This is the new slot for "In Your Wildest Dreams". Welcome to the weekly Thursday slot. New story will be taking its slot.
Also no update next week as my event is literally on the Thursday.
Attendance numbers down, my team saying they've "done all they can" but me ringing up former guests to ask them if they want to come and they're saying they haven't been contacted at all. Like, come on guys. Why do you make me have to punish you all? Can't you just make the phone calls? I'm not asking them to do telesales here. All they need to do is call previous winners, attendees and tell them the event is on and invite them to come. It's free attendance ffs.
But yeah, now I'm forced to take over extra work when I am just about doing everything already.
As a result, this will be short by a bit. Need to make sure this event isn't an absolute disaster.
Cover Art: Curbizzle
It turned out that there was only so much sleep Qrow could be put through in one sitting, especially when you discovered that there might be a known terrorist within a few miles of you. It had taken a while for them to piece together the strange new dream he'd experienced, but General Ironwood recognised the description of a faunus with red hair and a branded face. Or, at least, he recognised some of it.
"I never knew Taurus was branded by the SDC. That's new information even to me, and I'll make sure Jacques squirms when I confront him over it. Not that I think it'll change anything. He can rightly say he had no idea what happened in some distant mining camp."
"I doubt Jacques would take pleasure in such wanton torture," said Ozpin. "The man is obsessed with money, not suffering. His company's mistreatment of faunus is an ends to a mean, and that mean is financial gain." He adjusted his glasses and added, "But I expect many racists are drawn to the jobs the SDC offer, if only because they reinforce their foolish notions of superiority. Far away from Atlas, away from any legal control, it must be like a playground for them."
Jaune raised a hand. "Um. Who is this…?"
"Adam Taurus," explained Ironwood. "Wanted terrorist of the White Fang. He's dangerous – huntsman trained, or so they say, though I've no idea where he got that training from. Probably some retired huntsman faunus. He's one of the most militant and violent leaders among the group, though his last sighting placed him in Atlas."
"Telling that he is here," said Ozpin. "And worrying. But it's good that we have advance warning, otherwise we might have been caught unawares. Your Semblance may well have saved lives, Mr Arc."
It was hard to feel pleased when he'd failed his original purpose.
Ozpin noticed. "Do not fault yourself for failing to navigate Qrow's dreams. A huntsman is not without tragedy, and our nightmares are many. You'll have your own in time."
"He isn't wrong," said Ironwood, gruffly. "For every ten times you save someone's life there'll be one time where you're too late, and there isn't a man or woman alive that doesn't blame themselves for that. Behind the Grimm, the leading cause of huntsman deaths is suicide. It's why we push mental health and therapy so hard. It's state-funded in Atlas."
"Would that it could be here," muttered Ozpin. "Beacon provides it to every and any student, and I've even helped ease the worries of a few old students of mine, but the Council likes to drag its feet on anything involving their budget. But the point I am making is that the nightmares of a man like Qrow are going to be difficult to navigate. It may very well be that your experiences thus far have been easier for being in younger people."
"I've heard it said young people dream more," said Ironwood, "Or that they at least remember their dreams more vividly. More imagination, or perhaps just less suspension of disbelief." He had already signalled the pilot to take them back to Vale. "We can try this again another day."
"Is that okay?" asked Jaune.
"The cost to bring you out here is marginal compared to the benefit of knowing the White Fang are active. Even if you fail to get the answers from Qrow, you're proving yourself useful as a sonar beacon."
That wasn't exactly what he was looking for, but at least he'd have another chance to find the truth of Amber's killers. That was the important thing. Failure here didn't mean they couldn't try again. It just meant they'd need to take a break for now.
"Speaking of," said Qrow, placing a hand on Jaune's shoulder. "I'd like to have a word with the kid about what he saw. I don't remember any of it but I'd rather not have any lingering issues between us."
Ozpin looked about ready to protest but Jaune beat him to it. "It's fine, sir. Mr Branwen isn't going to hurt me, are you?"
"No. No." Qrow smiled. "And it ain't Mr Branwen, kid. I just want to make sure anything private stays private."
"Very well," said Ozpin. "We'll grant you your privacy."
Qrow pulled him away and to the back of the small craft while Ozpin and General Ironwood kept talking at the front. He looked nervous, but more of what Jaune might have seen than what he might say. "Thanks for understanding, kid."
"It's fine. I've been expecting this moment with my friends forever. I figure when they realise what I can do, they'll want to hear every little thing I saw in their heads as well. Once they're done hating me for intruding on their privacy."
"It's a Semblance. We can't control those. Least of all me. I'm one of the few people like you. Those that can't actively control their Semblances." He grimaced. "Cases like us do happen, but we're rare. I've heard it said our Semblances can be more powerful as a result."
