Hello everyone! First off, thank you for checking out my fic. The idea for this has been swimming in my head for a while. The main works I pulled inspiration from for this was from Kara no Kyoukai and the Monogatari series. It was even influenced a little by Devilman Crybaby, who's soundtrack I was listening to a lot while writing. If you like any of those, then there's a good chance you'll like this.
Anyway, this is set after Volume 5 in Atlas (which I've imagined as a Manhattan-style city, packed to the brim with huge skyscrapers). I don't want to say too much, cause I want people to go into this with a fresh start. I'll probably say more at the end. Until then, enjoy!
(As usual, I don't own RWBY, which is the property of Rooster Teeth.)
"Do not worry about those who creep the woods cloaked in shadow, for there are beasts that smile as men do, and they walk among us." - old Atlesian proverb
Jaune pulled his coat closer to himself as the wind picked up. He sighed heavily, his breath visible in the cold weather. The city of Atlas was known for two things; the highrise buildings and the heavy snow. This was especially true now that the season was on the cusp of winter. Weiss had told him that even during summer time, the near constant clouds kept the heat away, for better or worse.
The gang had been in Atlas for a couple of weeks, but Jaune still hadn't gotten used to the cold. Even with his usual hoodie and an extra layer on top of that, he still felt a biting chill in his bones. He kept forgetting to wear an undershirt every time he decided to go out. A Vale native to his core, his habitual attire was usually considered to be 'heavy', but out here on the continent of Solitas, it was the opposite.
Jaune's current disappointment had nothing to do with the weather, though. Since they had gotten the Relic of Knowledge from the Vault of the Spring Maiden, Salem seemed to have retreated to whatever corner of the abyss she was hiding in. The flight to Atlas had been surprisingly uneventful, almost suspiciously so.
It hadn't been hard to sneak into the city, nor had there been any problems getting a place big enough for them to stay in. No, the real trouble arose when they had asked Ozpin what their next move should be. Silence had been their answer. The old wizard, like Salem, had withdrawn into himself. Oscar couldn't get a peep out of him, no matter how hard he had tried.
Qrow, just as much in the dark as the rest of them, had said they would lay low until either Salem made a move, or Ozpin decided to contact them. Weeks later, neither of those had happened, and so they were stuck dawdling around.
It frustrated Jaune in a way he couldn't describe. More than one argument with Qrow had been about their inaction. They should be on the offensive, trying to find the other Maidens. Instead they were sitting around, twiddling their thumbs in the coldest city on Remnant. Jaune grumbled to himself indistinctly.
His restlessness had given way to his nightly habit of walking the streets of the city. If they were attacked, it would be better to know the layout around them. It was bordering on paranoia, Jaune knew, but at least he was doing something.
Jaune pulled out his scroll and looked at the time. He muttered a curse to himself. His errant thoughts had distracted him, and the time had passed by faster than he had realized.
He increased his pace, eager to get home and sleep. It only took a few seconds to realize he didn't recognize the street he was on. Just how long had he walked lost in thought?
It wasn't a major issue, as he just input the address of the house into his scroll and started to head in the direction it pointed to.
The street was empty except for him, which was unsurprising. In central Atlas, the nightlife kept the sidewalks bustling with foot traffic. Closer to the outskirts, though, which was where their place of residence was, there were no people walking around at this late hour.
He looked at his scroll to make sure he was on the right path, when he heard a scream. His head shot up and he took off towards where the sound had emanated from. His legs carried him down the street as fast as they could. No more cries rang out, so he struggled to to get an exact location. He skid to a stop and just listened for a moment. The world seemed to hold its breath. It was eerily quiet.
For a painstakingly long moment, he heard nothing, and he feared for the worst. He strained his ears harder, striving to drown out any unnecessary noise his body was making. Past the silence, he heard something strange. It almost sounded like crunching.
Step by step, so as not to make any sounds that could stop him from hearing the noise, he crept closer to where he was hearing it come from. As he got closer, he noticed an alleyway to his side. The crunching was getting louder.
Whatever was going on, it was in that alley, he was sure of it now. Slowly, with as much stealth as he could manage, he turned the corner. The first thing he noticed was how dark it was. Barely any light seemed to find its way into the alley.
The second thing he noticed was a shadowy shape about thirty feet from him. The sound was coming from it. Carefully, he tiptoed towards the thing. His eyesight was slowly adapting to the darkness, and after a couple seconds he could recognize a person on their knees. They seemed to be picking something off the ground.
What were they doing in the middle of an alley, this late at night? He was sure the scream had come from here, too, and his desire to see if they were okay urged him forward.
He took another step, now halfway to the person from the alley's entrance. Just as he was about to call out a greeting, Jaune's foot brushed against a littered can, and the noise startled him. Almost immediately, the kneeling person spun around.
As soon as Jaune met their eyes, he froze. It was the only feature he could make out on the silhouette's face. They were red, the color of freshly spilled blood. That was normal, he had seen red eyes before. The glowing, however, was deeply unnatural.
His heart won out over his common sense, which was screaming at him to run, and he spoke. "Hey, are you okay? I heard a scream and I wanted to make sure you were alright."
There was a pregnant pause. Jaune's hand went to his side on instinct, but he silently cursed himself when he realized he had left Crocea Mors in his room.
Suddenly, he heard the person let loose a sultry laugh. "Oh my, it looks like I've been caught. Whatever shall I do?" He could vaguely tell the rich voice belonged to a woman.
"Uh, caught?" he said weakly. Jaune took another step forward to get a better look, his eyes finally adjusting properly to the lighting. He looked to the floor where the woman had been kneeling and his heart froze.
Blood. There was blood everywhere. A giant puddle surrounded a chunk of meat and gore. Some of the viscous liquid had been splattered on the walls. Intestines and body parts lay around the floor haphazardly. With a sudden realization, Jaune knew he was looking at the remains of what only recently used to be a person.
His legs felt like jelly as he stumbled to the side, catching himself on a nearby trash can. He dry heaved as his stomach threatened to spill forth its contents. He shakily looked up at the woman. In his stupor, he hadn't noticed her walk closer to him.
