Wow, this chapter was supposed to have been uploaded at the beginning of the month! The hell happened?
Oh, right. Quarantine: The Game. But in real life. Shhhhhiiiiiiiiiiiiitttttttt!
NeoShadows here, locked up in his new home, with no work but his written work. I hope you're all not going stir crazy, panic buying, or coughing up on people. No, seriously, stop fucking buying all the god damn TP! Ya assholes making people cry!
Anyway, since I'm cooped up inside and out of work until things settle down, I've been given a blessing in disguise. I now have a whole lot of time to get back to writing, which has seriously suffered since I've been promoted to Opener/Cashier Supervisor. As if that wasn't too much work as it is, before I left the restaurant, arms full of whatever goods I could grab since would be a waste for all the product to go to waste, the Director of Operations sneaks up on me and tells me that I'm going to make Manager once this is all over with. Just because I joked that I was the only none-manager at the store as we were packing things up! I better make the most out of this unwanted vacation while I can.
I would have had this chapter out last week at least, but I got lazy and decided to catch up on the large library of games I hadn't touched. Plus Animal Crossing just came out. And I had to file for unemployment. Jesus, never thought I'd have to do that! What a time to be alive.
Getting back on track, we're moving onto the exciting adventures of your average, every day, freelancer! 'Bout time I got back to writing for A Jaune of All Trades. There's still so much more action waiting in stores to come!
First, to the Reviews!
ZenithTempest: Lemons be a touchy subject matter. Not that I haven't ever written one before; I experimented with them in my story, Arc Works; Chapter 3: Christmas Scramble, so I've got an idea on how to write 'em. I just don't know if I would add them to the story and make it canon. Who knows? Maybe one day I'll say screw it and write a series of erotic shorts involving my stories. Or let someone else do it.
Fyr RedNight: I was hoping this chapter would come off as one that would focus as Growth. I'm happy that it was seen as so, and that you like how I had written Summer and Raven. Hopefully, I didn't come off as too OOC. Not much as is known of Summer, other than her appearance at the end of Volume 6, and I had to tweak Raven's character a bit to fit the modern age.
Exiled Darkness: Pfft! I'm always disappearing, don't mistake that as death! Maybe. Might as well catch up since we're all in quarantine. Jaune's lack of understanding of his own power will be explained later on with snippets peppered here and there to help paint a picture of the incident of long ago.
GhostAngel14: My bro, I currently have more rest than I know what to do with. I actually want to go back to work. That's sad.
JazzRapper: I do tend to vanish like a ghost, only to pop up out of god damn nowhere. Of course, Pyrrha confessed! What, did ya think she would keep her feelings to herself after four long years? Even P-Money knows when to strike.
AlmostNEET: Eh, I usually lose control of a chapter wordcount after 10K. It happens a lot. The only reason I don't cut off anything is that I don't see the need to. Much of what I write is important; I don't write no filler. I should be careful not to go crazy with another 30-40K+ chapter again as I did with Multiplayer.
JustinEverything: Thanks for the words of encouragement. Life can be tough, especially now of all times. Keep yourself safe and healthy, and I'll deliver some quality content to help pass the time.
WyattMoore: The hunt, it begins!
Frosty Wolf: Creating the world of Remnant without Aura, Huntsman, or Grimm was a bit difficult since I still wanted to keep the core values that made the original canon Remnant, Remnant. I also didn't want to explain the world in its entirety in one chapter full of endless paragraph after paragraph of details that didn't need to be explained right now. I try to add as much to the world bit by bit, you know. Glad that you find it interesting. And yeah, Jaune is his own worst enemy and greatest obstacle, just like canon. I hope you get to enjoy what's to come.
CrowV4: I was really nervous when I came up with the idea of an AU of RWBY. I've read a couple myself but found myself turning away from them as they lost that quality of the original character's that made them, them. That and the AU's seem to always revolve around cringy subjects. And what better idea to explain more about the world than a high school history essay, right?
Alright, that's it for now. Time to get back to the meat of the matter! Scroll away and dig in!
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to RWBY. All rights belong to RoosterTeeth.
Like everyone one of you reading right now, I'm currently quarantined to my house because of the outbreak of COVID-19. Normally I'd say something funny, but this is more of a service announcement. Stay home, get some rest, relax, and practice proper hygiene. Don't be nasty, ya anime-binge watching son's of bitches. If ya need me, I'll be fishing on my little island as I try to settle my massive debt that I owe that greedy Tanuki.
Chapter 7: Resolve-II.
Raven was not happy with the current situation.
Standing outside Summer's home on the front yard, she had yet to tear her conflicted red eyes from the swirling portal of blood energy closing in on itself with the sound of her odachi sheath. The click of tempered Dust returning home caused the portal to blink away. Like that, Jaune was gone, transported miles away to her closest contact in Vale. She couldn't help but sigh and turn her unhappy sights to Summer standing close by.
"You couldn't have laid it a bit more thick on your seduction? Maybe worn something a little more skimpy instead of your normal wear? You're a mother/ teacher; work the kink." Raven stressed with a growl.
Raven had back up plan set up, knowing exactly how stubborn Jaune could be. She had a feeling that the blond would refuse her offer, or demand, to let her take care of everything for him. He was after all a normal teen with zero fighting skills or tact. Matters such as dealing with assassins or some unknown military-like organization weren't up his alley as a freelancer. So, what better way to distract the down on his luck boy than a seductive, cute, lonely MILF? Cue one Summer Rose.
Summer pouted, "Hey! I wasn't on board with your plan to seduce him to stay in the first place! Besides, I know what angle to work at, and I use it well." Summer nodded proudly while pushing out her modest chest.
"And you failed."
Summer didn't appreciate the blunt tone in Raven's voice. She poked at the defense lawyer's impressive bust with a glare, "Which one of us has failed to seduce an eighteen-year-old boy for the last two years again?"
Now that stung even Raven enough for her to wince. How was it that hard? The damn blond had seen her naked! He's even touched her ripe melons for god's sake! That damn virgin should have been all over her already!
'Note to self: No more subtly. I'm going all in the next time I make my move.'
Yeah, she'd been playing subtle. And Jaune's business was booming.
In the end, what was done was done. Jaune had made his choice. A poor one in Raven's opinion, but it was his choice to make. And while she wanted nothing more than to strap him down to her bed, for his safety, of course, she couldn't force him. If she did, he would hate her, resent her, and grow to despise her.
Raven found herself smiling bitterly. Funny, she couldn't remember ever caring what others thought about her, let alone care about her. Motherhood had truly changed her. For the better or the worse, she still wasn't sure. After all, she did just send a teen who didn't know how to control some spiritual energy to fight trained killers.
"You're not really going to let him tackle this on his own, are you?"
Raven's mouth was set into a thin line. Her back turned to Summer's concerned silver eyes, she spoke softly in a whisper.
"You heard him, he doesn't want help from me or anyone. This is his fight to conquer with his own strength. If I were to butt in at any moment, he would think I'm mothering him. That's one of the major faults that fool has; pride. As kind, caring, and gentle he can be, he loathes it when someone lends him a hand. To him, it's the same as calling him a weakling incapable of doing anything for himself."
Jaune Arc was a boy of low self-esteem. Even after he had grown from the noodley teen that Raven had taken into her home out of pity, and to make her daughter open up to her after years of neglect, he still saw himself as lower than most. When he compared himself to others, he saw himself as average, normal, bland. Someone who wouldn't be glanced at more than once on the street. Just a side character that drifted in the background of the lives of friends own much more eventful lives.
The boy was someone who wished nothing more than to prove those who saw him as a weakling that he too was strong. That was all he wanted; To be seen and relied upon. What he wanted was strength.
It made Raven all the more attached to the blond freelancer. She too knew how it felt to want nothing more than to be seen as strong. That was why she was all the more hesitant to reach out her own hand to the boy. Raven had been the same when she was his age. She knew the position he was in far too well.
