When they got to the top of the cliff, Weiss stumbled a couple steps before falling to her knees. The mental strain of launching four people up a cliff was taxing–especially considering the difficulties posed with how heavy Yang was, so Weiss kept having to put more energy into her glyph or summon it lower to catch her–and the physical strain of pretty much this entire day meant she just wasn’t prepared when her feet hit solid ground.
As soon as Weiss’ palms hit the ground, though, Ruby was right at her side and lifting her up. Again, Weiss was caught off guard with how strong Ruby was and how firm her grip was despite her deceptively gentle frame. Although she did know that the long sleeves of Ruby’s outfit were covering some remarkably toned arm muscles, so it shouldn’t be so surprising.
“You okay?” Ruby asked her.
She meant to say ‘of course’, but a grunt slipped out of her as she was pushing her feet under her, so she just nodded in quiet frustration instead.
Whether or not Ruby noticed her trip up, she’d never know. As soon as Weiss was upright, Professor Goodwitch addressed them with an impressed “Well done, girls,” and Ruby immediately got distracted with being excited.
To be expected, really.
“Thanks!” Ruby beamed at the professor. “We didn’t even need to sacrifice Yang!”
“That’s likely for the best,” the professor said, face deadpan. “Well done, all of you. Bringing down two adult Nevermores is no mean feat, particularly for first years. You have achieved something truly impressive. You should all be proud.”
Of course Weiss reacted to that, straightening her back and raising her chin.
Professor Goodwitch said they should be proud. That Weiss should be proud. She might not have helped with the encounter in the forest, or been very effective in the cave, but she’d done something here. She’d helped. They’d beaten two Nevermores as a team and she had proved she belonged on the team.
Apparently Ruby agreed, because she gave Weiss a huge hug while she joked to the professor, “You know, Yang has mean feet. But meaner hands.”
“These mean hands are about to yeet you off this cliff if you keep this up, Captain,” Yang grumbled as she threw her arm proudly around her own partner, much like Ruby was doing now.
“Pffft, I can fly,” Ruby laughed off the threat.
“I dunno, you’re running pretty low on aura, ain’tcha?”
Ruby not-so-slyly pulled out her scroll and checked it a moment, then said, “Pffft, Weiss would catch me.”
“I’m running pretty low on aura too,” Weiss told her. She hadn’t checked yet, but she had that annoying buzz in her head that let her know she was close to running out. Twenty percent, if she had to guess–which she did because Ruby was pinning her arms to her sides.
“… Okay, you’re feet are friendly,” Ruby amended.
“And my hands?” Yang asked, grinning, as she walked over with Blake.
“… They’re okay too.”
Yang grinned and grabbed Ruby by the hood as soon as it was within reach with her free hand and dragged her in. Ruby grinned back and spun around to give Yang a full hug.
Apparently teasing jokes and threats were how these two said ‘I’m proud of you’.
Yang kissed Ruby on the top of her head and said, “I’m proud of you, Rubes.”
Okay, there was that too.
“Dad’s gonna flip out when we tell him we killed two Nevermores,” Ruby bounced happily.
A pang of jealousy hit Weiss out of nowhere at that statement. She wanted to have a father that she could call when she got home just to gush about how amazing she and her team just were.
Well… she could do that, but…
Maybe she could call Winter, though? Winter would be proud of her!
… And also prevent herself from telling Weiss about how on her first Hunt she had single handedly killed ten Nevermores while blindfolded and with at least one hand tied behind her back, just to not hurt Weiss’ feelings and make her feel inadequate.
She didn’t have to say it for Weiss to know, though.
“… bet Zwei will flip a table too,” Yang was saying.
“Zwei would flip the house!” Ruby chirped in response.
“Yes, yes, you’re dog will be very ecstatic,” Blake said impatiently. “We still need to get across this canyon and to the relic.”
“On it!” Ruby announced. She let go of Weiss and ran back to the edge of the canyon, stopped, paused for a moment as she looked around, then ran back to the group and smiled at Weiss expectantly.
“I have to make the bridge again, don’t I,” Weiss grumbled.
Weiss sighed. It was unfortunate, but it made sense. She was really their only way across. Now that her arms were free, she pulled out her scroll and checked out her myAura status.
She’d been almost right on the money with her guess. It was also, amusingly, the same level Ruby had been at before this fight.
“Alright,” she huffed. “But stay close and go ahead of me. I’m not making the whole bridge all at once this time.”
“Okie!” Ruby agreed easily. “C’mon, Professor! We’re back to the escortering.”
“I’m overjoyed,” she replied in a flat, not-even-remotely-regular-joyed tone.
Yang followed Ruby, the two leading the way as Weiss summoned five glyphs in front of them over the gaping nothingness of the chasm. Professor Goodwitch followed with Blake, and Weiss brought up the rear.
She did her best to make sure to summon glyphs in front of the two sisters at least one section ahead of them while also dropping glyphs as she past them. The on/off mental flip flop was hard to keep up, and a couple times she accidentally summoned an extra glyph behind them and dropped the one in front of the sisters, almost causing them to fall.
They were talented huntresses in training, though, and reacted quick enough to stop in time.
“Weiss, I can’t fly, so if you drop me I’m going to be very mad,” Yang called back.
“Shut up! I’m trying!”
“Trying to drop me?!”
“You know what I mean!”
It took about a minute to get to the other side of the canyon, and when her foot touched actual ground again and she could dispel her last glyph, Weiss let out a sigh of relief. The buzzing in her head was making it hard to focus.
And apparently that crossing only took three percent of her aura, which was better than she’d been expecting.
“Alright, Blake!” Ruby exclaimed once they were all stable. “Where are we going?”
Before answering, Blake stretched her arms over her head and groaned. Weiss caught Yang eyeing her partner up and down with a stupid grin on her face while she did so.
“That way?” Blake finally answered, pointing in a direction that looked like every other section of trees in front of them to Weiss.
She was hopelessly lost.
“That way it is!” Ruby said easily, fully trusting Blake’s navigation. “How we looking on aura, team?” she then asked as she lead the way.
