Squall – 4.1

Previous Chapter

 

Her enemy was a giant oatmeal cookie. It stood between her and a giant plate of real cookies, taunting her. It jerked towards her and a volley of evil raisins shot out. She dodged what she could and sliced through the rest with Crescent Ro—

Wait, where was Crescent Rose?! And why was Ruby holding a giant asparagus instead?!

Nooooooooooooo!

“Ruby, wake up!” a bossy voice demanded, echoing around her. 

Oh no, it was Weiss! Was she going to force Ruby to eat this terrible scythe-imposter vegetable?

Ruby started running. Weiss couldn’t make her eat vegetables if she couldn’t catch her!

“Heyyy, wake up!” 

The world shook, but when Ruby slowly blinked her eyes open, it turned out it was actually just her shoulder. She rolled over with a groan and found Weiss hanging off the edge of her bed, grumping down at her imperioriousingly. 

“Hmmmmehhh?” Ruby blubbered. 

“Did you want to run with me or not?” Weiss huffed. 

“Runnern… from da oatmerr cookie?” 

“… What?” 

Ruby rubbed at her eyes and opened them wider to see that Weiss was wearing one of her cute athletic outfits that hugged her really tightly and had the criss-crossy racerback designs. 

“Mmmcute,” Ruby remarked. 

Weiss blinked, confused. “What? Ruby, are you waking up or not?” 

Ruby groaned again, louder and more dramatically this time, and pushed herself up, shaking away her sleepiness. Right, she was supposed to go running with Weiss this morning!

“I’m erwake!” she sputtered, jumping out of bed and rushing into the bathroom closet to change into her own workout clothes. Just a t-shirt and some running shorts, but whatever. She gave her teeth a quick scrubadub with Toothy von Brushmeister because morning breath was just the worst. 

When she hopped back out of the bathroom, Weiss was standing by the door with her arms crossed, tapping her feet. Drama queen. xD

“Ready?” she asked. 

Ruby grabbed her scroll and headphones so she could jam while she ran. “Yep!” she chirped. 

Weiss opened the door for her and they headed down together. “What was that you were saying about oatmeal cookies?” Weiss asked as they walked. 

Ruby chuckled nervously and scratched her head the way Yang does a lot, feeling ridiculous. “Oh, nothing! Don’t worry about it.” 

Weiss’ eyes smiled. 

When they got outside, Weiss stopped and laid a hand against the wall, leaning against it to start stretching. 

“Weiss, you’re not supposed to stretch cold muscles!” 

Weiss blinked at her. “What?”

“You gotta warm up first before you stretch ‘cause it works better and you won’t pull anything that way.” This was just basic stuff! Ruby’s known that forever!

“That sounds like a bunch of malarkey,” Weiss huffed. 

You’re malarkey!” 

“You’re supposed to stretch first, Ruby. Everybody knows that!” 

Ruby stomped over, putting on her best ‘I know more than you’ face. “Nuh-uh! Those people are wrong! Our parents taught us you gotta warm up first and they know their stuff! And then you gotta stretch after the workout too.” 

Weiss squinted at her. “Hmm… Your parents were—are, uh… they graduated from Beacon, right?” 

Ruby knew what the little stumble Weiss did there was, trying to avoid referring to Mom in with a past or present tense. It was sweet. Unnecessary though! Ruby was totally fine with… what happened to Mom. 

“Yep!” she said cheerily. 

Weiss gave her one of those squinty, ‘what are you thinking?’ looks for a long moment, then pursed her lips to the side. “Well… maybe they knew—know, uh… could be right.” 

“You don’t have to do that you know,” Ruby frowned at her. 

“Do what? I’m not doing anything!” Weiss said, her tone hinting at just enough nervousness that Ruby had to laugh. 

She waved it off. “C’mon! Let’s get going!” She plopped her earphones on and started walking as she pulled out her scroll to play a song when Weiss tugged on her elbow. 

“I go that way,” she said, pointing in the other direction. 

“Oh!” Ruby fell in beside her. “Is this way better?” 

“Well you don’t have to run towards the sun and then when you come back around the Battle Center blocks it. And there’s a good uphill section but coming back downhill isn’t so steep, which is nice because you get the uphill workout and running downhill sucks. So yeah, it’s better.” 

Ruby blinked. “You thought about this way too much,” she teased. 

“Yeah, well, I have to think extra because of the void of brainpower from my partner!” Weiss snipped back, making Ruby cackle. “Now come on. We gotta do three laps. No using aura until the last one!” 

‘Three?! No aura?!’

What were these ridonculous rules? 

Weiss started running, a cross country run with long strides and lots of airtime. Almost bounding. Ruby hurried to hit shuffle on her PogChamp playlist and sprinted to catch up, then settled into the same long distance running form. She pushed herself to go ever so slightly faster than Weiss ‘cause she wanted to show her how fit she was. And ‘cause going fast was, like, Ruby’s whole thing. No way could she let a princess beat her!

“And no semblancing!” Weiss yelled at her back. 

“I’m not!” Ruby yelled over her shoulder. She was quite pleased that she was going so fast that Weiss thought she was cheating, though. 

The weather was actually really nice. The air was a little humid and carried the promise of a pretty warm summer day, but the early morningness right now had a cool breeze and a tame sun. Maybe waking up at this unholy hour had its upsides. 

Not that she could ever let Weiss hear her say that. 

Her ability to muse on the weather and enjoy her music last about a minute and a half before she found she had to focus a little bit on her breathing. Or a lot a bit, really. She’d been too distracted by trying to go faster than Weiss she’d forgotten to breathe in through her nose and out through her mouth, so she was starting to cramp already. 

Maybe she should slow down?

… Naaaah. 

“Go right!” Weiss called out behind her a little bit later as Ruby reached a corner. 

Still in the lead, haha!

By the time they reached the next turn, though, Weiss was basically on her heels. Was Weiss getting faster, or was Ruby getting slower? 

Weiss was probably pretty good at keeping a constant pace, so it was probably the second, which was unacceptable! She pushed herself to go faster. 

Then they got to the uphill part. 

Now her slightly burning lungs were compounded with slightly burning legs. 

Weiss caught up to Ruby, running alongside her. Ruby glanced over at her partner to see Weiss side-eyeing her with one of her tiny micro-grins, then quickly turned her eyes back ahead of her when she noticed Ruby looking. 

‘Darn smirky princess!’

Ruby pushed herself to go faster again, ignoring the protests in her chest and thighs and calves. 

It was a relief when the hill sloped down. Weiss was right. It was a nice, gradual decline that wasn’t hard on her ankles and knees. 

Unfortunately, Weiss’ ever so slightly longer legs carried her even further with each stride than before. It was enough that she was outpacing Ruby. She was probably able to launch herself harder with each step than Ruby was with her exhausted legs. 

Weiss pulled ahead. 

‘Gosh darn it.’

Ruby could probably push herself to take the lead again, but… she was getting tired. And they needed to do two more laps? 

Ugh. 

Her pride was taking a beating for not being in the lead. She was supposed to be the fastest. Although… there was an upside to being second. She got to see Weiss running. It was a pretty nice view. Her ponytail was bouncing all adorably and her… well, suffice to say the rest of her in her tight fitting athletic wear just looked great. 

Maybe being second was okay sometimes!

A couple minutes later, Weiss had kept up a steady pace to end up a good ten feet ahead when they reached the front of their dorm building again. 

“H-hey, Weiss!” Ruby croaked, pulling her headphones down around her neck. Talking kinda hurt her diaphragm. “We should stop… and stretch,” she huffed between pants for breath. 

Weiss started slowing down to a walk as Ruby caught up to her, placing her hands on top of her head and taking deep breaths in through her nose and out through her mouth. She looked Ruby up and down as she slowed to a walk as well, somehow looking smug even though her expression was blank. 

Ruby stopped to lean forward with her hands on her knees, panting. 

Weiss gave her a slap on the shoulder with the backside of her hand and gestured for Ruby to straighten up and keep walking. “Don’t lean over, you’ll cramp,” she advised, sounding a little out of breath herself. 

“Yeah, yeah… I know.” Ruby put her hands on her head like Weiss and focused on breathing right. She did know that, she just kinda forgot about it ‘cause everything in her body kinda hurt right now. 

At least it sounded like Weiss was out of breath too. 

They walked a bit more until Ruby felt like she could breathe right again, then she stopped and moved over to the grass by the sidewalk to stretch. Weiss followed her lead. 

Ruby started with toe touches, trying to touch her nose to her knees. She still had never quite managed to do it. A glance showed Ruby that Weiss was doing the same, which was kinda neat. Letting Ruby lead. It was also kinda funny to watch Weiss’ ponytail swing back and forth in the breeze like a pendulum. 

“How long do you do the stretches for?” Ruby asked after a bit. 

“Twenty seconds, then break, then ten seconds,” Weiss answered, her voice hitched with the weirdness of being bent over. 

