Weiss turned a page in the textbook, gently sliding a finger from the top corner down to the middle of the page before flipping it over. Blake and Yang were both also reading the chapter (Yang had only agreed to at Blake’s subtle insistence), though Blake had dozed off some time early on.
To be expected when she was reading lying down in her bed.
Yang was also up on her bunk, sitting with her back against the wall, legs kicking out over the edge.
“So these chariots the Valish used in battle against the Rhysokans aren’t like the Atlesian Chariots, right?” she asked Weiss, her voice, surprisingly, at a courteously low decibel level for their sleeping partners.
“Correct. Atlesian Chariots are an airship. They were named after these chariots, which were horse-drawn wheeled vehicles that provided a mobile platform for archers in battle.”
“Huh,” Yang replied. “Is there a picture?”
Weiss smirked to herself. “Next page.”
“Oh… Oh! I get it. Okay. So with these things the Valish conquered the Rhysokans, then the… Huun-ar conquered the irrelevant dudes–”
“The Terisians,” Weiss cut in.
“Right, them. And then the Valish conquered the Huun-ar. And now all that’s left is the kingdom of Vale.”
“Correct. And Vale City is where…?”
Yang paused. “Where the original Valish tribe settled second, right?”
“Correct!” Weiss repeated, pleased. Perhaps Yang wasn’t a hopeless dumb blonde after all.
“‘Cause their first settlement was Patch!” Yang exclaimed happily.
“It was. It seems you and Ruby have followed the migratory pattern of your ancestors,” Weiss joked.
Yang blinked at her.
Well, Weiss thought it was funny. Yang was just a dumb blonde, what did she know about good humor?…
“So how’d that talk with second-best big sister go?” Yang asked, turning back to Weiss.
“Ah. Well… “ Weiss floundered. This wasn’t something she wanted to talk about. It had made her anxious enough having Ruby be a part of that–though the support of her presence made up for it–but to tell Yang about it?
“You don’t have to go into any details,” Yang couched. “But… did it go okay?”
What was this? Did Yang really care if her talk with Winter had gone well? Why would she? It’s not like they’d been all the pleasant to each other. It’s not like they were friends. Just…. teammates. Teammates who both had a fondness of a certain bubbly brunette that was currently snoring lightly in Weiss’ bed.
But if Yang was asking… it would be rude not to answer.
“It did,” Weiss said. “It… there are some… difficulties–or rather, hurts–that weren’t entirely resolved, but they will be. Winter said she’d tell me everything when we next see each other in person.”
“When will that be?”
“Winter break, most likely.” There was nothing Weiss was looking forward to more. A chance to talk to Winter again, to talk to her about something that mattered? To get the chance, finally, to try to help her? To pay her back for the years of care and support she’d given Weiss for absolutely nothing in return other than Weiss’ somewhat annoying company?
Winter break couldn’t come soon enough.
And it would be a chance for Weiss to come clean about her own secret, the reason she hadn’t wanted to attend Atlas Academy. It wasn’t as… tragic or world-shattering of a secret as Winter’s was, but Weiss was certain it would hurt her sister all the same. She just hoped she could do something, say something, to make it better when the time came.
Yang’s snicker pulled her back out of her thoughts.
“You’re gonna see Winter on winter break?”
Weiss rolled her eyes.
“Double winter, what does it meeean?!” Yang giggled. Weiss didn’t understand the joke.
“Yes, yes,” she griped. “She’s named after a season. Very funny, haha.”
“Lighten up, Weissicle. Our mom was named after a season, too. We got to have the ol’ double summer breaks when we were kiddos.”
Weiss turned in her seat to look at Yang. She should ask, right? It would be better to ask Yang; she clearly had a better handle on the grief than Ruby did, and Weiss was so scared to bring it up with Ruby and cause that joyful, happy face to go sad… Weiss knew she wasn’t a fantastic person, but if she made Ruby sad, she was truly awful.
She should ask. This was the best chance to get some answers, with Ruby asleep.
“M-may I ask what happened? To your mom, I mean.”
Yang narrowed her eyes and tilted her head thoughtfully. “The fact that your even asking makes me think you already know she’s dead.”
Weiss flinched at the bluntness, but then got confused by Yang’s statement. Hadn’t she been there when Ruby told h–oh, no. She’d been in the bathroom.
“Ruby told me. That she left for a hunt and never came back.”
Yang’s eyebrows shot up. “Wow, she actually talked about it?”
“Y-yes. It was the other day, before we went shopping.” Weiss was starting to regret bringing this up. “Is that… unusual?”
Yang snorted. “Yeah, yeah you could say that. She’s always refused to talk about it. Even acknowledge it. A part of her is still convinced Mom’s somehow secretly alive. Though that’s partly my fault.”
“What? How so?”
Yang sighed and laid her textbook aside, flopping her hands onto her lap and looking across the room at her little sister’s sleeping form.
“Ruby used to suffer night terrors,” she said slowly, making Weiss’ eyes widen. “Still does, really, though not as much anymore. Just on special days, like the anniversary of the day Mom and Uncle Qrow left for that hunt, or Mom’s birthday… Sometimes the anniversary of the day Qrow finally came back, drunk as heck, to tell Dad…” She frowned and looked down at her hands.
“Anyway, Ruby has these night terrors of Mom getting ripped apart by Grimm–”
Weiss coughed, a knot of emotion in her throat bursting out at the awful image.
Yang smiled sadly at her. “Yeah. It’s pretty bad. She’d sometimes not be able to function for hours after waking up, just sobbing and shaking. So I told her ‘No, silly, the Grimm didn’t get to Mom. She realized she was in trouble and burst into her semblance so they couldn’t get to her, and now she lives on in all the white roses in the world’–Mom’s semblance was like Ruby’s, but–”
“I know,” Weiss interrupted. “She told me.”
Yang raised an eyebrow at that and “hmmed”.
“What?” Weiss asked, feeling defensive.
“Nothing,” Yang said, shaking her head. “She’s just… told you more than she’s ever talked about with anyone not in the family.”
“Oh.” Weiss didn’t know how to react to that. She was suddenly very conscious of herself, straightening her back, crossing her legs, uncrossing them, folding her hands in her lap, then moving them to grip the armrests of her chair.
That was… nice. That Ruby trusted her that much. That she was somehow special to a girl that already seemed to like everybody. She’d thought Ruby was just being her friend because she was everyone’s friend, and that she felt obligated to go through the pain of befriending Weiss because they were partners. But apparently… apparently it went beyond that?
“I thought she shared everything with everyone,” Weiss said quietly, hoping Yang would tell her she was wrong.
She wasn’t disappointed.
“Not everything,” Yang replied quietly, turning to look at Ruby’s snoring form again.
Weiss’ heart tha-thumped at that, and she couldn’t help the smile that crept onto her face. Yang noticed and raised an eyebrow at her, but didn’t say anything.
“But yeah, I told her Mom just escaped the monsters and lives on in flowers,” she continued. “And it worked. She’d stop crying whenever I’d say it, not because it was nice to hear in the moment, but because she actually believes it.” She frowned at those last words.
“Do… do you regret telling her that now?” Weiss asked, reading into Yang’s expression.
The frown deepened, and a long hiss of air streamed from Yang’s nose as she exhaled in thought. “I… I dunno. It makes her feel better. It gets her to stop crying, gets her to stop imagining her mom’s body getting torn to shreds by giant monsters.” Weiss flinched at the imagery again. “But it also means she isn’t accepting reality. She needs to make peace with the fact that Mom’s gone, and she’s not coming back… For a few days after every… episode, Ruby runs around in her semblance constantly. She doesn’t say why, but I know it’s ‘cause she’s looking for Mom in her ‘Rose Dimension’. It’s just… not good for her. But if the alternative is… is crying Ruby, then… I don’t know.”
Her face fell, twisting in anguish, and Weiss had no idea what to do. She hadn’t meant to cause… this. But she also felt something, some thread of connection, between her and Yang, now.
She had expected them to never get along, never relate to each other, never see anything eye to eye. They were close to polar opposites, as far as Weiss could tell. But they both cared about Ruby. They both wanted her to be happy. Maybe there they could find some common ground.
“I’m sorry,” Weiss said, prompting Yang to turn her gaze back on her. “I shouldn’t have brought it up. I didn’t mean to make you…” She trailed off. Didn’t mean to make her what? Sad? That seemed like an understatement, and it would sound… presumptive.
But Yang just shook her head. “It’s okay. It’s good for you to know this if you’re gonna be Ruby’s partn–Ruby’s friend.” She gave a small smile at the correction that Weiss hesitantly returned.
There was a long stretch of silence.
Okay, time to end this emotionally charged conversation.
“So… you have a lot of Aura,” she said, tactfully and seamlessly changing the subject.
Yang snorted and nodded slowly, realizing what Weiss was doing. “Yeah. Yeah, I do. I believe the scientific term is “a metric fuckton”, but I’ll defer to your expertise there.”
