“Ruby, don’t put the ginger on the sushi, you dunce!”
“It’s bad enough you’re using your fingers instead of the chopsticks. At least eat the food correctly!”
“Okay, look,” she huffed, picking up one of the useless food sticks and pointing it at Weiss’ nose. “These things are dumb and stupid. They’re just sticks! Why would I go through the effort of, like, tweezering my food? What is the point of a utensil if it makes you do more work than you would have to do if you just used your hands?”
Weiss narrowed her eyes grumpily.
“And second,” Ruby continued, “… wh-what do you mean? How am I eating it wrong? Isn’t this ginger stuff for putting on the snushies?”
‘Snushi’ was, of course, patented Ruby-slang for snuggly sushi, cuz they looked like they were all snuggly wrapped up in blankets. Seaweed blankets, sure, which wasn’t totally ideal, but still.
“The ginger’s not a garnish, it’s a palate cleanser,” Weiss ‘explained’.
“… A what?”
Weiss gave a half smile and sighed. “Okay, so the wasabi is a garnish, right? You add it to the sushi to give it flavor.”
Ruby wrinkled her nose. Wasabi–this weird looking green goop, was spicy as HEEEECK.
Weiss grinned. “Yeah, same.” She gestured at the ginger. “Anyway, after you eat a piece of sushi, you’re supposed to munch on a piece of ginger to cleanse your p… to get the taste out of your mouth.”
“But it tastes good!” Ruby protested.
Weiss nodded. “Yes. But if you clear the lingering tastes in your mouth, then you get to fully taste the next piece of sushi rather than have the flavors overlap and mitigated.”
“Oh. Huh. Cool! That sounds like science!”
Weiss raised an eyebrow out her amusedly.
“The best kind of science,” Yang said. “Food science.”
Ruby nodded. “You know, I had a friend at Signal that claimed to be a vegetarian, but they ate shrimp because they thought it was a vegetable.”
“What?” Weiss and Blake both exclaimed at the same time. They then shot each other brief glares, but looked away, and Ruby chose to ignore it.
Yang just chuckled. She’d already heard this story.
“Why–wha–how?” Blake stammered out.
Ruby grinned. “Because she heard they were grown in shrimp farms!”
Weiss and Blake blinked at her.
“I should mention she was pretty dumb.”
“Obviously,” Weiss muttered.
Ruby popped one of her snushies in her mouth. “Mmm! So goooood!”
“Alright, I can’t take this. Come here.” Weiss motioned to her to scoot her chair over.
“I’m going to teach you how to use chopsticks so you don’t look like a barbaric heathen. Come here.”
“She doesn’t look barbaric, look at her!” Yang argued. “She looks like she belongs on a teen fashion magazine!”
Ruby smiled widely at the compliment. She did look pretty good. Weiss knew her way around clothes, that was for sure.
“Yes, she looks great,” Weiss agreed. “Which is why her eating sushi in a four star restaurant with her fingers is totally unacceptable.”
“They didn’t give me a fork!” Usually there was a fork and a knife wrapped in a napkin set at the table, but the napkin at this restaurant was wrapped around a fancy, deep-dish looking soup spoon and a pair of chopsticks. No fork! No knife! No sense!
“You don’t need one. Come here!” Weiss was getting pretty flabbergasted.
Decorum was important to Weiss, Ruby knew. She scooted over to subject herself to a teaching moment. She was nervous about what would happen when Weiss taught her and she still got it wrong anyway, but she’d endure this if it meant making Weiss happy, especially with this whole Weiss/Blake grumpfest that was going on. And Ruby didn’t mind being closer to Weiss–she smelled nice!
“Okay. Bring your plate over. Okay, so take one of them and pinch it between your thumb and middle finger. Like this.” Weiss demonstrated, and Ruby copied her. “Almost. Here.”
Weiss reached over and adjusted the way Ruby’s fingers were pressing into the thin wooden stick. She had to reach across Ruby ‘cause Ruby was a lefty, but that was okay. Weiss’ fingers were that comfy-pillow cold, despite the restaurant being pretty warm.
“Like that. Now take this one–” Weiss picked up Ruby’s other chopstick and wedged it into the floopy bit of skin between Ruby’s thumb and pointer finger knuckles “–and pinch it. With–yeah, like that.”
“This feels weird.”
Weiss did that half-eye roll. “It’ll take some getting used to, but it’ll feel natural soon. Now look, when you go to pick something up, just move your index finger up and down.” She demonstrated by effortlessly tweezering a piece of sushi and lifting it up in the air.
Ruby tried to do the same.
“No n–don’t move your middle finger. You’re not trying to move both sticks, just the top one.”
Ruby tried again.
“N–here, scoot closer.”
Ruby obeyed, and Weiss reached over to get a grip around Ruby’s hand. She squeezed down on Ruby’s middle finger from two sides again to lock it in place. Her arm was pressing lightly against Ruby’s chest and her hand was really soft.
“Okay, try now.”
This time, when Ruby’s finger muscles instinctively both tried to ‘scissor’, Weiss’ grip held firm on her middle finger and kept it from moving.
“This feels extra weird.”
Weiss huffed a laugh. “Do it some more. Get used to the feeling of holding your middle finger in place, then I’ll let go and you can do it yourself.”
Ruby nodded and followed the motion some more, then slowly moved her hand down to try to pick up a sushi roll, Weiss following the movement.
!!! She got i–
Aw, she slipped.
She tried again, and this time she got it! Her pointer finger felt a little wobbly, and she got the feeling she’d drop the sushi soon, so she quickly brought it up to her mouth and chomped on it.
