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Volume 1: Portal

Ruby vs...?

I sat silently, watching the sunset fade. The layers of purple and orange sky were one of my favorite sights. A light breeze blew through my hair, bringing a fresh smell of leaves and pine needles from the forest below.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" said Weiss, as she sat down next to me.

I nodded. Today had been a tough day. Last night, we'd found the White Fang hiding in the Mountain Glenn, and Torchwick had been with them. We'd fought them on the train to prevent them from getting into the town, but they'd still made it inside, and dozens of people had been hurt by the Grimm insurgence.

I felt responsible. We hadn't been able to stop the train from crashing through the walled off portions of the tunnels that had led into the city. While no one from Vale had died, at least a few of the White Fang members had been eaten by Grimm. Torchwick had been caught, but I couldn't help but feel this was just the beginning.

Blake and Yang sat down a moment later. It still feels weird to be the leader. Especially with Yang. Sometimes it helps to have her on the team, and other times, it feels like I can't ever get away from her. Blake helps the most in that regard. She's always ready to follow orders, and gives the best advice when I need it.

I can remember one time after classes where I was really feeling the burden, and Blake came up to me and thanked me for all my hard work. She said that, quote, "She'd seen the burdens of leadership," and that, "Sometimes, you just need to let it all out. If you ever need someone to talk to, I'm here."

I haven't taken her up on her offer yet, but just knowing it's there helps.

I was about to speak, when my scroll rang. Yang raised an eyebrow. I shrugged, and answered.

It was Professor Ozpin.

"Good evening, Ruby."

"Evening, Professor."

"Sorry to call on you so late, but I have an urgent mission. Normally, I wouldn't ask you, but you're the only team I can call on right now. Could you and your team come up to the cafeteria?"

I looked at Weiss helplessly. Out of all of us, she seemed to be the most tired, but she was alert, just from Ozpin's voice. "Sure, Professor, just give us a minute."

"Thank you, Ruby, for your dedication. I'll see you in a minute."

The call ended, and I stood up. "Let's go see what he wants." I helped Weiss to her feet.

"What kind of mission do you think this could be, if he's calling on us?" asked Blake.

"It must be important, but not especially difficult, if he's calling on us now," guessed Weiss. "If it was too hard, he'd call in an experienced hunter team. We're just the most convenient."

"I sincerely hope that's the case," said Yang. "I don't know about you, but I'm beat. This had better be an easy in and outer."

It took two minutes to reach the cafeteria. Professor Ozpin was waiting for us when we got there, sitting on a table and sipping from his mug. A thermos stood on the table, but I had no idea what it was for.

"We're here, Professor," I said in a hopefully energetic voice.

"I know you must be tired right now, after your previous mission, but something has come up." He pulled out his scroll, and a holographic image appeared.

"A team of researchers detected a large energy reading this morning, just after the breach. This is the only image we have."

The hologram showed what appeared to be a large golden ring, about the size of a person. The interior of the ring was black and distorted.

"Your mission is to investigate this ring, and report back immediately." He took a sip of coffee. "I have a thermos of coffee here for you, to imitate what sleep cannot. I suggest taking a nap in the bullhead beforehand, as well."

"Thanks, Professor."

"The risk of Grimm on this mission is low, as we are fairly close to Vale, but be wary. I expect to hear from you in three hours, with another successful mission under your belt. Good luck."

He stood, giving a warm smile, and left. I grabbed the thermos and stuffed it into my bag. It was warm to the touch, and I could feel the energy it would give us even through the metal.

The mission plan was simple. We'd drop in from the bullhead, and get the data for the scientists, and walk back to the bullhead. There wasn't any easy landing place nearby, but it would only take about an hour on foot to reach the extraction point after the drop off.

I fell asleep almost as soon as we lifted off, and didn't wake until Weiss gently shook me ten minutes from the drop point.

"Do you think we'll need the coffee?" I asked. "I feel rested enough."

"Let's bring it along, just in case, but I don't think we need to break it out here," agreed Weiss.

