Okay! New story is new story. This one is going to be a doozy. Also kinda exciting and new for me. It is going to feel like a crossover with Fate Stay Night, but I want to ensure you it is ONLY taking the idea of a battle royale for a prize.
There are no other fate mechanics, and you don't need to know anything at all about Fate Stay Night. In fact, don't try and apply it. There are no NP's, stats or classes to be had. No contracts, reagents or command seals.
You also don't strictly need to have read every other story of mine to read this. It may help here or there, but I'll be displaying each character's skills, abilities and personalities through the story. They may even have to explain it to their allies, so you won't be left confused.
First chapter is a bit heavy on exposition. Kind of has to be.
Cover Art: Curbizzle
Gods could not truly be understood by mortal terms.
Many had tried, and many ascribed human emotions and reasoning to divine actions. The practice was itself inherently flawed, but as an approximation it worked to invoke some facsimile of understanding. In the same way one might ascribe emotions to a dog or a cat, and be at least tangentially correct, one could approximate the motives of such entities. It was not an exact science, but then science was also a creation of mortal minds.
The first difficulty in understanding the divine comes from the stark differences in birth. Humans are born, loved and taught by their parental figures. They learn, adapt and grow in a remarkable time.
Gods are not born. Birth is a human concept. Gods are not created either, they simply are. Perhaps there are many, or have been many and will be many, but one day – days were a human concept but the terminology was apt enough – two Gods, twin Gods, came into existence.
Like humans, Gods are not born wise. They are not born complete. Unlike humans, Gods do not have parents to teach them. They have infinite capacity for learning, and an infinite lifespan, but at the beginning of their existence they are formless and empty. So begins the period of learning.
And, in a rare similarity to humans and animals, the primary method of learning is to play. Humans play with toys, animals play with their environment, and Gods play with concept. This play, aside from a learning experience, allows entities to form themselves.
One of the twins played by creating and found joy in it.
The other played by destroying and found joy in it.
The God of Creation created and the God of Destruction destroyed, and the cycle continued for a period of time not measured by humans or Gods. But all play, if repeated enough, becomes tiresome, and the Gods – still no more than infants in human terms – came up with a new game. They would work together. They would play together.
Thus, Remnant was born.
All Gods eventually create life. It is an immutable fact, be it to seek others to play with or to rule over them. Some Gods rule with an iron fist, others with benevolence and some with forgiveness, understanding and love. Those Gods have existed long enough to develop such personality traits, to develop the wisdom, love and patience required.
The Brother Gods, as they came to be known, had not. Could not. Remnant was their first, and like all children, mistakes are necessary to development. The God of Creation and Destruction, known by Remnant's people as the Gods of Light and Dark, involved themselves in every aspect of their world's development, living among their people, answering requests from their people, trusting their people.
And, ultimately, being betrayed by their people. Or by one person.
Older Gods might have understood. Wiser Gods might have avoided the problem. Forgiving Gods might have accepted and loved regardless. The Brother Gods were, by human terms, children, and they had neither the capacity for forgiveness nor for compassion. They reacted as children might, with shock, anger and pettiness.
And, like children, they left. Like children, they stewed in these new emotions, confused and entrapped by things they had never experienced before but knew they did not like. Like children, they sought to get rid of the source of said feelings rather than try to overcome them, and thus brought a dead soul back and tasked it to `fix the problem`.
Like children, they could not understand why that did not instantly fix it, but they were prepared to wait. They were infinite. Immortal. Where other, wiser, Gods might have shrugged their metaphysical shoulders and gone to make other worlds, the Brother Gods stayed and watched, waited, for their people – their humans – to realise how helpless they were without the Brother Gods to lead them, for their humans to come crawling back and beg for forgiveness.
They did not.
The humans lived on, struggled, thrived, even when the God of Dark's creatures threatened to eradicate all life, they refused to yield. Not even when the God of Light granted them four artifacts of incredible power, did they come running back and beg for the return of their creators. Time passed. Humans then created measurements of it, and the vague concept of `time` became numbers. Hundreds of years, then thousands. Gods were infinite, immortal, but just because they could wait forever did not mean they would.
