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The Huntsman's Axe

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Blake had been nose-down in a book for the past half - ish hour while another duo of would-be Huntsmen and Huntresses duked it out on the show floor below. She had lifted her eyes from the page a couple of times to see who exactly was competing, but time and time again she found herself somewhat bored. A lot of these people didn’t look like they’d seen real combat in their life; either against a real adversary or a Grimm.  

She, along with the couple dozen other youth, were sitting in the combat hall in Beacon, lined sparsely among the bleachers. They were the remainder that hadn’t been tested yet, waiting their turn to prove their worth.  

" All those of you who have applied to Beacon academy without prior experience at a combat school must first compete in combat trials. These are for your own safety, to prove that you have the requisite ability to fight the creatures of Grimm, as well as the safety of others. If you found yourself helpless whilst protecting civilians, who would be able to protect both you and your charges?"  

Glynda had gone on and on about the topic, and had reiterated it between matches as if it would help the bruised egos – and ruined dreams – of those who had been given the boot, as it were.  

The swiftness of the process surprised the Faunus, who noted that though there was a one-on-one selection process, most of the pairs were summarily eliminated. She turned her gaze up to watch two people who looked like they were competent with blades square each other up in traditional fencing poses. They looked like they were ready to duel on a pirate ship, as if swashbuckling was the call of a Huntsmen, not the slaying of beasts.  

Before the match even begun, Blake already knew what was going to happen. One of them, as they both looked competent, would eke out a 'fencing' victory, which would lead to their double-elimination.  

She was about halfway through her current page when Blake heard the announcement, and nodded to herself. The criteria for passing Glynda's test seemed pretty simple. Fight a fight which would lend itself to victory over an enemy , not an opponent in a sports arena. Victories didn't have to be decisive, judging by the fact that even those who lost were sometimes given an offer to join regardless.  

Fight hard, prove thyself in the fields of battle and proveth thine soul to the heavens above! The quote, obtrusively forcing its way into her mind, caused a flush of embarrassment to flush her skin for a half moment before she recuperated. She glanced sideways to see if the only person nearby had noticed, but she seemed distracted by the fight below, much to Blake's relief.  

"They're pretty good." The sudden comment caused Blake to jump, closing the book on her own finger as a reflex so she wouldn't lose her place. Another sidelong glance confirmed that the young woman hadn't noticed her lapse, and Blake nearly let out a sigh of relief. "R eally good."  

The Faunus nodded in agreement slowly, not offering any comment as it wasn't really clear if the Brunette expected one. There was an awkward break of a few seconds before she sized up the fight below and decided to offer her best non-committal reply:  

"They're fine, I guess."  

This carefully disinterested remark, born of a lifetime of practiced indifference didn't seem to give the hint Blake was going for. With a certain amount of incredulity, the girl turned, leveling a look that was an equal mix disappointment and scrutiny.  

The disappointment Blake registered immediately, causing a bitter taste to grow in her mouth , though the pout on the girl's face did something to offset the feeling.  

"Are you even watching the matches?" The girl questioned, her tone belying her obvious disapproval. It wasn't biting, however, and Blake noted that everything the girl seemed to express had a playful hint. She continued, with this same lighthearted sarcasm. "Too busy fighting the pages of a book to take a look?"  

"It's certainly very interesting." Blake stated dully, holding it up as if to remind the girl that there was something important she was being kept from. "And I would love to get back to it. Right now."  

"Alright, alright, Just one question, I guess." The woman sighed, shaking her head. "Are you better than them?"  

Blake's eyes narrowed , "Why?"  

The girl shrugged. "I don't know. You sort of glanced at the two that were fencing before , and looked away as if you weren't watching a world-class match right in front of you."  

Blake wasn't embarrassed that she had been caught, but she was a little thrown off that the girl had chided her, and her brows creased once more. She didn't really have an answer to that.  

"I guess…" Blake shrugged. "It's a fight. I've seen it before, I don't really find it interesting."  

"You don't think it might be educational? " The girl pressed, her tone again te asing . Blake recognized it now as the girl trying to be funny, maybe. If Blake had been in a terribly conversational mood, which she wasn't, she might've taken the bait. "I mean, Stella Jay is the best boxer in Vale and here she is trying to knock out a guy in armor and making some progress. It's pretty impressive."  

Opening up about her strengths and weaknesses as a fighter wasn't on Blake's plate for the evening, so she turned her nose back to her book and cracked it open. She did, from time to time, did steal glances at the fight. The Faunus despite herself found the fight between Jay and this unknown man wielding a mace to be quite to be entertaining. The brawler was strong, and despite this 'Cardin's superior strength and strong aura she was able to effectively hold her own.  

However, when the time ran out on their fight, Glynda motioned to speak with Jay. The two spoke quietly, and it was clear to see that despite her best efforts, she would be eliminated here. Her shoulders sagged and she gave a curt nod, and she scaled the steps her head was hung low with a sad smile. She would try again next year, that much was plainly obvious.  

And in that way, Blake noticed what the girl was talking about. Though Cardin got the go-ahead to join Beacon, and his Aura was strong, Blake could tell from how he was walking that he would be feeling pain for the next little while. It was an impressive feat, considering that the aura register for Jay had been dead the entire time, whilst Cardin's been a strong green. She didn't only get a few punches past him, the Faunus realized, she must have been walking all over him to manage to bruise his jaw like she had.  

She didn't get hit once and her only tools were her gloves and her wits.  

Blake almost felt like commenting on that to the mystery girl, but the grin she was on the receiving end of made it clear she had been read. Before she could huff once more and steel her resolve to ignore the pest Glynda’s microphone whined with some reverb.  

"Our next combatants are Blake Belladonna and…" The pause that followed was a hair too long, and Blake noticed that Glynda was scanning the crowd with raised brows. "Ruby Rose?"  

The tone of voice rung distinctly uncertain, as if she couldn't really believe the words on the page. Blake herself felt drawn to look around to see who was so strange to have caused the Huntress to look so confused.  

She didn't have to look far, as the girl beside her stood, waving an arm over her head.  

"Ruby here!" She shouted, picking a weapon off of the bench beside her and slinging it over her shoulder. She then turned to Blake and smiled. "Looks like that's my cue!" She winked, her grin widening. "Promise to watch?"  

Blake's eyes drifted to Glynda, who seemed stunned.  

That's… More than strange. Blake thought as she stood herself, holding up her hand for Huntress to see, though she only got a distracted glance from the blonde. "I don't have much of a choice." Blake sighed, as if she was being forced into this – which she was—and keeping the suspicion out of her tone.  

"And here I thought you were only here to read books to the sound of gunfire." Ruby chuckled. "Well, I'll see you in the pit!"  

Before Blake could reply Ruby hopped down from the bleachers into the arena below, her landing accented by the jingle of metal on metal. The wrapped weapon she had slung over her back seemed rather large, broad and flat at one end and narrow at the other, looking like some sort of axe. The way she shifted it as she walked made it look like it was a bit heavy, even for her.   

From Blake’s position she could see Glynda fold her scroll and look at Ruby expectantly, though from the set of the younger woman’s shoulders she didn’t seem to be in the sharing mood. Weirder and weirder.   

The Faunus packed her book into her bag and walked along the bleachers slowly. She was pretty sure that her best bet to stay at Beacon would be to lay low. If the girl who had been pestering her was already drawing attention from one of the teachers there, it would probably be a good idea to steer clear of her. The last thing she needed would be to get involved with anyone as suspicious as this 'Ruby'.  

When she reached the raised platform where she and Ruby would be fighting the other girl was stretching her arms over her head and rolling her shoulders. She had ditched her poncho on the side, leaving her undergarments exposed. She wore a simple black shirt made of some sort of wicking fabric which hugged her body and reached from her neck down to waist, where it was tucked into a pair of heavy duty trousers. She was clothed for a lot of upper body motion, and given her combat boots and the loops on her pants the girl seemed used to wearing heavier armour . Blake wondered idly just what sort of person comes to a huntsman academy prepped for armed warfare, but then again this was an institution for fighting monsters.  

Ruby sniffed slightly and Blake’s eyes jumped back up to her face. The other girl, maybe a woman since she looked a few years older than Blake, seemed to smile at the apparent embarrassment . The girl’s short hair did little to hide the wide smile she was sporting.  

“As much as I love a good cloak,” Ruby began wistfully, nodding to where her red cape had been folded off to the side of the ring, “It’s too easy to grab on to. Not really practical for a fight.”  

Blake wasn’t sure how to respond, given that it was basically an accusation that she would fight dirty. Blake did want to prove herself, but she wasn’t sure if she’d be so low as to go for such a cheap shot...  

"But if you really like it , I wouldn’t mind putting it back on, just don’t tear it.” Ruby chuckled as Blake’s eyes once more shifted quickly. Her smile grew a bit as Blake motion ed for them to begin the test. “Too cu-.”  

"Do you ever stop?" Blake said with some sharpness in her voice, cutting Ruby off.  

The girl seemed to consider that for a moment before shrugging. "I guess we'll find out."  

Blake turned on her scroll and slipped it into a pocket on her shorts, turning on the aura detector, and caught sight of the bar on the display blinking to life, her aura registering green. Ruby's name was on the board as well, but the aura reading seemed to be a bit strange , the color an off-blue.  

The bell to begin the fight rung, and the two walked further apart, Ruby taking a position further from where they were standing before. A few seconds passed before Ruby tilted her head towards the Faunus, who nodded. No sooner had she done so than the girl across the room full disappeared with a great whoosh of air like a jet engine. Blake had just enough time to dive to the side and leave an after-image behind and take a haymaker that was aimed right at her chest.  

That's some wicked speed. Blake growled to herself as she rolled to her feet and backed up a pace. Ruby seemed legitimately perplexed by the shadowy version of the faunus that she had somehow managed to impale through the chest. She pulled her arm free with minor difficulty, turning her head to Blake with a question in her eyes.     

Giving herself a ten foot buffer, Blake brandished her weapon and considered her options. Ruby still had her weapon wrapped, and while her thumb and forefinger tugged at the cord which wrapped around her chest, she didn’t seem to be interested in using it. Her speed was overwhelming, closing a thirty foot gap in no time at all, but Blake had to assume that the woman couldn’t react that well while doing so. Tunnel vision was a real thing after all.   

The Faunus lunged forward and took a swipe with the combined cleaver during her approach, forcing Ruby to take a half step back. Rooting her feet on the ground again she pressed on with the weapon in its cleaver form, using swift and broad slashes to force the defending girl back inch by inch.  

The slicing motions were silent in the air, and only the sound of Ruby's boots against the floor were audible, their distinct clicking and clacking where the heel and toe contacted the ground a bizarre noise. Blake herself wasn't one much for shouting when fighting, and it seemed that Ruby wasn't either, given her slightly opened lips and steady breathing.  

Silence aside, the other strange thing that Blake noticed was how Ruby was handling her weapon. The fact that it wasn't drawn could indicate a few things, that it was not useful for fighting against nimble opponents for example, but the Faunus was wary. The girl's arms were quite muscled but unarmoured , so the half-movements Ruby would make to block seemed amateur. She’d catch herself in time to not take a blade to her arms, but it was the sort of instinct that only the most novice of fighters had.  

Whether or not Ruby was an amateur or not aside, the girl's footwork proved to be sufficient to keep herself on-beat. Blake found herself hard-pressed to find any advantage because it never seemed like she was able to put Ruby off-balance. At every vertical slash the girl would pivot around the Faunus to redirect the direction of the fight.  

Still wary of Ruby's unrevealed weapon, Blake drew her sword from the sheathe and used the moment to cross-up. Leaving an afterimage she slipped sideways and slashed horizontally at the Ruby's midsection. As she slid on her knees she saw the weapon on Ruby's back rotate along her body, a lmost like a hula hoop. The Faunus watched as the strap slid along Ruby's back to spin the body of her weapon in the way of the blade.  

The clang of Blake's blade and Ruby's weapon filled the room, and Ruby's head whipped to Blake's new position with surprise in her eyes, which quickly narrowed. Blake could tell the expression was for show, it was no accident that the other girl had blocked.   

"Not cool." Ruby deadpanned as she pulled her weapon off her back and dropped it on the ground. She obviously wasn’t worried about damaging the thing as she did so, and it hit the ground with a dull thud, the wrappings still holding tight. With the weight free of her shoulders she took a moment to stretch, her eyes trained on the Faunus as her expression shifted from levity to something a bit darker. Her lips curled into a half smile as her hands curled into fists and she dropped into a fighting stance.   

Holding her weapon warily, Blake realized that one of the reasons Ruby was so muscular had to be the weight of her weapon, and if she was fast before, she’d be even harder to manage now.  

Blake scrambled to her feet and raised her weapons to block, but the other girl seemed content to watch for a moment. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other casting a glance behind Blake, to where Glynda probably was. What’s with all the waiting? She keeps doing things and then holding off, waiting for something to happen.  

Her musings were cut very short when Ruby flashed forwards without her semblance, covering the gap between the two of them in a single stride. With one hand forward Ruby attempted to strike at Blake’s chest. Once again the Faunus ducked to the side, but unlike before Ruby followed, redirecting her weight as she twisted her body and lifted her leg. The motion was minimal and swift, and Blake only had a moment to realize that there was a knee coming straight for her chest. With no way to block, and being far too committed to her movement to stop, she took a deep breath and waited for the blow to connect.  

Blake could feel her aura flexing under the force of the attack and taking the brunt of the force for her. Even still she fairly bounced away from Ruby, landing on her back and rolling for a moment before she caught herself. When her feet hit the ground she pushed off, cartwheeling backwards and landing crouched with her blade in front of her at the ready.   

Through squinted eyes she could see she landed about thirty feet away, near the opposite end of the arena. She was surprised she’d made it that far, and with a glance up at the overhead monitor she could see that her aura was still holding. She’d need to do something soon to make a statement about her abilities, else she’d get eliminated without really trying.  

She had a disadvantage. Ruby was obviously faster and stronger than the Faunus, her years of training not quite matching her opponents experience. Even without a weapon Ruby was a force to be reckoned with, and Blake knew that if the other girl wasn’t holding back she wouldn’t even be in the ring right now. Her pride stung at the thought, but she’d take these pulled punches to Adam’s biting critique any day of the week.   

Making full use of the time she had while Ruby strode towards her, Blake made sure that the ribbon that was fastened to Gambol Shroud was securely wrapped around her arm. Giving it an experimental tug she was satisfied with the result, and she settled on a new game plan. Zoning.  

With the safety on the glock disabled it was time to get to work.   

With narrow timing Ruby lifted the broadside of her axe like a shield, jumping forwards the swinging blade at the same time. With weapons on long cords like Blake's, your only options were either dodging, or blocking at the sharp end. If you were too close, and you tried to stop it at the cord, all you did was give the blade a new pivot to rotate on. But if you knocked the Blade's momentum off with a strike, you could avoid the deadly propeller that could be swinging around your own neck. 

Blake, of course, knew this weakness. During sparring sessions with Adam it had been made abundantly clear that her ranged attacks were anything but unavoidable to most skilled fighters. That's why Gambol Shroud could be fired remotely.  

Just as Ruby was about to deny the attack Blake gave a sharp tug on the ribbon attached to her hand, activating the trigger from where she stood. The barrel of the gun, pointed downward in the weapon's slightly angled trajectory, flashed as a bullet was fired and popped the blade up in a sharp bump.  

The effect was simple, and took only a fraction of a second. What should have been a clean block by Ruby was turned into a free hit by Blake as her weapon slipped over Ruby's axe and was sent on a clean collision course with her skull. Blake could see a little frown settle on Ruby's face just before the hit, which almost made Blake laugh.  

Not giving the axewoman a chance to recover, Blake brought the weapon to bear again, but Ruby was ready this time, driving the fork of her axe over the ribbon to prevent Blake from moving Gambol Shroud. Blake tugged hard, but as the blade caught against the edge of the axe it was clear that it wasn't going to be moving.  

She wasn't given much time to ponder, as Ruby lunged again. She didn't use that blinding speed, which Blake was relieved to see, but she did move quite quickly. She was on Blake with a flurry of fists, which Blake found herself frustratingly dodging. She still had the cleaver sheathe, but she kept having to block with both of her arms when a heavy-footed strike aimed for her chest was launched.  

Blake noted, despite herself, and with a none-to-small smidge of sarcasm, that Ruby was probably just as dangerous without her weapon as she was with it. Even if I don't have to worry about my head. She thought, dryly.  

As this little barrage continued, and as Blake started to feel more confident that while Ruby was certainly strong, she wasn't exactly lethal with her fists, she started to feel, rather than see, a pattern.  

Ruby wasn't one to let up on her punches and kicks, that much was clear, and while she did feel like a particularly aggressive wall there was a certain order of strikes she used. Usually three attacks in a row, split between punches and kicks, would be accented by a particularly strong fourth hit which stung like being stabbed. Sometimes she cut it short to three. But the last hit always came from about the same place as the first hit, meaning that where she attacked was predictable enough that Blake was able to keep her block up.  

Even so, Blake knew she wasn't going to be able to win from her position, only draw out the fight, and while Ruby was proving to Glynda that she had the speed and the strength to be a Huntress, the Faunus knew that she hadn't done much to plead her case to the onlookers.  

She came to Beacon to make a statement about who she was. Not to be beaten into a corner by a girl who didn't even have her weapon at hand.  

"You're doing really well." Ruby murmured, her voice soft but a bit strained as she continued to attack. "But aren't you forgetting a little trick of yours?"  

Blake was confused for a moment before she remembered her own semblance and internally scoffed. She had completely forgotten in the moment Ruby had switched the tempo of the battle, and here she was looking for an out when she had one ready.  

Clenching her fists for a moment she decided to do something a bit risky. Ruby was trying to help her out, at least that was the impression, but as the blows continued to land in their rhythmic pounding it was clear she wasn't going to go out of her way.  

Blake had questions, but as another round of hits came her way she decided it was better to contemplate them later.  

She rolled the die on which hit was going to be the strongest one this time, more forcefully batting away a straight kick to her torso as well as a jab to her stomach. The third hit she sensed would be the bruiser, and when Ruby's hand splayed and she tilted her forearm to elbow Blake in the collarbone she knew she guessed right .  

Slipping away as a shadow, Blake repositioned herself and made a dash for Gambol Shroud, which was surprisingly close given the pressure Ruby had put on her. In fact, now that she had the moments to think clearly, it made sense that they couldn't be too far or else the ribbon on her arm would have gone taut.  

Allowing the ribbon on her arm to slide off, she dived over the axe and swept up her weapon, careful not to accidentally set of the gun and shoot randomly. When it was in her hands she activated the ratchet in the hilt which coiled the ribbon, smoothly sliding the black cord between the Axe's twin prongs. Wrapping the cord once more around her arm the Faunus lingered near the axe, weapon fully drawn.  

Ruby hadn't made chase, she had instead dropped into another fighting stance, patiently waiting for Blake to recover. She had a slight smile on her face, and after a half-beat, she disappeared for the third time of the match.  

Fully aware of how well her knee-jerk reactions had treated her before, Blake turned on a dime to face Ruby, who was already halfway through a jab. Flashing away again, and repositioning, Blake was able to get a good angle at Ruby's side, and she lunged with a lateral slash, which Ruby dodged back and away from, letting Blake make chase.  

"So what book were you reading earlier?" Ruby asked as she ducked away from Blake's slash, diving away when the Faunus followed up with a kick to the gut. "Looked interesting."  

Blake scoffed at the question, but somehow wasn't surprised. "Do you ever stop?"  

The other girl seemed to chuckle and pause to tap her chin. "Don't know. Never really had to before, so—"  

Blake rolled her eyes and fired two shots at the 2-bit comedian, who made a small yelping noise and threw herself back from both the bullets. The following swing with the kusarigama forced Ruby to flip backwards over the slice, landing on her feet and groaning when a second attack followed. The glint in her eye belied her mischief, however, and she flashed forward to stop in front of Blake before leaping over her with a great bound.  

