Author's Notes: Yet another attempt at a fanfic, hopefully one that I'll actually stay on top of this time. It's a bit of an adventure, considering that I'm trying to stay in character, while also allowing for character growth. Consider this my rebuttal to all the Jaune time-travel fanfics that are out there.
I plan on writing at a fairly consistent clip per-day when time allows. It's my hope to build up a back log of writing in-between updates. I'll probably plan on updating every Sunday or so. If I get REALLY far ahead, I might even consider updating extra times. That's wishful thinking, perhaps, but I do want to get in the habit of writing.
If you want me to keep writing, as well as get better, do leave criticism and encouragement. Likes and reviews make my day, they really do. It also helps me get off my lazy ass and put pen to paper.
Cross-posted from SpaceBattles, under the same name there.
Synopsis: Between the destruction of her school, the murder of her idiot headmaster, and her failed last stand against a psychopath, Pyrrha Nikos wasn't having a good day. Waking up back in her bed after being incinerated though, well, that's where things went from bad, to weird.
Pyrrha Nikos never had problems sleeping. She ate right, exercised regularly, had the constitution of a seasoned warrior, and always made time for rest.
But this time, her return to the land of the living was marred by the sensation of an arrow in the throat. She gasped in a blind terror, clawing at her flesh, kicking away blankets - blankets? - and trying to clear an obstruction that was no longer there. Her heart was beating so fast it felt like it was going to rip out of her chest, as the blind panic of self-preservation kicked in. Tears welled in her eyes, her stomach roiled in rebellion as body and mind and heart clashed in a tempest of discord. She coughed and sputtered in a desperate attempt to breath and rolled out of bed in a flailing of limbs.
The shock of the impact did draw attention away from her fit. She all but tore the wad of fabric that had gathered around her hand and felt around her neckline. Nothing but pristine, sweat-soaked flesh met her trembling fingers.
She was -alive-. A miraculous thing, considering she could remember being incinerated. It was pain like nothing else she had ever experienced, and the very memory made her tip over the edge. She sprang up from the floor in a mad scramble and stumbled, following a half-remembered path to her bathroom - she was in her own home? - and just barely to the toilet. Forcing the lid up, she sank to her knees, sickness spilling out past her lips as her nerves expressed their discontent.
It was a hell of a thing to recall, but some part of her relished even this awful sensation. She might be sick, but she was fighting. Her body might be trembling, but she cherished the beat of her heart. Her emotions might have been so tangled that she could barely even remember her own name, but it couldn't outweigh the fact that she was alive. The vomit wasn't exactly welcomed either way, but she would take what she could get.
Finally, finally, she was able to get control of herself. Fear gave way to a growing awareness that something wasn't right. She shouldn't be alive, much less in her own home. That arrow had hit something vital, and Cinder had been burning her into nothingness, -had- burned her into nothingness.
Even if, on the off chance, she had somehow survived both injuries, she should have been in a hospital bed, horrifically scarred with burns. Slowly, she rose once again and flicked the light on. She turned to face her mirror, blinking at the sight of herself. She looked like hell, hair in disarray, her eyes bloodshot and red, and, well, the less said about the rest of the mess, the better.
But she was still herself and looked the same as she ever did. If it weren't the fact that she was already emotionally wrung out, she would probably have started crying again. It also helped that Pyrrha was also a very goal-oriented person and was really starting to resent the taste of bile in her mouth. A flick of her hand turned the faucet on, and she began the task of trying to make herself feel human again, all while her mind tried to work things through.
Fact: She wasn't dead. Or at least...she didn't think she was. The afterlife was a possibility, but that didn't seem to fit. She was expecting a welcome party or something, maybe her grandparents. Not to wake up in her own bed.
Fact: She wasn't injured. No scarring, no burns, nothing at all to suggest that she had been skewered and roasted alive.
Fact: She was home, not simply at Beacon, but her -home-. The place where she had been raised, and where her par-
Now this time, a few tears really did come to Pyrrha's eyes, but she wiped them away with her palm, taking a shuddering breath as she steadied herself against the counter top. She really didn't want to break down again, the emotional whiplash wasn't doing her already fragile state of mind any favors.
She looked back at the mirror and nodded to herself. Right. She wouldn't think about it yet. Instead, she would be...productive. Somehow.
Nozzles were turned, clothes disposed of in the waiting hamper, the door was shut, and at last she embraced the burning warmth of the water that poured down on her. It was just on the edge of being too uncomfortable to stand under, but Pyrrha enjoyed it all the same. The bite of the water made her sigh with relief. The sensation was sheer bliss, a cleansing thing that reached deep and renewed not only her body, but her spirit.
