Chapter 12: Midnight Discoveries
A topless Jaune sat on top of his bed with legs in gray cotton pants hanging off of the edge. His elbows on thighs allowed his hands to be folded so his chin could rest on top of them. To most who saw him, they would have mistaken the quirky boy to be the legendary Thinking man.
As of now, the boy was in deep thought of the Faunus girl he saw a few hours ago. During that time, all she did was just stare at the group as if expecting to be apprehended by the authorities. This happened when Penny arrived with Atlas soldiers, the adult ones, who took the culprit away. Since then, everyone turned in for the night while Steele remained on the site so he could present a report for the investigation team.
Jaune knew he wasn’t the only one who felt disturbed by what he saw. He couldn’t even hide it when his teammates bombarded him with questions after his return to the dorm. Thankfully, his request to give an explanation the day after had the others turn in for the night without further fuss. Even Lou was silent after it made an earlier note that its owner should sleep. Despite how this sounded nice to the blonde, he stayed awake past midnight.
Taking a deep breath, Jaune looked up at the ceiling so his eyes could find refreshment in a different sight. He tried to let the cool air calm his mind that was heated from his racing minds. Just when he considered going to the restroom, two warm arms wrapped around his bare neck.
“Why are you still up? You should be asleep by now.”
The deep, exhausted voice had the boy turn to see that it was coming from an awoken Pyrrha. Her hair untied and running down her shoulder, she was alluring especially in her crimson tank top. To see her face so close to his had the boy feel her slow breathing tickle his skin. If he wasn’t so tired and troubled, the adolescent teenager might have actually acted on desires he held for his attractive partner.
On cue, Lou’s voice came up from the depths of his mind. “Yes, young one, give in to the libido. The silent and perky ones can find a different bedroom if you two decide to get it on.”
Still a considerate person, Jaune smiled at his bedmate. “I’m not tired, just getting ready to go to the restroom. I’ll be back.” When Jaune tried to pull away, he felt his bedmate’s interlocked limbs maintain their firm grip. Unsettled by this, he looked at his partner again to see her exhausted eyes were creased with concern.
“Jaune, if there’s anything bothering you, we can always talk about it.” Showing her astute nature, the red-haired girl gently let her fingers slide off of the boy’s arms as if she wanted to feel the hard muscles and skin. After her arms were completely off, she scooted away so she could give the blond enough room for his departure. “If it’s personal, then we can go to the rooftop and have our discussion there, just the two of us. Don’t forget that I’m here for you.”
Hearing his partner’s considerate offer had Jaune give a grateful smile as he got up. Reaching for the white shirt on a nearby chair, he quickly placed the top on so his upper body could be covered. “It’s nothing major. I was just thinking of the things we’ll talk about in the morning. Our evenings might even get busy from now on.”
Jaune took off his necklace, Lou, and handed it over to his surprised partner. Not understanding the effect of his action, he said, “And can you hang onto this till tomorrow? Hope you don’t mind, this family heirloom is getting a bit tight around my neck.”
“Dust Almighty, you little punk! Getting rid of me so you could have a piece of mind is just going against my rights as your wingman!” Lou’s brief tirade disappeared when it calmly sighed, “But I guess I could substitute as bling bling. Sharing me would make her feel happy you consider her a trusted, valuable person.”
“O-okay, sure.” Pyrrha glanced down at the necklace before she looked up with eyes of wonder. “Then…be careful. I mean, come back soon. Wait, what I meant was…good night.”
Jaune watched his bedmate quickly lay back down and pull the covers over her head. Unsure why she reacted this way, he quietly made his way through the door so he could step into the hallway. As he turned towards the direction of the restroom, he noticed a shadow slink through the hallways of the wall’s dim lighting.
Curious, the boy followed the mysterious figure. His slow steps made him unable to identify the person, who turned around many corners. Eventually, the two night staklers went through the double doors of one wall that led to an outside balcony.
Jaune came up to the doorway, intent on discovering who this person was so he could get rid of his nagging curiosity. Eyes adjusting to the outside moonlight, he found that his target turned out to be a familiar friend.
“Who’s there?” The one on the balcony turned around to reveal an adorable face. Her school uniform of white undershirt and plaid skirt of red and black were present, only lacking the dark, dress jacket and black stockings. Brown hair and rabbit ears were the key traits that would have led to the discovery that the person was Velvet Scarletina.
