If anyone were to ask if Pyrrha Nikos was feeling targeted right now, well the answer was yes. Yes, she certainly was.

Standing by a tree with its side caved in from an impact that splintered its bark and inner wood fibres, Pyrrha felt like someone was twisting her chance at happiness and replacing it with misery. She grimaced, charitable features scrunching into an ever darkening scowl of annoyance.

Pyrrha's trained eyes had not missed the moment a bullet had deflected her weapon's javelin form from securing her intended partner, Jaune Arc. In fact, she went a step further and shifted her focus to trace back the trajectory of the bullet towards the shooter.

Grudgingly, Pyrrha bent over and pulled her spear free from the sturdy oak it had embedded itself into after veering off its intended aim. Her frustration was as palpable as her indignation. Directing her attention to the unexpected interloper still gliding down from above, her eyes couldn't help but squint then narrow impeccably at none other than Ruby Rose.

'She shot my spear.'

Pyrrha's hands balled into fists, but she knew better than to allow her emotions to cloud her judgement. The priority was still to reach Jaune Arc first, and getting side-tracked now wouldn't be doing her any favours. However, it was also true that obstructing a competitor could only be beneficial if they were both aiming for the same goal.

Honestly, Pyrrha had never felt this petty before. It was a first: A 'congratulations, you've made me petty,' sort of achievement.

Tracking Ruby's descent as she headed in the direction Jaune was falling towards, Pyrrha hummed in thought, carefully observing Ruby's movements and actions like a hunter would its prey.

It almost seemed to Pyrrha like Ruby was getting subtly carried, the random blasts of her rifle more for show than anything substantial. From the sound of the shots fired alone, Pyrrha was certain that they were just blanks- a camouflage.

How relatable.

Pyrrha herself wasn't one to readily reveal her Semblance as it would ruin whatever advantage she could gleam from it. Observing Ruby's actions, she was probably doing the same, forcing Pyrrha to make inferrals rather than a conclusive answer.

Most likely it was some sort of movement Semblance?

Regardless, it didn't change the sudden outburst of curses Pyrrha barely managed to keep under her breath when she realised just how close Ruby was getting to intercepting Jaune's launch path.

Pyrrha knew that Jaune was popular, and that all was fair during this initiation, but emotions were always finicky. The one person she genuinely wanted to be partners with and some potential fan-girl was getting in-between.

Inevitably, Pyrrha was feeling sour, her overall impression of Ruby who thwarted her plans in order to take her place as Jaune's partner, plummeting by the minute.

It was tragic, but this time around Ruby had been delegated to the 'fangirl' category by Pyrrha due to the results of her own actions.

If Ruby learned of this, she would have been appalled, but as she never even considered this happening, she was woefully ignorant of the unfriendly look on Pyrrha's face. It took a lot to get under Pyrrha's skin, but this was one such instance.

Quickly, Pyrrha considered her options. She'd be damned if she let someone as innocent as Jaune be paired with a rabid fangirl like the ones they encountered earlier in the morning before initiation.

Yes, she was justified, Pyrrha convinced herself.

Indirectly, Pyrrha had seamlessly justified her own desire to partner with Jaune as a necessity to protect him from the craziness of those types of fans. She absolved herself of her own selfishness, and turned it into a battle of integrity. Only she, Pyrrha Nikos would be strong enough to bat Jaune's fans away with her spear and shield. Moreover, she and Jaune even matched in terms of gear if the sword and convertible shield-sheath around Jaune's waist had been any indication! They'd be great partners who could work well off each other.

Then there was Ruby.

Admittedly, a sniper on the team with Jaune being a tanker type was a preferable set up, but Pyrrha could snipe just as well. In fact, put Ruby in an arena with her, and Pyrrha was confident she outclassed Ruby at all ranges. She was the better partner.

Affirming her priorities in her mind, Pyrrha's demeanour suddenly changed to the one she used while competing in the Argus Arenas.

If it was a battle Ruby wanted, then it was a battle she was going to get. Pyrrha wasn't a champion for nothing.

At the very least, Pyrrha wasn't going to make it easy for Ruby.

