Happy fourth to all my American friends. I'm really happy to see all the excitement over Jaune's Semblance. And the part about boosting himself? That's actually canon. He did that once in the show in front of Winter who was training him. His Aura gauge shot up to full in a short period of time. Naturally, he's not going to be able to master his Semblance in a day or two, but it is possible eventually he can do that. Not sure if Rooster Teeth realized the OPness of that or not, but it was shown. Also, for those of you who have seen RWBY later volumes, Ruby's Semblance is NOT just speed.
A few people pointed out some flaws in the simulation. Yes, Jaune's plan might not have been able to work in real life with different parameters. But the point was, he wasn't in real life. He had different rules and restrictions he had to abide by. Instead of just giving up, he used the rules to his advantage. When faced against overwhelming odds, you sometimes have to do whatever it takes to win. Atlas would at least agree to that. Also, making decisions in a video game is a lot easier than making the call in real life. Jaune would never have ordered that move in real life.
Everyone who commented, thank you. I love reading them. Even the ones who think I could have done things differently.
Disclaimer: I do not own RWBY.
Mantle was a large city in the Atlas Kingdom below "the floating city" of Atlas, literally below. The majority of the city was densely packed with a large stone wall used to separate it from tundra and the hordes of Grimm.. While industrial, it was more of the mass production style industries, over the research done in Atlas. A gray fog covered the city due to the effects of Dust mining, giving everything a darker tone. The people here were much poorer than those in Atlas, but people seemed to be relatively happy for the most part.
There were still poor people and homeless on the streets, but that was a sight in all kingdoms. Schools abounded, wealthier areas were in the center of the city, and the slums were by the crater left when Atlas took off into the sky. Dust heaters kept the atmosphere of Mantle at a reasonable temperature, which allowed people to go outside with light clothes, with heavy duty tundra gear needed for exploration beyond the city. Normal people without Aura could leave buildings without succumbing to the cold.
The only downside was because Mantle was on the ground, they were susceptible to Grimm attacks. Unlike Vale, which had a natural mountain range as a wall, Mantle had an open tundra. The old stone wall worked for a while, but as the population of Mantle grew, and income discrepancy between them and Atlas grew, the negative emotions attracted more and more Grimm. The snow and winds also helped wear down the walls. The barrier had to be constantly repaired as Grimm broke through. An intricate alarm system would warn resistance if a breach occurred. Huntsman or troops would kill the Grimm, while workers would patch up the wall.
Guess who got a chance to join in the wall duties?'
"Jaune! To your right!"
At Ruby's warning, Jaune raised his shield as a Sabyr jumped up and off the side of a building to lunge right at him. Sabyrs were large predatory cats Grimm resembling saber-toothed tigers. Their namesake was attributed to the large canines with which they can deliver a powerful bite. They possess small bone plates on their shoulders and hips, ribs on their sides, and spines coming from their backs. Their black skin appears to be somewhat frozen and has white patches.
Jaune swung his sword and struck the Grimm a moment before it could collide with him. His blade sunk through the flesh and cut the cat neatly in half. Sabyrs weren't very durable. They use their speed and numbers to make up for it, specializing in swiftly taking out their opponents before they can be hit. Jaune had almost fallen when one hit him from behind, but Ruby zipped in and saved his ass.
Nothing new there.
Part of the wall had collapsed and since Ruby and Jaune were free, they were sent to help. Qrow assured them they could handle it at their level, but to be careful. Citizens had been evacuated and the workers were held up in a building, ready to emerge and work the moment the coast was clear. A couple robot troops were helping thin the numbers with automated fire.
"Two left!" Ruby called out. "Jaune, block the hole!"
Jaune ran up and stood at the broken barrier, shield held up.
"Leave one for me, Ruby. You stole a bunch of kills at the beginning."
"Maybe you should get a ranged weapon."
The boy couldn't argue with the logic. Ruby had sniped several Grimm before they got anywhere near the wall. Her high powered rifle made quick work of the Sabyrs. In the open field, they were sitting ducks. It was when they got into the city, that they became a threat. With cars and buildings for them to climb on, hide behind, or use as springboards to change directions quickly, they could maximize the use of their powerful leaps to attack from all directions. Their speed was still nothing to Ruby's, who cut four in half that attempted to surround Jaune.
He only got to kill three today.
To save ammo, the two students let the last two Grimm approach. Jaune was in the way, so they would naturally aim at him. One on one, with the Sabyr's only attacking from one direction, he could handle it. As the two cats lunged at him, their mouths open, bearing sharp teeth, preparing to tear at Jaune's flesh. A red blur appeared behind one and Ruby appeared while spinning in midair. Her scythe blade decapitated one Sabyr. The other didn't notice her as it was focused on her friend. Jaune stepped forward and jabbed upwards. His sword pierced the mouth just like with the King Taijitu, while his shield battered away the claws.
"It's clear for now!" Jaune yelled over his shoulder, as he and Ruby stepped back inside the barricade. Doors opened to the nearby buildings and men in work outfits rushed out, grabbing the supplies from the truck and powering on machines.
