Heya! I know it has been a long time since last chapter, so enjoy this and we'll see each other at the footnotes!
All the Watchers enjoyed a short break before returning to the Watching Hall.
Frankly, they could swear they heard people sounding not unlike them from one of the locked rooms, but of course they hadn't been able to investigate. Khor and JF were both still there when they returned, one awake again while the other, with an open book in front of him, reading passively. They both straightened, the book disappeared from JF's lap, when they entered the room.
"Well, I guess we're ready to start a new viewing, aren't we?" asked Khor, getting various levels of agreement from the others. "Pretty good. Shall we?"
"You said this one was going to make us cry," said Ruby.
"Yes, it is," nodded JF before stilling. "Well, you seven at least. I have my doubts on whether Ozpin, Ironwood, Jerkoff, Shitley and the Bull can still have feelings or not."
The four of the five scowled, while Ozpin merely sighed, shaking his head. "Let's just move onto the next universe," he stated wearily.
Khor checked if they had all returned before tapping his cane to the ground. "Well, here we go then," he shrugged as the screen lit up.
Jaune and Qrow looked at the bound farm boy between them, well aware that said boy was no longer in control and that he hadn't been for Oum knows how long. After they had arrived at Atlas the Wizard had taken to having meetings with Ironwood and Goodwitch who had made her way from Vale a while back, others taken over for her.
"Is this what you told us about?" asked Yang, eyes narrowing.
JF chuckled. "Yeah. In the so-called `canon` universe, the one that has been discovered first by us Writers, Ozpin takes over the soul of a farm boy called Oscar Pine." He looked pensive for a second. "I actually feel bad for him. His soul was slowly replaced and absorbed by Ozpin. And Oscar wasn't just dying..." He glared at the wizard. "He was being erased from existence."
"That's horrible!" exclaimed Pyrrha.
"Why do you think I hate him?" countered JF, waving his hand toward Ozpin. "Just imagine how many other souls he's consumed."
"But," intervened Khor. "That happens only in some universes. In others he does not kill his `host` and he's just a desperate man trying to end the war."
The Watchers looked at little less uneasy at the explanation, but the students were still unsure on how to feel about the whole ordeal.
Jaune had made no secret to his distrust of the Wizard and his ilk, Qrow was the sole exception, and only barely, because he put family first, and didn't like the fact secrets were being held from them so he tried to keep an eye and ear on them.
"Well, that's right," nodded Qrow, taking a swing from his flask.
"Not in all worlds," shrugged JF. "Sometimes you care about Ruby and trained her only so Ozpin would have a loyal trained dog instead of a free-thinking Huntress."
"And that's not counting the worlds where you rape Summer just because she didn't want to join Ozpin's side after hearing the full story, and Ozpin needed a silver-eyed warrior on his side," added Khor. "Or the universes where you kill Summer because her loyalty to Ozpin starts to waver and you don't trust her any more."
Qrow choked on his drink in shock, and Ruby stumbled as if hit.
"But this is not one of those worlds," continued JF. "Not as far as I know, at least," he added in a whisper no one caught.
Blake's friend Ilia had taken to hanging out with him the most out of the humans in their group, he was willing to be a someone to yell at when everything was just too much for her and had stood up for her when they ran into her old classmates who's teeth she had knocked out years ago when they returned to Atlas, and had been willing to help him spy on the Wizard, Goodwitch, and Ironwood. It was with her help they discovered what the three were planning.
Blake was surprised to see Ilia there, but not excessively so. They had seen stranger worlds during their stay in Vlakha Naroak, after all.
Ilia had followed them to a warehouse filled with aura-capable bots, not sentient like Penny had been but able to hold a soul or a fragment of one. Ruby wasn't progressing fast enough for their tastes in her use of Silver Aura, the red-clad girl still requiring an emotional stimulus, usually something along the lines of her loved ones dying or in danger as that is what had brought it out the last few times, to call it out. The Wizard had decided they needed to find another option.
"I don't like this..." said the girl. JF shrugged at her.
They wanted to stick Ruby in another one of those accursed machines, to tear out her soul and rip it into enough pieces to have an army of Silver Aura wielding bots.
Needless to say anyone who had been drinking at the time choked on their drinks. It also went without doubt that quite a few people were angry. Several Auras began to flare, only to be crushed when Ozpin, Goodwitch and Ironwood raised their own in defence. JF allowed them to fight a bit more before flaring his Aura and making them all stumble, the sheer pressure of his power making it difficult for them to breathe. Khor didn't seem affected, but a keen eye would notice the sweat starting to gather on his forehead as he endured JF's flaring Aura. After a few seconds, the Writer let it go. "Listen and listen well," he said. "I may not like those three but having you all destroy my friend's house isn't on my wish list, so calm down."
He waited for a second before smirking. "Or even better, force your emotions down, let them stew and boil so to have them break out at the most unwanted times and spread as much destruction as humanly possible."
That managed to extinguish their fury, his sadistic smirk doing wonders at cooling them off. "I still don't like this," growled Yang.
JF shrugged as he walked past them to Ruby, who sat petrified. After she had been told about the Silver Eyes she'd thought she would be destined to save the world... not having her soul torn apart because she wasn't learning fast enough. 'Is this how Jaune feels every time Goodwitch lectures him so harshly?' she wondered with a shiver. She hoped not. It felt horrible.
JF patted her shoulder to make her focus on him. "Hey, hey, hey, what got you so down?" he asked her as he offered her a Beowolf-shaped chocolate chip cookie. "It's a different universe. Thanks to Adrian, and partly thanks to Khor, Ozpin won't need to do anything like that. Heck, you should probably start picking names for your children soon enough! Cheer up, this is not the end of the world."
