It seems the battle with Tyrian went well. Of course, Qrow is going to have to deal with the aftermath of using kids as bait. Regardless of his intentions, he put them in danger. It's a good thing Penny was there to help them and take the brunt of the damage. Ruby's rashness is something she's going to have to work on. She made a big mistake and nearly paid with her life. Good thing Jaune got his Semblance early. I'm planning to actually do stuff with it over him just being an Aura battery some time. I feel like it was ignored except for random plot devices.
Special thanks to ancientdragonduelist for Betaing.
Disclaimer: I do not own RWBY.
It was several hours before a very dirty and tattered Qrow returned.
The man sighed as he looked at the lit Bullhead.. It wasn't a basic transport ship, but one a few people could actually live in. Winter was probably still up, if she wasn't knocked out from the poison. He also didn't doubt Jaune and Ruby were still awake to hear news about what happened. Somehow, Ruby had been healed by Jaune, and the man had no idea how that was possible. Ozpin told him Jaune had only unlocked his Aura around a month ago. That type of growth was unnatural, regardless how fast someone could learn. Still, he was relieved his niece was okay.
Then of course there was the bad news.
Tyrian had escaped.
"Winter is never going to let me live this down." The man muttered, as he stepped up on the ramp leading to the ship. "Bastard was on his last legs and I fucking let him get away. Fuck!" Qrow punched the metal which did nothing but create a loud clang and hurt his fist. A noticeable dent appeared in the metal. The door opened when he knocked and he walked in. "Winter, I got some bad news…"
His voice trailed off as he saw two pairs of eyes glaring at him. Ruby and Jaune were sitting in chairs in the cramped compartment, neither looking happy to see him. Confused, he glanced over at Winter, whose cheeks were red and she seemed to purposely avoid eye contact.
"What's… going on?" Qrow asked concerned, his eyes flicking back and forth to the kids and Winter. Penny wasn't in the room, but he doubted she was very far away.
"I might have… let it slip to them about your plan…" Winter admitted, letting out a long sigh.
"You used us as bait!" Jaune shouted, accusation rang in his voice.
Qrow REALLY did not want those two to know what he did. It could have been played off as a coincidence and them catching Manny's killer. Now that Winter blabbed, that was off the table. If Qrow did not know what type of woman Winter was, he would have believed she did this on purpose. From her red face and dull eyes, she was recovering from Tyrian's poison and let it slip.
That actually might have been worse in a way.
"I can explain, kid…" Qrow tried to tell them the situation, but was cut off by his niece.
"So it's true!" Ruby gasped loudly, jumping up from her chair. "I thought Winter might have been mistaken… but you actually knew we were being tracked by that guy?!"
"Woah, hand on!" Qrow held out his hand. "I didn't know who-..."
"And Manny was killed and you didn't think to tell us?!" Jaune demanded.
"I had just found-..."
"We almost died because we were kept in the dark!" Ruby protested.
"No, you almost died because you disobeyed my orders!" Qrow shouted in frustration. Being berated the moment he came back didn't help his mental state after losing Tyrian. "Because of your own stubbornness!"
The moments those words left his mouth he regretted them instantly. Ruby's face paled and she seemed to deflate where she was standing. The girl already knew that.
Before Qrow could say anything, Ruby zipped past him, out the door, and into the darkness.
"Fuck…" The man hated his mouth and anger. As he turned, something moved toward his face.
Jaune delivered a fist into the side of his face, causing him to stagger back.
"If Penny hadn't been an android, she would have been dead because of your plan, asshole!"
The boy rushed off after Ruby, leaving a stunned Qrow standing there with Winter and Penny.
"I'm not sure what's going on," Penny was not smiling and holding her hands together tightly. "Qrow, I believe you said something insensitive and caused Ruby anguish."
"You think I don't know that?" Qrow didn't mean to snap at that girl, but he wasn't really thinking straight right now.
"Qrow!" Winter cut him off sharply and then turned to Penny, addressing her softly. "Can you go to your quarters and recharge? We have some private discussions to finish."
"Yes, Winter." Penny still looked worried, but followed her orders. Once the door closed behind her, Winter turned toward Qrow.
The woman slapped him again like before.
"You deserve that, you know." Winter told him.
"Yeah, I'm a piece of shit." Qrow slumped down onto a chair. "Couldn't even catch the bastard. The plan was dangerous and it almost worked. We just couldn't seal the deal. All that risk taking, for nothing! He won't fall for it a second time." He leaned his head back against the metal wall. "Brats probably hate me now."
"How did he escape?" Winter asked, focusing on the important task at hand over an old man moping about his kids being upset. "I find it hard to imagine he just ran away in his condition."
"He was pretty slippery," Qrow admitted, rubbing his cheek and jaw. "Stopped the bleeding as he was fleeing. Bastard was moving as if he wasn't injured so it wasn't too hard to keep up. There was only so much he could do to escape and I was closing in on him. No matter how thick the forest was."
"Then how did he escape?" Winter tapped her finger on the chair as she asked again.
"Grimm? I thought they were cleared around here."
"So did I," Qrow let out a slow breath. "They came out of nowhere. A group of Ursa and a couple Deathstalkers. We got pretty far, so I thought his negativity and wailing attracted them. But that… was a bit much."
"Maybe you missed the tracks?" Winter pointed out reasonably. "You were busy with the missing Faunus."
"Wouldn't miss something that obvious," Qrow huffed, glaring at her for a second for daring to suggest that. "It was like they were drawn to him."
"Screaming about failing his queen sounded like some pretty severe negative emotions," Winter admitted, rubbing her chin. "He didn't seem entirely sane." Her eyes widened as she realized something didn't add up. Not being at peak condition due to the antitoxin and poison made her slightly slow on the uptake. "Why didn't the Grimm finish him off?"
