Then and Now
on the arena, Jaune had his sword, Crocea Mors, in one hand while Lou was out
of his shirt for all to see. Seeing Cardin standing ready on the other side
wasn’t the reason why he was filled with the doubt caused by something else.
“Lou, mind telling me why you want me to fight with only one sword this way?”
“Practice. I’m going to teach you how to fight with some unusual ways. And for the love of all that is made of pixie Dust, please tell me your folks taught you about Luminessence.”
“Lumi-what?” Jaune’s head shook when Lou shouted inside his mind out of frustration. Wondering why, he placed both hands on the handle of his sword and waited for the signal of the battle’s start.
As referee, Goodwitch stood outside the arena’s outside boundaries. “Now remember you two, this match will continue until your Aura levels are depleted from the above screens. Understood?”
While Jaune nodded, he heard Cardin remark, “Of course. But before that, I’d like to say a few words, if you don’t mind professor.” Hearing this placed the boy on guard as his nemesis placed his mace onto shoulder.
“Jauney boy, I think you’re getting a bit ahead of yourself. Do you really think taking down that Ursa Major the other day was all that great?” Chuckling, Cardin appeared much more of a d-bag than anyone was comfortable with. “It’s fine that you play like you’re a someone nowadays. I wonder if that attitude is going to make you also side with those animals.”
“The Faunus?” Jaune didn’t know why Cardin referred to the beast-kin with such a downgrading term. “I’m friends with several. Why wouldn’t I side with good people?”
“Because they’re freaks. Seriously, why do wimps like you forget that they’re the losers who steal from your trash cans?” Cardin glanced at the Faunus in the seats, particularly Blake, Sun, and Velvet. “And when Humans gave them mercy, all they did was whine and complain about having less. Their worst reaction was making the White Fang that will get declawed if they keep wrecking properties.”
Unsure why Cardin would express the stereotype so strongly, Jaune just shrugged his shoulders. “Well, not every one of them is that bad. Plus, they had their share of pain, so we could just leave it at that.”
Cardin shook his head as if he was dealing with a naïve child. “Oh, Jauney boy. If only you were still my ‘best buddy,’ you could have been part of the bigger picture. Instead, you’d rather be on the side that’s going to lose after the correction begins?”
“Correction? What correction?” With his peripherals, Jaune noticed that several people from the audience had their eyes leering at him. He wondered if this had something to do with Cardin’s comment full of lacking content.
“Whatever. Just get ready for the pounding that your man can’t save you from this time.” Snickering, Cardin raised his mace with one hand. “Whoops, that’s not the right thing to say without that dress of yours, right Twinkle Toes? And what, did she get you that necklace? Looks nice, a shiny collar given by your stronger master.”
“Agreeing with the dress, disagree with me and your stylish moves. With Twinkle Toes as a name, ladies might flock to ya since they’ll think you have the moves. After that act of joy is when you polish up your dancing for later.”
Lou’s comment mixed with criticism and support made Jaune feel somewhat at ease. It was all he had since his friends weren’t allowed to interfere from their seats. However, he didn’t appreciate how somehow implanted a sexual innuendo in the last part of his phrase.
“Now do remember, Mr. Winchester, that a real battle will not allow any ‘trash talk’ before it begins.” Clearing her throat, Goodwitch swung her hand out and announced, “From now is an official match between Cardin Winchester and Jaune Arc. Victory will be given to the one who depletes the entire Aura bar of his opponent. Ready? You may begin!”
Cardin started off with a sprint, quickly closing distance. Aware of this, Jaune jumped away to dodge the incoming bull right as he corrected his stance per Pyrrha’s teaching.
“Okay, so Luminessence is a lifestyle that your ancestors made in the past.”
“Are you still talking about that?” Replying to Lou almost made Jaune forget to bring up his sword. He barely did so to have his blade block the massive head of Cardin’s mace.
“Yeah cause you’re going to need it. I’m not liking the history you have with this loser. Whoa, incoming.”
Lou’s advice had Jaune dodge another strike from Cardin. Shuffling feet to maintain balance like he saw Ren do, he swung his sword to meet the mace head-on. Metallic clangs filled the air as both boys committed to the tempo of striking, parrying, and thrusting. Simply, one was fighting for dominance against the other even in this practice match.
To the shock of several, Jaune was doing better than before. To see him fight on par with Cardin was more progress than most expected. Only his friends weren’t surprised as they knew, giving Yang the chance to hustle as she made bets with other students who believed more in Cardin.
“Okay, so you’re fighting okay to get some attention from the crowd. Not good enough though, so I’m just going to cram some new techniques into ya.”
A wave of nausea made Jaune stumble, a state that him vulnerable to the incoming mace. Thrown back by the strong hit, he quickly rolled and got up in the same manner Nora always showed him.
“What just happened?” Jaune leapt back to dodge a head strike. “Please tell me you’re not setting me up to blow up a human being!”
“No way, this guy’s practice for you. He’s more classified as a meatbag in need of a lesson.” Lou’s assurance made Jaune maintain his grip of both hands onto his weapon’s handle. Strangely, he felt nothing too different aside from how his body felt lighter as if becoming filled with energy.
