Ruby was glad to be a student again.
The initiation still felt unreal to her, she had to admit. Almost like a distant dream – a fabrication of her mind, rather than something that actually transpired.
Sitting in class and listening to Professor Port explaining Grimm biology certainly helped her to focus elsewhere. While he, admittedly, wasted a lot of time recalling his deeds from his youth, there still was useful information intermingled here and there, so she did her best to not let herself get distracted too much. It was a challenge, no doubt, but she was the leader of her team, so she had to lead by example – even though she knew most of what she needed to know about local Grimm.
With her dad and uncle being huntsmen themselves, she grew up in a fountain of knowledge for that particular profession. On top of that, her dad and her Uncle Qrow had been – still were – extraordinary huntsmen in their own right; prodigious even.
So, she knew most of the helpful things Professor Port blended into his anecdotes. Still, she did her best to take notes, be as attentive as she was at Signal. Her dad always said what an eager student her mum was, that she was top of her class.
Ruby wanted to follow in her mother's footsteps and any information she could soak up in class, whether she already knew said information or not, was useful to prepare her for her quest after she graduated. Everything she learned now was to equip her for when she would finally start to investigate the truth behind her mother's disappearance.
Everyone else seemed to just have accepted her mum as...as gone. But not her. Ruby knew her mother was strong – one of the best huntresses there ever was – and she knew her mother would not fall to Grimm or those who would hunt her for her eyes.
She sighed softly. There was no point in dwelling on those things right. She was not ready yet to tackle that journey.
With renewed focus, she continued to listen to Professor Port's boasting. It was amusing enough.
She glanced to her right, her partner still sporting that frown. It hadn't disappeared since she had been made Team RWBY's leader. The fact that their team had been named after her – on top of her being made leader – probably added insult to Weiss's injured pride as well. Alas, nothing she could do about it.
She admired Weiss, though. Even angry, slighted and disappointed, the Schnee still kept her head up and focused on excelling at everything. It was a single-minded focus and determination her partner put on display which had Ruby congratulate herself for having run into her in Emerald Forest. Even if their relationship was strained at best right now, she could appreciate what Weiss had to offer to their partnership and their team as a whole.
"Now who thinks they have what it takes to be a true huntsman or huntress?"
Ruby returned her attention back to their Professor, a brow raised at his question. Her other brow quickly followed suit at Weiss's raised arm and eager exclamation.
"I do, Sir!"
Ruby had a feeling what this was all about and exhaled noisily through her nose. Still, it was her teammate and, more importantly, her partner who was about to head up in front of the class and face the captured Grimm Professor Port had brought in at the start of his lecture.
Now the class was waiting for Weiss to go and reprieve her rapier from her locker. A few students used the time to engage in whispered conversations, her sister one of them, though Ruby wasn't particularly interested in Yang's and Blake's chatter.
She was more concerned with how to salvage her partnership with Weiss. It wouldn't do, to allow that bitterness to fester. They'd already be taking their first missions in their second semester. They needed to be able to rely on each other and she needed to be sure that her team was accepting her as their leader, that they respected her authority – in a healthy and reasonable way, of course.
Weiss, obviously, was feeling neither yet; she neither respected her authority nor did she accept her as her leader. Something needed to be done. Maybe a one-on-one talk, so they could finally see eye-to-eye. She wasn't even a confrontational person. If confrontation was avoidable, she would avoid it. This, however, was not avoidable. As the leader, it was her responsibility to make sure her team's atmosphere was healthy and positive instead of toxic and negative.
It wasn't like she wanted to be a leader. Being a team's leader was a ton of responsibility and extra duty, proven by the several documents sent to her scroll by the Academy, which contained dates for mandatory leadership-classes among all the must-read essays on leadership. She was already deep in the spotlight, what with being allowed to Beacon two years early. Now she was the youngest Beacon student to ever lead a team to boot.
So much attention.
The damage was done, however, and since she was put into this position, she would do her best to lead competently and fairly and see her team through their Beacon years successfully. It simply was how she worked. If she did something, she'd do it to the best of her ability.
But, to be a successful leader she needed every one of her teammates to accept her.
And that took her – full-circle – back to her partner.
Such a pain, she thought with a sigh.
Weiss took that moment to return, her rapier at the ready in her left hand, her chin up and posture perfect. She was oozing confidence all over the place and Ruby was sure she could deliver. She had talent; that much was a given.
It would be interesting to see, however, just how deeply ingrained her need for a perfect stance was.
"Are you ready, Miss Schnee?" their Professor asked her.
Weiss replied with a quick nod, her expression intense and focused.
He then unlocked the cage. At first, nothing happened and the class was holding its breath. A moment later, a Boarbatusk stepped out, its four glowing red eyes immediately locked onto Weiss, who readied Myrtenaster. Ruby noticed the slight shuffle of her feet in search of the perfect posture and groaned inwardly. Apparently, her partner was not yet ready to let go of that habit of hers.
