Young lady, have you ever considered the importance of your eyes?
… You haven't?
But they say more about you than any one sentence can. Where you look, how they furrow, how they widen, and of course, eye-color! Indeed, whether it's a comforting autumn brown or a curious spring green, the color of your eyes tell people everything they need to know!
However, some eyes are more important. Some eyes are quite special indeed. Some eyes are not those of a simple scholar or farmer, some eyes belong to warriors of ancient past and near future. Nobody is given the same gift at birth, and some are given a greater, more tragic gift than others.
Your eyes are some of the greatest in the world, and as a result, the most tragic.
Every semester seemed to be just as bothersome as the last. Every problem that plagued the previous school year, and the one before that had a solution in place only for an entirely new issue to spring up that had not been relevant for six years.
This semester was looking to be particularly trying. Attendance was at an all-time low. Not without good reason, the advancement of technology and civilization was mitigating the Grimm threat somewhat, so the inner city children had safer job opportunities opened up to them. While this would normally be cause for celebration, it was coming at a most inopportune time. While his students could take it easy, that woman was most certainly on the move.
Ozpin considered his assets. Several foreign students were entering Beacon as opposed to their local schools, including the highly decorated Pyrrha Nikos and the heiress of the Schnee dynasty. That alone was leaving the media clamoring for more information. Faunus attendance was up, making up for the loss of non-Faunus students, but old bias was still good and alive in many humans. The White Fang was operating ever closer to the city, desperately trying to prove they weren't cowards compared to who they used to be to the world at large, and they stole whatever goods they could get their hands on, including an entire train car full of educational program chips for Beacon student scrolls.
Not that Ozpin minded if the White Fang attempted to educate themselves, but the funds would need to be recouped. On the bright side, Weiss Schnee's attendance had the unintended side-effect of bringing in Dust at an improved discount, so their combat supplies wouldn't be hurting.
Ozpin shuffled the papers on his desk for what felt like the hundredth time as fought his boredom and tried to organize the mess this semester was trying its hardest to start on. He briefly considered calling in his right-hand woman but that only reminded him that she was in Vale, unable to help him. Though he was a man of energy, new ideas, and progress, the tedium of being an administrator and part-time bureaucrat was far harsher than that of a hunter protecting the world.
At least things were calm.
His scroll made a noise from its place on his desk, jarring his thoughts. Without looking at it, Ozpin tapped it with one finger and kept signing. "Ozpin speaking."
"Ozpin." Glynda's sharp, womanly voice stopped his pen instantly. Rarely did she address him so informally. Ozpin looked to his scroll with a mixture of relief and apprehension. "There's been an incident."
"Of course there has, Glynda." His tone was more playful than cruel, but he still stood, leaving aside his work to take the scroll and head for the door of his office. "Who, what, when, where, why?" He recited as he opened the elevator doors and entered.
"Ruby Rose." Glynda answered, and Ozpin felt his blood freeze. He squeezed the head of his cane tightly, suddenly begging the normally leisurely elevator to hurry downwards.
"Qrow's niece." Ozpin whispered gravely.
"Correct. She was involved with a robbery." Through the scroll, Ozpin could hear her footsteps as she paced. Glynda only paced when she was nervous.
"She robbed somebody?" Ozpin pressured, the tip of his cane clattering as he subconsciously shook. No. No this was bad, if Ruby Rose was already slipping-
"No." Glynda's voice sounded relieved. "No, she stopped a robbery." At the reassurance, Ozpin took a deep breath and put his scroll on speaker so he could quickly review recent news of robberies or Grimm in Vale. Nothing yet. There was no panic.
"Did she restrain herself?" Ozpin reasoned.
"No, she did not." Glynda's tone turned into a frigid hiss, and Ozpin hurried his digital search, looking for robberies, Grimm detection, a girl with interesting eyes… "She used her powers to fend off the criminals. No witnesses as far as the police can tell, but we'll have to confiscate the footage immediately."
"Agreed, use whatever resources you need, I don't even want the police involved in this, not until we're one-hundred percent sure." Ozpin suddenly felt the urgent need for coffee. He needed coffee, he wondered how Ruby would be feeling. "I'll be making a brief stop on the way over. Where is Miss Rose now?"
