Time for Remnant's Blonde Birdfeeder.
Cover Art: Mystery White Flame
A guy tries to do one nice thing.
The fact that he'd gained a point in Charisma from performing at the park didn't make up for the fact that he'd become a national sensation for being savaged by birds. The only good part was that the videos circulating online didn't show his face on account of flapping wings and bird-butt filling the screen. Still, his voice was clear, and he was sure his family would recognise him.
One point in charisma wasn't worth that kind of teasing.
The level he gained from completing the quest was nice, though.
You helped raise money for the local orphanage, even if most of it came from being embarrassed!
Success: +EXP. + Rep with orphans of Mistral.
You have levelled up.
You have 5 stat points remaining.
He hadn't yet bothered to allocate points.
"We still made a lot of money!" said Nora, cheering as she went over their earnings. "This will really help the matrons at the orphanage!"
"He made a lot of money," Ren corrected. "We didn't do much of anything."
"We saved him from the birdpocalypse."
"And for that I'm grateful," Jaune moaned. He was sat on a chair in what he assumed to be an orphanage. It was a nice place, not as run down as he imagined, but there were so many kids around and so few adults that he could imagine their costs spiralling out of control. An elderly woman had come and offered to help disinfect his cuts, but Nora had taken over. She held some cotton wool between a pair of tweezers and was dipping them in disinfectant and then on his tiny scratches.
The birds hadn't attacked him per se, and they hadn't meant to hurt him, but they were still birds. They had talons and claws. And it had been a free-for-all to find space on his body, with them being knocked off by others. The result was a wide array of tiny, accidental cuts and scratches over his shoulders and arms. Nothing that ought to have been life-threatening on its own, but the fact he was at 100/130 hp was still a little worrying.
At least there wasn't a status effect where he was bleeding out or something. And man, how would those work? What if one moment he woke up and just found he had Status: Cancer on his profile? It'd probably be a good thing, wouldn't it? Catch it early and all that. Jaune was lost in thought on that until Nora dabbed at a particularly nasty cut.
"Sorry!" Nora didn't sound sorry. In fact, she was almost elated. "I'm new at this!"
"Nora wanted to be a nurse for a long time," Ren explained. "But I was never reckless enough to let her operate on me."
"You could have told me that before I let her do this!"
"Be still," chided Nora, wrapping a bandage around his arm. Jaune was no doctor, but he was fairly sure a couple of plasters would have done. Nora was wrapping up his entire arm from wrist to shoulder. "I'll have you know I took a course in first aid!"
"She was kicked out for disruption after twenty minutes."
"I still took the course!"
It was easier to be mummified than to argue. Jaune sighed and let it happen while Ren guarded his new guitar from the sticky fingers of curious orphans. He'd have offered to play for them but the last thing he wanted was to terrify them if more animals appeared. That must have been his new bardic skill at play. Wonderful.
"Despite the avian attack, I have to say you're very good on the guitar," said Ren. "Have you been playing long?"
"About a week or two. I'm still learning."
"Really? I'd have said you'd been playing for years."
"I basically learned a small number of easy songs, so I sound like a pro on those but can't play anything else."
"Ah. I guess even an amateur can sound good if they master one song."
"But you sounded really good!" said Nora, tying a shoelace knot in his bandage. Jaune didn't argue it. "Are you practicing to be a musician? Renny and I are going to be huntsmen—"
"You already told him that."
"—but you don't look like one, no offence. You could really do with aura if you're going to be mobbed by birds."
"Tell me about it. My dad is a huntsman but he never wanted me to follow him, so he wouldn't unlock my aura. As for what I want to be, I'm not sure." He'd had next to no plans before unlocking his Semblance, and while his options had expanded since, he still wasn't sure what he wanted to do. "I guess I could become a musician." It'd make sense. "Maybe a wandering bard."
"That sounds so cool! You could travel the world, visit every city, pay your way through music, get into adventures, slay a dragon! Ooh! Or lay a dragon!"
"Nora..." Ren pinched the bridge of his nose. "You started well, but you've ended up in the land of fantasy." He sighed. "But I suppose she's not wrong on the first half. You could perform in bars to draw customers and use a cut of the money each night to travel. I'm not sure how stable a career it'd be, but it would be good as a way to meet people and see the world."