For a moment, Jaune believed that the Faunus was a shining goddess under the full shine of the moonlight. Taking himself out of his trance, the boy waved a hand and announced, “It’s me, Jaune. Sorry about that, didn’t know who you were so I kind of followed until I could find out.”
The boy gave himself a mental slap as he described actions only a stalker would do. Thankfully, Velvet portrayed a smile that placed the self-accused at ease.
“Oh, hello Jaune. It’s good to see you out here.” The Faunus’s lovely accent gave the addressed one enough courage to take several steps forward. Velvet placed a hand on the flat of the balustrade, the balcony’s enclosing made of stone. “Are you here to watch the stars too? It may be a little late, but it’s a perfect to stargaze in this kind of environment.”
The blonde listener looked up to see the black blanket of space was indeed filled with various dots of the celestial bodies. “You’re right, but shouldn’t you still be resting in the medical place?”
“Not anymore. After waking up, I found a notice on my bed that said I was free to leave at any time. The evening seemed like a better time to exit; my team might need my help if they’re planning to carry out our assignments soon.”
“Yeah, I was kind of worried about that too, even if the headmaster didn’t give me anything specific to do.” Jaune leaned his back against the balcony’s balustrade, the smooth railing. “Still, it’s good to see that you’re up. I guess the fight didn’t hurt you as much as it worried me.”
Velvet’s smile disappeared as she answered, “No, and you’re not the first person to have believed my injuries were life-threatening.”
“So there were other people people?” Jaune asked this question when he saw the Faunus appear disturbed. “Is that something bad? It’s good when people worry since that means they care about you.”
“Perhaps, but it’s somewhat discouraging from time to time. Blake and Yatsuhashi didn’t seem pleased that I was hurt in the first place during their visits. The others asked me questions of similar nature.” With a sad smile, Velvet looked up at the sky as if trying to find comfort in the ocean of distant stars. “It seems like everyone is trying to take care of me, forgetting that I’m also a Huntress. Perhaps they see me as a weak person…or just someone who tends to get in their way.”
Jaune felt sad to hear the Faunus demean herself from simple implications. His empathy, more sympathy as once an infamous weakling, enforced his need to make Velvet feel better. “But you were doing in the fight today with the Dust you had. Plus, the two from Atlas aren’t exactly on the same level as a Beowulf.”
“I can understand that much,” coughed Velvet as she righted her stance. “Sorry, I’m not sure where that came from. Maybe it’s just from today’s exhaustion.”
“Or you could have felt bad, but didn’t have anyone to talk about it until you met me.” Jaune turned around so his arms and chest could take the place of where his back’s spot. “I used to feel the same way back when I first started. If it wasn’t for my friends, then I’d probably do something crazy like talk to Cardin even if he’s just going to use this kind of info against me.”
Velvet nodded as she understood the boy’s intentions for his comment. “Yes, being alone in your problems can be somewhat… painful. But it’s still terrible for me to present my troubles to you like this.”
“Not at all, we’re friends.” Jaune meant his words as he remembered accepting Velvet’s hand of friendship. It was why he worried and cared for the Faunus, felt the need to at least let her know she wasn’t alone. “And as friends, it’s fine that we can be open with each other like this, right?”
“I suppose it does. Then for my part, it would be fair to ask what’s troubling you, Jaune. You couldn’t have really followed any stranger here unless you were trying to distract yourself from your troubles.” Velvet’s curious gaze showed she meant no harm, although it made the boy in question feel nervous as he became the focus of inquiry.
Despite not wanting it this way, Jaune felt compelled to say something as he made Velvet share her own troubles. Holding back his tongue would have made him the practitioner of the evil known as hypocrisy.
“Kind of. Really, a lot has happened yesterday and today.” Memories of recent events had Jaune sigh out loud from exhaustion. “I know you’ll find this out eventually, but…well, I kind of helped Blake and the others stop someone from the White Fang.”
“That sounds terrible. Did everyone else come out alright?” The Faunus showcased concern, a trademark that was recognized by the male blonde.
