Struggle and Strife
Chapter 1, Special Delivery
I do not own anything pertaining to the RWBY universe, or Final Fantasy. No stocks, no stakes in RT or SE, nothing. Don't even own any merchandise.
The idea wouldn't leave me alone, so I decided to write out the first chapter. Let me know what you think and I might continue with where my muse has already taken me, which is quite far, or just focus on my other stories.
There were many things Cloud Strife hated.
He hated swamps, as they often led to him needing replacement boots due to the lingering smells.
He hated Sephiroth, for haunting his memories and dreams, even in death. He hated the silver haired General with everything that he was. Every fiber of his being. Every hair on his head carried the hatred he felt towards the man. It was just that intense.
He hated the way he felt the need to push everyone away, even if he wanted nothing more than to spend time with his loved ones. It was hard to fight the itch he felt while sitting in Seventh Heaven, despite having Tifa and Denzel to keep him company. A home life like he had is something he always wanted, but it was just... too much for him, sometimes, to act like a normal person.
He was, by and far, not a normal person. It was for that very reason that more often than not, Cloud found himself in the company of Vincent Valentine, Shelke Rui, Reno and Rude, mopping up the ruins of Midgar for the WRO when not resting or running deliveries.
It was almost a hobby of his, making sure that the mistakes of the past were wiped clean from the face of Gaia, but it was deeper than that. For each abomination escaped from the broken laboratories that he killed, it was one more tie to his own past that he severed, one more life he would save from experiencing pain at the hands of a fellow experiment gone wrong.
The former Turks, Reno and Rude, would run support along Cloud and Vincent while Shelke acted as their operator and without a doubt, they were the most fearsome foursome to ever walk the ruins of Midgar.
Cloud hated Mako Reactors. Having been exposed to enough Raw Mako to power a small village for years on end, it was not without reason that the blond swordsman avoided the many decrepit and rotting husks of the remnants left behind by ShinRa. Reactor Zero, the main reactor taken over by Deep Ground during the early days of ShinRa, had become a breeding zone for freaks and foes that Cloud was very glad never saw the light of day.
Even two years after the event of Omega WEAPON awakening and Chaos preventing the Final Solution of Gaia, the after effects of Deep Ground becoming active and Hojo seizing control of such a force remained apparent, even along the outskirts of Edge.
Other reactors were just as bad, likely due to remnants of Hojo's mind scattering on the ShinRa network that still controlled the shut off reactors. There were so many blacksites and store houses set up by the massive corporation that it was impossible to completely destroy the man and his psyche, or at the least, his will to destroy everything in revenge for the death of Sephiroth and JENOVA.
The large concentration of stagnant Mako in the reactors attracted the most heinous of monsters, both beast and human alike, so Cloud generally steered clear as a rule of thumb when out and about away from Midgar.
You can't deliver packages to folks in the wild lands between Edge and Kalm if you died to a Behemoth chewing on a Mako flavored bounty hunter while jacked up on enough of the liquid lifestream to rain lightning like it was confetti.
Cloud had seem some pretty bizarre things during his adventures, and they didn't seem to involve well dressed men posing at one another like the name would imply.
Not since that one time, in that one place that Cloud swore to make everyone else forget about, including himself.
Cloud snapped out of his thoughts of his adventures and went back to his original train of thoughts.
Namely, how much he hated absolutely everything right about that moment.
He hated the way he couldn't move his body.
He hated the way he couldn't even open his eyes for more than a second, just long enough to see where he was or at least see the figures who checked on him almost constantly.
He hated the way his ass and groin itched something fierce, like he was sitting in a festering diaper.
He hated just about everything. The cooing noises of someone happy reached his ears, but he could hardly understand a single word being spoken by either of the two voices.
Eventually, two voices turned into what sounded like six and Cloud felt himself become disoriented. He didn't recognize the accent, the language nor any of the voices speaking, and that sort of terrified him.
He had traveled Gaia too and fro, up and down, left and right and all over again more times than he could even remember. Not once could he remember ever hearing a spoken language that sounded quite like this one.
Maybe Cloud was just being arrogant in assuming he had seen all Gaia had to offer in his twenty six years of life, but then again, he was pretty confident he was widely traveled.
Midgar had been home to quite a few dozen cultures, hiding beneath a metal plate, rotting and stagnating without a care. Midgar had the habit of taking everything beautiful in the world and tarnishing it, something Cloud had become all too familiar with as he further integrated the memories of Zack Fair and the interspersed thoughts of Sephiroth.