Blake had instinctively dropped a clone the second she saw Ruby move, her reflexes now warmed up enough that the slight change in Ruby's stance was enough warning. She readied herself to leap in with a kick, only to see Ruby dive to the ground and cover her head with her hands. This was immediately followed by the rather familiar silhouette of Gambol Shroud rocketing past Ruby's head at a blistering speed away from her . Blake had lost track of where her weapon was in the blitz, and at that speed...  

Blake could only watch in amazement as the weapon shot like a bullet. She was then reminded of her quickly approaching predicament when the slack in her ribbon gave out and she found herself being tugged forward with a great jerk. She stumbled for a few feet before, lo and behold, her ankle caught on the prone form of Ruby Rose.  

Losing her balance, the Faunus tumbled forward, catching herself with her hands while her shins laid on Ruby's lower back. Trying desperately to hold back her embarrassment, she held her head low, while Ruby panted audibly.  

"I have… Been slain." She rasped, making a dramatic noise of death that sounded like it had been ripped straight from a B-movie. She even let her forehead hit the ground loud enough that Blake could hear the thud.  

Sounds hollow. Blake thought. But why did she… Stop the match?  

The entire pace of the fight had been strange, and as Blake picked herself up from the ground she noticed that Ruby continued to play dead. The buzzer went off, indicating that the match had actually gone to time, which surprised Blake, and she glanced to Glynda to see her with an inscrutable expression. The woman's gaze was piercing, and her jaw was set as she glared at the unmoving woman.  

"Psst." Blake heard, and she looked down to see Ruby looking at her with one cracked open eye. "Does she look mad?"  

"Miss Rose, if you would not mind pulling yourself from the dust for one moment." Rang the pointed words of the witch, the toe of her heels clacking against the ground in an impatient tapping.  

"She's mad." Blake deadpanned, to which Ruby audibly grumbled and stood, brushing herself off with her hands. She had a bit of a pout, which was a little cute, though the Faunus could also detect a little bit of apprehension in how she was carrying herself.  

"See you later?" Ruby asked with some hopefulness in her voice, passing Blake by as she walked to her great axe and pulled it from the ground, clicking some hidden button to cause the blade of the weapon to fold in two and coil up against the hilt. When Blake didn't say anything the girl paused and looked over her shoulder and met eyes with the Faunus. She looked a little hurt.  

"Is she going to pass?" Murmured the young girl that was following Glynda along a dim corridor. She had been silent ever since they left the combat amphitheater, so the Witch was surprised that she decided to pipe up now, so much later.  

"Of course. Even with your… Sandbagging. " Glynda's tone was biting, intentionally so. She paused in front of the bronze doors of an elevator and tapped the 'call' button with a manicured finger. She then whirled around with pomp to face the young huntress directly. "I'm sure you must realize that most will see your actions as trying to mock the girl."  

"That wasn't my…" Ruby bit off the end of whatever she was going to say and her shoulders sagged. Glynda took the moment to get a better look at the younger girl, still not quite believing that Qrow's long-lost niece would be alive.  

The Huntress tapped her foot absentmindedly. There is no denying it… Her brow creased and her nose turned slightly. The girl was the right age, about the same height that Summer was at that time, had her telltale silver eyes, the same embarrassed expression… It was almost like young Summer had risen from the grave. That much is to be expected. They were mother and daughter after all.  

"But to answer your question." Glynda relented when she noticed that Ruby was maintaining her pout. "Yes."  

Ruby seemed relieved, but remained silent as she followed Glynda into the elevator. She didn't offer any more words and neither did the witch, who was quite willing to let Ozpin do his work when they arrived. In the gentle light of the Elevator the witch closed her eyes and listened to the gentle tick of the clockwork gears which propelled the machine, quieting the questions which threatened to spill unbidden from her mouth.  

Why had Qrow not contacted them to let them know she was coming? Did the man not know that his own niece had made it back to Vale proper without anyone noticing? Surely someone that Qrow had made contact with over the years would have some information on Ruby – especially if the girl was alive and within reasonable proximity to the Kingdom. The man had too many eyes, Ironwood would often comment.  

The door opened with a soft chime and the witch marched Ruby out of the elevator towards Ozpin, who was doing a fairly good job of pretending that they were unexpected. The bespectacled man was, as per usual, mug in hand when he turned from his supposed watch over the campus. Glynda, who could read the man as easily as ever, could have rolled her eyes when the man's brows lifted noticeably, and his eyes took a confused expression.  

Ozpin was a brilliant man, but theatre was not his strong suit , and at times like this he didn't truly need to be roundabout. The girl would not be surprised if he already knew who she was. At least, she shouldn't be at this juncture.  

"Ruby Rose." Glynda stated, matter-of-factly, indicating to the girl with her chin. " Qrow's Niece."  

Ozpin took a dramatic sip from what was probably an empty mug before responding. "Is this true?"  

Ruby seemed to hesitate before responding. "Do all of you know Qrow ?" She sounded a bit incredulous.  

"As headmaster of the academy that teaches the finest Huntsmen and Huntresses of Vale, Qrow and I have been friends for a number of years." Ozpin smiled. "He often had high praise for his eldest niece. Thought you might be a great huntress one day."  

Ruby said something under her breath in a tone which caught Glynda's ear. She couldn't make it all out, but the gist sounded somewhat bitter. It caused her already perpetually furrowed brows to dig a little deeper towards the bridge of her nose, though her suspicions were most dispelled with the girl's next words.  

"So… Qrow is still alive?" She asked, her voice nearly a whisper.  

What? Glynda's expression turned to one of surprise, head turning fully to look at the young woman. What was she talking about? The only thing that Glynda expected could kill the man was his liver, which his alcoholism had done quite a number to over the past decade.  

"Because the last time I saw Qrow …" Ruby began, sounding a bit doubtful. "He was being thrown off a cliff by a Grimm."  

There was silence in the room as the Headmaster and Witch exchanged glances. Both of them recognized this as the part of the story that Qrow could never fill in. His story began and ended within a minute, but there was an entire lifetime of Ruby's that wasn't accounted for, which both adults realized was standing between the two of them at that very moment.  

"I assure you that Qrow is well." Ozpin stated with complete sincerity. "He recovered from the fall swiftly, but at that time you had already disappeared, leaving Yang behind. He suffered minor scrapes and bruises, but what was far greater a pain was the fact that you simply disappeared from the face of Remnant. He feared the worst."  

Ruby had relaxed considerably when Ozpin began that statement, but her expression was a bit hard by the time it was done. The Headmaster seemed to realize his mistake and broke eye contact with the girl for a moment to contemplate how to proceed.  

The girl had been gone for nearly a decade. Ozpin had, unfortunately, approached the matter as if she were a child which had gotten lost in the woods over the weekend, rather than someone who many expected to be dead, rather than alive.  

"Have you contacted your family yet?" Glynda asked. The girl shook her head. "Would you like to?"  

Ruby paused at that, before sighing. "I don't remember what our phone number is." She blushed, the color rising to the tips of her exposed ears. "It's been a while."  

Glynda nodded, before holding her hand out to Ruby, who handed her the Scroll she had borrowed before the fight. The witch was starting to reconsider whether or not having the girl fight at all was a good idea. The girl's vehement denial at first had put Glynda in an awkward spot in front of the other students, and to be honest she thought the name had to be a coincidence. It wasn't until she saw the girl's skill with her own eyes, and the selfsame playfulness that Qrow himself still expressed from time to time, that she was convinced.  

But maybe that was callous of her. She didn't really know.  

She searched for Taiyang's contact information through Signal's instructor listings while Ozpin corralled Ruby towards his desk, where he found a chair for her and offered both women a drink, which Glynda declined but Ruby a ccepted gratefully . Ozpin set about grabbing the drinks while the witch dialed the number she found, waiting to see if Tai would pick up as late as it was on his work contact.  

Five rings in and Ruby deflated a bit, glancing out the large windows of Ozpin's office with a deflated expression. "It's probably late for him…" She trailed off as if she was going to ask a question before biting it off in the air. "I'll see if I can call him… Sometime."  

Glynda waited for five more rings to pass before closing her scroll and slipping it into a pocket in her skirt and crossing her arms. Ozpin spoke up in her place, handing a steaming glass of something or other to the girl and taking a seat on the other side of the table. "I won't force you to speak with your family to study here Miss Rose." He began, motioning to the young huntress with his mug. "You are nineteen, correct?" He waited for the nod before continuing. "Then you don't require any release from your parent for your lack of combat training."  

"Miss Rose showed acceptable combat proficiency." Was Glynda's curt assessment. She rarely gave glowing assessments of any of her students, so while Ruby seemed a bit nervous Glynda meant nothing harsh by it. "She will be among peers in first year."  

The muffled but still quite visible sigh of relief that Ruby made caused Ozpin's lips to turn at the corner s , and Glynda herself smiled. Neither she nor him knew what had brought this girl to their doorstep unannounced, and the Witch didn't know how the girl learned to fight like she did, but the fact that she was just as nervous as any other first year about getting in was charming.  

"Speaking of, I imagine you would want to get to meet the rest of your fellow students. I'll see about getting contact with Taiyang, and in the meantime…" He trailed off when Ruby stood, draining the contents of her mug in one long series of gulps. She finished the rather impressive display of insensitivity to heat by putting the mug a little to enthusiastically back down on the table, where it clanged jarringly. There was a pause as Ruby looked sheepish, and the two instructors winced at the noise. Ozpin continued, "I'll not keep you here then. Enjoy your first night at Beacon." 

The girl nodded vigorously a couple of times before walking briskly from the room and into the waiting elevator. When she was out of sight Ozpin's expression turned pensive, and he took a deep breath before regarding Glynda. "I'm frankly amazed. She doesn't bear the countenance of someone living in the wilderness for half their life."  

"I agree." Glynda concurred, placing her hands on her hips. "A strong aura, a realized semblance, unarmed combat skills…" The woman sighed. "She seems like she's fresh out of Signal." The man's grunt gave the Huntress pause. "Do you think it's suspicious?"  

"Perhaps." The headmaster conceded, shrugging. "But full aware am I that life outside the walls of the Kingdom has given rise to as many skilled warriors as any of Vale's institutions. Of somewhat greater concern to me is her weapon."  

"The Axe?"  

"A Labrys." Ozpin corrected. "And an oversized one at that." Ozpin scratched his chin for a moment. "If memory serves, the combat style is mostly dead. In stories of ancient Vale the first to defend against the Grimm used oversized weapons along with their raw semblance to fight against the first monsters that appeared. A weapon for a monster among men, to fight the monsters of the night." The man arched a brow, but instead of pressing on with the story he relented. “We’ll have to ask her where exactly she learned such a skill.” 

Chapter Text

"Uh… Are you alright?"  

Jaune registered the words and lifted his gaze from gray cobblestones to the young woman standing in front of him. He winced and blinked at the evening light which backlit the girl, who seemed to be looking at him with a mixture of amusement and genuine concern. She was... Tall. She fairly blocked out the sun.  

Amazed that someone had actually walked up to him, Jaune was flustered for a moment as he stood up quickly, raking his fingers through his hair to give it what he hoped was a look of stylish ruggedness. Girls liked that, right? He wasn't going to let this moment to sway one of these girls pass him by. She must need some help finding something! I can totally just slide right in here and…  

"Ah, right, I'm fine." He said lamely when he noticed that the expression on the girl's face was more one of concern than the bashful awe he had hoped for. Hoping to salvage the moment, he piped up with renewed vigor. "So, do you need my help for something? I'm new here too but I've got a pretty good sense of direction."  

"No, actually. I thought you might be lost." The girl replied, shifting awkwardly in place before motioning around them. "Because everyone is supposed to be at the cafeteria for dinner." A pause. "That probably includes you."  

"Wha- Really?" Jaune exclaimed, not catching the girl's raised eyebrows as he attempted to surreptitiously scan the environ for a building that might fit the bill.  

"I don't think you can see it from here." The girl said, pulling a folded piece of paper from a pocket and opening it to show a map of Beacon. She held it up for Jaune to see, pointing from their location near some lecture buildings and tracing a line towards the dorms and building which housed this elusive eating establishment. "Do you want me to help you get there?"  

Jaune almost immediately accepted because he honestly had no idea where he was right now. He found the monument at the front of the Academy after getting turned around, and when he moved to check his map it blew out of his fingers, and then he found out he had forgotten to charge his scroll. He was hooped, as they say, and he wore his relief on his sleeve. Someone had come and – not saved him! Jaune Arc didn't need any 'saving'.   

He opened his mouth to say something and then hesitated. His pride, or maybe the erroneous thought that he still had a chance at wooing the stranger, prevented him from outright begging her. So closing his gob to prevent any bugs from flying into his mouth while he performed some mental jousting, he settled for what he thought was a curt nod.  

Ruby herself seemed to hesitate at this point, which Jaune considered a point in his favor, misunderstanding it as her being intimidated by his coolness, as opposed to his painful-looking head bobbing.  

The two started to walk, the girl taking the lead and walking at a somewhat slow pace, her eyes scanning over her surroundings. Jaune had his fill of the place, but he understood why people would be intrigued. Beacon had roads and buildings like a small town even though it was an Academy. Shops and cafes with closed signs and darkened windows gave an almost eerie atmosphere in the reddish light of the evening. The girl seemed to be content to observe her surroundings in silence, but one Mr. Arc wouldn't let that keep him from laying on the charm!  

"So, I'm Jaune Arc." He began, giving the girl his best smile, trying to sound 'cool' and 'sorta distant but in a sexy way'. "Yourself?"  

"Ruby." The girl replied, giving him a bright smile, attempting to ignore his somewhat corny advance. "I'm new to town."  

"Really?" Jaune didn't even try to hide the excitement from his voice. "Maybe I can show you around sometime?" His excitement turned into hasty 'coolness' by the end, obviously intending to hide the fact he thought he scored by finding someone who didn't know the lay of the land. He coughed to clear is throat before continuing with what he hoped was a much less puppy-dog- ish tone. "I mean, I'm new to Beacon, I guess you already could tell that. But I've lived in Vale my entire life. I know all the coolest places in town."  

Ruby turned her head to him and he tried to flash another dazzling smile, though it fell from his face when he saw that she appeared to be emanating waves of doubtfulness. He frowned a bit as Ruby shook her head, grumbling a bit when she elbowed him in the side.  

"Is that how you sweep the ladies of their feet?" She chuckled. When he turned red she snorted, but the bright smile on her lips caused him to relax a bit. "Not the smoothest delivery I've ever heard."  

"I guess I'll need to work on it…" Jaune murmured, scratching at the back of his head sheepishly. "So, uh, Ruby, where did you live before you came to Vale?"  

The girl seemed to contemplate the question with a hum, and Jaune patiently waited for her to figure out her answer. As the two of them clacked along the brick tiling of the path Ruby seemed to hesitate more than once to answer. Jaune was about to apologize for prying when she opened up.  

"I lived in a few places. Most recently I was traveling east of Vale, doing some work for caravan drivers who move goods between settlements out that-a way." She pointed a finger to their right, in the direction of what Jaune could only assume to be the east, and made a little circular motion with a fingernail. "It was… Well, fun might not be the best word for it, but I ate, and never broke any bones. Anyways, I guess you could say I lived in the Kingdom of Vale, but not the city."  

Jaune made a sort of soft grunt of understanding, though in reality he hadn't seen much of the great wilds beyond the City's parapets himself. "Isn't that dangerous?"  

"Not at all." Ruby stated with a deadpan. "Only kittens and puppies out that way. The only way to calm them is rubbing their little paws," she pantomimed massaging said tiny paw pads with the index finger and thumb on both hands, "else they turn into demons."  

"Really." Jaune stated, incredulous. "I can't believe there's a place like that in the world…"  

Ruby stopped, and Jaune took a few more steps before turning to face her and seeing her perplexed expression.  

"Wait, you're lying?" He tried really, really hard for the words to sound accusatory, or like he didn't believe her in the first place and he was just playing along to be cool… Really anything that wasn't the embarrassed squeak he made. He coughed to cover it up. "B-but of course you are. That'd be ridiculous!"  

"Jaune?"  

"Yeah?"  

"Too late to save that one."  

Jaune grumbled and sighed, while Ruby patted him on the back. The young man didn't think she was being mean or anything, maybe just teasing. It was appreciated, however, that she wasn't actually making fun of him. The way that she kept smiling despite her ribbing dispelled most of his worries, even if he was sort of bummed that he wasn't able to make himself look cool. He decided that he might as well get to know this new friend a bit better.  

"So, how old are you?" He started with, it seemed like an easy question, plodding along at a faster pace than before. He was standing on the street whilst Ruby walked along on the sidewalk, now standing a full foot taller than him.  

"Nineteen." Came the reply. "Twenty in a few months."  

"Oh, an older lady." Jaune said, sounding about as zesty as a sad lemon peel.  

"Was that a compliment?" Ruby asked, her tone dubious. At her sidelong glance Jaune opened his mouth, and before he could say anything he'd regret, he snapped it shut again. "Good call."  

"I'll stop." Jaune said meekly, finally coming to terms with the fact that he had lost his chance, though unbeknownst to him he didn't really have a shot in the first place. "I'm uh, seventeen myself."  

"They let babies in here?!" Ruby exclaimed with visible shock, covering her mouth as if a scandal had transpired before her very eyes. "What if I hadn't come along to find you?" She sighed, as if offended by the nerve of it all. "You could've been hurt, put something you found on the ground in your mouth." A beat passed. "Like your own foot."  

"Ha ha." Jaune grumbled, catching the barb. "Real funny."  

"Aw c'mon man, I'm sure you'll find someone who thinks your advances are charming." Ruby cooed.  

"But of course!" Jaune scoffed, puffing out his chest. "What woman can resist a name like Jaune Arc?" He leveled a cocky smile at Ruby. "I sound like an adventure."  

The young woman didn't deign that with a response, and instead turned and took the steps up to the dining hall and approaching the door. From where she and Jaune were standing all could hear the general japery going on inside. It seemed like everyone had long-since arrived, as a haze of voices and laughter emanated from the very walls of the building and through the great oaken door.  

"Well." Ruby murmured, suddenly sounding a bit sheepish. "Here we go…"  

Opening the door and stepping through the duo was met with a blast of sound. Jaune could pick up the threads of people shouting and laughing now that they were no longer muddled, and he smiled. Stepping past Ruby, who stopped just inside the door, he scanned the room beaming. He was still a bit nervous, but seeing all these people having fun filled him with excitement. All these people…  

"So, where should we sit?" He asked, turning to his new friend to see her with a perplexed expression. She looked extremely hesitant, scanning over the people with a tense face before glancing down at herself and letting out a shaky sigh. "Ruby?"  

She seemed to snap out of it and blinked a couple times before nodding. "We should…" She coughed to clear her throat. "Let's get our food first."  

Jaune frowned before nodding his agreement. He scanned over the room and spied the glass panes which lined the queue to the food and made his way over, occasionally stealing glances over to Ruby. He hadn't expected her to get suddenly shy, or whatever emotion she was currently doing a poor job of hiding. Outside she had been playful and teasing… The sudden transition was quite jarring.  

"Um, are you alright?" He hazarded to ask.  

"Just feeling a little self-conscious." Ruby replied easily, causing Jaune to arch his brows. "All these people with years of formal combat training and here I am, some bumpkin from outside the city, looking like a shrine to drabness."  

Jaune felt a jab of sympathy for Ruby, as he himself was feeling more than a little stressed for what he might have to do. She looked strong though, the way she stood was all power and her exposed arms were corded with muscle, which gave him the impression she might be suffering from nerves. As for the clothing problem…  

Well, he could see that. Ruby's crimson poncho was definitely nice, but her shirt and pants were very...Practical. Her cargo pants were all function with their heavy fabric and metal D-rings, and her boots were combat-style in that they were bulky, heavy, and well-worn. It was a shame, he thought, because she was pretty even with wearing her half-military getup.  

