And here we are with the rewrite. Hopefully, I'll get it right this time.
For new folks who haven't read my original story, I say welcome. This a rewrite of the first story I wrote on this site and I intend to do it justice this time. So, without further ado, let's get to it.
Cover art - powerfulpomegranate
Most people would consider running away from a fight to be unbefitting of a huntress, let alone the champion of Mistral. Pyrrha liked to believe that in this case however, they would make an exception.
There were just some battles you didn't fight. No matter how skilled you were, sometimes retreating was the only option. There was a huge difference between bravery and stupidity, and only fools fought hopeless battles. Her instructors and mentors had taught her that much, and it was only now she was beginning to understand that lesson.
This woman was unnatural. She had only caught a glimpse of what she was now capable of with the maiden's power, but it was already enough to know that she was not to be crossed. Pyrrha was strong - one of the strongest people she knew - but how do you fight someone who flies and shoots fireballs with seemingly little effort?
The answer was simple - you don't. Professor Ozpin seemed to know this, despite offering to stay behind to buy them some time to escape. That was the first time she had ever seen the normally calm, stoic man look worried. If that didn't speak volumes about the woman's power, then what did?
So she ran. She ran with all her might. She ran with Jaune following close behind her. She ran until her lungs burned, and she wouldn't stop until she was finally outside.
The journey seemed endless, but eventually, they did reach the exit. They burst through the doors and into the outside world, still running a little more to put as much distance between them and the tower as possible. They came to an eventual stop in the courtyard, panting with exhaustion from how hard they ran. The sudden cold air bit into them, but adrenaline kept the pair from shivering.
Pyrrha looked around the ruined landscape. It looked like a war zone, but it still felt safer than being inside right now. That said, the sight before her did little to ease her worries. Everything was in ruins. Dust shells, destroyed Atlesian knights and even a few Paladins littered the ground. Fresh blood could be seen seeping into the cracks of the earth. In the distance, smoke could be seen rising from Vale, which was shrouded by a red and orange haze.
How had this happened? How had everything gone so wrong so quickly?
It was hauntingly quiet. Not a noise could be heard in the destroyed courtyard, aside from the two of them breathing. The silence was oppressing. She wanted to say something but couldn't find the strength to form words, both from exhaustion and from what she had seen.
"Pyrrha?" Jaune said nervously, breaking the silence. "What was all that?"
She let out a small sigh of relief. Despite all that had happened, at least she still had him by her side.
"Jaune, I-" Before she could finish, a huge explosion rocked the building. Glass went flying as flames burst through the window panes. God, she could feel the heat from here. The shockwave shook the area around them and nearly had them falling onto their backs. Looking up, they saw a trail of flames working its way up to the top of Beacon Tower.
That explosion was her doing. The woman was still alive.
Ozpin had lost…
"Ozpin… no…" Jaune whispered, mirroring what she was thinking. Pyrrha could only stare up in frightened awe.
This was it. This was the end. If not even Ozpin could stand his ground against her, what chance did they have? What chance did any of them have? The power of the Fall Maiden had made this woman unstoppable.
The power that was originally intended for her…
Pyrrha closed her eyes in regret. This was all her doing. None of this would have happened if she had just accepted Ozpin's offer right from the start. Whatever was happening now was a result of her cowardice. Everyone had been relying on her to become the new Fall Maiden, and what did she do? Flee at the first sign of responsibility.
And now everything was burning. Beacon and Vale were both in ruins. Her team and friends were out fighting for their lives. Everything she cared about was being destroyed all because of her. Because of her, that woman had stolen power that was made for her. Whether she liked it or not, that woman was now her responsibility.
As much as her instincts told her to run, there was only one thing that could be done…
Jaune looked at her in surprise. "Go?"
"You heard me. Get to Vale and find help. Do it now." She didn't know how long she'd be able to fight off the woman, but at least she would buy him enough time to escape. No one else was dying because of her.
"But what about you? What will you do?"
She sighed and looked back at the tower. She didn't want to answer that. She didn't even want to think about what she was going to do. But that woman still lay in wait and she had to be stopped. Who else could fight her but her?
She turned her head to him again. The thought suddenly dawned on her… this was the last time she would ever get to see him. It had felt like only moments ago when he took her to the funfair to cheer her up. Now she was about to leave him behind, to run off and almost certainly die…
It wasn't fair… but what else was she to do?
"No" Jaune cried, realising what she was intending to do. "No, no way. Pyrrha, you saw what she did to Ozpin. You know how strong she is."
Over his shoulder, she could see an abandoned weapons locker. It was a bit dented, but still in good condition. The lockers were just the right size for someone like him to fit in. She could push him inside and send him somewhere safe. Wherever he landed, at least he'd be far away from the school. He might even be found by someone and taken somewhere safe.
She placed a gentle hand on his breastplate. "I know," she said in a broken voice. "Believe me, I know. But she has to be stopped, Jaune. She's too dangerous to be left alone."
"And how do you plan to stop her?" he snapped. "Not even Ozpin could beat her! What chance do you think you have? Pyrrha, what you're suggesting is suicide!"
If she was quick enough, she could push him inside right now and send him away. He'd be too surprised to have time to react. Not even that, she could just use her semblance to push him in for her. As long as he was safe, that was all that mattered.
"I have to do this," she whispered. "She'd have never gotten those powers if it had been for me. She's my responsibility."
"What? Pyrrha, you're not making any sense." He pushed her hand away and held her shoulders, locking his gaze with hers. "How is she your responsibility? She attacked us first. None of this is your fault!"
"But it is!" she cried. "Everything that's happening right now is because of me!" She gestured to the burning Vale in the distance. "Everything's falling apart because of my decisions. Vale, Beacon, Ozpin, it's all my fault. I know you don't believe me-"
"Of course I don't!" he snapped. "How can you even say that? You didn't ask for any of this. You didn't want this to happen. This is not. Your. Fault!"
She looked at the ground and smiled sadly. She didn't expect him to understand, nor did she need him to. All that mattered was sending him to safety. Every second out here was putting him more at risk. The locker was right there and looked to be still functional. It should've been easy for her.
So why was she hesitating?
His grip on her shoulders tightened. It didn't hurt, but the force was enough to have her meet his eyes again. "Pyrrha, what's really going on here?" he asked firmly. "What was that machine back there in that vault? What does that woman have to do with any of this? Hell, what do you have to do with any of this?"
So many questions, yet she was too busy trying to answer her own - why was he still here? Why hadn't she sent him away already?
"There's no time for that, Jaune," she said. "You need to get out of here. Find Ren, Nora, anyone who can help. You're only gonna get hurt if you stay out here."
"I'm not going anywhere without you," he growled. "If I'm leaving, then so are you. There's no way in hell I'm leaving you alone with that woman."
