The Name of the Game

a RWBY/The Gamer crossover, SI.

Arc 1: New Game +

Chapter 2: Training Montage (part I)


Smack.

Smack.

Smack.

[Repeated struggle has caused your VIT to increase by 1!]

"Onee-sama, how long is onii-chan going to keep doing that?"

Joan sighed, shaking her head. "I don't know, dear."

Leaning closer to me, she watched as I drove my forehead into the palm of my hand again with a meaty smack. "Did I break him?"

"No, Jun, I think your brother is just being overly dramatic," she deadpanned, drawing my attention and coincidentally bringing a halt to my self-harm at the prospect of my Semblance setting me up for first class tickets straight to the special hell—the one reserved for child molesters, and people who talk in the theater.

"Ha. Ha ha ha, haaaa. Ha," I returned, equally deadpan. "You're not the one whose Semblance just ordered them first class tickets to the special hell."

Joan rolled her eyes. "It can't be that bad."

Grabbing her arm, I pulled her outside of hearing range from Jun before pulling up the quest details and quietly reading them off. "It's that bad," I finished.

"Pfft, no," Joan countered. "Bad would be if there were no out. But right there at the end, it gives you the option to let her down gently. You don't have to do the quest, just because it's there. You can either intentionally fail it, or fulfill the requirements for letting Jun down without breaking her heart."

I shook my head, gesturing towards the smaller redhead, who was not at all even pretending to not be eavesdropping. "I don't think that's possible. And if it is, I have no idea how to do it before I go to Beacon."

"Jaune, you don't have to," she pointed out. When I shot her a confused look, she asked, "Is there a time limit?"

"No..." I admitted, my mind slowly spinning up to turn out ways to deal with the situation. If there was no time limit, the situation may just resolve itself…

Great minds think alike, as Joan finished my thought for me, "Then take some advice from your 'onee-sama,' and ignore it until it sorts itself out. Besides, if she's 'dating' you, she's not out there dating some other boy."

Despite the fact that until I woke up in Remnant I hadn't even known these people, familial loyalty reared its head—it was something I remember being raised with from a young age. Family means everything. Which made me wonder, why on Earth or Remnant didn't I care that I didn't remember my own family? I had lived on my own for ten years before waking up here, but I recall being close to them… No, I was done worrying about it. If I came across something leading me to figure it out, great. If not, I would have to accept it and move on. My choice was made, after all. "I suppose you're right..." I paused, then shot her a suspicious look. "That is why you all made the onesie, isn't it? Not out of love, but to scare off any potential girlfriends."

"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about," Joan denied, but the sparkle of mischief in her eyes and the way the corners of her lips twitched made me suspect otherwise.

"Fine," I agreed, heaving out a sigh. "That still leaves the issue of my Semblance thinking incest is an okay thing." Joan slowly averting her gaze gave me pause and I narrowed my eyes at her. "Joan? It's not okay, is it?"

With a sigh of her own, she shrugged. "It depends on the circumstances. The twins have already decided they're sharing whoever they end up with and everyone is pretty much okay with this."

'Did I wake up in bizarro world? I don't remember this in the source material,' I wondered, slowly shaking my head. Then again, Monty made RWBY with things like 'anti-fanservice combat skirts' that didn't properly obey gravity in mind. I had a few options for interpreting this, then. Option one: this wasn't the source world and was, instead, some fringe offshoot loosely connected to it somewhere in the multi-verse. It was entirely possible, given that I was here and I had this screwy Semblance. Option two: this was the source world and the people where I came from… embellished a few details and glossed over others, for the sake of producing something enjoyable for a larger target audience. Option three: some combination of the two. Eh, it's not like it mattered. So long as things stuck close to canon as I knew it, I'd be fine. "You know what? Screw it. Nope. I'm done. Training now, please."

"Right," Joan agreed, moving away and picking up a wooden sword and shield before tossing them at me one at a time. A moment later, she tossed two more swords at Jun, who caught both. "Jun. Do your thing."

"Hai, onee-sama!" the girl shouted. I turned to look in the redhead's direction and bring up my guard and, out of the corner of my eye, she disappeared in a streak of red. In between one moment and the next, something slammed into my midsection and suddenly I was looking at the sky.

[Repeated struggle has caused your VIT to increase by 1!]

[Alert: A skill has been created through a special action! Through the endurance of pain and damage, the skill Physical Endurance has been created!]

[Physical Endurance: Level 1. Passive. A skill that makes the body's durability increase, reducing damage taken. Physical Endurance was obtained by enduring pain and physical attacks. Effect: 3% reduction in damage from physical attacks.]

"Jun! Tone it down, please," Joan called from the sidelines.

I rolled onto my stomach and forced myself to my knees, the pain in my abdomen disappearing shortly after it registered courtesy of Gamer's Body. "Awe, okay. Sorry, onii-chan!"

"It's okay," I grumbled, not entirely agreeing. Holding up a hand for her to stop, I decided I might need a visual aid. "Stats. Transparency," I muttered, quickly adjusting the slider and setting my stats page so that I could see my HP and MP and still see Jun clearly through the window. Currently, my HP was down to 191 from my new maximum of 230. If I assumed that I received the new maximum after damage was taken, then Jun's attack had cost me either 39 HP or 29, or 19 if my HP hadn't filled up after face-palming myself hard enough to gain a point of VIT. Then again, maybe my HP regen had filled that up, but because I was in battle it hadn't yet refilled my current HP? Either way, she hit hard, so I didn't want to be on the receiving end of that again.

Standing, I settled myself into what felt like a good stance for a sword and shield, shield out front held in my left hand and sword down and slightly behind me in my right. 'It worked for Link, anyway,' I reasoned. "Okay, can we try that again at like… one-tenth speed?"

