Thaw – 2.11

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“Who do you think we’re fighting today?” Yang asked, pointlessly repeating the thing she and Ruby had been pondering for the last two days. 

“Again, Yang, there’s no point in speculating until the professor gives us the time to come in,” Weiss said slowly, hoping maybe the sisters will comprehend her this time. “Once we get that, you can go ask whoever you want to see who has the same.” 

“Yeah, but, like, who do you think we’re fighting?” Ruby asked. 

Weiss groaned and hung her head. 

“I bet we’re fighting Team KORL,” Yang said, eyeing the team where they sat a ways away in the cafeteria. “I wanna see just how strong that Leona girl is.” 

“So, just to be clear, you don’t think we’re fighting Team KORL, you’re just hoping we do,” Blake said to her partner. 

Thank you, Blake!” Weiss bursted. 

“You two and your semantics,” Yang muttered, shaking her head at her now-empty plate of bacon and hash browns. 

“That’s not semantics, that’s just a basic understanding of words,” Weiss griped back. “You get that there’s a thirty-three percent chance that we face any of the teams right now, right? So there’s no reason to think we’ll fight one more than the others.” 

Yang squinted at her, then raised a finger and wagged it up and down at her. “You forget, Weiss, that I am The Yang. My will becomes reality.” 

Ruby’s scroll dinged, and a second later she announced, “Oh hey, we’re fighting Team JNPR!” 

“Damn it,” Yang grumbled. 

“What was that you were saying about your will and reality?” Blake teased her with a grin. 

“Shudup.” 

“At least you’ll get to fight Nora!” Ruby chirped. 

“True.” 

Weiss was hardly even paying attention to them. They would be fighting Team JNPR. Pyrrha. This was her chance to see how she stacked up against the best of the best. 

She clasped her hands tightly together and went still with anticipation. She’d finished her breakfast of fruit and a glass of orange juice anyway.

“The Brofessor says we gotta be at the Battle Center at one,” Ruby announced, reading off her scroll. 

“Totally coulda slept in,” Yang muttered to herself. 

Weiss elected to ignore Yang’s complaining. This was perfect! In a few hours she’d get to fight Pyrrha, one on one. She could see how she measured up against someone who was widely regarded as the best of their age group. 

Maybe she could win! Weiss was definitely at least one of the best of their age, but she hadn’t had the public exposure and competition that Pyrrha had that made her so highly regarded. 

Her gaze drifted down to her scroll and her mood soured. 

Yesterday, she’d managed to finally find the scroll ID of the “journalist” she had to talk to, which had been surprisingly difficult considering how public the occupation tended to be, and how “open and transparent and consumer friendly” Vale Gossip claimed to be. 

All that was left was to call. And talk. She hadn’t done so yesterday because by the time she’d unearthed the ID, it was past six. Almost dinner time. It would just be inconsiderate to call then. And she wasn’t calling now because it was early morning. The man would be eating breakfast, or maybe still be asleep. She’d call in an hour. Or maybe two. If he was still sleeping, he’d need time for breakfast. And he’d probably have to drive to work. And get settled. Maybe go in and talk to the editors about what a stupid liar he was. 

Weiss sighed at herself. These were just a bunch of ridiculous excuses she was coming up with because… 

Well, because she just really didn’t want to make that call. 

Honestly, she probably shouldn’t make the call yet anyway. It would just distract her and stress her out before her fight with Pyrrha, and that mattered a lot to her. 

Though getting those homosexual implications retracted mattered a lot to Father…

She’d do it. Today. Tonight. After training class, not before. Until then she shouldn’t worry about it.

“… do you think, Weiss?” 

“Hm? Sorry, what was that, Ruby?” 

Ruby gave a happy little bounce after Weiss said her name. “I was wondering if we had a competition between my speed, Yang’s strength, Blake’s  reflexes, and your Dust casting, who would win?” 

“How… how would you get those to compete against each other?” 

“It’s just, like, which one do you think is further ahead compared to everyone else,” Yang somewhat clarified. 

“Oh… well then probably Ruby’s speed,” Weiss answered. Wait, how had she gotten pulled into Ruby’s ridiculous hypothetical who would win?

“Really?” Ruby asked. 

Weiss tilted her head. “Well, sure. My Dust casting is very good, but there are still others out there with very good Dust casting. Just like there are strong people out there to rival Yang, or people quick enough to compete with Blake. But… I don’t think there’s anyone out there that can beat you or even keep up with you in a race.” 

The blinding smile Ruby gave her told Weiss she’d given the right answer, though of course she did. She was Weiss.

Then Ruby’s smile wiped away and her eyes went wide as she gasped. “What if there is someone faster than me? They’d have to be, like, lightspeed or something.” 

“I think you’re still significantly slower than lightspeed, Ruby,” Blake informed her lightly. 

“You’restillsignificantlyslowerthanlightspeed!” Ruby shot back in her high-pitched squeak of a yell, squeezing her eyes shut.

“Well… yes.” 

Yang snorted at her partner’s response. “Alright, nerd babes, ya’ll ready to go?” 

Weiss nodded. She’d been ready to go for a while. They’d mostly been waiting for Blake, who was a pretty slow eater, and Ruby, who’d needed a bit to finish her unholy amount of cookies. 

Weiss still wasn’t sure why cookies were being served at breakfast. 

Still stressing about the call she had to make, Weiss followed behind her teammates as they–well, mostly Ruby and Yang–jabbered, lost in her thoughts. 

It was cloudy and grey out, though it still felt nice to Weiss, if a little bleak. In Atlas, even in the summer a cloudy day meant near freezing temperatures. Not that Weiss really minded the cold, but she was happy to do without it. 

It was uncomfortably humid right now though. Rationally, she knew it was because they were on an island off the coast of a temperate region, but the pessimist in her felt like it was the world piling one more discomfort on her to try to make today awful. 

That thought made her rethink this upcoming fight with Pyrrha. If the world was giving that to her, maybe she shouldn’t be excited for it. Maybe she was going to embarrass herself…

‘Stop it, Weiss. You’re getting in your own head.’

They’d all gotten back to their room when Weiss got pulled into the conversation again–by Ruby, of course. 

“Why you bein’ all the quiet and thoughtful, Weiss?” Ruby asked. “You gotta save some of that for Blake!” 

Weiss half-rolled her eyes in response. 

“You thinkin’ about fighting Pyrrha?” Ruby asked. 

“Yes,” Weiss responded. Technically not a lie. It was one of a few things she was thinking about. 

“I bet you can win,” Ruby said matter-of-factly. 

Great. Another person to potentially disappoint. 

“I don’t know, Rubes. Pyrrha is pret-ty goooood,” Yang argued, grinning at Weiss. 

Ruby shook her head. “Yeah, but Weiss is awesome! And she can totally beat… wait, what’s Pyrrha’s semblance?” 

“Polarity,” Weiss answered. 

“Huh?” 

“… Magnetism. Kind of.” 

“Ooooh. How do you know that?”: 

“She’s a world renowned tournament fighter, Ruby. Her semblance is public record.”

“Oh. Right. So people having to do sneaky fake fight challenge shenanigans to figure out her semblance would be a nonsensical plot point.” 

Weiss blinked. “Um… Sure.” 

“Well I totally think you can take her! Just hit her with some of those glyph-Dust magic whammies!” 

“I’ll… do my best.” 

That was a good point, though, and the one that Weiss was banking on. Had Pyrrha faced a Dust caster at Weiss’ level before? If she hadn’t, maybe Weiss really did have a shot at this.

“She might not even be fighting Pyrrha though,” Blake cut in. “It would make the most sense to have us fight in team name order, in which case she’d be against Nora.” 

Weiss involuntarily gulped at that. Blake was right, that would make sense as a system. And if she was right… Well, taking hits from Nora’s gargantuan hammer was not particularly at the top of Weiss’ to-do list. 