“O-ow! Sto–ugh!” Weiss pulled her hand away, and Ruby realized she’d twisted Weiss’ wrist around on accident. “Dolt.”
“ ’m shrrry!”
“It’s fine. Don’t talk with food in your mouth.”
Yang let out a little choking life, her face full of beef. She covered her mouth with a hand. “You’re such a mom.”
“I am not!” Weiss shot back.
“Am–ugh! Stop being a child!”
“Yeah, that really sounded non-momish,” Yang grinned.
“I…” Weiss huffed and turned back to Ruby. “Try again on your own. Focus on keeping your middle finger still. Have some ginger.”
Ruby nodded and set to work trying to chopstick a bit of the weird looking pink veggie slice. It was harder without Weiss’ help, but she knew how the movement was supposed to feel. She did her best, but her fingers hurrrrrt! And they kept shaking!
“Relax, Ruby. You’re tensing up your fingers too much. And you don’t need to press so hard on the chopsticks. Just… relax.”
‘Relax’ was always such easy advice to give, but never easy to actually do. She didn’t complain, though. Weiss was teaching her something, and actually being very nice about it! Ruby preferred more high fives and ‘good jobs’ when she was learning knew stuff, but Weiss not yelling at her was basically like her saying good job, right?
She tried to relax a bit, then went at it again.
Oops. That came out way whinier than she meant it to.
Weiss pointed at her hand. “Relax. Give me your hand.” She made a ‘come here’ gesture and held her left hand out, palm up.
Ruby placed her hand in Weiss’, still holding on to the chopsticks.
“Look,” Weiss said, using her empty hand to give Ruby’s outermost knuckle on her index finger a gentle squeeze. “You’re so rigid! Loosen up. It’ll be easier to move your finger up and down if you’re not trying to strangle the chopstick.”
She smiled lightly, somewhat hopefully, and Ruby realized she was trying to be funny!
Ruby gave her a big grin in return.
“Stop smiling like a doofus and relax your finger,” Weiss commanded, though the pleased twerk on her lips showed she wasn’t grumpy.
Happy her partner was happy, Ruby focused on untensing her finger. Weiss kept a light pressure on it until she was able to press the knuckle in and out.
“Good. Now try.”
She said ‘good’!
It was a lot easier this time. It felt a bit strange to just pop some ginger in her mouth, but she did. It was freakishly… juicy? Slimy? Is there a word for it? And it was both spicy and sweet at the same time. It was tasty! And a very strong flavor. Like, any bit of the sushi taste was completely gone now.
Weiss gave her an approving nod.
Ruby happily continued eating, now as a refined, chopstick person. Unfortunately, it was a lot slower.
“Do you think shrimp are all, like, have things they want to be when they grow up? Like, some of them are like ‘when I grow up I wanna be in a sushi roll’ or ‘when I grow up I want to be in a shrimp cocktail’ or something?”
“That’s quite possibly the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard you say,” Weiss informed her.
“By ‘when I grow up’ do you mean ‘when I die’?” Yang asked. “Because…”
“Oh.” Ruby looked down at her snushie sadly. “Yeah.”
Blake was being awfully quiet.
“What do you think, Blake?”
“Huh? What?” Blake blinked back into the real world from wherever she’d gone staring into her rice. The hand that wasn’t holding her chopsticks was curled up, systematically squeezing one knuckle after another like she was trying to pop them but they’d already been popped, and now it was just a tick.
An angry tick. The way her jaw was set, Ruby could tell Blake was still upset.
And Ruby was still sitting right next to Weiss, so when Blake looked up at her, her eyes instinctively flickered to Weiss and narrowed, then quickly darted back to her plate.
“You think shrimp have career choices?” she asked, trying to keep her tone as light and jovial as possible. She scooted her chair back over to her spot, curiously noting that the right side of her body got noticeably warmer when she moved away from Weiss.
Weiss was straight up radiating cold right now. Like how the air around Yang got hot when she was upset.
(But the opposite. ‘Cause hot and cold are opposites, duh.)
Did that mean Weiss was upset right now too? Still? She seemed okay. She was being really nice to Ruby. Although that wasn’t too unusual now, right?
Weiss was avoiding eye contact with Blake too, though. Crap. Ruby hadn’t really fixed anything, just gotten them to stop yelling at each other.
What the frickity frack was she supposed to do, though?
“I imagine they do,” Blake answered, stirring Ruby from her worries. “They probably have job fairs where they apply to be sushi shrimp or cocktail shrimp or tempura shrimp and stuff.” Her voice was flat as she made the joke, picking at her rice.
Ruby giggled extra hard to try to cheer Blake up. It sorta worked! Blake looked up at her and raised her eyebrows, smiling slightly in amusement.
Hey, that worked!
So Blake was sorta okay, Weiss was sorta okay, and Yang was–
Yang was glaring at Ruby.
“Why are you glaring at me?”
Yang sighed and shoved more food in her mouth, shaking her head.
Yang shook her head again and pointedly chewed.
“I will be as annoying as possible until you tell me!”
“Please no,” Weiss said from the side.
Ruby pointed at her partner’s stupid pretty nose. “Quiet you. Yang! Tell me!”
Yang groaned and rolled her eyes dramatically, then crossed her arms and slouched, returning to the same mildly-grumpy glare from before.
“It’s… I have been trying to teach you for years how to use chopsticks, and every time you just whined at me and accused me of trying to make you eat slower so I could steal your food. Then Weiss shows up here with her bossy mcboss pants and you’re happy as fuck to learn!”