And, as has been established, the Brother Gods were still little more than infants. Boredom crept in. Patience thinned. Their chosen ones were not fulfilling the task they had been given. Communication between Gods was not something done with words and language, but if it had then it might have been as such.
Ruby Rose heard her name being whispered but responded only by rolling over and showing her back to whomever was doing it. Last she checked, it had been Friday night, which meant today was Saturday. Sleeping in day. Her small hands gripped the covers and yanked them over her head, as if by hiding away she could escape the person trying to wake her up.
"Ruby, I must insist." The voice persisted, and a hand touched her shoulder, shaking her. "There is something unusual afoot."
Try as she might, and how she tried, it was impossible to fall back asleep when someone was talking to and shaking you. A small moan slipped past her lips as the sweet embrace of slumber slipped away along with the night's dreams, vanishing into nothingness before she could remember them.
"Dad, why…?" she mumbled. "Saturday…"
"I'm not your father, Ruby." the voice said with a warm chuckle. It – a he, she realised dimly – sounded familiar. Very familiar.
"Jaune…?" she mumbled, still wrapped up. "S'that you?"
"It is. A good morning to you."
Ugh. When had Jaune talked so fancy? Or sounded so deep of voice? And what was he doing in their room? Weiss was going to flip. Unless her team were already awake and she was the last one, and they'd sent Jaune in to wake her up. Blearily, she reached for her scroll, wincing as the harsh electronic light burned her retinas. It was seven-thirty. About the time she'd have woken up for lessons on a weekday, and thus far too flipping early to experience on a weekend.
"It's too early!" she whined. "Go back to bed."
"I would if I could, Ruby, but there's something amiss as I said. We don't appear to be in the Royal Palace."
"Nor is this the Lodge," Jaune said. "Nor is this the bed you and I went to sleep in."
What now? That sounded just a little too worrying to ignore. Had she been kidnapped in the night? Was this their dorm at all, or had she and Jaune been abducted and were waking up in some basement somewhere? Ruby shot up, threw her sheets off and looked around in a panic.
Her usual curtains, her bed suspended by sheets, hopes and dreams, Yang and Blake slumbering opposite and the morning light just beginning to stream through the window. Ruby's panic rushed out of her, and she flopped back, groaning in grief and anger. He'd pranked her. "Funny, Jaune. Real funny."
"I fail to see the joke."
Had Nora set him up for this? Or was it some weird excuse to come see Weiss? Either way, she knew she had to get him out of the room before her partner woke up, if not for his sake, then for her ears. Ruby rolled over and onto her knees, looked down the makeshift ladder he was perched on and…
Dark blue eyes met hers. His cheeks creased as a smile several shades too handsome stretched over his features. "Yes?"
Jaune was her friend, her dorky friend, and she wasn't super interested in boys, but he looked… different. Part of it was in his face – more angular, firmer, with a straighter jaw and less fat than she was used to – but it was his clothing that far more heavily drew her attention. Jaune normally wore a single plate over a hoodie and a pair of jeans; functional but not exactly expensive or impressive.
Now, he wore near to a full suit of plate armour, glossed to a shine with golden edging along the gauntlets and greaves. The neck dipped down to show a jerkin beneath, along with a golden amulet on a chain, and pinned above each breast by a golden circle, broached in the centre, twin strips of blue cloth swept back into an honest to goodness cape.
Not a cloak like hers, but a cape, flowing behind him like someone straight out of her childhood fantasies. Jaune looked like a knight in shining armour, come to rescue his princess. Blood crept up Ruby's neck, and she pulled her sheets up over her chest, suddenly feeling more than a little underdressed in her pyjamas.
"J-Jaune," she squeaked. "W-What's with the get up?"
"My armour?" he asked. "It is what it is. When I awoke and did not recognise our surroundings, I decided to take precautions." His eyes narrowed in concern. "Are you well, Ruby? You look… different…"
She looked different? Jaune was the one who had changed in a night! He looked older, stronger, better, and Ruby didn't know what she was supposed to think about it. She had to take her eyes from his because he kept making her feel weird, and it was as she did that, she noticed something else. Something… weird. Above Jaune's head, suspended in the air, words had formed on… well, nothing. They floated over Jaune's head.
