Chapter Two

Ruby Rose stared viciously into Jaune Arc's eyes, not breaking eye contact. This was not just a friendly competition; it a show of strength; a display of dominance. They both knew whoever emerged victorious would be forever the superior of the two.

Their bodies were low to the ground, their arms locked. It was their first night at Beacon, and Ruby had challenged Jaune to an arm wrestling competition.

They'd been on the ballroom floor like this for a full minute already. Jaune was breaking a sweat; he hadn't thought this quirky little girl would be so strong.

"You have a lot of muscle," Jaune's breath caught on his words, "for such," he continued, grunting, "a small..." he gave up on speaking as his arm veered perilously toward the right. His brow furrowed as he poured all of his strength into pushing back on Ruby.

Ruby grinned like a wild animal. Jaune could see it in her eyes; she knew she'd win this. He was nothing more than her prey.

"Of course. Crescent Rose may look gentle, but it takes a well-toned body like mine to keep her still when she bucks," she gloated.

Jaune held his breath. His arm was starting to shake. Ruby was smiling. She was made of granite.

"But you're really strong, too!" she said cheerily. "That sword must be a lot to swing around. You clearly practise a lot."

Jaune frowned in concentration. "Not really," he said. His voice quivered from the exertion.

"You don't practise?" Ruby asked, surprised. Her eyes widened just a sliver.

If he hadn't been staring so intently at her eyes, he wouldn't have noticed it. If he hadn't been watching her eyes, he would have been mentally about kicking himself about letting slip that he didn't practice.

But they had had their eyes locked on each other. And he'd seen it.

She was bluffing.

"Of course I don't practise," he smiled. "Why would I need to practise given how many Ursai I take down on a daily basis."

"Uh-huh," Ruby said, a coat of sarcasm over a hint of fear.

He hadn't noticed it earlier, since his harms were shaking, but her arms were shaking too, from the stress.

"And besides," he said, his confidence renewed, "men naturally have stronger muscles than women. Especially men of the Arc family." He winked.

Ruby's arm slipped just a bit.

"W-What? That's not true. I've never heard that before," she said quickly.

Jaune gave her a smug look. He was enjoying this. He'd pushed her past the center point and she was clearly struggling now.

"Well, um," Ruby coughed, and then her eyes narrowed. "In any case, I'm just toying with you," she said. She was clearly making a last-ditch attempt to swing the battle. "I could out-wrestle you any day of the week. Because," she said, pausing.

"Because?" Jaune asked.

"Because..." she paused again. "I," her grip tightened, "drink," she groaned in effort, "milk."

Jaune blinked in surprise. That was unexpected.

He considered this proclamation for all of a second. There was fury in her eyes, but she clearly getting tired. He knew he had her. The only question was, should he draw this out or be kind and finish her off now?

Jaune chose to be kind. He smiled.

"So do I."

Ruby gasped. It was all he needed to say. In seconds, he pushed her arm down to just inches above his sleeping bag. There, it hovered for a few seconds. But then it was over. He won.

They both collapsed in exhaustion.

Wow, Jaune thought. His heart was pumping. That was incredible.

They lay there, not talking for a few minutes. They looked like exhausted and exhilarated, like they'd just laid a Death Stalker to the ground.

Then a shadow was cast over both of them.

"What's this?" came a voice, wet with scorn. "The red devil and vomit boy?"

"Oh, hey sis!" said Ruby, shakily, but upbeat as always.

Yang Xiao Long stood over them, glaring at Jaune.

"We were just arm-wrestling. Jaune says men are naturally stronger than women. Is that true?" Ruby asked.

Yang snorted. Then she swiftly dropped to the ground and grabbed Jaune's arm.

He stared weakly up into her eyes. "Oh, not again..." he begged.

Ten seconds later, after Yang crushed him brutally at arm-wrestling, he buried his face into the pillow next to him.

"Guess we can consider that resolved, then," Yang smirked.

"No fair!" Jaune said, "I was tired. That was my second match."

"It was my third," Yang said. "See that girl over there, the one doing push-ups next to the cute guy? Anyway that's Nora. Damn, does she ever pack some muscle."