Clapping an arm on her shoulder hesitantly, he smiled again. "Yeah, you do look sorta ugly."  

That got a smile from her and she elbowed him in the ribs again, causing him to wince and keel over slightly. "Man, thanks. Receiving your pity for a moment there just… Snapped me out of that funk."  

"You're welcome." Jaune wheezed, standing up straight again and rubbing his bruised side as he grabbed a tray from the stack. Handing it to Ruby and then grabbing one for himself, he put them both on the 'runway' that people were meant to slide theirs along on while they were grabbing their orders. "Just. Stop with the elbow. I need these ribs."  

"Sure, sure." Ruby laughed, taking the trays from him and sliding them along so he didn't need to stretch too much. "You'll be fine. Whaddya want to drink?"  

The pair went through the options and grabbed what they wanted, the two of them picking very different meals. Jaune, proving himself to be a man of refined tastes, grabbed a fairly hefty pile of chicken fingers and fries, with a veritable vat of ketchup on the side for seasoning. To drink? Water, as his mom told him when he was little that pop was bad for you. Ruby managed to keep her mouth shut about it, but only just.  

Ruby herself went for a more balanced approach. Braised beef, asparagus, roasted carrots and potatoes. She was fairly salivating at the sight, and Jaune wasted no time making fun of her for it, though she ignored him in favor of imagining just how delicious the food would be. Her drink was water as well, if only because she didn't want to drink pop and ruin her chance at enjoying some really good grub. Grabbing a dinner roll on their way away from the food the two set about to find a table.  

Most the people in the cafeteria had been there for a while, an hour at least, and had long-since finished eating. Jaune caught Ruby looking over the crowd inside the building and mumbling something to herself, before she started wandering off in a seemingly random direction. Jaune kept pace, trying to figure out where exactly she was headed, wondering if she knew any of the people here. It seemed unlikely but…  

A burst of laughter at his side caught him off guard, as well as a blond girl swiveling on one of the benches and cutting him off. He let out a short yelp as he tried to make a quick step around the girl, but she continued to back up cutting off his escape plan. He silently cursed, realizing that the girl's mustard-colored jacket was about to get some ketchup highlights.  

Before he could run into her, his tray was pulled from his grip sideways, leaving him with nothing to accidentally coat the girl with. It didn't stop the root of the problem, the imminent collision, and he blundered right into the blonde.  

The yellow-haired girl barely moved, seemingly unaffected by Jaune charging into her, though she shot him a sour look. He didn't really get a chance to see it as he fairly bounced off of the girl and onto his rump, rocking against the ground as he regained his bearings. I thought I walked into a girl, not a wall!  

"Sorry, sorry." Ruby said, and he looked up to see her holding both of their trays aloft, and well out of striking range of his recently flailing arms. "I didn't trust him with his own tray and here he goes walking into people."  

"Ah, no, it's fine." The other girl replied, shaking her head , her expression still squarely on Jaune . She brushed off her front and fixed the lapels of her half-jacket which had been put in slight disarray by the collision. She leaned slightly over and offered a hand to Jaune, who was looking a little red in the face from watching Yang fix her shirt. "I should've been paying better attention.  

Jaune stammered a 'whatever' or some other somewhat tactless response with a shy giggle. Before he could embarrass himself, and Ruby by extension, the girl said some parting remark to her friends and walked off briskly, this time unmolested. She glanced at Ruby, but didn’t pause as she couldn’t see the girl through the food she was carrying. Ruby was holding the tray s aloft at shoulder height, blocking off the blonde’s view, though Jaune could still see her just fine from where he was. He caught her gaze once the Blonde was a fair way off, and the hard look in her eyes seemed very out of place.  

The pair then continued their walk, and Jaune soon found himself seated at an empty table that was a fair distance away from the other Huntsmen and Huntresses to-be. Ruby’s countenance still hadn’t softened, she was looking pensively towards the doors while her jaw seemed tight. He looked to Ruby with a little bit of a question in his eyes and she shrugged before nudging his tray with her own from across the table. The emotion had passed, and she was focused on him once more.  

"If you want to sit with someone else you can." She offered, nodding her chin towards a few occupied tables around them. "I'm trying to keep an eye out for a friend of mine, a shortish girl with black hair and a bow?" Her tone indicated a question as to if Jaune had seen any girls that fit the bill, and he shook his head. "Figures. Well, she's the sort of person that probably doesn't like people. At all. So if I'm going to force her to eat with me I sort of have to stack the deck in my favor."  

"How so?"  

"First," Ruby eyed her food with the wistfulness of a maiden seeing her lover to sea before holding up a finger. "Choose a table car away from others." Jaune nodded, as that part was obvious. "Second, have someone who will drive away others in case someone tries to be friendly." Jaune looked confused at that. "That's you. Any girls you try and pick up will probably run for it. If it's a guy, well, I've got an axe for that."  

He was going to defend himself from Ruby's ribbing, but deflated since he didn't really have a good retort waiting in the wings. He paled a bit with the girl's implication that she would be handling the guys with an axe, but the playful glint in her eyes took some of the edge off of his worries.  

The meal went by with little conversation, at least for a while. Ruby was attacking her meal with vigor that Jaune had never seen before, rapidly consuming one part of her meal before moving onto the next with zeal. It was quite the spectacle, enough so that he paused in his chicken strips to watch when she started dissecting her beef and shoving forkfuls in her mouth.  

Her knife scratched against the plate with a loud squeal causing her to stop her gorging and look around sheepishly. Mumbling an apology into the air she was about to dig right back in when she caught sight of Jaune eying her with equal parts of fascination and apprehension.  

"Wha?" She mumbled, her voice somewhat distorted by the combined forces of bread, meat, and sauce which she was munching on. Realizing how she sounded she swallowed the food in her mouth before repeating herself. "Sorry, what?"  

"You look like you're enjoying your food." Jaune said flatly, taking the moment to motion at Ruby's nearly cleaned plate with a piece of chicken. "I mean, you're almost wearing it."  

Ruby didn't get his hint and her brows narrowed, looking at him quizzically. Really? Jaune hesitated for a moment before pointing to his own face with one of his tenders and making a sort of circular motion. She didn't look any more aware of what he was talking and he grumbled, poking himself in the corner of the mouth. She shook her head in an 'I don't get it fashion' and throwing a glance over his shoulder. His lips pursed for a moment before he closed his eyes. Mom always said not to embarrass people if they don't deserve it.   

"I think someone's watching you do that." Ruby murmured under her breath, looking to the side as if she was embarrassed to be seen with Jaune. I'm not the one who has au jus on her mouth! Or whatever chefs call that beef stuff. Boyabas? Buoy-bas? Shaking his head of the confusing condiments of cow meat, Jaune rotated in his chair in an attempt to stare down anyone who was making fun of him and Ruby… Only to see nobody. In fact, while the two had been eating most of the cafeteria had wound up clearing out, leaving only a smattering of students, and a girl who could be heard arguing with kitchen staff from across the room. Turning around confused, Jaune saw Ruby, looking quite nonchalant, her mouth no longer marred with brown sauce, her hands clasped in front of her face with her thumbs holding up her chin. When she saw Jaune glaring at her in accusation her expression turned to comical surprise, one of her eyebrows climbing its way up her forehead to make a break for her hairline. She opened her mouth and the corners turned up in a bit of a smile, her voice under strain to keep from laughing. "O-whatever could be the problem dear Jaune?"  

Jaune himself could maintain his straight face until Ruby made a challenging 'hmm' which came out more like a giggle, and her other brow started climbing heavenwards. He could feel some laughter rising in his chest before he raised his own challenging brow. "Oh what might you have in your hands Ruby?"  

The girl shrugged, her expression cracking a bit more as she fidgeted with her hands, seemingly considering her options. Then, she started opening her hands, but as she did so she threw the scrunched up ball of paper napkin at Jaune, where it bounced from between his eyes and landed right on top of his bowl of Ketchup.  

This finally caused Ruby to crack, and she cackled loud and unabashed at the look of abject horror on Jaune's face as he spied the paper. He made a disgusted noise which sounded equal parts offended and horrified. "You ruined it!"  

His undignified howl sent Ruby into further howls of laughter, falling sideways out of sight with a giggle. There was a heavy thud and Jaune winced, though he was still mad when Ruby stood and brushed herself off, still snickering. Trying not to look at Jaune she collected herself, breathing deeply and trying to force her lips into a thin and expressionless line.  

"I'll…" Her voice cracked and she had to take a deep breath. "I'll get you some more."  

Jaune huffed and crossed his arms indignantly, pointing up his nose as Ruby sidled away, trying and mostly succeeding in keeping her laughter to herself.  

"What do you mean you don't know the vitamin breakdown?" Growled Weiss as the man working behind the counter at the cafeteria eyed her warily. She had been trying to get a straight answer from the man for the past ten minutes, and she was slowly but surely starting to get the impression the man didn't know anything . "We're Huntsmen , and our diet is what keeps us going when we're fighting, and you're telling me you don't know what the salt content of this pork confit is?"  

"Again, ma'am." Weiss appreciated the deference, but her frown remained as she had received the selfsame excuse over and over again from this bumbling fool for far too long. "My-"  

"Right," Weiss hissed, cutting him off. "You're just behind the counter, you don't know when the food staff will return for the late evening, blah, blah." She heard a dull squeak behind her and ignored it, continuing with her tirade. "But that's unacceptable. Beacon is a prestigious combat academy that you should be proud to be a part of," Squeak, "not dancing around questions like this is some fast food joint on the boardwalk."  

"Look, there's a salad bar, over near that young lady. I guarantee there is nothing out of place in the spinach." The man grumbled, much to Weiss chagrin. She tossed a glance over her shoulder to see a young woman pumping what seemed to be an over-generous portion of ketchup into a shallow bowl. The girl lifted her eyes to the heiress and shrugged, before turning back to her work, leaving Weiss with a sour look on her face. Disgusting.   

"I assure you," Weiss began with venom before she was cut off by the shrill sound of ketchup dispenser. Her face flushed red with embarrassment, ‘realizing’ that the impudent girl behind her was making a mockery of the heiress. She grit her teeth menacingly, causing the man behind the counter to pale and scurry away, making Weiss' already poor temper to flare at the sight of someone trying to escape her due wrath. It wasn't her fault they were incompetent! She whirled on a heel to confront the – empty space near the ketchup pump.  

Scanning the mostly empty dining hall she saw the eye-catching red poncho of the young woman and stomped a trail to catch up to this… Imbecile. Though the black-haired girl had her back to Weiss, she seemed to be able to tell that she was being followed, and sped up her pace accordingly. The white-haired girl wouldn't dare show any desperation by jogging or shouting after her to close the distance. Such an act would be below Weiss, and far from proper conduct. She wouldn't let this girl get the best of her.  

And so, Weiss stalked the girl from an increasing distance, her glare boring imaginary holes in the back of the other girl's head. The brunette reached her table and seated herself about ten seconds before Weiss got within an adequate range to begin her deconstruction of character. The girl said something to the moping blonde sitting at her table, and he brightened considerably, reaching out to take that bowl of ketchup from her and dunking some fried meat… thing into it.  

" Excuse me." Weiss began, placing her hands on her hips, her face falling into her trademark scowl. The blonde at the table glanced at her with some ketchup dripping out the corner of his mouth. She felt her lips curl in disgust as he wiped it away with the back of his hand and smiled. "But who exactly are you?"  

"Jaune, this is your cue." The girl sighed, jabbing her thumb in the direction of Weiss before waving her hand dismissively. Weiss felt her scowl worsen, if that was at all possible, and opened her mouth to continue when the girl cut her off again. "Secret admirer. Very shy, was watching you from across the hall."  

Before the heiress could even think to say anything, the blonde's eyes lit up with such brilliance she felt horror creep up her spine. He looked so excited and expectant and… Yuck. Jaune stood from his seat and tousled his hair so that it stood at odd angles before giving Weiss a toothy grin. Even if he had been attractive, which at this juncture Weiss could say with some objectivity that he was not , the attempt at a charming display was still somewhat marred by the streak of ketchup along his mouth.  

"Well, hey." He said, in a tone which came off a bit flakey. "No need to be shy. The Arc genes have that effect on people."  

Before Weiss could manage a gag, the girl chirped up.  

"Of course. Dizziness? Dryness of the mouth? Trouble breathing?" Jaune nodded at each of the symptoms, a smile on his lips. "Fever? Inability to articulate full sentences?" The boy winked at this point, causing Weiss to cringe. "Nausea?"  

"Uh, Ruby?" The blonde said, his expression turning a bit confused. "Is that really a selling point?"  

Said Ruby seemed to contemplate the question while Weiss tried to keep up. Have they rehearsed this entire act? Weiss thought, blinking.  

"I'm not sure." Ruby admitted, scratching her chin. "I forgot halfway through. Am I describing your effect on girls, flu on people, or both?"  

Weiss, despite herself, turned her head to look at Jaune, who seemed puzzled by the retort. "I was talking about me."  

"So both." Weiss' head turned again, this time to Ruby.  

"No, no!" Jaune's voice raised, and he lifted a fried meat bit to shake at the girl and shook it in a nearly menacing way. " I am attractive to ladies I'll have you know. It's not my fault you're immune to my charms."  

"Wait, wait!" Weiss piped up, tired of being… Made fun of? Ruby was definitely having fun at Jaune's expense, and as they continued to talk the white-haired girl was starting to feel like she was party to the humiliation. "I'm not here to listen to you flirt," She jabbed a finger in Jaune's direction, and the shock on his face almost made up for the past twentyish seconds. "and as for you, " She returned her hands to her hips to try and regain the composure which might have been slightly shaken by their display. " who do you think you are?"  

There was a drawn out pause, and the two seated at the table exchanged a glance. Jaune looked crestfallen at the confirmation that Weiss wasn't there for him, and Ruby looked somewhat confused. The girl turned in her seat to finally fully face Weiss and cocked a brow. "I mean, I’m pretty sure I’m Ruby but I don’t know who you are."  

"Well I’m Weiss Schnee, heiress to the Schnee dust company.” Weiss had barely waited for Ruby to finish her sentence before launching into her best most indignant tirade. “I’ve had the best private tutoring available in Atlas, and frankly I’m overqualified for this silly little kingdom and it’s quaint Academy. In fact, I wouldn’t even be here if the one and only Pyrrha Nikos wasn’t here.” Weiss’ eyes closed in consternation as she crossed her arms and spread her feet to shoulder’s width. “And I must say that even now I’m starting to think this was a mistake given the state of my fellow students.”  

There was a pause, filled with gravity, Weiss’ lips almost curling into a smile from how devious her deconstruction was. How biting her critique! How could they recover.  

“So are you gonna eat that chicken strip or what?”  

What?! Weiss’ eyes flashed open as she stared down at the pair, who had apparently quite swiftly licked their wounds and moved on. She watched as the blonde handed the brunette an admittedly chintzy looking piece of fried meat that the girl accepted with a nod of thanks. Ruby then turned to look at Weiss with the meat held up between her thumb and forefinger, pointing it directly at the he ir ess .  

“Look, I may not be the most sociable gal in this town but even I know that an introduction like that is pretty rude.” Ruby rolled her eyes, as if chiding a young kid. “If you wanna make friends you’re going to have to work on being a little less prickly.” Straightening her back she straightened her shoulders, closed her eyes and raised one hand to hold the chicken strip vertically. “I’m Weiss Schnee, I’m very rich, I come from Atlas, and I came here to follow my idol and role model. I’m also going to relentlessly remind you of these three facts as often as I can, it’s nice to meet you.”  

Ruby opened her eyes, and Weiss was left a bit bereft of what to say. The serene pose the other girl had managed while imitating her was... Pretty good. Not that she’d say so, but... She could be impressed without expressing it.  

This left Weiss in the awkward situation where she couldn’t exactly refute what was said, but she did dislike the way it was delivered. She also had to contemplate what to do about the fried chicken morsel she was being offered and very much so did not want. Why was she here again?  

Much to Weiss' relief, Ruby seemed just as uncomfortable with her lack of reply as the heiress did, so she turned to Jaune and shrugged. The young man seemed like he was also feeling awkward silence and cleared his throat before speaking up.  

"So, uh." He began, letting out a small 'eep' when Weiss shot him a sharp glare, Ruby snorting at the boy's timid response. "Would you like to sit with us?"  

"Of course not!" The girl said, loudly enough that it could have been called a yell if someone had the balls to actually point it out. She faltered on what to do next, however, before backing up slightly. "Have a good evening!"  

She hastily beat a path back towards the salad bar, intent on finding a balsamic dressing to pair with their salad mix just to avoid another run-in with the useless waitstaff. She did note, quietly, that she doesn’t normally tell people to ‘have a good evening’.  

AN: I might have to come back to this to edit some awkward phrasing as I was editing this between bouts of homework. Next chapter will probably be on Sunday!  

Chapter Text

Blake had gone to dinner early, and managed to avoid running into Ruby a second time thanks to her decision. Unfortunately, she wasn't so lucky when it came to the sleeping arrangement in one of the halls.  

She was leaning against the wall and enjoying her book, thumbing through the pages slowly but surely as she absorbed the story being laid out in front of her. She drank in the rich descriptions of the struggles of Dr Jekyll and his alter-ego, Mr Hyde. It was a compelling piece of literature, even though at times the English was hard to follow. She had much and more practice with similar novels in the past, and had become mostly aware of the strange lingo employed.  

She couldn’t help but feel that she could relate to Dr Jekyll's predicament, the memories of what she did as a member of the White Fang being her own Mr. Hyde.  

Her reverie was not to last, however, as a particularly loud opening and closing of the doors to the hall heralded the entrance of the girl that the Faunus had been actively avoiding.  

Immediately suspicious of who might have entered, the Faunus leaned forwards from her position against the wall to try and peak around the corner of the bookcase she was seated next to. Any tables and such that probably normally populated the large room had been removed in lieu of a place for the students to sleep, so Blake had a pretty good line-of-sight to the door.  

She caught sight of a somewhat… Cocky? Looking young man with blonde hair standing in the doorway with his hands on hips, and a goofy smile on his face. Beside him was a rather exasperated young woman which Blake immediately recognized as Ruby. The girl's flushed expression indicated that she was probably quite embarrassed to be seen in close proximity to the boy. Blake shrugged to herself, she would probably feel the same with that display.  

Sighing and leaning back against the wall, she crossed her legs and lifted her book, intent to ignore the situation and resume her reading. As she continued down the page she heard the recently-entered pair chatting, even at her distance. The ears under her bow twitched involuntarily as she tried to, at least with some semblance of subtlety, listen in on what they were saying.  

"I'm opening the doors from now on." Ruby groused, her tone laced with sarcasm as two or three people shushed them for their volume. The boy said something with a bit of a whine, which was followed by a short pause, then a dismissal. "I need to grab my stuff. See you later."  

The girl plodded away, probably towards the lockers that housed the student's equipment and such, leaving the blonde to go off and do whatever. Much to Blake's horror this seemed to include stripping down on the guy's side of the room and putting on a onesie. It was surreal enough that Blake had to put down her book for a moment to confirm that the young man was in fact donning a… Baby blue rabbit-patterned…  

Grimacing and trying to wash the image from her mind, she reopened to her page and tried to find where she had left off. She's really trying to be a distraction. Blake thought, flipping back a page to see if she had accidentally gone too far ahead. Nobody at the test recognized her, judging by the reaction. She made a spectacle of the thing by not fighting with her weapon… And now she's making friends with kids like that.  

Blake finally found the sentence she had left off on, a couple pages earlier than she thought, and continued, pushing the thoughts from her mind. The girl was strange, but nothing to get distracted over. Her plan was to lay low, and no amount of poking and prodding of oddity would change that.  