Summer was of course not happy to hear that. She frowned lightly, her face speaking of wanting to speak out to the decision of the now defense lawyer. But Summer bit back her own words with a sigh.
"I suppose barging into that boy's business would only serve to make things worse. We could help him, solve all his problems for him, and protect him from ever making a mistake he would regret; someone like you already has the power to do that on her own." Summer said softly with silver eyes painted with bitter mirth, "But he's already stated that he could do this on his own. Even if we were to help in the shadows, we would only be preventing him from growing. Experience isn't kind, it's cruel and ruthless, but it's something that men like that blond boy seem to crave to become greater than they are."
Raven smirked as she set her eyes on the short single mother, "Oh? Deciding to let the boy try and spread his wings in the face of a hurricane? I would have thought that you of all people would tell me off for allowing Jaune to face trained killers on his own with the fate of a younger girl on the line."
"Just because I won't be there to stop him, doesn't mean that I'm going to ignore if Ruby's best friend/crush is harmed." Summer said with an amused shake of her head, "If he gets hurt like he did today again, you'll most likely drop him off here again while his Aura works to repair the damage. My home has always been a haven for people like you and him when trouble rears its nasty head."
"What makes you think I'll be there when he's wounded in such a state again?"
"Because I know for a fact that while you won't step in to fight his battles for him, that doesn't mean that you won't be watching over him from afar. I expect Jaune to be seeing plenty of raven's hanging around him in the coming future."
Raven looked away with an awkward laugh at that. Not as if the blond freelancer hadn't already taken notice to the odd raven bird that would occasionally pop up during his jobs here and there.
It was settled either way. Those two women who were privy to the knowledge of an unknown world that hid in the deep corners of this normal world, would stand back and allow that normal blond boy to face his own troubles with his own strength. Right, wrong, the decision was his to make as a young adult who had to learn to overcome the hurdles that this unforgiving world threw his way. That didn't mean they were leaving him to crash and burn on this venture though.
Whether Jaune liked it or not, they would be there to make sure that he didn't fall to that cruel underbelly he was ready to charge into on his own. Even if that meant he never forgave them from tearing him away from the raging flames that would devour him, they swore to watch over that boy until he had proven that he was indeed strong enough to fly on his own in the brewing storm he caught himself in.
"Well, since you're here already, wanna come in and catch up? It's been a while since we got together and talked, plus I wanna hear everything that Ruby and Yang have been up to lately!" Done with the overseeing of the newest blond boy in her life, Summer began to skip back to the cabin happily, followed closely by the stoic raven-haired, red-eyed defense lawyer.
"Supply me with some hard alcohol this time, and I guess I could sit around for a few hours."
Nothing could be done now. What happened to that stubborn blond boy was all up to him. If his life were in danger again, the bond born of the connection Raven had made with Jaune would alert her, and she would be there again in a blink of an eye. For now, she might as well relax with her best friend/sister until the storm had fully hit her latest prize.
The bustling of hundreds of feet rushing to the gates of the boarding planes could drown out even the loudest of voices or noises within the airport of Vale's transportation center that housed buses, trains, and bullheads. It was the end of another school year and many students were now on their way back to their homes for vacation, or if they were seniors, on their way to start their adult lives on a new continent. Safe to say, several goodbye's could be seen from departing students/young adults as a whole new chapter of their lives would begin in the coming Fall.
None of which was much more accurate to the gathered eight teens standing in front of the plane gate leading to depart for Mistral.
"I...I love you!"
All noise within the airport grew to a sudden halt to Jaune's view as the world itself seemed to freeze. His blue eyes snapped open wide, confusion and disbelief perfectly etched into his face as his heart stopped like screeching tire at the red light. For a moment, he was sure he had forgotten to breathe and nearly choked as his jaw dropped like an anvil.
"Holy crap; She actually said it! Four years and she finally says it?! 'Bout time, P-Money!"
"I mean, from a writing standpoint; you could have clearly seen the confession coming. Two best friends who went through high school together, helped another grow to be a better person, and trusted another with their own personal secrets; seeing each other off as one leaves to start the next chapter of their life on another continent? It was the perfect set up for a heartfelt confession that would further change their relationship."
"I applaud the bravery of finally confessing something literally everyone else has known since the beginning, but the timing could have certainly been better. Honestly, you could have confessed during graduation; that was the perfect opportunity."
"Damn it, Pyrrha! I thought we agreed on no surprise confessions!"
"I'm just happy that she finally confessed. Was I anything like Pyrrha, Renny?"
"No, not even close. If she was anything like you, Jaune would have caught on long ago. And would have suffered plenty of broken bones."
The peanut gallery that was Jaune's friends were nothing but gargled, muted noise as his sole attention was fixated on the nervous green eyes that were staring up at him expectantly. Pieces that Jaune had idly noticed from Pyrrha's interactions with him these past four years finally began to fall in place, painting a broader and clearer picture that spoke of the apparent affection she had been displaying. He had felt like an idiot before, there was no question about that, but he never felt the strongest urge to agree with just how stupid he had been until now.
Pyrrha Nikos had a crush on him.
No, that wasn't it.
The one and only, Pyrrha Nikos was in love with him. His best friend, who had believed in him when he had no faith in himself, who always stood by his side even when he made the wrong choice, who had been the greatest of help in aiding him to graduate Beacon, was in love with him.
And said beautiful, athletic, kind, and nurturing redhead was gazing at him in hopes of an answer to the feelings she has kept to herself for who knows how long.
Pyrrha deserved an answer to her feelings. After everything she has done for him, it was the least Jaune could do to pay back his best friend's confession.
And yet, like a coward, Jaune couldn't do it. Whatever words his heart and brain could come up to respond to Pyrrha's feelings couldn't work their way to his lips. His heartbeat drowned out all the noise from the hustling airport and loud announcement over the intercom as he struggled to say a word. Suddenly, it really did become hard to breathe as he found it difficult to keep his gaze on the caring and patient emerald eyes that only ever looked at him with affection. His face burned hotter than blazing coals as a whole new light had enveloped the girl who had stood by his side these past four years with a gentle, patient, warming smile on her beautiful face.
Wasn't this the part of the story where that dumb, thick head, boy finally responded to the honest and loving confession of his best friend after finally having his eyes pried open? Shouldn't he smile back gently, respond softly and sincerely to the affections he now realized he too shared? Wouldn't his heart reach out to her own and say the same words she had been longing to hear after so long?
Didn't he love her too?
Jaune grit his teeth, his eyes displaying shame and regret back at those always caring and kind emerald gems that had never stopped seeing him in such a loving gaze. After all those years apart from his family, all those trials and experience he had gained on his own, he realized a pathetic realization.
He was still the weak blond who couldn't even care for himself to save his life.
Did he love Pyrrha the same way she loved him?
The answer was obvious; Of course not.
How horrible was that? To not respond with the equal affection that the one who confessed to you had bravely revealed after so long; what kind of bastard could do such a thing? How could Jaune, of all people, not love Pyrrha back for everything that she's done for him these past four years together?
The thing was though, he had only ever seen the nicknamed Invincible Girl as nothing more than his best friend. A sister of sorts who had done for him as his own seven siblings had done for him. She had watched out for him, helped him in his time of need, talked to him about his problems and listened when he needed an ear to vent to, and hung out with him at every chance they had together. In his eyes, she had become like family, a true friend he would never abandon no matter what.
And that true friend of his loved him. Romantically.
A serrated knife punctured his insides, twisting maliciously as he struggled to say something, anything, back to that ever gentle and kind girl who loved him more than he did himself. He could see every one of their friends standing back, watching with baited breaths, and in some cases, worried frowns, to see what he would say next. Whatever he would say would change the relationship between the two best friends. Forever.
The world came back to life, filling the atmosphere with sounds of boarding flights, various people hastily running towards their trips, the creaking wheels of rushing wheeled suitcases following closely behind, and the beeps and rings of the airport shutters as Jaune finally regained some semblance of courage to steady his stammering lips.
