By the time Winston finished changing his soiled bandages, adding a few new wrappings to cover the hole the Boarbatusk left in his right sleeve and hide the scratches it left on his arm, it was almost time for his next class to start. A few students did try to follow him into the bathroom as he went to check how badly the Grimm had crushed his arm, but they quickly fled the moment he turned to face them.
Cowards, the lot of them. How did people like them ever get this far if they were afraid of a little blood? None of it was even human.
The guardsman abandoned his original goal of wiping down his uniform after it became painfully obvious that the black blood that coated it would not be coming out with just soap and water. He immediately used what little time he had left to prevent his wounds from becoming infected by whatever vile diseases the Boarbatusk might have been carrying…
Did Grimm even carry diseases? The information Winston had been able to glean so far didn't seem to classify them as daemons despite their unnatural behaviors and tendency to disappear into nothingness after death for the most part, yet they did not seem like any xenos he had ever heard of. Were they some sort of plague native to this planet? That was something he was going to have to ask Ozpin about and hope the old man would deem him worthy of an answer. If not…
At least they were vulnerable to lasbolts, bayonets, and shovels.
Throwing that thought aside for later, Winston was pleasantly surprised to see that most of the injuries he had acquired in defense of Greenleaf had almost healed. The cuts, bruises, and other wounds he had stitched together himself were gone. There weren't even scars left behind, for those wounds that had finished healing that is. It must have been the effects of having an aura, the apparent healing properties he had read about proving to be far more useful than the other benefits he had not figured out how to use yet. It seemed accepting Ozpin's offer to have his aura unlocked had been the right decision after all.
Regardless of how well his injuries had healed, Winston still bandaged them back up. It wasn't because he wanted to hide them out of shame, but rather he did not want to leave any part of his flesh exposed for any potential enemies to see. The last thing he wanted to do was give anyone who tried to kill him a visibly unarmored target to aim for. While the clean white bandages might have stood out even more against his now black stained trench coat, at least it was impossible to tell whether or not his armor had a gaping hole hidden underneath them now. That at least allowed him to focus on a more pressing matter.
It was only as Winston finished cleaning himself up that he realized he had no idea where his next class was. All he did know is that he had precious little time to find out where he needed to go. Ozpin didn't provide him any information of where his classes were, obviously another test and not just the momentary lapse he would have assumed it to be from someone of a lower authority, and the guardsman wasn't sure what he was going to do when he walked out of the bathroom. Luckily for him, someone had been waiting outside for him.
"Hey, Winston!" Ruby called out the moment she saw him.
"Commander Rose." The korpsman saluted back on reflex.
"What you did back in Port's class was awesome!" She excitedly exclaimed, leaving her teammate momentarily confused as to what she was trying to say.
"It was… a little messy." She grimaced as she recalled exactly how he had taken down three Boarbatusk upon remembering that his uniform wasn't originally black as she stared at him. "But the way you took them down was totally amazing! You were all like; wham, hiya, whoosh!"
As Ruby reenacted a few of the moves Winston performed, each one extremely exaggerated alongside the sound effects she made to go alongside them, the guardsman looked back at her impassively. A great many things were running through his mind as he watched his young leader flail around wildly in imitation of him, chief among them being 'what in the Emperor's name is she doing'?
After a few moments of being subject to her teammate's scrutinizing stare which was only made more judgmental by the inhuman visage of his gasmask staring back at her, Ruby sheepishly coughed and tucked her hands back behind her back in embarrassment. She was about to apologize when she noticed the new bandages wrapped around Winston's right arm.
"Oh." She gasped in concern. "Are you o-"
"I'm fine." The guardsman interrupted.
"Really?" Ruby asked him, not entirely convinced.
"It only left a couple of scratches. Nothing I can't fix in the workshop." He answered.
The dark haired girl gave him a childish pout, believing Winston was trying to live up to the nickname her sister had already given him. "I wasn't talking about your uniform."
"I know." Winston replied.
"Huh? What are you talking about?" Ruby asked him.
Winston quickly pulled his Scroll out of his kitbag, found the chronometer Pyrrah told him was on it, and quickly stuffed it back inside. "We only have a few minutes until our next class with Headmistress Goodwitch. Can I ask you to show me where it is, Commander Rose?"