That definitely wasn’t a scientific term, but it was pretty clear Yang knew that and was just making a joke.
Weiss didn’t know what she was supposed to say, so she just smiled lightly in response.
Yang frowned a little, but let it go, shifting to get more comfortable and shifting her gaze to the ceiling. “Yep,” she said, breaking the awkward silence. “I guess I’m the team’s tank.”
“Tank?” Weiss questioned. What did that mean? Her gauntlets doubled as shotguns, how was she supposed to be a tank?
Yang smiled. “Gamer thing. Means I… well, I get into the middle of the baddies and try to take all the hits.”
“Ah. I was planning to make you do that anyway.” She offered Yang a sly grin to try to make it clear she was just joking (mostly).
Yang raised another eyebrow at her and smirked. “Oh yeah? How were planning to make me do that if I didn’t want to?”
Weiss rolled her eyes in a smile. “Hey, my glyphs can launch you pretty far.”
Yang broke into a chuckle at that. “I like it. Just catapult me into the fight. Yangapult!”
Now Weiss rolled her eyes for real. “That’s a terrible name.”
Her gripe was dismissed with a light shrug. “At least it’s better than Ruby’s ‘operation’ names,” Yang countered.
“True.” Weiss turned to look at her partner. Ruby chose that moment to let out a little snort and roll over, facing the room. Sunlight filtering in from the blinds fell across her eyelids. She frowned in her sleep, her face screwing up in that adorable pout. After a long few seconds of that, she jerked her arm to her face to rub grumpily at her eyes, rolling onto her back in the process.
Slowly, her eyes blinked open.
“Morning, sleepy-head,” Yang said with a smile.
‘Morning? It’s early evening…’ Weiss was about to speak up when Ruby sleepily mumbled a reply.
“I’sss mornern already?” She rubbed at her eyes with the back of her hand again.
“Yep!” Yang said, far too cheerily for a liar. “You missed class. Weiss wants to skewer you.”
“WHAT?!” Ruby jumped up, smacking into the bottom of her upper bunk with a burst of rose petals and letting out a small whimper before rolling onto the floor. “I gotta–!”
She looked around, taking in sleeping Blake, rolling-with-laughter Yang, and Weiss, who was still blinking off her surprise at the sudden burst of noise and movement.
“No no!” she quickly said, waving her arms to try to get Ruby to calm down. “Relax! It’s only been a couple hours. Yang’s just being an ass.” She shot a glare at the blonde as she said that last part and got nothing but a satisfied, sing-song “hee hee!” in return.
“Oh,” Ruby sighed, her shoulders sagging in relief. “Okay. Good.” She calmly turned around and reached down to straighten out Weiss’ cove–
In another flash of movement, Ruby grabbed one of Weiss’ pillows and hurled it across the room. It smacked Yang in the chest, a little to one side, and flopped down into her lap lazily. Yang looked down at the pillow, up at Ruby, and back down at the pillow.
Ruby straightened out her combat skirt, pulling down the hem with a huff, and turned to Weiss.
“Sorry about her. I’m still fairly certain she and Zwei switched brains at some point a couple years ago, ‘cause now she ju–EEP!”
The poor girl tipped sideways, her upper body almost perpendicular to her lower body, and slammed into Weiss’ bed as blur of white hurtled across the room and nailed her in the side of the face.
“Yang!” Weiss shouted, jumping out of her chair to rush to Ruby, who was laying with her legs splayed out in the air, not moving. She pulled her pillow off of Ruby’s head to make sure she was okay and–
Laughing. Ruby was laughing.
Her tiny giggles were just barely making her shoulders shake, and she was letting out tiny “hck hck” noises. She rolled over and pushed herself up, giving Weiss’ miffed and slightly annoyed face a pat on the cheek.
“Fine, Yang!” she jokingly growled. “Fine. I see how it is.”
Yang just stuck out her tongue.
“You two are idiots,” Weiss declared, subsequently getting more annoyed that neither sister seemed to care.
“What in the name of all that is dusty is going on in here?” growled a very perturbed looking Blake. She propped herself up on her hands and shook her head to wake herself up. Her bow wiggled a bit in the process and she quickly reached up to slap it down and fix it in place.
She was certainly dedicated to that style choice.
“Oh nothin’,” Yang said lightly. “Just reminding Ruby who the champ is.”
Ruby scowled up at her sister. “You’re dumb.”
Yang just smiled and waved her sister towards her. “Now come here, knucklehead. We’re studying the young histories.”
Weiss frowned, not understanding why “the histories” were young, but Ruby either understood or didn’t care.
“Story studies?!” she asked excitedly, already halfway up the ladder to Yang’s bunk.
“Yeah, why not?” Yang replied. “It’s been a while.”
Ruby crawled up to her sister’s side and leaned into her, resting her head on Yang’s shoulder while the blonde put her arm around her and pulled her closer, settling the textbook in her lap.
“Alright, I’ll restart the chapter,” Yang said after giving Ruby a kiss on the top of the head. “I’m not too far in.”
“What are you doing?” Weiss finally blurted out.
Ruby and Yang both turned to her, surprised.
“Oh, uh, well…” Ruby stammered.
Yang gave her a light squeeze and answered for her. “I’m reading the history chapter to her.” She leveled a look at Weiss that seemed to dare the girl to argue.
Weiss decided to take that dare.
“Can’t she read it herself?”
Ruby pouted a little bit, so lightly that Weiss suspected it was a very real pout, as opposed to the adorable, exaggerated, playful one she’d come to know. “I guess I can,” Ruby said, moving to get off the bunk.
Yang gave her another squeeze to hold her in place.
“Yes, she can. But Dad figured out that she remembers this stuff better if it’s read to her like the way we’d read her stories when she was little. So that’s what we’re doing.” She reached up and tousled Ruby’s hair, slyly also using the motion to push Ruby back into her shoulder.
“Oh. Alright.” Weiss wasn’t entirely sure what to say to that. It seemed like an incredibly strange way to learn, but Yang had fifteen years of experience on her when it came to dealing with Ruby…
Hopefully Ruby would remember what she and Weiss had studied together yesterday.
The two sisters wiggled a bit to get comfortable, and Weiss spared a glance at Blake to see her reaction. The girl met her eyes with an amused smile on the edge of her lips and shrugged. A giant yawn took over her at that moment, and she covered her mouth with one hand and stretched the other over her head, pulling her shirt up and revealing her pale, smooth stomach–more than her outfit already revealed, that is.
She was dressed a bit too revealingly for Weiss’ tastes, as was Yang, but alas, Weiss didn’t have the authority to make them change their outfits. If only she was team leader… Maybe she could convince Ruby to say something.
As she turned back to her own textbook to finish going through the end-of-chapter questions, Yang began reading aloud.
“The first known civilizations were hunter-gatherer societies that originated in the central and southeastern regions of Sanus East, to the southeast of the Midland Mountains and what is now the kingdom of Vale.”
Weiss was having trouble getting through the questions she was trying to read with this background noise. Struggling not to grind her teeth together, she glanced back to look at the sisters, and maybe she’d get lucky and Yang would notice her glare and shut up.
It didn’t work at all.
Instead, her expression softened immediately at the image of Ruby cuddled into Yang’s side, bright silver eyes following along on the page as Yang read, the hand that had been around Ruby’s waist now giving her light scratches on the head, fingers running through the brunette’s hair. It was… sweet. Weiss had never had anything like this with Winter–mostly because she’d never even known to want it, but seeing how close and affectionate these two were made her heart ache in a way she didn’t fully understand.
Yang’s reading voice was soft, far softer than Weiss ever expected the girl to speak, but it still carried well. It reminded Weiss of her public speaking lessons, how she was taught to project her voice and speak from her diaphragm, not her throat. Though Yang was doing it far more gently.
It took a while before Weiss realized Blake was watching her, a small, knowing smile on her lips. The girl was sitting back against her pillow, textbook open, but she was more interested in Weiss’ face than in reading at the moment.
Weiss flushed and looked away quickly.
She turned back to her own book and tried to get back to focusing on tthe chapter review.
‘What were the three main crops produced by the Huun-ar tribes before they began trade with the Rhysokan Empire?’
Ah, that was an easy one. Wheat, barley, and sesame. Weiss didn’t yet know how Professor Oobleck structured his tests, how much they were based on memorization of these somewhat pointless facts, but Weiss was feeling confident she’d ace it, however much it was.
‘What was gained by the Hunu-ar from their trade with the Rhysokans besides goods?’
A bit more abstract, this one. It wasn’t something that the chapter had explicitly stated verbatim, though the information was all still there, just needing condensing. It was–
“… the first border skirmishes between the four main civilizations in the Valley. The Valish were the first to develop and devote resources to creating fortifications beyond the simple wood-and-thatch houses that were standard up to this point, creating stone walls, forts, and castles that provided better living conditions, greater protection from the elements, and were more easily defendable.”