Jun nodded and began to slowly approach before Joan shook her head. "One-quarter speed, Jun. We don't have time to screw around. We have a month to beat the weakness out of him, and if Jaune's body is like a video game character then we have some advantages. Firstly, he should heal if he rests for a while—right?" she asked, and I nodded slowly in confirmation. "Secondly, the greater the difficulty, the greater the rewards." It seemed that when it came to training, Joan was all business and a graduate of the…

[A quest has been created!]

[Not in Kansas: Obligatory Training Montage, The School of Hard Knocks (part I)]

[Despite her sweet exterior, Joan Arc is a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks and a certified badass. Survive training under her tutelage and unlock your own inner badass, or die trying!]

[Rewards: 4000 EXP, skill(s), title, increased closeness to the Seven Deadly Sisters. Failure: not an option.]

That confirms it: my Semblance has a sense of humor. A crappy sense of humor, but a sense of humor nonetheless. In fact, I might go so far as to say that my Semblance is a troll. Still, troll or not, it was offering up things I wanted—no, needed. If I was going to survive in this new world, I would need every advantage I could get. Whether that meant I had to use every dirty trick in the book and invent a few of my own, or put in a lot of hard work to get there, then so be it. As had already been proven, I could increase my stats through actions—successful rolls, taking damage, and I was sure physically training would also increase them. In most games, it's easier to increase those skill points at lower numbers through training than from higher numbers.

Put another way, getting from 10 to 11 was far easier than going from 20 to 21—if I dumped ten points into STR, the training I was doing would be wasted, whereas by doing the training I could theoretically gain between three to five free skill points on average per level, if not more. More points earned through work as opposed to bought through the level reward points was a good thing, as it meant I could save those points for a while and use them when I really needed them. In a game, power is all about who has the bigger numbers, and any option to increase those numbers was worth taking. My Semblance had made my life something of a game, but despite that the real world around us was anything but—and I intended to come out on top.

Accepting the quest, I brought up my guard and focused on Jun before gesturing with my wooden sword in a 'come hither' motion. She closed the distance between us in a whisper of motion and my arm rang with the vibration as her right sword smashed into it in a hard slash, threatening to knock the shield-shaped piece of wood from my hand. Gritting my teeth, I clenched my fist tighter around the hand guard and pushed her back, swinging in with my own sword.

[Strenuous activity has caused your STR to increase by 1!]

[Alert: A skill has been created through a special action! By successfully blocking a hit, you have created the skill Shield Mastery!]

[Shield Mastery: Level 1. Passive. Through the act of blocking a sword strike, a skill to block blows with a shield was created. Effect: successfully blocking an attack with a shield will reduce damage received from melee attacks by 75%. Successfully blocking a ranged attack will reduce damage received by 90%, however, your unenhanced Shield Mastery is vulnerable to ranged Armor Piercing attacks. Successfully blocking a Dust (magic) attack will reduce the damage taken by a variable amount depending on the type of attack used but will not negate splash damage. The higher Shield Mastery's level, the more damage the skill can absorb, up to 100%.]

[Shield Mastery's level has increased by 1!]

[Alert: A skill has been created through a special action! Attacking with a sword has created the skill Sword Mastery!]

[Sword Mastery: Level 1. Passive. Through sword training, you have created a skill to freely attack with swords, Sword Mastery! Effect: 10% increase in attack damage with swords, 10% increase in attack speed with swords. The higher Sword Mastery's level, the more damage you do with a sword!]

[Sword Mastery's level has increased by 1!]

My blow was parried and pushed aside, leaving me wide open. A small, booted foot came up and planted itself in my chest, knocking me off my feet. I hit the ground but old reflexes from martial arts training kicked in and I found myself rolling backwards and onto my feet.

[Alert: A skill has been created through a special action! By successfully recovering from being knocked off your feet, you have created the skill Recovery!]

[Recovery: Level 1. Passive. Through the act of recovering from a knock-down blow in battle, you have created a skill to quickly regain your footing, Recovery! Effect: roll back to your feet if knocked down. Recovery speed increased by 100%. The higher Recovery's level, the faster you recover. You can even chain attacks into a recovery!]

I held up a hand for Jun to stop, but Joan intervened. "Keep going. Grimm aren't going to stop attacking because you need to close a window."

"Fine," I grunted, blocking another attack and jumping backwards to gain some space. Flipping my sword around into a reverse grip for a moment, I began stabbing my finger at the buttons to close the windows. Taking shameless advantage of my distraction, Jun came in quickly and threaded a three-hit combo of blows into my non-existent defense on my right side. She wasn't hitting nearly as hard as before, but I still took a combined 25 damage.

Slowing down momentarily as I made ground again, Jun sent an uncertain look towards Joan. "Why isn't onii-chan using his aura to block?"

"You can do that?" I wondered aloud, before rolling my eyes. "Of course you can do that. Give me a second here." Focusing inward, and feeling Meditation activate to aid the effort, I quickly drew upon my mana—my Aura—bringing it swiftly into the visible spectrum as a white glow surrounding my body.

[Alert: A skill has been created through a special action! By channeling your aura, the skill Aura was created!]

[Aura: Level 1. Passive, Active. You have discovered the ability to manifest the light of your soul, allowing you to push your body beyond its limits and light the way in darkness, Aura!]

[Aura Passive effects: 30% increase to all physical and mental stats, 10% increase to LUK, HP and MP regeneration increased by 100%.]

[Aura Active effects: additional 30% increase to all physical and mental stats, additional 10% increase to LUK, HP regeneration increased by 100%, 25% damage reduction, allows the caster to use Aura Strike. Cost: 15MP/minute base. Using more MP increases Aura's bonuses and HP regeneration speed.]

[ Alert: A skill has been unlocked through a special action! By activating Aura you have unlocked Aura Strike!]