“Eighteen, now,” Weiss grumbled.
“Oof,” Ruby replied.
“Yikes,” Yang muttered. “I’m at twenty-four.”
“What?!” Ruby spluttered. “Weren’t you just at seventy-something?!”
“Yeah, and then I caved in a Nevermore skull while falling at full-speed-plus-Blake-throwing-me and then got pecked a bunch by the other one!”
“Oh. Alright. I’ll allow it.”
“Uh-huh. And you, Blakey-Blake?”
“Fourty-nine,” Blake sulked.
“How’d you get so low?” Weiss asked. She hadn’t been able to keep track of everything very well during the chaos of the fight, but she didn’t recall Blake getting hit. Weiss had gotten smacked by a wing-that-was-basically-a-sledgehammer, but Blake… hadn’t?
“Buncha stuff,” Blake replied tiredly. “Got clipped by a wing once. Had to do a bunch of whipping with Gambol Shroud, and that takes a lot of aura. Plus I had to burn a bunch trying to hold the Nevermore down for the Nae Nae.” She drawled the name of the combo move out with dripping sarcasm.
“You don’t gotta say it like that,” Yang pouted.
“Yes she does,” Ruby quipped. “Man, we’re really up fish creek here, huh?”
Yang let out a snorting laugh at Ruby’s adorably censored idiom. Blake giggled, and even Weiss had to raise a hand to her mouth to hide a smile.
“Why are you laughing?!” Ruby demanded of her sister and Blake. Weiss had been quiet enough to escape detection.
“Ignore them,” Weiss advised her partner. “They’re just being dumb, as is the explanation for most things with your sister. We’re definitely up fish creek.”
“You know what, Ice Queen…” Yang grumbled, taking two long strides to the side to reach Weiss.
Before Weiss had a chance to react, two arms of super steel were wrapped around her torso and lifting her up. She let out an instinctive squeal–because of course she did! She thought she was being attacked!–but after a moment it became clear that Yang had only charged her to give her a giant bear hug and carry her around.
“Yan–what are you doing?! Put me down!”
“Nay! I must get vengeance for that insult!”
“By crushing me to death?!” Weiss wailed, kicking her feet fruitlessly.
“By giving you the worst thing you can imagine: hugs and appreciation!”
“I–what?” Weiss stammered, flummoxed by that answer.
“I want to take this moment to say that you’re awesome and I’m very proud of the way you kicked ass back there.”
The sudden compliment was so unexpected and so heartfelt that Weiss had no idea what to do or how to feel. When she started functioning again, she kicked her feet lightly again, this time happily, and tilted her head side to side, unable to contain a very Rubyish happy wiggle–
Then she caught herself. Why was she so pleased that Yang was proud of her? That didn’t matter… did it?
“Hear hear!” Ruby chirped in agreement.
“Ugh!” Weiss huffed, getting herself back on the correct mental track. “Put me down!”
“Nnnope!” Yang sang, far too happy with this situation.
“Ruby, help me!” Weiss ordered her partner, who was just walking backwards watching them with a stupid, cute, stupidly cute smile on her face.
“Help you what?” she asked, perplexed.
“Escape?!” Weiss shrieked. It should have been really damn obvious.
“Escape from hugs?” Ruby asked, still perplexed.
“But why though?”
Blake audibly sighed and glanced over her shoulder at them. “What?”
“Oh yeah, sure, let me just come over and overpower Yang real quick,” she answered snidely.
“Maybe she’s ticklish!” Weiss yelped desperately.
“She’s not. I’ve tried. But she knows I definitely am and I don’t want to start that.”
Weiss kicked her feet some more.
“Just accept your hugs, Ice Queen,” Yang said into the top of Weiss’ head. “And remember this moment the next time you want to make a ‘Yang is dumb’ joke.”
“Put me down!” Weiss demanded. Maybe… maybe she could make an appeal to reason? “You’re wasting aura! We need to conserve it for the rest of the Hunt!”
Yang just chuckled. “What? How am I wasting aura right now?”
“Pouring it into your muscles?” Weiss said with a bit of an attitude. Spelling out the obvious was annoying, and she kept having to do it.
“Oh, that’s adorable,” Yang patronized her. “I don’t need to use any aura to carry you around, Princess. You should really eat more.”
“You should eat less!” Weiss shot back defiantly.
She didn’t really mean it, of course. Yang was the fittest of them all, if anything. It just seemed like an appropriate… what was the word? Comeback?
“… I’m gonna let that go, because hugs should be happy, but now you have prolonged your hug as punishment.”
“This isn’t a hug, this is wrongful imprisonment!” Weiss whined.
“Ahem!” Ruby announced herself. “Methinks we should get back into formation and continue, team.”
“Sure!” Yang immediately agreed. “Me and Weiss will lead.” She began carrying Weiss ahead.
“‘Weiss and I’,” Weiss corrected, “and I don’t want to lead!”
“Yes you do.”
“No I don’t! Put me dowwwwwwn! This is kidnapping!”
Yang snorted. “You certainly are acting like a kid.”
Now a good distance behind her, Ruby just let out a traitorous giggle.
Weiss would have to make that dolt pay for this later.
She kicked her feet again and harrumphed to make her displeasure known. Well, more known. Although Yang was a big stupid brute who seemed to not care at all.
After she had marched them far enough away from the others to be well out of earshot, Yang finally set Weiss down.
“There, you hap–”
Weiss leapt away and whirled around, drawing Myrtenaster and pointing the pointy end at Yang, all while wearing the angriest face possible.
For whatever reason, Yang just cocked a bemused eyebrow at her.
“Put that eyebrow down!” Weiss demanded.
“As cute as that pout is, it’s not going to work,” Yang replied. “I have become inoculatedinnoculated to the powers of the Pout by the Rubles, who, I’m sorry to say, has a much more adorable pout than you anyway.”
“I’m not pouting!”
“Sure, and I’m not blonde. Now c’mon, Doofus Queen. Walk with me.”
Weiss blinked at that. Was this whole ‘I’m a dumb gorilla that likes to pick up innocent girls and crush them as I drag them around like an idiot’ episode just a ploy to get Weiss alone to talk?
