All right, well here we are. Welcome to Secrets? What Secrets?, a new story that I've recently written after the idea popped in my head some way that I honestly can't remember. As you can probably tell from the summary, this is a pretty Jaune-centric story. The reason I wanted to do this, however, is because I've seen the whole reading minds idea before in RWBY fics, but most of the time they're crack one shots that are intended to be short and funny.

I want this story to be serious.

Still, I think I'll write this as a short story in my mind, but if enough people like it I can easily turn it into a full length story.

Let me know in the comments, and review if you want me to keep writing!

The sector of Vale he navigated through was bustling and bright, centered in the modernized district of the city and surrounded by blinding light. There was a surprising amount of people out and about for how late it was, and his balance was almost lost more than a few times just from brushing shoulders. He managed to stay on his feet, but more importantly he managed to stay his eyes on the structure he risked a whole bullhead flight for.

An airport.

Another airship, another round of motion sickness. It felt a little unfair that he had to take one from Beacon to Vale, and then to Ansel, but the airfield at Beacon was so small that it was basically a two-way bus stop between the big city and its sole hunstman academy.

Jaune Arc stared at the luminous complex of buildings and runways listlessly. He couldn't stop mulling over Beacon. He'd only been enrolled for a short period of time, and yet the academy already felt like home. More of a home than his real home, anyway. The selfsame home that he was standing in front of an airport to go home to right this very moment.

Is this the right decision?

Yes... Yes, of course it was. In fact, it was so much the right decision that Jaune was an absolute idiot for not considering it before. Catching the soonest flight back to Ansel was smart. It was smart, it was safe, it was easy... it wasn't what he wanted.

The blond shook his head vigorously. Ren was probably sitting on the edge of his bed calculating where Jaune might have gone like the shrewd thinker he was. Nora had almost definitely interrogated everyone at Beacon and threatened to break their legs if they didn't cooperate. It was just her style.

And Pyrrha... She was certainly out there looking for him. In the dead of night, using her intellect and honed skills to systematically track him down. She would find him eventually. He couldn't let that happen.

Jaune didn't think he could bear to see her face as he left. Her expression all twisted, a mixture of pain, dismay, and the underlying feeling of betrayal. He didn't know if he could endure to hear her parting words, those damn goodbyes that he always coveted of his sister when she never let him, but this time he finally understood why. He knew for a fact that he would melt away into a contrite ooze if her gaze seared into his back, as he walked onto the very same bullhead that would steal him away and disband Team JNPR.

It would be too painful.

The teen sighed, letting muddy thoughts drift away. After all, he'd only been a shade acquainted with the three; merely a week. Dividing the team now wasn't heartbreak, it was a bountiful mercy. If he were to stick around Beacon any longer, his inevitable separation would only be more agonzing when they finally parted ways.

Unless he stayed. Commited to remain as a faux student for the entirety of his four years and risk dying or suffering charges of a fradulent sharp practice. Funnily enough, those serious impediments actually made him consider returning to Beacon, and not for the first time tonight. The longing for his team, the whole atmosphere felt right to him; something about the school made his heart flutter. Could this be what his sister loved so much about Beacon?

"Could I go back? I can just say I went out to repair my armor. Everything would go back to how it was."

He wanted nothing more of the world than to let him. In all honesty he never chose to go back home. It was mandated, however, because just yesterday Jaune realized how unfit he was to be at Beacon.

And not in the physical way - although he was lacking in that as well - but rather in the skills way, the honed senses, the instincts so sharpened that nothing slipped by.

It was just a friendly spar vs. Pyrrha when he realized that.

The girl was renowned. She was a championship fighter, a graduate of Sanctum Academy, enough prestige to even earn Weiss Schnee's recognition and affection.

At the beginning of their spar, Jaune thought his performance was passable. He never expected to be very handy with a sword, and while he was clearly on the defensive, he wasn't getting totally demolished.

Of course, that fantasy-like moment was swiftly trampled on once he realized that she was going easy on him. Just a little too hesitant there, a touch distracted there. Always aimed for his sword instead of his body, his shield rather than his legs. Even when Jaune was literally lying on the floor prone, she feigned exhaustion and allowed him to recover in time.