He took a step back to get away, but his foot slipped and he landed on his back. Instantly, the woman was on top of him, pinning his arms to his sides. It was a formality as this point, as Jaune couldn't even feel his body, let alone fight back or run.
The only thing he could think of was those glowing red eyes that seemed to drown out the rest of the world. This close to her, he finally noticed the blood that covered the woman's mouth.
His mind blanked out at the implication. She had been eating the other person. Jaune felt sick. His heart threatened to burst from his chest. Sweat beaded on his forehead. He tried to pry his arms from her grasp, but they shook uncontrollably and he had no strength in them.
"Look what we have here," he heard the woman say above him. "A lost little lamb. Poor thing took a wrong turn into the lion's den." He heard the smile in her voice. It dripped like sweet, honeyed poison.
She hummed appraisingly. "I would call you a snack, but I've had my fill already and I'm not even done with my plate."
Jaune couldn't think of anything. Escape eluded him. All he could focus on was the woman's words. He couldn't even get a good look at her. All he could see was those damn eyes.
She ran a finger along his jaw. "I do hate to waste such a fine meal like you, though." She grinned. "I know what I'll do. This lamb looks thirsty for vengeance. He doesn't want to be a lamb. He wants to be a lion."
She lowered her face, only a few inches from his. "Don't try to deny it. I know. I know you better than you know yourself," she said. Her breath was as wintry as a blizzard.
Jaune opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. The woman laughed seductively. For the first time, Jaune noticed her teeth. Her canines were long and sharp. Like fangs.
"Close your eyes, little lamb," she cooed. It wasn't a question. Incomprehensibly, he did. "Rejoice, for today is the day you join the Moonlit World. And at the top of the pack no less."
Jaune felt her run her tongue along the side of his neck. A shiver went down his spine, and it had nothing to do with the cold. Was he going to die? Alone and helpless in some random alley? Killed and eaten by some...creature that ate humans?
He felt her cool breath where she had licked him. There was a pause, then two sharp points bit into him. He took in a breath of air between his teeth. The woman started to suck at his neck.
For a moment, there was nothing but the sound of her siphoning off of him. Then, Jaune's world erupted into pain. It felt as if white hot lava pour into his veins. Like a thousand knives were thrust into him at once. His vision darkened into nothingness. For one excruciatingly long moment, only the pain and the woman existed. To Jaune, it might as well have been an eternity.
Then, as abruptly as it had started, it stopped. There was nothing. Only darkness. Jaune didn't know if that was because there was no light in the alley, or because his eyes were closed and he couldn't open them.
The woman was no longer biting into him. Where she had sunk her teeth in, his flesh pulsed at a steady rhythm. She still lay atop him, straddling his waist.
Dimly, he realized she had bitten through his Aura. Or rather, it felt more like both he and his body hadn't recognized her as a threat and had just let her in.
"And so the lamb became a lion," the woman whispered. Jaune felt her get off of him. "But beware young cub, there are beasts out there that will gobble. You. Up."
The last thing he heard before he slipped into unconsciousness was the woman laughing as she walked away.
Jaune awoke to the sound of his alarm going off next to his head. After a few seconds of major disorientation, he turned it off, plunging his room back into silence. He did a double take. My...room? he thought in bewilderment.
His memories were a jumble and he was unable to even recall anything that had happened recently. Trying to remember the last thing that happened before he had slept was a struggle. He had eaten dinner with everyone and then gone out for his usual stroll around the area. Piecing together what came next was where things got the muddiest.
There had been a...sound? Then he had run towards it. Towards the alley. The woman. Fangs. Red eyes.
Jaune's breathing hitched and he clutched at his chest. The woman had attacked him. Bitten him, even. He took a long breath to calm himself. It almost felt like he had dreamt the whole thing.
A tentative hand reached up to the right side of his neck. He started at the base and ran his fingers along his skin. He recoiled when he touched two small spots that hurt immensely
No, it hadn't been a dream. But after he had blacked out, how had he ended up back in his room? His scroll showed the time as a little past noon, but that in and of itself was strange, as his alarm was usually set for early morning.
Jaune held his head in his hands. Pieces of the puzzle were floating around, but none of them seemed to match up with each other. Key information was missing. Something to tie all the clues together into a cohesive conclusion.
Frustrated after going through several scenarios which he deemed impossible, he got off his bed and went to the bathroom connected to his room to wash up. Splashing his face with cold water eased his mind a bit, and Jaune figured a shower would be even better.
He took off his hoodie, apparently having slept with it on. He did a double take when he looked at himself in the mirror, his mouth gaping. When he had first joined Beacon almost a year ago, Jaune had been lanky with average muscle size. That had changed drastically over the course of his training, especially recently since he had taken to pushing his work outs as far as he could.
None of that explained how he looked at that very moment. Every inch of his bare torso was toned beyond what a couple months of working out could do. People exercised on strict regimens and diets for years to achieve the kind of body he now had.
He shook himself out of his stupor and quickly stripped down to his underwear. The same held true for the rest of him. He was not bulky, not like Cardin had been, but he was lean and well defined. Despite himself, he thought he looked hot.
"But...I...how?" he asked himself. There was no response, of course. But the question lingered; how had his body changed so much over the course of a single night?
So enamored with his physical overhaul, he almost missed a key detail. Even as he ran his fingers over the bite area again and felt pain, he saw no wound. In fact, there were no blemishes on his skin whatsoever. The mysteries, and possible clues, kept piling up, and still nothing was piecing together.
Jaune knew answers were probably not coming out of thin air any time soon, so he resigned himself to a state of constant confusion for the near future and stepped into the shower.
The hot water was unusually uncomfortable, so he switched to cold and made it quick. He was calmer after stepping out and putting on a fresh set of clothes.
Despite everything, Jaune felt amazing, at least physically. He flexed and stretched his new body a bit. There was no conclusive way to test it at that very moment, but he was sure he had gotten stronger and faster exponentially.