Nora waved at them. Jaune tried to lift his arm to wave back, but he couldn't. So he just cocked his head in acknowledgement.

Then he deflated into his pillow again.

"Hey, cheer up, friend," said Ruby, warmly. "It's basically impossible to beat Yang at arm-wrestling. Have you seen her weapon yet?"

He shook his head.

"Hmm," she hummed. "She basically fights with shotguns strapped to her arms. Those things have a real kick to them. They're my second greatest creation, after Crescent Rose of course."

Yang laughed and sat up, ruffling her sister's hair affectionately. "Actually sis, I was thinking recently, and I've decided I don't need Ember Celica anymore."

"You don't?" Ruby stared up at her sister, her eyes quivering.

"Nope, my arms are guns already," she said, flexing her arm into an L-shape.

Ruby stuck her tongue out at her sister.

He was making some weird friends at Beacon, that's for sure.

He smiled, his cheeks warm. Friend. That's what Ruby had called him.

"Hey that was fun," said Ruby, turning back to face him. "We should do that again sometime! Maybe we can let Crescent Rose and Croa, Cromora..." she paused, trying to remember the name. "We can let Crescent Rose and your sword into the fun next time!"

"Crocea Mors," Jaune offered. Then he groaned on the inside. Arm-wrestling was one thing, but sparring with weapons? He looked up at her from his pillow. That girl wielded a scythe that was also a gun. How would that ever be a fair fight?

"Careful," said Yang. "She may have the appearance of a sweet little girl, but in combat this girl is a hurricane. A force of nature. A goddess."

Ruby rolled her eyes. "Yang!" she sighed. "Normal girl, with normal knees, remember?" She stuck her tongue out again, a distant expression complicating her face.

Yang gave her sister a hug. "Uh-huh, yup." She turned to Jaune. You're screwed, she mouthed. She leaped up, hoisting her sister to a standing position.

"I'll get my revenge on you yet, Mr. Arc!" Ruby laughed as she was dragged away.

Jaune smiled. Ruby was definitely the weirdest girl he'd ever met, weirder than any of his seven sisters.

He was sure this was going to be a good year.

"Let's fight," said Ruby. She could feel a hint of weakness in her voice, and it bothered her. She needed to get focussed; her mind was still reeling from... from what exactly? She breathed out deeply. Something had been eating at her these past few weeks. She felt that her normal, chipper nature was becoming more and more fake the longer she spent at Beacon.

But why? This was exactly the school she'd always dreamed of going to. Since she was little, she pictured herself graduating, gaining her Hunting licence just like her dad, becoming a Huntress just like her mom.

But now that picture was starting to come apart at the edges. She was losing track of what it was she wanted to be, and it bothered her greatly. Becoming a Huntress was something that she had always wanted, down to the core. But it was becoming increasingly apparent to her that something about that image just didn't fit her. So she needed to dig into it. She needed to prove to herself that the Hunt was still her calling.

The regular spars in class, they just weren't satisfying enough. They were too controlled, too formal, not like hunting in the wild.

And here she was with Jaune, in the wind and the rain. It was starting to rain so thick now, she could barely even see the school buildings around them. Only the few trees swaying and the knoll in this fenced-off area called the quad. It wasn't the undergrowth of the isle of Patch where she'd grown up, but just for moment she felt like she was at home.

In the wild.

Silver eyes stared into blue eyes. He needed practice, she needed to hunt. She waited for his assent.

It was a few uncertain and electrifying seconds before he nodded, and she waited for the familiar feeling of hunting prey to well up inside her. But it didn't come. And then they were fighting, and it felt so empty to her.

She struck him, once, twice. He blocked the first one but not the second. He flailed with his sword, but it was pathetic, he was so slow. She thought briefly that she'd hurt him, but she could feel his aura taking the hits.

She kept up the fight, wondering when she would feel the fire well up within her. But it still didn't come. So she went looking for it inside her.

Ren's lessons in introspection had been a great help with thinking things through. With each session, she peeled away another layer of the mystery in her head. But she was finding now that the more she dug into her soul, the more she couldn't stop thinking about it. It was always in the back of her mind now, and had been keeping her up at night, even.

