Had a lotta things to say, but I forgot em all, so probably shoulda wrote that all down while I was writing the chapter, huh? Ah well.
Hope you enjoy!
Edit: Bloody hell, first time I had to take down a chapter. Seems it was the italics, any word in italics was just eaten out, gone, sometimes the sentence suffering the same fate, at others the words in front of it instead being ejected to the next row. Should be fine now, but dang, sticking to quotation marks over italics from now on.
But yeah, this time proper, with feeling, hope you enjoy!
Ye Olde Faithful Advisor - Jjpdn
Chapter 15 - Duty
Eyes scrunched up as he and she began to stir.
Slowly, both pairs of his eyes creaked open, relatively darker surroundings around her and far more so around him.
Both of him began rising up with a groan. 'Note to self, stop putting off that landing strategy stuff.'
Around Jaune it was dark, very much so, from above some light fell on him from the top of the well. It didn't look likely that he could make it back up through there though.
Jeanne checked her scroll. Last she'd checked it was moments before she'd gone off on her little walk, and it hadn't been long after it seemed. Was only out for a few, or a couple or so minutes it seemed.
Having lost fifty percent of her aura was also going to be a problem for Jeanne, at least Jaune had only lost fifteen percent from the far shorter fall.
Damn, no signal on either of his scrolls too. Both of his bodies put their scrolls away as the artificial light was pestering on either set of eyes in this dark environment.
There were holes in the artificial sky above Jeanne allowing for more light to spread over the underworld she now resided in compared to the well's depths, yet it was still quite dim all around.
Looking around, she eventually turned backwards, her eyes locking with another's.
Gasping, she retreated back while rising from her crouched position, hand at her blade. Then, as she got a better look, she froze.
"...Neo?" A mismatched set of brown and pink eyes gazed back at her curiously in response.
"Why are you here? It's dangerous!"
She nodded her agreement.
"Alright, don't worry, don't worry, we can get out of here. Just stand behind me and we should…" She looked around, noting the urban jungle they now stood in, on a rooftop specifically. "We'll be fine. I'll make sure you're fine."
She gave Jeanne a long halfway odd halfway dumbfounded look in response.
"What's wrong, are you alright? You're not hurt, are you?"
She shook her head, both in response and to shake away her surprise. She then pointed at Jeanne.
"What… oh, me? I'm fine, I think. Thanks for asking though."
Neo pointed at her again, then pointing at the ceiling of a sky they have, slowly moving her hand down to her other as she finished with a loud clap. That was a… nice way of putting it.
"Yeah, that was a thing. It's been a thing more times than I thought it would be. Didn't really think I'd have to count how many times I'd be falling to my demise…" Jeanne sighed. "What about you then, you saw me and came, but from where? How did you get here?"
"You... don't know?"
Neo brought a finger to her lips as she seemed in thought. Several times she seemed like something had come to her only for her to then brush it off and then go back to thinking.
About a minute after she finally dropped her finger and looked back to Jeanne. She shrugged again.
"Ok…" She sighed yet again. "Can't say I expected there to be some magic gateway linking to Hei's club from here." She mumbled under her breath.
'This is weird, but… the Malachites trust her. Not like there's much point in arguing, I'll try and trust her… and keep an eye on her for now.'
"Alright, so stay beside me and let's see if there's anywhere from where we can get back above ground. After we get down from here, anyway."
Neo brought a finger to her lips yet again, this time for only a moment before then pointing in a direction.
"You've seen some sort of way up, uh, somewhere in that direction?"
"...Fine, better than nothing I guess." 'Might as well since we'll still be looking around the place.'
She drew both her gun and blade as she walked past Neo who began following in toe.
Focusing more so on their surroundings, Jeanne didn't see the amused smirk Neo gave her as they began traversing the abandoned undercity.
Meanwhile, it was hardly any better on his end.
He kept on illuminating forward with his scroll as he struggled to see further than a meter ahead of himself. Why did it not have a flashlight feature?
It was even harder when he was forced to keep vigilant on both bodies' ends, and pay attention to Neo around his other one specifically. She couldn't quite scream in alarm for anything if something did jump her.
And Neo was also calm. Very calm, unnervingly so.