"They ignored him, only went for me."
"What?" Winter gasped, oblivious to what Qrow knew. "That doesn't make sense. Grimm don't just ignore people like that. They should have attacked both of you. In fact, many Grimm aim for injured people first!" That was one sign that Grimm really only cared about death and destruction.
"Can't tell you more than what happened," Qrow chose his words carefully. "I had to fight all the Grimm myself while the asshole escaped. At that point, the trail went cold and… here I am."
"This isn't good." Winter growled. "It will take him time to recover from the wounds, but Tyrian Callows is still a wanted fugitive. I told Teal about it and all the towns will be warned, so he won't get around easily. I take it you'll send the word to Vale? So they can increase security out here."
"I'll send word to Ozpin when I get a chance, but he won't guarantee anything. The council here is slow to commit."
"We did what we could," Winter shrugged. "It looks like Penny and I will be heading back to Atlas. She needs repairs and Ironwood wants me to get checked there for any long lasting effects."
"Ironwood huh…" Qrow rubbed his jaw. "He might need to know about this too."
"Why?" Winter's eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"Eh, don't worry about it. I have to talk to Ozpin first anyways."
"Shouldn't you talk to someone else first?"
Qrow paused and averted his eyes from the woman. She had a point and he knew it. It was just that he had no idea what to say in this situation.
"Oh, yeah, great idea," Qrow scoffed. "Listen brats, I'm sorry for using you as bait without telling you. I just couldn't have your bad acting skills compromise everything or we risk this guy going after other people. You both gave me the perfect opportunity to set up a trap. Good job at surviving, but you saw what happens when you don't listen to my fucking orders and-..."
The man took a deep breath before continuing.
"How am I supposed to tell them that? Do you know how hard it was? To let kids be bait for someone who's strong enough to kill an ex-Huntsman? It was hard enough to do it with Jaune… but Ruby too…? My own niece? The only reason I attempted this was because if I didn't that murderer would still be out there, watching us. Waiting for a chance to strike with us having no idea who was after us. You were also here so it was the best chance we had. It still blew up and he got away. We have nothing to show for risking their lives…"
"Do you have to keep doing that?!" The man demanded, rubbing his cheek.
"I'll look back at this day fondly, but you need to be serious for once." Winter shook her head and crossed her arms. "Those two kids trusted you with their lives, and you used them as bait. Thankfully Penny was there or things might have not ended as well as they did."
SIlence followed those words and the air grew heavy. Until, at last, Qrow stood up.
"I'm getting a drink, it's been a long night."
He left without another word and Winter didn't try to stop him. There wasn't anything to be said. The woman had her own issues with him over years of knowing each other. Deep down, she did know he would make the right decision. Taking out emotions, his plan was the correct choice. By setting up a trap to lure Tyrian to them, it prevented a long drawn out charade that would have either led to him attacking during an inopportune time or more innocent people getting caught in the crossfire. The reason this was so complicated was because the bait was his niece.
Atlas would never have let blood relatives do an apprenticeship program like this. Personal feelings play a key role in decision making, even when people try to avoid it. It's almost impossible to separate emotions. Vale operated differently so Winter didn't pry. They had more freedom and it somehow worked for them. Atlas relied more on strict codes and conducts as their military was combined with most other aspects of their life, including the Huntsman Academy.
"Excuse me… Winter?" Penny peaked out from the door to her chamber. "Is everything okay?"
"It's fine, Penny." Winter tried to asound reassuring. "Just some debating on what happens after someone makes a mistake."
"Oh… did I do something wrong?" Penny looked worried. "If I did, I will try to correct it and ensure I do not get injured like this." Her hand touched her stomach.
"No, no, no!" WInter shook her head back and forth. "You did perfectly for your first mission Penny. This is entirely upon Qrow. He'll have to decide how to take it from here. Things will calm down once everyone has a chance to sleep on it."
Penny didn't say anything at first and appeared in thought.
"Emotions are complicated, aren't they?"
"They are indeed," Winter agreed. "Even adults sometimes have trouble with them."
"Ruby?!" Jaune called out into the darkness after he left the Bullhead. "Where are you?!"
Since Qrow had taken so long to return, darkness had descended upon the town completely, with only a few street lamps and the moon lighting things up. Jaune could have run into the darkness after his friend, but that wouldn't have accomplished anything. Ruby was too fast and if she was distraught, her Semblance would have activated. No one would have any chance of catching her. Jaune slid to a stop and decided running aimlessly after her wasn't going to work. He had to use his brain.
"Let's see. Where would she go?"
Depending on who upset her, she would head for someone she knew to comfort her. As Yang, Weiss, and Blake weren't there, then Jaune and Qrow being who she ran away from, that didn't help. The next option would be where she would feel safe and hide from the world. Usually, that would be her bed in her dorm room. They did have that, or something close to it in town. Jaune took off down the road toward their hotel room. As a courtesy, he knocked before entering. No response came so Jaune opened the door and walked in.
There was a large lump on Ruby's bed, as the girl hid under the covers.
"Ruby?" Jaune sat down on the bed next to her and rested a hand on her back. He thought he heard a sniffle under the covers. "Do you want to talk?" He didn't ask if she was okay. That would be a stupid question after seeing her like this. Her head stuck out of the covers and it was obvious she was upset, though she wasn't crying.
"I messed up, didn't I?" The girl asked.
Jaune didn't answer and she took his silence as confirmation. It was true that because she decided to head back, Tyrian had severely injured her. If Jaune didn't magically unlock his Semblance, Ruby would no longer be part of this world.
"I… can't blame you for how you acted," Jaune chose his words carefully. Unlike with Pyrrha, he was the one who could act rationally here. This was a situation in which he no longer was blinded by emotions. After punching Qrow and chasing after Ruby, he had calmed down. "Your uncle was fighting a lunatic and you were worried. If it had been my family… I would have done the same thing you did."