There was something wrong with her, she knew that. For years, even, she had felt this discomfort growing. She wondered if it was -

She blinked. Jaune was under her now, helpless. She had Crescent Rose raised high above her, about to strike. She wasn't even paying attention to the fight. His eyes didn't show any fear though, not yet. He was tough. She brought the scythe down on him, and before it even landed she was again wrapped in the petals of her mind, searching for something she would never find.

The fight went on for some time in the background. It just wasn't interesting enough to catch the attention of the dormant Huntress that lay within her.

Whatever, she thought, frustrated. This fight is for Jaune as much as it is for me. Even if she couldn't find herself, maybe she could help him.

"You're still not playing to your strengths, Jaune!" she said. He had put some distance between the two of them, but he'd clearly forgotten that Crescent Rose was more than just a close-combat weapon.

She shook her head. He just had no sense of combat. The way he fought, she recognized moves Pyrrha used sometimes. But it didn't have any of Pyrrha's ingenuity, he was just echoing his mentor. He couldn't do anything original, anything unexpected. Even in Huntsman he seemed uninspired. He had yet to find his own style.

She was determined to help him.

"Find yourself," she ordered. She fired her rifle at him and leapt him, landing hard on his shield and knocking it out of his hands. She saw fear in his eyes. He scrambled away.

"Stop running," she said. "You can beat me."

"How?" he pleaded. He looked so helpless and lost.

She kind of knew the feeling.

"I don't know," she said sadly. "You just have to figure that out yourself."

He was pressed against the tree now. There was nowhere he could run. She charged at him. This would be the end of the fight. She sighed on the inside. She hadn't gotten the hunt she was hoping for.

But the fear in Jaune's eyes turned into something else as she ran at him. A hint of a smile on his lips.

And then he did something unexpected.

The Huntress finally took notice of the combat.

But the knight had been paying attention since the beginning.

"Let's fight," said Ruby.

It was raining. They were in the quad. Jaune had just seen Ruby cry, and he didn't know why. He wanted to talk to her about it, not fight her. But the look in her eyes told him that this fight was going to happen no matter what.

So here he was, trying to be brave for her. And he did want to fight, too. He'd practised plenty with Pyrrha, but he hadn't had any real sparring practice against anyone else yet.

Silver eyes stared into his blue eyes. He nodded.

And he had hardly any time to react. In an instant she lept at him with her scythe, bringing it down hard. Just at the last moment he unfurled Crocea Mors' shield part. Foom. The force with which it deployed always surprised him. Crescent Rose deflected off it with a resounding ring.

But Jaune hadn't planned more than a step ahead. The impulse from the collision caused him to lose his balance, and he stepped backward, tripping up over the roots of the tree beside them. He looked down at his feet to try to regain his footing.

That was a mistake, and he realised it instantly. It had only been a split second, but Ruby had already recovered from the first strike, and he'd given her an opening. Wham, the second blow came hard and fast. He pulled his aura up just in time, but his shirt was still torn on the side by Ruby's blade. She was serious.

His sword was now out to his side, held there by Crescent Rose's shaft, leaving him open for more punishment. He tried to disengage, circling his sword around to a more favourable position on the other side of Ruby's scythe, but she was too fast for him. She dashed his sword to the side and then pushed forward, knocking him back with the blunt side of the scythe blade.

He fell backward and quickly tried to regain his stance as Ruby came at him again, lunging, but he slipped sideways on the wet grass and fell.

Fortunately for him, falling prone clearly wasn't something Ruby had expected. She had enough momentum that she couldn't stop. Jaune took the opportunity, swiping at her with Crocea Mors. But from his position on the ground, he just didn't have enough leverage to pull off a well-executed attack. Ruby twisted and dodged it, her cape spinning around her.

In an instant, Ruby had solid footing again. She brought Crescent Rose down quickly on him, but he rolled out of the way. For just a second, it stuck into the ground. He took the opportunity to jump back up, putting some distance between the two.

This was another mistake. She had a gun.

"You're still not playing to your strengths, Jaune!" Then she leveled the barrel of the rifle at him.

He gave her a desperate look. He was far outclassed here.

