Sage sweeps his gaze over the crowd once more, frowning.

His height grants him many advantages—longer reach with his sword, physical intimidation, the ability to see clear over the heads of most average-sized people. It makes wading through crowds a snap, and there's not a single shelf space in all of Haven he can't reach. Baring, of course, that time Sun had hung his coat from the rafters of the lunchroom during the team's infamous prank war.

A prank war that had ended rather abruptly after that very prank.

So while Sage has lots to gain and little to lose in his considerable stature, one aspect that falls somewhere in between on the scale of advantage and disadvantage is the way he seems drawn to help those smaller than him.

He's not sure if it's because of his height, his character, or Sun's damned righteousness rubbing off on him, but when he sees a small girl with a bright red cloak getting swept up in a crowd of pedestrians, he wastes no time in striding over, reaching out, and easily plucking her out of her of the mess.

"Oh!" she seems surprised at the sudden intervention, and kicks her feet experimentally where they dangle a few feet off the ground as Sage carefully maneuvers them both away from the flood of people moving to and from various places, crowding the festival's fairgrounds.

He spies a closed booth a few feet away with no one around, and quickly crosses over to it, careful not to hold the girl too tightly as he grips her just below her arms. If she's indignant at being carried like a doll—which, Sage reflects, she weighs about as much—she doesn't show it. In fact, she seems delighted by the entire ordeal, giggling as he cuts cleanly through the throngs of people.

Once he's sure they're out of the way, he sets her down carefully, hoping he hasn't offended her, or worse—frightened her. Instead, she turns to treat him to a bright smile.

"Hi!" she greets him cheerfully. "Thanks for that."

"You're welcome," he answers, surreptitiously looking her over to make sure she's unharmed. He idly wonders what someone so small is doing at the tournament anyway. She doesn't even look old enough to compete.

She grins again, decidedly jovial for someone who had very nearly been trampled over. "I've never seen so many people like this," she confesses, wide silver eyes taking in the fairground with an excited gleam. "It's so great!"

"You should be more careful," he tells her, not wanting to ruin her sunny outlook but not wanting someone to step on her, either. "Tensions run high at tournaments like these. You're not always going to get the courtesy you deserve."

She nods, brow furrowing at his statement. "Yeah, I've kinda noticed," she admits. Before he can kick himself for spoiling her good humor, her expression brightens. "But everyone has such cool weapons! I just saw a girl with a crossbow-sword!"

Sage's lips twitch at her genuine excitement. "That sounds like Nebula Violette," he offers, lifting his head and scanning the crowd for a telltale flash of indigo hair. He'd taken it upon himself to investigate SSSN's next slated opponent in the tournament—it's not like any of the others were going to—and had to admit that Violette's team boasted a fair amount of versatility. He'd meant to talk to Sun about it, which brings him back to his original predicament: finding his escape artist of a leader in a crowded fairground.

Sage sighs, an annoyed set to his jaw. There's just no catching Sun when he doesn't want to be caught.

He hears a rustle of clothing and glances down to see the girl is shifting her weight uncomfortably. He watches as she taps her fingers together, worrying her lower lip. "I…I didn't mean to be a bother," she tells him quickly, not meeting his gaze. "Sorry."

He frowns, realizing she's misread his frustration. He extends a large hand, determined to rectify the situation, and she blinks twice at it before looking up at him in surprise.

"Sage Ayana," he introduces himself, gifting her with a small smile. "Representing Haven."

She positively beams. "Ruby Rose!" she chirps back, all her cheerfulness restored as she gives his hand a hearty shake. He tries not to chuckle at the way his palm dwarfs hers. "Representing Beacon!" Her voice glows with pride.

Sage's eyebrows rise to his hairline. So she is a competitor. She looks so young though.

"Pleasure," he returns, keeping his thoughts to himself. Associating skill level with physical appearance is a mistake he stopped making when he'd been partnered with a skinny beanpole of a swordsman named Scarlet David.

"Well, it was great to meet you!" she tells him, offering a cheery wave before turning to leave. She squeaks as a rowdy group of spectators blow past her, nearly bowling the tiny girl straight over. Sage hastens to throw out a hand and grab her by the arm, hauling her back to his side.

He spares her a quick once-over to make sure she's unscathed before turning to give one of the boys in the group a dark look.

"Everyone's in such a hurry," she remarks with a slight frown.

"They need to watch where they're going," Sage grumbles, still scowling after the group. He sighs, glancing around once more before resigning himself to the fact that he is simply not going to find his wayward leader until such time that his wayward leader returns to their room. Probably through the window at some ungodly hour.

"Where are you headed?" Sage asks, looking down at her. The least he can do is see her to her next destination without ending up on the underside of some ignorant prick's boot.