Weiss recoiled at that. “I do not have bossy mc… boss pants.” She frowned, confused that those words had just come out of her mouth.
“Yeah!” Ruby agreed. “Weiss isn’t even wearing pants!”
Weiss jerked her head around and blinked at Ruby. “Right, because I’m wearing a skirt.”
“You should add that on there,” Weiss advised. “Just yelling ‘she’s not wearing pants!’ sounds bad.”
Yang shrugged. “Hey girl, live your best life.”
“What does that even mean?” Weiss retorted.
“Look,” Yang bulldozed, turning back to Ruby, “all I’m saying is the Yang will remember this.”
“The Yang?” Blake asked.
“She does that sometimes,” Ruby explained. “If you haven’t noticed, she’s a bit of a weirdo.”
“Seems to run in the family,” Blake muttered.
Yang pointed at Ruby across the table. “That’s it, you’re getting tickled tonight.”
Weiss reached up and yanked Yang’s hand down. “Do neither of you know how to behave?”
Yang rolled her eyes a bit and went back to eating.
Dinner as a whole went pretty smoothly. Weiss and Blake didn’t say a single word to each other, but Weiss was pleasant to Ruby and Yang, and Blake finally started talking to them too–after much prodding from Ruby to get her to join the conversation, of course.
Yang ordered some sort of alcoholic drink called sake because she could do that now that she was eighteen. Then she shared it with Blake, which Ruby was pretty sure was against the rules, especially since Weiss watched with a disapproving frown the whole time, but neither Blake nor Yang seemed to care.
Half an hour later, they were done with their plates.
“What kinda desserts are there here?” Ruby asked–because of course they needed desert.
“We can ask for a dessert menu,” Weiss offered, already raising a hand to flag down a waitress.
Yang took a deep, happy breath and stood, stretching her arms over her head. “Well, you guys enjoy your, like, rice cakes or whatever. I wanna get to the club before the lines get hella long. You ready, Blakey-Blake?”
“Sure. Just need the bill.” She kept her eyes on her hands as she said it.
“Let me payyy,” Weiss said in a curiously whiney tone that Ruby definitely did not expect to hear from a princess.
Blake ignored her.
“I already said I don’t want your money, Schnee,” Blake finally shot at her.
“Stop calling me that!”
Oh boy. It was happening again.
“Are you not a Schnee?”
Weiss eyes flashed angrily. “I am, but when you say it you’re just thinking of my father, and I am not my father!”
Blake’s expression stayed cold. “You sound like him.”
Weiss visibly flinched at that. “I–h… how would you even know?”
“Guys!” Ruby cut in, sad she had to do this again. Was this going to be a regular thing now? “Stop. Weiss, I don’t know why but Blake just doesn’t like your family’s company and where your money comes from, okay? It’s not personal.”
“It feels personal,” Weiss sulked back.
“And Blake, Weiss wants to pay for dinner because she feels like that’s the only thing she has to contribute to the team, okay? She’s not trying to, like, own you or something.”
“Well maybe I don’t want to be a part of her team,” Blake snarled.
“Hey!” Ruby shouted. “Not cool!”
Weiss’ fist balled up angrily and her chin quivered slightly, briefly. “But what did I do to you?” she asked quietly, voice shaky.
Blake glared silently back at her.
“Alright, I’m fucking sick of this drama,” Yang said. She walked behind Blake’s chair and pulled it out. “We’re leaving.”
“I don’t fucking care about the bill.” She reached into her back pocket for her wallet, pulling out a couple twenty lien notes and tossing them across the table. “There. I paid for your dinner, not Weiss. Weiss, if you want to just give those to Ruby or back to me later, go for it. But as far as Blake is concerned, I paid for her dinner. Alright?”
Weiss was doing that frozen statue impression she did when she was sad or angry.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Yang said. “Come on, Blake, let’s go.”
Blake stood and huffed. “How am I the bad guy here?! She’s a ra–”
“I don’t care!” Yang shouted, now getting loud enough that heads turned their way. Or maybe people had already been watching them. Ruby hadn’t really been paying attention. “This shit is ruining my night and I’m done with it. Walk or I’m going out alone.”
Blake numbly obeyed her partner and headed for the front door, shoulders tensed like she still wanted to argue.
Yang came over to Ruby and leaned down to kiss the top of her head. “Sorry, Peanut,” she said quietly.
Ruby just nodded, not sure what to say.
“Thank you for dinner, Weiss,” Yang said. “Or at least Ruby-Roo’s. However you do that. And thanks for taking her shopping. She looks great.”
Weiss’s lips twitched in a small smile, then she nodded tinily and quickly, almost birdlike.
“You have the receipts?” Yang asked.
“They–ahem.” Weiss had to clear her throat, her voice sounding shaky and broken. “They’re in the bags back in the room.”
Yang nodded. “Thanks. Have a good night, guys.” She ruffled Ruby’s hair as she walked away.
“You too,” Weiss replied.
“Have fun dancing!” Ruby called after her sister.
Now it was just Ruby and Weiss again. And Weiss looked miserable.
Ruby could only let the silence linger for a couple seconds before she had to break it.
Weiss kept staring blankly at her hands, fingers interlocked and palms resting on the edge of the table, giving no indication she’d heard.
“Hm?” Still staring at her hands.
Finally, Weiss looked up and met her eyes and gave her a depressingly sad smile. “I’m fine.”
She definitely wasn’t fine.
What was Ruby supposed to do? Call Weiss out on not being fine? Or would that be annoying? Should she just leave it alone? But then nothing would get better, right?
