After five days of travel, one day longer than planned, the tension between Coco and Velvet had not lessened in the least. It's pervasiveness had caused open animosity at times, including the fight that morning.700Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡBiLsD2vrpy
Coco was actively pissed and to the point of not caring if they fought. From her viewpoint Velvet was loyal to a fault normally, and that was turning into her undoing as she was feeling her loyalty split between Coco and Blake. She'd thought Velvet had accepted the change in loyalty her position in Phoenix had necessitated. Coco certainly had, and with no feelings of betrayal. She was happy for her friend and teammate to find something that was so dearly important to her, and to Remnant as a whole.
So the fact that Velvet hadn't, in fact, accepted that change in loyalty was aggravating. It was a betrayal to that trust Coco had given her. And if she had done it for a reason other than her loyalty to Coco it would be worse, much worse.
Velvet was doing her best to hide in Yokahashi's shadow, which wasn't hard with that man's monolithic size. Coco was glaring through him however like he wasn't there, and the faunus was curling in on herself like she could feel that gaze.
It was making everyone uncomfortable. That was unavoidable. The two trapped spectators were Hopeful that when JNPR was on board they could help buffer them and raise the spirits of everyone on the way back. Victory was good for the soul after all.
"Uh... we may have a problem," Fox announced from the cockpit.
Taking her eyes off of Velvet's hidden form, Coco headed to the front to understand what he could mean. Looking through the windshield she didn't see anything, so she looked down at the instruments instead, particularly the radar. "Shit."
Thinking for a second, she decided the immediate problem was uniquely suited to her. "Set us to hover and open the side hatch," she told Fox.
Nodding his understanding, both at the orders and at her unspoken plan, he pulled the bullhead to a full stop, then turned ninety degrees to place the hatch forward as he opened it. Stepping out Coco waited until she caught sight of them, then changed her purse into its massive Gatling gun form.
Seven nevermores flying together, let alone in formation, was an unusual sight to behold. Any other rescue craft would likely have gone down, either by its own preference or by force. This wasn't most rescue craft however. It was a craft with Coco who specialized in taking down large heavily armored targets at a distance. She squeezed off the trigger and sliced all seven down in a matter of seconds.
That threat wasn't what had caused the earlier exclamation. That there were that many nevermores meant the area must be crawling with grimm. That could be bad for JNPR who were stuck on the ground with them.
"Scan the ground, I want to know how many grimm are in the area," she said, walking back up front as the hatch was again closed.
Fox shook his head. "I already did. There's nothing down there but wildlife."
Now that didn't make any sense. "How far until we reach JNPR's position?"
"We'll be in radio range in about fifteen minutes," Fox supplied. "Radar range at about the same time.
She nodded one last time. "Let’s move it. I don't like the smell of this at all."
Sitting cross-legged, back of his wrists on each knee, Ren struggled to find his center, and the sense of balance that came with it. Closing his eyes did nothing to block out the sounds around him. Once he found that inner peace the noise could be removed from his perceptions, along with any other physical sensation that could invade that peace.
He was ready to beg for that inner peace now.
Calm living, even when fighting, was almost a religion to him. It brought him joy, and he had trouble understanding those who actively worked to encourage it's antithesis: rage. Cardin, as an example, had made no sense to him their first three years at Beacon. Why disrupt everyone else's enjoyment? What could someone gain from that?
JNPR had seemed to be a place where he would never deal with such issues. They were strong together, each complimenting the other and finding harmony in the whole. Jaune and Pyrrha, in particular, had brought him a great measure of confidence in that stability.
Certainly Jaune's need to talk to him, a lot, could be distracting or uncomfortable, often both. Those talks, however, were Jaune's attempt to find answers to continue the cohesiveness of the team. For that reason alone Ren could accept those talks.
So when did this happen?
"Pyrrha, get up in the bird's nest until you're ready to talk, will you?" Jaune was yelling. Yelling. Loud enough that he was certain the grimm outside the walls could hear.
For her part Pyrrha wasn't saying much of anything. "Yes Jaune," was her only verbal soft reply, but the waves of conflicting emotions radiating from her were nearly as loud as Jaune's voice.
Very conflicted emotions. Depression was the largest one, and easy to pick out. Ren could understand that emotion. To watch the physical representation of your center crack and lash out at you would cause anyone to be depressed. The loss of his metaphysical center was threatening to do the same to him, and being intangible it was less necessary to maintain calm.