"The arena, actually," she admits. Her face colors when he lifts a single, disbelieving eyebrow at her. The last match just ended, hence the large crowds moving about. The only people who would need to be at the arena at such a time would be the competitors of the next match.

"You're kidding." And he thought Sun had a penchant for tardiness. "You have a match? Why are you out in the fairgrounds?"

She twists the fabric of her skirt anxiously in her fists. Sage, distracted by the action, is vaguely glad none of his teammates have such endearing mannerisms. He's not sure he could stay mad at this Ruby girl if he tried.

"People were saying they'd seen a grumpy-looking guy with a red cape around," she explains in a rush. "I thought it was my uncle, and I wanted to see if I could find him."

Sage feels his expression soften. Family. It's not like he can fault her for that.

"Come on," he says, taking hold of her hand. He's still not over the sheer smallness of her. How does she even hold a weapon? "We can still make it in time. Let's go."

She nods eagerly, and they set out, with Sage now far more curious than he had been upon entering the fairgrounds. He looks askance at Ruby, whose head bobs as they walk on, absentmindedly swinging their joined hands forwards and backwards. Something about her tickles his memory, but he can't quite remember why.

"Beacon's a good school," he says, tightening his grip on her hand as they begin to walk through the crowd. If he gets her talking, he's sure he'll remember why she's so familiar. He glances down at her. "Ever met a Pyrrha Nikos?"

Her silver eyes light up again, and Sage idly wonders what this girl doesn't get excited about. It's charming, really. And a nice change from the solemn seriousness he usually finds at these tournaments.

"I love Pyrrha!" she tells him excitedly, a bounce in her step as they continue on. "Do you know her? She's so cool. Did you know she won the Mistral Regional Tournament four years in a row?"

He chuckles, pleased Pyrrha's found good company in Vale. "Sure do," he replies. "We went to Sanctum together. I lost to her in the finals one year." Which, of course, his team has never let him live down. As if losing to Pyrrha is something to hold against him, honestly.

"She's so nice," Ruby continues. "And she's pretty and strong and nice." She seems blissfully unaware of her repetition, and Sage smiles despite himself.

"She is very nice," he agrees. "How do you think her team will do in the tournament?"

"They'll do great!" Ruby declares, and he's pleased at the news. "Ren and Nora are really tough, and Jaune always finds a way to pull through!"

Sage hesitates, unsure how to respond to that last comment, when suddenly he sees a figure making his way toward them. Sage narrows his eyes when the boy refuses to change his course and—

Ruby gasps with surprise as Sage gives their joined hands a sharp tug, sending her stumbling into his side. He steadies her with his free hand, staring darkly at a boy with a shock of pale green hair who had clearly been angling himself to knock shoulders with Ruby.

The boy frowns, realizing his quarry is no longer his line of sight, and slows to a stop, stuffing his hands in his pockets and surveying the pair with an air of self-importance that Sage immediately dislikes. Ruby lifts her head, looking around to try and make sense of the situation, when her gaze crosses with that of the boy's.

"Russel," she greets him. Her tone isn't unkind, but it's definitely lost some of its warmth. "Fancy meeting you here."

"Don't you have a match to get to?" the boy asks, lifting his chin and staring down at her with an arrogant lilt to his voice. "Or have you finally realized you'll just slow your team down?"

Sage tenses at the words, eyes narrowing. He has no idea what kind of record Ruby has—he doesn't even know what kind of weapon she uses—but he's positive that this gangly little prick is in no position to be judging anyone.

He opens his mouth to say as much, but Ruby beats him to it.

"I'm a lot of things," she tells him, and Sage glances down to see a small smirk gracing her lips. There's a spark in her silver eyes that he's seen in the eyes of many Hunters and Huntresses. "But slow isn't one of them."

Russel sneers and Ruby just smiles sweetly before turning to continue towards the arena, calling, "good luck in the tournament, Russel," behind her. Sage turns with her, but throws a sharp look over his shoulder, meeting the other boy's gaze and leveling a look of pure intimidation at him.

Wisely, Russel quickly hastens away from the pair, and they continue on.

"You know him?" Sage asks, eyeing the boy's retreating figure with dislike. He looks like a standard bully: big bark, no bite. The kind of spineless troublemakers he and Team SSSN had all but weeded out back at Haven. Sage has a legendarily long fuse, and is patient in most everything, but he cannot stand victimization.

Ruby wrinkles her nose in what he knows is meant to be an expression of disgust but is honestly just adorable.

"That's Russel Thrush," she reports. "A classmate, unfortunately. He's just a bully."

Sage nods. So he'd been correct.

