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Destiny is such a fickle thing. Sometimes it seems so certain, so determined to continue down a spiral of heartbreak, death and destruction.
And other times, it only takes a small push to knock everything off-course.
It may have been Pyrrha’s destiny to die that day, but he didn’t care. After all, at that moment…
Jaune Arc didn’t believe in destiny.
[Major spoilers for Volume Three, and heavily inspired by a tumblr post dubbing it the ‘JDI AU’. Hopefully my alternate name is serviceable.]
Do you believe in destiny?
Of all Pyrrha’s words, somehow these were the ones that tormented him. That she really, truly believed that it was her fate to sacrifice herself, to buy time for the others while condemning herself to death.
As Jaune flew off in that locker, cramped, cold and bashing desperately on the door, he could see the scene before his very eyes. She would fight as hard as she could, using shield, sword and semblance to fight the witch, but…it wouldn’t be enough. Not after the defeat of Ozpin, after the fall of Beacon.
This would be the day that Pyrrha Nikos died, and Jaune could do nothing about it.
Do you believe in destiny?
Those words again. She had assured him that she never meant some pre-determined hogwash when she said them, but there was no evidence for it here. Pyrrha was throwing herself forward, knowing in her heart that she had no chance of victory.
But for a moment, just a moment, Jaune felt something brew within him; a different possibility. Images flashed before his eyes, of Pyrrha travelling along a road with Ruby, Ren and Nora…a different world.
A world without him.
And if he wanted her to survive…
That was the price he’d have to pay.
Then I’ll pay it. By god, I’ll pay it a thousand times if it means Pyrrha can live.
The locker continued on its way through the air, but time seemed to slow as a soft voice whispered in his mind.
Throw yourself at the right wall.
It wasn’t a request, or even a proposition. It was an order…but Jaune knew, if he really wanted to save her, he couldn’t afford to be picky.
With as much force as he could muster in such a tight space, Jaune slammed into the locker’s right wall. Immediately, it started to spin and shake, suddenly unsure as to its destination after such a simple act. It had never worked for him in the past, especially when Cardin had bullied him, but apparently today was different.
Someone was on his side.
In ten seconds, the door will fly open, the voice informed him. Jump out as soon as it does.
And then what? Jaune asked, feeling far more afraid than he’d like.
Engage the witch. I will handle the rest.
BANG. The locker’s door flew open, forcing ferocious wind into his face.
Jaune didn’t hesitate as he threw himself out of the locker, preparing a landing strategy Pyrrha had taught him as he fell down towards the tower.
He heard the voice, one last time.
We will meet again, Jaune Arc. And when we do…
CRASH. Jaune cried out as he hurtled through a window, landing inelegantly on the tower floor.
You will learn to hate my actions.
It didn’t make any sense. The entire tower was metal, more or less, and this elevator had an entire shaft to travel along…
So why was it taking so long?!
Come on, come on! Pyrrha urged, pushing her semblance as hard as she could. I have to get up there!
But for every ounce Pyrrha pushed, something pushed back just a little bit less.
Slowing her down.
Please, I need to go-
Ruby was itching to put her plan into action, but the Grimm were making things difficult. She knew that dashing forward mindlessly would get her ripped to shreds, and while Weiss could hold them off, that would make getting to the tower’s top even harder.
But then…something changed. The flow of Grimm slowed down, just a little. A path, winding and wavering, sprung out between them, clear as day…and somehow, Ruby knew she could make it.
“Weiss, I need you to-”
Without another word, Weiss gestured towards the tower, and within seconds, a line of pure white glyphs extended all the way to the top. She nodded.
“Now go, before it’s too late!”
The gap between Grimm was growing thinner and thinner, and Ruby didn’t need telling twice. Kicking her semblance into overdrive, she zoomed off to the tower faster and faster, readying Crescent Rose as she raced to the top.
Jaune scrambled to his feet, raising his shield as he stared at the dark entity before him. Clothed in a blood-red dress, and with deep, burning eyes, Jaune felt himself stare into the abyss.
And the abyss, ever-smiling, stared right back.
“I know you…you’re her leader, aren’t you? Coming all this way to save your friend? How heroic.”
The woman spread her arms, white-hot flame roaring in her hands.
“But heroics never saved the hero, did they?”
Jaune gritted his teeth, gripping Crocea Mors ever tighter.
“They don’t need to. Not this time.”
Pyrrha cried out in frustration as she resorted to banging on the elevator walls. It wasn’t meant to be this way…was it?
As if a sudden weight was lifted, the force that had so vehemently opposed her finally dissipated. Seizing her chance, Pyrrha gave one last, desperate push…
But it was too late. She’d already expended too much aura on the way up.
The realisation hit her fast.
The weight hadn’t lifted to give her a chance….no, far from it. It had simply completed its task.
Pyrrha Nikos began to fall.
It wasn’t much of a fight. Even after Pyrrha’s rigorous training, Jaune was barely average compared to most hunters, and the fire witch was completely out of his league. Every sword swing was predicted, every block worked around. And, before long…
Jaune was kneeled on the floor, an arrow lodged in his spine.
The witch strode forward, imperious as ever, and tilted his head up to face her.
“You were so eager to throw your life away, weren’t you? Such a shame…”
Jaune grunted in pain.
“M-maybe…maybe you’re right…”
The witch raised an eyebrow.
“But…” Jaune continued, gripping his side. “Even if I wasn’t supposed to be here…I am. And I’d always be here, if I could.”
The witch smiled.
“Do you believe in destiny, boy?”
He met her gaze, too tired to feel fear.
The boy who defied his fate.
The girl lost in its weave.
And the other one…the smaller, more honest soul…
Ruby rushed into the tower top, just in time to see Jaune pulse with a cursed, fire-red light.
Then he was gone, and all that remained was ash in the wind.
Cinder turned, her smug smile vanishing in an instant.
She acted fast, nocking an arrow with inhuman speed…
But the arrow never flew. It stopped there, just like everything else.
Pyrrha looked radiant as ever amongst the snowy fields, but it didn’t take long to notice a tarnish to her beauty. It wasn’t hard to think why.
“Haven’s a long way to go,” Ruby reminded her.
“I know,” Pyrrha said. “But I’ll do whatever it takes.”
“And you’re sure you want to come along?”
Pyrrha looked back to Nora and Ren, smiling sadly.
“The journey will be perilous,” said Ren. “And whether we’ll find answers at the end is entirely uncertain.”
“But we wouldn’t be here if we weren’t up for it,” Nora added, hefting Magnhild over her shoulder.
Ruby looked to her new teammates, brimming with confidence and hope.
“Then let’s get started.”