“Several people got hurt, but nobody died. The only one who seems to be in danger is the White Fang member because…she’s also a student of this school.” Jaune saw that his news made his listener have her eyes widen with the expected emotion of fear. “When someone like her is found doing this kind of thing, it’s going to make everyone get into trouble, including Atlas since a Paladin was involved. It’s just…a lot of chaos is bound to come out of this. Knowing this worries me so much that I can’t sleep. It reminded me that I still have no idea on how to do this mission that might help end all of these troubles.”
Jaune allowed his friend to be silent as he knew his words were a lot to take in. Even he found it hard to believe that so much happened in only a few days.
Finally, Velvet said, “That is quite a summary of what happened. I can only imagine unless they decide to keep this from the public, Beacon will become embroiled with troubling issues.”
“The word is already spreading.” With his simple answer, Jaune continued, “None of the Atlas soldiers who came told the other students to stay quiet. Knowing people in our age group, one of them is bound to share what they know with their friends. Not sure why; maybe it’s just to gain attention for knowing something new in our lives.”
“They might also try to spread this information to either benefit or detriment the Normal Coalition.” Velvet took this as her turn to let a soft sigh escape from her closed lips. “This can really set a disturbing future for all of us if the conflict finds a new way to spread its destructive influence.”
Jaune nodded as he felt a mixture of pain and relief from talking to Velvet. Although he felt bad for not takikng this to Pyrrha first, he ended up saying what was stuck to almost every corner of his mind. The only problem was that he only vented, not think of a plan that would have let him find relief in deep slumber.
“Professor Ozpin told me I’ll eventually find events that’ll involve me to take care of. Do you think it’s cases like this where I need to start getting an idea on what to do?” The leader of Juniper peered at the brown bunny to see her stare back at him with her eyes of dark chocolate.
“Perhaps, but he couldn’t have left it so ambiguous. My team leader is already thinking of the specific missions we would need to take so we could do our part.” Velvet smiled as her long ears bent down at different paces. “Was there something else he might have said that could help? Looking at his words from a different angle might be better than remain confused from your current viewpoint.”
Jaune went into deep thought as he realized his friend was right. He also regretted leaving Lou behind as the jewel could have helped him make a discovery since it was also present during their conversation with Ozpin. Relying on his own efforts, the blonde eventually pinpointed one memory that had him almost berate himself for missing a crucial factor.
The headmaster clearly stated that the current situation was caused by the White Fang’s rampant activities. He also made it clear that the organization’s shutdown would give the Humans and Faunus no reason to be hostile towards the other anymore.
Yes, Ozpin could have been clearer with this message. However, Jaune understood that as leader, he should have been able to see the bigger picture since he was the only one given free will to do what he believed would be the right course of action. This sudden epiphany also helped him think of the first step that has alluded him until now.
“You’re right.” Finished with his long train of thought, Jaune faced Velvet with confident eyes. “And I just found out what I need to do from now on. Thanks Velvet, your advice helped me out so much!” The boy felt a silly smile crease across his lips.
Velvet seemed to share the feeling as she made a soft grin. “I’m glad I was able to help. For someone like you, it’s important that you’re able to make progress in what you do.”
“Like me?” Calming down from his euphoria, Jaune looked at his friend while he walked away from the balcony’s stony edge. “Well, I’m not exactly that important. I’m just another guy trying to get the job done.” Despite the awkwardness of his phrase, the boy said it since he was careful on showcasing his attitude. This was out of fear from any effect Lou might have given from its attempt to mold him into an ‘ideal’ hero.
“But you’re not just anyone. Since yesterday, your decisions have been affecting much more than any of us may be seeing. For me, nothing you’ve done has been terrible…in fact, I’m grateful that a good person like you is able to make these changes by your will.” Velvet slowly walked up to Jaune to where both bodies were somewhat close. For the blonde’s case, he was glad that Lou wasn’t here to make this another unnecessary moment of innuendo.
The rabbit pulled back as if she finished inspecting her human friend. “So if you don’t mind me asking, what is the first step towards the goal you have in mind?”
Jaune sighed as one hand scratched his head. “I think my team and I should later try to see what the White Fang is up to and stop them from causing trouble. And the only one who could give that information is the one that attacked us with the Paladin. Talking to her might be a problem if Atlas won’t let just anybody go and meet her.”