Her knowing the Malachites or not, it was best Jeanne still kept a vigilant eye on her as well. She hadn't actually talked much about her with the Malachites. She made a mental note to ask them about her next time she had the chance.
Her focus remained on her surroundings, however, as did his on his'. The two realms both of her bodies had the pleasure of visiting contrasted greatly with one another.
Holding Crocea in one hand and the scroll in the other, Jaune could only get slight glimpses of his surroundings, an underground that seemed to still be sturdy, luckily enough, no seeming risk of any cave-ins. Now if only the tunnels were not currently as good as a maze for him.
There were several inches of water below him too, some having soaked into his clothes during his earlier fall. It left him feeling a chill.
On Jeanne's end there was much more to see. It was dim, but with all the holes on the upper city's roads, night or not, there was still a fair bit of light pouring in and allowing for good enough visibility. She bore witness to a vast underground abandoned city. That alone made it a better sight than nothing but expansive directionless tunnels.
She still felt aches from her fall though, hers definitely being a substantially longer drop than his.
That nagging at the back of his head again.
Jeanne decided to turn and ask her impromptu companion. "Hey, Neo, do you hear something? Or feel something… I don't know, off?"
The girl gave her a curious look for a moment but then simply shrugged.
Yeah, it was definitely around him. There was something off there, he was willing to bet on it.
Thoughts on that, however, were pushed aside at the sound of much more audible nagging that didn't sound in either Jaune or Jeanne's heads, but instead in Jeanne's ear. Namely the nagging growls of Beowolves.
Seeing them step out from beside a ruined building's corner, she moved between them and Neo.
Recollections of fights till here came to mind. He had improved, she had, with either of his bodies, ever since his first ever fight against a Grimm, there definitely was a substantial difference between back then and either of him now.
Still, she lacked technique, lacked skills. In just her fights today along with her team Jeanne had been again reminded that.
Her best example was the memory of her fight against three Beowolves sometime in the afternoon yesterday. She'd fired off three shots, landing only one, even if lucky enough to dispatch the first of them with it.
The other two Beowolves had pushed her back heavily, having advantage in reach and fast on their bipedal feet, they'd forced her to scurry as she tried to dance around them with technique she lacked.
She'd received several nicks and scratches as she'd knocked aside and evaded claws against one of them, it savagely having answered in kind, though she'd managed to finish it with a well aimed blow in the end, if after one too many clumsy ones.
The last Beowolve would've pinned her down and possibly struck her down, however, if not for Doctor Oobleck. She'd failed to properly keep up with the last one, despite pushing it back a few times amidst her brawl with the second one, she'd left herself completely open upon landing that final blow.
The last one would've gotten her as it had leapt at her back if Oobleck hadn't blasted it aside in the nick of time.
And right here and now there were four before her, and she had no back up and only half aura. Neo was back behind her as well. Jeanne couldn't let them get to her.
She remembered another fight, in a forest. One in Forever Fall, before she even knew that that was the name of that forsaken place. She remembered the desperation she - either of her bodies fought with that day.
"Neo, take cover!" She yelled as she holstered her gun to her waist and dashed in with her sword half.
The Beowolves took notice of her, of how she ran at them and answered in turn.
She felt the blade in her hand, it felt unfamiliar, as beloved as it'd become, still new in sensation. Her technique still lacked, greatly. Could she match them in speed even? She had only one thing she was sure she surpassed them in.
"Aaa!" She cried her challenge, not stopping as she jumped in the middle of them, they all still by the building side, forcing them in a position where they could corner her in moments but couldn't jump her immediately, not all of them at once.
It was enough.
As the others moved to circle around it, the first Beowolf swung, though its claw overshot her, it likely not expecting her to keep up her motion, not stopping until she was not an inch from it, her sword digging through its chest.
She didn't wait as she ripped and tore at it, carving at its chest until it fell.
She felt a claw slash at her shoulder, pain erupting. It was fine. She just kept focusing her aura like Pyrrha had taught her.
With grit teeth she reached out, grabbing the beast's arm before it could pull back and swinging with her blade. Once. Twice. Thrice. It fell not a second later.
The other two were already leaping at her. She rushed in, choosing one, she jumped at it. Better blows from just one than both.
