Author's Note: Oh gawd, actual freedom and breaks from the brain-eroding world of holiday retail!
Brain: If I ever hear one more remix of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer from now until next year it's gonna be WAY too soon!
So woohoo! I'm finally allowed to breathe now that the holidays are over! Course, all that breathing room is being sucked up by my latest writing idea! With all the fun I've been having on the Bumblebee side-
Brain: Too much fun…
-I've decided to take a break from it and refocus on the other half of Team RWBY! Unfortunately, there won't be true, romantic, White Rose pairing for this fic idea.
Brain: We're gonna try to do smart, creative stuff with friendship White Rose.
Keyword being 'try'. And, if there are those wondering about my choice of title, I will confirm that, yes, you can consider this as a little side-story in my Soulbound AU. For those who haven't read it, obviously, being the writer, I suggest reading it as apparently a lot of people seem to like it. For those who don't want to – specifically, those who don't want to read through 250,000 words -, all you really need to know is that Soulbound is my own fan-novelization of Volume 1 except I added and expanded a lot and…changed a few things. Mainly, I changed the end of Volume 1 where Ruby ends up getting more seriously injured by Torchwick due to her Aura being weakened beforehand and Weiss saves her life by doing a concept I introduced called 'Aura bonding', where two Hunters can form a bond with each other by binding Auras. Another author who has implemented the concept of bonding is sangheilitat117 in his fabulous White Rose story Can You Feel My Heart. It's pretty much the same thing and, for those who want their White Rose fix, I would go and take a gander at it.
That's really all you need to know and even then I'll mostly be referring to those events in this chapter with the rest of the fic – three chapters total, I predict – being used to explore and try my hand at some fan-lore building, specifically when it comes to Huntsmen and Huntresses and their weapons. This was something I briefly mentioned in The Stray and didn't really intend to make a whole fic out of it but my friend Kenju convinced me that I should give it a shot and…
Brain: And then I happened!
Yes, yes you did…
"Now, who wishes to challenge Miss Valkyrie to the last match of the day?"
Oh oh oh! Me! Pick me! Pleeeaaassse!
Yeah, right here! Come on! Right here!
"Shall I do a random selection, then?"
There's no need for that because I'm right here! I've been stuck for a week without combat practice with no one even wanting to spar with me or take me out on Grimm hunts. I've had nothing but stupid textbooks and boring tests, and I really really really need to hit something right now!
Ruby attempted to convey all of that with the single hand that she madly waved in the air in order to get the steely gaze of one Glynda Goodwitch to actually land and stay on her instead of casually moving on as if she hadn't seen her. Ruby knew better; after several days of this, there was no way that their combat instructor hadn't noticed her flailing limbs.
It had been over a week since that night at the docks where Ruby had been wounded by Torchwick, leading to a three-day stay in the hospital before awakening and being allowed to return to Beacon...with some restrictions that were meant to do nothing more than to make Ruby as miserable as possible. To be more precise, the one that declared that there would be no combat training or anything else of such nature for that full week that would be needed until she made a complete recovery. Apart from denying her of sweets in that timeframe, combat training was the worst thing that could be taken from her and, to make it worse, in its place was the schoolwork that she needed to catch up on when she had been incapacitated.
Begging her teammates to overlook it had been met with little results and even going to their friends in JNPR or the other first-years had been a wasted effort. Considering the nervous looks and tentative refusals, Ruby had to guess that Yang or one of her other subordinates - maybe even all of them - had spread the message around to the other students to not get roped into any sparring, hunting, or other activities of that nature with the young leader of RWBY. More than likely that message was enforced with the threat of severe punishment.
But her term was up and she couldn't ask for a better setup. Nora was standing next to Goodwitch at the arena floor, Magnhild resting across her shoulders. The hammer-wielder was similarly scanning the crowds although, in contrast to their professor, Nora had a wide grin on her face as if she couldn't wait to put her weapon to use against anyone who may wish to contend with her.
Eventually going to Ruby, Nora mimicked the enthusiastic wave with one of her own, easily keeping Magnhild in place with one hand. It was that exchange that seemed to convince Goodwitch of the inevitable, the bespectacled woman looking between her two students before sighing.
Yes! Ruby silently cheered, noting the signs of defeat.
Just as Goodwitch was about to announce the matchup, however, there was movement at Ruby's peripheral that not only drew her attention but their professor's as well. "Ah, Miss Schnee, how nice of you to volunteer." Louder, Goodwitch declared, "The final match of the day shall be between Weiss Schnee and Nora Valkyrie!"
At first, all Ruby was able to do was let her hand drop limply back to her side, unable to believe what had just happened, and then she was whirling around to direct a half-pout, half-glare at her white-haired partner. Being an heiress to a multi-billion lien company, it was a simple matter for Weiss to keep her face completely straight as she rose to her feet, Myrtenaster at her side. Just as she was about to descend to the arena floor, Weiss deigned to give Ruby a glance and a quirked brow, the look practically saying, "This is for your own good."
Ruby's pout-glare followed Weiss as she went down the bleachers but her back remained turned to her leader the whole time. With a sigh, Ruby dropped her cheeks into the palms of her hands, elbows balancing on her knees as she resigned herself to another miserable, combat-free day.
Yeah, she had been getting a lot of that with her team practically babying her during her recovery. Carrying her books around for her, refusing to let her climb up and down her bunk without assistance, and even getting and delivering her meals to her. While Ruby didn't mind it at first, mostly due to her teammates getting along for the sake of her health even after the whole White Fang revelation concerning their now-known faunus teammate Blake, it had gotten to ridiculous levels pretty fast. And, as was plainly seen, the pity party was open to their professors, even the normally high-strung Goodwitch.
It was only one dizzy spell, Ruby thought, remembering her near-collapse shortly after returning to Beacon. It hadn't repeated at all during the rest of the week but that didn't seem to be giving her any extra points.
