For the next week Ruby was steadily changing her appearance; it began with her wings.
When she needed to appear normal, it was simple to cast her favorite red cloak over her form to shroud her, and while her wings made inhuman bumps in the fabric when they were wrapped around her, it could be easily brushed off as wrinkles. However, wings were an incredibly rare Faunus trait, so to have any chance of being 'normal' they were bleached patiently by helpers with paint brushes. So as not to damage them, they couldn't be bleached a very light color, but instead took on a rusty brownish hue that vaguely resembled her natural hair color. The entire process was not only uncomfortable for Ruby, but very boring. Dying her hair was thankfully not necessary since she was always shrouded in a cloak (of varying colors depending on the job) during missions, so she left it as is. She had originally wanted color contacts, knowing that silver eyes would draw Ozpin's attention regardless of what happened, but Cinder had denied the request, saying Salem had told her against it.
She began to always wear her favorite red cloak, styling it like a scarf, and bought clothes that completed the look. Her clothes, which usually consisted of casual wear that was suited for the cold of Mantle like a tight black sweater and black woolly leggings, were now black and red themed (since Cinder insisted that color schemes were very common in Vale), with a form-fitting long sleeve shirt worn underneath a crimson crop jacket, the backs cut out to fit her wings. She loved hiding things inside her sleeves especially, so she always wore long sleeve clothes. She also wore black and white shorts with black stockings with a pair of black boots with red laces to complete the look, all made with a much lighter material that wouldn't trap too much heat.
"It's way too much." Ruby said bluntly. Her fierce glare was directed at her reflection in the full-body mirror that was close by. She was sitting in a cushioned chair with her knees to her chest, her wings being displayed awkwardly before they wrapped around Ruby in a comforting manner.
"With all the other outfits you turned down, I'm not budging from this one." Cinder spoke plainly, her tone seemingly uninterested as she stared in the mirror at Ruby.
Ruby's face broke into a pout and it almost seemed like she would cry, "I… Are you..disposing of me? Did I do something wrong..?" Considering Cinder's often elaborate schemes to rid her of those who were no longer necessary, it was not an unfounded fear.
Cinder's face suddenly morphed into one of surprise, "Why would you think that?"
"Well it's not like you're sending me to a lion's den where they can find me! Surrounded by Hunters… the Grimm would be the least of my worries..." They–a very persistent group of bounty hunters that Ruby has an unfortunate history with. Ruby's voice grew tiny, "I can't redeem myself..?"
Cinder flicked her companion on the forehead, "This job is necessary even if it's risky. I chose you because you're the only one I can trust with this job." She spoke with a softness that was extremely rare, that Ruby had only seen once before, she gently cupped the girl's chin and lifted it to look into her eyes,
"Child, look at me. You're going to be fine."
With a somewhat disturbing feeling of deja vu, Ruby nodded. This woman that saved her wouldn't just abandon her. This was her new job. And she never failed a job.
With a long exhale to mentally calm herself, Ruby settled into the bench she was on. This Bullhead was on its way to Beacon.
After taking a month to settle into Vale, she was only given another week to compose herself when she was told that she had been accepted into Beacon. Being obviously confused, Cinder explained that she had done all the necessary preparations already, such as forging transcripts for her. It didn't matter if she was fifteen if her transcripts claimed that she was seventeen like everyone else. She was also now going by the name Red Briar, since using your real name in an undercover mission was just begging for something to go wrong. Uncreative new names aside, she answered to Red well enough since Roman loved to call her by anything that wasn't her name.
While in Vale, Ruby had painted her scythe, which thankfully she rarely used in assassinations (so it wouldn't be a hazard to bring it to Beacon), the polearm made black and the blade a dark red. Even despite her finesse with her scythe, she always had a few backup weapons, namely a small pistol loaded with aura piercing rounds that was concealed on the side of her thigh, a number of hidden daggers, and even a few vials of poison should she need a stealthier kill. She wouldn't need any weapon but her own for Grimm, but for the wasp nest of hunters she was walking into she would need anything she could get.
However, all her mental preparation was blown away the moment she climbed aboard the Bullhead. She was on edge, not used to being around so many people with none of them trying to kill her. Nervously she assessed each of the warriors that were on the ship with her, only a few were remarkable enough for her to make note of, but only one held her attention consistently.
With her heart in her throat she looked down at her lap only to glance up again, her eyes immediately finding a tall figure. It was a girl, blonde, with purple eyes; her half-sister Yang. Ruby turned her gaze to her boots and suddenly felt completely awkward, realizing that she was wearing bright red gear.