“Naaah, Professor Awesome is awesome! If Weiss asks to fight Pyrrha instead, I’m sure he’d say okay!” Ruby crossed her arms at the declaration and nodded, seemingly making it final. 

Blake just shrugged.

Weiss went to her notebook where she’d starting writing out her strategies for fighting opponents–both Grimm and her classmates. That… debacle in the Emerald Forest when she and Ruby had almost burned everything down had shown her that she doesn’t do well without a plan. She was more focused on where her foot was than what was going on with the enemies or Ruby. Granted, that had been one hundred percent Ruby’s fault, but it still helped her feel vastly more comfortable and capable when she had a strategy in mind going into an encounter. 

And it had worked against Ruby. 

She’d filled out notes on Blake and Yang after watching their fight too. 

Dealing with Blake was difficult because it was hard to know what would be effective. It boiled down to “area attacks”. That and “don’t get into prolonged melee duels” because she was so good at dodging–and Myrtenaster’s small size meant it would be that much easier to avoid–and she was remarkably fast at throwing out a burst of attacks with her two blades. She was like Yang in that way. More specifically, Weiss had written “don’t rely on parrying” because of how fast Blake was with her two blades and how adept at feinting she was with her semblance. 

Yang… Weiss had written in big capital letters at the top of Yang’s page the words “STAY AWAY”, and it really was that simple. From the way Yang had described her semblance last week, Weiss knew she built up a energy and then let it out in a single big attack. Ideally, she could try to bait that out and dodge it, but that’s what Blake had tried and it still hadn’t worked, and if Blake couldn’t dodge Yang, there was no way Weiss would be able to. Yang’s short burst mobility was also something to be wary of, but it might also be when she was most vulnerable. When she used her shotgun blasts to launch herself, her hands were behind her and she was unable to block. She also wouldn’t be able to change direction in that moment. If Weiss was going to try to get a big hit in, that would be when she should do it. The only question then would be if she could both stay away from and deal enough damage to Yang to actually close out the fight. 

She also had a page for Pyrrha. She didn’t have one for the rest of Team JNPR because she didn’t know enough about Nora and Ren and Jaune… well, she didn’t need a page for Jaune. But Pyrrha she knew. She’d watched Pyrrha’s tournament performances these past couple years. Pyrrha had been a huge inspiration for her when while she was training, living proof that a girl could be a legend, earn respect and admiration. Weiss had kind of idolized her. 

It was kind of crazy that Weiss was living here with her now. Pyrrha was just across the hall. And she was so… normal. Humble, quiet, even shy. Weiss wasn’t really sure what she’d expected the girl’s personality to be like, but it was far more subdued than the larger-than-life assumption she’d made. 

As for battle strategy against her… Weiss wasn’t sure what to do. Pyrrha had so few weaknesses and insanely powerful strengths. She was strongest at mid to close range. Her weapon, which had once been just a sword and a rifle but now also had a spear form, transitioned incredibly fast, and she was able to fluidly switch between forms and stances like she was breathing. At mid range, ten to fifteen feet away from her opponent, she could easily use any one of the three forms and approach the fight however she liked. She was also very fast at closing short distances, like Yang though not with the same level of damage threat once she closed in. That wasn’t saying much, though, as she was an incredibly proficient duelist and even though she didn’t have Yang’s strength, she was still very strong. Weiss also suspected she was able to use her semblance on her weapons and armor to make her swings faster so they hit harder. 

On top of all of that, she was also so hard to hit. She used her shield well, dodged what she couldn’t block, and her semblance meant she never got hit by any bullets and could influence most melee weapons. In last year’s Mistral Regional Tournament, she’d gotten through the round robin and quarterfinals without taking a single hit. Weiss didn’t suffer from the bullet issue, but she’d probably never get a hit in with Myrtenaster. She was good with her rapier, but she probably wouldn’t be able to stand up to Pyrrha for any length of time. 

The plus side, however small, was that Pyrrha, at least in her tournaments, didn’t have experience fighting against a proficient Dust caster. They were rare, and it was an incredibly expensive ability to train. 

On top of that, Pyrrha had never shown any use of Dust in any of her fights. That might indicate a low capability with Dust, which would in turn mean a low resistance to it. 

And Dust casting was Weiss’ specialty. 

“Is that your contingency plan for bringing down the Righteous League?” Ruby asked at her shoulder, making her startle. 

“What? Oh, um, no. Just my notes on how to fight against… you know, opponents.” 

“Like me?” Ruby asked, eyes wide. 

“Sure, but not just us. Grimm too.” She’d written down some notes for herself, things to remember when fighting Grimm. The most obvious and important one was “don’t be scared”. It was embarrassing to remember the terror she’d felt when facing down an actual Grimm, an abomination of evil and darkness, for the first time. Especially when she remembered how totally fearless Ruby had been. Apparently Ruby was from a family of huntsmen and huntresses though, and she was from a small town outside the walls of Vale, so she’d likely seen her share of Grimm before that day. 

“Okay, Dark Knight. Just don’t let any super villains get a hold of this,” Ruby joked. 

Weiss didn’t really get it, but Ruby was smiling so she smiled too. 

“What do you have on how to fight Ruby?” she asked, leaning over Weiss’ shoulder to try to see. “‘Just surrender ‘cause Ruby is too cool and awesome to fight’?” 

Weiss grinned at that. “Not quite.” She flipped back to Ruby’s page and let her look it over. 

“Hm… Heehee, ‘beware her speed’. ‘Don’t let her snipe you’. ‘Hits very hard’. Wait, whadaya mean ‘clumsy and easy to trip up’?!” she exclaimed. 

“Well… it means what it says? You seem to have a hard time keeping your balance, especially when you come out of your semblance.”

Ruby gave her one of those cute, half-hearted pouts for a long moment, then looked down. “Yeaaah… It’s always really disconcerting getting reintroduced to, like, gravity and friction and  stuff. No matter how much I practice.” She looked up at Weiss with sad, guilty eyes at that. 

‘Oops.’

“It’s like… imagine being underwater, swimming, and then all of a sudden being on dry land, running,” Ruby tried to explain, like she thought she was in trouble. “In an instant.” 

That description… Weiss could certainly see how that could be confusing. 

She patted Ruby’s arm. “It’s not a criticism of you, Ruby. It’s just something I noticed that I–and I guess other people–could try to take advantage of. So just… maybe it’s something you just can’t improve, so don’t worry about trying, just be mindful of it.” 

Ruby didn’t seem convinced. “But… I don’t wanna be clumsy.” 

Weiss answered with a small smile and shrug. “I don’t want to be weak. Not much I can do about it, just have to work around it.” 

“You could totally do something about that,” Yang piped up. “Come to the gym with me. I’ll have you swole in no time!” 

Weiss wrinkled her nose. “That sounds unpleasant.”

“Naaah! It’s tons of fun! An hour a day, three months, guarantee you’ll see progress. You’d have to add some protein to your diet, though. None of this ‘grapefruit for breakfast’ shit.” 

“Hey! Grapefruits are great!” 

All three of her teammates all responded to that at once. 

“Nuh-uh,” Ruby said. 

“Not really,” Blake said. 

“Ha! No,” Yang said. 

“You’re all dumb,” Weiss griped at them. 

“You could still have your gross-fruits for breakfast though, Weiss,” Ruby told her. “Then you can just cheat and drink some of Yang’s gross protein shakes!” 

“It’s not cheating, Ruby,” Yang sighed, giving Weiss the impression this was a conversation they’d had before. “And they’re not gross.” 

“They’re super gross!” Ruby chirped back. “The vanilla doesn’t taste anything like vanilla! And the chocolate tastes like poo! And they’re so thick and make you feel all fat and slothy.” 