“What’s a thatch?” Ruby interrupted, turning her head to look up at her big sister at the question.
Yang smiled. “It’s like, uh, grass.”
Ruby wrinkled her nose. “They used to make houses out of grass?”
“They weren’t very good houses. Which is what this is saying.” Yang tapped the page in front of her as she said it.
Okay, it was time to speak up.
It was Blake that spoke first, though, right as Weiss opened her mouth to correct Yang.
“It’s not grass, technically,” Blake said, leaning to see around the edge of Yang’s bunk. “It’s usually straw or reeds, packed together really tightly. It kept rain out and insulated the house pretty well, actually.”
Weiss smiled, glad that there was someone else on the team that was both educated and willing to educate the two goofballs.
“Isn’t straw just really long grass, though?” Yang asked.
Weiss rolled her eyes, though Blake just smiled. “Kinda,” she said. “It’s a little bit different.”
“Oh. Okay, thanks Blakey-Blake!”
Now Blake rolled her eyes, though she also smiled almost imperceptibly at the nickname.
As Yang continued her reading, Weiss sighed and flipped back a few pages to where the blonde was at and started reading along. There was no way she could focus on the questions with this noise, and she didn’t want to just get up and leave and look like a massive jerk, and she might as well go through the chapter again, as another read through couldn’t hurt…
And it seemed like Blake was following along, too. Which meant the whole team was now listening and reading along with Yang, which filled Weiss with a sense of… what was this, camaraderie? That was the best word Weiss could think of. This satisfied feeling of being a part of a team that was all in sync was… cool. It was cool.
“The development of the stone and mortar structures proved to be a critical advantage for the Valish in their conflict against the Huun-ar, which came a little over a century after the building of the first castle began. The walls proved to be able to withstand sieges, weather, and time, and indeed many long stretches of wall and old stone homes and forts are still standing in Vale City to this day.”
Weiss followed along with Yang’s voice, chiming in every now and again to answer Ruby’s questions or correct Yang’s pronunciations.
Studying had always been something that Weiss had done out of a sense of duty, something she simply knew she had to do. But this time… this time she actually enjoyed it.
All sixteen of the freshmen huntsmen were seated at tables in the small room, divided into their teams. Professor Ozpin stood at the front of the class, an empty whiteboard and a podium with a stack of papers in front. Three professors–Goodwitch, Port, and Oobleck–were also there, standing off to the side and watching quietly. Weiss didn’t know why.
“Now that we’re all here,” Professor Ozpin finally spoke, “we can begin.”
Beside her, Ruby did that silly side-to-side wiggle of excitement. On her other side, Blake watched silently in that way that she had that made Weiss think the girl knew far more about whatever was going on. Next to Blake, Yang cracked her knuckles like Ozpin had just announced they were about to get in a bar fight.
“Welcome to Huntsman One-oh-one,” the headmaster said, clapping his hands together. “In this class we’ll be going over a variety of things pertaining to the lives of huntsmen, from your public presentation and how to act with the media, to your relationship with law enforcement and military, to the particulars of accepting a Hunt contract. In November, we’ll also have your driving course.” He glanced at Ruby briefly.
Weiss straightened up and pushed her shoulders back at the mention of public presentation, adjusting her hands a bit where they were folded in front of her to make sure they were symmetrical.
Ruby’s hand shot up.
“To begin–yes, Miss Rose?”
Ruby quickly shrank down, nervous in the face of all the attention that just turned to her. “Oh, uh… I was just wondering how we can get into the Huntsman Royale games…”
Professor Ozpin’s eyebrows slowly raised higher and higher while their classmates laughed. Weiss slapped her forehead.
“Yeah!” someone yelled from their right. Nora. “I wanna be a video game character too! Who do I need to hit–uh, talk to–to make that happen?”
This time it was Ren that slapped his forehead. Pyrrha giggled behind the back of her hand while Jaune slunked so far down in his chair it seemed like he was trying to retract into a turtle shell.
The headmaster cracked a small smile. “Well, for legal reasons you won’t be able to be put into any games until you graduate–”
“Awww,” Ruby and Nora both said at the same time. Weiss slapped Ruby’s arm with the back of her hand, causing the girl to give her a sad pout.
Professor Ozpin saw the exchange and quirked an eyebrow again, but said nothing of it. “So we’ll perhaps save that conversation for a later date. Now…” He picked up the stack of papers in front of him and began walking around the room to pass them out, four to each team leader. “Today, we won’t be talking about any of those big things. Today we’ll be talking about you.”
As he said it, his eyes were passing over Yang, and she blinked in surprise.
“Me?” she asked, pointing at herself like everyone wouldn’t know who ‘Me’ was supposed to refer to.
“I think he just means us all, in general,” Blake said quietly, leaning toward her partner.
“Oh. Right.” Yang scratched her head in a very Ruby-ish way. “I meeean, if you guys wanna talk about me, that’s cool. I’m, like, pretty awesome.”
Weiss rolled her eyes and turned to Ruby, holding out a hand to take one of the papers. Ruby passed her three, and after a bit of confusion, Weiss passed the two extras to Blake. Then she looked down at the page and…
It was a ‘Get to Know You’ paper, filled with idiotic questions like “What’s your favorite color?”, “What’s your favorite movie?”, “What’s your favorite food?”, and more. Inane questions that had nothing to do with anything.
Trepidation building, Weiss flipped the page over… but the backside was filled with different sorts of questions. “How does your semblance work?” “A pack of beowolves stands in front of you. How do you approach the fight?” “Your partner and a bus full of civilians are both in life threatening danger, and you only have time to save one of them. Who do you save?”
These were questions for huntresses.
“As you may have noticed, the two sides of this page have very different questions,” Professor Ozpin said, slowly returning to his lectern. “The front side, with questions about your favorite color and the like, are optional, and meant to spark conversations between you and your teammates.
“The other side has questions I want you to think about thoroughly. You don’t have to write down full answers to all of them, but I want you to get a good idea at least in your head of what a full answer would be. In the next thirty to forty-five minutes, my fellow professors and I–” he gestured toward the three professors that were watching the class off to the side “–will each come visit one of your teams to discuss some of those points with you. I encourage you to discuss these questions with your team, to seek other perspectives or talk through your own answers.”
There was a pause as Professor Ozpin’s gaze scanned the room, making eye contact with each student. “You may begin.”
The silence immediately broke, a dam of conversation flooding the room as all the teams turned to each other to discuss.
“Okay, Team RWBY!” Ruby chirped. “Here’s what we’re gonna do! We’ll each answer these questions on our own and then we’ll try to guess what the others put down!”
“That sounds ridiculously pointless,” Weiss objected.
“Are we doing both sides?” Blake asked. Weiss gave her an exasperated look for being so willing to comply with this silly idea, but Blake just gave her a light smirk.
“Yeah!” Ruby answered happily.
Yang leaned forward to get a better view of her sister, her long hair draping over her shoulder and down to the tabletop. “But Rubes, we already know, like, everything on here about each other.”
Ruby’s nose scrunched up in thought. “Yeah… Okay, We’ll do these and then the guessing part will be between partners, and then if we have time Weiss and Blake can do it with each other too!”
“Ridiculously pointless,” Weiss repeated.
“Wei-eisss, come ooon!” Ruby whined. “It’ll be funnn!”
She sighed and rolled her eyes. “Fine. But make sure you do the back side first, because that’s actually the important stuff. This side is just… fluff.”
“Your face is fluff,” Ruby grumbled with one of those exaggerated pouts, but she flipped her page over and started on the back all the same.
“What is that even supposed to mean?” Blake quietly wondered aloud. Weiss gave her an amused smile that the raven-haired girl returned before they both set to work on their “work”sheets.
A productive, calm quiet settled over the group. There was more discussion happening at a couple of the other tables that Weiss found rather distracting, but she did her best to push it from her mind.
At one point, Yang muttered, “These are hard.” Weiss couldn’t help but agree. The questions were obviously designed to make her think and evaluate her personality and priorities, and it annoyed that she didn’t have ready answers for them.
‘I guess I don’t know myself as well as I thought.’
After about ten minutes, Professor Ozpin wandered up to their table, standing opposite the four of them.
“A little quiet over here, aren’t we?”
Ruby gave him a big, undeterred smile. “We have to keep our answers secret from each other.”
Professor Ozpin’s eyebrow raised up again, the tiniest hint of a smile on his lips. “Miss Rose, I do believe that is the exact opposite of the purpose of this assignment.”
Weiss shot Ruby a ‘I told you so’ glare, but Ruby just smiled and pushed Weiss’ face away, much to her annoyance.
“They have to be secret ‘cause we’re gonna try to guess each other’s answers!” she explained happily.
“Ah,” Professor Ozpin said, giving a single, slow nod. “Making a game of it, then?”
“Interesting.” He smiled and walked away.
Weiss wasn’t sure what was all that interesting about this. It seemed inefficient and ridiculously pointless. She sighed to herself. Whatever. She was almost done.
