Her eyes were slowly blinking open and she was ready to get up but then remembered that it was the weekend. Her first week as a Beacon student had passed and she actually survived.
Ruby then folded her hands for her morning prayer, thanking the Brother Gods and asking them for their guidance once more.
She wasn't what she would call devotedly religious. Not once in her life had she visited a house of worship for the religion of the Brothers of Balance. Neither her dad nor Uncle Qrow were devout people either – at least not to her knowledge.
The reason why she picked it up in the first place was as a means to cope. She couldn't tell her family about her training, about the things she learned to do. Coming home feeling dirty, feeling violated for months on end after killing people and not having a means to vent and ease that inner turmoil had been hard on her. So, she figured that religion was her best bet, considering how many people all over Remnant used it as guidance throughout their lives. On a whim, she bought the holy book about the Brother Gods and was surprised how interesting it actually was and how the Light and Dark Brother were depicted. Neither was inherently evil or good; they simply approached life from different viewpoints. At the end of the day, they were all about balance and balance was what Ruby had needed at that point.
Praying to those Gods, whether they existed or not, helped her find that balance in herself. Since being under the wings of her friend, balance was what her whole life was about – balancing her own morals with what needed to be done to survive. Finding solace in those Gods was a crutch she desperately needed at that point in her life and it simply had stuck with her.
Once done with her morning prayer, she turned onto her stomach and pulled out her notebook from under her pillow, then pushed said pillow under her torso. She opened her notebook and took the pencil she used as a bookmark, tapping the eraser-end against her chin in thought before starting to write.
"I met Roman Torchwick," she began and soon the pencil flew on the blank page. Meeting him had been something she was excited for since her friend told her that rumour had it Roman Torchwick was in over his head with some new big player. Said, big player could supposedly, maybe, lead to someone even bigger – someone who could have knowledge or ties to the hunts on those with Silver Eyes and, as a result, to her mother. At first, Ruby was sceptical, thought it a bit of a stretch. In the end, however, she trusted her friend though. They hadn't led her astray so far.
Noting down the events, she stopped for a moment, a spark of curiosity hitting her again.
"Who is this 'Neopolitan?'" she continued, the scratching of the pencil on paper obscenely loud in the silence of her still sleeping team. It was something she hadn't really had the time to actively wonder about. Just who was this person a common criminal like Torchwick seemed oddly protective of and who seemed to be in the crosshairs of her friend? And, her thoughts straying back to Torchwick, the whole night with him was kind of disappointing in the end. She left with no answers and quite a few questions.
"I got accepted to Beacon and the initiation was a s-h-word-show," Ruby went on, the words flowing. It still was hard to wrap her head around the fact that so much had happened in the span of three or four days – all of it culminating in the Cadet Trial. The odd behaviour of Grimm, the many dead cadets. It was clear, by Professor Ozpin's and Goodwitch's reactions, that they had been unaware of what actually transpired in Emerald Forest. That left Ruby with one plausible conclusion: the cameras had to have been tampered with just before the start of the initiation. Them being faulty was unlikely since she expected the faculty to make sure that they were in working order. Either way, the implications were scary.
And then, there was that moment when a – what she assumed to be non-local considering how Ren had never seen it before – Grimm catapulted her up the air for the Nevermore to snatch. Teamwork like that should not be possible for Grimm of any intelligence and the word intelligence was used very liberally here. On top of that, she had to wonder if it had been her specifically who was the target or if it had been a wrong-place-wrong-time-situation.
Ruby finished her notes, put the pencil inside her notebook again and closed it, pushing it under her pillow. With a sigh, she shook her head. She really needed to find a better hiding place for it.
Landing on her feet after jumping down from her bed, she stretched and, grabbing her toiletries, went to the bathroom. It wouldn't do to wait like five-hundred years for Yang to finish after all.
Ruby allowed her team the lie-in, so she went to breakfast by herself. It wasn't something she particularly minded. Eating in peace while people-watching could sometimes be a nice pastime and she enjoyed the quiet.
Well, quiet was relative in a cafeteria with hundreds of students, but still – the point stood.
What surprised her, however, was that she spotted Jaune sitting by himself at a table. She walked towards him immediately and sat down across from him, giving him a once-over. It was good to see that his fractured arm and leg seemed to have mostly healed. He was not wearing casts anymore. Aura was amazing like that.
She gave him a small smile. At last, the first person to talk to her at Beacon started talking to her again after days of silence.