Sighing once more, Ruby tried to at least psyche herself up to enjoy viewing the upcoming match. Down below, Weiss was taking her position on one side of the arena, a hand lying on her rapier's hilt. Across from her, Nora, looking as excited as ever, was brandishing the heavy head of her hammer Magnhild. The overhead monitor winked to life, displaying the portraits of the two girls. Next to each was a green bar: a visible indicator of their Aura levels.
Their matches typically followed tournament-style rules: the first person to have their Aura levels drop to the red would lose. While the matches themselves can hold variety - one-on-one, two-on-two, team-on-team, or even one-on-team coupled with time limits - that rule remained in place no matter what as a safety measure for, if a person's Aura levels were depleted, the following damage that would usually be blocked by it would instead be inflicted directly on the combatant's body, resulting in serious injury - something that Ruby had firsthand experience with.
Weiss had fully cleared Myrtenaster from her sash when a countdown began on the monitor, starting from five and ticking down with a beep following each passing second. She slowly spread her legs, dropping into her typical stance, while Nora held her weapon with the heavy head low and back. Upon the chiming of the bell, Weiss struck first, starting the match with her opening thrust as she sped across the floor towards Nora, the slim blade and sharpened tip aimed right at her chest.
Nora responded but not in a way that was typical of someone wielding such a weapon. Instead of swinging, she shifted her grip, hands sliding towards Magnhild's head, and she actually used the long shaft to knock Weiss's rapier off course, forcing the heiress to speed on by her.
Ruby straightened in her seat, admittedly intrigued by the opening move. Although Nora used such a large hammer, she tended to wield it with more finesse than other students who used weapons similar to her own, specifically Cardin Winchester. The leader of CRDL liked to make full use of his strength and heavy mace with wide, powerful swings that could be quite devastating if they ever landed. It was a fitting weapon against the monstrous Grimm but against fellow students who were smaller and faster, his opponents found his attacks slow, clumsy, and, worst of all, predictable.
Nora unveiled the difference in their fighting styles by turning to follow after Weiss, shifting back to her usual grip to swing Magnhild towards her opponent. Weiss ducked and spun away with her acrobatic grace but Nora followed after her, using the momentum in her swing to bring Magnhild spinning around over her head as she advanced, lashing out with both shaft and head.
Weiss had turned back to face her at this point and Myrtenaster responded to the whirlwind of blows by parrying and deflecting Magnhild, shifting the attacks away from her. The slim rapier stood no chance of blocking the blows outright and Nora used that to her advantage to continue spinning and striking with her weapon, forcing Weiss to begin taking steps back. In the end, the heiress went to her Dust, a glyph appearing in front of her to take and hold against a solid blow. The break in her attacks caused Nora to stumble and Weiss used the opening to streak in with another thrust that connected and knocked Nora away.
Ruby glanced up at the monitor, watching as the bar next to Nora's portrait dropped but remained in the green even against an attack like that. Being able to protect the user against blades, bullets, claws, fangs, and what have you, Aura was as strong as the user's will and the physical and mental training that came with combat schools shaped it into a powerful barrier that won't be broken through easily. With two fresh combatants, it wasn't uncommon for these kinds of duels to drag on.
"Miss Valkyrie, if you could refrain from excessive collateral damage!" Goodwitch ordered over the deafening noise of another detonation.
"Okay!" Nora responded even as she was firing off another grenade, now carrying Magnhild in its grenade launcher mode.
The pink projectile - complete with a painted heart-shaped design - slammed against Weiss's barrier, a crater having already been blasted at either side of the heiress. Technically there were no rules against using such attacks, Glynda's voice of protest mostly to limit the damage to the arena that she would have to clean up later. That and the debris that pelted some of the students who had unwisely chosen to sit at the front rows of the bleachers.
Weiss stabbed her blade into the floor, a Burn Dust cartridge glowing brightly within Myrtenaster's cylinder, and a line of flame shot out towards Nora before splitting and forming a circle to trap her. When Weiss drew her weapon close, the red glow of the fire-based Dust dimmed as the cylinder spun and, in its place, a yellow one lit up as she gestured with her fingers. It was only because of Ruby's position higher up in the bleachers that she saw another of Weiss's glyphs appear, this time beneath Nora's feet and possessing the same color as the Electric Dust instead of the regular white.
Despite the close proximity of the fiery circle and the heat it gave off, Nora saw the glyph as well and chose to daringly barrel on through the flames in order to save herself from the tendrils of lightning that leapt up from the glyph and charged the air with electricity instead of their intended target. Magnhild transforming back to hammer form, Nora lunged towards Weiss to slam it down towards her, the fencer twirling away in response.
Ruby took the moment to look to the monitor again. Although Weiss hadn't taken any damage, her Aura level had dropped negligibly. Taking damage wasn't the only way weaken Aura. Exhaustion and any other physical strain could do the job but then there was the kind of strain that came with using Aura to perform attacks, usually by using it to control and manipulate the power of Dust. And, out of all four members of RWBY, it was Weiss who's stamina was the weakest due to her mixed training of both swordsmanship and Dust control. Her style of fighting was meant to compensate by using Nature's Wrath to overwhelm or at least distract her opponent so that she can finish them off with Myrtenaster, fencing being an art that relied on swift and accurate strikes so that no strength would be wasted with unnecessary movement.
Thus, opponents most suited to counter her were those who possessed the necessary fortitude to either weather through her attacks or were agile enough to avoid them. Unfortunately, Nora had a little bit of both; able to stand against the lighter strikes of Myrtenaster while making sure to watch out for her Dust spells. Even as Weiss maneuvered around her, Nora used the position of Magnhild currently embedded in the floor to fire off a grenade from the head and riding the resulting explosion to hurl herself towards Weiss, shouting a cheerful and energetic, "Tag!"
Weiss couldn't avoid that one and was forced to once again turn to her glyphs, kneeling down and conjuring one above her to take the full force of the descending weapon. In response, another bit of her 'Aura bar' was shaved off.
