Thaw – 2.7

Previous ChapterNext Chapter

“Bye, Mister Popo!”

“Ruby!”

Weiss had already been in the motion of ending the scroll call. Maybe she’d hung up in time that the officer hadn’t heard Ruby? If she hadn’t… well, that was embarrassing.

“What?!” Ruby squeaked with a happy little grin. “Is the ‘Mister’ part inappropriate?”

From the teasing grin Ruby was giving her, Weiss knew that Ruby knew what was wrong.

“Don’t be cute,” she huffed.

“Weiss!” Yang exclaimed. “Look at the Peanut! How can she not be cute?”

Ruby nodded solemnly. “‘Tis impossibru,” she said seriously.

Weiss rolled her eyes and went back to eating her Yangc–pancakes!

“Relax, Weiss!” Ruby chirped, scooting her chair over to give Weiss’ arm one of those annoying hugs. “I bet he just thought it was funny!”

“We’re huntresses, Ruby, not comedians.” Weiss gave her arm a shake, but Ruby didn’t take–or refused to take–the hint and kept clinging to her happily. “He’s not supposed to think we’re funny. He’s supposed to think we’re powerful and capable.”

“He’s supposed to give me a name to punch,” Yang growled at her quickly emptying plate.

“How does one punch a name?” Blake mused.

She’d been blatantly avoiding speaking or even looking at Weiss all morning, but she was being nice enough to Ruby and Yang. From the way she was squinting at the light and speaking so quietly, she was also clearly still nursing a massive headache.

Yang had tactfully taken what had become Blake’s seat over the past week, so now Weiss had a blustering blonde sitting across from her.

“With a friendly little love tap from Ember–” Yang raised her right hand “–and an angry smackdown from Celica!” She punched her left hand into her open palm.

“Ssssshhhh,” Blake hissed, leaning forward and placing her elbows on the table, wrapping her hands around the top of her head. “Loud voice is bad voice.”

Yang reached over and gave her partner’s back a rub. “You want some coffee, Babe-adonna? It’ll help.”

“Even when I was drunk I didn’t think ‘Babe-adonna’ was a good name, and you’re somehow saying it both sober and unironically.”

“I will wear you down!” Yang declared.

Blake groaned and stabbed a pancake with her fork, then let it go. “At this rate, I very much believe you. Soon I’ll be burning books, wearing short shorts, and calling you Yang Xiao-Longlegs.”

Yang burst out laughing, which earned her another pained hiss from her partner.

“Xiao-Longlegs. I like it. Maybe we should give Blake naming authorities for our team combos.”

“What?!” Ruby screeched. “No, you can’t do that!” She jabbed a finger into the table. “Veto!” She jabbed the table three more times, crying, “Veto! Veto! Veto!”

“What are you doing, Ruby?” Weiss asked, exasperated.

“I’m pressing my veto button!”

“You don’t have a veto button.”

“Yes I do!  All the team leaders got one!”

Yang shook her head at her sister, then turned and gave Blake a squeeze around the shoulders. “I’ll go make you some coffee, babe.”

“Thank you,” Blake sighed back.

“What did all team leaders get?” a voice behind them asked. Weiss turned. It was Jaune and the rest of Team JNPR, coming into the kitchen from their room. “Did I miss something?”

“The veto button!” Ruby replied. “Rememberrr? Professor Ozpin gave us veto rights on all our team’s dumb ideas?” She waggled her eyebrows pointedly.

“Oh!” Jaune blinked twice. “Yes, that… thing. Yes. Professor Ozpin totally gave us… that.”

“Wow. I’m convinced,” Nora joked. She skipped over to the table and leaned forward to inspect Weiss’ plate of food–far too close for Weiss’ comfort.

“What are you–”

“Whatcha got there?” Nora asked, oblivious. “My food detectors do detect the presence of pancakes!”

“Food detectors?” Weiss questioned.

“Yangcakes!” Ruby corrected, because of course she did.

“You guys want some?” Yang asked as she prepped the coffee machine. “I can make some more.”

“Ren was going to make us some, actually,” Pyrrha said, taking a seat with Jaune on a barstool at the kitchen counter. “But, thank you.”

“You sure? I bet my Yangcakes are better than lame Rencakes!”

“Incorrect,” Ren stated simply, unequivocally.

“I bet Rencakes are all quiet and thoughtful,” Yang said to nobody in particular. “Who wants quiet and thoughtful breakfast food?”

“Are your pancakes… loud?” Pyrrha asked.

“And stoooooped?” Nora added.

Yang stopped and tilted her head, trying to think of a way out of this hole she dug herself in. “Uhhh, ummm… hm, I got nothing.”

“I guess your pancakes made you stupid.” Jaune teased.

“Nah, that’s just Yang,” Weiss said.

“Hey!”

“But what’s wrong with quiet and thoughtful?” Blake mumbled.

“That’s true,” Weiss added. “Blake is quiet and thoughtful.” Maybe a compliment would make Blake less mad at her?

Blake had been rubbing her head, and immediately just froze at Weiss’ words. From the angle of her head, Weiss couldn’t see her eyes, but she could see her eyelids flicking a bit like her eyes were darting around.

In the kitchen, Yang kept rolling with the conversation. “Well, yeah. It’s cool when Blake does it.”

“What’s so special about Blake?” Jaune asked.

“Uh, she’s hot enough to pull it off?” Blake’s cheeks went red. “No offense, Ren.”

“None taken,” Ren said easily. “It’s an accurate assessment. Though I’m not sure how looks have anything to do with being a quiet person.”

I think Ren’s hot!” Nora proclaimed.

“We know, Nora,” Jaune and Pyrrha said at the same time.

Ren nodded, completely unfazed.

“Heehee,” Nora intoned, wandering over to take a seat beside Pyrrha.

Ren headed into the kitchen and silently took stock of all the dirty dishes and utensils that he had probably been intending to use.

“Oh! I’ll clean up. Gimme one second.” Yang quickly finished setting up the coffee machine, hit a button, and then bustled over to the sink.

Ren gently held an arm out in front of her. “It’s quite alright. I got it. Go enjoy your breakfast.”

“What? No! This is our mess!”

Ren waved her argument away. “I don’t mind, promise.”

‘Dang. Ren is great,’ Weiss thought.

“But then you’ll have to clean up twice!” Yang tried again.

“Naaaah,” Jaune said lightly. “We’ll make Nora clean up after.”

“What?!” Nora squeaked.

“So how’s your weekend going, Team RWBY?” Pyrrha asked.

“Pretty good!” Ruby answered. “We, uh…” Something flashed across her face as she thought back to what happened last night.

It was the first place Weiss’ thoughts went to.

Ruby picked herself back up though. “Weiss and I went shopping! She got me some awesome fancy clothes. And we had sushi! And Weiss and I checked out the statue gardens while Yang and Blake went clubbing.”

“Is that why Blake looks like a damp towel that got beaten by a slightly damper towel?” Nora asked.

“What kinda sexy towels have you been using?” Yang asked, coming over to Blake’s side and standing by her, massaging a shoulder with one hand.

“Stoooop,” Blake groaned. “Too much moving.”

Nora let out a gasp. “Did you get to drink? Are you eighteen already? I can’t wait ‘til I’m old enough to drink. Just three more months!”

Ren whirled around and pointed the spatula he’d been cleaning at her with a very uncharacteristic urgency. “You’re never touching alcohol. Ever. We’ve talked about this.”

“But Reeeeeen!”

