We're With You This Time

BY : X_RHODEN_X
Category: +M through R > RWBY
Dragon prints: 1230
Disclaimer: I do not own RWBY, this is a not for profit work. RWBY is owned by Rooster Teeth. If you were charged for this you were scammed.

Ruby shielded her eyes as the bright flash of flame inched ever closer to her. She was certain it would be her end, yet it never hit. Roaring flames hitting something was what she instead heard. Her eyes opened to a nightmare.

 

Atop the CCT, Jaune Arc stood between RWBY and Cinder. His shield smoking, yet unmarred. He wasn't so lucky. His skin was burnt, possibly so badly that it fused his clothing with it. He was on one knee, shield arm useless as Cinder smiled, content to revel in her victory, all of them out of Aura.

 

"You dolt! Why would you stand in front of that attack for us?!" Ruby heard Weiss shriek, as she saw tears begin to form in the heiress's eyes. She wasn't ready to watch someone else die for her. She wasn't ready to die herself.

 

Ruby was battered and nearly broken, her Aura depleted, numerous cuts and burns inflicted on her previously untouched skin. How did this happen? They tried so hard, trained every day. Life was perfect in Beacon, all until this. This nightmare.

 

The Vytal Tournament was supposed to be something that would bring the Kingdoms together, a time of festivity. Yet she could only shake in horror at recalling how this woman… this monster, had manipulated the crowd to induce a Grimm attack on Vale, one that came accompanied with White Fang, rogue Atlesian robots and a massive Dragon Grimm that was perched on the side of the Tower, eying the five of them for dinner.

 

Now she was at her will's end.

 

Having followed Jaune as he tried to rally them to the top of the tower to fight Cinder, she wasn't prepared to be dragged into a battle for her life against an opponent so monstrously powerful that she made Ms. Goodwitch look tame. Ruby was despairing, and now she was forced to watch as her first friend at Beacon took short, shallow breaths and slowly slumped to the ground, his knee giving out on him.

 

She slowly crawled over to him, struggling to drag herself along the ground, her legs useless. Her body screamed, urging her to cry out in pain, and she did, ten minutes ago when Cinder first inflicted these wounds. But now her mind was numbed, something else possessing her as she reached Jaune.

 

Her tiny hand reached out and grabbed the sleeve of his shield arm, the only part of him that wasn't horribly burnt aside from his face. Her arm was numb, her muscles refusing to contract at her command. It took all her strength to pull him backwards and onto the ground where their eyes could meet.

 

He looked tired. Not shocked, not in pain, not afraid, nor defiant as the other members of her team were, but simply tired. His eyes held the same look she had come to fear, one that spoke volumes of resignation, the lack of any will to keep going.

 

Despite her body's demands, she opened her mouth to speak. The inside dry from the smoldering torture of heat they had been assaulted with.

 

"Why?" A simple question, one that had been plaguing her mind ever since she saw him at Initiation. "You act like you don't care… but then you do things like this… will you finally tell me why?"

 

Her question caused something to stir, his eyes conveyed that much. His gaze turned to her, and she noticed that the rest of her team had also managed to crawl in closer. Death being inevitable, they wanted the elusive answer to why he was such a mystery.

 

/-/

 

Jaune's breaths were short and shallow, yet they didn't stop him from sounding a dry laugh, one lacking in any warmth. He had failed… again. He had lost count as to whether it was the three thousand and forty-seventh, or the three thousand and forty-eighth failure. Repeats in which he had foolishly gotten feelings involved had a tendency of mucking up the count.

 

Whether through torture or imprisonment, he had learned the hard way that telling people of his semblance was a no-go. Yet Ruby's question was so innocent, so simple. If they were going to die anyways, there was no reason for him to hold out. Not like anything carried over from one life to the next, besides himself.

 

"Time travel." the words were soft spoken, yet their volume had not been an issue. RWBY had heard them loud and clear.

 

Their reactions were ones he had spent lifetimes trying to forget. Anger, scorn, ridicule, disbelief. Neither of those emotions suited the faces of the friends who were his only anchors in this never-ending nightmare. Long ago he may have been hurt at their refusal to believe him, but he had long since grown out of such pathetic feelings. Scant little stirred him anymore.

 

"I suppose I shouldn't have expected any better… you're ever the joker as always. Never a straight answer from you is there?" Weiss spoke. Her words more of a statement of fact than a question. The fear of death's imminent coming had left her.

 

"I'll have you know my parents thought comedy would be a good career choice for me." quipped Jaune. The ever present attempts at humour showing. One of the few coping mechanisms he had developed. If you can't beat it, make jokes about it.

 

"Alright playboy… let's assume I buy this load you're selling. How does it work? Time fairy come by and swoop you up? You show her your boarding pass?" Yang, she was always strong to the end. She never showed any fear when it came to her own death.

 

"More like she burns me… that or stabs, cuts, blows up, shoots, take your pick." The variety of deaths he had experienced was impressive, or he thought so at least. By this point he considered it a collection, one that was nearly full, yet could always be unexpectedly added to.

 

"That sounds like a horrible fate to put a side character through." Blake joked. Wait… Blake made a joke? That was rare. It brought a smirk to his face. Ignoring the jab that he was a side character of course.

 

"Yeah, well this side character wants a raise, and a vacation." replied Jaune. He found it strange that they would take death so well. Yang and Blake usually took death well, although seeing Weiss so calm was a new experience for him.

