Author's Note: I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of interest and feedback this story got in only a couple of days. The amount of follows, favorites and reviews exceeded anything I could have hoped for. So I want to thank everyone who took the time to do any of that, or just read period. I know from experience in both reading and writing that getting invested in a new story is a hard thing since you never know if the author will just get bored with it and stop. However just like with Letters to Winter I will do my best to update this on a fairly regular basis.
Also just to answer a question that more people might have, I've decided to make Jaune a bit more competent in this story than he is in canon. The main reason is because I didn't want to just rewrite all of the learning and training he went through in Letters to Winter, where his character is basically in line with how he is in canon. So here Jaune has had some huntsman training from his father and his Aura is unlocked. Hopefully this change will offer a different experience.
Miltia Malachite stared at herself in the mirror. What looked back at her was a face that had been stripped of the copious amounts of mascara and eye shadow she wore on a regular basis. Right now in the privacy of her home there was no one to impress. No need to keep up appearances. This was her in her most bare and vulnerable state. It was an awful feeling.
The previous night both she and her sister Melanie had been thoroughly demolished by the blonde girl who came into their club looking for a fight. The stranger had certainly gotten what she came for. After disposing of the hired help it fell to Melanie and herself to deal with the nuisance and teach her a lesson. They had tried their hardest. They had given it their best shot. However even with their tried and practiced teamwork, even with their Semblances, the blonde had still beaten them.
She could still hardly believe that her Aura had dropped to the point where she had actually been knocked unconscious. She could not remember succumbing to such a state since her Aura had been unlocked all those years ago. It was a frightening thought. The idea of being so helpless and unable to do anything to protect herself still sent chills down her spine. Luckily she had not been alone. Melanie had watched over her like a hawk. Much to her surprise her sister had not been the only one.
Miltia looked down at the bandage on her right hand. The material was a clean and sterile white color, save for the dark brown blotch in the middle of her palm. The blood from her wound had dried over night to produce the color, and Miltia wasted little time getting rid of the now unnecessary dressing. Pulling the neat bow that had been tied around the top of her hand made it seem like she was opening a gift. In a way she was. The boy, Jaune, was it? Jaune had tended to her out of the goodness of his own heart and asked for nothing in return. It was a rare commodity in her line of work.
Looking at her flesh she saw that the cut she had suffered the previous evening had vanished, healed by her Aura. A good night's sleep had allowed it to recover, and it had doubtlessly went to work mending the dozens of tiny abrasions and contusions that she had suffered all over her body.
Thinking back on the previous night it was amazing just how bad of shape she had been in. After getting her drunken sister to crash face first down onto her bed, Miltia had the sense to go take a shower in order to cleanse the filth from her body. There was a lot of it too. Even fully dressed there had been a fair amount of dust, dirt and grime that had been able to find its way onto her as a result of rolling around on the floor courtesy of the blonde girl. Being sent crashing through a glass decoration had not helped either.
But those cuts and scrapes were gone as well. Her body was still a little sore, but she almost felt as good as new. Her ego on the other hand would take far longer to recover.
Perhaps a decent meal would go a long way in making her feel better. Food often did that for her, and the sweeter it was the better. Melanie may have had her less than wise vice of alcohol, but Miltia's own weakness was chocolate. It didn't matter what kind. Milk, dark, white. It could be plain, it could have nuts, it could have fruit. As long as it was chocolate it made her happy. It was a way to earn her favor, as Melanie had picked up long ago during their childhood, and Junior had figured out shortly after meeting them for the first time.
Looking over to the bathtub she stuck a finger in to test the temperature. Satisfied that it was hot, but not too hot, Miltia decided it was time to leave. After exiting the washroom she made her way down the hall to the staircase that would take her to the bottom floor of the club. Junior was no doubt already there overseeing the cleanup process and figuring out all of the logistics involved with getting the place rebuilt in a timely manner. Since it was still morning he would most likely have something to eat as well. The thought put an extra spring in her step as she approached the door to the staircase.
She was stopped in her tracks when she heard the most miserable sound imaginable come from one of the many doors which lined the hallway. Considering there was only one other person currently inhabiting the floor right now there was no doubt as to who the sound came from. Even if there had been other possibilities, Miltia would have no trouble picking out the owner of the noise. It was one she had heard a great number of times over the years. She was certain that the girl on the other side of the door had only chosen to make a sound right at this very moment because she had heard Miltia walk by.
Without bothering to knock or speak, she opened the door to her sister's room. There, lying face down in her bed exactly where she had been left the night before, was Melanie.
"Miltia..." she said weakly. The girl knew who it was without even having to look.
Miltia huffed as she crossed her arms in front of her chest. "Yes, Melanie?"
"Help... me..." she said. Her left arm extended out from the bed ready to be grasped.
It was a familiar scene. Melanie may have been able to drink nearly every one of the club's patrons under the table, but even she had her limit. It just so happened that nine times out of ten she surpassed that limit when she started drinking. Self-control was not her elder sister's strong point. The fact that Melanie was a few minutes older than her vexed Miltia. The older sibling was supposed to be wiser and more mature. However Melanie displayed neither of these traits.
With a slight tilt of her head that her sister would not be able to appreciate, Miltia played coy. "What do you need help with, dear sister?"
