In a bit of annoyance Nora punched her stomach a couple of times as another hunger pang hit. To the outside world, all three of them, Nora was maintaining her good cheer. Being down wasn't going to help anyone, herself included. Being angry was going to make it even worse.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡkjZ7jsA277
How long had it been? Six days since Ren started work on the communication tower? It had only been two days ago that it had started working. By everyone's estimation it would take another two more before any help had a chance to reach them.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡf3LgQGFiLX
That wasn't long under normal circumstances, even in the siege they had found themselves in. The trouble was they had already been low on food when they arrived at the facility. Even under tight rationing it had only lasted two days into it. That meant it was now day four without a morsel to eat. 578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0CMLKuDGKE
Hunting and foraging had been their lifeline during their travels, and something they had grown to count on. Inside this mining town there was no hunting, and nothing to forage. The only saving grace was the well she had found their first night here. Nora suppressed a shudder, remembering the condition both Weiss and Ruby had been in when they had been forced to go without water after a crash. She was glad that fate would be spared them at least.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1duFEt7pTb
Trying to remain on the positive Nora reflected that even in worse case scenarios they would have a month before things became deadly for them. They'd be extracted by then and she was going to have pancakes to celebrate their return. (with extra syrup!)578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡq3tamrWVvt
No, don't think about syrup, Nora told herself as she felt a wave of nausea hit.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡVOKt2uF3UQ
The siege itself hadn't changed. Every once in a while a pack of beowulfs would invade; probably just to make sure they stayed aware of their predicament. They were still easy enough to kill, but eventually their team was going to get worn down. The reaper, and Nora was sure it was the same one, continued to poke his head up long enough for them to know he was still around.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡhDo5h678sW
The only real change had been the small nevermores. It could be that they had run out of the smaller ones or they had grown tired of having them shot down, but regardless they had stopped. Instead two large ones the size of a bullhead had taken permanent residence in the air above.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡJCWI118wss
The first time Pyrrha had taken a shot at one of them they were made very aware of what a fish in a barrel feels like when getting shot at. Two volleys from their wings with few places to hide and less space to run was enough to make it clear that plan was unwise.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡmvsuvcDdK4
With that reminder of Pyrrha she took a look up at the blind she had erected to watch for any intruders. They were taking it in six hour shifts. Those occasional incursions made that a requirement. It was her turn, and as expected Jaune was directly under her blind, apparently napping. He wasn't fooling anyone.
Ren had become absolutely no fun, but he was also the least affected by their captivity. If he wasn't sleeping, he was doing his stint as lookout. If he wasn't acting as a lookout he was searching the ruins for clues about the dust. If he wasn't doing any of that he was meditating. That was it. He had no other outlets, none of them did, but his meditations seemed to be keeping him more centered.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2Q7wZjOcuw
And it was leaving her with absolutely nothing to do! Sure, she could talk to Jaune and Pyrrha, and she still did, but it wasn't the same. Even if he didn't say much Ren normally managed to say just the right thing when she needed it, and she could tell he was listening. The other two tuned half of what she said out and acted like she wouldn't notice.
Then there was the lovey-dovey stuff. All of their friends referred to them as "broken from the world." In other words nothing, no matter how bad, seemed to affect their relationship. No fighting, no friction, and rarely a disagreement that wasn't quickly compromised on.
In short to medium doses it was adorable. A bit more of her faith in humanity restored with every minute. That faith had passed the overflowing point a couple of days ago. Now it was just nauseating, even by her standards.
Then there was what they were doing when not on duty, sleeping, and eating. They normally they weren't that bad, but apparently it was their distraction for the tension. Now they were like the proverbial rabbits. At least they looked for places away from camp for their frequent romps, but it couldn't be too distant in case another round of fighting started.
It made her envious of Ren's meditation. He had tried to teach her many times over the years, but she couldn't get her mind to calm down and find this mysterious "center" he kept telling her about. The more she tried to still her thoughts the more things occurred to her.
She needed to find something to do!
"Why are you here again?" Coco asked. She still looked annoyed, not that Velvet blamed her. Two days of venting wasn't going to be enough. "There are way too many reasons you shouldn't have come."