"Wait, really!?" Ruby squeaked out in surprise as she checked her own Scroll. It looked like they didn't have any more time to talk to each other unless they wanted to be late for their next class. "We're going to be late if we don't hurry! Follow me!"
There was a clear gap between Winston, Teams RWBY and JNPR, and the rest of the first year students as they waited for class to start. Apparently the guardsman's display had left quite the impression on his peers, not that he particularly cared what they thought about him. At least they weren't nearly as vocal as the others around him…
"You are something else, tough guy." Yang said, patting him on the back as she tried to break the tension that filled the air the moment he and Ruby ran into the training area.
"Don't touch me." Winston told her as he took a step away from the larger girl.
"Yeah, you showed those Grimm who's in charge!" Nora excitedly shouted mere inches away from his face, earning an indignant huff from Weiss.
"Oh please, anyone could do something like that." The heiress sneered.
"Really?" Blake fired back as she cocked an eyebrow at her teammate.
"Yes, really." Weiss huffed.
"So why didn't you finish off that Boarbatusk at the start instead of letting it steal your weapon?" Blake asked her.
The heiress stammered for a moment as she tried to find an explanation. Winston couldn't help but notice the smirk on Blake's face as they both watched their white haired teammate struggle to save face. Weiss quickly turned away from Blake knowing there was no winning that argument and instead chose to redirect her frustration towards Winston.
"You're a jerk, do you know that?" She told him.
"No, I didn't." Winston monotonously responded.
There were a lot of things he didn't know, such as why Weiss looked like she was getting even angrier with him after giving her such a simple answer.
"Come on, stop fighting. We're supposed to be a team!" Ruby pleaded. Winston wanted to comply, but Weiss wasn't backing down.
"He started it!" She pouted, pointing an accusatory finger in front of his face. "None of this would have happened if he didn't try to make me look like an idiot."
"I didn't need to try." The guardsman droned. "You did that all on your own."
Weiss let out an indignant huff that was covered up by Yang's boisterous laughter as she prepared a retort, but was silenced when Goodwitch finally entered the training area. The headmistress commanded an aura of authority that reminded Winston of the drill sergeants who taught him and his brethren back on Krieg. The way his team dropped their own hushed conversations and straightened themselves out at her appearance made the comparison feel much more accurate since even the juves knew better than to relax around her.
"Good afternoon, students." The headmistress addressed her class. "I am Glynda Goodwitch and I will be the instructor overseeing you during combat class for this semester."
Combat class? Winston didn't expect a bunch of civilians to have such a thing considering how soft most of them were. What a pleasant surprise. If he was lucky, he would actually be able to use real weapons.
"Since this is your first day, I will allow you to spar against whoever you choose so you can get accustomed to the kinds of challenges you will be expected to face here in Beacon. I will still expect you to have someone monitoring your auras to avoid any accidents." She continued, to a mixture of relieved sighs and a few cheers as she stared down Jaune and Winston. "Except for you two."
"Mr Arc, Mr Voytoski, I will need to speak to both of you in private before you can spar with the rest of your classmates." The headmistress said, both the boy and guardsman freezing up as their names were mentioned. "As for the rest of you, I expect that you all have read the rules I set out for combat class before coming here today. I will check in with you all periodically to make sure none of you attempt to skip class or endanger your peers by 'forgetting' how much aura your opponents have left to determine the winners of each session."
As the rest of the class dispersed, with a few people sparing Jaune and Winston a pitying glance before they departed, the unlikely duo approached the headmistress. Or rather, Winston approached her while Jaune followed behind him not knowing what he was about to get himself into.
"Relax, Mr Arc. You're not in trouble." Goodwitch sighed after noticing the boy's discomfort, her attempts to calm him down having the exact opposite effect. "After reviewing your transcripts and prior combat training, it has come to my attention that neither of you likely know how to use your aura properly. In order to avoid any unwanted accidents, I want to make sure both of you are able to use your aura to defend yourself from any injuries moving forward."
"Oh, uh, I actually know how to use my aura. I just figured it out a few days ago." Jaune claimed after letting out a sigh of relief.
"Then I suppose I only need to worry about one of you." She said, giving no indication of whether or not she believed him. "I understand you only had your aura unlocked last night, Mr Voytoski?"
"Yes, ma'am." Winston replied.
"Have you discovered how to use it yet?" She questioned.