"We don't have a choice. Just run while you still can. This is not your fight."
"It's not yours either!"
"I have to face her!" she cried. "This is all my doing. This is… it's destiny."
Her hands touched his breastplate again. She tried forcing her arms to move forward, yet for all her strength they barely moved an inch. He probably didn't even feel what she was trying to do.
Gods, why was this so hard!? What was the matter with her!?
"Pyrrha, this isn't you," he said softly. "You've never spoken like this before. What's going on here?"
And then she saw it. Tearing her gaze away from the locker, she caught the look in his eyes.
Despite everything falling apart around them, her partner was only concerned about her. His bright blue eyes were locked solely on her. The chaos didn't concern him. She was his main priority.
She understood her reason for not dismissing him from the beginning. She always knew, but now it was impossible to deny it.
She didn't want him to leave.
Not like this. Not in a situation built on lies and secrets. If this truly was the last time they would ever see each other, he deserved some closure. And maybe then he would understand why things had to be the way that they were.
"Jaune… what's your favourite fairy tale?"
The boy blinked in shock. "My favourite what?"
"Heh, forget it," she chuckled lightly. "Ozpin explained it better than me. Let's just say, not all stories are simply fiction. Some are truer than others. You ever hear the one about the Four Maidens?"
"Um, yeah? My mom used to read it to me all the time as a kid." He shook his head and looked sharply at her. "But wait, what has that got to do with anything?"
"I'm getting to that," she sighed. "You remember when we went down in the vault and there was another person in the machine?" She met his eyes with a steely gaze. "What if I told you she was the Fall Maiden of the story? Or, to be more specific, the current incarnation of her?"
Jaune stared at her in disbelief. "What are you saying, Pyrrha?"
"They're real, Jaune. Those women who wielded the power of the seasons, they're real. They still exist to this day." She took a moment to control herself. "And I was supposed to be one of them…"
And so, she told him about the offer Ozpin and the others approached her with. How they wanted her to become their new Fall Maiden by absorbing the soul of the current one. Jaune listened to the whole thing completely dumbfounded by her words. He never said a word as his mouth hung open with shock from her story.
In truth, it felt nice to be finally able to tell this story to someone else. The day Ozpin had asked her to become the new Maiden was the day her world on its head. She carried her secret like an iron ball around her ankle and it felt twice as heavy to deal with. Despite the current situation, to finally be able to talk about it felt strangely liberating.
If only the freedom could be long-lasting...
"What would have happened to you if you followed through with the procedure?" he whispered, horrified by what she was saying.
"I don't know," she said. "Not even Ozpin knew. I would've absorbed the Maiden's powers, but as for what would become of me? There was no way of telling."
"And yet Ozpin asked you to do it anyway?" he growled, sudden anger appearing in his tone. "What the hell was he thinking!?"
"It would've been for the good of everyone," she said quickly. She was a little surprised to hear herself defending the headmaster for placing this burden on her, but she couldn't deny that his intentions were pure. "Try to understand. By making me the Fall Maiden, the kingdoms would've been safer. He had everyone's best interests at heart."
"I'm not saying he didn't," he grumbled. "But why did he choose you? Why did he force this decision on you, rather than anyone else? You're just a teenager, Pyrrha!"
"I think it was because of my skills," she muttered. Her reputation as the Invincible Girl followed her everywhere and she did a fine job of living up to it. "He recognised my talents, so he must have thought I was the best option."
"Who cares about your skills!? You're still a teenager!" he cried. "He was asking a kid to accept that level of responsibility!? I'm sorry, Pyrrha, but that was wrong of him. He shouldn't have done that to you."
She smiled sadly at him. Trust him of all people to see her as still a normal teenager. Despite how often public placed her on a pedestal, he always viewed her as his equal. He was wonderful like that. She was gonna miss him.
"That's why you've been acting strange recently," he gasped. "You've been thinking about this all this time, haven't you?"
She shifted under his gaze. "I was scared," she weakly admitted. "What he was offering… it was too big for me to even comprehend. I didn't know what the right decision to make was. So I ended up stalling for time. It was cowardly, I know, but I-"
She was cut off when he pulled her into a sudden, but gentle hug. Her head rested against his shoulder while his hand gently stroked her hair. For a moment she stood there stunned, shocked at the sudden display of affection. It was only when she realised what was happening and felt the heat from his body did she hug back.
His arms felt safer and warmer than that machine she had been in moments ago. His mere presence alone made her briefly forget the carnage around them and finally feel safe for a change. She felt the weight of her burdens disappear as she leaned into his touch, allowing herself to close her eyes and enjoy the moment. It was moments like this that made her love having him as her partner.
That made her love him…
"God, Pyrrha, I can't even imagine what you must have gone through," he whispered softly. "I'm sorry you had to deal with all of that without us."
She giggled lightly against his shoulder. Apologising was usually her thing, especially considering how her cowardice was the cause of all this. Well, no more. She was done running away from her responsibility. She had let Beacon and her friends down once already. She wasn't about to do it again. It was time to finish this.
As much as it pained her to do so, she gently removed herself from his warm embrace. At least she had able to end things on a more happier note. That bit of knowledge raised her spirits, if only by a little bit.
"Now do you understand, Jaune? Why I have to do this?" she asked him. "Because of my hesitation, I allowed that woman to come in and steal the Maiden's power. Do you understand why this is all my fault?"
"This doesn't change anything, Pyrrha," he muttered. "Of course you didn't say yes immediately. No one would. You're not a coward for not accepting a strange offer right away. You were just being careful."
She shrugged. "Regardless, she still wouldn't have gotten that power had I just accepted it in the first place. I know I didn't want or expect any of this to happen, but this is my doing. I have to make things right, or at least try to."
Judging from how strong the woman had become, it was likely going to be the latter that was about to happen. She tried telling herself that she had come to peace with that, but she never was very good at lying, not even to herself. Being here with Jaune reminded her how much she desperately wanted to live.
But she wasn't going to shy away from her duty, even if it did frighten her… Oh God, she didn't want to die...
Jaune stared silently at her. His expression was hard to read. He looked so defeated, but it seemed like he had accepted what she was trying to say. "You're really serious about fighting her, aren't you?" he said quietly.
She tried smiling at him, but it was hard. "There's no other way," she said weakly. "I'm the only one who has a chance of stopping her."
"And there's nothing I can do to convince you otherwise?"
"I'm sorry, Jaune."
He held her gaze for a few moments before lowering his head in defeat. "Alright then," he whispered.
She nodded silently and turned her back on him. She could feel tears tickling her eyes and she wanted to spare him the sight of seeing her cry. She didn't want his last memory of her to be one of misery. She wanted him to remember all the good times they had together. That afternoon at the funfair came to mind.