“Oh,” Ruby grunted. “Yang and I just do fifteen.” 

“My way’s better.” 

Ruby snickered. “Okay,” she conceded. More stretching was probably good. And it meant a longer break, which was good. 

A few moments passed in silence. 

“Uh… are you counting?” Ruby asked. “‘Cause I forgot to start counting.” 

Weiss let out a snicker of her own and straightened up. “Yes, Ruby, I was counting.” 

“Oh, cool.” Ruby straightened and wiggled her legs a bit, softly singing “Shake it off, shake it off” under her breath like Yang always did. She then bent down to stretch again, Weiss following suit. She made sure to actually count this time. 

Next came the quads. Ruby grabbed one of her feet behind her and pulled it to her butt and reached out to place her other hand on Weiss’ shoulder to help balance herself. Weiss scrunched up her nose a bit and half-glared at Ruby at the physical contact. 

“What?” Ruby asked. “This is what I do with Yang!” 

Weiss made a frowny face for a couple seconds, then shrugged and followed suit, placing a hand Ruby’s shoulder. It was a really light touch, though, to the point Ruby wasn’t positive Weiss was actually getting any benefit to her balance from it. 

“Should I restart my counting?” Ruby asked. 

Weiss gave a half-eyeroll. “Just let me do the counting, dolt.” 

“… Yeah, okay.”

“You know, I was sorta expecting you to be faster,” Weiss said quietly. 

“Hwaa?! I’m fast!” Ruby squeaked. 

“Sure, I just thought you’d be some sort of speed demon or something.” 

“I—pbbbt! I am! Just… If you didn’t have your dumb rules against using aura, I’d be smoking you!” 

“Uh-huh.”

And I’d totally destroy you in sprints!” Ruby tacked on indignantly. She pulled her other leg back and grabbed onto Weiss’ other shoulder. 

“Hmph,” Weiss grunted. “That’s probably true. What about Yang? Do you beat her in sprints?” 

“Nooo,” Ruby sighed sadly. “She’s too strong and her legs are too long. I can almost keep up with her if we’re not using aura, but once she’s pumping power into her legs I don’t stand a chance. Her muscle-aura saturation is way too stronk.” 

“I figured. Watching her in sparring matches was kinda scary. She’s…” 

“Explosive?” Ruby offered. 

Weiss made a show of considering the term for a moment, then nodded. “Yes, that sounds right.” 

They switched legs again. 

“Just wait ‘til you’re fighting her, watching her charge at you. It’s terrifying.” 

Weiss’ stared off into the middle distance, gaze unfocused, then gave a dramatic shiver. The expressiveness made Ruby smile. 

Last switch. 

“Crescent Rose is scarier than Yang, though, and you handled her pretty well,” Ruby added. 

Weiss nodded sagely. “It is pretty scary. Don’t forget to pick it up from the forge tonight.” 

Her, and I won’t!” Ruby chirped, aghast. To think Weiss thought it was even a possibility that Ruby could forget about Crescent Rose! Forgemaster Onyx assured her that he’d have her Rose fixed up before dinner tonight ‘cause he was super cool and awesome. It was kinda hard to not be awesome when you’re an almost-seven foot tall super buff dude with sweet ram horns that’s a legendary weaponsmith and also super nice and helpful. 

He was easily in Ruby’s top five favorite adults list. 

Ruby ended the stretch and plopped down on the ground to do sitting toe touches. Weiss sat as well, facing the opposite direction. Ruby scooted over so the sides of their legs were touching and reached out for Weiss’ hand. 

“Uh, what?” Weiss asked, frowning down at their touching legs. 

Ruby waved her hand in front of Weiss. “We gotta pull each other!” she chirped. 

Still frowning, Weiss raised her hand up and held it in the air next to Ruby’s hand. With a roll of her eyes, Ruby grabbed it and pulled Weiss toward her, simultaneously reaching for her toes with her other hand. Weiss let out a silly squeak as she was yanked forward, but then settled into the stretch like Ruby. 

“You gotta pull me too, Princess,” Ruby said because it didn’t feel like Weiss was doing much of anything on her end. 

“I am!” Weiss protested. 

Ruby blinked at her. 

Weiss’ face scrunched up, halfway between cringing at herself and laughing at herself, and started pulling Ruby a bit harder. Grinning, Ruby tugged back. 

Weiss squeaked again, glared at Ruby, then pulled again. 

Soon their stretch turned into a squeaky contest of tug of war, rife with Ruby’s giggles. 

“Stop it, dolt!” Weiss whined. “This is terrible stretching!” 

Ruby stopped jerking Weiss’ arm around and applied a steady pull with one last giggle. “You know, Yang pulled my hamstring one time doing this ‘cause she pulled so hard she basically yeeted me behind her.” 

“Note to self: never stretch with Yang,” Weiss muttered. 

Laughing, Ruby hopped up and quickly moved over to Weiss’ other side. 

“Can you touch your nose to your knees?” Ruby asked as she settled back into the stretch. 

“Mm-hmm!” Weiss hummed proudly before demonstrating. 

“Darn it,” Ruby pouted. 

“Blake can touch her nose to the ground,” Weiss told her. “Saw her stretching before she fought Ren.” 

“The ground?” 

“Yep. Her ligaments must be rubber or something.” 

“Would explain a lot.” 

They spent the next couple minutes chatting as they stretched their legs before Weiss cleared her throat and moved back to the sidewalk. “Now that you’ve cheated your way into a break, you ready to get back to running?” she grinned. 

“I did not ch—what?! That’s not what happened!” Ruby argued as they started jogging together.

“You know, I run three laps in a row and this was a long break, so maybe we should do an extra l—”

“No, that doesn’t sound right!” 

“No?” Weiss asked, shooting her a smirk. 

“Nope!” 

Weiss’ pace picked up and Ruby matched her. “Well, I usually end up walking for a bit on the third lap, so maybe we just two more and don’t walk on the last one.” 

‘Phew.’

“Sounds good!” 

“You don’t want to race ahead of me again?” Weiss still had that knowing smirk on her face. 

They were getting to a speed where it was getting hard to run and talk at the same time. “Naaah, I wanna… you know, see what it’s like… slum it back here with the… slowpokes.” 

“Uh-huh,” Weiss intoned. 

Ruby wanted to keep chatting and joking with Weiss because it was great, but she really needed to focus on her breathing now. That last lap taught Ruby that she definitely could not try to race against Weiss again. She could barely breathe at the end of the lap and they needed to do two in a row this time. 

Ugggh. 

She set her headphones back on her ears and resumed her music. She had no idea how Weiss could bear to run without any music though. It must be boring to just hear footsteps. Either way, this dynamic of running beside Weiss felt nice. And every once in a while Ruby caught Weiss looking over at her. Ruby would shoot her a smile and Weiss would reply with a long blink that Ruby supposed was one of Weiss’ weird ways of smiling. 

She hoped it was a smile.  

This time Ruby didn’t totally wind herself right at the start of the lap so she didn’t cramp up and was able to keep pace with Weiss without too much difficulty. It was still pretty hard. Weiss was fit.

When the front of the dorm came into view again, though, Ruby was ready to pop off. 

“Can we use… aura now?!” Ruby panted. 

“Wait… for iiiit,” Weiss said. 

Ruby waited. 

They passed the dormitory doors. 

“Now!” Weiss called out. 

Ruby set aura slamming from her heart down through her legs. It made her muscles feel like they were vibrating. They both ramped up in speed immediately, pushing further with ever stride. 

The speed and feeling were exhilarating. 

Ruby peeled ahead of Weiss, moving way faster than she was before. With her aura boosting her, Ruby’s long distance speed was freaking epic, and even that was nothing compared to her semblance speed. She left Weiss behind. 

“I… what?!” she heard Weiss pant behind her. 

Ruby would have cackled if she had the breath for it. 

The diaphragm cramping and leg burning started to set in halfway through the uphill part. She pushed through it. Pushed past it. When the downhill section came, it was a relief, though the burning didn’t cease, it just stopped building so quickly. 

As soon as the dorm came into view, Ruby pushed herself to 110%. Dad always told her to go all in for the last stretch when she felt like falling over ‘cause that’s when you get stronger. 

She past the front doors going a thousand million miles an hour and tried to slow down but her legs quit out on her, turning to jelly. She tumbled face first onto the sidewalk, reinforcing her aura to protect herself from the concrete as she went rolling. 

Thank the Goddess for aura. 

She came to a stop on her back and splayed out her arms, heaving. Twenty seconds later, Weiss came to a stop above her, wheezing and coughing herself. 

Dang, Ruby left her way behind. 

Weiss walked a circle around Ruby, hands on her head, before she collapsed herself, planting her butt in the grass by Ruby’s head and leaning back on her hands. She was struggling to breath. 

“You… you okay?” Ruby asked.