"No, ma'am, not outside of its latent healing properties." The guardsman replied. "I have read how it can strengthen weapons and be used as a shield to defend oneself, but I do not know how to use it in those ways."
"Then now will be a good time to learn." Goodwitch told him as she pulled out her riding crop. "Comparing aura to a shield, when using it defensively, is a good way of describing it. To be able to use your aura in this way, you have to be able to both envision yourself doing so and also will it into being. The same can be done when using it to strengthen your weapons. Does this make sense to you?"
"Yes, ma'am." He said.
'My faith is my shield.' It was a common saying amongst the Adeptus Sororitas and some of the more zealous members of the Imperial Guard, Winston recalled. It was also the final words more than a few members of both after a few overly zealous individuals chose to forgo a helmet when charging into battle. More than a few of the Catachan Jungle Fighters he met created their own mockery of this common battle cry, 'My face is my shield', after mowing down a few Chaos Space Marines who had also decided their helmets were unnecessary for some inexplicable reason.
And now he had to put his faith into something just as absurd when he knew how effective a flak vest and some carapace pieces were after each had saved his life. The Emperor works in mysterious ways indeed…
"Good. Now all that is left is to practice until you are able to block something with your aura." Goodwitch continued.
Before Winston could ask how, the headmistress brought up her riding crop without warning and attempted to slap him with it before he could pull out any of his weapons to defend himself. There was no time to block it, no time to evade, and no way this wasn't meant to test his abilities. Although Winston still doubted exactly how effective his spiritual faith would be against a very much nonspiritual threat, he believed that something would protect him. Much to his surprise, his efforts were rewarded when the riding crop was deflected by a faint, almost imperceptible shimmering that appeared in front of his face.
"Impressive." Goodwitch said. "It looks like you are a natural. I'm sorry for testing you this way, but I've found that a little 'motivation' is the best way to help students who have recently unlocked their aura learn how to use it."
As her method of teaching him how to use his aura was not unlike the one most drill sergeants on Krieg used for their own lessons, such as how to put on a gas mask properly, she didn't see anything for her to apologize for. He didn't bother interrupting her to point this out, as she was still his superior, and one he could actually bring himself to respect on top of that. She was certainly better than the drunk or the Inquisitor.
Her tone soon fell as she pulled out her Scroll. "With that said, your aura is already close to breaking. It looks like you have a little less than most people do." She said, looking mildly concerned.
"Will that be a problem, ma'am?" Winston inquired.
"We'll have to wait and see. Sometimes a huntsman's aura grows the more they use it." Goodwitch told him, still looking at him with concern.
And sometimes it won't. It was clear Goodwitch was not going to say the obvious alternative, not that Winston particularly cared if that should apply to him. It wasn't like he would let this new power or a lack thereof stop him from fighting inhuman monstrosities after having already survived through several campaigns while serving in the Imperial Guard. Whether or not his aura was weak or strong, it was more than he had to work with before arriving on Remnant.
Goodwitch slipped her Scroll back into one of the pockets in her skirt before addressing both students. "Now that you have your auras unlocked and an idea on how to use them, I will need to see you both use your aura in a fight against each other before letting you spar with the rest of the class. I don't want either of you getting hurt."
"Uhh… what about our semblances?" Jaune interrupted. "Shouldn't we, you know, find out what kind of extra stuff our auras let us do first?"
"You will discover your semblances in time." Goodwitch told him. "No one can help you find your semblance other than yourself, and even then, many huntsmen go their entire lives without using theirs in combat."
Was that because they didn't live long enough to discover their semblances, or because they had no use on the battlefield? The list of questions Winston had kept on growing by the minute.
"Now, prepare yourselves students. I will be monitoring both of your auras with my Scroll so neither of you injure each other while you fight as you are both still unused to fighting with an aura." Goodwitch told them as she gestured both students to a relatively secluded area of the training room away from the rest of the class.
Winston wanted to ask her how she had acquired the ability to read his aura, but figured it must have been something either she or Ozpin had unrestricted access to thanks to their position as the leaders of Beacon. It was either that, or one of the boons of being part of the Inquisition. Regardless, if it meant he finally had a chance to see what the army of huntsmen-in-training were capable of and how he compared to them, Winston was more than willing to play along with whatever the Inquisitor's aide had planned for him.