“Why do you know what poo tastes like?” Yang asked. 

“Why do you want me to drink them if they’re so disgusting?” Weiss asked before the conversation followed that rabbit hole. 

“‘Cause you like gross-fruits, so you probably won’t mind gross-shakes!” Ruby answered with a silly little grin. 

“… Rubyyy…” Weiss began. 

“I’m a dolt?” she guessed. 

“Very much so, yes.” 

Ruby nodded, seemingly undiscouraged. “I know.” 

“What’s she got in there on me?” Yang asked. 

Weiss closed the notebook and snatched it away. “Oh no. That’s a secret at least until we face each other.” 

Smirking, Yang shrugged. “Mkay. Not like that piece of paper will save you from these Fists of…!” She raised her hands and flexed, but then looked back and forth between them with a confused expression. 

“Fury?” Ruby offered. 

“See, but that makes it sound like I’m always angry.” 

That sounded pretty close to accurate, but Ruby nodded slowly. “Hmm… Fire?” 

“Fists of Fire sounds dumb, though.” 

“What about Firefists?” 

“That sounds kinda corny.” 

“Ffff…Flaming Fists?” 

“Eh.” 

Ruby hummed an ‘I don’t know’ and shrugged, and Yang dropped her arms with a frown, her threatening boast against Weiss already forgotten with the distraction of trying to name her fists. 

These sisters really were well and truly dolts. 

Weiss went back to trying to figure out how to fight Pyrrha. She pulled out her case where she kept Myrtenaster and the specialized Dust canisters built for her weapon’s cylinder. 

Hm. She needed to replace the six she used against Ruby on Friday. She usually liked to have twelve in Myrtenaster’s case. 

She went to the suitcase under her bed where she was storing all of her Dust equipment and pulled out the briefcase full of pre-packed cannisters for her rapier. Yang let out a low whistle from across the room. 

“Damn, Weiss. That’s gotta be, what, a couple thousand dollars of Dust right there at least.”

“Oh. Probably.” She hadn’t had to pay for the Dust, so she hadn’t given it much thought. She ran some quick calculations in her head. “The Dust itself would be… about three and a half thousand. The custom cartridges are around another thousand though, I believe.” 

Yang let out another whistle. 

After a moment, a wave of realization hit Weiss and she immediately felt guilty. Would that be considered lording her wealth over her team?

“I didn’t mean to brag!” she blurted out. “I was just… trying to be… accurate?” 

Yang blinked at her in surprise, then gave her a small smile. “No worries, Frosty-Pants. I didn’t think you were.” 

Frosty-Pants?” Blake asked. 

“Weiss isn’t wearing pants!” Ruby condemned her sister. 

“Alright, again with that comment,” Weiss spun on her partner. 

“Right, right,” Ruby waved a hand at her. “‘Cause she’s in a skirt. Still!” 

Weiss rolled her eyes and went back to what she was doing. She kept getting distracted by these two. 

She brought the briefcase over to her desk and got started trying to figure out what she should bring with her for this fight. It would be prudent to carry whichever cannisters she was going to use on her until the fight so they’d get a bit more harmonized with her. She’d already done it, but it had been a while since she’d handled them. They could do with some refamiliarizing. 

She opened up her laptop and pulled up the paper Winter had sent her, the one about Dust affinities by Dr. Watts. She’d skimmed through it, and found it fascinating, and she felt like something in it might help her figure out what might work well against Pyrrha, and she’d need every advantage she could get. 

Dr. Watts had worked with an Atlesian psychologist to create personality profiles of various Atlesian huntsmen and students, then analyzed their affinity numbers to try to find correlations. While any one huntsman tended to have a bit of variance in how their personalities informed their affinities, when enough profiles were aggregated, patterns emerged. 

What did Weiss know of Pyrrha? She was quiet, seemingly kind, humble, but also self confident. She was the best and she knew it, but she didn’t flaunt it or hold it over anyone. 

Self confidence, according to Dr. Watts, was usually correlated with earth Dust. That, coupled with Pyrrha’s semblance, made Weiss assume that if Pyrrha did have any significant amount of elemental resistance, it would be earth. 

That was fine. Earth was Weiss’ weakest element anyway. What did that say about her, though? She felt like she was self-confident–she was even called arrogant by others. 

She read more into the doctor’s findings on earth Dust. 

‘The most widely applicable personality trait that I identified with a high earth affinity is self-confidence. This is a general self-confidence of the individual, not a specific ego when it comes to a particular skillset. When an individual has a high level of assurance in themselves, in their capability in any situation, with any skillset, with any objective, this is when I found the highest earth affinity. (The overall scale to which this skews an individual’s earth affinity beyond their average is slightly lower than the base for other elements, though it should be noted that the Remnant Huntsman Census of 1443 found that the average earth affinity was 14% below the average of averages of all elements combined, with a more condenced range as well, and only 7% of huntsmen sport earth as their highest affinity, with 68% of huntsmen placing earth in their fifth or sixth highest affinity. This sharp deviation from the norm has not been explained by modern science, and it is beyond the scope and interest of my present research. Perhaps it speaks to a general trait of humanity, but I digress.) 

The next criterium for earth affinity I found is more abstract. It is a general sense of belonging, of comfort in one’s life and a feeling of being grounded. Most people are generally satisfied with how their life is, so this was hard to identify. It was actually the absence of this satisfaction leading to low earth affinities that showed me the correlation. Individuals with stressful/strained home lives, such as children of divorced parents, people that have moved around a lot, formerly homeless individuals, formerly or currently poor individuals, or even just people that didn’t have a good idea of what they want from life all tended to display low earth affinities. 

However–and interestingly–I found that while having a low sense of belonging equated to low earth affinity, the inverse is not widely true. A high sense of belonging didn’t display any non-average correlation to earth affinity, but did display a higher than average gravity affinity. This is similar to the findings mentioned earlier in this paper of high creativity leading to high air affinity, but low creativity instead correlating to low fire and molten affinities. 

Self-confidence does appear to have a direct correlation with Earth affinity, however, both high and low, so I have dubbed it the primary trait of Earth, with belonging/security as a secondary. I was not able to identify a tertiary trait for this element.

I should note here that these two findings together showed a support that personality factors are loosely cumulative, as per Doctor Irina Preed’s Cumulative Personality Affinity theory. For instance, there was one individual in the study who grew up on the streets of Mantle. This alone would lead me to believe they would have a low earth affinity. However, their rough upbringing instilled in them a strong self-confidence in their ability to handle anything the world threw at them. This alone would lead me to believe they would have a high earth affinity. What I found, which supports the CPA theory, is that the individual had an average earth affinity (only 2% off of his overall average). Of the 126 individuals I studied, 43 of them I was able to get a psych profile with which I was confident I could analyze these two traits of self-confidence and belonging, and of them, 35 showed support for the CPA theory. The other 8 also had significant semblances or personal experiences that I feel were responsible for this deviation from the norm. It could also have been an unidentified tertiary personality trait.’

Weiss pulled away from the paper to let that all sink in. What did that mean for her? Her earth affinity was well below average, which she guess would suggest that she lacked both confidence and a feeling of belonging. The latter… the latter she could see. She didn’t like to admit it, but her home life was… well, Yang had referred to it as “what the fuck?”, and it struck Weiss as a simple-but-accurate characterization. 

But she was fairly sure she was confident… Sure, there were some things she knew she was worthless and terrible at, like painting or making friends or bench pressing, but she was pretty sure she was capable of doing anything if she put her mind to it, as long as it wasn’t one one of those things. Mostly. 

Well… 

She liked to think “Of course I can do that, I’m a Schnee.” Her father had raised her to believe they were talented and smart enough to do anything, even while beating or berating her for failure. That was why he was so unforgiving with failure. 

