Summary: Diverging at the start of volume 4, Jaune reforges Pyrrha's weapons into a massive sword. He seeks revenge against the one who killed her, even if it costs him his life. With a different semblance, Limit Break, he will be the one to slay Cinder. FF7 Elements.

Cloud Strife is a character from Super Smash Brothers Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch and probably other things too. The comparisons between Jaune and Cloud are painfully obvious. So obvious, that this story is basically low hanging fruit.

This story picks up at the start of Volume 4 and continues with Jaune unlocking a different semblance, called Limit Break. You won't need to know anything about Final Fantasy in general or VII in particular to read this story.

I think that's everything so without further ado have some Lancaster stuff and nothing else.

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"There you go, son." The horned smith heaved the heavy breastplate onto the counter before me. "It's gonna be heavier than you're used to, but you'll thank me the next time you go up against a set of claws." From the sound it made against the wood, I believed him.

I struggled briefly before conceding. The metal in front of me was a bit much to look at all at once. "I don't know what to say."

"Don't gotta say anything! Just put it on!" The smith turned towards the back and called over his shoulder. "I'll go get the rest."

"So... What are you waiting for?" Nora asked after only a moment had passed.

"Oh! Uh… Right." I walked up to the counter and took the chest-plate I was wearing off. "Guess I was going to grow out of it eventually." I set it on the counter.

I looked down. I'd traded my hoodie and jeans in for a blue cotton shirt that went up to my neck and a baggy set of black pants that went down to my boots. Mistral was honestly too hot with armor to put myself through my old hoodie, still had it, though. I still wore gloves, but I'd gotten new grey ones.

I was basically a new person.

"A sign of progress," Ren agreed with me except he seemed genuine.

Well if Ren thinks so…

Progress. It was hard to argue that I wasn't closer to being a huntsman now than I was before. The fact of being a huntsman and slaying monsters mattered dramatically less to me now, however.

I strapped the new piece to my chest. It fit snugly, no undue chafing at my joints was always nice. The new white with golden highlights looked good in contrast to my blue shirt. There was only one shoulder pauldron and I immediately strapped it to my left-hand side. I had found early on that no amount of lotion or baby powder could help with the constant rubbing of the metal over my fingers, so I'd taken to wearing thick fingerless gloves and developing calluses on the sides on my fingers. The gauntlets slid all the way up to my elbow. I stretched and flexed. They didn't impede my range of motion and felt, get this, comfortable.

"And we can't have a huntsman without his weapon." I looked up as the man set the newly forged shield and sword on the table. Qrow, Ruby's uncle, had brought Miló and Akoúo̱ to me from the top of Beacon Tower when he'd found Ruby there.

Miló had been forged into my sword. It was longer now and broader, too, but not so big that I thought I couldn't wield it. It was mostly white with the bronze trimmings and the deepest crimson of Milo had been turned around and spiraled into the dramatically longer handle and wider guard where it mixed with my own old blue and became a very dark, almost black, purple.

Akoúo̱ had been melted down and added to my shield, much like its partner. The whole shield was more angular now. It was still symmetrical and was divided into two parts. It started off square before it tapered down to two separated triangular edges which left a narrow valley between them which ran only briefly before meeting white.

It was taller than before with the bronze of Akoúo̱ added mostly to the top and bottom and less to the sides. It would cover me better from ranged attacks. I'd found that without any range I would need some protection, so I was just free target practice from a distance.

A gun was a great equalizer.

The taller shield had been Ruby's idea, she pointed out how much my legs got shot at school a lot even before. Then she got the opportunity to do something about it and if you gave Ruby a cookie...

"Made all the modifications you asked for." Yeah, my modifications. The shield and sword were linked together, forming a great cross shape. I reached out and held the shield in my hands, I strapped it to my left arm. It didn't compact like it used to, but the sword still fit into the shield, I just had to carry the entire thing on my back now. I drew the sword from the sheath with a soft whisper. "That was some fine metal you brought me. Accents the white nicely. Where'd you get it from?"

I felt the new weight of the sword in my right hand. It felt uncomfortable but mostly because I was used to the old weight, not because I wasn't strong enough. Time would change my preferences as I re-taught myself the muscle memory.