Dumbly, Ruby pointed. "Blurgh?"
"Hm. What is it?" Jaune looked up but didn't appear surprised by the words. "My Class? Ah, you know I don't like to lie about that anymore. I think I've proven myself by now. Don't you? Although, where is-"
It was an ear-piercing shriek of rage, the kind she was famous for. Ruby flinched, realising she must have noticed Jaune on her ladder – or, given his armour, she might have thought it Cardin, sneaking up on her sister.
"Yang, no!" Ruby cried. "I can explain!"
"Freaking vomit-boy!" Yang swore angrily and kicked. A body, a gangly body, came flying out of Yang's bed and crashed to the floor. Blake and Weiss were already scrambling up, panicked by Yang's outburst. "You freaking pervert!" Yang roared, up on her feet, hair burning gold. "I can't believe you'd sneak into my bed! You're a dead man!"
Jaune – another? – sat back on the floor, his hands helped up to defend himself. He was dressed in denim trousers and a white t-shirt with a strange tick mark on it. He looked much more like the Jaune she was used to, but even his hair was a little different. Shorter.
"Y-Yang?" he blurted out. "B-But you died!"
"You'll wish you died!" she screamed, lunging.
Ruby's bed flexed. The armoured version of her friend moved with incredible speed, landing and catching Yang's powerful punch in one gauntleted hand. The impact of it was like a cannonball striking a metal wall, and yet despite the force, despite all Yang's Semblance-enhanced strength, he didn't budge. He didn't even react. Instead, he smiled, as if he hadn't registered any pain at all.
"Hold yourself, Yang. I believe there is something unusual afoot."
Finally, all eyes were on the knight in the room. Or the blacksmith. Weiss and Blake had frozen, as had Yang, and they were all looking between the two versions of Jaune, much like she was. Both were Jaune – that much was obvious – but one looked older than the other. A brother? But then why did the other Jaune look different, and how had he gotten into their room when the door was locked by their scrolls?
"W-What the heck is going on?" Blake mumbled.
"Two Jaune Arc," Weiss despaired. "This must be a nightmare."
"Weiss? Blake?" The younger Jaune Arc, still sat on his butt, looked over at Ruby's teammates. "But we're in the waking world? How do I have a body again? This doesn't make any sense."
"Hold it!" Yang pulled her fist away and silenced everyone. "This… This is way too weird. You." She pointed at the guy who had been in her bed. "What's your name?"
"Me? Yang, you recognise-"
"Jaune. Jaune Arc."
"And you," she said, pointing to the knight in shining armour. "Your name is?"
"Of course it is." Yang pinched the bridge of her nose. "I don't suppose you're brothers or anything?"
"I have sisters but no brothers. Seven sisters."
"Hey. Me too!"
A sudden loud banging came at their door. Ruby was still more than a little confused as it was, but maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to just let this weird dream play out. Hopping down, she moved over and unlocked the door, seconds before Nora could smash it down.
"Ruby!" she gasped. "You won't believe what has happen-" She saw past them and squealed. "It's happening to you as well!"
The knight glanced over and smiled. "Good morning, Nora."
"N-Nora!" the Jaune on the floor yelped.
"What do you mean it's happening to us as well?" Weiss snapped. "You can't possibly mean-" Before Weiss could ask, a loud electronic noise played across Beacon, no doubt shaking many unhappy people out of bed. The beeping stopped as the PA system was activated.
"Will Team JNPR please report to the headmaster's office. I repeat, all members of Team JNPR to the headmaster's office. Please also bring Jaune Arc to the office. If anyone should see Jaune Arc, please escort him to the headmaster's office and come in person yourself. Thank you."
Well… that wasn't ominous…
Ruby wasn't sure how they managed to smuggle four Jaune's – five if you counted her friend, who looked just as confused as she – through Beacon without being noticed. Probably because it was early morning Saturday. Miss Goodwitch met them at the bottom of the elevator with wide eyes that roamed over the new figures, then waved them quickly inside.