It was an interesting idea.
Travel? Him? He'd never considered it before, but then he hadn't had any reason to. A lot of people travelled in gap years in their schooling – normally either at seventeen by taking a year off schooling to see the world before starting your higher education, or before your final year of university or college. Sort of a break to expand your horizons before you came back for your final year, exams, and then moved on into working life.
He was old enough to travel – at least if he stuck to airports and the like – and it'd be fun to see the world. School would be finishing in a month or two anyway, and he still had no idea what he wanted to do with his life since his dad wouldn't teach him to be a huntsman. Maybe a year off to travel around the world would give him some ideas. And performing for all those people in all those places would do wonders for his Semblance as well.
Level up my Semblance, gain more points in Charisma, see the world, meet new people...
It'd be perfect.
"You know... I just might consider that..." He made to rub his chin, only to realise he couldn't bend his arms. Nora had bandaged over his elbows. "Uh. I don't think this is how you're meant to bandage someone—"
Nora's smile was a billion watts. "Hm?"
"N—Never mind. Thank you for bandaging me up."
"No. Thank you for helping us raise so much money! Renny is right that we'd have never made enough on our own. Are you sure you don't want a cut?"
"It would only be fair," agreed Ren. "You did all the work."
"It's fine. It's fine. How can I take money away from this when my parents are paying for my holiday here? These kids need it so much more." That didn't mean he was going to let them touch his new guitar of course. "Just maybe don't expect me to do it again anywhere near any birds."
The matron was suitably grateful once they handed over the money, though Jaune was made to awkwardly sit through her telling Ren and Nora that they didn't owe anything to the orphanage and shouldn't give up their free time to keep paying them back. It sounded like an old argument, and yet at the same time there appeared to be a shift in the duo. Ren agreed, and the matron looked shocked. And then happy. She hugged them both and told them she was proud of them, and Jaune got to feel even more awkward when Nora cried into her bosom and Ren closed his eyes and remained perfectly still. This was entirely too emotionally charged a scene for him to dare move, so he stayed still in the hopes that awkwardness worked like a dinosaur.
Thankfully, they vacated before dinner, with Nora and Ren saying they had their own to attend. It was obviously to stop the orphanage having to feed three extra mouths, but the matron let it go. They had a little more money thanks to him, but they were by no means clear.
I can't busk my whole life to support them either. It's such a shame.
"Thanks again for your help," said Ren, as they left. "I'd offer to show you around Mistral as thanks, but Nora and I have classes tomorrow at Sanctum."
"We should stay in touch!" Nora said.
Or, well, shouted.
Several people glanced over, shook their heads and kept walking.
"We can be pen-pals! Or text-togethers. Scroll-siblings?"
Ren smiled. "I think friends is a catch-all term, Nora."
Friends, eh? That didn't sound so bad. They exchanged numbers and promised to text one another, something that he was sure Nora would keep track of. Jaune had a feeling he wouldn't be allowed to forget these two if she had her way. Nora quickly invited him to a group chat she and Ren were in as well.
"I expect pictures and updates if you travel!" she told him. "And video!"
"Of my travels...?"
"And your music, silly. I want to hear you play new songs when you get better. If this was you after two weeks of learning, I want to see hod good you are after two years!"
"I'd be interested as well," said Ren. "And we can share some pictures of life as huntsmen."
"It's an inclusive term, Nora."
"Then you should feel included to be called a huntress," she decided, making Ren roll his eyes. "Thanks again, Jauney!"
Nora paused, hesitated, and then darted in to press her lips to his cheek. Jaune froze, stunned as he felt the warm touch and the faint wetness of her kiss, before she pulled back with a bright red face. Ren looked surprised, but not displeased, but there wasn't much time to contemplate that because Nora grabbed his arm and yanked him off his feet, all but sprinting away with Ren dragged along for the ride.
Slowly, Jaune brought his hand to his cheek. "Huh."
"Thou have claimed thyself a mate!"
His mood faded. "Who said that—?" There was movement in his hoodie pocket, and Jaune poked it open with his fingers to see a tiny rat's snout. "Seriously?"
"I sought refuge from the sky-beasts on your person, tall one. You have mine gratitude."
"You're oddly eloquent for a rat."