Mentally cursing Cinder for her new clothes, she shifted to hug her knees to her chest, holding her cloak in a fist to confirm that it covered her completely. She was completely isolated, and not a single person spared her more than a glance.
Under normal circumstances, namely combat, such circumstances would have been desirable, but with her new situation, staying at this academy for nearly a whole year until she could regroup with Cinder, she didn't want to be a complete loner. She always had Cinder, Emerald, even Mercury before he grew to hate her so much after a few...incidents, even though she only ever did jobs alone, and even then she had an advisor speaking in her ear. There was no one else to help her here.
Mercury would laugh if he saw how unsettled she was.
The flight was uneventful, yet Ruby refrained from growing comfortable still. It was only when she stepped off the airship that she finally realized what she was required to do.
School. One of the many 'normal' things she had never actually experienced.
Her fingers twitched towards her Scroll, wanting more than anything to call someone she knew and be picked up from the campus, but an underlying fear of then she'd actually be disposed of prevented her from doing so. Instead, two fingers slipped into her right hand sleeve and fingered the blade hidden there, hoping and failing to find comfort in the familiar feeling of steel.
Lost in her inner turmoil she nearly missed the luggage cart coming her way. Frantic, she hurled herself out of its path, allowing it to continue, undeterred. It was the logo on the luggage cases and the familiar girl stomping her way to the school beside them that caught Ruby's breath in her throat.
Schnee. Weiss Schnee, the daughter of her most recent assassination. What a strike of misfortune.
Weiss failed to notice the girl that scrambled out of her way, but someone else did.
"Are you okay?" Ruby tore her slightly panicked gaze from the back of the white themed girl and found herself staring at mildly irritated amber eyes. She had a book held in front of her that she had apparently been reading as she walked. Slightly confused, Ruby glanced around to confirm the girl's target, "Oh, yeah I'm good." Ruby grinned after forcing herself to calm down to not appear like a panicked animal, but in doing so took on her typical mischievous demeanor.
The girl frowned, and glanced at the white themed girl now in the distance, which was when Ruby realized that the irritation was not directed at her.
Ruby's smile vanished as she assessed the girl, there was something familiar about her that told her that she had been through a life in the shadows as well. She would have to wait and see if that meant she was an enemy, or if she served a similar boss.
The girl turned back to Ruby, eyeing her much how Ruby had eyed her a second before, "Welcome to Beacon, I guess." She said with noticeable sarcasm.
Ruby grinned, deciding that she liked this girl. "Red." She held out her hand in greeting.
"Blake," the girl responded in kind, and they shook hands.
"Guess a certain someone isn't having a good day." Ruby commented, nodding toward Weiss wryly. Blake nodded, but didn't show much expression, and they both silently watched the heiress until she was out of sight.
"So, what kinda book is that?" Ruby said after a moment, jerking her head towards the mentioned title. Blake looked down at the book, likely trying to figure out how to summarize what she had read so far judging by her thinking expression.
"It's… about a man with two souls," she finally said, "Each trying to take control over his body."
"Sounds cool, which one's winning?" Ruby said after a moment. It almost felt like a slap in the face being reminded of Ozpin and indirectly Salem after being half-forced to come, but she expertly kept her expression in a friendly grin.
Blake blinked, thinking for a moment, "I never thought about it that way. I… don't think either of them is. They only cause each other more suffering."
Ruby blinked at the statement, thinking for a moment, "Sounds interesting." Ruby replied sincerely. Blake seemed to look at her in a new light, examining her with well hidden interest. It wasn't difficult for Ruby to understand, finding common interests wasn't easy when you lived in the shadows. Interactions were limited, and hobbies were sometimes looked down on.
"I…" Blake started, probably looking for the right words to say.
"Um, hello!" Both girls looked at the new speaker, unimpressed. Blonde hair, blue eyes, and a hesitant smile on his face, Ruby mentally sighed, but outwardly put a friendly grin on.
"Hey, what's up?" She said perkily, her cheeks were beginning to burn after only a few seconds from underused muscles. Wonderful.
"Uh, hi, I'm Jaune. Do you know where the…auditorium is?" He trailed off hesitantly, clearly nervous, and it took Ruby a moment to realize that Blake was staring at him unnervingly. She chuckled at the expense of the awkward boy and pointed towards their destination, a noticeable crowd dispersing into the doors, "Right over there!"
"Thanks!" Jaune said, rejuvenated by her friendliness, "Wanna head there together?"