If Jaune Arc, and in turn his other self, Jeanne Arc, had one thing, that was having at least half decent physical strength. Reinforced by aura, that allowed Jeanne to carry the beast back onto its back with her full body tackle.
She felt her throat sting as she rasped a breath but didn't allow that to stop her from standing up and bringing down her sword on it, stabbing it through the neck.
Hearing the last one behind her she spun aside. "Gah!" Evading, but not entirely as a claw raked through half her back.
Its claws were sharp, sharp enough to lodge into the fading body of its dissolving brethren Beowolf, as its claw had sailed into it after only clawing against and failing to stop at Jeanne's back. Gritting her teeth again as she stood up, she used the mere moment that distraction would offer, shooting at the last Beowolf, breaths heavy.
She embed her sword into its stomach as the beast howled in pain. So much for keeping the noise down.
She brought her other hand to her gun, pulling it out a moment later and aiming awkwardly at its head.
Luckily, she was close enough to not miss, and it tall enough to make the long barrel not as much of a close range issue, the gunshot ringing before the claw it had now dislodged and again begun swinging amidst her aim could reach her.
And thus the last one fell as she pulled her blade out of it. She felt herself almost lose her balance as she got up. At least the nagging voices didn't seem to care to make themselves present in all of that commotion.
Now if only everything didn't feel so sore and her aura wasn't most likely in the red...
She then turned to the sound of clapping. She saw Neo with an excited look. She gave Jeanne a thumbs up when she'd seen she'd caught her attention.
'Yeah… I'm definitely gonna have to ask the Malachites about her…'
Taking a moment to catch her breath, she then moved to Neo. "I think it's best we move. That was a lot of noise so more might come."
She took out her scroll. Not in the red just yet, good. Still, down to under thirty percent, her aura was not good. "I don't think I can handle many more fights like that." She wasn't even sure if she'd be able to take one more fight like the one just now.
The recklessness had allowed her to be fast and decisive, but there were only oh so many blows she could take, even if she seemed to make for good fodder.
Neo simply shrugged and began moving, not minding the risks of being in the lead.
"H-Hey, wait up!" Jeanne ran after her.
As she caught up and then slowed her pace to finally catch some breath, she returned a bit more focus to himself.
Jaune stood with his back to a wall, path spanning on both his ends. Already feeling confident in stating there was something down here if he had to go by the constant feeling in his head. That's why he'd stopped the moment he'd engaged the Beowolves with his other body, hoping to remain unnoticed, at least until he was finished with his other fight.
He didn't want to think just what nightmare it'd have been to have to fight a vicious fight on both ends at the same time with one body lacking aura and the other vision.
Turning up the brightness on his scroll to max again, little as that was still, he carefully carried on through the tunnel he'd been on since he'd awoken.
As he walked he then noticed something - no, heard something.
It was slow and steady, too loud for any droplet of water, however, and it came from behind him.
Turning, he illuminated what he could with the scroll.
The splashing stopped.
He kept peering into the darkness as he noticed something ahead.
The splashing continued, slowly getting louder - closer. As it did, he could see two small dots of red coming more and more into focus.
He stopped himself from taking a step back. Instead.
"Neo," Jeanne began.
Neo had seemingly been just nonchalantly going along with Jeanne so far, and had not voiced any disagreement at her request that they take cover in a building for a few minutes just now either.
With Jeanne static and hidden along with Neo in some ruin's first floor under the pretense of needing to catch her breath, Jaune readied Crocea as he kept his scroll focused forward.
With this he'd hopefully be able to put all of his focus on himself.
And on the Grimm before him, of course. He knew those eyes.
He didn't, however, hear any growl or snarl he'd expect from a Beowolf. Only a very low, groan-like noise.
Before he could think much more of it, he saw it.
He swatted away the pitch black hand that had reached out to him.
Did that look like a Beowolves? He didn't quite have the expertise to tell. It felt far too slow, however, and telling only from a single hand he'd seen wasn't easy either.
Whatever stood before him swung again, the weak scroll light enough to only illuminate its elongated arm as it came close again.
This time he met with Crocea's blade. It felt tough.
Even if a single arm swing, his blade should've at least dug in, instead it was more along the lines of yet again swatting it away. Perhaps nicking it at best?
