Woo! Hundred K words! Achievement get!
"Wake up, Roy."
A soft voice slithered through the man's subconscious, like a pick loosing a lock. The battered foxman woke with a jolt. His arm caught against his restraints and the metal cuffs rattled against the cheap railings of the hospital bed. His frantic black eyes searched in the darkness for the owner of the sickly smooth voice that he hoped was only a figment of his fevered nightmares.
As a Faunus, being able to see in the dark was equal parts a blessing and a curse. There were things better left unseen that skulked in the veil of shadows. And one of them was looming over his bed.
"Ack!" He choked on his own spit as he beheld the blazing amber eyes mere inches from his face. "G-Gerhalt!"
The face of the looming man twisted into a sharp toothed grin. "Hello, Roy."
Roy tried to shrink back into his bed, but the manacles around his wrists prevented him from moving.
The bigger man clicked his tongue. "Now, now, what's got you spooked,? That's no way to greet your fellow man."
A large paw lashed out and gripped his shoulder. He winced as he heard several very audible snaps in the poor limb. "What happened at the Dust shop?" It was a command.
The beaten foxman stammered, his brain not quite believing the situation it was in. "I-I tried. I swear it. I've been a loyal agent for years. Why would I throw that away now?"
A deep feral growl silenced him. "Excuses are a waste of my time, Roy. Tell me why you couldn't destroy one measly Dust shop." The annoyance in Gerhalt's voice was apparent. Roy began to tremble.
"Th-there was a kid. Blonde! H-he was with some girl. Dressed in white." His fractured mind frantically tried to remember as much of the botched bombing as it could. "He started talking and got the girl and the shop owner out. I was going to—"
Gerhalt's meaty palm slammed into the wall just above the frightened Faunus' head. "He talked you down?"
"I-I lost myself just this once! It won't happen again."
The large man drew himself up to his full height. He stored away all the information the babbling fool had given him. He would not be made a fool of by anyone, especially some schoolboy. His predatory eyes regarded the cowering Faunus with pure disdain.
"And what of this boy? Did you maim him? Is he here?"
"N-No. He beat me and escaped."
Gerhalt barked an oath. "The time of the Great Burning is soon. We cannot afford to be thwarted by bumbling children."
The cowering foxman babbled incoherently and nodded profusely.
"What of the pilgrimage?"
Roy's ears flattened against his skull. "Safe! I swear it."
Gerhalt's eyes glowed a furious amber. "Then let your life be given to me as proof of your word."
Tears sprung up in the quivering foxman's eyes. "Yes, my mast—"
The bedridden Faunus began to choke and convulse. His strained vocal cords struggled to form pleas of mercy, but all they could manage were gurgled sputters. His shackles rattled as he flailed against his restraints. His heart monitor began to beep erratically. And with a final lurch, he lay still.
A fork of lightning briefly lit a wild mane and feral yellow eyes.
Weiss woke slowly to the sound of rain gently tapping against the glass windows of her room. She yawned and lay still for a moment, struggling to remember the dream she had. The image was far too vague. All she could recall was lots of gold and an immense feeling of contentment. She sighed and snuggled back under her covers. She closed her eyes and tried to go back to sleep; perhaps she would dream of that comfortable place again. She waited for her dreams to carry her away, but all that greeted her was the soft pattering of rain.
She opened her eyes and stared into the underside of the top bunk. Her thoughts drifted to the blonde knight that she hoped was still asleep up there. The days following his awakening had been hard. At first they had tried to carry on as if everything was normal. He would joke around with her, and she would even laugh genuinely, but an anxious weight had settled into the pit of her stomach since they woke up on that hospital bed together, tangled in each other's arms. There was something they needed to talk about, and neither of them was willing to breach the subject.
It was driving her spare.
She huffed and kicked off her covers in a most unladylike fashion. She got up, smoothed out imaginary wrinkles in her night dress, and climbed up the ladder to the top bunk. She fully expected to see the bunk occupied by a snoozing blonde, but frowned slightly when she found it empty and cold.
She balled her little hands into fists. She'd told him to take it easy, but would he listen? No! She decided that if he worked himself to death, she wouldn't be the one to save him. She huffed and hopped down to the floor. She looked out the window to see if she couldn't catch a glimpse of the idiot running around like a chicken with his head cut off.
Before she could settle into a proper vigil, there was a knock and a thunk at the door. The newspaper was here. She quickly crossed the room, noting that both Ren and Nora were still asleep, and swiftly opened the door, revealing the empty hallway. She looked left and right, but the hall was deserted.