"She's being lead to a holding cell. Local authorities seem ignorant to what she has done, I am assuring them I am the cause of any oddities found at the scene. I'm in a private room while the police get her report of the incident." Glynda cited, then cut off Ozpin before he could speak up, "Ruby Rose has been instructed to remain silent on the exact details of the conflict. As far as the police know, the adrenaline overwhelmed her in the moment and she succeeded in fending off the attackers."
"Excellent. Yes, very good Glynda. I'm calling Qrow, he should be there for this." The lift slowed, stopped, and the doors opened. Ozpin hurried out, as fast as his limp would allow. Coffee, coffee and… cookies. Teenagers liked cookies. He needed her on his side after all. Cookies seemed like a good start.
"Qrow is currently on a mission somewhere in the wilds, he can't be reached. However, he has a detailed message awaiting him when he enters civilization again."
"Of course, of course, right when I need him in two places at once. Very well, Glynda, keep Ruby Rose company while she's waiting." Ozpin hurried towards his personal air skiff. He was in a hurry, it would take far too long to rouse his taxi. He made a note to stop by that nice coffee and bakery along the way as he ignited the dust-fueled turbines. "Oh, Glynda, one last thing?"
"Good. Keep it that way." He hung up and pocketed his scroll.
His heart was hammering. He didn't even realize he was shaking until he took ahold of the wheel. The situation was not nearly as bad as he'd hoped, but Ruby Rose was involved. Ozpin's unsteady fingers touched the throttle, but he stopped himself from taking it. He leaned forward and took a deep, meditative breath.
Relax. Take a few breaths. Calm your heart.
This needed go smoothly. Ruby Rose needed to be on his side. He piloted the skiff floated out over the lake between Beacon and Vale, then pushed the throttle to its limit and rocketed the small craft toward the heart of the city.
The guard escorting Ozpin to Ruby's holding room was remarkably calm. Of course he was, he didn't know better. Nobody here did. Just his trusted few. Even Ruby wasn't aware of the exact nature of what she was, which was more than likely for the best. Expectations turn kittens into tigers, and he absolutely did not need Ruby to know what she was.
"Here's the room, Professor Ozpin." The guard stood to the side, holding the door open for him. Ozpin bowed his head in thanks and stepped inside, immediately examining every detail in the room.
Small, sparsely furnished, other than one empty table, one filled chair, a powerful light hanging low enough to put the poor girl in the chair on edge, said girl, and Glynda pacing along the wall. Everything else was cast in shadow, and Ozpin instinctively reaffirmed his grip on the head of his cane. He needed to remain calm and refrain from scaring her. He looked to his other hand, holding a plate of chocolate chip cookies, and steadied. He needed her on his side. Take it slow, take it casual, don't let the three cups of coffee make him appear agitated.
With a gentle quirk of his jaw, he turned to look at Glynda. She had settled against the wall, and was watching them both. She was gripping her riding crop sternly in crossed arms, her eyes firmly on Ruby Rose until she noticed his focus shift to her. Both she and Ozpin shared a small, knowing look, and Ozpin considered the young girl before him.
He spoke. "Ruby Rose."
The girl flinched at her own name as Ozpin examined her. She was a small thing, only fifteen years old according to Qrow, but she seemed younger. She wasn't filling out like most girls her age, and quite short. She was wearing a baby-blue hoodie, with Orion the Hunter printed on the front, and more tellingly, she wore thick, black, opaque goggles over her eyes.
Ozpin took several steps towards her, moving into the light and leaning his head down to peer at her from over his glasses. She looked like any normal girl, other than her hidden eyes. He did not like that. The eyes were an important part of expression, they told the truth during a lie, they burned with anger, they melted with sorrow, and they glinted with joy. More than anything else, they let him see what she was looking at.
Given the circumstances, he struggled to let this personal irritant go. Things could be worse than obstructive eyewear and his personal distaste for the unseen. Far, far worse...
"Ruby Rose," he said again, his tone softer as he examined the girl, "do you know who I am?"
Ruby sat with a nervous hunch. It was abysmal posture, but Ozpin decided to not comment. "Y-you're Professor Ozpin. The headmaster at Beacon Academy." She had a cute, high-pitched voice, befitting her height and age.
Ozpin considered her for a few moments longer. There was no hostility to her posture, her hands were on the table, twisting together, and there was nothing suspicious around her, aside from her choice in eyewear. He slid the plate of cookies onto the table in front of her. Ruby looked at the offerings, then up at him. Her brow knit. It was either in suspicion or she was asking permission, he couldn't tell without seeing her eyes, so Ozpin gently nodded. "They're for you, Ruby."