Ruby accepted the cookie a sighed deeply, allowing her negativity to go away with the sigh before she smiled. "Okey dokey!"
JF returned to his couch as the other Watchers stared at him with wariness for his last stunt.
Ilia got a recording of their whole plan and the two of them had played it for the rest of their group. The Wizard had walked in on them minutes later and found himself knocked out by a barrage of bullets, grenades, dust blasts, and a sheathed sword smacking into his temple once he was down to ensure he wasn't getting up anytime soon.
It was unsettling to see the eerie smiles on the students' faces, especially because they were even creepier than JF's, at the moment.
And that led to where they were now, with Jaune and Qrow carrying the knocked-out boy to the Vault where the Machine was located while WBY, NR, and Ilia were guarding Ruby. The elevator opened with an innocent ding that didn't match with the horrors the Vault held inside.
"Why would they need to guard her?" asked Weiss, frowning. "I mean, Jaune and Qrow are at the vault, so even if someone managed to capture her they would stop them."
"Better safe than sorry," shrugged Khor. "In most cases one learns that only after ending up being sorry. In this universe they decided that `sorry` was not something they accepted to be."
"Your speeches are weird," noted Yang.
"I'm a diagnosed psychopath," candidly retorted the Writer.
"So, what do you think we should do?" Qrow looked up from the monitor he was examining to look at Jaune as he closed the door to the container that now held the Wizard. "way I see it we have two options. One, stick him in one of those robot bodies we saw a little way back and make sure he can't move or fight with it, or two we see if he can come back from getting HIS soul ripped to shreds!" Qrow opened his mouth to answer only for a gunshot to cut him off.
"Is it bad I'm not sure what they should choose?" asked Ruby, her voice trembling.
"Is it bad I want them to choose the latter?" growled Yang, her eyes red and her hair aflame.
"What the hell are you two doing!?" Glynda and Ironwood had arrived, and shock decorated their faces.
"Just doing the job of a huntsman, putting down monsters." Qrow took a swig from his flask and then placed a hand on his blade. They may have argued and fought a lot but the two people standing in front of him were some of the few he'd call friends. "Tell me, why'd you do it."
"Qrow I'm sorry but Remnant's future isn't something we can trust to a child. This is one of those times that sacrifices must be made. I'm putting a stop to this and we are going through with our plan Silver Army." Jaune glared at the General as he grasped the hilt of his sword.
"It's easy to talk about sacrifice when you're not the one bound and gagged on the altar."
"That BASTARD!" shouted Blake, surprising everyone. Her eyes were slits. "How dare he?! Treat Ruby like she's just an animal sent to the butchery!"
"I wonder how many other sacrifices have occurred under the facade of being `necessary`," growled Yang. "Ozpin failed to stop Salem for thousands of years. Just because Ruby is not developing godlike powers in a few days they want to tear her soul to pieces?!"
Khor had to actually intervene at that. "That is an alternative universe," he said. "Alternative. Universe. Please try to calm down."
Winter was slowly reaching for her sabre. Only the knowledge that their own Ironwood wasn't like that stopped her.
JF sighed. "As evil as he just sounded, unfortunately that's true," he stated with a calm sadness that, knowing how he usually acted, was even scarier than his wickedness. "Sometimes sacrifices have to be made." His eyes narrowed and a shadow settled on his face. "But the difference between good and evil also lays within that choice. Evil sacrifice others whenever it's necessary. Good informs them of the choices, and allows them to choose."
"And what if the fate of humanity is at stake?" asked Roman, sad but curious.
"There is no right answer. The Multiverse may wield all the answers, but it does not share them all," shrugged JF. "It's like killing a murderer. If you don't he might kill more people. If you do, you become a murderer yourself. If you don't sacrifice others the `evil` might win, but if you do you become evil yourself. What's the right choice?"
No one replied to his mostly rhetorical question.
No one had the answer.
Qrow reacted first, the other two adults were skilled and while Glynda had seen plenty of combat recently the years spent splitting time between a desk, teaching, and training had dulled her edge. Ironwood was even worse off with all the work his positions dumped upon him. The most significant thing the two noticed was the sheer hatred in the former bandit's eyes as he brought his sword down at Ironwood. The General backpedaled as Qrow swung at him, Goodwitch turned to aid him only roll forward as the sound of a swinging sword reached her ears followed by the sound of the stone floor shattering.
Everyone stilled at the sound. A battle was due and they knew there would be no stopping it without drawing blood.
"Turning your back on the enemy, weren't you the one to harp on about how stupid a move that is." Goodwitch turned to see Jaune clutching his blade in its new form, she grimaced at the sight of it. The new form brought about with the enhancements performed with the remains of Pyrrha Nikos's equipment. The golden metal gleamed in the florescent light, the very sight of it reminding her of such a promising student gone long before her time even by Huntsman standards.
"Do you really think Ms. Nikos would want you to go down this path?"
"This is isn't about Pyrrha, this is about Ruby, the other student that you want to sacrifice. Oum I'm amazed there aren't more people like Hazel and me running around if this is how most of your students die!" Goodwitch narrows her eyes at that implication. A flick of her wrist has a dozen or so chunks of debris at the young knight. Most are turned to dust before they can hit him and the few that do bounce right off him. This is how their fight goes as behind them Qrow and Ironwood's fight moves back towards the elevator, Jaune was unable to land a hit on Goodwitch but she was unable to deal much damage to him.
"As good as he is now, he can't hope to defeat me," Goodwitch shook her head. "I still am a Professor at Beacon. Qrow might defeat me, but Mr Arc has no chance."
"Bitch," JF bluntly stated. "That's one of the reasons you aren't a good leader nor a good fighter. Rule number two never underestimate your opponents. Rule number one is never think you are invincible."
