Jak quickly learned why he should never let an energetic, gun crazy girl go shopping with him. Picking up a few new outfits to wear that matched his current blue tunic and white pants were easy enough, although finding a replacement for the leather straps holding the steel ring on his chest did prove to be somewhat troublesome when he limited his search exclusively to clothing stores. Sightseeing was also somewhat enjoyable, whether it was seeing the different ships and people that were milling about the docks or looking at the rows of buildings lining the streets that lacked all of the personal touches that the ones back home did. When the little red reaper said that she had plans for them Jak hadn't been expecting a shopping spree at every store that caught her interest, but then again he couldn't think of anything else he could be doing either. Wandering around lost without a friend in sight didn't have the same appeal as following one of the more energetic people he had met outside of Sandover, even if it was for something as mundane as shopping.

Luckily for him, there seemed to be plenty of things to do and see in the city now that he was free to enjoy himself with Ozpin looking out for Daxter on his behalf. Everything in the city of Vale looked so clean, so beautiful, and so uniformly made that it left him feeling impressed despite how everything looked more or less the same. Sure, there were a few obvious differences such as some buildings having patios and fountains while other places had the name of the building painted on their windows or doors but aside from that they all looked to be made from a single cleanly cut stone. It was a shocking difference when compared to the ones Jak had seen in Sandover with their wicker rooftops and clay walls that had bits of wood sticking out here and there as well as other... personal touches that had been added over time through various repairs. The equally unique stone buildings that were cobbled together in Rock Village were also nothing in comparison to these. The only thing that Vale could really be compared to were the precursor temples and the Lost City he explored while hunting for power cells, and comparing their sleek metal mazes with the sprawling yet easy to navigate stone city was hardly fair.

The other thing that left him speechless… well, more speechless than usual, was the amount of people that Vale had. Ruby poked fun at him the first time he stopped to observe the packed streets filled with people, but after seeing him look genuinely amazed she instead just let him take it all in for a moment. The most people Jak had ever seen at one time was a little under a hundred since when the entirety of Sandover village elected a new mayor, or rather the same mayor, every year. Even while on his journey to save the world and change Daxter back to his old self, he had never seen more than a handful of people at a time in each populated hub area he came across, although considering that there was a Lurker army attacking all over the continent at the time perhaps it was a good thing that everyone had decided to stay in their homes.

Sure, the chance to earn a few more power cells would have been nice but they were not worth risking innocent lives over. Hypocritical as it might be coming from a boy that fought off several armies by himself, a resurrected precursor warmachine, and came dangerously close to falling into silos of dark eco at least three times his point still stood.

A single street held more people than Jak had seen in his entire life, so once he had finally overcome the sense of awe that came from looking at the morning traffic in front of their shared hotel Ruby continued to amaze the boy all throughout the day. First was the necessary shopping trip where Jak found himself struggling to find new clothes to wear. It wasn't that he didn't want to change out of the same clothes he had been wearing since arriving in Vale, which in itself was a problem according to Ruby, but rather none of the stores they visited had anything he felt comfortable wearing. The first five hours of their trip passed without any luck, although both of them found that shorts and skinny jeans were definitely not for him. It was only after they came across a lonely old building run by an elderly cat tailed faunus that they made some actual progress. Much like the man who owned the place, the clothes inside all had a rugged charm and a handmade feel to them. The few blue t-shirts and off white pants that Jak begrudgingly picked out after Ruby demanded that he at least find something to wear in addition to his current outfit were taken in by the shopkeeper after he offered to tailor them in such a way would make them similar to the one he was already wearing.

A brief exchange of Lien and thanks later and the two were free to explore the city at their leisure. Rather than take in the sights and sounds that could be found at their first destination after finding Jak some clothes, the boy found himself thinking over a few things he had the foresight to look up the night before after seeing them in person. The Scroll that Ozpin had given him looked so enticing that he couldn't help but to indulge his curiosity in using it, and thankfully the Scroll wasn't as explosive as the dark eco container he found on Misty Island. Although it took some getting used to, Jak figured out how to 'ask' the device all sorts of things with only a single touch thanks to it using some sort of eco that he couldn't name the color of.

His hour-long exploration of all things strange that could be found on whatever a 'web browser' was explained a few of the things Ozpin had been going on about at the police station that the old man discussed as if they should have been obvious to him. The city and kingdom he was in were both called Vale, definitely not confusing in any way, and the map of the continent that he was currently on and those surrounding it all proved what he had already feared. Neither the shape of Sanus, the continent he was currently on, or the other few that were readily available for him to inspect matched any of the maps had kept and those he knew by heart only proved he was unbelievably far from home. It wasn't that home wouldn't be easy to reach so long as he found some working precursor technology, but that his continent crossing adventure had been the farthest he had ever traveled away from home. Wherever he was right now held no signs of even the Citadel that could be seen from anywhere from whatever continent it was on right now, and he heard from the Fisherman that anyone could see it from every corner of the continent. Not being able to see the giant metal tube jutting in the sky was odd considering it was always visible on his travels, but then again it was nothing as odd as the people of this strange new land.

Now, while many would be quick to point out that Jak was by no means smart they would never dare to call him stupid. Clever, that was a happy medium that both he and Samos could agree on when discussing his intelligence. It was this cleverness that had held Jak's tongue from saying anything about Ruby and everyone else's horribly disfigured ears which proved to be a good thing after seeing that at least half of everyone here were born that way. They called themselves humans just like he did and Daxter used to do despite lacking their normal sized ears but then again, seeing as how the majority of people of Sanus and presumably the rest of the world had short ears, he couldn't help but feel that he was the odd one here with his incredibly long ones. Thankfully, the people here were not all small furry animals like Daxter or six legged giants or else he would have had a lot more to worry about when trying to appear like a clueless visitor from a rural village.

Faunus, another one of the words that Ozpin brought up in his talk to Jak and sounded interesting enough to look into appeared to be what Ruby considered him to be, as would most other people after reading more about them. The faunus appeared to all have some sort of animal trait like the shopkeeper from earlier had, ranging from something as eye catching as a tail, an extra pair of limbs, or a small pair of horns on top of their head that nobody would notice without trying to. Long ears were apparently either a well known faunus trait or seemed innocent enough compared to some of the more outlandish ones that no one really seemed to say anything about them, much to his relief. Of course, asking someone the equivalent of "Are you horribly disfigured or were you just born like that?" was just as likely to start a fight here as it was back in Sandover, so perhaps that was why nobody said anything about his ears.

Jak could only assume that it was, as while what little he bothered looking into about the faunus suggested that they were identical to humans in every way except one for each individual, people would always be people and somebody would always find a reason to hate someone else for looking different. Things like that always went over his head, just like the bullies that picked on Daxter when he had enough of their crap. Jak wasn't sure if there was someone that would do the same to him if he said the wrong thing, but if there was then he was glad he learned enough about the faunus to keep a straight face after buying a few outfits from an old man with a cat tail and paying for the adjustments needed to make them comfortable.