Darn. She had been trying to catch a glimpse of the delivery person for some time now. She bent down and collected the early edition. She perused the headlines as she closed the door with a soft click. Preparations for the Vale tournament were underway. There were a few features on some of the tournament hopefuls. She smiled slightly when she saw a respectably sized article dedicated to Pyrrha and her chances for the win.
Weiss settled down at the desk and read in the somber light that the gloomy weather provided. There were reports of a marked increase in Dust related terrorist attacks. Trains were being hijacked, shops were being bombed, and cashes of Dust were being destroyed. Weiss quickly flipped to a different article. There was no use souring her mood this early in the morning.
She came to a small piece on the Dust shop she and Jaune had gone to. There was a grainy image of the deranged Faunus they'd taken down. The small snippet of text underneath stated that he'd turned up dead in the hospital the other day.
Early Saturday morning, at four A.M, nurse Cavanaugh, of Vale Medical, found the fox Faunus, Roy Kent dead in his hospital room. After calling in doctors, the cause of death was rendered inconclusive. His arms were bound to the rails as per police procedure for a hospitalized criminal, and no instruments of sufficient caliber were found at the scene. One item of note was that the right hand of the man had been removed at the wrist. After an investigation, the severe3d appendage has not yet been recovered. Authorities are not ruling out a possible assassination by anti-Faunus groups active in the city. Detective Payne of the VCPD had this to say:
"Regardless of what this man was accused of, murder is still murder. These retaliatory acts will not be tolerated in this city, and those responsible will be brought to justice."
Roy Kent had been a citizen of Vale city for fifteen years, running a small pottery shop at the Eastend district. He had been arrested for questioning for involvement in the attempted bombing of Dusty's Dust shop.
Weiss squinted down at the image, noting a small splotch on the man's wrist. She ran her thumb along it, thinking it was a piece of dirt. When it didn't come off she figured it was just a consequence of dirt on the lens. She remembered how the man had looked during the ordeal; savage, primal, certainly not the makings of a rational being. She wasn't so sure about the assassination angle, preferring instead to think of it as the final raving act of a madman.
There was little else of consequence in the subsequent pages. The weather was going to be dreary for the next few days. They'd lucked out with a warm front colliding with a massive snow storm that turned all the snow into rain, and she silently thanked the weather gods that this was so.
When she neared the end of the paper her eyes hardened at the black and white photo printed on the pulpy sheet. Cardin Winchester lay on a hospital bed, his wrists chained to the metal rails, his stomach heavily bandaged. His eyes were dull and empty, but alive. She stared frozen at the image for a full minute before willing herself to read his fate.
They were taking him away. A bubble of relief burst in her chest. They were taking him away, and he was never coming back. She tossed the paper onto the desk, gazing out into the gray black sky.
She jumped and whirled around, finding Ren giving her a curious look.
She took a moment to compose herself before replying. "Yes, I'm fine. Thank you."
She sighed and rose from her desk, glancing once more out the rain washed window. She needed to prepare for a walk in the rain.
Jaune sucked cool air into his lungs. A light rain pelted his hot cheeks and cooled the sweat on his brow. He swung his sword down at his invisible enemy, stopping just a hair from the ground.
"Nine hundred ninety six."
He raised his blade up again and brought it down.
"Nine hundred ninety seven."
The week after his revival saw him catching up on homework and reading up on their first field mission. They were going to be sent into a desert, so they needed to be familiar with the local flora and fauna. A small smile cut across his face. Weiss had been his constant companion, tutoring him on every subject and bringing him up to speed on the goings on of the school.
"Nine hundred ninety eight."
Of course, books and lectures alone wouldn't win the fight against the Grimm. Despite his complete recovery he felt weak and restless from being inactive for so long. He worked himself back into his old routine.
"Nine hundred ninety nine... One thousand!" His arms and chest burned viciously.
He dropped his sword to one hand and extended his shield in the other. He took up a runner's stance and broke off in a sprint. This would be his fifth and final set of swings and sprints. He took a long, circuitous route around campus. There wasn't much risk of running into anyone as it was so early in the morning. His feet splashed against the wet pavement as he circled around the gray stone library. He ran down the length of campus, making a circuit around the huge, modern science building. As he ran back up the length of the school, he came to a row of benches. He ran at an angle, zigzagging between benches and even hurtling over several of them.
He put on a burst of speed as he came to one of the steepest hills in the whole school. On a bright sunny day, it would be filled with students lounging about. But on a dreary Sunday morning, there wasn't a soul. He pumped his legs intensely as he mounted the hill. His lungs expanded and contracted as he heaved air into and out of his system. As he crested the hill, he took a few swings with his sword and lashed out with his shield at a phantom opponent.