"What know you of mine kind, tall one? We are a social and intelligent kind."
"Aren't your species disease carriers?"
"Aren't your species prone to destroying entire ecosystems?" it fired back, before leaping out his pocket and scurrying away under some nearby garbage cans.
"Touche, rat. Touche."
Naturally, his entire family had seen the video by the time he got back and wouldn't shut up about it. Hazel and Jade had taken to making bird sounds to try and frighten him. It didn't work very well on account of him not hearing bird sounds from actual birds nowadays. They'd have had a better chance if they would prophesise the end of the world or scream about seeds, nests and who was up for a good bit of mating.
Once the teasing was over, he was made to show off his new guitar for his family and play a quick tune. Thankfully, the hotel was clean enough that there weren't any animals to react to it, but his sisters were still shocked by his music.
His bardic skills weren't entirely useless, then.
In fact, they were pretty damn useful.
"Mom. Dad. I've been thinking..."
"Uh-oh." said Nicholas, jokingly elbowing their mother. "That's not a good sign."
"Hush now, he sounds serious."
"I am serious. When I met Ren and Nora, they asked me what I was going to do when I finished school and I didn't have any idea. I always hoped I could become a huntsman like dad." Nicholas Arc tensed so hard he was gripping the armrests of the hotel lobby's chair like he was about to give birth. "But I don't think that's right for me."
The huntsman melted into a puddle of goo, deflating with a rush of air.
"But I don't know what else I want to be or what I want to do. I could try for college or university, but I don't know what course I'd want to take. I've never put any thought into it."
"That's a very mature thing to realise," said his mother. "And not uncommon. I don't think many kids your age know what they want to be when they grow up. I assume you have something in mind if you're bringing this up now."
"Yeah. Coming to Mistral like this has made me open my eyes a bit, and I've been having a lot of fun raising money at home through busking. I don't know if I'd want to be a musician all my life or anything, but I was thinking I could travel."
"Travel...? Travel where...?"
"I think that's a great idea!" said Nicholas.
"Darling, do shut up," snapped Juniper. "You'd agree with him becoming a circus clown if it meant he wouldn't be a huntsman." The man winced and stayed quiet. "So, sweetie. When you say travelling, what exactly do you mean?"
"I was thinking like a gap year. To expand my horizons and decide what I want to do with my life before I commit to anything." He paused to gauge their reactions. Juniper didn't look terribly against it. If anything, she seemed a little calmer once he mentioned it being a gap year rather than him just walking off into the wilderness. "I know a lot of people my age do something similar, and I figure having a year without school to just think about what I want to do will help me out."
"It would only be a year, right?"
Trust her to be worried about his education. "Only a year. Maybe only nine months, even. I'd want to visit the major kingdoms. Maybe even Menagerie."
"You would go by major transport routes, right?"
"Yeah, of course. I'm not going to go wandering on foot where the Grimm can get me. I'd travel from city to city. Maybe to a smaller town if it's close by or culturally important, but I'd stick to public transport."
"Hmm. That doesn't sound too bad. How would you fund it?"
Juniper gripped Nicholas' leg tight.
"I was thinking I could perform music to pay my way. Or at least help me out. You've already seen I can make money from busking, but I could also perform live nights at bars and inns in exchange for a room for the night. And I wouldn't start travelling immediately. I could earn some money at home first to have a buffer."
"What if you ran out?"
"Then I come home," he said, shrugging. "It's not like you and dad wouldn't cover me for a return ticket."
"Of course we would. I just wanted to be sure you weren't going to be stubborn and start begging on the streets. You'd keep in touch, right?"
"Every day if needs be."
"And you'd stick to the cities?"
"I'll call you if I'm deviating from that."
"What if you get robbed, lose your wallet and scroll?"
"Uh." Jaune shrugged. That was a bit out there, but he got the feeling this was a test, and that Juniper was just throwing out problems for him to overcome. "I guess I'd ask the police to borrow one of their scrolls and call you...?"
"And if you wake up in a bath of ice without either of your kidneys!?"
"No, I think I'd be dead if I lost both my kidneys..."
"Darling." Nicholas dared to touch her arm. "I think Jaune is a very intelligent young man who is of an age to travel on his own. And he makes several good points, not least of them being that simply picking a career or course out of a hat is bound to end in regrets later. He can afford to spend a year to get a better grasp of what he wants to do with his life."
