Seeding – 1.11

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Weiss sighed as Ruby tried and failed to figure out where they were going for the eighth time this morning.

“I’m pretty sure the Battle Center is the other direction,” the brunette grumbled to the team as she trudged behind Weiss.

“Ruby!” Weiss stopped and turned to grab her partner’s chin and pull it to line up with the building she was trying to lead them to. “You see that domed building over there behind the Arboretum?”

The brat pouted adorably into Weiss’ hand. “The Arbo-what?”

Groaning, Weiss shook the girl’s head lightly. “Do you see the giant domed building over there?” She pointed an imperious finger to get Ruby to look in the right direction.

“… Yeah, I see it…” she grumbled.

Weiss let go of Ruby’s chin and fought down an amused smile at Ruby’s drama. “That’s the Battle Center.”

“Pretty sure that’s the library,” Yang cut in, probably just because she wanted to argue with Weiss.

“That’s not the library,” stated Blake.

“Pfft, how would you know?” the blonde teased with a grin, earning a raised eyebrow from her partner.

“Can we please just get to class?” Weiss said, already walking away.

“Relax, Weiss!” Ruby chirped as she skipped up to Weiss and fell in step beside her. “We’re nowhere near being late!”

A loud snort from Yang sounded behind them. “Yeah, ‘cause Ice Queen dragged us out of our rooms thirty minutes early.”

Whipping her head around so fast her ponytail smacked Ruby in the face, Weiss snapped at the fiery idiot, “There’s nothing wrong with being early! Besides, I thought we’d be in the cafeteria a lot longer waiting for Ruby to finish eating a mountain of cookies.”

Ruby giggled at that while she rubbed her nose where Weiss’ hair had hit her. “Nope! I can eat super big amounts of cookies at the same rate as other people eat normal food. There’s actually an equation for it, and it has its own variable! I call it the Ruby Cookie Constant.”

Weiss couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped her. “Oh, really? I’d love to see that equation some time. It would be nice to be able to calculate your cookie intake.”

Ruby blinked and scratched the back of her head with a nervous smile. “Heh… Yeah! No problem. Though I gotta warn you, it’s very complicated. And it requires exact counts of all the different types of cookies I’m eating at the time. Plus you gotta calculate the logarithms, and that’s really difficult. I don’t wanna scare you with the big maths or anything.” She pursed her lips and looked off to the side in a not-very-subtle attempt to hide the smile that was creeping on her lips.

“Ruby, do you even know what a logarithm is?” Weiss asked, full well knowing the answer.

Ruby’s eyes flickered to Weiss’ for the briefest instant before they fell to the ground. “… No,” she admitted with a pout. “I was just hoping you wouldn’t either.”

“I do.”

“Darn.”

Yang laughed and patted Ruby on the back. “It’s okay, Ruby. I don’t think either one of us is going to be able to out-intellectualize our partners. Should probably challenge Weiss to an eating contest or something instead.”

“Out-intellectualize?” Blake repeated, smirking.

“Yeah!” Yang said with her trademark confidence. “It’s a word only used by those like me and Ruby that are… intellectual adjacent! We’re smart, but not with books and words and stuff. Which is why we get our own words! Like… out-intellectualize.”

Blake nodded seriously while Weiss rolled her eyes. “I see, I see,” the raven-haired girl played along. “Sounds like you’re very sophisticated.”

“Yep!” Yang ruffled Ruby’s hair, making Ruby squirm away into Weiss’ side. Weiss still hated physical contact with others, but…Ruby was okay, right? Ruby would never hurt her. Then again, she’d thought the same about her mother and father, once upon a time. But Ruby wasn’t anything like them.

“Me and Ruby, members of the sophistry!” Yang declared.

“That’s not at all what that word means,” Weiss said tersely, gently nudging Ruby off of her.

Miffed, Yang turned to her. “What? Doesn’t it mean, like, sophisticated society?”

“Not even close,” Blake giggled.

Ruby patted Yang’s arm consolingly, but she had a mischievous grin on. “It’s okay Yang. We’re just not able to out-intellectualize our partners. Maybe you should challenge Blake to an arm wrestle or something.”

“Yeah, hard pass,” snorted Blake as Yang glared at her sister. “I enjoy having all my knuckles in place.”

“Awww, I would only break your hand a little bit, Blakey-Blake,” Yang laughed.

Weiss cringed at that. “Yikes. Do you feel unsafe with your partner, Blake? Should we talk to Professor Ozpin?” She was only kind of teasing.

Yang’s eyes narrowed as she inspected Weiss’ face, trying to figure out if had been a joke or not, but Blake just smiled lightly and hooked an arm around Yang’s elbow. “Nah. She’s just a big, sometimes fiery teddy bear. Besides, she couldn’t hurt me if she wanted to. I’m too ninja.”

That got a burst of giggles out of Ruby. “That’s true! You were, like, super ninja awesome jumping and flying around against the Nevermore! That was so cool!”

Blake beamed at the compliment, but Yang turned her narrowed eyes to her partner and mumbled, “I could totally catch you if I wanted to, for the record.”

Slipping her arm away from Yang’s, Blake took a teasing step away. “Seeing is believing,” she taunted, bending her knees and rolling onto the balls of her feet.

“Pssh, whatever,” Yang dismissed her, turning to Ruby and–

Weiss’ eyes couldn’t even follow Yang when she leapt out to grab her partner, but Blake was clearly expecting it. She jumped backwards with nothing but a light smirk.

“That’s it, c’mere you!” Yang shouted, tearing into a sprint after the fleeing girl in black, letting out a loud, animalistic “Raaaaah” as she chased Blake down the sidewalk.

Another happy giggle jingled out of Ruby, but she seemed content to stay by Weiss’ side, something Weiss was surprised to find she was immensely happy about. She would have thought Ruby would love to play tag, but… then again, it would probably be a joke to her if she used her semblance.

“I’m on a team with a bunch of children.” she jokingly lamented.

“Isn’t it great!” Ruby replied with a light skip.

Great? Well… it wasn’t as bad as she had been expecting–she was willing to give it that, at least. She had actually quite enjoyed playing Ruby’s silly game last night, something she never would have expected. The way she’d needed to move her fingers so quickly in response to what was happening on the screen… it had felt like playing the piano, but more reactive. And Ruby had been an absolute bundle of joy the whole night. And she’d realized Yang was making Weiss… antsy. Not nervous. Nobody made Weiss nervous. She was a Schnee. But Yang had been extremely… aggressive last night when she’d been looking at her, and Weiss found it… off-putting.

But Ruby had realized that, and helped. That was nice. It must have been weird for her to tell her sister that she loved so much to go away. Weiss could never imagine saying that to Winter. But Ruby had done it.

Right before chasing her down the hallway like a hooligan. That was… fun.

There! She’d admitted it. She’d had fun. It was okay to have fun sometimes, right? She was fairly confident she would do fine with this schoolwork–she already knew pretty much everything they’d gone over in class so far. So fun was… okay. In moderation.

That reminded her…

“By the way,” she said, turning to Ruby, “last night when you tried to tackle me…”

Ruby blanched like she thought she was in trouble, which Weiss found adorably childish. “Y-yeah?”

Suppressing a smile, Weiss finished her question. “Why didn’t it… do anything?”

Realization dawned and Ruby’s face resumed its overly happy norm. “Oh, I was in my semblance!”

Weiss waited, but a more thorough explanation didn’t seem to be forthcoming. “Right, and…?”

“Oh, right.” Ruby rubbed her chin with her knuckles in thought. “So… when I use my semblance, what does it look like to you?”

Weiss blinked. What did it look like? “One moment you’re there, the next you’re replaced by a red spirally streak that sheds rose petals?”

Eyes unfocusing, Ruby nodded. “Yeah, so… in that moment in between I kind of… poof into another dimension.”

“What?”

Ruby grinned nervously, clearly aware she wasn’t doing a great job at explaining. “When I go into my Rose Form–that’s what I call the ‘red spirally streak’–I’m still, like, here. It just feels like my body is in… like, in another layer of the world, and all that’s left of me in the real world is an outline, and the rest of my mass is replaced by the rose petals and stuff…”

Weiss absently mused that Ruby said “like” far too much, but that took a back seat as she pondered the description. “So when you’re in… ‘Rose Form’ you’re… weaker?” That must be what Ruby was getting at, why her tackle hadn’t done anything more than nudge Weiss to the side.