“How you holding up?” Yang asked as she brought them to the treeline. She pushed aside a low hanging branch and held it up for Weiss to pass under.
That was kind and considerate.
Clearly she wanted something!
“I’m… fine?” Weiss answered, the words turning into a question mostly because she was so confused by the situation.
“It’s just–I know you’re having a tough time out here and all, and I know Ruby’s very encouraging and all ‘I believe in you!’ and all that, but sometimes it’s hard for her to get that, you know, there are some people that are afraid of Grimm and stuff.”
“She’s been very understanding, actually,” Weiss replied. “But I’m not afraid!”
“I… sure, just… you doin’ alright?”
“I’m fine,” Weiss repeated, her voice hitching just a little.
They walked together in silence for a short while, silence that Weiss spent trying to figure out why Yang was asking all of this.
There was just the sound of footfalls crunching down on twigs and dead leaves for a couple minutes.
“It’s okay to be scared sometimes, you know,” Yang said quietly, breaking the silence.
“I’m not scared!” Weiss insisted again. How many times did she have to go through this.
“I know! I know. I’m just saying… if you were, it would be okay. Understandable.”
That got an indignant huff out of Weiss. “What would you know about being scared?”
That admission–coming from Yang, who was basically a living ego with a caring side–was surprising enough to make Weiss stop for a moment. Why would Yang be scared? More importantly, why would she just admit to it? Without Weiss even trying to get her to!
This was all weird.
“Yeah,” Yang continued, taking Weiss’ surprise as a response. “I’m always scared that I might get hurt too bad or, you know, like, killed, and then who’s going to look after Ruby and Dad? And Zwei?! Trust me, our dad’s a knucklehead just as much as Ruby.”
“You’re a knucklehead,” Weiss pointed out, her voice quiet because she wasn’t entirely sure if she was supposed to be talking right now.
Yang took it in stride with a smile though. “Yeah, okay. Still, I take care of my fam. And I am very scared of what happens to them if something happens to me. And that’s a pretty big risk considering how ham I tend to go…”
“Have you tried not going so… ham?”
Was Weiss using that phrase right? She had no idea.
Yang just chuckled. “Yeah, but… it’s fun. Kinda… thrilling. I should definitely stop, but that fear kinda… it’s like an electric shock, ya know?”
“Not at all,” Weiss answered. “And is that even supposed to be a good thing?”
“Yeah! It’s like… ah, I dunno. I guess the difference here is kinda fight or flight thing? Like, when I get scared I want to charge forward and when you get scared you…”
“Want to run away?” Weiss finished for her dejectedly.
“That came out sounding a lot worse than I meant it to,” Yang grimaced. “My point is we’re both scared, Weiss. It’s okay to get scared. And what’s even better is you fought through it! You were scared and kept going anyway! So… I dunno. I guess I’m just saying… It’s okay to be scared, and it’s okay to, like, admit it… or whatever.”
“Why does it matter?” Weiss challenged her, not at all on board with this heart-to-heart conversation in the middle of this Grimm infested forest.
“I don’t know!” Yang flustered. “It’s just, you know, it can be good to say it out loud to, like, deal…Whatever, I guess you don’t have to admit it, but… just know that it’s okay to be scared and you’re doing great and, uh, I’m glad you’re… our… teammate?”
She ended the awkwardly juttery sentence with a nervous chuckle and a scratch at the back of her head.
All of Weiss’ reservations and barriers melted at that. It was… exactly what she needed to hear. And Yang meant well, clearly.
“Thank you,” she said quietly.
Another long silence stretched, and Weiss spent it actually trying to do what she was supposed to and scout. The happiness and satisfaction she was feeling was foreign and she didn’t know what to do with it, so having an ‘assignment’ to focus on instead was good.
The shadows of the forest were looming and shifting with the movement of the canopy above them. It being afternoon now meant the sun and the shadows it was casting were angled, sinister.
More than once, Weiss thought she saw a Beowulf or a Stalker creeping up on them through the foliage, but another inspection revealed them to be nothing but rustling bushes.
Even with that pep talk, Weiss was on edge.
“The Elder Weaver was completely, utterly terrifying,” Weiss finally admitted. This was something she’d felt okay to share with Ruby because… well, she’s Ruby. And Yang really was just as kind, if a bit more… burlish. But this would be okay to share. It was just objectively true, not just Weiss’ opinion.
“Yeah, Blake said the same. Sor–”
“She did?” That was somewhat comforting. Though Blake being scared was not something to be happy about, right?
“Yeah, and from what she described, I totally agree.Sorry I wasn’t there to help.”
Weiss shook her head in response, but realized Yang wasn’t looking at her and spoke up, “No, it’s okay.”
Honestly, it was probably best Yang hadn’t been there. She would have charged forward and gotten webbed into oblivion and… probably wouldn’t have made it out.
“And it extra sucks for you guys ‘cause while you were getting ambushed by terrifying spoder monsters, I got to listen to adorkable concussed Ruby rambles,” Yang smiled.
Weiss cocked an eyebrow at her. “That’s a good thing?”
“I mean, yeah! Like I told her to shush while we were all trying to figure out what to do, but when she and I were just chillin’, listening to her was hilarious. She thought my hair was killer spaghetti at one point, and, uh… what else?… Oh, she asked me why there was a dune buggy in the drive thru–”
“What?” Weiss choked.
“No idea! But it was funny as heck.”
A grin appeared on Weiss’ face, but she quickly banished it away. “Still, it was dangerous to get injured like that while on a Hunt,” she grumped.
“True. Maybe on the weekends when we’re safe at Beacon I can walk up and give her head a smack and we can listen to her spew nonsense for an hour or two.”
“Yang, that’s terrible!” Weiss gasped, aghast.
Yang just smiled wider. “And it would be totally hilarious!”
“What happened to all that ‘gotta protect Ruby’ stuff?”
That made Yang squint at her grumpily and purse her lips. “… Fine. No smack…. Maybe we could get her drunk!”
Yang burst out laughing at that.
