Unless, that is, you're backing out of dealing with the Albain twins to go smoke Cigars and reapply your mascara?"

"I do not wea-" Roman snarled before cutting off as Jaune held up an oddly familiar container of mascara "Hey that's mine! Do you know how expensive tha-" Roman froze, numbly catching the container as Jaune tossed it to him.

"Did you seriously just let me Looney-tune you?" Jaune drawled "Cause like seriously that shit's not supposed to work on real people."

Roman simply looked mortified mouthing something in horror for a few more moments before mechanically pocketing his make-up and simply glaring at the rest of the room.

"Well now that that little show is over, Roman meet up with me at the entrance to the sewers nearest to the primary bomb site within twenty minutes, I've got a few things to do including making sure Taurus is in his hole before I cut his communications, lest he notice its actually disabled rather than just in a state of radio silence." At this Jaune stood up, cutting off his presence and quickly disappearing from sight.

After sending of some of my supposed subordinates to their assignment I had managed to slip off and reconnect with the rest of my unit for a few moments, twirling my purple hair in my hand, I briefed my second in command on what new information the masked assassin had brought forth to the meeting "…And that's everything I know for the moment, have you managed to clear anyone else to join the op or are we still reliant on the underworld groups for the heavy lifting?"

"Sorry ma'am, but that assassin that uncovered this is definitely correct in that it's an inside job by someone of a relatively high ranking. If even one of the people in on it learns we know what's going to happen the amount of civilian casualties and damage will be calamitous, the only ones we might be able to trust are a few of the A-ranks and they're still tired and low on aura from the disaster with that satellite settlement."

My second in command's reply was expected, if still disappointing. Frowning somewhat at the situation, I sighed softly and gave out my last orders to the rest of my unit "Shit, well stick to the plan then, I'll do what I can from this end." I finished before disconnecting my hidden headpiece's connection and straightening up, shifting to move before a familiar voice spoke up from directly behind me, freezing the blood in my veins momentarily before I spun around.

"No luck on your end then, Miss black ops commander?" The blonde assassin wearing a wolf themed mask drawled as he met my gaze with bored blue eyes that seemed to stare straight through me.

"H-how?" I couldn't help but stutter, stunned at the fact that I'd apparently been outed.

'Because my semblance is bullshit, that's how' I mused to myself in response to the woman's stuttered question.

Atlesian Black Ops Commander, Hidden Blade, Infiltrator
Yoruichi Shihōin
Lv 170

Seeing as the truth was out of the question and the woman was still waiting for an answer, I resorted to the good old standby of sarcasm and half-truths "Because I'm better at this that you" probably "And the fact that I was semi-desperately holding onto the hope that someone in Atlas's command structure was actually competent, leading to me looking into what I could of Atlas's black ops division a bit yesterday and -low and behold- competent information compartmentalization, oh for small miracles."

The woman who I'd spent most of the previous meeting conversing with seemed to recover a bit at my comment, although she seemed slightly unnerved at the implication that I'd be able to figure out something significant in less than a day, which I had by virtue of my level 60 elite tier stealth skill enhanced by my trait and title boosts, but she still managed to hold her composure quite well "What do you want." She shot back, clearly having realized that there would have been no reason for me to reveal my knowledge of her identity if I didn't want something.

"To warn you that someone at the very top is at the core of this, and that they've probably already completely washed their hands of everything and will get away with it this time, as they have before." I spoke bluntly, to her visible shock.

"What do you mean by that?"

I sighed before lifting up 1 finger "Let's put it this way, the information the fang has been given on the Atlesian security systems is of such accuracy and spread that it is basically everything there is to know." I lifted up a second finger "days prior to what is probably the largest terrorist attack in decades, all on-station A-rank hunters associated with the Atlesian military are forced to almost entirely exhaust themselves due to bureaucratic errors turning an entire satellite town into Grimm Bait." You pause "see where I'm going with this?"

A conflicted looked crossed her face before she refuted "There's no evidence that its anything more than bad luck, what your saying is that a councilman or general at the very least is working with terrorists and getting away with it, someone would have noticed it."

I shrugged "I suppose I can't blame you for thinking that, but remember two things; two people can keep a secret if one of them is dead, and…" I trailed off momentarily, turning and starting to leave as I did so "That Once is chance, Twice is coincidence, and Three times is enemy action" I paused again before calling out over my shoulder one last time as I left the alleyway "So even if you don't believe me now, try and keep your head down and your eyes open for that 3rd time… or a lot of people might suffer for it."

With those parting words I shot off towards my meeting point with Roman and Neo, I had work to do after all.