Ruby shook her head. “I wouldn’t really say weaker. I mean, it comes across that way, but it’s because I just have less effect on the real world, and the real world has less effect on me. Including gravity and wind and stuff. It’s why I can jump higher and move faster–though my semblance lets me do that anyway–and I don’t get all that hurt if I’m hit while in Rose Form. It also means I don’t hit very hard, and everything sounds quieter, and everything looks red… ”

“Interesting.” There were a lot of potential combat applications with that effect, assuming Ruby was able to activate her semblance quickly enough…

“Yeah,” Ruby agreed. “I wish my mom was still around to help explain some of this stuff though.”

Wait… Weiss turned to Ruby in surprise. “Did she have the same semblance?” she asked quickly. She’d never heard of anyone other than the Schnees having a hereditary semblance.

“No, but it was similar,” Ruby amended, making Weiss deflate slightly. “She also went into another dimension, kinda–we think it was the same one. But instead of her body staying together here like an outline, she would just burst into a bunch of rose petals and spread outward. Then she could reform herself at any of the petals. It basically was a short range teleport.”

“Oh, wow.” That would be an incredibly powerful semblance. “That sounds pretty… cool.”

Damn, it still felt so awkward to say that word. But Ruby used it to describe pretty much everything–well, that and “awesome”, but Weiss didn’t feel like being that effusive–so she should at least try to figure out how to use it in conversation with her partner.  From the way Ruby kept snickering every time she said it, she probably wasn’t doing it correctly.

“Yeah! I don’t remember it all too well, but just thinking about it is really neat! Although Mom had a harder time coming back than I did.”

“What do you mean?”

Ruby shrugged lightly. “When I’m on the other side, it takes effort to come back over. And a lot of times I… I don’t really want to?” She said it like a question, as if unsure that was how she should phrase it. “It just feels so much better to be in that weird dimension where I’m untouchable… And the longer I’m on the other side the harder it is to get back. I’ve always been able to force myself back eventually, but when I was younger I’d sometimes get… lost. Mom’s voice always brought me back, though. And after she… was gone… Yang called me back instead.”

Weiss frowned as Ruby spoke. It seemed alarming that Ruby could get lost in her semblance. Semblances were supposed to be advantages, not liabilities. Her own had no drawbacks–at least, none that she knew of, and Winter had never mentioned any.

“You’re okay now, though, right?”

Bumping her shoulder gently, Ruby gave Weiss a big grin. “Yep! No issues getting back now, don’t worry. I’m not disappearing on you. Yang would kill me if I did.”

A loud squeal pulled their attention away before Weiss could respond. Up ahead Yang and Blake were both rolling in the grass. It looked like Yang the Monster had finally caught poor Blake… and was tickling the girl mercilessly.

“No! Stop it! Ya-Yang, STOP! Ahahaha! Sto-st-ssss!” Her protests just devolved into wordless panting as she started failing to pull enough air into her lungs.

“Shouldn’t we help her?” Weiss asked, slightly fearing that Yang would keep going until Blake passed out from lack of oxygen.

Ruby just shook her head with a giant grin. “I’m just glad it’s not me she’s tickling for once. And trust me, you don’t want to try to interrupt her when she’s tickling someone. Dad saved me from her once, and she just ran at him instead.”

Weiss raised an eyebrow. “How did that go?”

“I mean, it didn’t work, per se. Dad just picked her up and threw her across the yard and she ended up knocking over a good chunk of the fence. But I doubt either one of us would be able to do that…”

‘… What?’

“Your dad… threw his daughter… into a fence?”

Ruby’s smile just got even brighter at Weiss’ shocked expression. “Yeah! It was hilarious! Zwei tried to play fetch with her!”

Zwei… Ruby had said that name last night. “Zwei is your dog?” she assumed from ‘playing fetch’.

“Yep! The cutest corgi the world has ever seen!”

They’d reached the sidewalk next to where the buffoon and Blake were sprawled out in the grass, Yang stopping her inhumane torture to giving Ruby a look. “Cutest thing the world has ever seen, period. Not just corgi.”

“Nuh-uh!” Ruby protested. “Dad says I’m cuter!”

Yang gave her sister a look that Weiss might use if someone had asked her what one plus one was. “Yeah, he lied, Rubes. Adults do that sometimes. Zwei is the cutest.”

Ruby’s pout was… yeah, Weiss had never seen this Zwei fellow, but there was no way he was cuter than Ruby.

Not that it mattered! Cuteness had no bearing on a huntress’ abilities, so it didn’t matter how cute Ruby was…

“Wait, what else has Dad lied about?” Ruby gasped in shock after a moment.

Scratching her chin in thought, Yang smirked. “You know how he said if you don’t eat your veggies then cookies will taste worse? Yeah, that’s a lie.”

“WHAT?! What the frickity frack am I eating vegetables for then?!”

Weiss put her face in her hands with a sigh. No wonder these two were such a mess. If their one parental figure was telling them ridiculous things like this–and throwing them into fences–then it’s a miracle they’re as functional as they are now.

Then again, Weiss probably wasn’t in any position to judge people’s fathers.

Panting heavily, Blake kicked Yang off of her. “You’re the worst,” she muttered breathlessly.

Yang just smiled in response. “Hey, you’re the one that said I couldn’t catch you. Not my fault you were wrong!”

“I didn’t expect… you to jump… that far,” Blake huffed between heavy breaths.

“Leg day payed off, whoo!” Yang cheered with a pump of her fist, rolling onto her back and letting out her own heavy, shaky breath. It seemed she’d gotten some cardio out of the chase too.

“You’re both idiots,” Weiss griped, rolling her eyes to keep from smiling at their ridiculousness.

“Ruby,” Yang said, pointing demandingly at her little sister. “Please run the Ice Queen down and give her a good dose of tickles for me. I need to catch my breath.”

With another mischievous grin, Ruby turned to Weiss and took what was probably supposed to be an intimidating step forward, waggling her fingers menacingly.

‘Stand your ground, Weiss. Don’t play into this game.’

Struggling hard to fight the urge to run away, Weiss crossed her arms and stared down her partner. “Ruby, no.”

Ruby took another step forward.

“Ruby, we’re supposed to be going to class.”

Another step.

“Be a good team leader and get your team where they need to go.”

That did it. Pouting, Ruby dropped her hands to her side and slumped her shoulders. “But Wei-eiss! We have so much extra tiiiiiime!” she whined.

Weiss tilted her head to the side. “Arriving early is good. It shows the professors you care. Don’t you want Professor Rustheart to like you?”

That worked too. Ruby’s eyes lit up and started scanning side to side like she was thinking something through. “That’s true… He is Professor Awesome…”

Weiss rolled her eyes at the dumb nickname Yang had given the man. She really hoped it wouldn’t stick. “Come on, dolt,” she said, stalking off.

Completely forgetting any desire to chase Weiss down and tickle her, Ruby followed, quickly skipping up to Weiss’ side again. “Come on, guys!” she called back to the two clowns that Weiss presumed were still laying in the grass.

She heard Yang mutter something that made Blake laugh, but she didn’t want to give the dumb blonde the satisfaction of turning around to glare at her.

“What do you think we’re gonna do today?” Ruby asked, leaning over to casually bump shoulders with Weiss. “Think we’re practice, like, team maneuvers or something?” She bounced a little in excitement. “Or maybe spar with each other? Or the professor?!” She let out a tiny gasp at her own words.

“No, Ruby. I don’t think we’re going to spar a world-acclaimed, professional huntsman on our first day in combat class.”

Ruby’s shoulders slumped. “What about the other ideas, though?”

Weiss bobbed her head side to side as she considered it. “Hmmm, I don’t know. There’s a lot of basic stuff he may want to test out before we just dive into combat.”

Tests?” whined Ruby. “Like what? They can’t give us tests on our first day in a class!”

Weiss smirked and rolled her eyes at her partner. “Not that kind of test, Ruby. He may want to test our semblances, or run an affinity test, or test our Dust casting… You know, basic stuff to get a sense of what we do and how well we do it.” With how varied the abilities and styles of the students at the school were, Weiss imagined the professor would want to figure out some sort of baseline to start with for each huntsman or huntress, or at least each team.