As far as arenas went, the ones in Beacon were somehow more elaborate than the ones on Krieg yet much more likely to get someone killed. Calling it an arena was incredibly generous, as the area he and Jaune would be fighting in was little more than a flat ring marked out by a painted circle surrounding the stone tiles beneath their feet. It was far better for fighting in than the slick, muddy ground of a trench or dingy floor of a millennia old bunker, but far less safer for any spectators as there were not any walls to protect them should a stray lasbolt happen to miss its target. At least there were a few fighting pits nearby that minimized the chance of catching a stray bullet or lasbolt to the face.
Then again, the people of this planet did have aura. Perhaps huntsmen had enough aura to protect themselves against a few lasbolts? Civilians certainly didn't, as Winston had found out firsthand back in Greenleaf, and Goodwitch gave him the impression that most huntsmen, trainees or otherwise, had plenty of it to spare.
"Are you ready to start?" Headmistress Goodwitch called out to Winston and Jaune from outside the ring, her riding crop held tightly in her hands as she watched over both of the students before her.
Jaune nodded his assent, even if every other part of him disagreed. Winston couldn't tell if the boy was severely underestimating him or if the juve really was as incompetent as he looked. The grip the blonde had on his sword was sloppy at best, his shield wasn't strapped onto his left arm properly which caused him to lean ever so slightly in its direction, if it wasn't because he was unused to its weight, and the odd placement of his feet and crouched stance reminded the guardsman of a child imitating a soldier or Astartes rather than someone who actually knew how to fight.
There were plenty of other things Winston could criticize, but they paled in comparison to these few fundamental flaws that told the korpsman everything he needed to know about his opponent. Either Jaune had never fought anyone or anything in his life before, or he was purposely mocking the guardsman. Whichever it was, Winston would not show him any mercy.
With that said, the guardsman would give the boy a fighting chance, if only to give himself a proper warm-up after slaughtering those Grimm in Port's class quicker than he expected himself to. Winston didn't even consider using his laspistol against Jaune, as not only did the boy lack any visibly ranged weaponry himself, but he did not want to accidentally shoot anyone should he miss his intended target. The arena was not designed with the safety of any onlookers in mind, and the guardsman did not want to accidentally kill anyone. Explaining a friendly fire incident to an Inquisitor, intentional or otherwise, was not what he wanted to do today.
His lasgun, although able to be used as quite the effective club, was also out for similar reasons. It was still stored away in one of the nearby locker rooms too, and Winston didn't quite feel like making a trip to grab his preferred weapon since he could probably beat Jaune in less time than it would take to return with the rifle. That left his entrenching tool and his bayonets as the only weapons available to him. The korpsman didn't bother extending it or attaching anything extra to it, as not only did he feel that they would be excessive for taking down Jaune, but he wanted to wait until he had a chance to perform some light maintenance on them after losing a bayonet inside of an enemy's skull. Until he was able to find the reason why his equipment failed him in Port's class, he would not be risking a repeat of what happened.
With his weapon of choice held firmly in one hand and his bayonets tucked securely underneath his trench coat, ready to be pulled free at a moment's notice, Winston nodded towards Goodwitch and waited for her permission to beat his opponent into submission. A few tense moments passed as the headmistress studied the guardsman, wondering why he brought a shovel of all things to combat class before ultimately deciding not to ask, before she gave both of her students what they had been waiting for.
"Begin." She announced.
Winston shot forward with an unexpected burst of speed, startling Jaune as he saw the person that had beaten three Boarbatusk with a shovel running straight at him. He hid his fear as best he could as he waited for the guardsman to approach him before trying to swing his sword at his opponent with all of his strength, but his strike never landed. Instead his attack had been stopped when Winston grabbed onto his sword arm and he was yanked to the ground with embarrassing ease. Jaune landed flat on his back, giving him the perfect view of the guardsman as he quickly extended his entrenching tool and brought it down with all of his strength, leading with the sharp edge as he aimed his weapon towards the blonde's face. Jaune let out a pitiful cry as he covered himself with his arms and hoped that the blow wouldn't be too painful, completely ignoring the shield he could have defended himself with in his panic.
Thankfully for the leader of Team JNPR and much to Winston's bewilderment, the entrenching tool didn't strike its intended target and was instead held in place inches away from Jaune's face as a thick purple shroud enveloped it.
