Her blood thrummed in my veins. It felt good. I felt human.
The next time I saw my reflection I smiled with genuine joy.
I looked just like her.
I was not the first to come. Many were created before me, rising from the Void, becoming the darkness in this world and drowning life in negativity. They ruled the wilds as the dominant species— efficient with their flawless teamwork and nearly unkillable due to their heavily armored forms and their ability to survive without food. Their black forms hid in the shadows and ambushed unwary beings. Top predators became wary of the red-eyed beasts. Many species that I will never know of were returned to the Void, their tales lost as they ceased to exist.
The world had existed this way for many millennia before humans came into existence. They were vulnerable to everything.
The stones on the ground cut into their feet, the branches of dead trees sliced through their skin, the sun burned them and the cold slowed them, they had no claws or fangs to fight, no armor or poison.. they were nothing.
And yet, as if to prove us wrong, they prevailed.
Their intelligence and adaptability provided them with the ability to make their own claws and weapons, and they cut down animals to use the hide as protection. They were capable against regular creatures, but my kind was close, so close to returning them to the Void, it was inevitable. Yet, as if to deny us of our purpose, there was the Dust.
They did not return to the Void.
Only a century after the first of them came into being, I came too. I was born from the Pools when my brothers and sisters around me were smashing the bones of humans into dust and slicing their mutilated forms to ribbons. I began my life as one of the Lupus' descendants. I was the last to come from an ancient, withering, Pool, one that hadn't given life for centuries, and after my birth it finally dried up.
Unlike humans, there was no animosity given from my peers for my unusual birth: I was as equal as any. While my kind are emotionless and dangerous, we have a kinship even between our different types that enabled our easy teamwork. Unlike us, the humans, driven by foolishness, anger, and fear, discriminated and went to war with each other, destroying their own kind.
From the start of my days I knew I was different. I took interest in more things than simply returning humankind to the Void like my peers. I found myself studying the mannerisms of different species, and learning how to best fight against them. I was, young, and small, but I was smart, and I became an Alpha quickly.
Humans fight and kill each other, but it was their quick and efficient communication and constantly adapting fighting styles that allowed them to become a true threat to us.
They called us 'Grimm', after our dark natures, and named my variant 'Beowolves', but they had a special name for me. Even the humans took notice of my different behavior, and I started to appear in their fireside stories as the 'Dog', as if my passiveness against humankind was equivalent to domestication. Indignantly I began to travel and hunt with my kin once more and the false tale was lost to time.
I can still remember how I used to hunt, centuries ago: I would call my pack together, spreading them out to surround the human village, and we would wait until the moon had risen. A shrill howl would rise from my throat, and then we would be upon them. Their villages fell into disarray quickly, as they were not aware that our kind could organize and coordinate. To be fair, they couldn't. My kind was brutal, undeterrable, and overwhelmingly stupid . I was the first to begin strategizing and no other of my kin would pick it up until several decades later. Again, I made an appearance in their folklore. My tale became 'the Grimm King,' as if I was the head of all of my kind (since they also had no idea of the difference between Grimm genders). Another false tale, but soon after that story arose I became unconcerned with human stories as my interest turned to the Faunus, for they could be considered very similar to us if taken at face value.
I had shed my armor and fur and shrunk . Gone was my wolffish form, and instead I was human— with jet black wolf ears atop my head, a tail, sharper-than-human canines, and blood red eyes. Yet despite my smaller form and my shed pelt, my skin remained as tough as the bone armor that had been honed for centuries before it was shed, and my strength and speed continued to match that of my larger, now abandoned, form.
Me and the Faunus: both with animal traits that marred our human appearance. However, while their traits were often a vast variety of colors, and were usually quite meager in comparison to their human body, ours only had two: black and white, and were often quite large.
I was the first of this new 'Grimm' variant, and it would take almost two centuries for us to receive a name from the humans. Two centuries that I spent gleefully destroying civilization after village after stray house with my kin and feeding on the animosity that the humans produced in troves. Those were my adolescent days, before I realized what I was causing with my actions. What destruction could've been avoided.
Due to my signature tactic of scouting a town 'in disguise' (although it was my true form) before demolishing it, we were called Deceivers, since we so easily deceived them and gained their trust. I was the first Deceiver and it would be many centuries before another of my kind would shed their armor and join me. We are drastically few in number, and widely considered a myth due on to it, but in my days of ruination every person feared usmore than any other Grimm.
It was with my knowledge and my remarkable ability to wield the humans' weapon, the 'Dust', that I realized that I had come to possess something revered by humankind for its power: a soul. A Grimm with a soul. It was with this unique trait that I trampled my foes with their own sovereign weapon.
It was near the end of those two centuries, often called The Queen's Campaign by those who study the past, that I met her. The woman that was my only friend.
And it was only in her fall that my ways changed.