The last thing Jak decided to look into was going to be huntsmen and huntresses to see how closely related to sages they were, if at all after noticing a distinct lack of eco being used inside of Vale until their supposed reason for existence grabbed his attention. This reason was to fight Grimm, Lurkers by any other name and exactly the same considering the threat they posed to humanity. There were some noticeable differences in how much was known about their origins, brutality, and intelligence but that was not what made him stop his research into them early that night. It was their looks, their oozy black bodies with bony protrusions and manic red eyes that left Jak wanting to forget about seeing them. It wasn't that they terrified him into submission just by looking at them, only the sight of Samos without any clothes could ever do that, but rather that something in the back of his mind told them that it was not the first time he had seen them.

Sure there were those things back when… but no, that was impossible. No one would be mad enough to try that again, right?

Thankfully, the scenery provided by Vale's docks that were bustling with activity from the workers and sailors transporting cargo and passengers looking to find their next destination tore Jak away from overthinking things. Ships that dwarfed both the elevator to the Lost Precursor City and the chamber he brought back from its recently rediscovered depths dotted the coast, leaving Jak once again awestruck at yet another sight he never could have seen back home. The calm waves of the ocean and thick groups of people and things moving about were all he could think about for a few moments before Ruby kindly interrupted his gawking by dragging him by the wrist to someplace she claimed he would like more. He wanted to argue against this, but seeing as how Ruby had yet to steer him wrong yet he saw little reason to distrust her… unless cookies were somehow involved. Not that he was childish enough to hold a grudge over something small like that, of course.

A few minutes of following behind Ruby proved to be the right decision as what was once a coast that had been blocked by a sea of ships and their contents had now given way to sandy beaches and rolling waves that crashed against them. Plenty of beachgoers were enjoying themselves as far as the eye could see whether they were basking in the sunlight or shade at their leisure, playing games with one another, building sandcastles large enough to live in, and most incredibly of all people swimming in the ocean! That last one made Jak regret not buying some swimwear earlier after Ruby's insistence on the matter as Vale apparently had some natural defenses in place to protect against the hordes of Lurker sharks that prowled the coasts back home. Seeing people swimming away from the coast instead of towards it was an unsettling sight, especially after having a few close calls with the giant orange monstrosities himself.

Ruby seemed to notice Jak's unease and quickly ushered him away from the beach, much to Jak's silent relief. The two then spent the next couple of minutes wandering the streets and passing all sorts of stores and homes at random if Jak were any judge, before they came across a giant wall that blocked out the afternoon sun. From the shade it provided, Jak couldn't help but to wonder whether he was trapped inside of them or if something else was being held at bay by them. At least, that was until he recalled how well a wooden fence was at deterring Lurker hounds. If a couple of hastily built poles could keep out a few minor nuisances, then one that reached far above the nearest building could certainly discourage anything that wouldn't be outright stopped by a few tons of stone. That did make him curious as to how big some Grimm could get if a towering wall like the one in front of him was needed to keep them out though.

Before Jak could wonder why Ruby had wanted to show him an admittedly impressive wall, a small section of metal that looked like it had been slapped on to it with all the subtlety of Lurker engineering caught his attention alongside the streams of people moving nearby it. People were heading to and from a heavily fortified section of a wall, that of course had to mean that this metal eyesore had to be some sort of gate. Still, there was some part of him that wanted to at least make sure of this before Ruby decided to have him act as her own personal dress up doll once again.

Jak only needed to clear his throat to bring Ruby back into the world around her and out of her own thoughts now that Jak had finally 'said' something to her rather than pantomiming his thoughts. She turned to look at the boy she had been dragging behind her and saw the inquisitive look he was giving her and the metal section of the wall he was pointing to before realizing that he had no idea what she was trying to show him. A quick blush rose up on her face at this realization and she let go of his hand while trying to find the right words to say to him.

"Sorry, I kinda got carried away after all the shopping and the sightseeing. I probably should have told you that I was going to show you the Forever Fall since it was close by." She said while Jak looked at her with the same amount of inquisitiveness and a growing amount of intrigue. Just because he didn't know what the Forever Fall was didn't mean he wasn't uninterested in what it might be, especially if it was exciting enough to keep Ruby quiet just thinking about it.

"Oh that's right, you're new to Vale. The Forever Fall is a small forest north of Vale that has the most beautiful looking trees anywhere in the kingdom, at least that's what I would say about them. Trust me, they are something you have to see at least once before classes start." She continued.

Forever Fall? While the idea of walking around a place that Ruby thought looked pretty was discouraging, being able to stretch his legs and explore a place that would be a bit more familiar to him sounded amazing. For all the brand new wonders that the city held, the cluttered streets and tall buildings that they had been surrounded by were starting to wear at his nerves. Rock Village, while quite the impressive settlement even after being bombarded by flaming boulders for who knows how long, was nowhere near the size of Vale. Even if Jak wasn't the shy type of person that preferred to be left alone to do what he pleased there was something about being surrounded by nature rather than cold, lifeless buildings and streets that felt right to him. The fact that the name of the place alone sounded like it would be an adventure exploring the place in itself was more than enough to convince him to go along with Ruby's plan to explore outside the city.

He simply nodded his approval to her idea, lighting up the little red reaper's face.

"Great! Then let's get you some boots and a few other things before we go." Ruby said.

Jak was about to protest against this, but Ruby had seen this moment coming from the start of their shopping trip and had the perfect response lined up to the argument Jak was about to respond with.

"Jak, I don't know where you are from but trust me when I say that you will need better clothes to go exploring the Forever Fall than what you are wearing right now. Your clothes are fine for the most part, but wearing sandals will not help you if we need to climb over some rocky areas to reach the best spot in the forest. You have to believe me when I say that traveling around the trees and a few vine patches will be a lot better when you don't have to worry about stepping on a thorn or losing your footing while climbing something." She said as she looked at the leather footwear her friend was wearing.

Jak wanted to argue against this as these sandals had been more than enough to carry him through forests, beaches, snowy mountains, and volcanoes before recalling how each one of those went for him. The forest and beaches were fine for the most part, although trying to catch that damn pelican proved to be impossible with how careful he had to be when climbing the cliff to reach the power cell it kept trying to eat. Luckily, there was a cannon near its nest that a quick visit to the Forbidden Jungle let him access so he could permanently remove that problem. The snowy mountain was perhaps the most difficult part of his adventure, as the numerous snow covered cliffs and ice patches were not meant to be traversed by a boy wearing old leather sandals. The number of times he nearly fell to his death were too many to count and most of those close calls came from him being unable to get a good grip on the ground before deciding to go barefoot until he returned to the Volcanic Crater. As for the Volcanic Crater… leather footwear did little to protect against super heated rocks and he had earned more than a few burns on the bottom of his feet during his stay there.