Blake was reading another novel, one I didn't know the title of. Yang was sitting quietly, brow furrowed. I wondered what she was thinking about. She had been oddly quiet today, but I didn't know if that was from the mission or something else.

"We're at the drop point," said Dr. Naina. "The device should give you accurate enough readings to find it."

I looked at the device in my hand. It had a small display showing an arrow pointed mostly downward. The rest of my team stood up, ready to leap out. I slipped the device into my bag.

And then I leaped out of the plane.

Crescent Rose unfolded as I twirled it, ready to catch the first tree branch strong enough to hold my weight. I spotted an easy branch, and aimed myself towards it. My baby caught on and I spun around the tree branch once, twice, three times, shedding as much speed as I could each time around.

Folding it again briefly, I continued downward, catching two more branches, before landing softly on the pine needles littering the forest floor. Weiss came running up, Blake and Yang joining us moments later. I pulled the device out of my bag, showing the arrow pointing to the left.

"Let's get this over with," said Blake.

We took off at a light run, and found the ring in about a minute. The ring was made of pure gold, and encircled the distortion we'd seen on the hologram. "What is it?" I asked.

Weiss stepped closer to get a better look. Carefully running her finger along the outside of the ring, Weiss replied, "It's a golden ring. Quite well made, but other than that, I couldn't tell you anything about it. What does the device say?"

I looked at the display. "I'm holding the sensor towards the ring, but all I'm getting is a message that it's acquiring data."

Blake squinted, so I asked, "Do you see anything, Blake?"

"Nothing concrete, but there are subtle movements in the colors. It's almost as if this was some kind of screen, but with the display all distorted."

I looked closer at the distortion, and I saw the colors shifting. Like Blake said, it was subtle, but the more I looked at it, the more clearly I saw the image through the distortion.

Yang walked around to the other side. "It looks different on this side. Come see."

Blake and I walked around the ring and saw what Yang was talking about. It was clearly a different image. Something about it was off. I reached out my right hand, not to touch, but when my hand got close, the distortion rippled. Setting down the device, I put my hand into the distortion.

"Ruby!" exclaimed Weiss and Yang.

"I'm okay," I said. I was lying, but it was instinctive. I couldn't feel my hand at all. I tried to pull my hand out, but it felt like it was moving through molasses, and the distortion moved along with it. Just as it seemed like my hand would come out, the distortion enveloped me.

I screamed. I kicked and flailed about, and my foot struck the ground and I fell on my face. I pushed myself to a sitting position and glanced around. It was pitch black. I thought I could feel other presences, but I wasn't sure. A cold sensation ran up my right arm, and I shivered.

I touched my right hand, and it felt cold and unresponsive. I tried to flex my fingers, and they barely responded. I felt something brush by my ear, and I swatted at it, but found nothing. I looked around me, but I couldn't see anything. I put my hand to my face, but I couldn't see it move.

Again, I tried to move my hand, but it wouldn't move. I clutched it close to my chest. My arm felt cold and warm at the same time. The air was dank and frigid. I reached into my bag for my blanket and covered myself.

Tears began to run down my cheeks. I cried, clutching my unresponsive arm close, trying to convince myself that this was all a dream. We hadn't actually made it to the ring yet. I was still asleep in the bullhead. I pinched myself, but it didn't work. I didn't wake up. I was here, all alone.

Weiss vs. Zubat

I stared in horror as Ruby was sucked up by the black distortion. My instincts were confused, telling me to run away and to rescue Ruby at the same time. So I did neither, frozen still.

"Ruby!" Blake had to physically hold Yang back from jumping into the portal after her. I came to my senses and got in front of her.

"Yang, you have to calm down!" I said. "Rushing in after her will accomplish nothing!"

"But…I can't loose her," whispered Yang.

"And you won't," I promised. "But we need to think before we act. The distortion only reacted when Ruby touched it. It's safe to assume that it won't do anything if we think for just a minute."

Yang nodded, wiping away some dampness from her eyes.