"Find yourself," she said. Then she fired the rifle.

Jaune's aura took the bulk of it, but he had the air knocked out of him. He was flung backward and landed on the ground, again prone. The world spun. His entire mind focussed on getting a just breath of air, but his lungs wouldn't open. He couldn't think of anything but breathing.

He saw Ruby twirl through the air again, Crescent Rose now a blur. Rose petals showered from her cape behind her as she spun, blocking out the light of the moon.

Yang was right, she was a hurricane.

There really was nothing he could do. He had no amazing, transforming, incredible weapon like the rest of them. He held Crocea Mors up weakly to block the attack, but he knew he couldn't win this fight with such a boring sword and shield. And he was still winded. He needed to get a breath in so he could just think or he'd lose this fight for sure.

He took cover under his shield just as Ruby landed on him. But it was a just short-term delaying tactic. Ruby's spinning blade yanked the shield out of his grasp. It flung away and slammed into the tree, where it packed itself back together into its sheath form.

Ruby's eyes were fierce and there was fire behind them. But she was repelled for a second, and that gave him just enough time to - finally - get a breath of air.

Time slowed down as oxygen flooded back into his bloodstream. Ruby was coming at him again. He had to think of something.

Find yourself.

What could he do? He didn't even know what his semblance was. He didn't have Ruby's speed to dodge the incoming attack, or Pyrrha's magnetism to deflect it, or Blake's shadow form to take the hit for him. He could feel his aura running low. He could take maybe one more hit before he'd be forced to yield.

What makes you special? Jaune thought. Why has Ozpin not kicked you out yet? Ozpin seemed to think he'd be a good leader for his team. But being a leader meant nothing without teammates to help him.

Ruby's blade came at him again, from the side. With as much force as he could muster, he parried it with Crocea Mors. He needed more time to think. He kicked at Ruby's legs, trying to trip her. She quickly jumped over his kick, but it gave him enough leeway to scramble back toward his shield a few yards away.

"Stop running," Ruby said, softly. He could barely hear her over the rain. "You can beat me," she said, louder.

"How?" Jaune asked.

"I don't know," she shook her head. "You just have to figure that out yourself." She brought Crescent Rose up in front of her again, preparing to rush at him.

Jaune wanted to give up then and there. Ruby was wrong. He couldn't win this, she was far too strong.

But she wasn't. Jaune had beaten her before. Weeks ago, arm-wrestling.

It didn't matter. They weren't lying on the floor of the ballroom trying to force the other to submit using brute force. This was the real battlefield. Ruby could make full use of her strengths; her speed, her agility, her weapon. Ruby was a skilled Huntress already. She'd said taken down Grimm before.

What strengths did he have? Even if Ozpin were right about him being a good leader, that wasn't a feat of physical strength. That wasn't something he could use in a fight. It was mental strength.

He was getting frustrated; he just couldn't think fast enough. Ruby was coming at him now. His back was up against the tree now. His shield was lying at his feet, not in his arms. What could he do? The only useful combat experience he had was with Pyrrha. What would she tell him in this situation?

He thought harder. Ruby was only a few feet away. Pyrrha would tell him to improve his stance, to pay attention to his opponent's moves. She'd tell him exactly the right way to counter Ruby in this particular setting, because Pyrrha had faced this exact situation before in some tournament she was in.

He thought harder. Had Pyrrha been in this situation?

He thought harder. This wasn't a tournament setting. It was raining, at night, he had his back to a tree, this wasn't a clean fight. Pyrrha's expertise in battle came almost exclusively from tournaments. She wouldn't know how to advise him here.

He thought harder. So if nothing Pyrrha would say would be helpful... then what wouldn't Pyrrha say?

He thought harder. Pyrrha would never tell him to play dirty.

He almost grinned.

All he had was a sword in his hand and a folded-up shield at his feet and the trunk of a cherry tree at his back. She had a sniper rifle scythe, and she was in the air, lunging at him. It seemed she had the upper hand in every way. There was only one thing he could do. He was going to be creative.

Pyrrha would tell him to block the attack, or to dodge it, or to counterattack. He would do none of those.

