My car passed its MoT. Yay. I was a little worried about it since it gets so much less use now due to lockdown. The battery was a little low as a result, but it passed despite that. I just need to drive it around more to keep the battery going, which feels like a waste of fuel, time and a detriment to the environment, but that's how it is, I guess. I'd love to live in a city and be able to walk everywhere, but I'm in the middle of the countryside right now.
Cover Art: Serox
As timeframes went, it felt like a much longer length of time than it actually was. Two days was enough time to come up with a plan, he'd told himself. Two days was plenty of time to sort things out. Two days – forty-eight whole hours – in which to decide what he was going to do about Sienna.
"You're doomed," Adam said in his dreams.
"Can I have some helpful advice for once!?"
"Start working on a will. People always leave it too late and then die without making one. I did. I was supposed to leave everything to Blake, but I never got around to writing it…"
"Did you even own anything?"
"My sword. My pride. My annuls of Blake-centric poetry. All the things that make a man a man."
"If that's what makes a man, I'm happy to remain a boy…" Jaune groaned inside his own dreams. "But what am I meant to do? I was hoping Ilia would come up with an idea-"
"The only ideas she'd come up with involve her, Sienna and a bed."
"What? That's nothing to do with her preferences. That's just what she's like. You don't think frustration is a new thing for her, do you? She decided to fall in love with Blake when she was already in a relationship. That girl is used to pining for those otherwise taken."
Oof. That was a little harsh but also probably true. Ilia really needed to find a nice, non-White-Fang-hating woman to spend time with. In fact, half the faunus population of the world needed to come to terms with the fact Blake Belladonna was not going to date them.
"Is Sienna married?"
"To the cause. To her job. To freedom."
"A simple `no` would have sufficed."
"Then no," Adam said. "She is not. There were rumours about her before, rumours I can personally attest to being false. Sienna simply has standards too high for most men to reach, and she understands that romantic entanglements are not good for someone in her position. They create favouritism."
Wouldn't that have also applied to Adam? Well, there was no doubting he hadn't been a little biased toward Blake. Only a little. None of this helped him with the planning, though it did a nice job distracting him. No. Focus. Sienna was coming tomorrow, and he had no idea what to do.
"Adam, please, ideas!"
"I'm dead! Don't I get a rest!?"
"I hope when you die, you get stuck in someone else's head too. Ugh. Fine. Ideas." Adam huffed and cupped his chin. "Sienna expects a public appearance, in keeping with your more public approach of late. I still think you are playing with fire there."
"Adam, you bombed a train…"
"Yes, and that didn't open me up to being shot by any idiot with a gun. You stood on a float in broad daylight in front of tens of thousands of potential assassins. Being out in the open may help make you appear more… personable, but it also opens you up to danger. Something you will have to remember with Sienna. She has enemies. Powerful enemies. If you get her killed on your watch, there might be… consequences."
Jaune gulped. "Death?"
"Worse. Someone might expect you to take her place."
The world swirled around Jaune's head as he dropped to his knees and whimpered. No. No way. If killing Adam accidentally led to him having to lead his squad, then could letting Sienna die put him in charge of the whole White Fang? Possibly. Jaune let out another pitiful whimper.
"I thought that might be your reaction," Adam said dryly. "It is mine as well. Sienna and I disagreed on many things, but I would rather watch Blake fornicate with General Ironwood than have the White Fang reliant on you for survival."
"Y-Yeah. Sienna needs to live. Top priority."
"In that regard, I would suggest you take her somewhere safe. The invitation from Ozpin-"
"No, no, no!" Jaune interrupted quickly. "There's no way I'm going to Beacon with Sienna Khan. I know why you're pushing this, Adam. You just want to see Blake in a dress!"
Adam looked away. Coughed. "I have no idea what you mean. Beacon will have less people, however."
"All trained to kick our butts."
"-and Ozpin will be incentivised to ensure your safety. Make this public, as it will inevitably become, and he will not be able to afford letting anything bad happen to you."