"The first order of business is to assure the completion of the mission," I began. Yang started to cut me off, but I held up a hand. "That's not difficult. All we need to do is get this back to the scientists."

I examined the device. "It will probably take about another three minutes or so to collect the data they need. We need to decide what to do in that time. We have a couple of options, and two objectives."

"Get Ruby back, and complete the mission," said Yang.

"Exactly. The first option is to do nothing, and return in three minutes. No go." Yang nodded emphatically.

"Second, we all go into the distortion. Risky, and puts the completion of the mission at…risk."

Yang snickered, and I glared briefly. "Third, we split up. Again, risky, and leaves too many unknowns."

"So we call for backup," said Blake.

"So we call for backup," I repeated. "Safest, and leaves us in a position to react if something goes wrong."

I pulled out my scroll, and dialed Dr. Naima. He picked up on the first ring. "Miss Schnee, report."

"Ruby touched the distortion inside the ring, and it reacted, and sucked her through the ring. She's disappeared, and we don't know where to. We're uncertain if this has caused any changes to the ring."

"…troubling. No other reaction, besides Ruby interacting with it?"

"None. It appears the same as it did when we arrived. It will take another two minutes for the device to finish collecting the data."

"Dialing Headmaster Ozpin now. Stay put until you receive further orders."

The line ended.

"So we wait?" asked Yang.

"We wait," I said. "Unless something happens to the…."

The ring had started rotating. "Weiss, what do we do?" asked Yang.

Once it made a full revolution, it began to shrink. "Go!" I said. I pressed the record button on my scroll and said, "Ring shrinking, going through!" before hitting the send button and dropping it on the ground. Yang had jumped through the ring, and Blake was climbing through. I noticed that the ring had stopped shrinking when they had been in contact with the distortion, so I stuck my hand in first.

The sensation is hard to describe. I lost all feeling in my hand, but the distortion around my wrist felt no different and like molasses at the same time. I hurriedly threw myself through the distortion, and hoped that I would make it.

"–ough in a moment."

I appeared in what seemed to be a cave. I didn't have much time to look before I fell to the ground, and bruised my knee. Yang was holding a flashlight, and sitting next to a smiling Ruby.


"Ruby!" Despite her being gone for only about three minutes, it was good to have her back.

"And it's completely gone now," said Blake. I looked behind me to see what Blake was talking about. I couldn't see anything, so I turned to her.

"The ring," she elaborated. "We now have no idea where we are or how to get back."

"Did you check your scroll?" I asked.

"No signal. Could mean anything."

I sighed. "So, Ruby, notice anything yet?"

"There's a time dilation between the two sides," she said. "Approximately twenty times faster on this side."

I ran that through my head. "So three seconds there was a minute here?"

Yang nodded. "I noticed it when Blake didn't come after me immediately. I asked Ruby how long she'd been here, and she said probably over an hour."

I winced. I hadn't meant to leave Ruby alone for that long, even unintentionally. "That's useful for us, though."

"Not really," said Blake. "Time dilation means nothing good. Sure, we might have more time here, but why? The two most plausible answers are both depressing."

"What would those be?"

"We're near a hyper-gravitational force like a black hole, or we've gone to a different dimension."

"Meaning that distortion was warping of space-time?"

"Even if it was just teleportation, it would involve warping of space-time."

"Wouldn't it be the opposite if we were near a hyper-gravitational force?" asked Yang. "Because time slows down when you reach speeds close to the speed of light."

"That's only been theorized," said Blake. "It could be the exact opposite."

"I think you were just reading too many sci-fi novels," said Yang. "You're just too much of a bookhole."

"That was terrible, Yang," I said. "One of your worst."

"Oh come on, at least I was trying!"

"You don't have to compare my reading habits to that of a black hole," said Blake.

"Actually, I was going more for the wormhole angle, but…."

"What are you guys saying?" wailed Ruby. We all looked at her. "You guys are going on about hyper-dimensional grocers and light speed, and I don't get it."

"Basically, because time flows differently on the two sides of the distortion, we're either on a faraway planet, or in another universe," said Blake.