Goodwitch watched as her student cut another piece of flying rubble in two, he had come so far from when she first laid eyes on him. She had begged Ozpin to get rid of him, to expose his transcripts. He had countered with the fact if they did that almost a dozen other students, including Ms. Xiao Long and Ms. Belladonna, would have to be thrown out as well. The sad part is that none of his growth could be attributed to her, she had never given him any of the one-on-one advice or attention she gave to other students that needed it. All this was from his own effort and his partner's guidance. And now he was using every bit of that new skill to try and kill her, every blow he had aimed for would be lethal if it hit someone without aura. The sheer hatred in his eyes as he attacked her was more than she had ever seen before in someone so young.
Jaune wasn't the only one emanating killing intent. Many of the students were fuming as well. They all knew of Goodwitch's negligence in teaching the boy. She would usually just tell him to keep his head in the fight, never mentioning how to improve his stance, attacks or defence. Usually she would also throw him a little jab with her typical sarcastic little smirk. But hearing it from another source was getting them even angrier. Still, no one spoke because they wanted to see the end of the battle first.
"You know I wonder why Raven left? It seems like you and her share the same philosophy. Sink or swim, weak die while the strong live. Ruby can't progress because she has no reference or teacher and you want to kill her for it, you all would fit right in with Raven and her bandits" Glynda kept herself from rising to the bait as Jaune's blade came ever closer to hitting her, this time missing her neck by a single centimeter.
The comparison was a harsh one, but it was fitting, no matter what the Other-Goodwitch thought. Ruby would not just die, she would lose her very soul because of something out of her control, and they were being the judges. The irony wasn't lost to the Watchers, and Yang's hands tightened into fists, really wishing she could cave some faces in.
"Are all these worlds going to be so antagonistic toward us?" asked Ironwood, crushing the armrest in his grip.
"No," replied JF. "Because after these there will be only one more viewing session, and then you'll be sent home."
"What did we ever do to you?!" shouted Goodwitch, furious about being continually demonized by the Writer.
He laughed. "To me? Eh, it'll be a cold day in Hell the day you will be actually able to do something to me," he said. "But I've seen your actions and I've gathered information about you, and I decided I don't like you all one bit."
"Still, Jaune has improved immensely if he can fight Goodwitch on an even ground," said Pyrrha, amazed by the growth of her partner.
"War teaches a lot of stuff," shrugged Winter. "Combat is just one of its teachings."
Qrow's semblance was what ended the fight, a sharp crack rang throughout the room as one of Glynda's heals broke, as she stumbled back Jaune was on her in an instant. His aura shrouding him as his semblance amped it up he brought his blade down at her. A wide gash was opened up from her left shoulder to her right hip, her aura just barely keeping her alive as she slipped into unconsciousness. Ironwoods screams were the last thing she heard as consciousness slipped from her grasp.
Goodwitch looked at the screen, shocked to see her counterpart being basically killed by a single strike, and by the weakest student in Beacon nonetheless. JF chuckled. "Not so confident any more, huh?"
"Kid make sure we don't have to send Ironwood to the scrapheap yet." Qrow ordered as he walked past Jaune, his blade stained red. Jaune nodded and went to put a tourniquet on Ironwood's new stub. While he did that Qrow pulled up the program on the Machine marked SA, given what Ironwood had said it didn't take a genius to figure out what it was for. He activated the program and watched as a glow surrounded the Wizard's latest body. Screams soon filled the Vault.
Some shivered as the inhuman screams filled the room as well, but the students all had dark looks on their faces. For once no one accused the Writers for what they had just seen. Some of them still angry, but most of them just not knowing how to handle it. Ozpin himself looked lost, not sure what he would've done in a similar situation. His students were precious to him, but a single life to save the ones of all humanity was a truly alluring offer.
The only thing holding him back was the knowledge it was the truly alluring offer of evil.
JF and Khor allowed them to have a few minutes to gather their bearings before deciding to activate the screen again. No one complained as it wasn't the first time the screen was used twice in the same session.
The woman Ozpin was fighting, Cinder if that's even her real name, just flew up the elevator shaft. On one hand the Headmaster put Pyrrha inside a machine that was hurting her and clearly didn't care yet on the other hand, SHE JUST KILLED THE HEADMASTER! Ozpin was the strongest person on this campus and now he's dead. Goodwitch, she needs to know. Pulling out my scroll I start sliding through my contacts looking for her number while babbling at Pyrrha who's starring up at the tower. When my partner begins to speak my heart drops as she makes her intentions to go fight Ozpin's killer clear.
Ozpin frowned at the bit about him not caring for his students, but no one spoke. They had seen this scene already.
I know that Pyrrha is the strongest of our year, possibly the year above us, but Ozpin has … had decades of experience on her and seemed to have some idea on his opponent's capabilities. Added on to that is the fact the woman was throwing around fire and using glass, I think, weapons, she has the perfect skill set to beat and kill Pyrrha.
"He's very attentive, even more than the others," noted Cinder. "No one mentioned the glass before."
"Well, it's not easy to tell darkened glass from black metal," shrugged JF. "It's normal not everyone noticed. Plus you never used them in the tournament."
The kiss caught me off-guard and made so many things clear. I can admit to not being the sharpest knife in the drawer but missing this? Pyrrha forces me a step back and I remember the locker that is in the direction that she is currently herding me towards. I play along, reacting to the kiss till we reach the locker, I feel Pyrrha tense and act before she can.