He frowned again and looked down at his table, picking at his scrambled eggs with his fork. She was hungry but she didn't want to go and get some food for herself out of fear of Jaune making a quick exit behind her back.
"I'd really like to know why you've been avoiding me...or everyone else – aside from Pyrrha, that is. I honestly thought we could be friends." She really did. While she was not one to be particularly social, she still didn't mind having friends. It just never really clicked with the people at Signal. Here, she was – finally – on pretty decent terms with Weiss, whom she genuinely found admirable. Pyrrha, on the other hand, was such a nice and sweet person. It simply was impossible to not be friends with her. Jaune...he was awkward and dorky, but he was the first one to approach her and he was kind of funny...in his own, goofy way. He had something about him that made you want to have him around. He was a good person.
"You...don't want to be friends with someone like me," he muttered, dropping his fork onto his plate, making it clatter loudly.
"And why is that?" she asked in a challenging tone. "I'm really curious, Jaune. I would really like to know just what was going on in the Trial with you." She paused a bit and shrugged after Jaune made no indication that he would be speaking any time soon. "I won't judge you. I promise. You don't have to tell me, of course, but I promise I won't judge you."
Again, silence followed. It was clear how much Jaune was struggling internally. His eyes were clenched shut, she could hear his heavy breaths coming from his nose, his jaw was working nonstop. Still, she waited. Patiently and quietly.
"You really mean that?" he finally asked and lifted his head a bit to look at her. His eyes were earnest, seeking hers out. "You swear that you won't hate me or – or...you know, tell everyone?"
Ruby lifted a brow. Just what exactly was going on? But she nodded all the same. "I promise."
He hesitated for a moment, then got up. "Come on then. I won't tell you here."
The two of them walked out of the cafeteria, Ruby following Jaune in silence. She wasn't sure what to expect, but he obviously felt it was a big enough deal to genuinely be afraid of her reaction. Shivering a bit in the chilly air of the late Autumn season, she pulled her cape around her. The sky was grey, with thick clouds covering most of it, and winter was approaching rapidly.
Jaune stopped by a tree, turning around to look at her. He seemed to struggle for words, so Ruby just waited patiently.
"I...don't belong here…" he finally muttered while kicking lightly at the ground with his shoes and with his hands stuffed in his pants' pockets.
Cocking her head to the side, Ruby furrowed her brows a bit. "You don't belong in Beacon?"
"What does this have to do with the initiation?" Ruby asked curiously.
There was no reply – not for a while. She could practically see Jaune wrestling with himself once more. Walking to a tree herself, she leaned against it while pulling her hood up to cover her head and protect her ears from the cold.
"I…" Jaune stopped, still struggling to find the words. "I...forged my transcripts," he finally admitted, his voice soft and low.
Ruby's brows immediately shot up and her mouth formed a perfect 'O'. That...was honestly not what she expected. It did explain so many things at once, though, like how he was accepted despite the clear lack of knowledge of...well, of everything that was basic knowledge for any huntsman and huntress in training, for example.
Still looking at the ground, he mumbled his answer. "I wanted to be somebody...to prove I can be somebody…"
Ruby gave him an incredulous look. "By dying?" She pushed herself away from the tree and took a step towards him. "Jaune, this...this is no joke! What we are doing, it's dangerous! Didn't you research anything at all about what it means to be a huntress or a huntsman?!"
He just shrugged again. Ruby wanted to smack her forehead.
With a calming breath, she continued her questioning. "Okay...who else knows?"
"...Professor Ozpin and Professor Goodwitch…"
Considering he was still here, the Headmaster and Deputy Headmistress must have allowed him to stay, despite his crimes of document forgery and whatever else applied to this. Unexpected but not unwelcome.
"What did the Professors say?" she asked, wondering about their reasoning.
"Professor Ozpin...he gave me an ultimatum," Jaune admitted with a wince. "If I don't catch up to a certain level at the end of our second semester I will get kicked from Beacon…"
"I see…" Ruby hummed. "Say, how did you survive the drop when we got launched anyway?" She had wondered about that for a while now.
Jaune scratched the back of his head. "Oh, that...yeah, uh, apparently my aura-thingy got unlocked while I was flying and hoping not to die, so...yeah."
She couldn't help but chuckle. Basically at the level of an average civilian and yet he was here. Lady Luck was apparently quite fond of one particular Vomit Boy. "Does Pyrrha know? I mean, I think she does, but, you know...can you confirm it?"
"Yeah. She saved my life and risked hers to protect me. She deserved to know." His face fell a bit and he rubbed his eyes with a sniff and groan. "She's an amazing person."