Recalling exactly how much green eco it took to recover from those burns and how raw his feet had been in the weeks that followed instantly came to mind now that Ruby had reminded him of exactly how useful his current footwear was. There was something to be said as to how they worked quite nicely on paved streets and sandy beaches, but then again the shoes that she was wearing didn't seem like they would fall apart the moment one of their leather straps snapped like his sandals did now that he thought about it. He did only spend a small portion of the Lien Ozpin gave him too, and the man had given it to him to use to ready himself for Beacon… buying some comfortable shoes or maybe a pair of high quality hiking boots was no different than getting a few extra outfits, right?

Jak certainly thought so, and now that he was thoroughly looking forward to getting something for his feet that wouldn't make climbing a ladder a minute long experience nothing could stop him as Ruby pointed him to a camping supply shop that was not far from the gate to the Forever Fall.


"Wow… that's it?" Ruby asked, earning a small grunt of annoyance from Jak after he had finally chosen a pair of boots after a half hour of browsing through them all.

They were big, a dark blue that was almost completely black, and just long enough to be tucked underneath his rolled up pant legs. They were not nearly as impressive as the hiking boots she would have picked out for him or the cheap leather ones that she had expected him to instantly try on. Jak's overall look of a hopelessly lost kid from a rural area was slightly diminished now that he had some "proper clothing" as Ruby had put it, but she did still think he had that same dorky charm from earlier.

Jak for one couldn't care less now that he had some padded soles and proper treads underneath his feet instead of heavily worn weather straps and wooden blocks underneath his feet. The general discomfort that he had long since gotten used to melted away the moment he started trying on new shoes and by the time he finally chose one that didn't look ridiculous, according to him, he wished he listened to some of Ruby's other recommendations if they would feel this good. Gone were the days of walking on rough and rocky surfaces for days on end until his feet were covered in so many blisters that no amount of green eco could help him.

"Well, I suppose if you finally found a pair that were good enough we should pay for them and start heading to the Forever Fall soon. We *might* need to rush past a few of the better places if we want to make it back before sundown." Ruby said now that she had some time to adjust her plans while waiting on Jak earlier.

The boy stopped listening to her the moment she said "soon" as he had waited long enough to start exploring the nearby forest until he was either satisfied with what he found there or classes at Beacon started. Nothing Ruby could say or do was going to convince him otherwise as it had been far too long since he had gone on a bit of an adventure, his recent accidental arrival in Vale not included.

Rather than follow the little red reaper as he had until now, Jak found himself wandering through the camping section of the store instead. He had been expecting to find a bedroll and maybe some rope as that was all he had ever found himself in need of while traveling the continent. Jak never would have guessed that there was more than one type of rope, let alone dozens meant for anything whether it was scaling cliffs or smaller thread like ones meant to be used in fishing. On top of those were fire starting powders called "Fire Dust", walking sticks made of metal and wood, cheap looking tents, maps, compasses, water skins, and countless other objects he had never seen before.

Everything a person could need to take the luxuries of home with them into the great outdoors could be found here. Half of the goods that Jak saw seemed to take most if not all of the joys of camping away from the whole experience but then again, not everyone was as good a survivalist as he was. Sure, there was no justifying some of the objects here like the communicator lookalikes that lacked the camera his communicator had, but most of the items seemed to serve some purpose even if it wasn't really useful. Fire Dust for starting fires like any good kindling would do, a first aid kit for when green eco was in short supply, orange haired girl staring at him far too close for comfort for…

Wait, that last one wasn't one of the essentials. She was as far from it as anything could be without being Daxter.

"HEY KID WANNA GO ON AN ADVENTURE WITH US?" She shouted only a few inches away from his face.

The yelp that Jak let loose was anything but heroic, as was the way he leapt backwards into a display of metal water bottles which came crashing down on top of him. The racket caused by the avalanche of metal canisters falling down on top of him was deafening with ears as large as his, but even without them anyone in the store would have heard what had happened.

Now that he was laid out on his back and the debris had finally stopped falling around him, Jak was able to get a good look at the girl who had sc… nearly scared him to death. She was a little smaller than Ruby despite looking a little more mature than the little red reaper. The girl had bright orange red hair, turquoise eyes, and a giant freaking hammer strapped to her back. She was wearing a pink skirt, small black jacket, a white t-shirt with a small little heart cutout near the middle of it, and a giant freaking hammer on her back. Most obvious of course had to be the GIANT. FREAKING. HAMMER. Although Jak was by no means smart, even he could tell that a metal hammer that was larger than she was should not be something a normal person could properly wield, let alone carry. If Jak hadn't been surprised by the girl just now then he certainly would have been impressed by the strength needed to carry the weapon. It was painfully obvious to Jak that her introduction could have gone far worse for him, and he was very thankful she decided to greet him with words rather than that hammer.

"Ooops, sorry about that." The girl said as she put a hand forwards to help him up, a gesture that Jak hesitantly accepted.

She effortlessly lifted him on his feet without trying, going so far as to lift him completely off of his feet and forcing Jak to readjust himself so as to not land face first after being 'helped' up by her. The girl appeared to be completely oblivious to Jak's concern for his own safety by being so close to her and instead moved in closer to inspect him just as thoroughly as he had done to her. Jak froze up like a bird surrounded by a horde of hungry Lurkers as she ran her eyes all around him as if she expected to find something of hers tucked away in one of his nonexistent pockets.

"Jak, are you okay I heard a crash and… oh, who's that?" Ruby asked as she saw the girl inspecting him.

Jak was just starting to motion for help before a serious looking boy with black hair and a small pink highlight walked up behind her friend wearing an expression that he was all too familiar with. His head was held in his palms as he walked towards Jak and the strange energetic girl with a pained look coming from underneath his hands in the same way that Jak did whenever he had to retrieve Daxter after he had done something exceptionally stupid. Jak immediately understood everything he needed to know about this boy that hadn't been told by the green robes and white pants he wore that almost mimicked his own current wear, with the exception of a few additional splashes of color on his jacket. The boy was clearly another caretaker for a lifelong friend. Whether it was done out of necessity or kindheartedness had yet to be seen.

"Nora… what did you do this time?" The boy asked without any doubt as to his companion's innocence.

"I didn't do anything, Ren! I was just asking my friend here if he wanted to join us for our little trip." The girl, Nora, said as she gave Jak an elbow to the gut and a pleading smile in the hopes of buying his silence.

Jak instead raised his hands and shook his head after checking for any broken ribs from Nora's 'playful' nudge to the chest. He didn't know what was going on yet and had no intentions of being roped into it… yet. Whatever trip they were going to go on did sound like it could be fun with those two but he did already promise to join Ruby on her own journey through the Forever Fall.

"Uhh Jak, what's going on?" Ruby asked as she tried to make herself known after Ren walked in between her and Jak.

Jak could only give her a shrug as he also wanted to know what was happening. Rather than explaining himself, he pointed to Nora and then the giant mess at their feet.