Time to start figuring out what's going on, he thought to himself with grim determination. After a quick moment of thought, he put on his armor and clipped Crocea Mors to his side. Maybe it wouldn't have made a difference last night, but it was better to be prepared, and the familiar weight comforted him.
A quick look around the house told him it was empty. It was a big place, housing Team RWBY, Team JNR, Oscar, and Qrow. Ilia and Sun had stayed behind with the Belladonnas to help organize and run the new White Fang. Assuming they didn't change the name sometime soon, of course.
It was no coincidence they had found such a perfect place for them. Qrow was an overly cautious and well-prepared person, and had safe houses all across the kingdoms. It was a relatively big two-story house with three bedrooms upstairs. The five girls had all packed into the biggest room on Ruby and Nora's insistence, while the boys had taken the two smaller ones. Jaune had gotten lucky when they had drawn lots to see who would get the smallest room with one bed. Qrow had insisted on sleeping on the couch downstairs.
With nothing to do at the house, he decided to head out. As soon as he stepped outside, though, he felt noticeably weaker. Was he dehydrated? He shook his head to try and dispel the weird fatigue, but it didn't help. It's probably cause I haven't eaten yet, he thought.
Jaune headed out to the place of the attack, figuring there had to be some clues there that might help him. It was easier said than done, however. With his mind still a bit frazzled, and in the rush of things last night, it was difficult to remember where the alley was. He had been lost right before he heard the scream, too, so he couldn't even retrace his steps.
The most effective way was to spiral out from the house to cover every possible street. It would take much longer than any other method, but it was the only surefire way to guarantee he didn't miss it.
Jaune stopped at the first food place he passed on his route and grabbed a sandwich and drink. The food tasted a bit dull, and it didn't help with the strange weakness he had felt since stepping outside, but he supposed the place hadn't been top notch anyway, so he brushed aside the thought.
The search was otherwise uneventful, and it took a few hours before he found the correct alleyway. He might not have even recognized it, if there weren't half a dozen police vehicles around the area and a bunch of caution tape stopping people from walking too close.
There went his idea of inspecting the crime scene. Under no circumstances would any of these cops let him through. He sighed in frustration and did the next best thing available to him.
"Excuse me, officer, what happened here?" he asked one of the police standing guard near the caution tape.
The burly man, only slightly shorter than Jaune, glanced at him. He looked away after a second and said, "Don't worry about it, kid, keep moving."
Jaune kept the irritation off his face and out of his voice. "Please, sir, my friend was attacked last night and I just want to make sure this has nothing to do with it," he said, injecting a hint of worry into his voice.
The cop looked back at him, but his hard look softened a bit. "Fine, but keep this to yourself, understand?" Jaune nodded eagerly. "Good. Don't need this spreading and causing a panic."
The man looked around to make sure no one was near them and leaned in. "Someone was killed in that alleyway. It's not pretty either. Corpse was strewn all over the place. Some pieces are missing and some of the forensics people are saying…they're saying there's evidence someone, or something, was eating the body."
Jaune involuntarily shivered as the memory resurfaced. He tried his best to conceal his disgust. "That's...horrible. If it's not too much to ask, are their any leads?"
The man shook his head. "Not yet. No fingerprints or witnesses or anything. I'll be honest with you, son, it seems like whoever did this is gonna get away with it." His face twisted into a frown. "Although I sure hope I'm wrong," he said, almost to himself.
The cop shook his head, as if realizing what he had just divulged, and started to wave Jaune off. "Go on, get. I've said too much already, and there's not much else I could say anyway."
Jaune nodded his thanks and walked off, going back towards the house. He had thought about telling the police when he had seen them, and possibly helping with the investigation, but they knew less than he did at this point. They would want to take him in for questioning, which would only be a waste of his time for everyone involved.
He pulled out his scroll and ran through his contacts to find one of the gang who could maybe help him, when he spotted a strange number that hadn't been there before. The list wasn't large, so it was easy to notice this new one that stuck out like a sore thumb. The picture was of a carved pumpkin face that was broken into a wicked grin, and the name was entered as 'Emergency Only'.
There was a brief period where Jaune considered simply deleting it and ignoring the whole situation, but that the thing that had attacked him could take more innocent lives, and that thought pushed him forward. He dialed the number.
It rang for half a minute before ending abruptly, leaving no opportunity to leave a voice message. Jaune growled and was about to delete the contact and forget about the whole thing when he received a message. That it was from the mystery number was unsurprising. He opened the message.
From: Emergency Only
Got yourself in a weird situation?
Sadly, you've found eternal damnation.
There's no need to fret, the sun's on the rise.
Though sticking to shadows will be most wise.
Answers you seek are closer than you think.
Just head to the best place to get a drink.
Searching high and low for that won't be fun.
Ask the friend most likely to make a pun.
But be careful what you say and reveal.
If you lose control, her life you might steal.
Jaune rubbed the bridge of his nose. Riddles were the last thing he needed right now. It was the only lead he had, unfortunately. He poured over the message two more times to make sure he didn't misread anything.
The first line was obvious and probably had no other meaning. It was the next three that gave him pause. Eternal damnation? Sticking to shadows? There was a hidden significance there, but he couldn't quite place it.
The four lines after that were a hint for the next step in his investigation. He didn't know where the best place to get a drink was, but someone he knew did. That someone apparently loved making puns. The first person to come to mind was Yang, and she probably was the most likely to know a good place to get drinks, barring Qrow.
The last two lines were the most worrisome. He didn't want to drag Yang into this mess, whatever this mess was. The best course of action was to get what info he needed from her and go on his own from there.
The problem with that plan was that if you told her anything she thought was juicy, Yang would, without a doubt, share it with everyone else. At least that's how she had been back at Beacon. Hopefully she had toned it down a bit. He'd have to play it cool so she didn't think anything was up.
With a semi-concrete plan finally in mind, Jaune set out to the house. He could always send her a message via scroll, but it might seem suspicious to randomly ask her a question about nearby clubs. Face to face would be easier to dismiss as curiosity.
