Chapter 14

Weiss:

"Will you please – ugh, hey! That one was mine!"

If there was one thing Weiss was learning about her partner, it was that the red-head was not one for poise and skill, especially during combat.

"Ruby!" The heirs stamped her foot, not for the first time since they "jumped" the Beowolves – and not for the last time, no doubt – and quickly slashed at one of the Beowolves that sprung up to attack her. "Ruby, I'd appreci – hey! Don't touch the skirt! – I'd appreciate it if you stopped – AUGH – getting in my way!"

The red huntress stopped mid zoom; of course she had to have speed as a semblance, Weiss thought glumly. Ruby turned around, eyebrows raised in surprise. "Hmm? Oh, okay! I'm sorry, I'll take this half then?"

Not the solution she was hoping for, but Weiss accepted it – bitterly, but still accepted it. She spun on her heel and turned to face one of the few beowolves not demolished by the hyperactive red head.

Easy, girl, she thought to herself, letting out her breath in a harsh puff. Feet slid into the usual formation, hands up warily as she poised the tip of Myrnaster at the Beowolf approaching her. Remember your training, Weiss. Head up, shoulders back, right foot forward - not that forward! - slow your breathing, wait for the right time to strike, and... Now!

Weiss sprung forward a heartbeat ahead of the lumbering beowolf, letting loose a stream of fire from Myrtenaster with a flick of her wrist.

The funny thing is, that fire would have stopped the beowolf dead in its tracks, if not for a neatly placed headshot from a hyperactive reaper.

Instead, the jet of flame reared back and enveloped an innocent tree, flames already cackling up the sides and splintering bark. The forest being as dense as it was, it wasn't long before other trees in the surrounding area decided to join in on the fun and wear the burning attire of their friend. As if on cue, several squirrels screamed and dashed from the tree – not Grim squirrels, just the completely innocent, normal squirrels.

None of which seemed to pop up on Ruby Rose's radar until she bumped into a dumbstruck Weiss.

"Woohoo! They're all dead! Ruby 1, Grimm 0, lets – ooph! Hey partner, what's going- OH."

Weiss sighed, flicking her rapier twice – once to set the revolving chamber to "wind" the other to send a miniature gale to put out the flaming aspen.

"Hehe… sorry for getting carried away there, Weiss. Heat of the moment, ya know?"

The only response the heiress allowed herself to give was a disgruntled groan, spinning on her heel deftly and stalking into the forest. "You're so immature," she muttered to herself. She'd hoped Ruby was more mature for her age, but she was regrettably proved wrong by the stuntshow back there. At least she isn't like that dunce of a ginger Nora…

The scuffing of boots through the grass, as well as the nagging feeling that someone was walking next to her, informed Weiss that Ruby had bounded up next to her and was walking next to her, likely staring at her all the while.

"So! We're we going next? I think I saw a clearing not too far from here, if you want I can take a look out and see where we are?"

Weiss sighed. "Go on ahead. But I'm positive I know where we're going."

Ruby's smile faltered a little; she probably seemed to pick up on the dry tone Weiss was using. Instead of asking, she merely shrugged. "Okie-dokie! Be back in a split!"

A swirl of rose petals later, she was gone, leaving Weiss to stand with her thoughts. She honestly had no idea where they were in relation to the temple, but since Ruby was obviously the more immature one of the two, Weiss wasn't going to let a girl hardly her age lead her through the forest.

"WELL," Ruby said, interrupting Weiss' thoughts with a startling return, "scoped all around, I think the temple is – "

"RUBY!" Weiss had it. "Could you please stop doing that?! You're driving me nuts, just slow down for two seconds, alright?! Don't you have any idea how to act your age?!"

A mortified Ruby stared back at her, eyes wide and mouth pulled tight. "I – I'm so sorry, Weiss, I'm just really, REALLY excited, and I found the temple so I guess I got carried away…?"

The heiress sighed. Maybe this was why Winter was so hesitant to talk to me about Dad any more. "Look, Ruby, I know you're probably thrilled to be here, and I agree – it is a big deal. But you can't just barge around like that psychotic Nora girl and spit out a hundred words a minute. Just… try to settle down until we get to the temple, okay?"

Ruby nodded; her shoulders and hurt eyes, however, refused to unstiffen as the two of them set out. "Okay, I'm sorry for – wait. Nora? Was she the girl at breakfast this morning?"

"Yes," Weiss replied absently, stepping over a large log. "Don't worry, you're nowhere near as bad as her."

"But – but she seemed so nice! A little on the loud side, but still, what do you mean she's bad? Does she have trouble in combat? Is she really mean to people?"

This wasn't heading where Weiss wanted it to go; she'd have to watch her mouth around Ruby. "Look, just take my word for it when I say she isn't worth the time.

"Now come on, we need to get to the temple soon. You did scope out the way, right?"

"Y-yeah, we need to go more to the left. It's easier than it seems, getting there that is."

"What a relief. Let's get this over with so we can head inside and form a team already. Hopefully we'll be on the same team as Blake, you remember her, right?

Weiss didn't bother looking back at Ruby as they trudged through the forest. She also didn't bother hearing the sad undertones in Ruby's response, too lost in her own thoughts for the remark to truly register."

"Yeah… she sure seems fun."

Nora:

The silence was what was really getting to Nora.