And the worst part? She denied everything.

She was too skilled, too smart, too crafty. She was too good. Too good for him...

Then damn, why did he miss her so much!?

The blond clutched his hair madly, thrashing his head around with certified disgust. With himself, with what he was about to do to Pyrrha. Maybe he should go back to Beacon...

After all, what was the worst that could happen?

I could die... he pounded into his head once again as a hand ran through blond locks.

Jaune shrugged it off though, allowing his azure eyes to drift close and the rush around him fade into a din. It wasn't a new realization, and yet no matter how many times tonight he stepped into the airport, next in line for the ticket stands and ready to catch the next flight back to Ansel, something stopped him everytime.

He wanted to say it was that his parents would kill him, if his sisters didn't do it first, but in the corner of is mind he knew it was something more.

Pyrrha... Pyrrha was the main reason, or rather the main symbol of what he didn't want to leave behind. And that was his friendship. With his partner, with Ren and Nora, with Ruby Rose and even the rest of Team RWBY...

A short, ping vibrated in his pocket.

Sighing, he pulled out his scroll. It was a text message, from Pyrrha. He could hazard a pretty good guess as to what it was going to say. Even so, he grudgingly clicked on the message. Part of him yelled at him not to, because he would only end up feeling guilty in the end, and that wouldn't do him well as he turned cloak and abandoned his team.

Come back

Tears welled up in his eyes, but he viciously fought them back.

Jaune cursed and was on the verge of shoving the device deep into his pocket when the infernal machine blared once again, though this time it was chain of rings - a call.

It was Pyrrha, a video call. This wasn't the first time Jaune felt the annoyance beep; she had been calling him all night. At first it was an acute, rapid string of calls, and then gradually shrunk into one every minute, then five minutes, and currently it was down to one call every ten minutes. He didn't want to accept it. He didn't want to see her shocked face, or have her question him about where he'd been, and then be forced to lie.

One ring. Jaune stared enviously at the snapshot of Pyrrha on his scroll. It was completely still, and yet as her soulful emerald eyes locked with his he felt so... vunerable.

The blond let his head fall back with his eyes and took a deep, satisfying breath of the fresh air. The smell of industrialized fog mingled with the scents emanating from a nearby diner and the crisp scent of fallen leaves. It smelled thickly of smoke, and yet if he tried hard enough he could swear to the slight tang of the ocean not far away.

The third ring.

A drop of water landed on his upturned forehead. Another on his chin. His eyes peeked open to realize that it wasn't the ocean he recognized, but an impending storm. It was just an average day in Vale. At least it was, but now it deigned to be a frigid, damp evening. In a matter of seconds, it would probably start pouring.

It didn't, continuing to simply drizzle, but transpiring were a couple more rings, each sending a shiver down his spine.

By the fifth ring, Jaune nearly collapsed. This past week with his team. The past seventeen years with his family. What did it all mean? That he somehow felt more of a connection with his three peers than his entire family? No. No. No.

Jaune had to go home. He despised his parents, but they wouldn't kill him. A Grimm might not be so noble. But what about his teammates, their feelings? Their regrets for trusting him, for believing that he might be a half-way decent partner, maybe even someone one day that they could count on.

Bah, who was he kidding? Team JNPR would probably rejoice once their incompetent member was dead and buried. Jaune was a joke. A joke that was more forseeable to get into medical school than become a huntsman.

After all, that's what his mother and father always wanted him to do.

One last ring. He had forgotten for a moment, lost in his own thoughts, but even as he was snapped back into reality it registered that if he was clenching any harder then the implement would have been crushed between his fingers.

His eyes dazedly found their way to the patch of red on his screen.

A guilty feeling rose up to his gut.

He punched the "accept" button so hard that the chances of him destroying the scroll were above five hundred.

"Jaune! Come back to Beacon. You don't have to leave." Pyrrha shouted into the mic. Her impenetrable eyes and inscrutable countenance gave little room in the way of self-confidence, nothing but a burning, culpaple feeling shrouding him.