By the time he got home, it was nearly dinner time. Noise from the kitchen told him at least one person was there. He popped his head in and saw Ren and Blake preparing a meal for everyone.
"Hey guys," Jaune said casually. The two quietest members of the group nodded their greeting. Ren was the first to speak up.
"Hello, Jaune. How are you feeling?"
Jaune furrowed his eyebrow in confusion. "Huh? What're you talking about?"
Ren stopped cutting the meat in front of him and looked at Jaune. "No one could wake you up. We found you still asleep with your alarm ringing. We figured you were tired and I reset it for a later time."
"Oh," Jaune said, "I guess I was just exhausted. I feel fine now." Ren just nodded and continued his work. "Where's everyone else?"
This time, Blake spoke up. "Nora and Ruby are still out doing some shopping. Yang is out riding her bike and being...Yang. Weiss is training in the backyard, I think. Oscar is somewhere else in the house. And Qrow is probably drinking at some bar."
That sounded about right. Except the part about Qrow. That...that was just wrong on so many levels. "You guys need any help with prep?"
They both shook their heads, so he let them be. There wasn't much he could do until Yang came back. She would probably be home before dinner, but there was always the chance that she stayed out and ate somewhere.
Training would be a good way to pass the time, so he headed to the backyard. The kingdom of Atlas had wildly different decor than Vale, or even Mistral. Which was to be expected, of course, but the switch was still jarring. Especially when most, if not all, Atlesian houses had very high fences or walls around their yards. This made the entire estate feel more secluded, which was perfect for training.
He stepped outside, feeling that same weakness overtake him. He had felt better when he had walked into the house, so why did it suddenly come back? Before Weiss spotted him he decided to test it out and step in and out of the house again. There was a noticeable difference in his constitution, and it was an almost instant change.
Jaune sighed deeply. I guess this is my life now, he thought. Done with his experimentation, he walked to where Weiss was going through some sword techniques. "Hey, Weiss," he said.
She stopped mid-thrust and looked at him. "Oh," she said with a hint of surprise. "Hello, Jaune." Myrtenaster slid into its holster on her left side.
"Ren and Blake are prepping dinner. They said they don't need my help, so I figured I'd train to pass the time. Mind if I join you?"
She narrowed her eyes, almost as if she was suspicious, but the look went away quickly. "I don't. Mind, that is. But don't try anything funny." She said the last part with a small smirk.
Despite recent events, he chuckled. "Don't worry, I'm not about to try and woo you," he said wryly. "Besides, I left my guitar at Beacon." The mention of their old school soured the mood momentarily, but it passed. "So, a quick spar sound okay to you?"
Weiss nodded curtly. "That is acceptable." She pulled out her weapon and readied herself. Jaune did the same and stood across the yard from her.
Even though this was just to pass the time, Jaune was surprised to find himself excited at the chance to see how far he'd come. In the early days of school, Weiss would've wiped the floor with him easily, without even breaking a sweat. He'd been training for a long time, though, and it would not be an automatic victory for the Schnee heiress anymore.
He raised his shield and held his sword to his side. With both combatants ready, the unspoken signal to start went off, and Weiss launched herself forward with her signature thrust. He blocked it with his shield and went in for a horizontal swipe, but she was already gone.
She was playing it safe, and with good reason. She hadn't seen Jaune fight in a while. They had fought near each other in Haven, but she had been busy at the time. After a couple more testing jabs, she used her glyphs to speed behind him. He spun around and met her sword with his own. His greater strength and heavier blade allowed him to push Myrtenaster out of the way and shove her with his shield.
Weiss went with the momentum, backflipped once, and landed perfectly on her wedge heels. Narrowing her eyes, she went fully on the offensive, throwing blow after blow. Jaune managed to barely meet them just for the simple fact that he could cover a wide area of his body with both his shield and sword.
After a particular brutal flurry, she backed off. "You know you don't have to go easy on me," said Jaune. "I'm not the same failure I was at Beacon." Just a different type of failure, he thought to himself.
Weiss huffed. "And who said I was going easy on you, Arc? The nerve, taunting me like that! Don't get so arrogant just because you've gotten a little faster and stronger."
She wasn't holding back? Was his new body that much better? He didn't get to think on it too long, as Weiss summoned a giant white glyph below her. She charge up for a second before shooting forward faster than any of her previous attacks.
Jaune just barely got his shield up in time to cover his torso, but it was for naught, as she went in to strike below his guard. He felt pain spike through him as he flew and landed hard on his back.
He sat up and was about to continue with the spar but felt more pain where she had struck. Looking down, he saw a gash that ran across his right side. A moment of pure confusion hit him, since he had been sure that his Aura would have protected him.
There wasn't time to think on it too long, as he heard Weiss shout in alarm. "Jaune!" She ran and knelt next to him, worry etched into her face. "I'm so sorry! Why...how did...are you okay?"
Jaune grunted. "Yea, it's not as deep as it looks. More of a scratch really. And it's not your fault. I guess I wasn't paying attention to my Aura." That was a lie, since he had specifically trained to always have it active during combat, even for spars such as this. It had taken him longer than Oscar to learn how to instinctually do it, but he had learned eventually. For him to forget at a time like this was unthinkable, bordering on impossible.
"Let me go get a first aid kit," said Weiss. He reach out a hand and stopped her as she was about to get up.
"No...no, it's fine. Look, it's already healing." Slowly but surely, the wound was closing. Weiss sighed in relief, but she still had guilt written all over her face. "I have a big Aura, remember?"
"I...I guess you're right. You are healing pretty quickly. Your Semblance is truly an amazing thing," she said. He didn't respond to that, because he wasn't using his Semblance. And his gut was telling him that his Aura couldn't heal a wound like this that fast on its own, either.
The oddities kept piling up, and still nothing made sense. "Sorry, Weiss, I'm a bit distracted. Maybe now isn't the best time for me to spar." She frowned and looked like she wanted to say something, but ended up just nodding.