Ruby's face fell. "Oh."

There was a long pause. "Does that mean we'll never get home?"

Blake shook her head. "Chances aren't good. We don't know what caused that distortion, but if we can recreate it, then we can get home."

I shivered. "So, where are we, then?"

Yang shined the flashlight around the cave. It was actually more of a cavern, with a higher ceiling and large open space. "Underground, most likely," said Blake.

Yang glanced at the wall. "If we're underground, it's really dry right now."

"Could be winter here."

"Please no," I said. "I don't have clothing for winter weather. I'm cold enough in here already."

"Let's start exploring," said Yang. "We need to get out of this cave, one way or another."

Blake tensed, and I reached for Myternaster. "Hear something?"

"It's probably nothing. Just a bat."

A dark streak flew past and Blake swatted it out of the air. The animal gave a pained screech. "Blake!" I exclaimed. I knelt down beside the animal, and Yang shone the light on it. The bat had a blue body and purple wings with no eyes and two stiff legs. One of its wings was bent at an odd angle.

"Poor thing. Probably best to put it out of its misery."

A faint bell sound chimed behind me. I turned and briefly saw a floating creature that darted from Yang's light.

"Yang, put that away," I said.

I turned back to the creature. "It's okay. You can come out. We won't hurt you."

It slowly came toward me. I motioned gently. It came into the light, and I gasped.

Immediately I was reminded of a wind chime. The head was large and spherical, resembling a bell. Its blue body was flat and elongated, which swayed gently back and forth.

The chime floated around me, showing concern for the bat. Then it began to sing.

As the notes rang through the cavern walls, I was startled to recognize the tune. It was the tune of my mother's music box, which she would wind before my bedtime and sing to. I started singing along with.

"My love, the sun is growing darker

In the trees, the birds take to their nest

Far above, the stars shine even brighter

Please now rest."

All while I was singing, the chime had glowed brightly, and a wave of pink energy wafted over the cavern. As the energy washed over me, I felt my bruises and aches disappear. I watched as the bat's wing, which had been bent and broken, snap back into place, leaving no trace of the injury.

The chime turned to me and tinkled, smiling. Blake asked, "What was that?"

"It was a song my mother used to sing to me before I went to bed. I haven't heard it in years, but I still remember it."

"It was beautiful," she murmured.

"Thank you." I meant it. I hadn't sung publicly for over a year now, and I was out of practice.

The chime had cocked its head curiously as we were talking. It bobbed closer to me, still tinkling. "It's okay," I said. "You can come here."

I motioned with my hand, and it brushed up against arm. The chime rang a clear, wistful note, which echoed into the distance. It smiled again, and rested against my shoulder.

"That's adorable," squealed Ruby.

"Now you have to name it," said Yang.

I rolled my eyes, but the suggestion wasn't a bad one. I thought about how the chiming sound had echoed in the cavern, and decided. "I'll call you Chimecho."

Blake vs. Machoke

As Weiss played with her new pet, I felt a light breeze coming from the end of the cavern. I sniffed it, and it smelled fresh and crisp. "Do any of you feel that breeze?"

"Now that you mention it," said Yang. "Yes. I do."

"Let's go," said Ruby. I put a hand on her shoulder and smiled. With the time dilation, she had spent over an hour in the dark cave, alone. I knew she would appreciate the gesture. I glanced at her right hand, which was still slightly blue. Since she had stuck her hand in first, and for at least five seconds, it had been without air for that long.

Ruby saw my gaze and shrugged wistfully. She was holding up better than I thought. When she'd been selected as the leader of team RWBY, I had been a little skeptical. Would she be able to handle the responsibilities of being a leader? I gave her the benefit of the doubt, and so far, she had proven herself capable.

But now was the real test. And whether or not we pulled through, well…that was up to her.

Yang went first, holding the flashlight. The cave wound around to the left, and I saw light on the cave wall. Snow was scattered around the cave entrance, and cold gusts of air blew in, making me shiver.

"So it's winter here," said Weiss, rubbing her arms.