It had been 5 minutes since I had spoken to the Atlesian black ops commander and 10 since I had cut off the fang's coms, having confirmed that Taurus had ordered the beginning of radio silence until the op. While I wasn't too optimistic, I hoped that having at least 1 member of the Atlesian special forces keeping an eye out for things might help avert the airship being stolen -unlikely as that was- but the major reason I had attempted to make the black ops commander keep her eyes open was because I hoped she could at least figure out who pulled the trigger on the misplacement of the airship after it was stolen.

While the woman was only level 170 at this point, she was also only 24, meaning that although she was a bit behind my elder sister (who was B-rank at that point) she was still quite a bit faster than most in terms of progress, to say nothing of the fact that she was actually a black ops commander at that age. The fact that she had infiltrated and been basically regulating the criminal underworld in preparation for a bust -an operation wholly based on her own skill by what I found- and had refrained from reporting to her superiors about this whole thing for risk of compromising it was a far better resume than anyone else I had met had regarding covert operations.

That issue aside, I now found myself in a state of abject rage standing in the shadows of a rooftop staring at the popup in front of me. Considering the severity of the operation I had been ready to bite the bullet and make use of a certain title that I really, really, didn't want to but when I had attempted to equip it, a rather infuriating popup had appeared as the title failed to equip.

The Title «Legendary Nevermore Knight» may not be equipped at this time, the current event is heavily related to «Jaune Arc» and hence prevents the interference of a heroic persona at this time.


Not only was its mere existence a source of borderline existential embarrassment, but the one time I had been willing to bear with it for a powerup I WASN'T ALLOWED TO EQUIP THE BLOODY THING.

Pushing down the urge to scream I forced myself to calm down, shaking myself momentarily, before setting off towards my meeting point with Roman and Neo once more.

3 fucking days. That was how long it had taken for everything I'd spent the last 15 years building up to go from stable and growing to all but doomed and unsalvageable.

Perhaps the worst part of it was that it could have been worse… That it would have been worse if I hadn't had the sheer dumb luck to have unwittingly shown enough competence to some ghost of an assassin that he decided to use me to orient the criminal underground for damage control. I had managed to get a bit of influence and resources available to me outside of Atlas, mostly by careful spreading of the information I had been handed on a silver plate, but even with that I knew It'd be at least 5 or 6 years until I could re-attain the level of influence and power I had… or at least thought I'd had, a few days ago.

I was pissed at the White Fang, I was pissed at that Wolf Masked bastard, I was pissed at the Atlesian government, but most of all I furious with myself. Furious that I hadn't noticed this early enough that I could strangle it in the fucking cradle, which I could have done with a month or, hell, two weeks with some difficulty. Furious that I had to be told by someone who had been in Atlas for maybe 2 or 3 months tops, who admitted to having next to no personal connections or personal resources in Atlas, who had been most slowed downed by spending the time to force me to take him seriously after he had basically ganked the entirety of Atlas's white fang in intrigue in barely 2 days.

Furious that I had begun to be no different from the government I mocked and scorned as being far too inflexible and routine. Furious that it was only now that I realized I had adopted the same flaws, routinely dealing with Atlesian protocol, habitually using structured inflexible methods to go around them. I had lost my edge and become a dull machine, lost or at least forgotten my own ability to adapt to things on the fly and see the whole picture, not simply the picture I expected.

When I realized that it was no longer just Neo and I standing on a rooftop overlooking an alleyway that contained a manhole into the sewers, I did not start or jump or flinch as I stared at the masked blonde that stood beside us. This wasn't because I had seen him coming or because he'd arrived on the rooftop with us, in fact I had no clue when exactly he had come to be standing alongside us. One moment he hadn't been there, the next it seemed only natural that he was.

Such horrifyingly precise ability to control one's presence, such that he could even simply make himself slowly there, for lack of a better word, bypassing the typical surprise one would feel at someone suddenly appearing and instead simply becoming a natural part of the area.

I was beginning to realize the biggest gap between the blonde and my multicolored compatriot. While Neo's ability in covert operations were impressive, this was only in staying hidden and not being noticed or otherwise disguising herself, specialized for extremely short-term infiltrations and assassinations. The blonde was good at that and everything else, he was a god-damned generalist with skills that put to shame all but the most supremely skilled specialists in their fucking strong points.

He could conceal his presence, hide in a crowd, pick a pocket, break into a building, hack a computer, eavesdrop, infiltrate, assassinate, manipulate, blackmail, find someone's weak points, and dozens of other things with absolute confidence and ease, as if they were only a single skill instead of dozens of them… and perhaps… and perhaps to him they were.

Despite how assured I had been earlier I had started to wonder if, perhaps, the assassin in front of me was actually closer to his apparent age that I had initially thought possible. The absurdly uniform nature of his covert skills could only be explained by a completely equal cumulative degree of talent, experience, and practice in each -which was ridiculously unlikely- or by being something that had been solely taught by a teacher who had deliberately shored up his weak points to maintain equilibrium -hard to believe but not wholly outlandish-.

