Jaune: The Strong (Volume 1)

Morning Oddities

“You okay, Jaune? From my readings, your Aura is kind of fluctuating there. Sleeping must have been a pain in the ass…deserved it too, you stupid prick.”

The addressed blonde groaned as he rubbed his aching neck while he walked down Beacon’s lit halls in his combat attire. “Can we not talk about this? You’re reminding me how I even got this ache in the first place.”

“Kind of your fault. I knew you couldn’t make them both happy, so you should have focused on making one of the ladies satisfied. But what did you do? Tell the truth; you should have lied through those baby teeth of yours and make the gullible one find out about the real events later.”

Jaune inwardly disproved of the given advice while he rounded a corner. “If I lied, that would have made things worse. You can’t count on evil to create a good situation.”

“But it could have given you time, dumbass. If they were still mad, you could have thought of a plan where each of them would have been confronted at different times. Take one to a restaurant and the other to a bookstore. Instead, you told Blake about your plan to talk to Steele, which made her give you the pissy silent treatment during your call to that soldier boy. Pyrrha was angry because your ‘side-tracking’ made her wait for nothing. Probably why she gave you that death-grip when the two of you finally turned in for the night.”

Jaune felt his eyes feel sore when he remembered waking up this morning with the pain in his neck. “Well, we probably should have thought of something that’s better than your suggestion.”

“Sorry kid, but my way is better than your direct approach to handle situations.” Sounding genuinely concerned, Lou continued, “I want you to have a good heart, kid, but you need to learn how to navigate through these things. You need to understand that sometimes, the lesser of evils is the one that can get you out of situations, you stupid mama’s boy. Sure, the ladies love your goodie personality, but they’re going to get annoyed of it if you can’t separate it from this naïve personality of yours.”

This remark had Jaune feel like his talking necklace was putting an effort in giving him legitimate advice. While he was still against it, the boy was somewhat glad that Lou still had good intentions. He almost forgot that the jewel came into his life so it could assist its master.

“I’ll think on it...it sounds like it’s worth trying someday.”

“Screw that, it’s going to happen. Remember? I’m the family heirloom that’s old enough to be your grandpa’s dad? Maybe a little older, but just know that age comes with wisdom and I am giving the motherload to you, ya stinking whippersnapper!”

Jaune almost chuckled as he understood that Lou was saying something more of a joke than an insult. He preferred this kind of attitude rather than the times the necklace tried to resort to its unusual ways. His jovial thoughts stopped when he turned one more corner to find a sight that he did not want to see before the real work began.

“Ooh, Steele and Blake are having a stare-off. Fight, fight, bitch slap the hell out of each other!”

Jaune winced at Lou’s juvenile cheering as he cautiously approached the two teenagers, each leaning on opposite walls. He noticed their eyes were on each other; blinks and moving eyelids indicated that an invisible war was already going on between them.

“Morning everyone.” Jaune waved his hand with his greeting. He only saw Steele nod while Blake, in her own normal clothes, made no reaction to the blonde. Glad that nothing hostile has occurred, the newcomer asked, “So are we ready to go inside?”

“Yeah, but you better make it quick. Telling my guys to go escort the coming interrogation team isn’t keeping them away forever.” Steele’s voice gained the attention of Juniper’s leader, who saw the captain’s gray sweatpants and white, sleeveless shirt that revealed grand, chiseled muscles underneath. “And I’ll stay out here as promised since we already discussed how the two of you can get answers out of her than I could. That is unless, you have any objections Blake. Just want to know so we can get all issues out of the way.”

The silent Faunus slowly shook her head as the captain repeated what was discussed last night in a conversation involving Scrolls. Jaune was glad that the cat calmed down afterwards, although he wished Velvet could have joined them. She sounded sad when she left behind a voicemail that said she and her team were leaving around this time to go on a mission.

Then there was his own team, who were still sleeping as they weren’t needed to wake up during this ungodly hour.

“Dude, focus. Seriously, why do you keep on thinking about that bunny when there are other choices to consider!”

Hearing Lou’s snappy, mental response had Jaune return, “That reminds me, what is your problem with Velvet? She’s been nothing but sweet and considerate with me.”