"Not necessarily," I said. "We could be on a mountain."

"With our luck, who knows," said Ruby. I glanced at her blanket enviously. I hadn't brought my bag with, thinking I wouldn't need it. I should have known that any mission we took wouldn't be that simple.

"We should go back inside," said Yang. "I think I speak for all of us when I say we're tired. We should probably set up a watch, too. Anyone actually have a watch?"

"I can set a timer on my scroll," I said. "I have enough power to last for a couple of days if I plan it right."

"We each take two and a half hour watches," said Ruby. "We're still exhausted from last night. No need to push ourselves. I can take first watch; I got the most sleep on the bullhead."

"I can take second watch, to help with the timer," I said.

"Last watch!" said Yang.

"Last watch, dangit Yang!"

I snickered, but as we made our way back into the cave, I wondered what tomorrow would bring. We were in a snowy area, without any equipment or food, and no way to contact anyone. We could only last so long here.

I set the timer for Ruby, and made myself as comfortable as I could. The ground was cold and hard, though Ruby's bag made a decent pillow. Ruby gallantly gave up her blanket for Weiss and Yang, wrapping her cloak tightly around herself. Despite the conditions, I fell asleep quickly. I really was exhausted. It had been one long day.

My watch couldn't move any quicker. Time seemed to crawl in here, in spite of the time dilation. I kept wondering how, and why. Why had we been the ones to get caught in this? How had this even happened? So far, all we knew was that the ring had appeared, giving off lots of energy. Then when we had gone through, there had been a time dilation.

There weren't a lot of clues. Was this the work of a semblance? Some rogue on their own? Were they connected to the White Fang? What if this really was a different dimension? Had this been some experiment gone wrong? If so, why had the end destination been here? What was so special about a cave?

I had so many questions, and it would be difficult to even answer one of them. So far, the biggest clue we had was the chime-like creature Weiss had befriended. Nothing like it existed on Remnant. It bore none of the marks of a Grimm, and had even demonstrated healing powers.

All in all, we were in a terrible situation. I couldn't see any easy way out, barring a miracle of some sort.

Then I heard faint footsteps coming from the cave entrance. Slowly, I unsheathed Gambol Shroud, careful not make any noise. The footsteps grew closer, until I could see the dim outline of a man. I relaxed somewhat.

"Hello?" I called out softly. The man started. He was short and stocky, with overdefined musculature. "Can you understand me?"

The man crept closer. I poured aura into my eyes, to sharpen my vision even further. I nearly squeaked in surprise.

It wasn't a man coming closer; it was an alien. I knew I should have expected it, but it still bothered me when I saw it. It had a reptilian face, and three ridges on the top of its head. All it seemed to be wearing was a pair of underwear. For an alien, its body structure was remarkably like a human's, though Galaxy Adventure should have taught me that. Perhaps this was a superior race, one that had been the origins of humans? Or maybe it was this universe's closest equivalent to a human, and they had been searching for us all this time.

Whatever the case, I needed to communicate somehow. I wasn't sure how they communicated, or their level of night vision, but I also wasn't sure how it would react to me turning on a flashlight. There were far too many unknowns here. I wasn't even sure if they communicated verbally!

But this might also be the only chance we had to survive. We couldn't last more than five days with our limited supplies, and whatever this being had, it had to be better than what we did.

The being seemed oddly tense, like it was seeing something it didn't understand. Quite possibly, it didn't know what I was, either. Perhaps aura might help. It might not be able to understand me with words or gestures, but I might be able to convey my emotions through my aura.

I guided my aura towards the being, a white, hazy trail of pure aura emitting from my hand. This spooked the being, and it retreated towards the door. I let my aura dissipate. "Wait! Please don't go!"

But it was too late. The being had run off. I had scared away our first chance of survival. I wasn't desperate enough to think it was our only chance, but certainly not the best first meeting.

I shivered as I wrapped my arms around me. A blast of cold air had just entered the cave, further emphasizing my mistake. The last portion of my watch went by uneventfully, and all I could do was think about how I had messed up. I had made assumptions, and it had cost me. I wasn't even sure if the being would understand aura.

