It was another normal morning at Beacon for Team RWBY. Blake had woken up well before everyone else, Yang had hogged the bathroom for twenty minutes making sure her hair was perfect, and Weiss had badgered everyone out the door to class ten minutes earlier than the rest of them wanted to leave. The only deviation from the norm was that Ruby was having a hard time keeping her eyes open. Not even the sugary bowl of Pumpkin Pete's Marshmallow Flakes she had for breakfast had gotten her to perk up. She probably shouldn't have stayed up that late gaming, she mused as a yawn threatened to spilt her face.
"Whoa there Ruby, you about to pass out on us?" Yang asked jokingly.
"Nah, just had a long night."
"It's because of those stupid video games of yours. I can't understand why you would want to play something that would rot your brain like that." Weiss lectured.
"Don't knock them till you try them." Blake said wryly.
"Yeah Weiss, lighten up." Yang said. "Just because you're terrible at having fun doesn't mean we all should be."
"Hey! I'll have you know I'm great at having fun."
"You suggested we spend our day off studying." Yang deadpanned.
"Says the girl who wanted to sleep the entire day away." Ruby muttered.
Yang whirled as Weiss tried to repress a snicker. "Hey! Whose side are you on here?"
Ruby was going to respond when something caught her eye. Or rather, someone.
"These uniforms are so restrictive. How do they expect us to fight in these?"
"They don't. We're in a kingdom now; Grimm don't just wander in looking for a good time. Well, not usually."
The four men from yesterday were walking down the path towards them, wearing Beacon uniforms. The dark haired one, Dom, was tugging on the sleeve of his jacket exasperatedly when he looked up to see them. "Oh. Hello."
"Uh, Hi." Team RWBY came to a halt, as did the other group. "What are you guys doing here?"
"What do you mean, Red?" The blond spearman had a sly smile on his face, as if there was a joke she wasn't getting. "I said we'd see each other around."
"Yeah, but I didn't think that meant you guys were gonna enroll here or anything."
"Technically, we transferred." He replied amiably. Blake stepped out in front of Ruby.
"Why would Ozpin let you transfer here?"
Dom looked her in the eye. "Why wouldn't he?"
"I can think of several good reasons." Blake replied, her tone acidic. Ruby frowned. It wasn't like Blake to be this confrontational. Was she still mad about the fight yesterday?
As if he had read her mind, Dom awkwardly shifted. "Sorry about what happened yesterday." He apologized. "Bit of a mix-up there. My friends kinda jumped the gun and let things get out of hand." He had a bright, warm smile. With a smile like that it was hard to blame him for anything.
"They did draw on us first." San, standing in back, muttered. His scowl, on the other hand, made it all too easy to blame him.
"You attacked first." Ruby retorted, crankiness making her words come out more accusing than she had intended.
"You pointed a rifle at my head." The swordsman replied. "Was I supposed to have waited until after you pulled the trigger to assume you were hostile?"
"You could have tried explaining the situation, instead of immediately resorting to violence." Blake said, coming around Ruby to stand in front of them.
"Again, we're sorry about how things turned out." Dom turned to the redhead. "Aren't we, guys?"
The redhead rolled his eyes, but before he could respond a familiar voice called out.
"You!?" Turning Ruby saw JNPR heading to their first morning class. Pyrrha was at the front of the group, and staring with her mouth agape at them. It was strange, the way she was standing with her hands held close to her chest like that, it almost seemed like she was nervous or afraid of something.
"You?" The blond was incredulous. "Three years we haven't seen each other and that's how you greet us? What, did you forget my name or something?"
Pyrrha looked over at him, eyes widening in surprise. "Ah, no it's just that…" She trailed off awkwardly. Her eyes flickered to the swordsman, then Blake, then back.
"Old friends of yours, Pyrrha?" Jaune said, obviously trying to dispel the tension.
"The two of us were seniors at Sanctum when she was a freshman." The swordsman explained. "I'm Sanguin."
"Argos." The spearman said. "That's Dom, and the quiet one back there is Will. And you are?"
Pyrrha had recovered her composure. "This is my team here at Beacon. That's Jaune, Nora, and Ren." She pointed to each of them in turn.
"A pleasure." Argos turned to look at Ruby. "And you?"
Ruby rattled off the names of her teammates. "So, what made you guys want to transfer?"
For a moment no one answered, the four of them looking between each other. Dom finally said "We wanted to expand the scope of our education, get to see how the big shot kingdom schools do things."
"Really." Blake clearly didn't believe that. "And what prompted that interest?"