He stepped forward, in the guard of whatever stood before him as he raised Crocea in an overhead swing. As his scroll partially illuminated the Grimm mask, his blade came down, striking it on the barely partially visible shoulder.
The creature teetered under his blow, but the actual blow itself had failed to dig into its flesh again, and in response to his offense, it let out a scream.
Not deafening. Not too fearsome either. A Beowolf definitely had more bark behind its roars.
Yet he staggered. He defiantly planted his feet yet he felt it difficult to bend up from his currently hunched position, sword and scroll both pointed downwards as he felt strength drain from him.
He then felt a hand grasp his face, fingers spread to envelope it as its palm covered his mouth and pushed against his nose, making it difficult to breathe.
It lifted his head upwards as it brought down pressure, trying to crush his skull as his aura flared where its fingers began to dig in, against its tightening grip, all while pain built up at the back of his neck as his spine felt the hand push down on him with no less force, bending his head back as it tried to snap his neck.
All he could see was two red eyes, not enough light to see its body, its mask, not even able to properly see the hand trying to squeeze the life out of him.
This Grimm that was hardly matching him in height. That lacked the claws of the Beowolf, vastly lacking its speed as well. That didn't even have much strength compared to other Grimm, yet his mind was telling him he couldn't fight it?
That after retaining a whole eighty-five percent of his aura after his fall he was too tired to match this?
'His' mind agreed.
And his agreed with hers to disagree.
Disagree on that incessant nagging's notions.
'She' was indeed tired after those Beowolves, but 'he' was just getting started.
He dropped his scroll as he lifted his hand and gripped its. He twisted and bent it away as he stood tall.
It screamed yet again.
He flinched for a moment, blinked for an instant, then he gazed at it all the same.
Hidden in the shadows, it looked small.
He lifted Crocea and struck at its arm. Once, Twice. To minimal effect. Then he recalled.
'Start properly channeling your aura into it!' Weiss'd chastised during her lessons, yet continued lending her aid all the same. Well, Weiss knew best. And right now 'he' had aura to spare unlike 'her'.
He threw aside the Grimm's slightly scratched arm, reaching forward. He felt and felt as he finally gripped down on its shoulder.
It reached out for him in turn, arms grasping at his neck.
Like he'd let it.
He pulled it aside, slamming it against the wall, rattling it for a moment as its arms seemed to momentarily retreat.
He made use of the opportunity as he raised his blade, this time focusing. 'Channel it, Jaune, just like Weiss and Blake taught you. You can do it.'
He stabbed at its throat, the tip stopping and then skidding to the side, clanging against the stone wall.
He'd felt it tear, however, and its screams only further proved that. This scream, unlike the rest, held a notion of panic in it.
Again. And again. He felt Crocea plunge deeper with each blow as the fourth finally silenced the creature as it tore into its throat completely.
There was no satisfaction to be felt, however, as its eyes began to dim and he felt its shoulder, much like the rest of it, start dissipating in his grasp. Chills were all he'd felt after the almost human-like gurgle it had let out at its end.
Pulling his shaky hand away from the wall as he heard its evaporating remains splash down into the water, he could still feel it. He could push it back better now, his mind clearer, but he could still hear the nagging. Even worse, he could hear them. Screams, from further down the tunnel. More of them.
He rushed to the small luminescent center of the pond, his scroll glowing from beneath the water and thus allowing him to locate it immediately. Heavens knew how thankful he was that it was waterproof.
Sixty percent aura? It'd have to do, but how many of those there were he couldn't say he knew. Hearing several screams at a time should've been informative enough though. He needed the others.
He rushed opposite the voices, moving fast and forsaking subtlety. Luckily, after dashing down several tunnels, he quickly came to a crumbled wall, leading into what seemed to be a cellar.
Finding stairs he began ascending them, though reaching the cellar door he found it to clang as if chained when he pushed against it.
"Ember! Pyrrha, Ren, Nora!" He began to shout as he began to slam up against it, hearing the chains rattle more with each push.
"Gah!" He recoiled as he felt the sting of splinters from his ramming bounce off his eye. Thank the brothers for aura, else that would have not been pretty.
He didn't close his eyes as he continued ramming, however. Insead he kept his head low as he used one hand to dial a number on his scroll.
'Come on, come on!'