The prospect of a drunk Ruby… The only drunk person Weiss had ever seen was her mother, and alcohol tended to make her horny and reckless with no sense of decorum, then depressed, then just plain tired. Plus she was in pain the next morning. Weiss wouldn’t want to have to watch Ruby go through any of those things.
“Guys!” Blake’s voice called out behind them. They both turned to look and Blake, who was jogging up to them, leaving Ruby with the professor a couple dozen feet back, pointed at an angle. “Adjust course,” she teased.
“You wanna lead?” Yang asked, waiting for Blake to catch up before resuming their walk.
“I could,” Blake said. “Ruby told me to do the flank scouting though. I can just point you the right way if you drift off course.”
“Like a super sexy Siri?” Yang grinned.
Blake batted her eyelashes in response and sauntered off to the side, and Weiss was pretty sure she was walking with her hips more than normal.
Yang was just left staring after her partner’s butt with a stupid grin on her face.
“You’re both so weird,” Weiss muttered.
“What?!” Yang protested. “She’s fookin’ hawt, mang.”
“That’s inappropriate,” Weiss stated matter-of-factly. Girls weren’t supposed to be attracted to other girls. It was one thing to just recognize when another girl looked nice, but she was pretty sure that wasn’t what Yang was saying.
“Naw man. I’m just stating truths.”
Apparently Yang didn’t understand Weiss’ point, but Weiss was also fairly certain she wouldn’t agree with it. She was one of those… inappropriately minded people. Hadn’t she said something to Ruby at that dinner about how liking girls was okay?
Whatever. Yang was wrong about a lot of stuff. There was no need to start an argument about it now.
“By the way!” Yang blurted happily, “I dunno if I told you, but the clothes you got Ruby look super cute. Nice job fashionista…ing. Fashionisting? Fashioning?”
‘Do both of these sisters spend half their conversations making up words?’ Weiss thought to herself with only a little bit of a smile.
“Thank you,” she said instead. “It wasn’t that hard to find stuff that looks good on her.”
“Heh,” Yang said in response, glancing at her sideways.
Weiss frowned back in confusion.
A moment passed.
“Mm,” Yang grunted. “So when do I get an Ice Queen makeover?”
“Do you want one?” Weiss asked, surprised.
“Sure!” Yang said cheerily. “Sounds like fun. Oooh, and Blake. I bet Blake would look extra sexy in some fancy Weiss clothes. Like a tight fitting black dress? Hmph!”
“Yang, please,” Weiss sighed.
Yang laughed heartily. “But yeah, that would be totally cool! Team shopping! Unless… you like clothes shopping, right?”
“Very much!” Weiss answered. She’s always enjoyed trying on different outfits, and last weekend she’d found out she enjoyed finding good outfits for others too. So maybe a full team shopping trip could be fun… Er, enjoyable. “Fun” was for children.
“Would you want to?” Yang asked.
Of course Weiss had to give an obligatory pause and act like she needed to consider the idea. In reality, she was getting more and more excited at the prospect as she thought about it. “… Sure,” she said, trying to sound reticent. “That could be f–enjoyable.”
Yang skipped a step happily like a tall, buff, blonde Ruby. “Sweet!”
This was… a pleasant change from Yang’s earlier toxic refusal to let Weiss pay for anything for her and Ruby. Weiss would be very pleased to dump money into the girl’s wardrobe if that was a sign that Yang had warmed up to her.
‘Not that Yang needs any warming.’
Heh. Because… because fire. And Yang.
… Was that a good joke? It seemed humorous to Weiss, but she apparently had a faulty sense of humor… Maybe she should try it out with Ruby, so if it makes her laugh. Assuming she could figure out how to work it into a conversation.
“One o’ clock!” Blake called out from… somewhere.
“Isn’t it almost two?” Yang shouted to nowhere in particular.
“I mean turn to your one o’ clock, ya big oaf!”
“… I knew that,” Yang muttered quietly, turning slightly to follow Blake’s directions.
“No you didn’t!” Blake’s voice rang out, somehow still able to hear Yang.
“Shudup!” Yang shouted. “Crap,” she whispered to Weiss. “I totally forgot she could hear us. Do you think she heard the thing about the fancy black dress?”
“Totally,” Blake’s voice said at a normal volume from right behind them.
Yang and Weiss both yelped and jumped, turning to find a devilishly grinning Blake that cracked up at their reactions before shadow-double-jumping into the trees above them and disappearing into the branches.
“Drag it,” Yang grumbled, staring after her partner with an expression that told Weiss she wasn’t actually mad at all.
“I’m surprised you censored yourself,” Weiss commented, instinctively straightening her skirt after her flustered reaction to Blake’s sudden appearance.
“Yeah dude. Dragons are cool.”
Weiss wasn’t sure what the logical thread was there. Dragons are cool, so saying an idiom in reference to them was worth not swearing, something Yang tended to do habitually?
“They’re also all dead,” Weiss pointed out.
“Hey, we don’t knooow that,” Yang pouted. “They just haven’t been seen in… a long time.”
“You mean ever, other than their skeletons?” Weiss countered.
“Nuh-uh! There are caveman paintings of them, so we must have seen them at some point!”
Weiss hadn’t actually heard that. “Where is this?” she asked. It felt weird to be learning something from Yang, but knowledge was knowledge.
“Oh, all sorts of places,” Yang explained happily. “There’s a cave with some in Patch, actually, not too far from our house! And I read that there are some in Vacuo, too.”
“You read about history?” Weiss teased.
“Hey!… Like I said, dragons are cool.”
“And you’re sure they’re caveman paintings?” Weiss pressed.
“Uh, yeah? They’re all stick-figurey and showed people, like, bowing and kneeling and stuff to big ol’ dragons.” Yang kinda waved her arms up and down to mimic some sort of prayer flailing.
“No, I mean are you sure they were actually made back then? And not just drawn in later?”
Yang frowned. “Oh… Uh, I dunno.”
“What did the article about the ones in Vacuo say?”
At that, Yang scratched her head sheepishly. “Oh, well, uh… I didn’t really read the article, per se… Just kinda looked at the pictures…”
Weiss rolled her eyes at that.
