A big shout out and thank you to jjpdn, a fellow writer from around these parts, for helping with the idea of this story.
Hope you enjoy!
Chapter 1 - To Step in the Middle
Many things have existed for as long as humans can remember.
One such was the Grimm, the beasts that have preyed on us from as long as we can recall. And another was aura.
Aura was that which gave us power to fight them. Which empowered us to an even more complete state; it was the manifestation of our souls.
And then came the point when that manifestation reached its purist of forms, that which we dubbed the semblance.
In exchange for the lack of a concrete answer, many theories arose over what defined one's semblance.
Some believed it to be based on one or more of one's characteristics and traits. Others believed it to be born from trauma. There were theories of it being based on one's surroundings much like a person's personality as they grew. There were even ideas that it was flexible and based on the situation, such as unlocking and becoming that most likely to save you in dire times of danger.
And then there were those that believed it to be completely random and with no direction, coming straight out of a cosmic lottery.
In the end, all of those were nothing more than theories. But despite that, there was one thing people tended to agree on; that every semblance did indeed have a use in one way or another, even if some did not seem to quite fit the combat requirements huntsmen and huntresses would have liked them to fulfill.
And as for how they differ and vary? Well, there seemed to never truly be a limit to all the uniquities they could embody…
It was a Saturday afternoon, and like what would be expected of such a day and time, the streets of the city of Vale were bustling with activity.
It was the time when most people finally had a moment to take a breather from their daily lives, all topped off with being able to laze away a bit more or sleep off their drunken migraines the next day.
Running about were both lone people and groups. However, we'll be bringing our focus on one such specific group of a rather large quantity.
Eight younglings were making use of their own chance at some leisure as well. Some of them were more excited and loud than others, but one could indeed see the hints of enjoyment in all of them.
These eight were two teams of trainees from Beacon Academy. The ones known as RWBY and JNPR.
It had been only a few weeks since initiation, and yet they had reached a point where most of them would call each other good friends.
Leading at the front were the two most boisterous of the bunch, Yang from team RWBY and Nora from JNPR.
They grandly proclaimed of what exciting endeavors they'd be partaking in without leaving any room for arguments.
Behind them were two redheads, Pyrrha from JNPR and Ruby, the leader of RWBY. They were laughing at their teams' antics all while diving in their own frivolous conversations.
To one side were Blake and Ren, of RWBY and JNPR respectively. Both of them had a quiet demeanor, each with a book open and yet having no issue with traversing the crowds, despite their eyes not leaving their books' contents.
They seemed to be in their own worlds, though every once in a while, ether of them would give a small smile as they took a moment to glance at and appreciate the energetic nature of both of their teams.
And then, on the other side were the last two, those that some might dub the currently grumpy corner of the bunch.
One was Weiss of RWBY. She was someone who tended to be strict and diligent, though in turn, quite crabby. Something that earned her the title of 'Ice Queen' among her friends.
In actuality, she wasn't at all far off from the excitement her friends felt, however, she was never one to be able to show it much, or smile at all.
And then, beside her was the other team leader, the leader of JNPR, Jaune.
He was quite a cheery person, which only helped to add further confusion to the unusual mood he seemed to be in.
It wasn't any kind of anger or such, rather, it was the lack of any of the excitement his fellow friends portrayed, as even the subtle hints of enjoyment from Weiss surpassed his currently dejected visage.
He seemed to be deep in thought and every once in a while he would let out a sigh.
It had mostly gone unnoticed by his friends due to how enraptured they were in their conversations or books, but there was one who was not quite partaking in all that, much like himself.
"What is wrong with you this time?", came the slightly irritated voice of Weiss.
"O-Oh, sorry Weiss! I guess I'm ruining the mood for everyone, huh?"
"That's not what I mea… You know, never mind. Is this about your semblance again?"
"Hmm? Wait! Why… Um, I mean, Yeah! That's it, yeah…", he said in a shaky voice.
Weiss let out a sigh of her own. Being nice isn't hard Weiss, you can do it, she chanted in her mind.
"Look Jaune, I'm not really good at, well, this, but there's nothing to be ashamed about not unlocking your semblance yet. Yes, some like myself unlock it early, but due to mine being hereditary, I have direction and knowledge of it. Some people don't even manage to unlock it their whole lives.", she said in what she hoped would be considered a nice and relatable voice, at least for her standards.
"Is this about how the Headmaster called you over about it a week ago?"
"O-Oh, yeah, I guess. Though he also… encouraged me? Yeah! Encouraged me… In a way…"
She wasn't quite sure if she bought that, but she decided to be… supportive regardless. This was a lot harder than Ruby and Pyrrha made it look.
"Hmpf, then isn't it fine? Let it just naturally come to you with time. There's no point in vexing yourself over something that's not meant to be controlled."