Juniper's expression was flat. "Nicky-poo, darling. Someone as biased as you shouldn't be allowed an opinion."
"What if he decides he wants to become a huntsman?"
"T—Then he'll need to take a second year off to figure out what he wants to be...?"
"I mean... um..." Nicholas coughed. "It's up to your mother, son."
Jaune's eyes were flat. "Wow. Just wow. Come on, mom. This is a good idea!"
Juniper crossed her arms. "Convince me."
First things first.
Open status, take points from levelling up earlier, and dump them in Charisma.
He was going to need them.
Cha: 47 (48)
Semblance: The Game
Speak with Animals.
Another fresh increase in his Charisma ought to help him weave a good argument.
"So, first things first, it's much harder to change career than it is to delay on picking a new one. Imagine my future resume having me jump from industry to industry. That's going to be wasted years of my life, and lots of job experience that won't be useful. Delaying one year to travel may sound bad, but a lot of employers nowadays actually account for it. It's normal, and knowing your employee is well-travelled and experienced makes them much more enticing than someone who has sat at home all their life and then gone to work."
Juniper's arms loosened a little. It was working.
"Secondly, let's consider the possibility of higher education. I have to pick a course, a school, and get a student loan. That's a lot of investment that's going to lock me onto one career path, and what if I decide six months in that it's the wrong one for me? Would you want me to be miserable for the rest of my life?"
"Of course not..."
"Of course not," he parroted. "Which is why you'd support me in changing my mind, but there's no denying that'll put me at a disadvantage. Either I have to re-learn a new subject, or I lose a whole year or more of my life, including student loans and fees. It'd be harder to recoup that then it would be to spend a little more time to make an informed decision in the first place."
Saphron leaned over to whisper to Sable. "Wow. He's good at this."
"I'm taking notes," Sable whispered back.
"Thirdly, this will be a chance for me to experience independence and learn any mistakes I can early. I've been looked after by you all my life, and travelling on my own will teach me valuable skills like budgeting, how to handle admin, cooking for myself. I'll come back that much more well-rounded and be in a great position to take on adult life or higher education." He ticked off another finger. "Fourthly—"
"Okay! Okay!" Juniper surrendered with a groan. "I never said it was a bad idea. Only that I'm worried about how well you can support yourself out there. Not because you're not good at your music, sweetie, but because some people in big cities can be so stingy when it comes to money, not to mention the costs involved. How about we make a deal? If you can earn enough money beforehand, then I'll agree. That way I know you'll have some backup funds even if your performing doesn't work out."
That was fair, he supposed, and not a bad idea. He could busk for money and get a part-time job.
"How much are we talking about?"
"I think 20,000 lien should do."
Jaune sucked in a breath. That was a lot. Not a fantastical amount, but a sizable quantity. He'd busked for over 1,000 in a day before, so it was doable. It wasn't some impossible figure she was throwing out that he'd never be able to meet.
"If you can make that much, then your father and I shall match it," she added, making him even more surprised. "With 40,000 in your account, I'll feel a lot more comfortable about you looking after yourself." Her voice dropped. "But if you go wild and spend it all in one month then I swear, Jaune Nicholas Arc, that I shall make you regret it so much that your future children will feel it!"
"Y—Yes, mom. No worries, mom. I can be frugal, mom. I love you, mom."
"Such a good boy! Now, I don't want to hear any more of this for the rest of our time in Mistral. You can get started when you go home. And no haggling! If you can't reach that much, then you won't have any chance of supporting yourself for a full year."
You want to travel the world, expand your horizons and become a world-renowned bard. But first, you need to earn enough money to prove yourself to your mother. Earn 20,000 or more lien within one month!
Success: +EXP. + Rep with family.
Failure: No travelling.
And now it was official. He had a quest.
"I'll show you I can do this," he told her. "I'll make 20,000 in one month!"
"You don't have to do it that quickly, dear. There isn't a time-limit on this."
There was if he wanted the rewards advertised. And he sure as hell did. If that was enough EXP to reach another level, then he definitely wanted it. And to see if there would be another quest after that would involve his travelling. Maybe he'd even get a new title like "world famous bard" or "wandering minstrel" with new effects.