A fraction of a second before Ruby landed her blow, as Ruby was swinging her scythe at him, he used his foot to kick up Crocea Mors' shield part into the air between them. It rotated through the air, losing all its vertical momentum just as it was level with the incoming scythe blade.

As he was raising his knee he stole a glance at those silver eyes, now only inches away; he saw a hint of apprehension; she still didn't know what he was planning. He also saw something else. Something hungry.

And then his knee collided with the release mechanism on Crocea Mors.

Ruby, Jaune, the swaying cherry tree, the rain, Crocea Mors, and Crescent Rose all froze for a moment as everything collided at once. Metal, metal, rose petals, and splintering bark.

Ruby felt her eyes go wide. Jaune had just done something original.

Crescent Rose was now pinned by the shield, which had unfurled with such impulse that it lodged both of the weapons part-way into the trunk of the cherry tree. Only her scythe's shaft, handle, and part of the blade on the other side were sticking out, along with two-thirds of one-half of Crocea Mors. The tree groaned.

Ruby's momentum flipped her over the handle and launched her forward into the air, past Jaune. She cursed physics. Remembering to roll at the last second, she hit the ground with some amount of grace.

She whipped her head back; Jaune had his sword now, and she only had her bare fists.

She grinned. This was a hunt.

Jaune yelled in success, and charged at Ruby, who was now on her knees. The fight had finally turned his way.

"Take this!" he announced, excited, swinging his sword down at her. But she was still agile; she rolled under his feet at the last second, knocking him over.

He looked up from where he'd landed face-first into the grimy roots of the tree, seeing Ruby reaching for her scythe jammed into the trunk. Getting up, he ran at her again, flailing the half of Crocea Mors that he still had.

Meeting his eyes uneasily, Ruby gripped the trigger of Crescent Rose and pulled it. Since the gun's barrel was lodged firmly into the tree, the blast caused the tree to quiver. She reached over and hit the mechanism on Crocea Mors; it retracted and dropped down to the ground, rolling. She fired again, once, twice, trying to free her weapon; Jaune saw bark splintering from the opposite end of the tree.

He slammed into her, knocking her away from her weapon. They landed on the grass, which was now muddy from the rain. She was pinned under him.

"You doofus," Jaune grinned, flinging back at her the name she called him sometimes. "Be careful -" he was interrupted as Ruby maneuvered her elbow into Jaune's throat. He shoved his hand into her face.

"Be careful about -" he grunted out. They were pushing their limbs into at each other with brute force. Just like arm wrestling on the floor of the ballroom, only a thousand times more intense.

Ruby had almost broken free, her eyes fixed on Crescent Rose. He knew she was going just going to back and blast away at the tree until her gun came loose. Then he'd be back at square one.

"Be careful about wrecking Ren's favourite tree!" he shouted at her. She winced, then he saw understanding dawn on her.

Just a minute ago he had been lost, and now he had fit everything together perfectly. He'd gotten her weapon out of her hands, and in order to get it back in any sort of timely manner, she'd have to destroy the tree ripping it out.

Ruby was a loyal friend. She wouldn't let Ren's meditation spot come to harm.

"That's a dirty trick!" she complained, and rolled free of him. But he saw she was impressed. He grabbed her again as she was standing up, and they tumbled along the ground together.

"What's wrong? Didn't you know Jaune Arc is the most skilled fighter in the land?" he gloated, grinning. They were covered in mud and it wasn't even clear who had who pinned anymore.

She was smiling too, now. "Of course," she said, "that's why he'd never -" she grunted, trying to free her leg from under Jaune's, "- let somebody else lay a finger on his -" Jaune frowned "- favourite sword."

Jaune gasped. In their melee he'd lost track of Crocea Mors' blade. He looked around, only to realize it was in Ruby's hand underneath him.

Oh, damn. Ruby was grinning like a wild animal.

Here was the situation: her thighs were pinned under his legs, but she had his right arm pinned under her back and his left pinned with her right. In her left she had Crocea Mors, but her hand was crushed by the weight of his shoulders. They were a tangled mess.

But Jaune was still happier with this situation than how it had been before. The only time he'd ever beaten Ruby before was in a show of brute strength. He was far from being at the advantage, but at least it was roughly even.