Satisfied that he'd killed it, he turned and sprinted back down the hill. Once he reached the bottom, he pivoted on his heel and dashed back up. He repeated this ten times before folding up his shield and sheathing his blade.
He walked briskly along the rain washed pathways, allowing his body to cool down from its workout. He spotted a familiar bench and sprawled out across it; setting his sword to the side. He stretched out his arms along the back of the bench and gazed up at the statue set against the curling dark gray clouds. It was the figure of a strongly built man wielding aloft the very sword that lay so lazily by his side. Jaune liked to imagine the man with fair hair and vivid blue eyes just like his own. He wasn't sure he could ever pull off a beard like the man in the statue, but the resemblance was still there.
Elias Arc. Hero of the Great War.
He closed his eyes and felt the rain gently stipple his face. The upper left corner of his forehead still felt numb. He reached up with his right hand and felt along the X shaped scar that seemed to match Weiss' quite well. Though, where hers was merely a thin pink blemish on otherwise smooth skin, his was like a crack in aged asphalt.
His first real scar. When he was younger he expected to get some great savage scar during a struggle against the Grimm, defending his hometown. He never imagined it'd actually be in the back alley of Vale city. He sighed and smiled wistfully. He wondered where the next ones would come from.
Jaune brought his hand down flat against the wet wooden surface of the bench. He looked down at it. He was pretty surprised that it still worked after the work Cardin had done to it. The doctor had tried to explain to him how he had survived but most of it went over his head. All he knew was that the stuff they injected him with was very time consuming to make and nearly drove Weiss legally insane.
He flexed his hand appreciatively. He was still thinking of a good way to properly think his diligent partner.
Jaune noticed that the raindrops had ceased to fall on the wooden surface. In fact, he and the bench had become altogether entirely dry. He looked up to find the rain hitting an invisible awning over his head. He blinked at the phenomenon for a moment before he shifted his gaze slightly to the left and saw the bright purple glyph hovering a few feet above his head.
"Hello, Mr. Arc."
"Gah!" He jumped a foot in his seat and found Professor Goodwitch perched lightly next to him with her legs crossed and her glasses reflecting the bright glow of her Scroll.
"You'll catch a cold if you stay out in the rain too long." He swore a ghost of a smirk crossed her lips, but he dismissed it as a trick of the stormy weather. "You wouldn't want to fall ill just days after your recovery."
"Ah, er, thank you, Professor." He drew up the hood on his sweatshirt. There was a pregnant pause between the two. The only sound was the soft pitter patter of the rain and distant rumbling of thunder. "I really like the rain, though. It's soothing, y'know?"
He had no idea why he decided to say such a trivial thing. He supposed the silence was getting to him. Besides, he was always slightly nervous around the older woman. He never quite knew what she was thinking. Then again, when had he ever been certain as to what any female was thinking?
"How have you been feeling since the treatment?"
"Yeah, pretty good. I had a bit of a weakness, but I didn't lose as much strength as I thought I did. I'm more or less back up to speed. No different, really."
He half expected her to comment, but she tapped away at her Scroll silently.
"Your team is scheduled to be sent out tomorrow, correct? Do you think you're prepared?"
He felt a small jolt of energy shoot through him. He'd nearly forgotten that the mission was so close. "I think so. Weiss had everything so well organized that I didn't have any trouble catching up. My whole team's in top shape. We're as ready as we'll ever be Professor."
Nervousness and excitement were really the same emotion in different contexts. Throughout the week he had felt both, but he liked to think even his nervousness was poorly judged excitement. He'd finally be able to see what being a hunter was really about. He'd get to see parts of the world he'd only dreamed of. Sure, there was untold danger, and literally everything wanted to rip humanity limb from limb, but that was a necessary risk.
They fell into silence once again. This time, the professor's Scroll piped up with little electronic sounds while she tapped away with her long fingers. Jaune turned his attention back to the invisible force field that hung above his head. He examined the glowing purple glyph. Weiss' glyphs were based on snowflakes and various degrees of symmetry. These, had various phases of the moon etched at strange angles as well as curious runic symbols that he couldn't decipher.
He made a mental note to ask Weiss about it when she woke up.
"Is there anything I can help you with Profess..." He turned to look back at his Aura instructor, but found the bench vacant. He looked up and down the street but found one end empty, and the other with a white haired girl rapidly stomping in his general direction. She had a clear plastic umbrella clutched in a furious grip.
He snapped his gaze up to the granite visage of his ancestor, pretending not to have noticed her. She stopped short right in front of him, blocking his view. She looked up at the statue before pivoting on her heel and glaring down at the unfortunate knight.