The intensity of the fight had Ruby at the edge of her seat as she watched, Weiss attempting to put distance between her and Nora but the girl pursued persistently. It made her wish that she was down there and taking on Nora instead, Crescent Rose and Magnhild crossing each other again and again while their recoils served to send their owners into the next meeting of hammer and scythe.
Uuuugh, this sucks! she complained mentally while her feet kicked out visibly in frustration, earning her a couple looks from nearby students but she hardly cared. When classes are over, someone is going to duel me later! Maybe a second or third-year. Maybe even a fourth! I don't care if I get my butt kicked! She knew there were plenty of students out there, even the more senior ones, who were still curious about the young Huntress-in-training who had been accepted early by Ozpin. That curiosity could be satisfied with a match even if she was a freshman, especially if she tempted them.
It was when Ruby returned her attention to the duel with another one of her pouts on her face that something occurred to her. Up on the monitor, Weiss's Aura bar drifted into the yellow zone and Ruby found herself staring at it longer than what should be necessary.
Maybe I can participate after all… A grin dabbled in mischief slinked its way onto Ruby's face. She straightened in her seat, stilling her movements, and closed her eyes.
And deep inside, she focused on Weiss. Not the Weiss who was down there in the arena but that part of her that the heiress had left to Ruby that night at the docks. That part that, when Ruby's heart had stopped, had been placed within in order to start it back up.
The whole concept of "bonds" – of two Hunters binding their Auras together – had fascinated Ruby ever since Blake had informed them about it after their initiation. It seemed like something taken straight out of those fairy tales yet it was a scene from such a fable that ended up playing out in reality when Weiss had done it in order to save Ruby's life when she had been mortally wounded by Torchwick. Ruby also remembered the benefits of a bonded pair and, for this instance, it was the one that involved being able to transfer one's Aura to another.
Blake had mentioned that that and some of the other benefits took time. When a bond was formed, it would be strengthened with the experience of both parties and would allow them to be more attuned to each other to accomplish things like sharing Aura efficiently or establishing some form of near-telepathy that let Hunters fight better with each other.
"But," Blake had mentioned a few days before, having chosen to sit down and answer some of Ruby's questions about the subject to keep her leader distracted from her lack of combat exercises, "there are exceptions. Weiss bonded to you in order to save your life. A bond created during such an extreme situation, while dangerous, can have its advantages. For example, Weiss had been driven to give as much of her Aura to you as possible and your survival instincts had kicked in to make it all but natural for you to take what you could in order to live. As a result, transferring Aura can come easier to the two of you even with a fresh bond."
Ruby had been at death's door when that occurred so she couldn't remember what it had been like when Weiss had given her Aura to her. So she just began with what she knew: taking a steadying breath before drawing out her Aura, a red outline briefly flashing around her body to indicate its activation and then fading. Although Ruby wasn't a Huntress who fought with spells powered by Dust, she still knew how to manipulate her Aura and use it for things other than a shield. She could focus her Aura through Crescent Rose or other items to charge them with it so she chose to do the same thing except directing her Aura inwards, towards that part of her that was Weiss.
At first she didn't think she was doing it right, feeling nothing. She tried to imagine the bond as an invisible line connecting her and Weiss, from that part that was within her heart to the part that she had left inside Weiss to create it. Through that line she attempted to imagine her Aura flowing from one point to the other.
Weiss suddenly jerked and that was when Ruby knew she was doing it right. With each breath she took she drew up the picture in her mind of gathering her Aura within her center, and when she exhaled and her breath came out through her mouth, she imagined her Aura taking a different route, exiting through that space in her heart that was Weiss, traveling through that invisible line, and reaching the other end within Weiss that was Ruby.
The distraction nearly did Weiss in as Nora charged with Magnhild swinging. She formed another glyph and both the barrier and herself stood firm against the impact. Her Aura bar similarly held out, not dropping. Ruby opened her eyes and it was to see Weiss looking up at her. It only lasted a second but it was enough for Ruby to see the clear look of disapproval that was sent her way before her partner refocused on her duel with Nora.
This was supposed to be my duel in the first place! Ruby silently responded, smiling impishly as Weiss resumed fighting.
Despite how Weiss reacted, it didn't take long before she accepted Ruby's help. There came murmurs all around Ruby from the other students, whether they were comments made about the fight or how Weiss's Aura bar refused to drop into the red zone. Ruby even caught a reaction from Goodwitch, the professor looking up at the overhead monitor and then consulting her scroll, tapping on the device and, if Ruby had to guess, resetting the display to make sure that nothing had gone wrong.
Meanwhile, the two combatants battled on. Waving Myrtenaster more like a wand than a rapier, blue, miniature versions of her emblem were conjured up around Weiss. Directing the tip towards Nora, one-by-one the snowflakes shot towards the fast-approaching hammer-wielder. Nora dodged one, then another, but the third snowflake she caught with Magnhild, the mystical projectile impacting and freezing the hammer's head in a block of ice.
It hardly deterred Nora as she cut the rest of the distance between them to bring Magnhild in another overhead descent. Weiss slid elegantly to the side but, while she avoided the blow, when Nora slammed Magnhild into the floor, the ice surrounding it shattered and went flying everywhere. Weiss brought her arm to her face to protect it against the frozen shards.
It was an opening that Nora took full advantage, lifting and swinging Magnhild towards the distracted heiress. Weiss didn't have the chance to dodge or form a glyph, the only thing she could do was bring Myrtenaster between her and Magnhild before the latter hit.
Ruby was up on her feet and rushing down the bleachers as soon as Weiss flew back and slammed hard into the wall beneath the spectators. A number of other students were doing the same but Ruby pushed past them in order to reach the edge and peer down at her partner.
Weiss was sitting slumped against the wall but she wasn't unconscious, already moving by the time Ruby got in position. Groaning, the heiress shook her head, raising her weapon as she prepared to stand up and continue. When Myrtenaster came into her view, Ruby gasped.