"Hello, Miss..?" A voice speaking with an intelligent, carefully emotionless, tone subtly asked of her name. The speaker was a tall, gray-haired, man with spectacles over calm brown eyes that were currently locked with hers in a stare-down. His blonde-haired, stern-eyed, assistant was looking between the two with a tense expression that conveyed uncertainty.
The person in question was a girl of small build, a red cloak masking her appearance. An eerie bone-white mask had been set on the table as a gesture of respect, while her shadowed gaze was fixed on the tall man.
A plate of cookies had been placed before her, but she showed no interest in them. Only a slight twitch of her nose when he had placed them before her indicated that she even acknowledged their presence.
"Ruby." Was her only, monotone, answer.
Ozpin nodded in return, "Do you know who I am, Miss Ruby?"
Ruby had half a mind to crack her typical emotionless expression with a raised brow, but decided against it, "Of course, you're the Headmaster of Beacon, Ozpin." She replied simply, knowing exactly what answer he wanted.
He nodded in acceptance once more, before taking a moment to fully take in her appearance. Her black combat boots were worn with obvious years of use, the black dye in the leather was slightly faded looking more like a faded dark gray. Her black and red dress went down past her knees, also having an obvious wear and tear to it, with the occasional stitches to mend the fabric. The cloak that seemed to stand out the most in her appearance was riddled with tears and mottled with stains. Her weapon was a mildly noticeable, compact, white form sitting in the small of her back, and Ozpin found it unlikely for the weapon to be in better condition than her clothes. This girl was likely from a poor family, or perhaps even an orphanage, where hand-me-downs were an unfortunate commonplace.
Regardless, her exceptional combat prowess that she had displayed while taking down the thugs was rivaled by few, and Ozpin got the feeling that she hadn't even been trying when he and his assistant had watched her from afar.
"Where did you learn to fight like this?" He showed her his Scroll, which displayed her decimating the thugs that had tried to rob a dust shop with only her aura-infused fists.
Ruby shrugged, "Grew up fighting Grimm." Not a complete lie. Ozpin seemed satisfied with her answer, but Ruby could tell that he was more than a little intrigued.
"Would you like to come to my school?" He asked, the barest hint of curiosity touching his voice, it was a genuine question rather than a formality.
She tilted her head, as if in thought. She felt no ill-will coming from either of them, only suspicion and curiosity were most prominent in their emotions. Memories flooded her mind of the many Hunters she had met in the past, and within only a couple of seconds she had examined the pros and cons and figured it would be an interesting experience. "I would."
Ozpin had carefully explained to her where to be and what time to be there as if she didn't know what a Bullhead was. Was she any lesser being she would have spared a chuckle, but such human emotions did not always come easily to her. She boarded the airship with feigned nonchalance, but I'm her mind she was fascinated: it was so easy for them to trust her due to how similar she looked to them. Too easy.
Many of the humans had shiny, well-maintained armor and a noticeable compact weapon. That was, she realized quickly, where the fault in her appearance was, and why Ozpin treated her gently: he had mistaken her choice of worn armor for another scenario entirely.
The Bullhead took off a few minutes after Ruby had boarded, and began its ascent to the combat school. A few minutes into the flight, a large stray Nevermore, attracted by her presence, squawked loudly in hope for the attention of an elder Grimm. In response to the perceived threat the ship fired on the bird and within the next minute it was disintegrating into shadows. A storm of emotions surrounded the occupants of the ship, but most of them were positive emotions, so she lost interest, instead finding a quiet corner to sit in, where she silently wished the fallen Nevermore luck in the Void.
"Didja see that?! That Nevermore got totally destroyed!" Ruby allowed herself an irritated glance in the direction of the excited voice. A red-head with rowdy turquoise eyes was literally bouncing in her chair restlessly as she one-sidedly conversed with her quiet friend. Noticing the glance, the quiet boy sent her an apologetic smile, so she turned away.
There was no peace or quiet to be found in the short flight to the school. Numerous people ignored her presence, with the only person who talked to her being the rowdy redhead. Having noticed her friend's apology, she had bounded over and started talking to Ruby. She attempted to follow along for only a couple of minutes, before tuning the practically vibrating girl out.
As the Bullhead landed the girl jumped up and rushed out gleefully shouting.
"I'm sorry about Nora, she can be a handful usually." The quiet friend walked up to her after they both left the Bullhead. Ruby nodded in response examining the boy. His calm demeanor was expressed in his bright magenta eyes and passive expression and there was a highlighted streak of the same color going through his dark hair.
"Please do not be angry with her: she can be difficult but she knows her boundaries, even if she does push them on occasion."
"I will not." Ruby responded simply. The boy thankfully noticed her lack of interest and dismissed himself with a respectful nod of his head.
As she made her way to her assigned destination, the auditorium, she noticed the different 'freshmen' as they were called. Her new classmates.
Dully she recognized the irony in the situation, an elder Grimm was to become a Huntress, a warrior designed to cut down her own kin.
She found herself brooding on the subject before shaking her head to rid the thoughts. With a huff that summed up her mood, she entered the auditorium, which was already bustling with the earlier arrivals. It took another half hour before all the Bullheads had touched down and the students had all gathered in the large room.