"We are running low on time." Will said from the back of the group. Ruby wasn't sure what that meant, until Dom pulled a scroll from his pocket.
"Yeah, we gotta run or we'll be late for class. Nice meeting you. Again, I guess." The quartet strode off across the courtyard. Pyrrha watched them go with a nervous expression.
"Pyrrha, are you okay? You seem kinda… off." Yang said what they were all thinking.
"Well, I…" Pyrrha trailed off. Jaune stepped in between them and her. "Hey guys, she doesn't have to tell us anything she doesn't want to."
Pyrrha blushed, whether from embarrassment or from Jaune being so close to her Ruby couldn't say. "It's nothing, really. At Sanctum, older students sometimes spar with younger ones to give hands-on instruction. Seeing those two just reminded me of some tough sparring sessions, that's all."
Ruby couldn't help noticing that she didn't meet anyone's eyes when she said that. Behind her, Weiss started. "Speaking of the time, we're going to be late to class ourselves if we don't hurry."
"So much for leaving early and not having to run to class." Ruby said wryly, already starting to jog. They made to Professor Port's classroom with a whole minute to spare.
Ruby did try to listen to the lecture, but Professor Port was hard to listen to in the best of circumstances, much less when you were struggling to stay awake like she was. Annoyingly, every time she was about to nod off, Weiss would jab her in the side and wake her back up again. Ruby knew Weiss was doing her a favor by keeping her awake, but that didn't stop her from wanting to strangle the heiress every time she felt a finger ram into her stomach. The tenth time it happened, she restrained the murderous impulse and blearily focused on Professor Port's words again.
"And so my great uncle was able to fragment the Beowolf pack with nothing but a well thrown knife, his masterfully aimed strike bringing down the pack leader and causing the pack to turn on itself. His story demonstrates one of the most important qualities a Huntsmen or Huntress should have, a vital quality that can be the difference between life and death not just for you, but for the defenseless people that Huntsmen and…"
God he just drones on and on and on. He probably could have cut his lectures into half the time if he would just get to the point already. Ruby shifted in her seat, her butt starting to ache from the hard wooden bench.
"Precision! The ability to be precise in your movements and exacting with your strikes is critical for all who would seek to overcome the dangers of this world. Who among you thinks you can demonstrate your precision?"
Ruby had drifted off again. This time, Weiss jabbed into her side hard enough to make her jump, letting out a yelp.
"Ah, Miss Rose. Please step forward. This will be a rather simple demonstration, no need to change."
Ruby walked up to the combat space, giving Weiss a glare as she passed. A blast shield rose from the floor, the dim metal pitted and scored from years of use. Professor Port tapped a few buttons and a screen was projected onto it.
"You use a ranged weapon, do you not?" When Ruby nodded confirmation, he continued. "There will be a scene projected onto the shield. You will have only a few seconds to analyze the situation and fire a single shot where you feel it would be most fitting."
Crescent Rose unfolded into its sniper mode. Ruby slid in a fresh magazine and cocked it. "I'm ready."
A scene flickered onto the screen. It was in a forest, the colors in the trees suggesting it was near autumn. On one side, a wolf, a normal one not a Grimm, crouched ready to pounce with a pair of snarling smaller wolves behind it. On the other side, a Huntsman stood with a spear held ready to meet the charge. He had a cocky smile and with good reason, the wolf already having a line of red dripping down its side.
Ruby took this all in in a second, lifted Crescent Rose, aimed, and fired.
"Miss Rose, why exactly did you feel your fellow Huntsman needed to die?" Ruby turned to face Professor Port, his face impassive. He gestured to the screen, where a red marker showed her shot landing dead center of the Huntsman's chest.
"Uh, well…" She began. "He was trying to kill that wolf, but all she was trying to do was protect her puppies, right? He had already hurt her once, and most animals would run away after that. But she didn't cause she needed to defend her puppies or he'd kill them."
"Ruby!" Weiss was hissing from her seat. "That's what you were thinking?"
"Splendidly done Miss Rose!"
Ruby looked smugly at Weiss while Professor Port continued. "Appearances can be deceiving, especially in our line of work. It is imperative that you look beyond the first impression to see the truth."
The bell cut off the rest of his speech. "Well, that's all for now. Be sure to have your reports ready to be turned in at the start of our next lecture."
"I still can't believe you got away with that." Weiss said over the background noise of the cafeteria. "How could you have possibly known that you were supposed to shoot the Huntsman?"
"Are you kidding? With all that setup, it was obvious it was going to be a trick question."
