Here's the second chapter of Beacon Civil War, which is definitely an unusual one to format and write compared to my other fics. Sandy Mitchell's tendency to break the flow for excerpts and comments is fairly well-known, but it's hard making sure they're detailed enough to suffice, without being so long they take away from the story.
Glad to see it being well received though.
Beta: College Fool
If you have read this far, then I commend you already, for Jaune's personal manner of writing can be difficult to grasp even at the best of times. Though your eyes might not yet have been opened to his nature, you have no doubt noticed his penchant for glossing over details that don't involve him. In order to help make sense of what Jaune himself would never bother to mention, I have employed a small excerpt from a trusted source, who better describes the events which happened in the immediate aftermath of beginning of the Beacon Civil War.
Would that Jaune's own accounts be so detailed, but alas, he has never been one for the bigger picture.
On Days of War, Chapter 2, Paragraph 6-15
Written by Octavia Ember
To better understand the situation that befell Beacon, it's important to note that the male population was not, in itself, all that weaker than the female forces. Despite several stand out fighters among our ranks, Pyrrha Nikos being one such example, there were also many celebrated and powerful fighters in possession of different chromosomes. What led to their initial defeat, and further despair, was the way in which the war began.
Headmaster Ozpin's decision to declare the start of the war during a lunch hour was either a calculated move of genius, or a gross mistake. Over seventy per cent of the student body were present in the cafeteria or on their way to it when the battle began. Even assuming that there was an equal representation of boys and girls on either side, it meant that whichever side emerged victorious would have already dealt with over two-thirds of the enemy forces, not counting those who escaped. As everyone knows, thanks to the quick thinking by several powerful girls, and Coco Adel's choice of weapon being a fashion accessory she carried around freely, we took control of the cafeteria and eventually defeated – and captured – every man who dared stand against us.
In one fell swoop, over half of the male population of Beacon had been subdued. There was more to the women's success than just this, however.
The men who fled lived to see another day, and those who had not been at the cafeteria at all were also free. They were scattered across Beacon, however. Leaderless, disheartened and without the means to fight back.
We, on the other hand, were all gathered in one place, or at least seventy per cent of us. Fed on our recent victory, and in the momentary lull that followed, we had the opportunity to discuss and to plan, to argue and to talk – to communicate and to develop a structure. The benefits of this cannot be understated, for it allowed us to create organisation on the first day of the war, while the men of Beacon were still mid-flight
Hungry women outside of the cafeteria came for food, and were quickly inducted into the ranks. The situation was explained to them, their roles given, and as such, every woman who approached was able to fit seamlessly into the feminine forces. In a matter of hours, we had become an effective, organised and cohesive fighting army.
Had the men won that initial battle, our situations might have been reversed, but it was not so, and that was by the grace of our leaders, and the bravery of our warriors.
But there was one more advantage that could not be overstated, and it would come to dominate the battlefield up until the end of the Civil War. Access to and from Beacon had been denied, with nothing capable of being delivered in or out of the academy. In such a situation, and with the men scattered to the wind, whomsoever controlled the cafeteria, controlled the food and drink of Beacon.
And as any historian would be quick to point out; an army marches and fights on its stomach…
Chapter 2 – From Humble Beginnings
"What are they going to do? They have no direction, no leadership, nor even a classroom to call their own. They're helpless, and completely at our mercy. We'll sweep them up at our leisure."
Brigadier General Weiss Schnee
My stomach grumbled for what was probably the fifteenth time that day, and was promptly echoed by Ren's doing the same. Emaciated and hungry, the two of us didn't so much as stalk the halls as limp and stagger through them. Every now and then we would stop, sniff the air, and then move on in search of sustenance. It had been already been two weeks since the Civil War began, and things were not looking good for us.
(Jaune's penchant for exaggeration has always been well-known. It had actually been less than thirty-six hours, but to be fair we were hungry enough that it felt like weeks.)
The halls of Beacon were empty and dark, the two of us moving through them at four in the morning, the better to dodge the patrols the women had roaming through. We'd slept fitfully the night before, squashed together into a janitor's closet for warmth. Our plan had been to sleep early and move at night, my idea for dodging the enemy. We'd already run into several patrols sent out by the girls, usually six to eight women strong and well-armed and fed. We had our own weapons, of course, and I'd never been so thankful for Beacon's strange lockers. Despite that, two against eight was poor odds, and with me here it was probably more like one and a half against eight. And since if they ever caught us, I'd be making a run for it – it was probably closer to one against eight.