"Not again. Nora, how many times have I told you to introduce yourself to someone instead of shouting at them?" Ren asked her as Jak recalled a similar conversation he had with Daxter after their world saving adventure.

"Twelve times… today." She answered as she did her best to not look her friend in the eyes.

Ren could only shake his head in disappointment at his friend's answer. Before Ren could find the right words to respond to Nora's admission of guilt, Jak was there to put a comforting pat on his shoulder and a knowing smile. A quick look was all it took to get explain everything he needed to.

"You too, huh? Is she…?" Ren whispered to Jak after having found someone else who knew his pain.

Jak quickly cut off his question with his free hand as Ruby watched on wondering what the two were talking about. Nora was less subtle as she leapt in between the two and nearly knocked the both of them down as they struggled to support the weight of her and her weapon.

"Hey, watcha talking about? Does he want to join us on our forest adventure?" She asked as both Ren and Jak pushed her off of each other.

"Wait, are you two planning to go to the Forever Fall too?" Ruby asked as she approached the trio. Nora wasted no time in trying to enlist her and Jak into whatever she had planned.

"Yeah! Ren and I were just getting the last of our supplies-"

"All of our supplies." Ren interrupted. He had no intention of letting Nora getting away with 'accidentally' forgetting to tell the other two anything about how unprepared they were

"-ready when I saw your friend here looking like he was getting ready to do some exploring too when you two were talking about going to the Forever Fall earlier. I thought, oh you know, two's company but four is a party worth talking about and how much more fun it would be to invite a few more people to join us-"

"Even though we weren't going to have anyone else join us when we discussed our trip earlier."

"-when we camp out in the forest tonight." Nora explained, completely ignoring Ren's attempts to correct her.

"Really?" Ruby asked, clearly interested in having the energetic girl and serious boy with her in joining them. "I mean, that sounds fun but I was actually showing my friend Jak around Vale since he is new here and I don't think he would like to…"

"I'm in." Jak said, deflating whatever hopes Ruby had for exploring the rest of the shops she wanted them to visit after going to the Forever Fall.

"See Ren? I really did ask him if he wanted to join us. Now, let's start picking out our stuff already! We've got a lot of stuff to buy and only a little bit of daylight left to work with so let's get going." Nora said as she started dragging off Ren to gather whatever supplies they would need on their trip.

Jak and Ruby could only watch in fascination at how Ren just went along with his partner with equal parts defeat and excitement on his face as Nora showed him which tent she wanted them to use. The orange haired girl was like a living force of nature, more flighty than the Blue Sage and just as talkative, which left Jak wondering exactly how the boy put up with someone as energetic as that. Whatever was going on there was something he didn't really care to know much more about as he had other things on his mind, namely why Ruby had puffed out her cheeks and looked like an angry puffer Lurker and just as unthreatening. The two locked eyes for a while before Jak finally realized that she was made at something he couldn't find a reason to be mad at and shyly looked away from her cute yet angry glare.

"You know, you could have told me that you didn't want to keep on hanging out with me." She finally said as she turned away from Jak. "I thought we were friends, I didn't know you wanted to hang out with those two more than me."

So that was it, she was jealous after feeling left out. Jak understood the feeling quite well after having been shunned by most everyone in the village other than Daxter, Samos, and Keira following a few overzealous training sessions with the local guards and personally dealing with anyone who dared to bully his best friend. He understood what she was feeling quite well, but that didn't mean he was going to apologize…

"Wanna join?" He asked her, the little red reaper flinching a little bit after hearing his whispery voice.

Ruby fidgeted around a bit as she considered the offer before turning around to face Jak after trying and failing to hide the giant smile that was plastered on her face. Not apologizing clearly worked, as the invitation he had extended to her obviously overcame whatever thought she had about being ditched by her new friend.

"Well, I suppose I can make sure you three find all of the best spots in the forest… I don't know though…" Ruby said as she teased a response out of Jak.

Whatever plans she had for him were immediately ditched however once he turned away the moment she gave him a chance to explain why she should join him. Jak had played this exact same game with Daxter countless times and learned that appearing to leave someone behind was the best way to get them to stop trying to earn some extra sympathy or favors. Leaving, and the occasional dope slap should it be well deserved at that point.

"WAIT, WAIT, WAIT! I'll join you, but I'll need a moment to go back to our hotel to grab a few things before we leave the city." She said after noticing how badly her initial plan had failed.

Jak smiled and gave her a thumbs up which Ruby took as her cue to start running back to grab what she needed before they wasted too much time to explore today. Before he could join Ren and Nora on their hunt for camping supplies, he found himself face to face with an angry looking man that was at least a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier than himself looking none too pleased with him and pointing towards the mess he had caused a few minutes ago.

Jak could only sigh as he wondered why he was the only one being forced to do the dirty work that wasn't even his fault before getting started on rebuilding the display he had knocked over.


"Alright, I think we have everything we need with us." Ren said as everyone made a final check over their supplies.

"Tents?"

"Check-a-roonie Renny!"

"Sleeping bags?"

"Check!"

"Fire Dust?"

"..."

"*ahem* Fire Du… oh, sorry Jak. Map?"

"Uhh… sure."

"Nora..."

"It's alright, I've done this lots of times with my sister. I can lead us through here with my eyes closed."

"Okay Ruby, I guess we won't need that map afterall if we have you leading us. Let's get started so we can find a place to camp out before nightfall." Ren said as everyone began to follow the little red reaper who started to lead them through the forest.

The huntsmen trio each had a large backpack strapped to them that looked more than a little heavy, although considering how the two girls were able to carry weapons larger than they were then a few pounds of food and other supplies was probably nothing to them. Ren traveled with a lighter pack than they did, much like Jak did although not nearly to the same extent as the well traveled hero. After travelling through forests, volcanoes, mountains, and even a Lost Precursor City Jak considered himself quite an experienced explorer, especially since he was never once put in danger beyond what a few Lurkers and superheated pipes could throw at him. All he carried now was a bit of rope, some Fire Dust, and a sheet that he could easily turn into a hammock once he found a good set of trees to call home for the night. It wasn't much, but even so it was far more useful than the few hundred collapsable orbs and power cells that he had been carrying for months now. The only addition that he thought was irreplaceable to him was the Fire Dust as he did not know if he would be able to find any yellow eco to start a fire for night After enduring a night in the Snowy Mountains and having to unfreeze Daxter in the following morning, he was not going to go exploring anywhere without it if Ruby wasn't lying about how useful it was.

After the quartet left the safety of Vale, Jak was once again awe struck with the sights this land had to offer him. When Ruby was talking about the Forever Fall, he was expecting it to look like a forest with plenty of browning leaves and look not much different than any other forest in the fall. Maybe there would be the occasional dead tree or splotch of red and yellow, but other than that he wasn't expecting much. The sea of red and pink that welcomed him into the Forever Fall was nothing like what he had been expecting.