"Hello? Jaune? Why are you- where are you?"
"Ember, go to the cellar and open it, now! Bring the others!" 'He really hoped coincidence allowed it to be the same cellar.
He slammed yet again against it, hearing the chains that held it begin to heave.
Before he could push for a fourth time he heard them break as the door was pulled open.
"Jaune, what is going on?!" His team and Ember stood before him.
"Grimm! Down below. They're much weaker than average but they're really durable, and they can mess with your head, especially their screams."
"Mess with your- Are they humanoid?"
"Apathy… It makes sense now. How many are there?"
"I don't know. There are tunnels below, connected to the well and a lot in general. I think it's too dark for us to fight them."
"Then we-" A scream cut her off as all of them recoiled.
He felt a hand latch onto his shoulder, then another. When had they?
He turned, slashing and pushing away the Grimm, the Apathy as Ember had called them, away.
Making use of the moment of respite as they toppled down the stairs he stepped out the cellar.
He noticed how the others were bent down.
Ren seemed to stagger far less, less so than even Jaune when he was first hit, recovering quickly. He let out a breath as he straightened himself.
He looked at the others, then reached out, putting a hand on Nora's shoulder. To Jaune, it almost seemed as they lost contrast, as they dimmed to the world as Nora stood up a moment after.
Her face was mostly expressionless, slightly confused for a moment, but it didn't last. She glared as she readied Magnihild.
Jaune's eyes widened. "Ren, I don't know what you did, but can you-"
"On it." In the next moment he'd put a hand on Pyrrha and Ember's shoulders, the two seemingly snapping out of it in the next moment as well.
"Can you keep that up?" Asked Ember.
"I think so." Ren replied. "I'm not sure how many more times, but at least several times more, I think I should be able to manage."
"Then you're to focus just on that. The rest of us are to clear out the ones right at the front here. They are durable, aim for the head and neck if you can." She turned to Pyrrha. "The moment we push them back, Pyrrha, can you use your semblance to seal this back up?"
Another scream came as they began spilling out of the cellar, Jaune flinching for a moment before turning to them, shield ready now that he had both hands at his disposal and no need for extra light.
"Jaune," Ember rose as Ren let go of her for a second time. "I don't know how, but since you can ignore it," She dashed in. "Watch our backs when the screams come."
The Apathy encroached on them clumsily and slowly.
Ember moved up to the first, far closer than necessary to slash at it. Instead, she kicked under its legs as she forced it to the ground, then, channeling aura into her two-handed blade, struck down on its neck.
A moment after she was standing yet again, Pyrrha and Nora coming beside her.
Pyrrha slashed with her sword at an Apathy's neck, eyes slightly widening as it bit into it but refused to cut further, and as the creature screamed in turn she let go of her blade and took wobbly steps back.
She felt Ren's hand at her back as she shook her head and regained focus in her eyes, dashing back in as he gently pushed her forward, shield slamming the Apathy down to the ground, carrying on with said shield as she used her semblance to further force and press it down like a vice on the Grimm's neck.
Meanwhile Ren had moved to Ember and Nora, the latter of which had managed to topple several back down the stairwell just before the scream.
Jaune stood beside them, moving in anytime a scream came as he pushed back any Apathy that went for his team or Ember as Ren moved to use his semblance and dull the emotions elicited by their screeches.
All while their attackers dealt with the Apathy faster than they came, Ember continuing to topple and execute them, Pyrrha having quickly adapted to imitating her method of dealing with them, all while Nora used her brute strength and advantage of a blunt weapon to instead deliver direct and fatal crushing blows.
A short while after they found themselves moving to push closed the doors, having pushed aside their initial numbers but seeing many more spill from the caved in wall and flood the cellar anew.
As they shut it, Pyrrha used her semblance, bending the broken chains best she could and locking them together, then moving aside upon noticing Ember and Nora dragging one of the large shelves of alcohol bottles, leaning it down over the cellar doors.
The banging on it still came.
"Come on, we have to move!" Ember began pulling out her scroll as everyone followed after her.
Another, this time more muffled scream reached them, though they began moving again even before Ren'd used his semblance.
The group staggered out the room as they closed the door behind them.
"I've gotten in contact. A bullhead will be coming. Top priority is evacuating everyone. Now!"