[Aura Strike: Level 1. Active. Aura Strike, an ability to empower your strikes with aura, was unlocked by activating your Aura! Effect: Increase damage dealt by physical melee and ranged strikes by 150%. Cost: 10MP.]

My grin may have gone a little feral, if the sudden look of surprise on Jun's face was anything go to by. I had every right to feel a little cocky as I closed windows and watched my HP steadily ticking back up. At a mana cost of 15 per minute, given my current MP I could keep my Aura going for something like 45 minutes. If it came down to a battle of attrition, I had a feeling I would win—so long as I didn't run out of HP first. With my higher MP, based on the skill description, if I focused on my Aura I could dump mana into it to flash heal back up to full HP then drop my mana output back to its base of 15 per minute—meaning, theoretically, unless she one-shot me I would out last her. "Alrighty then. Round two. Bring it, squirt."

The surprise on the littlest sister's face quickly passed, to be replaced by the same determination I had seen earlier. Instead of talking, she swept in into a quick chain of combos. Where before, the gap between our abilities had been seemingly insurmountable with her stats in STR and DEX being much higher than my own, with my Aura active that gap had closed measurably. I was still working at a handicap, but I could feel my higher INT working to make up for it somehow—namely, in this instance, by breaking down Jun's attack patterns. Jaune's—my—little sister was fast, yes, but she was supposedly moving at a quarter of her true speed and, more importantly, she was predictable. Still, predictable or not, she was stronger than I was. Outright blocking her strikes would see me eating damage at a reduced rate, but gaining STR and/or VIT. However, the smart thing to do would be to avoid damage entirely by parrying…

Six strikes into an impressive combo, I back-stepped and swung my sword up, putting it on an intercept course with her left blade's path. Wood clacked against wood and the blow passed harmlessly to my right. On my left, another hard blow swung in and I decided to compromise, bringing my shield up and channeling my Aura into my shield and the rest of my body to brace for the impact before taking the full brunt of the attack.

[Alert: A skill has been created through a special action! By channeling your aura into a tool and/or your body, you have created the skill Reinforcement!]

[Reinforcement: Level 1. Active. Reinforcement was created by channeling aura into your body or a tool to absorb a blow with reduced damage. Effect: Using Reinforcement on a tool will increase its durability, Aura penetration, and absorb Dust-type damage using your Aura (mana) instead of your HP. Using Reinforcement on your body reduces damage taken from all sources by 20%, absorbs damage using your Aura instead of your HP, and increases your physical stats and skills by 20%. Increasing the level of Reinforcement will reduce casting cost, mana used to absorb damage, and further increase your physical stats and damage reduction. At higher levels, Reinforcement will even add your INT to your physical stats. Cost: 10MP/minute.]

That was… very useful. Overkill, if I ever leveled it enough to add my INT to pretty much anything. However, as much as I wanted to use it now, I knew that by taking damage now I would be increasing my base physical stats, which Reinforcement would then boost even further. So, as much as I didn't want to, I turned Reinforcement off. Watching my HP drop slightly, I parried another strike and waited. Four strikes later, I smirked as several windows popped up letting me know I'd gained points in STR, VIT, and DEX. I was surprised, however, when a fourth let me know I'd gained a point in WIS. I suppose I'd chosen the wisest course of action, then. The gap between our stats came a few points closer to even.

Feeling bold, I waited for the opportune moment, and it wasn't long before I had one. Parrying another of her left-handed blows hard enough to throw her off balance, I stepped in and swung. "Aura strike!"

The blow connected and I watched Jun's HP drop from 400 to 341—some quick mental math told me that damage calculations rounded down from the nearest decimal, which would likely also apply to stats. Aura Strike's level increased, as did Sword Mastery, and I dismissed the notifications as Jun hopped back to gain distance. "Onii-chan! That hurt! It's gonna leave a bruise!"

"Sweetie, that happens in training," I reminded gently, though mentally chided myself for forgetting that I was the only one here with a body that wouldn't bruise or scar and would completely recover after either a set time period resting or after sleeping. However, what she'd said reminded me of something important. "But it wouldn't be nice of me to leave my sparring partner all bruised up, now would it?" I asked, and she shook her head while puffing out her cheeks and huffing out an annoyed breath. "I got a couple of books from the healer earlier. Skill books. I'm pretty sure they'll teach me how to heal. Want to be my… research partner?" I almost said 'test dummy,' but I figured that wouldn't go over well. Improved charisma for the win. I'd never been that tactful in my previous life. Generally I hadn't cared if something I said hurt someone's feelers—people were too sensitive and needed to grow up if a few poorly spoken words hurt their precious feelings. I still didn't care, truthfully—family being the exception—but the difference was that now I actually put in the effort to look like I cared.

"Un!" Jun nodded, suddenly all smiles. "But if you can heal, that means I can go up to half speed, right onee-sama?"

I turned my gaze towards Joan, who was sending us a considering look. Finally, she nodded. "Try it out and see how it goes."

"Crap," I grunted, intercepting another series of blows as Jun renewed her attack. Even as I pushed myself to the limit, blows began slipping past my guard again and my HP began steadily falling. As I watched it swiftly hit the 50% mark, I began getting desperate. I needed some way to close the gap again. 'Come on, think! Sword and shield or no, I'm a caster at heart. Use magic to even the playing field. I need to be faster…' Focusing my mana on that thought and repeating it like a mantra, I had to contain a shout for joy when what I had been hoping for happened—the system, my Semblance, interpreted my will and provided results.

[Alert: A skill has been created through a special action! Focusing your aura on increasing your speed has created the skill Haste!]

[Haste: Level 1. Active. Out of a desperate need for speed, the skill Haste was created! Effect: Increase movement and attack speed by 100%. Cost: 10MP/minute.]

