Ruby stirred from her dream of bashing a Grimm to death with a giant chocolate chip cookie unhappily. It was such a good dream! She was killing monsters and having a yummy snack at the same time!
‘Go back to sleep, Ruby. Go back to sleep!’
She couldn’t go back to sleep.
‘Ugh. What time is it anyway?’
Rolling over, diluted rays of sunlight greeted her eyes through the blinds. It was so bright! Not really, but Ruby was still kind of sleepy and very grumpy that she was awake, so she felt like being dramatic.
Now where was her darn scroll? Remembering yesterday, she wiggled her foot around. Nope, not there. She rolled over and looked down at the bookshelf that sat so low she could only just barely reach the top from her bunk.
Oh hey! There it was, plugged in to charge overnight. She only now remembered having done that. The Responsible Ruby Rose.
She reached down and grabbed the scroll, flipping it open to find it was already 10:15. That made sense. They’d been up late gaming. Well, she and Yang had been gaming. Blake and Weiss had kept them company, which had been really nice. They’d both been mostly reading their books, but it felt like they were a team for real in those few hours. She, Yang, and Blake had stayed up past midnight out there. Weiss left early to go to bed, and they’d accidently woken her up when they came back to the room to sleep themselves. She’d been maaaaaaaaad.
Ruby felt bad just remembering it.
Yang and Blake were both still sleeping soundly, and Ruby felt like going back to sleep was a good idea. She leaned over the edge of her bunk to peek at Weiss.
‘Wait. Where’s Weiss?’
The girl’s bed was empty, and it had been made so meticulously that Ruby wouldn’t have known somebody had slept in it last night had she not seen Weiss there herself.
Had she gone out for a run again? That made the most sense. Although hadn’t she done that at, like, seven in the morning? Weiss struck Ruby as a creature of habit, so unless she’d been running for over three hours, there had to be another explanation.
Maybe she’d gone to breakfast? Or maybe she’d gone to cl–
She tumbled to the ground with a squeak. “Yang! Yang wake up! Blake!” She rushed over and shook Blake’s shoulder. “Blake, we gotta go to class!”
Blake groggily rolled over, mumbling through her sleepiness, “No, it’s okay. I just hit snooze on my alarm.”
What? Wait a minute…
“What time did you set your alarm for?”
Blake’s pretty amber eyes blinked open slowly. “Nine?”
“Blake, it’s ten fifteen!”
That was a caffeine shot straight to Blake’s veins. “Oh crap.” She jumped out of bed, smacking her head on the bottom of Yang’s bunk with a hiss of pain as Yang slowly pushed herself up.
“We’re late for class!” Ruby screeched as she ran into the bathroom to find something to change into.
Shirt! Pants! Boots! Cloak!
She dashed back out to see Yang and Blake both stumbling out of their bathroom, clothed and pulling on shoes and sandals of their own.
“Let’s go!” Ruby streaked to the door.
“Wait, where?!” Yang shouted before Ruby could semblance away.
‘Crap.’ Ruby had no idea where their class was, or even which class they were going to.
Blake saved the day, dashing over to her desk. “Here! The schedule!”
The two sisters crowded around her as she figured out where they were going. “Introduction to Dust Theory, Professor Goodwitch, Building A, room 101.”
“To Building A!” Ruby shouted. They’d figure out where Building A was on the way.
“Wait, where’s Weiss?” Blake asked as they ran through the hall.
“I have no idea!” Ruby shouted over her shoulder.
Yang’s voice came out as a growl. “I bet that pompous jerk went to class without waking us up.”
That didn’t sound right, though, did it? That would be kind of… inconsiderate? Although… waking them up wasn’t really her responsibility, was it? But that’s what a good teammate would do…
It took them what felt like an incredibly long five minutes to find building A–Ruby was pretty sure the sun set at least four times while they were looking. Luckily, room 101 was the first door in the building.
“Ruby, wait!” Yang shouted right before Ruby sprinted into the classroom.
It seemed to be a hybrid classroom/lab setup thing. In the front of the room was a whiteboard and projector system, and four large, curved tables with four seats each for the four freshman teams. In the back were four separate lab stations, complete with doodads and gizmos that looked very expensive and very breakable.
Professor Goodwitch, the grumpy blonde huntress that had saved Ruby on the rooftop weeks ago (not really though, Ruby had totally had that situation under control) looked like she’d been giving a lecture before she abandoned her life calling of teaching in exchange for glaring daggers into Ruby.
“Miss Rose. How nice of you to join us. I hope the rest of your team is with you? Miss Schnee would still look out of place if she only had one teammate sitting with her.”
Ruby looked over and found Weiss sitting alone at one of the two front tables, notebook and pen and textbook in front of her (crap, Ruby had forgotten to bring her supplies), head down and pinching the bridge of her nose and just looking really, really frustrated in general.
Yang and Blake slowly tiptoed into the room. “Heh. Uhhh, hiya Teach,” Yang said nervously. “Funny sto–”
“Sit down,” Professor Goodwitch commanded sternly.
