Penny partitioned her mind to muse on the ramifications of this power while dealing with what was happening in front of her. Everything she had ever read or learned told her Blake reaching through a book was impossible. But has anything Ruby and her friends ever done made sense? Most of them were sporting faunus ears. Penny's thought processes rebooted at that observation. Was it possible for them to make her human even if for one day? Being a synthetic huntress ensured she would forever be separate from everyone else. Ruby was the first person who saw her as a person, not some soulless machine waiting to be sacrificed for some untold plan. Even if it was just one day, she would want to experience life.
"Blake, what do mean there are more pens like this?" Weiss questioned Blake.
Blake was slightly shaking after what she had endured. Being teleported into a fairy tale was exhausting. "Can't you see she needs to rest? Whatever she discovered can wait until tomorrow morning," Yang scolded Weiss. She wrapped her arms protectively around her partner.
"What? No, Yang, it's important. People could…" Blake started to protest, but Yang was so warm and she was so tired. She tried to resist as long as possible, but the soft purring of some faunus lured her to sleep.
"Perhaps we should all get some sleep. It's been a long day," Weiss whispered out of respect for her sleeping team mate.
"But I'm not-" Ruby's words were cut off by a yawn. "Tired yet."
Penny walked to the side of her friend, her newest furry friend happily padding along at her side. "You need to rest. Your aura is severely damaged. In the morning, we can play with friend Zwei!"
At mention of his name, Zwei yelped, "Play! In the morning. I'm tired." The little corgi curled into a ball in the middle of the floor between the two bunkbeds and began snoring immediately.
"I suppose we should discuss sleeping arrangements. There are six of us and only four beds," Rutwo said. "Do you sleep?" she asked Penny.
Emerald eyes gleamed at the question. No one had ever asked about her operational requirements. Well, no one besides Father. Ruby was the best friend she could have ever hoped to find! "I am sleep ready! I can also recharge from an outlet."
"I can stay with the kitten. She's already sleeping in my arms," Yang offered. Blake was softly purring in her arms, making moving her difficult.
"Absolutely not. You two will not be sleeping together in this dorm." Weiss's tone left no room for arguments or discussions.
"Weiss, you make it sound like something different than what I was talking about. We're partners. We had to sleep together during our survival classes," Yang protested.
"I don't care about that. You can do whatever you'd like. I need you to keep that hellion away from me and three people are a bit much on one of our beds," she said, pointing to Ruby. "The rest of us can sleep in our own beds."
"Penny, do you have a preference? I think we could make room on my bed or maybe make a makeshift bed for you." Rutwo's argent eyes scanned Penny's face for any emotion.
"Thank you, Ruby, for your kindness, but I think I will plug in for the evening. Beacon has a wonderful selection of books to read." Noting the bookcase, Penny read the novel titles for anything new or informative to read. Her eyes noticed a small hiding hole in the back of the book shelf. It would require further investigation.
"Alright. If there is anything you'd like to read, I'm sure no one would mind if you read one of our books." Rutwo glanced at the rest of her teammates for confirmation. The only thing that could be construed as dissent was Weiss's eye roll, but since she nodded while doing it, she assumed everything was fine.
Grumbling as she worked, Yang slowly untangled herself from Blake. Blake did not make it easy for her. She was clingy in her sleep, as if her unconscious mind had decided contact was something worth fighting for. Eventually, Yang managed to free herself and set Blake down in her bed. "Come on, Ruby. Her majesty has decided we need to bunk together," she whispered at her half-sister. Ruby and Yang climbed into bed, muttering their farewells. Weiss and Rutwo followed their teammates' lead.
The hanging bed swayed under the weight of the team leader, the ropes fraying even further. She was in serious danger of falling on Weiss's bed, were it not for Penny's intervention. The synthetic huntress pulled a dust-infused filament and quickly reinforced the bed. Her weapons were connected to her via several of these filaments. It was an easy task to remove a filament from her weapon. They were created specifically so she could quickly detach them in the event of catastrophe. The threads were nearly unbreakable, so she had insisted on this basic safety feature. The bed was in no danger of ever collapsing.