The dynamic of Ren the stern rule setter and Nora the whining child reminded Weiss so much of her relationship with Ruby–who was still hugging her arm, she noted–that it was more than a little alarming.

“No.” Ren declared.

“What’s wrong with… what?” Weiss asked. Not that she saw anything wrong with never drinking–she’d seen how alcohol had destroyed her mother–but this seemed to be a strangely personal thing.

Jaune, Pyrrha, and Ren all exchanged looks.

“It’s, uh…” Jaune started.

“Not important!” Nora chimed in.

“Sure, not important,” he finished.

Weiss looked at her teammates–or rather, Ruby and Yang, since Blake was still refusing to meet her eyes. Ruby just looked confused, but Yang’s gaze seemed to hold the same suspicious concern that Weiss figured hers had.

“Oookay,” Yang said. “Well what about you guys? How’s your weekend been?”

“Awfuuuuuul,” Jaune groaned, prompting a giggle from Pyrrha.

“Aw! What’s awful?” Ruby asked.

“Pyrrha’s been–” he gave an exaggerated shudder and dropped his voice low “–training me.

“It’s not that bad,” Pyrrha said lightly.

“Everything hurts!”

“Then learn to keep your guard up!” Pyrrha coupled the suggestion with a light punch to Jaune’s shoulder.

“Owww.”

“Oh, stop it.”

“Beating me with your stupid super warrior goddess death stick isn’t enough for you?”

“Did you just call Milo stupid?” Pyrrha asked, looking a tad genuinely offended.

“Is Milo your weapon’s name?” Ruby exclaimed. She let go of Weiss’ arm so she could turn to face Pyrrha, and the sudden temperature shift on her skin was a little annoying to Weiss. “That’s so cute! Does your shield have a name?”

“Akuo.”

“Cool! That, like, rhymes!… Kinda.” A frown of confusion creased Ruby’s brow, and she looked to Weiss for… something. Help?

“They mean Speak and Listen,” Pyrrha said.

“Oh yeah?” Weiss asked. “What language?”

“Greek.”

“What’s Greek?” Yang asked.

The room went silent.

“You know… I don’t know,” Pyrrha said slowly.

Everyone looked around at each other.

“Anyway, you guys got plans for today?” Jaune asked Ruby.

“Ummmm, not really.”

“Studying,” Weiss declared.

Ruby scrunched up her face and wailed, “Waaah!”

“What even is there the study?” Yang asked grumpily. “Haven’t we done all of our homework?”

“Not the Dust Theory homework,” Weiss answered at the same time Blake said, “Dust Theory.”

Weiss blinked at Blake while Blake pointedly looked away, and an awkward silence fell.

“Crap,” Yang finally said. “I don’t want to do math on a Sunday!”

“I don’t want to math ever!” Ruby chirped in rebellious support.

“Yeah!” Yang agreed.

“Don’t be idiots,” Weiss grumbled before taking another bite of her Ya–pancakes.

They were really good, much to Weiss’ chagrin. She hadn’t wanted to like Yang’s cooking on principle, but they were so dang light and fluffy!

Klein’s crepes were still better, though.

“Uh, Weiss?” Jaune suddenly spoke up. He was looking at something on his scroll.

“Yes?”

‘This better not be another hapless attempt at hitting on me.’

“Do you have a girlfriend?”

‘What?!’

“What?! No, of course not!”

What in the world kind of flirting was that? She knew Jaune was hopeless, but that was… she wasn’t even sure what that was.

“You have a girlfriend?” Ruby asked.

“No!”

“There’s nothing wrong with having a girlfriend, Weiss,” Yang said.

“I don’t have a girlfriend!”

“You may want to check Blabber,” Jaune said.

“Um.” She pulled out her scroll and opened up her Blabber app. The main feed was a bunch of meaningless nonsense blurbs from a bunch of people she didn’t care to spend half a thought on–she’d just followed all these businessmen, politicians, actors and actresses, and other people of “importance” because it was expected of her.

“What am I looking for?” she asked as she scrolled through the blurbs.

“Check your mentions.”

At this point, Ruby had spun back around and was leaning against Weiss’ shoulder to get a view of he scroll. The physical proximity of her partner was still a bit of an itch on Weiss’ brain, but she was getting scarily used to it, which was definitely not good. There wasn’t much she could do about it though–if she pushed Ruby away she’d get those big pouty eyes and feel so guilty even while consciously knowing she shouldn’t.

Weiss tabbed over to her profile where her last post had been a couple months ago announcing her admittance into Beacon, then realized she didn’t know how to get to her “mentions”. She’d never bothered to learn this stupid system.

“That one,” Ruby said, pointing with a tiny finger towards the button along the top with the @ symbol.

“Thanks,” Weiss said quietly.

The first blurb on that page was by an article by the Vale Gossip–if a blurb could really be considered a news article in the first place. The title read “Weiss Schnee and Mystery Girlfriend Fail to Stop Dancetown Killer”.

“…. What?!”  

“What does it say?” Yang asked, leaning forward across the table like an oaf to try to read Weiss’ scroll upside down.

“When did you stop the killer dude with your mystery girlfriend?” Ruby asked, blinking confusedly.

‘Is… there’s no way she’s this dense.’

“They’re talking about you, dolt!”

“But I’m not a killer or a dude!” Ruby protested.

“What–no, Ruby, th… They think you are my mystery girlfriend.”

Ruby blinked at her. Once. Twice.

“Oh.”

Yang let out a little cackle.

Weiss clicked open the link to the full article. “Let’s see just how much idiocy I’m going to sue them for,” she muttered to herself.

‘Last night at around 8:00 PM, the Dancetown Killer struck again. This time the attack was on a pawn shop that we now know was serving as a front for organized crime to smuggle weapons, drugs, and Dust.

It also just so happened that a pair of huntresses-in-training from Beacon Academy were out on a date nearby, according to police statements. They heard the gunshots from the fight and ran to intervene. They did not manage to capture the Dancetown Killer, but they did allow for one of the gang members to escape alive (something that has not happened in any previous attacks) and captured another who was left in critical condition from a knife injury.

One of these huntresses was identified by witnesses on the scene as none other than Weiss Schnee, first year student at Beacon, amateur musician, and heiress to the Schnee Dust Company.’

Amateur musician?” Weiss huffed in disbelief.

“Hm?“ Ruby hummed, skipping ahead to try to find the line Weiss was talking about. “Oh. I’m sure they mean it in a nice way,” she tried to consolle Weiss.

Weiss shot her a ‘really?’ look. “Not everyone is you, Ruby.”

“What you mean?”

“Not everyone is so nice all the time.”

“Oh.”

‘Weiss was dressed to impress, according to police and witness statements, as was her unidentified female partner. This raises quite a few questions, most notably what does Weiss’ notably conservative father, Jacque Schnee, CEO of Schnee enterprises, thinks of his daughter’s unconservative relationship? Does he even know? And is this just a rebellious teen’s fling, or a result of something more? It is still unknown why Weiss Schnee chose to attend Beacon Academy instead of Atlas Academy in her own home kingdom–perhaps she was running away to be with her girlfriend in a place where she wouldn’t have to hide her relationship from her father and the general public?

Weiss herself was unavailable to comment, but worry not, readers, for I, Mark Ment, will delve tirelessly to get down to the Truth of the Gossip.

Weiss just stared at the screen for a long time. Ten seconds later, Ruby leaned back in her chair.

“Huh.”