I was adjusting the memory rather than making new ones, so it shouldn't take as long.

"From a friend." I answered at nearly a whisper. The pommel was a bit longer than one would expect, long enough so that I could grip it comfortably in both hands with plenty of room to spare. I'd always found the amount of room to choke down and up on Crocea Mors to be lacking and when I'd mentioned it to Ruby, she flawlessly took it into the design.

I slid the sword into the shield until it clicked into place. Then I pulled the sword back and drew it with the shield. The shield folded over the sword and different sections of the shield began to slide over the length of the weapon.

As I drew it, the motion pulled parts of the shield with it, until I'd drawn a six-foot-long single edged broadsword. I brought the weapon around me and let my left-hand rest below my right.

It was heavy. Heavy enough that someone without aura couldn't possibly have wielded it for more than a few minutes, if that. I pulled my right hand back and extended my left, easily holding it with one hand. I let my fingers run down the edge gently.

"Well," Nora demanded. "Is it or is it not also a gun."

"I told you it wasn't a gun every time you asked," I insisted.

"So it doesn't have another form."

I shook my head and strapped the entire contraption to my back. "No, it doesn't, it just has the two forms." I reached over my head and drummed by fingers against the handle over my head. I felt confident I'd be able to draw either form quickly. Or if I failed to do so it wouldn't be the sword's fault or because of where it was.

I just couldn't count myself out of things.

I'd have to practice sliding the shield onto my arm and back again to get the hang of it.

I finally turned around and nearly bumped into Ruby. She scrunched up her face at the weapon behind me. Big silver eyes looking up at the weapon. "How does it feel? Do you like it?"

"Like it was made for me." I rolled my wrists and flexed my forearms under the gauntlets again. "You're a genius, Ruby."

"It's so cool!"

I laughed a little. "You knew what it was going to look like."

Ruby snorted before she covered her face. Turning slightly red. Generally more red. "Sure, on paper, it's another thing to meet face to uh- face," she stammered.

"Face to face huh," I smirked.

"Shut up. Stop looking at me."

I audibly slapped my hands across my eyes and mouth and even though I was blind and mute she kicked me in the shin.

"He cleans up alright." The smith smirked. "Don't you think? Say, you kids sure you won't stick around? You've been good to this town."

We'd run a few patrols and hunts for the city to work out a deal to pay for the new weapon. We'd stuck around a few weeks killing Grimm for the small village and running the occasional odd job besides. Even a mecha-shift weapon as simple as this one wasn't cheap or fast to make.

Not well at least.

I opened my mouth and shut it, Ruby promised to hit me if I apologized for stalling them on it.

"It's not just some silly errand."

She'd shoved a finger in my face, too.

"It's important."

Nora and Ren honestly didn't seem to mind either, not that I could always tell with Ren. It was like that with Ren.

Nora on the other hand couldn't seem to hide that she seemed to have something to hide. So I think I would be able to tell.

"Sorry, but we've got another mission-"

"-Make it to Haven Academy, no matter what!"

"We've heard the next village over has a working airship."

The smith frowned. "No way to know for sure. Scroll signals were bad enough out here when Beacon Tower was still up. Haven't heard from Shion village in a while."

I looked at the village. Without global communication what would happen here? Could the kingdoms stay as they were?

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I was awake when Ruby opened the tent we shared. Whatever dream I was having slipped from me even as I tried to grab at it.

I said nothing, even as Ruby half crawled, and half crouched around the tent. I wanted nothing more than to go back and ignore my shift.

It was slightly uncomfortable, then, when Ruby ignorantly tried to nudge me awake.

"Jaune," she whispered. "Jaune, wake up."

"My shift?" I murmured back. I felt as much as I heard her nod in the dark. "Alright."

I blinked forcefully until I'd wrung all the sleep from my eyes and rose from my sleeping bag. I maneuvered past Ruby. I stretched, picked up my sword and added water to finish the process of waking up.