"You're right! Thanks Weiss, it means a lot.", Jaune gave her a small smile along with those words.
"Don't get used to it.", Weiss in turn, despite her attempts, couldn't hide the slight hints of pride at inspiring and helping someone form one of their two teams, much like a leader would.
And she wasn't a leader of either of them… And there went her moment. Well, at least it was back to mostly her being the only grouch.
That didn't last too long, however, due to the tackle that came from Ruby as she said something about how nice it was of her all while Yang and Nora started preaching that the melting of the 'Ice Queen' is a foreboding of the end of the world.
Ugh, these dunces. Well, if nothing else, at least she couldn't complain that it was ever boring with them. She wouldn't say she really minded them.
Though if Jaune took this as a reason to flirt with her again, she was so going to freeze him in a block of ice… again… Alright, maybe she needed to cool off a bit. Oh god! Was that a Yang pun just now? She was wrong; they were not a good influence on her. Not good at all!
The large group made its way to a small diner. It wasn't as expensive as a restaurant and was definitely healthier than any fast food they could pick up.
It was homemade food that really left one with such a feeling. And much like their academy's cafeteria, they would each pick up a tray, stuff it with whatever they'd prefer, and pay at the counter, sitting at one of the tables after and returning it with the dishes when they were done.
If one were to see the eight of them tightly bunched around one of said tables, eating away while bickering and engaging in their antics, well, then one might describe the view as that of a big family. A dysfunctional one for sure, but a happy one nonetheless.
As they finished and exited the diner, they started making their way back towards the bullhead docks, and in turn, Beacon. However, just then, Jaune's scroll rang out.
"Oh! Um, sorry guys, I have to go and… pick up a thing.", came his slightly nervous voice.
"Is something the matter Jaune? We can come with you if you need help with anything.", came Pyrrha's reply.
"No, no. I had just, uh, set a reminder on my scroll. I need to pick up a thing since we're in town. It's not anything heavy, or big or like that. Don't worry, you guys can go ahead, I'll catch up to you at Beacon later."
The nervousness that Jaune said that with was not quite as reassuring as they would have liked it to be, but with a varied degree of affirmations, they gave their agreements and left him to his matters.
Jaune gave them a wave as he saw them off, then turning around and down the street. He ducked into an alley when they were out of his sights.
He took a moment to look around, ensuring that there was no one here or close to. He placed his scroll on the ground, taking a few steps away from it. And then, a light enveloped him, going almost as fast as it came. Except now, where Jaune once stood, was someone else…
A tall blonde girl stood in Jaune's place. So similar in visage, one would probably consider them twins if they were to be compared side by side. She had the same azure blue eyes coupled with waist long golden hair tied in a braid.
However, her equipment was completely different from his. Gone was the black hoodie along with the armor above it, in their place a white jacket with a yellow interior over a black shirt. Her blue pants and combat boots were swapped with long black pants and shoes.
Black gloves stood in place of her brown fingerless ones. And at her waist where one would usually find Crocea Mors was instead a normal plain gold colored sheath with a gold handled sword in it. And finally, she wore a small yellow scarf neatly tied around her neck.
Make no mistake; this was none other than Jaune Arc himself, or in the current case, herself.
She quickly and nervously surveyed her surroundings once again. Then, she went to and picked up her scroll. The message she opened on it was by a sender dubbed 'Uncle Steven', but the contents were not what one would expect from a relative.
A short message about a meeting with a few of its more important details noted.
She made her way to the specified location, Junior's Club.
Going through the back entrance, she nervously showed the guard a card that she took out of her pocket. Seeing it, the guard slightly mimicked her nervousness and let her in while directing her to where to go.
Then two girls, twins… Melanie and Militia were their names, she recalled, took her to one of the VIP rooms at the back.
Around them, she didn't have the same fearful nervousness, but rather, due to their very, shall she say, brisk and mischievous nature, they had her completely nervous for different reasons all the same.
However, it didn't quite last in their short walk, as she reached and inevitably entered the VIP room.
Several people seemed to be waiting for her inside it at current, the owner, Junior, not being among them.
Sat on the couches and chairs in the room were Roman Torchwick. Neopolitan, and a few of his not too many in numbers, more capable of henchmen.
Luckily, she didn't seem too out of place, as there were several others who also wore a mix of what Neo and Roman would, much like herself.
Aside from that, the only ones that could be called leisurely were Roman who was sat laid back with a cigar and Neo who was seemingly bored, kicking with her legs in the air as she sat on the table.
All of the others were slightly stiff and obviously nervous, probably not as much as her on the inside, but about the same on the outside.
"Ah, Mary, good of you to finally join us, come, take a seat. Now then, with everyone here, I think we should just cut the small talk and get to business. After all, it's the weekend, and who would want to waste it on work, right?", came the melodic voice of Roman as he surveyed everyone while giving them all a smirk.
