Two years spent on a single, solitary problem.
Two years and thousands upon thousands of lien spent on the equipment needed to solve a single equation.
In conversation with those curious about what the time and money was going towards, most would tell her that progressing as far as she did in understanding and solving this problem—a simple equation that governs one of the most fundamental laws of our physical universe—is nothing short of a miracle. But to Ruby Rose, hailed among her friends and her instructors as a once in a century prodigal genius of combat, strategy, and physics—two years is a sign of her inexperience and a personal failure.
"Miss Rose, as someone who shares your interest in our physical world, I have a… question for you."
Of course, if she were being honest, when Ozpin first asked and planted the seed into her mind Ruby didn't believe she'd ever figure it out. "It's a question that has been asked by and boggled the minds of even the most prodigal of geniuses for millennia" she remembers him telling her.
"Miss Rose… what is time?"
"W-Well time is—"
"Besides its existence as a fundamental existence, miss Rose. What I mean to ask is what is time, on a physical level and what is the relation between our, man's, perception of time and what effect it has on the physical world."
Why was he asking her? She was only fifteen—a prodigy sure, but if even the men that identified and defined the very fundamentals of physical existence, men that studied the world for more decades even her dad's been alive, couldn't give an answer then what hope would she have? "Perhaps I'm just a little lonely in my understanding, miss Rose" he told her when she asked.
"Do you know what time is, Professor Ozpin?"
"I do, but I want to see whether or not you can figure it out, miss Rose."
And so she dedicated much of her time, days upon days of sleepless nights per week and tonnes more lien than her dad and uncle made in a decade, on trying to solve that question. She found her way unto and equation, as most physical laws exist as, but with far too many missing variables to make it worth anything besides a sign of progress—a basic framework to show her and those that ask her that it can be done.
Then she pondered why Ozpin even wanted her to solve the question for herself—if he already knows the answer, why ask a girl forty years his junior to solve it herself? And she realised, almost two years into her research, that it could become her magnum opus—discovering what mathematical process governs time, the one fundamental physical property that, outside of the Schnees and potentially some Hunters with time based Semblances, no human or Faunus has ever had any sort of control over. "He's trying to give me my own legacy, something past being a prodigy and a Huntress who's memory will fade a few decades after my death."
And finally, tonight, she gazes on the finished equation. Every single variable accounted for, double and triple and quadruple checked with the laws governing every other physical property to make sure the relationships match up.
Ruby Rose, seventeen year-old prodigal third year Huntress of Beacon Academy and leader of Huntress Team RWBY, stares in shock and awe at the papers and digital board in front of her—eyes bloodshot and deep black sags framing her lids from her exhaustion. "I… I think I've got it!"
"Mmmm… got what, Ruby…?"
Ruby stills slightly in surprise, not expecting to hear any voices this late at night—"It's four in the morning!"—and turns her head slightly towards the door way of her lab, drinking in the sight of the figure.
Blake Belladonna stands ever naturally in the shadows of the night, the faint light of Ruby's lamps being the only source of light to illuminate Ruby's lab and show the shape of the nineteen year-old Faunus. Ruby spots the bags under Blake's eyes as well, though whether they're from extended deprivation of sleep or just a really long day for her teammate and girlfriend, Ruby doesn't know.
"W-What're you doing up, kitty-cat?"
Blake shoots her a gentle glare. "Someone didn't come back to the dorm… again," she explains softly, her voice as quiet and controlled as it's always been. "We were worried, Weiss and I noticed that your all-nighters have been… much more frequent the last couple of weeks."
Ruby sighs slightly, moving her attention back to her two years of work that would make the most successful of physicists amazed and jealous.
"What… what is time?"
Blake ponders her question for a few seconds, brows furrowing and a contemplative pout forming on her face. Despite it all Ruby smiles slightly—she loves it whenever Blake contemplates a question like that, adores how adorable her face looks when in that state.
"I don't… I don't know how I'd answer that in a way that would satisfy you, Rubes…" she finally answers with a slight tinge of disappointment in her voice. Ruby of course knew how Blake was going to answer, and Blake knew that. She did it all the time, asking Blake complex metaphysical/physical questions like that just to give her something to think about.
Or in this case, preface everything.
"Well… you know that thing I've been working on since our first day here at Beacon?" Ruby asks, turning fully to look at Blake and indicating at her desk and work with her hand. "Professor Ozpin asked me that same question that day—what is time. I was going to give him a basic answer, about its existence as a physical property of existence that man and Faunus can't really control on any kind of significant degree—sorry Weiss—but he… he stopped me."
Blake's eyes practically glow with interest and curiosity. It wasn't often that someone just stops Ruby from answering a question in her prodigal fields, let alone Ozpin. Ruby smiled at Blake's curiosity and walked up to her, pulling her into a brief and gentle hug before leading her towards her desk.
"And that's what I've been doing for the last couple of years—trying to answer that question." Ruby moves some of her work around so Blake can get a good look at all of it—the equations, the diagrams, the theorems—the whole thing. "He wanted to see if I could figure out what time is, not what time is. What makes time, how does our perception of it effect the world around us—it seemed… daunting." Her voice wavers slightly, remembering the nights whenever her self-doubt and anxiety reached their peak and when she'd consider giving up upon the sheer impossibility of the task before her.