Blake finished first, laying her pen down lightly on the page and glancing over at Yang. When Yang noticed, she puckered her lips and squinted in an exaggerated suspicious face and used her left arm to shield her worksheet from Blake’s view.
“No peeking, Cheaty McCheatface!”
Blake rolled her eyes. “I’m surprised you didn’t go with ‘Cheaty-Cheat’ after your usual pattern,” she teased.
“You know, Ruby-Roo, Weissy-Weiss, Blakey-Blake…”
Yang blinked at her.
Blake frowned. “You don’t see a pattern here?”
That prompted a scowl from the buffoon. “There’s no pattern! Each one of those is original and quality nicknamage, thank you very much!”
“Nicknamage?” Blake asked with a dubious raised eyebrow.
“Don’t be jealous of my awesome words, Blake. It’s unbecoming of a ninja.”
“I can and will eat you,” Blake stated flatly.
“At least take me to dinner first,” Yang said in a teasing tone that Weiss didn’t understand, a sly grin on her face. Obviously Blake wasn’t actually going to eat her, but why did it have to be at dinner if she did?
Blake seemed to understand something Weiss didn’t, though, because her eyes went wide and she blushed as red as Ruby’s cloak before giving a strange, nervous titter.
She turned to look at Ruby and Weiss. “How’s it going with you two?” she asked, wringing her fingers nervously.
“Done!” Ruby declared, slamming her hand down on paper like she’d just finished.
“Almost done,” Weiss answered, frowning slightly. How had Ruby beaten her? “I’m having a little trouble with some of these questions.”
“Oh!” Ruby exclaimed, flipping her sheet over. “Is it the one about what you’d do if there was a second Great War? Or the one about what you think should be done about the bandit tribes and White Fang?”
“No, those were easy. I don’t know what my favorite tv show is.”
“… What?” Ruby looked genuinely perplexed by this.
Weiss tilted her head to the side. “I don’t watch tv, okay?… Do you think historical documentaries count?”
Yang’s forehead smacked into the table with a dull thump.
Blake snorted at her partner’s reaction, then turned to Weiss. “Relax. If you don’t have an answer, then just skip it.”
Leave an answer line blank? That felt… uncomfortable. Just the thought of it made Weiss feel like her brain was itching. But… she didn’t have an answer.
On the line, she penned out ‘I don’t have a favorite tv show.’ (she had to answer in a complete sentence, of course) and showed it to Blake. Blake gave her a shrug of indifferent agreement.
“You ready?” Ruby asked, leg bouncing excitedly.
“Almost,” Weiss answered. “A couple more.” She reached over to lightly press down on Ruby’s jittery knee, the girl’s skin feeling incredibly warm to Weiss’ cold hand. The bouncing stopped, but once again as soon as Weiss pulled her hand back the hyperactive jackhammer started up again.
After she finished the last two questions on the trivial, irrelevant side, she nodded at Ruby. Ruby beamed happily and turned her chair ninety degrees to face Weiss. Not wanting to be a jerk, Weiss did the same. The table was a little small for four people, so they were sitting a bit close together and there wasn’t much leg room when they were facing each other, and the problem was only exacerbated by the way Ruby stretched her legs out in front of her, heels on the ground under Weiss’ chair and feet swinging back and forth so her and Weiss’ calves were bumping together. Luckily, they were both wearing stockings, so there was no skin contact, but still… a little uncomfortable.
Ruby didn’t seem to notice, eyes on the paper in her hands, and Weiss tried to dismiss her apprehension. While she might not find it normal, it was kind of nice that Ruby was comfortable enough around her for this casual contact to just feel natural, the way she was with Yang.
“‘Kay!” Ruby chirped, “what’s my favorite color?”
Oh wonderful. They were starting on this side.
“Yep!” Ruby seemed incredibly pleased that Weiss had gotten that right, but Weiss was fairly certain any random stranger off the street could guess that correctly just from looking at the girl. Grimm, Ruby was so red a blind person could probably see it.
Ruby looked at her expectantly, her feet still swinging back and forth, knocking their legs together lightly.
“Oh, right.” Weiss cleared her throat. “Ruby, what’s my favorite color?”
“Blue!” Ruby exclaimed immediately.
When Weiss shook her head with a light smile, her face fell.
“It’s not?” she asked, a slight pout on her face.
Weiss was now very tempted to change her answer, but she still shook her head tightly. “Nope.”
“Is it white?” Ruby grumbled, looking bitter.
Weiss nodded. She liked the purity and symbolism and absoluteness of white. She also liked how it didn’t carry an emotional connotations like most other colors–like how red could be seen as anger, blue as sadness, etc. She was partial to grey and black for the same reason, but she knew she looked far better in white than in grey, and black was a bit of a taboo color in Atlesian high society unless you were in mourning.
“Durn. That was my second guess. Sorry.” Ruby frowned at the floor.
“Why on Remnant are you sorry?” Weiss asked, confused.
“‘Cause I shoulda known that!” Ruby wailed. “You knew mine and I didn’t know yours. I’m a sucky friend.”
Weiss let out a choked, incredulous laugh. “Ruby! That’s not–no. No you’re not. It was a fifty-fifty guess and you got unlucky. I had to guess between red and black, but that was easier because you don’t seem like the kind of person whose favorite color would be black.”
Ruby grinned lightly at that, though her eyes still poured out disappointment. “Red and black is the best looking color combo,” she said quietly.
Weiss smiled. “It certainly is on you.”
She didn’t quite understand the blush that appeared on Ruby’s cheeks.
“Thanks,” Ruby squeaked. “So, um, anyway… What’s my favorite food?!”
“Strawberries. Or cookies. Or strawberry cookies.” That was easy.
Ruby smiled widely and turned her paper around and pointed to the line where she’d written her answer in her big, bubbly handwriting.
‘Strawberries or cookies or strawberry cookies’
Weiss gave Ruby a small smile of her own, a fluttery satisfaction in her heart that her answer was so on point.
“And mine?” she asked.
“Uhhh… Prosho cranberry crusties?”
Weiss rolled her eyes. “That’s still not what they’re called, Ruby.”
“But is that it?!” her partner pressed, excited.
“Aww…” Ruby’s shoulders fell, and she had the non-exaggerated sad face that Weiss knew was a real one.
“Hey,” she said, waiting until Ruby looked up at her to continue. “It’s not your fault you didn’t know. I’ve never said it. And I just know yours because it’s come up a lot.”
It didn’t seem to help all that much. Ruby’s lip twitched in a sad attempt at a smile, and she let out a tiny “Yeah, ok.”
Weiss didn’t know what she was supposed to do, how she was supposed to make Ruby feel better. She had a huge advantage here because Ruby was such an open book about this stuff, while Weiss was… Weiss.
Maybe she should work on being more open. At least with her team. At least with Ruby.
“Would you like to know what it is?” she asked.
“Yes please!” Ruby breathed, worry and relief warring on her face. Weiss didn’t understand at all what was such a big deal about this.
“Have you had shrimp scampi before?” she asked.
Ruby’s eyes widened in recognition. “Oh, yeah! That’s the Eastern Vacuo dish with the shrimp and the skinny noodles, right?”
“Angel hair pasta, yes.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen that on the menu at some restaurants before. Dad doesn’t let us get shrimp, though.”
“Why not?” That seemed like a strange rule. There was nothing wrong wi–
“Too expensive,” Ruby answered with a shrug.
“Oh.” Damn. Now that ‘rich guilt’ was back, even though she hadn’t done anything wrong. She hated this feeling.
“Okay okay okay,” Ruby said, bouncing a little. “I bet you won’t know this one. What’s my favorite movie?”
Weiss gave a rueful smile. “I have no idea,” she admitted. “I don’t really know a whole lot of movies.”
Ruby just smiled. “It’s Revengers: Eternity War!” she said cheerily. “I really like Titanium Man. He’s so cool.”
That name rang a bell in Weiss’ head. “Isn’t he played by… what was his name, Bobert Frowney Junior?”
Weiss nodded. “I met him at the Gala.”
Ruby’s eyes bugged out. “REALLY?! That’s so cool!”
Her sudden spike in volume made Weiss jump and caused others to turn their heads.
“What’s so cool, Rubes?” Yang asked.
“Weiss knows Ti–hmffhmmfrrff!” she answered, Weiss clamping a hand over her mouth mid sentence. Ruby blinked at her, more surprised and amused at Weiss’ reaction than offended or uncomfortable at the contact.
“Shush,” Weiss said, her heart thumping wildly in panic. She didn’t want the attention. She was fine with being in the spotlight, but she wanted it to be for her accomplishments, not because she got an invitation to some pretentious event because of her last name.
“What’s so cool, Weiss?” Yang asked again, switching the target of the question.
“Nothing!” Weiss quickly huffed. “Absolutely nothing about me is ‘so cool’.” She flashed her eyes wider in a warning for Ruby before slowly pulling her hand away.