I waited in the dark while Ruby got comfortable and slunk back into her bed-bag. "It's cold," she moaned at a whine. I couldn't completely stop myself from laughing. It was too cute. "I bet yours is warm." She grabbed the edge of her covers and pulled them tight against her.

"Wear more layers."

"It's not comfortable."

"Put more covers on?"

I heard her move to 'glare' at me. It was like pitch a few feet from my eyes in the tent, though. "That's not comfortable either."

"Well what would make you comfortable?" I had to wonder. "This isn't a hotel or Beacon. All you have here is me."

"Ugh. You-I-" I heard the sound of her rolling in her bag. "Ugh. Night, Jaune."

"Rest easy, Rubes."

Ah yes. Second to last shift.

It wasn't so bad. When it became clear that the first and last shift were most desirable, followed by second, it was intuitive that it was the shift for me.

Maybe it reminded me of me.

I stepped out of the tent into the absurdly early morning. The fact of the matter was that taking a shift as a huntsman was sort of subjective. Ren's sense of danger was good, so he didn't have to pay a lot of attention during his shift. He barely even had to be awake.

Which meant even a huntsman as mediocre as I was could still feel danger while training.

I held the broadsword out in two hands. First, I practiced my basic movements while holding the broadsword - attempting a few amateurish swings until I got a feel for the weight of it. The weight was a lot further forward than I was used to. I swept the blade in a wide arc and brought it back to neutral as quickly as I could.

I couldn't help but grimace.

I was slow enough that I was seriously going to have to stand here and practice bringing the weight back around. I brought the weapon back into neutral and swung it again.

I practiced two different cross slashes until my arms burned. I had sweat running down my brow as I tried to control the tool. The weight really was enormous. It had to be heavier than Cardin's Mace, even, and when I'd first arrived at Beacon I'd thought that thing was ridiculous.

When I brought that up to Ruby she just scoffed. She just reminded me that the weapon was still shorter and lighter than many such swords that I'd seen huntsmen smaller than myself use.

I rested against it and wiped my forehead. I'd need a drink if I kept this up. I groaned. I left my water in the tent. If I needed a drink, I'd have to gamble waking Ruby up.

Not worth.

I brought the broadsword around, the shield clicked into place around my arm and I drew the longsword out. I felt the new weight and changed my grip along the very long handle. It was light and easy to control compared to the broadsword form. My burning wrist was more than enough to handle it. The shield was easy to swing and large enough to hit something fairly hard with. I crouched down as though avoiding gunfire and mimicked peaking around the shield and made several wide jabs with the sword.

My arms throbbed with the motion, but we can't all be winners and I was pretty determined to get a feel for the new weight.

Because people I like could die otherwise.


Pyrrha taught me a few forms to run through. Wide brutal swings followed by quick diagonal cuts before defensive posturing and foot-work. It didn't sound like much compared to a real fight or even a practice match. It also really wasn't. It was good cardio and weights, however, and it was familiarity with my weapon.

I mimed parrying with the tall shield before a thrust and two waist length sideways cuts with the sword.

Blocking with the shield was easy. Well easier than the small wrist movements required to block with the sword. Especially with the broadsword form, the last thing I wanted to do was commit to a block with any unnecessary movement. It was all in the wrists, small rotations that covered me just enough, or long enough for the shield to come around with the 'ittle bastard.

I panted for breath, taking a moment to wipe the sweat from my eyes again. I really needed a drink. I had no choice, really. I turned back towards camp.

Maybe Ren left some water out?

The thing about that was it was something I would do. Ren was careful and smart besides.

I blinked when I got near my tent, though, the water was out in the cool night air. I glanced at the tent and listened for Ruby's soft breaths.

She was there alright. I picked the water up and took a drink.

I must have brought it out with me.

I shrugged and carried back with me, kicking my way through the campfire and cinders.

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Birds flew, bees stung, and it hadn't taken Ruby long to examine the new and improved weapon. Less than a day, in fact.

Ren was making breakfast over the campfire, eggs, cheese, beans and rice in a burrito. Ren, of course, unanimously had the last shift for this very reason.

They were perfect.

When she asked to take a look at Crocea Mors 2.0, I handed it over and let the burrito and Ruby do their business without my interference.