"Really? I hadn't heard that one." It felt oddly calming to not be alone in being unable to control his power. "What does yours do?"
"Bad luck. For me, my enemies, my allies. Anyone around me really. My Semblance may well be the reason you weren't able to find the memories you were looking for." He grimaced. "But anyway. Give me a rundown of what you saw. I'll answer any questions you might have."
Jaune did his best to recount the many dreams. A lot of them were short, especially when he had been using his aura to try and cycle through them. Qrow listened with the odd scowl and more exasperated sighs. Nothing caused him to panic, which was good, but there was much cringing to be had.
"Sounds like you got the usual array of nightly terrors. Alright, in order of context, you probably saw that me and my sister didn't get into Beacon the typical way. We were scum, to put it simply. Kids born in a tribe of bandits that were raised to think that was normal. That first scene, the blooding." He looked away, shamefaced. "That happened. I killed a man. An innocent man. I could tell you that he would have died anyway, or that his life was over the moment he was captured, but that doesn't really excuse anything."
Jaune was silent. "Does Ozpin know?"
"Yes. He knows. He fought Raven and I, and we… well, it was some dumb plan to go to Beacon, learn their secrets and then take them back to the tribe. But of course we got to see the world beyond that twisted group and realised how wrong we were. Or I did. Raven relapsed." He waved his hand. "Enough about her. The other, the forest. Argh. I guess you can figure out the context since you said you saw the same blasted red carriage in Yang's dream."
"They were young, stupid and their mom had just died. Taiyang wasn't all there, and I was grieving as well, selfish prick that I am. Yang and Ruby decided to head out in search of… I don't know. Raven? Help? Me? Doesn't matter. I arrived in time to save them from the Grimm, but you can imagine why my nightmares might be me not arriving in time. Or why Yang's might be that her childish scheme got her sister killed."
"It's fine, kid." Qrow looked and sounded older than his years. "Just a stupid nightmare of shit that didn't happen. And the rest… argh. Regrets and things I've shouted at myself in dark times." He laughed hoarsely. "At least you didn't get to see me fumble around my first time or make a fool of myself in front of girls I liked. Small mercies, eh?"
It wasn't and they both knew it. Jaune didn't know what to say and so stayed quiet, but he couldn't help but think that when his teammates and his friends found out what he could do, they wouldn't be so understanding of his silence. He would need to think of something to say to them, some way of making the shock reveal that he was privy to their darkest secrets less explosive.
The airship made its way back to Beacon without issue.
"He lives!" cried Nora upon Jaune's return. "Ren, cancel the funeral!"
Ren smiled. "I'll tell the pallbearers they won't be needed."
"Funny, guys. Funny." Jaune sat down and swatted Nora's head with the back of his hand. She made an exaggerated noise and swayed back as if he'd decked her in the face. Jaune looked at Yang and Ruby. "And yes, I survived a journey with your uncle. Go me."
"You didn't accept a drink from him. Did you?"
"No. There was no alcohol and no threatening conversations."
"What were you out there for then?" asked Ruby.
That was a good question. Jaune hesitated, humming and hawing as everyone waited for his perfectly reasonable explanation. It would have been nice if he'd had one. A little sweat began running down his face as everyone leaned in.
What was he meant to say?
"Hello! Hellooo!" An arm wrapped around his shoulder and a body squashed down between him and Ren. A hipflask came up and the man drank from it. "If it isn't my two favourite nieces making the lovey-eyes at a blonde noodle. History really does repeat, eh?"
"Qrow…" groaned Yang.
"Ahhh!" cried Ruby, blushing furiously. "I wasn't! I didn't!"
"Ruby, everyone knows you weren't looking at Jaune like that," said Yang with a roll of her eyes. "You're overreacting. Letting Uncle Qrow get to you." She fixed the man with a dour look. "And why, exactly, were you taking our friend out to the middle of the forest, hm?"
"Friend? I heard the official title was a little longer."
"Ah, there it is. Does Taiyang know about your new boyfriend?"
"Not yet, and he won't be finding out unless a certain someone turns into a blabbermouth."
Qrow guffawed loudly. "Who? Me? I'm the cool uncle."
"You're our only uncle, and that's for the best since you definitely wouldn't be the coolest if we had two. And don't think I didn't notice how you dodged the question."
Qrow hummed, and poked Yang between her eyes. "Good eyes there, Yang, but the brain isn't catching up. If I dodged the question, then it's because I can't answer the question. That goes for the kid, too. Super classified business."
Jaune stared at him, aghast.
That was his excuse!?
He'd been trying to think up an answer that would satisfy them without making them more suspicious and Qrow just out and told them they should he suspicious because it was definitely something secretive. Was he some kind of idiot? Jaune groaned into his hands.