"A hole this size will take about an hour to patch." One man told them. "Keep an eye out for us."
"It's what we do!" Ruby saluted. "We'll be on top of the wall to keep watch." The man appeared satisfied and they got to work, leaving Jaune and Ruby on their own. Once they got up on the unbroken section of the wall and verified things seemed clear, Ruby relaxed. "I could see this being a full time job. Just protecting the wall."
"This environment is tough," Jaune agreed. "Getting wood is a challenge, and most of what they mine is Dust that's shipped around Remnant. Metal is used for housing and industry. Stone is their best resource for walls."
The repairs actually didn't take very long. It showed the two Beacon students just how often this wall needed to be patched up. One Sabyr had drawn near, but Ruby took that out quickly before it could gather reinforcements. A low buzzing Atlas ship flew over them, scouting the area. Once the wall was set, their job would be done.
"Excited to meet Penny's dad?" Jaune asked. Once their mission was completed, Penny was going to stop by and escort them to her father's workshop in Mantle. From what they were told about him, he was a famous scientist for Atlas. After creating Penny, of course he was. The man still spent most of his time in Mantle though.
"I'm curious to see what he's like, because Penny keeps talking about him." Ruby giggled. "But you're the one he wants to meet. He specifically requested to see you."
"I was thinking about it and two possibilities come to mind," Jaune held up two fingers. "First, it has something to do with my Semblance and healing her. If he just wanted to meet her friends, he would invite both of us equally, but he focused on me. The second is Penny called me her boyfriend and that caused some misunderstandings."
"Atlas does seem very interested in your Amplification." Ruby admitted, thinking back and ignoring the second thing.
After their spar with the Ace Ops Clover, they had asked Jaune to study his Semblance. Healing was rare, so it was only natural. Ruby knew how useful Jaune's Semblance would be out in the field. Even if she hadn't been saved from the brink of death, being able to heal was a desired role anywhere, especially in video games. It was only through Atlas' careful measurements and tests, that they discovered Jaune's Semblance wasn't healing or Aura transference, but Amplification. Yes, he used some of his own Aura in the process, but it stimulated the target's Aura, which increased recovery and boosted the maximum amount the body could hold.
Ruby had always known Jaune was cool.
"Yeah, and I'm really happy I got such a useful Semblance…" Jaune started to say.
"More than useful, it saved my life, don't you forget that!" Ruby admonished.
"I'm never going to complain about having it for that reason alone." Jaune ruffled Ruby's hair, making her flail and complain before he continued. "It's just, Winter had Atlas scientists do a lot of tests on me. I had to use it on multiple people, see how long I could continue using my Semblance. They even checked if I could use it on myself."
Ruby blinked as she processed it. Her friend wasn't the only one who had their Semblance and Aura measured. Tests and readings had been done on her too. They were checking if there were any negative after effects on her body from being boosted. There didn't seem to be any, but she was told to monitor her condition just in case. When the additional Aura ran out, she felt completely normal. Even her speed Semblance worked just like before. There were a few tests run on her Semblance too. Mostly just checking on the progress and max speed she could reach, along with examining her ability to turn for some reason. It was like they didn't think she could move easily when running.
'Heh, maybe they didn't know that much.'
"Yeah, they wanted to see if I could amplify my own Aura."
"Could you?" Ruby asked eagerly. "That would be so cool! Imagine doubling your strength and being like a tank. No Grimm could break through your Aura."
"Heh, chill, Crater Girl." Jaune laughed affectionately. "All that happened was my Aura regenerated slightly faster than normal."
"That's still amazing!" Ruby punched his arm for the nickname. "Can't you see how useful that will be on missions? You don't have to rest as long after a tough fight. Your team would be able to do much more in a limited amount of time."
"I guess, but it feels like they wanted more from me for some reason." Jaune shrugged. "Maybe I'm imagining it."
"No, I got that feeling on my tests too, like they were looking for something." Ruby admitted slowly. "They didn't seem all that upset though. I was told I'm still growing, so my Semblance might change to more than speed. Whatever that means."
"Eh, let our future selves worry about that then." Ruby covered her mouth when she snorted at Jaune's words. "Though, I have to say, with all the testing, there is somethingI was curious about trying."
"Like what?" Ruby tilted her head.
"Well… it was just a thought… but what if I used it on a Grimm?"
Silence followed the boy's words.
"Are you nuts!" Ruby yelped, her eyes bulging and looking like Jaune grew a second head. "You want to amplify a Grimm?"
"It's just a thought!" Jaune held up his hands in case Ruby decided to beat him for his idiocy.
"What made you even consider that?" Ruby demanded to know.
"Well, back at initiation when my Aura was unlocked by Py-... unlocked." Jaune bit the word off. "I was told that Aura is a manifestation of our soul to fight the Grimm. Creatures of darkness. Grimm don't have Aura, since only living things with a soul have it. I was curious… what if they DO have one, but it's buried deep down in the darkness?"
"So you think… if there is one… you might be able to boost it up?" Ruby was confused at the end game here. "What do you think would happen if that's true?"