She watched him for a second more, her pale fingers twitching before she picked a cookie up. The whole treat was gone the moment it touched her lips, and Ozpin quietly wondered how she was able to bypass chewing and go straight to a loud, satisfied gulp. "They're really good." She stated weakly, and Ozpin nodded, wondering if she'd even tasted it.
"I'm glad to hear that." Ozpin began to pace in front of her slowly, his cane clicking against the stone floor every two steps as he recited from memory. "Ruby Rose, daughter of Summer Rose and Taiyang Xiao Long. A resident of Patch Island." He turned to face her, noting the pile of cookies had lightened. "You're the niece of Qrow Branwen."
"Y-yeah, my Uncle Qrow." She confirmed, then ate another cookie. Ozpin continued to walk back and forth with a small nod.
"Qrow and I go a ways back. He's a friend of mine, an ally in fighting the Grimm and hunters who have gone down a dark path, as well as any other threats that may emerge. He's a dedicated and loyal friend, always watching out for you from the corner of his eye." Ozpin stated, keeping his eyes on Ruby.
"That sounds like him, sort of…" Ruby agreed. She adjusted the goggles on her face, and Ozpin thoughtfully examined them. They were tight, probably constrictive. It was to ensure a measure of privacy, but they must have been uncomfortable.
Ozpin suddenly smiled. "He's also quite the sarcastic grouch, isn't he?" He teased, and Ruby's shoulders shrugged, unable to resist an amused smile of her own. "Has he said anything about me?"
"He said he knew you, just never talked about it much." Ruby swallowed another cookie. "But he said he trusted you."
"Trust." Ozpin sampled the word as he rest both hands on his cane and turned towards Ruby, appraising her carefully. "He trusts me with a lot of information. He trusts I have the best intentions in mind when I get this information." Ozpin spoke slowly, his eyes boring into Ruby's goggles. "Including about you."
There was a thick cloud of apprehension brewing around Ruby. Her hands immediately pressed together and she squeezed her own fingers nervously. Ruby looked down at her hands, no longer interested in the plate of cookies.
"Ahem." Glynda stood straight and extended her hand, offering Ozpin a small data drive. He spoke his thanks and slid it into his scroll. He relaxed his shoulders and chewed his inner lips in anticipation as the action started.
It was a streetside view, just outside an inner city dust shop. The street was clear of cars and pedestrians, allowing the camera to focus on the robbers - a well-dressed group of thugs brandishing various weapons - and Ruby Rose. Ruby stood with one leg back, one leg forward, hands curled in a primal, claw-like position in front of her as her head whipped left and right, slowly moving in a circle to try and keep her eyes on everyone around her. She moved like a disarmed hunter, she did not appear nervous or frightened, rather, ready to fight and confident in her abilities.
One of the thugs moved in, holding a nightstick across his chest to attack Ruby's back, his first mistake. A well-trained hunter did not need their eyes to defend themselves, and Ozpin could tell that Ruby's training was well beyond a normal fifteen year old student. Those goggles must have dampened her peripheral vision, and since she had to wear them so often it made sense that she's trained to use her other senses to fill in the proverbial gaps.
Two steps forward and the man swung his weapon, but Ruby was already in motion. She leapt into the air, stylishly vaulting over the strike before landing behind the overextended thug. Ozpin narrowed his eyes. Her hand, the one hidden behind her body, did something before she slammed it into his back and sent the man flying with a pained cry.
She twirled around, making another advancing thug hesitate in his approach, and again this proved to be a mistake. Ruby was far better trained than Qrow had implied, as the girl in the video slid underneath his sloppy strike. Her hand touched the ground, and Ozpin clenched his cane's head.
Where her fingertips touched the ground a black pool expanded, churning as something pushed out. A thin, black pole, which Ruby gripped and tore from the dark puddle to brandish a pitch black scythe. It was like no weapon Ozpin had seen before. It did not reflect light, and further details were impossible to make out through the video. It looked like very sloppy special effects, but proved to be very real. The surrounding robbers recoiled out of fear as Ruby swept her scythe up, slashing her would-be attacker and sending him flying through the air, his aura flashing brightly as it hastily acted to defend him from the blow.