I only succeeded because Pyrrha didn't expect it, despite how much she believes in me my partner has her own thoughts and expectations of me. She didn't think it would be possible I would see her actions coming and as such I managed to come out on top. I'm not proud of it but I make sure she hits her head roughly against the back of the locker, I need her dazed just long enough. Slamming the door shut I ignore her crying out and type in coordinates that should put her right outside the evac zone. I type the coordinates in right as a glow begins to cover the metal of the locker. The rockets kick in and Pyrrha cries out as she's launched into the air. The force is too much for her to fight against with her semblance. I wince at the heartbroken howl Pyrrha lets out as she flies off, utterly distinct from the rockets.
He wasn't the only one to as many others showed their discomfort. Sure, Pyrrha was about to do the exact same thing to him, but it didn't take anything from the fact that he had just broken the champion.
Pulling out my scroll I flip through my contact list to Goodwitch and send her a quick message with the details of the past hour along with my recommendation to have Ren replace me as leader and a plea to make sure my team gets the best replacement possible; not that Glynda will have a hard time finding someone better for them, I'm quite sure she'll enjoy the task. How… how much did she know about that coffin downstairs? How much was she involved in whatever the hell was going on down there?
This time, someone spoke. And it was Pyrrha. "Why?" she asked with venom. "I get that he's not the strongest first year, but why have you been so antagonistic to him ever since the first day?"
Goodwitch stiffened, but it was JF who replied. "Because she's self-righteous and she thinks she's always right," he barked out in a laugh. "She thinks he doesn't belong to become nor does he deserve it, so she treats him like filth, subconsciously trying to get him to give up. But since Jaune's not gonna give up, she subconsciously treats him worse and worse until everyone can see she holds clear dislike for the boy... often manifesting it with sarcastic remarks. What was it last time? `We wouldn't want you to get gobbled up by a Beowolf, now, would we?` Heck I might be sadistic but that was completely uncalled for."
Goodwitch made to reply but Ozpin stopped her and shook his head.
The tower looms over me, this is going to be my tomb. Whether I succeed or fail I'm not coming back alive. I can only hope to drag Cinder into death's embrace with me.
"What does it mean?" asked Ruby, scared of what he meant by `this is going to be my tomb` but having a pretty solid idea.
"He means he's gonna die up there, even if he defeats Cinder," replied Weiss, teeth gnashing together.
Climbing up the elevator shaft wasn't any fun, but it did allow me to put two back-up plans into place. I manage to reach top relatively quickly and roll to the side as bullets are sent flying my way. Cinder is grinning at me like a sadistic predator, Mercury's own grin is only a notch below her while Emerald's face is set in a grimace. The other two must have made their way up here while we were all in the basement. To add to this that Dragon Grimm is perched on the tower, staring in at us.
Many students grimace. Pyrrha against Cinder wouldn't have been a fair battle, but this was outright cold-blooded murder. Now they knew why he would die even if he managed to kill Cinder.
"I have to admit, this is the most interesting method of suicide I've ever seen." I don't voice it, but I have to agree with the psychopathic bitch. No matter what way you look at it this is suicide plain and simple.
Cinder looked down while glares were sent her way. JF just shook his head at her behaviour. "Never liked you," he stated severely. "At best, you are a power-maniac with no morals. At worst you are a psychopathic monster who wants to see the world burn for her own twisted pleasure."
"Says the psycho," grumbled Jacques.
"I may take pleasure in insulting and yes, even hurting people like Ozpin and Ironwood, but I would never step so low," growled JF as multiple bone shards appeared around him. "Genocide is a route I would never take. I'm not above killing Ozpin a few times but only because I can revive him. I'm no monster."
"Mind granting a dead man's last request, how'd you pull that stunt with Yang? Mercury is clearly standing." Cinder laughs into her hand at my question.
"I suppose your bravery…" the sarcasm makes it quite clear she means stupidity "…earns you that answer. Mercury here lost his legs a while back, his regular prosthetics don't break easily so we swapped one out for a less durable one. Emerald here merely used her semblance to make Xiao Long think he was attacking, and we let the sheep-like nature of the crowd do the rest. It wasn't like Ironwood was going to investigate beyond the bare minimum. I'll admit I was worried when Emerald resorted to using her semblance against Adel, but it turned out to be nothing I needed to worry about." I flicker of movement and Mercury was in front of me, his foot already buried in my gut as a gunshot rang out.
"What does he mean?" asked Blake, surprised by the statement.
"Watch on and you'll see," shrugged JF, still a little pissed about Jacques's comment earlier. He really wanted to throw around a few bone shards but he also didn't want to distract them from the screen. The two wishes clashed but eventually the shards crumpled to dust. "I'm not one of those Writers who leave things unexplained, thank you."
I fly back into a wall and hack up blood as I go for my weapon. Emerald's weapon wraps arm but I don't think she was expecting me to be able to fight back as I yank her towards me. My fist meets her face and slams her into the ground.
"Again, just one hit like that wouldn't take her out," noted Weiss.
JF snorted. "I said, watch on and you'll see," he repeated.
A fireball slams into my face, sending me stumbling back, my aura manages to keep my skin from being burned to a blackened husk but damn that hurts. I swat at my face to make sure all the fire is off and bring my shield in front of me on instinct. A clang lets me know I blocked something as I finally manage to regain my vision in time to see another blade lop my shield arm off, the blade burning so hot the stump is cauterized instantly. My aura might as well have been broken. I bite my lip so hard I break the skin as I hold in my scream. I don't want to give the bitch the pleasure.
The shout was loud, too loud for their ears, but it was understandable. JF restrained himself from berating them, knowing how painful it must be for them, but only barely. Khor cradled his head, groaning, now having a killer headache.