She received a muffled sigh from Melanie's mouth which along with the rest of her face was buried in her pillow. "Oh my gods, just help me already!" came the equally muffled, but now annoyed words of her sister.
Miltia saw how her twin's hand began to clasp open and closed repeatedly as an indication that she wanted it to be taken. The girl was making no effort to move herself and was still flat on her stomach with her head so firmly planted in her pillow that Miltia thought it might have been filled with liquor.
She took a few steps towards the bed and reached out to take hold of her sister's hand. Melanie's grasp was understandably weak, and it was up to Miltia to grab her by the wrist and do most of the work in pulling her up. Slowly but surely the white-clad girl was pulled to the edge of her bed, her left leg falling off the side and down to the floor followed soon after by her right. A few seconds later the girl was standing on her feet the best she was able to. It took a fair amount of support from Miltia to keep her wobbly knees steady.
Miltia looked her twin up and down. She was still wearing the filthy, blood and dirt stained white dress of hers that she had fallen asleep in the night before. It was not surprising, as she would not have expected her sister to wake up, change and then go back to bed.
Taking a look at the bed she saw that now it was dirty as well. Typical. "I suppose you expect me to have your sheets washed too, right?"
Melanie mewled, burying her head into her sister's shoulder. "I'm sick, Miltia," she whined. "You have to like, be nice to me."
Miltia grabbed the other girl by her shoulders and gently pushed her away. Melanie's clothes reeked of alcohol and her breath smelled like vomit. It was effective in ruining her appetite. This was something that she did not want to happen.
"You're not sick. You're hung over and it's your own fault."
Melanie's response was another miserable groan. "I'll totes be your friend forever if you do it for me..."
"I'm already stuck being your sister forever," Miltia countered. "That'd be like, a downgrade."
"Exactly! You're all I have in this world," Melanie wailed pathetically.
Miltia couldn't prevent a small smirk from creeping onto her face at the sight of her sister's exaggeration. "We both have Hei and you know it," she corrected her. "Stop being such a drama queen."
For a few seconds Melanie was silent as she looked down to the floor. A moment later her green eyes met their twins once again. "You're all I haaaaaave!" she repeated as a hand weakly grasped onto the front of Miltia's shirt, somehow managing to sound even more pitiful this time.
With a small shake of her head, Miltia wrapped an arm around one of Melanie's and led her out of the room. Tiny moans of pain passed through the older sibling's lips with each step as the bright lights of the hallway hit her eyes. She reacted as if she had just stepped out of a cave to see daylight for the first time in years.
Maybe she was still half asleep, or maybe her brain was still half drunk and it had taken a few seconds for her to realize she was moving, but finally Melanie spoke. "Where are we going?"
"The washroom," Miltia answered. "Because you're such a sloppy drunk that you need to clean yourself up before going downstairs."
Melanie scoffed indignantly. "Pffffffffft. I'm not a drunk you're a drunk."
Miltia rolled her eyes at the ridiculous comeback, and rather than responding verbally merely brought her free hand up and flicked her sister on the side of her head.
The tiny action resulted in an disproportionate reaction from the other girl. "Owww!" she whined. "So not cool!"
"Whatever," Miltia said with a shrug. "But if I'm not cool would I have already drawn a bath for you?"
Melanie sniffed dramatically. "You did?"
"Did you use the lavender scenty stuff?" she asked hopefully.
Miltia sighed. Sometimes having to put up with her sister's hangovers was like dealing with a child. "Yes, Melanie."
As they neared the washroom she was stopped as Melanie pulled her into a hug. She wasn't strong enough in her current condition to pull her sister off-balance with the unexpected gesture. "Love you, sis!" she said with unbound affection.
Miltia smiled softly as she returned the embrace. "I love you too, Mel."
She watched as her twin sauntered into the washroom, already working to remove her ruined dress before shutting the door behind her.
The younger girl lingered there for a few seconds just to make sure Melanie didn't require anything else before she stepped in the bath. After she was satisfied that there would be no such requests, Miltia returned to her quest for food on the first floor of the club.
The building had once been an old and unused apartment complex before Junior had taken it over. It was little wonder, as being in one of the bad neighborhoods of Vale made it a fairly unattractive place to live. In time it had lost its profitability and the land lord looked to sell it for a relatively cheap price. Junior had swooped in and taken the owner up on their offer. Shortly after he had taken to the streets and began dishing out his own brand of justice, soon bringing the surrounding blocks under his heel. He was a dangerous man, a former huntsman with the skill to back up his ambition. This combined with his hired help had ensured that his club quickly became one of the prime locations to spend an evening in Vale.
That was true until that bitch came by and ruined everything.
Miltia pushed open the doors which led to the main staircase of the old apartment building. Directly below her on the third floor was the storage area, where all kinds of equipment and supplies for the club were kept in order to keep the space meant for entertainment clean and orderly. Below that the first two floors had been completely renovated and converted into the familiar dance floor and surrounding dining areas. She could already hear the sounds of work going on as she neared the bottom of the stairs.