The rest of the thugs looked around at each other as Ruby gripped her scythe firmly at the ready. The frightened men, in a bid to use their numbers to overwhelm her, pressed forward with encouraging shouts and battle cries. Ruby… Ozpin watched with an impressed expression as Ruby seemed to dance. She slid underneath blades and bludgeoning mace heads with grace, she leapt over her attackers as they tried to pile onto her, she twirled on her toes and spun around her scythe, smacking the men aside, battering them with ease, preventing herself from being surrounded.
She looked like a true huntress in that moment, until one thug managed to grab her from behind, locking her in a full nelson. That moment should have been bad for Ruby as the remaining robbers closed in, and Ozpin expected the girl to kick out, lash with her scythe, or leap over the man holding her or… anything but what happened next.
One of the attackers was rushing forward to strike Ruby while she was vulnerable, but on the ground, beneath her feet, the black pool appeared once more. It spread as fast as the eye could register, one moment ground; the next, darkness. The man faltered, stumbling when he noticed the pool, and a long black leg pushed out of the inky pool. A Nevermore's leg, long and bent in the middle, capped with sharp talons grabbed the attacker around the chest. He gasped, barely managing a cry for help, before the leg flung him into the rest of the gang members and sent them all sprawling.
The talons turned to face Ruby and, to his distress, the man holding her. He was stiff with terror, while Ruby was commendably relaxed. The thug held Ruby up between himself and the claw, but as the inky appendage lashed out it dissolved into black, roiling smoke that passed over Ruby harmlessly before surrounding the panicking man, releasing Ruby to protect his face. Ruby fell to her feet and rolled away as the black cloud sprouted dozens of wings, and the man fled, panicking and flailing in terror as a flock of tiny, enraged Nevermores, each the size of a common crow, pecked, clawed, and harassed the man to the ground. Ruby held up her hand and clenched her fist, signalling for their assault to end. They slammed themselves into the ground, turning into black splatters on impact before shrinking into coin-sized splotches that swelled into a bubble and popped, spewing a final puff of onyx dust into the air leaving behind nothing but perfectly normal asphalt.
Ruby stood alone on the street, the rest of her opponents having fled while their beaten allies laid about, and her black scythe fell to the ground and seemed to sink into the earth, creating an inky spot that coughed black dust before shrinking into itself and disappearing. No evidence of her unusual power was left behind. Ruby turned her head toward a building across the street, seemingly spotting something and focused. Ozpin touched his stiff jaw with his thumb as Ruby's back disappeared inside a black cloud to sprout large, powerful Nevermore wings.
She jumped, and the wings flapped, sending her out of frame in a blur of motion. The footage ended there, with Ruby gone and a handful of toughs cradling their wounds and broken egos on the ground.
This was no common student sitting at the table in front of him. Everything about that fight was, frankly, professional. She was fast, powerful, graceful, using her abilities in tandem with her momentum, dispersing crowds and keeping herself from getting boxed in. A little flashy, sure, but hunters threw a lot of flair into their dodging.
"Glynda, how are the thieves?" Ozpin asked, rewinding the video to watch again. In her seat, Ruby fidgeted, looking like she wanted to leave.
"In chains, babbling about fighting Grimm. The police can't get the same story out of any of them. Some fought the girl, some fought the Grimm, some fought both. The video evidence was, unfortunately, missing from the shop and the crime scene is messy. There are no lingering effects of a Grimm attack, just a common street brawl." She cited formally, a well-practiced lie that made Ozpin smile.
"Excellent. As for you." Ozpin whirled on Ruby, who stiffened in her seat. She was looking at him, but he still could not see her eyes. He let out a quiet sigh. There was a lot of ground to cover, and those goggles were steadily weighing on his nerves. "That was quite a fight. Are you alright?"
"Fine." Ruby answered hastily, her hands formed into nervous fists on the table.
"No need for a visit to the hospital?"
"No, they didn't touch me." Ruby's answer was clinical, not bragging. She was too worried to be confident.
"Good. Then we can cut to the chase." Ozpin leaned over the table, resting on one arm as he got eye level with Ruby. The girl recoiled an inch, trying to keep to her personal space as Ozpin studied her face. "Your Uncle Qrow and I keep close tabs on you. You're a very interesting girl, you know that?"
Ruby's expression darkened with remarkable visibility given how much her goggles blocked."You mean a scary one."
"Mm. Everybody has the potential to be frightening."
"Yeah, not like me though." Ruby whispered. She had her head turned to the left now, looking at the corner of the table, though not really. Ozpin could have disagreed, but he decided against it. She didn't need to know yet.