Basically, we were screwed if they found us, hence our choice to hide every time we heard other people. Luckily, Beacon was full of places to slip into, and as part of Ozpin's little game, the locks on all the doors had been opened.
We'd found that out after checking our room with the idea of locking ourselves in it until this whole thing was over. Not only had we come across Nora already there, we'd found the doors all unlocked when we ducked into someone else's dorm to hide.
Either way, the need for food had driven us from our hiding place, and now, like the struggling groups we occasionally passed, we were wandering nomads - refugees from a war torn land, dragging out feet through the halls in desperate search for food. My scroll beeped and I drew it out, yet again ignoring the messages from Pyrrha, Nora and the girls of Team RWBY – all demanding our surrender – and instead looking at the new one sent out by an unknown caller.
"All you can eat food and drink at the cafeteria. Come and feast, with the only condition being that men lay down their arms and surrender to us. You will be fed and cared for as POW's."
It was the same message we'd received several times through the day, and I growled as I stuffed the offending thing back into my pockets. Up ahead, Ren's stomach grumbled and he looked at the screen, no doubt wondering if putting himself through Nora's treatment was worth a full stomach.
With a sigh, he too shook his head and trudged on.
"How many do you think have already given up?" Ren asked, picking his way over to a closed door and nudging it open. He poked his head inside before gesturing that it was clear.
Jaune nodded and stepped inside, the two of them spreading out to raid and scavenge the room. I pulled open a drawer and pushed aside frilly underwear, taking a moment to stare at the long, purple, object hidden within, before I sighed and laid it to the side.
I couldn't eat that, and probably wouldn't even if I could.
"No idea," I said. "Some probably have. This whole thing is pretty much over."
Ren agreed with a hum. "I can't imagine how many of us were captured in the cafeteria. Do you think any escaped after you had them charge the doors?"
"Maybe…" I didn't really care, but couldn't say that. "I hope so, but even if they did, it's not like life is any easier out here. Part of me wonders if the people already captured are the real winners. At least they get food."
Our stomachs grumbled in unison once more.
"Yeah, well they don't have to deal with Nora," Ren said. "You can surrender if you want, Jaune. Nora would probably still be after me and let you go."
Oh, I'd definitely considered that – and kept doing so every time one of those evil messages came through. Those cruel monsters had even sent a picture of a beef dinner with the last one, and my mouth watered even now at the thought of it.
It dried soon after as I thought of Pyrrha and Weiss, however. The latter wanted to kill me, while the former… well, I wasn't really sure what Pyrrha wanted, but judging from how weirdly she'd been acting before, I had a feeling I didn't want to find out.
(Yet again, you're an idiot Jaune…)
"I'll stick with you," I said instead. "I'm not leaving you behind, Ren."
"Thank you, Jaune. I appreciate it."
The conversation dwindled soon after, and we returned to ransacking the room, I having given up on the clothes drawers and instead taken to scrabbling around under the beds. It was a complete mess, but then again, whose room wasn't? This one looked like it had three girls and one guy, and judging from what I'd seen already, I felt equal parts jealous and sorry for the guy. All of that was wiped away a second later when I saw a glint of light flicker off a plastic case.
There, at the junction between the bed frame and the wall… I'd definitely seen something. I crawled forward to get a better look and was rewarded for the effort by the discovery of a small chocolate bar barely longer than my hand, and thinner than two fingers. At any other time it would have been a small snack, but right now it felt like I held the answer to life itself in my grip.
But it also came with a damning problem.
I could eat this now and Ren would never know. I could save it for later too, and tell him I need the toilet and eat it in a cubicle. I don't technically have to share this…
The thoughts were pervasive, but I shook them off with a reluctant sigh. Ren was my only companion in this mad world, and also my only hope of survival should anyone find me – be that female patrol or some guys who wanted to shake me down for food. I couldn't have Ren starve and faint, or I'd be screwed.
"I found something," I called, pulling myself out from under the bed.