“H… how did you… why am I so sl… so slow?! With aura… you just…” she waved a hand around. “And I… suck! Ugh!” 

She flopped onto her back and splayed her arms like Ruby. 

“Nuh-uh!” Ruby argued, too tired and out of breath to form a coherent argument right now. She reached out to pat Weiss to comfort her and ended up slapping her stomach like a goomba and found her arm too heavy to pick back up. 

“Why are you… hitting me?” Weiss huffed. 

“I was tryin’… to p… pat…” Ruby trailed off, too distracted trying to remember how to breathe. 

“How come… my muscles just… can’t take aura?” Weiss asked. She looked… really upset. Was she having one of her self-hating moments?

No! That was not acceptable!

Ruby rolled over and crawled up to get level with Weiss and laid back down using Weiss’ bicep as a pillow. 

“What are you… get off!” Weiss said with a whine. “You’re all sweaty!” She yanked her arm away. 

Ruby pouted and settled back on the grass. “If you wanna… get better mus… muscle aura satur… ation, you should work out… with Yang.” 

Weiss turned to frown at Ruby. “Yeah?” 

Ruby nodded. “She got me… as good as I am.” 

“I don’t know, Ruby… I just suck… I don’t think… I can be help—”

“Yes you can!” Ruby cut in. She refused to let Weiss do this again. She pushed herself up and swatted Weiss’ stomach again for good measure. “You just gotta… train! I got this good… by training right… Yang got as good… as she is by training right…. If you train right too then you’ll get… get better!” 

Weiss started trying to sit up too but her arms shook and she feel back down. “How come you’re not… as strong as Yang, then?” 

Ruby shrugged. “Biology.” Her breathing had steadied out now, though her legs still felt like spaghetti. 

“Huh?” 

Ruby waited for a while before responding, trying to catch her breath again. “You know, some people just have a higher limit on what they can reach for saturation. Just like normie people trying to build muscle. Some people just can’t bulk up, some can. Aura’s the same way. Our dad is jacked as heck, both with regular muscles and saturation, and Yang inherited it. And I didn’t, ‘cause Dad’s a big fat jerk, I guess.”

“So even if I train my butt off, I won’t get as strong as Yang?” Weiss pouted. 

It was hard for Ruby to resist rolling her eyes. “Why do you need to be as strong as Yang? It’s not like Yang can ever reach your level in Dust casting. We all have our strengths. Don’t worry about reaching Yang’s level, just get as strong as you can and then keep yourself there.”

Weiss went quiet for a while. Ruby looked back at her to see her staring up at the sky. Had Ruby convinced her? Or was she supposed to add something to drive the point home? Or—

“Okay,” Weiss said. 

“Okay?” Ruby blinked, kinda surprised it had been so easy.

“Yeah,” Weiss replied simply. “As long as she’s okay with it.” 

It took a second for Ruby to connect the words to the right thing and figure out what Weiss meant. “Why wouldn’t she be?” 

Weiss shrugged. 

Things were quiet for a moment. Ruby took the opportunity to get in some more stretching, and Weiss slowly pushed herself up to follow suit.

“You think it would go the other way too?” Weiss asked after a while. 

“Whadaya mean?” 

“You think Yang and maybe you or Blake would want some help training with Dust casting?” she clarified. “Because… I’d be willing to. Maybe.” 

Ruby lit up at that. “Yeah! I’d love that! I, uh, Yang would probably want to too, although I have to warn you she gets really mad at Dust when it doesn’t do what she wants. I dunno about Blake though.” 

“Mm.” 

“I could just order her to accept your training with my team leader powers.” 

“Calm down, Miss Authoritarian,” Weiss said as she tried to touch her nose to her knee.

Ruby laughed at that. “And maybe she can teach us how to be a super stealth ninja tracker.” 

“That’s a very specific skillset,” Weiss remarked. 

“Mhm.” 

“… What about you? What special training can you give us?” 

Ruby scratched her head. What skills did she excel at? She was awesome at slicing up Grimm, but that was just kinda a combo of all her other skills and the boost of having an awesome semblance. Other than that, there was… “Eating cookies?” she tried. 

Weiss gave her a face. 

“Heehee. Uh… I’m guessing videogames wouldn’t be an acceptable answer either?” 

Weiss shook her head. 

“Hmph…” Ruby was stumped. 

“Your thing could be the team combos and stuff you’re always talking about,” offered Weiss. 

“Oh, true! I forgot about that!” 

Weiss gave her a smile. “You know, you mentioned naming formations yesterday…” 

“Yeah?” Ruby asked excitedly. Naming formations sounded like so much fun, and if Weiss wanted to talk about it so Ruby wouldn’t just be nerding out alone, that was even better!

“Instead of naming them after videogames or whatever, I was thinking it would be neat to do something my sister told me she did and name them after chess pieces and gambits.” 

Ruby’s jaw dropped. “That would be cool! I don’t really know chess stuff though.” As she talked, she pushed herself to her feet and offered Weiss a hand, which she took. 

“I know a little bit,” Weiss said, her legs wobbling a bit as she got her feet under her. “Oof,” she muttered, rubbing at her thighs. 

“Same,” Ruby agreed. 

“You just said you don’t know chess stuff.” 

“Huh?” Ruby blinked at her. “Oh, when I said ‘same’ I was referring to your ‘oof’. My legs hurt too.” 

“Ooooh. That makes sense. But yeah, I just know a little bit. Winter was the one that was really into chess.” 

“Oh yeah?” 

“Mm. And my father.”

Ruby got quiet, not sure what was okay to say now.

Weiss continued without any prompting, though. “Winter played against me when we were little, but she got way better than me and started playing against the computer instead to get good enough to beat our father.”

“Oh…” That sounded… healthy. “Did she?” 

“Yes. When she was fourteen, I think?” Weiss frowned a bit.

“Did you?” Ruby followed up before realizing maybe that would be a bad thing to ask. 

“No, I haven’t played him—or played at all, really—in years, since Winter stopped playing with me. I did my best to limit contact with him.” She paused for a moment, a weird look on her face, then continued, “Of course, Winter couldn’t stand being in the same room as him either, but her desire to beat him outweighed that I suppose. Trying to prove something to him, I guess.”

“… Yeah,” Ruby said, not sure how to respond. 

“Whitley plays against him pretty regularly, I think. Not sure how he does, though. We didn’t talk much.” 

Ruby couldn’t imagine ever living in a house with a sibling and not talking to them all the time. Sure, Ruby and Yang and Dad liked to compete with each other in videogames and stuff, but it was a fun competition. What Weiss was describing sounded a bit more… toxic?

Weiss’ life before Beacon was so frickin’ weird. It was nice that she seemed open to talking about it, though. At least right now.

They reached the base of the stairs in the lobby and Weiss stopped, glaring down at the first step. 

“Who put these stairs here?” she demanded of nobody in particular. “They should be drawn and quartered!” 

Ruby giggled. “Weiss Schnookums, was that a joke?” she teased. 

“Yes, yes it w—Schnookums? Why am I Schnookums?”

Ruby shrugged happily. It felt right ‘cause Weiss always seemed to react weirdly whenever she heard her last name, but Ruby wouldn’t tell her that.

Weiss took the first step up the stairs and groaned. “I think I pushed myself too hard at the end trying to catch up to you,” she sighed. 

“There’s no such thing as pushing yourself too hard,” Ruby said in her best Wise Sensei voice. 

“Pretty sure my quads and calves are saying that’s a bunch of baloney.” 

“Fair,” Ruby conceded, making her own slow way up the stairs with her partner. “Should ask Yang for a massage.”

“You make it seem like Yang just knows how to do everything,” Weiss huffed, wincing as she climbed. 

“When it comes to exercising and physio… care… stuff, she pretty much does. How to work out, weightlift, scheduling workouts, stretch, massage, even diet.” 

“But she just eats meat!” 

“Hehehe. She doesn’t just eat meat. She just eats a lot more than normal. Which is why she’s so stronk. If you want to get stronger like you were saying before, you do need to eat—” 

“Yeah yeah yeah,” Weiss grumbled, waving at her. “She already nags me enough about it. Don’t you start too.”  

Ruby snorted out a laugh. “‘Kay. So how does the chess formation thing work?” she asked as they crested the top of the stairs.

“I’m not sure. If we can make it back to the room I’ll shoot Winter a message to ask.” 

Ruby glanced down the hallway to their dorm room door. “If we make it back?” 

“There’s a non-zero chance my legs fall off before we get there.” 

“Ha!” 

Alas, they did indeed make it back to their room, legs attached. Yang and Blake, being normal, healthy human beings, were still asleep. 

Weiss shuffled over to the corner of her bed and then just stopped there, staring at her covers, shoulders slumped, lips pouty. 

“Why you so boo?” Ruby asked with a big grin. 

Weiss moved a hand a bit, vaguely gesturing at her bed. “I wanna lay down so bad.” 

“Then… do that?” Ruby said. 