"I think we've wasted enough time here." I cough up more blood as Cinder drives her swords through my armor, the metal melting the instant the blades touch it. The blades exit out my back and are driven through the wall. I'm burning through my aura just not get cooked alive from the inside out. Huh, burning. Yang would be proud of that one. A smooth hand caresses my check, the skin it touches heating up from the contact. "So, any last words little knight?" I think the headbutt I give her is answer enough, the sound of her nose breaking is music to my ears. She must have not even bothered to put her aura up, so sure I wouldn't fight back.
Three down, I win.
Worry and fear were palpable in the air as the Watchers waited, full of concern for Jaune's fate, for the revelation that was obviously due. He said he had won, but all they saw was him on the brink of death. And no one liked that sight.
Ruby, Weiss and Pyrrha all had tears in their eyes, hoping but knowing their crush was going to die no matter what. With his Aura so damaged and such injuries, he wouldn't survive the trip down the tower even if he somehow managed to kill all his opponents. Yang, Nora, Blake and Ren all kept their heads down in silent mourning, knowing what was about to happen.
The others all held grimaces of varying degrees of distress or sorrow. Even Adam found himself slightly supporting the boy: he was weak, but he had shown great courage by sacrificing himself like that. And if what he stated was true, then he had also found a way to kill Cinder.
Cinder glares at me as flames gather in her hands as blood flows from her shattered nose but then goes rigid along with the other two. I let a laugh escape my lips, along with a bubble of blood, as I pull the swords out of my body. I'm lucky Cinder purposely avoided the vitals, or I'd have croaked by now.
"What's happening?" asked Roman, leaning forwards.
"I guess I should return the favor from earlier and explain. My semblance is a dangerous one, Priming and Detonating. One touch, one little piece of aura, and anything can become a ticking time bomb." I was lucky I discovered this by just pushing aura into a paper clip to see what happens. As it was people just thought I was fiddling with dust and I got a week's detention for doing so in the library. I didn't correct anyone because I was terrified of how they would react; I know for a fact Yang wouldn't let Ruby within a hundred yards minimum of me. The screaming starts now, all three crying out and collapsing to the ground as their skin begins to bulge in certain spots. I slide down the wall to the ground and pull out my scroll. I'm glad to see it was recording the whole time.
The students didn't understand, but the adults did. JF was the one to explain. "He channelled some of his Aura into them: that's why he had so little to defend himself against Cinder," he said. "He basically turned them into human nukes." He chuckled dryly. "Although it would take Ruby quite a bit more than a hundred yards to be safe from one of those..."
The others were shocked, and suddenly Yang understood what Jaune meant when he said she wouldn't let him within a hundred yards from Ruby.
Adam, instead, was interested. "How powerful are those bombs?" he asked eagerly.
For once, JF wasn't too vicious. The bone shards simply snagged Adam's clothing and anchored him to the couch. "Watch on and you'll see, how many times do I have to repeat that?" he growled, annoyed.
"Hey guys, really hope that this got everything because I don't have time to check. Ignore the screams for me, will you. I got a few things to say and I know I'm never going to get another chance. On top of that I don… HAAACKK!" I'm cut off as I begin coughing up more blood, shit did she hit a lung? "I really don't have enough time to say all I want to say so I'll try and keep it brief."
Everyone stared in worry, but they waited for him to say what he had to say.
Ruby; thanks for being there for me at some of my lowest points. I don't like thinking about how close I was to making some really stupid decisions before you would cheer me up. I doubt you even realize all the times you helped me. Thanks for lowering yourself enough to call me a best friend.
Their hearts dropped as they realized he was using his last breaths to say goodbye. Ruby trembled as she asked with wide eyes "He isn't speaking about..."
"Suicide," nodded JF, a bitter grimace on his face. "He just showed he's perfectly able to commit suicide, and he would've done so earlier hadn't you been... you to him. You'll see that his self-esteem here is worse than every other Jaune Arc you've seen."
Goodwitch clenched her hands into fists. "In a way, coming to Beacon itself was a good try at suicide," she muttered. "No training, no Aura and no idea of what he was doing. It's the perfect recipe for getting yourself killed."
"Add to that hostile Combat Instructors, bullies with superpowers and of course the good old-fashioned low self-esteem, and you'll get what he was going through." JF snorted, annoyed. "Really, I may act viciously at times, but would it have killed you to be nicer to him? Or at least give him helpful tips like you do with the other students instead of just telling him he wasn't good enough? Of course he went through Hell at Beacon."
"Was part of it our fault?" asked Pyrrha, her voice faint.
JF was silent for a second, not a good sign. "Not... exactly," he finally said, guilt crashing over them instantly. "You acted friendly but he berated himself because he thought he was dragging you all down. That's how you would be at fault. Otherwise, you always helped him... even if the Ice Queen was a bit cold to him."
Weiss wiped a tear from her eyes, but so many more were already forming behind that first one.
Weiss; I'm sorry for being such a pest, I don't blame you for hating me. I just want to make it clear I didn't know what your last name meant. Not that it makes a difference, I shouldn't have ever expected someone as amazing as you to even consider me. If Neptune doesn't treat you right I promise to haunt him.
Neptune looked away, his hands clenching slightly. "He would've been a better boyfriend than me," he muttered sadly.
"Why in all those universes I never even consider him?" Weiss murmured sadly.
JF shrugged and sighed. "Because he acts differently and he -I'll admit- has come off as kind of a creep at first, so you won't like him. And since first impressions are unfortunately what you usually rely on, you never liked him even after you got to know him better."
Weiss hid her face in her hands.
Blake; I know we aren't really friends. I know I was the one person in our group of eight that you really wanted to not tell about your Faunus state, I admit to guessing it before hand when your bow kept twitching. I really can't begin to understand how you kept it secret so long. However, despite all that, I do know you well enough to know you are going to blame yourself for the White Fang's actions today and that you're going to run thinking it's all your fault. It's not your cross to bear, don't do something stupid and stick with your team.