"Chocolate." I held it up with a small grin, and Ren quickly hopped onto the bed to stare at it. For a second, I feared he might bite it straight out of my hand, but he composed himself quickly. We were both so hungry that I didn't see the point in waiting. The wrapper came open easily, and I made sure to be as meticulous as possible as I snapped it into two pieces.
It wouldn't be good to make it seem like I was short-changing him. We needed one another.
"I never thought I'd feel so relieved to find something like this," Ren said, a content smile on his face as he nibbled on the treat. I did the same, even though I wanted to force it all down at once. It would be gone soon enough, and it was better to savour the taste while it lasted.
Honestly, we were just lucky we could stop at just about any room for water. All the dorms had an en-suite bathroom, and the sinks all worked. If it wasn't for that, the girls could have just parked sentries at all the men's public toilets and captured us there.
"Do you think there's any hope of us actually winning this?" I asked, basking in our tiny victory. "Men against women, I mean. Do you think we've got a shot?"
"We might have had if it was a fair fight. Our two teams are stacked against us, but there are plenty of guys in Beacon, and the older years can fight a lot better than us." Ren sighed and looked forlornly down at the last piece. "The problem is that most of them have already been caught. Right now, we're badly outnumbered."
"So, we don't have a chance."
Ren shrugged and ate the last bit of chocolate. I'd already finished mine a second before. As for the question, well, I supposed it didn't need an answer. I only had to look at my scroll to see that the girls controlled all of the objective markers Ozpin had set up. They were linked to every student through an app, but the guys weren't even trying to defend the points. To be fair, there probably wasn't much hope. The girls would send loads of people there, and they'd be led by their strongest.
I certainly didn't fancy my chances trying to take Yang or Nora off a control point, and doubted anyone else did either.
My thoughts were interrupted by a sudden scuffling noise off to one side – and still in the dorm we were both inside of. Ren's hand fell to his weapon immediately and the two of us backed away, suddenly aware of the possibility that someone else might be in the room. There were no good options and no allies in this madness. A woman would attack us while a man would try to rob us.
We shared a quick glance, and I nodded to the side, urging Ren to check it out while I held the door. Ostensibly, that was so that I could make sure no one interfered. Realistically, it was so I could run away faster if things looked bad.
( . . . )
Ren reached one hand forward, towards a pile of blankets against one wall. We hadn't noticed it earlier, or if we had we'd dismissed it as some random mess. They were definitely moving, however, and it was getting stronger as Ren moved forward. With a sudden lunge, he grabbed the sheets and tore them away – revealing the danger beneath.
Canine eyes blinked up at us, and a stubby tail wagged.
"Zwei," I gasped, hand falling from my sword as I sagged with relief. Ren held his head with one hand and sighed, storing away his weapons a second later.
"About the only thing in the academy not actively trying to attack us," Ren said. "It's about time we had some luck. What's he doing around this area, though?"
"I'm not sure. There's no way Ruby or Yang would leave him on his own. He's probably just roaming. It's not like the teachers are around to tell them off." The poor thing probably got bored in RWBY's dorm anyway, and not for the first time I wondered how they handled the situation of their secret dog needing to go for a potty break. I ignored the horrifying thoughts and knelt down to stroke his head. "Good boy. Don't tell your owners where we are, okay?"
Zwei nodded once and turned back to something behind him. He gripped it in his mouth and dragged it across the floor and towards the door.
Ren and I stared at it, eyes suddenly wide.
It was a bag of dog food.
Zwei froze at the door, noticing our hungry gazes, and then figuring out what they were aimed towards. The corgi growled around the bag gripped between its teeth. Its hackles rose, eyes narrowing as it backed up just a fraction more.
I swallowed and took a step forwards.
The corgi fled.
We leapt after it.
There was no honour to it, no dignity, but as the two us ran through the halls in pursuit of the small and speedy ball of fluff, none of that mattered. Food, edible food – gross, yes, but filling. With nothing else on offer, it was all we had and we weren't about to let it slip away.
Zwei ducked down a side corridor and we gave chase, never more than ten metres away, even with the little thing ducking under chairs to try and give us the slip. There was a dead end ahead, and the dog ducked into the classroom on the right. I followed and Ren dashed in close behind. With a mighty leap, I flew over Zwei's head and closed the window he'd been headed towards. Trapped between us, the corgi placed the bag down and stood atop it, growling.