“But I’m all sweatyyy,” Weiss whined. “I need to shower, but I feel like if I do my legs are gonna end up quitting on me and I’ll fall down.” 

“… You could take a bath?” Ruby offered.

That made Weiss wrinkle her nose. “But the tub is so small!” 

“Heh?” Ruby squeaked. “It’s a totally normal tub size!”

Weiss squinted at her for a few seconds, then took a deep breath. “You need to come over to my house at some point. You’ll see what a real bathtub looks like.” 

Ruby’s eyes went wider and wider as she tried to imagine what a Schnee-sized bathtub would look like. “What, does your tub have its own area code?” 

Weiss’ eyes twinkled. “Maybe,” she answered. 

Ruby gave her partner’s shin a light kick. “Go shower, you beautiful idiot. And be fast! I want to clean up too.”

Weiss went pink and ducked her head, hiding her face behind her ponytail as she shuffled into the bathroom. 

Now Ruby had to wait. She ended up flipping through a comic book while sitting against the bedpost Weiss had been leaning against to not get sweat on her own bed or chair. 

Blake started waking up a few minutes into Weiss’ “quick” shower. She let out a long yawn and stretched her arms over her head, curling hands and fingers like little paws. After a long bit of rolling around under her covers, she settled on her side looking over at Ruby. 

“Sup?” she mumbled. 

“Morning!” Ruby smiled. 

Blake pointed up and down at Ruby, indicating her clothes. “You go do the… running thing with Weiss?” 

“Yup!” 

Blake rolled onto her back and rubbed at her eyes. “How’d that go?” 

“Great! We’re both exhausted, though. We pushed ourselves pretty hard… My legs hurt.” 

Blake pushed herself up and swung her feet over the edge of the bed. “What time is it?” 

“Seven thirty-ish?” 

Blake groaned, which made Ruby laugh, then stood and stretched. “Whatcha reading?” she asked, pointing at the comic in Ruby’s hands.  

“Oh!” Ruby perked up. She didn’t get to talk about her comics much!

“Sssshhh!” Blake hissed, glancing over her shoulder at Yang. 

“Right, sorry,” Ruby whispered. She held the front of her comic book up for Blake to see. “It’s The Amazing Psych-Man and Tap-Man. It’s just a silly joke comic.” 

“Ah.” Blake flicked some sleepywinks out of her eyes, then flicked her scroll open to turn off her alarm. “You know, I finished the series I was reading yesterday. Been thinking about what to read next…” She looked at Ruby, who perked up even more. “You got any recommendations?” she finished, gesturing to the section of their bookshelf with Ruby’s comics. 

“Gasp!” 

“Sssshhh!” 

“Sorry!” Ruby crawled over to the bookshelf and started pulling things out. “Ermahgersh, yes! So my favorite series is Tales of the Reaper—it’s got the best storyline out of all the Grimm Reaper comics, and the best art. There’s also all the Revengers stuff. A few of them are meh, but there’s, like, War of the Heroes and the Captain Vale Versus the Atlesian Knight, those are both awesome. I also really like Age of Hyperion, even though a lot of people don’t, but a lot of people are dumb. If you don’t want superhero stuff, there’s also the Fires of Greymark series, which is a mythical fantasy thing. And I have a choose your own adven—”

“Ruby!”

“Huh? What?” 

Blake messaged the bridge of her nose and sighed. “Just give me a recommendation? Let me try your favorite one, the Reaper whatsit.” 

“Tales of the Reaper!” Ruby said cheerily. 

“Yeah, that one.” 

Ruby handed Blake the first volume, then stacked the other six in her arms after she took a moment to consider how fast Blake read. “So the main character is Maria Calavera, the first huntress that got big and famous as the Grimm Reaper. It starts in the—”

“Ruby!” 

“Whaaaaaat?” she whined. 

Blake gave her an admonishing frown. “Let me read it myself, please.” 

Ruby gave the girl a pout. “But I wanna talk about it.” 

“You will! We will! After I read them.” 

“… Okay,” Ruby conceded, not letting up on her pout. 

Blake rearranged the pile of comics in her hands so issue one was on top. “You’re right, the art is really pretty,” she remarked. 

“Yeah!” Ruby agreed. “They got a new colorist for this series, and the line artist definitely got better since the earlier Reaper series.” 

“Mm,” was the only distracted response she got as Blake walked back to her bed, flipping through pages. 

Well this was both awesome and sucky. She had a friend to talk comic books with but Blake didn’t want to talk about ‘em! Yet. Making Ruby be all patient and crap. 

Ugh.

Speaking of being patient, apparently Weiss thought twenty minutes was a fast shower. Because of course she did. When Ruby finally heard the water shut off, she jumped up and knocked on the door.

“Weiss, hurry up! It’s my turn!” 

“I—hold on! One sec!” 

There were some thumping and shuffling noises for a few seconds before Weiss cracked the door open to let Ruby in. She had a towel wrapped around her body that she was clutching together at her clavicle. 

“Heehee, you’re whiter than the towel,” Ruby giggled. 

“Shut up!” Weiss huffed. She kicked Ruby in the shin, then scampered into the closet. 

Unsurprisingly, the hot water was almost gone now. Dumb Weiss. Didn’t matter, though, ‘cause Ruby was able to shower in five minutes just as the water was starting to get cold. Also unsurprisingly, Weiss hadn’t managed to decide on an outfit yet. She was standing in front of her giganto mirror in a bra and panties while she held a skirt and blouse up to her front. When Ruby came in, though, she turned and tried to cover herself up. 

“Oh, relax,” Ruby said with a roll of her eyes. She got dressed, putting on one of her new pairs of black jeans, a tight red top, and then threw on one of the black button downs that Weiss had liked so much. Honestly, Ruby was starting to like this look a lot too. She looked so sophisticated, yet still cutesy and casual. 

Weiss had made a final decision on a straight white skirt and pulled it on, but she was still trying to pick between two shirts. Ruby tried to creep up behind her, hoping to pinch her ribs, but Weiss saw her in the mirror. 

“Don’t you dare.” 

“Aw.” Ruby walked up and rested her chin on Weiss’ shoulder and smiled at her in the mirror. “Need some help?” 

“Maybe,” Weiss admitted. “What do you think: this one—” she held up a pink frilly blouse in front of her “—or this one?” She held up the other shirt, a white button down with a flowery collar. “I’d sorta match you with this one.” 

Ruby smiled wider, delighted that that was something Weiss thought was a plus now. “Yeah, but the other one shows off your shoulders and collarbone.” 

Weiss gave her a face in the mirror. “What is it with you and my shoulders?” 

“Whadaya mean? They’re nice shoulders!” 

Weiss squinted at Ruby in the mirror, then lowered the shirt she held in front of her to look at her shoulders. First the right one, then the left. “Hm. I suppose.” 

“I vote pink,” Ruby declared. “Now come on, you can’t spend all day in the bathroom.” She gave Weiss a little scratch on her back, then walked back out to the bedroom. 

Blake was still in the bathroom and Yang was still sleeping like a big dumby. Ruby jumped up and shook her sister awake. 

“Oi, ya big oaf! It’s wakey wakey time!” She gave Yang another shake. “Hey!” She poked Yang’s nose. 

Yang’s eyes opened so suddenly into a glare it scared the pants off Ruby. 

“I will break you in half and throw the halves into opposite hemispheres, Ruby,” she growled. 

Yikes.

“C’mon, get up! Everyone else is awake!” 

The glare Yang was giving her got even glare-ier. “You wake me up in the middle of the night just because everyone else is doing it?” 

Ruby turned a bit to look at the sunlight streaming through the window right next to Yang’s bed, then turned back to her sister. “Yang, it’s almost eight AM.” 

“I know what I said.” 

“C’monnnnn,” Ruby begged. “I’ll make you coffee!” 

Yang’s glare started to ease up. “I am not moving until I have coffee in my hands.” 

“Woohoo!” 

Ruby rushed to the living area. Pyrrha and Jaune were already there, cooking breakfast stuffs. And they had a pot of coffee brewing! 

“Greetings, fellow superheroes!” she chirped. 

“Hello again!” 

“Morning, Ruby,” Jaune said. “You wouldn’t happen to know how to cook, would you? It’s our turn and last time we did it Ren was so unimpressed he didn’t speak to us for a whole day.” 

“Is that… unusual?” Ruby asked. 

“Not really, no,” Pyrrha grinned. 

“Well I don’t know how to cook anyway. You’d need to ask Yang for that. Speaking of Yang, can I steal a cup of coffee from you? She’s demanding payment to get out of bed.” 

“Go for it.” Jaune waved her into the kitchen. 

 “Careful,” Pyrrha said, “Jaune made it way too strong.” 

“I put in exactly the right amount!”

“You dumped so much coffee in that filter, Jaune.” 