The three of them rushed to their seats next to Weiss, and as they did, the professor continued, “And you will address me as ‘Professor’ in this classroom or you’ll be doing it in detention. Your choice.”
Yang gave a very forced, very nervous smile and whispered “sorry” so quietly it probably seemed to anyone not sitting next to her like she was just mouthing the words.
“Now, since you children missed the first part of your first ever lesson at this highly prestigious academy–” she gave them a pointed glare “–I’m curious if one of you would be able to name the different kinds of Dust that we were just discussing. Miss Rose, why don’t you take the lead.”
There seemed to be a pointed barb there at the end, though Ruby wasn’t… quite sure wh–ooooh, ‘cause she’s team leader. Right. By her side, Weiss still had her eyes closed and was still pinching the bridge of her nose, taking really long, deep, angry breaths.
“Oh, um, of course! There’s red Dust and blue an–”
“Don’t just give me the colors, give me the elements they correspond to. This is a huntsman academy, not a coloring book seminar.”
Coloring book seminar? Were those a thing? What would they have to talk about other than ‘color inside the lines’? Although that was pretty hard…
“Um… ahem, yes.” She started over, aware that every eye in room (except for Weiss’) was on her. Nothing to be nervous about, though. Everything was juuuuuuust fine.
“Red is fire. Bl–dark blue is water. Light blue is ice. Yellow is lightning…” Jeez, was it hot in here or what? It was probably from all the eyes on her. It was a commonly known fact that too many people looking at one person can set that person on fire. This would be a lot easier if they’d all just look away–and maybe go away while they were at it…
“Is that it?” the professor asked, clearly unimpressed.
“No! No. Dark green is earth, light green is wind. Purple is gravity. Orange is lava–or molten, I guess. Um… Oh, there’s white Dust, which is light, but doesn’t do all the much…” That was it, right? “Oh! And there’s hard-light dust! Which is not actual dust, it’s a liquid byproduct of the white dust creation process.” She puffed up her chest proudly at dropping that knowledge bomb, and felt really proud of herself for remembering what Weiss had said.
Weiss, as it happened, opened her eyes to look at her then, her curious expression saying something along the lines of “Huh, you were actually listening.”
Professor Goodwitch nodded. “Very good.” Ruby beamed. “And it seems Miss Schnee has already begun sharing some of her knowledge with her team.”
Ruby blinked. What made her assume Ruby hadn’t known that herself?
“She said the exact same words ten minutes ago. When she was in class. On time.”
From behind her and on the opposite side of the room, Cardin and that dumb gross mohawk boy sniggered at her. ‘Shut up, dummies.’ From the table in front of Team CRDL, Pyrrha gave her a reassuring smile and a thumbs up under the table.
That made her feel better.
“Now, back to where we were at,” the professor said, moving back behind her standing-desk-for-speeches thing. What was it called? Pendulum? Possum? Podium! That was it. “Who here is familiar with the concept of Aura harmonizing?”
Weiss raised her hand, as did Pyrrha, though more hesitantly.
Professor Goodwitch nodded like she’d expected that. “Anyone other than Miss Nikos and Miss Schnee?”
The room was still.
The professor exhaled heavily. “Miss Nikos, would you like to explain it to the class?”
“Oh…” Pyrrha said quietly. “I’m sure Weiss would explain it better. I can try, though?” For a world famous champion, she seemed really shy. And modest.
Ruby liked her!
“Go ahead and explain what you can. We can consult Miss Schnee’s expertise after.”
The words seemed to make Weiss float. All of a sudden she went from looking frustrated and tense to positively glowing with pride. How did she keep her back so straight? It made her look, like, ten feet taller than she actually was. Well, that and her heels, though those didn’t matter right now ‘cause she was sitting down.
“Well… After being around a particular Dust crystal for long enough, a huntsman or huntress’ Aura will attune to it. Once it’s attuned, only that huntsman or huntress can activate the crystal with their Aura. It won’t work for anyone else.”
There was a long silence as the professor waited for elaboration. When none was forthcoming, she clapped her hands once. “Yes! That is a very succinct and basic way to put it, and most of the important bits you need to remember for application outside the classroom. Miss Schnee,” she turned to Weiss, whose chin somehow rose even higher in response. “Could you provide more information?”
Weiss gave a short nod. “The Principle of Dust Harmonization is the unexplained property Dust has in which it will attune to the Aura of anyone whose Aura has been unlocked–not just huntsman and huntresses–if exposed to them for a period of time. The amount of time it takes for the attunement to take place varies on several factors, the most prevalent being the size of the crystal, the strength of the person’s Aura, and the person’s affinity for that Dust type. The advantages of this phenomenon are as Pyrrha said–other people can’t activate Dust you’ve attuned to. So if you’re in a fight and someone steals your weapon, they won’t be able to use the Dust against you. And if they hit a Dust vial or round that you have on your person with an Aura infused attack, it won’t explode on you. It also gives you greater control over how exactly the element of the Dust acts once you activate a crystal, giving you greater finesse with your Dust casting. There are some disadvantages too, like you can’t share Dust rounds and your teammates can’t use your weapon as effectively if they end up with it in a fight.”