Now he just needed to find a way to earn 20k in a little over four weeks.
Nora had an immediately simple solution to his money problems when he explained to her and Ren later that night in bed what had been decided. They were all three of them on a video call, though Ren was just there over Nora's shoulder doing homework. His and hers, apparently, since Nora was determined to ignore it.
"You could start a RemTube channel."
"Me? Doing what...?"
"Music, obviously." Nora rolled her eyes. "There are, like, a hundred channels like that already, aren't there? You can do some covers of songs, post a video, and make money off the ad revenue. Then you make enough videos to get 20k and travel!"
It was a wild idea.
But was it a bad one?
Even leaving aside the fact he could reach a wider audience and potentially make money, what if it also counted as a way to raise his Chrisma? He already got points in it from busking in public, so what if a million people watched a video of him playing? Would it count? It might not count seeing as how he wasn't actively performing when they watched it, but if it did count then he'd rake in more points in Charisma than he ever could normally.
It was an intoxicating thought.
And so what if it didn't work? A few videos, a bit of wasted time, and he could carry on with his life. It wasn't like this was do or die. He could afford to give it a go and change plans if it didn't work out. It was huge reward, no risk, and relatively little effort other than positioning a camera to record himself while he played. And learning some new songs, but he'd been planning to do that anyway.
"I guess I could try that..."
"Oh. We should do that tomorrow. You should come round our dorm."
"Is that allowed?"
"Sure! Not for the normal dorms, but me and Ren live here—"
"Ren and I," Ren corrected.
"Whatever! Point is, we're allowed to have guests because we technically don't have anywhere else to live, so we get way more allowances. We get a food budget and our own kitchen as well."
Nora made it sound great, but Jaune was acutely aware it was because they didn't have parents to cook food for them. Naturally, they would have to live on campus, and they'd have to take care of their own needs. It was little wonder Sanctum was prepared to allow them to have guests. The school probably wanted them to feel like they could mingle and make friendships.
"I'll come over if that's okay with Ren. I don't want to intrude."
"It's more than fine with me," Ren said. "As long as you and Nora don't start kissin—oof!"
Ren vanished over the end of the desk as a pillow launched by Nora struck him. "He's so funny!" she said, loudly. Firmly. "B—But ignore him. Anyway, yeah, film a video of you playing a song tonight and bring that tomorrow. We'll help you make a RemTube channel and then you can start being super-famous!"
"Uh. Yeah, sure. I guess I can do that. Record it on my scroll?"
"Yep! Come around tomorrow after four. We'll be done with lessons. Renny can cook for you."
"He doesn't have to—"
"Better than Nora trying to coo—oof!"
Ren disappeared again.
"See you tomorrow, Jaune!" cheered Nora. "Byeeee!"
The video wasn't doing so hot.
Jaune wasn't entirely surprised. Getting big on a platform like this didn't feel like something that'd happen straight away, but the hastily shot video of him sitting on the floor of a hotel room playing music only had three views, and two of those were himself and Nora.
"Maybe I just don't have what it takes."
"Give it time," said Nora, ever the optimist.
"It might be an issue of presentation," said Ren, stroking his chin. "A lot of other videos have a little more in the way of editing. Or dressing up. Nora, bring up a few other guitar channels. Let's see what they do."
"Sure! Time to steal ideas!"
It was good of them to try, even if Jaune wasn't sure this would change anything. There were a lot of channels to look through, and they could be categorised in two ways – covers and tutorials. It was either people playing music or teaching it, the latter of whom he'd used himself to better learn to play in the first place. The performers had much bigger followings and were often translating music from popular shows and anime into guitar solos, but even then Jaune could see what Ren meant. They had brightly lit rooms, crazy hair, and they didn't just sit down and play. They danced around wildly and pulled poses as they played. It was as much spectacle as music.
"I don't really have a studio to pull that off with," he said. "And I'd have even less access to one if I continued this channel while I was travelling." He sighed. "Maybe this isn't the right option."
"No, no, no. My idea will totally work." Nora started navigating on her own. "We just need to find your niche. An area you can slot into where you'll blow everyone away." Nora kept searching, until she came across a set of videos. Some were of guitar, but some were of pianos.
