AN: This is my first official RWBY story, with well over a hundred chapters already written, to be submitted at a regular pace. This story is still being in the process of being written, and has been for over a year. Normally, nowadays, I try to have an entire story finished, before I start posting. But I figured I've had this on the burner long enough, what with Volume 6 coming out, and me starting this back when Volume 4 was still in progress. That being said, I hope you enjoy.
Chapped lips parted to allow the low, hoarse groan to issue forth, straining a dried and sore throat. Sticky eyelids struggled to force themselves apart, almost as though the surface of her eyes themselves had turned to glue. Still, slowly, and with considerable effort, she managed to peel them back, revealing irises of the purest silver.
"Can you hear me?" the voice that had called her back from the brink asked. It was soft, yet stern. Just listening to it urged her to respond.
"Y-ye-" Her voice was cut off as the pain in her throat grew too severe for her to speak, triggering a wave of painful coughs that wracked her body, sending jolts of pain shooting through her chest and out to the very ends of her limbs.
"A response is good enough," said a second voice, this one much lighter and higher, but still somewhat boyish.
Shadows loomed over her, the people talking to or about her, she supposed. The air around her was filled with low, angry growls, accompanied by the sound of crunching foliage, and detritus crushed beneath the heavy tread of several sets of padded and clawed feet.
"It doesn't look good though," said the first voice. "She's lost a lot of blood. I think she has internal injuries too."
"Just do your best," said the second voice. "I'll deal with the Grimm."
"All right," said the first voice. One of the shadows leaned in closer, and she felt her heart beat faster as it approached. Something brushed against her cheek…someone's hand. But it felt cool to the touch. The hand moved up to her forehead, and the feeling was almost indescribably soothing. She managed to focus her vision enough to make out a pair of amber eyes with slit-shaped pupils, looking right back into hers. At the moment, that was all she could make out. Already she was beginning to feel the fog pulling at her again.
"Just relax," said the stern voice with surprising gentleness. "I'll do my best to treat you. You can go back to sleep."
"O…okay…" she said, her eyes sliding closed again.
"There, that's the last of it I was able to find," said Gin as he carefully deposited the shards of shattered metal he'd gathered onto the pile that the two of them had already accumulated. As he crouched, the light of the fire seemed to glint off his silver hair, cut short so that his bangs just barely rested above his eyes, although it was slightly longer towards the back. He was dressed in a white short-sleeved shirt with a pale-blue stripe running horizontally across his chest, which tied shut at the front. He'd used the shirt to hold the pieces of metal that he'd carried into the cave. Having set them down, he straightened up, revealing a pair of pale-blue shorts and sandaled feet. "I checked up above the cliff too. There were quite a few pieces there."
"Hmm…" Ayumu carefully picked through the pieces, separating them out so that he could look at them individually, pinching them in his fingers so he could examine them in the light of the fire with his grayish-blue eyes. He was about a head taller than his companion, sporting a slender build that was hidden by the pale-blue kimono he wore, which was complimented by a pair of matching hakama, tied shut at the ankles over a pair of feet, covered with sandals and white socks, much like those worn by his companion. His jet-black hair was nearly identical in style to his companion, though its cut was somewhat rougher, leaving a pair of slightly longer bangs that ran down the sides of his face, neatly framing his eyes, while a few more grew down, almost long enough to cover his eyes themselves. Despite being older and taller than his companion, Ayumu's face had a much more boyish look to it, sporting smooth and youthful skin that would have been the envy of vain women the world around.
"Any idea what it is?" asked Gin, crouching down again and picking up a shard of metal to examine. It was black, with a gray edge running along the inside of a gentle curve, running out towards a tapered tip.
"It's hard to say," said Ayumu, frowning speculatively as he picked up another piece, this one of metal painted over with red. "Even where they aren't broken, the blade fragments don't seem to be completely connected to one another. I'm guessing they're segmented in some fashion."