There was another emotion however. One she was trying her best to hide from everyone, especially Jaune, but with each verbal attack it was coming closer to the surface: Anger. Ren had more trouble understanding this emotion. It wasn't simply because she was feeling it. That was to be expected. Ren had ways of dealing with that emotion, his current attempt at mediation included. Pyrrha did to, and that was where the confusion lay. Why was she not simply talking to Jaune? The last shot from the current battle proved that was actively being looked for from her partner.
From her perch above Nora climbed out of the nest to give room for Pyrrha. She gave a single pat on Pyrrha's shoulder as they passed in sympathy and comfort. It was ignored, the warring emotions clearly both in agreement at rejecting it as no hesitancy was shown in shrugging it off.
That was the other troubling development: Pyrrha was isolating herself. She seemed most comfortable up there, taking everyone else's shifts until she was physically incapable to do so. Avoiding Jaune was becoming understandable, but why the rest of the team?
With the fight over, at least for the moment, Ren had some hope of being able to slip into a meditative state. Only some however. It was possible Jaune would come to speak with him and work through his problems. That it would be so personal this time would make it unusually awkward for Ren, but it wouldn't be the first time. Ren wondered how their leader could be oblivious to how awkward these little talks made him feel.
Either Jaune hadn't reached that point, or he had gone beyond that point, as he simply walked over to their artificial cave. That was good, at least for Ren. At last able to turn his attention fully inward, he reached the deep meditative state he had strived for.
Once every other aspect of reality was driven from his mind, he opened up one sense: the sixth sense that allowed him to feel the dust around him. Like their physical appearance dust radiated in many different colors to his mental sight. In this state their energies were as clear as the blue sky above.
For the first five hundred yards around him it was easy to pick out their energies. beyond that it became difficult more difficult, doubling every few feet. His vision was mildly obscured by the physical objects around him as well, but only mildly.
So far he had looked around them, finding only what he had found the first day they were here: traces of dust all around them on the ground. None of it was concentrated as far as he could tell. None of it was of a particular type or element either.
As an abandoned mining camp, there were of course mines below to check, but when he had looked there were fewer traces there than there was on the surface. Today he was checking underground again, but away from the quarry. Was there perhaps a source that had gone unnoticed when the facility was still in use?
He looked thirty feet down, and found nothing except the same traces of dust. Pushing harder, he looked another ten feet, and got no closer. Though sensing through solid matter didn't cause much trouble, it did make forty feet about his limit. So, he could accept there was nothing there and return to the emotionally raw environment he was entrenched in, or he could go the extra mile.
The extra mile it was then.
At fifty-five feet, a distance beyond his limit normally, he received the shock of his life. It was far enough beyond his limit he was almost ready to discount what he'd found. As he pulled his consciousness back to the physical world, he saw Nora's cute face inches from his. "So, did'ja find someth'n this time?" She asked playfully.
He felt a reaction headache coming on quickly, the consequence for pushing himself so hard. What he found was going to prove that coming pain an acceptable consequence.
Behind Nora, obviously still angry, Jaune sat with his arms crossed and his eyes closed in frustration as he leaned against the dilapidated structure supporting Pyrrha's blind. Above the slight sounds of sniffling could be heard.
That extra mile was looking really good right then.
Nodding once, Ren indicated where one of the mine shafts was with his eyes then got up. Smiling with relief Nora followed suit, ready to go to the mine he'd indicated.
"Hey boss man, we're heading out. Ren found something. We got our radios on if you need anything," Nora said in her chipper voice. Leaning forward towards the team leader, she continued to talk in a hushed tone he doubted Pyrrha would hear. He had no doubt that was intended. "Talk, and I mean talk, to her before I kill you."
Ren blinked several times. That was not the cheerful voice he was used to from Nora. He'd only heard that dark voice from his friend a handful of times since they had met at childhood, and each time had indicated she was past her breaking point. Watching two of her best friends at each other for this long was putting her there.
Splitting the team up was a bad idea. Everyone knew that, or would if they were thinking straight. Jaune wasn't at that time with his brooding introspection, Nora wasn't with her own unexpected anger, and Pyrrha wasn't paying any attention at all, a state Ren never would have guessed was possible of her. For his part Ren thought he'd only be down there for a half hour at most. That was an acceptable risk if what he found was correct.
At least this way they were still in pairs. If something happened they could hold out until the other pair reached them. Even at their worst he doubted anything could defeat Jaune and Pyrrha quickly.
Pausing for a few minutes at the entrance to the mine, he looked over the map posted there to be sure he knew the correct route before moving on. As if nothing had happened before Nora had returned to humming happily as she followed in his wake.