“Oh. Right. That makes sense.”

They had finally made it to the Battle Center. They stood before the two story domed building, its wide glass front doors the only break in what was otherwise a structure of solid gray stone. Inside, a small lobby, unfurnished but for a few benches along the back wall, was lit by bright white light. Two plain doors on that same wall lead on to the rest of the complex. The side walls were indented with small balconies that looked over metal railing down into the lobby, with doors to the areas deeper in the complex on the far side.

All in all, it was an imposing building.

Yang clearly agreed, letting out a low whistle and craning her head back to keep the top of the dome in sight until they got to the doors and it had disappeared from view behind the wall.

Ruby eagerly dashed forward and tugged one of the heavy glass doors, holding it open for her team. Blake and Weiss both filed in, giving the leader small smiles, and Yang followed, wrapping an arm around Ruby for the two to walk in together.

“Ready to meet a bonafide superhero?” the girl asked her little sister, who nodded quickly with a big smile.

“This is where we’re supposed to go, right?” Blake asked, voicing Weiss’ own thoughts as they glanced around the empty room in confusion.

“Lobby of the Battle Center,” Weiss confirmed. “That’s what Professor Oobleck said, unless I completely misunderstood him, which is entirely possible…” She walked over to one of the two doors and hesitantly pushed it open to peak inside.

Nothing but a long hallway. On the right wall stretched a window that revealed what looked to be a gun range, individual stalls set up that looked out on a vast, empty chamber dotted with Grimm shaped targets. A door halfway down hall led into the room.

No Professor Rustheart.

Frowning, Weiss shut the door and turned toward the other one to find Blake already peeking into it. She, too, pulled her door closed and met Weiss gaze with a miffed expression.

“Nothing?” she asked.

Weiss shook her head and turned to the other two. Movement beyond them pulled her attention, and she spotted a bunch of figures approaching the entrance to the building. Teams JNPR and KORL were here. That must mean they were in the right place, right?

Her teammates noticed she was looking past them, and they turned to follow her gaze. With a happy squeak, Ruby rushed forward and pushed one of the doors open again, holding it open and giving the two other teams a wave.

“Hey guys!”

“Hello again!” Pyrrha sang out, giving Ruby’s arm a light squeeze as she walked in and inspected the lobby with shining emerald eyes.

The rest of the teams filed in with their own greetings and conversations. Everyone had come in their combat gear, weapons included.

Jaune’s white, clearly hand-me-down body armor looked a bit more polished than it had been when the students had been launched into the Emerald Forest. ‘Perhaps Pyrrha is being a good influence there,’ Weiss mused. The bulky left bracer that Weiss knew unfolded into a shield seemed to way his arm down, and he seemed to be uncomfortable with the sword that hung on his waist. He kept bumping it with his hand and wiggling the pommel awkwardly.

Pyrrha, in contrast, looked stunning as ever in her red and gold armor set, long red skirt flowing down her legs just as her ponytail flowed down her back. Her Champions’ Crown made her look regal, but her small smile and happy eyes kept her from seeming like the intimidating figure they all knew she was on the battlefield. Weiss couldn’t help the jealousy she felt at seeing how comfortably and easily Pyrrha made looking elegant and confident. Weiss was constantly minding her appearance and posture and didn’t feel like she was even half as successful as Pyrrha was so naturally.

Nora was dressed in her pink and girly outfit that was in no way indicative of the girl’s fighting style or personality. No, for that one needed to look at the grenade launcher/warhammer she had strapped to the back of her hips. She was currently stomping in circles around Yang and poking the blonde’s biceps and squinting like she wasn’t convinced they were normal muscles. ‘What a strange character.’

Ren’s subdued and quiet presence next to her was such a stark contrast, Weiss was once again baffled that the two were as inseparable as they were. His sleeveless, pale-green tailcoat left his own toned biceps on display. The strange, bladed pistols he used as weapons were holstered on cloth hooks on his coat. He stood smirking and shaking his head at Nora’s antics, looking eerily similar to the way Blake was watching Yang with her own amused expression.

Weiss took this opportunity to look over Team KORL as well. Karn Ammolite, the leader, towered over everyone else present, easily six feet tall. He wore a navy blue jacket and black jeans that fit tightly to his bulky, muscled body, pieces of bronze armor protecting his shoulders, elbows, and calves. On his left arm was a pretty massive gauntlet that unfolded into a round shield much the way Jaune’s turned into a kite shield, though much bigger and thicker. Plus, it had the added feature of turning into a powerful arm cannon that blasted Dust rounds as large as Weiss’ fist.

Orianna Phosphor looked incredible tiny next to him, a dainty girl as tall–or rather, as short–as Ruby. ‘Though Ruby’s almost as tall as me,’ Weiss thought begrudgingly, cringing at the memory of Ruby standing just under her height last night when she’d taking off her heels. Orianna had a slab of metal across her back criss-crossed with lines and gears that let it unfold into a twinsword, two long, thin blades on each side. It doubled as a longbow that shot hard-light arrows, and Weiss remembered that this had been the girl that had said her weapon had been inspired by Professor Rustheart’s a couple days ago.

Remus Silver, yet another green-eyed redhead in the group of twelve, was barely any taller than Orianna. He wore green and silver clothing reminiscent of the Outer Vale style that Ren wore, and he had a single leather bracer on his left arm that sported the most striking part of his appearance–a pet falcon. The creature was remarkably well behaved (far more so than Yang and Nora, that was for sure) and seemed to be observing the students with a freakish intelligence and intensity. In his other hand, Remus held a long metal staff that Weiss knew folded up into a scoped rifle. Weiss wondered idly if his accuracy stacked up to Ruby’s. There was a faint white scar on the side of his chin in the vague shape of a hexagon that gave him a bit more of an intimidating look than the boy would otherwise have.

Lastly there was Leona Nickols, a golden-brown haired girl that almost approached Karn in height. Her white and gold armor over red clothing and the massive greatsword/shotgun slung across her back made her look like a beautiful warrior goddess–like Pyrrha but far more physically imposing.

The way Karn and Leona towered over the other two made Team KORL look almost comically lopsided, though they probably looked pretty balanced when arranged in the order of their team name.

“It’s not my fault you’re only the second strongest girl in the class, Nora,” Yang’s loud, mocking voice drew Weiss’ inspecting gaze away.

“Oh?” came Leona’s low voice as she joined the conversation. “I thought you were stronger than her, Yang.”

Yang blinked in confusion as Nora squeaked out an offended “Hey!”

“I… am?” Yang said.

Leona nodded seriously. “Wouldn’t that make Nora the third strongest girl in our class?” She managed to keep the serious expression for only a moment longer before she broke out into a huge grin at her own punchline.

“Oh, you’re on, beotch!” Yang yelled once the implication clicked in her head. She got into a low wrestler’s stance and narrowed her eyes playfully at the goliath of a girl before her.

“Ooh, catfight,” drawled an artificially deep voice behind them, drawing everyone’s attention. Joy, Team CRDL was here. “Well don’t stop,” Cardin Winchester, Cretin Supreme, complained, looking Yang up and down with the creepy appraisal that Weiss associated with the men that so often preyed on her mother’s broken heart at high society events. The same look that boys (and some perverted men) had started giving her, now that she’d grown.

It seemed Yang stole that spotlight here, though, something Weiss was more than happy not to have. She’d always abhorred attention that wasn’t applause after a performance, and the appreciation of lusty man-children was most certainly on her list of things to avoid.

Besides, Yang–despite her faults–was very attractive. She had all the… accessories… that boys liked. Though Weiss was, for whatever reason, disturbed that Yang was getting those looks from this… insect. Cardin was the eldest son of the CEO of Winchester Arms and everything that Weiss and her siblings were raised not to be in public. Rude, uncivil, disaffected by the negative image he portrayed of his family with his despicable behaviour.

And he was looking at Yang the same hungry way men looked at Weiss’ mother before insisting on buying her a drink, fully aware she was a married woman.

It seemed like Yang shared Weiss’ low opinion of the creep, though. She wrinkled her nose in disgust. “Charles,” she sneered. “I’m surprised you made it to class. I would have thought you’d be busy kicking a puppy or failing to figure out how to unlock your bathroom door.”