Everyone nodded as they began to move, though Nora halted herself as she grabbed Ren as he swayed.
"Sorry… I think that was my limit."
"You did well," Ember said as she turned to them, still moving. "You all did, but we've got to focus till the end."
"Right." He steadied himself, giving a quiet 'thank you' to Nora as they all once again began to move.
Jeanne sighed. Not so much because she and Neo had been walking with nothing noteworthy in the last thirty minutes.
No, it was a sigh of relief. The two had begun to move thirty minutes ago, the same time they, as in JNPR, had begun the evacuation.
And it was over. Everyone on the bullhead, everyone alive, Nora waving around some book, a diary had she said, she'd found? That last one probably wasn't as vital.
Some of the residents were somewhat reluctant, mostly due to being so 'tired'. But that was also the reason why they didn't actually even go past protests as they were carried out to the bullhead.
None of the Apathy had broken through till their departure.
Ember had inspected the residents best as she could with her middling first aid skills, though based on her knowledge of the Grimm and the cold climate she assumed it likely that most if not all of them were at least chilled and malnourished.
Just a few moments ago Ren had finished channeling his semblance onto the last of them, they all finally beginning to think more clearly as Ren finally went out like a candle due to the exhaustion.
Civilians came first, Jeanne realized, even ones you'd have questions about. "Alright, Neo, just follow my lead, I've got this."
She seemed surprised at Jeanne's newfound confidence. Her curiosity seemed to deepen as she followed beside her still.
"Alright, this one looks pretty tall, let's hope there's a clear path to the top." Jeanne said as she looked at a particularly tall ruined building.
She then slammed herself against the door, a shabby one, yet one that's rust ladden lock still somehow held. She'd regained some aura and enough energy, however, and brute forcing everything never served her wrong so far, thus, after ramming it twice more it fell as she staggered in.
A moment later Neo simply hopped through the missing window two meters to the side of said door, smirking at Jeanne.
"...Not a word."
"Uh, bad choice of words, sorry," She laughed weakly. "Manner of speech?"
Huh, she hadn't made Neo sigh till now. First time for everything, she supposed.
The two carried on up the stairs, this time necessarily breaking down the roof door as they stepped out onto the roof of one of the taller buildings.
Neo poked at Jeanne's shoulder.
She spread her arms, as if to display the empty rooftop, the nothing around them. Then she shrugged as she raised an eyebrow.
"This is our part. Now we're waiting on the others." Jeanne simply replied as Neo gave her a surprised look.
After all, 'he' wasn't in that well anymore, nor at the ground level farmstead. The bullhead had come within signal radius.
She looked up - at the holes that littered the roof of their underworld, Neo following her gaze.
Then she saw it, out of one of them someone descending.
Was Ruby hanging onto Blake's grappling hook? And she was looking around with her scope.
"Ruby, here!" Jeanne yelled as she waved her hands.
It seemed like the yell might've not reached her, but Jeanne being stood at the edge of the building seemingly was enough to catch her sights as in ten second or so Ruby finally stopped jutting around, focusing on one point - exactly the roof where Jeanne and Neo were.
She lowered her scope as she waved back at her.
Jeanne turned around. "Told you, Neo, we're sa-"
She looked around, but where'd she gone?
She panickedly checked the side of the building, then its other three, then the top floor below the roof. Where'd she gone?
Search as she may, all the way until her team and Oobleck finally picked her up, Jeanne could not find her.
Not much later that day, just as they'd been preparing to dive back down, this time as a team, they were recalled, namely Oobleck, at the behest of gathering an extermination team of huntsmen for the Apathy pack.
Oobleck had told them that the surveillance of Mountain Glenn was not going to be abandoned, either a second year team to be sent to it during the second semester missions as only the first years' mission schedules were changed, or instead to have a group of full fledged huntsman sent like with the Apathy.
Though without much threat to have been found in Mountain Glenn so far the former was far more likely than the latter.
That it would be at a later time remained as a consensus in either scenario though, thus Jeanne had held her tongue for now. She'd not spoken of her short term companion.
She'd need to speak with Junior, however. She'd need to find out what exactly Neo had to do with this place...