It was the sound of a sword being unsheathed that caused her to turn around.
When she looked back at him, he was standing up straighter with his weapon drawn out. He had even folded out his shield. While she stared at him confused, he looked back at her with newfound determination. "Ready to do this?" he asked her.
Do what? What was he…
No, no, no, no, no!
"What do you think you think you're doing?" she gasped, horrified at what she was seeing. "You're not coming with me!"
"You said it yourself, Pyrrha. I can't convince you to leave." He walked closer to her and she didn't miss the nervous wobble in his step. "And I've already said I'm not leaving you alone with that woman. So the way I see it, there's only one thing I can do."
"Yes, and that's to leave this place!" she cried. "We have no idea what that woman is capable of! You don't stand a chance against her!"
"No more than you do," he grunted. "But if we fight together, we might be able to last long enough for backup to arrive." He fished out his scroll and starting looking through his contacts. "I'll call Ren, Nora, and Team RWBY now. I'll tell them what we're doing and to come to our location."
"There is no we in this, Jaune!" she shouted. "I'm telling you to go! You need to be somewhere safe!"
"So you can go out and die alone to that woman? I don't think so."
"How could I live with myself?" he barked. "How could I carry on knowing that when my partner fought trying to save everyone, I was miles away from her in her time of need? I wouldn't, because I know I would have failed you!" He closed his eyes and groaned. "So please, let me help you. For your sake and mine."
For a moment, she was briefly reminded of that time he had complained about 'being the idiot stuck in the tree' as he had put it that night on the roof. Even though she had promised to never treat him like that, that promise didn't really apply to this situation. True, they probably stood a better chance fighting together, but the most likely outcome would be that they would both die.
Why should he have to make that sacrifice on her behalf? It wasn't fair to him, even if he didn't realise it yet. Her eyes caught the site of the weapons locker again.
"Jaune… that wasn't a request," she said seriously. Flexing her fingers, she activated her semblance. His armour and weapons glowed black, rooting him to the spot. Jaune looked surprised as he found himself bound by her power. "You are leaving this place. I will not allow you to risk your life because of my mistakes."
He struggled against the invisible hand that gripped him. "Pyrrha, you don't want to do this," he grunted.
"Yes, I do. You need to be safe, Jaune."
"I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about fighting her by yourself." Her hold on him faltered a little from his words. "You know what I mean, Pyrrha. You're as scared as I am to face her."
"I'm doing what has to be done," she growled.
"But you don't want to," he countered. "Not by yourself, at least. And you don't have to, I'm right here. You're not alone in this anymore, Pyrrha. You don't have to do everything by yourself-"
"Enough!" she snapped. "This is for your own good. Yes, I'm scared, and yes, I don't know what will happen to me. But that doesn't mean you have to get hurt too. So you will leave, or so help me, I will make you leave."
To emphasise her point, she used her semblance to push his body back a little. He had given up trying to fight against her, but he still looked up at her with desperate eyes.
"Then prove it," he said. "I know you don't believe what you say, so prove me wrong. Go on, send me away. We know you can do it, so what are you waiting for?"
She could do it. She had to do it. Jaune was one of the best things that had ever happened to her, and it was her duty as his partner to protect him. The only way to do that was by sending him somewhere safe. If she had to fight alone, so be it. As long as he was okay, that's all that mattered!
Her hand wobbled as she tried moving him. Her mind was a conflicted mess as her desires and her sense of duty clashed. She wanted him safe more than anything, but… she didn't want him to leave. She just couldn't accept that this would be the last time she would ever see him. The fact that he was so willing to stand by her side didn't help either.
She shouldn't have been feeling like this. This wasn't his fight, it was hers. It was selfish of her to want him to stay. She knew this well, but it did little to change anything.
Gods, why did he have to look at her like that? Why did he have to be so caring and selfless?
Why did he have to make this so difficult?
"Argh!" she shouted as she fell to her knees and slammed her fist against the ground, releasing her hold on him in the process. He stumbled a little from being released but quickly rushed to her side once he found his footing. Her teary eyes were glued to the ground.
Why? Why did she have to be such a coward at a time like this? She didn't want him hurt, but she couldn't bear the idea of being alone again. Not when she had someone like him in her life. Oh God, she was such a mess.
She only looked up again when she saw his hand reaching down to her. That smile she was so familiar with shone down on her. It was a little more nervous than usual, but his eyes still managed to shine in a way that made her heart flutter.
She graciously accepted it and he pulled her up. "That's what I thought," he smiled. "You're not wrong for wanting a little help. That was something you taught me, you know. We're partners, Pyrrha. Whatever the situation, I will always be here for you."
Pyrrha was at a loss for words. She could feel tears in the corner of her eyes again, but she didn't feel sad in the slightest.
He was willing to risk everything for her. For her...
For the first time that night, Pyrrha felt genuinely happy. Her duty still loomed over her head, but because of him, it felt a little bit easier to bear. With them fighting together, it almost seemed accomplishable.
If he was still willing to fight by her side.
"Jaune, I'm going to say this only once," she said firmly. "Are you absolutely certain you want to come with me?" She felt the need to hear him confirm it, just for clarity sake.
"You already know the answer to that."
Well, at least that was reassuring.
"In that case, I'm gonna need you to make me a promise," she said. "When we go up there, don't stray too far from me, and don't make any reckless attacks. These powers have made her extremely dangerous, and I can't protect you if you're too careless."
"You don't need to worry about protecting me," he laughed with a little show of his weapons. "I've gotten pretty used to these things now. I promise I won't be a liability."
Now it was her turn to laugh. This almost felt like old times. If it wasn't looking completely trashed right now, they could've just been having another normal chat in the courtyard. With any luck, they'd be able to continue having talks like this for many more days to come.
Right now though, they had a job to do. They had a job to do.
"Then what are we waiting for?" Pyrrha smiled. "Let's do this, partner."
Walking back through Beacon's hallways felt strange, considering how they had been running for their lives out of them mere moments ago. Now they were returning to the very thing they had been running away from. She had to laugh at their own craziness.
Jaune had called their team and Team RWBY before they headed back inside, telling them to get back to Beacon as quick as they could. He told them that they were about to fight the woman responsible for all this and that they needed backup as soon as possible. Whether they could hold out long enough for them to arrive was something she didn't want to think about.
It was haunting to see Beacon so desolate. The now empty hallways used to be alive with the hustle and bustle of everyday activity. To see her home away from home look so abandoned hurt her. Hopefully, if they won they'd be able to rebuild, but it would take a long time to recover from an attack like this.