Normally Ren didn't get into gossip or talking about his friends when they weren't there. Was this a good time to make an exception? He certainly needed to know what was going on. He was equally sure Nora could explain it in a way he understood, and doing it when the couple was near could cause their turmoil to increase.
Whether he was going to make that exception or not was a moot point. Nora made sure of that as she launched into a monologue. "Those two still love each other Ren, don't worry so much. They're just having a rough patch. Everyone does. When people don't appear to have one is when they are at their worst. Which I think is why I should be kicking myself for not seeing this coming. I mean, when's the last disagreement those two have had? I'm not sure how I didn't know something was wrong until it blew." Nora was starting to sound a bit peeved at herself as well as at the couple above them now.
"I think there's been some baggage those two haven't been working on, and more stuff has been getting piled on top of that baggage until no one could see it, especially them. And well, now it's all coming up and it's had time to fester and really stink."
That didn't really explain much, yet it did reassure him that this would pass. From a purely selfish perspective that was good. Contrary to what most said being selfish wasn't a bad thing. If you didn't take care of your own needs you inevitably would stop being able to help others with theirs.
It wasn't a bad thing, but in that view it was so he could be better able to help others, so the next question was only logical. "Can we help?" he asked simply.
"Not really. I mean, I can continue to give Pyrrha advice, but it's up to her if she's going to start talking to Jaune on what's going on. Jaune for his part needs to start being clear on his needs and wants, which really aren't all that unreasonable, without going into Neanderthal mode. I could try helping there, but I'm not sure he'd understand any better than I just put it to him now."
Showing more of the stress this had put the redhead under, Nora pinched the bridge of her nose while walking to alleviate an apparent headache. "I'm not going to play middle man for them. That may fix it short term, but I'm not signing on as their personal relationship councilor for the rest of my life. They need to learn to do it without me."
"So they just need to work on communicating?" That both did and didn't make sense. Those two communicated at a level beyond the mystical most times, yet every word Jaune yelled at Pyrrha was about her talking more.
"Oh, they communicate fine when it's something they want to talk about. It's the stuff they don't want to that became a problem."
Aaaah! Now that was the key point he had been missing.
The walls in the artificial cave system were well made. Any collapses that would have occurred happened a decade ago so beyond some treacherous footing there was little to worry about.
"Here," Ren said to indicate the end of the descent. Without ceremony he went into a sitting position and began dropping back into a meditative state. Though completely failing at being able to do so herself, Nora was well accustomed to Ren's routine and let him at it while she settled in for a quiet (And boring as far as she was concerned) time in the dark.
Looking first within, and then without, the shorter distance to his discovery made all the difference. "What's that doing there?" he whispered in awe as he came back to himself.
"That was quick!" Nora exclaimed with some of her good cheer returning.
Before he had a chance to explain their radio's came to life.
"Team JNPR, this is team CFVY, do you read?" came the welcome voice of CFVY's leader. The strain in her usually cool voice wasn’t reassuring. The unwelcome sounds of her Gatling gun firing off immediately after was even less so.
That made it a combat situation, so Ren waited for Jaune's reply. "This is Jaune, Coco. Sit-rep?" He sounded calm at least. Maybe him and Pyrrha had finally talked? It didn't matter right then. Both Ren and Nora had started moving as quickly as the uneven ground would allow back to the surface the moment the sounds of combat had registered.
After the initial attack from the nevermores, the remaining trip had become nothing less than hellish. Every type of flying grimm Coco had ever seen, and quite a few she hadn't, were constantly attacking from every side. The trouble with this tactic is it meant no matter which way the bullhead was facing there was three sides that Coco couldn't strike down. Fox was taking down as many in front with the bullhead's armaments, and the rear hatch had dropped so Velvet could work on slowing down the grimm giving chase.
That left one side they couldn't effectively protect. It would be enough to bring them down. It was simply a matter of time. What had JNPR gotten themselves into?
"We're within radio range!" Fox said into her headset, the stress of the situation showing in his voice. "Patching you through now."
Without pause Coco established contact. "Team JNPR, this is team CFVY, do you read?"
There was only silence on the line for two heart beats, then "This is Jaune, Coco. Sit-rep?" came the voice she had prayed for.
"Fifteen minutes from your location. Under attack by grimm and we may not be able to repel them long enough to reach you. We will be coming in hot if we do. Any assistance is welcome."
"Roger that," Jaune confirmed. "You'll have all we can provide, but be aware we are currently pinned and unable to travel from our location."
That news was just peachy. Once again Coco asked herself, what the hell have you gotten yourself into Jaune?"ns 126.96.36.199da2