Dim sounds exploded to the forefront of her senses when she pushed open the last set of doors to reveal the bottom floor of her home and business. Around her were familiar black-clad men, only now instead of wielding guns and bright red blades they held mops, brooms and shovels. There was an incredible amount of debris that needed cleaning, and Miltia doubted that they would be finished when was time for them to leave. She couldn't imagine the amount of lien that Junior would lose not only from the rebuilding process, but also from the lost business. However she was confident that he would survive. He always did, and if he couldn't do it by himself then she and Melanie would be there to help.
She saw him sitting at the bar, his scroll pressed up against an ear as his free arm waved animatedly in conjunction with what she assumed was a heated conversation. He wore his usual attire, a white buttoned up shirt and black pants. The clothes appeared to be clean and fresh since he had no doubt thrown out the ruined set from the previous night. Miltia looked down to her own outfit and felt woefully underdressed in comparison. Her grey sweatpants and dark red tank top would just have to do until she could go out and replace her own favorite dress. It didn't matter to her, however. She was certainly not trying to impress anyone at the moment. Not when it would just be Melanie, Junior and the hired help.
As she neared the counter she could not suppress the tiny squeak of delight as she saw a pair of bags sitting next to him. Wasting little time she pounced upon them, opening up the larger of the two to find a plain white box inside.
Junior may not have been able to cook, but he did know how to pick out the best variety of donuts and other pastries for breakfast. Opening up the box her optimism was rewarded as she looked over the dazzling array of sugary goodness waiting to be devoured. Picking out a chocolate donut with chocolate icing she took a large, less than lady-like bite and closed her eyes in pure bliss. This was just what she needed after having such a horrible night.
The man next to her also never failed to remember the coffee. She saw his tall, cardboard cup sitting in front of him as he continued chatting on his scroll. She had no doubt it would be black with no sugar. She also had no doubt that the second bag contained a pair of pumpkin spice flavored coffees for her and her sister. If there was one thing she and Melanie could agree upon, it was that pumpkin spice was the best.
The minutes dragged by, and as Junior finished a call with one person he would immediately begin another. Miltia never realized just how much effort went into running this place. Nor did she realize just how many parties would be required to fix it. The parts of the one-sided conversation she was picking up painted a clear enough picture. Regularly scheduled deliveries would need to be stopped for the immediate future. This included copious amounts of alcohol along with foodstuff and other essential supplies. Certain services to the first two floors of the building would also need to be shut off to prevent any further damage as a result of accidents involving electricity, gas and dust. All in all there were a headache's worth of scroll calls that needed to be made just this morning. There were certain to be more to come later.
Miltia lazily spun in the stool she sat on and brought her half-drunk coffee to her lips. All around her men continued to work and clean. Heavy black garbage bags were hefted out the back door to waiting dumpsters in the alley. However even once they were gone there were still always more bags waiting to be filled. The occasional spill occurred when glass shards or splintered wood would tear a hole at the bottom of a bag, forcing the men to curse and repeat the cleaning process over. She was simply happy she was not a part of it. One of the many perks of being at the top of the food chain.
Eventually she heard her sister approach from behind, the telltale clicking of heels sounding on the tile floor able to be heard even over the dull noise of men at work. Miltia turned to see her sister in a state of dress which was better than her own, but still below their usual standards. A plain black skirt clashed with the tight-fitting white top that Melanie wore, her hair bound in a ponytail after stepping out of her bath.
The look on her sister's face silently asked what Junior was up to as she approached from behind the man. Miltia gave a soft shrug in return, more as an excuse not to have to explain everything she had overheard in the past twenty or so minutes rather than genuinely not knowing the answer.
Junior was apparently clueless as the girl approached, still busy on his scroll speaking to whoever was next on his to-do list. Melanie took advantage of the ignorance, bringing both of her hands up and flapping her fingers together to imitate two mouths talking to one another.
Miltia brought a hand up to her lips in an attempt to stifle a giggle but failed miserably in doing so.
The man next to her noticed this from the corner of his eye and looked to her before following her eyes up to Melanie. He threw an arm up in silent frustration before standing. "One moment," he told the other party as he started walking away. Once he was a few feet from them he continued his conversation. "Can you repeat that?"
Melanie triumphantly took the now empty seat next to her sister before reaching over to snatch the taller bag on the counter. "Ooh, pumpkin spice," she said cheerfully.
"Someone's feeling better," Miltia said with smug satisfaction.
Her twin reached over to grab Miltia with her right arm and pull her into an awkward embrace. "All thanks to you, baby sis!"
The younger twin was content to sit with her head pressed up against Melanie's side for a few seconds before the white-topped girl released her. Luckily the brash action had not resulted in either of them spilling their hot drinks on themselves.
"Only by a few minutes," Miltia argued.
"Yeah, but I got like, so much wisdom in those few minutes," Melanie countered. "You wouldn't understand."
Melanie looked back to where Junior was pacing back and forth near one corner of the bar. "So what's Hei doing?"
Miltia shrugged. "I dunno. Talking to a bunch of construction people and stuff."
Melanie next reached over to the box containing the remaining breakfast pastries. Miltia had made sure to pick out all of her own favorites and devour them before her sister had finished taking her bath. It was yet another penalty for the girl waking up in such a hung over mess. Perhaps she would begin to learn her lesson if she was stuck with the leftovers for breakfast every time she decided to go on a bender.