It took him a few moments to inhale the whole situation, and her empathic words, but he grimaced bleakly once he did.

How? Does she know that I was trying to leave? No, that couldn't be. Pyrrha must have inferred his leaving, or perhaps assumed the worst and dove straight for the direct approach. Jaune always had a sneaking suspicion that Pyrrha was aware that he wasn't combat trained, if only to the extent of that much and not that he cheated his acceptance into Beacon.

"Eh, what are you talking about?" he recovered as fast as he could, going along with his flimsy but at least planned excuse. "I'm just in Vale getting my armor repaired. It took quite a beating back in initiation."

"Jaune," she whispered low but vehement, "Please don't lie to me. You're standing in front of an airport. I'm smart enough to know what you were doing."

Frantically, Jaune spun around, nearly letting the scroll slip between his fingertips; searching for a distinctive vermilion color among the crowds or in the blind spots of the flood lights. How did she know where he was? He was positive he kept his background in the camera away from anything incriminating. Could it be the faint bullhead sounds? No, all that would tell her was that he was in the vicinity of the airport, not that he was right out in front.

Finally, after his eyes started to ache from squinting, he espied her in a dark alley away from all the clutter just across the way.

He forcefully punched the "end call" button, walking briskly over to where his partner hid. One step, two steps. It quickly escalated into a light jog, and then a full-on sprint until he caught her. She didn't try and run.

"Pyrrha, I-" he promptly tried to explain, hands on knees from the spurt of energy he exuded. Really, he could stand to be in better shape.

"Jaune, you don't have to do this." the girl that was his partner jolted in between his words, cutting him off more authoratative than he'd ever witnessed.

Hearing her say that, though, he immediately frowned. I thought I already made it clear enough.

Not to her though, of course. He'd nearly forgotten that.

"I know." Jaune whispered sheepishly, averting his gaze, but the girl clearly heard it.

"You'll be fine. We can train together and - there's no reason to run away."

Her expression was conflicted as Jaune finally made eye contact, with a slight downturn to her lips. It seemed even she was growing tired of his caprices. She heard him, but pretended to ignore his words and push further.

More excuses. Pyrrha was right. He could just train with her. He could just practice with his blade and Pyrrha would help him get stronger. That was easy wasn't it?

"I know." His voice should have told her no. No, it wasn't easy. No, it wasn't easy being the only member of Team JNPR who couldn't kill a Grimm by theirself, the only member of Team JNPR who had to be protected by their partner and not protect them back, and the only freakin' student at Beacon who couldn't hold their own in a spar.

"You don't have to be worr-"

It was pathetic. He was pathetic.

"I know, Pyrrha!" His partner froze, eyes widening at his tone but then she clumsily averted them - flinching back at Jaune's voice.

He regretted it immediately. This wasn't Pyrrha's fault. She had done nothing wrong. In fact, all she'd tried to do was help - all she'd done was help.

Jaune felt like an ungrateful bastard. He wouldn't have even made it this far into Beacon if not for her. He might have already kicked the bucket if not for her magnanimity.

All of this would just go away if he was strong.

Jaune would rather go back home willingly than be weak. And that was what he had arranged to do. The last thing Jaune wanted to be was a burden. And that was exactly what he was to her.

The red-haired girl said nothing.

"I know, Pyrrha..." Jaune choked out, voice crackling when it ghosted over her name. "I know... And I really don't want to-" - it burned him to, made his chest twist sharply but - "-but I don't have a choice. I'm not meant to be here. I thought I was, but..."

What he was trying to to say about his not belonging - or stuttered out might have been more appropriate - must have been clear in his face, because Pyrrha recoiled back.

"Jaune, if this is about yesterday, I-"

"It's not. I know you were trying to help, I get it, but..." Crocea Mors felt impossibly heavy at his side, and Jaune clenched his fist. Why did he have to say it? "I thought being a Hunter was all about will - that if I wanted it badly enough, if I believed it enough - I would be able to do it."