Those blue eyes that Pyrrha had adored grew bold yet solemn. A weak yet still bright smile came upon her lip as Jaune responded. Something cracked ever so slightly.
Not all confessions ended in a happily ever after. Especially this memory of a passing summer of those teenagers embarking on the next chapter of their lives.
And not all memories were forgotten. And just because a happily ever after hadn't been reached, didn't mean that all was lost. After all, some answers took time.
Some emotions needed time to grow.
Jaune remembered that last summer very well. It was the last time all his friends had been together in one place before their lives began to change. None more than his own. The new business, living completely alone, struggling to pay bills, random acts of misfortune that were probably due to a certain drinking crow, and now the awakening of a fabled protective energy while facing a shady organization to protect a random girl he found one rainy morning; it was safe to say Jaune hadn't had enough time to think about those halcyon days.
In the back of his jam-packed mind though, Jaune still remembered the cinnamon and vanilla-scented confession from a girl who was way beyond his league. And the ticking time bomb of a response he had given the champion athlete.
And now, as he stood at the foot of the top of the stairs to his run-down freelance shop, still stinking of his fight against a faunus radical, with bandages visible on his dirty face, that memory of last summer reared its head up at the worst possible moment.
Why? Because for the life of him, Jaune still didn't have a clear and honest answer to Pyrrha's confession!
Just like back then, Jaune froze before those bright emerald eyes and happy smile. A smile that all but lasted for a few seconds before Pyrrha finally took notice of her crush's face.
"Jaune! What happened to you?! You look like you were just mugged in some dank alleyway!"
Not alleyway, but construction site. Which was less safe.
"Mugged? No! Nothing like that, Pyrrha! I just got into an accident a while ago while on one of my jobs is all!" Jaune lied quickly, grateful that the bandages that crossed over his face absorbed some of the nervous sweat, "I got a freelance gig that had me working construction for a few days on some projects in Vale when I had a bit of a clumsy fall during some...trouble in the working site."
Most likely, Pyrrha didn't know about the incident with the Chipped Fang earlier today. When he thought about it rationally, what had transpired would only be broadcast to the local news and not the entirety of Remnant. It was just a small incident that hadn't ended with anyone being critically wounded. Other than his disappearance, no one outside of Vale or its neighboring cities would catch wind of the event with Drake and the unknown, sexy purple-haired assailant.
The lie was not an absolute lie. So, Pyrrha had bought his made-up story with nothing more than worry and slight skepticism. As his closest friend, she could see through the on the spot lie but couldn't find it as anything alarming. Maybe. Honestly, she was too kind for own good sometimes. For such a powerful athlete, she could be a bit of a pushover.
"Other than some superficial wounds; I'm fine." Jaune grinned in a show of good faith, "I'll be good enough to take these bandages off by tomorrow. There's nothing to worry about, Pyr!"
Pyrrha was doubtful but held her tongue. She of all people knew how the sturdy the boy she cherished closely to her heart was. Noodly, he may be, but he could surprisingly take a hit when it mattered.
"If you're sure, Jaune. I don't know what kind of incident you found yourself in, but I know you'll be fine with some rest. Just don't strain yourself, okay?" she advised warmly. Obviously, she was waiting for him to tell her about the so-called accident in his latest job, which he would get to later. Abridged, but it was probably better that Pyrrha didn't know he was getting involved in some shady business. "Speaking of your job; how has business been at the Crow's Nest? I know that the last time we've chatted, you were struggling a bit to gain some business and earn a respectable profit."
Feet already taking him to his living room that he paused to realize was damaged still from the fight between Ren and May, Jaune carefully manoeuvered himself in a way that the video display didn't catch any hints of the tears on the couch he sat down on. He was already lying to her about his fight with Drake, he didn't need to add on the troubles with May.
"Oh? Are you with company, Jaune? I'm...not interrupting anything; Am I?"
The entire time Jaune had been speaking with Pyrrha, May had been following closely behind. Even as he sat down on the torn-up sofa, the beanie capped redhead made herself comfortable at his side without a word. Through the video chat, Pyrrha's emerald eyes caught sight of the expressionless girl who stuck close to him.
"This is May Zedong,"
Jaune paused, his mind working it's usual crafty wit as he came up with a good explanation for the young girl without a home's appearance. Couldn't say she was a Freshman like Ruby, those two red-heads talked regularly. He'd be busted like that.
Distant family? That could possibly work. May could be a cousin from an uncle he hadn't even known of until now. Tragedy could have struck, leaving the poor girl without any family to care for her. And with Jaune being the closest family member at the time, he could have taken her in temporarily until she was sent to his parents. The more he thought of it, the more the idea could work.
Nodding his head firmly, Jaune went on to explain May's sudden appearance and care. Pyrrha listened intently, her face showing signs of concern over May's loss of family, and even more once he explained that he would be taking care of her in the meantime. Thankfully, she believed him without a doubt.
On his left, May lifted her good eye doubtfully and stared at him. She seemed to be reading him for something. She seemed to find what she was looking for and returned to staring at nothing in sight.
"But are you sure that you can watch over her? I don't mean to doubt that she would be in safe hands, but your financial situation..." Pyrrha's words dropped off with a weak smile.
Yes, his financial situation wasn't what you would call stellar. Or good. Or even okay. He was on the very edge of falling over into running his business into the poor house if he didn't find some new clients next month. So, he wasn't bothered by the doubt of piling on May's well care.
"I'll be fine, Pyrrha! I've actually been doing rather well as of late. I found some new jobs that make me a nice amount of Lien to get by. I'm not as bad off as I was before." Jaune reassured the red-head with a nonchalant shrug.
Lies, all lies!
Jaune could see Pyrrha bit her lip. She didn't completely believe him. Nothing wrong with that. She didn't have to believe him. She just had to believe that he wasn't completely screwed.
Funny. Making sure that he had enough Lien to support himself was kinda the last thing on his mind right now. What with now having to deal with some shadow organization after May, and now him, plus discovering that he was capable of producing an Aura; mythical energy told in fairy tales that basically made him some kind of superhero. Even Ms. Constrict's threats to dismember his precious family jewel to gobble up didn't scare him as much. Not when he had a sexy assassin's plump lips and knife on his jugular on his mind.
"Really, I'll be fine! Plus, I got the rest of the gang to help me out with May too. Nora's even agreed to send me some of her old clothes for May to wear until I can buy some of her own. So, there's nothing to worry about!"
Still, the good old Pyrrha worried cress on her face remained. In the end, she sighed lightly and gave him that famous golden smile of hers that had charmed many of her fans.
"I suppose I just have to have faith in you. No matter what challenges you may face, you seem always to find a way to overcome them. That's just one of the many charms about you that has always attracted me."
Attracted? Jaune gulped dryly. Suddenly, he recalled the not so little fact involving a yet to be answered confession from only a summer ago. And suddenly, he was flustered.
"Y-You don't say?"
A look of gentle understanding came over Pyrrha's eyes. She could see how nervous Jaune had become at the mention of her feelings. Of which he had yet to respond to after dropping the sudden emotional bomb on her best friend before she left for Mistral. She giggled when she thought back to the face Jaune had made when she confessed how she had felt for him for years. It was like his face was made of rubber with how far his jaw had dropped.
To this day she was still waiting for that dorky blond boy who had captured her heart without any effort on his part, to give her an answer to her confession. She had to admit, she was feeling flustered too. Her cheeks matched her best friend's reddening complexion.
More than anything else, Pyrrha wished for Jaune to return her feelings. To finally decided to give this bond between them a chance to grow into something more than just friendship. To cross that final hurdle that separated from something greater.
But it appeared that now wasn't the time for such emotions to be brought up. Not when Jaune appeared caught up in another matter that was taking up all his attention. Pyrrha's green eyes strayed off from her blond love interest to his right, where she caught a hint of the unknown girl sitting close to his side. It seemed that he was going through some family matters that left him with a ward of sorts. For how long? She wasn't sure even Jaune knew.