The elevator was cramped, not really designed for twelve people, but the Jaune in full armour placed his hands upon her shoulders and, with a smile that made her heart flutter, shielded her from the press of bodies. Another Jaune in a white coat tutted sarcastically, stuffed his hands in his pockets and glared at the ceiling. The last glared at all of them, his face partially concealed under a thick, dark-green raincoat hood. Neither of the Jaune's from JNPR's dorm looked happy to be there.
As the doors opened, Ruby stepped out into Ozpin's office and balked at the sight of two more Jaune Arcs waiting before the desk. One was surrounded by Team CFVY. He looked embarrassed to be there, but friendly, dressed in black pants, a white shirt and with a green apron you might have seen a waiter wear that reached down to his black shoes. On the front of the apron was a golden stylised image of a coffee cup with steam rising from it.
The other… Ruby gulped. The other looked like he was dead. There weren't any wounds or blood, but his body lay crumpled on the floor with Professor Port beside it, and the man lacked his usual jovial cheer.
"Team RWBY. Team JNPR." Ozpin welcomed them with a remarkable lack of surprise. "And Jaune Arc. All Jaune Arcs. Welcome each of you to Beacon. I see we've all found ourselves in a rather unusual situation this morning."
"If by unusual you mean this creep in our room, then yeah!" Coco growled.
"I said sorry, Coco." the Jaune in the apron said. "I've no idea how I got there."
"How do you even know our names!? Are you stalking Velvet?"
"Please calm down." Ozpin tapped his mug on the desk before Yang could shout that she'd woken up to the same. "I think we can all agree this is most unusual. Correct me if I'm wrong, but did your two teams also wake up to suddenly find… additional versions of Jaune Arc in your room?"
"Yes." Pyrrha said. "Two for us and two for Team RWBY by the look of things."
"Um. Sir." Blake pointed to the body. "Is that…?"
"A deceased version of Mr Arc, yes." He said it bluntly and everyone stepped back. "Worry not, he was dead when we found him. Or perhaps that is cause for worry. He was found in Beacon's basement."
"Beacon has a basement…?"
Ozpin hesitated before nodding. "It does. I discovered him there this morning when several alarms went off, and he was dead upon arrival. No indication of how, but cameras did catch his arrival."
Ozpin pressed a button, and a holographic display came to life above his table. It was a dark chamber of some kind, and there was something blurred out to one side, a machine of some sort. Ruby's attention was soon taken from that however when, with a flash of light, a dead body appeared out of nowhere, fell two feet and crumpled onto the floor.
"So," one of the Jaune's, one of the two that had come with Pyrrha, who wore a white jacket and an angry scowl, spoke up. "We probably all appeared like that. Just when I thought I understood everything about my fucked-up life, something like this happens. Maybe I should take the easy way out and just reset."
"You know something?" Ozpin asked.
"I know this is new," the Jaune said, "and that alone is impressive given how many times I've done this old song and dance. Heh." He smirked. It was not a nice or friendly look. "On second thought, maybe that's reason enough to stick around. I've not been through this before."
"Could this be some kind of portal-based spell?" the knight asked.
Ozpin tensed. "Don't you mean a Semblance?"
"You… Magic does not exist. To suggest such-"
"Does not exist? Headmaster, magic is a known quantity. It persists in all things. Portal magic is common enough, but to transport me without my consent would be no simple task. The only person I can think of with the power would be Salem."
Ruby blinked. "Who?"
"Never heard of her." Yang said. "Any of you lot?"
Everyone shook their heads, even the new Jaune Arcs did so, except for the one in the green apron who shifted nervously. That was nothing compared to Ozpin however, whose face was as pale as ash. He stood, knocked over his mug and spilled coffee everywhere. "You know of her!?"
"Salem?" Jaune the knight looked back grimly. "Of course. I had a hand in slaying her."
Ozpin collapsed back into his seat like a puppet with his strings cut. He looked frazzled, lost, and it was the most out of sorts she'd ever seen him. Ruby was about to speak up when the windows to Ozpin's office suddenly burst open and a gust of wind swept inside. It roared about Ozpin's desk, forcing each of them back, and when it had dissipated a strange object sat on his desk. A golden lamp of some odd design, with glowing blue dust inside.