“What’s it say?” Yang asked again.

“It says a bunch of libel and slander that nobody should be reading,” Weiss replied.

“It has almost ten thousand likes,” Jaune said from behind. “And… yikes. Don’t look at the comments.”

Yang grunted and pulled out her own scroll. “I’ll just go find it myself,” she grumbled.

“But why?” Weiss asked testily. “It’s not true. Don’t consume the lying media, that’s what keeps them going!”

“Why does it say you were ‘dressed to impress’?” Ruby wondered aloud.

“What?” Of the things that were said in this article, that was the last thing she had issue with. And… and did Ruby not think she was dressed nicely?

“It’s just… you always look like a princess! Saying you were ‘dressed to impress’ makes it sound like you were dressed better than normal, but you weren’t! You looking that nice is normal.”

“Ah.” That was… actually very sweet. “They probably don’t know that, though.”

“Then they’re pretty crappy reporters,” Ruby said with a smile.

That smile…

“You’re trying to distract me, aren’t you?” Weiss accused her partner.

“Wut! Nooo, I would never!” Ruby’s eyes darted to Yang for a fraction of a second, a silent request for backup that went unnoticed by Yang because the oaf was too busy reading this ridiculous article.

“You are!”

“Nuh-uh!”

Weiss rolled her eyes and glanced back down at the article.

‘What does Weiss’ notably conservative father, Jacque Schnee, CEO of Schnee enterprises, thinks of his daughter’s unconservative relationship?’

This was not good. She needed to get out ahead of this. Let her father know that this was a bunch of internet gossip bullcrap before he saw it himself. Unless… maybe he wasn’t going to see it? He was as cynically dismissive of social media, so maybe he wouldn’t see this. So bringing it to his attention would just be worse. Unless he did see it, and if Weiss didn’t prep him with context beforehand… But if he never saw it then it would be bad to bring it up. Unless–

“You’re thinking about your dad, aren’t you?” Ruby asked, breaking Weiss’ circular thinking.

“Hm? Oh. Ah…”

Ruby nodded seriously, a tiny frown pulling down on her lips. “See? That’s what I was trying to distract you from.”

Weiss shook off her mild panic enough to raise her eyebrow. “I thought you said you’d never do that.”

Ruby’s eyes went wide. “I… right! Yes. I would never.”   

In an attempt to not smile like an idiot, Weiss pursed her lips together and glared at her partner.

Ruby gulped.

That tiny theatric was enough to break Weiss’ demeanor. She rolled her eyes a bit. She wanted to say thank you, but also didn’t because that would mean that she’d really needed distracting. Plus, there were all these other people around and Weiss didn’t want to have to explain anything to them.

She settled for giving Ruby a smile and bumping shoulders.

Ruby lit up at that.

“Oh, hey!” she chirped excitedly.

“Hey,” Weiss replied easily.

“Instead of being dumb and boring and doing homework on a Sunday–”

“Bleck,” Yang cut in, still reading the stupid article. Blake was coyly reading off her partner’s scroll, using her hair to try to cover her eyes and hide her curiosity.

“Exactly!” Ruby continued. “Instead of that, we could play board games!”

“Oooh! We have four people!” Yang completely forgot about the article she was reading as she looked excitedly across the table at Ruby. She lowered her scroll and Blake scowled lightly and leaned forward to try to keep reading. “We can play Four Kingdoms: Conquest!”

“Yeah!” Ruby turned her big silver eyes on Weiss and put on her puppy dog face.

‘Damn that face.’

“Can we play it, Weiss? Pleeeeease? It’s so much fun and we pretty much always have to play it with three people ‘cause Uncle Qrow’s always busy and can’t be our fourth and it’s way better with four people and you could be Atlas–they’re really strong–and it would be a ton of fun and we co–”

“Ruby!”

Ruby stopped vomiting words to blink hopefully. “Yes, Weiss?”

“Breathe.”

“Does that mean yes?”

“It means breathe.”

Ruby pouted.

A sigh escaped Weiss’ lips. “How long does this game take?”

Ruby lit up again. “Well, it depends! Vacuo tries to win the game as fast as possible, but Atlas wants to push it long so they can develop their mechs and be uber unstoppable. And Vale needs to spend most of the early game training its huntsmen and then try to win in that sweet spot where they’re stronger than Vacuo but before Atlas can take over. And Mistral–”

“Yang, how long does this game take?” Weiss interrupted.

Yang smirked. “You mean how long does it last?”

“… Sure.”

“One to three hours,” she said with a shrug.

There was a sputter from Ruby that coupled with her deflating a bit. “I guess I shoulda just said that, huh.”

A pang of guilt stabbed at Weiss, and she reached over to pat Ruby’s hand. “You’re fine,” she said. “What were you saying about Mistral?”

Ruby gave her a slow, tentative smile, then it brightened suddenly and she launched back into her explanation.

“Right! So Mistral, like, sucks, right? They’re really weak on their own, but they also don’t give a lot of rewards for conquering them, and they have really good trade deals. So there’s a weird balance for wanting to get good trade deals with Mistral but not letting them stick around long enough to get super strong from all the resources they’ve gotten.”

Weiss nodded slowly. “Sounds… neat.”

“So you wanna play?” Ruby clasped her hands in front of her chest with the plea.

After letting her breath slowly hiss out her nose, Weiss nodded reluctantly. “Sure.”

“Wooho–!”

“But we have to do our homework first!”

“Awwwwww!”

“Do we have to, though?” Yang grumped at her.

“Yes.”

“Ugh, whatever.” She went back to reading the stupid article.

Weiss suppressed an eyeroll. They were children. Actually children. Then something occurred to her: would Blake want to play a board game with Weiss there?

“Would… does everyone want to play?” she asked, trying to be as diplomatic as possible.

Blake’s eyes flickered up and met hers for the briefest of instances before darting away again.

“Su–”

“Yeah we do!” Nora cheered from the bar counter.

Right. Team JNPR was still here.

Ren cleared his throat, though it was hard to hear because he was still all the way in the kitchen and he was a very quiet person. “I don’t think the game can support eight people, Nora.”

“We could play Admiral Radar, though!” Ruby offered. “That’s made for eight people!”

“I don’t think we packed it, Rubes.”

Ruby’s eyebrows scrunched up in a frown. “Really? I swore I put it in my suitcase…”

Yang smiled a little. “Yeah, but Dad took it out so we could fit, you know, your clothes in there?”

“But why though?!”

“Because you need to bring clothes with you, Ruby!” Yang said with a laugh at her sister’s distraught face.

“But Weiss got me better clothes anyway!”

That made Weiss feel pretty great, but Yang’s smile died instantly. “Hey.” She pointed a finger at Ruby. “No.”

“No what?”

Yang glanced quickly at Weiss, who was afraid Yang was going to randomly start yelling at her again, then back at her sister. “I know Weiss’ fancy clothes are very nice–”

“And awesome and pretty!” Ruby chirped, making Weiss smile proudly.

“Yeah, sure. But that doesn’t mean you can take the clothes Dad got your for granted. He worked really hard to get you those.”

“I know! I didn’t mean… I’m sorry.”

The guilty look on Ruby’s face was enough to make Weiss realize this was actually important and not just Yang being combative. She’d never meant to make Ruby not appreciate her father…

“It’s okay,” Yang said gently. “But… yeah, we didn’t bring Admiral Radar with us.”