"It sounds so stupid, right?" he said, turning away from her; his face felt numb from the truth of his words, a burning sensation tickling under his skin. He had been such an idiot. "My father was right. I'm not going to save anyone like this - I'm just going to get myself killed."

Like your foolish sister.

Pyrrha looked at him sharply, and unsmiling she uttered his name once again, seeming like she wanted to say something more - going to say something more - but he didn't let her. "Jaune-"

"But you can't understand that, can you?" He snapped, hearing his father's angry shouts in his ears, hears his own angry replies - You never knew her! You can't understand her- "You can't understand what it's like, to be like me - to be so pathetic you can't even fight back. Even if I trained all my life, I'd probably save more people if a Grimm left me in a ditch somewhere - not like you. You're the Invincible Girl - you can do all of it without even trying!"

He was breathing heavily when he finished, fists clenched, and he felt terrible saying all those things; he knew better than to say them - he was raised better than that - and yet it was his hot-headedness that got the better of him this time.

Jaune was unable to get the picture out of his mind - of his sister, of how disappointed she would be, if she could see him now; the weapons she died with dull and useless in his hands.

He expected Pyrrha to be upset, demoralized, betrayed, commiserating, anything, but she simply cast a shadow over her emerald eyes, locked onto the concrete floor beneath them, completely silent.

He had barely caught his breath - the words he'd just uttered barely registering in his mind - before the girl turned sharply away.

The blond moved as soon as she did, chasing after her, momentarily abandoning his plan, but he was just a step behind.

"Pyrrha!" he called out after her as she headed further down the dusky alley, and to his astonishment she froze in her tracks, but made no move to turn around. His heart felt heavy and painful in his chest - what had he-?

"I - I'm sorry! I don't know what came over me, I -" Jaune shook his head, cursing himself. "You really are better off without me."

"See," she began quietly, and Jaune felt a wave of relief wash over him. She's still talking to me. "-you did it again... You're always so self-depreciative. You think you can't do it, when the only thing holding you back is yourself."

"Pyrrha..." he said helplessly. He had felt so pent up he might explode, all the feelings he'd held back all this time - but now, to his surprise, he just felt oddly hollow.

She walked away, and maybe that was more surprising.

His heart clenched.

Jaune's gaze burned furiously into her back. Until she disappeared among the swarming crowds of people. He felt the breath that he'd been holding release and his boiling anger melt away.

Jaune let her leave this time, because he knew that if he tried to stop her, he would only make the situation ten times worse. It was better to ask for forgiveness than risk upsetting her further now. Jaune would let her cool down at Beacon for a bit. And then...

Ah. Oh, right. He was getting on the soonest flight back to Ansel. Not Beacon. Ansel. Definitely not Beacon...

"Damn it, Pyrrha. Why do you have to make things so complicated!?"

Jaune was going to head back to Beacon for the night, cursing himself for failing to walk onto an aircraft tonight, but he wouldn't regret it. After all, after he apologized profusely to his part- Pyrrha, he would just catch a bullhead ride tomorrow. Seriously, what were the chances of him getting devoured by soul-lacking monsters before the rise of the new day? Like zero, right!?

He never would have been in this mess if he'd just denied his impulses and avoided Beacon in the first place.

"My, my, what a bitch." a girlish voice behind him echoed in the narrow passageway.

"Hmm?" Jaune turned around, only to be greeted by the malicious grin of a youthful but mature looking woman as her insult caught up to his brain - half his mind still occupied with Pyrrha. "Hey! That's my partner your talking about."

"That doesn't make her any less of a bitch." the mysterious woman added, making Jaune's face crease.

"Don't talk like that," he ordered, but it came out a bit clumsy as usual. Giving orders was something he was still trying to learn - as a team leader. He was just unused to how the command felt on his tongue, so by the end of the sentence his voice always seemed to waiver. "You don't know her like I do."

His words couldn't be truer, and yet saying them felt somehow ironic, and he didn't even know this woman!