Ozpin choked even harder. "T-The Relic!?"
"Yes." The voice was feminine, deep, and Ruby wasn't the only one to yelp as a tall, blue figure appeared from the lamp. She was naked – or looked it, even if there was no definition to her body. "It is I, Ozma. Or perhaps it is not. The Spirit of Knowledge is no more. Now, I am the Spirit of Judgment."
It was getting old, being this confused. Yang must have thought so as well because she stepped up. "Alright. I've had it up to here with not knowing what the hell is going on. You!" she stabbed a finger at the new woman. "You're going to explain."
"Miss Xiao-Long, no!" Ozpin shouted. "Do not ask her any questions-"
"You no longer have any questions this century, or any other. My role has changed. I am Jinn," the woman introduced herself. "Once, I was the Spirit of Knowledge, left behind by the God of Light to aid Ozma in his quest against Salem."
"Jinn!" Ozpin barked. "Please, not here. They do not need-"
"The world has changed, Ozma!" Jinn spoke over him. "The Brother Gods are done being patient. They have decided to act."
Ozpin's face paled. "T-They what…?"
"They have waited, waited and waited long enough. You have not failed, but you have also not succeeded. Neither of you have. The Gods have grown impatient."
"Gods?" Weiss balked. "What is this tripe?"
"Miss Schnee! Do not disrespect. I… I will explain after…" Ozpin looked just nervous enough that Weiss knew it was better to stay quiet. Ruby looked around for anyone, anyone at all, who understood what was going on, but everyone looked just as lost as she. "Jinn," Ozpin pleaded, "Please, what do you mean they have grown impatient? Is this their doing?"
"It is. The Brother Gods decided to test Remnant by granting you the chance to defeat Salem. This has not happened. In their mercy and wisdom-" There was a strange, almost sarcastic, look on her face as she said that. "-they have decided to grant Remnant another opportunity. This time, with a new challenge. The future of Remnant will be decided now. This year, and not another century or millennia later."
"No…" Ozpin shook his head. "No, no, no."
"I'm afraid so. I have no say here, Ozma. I, like you, am but a tool to their whims. My nature is shaped as easily as clay, and it has been changed. I am no longer bound by three questions. I am to adjudicate. Ask your questions."
"Are you saying Gods are real?" Pyrrha blurted out.
"Yes. Two Gods. Light and Dark. Creation and Destruction."
"The old legends…"
"Why the heck did we wake up to a bunch of Jaune Arc in our rooms?" Yang asked.
"They were summoned. The Brother Gods have elected to hold a competition in the form of contests held back when they ruled over Remnant. A tournament of sorts. Champion against champion, warrior against warrior, representing human spirit and valour. The victor of which will determine whether Ozma or Salem emerges victorious."
"So, we're going to be fighting?" Blake asked.
"You may if you wish. The Brother Gods argued long and hard over who should represent either side. It was considered to let the battle rage as it is, but the sides are… uneven. Ozma has four academies to his name. Salem has but four agents." Jinn smiled weakly. "No more. As have you, so has she laid claim to several `iterations` of the soul that is Jaune Arc."
"M-My soul…?" Jaune warbled. "W-Why me? Why was I chosen…?"
"Balance. Some may fight harder, weaker, some may stand, and others may buckle, but after much discussion the Brother Gods decided that to ensure the contest is fair, there cannot be deviation in the combatants. As such, the contest would be held between the same individual."
Jinn brought up a hand and pointed to each of the Jaune's. The new ones. "Different realities, different circumstances, but, at its core, the same person. You have all been shaped differently, but you all began the same. Tabula rasa. It would not be fair to pit Pyrrha Nikos against Jaune Arc. But it would be the fairest thing imaginable to pit Pyrrha Nikos against herself. That your soul was chosen is because you are the weakest." Jaune flinched. "Your companions could interfere versus their iterations, could fight them on equal grounds, but you cannot. You will not tip the balance either way."