"I know I shouldn't have," Ruby mumbled, coming out of the covers and pulling her knees up to her chest. "But I thought… my mom… she would never have left someone she cared about behind. I didn't want to lose my uncle too." Ruby sniffed and the Huntress Jaune was used to seeing was gone, only to be replaced by a weak scared girl. Sometimes, Jaune forgot she really was young.
"I know." Jaune put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her into a one arm hug. "Most people would have done the same in your position. Remember when Qrow and Ozpin told us back at Beacon about sometimes he would have to give us orders no one would like? I'm sure he hated giving that order, almost as much as we hated following it." Jaune wasn't entirely sure about that, but it sounded good and Ruby needed consoling over the truth right now.
"We really didn't understand what that meant back then, did we?"
"No… no we didn't." Jaune agreed with a long sigh.
"You were so cool," Ruby muttered, still leaning on his shoulder. "Saving me after I was stupid. Unlocking your Semblance so early."
"There's no way I'm going to let my best friend die. Under any circumstances. Regardless of what my Semblance was, you were going to live."
"I have to apologize to Uncle Qrow," The girl's words were soft. "My decision could have gotten us all killed. If he wanted to send me back… I wouldn't blame him…" Another sniff escaped her.
"He's not going to send you back," Jaune assured her. "We're apprentices, students, trainees. We make mistakes, sometimes big ones. He's here to help and guide us." Now he needed to lure Ruby away from the negative aspects of what happened. Their new friend would be a good topic. "Honestly, we should really be thanking Penny. She helped us the most and saved our butts."
"Penny was awesome, wasn't she?"
"Yeah, she was amazing, did you see her weapons?"
"All those swords she could control were crazy!" Ruby's eyes sparkled a moment as she sat up. Jaune's plan worked and she seemed to cheer up. It would be easier to talk to her when she wasn't wallowing in self pity. "I need to ask her how she controls them all."
"She'll be in Vale for the Vytal festival, so we're going to have to be on the top of our game," Jaune informed her. "That means we have to follow Qrow's orders, you know. No matter how much they suck."
Ruby sobered up and got quiet, but she wasn't a ball of depression this time. Right now, she was a kid who knew she messed up and would have to make up for it.
"I know," Ruby nodded slowly. "I have to apologize to him and accept any punishment he deems appropriate… even sending me back to Beacon." The girl was really fixated on that possibility.
"It's the adult thing to do," Jaune played on her desire to prove she was grown up. It was her argument for a lot back at Beacon. He also seriously doubted Qrow would send her back. "I can be with you if you want, for moral support."
"No, I need to do this on my own." Ruby made a fist in front of her as she took a deep breath. "I'm an adult. I drink milk. I will do this because I messed up."
"You aren't the only one," Jaune mumbled, rubbing the back of his head. "I might have to."
"What did you do?" Ruby's eyes sparkled with curiosity.
"After he said what he did to you… I might have… punched him… in the face…"
Ruby's mouth fell open as she gaped at him.
"You did what?!"
"You were already feeling bad, he didn't need to kick you while you were down!" Jaune protested.
"But it was my fault! He was right! You shouldn't just punch people because you're angry!"
"Yang does it!"
"Don't be like Yang!"
The two of them stared at each other in disbelief before the corners of Jaune's mouth began to crack. Seeing this, Ruby began to struggle to keep a straight face as her cheeks puffed up. Once that happened, Jaune couldn't hold himself back. A snort escaped and the boy began to laugh. Ruby broke right afterwards and held a hand to her mouth as she broke down. For an instant, the two of them managed to return to normal, having a little fun thinking about Yang and her temper. After a little bit, they managed to calm down and both were feeling slightly more like themselves.
Only because things worked out in the end. They were incredibly fortunate.
"I feel better," Ruby was thankful to Jaune. "It doesn't change the fact I messed up, but I have to accept the consequences."
"I know that all too well." Jaune conceded, thinking of what happened to him. Lying to get into Beacon and because of that, he was now traveling with Qrow, risking his life in order to grow. The consequence of the choice he made. "We came out of it alive and learned from this. I know you won't make this mistake again or you'll prevent me from doing it if I try."
"You're smart, you tried to stop me," Ruby pointed out. "I was the stubborn one. But if you do make a different mistake, I'll be there to stop you."
"Thanks, Crater Face."
"Anytime, Vomit Boy."
They hugged once more and collapsed on the bed. The weight of the day's events finally weighing down. Ruby was physically fine, but mentally, her mind was drained. Jaune was the opposite. His body was worn down from giving so much Aura away, but his mind was sharp without the worries of problems he caused. Both tired, just in different ways.
It was then Ruby's Scroll beeped loudly in the silence.
Normally, Ruby would have been asleep or just ignored it in her current state. However, her body was too tired to just lay around. It wanted to do something. So on instinct, her arm dug into her pocket and pulled the Scroll out. Her eyes widened when she saw the message from Yang and the girl remembered what had happened at Beacon.
We found Blake. She and Weiss worked out differences. Team's back together. Call us when you can.
"Blake's okay!" Ruby cheered, sitting up. "Jaune… can you give us a little bit of privacy? Pleeeeease? I need to call them."
"You don't need to ask." Jaune wanted to sleep, but he pulled himself off the bed and headed toward the door. He would do just about anything for his friend. "Let me know when you're done." He left the room, an idea where to go on his mind already.
Ruby called her sister the moment the door closed behind Jaune.
"You're still up?" Yang asked, looking exhausted.
"You just messaged me!" Ruby pointed out indignantly. "So Blake's okay? Everything's fine?"
"See for yourself, sis." Yang turned the phone to show Blake laying on her bed in pajamas. While the raven haired girl did look up at the Scroll, there was obvious embarrassment in her eyes. "Though, when we found her, we didn't expect to join in the middle of a gunfight."