"Well done, Mr Voytoski. Please go back to your side of the arena so we can see if Mr Arc will last a little longer now that he knows what to expect." Goodwitch said, lowering her riding crop and causing the purple force field surrounding Winston's entrenching tool to disappear and allowing him to pull it away from his intended victim.
Winston looked between his entrenching tool and Goodwitch, making the obvious connection between the two and what happened before doing as she asked. Apparently her semblance allowed her to manipulate objects with some form of telekinesis, the purple aura presumably a side effect or sign of the headmistress exerting her power on something. Although Winston had no idea if her power was limited to inanimate objects or those of a similar size, he made sure he would treat her with a little more respect in the future to avoid finding himself the target of her semblance. He had seen psykers when fighting against the Ruinous Powers on both sides of the battlefield and the mangled remains they left behind. He wouldn't be forgetting what psykers like Goodwitch could do to guardsmen like him anytime soon, giving him one more reason to maintain good relations with Inquisitor Ozpin.
But that wouldn't stop him from trying to ignore such thoughts while he fought Jaune once again.
Once the two students were back in their starting positions Glynda started their next duel, and Winston sprinted at Jaune with the same burst of speed as before. The boy thought he was prepared to take on the guardsman now that he knew how fast Winston was, and tried to stab him as he approached. Jaune's attack was slow and painfully easy for his opponent to sidestep, giving Winston the perfect opportunity to slip behind the blonde and wrap his right arm around the boy's neck and pull tight.
The blonde panicked as he felt the solid limb wrap around his throat and cut off his breath, dropping his weapon in panic as he started clawing at Winston for air. The guardsman did not relent as he felt Jaune beat against him in an attempt to break free, but instead kicked out the back of the inexperienced fighter's knees so that it would be easier to choke him out.
Goodwitch gave Jaune a few more moments to try and break free before intervening once again. "That will be enough, Mr Voytoski." She called out to him.
Winston dropped Jaune and let the blonde collapse onto his hands and knees as he gasped for air. The boy savored every breath with an expression of pained relief, before turning around to see the guardsman staring at him, waiting for him to recover.
"You've never used a sword before." Winston calmly stated, the dry tone making his words sound less like an idle observation and more like a damning accusation that froze Jaune in terror.
"W-what?" The boy asked nervously.
"Gentlemen, go back to your starting positions for one last duel." Goodwitch interrupted. "I think I will have a good idea of what you are both capable of after your next match."
Winston shrugged and walked back to his position, not bothering to help his opponent back to his feet. Instead, the guardsman watched the would-be knight stagger up again and hung his entrenching tool back in its rightful place on the side of his kitbag.
Glynda wanted to say something about taking Jaune too lightly as she watched him put his weapon away, but thought better of it. He hadn't even used his weapon yet and the one time he almost did, she stopped him in the fear Jaune might forget to use his aura to protect himself in his panic. Believing that it would be best to see if Jaune really did know how to use his aura by letting Winston fight him with only his bare hands, she stayed silent as she let the two students make their final preparations.
Jaune balked at the sight of his opponent abandoning his weapon, but quickly psyched himself up thinking this would be the best opportunity he had to claim a victory. As for his opponent, Winston found no reason to continue beating a civilian who could hardly defend himself. He hoped the lack of a weapon would allow Jaune to at least put up a fight this time, although he did not have high hopes for the boy.
"Begin." The headmistress called out one final time.
This time, Jaune was the one to make the first move and charged Winston with his sword raised and a comical roar escaping his lips. The would-be knight looked like a Gretchin imitating its bigger, more dangerous Ork cousins in the guardsman's eyes, yet he did not move as he watched the huntsman-in-training draw closer. Winston simply waited for Jaune to come within a few feet before responding.
The blonde was just about to swing down at Winston with all his strength and both arms raised above his head when he noticed the smaller student's gloved fist sailing straight towards his face, helpless to do anything but hope it wouldn't hurt too badly. His hopes proved to be for nothing.
Jaune felt like he had been punched with a chunk of metal rather than a fist and dropped his weapon as he shielded himself with his hands rather than the shield strapped to his arm, just barely stopping himself from doubling over on the floor in pain. The boy did hunch over as he cradled his aching face, leaving him in the perfect position for Winston to drive a knee into his opponent's chin as he caught the falling sword with his free hand.