Whatever it was that Hojo had done to Cloud, whatever it was that S-Cells had become after mutating from J-Cells, they were not done evolving and growing. Cloud was the only living host and no amount of Holy Water from the Church of Aeris could kill them off and allow him to live a normal life, instead changing them again into something different than before. Geostigma was gone, but the changes to his abilities after the healing waters purified his body were not.
The SOLDIER program was long dead along with the corporation that loved to create living weapons, but the reminders lived on within Cloud, the only remaining person alive with Mako Enhancements on the level of the Silver General outside of Vincent Valentine and his assortment of Deep Ground defectors.
The S-Cells had evolved again after the third death of Sephiroth, becoming less like a malignant foreign entity and more like an intelligent life-form that acted more in the benefit of Cloud than it did itself.
Vincent and his little posse loved to call them C-Cells, but Cloud didn't really see the point in either agreeing or disagreeing as they didn't exactly help him in delivering packages, which was sort of his source of income and thus livelihood.
Science wasn't going to pay his bills, hard work was.
It was this very mentality that cursed Cloud Strife unto dooming himself to a life he wasn't prepared to live, nor one he even particularly wanted to live.
He wasn't sure when the transition happened, but it was somewhere between the juiced up Behemoth deciding that Cloud looked like a tasty snack and Fenrir deciding that it would run out of fuel at the worst possible time.
Needless to say, Cloud wasn't quite as prepared for his bike to explode and impale him with four of his six swords as he would have liked to be, nor the man clad in red wielding a massive saber to attack him immediately after he pulled his blades from his body. The behemoth was the first to fall and the ensuing battle between the weakened Cloud and his assailant was not as grand as he would have liked his final battle to be.
Cloud had attempted to ask why, but the words wouldn't escape his lips. His assailant, someone he recognized as Genesis Rhapsodos, was too busy raving about Cloud's death being the will of the Goddess, whoever she was, and how another world needed saving.
Cloud didn't much like Goddesses, not if they were calling for his death when he did his best to prevent the world from being destroyed. Especially not if that said Goddess assumed he would want to even save a second world, let alone the price to pay to get there.
Dying was not on the agenda of one Cloud Strife, but he supposed he would have to mark down it's arrival on his personal planner and cancel the plans he had for the rest of his life.
Afterwards, things had gone a bit hazy. He knew that he eventually died from his wounds. Bleeding out had been one of the least pleasant things Cloud had ever experienced, and boy did he experience a lot in his time alive. Nothing short of being doused in raw mako while having needles shoved into your spine was worse.
Some time in between his eyes closing and his death, something changed. He didn't know if it was his soul leaving his body to rejoin the lifestream, or perhaps even leave the planet like the babbling redhead said, but he did know it was no longer within the vessel he called his body.
Regaining his sense of being, however, came after some indiscernible amount of time.
For five months after suddenly regaining the ability to think, Cloud had been tortured with an incredible weakness of both body and mind, finding himself sleeping more than he liked and being spoon fed by blurry figures when he was conscious.
If he didn't know any better, he would have thought he was a baby, which was crazy, so he did his best to convince himself he was just stranded in a land full of giants. It helped him sleep a bit better at night.
"Aww, why does Jaune look so upset all of the time?" Arturia questioned as she looked down at her baby brother, watching him squirm in his crib as he thrashed his hands back and forth, "Is it normal for a baby to be so mad?"
"No?" Mordred seemed just as puzzled as her twin, twirling a lock of platinum blond around her finger as she leaned over her baby brothers crib, "But he is perfect. I've always wanted a baby brother..."
"Yeah, we get it, Mor." Arturia rolled her eyes at the adoration her usually cold and stoic sister was displaying, "When did mom and dad say they'd be back?"
"Tomorrow night. You know what they are doing, don't play stupid." This time it was Mordred who rolled her eyes before gesturing towards her newest sibling, "How do you think they brought us this little angel?"
"He looks a bit too pissed off to be an angel..." Arturia trailed off as she watched the small babies face scrunch up once more before he let out a frustrated grunt, trying to open his strangely glowing eyes of azure blue with a singular ring of green around slightly slitted, cat-like pupils.
His glowing eyes appraised the two with disdain and confusion before shutting once more, the boy obviously wanting something from the two but unknowing how to properly communicate his thoughts, or likely not having the energy to do so.
"Ew, I think I know why he's so mad..." Arturia scrunched up her nose before wafting her hand in front of her face, causing Mordred to blanch before grabbing a shirt and wrapping it around her face.