Penny settled down for the evening near the broken remains of the team desk. She decided to spend at least part of the evening placing an order for a new desk for the team. The Atlas military gave her access to a substantial allowance in order to allow her to appear more human. But she had no need for food or water, nor did material goods attract her attention. If a huntress life was good enough for her friend, it was good enough for her. A moment later, she received confirmation of the desk's arrival for tomorrow. It may have cost more than she would have preferred, but it was easily within her budget. She hadn't spent a lien of her allowance for as long as she could remember, after all. A small, treacherous part of her mind whispered she could have simply placed a false order for delivery in the shop's systems. Penny quickly partitioned and deleted that portion of her mind. That wasn't who she was.
Her task complete, her attention shifted to reading. She was more than capable of seeing in the dark. The only challenge was determining what to read. She quietly crept to the bookcase and peered into the hiding place. The book hidden within was one she had never read before. A scan of the information packets from the CCT seemed to imply Ninjas of Love may possess some educational value in relationship building. The only question was whether or not the book was something her Father would want her to read. Weighing her choices in her mind for a moment, she decided to read it. Her first objective was learning how to blend in with society and this book may help her with this task. Her decision made, she carefully stepped back to her spot and opened the book. The night passed into day as Penny devoured the bookcase. Her friends had some interesting novels.
The first sign of day was Weiss stirring in her bed. Her time at Beacon had taught her the value of getting her rest when she could which normally meant sleeping in. But her new instincts demanded an early morning. As enjoyable as it was to spend time as something she wasn't, it was time to restore herself. Her disguise had failed, and she didn't want to deal with the potential issues blaming the changes on dust could create. Her father was particularly protective of anything he considered his legacy, whether it or she wanted anything to do with him. As silent as a cat, she slipped from her bed. The dorm was silent, save the - "Salutations, Weiss! Was your slumber restful?" Penny asked, her emerald eyes lighting up the predawn morning.
"Gah! Penny, you scared me!" She took a deep, calming breath. "I slept fine, thank you. How was your night?"
"It was wonderful! You have some of the most informative books. I learned so much." Penny beamed at Weiss, as if this morning was the greatest thing to ever happen to her.
"Hmm," Weiss noncommittally agreed. It was far too early to deal with this much perkiness. She desperately needed coffee this morning, but first she had to tear the paper binding her transformation to shreds. She reached for her bag to find the page when she heard a rustling from above. A loud thud, followed by the sounds of the rope straining to hold Ruby's bed confirmed her suspicions. Rutwo was awake.
"Salutations, Ruby! How was your rest?" Penny leaped from her spot the floor, embracing her friend in a tight hug.
"Ack, can't... breathe... too... tight..." Rutwo gasped. Penny immediately released her and stammered apologies. "I'm fine. I slept well. I spent a good portion of the night resisting the urge to howl at the moon, but I blame the lupine traits," she concluded, waggling her ears for emphasis. "How was your night?"
"It was wonderful! You have some wonderful books!"
While Rutwo and Penny were talking, Weiss pulled the page from her bag. She stared at it for a moment. Tearing the page would restore Weiss Schnee. It would mean going back to the burdens of being the heiress.
Glancing away from Penny for a moment, Rutwo caught sight of Weiss holding a page in front of her. "Excuse me, Penny. Weiss, are you alright?"
"Hmm? I... just..." her voice trailed off.
The more mature fraction of Ruby slipped away from Penny to take a seat next to Weiss. "Are you sure?"
"I suppose this has made me wonder what makes us who we are."
Penny joined Rutwo on Weiss's bed on the other side of the heiress. "We are who we are. Whether you are faunus or human, you're still our friend. You're still Weiss. Follow your destiny. All we can do is keep moving forward," Rutwo finished.
Weiss glanced around the dorm. Yang was sound asleep, thankfully not snoring, her tail hanging off the bed, perhaps a foot from Blake's nose. But it was close enough for Blake to twitch her nose every time it drifted near her. Her partner's 'evil' half was dangling off the other side of the bed. With a hint of a smile, she used a glyph to nudge her back onto the bed. Despite the room's slight chill, she could only feel the warmth of friendship. She knew without a doubt they would all agree with their wise leader. No matter how much she, and others, might have messed things up, their bonds were as strong as ever, possibly stronger.