“Poo.” Ruby turned back to Nora. “We could play teams! Like me and Weiss could be Atlas, Yang and Bl–”

“Weiss and I,” Weiss said instinctively.

“Oh, right,” Ruby said. Weiss was hit with another bout of pure gratefulness for her partner. Someone else–like, say, Yang–would have reacted very differently to Weiss being a Grammar Grimmling, but Ruby accepted it without complaint.

“But yeah! Weiss and I could be a team, and Yang and Blake, and Jaune and Pyrrha, and you and Ren! Eight people, but still four kingdoms!”

“That sounds grrrrreat!” Nora agreed.

It most definitely did not sound great to Weiss. Eight people was four more people than she was used to, and six more than she was comfortable with.

Wait, six more? Not seven?

Weiss blinked in surprise and looked at Ruby as she realized what her thoughts meant. She’d gotten comfortable being around Ruby? When had that happened?

“It sounds like we’d be intruding on Team RWBY’s game,” Pyrrha said with that super friendly Pyrrha tone of voice. “Besides, we’ve been cooped up in this dorm for a week. I thought we wanted to go to the city today?”

“And there’s the windball game today,” Ren added.

“Oh yeah!” Nora said. “Screw board games! Let’s go outside!”

“Wait, who’s playing today?” Yang perked up.

“Hatotaun Heroes and Danto Dancers,” Ren replied as he flipped a pancake. “Starts at two, I believe.”

“Yoooo,” Yang breathed out. “And it’s here?”

Pyrrha nodded. “Vale City Stadium.”

“Yoooooo,” Yang intoned again, slightly louder this time.

“General admission tickets are only twenty-five lien,” Jaune added.

“YOOOOOOOO!”

“Yang, please,” Blake muttered, clamping her hands down over her bow (?) and sagging her head back down to the table again.

“Sorry,” Yang whispered. “Rubes, you wanna go watch the game?”

“No,” Ruby answered flatly with a pout. “I wanna play board games!”

“Yeah yeah yeah! We can play Four K:C and then go watch the game. Imagine how jealous Dad would be if we video called him from Vale City Stadium watching the Heroes in person!”

Ruby scrunched up her face in thought and nodded slowly. “Truuuue…”

“But what about homework?” Weiss butted in. They seemed to be forgetting the most important thing here.

“Ermahgersh, Weiss!” Yang groaned. “We’ll do it later! Ruby, come onnnnn! Let’s go! We haven’t been to a live game in, what, almost six years?”

“Uncle Qrow’s birthday!” Ruby recalled with a happy chirp.

“Yeah! Soooo? Whadaya say?”

Ruby looked at Weiss, who crossed her arms and did her very best to look stern, but that just made Ruby grin for whatever reason. Then she looked back at Yang. Then at Weiss, then at Yang.

“How ‘bout… We start with board games, and then we can start our homework and, if we get a lot done, we go to the game! Then we can finish our homework when we get back!” She pointed a finger in the air dramatically in her ‘team leader decree’ pose.

Weiss huffed. “Why don’t we start with the homework? You know, the one thing we actually need to do?”

“Because that’s dumb, Weiss,” Yang answered.

“How is–”

“Abadababa!”

“How–”

“Flibbitybop!”

“Stop do–”

“Blurgyblurg!”

“…”

Yang nodded once, satisfied. “See? It’s dumb.”

“You did not at all win that argument,” Weiss shot back, crossing her arms again. “You’re the only dumb thing here.”

Yang snapped and pointed finger guns at Weiss with a big, stupid grin. “But IIIIIII made breakfast!”

“What does that have to do with anything?!”

“It means my vote counts ten times!”

“No it doesn’t!”

“Yuh huh! Tell her, Ruby-roo!”

Weiss turned to her partner, who grinned at her sheepishly. “Those are the rules…” Ruby said like a traitor.

“According to whom? Your ridiculous father? Or your dog? Or Yang?”

“Nooo, according to Mom!” Ruby protested.

“Oh.”

Weiss really hoped Ruby didn’t think she’d just insulted her dead mother.

“Did you just say whom?” Yang snarked from the side.

“It is the correct use of the word,” Weiss shot back.

“Yeah, but, like, who says that?”

“Educated people!”

Blake groaned and lifted her head slightly. “I know you two love to bicker, but is it possible for you to do it about two notches quieter?”

“I don’t bicker!” Weiss protested at the same time Yang whispered, “Sorry, babe.”

“Ugh,” Blake grunted. “I’m gonna go lie down.” She moved to stand up, then flopped back down in her chair and clutched her head again. “Or I’ll just sit here forever,” she muttered to herself.

Yang patted her back. “Want me to help you to the room and bring your coffee to you?”

“Yes, please,” Blake answered quietly, sagging into Yang’s side as the girl helped her from her chair.

“But wait!” Ruby spoke up. “Are you playing Conquest with us?” She batted those long eyelashes and made her eyes wide and hopeful.

Blake glanced ever so quickly at Weiss, then at Ruby for a lot longer.

“Fiiiiine,” she sighed.

“Woohoo!” Ruby cheered, throwing her hands in the air.

“Sssssh!” Blake hissed, cringing away from Ruby and into Yang’s side.

“Right. Sorry.”

“Come on, Bellagrumps,” Yang said as she lead her partner towards their room.

“I’m not grumps, you’re grumps.”

“Caught me.”

A quiet settled over the table, with Team JNPR’s idle chatter serving as background noise, and Weiss took the opportunity to finish up her pancakes. She’d only gotten two–unlike her walking human travesty of a partner (who drowned her pancakes in syrup) or her sister, who each had five–so it was pretty easy. Even so, she was slightly surprised when she realized she’d finished her pancakes before Ruby. She looked over and…

Ruby was staring at her fingertips again, like she had been last night. Weiss knew where her head was at.

“Hey, you okay?”

Ruby blinked and looked up at her blankly for a long, long moment. It was so weird to see Ruby not smiling it was almost uncomfortable. But then the moment passed and Ruby plastered a wide grin on her face. “Yep!” She quickly dug into her food, and what had remained of her tower of pancakes was gone a minute later.

She leaned back with a smile and let out a satisfied, “Aaaah,” and rubbed her belly like an idiot. “Good stuff. You like da Yangcakes?” she asked Weiss.

Weiss gave a nod. “Yes. Those pancakes are quite good.”

Ruby just giggled like a little deviant.

“Pancakes,” Weiss repeated.

After a moment of searching Weiss’ face, Ruby pursed her lips and leaned forward as if to whisper something. Weiss leaned forward to meet her.

Ruby took a deep breath… then screamed in Weiss’ ear.

“YANGCAKES!”

Weiss shrieked and shoved away from the deafening noise, tumbling sideways out of her chair.

Through the chaos of hitting the floor and rolling away, Weiss was keenly aware of Ruby and Nora both cackling.

“RUBYYY!!!” she shrieked, climbing to her feet.

Ruby clamped her mouth shut and blinked wide eyes at her, looking both scared and struggling to suppress laughter at the same time. “Weiss, no! I’m an innocent Rubes!”

“Come here!” Weiss screeched, running at her partner. She wanted to shout something in this dumb girl’s ear and make her see how it felt.

“Noooo!” Ruby cried, followed by a fit of giggles before she poofed into a swirl of petals and rematerialized on the other side of the table.

“Ruby, get back here.” Weiss edged around the table and Ruby mirrored her.

“No!” she squeaked, a big dumb smile on her face that was still visible behind the tiny fists she held up to her mouth.