"So it is some hush-hush thing," said Yang. "Why Jaune?"
"Can't answer that." Qrow stole one of Jaune's chicken nuggets and bit into it. "Suffice to say it's official business and Jaune can't answer it either, so there's not much point pushing him on it. He's under strict orders." He pointed the nugget at Yang. "And if you knew the truth then I might just have to inflict upon you a fate worse than death."
Yang's eyebrow rose.
Qrow held up his scroll. "I have baby phot—" He yanked it away as Yang dove across the table. "Hey! Hey! No touch. Who here wants to see Yang in pigtails eating her crayons?"
Nora's hand shot up.
"NO!" howled Yang. "And that's just proof of how bad a babysitter you were!"
"I'm a firm believer in letting kids learn from their mistakes. What can I say?" He hid the device away before Yang could make another lunge for it. Ruby looked equally haunted. "And it's good to see we're on the same page." He petted Jaune atop his head. "So, don't cave and don't tell them anything, kid, or you'll be in a boatload of trouble." He stood, snatched another chicken nugget and sauntered away. "Buh-bye now!"
Jaune sat stock still as all eyes turned on him.
"Explain!" said Yang.
"I can't. You heard him."
They weren't satisfied with it. Not that he could blame them.
"Give us something," said Yang. "Even if it's small."
"Um. Okay, I guess…" Jaune eyed Blake, who looked back, surprised. "I guess I can say the main reason we went out there kind of got usurped because we saw evidence that the White Fang are in the Emerald Forest."
Blake's eyes widened.
Weiss, Yang and Ruby cursed. "Blake, no!"
"NO!" they said as one.
"We should avoid the forest for now," added Weiss, disturbed by the news. "And Blake, for the love of all that is good, do not get it in your head to go out there and hunt them down."
"You don't need to," said Jaune, coming to their aid. "General Ironwood is aware and will be looking for them."
Yang grinned. "So, General Ironwood is also involved in this secret mission of yours, eh?"
Jaune slapped a hand over his mouth and refused to say anything more, lest he end up leaking yet more information he shouldn't. They needled and prodded but he kept his lips sealed, even as Blake pushed her plate away, having lost her appetite entirely.
Weiss shot him an irritated look.
He had the feeling anything Blake got up to would be his fault.
When Jaune went to sleep, he would have bet money on being in Blake's nightmares. Having reminded her about the White Fang would have been ample reason for her to dream about her time in it, and it just felt like the logical conclusion, but when Jaune found himself surrounded by people who were not wearing masks, and without any faunus being abused, he was forced to accept that his Semblance didn't always made such sense.
He was outside a school, with kids waiting to be picked up by their parents and milling around talking. It was scene he'd seen play out for much of his younger life in Ansel. The kids were at that age where they weren't trusted to walk home alone – between the ages of seven and ten by the looks of things. That nebulous age where the school couldn't accept responsibility for kids wandering off, and so kept them on the area until parents or school busses arrived. Ansel wasn't big enough to have a school bus, so parents back there had banded together to pick up one another's children. Often it would be five parents who trusted one another splitting each weekday to walk one another's children home.
This wasn't Ansel, though. Jaune didn't recognise the school at all, but he could just about see the city of Vale in the background. This was obviously a place very close to it, which ruled out all his friends. Ruby and Yang had studied on Patch, while everyone else was in Mistral, Atlas or wherever Blake had been during her time in the White Fang.
Which presumably – and hopefully – wasn't blowing up a school filled with children.
So, I'm at a school for little kids, which narrows this down to… just about anyone. Every single person living in Beacon was a kid at some point. I guess it cuts out people born in other kingdoms, but that's still just about everyone.
This could be Oobleck's childhood, Cardin's, Glynda's, any of Velvet's teammates, and just about any current or former student at Beacon. It could even be the janitor's. There was just no narrowing it down, and Jaune sighed and sat down on the low brick wall cutting off the waiting area from the road. It was high enough for a child to struggle with it, but low enough for him to just sit cross-legged on it and feel like a creep as he looked over a bunch of kids.
"Imagine my luck if this nightmare is genuinely about someone in Beacon being captured perving on children. What do I even do if I find out someone here is like that? I guess I report them to Ozpin." Jaune sighed until he felt a small hand tug on his pant leg.
He looked down into soulful brown eyes beneath hair the same colour.
"Vanille?" He hopped down, smiling brightly. "Good lord, am I glad it's just you." The girl's face lit up, and she hesitantly held her hands up for him to pick her up. He stooped and did just that, hefting her up against his chest. Her arms wrapped around his neck. "Is this your school?" the tiny girl nodded. "Where's your sister?"