I woke Weiss. "Watch for a humanoid," I said. "One came in the cave about half an hour ago. I tried to communicate through aura, but it scared him off."

She rubbed her eyes. "Any distinguishing features?"

"Short, stocky; had three ridges on its head."

"It's not your fault, Blake," she whispered.

I didn't reply, instead showing her how to use the timer app, and curled up on Ruby's bag. Whether or not Weiss was right, thinking about this further would have to wait until morning.

Yang vs. Bronzong

Weiss woke me up by pulling the blanket from over me. I spluttered for a moment, and regained my bearings. I wasn't at home, or Beacon. I was in a cave on a different planet. The thought depressed me.

"Blake spotted an alien on her watch. She said it was short and stocky, with three ridges on its head."

This, however, was good news. "So it was humanlike?"

Weiss shrugged. "She didn't give any other details, so I assume yes. But it ran off when Blake tried to use her aura to communicate."

"So aura is a no-no."

"She didn't seem to take that well. She probably thought it was all her fault it ran off."

That was one of Blake's biggest flaws. She tended to take everything on herself, and when stuff went wrong, blamed herself for it. "We'll talk about it in the morning. Good night, Weiss."

She made herself comfortable under the covers, leaving me to my thoughts. My thoughts drifted to the happenings of the previous day.

Of all the things I remember, the moment when I woke up after getting knocked out against the umbrella user is the least defined and most important. I remember seeing a woman, cloaked in red and wearing a Nevermore mask, disappearing through a portal.

She had to be connected to me somehow, because she had rescued me. I had a hope, a faint, distant, expectant hope, that she was my mother. Or at least connected to her in some way. In that brief moment, I had felt a connection, one I had only felt with one other person on the planet–Summer. Ruby's mother.

The hours ticked by, though I didn't monitor the timer. I could just feel the minutes go, second by second, waiting in this frozen cave. I pitied Blake, because out of all of us, she had the least protection from the cold. We all needed to find someplace safer.

Maybe it was the extended fight yesterday, or that we were in a new environment, but I felt drained. Drained, and wanting to rest. I hadn't felt this way before. Not since I got lost with Ruby when I was six. This whole place made me feel uneasy. Like there was a greater power here that was best left alone.

I was interrupted from my thoughts by the appearance of three large bells. They seemed to be moving on their own power, and floated above the ground, completely silent. I honestly wasn't sure how to react. These had come out of nowhere, and didn't seem to be hostile. I watched them carefully. Who knows what these bells could do. After all, the wind chime creature had been able of producing a healing aura.

That was probably the biggest question I had right now. What kind of life lived here? I had seen three examples so far, if counting the giant bells. Blake had seen a humanlike creature, though it had run off. I couldn't explain its behavior without seeing the event, but it had me wondering. Were there even Grimm here? It was hard to imagine a world without the constant threat of the Grimm. We were likely somewhere in the wilderness, not too close to civilization.

Then again, speculation wasn't really helpful. We could speculate all we want, and it wouldn't change the realities before us. We were lost, brought to an unknown location by a method that strongly implied purpose. Again, we could speculate on all the different ways it could have happened, but in the end, did it really matter?

The timer on Blake's scroll went off, and I roused the rest of my team. "Wakey wakey!"

"Giant purple pancake-men!" shouted Ruby. She glanced about the cave wildly.

"It was just a dream, Ruby," I said.

"You don't know that," she retorted. "You weren't there."

"What's the plan?" asked Weiss.

Ruby shook herself awake. "We go exploring. But first, we need to go over what we have. I have my bag, but what did you all bring with you?"

"I have my pack with emergency rations, extra water bottle, and dust cartridges." Weiss stroked the length of Chimecho's body. "I have enough food for about–"

She paused to calculate. "Five days, if we stretch it. We'll need water before that, but we won't be egregiously hungry for five days."