"Well it is heavy," Ruby murmured, it seemed like she was confessing some terrible sin and I had to restrain myself from chuckling at her. "At least heavier than it was before." It was true. It weighed as much as Crocea Mors had before with the shield, plus Miló and Akoúo̱ and Pyrrha's circlet and some of her armor. "Do you remember how to take apart and clean the mechanisms? I don't remember everything about it." Ruby admitted the last bit almost sheepishly. Like she was ashamed of having forgotten.

I choked on the precious food.

Ruby looked at me like I was being dramatic, but Nora mimed a heart attack and Ren reached out with the back of his hand like he was trying to take her temperature, so I felt not only justified, but moderate.

Ruby swatted Ren's hand and turned her chin up at me.

"You did what?" I asked grinning.

Nora pointed at Ruby aggressively. "She's an impostor."

I managed to swallow. "They're simple enough for me to understand so I'm sure you'll be able to figure it out again. I'll show you later tonight, when we make camp." I took another bite of burrito.

"We could also practice too, if you want," she offered.

I'd seen her fight and we'd occasionally sparred for Ms. Goodwitch at Beacon. She'd always tried to take it easy on me, she'd always won, though, super easily. She was faster than a sixteen-year-old had any right to be and swung her giant scythe around like it was nothing. She hit so hard so casually.

Her power made her spacing immaculate. She could rush her opponents down easily or escape to regroup at her leisure. She could totally control the pace of the battle, at least against me. She was a menace.

I nodded. "I'd be an idiot to say 'no.'"

"It's like some kind of fusion of swords now." Nora looked the weapon over with Ruby who was pantomiming swings with the broadsword.

She's already better than me with it.

I finished my food and set about helping Ren pack up. Leaving the girls to chat while they cleaned up.

I rolled up my sleeping bag and the tent and packed them together. I took my sword back from Ruby, trading her for her backpack. Ren and Nora joined us with their things at the road and we were off again.

Ruby walked with the map out in front of her, stretched between both hands. "So, the next town is… Uh-huh! Uh-huh…" She gave up. "We're lost."

"We're not lost. The next town is Shion. My family used to visit all the time."

"Oh, yeah! Don't you have, like, four sisters."

"I have a few of those, yeah." I did my best to evade.

"Seven," Ren helpfully pointed out with a subtle smirk. Thank you, Ren.

You fucking traitor.

Ruby just giggled beside me.

Nora had the sheer audacity to act like she was thinking, but I knew better. "Y'know, that actually explains a lot."

I had to let out an enormous sigh, I had no ammunition and no defense. "Yeah."

"So, what did you guys do there?"

I left the smirking Ren and Nora behind to step up next to Ruby. "Oh! All sorts of stuff!" I took the side of the map in one armored hand. "Over here is a great hiking trail, and over here is where we went camping all the time! I got my own tent because I was special."

Ruby waited patiently for me to finish, somewhere between exasperated and amused.

"Also, so my sisters would stop braiding my hair." I did.

"Didn't like the look?"

"Yeah, they just kept doing pigtails, but personally I think I'm more of a 'Warrior's Wolf Tail' kind of guy."

"Isn't that just a ponytail?"

"I'm not proud of a lot of things, Rubes." I bragged. "But I can rock any haircut?"

Ruby stifled a snort. "Really? Any haircut? I think that I cou-"

"Uh, guys?" Nora intruded.



I looked up.

I doubted we'd be able to rent an airship here.

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I was thinking about Shion. I had to decide, and they were looking at me to do it right here and now. They hadn't asked yet, but they were thinking it. I could tell.

And not about Ren either, though his behavior was extremely erratic for what a Ren was.

It wasn't like him, but Ren had never pushed me about anything, even when he'd been in the right to do so after initiation, so I can't bear to bother him before he's ready.

There was no communication. No one to let the village they had just left know that Shion was destroyed. Or the villages around that, for that matter, if they still existed.

"We have to head back, then?" Nora asked. "But it took us days to get here. Can we afford to do that?"