“And that’s the problem. You’re better off not getting attached to that kind of person for your own good. All that does is bring you the kind of trouble you might not be able to handle someday.”

Jaune noticed that Lou seemed off character with its last comment. Before he could ask about it, he heard a cough that came from Steele while Blake had an eyebrow raised at the blonde.

“Did you hear us? We’re ready to go in when you are.” The male soldier yawned and stretched his toned limbs so they could crack from sweet relief. Seeing this caused Jaune to feel somewhat envious and impressed at the same time. As a growing boy himself, Jaune just wished he could reach the kind of figure that Steele had, which may be happening according to his friends’ earlier remarks.

Yet, Jaune didn’t understand why this thought made him feel sensitive to Blake’s opinion about his worth, his‘manliness’ as Lou would have put it. Finishing this thought had him notice that a yellow blur was running towards them from the opposite end of the hall. A closer look had him recognize long, golden hair and steampunk clothes that could only belong to another person he knew.

“Found you Blake!”

The frustrated yelling had Jaune confirm that the newcomer was Yang Xiaolong, the luscious brawler of Team Ruby. Seeing that she came uninvited, the blonde boy remained quiet as the female team members conversed with one another.

“Really? Then why didn’t you bother to tell us what you were doing earlier?” Yang demanded as she set her hands onto her curvy hips. “We thought you were overdoing it again when you were gone for a good part of the night.”

“This time is different. Once I had enough information, I was going to bring it to all of you so we could work on it together.” Finished answering, Blake sighed as she seemed to be stressed from the likelihood that her team found out her actions too early.

Yang seemed to notice this as she said, “Fine, but we’re going to start on that the day after you get a good night’s sleep.” She then turned to Jaune and added, “But I didn’t expect to see you here. It looks like the rumors are right; some guys were thinking that you might have been up to something after everything you’ve been involved with.”

“If you’re talking about those fight and news videos, give him a break,” Steele yawned. After covering his open mouth with one hand, he became more lax as his tension from talking to Blake disappeared. “That three-against-one and Paladin fight were just good rumbles, so don’t stress him out over honorifics and duties.”

“Wasn’t going to since Blink-it made all this mislabeling really annoying.” After mentioning their school’s online bulletin board, the blonde cowgirl smiled as she made eye contact with the captain. “And you must be the hardass soldier, Captain Hartbreaker. I saw your handiwork the other day; your fight with some friends riled up my partner over there.”

Steele didn’t seem to mind Yang’s words, especially when they were said in a calm manner. “It was all a mistake and I said my apologies. If you still have a problem, you better know I’m not going to let you badmouth me in any way.”

“No worries, I heard what really happened. If Blake here hadn’t wandered off, I could have told her before she had her little talk with you back on that rooftop.” Ever resourceful thanks to info given by others, the perky girl winked at the male brunette to show her light-hearted attitude. “So it looks like you’re going to wait for these two to finish. I’ll be doing the same, so mind having me around?”

“Not at all, you seem cool unlike someone who had the nerve to start an impossible debate.” Steele glanced at Blake after his angry remark. Switching to Jaune, he asked “Still a little dazed or are you ready?”

“We are and we won’t take long. Let’s go, Blake.” Jaune opened the metallic door and presented it to the Faunus with one hand like a gentleman. Once the brunette was inside, he slowly closed the door behind him while keeping his curious gaze onto Yang as she took up a spot next to Steele’s place. This made him wonder how exactly things would develop for both the captain and cowgirl from this point onwards.

“Kid, worry about that later. Getting distracted in front of your kitty missus isn’t considered a good attitude.”

Lou’s remark had Jaune see he was inside a large room. The place had several, open hallways show doors at their ends. The entire premise had him feel emptiness and gloom that had him realize this place was one of Beacon’s detention rooms, a place that would make a good makeshift prison for the person they were heading for.

Jaune pointed a finger at a door that looked slightly different from the others by its larger design. “I think she’s in there. Let’s hurry and ask her our questions before the soldiers get back.”