Both Fox and Yatsuhashi were quietly ignoring the conversation. It was probably the smartest move on their part. Fox's last attempt to placate their leader hadn't gone well. Now he simply sat in the pilot's seat and flew with his eyes straight ahead.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡq4qS1zH7Ql
There was actually only one reason for her not to be there: her position in Phoenix. That was without a doubt a very good reason and trumped every excuse she had to stow away on the bullhead. It would if she was being both reasonable and responsible that is, which she wasn't.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡG5Hh27jIWo
And truth was she didn't regret it, regardless of Coco's anger. It felt good to be going into the field again. This was a relatively safe mission and she had trained to be a huntress for several reasons. Sitting in board meetings wasn't anywhere on that list.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡRCXYvdW3DT
She also had missed her friends. Yatsuhashi and her used to be so close. She'd had a crush on him almost since the day they first met, though she had always been too shy to admit it to the gentle giant. Fox was always good to have around for a laugh. And Coco herself... she was the person Velvet respected more than any other person alive, including Blake.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡTcHSC59OwT
Even this scolding was enjoyable in its perverse way, reminding her of the days when they trained together. Coco could be a real drill master then too.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡXlgqsmrBAv
Answering Coco's question with "I was bored," had been the worst of the responses she had used so far. "I missed the fighting" hadn't been much better. Both were attempts at lightening the mood, which she knew would be worthless at the time.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡHKdFfSGvUK
Velvet had always been a timid creature, much like the rabbits her faunus features portrayed. A passive-aggressive answer was normal for her, or an attempt at a diffusing joke. It was the worst way to go with the much more direct Coco who only became more annoyed by those attempts.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡWmpsQ5lUka
"Coco, I haven't been in the field since training at Beacon," the faunus began, trying to answer on her friend's level, difficult though it was. "I don't miss it, but I do miss why I was there to start with, and who I was with. I know I do good work at Phoenix, but there are others more qualified. My very tendency to avoid verbal conflicts gets in the way of that job. If I somehow die in this mission, or any other mission, Phoenix will survive."578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡr941wBOc47
If she had approached Coco with that argument to start with rather than hiding on their plane until they were too far away to make turning around an option this might have been a smoother flight so far, assuming she'd been allowed to come.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ21eJkVHOOD
"Landing at outpost S528 in five," Fox reported from the cockpit, letting everyone know they were going to be landing for a refuel and resupply.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡGnMnK1ZVIY
Still giving Velvet the evil glare over her shades Coco replied "Roger that. Give the usual cover story to the locals."578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡwCPKe43aN9
"Of course."578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡvfcEr8YUGn
"The usual cover story" was pretty close to an exact repetition of what Jaune had reported to them. In the middle of grimm infested forests it got boring, and bored people gossip. When you worked the communications area you gossiped with those you talked to the most: the communications officers in other facilities. By now there was a good chance that they knew about Jaune's team needing extracted to help get "Summer" out of there. No point reinventing the wheel.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ6uPE6wgcxA
The interesting thing, and something that Velvet would be reporting when they got back to Vale, was the difference in the facilities they were stopping at to refuel from how they had been. The statistics had been steadily improving, but how trustworthy those numbers were is questionable. After Simon had started posting those numbers all over the media sites it had quickly become corporate policy for most companies to out-right lie to get better reports.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ4fOBQFLQHp
With only a couple of exceptions however the facilities were now well protected and the faces were happier. It was still a dangerous job, and something only a desperate man with few options would go out to do, but it was better than being dropped in the middle of the woods with no food or weapons.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ6Ixj08MmLy
It told her that yes, Phoenix was doing good.
"We're not done yet," Coco said one last time as they all started getting ready for the coming landing. Velvet knew that perfectly well however.
Nora stood in complete shock, watching what was a literal impossibility with an equally dumbstruck Ren right beside her.
"Pyrrha, I know you're trying to take care of me, but stop it would you?" Jaune was saying with a bit of heat. "I don't need you coddling me anymore. If you think my idea is bone headed, tell me."578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡJCoqyZxbHn
While Jaune's voice was starting to get angrier, Pyrrha's had only dropped in further depression. "I'm sorry Jaune."578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9scsC8xEFG
"No, not 'I'm sorry.' You know I can read you better than that! You are sorry, but you also think that I'm being dumb. Could you just say that?"578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡZtR47C3yXc
For all that her friends still thought of her as the relationship whisperer, Nora had never seen this one coming. They were too perfect for something so minor to get to them.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡToL42yzcA4
Pyrrha visibly shrank in on herself at the continued rebuttal. "But you're the one in charge..."578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡecYaZhNzEq
"And right now we're not fighting anything. There is no need for a command chain when making decisions. I need the truth!"578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡswXAC8CYLi
Pyrrha shifted her eyes to their two very awkward observers, then back to Jaune. "I... I can't..."578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡyjktMr3bCf
Part of Nora couldn't help being annoyed at both of them. Jaune was demanding for Pyrrha to be more involved in their decisions, yet he was still acting like Nora didn't have a brain, though that wasn't entirely fair and she knew it. First, she cultivated the image of being an airhead. How else was she going to expect to be treated? Second, Jaune's over-cautioning wasn't unreasonable right now. A single missed cue would be all it would take to get them killed right now.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡJzGbzcmuaC
Still, the double standard here was beyond annoying.
