I am so hyped for this volume it's not even funny. Like, so hyped. I've rewatched the entirety of RWBY twice in three days, and this latest episode was probably my favorite ever. Send help.
"Hey, guys, I've been thinking," panted Jaune, pausing to catch his breath just outside the arena doorway; Nora halted next to him, grabbing Ren's wrist to keep him from sneaking into class. If their fearless leader had something to say, it was their solemn duty as teammates to listen! (Even if they would have to brave the wrath of Goodwitch for their… lack of punctuality.)
But Pyrrha evidently didn't feel the same way; she was already in the classroom and probably in her seat by the time Jaune continued, "So, you know how Team RWBY has all those fancy team attack names?" Nora nodded vigorously, while Ren only gave a noncommittal mumble—gazing wistfully into the classroom after Pyrrha. "We should have some, too. I mean, our first match is tomorrow!"
Rather than respond, Ren only pulled Nora into the classroom without further ado, skillfully turning her firm grip on his arm against her; she caught Jaune's hand as well, dragging him behind them through the rows and up the stairs to the upper level. The assembled students could laugh all they wanted; they were probably all just jealous they didn't think of starting a late-to-class upstairs conga line.
Okay, maybe it wasn't quite a conga… but Nora could fix that easily! Since it was only her grasp on Ren's arm that kept them together, she slid both hands up to his shoulders instead, squeezing gently. His muscles tensed suddenly under her fingers, and he staggered over one of the steps: Nora skipped nimbly out of the way of his unusually clumsy feet, standing next to him with a smile, but Jaune stumbled into them from behind and knocked them both to the floor.
The laughter was deafening, but contagious; Nora couldn't help but giggle with what little breath she had after hitting the stairs like that. Pyrrha leapt up from her seat and rushed over to pick him up and dust him off, rather like a mother, while Nora and Ren were left to fend for themselves. She always liked Jaune best, she pouted to herself, getting to her feet and holding her hand out for the winded Ren.
"Come on," she whispered, wide-eyed, and wiggled her fingers. "Goodwitch is gonna get us if we don't sit down right now!" Ren coughed and took her hand with a slight eyeroll—okay, maybe a little more than slight, but whatever—and permitted her to drag him down the bench to sit with Jaune and Pyrrha. What if Goodwitch showed up while they were still standing? What if they got called out in front of everyone on the last training day before the tournament?!
But they slid into their seats just as the bell rang, and Nora smiled in relief, resting her hand briefly atop Ren's: they were safe.
"Arkos!" exclaimed Jaune quietly, pounding his fist into his hand, and Nora turned her head to examine him.
Was that a sneeze or a cough…? Well, Nora would have him covered either way! Whacking his back (Jaune yelped), she told him, "Yi bai sui!" It wasn't the phrase she was used to, but that was what Ren always said whenever someone sneezed. She knew that from when Jaune had caught cold. "Is that right?" she added as an afterthought, glancing over at him. "Ren?" she prompted, nudging him.
"Huh?" he asked, his eyes trained on their other teammate as she and Weiss faced off onstage. She didn't blame him for being hypnotized, because Pyrrha was extremely skilled—skipping anxiously past the helpless observation that she also happened to be incredibly gorgeous. It would do no good to dwell on that hourglass figure right now.
"That's me and Pyrrha," insisted Jaune somewhat impatiently, apparently misinterpreting Ren's comment, and Nora racked her brains in a Quest for the Missing Subject. What was he talking about? Had he finally caught on to Pyrrha's feelings…? "I'll have to talk to her later," he decided, but Nora barely heard him over the uproar as Weiss was disarmed and forced to one knee.
"Miss Nikos wins," announced Goodwitch, with a rare smile in her direction, and Nora cheered loudly as Pyrrha's banner was once again drenched in the green light of victory. "I think you've trained enough," she observed approvingly, as Pyrrha pulled the exhausted Weiss to her feet, supporting her as they walked offstage together. "Now, who wants to volunteer for the next match?"
"I'll do it!" exclaimed Nora, raising her hand high—quickly deciding that wasn't good enough, and jumping to her feet (Ren hid his face in his hand next to her). Let the whole school know the wrath of Team JNPR!
Goodwitch tapped a few buttons on her scroll, shoulders rolling in something like a sigh, and gave the stands a cursory look. "Does anyone wish to challenge Miss Valkyrie?" she asked doubtfully, and there was silence. Silence everywhere. Nora glanced around, her grin fading; didn't anyone want to spar with her? Anyone at all?
"…I believe you've had enough practice as well," remarked Goodwitch finally, and Nora sank back into her seat, crestfallen. "Anyone else?" Staring disappointedly at the floor and tuning out the professor's voice, she became dimly conscious of a hand resting on her shoulder, though she wasn't quite sure whose it was.