Blake flinched, knowing he was right. She didn't just have the habit of running, she also had the habit of blaming herself for a lot more than she should've. But one thing she didn't understand. "Why did he say I didn't want to tell him the most?" she asked JF.
The Writer shrugged again, guessing he'd have to speak up for everyone's goodbyes. "Low self-esteem can make you think even stuff that isn't real," he said. "He never saw himself as anything positive, so in his opinion, why should others?"
"His self-esteem ruined his life," murmured Ren.
"It's not the only thing that did," JF laughed bitterly, no mirth at all in the sound. "But yeah, when your self-esteem is low life sucks."
"He's not the only one who had esteem issues," Khor briefly joined JF's bitter laugh. "It's easy for esteem to drop low. What's hard is to pick it up again after it went low."
Yang; I want you to rub it in Ironwood's face that he was wrong. I think after the hell he put you through with dragging your name through the mud and demonizing you that you deserve it. Also, if you decide to go to my funeral, if I get one, please don't pun during it. If you have ever considered me a friend at any point amid all the teasing and fake-flirting, please grant this last request of mine.
Yang felt her chest tighten. She thought it would've been obvious she wouldn't have punned at his funeral, but if he thought she would then he probably thought their friendship was near nothing. She bit her lip to try and prevent a wail even after the other students had all started to cry, some more than others.
Ironwood felt shame like he had rarely felt before. From what he'd gathered, the boy was a very kind-hearted one. For him to ask Yang to rub his mistakes in his face meant Ironwood had messed up real big. He knew he wasn't perfect, who was?, but he had hoped his actions would've always brought safety... not dislike or even destruction.
Ren; thank you for being the closest thing I have to a brother. I know I don't deserve it, I know you'll do a better job of leading the team then I ever did. Take one bit of advice from me, quit locking away your emotions. You can't let that Grimm rule your life. Stop acting like there is the only thing you and Nora have is platonic.
Saying that Ren was shocked would've been an understatement. While those viewings had brought out a side of the boy he rarely showed, it was also true said side of him had remained hidden for years. Not to say that he never showed emotions, but they were controlled. Focused. Stopping would go against his training, but was what he was doing against his nature? Should he have stopped controlling his emotions time ago?
JF smirked at that. "I'd tell you he's right and you should ask Nora out," he said. "But I see you two already skipped to the juicy parts of a relationship."
Despite the general mood, both teens blushed bright red at that jab.
Nora; you rarely listened to me, were uncontrollable, and caused so much chaos. Never change. You made sure every day was never boring, you became the sister I always wanted. If Ren doesn't listen to my advice, then follow this one order from me. Jump him, force him to accept the fact you love him and you're not leaving him.
Nora looked down at the first part, even if she did smile a little at the last. "Did I really never listen?" she asked.
"That was a different universe," sighed JF, shaking his head. "All of you have been harsher with Jaune. And in your case, you rarely listened to his orders, especially during a battle, and caused as much chaos as you could."
"Why?" asked Blake. "Why did we treat him like that?"
"Partially because his self-esteem made him put himself down constantly, and even I can admit that hearing someone put himself down and think to be never good enough gets annoying after a while," replied the Writer. "And partially simply because your counterpart were harsher than you. You valued him less because he couldn't fight."
Most of them looked away in shame. A few wanted to protest, but what could they say? Those were alternative versions of them. While they didn't value him any less for his lack of formal training, their counterparts did. They could do nothing about it. Obviously, this knowledge did not stop angry tears from forming in their eyes for having added weight on his already burdened shoulders.
Pyrrha; You were the first person to believe I had any actual value, the first person to think I could actually succeed at being something more than a walking joke. I'm sure you're blaming yourself for this but let me make it clear that this was my choice and it was the right one, you are worth so much more than me, this was the right call. Don't let my death drag you down, I'm not worth it."
"He's right, he's not worth it," growled Pyrrha. "He's worth so much more. He should've lived instead of having to die."
"The best ones are the ones who die," Roman stated with sadness in his eyes. "The worst ones are the ones who remain."
"Again, that was his self-esteem talking," said JF. "Had he believed in himself more, he would've been able to make others believe in him too."
With my piece said I end the call and press send, all of them should be receiving the message. Really glad Ruby and I insisted everyone had everyone's numbers in-case of an emergency now. With that done I turn my attention to the three in front of me with a bit of morbid fascination, watching as their skin boils and bulges but never breaks. I hold up my remaining hand and focus on the things, and people, my aura is infused in. I had made a dozen or so explosives out of large chunks of rubble that I shoved down the elevator shaft, if things went south I figured I could try and collapse the building with us in it. Another reason is I want that horrid machine is buried, whatever it was doing was unnatural and disturbing to the extreme. I put my thumb, pointer and index finger together, this is somewhat unnecessary but I find the action helpful. With a snap of my fingers every explosive I've created goes off. There isn't even a shower of gore from the three bodies I just detonated just a flash of wh
His words were interrupted as he vanished in the light. The view changed, showing the tower from outside, with two battered Ruby and Weiss running towards it.
By this point none of the seven students is exempt from tears. They thought that, after all they had seen, they could bear something like that, but seeing their friend and crush sacrifice himself after having been put through so much still made them cry. He had given so much...
...but he never got a happy ending.
Weiss is glyphs line the side of the Tower, I make to run up when the ground begins to shake and collapse as three loud booming sounds fill the air. At the same time the top of the tower and the Grimm encircling it are engulfed in a sphere of light.