“If I have to come over there, you’re going to be sorry.”

Ruby lowered her fists and said, “Pbbt, you can’t catch me!” then raised them again, lips and eyes smiling.

Weiss could catch Ruby, right? If she used her glyphs right and caught her when she was rematerializing, it was possible. Or maybe she could be sneaky… Plus, Weiss was Weiss. If she couldn’t figure out a way to catch this little gremlin then what was she even doing here?

She huffed and moved to sit down, trying to pretend to relax so Ruby would too.

Ruby wasn’t falling for the bait, though. She stayed at the opposite corner of the table, fists covering her smile, and watched Weiss.

Weiss looked down at her feet. “Oh look, you broke my heel,” she lied.

“What?!” Ruby zipped over as a petal cloud. “Ho–”

“Aaagh!” Weiss growled as she dove forward to tackle her partner. Unfortunately, Weiss didn’t weigh too much and the tackle didn’t have a whole lot of power behind it, so it just ended up with Weiss having her arms wrapped around a squealing Ruby and pushing her backwards.

“You little–” Ruby got out before deciding to try to semblance away.

The squishiness of a human being disappeared from Weiss’ arms, and she was left holding what felt like a living hardlight barrier, solid and immutable. There was a transparent reddish-pink silhouette of Ruby in front of her, slightly obscured by the rose petals that kept popping up in the empty space around her.

It was weird.

Ruby tugged–or at least, Weiss thought she did, but it was so weak it was almost imperceptible. Right, Ruby said she affected the world less when she was in her “Rose Form”. Why did she think she’d be able to escape like this?

The answer became clear when Ruby tugged again. It was just enough to get Weiss’ hands to bend a little, and suddenly Ruby slipped away. There was almost no friction on her at all!

Petals whirled and Weiss spun around to find Ruby standing behind the couch.

“You said your heel was broken!” she said, pointing an accusatory finger at Weiss.

Weiss shrugged. “I thought it was!”

“No you didn’t!”

“I wanna play tag too!” Nora yelled suddenly, jumping from her barstool and leaping at Ruby.

The leap wasn’t far or high enough though, and she ended up landing on the top of the couch with an “Oof!”

Ruby blinked down at her. “Uh.”

“I leave for a minute and this place is a circus!” Yang said from the hallway entrance with a wave of her arms.

“Weiss is a liar!” Ruby chirped. The accusation somehow didn’t sting or feel at all insulting to Weiss when it came from that voice.

“You screamed a made-up word in my ear!”

“At least I’m a… truther!”

“That’s a made-up word too!”

Ruby blew a raspberry at her, then zoomed down to their room.

“What did you do, Weiss?” Yang asked with a chuckle.

“What did I do? She screamed in my ear like a… like a…”

“Barbarian?” Pyrrha offered.

“Yes!”

“Hm,” Yang said as she walked to the kitchenette and slipped past Ren to get at the coffee pot. “That doesn’t sound anything like Ruby.”

“I–b–what?!” Weiss sputtered. That sounded exactly like Ruby!

“I’m kidding, Weiss.”

“Oh. Right.”

“So when are you guys heading to the game?” Yang asked Ren and his teammates sitting at the counter.

“Twelve thirty-ish, prolly,” Jaune said.

“Message me when you’re going?”

“We could just knock on your door,” Ren said as he slid a pancake on top of a pile of a billion others. “Nora!” he called over to the lump still sprawled over the couch. “Come get your–”

“Pancakes!” Nora shouted, jumping up and rushing to the counter, digging in before she’d fully finished sitting down.

‘Even Nora knows what the actual word is.’

“True,” Yang admitted.

“I don’t think I have your scroll ID anyway,” Jaune said, pulling out his scroll to check.

“Oh! That’s not good. It’s Dragon Fist Nine Thousand XXX. Capital D, capital F.”

Jaune nodded as he typed, then Yang’s scroll dinged.

“Gotcha, Arc Knight Seven. I like it.”

Jaune shrugged. “I’m the seventh kid in my family.”

“Oh yeah?” Yang said with a grin. “I’m the nine thousandth in mine!”

“Are your parents rabbits or something?”

“Dragon bunnies,” she replied with a serious nod.

“Hm.” Jaune turned to look at Weiss, then looked nervously away. “So, uh, Weiss. Maybe it would be good if, like, we had your ID too… for, like, emergencies… or, uh… yeah.”

Weiss blinked. “No.”

She turned and headed to the room.

“Oof,” she heard Yang say. “Nice try, killer.” She pitched her voice higher and called around the corner after Weiss, “That’s fine! I’ll clean the table up too!”

Weiss froze, then walked back to the corner to peek at Yang. “Am… am I supposed to do that? I–I’ve never…”

Yang deadpanned. “Oh right. Princess, I forgot. You’ve probably had an army of butlers cleaning up after you all your life, huh.”

“We have one butler, and I’m a very clean person anyway!”

“Hmph. Alright, whatever.” Yang waved a hand toward their room to dismiss Weiss. “I’ll clean up. Just make sure the Rubester isn’t bothering Blake. Oh! And can you bring Blake her coffee?” Yang turned and grabbed the thermos of coffee she’d poured and stretched to hand it to Weiss over the counter.

“Oh! Uh, sure.”

Weiss silently hoped Blake wouldn’t just throw the coffee in her face.

When she grabbed the thermos, Yang kept a hold on it. “Hey.”

“What?”

“No fighting.”

“I’m not looking f–”

“Stop! Shush!” The tone Yang used was gentle enough that Weiss didn’t feel like it was an attack. “I’m not criticizing you or trying to argue. I’m just asking you to please avoid fighting with her, okay? Just do your best.”

“… Okay.”

Yang gave her a smile and a nod, and Weiss walked away with the warm thermos in her hands.

Back in the room, Blake as laying on her bed on her back, hands behind her head, while Ruby sat at the edge of her bed and bounced up and down excitedly and waved her hands around as she jabbered on about Ruby Nonsense.

“… can trade with Atlas to get robosoldiers and Chariots once the Atlas player unlocks them, and once you have those you can wipe out the bandits and then you’ll have access to a lot more resources. Oh, and if you sign a nonaggression pact with Vacuo you can build faunus militias, and they’re pretty good early game. And if you trade with Vale you can get an extra huntsman team–which is good ‘cause Mistral only has one. So you kinda want to either take out Atlas early with faunus militias, and then nobody has to worry about Atlas going into super lategame and you just need to deal with Vale, or you can–”

“Ruby?” Weiss piped up.

“Oh, hey! What’s up?” Apparently she’d already forgotten to pretend to be grumpy about Weiss not being a ‘truther’ about her heels.

“Maybe give Blake some space?”

“Okay!” She hopped off Blake’s bed, then darted to her side of the bookshelf and pulled out a large, colorful box that read “Four Kingdoms: Conquest” and plopped it on the floor in the middle of the room. “I’ll start setting up!” she announced happily as she started unpacking a large map of Remnant and colored game pieces.

Weiss walked over to Blake and held out the thermos, doing her best not to look nervous–not that she was nervous! She just didn’t want to look like she was. Because she wasn’t.

“Special delivery from Yang,” she said quietly.

Blake opened her eyes and glanced sideways at Weiss for a long moment (in which Weiss pointedly looked not nervous), then at the thermos.

“…nks,” she mumbled, reaching out for it.

“Hm?”

Blake rolled her eyes. “I said ‘thanks’,” she said louder, almost aggressively.