"I'll train with you later," promised Ren, and she glanced over at him: he moved his hand away from her, as if self-conscious, and her heart lightened like lightning. Really? It had been ages since they'd had time to practice, just the two of them! "Just… go easy on me," he added, more apprehensively.
"Not on your life," she laughed, punching him lightly in the arm, and he almost smiled.
"Hey, Pyrrha, 'crocus' is a word, right?"
Whatever Jaune was going to talk to Pyrrha about, he'd evidently forgotten all about it, because this wasn't anything like whatever he'd said earlier. He'd actually been unusually quiet for some time, apparently thinking about something in all likelihood leaderly and important.
"Yes, Jaune," responded Pyrrha, swallowing her last bite of salad and sitting back. Evidently gleaning from his expression that he didn't know exactly what it meant, she continued, "A crocus is a small plant, related to the iris, that blooms in spring. The flower is usually bright yellow, purple, or whi—"
"Perfect!" exclaimed Jaune, accidentally cutting the rest of Pyrrha's explanation off in his clear excitement. "Ren, that's our team attack name." He motioned to the hilt of his sword, followed by a gesture to Ren's sleeves, wherein Nora knew StormFlower lay hidden like twin tigers.
…Or wait, dragons. Whether or not they were twins, the tigers were the crouching ones, right? She always got those two mixed up. Plus, she actually didn't know whether StormFlower was there, and she wouldn't know for sure unless he drew them. So maybe they were tigers after all, because tigers were cats, and wasn't there some guy who put cats in boxes to prove—?
Ren glanced over at Jaune with some surprise, apparently hoping that he would get the jist of his expression, but eventually set down his mug with a light sigh and turned fully towards his leader. "Why?" he asked eventually.
"My sword is Crocea Mors, and your symbol is a flower," replied Jaune, crossing his arms proudly in a way oddly reminiscent of Ruby: Nora snickered at the similarity, and Ren shook his head. "It makes sense. Right?"
"In a manner of speaking," admitted Pyrrha.
"Come on, I spent hours coming up with that one," muttered Jaune, twirling the final few sauce-soaked strands of spaghetti sullenly. "But if you don't like it, I'll just think of something else." He heaved an exaggerated sigh, and Nora saw well enough that he was itching to smile. "I guess a leader's work is never done."
"No rest for the wicked," agreed Nora, grinning.
Ren and Pyrrha exchanged a confused look, glancing up from their homework; Nora stuck the end of her pen in her mouth (pausing only to make sure it was the right end so she didn't accidentally dye her mouth black again), glancing between her three teammates with some confusion. It wasn't like Jaune to interrupt the flow when they were all actually getting work done.
Jaune smiled, setting down his pencil. "It's like, Pyrrha's hair color combined with the streak in yours," he tried. "Since you both have cool hair." Nora smiled reminiscently; she couldn't agree more. And then an idea struck her: she ought to braid it sometime! Well, as soon as she learned how to braid hair, anyway. Maybe she should ask Pyrrha to teach her…?
Nora didn't realize she was staring at Ren's hair until she noticed him eyeing her with undisguised wariness—though this melted into something softer and nameless when Nora gave him a smile she hoped was reassuring. If only to lull him into a false sense of security. She rubbed her hands together evilly under the table. One day, he'd wake up with the best-looking braid in the entire school, and he'd have her to thank for it!
"No, Jaune," responded Ren firmly, and turned the page.
"What do you think about Charge?" asked Jaune quietly, shooting a covert glance at the teacher. Just a couple more minutes of lecture, and then they'd be free to go. But at least they had a marginally more interesting substitute today—Port was out preparing for the festival.
Nora pursed her lips. Charge, huh? "Well, without it, there wouldn't be electricity," she decided, raising a contemplative hand to her chin. "And then we wouldn't have any of our gadgets! And where would we be without our gadgets?" she asked, but continued immediately; she loved responding to her own questions, since she usually knew the right answer. "In the dark ages!"
"I meant as a team attack name for you and Pyrrha," responded Jaune, hiding his face in his hand momentarily. "You know, like a magnetic charge. Since you have electricity and she has polarity."
"I think that may be… misconstrued," said Pyrrha delicately, and Nora blinked in surprise: Pyrrha Nikos? Talking in class? Unheard of! "The order, 'charge', is different from the attack, Charge," she continued patiently, when their leader looked his confusion.
"You could say Capital C," suggested Nora helpfully.
"You could talk to Team RWBY," advised Ren, tapping his fingers lightly on the desk, his eyes on the clock. Shocking! Half of Team JNPR Out of Character, read the front-page headlines in Nora's head. Though, come to think of it, if it was the only page, was it really the front page? And anyway, she supposed they had an excuse; this was their last minute of the last class before the tournament break.
Jaune tilted his head thoughtfully. "You know, that's… actually not a bad idea," he said eventually. Whatever it was Ren said was drowned out by the bell, but Nora suspected it had something to do with why Jaune sounded so surprised.