"Is this a fucking joke?" It was the Jaune standing off from Team JNPR that spoke. The angry one. He was angrier now, glaring at Jinn with so much hate in his eyes. "Gods. I guess that fucking explains it, doesn't it? I always wondered who was fucking with my life, and it was them. And now you want us to fight and die in some blood sport for your entertainment?" He laughed. "Fuck you. Fuck you and the Gods!"
"You will have no choice, he who is cursed by fate. The last iteration left alive will determine victory. Should that be on Ozma's side, he may deign the Gods course of action. Should that be on Salem's side, she will have the right. The fate of Remnant will be decided whether or not you choose to compete."
"Then let Ozpin and this Salem bitch fight it out." he said. "What reason do I have to get involved? What reason do any of us?"
"Other than to secure the future of this world?"
He snorted. "It's not my world. Not my people."
"It is our duty to protect the people of Remnant." Ruby's knight said with a hint of disappointment. "You cannot seriously suggest standing aside and allowing Salem to reign victorious. I will not allow it."
"I have enough problems in my own life. As far as I see it, this is their war. Not mine."
"Then perhaps you will be interested in hearing of the motivation." Jinn said. "The Brother Gods knew that not all would be pleased to compete, but any good contest deserves a prize."
"As if it'd be worth it-"
"The Brother Gods will change anything about your reality when you are sent back to it." Silence. Absolute silence. "Any wish, any desire, any goal – they will ensure you achieve it. You could ask of them anything, and they would grant it." Her eyes shone. "Even an end to your cycle. They could grant you the victory you have sought for over two thousand years."
Two thousand-? Ruby looked over to the version of Jaune in confusion, but he wasn't moving. His eyes were wide, pupils dilated, and he was panting heavily. His entire body trembled. It appeared he'd forgotten anyone else was in the room. His lips moves, but she was too far away to hear anything he said.
"I have seen what comes of asking a `god` for a wish." her knight spat. "Only fools would trust in them."
"Trust or do not as you wish," Jinn said. "It matters little. The contest has begun, the pieces have been brought forth and the scales have been balanced. If you will not fight, know that Salem shall."
"Who the hell is this Salem person?" Yang growled. "None of this is making any damn sense!"
"Miss Xiao-Long," Ozpin interrupted. "I will explain this to you after. You should not have to know, but it appears matters have been taken out of my hand." He stared at Jinn, who only shrugged back. "If I understand you correctly, Jinn, you are proposing some kind of battle. The last… iteration of my student who remains will be declared the victor. Is this correct?"
"And may anyone fight them? Or is combat to be limited to them?"
"Any may fight. If they wish to. It may be that some are brought into combat as well. To avoid the temptation for any of the iterations to simply hide away, each of them is tethered to an individual."
Jinn pointed. First to the irritable Jaune and then to Pyrrha, then to the silent one in the green hood and to Ren. Yang and the one who had been in her bed, and then the knightly version of Jaune and to her. Ruby squeaked, pointing at herself dumbly. "M-Me…?"
"What does this tether mean?" Ozpin asked. "Do they have control over the iteration?"
"Seeking to bind us to your will already?" Pyrrha's Jaune asked. "At least buy us dinner first."
"There is no control. However, the iteration can only exist outside its reality so long as it is anchored. Tethered. Should the tether perish, the iteration will fade as well. This will count as a defeat."
Oh. Oh, that was bad. Ruby gulped. It was one thing to know you'd somehow summoned a super cool knight in shining armour, another to realise you were involved in some battle to the death and were now a target to get rid of said knight. Her fear must have shown because a heavy, plated hand came to rest on her shoulder.
"Fear not, Ruby," her Jaune said. "So long as I draw breath, no harm shall befall you. Any of you. This I swear, as King of Vale." He hardly noticed the several startled yells. "So, Jinn, spirit or creation of the Gods, whatever you be. Inform Salem that I have slain her once, and that I shall slay her again. Never shall she be allowed to rule over this land. Remnant is not, and has never been, hers. Nor shall it be as long as I stand!"
Jinn tilted her head to the side. "The message shall be delivered."
"Oh great. Just fucking wonderful." Pyrrha's Jaune growled angrily. "His freaking highness over here has as good as declared war on our behalf. When exactly did I say I'd fight with you?"