"Huh?" Ruby could only stare as she tried to understand this.
"Seems Blake teamed up with Sun," Weiss explained, walking into view. Her hair was down and she was in her nightwear too. "They went out to spy on the White Fang and found out they were working with Roman Torchwick."
"Back up!" Ruby shook her head. "Who's Sun?"
"Oh, that was the Faunus guy that I told you about last time." Yang brushed off. "He's actually a pretty nice guy, just doesn't understand rules very well. But yeah, Blake decided to investigate to figure out why the White Fang was resorting to stealing so much Dust."
"It's not what they did," Blake interjected. "I had to know, to at least make sure another group wasn't trying to pin the blame on them. But it doesn't make sense why they are working with Torchwick. With how radical some of the branches got, they hate humans."
"They were definitely working together," Weiss agreed. "The new question is why."
"I doubt we'll find out anytime soon," Yang shrugged. "Have to say though, that fight was pretty awesome. I got to blow up a Bullhead after Weiss used one of her glyphs to throw me into the air. They really didn't like her though. Even after that, they still focused on her." None of them specifically said why, but it was obvious. Weiss was a Schnee.
"Sounds like a crazy fight," Ruby could already imagine. "I'll want to hear about it in detail another day, but Blake? I'm glad you're okay and back safe."
"I am too." Blake admitted. "So you don't care I'm a Faunus…"
"I'm not even upset you hid it from us," Ruby shook her head as she spoke. "I don't know if Yang and Weiss told you what happened, but we helped rescue some Faunus from slave traders. I got to hear a lot about their struggles with humans…"
"They did mention it a little," Blake acknowledged. "You shouldn't let their stories affect you. It's not your fault. You're nice to everyone."
"I still turned a blind eye to Velvet getting bullied by Cardin." Ruby muttered. "It's the same thing when someone ignores Faunus discrimination in other places."
Blake didn't respond and seemed a little depressed.
"Hey!" Yang jumped in. "It's late and let's not dwell on all our mistakes right now. We can talk about those later when we have time. Right now, we should celebrate Blake's back."
"Yang's right… for once." Weiss ignored Yang's protest to this. "If we start moping now, we'll only stress over it as we're trying to sleep. There are a lot of things we need to go over and discuss in greater detail, but tonight is not the time."
"Ice Queen has a point," Yang agreed. "But why are you up so late, Ruby? I figured you would have passed out with all the exercise you're forced to do, that's why I didn't call."
"We ran into some trouble with a wanted criminal," Ruby brushed off. "He nearly killed me and Jaune saved my life with his cool healing Semblance."
Silence followed her announcement as Weiss, Yang, and Blake stared at her from the other side of her call. Yang's mouth fell open and Weiss' eyes widened in shock, even Blake looked alarmed. Ruby realized she probably should have explained everything a little better. In her defense, she was rather tired. The girl opened her mouth to elaborate when she heard a snicker.
Yang burst out laughing and wiped a tear from her eye.
"Good one, Ruby." The blonde was laughing. "You nearly got us there. Nice try. I appreciate the effort to lighten the mood."
"Huh?" It was Ruby's turn to be confused as she blinked in surprise. None of her teammates seemed to have realized she was serious.
"Oh, that makes sense." Weiss shook her head but a small smirk escaped her stony expression. "There's no way Arc could have unlocked his Semblance in only a few weeks, let alone something as rare as healing. There's only been a few recorded cases in history with that kind of power."
"You shouldn't joke about criminals either," Blake pointed out. "Or joking about dying. It's not a laughing matter, especially when you're out in the field. We do worry about you too. Yang talks about you a lot.."
"Shhhh!" Yang shushed her partner with a roll of her eyes. She couldn't even comment on Blake's cattish grin. "We do worry about you Ruby, but you seem to be doing well for yourself. Hey, it's late and we shouldn't keep you up all night when you have to be up at the crack of dawn. So we'll let you sleep and talk more next time you call. I promise, when you get back, we'll tell you everything in detail."
"W-wait…!" Ruby stuttered, still trying to process what was happening, but it was too late. Her team had bid her good night and hung up. "Did they just…?"
The girl stared at the dark Scroll for nearly a full minute before it clicked.
"They didn't believe me!" Ruby cried out indignantly, her small fist punching the mattress. "I can't believe it! They said they would treat me like an adult and they thought I was just joking? How could they!" She managed to not throw her Scroll and instead put it on the nightstand. "Yang especially. She's still treating me like a kid! I thought we got past this!"
Falling back onto the bed, Ruby gazed up at the ceiling. If she hadn't been so mentally exhausted, the girl would have realized the way she explained things did sound sort of like a joke. However, Ruby was too used to being treated like a child by Yang and wasn't able to think straight in her current condition. She rolled over and gazed out the window. Her body was finally calming down to match her mental state.
"Hope Jaune gets back soon."
Jaune stepped into the familiar bar and looked around. It was late, the last call would be soon. There weren't many people there. Two were at the bar, one guy was passed out at the table, and the bartender was wiping a glass as he looked up. Then in the back corner, Jaune saw the familiar figure of his mentor, slumped back in his seat. A mostly empty bottle on the table with a couple shot glasses skewed about.
Taking a deep breath, the boy walked over and sat down across the table from Qrow, who only acknowledged his existence by looking up. Jaune didn't say anything, but instead grabbed the bottle and poured himself a shot.
"That might be a bit strong for you, kid."
Jaune didn't respond and downed it, regretting it almost instantly.
"Ack!" It felt like his throat was on fire. With one shot, he was about to fall out of his chair. Eventually, the pain ceased and he began to pant. "Is that… poison?"