"Don't worry, little brother, I will take care of you until you are old enough to take care of me." Mordred seemed oddly pleased as she cooed these words to the smelly child, leaning over his cage to drop one side and allow her access to change his diaper and clean him up.
When his eyes snapped open once more upon realizing that he was no longer clothed, Arturia held her breath upon being held under his gaze.
He was demanding an explination on why someone was cleaning him without permission, an oddly intelligent demand for a babe of five months to make with eye gestures alone.
Arturia pretended to ignore the creeping chill that settled down her spine as she realized that her five month old little brother was far more intelligent than he had any right being.
Besides the obvious irritation at being violated due to his own lack of control of his bodily functions, why did Jaune look like someone pissed in his cornflakes?
Arturia Arc, eldest daughter of Julius and Juniper Arc, didn't want to actually know the answer to the questions she continued to ask.
Jaune was... a strange child, Julius and Juniper Arc came to learn quickly. By the age of three, he was capable of holding intelligent conversation and seemed to carry himself with experience that no child, no matter how prodigious the bloodline, had any right to have.
For the first few years of his life, Jaune had seemed incredibly moody and withdrawn, more so than any baby Julius or Juniper ever had until one day, he seemed to almost accept his situation and started attempting to get closer with his family.
After the child started giving advice to Julius on how to maintain his blade and shield, Crocea Mors, the two parents of the child began to grow a bit more than weirded out by the curiously intelligent child.
One did not display skills in cleaning swords without having ever touched a blade before, causing Julius to come to the only conclusion he could.
His son was either some sort of super genius or an alien, one that was able to learn at a rate that was beyond anything Julius, Juniper or their many sisters could prepare themselves for. Julius was pretty convinced Jaune was an alien.
By the age of five, he was walking the forest armed to the teeth with massive, wooden swords that he carved from the trunks of felled trees, wielding one in each hand and having two back-ups strapped to his back. It wasn't long after he was armed that he proceeded to clear an entire pathway from the Arc stronghold to the nearest town, some fifteen miles out from the walled residence.
Mordred was the one to ask why he cleared such a wide and long path, he gave his sisters a small smile that seemed to shine for all of a second before it was gone. When he said it was for his bike, Julius pointed out that Jaune didn't even own a bike, let alone the fact he didn't know how to ride one. Jaune couldn't be blamed for hating the family Bullhead despite being the only Arc in known history to not have the curse that was motion sickness.
Another reason that Julius thought his son was really an alien.
Jaune seemed to take it as some sort of challenge and from that day on, he was seen working on the start of something monstrous while studying the latest technologies related to vehicles being released by Atlas and Mistral the moment they were released to public domain.
Lancolette, his third eldest sister, asked why he didn't order any Vacuoan or Valean tech as often as he did Atlesian and Mistralian, yet he didn't give a verbal answer. Instead, a curled lip raised in disgust and an incredulous look was all that was needed to get his message across as he leaned his small frame over the motor he was building from the ground up, three times the size of his body.
Things seemed relatively tame for a few months afterwards until Julius awoke one morning to the most god awful racket that ever disturbed his ears.
When asked on why Jaune was attempting to wield six different shaped and sized swords at once, he just shrugged his shoulders and said he thought it was a good idea.
Julius didn't have it in his heart to tell his son that trying to learn how to properly wield swords four times bigger than him in each hand was not a good idea. Instead, he encouraged his son in any endeavors the boy put his mind to.
By the age of ten, Jaune had not only learned how to wield one of the massive swords made with live edges, but all six that he could somehow fit together to form an even bigger sword.
It was still twice as long and wide as he was tall, but Julius had no doubt that he would eventually grow into the weapon as he continued to age. If the Patriarch had to be honest, it was one of the most beautifully crafted weapons he had ever seen in his life, and the most ridiculous.
Mechashift weapons were fine, but if you were going to use a giant sword, why not have it shift into some form of gun, or even a cannon? Jaune didn't like the idea of having a gun and decided to have his sword either turn into smaller swords, or an even bigger sword.
Apparently, Jaune really liked his swords.
The only other weapon his family had seen him attempt to wield had been a baseball bat, and with how many nails and wraps of barbed wire there were on that weapon he made, it was potentially even more dangerous than the blades he carried around due to risk of tetanus.
Juniper had expressed being scared for and of her only son, but Julius had set her mind at ease easily with a few hushed whispers and reassurance sex, something that they didn't know was a thing until Jaune had been born.
'The boy is an Arc, and we all know Arc's don't do normal well.'
Jaune was practically the living embodiment of that particular saying within the Arc family, however.