The blade to the rapier was gone. A short, jagged stub was attached to the hilt but, as for the rest of the blade, Ruby located it lying near Weiss. At first glance it seemed to be relatively intact until, upon closer inspection, Ruby could make out metal fragments that had broken off and surrounded it. In addition, fractures ran all across the blade.
Weiss was similarly staring at what she had left of Myrtenaster in her hand with shock. A blue cloud was slowly forming around the hilt – Dust, venting from cracks along the cylinder -, and the heiress immediately threw it away from her.
A stunned silence had fallen over the room. Nora had become surprisingly still and, for once, her usually cheerful expression had become wiped away completely as she looked at the scattered pieces of Myrtenaster. She actually began to look nervous, like a child who had just realized that she had just done a very bad thing.
When someone did speak, it was Goodwitch. "Miss Schnee, do you cede the match to Miss Valkyrie?"
Ruby looked to the older woman in surprise, not so much because of her cool delivery – this was probably not the first time she's seen a student's weapon destroyed - but because she was actually giving Weiss a choice as if she even had one.
Myrtenaster is broken! Ruby thought disbelievingly. Weiss no longer had a weapon!
But her Aura hadn't drifted into the red. It was close, the Aura bar almost down to a quarter, yet it barely remained in the yellow. And, as Ruby mentally went over the rules, she realized that there were none that involved the destruction of a participant's weapon meaning an automatic loss. If Weiss wanted, she could choose to continue.
The heiress in question slowly rose to her feet, clearly feeling the effects of that last blow but forced herself to stand straight. Then, with a raised chin, she said, "No. I'm still able to continue."
The gathered students immediately devolved into frenzied whispering but Ruby was deaf to them, her attention on Weiss. Her partner was standing tall as a model of pride and dignity that she constantly enforced. Across from her, Nora was looking between Weiss and Goodwitch uncertainly.
Ruby saw Weiss discreetly opening the pouch hanging from her sash, a hand searching amongst the contents. A moment later and she pulled an item out and Ruby recognized it as the speedloader that she made as a gift for Weiss, containing Dust cartridges that were meant to be loaded into Myrtenaster. However, they didn't have to be loaded into the weapon in order to be used, something that Weiss demonstrated when she brought the loader in front of her, thrusting it out towards Nora. There came a bright flash followed by a bolt of lightning that lanced forward and struck Nora and Ruby swore she heard the girl's surprised shout morph into a "Woooohoohoohoo!" as she sailed across the arena, leaving behind Magnhild.
A loud buzz accompanied Nora's hard landing, followed by Goodwitch's announcement of, "And that concludes the match! The winner is Weiss Schnee!"
There were no cheers or any other exclamations that bystanders would usually make at the end of such a sparring match, the quick and hushed murmurings continuing amongst the trainees. Ruby ignored them, watching Weiss who bowed towards Goodwitch. Then, with a turn of her heel, she went to the exit, pocketing her speedloader as she did so. Not once did she regard her destroyed weapon, leaving the broken and scattered remains where they lay.
Weiss was mad, something that Ruby expected long before she left the sparring arena and went outside to the courtyard where she found Weiss practically stomping in what looked like a random direction as she wasn't heading back to their dorms. Her shoulders were raised and stiff, the heels of her boots clacking against the path.
Of course she would be mad; she just lost Myrtenaster! Ruby thought to herself as she jogged to catch up with Weiss. If anything ever happened to Crescent Rose, mad was only one of the things that Ruby would be feeling. Her scythe was her pride and joy and she had forged it with her own hands. It was with Crescent Rose that she was able to fight and initiate her dream to become a Huntress. If not for Crescent Rose, Ruby would still be back at Signal trying to find a weapon that she couldn't fight with.
If something ever happened to her scythe, mad wouldn't even begin to describe that devastating, soul-crushing experience that would follow.
So when Ruby did reach Weiss, she was caught off guard when the heiress whirled around to face her, a finger coming up to point directly to Ruby's chest as she snapped, "What was that?"
Ruby came to an awkward stop, blinking incredulously at Weiss. "What was what?"
"Don't give me that! You know exactly what you did!"
What…I did? Ruby wondered, still blinking as she regarded Weiss's angry face.
After waiting and being given nothing but Ruby's stumped silence and expression, Weiss elaborated, "You gave me some of your Aura during the match!"
It took a little longer until it dawned on Ruby that that was what Weiss was mad about. Even more perplexed by that, Ruby didn't try to deny the accusation as she admitted, "Yeah, I did but…"
"There's no 'buts' here!" Weiss went on, jabbing her finger painfully into Ruby. "That was a sparring match between me and Nora! I didn't need or want any of your help in what was my fight!"
"But I-you-wait!" Remembering just how it was that Weiss landed a duel with Nora, Ruby drew herself up to stand against her partner's assault. "Your fight? That duel was supposed to be mine and you know it! Professor Goodwitch was about to call on me but you raised your hand and stole the duel from me!"
"Of course I did!" Weiss replied, not bothering to hide it. "I was looking out for your safety like the good partner that I am! You had gotten out of the hospital and you aren't supposed to be exerting yourself, especially not with a sparring match!"
"But that was over a week ago! They said after a week I would be fine and I am! Yang let me drink all the milk I wanted this morning!"
"Drinking milk and sparring are two entirely different things, especially when it's Nora of all people! I was doing you a favor!"
"Yeah, some favor," Ruby grumbled. "That fight would've still been mine and you can't blame me for at least helping you!" A thought coming to her mind, the younger girl added, "And while that may've been a one-on-one duel, there aren't any rules that forbid me from helping you by giving you some of my Aura!"
That brought Weiss up short, silently going over the rules that she had similarly memorized. Seeing her own opening, Ruby continued, "Besides, I'm sure Nora was doing the same thing! I didn't see her Aura going down that much either towards the end!"