“Oh! S-sorry. You’re welcome.”

Crap, why had Weiss said sorry? She didn’t have anything to apologize for. Well, she’d made Blake repeat herself, but that wasn’t terrible. And she’d mumbled!

She walked away numbly.

“Is Yang coming?” Ruby asked, looking up at Weiss from where she sat cross-legged on the floor.

“Yeah, she’s putting the dishes away.”

“Oh! I’ll go help! Be right back!”

“Don’t–”

She was already gone.

‘Crap.’

The silence that settled over the room with just Weiss and Blake in it felt so heavy and palpable, Weiss felt almost smothered. She crossed the room and sat at the edge of her bed, counting the seconds until Ruby came back.

Why did this silence feel so uncomfortable? Weiss loved silence! Was there something wrong with her that she was praying for Ruby to come back and ramble about anything and everything just to kill this terrible quiet? Was she already suffering from overexposure to her partner? Or was it Blake’s fault?

It was probably Blake’s fault.

Blake wasn’t even looking at her–making a point not to, in fact–but Weiss for some reason felt that creepy crawly sensation she got across her skin when the paparazzi harassed her. Like she was somehow doing something wrong, like her back should be straight or her crown was crooked or her dress was too wrinkled.

Twenty seconds passed. Then thirty. Then forty.

How long did it take to put away dishes?

It was too much.

“So, you’re playing as Mistral, I take it?” she said. It was a relief to just throw a sound out into the air. She could have spouted a bunch of gibberish and she would have felt good just for breaking that stifling silence. Maybe that’s how Ruby felt too…

She waited a moment for Blake to answer. She was probably thinking about how to respond. Things were awkward between them, so it might take unusual amounts of thought and consideration before Blake settled on a good answer.  

She waited.

And waited. Blake tilted her head up and sipped her coffee.

Fifty. Sixty.

Was Blake just not going to respond?

Seventy.

She wasn’t.

That was obnoxious. Weiss was actually trying to be sociable–something she was not good at, comfortable with, or even normally inclined to do–and Blake was just throwing it in her face. There was nobody else in the room for Blake to claim she hadn’t realized Weiss was talking to her, and Weiss had spoken loud enough to be heard, so… so Blake was just ignoring her.

‘I’m just asking you to please avoid fighting with her, okay?’ Yang’s voice rang in her head. ‘Just do your best.’

Weiss bit her tongue and calmed down. Whatever. If Blake was going to be petty like this, it just meant Weiss was the bigger person.

Ruby burst in at that moment in a flurry of petals and Weiss let out a quiet sigh of relief. “Alright, Team RWBY!” She paused and looked behind her. “Wait, we’re just Team RWB. Yang, where’d you go?”

“I’m right here!” Weiss heard the girl answer from down the hall. “Moving at normal human speed.”

“Pfft. That’s dumb,” Ruby said to herself. “Weiss, c’mere! I’ll show you how Atlas works! I already coached Blake, so now it’s your turn.” She skipped over and sat down beside the game board and patted the carpet next to her.

Weiss was going to have to sit on the floor?

“Ruby,” Blake said quietly, “I absorbed maybe four of the words you said. And two of them were my name.”

“Oh. Well, that’s okay! Yang can help you.”

“Or I could abuse the newbie and win,” Yang said with a smile as she sat down.

“Yang-uh!”

“Kiddiiiiiiiing!”

Ruby rolled her eyes, then turned to Weiss and smiled again, patting the floor next to her.

‘Guess I’m sitting on the floor.’

Weiss came over and sat next to Ruby. They were at the top of the map, on the “Atlas side”, so they were looking at Remnant upside down. The map itself was very simplified, each kingdom and the Crucible a different color and divided by lines to make different regions, a cartoony icon in each region that must represent some type of game resource or something. Ruby had arranged the pieces that Weiss guessed were going to be her army–a dozen little blue soldiers; eight blue Knights (the old 130 models); four Cavaliers, the exosuits in blue while the soldiers inside them were a light grey to make them visually distinguished; four Chariots with transparent plastic stands to add height and make them look like they were flying; and one Dragon, the massive flagship model almost as big as the regions on the map. There were also four figures off to the side, gender neutral and each wielding a different weapon, and they were each as tall as the Cavaliers even though they didn’t have any exosuits. Weiss guessed they represented a huntsman team.

Yeah, Atlas is awesome.

“Ok!” Ruby squeaked excitedly, giving one of her happy little wiggles as Weiss sat down. “So at the start of the game you just have six soldiers.”

“Aw.”

Ruby let out a giggle and patted Weiss’ knee. “Don’t worry! You’ll get the bigger things. Each kingdom has a really different playstyle and plan. Yours is about researching tech by allocating resources you accumulate over your turns so you can unlock and build your better units.”

Weiss blinked. That was a sophisticated sentence with much bigger words than Weiss would have ever expected from Ruby.

Ruby continued, “So Atlas is divided into four regions–Atlas Academy, Mantle, Boreal Plains, and the Frost Teeth.”

Weiss nodded. She was more than familiar with the regions in the real world, and they seemed like sensible divisions for the game.

“So Atlas Academy is your capital. If you lose it, you lose the game. It gives you one research point per turn, and an extra one per turn for every three units you have in it. That’s what this little icon means” Ruby pointed at the icon in the Atlas Academy region that had a 3 and a little stick figure person, then a slash and a beaker with blue liquid in it. She looked over at Weiss to check if she was following, and Weiss gave her a small nod to signal she was. “Mantle gives you one steel per turn, and an extra one for every two units you have in it.” The icon for that was a 2 followed by a stick figure, slash, and a little steel ingot. There was also a big red stick figure in the region, surrounded by a hexagon.

“What’s that mean?” Weiss asked, pointing.

Ruby gave her a smile and let out another happy wiggle. “It means you have to control Mantle to be able to recruit units.”

“What? Why?”

Ruby shrugged and hummed an ‘I don’t know.’

“The Atlas military pretty much all trains in Atlas City,” Weiss said.

Ruby shrugged again. “I think it’s just a game balance thing, then. It’s really hard to take Atlas ‘cause it has a big defense bonus ‘cause… ya know, it’s a flying city, so they gave the other factions an objective to take to cut off your reinforcements.”

“Oh. I guess that makes sense. It’s still wrong though.”

Ruby grinned and bumped her shoulder against Weiss’. “Anyway, Boreal Plains give you Dust. Two for every unit.” There was a 2, stick figure, slash, and a little pile with a blue, red, and yellow Dust crystal.

“What kind of Dust?” Weiss asked.

“Oh, it’s random. You draw from the Dust deck.” Ruby pointed at a stack of cards with the same pile-of-crystals icon printed on their backs. “If you look at the stat cards for your different units, it’ll show you what each of them can do with the three different Dust types.”

“Only three?”

Ruby shrugged again. “It’s a good system. Too many would make the game too complicated.”

Weiss wanted to grumble about how it was inaccurate, but she got distracted looking at the stat cards Ruby indicated.

Atlas Soldier

Health: 1

Attack: +1

Defense: 3

[Red Dust]: +2 Attack this turn (must use before rolling your attack).

[Blue Dust]:  +1 Defense this turn (must use before enemy rolls attack).

[Yellow Dust]: You may reroll an Attack roll for this unit.

“So huntsman can use as much Dust as you want to dump on them each turn, but other units can only use one per turn. And your Chariots and Dragon, once you get them, cost a Dust each turn to, like, fuel them or whatever, and if you don’t pay that then they can’t do anything that turn and their Defense stat is zero for the round.”

