So I'm sure you've realized that this chapter is a lot shorter, about half as long. For that I apologize, and for the whole 3-some K taking three weeks. It's been a hectic summer for me all around, and recently I've been swamped with back to school stuff. Classes start next week, and so the whole preparation ordeal has taken up a large chunk of my writing time. Don't misconstrue this as an excuse, though, I'm still working my hardest and I'm going to keep writing, but I sincerely DO hope that I don't lose any of you along the way.
Whew, I needed to get that out, and now that I have, without further ado, I present the next chapter.
Also, a couple important notes at the end of the chapter, so I encourage you to take a few moments to peek through them.
Just a single feather. A single pitch-black feather.
Mesmerized azure eyes widened as it swayed in the midnight breeze. He wasn't sure why he watched it, his jaw dropping as if it was a grenade falling to the ground, pinless. It was like he was waiting for the woman. Like he had thought-
Like I actually believed she would give me power.
But that was crazy, wasn't it?
His surroundings seemed almost a blur, like everything moved in slow motion. But then, as the quill that glistened with sable drifted down to the ground, his world tilted sharply to the side-
-and pain exploded from his temple, across his back, down his spine - everywhere. It was only when his hands grasped clammy stone that Jaune realized, vision blurring, that his legs had given out beneath him.
His mind burned so fiercely, it was excruciating, like fire, and Jaune felt like he was suffocating when - as quickly as it came - it was gone. The agony lifted from him instantly, like a heavy weight from his neck, leaving Jaune reeling and gasping for breath.
"W-What... what the...?"
It was a minute before his breath came back to him, and Jaune gathered himself, not even a tingle of the pain remaining - leaving him with only a feeling of exhaustion, like it was all a dream. But... He couldn't have imagined it. Could he?
"W-What the hell was that...?"
Something was different. His ears strained; eyes shut closed and opened again.
What was it?
He shook his head, gritting his teeth. The mysterious woman was gone without any trace but a sole feather, and Pyrrha was bound to have returned to Beacon by now.
He failed to smother a brittle groan, clutching his stomach weakly. Beacon... He needed to get back. It must have been close to curfew by now, if not already past. Plus there was Pyrrha... He still needed to apologize to her.
Damn it... Why the hell does she have to make my head hurt so much...?
It ached. He ached. The pain was gone, but his vision appeared fuzzy, his legs heavy.
"I need to meet Beryl for the cocaine later." A masculine voice spoke - close - but it was impossible to pinpoint the exact source. His head jerked to the left and then to the right, but there was no one to be found, only streams of people rushing by where the light met the alley.
The thunder drumming in the writhing boy's head surged in short spells, the next one always worse than the last. Each time it sent a jolt up to the base of neck, making his hairs stand on end. His fingers felt locked at every muscle, but they took each brief moment of respite to slacken their grip and release his blond locks. But just as soon as the pain subsided it was dashed, by a pulsating boom firing up in his head, causing his fingers to clench around his hair tightly, enough to try and cover up the ache with a less surreal pain.
There was another voice.
"Farewell, darling." But this one he recognized. It was the damn woman's. He found himself snarling even through the throbbing, even though the pounding in his head wouldn't let him hear his own thoughts. "Try not to hurt yourself on your way back to Beacon."
His body slumped forward, head grinding back against the unyielding wall as he stared up to the stars.
This time he also managed to catch the source of the voice; it was the lady of mystery - a blankly inscrutable look on her face before she scurried away beyond his sight.
He would say his rage stemmed from pure loathing for the woman - who was unreadable and spiteful at the same time - but in such a short amount of time, he didn't think that was possible. But, at the very least, the urge to give chase and wring the answers out of her felt real. In a sudden moment, he managed to push himself to his feet despite his disoriented balance, though he carried on being unsteady and was forced to plant one hand against the wall for stability.
He knew he had a snowball's chance in hell of catching up to her. He didn't have to be at full cognitive functionality to wrap his head around that much. And taking into consideration the way he hobbled, simply escaping from the eerie alley was the most he could hope for.
The blond lurched forward towards whatever direction unveiled itself first, staggering with each step as he struggled to keep his footing.
Not because his legs hurt, or his knees; it was this strangely sudden headache that overtook him. Recently his whole life had become the textbook definition of spontaneity, from Beacon to that woman to every waking moment.