Her annoyed snort was a clear indicator that she was not happy with her choices. "Wow, Hei sucks at picking out donuts," she complained.
Miltia turned away to hide her guilty grin. Little did her sister know that Junior had excellent taste. For one of them at least.
The older twin grabbed what looked to be a jelly-filled donut, looking over it with scrutinizing eyes as if it had just fallen on the floor. Not that she ever would have eaten anything which had fallen on the floor to begin with, of course.
"Whatever," she sighed in defeat before taking a bite of it. The dark red jelly which oozed from the hole confirmed Miltia's suspicions. It was such a shame her sister would not be able to enjoy any of the chocolate choices she had greedily taken for herself.
"Could be worse," Miltia told her as she looked over her shoulder to see the henchmen continue working. "You could be them."
"Don't even joke about that, Miltia," came her sister's reply.
Minutes came and went as the two chatted over their coffee, neither of them bringing up the painful events of the previous night. Miltia was happy for that. The memories were not ones which she wished to relive.
Melanie brought up the idea of going shopping later in the day to replace their ruined clothes, and truthfully it sounded like a fine idea. They would be able to get out of Junior's hair, get away from the loud and filthy cleaning which was going on, and be able to just have a good time hanging out together in Vale.
As the two were finalizing their plans they noticed that Junior was approaching them. He was finally off his scroll and moved to take the seat on the other side of Melanie.
"Your friend's coming by in a couple hours," he told them.
Miltia frowned. Friend?
"Who?" Melanie asked for the both of them.
"The kid," he clarified. "Jaune. The one who... helped you out last night."
Miltia remembered now. Melanie, in her drunken state, had convinced Junior to take the kid up on his request to have false transcripts made so that he could enter Beacon. Aside from a little bit of extra lien in their pockets, the idea had been brought up to be able to use him for favors on the inside of an actual hunter's academy should they ever need one. It was one of her sister's better ideas in recent memory. Perhaps her brain benefited from alcohol where most others suffered from it.
"Right. That was like, my idea, right?"
Typical Melanie. She could barely even remember what she had said the night before but still wanted credit.
Junior sighed. "Yes, Mel. Your idea."
The girl grinned happily at the praise. "What time is he coming?"
"Around one o'clock."
"Oh." Melanie pulled her scroll to check the time. "That's like two hours from now."
Miltia rolled her eyes. "Yeah, Hei said a couple of hours."
Miltia looked down to her right hand where a bandage had once covered her wounded hand. Perhaps she would have to thank the boy for his help once he arrived. For now, however, she needed to change. Lounging around in such casual attire was fine for a barely occupied club, but it would not do out in downtown Vale.
As Melanie and Junior started up another conversation, Miltia pushed her seat away from the bar counter and started her journey back up to the fourth floor where her room, and a far nicer pair of clothes, awaited her.
It was amazing seeing Vale in such a different light. Quite literally too.
It had been less than twenty four hours since Jaune had walked the streets of the city in his quest to find Junior's club. At night it was a different world where bright colorful lights lit up the best parts of the city, while the dim, orange-white lamp posts illuminated the harsher areas. Junior's club happened to be located in the latter part.
Jaune could hardly believe his luck. He thought that his dream had been shattered. In only a few words from the mouth of the club-owning criminal he had been sent away. When he had time to reflect upon the situation he could understand why. He was angered, saddened and bitter, but he understood nonetheless. The last thing the man wanted to deal with at the moment was some stupid kid with aspirations of becoming a huntsman. There were wounded men lying all around a destroyed nightclub, two beautiful young women who had been thoroughly thrashed by some unknown assailant, and the owner himself looked as if he had not been absent from the action. Jaune had chastised himself for being so immature. For acting like their little conversation from several days earlier actually meant something to Junior.
However things changed earlier in the morning. Jaune had woken up without the aid of the alarm set on his scroll, much to his chagrin. He had been unable to fall back asleep. All he could do was lay back in the bed of his hotel room thinking about how he was going to explain things to his family. After all, he had woven the tale of being accepted into a prestigious art school. He was supposed to have been gone for several months before a semester break would give him an opportunity to return home. At the time he had thought long and hard about what other lie he would tell the people he loved the most. What excuse could he have given to be kicked out of the school so soon?
Luckily he had not had to think for long.
Jaune had received a message from the last person he had expected. Junior contacted him agreeing to their previous terms and told him to come back to the club in the early afternoon. A smile of truly epic proportions had erupted onto Jaune's lips as he jumped out of bed, pumping his fist into the air like a madman. It was going to work. He was going to be able to attend Beacon after all. All he needed to do was get his transcripts from Junior and send them in before the deadline. Then he would be all set.
Somehow the poorer parts of Vale looked even worse in the daylight. Here no flaw or blemish could be concealed by the darkness which night provided. Buildings which looked passable at night could be seen for what they truly were. They were dull, filthy, wretched places where few would choose to live willingly. And yet in the center of it all, like a gleaming beacon of light, was the club. A diamond amongst the pile of coal. Or at least it used to be.
From the outside Junior's place still maintained its relatively clean appearance in comparison to the rest of the neighborhood. It was still a rather uninspiring building on the outside, but inside it was the pinnacle of Valean nightlife. At one point, anyway.