Despite her expectations, Ruby didn’t just blurt out what she’d been about to say before Weiss had silenced her. Instead, she stayed quiet, a small smile on as her eyes flitted about, taking in everything about Weiss’ face.
Yang snickered. “You’re the Ice Queen for a reason, Weiss. Everything you do is cool!”
“You do realize Weiss probably doesn’t like that nickname, right?” Blake said quietly to her partner.
“What? It’s Weiss. I bet she loves being called a queen.”
Weiss tuned the two of them out. She held Ruby’s gaze for a long time, finding some sort of… not understanding, but maybe acceptance in those silver eyes.
Ruby and Weiss both turned to the table situated behind theirs, where Team KORL was sitting. Orianna was leaning forward, a hand cupped to the side of her mouth like she was trying to block Weiss from hearing her.
“What’s so cool?” she stage whispered.
Ruby smiled and glanced at her partner. “Nothing,” she said. “Just Weiss being Weiss.”
“That’s cheesy as fuck,” Karn declared flatly.
Ruby stuck her tongue out at him while Professor Goodwitch flew in from nowhere.
“Mister Ammolite! You will watch your language in my classroom!”
“Isn’t this Professor Ozpin’s classroom?” Remus asked, his falcon punctuating his question with a loud “skreee!”
“Are you sassing me, Mister Silver?”
“I thought not.” She pointed her riding crop at Karn’s nose, the giant boy crossing his eyes to look down at it. “Watch. Your. Language.” She stalked off.
“You are pretty cool, though,” Ruby said. Weiss turned to find her partner eyeing her with that strange intensity again. “Literally,” Ruby clarified. She reached out slowly, like she was trying to pet wounded animal, and wrapped her hands around Weiss’ fingers. She gave them a little waggle.
“You’re so cold!” she exclaimed, giving a little smile that helped calm Weiss’ nerves at the physical contact.
Weiss shrugged. “It’s a Schnee thing, I guess. Maybe an Aura thing? My siblings and mother have always felt really cold to the touch too.”
“Huh. Neat!” She pulled her hand back and refocused on the paper in her other one. “Next question… What’s my favorite song?”
The back and forth went on for quite a while, each question sparking its own little tangent (that was largely led by Ruby). Weiss idly mused that Professor Ozpin succeeded in his goal of facilitating conversation between teammates.
Apparently Ruby’s favorite song was called “This Will Be the Day”. Her favorite book was a comic line (Weiss wasn’t entirely sure what a ‘line’ of comics was, but she didn’t care enough to ask) called “Fear the Reaper”. Weiss had protested, saying comics weren’t books, but Ruby had assured her that they are because they’re called comic books. Weiss found she didn’t have a good argument against that logic. Ruby’s favorite possession was Crescent Rose, her favorite pastime was spending time with Yang–and now Weiss and Blake were included in that, which was nice.
When they were nearing the bottom of the front page, Professor Ozpin came back to their table, pulling a chair with him and settling down across from them. Weiss righted her seat to face him, and Ruby quickly did the same. Blake and Yang stopped whatever conversation they were having to give the headmaster their attention too.
“So, ladies. Has your game progressed to the back side of the assignment yet?” he asked, smiling lightly.
“Not yet, sir,” Weiss asked. “We were just about to get there.” She turned to look questioningly at Blake and Yang, and they both shook their heads.
“Ah,” the professor said, interlacing his fingers and scooting his chair in. “Then I guess we’ll get to all go through them first together.”
Taking that prompt, the four girls turned their papers over.
“So, the first question. How does your semblance work? This is more for your benefit as a team than mine, so feel free to direct your answers to each other instead of me.” Professor Ozpin leaned back and looked to Ruby, who cleared her throat.
“Ahem. Okay, so Yang knows this and I’ve told Weiss pretty much everything, so I guess this is for you, Blake.”
Blake pursed her lips. “Well gee, thanks, Ruby. That just makes me feel all special inside.” Her face was deadpan, and Weiss couldn’t really tell if she was joking or not…
Apparently Ruby couldn’t either, because her eyes went wide and she stammered guiltily, “N-no! I just–we haven’t gotten to talk too much. I was just, uh, saving the best for last!”
Weiss turned and gave her partner a light, teasing frown that Ruby returned before looking back at Blake. Blake was glaring at Ruby, arms crossed, looking incredibly miffed… and then a smile crept on her face.
“I’m just kidding, Ruby. I know. Now come on, how’s it work? All I can really see is you turn into and shed roses and go super fast.”
Ruby smiled, relieved. “Yeah! So I kinda, like, poof over to another dimension where everything is red and stuff and I get faster and stuff like gravity doesn’t affect me as much and then I run around and I can poof back over whenever I want and if I spend a lot of Aura I can, like, fly and… stuff.”
Blake blinked. Weiss rolled her eyes.
“She shunts herself into a parallel dimension,” Weiss clarified. “She leaves behind an outline of herself made of her Aura, and that outline seems to function like a breach in reality, leaking rose petals from the other side. Why rose petals, I don’t really know.” She shrugged. “But while she’s in that other dimension she’s less constrained and affected by things in the physical world like gravity, friction, impacts, et cetera. Oh, and she can fly.”
Blake blinked, then nodded slowly.
“Yeah, what she said!” Ruby chirped, giving Weiss a grateful, adorably sheepish grin.
“Can you run through walls?” Blake asked, finally speaking up.
Ruby’s eyes widened in surprise. “What?! No. No, stuff is all still there. But I could, like, run into the wall at full speed and it wouldn’t really hurt. It would just feel like running into a wall through three layers of pillows.”
“… Huh,” Blake replied.
Ruby scratched her head. “Yeah… What about you, Weiss?”
Weiss cleared her throat and straightened up, side-eyeing Professor Ozpin to find him simply watching the exchange.
“So my semblance has two parts. The first is the glyphs you’ve all seen.” She turned up a palm and summoned a grey glyph, letting it rotate slowly above her fingers. “By themselves, these glyphs can do three things: they all function as a barrier, while that’s all the grey ones do; the white ones push, and the black ones pull. I can affect their size, distance, and strength through the amount of Aura I put into them and what I… will them to be, I suppose. I can summon multiple glyphs at once, though each one takes mental effort and concentration, so it’s easiest when I can arrange them in a pattern and their all the same type.” She turned to Ruby. “Like that line of white glyphs I made for you up the cliff face against the Nevermore was pretty easy. It gets a lot harder when I try to make different types of glyphs, especially white and black glyphs at the same time, or when I have to arrange them in abstract ways I haven’t practiced and made muscle–mental–memory.”
Her teammates all gave various nods or, in Ruby’s case, excited smiles and goofy side to side wiggles to show they were following.
“Makes sense,” Blake said. “What’s the second part?”
Weiss shook her head. “There’s more to the glyphs, first.”
“What?” Yang blurted in disbelief.
It was hard for Weiss to hide her satisfaction at the surprised expressions on her teammates. She was pretty certain she failed, at least to some degree. “I can also use them to augment my casting with Dust,” she explained. “I mostly use them with ice Dust because that’s what I’m best with and it’s easiest for me to connect the Dust to the glyphs with my Aura, but I’ve made explosions with fire Dust and gravity wells with grav Dust and some other things. Always in practice sessions, though. I’ve only used ice Dust with my glyphs out in the field.”
“H-how do they ‘augment’ your casting?” Blake asked, eyes still wide.
Weiss tilted her head. “They change the source of the casting, so instead of me throwing an ice shard at a Grimm or releasing a wave of frost from my hand, I can have it come out of a glyph. It takes a bit of concentration, though, and a bit more Aura to make the connection. And if the connection fails for whatever reason, like me breaking concentration or not devoting enough Aura, it just fizzles out and does nothing.”
“And I’m guess it take more Aura to connect to your glyphs with Dust you have less affinity with?” Blake asked, now clearly intrigued.
Yang let out a low whistle. “Alright, that’s pretty impressive.” Weiss smiled at the compliment. “And what’s part two?”
Weiss’ smile fell. “Ah, well… You might not see it for a while, if ever.” She hung her head.
“What do you mean?” Ruby asked, giving Weiss a reassuring rub on the shoulder.
Taking a deep breath, Weiss accepted that she had to expound on one of her greatest failings that she would have rather have kept between herself and Winter.
“I can also summon spirits of foes I’ve slain. Or at least, I should be able to. I still haven’t been able to do it, no matter how hard Winter’s tried to teach me.”
“Wait, what the… what?” Yang blurted out. “You can summon… spirits… That’s so fucking random, what?”
“Language…” Professor Ozpin warned.
Yang frowned. “Sorry.. .That’s so… flippin’ random. What?”
Weiss simply tilted her head again. “I don’t know why it’s part of the Schnee semblance. But it is. Winter can summon Nevermores, entire flocks of Lessermores, a pack of Beowolves… tons of stuff. She told me a few months ago she’s added a Goliath to her collection.”