She turned to her partner who was still following loyally behind her. It was hard to ignore his shaking hands and the sound of his teeth chattering. Despite wanting to stand by her, he was still clearly terrified of what lay ahead. She was too, but it seemed she had more control than what he did.
"Are you okay, Jaune?" she asked him.
He jumped at the sound of her voice but quickly recovered. "Y-Yeah, I'm fine," he chuckled nervously. "Just first nerves, you know? It's not every day you fight a woman with the powers of a god."
"Don't think about it like that," she giggled. Even though she was handling better than him, she could feel the nervousness beginning to creep into her voice too. She took her hand in his, and whilst she did it mostly to comfort him, she took a little enjoyment in the way his hand felt in hers. "And don't worry about the fight. I told you, I'll be watching over you."
He nodded. "Yeah, me too." They carried on in silence for a little while before he started chuckling again. "You know, it was nice to see you open up back there. I know things aren't great right now, but me, Ren and Nora have been worried about you ever since you started feeling down. It was good to see you look happy again, is what I'm trying to say."
She laughed lightly at the observation, which ended with a sigh. "I never expected to reveal what happened. I'm not sure I was ever going to. Keeping it to myself seemed like the only way to deal with it. Gods, I was so confused."
He squeezed her hand in a reassuring manner. The sensation sent a familiar tingling feeling shooting through her body. "Let's make a deal then," he said. "When we get out of here, no more secrets. We'll be totally honest with each other at all times."
"Yes, of course," she nodded. "One hundred percent honesty…"
She sighed internally. She was gonna have to admit her feelings for him one day. Of all the secrets she had, that was also a difficult one to reveal. She considered admitting it to him earlier out in the courtyard. Even now, she was considering telling him before they went up. There was no telling what was going to happen, so why hide things now?
But she decided against it. Such a confession might end up distracting him. They both needed to be completely focused if they wanted to survive. But she swore, if they got out of this alive, she would tell him the second she got the chance to. No more secrets, as he said.
After a while, they approached the elevator that had brought them to the vault. Alas, it was completely trashed and inoperable, likely a cause of when the woman used her new powers to ascend to the top of the tower.
"No way we're travelling in this," Jaune muttered. "Guess we're taking the stairs. Greeeat."
Pyrrha considered what he said. It was a lot of stairs on the way to the top. It would probably take too long to walk up all of them. Time was of the essence, and they had wasted enough back there. Pyrrha then looked back at the ruined elevator. There was an awful lot of metal inside…
"I have an idea," Pyrrha said, "It won't be easy, but I can use my semblance to make the elevator bring us up to the top."
"Uh, Pyrrha… are you sure that's safe?" Jaune said, looking at the wreck before him. A spark suddenly flew from inside the elevator to emphasise his point.
"Well it's better than walking, wouldn't you agree?" Pyrrha said with a smirk.
Jaune sighed and made his way inside with her following. The inside of it was a mess. There were holes everywhere and the circuits were fried. Oh yes, using her semblance was the only way to get this thing moving.
"You might want to hold on to something," she said as she flexed her fingers. Lifting something like this was gonna require all of her focus and power. She just hoped she was up for the task. Jaune in the meantime was scrambling around for something to hold on to, eventually finding a handrail that miraculously wasn't torn of the wall.
Once he was secure, she activated her semblance and the elevator started moving. It was by no means an easy feat. She had never used her semblance on such a large object before, and she felt the entire weight of the elevator all around her. Regardless, she endured its weight and used all her might to launch it upwards.
The elevator moved at incredible speed, shooting its way up to the top of the tower. Pyrrha stood firm against the speed as she continued pushing the elevator up, whereas poor Jaune looked like he was pushing down the contents of his stomach. She had almost forgotten about his infamous motion sickness. She would've thought adrenaline would help cancel it out, but that didn't seem to be the case.
Her focus was brought back when she realised they had reached their destination. Her heart was beating furiously in her chest. This was it. Despite how scared she was feeling, she refused to let that woman see any signs of fear. Instead, she would show her how the Champion of Mistral hunts monsters…
"Get ready for anything," she whispered to him. He responded with a shaky nod of the head.
The doors opened and they immediately filed out, weapons brandished at the ready. Ozpin's office had been spared any of the destruction the rest of the school suffered. The only imperfection being the woman who had caused all this devastation was inside it.
She was standing at the end of the room with her back to them, gazing out the window at all the destruction she had caused. Her reflection was clear in the window. She had raven-black hair, fierce amber eyes and flawless pale skin. Yes, Pyrrha would admit, she was a strikingly beautiful woman. Unfortunately, beauty would not be enough to protect her.
The woman turned her head to the sound of them entering. "Oh, it's you two," she said in smooth, casual voice. "What do you want?"
What did they… what did they want!?
Pyrrha's grip on her weapon tightened. This woman dared to infiltrate their school, attack it with an army of Grimm and terrorists, and then act like nothing happened!? She didn't even sound threatened by the pair of them. How could one woman be so twisted!?
"Nothing to say?" she said, turning her gaze back to the window. "In that case, would you mind leaving me alone? The view from up here is lovely and I'd prefer to enjoy it in peace."
"Where's Ozpin?" Pyrrha growled. She had had enough of this woman's disgustingly cocky attitude. "What have you done with him?"
"What do you think?"
Pyrrha's heart raced. So it was true. Ozpin was dead. That woman had killed him…
No. She couldn't let fear get the best of her now. She had to stand her ground. They both did. She barely had time to focus on her fear when Jaune spoke up.
"Pyrrha, I recognise her," he gasped. "She's one of the transfer students from Haven. She's on the same team as Emerald and Mercury. Her name's Cinder, I think."
Frowning, she realised that the woman did look a little familiar. They had never interacted, but she had seen her fight in the tournament. Even without powers, she was still one to be reckoned with. Although she would never admit it, she liked her chances even less now.
The observation was enough to get the woman - apparently named Cinder - to turn her head. A sly grin was on her face as she addressed them. "Lucky guess," she chuckled. "I suppose it's only fair you know a little about me. After all, I already know plenty about you." She raised a hand and pointed a finger her way. "Especially you, Pyrrha Nikos."
Pyrrha's face paled. Even though she was used to people recognising her, it was never a good sign when a murderer knew your name. And was it just her, or did she sneer her name when she said it?
Cinder took a couple steps forward, her finger still pointing at her. "Yes, I know a lot about you. Ozpin's little pet project. I knew he was grooming students to take Amber's place, but I had a feeling he'd choose you out of everyone else. An already strong girl made even more powerful without having to work for it." Her eyes flared for the briefest of moments. "That… wouldn't have been fair to me if that happened."
The bitter look in her eyes, the steel edge in her otherwise calm tone…
Was Cinder angry at her?