Ruby weaved around the kitchen while the two partners bickered playfully, filling a cup and adding extra milk and sugar to compensate for Jaune’s nincompoopiness. “See you in class, guys!” she called over her shoulder as she scooted back over to their room, going agonizingly slowly to avoid spilling. 

When she got back, Yang was sitting up at the edge of her bed, playfully trying to kick Blake’s bow as Blake tried to make her bed. 

“Hey, you moved!” Ruby accused her. 

Yang frowned at her feet. “I ‘spose I did,” she agreed. “Now gimme gimme!” She held her hands out, opening and closing her fingers. 

Ruby handed it up to her just as Weiss came out of the bathroom. 

“Ooh, coffee,” she remarked, sniffing the air. “Could I have a cup?” 

“Uh, sure! One spoonful of sugar, right?”

“Yes, please. Teaspoon, not tablespoon.” 

“‘Kay, bee arr bee!” Ruby ran back out and made it about three steps before her legs screamed at her in agony. Toning it down to a powerwalk and got back into the kitchen. “Could I steal one more cup from you guys?” she asked Jaune and Pyrrha. 

“You can take as much as you want,” Pyrrha groaned. 

“You’re being overly dramatic!” Jaune shot at her. 

“I’m really not.” 

Ruby poured another cup, then got the sugar back out. She pulled the silverware drawer open and paused. “Guys, is a teaspoon the big one or the small one?” 

“Small one,” Pyrrha answered. “Why?” 

“Weiss is picky.” 

“Ah.” 

Weiss is having my coffee?” Jaune croaked, blanching. 

“Make sure you tell Weiss who made it,” Pyrrha told Ruby, giving Jaune a squinty, grumpy look. “After she takes a sip, though.” 

That was ominous. Ruby had no idea how to judge coffee. It looked black and smelled coffee-ish, which… checked out from what Ruby knew of coffee. “Is it that bad?” she asked. 

“Yes.” 

“No!” 

Ruby shuffled back to their room, leaving the two to their bickering again. 

When she got back inside she placed the mug on Weiss’ desk. Weiss was sitting there, one hand running through her ponytail while she clicked through some news page or something on her laptop. 

“Thank you, Ruby,” she said. 

“Mhm!” 

“Ruby, this coffee tastes funny,” Yang said, still kicking her feet off the edge of her bed. 

‘Uh-oh.’ She was sure she’d put enough milk and sugar in Yang’s for it to taste okay. Maybe it would still taste bad, though? She didn’t know how coffee worked. 

Weiss glanced at Yang, wide-eyed, then looked at Ruby. “What did you do?” she asked, the question an accusation. 

“Nothing! I didn’t even make it!” 

That made Weiss narrow her eyes. “Well who did?” 

“… Jaune…” 

Yang snorted. “That’ll do it.” 

Looking down her nose at the coffee at her desk, Weiss wrinkled her nose. “I’m not sure I did anything to deserve this, Ruby,” she said. 

“You haven’t even tried it!” 

Slowly—ever so slowly—Weiss raised the cup to her lips, blew on the top a little bit, and took a tiny sip. 

She immediately let out a hacking cough. “Ugh! What? How is it so bitter?!” 

“I thought you like bitter though,” Ruby protested quietly. Now she felt bad for bringing these two bad coffee. 

‘Darn you, Jaune.’

Yang seemed to be drinking hers, at least. 

“I do, but this is way too much,” Weiss snapped at her. 

“It’s bitterer than grapefruit?” Ruby asked. That sounded pretty impossibru. 

“Yes, it—no, it’s more bitter. ‘Bitterer’ is not a word.” 

“Pretty sure it—”

“No!” Weiss cut her off. “No dumb jokes or made up words. Just… go make your bed, you dolt.”

“Ugh!” Ruby groaned. “Finnnne.” 

“I’m going to go play the violin for a bit. Make sure you’re ready for class, then you’re welcome to join me..” 

Right. Class. Ugh, Mondays. 

 

*          *          *

 

“Now which team would like to go first?” 

Ruby, Blake, and Yang all sank lower into their seats. Hopefully Professor Goodwitch wouldn’t notice th—

Weiss shot her hand up. 

A sudden urge to slap the girl upside the head almost overtook Ruby. Almost. 

“Ow!” Weiss cried out suddenly. Yang had apparently had the same urge as Ruby and not suppressed it. 

“Ah, Miss Xiao-Long. Thank you for volunteering your team,” Professor Goodwitch said with a look

“I, what? No, I wasn’t—”

“Normally I’d have the team leader go first, but since you seem so enthusiastic to lead the class, I suppose we could go backwards. Come on up.” The professor stepped to the side of her lectern and gestured for Yang to come stand by her. 

“You will pay for this in blood!” Yang whispered at Weiss. 

“It’s not my fault you shit me like some sort of heathen!” Weiss snapped back, rubbing the back of her head with a grimace. 

Professor Goodwitch snapped open a little briefcase thing on her desk as Yang sulked up to the lectern. “If I recall correctly, your highest affinity is fire?” she asked. 

“Yeah.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Weiss hissed under her breath. Blake gave a quite snort-laugh. 

With a wizardy wave of her fingers, Professor Goodwitch made four tiny shards of fire Dust float out of the briefcase. She sent one over to float in front of Yang, the other three she kept, rotating them around her head. 

Wizard. 

“Now, class, I’ll only have you working with your best affinity element today, but still pay attention as you will all have to do the exercise for fire Dust for homework.” 

At the mention of homework, pretty much the whole class collectively groaned. Miss Goodwitch just rolled her eyes. 

“Now, Miss Xiao-Long, take that crystal and try to create a small fireball and spin it in a circle in your palm, like so.” She raised a hand, palm up, and one of the crystals meandering around her head moved over it. The Dust lit up and turned into a small mote of flame. It sat there for a moment, just bein’ a cute lil’ fireball, then it started moving in a slow circle parallel to her palm. The tail end of the line of flame left behind faded just before the fireball caught up to it, so it ended up looking like a broken ring slowly spinning in place. 

“Try to keep it going as long as possible, keep it a consistent size, and moving at an even speed,” Professor Goodwitch finished. She closed her hand and the fire in it snuffed out. 

‘Rest in peace, Baby Fireball,’ Ruby mourned. 

Crossing her hands in front of her, Professor Goodwitch looked at Yang expectantly. 

“Alright, easy-peasy!” Yang declared, clearly not bothered at being in the spotlight. She’d always been happy being the center of attention. 

She raised her hand up and her little Dust crystal dropped into her palm, Miss Goodwitch apparently relinquishing her semblance on it. 

“Ahem!” said Yang before squinting in concentration at the Dust. Half a second later the Dust popped, growing into a fireball that was almost twice as big as the professor’s. It skittered across Yang’s palm one way, then the other, then instead of spinning in a ring it just kinda rotated in place a bit, then burnt out. 

Yang frowned down at her now empty palm. “Umm…” 

Cardin and his crew of stooges started laughing but a glare from Professor Goodwitch shut them up. 

“A good attempt,” she said, sending one of the Dust crystals floating around her over to Yang. “Try again.” 

“And this time at least try to do what the professor did,” Weiss huffed, “instead of… whatever that was.” 

“I did try!” Yang shouted back angrily. 

“Sssh,” Miss Goodwitch cut in. “That’s enough, Miss Schnee. Not everyone is lucky enough to have had the Dust and training you’ve had.” 

“Yeah, suck it, Weiss!” Yang followed up. 

“Miss Xiao-Long.” 

Yang gave a frown to the professor. “Ugh, fine. You can unsuck it, Weiss.” 

“There will be no sucking or unsucking of anything in my classroom, thank you very much.” 

The whole class cracked up at that (save Weiss, who buried her face in her hands) while Miss Goodwitch crossed her arms, a tiny smile on her face. She waited for the laughter to die down before gesturing to Yang again. “Now, try again. This time, don’t push so much aura into it all at once. You’re going for a slow, steady burn, not an explosion.” 

“Okay.” Yang squinted down at the new crystal. This time the flame came slowly. It looked like the inside of it ignited before the rest of it caught fire. The mote of flame was small, more like Professor Goodwitch’s. 

“Good, now use your aura to create a path for the fire. Don’t push it, just give it a trail to follow.” 

Focusing harder than Ruby had ever seen her sister focus before, Yang got the little fireball moving. It wasn’t a nice circle like the professor’s was, more like a really screwed up pentagon, and the movements were jerky and sudden instead of smooth. And where the professor’s fireball left a trail behind it that faded before the fireball could catch up, the trails left by Yang’s fire never faded, so it ended up turning into a weird drawing. Yang kept the little break dancing flame going for about ten seconds before it fizzled out, the fireball getting too thin because of all the flame that was left behind. 

“Very good, Miss Xiao-Long,” Professor Goodwitch praised her. “Now we’ll give you one more go at it, but first, could you tell me why I told you to create a trail for the fire, rather than push it?” 

