Ruby ran down into the cafeteria. "Hey, Yang! I got the...where did you get popcorn?"
"Kchn," she said around a mouthful of popcorn. She finished chewing and swallowed. "The kitchens are right next to the cafeteria."
"...Okay, but why are you eating popcorn?"
"Oh, it's gotten even better since you left."
This was true, depending on your tastes. When Ruby left, Cardin and Blake were in a heated argument. Now, Weiss and JNPR (aside from Ren, who was still trying to eat lunch) had joined Blake's side, while Cardin's team joined him. Weiss and Jaune were more or less as composed as ever, but Nora was livid, and even Pyrrha was red in the face and screaming. Around them was a loose ring of students and a few faculty, waiting for a teacher to break up the fight or just watching.
"Why aren't you doing anything?" Ruby asked.
"Not really the argumentative type," Yang said.
"I mean why aren't you stopping—never mind." Ruby used her Semblance to get between the two groups of arguers. "I've got an idea, guys!"
Everyone in the room stared at Ruby.
"Well...I mean, it—the argument, I mean—isn't just that Blake grabbed the last taco. It's that you guys just really, really don't like each other."
"Of course I don't like him," Blake said. "Cardin's a discriminatory, callous thug!"
"And Blake's a know-it-all bitch!" Cardin said.
"Isn't that a girl dog?" Nora asked.
Everyone stared at her, for reasons varying from "What is she talking about?" to "Shut up, shut up, shut up…"
"Because, you know, it sounds like something you'd call a dog faunus girl. And Blake isn't a dog faunus. Or a faunus of any kind, really. Obviously."
"Why don't you go sit with Ren?" Jaune asked.
"Okay, sure!" Nora quickly scooted over to the table where Ren was finishing lunch.
"...Anyways," Ruby said, "I have a great idea for getting rid of our frustrations at each other. Come on, guys, we've bugged everyone else enough. Jaune, bring your team, too. And Cardin, if you have any friends, you can bring a team of them, too."
"What do you mean, if I have friends?"
"Come on, let's go to the library!" Ruby ran out of the cafeteria. Weiss followed her with a sigh, and she was followed by Blake, Pyrrha, and Jaune, who paused by Ren and Nora.
"You should probably come, too."
Ren sighed. "Just once, I'd like to finish lunch before I leave the cafeteria."
"I'll help!" Nora said, grabbing Ren's muffin.
"That's not what I—" Ren sighed. I'd also like to eat all of my lunch one of these days.
"Chelsea," said Yang.
"Yang," said a tall, thin, blue-haired girl named Chelsea.
"Those two know each other?" Weiss asked.
"Chelsea went to Signal with Yang," Ruby explained.
"So do half of the Huntsmen in Vale," Blake said.
"Closer to forty percent," Ren said. "Approximately one in five Beacon students."
"Well, Chelsea's from Patch, too, so they knew each other a little beforehand," Ruby said. "I don't think they get along well, though."
"No," Yang said.
"Nope," Chelsea agreed.
Yang sighed. "Somehow, I'm not surprised that you're hanging out with Cardin."
"Is he one of Lark's friends?"
"His leader," said one of Chelsea's teammates, a short, pale-haired boy in a gray vest and white sweatpants. "I haven't met him much."
"So, wait," Blake said. "You're not Cardin's friends…"
"...we're Lark's, yes," the teammate said. "Some of us, at least."
"Ruby asked Cardin to bring some of his friends," Yang said.
"And now he's late," Ruby whined. "Where is he?"
"Maybe you guys could pass the time by introducing us to your...friends?" Jaune suggested.
"We're not friends," Chelsea said. "I'm Chelsea Halloran, leader of Team CSHL. I'm also pretty awesome."
"Meaning 'conceited'," Yang said.
"This is Sea Loipe," Chelsea continued. "He's Lark's friend, a bit twitchy but quick and good with his silly swords. That's my partner, Shelley Kylpe. She doesn't talk much, but trust me, she's smart. Finally, the big guy's Haiyang Seshia, you can call him Hai."
"I'd prefer you not to," Hai grumbled.
"Cardin's here," Jaune said before slipping between a couple of bookshelves.
"Finally!" Ruby said. She got up on a table. "Friends, enemies, strangers, Weiss—"
"I'm not sure if I'm being intentionally insulted," Weiss muttered.
"We are gathered here today to finally end the dispute between our teams once and for all!" Ruby declared, before slamming a wide, thin paperback book on the table.
Fifteen sets of eyes stared at the volume, ignoring a librarian attempting to shush them.
"'Shadowbeat'?" Ren asked.
"Everything's shadow-something with these books," Ruby explained. "Shadowrun, Shadowboxer, Shadowtech, Shadowland, Corporate Shadowfiles, Shadows of Europe—"
"What's a yerup?" Nora asked.
"I dunno, some fictional kingdom. Anyways—"
"Is that a dragon on the cover?" Lark asked.
"Yeah, the world it's set in has dragons," Ruby said before sighing. "They also have sorcery, and cyberstuff, and spirits, and something called eckeltricity that they use instead of Dust...not important, this thing doesn't have any of that. What is important, is this." Ruby dramatically opened the book to the given page, only to have it promptly flop shut.
"Here," Shelley said, handing Ruby two small, thick books.
"Neither of these has—! Oh, I see." Ruby used the thick books to pin Shadowbeat open.
Blake sighed. "That can't be good for the book…"
"Just get on with it," Cardin said. He was shushed by the librarian.