“Whoooa,” breathed Ruby.
Weiss smiled tightly. “Yeah. ‘Whoa’ indeed. But I still have no idea how to do it. I can’t figure out…” She sighed. “I just can’t.”
Ruby gave her shoulder another rub and waited for Weiss to meet her eyes before speaking. “I’m sure you’ll get it, Weiss! Don’t stress about it. You’re awesome. And we’ll do everything we can to help!”
Weiss smiled at that, grateful for Ruby’s fountain of seemingly unending support. Of course, there was nothing she or anyone other than Winter could do to help her, and Winter had already tried everything she could. Weiss was just hopeless.
Still, it was a nice gesture, and Weiss knew it wasn’t an empty one.
“Anyway, that’s me. What about you, Blake?”
The raven-hair girl shifted uncomfortably as the focus switched to her. “Oh, well my semblance isn’t all that much compared to yours. Or Ruby’s. I, uh, I can dash or teleport short distances, and I leave a shadowy clone of myself behind when I do. It sometimes confuses enemies and buys me a second or two, but that’s kinda it.”
This time it was Yang that gave her partner a reassuring shoulder rub. “Blake, if video games have taught me one thing, it’s that mobility is fuuu–freaking overpowered. I bet it’s way more useful than your making it out to be.”
Blake smiled at that, but then cast her head down, face screwing up in doubt.
“How does it work?” Weiss asked. She didn’t know how to make Blake feel any better about her semblance, but maybe if she knew some of its mechanics she could offer some ideas.
Blake cleared her throat a bit. “Well, I can spend a little Aura to kind of… it feels like I push myself out of my body, but I don’t. I suppose I leave an outline of myself in Aura, kinda like you, Ruby.”
The brunette smiled at that. “Neat!”
Blake nodded absently. “If I spend more Aura, I launch myself further. I guess one of the good things about my semblance is it’s cheap, doesn’t cost much Aura, so I can use it a lot. I can spend a buttload of extra Aura to teleport, though I don’t do it much because it’s so costly, and I honestly couldn’t explain how it works or feels…”
“Perhaps something you can explore now that you’re here at Beacon,” Professor Ozpin interjected, a reminder that he was there. Weiss had kind of forgotten.
“Can you use it while you’re in mid-air?” Ruby asked.
“I–yes, I can, why?”
“Does that mean you can double jump?!”
Blake laughed at that. “Yes, I suppose I can. I can jump a lot, actually. It takes about a second for my semblance to… recharge, I suppose you could say.”
“So you have a cooldown!” Yang said, eyes wide with excitement and wonder.
“Uh, yes, I suppose. It takes a bit longer to recharge–”
“Come off cooldown,” Yang interrupted her.
Blake blinked. “Sure, what the heck. It takes a bit longer to… come off cooldown… if my shadow breaks, maybe half a second to a second. But it takes a lot longer to rech–come off cooldown–” Yang smiled widely “–if I get hit while I have a shadow out. I think it gets longer if I have more shadows out, but I’m not sure. I don’t usually have more than one out anyway, ‘cause I mostly use my semblance to dodge attacks, and that results in my shadow getting hit.”
“Something else we can test!” Ruby chirped, getting a nod from both Blake and Professor Ozpin.
“But that’s it,” Blake said with a shrug. “It’s not as versatile as Weiss’ or as flat out powerful as Ruby’s, but I get by okay. What about you, Yang?”
Yang snorted. “Oh, mine’s pretty boring. Pretty strong, though. Whenever I get hit, I can store energy from the impact up, kinda like a battery. And whenever I hit something, I can release it for extra oomph!” She mimed a punch on that last part.
Weiss frowned. “Any technicalities about it?”
Shrugging lightly, Yang answered. “A lil’ bit. It seems like the lower my Aura gets the more energy I can store before it starts just kinda leaking out. And I can only hold on to that energy for a little bit before I have to start paying Aura to keep it there. The more the energy, the more Aura I gotta pay.” She shrugged again. “It’s kinda intuitive, though, and straightforward. I’ve never really had a problem figuring out how to use it.” Her eyes flickered over to Weiss at that part, and then quickly looked away.
That stung, though Weiss did her best to hide it.
“Hmm…” Professor Ozpin joined in, rubbing his chin in thought. “You can store more energy when you’re low on Aura, you say?”
“That makes me think that whatever that energy is, it’s being stored in the same place your Aura is, competing for space.”
With a scratch of her head, Yang nodded. “Yeah, I guess that makes sense.” It was obvious to Weiss that the girl didn’t really think it was an important detail, but she found it fascinating. She would be willing to bet some scientists would love to get readings on Yang, try to figure out what that “energy” is and where it goes to try to find the source of Aura.
“Interesting,” the headmaster mused. “Well, unless any of you have any other questions for each other or things to add, we can move on to the next question.” When all four girls looked at each other and then back at him with a shake of their heads, he nodded.
“Very well. We don’t have to spend so much time on this one, but it will be good for you all to get a picture of how you each approach this. ‘A pack of Beowolves stands in front of you. How do you approach the fight?’”
“Shotgun myself at them and punch them to death!” Yang cheered, far too happy and proud of her simplistic, barbaric answer.
Professor Ozpin smiled amusedly and turned to Blake.
“I, uh… Are we in a forest? Or a city? Or what?”
The headmaster shrugged. “Whatever you’d like. Whatever your ideal situation would be.”
Eyebrows scrunching with thought, Blake nodded. “If we were in a forest, I’d try to lead them through the trees, jump up onto the branches to get a height advantage. Beowolves are bad at maneuvering in tight spaces, so I’d lead them to tight clusters of tree trunks and roots. They have too good a sense of smell to sneak up on them, so I’d focus on just picking off the ones around the side, make sure I don’t get surrounded… Yeah.”
Weiss smiled, pleased that Blake had put so much thought into her answer–much more than Yang had.
Professor Ozpin smiled as well. “Very good, Miss Belladonna. And you, Weiss?”
“Ahem. I would focus on the same thing as Blake–not getting surrounded. I’d try to shape the battlefield with ice Dust, funnel them to me one at a time, take out the ones I could with casting from afar. If they manage to get too close, I’d launch myself away with some glyphs and do it again.”
Ruby didn’t even wait to be addressed before blurting out her answer. “I’d snipe at ‘em as they run at me and then when they get to me I’d zoom around and cut ‘em up with Crescent Rose!”
Weiss groaned and put her face in her hands as Ozpin chuckled.
“Well, it sounds like you four have a good balance of fighters that want to get in the fight and ones that want to stay around the edges. Make sure to plan accordingly when you’re working with Professor Rustheart.”
“Sir, yes sir!” Ruby chirped, giving a goofy thumbs up.
“Next, the difficult hypothetical. ‘Your partner and a bus full of civilians are both in life threatening danger, and you only have time to save one of them. Who do you save?’ Ruby, why don’t you start us off?”
“Oh, uh…” Ruby scratched her head and fidgetted nervously. “This one’s easy! I’d just use my super speed and save them both. Easy peasy.” She grinned worriedly, clearly aware that answer wasn’t going to cut it.
“You only have time to save one of them, Ruby.”
She pouted. “Even with my super speed?”
“Even with your super speed.”
“Ugggh!” She slumped in her seat. It took her a long time to finally answer. “I guess… I guess I’d save the bus…”
Weiss made sure to keep her face impassive as she watched Ruby’s skew up in anguish.
“I’m sorry, Weiss! But we gotta save the innocent peoples and also you’re super awesome and powerful and I would be sure you would be able to protect yourself!”
Weiss shook her head. “It’s okay, Ruby.” It made sense. Ruby wanted to be a hero. She was obligated to save the bus full of innocents. And Weiss was powerful and capable.
Ozpin smiled and nodded. “Remember, there is no right answer here. I’m not expecting or wanting one answer over another. The point of this question is to help you figure out what you prioritize now, before you get in the field, so that you don’t have to make the decision out there and risk being too slow to save anyone.”
Ruby nodded at that, but didn’t seem very consoled. She kept glancing guiltily at Weiss, wringing her hands together and bouncing her knee.
It hurt Weiss to see how distraught the girl was right now. She reached out and grabbed one of Ruby’s hands, dragging it lower so she could press down on her knee as well. Ruby squeezed her hand back like it was a lifeline, giving her a hesitant smile and stilling her leg.
“And what about you, Weiss?” Professor Ozpin asked. “Who would you save?”
“WHAT?!” Ruby legitimately shouted in her ear, making Weiss jump about a thousand feet into the air. Her hand started to go numb from how hard Ruby was now squeezing it.
“Really?” Yang added, her tone of voice making it clear she didn’t believe it.
“You’d save me?” Ruby squeaked.
“Yes, Ruby,” she answered simply.
Weiss frowned, confused why this was such a big deal. “Ruby, you’re training to be a huntress. You’re dedicating your life to serving and protecting the people of Remnant. If I save a bus full of people that’s, what, forty or fifty lives saved? Compared to the amount of people you would go on to save if I protect you instead?” She shrugged. “It just seems logical.”