“I’m sorry.” This sudden remark had Jaune turn to make sure it was coming from Blake, which it was. As if shy from the boy’s curious gaze, the Faunus averted her gaze and continued, “The past few days have been tough for me. Just when there was the White Fang to worry about, Atlas comes in and applies restrictions for the Faunus who didn’t do anything. Their actions make me feel like I’m being encaged…maybe this is coming from the fact that past run-ins with their military didn’t make a lot of fond memories with them.”

Jaune was slightly surprised to hear the cat give her this kind of confessions. “I guess that explains some things, but why tell me now?”

“Because you were patient and resourceful,” Blake admitted. “Of all people I expected help from, you willingly gave this peaceful option of meeting the one from the White Fang. After all of this, you…deserve some kind of an explanation… more an apology.”

Despite how the last phrase came off as a whisper, Jaune still heard each word spoken by the hesitating brunette. He knew apologizing wasn’t something Blake would do often since she hardly had a legit reason to do so. It’s this rarity why he appreciated the effort while another part of him felt the cat was being unusually shy in an adorable way.

“Lookie here, the bitch actually said sorry. Hm, you think she’d do more by inviting you to dinner.”

Jaune used a hand to grip Lou’s crystal form as he smiled at the Faunus. “I don’t think there’s a reason for an apology, but it’s nice to know you care. Honestly, I didn’t expect it because you’re never so open about your feelings like this.”

“You’re wrong thinking this is my way of being open.” With her gentle retort, Blake’s eyes narrowed into sharp ones that left imaginary daggers in the boy. “It’s the right thing to do. Don’t assume we’re the best of friends once this is over.”

“Then can we start being friends? Now might as well be a better time than later, right?” asked the fear-ridden Jaune. Still unsure if the Faunus was angry at him, he slowly walked up to their destination with her. He noticed Blake seemed surprise, which meant his question either shocked her out of her foul mood or she didn’t have any hard feelings in the first place.

When the two were in front of the door, the Faunus finally answered, “We’ll see, although we hardly talk when the others are around.”

“Then we can hang out, just the two of us. I’ll even set up the times because there are tons of things to do in the school and…city.” Jaune’s last word made him feel an unusual amount of confidence in his entire being. This came off as strange, a paralyzing discovery, as the boy had this emotion while he was making an offer that could have been mistaken more for a date than a friendly outing.

“Wow, didn’t expect that out of you so soon. Hubba hubba, looks like someone is already trying to get into the pants of this pussycat. What’s next, a stop by the litterbox alley so you two could get down and dirty?”

“I guess we can try that later. Just stay focused for now; I don’t know how we spent so much time on this kind of conversation.”

Blake’s words had Jaune blush as it seemed like the cat answered Lou’s question instead of his own. The necklace’s laughter ringing throughout his head made it hard for him to maintain composure as he and the Faunus entered a room that was mostly dark. The only light came from a hanging lamp, the sole source of illumination that showed a table and chair occupied by the female Paladin pilot from yesterday.

Coming closer to the table, Jaune had a clearer view of the White Fang member’s dark-blue cat ears and hair. The girl still had on her school uniform of brown, white, and black clothes. What stood out the most to the boy was the girl’s golden eyes that didn’t meet his or his partner’s eyes.

“Now they’re sending the two of you to do their dirty work? Who’s next, Oobleck so he could talk my ear off?” The cat of the White Fang leaned back until her chair was on its last two legs. Her hands were placed on her back, giving the indication that her arms were bound to limit her options of escape.

Blake shook her head and pulled up another chair from a wall so she could sit on the table’s other side. “If you’re talking about Atlas, we’re not working for them. We’re here to ask some simple questions that will help us in our own endeavors.”

As Jaune sat in his own obtained chair, he figured that his current partner would be using a firm, comforting voice to appear associable towards her fellow Faunus. He founds this to be kind and wise of Blake to do, which was why he frowned after the blue-haired girl stated, “I’m not giving anything to a softie like you, so get out of here already.”

“Softie?” Jaune asked as the word didn’t seem right for Blake, a creature of darkness. “Why do you call her that?”

“Because my ‘sister’ here has quite the nerve to pretend that she’s Human; hanging out with a guy from that disgusting species is already convincing me that she’s after the softer meat of nature’s food chain.” Using ‘sister’ to denote that she and Blake were of the same species, the blue feline blew a part of the bangs that covered her eyes. “Sad, I bet you’re one of the sick hypocrites who think having a hybrid love-child is going to help you get more accepted into this society.”