Jaune – her Jaune – frowned. "You did not, but I assumed-"
"That's your mistake then. Don't assume. This-" He waved his arm at them. "This isn't my war."
"These are our friends. Our teammates."
"No. They're his teammates." He pointed at the real Jaune. The normal one who looked all too lost and confused. "All of this, this world and these people, are his. Not ours. Mine are back in my reality, and I'll be damned if after all the shit I've been through, I die for a bunch of strangers."
"We are allies-"
"Are we?" He laughed bitterly. "Because I didn't hear the blue lady say we'd all get a wish. It's the last Jaune standing and that means we're expected to kill each other as well."
The news brought everyone to a standstill. The various iterations of Jaune looked to one another cautiously, and the one beside Yang took a step away from Ruby's version. No one made an aggressive move, but there was a sudden tension in the room that hadn't been there before.
"I'm next to useless anyway," the cynical Jaune went on. "All the experience in the world but I've still no muscle or stamina to use it. Meanwhile, you look like you've been summoned in your prime. What a joke," he muttered under his breath. "I don't have a damn chance in this. I'm no stronger than this idiot here!" He jabbed his thumb at the original Jaune.
"H-Hey. I'm plenty tough."
"You're a worthless waste of flesh who lied his way into Beacon depriving someone more deserving of having a spot." His words made Jaune pale. Ruby scowled, not at all enjoying watching her friend be bullied. This Jaune was more like Cardin! "Your only redeeming quality is that you might one day take a sword through the chest meant for someone better. I should know," he added with a tired laugh, "Because I am you."
No one knew what to say. No one but Pyrrha. "Jaune isn't worthless."
He snorted. "Yeah, because you're not the most biased person in the room. I think I know myself better than you do, Pyr." The use of the familiar nickname only sounded worse with his acidic words.
Ruby couldn't hide her disappointment. This was Jaune, her friend, and he sounded so… so… pessimistic. So defeated. She didn't mean to say anything, but the words slipped out. "What happened to you…?"
He met her gaze. Cold, emotionless and tired. Exhausted, even.
"Enough." Turning away, he stalked off, ignoring Ozpin's orders and Pyrrha's call for him to stay. When Miss Goodwitch reached out for his arm, he batted her hand away. "I'm not joining in this little contest. As far as I'm concerned, this is a holiday. Nothing more. I'll take some time off to enjoy the sights and get laid, then wait to see who wins and go back to my reality. No need for any of you to come kill me. I'm not competition."
The elevator doors swished shut before anyone could think to stop him, and the silence left behind after his sudden departure was deafening. Even with him gone, the other versions of Jaune did not let their guards down. The knowledge they could attack one another lingered, and if Ruby understood Jinn's proposal properly then it would be a good idea for them to stab one another in the back early. Remove competition before they could get their guards up.
"I… I do not understand…" the knight said. "He is me, as I am him. How could I have ever become so…?"
"That is something for you all to discover. If you wish it. Teamwork is not strictly required-"
"It's needed." Ozpin said. "We must put up a united front against Salem or we will be overrun. Whatever his personal feelings, whatever his misgivings, this is a war we cannot afford to ignore."
"He has a point, though. You're asking a lot." The Jaune stood beside Ren hadn't spoken much. All he'd done was watch them with cold eyes. Not as angry as the other but cautious. Wary. "I'm no huntsman. I hunt food, not glory, and I work to keep people alive and fed."
"People will die if Salem wins." Ozpin said.
"Give me a forest and I'll track deer. Give me a meadow and I'll bring you rabbits. I hunt animals for meat and fur." He stared back at them. "I don't hunt people."
"People can be as bad as monsters sometimes," Yang's Jaune, who had been fairly quiet himself, said sadly. "They can hide monsters of their own, or sometimes they can be monsters themselves."
"That, I don't doubt, but I don't hunt monsters either. Only a fool fights the Grimm when you can simply avoid them. But then, you huntsmen always have been did enjoy chasing after glory."
"What's your damn problem?" Yang demanded.