"Ruby," he started again plainly, gently gesturing the hand he was resting against to try and catch her attention, "I want you to know you aren't in trouble." She turned her head a little towards him, and Ozpin put on his best smile. "Rather, I want to commend you for leaping into action and stopping those thieves. What you did tonight was very brave. Dangerous, perhaps even foolish, but brave. Without you, those men would have stolen that shopkeeper's livelihood and no doubt sunk him into a harsh debt. Because of your actions that man can continue living a comfortable, hopefully more secure life, and by putting those criminals behind bars you will have protected more lives in the future. Thank you Ruby, tonight, you are a hero."
The room was filled with a surprised pause as Ruby turned her head fully to stare at him, her mouth forming a small "o" from disbelief and bewilderment. The poor girl had probably never heard such praise, and Ozpin gave her a relaxed smile. "Thank you." She finally squeaked.
"No, Ruby, thank you." Ozpin stood up straight, taking his cane again to steady himself. He watched Ruby thoughtfully. "Qrow has filled me in on your training. I'm sorry you weren't allowed to enter Signal."
Ruby hung her head, nodding. Qrow and Taiyang both made the decision that Ruby's power would cause too much of a stir. A young woman summoning Grimm of all things would be nothing but trouble in the grand scheme of things. He could practically see the slack-jawed expressions of the Signal staff, the immense paranoia and fear that would end her career as a huntress before it started.
It seemed brutal and unfair towards a girl who showed so much promise.
"Your training has clearly paid off. I've only seen such skills with a scythe once in my life. It's a dangerous weapon in a novice's hands, but you and your uncle seem to have perfect control. Signal would be frothing at the mouth to get such a talented young lady in their ranks." He paused, watching Ruby's expression. Judging by her mouth and cheek bones she was somewhere between proud and depressed.
"Uncle Qrow said that I was a really good learner. Said I was as talented as a salted slug, but I worked like a starving dog." Ruby whispered with a hint of fondness in her voice. "I used to throw myself into practice every day, I always worked and worked and worked to make sure I could do it in a moment, but I could never do what Uncle Qrow did. Uncle Qrow was amazing, he would be like whoosh," Ruby threw out a sudden series of karate chops, "and hiyah and watah and-" Ruby's arms fell to the table, "-and there I was, tripping over rocks or falling onto my scythe or getting stuck in tree branches. I just never seemed to catch up. Dad and Yang both have no trouble beating me whenever we spar."
"Well, I would argue otherwise. Your Uncle Qrow is a much different caliber of hunter than you, perhaps more than me." Ozpin chuckled at the thought. "And your father is an experienced hunter, while your sister is two years ahead of you in formal training. I can't account for Qrow's idea of training, but Signal's education is designed to propel a student to their full potential in little wasted time. Comparing yourself to two adults and an older student is unfair."
"But it's the truth." Ruby stomped, rattling the table. "I'm not as good as you say I am. I got lucky."
"And luck is precisely what many a hunter needs in those crucial moments between attack and counterattack. The crunch of a twig behind you, a loosened screw falling out at the wrong moment, finding out you packed one extra bullet by accident after going through your normal reserve." Ozpin then gave Ruby a very quaint, curious smile. "Or, perhaps most lucky of all, a chance encounter with somebody who believes in you."
Ruby gave him a mystified frown, her gears turning but making no progress as Ozpin chuckled and continued. "Beacon has very strict requirements to enter. Normally, we'd take the top-of-the-line students from Signal, or any other hunter with high marks from an intermediate school. It's true even a drop-out may find some work as a freelance guard in an outpost out of our jurisdiction, but we truly do our best to refine students into something that's able to defend anyone from anything." Ozpin hummed and hawed thoughtfully. "Now, it is possible for a potential huntress trained by a famous hunter to get accepted, though, unfortunately your Uncle Qrow isn't what I'd call famous…" Yet, Qrow knew Ozpin very well, and Ozpin was more than willing to trust Qrow's word...
"Th-that's not true." Ruby looked up at him with a sudden inspiration in her voice. "Not being able to enter a hunter academy I mean." She slid her hand into the pocket of her hoodie and pulled out a pamphlet for Shade. "Vacuo will accept any student that can pass a preliminary test, even a foreigner. I-I was thinking, if I used just my scythe skills, and I told them about my abilities beforehand..." She stopped, swallowing thickly.
