"The Knight in Shining Armor"
When Jaune had first heard that a few soldiers from the UNSC would be coming to Beacon Academy to learn about Huntsmen and their fighting styles, as well as to share some of their own advice, he'd been just as excited as everyone else. Not once had he ever believed that he'd ever get the chance to meet a genuine alien, let alone learn about how they fought. One thing he hadn't anticipated, however, was that he might get the chance to spar with one of them, and certainly not go up against a Spartan.
The mysterious armored figures had already made themselves a name on Remnant, especially amongst the student bodies of the Huntsman Academies. The most popular rumor was that only two of them had taken down an entire team of rogue Atlas Specialists during the UNSC/SDC conflict, all without Aura, which Jaune had previously found very hard to believe.
Although now he was starting to understand how that could have been possible.
Jaune thrust Crocea Mors forward, going for Ben's armored gut, but found that he was long gone by the time his sword reached its target. The Spartan swept one leg against his own and within the blink of an eye, he was on his back again. While it was quite humiliating to get his butt handed to him time and time again, he at least took comfort in the fact that nobody else was around to see him fail.
Starting to believe the rumors. Jaune thought as stifled a groan of pain. "What did I do wrong that time?"
"You make your strikes too obvious. Your opponent will be able to avoid them if they can see what's coming." Ben answered.
Ben was a bit of an enigma to Jaune. To be fair, he was an alien supersoldier, so he was well within his right to be a bit unusual. So far, he hadn't shown any kind of contempt or dislike for him, which was nice. That being said, he also got the sense that the Spartan was quietly judging him, which made him a little bit uncomfortable. "Here, on your feet."
Jaune let out a long breath as the Spartan pulled him back up and the two got back to their starting positions. "Yeah… hey, do you think the Grimm can actually tell that kind of thing? Like, can they predict our attacks?"
"Previous studies suggest they can." Curie spoke up, catching Jaune off-guard for perhaps the tenth time that day. She was apparently some kind of computer person living in Ben's brain and talking through his armor, which was strange, but somehow not the strangest thing that he'd heard about the UNSC. "In fact, there are reports of older Grimm naturally growing armor over parts of their body that are frequently attacked."
"Oh." Jaune said, immediately feeling slightly insecure about the somewhat lame tone he had spoken with. "That's uh, creepy."
"I wholeheartedly concur." Curie replied. Unlike Ben, she was a lot more expressive with how she spoke. "Also, I recommend you adjust your footing, you are out of position."
"Oh, whoops!" Jaune replied, immediately rectifying the issue. Posture was something that he was already working on with Pyrrha, and so he found his proper footing again fairly easily. "How's that?"
"Good." Ben answered. "Now, strike again."
Ben took a defensive stance, using his fisted gauntlets in positions where he could easily use them as shields. Jaune had already learned the hard way that even if his shields were down, Crocea Mors didn't even scratch whatever metal they were made out of, so getting any kind of strike past them would be difficult.
Ben had a good guard as well, but it was not a perfect one. There was a noticeable vulnerability around his left shoulder, created by him standing with a slightly imbalanced posture. Privately, Jaune wondered if Ben was deliberately leaving an opening for him, but there was always the possibility that even a Spartan could make mistakes, especially when he had to walk around on such big metal shoes.
Rather than strike at the opening immediately, Jaune feinted as if he were going to make a wide swing. Then, as Ben moved to block the blade, he quickly brought it around and struck Ben on the shoulder plate. As expected, Crocea Mors harmlessly bounced off of Ben's energy shields, but the strike had landed.
The effectiveness of the strike aside, Jaune was admittedly a little proud of having managed to land the hit at all. "Hey, I did it!"
"Much better." Ben replied. "Mind if I borrow your sword for a moment?"
"Uh, sure, why not?" Jaune handed over Crocea Mors, which Ben held for a moment, before looking back at him with… surprise? It was kind of hard to tell, what with his golden visor that he concealed his face with.
"It's just a sword, right?" Ben asked, his voice as unreadable as his body language. "There's no hidden flamethrower or anything like that?"
Jaune awkwardly scratched the back of his head, unsure of whether or not he was being judged. "It's just a sword. My shield can fold up to make it smaller, but it uh, still weighs the same."