Romance was the last thing on his mind right now. She couldn't help but feel guilty for bringing up the mention of her feelings for Jaune when he was dealing with matters that took priority over a confession.
Reigning in her own heart, Pyrrha smiled at the stuttering mess that was Jaune.
"It's alright, Jaune. I didn't call to discuss that...matter with you. I understand; you still need more time to think it over. And that's fine."
Pyrrha could see Jaune's face shift into one of guilt. She shook her head, her smile still as bright as ever. No, that was the last thing she wanted to see from him of all people. He had no reason to feel guilty about such emotions. There was nothing wrong with needing time to sort one's feelings out. When Jaune finally did answer her, Pyrrha wanted him to respond honestly, with no hints of doubt.
Anyway, this wasn't a call on the status of their still unknown relationship, "I was actually calling to let you know that my training is taking me over to Argus for the next few months! So, I'll be staying with my mother for the remainder of my time until the next Vytal Tournament this year. I've also heard word from mother that a certain Arc family will be stationed close to Argus this year as well!"
Right, Jaune had almost forgotten about his father being moved to station in the military base in Anima in the coming weeks. His mom did call him a few days ago about the move. He'd almost forgotten about that in the newest mess he's found himself in. Jaune scratched his head, finding himself a little anxious that his family would be settling in Anima this time around. Nothing was wrong with that since that would mean they would be living only a train ride away from his older sister Saphron and her own family. That did mean though that his mom would be living close to Pyrrha.
Said mother also knew about his indecision to start a relationship with Pyrrha. And would most likely be taking advantage of living close by to a girl who genuinely had romantic feelings for him. He could already feel a shiver at the thought of his overly affectionate mother goading Pyrrha into ignoring the wait for an answer, take him as her boyfriend, and also declare said world-renown athlete an automatic Arc.
Dating would be skipped. A shotgun wedding would be performed. And the Arc matriac would be the one pumping the shotgun to his back with a giddy smile.
"T-That's great, P-Pyrrha! I'm glad that all of you guys are so...close now. Guess that makes it easier for me to visit everyone if I ever go on vacation to Anima!" Jaune laughed in a poor attempt to hide his nervousness.
To clarify, there was nothing wrong with Jaune's family living close to the Nikos family. It was great that their family could get along so well. It was almost like they were all part of a bigger family. But the last thing Jaune wanted was his mom prodding into his love life. Even if it was with an amazing girl like Pyrrha.
Pyrrha paid the nervous sweat on Jaune's face no mind, continuing to smile pleasantly as she always did. It almost seemed as if she was momentarily lost in her own thoughts of the prospect of living so close to Jaune's own family.
"It's grand, indeed! I can't wait to arrive home to not only the welcoming party of my mother but the rest of the Arc family in tow as well! I've been told that mother and Ms. Arc have been in touch with another for quite some time since I've left to train for my athletic career. They're planning a small welcoming party for my return, and I only wish you could be there as well."
Jaune felt a small smile grow at the thought. Yeah, that would be nice. A family party made of all their friends with enough food to even satisfy Nora for an entire day, and no work or stress insight.
Comfort. How long had it been since Jaune truly felt that?
The memory of a nice cottage home, the touch of a motherly woman, and an innocent smile that helped to melt away all the tension came to mind. And of his own hand in rejecting that comfort.
It would be nice to return to those days of being comforted and cared for by someone else. But Jaune had resolved to stand on his own two feet and solve his own problems by himself. He wasn't a child anymore. He wasn't some failure. He wouldn't run back to that warm, cozy, caring life with his tail between his legs.
Because he could feel it now. A weight, one that gave him purpose, if only for a limited time, to not give up and leave his troubles for someone else. This was his chance to finally shed away from that old self that had to rely on others to get by.
"That would be nice, Pyrrha. But my work has me pretty preoccupied. I can't take a vacation just because I feel like it! That would be irresponsible of me."
May blinked, taken back as she found Jaune's arm wrapped around her shoulder. Out of instincts honed from years of unsavory work, her hand had moved for a concealed weapon.
She didn't understand why said hand that was had moved to deal with the threat had relaxed not a second later. Or why she had found her body easing itself instead of locking up with tension either. Her only guess attributed the rather odd behavior to her fever.
Yes, that must have been it. It in no way had to deal with the strange dorky blond boy she would have to dispose of at some point. Not at all.
"I understand; running a business all on your own must come first before indulging in your own desires." Pyrrha said in understanding, appearing slightly disappointed, "Just don't forget to take care of yourself first though. You're injured. Think about how that would affect your work as well. My suggestion would be to take a few days off and focus on your own health. I'm sure you could afford a few days to recover before going back to work."
No, not really. That was nothing but wishful thinking that Jaune couldn't afford to play with. But it sadly wasn't a bad idea either. What with him probably being hunted by some scary seductress that had drugged him with a kiss and a blade to his neck; the smart idea would be to lay low until Jaune figured what his next plan of action would be.
"I guess I got no choice, huh?" Jaune relented with a weak grin, one that had made Pyrrha clap happily.
"A few days of rest is what would be best. But if it truly does affect your work that badly..."
Jaune frowned, shaking his head negatively at where Pyrrha was most likely leading.
"No, it's fine. Really, Pyrrha, I don't need you to send me any Lien. I'll lose some money, but that doesn't mean that I'm desperate or anything."
It wasn't often that one sees the always polite and kind Pyrrha Nikos roll her eyes. Not unless your name was Jaune and you were once again being stubborn.
"Honestly, Jaune! It would be no trouble at all if I were to send over a couple of thousand Lien. I'm not one for spending money so frivolously, and neither is my mother, so it's just a little nest egg of colorful cards collecting dust in my bank account. It's the least I could do for you of all people."
'Must be nice, casually waving off a thousand Lien like it were a couple of dollars you found in your jeans after drying them.' The face staring back at the nonchalant celebrity athlete/idol offering a large amount of Lien for free was one of envy. Luckily Pyrrha didn't seem to notice as she began to dig into what he guessed was a small purse she carried around that had most likely cost at least two months rent.
Pyrrha Nikos was a rising athlete in Remnant, one who had proved to be great in just about every competitive sport known to man. Since a young age, she had been breaking records in track, wrestling, swimming, fencing, artistic gymnastics, etc. Nicknamed The Goddess of Victory by her fans for winning just about every sports event she had participated in, Pyrrha had gone on to become an idol at a young age for her always kind and polite personality combined with her ferocious display of tenacity and sportsmanship. By the time she had enrolled in middle school, his best friend had already been taking on modeling jobs on the back of cereals and advertising commercial items on tv. It was crazy to think about just how famous she had become.
Yet despite all the spotlight, the riches that came with modeling as Mistral's Idol, and winning every competition she found herself in, Pyrrha had never let it all go to her head. She had grown humble and gentle, just another girl who had wanted to be treated normally despite all the fame and attention she had garnered as she arrived at Beacon to try and escape it all.
That polite soul that had fought the corruption of fame had somehow found herself as Jaune's best friend by the end of the first year in Beacon. Funny to think that a loser like him had become friends with a winner like Pyrrha. Was that irony in some way?
Safe to say, she could afford to give away enough Lien to Jaune to not worry about his lack of business. Every time he had been short on Lien when they had been in high school together, Pyrrha had always been there to lend him a hand without ever wanting anything in return. He was pretty sure she would buy him the world if she could to keep him happy and smiling right beside her.
Which was why Jaune had always denied her money. There was very little reason a girl like her should buy friendship from a wimp like him. Though it had been cute to see the heartthrob incarnation of politeness fumble with her purse in search of some Lien when he was in high school just because he had been complaining about not having enough money to buy a new game.
"Denied. You send me Lien, and I'm not speaking to you for a month." Jaune said dully.