“L-love-child?!” Jaune exclaimed from intense shock while his hands dug deep into his hair. “Wa-wait, the two of us aren’t in that kind of relationship if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“Shut up, doofus.” Lou’s interruption made the boy go from surprise to confusion until the necklace said, “She’s just saying that to rile the two of you up. See? Grinning like a stinking Chesire cat. Probably a bad move since Blake here isn’t looking so patient with her ‘sibling,’ so you might want to step away from the bloodbath zone.”

Jaune slowly glanced at his side to see his Faunus associate don an intimidating Aura, a thin layer of black energy surrounding her body. He also saw that her fists were balled to where veins appeared all over the somewhat pale hands. This was a time that he was really glad that they didn’t bring their weapons to display their intention of no harm, although that may change in the next few moments.

“Don’t…place that kind of stereotype on me.” Voice strained, Blake managed to keep her cool appearance. “And don’t try to avoid the question by throwing us off. I know you’ve been here for more than a year, so that would make you our senior, Aqua.”

Jaune became more attentive as his brunette partner just revealed the name of the imprisoned White Fang member. “So your name’s Aqua? This is the first time I’ve heard of it. You never took classes with us like another friend of ours did.”

“And that’s my point. Aqua here always had a record of focusing on her studies so she could rise through the school rankings faster with her team. She had no reason to join the White Fang until they came to the city just a few months ago.” Back to her trademark calmness, Blake crossed her arms while her studious gaze never left the one in question. “And last night, you didn’t even bother escaping or struggling to the end like the rest would have done. What is your real reason for causing all of this trouble in the first place?”

The silent Arc lad could see that Aqua deteriorated from silent anger to a show of anxiety. While Blake had still yet to back her words with solid evidence, her implications making this reaction out of the older Faunus revealed one fact that everyone in the room could see.

Aqua was recently recruited into the White Fang, thus she shouldn’t have had any issues with Humans when she was able to live her life in peace until now. While the ‘why’ was still a mystery, Blake made the point that the girl wasn’t sent here to destroy the humans with the Paladin. There was a different reason for such recklessness, something that only she would do as someone understood to be under the control of the anti-Human syndicate.

These discoveries made Jaune feel bad because the current event was going in an unexpected direction. He believed they were going to find a way to get the location of Aqua’s boss or base and take out the source of evil. The boy didn’t want to interrogate their prisoner to the point where she had to be this uncomfortable. Despite understanding the necessity to know the Faunus’s reasoning, the situation didn’t suit well with the kinder parts of his soul.

“It’s good if we did know your reasons, but you can save them for another time.” Jaune saw that his words had the blue-haired Faunus look in his direction. “We just need to know where your boss or group is in the city. If you tell us, we plan on taking care of it with the right people. You don’t have to worry about any military involvement or prejudice; we’re going to try and make it fair for everyone.”

Jaune saw that Blake sent a dagger at him with her sharp eyes. Although he felt wounded from this action, he remained firm in his belief to give relief for Aqua rather than pressure her into doing more than necessary.

“The several of you take on the White Fang? You’re really stupid enough to try and take them on without a Hunter?” Aqua didn’t sound very pleased, more from the fact that her juniors were placing their lives on the line. “I can’t believe I had to listen to that. You two just had to make me like this before those idiots arrived.”

To everyone’s surprise, the blue feline got up from her chair with hands freed from her back. Both Blake and Jaune realized that she was pretending to be bound, which was strange because prisoners were usually restrained especially when there were no guards inside the place.

What’s even more bizarre was how Aqua used one hand to grip Jaune by his shoulder. With a grin, she said, “And you’re coming with me. Let’s go.”

Before Blake could ram into the rogue Faunus and Lou yell out a helpful advice, Jaune saw his sight become filled with droplets of water. Unsure of what was happening, all he could do was stay still as he felt his entire body change into a state that made him lose his entire sight.

Unknown to the boy, Aqua used her Semblance to have their bodies turn into mists of water. This made them disappear into thin air, leaving Blake as the sole person left in the room that became void of its original captive.

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