"No idea, I was just thinking." Jaune shrugged as he looked up at the sky. "Maybe nothing will happen. Maybe like you said, they will get stronger. Or maybe they won't want to kill people if their soul is empowered. We've seen how many Grimm exist and just killing them doesn't really stop the threat they pose. That Atlas simulation showed that."
"You're not just upset that my score was higher than yours, are you?" Ruby teased.
"I got an incomplete, thank you very much. Technical issues stopped them from grading me."
"Remember what you and Yang said when we played video games? Only score that counts is the one that's documented in the game."
"...Touche," Jaune admitted. "But I really am curious. You can't tell me you aren't either?"
The girl fidgeted next to him. In all honesty, what he suggested sparked her interest. What would happen if Jaune tried his Semblance on one. The worst case situation was the Grimm would get stronger. How strong was the important question. But what if something beneficial happened like what Jaune considered. Could they tame a Grimm? Make it less violent? Weiss would probably yell at her for considering it, but Yang and Nora would definitely encourage them to try.
The small responsible part of her that was supposed to be a team leader kept saying no in the back of her mind.
Luckily, she was saved from making the decision when their friend showed up.
"Ruby, Jaune!" Penny called up from the ground, waving wildly at them. "How are things going?"
"Penny!" Ruby leaned off the wall. "It's all quiet. Come on up."
"How was your first mission for Atlas?" Penny asked, once she climbed up and joined them. "Was it difficult?"
"Nah," Jaune waved off her concerns. "It was easy. Just Ruby kill stealing."
"Range weapon." Ruby countered with her impeccable logic.
"Scout ships usually notify if any large group of Grimm show up as well as giving cover fire," Penny explained. "Since it was only a few, Logistics figured you could handle it. If this wasn't enough, you could request a more advanced assignment."
"Nah, we don't need any long term missions." Ruby shook her head. "Uncle Qrow wants us to head out in a little bit, so we won't be able to commit."
"I see," Penny looked a little downtrodden. "I will miss seeing you two until you return to Vale for the Vytal Festival."
"We won't be gone that long," Ruby assured her. "Plus, we have each other's Scroll numbers. We can stay in contact the entire time. Text messages are awesome when we're out in the field. We promise to answer when we can, right Jaune?'
"Of course," Jaune agreed quickly, which had nothing to do with Ruby elbowing his side. "But I bet you'll make lots of friends at Beacon. Look up Nora. She's on my team and super friendly. You'll get along great, just don't challenge her to an arm wrestling contest."
"Why would I want to wrestle arms?" Penny asked, confused.
"Hehe." Ruby giggled. "It's nothing, Penny. Oh, we were talking about something. Do you happen to know anything about it?" She and Jaune explained what they were thinking and wondering what the outcome would be if Jaune tried to amplify a Grimm.
"Oh!" Penny clapped her hands together. "That experiment has been done before!"
"It has?!" Jaune and Ruby gaped at her.
"Yes, while rare, Aura transference isn't unheard of," Penny explained. "A lot of experiments have been done on Grimm. However, nothing has yielded positive results. What has been described is Aura is absorbed into the Grimm and destroyed. They are creatures of destruction, while Aura is the manifestation of the light from souls. It's also recorded that Grimm try to absorb the Aura and destroy it from the transferer."
"Damn," Jaune sighed. "Looks like that idea is a bust."
"I actually kind of wanted to try it." Ruby admitted. "Oh, well. It was interesting to imagine it."
"If you both are interested, we could try it." Penny offered. "My father's meeting is running late so we have time."
"Huh, but I thought you said it wouldn't work?" Jaune pointed out, staring at Penny.
"Aura Transference does not work," Penny explained simply. "You use Aura Amplification. There might be a difference when used on Grimm. They have no recorded records on Amplification, so this would be stepping into unknown territory. I for one would be eager to see the results."
"I mean… if you want to try…" Ruby looked over at Jaune, who shrugged back at her. "I don't mind."
"Sensational!" Penny clapped her hands together. "I can't wait to see the results of our experiment!"
"We'll need to find a Grimm first," Jaune reminded the two girls and gestured out to the tundra. "We killed all the Sabyrs that approached."
"Leave that to me, friends!" Penny beamed at them as she stared out into the Tundra. Her eye pupils dilated and seemed to glow as she scanned the snow. "Found one! Ruby. Please fire 32 degrees down and 24 degrees to your right."
"Er, here?" Ruby aimed her rifle at the snow. She didn't ask how Penny knew, just assuming her robot friend had cool infrared sensors or something.
"Little to the left… more… a little more… FIRE!"
Ruby's finger pulled the trigger on reflex at Penny's order. A loud bang ran out as the bullet vanished into the ground. The girl lowered the gun and waited. A loud hissing sound was heard a moment before the ground broke and a Grimm popped up. It resembled a large centipede with a long, black segmented body. Each segment had a pair of clawed legs and was covered by a protective shell. The head had no eyes but possessed large jaws.
"A Centinel," Penny informed them, as her swords disengaged. "You probably aren't familiar with them. They can burrow through rock and coil up when drilling or attacking. This one isn't very large, so it would be perfect to test Jaune's Semblance."
