Last time that happened he'd been without dessert for a week. As Isabella reached for the lights, after ensuring his Crocea Mor shaped nightlight was plugged in and working, she paused when her son spoke.
Granddad was a knight, he used a sword and shield and saved princesses and killed dragons. To be young and trouble free again But Jaune's next words stole the smile from her face. But Jaune didn't forget.
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For the next three years he clung to that goal with the tenacity of a child, that special kind of stubbornness only the young at heart, unburdened by anything else, can achieve. He pestered his parents for new stories about his great-great-grandfather, asked his sisters to take him to the Vale Library to look up knights, and was constantly running around with a wooden Crocea Mors his father had given him.
Everything was about knights and princesses to him, Hunters and policemen having fallen to the side in his imaginary world. While his classmates focused on the Blue Avenger or whoever the hunter of the day was, he was diving into ancient children's books from the dusty back shelves of the libraries and talking about the Green Knight or The Black Prince.
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Those were close enough to Hunter names to get the children involved, or at least tolerate his obsession, but as he dug deeper and pulled out even more obscure figures such as the Faunus Knight James Hawkwood or Guesclin they left him alone to his weirdness. The only reason he wasn't left totally alone was the recent release of the toy models of the newest Atlesian robots. As they were called the Knight Series, he was as into them as any of his classmates, and their imaginary wars filled the halls of their homes. And then came his seventh birthday. Both his parents made sure to be home, not taking anything but local missions in the time leading up to it.
While they tried to make every one of their children's' birthdays, it wasn't always possible with eight of them.
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But the seventh birthday was special, and without fail they'd never missed one. Violet, Shani, and Sienna had made it home from Beacon for the day to visit him, but Azure and Indigo were at Signal, and couldn't get a transport back from Patch in time. With Bianca in Mistral, and Olivia at home until Signal next year, the Arc family was as complete as it was going to get until the next vacation break.
There were gifts and cake, and several of his parents' teammates stopped by with their own kids. Children ran screaming around on a sugar high, chasing after and fighting the waves of sand Grimm created by Jacques Arc's semblance. To civilians, it might have been too much, but for Hunters' children it was par for the course. That night, as Jaune crawled into bed in his new blue, fuzzy, onesie, his mom came to tuck him in. He wasn't having any of it, he was seven, almost an adult now.
As he had grown older the story had grown as well, details were fleshed out, and more of the truth was revealed. The enemy raid that devastated the town was told, and the awful follow up Grimm attacks as they sensed the town's sorrow and desperation. How the girl he rescued was the last of her family, the rest lost to the enemy or Grimm, leaving her alone in the world. How his grandfather had arrived too late to stop the first attacks, but still early enough to lead a desperate fighting retreat to the city of Vale, with people getting picked off by Grimm the entire time.
In the end, his great-great grandfather had still won, saving those he could, including his future wife, but the full price of that victory was told to Jaune. But with the truth of the horror of those times came tales of strength. Of how the Mayor's daughter had refused to give into despair, distracting the Tyrant Scale to let others flee, and being a constant support to the remainder of the town.
A pillar of strength so strong she impressed the leader of the men sent to save them. In fact, all his stories had changed like that over the years as his parents slowly stopped hiding him from the truth of the world, that Remnant was a dark and vicious place, and while good could triumph, often evil did as well.
And so, as Isabella finished the story, she asked her son one final time.
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Jaune nodded, determination shining on his face as he looked up at her, completely at odds with his fuzzy onesie. I want to be a Knight like granddad, and to help protect the innocent like you and Dad. Isabella started down at him for the longest time, trying to etch that happy, smiling face into her memory, knowing it might be the last time she ever saw it directed at her. But if that was the price she paid, so be it. His parents had told him before, don't get up until you can at least see the sun.
Getting up at night was only for emergencies. Now, get up and put on the clothes I left for you. You need to be downstairs in five minutes. It was a minute after she left that her words finally hit him. He was going to train! This was it, he was really going to be a knight! Hurriedly sliding off the bed, Jaune grabbed the clothes and pulled them on before dashing for the bathroom. A few minutes later he was down in the kitchen where his Mom was waiting with water.
He guzzled it down, curious about what they'd be doing. He knew his sisters would normally train with his Mom in the morning, so where was Olivia? Before he could ask, she took the empty glass from him and gestured to the door. The forest behind their house was one of the few safe ones, tucked away behind the patrols, sensors, and camera. But even then the kids knew they weren't supposed to go there alone. But Jaune wasn't alone as they ran through the dirt trails.
They ran until it hurt to breath, and his shirt was soaked with sweat. And when it finally felt like he couldn't run any more, when they were still surrounded by trees and shrubs, they kept running, or at least tried to. Jaune collapsed, his leg giving out from under him. A yelp forced its way through his clenched teeth as his knee skidded on the ground, turning bloody under the assault of the twigs and rocks. Tears started to pour down his cheeks as he turned over, pulling his leg close to him as he tried to pull out a larger rock embedded in the skin.
Instinctively he looked around for his Mom, like he had the hundreds of other times he'd fallen down. But that wasn't what bothered Jaune, he knew she was strong after all. What bothered him was the fact she was refusing to look at him. Jaune hiccupped as he abruptly stopped crying, his mind not comprehending what he'd just heard. He didn't understand it. He was hurt If you want to be a Hunter, then you need to run. If you want to give up, we can go home now. What was he supposed to do? She was supposed to help him Are you giving up?
It sounded just like one of the robot policemen they had showed off at school. They did, back through the trees, back to the house where he threw up on the grass.
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He could see his father working in the kitchen, items whirling around as he used his Semblance as an extra dozen hands while cooking something, probably their lunches. All he wanted to do was go inside and rest, to curl back up in bed and forget about school. Isabella was standing over him, and he blinked wearily up at her, feeling the sweat stinging his eyes, shirt damp with splattered vomit, the stomach acid burning his throat. She handed him a bottle of water.
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He wanted to guzzle it immediately; once he cleared out the taste of vomit it was better than any soda, but his stomach protested the first huge chug, and he nearly heaved again. After that he took the smaller swallows until the water was almost gone. We have more to do. Stretches, pushups and crunches of all types, leg lifts, planks. The exercises seemed endless.
And then they finally stopped, because he stopped. His plank broke, his arms giving out, and he couldn't stop the face plant. He tried to roll over, but his body refused to budge, and so he sat there, face in the grass, tasting the dirt. He felt hands turning him over, replacing the green grass with a view of the now light sky above, even if the edges were tinged with blackness… Or was that just his eyes? Were the Grimm coming to steal his vision? He wanted to ask mom, but all that came out was a grunt.
Water dribbled over his face as she opened the bottle over him. But it wasn't her Jaune swayed unsteadily, his father's hand on his shoulder keeping him balanced, before staggering into the kitchen. Olivia, his youngest sister, was eating breakfast as he walked in. When she saw him, pale and sweating, with a vomit splattered shirt and bleeding knee, she turned as white as a ghost and rushed from the room, not pausing even as her discarded bowl hit the ground. The sturdy plastic bounced several times before rolling to a stop in front of him.
Jaune stared down at it, mind blank, before the thought that maybe he should pick it up slowly filtered into his mind. But he just couldn't muster the energy, and just looked at it, before his father's semblance whisked it out of site. A cup was thrust into his vision, filled with a thick, green liquid that looked more like it belonged in a toxic waste dump then a cup. Jack laughed, a deep one starting from belly, and that ended up shaking Jaune from the one hand still sitting on his shoulder.