"To allow the blade to fold away?" wondered Gin.
"That would be my guess," said Ayumu. "They would reposition themselves when deployed, lining up to form a proper, continuous edge." He picked up another section of gray blade, tracing his fingers along it. "This curvature…and the cutting edge is on the inside…"
"Like a sickle?" posed Gin.
"…More like a scythe," mused Ayumu, setting the piece of the blade down. "And a big one at that."
Gin blinked and then frowned. "That's certainly an odd weapon. You don't see many of those around."
"Most definitely not," agreed Ayumu.
"And you think it was hers?" mused Gin, turning his eyes towards their guest, who lay unmoving beneath a blanket over a sheet spread across carefully assembled padding made from gathered foliage.
The girl hadn't moved or made a sound ever since she'd passed out again. Fortunately, that had made treating her injuries easier. She was a fairly short girl, about fourteen or fifteen by their estimation, the same age as Gin for that matter…and of a height with him to boot, should she stand up. Her light skin contrasted nicely with the black, neck-length hair covering her head, which gradated to red towards the tips. It was cut asymmetrically so that the locks on the right side of her face were longer than the left.
When they'd found her, she'd been clad in a black blouse and skirt, the skirt sporting a red hem, along with black leggings and a pair of combat boots tied with red laces. Her ensemble was completed by a red, hooded cloak, draped across her shoulders and fastened by a pair of cross-shaped clips. She'd apparently also worn a black corset with red lacing, along with a belt, decorated with an emblem of a silver rose. But those had been cut away by the same edge that had left a deep wound across her abdomen. Her blouse was stained by the blood that had seeped out from that injury, and the narrow puncture just barely missing her left breast…and, more importantly, narrowly avoiding her heart and lungs inside.
At the moment, her clothes had been discarded and set aside. Gin…despite how uncomfortable he had been with doing so, had been forced to strip them off her in order to fully assess her injuries and treat them. In addition to those wounds, she'd accumulated numerous other scratches and bruises, along with possible breaks that might have come from some kind of blunt object…or might simply have been a consequence of her presumed fall down the cliff they'd found her at the base of.
In any case, treating her had been a difficult task, one only made more complicated by the pack of Beowolves that had been ringing her body when they'd found her. Ayumu had dealt with the Grimm easily enough, while Gin used the skills their master had taught them to treat her injuries.
"I don't see any other conclusion to draw," said Ayumu. "Of course, we can confirm it by asking her when she wakes."
"If she wakes," said Gin glumly.
"Come now," said Ayumu, giving his companion an amiable smile. "You did a fine job treating her. It's rather remarkable. Despite the apparent fall, we didn't find any traces of head or spinal trauma, so she should wake once she's rested a while."
Gin pursed his lips and directed his gaze back at the girl. "Well, if it is hers…she certainly has the build for it." Despite her small stature, her clothes had hidden tight and compact musculature, which, ironically enough, had been what had helped to hold her body together, despite the severe wounds she'd taken.
"And then there's this," said Ayumu, lifting up another piece of the item they'd scavenged. "I'm not so experienced with these sorts of things, but it appears to be part of a trigger assembly."
"For a gun?" asked Gin, his eyes going back to the mess of metal. He picked out another piece. "This looks like part of a barrel…Do you think they're from the same weapon?"
"That is what I assume," said Ayumu, putting the piece back down while Gin did the same.
"A scythe with a gun…" said Gin skeptically. "I've seen some weird weapon choices. But that's one of the strangest things I've ever heard of."
"There's a scope too," said Ayumu, picking up the piece in question. "Given the presumed size of the weapon, I think it's safe to assume that the whole barrel was quite long when it was assembled."
"So…a rifle then," said Gin.
"A sniper-rifle no less," said Ayumu. "One with an impressive caliber too. I'd guess that the barrel was fitted into the shaft assembly, so that its presence doesn't interfere with the scythe blade."