Professor Goodwitch opened her mouth to say something then, but Weiss didn’t notice and kept on going.
“It also makes the manufacturing of Dust more difficult, as the people involved in the process must all be unawakened. From mining, to refining, to mixing, to packing, nobody can have their Aura unlocked or you run the risk of shipping out useless Dust, as once Dust is harmonized with someone it cannot be unattuned from that individual.”
Towards the end, Ruby noticed Cardin mocking Weiss, his hands folded in front of him and his nose up in the air as he pretended to talk.
Professor Goodwitch noticed too. “Would you like to repeat all of that back to me this Saturday at detention, Mister Winchester? No?” She turned back to Weiss.
“Thank you, Miss Schnee. That was very apt and informative.”
Weiss smiled, a small, controlled smile that didn’t show any teeth. It was obvious she was pleased, though, because her sky blue eyes were dancing.
Professor Goodwitch walked out from behind her pendulum–podium!–and Ruby noticed that she was holding a tiny crystal of pale green Dust in her hand.
“It’s also important to note how the harmonizing actually takes place,” she said, eyes moving between the students before her. “I’ve had this crystal on the podium for the past twenty five minutes, and it has now become fully attuned to me just from my proximity.” She held it between her index finger and thumb and pinched it. It shattered with a whoosh of air that lifted papers off the desk and sent students–the ones that had actually brought stuff to take notes on–scrambling to keep everything down.
“Now passive attunement like that will take longer for you students because your Auras won’t be as potent. You can also speed up the process by making physical contact with a crystal and gently pushing some of your Aura into it. Be careful not to set it off unintentionally. If you are still having to actively concentrate on projecting your Aura, which I assume all of you are past that point, then you won’t be able to passively attune.”
She walked back to her podium. “You can also prevent or, at the very least, extremely delay, harmonization by suppressing your Aura, though as you’re likely aware you should never be doing such a thing while out in the field. Now…”
Ruby started to tune out much of what the professor was saying. Not that it wasn’t interesting! Dust was super cool and let people do all kinds of crazy awesome pseudo-magic. But the lecture was so borrrrrring, and Ruby had never really been good with Dust casting anyway. And that was okay! Crescent Rose and her semblance were more than enough to take on the stupid evil Grimm monsters anyway!
As the minutes ticked by, Ruby really wished she’d brought her notebook with her so she could doodle. Classes were so much more fun when she was able to continue drawing the saga of the great Penguins Versus Aliens war! But alas, here she was. Bored.
She rested her cheek on her palm and suppressed a yawn, and luckily Professor Goodwitch didn’t notice.
But Weiss did.
Ruby’s partner kicked her foot under the table and gave Ruby a super-mega death glare. Seriously. If Ruby didn’t already know it was glyphs of nonsensical, over-the-top power, she would have thought that killer glare was Weiss’ semblance.
Ruby straightened up and tried her best to pay attention.
“… when you go to your Huntsman Combat class with Professor Rustheart–”
“Wait, what?” Weiss interrupted the professor.
Yeah, that’s right. Weiss. Interrupted a professor.
Ruby perked up. Things were getting interesting.
“As in Nidas Rustheart?” Weiss continued, shock painted in heavy strokes on her face.
Wait… That name sounded familiar…
“From Team NOBL?” Pyrrha asked.
Professor Goodwitch looked like she’d just died inside. “Yes. And yes.”
“Wait,” Yang contributed to the class for the first time in forever. “The Hero of Molvane is our professor?”
“OH!” That’s why it sounded familiar! She played as Nidas, Hero of Molvane in Huntsman Royale II all the time!
Whoa. One of her professors is so famous and awesome he’s in a video game. How freaking awesome was that?!?!?!
“I based my weapon off of his,” breathed a girl behind her–Ruby was pretty sure her name was Ophelia or something with an O. She was the O in team KORL.
“But wait,” Pyrrha added, her eyebrows furrowed. “Didn’t he graduate from Beacon, like, four years ago?”
“Yes!” Professor Goodwitch threw her hands up in the air. “He’s so young I was his professor, but now he’s the cool teacher that everyone’s excited about.” She seemed pretty bitter about that.
Yang laughed. “Well yeah! Are you in Huntsman Royale Two?”
The professor looked toward the back of the classroom. “This is your fault,” she griped, crossing her arms.
Ruby turned around–holy crap, Professor Ozpin was here! When the heck did he come in? He was leaning against the nearest lab table, one hand on his cane, chuckling.
He slowly righted himself and walked toward the front of the class. “Yes, yes. Your new professor is very famous and… cool. You should still treat him with the respect due to his station at this academy, and it would be best to nip this conversation in the bud until after class is over.”
“Didn’t he kill a bunch of people?” Nora blurted out.