Weiss shook her head at her partner's answer. That was so like Ruby. Do something that should fail miserably, succeed with ease, then have no appreciation for what she'd just done. She primly took another bite of her apple. Blake, sitting next to her, reached for some a napkin but winced as she extended her arm.
"Still hurting from yesterday? Those guys could really hit." Yang noticed her partner's discomfort. Despite her airy demeanor, she was surprisingly observant at times.
"Speak of the devil." Weiss commented. Her teammates turned in the direction of her gaze to see the four men walking through the cafeteria. They settled in at an empty table with their trays laden with food. Dom caught them looking and gave a little wave with a soup spoon. Weiss looked away, face flushed from being caught watching.
"By the way, what was that you were talking about earlier?" Yang asked, her mouth full of food. The blonde's (lack of) manners never failed to amaze Weiss.
"What do you mean?" Her partner replied, mercifully swallowing her own mouthful of tuna sandwich first.
"You were getting into it with those transfer students. You said there were a bunch of reasons Ozpin shouldn't have let them transfer." Ruby appeared to be on the same page as her sister.
Weiss had something of an inkling what Blake had meant, but was curious what her well-read teammate thought. The Faunus straightened up in her chair a little, looking awfully like she was about to give a lecture.
"That logo on their uniforms, the black disk, is the emblem of Umbra Academy, out in Nox. There's been bad blood between Umbra Academy and the other major Hunting academies for some time now."
"Nox?" Ruby asked, clearly confused. Weiss sighed tiredly. How could someone so capable when it came to being a Huntress be so clueless about the rest of the world?
"You dunce, Nox is the largest non-kingdom settlement in Remnant."
"How was I supposed to know that?"
"We covered it in class last week!"
"Anyway, why is there bad blood between them and us?" Yang pointedly brought them back to the topic at hand.
Blake explained. "There have been a lot of disputes between the proper way to train Hunters between kingdom academies and Umbra. Umbra's headmistress likes to have low enrollment standards and to put her students on the frontlines of Nox's defenses. As a result, a lot of them end up dying since they aren't ready to fight Grimm yet. There have been a lot of insistences that Umbra change, but they refuse to. On their part, they think kingdom trained Hunters like us are pampered and inexperienced. That's probably why those guys attacked us yesterday; they wanted to rough up the fragile and sheltered kingdom Huntresses."
"We are not fragile." Ruby sulked.
Weiss looked over at the quartet again. It ran deeper than that, of course. Really, the Beacon-Umbra tensions were a microcosm of the relationship between the kingdoms and the wilds. The kingdoms, being safer, larger, and far more wealthy, were undeniably the better places to live compared to the rugged, dangerous wilds. The wildlanders compensated for that with a fierce pride in how they survived in the Grimm infested lands. It was little wonder they would jump on a chance to 'prove' how much better they were (even though judging by their ages they were fighting opponents they had several years of training on).
Her brow furrowed. Come to think of it, it had been the redheaded leader of the group who had struck first. This morning, he had said he had studied at Sanctum, which meant he was from Mistral. That made it unlikely he had the usual wildlander chip on his shoulder toward kingdom dwellers. And Dom, who likely was from Nox, had been upset with his teammates for fighting.
Her musings were interrupted by rough male laughter. Once again, Cardin Winchester and his cronies were amusing themselves by picking on someone too cowardly to put them in their place. She was one of the usual targets, a rabbit Faunus girl whose name Weiss couldn't quite remember. It had something to do with fabric, she recalled. Velour? No, Velvet, that was it. Cardin was tugging on her ears, laughing alongside his teammates.
"You know, if I was you, I'd have gotten rid of these things already." He said, tugging on the rabbit ear again. "At least you wouldn't have to look like a freak." His friends all must have thought that was the height of wit, given the laughter that greeted his words. A tide of anger rose behind Weiss' eyes. She had little patience for bullies, especially ones as pathetic as Cardin Winchester. Across from her, Blake was practically trembling with suppressed rage.
"I've just about had it with Cardin." Blake said through gritted teeth.
"Yeah," Yang said. "I think we should teach him a lesson."
"Hold it." Weiss said. She may not like what was going on, but someone had to be the voice of reason. "We can't start a brawl in the middle of the cafeteria. Again."
"I don't see a single reason why we shouldn't." Blake said, eyeing Weiss like she was suddenly the enemy.
"If we start the fight, we'll be the ones in trouble, not Cardin." Weiss started to look around the cafeteria for a teacher she could get involved. Beating up Cardin and injuring his pride would only make him more likely to take out his frustrations on Velvet or some other timid victim later on.
"I don't get it." Ruby said, cocking her head in confusion. "Why doesn't Velvet just kick his ass? She totally could."