But did Weiss really believe she could do anything?

The answer felt like it was creeping very close to “not really”, and Weiss didn’t like that at all. She jerked away from this line of thinking. 

She should just be focusing on Pyrrha. 

Okay, so earth resistance–likely but not important, as Weiss didn’t want to use earth Dust anyway. Maybe Weiss should like at this differently, start with what she was good at and see if Pyrrha might be resistant to it. 

Or she could go across the hall and persuade Jaune to tell her Pyrrha’s affinity numbers… She had no doubt it would succeed because Jaune was absolutely smitten with her despite knowing next to nothing about her, but… it felt like that would be cheating. 

Besides, trying to puzzle it out was an intellectually stimulating exercise. ‘Fun’, Ruby would call it. 

So, ice. Ice was Weiss’ highest affinity, what she liked most and was most experienced at using. She scrolled a few pages down. What did Dr. Watts have to say about ice?

Note: My findings on ice were of great interest and import to me on a professional and personal level. Ice is my own greatest affinity, and I was curious what that says about me. I strove to remain unbiased, however, and indeed consulted both Doctors Preed and Heron twice with my final summation to ensure an accurate and uncolored report.

Ice is an element, like fire, that has a heavy public perception attached to it. People, both civilian and huntsman alike, tend to view a high ice affinity as indicative of an antisocial tendency. However, I found that to not necessarily be the case here, but rather a somewhat common byproduct of the actual personality traits that link to ice affinity. 

The most widely applicable personality trait that I identified with a high ice affinity is introspection. Highly self-reflective individuals tend to have higher ice affinities. This was disconnected from self-awareness, though, particularly social self-awareness, an interconnection that I have found is falsely assumed by many, an observation supported by Doctor Heron, who as a psychologist studies such things. The relevance for ice affinity here is solely on the first trait, introspection. (The degree of impact for this trait, as best as it can be measured, on the individual’s ice affinity in comparison to their average is actually quite high, the highest along with fire. The Remnant Huntsman Census of 1433 did find that ice affinities average about 6% lower than the average of averages of all elements, though from the spread of the individual data it can be extrapolated that this is likely due to an overall lesser amount of people with the corresponding personality traits for ice than it is a human-wide lower affinity, as we see with earth. Indeed, while 14% of huntsmen show ice as their highest affinity, 36% show it as their lowest, and this disparity greatly impacts the average. I highly recommend Doctor Preed’s ‘Analysis of the Huntsmen Affinity Census’ for more expounded theories on these numbers.)

The next most prevalent personality trait I found for ice is a desire for order. This, as most of these secondary traits seem to be, is more abstract. I found the correlation most in individuals that prefer to live with and adhere to a schedule in their daily lives. Since battle is the common trade of all huntsmen, I was easily able to determine that it also correlated with a tendency to desire a plan of action, pre-set battle strategies, and a lower capability or, sometimes, refusal to improvise. 

As with other secondary traits, while a high desire for order means a higher ice affinity, the inverse is not always true. A low desire for order/a tendency to improvise seemed to not lead to a low ice affinity, but equates more directly to higher fire and air affinities. 

I found a tertiary trait for ice as well, though I found it to be so heavily prevalent compared to other tertiary traits that it might be more accurate to dub it a second secondary trait. That trait is a general distrust in others. Individuals that were distrusting of others, especially strangers or anyone outside of their social circles, tended to have higher ice affinities. Again, the inverse is not necessarily true, and trusting individuals tended to display higher gravity and water affinities rather than lower ice affinities. 

It should be noted here that once again these findings support the CPA theory. Of the 126 individuals I…’

Weiss pulled away from the paragraph. That was a lot to think about. So the primary trait of ice-inclined huntsmen was introspection. That… lined up pretty well with Weiss. She’d just had to actively stop herself from analyzing herself too much. The bit about order and planning fit too. Here she was reading a comprehensive psychiatric analysis of Dust affinity to try to prep for a practice fight with a classmate. And the bit about distrust… 

She hit all the checkboxes here. 

But did Pyrrha?

Was Pyrrha introspective? That was… kind of hard to tell from the outside. Weiss honestly had no idea. 

As for order… Weiss hadn’t picked up on any deep-seated desire for a schedule or regimen from her. She’d been pretty laid back when her team and Yang had discussed going to the windball game the other day, happy to let other people do the planning. Weiss wasn’t sure how much planning Pyrrha did before her tournament fights, so she couldn’t really use that as a datapoint. The way she portrayed herself, though, she was just so talented that it never mattered who she was facing, and she was able to just do her own thing and win.

However, this was a secondary trait, and Dr. Watts stressed that a low tendency to want order didn’t necessarily mean Pyrrha would have a low affinity. It would be based more on the accumulation of the relevant traits.

Pyrrha didn’t strike Weiss as distrusting. In fact, she seemed fairly sociable despite her shyness. 

What really mattered here was whether or not Pyrrha was introspective, but there was no way for Weiss to know. Based on how little she matched with the other two traits, though, Weiss figured her ice affinity would be low to average at best. 

Ice it was, then. She checked what she had loaded in Myrtenaster. Three ice, two air, and a water. She swapped the water out for another ice, as she figured her higher skill with ice invalidated the need for the water. She’d brought one against Ruby mostly because she’d been expecting to need to make a wide-sweeping wave to try to catch Ruby in a big area of effect, but Pyrrha couldn’t cover the same distances Ruby could. She then slotted three more ice cannisters on her belt, two air for some extra potential mobility and knockback, and, after a moment, a gravity. It served the same general purpose as her glyphs but to a much greater degree, and it comboed devastatingly with them. It might come down to her just needing to bog down Pyrrha enough that she was too slow to avoid Weiss’ strikes. 

It was a long shot, and Pyrrha might be able to use her semblance to push herself away from a gravity effect, but Weiss felt she had her other bases cov–

“Hey, Weiss?” Ruby’s voice cut through her thoughts. 

Weiss’ head jerked back in surprise at the voice, and only then did she realize that Ruby was sitting next to her, at her own desk.

“Yes, Ruby?” 

“Can you help me with this Dust equation?” 

Weiss blinked in surprise, then looked down at what Ruby was doing. 

Was she…?

“Are you working on homework?” 

Ruby gave her a goofy, happy look. “Well, yeah! You were sitting here looking all reading-y and smart, so I figured… ya know, I would too.” 

Weiss wasn’t really sure how to interpret the happy little flip her heart did at that, but she smiled widely. “Sure, I’d love to help.” She looked around. “Where are Yang and Blake?” 

Ruby let out a little giggle. “Man, you’re, like, super tunnel visioned, aren’t you?”

“Tunnel what?” 

“Tunnel visioned! Like, you only focus on one thing at a time, and give it one hundred percent of your attention.” 

“Oh… I suppose, yes.” 

Ruby nodded as if filing that information away for later. “Blake wanted to go read under their tree and Yang went with her ‘cause she’s a lemming.” 

“Ah.” It was hard not to grin at that. “Okay, what did you need help with?” 

“The calculations for raw-to-refined Dust crap that we learned yesterday! I’m using the formulas Professor Goodwitch gave us, but I’m not getting the answers that are in the book and I don’t know why!”

Weiss pulled out her own notebook to work the equations, a big smile on her face that she didn’t quite understand. 

 

“Okay, Ruby, Jaune, would you like to start us off?” Professor Rustheart asked. 

“Sure!” Ruby cheered. 

Jaune seemed far more subdued. 

Ruby turned to her team with a big, expectant smile. 

“Go get ‘im, Rubes,” Yang said, giving her little sister a fist bump. 

Weiss reached up to smooth out a wrinkle in Ruby’s cloak at her shoulder. “You’d better win, Ruby. My partner cannot lose to a boy that wears sweaters.” She ended with a small smile and a pat on Ruby’s arm. 