When he was twelve, he decided to point his hands at a large pile of stacked wood within the compound and stood there for hours a day for a month straight.
None of his sisters wanted to tell him that he looked like a constipated psychopath, so they ignored their little brother and his slightly more bizarre than usual behavior. Mordred, the stoic but kind sister that always stuck by his side, decided to humor him and would practice her sword forms while he attempted to do whatever it was he was attempting to do.
Well, they ignored him until one day the pile of wood he continued to point his hands at spontaneously combusted, levitated into the air and combusted again. No one could forget the cackling, ominous laughter that came from the normally very quiet Jaune.
It was even worse when he decided to summon lightning to strike as he did so, seemingly figuring out how to make nature bend to his will during his month of pointing his hands at a pile of logs and willing it to catch fire.
Julius knew that his son could do anything he put his mind to, but that was just pushing it.
Like he had been telling Juniper all along, Jaune had to be an alien. There just wasn't any other explination. The boy clearly came from Juniper's womb, Julius was there as a witness, but they would never believe he was Human, or Faunus for that matter.
Without having his aura unlocked, Jaune was able to do things that just didn't make sense.
None of the Arc's wanted to upset the blond haired, blue eyed wolf in sheeps wool after that. For how sweet he was to his sisters and how docile he became when someone ran their hands through his hair, there was something very, very wrong with Jaune Arc.
When he started making ice sculptures out of Grimm getting too close to the compound during his many days of wandering the woods, none of them blinked an eye. Beowulves suddenly implode in on themselves and rain black ichor from some unseen increase in gravity? That's cool, Jaune, you do you.
Nothing the blond did phased the Arc family after years and years of experience dealing with his particular flavor of strange.
At the age of fifteen, Jaune had finished the massive project he started when he was challenged about not owning a bike. Namely, he built a monster from the ground up, custom ordering each and every piece of the behemoth of a land vehicle and decided he would call it a bike.
Julius, Juniper and Mordred paid for each of the parts, of course, with a promise from Jaune to pay them back for each and every piece when he had the money.
Like everything Jaune did, he did it big or he didn't do it at all. Everything was incredibly over the top with him, yet he acted like it was the most normal thing in the world.
Julius could hardly control the bike when he demanded his son let him ride it first to test how safe of a vehicle it was, but Jaune could even bunny hop the beast despite his smaller frame than his fathers.
While he wasn't quite stacked like his father, Jaune was clearly developing a figure that denoted just how often he worked with things twice his size, his swords and bike only being the first examples.
For all of his oddities, for all of his strength, the Arc family loved Jaune Arc dearly and would do anything to keep their prodigal son happy. When Jaune hadn't expressed an interest in becoming a Huntsman, Julius didn't push it and encouraged his son to pursue whatever he decided he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
Jaune had bounced a few ideas off of the man ranging from opening a bar in the town of Amarilla to starting his own delivery service, the second option being the preferred choice of the blond with the former being a last resort.
The first few deliveries had been made after his sixteenth birthday and afterwards, he was almost never home except to drop off money, gifts for his siblings and parents and sometimes the odd part for new weapons he started to design when he did decide to stay home.
This continued to this very day and for once, there was actual peace in the Arc compound without their alien son there to liven things up. Mordred and Arturia had moved out a month after Jaune first started working while Lancolette, Gwynn, Jocylynn, Kayte and Morganna stayed home at the compound with their parents to watch over them.
Things were going just fine for the Arc family. Just fine.
Jaune couldn't say he was too displeased with his lot in his second life. Seventeen years after being reborn in a new body and with a new name, some of the wounds upon his soul and mind had been healed from his time as Cloud Strife.
It still hurt him to wake up every day and know that he would never, ever see his loved ones again, but he had long grown used to the idea. Gaia had rejected him, prevented him from joining the Lifestream in death and instead, flung his essence into the cosmos.
That was the theory that Jaune had long come to accept.
He couldn't explain why his eyes still glowed with Mako-Shine, or why his body still produced the strange cells that Vincent and his posse had dubbed C-Cells, but he wasn't exactly a scientist nor versed in whatever process it was that Jaune went through after dying to end up being born as Jaune Arc.
He didn't know if he was on the same planet millions of years in the past or future, he didn't know if he was on a different planet millions of years in the past or future.
All Jaune knew was that he was not on Gaia and had no way of ever getting back. How the traits that came from being an experiment of Hojo transposed into his new body Jaune did not know, nor did he really care.
Perhaps his soul had become so drenched in the life essence of Gaia that his body would naturally produce the shine. That very explination is the same he used when explaining the presence of what may as well been benevolent S-Cells within his bloodstream.