That wasn't enough, though. Speed by itself wouldn't be enough to beat an opponent with equal speed but better reflexes or a higher DEX score. Besides, one of the largest dangers of moving at a higher speed was the inability to react to changes in the environment fast enough to avoid or counter them, along with potential tunnel vision—Hatake Kakashi of Naruto fame being the first example that came to mind. What I needed was a way to directly boost my DEX, and subsequently my reflexes. Seeing as skill creation had worked intentionally once before, I gave it another try.

[Alert: A skill has been created through a special action! Focusing your aura on increasing your reflexes has created the skill Reflex!]

[Reflex: Level 1. Active. Out of the desire to increase your reflexes, the skill Reflex was created! Effect: Increases DEX by 25%. Cost: 10MP/minute.]

Shooting Jun and Joan a grin, I jumped back to gain some momentary space. "Haste! Reflex!"

Jun blinked, suddenly unsure. "Uh oh."

While her DEX was still higher than mine, it was only barely so—and if I was right, Haste would put me above her current level of speed. Leaning forward, I sprinted into an attack. Lifting my shield and channeling my Aura, I smashed into her hastily thrown up crossed-sword guard, knocking the much smaller redhead off her feet. I ignored the pop-up about creating a skill, Bull Rush, and pressed the advantage while I had it. With Jun temporarily stunned, I came in with a sword combo. Four strikes landed with the flat of my blade, stitching a pattern up her left side and ending with a tap to her head. As I continued to attempt to press my advantage, Jun rolled away and pushed off the ground with an aura-enhanced shove before spinning into a defensive whirl of blades, forcing me to back up or risk eating what looked very much like a skill attack.

Panting, the girl eyed me with an unholy light in her eyes. "Onii-chan, that was awesome!"

"Glad you think so, sweetie," I chuckled, already planning my next offensive.

"Just for that, I'll show you what I can really do!"

[BGM Image Song: Rhythm Emotion unlocked!]

'Wait. What? No! I'm just barely keeping up as it is!' my thoughts turned somewhat frantic. As I watched, the words over her head suddenly changed. Where before, her title had been 'Divine Child,' it now read 'The Red Comet.' 'Oh, fuck me…'

"Full throttle!" Jun disappeared and once more, I found myself going ass-over-teakettle. This time, I was privy to the feeling of a veritable hailstorm of strikes smacking into my body from seemingly all angles as the girl became some sort of human blender, at least three times faster than she had been before. 'Half speed' my ass. My HP bar dropped rapidly before settling on a tiny sliver of red as I hit the ground. "Six. HP." I managed to gasp out, prompting the tiny redheaded terror to stop her assault. I promptly ignored the alerts about my VIT, STR, and Physical Resistance leveling. 'Note to self: create some sort of Flash Step technique. As demonstrated, it's useful.'

"Oh no! Don't die, onii-chan! I still have to marry you!" Jun yelled, accompanied by the clatter of wooden swords and a small body impacting my own as she wrapped around me in a hug, which did another two points of damage.

"Are you okay?" Joan asked, suddenly reverting back to the kind older sister persona.

Eying my HP and watching it quickly beginning to tick upwards under the effects of my Aura as I shunted mana to it, I nodded. "Yeah, but I think this calls for a break."

Joan nodded. "I agree. You did good, though."

'And that was against a level 8. This is going to get rough,' I mused, nodding absently. A moment later, I received another alert. Several, really.

[Quest Not in Kansas: Obligatory Training Montage, The School of Hard Knocks (part I) completed!]

[You gain 4000 EXP]

[Your level has increased by 1!]

[By out-thinking your opponent, you have earned the title: The Strategist.]

[Your INT has gone up by 1!]

[Your INT has gone up by 1!]

[Your WIS has gone up by 1!]

[Your WIS has gone up by 1!]

Blinking, I narrowed my eyes as I thought back to the quest rewards offered. Apparently, a quest could grand you rewards in the progress of completing the quest, considering all the skills I'd gained in a single training session. It almost seemed unfair, except I knew that there were mitigating circumstances. For instance, firstly: my higher INT likely helped in the creation of new skills. Secondly, most games tended to create new skills either as you did things or bought them depending on the type of game. It wasn't uncommon to gain or unlock a dozen core skills in the span of a few minutes, then spend the rest of the game leveling those up—Bethesda games were bad about that. Pick up a sword, start leveling sword mastery. Cast a spell with the other hand, start leveling magic. Get hit while doing that, gain physical resistance. And so on, and so forth. Nine skills over the course of a battle with a superior foe was honestly shorting me, by that standard. If Jun hadn't pressed so hard and had given me some time to think and experiment, I could have moved on to creating magical attacks and defenses. I made a mental note to work on that soon. First, I wanted to check out my new title.

[The Strategist: On and off the field of battle, you see the bigger picture and act accordingly. Level 1. Effect: Increases INT and WIS by 15%. Increases rate of INT and WIS gain by 100%. Increases INT and WIS gain in combat situationally.]

More INT and WIS was good, faster points gain was better. With any luck, it would offset the difficulty of gaining those points as I gained them. That last bit, however, took me a minute to work out. My best guess was that if I fought smart instead of simply charging in, the title would reward me with either more points or a much higher rate of point gain. 'Well, this changes things,' I hummed, thinking it over. I would have to rework my combat style a bit. I had planned to anyway, but this forced the issue if I wanted those points. Being a tank-style physical fighter wasn't going to work for me—it wasn't my play style and my character build already leaned towards a caster class. However, having those skills to fall back on if I either ran out of mana (not likely) or an enemy closed into melee range (much more likely) would be the wise choice.