“Uh, ‘cause you’re the teacher and you get to tell me what to do?” Yang answered. 

The joke got laughs from some, like Nora and Pyrrha and Leona, but Miss Goodwitch blinked at her, unimpressed. 

“Umm…” Yang floundered a bit, clearly lacking an actual answer. 

“For context, the Dust elements behave largely as their natural counterparts do,” Miss Goodwitch explained. “Now use that to give me a more thoughtful answer.” 

Yang went red a bit, then frowned down at the podium as she thought. “It’s… ‘cause… fire likes to have a trail to follow? Like a line of gasoline or… or something?” 

The professor stayed silent and cocked her head to the side, kinda prompting Yang to keep going. 

“So… so if you give it a trail you can control where it goes?” Yang continued. “And… and you didn’t want me to push it because… because that’s not how you get fire to move. A push comes from behind, and if you try to push fire then it’ll end up going the wrong way, like it did for me the first time?” 

At that, Professor Goodwitch smiled. “Very good, Miss Xiao-Long. You captured some of the key…” she paused, frowning, “…elements.” The look on her face said she hadn’t meant to make the joke, but when Yang and Ruby and a couple others laughed, she smiled and took in stride. 

She walked back to her lectern and patted Yang on the arm. Yang took that as a signal to go back to her seat, but Miss Goodwitch caught her shoulder to keep her beside her. 

“It would be easiest to explain with comparisons,” she said, going into Teacher Mode. From her case of Dust floated a red, a dark blue, a dark green, and a light green crystal. “Fire, water, earth, and air. The four base elements. Of them, three of can move.” The earth crystal floated off to the side. “Air, in fact, always moves, and likes to do so in a singular track, often in a straight line. Water is the next most mobile, and follows pushes and pulls. In nature, this is gravity. In Dust casting it is your aura. Fire errs closer to earth in that it likes to stay in place unless there is fuel within reach. Again, in our case this fuel is aura. And as Miss Xiao-Long identified, unlike with water, pushing fire with your aura does not work. It will move toward your aura, not away from it. Now did you notice, Miss Xiao-Long, that you were leaving fire behind as you moved the mote around?” 

Yang nodded. 

“This is because you weren’t dropping the aura the you’d used to make the trail. Fire doesn’t move so much as it spreads. Like air, it will move into new available space to follow fuel, but like earth it will not leave the place it was before if there is still fuel there. Now…” Professor Goodwitch stepped away from the podium again and floated the last Fire crystal above it, “try one more time.” 

Yang nodded, determined. This time when the little fireball moved, the trail behind it disappeared. It wasn’t even and smooth like the professor’s had been, some parts of the trail cutting out before the parts behind it had, but it was progress! The fireball moved jerkily still, but in more of a circle than it had before. The end of the attempt came suddenly, though, when the fireball randomly expanded and poofed out in a blink. 

“Oops,” Yang muttered, giving Miss Goodwitch an apologetic grin. “Think I put too much aura in that part of the trail.” 

The professor gave her a smile though, and gave her shoulder a squeeze. “No worries, Yang. You improved greatly in a short span and you were able to identify your own mistake. That will help you improve more than anything. Did you note any other things that went wrong?” 

“Uh, circles are as hard to draw with aura as they are by hand, and, uh… it was hard to cut the trail off right? Like… I don’t know, it’s hard to control my aura when I’m projecting it, like, out. Or whatever.” 

“Indeed it is,” Professor Goodwitch agreed. “Unfortunately, there are no words or sage advice I can give you there that work better than practice. Continue working on these exercises and your aura control will improve with it. Miss Belladonna, would you like to go next?” 

“Not really,” Blake murmured even as she stood and walked to the front. As they passed each other, Yang and Blake exchanged a high five, but then Yang continued the swing of her arm and gave Blake an encouraging slap on the butt. Blake yelped in surprise then swatted at Yang’s shoulder, her cheeks red with her nervous smile. 

When she got up to the lectern her smiled faded but the nervousness amped up. 

Ruby sympathized. Being in front of the class sucked

“Your highest affinity is water, I believe?” the professor asked. 

Blake nodded. 

“Water triiiibe!” Ruby whispered. 

Weiss looked at her like she’d just eaten an oatmeal cookie or something. 

“This exercise is similar, but we’ll be changing the speed instead of keeping it consistent,” Professor Goodwitch said. 

She demonstrated with a dark blue Dust crystal from her case. The shard turned to water and began spinning in a vertical circle, unlike the horizontal circle from the fire exercise. The circle was a lot wider, too, with not much of a “trail” behind it. When the water reached the top of the circle, it slowed to a stop before then continuing along. It was funny; it kinda looked like the loading circle that scrolls showed when you turned them on. 

“Focus on keeping the spread of water even and bringing it to a full stop at the top of the arc.” With that, Professor Goodwitch closed her fist and the water above it faded away. Then she sent a crystal over to Blake. 

Blake said something quietly enough that Ruby couldn’t hear it. It looked like ‘alright’ or ‘okay’. She pinched her little piece of Dust between her fingers, then frowned a bit. “I don’t have much practice with Dust, just so you know,” she said to nobody in particular. She was probably talking to the professor, but she was just staring at her hands so maybe she was talking to the class?

“Don’t worry about that,” the professor said, sounding more stern than reassuring. “Most of your classmates don’t either.” 

Blake’s eyes flittered to Weiss, then she focused back to her hand. After a second the crystal in her hand exploded in a spray of water. Blake jumped in surprise and lost control of the magic, letting is splash onto the podium before the water faded. 

Ruby caught a brief glimpse of Blake’s eyes going wide as saucers before Blake threw her hands up to cover her face in embarrassment. 

Looking around, Ruby saw Weiss pinching the bridge of her nose in that way she had, and Ruby nudged her with her elbow to get her to relax. Yang was smiling like a big old doofus as she watched her partner, but it seemed to be more an enjoyment of Blake’s embarrassed reaction than from the mistake with the Dust. 

Cardin and a couple of the other douchenozzles on his team laughed out loud, and the glare Professor Goodwitch gave them didn’t shut them up fast enough to stop Blake from drawing her shoulders in and shrinking in on herself. 

“Relax,” Professor Goodwitch practically ordered. “Plenty of your peers will have similar first tries.” She glared over at one of the CRDL kids in particular. Ruby couldn’t tell which one. 

Blake lowered her hands and her eyes moved towards the table Team RWBY was sitting at, then stopped short, staring around their feet. Ruby was pretty sure she was about to look at Weiss and could imagine what she was thinking. 

‘Yeah, most of us are gonna suck, but Weiss is about to go after me and make me look like a clown.’

Oh gods. Ruby was gonna have to go after Weiss! 

D:

“Try that one again,” the professor said, floating another crystal over to Blake. 

This time Blake turned the crystal into a little ball of water. She kept it floating in place, just kinda lookin’ at it for a while. 

“Now try moving it in the circles like I demonstrated,” Miss Goodwitch gently prompted after a moment. 

“Right. Um…” Blake squinted. The ball of water flattened and spread to make the wide base the professor had made, then she set it to start moving up in the circle. When it reached the top it started to slow, but then the front section suddenly fell, splashing down onto wood, then fading. 

Blake frowned and turned to the professor blinking in confusion, but Miss Goodwitch nodded toward the water Blake was still manipulating.  

“Continue,” she said. 

After a brief fumble, Blake completed the circle with the water she still had left, though at the bottom of the arc the water kept on moving down and splashed down onto the lectern as the other half just had. 

“I… dropped it?” Blake pondered. “Or…” 

“I suspect not so much dropped as didn’t push the water in a way to keep it from succumbing to gravity,” Miss Goodwitch corrected. “When you brought it to a stop at the top of the circle, did you continue pushing up on the water, or did you stop pushing thinking it would stay stationary?” 

Blake started nodding, connecting the dots herself. “The second.” 

The professor nodded back. “Remember that water, like earth and unlike fire and air, is very material and substantive and will be effected by gravity heavily if you let it. Though it is slippery, unlike earth, and thus far easier to drop.”  She sent another crystal floating over to Blake. “Try again.” 

This time, Blake managed a slow, shaky circle, shedding a few drops along the way. When she went for the second circle, though, she sent it up too fast and lost control. She let out a “No! Wait, agh!” as she tried to wrangle it back and ended up spraying out into the classroom. 

Ruby let out an instinctive yip as she got splashed, but where she and Yang started laughing, Weiss gave a long, loud whine. 

“Blaa-aaake!” She started trying to pat dry the spots where the water had splashed on the paper of her notebook. Ruby wasn’t even sure why she had it out—she wasn’t taking any notes. There wasn’t much to ‘note’ on with this lesson and she knew all this crap anyway. 

It also ended up being pointless because the wet splotches on the pages faded away as the water disappeared. 

Dust is weird. 