The small bit of humor earned her a huge smile and adorable giggle from her partner. “Are sweaters a nono?” Ruby asked. 

Weiss looked over at Jaune. He was wearing different clothes under his armor from the set he’d worn in the Emerald Forest–well, the top was different. Weiss suspected the jeans were the same. But instead of the black hoodie he was wearing an atrocious sweater with a plaid pattern in fuschia and purple and dark blue colors. 

That one certainly is,” she answered. 

Ruby let out another laugh while Yang sighed deeply, looking at Jaune herself. 

“Yeaaaah…” 

“Focus,” Blake told Ruby, and probably was directing it to Weiss and Yang as well. “You’re about to fight. Get in the right headspace.” 

“It’s just Jaune,” Ruby pseudo-whined. 

Blake pursed her lips and looked over at the boy, who was walking out to the battle area and struggling to deploy his kite shield. 

“… True.” 

“Go on, Rubes,” Yang said. “Put him out of his misery quick so I can smash Nora.” 

“So you can what her?” Blake asked with a teasing grin. 

“Oh shut up, you know what I mean.” 

Ruby skipped out to stand across from her opponent. They were still in the battle center, but in a different section now. Instead of the open, flat field of the gun range, they were in a large room that housed two stone structures that appeared to be castle ruins. Beacon was built over the ruins of the old castle of the original kingdom of Vale, so Weiss assumed these were repurposed remnants of that. 

One of the structures was short and wide, rectangular, its ceiling partially collapsed on one side and some of its walls missing. Scorch marks and weapon scoring gave Weiss the impression this had been used as a battleground for training huntsman for quite some time. 

The second structure was taller, two stories–though one of the walls went up high enough that Weiss suspected it had once been three stories and the roof and top floor had collapsed. It was shaped like an L, with the shorter edge being the taller side, and a staircase along the outer wall leading up to it, cracked and split about midway through. The break was wide enough that a normal person (and maybe Jaune) would have trouble clearing it, but it likely wouldn’t bother anyone else here beyond being something to be careful not to fall into. 

“Alright lady, gent, sync me your myAuras please,” the professor requested. 

The spectating team members all moved toward him so they could watch the aura bars. Weiss was incredibly mindful of Pyrrha, her relaxed, casual posture. She didn’t seem at all stressed about their upcoming fight. 

Weiss had asked that they fight each other, as Blake had been right about the professor planning for them to pair against each other in team name order, and Pyrrha had been surprised and happy to oblige. And Nora and Yang were both ecstatic to be facing each other. 

Weiss did her best to also look relaxed. It was hard, though. The muscles in her shoulders kept knotting up, tension from anticipation making itself physically known. 

“Gooooo Ruby!” Yang cheered. 

Ruby shot her a smile and a thumbs up. 

The professor cleared his throat. “Alright! Get ready… Get set… Fight!” 

Ruby skot a gravity round blast out of her scythe to launch herself forward, flying at Jaune, starting the fight off fast. 

Jaune braced for the impact, squatting a bit and raising his shield. His feet were too close together, though. He wouldn’t be able to keep–

Ruby’s scythe crashed into Jaune’s shield and he stumbled back, managing to keep his feet but losing all sense of a fighting stance. Ruby seemed to expect him to recover more quickly than he did, though, because her next attack was a sweeping arc that went over his head. She kind of stopped and blinked at the blade of her weapon, then turned back to Jaune. 

Jaune didn’t seem to register how close he came to getting smacked in the face. His head had been down for the attack and when he got his feet under him he slashed out blindly towards Ruby, who hopped back. 

He transitioned the swing into a shield charge, which might have been a good move but for the fact that he tucked his head down while he did it. Ruby blurred into her Rose Form and side stepped him, rematerializing behind him and to his left, and he lost track of her. 

She hit him with a big uppercut that knocked him up into the air and took out… hmm. It only took out five percent of his aura. He must have a lot. 

Ruby twirled Crescent Rose around and hit Jaune with another uppercut, knocking him higher, then planted her weapon in the ground and gravity blasted up, delivering a two-footed kick to Jaune’s back and sending him flying onto the roof of the rectangular building. 

He hit the roof hard, landing on his face and half rolling around before he was able to stop himself with his shield. Now face up, he was able to see the storm of petals that was Ruby arcing up into the sky and veering down to land on him. He rolled to his left and tried to to push himself onto his feet with his shield arm in the same motion, but the movement was clunky and he stumbled. 

It at least was enough to get him away from Ruby’s rose-speed overhead slam that bit down into the stone roof where he had just been. 

The time it took Jaune to reorient before he slashed meant Ruby was able to pull her blade out of the stone and block. She had no means of blocking Jaune’s followup, though, and wasn’t prepared to dodge, so when he bashed her with his shield she got knocked over. 

That hit did six percent of Ruby’s aura. Jaune was strong. 

Ruby kept hold of her weapon as she fell to the ground. When Jaune rushed up to try to guillotine her head, she shot another gravity round in the opposite direction and she was sent sliding into him. 

With a yelp, Jaune tripped over her and fell on his face, but Ruby kept sliding from the moment of the blast. She kicked up just as she reached the edge of the roof and slammed Crescent Rose into the stone. She was left hanging from her scythe, dangling several feet above the ground. 

Next to Weiss, Yang let out a laugh. 

Ruby looked down at the ground, then up at the approaching Jaune, then down at the ground again. She let go of her scythe. 

She dropped down, out of Weiss’ sight. Jaune rushed to the edge of the roof where Crescent Rose was still stuck and looked down, turning his head as if following some–

Ruby came around the corner in her Rose Form, the fly up and back onto the roof behind Jaune, who was still looking down, probably at the trail of petals she’d left behind. He must not have realized just how fast Ruby could move around. 

It cost her a bit of aura, but the maneuver worked. 

She came out of her Rose Form just as she crashed into Jaune’s back, and he fell over the side of the building with a cry. A couple points dropped off his aura that Weiss assumed was him hitting the ground. 

Ruby pumped her fist and Weiss was fairly certain she heard a “Yes!” from her, and Yang also let out a proud “Nice!” at the hit. Ruby grabbed her scythe, holding it upside down, and hopped down out of sight once more. 

The sounds of weapons clashing rang out once, twice, then Jaune’s aura dropped three points and another four points in quick succession. Then Ruby’s ticked down two, and more metal-on-metal noises rang out.  

A moment later, Jaune came back into view, being driven back by a whirlwind named Ruby. Her attacks had a rhythm to them, the swings lightning fast, then a delay where she had to slow down to stop the heavy weapon and swing again. Even with the lulls, it was still a very fast sequence of attacks, and unlike her sister, she was putting in a constant, sustained onslaught instead of quick patterns of three to five attacks and then breaking. 

It meant that Jaune was constantly backpedaling. He needed to get offensive, break up Ruby’s rhythm because she wasn’t going to stop like this. He could use the fact that he had a sword and a shield to leverage himself inside her reach. 

“He needs to step up,” Pyrrha muttered to nobody in particular. “Get inside her reach.” 

A rush of pride filled Weiss that she had the same thought as Pyrrha Nikos. 

Jaune took two more heavy hits before he found a way back into the fight, mostly because Ruby seemingly messed up and clipped the tip of her scythe’s blade into the ground, making it skip and interrupting her flow. He bashed her with his shield, forcing her to step back, then went for a stab. It was slow and awkward–he pumped his arm all the way back before lunging forward, telegraphing the attack for a blind opponent to see, and Ruby easily dodged to the side. 

They traded back and forth, though the trades were heavily in Ruby’s favor. For every hit Jaune got in, Ruby got in four, and Crescent Rose hit much harder than Jaune could. 