“I don’t know what any of these stats mean,” Weiss lamented as she flipped through all the different cards. They all had a Health, Attack, and Defense, but Weiss didn’t know what that meant other than the obvious definitions of the words.

“Don’t worry!” Ruby chirped, bumping her shoulder again. “We’ll get there. Real quick, though, you’ve also got the Frost Teeth.” Weiss looked over at the mountain range along Atlas’ southwest coast. “So having at least two units here gives you the resource bonus each turn, which is one research point or one Dust, your choice each turn.”

Weiss squinted at the icon and noticed that there was a little + next to the 2, and there was a = instead of a slash after the stick figure. “So no extra resources for having more than two units there?”

“Yep!” Ruby agreed with a big smile.

“So would I ever put more there?”

Ruby nodded. “Depends! So the Frost Teeth are big, cold, terribru mountains, right? So any units attacking into the region get a -2 to attack rolls, so it’s really easy to defend. And you’ll want to defend it ‘cause it’s the fastest way for Vacuo to reach you–” she pointed at a dotted line that ran across the oceans, connecting the Frost Teeth region to the Paradise Downs region on Vacuo’s northeastern cost. “And also because every few turns the Grimm surge from the Crucible!” She said the last part in a ‘deep’ sport event announcer voice, and indicated a thick black arrow that pointed from the Crucible to the Frost Teeth.

“There are Grimm?”

Ruby’s eyes lit up. “Yeah! I haven’t gotten to unpack them yet. Check ‘em out!” She pushed herself up and crawled over to the box to pull out a plastic tray with little figurines inset in it. She got out three and crawled back over to Weiss.

“Look at the Beowolf! It’s so tiny and adorable!” She held up one of the models and Weiss took it gently in her hands. Tiny? Yes. Adorable? Ehhhh. It looked like a strikingly accurate model Beowolf, snarling teeth, hackles up, armor plating painted a stark white that contrasted unnaturally (but realistically) with its black fur.

“We call ‘em Puppowolves,” Yang remarked absently with a small smile. She was sitting across from Weiss, setting up the red-orange Vacuo pieces and her unit cards. But wasn’t that spot where the Vale player would sit? The Vacuo player should be on the “west” side of the board, not the “south”.

“Yeah, that’s what Mom called ‘em so they wouldn’t freak us out when we were little,” Ruby reminisced. Her gaze went far away for a moment, but then she shook head and focused back on the models in her hand. “And check out the King Taijitu!” she said, sounding more happy and enthusiastic than she had before. It seemed genuine, but it must be a forced cheeriness, but…

Just how much of Ruby’s smiles were forced? They didn’t seem to be, but she was evidently good at hiding it…

The model Grimm that Ruby plopped into Weiss’ hands was enough to distract her. It was a good likeness of the monster.

“Snek!” Yang said.

“Sneeeeeeeek!” Ruby agreed.

Weiss rolled her eyes at her idiot teammates. “These are neat,” she said. “So how do they work?”

Ruby gave another little wiggle. “Yeah! So at the start of every round we reveal the top three cards in the region deck–” she pointed at a stack of cards with a tiny globe of Remnant icon on the back “–then flip the top three cards of the Grimm deck.” She pointed at a deck with a cartoonish Beowolf on the back.

‘Why are there so many decks?’

“So, like, I’ll show you.” Ruby flipped over the top three cards in the region deck. Mantle, the Everglades, and Burglar’s Forest. “Okay, so you’re getting one Grimm spawn in your kingdom this turn, and Blake’s getting two.”

“Aw,” Blake said, deadpan.

“Yeah,” Ruby agreed seriously. “If they’re tough Grimm it can be really annoying to deal with. So let’s see what kind spawn.” She flipped over the top three cards of the Grimm deck, putting each card on to one of the regions. A King Taijitu on Mantle, a Beowolf on the Everglades, and an Ursa in Burglar’s Forest. Each card showed the stats of the monster on it.

“Okay, so Blake got lucky,” Ruby said.

“Oh really?” Yang grinned. “When did that happen?”

A pillow flew into her face from the left. Over on her bed, Blake was still casually laying there with her eyes closed, though one of her pillows seemed to be missing.

“Uh. I don’t get it,” Ruby said.

“You don’t have to,” Weiss consoled her, shooting Yang a glare as the girl pulled the pillow off her face and placed it in her lap. “Continue.”

“Okay! So like I said, Blake got lucky–”

Yang snickered, then another pillow flew into her face, this time making her rock back slightly.

“Crap,” Blake muttered. “Help, I’m out of pillows.”

“Gee, I wonder how that happened,” Yang teased.

“Same.”

“Come down here and join us, Blakey-Blake!” Yang patted the ground by her, on the “east” side of the board. “You gotta do the learn!”

“Will you give me my pillows back?”

“Oh, these floofy things that slammed into my face out of nowhere? Sure, I suppose.”

Blake heaved out a deep, dramatic sigh. “… Fine.”

She rolled out of bed, grabbed her coffee, then laid down so that her head was beside the board. Yang stacked her pillows together and slid them under Blake’s head.  

“How’s the coffee?” Yang asked, reaching over to give Blake’s upper arm a friendly rub.

“Good,” Blake answered with a grateful smile. “I mean, it tastes awful and tea is way better, but you were right about it helping with the headache.”

Yang smiled and shrugged. “I’ll take it!”

“An. Y. Wayyyy!” Ruby grumbled.

Yang waved a hand at her. “Right, sorry. Please tell us more about how Blake got lucky.”

Blake kneed Yang in the butt, which prompted a laugh from the inappropriate blonde buffoon.

Ruby turned her big questioning eyes to Weiss, but Weiss just shook her head.

“So the Ursa and Beowolf are easy to deal with?” she prompted, hoping that would keep her dolt partner from repeating the phrase that Yang the Idiot couldn’t seem to get past.

“Yeah! Beowolves are pretty easy to kill. There are a lot of cards in the Grimm deck with two Beowolves, some with three, and those are tougher, especially for the dinky early game soldiers. Ursai are a bit harder to kill, but not too bad. King Taijitu are hard, but you only had the one spawn, and it’s in Mantle, where you probably have a lot of units.”

Weiss nodded. Made sense, but…

“What does this have to do with the Crucible though?”

“So!” Ruby scooted around a bit and got a few more Grimm pieces out, placing them in the Crucible. “Every ten turns there will be a big wave of Grimm that come out from the Crucible and land on these regions.” She pointed at the four different regions that had bold black arrows pointing to them from the Crucible.

“But how does a Beowolf swim to Mistral from there?”

“I ‘unno. It’s a game, Weiss.”

“Fine.”

Ruby stuck her tongue out at her partner, then continued. “The wave gets bigger and bigger each time. By turn fifty it can actually get pretty unbeatable. Unless you’re Atlas and you have the flagship.” She pointed at the model of the Dragon sitting next to Weiss’ knee. “Then you can just kinda nuke most of the Grimm on the ground and just have to worry about the Nevermores.”

“Did you say turn fifty?” Blake asked in disbelief.

“Yep!”

“Ruby,” Weiss groaned, “how long is this gonna take?”

“You mean how long is this gonna last?” Yang said again.

“Hours!” Ruby said with a super cheeriness that Weiss wanted to shake out of her.

‘Ugh.’