"Oh, hello there Wei—"
With a wave of her hand, the glyph that held the rain at bay disappeared, causing a sheet of freezing rain to fall down on his head.
"Jaune, are you trying to undo all the hard work I did to bring you back from the dead!?"
"No! I was just—"
"You do realize we're supposed to be well rested." She jabbed her finger into his stomach for emphasis. "And that this is going to make up a significant portion of our grade."
"Can I get one word—"
Her eyes blazed. "Absolutely not! Just what were you thinking coming out here in the middle of the pouring rain? Is working yourself half to death really going to help your odds out there any more than having a rested body?"
She took a menacing step forward. "Shush. With my luck, you'll get sick and die of pneumonia."
Weiss grabbed his hand and yanked him to his feet in a surprising show of strength. She proceeded to drag him along the quiet rain drenched streets back to their dorm. Jaune smiled slightly as he picked up little bits of her grumbling. She bemoaned his lunkheadedness and swore up and down that he'd become even more of a lunkhead ever since he woke up.
As they walked down the hall to their room, Weiss slowed to a halt. She quietly closed her umbrella and pitched the point into the warm carpeting. She played idly with the handle as she stood in the middle of the hallway, collecting her thoughts.
"Weiss?" Jaune put his hand on her shoulder.
Her eyes stared at a point just above the white handle of her umbrella.
"The paper came in today." Her voice was quiet and distant.
Jaune stayed silent, sensing she would continue.
"They took him away." She looked up at him with striking ice blue eyes. "For good."
He gripped her shoulders and gave them a squeeze. He'd been meaning to speak to her about everything that had happened that night. But when morning came, their defenses returned, and an urge for normalcy forced them back into their old routines. Certainly, they were more comfortable around one another, but the topic of that night was something neither could bring up just yet.
He was about to speak but she beat him to it.
"It's all thanks to you."
He stepped closer to her. "Weiss, I—"
"Jaune-Jaune, Weiss-Weiss!" Nora waved frantically from the threshold of their dorm. "Our room is over this way! Sillies, did you guys get lost?"
The pair sprung apart and walked briskly in the direction of the hyperactive heroine of the hammer.
By the time he peeled off his wet clothes, freshened up, and donned a warm cozy sweatshirt and jean combo, team Junior Mints (Nora's idea) as well as team Raspberry Jam (Ruby's idea), had assembled in their room.
"The best time to move should be during the morning, evening, and if you can, night. Midday will be far too grueling, and you'll lose valuable water." Blake's eyes flicked over the map that Weiss had annotated in her neat script.
Jaune sat on his bunk with Ruby who was curled up like a house cat, peering over the edge with her owlish silver eyes. He poured over his Wilderness Survival textbook, taking in everything it had about the deserts of the world. The only information they had was where they would be going.
"In the real world, Grimm hunting isn't made up of schoolyard assignments. However, Professor Ozpin insists that I give you something to help you prepare, so here you are. Just. This. Once. Each team will be given a habitat. Study it. Live it. Breathe it. You'll be sent to your location. Once there, your assignment will unlock—and any attempt to hack the file will result in automatic failure for you and your team. You'll be given specific Grimm to destroy, both individually and as a team. You'll have time and your wits. There will be no hand holding here." Port's words.
Jaune flipped the page. There were untold horrors that festered in the hot desert sands. The vast expanse allowed for the creatures of darkness to grow huge. And the ever shifting sands, like waves in a dead sea, allowed them to hide themselves in cunning ways. There was one Grimm that stuck out a pincer from the sand and made it seems like an ordinary cactus. When an unsuspecting traveler would approach, it would burst from the sand and swallow him whole.
The eight hunters in training spent the rest of the morning discussing the best way to traverse the harsh climbs of the world's deserts.
"Nora, don't hit the ground too hard. The shock wave could alert something we don't want." Jaune pointed at various mammoth examples that lurked in the sand.
Velvet sprang up from her place on the floor. "My papa says that if there's a huge monster trying to eat you, just play dead until it goes away."
"Don't get killed, Killer. I've got good money riding on Princess here getting eaten." Yang winked. "With any luck, you'll be able to fill out the New Partner Request Form when you get back."
"Hey!" Weiss bristled.
"No! Jaune, don't listen to her. Protect Weiss as much as possible." Ruby hung down over Jaune's bed and grabbed Weiss' shoulders. "Weiss, keep yourself alive out there. I've got good money betting that you'll live!"
"Unhand me at once!"
Jaune smirked. "You've got a good angle, Yang. I mean, the form is a good ten pages long, but it might give me a good change of pace."
"Jaune, you traitor! And how do you know anything about that form? Have you been looking at it!?"