The end of the fight came suddenly. Ruby and Jaune were dueling back and forth when Jaune shoved Ruby back and went for a sweeping blow to her ankles. Weiss was worried Ruby wouldn’t react in time, being off balance as she was, but she blurred into petals and dashed straight up into the air just in time. She returned to physical form with a downward slice that hit the kneeling Jaune right in the back of the neck. 

Apparently there was a lot of strength behind the attack, because it forced Jaune into his ground and hit hard enough that his aura flickered. 

“Time!” Professor Rustheart yelled as soon as that happened. Glancing at the aura bars, Weiss saw that Jaune was still at 41%. They were supposed to be fighting to 30%, but Weiss understood why the professor would want to stop the fight as soon as there was a flicker. They definitely didn’t want Jaune to get hit while his aura was down because that was incredibly dangerous, and once someone flickered they were more susceptible to doing so again until they rested and let their aura… reset itself, or whatever it did. Even still today, nobody was really sure  about the hows and whys of aura. 

Ruby froze mid swing at the professor’s shout, and Weiss huffed a sigh of relief. She hadn’t noticed Jaune’s aura flicker out–it had been a subdued flash of goldish light that had been pretty easy to notice, but it’s likely Ruby had been focused on her weapon instead of Jaune. If that attack had gone through before Jaune’s aura came back up…

Ruby helped Jaune to his feet as his aura swept back over him. They exchanged some words, Ruby looking really excited and happy while Jaune seemed a bit dejected. She was apparently trying to cheer him up a bit, though. She was Ruby after all. 

They walked over together and once they got near the rest of the group, Ruby buzzed right into Yang with a big hug. 

“Yang, did you see that?!” 

They jabbered excitedly to each other–particularly about the ‘gravity blast into tripping Jaune into hanging off the building’ maneuver–while Jaune trudged over to his own team. 

He went to Pyrrha, and Weiss tuned out her teammates to listen to what Pyrrha said–not in a creepy way! She was just curious what kind of advice Pyrrha would give. 

“You did well!” Pyrrha told him.

“Yeah, those were some nice moves!” Nora added. 

“Definitely a very big improvement from last week,” Ren said. 

“Yeah, sure,” Jaune muttered, clearly unconvinced. 

“It’s true!” Pyrrha reassured. “Would you like some pointers?” 

“Ma–”

“Hey, Professor!” Ruby chirped, stopping both conversations.  

“Hm?” 

“How’d you stop me like that? Jaune said his aura flickered when I hit him there and you yelled ‘Time!’ and my scythe just stopped!” 

“Um… I just yelled,” he answered. 

“That was me,” Pyrrha spoke up. “I wasn’t sure if you’d be able to stop in time, so I…” she waved a hand, “… helped.” 

“Neat,” Ruby smiled. “Totally woulda stopped in time though!” 

“I’m sure you would have. I was just being careful.” Pyrrha smiled at Jaune then, but he responded by sulking at the ground even harder, and Pyrrha’s eyebrows knit together in concern. 

“Well good thinking, Pyrrha,” the professor said. “Would you and Weiss like to go next?” 

“I’d be happy too! Weiss?” Pyrrha turned her smile to Weiss. 

It took a surprising amount of effort to swallow past her nerves, but Weiss managed it. “Absolutely.” 

Weiss took a deep breath to steel herself and a pair of thin arms wrapped around her from behind. 

“You got this, Weiss!” Ruby cooed quietly, then quickly hopped away from her. 

Weiss gave her partner a grateful smile for the vote of confidence, then marched out to stand across from her opponent. 

Pyrrha Nikos. 

Weiss rolled her shoulders, trying to loosen up a bit. 

“Gooooo Weiss!” Yang cheered, but then she heard Ruby shush her sister. 

She doesn’t like that, remember?” Ruby whispered. 

Weiss was puzzled for a moment, wondering where Ruby got that impression, when she remembered Professor Port’s class last week. A guilty pang hit her again for her behaviour that day. She did actually appreciate that her teammates were rooting for her. It was a new feeling, for the most part, but she found that she liked it. 

“Alright, ladies. Sync up,” the professor called to them. 

‘Right. Focus, Weiss,’ she chastised herself as she synced her myAura. ‘You need to be at one hundred percent for this.’

Across from her, Pyrrha seemed entirely at ease. She didn’t think this would be easy, would it? No, Weiss had spent all morning analyzing how humble Pyrrha was, she wouldn’t be displaying arrogance now. She was probably just used to this by now.

‘Focus.’

“Get ready…” 

‘Head up, shoulders back, left foot forward…’

Pyrrha held her hands out to either side and the sword and shield on her back snapped to her hands. Weiss knew it was her semblance, but it was still a bit intimidating. 

“Get set…” 

‘Slow your breathing…’

Pyrrha crouched down, bringing her shield up and switching her weapon to spear form. 

“Fight!” 

From watching Pyrrha’s tournament fights, Weiss knew how this would start. 

As she expected, Pyrrha didn’t advance, but rather started moving in a slow circle around Weiss, shield raised and spear pointing at her, propped up by the divot in the shield. 

Weiss matched the circle for now, but she’d need to break this because sticking to what Pyrrha was comfortable with was not the way to approach this. 

She cycled through Myrtenaster’s cylinder until she got to the ice cannister that was followed by a wind one. 

Pyrrha was watching her, eyes locking on to her hands, feet, and eyes. No kind smile now, all intensity and focus. It gave Weiss the unsettling feeling that no matter what she did, Pyrrha would see it coming. 

‘Enough.’

Weiss poured aura into her weapon. Some flowed along the blade, enveloping and empowering it, but some followed the thread of silver that ran to the selected cannister, triggering the ice Dust. It activated, rushing out of the cannister and cylinder and down Myrtenaster’s blade, and Weiss swished the weapon, willing the Dust to arc out. 

The result was a wide, sweeping arc of frost that filled the air and covered the ground as it rocketed forward toward Pyrrha. 

Pyrrha charged forward, shield up, jumping up and tucking her legs to her chest when the ice hit her to decrease the surface area it made contact with. She crashed through with an explosion of white and landed on her feet, running straight at Weiss and covering the distance with three long strides. 

‘… Crap.’

Weiss instinctively parried the two spear thrusts that came at her, but when Pyrrha used her shield as a weapon, using a punching motion to slam her with the edge, Weiss knew she couldn’t block that, but didn’t make a decision on what to do instead fast enough. The shield’s edge smashed into her, the right side of her chest, and she got knocked back and onto her ass. The drain on her aura from the hit was noticeable, but not too much. 

Pyrrha didn’t let up. With Weiss on the ground, she leapt forward, flipping her spear around and driving it down towards Weiss’ chest. 

Weiss rolled to the side, triggering Myrtenaster’s cylinder to cycle to an ice cannister as she did so, not really caring which one in the sequence it was. As soon as she was able, she stabbed into the ground and willed a wall of ice to appear and separate her from her opponent. It was conjured just in time to intercept a backhanded shield slam. 

Weiss saw an opportunity to turn the tempo to her favor. Her aura was still humming through the wall of ice, and she thrust her free hand forward. 

The ice obeyed her will, shattering outwards, dozens of foot-long blades of cold glass cutting across Pyrrha. She staggered back, ducking behind her shield. Her weapon transitioned into its rifle form as she did so, and as she knelt behind her shield for protection, she rested her weapon’s barrel in its divot and fired blind shots towards Weiss. 

Weiss wasn’t ready to be attacked at the moment, as she was still in the mindset that she was the attacker right now, so two bullets hit her in the stomach and arm before she reacted, throwing herself to the side. 

The rain of ice daggers now gone, Pyrrha straightened up and took not even a moment to relocate Weiss and move forward, switching to her sword as she did so. Only a few feet of space separated them, and Weiss wasn’t in a position to do anything if Pyrrha got on her. 