It wasn't a miracle, of course. She was still just managing to hold herself together, but it was an important start. She stood there for a good long while, the steam building up until she could barely see anything past the haze. Finally, though, the water began to grow cold, and she reluctantly turned it off.
She went through the rest of her regular cleaning routine with deliberate slowness, savoring each well practiced motion of brushing and drying. When she was finally finished, she stood there, renewed and bone tired at the same time. She slowly cracked open the door, the rush of heat escaping, chilling her once more. She found an outfit in her dresser, a simple night shirt and shorts that would do for the evening. She carefully gathered up the blankets that had been tossed aside by her rude awakening and did her best to restore them to order.
With nothing left to do, fully clean and comfortable, she slid back underneath the covers, and closed her eyes, allowing slumber to take her once more, doing her best to ignore any doubt that she might not wake up in the morning. Even if this was some sort of pain-induced hallucination, she would take what she could get, and face what came with dignity.
She didn't even remember falling asleep that time, having been so exhausted that no dream found her. Considering what she would have probably dreamed about, she was grateful. When she woke up, she was refreshed, the sun peeking into her room through the window next to her bed, light piercing the misty haze that hung over the mountain that commanded the view. Like most towns in Mistral, hers was one that was built into the mountain range, farmers tilling the fertile soil at the base of the windward side, while the majority of the people were protected from the Grimm by simple geography.
The sight made her gaze at it with a deep sense of nostalgia before she shook herself out of her fugue. Her hand made its way to the nightstand, and she grasped her scroll, turning on the device. 9:24am... hmm. A bit later than she normally slept, but...
...what date was that?
She did a double take, and furiously rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, before looking again. The same date stared back at her.
She was approximately 8 months in the past, according to her scroll. Before she had even started Beacon. She stared at the device mutely, before going to the search engine embedded in the device, looking up 'news'.
Surely something...anything would confirm the fact that perhaps her scroll had been messed with, the date changed to play a prank on her, as absurd as that was. But as she looked through article after article, she began to realize that she was actually - somehow, against all sense or logic - in the past. She let the scroll fall limply from her fingertips, hitting her bed with a dull thump as she tried to wrestle with the implications.
All the evidence pointed to Pyrrha being in the past. It was as simple as that. There were far too many coincidences lining up for this to be anything other than time travel, as impossible as that was to believe. That meant that she has lost everything...her team, her friends, and...Jaune.
Yet, paradoxically, she had them all back as well. They were there, safe, ready to be remade into the same team that they were meant to be. Vale was safe, Beacon was safe...and those terrible mistakes she had made were undone.
Her hand clenched into a fist, a wave of anger, no, of sheer, burning hate gripped her heart. Cinder had destroyed her school, threatened her friends, and murdered her. Pyrrha could see it now, how they had all been carefully manipulated, her most of all. It wouldn't have mattered in hindsight, but thanks to this opportunity, that hindsight was now foresight.
Pyrrha let out a shuddering breath, as she realized something crucial. Cinder had been afraid of her, afraid of what Pyrrha could do with a clear head. Everything that Cinder had done, had been to throw her off balance, make her emotional, make her make mistakes when she needed to be at her very best. Even then, it had been a far from sure thing. If Pyrrha had fought with a clear mind, had even one other reliable Huntsman at her back, would have had a fighting chance.
And during the fight, she had discovered - or, perhaps, rediscovered - something important. Raising a hand, she fed aura into her limbs, and reached out. The tell-tale blackish outline of her semblance engulfed it, and her scroll rose at her command into the air. Pyrrha had never viewed her semblance as anything other than a crutch. She strove to perform at her best without it, and only begrudgingly used it to finish an opponent, or keep a strike from connecting. But for her friends?
Well...the next time that Cinder reared her ugly head, she would be ready.
Pyrrha sighed, rolling her neck as she guided her scroll back to her nightstand. A glint of metal caught her eye in the corner of the room. There hung Miló and Akoúo̱, her twin companions. Resolve swelled in her chest, for how could it not? With her weapons, and a clear mind, she knew that she could take on the world. Her hand raised once more, and her treasured armaments sprang from their place on the wall, her hands finding purchase. Looking down at them both, a smile split across her face for the first time since awakening once more.
Training didn't come immediately, of course. The mundane tasks, like dressing, eating, all came first. Pyrrha was nothing if orderly, and all things had their place in her life. But if she had lingered a bit at the breakfast table with her parents, listening to their chatter...well...that they would simply chalk up to her going away soon, wouldn't they? Her training of course, they would explain away as her trying to make sure she was in the best shape possible to attend Beacon.