"You think that would work? That a hunter academy would blindly accept someone who can summon the Grimm?" Ozpin asked gently. Ruby went quiet, and gently drummed the table with her thumbs.
"Maybe as target practice…" She snarled, more to herself than him.
"Ruby, I'm always happy to meet an ambitious student who wants to make the best out of a bad situation, but hunters are a superstitious and paranoid lot. I don't want to sound pessimistic, but what I saw in that video…" Ozpin trailed off and gave her a sympathetic look. "If your uncle hadn't been keeping me in the loop, I would have had you locked away for study. Vacuo's a tough place, and Shade is a tough academy. As the only source of authority in that desert, what do you think they would do with you?"
Ruby stayed silent. Ozpin resumed pacing back and forth in front of her, now trailing the edge of the table with his fingertips. Glynda watched them both with a frown, wondering what was going through her headmaster's mind as he looked up to the ceiling, and Ruby looked down at the floor.
"Ruby, can I ask you a favor?" Ozpin shifted his gaze to Ruby, Ruby stared back uncertainly. "May I see your eyes?" He pointed to her big black goggles. Ruby squirmed at the suggestion and quietly held the goggles in place.
"I-I don't think that would be a good idea. My own family doesn't like my eyes. Uncle Qrow can barely look at them." Her jaw tightened in frustration, and Ozpin gave her a calm, gentle smile.
"I know. He's told me about them. I'd like to see them anyways. To know for myself."
Ruby hesitated as she looked up at the professor. Slowly, shakily, she grasped the edges of her eyewear and pulled them off her face, then slid them up. Ozpin felt Glynda move to his side so they could both watch as her goggles slid up to her forehead, pinning her bangs above her eyes, and revealed herself.
It was breathless and quiet for what felt like a long time, and it was only the clatter of Ozpin's jittering cane that made him realize how hard he was shaking. Glynda was taking very slow, shallow breaths, and both of them forced themselves to stare. "Goodness." Glynda finally rasped.
Ruby's expression was full of deep sorrow, but Ozpin had difficulties seeing it for what it was.
Ruby had her eyes. Glowing, blood-red irises amidst pitch-black sclera, her perfectly round pupils looking like holes into Grimm nothingness. Etched across her temples and reaching the tops of her cheeks and the bottom of her forehead were numerous black veins, which bulged under her skin and made her look deathly ill. Ozpin firmed himself, trying to cease his shaking as he looked into Salem's eyes.
Qrow had warned him that the girl's eyes seemed to make the fight or flight reflex shift to full throttle, and he had believed he could bare it, but he could not. Even if Ruby's face was slack with discomfort and fear, Ozpin could only see the malice and disgust Salem carried in her violent stare. It was so disturbingly wrong that his mind repeatedly struggled and failed to accept that they were a natural feature of Ruby's face. He looked into those eyes and saw something more dangerous than any predator. They were the eyes of a remorseless, uncaring god, one that would treat humans as food, experiments, and sacrifices with the same ambivalence a child might treat ants. It made the bitter reality that he would inevitably die so much more real.
With a painful shudder, Ozpin could take no more and closed his eyes, turning his head away as Glynda took a few steps backwards and broke eye contact. "Thank you Ruby." He sighed, looking at her out of the corner of his eyes. Her black and red eyes seemed to bore right through him, and he acknowledged that Qrow's choice of goggles were a necessity. He forced his head to turn so he could look at her again.
"Should I put my goggles back on?" She asked in a very small, defeated voice.
"Are you more comfortable with them on?" Ozpin asked, trying to be clinical with his feelings, but he couldn't shake the feeling of death hanging over him.
"N-not really. They make me sweat and itch, and I can't really see out of the corners so-"
"Then please, leave them off." Ozpin interrupted her with a small, thin-lipped smile. Ruby touched her goggles, seemingly hesitant to remove them, but ultimately slid her them of her head and set them on the table, and judging by the thud they made they were quite heavy as well.
Ozpin leaned over the table again, his face looming closer despite his irrational instincts, and he reached out. Ruby flinched and made an offended squeak as his fingertips traced her black veins, but allowed him to be curious. Her skin was warm, but the veins were cool, weirdly tough, but he detected a faint pulsation of blood underneath. He pulled his hand back, and Ruby's shoulders drooped in relief.
He worked his jaw slowly and stood up straight, wearing a thoughtful expression as he rubbed his fingertips against the cloth of his pant leg. "Ruby, your skills with the scythe cannot be denied. I have to ask, even though you can't get into Signal, or any other academy, why do you train? Especially with such a difficult weapon."