“Hey, I read the captions!” Yang said in her defense, like that was a defense.
“And what did they say?”
“… That it was in Vacuo…”
Weiss rolled her eyes even harder.
“Eleven o’ clock!” Blake called down from the trees to their right.
“How do we keep getting off course?!” Yang grouched, waving her hands around like an exasperated monkey.
“I blame you,” Weiss quipped.
“That’s it, time for more hugs.”
* * *
An hour passed uneventfully, and for whatever reason the trees started thinning out enough that they could see the sky. The ground become rockier and Weiss suspected the trees were less dense here. And with the clearer view past the foliage, they could all now see the cliffside they were heading for, so Blake could relax on her navigator responsibilities.
“Look,” Yang groaned to the group when they had all gathered together, “it’s right therrrrre. Can’t we just say we got the relic. We basically have!”
With how tired she was now, that sounded like a fine idea to Weiss. Evidently, the entire team agreed, because they all turned to look at Professor Goodwitch hopefully.
She just lifted an eyebrow at them in response.
“Grrrr,” Yang groaned.
Blake started forward again. “C’mon, ya baby. Fifteen more minutes, tops.”
“Yeah, but then we gotta do a boss fiiiiight,” Ruby whined.
“What?!” Weiss squawked. “Where are you getting that from?!”
If the double Nevermore fight didn’t count as their ‘boss fight’, Weiss might have to retire right here and now.
“Well, we gotta end the Hunt with a boss fight,” Ruby explained with a ‘duh’ tone. “That’s, like, how it works!”
“That’s how games work, Peanut,” Yang sighed, reaching over to ruffle Ruby’s hair.
“Yeah, well… Professor, did you put the relic in a boss fight spot?”
At that, Professor Goodwitch squinted at the dolt in confusion. “I’m… not sure what qualifies to you as a… boss fight… but it is indeed in a Deathstalker cave.”
“Uuuugh,” Blake groaned tiredly.
Weiss felt the same. This had been utterly exhausting. She wanted to go shower and then lie down on a cloud for a thousand years, not fight a Deathstalker.
“I knew it!” Ruby chirped. “No worries, team! We totally got this!”
“I don’t want to ‘get this’,” Weiss griped, not sure if she should be complaining aloud so she just kind of muttered it to herself.
“I’ll just punch it a bunch, it’s fine,” Yang totally failed to reassure her.
“How’d you even get the relic into a Deathstalker cave?” Blake asked the professor.
“I walked in and placed it there,” she answered simply.
“And just walked out?”
“The Deathstalker didn’t try to stop you?”
Ruby let out a snicker at that. “You’re pretty cool, Professor.”
Professor Goodwitch smiled lightly. “Thank you. And you may relax, girls. I will handle the Deathstalker for you.”
“Oh yay,” Blake said quietly.
“You will?” Weiss asked. That sounded wonderful.
Wait, but… “Will we get a lower grade?” she followed up.
“Not at all. You have all demonstrated you’re well ahead of the curve of starting first years in Grimm combat. You will already be receiving the highest marks in that regard.”
“Woohoo!” Ruby cheered. “Does this mean we’ll get to see you do awesome Dusty magic stuff?”
“Weiss and I already got to see that,” Blake taunted her.
“I knooooow! I’m so jealous!”
“I suppose you will get to see some… Dusty magic stuff,” the professor agreed.
“Woohoo!” Ruby cheered again.
Twelve minutes later, the forest thinned out and there was nothing but orangey-brown rock between the team and the base of the sheer vertical mountainside fifty feet away, where there was indeed a highly suspicious cave. Or maybe it just felt suspicious because of what Weiss now knew about it. At this point, she’d never ever trust any cave anywhere, even if one happened to be in the middle of Vale City.
Stupid Grimm and their stupid caves.
They all stopped at a few feet past the treeline, but Professor Goodwitch kept walking and took a stance a good ways between Team RWBY and the cave.
“Would one of you mind terribly drawing its attention?” she called back to them.
“Uh, how?” Ruby yelled back.
Not turning around, the professor waved a hand about dismissively. “Oh, just shoot one of your silly guns. Make some noise.”
Ruby pouted at that, but unholstered her weapon and transformed it into its boxy rifle mode. “Crescent Rose isn’t stupid,” she grumbled. “Your wand ruler stick thing is shtupid.”
Sulkily, she sent a round into the cave, the loud *CRACK!* of the gunshot bouncing and echoing off the cliffside.
If there was a Deathstalker in there, they’d certainly gotten its attention.
Professor Goodwitch seemed very calm. Nonchalantly, she opened the clasp of a pouch at her belt and pulled out what looked like a strip of red cloth, then wrapped it around the palm of the hand she held her crop in. Then she pulled out a small Dust crystal whose color Weiss couldn’t tell from here and clutched it in her other palm.
Then the Deathstalker came slowly skittering out. A shiver ran down Weiss’ spine on seeing one of these things again. They were just… so massive. And evil. And they made Weiss feel small.
And she hated it.
It paused for a moment, clicking its pincers, and it was hard to tell if it was noticing all of them. It definitely saw Professor Goodwitch, though.
With unnerving speed, the monster dashed forward, closing the distance to the stoic huntress.
Professor Goodwitch crushed the Dust crystal in her offhand, a sphere of purple energy appearing in it. Gravity.
Thirty feet, twenty feet, ten feet.
Professor Goodwitch flicked her hand out, the gravity ball arcing out and landing right in front of the Deathstalker. As soon as the creature ran over it, the professor splayed her fingers, the ball expanding and slamming into the thing’s underbelly. It was lifted off its feet to float a foot above the ground, it’s eight legs kicking uselessly.
Professor Goodwitch was imitating Weiss’ glyphs with gravity Dust!
Then she flicked back her crop hand. At the same time, the fabric around her hand lit up, strands of fire racing down the professor’s “weapon”.
Fire Dust cloth.
The lines of fire coalesced and lengthened until Professor Goodwitch held a long, flaming whip in her hand.
“Whooooa,” Ruby breathed.