He stepped inside the house when she called his name. "Jaune!" He paused and looked at her. "You did really well. Even if you were distracted. You should be proud." He smiled genuinely and continued inside.
It was a quick trip up the stairs and down the hallway to his small room. He changed out of his hoodie, now with a tear on the side, and slipped on a form-fitting black shirt. He checked his wound, lifting up his shirt in the mirror of his bathroom, but it was already almost fully closed up. That there had been a cut there at all was hard to discern at first glance.
With some trepidation, he pulled Crocea Mors from its sheath. Concentrating as hard as he could on his Aura, he ran his palm along the blade. It only took a second to confirm his suspicion as he felt a stab of pain. Sure enough, the sword had cut him.
His hand was already starting to heal, so he had to act quickly. He reached deep into himself and tried activating his Semblance. There was nothing.
For whatever reason, both his Aura and Semblance weren't working. Or worse, they were gone for good. Dread pooled in his stomach. He clenched his fist and lashed out, punching the wall of the bathroom, cracking it.
When he looked back up into the mirror, it revealed what state he was in. The image looking back at him was haggard and frayed. He didn't feel it, but that might be because his new body wasn't letting him feel it. That didn't mean it wouldn't affect him. Long though it might have been, his sleep last night was not refreshing in the slightest. Even more worrisome, he felt exhausted mentally.
A notification from his scroll got his attention. Dinner was ready. A deep breath escaped his lips as he composed himself. There was no need to worry his friends over personal problems. They would be just as much in the dark as he was if he troubled them with this. They didn't need the added worry on top of everything else already going on.
The dinner table was almost full by the time he got there. The only ones missing were Yang and Qrow. He wasn't even surprised the one person he needed to talk to was still out and about. He didn't mention it, as that would have drawn attention to the fact that he needed to talk to Yang. Then there would be questions on what he needed to talk to her about. It would spiral from there.
He silently sat down and started eating. The conversation around him buzzed incoherently to him. Nora was recounting a dream she had, Oscar was paying rapt attention, Ruby was gushing over the newest weapon modifications on the market, and Blake was explaining something about Faunus physiology.
There was a variety of food; spiced chicken, grilled potato wedges, and red rice were strewn across the table in various containers. It all looked delicious and lovingly prepared by Ren and Blake.
Which added to the disappointment Jaune felt when it tasted bland. He didn't think it a coincidence that anything he had eaten today hadn't tasted very good. Just something else to add to his list of grievances with his current state. Even after he had, rather reluctantly, eaten all his food, Jaune still felt a deep hunger. His stomach was full, so there was no way to satiate it, either.
Some of the others were already cleaning up, so he helped out. It didn't take long, and the rest of the group eventually migrated to the living room to pick out a movie and watch it. Jaune stayed back. Ruby was the last one out of the kitchen and looked back at him. "You coming, Jaune? It's Nora's turn tonight, and she usually picks that action-y stuff you like."
Jaune looked up from his ruminations and saw her concern. He plastered a fake smile on his face. "Yea, I'm...go on ahead. I'm not really in the mood for a movie right now."
It didn't appease her concern, but she nodded and walked off. Guilt gnawed at him for lying to his friends, even through omission. He sat at the table a bit and stewed over his situation. He could do nothing but wait until Yang decided to show up.
A nap would do wonders for him, so he put his head down over his crossed arms. He didn't know how long he was like that, but he didn't even get to sleep a little bit by the time he heard the front door open.
His head shot up. Jaune quickly walked to where he heard someone taking off their shoes, praying that it was Yang and not Qrow. As luck would have it, it was just the person he was looking for.
Yang looked up at him just as she took her shoes off. "Oh, hey vomit boy," she said with a smirk.
Jaune rolled his eyes at the nickname. "Hey, do you know…" he paused. He had been ready to blurt on the question without thinking about how to word it. Wasn't he going to go about this subtly? His impatience had gotten the better of him. He had to make up something quick, or she would get suspicious. "I was wondering if you knew the best place in town to get a drink." He winced internally at the wording. In the heat of the moment, he had defaulted to copying exactly what the message had said. "Uhh, I've been needing a pick me up. I feel cooped up in this house, y'know?"
The ending sounded more organic, so he hoped she wouldn't think too hard about it. He wasn't lying, per say. He was feeling cooped up, and he did need a pick me up, especially after last night. Thankfully, she didn't seem to care, whether or not she had noticed.
"Is that so?" she asked with an ever-widening grin. "Well, it just so happens that I know all the best places to have a fun time at. Maybe tomorrow we can-"
"Tonight," he interrupted. "I want to go tonight."
Yang raised an eyebrow in surprise. "My, eager, aren't you? Okay, that's cool with me. I just got home, though, so give me an hour or two to relax and get ready." She walked by him as she took her jacket off.
"Oh...I kinda wanted to go by myself," he said lamely. It sounded weird when he said it out loud, he realized.
"Alone? That's no fun, Jaune! Besides, we can take Bumblebee. I'll show you a good time, don't you worry." She turned to look at him right before she stepped through the kitchen's exit and winked. Jaune gulped as he heard her laugh.
He'd been waiting for the better part of a day, what more could another couple of hours hurt? Then again, the person who attacked him could just as easily attack someone else in that time frame. He shook his head to get away from that line of thinking. There was no point in playing 'what-if' games.
A run would do wonders for him, both in passing the time and clearing his mind. As soon as he stepped outside, he remembered his coat was still in his room. That point became moot when he realized he didn't feel the cold at all. There was a light snowfall drifting down from the sky, but he felt perfectly fine. The strange weakness hadn't overtaken him, either. No use pondering questions he wouldn't get the answers for until he found whatever or whoever he needed to.
What initially started as a light jog around the block turned into a sprint once he realized it was too short a distance to pass any significant amount of time. He felt as light as a feather, and the world blurred around him. Jaune had never run this fast before. And he was still holding back.
As he pushed himself to his limit, he felt that limit slowly increase. It was agonizingly slow, but he could feel himself continually surpassing his top speed. He only slowed to turn occasionally at a corner. Whatever had changed his body was still changing it. Either that, or he was slowly acclimating to his new maximum output.