“What? No!” Weiss cried indignantly. “He incapacitated the bandits that attacked Molvane. He didn’t kill anyone.”
“No, he definitely killed some of them,” Ozpin corrected.
All sixteen pairs of student’s eyes went wide as they stared at him.
Ozpin sighed. “It was an incredibly chaotic situation and he wasn’t able to exercise proper restraint with so many people in danger, including himself. His semblance is also very prone to delivering lethal blows if he isn’t very careful.”
“Yeah, for real,” Yang huffed.
If the video game was correct, Nidas’–or rather, Professor Rustheart’s–semblance was building up energy from hitting enemies and then releasing it in powerful kinetic blasts, either from himself or his weapon, which was a pair of scimitars whose hilts clicked together to form a hard-light longbow.
Ruby and Yang always fought over who got to play him ‘cause he was really freaking cool.
Professor Ozpin continued talking. “He has also made every effort both until and since then to make sure he wouldn’t harm anyone so badly that they died.” He looked around pointedly.
“Got it!” Ruby chirped. “Noooooo killing people.”
Ozpin gave a single, quick nod of confirmation. “Good. Now I think I’m slowly coming to the realization that you all are far too distracted to retain any more information today about Dust theory…” He trailed off and looked to Professor Goodwitch, who sighed heavily and nodded. “Yes. Why don’t we call that the end of class, today?”
Everyone excitedly got up, those that had supplies hastily stuffing them in their bags–except for Weiss, she was still slow and poised and princessy about it. “Don’t forget about your afternoon class with Professor Port! And make sure you’re on time.” He looked at Ruby.
“Heh, yeah, you got it,” she said weakly, scratching the back of her head before dashing out into the hallway and bouncing on her toes while she waited for her team. She gave friendly nods to everyone as they passed (even Team CRDL, who just laughed at her for some reason).
“Still got a little bit of bed head there Ruby,” Pyrrha whispered with a smile as she passed.
“I think it’s cute!” Nora practically yelled. It seemed like Nora just yelled everything she said. Ruby could respect that. If it’s not worth saying loud, is it worth saying at all?
“See you guys this afternoon,” Jaune told her with a small wave.
“You too!” Ruby replied with a goofy salute. It… felt right in the moment.
“Ruby!” Yang shouted, bursting out of the class, throwing her into a headlock, and tusseling her already terrible hair. “Freakin’ Nidas is our fighting instructor!”
Why Yang needed to put her in a headlock to say that, Ruby wasn’t sure. She was, like, forty-five percent sure it was unnecessary. Yang was always right about everything though, so she decided to let it go.
“I know! This place is awesome!”
“Hold on,” Blake said, stopping. “Who is this guy?”
“Only the second coolest huntsman ever!” Yang threw her arms in the air as she yelled it, thankfully letting Ruby go so she didn’t have to walk with a bent back anymore. She rubbed her neck to get the knot out of it.
“Who’s the first?” Weiss asked.
“Our uncle Qrow,” Ruby and Yang replied in unison.
Weiss narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips in doubt.
“Anyway,” Yang said, turning back to Blake, “there’s a village to the east of Vale on the other side of the mountains named Molvane. One day a giant bandit tribe tried to attack them, and Nidas–”
“Professor Rustheart,” Weiss interjected.
Yang waved her hand. “Whatever. Professor Awesome was there turning in a mission for his team for a Grimm hunt. He freaking destroyed the entire tribe all by himself, and they’d even had some rogue huntsmen with them. So he’s, like… awesome. And he’s our favorite character to play in Huntsman Royale Two!”
Ruby nodded excitedly in confirmation.
Blake nodded slowly at the story. “I see. Sounds like he knows how to fight.”
“Heck yeah, he does!”
Ruby and Yang spent the next couple of minutes blabbering about his moveset in the video game. Blake seemed to be politely tuning them out until they mentioned his semblance.
“How exactly does it work?” she said, an inexplicable look of concern on her face.
“He charges up from hitting bad guys!” Ruby explained again. “Then he can release the energy in big shockblast things that look awesome and do tons of damage!”
Blake paled and frowned, looking down at the ground.
“What’s wrong?” Yang asked.
“N-nothing. I just… know someone with a similar semblance.”
Yang grinned. “Is it me? It’s basically my semblance but he needs to land hits instead of taking them. And… And he can use it on his weapons, I guess. But mines cooler ‘cause my hair catches on fire!”
Ruby reached up and patted her sister’s shoulder. “Yes, yes. You’re much cooler than the guy that saved an entire village by himself and got put in a video game and is world famous.”
Yang turned and glared at her. “Is that sarcasm I’m detecting, dearest sister?” The words had an edge to them that suggested if she gave the wrong answer she was going to suffer from death by tickle.
“Not at all!” she squeaked. “You’re the coolest ever!”
It was kinda true though. Uncle Qrow was awesome. Dad was awesome. Nidas was pretty sweet. But when it came down to it, Yang was the best.
Yang nodded, satisfied with her answer.
‘Phew. Safe… for now.’