She tore the paper in half. The magic broken, Weiss glowed a beautiful amber. She could feel a rush of warmth like the last summer breeze before winter swept it away coursing through her body. When the light faded, so did Weiss's night vision. Without her faunus traits, she was blind to the predawn morning. Only sparkles of silver and emerald remained of the world without light.
"Mistress? Are you alright?" Weiss could feel cold arms reach around her. It was Penny, she decided. A jolt of panic raced through her. She hated being touched. She... she had handled it just fine yesterday. It wasn't a faunus wearing her skin that handled the contact, it was her. Ears did not change her. She could manage.
Weiss returned the hug enthusiastically. "Everything is wonderful. Just wonderful. But, Penny? What did you call me?"
"Mistress. One of the books I read implied it was an acceptable title for one whom you feel affection for," Penny replied, proud of showing off her new knowledge.
Despite the darkness, Weiss could easily imagine Rutwo's face. By now, she might match her own fiery locks. She could almost feel the heat radiating from her. Weiss was well aware she would match her partner in complexion. "Penny, maybe we should avoid terms of endearment for now. Mistress carries connotations I'd rather not get into this morning."
"I apologize. I did not mean to cause any discomfort," Penny apologized. Penny's precious gemstones dimmed a bit at Weiss's words.
"Penny... why don't we leave it at friends. That's what we are, after all," Weiss offered. The gemstones brightened once more. Penny threw herself into Weiss's arms again, giving her another tight hug.
A loud crash interrupted the hug. Penny's attention was drawn to the window. By now, predawn had begun bathing the world in warm pinks, allowing Weiss to just barely make out a shape near the ruins of her old desk. The pair of lupine ears jutting up from the figure's head and the sheepish way she held herself told Weiss Rutwo or Ruby was responsible. "Sorry, sorry. I'm trying to locate my parchment," Rutwo hastily whispered.
Weiss sighed, but the scolding she had intended to give caught in her throat. Yes, the room was a disaster. The broken furniture still laid scattered throughout the room. On her worst day in Atlas, she would have never allowed anything like this to happen. But for the first time, a word she had never understood danced on her lips. Home. In the past, it meant a cold mansion. Now, it meant family. Once the others awoke, she would make them clean it, but somehow it felt right.
Weiss and Penny joined Rutwo in their search for the parchment. After a moment's search, they found all of the pages responsible for the enchantments. The redhead rifled through the small stack of papers, pulling the two pertaining to her free. "Planning on returning to normal?" Weiss asked her half-partner.
"I... I won't rejoin with the other me without talking to her first. It wouldn't be fair to her," Rutwo answered. "But the ears have to go. I never wanted a pair. I liked being me," she concluded, voice dripping with unspoken pain.
Disappointment and pride warred within Weiss. She would not get her partner back, her real partner, today. She found herself missing the bundle of trouble. But, this part of her, this shadow, was showing her a side of Ruby she had never dreamed existed. Who knew Ruby was so smart? One thing was certain; Ruby would not cheat off her notes and homework next semester. The other one, she was like Ruby distilled into a concentrate. Being an extrovert was surprising, but it fit her.
Something of her thoughts must have pierced her veil as Rutwo's face hardened. She violently tore the page holding her faunus change into shreds. "Rutwo, what's wrong?" Weiss asked her. A slight grimace crossed her face, before vanishing beneath a mask of perfect neutrality.
"I'm fine. I'm going to get us breakfast," she harshly whispered.
"May I accompany you? I would like the opportunity to spend more time with my best friend," Penny brightly explained. Whatever was troubling her friend, Penny was confident she could help her. It was her duty as her friend. Rutwo threw her clothes on and stormed out the room, Penny hurrying after her.
"What did I do wrong?" Weiss's melodic voice echoed throughout the dorm, unable to find the answer.