Weiss felt the same. Just like the stuff the professor had done with the gravity Dust in the cave, she hadn’t realized this was possible either.
She really needed to get some lessons from Professor Goodwitch.
The professor raised her offhand higher and the Deathstalker echoed the movement, tilting backwards. She lashed out once, twice, the whip of fire scoring the thinner scales of the underbelly, the second strike biting deep enough that black blood started pouring out as the Deathstalker let out a strangled, hissing scream.
Professor Goodwitch closed her fist again and the gravity ball reversed, pulling the Deathstalker down into the ground. She flicked her wrist out again, this time sending her whip of flame wrapping around the middle of the monster’s tail.
She pushed outwards and the gravity sphere detonated, pushing the Deathstalker backwards. At the same time, Professor Goodwitch pulled the whip in the other direction.
The rope constricted around the tail and flared a brighter red, then bit through skin in one clean jerk to lop off the stinger.
It didn’t hit the ground, though. The fire whip disapparated and Professor Goodwitch pointed her crop at the stinger, using her semblance to make it stop in midair, then slowly move into place above the Deathstalker’s head. Or head area. Whatever the face part of a scorpion was called.
The professor pulled out another Dust crystal and crushed it in her empty hand. A purple cylinder appeared around the floating stinger, then extended down to the chittering monster, pushing the front of it into the ground to pin it in place.
The stinger rose up with a movement of the professor’s crop, stayed still for a long moment as swirls of violet built up around it, then slammed down into the Deathstalker’s head, piercing it through.
A couple seconds later it began dissolving.
“Whoooooa,” Ruby said again.
Yang too let out an impressed whistle. “Can you do that, Weiss?”
“But you can make super mega ice spears!” Ruby chirped, hopping over to stand next to Weiss. Just… trying to be supportive with her presence, Weiss figured.
“I’m sure Professor Goodwitch can do that too. It’s not very technically difficult, just powerful. But… that flame whip? That gravity chamber? I have no idea how to do that.”
At this point, Professor Goodwitch was casually walking back over to them. Er, not casually, per se, as she was still walking with her straight-backed, refined posture, but… Weiss was fairly certain there was a bit of smugness in her step.
It was probably just Weiss’ imagination.
“That was awesome, Professor!” Ruby praised her as she came to a stop in front of them.
“Thank you, Miss Rose.”
“Are we going to be able to just solo Deathstalkers willy nilly like total badasses when we graduate?” Yang asked.
The professor gave another small smile. “I’m sure you will. Though… as it stands, Miss Belladonna might have a hard time hitting hard enough to deliver a killing blow.”
Blake made a disappointed face at that.
The professor waved it away. “Don’t worry. I’m sure you will find plenty of ways to add firepower to all your arsenals by the time you graduate.”
“Or you could just take me with you everywhere to hit stuff for you,” Yang joked, bumping elbows with her partner.
“That wouldn’t really be ‘soloing’ it then, would it,” Blake deadpanned back at her.
“Sure it is! I’d just be like a weapon for you. Part of your kit. You can summon ninja shadows and also a Yang!”
Blake smiled and rolled her eyes. “You’re ridiculous.”
“I’ll call in the pickup. Go ahead and retrieve your relic, girls,” Professor Goodwitch advised them.
“We win!” Ruby hurrahed, leading the way with a happy skip. The rest of the team followed her.
“I feel like the professor won that for us,” Blake pointed out.
“Like I said earlier, you’ve more than demonstrated your combat capabilities,” the professor reminded them.
“We totally could have taken that Deathstalker, though,” Yang insisted.
“I’m quite sure you could have. You all have more than enough mobility to handle it. But it’s unnecessary, and I’d rather not risk any of you getting hit while so low on aura.”
Ruby spun around at that and walked backwards to address the group. “Yeah, my chest hurts a lot. When we get on the plane, can I turn my protective aura off?”
“Why does your chest hurt?” Weiss asked, confused.
“‘Cause I’m low on aura, silly,” Ruby answered.
“But… your chest?”
“Different people have their aura cores located in different places, Miss Schnee,” Professor Goodwitch explained.
“Yep!” Ruby chirped. “Mine’s my heart. “Yang’s is her stomach.”
Blake snorted at that.
“Shudup!” Yang protested. “What’s yours, your butt?”
“… The base of my spine,” Blake hedged.
“Ha!” Yang triumphed. “Yourrrr a butt caster.”
“What’s yours, Weiss?” Ruby asked before slightly tripping and stumbling backwards. She chuckled sheepishly and turned to face the right way, waiting for the rest of them to catch up before falling into step beside Weiss.
“My head,” Weiss answered.
“Figures,” Ruby grinned at her.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Ruby blanched. “Nothing! I just meant you’re super smart and brainy and stuff!”
“Oh. That’s okay then.”
At that, Ruby’s smile returned.
Weiss supposed the same was also true of Ruby. It figures that the dolt’s power would come from her heart.
They got to the entrance of the cave, and Weiss slowed down warily, but Ruby headed right on in.
There wouldn’t be extra Deathstalkers in here, would there?
Apparently conscious of the same thing but far less concerned about it, Yang cupped her hands around her mouth and yelled into the cave, “Hello!”
“Hello! Hello! Hello!” the cave echoed back.
They all, even Ruby, stopped to wait for something to happen.
… Nothing did.
Ruby shrugged and continued forward. “We really shoulda brought some light with us, huh,” she remarked as she wandered into the dark.
“I wasn’t expecting so many of these stupid caves,” Blake muttered.
It was good to know Weiss wasn’t the only anti-cavist here.
“I have some fire Dust rounds?” Yang offered. “Weiss, can you, like, make magic-y candles out of this or something?”
“Not if you already attuned to it,” Weiss answered.
“Oh crap. Right.”
“Weiss, isn’t your ice Dust all glowy and bright when you use it?” Ruby asked.
“I… suppose it is, yes.” Weiss hadn’t ever considered that. What would cause that? Her high affinity for ice making the aura resonate with the Dust’s magic? “Should I… make a big block of ice or something?”
Why was she so uncreative?