"…There may not be any rules against it in a regular sparring match but I'm sure there would be something in place for a real tournament," Weiss rebuked. "Anyway, that's not the point! I wasn't going to let you duel Nora!"
"You're not my mom!"
"No, but I am your best teammate! And being a best teammate means I can't let my leader get hurt! You saw that last blow I took! No way was I going to let you get hit by something like that!"
It was the reminder of that blow that Ruby remembered what happened and why she had come rushing out to Weiss in the first place. For as much as Weiss was yelling at her, not once had she mentioned the destruction of her weapon. The comprehension had Ruby biting back whatever comeback she was about to make next and, instead, she tried to direct Weiss with, "Speaking of what happened…Weiss, aren't you mad about Myrt-?"
Both girls turned to the speaker, Weiss already frowning as she spoke, "Nora, I told you not to call me that."
The bubbly ginger came to a stop in front of the two, the smile on her face not so much as twitching in response to Weiss's rebuttal. Next to her was her green-dressed partner Ren who had a vastly different demeanor from her own, looking particularly haggard. That gave Ruby some confusion as she remembered that Ren hadn't volunteered for any of the sparring matches for today. It soon clicked that, perhaps, Weiss really hadn't been the only one who had some Aura donated to her and Ruby shot the fencer a smug grin.
"Ruby, Weiss," Ren managed to greet politely, adding in a nod of his head to the two.
Weiss returned the nod and ignored Ruby. To Nora, she said, "That was a good match today, Nora; you fought well."
"Thanks, you really got me with that last one." Still with that grin, Nora began swiping a hand through her hair, Ruby only now noticing that several strands were sticking straight out due to the intense electrical charge that must've gone through her from Weiss's lightning spell.
"I do feel a little bad about that," Weiss admitted. "I can understand why you were distracted but I did tell Goodwitch that I was able to continue and the match hadn't officially ended yet."
"Yeah, about that…" Trailing off, Nora's smile weakened and she turned to Ren, silently asking for help.
"We wanted to talk to you about that," he said, coming to his partner's rescue. "Nora felt bad about what happened-"
"Really, really bad," Nora emphasized, her gaze falling down.
"And…well." Ren's stoic expression cracked and he glanced to the downcast Nora. Then, shaking his head, he said, "After you left, Nora gathered up all the pieces that she could and asked me for help. We did what we could with what we had on hand but-"
"But look!" Beaming back up at Weiss, Nora unveiled what was in her other hand that she had been hiding behind her back the whole time.
It was Myrtenaster back in one piece…sort of. Nora managed to reattach the broken blade back to the rest of the weapon but how she had done so was with a lot of tape that had been wound several times all along the length it. Between the strips Ruby was able to locate the several fractures in the metal which had been filled in with what had to be glue that hadn't dried yet. It was also glue that vainly attempted to keep some of the smaller shards that had broken off back together but they looked ready to fall right off again any second.
"Where did you get all the tape and stuff?" Ruby asked, truly curious as to how Nora managed to do all this in such a short amount of time.
Ren threw out his arm in reply, a roll of industrial-strength tape shooting out from the long, open sleeve of his tailcoat and into the palm of his hand.
Next to Ruby, Weiss was staring at her somewhat fixed sword, her smile wavering as she did the best she could to keep her expression and words polite. "Why thank you, Nora, that was…really nice of you."
"Wasn't it!?" Spurned on by the praise, Nora began waving Myrtenaster around excitedly to better show off her handiwork. "It's still got some scratches and stuff here and there but that gives it character! Once the glue dries, I'm sure it'll be good and ready for whenever you want a rematch!"
It was at that moment that there came the sound of tape ripping and a metallic clang ringing out when the damaged blade broke off and fell to the ground, those fragments scattering once more. Weiss stared blankly at it and then at Nora who froze where she was, looking at the bladeless hilt before quickly returning it behind her back.
"…The glue hadn't dried yet," she defended meekly.
"Don't worry about it," Weiss replied, burying her face into the palm of her hand. "It's broken and there's nothing I can do about it. Just throw it out; I can manage a replacement."
It was because Weiss couldn't see that she failed to notice the reaction that her words caused, her fellow trainees jerking to collectively stare at the heiress in surprise. When she did bother to look up, she frowned at them all. "What? I can't exactly fight with it now. I have it all under control, so don't worry about it."
With that, Weiss turned and resumed walking, leaving her friends to continue staring at her back before they regarded each other. It was Nora who asked the question that was on their minds. "Does she not…care about Myrtenaster?'
"I don't think she does…" Ruby replied just as slowly. She extended a hand to Nora. "Can I see that?"
Nora silently brought Myrtenaster's hilt back into view, handing it over to Ruby. Their hands happened to brush against each other and Ruby yelped, pulling hers back when some static discharge sparked between them.
Nora had done the same but was staring at her hand in wonder. "Ooooh…" Looking to Ren, she grinned evilly and proceeded to extend her index finger towards her partner, all the while ominously uttering, "Zappity zap boop."
Ignoring the two, Ruby examined Myrtenaster, able to get a better scope of the damage. From what she could see, Nora's blow had hit low, Magnhild landing just above the cylinder. Other than managing to damage and snap off most of the blade, she had also crushed the Dust exhaust port that was meant to vent the spent Dust that was used whenever Weiss unleashed her spells. Considering that Weiss had been casting moments ago, the damage resulted in that Dust becoming trapped in the cylinder and the excess pressure had resulted in the cracks that extended all along it in order for it to be released.
Other than the hilt itself and the metal prongs, everything else was a total loss. Ruby would need to crack the rapier open in order to see if the trigger mechanism and some of the other internals had been compromised but there was no chance of any repairs being made to the cylinder and the blade was similarly out of the question.
While rare, it wasn't unheard of for a Hunter's weapon to be destroyed in battle and that went double for trainees. Like any other weapon, it could happen to a Huntsman or Huntress if they didn't take proper care of it or if an exceptionally tough battle – or a series of battles – put so much stress on it that it would lead to it breaking.