Maybe she should just ask and see what Weiss wanted to do.
“You want to talk about it?” she asked.
Weiss shook her head slowly, eyes falling back to her hands.
“I just don’t understand why she’s so mad at me,” Weiss whispered. Ruby wasn’t even sure she’d meant to say it out loud.
“Me neither,” Ruby admitted. “Maybe she has someone that means a lot to her that’s a faunus?”
“Mm… What? Oh.” Weiss stirred, again not realizing Ruby was talking to her. “Yes, that could be it. But…” She trailed off and sighed. Her expression twiched, and she riled up a bit. “And then she goes and calls me ‘Schnee’, like that’s supposed to mean something. Like it’s supposed to mean something bad.”
“Yeah. I wanted to ask about that. Did the SDC, like, do something bad to faunus?”
“Other than get attacked day in and day out by the psychopath terrorist organization that claims we’re evil subjugators?”
Weiss sighed and laughed at the same time. “I mean, we used to use faunus slave labor–you know, like everyone did until the end of the Great War.”
“They’re probably not super happy about that,” Ruby offered lamely.
“Sure, but everyone used faunus slave labor. And now we don’t, and we treat faunus the same way everyone else in Atlas does, so I don’t understand why we’re some special exception!”
“Maybe Blake is still mad at your dad for enslaving faunus?”
Weiss shook her head. “My father wasn’t in charge back then. It was my grandfather. And he’s far nicer than my father is anyway! From what he’s told me, he treated the slaves well, far better than others did. I just… it doesn’t make sense!”
‘Weiss’ dad isn’t nice? Well… that’s good to know… I guess?”’
“Is treating slaves well a thing?” she asked instead. She didn’t really want to argue with Weiss, but they were trying to figure out Blake’s side of this, so Ruby figured she should play Darkness’ advocate. “They’re still slaves.”
“I don’t know, Ruby. I wasn’t there. This was sixty years ago. I’ve never had a slave, and yes, I think slavery is wrong, even if it is just a faunus. I’m just saying, everyone had faunus slaves back then, and my grandfather was nicer than other slave owners, so I don’t understand why we’re getting all this hate!”
Ruby shrugged. She had no idea why either, which meant there had to be some reason they weren’t thinking of, but she didn’t want to push Weiss. “Wanna drown your woes in some chocolate cake or something?”
Hopefully this place had chocolate cake.
Weiss cocked her head to the side and thought for a moment. “Could we go, actually?”
“We have cookies at the dorm,” Weiss reminded her.
“Oh, true!” Special Weiss gift cookies were way better than a random chocolate cake.
“If you–could…” Weiss stumbled over her words. “There’s a statue garden nearby I wanted to visit before we head back. Would that be okay?”
Oooh, statue garden? That sounded sweet!
Weiss smiled at her.
Amy with the awesome blue hair and cute freckles came back. Ruby remembered Weiss had waved at her earlier when they’d been first talking about dessert. Wow, that was, like, forever ago.
“Hi!” Ruby greeted the waitress.
She smiled. “Hello! How can I help, miss?” Amy asked Weiss.
“Could we get the bill?” Weiss asked.
“Of course! Just one?” Weiss nodded. “Okay. I’ll be right back.” She flashed Ruby a smile as she left.
Dad had always told Ruby she should be extra nice to waiters and waitresses. They had a really sucky job and didn’t get paid much, and usually people were mean to them, so even just saying hi and giving them a smile could make their day a lot better. He’d said he knew that from personal experience.
And that was super easy for Ruby to do anyway! She gave smiles to everybody!
The brief bit of quiet that settled after Amy walked away was enough for Weiss to get that sad, faraway look in her eyes that told Ruby she was thinking.
Well that’s enough! No thinking allowed here! Or… at least no thinking about sad crap!
It was Distraction Time.
“What kind of shrimp do you think you’d be?” Ruby asked, her thoughts going to the most recent random conversation she’d made.
“If you were shrimp, what kind would you be? Snushie shrimp? Cocktail shrimp? Uh… Lo mein shrimp?… Sweet and sour shrimp?” Weiss was just staring blankly at her, so she felt an impulsive need to keep talking. “Ummm… Shrimpy shrimp?”
“Why would I want to be a shrimp?”
“Ugh! This is a hypothetical, Weiss! It’s not about whether or not you want to be a shrimp, it’s about what kind you would be if you had to be one!”
The dark look that crossed over Weiss’ eyes made Ruby second guess herself. Why was this such a big d… oh.
Weiss didn’t like faunus, who were animal people. A “if you were an animal, what kind would you be” hypothetical probably wasn’t sitting well considering the big team turmoil going on right now.
The dark look faded before Ruby could figure out how to backpedal, though, and Weiss sighed. “I suppose a tempura shrimp,” she said, sounding kinda reluctant to be entertaining what was probably a weird conversation to her.
“Oh. I thought you’d say sushi shrimp.”
Weiss raised an eyebrow. “That would probably be the most popular answer to that question.”
“True. Sushi’s pretty awesome. So you want to be edgy and different?” Ruby teased.
Weiss tilted her head. “I suppose. It’s more that tempura shrimp is delicious without needing anything else.”
Oh. “That’s deep, yo.”
Weiss rolled her eyes. “So did you enjoy your dinner?”
“I did!” Ruby knew Weiss was talking about just the food and not the overall dinner, so she didn’t mention that she really hated how Weiss and Blake were fighting. “It was delicious, and I learned how to use chopsticks!”
Weiss had been right. It did get easier with lots of repetition.