"Nah, it just puts hair on your chest." Qrow picked up the bottle and took a swig from it. "So I take it you're here to talk about what happened?"
"Y-Yeah." Jaune's throat still hurt. "And I wanted to apologize for lashing out like I did. I was just really pissed at what you said to Ruby…"
"You know it was true, right?" Qrow looked up, his face dark. The man looked much older than he did before.
"I… er… yes…" Jaune had to admit even if what he said was harsh, it had been one hundred percent true. "But maybe you could have… maybe… phrased it better?" All his suggestion got him was a glare.
"So you want me to baby both of you?" Qrow asked seriously, tapping the table. "Remember when I said I wasn't going to do that? That I couldn't do that?"
"She knew she made a mistake," Jaune protested. "You didn't have to rub it in."
"You're wrong about that, kid." Qrow set the bottle down and stared intensely at the boy. "If anything, I was too soft. You two were warned that when I give you an order, you follow it. That you might hate the order, that it might not make sense. Doesn't matter. What she did when she ignored my order was risk all of our lives. She almost died because of her rash action. If she was anyone else but Ruby…" The man picked up the bottle with a shaking hand and quickly took another sip.
It all suddenly made sense why Qrow had been so angry.
"...anyone else… I would have them sent back to Beacon,' Qrow finished. "They would be too much of a liability." His gaze fell back on Jaune. "I should be upset at you for coming back too, but you made a decision when Ruby went against my order. A good one in my opinion. Thanks to you, she's alive. I owe you a lot… I couldn't save her… and then almost lost Ruby…"
His shaking hand grabbed the bottle again and he began to drain it.
"Can I ask, why didn't you tell us about the guy chasing us?" Jaune asked cautiously, noticing Qrow was far from sober.
"Multiple reasons," Qrow shook his head and looked up at the ceiling before continuing.. "I literally just found out minutes before you and Ruby arrived." He shook his head and smacked his lips before continuing. "When you two wanted to go on patrol, the perfect opportunity fell into my lap. I didn't know if the guy who killed Manny was after us, but if he was, a couple kids on their own? Would be a prime target over someone like me. I rather him attack on our terms over ambushing us on his. Winter being here was an added bonus. There was no better time to spring the trap. If he hadn't been following us, nothing would have happened."
"So you did have a reason, that's good." Jaune sighed, burying his face into his hands as his elbows propped against the table. "It even makes sense."
"You don't sound as mad as I expected.' Qrow raised an eyebrow. "You figured that out already? Or did you get your anger out with that cheap shot."
"No… not really, until you said it at least." Jaune admitted, ignoring the last part. "It makes sense we trap him rather than letting him stay on the loose, hurting innocent people. If you had told us, I doubt Ruby and I would have complained. We could have been on guard."
"And that would have been a giveaway to him," Qrow pointed out. "He wouldn't go after you if he thought it was a trap. Well… actually. That asshole might. He didn't seem all there."
"We still wish you would tell us these things." Jaune slumped down in his seat. "Even if we know we can't do anything about it, it helps us with surprises."
"Kid, I try to balance teaching you and doing my own missions Oz sets upon me," Qrow whispered, his voice low. "There's some stuff I can't tell you for a multitude of reasons. You and Ruby will learn things in time, so just focus on your training."
"How can we focus when we're constantly wondering if you're using us as bait?" The boy hissed back.
"You'll eventually realize that there will be times you have to take risks for the greater good," Qrow answered flatly, crossing his arms. "Risks you don't want to do but there's no good alternatives. Other times, you can take risks and then have to cut your losses. You'll make decisions you come to hate. That gnaw at the back of your mind forever, wondering if there was a better way… remembering the faces of those you couldn't save…"
The man's hand grabbed the bottle once more and began to chug the poison.
"Something you want to talk about?" Jaune had been around enough drunks in his life to know when someone wanted to talk. Alcohol helped release inhibitions, so if Qrow would reveal stuff, now would be the time.
That chance at insight was dashed instantly and Jaune nearly slammed his face on the table. Until, Qrow began to talk.
"She's too much like her mom," The drunk man mumbled, staring out through the window into the dark town. "Summer would always try to save everyone. Even when the situation was hopeless, she would throw herself into the fray to try to save one or two more people. Risking her life more times than I could count. She was an amazing fighter, a perfect friend, and the best Team Leader i ever knew, but if she had one weakness, it would be she didn't see the value of her own life. That's why I'm not sending Ruby back. I want to teach her that her life is valuable. That people need her to return."
Jaune remained quiet. Ruby had told him stories she heard about her mother, but those were obviously embellished, or at the least, only the good points. From what he had heard, Summer was an amazing Huntress, a caring mother and wife, and the best baker of cookies in the world. Last one might have been a stretch, but taste is based on opinion, so Jaune couldn't argue that if he even wanted to. Qrow was now talking about the other side. The flaws that make everyone human.
"There's a question a lot of Huntsmen are asked," Qrow continued. "An army of Grimm is heading toward a town. You won't get reinforcements until it's too late. 70 people are ready to go, to flee. but 30 people are hiding in their homes. You're the only Huntsman there. What do you do?"
"I would try to get the others out before the army came." Jaune stated plainly. "I would retreat when I absolutely had to."
Qrow raised an eyebrow.
"Would you, Jaune? Would you really? Could you say, we're abandoning those that are left behind to save everyone else? It's not an easy decision to make when confronted with it. You can tell yourself you'll do it, but the moment that situation arises, emotions play a large factor in your choice."
Jaune was silent as he thought about it. Of course he would try to evacuate everyone possible. When he reached the part about making the decision to leave those behind, that was when something got caught in his throat. Logic dedicated he should make that order, but actually saying that outloud? The small honest part deep down told him that making that call would be impossible.
"...No… I don't think I could make that call as I am now."