The punk scowled at her, and when Weiss snorted he turned and shot the same look at her. He slowly turned back to Yang slowly. “It’s Cardin.”

“What is?” Yang asked in mocking innocence.

Everyone in the room starting grinning in amusement in various degrees save for the members of Team CRDL and a much more genuinely innocent and confused Ruby.

“It’s his name, Yang,” she explained quietly, leaning forward nervously like she was trying not to embarrass her sister.

Yang cocked an eyebrow and smirked at Ruby. “Oh. Sure, my bad.”

Though it seemed everyone but Ruby seemed to share the same low opinion of Cardin and, by extension, Team CRDL, the friendly, chatty air in the room had been sucked out with a vacuum.

‘Interesting,’ Weiss thought to herself. ‘I just generalized all of Team CRDL based solely on my opinion of its leader… Will people make assumptions about me based on Ruby?’

That was a sobering and worrying question. People might think she’s a goofy, daft child that eats far too many sweets and has no clue how the world works.

… But they might also think that she was happy and kind, with a smile ready for everyone, even scum like Cardin. That wouldn’t be terrible to have as part of her reputation, even if it was nothing close to the truth.

The uncomfortable silence stretched longer and longer, the various teams all turning to themselves and looking at each other awkwardly. Ruby was still just confused, looking around with wide eyes.

“But I wanted to see who’d win the wrestling match,” she pouted, drawing everyone’s eyes and more than a few smiles.

With a playfully dismissive scoff, Yang wrapped her arm around her sister. “It would be me, Ruby-Roo. No contest.”

Leona raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms, her metal armguards letting out a high pitched squeal as they rubbed together. “Money match me, blondie.”

“Heh… uh… “ Yang scratched her head nervously much the same way Ruby did.

‘Is she actually nervous?’ Weiss wondered, surprised at the hothead’s sudden bashfulness.

“Sure. H-how much?” Yang stammered.

‘Oh.’

Yang wasn’t nervous about the fight–she probably wasn’t one to back down from any fight. No, she was nervous about the money. Something about that made Weiss’ heart twist around; she thought wrestling and betting was childish and immature, but the fact that Yang couldn’t be herself because of money troubles made Weiss feel… strangely guilty.

That didn’t make sense. It wasn’t her fault she was born into a wealthy family and others weren’t. It just was what it was. And she felt like she’d done a lot with her position of privilege–she was certainly a better influence on the world than jerks like Cardin–and she probably did more with the education and resources that had been given to her that someone like Yang or Ruby would have. Maybe Blake would have used it well.

Leona’s voice pulled her out of her musings. “A hundred lien!” she grinned, prompting a cringe from Yang.

“Oh, no thanks,” she said nervously, turning away and looking around at the others like she was trying to find someone to change the subject with.

Leona seemed to realize that there was an issue here, her eyes widening as she waved her arms to try to backtrack. “O-or not! We don’t have to b–”

“It’s okay!” Weiss interrupted her. She stepped forward and flashed Yang a smile. “I’ll sponsor you. Hundred lien on Yang.”

Yang seemed as suspicious of Weiss’ declaration as she herself was confused by it. It had been a spur of the moment decision, which she really wasn’t used to making. But she was fairly certain Yang would win, and even if she didn’t a hundred lien was nothing to Weiss. And maybe… maybe Yang would appreciate the vote of confidence?

“Ooh! Ooh! Can I bet on Yang too?” Ruby bounced up and down.

Leona huffed and crossed her arms again, clearly annoyed so many people thought she’d lose the fight.

Yang looked down at Ruby with a frown. “Rubes, you don’t have any money to bet.”

“No, but I have cookies!”

When Nora burst out laughing, pretty much everyone joined her. Ruby looked around with a surprised, wide smile, seemingly pleased that she’d sparked so many smiles and laughs.

“Oh shit, you’re all here,” an adult male voice sounded from the glass doors.

It was Professor Nidas in the doorway, black jeans and a red dress shirt covered by a long, grey, sleeveless coat. He had unruly deep purple hair, so dark it was almost black, and blue eyes that were several shades darker than Weiss’. He had a healthy tan like he spent a lot of time in the sun, and a stubble beard that did a lot to cover up some acne scarring on his cheeks.

Ruby and Yang both stood up on their toes, wide-eyed as they looked over their favorite celebrity huntsman. Orianna was almost swooning, and even Pyrrha seemed to straighten her back and try refine her already perfect posture.

“Soooo… Greetings, students,” Professor Rustheart said with a goofy half wave of one arm. “I’m Professor Nidas–er, Professor Rustheart, I guess?”

‘Oh no,’ Weiss lamented. ‘He has no idea what he’s doing.’

Professor Rustheart looked around at all the students arranged in front of him, his eyes narrowing as they passed over the excited faces of Ruby and Yang and Orianna. He took a breath and seemed to find some sort of center.

“Alright, before we start, I want to get something out of the way. Don’t ask me about Molvane. It’s not relevant to this class and not something I like to talk about.”

Yang slowly shrank down, her enthusiasm leaking out of her, though Ruby didn’t seem too bothered, continuing to hop up and down with a smile. The professor raised an eyebrow at her before turning away with a funny look.

“So. First things first, I want to talk about what this class is going to be. Can anybody hazard a guess? Yes, you, with the red and overabundance of energy.”

Ruby pulled her hand down as fast as she’d shot it up and chirped, “A super awesome combat class where you teach us how to fight Grimm like super awesome heroes?”

Sighing, Weiss hid her face in her hands while Yang snorted and put an arm around Ruby, subtly pushing down on her shoulder to get her to stop bouncing. It didn’t help all that much–Ruby’s jumps just became shorter but more frequent.

Professor Rustheart was baffled and amused at Ruby’s response, his eyebrows shooting up while his lips twitched in a clear struggle to not laugh. “Yes, well… how, uh, ‘super awesome’ you are will be up to you. I and the rest of the faculty will do our best to get you there.” He started pacing back and forth, his shadow cast from the light streaming in through the glass doors falling across the front few students, Team CRDL and a couple members of Team JNPR. “And you are correct. We will be teaching you how to fight Grimm. We’ll shape you into the defenders of the kingdoms–” he glanced at Ruby “–the heroes you’re all here to be.”

Ruby beamed brightly at the recognition and somehow grew even more excited as the Professor spoke.

“However,” Rustheart continued, adding a dramatic pause, “that is not the only thing we’re going to be training you to fight.”

“W-what else is there?” the tiny voice of Orianna asked from behind Leona.

Professor Rustheart gave the class a sad smile. “Other huntsmen.”

“… What?”

All eyes briefly turned to Ruby at her outburst of confusion before turning back to the professor.

He had stopped pacing. “The world is changing, kiddos. More and more the biggest threat to the people of Remnant isn’t Grimm, but… other people.” He paused to look around the room, taking in the shocked faces of the children. “People like bandits–” he glanced down at his feet “–criminals–” he glanced at someone in Team KORL, Weiss couldn’t tell who “–terrorists–” he glanced… at them? Yang, or Blake?

He must just be looking at random people while talking. That was one of the important things to remember when public speaking, to make eye contact with members of your audience.

“And as weapons development, Dust, and an understanding of fighting techniques, semblance, and Aura have become more widely available, these en… these violent people managed to get their own huntsmen among them.” He began pacing again. “So Professor Ozpin decided it would be wise to update your curriculum so that you’re prepared to defend yourself if you ever come across any of these… anti-huntsmen.”

“So…” Pyrrha spoke up, thinking through her words, “it’s kind of like a class for learning how to fight in the Vytal Tournament?” Her voice hitched up at the end, making the question sound hopeful.

Weiss understood her trepidation. It was… scary to think that they were going to train on how to fight other people. That’s not what a huntress does, right? At least… it wasn’t.  

“Yes!” Professor Rustheart exclaimed, eager to latch on to the more ‘acceptable’ explanation. “Yes, that’s a good way to look at it.”

Most of the kids seemed to relax, though Weiss was unconvinced. ‘As are a couple others,’ she realized as she took note of Karn, Jaune, and Yang’s dubious expressions.

“Anyway,” the professor continued, waving his hands to dispel the weird energy in the room, “don’t worry about that now. Most of this class in the first semester is just going to be focusing on helping you guys find team synergies and tactics anyway.