The only theory that Jaune could come up with is that his soul had become like its own lifestream and that the smaller, self contained lifestream had been flung to another planet where it merged with the fetus of the unborn Jaune Arc.
Like a hitchhiker, Cloud had likely taken over the body and mind of the body subconsciously and made it his own.
Jaune didn't like to think about the hows or the whys of his abilities and body, he was just thankful he could rely on skills he knew worked whenever he found himself in Grimm situations.
There had been a tingling feeling in the back of his head when he was twelve, one that he remembered feeling hundreds of times before when using different types of materia, causing him to come to a startling conclusion.
Whatever materia he had on him when he died was transferred along with his essence, allowing him to call upon the same abilities he had on his deathbed, though at a larger cost in mana than he remembered.
Jaune was very pleased to learn that he could not only still use his offensive spells when the need for such abilities came, he could also heal as well. One thing he prided himself on was his ability to heal, something he picked up after the death of Aeris as a reminder.
Cloud hadn't wanted to lose any more comrades, not with how badly it hurt to lose Aeris. The healing materia that she once used had been used as a gemstone with his pink ribbon, so perhaps the condensed memories of the Cetra carried over as well as the essence of Cloud Strife.
When it came to dying and reincarnating, Jaune couldn't be sure of anything, so he chalked it up as something he would likely never know for certain and accept that his combat potential had remained as potent now as it was in his previous life.
His soul and body seemed to remember his experiences just as his mind did. He didn't want to tell his father that he was correct in assuming his son was an alien as the blond highly doubted that would go over well with the man, even if delivered as a passing joke.
While he did not go to extreme measures to hide his abilities, Jaune knew it wasn't quite normal on Remnant to be able to cast magic spells, let alone without the use of either aura or dust. While he had access to the potent energy of the soul after his father unlocked his aura upon his fifteenth birthday, his mana remained as an independent power source and would remain hidden until the day came he could no longer hide it.
The reborn Cloud learned as much as he could about the world around him when he realized he was no longer on Gaia and knew just how dire the situation was on Remnant. Only four countries existed, calling themselves Kingdoms, and they were each under almost constant siege from creatures of darkness known as the Grimm.
The Grimm were creatures that didn't surprise or cause fear in Jaune all that much, especially considering he was used to tangoing with giant snakes seventy feet in length.
Zoloms, whether the Midgar or Mideel variety, were far more dangerous than any King Taijitu Jaune had ever come across, so his fear of the Creatures of Grimm was minimal at best, no matter the variety. Nothing short of a stampede would stop Jaune when he started swinging his swords, especially considering that his stature was greater than it was in his previous life and allowed for even stronger swings of his blade than before.
Despite his skill, however, his body was still young and needed a bit more time to catch up with his previous peak strength, even with reactor levels of aura and mana stored within his core.
Standing at six foot two inches, Jaune Arc made for a very imposing figure, especially when donning his combat garb. His current outfit was a darker remake of his previous attire in a slightly larger size, the Cloudy Wolf as Tifa loved to call it, though he no longer wore the sleeve upon his left arm to cover the signs of Geostigma.
Instead, around his left arm was a black ribbon, something he refused to take off unless he was bathing. It was a reminder of the ribbon he once wore, pink in color, before the Planet decided to reject its favorite chew toy and send him into the void to be reborn again as the chew toy of a different planet.
Okay, so Jaune was a bit bitter, but he didn't let it consume him.
Jaune revved the engine of Fenrir as he approached the gates of what appeared to be a large village with sharpened tree-trunks tied together to form the barrier wall around it, idly curious as to why there was such a large enclave so far from civilization. Due to the large distance, it made receiving reinforcements an impossibility. Pulling his scroll from the inside pocket of his riding duster, Jaune peered at the GPS pinging his current location and compared it with where his latest package was to be delivered.
After confirming that he was at the right place, Jaune killed the engine of his monster of a bike and slid one of his fusion swords from the sheathes built into Fenrir and placed it on the massive holster on his back. Another was removed, then another until all six blades rested upon his back.
Pulling his goggles from around his eyes and setting them within a storage compartment of the land yacht called a bike, Jaune removed the delicate package from its resting place within his bikes storage and moved towards the gate of the large encampment in the wilds of Anima.
"Special delivery for Miss Raven Branwen." Jaune called out as he approached the gates, unaware of the situation he was about to walk into.
It was a special delivery alright, but was the package to be delivered the box under his arm, or Jaune himself?