The weapon was surprisingly light and covered in various scratches both new and old, a testament to the battles in its history that raised plenty of questions as to why its current owner was so inexperienced. Rather than try to figure them out, Winston instead focused on the current situation before him: He had a sword in his hand and his opponent was curled up in a ball on the floor, completely defenseless and unable to fight back.
Operating purely on instinct, Winston kicked Jaune in the side of his head to turn him over before placing a heavy boot on the boy's chest. From there, the guardsman held the sword's blade pointed straight towards Jaune's heart, slightly adjusted his aim so any wounds inflicted wouldn't be lethal, and stabbed it downwards with all of his strength. Winston didn't want to kill the boy, after all, but he did believe that pain would be a good motivator for Jaune to improve himself. There was no purple aura to protect him this time, and Jaune screamed as he watched his own metal blade head straight for him…
…only for it to slide harmlessly away from him just before it landed a glancing blow against the boy, his aura protecting him from any physical harm. As for the mental scars the experience would leave him there were some things that not even aura could defend against, not that the guardsman particularly cared.
If Winston was surprised by the lack of blood his stab hand managed to spill, he didn't show it. Instead, he turned to Goodwitch who was watching him intently, holding her riding crop at the ready, and asked her a simple question.
"Are we done, ma'am?"
The headmistress tactfully put down her riding crop before answering him, an act that Winston chose not to comment on. "Yes, I believe you are."
"That's not to say that you are exempt from any more spars for the rest of class, Mr Voytoski." She continued. "Although Mr Arc will likely be finished for today, I would recommend you participate in a few fights against your team or any other students willing to spar with you in order to properly acquaint yourself with your aura as it seems your fights with Jaune weren't enough for you."
Winston nodded his assent, offered Goodwitch a crisp salute, and wordlessly wandered off to his teammates to see if any of them would be capable of giving him a good fight. His hopes were not high after seeing what Jaune was capable of, but he was willing to keep an open mind in case the blonde was truly as inexperienced as he looked and it wasn't the entirety of Beacon who was incompetent as Winston was starting to suspect they were.
Special thanks to Tireless Traveler for beta reading this chapter!
I know I said that the action would be sparse, but the action will be coming to a grinding halt… eventually. Before then though, Winston will be getting a taste of what his team and a few other of his classmates are capable of, most notably a certain girl whose title our guardsman will be intent on testing…
holandia1103: In all honesty, if I had the choice between a knife and a entrenching tool/spade I'd choose the spade. That shit is scary to get hit by, especially if it's one of the multi tool military ones.
Winston's entrenching tool is of the military variety. I imagine his melee weapon of choice would resemble something close to the image I chose for the story.
Terrrrrrryk: I find it ridiculous that they question whether it's a man or a woman, you can't confuse the shape of the body or the voice (unless you have a particularly high voice and are quite thin).
Although another commenter already addressed your concerns before I could, I'd also like the chance to reiterate a few things. Several characters have already noticed Winston's small size and unusually soft voice leaving them unable to agree if he is even human or not, let alone what's in his pants. This is all before taking some of the DKoK lore into account; throwing age, gender, and even how 'human' he is into question as a "Guest" mentioned.
ManwithaPlan113: Hmmmmm interesting. A krieger with a valhallan last name? Now ain't that something
And I'm particularly amused and impressed with how you're handling his xenophobia. Get an "inquisitor" to tell him what to do. Krieg's indoctrination would ensure he follows them to the letter without too much fuss (or investigating)
The xenophobia, or rather the standard guardsman and Astartes reaction to anything unknown, is something that I don't see adressed nearly as often as it should be in W40K crossover fics if you ask me. Most Imperials would try to kill anything that so much as looked alien, chaos related, or a sympathizer of either at first sight unless a vastly higher authority told them to stand down. Hell, I'm sure even someone who has glancing knowledge of the Imperium at best can figure that out.
Yangn33: (Grimm remains inconsistencies)
Funny thing is, my beta reader brought up this same concern so I will give you the same answer I gave them. If gods and daemons, beings with no 'real' physical form, can bleed then the Grimm can too… and because I say so. Can't exactly have a W40K story without a little bit of gore, eh?
Well, that's it for me. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you all in the future!