"And General Ironwood? He'll be there."
"What can he do?" Adam asked. "This is Beacon. Interfering will be seen as a declaration of war. Or at the very least justification for the White Fang to declare war. It would cripple his authority while also achieving nothing. He knows that the White Fang will not collapse just because two of its members are arrested. New leaders will be declared. The fight will continue. Ironwood won't throw away his reputation for so little."
A lot of these things were echoing what Ilia, Trifa and Yuma had said. They were all for the Beacon idea ever since Sun brought it forward. "Target the youth and their ideals," Yuma said. "Get a foot in at Beacon and we can recruit stronger people," Trifa said. "We could make peace with them and then I can have a shot with Blake," Ilia said.
Everyone had rolled their eyes at the last, even Sun.
"You don't yet have any other ideas," Adam pointed out. "Sienna will expect results. Ask yourself not what can go wrong if you go to Beacon, but what she will decide to do if you have nothing in store at all. Sienna Khan is not a woman who will accept anything less than action." He smiled as the dream faded. "It is why I and so many others followed her."
He would have liked to greet Sienna when she arrived.
No, scratch that. He would have liked to never go anywhere near the one responsible for turning the White Fang into a psychotic terrorist faction. What he meant was that, in the interests of not being murdered, he'd have liked to make a good (subservient) impression by being there to welcome Sienna Khan to Vale.
He could not, however. Jaune Arc was too well known now, too obvious, and while it felt ridiculous to suggest Sienna flipping Khan was less so, she was less known in Vale. There were probably some people who didn't even care to know who the leader of the White Fang was, while his face and name were splashed everywhere. As such, Ilia was dispatched to meet with Sienna, and to hopefully whisper good things about him into her ear.
How she was going to get into the city or get to him, he hadn't been told. Probably by the same channels a huge death robot had been smuggled into Vale with. Which, if that was any indication, meant sneaking things into the city was as easy as walking in.
Seriously, it was a multi-storey robotic murder machine! How did that pass customs!? Jaune paced the warehouse, the first to admit he was trying to distract himself. He'd dressed up on Lisa's advice, back in the same uniform he'd attended the parade with. Lisa herself wasn't there because he wasn't sure how Sienna and her bodyguards would react to having a human on the team. Well, other than him. No that they knew or believed he was one.
All the time, he was dreading the meeting.
What would she be like? Aggressive? Bloodthirsty? Both seemed possible given she'd first founded the violent side of the White Fang. Would she push for him to strike at people? Would she take over and ruin everything he'd done? Push him to commit unspeakable crimes? Jaune's pacing intensified, his feet burning a back and forth pattern into the concrete.
There was just no way to know for sure. Ilia called her reasonable, logical and pragmatic, but this was coming from a flipping terrorist! None of those things described people who descended to terrorism!
The warehouse door clicked. Trifa and Yuma looked up.
Jaune bit back a strangled whimper.
The metal sheet rattled open.
"Sorry I'm late," Perry said, jogging in. "Traffic was a bitch."
Trifa and Yuma groaned, thankfully hiding Jaune's massive gasp and slump of relief. He fell to rest on his heels, gasping for air. Stupid, beautiful Perry. Right now, he could have kissed him.
"Oh yeah, and this crazy posse of faunus with a tiger are here."
Jaune looked up. Amber eyes met his in return, set beneath black hair and skin a dark, chocolate brown. Fierce, penetrating, powerful, that gaze rooted him to the spot – which wouldn't have been such a problem if that spot wasn't rocking on his heels like a chimp.
"You twat!" Deery slapped the back of Perry's head. "That's Sienna Khan!"
"Oh shit. It is?"
Sienna Khan stepped into the warehouse flanked by two faunus on her left and right, each gripping their weapons. Sienna wore a dark grey top without sleeves, with a red sash down the front and back like a cape. Large, golden hoop earrings hung from both her human ears and one of her feline ones, poking up above her black hair with a little orange fur on the edges.