Qrow leaned back in his chair and gave a small smile. Not a smirk, but one hinting of understanding.
"Good answer. 9 out of 10."
"Huh?" Jaune blinked in confusion. "I just said I couldn't do it. Why would you pass me? Hang on, was this a test? Are you even drunk?"
"I'm a professional drinker, kid." Qrow chugged the last bit of the bottle. "Takes a lot more than this. As for why you passed, it's not about being right or wrong. You're young, you're going to be swayed by emotions. Take a look at Ruby. It's natural you want to save everyone. What I was referring to was the fact you realized that you couldn't make that decision. That shows you're smart enough to realize your limits and can be honest with yourself. Those two qualities will help you survive."
"Heh, you always hear about overcoming your limits." Jaune mumbled, chuckling under his breath.
"There's a difference between pushing past your limits to go a little further and fighting an army," Qrow rolled his eyes but almost looked amused. "You may be exhausted and discover that burst of energy when your life is in danger, but you won't be able to rely on that when fighting hundreds or thousands of enemies. "
"No, you're absolutely right." Jaune found himself nodding. "It's wishful thinking and I saw with Tyrian how that would work out. I need to work harder and follow your lead. I only lasted as long as I did because of your training and him treating us like a joke."
"I told you when we started, we didn't have time to do things the right way." Qrow sat up and leaned on one arm pressed against the table. "We're doing it the old fashioned way. It still takes time. If you keep whining about being weak, it's not good for your mental health. It will also affect Ruby's morale and make the trip harder than it needs to be."
"You'd know all about affecting morale."
The words slipped out of Jaune's mouth before he could stop himself. Exhaustion was finally overtaking him and interfering with his filter.
"Yeah, I do. You have a problem with that?" Jaune didn't respond, already knowing he said something he didn't need to. "I'll talk to her tomorrow, but it's good for her to reflect on her actions. I'm not going to say I was wrong for yelling at her. You saw the outcome of what happens when you disobey my order. We are just damn lucky you discovered your Semblance. Speaking of that shit, explain what you did. How did you heal her?"
"I don't think I healed her," Jaune admitted. "I think I empowered her Aura with my own…" He spent a few minutes explaining what happened. Qrow, for being a drunk, seemed to be paying close attention.
"Hmm…" Qrow leaned back in his chair and kicked his legs up on the table. "Damn brats, getting all the luck with Semblances."
"To be fair, if I could shoot lightning or fly, I would have preferred that before today." Jaune scoffed.
"Limited uses." Qrow brushed off with one hand waving in the air. "Guess I'm adding Semblance training to my ever growing list of shit to teach you two. First lesson, Semblances are rarely what they appear at first. You may think you're boosting her Aura, but it may be more than that. Trial and error, training, and experience will help you realize what it is. Try not to get stuck in the mindset your Semblance only does that one thing."
"Would that mean Ruby's Semblance is more than just speed?"
"Could be. Maybe something to do with the rose petals she leaves behind."
"Huh, I bet she would love that." Jaune mused and then he let out a large yawn.
"Get to bed," Qrow ordered. "We've talked enough and just because we had a busy day, doesn't mean you get out of training tomorrow morning."
"Good, you stopped moping at least." Jaune stood up. "Would hate to have to be the responsible moral booster."
"I'll remember your sass tomorrow. Protect your head."
Both of the guys were feeling slightly better, but Qrow knew he would have to deal with the fallout tomorrow. Winter wouldn't give him grief, but he knew she disapproved of how childish he acted. It was his choice how he trained his apprentices. Still, as he stared at his empty glasses, he knew he was giving Ruby some special treatment. A normal student who did what she did would probably have been sent back to Beacon. That never crossed his mind except as a threat. He had to impart how dangerous her rash decision was though, and simply insulting her like he did wasn't going to help anyone.
Jaune meanwhile, returned to the inn and saw Ruby bundled up in her bed. Based on her sleeping posture, she didn't seem worried. That meant her call with her teammates must have gone well. Jaune climbed into his bed and turned to his friend. She was probably asleep and he didn't blame her. They were used to going to sleep as soon as they could to get up first thing in the morning. It was incredibly late and Jaune was about to pass out. There was one thing he needed to do though.
"Qrow's not sending you back, Crater Girl." Jaune whispered. "He was just worried for you."
The boy flopped back into his bed, falling asleep the moment his head touched the pillow. He never saw the small smile on his friend's face as she clutched the covers tightly.
Light invaded the room but Ruby refused to get up.
The high from last night wore off and she was exhausted. Once the excess Aura eventually faded, her body felt so heavy. The bed was so soft and T\the girl didn't want to move. Not only that, she only had a few hours of sleep after a life and death battle. Hiding her head under the covers, she muttered under her breath, wishing the sun would turn off. Ruby was normally an early riser, but today was a special case. Just once she wanted to be like Yang and sleep in as long as possible.
A low creaking sound made Ruby flinch and slowly open her eyes.
On the bed next to her, Jaune was pulling himself up. The way he moved, careful to avoid making any loud noises, indicated he was trying not to wake her. Not that it mattered as the sun did that already, but her friend didn't know. Ruby continued to pretend to be asleep as she watched Jaune quietly tiptoe across the room, grab his sword, and head out. The door closed behind him with a soft thud and Ruby finally opened her eyes all the way.
"How is he up so early?" The young girl whispered, forcing her arm to prop herself up. Her other hand rubbed the sleep from her eyes. "He came back later than I did and used up all his Aura healing me and Penny." Ruby collapsed back on the bed, her body heavy like lead. "Where does he get the energy?"
After a couple minutes of laying there, Ruby finally made the decision to get up. It was harder than it sounded, as her body was stiff. That was the problem with laying down after a long day of hard work. Muscles tightened up and didn't want to work. After weeks of it happening, she was getting used to it, but that didn't mean she liked it. Kind of like getting a shot at the doctors. Just because she tolerated it, that didn't mean she had to look forward to getting one.