"Oh, are you Blake?"  

Fuck.  

Blake took a deep breath before pointedly turning the page, despite not being finished with the one she was currently on. It was a tried and true method of ignoring someone and right now she was relying on it to be a perfect counter to what she dreaded might be… A guy in a baby-blue onesie.  

"Hello?" He tried, crouching and waving a hand, as if the Faunus hadn't already noticed him and elected to pretend this wasn't happening. "Hi I'm Jaune. Ruby's friend?"  

Blake gave the blonde a blank look, willing him to simply turn and give up. Instead, his expression seemed to brighten up, going from glowing to brilliant. His toothy smile and the vacant look in his eyes elicited a groan unbidden from Blake's chest. She had the sinking suspicion that he was going to lead Ruby right to her.  

Ruby walked into the locker room slowly, enjoying the peace and quiet she found. She was really enjoying chatting up Jaune, who seemed to be the sort of clueless kind. At first she thought he was a bit of a flake, and she was still pretty sure that he was a bit lame, but he had rebounded quickly and had a compatible sense of humor. At first she had been concerned that he wouldn't get her ribbing, but he had managed to actually get used to it and throw some barbs back…  

She sighed with relief, scratching her forehead and rolling her shoulders as she counted the rows of lockers to get to her own. She drummed her fingers on each as she passed, counting each row aloud under her breath. It was deliberate, a good old fashioned way for her to calm down. Her nerves cooled and she stopped counting, slipping between rows to find her number, 781.  

Looking around and seeing that nobody was nearby, she pulled her labrys off her back and placed it flat on the nearby bench, making sure that it wasn't going to slide off and rattle against the smooth tiles. She would have to polish it before she went to bed, judging by the smudges against the gleaming blades, the thought making her grumble. She didn't particularly enjoy the weapon upkeep, but… She didn't really have a choice. She was a stickler about weapon maintenance when it was someone else’s gear, but somehow it was hard to follow her own principles when it came to her own stuff.  

Opening the door to her locker she pulled out everything she needed. Loose black fleece pants, a red shirt, a fresh pair of socks, and a sleeping bag. She nearly closed the locker before grimacing and pulling out the polish and a rag, setting both on the floor away from the bench or her clothing.  

Taking off her prized poncho and shirt, leaving her in a plain black sports bra, she glanced down at her dark pants and decided that any stain was probably not going to be all that noticeable. That, along with the thought that someone walking in and seeing a half-naked girl polishing her weapon would be really weird . She couldn’t wait until she had her own room.  

So she picked up her axe as she was, missing a shirt, and went to work. The Labrys, which she had never named unlike many huntsmen and huntresses, was a somewhat ornate affair. Collapsed as it was, it was quite difficult to figure out what exactly the weapon was supposed to be, the silhouette almost like a blood-red-and-black damselfly curled in on itself. Holding onto the middle of the handle she tilted her wrist, the weight of the weapon’s ends doing the work for her. The axehead dropped down on its hinge, the two blades clicking flat, while the long handle straightened itself. It wasn’t exactly elegant, but it was simple to work with to say the least.  

Ruby sat down on the bench with her polish between her feet and inspected the pommel and the handle, running fingertips along the metal. The pommel had the three barbs set into it, two-inch blocks of metal roughly an inch wide which tapered into a point. It wasn't the most effective stabbing implement, but the staggered blades with their red insets and their glass-like finish made them look more dangerous than they actually were… Considering there was an axe on the other end.  

The brass of the pommel twisted about a quarter of the way up the hilt, the creases inset with a red dye. The lower grip was made of rounds of black-stained leather, a single long cord wrapped an inch thick, which was mirrored above the hinge below the axehead . This binding had been carefully banded, leaving a supple gripping surface that honestly looked quite nice given the function. It had obviously been well maintained, with gold thread sewn into one side of the grip. The thread was woven into letters, nonsense runes that nobody could read if they wanted to. Between the grips the weapon flattened, taking a more rectangular form. The metal was still red, but the inside was inlaid with wood, a pyrograph of a spade covered by one of a rose.  

It was a piece from another age, anyone who looked at it could tell that much. As her fingernails gently sought where the wood touched the metal she sought out gaps, cracks, warping of the wood or chipping of the metal. Wherever she checked she found neither wear nor tear, and yet her silver eyes still searched to be certain.  

She hadn't done anything to really warrant this thorough of a check, she supposed. Ruby paused for a moment to tug on the leather of the hilt to check the tightness of the binding, then running the cloth along the metal to get any dust or residue off it. The old thing had been through much worse and only had a few scratches here and there to show for it, and the only thing she'd really done that day was drive the axe into the ground... She'd done that for practical and dramatic purposes more than once in the past, so she was confident there was nothing wrong, but she was putting off the annoying part.  

At the other end of the axe, where the upper grip was fastened, there was a series of pins that held the axe head to the hilt. They were hammered flat eons ago, and showed no signs of failing, but it was the last conceivable thing she could do before getting to the oiling.  

Set into the prongs on both sides of the axe were brass wolves. The tails of the beasts intertwined where the fork met at the hilt, and their lithe bodies bended towards the tips of the blades, their mouths open in silent howl. They were beautiful when shined to a mirror polish, but a somewhat ill-fated explanation of her weapon to Jaune had left it in the dirt after an empty threat or two. She smiled at the memory, and the look of fear on Jaune's face after he realized Ruby was serious about him cutting the flirting off, before going to work trying to get the worst of the grime off.  

The rag was stained with oil, and while that wouldn't be a problem with the blades, the brass itself would look dull. Grimacing she looked up to her locker and tried to think if she had another rag that she could use, only to see a redhead with quirked brows blocking her line of sight.  

Pyrrha hadn't intended to, at least at first, actually strike up conversation with the shirtless girl. In fact, she had felt quite embarrassed when she turned down a row of lockers to see a someone too caught up in servicing her weapon to notice someone had entered the room. The gladiator had gone so far as to step back and hide behind the end of the row to keep said embarrassment to herself, let alone let the girl know someone had walked in on her.  

Pyrrha could scarce believe what she had seen, and as quietly as a mouse she peered around the corner to watch the black-haired girl fiddle with her axe. She couldn't readily determine who the girl was… She looked like she was too old to be a first year, but definitely too young to be a professor. So if Pyrrha was a betting woman, she would've put her lien on the girl being a third-year.  

Interested in why the girl was so intense, Pyrrha decided to watch. Kneeling down behind the lockers to give herself some modicum of stealth, the gladiator watched intently as the girl's fingers danced over her weapon. Nails pulled at rivets, fingers tugged at leather bindings, fingertips brushed over wood and polish with equal measures of care and intensity. It was somewhat mesmerizing, which made Pyrrha smile despite herself, watching the light glint off the bronzed metal of the axe as the girl moved it in the light. It was like the shirtless girl was showing off her weapon to those around, even though the crease in her brow belied the fact she was too steeped in her thoughts to notice anyone.  

There was something almost comical about the girl's weapon, something which nagged at Pyrrha as she watched. The weapon was made of wood and metal, something brasslike, the blacks and reds highlighted with a warm ale-like sheen. It looked old, almost like it belonged in a museum. Most modern weapons forwent natural materials in lieu of alloys and composites, as they tended to be far more flexible and resilient when it came to wear and tear. Even her own shield and lance, despite their older design, used highly resilient composites which afforded it great protection against the elements as well as tooth and claw.  

Pyrrha thought to ask, but the current juxtaposition of her and the woman made that difficult. She was technically peeping, she guessed, though that wasn't really her intention. Just an unfortunate side effect of something totally clandestine.  

A grunt of displeasure caught Pyrrha's ear and her eyes refocused to see the girl inspecting the bronze figures that were set into the blade assembly, the metal noticeably dull even in the dim light of the room. Pyrrha followed her eyes as she glanced from the sullied material to the rag she had placed on her lap, and caught the grimace on her face and look of consideration.  

Stepping forward, the Gladiator put her best smile on her face, blocking the girl's line of sight to her open locker. The girl took a moment to register that there was someone else in the room, let alone a couple feet away, and redness slowly creeped into the tips of her ears. Somehow, and Pyrrha honestly couldn't fathom how, she didn't seem all that concerned with her state of undress.  

"Hi." The young woman began, sounding a bit curious as Pyrrha turned and started to fiddle with the access key to her own locker. Pulling the door open, she grabbed a dark red felt cleaning cloth from a hook inside the door and tossed it backwards to the girl sitting on the bench. "Uh, thanks!"  

Pyrrha's expression lightened up, and she felt her expression brighten further, before schooling it into a less embarrassing façade and turning herself. "You seemed like you were looking for something like that."  

"Hmm." The young woman sounded suspicious, and it was the gladiator's turn to blush when the brunette regarded her with searching eyes. Before she could feel any panic at the possibility that she had been caught, the girl's expression turned teasing, a brow rising and the corner of her mouth turning up playfully. "Were you watching me?"  

Awkward. Pyrrha's smile got a little tight as she felt her own face turn a deeper shade of red. "I, I was just here and you're cleaning your weapon and it made sense that you might need-"  

The girl's smirk widened into a full smile and she chuckled, cutting off Pyrrha's babbling. "It's fine, I would avoid me too." She held up the felt cloth motioning with it in thanks before turning her head down to her axe and leaning over, wiping the fabric against the blades. "I probably look like quite the weirdo."  

"No." The gladiator denied, though that's exactly what she had thought a couple minutes ago. "Well, maybe. The shirt thing mostly."  

"Yeah…" The girl trailed off, snorting. "That's what happens when you're light on packings. Don't want to get oil on my good shirt, don't want to walk around in a greasy one and make people think I'm a slob…" She paused in her wipe-down of the brass wolves and tilted her head up to Pyrrha, her eyes meeting the redhead's. "I'm Ruby by the way."  

"Pyrrha."  

"Pyrrhic Pyrrha?" Ruby queried, sounding bemused and turning to fully face the standing girl.  

"Exactly."  

"Sort of a weird name."  

Pyrrha didn't really know how to really tackle that remark. Her name wasn't particularly common, unlike some of the other more common names out there (Ruby being one of them, gemstones were common enough in naming nomenclature), but it probably wasn't the weirdest combination of consonants in the world. "How so?"  

Ruby seemed to ponder this for a moment before shrugging. "Well it's super old," She made a circular motion with her finger, "not, like, in a bad way like being named Gertrude or something stuffy like that."  

Leaning back against her now-closed locker, Pyrrha's head tilted. "That's a sort of random piece of trivia to have." The question was audible in her voice, and the girl seemed to smile at the comment, giving another noncommittal shrug.  

"I worked at a library when I was little, gave me lots of chances to read up on stuff." Ruby held her axe up close to her face to inspect the blades, making a soft noise that indicated her satisfaction with her work before putting the red cloth aside and picking up the oily rag. She poked at the container of polish with her toe trying to wrangle it closer to her before Pyrrha stepped forward and picked it up for her, which Ruby accepted with a quiet 'thank-you'. "I was there for a couple years. Got to read a bunch of stuff, some of it from way before the war."  

Ruby paused in her explanation to do a little bit of yoga. She wrapped her legs around the handle of her axe tightly so it wouldn't shift, then pulled the lid off of the polish, keeping that tight grip on the axe. Pyrrha's brows raised at that, she thought it made much more sense to just use a bench to apply the polish, but the girl didn't seem to be straining herself.  

"Doesn't that cramp your legs?" Pyrrha asked, since the position looked more painful by the moment.  

"A bit." Ruby admitted, dabbing the rag in the goopy polish. "But this stuff is nasty, I'd feel bad for whoever had to scrape it off whatever I drip this on."  

"Want me to hold it up then?"  

"Thanks for the offer, but… Well." Ruby relaxed her grip on the handle of the axe and used one hand to keep it upright and motioning with her head for Pyrrha to approach. "It's sort of heavy."  

The gladiator took another look at the axe and sort of saw what the girl was saying. The heads of the axe were rather wide, taking up a surprising amount of space with their nearly twelve-inch blades. The ornamental wolves, as svelte as they were, probably added a fair amount of wait themselves with their forms leaning back in their howl. It was a bulky thing, but she felt like she had to try and heft it just for the experience.  

When Pyrrha grabbed the axe by the upper grip she instantly felt what Ruby was talking about, and she immediately had to shift her grip to prevent the axe from rotating sideways thanks to its weight distribution. Holding the axe blades parallel to her chest the major blade fought against her grip, intent on swinging down to the ground with a clang.  

Exhaling, Pyrrha reached out with her semblance and tried to stabilize it with her magnetokinesis , only to find that the metal was completely unresponsive. Bronze and brass, she realized, feeling that the entire weapon didn't respond to her touch. It only confirmed her earlier suspicions, that the weapon was old, since Bronze had gone out of style for weapons long ago. Her own hoplon had a bronze finish on the front, along with some fittings on the edges, but she had never personally come across a fully-cast weapon made of the stuff before.  

That also explained why it was so heavy. The stuff could weigh as much steel, and the main axe heads were probably forty pounds alone, and wasn't at all counterbalanced. The thing was top-heavy to say the least.  

"Yeah, it's not exactly the most well-balanced thing in the world." Ruby said, her brows raised at what Pyrrha imagined to be the frustrated curl of her brows at finding the axe annoying to handle. The weight was lifted off of her hands as Ruby pulled it from her grip and re-wrapped her legs around the handle and started applying the polish. "A traditional labrys has identical blades on both sides, but this one has an asymmetrical arrangement for some reason. A pain to use… Feels like you're swinging around a giant hammer."  

"Why did you design it that way?" Pyrrha asked, silently agreeing that using such an off-balance weapon would probably be quite the challenge. The could easily see that one of the axeheads was actually a few inches longer than the other, making it even more puzzling. "Surely you must've known that it would be trouble to maneuver."  

Ruby seemed to pause at that comment before she looked at Pyrrha around the axe. "You made your weapon?"  

Pyrrha felt her own brows shift at that before shaking her head. "No, but it was commissioned. Most Huntsmen either craft their weapons themselves or design their weapons and have them made by a professional."  

The incredulous expression the girl was now sporting caused Pyrrha to chuckle awkwardly herself. The girl made a noise like a 'hmph' before going back to polishing her weapon, leaving an awkward air in the room. Pyrrha didn't know why, but the girl seemed to be suddenly distant, her brows knitted together, and her hands resting on the fore-grip of the axe.  

Ah, maybe she is a first year? Pyrrha thought, scratching at the back of her neck awkwardly in the silence. If so, and she tested in from somewhere, and she inherited the axe (which seemed likely because it was so damn old ), she might be embarrassed… And then I might've made her feel embarassed about it.  

Pyrrha hadn't really said anything mean, nor intended to sound as such, but she was feeling a little guilty now. "Uh, sorry. I didn't mean to assume anything."  

"Ah, I was doing 'that thing' again." Ruby muttered, shaking her head before waving her hand that was holding the rag. "I should be apologizing, I'm nearly twenty and I act like a damn middle schooler sometimes."  

Much to the gladiator's surprise, the girl stood and brushed off her axe, not caring to finish the polishing. She hung the rag over one of the folded blades and placed the weapon in her locker, on a hook which then folded up to save space, the rag conveniently keeping any drips from falling down to the other contents. With speed, and not saying much more, she packed the rest of the errant pieces she had taken out. She turned away from the end of the row of lockers, and hence away from Pyrrha, and swiftly unclasped her bra before pulling on a shirt.  

In the scant few seconds before the shirt when on, however, Pyrrha could see a somewhat arced line of large scars occurring at regular intervals on the girl's back. Most notably, the keloids were dark brown, and roughly the size of half a fist in diameter. They were ugly marks, and it almost looked like the girl had been caught in a shark's mouth for those to form.  

"Alright…" Ruby mumbled to herself, breaking the silence. "Reintroductions!"  

Her voice was loud enough to catch Pyrrha off guard, and she stepped away from the now glowing Ruby, who looked like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Taking a deep breath she raised a hand and pressed it to her chest, planted her feet at a shoulder's width apart, and tilted her head slightly.  

"My name is Ruby Rose," She began, her tone brimming with some quintessential vigor that was missing before, her eyes alive and gleaming without the dull intensity of concentration. "I, am a bit of a dolt sometimes, my taste isn't that good, I'm a quintessential country bumpkin." She then pointed a finger at Pyrrha, "I am not , under any circumstances, a mopey kid with an attitude problem." She then motioned to herself and where she had been seated before, "You know, aside from that stuff."  

"Oh, I didn't think you were moping-"  

"Please, please, I know how bad I get." Ruby waved off Pyrrha's attempt to reassure her with a flap of the hand. "It’s hard being from out of town but I’m a big girl, I can manage my feelings of jealousy towards a good friend.” She splayed a hand in front of her chest and looked up towards the ceiling. “I’m not a jealous person, I’m happy my friend Pyrrha Nikos has cool custom weapons with lasers or whatever.” She smiled serenely and regarded Pyrrha once more.  

Pyrrha seemed taken aback for a moment from the genuine display, though she found that Ruby’s smile was rather contagious. She returned it, shaking her head despite herself. “Well, it’s nice to meet someone here who has a glowing smile.” She had to hold back a giggle at the redness on Ruby’s face as she held up her hands as if to keep the compliment at bay.  

Oh come on, we could spend all night sucking up to each other or we could actually get to know each other a bit better.” Ruby said, finally escaping from her cargo pants and slipping into her fleecies . She could see that Pyrrha hadn’t changed yet either, so she stepped out from the lockers and turned her back to the Huntress-in-training to give her some privacy. “I’ve had some good luck meeting a few people today, but it’s been a bit of a rush to do something each time so I haven’t gotten to know anyone too well...”  

Pyrrha grinned to herself as she changed, taking a moment to think before answering, “Well, it’s a bit late so I’m not sure how long we’ll be able to stay up swapping stories,” Pyrrha could almost feel Ruby deflating at her reason, so she continued, “but I’m sure we can play a quick game or something like that.”  

When the pair were back out into the library they set up near one of the windows, which Ruby cracked for a bit of fresh air. Unbeknownst to them, they were actually just around the corner from Blake, who was currently doing her best to will Jaune out of existence as he snored just a few feet away from her. Sitting facing each other they thought to play a game of similarities, the first person to find the third thing they shared would win. A good ice-breaker. Ruby won the coin toss, so she went first.  

“So Pyrrha,” Ruby began, her fingers pressed to her chin in mock concentration, “Do you have any siblings?”  

Pyrrha shook her head wistfully, giving a half smile to her opponent. “None. Just me and my mom. I have wanted a brother or sister since I was a little kid...” She trailed off, crossing her arms. The library felt just a little too quiet for a moment. “Being an only child has its perks, I suppose, but it’s nice to know someone has your back, you know?”  

Ruby nodded empathetically, shrugging herself. “I have a sister... Well, half-sister, though that doesn’t really change how I feel about her.” Ruby leaned back, propping herself up on her hands. “Yang’s her name. She’s two years younger than me, different mom. If you saw the two of us together you probably wouldn’t be able to tell we were related.”  

“How old are you, exactly?”  

Ruby seemed a bit sheepish at the question. “Well, I’m 19, so technically I’m already two years behind going into year one.” She shifted again, glancing to the side. “My sister is 17 then, obviously. I didn’t know she was going to be here.” To Pyrrha’s puzzled look she offered a shrug. “I haven’t seen her in nearly ten years, but I’m pretty sure I saw her in the cafeteria.”  

Nikos absorbed the information quietly, not sure what to make of it. This all seemed a little... bizarre.  

“I’m not super keen on getting into the who, what, when, where, or why of this.” Ruby continued, sighing. “Sorry.”  

“No!” Pyrrha said, just a smidge too loud. “No, it’s fine, I know it’s hard to talk about things sometimes.” Relaxing once Ruby gave her a smile. “Well, I’ll go for an easy one. Do you know how to use your semblance?”  