About what? Just because Ozpin selected her to be the new Fall Maiden? She wanted to scream at her that she didn't ask for that kind of power. That the decision plagued her every waking thought. There was nothing about her situation to be jealous of!
It felt like it would be a wasted effort, though. Cinder seemed to have had already made up her mind. The time for negotiations had passed the moment she had invaded the school.
Her finger then pointed at Jaune. "You, however, were of no real importance. All I remembered of you was of that one time in a combat lesson. I remember watching you fight and thinking to myself, 'how on earth did someone like him find his way into Beacon?'"
"I'm stronger than you think," he snarled.
"That's not saying much, I'm afraid," she laughed. "Now go, run along. I'm in a very good mood today and I don't need to kill any more of you now. Consider this a mercy, or better yet, a day off school."
"We're not going anywhere!" Pyrrha snapped. "And you won't be killing anyone else. For all those who have suffered and died tonight, we're here to bring you to justice!"
"Are you now?" she smirked. "Even after everything you've seen, you still think you have a chance?" She began to hover in the air and held out her hands. Two huge flames suddenly materialised in her palms. "I am the Fall Maiden, girl. Nothing you can do can harm me."
"Your power doesn't scare us," she snarled. "Maiden or not, we will defeat you."
Cinder said nothing as she hovered in the air, the flames in her hands still crackling with life. After a moment of staring them down, she rolled her eyes. "Let it never be said that I didn't give you a chance to leave," she sighed before launching the flames at the pair.
Instincts kicked in and Pyrrha rolled out of the way of the incoming flame. The fireball narrowly missed her and hit the wall behind her, exploding on impact. Jaune was slower to react but successfully blocked the fireball with his shield. The impact knocked him off his feet though, and his body went flying backwards, crashing into the wall behind him. He groaned in pain as he struggled to get back up.
Meanwhile, Pyrrha charged at Cinder with her spear at the ready. She threw her shield at her head, which Cinder dodged so casually it was like she wasn't even trying. No matter, as the shield was already heading back around, aiming straight for the back of Cinder's head. When she was close enough, Pyrrha lunged at her with her spear.
Unfortunately, Cinder somehow anticipated the shield coming back around. She grabbed it before it could hit her without even looking at it and blocked the spear. Pyrrha's surprise allowed her to slam the shield against her face, knocking her to the side. Grabbing Pyrrha by the neck, she threw her at Jaune, who was still trying to find his feet. The pair crashed into each other, lying in a crumpled mess on the floor.
"Pathetic," Cinder sneered. "This is a waste of your time and lives." She shot a fireball at the elevator they had used, destroying it beyond repair. "But I already gave you a chance to run. If you're going to live like hunters, you might as well die like them too."
Pyrrha's knees wobbled as she tried standing up again. It had been a while since she took a hit like that before. After so many flawless wins, she had almost forgotten what pain felt like. It wasn't a pleasant reminder.
Quickly transforming her spear into a rifle, she fired several shots at Cinder. The woman in red lazily waved her hand and a pillar of flames rose out of the ground. Those bullets never even touched her. Out from the flames came another fireball heading straight for her. She was more prepared for this one though and dodged out of the way. Back on her feet, Pyrrha began running around the side of Cinder in the hopes of flanking her.
A stream of flames followed her as she tried to get around her. They never touched her, but she could feel their heat tickling her back, threatening to burn the skin. Pyrrha continued to shoot, but each bullet fired was blocked by flames.
Deciding to close the distance again, Pyrrha charged at Cinder with her shield raised. Cinder responded by firing a powerful stream of flames directly at her. Pyrrha's attack halted as she quickly blocked the stream heading her way Her knees buckled from the force of the flames, causing her to drop to one knee. She held them off to the best of her ability, but it was like trying to block a million fiery fists all at once.
Some of the flames managed to get around the shield, licking her skin and burning the vulnerable flesh. Aura protected her from serious damage, but the flames still had her hissing in pain. Her shield arm was beginning to wobble. Her stance was faltering. Over her shield, she could see Cinder wearing that same smirk as before. That vile woman was enjoying this.
The stream suddenly stopped when Jaune smacked Cinder in the back of her head with his shield. Her partner had somehow managed to sneak up behind her when they weren't looking. Cinder yelped in surprise and stumbled forward, cutting off the flames instantly.
Jaune shot Pyrrha a nervous grin, to which she responded with a nod as thanks for the save. But despite their small victory, the battle was far from over.
Snarling, Cinder whipped around to meet Jaune and grabbed him by the throat, squeezing it tightly and applying heat to her palm. A small line of smoke could be seen coming from her hand. Using her power, she hovered in the air again and dragged him up with her.
Jaune coughed and spluttered in her grip. His eyes were clenched shut from the feeling of being choked and burned at the same time. He dropped his weapons trying to pry himself loose, but Cinder's hand squeezed like a vice around his neck.
Fuming with rage, Pyrrha threw her shield at Cinder, which she caught just as easily as before. But with no hands to defend herself, Pyrrha fired several more shots at her, forcing her to drop Jaune and block the bullets. Jaune fell to the ground, wheezing as he felt air fill his lungs again. A painfully red handprint could be seen on his neck.
Still holding her shield, Cinder flew towards Pyrrha with the face of the shield heading straight for her. Pyrrha met the attack by blocking it with her spear, pushing against the shield and the woman behind it. Their eyes were locked in a heated staredown as they clashed against each other.
Jaune was already jumping back into the fray, charging in with his sword at the ready. Cinder anticipated him this time and blocked his strike by materialising a curved black blade in her hand. Unable to cope with the force of both of them, her arm collapsed under the force of Pyrrha's strength, allowing her to swipe at her with her spear.
Cinder cried out in pain and Jaune slammed her with his shield, not giving her a chance to recover. The hit had her stumbling backwards, nearly knocking her off her feet. Her body stumbled as she tried to regain her footing.
This was it! They were winning this!
Transforming Milo back into a rifle, Pyrrha fired more rounds at her. Without the means to defend herself, the bullets hit their mark and exploded on impact. With each hit, Cinder was sent further back, her body flailing from the force of the impact. Jaune took the opportunity to slash at her with his sword in a mighty swing that forced her to one knee. Cinder's cries of pain were matched only by her exhausted breathing, sweat dripping down her head.
To finish it off, Pyrrha launched her shield at Cinder's tired body, the weapon crashing into her and sending her flying. Her body smashed against the window, but the reinforced glass prevented her from breaking it. Cinder dropped to the floor the second Pyrrha used her semblance to retrieve her shield, landing face first on the floor.
She made no effort to get back up...
For a moment, Pyrrha and Jaune took a moment to believe what just happened. The pair looked at each other, laughing tiredly from the absurdity of what they had just accomplished.