Before he realized it, he had completed an entire circuit dozens of blocks long and ended up at the house again. He skidded to a stop, snow flying in every direction. So amazed he was at his performance, that he almost didn't notice that he wasn't even breathing heavily.
Jaune looked down at his hands and flexed his fingers. Time had started to pass by quicker, or at least his perception of it Was that his impatience, or was it another effect of his new body? It was impossible to tell, with all the weird things that had been happening.
He checked his scroll and saw Yang had messaged him that she'd be ready in twenty minutes. That had been ten minutes ago, so he rushed inside and headed up to his room to change.
He wasn't sweaty at all from his run, nor did he smell bad even though his last shower had been almost a day ago, so he didn't change his shirt. People would question him if he only wore one layer, so he grabbed a grey hooded jacket, but kept the zipper open. His switched his usual jeans for a pair of tight grey ones. The black boots matched the rest of his clothes so he didn't bother changing them.
A quick look in the mirror confirmed the outfit was acceptable for a club setting. Fashion was something he had picked up on with seven sisters around to criticize his every choice. He checked his scroll to make sure he was okay on time and headed to the garage, where Yang kept her motorcycle.
It was another five minutes before Yang herself showed up. She wore most of her usual stuff, with an added jacket that enhanced the overall look. A smirk spread across her face as she looked him up and down. "Wow, lover boy, you sure do clean up."
He reddened a bit at the praise. "Uh, thanks. Anyway, you ready? I'm eager to get going."
Yang nodded and got on the bike. Jaune gulped as it finally hit him where he'd have to sit. He bit down his embarrassment and slid behind her. Thankfully, there were rails behind him he could hold on to, but as soon as he grabbed them she turned and looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "Not even gonna try and cop a feel? I have to say, I'm not surprised, but I am a bit disappointed."
He flushed when he saw her vulpine grin. "Come on, Jaune. I made Neptune hold the back, but my hips are all yours." Even though he knew she was teasing him, heat pooled in his stomach. A small part of him wished to take her up on her offer, just to see her reaction, but he resisted.
Instead, he sighed. "Yang, can we at least save this for the club or whatever? You're, uh, not exactly making it easy to sit behind you."
A maniacal laugh erupted from her, but instead of responding she hit a button on the wall next to the cycle that raised the garage door. As soon as it was open, she revved the engine and sped out onto the street.
To say Yang was a reckless driver was in the same class of understatement as saying an Ursa Major would have an easy time against an infant. As such, there weren't enough words to describe the primal fear that Jaune felt for his life as they rocketed across the city, narrowly missing death more times than he could count. That fear was in no small part thanks to his Aura's recent disappearance. If they crashed, all that would be left of Jaune Arc would be a red smear on the streets of Atlas.
They somehow managed to arrive at their destination unharmed. It was only when his feet touched solid ground again that Jaune noticed his motion sickness hadn't acted up at all. The realization didn't even surprise him. If he started levitating off the ground he would just accept it at this point.
Yang locked her bike with her scroll. "Fair warning," she said, "I've never actually been to this place. Everyone around town has been talking about it, though, and I've been meaning to."
Jaune just hummed in response. He could already hear the beat of the music from where they were parked. A small neon sign that read 'Terrible Twos' hung over the entrance. There was a long line to get in, much to his disappointment.
"Yang, by the time we get in, it'll be the morning," he whined.
Yang ignored him and started walking to the front door, skipping the line completely. Jaune sighed and followed her, trusting that she had a plan. When they got there, two huge bouncers stood on either side of the door. Yang walked right up to one of them before the next person in line could and gave a radiant smile.
The bouncer raised his eyebrow. "The back of the line is over there, sweetheart."
Yang rolled her eyes endearingly. "Well of course, it is, good-looking, but you're over here," she said without an ounce of shame. Exasperation seeped into Jaune as he realized she was going with the flirt technique.
The bouncer coughed into his hand. "Uh, well, I'm sorry miss, but I really have to insist that-"
Yang took a step forward right into his personal space and pushed her shoulder together a bit, giving him an excellent view. A puppy dog look found its way onto her face, and suddenly Jaune understood just how much Ruby and Yang could look like each other.
With the sweetest voice he could imagine, Yang said, "My friend and I are really impatient, so I'd really appreciate if we could go in. I'd never forget you." Jaune probably would have been a blushing mess on the ground if she tried this on him.
The bouncer looked to his friend, who shrugged. With a sigh, he opened up the door with one hand. "Go on, get. You're lucky you're easy on the eyes."
Yang squealed and gave him a hug. "Thanks, I owe you one," she said with a wink. She grabbed Jaune's hand and dragged him inside. The music intensified immediately, his whole body vibrating with the beat. There were groups of people clustered together, flinging about with wild abandon across a huge dance floor. All along the sides of the main room were either bars or stairways to elevated platforms and levels.
It was all a little much for Jaune, who had never been in a club before in his life. He felt a tug on his arm and realized Yang was pulling him towards the bar. They found a pair of empty stools and sat down.
They were as far as they could get from any speakers, so when Yang leaned in she only had to raise her voice a little bit. "Any preference on drinks?"
Jaune shook his head. "I've never really been to a place like this."
"Have you ever drank before?" she asked with a curious look.
"Only a couple sips," he said. Yang laughed at that. "What? My family was pretty strict on that kind of stuff."
"Nothing, lover boy," she said, her voice filled with mirth, "you're just an endless bag of amusement." It took few minutes before the bartender slid to their side of the table. "We'll take two strawberry sunrises. And don't forget the little umbrellas."
The well dressed man whipped up the strikingly yellow drinks in record time and set them down. Jaune reached for his wallet, but Yang beat him to it and laid the proper amount of lien on the table. The bartender swooped it up and moved further down the table to serve other customers.