Then they felt the shockwave. Onscreen, the Tower of Beacon exploded, collapsing in a few seconds. The sonic boom almost shoved them off their couches, their hair flowing back like in a windstorm. The roar of the explosion almost deafened them, but what was more concerning was the shaking of the screen. With a might crack, the glass-like material broke in the middle, a large fracture running vertically all across it. They were all shocked, not knowing what to do. Last time they had been influenced by something onscreen had been from an almost all-mighty entity. Khor frowned and gritted his teeth, while JF just continued to grimly stare at the screen.
I grab Weiss and get us away from the tower as it comes collapsing down, the ground around it caving in. Dust fills the air and our lungs, when it clears a massive sinkhole has formed.
They couldn't even bring themselves to speak. The adults out of respect for the boy, but the students for their grief.
"JAUNE!" NO, NO, NONONONONONONO! I try to rush down but Weiss stops me.
"Ruby you can't just run down there."
"LET ME GO WEISS! I need to get to Jaune."
"HE'S GONE RUBY!" I look at my partner ready to slap her but see her looking at the ground with tears rolling down her eyes. "No one could survive whatever that was Ruby." My own tears begin to fall, unable to deny the truth in my partner's statement. My scroll's alert goes off and I check it. It's a group message for everyone on RWBY and JNPR, the time stamp showing it was sent before the blast.
Qrow looked away. "I hoped they didn't have to experience that so soon," he muttered.
"Me too, my friend," sighed Ozpin. "No matter their training, they are still children. Suffering something like this at their age would be..."
"Soul-crushing and at the same time oh so motivating," completed JF. "They will suffer, as the saying goes `what doesn't kill you, strengthen you`. They will come out of this even stronger than they already were."
"It won't be worth the price," murmured Ruby.
I look at the sinkhole that now sits in the center of Beacon and at the two crying girls I just stumbled upon, my niece and Ice Queen's little sis. Glynda sent me to try and as she put it 'stop a suicide attempt' but I was clearly too late. Clearly the kid meant something to these two, I wish they hadn't gotten introduced to this part of a Huntsman's life for another couple decades. I look at one particularly shiny piece of rubble and pull it out to find the kids blade, damn this thing is tough. I see Peter and Bart coming from towards us, they scoop the girls up and the three of us make our way back to the evacuation zone. The Grimm have cleared out, even the dumbest of them running when the Dragon died. Whatever that Kid did saved a lot of lives at the cost of his own.
Giving the blade to his teammates is almost as heartbreaking at seeing my other niece missing an arm. Watching the Invincible Girl break down is one of the most sobering sights I've ever seen and the other two don't take it any better. I swallow what's left of my flask, this whole thing has been the start of a nightmare. We owe that Kid more then he'll ever know for taking down a the False Maiden.
Kid would have made a hell of a Huntsman.
"And this is how fairytales usually end in our home dimension," Khor sighed with anger and sadness. "Whoever the hero is, he rarely gets a happy ending. The heroes fight and die. The villains send others to do their dirty jobs and they survive even if their underlings are killed or stopped."
"Yours must be a horrible world," noted Sun.
"Only if you want to look at it like it's horrible," said JF. "There's love and happiness everywhere, you just have to search for them. You have soulless monsters trying to destroy humanity and a parasitic soul pulling the strings from behind the curtains. Who is the worst off?"
"Has anyone noticed the irony of Qrow saying Jaune would've been a good Huntsman?" laughed Pyrrha, a hint of insanity in her voice. "After everyone kept saying he was a failure, it took him killing himself to make them see the truth."
Khor frowned at that, deciding they needed to have something lighter after that universe. It had been the first time they had seen Jaune die, after all.
Ruby looks at us with dulled eyes that are still filled with gratitude as she tightens her grip on her backpack's straps. Beacon still had to close after the damage J... Jaune did to the campus, even after three months the repairs are only halfway finished. Ruby wants to go to Haven, find out what she can about Cinder and her minions, figure out who she was working for that could let her control Grimm to a degree. Weiss is currently held up in court, fighting and winning a battle for emancipation from her father/sperm donar. Blake didn't run off, staying with Yang for the first month but still she ended up leaving temporarily, she wanted to go home and ensure the White Fang didn't spread lies about what happened. Yang is still in recovery, working through physical therapy and soon to be finished but we've run out of patience. She'll join as soon as possible but we just can't wait any longer. What remains of Team JNPR will follow Ruby to Haven in order find what we could about that . And when we do we will kill whoever it is, no matter how strong they are I will watch the light leave their eyes.
This is a promise that I will keep.
Cinder wasn't the only one who shivered at the deadly tone Pyrrha's voice had taken.
"Emancipation?" repeated Jacques, a dangerous glint in his eyes. "Weiss..."
"Oh, fuck you," snapped Yang. "We don't want to listen and we can kick your ass anytime. Just stop talking!"
"I'm more worried about my niece losing an arm," stated Qrow. "Does this happen in the so-called `canon` universe?"
"Yes, it does," nodded Khor.
"And it seems I got over my habit of running away," murmured Blake. "Even if it took me so much before learning to fight instead of fleeing."
"But now we're all together, and we're gonna avenge Jaune," stated Pyrrha, earning nods from the others.
But before anyone could say more, the screen warped and changed, the fracture in the middle repairing itself. After it stopped shaking, it showed a battlefield with four armies.
HOW OZPIN STOPPED THE GREAT WAR
"Well, this doesn't seem all that bad," sniffed Weiss, wiping the tears from her eyes. "At least we get to see the end of the war and the achievement of the peace."
Everyone missed Khor and JF desperately trying not to grin too much and miserably failing.
Four armies clashed, each soldier shooting at every other human they saw with a different uniform, the sound of battle thundering in the plain.
"Okay, this is not a good start," sighed Blake. "Why does it always have to be dark?"
