Ruby waved as she and team JNPR parted ways. The four traveled down the hall like a small cloister of limps and one familiar mouth jabbering about pancakes. Ruby was alone for the day; Blake and Yang were on a date downtown and Weiss was on a train to Atlas to greet family. The heiress hadn't been too excited when she had departed, but Ruby didn't want to pry in any of her business and irk her partner; she had learned that lesson the hard way.

Ruby was, however, left to wander the somewhat vacant halls of Beacon. Exchange students were on a tour of Vale that Professor Goodwitch herself would coordinate and conduct.

Ruby thought how terrifying it would be to have Glynda yell at her about what the CCT Tower did. Yang had done a spot on impression of the professor last night, following with an explanation as to why the renowned Huntress was so intimidating.

"Scary people just look mad all the time; even when they're saying nice things. Like, one time I went to her office because I had killed the most Grimm on a hunt – oh stop pouting, Weiss, I worked hard for that and you know it– and she was like, 'MS. XIAO LONG, YOU DID WELL. GOOD FOR YOU. LOOK AT HOW SCARY I AM."

Ruby had burst into peals of laughter as Yang put her hands on her hips and furrowed her eyebrows so furiously, her eyes shut.

Blake had snorted as she unraveled the bow from her Faunus ears and climbed up onto Ruby's bunk so that the younger girl could scratch at them.

Weiss had given a noncommittal sniff, but when she turned to face the trunk she was packing, Ruby could swear she saw the hints of a rare smile.

Ruby couldn't think of anything scarier than Glynda Goodwitch, but before she could try, a strong shoulder slamming her into the ground cut off her thoughts.

"Ouch!" Ruby groaned from the marble floors, gripping her upper arm and trying to massage the white-hot flickers of pain that danced through her veins. Her eyes were screwed shut as she tried to discern if her shoulder was dislocated.

Instead of a rushed apology thick with an accent from the other Kingdoms, Ruby was met with a dissatisfactory cluck.

"Watch where you're going, little one." Ruby was gripped under the arms and hauled up unceremoniously. Ruby opened her eyes and blinked a few times to truly process what she was looking at.

Limpid flames of unadulterated color and the slightest hint of an ebony core were fixed on Ruby like miniature suns. The owner of the extremely frightening yet attractive eyes was a woman, taller than Ruby and far more mature than anyone she had seen before.

The bone structure of her face was regal and haughty, curved cheekbones and a sloping jawline giving way to a graceful neck. Her skin was powder white, smooth and unblemished. Her skin was not only beautiful, but also available for others to see, thanks to small tweaks to her wardrobe.

She wore the blouse that Beacon had assigned to all female students, but it fit a bit tighter around her chest and waist. A few buttons were parted so that a slight amount of a black lace bra was visible, dark material tracing patterns into the canvas of her chest.

The woman seemed to have forgotten her blazer, and chose to unbutton the blouse's sleeves and roll them up to the elbow. The shirt was tucked into the same plaid skirt that Ruby wore, only it looked far better on the woman as it clung to her slim waist and showed off – oh.

The woman was wearing garters, clipped to a pair of black thigh-high socks with a subtle amount of her thighs to show between the black straps.

Ruby gulped nervously.

She felt like a small rabbit caught in the hands of a lioness, which toyed with her between manicured paws.

"I'm- I'm sorry." Ruby caught herself breathing a bit harder than usual. "We've met before, haven't we?"

The woman released Ruby to her gratefulness, only to dust off the lapels of her blazer with a languid hand.

"Maybe we have, maybe we haven't. I'm bad with names and faces." She replied calmly, tugging on Ruby's jacket so that she yelped a bit. Ruby jerked forward and was now mere inches away from the most attractive person she had seen before.

The woman glanced down at Ruby, who was breathing softly, but in irregular patterns.

"I'm R-Ruby." The young Huntress's words faltered a bit when the other woman cupped her face as if examining her under a microscope.

"Pretty name for a pretty girl like you." The woman crooned, her voice silken as her fingers traced a small birthmark on Ruby's neck.

"Thank you." Ruby looked down, a little bashful, but the woman clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth, and Ruby's head snapped back up instantaneously.

"Of course. Pretty things like you need to be told that they're pretty. Otherwise they'd never realize it. All that humble modesty and whatnot." The woman smiled slowly, as if amused at the girl before her, and continued to speak. "My name is Cinder." She brushed at a stray piece of lint on Ruby's shoulder.

Her touches were light but insistent, slow but demanding, and something about the look in her eyes gave Ruby the shivers. It wasn't a bad thing, of course, but Ruby had never seen anyone so commanding and intuitively authoritative.

Cinder's hands rested on Ruby's arms for just a moment, fiery eyes meeting Ruby's silver before she stepped past the smaller girl in one easy movement.

"Good night, little jewel." She said softly, her voice lilting sweetly in Ruby's ears.

She pressed one feather-light touch to Ruby's shoulder and walked away, her skirt swishing every once in a while to reveal her garters and pale thighs.

Ruby stood in the hallway for a few minutes, one hand absently rubbing at her shoulder. Cinder's fingertips were branded into her skin like a scar, but it prickled with nervous energy.

Perhaps there truly was something scarier than Glynda Goodwitch, in all her stern and fearsome power. Perhaps it was Cinder, who held potential to burn brighter than any fire, flame, or inferno, or who could scorch her touches into Ruby's flesh with barely-there caresses, or douse Ruby in gasoline and set her alight at any moment.

Ruby bit down on her lip, pushed her worrisome thoughts aside, and walked to her dormitory alone.

Cinder was a new friend, and Ruby trusted her friends, so she would be no exception.