"So…a sniper-scythe," said Gin, resting his chin on the curled knuckles of his hand as he sat cross-legged on the cave floor. "Definitely weird. How is something that complicated even functional?"
"Well, the salvage appears to include hinges, gears, and even pistons," noted Ayumu. "Therefore it must have mechashift capabilities."
"Well, that's not the sort of thing your average girl out for a walk in a Grimm-infested forest would be carrying," said Gin with a soft snort. "Add her build on top of that, and it seems pretty obvious. She's a Huntress."
"I don't know…" said Ayumu, turning his gaze back to their patient. "As well-built as she is, she seems too young. She looks to be roughly the same age you are. A Huntress that young is unheard of."
"A student then," said Gin simply.
Ayumu's frown deepened. "That still seems unlikely. Last I heard, the Academies don't take students until they turn seventeen."
"Maybe they relaxed their age requirement, or she's some kind of special case," said Gin. "There's no way a mere Combat School student would be out this far from civilization, right?"
"I suppose not," said Ayumu, running a hand through his hair and mussing it slightly. "Another thing on the list of questions to pose to her when she wakes up, I suppose."
"Let's assume she's a student Huntress for the moment," said Gin. "What Academy is closest?"
"Hmm…I'm not entirely sure," admitted Ayumu. "I think we're fairly close to Vale…but there's a chance she could be from Vacuo."
"We'll find out when she wakes up, I guess," said Gin, settling back and crossing his arms, leaning back against the cave wall.
"Agreed," said Ayumu, still frowning and scratching his chin as he continued to pick over the pieces of broken metal. "But…there's still something that perplexes me."
"What's up?" asked Gin.
"These fragments…" said Ayumu. "Some of them are broken…but other pieces are intact. Some of this weapon was indeed damaged, particularly the blade segments and the larger pieces of the frame, but it also seems as though other parts of it were systematically disassembled." He examined them closer. "I'm not sure, but I don't think this weapon was broken by some kind of severe impact. It wouldn't have been so completely dismantled if that was the case."
"Odd," agreed Gin.
Ayumu sighed and settled back as well, resting his eyes on the girl. "I suppose we'll just have to ask her. It always comes back to that."
The two of them settled in to wait for their charge to regain consciousness.
Her eyes flickered open. The lids still felt sticky and resisted the effort, but it wasn't as much of a strain this time. The pain had faded considerably, almost to the point of disappearing completely, though it was at least partially present. She felt weak and tired. But her body no longer felt like something partially detached from her. Parts of it felt bound and tied together.
Opening her mouth, she tried to speak. But the only thing that emerged was a hoarse croak. Her throat was parched and felt almost as though it was burning.
"You're awake," commented a vaguely familiar, boyish voice to her left. It was soft, the speaker deliberately using a low volume and trying to avoid startling her.
She slowly turned her head, feeling it propped up against something soft and cool…a pillow of some kind.
The boy speaking to her was slightly obscured by the light of the fire, which sent shadows playing across his face. However, what she saw seemed reassuring enough. He had a friendly, gentle look to him that almost immediately put her at ease, smiling quite naturally.
The boy slowly moved to her side, being careful not to make any moves that might be interpreted as threatening. "My name is Ayumu Ao," he said. "My friend and I found you and treated your injuries. We're presently in a cave…I can't give you an exact location where, I'm afraid."
She blinked, unsure of what response to make. She was sure a "Thank you," was warranted, but presently didn't feel as though she could speak very well at the moment.
"If you look to your right, you'll see my friend, Gin Ueno," said Ayumu pleasantly.
Doing as she was bid, she turned and found a second, younger, silver-haired boy sitting a short distance away. The sight of him made her slightly nervous. While younger, Gin seemed much more serious and stern than his companion, his lips not really twitching as he slowly raised a hand in polite greeting.