Her parents, bless them, they tried, but Helena and Alexander Nikos didn't understand the life of a Hunter. The two of them were civilians, working day jobs in their little town, with the prodigy daughter who pulled in more Lien with a single tournament victory than they both did in a year. She was a respectful daughter however and didn't let the fame go to her head. She was responsible, investing the money and for all intents and purposes, forgetting about it. Pyrrha didn't want for anything, but much like her Semblance, it embarrassed her. The fame, the money...she never competed for those reasons. She simply enjoyed testing her power, her wits against her opponents. Each time she had, she had ultimately found them wanting. Her four straight tournament wins during her pre-Beacon days had proven that. She had, incorrectly, assumed that no one in her age group could come close to her.
How wrong that was. Pyrrha might have been good, but she had treated it all like a sport, a game. And like she always did, she had tried to...what? Make things fairer, even if only subconsciously. But that wouldn't work here, knowing what she did.
So here she was in her back yard, limbs heavy with exhaustion, spear twirling in her hand as she imagined the battles she fought. Her blood rushed through her veins as she reenacted them, pushing herself past her limits and then some. She normally would have stopped some time ago, but she couldn't bring herself to do so. As long as her body responded to her demands for more, she would keep going, no matter how much it hurt.
She had quite more to give than she thought, even without her experience at Beacon. Her Aura...the same Aura that had failed to halt Cinder...she could feel it fraying once more after hours of non-stop exercise. She dragged up all her will power, all of it, and forced herself to continue working. On and on it went, her body faltering, only for her to shrug through it all.
It was only when her knees gave out and she hit the grass, that she considered that she was perhaps pushing herself just a bit too far. Wheezing as she lay there on the ground, Pyrrha found herself reflecting again on her poor life choices. It was something that maybe she should have done sooner, but what can you do? Live and learn, and all that...or perhaps in her case, die and learn was more appropriate.
And dying in the middle of an admittedly extreme workout would have been fairly silly, all things considered. With trembling limbs, she forced herself off the ground, a patch of pure sweat remaining to darken the grass, reminding her that she not only worked herself too hard, she hadn't even been taking care of herself during it. Heat stroke was a very real possibility. Berating herself silently, she managed to stumble back in to her house, groping for a glass on the counter top. When she finally had a full cup, she had to force herself not to down the whole thing at once. That would only give her cramps, and she had had enough of those when she...woke up.
...Died, even. She sank into the nearest chair near the dining table, setting her glass down as she forced herself to come to terms with what had happened. Yes, she...intellectually realized it, emotionally realized it. But she needed to get past it. She had been working on auto pilot all day, working herself into exhaustion to avoid thinking. Admittedly, the training itself was productive, but...judging from the fact that she could taste blood in her mouth, not exactly healthy. She had to think, and she wasn't looking forward to it.
Pyrrha had decisions to make, plans to line out, and she couldn't afford to put it off any longer. She blew out a sigh, closing her eyes as she sat there, hands coming up to rub her temples. "This is going to suck." She murmured.
The rest of the day passed in a flurry of pens, and paper so packed with ink that it was more blue than white. She kept it all in her room, of course. No need for her parents to catch a glimpse of any of this, less they send her off to an insane asylum. "Not that they'd even be wrong." Pyrrha mused, staring at the culmination of all her work. About ten pages of relatively detailed notes, theories, and strategies. This sort of detailed analysis, and reflection didn't come naturally to Pyrrha, and it drove her up a wall. Not that she was stupid, of course, far from it! She was the top of her class in practical skills, and in the top five of theoretical for a reason. But she had always been a much more kinetic thinker, learning by doing.
She had assumed that she wouldn't need to become a strategist. When she arrived at Beacon, she figured she was easily the top tactician of her class and could lead a team if - when - she was forced to do so. It had been a very pleasant surprise when Jaune had been chosen for that role, and she unloaded that burden without a second thought. When he wasn't second guessing himself, Jaune was actually...
Pyrrha paused for a moment to consider it, biting her lip. Jaune was actually rather smart. Very, very smart, when she remembered that unlike the rest of them, he had no formal training. Any strategies he developed were by the seat of his pants, and she knew he had high marks in the theoretical portion of the combat class. If he had actually attended an academy before coming to Beacon? She might have been the 'Invincible Girl', a prodigy, but Jaune could have probably planned circles around her.
...she knew there was a reason she was hopelessly in love with the boy.