"Does he give you trouble a lot?" Sage might not be around to help Ruby out when the tournament ends, but he knows people who will be.

And Pyrrha Nikos is a hell of a lot scarier than he is.

But Ruby shakes her head. "Nope," she answers cheerfully. "He kind of knows better. He's not a complete idiot. Besides," she lowers her voice, lifting a hand to cover her mouth, eyes sparking with mischief like she's telling a secret. "He's totally afraid of my sister."

Sage can't help but snort at her mannerisms. She's a whirlwind in her own right—vivacious and overwhelming. Bright and cheerful and utterly unassuming, but yet tough enough to have a place in the Vytal Festival. It's the kind of inherent contradiction his team leader would find endlessly amusing.

Sun has got to meet this girl.

Unless…he frowns in thought as they continue. He thinks he remembers where he's heard of her. As the entrance to the arena looms before them, three girls race out to meet them.

"Ruby!" they chorus with varying emotions, and he quickly surrenders his companion to them. The tall blonde seems absolutely delighted, while the slender girl with white hair seems utterly unamused.

The third girl—a pale, slip of a Huntress with a bow fixed very particularly on the top of her head—smiles softly at her teammate. A small smirk plays at Sage's lips as the girls chatter.

"Thank you so much!" he glances away from the dark-haired girl to see the blonde is addressing him with a wide grin. She catches Ruby in a light headlock and gives her a friendly noogie, ignoring the smaller girl's protests. "We were starting to think she wasn't gonna show!"

"Which would have lead to our immediate disqualification," the white-haired girl points out with a frown. She crosses her arms. "Honestly, Ruby. People already count you out because of your size and your age. The last thing you need is to give them reasons to discredit you."

Age. So he'd been right again—she is younger than the standard seventeen years. He wonders how much younger.

Ruby sags under the other girl's criticism, and Sage is about to rise to her defense when the dark-haired girl speaks up.

"Did you find your uncle?" she asks softly, her golden eyes giving her an almost ethereal look. Sage's gaze lingers on her, wondering. She glances over at him, and he knows his fixation isn't lost on her.

"No," Ruby reports with a sigh. She brightens almost immediately. "But! He's gotta be watching the match somewhere!"

The blonde nods. "Exactly. You know how Qrow his. He'll show up when he needs to." She smiles again, tugging on Ruby's hand. "Now come on! It's our first match of the tournament and we are not gonna lose!"

"Right!" Ruby bobs her head in agreement and prepares to lead the way into the arena, when she suddenly spins around and races back to throw herself at Sage in a hug that seems more like an attack than an act of comfort.

Sage catches her easily, steadying her as she squeezes him tightly around the waist.

"Thank you!" she chirps into the folds of his coat. She pulls away to give him a brilliant smile. "Good luck in the tournament!"

He smiles back, lifting a hand in farewell as she turns to reclaim her place at her team's side. "You too," he tells her.

He watches as they vanish inside the arena, and then glances at the large clock mounted on the outside of the arena. He's got a solid fifteen minutes to find a seat before her match starts. So he turns away, pulling out his scroll as he walks.

Scarlet, miraculously, answers on the first ring.

"What?" his partner demands. "Look mate, I told you I don't know where Sun is, you should just do what the rest of us do and wait for—"

"Listen," Sage cuts across the swordsman's annoyed chatter. Scarlet immediately falls silent, knowing that tone. It's not Sage's shut up, I'm serious tone, but rather his shut up, I have something you'll want to hear tone.

Scarlet grins craftily to himself, sliding his cutlass back into his scabbard as he cradles his scroll in the crook of his neck back at Team SSSN's temporary room. Sage gossip. He loves Sage gossip. Mostly because it's always true.

"Listening," Scarlet reports readily.

"I was out looking for Sun," Sage explains. "And ran into this girl named Ruby. Remember a few months ago when Neptune let slip something about some Faunus that Sun had his eye on?"

"Yeah, yeah," Scarlet replies eagerly, grinning to himself. Oh, if Sage had cracked that mystery he might just cry. Neptune and Sun always thought they were so sly, unaware that Sage saw far more than he let on. "She's on a Beacon team full of crazy strong girls, right? Sun was livid."

"Well, I think I just found her." Sage pulls the scroll away from his ear to avoid the predictable shriek of excitement from his partner. He picks up a tournament flyer from a stack of them at a welcoming booth, scanning the pages until he finds the name Ruby Rose.

He arches an eyebrow, impressed at the title of Team Leader that accompanies her name.

"Is anyone else at the room?" Sage asks once Scarlet has quieted down.

"No, it's just me," his partner answers excitedly. "Give me her name, man, come on!"

Sage cracks a grin as he sweeps his eyes down the list, looking for those telltale golden eyes. "Blake Belladonna," he reports, and almost immediately he hears a flurry of typing from the other side of the call.