Ruby tilted her head, she really didn't, but it would ruin the image she had conjured to refuse. Before Ruby could get a word out, Blake spoke up, "Actually, if you could head there by yourself, we were having a conversation."
Before you showed up, was unspoken yet understood. Jaune deflated instantly, "I'll leave you to it then, sorry to bother you." He trudged off a visible slump to his step.
Ruby turned back to Blake, her grin turning into a tiny smirk that was much more genuine, "We do need to head there, too."
Begrudgingly, Blake agreed. They waited a few minutes for Jaune to enter before following after him, both melding into the crowd seamlessly. The speech itself was uneventful, even if Ozpin's gaze did seem to linger on Ruby just long enough to unnerve her. It did bring Ruby back to the question she had been trying to ignore since she learned she would be going to Beacon; what would happen if she was found out? Assassin and servant of his worst enemy, imprisonment or death would be a mercy.
But alas, the day went on, and then they were in the ballroom. Ruby sat close to Blake despite neither attempting conversation, pointedly avoiding both the Schnee and her half sister. It was difficult to get any sleep with so many unknowns close by, but a few hours was enough for Ruby.
She was one of the first ones up, bright and early at five in the morning, skipping as many steps in her usual morning routine as possible, hoping to avoid everyone and get to Beacon Cliff first, where she had been told to go for initiation. That hope was dashed when an attendant outside of the locker room told her she had to wait until seven for initiation to start. Brilliant.
With so much time on her hands, she decided to take her time getting ready. She took a very satisfying forty minute shower, dried her wings (which was a chore on its own), made sure all of her weapons were accounted for, then sat down for last minute weapon maintenance on her scythe. She wasn't wearing her cloak, so she instead set herself up in the furthest corner from the door. Then she began to take apart her scythe to make sure every part was as it should be, before she finally began sharpening the blade.
There were a few early birds who came in to prepare for the day, only one with bright scarlet hair noticed her, looked away, then promptly did a double take probably noticing Ruby's wings. Ruby pointedly ignored the attention keeping her focus on the blade. The morning was quiet, up until the door was flung open and an orange haired girl entered talking loudly to the point that Ruby jumped in her seat. Annoyed, she glared at the offending girl, a scowl on her face. Her black haired friend passively stared back and Ruby could almost hear his mental sigh. With her focus sabotaged, she no longer felt the need to endlessly polish her weapon, so she put it back together in a flurry. She still had a half hour to kill and nothing to do, so she resolved to sit and wait.
Cinder called it 'brooding'. Ruby would say she'd merely prefer to be left alone. Most took the hint, Jaune, from the day before, did not.
"Hey, I didn't catch your name," He said, approaching with what he probably thought was a confident front, in reality he looked anxious, uncertain. Ruby looked up from where she had been staring a hole in the nearest locker, avoiding other people's gazes, out of sight out of mind— or apparently not, his gaze lingered over her shoulder, her feathery bits an anomaly to him..
"Red." Ruby supplied, looking him up and down. He was as unimpressive as yesterday, and despite Ruby wanting to do anything but talk with him, she threw on a hesitant smile and he bought it immediately, a grin growing on his own face.
"Having a bad day?" He asked, probably aiming to comfort her, maybe he thought she was nervous.
"Something like that," she mumbled vaguely. It was only the first day, but it was steadily sinking in just how long the job would take. The better part of a year, alone and with no support. No one to help if something went wrong, no one that she could talk to, and no one that understood.
"Do you...want to talk about it?"
"No." She said bluntly.
He was quiet for a moment, "Wanna, uh, head to the cliff together?"
How desperate this person must be for a friend, that he comes to Ruby and refuses to let the conversation die.
"They won't open the door until 7, I already tried to go."
The door banged opened again, heralding another excessively loud person, one Ruby followed with her eyes. How she wished she wasn't trapped in a box when her half sister was only meters away from her. As if to dash all of Ruby's hopes, the older girl looked their way.
"Vomit Boy are you harassing another poor girl?" Now she was coming. Did she know Jaune? Ruby struggled to keep the panic off her face and keep her expression safe. Now that she thought about it, didn't she look just like her mother? She should've dyed her hair and gotten color contacts, maybe a facial tattoo, why, of all people, did Yang have to be in her year? She should've transferred in as a second year. Should've scouted the people in her year then sabotaged Yang's application. Probably could've. Did Cinder not— Cinder didn't know. Oh joy.
For the first time in ten years Ruby met her half sister's eye, and they both froze. Any hope Ruby had that maybe her sister remembered her as vaguely as she remembered her was dashed instantly. Yang was staring at her gobsmacked, probably couldn't believe her eyes. Ruby was carefully keeping her expression somewhere between curiosity and awkwardness, which actually wasn't all that hard since they both vaguely resembled the panic she was actually feeling internally.