And for students starting their journey to become Hunters by forging their weapons, a lesson they may run into is what happens when their construction was faulty.
"Hm..." A thought coming to her, Ruby bent down and carefully picked up the fractured blade so that she was holding both pieces of Myrtenaster, turning them around in her hands. With her visual inspection done, Ruby chose to perform a different kind.
Like before she drew out her Aura and she enveloped Myrtenaster in it much like how she would with Crescent Rose. What she ended up finding was something different from her scythe and she meant it in more than just the different shape and weight of the rapier. It was something that had Ruby, when she was done, looking down at Myrtenaster with astonishment as understanding flooded through her.
All that she was holding was a sword. A very broken - and a very dead - sword.
Weiss sat on one of the chairs, situating herself at one of the tables within Beacon's library. After tapping the power button on one of the terminals, the projector activated to produce a green holographic keyboard that appeared beneath her fingers with a screen following soon after. One-by-one, icons and other links filled it, most of them meant for students to look up and locate whatever texts they needed and were stored in the library's many shelves that filled its two floors or to access online sources.
For Weiss, she was here for neither of those, something that annoyed her. Ignoring most of the icons, she tapped a finger against one that was located at the top-left most corner of the screen.
Not exactly how I intended to spend part of my evening, Weiss thought sourly, but it can't be helped. I can't exactly keep studying at a combat school without a weapon to do combat with.
As she told the others, it would be a simple matter to get a replacement weapon. On the screen, a window popped up to show that she was currently being connected to the CCT network; the main method of communication for the kingdoms like Vale and what linked them all together, providing speedy and crystal-clear transmissions that could be made within the CCT tower itself or through public terminals like the one Weiss was using to connect to it.
The library had been closer and Weiss intended to make this call quick so she wouldn't need any of the other resources and benefits that were located at the tower. She just needed to contact the SDC's company headquarters in Atlas, order a new Myrtenaster to be built from the specs that she knew were saved for such a contingency, and then she would just have to wait until however long it took for her company's engineers to construct and then send her a new Myrtenaster when it was finished. Weiss wasn't privy to how long such a process took but she doubted it would take more than a few days with the resources and personnel that the Schnee Dust Company was armed with.
The wait didn't trouble her as she could use the time away from combat training to get further in her more intellectual pursuits; something that she prided herself in more. Besides, she was sure that she had proven herself enough for today in that regard as she managed to win despite the loss of her weapon.
Except you didn't win on your own, a voice chided her, the one that had been a part of her life growing up and being raised and trained to perfection, always demanding her to do more and always pointing out any and all flaws of her performance. Never had it ever praised her.
The thing about it in this instance though was that Weiss found it easier to ignore it. No, she didn't defeat Nora on her own in their one-on-one duel but the sense of failure wasn't hitting her with any force as it usually would. As much of an angry front she had tried to put up against Ruby, it only lasted halfway to her journey to the library. When she did think of her partner and leader now, Weiss would remember how that part of Ruby that was within her had reacted, offering the energies of the scythe-wielder's very soul to help her in her fight in a similar manner to how Weiss had done the same to save Ruby's life. That closeness that they had with each other…
A small smile crept up on Weiss's face but it took her a bit longer to notice it. It was amazing how far she and Ruby had come over the past few months: from arguing and never wanting anything to do with each other to having one save the other's life and the experience causing them to be close friends. Yes, they still argued with each other but that was something that friends did – especially when one could still be at tremendous dolt at times - and, unlike long ago, Weiss knew there was no true animosity between them. When you got right down to it, Weiss had just been worried about Ruby's health and Ruby had just wanted to help her.
Just like always. Weiss was broken from her musings when something else popped up on the screen and when she read it she immediately sat up in her seat and stared at it in confusion. No connection made. What?
The words 'Connection failed' were strewn across the screen as if to show that there was no mistake about it. Lifting a hand back up to the screen, Weiss closed the window and tried to make another connection to the CCT, only to have the same message reappear again.
Something wrong with the wifi? Weiss wondered, something that liked to quit on students who had important business such as Weiss at the worst possible times. She tapped against another corner of the screen, bringing up a status window.
[No connections are available]
Weiss cursed under her breath. Worst possible times indeed. Other than shutting down and restarting the terminal in the hopes that it would fix itself and reconnect or try another one, there wasn't much that Weiss could do other than signal for whatever tech support was usually assigned to deal with these sorts of problem. She may be intelligent but she wasn't well-versed in the inner-workings of technology nonetheless how to fix them.
Maybe she should've gone to the tower after all. One of those benefits such as direct access to the CCT network meant more reliability. The walk would've been longer and she would've had to pass through some of the security that guarded Vale's technological treasure but she'd be a lot less likely to run into any problems like these.
After a couple pointless attempts at reconnecting by restarting the terminal and switching to another one, Weiss admitted defeat as she pushed her chair back and stood up. She'll go to the tower then. Just as she turned to make her way out of the library though, something caught her eye.
There was a small box mounted on the wall, placed far enough that it would be out of the way of any students but not entirely hidden. Usually that box would be powered on, activation lights blinking along the side.
Isn't that the router? Weiss wondered, knowing just enough to recognize the device. She ventured over to take a look, finding that it was off and that was because the power switch had been set to it. Silently deliberating to herself, Weiss daringly lifted a finger and flicked the switch. The response came immediately, green lights blinking to life in quick succession.
Weiss returned to the terminal, starting it back up as soon as she sat down. When she brought up the status window, she found that she was online. Shrugging off the momentary delay, Weiss again tapped the icon that would establish a link to the CCT so that she can make a call to her company.