"Pfffttt..." Khor let a tiny sound escape but immediately closed his mouth, cheeks puffing out as he tried to hide his mirth.
But then a flash of light appeared in the middle, and everyone stopped to stare at the foolish young soldier who had just stepped in the middle, a cane in hand and his gun thrown at his feet.
"That's Ozpin!" exclaimed Ruby. "He's gonna stop-"
"There is no need for war!" he began. "We can all live in-"
He couldn't finish as a barrage of shots rang out, shattering his Aura and reducing his body to little more than a bloody heap.
"...the war." Ruby's eyes almost bulged out as she watched her Headmaster's incarnation being torn to shreds by the bullets. JF had clamped a hand on his mouth to hide his smirk, both pleased by seeing Ozpin die and mirthful.
The soldiers were about to continue their war until another soldier suddenly dropped his rifle and stepped in the middle. "There is no need for war!" he shouted, picking up the now bloody cane. "We can all live-"
This time he didn't even get to say `in` before he was shot down.
Blake raised an eyebrow. "What..."
But the miracle kept happening.
Soldier after soldier, the ranks thinned and thinned, until at last a man was standing alone. "There is no need for war!" he shouted with his cane in his hands. "We can all live in peace!"
"Don't tell me..." began Ren.
At Ozpin's feet, several hundreds of thousands laid dead, shot by uncountable bullets, but he had stopped the war.
Everyone gaped at the screen, the first to laugh being Khor and JF. They weren't the last. One after the other most students and even a few adults began to laugh at Ozpin's arguable but definitely efficient technique.
"I totally see him doing that!" exclaimed JF.
"And then call it a victory!" added Khor, high-fiving the other Writer.
Ozpin held a highly unamused expression for the whole duration of the laughters.
After everyone had stopped laughing and chuckling, JF sighed and stood up. "Well, dears, I fear my time's up," he said, stretching slightly. "It was real fun to watch these with you... especially, it was fun seeing your reactions."
"Are you going?" asked Ruby, tilting her head sideways, a bit sad at seeing him go. After all he'd done nothing but encourage a more... direct approach in her future relationship with Jaune, so he was okay in her books.
"Yep. As fun as this was I can't remain here forever." He turned pensive for a second. "No, maybe I can, but it would get boring, you know? Even Khor is not always here."
"Seconded," agreed Khor.
"Also, you all will be sent back very soon, so I wouldn't even be able to laugh at... with you," he continued, catching himself at the last second. A few rolled their eyes. "So, since despite my behaviour I don't really like teary goodbyes, I'll just say this once."
He waved cheerfully. "Goodbye."
And then he was gone, popping out of existence like a turned off hologram. A few blinked at the sudden disappearance, but others sighed in relief. Namely the ones who had been constantly under the threat of being impaled by bone shards.
"Well, that was a thing," said Yang.
"Yeah..." nodded Blake. "I mean, he was pretty nice and even explained to us the whole Salem thing, but there were times when I wasn't really sure if he was on our side or not."
"Not everyone choose a side," wisely remarked Ren. "With his powers, I think he's entitled to remain neutral."
"I wonder what did I do for him to hate me so fiercely," sighed Ozpin, shaking his head. "He glared at me like I'm the source of all the evil in the world."
"Well, you did fail to stop the source of all Grimm in the world... for several thousands of years," noted Nora.
"It's not so easy to defeat Salem," he replied.
"I honestly thought he was a pleasant person in his own way," said Pyrrha. "I mean, he had moments were he was vicious even with us, but he was usually wise and often calm and kind even while grinning at our discomfort."
"He was a free soul who had his opinions and wasn't afraid of show them," agreed Roman. "Maybe a bit odd, but everyone has their own oddities. It would be so boring to be all identical."
"I wonder what he's going to do now," said Winter. "I mean, I know this wasn't the goal of his life, but I still don't understand the concept of Writers. What do they do when they're not here?"
"We live our lives," said JF from behind them. They all jumped and twirled around. He grinned at them. "Totally not sorry for scaring you. I just remembered I forgot one thing."
"What?" asked Ironwood, flinching when JF briskly walked up to them.
"Oh, just this," replied the Writer, cocking back a fist...
...and smashing it right into Ozpin's nose, sending the Headmaster flying.
The Watchers gawked at him, not really shocked by the force but kinda shocked he had really just punched the man. Khor shook his head, but had a small smile on his lips. Ozpin landed on his rear, cradling his hurting nose. JF just sighed happily. "I really wanted to do that. Now I'm good."
Then he disappeared again, leaving the Watchers in semi-shock and Khor chuckling quietly.
Finally I can say this:
It's been a long time! Between me and Jauneforever, we took our sweet time giving you all this chapter and we're sorry. Anyway, I have a few news for you.
My friend Adrian (whose username here is Phoenix Warehouse Productions) has temporarily decided to take a break from writing and sending gifts. Not all of you know why. Well, let me tell you. He sent his gifts to another writer, and he refused. Just that? Oh no. He did not JUST refuse, he did so very rudely and he heavily insulted Adrian for both the gifts and his writing style. That is inadmissible. Hadn't the admins removed him I would've gone and given him a piece of my mind. "Thanks" to him now we will be left without a wonderful person like Adrian for a while. I ask you two things now. One, is to thank Adrian for all he's done for me and for others. No words are needed, just be grateful. And the other is that I want you to think. The next time you are annoyed at someone, think before snapping. Think of what your words might cause.
I also have another announcement. I said A Darker Shade of Gold will replace this. Not so sure any more, that story is being re-thought even as I type. But it's possible.
And finally, just two more chapters before Remnants of Dimensions is over!
Until next time,
Khor Evik Vlakhavlakh