Deftly, Pyrrha raised the scope of her rifle and aimed to get a better view of her target.

Two could play in this game.


Things were going fairly well as far as Ruby was concerned.

Wind whipped past her hair, sending it flapping back past her temples while her skirt and clothes billowed fiercely around her. Every so often, she'd fire a blank shot to make it look like she was moving along from the force of the recoil, but in truth, she was having Shirou subtly nudge her in the right direction.

No matter how Ruby had thought about it, being princess carried in midair was going to attract too much attention, let alone the fact that Shirou had to be in a semi-manifested state. She wasn't sure how big of a commotion it would cause if the Huntsman of Red was spotted in Beacon.

Besides, her main purpose for today aside from progressing her plans along, was convincing Shirou that she could see the future. Indirectly, this would allow her to gain his help without telling him about the existence of her future diary.

Just knowing that she'd be able to confide in him was a huge support going forward, but now came the question of how to go about doing that.

She couldn't just say anything about Shirou that he hadn't told her, as he'd simply attribute it to what was called a Dream Cycle between them. Therefore, what she needed was actual proof of future events.

At first, she was convinced that she could tell him exactly which teams were going to form, but that plan went out the window due to her own actions. She needed Jaune. More specifically, she needed Jaune to reach his full potential faster, and with her knowledge, she felt like she was the only one who could do it. Therefore, she had to think of something else to convince Shirou.

"Shirou, we have to be careful of a giant Nevermore and a Deathstalker," Ruby listed the first thing at the top of her head. Then further brilliance came to her when she spouted something she wouldn't have ever known unless she knew the future. "Oh, and the Grimm have a Queen named Salem."

Ruby couldn't see Shirou in astral form to know how he physically reacted to her words, but she could imagine him knitting a brow in thought and wondering about how mysterious and alluring his Master was (The last part was more her delusion than reality, but all the same). Ruby felt all fired up.

There was a difference between doing nothing, and doing something, and this was it!

The hero that will change the future was taking her first steps.

One small step for Ruby, a leap for the people of Remnant and those she cared for!

"Putting aside a Queen of the Grimm…A giant Nevermore and Deathstalker?"

Expectedly, Shirou's words sounded in Ruby's mind through the link that they shared. It sounded equal parts sceptical and apprehensive for reasons only Shirou would know after his discussion with Archer.

In any case, beyond Salem, it was a well known fact that Grimm don't achieve gargantuan size easily. They'd have to have lived for an extensive amount of time, and where would you even hide them in the Emerald Forest?

"I told you, I can see the future. They're here somewhere…" She didn't sound half as confident at the end of her sentence as she'd been at the beginning. In fact, she was nervous.

Here's to hoping that Pyrrha would still stumble into that cave she and Jaune had drawn the large Deathstalker from without Jaune as a partner.

No seriously. Ruby was banking on this.

She could tell that Shirou was getting suspicious, especially how he just seemed to accept Salem's existence as if he already knew. The more she acted mysterious, the more he'd want to get to the bottom of things. However, this was the trap. Inevitably, he'll have to believe that she could see the future, and in turn, she gains the help of her greatest ally.

All that was required now was proof.

It's all on you Pyrrha!

Ruby was sending her well wishes and expectations, ignorant of the scope trained on her from afar.

Jaune was still screaming right ahead of her, but as if he'd noticed Ruby drawing closer to him, visible relief bled into his features despite having to squint due to the air pressure. Regardless, all Ruby was trying to do was make eye-contact with Jaune and that would finalise it.

The problem was, Jaune was descending down in an arc so fast that his gaze was primarily directed at the ground, and not at Ruby.

Still, Jaune had caught sight of Ruby's figure zooming towards him, so in turn, relief flooded through him.

It would be very, very short lived.

Just a little more, and Ruby would arrive close enough to Jaune to make proper eye-contact and subsequently aid him in his landing strategy.

Twenty metres was the gap that separated them, and in free fall, that gap was infinitely small.

Suddenly, Ruby felt a tug on Crescent Rose?