More importantly, I knew magic—my Aura—could directly affect my physical skills, Reinforcement being case in point. I didn't need to be a straight melee tank—I could become a mage tank. I'd seen it done before in games—statting out a mage with a high STR and VIT and throwing them in heavy armor. Alternatively, I had played caster classes that could switch between high-damage caster abilities and tank-like abilities that increased physical stats like defense, dodge, HP, armor and that sort of thing. Becoming a mage tank wasn't my first choice, however—just a very good fall-back in the event something got in close and I couldn't shake it. No, my first choice would be some sort of rogue/mage hybrid. According to pretty much everyone, hybrid builds suck. As far as stats went, I had to agree. However, from what I could tell, the stat system and the skill system were only loosely connected. I could train each independently, at the same time.

For instance, if I trained with my buffs active—Aura, Haste, Reflex, and Reinforcement so far—then just by having them active and using them, their levels would increase. When I ran out of mana, I could rest and meditate thus increasing my mana regen, then quickly go back to training. If I used a sword and shield at the time time, the mastery of those skills would go up as well. However, if I worked in some stealth element somehow, I could create and level some stealth-related skill at the same time. Come to think of it, I had to check the description of Meditate, because with a high level of mental discipline—which my stats pretty much confirmed I had—I should be able to actively meditate while training, and so further increase my mana regeneration rate and prolong the time I could spend training before having to stop. It was worth looking into. The secret to being a munchkin in any game system where you could use and train multiple skills simultaneously was to use as many as possible at the same time or stack them in such a way that things such a Meditate, which increased mana regen, leveled to the point where its benefits allowed a character to stack even more skills at the time time.

Pulling myself from my thoughts, I turned my attention towards Jun. The small redhead was still recovering from her exertion and now rubbing at a few of the places where I'd hit her. Remembering my earlier agreement, I opened my inventory and removed the first of the two skill books.

[You've obtained the skill book Beginner Level Aura Examination! Would you like to learn this skill?]

Reaching out, I tapped the Yes button.

[You cannot learn this skill! Required INT: 15. Required WIS: 20.]

'Balls,' I groused, closing the window and taking up the other book.

[You've obtained the skill book Beginner Level Aura Healing! Would you like to learn this skill?]

'Yes. Obviously.'

[You cannot learn this skill! Required INT: 20.]

I dropped the books back into my inventory in disgust. I just got a title that would increase my ability to gain points in INT and WIS. Spending what few points I had now to learn these skills would be a complete waste of both the points and the title. Except if I didn't, I'd made myself a liar. That was something I couldn't stand for. I hadn't been lying when I'd told Jun I don't go back on my word—my word is my bond and has always been, it was just a coincidence that the Arc family had taken it as their credo. I couldn't learn the skills from the books yet since I wouldn't throw away points needlessly and I wouldn't break my promise, so that left only one option. ''Only those who try will become,' huh? I suppose my Semblance epitomizes that...'

Moving closer to Jun, I brought up a hand and rested it on her upper arm, over the forming bruise—which was already turning nasty. "I have to ask before I try this, but why don't you use your aura to heal that?"

Jun stuck her tongue out at me in response. "I haven't learned how to do that yet, onii-chan."

'Uh huh, right. I call bullshit. My money says she just wants attention. Oh well, it's not like I'm put out here or anything.' With that in mind, I channeled magic into my hand and focused on trying to heal the little imp.

[Alert: A skill has been created through a special action! Focusing your aura on healing someone else has created the skill Heal!]

[Heal: Level 1. Active. The Heal skill was created to heal others of their wounds. Effect: heals the target for your INT score. The healing effect can be sustained to heal damage equal to your INT/second for increased mana cost. Range: 10 meters. Cost: 15MP/second. Increasing the level of Heal will decrease its mana cost and increase its range.]

Watching the bruise immediately disappear, I let out a quiet chuckle. Seeing my success so far, I decided to try my luck on creating a heal-over-time skill.

[Alert: A skill has been created through a special action! Focusing your aura on healing someone else unattended has created the skill Regen!]

[Regen: Level 1. Active. The Regen skill was created to heal others of their wounds without attention from the caster. Effect: heals the target for your INT score 10 times over a period of 60 seconds. Range: 10 meters. Cost: 150MP/60 seconds. Increasing the level of Regen will decrease its mana cost and increase its range.]

'Okay, that's it. I'm sitting down and making a list of spells I want based on crap I already know from other sources,' I decided. Scooting away from Jun, I gestured towards her arm. "There, all better."

"Thank you, onii-chan, you're the best!" the girl gushed, closing the distance I'd made and latching onto my side like a limpet.

Sighing, I shook my head and checked my stats. I was still down on MP after all of that, so I needed to spend a few minutes meditating to get it back up to full. Looking up at Joan, I asked, "Any other ideas for the day?"

The eldest sister shook her head. "No. After all that, Jun needs a break. Someone needs to work on her stamina." The youngest sister pouted and I rolled my eyes. "Besides, I know someone has homework, too."

The pout intensified, if it were possible. "But onee-sama, I want to help onii-chan!"

Joan wasn't having any of it, however, as she displayed complete immunity to Jun's pouting technique. "Your brother can help himself for a while. You need to go do your homework while I work on fixing something for lunch. If you finish your homework and it's correct when I check it, then I'll let you train with Jaune. Now scat, young lady!"

"Fine," Jun whined, stealing one last hug before trudging towards the house as if the weight of the world were on her shoulders.

I sent Joan a curious look. "Not going to help me train yourself?"

The Eldest Deadly Sister smirked, faintly. "Well, I wouldn't want to break you on accident," she shrugged nonchalantly. "Besides, I figured you could use some self-study time to figure things out for yourself. We can train you in the physical aspects of things and a few of the finer points of aura manipulation, but it looks like you're already using your Semblance to catch up. Tell me, what level are you? And what level is Jun?"