If she was lucky, her father wouldn't be in right now. Thinking about him caused Weiss's previous good feeling to wane as her lips turned down. Ever since starting at Beacon, she hadn't really been keeping in touch with him, only sending him the usual reports on her continuously good grades and other accomplishments to keep him satisfied that she was carrying the Schnee name with success. Not that they had ever really been close to begin with, barely seeing each other due to the work that was involved with his company and the issues going on with the White Fang.
Thinking about the terrorist organization brought in the thoughts of just what, exactly, Weiss had been planning concerning them and her participation at Beacon. She had given up on those particular motives for revenge, choosing to enjoy her life at Beacon and her friends, and if she wished to continue with that she needed a new weapon.
So she was more than a little annoyed when that screen made a reappearance.
Weiss automatically brought up the status window in reply and found that she was offline again. She didn't bother to fiddle with the terminal again, instead getting up and returning to the wall-mounted router.
It was off again, the power switch having been flipped.
Though Weiss glared at the device, she knew that it wasn't to blame. Machines don't switch themselves off like that. She scanned the area around her, trying to locate anyone nearby but the only person she could see was when she happened to catch a student up on the second floor. When she saw no one else, she silently regarded the router before switching it back on.
She marched back to the terminal, checked the status window, found that she was back online, hit the icon for the CCT-
Annnnd it was gone again.
Weiss returned to the router in a more hurried fashion in the hopes of catching what she was sure was some kind of culprit hanging around and messing with her. But, like before, she didn't see anyone; not when she speed walked to the device and not when she took the time to stop and look around. Gritting her teeth, Weiss flipped it on for the third time.
She didn't rush back to the terminal though. Her latest return trip she made purposely slow, ice blue eyes moving left-to-right.
She detected it right when she put the router out of her view: the subtle but, now that she was searching for it, barely discernable breeze that was accompanied by a similarly-quiet and short-lived rustling of cloth. Carried along that breeze was a brief but recognizable fragrance that Weiss had become far too familiar with.
This smell… Weiss retraced her steps and wasn't at all surprised to see that the device was flipped off. Unfortunately, another full swivel of her head didn't help her in locating this hidden menace.
So, she tried searching without her eyes. Closing them, Weiss focused deep down, right at that part of her heart that wasn't hers and…
There. The heiress couldn't perform this feat over long distances –not yet - but if she was in close enough proximity...
Opening her eyes, Weiss flicked the router back on. Then she turned around, pretending that there was nothing out of the ordinary as she took a step away – and then suddenly swung back around with that same foot extended.
"Gah!" The cry came from the red blur that shot by and tripped over Weiss's leg, taking the shape of a certain red-cloaked girl who faceplanted into the library floor, a shower of rose petals falling around her fallen form.
Unperturbed by the sight, Weiss leaned over Ruby, glaring down at her. "Ruby, what are you doing?"
Her partner rolled onto her back so that she could smile up sheepishly at Weiss, the gesture doing nothing to inspire mercy in the heiress or the mark that had formed at Ruby's forehead due to her fall. "Oh, hey, Weiss! Fancy meeting you here!"
"Yes, fancy meeting you here," Weiss replied sarcastically. "Right where I seem to be having connection issues with this thing here," she gestured to the router, "that keeps shutting off."
"Wow, that's super weird," Ruby remarked innocently. "Must be some kind of safety measure or something; whenever something's wrong it turns itself off. Maybe you should try again another day."
Weiss casually nodded her head but her glare remained. "Could be, could be. Or a certain someone who loves the color red, has super speed as her Semblance, and uses a scythe could be responsible."
"Huh, that someone sounds a lot like me. I didn't think there was anyone else here who has all that-"
"That's because it is you, you dolt!" Weiss snapped. She never did develop a good amount of patience when it came to these games.
"I was just trying to help!" Ruby yelped, holding up her hands to her face in anticipation for a reprimanding smack that didn't come. Or at least not yet.
"You're helping me by sabotaging me from ordering a replacement for Myrtenaster?"
Ruby lowered her hands at that so that she could stare up at Weiss with her uniquely silver and currently wide eyes. "Then you really are just having someone else make you a new one?"
Weiss lifted her scarred brow, not understanding why this was a problem. "Of course I am. Other than Dust, my company does have some of the best engineers and smiths that money can buy, all with access to the finest resources. I can have a new Myrtenaster sent to me in a few days at most."
The only way that Weiss could probably get Ruby's eyes any wider and features more shocked would be if the heiress decided to reveal that she was also a faunus by growing scales or unveiling a pair of extra ears hidden in her ponytail. "B-but…you're not going to rebuild Myrtenaster?"
"Why would I do that?" Weiss questioned. "I don't know the first thing about rebuilding Myrtenaster, not that I even built her in the first place."
Ruby lurched where she lay as if she had just been shot. "You didn't even build Myrtenaster in the first place?"
"No, of course not! What made you think I ever had the capability to do such a-?"
"It all makes so much sense!" Ruby cried, interrupting her. Hands flying up to press against the sides of her head, the younger girl began rolling around on the library floor. "I thought that was the only explanation but I didn't want to believe it was true! Why have you done this to me, Weiss?"
"What are you-?"
"My own partner! This whole time and I never knew! My heart, my heart!" One hand clutched at the area of her chest in question as Ruby continued with her erratic movements. "Why has thou done this betrayal? Why haven't you told me sooner? Oh woe is you, Weiss!"
The glare had already evaporated and all Weiss could do was stare disbelievingly as Ruby rolled to and fro at her feet. She was honestly conflicted. On the one hand, it wasn't unheard of for Ruby to be responsible for creating such a scene with her doltish antics – far from it -, and it was doubly so whenever her older sister Yang was involved to encourage her. Weiss's usual response would be to immediately snap Ruby out of it or just ignore her until she figured out just how childish she was being.
On the other hand, the distress that Ruby was expressing was genuine. Overly dramatic performance aside, Weiss could tell that some of the distraught was real although she didn't know why. What was the big deal with her not building Myrtenaster? It was that lack of understanding and Ruby choosing to conduct her shenanigans in a very public library that had Weiss deciding that going about her business was the best course of action.