As for the other parts of the crimson colored forest that he could see, Jak once again felt glad for taking Ruby's advice after seeing the only path leading outside of the city. Considering how Ruby was telling him about how the Forever Fall isn't really connected to any other major cities despite acting as a border against the northern sea once the beach was out of sight, he had been expecting the roads leading out of Vale from this way to be somewhat unkempt. Finding that it would be almost impossible for his group to walk shoulder to shoulder through the forest was yet another surprise he had not been expecting, as was the ground which was covered in a mass of overgrown roots and rocks showing how hesitant people were to leave the city.

If Samos were to see such a thing, Jak was sure the log on his head would have fallen off from the shock of seeing such a lazily tended woods so close to a city. While he was the sage of green eco and kept more than a few plants inside of his hut, even he knew how useful it was to have natural barriers working for a village instead of working against it. Recollections of Lurker attacks long before the path to the Forbidden Jungle was cleared came to mind and Jak as he suddenly realized why Ruby and Nora carried such large weapons wherever they went. There was no such thing as overkill when dealing with Lurkers after all. Ren's oddly shaped daggers were small so he probably didn't need to compensate for anything there, but even so even his weapon made Jak want one of his own. Sure, he could fight off an army of Lurkers alone if he could find some eco… but if he couldn't then the fight more than likely wouldn't go in his favor. Close calls after being trapped on Misty Island and while sabotaging the dirigible above Boggy Swamp had already proved that long ago.

Regardless, Jak was here now and with friends who could fend for themselves. What was done was done and there was no use moping over something that couldn't be changed. If anything, having some friends to fight with would be an improvement over listening to Daxter's trash talk. The little guy was fine on his own, but sometimes he really needed to learn when to keep his mouth shut when they were in danger. Having friends able to watch his back and do something about it was something Jak was looking forward to once they finally found some Grimm to fight. Still, he did make a note to ask Ozpin about finding himself a weapon to use should he ever find himself without any eco to fight with.

The group set out without any real aim, their only real direction being wherever the largest path through the old sturdy trunks lead. No one in the group had any trouble for the most part, although there were some issues when deciding who would be the ones to climb up a cliffside first and who would be the first to be lifted up. Needless to say, neither of the girls were too keen on giving Ren or Jak a chance at looking underneath their skirts regardless of whether or not they would take the opportunity to do so. Jak could have sworn that Nora didn't seem too disappointed about the possibility but… yeah, he had no reason to look any further into their relationship.

It was only when the sky was starting to turn the same shades of sunset red as the canopy of trees above them that they decided to find a place to camp for the night despite failing to reach any of the places Ruby had wanted them to visit. Their trip had been largely uneventful overall and the only creatures that they had come across were a few squirrels much to Jak's disappointment. He had been looking forward to the chance of meeting and beating a few Grimm ever since looking them up the night before. After reading how similar they were to Lurkers he had also been wanting to see how good his new friends were at fighting them. At least there was the chance of a midnight brawl, if Ren's creation of a watch schedule for the night was anything to go by.

Setting up camp proved to be an easy task, as Ruby was familiar with setting up a tent and Ren was able to help Nora turn theirs into something resembling a shelter after she nearly tore theirs in two when taking it out of her backpack. Jak was somewhat impressed at how Ruby expertly set hers up and helped the other two turn their rags into a canopy tent before it was their turn to watch him set up his own area for the night. They were equal parts impressed and disappointed to see him tie his makeshift hammock and jump inside of it only a couple of seconds.

Making their dinner for the night went without any issues unlike it did with the tents. Jak had managed to set up the fire in record time, albeit at the cost of half of his Fire Dust and a few singed eyebrows after he had managed to turn a handful of it into a fiery explosion that nearly engulfed their entire campsite. Thankfully no one was hurt, although both Ren and Ruby made sure to give him an earful as he tuned them out as tried to understand exactly how the Dust made an explosion compared to the yellow eco orbs he could shoot out after channeling enough of it. A quick hug from an impressed Nora took away his attention from that train of thought as he instead had to pry the bubbly brawler off of himself while the other two decided that was punishment enough. Luckily there were not any more mishaps once Ren took charge of cooking dinner for the group, nor did anything threaten to disturb them as they enjoyed pancakes he whipped up for them.

"Hey Ruby, is it me or is there not a lot of anything but trees here?" Nora asked in between bites.

"Yeah, but if you ask me that is one of the reasons that this place is so pretty. There have not been a lot of attempts to settle this area, even if there are not a lot of Grimm nearby. I guess you can say that there is so much natural beauty here that no one really felt like touching it." Ruby explained as Ren seemed to look bothered with her answer.

"Is that so? I still think it is strange that we haven't found a single Grimm since coming here. I thought the Forever Fall was supposed to be home to a lot of Ursas since they are attracted to the sap from some of the trees that grow here." Ren said as he finally asked the question that had been bothering both him and Jak since starting their little adventure.

"Oh, that's because those trees are on the other side of the forest. Even I wouldn't want to go there on my own, but here there are a lot of old ruins that are supposedly from before The War. For some reason the Grimm don't like to go to the ones nearby." She continued.

Jaks ears perked up upon hearing Ruby mention ruins as memories came rushing back about his time exploring the few he had traveled through. Those… and the few penny pinching oracles that wanted to be paid off for him to "prove his worth". Thinking back to how even the precursors wanted him to pay them to save the world brought a bitter smile to his face as he wondered what kind of ruins might be hidden away nearby. It wasn't every day that the gods woke up and asked you for an allowance, but sure enough even they had something they wanted from him. "Prove your worth" they said. What a load of crap!

Ruby seemed to have noticed the shift in his otherwise laid back demeanor and decided to save Jak the trouble of speaking in front of strangers once again. "Don't think about running off without us to go looking for them." She said after noticing the mischievous look in his eyes before she suddenly adopted a more solemn tone. "Apparently people get lost wandering in here all the time and some of them are never found."

Everyone but Ruby stopped moving for a moment as they processed what she told them. Jak was more than familiar with how horribly wrong a trip in the woods could go, as Lurkers had earned their collective name for a reason on account of how stealthy they could be sometimes. Memories of children who had one day strayed too far from Sandover Village never to be seen again and the search parties that would only ever come back with tattered scraps of clothing came to mind as he thought about what Ruby really meant by 'missing'. Ren and Nora seemed to be having similar recollections as far as Jak could tell as they huddled closer together than they were moments ago, both of them sharing a knowing look on their faces.

Ruby seemed to realize exactly what she was telling them and her cheeks turned bright red after looking at her camping partners' collective reactions to her sudden warning.

"Did you guys not know about the disappearances that sometimes happen in the Forever Fall?" She asked them, the vigor with which they shook their heads being all the answer she needed. "Oops, I guess I should have told you about that before we left Vale this evening."

"It's fine, we were going to come here anyways with or without you. If anything we should be glad that you warned us about those disappearances now and volunteered to come with us." Ren said as he tried to ease the rising tensions within the camp.