Weiss smiled, a real smile, even though it was small. “I’m glad.”
Ruby scooted her chair back over to Weiss and gave her partner a grateful hug around her arm. Weiss sighed lightly and patted Ruby’s hand that was wrapped around her bicep.
“This is just a thing with you, isn’t it?” Weiss grumbled.
“Of course!” Ruby let go of Weiss and straightened up. “You’re awesome, and therefore deserve hugs!”
Weiss pursed her lips to the side, considering. “Well… thank you. You don’t have to hug me so much though.”
“But then how will you know I think you’re awesome?”
“You could just… say it? Like you just did?”
“Pfft! Anybody can just say anything. People say things they don’t really mean all the time. But hugs? You can’t not mean a hug.”
Ruby’s eyes went wide. “What?! Liar hugs are not a thing!”
“I’m sure they’re not for you,” Weiss replied sadly. “Though I can’t see you lying with words either.”
“Well, good!” Ruby smiled back. “My parents taught me that lying was bad and wrong and bad.”
“And wrong?” Weiss grinned.
Amy came back and got halfway through handing Weiss the little notebook thing with their receipt when Weiss just handed the lady her card.
“Thank you,” Weiss said in a tone that really sounded like ‘Just take my card’.
“I–oh. Okay, thank you. Be right back.” Amy bustled off again.
“You paying for the whole meal?” Ruby asked, diplomatically avoiding saying Blake’s name.
Weiss tilted her head in her strange version of a shrug, then handed the two twenties Yang had given her to Ruby.
“Thanks,” Ruby said instinctively. Then she actually considered what it meant. “Are you sure?”
Weiss frowned. “No reason to make you and Yang pay for… our fight. If she’d left her own money I would have used it, but not yours.”
Yeah. Weiss wasn’t saying Blake’s name either.
This was bad.
“Okay,” Ruby responded quietly. She wasn’t really certain she understood the logic behind that, but she knew Weiss wanted to buy her team stuff and didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, so Ruby let it go.
“What about you, though?” Weiss asked her.
“What about me, what?”
Weiss pressed her lips together. “What kind of shrimp would you be?”
Weiss was not only going along with Ruby’s silly conversation, but actively continuing it! That was… so awesome!!!!
“Snushie shrimp! Because I’d want to be a snuggly in a blanket!”
Weiss blinked. “The seaweed?”
“Oh, is that why you’re saying ‘snushie’ like an idiot? Is it a snuggly sushi?”
Ruby giggled happily. “Yup!”
Amy came back then, handing Weiss the notebook with her card sticking out the top. “Thank you guys for coming!” she said. “I hope you enjoyed your dinner?”
“It was great!” Ruby chirped.
Weiss nodded in agreement as she signed the receipt. “It was lovely. I’m sure we’ll be back.”
“That’s great to hear! We look forward to it. Have a good night, ladies.” She gave Ruby a tiny wave as she walked away.
“You too!” Ruby smiled back.
She leaned over to look over Weiss’ shoulder ‘cause she wanted to see what Weiss’ signature looked li–
Yep. Swirly and princessy and awesome.
“Woah, a fifteen lien tip?” she blurted out when she noticed the number stenciled in Weiss’ small, neat handwriting. “That’s a l–is that a lot?”
It probably wasn’t a lot to Weiss. Weiss could probably buy this whole restaurant as an afterthought.
Maybe she should…
“It’s fine,” Weiss said absently. “She was nice, and you seemed to like her.”
“Her hair is sweet!”
Weiss smiled. “You ready to go?”
They walked out together, Ruby giving a goodbye wave to Fancy Tuxedo Host Dude as they passed him. It was seven thirty now, the evening sun no longer visible behind the city’s skyline, rays of orange spiking up from the horizon and painting the sky in pretty pinks and deep purples.
It was lovely.
Weiss stopped to take in the view for a little bit, and Ruby watched her curiously. Weiss clearly seemed to really like pretty things, from cityscapes to fountains to jewelry to horizons. And she always looked at them really closely, taking in everything, like she wanted to commit the images to memory perfectly. Maybe she was thinking about how she would paint them! That would be really neat! Was a painting scrapbook a thing? She could make paintings of all the pretty things she and Ruby saw together while they were at Beacon.
Weiss noticed Ruby watching her and turned, her strikingly blue eyes meeting Ruby’s. It was so cool how her eyes were brighter than the sky right now, and th–
“Huh?” Ruby blinked and shook herself, all of a sudden very self conscious of how she’d just zoned out while staring at her partner like a big dumb derp.
“You’re just staring at me,” Weiss stated flatly.
Ruby blushed. “Sorry! Just… just thinking?”
Weiss raised an eyebrow. “What about?”
‘That I’m trying to figure out how you think and what you like so I can be a good friend and team leader and I really like spending time with you and I’m really glad you’re my partner.’
Weiss rolled her eyes. “Come on,” she ordered, leading Ruby down the street.
The sidewalks were pretty full, lots of people out enjoying the weekend and nice weather. Ruby spotted quite a few people dressed like they were going to the club like Yang and Blake. There were also families just out for a walk, couples taking strolls.
It was nice.
Weiss didn’t seem to like the crowd, though. She was tense, shoulders pulled in, and anytime someone walked close by her she step away to avoid contact, way overcompensating and often bumping into Ruby.
She didn’t seem to mind that too much though.
“You alright?” Ruby asked, concerned.
Weiss nodded tightly. “Not a huge fan of crowds.”
Hmm… “You could use your glyphs! Make some stairflakes to get us over everyone else and then you can make us our own personal sidewalk up in the air!”