“Mmmm… Can you make a bunch of glowy snowflakes or something and send them in here?” Ruby asked. “Like, spread them out and stuff. We’d at least be able to see the ground that way.”
“Sure!” Weiss said eagerly. That was a pretty smart idea, and it meant Weiss got to help more and be relevant.
She sent a little bit of aura from her head down to her sword, triggering the ice Dust. Then she slowly waved Myrtenaster above her head, willing the Dust to form tiny little crystals that formed an arch above her. She flicked Myrtenaster forward and the twinkling stars of ice obeyed, floating into the cave and providing some points of light–not really much illumination–as the slowly floated down to the ground.
“That’s really pretty,” Blake commented, making Weiss smile with pride.
“It’s SUPER pretty!” Ruby corrected excitedly, rushing up to spin around in the suspended crystals as they drifted forward and down.
“Ow! Wait, ow!” she yelped, jumping back. “They’re pokeeeeey!” she whined.
“They’re crystals of magical ice, Ruby,” Weiss explained patiently.
“I wanna make a snow angel in your snowflakes and I don’t want ‘em to poke me!”
“Go get the relic, you little idiot,” Yang sighed, rolling her eyes.
Weiss looked around to see if Yang had spotted it.
She pushed the ice flecks further into the cave…
Ah! There it was, a knight chess piece (that was probably white considering how blue it looked in this lighting) sitting on a waist high platform of stone jutting from the ground.
As soon as it was visible, Ruby zipped forward, adding a swirl of petals to the ice crystals in the air. Weiss probably would have been grumpy at her for wasting aura, but the sight was so pretty…
Suddenly, Ruby was standing in front of them again, holding the white knight piece high.
“We did it, team!” she cheered.
“Durn straight,” Yang grinned, hugging her sister and picking her up off the ground. “You two, get over here,” she said to Weiss and Blake. “Team hug.”
“No!” Weiss protested instinctively.
Blake just smiled coyly at her partner and shook her head.
Yang narrowed her eyes at Blake. “Ruby, go grab your partner and drag her over here.”
“No!” Weiss protested again. If Ruby was the one coming after her, there was no way she could avoi–
“Got her!” Ruby chirped, her arms somehow already wrapped around Weiss, bringing a shower of petals and the scent of roses with her.
“Grr,” Weiss growled at her.
Ruby just giggled.
“Blake, come here,” Yang ordered, a teasing smile on her lips as she pointed at the ground in front of her.
Now it was Blake’s turn to glare at Yang. “You did not just try that.”
Weiss wasn’t sure what that meant.
Yang was undeterred, though, still wearing that goofy grin. “Don’t make me come over there, Missy.”
Blake crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow in response.
Accepting the challenge, Yang walked up to her slowly, then stopped when she was a foot away. She paused for a moment, then reached out and around with both arms to try to grab Blake in a hug with a loud, “Aha!”
Her arms wrapped around nothing but thick, black smoke. Blake was now standing behind her, arms still crossed, eyebrow still raised, now looking particularly unimpressed.
Weiss had to blink and jerk back, her brain struggling to make sense of what she’d just seen. It was like watching some sort of animation glitch or something, like the “frame lag” that Ruby sometimes pointed out whenever Huntsman Royale 2 bugged out and things teleported across the screen.
“Aagh!” Yang blurted in dismay, spinning around like she knew exactly where Blake had gone.
Weiss got the feeling that this was a thing these two had done before.
Again, nothing but shadowy Blake silhouette.
“Ehraaaack! Let me! Hug you! Demmit!” Every pause was accompanied by a hug attempt. The last one, Yang even got tricky and spun to hug behind her, but Blake just simply stayed where she was and Yang ended up grabbing nothing but air.
Blake smirked, a bemused snort coming out of her.
“Shudup!” Yang squeaked, diving once again at her partner.
This time, Blake made no effort to dodge, and soon she was getting squished by a buffoon and getting lifted off the ground.
“I got you!” Yang exclaimed triumphantly.
“Oh nooo,” Blake drawled, deadpan. “However did you manage to do that.” ._.
“What can I say?” Yang gloated, “I am the Fast.” She spun around to carry her captured prize back over to Weiss and Ruby, but Weiss was able to catch Blake’s eye roll and smile before her face disappeared from view.
“Team hug!” Yang declared again, setting Blake down next to Ruby but keeping a hand at her waist.
“Woooo!” Ruby agreed simply, taking one of her arms from around Weiss and throwing it around Blake.
Yang followed by throwing her arm around Weiss.
Weiss and Blake just blinked at each other, Blake deadpan, Weiss puffing out her lower lip slightly. She was displeased! It needed to be known.
“I said team hug!” Yang chastised them. “Not ‘Ruby and Yang hug while Blake and Weiss stand there like vegetables’.”
At that, Blake’s stoic composure broke and she let out a giggle before putting her arms around Ruby and Yang’s backs.
Weiss sighed and accepted defeat. There would be no escaping this.
She hugged Ruby and Yang, and when her arms brushed Blake’s, Blake gave her hands a couple friendly pats.
This was way too much physical contact.
“There we go,” Yang said approvingly, Ruby nodding happily in agreement.
“Weeeeeeee did it, team!” Ruby chirped again.
“This was the best first Hunt any team has ever had, easy,” Yang declared.
“But you haven’t seen anyone else’s first Hunts,” Weiss pointed out.
“Sooooo…. how can you make any assertions about the quality of our Hunt with no basis for comparison?”
Yang just blinked at her. “Uh, ‘cause we’re the best?”
Weiss turned to look at Blake, who met her eyes and just shook her head with another small smile.
‘Yeah. Not worth the fight.’
“Yang, does this mean I can have my nose back?” Ruby asked, giving her sister a light kick to the shinas she asked.
“But we woooooon!” Ruby cried.
“No nose and no cookies until you’ve had time to think about what you did and how dumb you were getting yourself bodyslammed by the ground.”
“No COOKIES?!” Ruby shrieked.
“Ruby please, my ears,” Weiss sighed.