The Grimm wasted no time to charge – or more like roll – at her in its species's signature attack, while Weiss dodged it as elegantly as ever with a fluid sidestep. Once the Grimm got out of its rolling dash, Weiss immediately took the brief moment it needed to reorient itself for an attack of her own. With quick swipes and piercing attacks, she tried to tear it down, though most of them just bounced off its thick hide and platings.
Ruby leaned back into her chair, a leg bouncing up and down quickly. She wanted to scream at Weiss, wanted to tell her to expose its vulnerable belly, but to do so would only antagonize her further. She opted for being a quiet observer instead.
She winced when Weiss lost her rapier and, from the corner of her eyes, she caught Yang and Blake do the same.
But, the fight was not lost yet. The Grimm charged again at her and she dodged it once more, quickly grabbing her dropped rapier again. Weiss then summoned a glyph – the first she used here – and catapulted the Boarbatusk into the air. It landed on its back, struggling but unable to turn, giving Weiss the chance to pierce the Grimm's weak and vulnerable underside, effectively killing it.
Professor Port gave a hearty laugh. "Well done, Miss Schnee!" While Weiss glowed under the praise, their Professor turned his attention back to class, though Ruby tuned out what more he had to say. Instead, she watched Weiss return to her seat next to Ruby. No evidence existed of her previously rattled state at having lost Myrtenaster, even if just for a brief moment.
Professor Port then finally dismissed the class and their first day of being Beacon students was officially over.
Ruby packed her things into her bag and, after a moment of hesitation, quickly caught up with her partner, who was already on her way out of the lecture hall.
Said Weiss's shoulders stiffened visibly before she turned around to face her. "What is it, Ruby?"
The Schnee's frosty tone was already foreboding, but Ruby ignored it. "We need to talk."
"About what?" Weiss asked, arching a neat, white eyebrow at her.
She sighed and her patience was wearing thin. That attitude was annoying. "I'd rather do this in private, so, please come with me to our dorm. I'll let Yang and Blake know not to disturb us for a while."
Ruby gave a curt nod, leading the way back to their dorm room. All the while, she was typing out a quick message to her sister and thinking about how to actually broach this topic without risking a catfight.
Ruby sat on Blake's bed, Weiss across from her on her own with her arms crossed and one leg over the other.
Neither said anything for a while. Ruby watched her partner, while Weiss was staring out the window.
"Look," Ruby began, the one to break the silence, "I get it, okay? I get you are angry and I get you really wanted to be the leader, but this...attitude is not really helping. It's bad for the team."
Weiss snapped her head at Ruby, an angry glare on her face. "How else am I supposed to feel then? I worked hard all my life! My father spent a lot of money on the best possible tutors he could possibly find! And yet here I am, led by some – some –"
"Yes?" Ruby prompted her, curious where she was going with this.
"...by some fifteen-year-old child who shouldn't even be here!"
"That's it? My age is your problem?"
"Of course it is!" Weiss shouted angrily, now up on her feet. "I can admit that you are a talented fighter, but you lack a whole two years of education and a teenager should not be the one to bear the responsibility of leading others during missions and such!" She then walked to the window, looking out again, her voice lowered again. "It's not fair."
"What exactly do you know about me?" Ruby asked and continued after Weiss's shrug. "You say I lack two years of education, but...you simply think of what I'm missing of the academic curriculum. You don't consider my background...or Yang's, for that matter." Ruby now got up to her feet too. She walked to her partner, leaning her side against the wall by the window and matching Weiss's frown with one of her own. "Our family...all of them were students here at Beacon. My mum...Yang's mum...our dad and our uncle."
Weiss turned to give Ruby a curious look. "You two have different mothers? I wondered how siblings could have such different looks."
Ruby shrugged. "Yeah. Yang's mum...we don't talk about her. She left just after Yang was born. That's really all I know. I don't know her first name – her last name is obvious because she's our Uncle Qrow's sister – or even what she looks like, though I think Yang does."
"I...don't want to talk about it."
"I apologize. I didn't mean to pry."
Ruby shrugged. "It's okay. Anyway." She took a breath and diverted the conversation back to its original topic. "As I said, all of our family were students here and they were all part of one of the strongest and most notorious teams ever. They were called Team STRQ." Ruby paused for a moment and scratched her neck. "We learned everything we did from our dad and uncle. The only reason we actually went to Signal was to make it more official and to have a controlled environment for semblance training. Most of what we learned was from actual huntsmen."
"So? I learned from actual huntsmen and huntresses myself. It doesn't make you special."
"How much leading did you actually do during initiation? Do you know how to track in the wild? Do you know how to estimate the cardinal directions? How much fighting experience have you actually had before the initiation – and I mean outside of possible sparring with partners and, maybe, however you got that scar. If I assume things about that, I'm sorry. What I want to say is that I may be younger than you, but I still have more experience at this whole huntress business than you do."
She didn't miss how Weiss's expression turned stony with every weakness she threw at her. It wasn't like she took pleasure in hurting her partner's pride like that, but it was necessary. It was mean and rude and borderline cruel, but it was necessary to pull Weiss's head from whichever clouds it was stuck in, so she could take a good look at herself outside of that inherent entitlement she possessed.
"Are you done?" Weiss asked, her voice low.