It wasn't anything strong, and was rather weak almost like someone was testing how much strength to use. It was easily overcome by Ruby's grip, making her wonder if it had just been the wind pulling at her weapon at an odd angle.

Besides, Shirou would have said something, wouldn't he?

"You said you knew the future right?"

There it was. He was talking, but it felt like he knew something that she didn't and was leading her on. Be that as it may, she stuck to her words.

"Yes," she mouthed.

"Does that mean I interfere or not?"

Interfere?

Inwardly, Ruby was entirely purplexed, but she knew that admitting her own ignorance would make her lose all credibility about future knowledge that she might have built up.

"Everything you see today was intended to happen," she could only feign confidence while answering with her chin craned up in a cheap imitation of Yang. "Just keep watching. You'll see. I told you that I'd prove it."

Saying her piece, Ruby cautiously knit her brows, hugging Crescent Rose closer to her chest.

"If you say so…Still, I recommend holding tight, but if it's all intentional, then pretend I didn't say anything."

Holding tight? What did that-

A moment of confusion and a slack grip was all that it took for tragedy.

Composure could go out the window!

Crescent Rose was violently wrenched out of Ruby's grip and thrown to the side with Ruby lunging violently for it with her arms outstretched.

That was her Crescent Rose being hoisted away!

"Nooooooo!" She called out in a fluster. "Precious! My baby! Come back!"

Ruby's cheeks grew flushed, her hands finally grasping back onto Crescent Rose, but this presented a different problem. Crescent Rose was being mysteriously dragged away, and with Ruby's persistent grip, she too was coming along with it.

It wasn't making any sense. What was going on?

Ruby pursed her lips, her jaw clenching while desperately trying to keep herself from calling to Shirou for help. She boarded this boat, and she was now facing the problem of sinking in it. Worse, she'd even implied that things were going to plan despite never reading about this ever happening in her future diary.

With Ruby clinging to Crescent Rose, and Crescent Rose being dragged away, the distance between Jaune and Ruby widened considerably in free fall.

Just from looking at it, Ruby couldn't detect anything that could be pulling on her weapon, but she suddenly understood what was happening when the metal buttons of her dress stuck to Crescent Rose.

Wait! Magnetism, she'd read about that being someone's Semblance before!

Ruby's eyes quickly darted back and forth, looking for a shade of red brighter than her own nearby. From her vantage point up in the sky, and trained sniping eyes, it wasn't long before Ruby found the cause of her present dilemma.

There!

Pyrrha Nikos!

"Youuuu!" Ruby pointed with one hand, feeling wronged.

I-I trusted you! I-I believed in you! This isn't what you were supposed to be!

Ruby was just trying to be the hero here, wishing only to save everyone. Being impeded by one of the people you were trying to save obviously didn't feel good. It wasn't as if Pyrrha or anyone else would properly understand Ruby's considerations, but all the same.

"Stoooop thaaaat!" Ruby called out, flustered between choosing her Crescent Rose or following through with her plans to meet Jaune first.

For a moment, a look of surprise flickered across Pyrrha's face, confused about how Ruby had been able to pinpoint her among everyone else. Nothing about Pyrrha had screamed that she was using her Semblance, but the certainty in Ruby's eyes took Pyrrha off guard.

To begin with, Pyrrha didn't have much choice but to use her Semblance.

Shooting at Ruby would have been far too conspicuous. Shooting a weapon like Ruby had done was different from Pyrrha shooting at a person. Moreover, her morals just wouldn't allow it even if she was tempted.

In any case, even if Ruby had accurately pointed Pyrrha out, so what?

Just because one asks someone to stop, doesn't mean that they'd just stop.

'You started it.'

Pyrrha pretended as if she didn't hear Ruby calling her out, and continued to keep her eyes trained on Ruby's body while channeling her Semblance. Immediately, she funneled more power into her Semblance to draw Crescent Rose and a clinging Ruby further and further away from Jaune.

"You're forcing me!" Ruby warned, eyes squinting from the wind pressure. "Let go of my baby!"

Pyrrha scoffed.

This competition was just starting.