“As I’m sure you’re all aware, pretty much every huntsman and huntress has a unique fighting style and set of abilities with their semblance and Dust affinities, so we won’t be focusing too hard on training your individual techniques. You guys all seem to have a pretty good grasp of how you want to approach fights, so we’ll just be making sure you get a lot of practice in a variety of different scenarios and helping you learn to improvise, because fights in the field rarely go as cleanly as those in training.” He met the eyes of the four team leaders. “That goes double for you team leaders.”

He clapped his hands, startling a couple of the students. “But today we’re going to establish foundations. How many of you have taken an elemental affinity test before?”

Most hands in the room went up, only Ruby, Blake, and Remus left looking around nervously.

“They didn’t make you take one at Signal?” Weiss asked her partner incredulously. That was one of the basics!

Yang peeked at Weiss over Ruby’s head as the smaller girl stammered. “We did it in third year over there. But Ruby skipped that ‘cause she’s awesome!” She gave her sister an encouraging one-armed hug, prompting the girl to give a shy but grateful smile.

“Okay, good,” the professor said. “How many of you took one within the past year?”

Every hand dropped, save Pyrrha’s.

The professor turned to the warrior girl. “They make you take one before every tourney?” he guessed.

Pyrrha nodded.

“‘Kay. You can sit out if you’d like, as the numbers probably haven’t changed too much for you, though if you do I’d still like you to share your scores with your team.”

“It’s okay,” Pyrrha said, shaking her head lightly. “I don’t mind taking it again.”  

Weiss raised an eyebrow at that. Affinity tests were… unpleasant. There were probably other words one could use to describe voluntarily getting shot repeatedly with a variety of Dust rounds, but Weiss settled on ‘unpleasant’.

“I don’t wanna take a test,” Ruby grumbled, mostly to herself.

“Don’t worry, sis,” Yang said, giving the girl an affectionate scratch on the head. “It’s not that kind of test.”

“Oh.” Ruby was clearly confused.

“So! This is gonna be strange, but I’m gonna have most of you guys leave. We’ll do the tests one team at a time, and I’ll message the team leaders when it’s your team’s turn. That’s why I blocked out twelve to six this week. So… which team would like to go first?”

Everybody looked around at each other questioningly. Slowly, Ruby raised her hand.

“Alright! Team Rawoobie goes first!”

That got a chuckle out of everyone but the four of them, who either glared at the professor or, in Ruby’s case, pouted.

“After that we’ll do Team, uh, Curdle–”

Cardinal,” Cardin almost snarled, interrupting the professor.

Professor Rustheart simply lifted a bemused eyebrow at the man-child before continuing on. “Then I’ll call Team, uh… Junper? And then… Team… Coral? Corral?… Carl?” He shrugged. “Not much I can do with those two.”

“He’s my favorite teacher ever,” Yang whispered to her team.

‘Great, all we need is Yang getting into a bad joke-off with the professor.’

“Well, everyone but Team Rawoobie can clear out. Or hang out here. Dunno. Don’t care. Just be ready to head over here when I message you. The tests will take about an hour and a half per team, so plan accordingly.”

The teams all started shuffling out the doors, some members of Team JNPR and KORL giving Team RWBY waves and “see ya later!”s.

“Shall we head to the range?” Professor Rustheart asked, already moving towards the door on the right that Weiss had peeked through earlier.

The four of them followed behind. Ruby turned to whisper to her sister, “Range?”

“Yeah!” Yang cheerily answered. “We’re gonna shoot each other!”

“… What?”

Weiss turned and grinned at her partner. “This time friendly fire’s on!” She flashed her eyes wide at the last word for effect, and Ruby let out a little “Eep!”

Yang snorted and gave Weiss a big grin at the joke. “Don’t worry, Rubes. Nothing terrible. We just get shot with low-yield Dust rounds and measure how much damage each of the elements do to see what our resistances are to each.”

“It also also tells you which types of Dust you have more control over for casting,” Weiss expounded.

Blake tilted her head to the side to look at Weiss. “Oh, does it?”

Weiss nodded. “The higher resistance you have to a type of Dust, the more control you have over it when casting.”

Professor Rustheart opened the door to the indoor range for them and nodded. “It’s not an exact science,” he said. “If you have more experience and familiarity with a certain type of Dust, that will more than likely supercede the resistance factor. But theoretically, if you had an equal amount of experience with all the types of Dust, you’d be most proficient casting the Dust types you’re most resistant to.”

“Neat!” chirped Ruby, hoping into one of the cubicle spaces where a few small pistols were lying on the desk surrounded by a bunch of magazines and Dust rounds.

“It’ll also give us an Aura index for you gals,” the professor finished, approaching the weapons and patting Ruby on the back. “Now, would any of you like to shoot each other?”

Stepping forward, Weiss grinned wickedly. “I’d love to shoot Ruby, if that’s okay.”

“No please,” squeaked Ruby.

The professor smirked, but bobbed his head side to side in thought. “Maybe someone that’s already taken an affinity test should go first?”

“But all she has to do is stand still and let me shoot her!” Weiss protested. It really wasn’t complicated.

Professor Rustheart snorted. “Got some frustrations to let out?”

“No, I just owe her some friendly fire,” Weiss responded, eyeing Ruby and trying to suppress a smile.

The weird mixture of worry and laughter on Ruby’s face was adorable. “Can’t we just have peace, Weissy-Weiss? I surrender!”

Weiss narrowed her eyes at the nickname. “Oh, I am so shooting you.”

Ruby giggled, then her amusement slowly died down as she considered that sentence. She gulped.

“It’s okay, Rubes,” Yang said, hopping over the half door that led out to the range. “I’ll go first. Blake, wanna shoot me?”

Blake smirked lightly. “Strangely, yes, yes I do.”

There was a wistful smile on Professor Rustheart’s face, and Weiss wondered what memories he was visiting right now. He stepped to the side to let Blake take the center of the shooting cubicle, then started handing out earmuffs to everyone.

“Yang, isn’t it?” he asked the blonde as she trudged out to the line in the grass that Weiss presumed was the ten foot mark. Yang nodded. “Can you sync your myAura to me so I can note the measurements?”

“Sure, what’s your scroll ID?” she answered, pulling out her own scroll and flicking it open.

“Uh… Rusty boy double-oh seven,” he said, pursing his lips together to stop an embarrassed grin.

“Is that ‘boy’ with a Y or an I?” Yang asked with a giant grin.

“… I…”

A snicker erupted out of Yang, to which Rustheart responded with a glare and a grumbled “shudup”.

There was a ‘ding!’ as their scrolls synced and the professor burst out laughing. “Really? You’re laughing at my scroll ID, Miss Dragon Fist Nine Thousand XXX?”

Yang’s cheeks went a shade of red that would have put her angry eyes to shame. “I was, like, eight when I made that, okay?”

Between fits of brief laughter, Rustheart waved it away. “Alright–hehe–alright, alright. I’m synced up. We can go ahead and start. Blake, if you could load that gun on the right with the gray-taped magazine, please.”

Following the instructions, Blake deftly picked up the gun, popped in the magazine, and flipped the slide before leveling it calmly at Yang with a smirk.

Yang, for her part, didn’t look nervous at all. She stood with her weight shifted to one hip, her hand on it and a teasing smile on her face. “Should I be concerned that you’re so happy to shoot me, Babe-adonna?”

Blake cringed exaggeratedly. “These are just bad, hun.”

Yang didn’t seem discouraged, just shrugging nonchalantly. “We’ve got at least four years for me to find something that meets your ridiculous standards. Plenty of time.”

That made Weiss pause. At least four years? So… there could be more? She hadn’t considered continuing as a team after graduation. Although… just four years of Ruby and Yang already seemed daunting and exhausting. Would she be able to handle more after that? Unlikely.

“Alright, earmuffs on, then go ahead and shoot ‘er, Blake. Just aim for the chest.”

“It would be hard to miss,” Blake muttered with a smirk as she donned the protective headwear. Yang gave her an incredibly pleased grin and batted her eyelashes playfully.

What the Crucible was going on between these two?

Ruby didn’t seem to be registering any of the deranged interaction, her eyes wide with worry as she looked between her sister and the gun in Blake’s hands.