Ren shook his head. "This isn't about Lien. We have a moral imperative to let the area know about the destruction of this village. How they choose to handle it is their business."

"Wait, don't we need to let all the villages know?" Ruby pondered. "And what about the bandits and Grimm! We're the best equipped to deal with them!"

I stared hard at Ruby and when they finally all turned to look at me, I was still staring. I sighed.

I don't even know if I can convince her to press on. Let alone if I should.

"We'll set up camp here and wait, if there are any survivors they'll have come out of hiding by then." I hesitated. "Ruby if you ran there and back how fast could you spread the word to Gailong about Shion's destruction?"

She hesitated. "I'm more for short distances than for long but uh…"

She'd still be faster than anyone else.

"I'd really need to rest afterwards, but maybe a few hours," she finished.

Ruby was invaluable to our combat capabilities, if the bandits or Grimm struck again, we'd sorely miss her, even if we were able to win. The danger was everywhere not here, it seemed.

Communication was just too slow.

I remember reading about what interstellar communication would have to be like and what old fashion communication was like. Experiencing it was miserable.

If Ruby got split up again from there, would I ever be able to find her?

Also if I sent her off alone and she got hurt I'd-

It must have shown on my face.

"I'll be fast and safe," she promised.

I was already shaking my head by the time she opened her mouth. It didn't matter what she said. From the moment she left until she got back, I would have no way of knowing if the bandits had been waiting for us to do something like that or were just in that direction in general.

She'd be spending aura the whole time on speed and this whole thing assumed that she wouldn't need to fight.

"Absolutely not," I snapped. "We're not splitting up."

"Jaune I can do it."

"You have to give me something beyond 'I'll be safe' and 'I can do it.'" I demanded. "Please." I genuinely wanted her to. I knew that she couldn't.

Her teasing glare was completely absent. It was replaced by something cold and metallic. She would bow to my plan on how to help, but she wasn't going to not help. It just wasn't in her nature.

"Where will we camp?" Nora wondered. Her left hand was gently touching the fabric of Ren's sleeve. So small was the gesture that she barely manipulated the cloth.

"Here, in town."

"You think we should."

"Yes." I did. I couldn't bear the thought of leaving survivors to die. Some child or infant could be tucked away and just waiting. "We'll do some searching through the rubble."

"Then what?" Ren demanded. "And if the Grimm and bandits come?"

"We have to destroy them." I affirmed. "We're the only ones who can possibly do so within any time frame that doesn't feel like leaving people to die." I waited for a beat for anyone of them to step in. "Then we're going back to GaiLong tomorrow; all of us," I insisted. "Together. from there we will search for the bandits and destroy them from GaiLong."

Ren briefly considered it. "I'll start searching, then." He paced away quickly, Nora bounced to catch up with him.

Peer-to-peer communication with scrolls was good enough that we'd be able to contact each other from within the village ruins so I let him go.

"Jaune..." Ruby began. I looked down at where she stood beside me. I think she expected me to walk away like Ren did and I surprised her because she didn't say anything else for an uncomfortably long time, or it seemed that way.

She managed to blurt out a, "thank you," at the same time I said, "let's start searching too," and it turned into an unintelligible mess.

"What?" I wondered.

She shook her head. "Let's go."

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It was eerie, camping in the town square. By their very nature search and rescue operations don't try and hide at all, can't, even. It set my teeth on edge, but it was necessary.

"We'll be training a little too, but we'll try and keep it down." I let Ren know. He was scrapping some dinner together and some other meals. We'd found perishables that the bandits hadn't bothered to take and would literally rot if we didn't eat them.

Ruby had wondered if that made us better than the bandits but together the three of us convinced her otherwise.

From, "you can't give it to anyone."

To, "you can't save it for later."

And fervently, "all this in all these empty houses will be rat food if we don't eat it now."

She gave in but didn't eat much.

She was stressed, they all were. Especially considering how far we just got set back in terms of our travel time. Money really wasn't an issue. Huntsmen could make a living anywhere and with communication down…

With communication down the law of the land in most places was whatever the guy with the most fighting power said it was. Who were you going to call and how were you going to call them and what would they do by the time they finally arrived to do something, if they ever came at all?