“I suppose the person I’m thinking of kind of has a mix between your semblance and Professor Awesome’s,” Blake told Yang.
“Neat!” There was a brief moment of silence before Yang stopped suddenly in her tracks. “Wait.” She jabbed a finger at Weiss, and her eyes started shifting towards the dark purple that meant red was close at hand. “Why didn’t you wake us up?!”
Weiss seemed confused and insulted. “Excuse me?”
“You heard me! We’re your teammates and you didn’t even bother waking us up when you left for class!”
Weiss scowled and clenched her tiny little princess hands into fists. “First of all, it’s not my responsibility to make sure you wake up for your first class ever in this school. It’s not my responsibility to wake you up ever.” Yang started to shoot something back at her, but she kept going. “And second, I got to class over an hour early because I was already up. I didn’t think I’d need to be around to be a living alarm clock for you idiots!”
Ruby pouted. “Hey, that’s not nice.”
“Is there another word to describe someone that doesn’t bother to set an alarm before their first day of classes in an academy they’ve been granted a scholarship to?”
Ruby stayed silent. No, she didn’t really have another word for it. That was really dumb of her, and she really hoped Professor Ozpin wasn’t considering revoking her invitation to Beacon. Still, it wasn’t nice to say….
“Why were you already awake so early?” Yang asked, clearly confused why someone wouldn’t want to sleep in as long as possible.
“What does it matter?” Weiss spat, crossing her arms across her chest defensively.
“Did you go for a run again?” Ruby asked.
Weiss’ eyes went wide for a brief moment before she nodded.
She nodded again.
Well, Ruby had been right. Weiss was a creature of habit. That was good to know.
Yang seemed to defuse a bit, her eyes sliding back towards lilac. “Well, you could have called when we weren’t there on time.”
Weiss rolled her eyes. “I was actually paying attention to the class. And I’m not your mother, Yang.”
Yang huffed and started walking away. “No, our mom was a way better person than you.”
Weiss blinked in shock. Her expression started to flicker between anger and sadness, and she turned to stalk off in the other direction.
“Leave me alone, Ruby,” she sighed, not turning to look at Ruby as she said it.
She was going to follow after Weiss anyway to try to make sure she was okay (that’s what partners were for, right?), but Blake grabbed her arm and shook her head.
“Let her be alone right now, Ruby.”
That made no sense to Ruby. Weiss was sad and the whole point of having friends was so they could pick you up when you’re down. But Ruby didn’t really understand Weiss all that well. Maybe she was different. Maybe Blake was right.
The scary possibility that Weiss didn’t even consider Ruby to be her friend also occurred to her. But no way, right? They were teammates and partners! And they’d shared some nice moments together over the past couple of days, like their lunch in the cafeteria the other day, and hanging out on the roof, and chilling in the living room last night… Surely Weiss had warmed up to her by now, right?
Maybe not. She was the Ice Queen, after all.
She followed Yang and Blake outside, wishing more than anything that her partner would come around.
“Well, guess we got some time to kill,” Yang pointed out. “When’s the afternoon class?”
Blake pulled out the paper with their schedule printed on it–the only paper they’d brought to class between the three of them. “Two PM. Building A, room two-oh-four.”
“Oh nice, same spot,” Ruby said.
“So who wants lunch and air hockey? You still owe me a rematch.” Yang jabbed her accusatory finger at Blake.
The girl frowned back. “Why do I owe you a rematch?”
“Because you beat me!” Yang said simply, shrugging like that was an obvious answer.
“Just because you lost doesn’t mean it was a fluke, Yang.”
Yang scoffed. “What do you mean? Of course it does!”
Ruby smiled at the good-natured bickering. She didn’t know what she was supposed to do about Weiss, but these two were a ton of fun to be around.
* * *
“Room two-oh-four!” Yang read off happily. “Shall we, ladies?”
Ruby nodded excitedly. Second class at Beacon, and she wasn’t late this time! In fact, she was ten minutes early! And she’d brought her stuff, too. So now she could take notes. And doodle. But mostly make notes…
With some doodles.
This room was very different from Professor Goodwitch’s. There was still the board and projector up front, but instead of tables for each team there were just rows of desks in a semicircle that rose higher the further back they went.
Weiss was already there, sitting in the front row in front of Team JNPR, while the other two teams seemed to be trickling in still.
“Weiss!” She skipped over and plopped down in a chair next to her, Yang and Blake following behind her. “How are you?” They hadn’t seen their prettiest teammate since she’d walked off hours ago.
“I’m fine,” was Weiss’ terse response.
Ruby waited for Weiss to ask “how are you” back, but after a long, awkward silence it seemed like she wasn’t planning to ask.
Well, Ruby would just have to tell her anyway! “We’re pretty good, too! We went back to the rec room. Blake beat Yang in air hockey again, so then me and Yang two v oned her but we still only just barely won and–”
“Yang and I,” Weiss said.
Weiss shook her head tightly. “Nothing, nevermind.”