"Ruby?" Yang said, breathless.
Ruby tilted her head, feigning confusion, "Name's Red." She offered, "Wrong person?"
Visibly confused Yang examined Ruby's face searching for—something. She apparently didn't find it because she took a moment to compose herself then gave a friendly smile, which really didn't cover up the devastation underneath, "My bad, you look an awful lot like a person I've been looking for. Not a lot of people with wings around here, ya know."
Ruby blinked in feigned surprise, "You've met another person with wings? I've never seen anyone else, ever."
Yang's smile grew even more strained, likely painful, "Yeah, they've been missing for...a very long time."
Ruby nodded clearly sensing a touchy topic (even though she knew exactly what it was), and instead changed the subject, "So, you know Vo—excuse me, Jaune here?" She stuttered, catching herself, although Jaune clearly caught what she was gonna say and groaned loudly.
"Motion sickness is much more common than you might think!" He began, "In fact—"
"It was a joke, Vomit Boy." Yang said dryly. She was clearly relieved at the change of topic, throwing a thankful glance towards Ruby, "Anyway I'll go get ready real quick and meet you guys back here in a sec, yeah?"
Before either of them could respond she was gone. She was back ten minutes later with a much more believable smile and a perk to her step.
"So, Red is it? I'm Yang, sorry about earlier it was a bit Hawk-ward~" She said, putting emphasis on the pun, a grin on her face that told Ruby she was laughing at her own joke. Ruby blinked in surprise at the bad joke, offering a clearly fake smile which only seemed to egg her on.
"Did I make it un-pheasant?"
Mentally sighing Ruby decided to forgo her fake politeness, and instead decided that she could show her true thoughts on the petty matter, by giving Yang a clearly annoyed look.
"Oh, come on," Yang whined, her grin widening, "Those puns are pure poultry. You need to flighten up a little bit." Yang made a face as if it didn't come out right, "Okay, even I'll admit that last one was bad."
Ruby blinked, "They were all bad." She raised an eyebrow, "Is this how you speak to every person you just met or just the faunus?"
"Just the ones with wings!" Yang admitted immediately, winking.
Ruby groaned, wishing, again, that she had enrolled as a second year. The feeling was made worse when Jaune chuckled, "Well it's nice not being on the receiving end for once!" To which Ruby sent him a scathing glare that made him wilt immediately.
"Anyway!" Ruby started, hoping a change of subject would stop this conversation before it got worse, "Uh… What… kind of weapons do you guys have?" A subject she was actually interested in, what a concept.
Yang huffed in laughter at the random subject change, then brought her fists up, "Shotgun gauntlets!" Her bright yellow bracelets opened up, forming into gauntlets, the weapons expanding to cover her entire forearm. The shotgun shells were obvious and Ruby felt her mind immediately start going through every scenario the gauntlets could be used in.
Yang would be a short ranged fighter, but perhaps the shotguns gave her enough range to cover the obvious weakness? She didn't wear any form of armor so she would be exposed to rifle fire, explosions, or any sort of blunt damage. An aura piercing bullet to the back of the head and she would drop like a fly. Only problem was, those bullets were highly illegal so using hers would have to be a last resort, or she could face some serious punishments. If they were even found on her person she could be questioned and fined. Alternatively, she could just chip away at her aura until it broke then go for the neck, but she would have to see exactly how Yang fought to properly counter her.
Expectantly, she looked to Jaune. She didn't expect much from the boy, but she was taught never to underestimate anyone. Jaune gave an anxious smile, "I have a uh, sword." He said as he pulled the sword from its sheath. No attachments, Ruby assessed in an instant, just a plain sword. Maybe he used dust? "And this shield, that, uh, retracts." He trailed off, unfurling the shield, which also had no other attachments. No guns to worry about meant he was stuck at close range and she could pepper him with rifle fire until his aura broke then move in for the kill. Sword and shield, one of the oldest combos and one she was very familiar with fighting against, unless he had a tricky semblance she shouldn't have any issue winning a fight against him. Then it was simply disarming him and hitting him until he stayed down. She suspected that he must have some sort of coverage semblance to cover everything his plain weapons lacked— then suddenly his shield started to close and open repeatedly, uncontrollably. He struggled to catch it for a moment before sheathing the weapons in embarrassment. Ruby's mind was blank for a moment as she examined him more closely before, taking note of his stance, clothes, armor, and finally his demeanor, before it clicked: he acted exactly the same as new trainees. Inexperienced. He was either the best actor she had ever met, or he wasn't even a slight threat.