Jaune still did not know the details of what occurred the night before. He doubted that he ever would. However at this point he wasn't overly-curious. All he wanted was his transcripts and then he would be on his way to never bother Junior again. He was fairly certain that the man felt the same way.
Going through the alley as he was told to do Jaune could see that the backdoor of Junior's club was open. As he neared he saw a familiar man in a black suit exit with a heavy looking garbage bag in his hands. Swinging it back and forth to build momentum the man heaved the bag up into a waiting dumpster before wiping his hands on his pants.
Even through the dark red sunglasses Jaune could see that his approach had garnered the man's attention. He stopped and glared at the approaching teen for long seconds until they were about ten feet apart.
"Can I help you?" the man asked in a gruff, intimidating voice. Clearly he had no intention of helping Jaune at all.
"Uh, yeah. Hi," Jaune said nervously. "I'm here to see Junior."
For a few tense moments the man stared at Jaune. Or at least Jaune assumed he was. He couldn't tell with the sunglasses covering the man's eyes. "You got a name?"
"Jaune," he replied.
More seconds passed. Finally the man nodded towards the door as an indication to follow. "This way."
Jaune nodded in acknowledgement as he fell in behind the man.
Going in through the back exposed Jaune to a different part of the club as he had experienced before. He was in the kitchen area now, a place which was unscathed in comparison to the rest of the place. Here large sinks, ovens and grills dominated the scene. Tables for preparation filled the center while cabinets lined the walls above the work stations. It was a very cramped environment, and Jaune could not imagine what it must have been like to work in a place like this when the business was open. It must have been total chaos.
But then again, wasn't that the life of a huntsman as well?
Eventually Jaune returned to the familiar sight of black, white and red. Already it was beginning to look better. Much of the smaller debris had been cleared from the floor, though there was still a long way to go in cleaning the mess.
Over in the distance he saw Junior, the man looking much better in comparison to last night. He appeared to be speaking with someone on his scroll, no doubt having to do with repairing the building. As he and the man in black approached Junior saw them and wrapped up his conversation.
"Look, I'll get back to you about that, right now I have to go," he said into his scroll.
With the press of a button the call was ended and Junior shoved the scroll into his pocket. He looked up at Jaune with an emotionless expression.
"Let's go," he said before walking over to a small flight of stairs.
The stairs led up to what might have once been the second floor of the building, but all that remained now was a ring of elevated tables and chairs which surrounded the massive dance floor in the center of the first story.
Junior sat at one of the few undamaged tables and motioned for Jaune to sit across from him. He did so, and for a few moments the two sat there in silence.
Jaune wondered if he should start or if Junior would. After all, the dark-haired man had invited him back. Then again, it was Jaune who had originally reached out to ask the man for his services. The blonde was just about to speak up when another of Junior's men came to the table with a tray in his hands.
The man set down a pair of small glasses along with a rather large clear bottle full of liquid between them. The label was facing away from Jaune, but he had no doubt it was some sort of alcoholic beverage. He looked up to see Junior nod to the man, and as quickly as he came he left.
Junior reached out to grab the bottle before twisting off the lid and pouring its contents into the two glasses. "So," he started before picking up his glass. "You want to be a huntsman."
Jaune looked as he saw the man dump the drink down his throat with zero effort. "Yeah," he replied. "You can help me with that, right?"
"I can," the man replied as he refilled his glass. He looked over to Jaune's glass before their eyes met again. "Not your brand?" he asked.
It took a moment for Jaune to realize what he meant. "Oh, no," he said. "I'm just not much of a drinker, really."
A guttural breath rumbled from Junior's throat. "I don't trust a man who doesn't drink with me while doing business."
There was a hint of a threat in Junior's tone when he uttered those words. It wasn't the threat of physical violence so much as it was telling Jaune that there would simply be no transaction today if he did not play by the man's rules.
The teen was quick to pick up his own small glass. Looking down at its contents for a long moment he brought it to his lips before tilting his head back, hoping to down it like he would a bottle cap full of awful-tasting cough medicine.
His reaction to the burning taste was somehow worse than that of drinking the medicine. He blanched, his mouth and tongue quivering in response to the taste. "Good stuff," he said with a pained smile.
Another grumbling noise sounded from Junior's throat before he pulled out a piece of paper and pen, placing both on the table in front of Jaune. "I need you to fill this out," he told the teen.
Jaune slid the paper over to take a look at it. Written there was a list of information that Junior required, presumably for the forged transcripts. Much of what he was asking for was the kind of stuff one might find on a person's basic medical profile. Things like height, weight, date of birth, and so on. However there were also a fair number of unusual questions that he had no answers for, mostly which related to past training experiences and schools. Jaune assumed that this was where Junior would come in, and that he would be able to concoct some sort of believable story for him.
Wasting little time, Jaune went to work filling out all of the information that he could. The transcripts would have to be believable after all. If they claimed he was a five foot eight brunette from Vacuo then he would be kicked out of Beacon before he even had a chance to go through the initiation process.
As Jaune worked he heard Junior refill his glass. A few seconds later he resumed the conversation. "So what's your angle, kid?"