"I don't mean to be hurtful, Weiss. I actually find you impressive and I think you can be a great huntress. I didn't even care for this whole leadership thing. If I look at it objectively though, I think I am the better candidate out of us two. Probably even out of everyone in our team." Ruby shrugged. "If you would stop being all entitled about it and if you would look beyond your wounded pride, I think you could see it too. You are smart like that. All I want is for our team to function organically and for you to give me an honest and fair chance. I actually would like for us to have a healthy partnership. We are going to be stuck with each other for the next four years after all."
Ruby then pushed herself away from the wall and walked towards the door leading to the hallway. "I'm giving you some time to yourself. Again, I see where you are coming from but you are not really fair and rational about it."
She then walked out of the room and closed the door behind her, leaning against it and exhaling loudly.
At the sound of Team PRJN's door opening, Ruby turned her attention towards it, smiling at an exhausted-looking Pyrrha. "Hi," she greeted her with a lazy wave.
Pyrrha looked at her in surprise and gave her one of those genuine, kind-hearted and warm smiles that were so inherently Pyrrha. Ruby knew the tall girl only for a day and a few hours, but she could tell that the redhead didn't have a single mean bone to her.
"Hello, Ruby. How are your leadership duties going?"
Ruby wiggled a hand back-and-forth and shrugged. "So-so. It's stressful and not everyone is eager to just accept a fifteen-year-old as their leader."
Pyrrha nodded in understanding. "So that was what the earlier shouting was about?"
"I'm sorry you heard that…"
With a chuckle, Pyrrha waved it off. "It's alright. Growing pains. I assume we all go through them."
"Yeah, probably. So...why are you out here?" Ruby asked, cocking her head to the side.
The redhead now looked decidedly uncomfortable before allowing her shoulders to slump. "I...needed a break, to be honest. Admittedly, I never wanted this position. It's...very difficult and with Jaune…" She shrugged helplessly.
But Ruby nodded. She understood where Pyrrha was coming from since she wasn't out for this position either. "How is Jaune doing, by the way?" she asked. He had been very quiet the entire day; so much so, with her own early leadership struggles she actually forgot about him.
Pyrrha sighed. "Better, I suppose. His injuries are healing, but mentally…"
"Can I...can I ask what was going on with him during the initiation?"
The redhead shook her head. "It would be best if you asked him yourself. It's not my place to explain that."
Ruby scratched the back of her head awkwardly. "It was wrong of me to ask in the first place. I understand."
"It's alright," Pyrrha said with a kind smile. "It is good to see you care about him. He just...needs time."
She would give him that time, as hard as it was for her. It was a mystery she needed to be solved, but self-control. And patience.
"May I ask you something?"
Ruby looked up at Pyrrha and nodded. "Sure."
"How did you kill all the Grimm in the forest?"
Aw man. "Don't take this the wrong way, but...I'd rather not talk about that right now. I already had to explain it to my team and took a huge gamble with that...aside from my sister, that is."
"Is it such a big secret?" Pyrrha's curiosity was evident.
"Yes." Ruby nodded in confirmation. "I would appreciate it if you and your team would not mention it to anybody."
"Of course. We won't tell a soul." She seemed genuine about it.
Ruby smiled at Pyrrha. "Thank you."
Later in the evening, Weiss entered their dorm after she apparently had gone out for some more alone time.
Ruby appreciated that Weiss had seemingly, really gone out to take the time and think about their conversation. It spoke volumes of her character. She could have just dismissed it and went on with that attitude, but, apparently, she didn't.
She looked down from her elevated bed slash bunk bed. Weiss didn't really look like she was nervous. She didn't really look like she was anything, really. "Yes?"
"I'd like to talk to you." Weiss glanced at the curious looks Yang and Blake gave her. "Outside," she added with a roll of her eyes.
Ruby answered by jumping down from her bed, making it swing a bit in the process. She then followed Weiss out into the hallway and idly thought that she was becoming quite familiar with this particular spot between their and Team PRJN's dorms.
"I thought a lot about our conversation," Weiss began as soon as the door was closed behind them.
"And I appreciate it."
"I've come to the conclusion that...you aren't entirely wrong."
Ruby suppressed her smirk. Saying that she wasn't entirely wrong was, of course, more comfortable than saying that she was right. "Okay."
"I still think that I would have made a good leader, but...I am willing to give you a fair chance. You wouldn't be here if you wouldn't have something which makes you the most deserving of this position. You also...you also did really well in Emerald Forest. I have to admit that much."
"Thank you, Weiss. I really appreciate that." She really did.
"You also weren't wrong about my behaviour being bad for the team's atmosphere. I apologize." Weiss then paused for a moment. "We...are going to be partners and a team for four years. As you said, we need to function as a cohesive, organic unit. My behaviour didn't help. So...from now on I will do my best to be the best possible partner and teammate you could possibly ask for. If I can't be a leader, I will at least be that."
Ruby had to smile. A genuine and bright smile. This turned out way better than she could have hoped for and that made her very happy. "I know you will, Weiss."
Her partner smiled in return – a small one, almost shy, but the first Ruby had seen on her.
Maybe there was hope for their team yet.