The reaction from Pyrrha was instantaneous. The red-headed girl who could probably wrestle him into submission with an apologetic smile locked up. The very threat that she could not speak to her best friend/crush was enough to cause a cold sweat to drip down her face as her body trembled. Those emerald eyes that could switch off into focused and fierce green had lost the light of victory and admitted defeat.
'GYHAAAA! What the hell is this!? My chest, it feels like it's kicking itself with a steel-toed boot!' Jaune had to fight off his hand from gripping his aching chest at the sight of a pouting, teary-eyed Pyrrha. The small whimper that escaped her lips was just too adorable!
Seriously, how brain dead was he to have ignored a girl like this for so long?! Now he understood why the Pyrrha Nikos Fan Club sect of Vale had hunted him down so ruthlessly in his high school days.
Having no choice but to relent to the stubborn blond who won her heart, Pyrrha set down her purse with a pout. Such a sight was one highly sought out by members of her large fan club and reserved to only her closest friends.
"If you say so. But if you ever do truly need help, don't be afraid to ask; okay?"
"Yeah, I gotcha." Jaune grinned with a scratch of his head.
Even if Jaune had a tendency to deny help from his friends, it was still heartwarming to know that if he ever truly was in need of it, he had several pairs of hands just waiting to support him.
Just another reason for him to settle this sudden dangerous dilemma on his own.
Jaune and Pyrrha's conversation quickly feel into more carefree matters. The nearly half an hour-long call had given him a great amount of knowledge to his best friend's daily life since leaving to train her skills abroad. From the sounds of it, her regime was pretty strict and had her following a rather precise list of activities and diet for the next half year for the upcoming Vytal Festival. As one of the youngest contestants fresh out of high school, she was intent on sticking with her harsh regiment; she still pouted none the less that she could no longer eat her favorite food until it was all over; pizza.
Jaune released a sigh as he sat back against the torn up cushions of the living room sofa and shut his Scroll. Once his pleasant little talk with Pyrrha was over with, he had taken a good fifteen minutes messaging everyone who had contacted him during the period of his disappearance in the aftermath of his fight with Drake. Idly he noted his wrist felt less tense. He moved the once broken wrist in front of his eyes, giving it a few twists to find any pain.
Nothing, nothing but the briefest flash of white over his bandages.
'So, this is really Aura? I really thought it was just some make-believe magic found only in the dusty fairy tales that Ruby's always gushing about. I would have never thought that it was real, other than it being some small electric field or something.' Harder to believe that Jaune of all people had apparently always had it.
May had wandered off to the store down below to give Jaune some privacy, so he could respond to all his texts from his worried friends. Leaving him to marvel at the white energy that popped up in response to his finger pinching his forearm.
It was odd. As he experimented with the mystical energy he now exuded, he noticed that he really had no control over it. When he pinched his forearm, he found his Aura jump out to resist. It felt like he was trying to squeeze his fingers against some kind of magnetic rejection. But only sometimes. It acted randomly in how it would shield him away from harm depending on how hard he would try to inflict damage.
A power only found in the lost fairy tales of a time that spoke of tangible human negativity that sparked a Great War. A cold shiver struck down Jaune's spine.
What did that say about the rest of the myths from long ago?
That was something Jaune really didn't want to dwell on, so he continued prodding his newfound power. Idly, he could hear the faint sounds of May rummaging around his store; he paid it no mind to focus on the white energy coat that was rejecting a rather aggressive poke at his palm.
Describing how it felt proved to be as difficult. Electric? Warm? Soothing? Buzzy? Was that even a word?
Closest Jaune could describe Aura as was Natural. It was just there the same way his blood was there. He couldn't feel his own blood running through his veins, and neither could he feel his own Aura coating his body.
If anything, it felt completely different than the other power Jaune had felt in his fight with Drake.
A sugar rush of energy; a caffeine high; pure, unfiltered adrenaline pumping through his veins like liquid fire. It was like an injection of overwhelming energy. Unlike what Jaune's Aura had provided in defense, healing, a boost in strength, and other factors he may not have known of, that other source of power had felt completely different. Like to two distinct flavors that he had tasted at once; kinda similar to banana and strawberry swirled yogurt. He had gotten a taste of both powers at once but could tell them apart despite having taken a bite of them both at the same time.
Aura was what Jaune could visibly see now, shielding his forearm as he yet again pinched the skin. White energy fought back like a thick layer of rubber.
But that other power?
The memories of Jaune's fight against Drake flashed back. The explosive punch thrown with enough force to send another person flying off their feet; the sudden increase of durability that helped him fend off claws of metal, explosives, and electricity that should have fried his skin; the boost in speed that allowed him to keep up with lizard faunus who knew how to fight properly; those actions had all been accompanied by another flavor of power that had burst from Jaune as he utilized his Aura.
Another memory came back to the mulling blond freelance, a painful one that made him reach down to massage the back of his legs.
The muscles in his legs had been torn like the threads of a hand-knitted sweater by the hands of some muscle headed freak on steroids. When Jaune stopped to recall his fight with Drake a little more clearly now that he could actually take the time to reflect, it hadn't just been his leg muscles.
All those impressive evasions that would make Pyrrha clap with a winning smile in respect had ripped his poorly suited muscles to shreds. He was in decent shape, in thanks to his previous time training alongside Pyrrha and Yang in the gym, but he wasn't built to handle the strain he had put his body through. At the time of his muscles shrieking, he had felt a warm sensation bath the torn muscles and soothe them. It almost felt like they had been repaired as fast as they had been damaged.
'Great, now I'm starting to give myself a headache. I wonder if my Aura can heal something like that for me?' Massaging the splitting sensation centered in the middle of his forehead, Jaune leaned back against his ruined sofa with a grimace. He was already dealing with a headache, and he hadn't even gotten to the real problem at hand.
'What am I going to do about her? I mean, I know I said I was going to protect her from whoever means to use her, but who exactly am I protecting her from? It ain't the Chipped Fang; Drake said that they were hired by the guys who are after her. The Chipped Fang were nothing more than pawns when I think about.'
The small-time faunus gang was used to do the dirty work so that whoever was paying for their services didn't risk the chance of being discovered. That meant that it either involved a wealthy individual or an organization. How would Jaune come to such a conclusion, you say? Ha! Just because he was a rather lackluster blond with no other unique qualities than his odd wide range of mundane skills, didn't mean he was an idiot.
That and Jaune had a hobby in reading crime-fighting comics. Plus, the occasional manga involving teenagers saving the day; Ruby was a huge fan of content of Anima and liked to share her hobbies.
Either way, he was trying to come up with an idea of his 'enemy' with what third rate knowledge he possessed. It was laughable, but it was all a normal guy like him had to work with.
'All I really know other than Them having enough Lien to spare to hire a gang of human-hating faunus is the chick who attacked me.' Jaune was sad to admit he blushed at ghostly sour apple-flavored lips that had hungrily met his own. Plus tongue. He squirmed, groaning as he pitched a rock hard tent indoors.
Oh, he could perfectly recall the killing intent the purple-haired temptress had exuded that had him sweating. But there was no denying she had been sexy as hell. It was a normal reaction; right?
That was that though, all the info Jaune could glean from his encounter. It was barely anything. You could say it was practically nothing! And he was most likely going to fight this shadow group of what Jaune was guessing was probably assassins or ninjas. Or worse, Ninja Assassins!
Point was, Jaune was pretty much in over his head. And here he had gone on and told Raven that he would take care of all of this on his own. He must have sounded like a real idiot.
Which was why May found said dumb blond freelancer furiously scratching his head with what looked like foam dripping from the corner of his mouth. In case anyone couldn't tell, he was really frustrated.
"Are you okay, Boss?"
The great thing about Aura, Jaune discovered; it was better than a band-aid since it healed the vigorous scratches on his scalp, "Y-Yeah, I'm alright. Just a little...anxious." Jaune sighed tiredly. He suddenly blinked, fingers slowly peeling off the top of his head to stare at the ever dull-eyed rust haired girl, "Wait, did you just call me 'Boss'?"