Once she got the class to quiet down, Professor Goodwitch sent the third crystal over to Blake. “Don’t panic,” she said. “It may feel like the Dust is slipping out of your control, but as long as you’re using your aura on it, it will follow. So just keep control of your aura.” 

Blake made a bit of a face at that, like, ‘oh sure, that’s just super easy’, but then nodded and tried again. She made the circle again, still shaky, but managed to keep things under control. She made a second circle. And a th—ah. The water separated and dissipated on the third round. 

 “Very good, Miss Belladonna,” Professor Goodwitch said. She gave a small smile. “You may take your seat now.” 

“Gah, thank you!” Blake breathed out, rushing back to her seat. Yang gave her a fist bump as she sat back down. 

Weiss was already halfway out of her seat when the professor called, “Miss Schnee.” 

She had a little hop in her step that made her ponytail bounce from side to side as she walked around Ruby and headed up to the front. “Yes, ma’am,” she cooed. “And ice is my best affinity.” 

“Oh, I know,” Professor Goodwitch replied coyly. “But I was thinking I’d have you do a demonstration of the earth exercise instead.” 

Weiss froze. “What? Why?”

Three shards of dark green crystal floated out of the case and around the professor’s hand. “I’d like to start with the four basic elements, and your team is good for that. Fire,—” she pointed at Yang “—water,—” she pointed at Blake “—and Miss Rose’s second highest affinity is air, which I’ll have her use as we’re not working with gravity Dust today. That just leaves you to do earth.” 

Wait, was the professor planning on starting with Team RWBY even before Yang got in trouble? 

Weiss’ feet stayed planted, rooting her in the middle of the classroom. “But earth is my worst,” she said quietly. 

Professor Goodwitch cocked an eyebrow at her. “I imagine you are quite capable of demonstrating Agycyst’s Technique regardless,” she said, tone making the statement a question at the end. 

“Well… yes,” Weiss agreed, seemingly stuck between bragging that she was good enough to use earth and wanting to show off with her ice. 

When the professor gestured at the podium, Weiss went. 

“Technique A?” she asked as a green crystal drifted over to her. 

Miss Goodwitch gave her a smile and nod. 

The only expression Weiss returned was a flitter of her eyelids that Ruby didn’t know how to translate. 

Apparently the professor trusted Weiss to do it without an example like she’d given Yang and Blake, which was… pretty cool. Weiss was so awesome and Ruby’s partner. 

🙂 

The dust flared green and suddenly became a pillar of compacted earth above Weiss’ hand. It cracked in half, the top floating up a bit, then the halves cracked in half and spread apart a bit as well. Then those split in half. Eight thin disks hovered one above the other. They shuffled once, the top four sliding between the bottom four. They pressed together again, seemingly reforming as a whole, then split in half longways. Then again, and again, until there were 8 super tall pie slices. They pulled away from each other, then they spread up and down like they had before along the horizontal slices. Now there were a bunch of tiny floating rock pie slices above Weiss’ hand. 

Eight and eight. That was sixty-four pie slices!

Now Ruby wanted pie. 

The pie slices shuffled around in a pattern Ruby didn’t quite follow, then pressed together again, making the cylinder whole. Weiss waved her fingers a little and the earth disintegrated and faded away. 

Everyone was quiet for a moment, then Miss Goodwitch approached the lectern, smiling. “Very good, Miss Schnee,” she said. She turned to the class. “Note, everyone that you do not have to do the disk shuffle in the middle or the wedge shuffle at the end. That is an advanced form of the exercise and I’m not expecting it from you yet. Though I do encourage you to try, should you be feeling up to it.” 

Weiss was somehow expressionless and beaming with pride at the same time. 

“Focus on making straight splits at exact halves. The rock will fight you. It doesn’t want to break, and certainly not in clean lines.” The professor turned to Weiss. “No need for you to do it two more times, Miss Schnee. You can take a seat.” 

Professor Goodwitch gave Weiss a pat on the back, then Weiss headed back to her seat. As she passed, Ruby raised her hand to hive her partner a high five. Weiss stopped, looked confused for a moment, then realized what was happening and smiled, slapping Ruby’s hand softly. 

‘Cute little dingus,’ Ruby thought. 

“Yes, Miss Xiao-Long?” the professor said. Ruby looked over to see her sister had raised her hand. 

“I don’t get it. Weiss has, like, five percent affinity with earth. H—” 

Eight,” Weiss corrected haughtily, though Ruby wasn’t really sure how that distinction mattered. 

“Whatever,” Yang said, waving a hand at her. “How can she be that good with earth Dust?” 

Miss Goodwitch nodded. “A good question. Obviously, she has a lot of practice with Dust, but there’s more to it. Does anybody else know the answer to Miss Xiao-Long’s question?” 

Weiss started raising her ha—

“Other than Miss Schnee,” the professor added. 

Weiss lowered her hand with a grumpy grunt. 

After a moment, Pyrrha raised her hand. 

“Yes! Miss Nikhos.”

Folding her hands in front of her (looking very Weissy, in Ruby’s opinion), Pyrrha answered. “Having a low affinity with an element doesn’t mean you’re bad with it. It just means it takes more power and control for you to achieve the results that someone with a high affinity would. These exercises don’t require a lot of power, and, well, I suppose Weiss just has enough control over her aura that she can do stuff like that even with a super low affinity.” 

“It’s not that low,” Weiss muttered. 

“It kinda is,” Blake grinned. 

“Precisely, Miss Nikhos,” Miss Goodwitch said. “This is why the most important thing for you all to master is controlling your aura. Now, in battle it is always better to use Dust you have a high affinity for. It will cost you less power and concentration to enact powerful effects, letting you save aura and focus on the things happening around you. But learning how to use Dust you aren’t good with in safe situations like this will help you improve your aura control immensely.”

“Pretty sure the most important thing for us to master is learning the best spots to punch all the Grimm,” Yang quipped. 

“Or super awesome scythe techniques!” Ruby added. 

The professor gave them unimpressed glares. “Miss Rose, it’s your turn.” 

‘Crap.’

That familiar anxiously stage fright feeling settled over Ruby’s shoulders and knotted up her stomach. Everyone was looking at her now. 

She spared a glance down at her knees. They looked normal, not bee-like in any way. 

That was something, at least. 

Ruby walked to the front, mentally preparing herself for doing something embarrassing and bad with the Dust she was about to get handed. At least Blake had splashed people, so Ruby wouldn’t be the first big goof up. 

Professor Goodwitch demonstrated. A light green crystal above her hand seemed to disintegrate, the pieces flaking off like one of those really fast erosion-over-time videos until there wasn’t any left. A ball of faintly green-tinted wind spun in a sphere around where it had been. It stayed like that for a few seconds, then Miss Goodwitch raised her other hand, palm up, and sent the ball of air across to that hand. It stayed there for a few seconds, then the green winds slowed to a stop, then reversed, spinning in the other direction. She then sent the ball of air back over to her first palm, kept it there for a second, then flexed her fingers and dissipated the magic air. 

She looked over at Ruby. “Ready?” 

“Yep!” Ruby reflexively chirped, despite not being ready at all. She hadn’t used Dust much at all. It was expensive and Dad had told her that he’d paid a lot of money for Crescent Rose’s creation and that she should spend her time practicing with her to make that investment worth it. Which was totally awesome, ‘cause Crescent Rose was the best!

It just sucked a little bit right now when she had to be a wizard in front of a class of peers. 

‘C’mon, Ruby, you can do this. You basically just have to play catch with yourself. With a magical ball of air. It’s literally windball! But completely different!’

When the light green crystal came to a stop above the podium in front of her, Ruby decided to just jump into it. If she was gonna mess up, might as well get it over with. 

She extended her aura from her palm and shoved it onto the crystal and… nothing happened. Her aura was caught outside the Dust, but it was supposed to be insi…

Oh, duh. It needed to attune to her. 

The Dust was tiny so the attunement took less then a second, and when it completed Ruby felt her aura rush into the crystal. It triggered the dormant magic of the Dust and—

And it burst in a quick poof of green air. 

Crap. 

Ruby could feel the air spreading out through her aura that was getting carried along with it. The wind pressed out in every direction, poofing in Ruby’s face, and spread out too quickly. By the time Ruby had recovered from the surprise and was able to try to control the air with her aura instead of letting this happen the other way around, it was spread too thin. She couldn’t exert her will on her aura or the air that was attached to it. 

Too far from its source and with no continuous supply, the aura faded away after a moment and took the wind with it.

“Looks like you pulled a Blake,” Yang teased her. 

“A what?!” Blake squeaked. “Nonono, that’s not becoming a thing.”  

Ruby frowned a bit. “I meant to do that,” she said, joking to distract from how embarrassing that was.  

“Well that would be troubling, considering that’s not what I asked you to do,” Professor Goodwitch said. 