To this the other girl nodded. “Mine is a lot of speed.”  

“That’s not very descriptive.”  

“If a girl whose semblance was ‘breathes fire’ says ‘I breathe fire’ it’s pretty much as descriptive as it gets.”  

“Point taken!” Pyrrha chuckled, “Two actually, because that’s the first thing we have in common.”  

“Darn,” Ruby gave an over-dramatic sigh before pointing at the victor of round one, “What’s your semblance?”  

“It’s a secret.”  

Ruby made a noise that sounded an awful lot like ‘ Pbbbbt ’ before crossing her arms to think of her next question. “Do you have any pets?”  

“Nope.”  

“Wow, OK, I have a Corgi named Zwei.”  

“What happened to the first one?” Pyrrha asked, her brows furrowed.  

“You know what?” Ruby replied, her eyes closed in an attempt to remember. “I have no idea. Maybe there was no Eins?”  

Both shrugged, who knew why pets were named the way they were anyways?  

“Anyway...” Pyrrha sat pensively for a moment, then thought of a freebie. “Have you named your weapons?”  

“Nope,” Ruby replied in a tone that seemed to imply she didn’t really... get the question. “Did... Did you?”  

Pyrrha was sort of surprised she felt embarrassed that Ruby thought she was weird for naming her spear and shield. Everyone named their weapons. Everyone. Even little kids who ran around with sticks to play Hunters and Grimm named the sticks they played with.  

“Ruby... Where exactly did you grow up?” Pyrrha asked, wondering if it was a rude thing to ask.  

“Here and there.” Ruby replied evasively, though her squinted eyes made it apparent she didn’t think that was particularly relevant . “The answer is still no.”  

Fifteen minutes passed and they’d found two things they had in common, they were just missing the third. Despite the game supposedly being quick they found out they had surprisingly few things in common. So far, the things they did have were semblances and... preferred Bladed weapons. They’d ruled against any of the gimmies so they’d shot through a few questions. They didn’t both come from Vale, nor did they both have a favourite game on their scroll (Ruby didn’t even have one). They didn’t both like spicy food, nor rain, nor snow, nor studying with music, nor have the same birth month nor have the same favourite colour...  

“You both have hair.” Came a gruff voice from around a nearby corner. The two girls jumped a bit at the voice and turned to see a somewhat haggard-looking Blake poking her head out. “You both have hair. You both have that in common. Hairy. I win. Shut up.”  

Then, like a creature returning to its hovel under a bridge, she disappeared, leaving a pair of very surprised Huntresses behind.  

Chapter Text

Launch day was turning out to be pretty exciting as far as Ruby could tell. She woke up bright and early, rolling out of her sleeping bag right as the first  light of dawn started to seep in through the windows. As she did so she bumped into Pyrrha who had laid down facing the other way from her. Ruby was ready for an earful when the Redhead awoke but instead found her smile echoed. They shared a grin, holding back their laughter.   

As quietly as they could they ran to the lockers, hopping over the still-slumbering bodies of their cohort, mock shushing each other as they went. Ruby could almost feel herself glowing, seeing her excitement being mirrored in the other girl. They barely made it through the doors of the locker room before they devolved into giggles.   

The two of them felt like they were flying high, and it was a bit of a wonder. Ruby hadn’t felt this at ease in a long time, years in fact. It was bizarre thinking that coming to Beacon would make her feel like this, and for Pyrrha it was much the same. They were both feeling a bit high on life, and that might have something to do with the fact they had been whispering to each other in the wee hours of the night.   

They chatted about this and that as they pulled their clothes on, not worried about anyone walking in this early in the morning, when Pyrrha mentioned the word ‘sponsored’.  

“’Sponsored’?” Ruby repeated, her brows furrowed as she regarded Pyrrha with a measuring look. “Like a soccer player sponsored?” Ruby pulled a pose, her right foot forward, he e l raised, hand on hip, the other in a pistol shape pointed towards the roof. “It’s a straight shot”, Ruby pointed her ‘gun’ at Pyrrha and mimed firing a round  to Ener-Max Sports Drink. The only green drink you need on the pitch.” Ruby’s face scrunched up. “I might have forgotten the last bit.”  

Pyrrha shrugged, “I’ve never even heard of Ener-Max? Maybe it’s a Vale thing.” She pulled her hair into a ponytail before putting on her tiara. “But yeah, I’m sponsored by a breakfast cereal.” She smiled. “I’ve never  tried  it personally since it’s  Pumpkin  flavoured. And chock full of sugar”  

Ruby  shivered  at the thought. “Pumpkin  flavoured  breakfast.” She  considered it  for a moment as she threw on her poncho. “I wonder if they have any at the Cafeteria.”  

It was Pyrrha’s chance to shiver, “I think that it’d be embarrassing if that was the case.” She rolled her neck before stepping out into the hall. “But if you want to find out I’m more than willing to get an early run at the dining hall?”  

Ruby recognized the tone as one offering an invite, but she shook her head. “As much as I’d love to ,  I have a sister to re-unite with.” Her tone was a bit hesitant as she spoke, and she ran her fingers through her hair to pull it away from her eyes. “I don’t think this is going to be a quick conversation, I don’t want you waiting up for me when I might wind up skipping breakfast.”  

Pyrrha’s shoulders sagged a touch, but her smile remained genuine. “Try to grab something to eat, even if it’s just some fruit.” She gently placed a hand on Ruby’s shoulder, hesitating partway through the motion. “You’ll need your strength for the exam later.”  

Ruby laughed as she stepped forward to follow Pyrrha, brushing the hand off gently before showing a wide grin. “Why I appreciate the thought,” she accented the words with a faux curtsy, “I’ll be sure to grab some sustenance in the form of an apple or a couple grapes when I get back.” She gave Pyrrha a short wave then disappeared in a gust of wind.  


Yang was still trying to wake up when she found herself seated upright somewhere...  Outside . Not one to panic, she lifted her arms out of her sleeping ba g  and stretched, letting out a long yawn. When she opened her  eyes  she saw the sunrise sweeping over the sky, magenta dominating the dark blue of dusk. Just a few feet in front of her, leaning against the fence that kept people from tumbling down the cliffside, stood a ghost.   

Said ghost, whose hair was being gently shifted by the breeze, was regarding her with a look of uncertainty.   

“This dream again, eh?” Yang sighed, pulling her legs from the sleeping bag  and  crossing them under her. “I thought that you’d disappeared after five years without you popping up again.” She rubbed her eyes for a moment before a scowl set in. “I thought I moved on.”  

“Well I’d be pretty upset if you moved on, I’ve only been gone for nine years Yang.” Ruby  replied,  her head tilted slightly. “It took me a long time to get here but-”  

A half-snarl cut her off as Yang looked away, her shoulders hunched over. She couldn’t stand to look at her. “How many times are we  gonna  have this conversation? When I was a  kid  you’d scream for me to run away, when I was training at Signal you’d scream for me to save you, then I get to Beacon and what, you want to talk?” Yang’s eyes were filled with tears as she leveled a glare at Ruby. “I’ve moved on! I’ve been moved on! I’ve got friends now and I worked hard and I’m not scared!”  

The ghost, whose expression fell to worry, took a step forward, only to pause when Yang recoiled from the advance, curling into herself.   

“Yang, I don’t know what you’ve been through since I’ve  been  gone.” Ruby’s voice was quiet, sincere as she knelt onto her knees and kept her eyes on her sister. “I’ve been so far away from here and I’m sorry, alright?” Yang didn’t even deign her with a glance, so she continued. “I disappeared after a very... very stupid idea went really bad. I left you alone and I feel really, really terrible about it.”  

Yang  sniffed,  her eyes closed. This conversation was meaningless.  Just another terrible dream.  

“But really how can you be pissed at me for being a nightmare when I’m literally flesh and blood.” Ruby sighed, crossing her arms as she leveled an offended look at her sister. “Like, this is the real world. You’re not sleeping and if I was supposed to be a specter of your longstanding  feelings of abandonment I’d be a zombie or something .”  

Ruby stood up, hands on her hips as she regarded Yang, whose eyes seemed to widen in recognition as she truly gave the ghost a real once-over.  

“Tell me  lil  sis,” the winds started to blow as Ruby spoke, swirling around the siblings, “when you dreamed, did I have a semblance?” The winds grew in intensity, whipping Yang’s hair about as rose pe t als began forming in the air, dancing around their feet, brushing against her face. “Because I assure you, I’m the real deal.” The winds reached a fever pitch, the petals swirling into a cyclone that blew up into the sky. Ruby reached her hand out towards Yang, her face wearing a crooked smile.  

Yang’s eyes teared up as she looked through the winds and the mild scent of roses. She’d had many dreams, but this... This was...  

Yang held a shaky hand out towards Ruby, her fingers grasping towards what she’d lost years ago.  

And then they were gone. Yang’s eyes couldn’t make sense of their surroundings as vertigo took over. Her eyes screwed shut as a peculiar sensation of falling set in her stomach. Just as she  thought they  might fall she felt a firm grip on her hand, squeezing reassuringly. Forcing her eyes open she looked up to see Ruby grinning down at her.   

The pair were soaring (though an honest observer would say ‘falling with a great degree of lateral velocity’) over the Beacon campus. Yang’s head whipped down as she watched the buildings below zip by. She could see people starting to exit the library and shuffle towards the cafeteria, though they looked pretty small from this height. The wind in her hair, the ground so far below... This was more like a fucking dream than what she’d seen in her sleep before.  

Her vision was obscured again and a sudden tug of inertia signaled their change of direction. A half-moment later she found herself being carried by Ruby as they landed on the side of a tower, pigeons scattering and  hooting  as they saw the sisters incoming.   

Yang found herself summarily dropped against the shingles of the roof, but her reactions caught up just in time to catch herself with her arm and set herself down gently. Ruby sat beside  her,  knees pulled up to her chest as she stared out at the distant rooftops of Vale. Yang’s tongue tied itself in knots as she tried to think of what to say .  

“So, am I real?” Ruby asked, a teasing edge to her voice. Her expression was soft as she smiled.  

Yang held it together until her older sister gave her a wink. She threw herself at Ruby, wrapping her arms around her older sister’s middle while sobbing into her coat. Yang tried to force the words out, but just found herself crying. It was too much. Ruby understood that however, and merely pat her sister on the back as they rocked back in forth.  


Just below them, in Ozpin’s office, a very different reunion was playing out.  Qrow  and Taiyang were eyeing each other with some apprehension, not used to being in the same room without there being a point of contention between the two of them. They’d exchanged curt greetings but were both waiting for Ozpin to make his arrival.   

Qrow  turned to look out one of the windows, taking in the morning with a deep breath. It was unlike Oz to summon him like this, usually he’d be given leave to roam the countryside on missions without any real interference.   

He didn’t even have time to reach for his flask when the elevator dinged. Both he and Taiyang watched as Oz, followed by Glynda walked into the room. The former offered them both a  nod as greeting before taking a seat behind his desk and placing a scroll on the table.  

“I know it’s rather unusual for me to invite the two of you to Beacon like this ,  however t his is something you should be told in person .” Ozpin sighed as he regarded the two with a serious look. “To cut to the point as it were, Ruby Rose is alive.”  

“Bullshit.” The word was out of  Qrow’s  mouth before he could stop himself. His face contorted into a scowl. “Don’t fuck with me Oz.”  

Ozpin tapped a button on his desk and a recording of Ruby’s sparring match with Blake began to play. Both Taiyang and  Qrow  rushed to the desk to get a closer look, their eyes staring at the fight playing out between the two Huntsman hopefuls. They watched in silence for the duration of the bout, both  unwilling to say anything too hopefuly.  

The girl, this ‘Ruby’ was the spitting image of Summer, and she fought with all the same playfulness that  Qrow  did. The former was the only thing that really meant anything but it was enough. Silver eyes didn’t lie.   

“Where is she?” Tai stammered out, looking up at Oz, his eyes wide. “It’s really her?”  

Ozpin nodded, and Glynda cut in, “She confirmed it herself, her age fits and she knew who  Qrow  was. As difficult as it is to believe it’s true. Ruby Rose indeed lives.”  

“But the matter at hand unfortunately isn’t whether she’s alive, it’s that she’s back.” Ozpin continued, regarding the two men with an understanding look. “She specifically opted not to talk about what led her here.” He bridged his fingers and closed her eyes. “She tested into Beacon through the combat exam you just watched. She had no credentials, she had  no  history, just a name, a weapon, and a semblance.”  

“There’s time for questions later,  where is she? ”  Qrow  pressed, inching closer to Ozpin with his composure barely maintained.  

“She’s still in Beacon, probably getting ready for Breakfast as we speak.” The headmaster relented, nodding towards the elevators.  He gave up on continuing the conversation when both sprinted for the doors.  


Jaune felt like he was making some headway on Weiss. He'd say something suave, throw in a bit of charm, and she’d get all embarrassed and say ‘Oh shut up’ or ‘Can you leave me alone to talk to Pyrrha’, or whatever. All those comics he’d read told him that girls played the hardest to get when they were feeling flustered, so he had to be doing  something  right. He did however cease his advances when she took a rather sharp knife and drove it into the table right beside his hand.   

“Hey guys!” Came a familiar voice over the drone of the cafeteria. Jaune and company looked up to see Ruby and the Blonde from yesterday standing with their trays of food. “This is my sister Yang,” the blonde smiled and waved, “Yang this ragtag bunch are a few of my friends; Jaune Arc,  Pyrhha  Nikos, and Weiss Schnee.”  

“I protest being called your ‘friend’.” Weiss huffed, crossing her arms and sidling closer to Pyrrha.   

“Hey!” Yang said, smiling at the group  and ignoring the Schnee . “ D’you  mind if  my sister and I join you?”  

“Not at all!” Pyrrha said with a grin, standing and waving for them to sit. She moved to the other side of Weiss, putting herself next to Ruby. “I was worried you wouldn’t make it, you’re cutting it a little close.”  

“There was an announcement a little while ago telling us to get ready for team selection.” Jaune put a finger to his chin while he thought. “Something about meeting at a cliffside?”  

“Just enough time to chow down.” Yang laughed before tucking into her bacon and ham. “I’ve heard  rumours  about it, I don’t  wanna  be spending six hours in the  forest  on an empty stomach.”  

“Just think of it as extra motivation to get you home.” Ruby said through the apple she was crunching on.  

“Don’t eat with your mouth full.” Pyrrha chided, leaning back in her seat on the bench. “We should take it seriously. It’s likely that there will be Grimm to deal with and you can’t be too safe.”  

Oh  I assure you I’m taking this seriously.” Ruby laughed as she picked up a bowl on her tray and held it aloft for all to see. “I even grabbed some pumpkin cereal to keep me energized!”  

The brunette nearly paid for her joke when she found herself grabbed around the midriff. She let out an ‘ eep ’ as she was hefted up by her waist off the bench and into the air, her feet kicking and nearly knocking her water over as she struggled against the hold.   

“I’m  gonna  cut your nose off you-” Ruby’s voice was cut off as she was turned around, and Jaune watched her get pressed against some guy’s chest. The man, whose blonde hair reminded Jaune a lot of Yang’s, looked pretty shell-shocked as he held on to the girl. Said girl was still swearing as she pushed herself away until she was standing on the bench, one foot balanced against the side of the table to keep her upright. “Who just grabs someone like that,” she spluttered, brushing her face off before pointing a finger at the newcomer. Surprisingly, her words seemed to die right there.  

There was a long pause before Ruby threw herself at the man, nearly bowling him over in the process. In fact, he had to take a step back, and nearly collided with the raven-haired man behind him who was watching carefully.   

“Dad?” Yang asked, obviously surprised, as she stood up. “Uncle Qrow?”  

“Hey kid.” Said the raven-haired man. Ruby’s dad maybe? He offered Yang a small wave as he stepped around the blonde to get a better look at Ruby. The blonde-haired man was starting to look a little red, and his breath was a little strained. “Whoa kid, Tai needs those lungs to breathe with.”  

Ruby's arms relaxed and Tai took a deep breath, chuckling a bit. “Damn. You grew up to be pretty strong.” He stepped back a bit from Ruby, who stood up straight. She was just about as tall as he was, and with the thickness of her soles and their heel she was actually a smidge taller. “And pretty tall.”  

“Well, uh,” Ruby was embarrassed at the comments, and let out a strained chuckle, “yeah I guess you could say that.” Turning to  Qrow  she held up a fist, and Jaune could almost see a smile flicker on the man’s face.  

“What you’re trying to get out of a hug with a fist bump?”  Qrow  scoffed, opening his arms wide. “You’re missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a hug from your Uncle Qrow.”  

Psst , Jaune?” The blonde looked over to see Pyrrha motioning for him to get up. “We should probably go.”  

“Oh, uh, yeah.” Jaune stammered, standing up and grabbing his tray. He cast another glance at the reunion happening at the other end of the table, then followed Pyrrha and Weiss to drop off their plates.  


“Look, I know you two don’t have much time before you guys have to get going.” Taiyang said, doing well to keep his emotions at bay.  Qrow  watched him fumble for words and felt sympathy, he himself was lucky that he knew what questions he had and wasn’t exactly the sentimental type. That didn’t mean he didn’t give his nieces their hugs in one of the most over-emotional displays he’d done in years.  

“We have to go right now dad.” Ruby sighed, she was looking around the room and  Qrow  could see all the students had filed out. “I’d love to talk but... well...”  

“There’ll be time for that later Kiddo.”  Qrow  ruffled Ruby’s hair a bit before stepping back himself to give the two girls room. “We’ll see you after you’re back, we can talk then.” He put a hand on Taiyang’s shoulder and gently pulled him back, and the father followed suit. “Be sure to stay safe out there.”  

“Of course.” Yang grinned as she gave Ruby a faux punch on the shoulder. “I’ll be keeping her out of trouble this time.”  

“Yeah, yeah.” Ruby rolled her eyes before giving the two men a wide smile. Wind started to grow in the room, which surprised  Qrow  as the door wasn’t open, but when rose petals started to  fall  he understood. “We’ll be seeing you guys later.”  

With a peace sign and a wink, Ruby and Yang disappeared in a flash of red, the gust of petals rocketing out the door and outside, leaving the pair alone.   

“It’s her.” Tai sighed, his void  shakey . “It’s definitely, absolutely, actually her.”  

“Summer Rose with a haircut and some serious upper body strength.”  Qrow  agreed, chuckling. “I thought she was going to save you a visit to the chiropractor for a moment there.”  

Tai couldn’t help the snort of laughter that escaped him and nodded. “She’s grown to be... Different.” He looked around the room and let out another sigh before looking at  Qrow  once more. “How do you feel?”  

Qrow  felt taken aback for a moment, feeling sheepish for a moment. He didn’t like talking about his failures in the past, but it wasn’t like he’d be able to run from this one anytime soon. “I feel like I want to apologize to her.”

Chapter Text

As the Huntsmen and Huntresses to-be lined up there was a bit of a kerfuffle at one end. Yang, Ruby, Weiss, Jaune,  and  anyone else unlucky enough to be nearby were involved in a bit of a shoving match to decide who would be standing where. By the time Glynda felt it was time to intervene they’d managed to at least narrow it down to a compromise: Yang, Ruby, Pyrrha, Weiss, Jaune. The three on the left were chatting playfully, Weiss wanted to crawl home to Atlas, and Jaune was wondering if it was too soon to ask for a pass to go for a pee break.   

Ozpin gave his speech, which Ruby half-listened to while she looked out over the emerald forest. She was feeling refreshed, like the day could only go her way.   

“The first person you make eye contact with after landing will be your partner for the next four years.”  

Ah. That complicates things.    