He looked up to see the gruff-looking man staring him down. To say it was unnerving would be an understatement. "What do you mean?"
"You want to be a huntsman. Why?"
Why? Where did he begin? The Great War? The Faunus Rights Revolution? His father? There were a number of places Jaune could start. But he supposed the simplest explanation would be the best one.
"I want to be a hero," he explained. "Like everyone else in my family."
Junior snorted out a tiny laugh. "A hero," he said whimsically. "Is that so?"
Jaune's brow furrowed in confusion. It was a good thing too or else he might have given Junior a rather annoyed look at his mocking tone.
Nonetheless he wanted to know just what the man meant by those words. "What do you mean?"
"You know that shit isn't what it's like in all the stories, right?"
Which stories? The fairy tales of knights in shining armor rescuing the princess from the dragon? Or the tales his father told him as a child about his own father? About his own grandfather? Jaune had a number of stories and fairytales that he could recall with almost as much clarity as if they had happened to himself.
"Yeah, I know the difference between real life and fairy tales," Jaune told him.
Junior shrugged. "That's fine. Some don't." He looked down into the glass in his hand and swirled the drink around lightly. "What they don't tell you in the stories is that when you're a huntsman you're going to have to do dangerous things. Bad things. Shit won't be black and white anymore, and it isn't always as simple as rescuing the village from the Beowolf and being on your way. You have to do what you have to do, because completing your mission comes first and your own feelings come second." He drank his second shot of the conversation before looking back to Jaune. "Take it from me, kid. It's a hard life. One where you have to live with the consequences."
Jaune didn't know how to feel after hearing the explanation from the older man. One thing was for certain, however. Junior had once been a huntsman. It was a revelation which he knew that he wanted to hear more about.
"You were a huntsman?" he asked, a sliver of awe slipping into his voice with the question.
He grunted in confirmation. "That's right. Emphasis on the 'were'," he made sure to add.
"What was it like?" he asked. "Where did you go to school? And why aren't you one anymore?"
Junior held his hand up to stop the line of questions which had just come his way. "Not why we're here, kid," he said as he tapped a finger on the table, pointing at the piece of paper. "More writing and less questions."
The blonde nodded before he resumed filling out the necessary information. However it did not prevent Junior from asking his own questions.
"What kind of weapon do you have?"
Jaune's eyes drifted down to his left hip for a brief moment before they focused back on the paper in front of him. "A sword," he said simply.
There was a short pause before Junior continued. "Really? That's it?"
The question caused him to look up and saw a slight frown on the man's face. "Oh," he said thoughtfully. "And a shield. The sheath expands to make a shield."
Junior looked at him blankly before he grunted an affirmation.
Jaune had never been self-conscious about his weapon before. It was an Arc family heirloom. It was used by his ancestors first in the Great War and then in the Faunus Rights Revolution. It was strong and durable. It had razor sharp edges which could slice through armor as if it was paper. It would serve him well over the next four years.
"No secondary function?" Junior asked. "Nothing for ranged combat?"
Jaune frowned. Now he really was beginning to feel a little down on his trusty blade. "No," he admitted. "Just the sword."
The man hummed in thought. Jaune wondered why.
"Well, you know your strengths better than I do," he said. "All I need to do is get you in the door. You do the rest."
Those words picked up the teen's spirits. He was going to show everyone that he belonged at Beacon Academy. He would be a strong warrior just like his ancestors.
After he had completed Junior's list he passed the paper back across the table to the man. He picked it up and began looking over the information which Jaune had put down for him.
"You're Valean, right?" Junior asked.
Jaune nodded. "Yeah."
"Alright. Well as far as anyone at Beacon is concerned you grew up in Mistral."
He frowned in confusion. "Oh. Why's that?"
"Because if we say you studied at Signal there would be a lot of people there who wouldn't recognize you," Junior explained. "And that'd raise a lot of unwanted questions."
Smart. Jaune had to give the man that. Then again he would not have been such a successful criminal if he had not been smart. And he most certainly would not have been able to become a huntsman.
"Yeah. That makes a lot of sense."
"Right. Now to discuss the terms of your payment."
Jaune nodded. He reached down into his pocket to fish out his wallet. He hoped that the price was still the same. After purchasing his hotel room for the week, the ticket to Vale and spending money on food, he barely had anything left with what he set aside for the payment for his transcripts.
"Three hundred, right?" he asked with as much confidence as he could muster.
"No, forget that," Junior said surprisingly.
In an instant Jaune's heart sank. Surely he would not ask for more, would he? If he did then this meeting was as good as over. Jaune could simply not afford any more than that. He had planned and budgeted out his entire trip to Vale thinking that three hundred would be enough.
"H-how much then?"
Jaune bit down on his lip at those words. They were not what he had been expecting.
"What do you mean?" he asked nervously.
But before the conversation could continue, a loud, energetic voice tore into the serious mood which had formed around the two men.
"We're back!" the female voice announced.
Jaune looked down to see a pair of young women strolling the floor like they owned the place. Two very familiar girls in fact. Both with black hair, one wearing it shoulder length while the other's went all the way down to her lower back.