 

"Right… I guess that explains everything about you." replied Ruby. Her tone wasn't sarcastic, neither was it angry. It was just… accepting. Strange, how long had it been since anyone had just believed him, no further questions asked? Then again, if anyone was that sort of person, it was Ruby Rose.

 

He gave her something he had forgotten was possible, a genuine smile that reached all the way up to his eyes.

 

The five of them were now laying closer together on the ground as Cinder coiled up for a final triumphant finishing blow. It had been a good run, one full of mistakes, ones he would take special care not to repeat, but it had also been one full of good memories. Memories of his friends showering him with the sickeningly sweet affections he had tried so hard to resist. He would normally ignore them on most lives, but this time? This time he had returned them. Granted it was near the end with not much time left, but it was still there.

 

The blast approached, a golden flame he knew all too well. Oh well, he had no regrets. It wasn't like any of this carried over.

 

They were grouped together unusually closely. That was another new experience for the collection.

 

He had never been killed at the same time as his friends.

 


 

He felt the telling pull from within, the sign that his semblance was kicking in. The familiar ethereal feeling of swimming through a strange river. Yet this time something felt heavier… that was strange. The feeling never changed across thousands of repeats. Was something wrong?

 

Jaune's eyes snapped open. It was something he couldn't really do anything about, over the thousands of repeats, no matter how hard he tried, no matter how much he focused before his death, his eyes always snapped open in the exact same manner every time. He wondered why exactly that happened. Was it a natural reaction to suddenly having a foreign soul take over your body? Did he evict another Jaune each time he came back? Was he in the same universe, or did it reset with him?

 

He shook his head and sat upright. These thoughts were ones he had hundreds of times, but he always chose to forget them. They were useless, after all, pondering this nonsense never helped solve anything, it never gave him any secret technique or insight. He sighed and looked to the clock.

 

Twelve o' clock noon, exactly one year before Beacon's Initiation. A time he always saw whenever he woke up. No matter how far he got, no matter how early he died, he would always wake up back here. Even if he were to kill himself this instant, he would find himself waking up on this date a few seconds earlier.

 

With practiced movements, he got off his bed, pulling his blanket off to the side. He went down to his house's kitchen, and packed a variety of supplies he'd need for his departure. Jaune knew for a fact that fate hated his guts, yet sometimes he couldn't help but silently thank it. The date he always woke up was the day his family was at a local fair, leaving the house empty, and his leave even easier. He had completely forgotten why his family had left him home, he didn't remember much from his first life, save that he was a sad case of failure.

 

As he finished gathering the supplies he'd need for travel, he turned to look upon Crocea Mors. The ancestral weapon had always stood by him faithfully. The one thing he could truly rely upon. Ruby might have poked fun at the classics, but there was no denying that they came through when you needed them most.

 

Ruby… now that was a painful memory. Someone who had actually believed him for once. Recalling that moment opened up a painful emptiness in his heart, the knowledge that he would never see the same Ruby again. He really needed to stop getting his feelings involved in his repeats, nothing good ever came of it.

 

With an exhausted sigh, he grabbed Crocea Mors off the wall and stepped out through the back door. He was tired, something which was natural after repeats in which he had gotten too attached. He wondered whether the exhaustion was his body's way of venting the negativity he had long since grown desensitized to.

 

He was out of will. The drive to move forward always left him after particularly painful lives. It’d take him a few dozen or so repeats to get it back.

 

If only there was something which could ignite it again, right away.

 


 

Her silver eyes snapped wide open. She was shivering all over, the memory of her death and the pain preceding it still fresh in her mind. Her attention was too focused upon her mind's desperate attempt to sync with her body. She felt no pain, yet the memory of it was so strong that she could swear the wounds were still present.

 

She managed to calm down enough to get a look around. Brown walls, paintings, a desk to her right. She couldn't believe it, she was back home on Patch. Was she in the afterlife? No, she couldn’t be if such painful thoughts could haunt her. She was at a loss for words. She didn't doubt him when he mentioned his semblance, but to see it first hand? How was this possible?

 

She immediately shot up from her bed and sped over to her sister's room.

 

Ruby was surprised to see her sister staring at her, wide eyed, almost refusing to believe what had happened. Ruby watched as Yang slowly got up from her bed, walked towards her, and proceeded to pull her into a tight, crushing hug.

 

She would normally make a fuss, resist or whine, but now? She was content to return it. The two sisters held each other close for a while before reluctantly letting go. They had nearly lost one another, only to be reunited across time.

 

"This is crazy… how did we come back with him?" Ruby asked, no doubt in her mind that Jaune was the reason behind this. She looked to her older sister for answers, Yang always had a habit of reassuring her when she was down or confused.

 

Ruby could see Yang's eyes were stuck in a weird state of shifting between lilac and red, unable to make sense of what was happening to her. If Yang didn't have an answer, then who would?

 

"I don't know… was playboy really telling the truth? I can't believe this… we actually have a second chance now!" exclaimed Yang, her eyes finally deciding to settle on the color red. "I'm going to smash Cinder's face in this time!"

 

She never thought she'd be the one reining Yang in, but time travel had a tendency of throwing new cards into the game. "Yang no! We can't just do that right away… we're too weak and we don't know where to start." Ruby stated as she shook her sister by her shoulders. "We need to get to Beacon, and we need to form team RWBY… what if that never happens because of us messing around?"

 

Her point got through to Yang, her sister's eyes immediately shifting back to their usual color. Wasn't this supposed to be the other way around?