"Okay… well, that was fun and all but I think I will go to bed before something comes out of the forest to get us. Night, night!" Nora shouted as she dashed underneath her covers, leaving Ruby and Jak stunned to see the boisterous girl looking so scared for once.

"Don't worry about her. She's not good with ghost stories." Ren explained as Jak shot him an inquisitive look. "I think it would be a good idea if we all get some sleep tonight… just in case anything happens. Not that it will of course, but just in case."

After declaring his intent to start his nightwatch and failing to rebuild any confidence before leaving to stand guard, Jak and Ruby were left alone in the light around the campfire. The darkness around them suddenly seemed a lot more alive than it did before Ruby had said anything worth worrying about.

"Uhh… I'm sorry for not mentioning anything sooner." Ruby sheepishly told Jak now it was only them that remained by the fire.

Rather than speak any words of encouragement, Jak instead brushed his elbow against Ruby's side to get her attention before flashing her a cocky smile while flexing his arms beside her. Just because he felt a little afraid didn't mean he had to act like it, and Jak knew exactly how to put on a show whenever he needed to show off his strength. He felt a little attacked seeing her laugh at his attempt to comfort her, but at least now she seemed to be enjoying herself again instead of moping. A long, lingering silence remained between the two as both of them failed to find the words to say to each other as the fire in front of them continued to crackle throughout the cloudy night. As seconds turned into minutes both of them found the presence of yet another shy, awkward companion like themselves was more than enough to say what needed to be spoken between them… although the few faces they made towards each other didn't hurt.

Neither one of them said a word before they came to an unspoken agreement to head to their respective sleeping areas, but not before Jak decided it would be better to move his hammock closer to the other's tents instead of hanging out on his own. He wasn't scared… but he wasn't quite willing to risk his life proving that he was right about there being nothing to be afraid about. Deciding that he wanted to sleep closer to everyone else definitely didn't mean he was afraid or any less of a hero than he already was, and neither did sleeping up a few more feet above the ground than he planned to earlier.

Now that he had finally prepared to get some rest before relieving Ren, for the first time in his life he hoped he didn't have to deal with discovering the unknown once more.


"Hey, Jak. Wake up."

To set the record straight Jak did not, under any circumstances, try to throw a punch the moment he heard Ren call out to him from below. Trying to punch someone who was more than ten feet below him was completely ridiculous so there was no way that was what he had been doing the moment he woke up. He was only… stretching. Yeah, that was definitely it.

Setting that thought aside, Jak looked down to see Ren standing below him holding a portion of Fire Dust to keep the fire burning throughout the night. Without any of the flair he usually would have used, he simply hopped out of his hammock and onto the ground below him, thankful once again for having chosen to wear boots after feeling the jagged edge of a rock that he used as a landing platform. Ren looked slightly surprised with Jak's sudden drop, but surprise soon molded into exhaustion once the blonde haired boy carefully took the cloth wrapped dust out of his hands and he then crawled into his canopy tent with Nora without a word.

Rather than linger on what might be lurking just out of sight, Jak simply marched over to the dimmed fire and laid out the cloth and Fire Dust within it in front of him. After nearly making him and the others go up in flames when first lighting the fire, he had been patiently waiting for a moment to experiment with the strange power he felt residing in the fire starter. It felt like eco, yet somehow the feeling was completely different than what he had experienced with the primary types of eco. He could typically channel eco for anywhere between a few minutes to a few seconds depending how much he could come across at a given time, so finding a type of eco that acted differently instantly caught his attention.

It was true that he had not been expecting Fire Dust to behave like eco given how no one called it by that name, but that was a matter he felt would be best discussed with Ozpin over anyone else. Eco was eco, and everyone knew what eco was. For someone to not know what eco was… or rather if everyone around him didn't know what eco was and he did then trying to keep his identity as a hopelessly lost victim of a freak precursor gate accident would be pointless. The freedoms that he currently enjoyed would more than likely disappear if someone as insane as Gol and Maia were to take an interest in his channeling powers too, a thought that sent a shiver down his spine at the very thought of being forced to channel dark eco by them.

With that thought unwilling to go away now that he brought it back up, Jak decided he had spent too much time delaying his experiment. In the most sage-like way he could, Jak embraced the eco in front of him by poking it with his finger and hoping for the best. It wasn't the most scientific or safest method to use, but it had never failed him before. Luckily, Samos was nowhere to see what he was doing because even he knew how terrible an idea it was to have taken an unknown substance into his body.

Thankfully his body did not reject this new type of eco as the deep red color faded from the area that he stuck his finger into and a gentle warmth surrounded the hand he was experimenting with. Unlike with other eco types, what little he absorbed did not spread all across his body until he released it or ran out of eco to channel. In fact, aside from a slight warmth in the palm of his hand and a feeling that he could do much more than warm his body nothing remarkable was happening. It was almost as dull as green eco but not nearly as useful.

Feeling bold enough to trust his instincts once more, although not to the extent that he was going to absorb the remaining Fire Dust or strike it with a rock like he had done earlier and detonate the rest of it, Jak held his hand out so his palm was facing up and imagined a fire appearing inside of it. Much to his surprise… nothing happened. Relief washed over him as he remembered no one was around to witness his failure after he genuinely expected a fire to just appear in his hands by thinking about it and snapped his fingers in disappointment.

It was with this innocent little gesture that a small spark appeared on his hand and the explosions from striking a large pile of Fire Dust suddenly made a lot more sense. Fire needed both a fuel and some sort of spark to get it going. Fire Dust was the fuel, anything that disturbed its rest was the spark. Feeling emboldened by his success, Jak once again imagined his arm being set on fire and snapped his fingers once more. This did get the reaction he was looking for as the small spark soon wreathed his arm in a layer of orange flames.

Unlike other types of eco, this one apparently needed some sort of catalyst for its effects to take place. Simply thinking of a fire appearing was not enough, yet simply snapping his fingers together caused his whole arm to be set ablaze so long as he allowed it to happen. A brief moment of terror set in as he tried to put the fire out by waving it around, but soon after his attempt to stop himself from burning alive failed he realized that the fire did nothing more than fill his arm with the same gentle warmth from earlier. It looked terrifying but he knew there was no real threat to him although he had a feeling that wasn't the case for anything else the flames came into contact with.

Jak was so far impressed with the new type of eco he discovered. It seemed more… restrained compared the others he was familiar with. This eco did not flow through him as freely as the others typically did, far more so if the explosion from earlier was anything to go by. To test his theory out, he imagined himself being completely covered in flames before creating a spark and sure enough he could see the fire on his arm spread all across his body with the small amount of warmth that came with it. His flame armor did not last long though, as the feeling of control he had over the fire soon began to fade and the fire surrounding him slowly retracted towards his chest before dying out completely.

Apparently he had run out of eco. The only surprising thing about this was that a handful of this ground up eco crystal had managed to last as long as it did. Usually he struggled to channel a surplus amount of the gaseous eco that he gathered from vents for more than a minute, but a handful of this eco lasted just as long even if he could control how he released it.