The Centinel hissed at them, with bright green blood dripping from the wound in one of the segments. Skittering on the snow, it rushed toward the wall where the three kids stood. At the base, the many legs hooked on the wall and began to climb. In response. Penny's swords flew down and neatly bisected the Centinel in half. The green blood sprayed out the backside and melted the snow as the lower half hit the ground.. It looked like acid. The wires connecting the swords to Penny then wrapped around the upper half of the Grimm, pulling it up to the wall, before the red head pinned the beast down.
"It's injured, so if your ability can heal it, we will know," Penny stated, as she held down the squirming Grimm. "But the injuries are severe enough that they will prevent it from becoming a threat."
"You make it look so easy." Ruby complimented, swapping Crescent Rose from its rifle mode to a scythe.
"Thank you, but Centinel's are not tough, they usually just travel in large groups." Penny replied with a smile. "This one was just a scout."
"Guess I should get started?" Jaune suggested, stepping up, but avoiding the mouth and clicking fangs. The Centinel was still fighting against Penny, but the android's superior strength kept it firmly pinned. "No guarantees what will happen."
"That's why we're testing it." Ruby pointed out.
"This is very exciting." Penny stated happily.
Jaune took a deep breath and placed his hand on the armor plate of the Centinel. It was cold to the touch, even through his Aura. That was to be expected as it literally just came out of the frozen ground in the middle of a tundra. Concentrating, Jaune began to call on his Semblance. It was much easier now after practicing and his hand glowed after only a short pause. The white light flowed from his hand into the Grimm.
The Grimm stopped struggling and seemed to go limp.
Jaune didn't notice this though, as he was focusing on what he was feeling. As Aura was traveling into the Grimm from his hand, the warmth was leaving his fingers. Yet he could feel the Aura still connected to him. There was no Aura in the Grimm so nothing to amplify. Instead, it felt like the Aura was falling into a hole, slowly being engulfed by darkness. Like dropping a flashlight into a deep well. The light would eventually get obscured.
His Aura was being destroyed within the Grimm with nothing to show from it.
"Phew." Jaune stepped back and shook his cold hand. "There's nothing there. It was like I was throwing my Aura into a void."
"That confirms what previous experiments detailed." Penny nodded, finishing off the Grimm with her swords. The body shattered into pieces and vanished into smoke. "Was there anything else you noted? Anything we can add to records might lead to some kind of discovery."
"Hmm…" Jaune rubbed his chin as he thought about it. "The Aura didn't vanish immediately. When I used it on Ruby or someone else, I could feel my Aura outside my body until it mixed with theirs. Because Grimm don't have any Aura, I could feel it for a while. It slowly diminished over time, not all at once. I think… if there was something to latch on too, I could amplify it."
"So you think if we found a Grimm with a fragment of a soul or something, you could boost it?" Ruby tilted her head. "That… doesn't seem likely."
"Yeah, I don't think so either," Jaune laughed. "It's just what I felt. But let me know if you find one." He winked at them.
"Jaune, do you have something in your eye?" Penny asked worriedly.
Ruby covered her mouth to hold back her laughter as Jaune explained what winking was to the girl.
"So this is the famous Ruby Rose and Jaune Arc I've heard so much about."
Penny's father, Doctor Pietro Polendina, renowned Atlas scientist, was an elderly man with dark skin and short, balding white hair. He wore a green cap with oval-shaped glasses and a red vest over a cream shirt with a pink bowtie. His dark mustard pants and leather boots matched with his cap and red-brown belt. Pietro couldn't walk, so he used a special chair with four moveable legs, and is white and green in color, with yellow accents.
After Jaune and Ruby had finished their experiments with Jaune's Semblance and the Grimm, Penny led them to her father's workshop in Mantle. They were honestly surprised at how like Penny he was, almost like a big kid. No wonder Penny was so eager to learn, with her dad being one of Atlas' top researchers. After making Penny, there was no doubt he held that title.
"It's good to finally meet you, sir." Jaune replied, shaking his hand. "But I'm not that famous. Ruby is though. She's known all over for her ability to kill Grimm."
"S-stop!" Ruby whined, blushing at Jaune's teasing. "Ignore him. It's nice to meet you." She shook his hand excitedly.
"I see why my daughter talks so highly of you two," Pietro laughed. "Here, let me get you some drinks and we can talk. I've been eager to meet Penny's friends since she first told me about you." He sighed as he poured the refreshments. "Though I wish you could have met under better circumstances."
"We were friends before that fight with Tyrian," Ruby assured him. "Plus, Penny kicked his butt. That giant laser was crazy! She's going to be an amazing Huntress."
"You really think so?" Penny asked, tilting her head.
"Definitely!" Jaune gave her a thumbs up. "As we told Penny, Dr. Polendina, we don't care if she's a robot. To us she's our friend."
"Until the end." Ruby agreed, hugging Penny. This was a mistake as Penny hugged her back and nearly broke her ribs. Jaune knew better thanks to all his lessons with Nora and had at least developed a tolerance to bone crushing hugs.