 

"Then what do we do? Just wait? Why not try and find Jaune?" Yang asked. Ruby considered the suggestion for a moment, before deciding it was too risky.

 

"If we leave Patch to find Jaune we might never get into Beacon. We don't even know where he is, he told us he ran away from home remember?" she lectured.

 

"Maybe we can't find playboy… but if you and me are back… then Blake and Weiss should be too! That's it! We can contact them!" her sister exclaimed.

 

"Yeah! I don't know how to call Blake… but if she's back then she'll call us, and we can call Weiss." she replied, the beginnings of a plan starting to form in her mind.

 

"So, what's our plan then sis? You're the team leader of RWBY." Yang playfully teased as she poked a finger into her cheek. Yang could be so annoying at times.

 

"Reform team RWBY, find Jaune and kick Cinder's ass!" exclaimed Ruby, her spirits higher than the sky. She had a great feeling about all this.

 

"Wow… who taught you that language Ruby? Was it Jaune? I'm going to have a word with playboy when we find him." Ruby pouted as her sister said the words. Yang would never stop babying her, and she loved it.

 

"Who's Jaune?" a familiar voice asked from the door. Ruby froze as her father came into the room. Taiyang, blunt as always. "Do I need to be worried Ruby?" he asked with a smile. Ruby internally facepalmed.

 

"No dad it isn't like that! Jaune's just some…" her voice stopped, needing a quick excuse she looked around Yang's room, searching for anything to help fill the gap. Her eyes fixed upon a poster on the wall.

 

"He's just some band member I swear! I don't even like him!" Ruby quickly blustered out, a little too fast.

 

Ruby sent a death glare over to Yang who was wearing a shit-eating grin on her face. What she'd pay to strangle her right now.

 

"Oh… didn't know you were into bands Ruby… that's new." her dad muttered. "Well… if you ever want to see this Jaune, let me know where his next concert is, I'll see if I can get you tickets."

 

"Dad! I told you I don't think of him that way!" Ruby quickly defended. She turned around just in time to see Yang send their father an amused wink. Okay, Yang was losing a few strands of her hair later tonight.

 

"Mhm…" the only word that came out of Taiyang's mouth. Ruby despaired as he cocked a smile on his mouth and quietly left the room.

 

She tackled Yang onto the bed.

 


 

It had been a day since Blake ran from the White Fang encampment she woke up in. Her initial thoughts had been ones of fear, confusion, but later shifted to suspense and a strange sense of elation at having received another chance. It didn't take her more than a minute after waking up to conclude that Jaune was telling the truth, a fact which most of her rational mind still refused to believe.

 

Sneaking out of the encampment wasn't difficult for her, whether under daylight or night. As soon as she made her escape she traveled to Vale and got herself a room in the cheapest, out-of-the-way motel she could find.

 

Currently sitting upon a dinghy and suspiciously creaky bed, her thoughts raced to what her next course of action would be. If she came back… and Jaune's semblance caused it, then Jaune was here too. For a moment she considered attempting to contact him, yet the thought left her mind as soon as it entered. She recalled Jaune saying he ran away from home. Seeing no other way of contacting him, her mind next wandered to her teammates. That was it!

 

She wasn't alone when they died, and if she came back, then there was a good chance that her teammates did as well. Weiss was out of the question for now, since receiving a call from a random bootleg scroll would be regarded suspiciously by Schnee security. She instead decided that calling her partner would be the best course of action. She had memorized Yang's scroll details and knew that she was on Patch at this time.

 

With a tense sigh she began typing the numbers into her scroll and stiffened up as the call went through. A lone vestige of a tear formed in her left eye as she eagerly awaited the chance to talk to her old partner again.

 

She heard the familiar tune of a call successfully going through and tensed up, fully prepared for the possibility that this was not her partner. Her face appeared on the screen, her lilac eyes expressionless. She knew it… her partner had not come back with her.

 

"Wrong number sor-"

 

"You know you can take that bow off when it's just us right?" Blake's eyes widened as she heard the words. The tear finally dropping from her left eye, as a smile of joy overtook her face.

 

She saw Yang laugh loudly on the screen, no doubt her partner had to struggle to keep an expressionless face for the first few seconds. She felt the urge to throw the scroll out the window due to her partner's antics. Yang always had a habit of breaking her out of her guarded shell.

 

"You're insufferable!" Blake exclaimed, her tone full of emotion, something rare coming from her.

 

After she calmed herself, she saw her partner giving her a warm smile from across the screen. "I missed you too partner." Yang replied, relief evident in her voice to see Blake had come back with her.

 

"Is Ruby with you too?" Blake asked, curious to know whether their team leader had come back as well. If she did, then it all but confirmed Weiss being back as well.

 

"Yep, she's with me. Come say hi Ruby." Blake then heard muffled scuffling and cursing, from what seemed to be a conquest over who would hold the scroll. A moment later, her team leader's face popped up on screen, behind her was Yang scowling.

 

"Blake! Oh my god! I'm so happy to see you! How are you?! Where are you staying?! Did you eat anything? Do they have tasty fish? What about cookies?" The words were a jumbled mess, but then again, Ruby was excited to see Blake had come back.

 

"I'm well Ruby, I'm in a motel in Vale, I'll be grabbing a sandwich soon, and I don't think they have cookies." replied Blake with a smile as she saw her leader's face light up. Ruby was the literal glue that held RWBY together, sometimes Blake wondered whether the team would have held if it was anyone besides Ruby on their team.