"Maybe not," she admitted, smirking slyly, "but judging from the way she stormed off, you must not know her as well as you wish you did, am I right?" The woman waggled her eyebrows suggestively as she goaded, and maybe it was her enigmatic presence still wracking his mind, but it took Jaune a substantial five seconds for the playful innuendo to sink in.

"Are you... teasing me?" he asked, dumbfounded. "I don't even know you."

The woman gave a small giggle, twirling a hand through her long ashen black hair, similar to how Coral always did. Except that this woman did it expressively, seductively... "Nor I you, and yet here we are, alone in an alley. People might start rumors."

"I-I'm sorry, is there something you needed? I have something I really need to take care of." the young man explained, attempting to excuse himself. He really did need to get back to Beacon before the bullheads stopped ferrying students - the stars already read past eight o'clock.

As if she was psychic, she addressed his urgent issue with a hint of fire, a counter that left his mouth dry.

"Like your zero combat training problem?" she guessed, but something told him that it was little more than a lucky one.

That wasn't quite it, though...

Jaune's next words were as serious as the situation called for, and his face staunch with caution. "How did you know that?"

"Lucky guess, I suppose." Her crimson eyes flickered away, lashes flitting. She's lying... That's obvious. But how did she find out? He supposed what mattered more was what she decided to do with it. Expose him? Get him expelled? Well, he was intending to hit the road anyway, so what did it matter either way?

Still, he didn't doubt that the Headmaster would throw his ass in jail for fraud and deceit, or maybe even the government, if its reach extended to affairs dealing within the school.

Technically, he was an adult. Of legal age. Juvie sounded scary when he was younger, but real prison had to be worse. The only reason he was even at Beacon in the first place was because he was old enough to move out and make his own decisions. Damn it, he loved his childhood! Well, at least until a couple of years ago...

He scoffed, a lot more calm on the outside compared to the pounding in his chest. "That's too good for a guess. Care to explain?"

"Well... let's just say I've been watching you for a while." the dark-haired woman purred carefree-like, judging the mere notion as something far less important than it should have been. Stalking was a federal offense, wasn't it!?

"Back when I first applied to Beacon!? That was like two months ago."

"A long while, then." she hedged, licking her lips. "Oh, but don't worry love, your secret's safe with me."

Adrenaline coursed through his veins with bubbling ferocity, jumping in his gut in a way that made him want to slash that pretty smile right off the damn woman's face, and he was tempted to do it - unbearably so - but instead he just placed a hand on the hilt of his family's blade.

"Wh-who are you?" Jaune drew Crocea Mors. Unsteady feet harried the unpracticed motion, but he finally whipped it free with a terrible rasp, fingers grasping around leather - tense but firm. "I may not be a real huntsman, but I do know how to swing a sword."

Even in the face of a shimmering blade the woman didn't move, grin only stretching, completely unconcerned with his threat.

"That you do... But I'd advise against it, Jaune. You may not be the sharpest boy I've met, but surely you're not that daft."

"What are you talking about?" Jaune took a deep breath, keeping his blade level with her head. His callused fingers uncurled and curled against the smooth leather, voice growing only more demanding with her insults. His stomach churned; he knew he couldn't really strike her - he didn't have the guts - no matter what she knew, or how uncomfortable she was.

"I mean seriously, boy." the woman said blase, adjusting her feather belt. "If I really have been following you since all the way back when, then do you actually believe I don't have some kind of training? I mean, you never saw me. Did your girlfriend?"

She... she had a point. Enough to have Jaune excuse the girlfriend comment. He had been so caught up in the moment that he forgot to consider that the woman might actually be combat trained. There was no weapon on her visible to his naked eyes, but weapons could be concealed, or in the form of fists, or maybe she was just so cocky she thought she didn't even need one. Who was this woman!?

"All right, then." Jaune sheathed his sword, deciding against the violent path. Because, to be honest, Jaune felt a bit queasy about the whole idea in the first place. "Why are you here? To tease me? Or to hold this over my head as leverage?" he ordered once again, but this time he was adamant with his question, with enough conviction for him to not hesitate, or sound scared.