They had won. They had faced the Fall Maiden and they won.
It seemed almost too good to be true.
"We did it," Jaune laughed, stumbling his way over to her. His words came out slow and forced due to his heavy breathing. "This will be… quite the story... to tell the guys, huh?"
Pyrrha chuckled weakly and threw her arms around him in a victory hug. To think she was worried about bringing him along. Without him, she probably would've lost on her own. This was the reason why he was made team leader - when given the chance, his wisdom helped overcome any situation.
"Let's not lose focus now," she said. "We need to keep an eye on her until Team RWBY comes. Then we can figure out what we're gonna do to her."
"Understood," he smiled. "Though it doesn't look like she's going anywhere anytime soon-"
A growl cut him off as the woman on the floor slowly made her way back onto her feet. Her body trembled with each movement, and her face was hidden behind her ashen-black hair. When she looked up at them, her eyes were glowing from red-hot fury. Her lips were twisted into a ferocious snarl.
Using her powers, she made herself hover in the air, glaring down at them with absolute malice. The pair could practically feel the power radiating from her. The calm demeanour she had once possessed was long gone. Stood in its place was a being of pure hate and rage.
It made her terrifying to look at.
"I've had enough of this," she hissed. Her tone was quiet and dripping with venom. "There is always someone in my way. No matter how far I've come, no matter what I do, there is always someone trying to stop me from obtaining what is mine. Even now after I've won, I'm being challenged by children. Children! And they think that they've beaten me!?"
Her body became encased in flames until all that was left of her was black silhouette hidden beneath a shroud of fire, recognisable by her glowing eyes that burned brighter than the flames surrounding her. Pyrrha and Jaune raised their shields and expected the worst.
"Is this just a game to you!?" her voice roared. "I've given up everything to be here! This power is mine by right. You think you can take it away from me? What more do I have to prove!?"
The room shook from the power her rage was unleashing. The air felt incredibly hot and almost burned her lungs to breath in. Pyrrha's grip on her weapons shook as her fingers trembled with fear. Was this the power of a maiden? Earlier on, Pyrrha thought she might've stood some sort of a change against her as long as she fought well. Looking up at her now, the terrible truth finally dawned on her.
Neither of them stood a chance in hell.
"I will never surrender," she seethed. "The power of the Maiden is mine! All of it is mine! It shall never be yours!"
With one final roar of fury, the body of flames surrounding her exploded all around them. A scorching hot wind washed over Pyrrha as they were both sent flying. Her eyes swam in her head from the bright light that accompanied the explosion, and every ounce of strength in her body was punched out of her.
She was unconscious before she even hit the ground.
A world of orange greeted Pyrrha when she awoke. The night sky had been made even darker with the stars hidden beneath a thick blanket of smoke. It was odd how she was even able to see the sky from inside without looking out the window. As she lay on her back staring at the ceiling, realisation hit her.
She wasn't inside. There was no ceiling.
Everything hurt. She hissed in agony as she tried turning her head. Her body was battered and covered in dirt. The pain was at least a reminder that she had survived Cinder's attack. But it looked like the explosion had completely obliterated the room they were once fighting in.
A wall of fire now surrounded her. Huge, monstrous flames closed in around her and threatened to strip the flesh from her bones. The heat alone nearly had her passing out again. The smoke from them stung her eyes and filled her lungs. Being so close to them, it felt like her body was going to explode.
"Jaune?" she called out amidst the roar of the flames. She tried adding more strength to her voice, but her lungs felt scorched. "Jaune, where are you? Jaune?"
It was no use. Her voice was too weak for anyone to hear her. She tried looking around for him, but all she could see, hear and taste was fire.
She scrambled away from one of the flames that got too close. It was like the flames were actively reaching out to her, trying to burn her alive in their fiery palms. A couple flames licked her exposed skin, burning the sensitive flesh that her aura was trying so desperately to protect.
"Anybody!?" she tried calling out again, praying that somebody would hear. "Is anyone out there? Jaune? Tell me where you are, Jaune! Please!"
Her words died in the flames. No one was coming to help her. She was completely alone in this burning pit.
The flames seemed to be getting closer and closer. She tried crawling away from them, but the further she scrambled, another wall of flames blocked her path. She felt like a rat trapped in a burning cage. There was nowhere for her to run or hide. Flames blocked her every path.
The sky was now lost to her. The flames had grown so large that they concealed the sky within its sickly orange glow.
Fire burning all around her.
Everywhere she looked there was fire.
This was hell!
She wanted to scream but the smoke was choking her. She couldn't breathe!
She was going to die. She was going to die alone and in pain.
Her eyes darted all around looking for an escape, but her frightened gaze landed on something else. Lying on the ground a few feet away from her were her weapons. Still looking functional, they rested in a gap between a few flames, seemingly undamaged by the destruction around her. A small shred of hope swelled inside her.
She felt powerless in a dangerous situation without them. As long as she still had her weapons, she felt she could combat any situation. And if she was going to die here, she'd prefer to die the way all hunters died - armed.
She dragged her body across the floor towards her weapons. It would be so easy to just use her semblance to grab them, but her aura was weak enough as it was. Any more strain on it would cause it to deplete completely, and she needed something to protect her from the flames.
She was getting closer. She ignored the flames that tried to lap at her fingers. Her hand was burning, but she was so close now. They were almost within touching distance. Just a little bit further and-
"No, you don't!"
She saw a foot kick her weapons away to the side before she could grab them. That same foot then stomped down hard on her hand, the heel from the shoe almost crushing the bones. Pyrrha cried out in agony and tried wiggling her way free, but it was no use. What remained of her aura was desperately trying to minimise the damage.
She looked up and saw the red demon at last - Cinder. Untouched by the flames, she was glaring down at her with pure hatred. Her eyes burned with the fires of malice and her face was twisted into a furious snarl. Against the flames, combined with her red dress and murderous gaze, she truly looked like the monster she was.
She twisted the heel deeper into her hand, earning another cry of pain from her. "You aren't going to do anything else, Pyrrha Nikos," she seethed. "You're not going to fight. You're not even going to scream. You're just going to lay down and die like the rest of them."
She removed her foot from her hand and kicked her in the face. A white flash filled Pyrrha's vision as her head twisted violently from the impact, landing face down on the ground. She barely had time to recover when Cinder yanked her head up by her ponytail. She was so broken she couldn't even fight back.
The great wall of flames greeted her again. She looked into them with despair. She could feel the cool trail of tears run down her cheeks as the world around her burned.
"Why?" she muttered weakly. She had so little energy left, all she could do was manage out a few last words. "Why are you doing this? Why?"