I knew she was already doing the math to try and figure out how I could do what I could, but I wouldn't lie to her—at least, not directly. "I'm level 3, she's level 7. Because of various stacking bonuses, my HP is pretty close to hers. My STR and DEX are lower than hers, even with bonuses, by a lot. I only caught up there for a bit because she was holding back and wasn't expecting me to suddenly be able to increase my threat level like I did—it won't fool her again. Other than that, most of it was me exploiting my higher INT and WIS scores. Jun's predictable, and so long as I'm even remotely close to her speed it means I can parry or block whatever she throws out. Essentially, I'm using magic—or Aura, whatever—to 'cheat.'" I said cheat, but really, I didn't believe in fair fights to begin with...

"There is no such thing as cheating in battle, because there is no such thing as a fair fight," Joan put what was on my mind to words and I sent her a nod in agreement. "Honor in a fight for your life means absolutely nothing when you're dead. Oh, sure, everyone could say 'he fought honorably,' but what they're really saying is 'he died by being stupid.' The other guy fought dishonorably, but guess who gets to go home and who gets to go into a pine box. Of course, grimm have no honor, so it's a moot point..."

"Except when it's not," I added quietly, and she nodded. It seemed we were on the same page—not every battle would be against the grimm.

"Anyway, yeah, you need to figure out what works for you. If that's being a close-in fighter, great. If that's acting as support for your team, that's fine too. Whatever works best. Play to your strengths," she advised. Standing, she brushed off her pants. "I'll call you when lunch is ready."

"Sure you don't want any help?" I asked, partly out of a sense of obligation and partly out of genuine desire to cook something. I knew my way around a kitchen and hadn't gotten any complaints yet.

Joan blinked, sending me a curious look. "Since when do you know how to cook? Is cooking a skill?"

Shit. I didn't realize Jaune might not know how to cook. Tapping into my higher charisma, I chuckled in what I hoped was a sheepish manner. "Well, yeah. That's kind of a big thing in some games, you know? In fact, I bet if we've got some old cookbooks laying around the kitchen, I could eat those as skill books or recipe books, depending on how the mechanic works. Maybe there will even be bonuses or buffs or something..."

Joan hummed then shook her head. "Maybe tonight. I'll see about gathering up a few of the older ones we don't use any more—stuff we've already memorized."

"Okay then," I agreed and the elder blonde walked off. Sighing quietly in relief, I shook my head before pulling up my stats and pausing as I was about to focus on my meditation. Despite the intense training we had finished just a few minutes ago, my HP and MP were full. Thinking back and doing some mental math, I knew I should be down something in the neighborhood of 300MP. There were a few possibly causes for that. Firstly, leveling. In most games, when a character levels, their HP and MP are restored to their new maximum. I had abused this mechanic myself a few times during particularly tough boss battles, by setting things up beforehand so that I could level off of adds—that is, additional mobs summoned by a boss to harass a party or character as a DPS and gear check. There was another option, however…

Tapping the part of my stat sheet that displayed my WIS modifier, I found the mana regeneration mechanics. 'Okay, by default I regen my WIS mod worth of MP per minute. However, the passive effect of Aura increases my regen rate by 100%. Meditation increases that an additional 100% when active… My base WIS is 13, before modifiers. The Outsider title adds 20 points from my 'previous save data' and then 30% on top of that, which makes it 42.9. Aura passively increases that by another 30%, which makes it 55.77. Strategist adds another 15% for 64.136—and at that point, I see the system rounds from the next decimal place. My modified mana regen from just Aura's passive ability would be 128.272MP/minute. Calculating that without The Outsider… 19.435 base WIS mod and a mana regen of 38.87, which makes sense. No, titles—or at least The Outsider—are… not broken, considering it's MAX level and I have no idea what that level is as a numerical value. Besides, looking at it another way, the description says it allows me to load 'save data' from a previous save—my old life. At age 33, even if I'd gained a level every third year, that would still have put me at 11, multiplied by 5 skill points per level leaves me with 55. I have 'imported' 30 INT, 20 WIS, and 10 CHA, which tells me… that the charisma is a base 'average' score, meaning I only really 'spent' 30 points total there. The rest must have gone to physical stats—probably VIT… No, there were no skill points in my previous life, meaning these numbers have to be a raw interpretation of what I had and could have had given points. If 10 is 'average,' then 30 would have been above average—so, fairly accurate.'

Shutting down that train of thought, I focused on the important parts. Namely, with my stats the way they were, I could regenerate MP faster than Aura being active could burn it—and with Aura on and increasing my WIS score another 30%, I would just regenerate MP that much faster. Realistically, I could run all my buffs at the same time—Aura, Haste, Reflex, and Reinforcement—and occasionally cast heal and still have MP to burn. It would be getting close to breaking even, however… And if I had 'broken' stats I may as well abuse the shit out of them. Activating my Aura, I whispered, "Haste, Reflex, Reinforcement."

My MP immediately ticked down by 45. Sixty seconds later, it ticked down another 45 and then ticked back up to full as my mana regen kicked in. Since I could leave those on with no strain, that freed me up to experiment. However, an idea occurred. While, yes, I probably could just recreate more techniques from the games of my world with my Semblance, it might be best to go hunting around for skill books for techniques native to Remnant, for a few reasons. Firstly, to see if I could just learn some things the easy way instead of having to make my own skills. Secondly, for ideas for making my own skills if I couldn't use the skill books by default. Thirdly, while I had a long, long list of spells and skills in mind from having played many a video game and read many a Player's Handbook, if similar skills already existed in Remnant there was no point in creating them myself when I could just find a book to learn them from. Besides, even with my ridiculously long list, I couldn't think of everything.

Checking the upper right corner of my field of vision, I found it to be just after 3PM, Saturday, of a year and month I had no frame of reference to identify. It was cool and sunny out and from the looks of the local flower population blooming, it was spring. That made sense, seeing as most schools started courses in the spring—and with a month or so before Beacon would induct a new group of students, I had to assume it was early spring if they were starting in mid-to-late spring, the way schools tended to where I was from. Rolling to my feet, I opened my map and began examining the City of Vale.