Ozpin stood at the end of the stage, staring down at the students, taking a few minutes to just examine his students. His eyes briefly met Ruby's before he moved his gaze away.
"I'll… keep this brief." He began. "You have travelled here today in search of knowledge…" His speech of presumed grandeur was tuned out before he had gotten through the first sentence.
He moved into the shadows as he finished his speech, leaving curious whispers from the students in his wake, before his assistant fell into his place before the microphone.
"You will gather in the ballroom tonight. Tomorrow, your initiation begins. Be ready. You are dismissed." She proceeded to follow the professor, leaving the students free to do as they wish. Ruby was near immediately swamped with conversation and changing emotions from all sides, none including her.
She quickly fled the auditorium, searching for the ballroom and found a small, quiet, group of people migrating to said room. She sat against the wall, finally putting her hood down to relax. With her only belongings being a small satchel that held her bone mask, weapon, and a few combat supplies, and with no clothes to change into, she was content to simply rest.
A slight spike of negativity in the form of doubt and anxiety attracted her attention. A Faunus girl with catlike yellow eyes was staring at a book, but the swirling emotions told her that the girl wasn't reading. Interested, Ruby found herself approaching the brooding girl.
"Hello." She said simply, plopping herself down roughly a meter away from the girl.
The girl snapped out of her thoughts, clearly not expecting someone to approach her. She examined Ruby, not-so-subtly acknowledging her pair of pitch black wolf ears, one torn from a past battle.
"Hello." She replied, feigning nonchalance, but Ruby found it obvious that she was interested. "You seem… younger than seventeen, were you admitted early?"
Ruby actually felt a want to chuckle, but neglected to do so. "You could say that."
The girl seemed to hesitate, but Ruby could tell she was dealing with inner turmoil. Resting her head against the wall, Ruby was content to let her sort herself out and the girl seemed grateful for it.
After what was possibly a quarter of an hour (Ruby found it difficult to tell time when she was 'resting'), the girl raised her head and glanced at Ruby.
"What's your name?"
Ruby opened her eyes to stare at the girl. "Ruby."
"Blake." She turned back to her book, but couldn't focus on the words; this wolf Faunus intrigued her.
Deciding to help her out, Ruby glanced at the book, "What's it about?"
Blake blinked in a moment of confusion before realizing that Ruby was talking about her book.
"It's… about a man with two souls, each fighting for control over his body…" She trailed off, unsure of how to continue the conversation.
Ruby finally raised her head, images of a certain mutated Nuckelavee bombarding her mind. She felt a tiny smirk place itself on her face, "Which one's winning?"
Blake raised a brow at the question, seeing the first hint of emotion on Ruby's face in the form of a hesitant smirk.
"Uh… It's… hard to tell right now, I'm still near the beginning of the book." Blake said, almost mumbling.
Ruby allowed a gentle grin to slide onto her face, in what was probably a vain attempt to relax the girl. It worked, and Ruby could feel the doubt radiating off of her subdue itself to muted curiosity.
"So," Ruby began, topics whirling through her brain before she decided that she was never one for subtlety, "Why hide your ears?"
All calmness that had settled into Blake immediately disappeared and her anxiety returned alongside a blazing suspicion. A barely audible gasp came from the girl and her eyes narrowed.
"I… beg your pardon?" She said with an almost sarcastic undertone.
"I've never been one to beat around the bush." Ruby explained nonchalantly, with one of the few human phrases she knew that hadn't been lost to time.
Blake glanced around, keenly aware that they were not the only occupants of the room. No one had heard Ruby's intentionally quiet voice. Blake looked down at her lap and sighed, resigned to talk.
"I don't want to be judged for what I am. If people want to judge me it should be for my actions, not my species." Blake had abandoned part of her own subtlety, staring at Ruby's own ears. Ruby could tell that her species was being misinterpreted, but she had decided not to care when she accepted Ozpin's offer. "I'm sure you've experienced the same discrimination that I have."
"I'd imagine it's similar." Ruby agreed. Hunts for Grimm weren't quite 'discriminatory,' but whenever she visited human towns she could see it for herself. "Regardless I would say it's better to just accept what you are, rather than build your life around lies. What's to say it won't come crashing down once you can no longer hide?"
Blake just shook her head. If her life was built entirely around being human, then that wasn't the life she wanted. Ruby grasped her train of thought by feeding off her self-doubt.
"Well, everyone has their own way." Ruby curled up into her cloak. Content to sleep right there. There was a slight shift in Blake's emotions as she came to some realization.
"Ruby." Ruby opened her eyes, looking towards Blake but not moving her head. "Thank you for sharing your views."
This time Ruby couldn't keep the raised brow off her expression, and after a few curious blinks, Ruby finally closed her eyes once more to give the appearance of resting. She didn't need sleep. No Grimm in the wild ever slept, but to keep up appearances she could endure a few hours alone with her thoughts.