"She's scared." Yang said simply.
"Why? She's gone on missions and stuff and fought Grimm way more scary than Cardin." Ruby's tone made it clear what she thought of Cardin's skills.
Yang shook her head. "It's different. You can fight monsters all day and still not want to mess with people. Generally speaking, you're not supposed to go around kicking people's heads in; Velvet too nice a person to be comfortable doing that."
A high pitched yelp of pain attracted Weiss' attention. Her first thought was that Cardin had crossed the line from harassment to outright violence, but when she looked it was Cardin who was clutching his hand in pain while Velvet darted away. Team CRDL appeared to have completely forgotten her, with the other members' attention on Russel, who was reaching under the table. He held up a spoon.
"What the hell?" Cardin asked. "Where the hell did that come from?" His teammates shook their heads or shrugged and Cardin started to glance about the lunch room, almost fearfully.
"Who threw that!?" He asked angrily, but received no answer. The buzz of conversation gradually filled the cafeteria again.
"What just happened there?" Yang asked.
"I think someone hit Cardin in the hand with a thrown spoon." Weiss explained. Judging by the angles… She craned her head trying to see who had thrown it.
"Weird. Oh well." Yang said dismissively. "Problem solved."
Blake frowned. "Until the next time Cardin feels like picking on Velvet."
"Well, hopefully by then she will be comfortable taking him down a peg." Ruby said.
"Either way, does anyone else want to go teach Cardin a lesson?" Yang asked. She cracked her knuckles. "Violently."
"No, Yang." Weiss said. "We're not getting in trouble for tearing up the cafeteria again."
"Come on, that food fight was awesome and you know it."
"And were the five hours we had to spend cleaning this place awesome too?" Weiss asked primly.
Yang plopped her head onto the table. "You guys are no fun. Nora would've helped."
Professor Oobleck darted around the classroom like a jackrabbit with a sugar high. Some people found the constant motion distracting but Ruby didn't really mind. Trying to keep track of the hyperactive teacher gave her something to actually pay attention to in class.
"Which, as I'm sure you are all well aware of, was a major factor in inciting the tensions that exploded into the Faunus War. Now, who can tell us what was the catalyst that started the Faunus War in earnest?"
Jaune raised his hand, probably trying to jump on the easy question. "The Menagerie Massacre?"
"Aha!" Oobleck sped in front of Jaune's seat and just as quickly darted away. "That is certainly the largest factor that promoted hostilities between Faunus and humans. However, the war itself didn't begin until something else happened, after the Massacre. Anyone else? Ah, Miss Belladonna."
"Mortis Manus was recruited by the Atlesian military and promoted to a high ranking command." Blake's words were said almost in a monotone; given how easily she normally got worked up about how the Schnee's mistreated Faunus, it was surprising she could be so calm about someone way worse.
Mortis Manus. The Bloody Handed Butcher of Menagerie. The single greatest mass murderer in living memory and the man responsible for the Faunus War.
Tensions over the forced relocations of Faunus into Menagerie had been building up, with humans dragging Faunus from their homes and Faunus launching retaliatory strikes at human authorities. A group of humans had decided that the relocation efforts were a mistake and that there was another way to handle the Faunus 'menace'.
Mortis had been the head of the main anti-Faunus group. He had a distinctive Semblance, a field of crimson energy around his hand that was incredibly destructive and had already earned him the nickname "Bloody Hand". With a power like that, the defenses the Faunus had in Menagerie were as effective as tissue paper. He ripped through the city's defenses and led his followers into Menagerie to slaughter everyone they could find. Men, women, children, they didn't discriminate. Ruby had seen the pictures of piles of corpses littering the streets of Menagerie. By the time the Faunus had managed to rally and wipe out the invaders, thousands lay dead. Mortis, however, had managed to elude captivity and had fled to Atlas. Even with the depraved slaughter that had taken place, things still might have been smoothed over if Atlas' council had not made a spectacularly stupid decision.
Feeling that war with Faunus was bound to happen, the Atlas ruling council decided their military needed to be bolstered. And who better to have on hand to help with fighting Faunus than the man who had already survived a major conflict with them? As anyone with half a brain could have predicted, the Faunus were outraged to see a mass murderer being put in command of a kingdom's military. The Faunus War had been inevitable at that point.
"Very good, Miss Belladonna." Oobleck was actually standing still, the usual indicator he was getting to the point. "There is an important lesson to be learned from the life of Mortis Manus. Could anyone tell us what that is?"
"Don't be a psychopathic racist?" Yang muttered under her breath to Ruby.