Until Ruby headbutted him. Wham.

"Augh!" he yelled, as Ruby laughed gleefully. His head was aching and Ruby took the opportunity to wriggle free. She rolled to the side and swiftly leapt to her feet. Jaune rose slowly, staggering.

She looked up and down Crocea Mors appraisingly, nodding. "Has some nice weight to it," she said, spinning it around a few times.

He growled. He had no weapon, no shield; his sword was in his opponent's hands. His sword. He may not have had the bizarre intimate relationship with his weapon that Ruby had with hers, but he was still proud to wield his ancestor's blade, and it pained him to see it being flung about so awkwardly by someone else. There was something particularly strange about the way she was holding it, too.

"You're left-handed," he realized.

"Yep! Got a problem with that?" Ruby stuck her tongue out at him, and started walking toward him slowly.

"No, no," he raised his hands defensively. "It's just... that means I didn't really beat you, did I?"

She lowered her head. "Didn't beat me? What do you mean?"

"The first night we were here at Beacon."

She hummed, but not pausing her steady advance. "Nah."

Ruby stalked toward her prey, savouring the feeling. She could feel the Huntress within her. Jaune was giving her a very interesting fight.

"Nah," she repeated. "You beat me."

Her mind was ablaze. She could feel the gears in her mind turning, grinding, just like the ones in Crescent Rose's body. She hadn't expected Jaune to pull such an unexpected move earlier, disarming her, but he was quickly proving to be a clever opponent. She wondered what he would do now that she had Crocea Mors in her hands.

She swung at him, and he dodged out of the way. She swung again; another expert dodge. He seemed much more agile now, but most likely it was just that she had an unfamiliar weapon in hand. For once, she was the clumsy fighter. Interesting, she grinned.

Crocea Mors was quite light. It had none of the modifications she was used to on Crescent Rose weighing it down. And it wasn't as long, meaning it was easier to swing due to its reduced moment of inertia, but it also just wasn't quite as satisfying. But she figured it could probably thrust nicely.

So, imitating what she'd seen in Weiss' swordplay, she lunged, pushing back with her right foot to propel her body forward. She struck his breastplate dead-on. He stumbled backward, toward the cherry tree, but it just didn't have the effect she wanted.

She nodded. Crocea Mors didn't want her. But that was okay, she would win with her bare hands if she had to. She was the dominant one.

Her prey was backing away from her now, at the same rate she advanced. The gears were turning in her mind, but she still didn't get it. There was still something off. The Huntress inside her was unsure.

Hunting felt so good.

And yet the Huntress within her didn't belong.

Ruby grated her teeth. "What is wrong with me?" she muttered.

"Huh?" Jaune asked.

For a second she forgot herself. "Oh, n-nothing," she stammered. Jaune wouldn't understand what she was feeling. She didn't even know what she was feeling.

But Jaune took the opening. Wham, he slammed into her chest, and suddenly she was pinned against a tree. The same tree. She eyed Crescent Rose's handle sticking out next to her to the left, the blade emerging from the tree just to her right. This was a delicate spot to be in.

Jaune was using all four of his limbs to keep her still, so there weren't many options he had. He could try to wrestle Crocea Mors back out of her hand, or...

He closed his eyes in preparation. Time to give her a taste of her own medicine. He smashed his head down hard against hers.

"Auugh!" he yelled again. "Oh damn that hurt. How on Remnant do you manage to do that? You must have a head made of steel."

Ruby laughed. "My sister always tells me I'm thick-headed."

He groaned. But he still had her pressed against the tree. His head was now in a more favourable position, so she couldn't try the same trick twice. His right arm was bent, his elbow pushing into her chest in a way that Pyrrha had once done to decapacitate him while sparring.

Ruby squirmed under him uncomfortably, trying to get free. Jaune realized he must have been crushing her breasts, and he quickly repositioned his arms.

She swiftly took advantage of this brief instant of freedom and flipped him around so that now he was against the tree.

"You idiot," she said, "you had me! Why did you hold back?"

Jaune bit his lip. "I thought I was hurting you," glancing down at her cloak.