"Ruby and Yang will give you more," I said, salivating as I moved a hand towards the bag, then withdrew it when he bit. Ren took his chance and snatched it from behind, then stood atop a desk when Zwei tried to bite his ankles.
"I've got it!" he said.
I cheered. "Tonight, we eat like Kings!"
Zwei whined pitifully at us, which was probably the moment we realised we were fighting a toy-sized dog over a bag of its food. Ren's cheeks flushed and he clambered down off the table. He didn't let go of the food, however. We needed it.
Self-preservation guided my next action… as in the self-preservation that warned me how bad I'd be in for it if Ruby or Yang ever found out I'd stolen food from their dog. I sat down and patted the ground next to me. "We'll share it between the three of us. We're not monsters, Zwei. We just need to eat as well."
Ren seemed to agree, and sat down with me – Zwei doing the same opposite. My friend, whose clothes were tattered and dirty, tore open the bag of kibble and brought out a handful. "Three portions?" he asked.
"Three? I really think that should be seven."
The voice came from our left and the entrance to the classroom. I recognised it instantly, but my eyes still strayed over nonetheless. Cardin stood there, his normally burnished armour dull and dented. His hair hung loose and his smile was feral.
Behind him, his entire team waited.
"Cardin," I greeted, mind whirling for something to say. I didn't harbour any thoughts this might end peacefully – not with Cardin's mace planted against the ground in front of him. The four of them looked far too feral for it, their faces gaunt with hunger and haunted by the terrible things they'd doubtless seen.
"Jauney," the much larger and hungrier man replied. "So good to see you. I couldn't help but notice you've come across some bounty recently."
He nodded to the dog kibble in my hand.
"Me and the boys have been pretty hungry. Times are hard out there. What say you share some with an old friend, hmm?"
I wasn't an idiot, even if I wasn't the smartest tool in class. Cardin wasn't asking for a portion – he wanted the whole bag, and likely whatever else we had on us as well. Hell, he probably wanted Zwei too, as horrible as that sounded.
(And I must confess that the thought did cross my mind a little, even if I dispelled it a second later. I make no apologies. Times were hard and Zwei could look like a cow if I squinted my eyes hard enough.)
"I'll share out some portions," I said. "Then we can go our different ways."
"So soon? I really think we should stay and chat for a little bit." Cardin nodded his head to the side, and his three companions spread out in a wide semi-circle, cutting off our escape. The leader stalked towards us. "I'll bet we all have stories to tell, huh? How about we share them over a nice, friendly meal?"
Ren stood and drew his weapons, and I did the same beside and a little behind him. I didn't like our odds, and with them blocking the exit, I couldn't see a way to escape either.
As much as I hated the idea, it looked like a fight was our only option. I assessed our forces, a tired and exhausted Ren, me, and a dog. It probably said a lot about the situation when I counted Zwei among us, and akin to a huntsman-in-training, but he had teeth, and that probably meant he was tougher than I was.
It still didn't measure up to Team CRDL… but as Cardin lunged forward and the others charged, the chance for strategy was torn out of my hands either way. Crocea Mors came up in time to block a crushing blow to my head, and then I was lost in the melee.
To be frank, I hate fighting against people. I'm not a coward… not when I'm here being a huntsman, and even Weiss will admit I can hold my own against a Beowolf or an Ursa if I have to. Those things aren't so hard, though, and I normally have backup. Grimm charge in the front, and I can use my sword and shield to dispatch them. If things go bad, the team will help me out.
People are different. People are tricky. I parried a blow from Russel's dagger, but was caught in the legs from behind by the butt of Sky's halberd. I fell hard, but managed to reach out and grab Russel by the Mohawk – and he fell with a pained scream atop me. That little cover afforded me was enough to make Sky hesitate, and I was quick to drive my foot up between his leg as thanks. He toppled with an agonised squeal, but I didn't have the time to celebrate. Russel was crawling over me to try and reach something.
A dagger? No, worse – the dog food!
With me down and Ren engaged, not to mention Zwei distracted as he gnawed on Cardin's head, the two rolling across the floor, the prize of the whole fight was left open – and Russel no doubt wanted to take it and run.