“But I wanna go get more awesome Weiss cookies tomorroooow,” Ruby lamented, giving her sister one of her signature pouts.
“Oh?” Weiss said in surprise. A day of relaxing out in the city again could be nice after this debacle. Would a Saturday trip to Wafer’s Treats just become a thing they did? A regular schedule was something Weiss greatly appreciated, and having a scheduled, known relaxation thing to do and look forward to would be wonderful. Assuming, of course, that Weiss worked hard and well enough over the week to make sure she deserved Wafer’s pastries on the weekend.
Ruby’s puppy dog eyes made Weiss want to go place an order for the strawberry shortcake cookies immediately, but Yang apparently hadn’t been kidding when she said she was inoculated to the powers of the Ruby Pout.
“You can go get whatever cookies you want, but no eating them until you’ve learned your lesson. You’ll just have to stare at them. Longingly.”
“But I diiiiiiiiiid!” Ruby whined in reply. She jumped up and forced Weiss and Blake to hold her upright as she sent a flurry of petulant little kicks at Yang. “I’ll never ever mess up an epic superhero landing ever again!”
“You shouldn’t be trying any in the first place, ya mook!” Yang exclaimed. “You can fly!”
Ruby pouted again and (thankfully) set her feet back down on the ground. “Your face is a mook,” she whispered to her toes.
“Don’t be a crybaby. We just aced our first Hunt! We should celebrate.” She threw her hands up in the air at that, and everyone seemed to take that as the cue to break off the group hug.
“Celebrate without cookies?” Ruby grumped.
“Yeah! With alcohol!”
“Yang-uh, we’re not old enough!”
“What makes you think we aced this?” Weiss asked, bothered by the second grandiose assumption Yang had made in as many minutes.
“I dunno why you’re not getting this, Weiss,” Yang patronized her. “We’re awesome. Besides, have you seen my hair? No way dis gloriousness deserves anything less than a one hundred.”
“I… wha… okay…”
Blake let out one her of little giggles, then reached up to give the ends of Yang’s hair a flick. “It is very nice hair. If hair-awesomeness is a metric the professors are grading on this Hunt–for whatever reason–I’m sure you’ll snag us an A in that category.”
Yang smiled widely, cheeks going slightly pink, but Ruby let out a gasp.
“Blake! Don’t touch her hair! She’ll bop you in da nose!”
The warning didn’t seem to bother Blake at all. She just smiled and said, “Naaah,” then gave Yang’s hair another little double flick.
Yang did not make any attempts to bop Blake in the nose.
“Girls,” Professor Goodwitch called to them from the middle of the clearing in front of the cave. They all broke off to walk over to her.
“Our pick up shall be here momentarily,” she informed them as they approached. “While we wait, tell me: how are you all feeling about your Hunt?”
“Awesome!” Ruby and Yang both answered excitedly. Weiss nodded in agreement. She was feeling pretty good about this Hunt. The beginning had been… rough, and the middle had been… rough… but at least by the end Weiss felt like she was capable of doing this huntress thing.
“More importantly, how did you feel about our Hunt?” Blake asked.
That made Professor Goodwitch frown a little bit. “While I understand what you mean, Miss Belladonna, how you all feel about yourselves is still far more important than the grade I give you.”
“Oh. Okay,” Blake replied, a little surprised at the answer.
“Though on that note,” the professor continued, “we shall be meeting on Sunday with Professor Ozpin and talking about how you did and going over the video together.”
“Video?” they all asked at once.
The professor tapped what Weiss had assumed was a button on her lapel.
Weiss… had tripped… right at the start of the Hunt… right in front of the professor… and they were all going to be watching the video together… with the headmaster…
She wasn’t sure it was possible for her to go paler, but she definitely felt like she had, and her stomach sank to her toes.
“Did you get us totally destroying those Neverbutts?!” Ruby asked with a bounce.
At that moment, the low hum of a Chariot reached them, and a few moments later it appeared, flying low over the forest, its engines making the upper branches of the trees bend away. It landed, its back to them, the gravity pulses from those engines making Weiss’ hair and clothes flap around like they were standing in a hurricane.
There was a hiss and the loading ramp hissed open to reveal Team KORL and Professor Oobleck sitting there on the left side again, waiting.
“Sup, slowpokes!” Leona greeted them.
“Awwww, how’d you beat us?!” Ruby protested, skipping on board to the same seat she’d sat in on their previous flight.
“Told ya, Ori’s a hacker,” Karn answered. “We just followed her and got there. Took out some Beowolves and Boarbatusks and a couple Ursai along the way.” He said the last part like a gloat.
“And a bunch of Grabbits!” Remus added.
“Oh you sweet summer child,” Yang grinned, sitting down herself and strapping in.
“I mean it woulda been nice if all we had to deal with is tiny, puny Grimm like that,” Yang grinned.
“W-what did you guys run into?” Orianna asked.
It was Blake that answered. “Oh, you know, a pack of Beowolves and Ursa.”
Leona frowned. “… Yeah, same.”
“Also an Elder Weaver. And it’s entire Hive. And two Nevermores. At the same time.”
Team KORL all blinked, looked at each other, then looked at Professor Goodwitch as she took her seat.
“It’s true,” she stated simply.
“Also a Deathstalker,” Yang added, “that we totally could have killed, but Professor Goodwitch killed it ‘cause we were kinda beat up. You know, by the two Nevermores that we killed. At the same time.”
“Well that was kind of you, Glynda,” Professor Oobleck told her.
“Uh, her first name is Professor,” Ruby joked.
“Ya’ll are full of shit,” Karn accused Yang, smiling.
“Language, Mister Ammolite,” Professor Goodwitch sighed.
“Nope!” Ruby chirped. “One hundred percent real!”
“But… how though?” Orianna asked.
Everyone was on board and strapped in now and the loading ramp closed back up.
“Well, fellow Huntsmen,” Ruby began dramatically, “let me tell you a story…”
The Chariot lifted off with a jerk, and they were heading back to Beacon with Ruby excitedly providing a ridiculously grandiose version of the last six hours.
Weiss breathed a sigh of relief. She’d made it through her first Hunt.