Ruby blanched, but… The words were intimidating, but her tone was light. Ruby wasn’t quite sure if she was playing into the joke, but it felt like it. She had a bit of a resting grumpy face so it was hard to tell, and Ruby wasn’t used to whatever little tells she had the way she’d gotten familiar with some Weiss’. 

“After a moment’s consideration, I’ve realized I did not, in fact, mean to do that,” Ruby decided.  

“A wise realization,” the professor remarked, still completely deadpan. “Go ahead and redo that one.” She floated another crystal to Ruby. “Don’t push your aura into the crystal to attune. It’s small enough you can just surround it with your aura to do that, and you won’t trigger it accidentally like that.”

“Okay,” Ruby said. “Thanks.” 

It was weird and difficult to not push her aura out. By default the aura she extended beyond her body wanted to snap back to her, and finding the balance for how hard to press it out to keep it in place around the crystal without just shoving it away from her was… tricky. 

She managed it, though, and after a moment she felt the resistance of the crystal give way, her aura filling in the space that was previously inaccessible. It felt funny. Her aura was filling the area in and around the Dust like nothing was there, but her aura felt ever so slightly different in the crystal-shaped area of the Dust. Like if the middle of her hand was getting hit by a light breeze but the rest of it wasn’t. 

Weird. 

Ruby formed a bubble of aura around the crystal and started spinning it in a circle, adding more force to the aura to get the Dust to start triggering. She meant to only add a tiny bit of power and keep building until the Dust triggered, but her control wasn’t good enough and she ended up putting more into it than she’d meant to. The whole crystal shattered and the pieces began spinning around in the sphere she’d created, quickly disintegrating until there was nothing but the tinted winds flying around in Ruby’s hand. 

Not as clean as the professor’s erosiony start, but still decent. Unintentionally, some air flowed down the line of aura connecting Ruby’s hand to the sphere, reached her hand, and spread along the aura that Ruby was projecting around herself. 

Woops. Ruby cut the line. Now the aura ball was suspended outside herself, though she could still feel the aura and exert her will on it. Which felt weird

This was all weird. 

Ruby took a second to marvel at how incredible it was that she was holding a magic ball of air in her hand. There were kids out there in college classes doing dumb stuff like algebra and calculus and… other fancy maths, and Ruby got to play with freaking magic instead. 

Being a huntress was awesome. 

She raised her right hand. She summoned more aura above her left hand and tried to press it against the aura ball to push it over to her right hand…

And messed something up. 

The spinning stopped and all of the wind slammed in the opposite direction Ruby was pushing it, then followed the push, rushing back the other way. A few thin gusts escaped riding lines of aura that Ruby wasn’t able to keep contained, but the rest hit the edge of her aura-sphere and then rebounded, then tried to follow her push again and slammed back into the edge, creating a weird spinning current at the edge of the sphere that Ruby didn’t intend. 

She pulled back and tried to reset to the spinning ball she had before. A few more licks of wind flew out of the sphere because Ruby was losing her hold on her aura. She was panicking and her control was suffering for it. Eventually one of the threads of loose wind was big and forceful enough that it led most of the magical air with it. Ruby was left with a ball of air a quarter the size of her original as the rest spread out across the room. 

“Durn it,” she muttered, dropping her aura sphere and letting it all go. 

“Don’t try to push the air,” Miss Goodwitch told her, floating another crystal over to her. “The flow of air will move from low aura to high aura densities. If you try to push air it will move in the wrong direction first. Keep the sphere of your aura spinning and lead it towards your other hand. Then, when it’s close enough, reach out with aura from your right hand and pull the sphere to it with that connection.” 

Okay, that made sense. But how to ‘lead the sphere’? Maybe just… make the side of the sphere a bit denser with aura and just kinda… pull it along?

That sounded right. 

Ruby started again, getting herself to the spinny sphere state pretty quickly. This time, though, instead of pushing the ball with more aura, she just shifted the aura that was already in the ball to be a bit heavier on the right side. It was difficult considering the aura was also spinning around in circles, so she had to be extra attentive to making the area denser instead of specific flows of aura, ‘cause then they’d just spin around and just make the ball of wind dance around. 

She managed it, though and the right edge of the wind sphere moved towards her right hand. It took Ruby a moment to realize, though, that the left side wasn’t moving, and now she had a big elongated weird looking thingy instead of her perfect sphere. She stopped moving the air forward and focused on moving the back edge up to make the sphere again. 

It looked a bit wonky, but Ruby got the sphere over to her right hand by moving the sides of the sphere one at a time like that ‘cause she couldn’t really focus on moving both at the same time. It was too hard to densify (that’s a word, right?) her aura on one side and pull the aura on the other side at the same time.

So it ended up looking like a goofy earthworm—or airworm, rather, hehehe—that slithered from one hand to the other instead of the nice smooth ball movement that the professor had, but… hey, end result was the same!

When she managed to get the sphere all set up over her right hand, she looked up at Weiss, then at Professor Goodwitch, smiling. 

“I did it!” she chirped. 

She wasn’t sure why she was proud of accomplishing something so lame—it was just moving a ball, like, two feet, and she hadn’t even moved it right—but after how much it had taken to figure it out, she felt pretty good to have managed it. 

The professor smiled at her. “Good job. Now, can you reverse the spin in the sphere and send it back?” 

Right. There was still more. 

‘Ugh, this exercise is hard.’

Ruby reversed the direction of her au—

The ball of air fricking exploded. Ruby felt the air stop spinning and just slam into the edges of the sphere in all directions, hard enough that her control of her aura slipped. The result was one big whoosh as the air bubble popped, wind blowing in Ruby’s face and making her squint while it rustled the pages of her team’s notebooks. 

“Hm,” she said while Yang and a few others laughed. 

Professor Goodwitch just used Ruby’s embarrassment as a teaching moment, though. “Don’t try to immediately change the direction of the air,” she said. “While your aura is malleable and able to change direction on a dime, air does not like doing so. It can turn, but to reverse like we’re doing here you need to slow the air down enough that it won’t protest the change of direction.” She sent a fourth crystal to Ruby. “One more try,” she said. 

This attempt went pretty much the same as the last one. Making the sphere was easy, she inched the airworm over to her other hand, and while this time she managed to slow the wind down a bit before the reverse, she was still too fast and the ball of air still popped. Less violently, but still popped. 

Ruby pouted. 

“None of that now,” Miss Goodwitch said, walking over and putting a hand on her shoulder. “This is why we practice. Very good job, Miss Rose.” 

Ruby smiled at her and went back to her seat where Weiss gave her a smile and Yang gave her a fist bump across their partners. 

“Now before we continue on with the rest of you, I want to introduce you to some of the calculations that are applicable to these exercises. I’m not expecting you to do the math while you’re using Dust—even I don’t do that—but understanding the mathematical relationship between Dust, aura, and affinity is incredibly useful for helping you figure out how to manipulate Dust and how to diagnose mistakes when your casting goes wrong. Let’s start with some rules for air Dust that Miss Rose just showcased.” 

Ruby perked up a bit at her name, but she’d started losing interest in what the professor was saying and wasn’t paying too much attention anymore. It was all mathy and boring. 

“There is an equation for the rate at which air Dust moves from low to high density aura… blah blah blah…” 

Time to doodle. 

She hadn’t even completed General Flappy-Feet’s head when Weiss elbowed her. 

Pay attention!” she hissed. 

Ruby gave her a groan in response. 

“You want to do wind slashes, don’t you?” Weiss whispered at her. 

“Uh… yeah?” Ruby sat up a bit. 

“Then pay attention. What she’s talking about right now will help you be able to do th—”

“Miss Schnee, is there something you want to share with the class?” Professor Goodwitch asked super loudly and kinda angrily. 

Weiss froze. If she could get any paler, she probably would have. “N-no, ma’am. I’m sorry.” 

Crap. Ruby couldn’t let Weiss get in trouble because of her! 

“She was just telling me to pay attention, Professor,” she confessed. “Don’t be mad at her.” 

“Mm. I don’t like having to repeat myself, Miss Rose.” 

“I know. I’m sorry. Could you go back a little bit?” If what Weiss had said was true about these weird magic maths being the formula for windslashes, Ruby needed to learn it. 

“How far?” Miss Goodwitch asked tiredly. 

“Uh… I kinda tuned you out after you said ‘equation’,” Ruby answered, turning red with embarrassment and nervousness before she’d even finished her sentence. 

The unimpressed glare she got from the professor was entirely expected, as was the laughter that erupted from the students. 

“There is an equation!” Professor Goodwitch repeated loudly, smacking the board with her crop on the last word to point to where she’d written out a super long equation with more letters than numbers. “For calculating the rate that air will move from areas of low aur density to areas of high aura density. It is logarithmic, so the higher the difference, the faster the movement. If you take…” 

Ruby went back to her notebook, but left her doodle off to the side and got started on taking notes. From the corner of her eye she saw Weiss look over at her. 

They shared a smile and Weiss gave her a happy shoulder bump. 

 

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