I caught his leg before he could and dragged him back, then pressed my hand down on his head and tried to crawl over him instead. If I could get the food and run, Team CRDL would probably ignore Ren and then I could come back for him.
I told myself that, anyway. It helped me feel better. Ren would be fine. He was always fine.
"Get off me!" Russel growled, rolling over and jabbing an elbow into my eye socket. "Come on, man. We just want some grub!"
"Then go surrender at the cafeteria," I hissed, and cuffed the man around the face. My eyes were far higher, focused on the kibble. "We found this. Finders keepers!"
"Spoils of war," Russel argued, but yelped when I bit his hand.
"Get this dog off my head!" Cardin roared, rolling past them struggling with the tiny – but very vicious – corgi.
I knew I'd been right to broker peace with the thing. If the thing could live with Ruby and Yang as its main carers, it was probably hardy enough to survive a bomb, and strong enough to bring down its own food.
The battle raged on around us. Ren fought with Dove, while I struggled with Russel and Cardin did battle with Zwei. Of Sky, there was little sign other than the occasional whimper as he clutched his bruised groin. In all honesty, the fighting was weak and petty – as befit our exhausted hearts and minds. Had Miss Goodwitch been there to see us, she would have wept – or more likely made us weep – for showing such a lack of discipline.
And so lost were we in our struggle that we failed to realise just how much noise we were making. Others did not, and it took a new arrival for our battle to come to an end. The new entrants were eight in number, well-armoured and well-fed, and most importantly…
They were female.
"Well, well, well," the girl in the lead said, holding a sword in one hand. "What do we have here? Six men scrambling over some dog food. Fitting, I suppose."
My heart fell to the floor, and I was so shocked I didn't even feel Russel push me off and pick up his weapon. All thoughts of in-fighting were lost, replaced with nervous fear. Even Zwei let go of Cardin's head and backed away warily.
"Girl scouts…" I breathed.
(And not the kind which sold cookies either, unless you wanted them delivered via the tip of a sword. The Girl Scouts were, quite literally, scouts for the female forces, who were tasked not with defending key objectives, but scouting the halls and locating any straggling men, which they would then capture. Even over just a day, they had become a symbol of terror for all men.)
"We're doomed," Sky breathed, his agony forgotten. "What are we supposed to do? Cardin…?"
"I… I don't know." Cardin ground his teeth together and raised his voice. "Oi, you lot better clear off if you don't want to mess with Team Cardinal!"
At better times the intimidation might have worked… back when Team CRDL looked the part, and when they weren't all clearly hungry, tired and already halfway to defeat. The girls looked between themselves and giggled, while the leader rolled her eyes and held her sword before her.
"Very cute, boys. Truly adorable. Now, since the bluster is out of the way, surrender yourselves to us and we shall see you treat as prisoners should be." Her eyes roved over Ren and I and her smile widened. "And you two…? Oh, there's a bit of a reward for the ones who bring you in. Let's just say there's a pair of redheads waiting for you."
We both shivered at the proof our teammates hadn't forgotten about us. The two of us shared a look, and there was more understanding in it than anything else.
We could not be caught here.
"Prepare to fight," I cried, all bark and no bite. Crocea Mors felt heavy in my hand, and when I held out a hand to help Sky up, he failed to notice how I positioned him in front of me. "If we work together we can take them out."
"Are you mad?" Cardin snapped. "There's eight of them and six of us. Seven of us," he added when Zwei barked angrily. "That's not exactly good odds."
No, and it wasn't about to get any better. I lowered my voice and stepped a little closer to him, whispering in his ear. "I have a plan. Work with me a little."
"Why should we trust you?"
"What other choice do you have? We're doomed either way."
Cardin glowered, but eventually nodded. "Okay. We'll try it your way. What's the idea?"
"You four charge in the front and keep them busy," I said. "Ren and I will loop around the back and spring the trap. They'll never know what hit them."
Mostly because they'd never expect the two of us to book it out the door and away, but hey, it would be a learning experience for everyone. As for the trap, well, that would be Cardin. As in he and his team were going to be the trap which kept the girls busy until they'd dealt with them, all the while Ren and I ran away with our tails tucked between our legs.
To be fair, Team CRDL would be captured and fed. They weren't going to face unspeakable horrors like we were!