Before Ruby could get into the peg-each-other-with-ping-pong-balls-as-hard-as-you-can competition she and Yang had had (Yang won, obviously, but it was still tons of fun), she heard Nora speak-yell from behind her.
Yang leaned her head back until she was looking up at Nora upside down. “Sup?”
“Arm wrestle me!”
“Nora…” Ren sighed while Ruby giggled. This would be awesome.
Yang hopped up excitedly. “Oh, you’re on, Sparky.”
When they started, Ruby was surprised to find out that Nora was even more of a trash-talker than Yang was.
“Come on, blondie. You–*huff*–push like a girl!”
“Yeah? Well, you push like… a short person!”
Ruby pouted. “As a short girl, I’m offended by all of this.”
Pyrrha giggled at that, and Ruby gave her a big grin. Making people laugh was awesome.
Nora huffed out some quick, deep breaths. “I can tell… all you have to practice against… is Ruby. Weakling!”
It didn’t matter, though. Yang was starting to win! Nora’s arm was starting to move backwards.
“Get her, Yang! Fight for the dignity of girls and short people!”
“Wasn’t Yang the one that used short as an insult?” Jaune asked.
While she cheered on Yang and Jaune cheered on Nora, with Blake, Ren, and Pyrrha all looking on with amusement, Weiss sat with her head in her hands.
“Weiss! You need to cheer on Yang! Give her your energy!”
Weiss just placed her forehead on the desk and mumbled something to herself.
Whatever. If she wanted to be a party pooper, Ruby wouldn’t force her to join.
Yang was winning even harder now. Well, of course she was. Yang was the best and strongest person ever. But now Nora was sweating and struggling, and she’d stopped her endless stream of play insults to focus on the arm wrestle.
“What’s the matter, Nora? You seem to be slipping there.”
“Shut up, blondie! You ain’t sh–”
They all turned around at the interruption.
A very big, very round, mustached man in a suit was standing behind them, eyebrows raised.
“Professor… Port?” Ruby asked.
“Indeed, young lady!” he announced grandly.
He didn’t really seem like much of a professor…
“Would one of you ladies like to test your strength against a true, powerful huntsman?” he asked, placing his elbow down on the table in front of Yang, who’d abandoned her battle with Nora.
Everybody blinked at the man, uncomfortably confused.
“Um… no thank you?” Yang replied.
“Oh.” Portly Dude straightened up. “Yes, I suppose that would be… unprofessional. Well!” He clapped his hands and walked to the front of the classroom. “Welcome, everyone, to Grimm Studies One, where you will learn the anatomy, behaviour, and optimal combat tactics of the Grimm! Monsters, demons, prowlers of the night. Yes, the creatures of Grimm have many names, but I simply refer to them as prey!”
He pumped a fist across his chest liked he’d made a joke, pausing for a laugh or something. Ruby looked over at Yang with a “What the heck” face, and Yang shrugged back at her.
“Can anyone name the three most common Grimm you will encounter?”
Weiss’ hand shot up.
Ruby knew this! She raised her hand too,
Professor Port pointed to her. “Yes, Miss… Rose, was it?”
Ruby nodded. “It’s Beowolves, Ursa, and… uh…” Crap. What was the third one? Noooooo! Now Weiss would think she’s even dumber. Think, Ruby Rose! Think! “Nevermores?”
“Ooh, no!” Professor Port chuckled. “Two for three. Miss, uh… Schnee! Could you name the last one?”
“Boarbatusks, sir.” Weiss gave Ruby a face that screamed “Duh.”
“Precisely! Those three will be what we focus on for the next couple of months, followed by the bigger, rarer threats like Death Stalkers, Nevermores, Weavers, Geists, Beringels, and so on. We’ll end the course talking about some of the Grimm Titans, such as the Sea Feilongs, Leviathans, and Wyverns, though we’ll save most of the studying about those for later.
“But first, a story! A story about a young, handsome huntsman… Me!”
Ruby immediately starting tuning the man out, and she didn’t feel at all bad about it this time. She started her doodling, beginning, as always, with the great penguin General Flappy Feet, armed with his giant scythe/rifle, Crescent Snow. He was embroiled in a close battle with Admiral Zymdood of the Alien Armada, who used a giant laser gun that turned into a big club.
Once she got tired of the epic saga of Penguins Versus Aliens (which took a long time ‘cause it was a gripping tale), she decided to doodle Professor Portly Dude. It was pretty easy. It was basically just a big circle, with another circle on top for a head and stick legs and arms. She drew in the buttons on his coat and stuff and showed Yang, making her giggle. Behind her, Nora started snickering too.
When she showed Weiss, though… Well, Weiss didn’t seem to like it very much. She gave Ruby another one of those death glares before rolling her eyes and looking back at the Professor.
But it was a cute picture…
“I do, sir!” Weiss suddenly shouted, raising her hand.
Oh. What had Portly Dude been saying?
“Well, let’s find out! Come forward and face your opponent!”