Unlike the ones before, these ones rarely, if ever, showed the face. They were pretty much shoulder down, or sometimes chin down, and the performers weren't as wild with their dancing. They did move around, but it was slower for the most part.
Nora's eyes narrowed. "Hmmmmmmmmmmm."
"Nora, no. You can't be serious..."
"Nora, yes!" she cried, dragging Jaune into the bathroom in their dorm. Nora then leaned out, opened her drawers, snatched some objects out of them and disappeared back inside with him. Nora then sat him on the toilet seat and rubbed her hands together, giggling evilly. "Oh, Jaunie. I always did think you were pretty."
Jaune shrank back. "Meep."
Five minutes later, Joan Arc walked out the bathroom, her bare legs smooth and shining, her fingers poking out the sleeves of a jacket too big for her, clutching at the bottom of a very short, pink skirt and trying to tug it down to hide more of her thighs. Her hair was straightened and fell down over her eyes, with braids on the back and sides, and just a touch of makeup on her face. Her rosy, pink cheeks heated up as Ren stared at her, his mouth hanging open.
"I have so many questions," Ren choked out.
"Then ask Nora!" wept Joan.
"I don't think Nora can answer questions on my sexuality."
"That just means I did a great job!" Nora cheered. "Isn't he pretty!?"
Though, to be fair, Jaune had a sinking suspicion that his Charisma stat was playing its own cruel part in this. He'd been dressed up as a girl before by his sisters when he was young, but he'd definitely never looked this hot. Shy, nervous, but unbearably cute in a "must protect" way. Sexy, even. Fuckable, he wouldn't dare to admit. Nora's makeup simply accentuated what his Charisma had already airbrushed and evened out, and now he could pass as the girl next door in a romcom movie. The girl the main character ignored, but ultimately fell in love with at the end.
"D—Do you really think this will make a difference on the videos?" he asked.
"Yes," said Nora.
"Yes," agreed Ren, staring at Jaune's legs. "Yes, I think it will..."
Nora punched his arm. "His eyes are up there."
Ren didn't even flinch. "His legs are down there."
"Bad Renny. Bad!" Nora turned him around. "Now, Joan—"
"Please don't call me that."
"Tell me." Nora linked her fingers together. "Do you know how to twerk?"
"I want to go home."
"Don't you also want to travel...?"
In the end, he didn't have to twerk. What he did have to do was sit on Nora's bed with a couple of teddy bears behind him, his knees locked together and his legs feeling uncomfortably drafty, blushing as he strummed out a tune but didn't sing. It wasn't even a good song, and he didn't even do that great a job, much too embarrassed by Ren and Nora holding their scrolls as cameras to capture him from different angles. In terms of quality, he definitely didn't do as good a job as he had with his other video, but that didn't stop Nora making a new account for him.
He had 50,000 views within two hours.
Through performing for an audience, you have gained +1 Charisma.
Through performing for an audience, you have gained +1 Charisma.
Through performing for an audience, you have gained +1 Charisma.
Through performing for an audience, you have gained +1 Charisma.
And then there was the comments.
PuttingTheWinInWinchester: Daaamn. How cute are you? And such amazing music. I'm subbing for life. Do you have a social media page? Image library? RemFans? I'll pay for more content!
The comment was top-rated, with over 5,000 upvotes.
"Success!" cried Nora. "And now to get you monetised! You just need to keep cranking out pretty music like this and maybe smile and blush a bit for the camera and you'll have your 20k to travel in no time!"
Ren placed a hand on his shoulder. "Remember us when you are famous."
It was official.
The internet was an evil, evil place.
You know, gamer fics often are categorised by the ways in which the character "exploits" the system. It's often one of the things I don't like about them, because the ways they find are often either super simplistic to the point it doesn't make sense that kind of exploit exists, or they're reliant on one unique skill the main character has that gives them an edge over everyone else. I don't normally like those because then the main character isn't really getting by on their own merits, but just because they "lucked out" and were granted an instant win button.
But it's not so bad when it's done for pure comedy, and honestly for all the convoluted ways people come up with in gamer fics to enable these "farming exploits", I wonder if any have thought of just becoming a viral sensation online to grind charisma. Don't worry. Jaune won't be starting a RemlyFans account in this fic. He's just going to become a guitar youtuber girl.
Next Chapter: 12th December
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