Cardin looked me in the eye for a long moment, before he nodded – apparently satisfied with what he found there. His poor judge of character aside, he stomped to the front of his team and roared at the top of his lungs. Bestial as it was, it seemed to inspire confidence in his men, something I'd never been able to do with my own team. Sky, Dove and Russel straightened, a strange gleam coming to their eyes.
The situation was no less hopeless, but their cocky air had returned, and they all drew their weapons.
"Like that'll make a difference," the leader of the Girl Scouts chuckled. "Take them out, ladies!"
The seven women with her charged in, while CRDL rushed to meet them. Ren moved too, but I grabbed his wrist and tugged him to the side instead. "Leave them," I hissed. "We have to get around to the other side."
"You have a plan?"
Escape, run, and feel bad about it later, roughly in that order. I made sure to grab Zwei as well, mostly because if we did run into Ruby and Yang, my good treatment of their pet might get me out of a beating. He, meanwhile, made sure to grab the bag of dog treats.
We ran around the left flank of the melee, which had turned into a mad whirl of steel and flesh, as weapons battered against aura and people were knocked left and right. For all his exhaustion, Cardin waded through the battle like a giant, one girl clung to his left arm and another with her entire body wrapped around his neck. They were going to drag him down in time, however. Unless we intervened, that was.
So, basically, he was going to be dragged down. It was a shame, but that was life. The world was one of bloody evolution, and unfortunately for Cardin, he'd evolved with a penis – which meant he'd come out on the wrong side of this war.
So had I, sadly, and it was proven even more true as the last woman, the apparent leader, dove in front of us, cutting off the exit.
"Where do you think you're going? You two are the main prize here. There's a promotion in store for whoever brings you in." She let out a sigh and clenched her hands together. "Finally, I can get an easy job defending one of the objective points. I can't believe I have to wander around school attacking desperate idiots."
"Split up," I hissed, pushing Ren to the left as I went right and Zwei ran down the centre. She couldn't catch all of us at once, and I could only hope Ren would come back for me if he slipped by her.
The girl froze as her target became three, and then two as Zwei rushed between her legs. She hesitated in Ren's direction, and then moved in mine. Perhaps she sensed the weaker threat, or maybe she thought I was the leader since I was doing the most talking. Either way, it was bad news for me.
I hopped away from her sword, coincidentally landing atop a desk pressed up against the side of the classroom. She growled and lunged after me, and I clambered higher up the stacked chairs to get away. Come on, Ren, I begged. I'm keeping her busy. Knock her out or something! Unfortunately for me, Ren was nowhere to be seen.
(I'd actually been engaged by another Girl Scout, not that Jaune noticed. As ever, his attention was fixed upon himself and his immediate surroundings.)
"End of the line," the leader taunted as I reached the top of the stacked chairs. It wobbled precariously, but I managed to wedge myself between it and one of the roof tiles. "Are you going to keep running or are you ready to fight?"
"I was going to keep running, honestly," I said. Maybe if I pushed the roof tile up, I could slip up there and sneak out? No, those were probably solid, and I was too heavy. I'd fall back through the roof.
Hm, would she be distracted if I took my trousers off and threw them at her?
I was desperate. Sue me.
A yelp escaped me as the girl leapt up onto the side and started to scale towards me. She waved her sword once to try and push me off, and I flicked Crocea Mors against it. She growled and pulled herself higher, while I crawled to the other side and tried to find a way to jump off. Trapped against the wall, however, I had no options, and she was about to catch me.
"Got you," she crowed, hands appearing over the edge. She grabbed my ankle before I could kick her, and disarmed me with a casual cut from her thin sword. She was at least a second or third year, and much stronger than me. "Now it's time for you to come with me an-"
The world beneath us teetered precariously. My eyes trailed down at roughly the same time hers did. The stack of chairs we were both now clinging to swayed away from the wall, rocking back and forth as our added weight overbalanced it. I clamped down on mine, eyes wide and teeth clenched together.
She desperately tried to do the same, but the sudden movement proved her undoing – and with a horrible crack, the chair at the bottom broke.
It was like riding an avalanche.