With his newest discovery fresh in his mind, Jak instantly set to thinking about all the ways he could show off this power to Ruby and the others. Creating another explosion was definitely NOT going to happen, not until he left the Forever Fall and was no longer at risk of burning down an entire forest. Setting himself on fire? That would probably make for a good prank, especially once Daxter starts riding on his shoulder again. Being able to set his fists on fire like he did in his wildest dreams also sounded fun. Perhaps he could ask Nora her opinion? She seemed exactly like the person who would know the best way to have fun while playing with fire. It would certainly be better than asking whatever that strange yellow light off in the distance and…

Wait, that wasn't there earlier.

Off in the distance, just far enough to be little more than a speck in the distance was a small, ovular yellow light that almost looked like it was staring at him. It didn't have the same glow that a Lurker's eyes did, as this glow had a slightly green tint to it as opposed to looking golden yellow. Even so it looked just as menacing out in the distance, especially considering how it flew above where he had been sleeping in his hammock in a single bound.

Jak was by no means afraid of the strange, alien light that had snuck up on him in the middle of the night in a forest where people went missing regularly. Fear had nothing to do with him testing out the capabilities of the new type of eco when he absorbed yet another small portion of it and sparked a small round ball of fire into existence in the palm of his hand. It also had nothing to do with why he immediately tried to throw it and discovered that it did not have the same explosive potential that yellow eco did at a distance, but it certainly did burn as brightly on him as it did the now wailing creature he hit and with all the ferocity he had been expecting.

The air around the yellow orb immediately became wreathed with flame and a shrill, animalistic cry of pain from what could only be described as a monster faded into existence as the flames continued to burn its now fully revealed form. The now self illuminating creature that was wrapped around a tree looked like a furless blue panther with two insectoid wings on its back. The insectoid features did not stop there, as there was also a thick tail that looked like it was missing sections of flesh and had chitinous armor with a metallic sheen attached to its joints and chest that also completely encased its head. The armor looked completely unnatural and intentionally placed onto the monster and its twisted precursor-like head, with the yellow orb embedded on top of its skull and two pipes connecting the end of its mouth to an armored area just beneath its sickly orange eyes. The overall appearance made it look as if two random animals had fallen into a vat of dark eco along with the cage they were being kept in and this was the abomination they had all fused into.

The creature tried to remain on top of the tree but soon lost its footing as it tried to shake the fire off of itself and crashed down in between the other three teens who had jumped into action after hearing the strange looking creature's cries of pain. The creature paid them no mind as it rolled around on the ground in a desperate attempt to smother the fire that was already beginning to burn the creature's skin black leaving Ruby, Nora, and Ren to get a long look at the strange abomination. One of them screamed, although given how the girls only took a few steps to create some distance between them and the flailing nightmarish abomination while Ren fell onto his back after nearly being hit by it, Jak honestly couldn't tell which one of them it was.

"WHAT THE HELL IS THAT THING!?" Ren shouted as he continued to scramble away from the monster in front of him. Nora instantly did her best to tell Ren that it had nothing to do with her on instinct alone, following in Jak's footsteps and only shaking her head while making sure to keep the creature in her line of sight.

Ruby perhaps had the most relaxed reaction, although it was by no means 'normal'. Instead of focusing on the abomination she instead closed her ears and shouted "Bad word!" over and over again.

The creature had only begun to put out the fire when Jak started running towards it. Although he was unsure of the creature's intentions and capabilities, even he knew that it was not going to be happy with him once it realized who set it on fire. The Lurker armies that remained loyal to Gol and Maia even after their defeat weren't too pleased with him despite the liberation that their deaths had brought them and he doubted a creature clever enough to sneak up to him with a giant glowing orb in its skull was any more friendly than they were.

He threw out a wild punch towards the flailing creature but much to his surprise, it darted into him with an unexpected burst of speed for a creature of its size with wings that looked nowhere strong enough to allow it to fly. Jak was knocked aside by what felt like a steel crate being thrown into his chest when the creature leapt into him and flew low to the ground so fast that he wasn't sure if he would be able to catch up to it he would have needed his zoomer or the Flut-Flut t catch up to it.

Ruby ran to him with a worried look on her face, Crescent Rose fully extended in one hand and her other stretched out to pick him up. "Hey, are you okay?" She asked him. Jak simply grabbed her hand and let her help him to his feet as Nora and Ren came up to them with their own weapons in hand.

"What kind of a Grimm was that?" Nora asked as she flourished her hammer in front of her with a maniacal grin on her face.

"I-I don't know what that was." Ruby asked as Jak nodded in agreement with her statement. Whatever that was clearly wasn't a Lurker as it lacked the spurred jaw that set them apart from other creatures, "Lurker Jaw" as he called it, and the allure of fighting whatever it was made his expression resemble Nora's own manic smile.

"Whatever it is, we can't let that thing escape. That thing didn't try to fight us so it might be trying to run for help after being discovered." Ren said, earning a chorus of agreement from everyone present.

With a faint flaming trail revealing where the abomination had fled, the quartet followed it in the hopes of catching it before it reunited with any more of its kind. While the thought of encountering a strange new creature was enticing, fighting an entire pack, horde, flock, or whatever groups of those things were called was not. The danger that came with fighting the unknown would be thrilling if it wouldn't be too dangerous, and encountering more than a handful of creatures that were just as fast as the one they encountered proved to be enough motivation to press on as the section of the forest they wandered into took on a more sinister appearance.

Large black vines were now latched onto the giant trees they passed, some of them ended in a bulging mass that glowed a similar color to the orb on the creature's head. Many of the trees looked as if they had the life sucked out of them where the vines grew the thickest. The canopy of leaves above them had also grown thicker to conceal what little moonlight had been able to pierce through the thick layer of clouds above them, fading into the foreboding aura of the new area of the forest they rushed into. The deeper they ran into the forest, the more dependent they became on the trail of fire that had now become their primary source of light before it became their only one.

Their chase carried on for a long time over the long, winding path that the abomination had taken. The trail was now starting to become noticeably thinner and the other light around them no longer allowing them to see anything but the flaming trail in front of their feet. A growing suspicion at this point made Jak wonder if the creature was much more dangerous than they all assumed it to be. Although he wasn't certain, Jak felt that the 'voice' of the trees around him, or that is what he called the amount of eco each tree contained that Samos taught him to sense within nearby plants, had been growing eerily familiar.

Feeling that he was onto something, Jak palmed a bit of the Fire Dust he took with him and set a small line of fire perpendicular to the trail and continued to follow the others. After another few minutes of following the trail, the group ran into the same section of the trail that they were now barely, let alone make out each other's faces anymore.

"Oi!" Jak shouted, finally breaking the huntsmen in training out of their trance and gaining their full attention.

"Hey Jak, what's wrong?" Ruby asked him as she struggled to find which one of the people beside her was Jak.