The students' collective rumble of laughter soaked through the walls and into the hallway.
A fork of lightning flashed across the dark gray sky. A beat later, a violent blast rocked the very foundation of the dorm. The gentle rain had long since increased to a steady torrent.
"Well, at least you guys will skip all this rain." Yang looked out the streaking window in dismay.
The group of hunters finished their meeting and had dissolved into small pockets of activity. Jaune was showing Ruby some of the medicinal herbs he had brought with him. Ren and Yang had struck up a game of poker. Blake read quietly in a corner. Nora was regaling Velvet with one of her strange, episodic dreams. While Pyrrha and Weiss had their heads bowed together inside Weiss' black sketchbook, at the other end of the room.
"And that's the gist of it. It should at least keep him alive until we can get back to civilization." Weiss indicated her now finished glyph. She hadn't yet tested it; she was looking for the right opportunity to get Jaune by himself. She cut a glance over at Pyrrha and found her friend smiling at her warmly. It was starting to unnerve her. "Are you even listening?"
"O-Oh, of course," replied her friend unconvincingly.
Weiss narrowed her eyes. "What? What is it?"
A small excited squeak escaped the redhead's lips. Her eyes shot up, seeking the blonde knight. Finding him occupied with Ruby, she bowed her head conspiratorially. Their noses nearly touched.
"Did something happen between you two? You were practically connected by the elbow ever since he woke up."
Weiss' ice blue eyes widened. She drew the sketchbook closer, so it would obscure their whispering faces. "Shush! N-Nothing remotely what you're thinking happened." It stung as she was forced to confirm it out loud. She relaxed slightly at Pyrrha's questioning expression. "The night that... The night that he woke up, he just kind of... held me." A warm feeling burst in the pit of her stomach
Pyrrha's eyes softened. She gave her hand a supportive squeeze.
"He called me his—" A shock of pink touched her pale cheeks. She scrunched her nose in frustration. "No. It was nothing. It was a strange situation and we weren't thinking straight. He could never say those things to me again. We spent all week together and it was back to business as usual for us."
Pyrrha didn't miss the disappointed tilt in Weiss' voice. She peered up at the blonde knight and found him engaged in a two handed thumb war with Ruby. She was losing spectacularly due to her tiny hands; her squeals of despair crackled throughout the room.
She watched his smiling face and wondered if he didn't need a little push of encouragement. During the... unpleasantness, he had been bold enough to take his partner in his arms and whisper sweet things to her. But when things calmed down again, something had to have scared him away.
She pursed her lips. It was time to intervene.
She snapped to her feet and clapped her hands. "Well! Who's up for some lunch?"
An angry slap of thunder lashed against the charged atmosphere. The assembled students looked at one another, then back at the redhead, and promptly shook their heads.
"I'm not going out in this weather." Yang stretched out on the floor and closed her eyes with a sigh. "Too cozy." She opened one lilac orb and fixed it on her fellow blonde. "Hey, Killer, this is your room right? And you're team leader. Why don't you go and get us all some grub?"
Everyone else nodded in agreement.
"I thinks she's right, Jaune." Ren added his sage advice.
Jaune beat Ruby for the last time and pulled her hood over her head in triumph. He jumped down from the bunk and gave his companions a critical look.
"You know, I'm not too convinced that I am team leader. All I remember was making it to the podium, zoning out, and the next thing I know we're at our dorms. What really happened during that ceremony? Who's really pulling the strings?"
"I'll take the secret to my grave, Jaune! My grave!" Ruby piped up from her perch on his bed.
A chorus of laughter followed him as he collected Weiss' umbrella. Pyrrha intercepted him at the door.
"I'll go with you, Jaune!" Her bright green eyes shone with innocence.
Before Weiss could fully process what her devilish friend had done, Pyrrha looped her arm through Jaune's and they stepped out.
The midday sky was, if anything, even darker than it had been that morning. The near black clouds churned morosely as the pair huddled under the single umbrella. As they walked through the rain beaten streets, their vision was blurred by unending sheets of cold rain.
"Was it supposed to be this bad?" Jaune hollered over the howling storm.
Pyrrha shook her head. "Just be glad it isn't snow!"
He remembered Weiss mentioning she was from up north and how she didn't like the cold anymore because of it. Pyrrha noted his momentary lapse into reverie and decided to strike while he was off guard.
"So, Jaune you've been at Beacon for some time now. Is there someone you have your eye on?"
He nearly tripped. "Wha—! Howzzat?"
Pyrrha smiled broadly. "Sure! You can't tell me that in a school filled with pretty girls, you haven't got your eye on any of them."
Jaune hoped the sky was dark enough that it would hide the heat rising in his cheeks. Why was she suddenly asking about this?