“So I decided to add in your predecessors’ skills, more of the ones you can manage.”
Hearing these words while he was still fighting, Jaune noticed something strange with his movements. Dodging and weaving past the fast mace strikes, he no longer had to block with his sword. Instead, he swung with each dodge to make the metal smack all over Cardin’s body.
“Why can’t you-.”
Jaune ducked to dodge before he jumped up with an upward slash.
“-stop squirming!” Shouting, Cardin grabbed his weapon’s shaft with both hands and struck down as he intended to break a skull. Jaune took one step forward to make the mace miss him by a thread’s length and hit the ground instead.
Sword already pulled back at ready, Jaune felt incredible energy gather into his arm in one second. In another second, he swung hard to slam the entire blade into Cardin’s body. Upon contact, Crocea Mors suddenly shined until an explosion engulfed the taller boy’s entire body.
In smoke, Jane coughed and tried to wave the clouds away. When the clouds parted, he saw Cardin on the ground and moaning in pain. His brief relief was replaced by anxiety when his opponent got up to his feet.
“Not a Luminous Shine, but it’s a smaller version. Hey, he’s getting up again!”
Jaune saw Cardin raise his weapon high. Remembering this technique from Pyrrha’s fight, the blonde retaliated by raising his own weapon. From an unknown instinct, Jaune hit the blade to the ground where his arm felt power surge into his weapon. A small wave of light came out to meet Cardin’s made of earth, both elements colliding with a loud crash.
“Now finish with Lumen Burst!”
“Stop giving me new skills!” Jaune’s protest came too late as his shield shined before a blast of energy propelled its owner into the air like a cannonball. Flying, the blonde boy noticed he was heading straight for an unsuspecting Cardin.
Left with no choice, Jaune grabbed his sword with both hands. Again out of instinct, he flipped himself down to make his body spin forward in mid-air like Sonic. Moving faster, he got out of his ball so he could slam his blade straight into Cardin’s gut, sending the bully backwards and into the ground.
Still moving due to momentum, Jaune landed with one knee while both hands had his sword in a tight grip. Coming to a stop, he breathed deep to keep himself calm as the pain in his knee and Cardin’s shouting bothered him to no end.
When all was calm and the dust settled, Jaune stood up tall and looked at the screen in hopes that he won. His heart skipped a beat after he saw that his Aura bar was mostly full while Cardin’s was as empty as his self-esteem.
“Oh great, you won by a landslide.” Miraculously attached to Jaune’s neck, Lou didn’t sound very impressed. “Big shocker when you have me as your all-powerful accessory. Mind thanking me?”
As Jaune gave a simple, mental thanks, he heard a small applause coming from the witnesses. Goodwitch herself had a small smile as if approving the fight she had the pleasure of watching.
“Your performance does appear a bit odd. Compared to any students I’ve trained, none has ever improved as much as you.” Walking to the space between the victor and loser, Goodwitch gave Jaune a good scan with a calm face. “While you will need the headmaster’s examination, I believe you have earned this victory. Congratulations, Mr. Arc.”
Jaune smiled as he received a comment from one of the stricter teachers of the school. Before he could say something, his hand suddenly went up and opened as a gesture for a handshake.
“She’s interested now. Hue hue, just got to seal the deal with some physical contact so you can check in this mature beauty some other time.”
Feeling heat in his face, Jaune noticed that Goodwitch looked at his open hand in wonder. For a moment, the boy believed he saw a ghost of a smile from the approaching teacher.
“I’m not sure of the reason, but I suppose this is alright.” Slowly, Goodwitch rose her hand to where her slender fingers were about to make contact with Jaune’s.
“Wait, wait! Don’t let her touch you! I made a mistake!”
Lou’s exclamation came right as both student and teacher’s hands touched each other. A moment later, Goodwitch’s body was covered in a light that grew until it blinded all eyes. Once the brightness died down, there was no sign of the teacher anywhere.
“…Okay, I was fiddling and may have teleported her somewhere else.”
“Somewhere around here, I think. Your Aura output would have…probably taken her to the nearby waterfall.”
Jaune inwardly sighed as he realized the talking jewel did a terrible thing. Even worst was that he was going to become the one taking the responsibility for this mishap.
“So friends are coming. Got your shield on your back? Good.”
Fire washed over the area Lou mentioned, making Jaune stumble forward in surprise. Actually glad he had his shield there, he turned around to find Russell standing in the arena with his Dust daggers in hand.
“I don’t know what happened, but it’s payback time for what you did.” Standing beside Russell was Dove and Sky with their weapons in hands. Jaune glanced up to see that many of the students were even more shocked than he was by these turn of events.
“Surprise, surprise, that lunkhead of a loser has friends to back him up. Hey, remember that fight Pyrrha had with them? Now it’s your turn.”
Right then, Jaune knew that he was about to enter round two of this long battle. Trying to maintain a fearless face, he felt slightly dizzy right as the remaining members of Team Cardinal moved on to rush him with weapons raised.