The girl approached the window and looked down. Jaune was currently outside, his sword next to him, as he began to stretch before starting his basic training. Ruby's eyes widened at this.
"I'm so stupid."
Of course Jaune got up even when he was exhausted. He had come here because he didn't have a choice. This was the only way he could achieve his dream after being exposed. Ruby may have come with him to help and support this path, but she still had a choice. That one difference completely changed things for each of them. If Jaune failed here, there was no place to return. Everyone at Beacon knew he lied his way in. Ruby could still go back to her team, embarrassed, but on good terms. Jaune had to succeed here, so even if his body cried out in pain, her friend would keep standing up and continue his training.
That perseverance was something she admired.
Before Ruby knew it, she was already changing into her own training clothes. Tiredness be damned, she was also going to be the best Huntress she could be. If that meant having to train every day even when she was tired, so be it. Grabbing her beloved scythe, she rushed outside. Jaune looked up as she approached and she waved and smiled, but no words were exchanged. She sat down on the ground next to her friend and began to stretch too.
The two of them bonded in silence, doing the basics that were drilled into them every day. They had to loosen their muscles if they wanted to be able to move. It actually helped with the stiffness and pain. Once they did their warmups, Ruby got an idea. Instead of Jaune doing the same swings until Qrow showed up, what if they mixed it up? Pulling out Crescent Rose, the gears smoothly spun around as her gun stretched out into the full scythe mode.
Jaune raised an eyebrow but realized what she was doing. Standing up, he pulled out his sword and shield before taking position.
Unknown to both kids, they weren't doing this unsupervised. Qrow was leaning against a fence, out of sight, observing them. The two of them were lightly sparing, not trying as hard as they did against him. Yet, he could tell their progress. Jaune was practicing trying to predict Ruby's move and strike without leaving himself open. Ruby, meanwhile, was trying to stop herself from being predictable. Jaune actually managed to almost catch her multiple times.
"They got a hard reality check," Qrow muttered, as he watched the two kids go at it. "Here I was going to berate Ruby, but it looks like that's not needed. Hmm, it's not safe staying here much longer, for anyone…"
The man didn't know Tyrian that well. All he knew for sure was the man was completely unhinged. Revenge was not off the table. The moment he licked his wounds and patched himself up, he would be back for them. They needed some distance to shake him off for a while. Qrow could probably handle him on his own, but it would be a tough fight. Protecting the kids? That was another thing altogether. They needed a lot more practice and wandering around in the wilds wasn't a smart option.
An idea occurred to him and instead of joining the kids for morning training, he made a quick stop first.
"Uncle Qrow!" Ruby called out about half an hour later. "Where were you? We're all warmed up."
"He was probably sleeping off his hangover." Jaune joked.
"Come over here and say that to my face." Qrow pointed to the boy, who quickly hid ineffectively behind Ruby due to his size. The young girl was giggling at his reaction. "I had to chat with someone first and you two were doing fine on your own. Jaune, good job on incorporating the basics into your fighting style. Ruby's speed is tough to counter, but you were doing well in predicting her movements. Squirt…" The man turned toward his niece.
Ruby stiffened up as she expected her uncle to berate her.
"... keep working on incorporating different attack patterns. People like Tyrian will eat you alive if they can predict where you're going to strike from."
That was all he had to say on the subject. Qrow thought about it and he was prepared to reprimand Ruby a bit, but one look at her expression and he could tell she already berated herself more than he could. At this point, nothing would be gained but animosity. The mistakes of the past couldn't be changed, so the best way to keep moving forward was to incorporate them as lessons. It's why he tied his words back to Tyrian.
"So… are we going to start?" Ruby asked cautiously, a little confused Qrow wasn't upset with her.
"No, we'll be leaving shortly." Her uncle replied nonchalantly. "The area is pretty much cleared of Grimm, the Slavers are taken care of, and it's best we don't stick around for Tyrian to come back for revenge."
"Shouldn't we track him before he can't hurt more people?" Jaune asked, surprised. "He's out there injured, so it would be the best chance we have."
"Think I wasn't trying to track him?" Qrow held out his hand toward the wall and the land beyond it. "It's a big place and that guy knows how to hide his presence. We already took precautions. No town around here is going to let him in and they will be on guard if he tries to sneak in. He's stuck outside the walls without medical care or fresh supplies. Still, trying to find him is like finding a needle in a haystack."
"Not only that, Tyrian Callows is a heavily wanted individual in Atlas, so we'll be sending people down here to help catch him." A familiar voice added, as the woman walked up to them.
"Winter!" Ruby greeted and then looked around behind her. "Is Penny here?'
"Due to her… injuries, we didn't want any civilians seeing her condition." Winter answered. "She's fine as you know, but others might think differently." The hidden meaning was as clear as day.
"Oh, right. I understand."
"Shame, we would have liked to see her before we left." Jaune admitted, a little disappointed.
"You didn't tell them yet?" Winter raised an eyebrow at Qrow.
"I was just about to before you interrupted." The old man sighed.
"Tell us what?" Ruby shifted her gaze from Winter to Qrow.
"Pack your bags kid, we're going to Atlas."
Pyrrha was heading back to her room. Classes ended for the day and she just finished a round in the training rooms. She had been spending a lot of time there since Jaune left. There wasn't really much else for her to do. Going into Vale was always a hassle, as if someone recognized her, she would have fans swarming her for autographs or handshakes. Without teammates helping intercept, it was hard to get away without hurting feelings. Of course, Nora refused to hang out with her outside of classes and the occasional group training Ren set up.
Nora was civil now, she just didn't consider Pyrrha a friend.