It was only her fault that his questions never had answers; with her proven skill at dodging them, she was a force to be reckoned with. "One of those is true, and the other couldn't be further than the truth. And I do mean the teasing."

"Is what couldn't be further than the truth, or?..." he double checked unsure, drawing a roll of the eyes.

"Is what I'm here for, of course," she drawled, toyingly with a downward wave of her hand. "Though, I must admit, I do love your adorable reactions, but unfortunately that's not the only reason I'm here."

Finally, some answers. The woman boasted mastery over the fine art of beating around the bush, and her particular methods for doing so should have been outdated, or at least shouldn't have worked, but after first-hand experience Jaune had to admit that it had worked pretty well.

The blond said nothing, content to let her speak lest he let something slip that was tease-able.

"All right. Well, I'm here to propose to you-" She paused, baiting him.


"-a deal, if you'd let me finish." she finished, and Jaune mentally slapped himself for falling for her deliberate hesitation that was her attempt at riling him up. And it did so spectacularly. "A deal that will be beneficial to both of us."

"A... deal?" he inquired skeptically.

"Mm-hmm," She nodded. "I want to give you a power; all you have to do is not tell anyone."

Jaune hesitated, confused. A power? "I don't see how that's beneficial to you... What are you playing?" he suspiciously asked, though while knowing that he wouldn't get a genuine answer.

"Serious games only, Jaune." she explained, stepping a pace closer to him. "I'll give you a power. I just want to see you use it. Call it research, if you will. That's my prize."

Jaune somehow found that hard to believe, either that or this whole "power" thing was bullshit, both which seemed highly plausible. And yet even with that evaluation something told Jaune that this woman was serious herself, and that he should be wary. She's been following me since the beginning of this... There's no way she would do all that just for kicks!?

She must have had a motive.

"What's this power, then?"

"I can see the interest in your eyes, Jaune." she told him, eyes narrowing against his as she played with her necklaces, once again neglecting to answer his question properly. "Trust me, you'll be strong enough to match even The Invincible Girl. Maybe stronger."

There was no way. It was impossible to transform a wimp like him into someone who was stronger than the strongest student at Beacon. This woman couldn't have been telling the truth...

"Are you serious?" Jaune paused for a moment, shaking his head. She was stalking me... That would explain it. "No, no you're not. This is all just your fun and games. I was wondering why you would go to all this trouble. But I've remembered that psychopaths don't need reasons."

The woman gently patted her heart, gasping over dramatically."That wounds me, darling. It truly does. But I'll assure you once again, Jaune. This is real. I can grant you a power unlike you've ever seen... If only you'll let me."

He moved to leave. This was a waste of time. So what if this woman knew that he had gotten his hands on some fake transcripts? She could tell anyone. Either they would deem her crazy like Jaune already did, or believe her and kick him out. He would have deserved it anyway.

Jaune turned on his heel, prepared to walk away and forget about all of this in a weeks time and leaving his own parting words, "You're starting to sound like an old fairy tale. Or some kind of devil. What, are you going to want my soul next?"

The woman behind him clacked her feet against the ground, rhythmically, as if she was growing impatient. "I don't want your soul, Jaune. I just want to protect you. If you let me give you this power, you'll never have to be a burden again. Aren't you tired of dragging your team down?"

He was exhausted, his patience spent. This madwoman was trying to get him to take some unknown power. He was trying to leave, trying to get back to Beacon. Trying to apologize to Pyrrha...

Nothing made sense anymore.

"Don't-don't even try and rile me up." Jaune ground out, wincing to himself. "I know I'm nothing more than a fraud, but... but I'm going to fix this. Without your black magic." he promised, faint moonlight touching against his lids as his head fell back.

"Are you sure that's possible?" the woman taunted, pushing him further down the path of rage. "Your partner seemed pretty upset at you; I can only imagine what she'll do when she finds out you've lied to her this whole time."

Anger boiled within him, brimming at the surface, threatening to blow at the slightest provocation. He took a deep breath.