Weiss clamped her earmuffs on, then walked over to Ruby and pulled the girl’s earmuffs gently out of her hands and slid them on her head. Ruby turned to look at her, blinking in surprise, before giving her a small, grateful smile. Weiss took the opportunity to tuck some of her partner’s wayward bangs behind her ear and pin them back with the earmuff. At least that would hold–

BANG!

Both Weiss and Ruby jumped at the noise and turned to see Yang flash yellow and lean backwards almost imperceptibly, smoke trailing out of the barrel of Blake’s gun. Weiss slowly pulled off her ear protection. Looking down at herself, Yang used two fingers like tweezers and–yep, she reached down into her cleavage and withdrew her hand, revealing a flattened bullet. She looked at it in bewilderment for a moment, then burst out laughing.

“That’s a new one,” she chuckled. “Nice shot, Beebee. I believe in windball that’s called a ringer.”

Blake blushed and smiled way too proudly. “I aim to please.”

“I bet.” Yagled

“Ladies, please!” Professor Rustheart interrupted them. “There is a child present.” He gestured at Ruby, who, earmuffs still on, blinked at everyone in confusion.

“WHAT?” she shouted.

With a sigh, Weiss yanked the girl’s earmuffs down to sit around her neck, completely ruining Ruby’s hair in the process–not that it was in all that great a state to begin with. “Dolt,” she grumbled.

The professor dragged them back on task with a low whistle. “Damn, Yang. How much Aura you got?”

“Lots!” she replied with a smile that contained all the bravado in Remnant. “Why, how much did it do?”

“Only four-point-four percent,” Rustheart answered as he penciled in the number. “The average for first years is usually between six and seven.”

‘Four-point-four?’ That was… impressive. When Weiss last took the test two years ago, the standard bullet had done six percent flat.

“Yeah, well, you know,” Yang bragged coyly. “I’m awesome and stuff.”

“Blake, could you shoot her a couple more times for me, please?” Rustheart said.

Blake smirked. “With pleasure.”

I’m bulletproooof! Nothing to lose. Fire away, fire away,” Yang sang, spinning in a circle without a care in the world that there was a firearm pointed at her.

Weiss and Ruby put their earmuffs back on right before two more shots rang out. Sure enough, four-point-four and four-point-five percent damage to her Aura. Yang was… strong.

“How much do these rounds do to you, Professor?” Weiss asked as they took off their earmuffs again. It would be nice to have something to compare to for how far they had to go.

“Hm? Oh, these little twenty-twos? About one-point-one percent.” All of the girls’ eyes wide. “Keep in mind, though, I have quite a bit of Aura, even for a professional huntsman.”

Weiss nodded at that. Still, that was… insane. Yang’s Aura level was already insane, almost on par with the average professional, adult huntsman, and Professor Rustheart had apparently four times as much.

“Alright, we’ve got our reference point. We’ll use four-point-four-three as the baseline. We can calculate your Aura index after we’re done here, Yang. Or, actually…” the professor stroked his stubbled chin in thought. “Maybe I can have you calculate it after class! As homework!”

“Awwww,” Ruby whined.

“Come on, Teach!” Yang griped. “You’re supposed to be the cool professor!”

Rustheart’s frown looked suspiciously like a pout. “But… but I’ve always wanted to assign homework!” he protested weakly.

Weiss couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of this conversation. The face the man–the grown man and professional, licensed Grimm slayer–was making looked like the expression she imagined Ruby would make if someone told her she couldn’t eat a cookie.

“Whatever!” the ‘professor’ huffed with a wave of his hands. “We’ll figure that crap out later. Let’s shoot this mongoloid some more! Any preference for the first Dust type?” He directed the question at Yang.

“I’ve got some hella good fire resistance, if you want to start there.”

Professor Rustheart nodded. “Okay, Blake. Go ahead and load the that red taped magazine into this second gun. Just one shot this time. Don’t want to knock all the Aura out of her.”

“Why do we need to use a different gun?” she asked as she did as directed.

“Different Dust rounds usually need to be in different calibers ‘cause reasons that Glynda–er, Professor Goodwitch–could explain to you better than I can. Luckily, they all work as twenty-twos, but fire and lightning rounds need to have a special alloy for the chamber or the barrel might rupture. And we want to leave the gun for the regular rounds to remain Dust round free so it can’t have any risk of residual Dust screwing with the baseline measurements.”

Blake nodded absently as she leveled the gun once again at Yang’s voluptuous chest.

“Ready?” she asked Yang, who nodded. A gunshot rang through the air and Yang’s yellow Aura flickered as a spark of red hit her in the collarbone, a small flame erupting before quickly dying.

The professor was already writing down the readings. “Five-point-oh-nine, ‘kay. Minus this guyyy… divided by the same guy… minus one… move the decimal, and bam! Damn, Yang. Eighty-five-point-one percent resistant to fire. That’s impressive.”

“Yeah I am!” she quipped.

Blake looked up at the professor beside her. “What’s the highest you’ve seen before?”

Professor Rustheart scratched the stubble on his jaw. “Hmmm… The highest resistance I’ve seen that wasn’t related to a semblance ability was eighty-six percent against wind Dust from some kid that was in the year below me.”

“What about semblance related ones?” Weiss asked, mostly because now she needed to know.

“Oh, one of my teammates had an almost straight up pyrokinetic semblance, so he was a hundred percent immune to fire.” When Yang let out a grumpy grunt at being surpassed, Rustheart shrugged. “Some semblances do that. Like, I’d hazard to guess Nora’s got a one hundred percent resistance to lightning damage.

“Anyway, you get the idea of what we’re doing here, Ruby?”

Ruby shifted her weight back and forth nervously. “Y-yeah. I guess. We’re just, like, shooting each other and then doing math, right?”

Blake and Yang burst out laughing at that simplification while Weiss buried her face in her hands once again and the professor did his best not to laugh himself.

“Y-yeah. Pretty much,” he said, choking back his amusement. He turned to Weiss. “I’m guessing you know how to do the calculations here, Weiss?”

Weiss straightened up her back and smiled proudly. Apparently her reputation preceded her. “I do.” They were pretty simple calculations. You just needed to get the damage dealt by the Dust by subtracting the damage dealt by the bullet and then convert it to a percentage.

“Good, good. You two wanna hop over there and get started yourselves? I’ll bounce between you guys nad make sure everything’s going well.”

“Of course,” Weiss said as she headed over to the next stall where another setup of guns and ammo was ready for them.

“By the way, Weiss,” Professor Rustheart called after her.

“Yes, sir?”

“You’re, a Schnee Schnee, right?”

Weiss blinked. “I’m sorry?”

Professor Rustheart cringed as he seemed to realize how nonsensical his question sounded. “You’re part of the main family, right? Not, like, a cousin or something?”

‘Oh no.’ It wasn’t just her reputation that was preceding her, it was her father’s. She’d dealt with this all her life, but she had hoped it wouldn’t happen here, like this, with the “cool professor” of all people.

“No, I’m the heiress of Schnee Dust.”

“So are you Winter’s little sister?”

‘Oh.’

“I am. You know Winter?”  

“I do!” He seemed genuinely happy at that thought. “We’ve worked together a few times while on missions for Ozpin and Jimmy–uh, General Ironwood. She’s pretty awesome. First person to knock me on my ass in a long time.”

Weiss nodded, grinning slightly with pride at that admission. At least people making assumptions about her from her sister’s reputation was better than them doing so from her father’s. If anything, Professor Rustheart would regard her more highly now.

He’d also probably have higher expectations of her.

Then again, she had high expectations of herself already. Though she was already failing to meet those…

“I’m surprised you ran missions with the Atlesian military. Is that… normal for professional huntsmen?”

“No, not really,” Rustheart said. “They were, uh, special missions, let’s say. And Winter lost her team and I lost half of mine and Butters retired after he lost his arm, so it seemed sensible to have me and a couple other super-huntsmen tag along with her on some of the more dangerous assignments.”

“Wait, what?” Weiss blurted, stunned.

Blake whispered quietly, “I’m sorry for your loss.” Weiss barely registered that Blake was consoling their professor.

“What do you mean ‘Winter lost her team?’” Did they die? That doesn’t make any sense. Weiss would know if they had. Winter would have told her!