Or, at least, that's what I imagine it was like. The stack of chairs fell and spilled outwards, toppling over the girl and pinning her to the floor, even as fifty or so more surged over the battlefield and struck the melee from behind. One girl barely had the time to cry out a warning before I hit her, and to be honest she should have heard my panicked cries first. She went down hard, and I was propelled over their heads as my chair cracked.
I landed hard and rolled to a stop, my back on fire and just about everything hurting. Worse, I'd somehow managed to end up back on the wrong side of the fight – away from my escape. No, I'm done. Screw it. I give up. Take me now and let Pyrrha and Nora do whatever they want. I'm just done.
"It's the signal!" Cardin cried. "Push them back!"
The roar from Team CRDL drowned out all other noise, and I watched in awe as they pushed forward and actually started to take control of the fight. The numbers against them had dwindled from seven to three, and it looked like at least two of the women – not including the leader – had actually been pinned under the fallen chairs, and were even now trying to get back out.
Cardin and his team took full advantage of that. Notions of gentlemanly nature and care were forgotten, and they struck their foes unconscious as quickly as they could. It only took a minute or two, but it felt like longer as I watched.
It wasn't until Ren dispatched his opponent that I realised what had just happened.
Cardin realised it too, and stared down at his hands.
"We… We won…" he whispered. "We defeated them."
"We need to get out of here," Sky said. "We made way too much noise. People will be coming."
The others agreed and quickly rushed to the door, but something else had caught my eye. One of the girls had fallen on her side and something had spilled out of her pocket. It was a packet of beef jerky, and my mouth watered at the sight of it.
"Food!" I cried.
It stopped the others dead, and they turned in time to see me looting one of the girls. She had beef jerky, some grain bars, and also what looked like sandwiches carefully wrapped in tin foil. Compared to the dog food we'd been about to eat, it was the greatest luxury.
"He's right," Cardin hissed. "Guys, quick, loot them of all the food and valuables we can!"
"What should we do with them?"
"Nothing, there's nowhere we can keep them if we take them prisoner. Just take the food and we'll get out of here." Cardin jogged over and gripped me by the arm, hauling me up. "You saved us," he whispered. "Your plan worked!"
Oh hell, the plan.
"Heh heh… uh, yeah… I guess it did."
It was ten or fifteen minutes later when we found ourselves in an altogether different room, some third year dorm we'd taken over. It was far enough away from the last classroom that we wouldn't be found, and the trek here had been a terrifying one, us carrying more food than we'd seen in ages. If anyone had seen us, we would have been attacked for sure, but luck was on our side and we made it through unharmed.
The food we'd stolen was now amassed on the bed before us, though it had been split into six small piles put before each person. All of that had been done in silence, but it wasn't a comfortable one. Had it been just Ren and I, or just Team CRDL, then it probably would have been such. Sadly, we were still technically enemies, and without a common cause to unify us, the atmosphere was tense. Up until now, the lingering adrenaline had been enough to keep everyone subdued. The moment ended when Cardin stood and approached me.
I stood opposite him and tried to look as confident as I could. I probably failed, but it was worth a shot.
"What happened back there…" Cardin paused. "Since the war began, there hasn't been a single report of a male force being any female one. The Girl Scouts have been unchallenged."
(This was true, but we would later realise it was because no one had tried. The men were so scattered, that there was never a chance for them to win.)
"You, however," he went on. "You managed it. We actually won. I have no idea how, but…" He trailed off, and stared at me with an unreadable expression. "Was that your plan all along?"
No, of course not, but I couldn't very well tell him I'd planned to run off and abandon him. I shrugged instead, eyes glancing to the side as I waved one hand in the air. "Pretty much," I said, taking the undeserved credit in full. "There was no way we were going to win a fair fight, but I figured they'd be so overconfident they wouldn't think to use any strategy."
"They're too used to fighting Grimm," Cardin said. "It didn't occur to them to treat us like anything different and… and maybe I've done the same." He looked down at his hand. When his eyes flickered back to mine they were harder, sharper, and somehow more resolute. "You led us to victory," he said. "You've achieved what no other man has. You gave us victory. You gave us food…" He gestured to the pile of food on the bed. "But more than that, you've given us our dignity."
We all looked to Zwei, happily munching on his dog food – and once again thanked our stars we wouldn't be doing the same.