 

"That's nice. So… you know about how we got back here right?" her leader asked. Blake nodded in response.

 

"Jaune's semblance? I'd have called him, but nobody knows where he is before Beacon." Blake replied, remembering how Jaune had always dodged the question of where he used to stay, and what he was doing. "But enough of that, even if we can't get in touch with Jaune, we still need a plan. You have a plan, right?"

 

"Yep! Reform our team, find Jaune and kick Cinder's… behind!" exclaimed Ruby. Blake facepalmed. How did she not expect her fourteen-year-old leader to come up with such a foolish plan?

 

"Ruby… we can't go around changing the timeline without Jaune's help. Anything we do will have effects… consequences… we need to play this safe." Blake lectured. Knowing Yang, she probably went along with Ruby's plan too. Without Weiss here, the only voice of reason was herself.

 

Blake watched as Ruby's face fell. The look didn't suit the young Rose, who was always the picture of joy and optimism. "Look… it's not a bad plan, but it does need more details and a few restrictions." Blake quickly added, trying to cheer her up. "First, we can't make any big moves. If anyone else besides us finds out, bad things can happen. We can't tell anyone."

 

"Not even team JNPR?" Ruby asked, in that all too innocent tone which made Blake want to give her a hug, not that she'd ever admit it.

 

"No Ruby… not even JNPR… only Jaune, and in private." Ruby seemed far less enthusiastic, but still nodded in understanding.

 

"I bet she'd like to meet Jaune in private." she heard a voice from behind Ruby. The voice promptly had a pillow thrown into its face.

 

Blake sighed, but couldn't help but betray a smile at the antics of her leader and partner. "Also, Ruby… we have to stick to the important parts of the original timeline. Which means you need to foil that Dust robbery, and we need to wait till after Initiation to confront Jaune."

 

"Okay… I guess I get it… say Blake?"

 

"Yes Ruby?"

 

"Did you find all this out from those weird books you read?" The question caught Blake off guard as she quickly glanced the other way.

 

"You mean all that smut she reads?" Yang quipped from behind. Blake was going to shave her bald if she made one more comment.

 

"Yang!" Blake exclaimed. "Not in front of Ruby!" Did Yang not care about her sister's innocence? Her warning took effect a moment later however, as Yang placed a hand over her mouth, realizing what she had done.

 

"Yang? What's smut?" her leader ever so innocently asked.

 

"Uh… it's uh… a very special and dangerous type of crime which people shouldn't talk about! Only the worst criminals do it!" Yang hastily replied. Blake resisted the urge to facepalm from the other side of the screen.

 

"Oh… so is that what Torchwick's wanted for? I'm sure he does smut all the time! I bet Cinder does smut too!" Ruby gasped in realization. "I think… Torchwick and Cinder do smut together! They're partners in smut!"

 

Blake couldn't have turned her scroll off faster. Yang was dealing with that.

 


 

Weiss gazed into the mirror in front of her. Various makeup kits, cosmetic items and beauty products on the table in front of her. Yet she discarded them all and had her manager cancel her performance. She claimed she was sick, not entirely a lie. She was sick of having to put on a show for everyone else. Most importantly, she was sick of her father's domineering influence.

 

Yet as she gazed into the mirror, she couldn't help but think how petty the concerns of her past life seemed in comparison to the knowledge she now possessed. That dunce Arc, was telling the truth. At first when she woke up, her reactions had been those of shock, awe and determination. Determination to change what once went wrong, the will to save everyone this time and to stand by that idiot Arc and help him fix everything. The more she thought about it however, the more she despaired. How could she ever defeat that woman… that monster?

 

Jaune's personality and mysteries suddenly cleared up with the revelation of his semblance. Yet they also revealed one clear thing. He had been trying for a very long time, yet he had failed. If he couldn't break the cycle, what hope did she have? Currently gazing into a mirror inside her personal changing room, she felt trapped. The Schnee security team would prevent her from leaving, and while she had no doubt that she could dispose of them and make her way to Vale, she had nowhere to go after.

 

She recalled Jaune's actions and behaviour every time they were in a fight. Careful and calculating. He allowed many things to happen despite the fact that he could've done something about them. Weiss now realized that it wasn't him being selfish, it was him respecting the timeline. Making sure he didn't change too much so that his foreknowledge became useless. Yet, her staying under her father’s influence had little impact on her life. Whether she left now, or whether she stayed under him till Beacon, didn’t matter. She would go to Beacon all the same.

 

She sighed as her scroll went off, another call from her father or manager no doubt. The number came from Patch. Odd, she had never been to that island, and thus, wouldn't expect any calls from there. Weren't Ruby and Yang from Patch? She had tried to contact them so many times, yet had her calls intercepted each time by her security detail. How could an unknown call get through anyways?

 

She picked up the scroll, the smallest trace of hope in her heart as she accepted the call.

 

Her eyes widened as the face of her leader and partner came up on screen.

 

"Ruby!? Y-you're here?!" she almost yelled. Her heart began to beat faster, the thought that she wasn't alone had hit her immediately.

 

"Weiss! I'm here! You won't believe what we had to go through to call you! We actually had to steal some rich guy’s scroll to make the call." her partner exclaimed in that innocent and child-like voice she had grown to adore.

 

"But… how? Did Arc's semblance bring you back too?" Weiss asked, her head racing with thoughts and possible plans now that she confirmed someone else had come back with her.