"That's...cool." Ruby offered what she was hoping was a friendly smile, but judging by how Jaune sulked it probably looked closer to laughter. Yang barely tried to hide her laughs behind her hand.
"Cool? That's so lame!" Yang said, patting Jaune on the back hard enough that he wheezed.
"Well what about you, Red?" He shot back, trying to get the attention off of him.
Ruby thought for a second, debating any easy way to get out of showing her weapon so soon, but decided it would put too much strain on the conversation. Tomorrow was initiation anyway, everyone would see it then. With a smirk she pulled out the lump of metal she called a scythe and unfurled it into all of its glory. She liked to believe it was one of the deadliest weapons ever designed. "I got this thing."
Jaune openly gaped while Yang gave an appreciative whistle, "Big weapon for such a small lady, I like it." Ruby grinned in appreciation, her pride and joy which she had named Scarlet Wing, for no apparent reason, was something she wouldn't normally show off since it was better to keep her cards close, but there weren't many other options.
The sniper scythe didn't get to see enough action. It was so rare that she got to use it that she had to train twice as much as to not get rusty since she never used the scythe for assassinations. She's used the sniper before, but only twice, but mostly she used miscellaneous methods for assassinations since it was harder to trace back to one specific person, which made it easier to avoid getting more people on her trail.
Jaune jumped when she plunged the blade into the ground with a loud thunk, Ruby practically had a whole speech ready to display the beauties of the murder stick while also avoiding anything he didn't need to know, but when she opened her mouth to begin a shrill voice interrupted her.
"What are you doing?" Somewhat confused, Ruby turned around, coming face-to-face with the person she wanted to see least.
Weiss Schnee stared her down, an expression of shock and anger written on her face.
"Showing off my weapon?" Ruby said as if it was obvious.
"Do you have no respect for the people around you? You nearly took my head off with that thing!" The Schnee screamed.
"Hey, not my fault if you can't dodge an attack not aimed at you." Ruby said bluntly, shrugging her shoulders, which unintentionally brought Weiss attention to the appendages on her back.
"A faunus!" She said accusingly, "I should've known, only degenerates like you would do something so stupid and disrespectful!" She said almost smugly, crossing her arms to appear more intimidating, and failing miserably.
"Oh yes, because my race has anything to do with this." Ruby sighed, she really should've used a friendly smile to defuse the situation, but this girl— this girl was one difficult to tolerate.
"Of course it does!" She exploded, "Faunus have no respect for anyone! All they do is lie, cheat, and steal!"
Ruby actually felt somewhat attacked at that one, but couldn't show it, instead she prepared some fake speech about equality or something— and promptly got interrupted, again.
"Hey, she didn't do anything to you, chill out!" Yang shouted loud enough to grab the attention of the rest of the locker room.
With prying eyes now burning holes into her scalp Ruby felt her confidence shrivel. The words were dying in her throat faster than she could replenish them.
"What do you even mean?! She practically swung that abomination right at my throat!" Weiss shrieked, swinging her arms up and down for emphasis.
"No, she didn't! And what does that have to do with her being a faunus anyway? You're just a racist bitch!" Well that escalated quickly.
Weiss gaped like a fish at the insult, then promptly blew up, "ExCUSE ME, who do you think you are?! Do you know who I am?!" Was all she could get out before the person behind her stepped in.
"Can we please calm down? This is no place for fighting. Soon we will be classmates. It's best to make up." Brilliant red hair and emerald green eyes, Ruby recognized that armor, even with as little attention she paid to civilian news. Pyrrha Nikos, what person to have as a future classmate indeed.
Yang and Weiss both backed down at the third party, while they both visibly fumed. Tension was high in the air as the two glared each other down, Ruby wasn't sure why Yang had stepped up to defend her so readily, especially since they had supposedly just met. Regardless this was not the time.
As if on cue the voice of Ozpin's assistant came through the speakers, "Would all first-year students please report to Beacon Cliff for initiation? Again, all first-year students report to Beacon Cliff immediately."
"Guess we'll need to continue this later, guys," Ruby said, hoping she sounded more confident than she felt. With time growing short she was only reminded once more how much was at stake should anything happen to expose her. "Schnee," She added, glaring towards the pale girl. "Do not think you can treat me that way in the future." She brandished her scythe, before putting it away, hoping the unspoken warning would be enough to get the girl off her back.
If the scoff she sent back was any indication, the message was not delivered.