As for Pyrrha, it was dumb but all Nora could think was really? She couldn't think of a single bad thing to say about Jaune? According to poets and bad writers love is blind. In reality if you couldn't notice that your lover isn't perfect you're deluding yourself.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡRUKRz8pA7F
"You can. I will make it an order if I have to," Jaune countered his wife, then stopped dead realizing what he'd just let slip. The anger did not leave his face, but shame became its roommate. "I'm sorry...."578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡLAHO8kZXJt
"No. I understand Jaune," Pyrrha said steadily, then turned and left. All Jaune did was watch his wife's retreating back with a look of shock.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡYC9O9qVLM7
Nora looked over at Ren, who nodded. Nodding back Nora picked her way after Pyrrha, leaving Ren to talk to Jaune as agreed upon by that silent communication.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡDTz0domDhx
It’s the stress, Nora told herself unnecessarily. Once we're out of here things will return to normal. While true, it also was showing there was a crack in the foundation of her friends’ perfect relationship. A small one, granted, and every relationship had them. This one was going untreated however, and ignoring even the smallest of cracks and letting it grow can lead to the entire structure being damaged.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡcBOAO3XPlH
She wasn't going to allow that to happen. Ren was the better person to talk to Jaune for two reasons. The main reason is Jaune didn't need to be talked to; he needed to have a sounding board he felt comfortable with. For whatever reason he seemed to be the most at ease with Ren. Maybe it's a male thing? Whatever, it didn't matter so long as it works.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8nHBXmJrmS
The other reason is she didn't want her own annoyance with Jaune to become a factor. Like this little tiff between the lovers it was fueled more by what was going on around them than the problem itself.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡUfdhWsqB0k
No matter how upset Pyrrha was always aware of the situation, and as such it didn't surprise Nora when she only went a short distance so the group wasn't spread out. It did surprise her when she found the auburn beauty in tears. There was a lot of emotional scar tissue beneath the surface, but though scarred it was healed, or so Nora had thought.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1a0937Hc3g
Looking up from the spot she had sat, Pyrrha's lost expression was inescapable. "What do I do?" her friend asked.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ3dxp0RSm9B
Normally Nora saw these things coming. Far more often than any of her friends did at least. Not being prepared this time left her feeling flat footed. Well, first thing is to get my bearings in this conflict, Nora reasoned. "He is right, you do avoid saying anything negative about him," she told her friend, hoping it would spur the shield maiden to explaining what was going on in her head.578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡn2zYERyfNF
Pyrrha nodded unhappily. "I don't know how to..." She paused for a moment, looking for words. Nora took the opportunity to sit down next to her and offer a shoulder. Some women would have found it awkward to hold a lesbian for comfort, though not as bad as a guy would with a gay man. 578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9MEyp9SUUG
Her friend wasn't one of them, and she gladly accepted the proposed spot for her head. Nothing further was said for a while, letting the emotions from the fight to calm down. This is what that bastard out there wants, Nora thought savagely. We all knew it was inevitable, no matter how tight knit we are, that the pressure would get to us. 578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡASYFjiGSLk
When Pyrrha's breathing at last returned to normal Nora asked cautiously "so are you ready to talk about it?"578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡsf6AJ7ePRJ
Nora hadn't been around at the start of the fight, so she didn't know what had triggered it. All she knew was he had gotten tired of Pyrrha's yes-man mentality. So what "bone headed" idea he had was equally unknown. That wasn't what she was asking about however, and Pyrrha knew it.
"Remember back in our days at Beacon, how unsure Jaune was?" Nora nodded once, waiting for more. "I didn't help. I took command nearly every time when things got rough."
Instantly the rest of Pyrrha's reasoning became clear, even if it lacked a certain level of logic. That's emotions for you though. "So you're afraid of stepping on his toes more?"
With a nearly timid expression Pyrrha confirmed "I don't want to keep hurting him."
Nora suppressed a sigh, but just barely. Women! "You realize how long ago that was, don't you?"
She wasn't going to let Pyrrha sidestep her way out of this discussion, so she continued over the interruption with "and you realize he's grown into a great man since then, right?"578Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡSCeEJLtUhA
"And he's been a competent leader long enough to be comfortable with the role, right?" Sometimes too comfortable, Nora added to herself.
"Right, but...." This time Nora didn't interrupt. She was curious what was going to come after 'but.' Nothing did. Pyrrha just stared back with a bewildered look in her eyes.
"I'd recommend that you stop looking down at him, if I were you," Nora recommended. "Men's prides are fragile. That kind of pity is only going to hurt it." Since saving his pride seemed to be part of the problem she expected that to have double the impact than it normally would.
"I don't...." Again Nora waited, wondering if she was going to defend that she wasn't, or if she was going to be honest with herself and admit she was.
She wasn't going to get an answer to her curiosity however as back in the encampment Jaune yelled clearly in his command voice "Beowulfs!" Without stopping to give it a thought both ladies were on their feet running with their weapons drawn.ns 22.214.171.124da2