Jaune glanced at Yang with a pout. She winked and said, "Your first real drink is on me." He shrugged and took one of the cocktail glasses. As he raised it to take a sip, Yang's robotic hand, holding her own drink, snaked around his own raised hand. Their arms crossed, she pushed up his drink into his mouth with her other hand, forcing him to drink at the same time she did.
Jaune couldn't stop unless he spit all over Yang, which was essentially a death sentence, so he instead forced down each gulp as it painfully burned its way down his throat. Through the whole thing, he locked eyes with Yang, who was smiling around her glass as she easily threw back the alcohol.
As soon as the last drop slithered down his gullet, Yang let go and he sputtered and coughed. "What in Grimm's name was that for?" he asked hoarsely as rubbed his throat.
"Your first drink has to be memorable. I figured a toast was in order," she said matter-of-factly, as if that excused anything. He would remember it, if only to enact revenge upon Yang at a later time.
They sat there for another minute before Yang ordered another pair of the same drink. Jaune paid for his own and drank it normally this time. The rich strawberry flavor was actually enjoyable when it wasn't choking him. He already felt a buzz as soon as he set the empty glass down.
Yang grabbed his arm again. "C'mon, lover boy, I need to dance and you need to feel better." She dragged him to the dance floor. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to how she moved, but nevertheless, Yang made it look fluid.
No beginner himself, Jaune moved to the beat as best he could. The music was a little more intense than at the Beacon Dance, but he managed well enough. With a start, he realized how close he and Yang were. An ache formed at the pit of his stomach, but he brushed it off as teenage hormones. Yang was beautiful and mesmerizing, but also a great friend who was taking him out to make him feel better. He subtly backed off until he was more comfortable with the distance between them.
The world around him started to blur. The drinks were in full effect, and he lost himself in the dance for a while. After what seemed like both forever and a few seconds, Yang pulled him back to the bar. As an afterthought, he realized it wasn't the same one they were at before.
They spoke for a bit about things they had done today. Jaune weaved around the more dubious things that had occurred recently and kept it to easy small talk. They knocked back another two drinks before heading to the dance floor again.
Yang was obviously much better at holding her liquor than Jaune was, because she seemed only a little buzzed, while Jaune was on the verge of drunkenness. Apparently, his new healing factor didn't help in that regard.
It took half an hour for Jaune to burn off some of the alcohol, which was, coincidentally, exactly when he remembered why he was here in the first place. It was a sobering thought, ironically.
"I think my uncle works here, actually." He had to shout in Yang's ear for her to hear anything. "I'm gonna go see if I can find him." Yang made to follow him but he stopped her. "Uh, I kinda meant alone."
Yang looked a bit hurt by the statement. "I don't mind coming with you. Really."
A million different excuses ran through his head, each one worse than the last. "I need to talk to him alone if I find him. See if he can get a message to my family. He has a lot of connections, so if anyone can let them know I'm okay, it'll be him." It pained him to lie to her, especially with how sullen she looked, but it was necessary. "I'll be back as soon as I can."
That seemed to placate her a bit, and she turned back around to dance, though not as enthusiastically as before, he noted. Jaune promised himself to make it up to her later. He wove his way around to the back end of the complex, where the main bar seemed to be. Off to the side, apart from most of the foot traffic, there was a door leading to what was presumably the back of the building, where extra stock and various offices would be. A man in a black suit and red tie stood guard in front of it.
Jaune made his way to the man. The music was just a distant thrum here, so Jaune only had to raise his voice slightly to be heard. "Hey, I was told this is the place I could get answers to a problem I've been having." Jaune hoped that was seedy and vague enough for the intimidating guard to piece together what he meant on his own.
The main raised an eyebrow over his red sunglasses. Really, sunglasses? Who wears those indoors unless they're blind.
By dumb luck or chance, he seemed to understand. Wordlessly, the man opened the door and beckoned Jaune to follow. They went down a few winding hallways before they stopped at a door.
The guard motioned to the door with a hand. "If you wanna see the boss about a 'problem', then you gotta convince her, first." Without another word, he walked back the way they had came, presumably to continue guarding his door.
Jaune swallowed his trepidation and opened the door. Inside looked more like a personal room than something that belonged in a club. At the back of the room, languishly laying across a couch, was a teenage girl with pale green eyes in an ornate white dress. Long black hair fell down exposed shoulders and a white feather scarf. Without a doubt, however, her most notable feature was the long boots with blades at the bottom.
A fighter, then, and most likely with her Aura unlocked. She turned her attention from her open scroll to him. "And who're you?" she asked in a displeased tone.
"I need to speak to your boss. I've been told he can help me with a problem." Short and simple seemed best in this situation.
The girl seemed unimpressed and turned back to her scroll. "Uh-huh. And, like, why should I care?"
Jaune grit his teeth. Everything about her immediately annoyed him, from her attitude to her complete lack of attention. "Because I have no other leads, and I need to find answers. Now."
She scoffed. "If that's your pitch, then you really didn't get the part where you need to convince me. As far as I can tell, this is your problem." She waved him off lazily with her hand. "Now leave. You're bothering me."
With clenched fists and heavy steps, Jaune walked up right in front of her. "Listen, I've had a really shitty couple of weeks, and last night I was attacked by some...some thing. I'm not leaving until I get some answers."
She stood up and scowled at Jaune, which might have been intimidating had she not been more than a whole head shorter than him. "If you won't leave, then I'll just have to teach you a lesson."
Rage boiled inside his core and red rimmed the edge of Jaune's vision. Before the girl could attack or call for help, his right hand shot out, quick as lightning, and grabbed her by the throat. He lifted her up and pinned her to the wall above the couch.
Vainly, she struggled to pry his grip from her neck, but his unnatural strength won out over her feeble attempts. She tried to kick out with her bladed boots, but he easily blocked them with his other arm.
They stayed like that for a solid minute, until her Aura fizzled out and she truly felt the vice constrict her breath. Her eyes widened in panic as she gasped for air. Jaune's face was filled with unforgiving fury.
"Listen, and listen very carefully," he said, his voice dripping with venom. "You will take me to your boss, and I will get answers, one way or another. Otherwise, I'll burn this whole damn building to the ground, with you in it. Nod if you understand."