Huntsmen will have even fewer problems making money anywhere. Perhaps too few.

I set another log on the campfire. There was a flare of sparks and the fire snapped a few times at me. I stared at them like the patterns they made would reveal something to me but there was nothing at all.

Nora was already turned away from the dim light in her sleeping bag. Ren being emotional had evidently exhausted her beyond her energy.

Ruby had found a clearing she liked as we'd set up camp and I followed her there now from the campsite. I hadn't bothered to take my armor off at any point. I needed to get used to it and I'd do it by wearing it sixteen hours a day, more, probably.

"You'll probably need a whole new fighting style, I mean, have you ever practiced with a broadsword?" She chatted as they walked.

"I haven't but a sword is a sword." What's so hard to understand about swish-swish-stab? A lot, to be honest. "I'll be able to figure it out."

"I know some of my uncle's moves." Ruby continued. "Would they help?"

"I'm bad enough that they literally couldn't make me worse."

She looked like she wanted to hit me for that but couldn't because she was about to hit me anyway.

I stared at her from the side, watching her pink lips move out of the corner of my eyes. She reached up while she was talking and brushed her short red and black hair over her ear with one hand.

She was building up contained excitement like a diesel engine getting warmed up and I had to smile. Once she started talking it released like a wave and I found myself nodding and listening along as she carried on the better part of three conversations at once.

"A lot of his moves are horizontal, it's hard to swing a sword that big upwards. The ground gets in the way. His most powerful attacks are usually ones that come downwards, though, using gravity. His weapon is different, you know?" I did, I was confident she'd told me, at least. I'd hear it again, though. "It's a broadsword with a similar scale to yours but also turns into a scythe, and, unlike yours, it has a gun too." She looked at me to make sure I was listening. I was entranced with her lecture.

"It's actually a lot more complicated than yours but you've always been simple," she continued.

I agreed so, I nodded.

"I don't mean simple like that. I mean simple like- well, you know."

I did, so I nodded.

"But every person is like that, everybody is unique."


"Weapon!" She corrected herself a tad-little loud. "Every weapon is like that." She glanced at me.

She dared me to call her out.

I couldn't possibly.

"I really don't know much about fighting with shields, though, I'm sorry I won't be of much help. But like I said, swing downwards instead of upwards and it'll help."

I grimaced. If I swung the broadsword down, I'd need to lift it up again. It seemed obvious but the thing was heavy now. I'd need to do it as little as possible to conserve energy.

I watched her spin away from me into the clearing.

It took me a second to realize she was waiting for me and I stepped opposite her and drew the broadsword from my back.

Ruby's scythe extended and she reversed her grip on it, holding the weapon behind her back. I didn't think for one second it was an opening. I couldn't cross the distance between us before she would move.

Still, I knew if she were willing to spend ammunition on a sparring match, then I would be the one forced to approach. In the spirit of that I charged at her anyway.

I committed to an attack with Crocea Mors, swinging from my shoulder down at her. She danced out of the way, her footwork was tight and fast. She was able to stay just out of my range, dipping in to slice across my breastplate with her scythe before I could bring my weapon around again.

It was enough to buffet me and I was encouraged further to back up when she rolled the scythe around her body in an upwards diagonal arc.

It wasn't where I wanted to be, backing up was so much worse than side stepping. On the back-foot your opponent could charge and stand and fight you.

Pyrrha had hammered that into me none-too gently. Sometimes she used her shield as the hammer.

Sometimes she hadn't.

Ruby stepped with me, staying inside where I would feel comfortable with the sword.

I lashed out with my foot in a clumsy kick, balancing the sword's weight with my own mass and all my armor on just one leg with little practice. The kick flat out missed and Ruby had the good grace not to laugh. She did catch the leg I was left standing on with her scythe and yank me off my feet.

I felt myself whirl through the air and land flat on my back.

"Sorry Jaune." She smiled down at me sheepishly. I couldn't be mad at that.

I got to my feet shaking my head. "I'll get over it. I'm not afraid of looking like an idiot." I leveled the broadsword at her. "I still have plenty of aura for you to beat out of me."