At least since they started talking about this board game Ruby hadn’t drifted off staring at her hands again. If there was one good thing to come out of this nonsense it was that Ruby wasn’t focusing on how she’d watched people get killed last night.

Weiss vaguely wondered why she was handling it so well. She’d been actively not thinking about it–because if she did her stomach turned and her palms got clammy–to great effect. She was mostly just worried about Ruby.

‘Just sit through this board game, Weiss. Be a good teammate.’

“But yeah. Big Grimm waves every ten turns. So that’s a big reason for you to have troops in the Frost Teeth.”

“But what do the Grimm do if they take that region?” Weiss asked. “I assume you don’t get the resources from it anymore, but what if it would take more troops than it’s worth to take it back?”

Ruby nodded excitedly. “Good question! So at the start of each round, if there are Grimm already in a region, they’ll move to another random region adjacent to it.”

“How do you determine which way they go?”

Ruby gave one of her shrugs. “Dice rolls,” she answered simply.

“So if there are ten Grimm in the Frost Teeth, the next turn it’s likely that five will attack Mantle and five will attack the Boreal Plains?”

Ruby nodded.

“So would it be better for me to wait for them to attack so I only have to fight five at a time?”

Ruby’s eyebrows scrunched up. “Yeah, I suppose so. Although then your forces are split too, whereas you could attack the ten in the Frost Teeth with both armies together.”

“Mm. Okay, neat.”

Darn, Weiss had started saying “neat” a lot.

“Or if you have good action cards in your hand, you can just use those,” Yang added.

‘Great, more cards.’

“Yeah!” Ruby agreed. “Like, there’s are two copies of a card in the deck called ‘Lightbomb’, which is a big explosion of white Dust that kills all Grimm in a region.”

“That’s not a thing,” Weiss quibbled.

Ruby shrugged and opened her mouth to respond, but Weiss cut her off. “Right, right. It’s a game, I know.”

Yang finished setting up her pieces on the side of the board and started on Blake’s. Blake watched her, face impassive but her eyes kept flicking up to Yang’s face.

“Rubes, you’re forgetting the most important rule,” Yang admonished.

“I am?” Ruby frowned at her.

Grinning, Yang nodded and gave Ruby a look like she should know what her sister was talking about.  “Remember? Rule number one of Conquest combat?”

Ruby let out a loud gasp. “Oooooooooooh! Right!” She turned to Weiss and put on an extra serious face that she probably thought made her look authoritative, but it was mostly just adorable. “Okay, Weiss. Listen up. Rule number one!” She held up a little finger. “Rule number one whenever you’re in a battle.”

Weiss narrowed her eyes suspiciously. There shouldn’t be this much extravagance for a normal rule. That plus the fact that Yang had brought it up made Weiss suspect whatever her dolt partner was about to say probably wasn’t a real rule.

“You have to make ‘pew pew’ noises for your soldiers.”

Weiss blinked. “… What?”

A tiny smile kept twitching the corners of Ruby’s lips, but she did her best to fight it down and keep  the serious face–she failed, but it was an admirable attempt. “Yeah!” She picked up one of Weiss’ Atlas soldiers and danced him around on the board. “You know, ‘Ahhh, shoot that Grimm!’ Pew pew pe-pew!”

Weiss crossed her arms. “Is that really a rule?”

“Mhm!” Ruby nodded vigorously and her voice was hitched up an octave higher than usual.

“So if we looked at the rulebook right now it would say ‘Players must make ‘pew pew’ noises in combat’?”

Yang let out a loud snort that turned into a laugh.

What?” Weiss demanded.

Yang shook her head. “Nothing. Just… hearing Ice Queen say ‘pew pew’ is kinda hilarious.”

Weiss huffed. “It’s your own fault for bringing up your ridiculous made up rule!”

“It’s not made up, Weiss!” Ruby protested. “It’s in the rulebook!”

Weiss leveled a disbelieving glare at her partner. “Really? Can I see it?”

Ruby scrunched up her nose. “Uh, no. I, uh, ate it.”

“… You ate it.”

“I meeeean… Zwei ate it!”

“Ruby, weren’t you just yelling at me for not being a truther?”

Yang snorted again, but Weiss ignored her and kept glaring at Ruby.

Next to her, Ruby fidgetted. “Uh, I guess.”

Weiss wasn’t sure what there was to guess about. It had just happened minutes ago. She pressed on, though.

“And didn’t you tell me your parents always told you to tell the truth.”

Realizing the hole she was in now, Ruby gave Weiss one of those pouts. “Yeaaaah….”

“And are you being a truther now?”

Ruby looked down at the little model soldier in her hand. “…. Noooo….”

Weiss put on her best disapproving frown.

Ruby let out a sigh. “Fiiine. You don’t have to pew pew,” she said sadly.

“Ruby! No!” Yang argued.

Weiss and Ruby both blinked at her, and Yang turned to Weiss grumpily. “No, it’s not a rule rule in the rulebook.”

“So it’s not a rule.”

“It’s a house rule!”

“A what?”

“It’s, like, a made up rule that everyone in the group agrees to. The Rose-Xiao-Long house has lots of ‘em! And you gotta follow them or you suck.”

“But I’m not agreeing to say ‘pew pew’ like an idiot!”

“Then you suck!”

“Wei-eiss,” Ruby whined. “It’s so much fun! I promise!”

It made no sense that making stupid noises somehow made the game more fun.

But…

Ruby was giving Weiss those damn puppy dog eyes.

‘Damn it.’

“Fine,” she huffed, looking away. “But just know that I hate you and you’re dumb.”

“Woohoooo!” Ruby cheered, tackling her with a hug.

“Ruby! Get off me!”

“Ssssshhhhhhhh,” Blake hissed, curling up into a ball away from them.

Ruby pushed herself back up to a sitting position and scooted on her butt over to the west side of the board, then frown and looked at her sister.

“Uh, Yang? You’re in my spot.”

Yang waved a hand at her. “Nah, we can both still reach our pieces, and I wanna sit next to Blake.”

Ruby’s nose scrunched up. “But Vale sits across from Atlas!”

“It’s fiiiiine, Rubes. It’s a little bit of reaching over, but it means I get to sit next to Blakey-Blake and you get to sit next to Ice Queen.”

Weiss glared at Yang when she used that annoying nickname, but Ruby’s face lit up and she looked over.

“That’s true!”

She scooted back over to be closer to Weiss, inching across the carpet on her butt like an invalid. Weiss rolled her eyes.

Ruby leaned over and whispered, “Don’t worry, Weiss. Yang’s gonna try to blitz you, but I’ll help you out.”

“Hey!” Yang cried, pointing a finger at her little sister’s face. “I heard that! No conspiratorializing!”

“That’s not a word,” Weiss sighed.

“Is too! Right, Blakey-Blake?” Yang turned to her partner who gave her a long, slow blink.

“Sure.”

Yang smiled triumphantly at Weiss.

‘Sigh,’ she thought to herself.

“Alright!” Ruby said in an announcer voice. “Everybody prepare yourselves for the first ever Team RWBY: Conquest!” She pumped a fist in the air.

‘What am I doing?’ Weiss wondered.

Previous ChapterNext Chapter

One thought on “Thaw – 2.7

  1. Sorry for the late update! Got sidetracked actually designing Four Kingdoms: Conquest. I studied game design at university, so it was fun to go back and do the thing I really love for a bit. If the board game ended up taking up too much of the chapter, I’m sorry. It’s just a passion of mine.
    Hope you liked the fluff!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s