She flicked her sword out to create another wall of ice, pouring more aura than necessary into it in her panic, but…

‘Woops.’

She was on an air cannister. 

Instead of a wall of ice, a huge burst of wind was summoned at the tip of Myrtenaster that sent Pyrrha flying back.

‘I suppose that works.’

Pyrrha flipped herself over midair so she was facing the ground. She drove the point into the dirt to slow herself, and her feet touched down they did so with such force that ruts were created where she passed. 

On the one hand, that was impressive and was probably a use of her semblance that displayed incredibly fine control, but on the other hand, Weiss’ windblast had been really fucking strong. 

Of course, she paid for it with another noticeable depletion of her aura. 

Pyrrha ran at her again, firing her rifle as she moved, and Weiss summoned a glyph in front of her to block the shots while she ducked through the doorway of the L-shaped building, breaking Pyrrha’s line of sight. She jogged back a bit, pulling around the corner and up the ruined staircase a bit, and waited. When Pyrrha came through the doorway, Weiss could crush her against the wall with ice. 

A faint humming rang through the air, and Weiss wasn’t able to puzzle it out before Pyrrha’s shield came flying through the doorway, curved a turn and rocketed straight at her. She barely managed to react quickly enough to summon another glyph in front of her, the shield bouncing off, then flying straight up. 

Weiss followed the object’s trail. It sailed up and over the top of the wall Weiss was standing next to, and less than a second later Pyrrha appeared floating over that wall, shield now in hand. 

‘She can FLY?!?!’

It clicked a moment later–she could move the metal of her weapons and armor. 

This was ridiculous. 

Pyrrha fell towards Weiss, though she through her spear before she landed. Weiss pushed herself to the side with a glyph, the spear impaling the stone where she’d been with an audible crack!

Pyrrha landed at her spear in a kneeling position, then pulled it out of the ground and threw her shield at Weiss again in one motion. This time Weiss was ready for it, deflecting it with a wave of her hand and an accompanying glyph. 

She jumped back and created a glyph under her feet, then backpedaled, creating a staircase of glyphs behind her to get some elevation. Pyrrha could fly, apparently, which meant she could pursue Weiss up here, but maybe it would cost her more aura to do so than it did for Weiss to summon these grey glyphs that were only big enough for her to stand on; they were basically free. 

Pyrrha shot at her from the staircase and Weiss summoned a glyph in front of her. Checking to make sure she was on an ice cannister, she willed her aura down Myrtenaster again, then as the Dust reacted she forced it to manifest through her glyph instead of down her blade. She sent a huge ray of frost down at Pyrrha, easily six feet in diameter. 

Pyrrha apparently hadn’t been expecting an attack through the glyph, because her eyes went wide and she dove sideways just a hair too late. The frost clipped her ankle and foot and the impact made her spin, her heel slamming into the wall as she fell.

She landed by bracing with her shield on the ground, though, flowing seamlessly into a roll and spinning to shoot two more rounds at so fast there was no way she wasn’t dizzy, and Weiss honestly wasn’t sure how she was able to turn, spot Weiss, aim, and fire so quickly and fluidly. 

Fortunately, the shots just bounced off the bottom of the glyph Weiss was standing on because Pyrrha didn’t have a good shot from where she now stood almost directly below the platform. 

Stepping further back and up another series of glyphs, Weiss clicked open Myrtenaster’s cylinder and pulled out the empty cartridges, reloading them with another two ice, a wind, and the gravity cannister that was a long shot, putting the empty cannisters in the slots on her belt where the replacements had been.

Below her, Pyrrha was waiting, looking both at her opponent and around herself. 

Recalculating. 

Reloaded, Weiss sent a volley of ice missiles down at Pyrrha, but the girl dodged by darting–literally darting–away, moving almost twenty feet with a single motion. She went out the doorway Weiss had walked through, then sprinted around the wall of the other building, out of Weiss’ sight. 

‘Crap.’

She was going into the building that still had a roof–at least most of one. Somewhere that Weiss would have to abandon her height advantage to follow. 

It was too risky to do that, though. 

Could she flush Pyrrha out? Maybe. She could bury the building in ice. Or maybe… maybe she could just tear down the building?

She summoned a black glyph parallel to the wall of the rectangular building that was closest to her, growing and growing it until it was at least fifteen feet in diameter. Then she clicked over to the gravity cannister and projected its power into her glyph. 

The result was a devastatingly powerful gravity well. Its effect pulled loose stones from the ruins immediately, then bits and pieces of the wall started to pull apart, flying into the glyph and shattering against it. 

The glyph itself glowed with purple lines threading through it, an entrancing effect of reverse spinning and constantly shifting lines running across the surface. 

Three seconds passed. Five. Ten. 

The ruins were coming apart, brick by grey brick. The roof collapsed in on itself, first slowly along the edge along the wall, then  all at once the center caved in as it lost its connecting support. 

In an attempt to escape, Pyrrha flew up from where she’d bunkered down against the wall, but she got caught in the well’s pull regardless. She flew against it but it was slowly pulling her in. 

As impressive as this was, Weiss wouldn’t be able to keep it up forever. The effect of the Dust was going to run out s–

Pyrrha tossed her shield in a wild throw off to the side, and Weiss tensed, watching it. It was going away from her, but… turning, arcing around. 

Now it was heading right at her. 

How did Pyrrha always know exactly where she was without having to look at her?!

She glanced at Pyrrha one more time to make sure she was still practically immobilized by the gravity well, then prepared to block the shield like she had before. Honestly, why did Pyrrha keep trying th–

Two gunshots cracked out, and Weiss felt her face get slammed with a microcosmic force, in the nose and cheek. It didn’t hurt her through her aura, but the impact was still there and she lost her balance as she fell back, plummeting from her perch. In her daze, she let go of the glyph and Dust casting she’d been using to lock down Pyrrha. 

Before she hit the ground, she threw her free hand up and summoned a black glyph at the tips of her fingers, arresting her fall as she swung unceremoniously from the momentum. Now a safe few feet from the ground, she dismissed the glyph to allow herself to fall again so she could get her bearings again. 

Just as the balls of her feet hit the dirt, Pyrrha’s shield, apparently still on its homing path for Weiss, slammed into her side and sent her sprawling. 

Her first thought was, ‘Ow.’

Her second thought was that now her outfit was dirty beyond belief. It would probably need to be drycleaned for eternity after this. 

Then the hum that she’d come to recognize as part of Pyrrha’s semblance rang out, and she looked up to see Pyrrha sprinting at her, shield returning to her hand as she did. 

Weiss pushed herself to her feet with a white glyph under her free hand and got her feet under her just in time to parry the lunge Pyrrha sent at her chest. She made sure to deflect the spear to the inside of Pyrrha’s body and side step in the other direction so she couldn’t get shield bashed.

From Pyrrha’s side, Weiss slashed down at the back of her knee, but Pyrrha twisted, lifting her leg to deflect the attack off her greaves. At the same time, she swapped to her sword, then slashed at Weiss’ head. 

Weiss ducked the attack and stepped back to narrowly dodge another shield punch, then blocked the downward cleave that followed it up. She clicked over to a wind Dust cannister, and when Pyrrha started up a sideways slash at her, she elected to attack instead of defend, thrusting at Pyrrha’s chest and releasing another blast of wind. 

Pyrrha must have pulled some semblance shenanigans, though, because at the last moment Weiss felt her rapier jerk to the side, skidding off of Pyrrha’s breastplate. The wind consequently launched Pyrrha sideways instead of back, but at least it still launched her. She probably took a lot less damage than she would have if that stab had connected correctly, though. 

She hadn’t put as much into this blast, so it only sent Pyrrha sliding about ten feet and didn’t even really unbalance her. It gave Weiss space, though, and she followed up with a fanning spray of icicles. 