Well, she tried to. A sudden hold on her leg had Weiss tripping and nearly falling, catching herself on a nearby shelf. She immediately looked down. "Let go of me, you dunce!"
"No!" Ruby objected from the floor, arms wrapped around Weiss's limb. "You're making a mistake!"
"The only mistake I'm seeing is getting you as a partner!" Weiss exclaimed, doing her best to keep moving as she took a slow step, dragging Ruby the whole while.
"Weiss, listen to me! You can't have someone else build you another Myrtenaster!"
"You don't understand!"
With a growl of frustration, Weiss ceased walking in order to glare down at the girl. "Okay, what? What don't I understand?"
Immune to her rage, Ruby met Weiss's angry gaze with a stare loaded with silent plea. "If you have someone else build you Myrtenaster, the same thing is just going to happen again because it'll be another dead weapon!"
A dead weapon? The baffling statement served to dull Weiss's irritation. "What do you mean?"
"That's what weapons that were built by someone else are called!" Ruby explained. "Weapons are supposed to be an extension of ourselves! If someone else built your weapon for you, then it was never really a part of you!"
"And you're saying that's why Myrtenaster broke?"
Ruby nodded her head quickly. "Yes!"
Weiss just continued staring down at Ruby, watching as a smile broke out on her face as she believed that the heiress was beginning to understand. Weiss was almost sorry when she flatly stated, "That's dumb. Clearly Myrtenaster was just worn out overtime or even flawed. It happens. The logical thing to do is have someone who's an expert at making weapons – something that Schnee Dust has plenty of, just so you know – and have them-"
"Nooooooo!" Ruby whined pathetically, reinitiating her death grip on Weiss.
"This is ridiculous!" Weiss tugged her leg in an attempt to free it but it quickly proved futile, forcing her to admonish, "Are you actually saying that I should rebuild Myrtenaster myself? I don't even know how to do that! I trained and studied in business and fighting, not weaponcrafting!"
"I can teach you!"
"You? Teach me?"
There came another series of hastily-delivered nods as Ruby confirmed, "Yes!"
The only thing that Weiss could do was give Ruby a look that was clearly asking if she was serious. During their entire time as partners, there was only one person who did the teaching and that was Weiss. Their beginning month was all about Weiss forcing Ruby down in a seat at their dorm or in this very library which was then followed by the older girl lecturing and quizzing the younger one to better situate her in her role as leader and one who had gotten into Beacon two years early, leaving a lot of studying that needed to be done to match up with the fighting skills that got her into the combat school.
Seeking to explain, Ruby elaborated, "It won't be that hard! Everyone at Signal had to build their own weapons and I can help you learn what we learned! It shouldn't even take that long! Myrtenaster is much simpler than Crescent Rose so it won't be anywhere near as hard helping you build her!"
Weiss gave nothing away as a silence settled and stretched between the two of them. Finally, she asked, "And how long will it take?"
"Oh, uh…" Brow furrowing in thought, Ruby slowly guessed, "A…week I wanna say. Two at most. If you have the schematics then it'll definitely be less than two weeks!"
That still sounded too long for Weiss. She did have the schematics to Myrtenaster saved to her scroll but that would be almost two weeks to build her rapier herself when she could have someone else who had her company's resources forge one in a few days. What became an immediate concern in Weiss's mind was all the time and effort that she would have to dedicate to the task and could be better used elsewhere.
The cons were definitely outweighing the pros in Weiss's mind. But, if – and this was a very big if – Ruby was speaking true and any Myrtenaster made not by her hands was fated to break again, then she would be finding herself back in this situation. And she didn't want to keep repeatedly calling on her father and his company to make a replacement. If she could do it herself…
"Weiss, you know me!" Ruby stressed. "I'm Ruby! The weapon dork! I wouldn't be telling you all of this if I didn't think I could help you do it!"
That was also true as Ruby's weapon obsession was well-known amongst the members of RWBY and their friends. Admittedly, Weiss had never put much stock into it, Ruby describing seeing new weapons as like meeting new people but better having had the fencer forever labeling her as a nut who just liked weapons. Maybe she should see if there was more to Ruby than that.
As if reading her mind, Ruby offered, "Can I at least show you what you were missing?"
Weiss briefly looked back to where the terminal was, a call and an order that can take only minutes tempting her to just leave – or drag – Ruby in order to make it and be done with it. When she peered back down at her leader though, it was to see watery silver eyes staring pleadingly up at her while a lip quivered beneath them.
There was only one choice Weiss could make. That didn't mean that it was the sensible one but when was it ever when it came to this dolt of hers?
Author's Note: I've seen one…maybe two fics where authors have decided to try and write what the forging process may be like for weapons, specifically ones for Huntsmen and Huntresses. Ruby mentioning that Signal students forge their own weapons all the way back in Volume 1 had perked my interest and I've happened to stumble across a couple forums overtime where people have debated about the feasibility of a girl like Ruby creating her own weapon – or anyone so young for that matter. Of course, quite a few of them like to throw out how things are done in the real world and tend to forget that the world of RWBY is one of fiction which means our characters have fictional means that can help them do things that would obviously be impossible in the real world.
Monty and the crew have mentioned that there are plans in the future for our characters to either change or completely replace their weapons so we may get some canon information soon about how, exactly, the forging process is done. Until then, I'm totally going to have as much fun with this as I can until it's disproven. Hopefully you're all intrigued and would like to see my take on it. And, since I'm actually getting some free days, it won't take me that long to complete this fic! …Unless I decide to do something silly like play some Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Brain: Why would you do that?
Because I have a sudden, powerful urge to reinstall it, create a Jedi character, and play through Tython again!
Brain: We gotta start the next chapter!
But I wanna build my lightsaber!
Brain: Ugh, fine. Maybe that'll give you the proper motivation when we do get the ball rolling next chapter…