Around her waist was a large grey corset belt with red trim, a small pouch of what he assumed was dust or ammunition, and her weapon – a whip not unlike Ilia's, but which his friend had told him Sienna was far more dangerous with than she.
"I am Sienna Khan," she announced, voice low and almost rumbling. Her eyes flicked to Perry, lips quirking upward, and then she focused her full attention on him again. "And we meet at last, Jaune Arc. I must say I expected someone taller."
At over six feet, he wasn't short by any means- oh, he was on his heels still. Coughing, he rose up, revealing himself about her height or maybe an inch taller. He was used to towering over most women, so it was a surprise to meet one his height. The ears might have added to it.
"Sienna." He bowed his head in what he hoped was a respectful manner. "Welcome to Vale. I know our accommodations aren't the best but anything we have to offer is yours."
Except the death robot. He really didn't want her using that.
"Anything?" she asked, tilting her head to the side. "Even you?"
Jaune spluttered and turned bright red. "I… well, I… um… I'm not sure…"
Sienna threw her head back and laughed suddenly. It wasn't a girlish giggle by any means, and he didn't think her the type to laugh like that anyway. It was much more honest, raw.
"What a reaction," she said between laughter. "I'm used to more bravado from my lieutenants. Adam would have a sour face at such a comment, I'm sure. I expected someone just as dour from the one who murdered him."
Jaune winced. "It wasn't really a murder…"
"Worry not. Adam was a symbol, but he was not infallible. And as a symbol, you are already doing a better job than he."
Sorry Adam, Jaune thought.
"You're nervous." Sienna went on. "I can see it clear as day. I won't be taking over here. You will remain as leader of your sect. I am here as a guest and figurehead, a show of support to our most outlandish brother yet."
Jaune breathed a sigh of relief. Thank goodness. If she was prepared to let him stay in control, then she wouldn't push for blood anytime soon. "Thank you. And, um, are we going to take care of the other thing?"
"The rumours that we are lovers?" she asked. He flushed and nodded. Sienna looked far less embarrassed. If anything, she looked bored of it all, rolling her amber eyes and curling her hand onto one hip. "I have a simple solution in mind for that, but first, onto business."
Her other hand came up and she clicked her fingers. Her bodyguards stepped forward and Jaune tensed. His legs tensed in preparation to run. Where, he didn't know. All the way back to Ansel maybe. Her next words disarmed him.
"Jaune and I shall speak in private. Take rest. The White Fang's reputation in Vale is better than it has any right to be, and your identities are unknown. Enjoy yourselves. Mingle with our new brothers and sisters. We are all family here."
The guards removed their masks, grinning at one another. Yuma called out the name of one and they linked arms, laughing and slapping backs. It was a moment of disarmament, and soon the White Fang were cracking open cans of beer and sitting down together to share news from Menagerie.
Sienna's hand touched his shoulder. "Is there somewhere we may speak?"
"O-Of course. There's the upstairs office."
The office had clearly once been for a foreman or overseer, it was a small square thing without furniture but with a window overlooking what would have been the main area for employees down below. In the interim, Bane had brought a small bed to be set up, along with some amenities like a lamp, small table and some books.
Closing the door behind her, Sienna looked it over. "Quite the cramped living conditions you have here. Is this room yours?"
"I usually sleep downstairs with the others. I offered this to Ilia, but she didn't want it. You're welcome to have it as your bedroom while you're here."
Sienna nodded. "I'll accept your generosity." Walking away from him, she looked through the window, out over their members. "We've only had the chance to speak over long distance calls. This is my first time meeting you and vice versa. You are… different to Adam."
That was a good thing, wasn't it? Jaune kept his eyes on her back, unsure if he was supposed to do or say something. "We're different people," he said lamely.
"That is not a bad thing. Adam was a good leader in battle. You are a better one outside of it." Turning, Sienna leaned back against the window, hands on the ledge and eyes on him. "I have commanders in the White Fang. Hard men and women not afraid to get things done, no matter how bloody the operation."