"W-Where's all this coming from? I didn't think you'd be interested in that sort of thing." Jaune silently lamented the fact that he had nowhere to run.
Pyrrha adopted an innocent expression. "Oh, you know, I'm just looking out for my friend, that's all. I thought, that after your... encounter, you might have wanted to be a bit more... proactive, pursuing the girl you like."
Jaune shouldered the door to the canteen open and let Pyrrha walk in first.
"Well, if you must know, then no. There isn't anyone I'm interested in." It was easier to lie to her with her back turned.
The redhead smiled to herself. "But you'd tell me if you did, right?" She turned to him and gave him the full force of her large vivid green eyes.
As they moved from one part of the cafeteria to the next, collecting their day's food, Jaune felt his companion's eyes digging into the back of his head. When he looked back all he saw was her innocent smile. Her words were getting to him. A small voice in the back of his mind told him that it might be a good idea to tell her about his feelings for a certain little lady.
Weiss. He sighed. Why couldn't he fall in love with a nice, normal girl? Why did it have to be the heiress to the largest Dust company on the planet? Why did it have to be the girl with exotic white hair? He told himself not to give in. He told himself that it would pass like everything else.
But it hadn't.
Ever since he woke up he'd been thinking of the way the moonlight had cast her hair in a pale blue glow. He shivered when he thought of her ice blue eyes, like glass, showing him all the emotion she had swirling around inside. He thought of how she fit so comfortably in his arms. And he thought of how she smiled easier since they first met.
He glanced at Pyrrha as she picked fruit from a large platter. It was a sound idea. After all, the two were good friends. He could figure out if it would be worth it to try rather than go spare just thinking about it all the time.
His mind wrenched back and forth with the pros and cons of revealing his secret. It could all end in horrible disaster. He could damage his friendship with the girl irrevocably. That would lead to their team dynamic being thrown off before it was even put to the test. Their collective grades would drop. Ren and Nora would have to switch teams if they had any desire to make something of themselves. Weiss would distance herself. He'd be all alone—shamed and shunned. He'd go back to his village with his head hung low, a failure for all time.
He filled a bag with an assortment of drinks.
A meek voice in his head tentatively posited that things might actually work out. He would confess his love for her, and she would accept him. They would harmonize, and become even more in sync with each other. Their grades would skyrocket. Ren and Nora wouldn't have to switch to another team to make something of themselves. And they'd be fairly well respected all throughout Beacon and beyond. Afterward, they would marry and go on adventures all throughout the world. They would uncover secret ruins and lost cities. Fell ancient beasts thought dead for time immemorial. Maybe even start a nice little family.
He liked the sound of that.
Against the protests of his screaming brain, his heart poured out.
"It's Weiss. I... I like her. A lot." Pyrrha did her best to act surprised. Jaune thought he would say something a bit more substantive, but his mouth felt dry. A last ditch effort by his mind to shut him up before he bungled everything.
"You love Weiss?" She made sure to use the word love. Just to see his reaction.
Jaune stared at a very important looking floor tile. He nodded his head stiffly.
Her smile widened. She gripped his shoulder and gently turned him to face her.
"Well, that's grand! I think the two of you would make a splendid couple."
He shook his head. What was he thinking? This was a horrible idea. "No. It can't happen. I'll ruin everything. Our friendship, the team. My judgment will be off during hostile situations. Besides, there's nothing I can possibly offer her."
The amazon's smile quickly dissolved into a frown. "Jaune, those are excuses and you know it."
He looked up at her with a sober expression. "Be that as it may. I can't let anything come of it. I don't even know why I told you any of this." He turned to leave but her hand lashed out and grabbed his arm in a vice grip. She spun him around.
Her eyes blazed angrily. "That girl has done so much to make sure you are safe and protected. And you won't even respect her enough to let her decide for herself?" She clicked her tongue. "I thought you were brave, Jaune. I thought you were better than this."
He stood still, allowing her words to soak into his mind.
"Status and power, these were all things that wrote her undoing, and she wants nothing to do with either of them. You have so much love to give her. That's all she's ever wanted. Love. Please, Jaune, please don't deny her this."
He couldn't look away from her verdant irises.
"Promise me, Jaune. Promise me you'll tell her. You owe her that much."
He nodded. She was right. The coward's way wasn't the way he wanted to go. If he said nothing, then he would only cause pain to himself and the one he cherished most. That wasn't what he was raised to stand for. That wasn't what he was sent here to learn. His deep blue eyes burned with a new resolve.
"You're right, Pyrrha. I will tell her. Soon."