In the midst of Ruby and Pyrrha's competition, it was like they'd momentarily forgotten all about Jaune's 'landing strategy,' or lack thereof. One of them was supposed to have helped him, but with both preoccupied with each other, he was left on his own.

'…I'm going to die.'

It was the inevitable conclusion in Jaune's mind when the ground was rapidly closing in on him, and he was still flailing around like a dead chicken. Everyone else had found a way to slow their descent except for Jaune who only accelerated after the zenith of his launch. Everything around him was a blur to the point that he felt he'd only imagined his friend Ruby trying to save him.

The mind really does do funny things when your life is flashing before your eyes.

Hallucination may as well have been one of them.

Jaune swallowed audibly. He was past the point of screaming, as self-preservation instincts began to kick in. He knew that so long as he didn't die, his banner would be able to heal him to good health in a matter of time. Maybe a few broken bones here or there, but what he should focus on was tucking his head beneath his arms, and hoping nothing breaks on his spine.

At the edge of his vision, he became keenly aware of the fast approaching trees and braced himself for impact.

"Ahaaa-Eeeeeee."

"Ahhhh-Eeeeeee!"

"Ahhhhhhhh-EEeeeeeeeeeee!"

For a second, Jaune had a moment to consider what sort of animal was making such a strange noise, and in the next, the wind was getting knocked out of him when a pair of sturdy arms hoisted him from the waist.

His vision spun before he realised that whoever had grabbed him had dissipated his downward momentum by flipping with him in his or her arms a certain number of times.

"Renny, Renny, look look! I knew you'd come!"

It was a voice that Jaune definitely did not know, nor a name he was even associated with.

Renny?

In a state of delirium from all the tumbling and the rollercoaster of emotions that brought him through all four states of acceptance, Jaune finally realised that he was still alive.

"R-Renny, how did you change your face?"

An orange haired girl in a miniskirt and a blouse or whatever it was, Juane couldn't tell because his vision was still spinning, stood before him.

"I'm not Renny." He mumbled out while trying to regain his bearing.

For a second, the girl stilled, brows knitting together almost as she'd entered the first stage of denial.

Jaune didn't pay too much attention to it. No matter how strange the girl was acting, it didn't change the fact that she'd clearly saved him from numerous broken bones and bruises. For this, he was immensely grateful to give her the benefit of the doubt.

From her words though, it was clear that he wasn't the partner that the girl was hoping for, no matter how she insisted on it. Well, too late now. She was definitely getting a good look at him, and in turn he was slowly doing the same.

"Oh stop stop, only Renny would have answered my secret sloth call and come falling from the sky."

As Jaune's vision cleared, he was finally able to take a good look at the girl in front of him. She had orange shoulder-length hair parted at her forehead, and wore a collared black sleeveless vest. The vest had a blue central front section with red accents, while a personal emblem was emblazoned on the back.

A white sleeveless t-shirt with a heart-shaped cutout above her breast was worn beneath the vest, while a pair of white detached sleeves were worn on each arm. Light pink fingerless gloves adorned her hands, and a short pink skirt with a single white layer under it was worn over her waist. Her white ankle boots had pink soles with a lightning bolt on them, and were tied up with pink laces; the tops of which are folded over to reveal the pink inner lining of her boots. She also wears a silver armour piece that wraps around waist, under her breasts and around the back of her neck with a metal connecting each piece together at the front.

It was only now that his head had stopped spinning, that he noticed a nervous tilt on the strained smile that the girl was sporting.

"No, I really just fell," Jaune got back onto his feet while patting the dirt and dust off of his clothes. Shakily he offered a hand for a shake. "And ugh, like it or not…I guess this makes us partners?"

The girl looked at the offered hand, then back at Jaune, before going back to the hand.

The girl was oddly silent, fully knowing that they've both already made eye-contact with each other.

"Sooo," the girl drawled, the reality of her situation setting in and her smile growing somewhat eerie. "...you're really not my Renny?"

What gave it away? The lack of resemblance? Or was it mannerism?

Jaune could tell when he wasn't wanted, and the girl was clearly waiting for someone else but ended up saving him instead.