It was early in the morning, no sooner than five, sunlight still scarce. Even the usually wild club had little playing to its beat, low music playing with seemingly no one inside bar Junior himself sitting lazily at his bar.
His expression, however, was serious, twice so when he heard the door creek open.
"Junior, how's it been?" A man flamboyantly strutted in. "I know I complained about us not calling or seeing each other as much anymore, but a bit early for a get together, don't you think?" He smirked.
"Ah, Brunswick," Junior smiled. "Right on time as usual."
Eyes narrowed at the words as the new visitor's smirk disappeared instantly, eyes jutting around the room.
"Relax, It's just me and you here right now."
"I'd still prefer you didn't call me that. It brings back… memories." the man walked up and sat at the bar. "What did you need me here so urgently for, Hei?"
"The Brunswick farmstead."
"What about it?"
"It experienced quite the peculiar Grimm attack recently."
Eyes widened at the words.
"Don't worry," Junior was quick to reassure. "Everyone survived."
The man sighed.
"That's it? That's all the reaction that news deserves?"
Eyes narrowed. "..."
"Well," Junior began to turn. "I just thought you'd want to know-"
Junior turned to the man at the bar. The man's expression was complicated to say the least. Both held their silence for a long moment before Junior spoke. "Take your time."
"...They're all fine?"
"Unhurt." Junior reaffirmed.
"That's good." The man's expression softened. "What… What happened? How long ago did it happen?"
"Less ago than you may think. We have a set of two huntsmen in training here, you can say, and they tend to share their tales. I might've never known if not for them." He set down a glass before him. "You'll need that. This'll take a while."
The next few dozens of minutes were spent in retellings, the man listening carefully as Junior delivered what he'd heard with as much detail as had been given to him.
"..." The man sat with a mixture between a thoughtful expression and a frown.
"Taking it hard that Bartleby is going to probably spend a few years for his mistake?"
"No, not as much as I'd have thought, anyway. What he did was a horrible mistake. Maybe five years? Maybe ten? I don't know, but knowing everyone back home they might ask for his sentence to be lessened, despite what he'd almost done." He pulled out a cigar from his pocket.
"You think it's fine for your brother to rot away some years off his life?"
"Better that than dead. And to use those… things." The man nearly snarled before holding himself back. "The same monsters that destroyed our home decades ago, and that ambitious idiot, after the two of us had barely survived that day, decided it was a good idea to use them like that." He let out a long and shaky sigh. "Maybe with this he'll finally learn."
"Maybe." Junior simply echoed.
He lit his cigar and took a puff. "So you're saying they're here?"
"Yes, he's in custody, and as for your nephew and sister in law as well as the other few families that were on the farm, they've all been evacuated to temporary homes here in Vale. The Brunswick farmstead, at least for now, is considered compromised." Junior took a swig from his own drink. "It won't be luxury, but they will treat 'em right for their stay, as long as it is. And they'll probably end up staying here in the long run. Hard to take back a small settlement like that when it's become such a risk."
"That's for the better." The man stood up. "I'll make sure none of them are left needing. Ugh," He then brought a hand to his head. "I can already feel the headache in doing that without them realizing. This'll take some thinking through."
"So you'll stay estranged?"
His expression turned somber. "They don't need me back in their lives. This Brunswick has been dead plenty long already, no point in raising me out of my grave."
"I guess I can't argue with you on that. Suit yourself in the end."
The man began walking to the door, pulling down his bowler cap slightly over his eyes as it hid the upper half of his face. "Besides, you gave me such a nice name so many years ago," He smirked, though not quite with his usual spirit behind it. "It rings better than Brunswick anyway."
He stopped right before the door. "Thanks again, Hei." His expression once again softened. "Thank you for telling me this right away."
"Always. Now get before someone sees you around my premise and starts asking too many questions." Hei smiled. "Till next time, Roman."
Roman Torchwick simply barked a laugh as he took his leave.
Honestly, this and last chapter, the whole Apathy events were planned along with some of the earliest chapters of this fic, some point after the fifth chapter to be slightly more precise.
Was quite excited about reaching this point and hope I've managed to make it as good as I'd hoped it'd be. I probably should've tried a bit more on its name though, but it sort of works, so... :D
Hope you enjoyed!
Next chapter - 23rd April