"I was worried about sending Penny all the way to Vale for the Vytal Festival," Pietro admitted. "Even with Specialist Schnee being appointed to watch over her. I wasn't sure she would be able to adjust so suddenly."
"Winter has been very helpful and patient with me, Father." Penny assured him. "I have learned so much in a limited time. Jaune and Ruby teach me things too. I feel I am ready to interact with others."
"Ironwood did promise you'll be safe… and if you have friends watching you…" Pietro removed his glasses and rubbed them with a rag. "Beacon should be safe and you shouldn't encounter anyone like the Tyrian fellow. He's in a league of his own."
"Do you know him?" Jaune asked.
"No, but when we repaired Penny, I downloaded her memory banks to see the situation first hand," Pietro explained. "Ironwood wanted a copy of the fight. Tha man is a top class warrior and you're all lucky to be alive."
"We know…" Ruby muttered softly thinking back to her mistake.
"But let's not dwell on the negatives!" Pietro clapped his hands. "Today, I finally have some free time to spend with my daughter and her friends. Tell me all about your travels. Penny told me about her time with you two, but there's nothing like talking with people face to face. Especially her first friend and boyfriend."
"W-wait!" Jaune waves his hands out in front of him. "We aren't like that, we're…" He trailed off as Pietro laughed.
"I know, I'm just teasing you."
"I made sure to clarify with him that you are a boy who is my friend, but not the relationship boyfriend as we discussed before," Penny explained, her voice brimming with pride. "You said there could be misunderstandings if not."
"No, you did good Penny." Jaune replied, sipping at his drink.
"I do wish you two would go with Penny back to Vale, but I understand you both are participating in an Apprenticeship with the Huntsman, Qrow Branwen." Pietro started to discuss. "It's not something that happens often when one is accepted into a Huntsman Academy. What brought this on?"
"It was because of me," Jaune answered. A partial truth was the best he could give at this time. "My combat skills… were below par, though I did manage to pass initiation. Ozpin thought it would be good for me to participate to help catch up."
"I joined because I wanted to help Jaune and I was hoping I would learn more about what it means to be a Huntress," Ruby spoke up after him. "I keep getting told I'm too young to understand things and people treat me like a child. I managed to get into Beacon two years early, so my age is the first thing people notice."
"I see…" The man looked to be in thought as his gaze seemed to penetrate Jaune, looking for something. "Well, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Ozpin has an eye for talent and if he accepted you, I don't see any reason to doubt it. I saw your fight with Tyrian through Penny's memories. You're a very skilled fighter, Ruby." Ruby's cheeks tinged. "Jaune, your Semblance… The fact that you could recharge Penny is something fascinating and part of me wishes you would stick around in Atlas a little longer for study."
"Why do you say that?" Jaune asked. It seemed he and Ruby were right about Atlas looking into his Semblance.
"As you know… Penny was created artificially," Pietro explained looking at his daughter. "A scientific breakthrough where we created an artificial Aura that can exist by itself. Penny has her own soul, no one else's. There is a downside to having an artificial soul though. When Penny takes significant damage to her Aura, it stops regenerating. Normally one's Aura will regenerate on its own as long as the person is alive. With Penny, once she takes too much damage, she needs to be repaired by me so she can regenerate."
"Why is that?' Ruby asked. "Is it just because she has an artificial body?"
"We don't know," Pietro admitted, his voice betraying his sadness. "We are trying to understand why. It wouldn't bother me too much, if it didn't risk Penny's health. No matter what anyone says, to me… she's my only daughter. I want her to live a long and happy life." Penny smiled and patted his arm. "During the battle with Tyrian, her Aura has reached dangerously low levels. She wasn't able to recharge herself… until someone else did it for her."
The man's eyes fell on Jaune.
"After you amplified her Aura, she was able to regenerate… naturally." Pietro watched him closely. "The fact you can do that and go to Beacon… Jaune. I have to ask you as not a scientist, but a father too. Can you watch over Penny while she's there? Just in case."
"Of course!" Jaune actually looked confused that Penny's dad would think he wouldn't. "If she ever needs help, I'll be there."
"Same!" Ruby raised her hand quickly. "It's not like she'll get in trouble. Beacon may be really lax but it's not like Grimm or criminals sneak in. Though, we won't be back until after our internship finishes in a little over a month."
"Heh, I think she's in good hands." The man laughed. "Specialist Schnee is trustworthy, if a little strict at times. I know she'll keep an eye on Penny, but I would like her to experience people around her own age. We designed her to be roughly the same age as a Huntress in training to learn alongside them."
"I will make you proud, father." Penny promised. "At the same time, I wish to experience what it is like to be a normal girl."
"Probably shouldn't go to Beacon then, we have no idea what normal is." Jaune mumbled and Ruby snickered next to him, before pushing him playfully.
"All jokes aside, I'll introduce you to my team, though you might meet them before we return," Ruby admitted. "I mentioned you to them last night and they are willing to show you around. But you have to promise me something, Penny."