Her head was yanked up a little tighter. Cinder knelt down and leaned in close to her ear. "Because I hate you," she whispered harshly. Her voice carried so much wrath in such a hushed tone. "You nearly took everything away from me. Everything I worked my whole life to achieve. Of all the obstacles in my way, none could have caused me more trouble than you. That's all you are. An obstacle. But not anymore."
Pyrrha wept silently. It didn't make any sense. Nothing about today made sense. Not the Maiden's, not what she was saying, nothing. She was going to die alone and confused.
"So now it's my turn," Cinder snarled. "I shall be the one who takes from you this time. I'll take everything from you." The black blade she had been fighting with earlier suddenly formed in her hand. She held it before Pyrrha's widening eyes before pressing it to her neck. "This is what you deserve," she whispered. The last voice she would ever hear.
The cold steel pressed tightly against her neck. Pyrrha tried closing her eyes, but they remained wide open with fear. Her heart felt like it was about to burst. Would it hurt? Would she die quickly? Her breathing turned into short, frantic breaths. She didn't want pain. Please let there be no pain.
The blade pressed tighter against her. She could see a small trickle of blood form along its metal.
"Get away from her!"
A familiar voice rang in the air. She turned her head as much as she could and saw the last person she expected to see again.
He limped his way towards the pair. He was in terrible shape. He looked ready to collapse from the damage his body had taken. His armour was practically destroyed and his face was covered in bruises and cuts. His skin looked badly burned too. His aura must have been depleted in the explosion, as there were no signs of it healing him.
Nevertheless, he had a fierce look of determination on his face as he dragged his feet forward. His hand still held his sword at the ready, albeit shakingly. Whatever his body was suffering, he was still willing to fight.
Hope surged through Pyrrha from the sight of him. Seeing him still alive despite the odds brought her such joy…
… and such horror.
She looked up and saw her would-be killer staring at her partner. The look of hatred she had worn previously was gone from her face. Her expression was blank, but Pyrrha noticed the look in her eyes. They flickered in excitement as he made his way towards them. She looked like a snake gazing at an unexpected prey.
A cruel smirk formed on her face as she planned her next move.
Please God no!
Cinder crouched down to her level again. "I'll start with him," she whispered. She pushed her away and started walking slowly towards him.
No! Pyrrha scrambled forward and tried to stop her, but a wall of fire suddenly appeared from nowhere and blocked her path. She could nothing but watch as Jaune was trapped in a burning arena with Cinder.
Leave him alone! she wanted to scream. This wasn't his fight. Take her instead, just please let him live. Please.
"I'm surprised you're still alive, " Cinder laughed. "I thought for certain that blast killed you. You're persistent, I'll give you that. Like a real hunter. Or a cockroach."
"Told you I'm stronger than I look," he growled. Every step he made looked like it was agony for him. "You're gonna… you're gonna leave Pyrrha alone!"
Cinder's smirk grew. "Don't worry, boy. I'm all yours," she purred. She pointed her sword at him. "Come and get me."
Please run. Pyrrha begged for him to just leave and save himself. He didn't stand a chance against Cinder. Neither of them did now.
Jaune took the bait. He staggered forward and tried delivering a powerful downward swing. Cinder blocked it with ease with just one hand. Her arm didn't even tremble. She punched him in his broken chestplate, causing him to stumble backwards and fall.
He landed on his back and gasped in pain. Cinder tapped her foot playfully on the ground, waiting for him to get back up again. Staggering back on his feet, he charged in again and blindly slashed at her. Each swing of his sword was slow and sloppy. Cinder barely even had to dodge.
Pyrrha watched in despair as Cinder toyed with her partner. Sometimes she stepped out of the way of his strike. Other times she blocked and countered them by jabbing him with her sword or burning him. This wasn't a fight. This was just cruelty.
Pyrrha couldn't do anything but watch due to the flames blocking her path. Not that she'd be of any help anyway. She could hardly feel her legs. She desperately searched for anything that could help. Jaune was going to die unless she helped him.
And then she found her solution. Lying in the distance was her weapons that Cinder had kicked away. She had nearly forgotten about them. Thank God they hadn't fallen off the side of the tower.
She crawled closer to them and tried reaching out to them, but the flames threatened to burn her fingers off. No matter how much she tried, she couldn't reach them.
She had no choice. She was going to have to use her semblance to grab them. It would result in the end of her aura, but right now she needed her weapons. In the distance, she heard the clash of metal and Cinder laughing. At least the fight was still going on.
She flexed her fingers and her weapons glowed black. They then began slowly moving towards her. Sweat poured down her face as she used what was left of her strength into getting her weapons back. Her muscles ached, her fingers trembled, but she remained focused. She had to push on.
After what felt like an eternity, the weapons eventually moved close enough to touch. A crackling red effect covered her body and the whole world suddenly seemed even hotter than before. That was it. That was the last of her aura. She had nothing to protect her anymore.
But she needed no protection. She looked back at the fight going on. Cinder's focus was completely on Jaune as she taunted him after every failed strike. Pyrrha could provide covering fire from where she was. It wouldn't stop her, but it'd at least distract her and buy him enough time to run.
She grabbed her spear and transformed it into its rifle form. She gritted her teeth and forced herself not to scream in pain as she held it.
Oh God, it burned!
Her weapon had survived the blast, but the fire had made it scorching hot. With no aura to protect her, the metal burned her palms. It felt like she was gripping molten hot magma in her hands.
She hissed in pain as she aimed down the sights. She had to ignore the pain. Jaune was counting on her to make the shot. She tried holding the rifle steady in her trembling hands. It felt like they were melting off her arms.
Cinder filled her vision. She had her backed turned to Pyrrha, completely unaware of what she was doing. She had a clear shot. She just had to pull the trigger.
The smell of burning flesh hit her nostrils.
Pull the trigger!
Her hands started to spasm from the intensity of the heat.
Pull the trigger!
Her arms wobbled. Her eyes clenched shut. She could feel the grip on her weapon loosen. Her aim was slipping.
It hurt so much…
She let loose a howl of pain as she dropped her rifle, lying on the floor and nursing her scorched hands. The flesh was as red as her hair and was painful to even look at. She held them close to her chest, trying to shield them from further harm.
She had failed him.
To her misery, she saw that her scream had attracted Cinder's attention. The woman's eyes narrowed at the sight of her weapons lying close to her. They flared in anger and when she faced Jaune again she no longer fought with that playful demeanour. Now she was completely serious.
She kicked him away and hurled a large fireball at him. He quickly blocked it with his shield and the light from the explosion temporarily blinded both him and Pyrrha. When the light faded he was still standing, but the explosion had obliterated his shield. Broken pieces of white metal littered the ground, leaving the Arc family heirloom completely destroyed. Even its once golden emblem was now unrecognisable.