She gave him a disbelieving look. "Seriously? If you're afraid to hurt me then what's the point of fighting."

His eyebrows raised. "I'm sorry! It's just -"

"No," she said, slamming her elbow up into his jaw. "This is exactly what I was saying earlier. Even in the battlefield you just can't get over the fact," Jaune tried to slip loose but she pinned him down again, "that I'm a girl."

He opened his mouth to defend himself but then stopped.

"You're right. I'm sorry."

She sighed. "It's okay. Just, please, you don't have to be your gentlemanly, lady-killer, knightly self around me."

He nodded slowly. "Okay."

"Anyway, seeing as I've won the fight, I would -"

"Hey!" he exclaimed. "It's not over yet."

"Oh yeah?" she smirked. "I think you underestimated me."

"Underestimated you?"

"Yeah. About Ren's meditation spot."

"About Ren's...?"

"Yep." Her lip curled up into a half-smile.

Jaune's face went rigid as he realized where he was.

Lodged between a Huntress and her weapon.

It was raining. But it was starting to let up. The sun would be up in a few hours. Ren's favourite cherry tree, however, would not.

They were both bruised and tired. Ruby had finished him off by launching Crescent Rose out from behind him. He would have had his back broken if not for his aura. But cherry trees did not have auras.

Glynda Goodwitch was, of course furious. School policy prohibited unregistered sparring between students. It also prohibited vandalism. It definitely prohibited chopping down the trees on campus.

"I don't understand," Ruby said. "Can't you just put it back together like you always do?" She looked hopefully at the crop she held like a wand.

"No." Glynda said, strictly. "A living thing is different from an inanimate object like a chair or a statue or a weapon." Ruby clutched her treasured Crescent Rose defensively. "No simple reversal of entropy could ever recover a soul or repair the building blocks of life."

Jaune scratched his head. "Well, at least it was just a tree, right? It wasn't like we killed a person."

"And thank luck for that." Glynda sighed. "Ozpin himself planted that tree in memory of... an old friend. He will not be thrilled to find out." She suddenly looked very sad.

Jaune and Ruby fell silent.

"Which is why you can explain it to him yourself. Tomorrow. After you clean this mess up."

Jaune and Ruby exchanged glances.

"How will we -" Ruby began.

"And after you clean yourselves up."

"But it's a tree, what can we -" Ruby tried to finish.

"And you can report to my office every day of the week at five. Starting Tuesday."

"But how do we clean up a -"

"For a month." Glynda crossed her arms. "As for the tree... you are Huntsman and Huntress in training. The best and brightest. Figure something out."

She turned and marched back into the school.

Ruby sighed. Jaune sat down. They turned and looked at the battered carcass of the tree.

"Do you think we could just kind of... prop it up somewhere?" Jaune asked. "Would anybody notice the difference?"

Ruby shook her head. "I think I know where we can take it."

Half an hour later, they had managed to drag it out to the front of the school. Ruby smiled, looking at the city ahead of them, warming up in the twilight.

"She said Ozpin had planted this," Ruby mused. "It's a big tree."

"Yeah?" Jaune didn't see where she was going.

"He must be really old."

Jaune shrugged. He really had no idea how long it took trees to grow.

"Well. I'm sure he won't mind what we're doing with it now," Jaune decided.

They stared over the edge of the cliffs in front of them. It was a serene setting, the gloaming light lent a nice purple hue to the water beneath them.

They rolled it off.

A few seconds passed.

It splashed.

They turned to each other.

"Hey," Juane said.


"You remembered to check that none of the parts of any of our weapons were still lodged in there right?"

Ruby hummed thoughtfully.

"Guess we'll find out."

"Guess so."

Ruby gave the city of Vale one last nod and then turned around.

"I have practice today. I am going to be so tired," Jaune moaned.

Ruby punched his arm, lightly. "I should go find my sister. And beg Blake to help me study. Faunus History on Monday. And I have to... figure some stuff out," she added, rubbing her forehead.

"Oh," said Jaune. "Is Blake good at history?"

"Uh... yeah." Ruby laughed.



"Okay then."

"See you."

"See you, friend."