Why? And No.
May's answer was a simple shrug as she reached the living room with soda in hand. It was nice to see she was now relaxed enough to take drinks for herself; that was a loss of two Lien, though, "I have no other way to repay you for your hospitality, other than my protective services of your business while you are away. So, I suppose it would be fitting to address you as 'Boss' for as long as I remain in your custody." she explained with no real emotion. Something he was starting to get used to.
It was no surprise that Jaune went back to scratching his head, "You can just call me Jaune, you know? Not like I could hire you for anything if I could; Can hardly pay myself as is." Jaune scoffed, "And protective services? I know I told you two watch over the place, but I didn't mean for it to sound as if that was why I let you stay here. You're free to stay here as long as you want; remember? I don't want you thinking you have to pay me back in any sort of way for helping a poor girl down on her luck?" He said with a simple smile.
What was May, some kind of bodyguard? It made Jaune want to laugh. At least until he remembered that for a girl that was either in middle school or a freshman in high school, she had a hell of a grip. Plus she kinda had those cold, bold blue eyes, or eye, that made him think twice about messing with her. He was positive that if he were a burly two hundred and forty-pound man of muscle lugging a beer belly, he would sprint across to the other side of the road if he made eye contact with her.
It was weirdly cute?
Jaune had a light frown as a thought occurred to him. Wasn't right now a good a time as any to finally talk to May? After getting into a fight with a gang leader, and nearly being kidnapped and what he was guessed would have lead to some kind of date rape scenario, he felt he now had a good reason to dig into her past. The last thing he wanted was to wake up in bed to a gun barrel in his temple without fully understanding why.
"Bodyguarding, huh? Is that something...you've done before?"
Mid-sip, May paused, locking up as a bold blue iris settled onto his bright blue. She gulped down her fuzzy apple-flavored drink, as did Jaune as he felt a sudden rise in tension. He could have seen that coming.
"I..."That sole eye that had gained a frosty hue to them shifted. Jaune could see her grip on her soda tighten as he heard the tin crunch. "May have had some experience," she answered tentatively.
An answer. Not a confident one, it was pretty guarded. But it was finally something. Jaune held back a smile, knowing he had to be careful in how he moved next if he didn't want May to shut him out.
"Sounds hard to believe. But then again, I don't really know anything about you. I just found you in some back alley in the rain, surrounded by some sick bastards." Jaune's face darkened at the memory of then. It wasn't the greatest of ways to make a friend from a stranger.
The memory was hazy for May, but she had come to piece it all together after having plenty of rest. Her mission to assassinate a certain faunus diplomat from Vacuo had failed and left to escape the authorities. She had nearly made a clean getaway when a simple slip up over the edge of a building had caused her to fall in some back alley. Even with her training, she had been knocked out cold in piles of garbage as the cold rain bathed her for hours until morning. She had been unresponsive for who knows how long until she had awoken to the uncomfortable sensation of her wet clothing being peeled off.
By the time she realized what those two filthy bums were ready to do her as she felt their grimy, callous hands on her bare shoulder, May found she had been too weak to fight back. Under normal circumstances, she would have broken their wrists before moving on to their necks. But being soaked in the cold rain with a sprained ankle for hours had left her body drained and sluggish. There was nothing she could do.
Without even knowing it, her body had cried out for help.
May grew conflicted. She had never called out for help before. Such a thing was a weakness that was corrected long ago. She had shown a pathetic side to herself in a dark moment.
But it had been that moment of weakness that had saved her. Someone had heard her soft cry for help. Someone had rushed into the rescue. Someone had protected her from harm and been hurt in doing so.
Despite her muscles growing tense, her body preparing itself to act swiftly, and the five-inch kitchen knife carefully hidden in her sleeves, May's solitary eye had softened.
Jaune Arc; a blond boy at the end of his teens who currently runs a freelance service/shop, graduating from one of the four esteemed schools on Remnant, Beacon, with a military family background yet showed no signs of being trained himself. A normal boy through and through who one may refer to as a dork, a geek. He was no threat to anyone and nothing special.
It was that blond boy who had saved her from a fate she was sure was worse than death, of which was more than prepared for in her line of work. The memories were a bit blurry, but she recalled how the teenager with no real combat experience had beaten down one of her molesters and terrified the other after witnessing the violence one boy could display. This trusting boy who had picked up an unknown assassin, brought her back to his home when she was soaked to the bone and cared for her in her ill state.
With nothing to gain, no reason to do what he did, Jaune had taken May into his home with open arms. If she were to slip the knife she hid in her borrowed hoodie through the space between his ribs to his far too trusting heart, the blond boy would be caught by complete surprise. The face of utter betrayal and hurt could not be faked as the light faded from his kind blue eyes.
And the mental picture of such a sight, one May had gotten used to in her line of work, was on that had dug a knife in her own heart. For the life of her, the rust haired girl couldn't understand why it brought her pain.
"Weren't you on your way to a school event? You know, to see the arriving diplomat from Vacuo who had visited to discuss a peace treaty with the government of Sanus in Vale? Whatever happened to that?" Jaune asked with a small frown.
Jaune had never meet May before. Not until the day before he had found her in the rain. When he had been on his way to his next job, he had found some middle school or first-year high school girl waiting on a bench at the street. She had called out to him, asking for a ride to the peace talks between the Vacuo representative and Sanus's own representative in Vale. She had just been some school kid out in the rain who had wanted a simple ride.
The mention of their real first meeting caused May to narrow her eye ever so slightly.
The hidden blade suddenly felt much heftier than she first believed.
"Does that mean you have people that are looking for you? Friends?" Jaune began slowly, being careful of what he might say could cause May to shut him off again, "Family? I don't mean to bring this up again, but do you have a family? I mean, you can't just be some orphan. Even then, I would find it hard to believe that you've been taking care of yourself this entire time. You don't exactly come off as some homeless kid." he noted with a nervous scratch of his head.
Hesitation. Jaune bit the inside of his cheek, feeling anxious as he noted the small tells on May's body. Her single blue eye refused to meet his. Her left hand had found itself gripping onto her right hand's wrist. And her injured leg had begun to restlessly move.
May was nervous, possibly afraid to answer back to him. This hadn't been the first time he had questioned her about her origins. But in all those times, she had never shown herself as nervous. She had simply brushed off his questions. Now though? It looked like she was struggling not to answer him.
Was it a sign that May's aloof and cool exterior was beginning to crack?
'He's begun to connect the dot's, hasn't he?'
No matter how dull or thick-headed that blond freelancer may be, even May believed an idiot could begin to connect the dots of the puzzle. Again, the knife hidden away on her person had found itself weighing her hand down to a painful extent. Jaune knew that she had gone to the peace talks, he knew about the attempted assassination on the visiting diplomat, he had found her the next morning, wounded and out cold when police officials were on the search for the assassin, and he had begun to realize that she wasn't who she said she was.
Was it absurd to believe that a child could ever do something as cold and cruel as an attempt to take another's life? Jaune had a military family background, he must have gleaned some information as his family was constantly moving about throughout the years. He was a military brat. At some point in his life, he may have even settled in Vacuo.
Child Soldiers. Such a term was commonly known in Vacuo. Children trained in military matters, to spill blood, to birth hesitation onto enemy soldiers, and to spy and relay information back to their superiors. Innocent tools of bloodshed.
For a few moments, the two stood in silence. Jaune wrung his hands in frustration. He was unsure of how to continue. Cracks now appeared on the rust haired girl's demeanor. Just one hard blow and it would all fall apart. But what would be revealed? Would Jaune like what he learned? Would he regret it? Was this all just some mistake that would only serve to harm him?
'No, that's something that I refuse to accept!'
Jaune shot up from the seat, catching May by surprise enough to cause her to step back out of caution. His face was set in a scowl, revealing something odd to the beanie-wearing assassin as she found her singular blue eye locking with Jaune's.