They were the two fighters from last night. And just like Junior they looked a lot better now than they had only a day earlier. Where they had once worn torn and dirty dresses, now one wore a black skirt and tight white shirt. The other wore a dark red tank top and a pair of dark blue jeans which hugged her figure tightly. Both were undoubtedly beautiful, and the fact that they no longer looked like they had just participated in a combat tournament emphasized that beauty.
He heard Junior emit a soft groan. "One moment," he said before standing up and walking over to the railing that overlooked the first floor. "I'm in a meeting right now," he shouted down to them.
Looking over in that direction Jaune saw the two begin to ascend the stairs to come directly towards them. Junior's reaction was less than favorable, but Jaune could tell from years of experience that the annoyance he displayed harbored no ill will in it. It was much like the reactions he himself sometimes had when his little sisters were being particularly obnoxious.
It took only seconds for the two girls to reach the top of the stairs. The lead one wearing white did not look impressed at Junior's words. "Bor-ring," she said disinterestedly. That was until she looked Jaune in the eyes, a sudden realization dawning on her. "Oh," she said with a semblance of surprise in her voice. "It's the little huntsman."
The words themselves were not particularly scathing, but Jaune knew that they were supposed to be taken as an insult. He was anything but little, standing an inch over six feet tall and a fair amount of muscle mass on his body. He was also anything but a huntsman. Not yet at least. However Jaune remembered the way she had spoken the word "huntsman" yesterday as if it were a curse word. The fact that she had called him it right now was not to be taken at face value.
She grabbed one of the two remaining chairs at the table, her sister taking the last one directly across from her. All four sides were occupied now, with a former huntsman-turned-criminal sitting across from him and two trained fighters on either side. Things could go south very quickly if he was not careful. Of course things could have gone badly for him with just Junior, but with so many potential foes nearby it was more obvious now.
Junior seemed resigned to the fact that they would not be leaving anytime soon. The breath he exhaled contained the sound of a man who was defeated. Jaune wondered who these two girls were if they seemingly had a criminal boss wrapped around their fingers. All three had black hair. Maybe they were related. Junior looked too young to be their father. Uncle maybe? Even brother? Their behavior would make a lot of sense if the latter was true. Jaune could relate all too well to annoying little sisters having no regard for his privacy.
"You three have already met," Junior said, the edge in his voice having vanished since the arrival of the girls. For some reason he seemed a lot less dangerous now. Maybe it was because of the idea that he was just a huge softie with a pair of younger siblings.
Jaune shook his head slightly to drive the thought from his mind. He could not lose sight of the fact that this man was a trained killer and an extremely dangerous criminal. He needed to always be on guard. Maintain focus. That's what a huntsman would do.
"Mhmm," the girl in white said. Melanie was it? Aside from the hair they looked identical. But if his memory served him correctly then the longer-haired girl was Melanie. "So whatcha doing?"
"Business," Junior reiterated. "Your oh so brilliant idea, remember?"
A look of recognition formed on her face. "Oh yeah. How's that going?"
"Fine until a pair of distractions walked through the door."
Melanie laughed sarcastically. "Please, if I'm a distraction it's only 'cause I'm so hot." She turned her gaze toward Jaune. "Isn't that right, blondie?"
Jaune moved his lips to say something but the words would not come. They wouldn't even form in his mind. He didn't know what to say, not because he was uncomfortable or caught off-guard. He simply did not want to die today. To say the wrong thing would be to die either from one of the girls or from Junior. Instead he chose to say nothing.
The girl smirked at his silence. "Yeah that's right. You're speechless."
It was technically true, just not for the reason she thought. In any case it was an out and he would take it.
Jaune couldn't help but notice how Melanie was by far the more talkative of the two. In fact the other one, Miltia, had not spoken at all since arriving. He looked in her direction to see that she had been regarding him as well. When their eyes met her head quickly turned and her gaze shifted down to the table. She seemed to be more interested in looking down at her hands which were resting there than talking.
"Moving on," Junior interrupted. "We were just about to discuss the terms of our arrangement before you two walked in."
"Oh right, you mean the thousand lien he was going to pay us?"
Jaune's eyes widened a little bit at that, prompting him to finally speak up. "Um, i-it's only three hundred."
The girl spun back around to look at him with a finger leveled toward his face. "You shut your mouth, little huntsman."
"It's Jaune, actually."
"Both of you shut up," Junior said, the slightly louder than normal volume of his voice expressing his displeasure. "It's not a thousand," he said as he looked over to Melanie. A moment later he turned to Jaune. "And it's not three hundred either. Like I said, the payment will be a favor of my choosing."
Melanie huffed in annoyance, the air from her mouth hitting her bangs to lift them momentarily. "Whatever."
Junior took a deep breath to calm himself before he continued. "As I was saying, you will be performing a task for me tomorrow night if you want these transcripts done in time for Beacon's enrollment process. Think you can handle that, kid?"
Jaune frowned for a moment as he wondered just what that task might be. "You're not going to have me kill someone, are you?"
The laughter which burst from Junior's mouth was unexpected. He obviously could not even entertain the thought of Jaune taking another person's life in cold blood. Jaune supposed that was a good thing.
"No, don't worry about that," the man reassured him. "No killing. Not even fighting. This is going to be a little reconnaissance mission. Some real, genuine huntsman work."