Weiss laughed out loud at that. “Tempting,” she said. “I’d rather not attract attention, though. We’re just… out for a nice walk in the city. Like normal people. I can get over my senseless discomfort.”
“Senseless? It’s–you know, it’s okay for you to not like crowds, Weiss. It’s perfectly normal.”
“I know,” she sighed. “But it’s not rational. I should be used to them. I’ve sung at concerts and attended my father’s business conferences–”
“And the Red Carpet Gala!” Ruby added excitedly.
Weiss frowned, though. “Yes, and that. So I should be used to them. But I’m not. Which is just… stupid.” Her voice grated with frustration at the last word.
“It’s okay, Weiss!” Ruby hurried to placate her partner. “People aren’t always perfectly logical. Th–”
“But I’m supposed to be better.”
“You’re already better than pretty much everybody, Weiss. At least everyone I know.” Ruby looked over at her partner then, trying to gauge Weiss’ emotions from her tiny little microexpressions.
Nothing. Blank mask. She mumbled something Ruby couldn’t make out.
“What was that?”
Weiss took a deep breath. “It’s not enough. Can–can we–”
“Yes! Sorry.” Topic change time. “So where’s this statue garden thing?”
“Around the next corner, if I recall correctly,” Weiss answered after letting out a breath of relief.
“Do you ever recall anything incorrectly?” Ruby asked with a smile. Weiss may have a lot of self doubt issues, but she did know she was super smart, and she seemed to always appreciate compliments about that.
It worked. She smiled and side-eyed Ruby. “Not that I remember,” she joked.
“Ha! Well played, Weissy-Weiss.”
Ruby giggled. She thought it was a cute name. Although maybe she was biased ‘cause she liked Ruby-Roo so much. Or maybe it was just ‘cause Yang had come up with it, so it was automatically great.
It only took them a couple minutes to reach the statue garden. It was a little park, rimmed and riddled with tall hedges that were functionally big green walls that turned the place into a maze. The entrance was a doorway-with-no-door that was made by an archway of leafy greens formed by the streetside wall. A small marble pyramid just a few feet into the labyrinth was visible from the sidewalk, and it had words carved into it.
‘VALE CITY STATUE GARDENS’
“Whoooa,” Ruby breathed.
“Whoa,” Weiss agreed with a nod. She waved a hand toward the entrance in a very princessy way. “Shall we?”
Ruby skipped ahead.
‘Small’ pyramid was a bad description. The top of it still poked up a few inches above Ruby’s head. It was completely smooth, white marble, except around the base. The base had a carved relief all around it, images of people–faunus and not-faunus–all in poses and with objects and equipment that looked like they were building the pyramid. Pickaxes, shovels, hammers, and other things that made it look like they were hard at work. And all of it was super detailed and fine.
“Left or right?” Weiss asked her.
“I get to choose?” Ruby asked back even as she inspected both ways try to see which way was better.
“Sure. They look the same, so I have no idea how to decide.”
It was true. Both directions were narrow pathways, just wide enough that Ruby and Weiss could stand next to each other and not get clipped by branches and leaves, that extended out a little ways and then turned around corners. No sidewalk, just well kept, slightly trampled grass.
“Left is right?” she suggested.
Weiss nodded in acceptance.
They went left, rounding the corner and–
Up against the hedge wall were two statues, both pure white marble like the pyramid had been. A beowulf pouncing on a growling regular wolf. The red Grimm streaks were painted on the beowulf’s face, and the armor plating that was white in real life was painted black, making the sculpture a weird inverse from reality. The wolf, on the other hand, was all white, and also much smaller than the eight foot tall beowulf.
They were clearly fighting, the beowulf in mid leap with a claw swiping out to bonk the wolf in the nose, the wolf tensed, hackles up and legs coiled like it was about to jump up and tackle the beowulf out of the air. From the size difference, he’d probably lose.
“Run, doggo!” Ruby whispered.
“Are you talking to a statue?” Weiss asked, the resigned look on her face indicating she already knew the answer.
Ruby stuck her tongue out at her.
Weiss rolled her eyes and turned back to the statues. “These are impressive,” she remarked.
“Heck yeah! Look at the fur!”
The things were so detailed it was crazy. Whoever made them must be insanely talented or using some crazy stone-shaping semblance, because this was nuts.
They followed along the path, which diverged and looped and had dead ends often. There seemed to be themes running along different tracks–one kept up the “Grimm vs nature” theme, with Grimm fighting their natural counterparts: King Taijitu versus a giant cobra, Ursa versus a bear, Weaver versus a giant spider.
Weiss agreed, wrinkling her nose and moving them along quickly when they reached that one.
The next one, though…
Weiss whistled in appreciation.
Wyvern versus a dragon. They were both freaking huge, over twelve feet tall at least. The Wyvern was flapping its wings in the face of the dragon, and the dragon was striking out to bite at the Wyvern’s neck.
“Weiss, if I hopped on the dragon’s back, could you snap a picture real quick?”
Weiss crossed her arms. “That’s a drake, and no, because you can’t sit on a public art piece!”
Ruby pouted. “But I want to be a dragon rider!”
“What’s the difference?”
“Dragons went extinct centuries ago and had four legs. Drakes have two and claws on their wing and are still around, but endangered.”
“Mm,” Weiss agreed. “There’s a dragon fossil in the Natural History Museum in Mantle. It’s… incredible.”
Ruby gasped. “How big is it?!”
Cocking her head to the side and squinting in thought, Weiss considered. “Well, both of these statues together could have fit easily in its mouth.”