"Right!" Ruby said. "There's this game called Urban Brawl—well, I guess it's more of a sport really, but—it's a thing people do with guns and streets and a couple balls and motorcycles and stuff, and the rules and stuff are all in here. You're supposed to get your ball into the other team's goal circle, and then you get a point. There's a bunch of other rules, like you need to move your ball pretty much right away and can't stay still, but we'll be changing some rules. Like, there's restrictions on what weapons people can have, and there's a medic which we don't need—people in this world don't have Aura, so—"
"No Aura?" Jaune said.
Shelley frowned. "So, if people in this world got shot...they would be injured, maybe even killed?"
"Anyways," Ruby continued, "I figured we could just get two teams on each team—like, two Beacon teams on each Brawl team—and then we'd give one guy on each team a motorcycle—that'd be the Outrider—"
"Let's get the gist straight," Cardin said. "This is about me and Blake, right?"
"Well, kinda, yeah?"
"So it's me and my friends—"
"I've never met you," Hai said. "I think I liked it that way."
"—against Blake and her friends, shooting at each other and eventually trying to score goals?"
Ruby nodded. "Pretty much."
Cardin smiled. "I'm in."
"Great!" Ruby smiled. "Does anyone know what a meter is?"
That night, several teams gathered in the dark streets of Vale, deep in the business district (which was closed for the night). They brought water-soluble spray paint to mark the edges of their "Brawl Zone," four blocks long by three blocks wide. Each block was patrolled by a couple of students, friends and friends-of-friends of the combatant teams, making sure that the rules were being followed.
Each team had a circle of the same spray same paint marking their goal, about ten feet wide (as close as they could guess to "four meters"). The teams' balls were just soccer balls covered in more spray paint. Each team member had their weapons and a photocopy of the modified Urban Brawl rules on their person; Cardin was reviewing them with his team.
"Eight people to a side," he said. "Check. All of us, including the Outrider, get to take our weapons in and use them. Check. We can grab and any weapon, as long as it isn't one of the other guys'. Check. The Outrider—"
"Yo," Loipe said.
"—and whoever's on his bike can't carry the ball, but we need to get it out in thirty seconds, and a minute after the round starts we have to be away from the adjacent blocks too. We're looking for the other guy's goal, and want to get the ball into it. But we need to keep ahold of it—if it's not being held by someone for ten seconds, or if someone on the bike or the other team grabs it, it's dead and we lose the round. And we need to be carrying the ball when it's being scored."
"Right," Chelsea said.
"Breaking the rules means we gotta sit down for the rest of the play, or get kicked out for the rest of the game if it's real bad. We can surrender, too, by sitting down, but if everyone surrenders, gets penaltyed, or runs out of Aura at once we lose automatically. Plays last five minutes, unless someone scores, a ball dies, the quarter clock runs out, or everyone on one team goes down. Quarters are half an hour each—"
"Why are we calling them quarters?" Russel asked. "We're only doing one."
"Quiet! Quarters are half an hour each, there's four of them but because of time constraints we're only doing one. Whoever has the most points at the end, wins. Everyone got it?"
Nods with varying degrees of reluctance were exchanged.
"Good. Now, for strategy..."
"We need to split up," Ruby said. "Yang's taking Weiss to scout. Weiss, use your Glyphs to help Yang get around, and you're in charge of calling back with any important information."
"Right," Yang said.
"Jaune, Nora, you're guarding the goal. Ren, you're on support and watchout, get high."
Nora and Yang sniggered at that.
"What? It's important so he can be able to see a lot he wouldn't see without getting high."
They continued to snigger.
"Seriously, it's important to get high whenever—"
"Just continue," Pyrrha said.
"Alright. Me, you, and Blake are taking the ball and moving it forward. Once we know where the goal is, we make a beeline for it."
"We need to stick together," Cardin said. "I mean, a token force around the goal—I'm thinking Shells and Hai."
"Stop calling me that," Hai said. "And I don't think Shelley likes being called Shells."
"Whatever. Chelsea can ride on the bike, they'll be skirmishing. I'll be carrying the ball, and the rest of my team will be supporting me. We'll go straight down the middle. It'll be easy."
"Do we have any questions, Team RNYB...RBN...Team?" Ruby asked.
Her teammates and JNPR shook their heads.
"Then we're ready?"
"Great. Hey, Velvet! We're ready!"
"Alright!" Velvet quickly sent a message to the other referees. "I don't think the other team is, though..."
"We're ready!" Cardin shouted.
"We aren't!" Hai bellowed.
"Can't say you're ready until you all are," Sage said. "Sorry."
"What's wrong?" Cardin asked.
"You hardly have a strategy," Hai said. "What will we do once we contact the enemy? What if they come to the goal?"
"You don't need to worry about the first," Cardin said, "and drive them off if it's the second. I'll figure out a battle plan once I'm there. I'm a great leader."
Dove and Lark exchanged doubtful glances.
"Does anyone else want to complain?" Cardin asked.
No one did, although several wanted to glare.
"We're ready!" Cardin shouted once more.
Sage sent a referee message.
"They're ready!" Velvet said. "Are you set?"
"Yes!" Ruby shouted.
"Set?" Sage asked.
"Once second," Loipe said, pulling Chelsea onto the bike. "I'm ready, you guys fine?"
"We're set," Cardin said.
Sage sent a message.
Penny, who volunteered to coordinate the referees, noted the referee messages on her virtual Scroll, before sending identical ones to everyone.