Opponent? What oppo–her gaze shifted over a few feet to the left. What the heck?! When had that giant cage gotten there?! How had she not noticed that before?
Weiss stood from her seat and confidently and strode out to the open space at the front of the room, drawing her skinny, pointy sword as she did. She lined up in front of the cage, adopting that same stance she had in the forest–sword held in front of her, shoulders back, head super straight, feet at right angles from each other.
Was there a freaking Grimm in that cage? Was that a thing in this school? Just keeping Grimm around?
That’s so awesome!
What would it be? It seemed like a Beowolf could fit in there. Might be a little small for an Ursa.
“Let’s go Weiss, beat up whatever it is!” Yang called out.
“Fight well!” cheered Blake.
Dang, this was happening! She was about to fight a Grimm in front of everybody! “Yeah!” she called out. “Represent Teeeeeam RWBY!”
Weiss looked over at her. “Ruby! I’m trying to focus!”
“Oh, sorry.” What had she done wrong? She’d just been trying to encourage her partner. Yang and Blake had done the same!
Ruby noticed Weiss’ form had dropped, her shoulder bunching up and her free hand clenched into a fist.
Professor Port walked over to the cage and pulled the latch. With a loud clang, the door fell down revealing… Oh, of course it was a boarbatusk.
The thing’s creepy red eyes locked onto the princess standing in front of it and it charged.
Weiss nimbly dodged to the side as hoofbeats clopped past her, slashing out at the monster’s side as she spun away from it. It didn’t do much damage ‘cause the hide and bony plating on the creature gave it a lot of armor on its back. Also, Weiss’ sword was way more of a stabby sword than a slashy sword.
But Weiss knew that, right?
“You got this, Weiss! Show it who’s boss!” she called out. Weiss just seemed off balance right now. But if she knew her team was rooting for her, then she could relax, right?
Weiss kind of huffed to herself when Ruby cheered her on. A glyph appeared underneath her feet and she launched herself at the Boarbatusk, looking like she was about to skewer its face. Ruby held her breath, ready to see it happen ‘cause that would be awesome!
It didn’t work, though. The plating on the Boarbatusk caused the point of Weiss’ sword to bounce off, and she ended up getting locked in its giant, curving horns. After a brief tug-of-war over the sword, it flew behind the Grimm and out of Weiss’ hands as she was knocked onto her back, her light blue Aura flashing as it protected her from harm.
“Oho!” Professor Port called out. “What are you going to do now without your weapon?”
Something was really wrong. Weiss was way better than this.
The monster charged, and Ruby was about to pull out Crescent Rose to make sure Weiss didn’t get hurt when the girl rolled to the side and summoned a white glyph in the creature’s flank, sending it spinning into the front row of desks and disorienting it.
She quickly walked towards her sword, summoning a glyph underneath it that launched it towards her. She caught it and turned back to her opponent in one smooth motion.
Dang, she was pretty cool.
She also wasn’t doing too well. Maybe Ruby should give her some advice to help her get her bearings again?
“Weiss! Go for it’s belly! There’s no arm–”
“Stop telling me what to do!” Weiss shouted at her, blue sparks flying from her sword like she wasn’t controlling her Aura and had set off the Dust in the weapon’s cylinder.
Oh. That’s what was going on. Weiss was angry… at Ruby.
But what had Ruby done? She’d only been trying to help and encourage her partner. She hadn’t gotten mad at her for not waking them up this morning. She knew it had been her own mistake. She had respected Weiss’ need for space and privacy, even though she had wanted to go after her.
What had she done wrong?
With these questions eating her up, she almost didn’t even notice when the Boarbatusk started up one of the species’ signature rolling charges at Weiss, straight into a white glyph she summoned that knocked it onto its back. With a quick backflip onto a black glyph in the air behind her, Weiss launched herself at the grounded enemy, running her sword through its underside.
The thing disintegrated into black dust while Professor Port clapped. “Bravo! It appears we are indeed in the presence of a true huntress-in-training!”
Ruby frowned. ‘Well, duh. Isn’t that what we all are? Except for the boys, of course. They’re huntsmen-in-training. (And gross.)’
“That’s all the time we have for today. Be sure to cover the assigned readings. And stay vigilant!”
Ruby didn’t really know what that meant, but she also didn’t really care. She watched as Weiss stormed out of the room, feeling guilty but not still not sure what she’d done wrong.
And Weiss had forgotten her bag!
“Sheesh, what’s with her?” Jaune muttered behind her.
Ruby didn’t know, but she was going to find out.
Quickly stuffing her notebook in her bag and–more carefully–putting Weiss’ textbook and notebook in the bag next to her, she grabbed both and raced out into the hall after her partner. She briefly caught a glimpse of Weiss’ ponytail swishing around the corner.
“Weiss!” she yelled after her, rounding the corner.
“What?” Weiss snapped back, pivoting on one of her crazy tall heels to wheel on Ruby.