“Ah, the utilitarian approach,” Professor Ozpin remarked. “And you are comfortable with that? With assigning a value to people’s lives?”
“When we have to deal with situations like this, that seems like the best way to approach it,” Weiss answered. “Trying to deal with abstractions is impossible even in a classroom with a philosophically inclined professor around to lead the discussion.”
Professor Ozpin narrowed his eyes and gave a suppressed smile. “I see. And what if someone in that bus is also a huntsman? Or a doctor that will find the cure for Grimm sickness if he lives? Someone who would arguably save more lives than your partner in the long run?”
Weiss had already considered this. She tilted her head in a shrug. “I can only work with known variables,” she replied. She turned to Ruby, who was staring at her wide-eyed, some weird mix of guilt and concern and surprised etched onto her features.
“Could you please stop crushing my hand?”
“Oh!” Ruby pulled away from Weiss’ hand like it had burned her. “I’m sorry!” Immediately, her leg started its nervous bouncing again, and Weiss resisted the urge to roll her eyes. She reached out and snatched back Ruby’s hand and pressed down on the girl’s knee again.
“It’s okay! Just relax and stop grinding my finger bones together.”
Ruby let out a sad, apologetic whine. “Sorry,” she said again.
Finally, Ruby relaxed a bit, her hand and leg untensing, and she scooted her chair a little closer to Weiss. She then turned to Professor Ozpin. “Can I change my answer? I wanna save Weiss now.”
The headmaster chuckled while Weiss rolled her eyes, fighting back a smile.
“You’re welcome to change and modify your priorities as you see fit. Again, you’re not being graded. This is just to help you figure out yourself and your teammates.”
“Yeah, but I still want to save Weiss, for the record,” Ruby insisted stubbornly.
“Shush,” Weiss said, lightly slapping the back of Ruby’s hand that she held. “What would you do, Blake?”
At the mention of her name, Blake shot Yang a quick glance before turning and addressing Professor Ozpin. “I would save the civilians,” she stated, calm and confident.
Yang’s lips pursed in a bit of a frown, but she quickly wiped it away, no one but Weiss any the wiser.
“And why is that?” Professor Ozpin asked.
“Because we’re huntresses,” Blake answered. “We’ve signed up to protect the people of Remnant, and part of that is accepting the dangers. We all know the risks, that we might die on any hunt, and we’re all… well, maybe we’re not ready for it, but we’ve made peace with it. At least… we should have.” She glanced again at Yang, who was watching her with those soft lilac eyes. Blake continued, “Those civilians haven’t made that peace. They probably didn’t wake up that morning thinking they might die. They still have lives to live. It’s our job to make sure they can.”
Professor Ozpin nodded. “A good answer, though perhaps a touch… fatalistic.”
Blake shrugged and looked down, her hair falling around her face and obscuring it from Yang’s view.
“Still, a well thought-out answer,” Professor Ozpin reasserted. “Where Weiss approached it from a logical standpoint, and Ruby a… an emotional one, you’ve approached it from the standpoint of the role huntsmen and huntresses serve in society.”
Blake nodded slightly, her head still down. Ruby gave Weiss’ hand another squeeze that Weiss wasn’t sure how to interpret.
“And finally we come to Miss Xiao-Long.” Professor Ozpin turned to her. “Who would you save?”
“Blake.” She answered just as quickly and confidently as Blake had, though where Blake had avoided Yang’s eyes after answering, Yang did the opposite, leaning forward slightly to try to glimpse Blake’s face behind her curtain of hair.
Blake’s eyes widened a bit at the answer, but she kept her head down and didn’t give any other reaction.
“And why is that?” Professor Ozpin prompted.
Yang shrugged casually and leaned back. “I know Blake. I like her, from what I know about her so far. I’d be sadder if I let her die than some random people I don’t know.”
“That seems… selfish,” Weiss interjected.
Yang didn’t seem to care about that verdict. “Maybe. But maybe it’s… I dunno. I don’t deal with loss well. So…” She waved a hand towards Weiss. “I guess it’s like your thing. I’d save more people and do more good overall if I kept Blake alive.”
“A benefit, though not a factor in your decision…?” the headmaster said, trailing the statement into a question at the end.
Yang frowned. “No. Not really.”
“Yang?” Ruby’s tiny voice came. Everyone turned to her. “What do you mean you don’t deal with loss well? You’ve always been…” She floundered as she tried to find the right word. Her eyes flickered across the people present that weren’t her sister, like she wanted to say something but not in front of them. “… awesome,” she finished quietly.
Yang smiled sadly and looked off to the side. “Yeah,” she whispered, so quietly Weiss barely heard it, and she was certain Ruby hadn’t.
“I might suggest that you try working that out, Miss Xiao-Long,” the headmaster said. When Yang looked at him questioningly, he clarified, “The value you place on your emotional well-being and the lives of innocents.”
Yang scowled darkly at that. “And Blake isn’t an innocent?”
“I’m not,” Blake whispered to the tabletop.
Yang turned to her. “What was that, Blakey-Blake? Sorry, I didn’t hear you.”
Blake sighed, cringing, and turned to meet Weiss’ eyes and shake her head almost imperceptibly. The message was clear: leave it alone.
Professor Ozpin seemed to want to steer the conversation away from this emotionally charged moment, though. He cleared his throat. “Well, this is a question that’s good for you all to think about. And you can swap other people out for your partner in this hypothetical and see if and how your answer changes. But we’re getting close to the end of class here, so I want to skip down to this question that I would like to know the answer to: ‘What is one equipment or modification you would like to enhance your fighting style?’”
Ruby bounced up and down excitedly, though she still kept a firm–but gentle–hold on Weiss’ hand. “Ooh, ooh! Pick me first! I wanna go first!”
“Ahem. Ruby, why don’t you go first?” Professor Ozpin said with a poorly concealed smile.
“Yes! Okay, so there are a bunch of things that would be really good. I was thinking maybe some boots with grav Dust enhancements so I could run even faster and jump even higher, ‘cause that would be cool!” She looked at her teammates, and it took Weiss a moment to realize the girl was looking for confirmation.
“Yes, very cool,” she said.
Ruby’s beaming grin widened. “Yeah! Also, it would be really nice to just get some exosuit gauntlet things that could enhance my strength a bit, ‘cause Crescent Rose is kinda heavy.”
“Or you could just actually do the upper body stuff when you work out with me, Rubes,” Yang said, the teasing way she pressed her lips together making it clear she didn’t expect Ruby to agree.
“Ugh, but that’s gross and hard, Yang,” Ruby protested.
“That’s how you know it’s making you stronger, doofus.”
Ruby scowled adorably. “Yeah, or I could just make super gloves! An-y-way, yeah, there’s that. Also, some better steel for Crescent Rose’s blade would be great, ‘cause then I’d have room to add Dust ports and have, like, a flame blade or a wind slash or lightning sweep or who knows what else! I wonder what putting gravity Dust on a blade would do…”
“Noted,” Professor Ozpin said, though Weiss noticed he didn’t have anything to write on. He probably had a decent memory though, hopefully enough to handle all of Ruby’s word vomit. “Anything else?”
Ruby shook her head. “Those are the biggest single things I could think of.”
The professor nodded. “And you, Weiss?”
Weiss tilted her head to shrug. “I couldn’t think of anything.”
“What?!” Ruby squawked. “But you need a gun! You’re the only huntress ever whose weapon isn’t also a gun!”
“I am not!”
Professor Ozpin chuckled. “She is most certainly not the only one. This whole ‘my sword is also a gun’ thing seems to be a generational fad.”
Ruby crossed her arms defiantly. “Uncle Qrow’s weapon turns into a gun!”
The headmaster smiled. “He added that feature much later, after he started teaching at Signal.”
Ruby’s eyes went wide in surprise. “Really?”
“Of course. That’s why its pistol form looks so…”
“Goofy?” Yang supplied.
The professor tilted his head, not confirming or denying the description.
“Oh,” Ruby said, deflating a bit. “Well, you still need a gun, Weiss. Maybe just, like, a little revolver that fits thematically with Myrtenaster–like what General Ironbro uses!” Professor Ozpin raised his eyebrows at the nickname, but Ruby didn’t notice because her excitement was rebuilding. “And you can modify it to fire Dust rounds so you can do your super awesome magic stuff and make everything go pssheww!” She mimed an explosion. “Oh! Or you could get a gauntlet for your off hand with hard-light Dust so you can create a shield whenever you need it, so you can run around like an epic knight with a sword and shield!”
Weiss raised an eyebrow. “Ruby, my sword is a rapier. The fighting style for a rapier doesn’t work with a shield.”
“Yeah, well then you can just make your own fighting style, duh!”
“Well, think on it, Weiss,” Professor Ozpin said. “If you decide you like one of those ideas, or come up with another, let me know and we can look at getting something set up next semester.”