"Um, it's Marigold, Sir. And right away, Sir.", she nervously said as she sat on the only remaining empty couch.
"Kid, take the nickname. You have a sense for style, I'll give you that, but keeping it as Marigold is just too overly eccentric. I'd also ask if anyone ever thought you that it's not the best to use your own name in our industry, but with one like yours, well, it seems you already know that."
"Um, it actually is my real name, Sir.", she replied nervously.
"Your parents actually named you that, huh? I guess there are even bigger eccentrics out there than even me.", Roman mumbled out before focusing back his attention.
"Ah, but look at me here now, when I was the one who said we should skip the small talk."
"So, this won't be long. The first point of discussion is our new… associate.", Roman grimaced at the last part, Neo seeming to mimic him.
"Now, it's no secret you've all proven yourselves the capable few I can trust to be able to do something.", Roman returned his smile as he gave out those words.
"Sir, if I may ask, why is she here then?", asked a man from the side, pointing at Mary.
"Exactly Sir! She's been with us for only about a week. Why does she get to be among us? Among your most trusted.", asked a woman from the other side who, by her clothing, was making a really bad Neo cosplay.
Roman hummed as he glanced between the two and Mary with a thoughtful expression, they both looking expectantly at him and giving her condemning looks.
"Well, Jerry, Lucy, you see, the thing is, you aren't my most trusted.", he told them as his smirk took on a viscous edge.
"But, Sir…", both of them began, only to stop as he motioned them such with his hand.
"You see, I said that I can trust your capabilities, and that's no lie. You all are my most capable, and I can trust you to get a job done. But as far as actual trust goes, the only one ever deserving of that would be our dear Neo here, right?", he asked as Neo gave a prideful grin.
"And as for Miss Marigold here, yes, she has been with us for only about a week now. And yet, despite that, she's already supplied us with vital information that has greatly improved our operations in this past week.", Roman turned to Mary, tipping his hat to her as he gave her a smile.
"Now, Jerry, Lucy, what have you both achieved in the past month, aside from one or two minor robberies?", he asked in perhaps the most polite tone anyone in the room had ever heard, yet none could stop the chills they'd felt up their spines from his words.
Both Jeremy and Lucy got up, bowing and echoing, "I'm sorry Sir! I'm sorry Miss Marigold!", in one voice before sitting back down in silence.
'Oh come now, it's fine. Children will be frivolous and fight sometimes, and I'm just being a responsible guardian.", Roman gave them all a wide and honest smile, though none in the room dared believe it as such.
"So, now that the opening show's over, let's get back to business…"
Jaune got off of the bullhead as he finally arrived at Beacon late in the evening, propelling himself to the nearest trash bin.
Once he lost his dinner and regained his composure, he made his way back into Beacon.
Rather than going directly to his team's dorm room, he went and stood before the elevator to the headmaster's office. Ozpin's office.
He hesitated for a bit, but inevitably, he turned around and left for his room, leaving it behind.
He could still recall the conversation he had with 'that' person. He could recite it word for word.
'Mr. Arc, your semblance is indeed unique in its properties. I know that what we ask of you is arduous, dangerous and far more, and know that we are all grateful for your contributions. But remember, you must contact us directly. You mustn't share your task's details with anyone. We will do what we can to ensure you are accommodated in accordance with your mission, as long as no information will be leaked, of course. Know that in choosing to use your ability and cooperate with us, you're helping the entirety of Vale. For that, we thank you. We will contact you soon. Keep us informed and good luck on your mission, Mr. Arc.'
Jaune hadn't told anyone but Ozpin about his semblance. He had gone to him in panics and flusters when he first changed forms. He hadn't shared it with anyone else. And oh how that went regardless.
All the others had some amazing and cool semblances, but his? This wasn't going to help him in a fight or in any way really.
Why, out of everything, was it to swap genders? Well, that was probably not quite exact. Jaune had noticed something quite different in that prospect.
The first time he ever used it, when he unlocked it, found out about it, and very luckily was alone, he had had ended up naked…
He had rushed to dress himself anew and get to Ozpin's office as fast as he could. It was the only thing that came to his mind back then.
Jaune had tried a few things on his own after, leading to him finding out that it might've been more complex than just swapping genders.
The very first thing that he found out early on with Ozpin's theory was that changing wasn't actually that hard, at least as a command. It was a bit hard to explain, but he could, in a way, will it to happen.
However, this seemed to eat away a large amount of aura each time, seemingly the same each use, regardless of whether it was male to female or vice versa.
Supposedly, by Pyrrha's words, and by what he got from a few minor tests after that, he had more aura than the average person.
Despite that, he would later find out that his semblance would consume a good quarter of it on swap. If he didn't have enough, he would be stuck in whatever form he was until his aura regenerated enough for him to afford swapping again.