She took that as a sign to continue and this time she rushed me.

I sidestepped lashing out with Crocea Mors into the space I had just occupied. It collided with Crescent Rose's barrel with a heavy metallic clank. The weight was enough to stop Ruby's momentum and she squealed adorably as she strained against it and the noise she made was enough to distract me a little.

She retreated spinning the crescent behind her, before she reversed again, rotating once more towards me in a whirlwind of red and steel.

"How are you not getting dizzy?" I implored.

She giggled at me for that like I was just being just so extra silly when I truly did want answers. It sometimes felt like I could barely stand up without my head spinning and here she was like a top.

I raised Crocea Mors and blocked the blade of Ruby's scythe with a grunt. I turned my wrists to block her next attack when she came around the other side.

I like to say my efforts impeded her but really she just hit me three times anyway.

Her blade swept across my stomach, glancing off my armor. I threw out Crocea Mors to try and gain some space, but she simply stepped back then back in and hit me hard in the side of the head with the back of Crescent Rose.

I stumbled back but she was all over me sweeping her blade towards me and chipping away at my aura. I grunted, lowering Crocea Mors to defend once again. I blocked then thrust my blade out and swung it upward, Ruby easily dodged the thrust but wasn't ready for me to continue my assault. I rushed forward. She jumped, elegantly dodging the attack with her semblance and a flare of red petals.

She flowed to my right like water before she zipped to the left with vanishing speed and seemed to hit me from behind as her scythe extended to a nearly impossible range. She threw me off balance. Her scythe was a spinning blade of death that sunk deep into my aura, shredding away chunks of it. I stepped back like I was going to retreat but I whipped the blade out and I clipped her side.

She rolled with the attack to the ground to avoid me chasing her, but I had stopped.

The sword made meaty noise when it hit her, it was the first time I'd hit anybody or anything with it and I immediately regretted how hard I had swung it and that its first target was Ruby besides.

We were just training, and it wasn't like she was out here swinging to hurt me. I winced slightly. She looked a little winded. Her hand dropped down a little. I shouldn't just be throwing out haymakers at her.

Duh, Jaune, what a way to say thank you.

Her body shimmered with soft red light as she recovered, getting to her feet. I let her rise unassailed; in a real fight I'd be all over her; I wasn't above hitting someone while they were down, after all, the world had no problems doing it to me, but this was just training.

"Are you alright?" I asked, my eyes roved her body, looking for any sign of injury. Her hand rose from where I had hit her, and she nodded.

I was sure Ruby could go toe to toe with nearly anyone, I'd seen her fight Yang and Pyrrha. But my sword weighed as much as either of them did, soaking wet in full gear. And unlike a potential Yang based weapon, Crocea Mors had all of that force condensed into a tight blade.

Ruby's own weapon was spindly in comparison and for a moment I wasn't totally sure that I wouldn't crack her barrel in half if I came down really hard on it.

"I'm fine. That hurt, though, you've gotten stronger."

"It's the new sword, it's heavier," I dismissed. "It's easy to hit things hard with a giant sheet of metal."

"Well, I'm sure that's true, too."

I continued to look her over. I was thinking about her hit and run fighting style.

That old big kicker-why?

Why did she bother retreating when she was so strong? It wasn't just a fighting style preference. I was beginning to suspect that she needed to. She needed to dodge rather than block and she couldn't afford to tank hits like I could.

She wasn't weak - it was impossible to think that, really. It was honestly weird to think about her as fragile, too, even with the evidence right in my face.

"How am I doing so far," I managed between pants.

I decided I would give her a moment to catch her breath, if she needed it. It looked like I had knocked the wind out of her, even through her Aura.

"You need to move more, you stand too still." It was familiar advice, and it brought me back to rooftop training sessions with another redhead. I changed tracks, not wanting to think about Pyrrha right now.

Thinking about Pyrrha only made me want to train. I wanted to train and fight until I was strong enough to kill Cinder.

It was fucking bullshit that Cinder got to walk around while I didn't even get to bury Pyrrha. I shook my head, thoughts of revenge clearing. I had a long way to go until I could hold candle to the woman who killed my partner.