It was an eye-opening thing, though. To see that even if she believed herself to be down to earth, she was still allowing the hype of the media to lead her astray. Pyrrha Nikos was -not- the smartest, the strongest, or the fastest Hunter-to-be, and that was a slap in the face that she really needed. But, if there was one thing she was good at, it was working hard. She trained constantly to keep herself in peak physical condition, to keep up with her school work.
Now, after her excessive workout, she knew she could do better. After her death, she knew she needed to do better. But that didn't mean simply trying to push her strengths, it meant shoring up her glaring weaknesses.
Ten pages might have seemed impressive, but that was ignoring the dozens she had torn up and discarded for each completed one. And those ten pages essentially boiled down to the most basic of observations she made about her enemies, a very rough list of things she wanted to do with her team to prepare, and a few rules she had decided on following.
She would NOT tell anyone her...experiences. She doubted anyone would believe her, or worse, someone would, and put themselves into harm's way. Or, if she did successfully bring someone in, they might be tempted to tell Ozpin. She couldn't bring herself to trust the man, or his judgment. It had gotten her killed, and himself killed as well. A powerful warrior he may be, but he had kept all his secrets so close to the chest that by the time he let her in, it was far too late.
But, she would do what she could to improve things. The Breach, the Tournament...those were all events she could influence, for the better. She'd just have to be careful about it, and she would have to move quickly. If Ozpin also let her in on the secret of Amber again, she knew to take it immediately...and remind him to have someone posted to guard the damned door.
Sloppier than her fight with Cinder, really, and she had been nursing a broken heart at the time. What was his excuse?
It might have been uncharitable, considering the man sacrificed himself so she could get away, but so much pain could have been prevented if he had just told her why it was so important she take up the power of the Maiden in the first place. He had been vague to the point where she wasn't sure if he was doing it more out of scientific curiosity than anything...but she had the sneaking suspicion that it WAS partly that.
No, Ozpin was someone to work with, but not someone to trust or follow blindly.
But thankfully, she knew she would have reliable allies when she reached school…her friends. The rest of teams JNPR and RWBY, and all the rest of their class mates. With some subtle nudging, they would be well on the right path to dealing with the threats that came their way. Especially now that she knew RWBY's ongoing crusade against the White Fang the first time was not just 'their' adventure, but a serious threat to them all.
There were a lot of holes in her plan though. More questions than answers, but it was a start, damnit, and that was way more than she had last time. She could do this. She had to.
All things considered, the week or so she had to wait before boarding the airship to Beacon was bittersweet. In-between her workouts, which were far less extreme than the first, she spent every moment she could with her parents. They were surprised but took to it with their usual silent acceptance. It had long ago been established in their house that if Pyrrha had a reason for doing something, it was usually a fairly good one. They weren't ones to pry, or second guess her, which she was immensely thankful for. She didn't know if she would have the heart to lie to them if they pressed about her unusual behavior.
But they hadn't, so she had been able to get what she needed out of the time with them. Closure, a renewed sense of peace, and support that she craved more than she knew at the time. It let her move on, at least for now. Sometimes she woke up in the middle of the night, sweating. Other times she would be reminded of something that JNPR had done together, opened her mouth to tell her parents all about it, and then had to cut herself off before she gave it away. That realization hurt, knowing that she would have to start things all over again. Ren and Nora were such good friends to her, and Jaune…well. That would be something she would have to deal with in time, but as far as she was concerned, it would be a cold day in hell before she let anyone give him a hard time. Pyrrha thought a lot about the subject of Jaune when she couldn't sleep, staring at the ceiling as though it would provide some insight.
The truth was, she had treated him more like a pet than a partner. She hadn't meant to do it, had only tried to do what was best for him…but while she had helped him get better, she hadn't recognized that she should have let him make his own decisions. Maybe she should have let him face Cinder with her. Maybe she should have trained him harder. Maybe she should have intervened with Cardin before.
A lot of 'what ifs', and now she had the opportunity to act upon them. She wanted to get it right this time. She wanted Jaune to get stronger, she wanted him to become the leader she saw in him, and above all, she wanted him above all to be happy. She wanted those things so badly it brought tears to her eyes and made her sick with worry. It was a delicate balancing act, and she knew she needed help. The time for waiting was over.
That's why, even as the mantle of her responsibilities weighed her down, she took strength in it at the same time. As the airship lifted away from the earth and carried her to Beacon, she settled in, gripping Milo tightly as she shifted in her seat. She hadn't lied when she told Cinder she believed in Destiny. But now, Pyrrha knew that she would have to work towards it. And when she confronted that bitch again, it would be Pyrrha who stood tall, and Cinder the one who ended up with cold steel lancing through her heart.