He felt bad, but this was the hand fate played for the both of them.

Jaune would have answered the girls' question with a definitive, 'no,' if it wasn't already obvious to the both of them what the answer would be. Still, the girl was fooling no one but herself with that question.

Silence stretched, Jaune thinking his saviour was just taking a moment to process the situation in full, but no. She'd just entered the anger and bargaining phases of the stages of denial.

All too quickly, the hairs on the back of Jaune's neck rose in alarm at the girl's next actions.

A weapon suddenly appeared: a towering war hammer bigger than the girl was tall that severely outclassed any sledge Jaune had ever seen in his life. For a second, he even wondered how he'd never even registered it until now.

The girl stepped closer to Jaune.

Jaune backed away, arms waving in front of him.

The girl continued to smile.

"H-Hey hold on a second," Jaune waved his hands frantically, feet hurriedly backpedalling faster until his back pressed up against a tree. "W-What are you raising your hammer for?!"

"..." No answer.

Jaune ducked, the tree behind him toppling from the hammer that exploded the tree's trunk on impact. His features whitened, hair flopping to the left.

Twigs crunched underfoot as the girl plastered an innocent look as if she hadn't just tried to take a swing at him.

Jaune rolled and pushed away with his feet kicking under him.

"Back up! I said back up!"

"..."

"Hey, hey, seriously, this isn't funny!"

"..."

Jaune was no fool. He'd seen enough of these situations in books and tv to not know what this airhead was thinking.

"You think I'll just forget everything if you hit me hard enough?!"

"...?"

"W-Wait don't load a grenade that's going to kill me!"

Paling, Jaune shot up into his feet. Inadvertently, he began running in the direction of the initiation's relics, the mad woman hot on his tails.

"Help! Help! Someone help! She's the crazy crazy sort!"

Twigs and branches slapped Jaune as he passed them by without a care, not even thinking to try and put himself on the other end of this girl's sledge hammer.

"Hehehe, that's not very nice to say. Why don't you come to doctor Nora and she'll make all the thinking stop? Then we all forget this ever happened, right Renny-not-Renny?"

"HEEEEEELLLLPPPPPPP!"


A short distance away from where Jaune had fled from, two figures shuddered before revealing themselves behind the thick bushes. One was Yang, and the other was none other than Blake Belladonna, the two having met prior.

"You're really just going to leave that be?" Blake furrowed her brows, her cat ears drooping as she shuddered from the reverberating impacts she could hear in the distance. "I thought you said he was your sister's friend?"

Yang considered the question, but then shrugged. "He's clearly putting the moves on a girl. What person would I be to interfere?"

"A saviour," Blake cut in, cat eyes squinting in Jaune and Nora's direction. "Bet he'll go down in one hit? Still, despite all his screaming, he's showing a high level of mobility. As expected of a Hero of Mt. Glenn. Can't say the same for you. Not even thinking of lending a hand?"

Yang shook her head and crossed her arms. Compared to the danger's she'd face in the future, Jaune could put up with one psycho classmate. Besides, one look and Yang could tell.

"I'm sorry, but that girl's a whole different fun-pack of crazy there," Yang winced when she noticed Nora still insisting that Jaune would forget everything if he would just let her hit him.

Shrugging, Yang returned her attention to Blake. "Don't sweat it. Jaune's famous. If anyone can handle this, he can handle it. He's probably had worse."

Blake shook her head, unconvinced. "Whatever you say then."

Puffing up her chest, Yang took the praise in stride, stroking her ego.

To say that Yang and Blake were already familiar with each other would be an understatement. They'd once fought side-by-side, and had even helped Blake's group reach Vermillion where the Belladonna family was elected and took charge due to their experience in Menagerie.

As Yang was part of it all, of course she was just a tad, elated. "You'll never go wrong trusting Ms. Blond Kickass," Yang pointed a thumb to herself and boasted with an assured laugh.

Blake didn't seem to get the hint. She deadpanned, shaking her head at Yang in warning before rubbing at her temples. "I wouldn't recommend giving that name away when you're still wanted for terrorism by Vale Police. How do you know I wouldn't report you?"