"I would be rather taken aback if it did not." Curie said, and judging by the tone she spoke with, she was just as taken aback as Ben was. "Even so, this is something of a surprise. Most Huntsmen weapons that we have encountered so far have been… esoteric, to say the least."
Jaune let out a sigh, apparently, he was being judged. "I know it's nothing special, but that's my great-great-grandfather's sword, he used it in the Great War. It's important to my family, and-"
"There's nothing wrong with a good sword." Ben said, cutting him off and surprising him in turn. "Your weapon is fine."
Jaune blinked, unsure that he had heard Ben correctly. "You really think so?"
"You never need to reload a blade." Ben said, and to emphasize his point, he tapped a finger against the sheath on his shoulder that held a gigantic knife. "There's a reason I carry this around. It's no replacement for a rifle, but it's also saved my life."
"Swords have been used by humanity for thousands of years, and for good reason." Curie added. "While you probably should have some kind of ranged weapon for usage against other opponents armed with melee weapons, your equipment is sufficient."
Jaune nodded, it wasn't the first time somebody had told him that he needed a ranged weapon. "I'm not sure I could afford something like that…"
"Bullshit." Ben grumbled, sounding genuinely angry, or at least displeased, for the first time since Jaune had met him. "How the hell do your teachers expect you to survive on the field when they don't even issue you any equipment?"
"I'm not sure, students are expected to bring their own gear, I guess." Jaune said. "But even if I could afford a gun, I'm not sure if I'd be any good with it. I don't know the first thing about them."
"Forget money, I'll buy you a weapon. It's not like I'm gonna spend it…" Ben offered. "And if you're not looking for a gun, how about grenades?"
Jaune could feel the color drain from his face at the very idea. "You want me to use… explosives? Oh boy…"
"Why not?" Curie asked. "You seem to be perfectly confident and capable with your sword, a grenade is just another weapon. They both serve the same purpose, to kill and maim the enemy."
She said that a little too calmly… Jaune thought. "Yeah well, there's also the chance that I could hurt my team, or myself. It's pretty hard to do that with a sword."
"Proper training can fix that." Ben pointed out. "Don't you have a squadmate who uses explosives?"
Jaune nodded. "Yeah, Nora does, but she's been using them for years. I wouldn't even know where to start!"
"Well, perhaps she could help you with that." Curie suggested. "You should ask her, I am sure she would be willing to help you. Besides, even if you aren't comfortable with fragmentation or high-explosive grenades, maybe you could use smoke grenades to provide concealment for your team."
That's… a pretty good idea, actually. Even if I'm not going to use them, I should probably make sure Nora has a few smoke grenades, just in case we need to make a getaway. Jaune thought. "Alright, I'll give it some thought."
"That's all I ask." Ben said as he took a closer look at the sword in his hand. "There's something inscribed here, it looks pretty worn down. Curie, can you-"
"It says Crocea Mors." Jaune answered his question before he could ask it. "It's the name of the sword, and yeah, I probably do need to get it reforged."
"Hmm, Crocea Mors…" Curie said. "Give me just a moment Jaune, that sounds somewhat familiar, I'm going to check my personal archives for anything with that name."
Ben handed Crocea Mors back to Jaune, and took a few steps back. "While she's doing that, why don't we get back to it? Just try to do what you did last time."
Jaune nodded and took a deep breath, now with a bit more confidence than when he'd started. He'd landed one hit, he could land another. "Okay! I'm ready when you are!"
Both of them took their stances, and Jaune examined his opponent for a weakness… only to find none. Ben's guard was far stronger than last time, and it looked like no matter where Jaune struck, his blade would be caught, and he'd be in for one hell of a counterattack.
For a moment, it almost seemed like he was at an impasse, when he remembered that during their last clash, Ben had adjusted his guard to respond to Jaune's false attack. If I feint… maybe that'll create the weakness I'm looking for.
There was little else to do other than to put his theory into motion, and so he leapt forward, feinting an attack to the left. As he had hoped, Ben repositioned his hands to account for Jaune's apparent attack, only for him to pull his blade back and bring it around to the right, striking Ben in the hip. His shields flared up from the hit, and once more, Jaune had managed to accomplish his goal.