Her smile returned in full force. The pair collected their parcels of food and once more braved the harsh rain waters. Jaune walked with new purpose in his step.
"Alright, good luck tomorrow, guys!" Ruby left with Yang and Blake.
Pyrrha bid her friends goodbye and, after giving Weiss a meaningful look, quietly followed her teammates across the hall.
Weiss sighed and closed the door. It had been a long day, and all she wanted to do now was rest. But there was still one more thing she needed to do. She looked over at Jaune, who was quietly sitting at their desk, pouring over the map she'd put together. She marked down the most likely places to find the most common Grimm variety, so as to cut down on search time when Professor Port saw fit to tell them what they were after.
She quietly walked up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. He straightened up, stretched, and turned to face her.
"It's a big chunk of land. There don't seem to be a lot of landmarks. I wonder how we're going to navigate it. What's up, Weiss?"
"I need your help with something. If you're not too busy, can you come with me?"
He shrugged and motioned for her to lead the way. They left the dorms and went up several flights of stairs to the roof.
"It's still raining like crazy out there."
Weiss looked back at her partner and opened the door. Sheets of inky black rain fell in waves. She drew a glyph in the air and sent it hovering twenty feet in the air, above the roof of the building. The glyph activated with a soft crystalline sigh. A huge sheet of ice sprouted from the center of the glyph. Within seconds, a thick dome of solid ice encased the roof and sheltered it from the rain.
Weiss looked up at her partner with a smug expression. "Come on, we don't have long till it all melts."
She grabbed his hand and tugged him to the center of the roof. He was about to ask what all this was about when she pulled out a little black book from her pocket. He recognized it as the one that held all her casting glyphs.
"Hey, did you end up finishing the rune you were working on?"
She gave him a triumphant smile. "I think I did. And now it's time to test it out."
Jaune stood with his arms out and legs shoulder width apart. "I am as the guinea pig, innocent and bumbling in all ways."
Weiss suppressed a snort of laughter. She would celebrate after the success of tonight's experiment. She formed a simple glyph in her hand and tossed it up at the ceiling. A bright blue jewel of delicate ice sank into the ice sheet. The pulsating light slowly bled into the sheet, running along invisible currents in the glacial ice. Soon, the entire enclosure was shimmering with ethereal blue light.
Jaune marveled at the light show. He looked down at his partner, bathed once again in heavenly pale blue light. Her eyes sparkled as they reflected the strange light. He didn't trust himself to speak.
"Right, that's better. Now, stand still. This may feel a bit strange at first, but bear with it."
Jaune stood still and waited for her to do her magic. He didn't know what sort of effect the spell would have so he was fairly excited to see what it would do. Every time he asked the young heiress about its purpose she would merely tell him that he would see in time. A little tingle of anticipation shot through him as Weiss read her glyph and mimed the hand motions in preparation.
"Okay, here goes."
Weiss thrust her hand out and rotated it at the wrist in a clockwise motion. A pale blue circle erupted beneath Jaune's feet. He almost dove out of the way on instinct, but reminded himself that he was in no danger. Weiss' long fingers traced a thin diamond in the air. As she did, a thin leaf of the same shape grew from the center of the circle to the end. She held her hand in that position for a full minute, her eyes still with concentration. She swept her hand sharply to the right, and the single leaf spread out into countless others, spanning the entire area of the rune.
Weiss positioned her palm horizontally, level from her waist. She slowly raised it up to her eye. As she moved her hand, the rune moved as if being pulled by invisible strings. The glyph rotated slowly as it slunk up Jaune's legs, over his body, and around his head. After it had made a full circuit of his body, it hovered in the air for a moment before collapsing into a shimmering blue mist.
He couldn't quite explain how he felt as the glyph swept over him. It was a feeling entirely singular in nature. The closest he could describe it was as if he were underwater, and every particle of water was pressing against him with a significant, yet harmless pressure. Afterward, he felt a cool ball form in the pit of his stomach. It tingled and tickled his stomach as it grew larger and larger with every heartbeat. It grew for some time, pooling all throughout his torso and leaking into his arms and legs. Then it burst. A wave crashed against him as if he'd taken a dunk in the coldest pond on the planet. The feeling electrocuted his nerves and made his mind spin. And just as suddenly as it had come, it vanished, leaving a residual presence just under his skin. It wasn't anything particularly substantial, but he knew it was still there. He just knew.
He looked up at Weiss and saw her teetering on her feet. He sprung forward and wrapped his arms around her, partly to give her support, but mostly because he'd been meaning to find an excuse for the longest time now.
"Easy there. You alright?" His hand automatically threaded itself into her hair.