Jaune nodded. A little bit of recon seemed simple enough.
"Alright." Junior folded his hands on the table in front of his glass. Perhaps a sign that things were getting serious now and that it was time to get down to business. "Some of my boys were hired for a job recently. Thing is, I don't know what it is. I didn't ask, and the guy who hired them didn't tell. In our line of work you try and go along revealing as little as possible about what you're doing. Following me so far, kid?"
The blonde nodded again. He didn't feel he needed to say anything yet. Not that there was anything important he could say anyway.
The man accepted his answer and continued. "After I got hit last night though, I want some answers. The bitch who trashed my club came in right after I got finished making my deal. May be a coincidence, may not be. That's where you come in. You're going to tail the guy who hired my men and find out where he's going, what he's doing, and why. Still with me?"
Jaune thought it would be better to vocalize his answer this time. Sitting across from a person who did nothing but nod might get annoying quickly. And Junior was not someone he wanted to annoy.
"Yeah," he said. "I got it."
"Good." Junior took another sheet of paper and began scribbling down details onto it before passing it across the table. "They're going to rendezvous with the man at the time and location written there. I want you to be there too. Follow, observe, and gather intel. When it's finished you come back here and report to me. Got it?"
Jaune took the paper and read the information multiple times before folding it. He kept it in his hands rather than stuffing it into his pocket. "Yeah." Holding the paper in his hands confirmed that this was real. It was going to happen. He was going to be doing what was essentially a mission for this man. His payment would be a ticket to Beacon. Doubt sparked in his mind. "You really think I'm ready for this?"
The criminal boss leaned back in his seat with folded arms. "You said you wanted to be a huntsman, didn't you?"
"Yeah," Jaune confirmed. "I do."
"Then consider this a dry run for the real thing. If you can do this then you deserve to get into Beacon. And you will, if you succeed."
Jaune believed Junior when he said those words. Junior had been there after all. He had done that. He knew what it went into forging the transcripts from experience. Just like he of all people would know what it took to be a huntsman.
There was one thing that just didn't sit right with Jaune, however. "Why not just ask your men where they went and what they did?"
The older man's shoulders shrugged once with silent amusement at the question. "Are you kidding me? My boys are as loyal as they are intelligent." Junior glanced over to the railing where below them on the first floor of the building those very men continued to work. They were unaware of just how little their employer regarded them. Or maybe Junior was correct in his assessment and they didn't care what he thought of them so long as he continued to pay them. "They'll turn on me as soon as someone comes along and outbids me. It's why I don't trust them with anything important. It comes with the territory."
That dose of truth surprised Jaune. While he may have known that the seedy criminal underworld did not inspire much confidence in those who were a part of it, hearing it spoken so plainly to someone who was not a member of that crowd seemed unusual to him.
"And you think you can trust me?" He didn't know if he should feel flattered or concerned.
Junior nodded slightly, the amused look on his face still there. "I trust you because you're predictable. You have something to gain from this that's more important than money. Mel here isn't wrong when she calls you 'little huntsman'," he said motioning over toward the girl. "At least she won't be if you get the job done."
The teen looked down at the folded paper in his hands. It was all up to him now. Junior would uphold his end of the bargain if he did his part. It would take his strength and skill in order to succeed here. The mission was his to complete and no one else's. He could not fail.
"You're putting a lot of faith in me," he said solemnly.
He did not know why he was beginning to feel so much doubt. Maybe because prior to this moment it had all been a dream. It was easy to dream. It was much harder to deal with reality when it was right in front of you.
"Maybe I am," Junior admitted. "Or maybe you're an expendable face that unlike the twins here, won't be recognized. You believe what you need to as long as you get the job done."
The dose of reality hit him hard, but the honesty was appreciated. He was a tool for Junior just as Junior was a tool for him. It was a business transaction. Jaune was performing a task for a payment in the form of Beacon transcripts. He could not feel any more angry at Junior using him for his "talents" than Junior could feel angry at being used by him for his own skills.
"Right," Jaune said. "I'll be there. I won't let you down."
The man chuckled again. "Don't worry about impressing me. Worry about making it back alive."
He nodded. The thought of not making it back alive was a grim reminder that the career of a huntsman was a dangerous one. A potentially deadly one. He could not forget that.
"Alright, now get out of here," Junior said as gently as his deep voice would allow. "If I don't hear from you in a couple of days I'll assume you're either dead or in prison."
"Right," he said evenly. What more could he say to that?
Without another word he stood and walked down the stairs before making his way towards the back exit.
He shoved the paper in his pocket for safekeeping, but he doubted that he would be able to forget the words which were written there. As of this moment they were the most important words in his life. A simple time and address held his future in their figurative hands.
All he had to do was watch. It was a standard reconnaissance mission.
That shouldn't be too hard to handle. Right?
Author's Note: After this chapter I hope that little pieces of the Malachite's personalities are starting to show. I'm basically working strictly with body language from the Yellow Trailer and doing my best to bring that to life. Good or bad so far? I'd like to know what you think.
Thank you very much for reading. All feedback whether it's positive or negative is appreciated, because without constructive criticism I can't improve what I have problems with. In any case I hope you enjoyed the chapter.