My map was a ridiculously useful thing. All of the streets were shown and labeled as were all of the train lines. Several other lines across the map were unclear to me, but a look at the key provided an answer: they were local flight paths. For instance, there were flight paths from Beacon Academy to a terminal in every district, each of which also served as a train terminal for the local tram/subway/street car routes. In addition, there were flight paths between each of the terminals—so one could go to the Residential District's terminal and take a flight to a terminal in any other district. The terminal in the Commercial District, however, had several flight paths that lead off the map. If I had to guess, those were international flight paths, leading out of Vale.

In addition to the streets and other means of transit being helpfully labeled, some buildings were as well. For instance, Beacon Academy, the police station in each district, a hospital and several smaller clinics, and most importantly for me at the moment public buildings such as the library. Tapping the building in question set a waypoint and, after a moment of hesitation, a line highlighting the fastest route displayed on both my map and minimap. It looked like this route would send me mostly along the same route we had taken to get here—out to the main road, then from there north across the Residential District to one of the bridges, across the river, then into the eastern section of the Commercial District.

My first stop would be the house, to let Joan know what I was going. I liked her and I felt bad about the situation, me walking around as some impostor taking her brother's place—however, with no way to get the original Jaune back, the least I could do was keep her from worrying needlessly. Opening the back door, I followed the sounds of quiet conversation towards the kitchen, activating my Listen skill almost as a reflex now. "I don't know, mom. He's just so… different now."

That caused me to freeze. I was in the hallway leading from the back door of the house to the main living areas, running parallel to the stairs leading up to the next level. At the moment, I was hidden from view and the back door had opened and closed with very little noise, so odds were good she wasn't aware of my presence—if being distracted by her phone conversation didn't keep her from noticing in the first place. It probably made me a horrible person, but I wanted to know what they thought about me—mostly so I could figure out how to avoid suspicion. Slowing my breathing, I slowly leaned against the wall and waited.

[Alert: A skill has been created through a special action! Sneaking around had created the skill Sneak!]

[Sneak: Level 1. Active. Sneak was created to allow you to sneak, skulk, hide, move silently, and avoid notice while doing morally questionable things! Effect: increases stealth and suppresses the user's Aura signature by 200%, allowing the user to hide or move silently and avoid detection by those sensitive to Aura. In crowded or highly visible areas, allows the user to blend in with a crowd and go unnoticed. While under the effects of Sneak, movement speed is reduced by 200%. Leveling up Sneak will increase its effectiveness and decrease its movement penalty.]

That was useful—I was a rogue and a caster at heart, really. Stealth and magic were my preferred methods of play, especially if I could combine them. Once more, I tried for skill creation, focusing my magic towards turning invisible.

[Skill Creation failed! Required INT: 100]

[Alert: A skill has been created through a special action! Repeatedly creating skills has made the skill Skill Creation!]

[Skill Creation: Level MAX. Passive. A skill to create more skills was created by failing to create a skill, Skill Creation. Effect: creates new skills based on your INT score. The higher your INT, the more powerful the skill created.]

Okay, so there were limits. Also, it seemed the system had taken what I'd been treating as a hidden skill and made it an overt skill. Hidden Skills were actions a character could perform that didn't show up in their skill list, but were sometimes buried in the manual somewhere. The wording though… it pretty much outright stated that Skill Creation rolled off my INT mod and not my base INT. If that was true… A quick check of my stats confirmed my current INT to be 81.627 without my aura active. If it ran off the modifier as opposed to the base, that meant I could boost my INT mod to meet the prerequisites… It was absolutely broken, but I would take shameless advantage of it. It was something to play with later, however, as Joan was speaking again.

"Well, the healer said she didn't have a clue. All her scans came back normal. She wanted to send us to Atlas to have some Schnee machine poke around in his brain. … Yeah, Jaune and I agreed that was a bad idea too, though he was more worried about the cost than them breaking something important. … He claims he doesn't remember anything about us, and I'll admit his memory seems spotty in places about other things. He was genuinely surprised when he saw the family photos. … Heh, yeah. The look on his face was priceless. Wish I'd had a camera. … No, mother, I'm not saying it's a bad thing but I'm not sure it's a good thing either. Look, I loved Jaune to death, but even I could admit he could be a bit of an ass at times, not to mention thoughtless, inconsiderate, selfish… What? It's true! I don't really blame him, most teenagers are."

"Onee-sama, I like onii-chan better this way. He doesn't push me off when I hug him. Can we keep him like this?" Jun asked, clearly sitting in the kitchen with her eldest sister.

Joan sighed. "What? No, mom, Jun just agrees with you—she says she likes him better this way. And I'll admit, the change in attitude is an improvement. But there's more to it than that. He says he doesn't know anything about us, or himself, but despite that he seems absolutely self confident. I swear, it felt like I was dealing with an older brother and not a younger one at times. It… it was actually kind of nice. … Shut up, I am not!"

"Are too!" Jun teased and I rolled my eyes. Yeah, I'd been where Joan was a time or two, with family that would take relentless advantage of any perceived weakness to tease.

"Look, I'm just saying it's weird. And he's driven, now. Before, it was always this desperate attitude to live up to the rest of us. … Yeah, it's like he has some kind of goal in mind. No idea what, though." Joan was silent for a moment, listening to her mother's reply, and when she began speaking again her tone had gone cold. There was a lot of unspoken anger there, and I had a feeling it was all about to come out at once. "No, it wouldn't be bad if he were stuck like this, but we both know that you're not suggesting that because he's a better person. Jaune's never been good enough for you. … No, you listen. Between the six of us, before Jaune and Jun were both, we set the bar impossibly high for either of them. You said it was because he was your only son and you wanted him to carry on the family name, but the truth is that you, and dad, and Mama Lily all thought that forcing him to do it on his own would make him stronger. I heard you talking about it, mom. Remember? You said you already had six butterflies. Well, you were right. Congratulations, Jaune's a moth. It only cost him everything that made him Jaune."