"Blimey, she's gorgeous," is Scarlet's first response. "Okay, I'll see what I can find and get back to you. When are we gonna spring this on him?"

Sage opens his mouth to reply, when he feels a familiar set of eyes on his back and a smirk curves his lips.

"Later," he promises his partner. "Let me know what you find."

"Roger that!" Scarlet replies gleefully, and cuts the connection.

Sage stows his scroll back in his pocket, turning to settle his gaze on one Sun Wukong, who is approaching him with a look of curiosity.

"Hey man," Sun greets him easily, falling into step beside the large swordsman. "What're you doing out here?"

"Looking for you," Sage retorts with a frown.

Sun just offers him a cheeky grin. "How's that going?"

Sage rolls his eyes, denying to answer, and Sun chuckles to himself as the pair make their way towards the arena. Sun eyes the flyer in Sage's hands.

"Got a stake in this match?" he asks. Sage slides his gaze over, quirking an eyebrow at his leader's less-than-subtle interest.

"I do, as a matter of fact," Sage replies crisply, passing the flyer to Sun. The Vacuo native accepts it, noticing it's still open to Team RWBY's page. Sage smirks when he sees Sun's Adam's apple bob nervously.

"Team RWBY, huh?" Sun remarks, apparently deciding to play ignorance. He looks up, flashing a grin that isn't a bright as usual. "Has one of these ladies caught the eye of our dear Sage Ayana?"

Sage rolls his eyes with a snort, leveling a look of stark incredulity at his leader.

"Projection doesn't suit you, Sun," Sage remarks as the pair mount a staircase that will take them to the upper seats. "I met their leader today. Ruby Rose. Sweet girl. Nicest person I've ever met."

Sun claps a hand to his chest in mock injury. "Nicer than me?" he demands.

Sage treats him to another dubious look. Sun just smirks back.

"I'm interested to see how she fights," Sage explains, settling down in his seat and scanning the arena stage for a flash of red. He glances at the megascreen, and sees she's turned toward the girl in white, bouncing on the balls of her feet and chattering away as the stadium fills.

He looks askance at Sun, noticing the Faunus is staring at the opposite screen. The one displaying the tall blonde and the golden-eyed girl.

"So," Sage remarks, leaning back in his seat as the other team—Haven's own ABRN—steps out into sight. "Anything you want to tell me, Sun?"

Sun glances over at him, looking horribly uncomfortable as he attempts to stammer out some kind of excuse. He's saved by a boy with nut-brown skin and a flash of blue hair making his way towards them.

"Hey man!" Neptune grins as he steps around other spectators to reach his partner. "What'd I miss? Has your girl gotten knocked out yet?"

The trident-wielder plops down in the spare seat beside Sun, searching the stadium. "Oh, it hasn't even started yet. Perfect!" He looks over to address Sun, and blinks, abruptly realizing the presence of SSSN's largest swordsman.

"Oh," he says, in a much smaller voice. "Sage. I didn't see you there."

Sage cocks an eyebrow. "Kinda hard to miss, Neptune," he replies with a smirk.

Neptune looks to Sun. "So…I'm guessing I ruined that little secret," he remarks, looking very unruffled. "Whoops."

Sun growls a Vacuo curse, punching his partner in the shoulder. "Neptune! Could you just keep your mouth shut—!"

"Leave him," Sage orders, reaching over to catch Sun's fist. "I knew before he even got here. You're not subtle, Sun. You never have been." He smirks, releasing his leader's fist. "It's part of your charm."

Sun just groans, dropping his head in his hands.

Neptune snickers. "Look at the bright side man," he says, clapping Sun on the back. "At least Scarlet doesn't know."

Sun breathes a sigh of relief, taking solace in that fact, while Sage just sits forward, a smirk curving his lips as he watches Ruby wave excitedly to the crowd as her team is announced. He watches as her stats flash briefly across the megascreen.

Fifteen. He rubs his jaw thoughtfully. Why had she been granted early admission?

He settles in to watch the match, half-listening to Sun and Neptune's usual banter, but mostly watching his new friend. She's gonna be spectacular. He can feel it. He hears Neptune make a comment about Blake Belladonna, and smirks again at Sun's heated denial.

He'll let Sun enjoy the match. He makes no promises for what happens after.


Oh Team SSSN. How I've missed you.

More of a Sage character study, because he's just a very nice character and I feel like he balances out the rest of the boys so perfectly. Also 99% fueled by a prompt sent to me by shiro-kitsune involving Sage and Ruby meeting at the Vytal Festival while Sage is searching for Sun.

you guys should totally send me prompts holy shit guys please