Determination, a refusal to back down from whatever may lay before him. An emotion May wasn't sure she had ever caught on the normal blond boy's face before. The intensity of it made her nervous to what the dull boy would do next.
Ever so slightly, a glimmer of finely edged steel slithered out from the wrist of May's hoodie. A blade designed to finely serrate flesh from bone, ready to do as its design was created for in one fell sla-!
"I'll protect you!"
The force of the declaration had completely taken May back. Her blue eye found itself growing wide in a mix of confusion, surprise, and caution as Jaune took a step forward to her. At that moment, she wasn't sure what he would possibly do.
And that great unknown caused her heart to begin to beat against her chest with a frantic rhythm.
Jaune swallowed hard, deciding to throw caution to the wind. Fear, hesitation, anxiety; what good did those emotions ever do him?! If he began to stumble now, when he had already made such a big scene with Raven about doing things himself, then what would have been the point of any of this? In front of his eyes was a girl, unsure of what to do or where to go. Who could only be safe here! Dangerous people were after her, the kind of people he had no intention of handing her over to.
Jaune wasn't stupid. He was a goof, a dork, and even a loser. He accepted those titles even if he despised them. But he was far from a coward anymore.
He knew May wasn't normal. Her strength was far beyond a normal girl, she was far too suspicious, and carried a dangerous vibe to her. And after discovering her cybernetic eye, he had realized that May was far from an innocent girl.
But still, he had seen a glimmer of innocence in that girl. At the sign of kindness she may have never seen or felt, that innocence had peaked out. One that would only be completely devoured by the shadows that were chasing after her. And it just didn't seem right to allow her to be taken back by killers!
Something inside of Jaune, inside his Soul, was sparked.
"I'll...I'll be your hero!"
He took another step forward out of desperation. Covered in bandages, sweaty and dirty, Jaune stood in front of the startled girl with conviction in his voice.
"I'm still not sure who you are, but that doesn't matter! I don't care who you could possibly be, or what could happen to me for knowing! I don't give a damn at all! What matters is that I'm going to protect you from here on out! I know that you're not normal, that you're dangerous, and that there are people looking for you. I've fought them, and I've won! They didn't give me their names, but I do know that those shady bastards are willing to hurt or kill anyone who dares to get in their way of retrieving you. I should be scared, quivering with fear, and more than willing to give you up to them. But I refuse!"
A clatter of steel hit the floor. A knife could be seen laying on the carpet.
May took another step back with a cold sweat forming on her forehead.
'They found me? They knew where I'm at? Does that mean they'll be taking me back?'
May swore that even Jaune could hear the sounds of her frantic heartbeat threatening to break out and run. The realization that the organization had located her position meant that she would soon be retrieved and returned to her mission. It was of vital importance that she, out of all the operatives, was to be the one to complete it. The missing gear to the great machine would need to found to return to its earlier operations. Least that gear be tossed away and replaced.
Any moment now, she would be taken away back to that life of splattered blood and gunpowder. She should have been relieved. But…
'He beat them? This normal, boring, blond boy stopped them from retrieving me?'
May began to take a closer look at the injuries on Jaune's person. They appeared far too unnatural and oddly mended to be anything more than some accident. The freelancer had been battered in a fight with more than just fists. And he was still alive to tell that tale.
One of her own fellow operatives had failed to put Jaune down and carefully dispose of his body. Her organization had failed to kill one simple nobody. How? Why?
Her voice was soft, unsure of what she was hearing, or how to respond. All she could do was ask.
"Because you deserve to be saved."
A simple answer to a simple question. One that wasn't enough for May to accept so easily.
"If you knew of who I really was, would you really be so sure of that? That someone like me could ever possibly deserve, need, or even want to be saved!? Just what kind of idiot are you to say that to someone you don't understand?! To someone who deserves no sense of trust!?"
She must have been a lot weaker than she had believed. Whatever reason would May have lost control of her own emotions? Why else would she have shouted at the dumb blond who thought that she was some damsel in distress? A soldier like her had no need for salvation or a hero!
Jaune scratched the back of his head with a goofy grin despite the rise of hostility from May. It was a sign of just what kind of idiot she was talking to.
"Why does it have to be complicated? If someone makes up their mind to protect something then the specifics don't matter at all. That's the kind of person I've wanted to be ever since I was a kid; a hero. The kind who wouldn't think twice to save someone from trouble. It was a dream of mine, one that I had failed to ever really realize. And I think I understand why that is." he said softly as his hand absently scratched an old scar hidden by blond locks.
Long ago, Jaune had dreamed of being a hero, just like the ones he had read in his comics. Just like his father, who had served as a soldier for the United Kingdoms of Remnant. Just like the many people who had helped this down on his luck blond freelancer to get this far.
What did Jaune really want to do with his life? What was it that he desired to be? The answer was simple yet impossible.
He wanted to be a hero. To be relied upon to save whoever stood behind him; to act as a shield. But what had stopped him from ever becoming that hero that he had always dreamed of? Why had he failed so many times to reach his dream?
Conviction; a strong belief to see through the challenges ahead. It was one of many things Jaune had lacked. He had always been too nervous to ever do anything impactful for anyone else. Too afraid of being seen as weak, to fail. Always unsure if he could even do anything to help when there were others much more confident and skilled to do what he couldn't.
It was different this time. Matters of being nervous, unsure, afraid, and being weak didn't matter. Not when there was something important on the line. After so long, Jaune finally believed he found it. That singular component that a simple guy like him had been missing for so long. His blue eyes were filled by the sight of a young red rust haired girl with only one eye, wearing a beanie to hide away the damaged cybernetic socket, who was wary and distrustful of the world around her.
"I never really had a reason to become a hero; my life wasn't straight out of a comic book that had painted my life as miserable, tragic, or vengeful. I have a mom and dad, seven sisters, a sister-in-law and nephew, and more friends than a nobody like me deserved. The only sad thing about that life is that I lost an older sister and was bullied for being pathetic. Other than some tragedies that I've learned to deal with, my life has been pretty...happy. I'm stumbled here and there, and the situation I've found myself in right now with this shop isn't exactly anything to brag about." Jaune laughed weakly, "But all around, there's no reason for a normal guy like me to be a hero. Complain; sure. But what reason did I need to be a hero for anyone? Then I met you."
A girl who had been abandoned; a girl who had most likely done terrible things; a girl who had believed she was undeserving of being rescued or protected.
"You know, you could have left at any moment. Your fever is down, and I'm sure you can move around just fine despite your ankle. A girl like you could have sneaked off in the middle of the night and left. Honestly? I wouldn't have gone looking for you, not as long as I knew you were okay. I don't have a reason to keep you here against your will. But you chose to stay."
"I..." May found that she couldn't come up with an answer.
Why did she stay? Jaune was right, she could have left at any moment. Even if the blond had gone off to look for her, she would have been long gone to have mattered. It would have been as simple as walking out the door if she really wanted to.
So, why didn't she? Why did she choose to stay with that dorky blond who was in over his head about running a freelance business? The conversation between Jaune and Ren had come back to mind from days before, of the resolve she saw being only caught in the blond's voice. Of the sliver of trust, she had given him for no reason, and of how he clung onto it. She remembered how she had torn out her implanted eye's tracking chip as it had begun to go off. What was the reason for that again?
A hand had pressed itself onto May's trembling shoulders, giving off an odd...aura of warmth and security in its hold. For a moment, she could have sworn such a pleasant aura was visible to the naked eye.
It was that aura that had stopped that cold, unfeeling, aloof assassin from departing from this run down-home. That alien kindness and warmth had surrounded her like a blanket, taking her in from the world of bloodshed and strict orders that only ever suited those who had raised her as a tool.
Those blue eyes had regarded her not as a tool, or as a weapon, but a girl who needed to be protected. For once, she had found someone who had only ever meant what was right for her own...happiness.