"I left my bag on the other side of the portal," said Blake. "I had some other supplies, like matches, more rations, a blanket, and some other necessities, but I don't have it."

"I did too," I said. "Had the usual things, but since I don't have it, it doesn't matter."

"I have the blanket," said Ruby, folding up the cloth, "some matches, Crescent Rose's mobile repair kit, and a compass, but no food. Oh, and Ozpin's thermos."

Weiss passed me a granola bar. "The compass is helpful," said Blake. "But what is our main objective with our exploring?"

"We need to know what kind of place we are at right now," I said. "We also can't stay here very long; we'll run out of food."

Blake sighed. "I'm not sure how helpful that'll be. On my watch last night, I saw a being that resembled a short, stocky man. I tried to communicate to him through aura, but that scared him off. Did he reappear?"


"No, though I saw something else during my watch," I said, crunching on the overly hard granola bar.. "There were these three giant bell-like things that floated past. They didn't make any kind of sound, and didn't seem to notice me at all."

"Anyone else?" asked Ruby. "No? Was there anything that stood out to you about him, Blake?"

"Well, he only wore a piece of underwear, so he's good in the cold. His face looked reptilian, and he had three ridges on his head. He was also pretty muscular."

"That's not a lot to go on," said Weiss. "I'm not sure there's a lot we can do about this. If this is a civilized species, then there should be some signs of their dwellings close by."

"We don't know how remote this area is," countered Blake. "This might be a hermit, and we just scared him off."

Ruby chewed on her granola bar thoughtfully. "We really shouldn't make assumptions either way. We already know where the cave entrance is, so let's see what's out there."

"What if the portal reopens?" I asked. "We can't rule out that possibility either."

"There isn't a lot we can do about that," said Blake. "And taking some action is better than no action."

"What if we left a message?"

"What would we say?" asked Weiss.

"How about our team name? Easy enough to recognize, and if we put an arrow pointing to where the exit is, they can follow us."

"That covers that," said Ruby.

"How will we leave the message?" asked Weiss.

"We could carve it into the ground," suggested Ruby.

"With what?" asked Blake.

Ruby froze.

"You were thinking of Gambol Shroud, weren't you?"

She nodded.

Blake unsheathed her Variant Ballistic Chain Scythe. "Fine, I'll do it."

She began carving into the stone, and I covered my ears to block out the shrill screech of steel on stone. It took her about a minute. Ruby passed me Ozpin's thermos, and I took an experimental sip.

While the coffee was cold, I could feel energy seep back into areas I didn't realize were tired. The slight headache I had disappeared, leaving me with clearer thoughts than before. "Wow," was all I could say.

"Figured we could break it out now," said Ruby. "Makes you wonder what Professor Ozpin feels like all day."

After Blake had finished carving our team initials into the ground, we walked to the exit. Weiss and I devised a brilliant plan to stay warm, and wrapped the blanket around ourselves, and matched each other, pace for pace. I had to take smaller strides to stay even with Weiss's shorter legs, but I was definitely warmer. Chimecho floated alongside us, chiming amiably.

Outside the cave, we stood on a ledge overlooking the mountain slope below us. The sun shone brightly in the east. We were near the summit of the mountain, and I could see smaller mountains to the north and south. To my left, I saw an area of downed forest covered in snow that extended down the mountain.

"Do you see any signs of civilization?" asked Weiss.

I gazed over the amazing view once again. "Nope."

"Looks like they had an avalanche recently," said Blake. "Think we should take a closer look?"

"If there was an avalanche recently, then the ground might still be unstable," said Weiss. "I wouldn't recommend it."

"Ruby, what do you think?" I asked.

Ruby's eyes wandered over the area. "How recent do you think this avalanche was?"

Weiss said, "It's hard to tell without getting closer, but it definitely happened more than a couple of days ago. The snow has melted towards the bottom of the avalanche."

"So people who would have been caught in it would have been found already." The way Ruby said it, it wasn't a question.

"Most likely," said Weiss.

"We'll walk along the edge," decided Ruby. She smiled. "Let's go!"