"Very good." Ben said. "Keep in mind, not every opponent is going to be as easy to predict as I am, you'll need to mix up your tactics, and move faster than that in a real fight."
"So… you're going easy on me?" Jaune's heart sank a little bit at Ben's admission. And here I thought I was doing well.
"No, I'm teaching you." Ben answered. "I'm trying to illustrate techniques you can use against opponents that you might face as a Huntsman, like terrorists, or Grimm."
"I guess that makes sense." Jaune said, before a question surfaced in his mind. "So, if this is how I'd beat somebody on my level… how would I beat a Spartan?"
"You don't. You would die." Ben simply stated in the same polite tone that he'd been using all day, which somehow made his statement ever so slightly more intimidating.
Of course, that wasn't enough to scare Jaune, he'd been in combat after all, and he figured that Ben was just joking around. Curie, however, obviously didn't feel the same way. "Ben! You are meant to be teaching the boy, not intimidating him!"
Ben awkwardly glanced at the floor in shame, marking one of the first times that Jaune had actually been able to read his body language. "Right, sorry."
"Say it to him, not me!" Curie said. "Now, let me get back to work here…"
Jaune was doing his best not to chuckle. "It's alright Curie, I know he's just joking around. Right?"
Ben's hesitation was barely noticeable, but it was definitely there. "Right. Now, try that again."
They repeated the exercise a few more times. Sometimes Jaune would be able to get around Ben's guard, and sometimes Ben would be able to block, grab, or deflect his sword, whereupon the Spartan would knock him flat on his ass. While somewhat humiliating, it was also a good motivator to deliver his strikes the right way.
After making a good deal of progress, Curie spoke up again. "I have found what I was looking for."
"That took a long time." Ben noted. "Are you feeling alright?"
"I am perfectly fine." Curie replied. "The historical archives aboard the Dominion are heavily encrypted to prevent their capture and use by the Covenant. Even for me, it takes a while to crack."
"You could just use your encryption keys…" Ben grumbled.
"How else will I find the faults in our security?" Curie rhetorically asked. "Jaune, you may be interested to learn that your sword is not the first to bear such a name."
Jaune looked down at his sword in surprise. "It isn't?"
"Crocea Mors is a very famous sword where we are from, used by a man named Julius Caesar. He was the Emperor of the Roman Empire, which was one of the largest nations to ever exist on ancient Earth." Curie explained. "According to legend, it was reportedly captured by an enemy warrior, who then used it to attack and kill many of Caesar's men, breaking his spirit to fight."
"Oh." Jaune said, feeling fairly disappointed. "I was expecting something a bit more… heroic, I guess."
"Perhaps in your hands, Jaune, it will earn a better reputation." Curie said. "There is also a theory among some mythologists that Crocea Mors would eventually be lost, and then rediscovered and renamed Excalibur, the legendary sword wielded by King Arthur."
"Hey, I know that one." Ben spoke up. "There's an old starfighter named after it."
"There is much more to it than that, but yes, it is also a starfighter." Curie said. "There you have it Jaune, the history of Crocea Mors. I am sorry that it was not quite… well, cheerful."
"Eh, it's okay." Jaune said. "It's like you said, maybe I can make a better reputation for it."
"That is a very good mindset to have." Curie reassured him. "Now, unfortunately Ben and I have to leave, we're a few minutes overdue for our next assignment. You may return to your normal classes."
A wave of disappointment washed over him at her words, he'd actually enjoyed learning from them, even if that entailed him getting thrown on the floor a lot. "Will I ever see you guys again?"
"We keep in regular contact with a young woman named Ruby Rose, I believe she's a friend of yours." Curie replied. "So, hopefully."
Once Curie was done talking, Ben gave him a nod. "Stay safe, Jaune."
"You too, Ben." Jaune replied.
Author's Notes: Yes I know it's been a pretty long time since you've heard from me. The next chapter is coming, slowly but surely. A bunch of crap is just weighing me down in real life, hence the delays. Sorry about that.
Originally this chapter was gonna feature the rest of Onyx Team training with Pyrrha, Ren, and Nora. I decided to cut that since I'm way behind schedule as is. If that's something you'd want to see, let me know. Otherwise, I'm gonna just focus what brainpower I have on the main story.