She did so, frantically. He waited another second to get his point through, then let go. She dropped to the couch, and from there to the floor. There she lay, breathing in mouthfuls at a time, hands to her throat.
Shakily, she stood up, one hand still on her throat. "Ju...Just follow...me." Between every other word was a breath of air. Jaune nodded, anger still written all over his face.
She led him out of her room and down a few hallways. The only sounds exchanged between the two of them were the clicking of her heels and the thumping of his stride. The girl looked partially recovered by the time they ended up in front of another door. "He's in there. Get your answers and, like, never come back. Asshole." She stalked off in a hurry, whether in fear or anger, Jaune couldn't tell.
He took a deep breath to calm himself. He had never been that angry or aggressive, nor had he ever threatened someone's life like that. Maybe in the heat of battle against Cinder, but not from a position of power. His instincts had taken over and he had let them guide his actions. Jaune didn't like what that said about his instincts.
He felt on edge, like he hadn't had a good night's sleep in a week, or hadn't eaten for a few days. It was a disconcerting thought, but he had to keep pushing forward and find out what was going on.
Jaune opened the door and entered a medium sized office. A desk sat in the middle, with various cabinets and shelves adorning the sides. Sitting in a chair behind it was a close-cropped bearded man dressed in a white collared shirt with a black vest and red tie. The rest of him was hidden underneath the desk.
The man looked up with an aggravated look on his face. "Well? I'm really busy and I don't have all night. The only way you know to be here is through a recommendation, and I need to see it."
Jaune was taken aback for a moment at the direct approach of the man, but pulled out his scroll hastily and brought up the message from the mystery contact. He passed over the device and the man snatched it to take a look.
After a few seconds, he tossed it back, and Jaune barely caught it. He glared, but the other man was mumbling to himself. "Of course it's him. Can't even leave me alone after I move all the way to Atlas." He looked up at Jaune. "Ok, then, tell me what happened. And don't leave out any details. If you want to know exactly what's going on, then I need to know everything."
Jaune paused for a moment and considered if it was wise to spill the beans, but his frustration at a lack of answers won out in the end. He told the story of the previous night, making sure to include any details he could remember, including the weird things that had happened today.
After he finished, the man mulled it over for a few minutes. "Well, kid, you're fucked."
Jaune rolled his eyes. "Thanks for the illuminating prognosis, doc. I need a real answer."
"Don't call me 'doc'. Junior is fine." A strange name for a grown man, but who was he to judge with a nickname like 'vomit boy'. "I need to explain a few things before I get into your situation, so listen carefully, cause I'm only gonna explain this once and I'm a fast talker."
"Fine," said Jaune curtly. "Just get on with it."
"Before we even get to that, though, we need to talk payment. Information ain't cheap, y'know." Junior grinned greedily.
Jaune felt a rising anger as he growled. "How much?"
"It's your first time, and your situation is shitty enough as it is. Besides, you'll probably owe your mystery messenger a favor or two when all is said and done." Junior thought it over for a moment. "Just give me whatever you have on you and it's a deal. The quicker you're out of here, the quicker I can get back to work."
Without any hesitation, Jaune threw a sizable sum of lien onto the desk. It wasn't an unreasonable amount, by any means, but Jaune would have to severely limit any frivolous spending in the near future.
Junior slid the money into one of the drawers of the desk. "Ok, listen up. Everyone knows about the Grimm. Everyone. But what most people don't know is that there are other creatures out there that aren't related to the Grimm at all. Things you hear about in fairy tales."
He paused to pour a drink for himself. "Some of these creatures can disguise themselves as people, while others feast on them. I'm talking about the supernatural, like ghosts possessions, lycanthropes who can change into animals, or doppelgangers killing children and replacing them. No point in listing all of them, or we'll be here all night."
The rolling chair Junior sat on creaked as he leaned back into it. Inversely, Jaune was leaning forward, clinging to every word. Supernatural entities? Fairy tales? His gut reaction was to not believe the other man, but with everything that had happened recently, including learning about the maidens and real magic from Ozpin, it made more sense than he cared to admit.
Junior broke him out of his thoughts. "That lady that attacked you was one of these monsters. From what you've told me about the attack and your symptoms, I think I have a pretty good idea what you are, even if I am relatively new to this whole thing."
"What I am?" asked Jaune. "What do you mean?"
Junior sighed, the pity on his face a jarring shift from his earlier displeasure. "You still haven't figured it out, have you? Think about it. Think about the stories you heard as a kid, or the horror movies you've seen. They're not always that far off from the truth. She sank her teeth into your neck. It's not the outside that's weakening you, it's the sun. The food tastes bland because you're craving something else. Blood."
Jaune stared at the floor as the pieces in his mind that seemed inconsistent before started fitting into place, one by one. He started to breathe heavy as the implication hit him like a truck, and he clutched at his chest. As soon as he did, his blood ran cold. His heart wasn't beating. It was utterly and completely still. Dazedly, he looked up to meet Junior's eyes.
"You're a vampire, kid."
Well, there it is. I feel like vampires have a bad stigma because of works like Twilight and such, but they have so much potential for dark and creepy stories.
A couple of things to clarify for the future if this fic, this will be a pretty serious story overall, but I do want to inject some levity every once in a while. My main focus is going to be character interactions/development, atmosphere, tone, and themes. I'm really not going to mess a lot with Salem/the main story too much, since I want this to be self contained, if that makes sense. If anyone has watched any of the things I'm drawing inspiration from, then you should have a feel for how this fic will be. Also, if it feels like a piece of info is missing or is being ignored, it's (probably) on purpose, and will be revealed/elaborated on later. Also, for the shipping aspect, I guess you'll just have to read and see. :)
Anyway, not sure when the next update will be, since my other fic, Fate: Hero's Lament, is my first priority, but my writing speed is steadily increasing as I get used to this, so please bear with me. If you're so inclined, please leave a review/favorite/follow, it really motivates me. Thank you!