Ruby took her time formulating an answer, and Ozpin took one of the cookies off the plate. He savored it quietly, letting her gather her thoughts. "More than anything… More than being normal, I-I want to be a huntress." She spoke with more assuredness in her voice than she'd ever used before now, and Ozpin tilted his head to signal for her to continue. "When I was a little girl, when my mom was alive, she was a huntress. A really good one. My dad too, and my uncle. Yang, my sister, she's training to be a huntress, but when we were both little she would read to me. The ones all about hunters fighting evil, saving the innocent, helping those who couldn't help themselves. When I could read, I learned all about the towns and cities that failed because of bandits and Grimm. I always thought 'I want to do something to help them.' I-I want to help people." Ruby swallowed thickly. "And I thought that if I was good enough I wouldn't have to use my semblance. That maybe I could go my whole career fighting and protecting without… this…" Ruby held a hand up over the table. Ozpin took a step back and watched.
A tiny black spot appeared on the table directly beneath her hand. It could have been mistaken for a tiny stain, except that it began to grow. It spread, like black water, writhing as if it was alive, growing until it was a foot across. With little warning a black claw lurched out of the puddle of darkness. The hand of a beowolf, furious and sharp, at the end of a long, elbowed arm, flailed in a silent rage. When Ruby squeezed her fist tightly it seemed to give up on its squirming and sink back into the pool. It shrunk, pouring back into itself and collapsing into a tiny black mote once more, which disappeared with a small puff of fading dust.
Ozpin ran his thumb along his jawbone. Ruby rested her hands on her lap as Glynda touched the table with her riding crop, then her hand curiously. Glynda found no oddities, while Ruby let out a sigh. "I know it's a stretch, but maybe, if I have to, I can go freelance. I know that's basically being a vigilante but out in the wild…" She trailed off.
"Out in the wild, nobody would have to see your semblance, or your eyes." Ozpin noted, then pointed to her the chest of her hoodie. Ruby looked down at the image of Orion on her hoodie. "In fables, Orion was a very reclusive hunter. He slayed the Grimm left and right, giving the early builders and squatters of Vale the peace they needed to form a functioning city. It is said he never showed his face, but they knew where he'd been by the arrows he'd left puncturing the trees." The headmaster was calm as he went paced in front of her, still stroking his chin. "But that's just a legend of course. However, nothing can stop you from imitating it."
Ruby gave him a slow nod, her red irises sinking towards the table. Ozpin briefly entertained the notion that the table would fear her gaze and go running for safety, but no such silliness happened. "I could, I guess, but…"
Ozpin continued as Ruby struggled to find the words, "But you don't want to be alone." Ruby nodded her head, affirming his guess. "You want to be a modern huntress. You want to work with a team, you want to have people praise and reward you, you want to enjoy modern civilization and not go roughing it."
"I really like cable." Ruby admitted with embarrassment, causing Ozpin to crack a smile.
"So you want to go to an academy, hoping your skills alone would carry you to graduation with a stable of friends to go into the world and slay the Grimm with. Correct?" Ozpin raised an eyebrow, and Ruby slowly bobbed her head.
Ozpin turned his head to look at Glynda. The blonde huntress met his eyes, and there was a very strong notion in them. She was disagreeing with him, she thought it was a mistake, but she was leaving the call to him. Ozpin cracked a small smile and held out his arms.
"I guess it can't be helped. Beacon has prided itself on its talented students, and we don't want to leave any teams short this semester." He stated while staring up at the ceiling, causing Ruby to give him a questioning look.
"What do you mean?" She watched him slowly turn to face her with a pleased smile.
"What I mean is that at Beacon Academy we have a bit of a shortage of entrants this year. We are one student short of having an entire wing of four person teams. And, luck be with me, sitting before me is a young woman brimming with talent and a dedication towards her fellow man that is both rare and comforting." Ozpin opened his scroll to open an application page. "What I mean, Ruby Rose, is that I would like you to come to Beacon Academy."