"That she is," Ruby agreed and sighed. "You got yourself into quite the situation there, Vomit Boy."
He chuckled half-heartedly. "That one's gonna stick with me, isn't it?"
"I'll make sure it does."
"I'm really sorry, Ruby." Jaune approached her, his expression begging for forgiveness so suddenly, it caught her off guard a bit. "I'm so ashamed of myself and I…I feel like I've insulted everything being a huntsman stands for!" He paused for a moment and Ruby could see his eyes started to glisten with wetness. "The worst thing is how all you guys helped me survive while so many other cadets...just…"
Ruby looked at the ground with a frown. Survivor's guilt. She had suspected it would happen and was really unhappy that she turned out to have been right.
"You know, Jaune," she began, returning her gaze back at him, "there is something you can do."
He looked at her questioningly but didn't speak.
"Train. As soon as you –"
"Oh, uh...Pyrrha already offered that and I accepted, obviously," he muttered awkwardly.
"That's great!" Ruby said with a smile and she meant it too. "I'll help too where I can. And I'll ask Weiss to help with things like Dust Theory and Remnant's history." Ruby noticed Jaune's brightening expression. "Only if you stop hitting on her. It makes her uncomfortable."
His face fell into a half-hearted frown. A smile quickly found its way to his face, though. "Thank you, Ruby. I really appreciate it. I know you don't have to –"
"It doesn't matter if I have to or not, Jaune. I...consider you a friend. You did something stupid and irresponsible, but not to hurt others." She sighed before giving him a determined look. "All you can do now is to make the most of this chance. And we'll help you."
Opening the door to their dorm, Ruby entered but stopped in her tracks upon seeing her partner engaged on a video call with her scroll. "Sorry, Weiss! I'll leave you alone."
"Who was that, little sister? One of your teammates?"
Weiss sighed in resignation, waving her closer. "Yes, Winter. It's Ruby."
Ruby's eyes widened and she shook her head. She had a feeling where this was going and she didn't want it to go there. She hadn't even been aware Weiss had an older sister, to begin with.
"Oh? Your team leader? I would like to see her."
Ruby wanted to just leave but it wouldn't do to embarrass Weiss like that. So, resigned to her fate, she sat down next to her on her bed.
"Hello, Ruby Rose. Weiss has told me a great deal about you."
Weiss's sister – Winter, according to what she had called her moments earlier – looked about as immaculate as her partner. Perfect posture, not a hair out of place, oozing confidence and her facial expression not giving anything away.
Ruby chuckled nervously. "It's uh, it's good to meet you, Miss Schnee. I hope Weiss only said good things."
"She did tell me that you are only fifteen-years-old and that you are the youngest cadet to ever lead a team. Are you sure you are up to the challenge? Are you sure you can handle the responsibilities and carry the burdens which come with being a team's leader? My sister's life and the lives of the rest of your team might depend on your ability to make the right decisions at any given moment."
Ruby thought for a moment about how to answer, while Winter was waiting. "I know I still have a lot to learn," Ruby began carefully, "but I know I can do it. In the end, though, I'll have to show it through actions. Saying it won't make people believe me."
Winter gave a curt nod before returning her attention to Weiss. "I will have to cut this short, Weiss."
"I understand, Winter."
Ruby could hear the underlying disappointment in her voice and, apparently, Winter did as well. The older Schnee's expression softened visibly.
"I wish you to keep me updated on your progress at Beacon. Also, make sure to eat properly and to train your summoning. Do you remember what I told you?"
"The semblance is like a muscle and the more I train it, the stronger it gets," Weiss said dutifully and Ruby had to smile.
It was odd seeing her partner like this – so devoted to another person, so eager to soak in anything they had to say. Weiss obviously held her sister in very high regards.
"Exactly. Now, I have to go. Goodbye, Weiss."
Her partner sighed, but still managed a small smile – a genuine one. "Goodbye, Winter."
The video-call ended, Weiss allowed her hands to drop onto her lap.
"Your sister seems like a nice person," Ruby offered softly after a few moments of silence.
Weiss looked at her with another of those small smiles and a quick nod. "She is. I...I really love her and I feel like she is the only one I can admire and idolize without ending up disappointed."
Ruby tilted her head to the side. That was both endearing and depressing, but she didn't comment on it. Now was not the time to pry into her partner's personal life. Instead, she opted to drop the bomb she meant to drop in the first place.
"By the way, I told Jaune you would tutor him."