Weiss shook her head. “Thank you, sir, but it’s okay. I can more than afford it myself.”
That gave Professor Ozpin pause. “True enough. Though just know that we do have a small budget devoted to equipping each student, should you decide to make use of it.”
“Ooh!” Yang perked up. “How big is it?”
“I’m not at liberty to say, unfortunately.”
Weiss smiled. “It’s fine, Yang. Your budget is my fortune, so don’t worry about it.”
Yang looked like she was about to protest–Weiss still didn’t understand Yang’s refusal to accept her money–but Ruby let out a little “heeeee” of happiness and hugged Weiss’ side, releasing her hand in the process.
“You’re the best, Weiss!”
Stiffly, Weiss reached up and patted Ruby’s head where it rested on her shoulder. “Yes, I am, aren’t I? Now get off of me, I need to breathe periodically.”
Ruby giggled and pulled away, flashing her another beaming smile.
“Well if Weiss will be funding your team, this is a bit superfluous,” Ozpin said, partly to himself, “though for my own sake I’d still like to get your answers, Miss Belladonna and Xiao-Long.”
Blake fidgetted, finally pulling her hair back again so Yang could see her face. “Well, I’m not really sure. The best thing I could think of would be simple, just modifying Gambol Shroud to shoot Dust rounds. Maybe if my semblance works with Dust then I could add something to my sheath or something so I could have Dust stored there. I don’t know, really.”
The professor nodded, and Weiss quickly clamped a hand over Ruby’s mouth when she opened it to blurt out what Weiss presumed was more excited nonsense. Ruby pouted at her under her hand, but stayed quiet.
“And you, Miss Xiao-Long?”
Yang rolled her shoulders. “I thi–wait, could you just call me Yang? ‘Miss Xiao-Long’ makes me feel old as fuu–heck.”
Professor Ozpin nodded.
“And I’m just Blake, please,” Blake poked in.
“Very well. And what would you like, Yang?”
“I was thinking armor of some sort, ‘cause I talked to Weiss last night and came to the conclusion that I’m gonna be the team’s tank, so I kinda want some protection. But at the same time, I get stronger when I get low on Aura, in a way, so I dunno. There’s a weird dynamic where I want to take damage up to a certain point, but then any more damage doesn’t really help because I’m probably not going to cap out on my semblance’s energy when its max gets high. But I don’t know how to get armor that only works after I take some hits.” She shrugged.
Ruby reached up and gently pulled Weiss’ hand down from her mouth, giving Weiss a questioning look like she wanted permission to speak.
Weiss gave her a nod.
“You could do, like, a hard-light armor thing that you can turn on and off?” she offered.
“You and your hard-light shenanigans,” Blake muttered.
“Hey, it’s really cool and awesome, okay?” Ruby protested. “And apparently it can be made into whatever you want. So hmph!” She stuck her tongue out.
“Is that a thing?” Yang asked, directing her question at Weiss. “A personalized hard-light armor set?”
Weiss shook her head slowly. “I don’t think so, not yet. The ‘shields’ I talked about before were big bubble force fields that were too big to be feasibly applied to anything other than mechs. But maybe… I don’t know. A lot of research is being done into the tech. And huntsmen have been doing their own experimenting and developing into it. That’s where some of the better weapon projection designs have come from.”
“Oh really?” Yang asked, straightening up a bit.
“Yes. And if you develop something really good, you can patent the code and sell the rights to the SDC–or some other companies too, I suppose–for a lot of money.”
“Neat!” Yang exclaimed, clearly excited by the prospect. That only served to frustrate Weiss more, though. Why did Yang have such a problem accepting gifts from Weiss, but she had no inhibitions about getting paid by Schnee Dust for a string of code?
Whatever. If Weiss couldn’t understand it, that was probably because it wasn’t understandable. Knowing Yang, her reasons probably weren’t rooted in something sensible, like rational logic.
“Okay.” Professor Ozpin clapped his hands together. “It sounds like you four have a little bit more figuring out to do about this. Please let me or the other professor know if you decide on something, even if Weiss pays the bill. We still have resources and knowledge for you to make at your disposal.”
“Thank you, sir,” Weiss said, quickly echoed by her teammates.
“In the meantime, I encourage you to discuss the rest of these questions with each other, and if you’d like, you can always stop by my office and discuss them with me as well.” He stood from his chair. “I’m going to go check with the other groups, but class is over. I hope you ladies have a lovely day. See you tomorrow.”
“Bye, Professor!” Ruby chirped as she jumped from her seat. “Come on, Team RWBY! Iiiiiii’m hungry!”
Weiss rolled her eyes and followed her partner out of the classroom.
“So, Ruby,” she said once the four of them were out in the hallway.
“So, Weiss,” Ruby replied with a grin, adding an extra hiss to the end of her name.
“Those ideas that you had…”
Ruby perked up. “Yeah?”
“A couple of them will take some work, but I can get you some high quality steel for Crescent Rose pretty easily if you’d like.”
The smile she got in return made her decide she’d throw whatever amount of money out the window it took to help Ruby with this project. “Weiss, that would be awesome! Ooh, I should call Uncle Qrow and ask him to come help me with it!”
She pulled out her scroll, and Weiss quickly yanked her arm down. “Relax, Ruby. I haven’t even bought it, yet. Let’s figure out exactly what you need, first, then you can work out the rest.”
Ruby nodded, completely undeterred. “For sure! Uncle Qrow’s weapon is ten sixty carbon steel, but he doesn’t fold and unfold his as much as I do. I’m pretty sure fifty-one sixty-six or maybe ninety-two sixty spring steel would be best.”
Weiss blinked. She had definitely not been expecting that answer. She didn’t even know what it meant.
It was a strange feeling, to find a subject where Ruby had more knowledge than Weiss. It made her feel itchy, but also… impressed. It was almost gratifying that there was a knowledgeable, intellectual side of Ruby for her to relate to.
She liked it.
With a smile, she said, “Sounds like you already know. We can look at ordering something when we get back to the room, yeah?”
Instead of responding with words, Ruby through her arms around Weiss’ waist and lifted her a couple inches in the air.
“You’re awesome, Weiss!”
“Careful, Ruby,” Blake’s voice said from behind them. “She needs to breathe periodically, remember?”
Ruby set her down, and Weiss turned to see Blake and Yang walking shoulder to shoulder. “Thanks,” she said to Blake, rubbing her lower rib where Ruby’s wrists had dug into her.
“That class sucked,” Yang griped, changing the conversation instantly. Clearly something had bothered her. Weiss wasn’t sure how well she could help resolve it.
Apparently she didn’t need to, though.
Ruby rushed to her sister’s side and gave another hug, though when she tried to lift Yang off the ground she failed miserably.
“Grr,” she grumbled, giving up. She looked up at Yang. “You okay?”
Yang gave a small, forced smile and put an arm around Ruby. “Yeah, Pipsqueak. I’m alright. Ready to see you rock some rocket boots.”
“Me too!” Ruby agreed happily. From where she was at Yang’s side, she couldn’t see her sister’s smile falter. She launched into an enthused rant about what her “rocket boots” would be like.
When Yang met her eyes, Weiss gave the girl a questioning frown, but Yang just shook her head.
Weiss gave a small nod. This she understood. A lot about Yang didn’t make sense to her, but putting on a brave face? That she got. She didn’t understand why Yang was hiding herself from Ruby–it was entirely backwards from Weiss’ experience, where she put on a false smile for everyone but her sister–but she’d at least wait to ask her about it in private.
That decision surprised her. She’d decided to talk to Yang about it later so easily, almost in passing, when she hadn’t even consciously decided she cared enough to ask in the first place.
‘How the Crucible did that happen?’ she wondered to herself.
Her introspection was interrupted as her name came up in Ruby’s blather about her boots.
“… not really sure how that would work. But if it did, it would be soooooo cool!”
“I’m sorry, Ruby, what did you say?” Weiss asked. She’d missed too much to piece anything together.
“I said I might need your help figuring out how to make the gravity Dust in the boots work, ‘cause you know Dust way more than me.”
“Oh, right. Sure.”
Ruby skipped a step. “Sweet! And I was wondering: do you know what happens if I apply gravity dust to Crescent Rose’s blade? ‘Cause I’m really curious to find out but I don’t want to, like, implode my weapon or something.”
“I have no idea, sorry.”
“Durn. Oh well. Hey, Blake! Do you think…”
Ruby jabbered on, and eventually Yang’s smile came back in full. Blake, it seemed, was similarly uplifted. Whatever funk she’d fallen into after saying she wasn’t innocent was worn away by Ruby’s effusive bubbliness.
Weiss still wanted to know more about that, too, but now wasn’t the time. Now was the time for crappy cafeteria food and enjoying Ruby’s happy banter. Plus, hopefully some of these ridiculous ideas might be something feasible they could use to get stronger.
She fell in step beside Blake and enjoyed the moment with her team.