"But then… when Weiss was explaining how she channels her Glyphs into time dilation, I finally understood what I was looking for and I made my first actual bit of progress."
Ruby moves the sheets slightly and pulls a sheet of paper into focus for both her and Blake. "See time isn't… it's not a dimension independent of the other three—if it weren't for the physical dimensions of space, time wouldn't exist," she explains slowly. "In the most basic sense, time is the effects of the force of gravity on existing particles in the universe, the actual process of which we perceive from its effects on photons." She shifts the sheets a little more, indicating to the diagrams she drew up. "The stronger the force of gravity is on a point in space, then the more… distorted the temporal state of that point becomes. Y'know, like in the event horizon of a black hole when the force of gravity is so strong that time for an inside observer just… stops."
Checking to make sure Blake is still paying attention, Ruby smiles and gives her girlfriend a quick kiss, "As a gift for being such a good listener", before turning back to her papers. "But if we talk about the passage of time, then with that understanding of what time is, it's possible to travel through the passage of time by your own control by forcing time around you, and I mean you specifically as the inside observer, and move at a speed exceeding the speed of light, to a point where the physical existence of time and your own relative perception of time just simply doesn't exist. And depending on what direction your momentum is, then you'll either be travelling forwards or backwards through the passage of time."
Blake looks between Ruby and the, in her opinion, impossible work laid in front of her. Her eyes are wide in shock and even her ears are standing at a point from her surprise. "Ruby you… you can't seriously believe you've figured out time travel, right?" The prospect sounds unbelievable, even when knowing that Ruby is a sheer genius when it comes to physics.
"Wait wait wait!" Ruby shouts excitedly, moving over to the pile of gravity Dust crystals sitting on her counter. "I was just about to test it before you came in!"
Ruby ignores the frown on Blake's face and grabs a couple of the gravity Dust crystals, placing them in a machine Blake briefly remembers seeing in her first year when professor Peach was demonstrating the effects of overloading Dust in weapons. She points the nozzle on the device, a way of directing the effects of the Dust Blake theorises, at a small Lazy Susan on her desk. Walking back towards her desk Ruby grabs an apple off of it, lazily takes a bite, and places it on the turntable.
"Theoretically," Ruby says, "if I activate this machine it'll transmit the effects of six gravity Dust crystals, loaded with some of Jaune's Aura, onto that Lazy Susan effectively stopping time for anything on it because of the immense amount of pressure the gravity is placing on it—and if I pull the apple backwards using my Semblance to force the momentum to exceed lightspeed, then the apple should travel back in time to before it was eaten."
Ruby giggles a little at Blake's sceptical brow and idly powers on the machine. "Maybe if I accidentally pull it back too much then we'll see it as a seed."
And Blake watches, astounded, as a purple beam of energy shoots from the machine at the apple and Ruby lazily places her hand on the fruit, giving a slight but sharp tug on the object. To Blake's shock and Ruby's pleasure, the two are staring at a fresh apple—not a single bite mark on it, and probably even more fresh than when Ruby bought it.
"M… My Gods…" Blake whispers in awe, while Ruby next to her pumps her fists into the air with a silent cheer.
"It worked! I was right!" Finally, after generations of physicists and two years of Ruby's attention, she's finally figured out the answer to Ozpin's question. And not only as she answered Ozpin's question, she's figured out and invented time travel.
"W-What just…" Blake, on the other hand, can't fathom what she saw. Sure, Blake thinks to herself, I always considered that time travel was possible but… I wasn't expecting it to be figured out for a few more centuries at least.
"That, kitty-cat," Ruby responds, pulling her girlfriend into a tight and excited hug, "was the first successful instance of time travel."
Ruby looks up at her girlfriend's face and smiles brightly, albeit tiredly. "So, what do you think!?"
"I…" Blake starts dazedly, still in shock from seeing the time travel but also incredibly tired, "…I think I need to go to sleep."
"I'll be right up as soon as I clean up a little! Make sure there's room in your bed for me, I'm exhausted and need to cuddle with my adorable kitty~"
Blake glares at Ruby, but both know that it's completely good natured. Blake sighs and gives her girlfriend a quick, loving kiss before turning towards the door and walking back to RWBY's dorm.
Ruby exhales tiredly, her excited grin still lighting up her face. "Welp, time to clean-up and get some rest so I can tell Ozpin in the morning."
A few minutes later, after straightening up her papers and turning off the digital display that held several of her random notes, Ruby makes her way to the Dust machine realising she forgot to turn it off after the apple experiment. As she reaches to turn the machine off though, it starts to spark and she sees the lights start to flicker.
Once Ruby touches the switch, she feels a powerful surge of electricity flow through her body and in surprise accidentally activates her Semblance, jumping backwards with so much energy flowing through her she flies through the room and slams against the door.
The last thing she hears is her shriek of pain before her vision turns black and her hearing fades, unconsciousness claiming her mind.