“Oh…” Rustheart’s face twisted into a deep frown. “Uh… well…”

“What happened to them?” Weiss demanded.

Rustheart looked around for a distraction. “Hey, look, Ruby’s waiting for you to shoot her! Look at that, haha!”

What happened to them?… sir.” A cold rage was building up inside Weiss, and she wanted to hit something, preferably the man that was keeping something this important from her.

“They, uh, fell in battle during a mission a few years ago. I don’t know too many details.”

….

….

….

“Weiss?” Ruby’s voice broke her out of her mental blank, the girl placing a small hand on her arm in support. “You… you okay?”

Weiss blinked and looked around. Her teammates were all staring at her wide-eyed with different expressions of worry and concern, and Rustheart was guiltily shuffling his feet and refusing to meet her gaze.

“Y-yeah. I’m fine, sorry.”

Weiss shoved the disheartening news from her mind. It was best not to dwell on how her elder sister seemed to not trust her enough to share the fact that her team–people Winter had referred to as family–had all been killed. And she hadn’t said anything for years. Would she ever?

‘No, don’t think about it, Weiss. Now’s not the time.’

She walked over to the cubicle with her and Ruby’s setup for the affinity test. “Go stand on the line, Ruby. And sync up your myAura with me.”

She loaded the standard firearm meant for establishing the Aura baseline. A few seconds passed and Ruby hadn’t come out to stand on the line. Weiss turned around to find her partner still standing in the same spot, still staring at her with those giant, worried silver eyes.

“Ruby, I’m fine. Come on, let’s get started.”

Ruby walked through the gate to the range but came to stand in front of Weiss on the other side of the desk.

“You sure you’re okay?” she asked.

Yes,” Weiss hissed, immediately regretting her tone as Ruby flinched back. “Sorry! I’m sorry. I–just… I’m fine. Please just leave it alone.”

Ruby watched her face for a long moment before nodding slowly and backing away to the line.

“Alright,” Weiss called out, doing her best to inject some fake cheer in her voice to try to get Ruby to stop looking at her like she was something fragile and dangerously close to breaking, “open up myAura and then sync with me so I can see your Aura levels.”

Flipping out her scroll, Ruby seemed to acquiesce to the change in conversation. “You know, Weiss, your scroll ID is super boring. Weiss underscore Schnee? Come on, at least make it, like, Princess Snowflake or Heiress Supreme or something!”

Grateful that Ruby was willing to let the matter slide, Weiss rolled her eyes. “Right, because that would be professional and appropriate for a public figure.”

“Yeah!”

“And I suppose Red Reaper nine thousand is also professional and something you want everybody with any connection to you to see?”

“Yep! That’s my gamertag!”

Weiss closed her eyes for a brief moment, stopping herself from retorting that it being her gamertag was pretty much guaranteeing it wasn’t professional. “Well, I’m set,” she said instead. “Ready to get shot?”

Ruby balked and dug a toe into the ground anxiously. “Uh, sure. Just, uh, be nice? Don’t hurt my face?”

Weiss’ eyes went wide. “I would never!”

Ruby didn’t seem convinced.

“I’m just gonna shoot you in the chest, don’t worry.”

The brunette looked down at herself. “I don’t have as much armor there as Yang does, though.”

Weiss snorted at that, and Yang laughed from where she stood a few feet to Ruby’s left.

“That’s not how Aura works, Ruby,” Weiss chastised her partner gently.

Ruby shrugged. “Still…”

Rolling her eyes, Weiss pulled her earmuffs on. “Just stand still you dolt.”

She raised the gun at the little nitwit and a stark uncomfortableness washed over her. It felt… wrong to be aiming a weapon at Ruby. Weiss shook the feeling off and squeezed the trigger just as Ruby squeezed her eyes shut and balled up her fists at her side, tensing for the hit.

BANG!

The noise reverberated off the walls of the firing station, making Weiss send a mental ‘thank you’ to whoever invented the sound dampening earmuffs. A small circle in the center of Ruby’s chest flashed red when the bullet crashed into her, webs of energy crawling out around her shoulders and ribs in the aftermath.

Yeah, it definitely felt wrong.

“Ow!” Ruby yelped.

“Oh please, Rubes,” Yang said next to her. “That didn’t hurt.”

“Yeah it did!”

Yang put a hand on her hip. “Don’t be a ba–Ack!”

She got cut off as Blake popped her with a lightning round, the yellow arcs of electricity spiking off one of her absurdly large boobs with a ‘zzzzip!’ noise.

Blake giggled at the reaction.

Rolling her eyes at her ridiculous teammates, Weiss checked her scroll to see how much damage Ruby had taken from the shot.

Six-point-two. Not bad. Ruby had only a little less Aura than Weiss did at her age. And it was on the better side of average for first year students according to Professor Rustheart. It did make Yang’s four-point-four look even more ridiculous be comparison, though.

“Two more, Ruby,” she called out. “You ready?”

Her partner gave her another of those adorable pouts. “If I say no, will it matter?”

“No.”

“Hnnnghhh,” she groaned.

Weiss rolled her eyes again, this time to stop herself from smiling. “How ‘bout this? If you can make through the rest of this test without whining, we’ll play your silly videogame for an extra hour tonight.”

Ruby lit up. “Deal!”

‘She is tragically easy to handle,’ Weiss sighed to herself.

“Alright. Here goes.”

Two shots later they had their baseline. An average of six-point-two-five.

“Which Dust type you want to do first?” Weiss asked, inspecting the magazines arrayed in front of her.

Ruby rubbed at the center of her rib cage with a frown. “Um… Let’s go in rainbow order! Roy G. Biv!”

That seemed like a sensible, preconstructed order. Weiss was actually quite pleased with that idea, and decided she’d follow it herself on her turn.

She loaded up the fire rounds in the special pistol. “Say ‘cheese’!” she said with a grin before shooting Ruby again. A ball of fire erupted on the girl’s collarbone. She let out a soft “Eep!” as the flames flickered into her face and patted herself out.

Weiss did the math. Twenty-two percent fire resistance. Ruby was clearly very different from her sister.

It took about thirty minutes to get through the whole test for Ruby, shooting her with every Dust round save hardlight and white. According to Professor Rustheart, hardlight Dust did the same damage to everybody’s Aura, and white Dust didn’t do any at all. That last part, more than anything, was proof that Aura was a force of light.

They almost weren’t able to finish the test. Ruby was left at less than eight percent of her Aura left after the last shot, a gravity round. As it turned out, though, gravity happened to be Ruby’s highest resistance, almost on par with Yang’s fire resistance.

Ruby walked over to the desk to look at her scores, hugging herself and rubbing at her arms like they were sore. She’d be feeling weak, Weiss knew, missing as much Aura as she was at the moment.

The tiredness in Ruby’s eyes disappeared immediately as she took a look at the sheet Weiss had in front of her, though.

“Whoa! It’s like I have character stats!” she chirped happily.

Weiss rolled her eyes. Now Ruby was going to go around acting like she was a video game character.

“You do have stats, Ruby. We all do. That’s the whole point of this test–to find them.”

Ruby bounced up and down as Professor Rustheart walked over, and Weiss did her best not to glare at the man. It wasn’t his fault Winter had lost her team and not said anything about it for years.

He ran his fingers over the numbers in Weiss’ tight, neat handwriting. “Looks good. Dang, Ruby. You’ve got some really high percentages.” Ruby beamed at the compliment. “And look at that,” Rustheart continued. “Your highest is gravity too. I’ve noticed that’s a trend with team leaders. High gravity or earth resistance.”

“Really?” Weiss asked. “I was taught affinity wasn’t related to personality.”

The professor shrugged. “There’s a lot of debate about it. I personally think it is, mostly because I’ve seen too many people with affinities that seem to equate to their character.”

What did it mean about Ruby that her best affinity was gravity? Did it mean she had a personality that pulled people in? Or that she viewed herself as the center of the world?

The first made sense to Weiss, while the latter didn’t. Ruby definitely seemed to have an “attractive” personality–people liked being around her, Weiss included, despite her harsh initial judgement of the girl. But Ruby certainly didn’t seem arrogant or self-centered. In fact, she was quite the opposite.