"Please don't be worried about his expression," said Ayumu. "That's just the default face he makes. He's not upset with you or anything. He's also the one who treated your injuries."
To her surprise, even though it was a bit harder to make out through the firelight, she was certain that his cheeks turned an impressive shade of red, and he looked away. The strangely bashful expression he made triggered the impulse to giggle, though the sound was ultimately unable to worm its way out of her tortured throat.
Ayumu chuckled. "Unfortunately, in order to properly treat your injuries…I'm afraid he was forced to remove your clothes, which was why he's so embarrassed."
Now her cheeks colored, though it seemed that Gin's were coloring even more. Ayumu's words also made her more aware of her condition. She was covered by a soft, warm sheet or blanket of some kind, but she realized that said blanket was resting right against her exposed skin…where it wasn't bandaged. In other words, she was all but naked underneath it. From what she could tell, only her panties remained, either because none of her injuries were in that area, or because even Gin had limits to how far he would go to inspect her condition. Her body tensed and her fingers bunched the fabric of her only coverage as she reflexively tried to pull it tighter over herself.
"I'm sorry," said Ayumu, now very gently resting his hand on her covered shoulder. "There isn't a whole lot we can say or do to ease your discomfort in that area. All we can do is assure you that we only did it in order to effectively treat your injuries. Afterwards, we made sure to keep you covered. For what it's worth, I promise that neither of us took any advantage of you."
Given her condition, she found that she didn't disbelieve what Ayumu told her. Considering her current state and the careful manner in which he had approached and spoken to her, she found little reason to mistrust him.
"Now then," said Ayumu, "I just wanted to make sure you had an idea of your situation so that we can continue. I'm going to help you sit up now, so that you can take some water. I imagine that you're feeling quite parched right now."
Registering her response, Ayumu smiled. "I'll hold your blanket up so that you remain covered, and Gin will give you the water. Is that all right?"
She nodded again.
"Good," said Ayumu, carefully slipping his arm beneath her shoulders. "Here we go."
Moving carefully, he began to lift her torso up with his right arm, while using his left hand to keep the blanket from falling down past her chest. When she was mostly upright, Gin approached, holding a metal mug with a pair of folding handles, bringing it right to her lips. She allowed them to part slightly so that, when he tipped the mug, the water passed through her lips and down her throat.
The liquid was cool, but not cold, soothing the painful, scratchy feeling that made the thought of speaking such a pain. Gin was careful to tip the mug slowly so that she was able to swallow it down easily. When he finished, he lowered the mug away and met her eyes.
"Would you like some more?" he asked.
She nodded slowly, her neck still feeling slightly stiff. Gin immediately turned to a canteen and poured another mug of water for her, bringing it back to her lips and, once again, slowly tilting its contents into her mouth. The action of swallowing was even easier this time, the pain disappearing by the time she reached the bottom of the mug. Her throat felt much better too, though a faint trace of hoarseness remained.
"More?" prompted Gin.
She opened her mouth to speak, then found herself needing to cough a couple times to fully clear her throat. Doing so sent jolts of pain shooting up from her body, particularly on points under the bandages covering her chest and abdomen, where she could feel a pulling sensation.
"Careful," admonished Ayumu gently. "Please don't strain your injuries."
Shaking her head slowly, she coughed, more carefully this time, to clear her throat. "No, thank you," she said, giving Gin a grateful smile. Her voice was still a bit hoarse, and there was a little pain. But speaking didn't feel like agony for her anymore.
She couldn't help but notice that Gin's cheeks colored again. But he kept his stoic expression in place and set the cup down.
"In that case, you should lie back down," said Ayumu. "We'll have something a bit more substantial for you in a little bit."
She nodded and allowed Ayumu to gently lower her back down to whatever was serving as a bed for her in this cave. It was slightly springy, and not very soft…but not painfully hard either, so she didn't think she was lying on solid stone.