 

"Yep! And you won't believe it, but Yang and Blake came back too!" Ruby cheered.

 

"Ice Queen! Woohoo! RWBY's back in business!" Yang yelled as she nabbed the scroll from Ruby.

 

Weiss's heart suddenly felt lighter. She wasn't alone anymore. She had a sneaking suspicion that she wasn't the only one who came back, and although she knew Arc did, she had no means of contacting either him or her team. Speaking to them again was the best part of her week.

 

"So, we're all back then? That's a relief…" Weiss muttered as she smiled to herself. "Do we have a plan? Please tell me you two didn't mess up the timeline too much."

 

"Have some faith partner, we have an awesome plan." Ruby reassured her. She found herself smiling at that. Her leader never failed to do that. "But first, we're going to get you out of there. Blake's waiting outside the theatre, can you make it out the backdoor?"

 

Weiss smiled. "Can I?" she huffed. "Have some faith partner." she served back at Ruby. She opened Myrtenaster's case and made her way out of her changing room.

 


 

Jaune was sitting in a bar. He was in a small settlement on the outskirts of Vale, a quaint little town, surrounded by wilderness. The perfect place to train himself before Beacon, after all, he always came here after running away each repeat.

 

He lightly nursed his drink, sipping it slowly as he stared at the TV screen on display at the bar. The news was unsettling to him. He had heard a few days ago that the White Fang's robbery of a train had occurred, but that had not worried him. What worried him was the witness reports stating how there had only been one assailant. What the hell had happened to Blake?

 

Now the news channel was on, hopefully he could find some sanity in watching the same old news.

 

"Thanks Cyril, what can you tell us about the situation?"

 

"I'm currently at the Vale Royal Theatre, where the VPD have found several unconscious security near the backdoor, and what's most shocking, the heiress to the Schnee Dust Company, Weiss Schnee, has gone missing."

 

"Supposedly she also cancelled her performance at the Theatre tonight, leaving many ardent fans of her talent sorely disappointed. There's been questions-"

 

Jaune tuned out the rest of the man's words. What the actual hell was going on? First the train robbery, and now this? It certainly wasn't anything Jaune had touched, and he was sure nothing else could have caused these massive changes. His head was racing with theories and explanations as to why this happened.

 

He didn't even know where Blake and Weiss were at the moment, so asking them was out of the question. Besides, he doubted a random stranger asking them questions would go over well with either of them. He had to remind himself sometimes that they didn't carry over like he did.

 

Something had changed on this repeat, starting from the familiar feeling of his semblance changing, to Blake's disappearance before the train robbery, to Weiss's supposed disappearance as well. Although if the wounds on the unconscious Schnee security were any indicator, Weiss had broken out of there herself.

 

He knew her father was domineering and controlled almost every aspect of her life, but why this? What in Remnant would possess her to suddenly lash out and escape from Jacques' grip? It never happened before in the past three thousand repeats, it had never even come close to that. Why now and why like this? These two questions were continually racing through Jaune's mind. He needed to find the answer to them.

 

But how could he? There was nobody on Remnant that knew the answer to why these two events had suddenly changed. He couldn't ask Blake or Weiss, they didn't know him, and he didn't even know where they were. Ozpin and Ironwood were out of the question, he didn't quite fancy interrogation and torture anymore. There was only one other person who might know. Someone privy to information and secrets that passed in and around Vale.

 

The fact that the guy had drinks was just a bonus.

 


 

Junior's club was a place Jaune had needed quite a few repeats to master. Usually whenever he decided to pop by and ask Junior something, he ended up getting into a fight with him, his two sultry enforcers and the rest of his henchmen. Then one repeat, Jaune decided that knowing how to exploit the place without getting into a fight every time would be worthwhile. He spent a few dozen repeats after that working for Junior, memorizing all the relevant bits of blackmail on him, and getting to intimately know Melanie and Miltia. Okay, the last part may have been an added bonus. He had to do something to cope with the madness of his nightmare after all.

 

Jaune was in disguise, hood over his head, a bland mask over his face, and dark shades over his eyes, horribly stereotypical, but surprisingly it always worked. Maybe partly because nobody thought an idiot wearing something that noticeable would be up to something. He walked up to the bar and took a seat, the burly bartender eying him suspiciously, but deciding that he was likely a mentally deranged clown or junkie of some sort.

 

"Whatever's on the tap. Give Junior a holler for me too will you?" Jaune asked, as the burly man nodded, poured him a pint and proceeded to gesture something to one of the henchmen.

 

He lifted his mask just enough for his mouth to show, and calmly sipped his drink as Junior arrived behind the bar. The information broker eyed Jaune cautiously at first, but then with curiosity.

 

"What do you want? I don't care what those bums under the highway tell you, we don't sell drugs under the counter here." the man said to Jaune. One of the side effects of his clownish disguise after all. "But since you happen to know my name, I reckon you aren't just any junkie."

 

"Mhm… Roman sent me. He wants some info on the fight that went down at the Theatre last night. What do you know?" Jaune lied. It had become almost second nature to him when coming into Junior's. He usually had a variety of options when it came to getting info out of the man. Either lie and claim Roman sent him, blackmail him with secrets he had learned across many lifetimes, or just plain violence. He tended to pick the first option nowadays, it was convenient.

 

"How do I know Roman sent you? I'm pretty sure a fashionable guy like him wouldn't hire bums like you." Junior replied, not entirely buying Jaune's lie yet.