She considered her options. With her semblance she could make it to the objective in a fraction of the time it’d take the others. She could just rush ahead and claim her piece then see who wasn’t partnered up yet, but there was a non-zero chance that someone she didn’t know might wind up getting there before the others. Ruby was sociable to a fault, but she would genuinely prefer someone s he’d already met  

Ruby started to stretch as she gave it a thought, the panels at the other end starting to launch her compatriots off into the blue yonder. Pyrrha seemed an obvious choice, so did Yang. Her younger sis was sharp at a young age, and given how she’d put herself together and how she bragged about Signal she looked pretty competent. That’d give her a good chance to spend time together.  

Click.  Whooooooosh .  

There was also Pyrrha, which secretly was probably Ruby’s first choice. The fact she was (allegedly) an impressive fighter in her own right was pretty impressive, but she was also very,  very  nice. Ruby was a little envious of her position as a recognized talent, but that just made her want to compete even more with the younger girl.  

“Hey Ruby?” Pyrrha whispered, causing Ruby to blink away her reverie. “Did you forget your weapon?”  

The brunette was surprised by the legitimate concern, enough so that she momentarily panicked that she had in fact managed such a blunder. Smiling at Pyrrha with a mischievous glint, she reached under her poncho and produced a small swirling group of a  dozen  or so petals. At Pyrrha’s confused look Ruby had to hold back a laugh as she hid petals once more, slipping them up a sleeve with a gesture.  

“Remind me to show you some cool parlor tricks.” Ruby grinned as she waved at Yang, who a moment later was launched skyward. “You’d be surprised what some sleight of hand can do...” Ruby crouched to get ready for her departure, but as she did so she reached out towards one of Pyrrha’s ears and made a ‘come hither’ motion. As she did so another petal slipped by Pyrrha’s cheek, and into Ruby’s waiting hand.  

With a wink Ruby was off, the platform under her feet launching her skywards and away. She had never done something like this before but she’d had her share of dives from cliffsides. Once free from the firmament she rolled mid-air to face her direction of travel, dead north. Looking to the side she could see that some of the first to be launched were already landing with varying degrees of grace. Yang was firing her gauntlets to skim over the trees,  Blake was swinging from branches on her ribbon ... It was looking like a fun time.  

As much as she’d like to flex her muscles, she didn’t want to get too far ahead of her friends. Assuming they didn’t roam too far ahead early on they’d presumably land in the same  area,  the only question was finding one another.  

A distant scream caught her attention, and Ruby was surprised (well not really) to see Jaune hurtling towards the ground with no semblance of grace. It didn’t look like he’d land particularly... Nicely.  

“Ruby!” Rolling over, Ruby could see Pyrrha flying towards her, concern etched in her features. “Could you get Jaune?”  

“Uh.” Ruby’s brows furrowed as she nodded her head towards  the tumbling blonde . “I mean, I need some course correction here.”  

Pyrrha didn’t wait for Ruby to finish before pulling her shield off her back, giving the brunette a meaningful look. “One shot.”  

Ruby barked out a laugh before smirking. “It’s all I need.”  

Pulling a barrel roll to increase her momentum, Pyrrha span twice before throwing her shield like a discus towards her target. Right as it got nearby Ruby pulled up her legs and planted her feet against the broad side of the shield, which made a very suspicious rotation mid-air to be perpendicular to the girl. Ruby  put her faith in the redhead , and with a deep breath drew a gale alongside. An exhale and she shot off, nothing more than a streak of red as the shield disappeared in the opposite direction, nearly clipping Pyrrha as it whizzed by.  

What had been a hundred feet or so was crossed in a flash as Jaune was plucked from the air with all the care of a car crash. Ruby grabbed him by the midriff and angled her trajectory towards the earth, wanting to avoid as many high-speed collisions with the ground as possible while on her way. She and Jaune disappeared into a cloud of petals as they dove into the underbrush, the cloud of red and yellow dissipating and wrapping around branches as the descent slowed.   

When Ruby eventually released her  semblance  she was standing on the ground, Jaune over her shoulder and very much so unconscious. Ruby gently put him down against a tree and tossed her poncho onto his face to stop him from accidentally looking at her. It left her in just her wicking shirt but there wasn’t much of a chill so she didn’t mind.   

She could either wait for Pyrrha, and thus snatch her up as a partner, or leave Jaune for the Grimm. Given that he didn’t seem very comfortable with weapons – they weren’t even strapped to him properly – she felt like she had pretty reasonable plausible deniability. She’d lounge around until Pyrrha came along; she had the time. There was the question of who Jaune would be partnered with, but he could figure that out on his own.   

While she  waited  she drew the petals from her poncho, the breeze flapping the fabric a bit against Jaune’s drooling mouth. When they were between her hands she focused on the shape of her weapon and lo and behold with a flash of red it came to be. She inspected it for a moment, making sure that she hadn’t forgotten anything the night before, then dispelled it back into petals the moment she heard a noise.  

In the corner of her vision she saw an  Ursa  hoovering through some bushes, doing its best to look bear-like. It’d probably been attracted by the sound she’d made as they fell, or possibly her semblance. Either way with the gentle breeze she was pushing the pair were downwind, and the Grimm just kept poking about.   

Not particularly nervous about one Grimm she pulled her tablet out of one of her pockets and turned on photo mode. Kneeling down she switched it to selfie and threw up a peace sign while kneeling by Jaune’s ‘hooded’ form. She’d need to set that as her profile picture later.  

Settling for taking a few pictures she took a few of the clearing, the Grimm, and the sky through the treetops. It didn’t take long before a commotion started to make its way towards them. Looking up she saw a disturbance in the underbrush. The sound of ‘magic’ got closer and she placed it as  probably  Weiss. Pulling a compression bandage from one of her pockets she lazily started wrapping her hands as she waited for the Heiress to get a bit closer.  

Perhaps not as close as she  did  get, as Weiss zipped right into her while she was looking the other way. Ruby caught herself and grabbed the white-haired girl by the back of her dress in the same motion, groaning to herself as she tried to think of a way to weasel herself out of looking at the girl. Not thinking of anything better she tossed Weiss towards Jaune, and stood to face what was coming.   

Through the undergrowth came 3 Beowolves, each of them licking their chops as they entered the clearing and started stalking in a circle. The ursa who had been nearby clued in to what they were doing and finally turned to look at Ruby and bared its fangs, though Ruby thought it looked a little surprised.  

“Have you been running from those?” Ruby asked, not facing Weiss as she started to walk towards the Grimm, cracking her knuckles as she went. “These are some small fry Weiss, so unless you’re here to give me a warm up I’m a little worried about what exactly you were doing wandering through the woods.”  

“I was-” Whatever Weiss was going to say was drowned out as Ruby flashed forward and drive a fist into the brow of one of the  Beowolves , its skull giving way before it disappeared into a cloud of black smoke. The others launched themselves at Ruby without pause, and while one made it to her the other found itself impaled on the end of an axe that materialized from seemingly nowhere, the hilt buried in the ground while the twin axe-heads sunk into its chest. Ruby caught the other wolf and threw it at the  Ursa , while with her free hand she grabbed the impaled  Beowolf  by its maw and dragged it down, forcing the axe through its back.  

Somewhere behind her Ruby could hear Weiss gasp, which she ignored as she pulled her axe from the dissipating Wolf before throwing it overhead at the remaining two monsters. As it left her hands it collapsed into a petal, which then rocketed forward. There was a flash of red and both Grimm disappeared in a puff of smoke, while a tree behind them fairly exploded from the impact.   

“Are you fucking crazy?!” Shouted Weiss as Ruby started walking back, her eyes scanning the ground studiously to avoid eye contact, which she  doubt  Weiss was doing. “What sort of crazy, dangerous, bizarre fighting style is that?”  

Ruby shrugged and inspected her nails before replying, “Oh, you know, do some push-ups, do some sit-ups, kill lots of terrifying monsters and you learn a few tricks. I prefer ‘avant-garde’ to bizarre though...”  

The sound of a twig breaking nearby gave Ruby a moment of hope, and she looked up to see Pyrrha beating a path through the underbrush. She tried to meet the gladiator’s eyes but she wasn’t looking her way, instead generally in the direction of Weiss and Jaune. Ruby didn’t want to sound desperate and shout something at her to get her attention, and if she  did  she’d be getting Weiss’ attention too, which further would complicate things.   

Flexing her fingers, a breeze blew past  Pyrhha . The girl looked over towards Ruby and they finally made eye contact. Before one of them could speak, however, Jaune piped up.  

“Well, at least I’m with Pyrrha.” He grumbled, putting a hand to his head and pulling Ruby’s poncho off his chest, where it had slid. As he spoke the three girls looked at him with more than a little bit of surprise.   

“But... When...” Weiss sputtered, looking from Ruby to Pyrrha, then to Jaune. “You sneaky little...”  

Ruby watched Weiss get up and start throwing punches and kicks at Jaune, who held up his arms as the Heiress let out her frustration. She rolled her eyes at the display before glancing back to Pyrrha, who had a bit of a puzzled look in her eyes.  

“If our dorm rooms aren’t next to each other I’m  gonna  file a complaint.” Ruby sighed, not really keeping the disappointment out of her voice. She smiled at Pyrrha, who appeared to be biting her tongue, before walking over to Weiss and pulling her off Jaune. “That’s enough, that’s enough.”  

Weiss fought for a moment against the grip but eventually relented, glaring at Ruby with all the force of a dozen peeved cats. “Put me down.”  

Sure  thing  partner .” Ruby drawled, letting the other girl down before helping Jaune up.  

“We should probably get going to the north of the forest.” Pyrrha said, her tone slightly strained. Ruby looked back to her but Pyrrha was busy fussing with one of the laces on her boots.  

“I can’t believe he beat me.” Weiss grumbled under her breath as she stormed forward to Pyrrha, beating a path in a seemingly random direction. Ruby definitely could commiserate but kept her emotions veiled as she followed behind Weiss, leaving Pyrrha and Jaune walking together.  

So  this is north Miss Schnee?” Ruby asked, her hands in her pockets as she followed behind.  

“Of course!” Weiss grumbled as she walked straight through a prickly bush without pausing. “I know my way...” Her mumbling became inaudible as they passed by the tree that Ruby had destroyed at range. Splinters had rained down on the nearby area and it took a moment for her to find where her axe had impaled itself in the ground. As she walked by  it  she drew it from the earth and shook it clear of any loose dirt before slinging it over her back.  

“So where  did  you hide your axe Ruby?” Pyrrha asked. “You certainly didn’t have it with you before.”  

“She’s lucky I happened to walk in this direction or else she still wouldn’t have it.” Weiss snarked under her breath, but Ruby ignored her.  

“My semblance lets me turn things into Rose Petals.” Ruby explained, turning to walk backwards for a moment. “Myself, things near me, that sort of thing.” Ruby pulled off her poncho and with a flick of her wrist it turned into four petals that she slipped into a pocket. “I can do other things, but that’s the most practical.”  

“Does it help you walk backwards?” Jaune asked, eying Ruby with a hint of jealousy.  

“Not at all.” Ruby turned back around and stuffed her hands in her pockets. “Though I guess if I was floating off the ground in a rose scented  cloud  I wouldn’t have to worry about tripping.”  

“If anyone feels like asking  me ,” Weiss said, placing her hands on her hips as she stopped and turned to face the rest of the troupe, “ my  Semblance allows me to create a variety of powerful glyphs.” Closing her eyes and turning her nose up slightly she continued, raising a hand as if she was lecturing a bunch of children. “It’s hereditary, and all of the women in my family have mastered the art.”  

“Does it help you run away too?” Ruby teased as she passed Weiss by and ruffled her hair, earning herself a disgruntled ‘ pah ’ from the heiress. “I’d love to see it in action regardless.”  

“You’ll be amazed!” Weiss insisted as she crossed her arms and followed. “I don’t use  P arlor Tricks .”  

Ruby guffawed at the comment, barely containing her laughter. “You were listening to us  chat   were  you?”  

Weiss’ ears turned a shade of red, but she didn’t deign to reply. Instead she turned to Pyrrha, “What’s your semblance Pyrrha?”  

Ruby listened intently for the answer as she pulled her scroll from her pocket and snapped a quick picture of the four of them walking along the path. The compass on the home screen indicated they’d fallen a bit off course, Weiss’ random path was heading in a north-easterly direction. She changed their course as Pyrrha answered;  

“I have a bit of control over magnetic fields.” Pyrrha’s answer seemed a bit lame, like she was intentionally downplaying it. “It’s useful in a pinch. How about you Jaune?”  

“What’s a semblance?” He asks, and Ruby turns her head to see him sporting a rather confused expression.  

“It’s an ability driven by your aura that allows you to perform feats that resemble magic.” Ruby offered as explanation. She paused to look over the small slope that lead into a grassy area, a bank of sandy earth and rock from where the wind had eroded the bank. “If you use your aura enough, and in the right way, you might develop one.”  

Ruby slid down the embankment and turned around to wait for the others. Weiss and Pyrrha made the slide without much of a problem (though Ruby did make a point to tease the Heiress when she stumbled). Jaune on the other hand looked at it a bit leerily.  

“Is that a  Beowolf  behind you Jaune?” Ruby said with a gasp, bringing her hands to her mouth in shock that didn’t quite reach her eyes.   

Jaune squawked as he hopped onto the sandy ground, his feet slipping against the loose soil. He didn’t even draw his weapons when he ran past Ruby, fairly cowering behind her.  

“Ruby.” Pyrrha chided as she placed a hand on Jaune’s shoulder. “She was just trying to scare you, let’s get going.”  

“I don’t understand why you feel the need to be so unprofessional Ruby.” Weiss grumbled with a scowl, pointedly sneering at the older girl. “It’s not acceptable to surprise your fellow Huntresses like that.”  

“Yeah, yeah,” Ruby chuckled, dismissing Weiss’ expression. She started walking again and pocketed her hands once more. “I’ll keep that in mind for the next time we have to scare Jaune across some stepping stones.” Ruby offered Jaune a smile, and he offered a slightly frazzled grin back. “And Weiss I  assure  you that over the next four years at Beacon you’re going to find I’m exactly as dramatic as I need to be.”  

“I seriously doubt that.” Weiss huffed, crossing her arms. “When we get back to Beacon I’m going to protest being grouped with some drop-out with a sailor’s mouth.”  

“Yeah well,” Ruby rolled her eyes, “Pyrrha’s still partnered with Jaune so unless you can get rid of  him  you’re still not going to make it into any one-on-one slumber parties nor avoid any of his ravishing advances.”  

“Did someone say ravishing?” Jaune piped up, his earlier embarrassment forgotten.  

“Not. You.” Weiss grit out, shooting him a withering glare. “And it’s not like you didn’t try and partner with her too, that’s why you were hanging around Jaune for so long.”  

“You caught me red handed.” Ruby sighed, shaking her head sadly. Her grin didn’t stay away for long because she grabbed Pyrrha by the arm and clung to her, a bit of an awkward look because she was a bit taller than Pyrrha in her boots. “Not that you mind, right Miss Nikos?”  

Of course  not Miss Rose.” Pyrrha pulled her arm gently away and shook her head. “But you two had better learn to get along, don’t use me to provoke her.”  

Ruby pouted and took her arm back, but her smile never faded.   

“Hey guys.” Jaune said, sounding a bit puzzled. “Is that a really big bird or am I still recovering from a concussion?”  

Chapter Text

Pyrrha had seen her share of Nevermores before. As part of her training she’d cut through dozens of them, though they proved to be quite the nuisance at times given her melee-oriented skillset. This thing would need a bit more than a rifle shot to bring down to earth. 

“Does that thing have a forty foot wingspan?” Jaune wondered aloud, and Pyrrha had to nod. The thing was massive, given that it blocked out the sun and was easily a couple hundred feet up. 

“We should probably pretend we didn’t see that.” Ruby said with a surprising amount of cheer, continuing to walk forward and  towards  said Grimm. “Just don’t panic and it might not even notice us.” 

She could say that, but Jaune was simply dripping with apprehension. Pyrrha tried to give him a reassuring smile but she had a feeling that he wasn’t exactly cut out for facing something that scary just yet. If he’d ‘faced’ anything at all, which she was somewhat skeptical of. 

“If it  does  notice us, then we’re going to get killed.” Weiss argued, storming to Ruby and grabbing her by the arm. Pyrrha noticed a hint of fear in Weiss voice that Ruby seemed to be ignoring as she pulled her arm free. “We can’t fight that on our own.” 

“Weiss is right.” Pyrrha concurred, which actually made Ruby turn around. “Even if we could grab the relics, we’d be right in the Nevermore’s line of sight. It’d be too risky.” 

Ruby seemed to consider this, her eyes measuring Jaune as her lips pursed in thought. Her gaze then shifted to Pyrrha and Weiss in turn, and all present could tell that there really wasn’t any deliberation going on. Ruby didn’t look like the sort of person to take anything too seriously, so the look of stoic thought was really not necessary. 

“Not an option.” She stated matter-of-factly. “We’re on limited time to get our pieces, and we’re being monitored for performance so we can’t exactly run scared.” 

“They don’t want us to fight something like  that .” Weiss countered. “Even a fully trained huntsman would have problems with that.” 

“Well we’re not supposed to give up on the mission Weiss.” Ruby countered, shrugging. “Just because it’s scary doesn’t mean we can let a town burn down, or a powerful Grimm wander around unchallenged.” 

“I’m not scared.” Weiss huffed, crossing her arms.  

The redhead could see Ruby’s expression soften from her faux aloofness to something a bit more kind, the older girl stepping forward and putting a hand on Weiss’ shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to let my partner get hurt.” 

Pyrrha’s teeth set for a moment at the phrase, her eyes drifting sidelong to look at Jaune. She wasn’t so sure about that, but she’d have to have a conversation with Ruby later about it. 

“That goes for you two as well.” Ruby interrupted Pyrrha’s thoughts and the Gladiator was happy it didn’t seem anyone noticed anything amiss. “I know a few tricks to get us out of a bind.” 

“Ruby, I trust you, and you look strong...” Jaune audibly gulped as pulled his sword and shield from his back and set his lips in a line. “Let’s go.” 

“You can say that, but we need a plan.” Pyrrha sighed. 

“Simple diversion.” Ruby smiled, rubbing her hands together as she looked up at the Nevermore, which was slowly circling back to them. “I just need a bit of help from Pyrrha, and Weiss...” Ruby sized Jaune up for a moment. “lift with your knees, not your back.” 


 

Blake and Yang stood near the edge of the forest, both peeking around the side of a tree as they weighed their options. They could plainly see the Nevermore, and though it was now circling away from them they were still deciding how to move. They were within sight of the ruins, Blake could even see the pieces sitting on top of the pedestals as they glinted in the sunlight. 

“Alright, so while it’s facing the other way we make a dash for the ruins.” Yang whispered, a wholly unnecessary thing given how high up the nevermore was. She almost seemed excited by the risk that they’d have to fight that thing, which caused Blake to smile a little in spite of herself. She could definitely see how Yang was Ruby’s sister. She was less in-your-face than Ruby, which she appreciated, but they both had a certain playfulness about them. 

“Ready?” Yang turned to Blake, who nodded. They both tensed, paused, then made a mad dash for the ruins. Blake was able to keep pace with the Blonde, and the two of them made sure to double check that the monster wasn’t circling back as they ran. 

When they reached the smooth stone steps that lead up to the central platform they paused, taking a position against a low wall. As they looked over at the great flying  thing,  they could see it scanning the ground, looking for some morsel to snack on Blake supposed, its gentle arc taking it further and further away. 

“It looks like we’re not the first people to get here, huh.” Yang muttered as she started looking at the different pedestals. Of all 12 or so, three were missing, leaving an odd piece out and a bunch of pairs. The blonde walked up to a comically sized white knight and inspected it, tossing it up and down to gauge the weight. Blake could see that the other girl was sizing up the odd piece, making a judgement call in her head. 

“I think we’re supposed to just grab one at random.” Blake said, standing between Yang and the other piece. “We run into people at random to make pairs, grab pieces at random to make groups.” 