But that woman... so puzzling, so vexing beyond his grasp. Everyone had a motive, even crazy people. But what was hers? To waste his time?
No, it was hard not to associate his migraine to her. From the moment that the woman vanished to the spark that ignited inside his head was a short one. Seconds at most. But why? What had she done?
His feet stayed their course; he was haggard and disheveled, but it was impossible to tell if he was if he was heading home. No, not home. Beacon, not home. "Aggh!" Nails dug into his scalp, tousling his hair as he clutched hard to try and alleviate the pain. Why did it hurt so much?
He tried to think. He had the thought - Did this woman curse me? But his mind was a maelstrom of voices that weren't anything he'd even known, so he wasn't even sure if those thoughts were his own. Did they make it to his mind? Did they affect his actions?
He froze. There were more voices. Low in volume, but distinct enough to be more than just whirring din. It swiftly became a cacophony, though with each step he took it only became harsher. His feet began to peddle faster and faster with the increasing volume of the voices, becoming more audible. And yet he couldn't make out a single sentence, merely fractions of them.
"My parents are getting a divorce? This can't be happening..."
"Celine's gonna kill me if I'm late for The Living Grimm... Or she'll start it without me... Damn, c'mon bus! Where are you!?"
"I feel like I've seen that shopkeeper before..."
"Whoa, I got to stop flushing money down the toilet. Sooo drunk... Clubbing is so fun... Screw college!"
"Omigosh, I have to find the perfect dress to wear. Prom's in, like, five months. That's so, like, soon!"
"That Selena... Damn, in a corset!?"
So those were the kind of people out this late at night... Of course, it wasn't like he could know that. Bits and pieces filtered through, but gibberish was really all it was to him. It was still deafening.
"Oh my god, will Justin ever shut up?"
"Shut up!" he screamed to himself. He could feel it in his bones, in his core. The vibrations told him he was screaming, but in all reality he couldn't even differentiate his own words from the deafening discord that clamored in his ears. His feet kept moving.
Lights... ahead. There were lights. Bright lights... Light was always good. Always comforting, like a warm blanket. He staggered near, each step lame as his eyes locked onto the blur of colors just past the light.
He finally made it...
His head felt like a cross between his favorite disco-funk song and a chaotic outing in a supermarket. So unbearably loud, volume cranked up to the max, but instead of music it was a dissonance of human voices. Except he neither had headphones in his ears nor were his surroundings teeming with people. He was at the end of the alley, surveying the activity that littered the streets.
He could see everyone's lips move, against their scrolls or between each other. Some people didn't talk at all, simply moving from one place to another.
The cataclysm in his mind: sonorous voices, high-pitched voices, those of children, and even laughter and tears.
Jaune felt his knees give in, and the world turn dark.
One hand clenched into a fist by her side.
Pyrrha couldn't deny that she was hurt.
She could try, though, and try she had. For the past fifteen minutes or so, pacing the well-lit streets of Vale, mulling over those words - You're the Invincible Girl - you can do all of it without even trying!
Jaune uttered those words, and somehow that made it worse.
That wasn't the reason her nails dug into her skin enough to prick her aura, though. Her blindness... rash choices influenced by her recklessness were what caused Jaune to run away in the first place, and they struck yet again in that alley. Jaune was unerringly right when he said that it was impossible for her to understand him. She didn't know what it was like for him - how could she?
No, she couldn't hope to realize all his problems, but she had gotten caught up in his words, and never even tried.
The redhead glanced down to her skirt; she was still dressed in her school uniform. That was how fast she had chased after him, how she dropped everything at the moment when she found he was gone... She hadn't thought this through. She hadn't thought anything through.
Pyrrha was a far cry from being the strongest at Beacon - though it was impossible to refute, as well, that she proved a formidable opponent for a sizable much of the student population... including Jaune.
It was not a secret nor a difficult one to unveil of her partner - he simply wasn't ready. He didn't have all the physical conditioning, the practice with a weapon. She hated to admit that, but she hated it infinitely more that he was aware and let it drag him down.
Because Pyrrha instantly recognized his potential. His aura was larger than most, though his real ace lied in the conviction he exuded. It was muted to most, even to himself at times, but Pyrrha could see it as clear as day. It would fuel him far, if he'd only give himself a chance.