Vanille smiled brightly and shook her head, but she didn't look unhappy or scared.
"Does she not go to school with you?"
Another shake of her head, but this time with a small hand patting his head in what he assumed was an effort to tell him not to worry too much about it. He couldn't help but, but at the same time he had been wondering something for a while.
"You know this is a dream. Don't you?"
Vanille smiled and nodded.
"And you know I'm Jaune, from Beacon, entering your dreams?"
"Does that not upset you? Is that really okay?"
The girl giggled without a sound and petted his head again, like one might a dog who had just woken up from a nightmare. Her lips pursed up as she mimicked a cooing it'll be okay motion, all the while running her small hand through his hair.
"You're okay with it? What about the fact I'm seeing childhood memories?"
Vanille shrugged uncaringly.
"Even the fact I'm looking at past memories."
She rolled her eyes and made a few motions with her hands that he couldn't interpret. Jaune flexed his aura enough to produce a pen and paper and held it to her, and she took it and scribbled out a short message.
"Old memories. Don't care."
"Hey look!" cried a young girl. "It's the freak!"
Vanille and Jaune glanced back to see a group of three youngsters pointing and jeering at Vanille as if he wasn't there.
"Why don't you say something, freak? That's right – you can't!"
"Wow," said Jaune. "Joking about a disability. I guess this is fairly standard at this age, but it's a little lacking in imagination." He felt Vanille tugging at his arm and she pointed to the ground. "You want me to put you down? You're not upset by this, are you?"
Vanille scoffed as if she were offended by the very idea, which he supposed she would be given this was a childish nightmare. He set her down and she skipped toward the bullies who, as a fiction of her imagination, didn't seem fully aware of the danger they were in. Vanille was not a child anymore, but a huntress.
And this was now a lucid dream.
Upon reaching the first, she grabbed the girl by her hair and dragged her forward, past Jaune, to slam her face into the brick wall. The horrific crunch and splatter of blood was proof of her vivid imagination, and the other two screamed frightfully. There were shouts from the audience too – horror from parents and screams from the other kids. Vanille wasn't done, though. She drove a foot into the belly of another and bent her double, then slammed an elbow onto the back of her neck, sending her to the ground,
The third tried to run but Vanille gave chase, and she was frighteningly quick. Jaune would have stopped her if not for the fact this catharsis was just that. He would have absolutely beat Cardin up in his dream if he could, and the same went for people he disliked back home. This wasn't real, and if Vanille wanted to get back at kids who bullied her for being mute then he wasn't going to stop her.
It wasn't real, so no one was really hurt. The last child was stomped and kicked until they were bloody and unmoving, at which point Vanille sauntered back over with a satisfied grin. There was a manic look in her eyes.
She nodded happily.
"Is this something you wish you could have done to them back then?"
Vanille's smile turned feral, but also amused, and there was a glint of delight in her eyes that worried him a little. It was an expression that seemed to suggest he'd said something particularly funny, and as he looked around he noticed that the people in the dream were still reacting. Children were screaming and pointing, teachers were fighting their way through, and parents were desperately calling for ambulances.
Jaune's stomach dropped several whole feet. "Did… Did this really happen…?"
Vanille's smile grew.
And then it dropped.
Replaced with horror.
The girl lurched forward, a hand outstretched toward him, and her mouth open wide in a warning.
Something sharp bit into the back of Jaune's neck and came piercing out his throat. Black hair wafted over his shoulder as a body slammed against his, holding him still as the curved sword glistened with his own blood. Vanille screamed silently, but the distance between him and her stretched out seemingly for an eternity.
Jaune gurgled and tried to convey that he'd be fine.
This was just a nightmare.
"No loose ends, Neo," whispered a woman's voice. It was deep, rich, and oddly familiar. "He's too much of a risk."
Vanille shook her head and dived for him.
"You know what that means."
The sword was pulled out the left side of his neck, spraying blood, and then it swept back around and bit into him, cutting his head from his shoulders. As his head flew, his vision swam, but he was sure he caught a red dress and glowing eyes, seconds before Vanille screamed hoarsely and the world shattered into glass.
Jaune woke up in his bed with a gasp, and with a hand flying to his throat.
His fingers came away bloody.
"Jaune," groaned Pyrrha, roused by his sudden awakening. "What is—" she cut off, eyes flashing in horror. A scream burst from her lips as she took him in, and Jaune looked down to realise his chest was stained with red.
His semblance was evolving already.
And not in a good way.
Jaune slowly becoming Freddy Krueger was not original inspiration for this, even if I've now realised he's sort of taking on some of the qualities lol. Thankfully not the personality, though that could change if he finds out Cinder killed Amber.
Next Story: 5th october
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