"Hmm," remarked Ruby, eyes and smile widening. "How about… Arc of Lightning?"
"Okay, that actually sounds kind of badass," admitted Jaune, crossing his arms, and Nora smiled in relief. "That's you and me, Nora," he added, nudging her, and Nora beamed; Ruby was pretty good at coming up with attack names, at least in comparison. She'd be all for having her as a leader, except RNPR wasn't a word. Also because without Jaune, she wouldn't have such a cool attack name. (And Ren would be surrounded by women; Nora could never decide whether that was a good or bad thing.)
"Did you come up with one for Ren and Pyrrha yet?" mused Ruby, glancing between Nora's other comrades. "Because I was thinking… Ren's kind of a ninja and stuff, and Pyrrha's got that spear, so how about, like, Piercing Shadows or something cool like that?"
Observing Ren's slight smile and Pyrrha's approving nod, Jaune sighed heavily in recognition of his latest failure. Okay, well, maybe 'failure' was a strong word, but at the very least, he'd been outvoted. "But… Magenta," he protested feebly, and Nora patted him comfortingly on the back.
"There are other colors, too," she tried to tell him, but Jaune only shook his head slowly and dove despondently into his meatloaf.
Nora didn't even have enough breath left to proclaim her victory, which was a first. Maybe that was because she didn't really feel like breaking every bone in Ren's body, which she easily could have done to win immediately; but his was such a nice body, so she really didn't have much of a choice but to prolong the match in favor of leaving him intact.
Ren seemed to appreciate it, judging from the way he was smiling at her even as he caught his wind. Maybe he misinterpreted that little bit of mercy as her going easy on him like he'd requested, but as far as Nora was concerned, that had just been her way of making sure he was alive for their match tomorrow. That was kind of important.
"I'm queen of the courtyard," she panted, extending her hand to Ren with as much of a smile as she could muster, and he took it: she hauled him to his feet, and then the world stopped turning without so much as slowing down first… but she was still flying a thousand miles an hour as they stood there in the lamplight, just looking at one another—
Ren's hand slipped from hers, and Nora was jolted back into her own body as suddenly as she had left it. "S-sorry about that," she managed, hearing her own voice as if from a distance, and her stomach growled like a Grimm. Oh, so that was why she was so spacey! "Can you make pancakes?" she asked, almost tentatively. She wasn't quite sure why, but asking him for anything right now seemed like it would be… weird. As if he'd already given her everything he could.
But he nodded and offered her a small smile, and Nora grinned in relief, stepping forward. Something seemed so uncertain in those moments when the world had stopped; she hadn't realized how nervous she'd been until now—worried that she'd broken more than just bones in their match, or maybe just afterwards.
Nora embraced Ren briefly out of gratitude, feeling his heartbeat almost stop beneath her ear. (Like the world, she thought, smiling.) As she started letting go, almost reluctantly, something soft brushed the top of her head; it might have been his lips—but as she looked up at him in wonderment, he was already looking towards the dorms.
Maybe hunger wasn't the only cause of her fluttergut after all.
Ren made more than just pancakes that evening, though a white paper lotus probably wasn't edible. But actually, anything was edible; it was more a matter of whether it was digestible. "Onigiri!" exclaimed Nora, leaning on Ren's shoulder as he procured a paper lotus from beneath his hands with a smile.
"Origami," he corrected, his voice edged with a laugh, and rested his fingers on her hand briefly before taking them hastily away—as if the gesture had been automatic. Nora glanced down at him curiously, but he only cleared his throat slightly, and she knew better than to break the moment with words.
Jaune, however, did not. "Flower Power!" he exclaimed, pointing dramatically at the lotus, but neither Ren nor Nora bothered asking what he meant this time. IThey simply took turns spinning the flower on the table, each at their own pace, both smiling gently—looking forward to the battles tomorrow would bring.
Forgive me for not going into detail regarding Ren and Nora's sparring session; I'm all fight-scene'd out, given my most recent oneshot!
Anyway, forget Flower Power, and even Renora—I am legit down for calling this ship StormFlower, except for the natural confusion with Ren's weapon. But then again, if Bumblebee pertains to the ship, their team attack name, ANDYang's motorcycle, then StormFlower can be a ship name too! Come on, people, let's make a difference and give this pairing the cool name it deserves!
IMPORTANT EDIT: In light of the fact that the volumes have taken a MUCH darker turn of late, I need to figure out how to adapt this story to a new set of genres. Because of this, I'll be going on temporary hiatus. (I know, I know, it's basically like that already, but I'm making it official this time.) In addition to figuring out how to proceed, I also need to do some SERIOUS editing of past chapters, because it has come to my attention that about half of them are OOC… plus, a lot of new information has come out since, y'know, Volume 1. Please don't hate me; try to consider this hiatus remodeling to make the story better still. Still might take awhile, but it's not like we know when Volume 4 is coming out yet. Sorry!