An odd sensation ran down May's cheek, taking her by surprise as the feeling only grew from her left eye. Was she...crying?
"No one has the right to make you decide what to do, May. You decide. But just know, that I'll protect you either way. I know I'm not the most well suited to rely on, but I'll be your hero. If you want, I'll save you from those who only wish to abuse you for their own means. You don't have to leave; you can stay here! Stay, and I'll show you that there's more to life than the life you were given! One where you won't need some crappy hero like me to save you!"
The tears were cleaned off by a hand already damaged for protecting her. May's lips quivered, finding herself taken in by that bright aura that only cared to heal and defend her. Never before had she felt such kindness or care. An orphan who had been abandoned in the war-torn deserts of thieves and bandits had no clue such an aura existed.
Before such a power, the cracks that had formed over her exterior could no longer resist. Her cool and uncaring demeanor was shattered with all but a bright grin.
"So, how about it? Think you can let me be your hero?"
May fought her hardest not to cry anymore. It was a battle she had no hope of winning in the long run.
The concealed knife laid forgotten as its owner's arms had attacked the waist of the blond freelancer, embracing him as she buried her face in Jaune's chest. Her tears soaked his shirt, further dirtying it as he brought his right hand to rest gently on May's head. Nothing more was said as she held on tight to his waist, refusing to let go to this new emotion that had been birthed.
Jaune patted May's head, smiling in relief as he let the girl let out what was no doubt years of repressed or forgotten emotions. She still hadn't answered him, but that was fine. He was pretty sure this was enough of an answer he could get.
'But really, me? A hero? Didn't that sound corny?' Either way, he couldn't go back on his word now. He would truly be a disgrace to the Arc's name if he did. A promise like this was meant to be kept and fulfilled to the bitter end.
'That just leaves one big old question; how the hell am I suppose to save her? Am I really going to have to fight trained killers? I've only just realized I could use Aura! Just when the hell did my life dip into the territory of some Anima manga that can only be found in Ruby's collection!?'
This was just a start of things to come though. He would have to think of his next plan of action later. For now, he would have to comfort the poor girl who was now under his protection.
Jaune was a bit of a jack of all trades; he could cook, clean, dance, had a bit of a singing voice, knew how to sew, do a few repairs, had plenty of experience with outdoor work, and even knew how to drive. It looked like he would have to add hero work to his rather long list of dull skills after this too.
"And how did your mission go?"
With the sun falling back into a sunset to signal the coming end to the day, July found herself staring at the orange glow of the sky as she rested back on the roof of a quaint little shop she had found. She kicked her legs lazily, quirking her brow as she read the poorly cared for sign of the business.
'Isn't it a hazard to not fix the large C that's only a gust fan away from falling onto some poor pedestrian?'
She shrugged her slender shoulder at the matter. Wasn't her problem. It was the shop's owner that was her real problem anyways. Returning to the matter at hand, July sighed boredly at the impatient voice at the end of her Scroll.
"Well, we may have hit a snag or two."
"Seems our little May has found herself under the care of a small-time business owner. A freelancer of sorts. Your brilliant plan involving using the Chipped Fang as fodders to retrieve our missing little sniper went awry because of the boy who turned out to be more than some simple civilian. The sexy blond was able to dispatch of Drake and even evade my capture. How's that for a snag?" July giggled with a roll of her purple locks between her fingers.
July had to move her Scroll away from her ear as a string of loud curses were shot back at her. My, someone wasn't a happy, dirty, rugged camper.
"How is that some random civilian was able to derail our plans?! Were you even trying? Or were you too busy trying to ride the bastard's dick to even fight him back?"
"I'll have you know that I was in the middle of taking him away for some 'interrogation' when one of the boy's allies took him from my grasp," July growled in frustration. She had needs and those needs weren't going to be fulfilled, thanks to some slutty Grimm masked swords-woman that belonged in an Anima manga, "Turns out our little obstacle may have some threatening allies to protect him. At the moment, I'm running recognisance on my prey; Jaune Arc, 18 years old, fresh graduate of the world-renown Beacon Academy of Vale, military family background but no records of having any training himself, and current owner of Crow's Nest; a freelance service shop for simple chores and tasks. Honestly, despite the profile, he's rather normal and unworthy of much attention."
"Yet this boring old civilian defeated a faunus who was once allied with the current Chieftain of Menagerie; Sienna Khan, before being exiled for harming humans?"
July licked her lips hungrily, feeling a shiver run down her body to her wanting core.
"Yes, indeed~! Clearly something's amiss. And if I'm unsure of what risks there are, I can't sink my teeth into my handsome prey just yet. I need more time to observe him for any more surprises or allies. Otherwise, we'll never be able to get our hands on our little May before Oxford Mane departs to Vacuo again. I believe we have plenty of time on our hands to handle one problematic thorn."
On the other end of the scroll, the voice had gone quiet. Most likely thinking of what to do next. Eventually, she heard back from her partner in this endeavor.
August sighed through his nose and clicked his teeth.
"I'll be arriving in Vale in three days. By the time I've landed, you'd better have taken care of the problem and brought me May 23rd. In order for our plan to succeed, I'll have to update her prosthetic eye and adjust her Perfect Aim. Once completed, we'll make our way to the abandoned remains of Mt. Glenn and meet with the boss. The bastard's actually gotten off his fat ass and been busy setting things up for the final stage of our plan. So, you better not fuck it up."
Nothing more needed to be said as August hung up. July pouted at the impatient man before stretching her back with a yawn. Unlike the high strung man, she was more than fine with a little fun here and there. And what fun she would have!
Rising up from her comfy seat on the edge of the roof, July turned her purple sultry eyes down. She looked beyond the concrete in her way to the object of her current affections and grinned hotly.
"Oh, my sweet little knight in white armor~! Rest up and recover, because when next we meet, our bodies will have to meet one another in hot, sweaty combat. Clothes will be ripped, flesh will be smacked, a few toys may be brought in for excitement, and then a powerful climax will finally be reached! Ohhh, I'm just shuddering at the very thought of it all!"
Hands roaming her body, July had to fight back the urge to just barge into the rundown shop. All good things came to those who wait. And the wait would only make things that much more pleasurable and powerful upon release.
Bidding Crow's Nest farewell with a flying kiss, July turned her back to the sunset and made her way to her temporary headquarters. No amount of self-pleasure would be enough to satisfy her thirst tonight. And she only had eyes for one man this time.
For whatever reason, Jaune couldn't help but shiver and look back for an unnerving presence that both terrified him, and aroused him at the same time. Thank god he wasn't still hugging May at the moment.
No fighting skills, no idea what you're doing, and way in over your head; This was a situation you've found yourself in far too often to be considered odd. Though you're not sure what to do, your Soul is ready to once again to push you forward.
What does it take to be a hero? What reason does one have to be a hero in this modern-day world? The answer lays in that unforgiving soul that has never known kindness or warmth.
In the light of day, the shadows begin to move to snatch away that now sparked soul. The underground darkness of this normal world will show no forgiveness; neither should you. Steel your resolve and take control of that unburdened Soul.
There's no option to be weak now; Be strong and become that childish shield that had been abandoned in the modern world.
It's time to get ready to face the unknown evils that carefully hide beneath that so-called peaceful world! Oh, however will our beloved Freelancer prepare to fight assassins when he still doesn't even know how to control his Aura in this world that has forgotten such a power? How else does one try to find bad guys in a city like Remnant? I mean, it's not like they gather around some kind of bar or anything. That's just fashionably criminal!
As I've said in my other updated stories, I got a new cycle for updating. Hopefully, that cycle is sped up with all the time I've got on my hands. I do promise to add an Odd Jobs next time though. I had one already written, but's it's not done just yet and didn't want to rush it. I'm sure you'll all love it when we see another again.
Read and Review. It's common courtesy!
NeoShadows fading in and out.
Next update: A Certain Influx of Time Traveling Misfits; April 5th.