Pyrrha blocked with her shield, but the ice shards hit with such force that she had to take two steps back. 

Weiss summoned a series of glyphs around and above Pyrrha as she stumbled, once again pushing ice Dust through her semblance to send ice lances at her opponent from every direction. 

Pyrrha ducked, raising her shield, dodging two and blocking one, but three more connected with her hip, shoulder, and back. She let out a grunt and dropped to all fours. If Weiss was counting correctly–which of course she was–that was her last loaded ice cannister, but…

Was Weiss winning? It felt like she was winning!

Excited, she rushed up to stab at Pyrrha’s bowed head, but just before she hit, Pyrrha jerked her head to the side. 

‘FUCKING HOW?!’

How did she always know where Weiss was without looking?!

Pyrrha launched herself up at Weiss, slamming the top of her head into the bottom of Weiss’ chin. 

‘Ow,’ Weiss thought again as she rocked back. 

Pyrrha then slashed at her once, twice, and Weiss wasn’t recovered enough to block. She took the hits, then flailed wildly with another windblast. 

She made a mistake getting close. She should have reloaded.

Pyrrha caught her swipe in the divot of her shield and the tunnel of wind it created blew off to the side, doing nothing. 

And now there was no Dust left in Myrtenaster, and only a single ice and a single wind cartridge on her belt. 

When Pyrrha swung at her neck, Weiss didn’t have Myrtenaster available to block, so she did the instinctive thing, raising her hand to catch the blow. 

It worked, though she felt the blade bite into her aura. 

They both glanced down at Weiss’ hand in surprise, and after a moment an idea struck Weiss. She let of the blade to create a smidge of space between it and her hand, then quickly summoned a small, concentrated white glyph on her palm. 

The blade jerked out of Pyrrha’s hand and spun away, bouncing across the dirt.

Weiss immediately continued with a series of strikes against her unarmed opponent, slash, stab, slash, stab stab. 

Of course, Pyrrha caught each strike on her shield. 

‘Shields are stupid,’ Weiss decided. 

Pyrrha jerked her empty hand out toward Weiss, and it was easy to guess what that meant. Weiss pushed herself to the side with a glyph just as Pyrrha’s sword came spinning back to her hand. 

Moving her hands as fast as she could, she loaded her last two Dust cannisters into Myrtenaster, not bothering to put the empty cartridges on her belt, just tossing them aside.

It made her brain itch to do that, but she didn’t have time. 

Pyrrha turned to follow, but Weiss lashed out with a quick blast of ice that encased Pyrrha’s feet up to her knees. She then darted forward and tried to get in some quick hits while Pyrrha was locked down, but Pyrrha was able to block or parry all of the attacks. 

Pyrrha’s weapon switched to rifle form as she blocked one of Weiss’ stabs with her shield, and Weiss immediately swiped, deflecting bullet that came at her with her rapier, then danced back, summoning a large glyph in front of her to shield her from more shots. 

It was kind of ridiculous that Pyrrha was half frozen in ice and Weiss was the one getting forced back. 

With one strong downward slam with her shield, Pyrrha shattered the ice encasing her. 

Weiss backed away. 

Just one air blast left, and Pyrrha didn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. And Weiss had failed to actually connect a blow with Myrtenaster this entire fight. She’d been expecting that, to some extent, but still… it felt kind of shitty. 

Pyrrha bounded forward and reengaged the melee duel that had been interrupted. Weiss made a point to make every step back she took long so that Pyrrha’s shield couldn’t be used as a weapon, forcing her opponent to only be able to reach her with the edge of her sword. 

It was… manageable. Weiss was successfully able to parry Pyrrha’s attacks, but she was starting to get fatigued. Her thighs were burning, as was her left arm from all this battering back and forth she had to take with Mrytenaster. Milo didn’t hit as hard as Crescent Rose, but Pyrrha was definitely stronger than Ruby, so it was pretty much the same amount of physical punishment to trade blows with them. 

Weiss conjured another burst of wind to separate them and give herself a breather. 

The blast knocked Pyrrha back ten feet, and when she straightened up she didn’t immediately attack again, apparently fine with having a break, though she clearly didn’t need it. 

“You fight well,” she called out, switching to her spear and stabbing it into the ground next to her. 

It was praise, but it was praise that hurt. Pyrrha was only willing to stop and talk because she knew she was going to win. And she’d probably say the same to anybody. She’d just said it to Jaune.

Weiss could give nothing but a quick, insincere smile in response. 

“This is the hardest fight I’ve had in years,” she added. 

“Which one was harder?” Weiss asked. 

Pyrrha shrugged. “Just fights with my first trainer when I was young and inexperienced. Your definitely the most formidable opponent I’ve faced that wasn’t twenty years older than me.”

That made Weiss actually smile. That, coming from Pyrrha freaking Nikos, was high praise indeed. 

Weiss took this opportunity to pull out her scroll and check where her aura was at. 

42%.

This would be over soon. 

“You’re out of Dust, aren’t you?” Pyrrha asked. 

Weiss sighed. She’d been counting. 

She nodded, and Pyrrha nodded back, thinking. 

“Good,” she said after a moment, following with a good-natured laugh. “You were hitting a little too hard for my liking.” 

Weiss smiled again. Maybe it was vain to enjoy having her ego stroked, but Pyrrha Nikos praising her Dust casting just felt good.

“Shall we?” Pyrrha asked, pulling her spear out of the ground and flipping it upright. 

With a sigh, Weiss pocketed her scroll. She raised her rapier.

‘Head up. Shoulders back. Left foot forward.’

She nodded again. 

“Do you mind if I put my shield up?” Pyrrha asked. 

Weiss’ confusion must have been visible on her face, because Pyrrha rushed to explain. 

“I don’t mean to be disrespectful! I just… I don’t need to block your Dust attacks anymore, and it’s kind of exhilarating to duel with someone that can actually keep up with me. It’s been so long since I’ve had a hard challenge.” 

Flattering, but also… not? Pyrrha didn’t think she’d need her shield for this next part. She didn’t think Weiss would be able beat her without Dust. 

Entirely true, but still…

On the other hand, shields were stupid. Also, getting into a pure sword duel with Pyrrha sounded… well, it sounded fun

Ruby was rubbing off on her too much. 

“Go for it,” she said. 

Pyrrha clamped her shield on her back with a smile, then nodded, switching to her sword. 

She took two long strides forward and the fight started again. 

Their fighting styles were distinctly different–Weiss stood sideways from her opponent, preferring to stab, whereas Pyrrha faced her full on and preferred slashing, often gripping her weapon two handed. Where Weiss stayed straight and in form, Pyrrha ducked low, jumped high, and employed quite a few spins that gave her swings extra momentum and that Ruby probably thought looked “super cool!”. 

Pyrrha slashed upwards, and when Weiss parried the blow to the side, she quickly flicked her wrist around and slashed downwards, catching Weiss’ forearm. Weiss tried to answer with a stab at Pyrrha’s gut, but Pyrrha gave a dismissive backhand with her free hand, deflecting the blow off her gauntlet. 

Why don’t I have any armor?’

Pyrrha slashed at her. Weiss parried. Pyrrha brought both hands together into an overhead slam, and Weiss had to sidestep. There was no way she was strong enough to block that, especially with how exhausted she was. 

She was forced back. She took a hit to the leg. Then another to the arm. Pyrrha brandished her blade, giving a looping flourish that Weiss wasn’t sure how to react to, expecting an attack when there wasn’t one. Then it turned into an arcing slash from above down across Weiss’ torso. She ducked under it, but Pyrrha transitioned the missed strike into a thrust that struck Weiss in the stomach, making her stumble back and onto her knees, her legs giving out. 

“Time!” she heard the professor yell. 

That was it. It was over. 

Weiss had lost. 

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