Her voice had risen into a near shout by this point. Sometimes, I hate being right. I couldn't exactly blame myself for this, since it seemed all of this had been festering for a while, but I still felt guilty driving a wedge between children and their parents. "I'll take whatever tone I damn well please, because you know I'm right. I think you've already done enough damage. Jaune may be a moth, but he's my moth now. I'm not going to let your actions, or inactions make this any worse for him than it already is!"

Sighing quietly, I pushed off the wall and eased my way over to the door. Opening it, I closed it hard in its frame and started walking towards the kitchen, making sure my steps were heavy enough to be heard as I dropped Sneak. I knew what Joan was talking about—I'd heard the parable of the moth and the butterfly before. The harder it is for a moth to free itself from its cocoon, the stronger the moth winds up becoming. Cut open the cocoon and you're left with a weak moth, which winds up easy prey for birds before it has a chance to reproduce. I understood all of that, and I could see what she said made sense—after all, parents with successful or brilliant children tended to be even harder on the children that came after, to push them further. My own brother lived in my shadow for years because I'd set the bar high academically… and then situations reversed themselves as he went on to have kids and I never seemed to truly connect with someone worth going that far with. It really wasn't all that surprising that Jaune's parents would set up an environment designed to force him to become stronger by doing it with no help. In a way, they were right.

In another way, they had gotten their son killed and they didn't even know it, because I was walking around in his body. Joan seemed to realize that, even if she didn't realize that I was some sort of body snatcher, and she had apparently become very defensive—the girl had a case of mama bear syndrome. Hers just expressed itself differently from the classic 'protect at all costs' mentality, considering she was not just willing to let 'Jaune' become a Hunter but had had transcripts forged for him to go to Beacon. She wanted him to succeed, to get stronger, and likely surpass their parents' expectations. It made the guilt I felt at replacing her brother all the worse. If she ever found out, it would likely break her. 'Then I suppose I'll have to make sure she doesn't.'

Calling up that higher charisma, I stepped into the kitchen and smiled at the sisters, as though I hadn't just heard the entire conversation. "Hey. So, I had an idea."

"Oh?" Joan asked, setting a couple of plates with sandwiches on the table and taking a seat.

Taking a seat in front of the third plate, I nodded. "Yeah. Instead of spending my time trying to develop new skills, it would be a lot easier—not to mention faster—if I could find a readily available source of them."

"Such as…?"

I lifted the sandwich and took a bite, humming in appreciation. It was really good… I paused as I noticed something. Opening the sandwich, I saw that in addition to chicken, it also had tomato and lettuce, and of course some sort of spicy brown mustard. I don't like lettuce, or tomato. At all. They taste horrible. And yet… and yet, Jaune apparently liked them, as it registered as appealing to his taste buds. Shrugging, I put the sandwich back together and took another bite. Swallowing and washing it down with water, I answered her question. "The library."

"And how were you planning to get there?" she asked in a tone I recognized from my own teenage years, ignoring her food to focus her blue eyes on me.

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. "I have a map, remember? I'll backtrack on the route we took to get out here, then take a train or something."

Jun looked up from where she'd been eating her own sandwich with one hand and doing what looked like trigonometry with the other. Trig—at her age. Must be a Hunter thing. "But onii-chan, aren't skill books usually destroyed when they're used?"

"Uh… maybe?" I hedged. I had hoped they wouldn't notice that.

Joan raised an eyebrow. "I'm pretty sure the library would be annoyed if you ate their books. That, and we would have to pay to have them replaced since you wouldn't be able to return them once you checked them out."

I chuckled softly before quietly clarifying, "I wasn't planning to check them out?"

Joan shot me a deadpan look while Jun laughed. "So that's a skill too! Are you going to level your stealing skill, onii-chan?"

"Yes, 'onii-chan,' were you planning to level your stealing?" Joan asked with an arch look.

In response, I assumed the most affronted look I could. "I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about."

Joan's lips twitched, fighting a smile. "Uh huh. If you get caught, I'll let you stay in jail."

"But onee-sama, onii-chan is too pretty for jail! Some Bubba will make onii-chan his prison bitch, and then I can't marry onii-chan!" Jun protested and I damn near drowned on the water I had been sipping.

"Where did you learn that?!" I croaked at the same time Joan deadpanned, "Well then he'd better not get caught."

I blinked, Joan's words registering as I turned to observe her. Just for the sake of being thorough, I even used Observe on her, which by now was at a high enough level to tell me her emotional state. Joan's emotions were listed as worried, cautious, and hopeful… which didn't tell me much. "You're willing to go along with this?"

"No," Joan denied, tone flat and serious as she continued. "I'm sure you're just going to go to the library to read up on a few things and then come right back. If you happen to pick up a few skills in the process, then it must be a coincidence."

I chuckled at the girl who was seven years my junior. 'So long as you don't know about it, you won't object, huh?' I mused. Fine, then. I could work with that. Quickly finishing my sandwich, I washed off my plate and left it in the sink. "I'll be back later."

"Jaune," Joan called as I made for the front door. Looking back, her crystal blue eyes met mine. "Be careful. And be back by dinner."

[A quest has been created!]

[Trust Issues: Joan's Request]

[Your sister wants you to come back in time for dinner—and also, not get arrested.]

[Rewards: 1000 EXP, increased closeness with Joan. Failure: Decreased closeness with Joan, decreased trust from Joan, increased nagging from Joan, possibly becoming a prison bitch. Time limit: Before 8PM.]

Of course, nothing was ever easy.