"Promise you what, Ruby?" Penny tilted her head.
"Do not let Yang teach you jokes. She's not funny and just thinks she is."
Jaune covered his mouth as he kept his composure. Even Pietro looked amused at this.
"Do not worry, Ciel will be with me." Penny assured Ruby.
"Who's Ciel?"Jaune and Ruby asked automatically.
"Ciel Soleil is my teammate who was ordered to spend time with me," Penny answered. "She's very time oriented and makes sure I do not get distracted watching insects. They are so fascinating that I just lose track of time."
"Ordered?" Ruby blinked. "Are you not friends?"
"I would like to be, but so far our conversations have all been work related." Penny's seemed to dim slightly. Behind her, Pietro didn't look happy either as he slumped down in his chair.
"Strangers are just friends you haven't met yet," Jaune encouraged, patting Penny on the shoulder. "So my mom says. Sometimes getting to know people takes time. If she's time oriented, maybe you can use that."
"How so?" Penny bounced on her feet anxiously. It was cute how expressive she was with her emotions.
"Tell her when you make your schedule, you want to set aside some time to talk and learn about each other," Jaune suggested. "Make sure work related discussions are forbidden. If she asks why, say… I don't know… maybe…"
"Team bonding is important for any cohesive team!" Ruby interjected. "I use this on Weiss all the time to get her to join in stuff. Though, I always make sure to try to do stuff she likes, even if I find it boring."
"You do things you find boring?" Penny sounded surprised. "From what I have seen, people try to avoid it."
"Everyone has different tastes and opinions on things," Ruby explained. "You all won't like the same stuff. Like with insects? Some people like studying them, others don't. Jaune and I have a lot of similar interests, but we don't like everything the other does. Doesn't mean we aren't best friends. Sometimes, to show you care about another person, you do something you don't necessarily like because your friend likes it. Maybe try to find out what Ciel likes and try to find time to do that activity with her?"
"Hmm, relationships are complicated," Penny mused. "But I do like the idea of having more friends. I shall take your suggestions to heart and see if I can get closer to Ciel while we are in Vale."
"There you go," Jaune encouraged. "You'll be popular in no time with more friends than you can count."
"My internal computer allows me to count to-..."
"It's a figure of speech," Ruby interjected. "It means a lot."
"Ah, I see. How sensational!"
"Hehe, I see why you three get along so well." Pietro laughed. "I'm glad you all met and I hope you continue being friends, no matter where on Remnant you are."
"You two need to quit holding hands and actually fight properly!"
Jaune and Ruby were forced apart by Qrow's blade, as the three of them were sparring in the training room. Because they were planning to only spend a few days here at most, they weren't going on a lot of missions. Just a few short ones to help out in Mantle. It wasn't the full immersion they were used to doing while traveling in Vale's outskirts. There was a lot more downtime. So the only way to keep their training going was Semblance practice and sparring.
A lot of sparring.
"When facing a more powerful opponent, make sure you split apart and flank them," Qrow directed, as Ruby zipped around behind him. "I know you two want to strike at me together, but it makes it easier for me." Jaune and Ruby kept attacking him from the front to cover each other, but that wasn't optimal.
"You sure talk highly of yourself!" Jaune called out, as he swung his sword downwards, only to be parried. "Big head, much?"
"Trash talk doesn't work on professionals, brat." Qrow kicked him in the stomach, sending him sprawling backwards as he used the momentum to turn and block Ruby's scythe. "We've been over this."
Ruby flickered away in a flurry of rose petals as she put some distance between them. In a direct assault, Qrow would easily overpower them. Their bruises were proof of that. Both students knew Qrow was holding back, but not enough that they wouldn't get a little hurt, even if they were at their best. Right now, they were practicing fighting together. Out in the wilds, there will be plenty of Grimm one Huntsman alone wouldn't be able to handle easily. That's why Academies had people learn as a team. If Qrow only taught them how to fight one on one, these two wouldn't be able to work with their teams back at Beacon.
Teaching them basic strategies, like dividing a superior opponent's attention was one of the simplest methods. It was pretty straightforward. Attack from both directions, which made defending hard. If their opponent focused on one of them, the other would be free to strike from behind. It wouldn't work on someone as powerful as Qrow at their level, but they had to start somewhere.
Jaune's sword collided against Qrow's own, sending sparks up, as the man side stepped to the right to keep Ruby within line of sight. The girl was still a little rash in how quickly she liked to attack. What Qrow had been trying to teach her lately was recognizing when an opening appeared and strike. Rather than just trying to use her speed to make her own. Jaune was just starting to learn this too and Qrow was actually working hard on purposely leaving openings.
Ruby got smacked in the side by the flat of Qrow's blade as he spun around, using the momentum from Jaune's strike to help him.
Hey, he had to set up some fake openings so the kids would recognize it.
At the end of the spar, Jaune and Ruby were panting and laying on the cold ground like usual.
"Okay, Jaune, go ahead and recharge yourself like Winter taught you." Qrow told them. "If you have a fucking cheat Semblance, we might as well abuse it." Ruby's face made a slightly sour expression at Qrow's swearing, but she had come a long way since they started. She could actually listen to the curses now. Without her saying anything about it, Qrow didn't even realize he was swearing.