She had given up on skipping twelve trees back, and stopped talking three trees ago. She wasn't running out of things to say – in fact she still hadn't finished explaining why her mother had drilled into her the importance of a balanced breakfast – nor had her throat gone dry. The real issue here was that the tall boy who was supposed to be her partner was trudging forward, his eyes averted, with a scowl that cut the words from her throat as she let them out.

Who wanted to share their secrets of good health and robust eating when they had that walking next to you?

She had tried to get him to say something, but since their run in he had not said a single word. Not even a glance or a smile or even any sign that he knew she was there - outside of ignoring the fact that she was, of course.

"Hey," she finally tried, giving a halfhearted smile and a weaker wave in his direction (it wasn't her fault he was kinda scary).

He finally cast a glance in her direction. The broken glasses, which he stubbornly wore on his face, still translated some of the pink in his eyes into blue, giving his glare an unsettling shattered look. While she almost withered underneath the stare, she tried to press on a little more.

"Hey, uh, y-you know… d-do you need those to, like, see far away stuff, or close up stuff? I mean, they don't really work now soooooooo… er, uh, do you need to still wear them?"

Ren puffed out a breath of air, loaded with frustration. "Don't talk to me about it. You wouldn't understand."

"Uh… but they're all busted! The glass too, you could really hurt yourself, and like cut your eyes open in battle, and you'd be blind, and bump into stuff, and –"

"I know," he almost growled. Nora saw more than heard the venom and, miraculously, stopped tripping over her own words.

They kept on walking, her confrontation only opening up a fresh welt of awkwardness that clouded the atmosphere. In true Nora fashion, she tried to amend it by doing the only thing she knew how – talk insistently regardless of how that had already fared.

"I like pink!"

Ren stiffened, but said nothing.

"I wear it a lot. It's really a good color; I'm surprised not a lot of people appreciate it as much as they should. Like you've got a really nice set of eyes that are pink! Not that I want your eyes, I mean what would I do with a pair of eyeballs, that's probably illegal! Not having eyeballs, but like taking them from people just 'cause you like the color of them! But I mean, like, your eyes aren't that bad of eyes, I've seen some pretty crazy colors, like purple and red, and pink is a little not-as-seen, but that's good! Makes you stand out and look cool and people are like "wow, I wish I had pink eyes, but I can't steal them because eyes probably smell after a while!"

"Nora, please sto -"

"And no one wants to smell that bad, 'cause then people wouldn't want to be around you! Like, come on, smelling bad is, well, bad! If you smell bad it makes sense that people don't want to be around you, not if you're tall or short or fat or talk a lot or have something like that! I mean, I've had a lot of friends and all the good friends don't say 'we can't be friends because you have big hair' or something silly like that. So don't worry if someone doesn't like a little something about you! I don't, and I have plenty of people to be with! Well, not as much as I did at my old school, but it's only been a two days, and I already met so many people –oh! AND I got my partner! You!" She ended her speech with a big smile, hands clasped in front of her.

Ren just continued to look at her, probably blown away by what she said and ready to not be so worried. She didn't have much time to ask him more about himself – or Blake and how she was doing – because she suddenly heard a loud rustling behind her.

"OH!" She said, spinning around suddenly.

"Nor-" Ren started, but Nora was too wrapped up to listen.

"Sh-sh-sh-sh," she whispered, waving a hand to silence her partner. Can't have him talking too loud and disturbing the possible Grimm lurking around every corner.

Nora, while loud mouthed and volatile, knew how to be focused when she needed to be. And if those spines she saw just over the bushes were anything to go off of, she ahd to act quick if she wanted to nab this guy.

"Nora…" Ren said cautiously.

"Bu-bu-bu-bu!" she babbled, holding up a hand to shush him. She slowly reached around and withdrew Magnihild from it's place on her back, aiming the barrel end at where she suspected the Ursa's back to be.

"On my signal," she breathed sharply, "hold on tight."

"Uh-"

"KRAW! KRAW!" Nora yelled sharply, blasting one of her pink canisters so it broke off a spine on the Ursa's back. Immediately the massive bear reared up on it's hind legs, an ear-shattering roar ringing out from it's maw.

In the exact same, fluid motion, Nora had swung her weapon around so it transitioned into hammer form, her free hand grabbing Ren by the scruff of her shirt as she launched both of them onto the Ursa's back. "Hold on!" she warned, her legs clenching the meaty sides of the animal as she bashed it in the ribs with the mallet end.

The Ursa lurched forward, breaking into a sprint with every whack that Nora was dealing it. She had seen the temple as she was flying down through the trees – or was it falling desperately? – so she urged the beast to veer in the direction she remembered seeing it.

This, right here, was where Nora felt alive. Wind rushing in her hair, knowing she had conqured the beast – anyone could kill, but to momentarily tame the monsters to her will – that was something she could brag about. Her weapon's weight, the danger, the screams of the boy clutching desperately to the spines of the bear as he shouted incomprehensively; all that melted away.

Nora, all smiles, was happy.


I so desperately wanted this out before Volume 2 ended. I really wanted you guys to have this as soon as possible. Hopefully there will be a sooner update for you guys, I've gotten a lot of good reviews/questions in between this chapter and the one before it. As a way of keeping you posted, things will be tougher to work on with me, I'm writing up a storm and having a hard time transitioning between the two halves of this piece.

I hope you all milk this for what it's worth, you'll need it to last you a while.

-thd