 

"Come on now Junior, don't be like that. Roman would be very hurt if he heard you were giving his guy a hard time. After all, it'd be a shame if he decided to ask for his money back on that loan he gave you." Checkmate. That was usually all he needed to say for Junior to buy it. On the few rare repeats in which he was a bit more stubborn? A casual reminder of his under the counter deals got him to fold.

 

Junior's eyes suddenly took on a far softer look. He forced a laugh. "I was just kidding, any guy of Roman's a guy of mine." Junior anxiously said. "Well… I had a contact near the backdoor of the theater last night, and would you believe what he told me? He says he saw the Schnee heiress getting into the sewers. He swore he saw a hooded figure leading her inside."

 

Jaune's mind took a plunge into an icy river with those words. A hooded figure? Who was this person? Weiss willingly went in with them too, so it certainly wasn't a kidnapping. Things just got a lot more complicated.

 

"Thanks Junior, keep in touch. Roman expects you at the Poker game on Wednesday." Jaune muttered, his mind focused on far more important thoughts. Who was the hooded figure and what did they want? He got up and left the bar, intent on taking the first Bullhead back to his training settlement.

 

As he walked down the streets of Vale he began to ponder on what he could do. There was nobody left to ask, no further leads he could follow, and no more avenues left to explore. He had hit a dead end for the first time in a few hundred years. He typically always, at the very least, had a vague idea of where to go. But now? He was stumped. This was dangerously new territory, and it happened without any warning or cause whatsoever.

 

Control. The one thing he always strived to achieve in every repeat. Yet this time, it was quickly escaping from his grasp. He realized was no longer in control of this particular situation. With a sigh he made way for the Bullheads. He did all he could. For now, he'd trust in Weiss and Blake to stay safe. Hopefully he'd see them again at Beacon.

 


 

"Try to ignore the suspicious creaking… and the fleas… and the stench." Blake nervously said, as she eyed Weiss's reaction to the dinghy motel room they were currently in. There was no way the heiress was going to take this well.

 

"It's fine, thank you for having me Blake."

 

The Faunus's bow dropped a few inches at the words. Weiss Schnee, pampered heiress to the Schnee Dust Company, was alright with this motel room? A room more suited to a sleazy one-time hookup than an actual night of sleep.

 

"Oh… uhm… don't mention it. We're teammates after all." Blake replied. Just how much more about Weiss did she not know?

 

"I heard Ruby say we have a plan, can I hear it?" Weiss asked. Ruby hadn't told her yet? Then again, briefing somebody right before an escape wasn't a good idea.

 

"Right, so you know that Jaune's semblance brought us all back?" Blake asked.

 

"Defying all laws of time and space, yes, it somehow did." Weiss replied. Blake inwardly thanked the creators. At least they were all on the same page in knowing how they got here.

 

"Alright then, our plan is to lay low till Beacon's Initiation. From there we try and maintain the original timeline as much as possible. After Initiation, we find and confront Jaune, and from there we'll work with him to change things." Blake explained.

 

She could see Weiss absorbing the plan and pondering on it. "That sounds like a good plan to me. Be honest… did you come up with it?"

 

"I may have… provided some minor guidance in its creation." Blake said, not wanting to undermine her leader's optimism.

 

"Right… let's leave it at that." Weiss said. "I get our overall plan, but do we have anything planned for now? We aren't staying here for the next year are we?"

 

Blake cringed at the thought of staying here for more than one night. "No, we'll be moving out tomorrow to a small settlement on the outskirts of Vale. It's a quaint little town that's near the wilderness, but a good spot for training. We need to brush up in preparation for Beacon."

 

Blake could see Weiss nodding at her words, she was on-board with the plan. Good, they would need every moment of training they could get if they were going to defeat Cinder this time.

 

With a sigh Blake gestured toward the bed. She was tired after a long day of preparing and executing an escape. Rest was something she desperately craved. She lay down on the bed, only for something to give way. The leg cracked and caused the bed to tumble off balance.

 

She was never sleeping in a motel room again.

 


 

Jaune was breathing heavily, barely managing to stand, but he had done it. He had won. Albeit temporarily, since the White Fang and Grimm had annihilated Vale and were on their way. Still it was a small victory.

 

Cinder's broken form lay before him, her shallow, pained breaths filling him with a strange, twisted sense of joy. He slowly walked towards her, Crocea Mors in hand. He approached to see her eyes filled with fear. Fear was good. It was something she had inflicted upon him in his first hundred lifetimes, although fear was the very first emotion to leave him, it was still one of the most intense. He was enjoying this.

 

He raised his loyal blade, intent on ending this nightmare once and for all, and yet… her vulnerable form which lay before him called out. Surely there was nothing wrong with it? She had tortured, punished and inflicted so much pain upon him. Surely it was only fair that he inflict some in return?

 

He edged ever closer to her, but instead of pointing his blade to her throat like she expected him to, he instead decided to trail it lower… something she had always done to him whenever she captured him. Surely it was only fair that he return the favor? Why was he enjoying it so much?

 

/-/

 

Jaune's eyes simply opened. He sat up in his bedroll, looking around at the trees, rocks and rising sun streaming over his campsite. They did little to calm the intense shaking his body was going through. The dream he had was a memory, the recollection of a life where he had truly become the monster he had set out to slay. Fear may have all but left him, but if one thing still elicited the emotion from him, it was that dream.

 

He shook his head, attempting to dispel the thoughts from his head. Dwelling on negativity never achieved anything. He decided to put on his disguise and head into town, hoping to catch anymore recent news which could shed some light on where Weiss or Blake had gone.