Ruby made a noise not unlike a confused baby elephant as she stared at Ozpin. Her damnable eyes were bug-eyed and only looked furious, the rest of Ruby was entirely dumbfounded. "I-I- but- l-look I mean my eyes, my powers, a-and I haven't gone to Signal and I mean even if I had it's too early for me I wouldn't have graduated and I mean that's assuming I even get all passing grades because history is super duper hard because you know how many wars we've had and all the different dust theories and I'm really bad at chemistry I mean I blew up Yang and my uncle and my dad and they don't even let me in the kitchen to cook even though I wanna learn how and-"
Ozpin let her ramble on as he presented the application to Glynda, who quietly signed off in approval before leaning in to whisper. "We are already ankles deep in that woman's plot. Do we really want another potential issue?"
"Dear Glynda," Ozpin looked back at the babbling Ruby with a small smirk, "times of danger are also times of innovation. This is a great risk that may return a greater reward." He turned back towards Ruby, holding up a finger to silence her.
"- I keep mixing up blue raspberry juice with dish soap so- huh?" She stopped mid-rant and focused on Ozpin's finger.
"We are willing to overlook your lack of formal education in exchange for a greater commitment on your part. We provide learning materials for all students and have tutors on site for those struggling to get by. More importantly, we are willing to help you with your semblance."
"Like, repress it?" Ruby was squeezing her fists in nervous excitement, but Ozpin shook his head.
"We will never truly know just how dangerous or how incredible your semblance may be unless we attempt to. However, in the meantime, two things will be required of you: you must never use your semblance except in very particular circumstances, and you must continue wearing those goggles. I am sure you are aware what your eyes do to people when they look into them."
"They usually try to call hunters…" Ruby muttered dryly.
"Indeed. It would be for the best that they remain covered unless you're in private." Ozpin looked over her face one more time. Those eyes, those utterly unbearable eyes. A curse for such an well-intentioned girl. She did not have that woman's evil, yet she was a pariah nonetheless. "Is this acceptable?" Ozpin asked, extending a hand.
Ruby looked at his hand with apprehension, then delicately took it. Their hands clasped in a brief shake, and Ozpin smiled.
"In all my years working by your side, I have never doubted you more." Glynda spoke in a low, venomous voice as Ozpin walked her to her own airship. The click of his cane against the flagstones leading to the landing area was the only other noise in the empty night.
Ruby had been left behind at the police station. They had a little more questioning to do and were more than likely going to call her father. Her last, final look towards Ozpin had been one of worry, but also great hope. Ozpin smiled as he recalled that look.
"And I don't blame you." Ozpin paused at Glynda's small, tidy skiff, holding the door open for her. "But this is an opportunity I cannot pass up given what I suspect is coming. Even if Ruby Rose takes twenty years to master her semblance her presence in the battle between good and evil could make all the difference."
Glynda said nothing as she stepped into her skiff and settled into her seat. She buckled up and turned the key, causing the low, humming engines to activate. The airship lifted up an inch, and the landing gear was retracted. Ozpin was about to close the door when Glynda shot him a sharp look. "In all of human history, there has not been a single recorded encounter between man and Grimm that did not end in violence. They're monsters, and the people who associate with them are worse. That girl, Ruby Rose, what if you're wrong?"
"Then I'm wrong." Ozpin stated plainly, and Glynda gave him a very bemused look. "I understand your concerns, but that girl has talent, and more than talent she is noble. That girl has an open resolve towards doing good that few her generation can match. Even if she is explicitly forbidden from ever using her semblance, her training alone may more than make up for it. I want to give her the chance to fulfill her dream and help further the goodwill of mankind. Locking her away and telling her she's a monster will only reassert her beliefs that she is cursed. Let's give her the chance."
Glynda was quiet. She crossed her arms under her bust and stared at her skiff console in quiet thought. "You never could resist the ambitious little heroes." Glynda snorted, closing her eyes. "She has her chance. I won't go out of my way to deny her, but I will be watching her. If she turns out too dangerous…"
Ozpin squeezed the head of his cane and nodded slowly. "Then we will decommission her, but who knows what the future might hold? Let's keep our hopes up."
Glynda shook her head at his optimism and took ahold of the wheel. "I will see you in the morning, headmaster. Try to avoid taking any more needless risks." Ozpin chuckled and shut the door. Glynda sped off towards Beacon, and Ozpin checked his scroll.
He felt a small headache brewing as he realized he'd missed an important staff meeting. Now he'd need to schedule another one to cover what he'd missed and discuss the training of Ruby Rose, and account for a new student in the school. That meant looking back over lunches, housing, armaments, and laundry. He walked back towards his skiff as he considered the changes they'd be undertaking.
Maybe that little coffee and bakery was still open...