But that was the thing with chances. They always transformed into missed opportunities if lacking a little bit of faith. Faith and perseverance were two parts of the same whole, though; one matured into the other, but that first step was really what Jaune was missing. Pyrrha could give that to him - if he'd let her - but because to her star status, the rift between them grew. Honestly, Pyrrha really was the worst partner for him...
As much as she found the moniker distasteful, The Invincible Girl was pretty apt when it came down to it. At least, invincible enough to damage Jaune's pride and make him feel weak.
But strength wasn't all important in a fight. It never was. The first Huntsman never drove back the Grimm many times stronger than they and outnumbering them in the thousands purely from dust. Humans were forced to use their minds, their wits. Tactics, something that Jaune possessed copious amounts of Pyrrha was sure.
In fact, the blond had already showed promise in that area during their brawl with the Deathstalker. The ability to lead and scan the enemy.
The girl sighed. It was all for naught if Jaune left Beacon here and now. If only she'd been a little quicker chasing him, a little more steadfast convincing him, a little less harsh when sparring with him, then maybe, just maybe, she would have been able to save Team JNPR.
"If he didn't leave before, he definitely is now..." she muttered to herself, guilt threading around her chest. Why did you walk away-?
There was a beep in her pocket. She pulled the device out, half of her hoping that it would be Jaune, the other half firmly knowing it wouldn't be. Unfortunately, a woman's intuition was correct this time, but she slid her finger to the right anyway - Ren's scroll.
"Pyrrha," Ren began, reading her drawn features and assuming the worst. "I take it you've had no luck either?" the most level-headed person of their team said, and then a solemn expression dawned over his face - serious and blank as always - but Pyrrha could tell that he was concerned.
"N-no. I found him." she admitted, vaguely blushing.
"You found him!?" an uproarious voice rumbled from behind Ren, a ginger blob flashing by somewhere in the background.
Ren barely even flinched when the bed bounced from the effervescent girl, ignoring her and tilting his head in question. "Where?" he regarded her expectantly, and Pyrrha felt her breathing catch.
"O-Oh, he was just... just getting his armor repaired, that's all."
"Oh." She didn't expect for her words to not tumble over each other, and Ren's magenta eyes flickered, looking almost... sheepish. "I see. Our concern was for nothing, then."
"How dare he worry us like that! When I get my hands on him-" Nora exclaimed righteously, bumping Ren out of the camera frame as her partner let out a grunt of protest. She looked about to say more when she paused suddenly. "Wait... he went out to fix his armor in the middle of the night? Without saying anything?"
For once, Nora brought up a good point. Damn it.
"That is out of character for him," Ren added, considering closely the situation. "Is he all right?"
Pyrrha's chest tightened. Jaune was not all right, he was as far as could be from all right - and with a little shudder she broke. "It was my fault. I - Jaune and I were sparring yesterday, and I thought I was helping him, but..."
Her mother's face flittered across her mind, steely, condescension bleeding from the woman as she half-heartedly blocked her thrust. With ease, the red-haired woman brushed Pyrrha's spear away.
"...I upset him." Pyrrha winced - regardless of the gaps in her strength. She had not been honest with her partner. She didn't face him seriously, as an equal - and by doing so, it was an insult to him as a Huntsman. "I should have known better."
Ren's eyes glittered with understanding. Nora was less percipient, mouth falling open, confused, but Ren silenced her with the touch of his hand on her shoulder. A moment of silence passed; as if her two teammates communicated without speaking. That's how they should be - but Pyrrha had to ruin it. She hadn't meant it the way it came out - she was only trying to help, and yet she hadn't considered...
"Well... whatever it is, hurry up and bring him home!"
"Yes. Curfew is soon."
There was a siren in the distance, and Pyrrha flinched to face the noise. Mistaking the gesture, Nora raised her voice, as if Jaune were close, "Hey, Jaune! You wouldn't want to sleep in and miss Goodwitch's combat class, would you?"
"Nora... He's not here." Pyrrha looked back towards the scroll and shook her head. "I let him go."
"What? Why'd you do that?"
"I..." Why did she? A flash of remembrance passed through her. Jaune's face: troubled. "He seemed to need some time to himself, so..."
Ren's expression evinced consternation. Nora just rolled her eyes. "Come on! Just kiss and make up already - Team JNPR can't miss class! We're supposed to be the best!"
"I know..." But what if he's already gone?