"You know, I can only recharge myself a little faster than normal." Jaune reminded him, as he sat cross legged and concentrated. White aura flicked over his body as he tried to use his Semblance on himself. "It's more effective on others. I guess I have to use some of my Aura to start the process, then I get a little more in return."
"Yeah, yeah." Qrow waved his hand dismissively and rolled his eyes. "You pay one Lien and get 2 Lien back from your investment. The point is, it saves time. Even if you recharge only 5-10 minutes faster between training rounds. That time stacks up after weeks and months."
"Hehe, I told him that already!" Ruby puffed out her chest proudly.
"Aura and Semblances are like muscles too, brats." The man continued. "The more you use it, the stronger it gets. If you lift weights, you don't start at the heaviest one. You work up to it. So every chance you get, you're going to be recharging yourself and Ruby. It's going to speed up your training."
"Not you?" Jaune asked.
"Unless I'm severely injured or I tell you to boost me, do not do so." Qrow answered. "I'm not so weak as to need some brat to keep me going in the wilds."
There was another reason Qrow didn't want Jaune to boost him if he could help it. It was due to his Semblance. Semblances were tied to Aura. With many people, using their Semblances actually drains their Aura slightly. Ruby showed that if her Aura was amplified, that also boosted her Semblance. Ruby's speed exponentially increased afterwards. If Qrow's own Semblance worked like that…
None of them would be safe.
"Though… I'm going to be monitoring you two closely. If I see ANY signs of it becoming addictive, or negative effects, we're stopping."
"Addictive?" Ruby scrunched her nose in confusion.
"Yeah, there's always a chance people can get addicted to stuff like this." Qrow rubbed his brow. "The last thing we want is to find our prolonged exposure actually weakens your Aura or something unless he boosts you." He held up his Scroll. "So I'll be monitoring your levels and regeneration rate, both normal and amplified. Atlas said there weren't any side effects, but they still had some idea what to watch out for."
"Do you… do you think it could do that?" Jaune asked, his voice full with worry as he glanced at Ruby.
"Who knows?" A shrug was all the response the boy got. "That's why we're watching it. If you truly can continually boost people… well, expect to be kidnapped and forced to work for shady organizations… or Atlas. They are kind of similar now that I think about it…" He grinned as Ruby and Jaune glared at him.
"Now, now, Qrow." Came the familiar strict voice of General Ironwood. The man had just entered the training room and walked up to them. "You make it sound like protecting people means you're a tyrant."
"Eh, I don't know, Jimmy." Qrow was still grinning as he turned around. "I feel the only difference is that one is in charge."
"Cute." Ironwood told him. "You were always a wild one. Ozpin has shared several stories about you. Including one with you and a teammate destroying his favorite mug."
"Hah!" Qrow pointed at him triumphantly. "I knew Ozpin held a grudge." Composing himself, he shook his head. "So what you need, Jimmy."
"You're planning to head out shortly, aren't you?"
"We are?" Ruby spun around to look at her uncle. "You didn't tell us that!"
"Eh, you didn't need to know right now," Qrow yawned. "But it's the reason I'm training you hard right now. You can rest in the Bullhead." His eyes fixed on Ironwood. "Sounds like you have a mission for us. I suppose I can listen to it as thanks for letting us use your facilities."
"Not for being old friends?" Ironwood joked with a small smile.
"Nah, I'm still waiting for that 50 Lien I won in our last card game."
Jaune and Ruby shared a look. It was hard to tell if Qrow was joking sometimes. Yet, he was able to talk the exact same way to the top military General in the Kingdom of Atlas like he did to everyone else. The level someone had to be to do that really imprinted on them how powerful Qrow was as a Huntsman.
"Jokes, aside, what do you need?" Qrow continued. "Grimm infestation near Mantle? Scouting the mountains?"
"Actually, this task involves our lumber yards." Ironwood answered. "There's been quite a few Grimm sightings and our security is being stretched thin."
"Wait… lumber yards?" Jaune blinked. "Aren't we surrounded by tundra? Where are these lumber yards at?"
"Mistral." Qrow and Ironwood answered in unison.
"Mistral?!" The kids repeated in high pitched tones.
"We have trade agreements with Mistral to provide security robots, technology, and other manufactured goods, in exchange, they provide us with lumber from the abundant forests." Ironwood explained. "As you said, we don't have the luxury of lumber in our environment. We even have a joint base with Mistral at a city called Argus, an important trading post for both Kingdoms."
Jaune's eyes widened as he recognized the city's name.
"So you want us to swing by there, find out where Grimm activities are highest, and clear them out?" Qrow guessed.
"That's the jist of it," Ironwood nodded in confirmation. "You mentioned as part of the apprenticeship, you would be traveling with Mr. Arc and Miss Rose, facing Grimm. I just wanted to offer you another location to continue your task."