“Mmhm. It’s… words would not suffice to describe it.”
Ruby looked at the drake statue in front of them. “So are drakes just way smaller than dragons were?”
Weiss shook her head. “I’m pretty sure they are a lot bigger than this. Never really studied them though. I know bits and pieces.”
“Whaaaat? There’s something you don’t know?”
Weiss tried to frown disapprovingly, but she couldn’t get rid of the pleased little upturn at the right corner of her mouth. “There’s plenty I don’t know,” she replied.
“Mm… Soooo, was that a no on the picture of me on the drake statue?”
“Ugh, fiiiine. Come on.” Ruby stomped off down the pathway.
They ended up making a turn that had them following a different theme, one of the kingdoms interacting with each other. Splashes of color indicated which kingdom the statues of faceless people were meant to represent–yellow for Vale, blue for Atlas, green for Mistral, orange for Vacuo. The first statues showed them walking away from each other. Colonizing and settling. Then handing each other things. Trading. Then fighting, swords and shields painted in the kingdoms’ colors. The Great War.
Then there was a path Ruby very much wished they’d avoided. The faunus. It showed them in chains at first. There was one piece that was a line of four faunus of different types all on their knees, facing the wall, their backs scarred and a human with a whip in hand standing against the opposite hedge.
Weiss was silent (and Ruby didn’t dare risk saying something out of fear of upsetting her), but her creased ever so slightly at the scene.
Then there was one of four faunus breaking free of their chains, each one with a splash of color to represent the kingdoms. The Rebellion. The faunus had taken the opportunity of the Great War to fight for their freedom. The first revolt had been in Atlas, and it was a large part of why Atlas and Vacuo had lost the Great War. Production of the Atlas war machines had stopped and they’d had to divert troops back home. Ruby couldn’t remember all the specifics of what had happened after, but she knew the Vytal Treaty that ended the Great War also ended faunus slavery.
Ruby Rose presents History Facts!
After that was a statue of a big… cat faunus? He was tall and jacked, with a big tuft of chest hair poking out of his shirt and fingernails that curled out to long claws. Around his feet were a bunch of tiny faunus, all standing around looking happy and determined. In one hand he held up a flag that had a wolf head painted on it.
“They got the symbol wrong,” Weiss said, breaking the silence.
She pointed up at the flag. “The White Fang logo. They’re missing the claw marks that go across it.”
“And it should be blood red, not black. I’m pretty sure this is Ghira the Speaker, the guy that started everyone’s favorite terrorist organization.”
Ruby stayed quiet, not sure what was okay to say. She walked to the next statue, the final one on this path before it branched away.
It was a work in progress.
“Wow, they really do carve these!” Ruby remarked as she walked up to the incomplete statue. It was similar to the last one, with tiny faunus around the base of a taller figure, but these tiny faunus looked angry and most of them had weapons. The big figure was what was still unfinished, only the legs and some of the body and arms done. From how thin the legs and arms were it was clearly a woman, and there was a pattern of tiger stripes painted on her skin in orange. She was also holding up what looked like would end up being a flag, once it was complete, but her other hand as set next to her hip in a way that suggested she would have a weapon there.
“What did you think they did?” Weiss wondered.
“I dunno. I thought maybe there was someone with a stone shaping semblance, ‘cause I didn’t think someone could be this detailed and perfect with a…” She mimed hitting a hammer on her other hand because she couldn’t remember the right word. “Dinky thing?”
Weiss smiled. “Nope. This is good old-fashioned carving.”
“There are some really talented people out there.”
Weiss looked over at her. “You’re one of them, Ruby. You just carve up Grimm instead of blocks of stone.”
Ruby happy wiggled. “Thanks! You too! Though you also sing and play the piano and the violin. And I bet your paintings are great too.”
Weiss did that smiley-eye roll. “I told you they’re not.”
“Well I don’t believe you,” Ruby chirped at her as she led them away.
Weiss huffed indignantly, but she didn’t actually look upset.
They turned a corner and both stopped short to stare in wonder.
A circular clearing, probably sixty feet across, with sets of statues around the sides, flowerbeds rimming the edge between them, and a gazebo sat in the center of it all, white painted wood and a red tiled roof. There were a few other people here, a group of two and a group of three walking and talking and taking pictures.
And the statues… they were statues of gods.
One set of statues was a conglomeration of animals the Ruby recognized as the Great Herd, which many faunus believed in. Spiritual representations of the many animals from which the various faunus shared traits. Each had swirl patterns carved into their fur, scales, or hide, probably to make the solid stone convey the idea of ‘spirity’. There was a big ol’ bear, a cat, a wolf, a fox, a shark, a spider (eep!), an eagle, and so many, many more. It was kinda crazy how many different kinds of faunus there are.
Across from them were the Dust gods, a pantheon that Ruby was pretty sure was popular in Vacuo. What were they called? The Aspects? A god for each of the natural Dust types. The fire lady looked scary, her hair a wild wick of red flame, hands curled into angry looking claws. The ice lady reminded Ruby of Weiss quite a lot from her posture, back straight, chin high, eyes and clasped hands both painted chilly blue. Earth Dude looked hella buff and like his skin was made of stone–well, obviously it was, he’s a statue, but there was a cracked texture carved into his skin that made him look like he was supposed to be made of stone. The magma bro was probably Ruby’s favorite one. He was super tall, with wider cracks carved into his skin than the earth guy, and the insides of the cracks were painted red to look like lava flows. It was super cool. Set in the forehead of each of the seven was a crystal of the corresponding Dust: water, earth, fire, air, ice, magma, lightning. It must have taken a really freaking long time to carve them all.