 

Despite his rational side telling him it was a fruitless endeavour, a small part of his mind still needed to know. They were his friends. He didn't care what the rational side of his mind told him when it came to them.

 

As he strolled through the streets of the settlement, intent on heading for the bar, he happened to come across the airship port along the way. As he neared the port he saw a Bullhead coming in. Usually they delivered cargo to the settlement, essentials and the like. Yet when the doors opened he saw two hooded figures step out. He wondered who they were. He looked closer as one of them wiped their brow for a scant moment, revealing their face.

 

Oh, it was just Weiss.

 

Just Weiss?! His mind must have failed him for a moment if that thought went through it. What was she doing here, and who was that dark hooded figure next to her? Why was Weiss wearing a disguise?  Jaune made a split-second decision and immediately stepped behind a pile of crates, intent on tailing them.

 

He waited as the two walked past and into an alleyway. The hooded figure muttering something, followed by Weiss sighing at them. How strange, was the hooded figure blackmailing Weiss? He would find out.

 

/-/

 

"This hood is so uncomfortable… my ears are chafing." Weiss heard Blake ask. She sighed at the Faunus's question as the two walked into an alleyway, someplace they could finally take their disguises off.

 

"Your cat ears or your human ears?" she asked Blake.

 

"The cat ones, obviously. Do you ever hear humans complaining about wearing hoods?" She heard Blake ask. It was a good point. A lot of hats and headwear weren't easy for Faunus to wear, depending on what type they were. "I'd have ditched disguises long ago if I didn't have to hide from police and stalkers all the time." Stalkers?

 

"What do you mean stalkers? You mean those perverted people in hoods, wearing masks and abducting young women?" she asked. Now that she thought about it, stalkers would be rather dangerous for the average citizen who didn't have their Aura.

 

"Precisely… I even heard of a few female stalkers who target men… but those are rarer." Blake replied.

 

"That sounds horribly boorish and indignant… who would do such a thing?" she asked, wondering how on Remnant such atrocities could take place.

 

"I don't know… but I've heard dark things. They say alleyways are the ideal places for stalkers to strike…" Blake stated ominously as they continued walking down the desolate alleyway.

 

The sound of a bottle crunching and a muttered curse could be heard behind them. Weiss snapped her head back to face the source of the noise. It was a tall man… he was wearing a hood… mask, and shades.

 

"It's a stalker! Don't worry, I'll protect you!" Weiss exclaimed as she instantly drew Myrtenaster and urged Blake to stand behind her.

 

Weiss charged the lecherous scum.

 

/-/

 

Jaune's eyes widened as Weiss charged him, Myrtenaster's point heading for him. He really needed to focus when it came to his friends.

 

He took a step to the side and held out a leg, causing her to almost trip and lose balance as her eyes widened and locked onto his shades. He needed to get away before he was exposed. He needed to make this quick.

 

He turned to take advantage of her off balance state and proceeded to ram a palm into her solar plexus, driving the air from her lungs. He followed up with a sweeping kick which caught her, leading to her nearly falling onto her head, if not for a last-minute handstand flip of recovery from her. He knew her style inside out. Every move, every pattern, every tendency and every weakness. She hadn't even reached Beacon yet, and thus wasn't nearly as good as she would be eventually.

 

Then why was she suddenly countering all his attacks and guarding her weak spots with lethal efficiency? Jaune cursed from behind his mask and was immediately forced onto the defensive as Weiss began a flurry of fatally precise strikes against him. She was never this good before Beacon. Something was wrong. He really needed to end this quick.

 

'Sorry Weiss. I'll make it up to you some other time.' He immediately stepped into her guard and shoulder checked her, sending her off her feet. While she was mid-air, he slammed an elbow into her gut, sending her down toward the ground, but before she could hit it, slammed a knee into her back sending her spinning back up mid-air. As she spun he slammed a kick into her, sending her flying into the dark hooded figure that was now about to draw their weapon.

 

The moment he kicked her off, he turned and bolted off, as fast as he could. He turned away just as the dark hooded figure was drawing their weapon. While he would have liked to get a look at the weapon of this new player, he didn't have the time. It probably wasn't that important anyways.

 

He sprinted through buildings, market stalls and deftly made his way to the wilderness using a very haphazard pattern that would leave him uncatchable and untraceable to all but the most seasoned of Hunters. Once he reached his campsite he finally stopped to catch a breath.

 

His current panting was the main reason he always trained his speed and endurance each time. The original Jaune Arc was pathetic before Beacon. In terms of skill he had everyone else beat. Reacting to any possible attack with any possible counterattack? He could do it. Fighting multiple opponents at once without taking a single hit? He could do it. But what good was his relatively godlike skill when he had neither the speed, stamina nor power to back it up? He had tried numerous times before, to fight Cinder using just his skill. He failed every time. No matter how great he was at predicting her attacks and responding. No matter how mechanically perfect and efficient each movement was, he lost. Why? Because no matter how skilled he was, it didn't matter if he couldn't move out of the way fast enough, or if he tired first. Power itself wasn't too much of a problem since he could eventually defeat anyone provided he had enough speed and endurance.

 

His breathing finally calmed, and he sat down by the campfire. Weiss had eluded him once again, and he had no clue who the hooded figure was. At this point he was strongly considering giving up this mad chase. Seeing as Weiss willingly defended the figure, he had no reason to worry for her safety or freedom. The fact that she still had Myrtenaster told him that she likely still planned on attending Beacon. He released the tension within himself with a breath. If he had no way of finding out anything about them now, he would have to wait till Beacon.