"Not at all, Miss Xiao Long." Yang jumped when Oobleck was suddenly in front of them. Honestly, it was her own fault for not remembering most of their teachers had eyes like hawks and ears like… something with really good hearing.
"Anyone else?" Oobleck asked. When he was answered with silence, he continued. "As Hunters in-training you all will one day be extraordinary individuals with great powers. Mortis Manus was one such individual, and he has spent the last forty years in prison for misusing that power. From his perspective Mortis was doing the right thing by purging what he saw as an inhuman menace from the world. It is imperative for us as Huntsmen and Huntress to be mindful of our actions and to avoid slipping into the trap he fell into. The road to hell is, as they say, paved with good intentions."
The bell rang. "That concludes today's lecture, class. Don't forget you will need to have your project groups turned in by next Tuesday if you intend to do group work."
Ruby was uncharacteristically silent as the team walked back to their room to change before dinner. Weiss noticed.
"What is it?"
Ruby shook her head. "It's nothing. I was just thinking, there's a lot more to being a Huntress than just knowing how to fight."
"You're telling me." Yang said. "Hell, fighting is the easy part compared to a lotta the stuff we have to learn."
"I think Ruby was more referring to the moral responsibilities of the career, not having to pass history tests." Blake hazarded.
"Hey! I did pass, thank you very much."
"A D doesn't deserve to pass." Weiss said haughtily.
Ruby grinned at the usual bickering, forgetting the responsibilities of a Huntress and long past atrocities.
In one of the nicer cafés on the outskirts of Vale's industrial district, a young man and woman were on a date. At least, they appeared to be. They had walked up hand in hand, ordered the same drinks, and had been happily chatting for a half hour as their coffee gradually cooled.
The coffee shop's owner, Mr. Bill Kaldi, was tense. Very very tense. He couldn't have said why other than that in this part of town a man either developed a sense for trouble or he didn't stay in business, to put it politely. And he could feel it in his horns that paying any undue attention to the happy couple was a very bad idea. The woman had enough muscle on her to shove a fist through a brick wall and the man moved like a stalking cat, every step and gesture flowing and precise.
After a few minutes of carefully not watching them, he started to not notice a few things. Like how neither of the pair appeared to have any interest in actually drinking their coffee beyond the occasional sip. Or that the table they had chosen allowed the young man to watch the door and let his lady friend watch the counter. She wasn't watching him, but Bill had the distinct impression that was in the same sense that he wasn't watching them.
The young man kept checking a scroll he had set on the table, which gave Bill a cautious sense of hope. He had started offering free internet a few months ago to try and pull in some more customers; if all they were doing was killing time while waiting for a message or something, they should just leave once they got it.
Sure enough, eventually the little device dinged and the man scooped it up with almost desperate speed. His eyes traced lines of text and he looked up. "Guess who's in town?" Bill could just barely hear the words if he strained himself. For all the times people gave him hell for his ears, they did come in handy.
"An old friend of ours." The man said, taking the largest sip of coffee he had in the last twenty minutes.
"We have a lot of old friends, Lance." The woman replied, folding her arms with what Bill would guess was an irritated expression.
"You remember, the one Mordred can't stand?"
"Ah, him. That might be a problem. We didn't exactly part on good terms."
"We'll handle it. We don't have another choice." Lance leaned back from the almost whispered conversation. He downed what was left of his drink and stood, his companion mimicking the actions. But as he headed for the door, she eyed the counter with an appraising look.
Lance turned back to her, standing at the door. "Morgan, come on."
"Just a sec." Morgan absently cracked her neck and began to approach the counter. At this point Bill was acutely aware of the fact that the shop was empty except for the three of them. His eyes were drawn to the shotgun that he kept under the counter in case of emergencies. The smile of her face, however, was the sort that promised a great deal of pain if he tried anything. She stepped right up in front of him, raised a meaty hand, and… Bill winced.
He opened his eyes to see her pointing to a bun under the glass. "Could I get one of those to go, please?" She asked in a sweet tone of voice. Numbly, Bill wrapped on up and handed it to her. She stood there watching him oddly.
"…How much is it?" Bill blinked. "On the house." He managed to croak out. Morgan looked at him oddly, shrugged, and walked out with Lance. Bill sagged against the counter, the tension pouring out of his body.
He considered calling the police, but what would he tell them? Oh, there were these two suspicious characters, no they didn't do anything wrong but they had a cryptic conversation? Yeah, right. No sense in inviting trouble. Faunus who got the attention of the police didn't tend to end up pleased with the experience.