Qrow was not an idiot. The way Ironwood phrased it might fool Jaune and Ruby, but not him. Ironwood wanted payment for the help he gave them. Even though they had brought Penny back in one piece, Winter and Penny wouldn't have even been there in the first place. Since Tyrian got away, they didn't have any information on them. The only information they provided was business connections to slave traders. It would still take a lot of work on their part to follow through.
No, Qrow knew that Atlas allowing them to use their state of the art facilities and do some studying of Jaune's Semblance wasn't done out of the goodness of their heart. Ironwood didn't operate that way. His goal was to either get Jaune and his Semblance, or have them repay in other ways. The joke about having Jaune and Ruby join Atlas wasn't really a joke. Since the kids were adamant about going back to Beacon, the general wouldn't push the topic for now. So he would use them as cheap labor, using the excuse of training instead of moving his troops.
"With Tyrian traveling in Vale, injured and possibly looking for revenge, it seems like changing locations would be the safest option," Ironwood explained. "This way, they can still get the full experience and help the kingdoms as Huntsmen."
"I wouldn't mind, Uncle Qrow." Ruby admitted. "But it's your call."
"Do you have any leads on the type of Grimm?" Qrow asked, buying time as he thought about if they should accept or not. In reality, this situation was what the apprenticeship was supposed to do. Travel and fight Grimm, protecting settlements, and limiting downtime. "If it's a bunch of Lancers, we probably won't be the best equipped for the situation."
"They are ground based Grimm from what I understand from the reports, but with how many different species of Grimm live in Mistral…"
"Yeah, we shouldn't expect it to be only one type." Qrow rubbed his chin. "Well, I guess it would be good to change the pace and force the brats to adapt to the new Grimm." His expression darkened. "Understand, if this turns out to be a suicide mission, we're bailing, regardless of the importance. We aren't your soldiers to discard like pawns."
Jaune and Ruby suddenly shivered at his words. Qrow was being unusually serious. The same tone he told them about following his orders. If he told them to run and leave him to die, they were supposed to. Yet with the very first situation like that, Ruby had ignored his orders and almost died. There would be no second chances. When Qrow was this serious, he wasn't playing around.
"No, that's fine." Ironwood held up an open hand. "If the Grimm infestation is big enough for you to clear out, do so. If it's not, we'll have the evidence we need to move out a portion of the fleet to handle it."
"Umm, sir?" Ruby couldn't help asking. "Why not just move out the fleet first and wipe them out?"
"Multiple factors, but the main ones are expenses and time." Ironwood explained. "Moving a fleet requires a large number of personnel. Troops, pilots, engineers, along with the amount of Dust to travel from place to place. Dust is already in limited supplies. Let's say we muster up multiple battleships to clear an area, and then discover there's only a dozen or so small Grimm there? All that resources could be used to protect other locations under heavy fire."
"If you want an army of Grimm killed, just send the military with high powered Dust Canons," Qrow simplified. "If you want scouting and fast reactions? Send Huntsman. That's the difference. We can handle groups of Grimm and keep moving from place to place with limited supplies. The military can't. They tend to do better stationed at cities and outposts. Better get used to being bait. It's in the job description, brats."
"Does this mean you're accepting this mission?" Ironwood asked him.
"I think we should, but how serious is it though?"
"The attacks have increased, but it's manageable for defensive purposes, but now we're getting a lot of delays in shipments." Ironwood sighed and rubbed his brow. "It's causing shortages here that I would like to avoid. When the populace is upset, it only attracts more Grimm."
Qrow noticed Ruby staring at him with sparkling eyes. She wanted to go and the man knew it. There was no way he could deny it.
"Can you get us transportation to Mistral?" Qrow finally relented.
"When do you want to leave?" Ironwood asked back.
"Let me beat up the kids a little longer, then they can recuperate on the flight there. Say, an hour or two?"
"I will ensure a Bullhead is ready for you then." Ironwood turned and left the training room.
"You heard him kids!" Qrow announced. "You guys just got your first official assignment from high command. We're going to Mistral and clearing out Grimm. So I'll let you rest for another 15 minutes or so, and we'll do some more last minute sparing. We need to drill some basics into you two."
"Hey, Qrow… how long do you think we'll be in Argus?" Jaune asked, sounding a little cautious.
"I don't know, depends how long it takes for them to give us maps and information on Grimm sightings." Qrow shrugged as he didn't know for sure. "Why?"
"I just… know someone there and if we could spare like an hour for me to see her, I would appreciate it." Jaune scratched his cheek. "If we can't, I understand."
Qrow and Ruby looked at him curiously.
"What?" Qrow couldn't resist some light teasing. "You got a girlfriend there or something?"
"If I say yes, would that increase the odds of you allowing me to see her or not?" Jaune retorted.
"Hmm," Qrow examined him closely, but Jaune wasn't giving anything away. "Okay, if you have the energy to smart off to me, you have the energy to fight. Your break is over."
Jaune groaned as he stood up, but Ruby was quiet. At her uncle's words, Ruby felt a small queasiness in her stomach.
She hoped she wasn't coming down with something or ate something bad.
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.
We will probably see what Pyrrha's up to in the next chapter.