Yang sighed before nodding, gripping her piece tightly for a moment then relaxing. “I was just wondering if my sister had got here before us.” 

As if on cue, the pair heard a great squawk in the distance.  

Blake whipped around to see the Nevermore listing over, its trajectory thrown off as if it had been struck by a cannon. As it struggled to recover, and as it fought to right itself the sounds of people running came closer. Moments later Jaune and Weiss appeared on the scene, dashing into the ruins without much ceremony.  

“What are you guys-” Blake began, but paused when she recognized what was going on. Weiss was breathing heavy and her expression could not be any more dour. In her arms, being carried bridal style and  holding on for dear life  was Jaune Arc. In fact, Jaune’s eyes were wide open as he looked between Yang and Blake, any trace of his sickly-sweet smooth-talking persona completely gone while he hung in Weiss’ arms.  

There was a pregnant silence. Yang was struggling against the very fiber of her being to keep her laughter in check. Blake was trying desperately to wrap her head around whatever the  fuck  those two were doing standing so brazenly like that. Weiss looked like she wanted to get swallowed by the very earth itself as she avoided eye contact with either of the other two huntresses. Jaune looked as happy as a clam being carried around like this.  

“So...” Yang drawled, her hands on her hips as she seemed to squint in contemplation. “Is it just me or is the entire Prince and Princess thing here all sorts of backwards.” 

It was Blake’s turn to stifle a snort as Weiss’ ears turned a threatening shade of red. 

“Wait am I the princess?” Jaune asked, his expression pensive as he contemplated his position. The tension turned painful as he looked up into Weiss’ baleful expression. Quietly, so much so that it could barely be heard over the breeze, he mumbled. “Weiss you sure are strong.” 

“Jaune if you don’t let go of my neck in the next  nanosecond  I’m walking into the forest and feeding you to a bear.” Weiss stated with such matter-of-fact malice that Jaune went limp in an instant, falling from her hands and landing on the cobbles with a thud. She brushed herself off for a moment, mumbling to herself before flicking an imaginary mote of dust off her shoulder. 

“We’re talking about this later.” Yang said, her grin reaching from ear to ear. 

“No we’re not.” Weiss hissed, marching over to one of the pedestals and snatching up one of the pieces, Jaune doing the same while rubbing his sore rump. 

“Where are your partners?” Blake asked, surprised they were both taking one given their state when they arrived moments before. 

“Ruby and Pyrrha had the bright idea of knocking the Nevermore out of the sky.” Said the heiress with a scowl. 

“They’re fighting it alone?!” Yang nearly shouted, taking a step towards Weiss. 

“Ruby and Pyrrha said they were going to ‘clip’ it, then run away and meet us at the cliffs.” Jaune explained, frowning a bit. “I don’t think they’re planning on actually trying to kill it.” 

 


 

Ruby threw herself away from the falling Nevermore, flipping backwards as she did so to land against a tree. She’d crashed into it with enough speed that she was certain she’d broken its wing, her momentum great enough that she was surprised she hadn’t torn it off. The Grimm writhed on the ground, flipping itself onto its huge talons and scanning the surroundings for what had injured it. 

Pyrrha dashed through the woods to the flattened ring of trees, sliding onto the scene and reaching out with her semblance to detect Ruby and her axe. When she found a ‘weight’ that reacted to her semblance, she found it was much, much heavier than she expected. When she got close, however, it faded significantly, and she found Ruby surrounded by a small haze of petals that she slid into a pocket on her trousers, axe hanging from her back on a cord. 

That’s odd.  

“You know, at this point I assumed it’d be fading out of existence.” Ruby sighed, looking down to Pyrrha with a look of disappointment. “You know, going really fast is my entire  thing , it’s a bit disappointing that turning myself into a big cannonball doesn’t do more damage.” 

“We can try again another time.” Pyrrha said with a bit of a laugh, her gaze landing on the Grimm once more and feeling a bit nervous. The thing was certainly  down,  but it was not  out . “For now, we should probably focus on meeting up with the others, this won’t be chasing anyone anytime soon.” 

Ruby raised an arm as a gust of wind crashed into her, dust and gravel bouncing against her aura as the Nevermore beat its great wings. When it fell to the earth it flattened a wide swath of trees, and now it was trying to use its one good wing to fly back up, its broken limb moving at awkward angles. It was effectively grounded, but still rather dangerous. 

“We’ve done enough damage, Ruby.” Pyrrha shouted, holding her hoplon up to block the flying detritus. “It can’t fly, and it’ll take time for it to recover.” 

“Fine.” Ruby sighed as she leapt over another volley of feathers and landed near Pyrrha. She grabbed Pyrrha’s hand and gave her a grim look. “But if it gets up in the air again, we’re finishing the job.” 

In a flash of red they disappeared, two tone red petals flying through the forest, their speed bolstered by the fair gale the Nevermore was blowing. It raced through the forest, around trees and through underbrush before breaking into the grassy clearing of the plain. The two reappeared and Ruby paused for a moment while the younger girl got her bearings.  

“That is... a bizarre sensation.” Pyrrha groaned, shaking her head as she tried to figure out where down was.  

“I assure you,” Ruby smiled, grinning at Pyrrha as she pulled her towards the cliffs. “When you fly with me you always land feet-first.” 

“I’m pretty sure my feet didn’t exist for most of that.” Pyrrha laughed with a bit of strain as she followed Ruby, obviously glad that they weren’t traveling the entire way with her semblance.  

As they dashed through the woods a comfortable silence fell between them. Ruby led the way, Pyrrha following close behind, matching the path that the taller girl was weaving through the undergrowth. The only noise they could hear was the sounds of boots against soft earth, their own breathing, and the odd chirp of birds.  

Ruby could tell there was something up after a while. She had been focusing on her pace, her head clear as she ran, but she could almost feel the words on the tip of Pyrrha’s tongue. Ruby would land from a jump for Pyrrha to surge forward, hem and haw, then fall back again. Normally the brunette was fine with letting people think through things... But they had a fair run ahead of them and it was as good a reason to take a break as any, even if she didn’t feel tired at all. 

“I got a rock in my shoe,” Ruby muttered, slowing to a walk before backing up against a tree and tugging against the knot her laces were in. She stifled a giggle when Pyrrha nearly slid by, obviously too in her own thoughts to notice that they were pausing. “Just gimme a sec.” 

“Of course.” Pyrrha smiled, taking the moment to tighten her own laces. The silence got a little thick as she stared gormlessly down at the earth. 

“Do you want me to get you a shovel?” Ruby asked, waving her hand in Pyrrha’s field of view. When the gladiator blinked she laughed a bit, settling back against the tree. “What’s on your mind?” 

“I’m not sure that Jaune and I are really supposed to be partners.” Pyrrha said after some hesitation. Ruby regarded her without expression for a moment as she chewed over the thought. She wasn’t exactly neutral in this, she  had  been  jonesing  for Pyrrha to be her partner. “But I’m not  exactly  sure.” 

“Well,” Ruby began, crossing her arms. “You were looking at him when he was conked out, right?” Pyrrha nodded before opening her mouth as if to speak, but she relented. “Then you looked at  moi and he spoke up.” 

“I thought he was asleep until he said we were partners. I thought I was partnered with you because he was... Well.” 

“Dead to the world?” 

“Right.” 

There was another pause as Ruby thought for a moment before scratching her head. “Well, as best I know, we can’t say one way or another, and the profs are probably listening in on us right now.” Ruby tied her laces up, completely forgetting to shake out the imaginary rock, taking the moment to think. “Jaune needs a partner that can look out for him given his particular... Needs.” 

“And Weiss isn’t it.” Pyrrha said with a sigh, nodding. “She does come across as a little abrasive.” 

Ruby scoffed at that, the corner of her lips turned up, “Abrasive is certainly a democratic way of putting it. The bigger issue is that with his over-earnest advances – and that’s its own problem– will eventually cause her to snap. She’ll throw him out a window. Or kill him. Or kill him by throwing him out a window.” 

“And so, someone must be on Jaune duty.” Pyrrha finished, shaking her head. 

“He’s a good kid. Mostly. He is not Huntsman material in the slightest, looks like he’s scared of his shadow... Definitely hasn’t gone to a prep school...” Ruby noticed that Pyrrha wasn’t exactly laughing with her on this laundry list so she changed tone. “He got in somehow, there has to be a reason. We can help him, together.” 

“And if we really are partners, you and I?” Pyrrha asked. 

Ruby considered being partners a thing of convenience given that they were all going to the same school anyways. They might not be staying in the same room on the same teams, but they’d still be in proximity. But, as she looked at Pyrrha, she realized that wasn’t the case for others. 

“I mean,” Pyrrha sputtered for a moment as she turned away from Ruby. “I can’t believe I’m talking about this but you seem nice.” Pyrrha covered her eyes before turning back around and sagging a bit. “I find it hard to make good friends, given my...  popularity.  But you’ve been very normal with me, and that’s really important to me. If I had a choice, I’d choose to be partnered with you.” 

“Jaune is nice, but that’s because he  doesn’t know . He’s just as happy to chase after Weiss as anyone else. And that’s fine, I mean, if Weiss doesn’t mind. But you and I last night felt like a sleepover, and I’ve never been to one of those before.” Pyrrha closed her eyes, feeling well and truly awkward now. “I’d love to spend more time with you.” 

 “Wow.” Ruby breathed, stepping forward and putting a hand on Pyrrha’s arm. “I’ll still be your friend regardless of whether or not we’re partners.” She put on her best smile as she lifted her other hand and lifted Pyrrha’s gaze from the woods behind the brunette. “Jaune doesn’t gotta be your best bud because he’s your partner, and I don’t gotta be a stranger because I’m not.” She shook Pyrrha gently before pulling her into a hug, which the Gladiator returned rather hesitantly. “I don’t know why you’re feeling like this, I don’t really understand what you’ve been through, but I’m still planning on being your friend.” 

Pyrrha squirmed a bit in the hold, feeling a little awkward with how intense Ruby had gotten all of a sudden. She did feel a bit anxious about the partner thing, but the emotional display was... Well it was a bit much. She felt even  more  embarrassed now. 

“Thanks Ruby.” Pyrrha pulled back and could see that Ruby was surprised by what she’d done, her brows furrowed as she backed up a step. “I’m more uncertain about Jaune though, I believe you.” 

“Yeah that was...” Ruby sighed as her face tensed. “Reminded me of someone.” She flapped her hand dismissively as she started walking again, motioning for Pyrrha to follow. “That was embarrassing, wow.” 

“Does Yang get worked up easily?” Pyrrha asked, now curious. 

“Yang?” Ruby sounded confused, not understanding how her sister related. 

“You said I reminded you of someone?” 

“Ah. Well.” Ruby glared off into the woods away from Pyrrha. “You actually don’t look anything like her, but I had a similar experience with someone opening up and it was a bit traumatic.” Ruby sniffed dramatically, as if to emphasize the point. “Actually, now that you mention it Yang did throw herself into me when she realized that I was back. She’s more of the standoffish type” 

Ruby continued to babble, her levity returning and the tone shift giving Pyrrha a small amount of whiplash. She could tell Ruby was willing to rush away from the topic as quickly as possible, and when Ruby made a heel-turn into their youth on the island of Patch she knew for a fact Ruby was embarrassed. Deflection seemed to be her tool of choice when she was flustered, though Pyrrha had no idea what really caused it. 

She half-listened to Ruby’s meandering words, more than willing to let her talk about nothing while they walked. They were more or less following a deer path through the woods, the worn path weaving between trees and through bushes. Looking up through the canopy the sky could barely be seen, whatever light made it through was tinted slightly green. 

Ruby eventually paused, turning and walking backwards as she held a pensive expression, her earlier state forgotten. “About Jaune.” 

“Yes?” 

“Two thoughts.” Ruby showed an uncanny ability to follow the path, but Pyrrha could see a tree branch sticking out of the earth... “One, Jaune needs someone to teach him how to fight, I don’t think they teach the basics at Beac-  gurk"   

Ruby sailed backwards, her arms pinwheeling for a moment as she tried to stay upright. Before she keeled over Pyrrha was able to grab her arm and save her from the fall.  

“Do they teach walking here?” Pyrrha chuckled as Ruby pouted and righted herself.  

“Hey I could have died, and you’re making fun of me?” Ruby huffed, shoving her hands in her pockets before squeezing in beside her compatriot on the path. “ As I was saying , someone needs to teach him how to fight, and probably how to use an aura. You’re the best choice for that,  but , I won’t be abandoning you to look after him.” Ruby elbowed Pyrrha gently before glancing down the shallow ravine they were walking along. “I rely too much on my semblance for combat, both offensively and defensively, I can’t tell him how to fight normally.” 

“I don’t think that’s true.” Pyrrha said, eying Pyrrha’s arms. 

“Oh these?” Ruby said, her expression brightening as she flexed her arms in a dramatic fashion. Pyrrha considered herself and all the other Hunters-to-be rather fit, but they didn’t often develop muscles like Ruby had. Those came from some weight training... “When Yang asked whether or not I had a firearm to pair with my axe I should have shown her these  guns! ” 

Pyrrha couldn’t help but laugh at Ruby’s strained expression, the older girl throwing smoldering looks this way and that. 

“You’re going to hurt someone.” Pyrrha managed between gasps of laughter, bringing a grin to Ruby’s face. 

“But honestly,” Ruby continued, crossing her arms, “I work out to offset my semblance usage since it gives me some more options in a fight. If you ask Blake she’d probably tell you that I’m a lot of flash.” 

“Maybe.” Pyrrha admitted, thinking of Ruby’s form broadsiding the nevermore. “I think you’re under-selling yourself.” 

“May- haps .” Ruby conceded with a shrug. “Either way, you’re formally trained. He’d learn better from Miss National Pride than from me, I’m too impatient. That said, again, I will help you with him, add some excitement to aura practice drills.” 

“And when will you and I practice?”  

“I’ll convince Weiss to let me go on Fridays and Saturdays so we can elope.” Ruby sighed. “I’d enjoy getting some one-on-one practice with you myself, especially since Jaune so cold-heartedly stole you away as my partner. If you’re going to hone your skill it’s best to test it against the best, Hm?” 

“Oh, so I’m not getting anything out of it?” Pyrrha teased, and Ruby stuck her tongue out at her. “I’m just kidding.” 

“Oh I hope you are, I’m gonna kick your butt.” Ruby chuckled as she looked up to the sky. 

The two chatted their plans for a while as the trees thinned out and they came to a great ravine. The earth dropped away suddenly into what looked like a three-hundred-foot drop, the opposite cliff wall marked with cracks and crags.  

“We definitely didn’t launch from here.” Ruby sighed, looking up and down the ravine. There was nothing in sight that reminded her of the soft sandstone cliffs they’d launched from. They could be anywhere given how they had wandered through the woods. Down the way there was a collection of oddly shaped stone structures in the shape of something like a temple, the roof of which scaled part of the cliff. Convenient! “Wanna mosey on over there and find a way across?” 

Pyrrha nodded, grateful that they were ( seemingly ) closer to Beacon. “Couldn’t you fly us across?” 

Ruby hummed for a moment, gauging the distance. “On my own almost certainly. But with another person it’s harder to move.” 

“You were able to fly through the forest earlier no problem, right?”  

“That’s a bit different.” Ruby sighed, scratching her neck. “There’s probably a strong air current in the ravine,” she pointed down at the fog that was shifting below, “and my semblance has to fight against the current to move. It gets much harder the more petals there are.” Raising her hands the air around them started to swirl, leaving them in the eye of the storm. “I can make wind to channel the petals, but I have to make the gust before I move.” 

“So you’re not flying in a windstorm.” Pyrrha guessed, to which Ruby nodded. 

“I could probably flip a tank with my speed and wind, but storms are  significantly  stronger than a strong gust.” Ruby shrugged, flicking the gust, which was carrying some petals, down into the ravine. As it contacted the fog it displaced it like a bullet, but was swiftly swallowed up. “I’ve never been ‘blown apart’ before, but I don’t want to find out.” 

The pair shivered at the thought. 

“In a pinch I can do some interesting things. If I dash at full speed I can create a turbulence wave behind me that drags air with it. I’ve never tried dragging someone like that but it  could  theoretically work.” Ruby gave Pyrrha a measuring look. 

“Absolutely not.” 


 

Jaune was standing lookout over the ruins, a job he was happy with. He stood a fair distance away from the sheer drops on either side of the stone bridges, instead keeping to the middle of one of the staircases that lead to the top of the structure. He  had  been brandishing his shield in what he thought was a rather resolute and stoic, but his arm had been getting tired so he’d slung it over his back. 

He was feeling a little bored. Weiss had been very pointed in her request for him to keep to himself, and the other girls had more or less parked him out of the way. He maybe didn’t feel the most confident in his ability to fight...  Grimm , but he had at least  four  spelunking badges from his summer camps over the years. He could scour a ruin with the best of them! 

“Have you guys found anything?” He shouted up at the structure above him, his voice echoing in the chasm. Moments later a head of blonde hair peeked out over the side of one of the floors quite a ways up. 

“Nope!” Yang shouted back, cupping her hands to amplify her voice. She pulled back with a grin and looked at the long promenade that approached the cliffside at the top of the run. She, Weiss, and Blake had made it to the top, but it looked like even if there had been a way up in the past it had been destroyed. There was a partially caved-in entrance to a cave in the side of the cliff but that looked sketchy as hell. 

“I wonder who built this.” Blake wondered aloud, eying the stacked stone pillars. She’d read fantasy books about ancient elven ruins and this almost fit the bill. Some pretty impressive people had managed to build all of this over a bottomless pit. 

“There are some structures like this in Atlas.” Weiss said, her arms crossed as she passed the Faunus by. “Deep in the Schnee mines there are some collapsed buildings that look like they grew out of the earth, they’re so old. Same thing out on the ice plains. Someone had a terrible sense in where to develop a settlement.” 

“I’d say that when they made this place, they were thinking of... Living on the edge?” Yang opened her arms while Weiss groaned, and Blake’s ears flicked under her bow in displeasure with the pun. 

“Either way, if we go up this way we’re going to need to climb.” Yang sighed, hands akimbo on her hips as she scanned the last hundred feet or so of sheer cliff face. “Did anyone pack any rope?” 

“Not nearly enough.” Sighed the Faunus as she fingered the ribbon tied to gambol shroud. “We could try the caves, but I’m not interested in getting lost.” 

“Then we climb back down, pick a direction, and walk.” Yang said with a bit of disdain. They’d walked quite a way just to get turned around like this. “There’s gotta be a path up.” 

“Even if there is,  someone  has to carry Jaune.” Blake said, her eyes drifting over to the heiress, who very pointedly ignored the comment. 

“He might need  support , I agree.” Yang sighed, dramatically shaking her head. “He’s a bit of a princess, he needs to get swept off his feet.” 

  Weiss whirled on the two, finger raised, “If either of you keep making these jokes I will  pay  someone to kill you.” Her eyebrows escaped to her hairline to accent the threat, her pleading eyes making it clear that she was only barely not kidding. “And if you tell Pyrrha I will cut out the middleman.” 

“Typical Schnee making someone else do their dirty work.” Blake bit, rolling her eyes. 

“I for one am confused whether you want to carry Pyrrha like that, or if you want Pyrrha to carry  you  like that.” Yang thought aloud, missing Blake’s dig. “Was it practice?” 

Weiss was about to lose her goddamn shit, but before she could the topic of her embarrassment made itself very apparent. 

Jaune made it up over the last step of what felt like hundreds and almost immediately keeled over from exhaustion. His lungs burned, and he held up a finger to keep back the girls when they walked over to see what was wrong with him. After a few seconds he was feeling a bit better so he lifted his head. 

“So, why was I never informed about the house-sized Scorpions?” 

“Because they don’t exist.” Yang replied flatly.  

“So, there’s nothing terrifying running at us from across the bridge?” Jaune asked. 