But one thing hadn't gone past Jaune's notice, namely, his clothes and Crocea Mors.
During that first time, he had ended up naked. He searched and looked, but his clothes, armor, and his precious blade, they had all just gone and disappeared off the face of the earth.
He had gotten dressed and talked with Ozpin, returning to his room after the headmaster had calmed him down and they had discussed and narrowed it down to exactly being his semblance. And while he was still alone, he had managed to transform back.
His male body was back, and with it was everything else he wore at the time, his sword included. And as for the clothes on his female self, it seemed it was their turn to just disappear like that.
Some time after, Jaune tried a minor experiment. He used a marker on one of his hands, and he even left a very minor cut on its side as well.
Swapping forms, it was gone. There was nothing on his hand, and when he returned back to his male self, the scratch and marker were there.
If he was just swapping genders, than where did all of the belongings and apparel on himself go? Why were the dents or marks on his body not on both?
However, Jaune hadn't shared this part with Ozpin. He wasn't quite sure how he'd explain it to begin with. All he knew was this was a tad bit more complicated than what they had initially thought.
He hadn't really gone too far past that in his experimentation, however, as soon after, he was contacted by 'them'.
They weren't quite open about who they were, but knew of his semblance's abilities, even if only the main swapping part. That's when he had decided not to consult the headmaster anymore. After all, he was the only one who knew of this past Jaune himself.
And oh boy did they give him a crazy offer. They didn't exactly force him to it, but they were very insistent, and Jaune was rather easily convincible enough at times.
With a semblance like his, and with him being an aspiring huntsman as they put it, he could do great things and help the entirety of Vale. Jaune couldn't deny how enraptured he felt by the notion.
They gave him the 'mission' of using his alternate form to infiltrate into Vale's criminal side since there has been a worrying increase in its activity as of recent.
They supposedly wouldn't ask too many questions, and with his alternate form coming out of literally nowhere, this would supposedly lead to him being able to inaugurate himself easily due to the lack of any background.
After all, if it was a huntsman or trainee, or an officer, there would always be some information on them. Disguises could only get them so far, and a civilian who on the other hand wouldn't exactly have the necessary training.
Jaune had everything. A flawless disguise due to it being a never before seen person, all coupled with huntsman training. At least, so they believed. Jaune wasn't planning on telling them about his transcripts. But he had aura, he was a student now, and he was already on his way to being a huntsman, right?
And thus, after meeting the headmaster two weeks ago, and them a few days after, his career as a double agent had begun as of around a week ago.
It was about the same time Ozpin had called him over to his office. To encourage him over still not finding his semblance, as the story went.
In actuality, they had talked over it and Ozpin had offered he keep it hidden for now. Jaune had told him a few minor details, but after once again seeing how shrouded the headmaster was in mystery and having more than enough suspicions to put on him, he had withheld mentioning overall much of anything.
The headmaster himself didn't say anything about them. He didn't seem to pry much, just remaining with that ever present calm and mysterious demeanor.
And as for the past week and them, they had given him some information that he could 'share', which would lead to damage they had called collateral and mitigable. He wasn't too sure what he thought about that, but he used it nonetheless.
After all, it was information that they already had and could use against Vale if they wanted to. Did they really need to go through so much for a random proxy, especially when it wasn't someone they had full trust in or power over?
And within that week, till today, he had found a shaky place within the circle of one of Vale's crime lords, Roman Torchwick.
And today specifically, he had gathered information within that meeting, even if Roman had kept it limited to the bare minimum.
It really did seem that with this, he could help people. Help make their lives better and stop Roman's kind. At least, he hoped so…
Jaune stopped his mental debates as he finally reached his dorm room.
It was a nerve-racking evening. He could leave thinking this over for tomorrow.
He looked at his watch; ten. They didn't have any curfews, but if Goodwitch found out they were up past eleven, which was the gracious limit she'd usually give them, then they'd definitely get in trouble.
He opened the door to his room, to his team, and there he had also found team RWBY.
"Geez, fearless leader, you almost missed all the games. What took you so long? Oh never mind that! We're going to start the next round, come on!", came the always frivolous voice of Nora.
They were all sitting on the ground around a large board game. Monopoly, was it? One of the ones that Weiss seemed to be able to bear and Blake seemed to hate, but she'd go along with it for us all the same.
Everyone smiled at him as he went in and joined them all while said Weiss and Blake kept bickering over the game.
He needed this. It felt nice. It felt like home.
One Soul, Two Bodies partially got, well, part of its inspiration from this concept's earliest base form. Well, before it took its own direction.
And this in its current form is what came to be after jjpdn helped me in finding a good direction for it while we were going over some of each other's concepts.
Hope you enjoyed!