 

Why did she call him a stalker?

 


 

Blake was on edge. She died, came back in time, discovered her teammates came back with her, broke Weiss out of her father’s grip and fled Vale, only to come across a superhuman stalker who was somehow a master martial artist? Who wouldn’t be on edge from that?

 

"Blake…" she heard Weiss say.

 

"Yes Weiss?"

 

"I… I need to get stronger…" Blake looked at her teammate as she said the words, a very determined look came upon her face. "That stalker showed me something… I thought I was strong, I went through time and came back… but then that honourless vermin beat me."

 

"He didn't beat you." she said, attempting to reassure the heiress. Something she had been doing a lot as of late. Who would've thought she would be the team's go-to person for reassuring?

 

"No, you're right." Weiss stared at her. "He crushed me. I've never been so thoroughly trounced in my life." Weiss lamented.

 

"Which is why we'll be training." she said as she came to a stop, the heiress stopping alongside her as they stood in front of a valley. "Starting from today, you and I are going to be practicing combat, every single day. We'll work on all our weaknesses, improve our strengths and hunt Grimm daily."

 

She was pleased to see a confident smile come upon Weiss's face. Good, she needed her to be looking forward to it. They'd get the best results if they were both trying their hardest. Everyone counted on them to.

 

"Oh, I almost forgot… we haven't called Ruby and Yang yet. We should probably let them know where we are." she heard Weiss say. That was a good idea.

 


 

She hit the floor for the umpteenth time. Why was Uncle Qrow this tough when it came to training? She wasn't complaining though, she wanted this. She got back up again and charged at Uncle Qrow, scythe in hand, trying another advanced technique she had learned during her time at Beacon. It failed miserably as Qrow used her own increased speed and momentum against her.

 

"Whoa! Tone it down there Ruby, who taught you that anyways?" her Uncle asked as she noticed him giving her curious looks.

 

"I uh… learned it from Yang! She gave me a cool idea, and I made it work." Ruby quickly replied, throwing her sister under the Deathstalker.

 

Ruby hid behind Qrow as his eyes immediately shifted to Yang who was glaring daggers at her. "Oh that… I told her that more spinning is always better." Ruby couldn't help but roll her eyes at the horrible lie, but thankfully, Uncle Qrow bought it.

 

"Eh well… I personally find it to be the opposite. The more it spins… the fewer drinks till I pass out." Her Uncle was in need of help. "Anyways, good training session, let's call it a day. Don't know why you kids suddenly got the idea that training's good for you. I mean… it is… but you're too young to take that stuff seriously."

 

"Really Uncle Qrow? No wonder why you're not a very good Huntsman…" she heard Yang send a jab at her Uncle. He growled.

 

"You kids are a decade too early to even think of being on my level. Don't get too full of yourselves." she heard him reply. Wasn't he getting rather full of himself right now?

 

"Oh… well I recall a certain Uncle huffing and puffing when we sparred… I wonder if he did his training?" Ruby watched as Yang ran off, Qrow giving chase after her. It brought a smile to her face.

 

Ruby took a seat on one of the benches surrounding the Signal Academy Arena. She was sore all over from getting thrown to the ground repeatedly by Uncle Qrow, yet she was happy. She learned a lot from that one session, no doubt if she kept this up for a year, she'd be strong. Strong enough to make a difference this time.

 

Her scroll went off as she hastily went to grab it. She pulled it up to see the familiar picture of Blake. She accepted the call.

 

"Hey Ruby." Blake's greetings were always rather short. She smiled at her teammate. "Where's Yang?"

 

"She's running from Uncle Qrow. How are you two?" she asked. The last time she spoke to Blake was before she left to break Weiss out of the theatre. It was a relief to see the two of them well.

 

"We're fine. We came to a small settlement on the outskirts of Vale and we're in the wilds now, trying to focus on training ourselves for Beacon." That was great, things were going according to plan. "But uh… we were attacked."

 

"Attacked?! When?! By who?!" Ruby furiously asked, her previously good mood already fallen at the news.

 

"I'll let Weiss tell you." she heard Blake reply, as the scroll was passed over to her teammate. "We were attacked by… a stalker… he was really strong, and I lost." the frustration in her voice apparent to Ruby.

 

"What's a stalker?"

 

"Wait… you don't know? They are dangerous criminals, responsible for atrocious acts." her partner replied. Oh, so that's what a stalker was. Ruby had a clearer picture now. In fact, she had her own newly gained expertise to add to the matter.

 

"A criminal… did he try any smut on you? Weiss?"

 

Her partner's face went pale and her jaw dropped at her remark. She was no doubt impressed by how knowledgeable the young Ruby was, that had to be it. Unfortunately, Blake snatched the scroll from her partner's hand and quickly shut it off.

 

What was that about?

 

She decided not to dwell on it. Everyone was happy. Weiss, Blake, Yang. Her family was here and Beacon was waiting for her. Everyone was happy, save one.

 

Jaune. She could only wonder about what he was going through right now. If his last words had been true, then he had been going through this for a while. How hard did he push himself each time, just to try and make everyone happy? She refused to dwell on these sad thoughts. Jaune wasn't going to fail, she would make sure of it. They would stand by him.

 

"Wait for us Jaune. We're with you this time."



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