Before Jaune could think any further, he noticed a shadow whiz by the windows of the far hallway from his position outside the building. Seeing that the entity was heading their way, the blonde pulled his friend behind him and raised his hand. Even if Lou wasn’t with him, he understood his ability to use certain Aura attacks were still at his command to use.
The prepared male didn’t have a chance to use them as he identified the shadow that came through the doorway and stood in front of him and Velvet. “Blake?! What are you doing here?”
“Move!” Blake commanded as she pushed the two away before jumping over the balcony’s edge. Shocked by this action, Jaune and Velvet ran up to the edge only to see that the cat Faunus was hanging onto the platform’s lowest edge. Hanging on for dear life, she whispered, “Act normal. Just wait for them to pass by.”
The two friends didn’t understand this until they heard footsteps come to a stop near the doorway. Both heads turned to see teenagers of their age in Atlas uniforms standing near them. They were no doubt chasing Blake for something she did, something that Jaune hoped didn’t cross any lines.”
“Hey, did you two see someone pass by here? The person was wearing something attached to the top of their head.” One Atlas student placed his hands onto head, an imagery to indicate where the said accessory would have been at. “He or she tried to break into an authorized area. By school and Atlas regulations, that person is now considered another suspect possibly working for the White Fang.”
Jaune was impressed that Blake managed to keep her appearance a secret from the eyes of these two sentries. He wished she didn’t have to bring them here when he was having a good time with Velvet.
His mind going into overdrive, Jaune realized that he had to ward off the students looking around the balcony. Whether or not Blake was still hanging onto the edge she was last seen at, he couldn’t take the chance of the Atlas members discovering any trace of her during their investigation.
“No, we didn’t see anyone. Right Velvet? It’s just the two of us up here.” Jaune was relieved to see Velvet nod, a sign that she was going to help him out. Keeping calm, he continued, “Yep, nothing happening here. You two should probably check other places before the culprit gets away.”
One of the Atlas members gave Velvet a hard look. Out of nowhere he turned to his taller friend and said, “Wait, two ears on the top of your head and a feminine figure with long legs. Do you think it’s this one?”
“I think so. It makes more sense if it’s a Faunus that tried to break into the area.” The other member stepped towards the bunny, who appeared nervous as she was now made a suspect for the committed crime.
Seeing this, Jaune stepped in front of Velvet so the approaching student couldn’t grab her as intended. “No, she’s definitely not your person. She was with me up here the entire time. She couldn’t have done anything elsewhere if she was with me the entire time.”
“That’s the thing. Several of us were chasing this person for a while, so the time frame would have been enough for her to hide up in this part of the school.” The first member of Atlas had an eyebrow raised that showed he wasn’t impressed by the given explanation. “Plus, we know who you are, Jaune Arc. Any kind of alibi from you isn’t convincing since you would probably support the Faunus over any of us from Atlas.”
The boy panicked as the larger man standing in front of him pushed his body to the side. Still hesitant to take action, Jaune saw that the Atlas punk had a hand grab Velvet by her ear. The oppressor’s strength was apparently enough to make the rabbit yelp out in pain.
So much fury filled Jaune to where he yelled, “Hey, let go of her!” At the same time, he channeled Aura into his hand before he punched at the captor’s arm so Velvet’s ear could be freed. Standing in front his friend again, Jaune slowed his breathing after he saw that both Atlas students stood at a distance with arms up at ready.
Unsure of what to do, his mind somehow drifted to Lou. Shockingly, this had him consider one way that might work things out for him despite the humiliation and misunderstandings this might make among the others.
“W-wait, sorry about that. If it helps, I’ll tell you the truth.” Jaune paused to regain his composure while his mind tried to think of an alternative that was non-existent. “I led Velvet up here because…we were spending some quality time together. Tonight seemed pretty romantic, so both of us just had to spend some personal time up here.”
Nobody spoke as the unexpected news made them speechless. Jaune glanced at Velvet and inwardly apologized for what he was about to do.
“Yeah, we were having a date. There’s nothing wrong with me dating a Faunus, is there?” Jaune’s final words had the Atlas boys gawk at him before looking each other. Holding his breath, the liar hoped his words made this embarrassing moment worth it. If not, then he would have failed and embarrassed the one friend he wished wasn’t in risk of being punished.