Ren caught sight of her pensive mien. "We all make mistakes, Pyrrha. I'm sure Jaune understands." Oh, Jaune understood her mistakes all too well - that was the problem. He'd taken her actions as pity - her desire to boost his confidence backfiring magnificently. He'd thought her words were an assent to his weakness.
Though, really, it was the absolute opposite.
"Yeah, he can never stay mad at you for long, anyway. He likes you too much-" Nora squeaked to Ren abruptly shouldering her from the camera frame, coughing shyly into his fist. Pyrrha could only blink. "Hey!"
"Ahem. Regardless, please find Jaune and tell him that curfew is soon. We will wait up."
"A-All right," she conceded, looking skyward. Drops of rain fell. Hopefully Jaune's flight hadn't left yet - if she caught him at the gate, maybe...
"...So mean, Ren..."
Ren took no notice of his whining partner, scanning Pyrrha's worried face. "Unless you need assistance?"
"No." Pyrrha started this - she was going to finish it. "I think this is something I should handle on my own."
"Very well. Good luck." The last frame she captured before the call ended was Magnhild poised high in Nora's hands, prepared to be brought down on the vulnerable man. Ren wore an almost amused expression. Pyrrha giggled to herself. The two were such great partners. They could cover an ocean by the distance alone between their personalities, and yet by some miracle that same contrast made them perfect together.
If only her and Jaune could be like that...
With that daunting challenge to herself, she about faced and rushed to retraced her steps.
"He must have passed through here, I'm sure of it..." She jolted around the corner of the congested street, but as a dark figure turned the corner at the same time as her, she only had time to flinch before a body collided with hers, almost knocking her to the ground.
It wasn't quick feet that kept her steady, but rather the person holding her arm.
"Oh, I'm sorry ma'am. Thank you." she apologized, earning a small smile. It was a dark-haired woman wearing exotic clothing... and she had just been leaving that alleyway. Maybe she had seen Jaune? "Excuse me, did you see anyone pass through here?" she asked as she brushed off her skirt. "Maybe heading towards the airport?"
"Ah," The woman's eyes sparkled, "He just left darling. That way."
"Thank you!" she extended politely before running in the pointed direction.
Down through the narrow alley and out the other side. That was as far as she was able to get before she froze against a sea of people.
There was commotion. Had something happened? The ambulance sirens and blinding lights only strengthened the suspicion. Clamor echoed around her as people continued to gather like it was an attraction. Pyrrha could have believed that, if not for the wide circle of caution tape and the distressing solicitude. She slipped through the crowd with "excuse me"s, trying to reach the forefront of the horde of people.
Pyrrha's heart clenched. Emerald eyes fluttered. She'd found him.
Face pale, hair strewn, lying there... as if dead... in the night air of Vale.
Sorry if it felt a little slow this chapter, it'll get better, I promise.
Like I said above, life is busy, especially now that classes are starting up, and so writing may be slower.
The other thing I thought I should address was Raven's character. A couple people mentioned that she seemed OOC, and I'm definitely not saying this to refute that claim, because I do believe that's true to some extent. But in the show, Raven has such little screen time that her development is practically zero. We've heard Taiyang talk about her, describing that she is headstrong and stubborn and so on, as well as seen her talk to Qrow.
However, I don't think there is anything saying she is a bad person with a bad personality and a bad attitude. Or a stern one for that matter. In fact, I can actually see Raven being a lot like Yang, with a teasing mien. Sure, she was serious with Qrow, but we already knew that she had some beef with him, and so I don't think that means she can't be joking sometimes. And I never said my Raven's always going to be like that either. Taiyang I believe also described her as "always taking the direct approach", which if one hundred percent true would seem out of character for my interpretation of Raven. Though, to me, Raven seems like someone who will take any measure necessary to get what she wants, which could include acting unlike herself.
Anyway, I feel like I might be getting a little defensive here, which was never my intention, nor was it to make the people who said that Raven felt OOC wrong. Every single one of my reviews was positive, even the ones that said Raven seemed OOC, so thank you. In all honesty I could be completely wrong, and would not be surprised if in the next volume Raven gets a lot more development in a completely different direction than mine.
This is an AU anyway so you can always just consider my Raven my creation. Heh, that rhymed...
Anyway, I hope you guys loved the chapter and I hope that you'll continue to read this story even through its faults.
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