"It tricked us. We're going in circles." He said.

Before anyone else could say anything, Jak lit his right hand on fire and raised it like a torch enveloping all of them and the ground around them in light. The group initially looked shocked to see his newfound talent, but after Jak let himself enjoy their reactions he moved the fire to his other hand while smiling all the while. This was thankfully enough to calm them all down, even if Ruby looked fairly annoyed with him afterwards.

Now that they were satisfied with how Jak proved he wasn't being harmed by the fire he had summoned, the group set out to investigate the area he illuminated for them. Jak did not join them though. If the creature was smart enough to loop back on itself it was certainly smart enough to make use of its wings and prior invisibility to remain hidden from them, and since Jak was the only one who knew about that he decided to think about what he would do in its place. It was smart, and the smart thing to do after losing its pursuers when they were close by was to observe them until they left. Jak decided to take the gamble that it was too smart for its own good and started hurtling fireballs randomly throughout the forest in the hopes of proving himself right.

Although it was against his better judgement to set fire to a forest with reckless abandon like he was currently doing, none of the trees stayed ignited for long. If anything, it almost seemed to breathe life back into them and returned some of the vibrancy to the dead trees. He felt nothing but satisfaction at seeing the black vines being consumed by the fire and the glowing nodes at the ends on some of them dropped against the ground and burst, slowly eating away at the ground the yellow-green ooze inside of them touched. Ruby and Ren started yelling at him after launching the first two fireballs as Nora encouraged him to "burn it all to the ground", although he hardly paid them any mind. He was focused on something much more important than another lecture he knew he didn't deserve.

Sure enough, his diligence paid off as one of his fire balls landed with the sound of searing flesh and another alien shriek that accompanied it as the creature that had been watching him had been struck by one of Jak's projectiles through sheer persistence and dumb luck.

This time it did not bother putting out the flame around it and instead flew away from them all while being lit up enough to make it impossible to lose the creature as it dashed away from them once more. The hopeful huntsmen and huntresses in training continued their chase and slowly closed the distance between them and the flying abomination that now struggled to keep ahead of them.

They could hear its pained moans as it tried to ignore the fire that ate away at it in a desperate attempt to keep ahead of the teens behind it. The monster was clearly struggling to stay in the air, occasionally shifting between an odd galloping motion while it ran on all fours and gliding whenever it found the strength to do so rather than flying like it had earlier. The sight would have been pitiful if the creature did not look to be a horrifying mix between lizard, horse, and beetle but because it did look so alien compared to anything else they had seen its crippled movement made it look even more unsettling.

The teens were almost close enough to shoot at it when they suddenly reached a clearing in the forest that revealed a bronze ruin set on the edge of a sheer cliff and what looked like an ocean far beyond the drop. Fearing that the creature was either close to others of its kind or able to swim away from them, Ruby took action and disappeared in a flurry of rose petals that quickly caught up to the strange creature. It did not have time to react before she repeated midswing and planted her scythe into its back, ending whatever fight the creature still left in it.

"Eeeiiurk…" Was the only sound it could make as its momentum continued to carry both it and the scythe wielding girl on top of it as it came sliding ot a stop.

Dark purple blood escaped from the wound and coated the part of the scythe that had killed the creature and, much to everyone's surprise, the strange orb popped out of the creature's head. The glowing object bounced around for a while making a glass like sound every time it touched the ground before finally coming to a stop between the girl who had slain the abomination it belonged to and the other three teens just finished watching the short scuffle that ensued between the two.

Ruby looked shocked at what she had done and focused her gaze in front of her while refusing to acknowledge the corpse she had created, exactly as Jak believed she would after witnessing her first kill against a living creature. Everyone else watched the corpse with interest, although Jak was the only one who seemed to be interested to see more than just its still burning body.

Even from a distance, Jak could feel his skin crawl just by looking at the creature's blood and the energy contained within. Sure enough, dark eco did appear to be the cause of the creature's bizarre appearance. Jak felt relieved at having stopped whatever the creature had been planning as it spied on him and his new friends as creatures corrupted by dark eco hardly ever played nice with anything else. The creature's appearance was slightly concerning as it seemed to be lacking the telltale Lurker Jaw that all other creatures tainted by dark eco had, but perhaps that was what had been concealed by its metal mask. Whatever it was hardly mattered anymore as the strange creature was dead.

Adventurous as always, Jak placed the weird skull gem it had dropped as he approached the corpse and gave it a good kick, half expecting it to either dissolve into the ecos that made it up or jump at him. Instead, it remained there, unmoving despite only taking minimal damage despite it's heaving armor plating. With his curiosity thoroughly satisfied at having verified the creature's death, he turned around only to see the others looking at the body looking terrified of the corpse.

"It's not disappearing." Ren stated, the worried tone behind his words making Jak realize that this was somehow important.

"Grimm disappear?" Jak asked him with the disbelief obvious in his quiet voice, earning a surprised look from all three before Ruby came to his rescue.

"Jak…" Ruby said as her voice trembled from the effort it took her to speak. "That's not a Grimm."


"Subjects have neutralized advanced reconnaissance unit following its detection. Nest entrance has been exposed. Mission failure. Please advise. Awaiting further orders."

"Do not engage under any circumstances. Nest is being prepared to ensnare the targets inside. Continue to observe the subjects as they proceed. Inform the others should the targets flee the nest."

"Affirmative. Resuming radio silence."

"Affirmative. Preparing defense against native threats and foriegn entity. Record subjects movements in case of failure to neutralize targets."


Author's Bit:

Thank you once again for making it as far as you have!

Phew, this one took a long while to make but it was well worth it. Things are finally happening… even if I haven't touched much of the main RWBY plot yet! Well, at least things will be happening soon enough next time since I could only give out a taste of things to come in the next chapter..

So… yeah, remember when I said that I wanted to use certain bits and pieces of the Jak trilogy beyond TPL? Well, it's pretty what I brought back and yeah… I kinda feel that they were never really allowed to shine as well as they could. Hopefully I can do them just for you few that haven't given up on me yet.

Also, I've seen the ear issue addressed again and I hope that I didn't take too long in finally addressing it. I figured it would be worth a passing mention at some point, but not to the same extent as other things will need to be explained. Considering how there is a race with tails, horns, wings, and other stranger features than extra long ears I figured that no one would really say anything about them unless they had a reason to. As for why Jak would not make any comments about how strange other people look to him… his best friend is a small, furry rodent. I'm not sure about anyone else, but between the Faunus and an Ottsel I definitely know which one would be more eye-catching. I hope this and Jak's own thoughts in the story are enough of an explanation to those of you that have been asking me questions in the comments and through DMs.

Your comments are appreciated as always razmire, Lechain, and guests. Would've mentioned your comments sooner if I didn't plan on doing them later in the story. ThatCup and ishygddt456, I promise that there is much more coming after this so you will not be disappointed.

Anyways, enough of me rambling on. I hope to see you again in the long journey ahead!