"Hmph." The Jaune closed his eyes. "My problem is I've been taken away from my family against my will and told I must fight and die for people I don't know, in a war I have no stakes in. And now you're all assuming I'll fight. I think I agree with the other version of myself, even if he said it poorly…"
"We need names." Yang's Jaune said. "We need names that aren't Jaune Arc, because that name is kind of becoming a little meaningless right now." He glanced to the original and smiled. "No offence."
"N-None taken? Can I keep mine at least?"
"You're the real Jaune, so sure." At least Yang's Jaune was friendlier than those of Team JNPR. "I guess you can call me… Leviathan."
"Ominous." Yang said.
"More like dramatic," Weiss grumbled.
Leviathan simply shrugged, his eyes swirling oddly. He gestured to the Jaune who had been speaking before, the one with Ren. The hooded teen sighed and said, "Hunter. It's what I am."
"I suppose that Knight will be as good a moniker as any for me," Ruby's knight – who was now called Knight – remarked. "I've been called that and a few other things in my time but referring to me as a king might cause some political problems."
"And you can call me Barista," the last Jaune, who was still beside Velvet, said happily. "And I think this is all turning into quite the heavy discussion. Why don't I make us all some coffee and we can sit down and discuss this like adults, hm?"
"I don't drink coffee…" Ruby said.
Barista Jaune, or just Barista, chuckled. "You will if I make it. After all, my Ruby is one of my most loyal customers. As are you, Ozpin. And you look very stressed. Understandable, but let us all relax with a warm cup and some cakes, no? The war won't start without us."
Ozpin looked like a fish out of water, gaping helplessly. He gathered himself with a cough, fell back into his seat and nodded. "Yes. Yes, I think we could all use something to take the edge off. Jinn, before we finish, I have some last questions. What of… that."
Jinn looked down at the dead and crumpled body on the floor. "His body was brought forth, his soul reanimated, but it did not connect. He has not been summoned properly and his spirit remains in his reality. It must already be tethered to something else. It matters little, as his anchor is as good as dying anyway."
"So, we're one Jaune down already." Blake said.
"Three if you count Hunter and that asshole partnered to Pyrrha." Nora said. Then winced and punched Jaune's arm lightly. "Not you, obviously. The other asshole."
Jaune grinned weakly. "Yeah, I figured. What should we name him? Asshole Jaune? Bastard Jaune?"
"Call him Fate," Jinn replied. "The name fits better than any."
"Fate. An odd name. I hope to hear the reason." Ozpin apparently wasn't going to let Fate's choice to retire stand. "Are you able to tell us of the versions of Mr Arc summoned to our enemies?" he asked Jinn. "Their identities, pasts and abilities?"
"Can you tell us how many have been summoned by them? Or in total?"
"I cannot interfere in the contest, or the balance will be undone. You need only know that the scales have been weighed. If they have more, they will be individually weaker. If they have less, they will be stronger."
"Nothing, then." Ozpin palmed his face and took a deep breath. "Team CFVY, please escort Barista to the kitchens and help him make some coffee. Teams RWBY and JNPR, fetch some chairs from downstairs. Once you are back, I believe it is time I gave you all a history lesson. You will need to understand who Salem is and just why we must win this contest. We cannot afford to lose here, or all of Remnant will be doomed."
Ruby gulped and tugged on Knight's arm, leading him toward the elevator with her team and Leviathan following behind. The Saturday had started bad enough, and she had a feeling it was going to get worse before it got better.
"We will get through this, Ruby." Knight said warmly. "Even if I must defeat them all myself."
Man, that's a lot of exposition for the first chapter, isn't it? I had to have the rules explained and the conditions, etc, and I definitely think it's going to be better to trickle the other Jaunes in slowly. I've revealed these five – six if one counts From Beyond – early, but the rest, and there are more, will come in as they show up.
Just to reiterate this takes ideas from Fate Stay Night but isn't the same system exactly. The grail isn't tainted, there are no command seals and there aren't any noble phantasms or classes (aside from Knight's lol). You don't need to have read all my other fics to understand things. Each Jaune will have some of their capabilities and personalities displayed in coming chapters.
Also, this story may take over the Saturday slot when Relic ends. Unsure yet. And yes, Relic is in here.
Next Chapter: 16th November
P a treon . com (slash) Coeur