Jaune swallowed again. "I-I guess you do."
"Such people are common among us. What I lack are those capable of changing the minds of those around them – faunus…" Sienna grimaced. "Or human."
"Do you hate humans?" Jaune asked.
"Yes." Her answer was immediate. "I should not, I know. When I started this, I did so with hate for the mistreatment we faced. Even now, I know not all humans are the same. There are some who would treat us well, and who might even fight alongside us." Her expression darkened. "I have seen the worst of them, however. So yes, I hate humans, even when I know I should not."
That was a more honest answer than he'd expected. A heavier one, too. Adam hated humans, he wasn't afraid to say that himself, but most of the other members of his White Fang troop were a little more ambivalent. They hated some humans, didn't care about others, and mostly got along with Lisa.
This is Sienna Khan, he thought, meeting her golden eyes. This is the woman who turned the White Fang violent. Of course she hates humans. If she ever finds out that I'm one…
"I… I don't hate them," Jaune said.
"Good." Yet again, she surprised him. "If you are trying to win them over then the same racism I feel won't help you." Sienna sighed heavily. "I will try and hold it in. I can pretend I don't care. The cause has always been more important than my own feelings." Her lips quirked up. "If it wasn't, I wouldn't be able to resist killing Adam and the Albain brothers long ago."
Jaune could just imagine Adam laughing in his head. "I'd have run her through," he could imagine Adam saying.
"The cause is what matters," she continued. "The old way was not working, and the reason I made us what we are today is because I believe fear the only way to force change. If they – the humans – experienced the same fear we did, then they would understand how we feel. If you want to try a different approach, I will not stop you."
"I want to try the different approach," he said quickly. "Thank you."
"Very well." Sienna pushed off the window and walked over to the bed. She reached up and unclasped her collar. Jaune turned away, blushing as he heard fabric fall to the floor. He kept looking away until she said, "I'm only removing my cloak."
He turned, noticing her amused expression. "S-Sorry."
"You're quite the gentleman, aren't you? Are you not afraid I'll stab you in the back?"
He hadn't even considered it. And besides, he was too weak to fight her anyway. "You wouldn't need to…"
Sienna laughed. "You're refreshingly honest, too. That's a relief after dealing with the Albain. No, I would not. If I wanted you removed, I could have my agents do it. Or I could do it myself." Moving forward, she reached out and gripped his upper arm, squeezing it. "I won't. You're a welcome change, Jaune Arc. Finally, there's someone other than me who can see the bigger picture."
"Do you have any idea how annoying it is dealing with people who think our cause is aided by constant bloodshed? Adam Taurus blowing up trains, ripping through SDC convoys and leaving gallons of blood in his wake. Then everyone calling it a great victory."
"That's not going to make people accept faunus," Jaune said quietly.
"It's not!" she agreed, smiling. Her hand clapped his shoulder. "At least you understand that. I wanted humans to fear us as we had them, not cower under their bedsheets, curse our name or hunt us down like Grimm."
Was she… Was she the same as him?
There was no way someone like Sienna Khan, who had first started the White Fang's terrorist operations, was like him. This had to be her way of calming him down.
"There won't be any of tha here," he said. "I hope. We've managed to avoid killing anyone."
"Other than Adam."
Jaune cringed. "Other than Adam. And I'm hoping that will continue."
"It won't change on my account," she said. "Now tell me, what method have you come up with to let us address our relationship status?" She said the final but with a roll of her eyes. "I trust you have something planned."
Adam had been right, and it was a good job he'd caved.
"We're attending Beacon's dance as a guest of Headmaster Ozpin."
It was nice to see Sienna Khan look gobsmacked for a change.
It was nice to see James look gobsmacked for a change, but Ozpin wished his old friend could have stayed that way a little longer. Or at least remained speechless. Yes, that would have been nice.