"I don't know how you did it, Arc, but ever since this started, we've been lost. I did my best to keep us together but I never managed to provide for us like this. There's food enough here for a full day. That's… that's probably more food than any guy in Beacon has right now."
"It wouldn't have been possible without you four," I said, partly because it sounded like it was expected, but also because I wanted to make it clear exactly how much I didn't want to fight with them. "You guys did most of the fighting, so-"
"No." Cardin shook his head. "We may have fought, but it was you who led us to victory."
Before my eyes, the armoured man knelt.
"I, Cardin Winchester, do pledge my allegiance to Jaune Arc."
"I, Sky Lark-"
"I, Russel Thrush-"
"I, Dove Bronzewing…"
The four of them were on their knees before me. They'd formed a semi-circle with Cardin at the head, and each of theirs was bowed towards the floor, one hand on raised knee as they pledged their loyalty to me.
Me! Of all the people!
"To he who shall lead us to better times," Cardin declared. "Our swords are yours to wield, our armour is yours to defend, and we shall go where you command. Lead us, and allow us to reclaim our rightful place!"
Reclaim…? They wanted me to fight against the girls? Ha ha, no way. No chance. Nuh-uh. That wasn't happening. Not in a million years. There were six of us here, and it would probably take at least ten times that number to even have a chance.
That said… there was safety in numbers, wasn't there? My instinctive desire to turn them away was quickly squashed down as I realised just how much easier it would be to look for food if there were more of us. Sure, we'd draw more attention, but if push came to shove, Ren and I could just abandon them again and go back to just the two of us.
Team CRDL could be muscle, meat shield and distraction all in one… and if we could take out other teams of Girl Scouts, then we'd be set to last out until the War ended altogether. All I'd need to do was pretend to be their leader and keep them away from battle. We could say we were building up our forces, but the whole war would end in five days anyway.
We just needed to stay in one piece until then.
"I accept your allegiance," I called, hoping I didn't sound quite too dismissive or uncertain about it all. "Rise now. We've worked hard today, and now we should celebrate. There's food aplenty, and we're safe here."
"Not that's an idea I can get behind," Russel laughed. The four rose, and it suddenly felt like any and all animosity between them and us was gone. No longer were we Team CRDL and half of Team JNPR. We were something else. We were similar. We were men.
I also noticed that the pile of food put before me was bigger than theirs. Cardin looked at it enviously, but made no complaint. I'd been given the best of it all, which looked to include homemade bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches that made my mouth water.
I wanted it all to myself, I really did.
They were the ones who were going to be doing most of the fighting, however. If they were weak from lack of food, they wouldn't be able to hold the ground, and without my meat shields, I'd be stuck having to fight again. It would be in my best interests to keep them happy and well-fed. They'd need the energy, after all. They were going to have to pull my weight.
With a shake of my head, I reluctantly broke one of the sandwiches into two.
And did He take the bread in hand and shake his head. In two He broke it, and then two again, until His food was shared with all of His disciples. No words did He speak, but His message was clear. Together we would suffer, together we would struggle, and together we would survive.
As we, His first, shared that fateful meal, I wondered if it were that He knew just what He had wrought. For in that moment when He delivered us victory, He won over our minds. In the time moments before, when He secured for us victuals, He won over our stomachs.
But when He, our Lord, declared that He would suffer with us…?
He won over our hearts and souls.
/-/ High Priest Russel Thrush /-/
The Book of Jaune
Oh my… You know, reading back over Sandy Mitchell's work with an eye for the detail is strange and amusing. In a way, excerpts like the one at the top of this chapter where Ren (or Amberly) has someone explain the situation… these could be seen as telling, which is sort of a no-no in writing. You always want to show instead of tell, and it would have been easy to have Cain (or Jaune) show the knowledge of what happened after the cafeteria fight by discussing it with Ren.
However, by having a "tell" in this sense, it actually becomes a "show", because it's an in-universe tell which shows us just how self-centred Cain (or Jaune) is. They don't bother to find out about the bigger picture because they just don't care, and that is shown by how Amberly (Ren) has to go and find someone else to explain it for you.
It's weird, but it just kind of works. It's the proof of pudding in a sense, because Ren can say Jaune "doesn't really care about outside knowledge" but that would be a tell. Instead, we show it by having Jaune just never bother to try and find out.
Next Chapter: 29th September
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