Stiffening, Yang slowly uncrossed her arms in disbelief before her shoulders sagged when she deemed it wasn't worth it to pursue this topic. It was this very topic that had plagued her for years due to a mere misunderstanding. She was only trying to help evacuate people out of that train the fastest way she knew how! Dammit. She knew full well that her dad would readily shave her head again if it meant a clean personal record, and just thinking about relieving the experience soured her mood.

"...You killed it." Yang stared at Blake accusingly. Blake blinked, not understanding what she did wrong.

"You killed my fun." Yang grimaced. "Of all people, how did my partner end up being you?"

Blake's brow twitched. It wasn't exactly her choice to be paired with Yang, but she still tried to be civil about it.

"Isn't that because we were both chasing the same person screaming for 'her baby' to come back in the air?" Blake reasoned.

"What did you want with my sister, anyway?" Yang quipped, a foot stamping on the ground. "And woah woah hold on, it was also your fault you weren't paying attention that caused us to make eye contact with each other."

"There was something I wanted to verify," Blake answered under her breath, but the next second an aloof expression returned to her face. "And what do you mean by me? You still think that this was my fault that we're partners?"

"Let's make things clear, kitty cat," Yang pointed at herself, then at Blake. "You. Bumped into. Me."

Blake had a second to process, then another second to consider whether holding her temper would solve anything or not. In the end, she got her answer.

"You're the one who punched down my tree!" Blake grimaced, still increasingly indignant.

Yang scowled, recoiling back and growing somewhat defensive. "I heard something. It could have been a Grimm, and I was looking up all the time so I wasn't sure."

"You. Punched down. My. Tree."

"Yeah?"

"What did you expect would happen? That I topple along with it?"

"Pssh, no," Yang flippantly waved her hand in a dismissive gesture before snorting. "What I expected was that you'd land on your feet, not me!"

Blake deadpanned. That was a cat joke. She was sure of it.

Still with the cat jokes. If Blake was pretending as if she was just imagining it at the beginning, now she was certain that Yang was doing it on purpose.

"...Are you stereotyping me?"

"...Are you still eyeing my pouch?"

Yang countered deftly.

Blake's brow twitched. It would be a lie to say that she wasn't, but this was for an entirely different matter. Now that they were partners, it was only right to share.

Blake found herself making excuses, ever since she'd verified the authenticity of the dagger she'd seen Archer give to Yang a few years back. Evidently, Blake had noticed the dagger in Yang's pouch, and Yang seemed hyper aware of the fact that Blake knew of it, and wasn't below 'borrowing' if Yang wasn't careful.

"That dagger was handed to you out of precaution. I saw, and heard it," Blake justified.

"So?" Yang rubbed her nose. "Archer never asked for it back, making it a tacit gift to me."

"No," Blake shot down Yang's statement. "It means you pilfered it, and if he doesn't want it back, it's public property to be used when necessary. Besides, I had ownership of that dagger for a time too, so I'm just as eligible. And what do you mean by 'never asked for it?' Don't think I didn't see you hide the dagger in your pouch, and never return it back then!"

"Tch." Yang clicked her tongue, turning her back to Blake and trudging on to follow after Jaune. Yang had said one thing, but her action spoke another. At the very least, she was going to make sure that her sister's friend was alright.

"Hey wait, up!" Blake called after Yang, picking up her pace to fall in stride with her.

Noticeably, Yang moved her pouch from her left side where Blake stood, to her right side, missing the twitch of Blake's brow when she subtly drew her hand back.

"...You're not getting my dagger you cat burglar."

"Can't I just see it?"

"Curiosity killed the cat."

"The cat has nine lives!"

Yang's lip twitched, glancing at Blake and unwilling to admit that she felt stumped for a comeback to that one. "If that's your best, you're heading into a cat-tastrophe."

Blake clenched her jaw. "Are you really not going to stop with that?"

"Are you going to quit it with my dagger?"

Blake hissed. "Now see here, you terrorist…"

The two continued to bicker towards their destination.


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