She nodded into his chest. "I'm fine. I draw more power than I need when I'm using a new glyph. Besides, I still have to work on making it more efficient." She reached up and snaked her arms around his strong form, partly to steady herself, but mostly because she had grown impatient for affection.
"What's this supposed to do?" Jaune stared into the glowing ice at the far end of the dome.
Weiss pulled away slightly, but kept her arms around him. "It'll heal minor wounds as long as it has charge left. Think of it as a temporary Aura." Jaune assumed the curious presence he felt just under his skin was the charge she was talking about. "At least, that's the theory."
She reluctantly pulled away from him and slid her pointer finger along the length of its mirror on her other hand. A thin, razor sharp slip of ice formed on her palm.
"Jaune, you trust me, right?" She stared intently at the ice needle.
He reached down and lifted her chin up so she had to look him in the eye. "Of course. Go ahead."
She smiled a grateful smile. "Okay, here goes."
She reached down with the needle and slashed his palm. Red blood oozed freely from the cold gash. A beat. Then two. Jaune felt the presence under his skin congregate around the cut. A faint blue glow consumed the area, and after a second, it was healed, leaving behind a gentle cool feeling.
He flexed his hand. "Groovy. How long is it supposed to last?"
She shrugged. "I dunno. I suppose we'll find out tomorrow." She gave him a tired smile.
As he gazed down into the soft blue eyes of his friend, a well of emotion sprung up in his chest. He reached up and cupped her left cheek, running his thumb along the little pink scar that ran down her eye. Her eyes fluttered shut as she leaned into his touch.
"You really are my little guardian angel, aren't you?" She flushed prettily and a bashful smile appeared on her lips. She tried to hide it by looking away, but Jaune reached under her chin and lifted it so he could get a better look into her large mint blue eyes. "Did you do this for me?"
She was too embarrassed to speak, so she simply nodded and looked down at his chest.
The well of emotion very nearly burst right there, but he remembered something he'd been meaning to speak to her about. Something neither of them could bring up. He drew her closer and made sure to secure his arms around her so she couldn't escape.
"Weiss. Tell me how you're feeling."
Her heart lurched. W-what did he mean? No! I'm not ready!
His voice dropped to a whisper. "About that night."
She leaned into him and stared into his chest. She wasn't brave enough to look him in the eye for what she was going to say.
"I was scared." Her voice might as well have been a whisper of the imagination. Jaune had to strain his ears to make sure he heard right. "But I knew you would come for me. Don't ask me how. I know it sounds silly, and completely illogical, but I knew you wouldn't let me get hurt." She looked up at him with over bright blue eyes. Her thin waist began to tremble ever so slightly. "Do you remember the initiation, when we were falling from the Nevermore?"
He nodded, unsure how much longer he could stand the tears welling in her eyes.
"Do you remember what you said to me? After we hit the ground?" She clutched lightly at his shirt.
"Yeah..." They'd promised to take care of each other.
She smiled sadly. "N-No one ever really wanted me. So, it meant the world to me that you'd say something like that to me, a complete stranger. I've been so lonely, I—"
The well of emotion burst and consumed every sense in his body. All that he could register was the young woman in front of him. He lifted her chin up. "Oh, forgive me Weiss. I can't hold it in anymore."
Jaune bent down and lightly captured her lips in his own. They felt soft and cool against his own. He combed his hand through her hair and gently pushed against the back of her head, deepening the kiss. He fully expected her to push him away, to shove him and encase him in ice for the rest of his pitifully short life. But that didn't happen. A shock of pleasure lanced through his lips as hers began to move in response. He could feel her arms move up around his neck, pulling him closer to her.
He licked her lips and she opened them with a soft moan. Their tongues danced together in harmony for the first time. Their minds were serene, and their hearts beat with joy. Their arms tightened around each other as the world fell away. They didn't move when the first droplets of water leaked through the glowing ice dome. They only held each other tighter when the dome finally fell away and the sheets of water fell upon them.
Their hands combed through each other's hair tenderly. Their lips separated for only a moment before they came together again in a flurry of rapid fire kisses. Jaune broke away again and Weiss mewled sweetly. He peppered her scarred cheek with kisses, kissing all the way around her forehead, to her other cheek and up to her tiny nose, before pressing his forehead to hers.
They panted heavily, gazing into each other's large, passion inflamed eyes. Rain dripped from their noses and their hair clung to their cold skin.
"I'm sorry." Jaune growled. "I got carried away. I'm so—"
Weiss got up on her tip toes and silenced him with a searing kiss.
Well, there we have it, Chapter 11. Sorry it took so long, but our internet crapped out at work and i was stuck doing actual work for a change. And Chapter 12 is on the way!