"ARE YOU INSANE?!
"I am not," Ozpin said, wriggling a finger in his ear. "I am also not a kilometre away from you, nor am I hard of hearing – though that may have changed after your recent outburst."
"YOU INVITED THE WHITE FANG TO A SCHOOL DANCE!"
"Yes, definitely hearing the ringing now. I do believe I'm going deaf."
"Sir." Winter Schnee interjected politely, touching James' arm. "I'm sure the headmaster can explain himself if you give him a moment. I am sure he has a good reason for all of this."
"I am sure that I do," Ozpin said, "But I am not sure the good general would agree with them. That said, he will have to agree. While you may have control of the security surrounding the Vytal Festival, Beacon is still my responsibility. I make the decisions here…"
Ironwood growled out, "Ozpin…"
"My reasoning is simple. There is too much going on to make me believe this Vytal Festival will be peaceful. The White Fang could become a part of that if we treat them poorly, but by involving them, by letting them gain ground peacefully, we encourage them to avoid ruining what is, by their standards, a good thing."
James appeared to catch on to what was being said. He straightened and said, "Winter. Please leave us."
"Yes sir," the specialist said reluctantly, saluting and marching out the room.
"This is about Amber?" Ironwood asked once she was gone.
"In a sense," Ozpin replied. "More the ones who attacked her. I believe that to be the same person Glynda interacted with before, and also the same one who has attacked the White Fang recently. The information gained from the recordings, while blurry, suggests she was looking to recruit criminals to her cause."
"My thoughts exactly. The fact that she attacked the White Fang suggests they are not yet working together, but we both know that could change at any moment. If Salem's side becomes a more attractive ally than our own…"
"I see your point." James grimaced, then grimaced even harder. His face looked like it had just realised his blood was lemon juice. "You are… You are asking me to be nice to wanted terrorists, enemies of Atlas, so that they don't join Salem."
"So that they do not aid in the destruction of all Remnant, yes. Also, you don't have to be nice at all. What I want from you is to let me handle this. You may be as impolite as you wish, so long as you are not antagonistic. I won't ask you to go against your principles or let their crimes slide."
"You kind of are, Ozpin. You want me not to arrest them."
"Jaune Arc's crimes are, as of yet, quite tame."
"He killed a man!"
"He killed Adam Taurus," Ozpin said, eyes rolling. "I'd have thought you'd be thanking him for that."
Ironwood set his jaw. "I demand to be there."
"Alright." Ozpin accepted easily, surprising his old friend. "You're formally invited. If it helps put your mind at ease, come and keep a close eye on him. I will be doing the same. He, and whomever he brings as his date, will not leave our sight."
James nodded, reluctant but mollified that he could at least be there in person. Jaune Arc was many things, but he was not trained in personal combat, at least as much as they could tell. He would not be able to singlehandedly take on Beacon if he decided to get violent.
"Glynda will also be there, as will Port and Oobleck. You're welcome to bring Winter along as well. With all of us combined, I very much doubt Mr Arc could do anything untoward if he tried. The students will also be keeping an eye on him."
"I bet they're thrilled about that," Ironwood muttered.
Yang wriggled a finger in her ear, wondering if she might go deaf after Blake's shriek right into her ear. Her sister was the bearer of the poor news today, looking none too pleased at having to explain it.
"I said that Miss Goodwitch has asked us to keep an eye on Jaune Arc…"
"Not that bit!" Blake hissed. "I meant the part where Jaune Arc, a wanted terrorist, is being allowed to attend the school dance! How does that make any sense!? He's not even a student!"
"Is that the reason you're against it?" Yang asked sarcastically.
"It's only the start!"
"Rhetorical question, Blake."
"I don't have all the reasons," Ruby whined. "I don't even have any. If you want to argue, go argue with Miss Goodwitch."
It looked like Blake might for a second, then logic kicked in. And fear. No one went and challenged Miss Goodwitch on her decisions. Not even Ozpin, Yang imagined.