“Wow, my fire resistance sucks,” Ruby said, looking down at the sheet. “It’s a miracle I get along with Yang!”

“Your face sucks!” Yang called from out of sight.

“Actually, twenty-two percent is a pretty average resistance,” Professor Rustheart said. “Like I said, you’ve got some crazy high percentages.”

“Oh. Neat!”

Weiss looked down at the numbers in front of her.

 

Regular – 6.205, 6.295, 6.250 (6.250) | Aura Index: 1600

Fire – 11.125 | 4.875 | 22%

Molten – 9.688 | 3.438 | 45%

Lightning – 8.625 | 2.375 | 62%

Air – 8.000 | 1.750 | 72%

Earth – 8.125 | 1.875 | 70%

Ice – 10.000 | 3.75 | 40%

Water – 10.438 | 4.188 | 33%

Gravity – 7.625 | 1.375 | 78%

 

They were really high. The highest resistance Weiss had two years ago was ice at sixty percent…

“Alright, Weiss! Your turn!” Ruby grinned mischievously at her. “Now it is I that shall friendly fire you!”

Weiss raised an eyebrow at Ruby’s goofy phrasing. It must have been a reference to something. “Do you know how to do the calculations?” she asked.

Ruby’s face fell. “Ah. Uh… no.” She turned to the professor. “Can you help me with that?”

“Of course!” he said, patting her on the back. “That’s what I’m here for.”

Relaxing at the reassurance, Ruby picked up the standard gun and waved it at Weiss. “Go line up!”

Weiss and Professor Rustheart both shot their hands out to lower the gun, Rustheart snorting in amusement as Weiss huffed “Put that down!” to her partner.

“Oh. Sorry.” Ruby grinned sheepishly.

Weiss rolled her eyes and headed out to the line, waiting patiently as Ruby aimed at her.

Yeah, it had felt weird to point a gun at Ruby, but it felt even weirder to stand there and wait to get shot.

Ruby seemed to be as weirded out as Weiss had been. “This feels wrong,” she muttered, frowning.

Yang didn’t seem to have any such misgivings about shooting her partner. Blake had just lined up next to Weiss and turned around when Yang put three bullets into her with a loud cackle.

Thank Dust Blake had already been projecting her Aura. It was probably second nature to them all by now, something natural and constant like breathing or blinking, but still. Weiss couldn’t help the brief flash of worry that had gone through her when the gunshots rang out.

“Alright, Ruby,” Weiss called out, taking a deep breath to steel her nerves. “Let’s get this over with.”

Affinity tests suck.

It took a little longer for them to get through Weiss and Blake’s readings because the professor had to keep bouncing back and forth to help the two dolt sisters with the measurements and math.

“Isn’t it so cool we have the same fire resistance?” Ruby chirped, tugging on Weiss’ sleeve in unrestrained happiness as they both looked over her numbers.

 

Regular – 5.018, 5.112, 5.109 (5.080) | Aura Index: 1969

Fire – 9.042 | 3.962 | 22%

Molten – 9.347 | 4.267 | 16%

Lightning – 8.738 | 3.658 | 28%

Air – 7.925 | 2.845 | 44%

Earth – 9.754 | 4.674 | 8%

Ice – 6.807 | 1.727 | 66%

Water – 7.417 | 2.337 | 54%

Gravity – 9.449 | 4.369 | 14%

 

Weiss responded with a half-hearted smile. That was a neat coincidence, but a nothing more. But the vast disparity in Weiss and Ruby’s resistances? That was disappointing. The only advantage Weiss had was that she had a bit more Aura, but Ruby would quickly catch up with age and experience. And…

“What does it mean that earth is my weakest element?” she asked, turning to the professor.

He cocked his head to the side and studied her. “What do you think it means?”

That made Weiss pause. Did it mean she wasn’t… solid? Grounded? No, that was ridiculous. She knew exactly who she was and what she wanted.

“There’s no way affinity has anything to do with personality,” she concluded with finality.

The professor shrugged a shoulder. “You may be right,” he returned simply.

Ruby was still excitedly looking at their numbers, trying to find silly connections between them.

“This is so weird! Look, my molten resistance is higher than my fire, but yours is lower! But both of our water resistances are lower than our ice! It’s so random!”

Yang walked over, a paper in each hand and a tired Blake behind her.

“What was your best, Rubes?”

“Gravity! Seventy-eight percent!” Ruby put her hands on her hips and struck a goofy superhero pose.

“Was Weiss’ ice?”

“Yep!”

“Ha! Ice Queen.” Yang gave Weiss a playful nudge that she answered with a glare.

“What was Blake’s best?” Ruby asked, trying to peek over the edge of the paper Yang was holding rather than actually waiting for an answer.

“Water,” her sister replied. “Sixty-four percent.”

“Water to your fire,” Weiss mused. “Is that good or bad?”

Yang grinned widely. “It’s great! ‘Cause together we get steamy!” She wiggled her eyebrows at Blake, who rolled her eyes and did her best to hide a blush.

Professor Rustheart cleared his throat before Weiss could inform Yang that she was, in fact, an idiot.

“So, that’s that,” he said. “You ladies are good to go. I’ll see you on Friday, twelve o’clock, out in the lobby.”

Ruby hopped up and down. “What will we be doing?”

“I’ll have you do some one v ones with each other, get a sense of how you fight and how you move. Next week we’ll be doing tournament style one v ones against another team on Wednesday so you can test yourselves against non-teammates, and then we’ll probably do two v twos on Friday.”

Blake tilted her head quizzically. “When will we start fighting as a team?”

Professor Rustheart seesawed his hand back and forth. “Fighting with three other people can get a little hectic. I want to build up to that, let you guys get comfortable fighting with your partners before we go into full team battles.”

Weiss glanced at Ruby, who was already shooting her one of her massive, shining smiles. She couldn’t help but return it. That smile was contagious.

“Sweet!” Ruby cheered.

“Now get going, you guys,” the professor said, holding the door open for them. “I gotta call the next team in. Who did I say was next?”

“Team Curdle,” Weiss answered, grinning at the name.

“That’s totally going to stick,” Yang chuckled as she walked out.

They all headed out, giving a goodbye wave to the professor before exiting the building and heading back toward their dorm. Almost the entire walk consisted of Ruby excitedly yapping about potential team combos and what they should call them, spouting nonsense like “Freezerburn” and “Ladybug” and “Iceflower”. The names seemed to have more to do with the colors of the hair and clothes of the girls in the maneuver than it did with what they were actually hypothetically doing.

“What about, like, me and Blake going all ninja on someone and we call it Hidden Babe Technique?” Yang suggested.

She was definitely feeling less mentally strained than the rest of them–but of course she was, she still had close to a third of her Aura left. Weiss was trudging along with a measly sixteen percent. And she had absolutely no idea how Ruby had enough energy to walk, much less skip by her side and jabber on about “wombo combos” they should use on the next Death Stalker they fight.

“Can you even ninja, though?” Blake asked her partner with a teasing grin.

Yang scoffed. “Well sure! You just have to go, like, ‘hwaaah!’ before every hit and bow to your opponents!”

“What about, you know, being sneaky?” Blake asked, looking slightly offended.

“What’s that?” Yang replied, straight-faced.

“You’re an oaf,” Blake shot back.

Yang laughed and threw an arm around Blake’s shoulders, which seemed to startle the girl, though she didn’t pull away.

When they finally made it to the doors of the dorm building, Ruby gave Weiss a tug on her sleeve and a beaming smile.

“Remember, you promised an extra hour of Huntsman Royale!”

Weiss rolled her eyes. She wasn’t even sure how much time that constituted, considering they hadn’t actually established a standard amount of time to play in the first place.

“I remember, Ruby. I said it only an hour ago.”

“Woohoo!” Ruby cheered, throwing her hands in the air.

It was only then that Weiss realized Ruby hadn’t said that to remind Weiss, but rather to see if she was actually keeping to her promise. Which was ridiculous, wasn’t it? They’d made a deal.

“Give me a few minutes, though, okay?” She stopped before the glass doors of the building, and Ruby halted by her side.

“Sure, what’s up?”

Weiss shook her head. “Nothing. Go on ahead.” She turned and walked into the grass, to the spot where she had taken to launching herself up to the roof the past few days. “I need to make a call.”

 

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