"So... what? You expect me just to believe you? That you can really fix all of my problems if I just let you cast a spell on me? You just showed up out of the blue and practically admitted to stalking me! I should go straight to the police."

"And then straight to a mental institution." she teased jokingly - a mocking laugh followed. "Do you really think the police will believe the devil approached you asking for your soul?"

"I thought you said-"

She ignored his asinine comment, at the same time pushing back against his shoulder blades, interrupting him and the force shoving him back a few feet. He didn't falter, though, staying strong on his feet. "The point I'm trying to make, darling, is that I'm only here to give you what you wanted."

Jaune slowly turned back around, visibly angry with clenched teeth and shaking arms, and yet the malicious woman in front of him didn't flinch back; nay, she took a step forward.

She was mere inches away from him.

"And what was that?" His eyes narrowed, head tilting to the side.

"Strength. After all," she whispered - breathing lightly into his ear. "you're the only thing holding you back."

"What did you say?" he hissed as his hands gripped her shoulders tightly, azure eyes wide with wrath, yet she had the temerity to simply leer at him sardonically.

"Just an offer..." A satirical whisper, a scrutinizing gaze.

"You're crazy." he snarled, retracting his hands roughly, but she didn't seem to care.

One hand came to rest on her hip, a sultry view as she flashed her bare thigh. "Maybe, but so are you if you think that you're friends will be strong enough to stop me."

The implications were explicit. Any other time though and this very same Jaune Arc might have missed them, what with his usual lack of insightfulness. Yet something right now let him see with eyes unclouded; maybe it was how focused he was on the perplexing woman, or perhaps the way she relished pouring salt in his wounds.

Whatever it was, Jaune knew what this enigmatic woman was implying, and his gut wrest inside his chest at the very thought of it.

"Wh-what did you just say!?" he spouted lividly, teeth gnashing once he was finished.

Her face suddenly transformed into something cold, the soft features and wry smile evaporating to become a solemn veil, and yet it left Jaune wondering if this woman now was really the one in disguise.

"Because I'm taking you voluntarily... or involuntarily."

Jaune put on a brave face. "Don't you touch my team. If you even lay one finger-"

"And whose going to stop me?" she gloated, throwing her hands into the air with contempt. "You? Pfft, don't make me laugh. My power might make you strong enough, but without it? You wouldn't dare touch this skin."

"Grr..." was the only sound the teen could deign to make.

"Face it. You're weak, Jaune Arc. You're just lucky to have a partner who takes pity on you. But don't forget that generosity is a limited supply. Once the smoke clears, she'll leave you to the wolves like the pathetic boy you are." she pointed upwards, towards the sky. "It's a kill or be killed world out there, and I'm offering you an opportunity to be strong. You'd best take it while you still have your tongue."

This is where Jaune would turn tail and run, flee like a coward, dignity be damned. But he didn't. He wished he could confess that it was because he was afraid of this woman - which was far from a lie - but in his chest he knew it wasn't -it was Pyrrha... again. His damn partner was the damn reason for his damnable stand, the one he made as he rushed to his last resort, craziness and all.

"Nghh... F-fine. Fine... I'll play your game... on one condition." Jaune felt like she'd drove a dagger in his stomach, twisting it as he pained to utter words. "You stay away from my team. I don't want them involved in your sorcery and witchcraft. Conduct your research or whatever but don't even think about letting them see you. If you even lay one finger on my team-"

"I promise I won't, Jaune." she assured, suddenly mild as milk, though Jaune didn't let his guard down for even a second. "I don't care about them - only about you."

He flipped around and crossed his arms, afraid to look into the vexing woman's captivating red eyes while she cast her incantations. "Fine, do it. Do whatever you want."

A long moment passed the two by, with nothing outstanding or alarming occurring.

"I said do-" Jaune spun back towards where the woman had been, only to find her mysteriously gone like she'd never even existed.

A single pitch-black feather drifted downwards, a beautiful luster gleaming against his cerulean eyes.

What am I getting myself into!?

Don't forget to let me know in the comments if you'd like me to continue this story.