Jaune stared at the ground stunned, mourning the loss of his shield. It almost looked like he was about to cry. When he looked up at Cinder again, it was with pure hate and rage. He put all of his efforts into one last swing of his sword, hoping to rain his blade down on her head.
"No…" Pyrrha whimpered. Her voice carried as much strength as his swing.
Cinder stood her ground and grabbed his wrist before the sword could touch her, bringing his attack to a stop. He struggled against her grip, but she pulled him forward with ease into her space. She applied heat to the hand holding his wrist, forcing him to drop his sword. The blade fell and clattered to the ground.
Their foreheads touched from how close they were. There was nowhere for him to run. She smiled sinisterly at him.
She saw the whole thing in slow motion…
Cinder raised her sword and ran the black blade into Jaune's chest, the weapon easily piercing through what was left of his armour. Jaune gasped and tried pulling away, but Cinder's free hand let go of his wrist and snaked around his waist, pulling him closer to her. His eyes widened as the blade was forced deeper into him. His body twitched and trembled in her grasp.
A noise that sounded like a strangled whine left Pyrrha's lips.
Cinder held him in place for a few seconds, before retracting her blade and pushing him back with a gentle push to his chest. She made the blade in her hand disappear. She no longer had any use for it. The damage was already done.
Jaune stumbled backwards, his whole body trembling. For a moment he said nothing, staring at the hole in his chest in shock. It was as if he couldn't comprehend what had happened. A shaky hand of his went to touch the wound, almost like he was seeing if it was even real. He pulled his hand away and stared in horror at his bloodstained fingers.
Pyrrha's eyes couldn't look away from the wound. Blood was already beginning to pour out of it. His very life was leaving him and dripping on to the floor. Without aura, there was no way of healing it.
He was… he was going to...
She could see the moment when the pain finally registered with him. He cried out in fear and agony and dropped to his knees. His hand clenched his wound tightly, almost as if he was trying to squeeze it closed. His blood seeped through the gaps in his fingers.
"Pyrrha…" he sobbed, tears of sorrow and pain dripping down his face. His free hand reached out towards her. "Pyrrha… I'm so… I'm sorry-"
He got cut off when he was forced to cough up a bile of blood. He made no other noise apart from the sound of him whimpering and hissing in misery.
Pyrrha no longer felt the flames. She couldn't feel the burning pain in her hands, nor the ache of her weary bones. All she could feel was the agony of her heart shattering into a million pieces. Every whimper he made caused it to break away one piece at a time.
He looked so sad...
Her hand weakly reached out towards him, her scorched flesh passing through the flames. He looked so lonely bleeding out over there. He shouldn't have to be alone. She tried summoning her semblance again to pull him towards her, but nothing happened. She had already used up all her aura.
It wasn't fair. She just wanted to help him. Why wasn't she allowed to help him?
Cinder walked slowly towards him. She had been standing back the entire time, watching him as he writhed in pain. Now she was ready to make another move. She knelt down next to him and cupped his face in her hands. He didn't have the strength to fight her off anymore. Her smile remained as she watched him cry into her hands.
"Shh," she said in a soft, almost motherly tone. She wiped away some of the blood from his lips with her thumb, while the other hand gently stroked his hair. "I know. I know it hurts. But I promise I'll make the pain go away. Now hold still."
She tilted his head ever so slightly upward. His eyes remained open, staring up at her with desperate hope, silently pleading for her to be merciful. She held his gaze for a short moment before she leaned down, closed her eyes, and gave him a gentle kiss on the forehead.
A bright flash of light enveloped his body the moment her lips touched him. When the light faded, his entire body glowed amber. His expression was frozen on his face. The blood leaking out of the wound instantly stopped flowing. He didn't move a muscle. It was like he was some kind of bronze statue.
Cinder then leaned back and gently blew into his face. His entire body crumbled under her breath, breaking apart and turning into dust. Piece by piece, he was quickly disappearing into nothing. The last of him faded away until there was nothing left of the boy that had once been sitting there.
Pyrrha's eyes followed the specks of dust that had once been her partner. Some became scattered to the wind. Others became lost in the flames. Everything about him was disappearing right in front of her eyes. One speck flew past her, hovering close to her face. It glowed with a faint amber light as if there was still life left in it. She tried touching it, but it slipped past her fingers. The light fizzled out and faded to nothing like the rest of him.
And then he was gone.
He wasn't even dust in the wind anymore. Any and all trace of him was lost. All that remained of him was a broken shield and a dirty sword.
The world was on fire, yet Pyrrha had never felt colder in her entire life. All of her senses went numb. Her mind seemed to shut down. All she could do was stare usually at the spot where he had once been. Her eyes scanned for anything that might have remained of him. He was still there. He had to be. She just wasn't looking hard enough.
Cinder stood over her. Was she talking to her? It sounded like it, but everything was muffled. She didn't have time to listen to her ramble, she had to look for Jaune. He was there somewhere and needed help. They promised to protect each other.
Another noise could be heard in the distance. Someone screaming. It sounded like Ruby. Maybe she'd be able to help? She was friends with him, maybe she could help find him? Was that his name she was screaming?
All of a sudden, a bright light exploded all around her. It came from every direction, the purest form of light she had ever seen. Everything it passed over was washed away. The flames, the wreckage, even the world, everything was dissolving within the walls of this brilliant white light.
She felt the light wash over her. It was warm, not like the harsh heat of the flames that had threatened to burn her alive. This warmth made her feel safe and relaxed. She could feel the aches in her bones fading away. It was like slipping into a hot bath. Her whole body felt like jelly.
She struggled to keep her eyelids open. She couldn't fall asleep now. Not when Jaune was still missing. He was relying on her to find her. If she was to fall asleep…
God, she was so tired…
She didn't even feel her head hit the ground. The outside world became blurry to her. She too was becoming one with this warm, beautiful light. Her eyelids drifted shut and she no longer had the strength to open them again. It had been such a long, hard day. Probably the hardest day in her entire life. She needed her rest.
She'd have to find Jaune in the morning.
First chapter done. As I said, things are kinda the same with quite a few tweaks. How Jaune died is very different than how he died originally. His death was inspired by a certain scene I saw in one of the Berserk films where another blond kid gets stabbed, albeit accidentally. It was a very dramatic scene, and I hope I captured the same emotional weight that that scene had when writing this.
Anyway, what can you expect from this rewrite? Well, hopefully, better structure than the previous one, neater sentences and grammar, as well as a few other changes. I won't give them all away, but they'll be new to this story, as well as play a bigger part in Pyrrha's grief, rather than it just be all about Jaune dying. I've been thinking hard about all of this, so as long as I don't rush in, things should all go according to plan.
Until next time.