“What’s wrong with you?” Wait, crap. She hadn’t meant to say that. She just meant to ask ‘What’s wrong?’. Why had she added that last part? She tried to fix her flub. “Why are you being s–”
“What’s wrong with me?” Weiss repeated incredulously. “What’s wrong with you?”
“But… what did I do?” She still didn’t understand. She was just trying to be encouraging and respectful of her teammate. She thought she’d managed that pretty well today.
“That’s just it!” Weiss cried, her frustration clearly boiling over. “You haven’t done anything to earn your position as leader! You’ve acted like a child the entire time you’ve been here! You were immature and impulsive out in the forest, you stayed up playing games instead of getting ready for your first day of classes, you were late to class, and you haven’t paid one bit of attention in either class at all!”
That wasn’t true! She’d payed attention to a lot of the Dust stuff. Kinda…
“Weiss, where is this coming from? What happened to all that talk about working together? I thought you believed in acting as a team.” Ruby knew she’d made mistakes today, but weren’t teammates supposed to help each other when they messed up?
“Not a team lead by you,” she cut back. “We’re here to learn. And you’re supposed to lead. And you clearly have no desire or drive to do either of those things. I do. I’ve studied. I’ve trained. And frankly, I deserve better. I am better.” She turned away, crossing her arms.
Ruby reached out to try to stop her from leaving. She could fix this! She could say something that would make Weiss feel better. Right now it sounded like she wanted to quit the team, and Ruby couldn’t imagine anything worse.
“Ozpin made a mistake,” Weiss stated while Ruby hand was still floating in limbo between them.
That made Ruby’s hand fall back to her side. Her shoulders slumped. Her head hung. Weiss walked away, and this time Ruby didn’t try to stop her.
She was right. Ruby hadn’t done anything to earn her position as leader. She’d barely even earned a place in the school at all! She’d never had amazing grades, she wasn’t the best fighter, she couldn’t Dust cast very well, she was an amateur weaponsmith at best… And Weiss was awesome at pretty much everything she did.
What right did Ruby have to be her leader?
“Well that didn’t seem to go very well,” said a now-familiar voice behind her.
She turned to find Professor Ozpin looking down at her with kind eyes, his cane, and a cup of coffee.
“Is she right?” Ruby asked him. “Did you make a mistake?”
Professor Ozpin chuckled lightly. “That remains to be seen.”
“What do you mean?” Did that mean there was a chance he was wrong? Should Ruby, like, step down as leader? Was that a thing?
“I mean it’s only been one day,” the headmaster explained. He sighed and looked after Weiss before turning back to Ruby. “Ruby, I’ve made more mistakes than any man, woman, and child on this planet. But at this moment I would not consider your appointment to leader of Team RWBY as one of them.” He leaned forward, meeting her gaze with level, knowing eyes. “Do you?”
It was encouraging that he thought she was doing okay, but… “But Weiss is right. She’s better than me. She’s smarter. Stronger. More… discipline-y.”
Professor Ozpin smiled at that. “Yes, she is. All things you should strive to improve upon. But they’re not the most important traits for a leader.”
The leader wasn’t supposed to be the best? “What are, then?” she asked.
Professor Ozpin slowly started walking down the hallway Weiss had taken, and after a moment of hesitation, Ruby followed. “Empathy, compassion, the willingness to put your teammates before yourself. All things Miss Schnee seems to lack at the moment, and things I see in you in abundance.”
Ruby blushed and looked down at the ground. That was really nice to hear.
“Team leader is not just a badge of honor, but a burden of constant responsibility as well. You must always be at your best, and you are also responsible for making sure the other members of your team are also at their best.”
He looked down at Ruby as they walked. “It’s true, Miss Schnee’s ahead of you in the skills and knowledge required to be a huntress. So are your sister and Miss Belladonna.”
Ruby’s shoulders slumped again. So she was the worst?
“But,” Professor Ozpin stressed, “the role of leader is not to be the best. It is to bring out the best in your team. Something I truly believe you can do. But you need to believe it as well, and figure out a way to do it.”
Ruby frowned. That was the hard part. “How?”
Professor Ozpin stopped before the entrance to a balcony that overlooked the school grounds, and Ruby realized with a start that Weiss was out there. Her hands were clenching the railing as she leaned against it, looking out to the horizon. It seemed so very fairy tale picturesque.
“I don’t know, Ruby,” Professor Ozpin stated simply. “That is for you to figure out.”
He nodded to her, subtly ending the conversation, and walked out towards Weiss.
“Professor?” Ruby quietly called to his back.
He turned and tilted his head at her quizzically.
“Thank you,” she said. “And… please don’t get Weiss in trouble for any of this. She didn’t do anything wrong.” She hadn’t. She was just understandably frustrated at Ruby and decided to say as much.
Professor Ozpin smiled warmly at her. “You’re quite welcome, Ruby. And I won’t. I’d simply like to take the opportunity to get to know your partner a bit better.”
Ruby smiled in return, nodding. She turned away and slowly headed back toward the dorms.
Weiss was right. She deserved better. And she had Ruby.
So Ruby would just have to be better.