In terms of physical condition, someone with the physical ability and condition of a hunter should not end up as short as the assassin appeared, even rather severe malnourishment and over exercise would only marginally stunt the growth of a person with aura, unless he had a naturally short adult height like Neo -which was fairly rare, especially for males- he should definitely have been much taller.

The rather high pitch of the assassin's voice was another suspect point, while he typically spoke in what was a roughly average pitch for an adult, his laughter was much higher pitched. From the ridiculous number of odd facts and common habits I'd memorized when I was first learning to read people, I knew that the average male laughs at a pitch about 2 ½ times higher than their normal speech while I pegged the masked assassin's laughter as being at least 3 ½ or 4 times higher, meaning he was either a weird laugher or his voice was naturally much higher pitched than he pretended it was.

While both his height and high-pitched voice could be simple genetic traits, having both was also fairly typical of a boy prior to puberty.

The assassin's complete lack of contacts and subordinates as well as the fact that he was new to Atlas was another indicator, for an experienced assassin to have never once gone to Atlas -one of the four kingdoms- seemed suspect considering his skill level, this would only be explainable by something like -for example- an extremely short career.

Finally, the little performance he'd shown earlier, with a casual effort causing half of a room filled with relatively skilled thieves and the like to lose sight of him while he was walking was the fifth and -as far as I was concerned- final nail in the coffin. The masked… boy… I suppose, had shown the ability to perfectly manipulate his presence when he was concentrating on it. When it came to skills like that the hard part was bringing it up to perfection, making it so you could do it reflexively was relatively easy after that, considering all you needed to do was constantly use it until it had become a habit and the only thing that required… was time. Time an 11 or 12-year-old would not yet have had.

It brought to mind a saying I had heard once, that the type of person who could reach A-rank was a once in a decade prodigy, while the type of person would could reach S-rank was a once in a century monster.

While there were only 5 S-ranks alive at the moment, I suppose that trend fits, considering that simply having the potential doesn't mean a person will live to reach it. By my own reckoning, the last person with that kind of potential would've been the Arc that single handedly ganked Mistral before his death, and considering he was nearing a century old at the time (crazy young for a peak, borderline pinnacle A-rank hunter) and seeing as it's been more than 70 years since then…

…Well I suppose Remnant is long overdue the birth of a new monster.


This chapter gave me a frankly ridiculous amount of trouble, and even now I am not totally satisfied with it. The only parts that came fairly easily was the second half of the criminal meeting, the Yoruichi expy being a black ops commander thing, and Roman's introspection. The rest of the chapter fought me tooth and nail, and honestly I intended to start the actual fight and bomb defusal part of this arc in this chapter but I just couldn't flow into it in a way that satisfied me, so I'm going use the chapter breakup to do so.

I also wanted to get this chapter out to show that the story is not dead, while I am struggling a bit I have a lot of things planned out still and am still actively working on it (in terms of time I spend on it, if not progress)

Regarding consumables, while I think I will be doing the small permanent stat increase ones, I'm probably going to not have recovery or temporary stat boosting items derived from Jaune's semblance.

In place of that, to show Jaune's semblance growing I have come up with another alternative that he will eventually unlock that I think fits in well.

As for Jaune's new assassin's lineage trait, I'm pretty happy with the fact that no one guessed what it was around. If you think I didn't give any clues, well;

The first time it was mentioned was when he killed the Nuckelavee, which was an opponent he could not beat in head to head combat and instead did so by slipping through its defenses and one-hit killing it, earlier on he killed an Ursa without it ever seeing him, something he also did killing Beowolves in chapter 1 (not counting the prologue). Since the trait was expressly said to be developing based on behaviors and actions -plural- and Jaune already has a trait centered around being in extreme danger, one of the other major aspects of the battle, this was the first hint.

Jaune did not receive a popup after his fight with mistrals black ops despite its touch and go nature near the end -a hint that it wasn't battle related- because he got arrogant and revealed himself at the end, botching his otherwise excellent stealth which combined with the rather massive skill gap between him and his opponents (in covert skills at least) meant he gained no progress towards the trait manifesting.

After his fight with the Saber toothed Reavers the trait was indicated to be close to manifesting, following a battle he won by fooling his opponents and luring them into a disadvantageous position and then turning the hunters into the hunted in a battle he would not have won in a flat-out fight.

So, while it wasn't extremely clear, I personally think I hinted at it quite well, to say nothing of the fact that Jaune's growth in covert skills being so much higher than basically anything else was meant to act as a hint on its own.

Well enough of me talking about how it all went according to my Keikaku*, I hope you all enjoyed this chapter, bye for now.

*Note Keikaku means plan