The champion actually would have preferred an angry Nora over the indifferent one she had gotten to know over the last few days. Before the fight, they had been so close. Losing Jaune and Nora together really hurt. Ren was trying and she appreciated that, but she could tell how hard it was for him, along with the stress he was under. Rather than trying to force a relationship, she had been limiting contact. There was an unfortunate consequence of this though.
She sort of started avoiding everyone.
Most of the first year watched Pyrrha dominate the spars, and the new students from Atlas, Vacuo, and Mistral who just arrived recently had their first combat class together. Glynda had pitted her against Mercury Black and while the guy had amazing skills, she was able to win pretty handedly without taking a single hit. The term 'Invincible Girl' started spreading through the stands, a moniker she always disliked. None of the new students really approached her. So far her only 'friend' was Weiss, but even she had limited contact due to having her own team.
"... and he discovered his Semblance!"
Pyrrha had just reached the door to her room when she heard Nora's voice. Instantly, the champion froze, not wanting to interrupt. The door was partially open, so the words filtered out into the hall as clear as day.
"A healing Semblance is rare, but with Jaune's Aura reserves, it suits him." Ren's voice stated behind the door.
"But now they are heading all the way to Atlas!" Nora complained. "What if they get hurt or need backup? If they are in Vale, we could steal a Bullhead and go help."
"They have a Huntsman with them for that reason," Ren answered reasonably. "If they did get into trouble, I doubt it would be a situation where we could just fly over and help. Don't steal a Bullhead either, even if it's just in case."
"Awww… do you think he'll be fine?"
"He discovered his Semblance and he only unlocked his Aura during initiation." Ren actually sounded kind of amused. "Our leader is a quick learner. I'm sure when he returns, he'll surprise you with everything he learned."
"Hehe, I can't wait!" Nora cheered. "It's super cold up in Atlas. Hope our Fearless Leader brought a coat."
Pyrrha heard them approaching the door and quickly left, not wanting to be caught eavesdropping. It's not like they said anything she shouldn't have heard, but Nora wouldn't take kindly to that and Pyrrha didn't want to add any fuel to the fire. After putting plenty of distance between herself and her dorm room, the girl slowed down and debated what to do with herself. Besides training and school work, she really hadn't done anything else.
Pyrrha rounded a corner and instantly bumped into someone. Lost in her own thoughts, she wasn't able to catch herself and fell back on her butt.
"Watch where the fuck you're going-... oh, Pyrrha?"
Pyrrha blinked and saw a pale, young man with gray eyes and gray hair, partially slicked back while unkempt at the front. He wasn't a Beacon student, so instead of a uniform he wore a slate gray and black two-tone partial-zip jacket that covered his upper body along with black pants. The guy was Mercury Black, a student from Haven Academy in Mistral, who Pyrrha had sparred earlier today.
"Sorry!" Pyrrha apologized, about to stand up.
"Mercury, where are your manners?"
A very attractive young woman stepped forward. She had ashen-black hair that covered the left side of her bright amber eyes. The woman wore gray pants and boots, a beige leather sleeveless jacket with light-beige details, brown gloves, a sarashi tied around her chest and another around her hips, and a pauldron on her left shoulder. Her voice was calm, yet wielded an air of authority as she continued to address Mercury.
"You bumped into her, cussed at her, and didn't even offer to help her up and apologize?"
"Er… right, sorry Cinder!" Mercury jumped to his feet.
"It shouldn't be me you're apologizing to." Cinder reminded him, as she crossed her arms.
"Sorry for bumping into you!" Mercury apologized to Pyrrha, reaching out a hand to help her up. "I'm really clumsy and wasn't watching where I was going."
"It's fine." Pyrrha assured him, accepting his hand. Once she was on her feet, she dusted off her clothes. "I wasn't watching where I was going either."
"Heh, so you're not as observant as you are in the ring?" Mercury winked at her, surprising the red head. "Maybe I can use that the next time we face off."
"I look forward to it." Pyrrha smiled at him. It was meant to be one of her business smiles, but she did feel a little amused. The boy reminded her a bit of Jaune.
"We should be off," Cinder commented. "We're touring the campus, as it seems easy to get lost in."
"It can be," Pyrrha agreed. "Takes a few days to remember where everything is. If you get lost, just ask someone from Beacon. We'll be happy to help."
"Much obliged, Pyrrha." Cinder smiled at her. "Thank you for forgiving Mercury. He can be rather… absent minded."
"Can't we all." Pyrrha replied simply. "Don't let me keep you."
"Hey, are you doing anything Friday?" Mercury asked.
"Huh?!" Pyrrha wasn't the only one surprised at this, Cinder spun around too.
"Our team is going to see a movie this Friday," Mercury explained. "Want to tag along? I'll pay as an apology."
"Er…" Honestly, the champion was a little thrown off at this request. It had been a long time since a guy asked her out like this. Usually, they would shout from the stands and she could smile and wave without answering. As his words processed, Pyrrha managed to control herself, though her cheeks tinged slightly. "I might be busy, but I'll see."
"I'll check up with you later then!" Mercury winked at her as Cinder ushered him away. He made a few finger gun gestures at her, which honestly made Pyrrha giggle a little. He really was a lot like Jaune. Turning around, she decided to head back to the dorm. Nora and Ren should be done with their conversation now. Ren would then most likely fill her in on Jaune's situation.
Meanwhile, Cinder and Mercury were heading back to their own dorm room in another wing. Neither said anything at first, but both wore smirks that didn't seem to have innocent intentions. As Cinder unlocked the door, she finally spoke since they split with Pyrrha.
"You did perfectly, Mercury."
Feel free to leave a review, comment, suggestions, or ideas, I love reading them. If you have a question you wish to ask and would like a quick answer, feel free to message me directly. I try to respond to those within a day or two. Comments, I tend to respond to in the next chapter.