"I'm not sure why this is such a big deal," Yang said. "You weren't even wanting to come to the dance before, Blake. What was it you said? Oh yeah, how can I go to a school dance when the White Fang could be running around freely outside? Well, problem solved. You can come and keep an eye on him."
"That's not the point! He's a terrorist!"
"So were you," Weiss pointed out.
"I'm reformed. He's still a terrorist."
"Sure." Yang said. "And we'll make sure he doesn't do anything nefarious in Beacon. Right, sis?" There was no response from Ruby. "Right, sis!?"
"Huh? What?" Ruby blinked. "Oh, uh, yeah. Right!"
Yang watched her sister sympathetically. Ruby hadn't been her usuals elf ever since the incident at the parade. That speech had hit a lot of people hard, not so much herself since she considered herself cool with faunus anyway, but for Ruby, someone who always wanted to be a hero and do her best, it'd struck a chord.
No amount of telling her she was already one of the best people on Remnant was making her feel any better. Ruby didn't want to be a good person – she wanted to fix things. Help everyone. That kind of attitude had always been self-destructive, but Yang had convinced herself it was okay because Ruby was in Beacon training to be a huntress, so mission accomplished.
This White Fang business was throwing a wrench into things.
Not that I don't agree with you, Arc, but you're causing my sister no end of stress. Maybe I can have a word with him. See if he'll talk to Rubes.
Blake would have a fit and she was sure dad wouldn't approve either, but if it took asking a terrorist for help cheering Ruby up, she'd do it. Besides, he didn't seem like a bad guy. Terrorism notwithstanding.
"Our main goal is to make sure no one from Beacon's end causes any problems to him," Ruby said. "Miss Goodwitch says the teachers will be making sure the White Fang don't do anything, but they can't stop students trying to get even and causing incidents."
"Like Cardin," Yang said.
"Or Blake," Weiss drawled. "But yes, I see her point. We have so many Semblances and skillsets here that it wouldn't be hard for someone to assault them. I can't believe that I, a Schnee, am going to play bodyguard to the White Fang. There's some twisted irony there."
"We're doing our job as huntresses, which means keeping the peace. We're not meant to be fighting people anyway," Yang pointed out. "We're supposed to fight Grimm. Right, Ruby?"
Yang let out a heavy sigh.
"Attending Beacon as guests," Sienna whispered to herself. "This is madness."
Never in a hundred years had she thought this might be possible, or a good idea. It certainly wasn't given her reputation and the fact General Ironwood would trade an army for her capture. Even now, laid back in the room her subordinate had granted her, she was unsure if this was a good idea or not. It was a new idea. Crazy, risky, public. All the things Jaune Arc was, and she was not.
The Albain brothers were right about him. He's a new wave, a new breed, and I can either adapt to the times or be swept away by it.
Sucking in a breath through her teeth, she released it in a long rattle. The White Fang in its current iteration was her creation, her responsibility, and seeing another granted such success in her place was irksome. Arc seemed loyal, though. He could have tried to overthrow her. There were many who might follow him if he did stage a coup.
For now, he didn't seem intent on that. Better she keep it that way. He wasn't a bore, either, nor a violence-driven maniac like Adam or so many of her other commanders. Perhaps there might be something to gain from this after all. Fennec's idea, while shocking, might have some merit after all.
Adapt or be replaced. Or, in other terms, give Arc reason to pledge his loyalty to her for eternity or face the very real prospect of him overthrowing her. Tie him to her, not just by the bounds of duty, but by true loyalty, by a desire – nay, a wish – to work with her.
Or alongside her…
There was an original idea to this which went even further down the slapstick where Jaune would also accidentally kill Sienna, inheriting the entire White Fang. I decided against that in the end because it would take the action outside Vale and involve the WF in Mistral and Menagerie, and frankly nothing happens in those settings until after the Vytal Festival. It would have been boring.
Next Chapter: 30th March
P a treon . com (slash) Coeur