Clockwise from the Aspects was Death. Yep. Death. Tall, skeletal, hooded dude with a scythe (that wasn’t anywhere near as cool as Crescent Rose, by the way). He stood tall and imposing, one hand held out, fingers posed in such a way that it looked like he was beckoning the audience to come closer. Ruby couldn’t even remember what that religion was called, but she knew the main premise: Death is the enemy, and life is our war against him. The Grimm are his minions, sent to bring us all to his dominion before it was our time. It was a pretty depressing belief system, because it basically said that no matter what, you’ll always lose in the end. She wasn’t sure how people rationalized or dealt with that. And from what little she knew of it, she’d gotten the impression it was more a doomsday cult than an actual religion. It was kind of surprising that it was given a spot here. It must be more popular than she thought.
Across from Butthead Death was… a dragon? Yep, four legs, so not a drake. Just a big ol’ dragon. Was there a dragon religion out there?
“Do you know what that one’s about?” Ruby asked her partner, pointing.
Weiss followed her gaze, then her steps as Ruby walked over to it.
“A little,” she answered. “Some people think dragons were the source of magic–pure magic–and now that they’re gone, so is magic.”
Weiss shook her head. “I wouldn’t put too much stock in it. They also think Dust is crystalized dragon’s blood, so they’re a little… off.”
“Do we know that it’s not?” Ruby asked.
“No, but we can do enough to change, manipulate, and combine Dust that it doesn’t make any sense if it was some weird magical/biological fossil junk.”
“It’s an amazing statue, though.”
That was true. The dragon was the biggest statue they’d seen, the top of its wings reaching twenty feet high. Its scales were intricate, dinner plate sized, and painted a gold that had faded a little with time, making it a deep bronze. Its head was looking down at them, calm and powerful. The eyes were two large, glowing pieces of white Dust, which… which wasn’t even a natural Dust type, right? It was a product of a combination of the seven natural Dusts. So… if this religion was true, then this statue’s eyes were made from the combined blood of the different dragons? Creepy. Was that even how it worked? Was ice Dust from ice dragons, fire Dust from fire dragons, and so on? Were ice dragons a thing? What would an earth dragon even be like?
Too many questions, and seeing as there were no dragons around today to study, it would probably be a bit hard to get answers.
Ruby moved on to the last set of statues, the ‘centered’ set across from the entrance to the clearing.
Yep, the classic.
The Lady of Light and the Lord of Darkness stood ten feet tall and facing each other. Both had their arms out to their sides, though the Lady of Light stood straight and had her palms upturned in a kind of ‘dinner is served’ pose, while the Lord of Darkness was crouched in a battle pose, hands curled into claws.
Behind him were creatures of Grimm, a Beowolf, an Ursa, a Boarbatusk, a Deathstalker, a Prowler, a Wrathmane, a Weaver. No Nevermore, even though they were pretty common. It was probably hard to make a flying statue, though, and not worth the effort. The current Roster of Doom was more than enough to get the point across.
Our Lady Light, by contrast, had huntsmen and huntresses behind her. It didn’t look like they were anybody in particular, but there were a dozen armed and armored men and women standing behind the goddess in a group, with various weapons and expressions, the tallest of which came up to the waistline of the two large deities. Still almost as tall as Ruby, though.
“I’ve never liked Dichotomy,” Weiss muttered.
Ruby looked at her curiously. “Why not?”
Weiss shrugged–an actual, full on, regular person shrug, not that peculiar, princessy head tilt. “It just seems silly that these gods, these higher beings, are so… binary. It they’re supposed to be greater than people, and people are capable of both good and evil, then shouldn’t the gods both be capable of greater good and greater evil?”
“Well, they are,” Ruby said. “Lady Light is the greater good, and the Dark Lord Superjerk is the greater evil!”
Weiss sighed. “I knowww. I just… you’d think they’d be more complicated than little mortals, not less.”
“Huh. Hadn’t thought about it that way.”
Weiss arched an eyebrow. “I’m shocked.”
That got a smile from Weiss, before she turned back to the statues. “I don’t know. I guess my biggest issue is having an ‘evil god of darkness’.” She made air quotes and used a mocky voice that could have come from Yang.
“Just… I don’t know. Nobody believes they’re evil, right? Like, everyone thinks they’re doing the right thing, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it. The White Fang think they’re doing the right thing, they’re all just completely insane animals, so their concept of right and wrong is just screwed up. My fa–” She cut herself off and frowned at the Lord of Darkness’ feet.
“Your fa…ther?” Ruby guessed. “You don’t think he’s… evil, do you?”
Weiss went into frozen Nervous Weiss mode, turning more still than the statues they’d been browsing.
“No. I don’t. He’s just… not very nice. But he has to believe he’s doing the right thing, right? Otherwise, what’s the point?”
“What’s the point of what?”
Ruby rocked back like she’d been slapped. “What?! What do you mean?” She tried to piece together the two disconnected ideas. “Y-you mean, like, what was the point of how he treated you?”
Weiss didn’t answer, staring more intently at the god statue’s feet.
“It sounds like your dad is pretty awful, Weiss.”
She finally turned to Ruby.
“He can be.”
“But he’s your dad! Why would he b–”
Ruby and Weiss both jumped at the noise, loud and coming from somewhere to Ruby’s left.
“What was that?” Weiss blurted.
“It sounded like–”
*CRACK CRACK CRACK!*
Ruby swallowed. “Gunfire.”