After lowering her back down, Ayumu gently tugged the blanket to make sure she was fully covered. "You could probably do with some more rest," he said. "But, now that you seem to be up to speaking, for the most part, I just have one question for you."
For some reason, that made her lips quirk up in an amused smile. "Just one?"
"For now," said Ayumu. "Actually, we have several questions for you. But you did only just wake up, and we don't want to cause you any stress right now. We can worry about particulars later, when you've recovered more. Until then, the only thing that we wish to know is your name."
"My name…" Her eyes narrowed, then she scrunched her forehead slightly. "My name is…" Her throat began to tighten and her body tensed. She had an inkling, like something was resting on the tip of her tongue, but she just couldn't get the words out. She knew her name…but…for some reason…she was having a hard time saying it.
"Are you having trouble remembering?" asked Ayumu, looking down at her in concern. "If it's too much…you don't have to answer."
"No!" she said quickly, almost shouting. "I know this…I have to know…"
Gin leaned towards her. "You were wearing that red cloak," he prompted. "You seem to like red. Does that have something to do with it?"
Red. That word was familiar. She remembered someone using that word to refer to her. But she also knew that wasn't her name. But she knew that it was related. Her name had something to do with the color, red. She even knew it started with an R.
"R-R-R…" She scrunched her face tighter and felt her heart pounding in her chest. It was terrifying to realize that she was having so much difficulty just saying her name.
"Please don't strain yourself," pleaded Ayumu carefully, throwing a warning glance over her at Gin, who ignored it, his gaze fixed on her face.
"Red…Ru…Ruby…" Her eyes widened. That was it! "Ruby!"
"Your name is Ruby?" said Gin.
She nodded. "Ruby…R-R…" She knew her last name started with an R as well. It too had something to do with red, but more than that.
Gin narrowed his eyes, apparently thinking of something. "The emblem on your belt…it was a flower. A rose I think. Does that have something to do with it?"
Her eyes widened again and a gasp of realization escaped her. "That's it!" she said. "Ruby Rose. That's my name."
"So that's it," said Ayumu, nodding slowly. "It's nice to meet you, Ms. Ruby."
"Y-yeah…" said Ruby, her voice trailing off as she thought about why she'd had so much trouble recalling her name. Gradually, her breathing picked up pace. Sweat began to gather on her forehead.
"Ms. Ruby…" said Ayumu, his expression growing more and more worried by the second.
"I can't…" said Ruby, her voice almost frantic.
"You can't what?" asked Gin.
"I can't remember…who I am."
It's good to be posting stories again. I hope you enjoyed the first chapter of this story. Obviously, I can't say too much about it right now, as details will become clearer as we go on. For now, I have a few notes about the two main characters, aside from Ruby.
Gin Ueno: Visually, Gin's appearance is borrowed from the ninja, Sarutobi Sasuke, as he's depicted in the anime/manga series, Samurai Deeper Kyo. Sasuke is one of my favorite characters from a design standpoint, and, since I first started reading that particular manga, I've had a tendency to write an expy of him into many of my stories (most of which have never seen the light of day yet). As for his name, Gin, of course, is the Japanese word for silver, in order to fit with the color-naming rule that Monty established, back when RWBY was first created. Ueno, on the other hand, is mostly a generic surname.
Ayumu Ao: Another of my habitual expys, in this case of Seta Soujiro, from Rurouni Kenshin, another of my favorite manga/anime character designs. In this case, his surname, Ao, comes from the Japanese word for blue or green (midori, the modern word for green being something of a new development).
For those of you interested in writing, or already writing RWBY fanfics of your own, I highly recommend the site, Behind The Name, for if you want to operate within the boundaries of the color-rule. It helpfully contains lists of names organized by themes, including colors and things that can be evocative of color. I'm clearly not the first one to stumble on this site, as someone has already indexed several names under a list of names used in RWBY, but if you haven't heard of it, this site is my go-to tool for coming up with character names.