“Oh my god that’s a house-sized scorpion.” Weiss gasped, looking over the edge to see a rather huge deathstalker chasing a pink and green speck far below.  

Chapter Text

The forests around Vale were often revered by birdwatchers for the sheer range of species that roosted in the nooks and crannies of the kingdom. Little did any of these voyeurs that perverted the private lives of Crested Jays know that there was a divine reason for this. Eons ago a group of humans that revered the God of Light made their home in the canyon that divided the Emerald forest from the rise where Beacon stands today. For their constant and earnest prayers, the God of Light bequeathed unto the peoples of the gap a varied fauna. As wolves and bears frequented the woods, he gave them great and colorful birds that they might see flitting from branches in the morn.  

It was little salve to Younger Brother that these birds would eat the seeds the people would sow and occasionally cause them to starve. To maintain the balance, he had strategically placed several oversized Grimm in the area that might remind the peoples that not all gods were so kind. When Salem inherited his role as  scourge  she made sure to maintain his stance on the Emerald Forest, and had fairly stuffed the place with monsters.  

She’d left the ruins of that people that once worshipped the God of Light intact so that she might occasionally glower at it balefully and remind herself of how wretched and pathetic those people were. They starved to death without the support of their god, when they could have died with dignity fighting an impossible war against two gods. Really, they chose the easy way out. She always promised herself she’d do away with it someday, preferably with a shard of the moon just to really drive the irony home. However, even with her vast reserves of magic, it wasn’t exactly easy to move several million metric tons of moon.  

Unfortunately for Salem, the combined forces of team RWBY and team JNPR were going to well and truly fucking destroy the thing before she’d ever get the chance.  


Nora and Ren had been running for nearly twenty minutes when they finally arrived at the gorge. The entire time they’d been sprinting, Nora insisting that she had no idea that Deathstalkers even got this big, and that it made sense to make such a huge commotion to find Ren since he’d been playing all bashful and not making sloth calls. Ren had the sense to not argue that perhaps they should have just relied on fate putting them together as it always it did without err, as Nora would just start gushing and this really wasn’t the time.   

“We should lose it on the bridge.” Ren shouted, ducking and rolling forward under a snapping claw that nearly bisected him. He glanced over his shoulder to see that the Deathstalker was truly not willing to give up the chase, it’s chelicerae snapping open and shut like some awful grinder. The thing looked  hungry , and that was more than a little unsettling.  “Could you break it when we cross?”  

Break  it?” Nora laughed, whistling as she jumped off one of the claws and did a flip in the air, whooping and hollering like she was having the time of her life. “That old thing? I could smash it to bits!”  

Ren smiled, then focused up, focusing his aura before lunging forward, dropping into a dead sprint, Nora following close behind. When they arrived at the near end Nora leapt into the air, pulled a 180, and drove her hammer into the ground. The Grimm, not really operating at a high level of mental processing, blithely attempted to close the distance from the hundred or so feet it had fallen behind. It scurried (as much as something that big can) closer, even as cracks started the form in the great slab or stone.   

With a great groan the rock gave way, and Nora gave the Grimm a funny face with her tongue stuck out before backflipping to surer ground. The platform crumbled, and as it did the Deathstalker realized its predicament. With its claws grasping the bridge it curled its stinger backwards, digging it into the soil of the near cliffside. Even as the bridge began to sway it let out an inhuman groan, soil and stone cracking under the pressure of the immense beast’s grip.  

“It can’t fall down!” Shouted a voice from above, and Nora shaded her eyes to look behind her. Standing on a platform a few stories up was a collection of four people, of which the blonde guy appeared to be the one yelling. “If it falls, it could take the bridge down, and the rest of the place with it!”  

Nora made a face, not that she thought he could see from that distance, but realized what he was talking about when the bridge began to sway unnaturally. It was lurching forward and back, and while there was support under the central tower, it probably couldn’t handle getting bowled over.   

As the Grimm struggled to keep itself from tumbling into the void its immense weight was swaying side to side. Nora let out a short screech as she backed away from the hole, unsure what to do.   

Just as she was about to panic Weiss appeared beside her, a glyph appearing underneath her to mitigate the impact. The other three landed shortly after, weapons drawn as they warily eyed the Grimm.  

“If we can, uh, ‘poof’ it then we’ll be fine.” Jaune motioned with his hands towards the void. “But if it struggles too much it’ll take the entire place down with it. Either we run back to the other side and knock it in from safety or we kill it from this side.  Personally  I’m for uh... Running.”  

Blake dodged a swinging claw, a shade taking the hit as she backed away. “I don’t think it’s going to let us past easily.”  

“I can freeze its claws in place, that would give us enough time to cross.” Weiss grit, switching the receiver on  myrtlenaster  to ice- aspected  dust. “All I need is-”  

Just as she was about to drive her weapon into the ground, Weiss saw twin red blurs approach. Ruby and Pyrrha vaulted over the Deathstalker, soaring over its grasping claws and landing behind the group.  

Oh  hey guys how’s it going sure hope you found a way out because we’re  fuuuuuuuuuuucked .” Ruby said in a rush as she reached over and grabbed Weiss, dragging her away by her arm.  

“There’s no way up Ruby, and the Grimm’s going to destroy this place we  gotta  go back!” Jaune insisted, stepping in front of her. “Weiss can stop it and we can go, though now that I think about  it  you guys jumped over it  sorta  easily...”  

“Jaune I love that plan.” Pyrrha breathed, clasping his hands in her own. “But Ruby and I may have made an error.”  

“What kind of error?” Yang asked, looking from the new arrivals to the Deathstalker. And then to the black hazy splotch that was soaring towards them. “Didn’t you guys, like, deal with that?”  

“Yeah we totally did that’s a new one.” Ruby said with a shrug. “Amazing, right? Who knew that just outside Beacon there were  two   Nevermores  as big as a house that could shoot feathers like some sort of horrifying fighter jet.”  

“It  beggars  belief.” Weiss said, not sounding at all convinced. “But we can still lose it in the forest.”  

“About the forest...” Pyrrha said, sounding a little sheepish.  

On cue, dozens, if not hundreds of  Beowolves Ursa , and Creeps poked their heads out of the woods. The entire section of the forest to the right side of the bridge was teeming with malicious red eyes. Their gazes were firmly fixed on the assortment of students. In the distance a  Beowolf  howled, and the rest of the pack matched  its  cry.  

“Ruby... How?” Yang asked, leveling an incredulous look at her sister.  

“See the thing about  Beowolves , is that if they’re just a little too smart they know to howl when they see prey and get a  whole lot  of other Grimm chasing people.” Ruby shrugged, as if it was a surprising fact. “Who knew, right? So now the entire forest wants to kill me. Well, us.”  

“You are... so...” Weiss struggled to properly describe her rage. “This couldn’t get any worse! You’ve killed us all!”  

“No,” Ruby countered, crossing her arms and nodding her head to the sky. “But that could.”  

Heads turned to the heavens and they saw a volley of feathers coming their way, rocketing towards them at high speed. Ruby tapped Nora’s shoulder and motioned to the stone ‘tile’ they were on, then thumbed back towards the tower. Nora grinned and nodded, extending her hammer once more. At the same time, ruby grabbed Weiss gently by the shoulder.   

“Back everyone up?” Ruby asked, her expression sounding serious for the  first time  that day.  

There was a split second to act, and Weiss didn’t respond before drawing a black glyph underneath them.   

“Back!” Ruby shouted, launching herself back two tiles, letting go of Weiss and grabbing Jaune at the same time. The group landed on the same tile, aside from Nora who used her hammer to launch one of the bridge sections into the air. Even with her significant strength it only raised partway up, lifting it a few feet off its setting. Right as it reached its peak, Yang dashed forward as a new glyph appeared on it. Weiss’ semblance tried to lighten the load, as Yang used her considerable strength to hold it upright. As they righted it, Ruby threw her axe at it, where it lodged itself into the stone, turning black as Pyrrha’s semblance set to work on it. Ruby herself rushed to the rock alongside Yang, nodding to her sister as they held the rock in place.   

Everyone but Jaune moved to hold the great mass, holding it upright as a great shield. The odd-man-out made to move, but found his limbs felt heavy. As he stood beside a channeling  Weiss  he wondered at the view in front of him... Four trained fighters holding up several tons of rock to block the incoming attack of a monstrous demon. Ruby leaning against it casually as she joked to Yang, Nora showing off to Ren, Weiss smirking despite herself at the troupe. It was all so... Ridiculous in a way. He felt like he should move to help, but the ease with which they did the impossible seemed... Well. Incredible.  

The feathers rained down like arrows, but at the range the Nevermore was firing from the lot were safe. Those that would have hit instead dashed against the stone shield, the ones that went wide falling into the abyss or lodging in the bridge behind them.   

“If that falls straight down the bridge might go out without pushing the tower over.” Jaune shouted over the din, his eyes locked on the Grimm that were starting to rush towards the far side of the canyon. “It’s risky, but if we don’t then we’re going to get swarmed.”  

“Retreat to the tower, we’ll need to deal with this Nevermore once and for all.” Ruby growled as she leapt up and grabbed her Axe, kicking off of it at the same time that Yang heaved forward. The stone tumbled straight forward, knocking out the support below and sliding into the steep embankment. With the section colliding with the column holding up the Deathstalker the Grimm’s fate was sealed. With a great growl and flailing of claws it slipped into the abyss. As it fell, the students could see three more smaller  Nevermores  trailing the big one. “Fine, N evermores .”  

The main group fell back while Yang and Ruby caught sight of a  Beowolf  that had managed to break ahead. As it leapt across the gap Yang grabbed it by its chest and flung it sideways, sending the yipping beast down into the void below. It was just one of many though, and Ruby was starting to regret running the entire way here through a densely populated forest.  

“I’m definitely way cooler than this is making me look.” Ruby pouted,  poofing  her axe and turning to run, her sister staying astride her. As they ran the bridge began to sway once more, and Ruby let out a string of harsh oaths that Yang had never heard of before. “I’m not going to live this down if someone gets hurt.”  

“Hey, I’m we’re training to become Huntresses to deal with crazy!” Yang laughed, giving her sister a light punch on the arm. Her comment was accented by the scrabbling of claws as another  Beowolf  made the jump over the gap in the bridge. “We got this.”  

Ruby nodded, grabbing Yang’s hand as they got to the bottom of the tower, and in a flash of red and yellow they scaled the tower instantly, landing just as everyone else was reaching the top. Weiss frowned at the petals that blew past her, shooting a sidelong glance at Ruby, who merely smiled.  

“I read that  Nevermores  sometimes carry Grimm, is that true?” Jaune asked, looking a little pale as the giant Crow circled above. “Because if so, we’re going to have problems.”  

“Normally they just attack opportunistically, but when there’s a Hunt on...” Blake trailed off.  

“How about the four of us,” Jaune motioned to himself, Pyrrha, Ren, and Nora, “manage anything that makes it to the ground. Nora can help with her uh... Grenade launcher, but the rest of us can’t do anything about flying stuff.”  

Ruby measured Jaune up for a moment. “You confident you can hold your own?”  

Jaune nodded, gripping his sword and shield tightly. He thought of the rest of the group shielding him from the feathers before. “I’m confident enough to try.”  

“Can we give the big one a name?” Yang asked, readying gauntlets as the  Nevermores  began their approach. “If we shout out ‘get the Nevermore’ it’s not going to be clear.”  

“We could call it ‘Big Nevermore’.” Blake deadpanned.  

“Or ‘Big Chicken’.” Nora offered with a thumbs-up. “Because that’s one  Big Chicken!”  

“You guys are so lame.” Weiss sighed after a pause.  

“Operation ‘ Tenderize Chicken’  is a go!” Jaune whispered, barely loud enough for the others to hear.  

The Nevermores dropped their clutch right as they flew overhead, soaring over the cliffside on their pass, breaking line of sight. The Big Chicken halted early, hovering over the tower ominously, the gale from its flapping wings kicking up dust and pebbles towards the students.   

“If I can get over the... Chicken, I can bring it down. If I don’t kill it on the way down, it would be close.” Ruby breathed, summoning her axe and slinging it over her shoulder. “But it’d be a difficult shot from so high up, and I’d need to get there in the first place.”  

“Don’t take it all on yourself, dolt.” Weiss grumbled, watching as their friends ran to intercept the Grimm that had landed. “Give us a plan.”  


“I  knew  we shouldn’t have just thrown her into the fray.” Taiyang said through grit teeth. He was standing in Ozpin’s office with  Qrow  once more, observing team RWBY and JNPR through a large projection coming from the desk. There were many observation drones flying over the forest to keep tabs on students as they performed their tasks. Generally, family weren’t allowed to watch the selection but... Ozpin didn’t have much of a choice in this case.  

“Have some faith Tai.”  Qrow’s  expression was dark, eyes creased with focus. “If they can deal with the Nevermore the rest are just fodder. She spent a decade in the wilderness, she’s learned a few things.”  

“Yeah, well, apparently she didn’t learn out there that you can’t run away from your problems.” Tai started pacing, his eyes still on the monitors. “Letting a  Beowolf  call? Bad move. Not finishing a Grimm when you have the chance? Bad move.”  

“And just how worried do you think she is about it?”  Qrow  countered, pointing to Ruby. “She looks like she’s taking things seriously for the first time today, but she’s relaxed.” Qrow glanced out the windows towards where he knew this fight was happening. “If she’s like Summer, then she has everything in hand.”  

Tai was ready to continue his meltdown, but hearing that name stopped him short. “Facing your mistakes head-on didn’t help Summer much, did it?”  

Qrow didn’t answer.  


RWBY split; Ruby taking her position near the center-rear of the promenade while Weiss, Blake, and Yang made for the cliff. Weiss leapt from her position to the near corner of the temple’s roof, the other two following behind. While she drove her rapier into the ground Blake and Yang again pressed on, leaping for the cliffside. Right as they made contact large glyphs bloomed against the rocky surface, holding them in place.   

With gravity sufficiently bamboozled, the pair sprinted to the clifftop, Weiss watching all the while as sweat began to form on her brow from concentration. Blake and Yang waited just near the top of the cliff, crouching so that they were hidden in its shadow.   

Yang, curious, pulled a piece of gravel from the cliff and dropped it. She watched it fall sideways away from her and straight down to Weiss where it bounced off the ground a foot away from her. Yang had the humility to look embarrassed when focus faded for a moment and they nearly fell.  

With a great shriek the Huge Nevermore set its eyes on the pair, its wings curling back to launch a volley of feathers at them. As it fired the glyphs under Blake and Yang disappeared. Yang flipped the bird off as the pair fell, Blake holding onto Yang as she drove her weapon into the cliff face. They dropped several feet before her ribbon became taught, the two narrowly avoiding the barrage.   

Before the Grimm could hope to attempt another attack, Ruby was on it. Appearing from below with a mighty crack, the beasts head snapping back from the force. Before she was too far away to grip the  Corvid  she swung her axe, lodging it in the beast’s breast. Letting out a great shriek the Grimm tried to pull away, but not before Ruby threw herself further towards the beast’s maw, flipped over, and drove a fist directly into its eye.   

Moments later, three of the  Nevermores  flew back over the cliff edge to assist their liege. Yang and Blake were ready, and as they flew low nearby, they launched themselves at them. With superior speed, they managed to land on their backs, Blake driving her blade into one, Yang grabbing another by its scruff. As the two closed in on the larger kind, they delivered crushing blows to their mounts, Yang yanking and twisting the neck of one, Blake cleanly severing the head from hers. As their rides  disintegrated  they leapt to Ruby, who had retreated to the Grimm’s back.   

“Birds of a feather.” Blake breathed as she looked down to see the other birds, which had dropped fresh Grimm on JNPR. “We need to eliminate the rest before the others get overwhelmed.”  

“I’ll keep this thing busy,” Ruby smirked, giving the other two a wink. “When you touch the ground tell Pyrrha to ‘pull’.”  

“Should I tell Weiss you’re asking for a ‘tug’?” Yang asked, eyes squinting. “You’re partners now you can’t just go asking other people for that.”  

“And they say  I  have bad timing.” Ruby groused, the full force of her mock shock on display. “Can you believe this Blake?” She looked to the Faunus who was staring off into the distance.  

“So that’s why he was called Tug-Sensei in book 3...” Blake trailed off, as if something was suddenly making sense.   

“Since I clearly have no friends here, I’m going to flip the bird.” Ruby paused for dramatic effect. “Literally.”  

Jerking the Grimm’s head from one side to the other, the Grimm lurched partway through a barrel roll, eliciting sounds of surprise from both Blake and Yang as they were dropped from open air... Right onto two more  Nevermores  that had been flying right underneath.  

Finally  some peace and quiet, eh birdie?” Ruby smirked, slipping around the beast to grab her axe and deal some damage.  

Far below, Weiss was keeping an eye on the goings-on above while engaging the Grimm on the ground. Her preferred style, speed and precision was serving her well as she leapt from  Beowolf  to  Boarbatusk , delivering one swift strike each, passing each one exactly once. The more heavily armored specimens she left to Nora, who was having the time of her life batting the Grimm off the edge. The fight was going rather well, the smaller  Nevermores  only able to carry maybe a dozen between them at a time.  

On cue, one of the dispatched birds sailed over the edge, its form fading into mist as it silently descended into the gap, followed by another.  

“This idea wasn’t terrible.” Weiss admitted to herself, looking up to see Ruby yanking the...  Big Chicken  this way and that as the remaining stragglers were cut down. Things were going smoothly all things considered.  

“Pyrrha!”  

Weiss tensed as she whirled around. She saw Jaune dashing to Pyrrha’s side, raising his shield as he did. To their immediate right stood a Beowolf, not considerably larger than the others, with a paw raised to strike. At first, Weiss wasn’t concerned, but she realized she hadn’t seen Jaune actually fighting yet... He was instead barking orders and calling out enemies as they appeared. With the area near her cleared she started moving towards the pair.  

That was until Jaune crumpled.  

Weiss’ eyes widened as she saw  him  get knocked clean off his feet from the  Beowolf’s  attack, getting rolled ass over tea-kettle when he hit the ground. Seeing that he was about to make a very close shave by the edge she dashed to him at full speed, grabbing him just as he was about to fall off.  

“Jaune?” Weiss shouted, letting him rest on the ground and doing a quick once-over. It looked like he’d hit his head, so she was leery of moving him. Bruises were starting to form on his face, but he was still breathing. Weiss still wasn’t sure what to do, she wasn’t exactly a combat medic, and the times she did get roughed up back home there were servants or maids to help with meds and bandages.  

Pyrrha dispatched the two Grimm she was fighting, then after she was certain the other two could  manage  she retreated back. Sprinting at full speed she slid on the knees of her greaves the last few feet, coming to a stop right beside the Heiress and her charge.  

“What happened? Why didn’t his aura take the hit?” Pyrrha said quickly, pressing the ends of her fingers gently against his sides to see if anything was wrong. She didn’t feel anything off at first, but when she checked his shield arm she could feel, and then smell, blood. “I don’t understand, the Grimm wasn’t any stronger than the  others .”  

“He must have forgotten to activate his aura, somehow.” Weiss guessed, unsure what else could be the problem.  Either that or the man didn’t actually have an aura, which Weiss wouldn’t be particularly surprised by given how he acted, held his sword, general mannerisms etcetera. That said, he did make it into this school, he should have had  something .  

“We have a bit of a problem guys.” Called Ren, who had been pushed up towards the steps. Pyrrha and Weiss looked to him, and noticed a couple things. Firstly, suddenly there were many more Grimm than before. Secondly, Grimm had somehow managed to bridge to the central tower, as they were now streaming steadily in through an open doorway. “We need to move, now.”  

Shit .  Weiss grit her teeth as she searched the sky for Ruby and her prey. All they had now was the plan, and a lot of that was resting on one brunette’s rather cocky shoulders.