Besides I was training now, I couldn't be more training than I currently was.

"Well it's hard to keep up with you in terms of movement," I deflected but made it clear I agreed. Standing rooted like a tree would only serve to cost me precious aura. Plus, now I had two sources telling me to get my ass in gear and move around the battlefield. Not that I'd ever ignored Pyrrha's advice but sometimes lessons took a while to stick.

We started again.

I slashed two wide arcs at Ruby, and she ducked under one and deflected the other. The large sword wasn't cutting it for me right now, but the point was to train with the new form. My movements were telegraphed with the broadsword, much more so than with the bastard sword and the shield would also allow me to defend myself from her wild slashes better, but the point of training right now was to learn how to use the new length to my advantage. It was not necessarily to use the best weapon for the situation.

She hit me twice with Crescent Rose before I felt the blade swing around me. She traded places with it, swinging me and herself in a sort of orbit connected by her weapon. She brought me around in a wide arc before she used a tree to halt her moment and mine. I could only watch as Ruby effectively pulled the blade towards her and through my aura.

It clotheslined me hard into the ground and made a loud gonging noise as her blade dinged off my freshly polished armor. I lay there on the ground with my chest flashed with soft golden light as my aura flickered. Ruby seemed to realize that I'd had enough and stepped back, folding her scythe behind her back as she did.

I tried to rub my chest through my armor for a moment before managing to puzzle together that it wasn't helping. Even through the protection granted by my soul and armor it was enough to sting.

I sat up and just tried to focus on breathing.

Ruby sat down next to me. Plopping down in her skirt with practiced ease.

"Was it really okay to re-forge Pyrrha's weapons like that?" Ruby asked. "I know I sort of talked you into this. I didn't mean to make you do something you might regret."

I understood the sentiment immediately, but this felt right.

"Her sword was in pieces and it would only have served as a reminder that she wasn't actually invincible," I began. It wasn't like I hadn't thought about it. "And I'm sure that she would be fine with me using her shield to defend myself, too. And you know there's going to be something satisfying about killing Cinder with a weapon reinforced with the one she broke." I chuckled lightly at the morose thought.

"Well, I guess it's okay, then?" She struggled to find something to say after that. "I'm sure you're right."

We sat quietly together in the forest lit by moonlight. It wasn't a full moon, like the night before, but still plenty bright.

"Jaune…" She trailed off.

"Yeah?" I answered anyway, ignoring her hesitation.

"About Pyrrha…" She pressed on.

"What about her?" I could talk about her, with Ruby of all people, at least. I didn't particularly want to, but I would.

"Did you and her ever…"

"No, we didn't. I didn't know until it was too late."


I realized my fingers were brushing my lips. The rough material of my gauntlets was nothing like Pyrrha's lips and my fingers tasted like sweat and grime.

So soft.

I remembered the way she'd kissed me before she left. It had been desperate but with a certain finality. She'd known she was sending her valedictions to me at the time.

I'd known too.

"She was a really good friend..."

"The best." I agreed readily. I wasn't sure where she was going with this.

"Would you have?" She grimaced looking pained. "Sorry."

"I don't know. Alright? I really have no idea. I don't get to know."

"You're right. I'm sorry." Ruby slipped into silence and I watched her fight herself again for a long minute. "But she wouldn't want you fighting Cinder."

"Well of course not." Hell, the last thing she'd done was push me into a locker and not give me the choice of dying with her. Which I wasn't bitter about at all. "But that doesn't change how I feel. So, I'm still going to."

"But…" She trailed. Her concern was like a fire, it flickered out towards me but there was nothing for it to catch onto. I was already burnt down inside.

"Hey look." I pulled my sword over to where we sat. "You wanted to see how the mechanism works, right?" Anything for a change in subject, literally anything. It was weak but Ruby seemed to understand.

She just nodded and listened while I went over the weapon with her. I could tell that she remembered how the mechanism worked part of the way through his explanation, she'd helped design it, after all. She just needed the refresher, but that was it.

I explained all of it anyway.

pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq

This is exactly how Jaune talks in my head.