Yang jumped into her seat at the cafeteria table, sliding in beside her usually moody partner. Blake, now sans bow in her hair, was enjoying her dinner after a long day of classes. Unlike Yang's plate, which consisted of spaghetti and meatballs, all covered in a healthy amount of pork-based meat sauce, Blake's meal was simpler. Just a few slices of ahi tuna, on top of a green salad and a few strange looking crackers.
"Sup Blakey," Yang said, nudging her with her elbow before starting to dig into her meal.
"Hello," Blake replied, breaking off a piece of her strange square cracker and piling it with some meat and salad to create a makeshift sandwich.
Yang chuckled, "if you wanted a sandwich, there is probably something better to use as bread than crackers."
Breaking off a piece of Blake's cracker, she took a bite, not enjoying the taste. Blake, having now become used to her partner's family-style eating habits, did not even bat an eye when Yang took food from her plate. "Wow, that really tastes… strange. I can't quite pinpoint the taste."
"Cardboard?" Blake casually guessed.
Yang snapped back in response. "Bingo. Don't know why you would want to eat cardboard, but you always did have strange eating habits. Want to try my pasta?"
"Can't. What type of sauce is that?"
"Pork-based meat sauce?"
"Now I'm a little confused. No pork and no pasta?"
Blake shook her head at Yang, pausing her response to welcome Ruby and Weiss to the table as they had just received their food. "It's a holiday for my people. For the next seven days, I can't eat anything with grains."
"So no pasta?" Yang asked.
"No pizza?" Ruby tried.
"No rice?" Weiss asked.
"Not even pancakes?!" Nora gasped.
"Not even pancakes."
"Then why are you eating that cracker." Yang gestured to the remaining pieces of square cracker that remained on her plate.
"That is the one exception to the rule. It's called matzah. To put it simply, it's unleavened bread."
"No bread?!" Nora continued, only to have Ren clamp a hand down over her mouth, whispering to her that "they were done that bit."
"Okay, there's got to be a story behind that. No bread, and you need to eat this… matzah stuff for a week."
Blake, for once, did let out a small smile. "Well, there is a story. And in my people's tradition, it didn't just happen to my ancestors, but it happened to my grandparents and parents and me as well. If you really want to know, then I guess I can tell you. It's a long one, so let's all head back to team RWBY's room and get comfortable."
Seeing nods all around, they finished up their dinners and changed into their pajamas and settled into Team RWBY's room. Along with a large handful of snacks of course.
While Team JNPR and RWY dug into popcorn, chocolate and other sweets, Blake took out a few of her own bits of candy and chocolate. She broke off a small piece of what looked to be chocolate bark and passed it around to each of the others in front of her.
"Hey! This is that matzah stuff! But it's coated in chocolate?" Ruby said after the first bite.
Blake nodded, "it's not like we only eat the 'raw' stuff. We coat it in chocolate for deserts, or eggs for breakfast. We add tomato sauce and cheese to make a rather poor imitation of pizza. My personal favourite is dipping it in peanut butter. While you do get used to the taste of it plain, it is much better to add something to it."
Ruby nodded in agreement.
"So, I guess it is time to start telling the story."
"Ooh! Ooh! Ooh!" Nora raised her hand in the air, swinging it around. Sighing, Blake pointed to her.
"You know what could make the story even better? Use our names in it!"
"Nora, it isn't that type of story," Pyrrha responded to her.
"Actually, it can be. While the real names of those involved have significance, it will still work if I use your names instead. Though, I will need some people to act as villains."
And with that, Nora's hand was back in the air as she cried out, "me and Renny! Me and Renny!"
Blake obliged and finally, she began her story…
Once, a very long time ago, in the land of ancient Vacuo, there was a great empire ruled over by a line of kings. Or, as they were known at the time, Pharaohs. Living in this land, ruled over by the Pharaohs, were many peoples. Some were of the same race as the Pharaohs themselves. The Vacuans, as these people had originated in this land. They had lived under the rule of the Pharaoh since the empire had begun. They had fought in their armies and built their pyramids and many large temples and cities for them and their many gods.
But also in this land, were a new people. A people who had settled in the land after one of their own became second in command to the Pharaoh himself. But that was long ago, before this story truly takes place. Because afterwards, this new people grew in number. As their god sad, 'be fruitful and multiply'.
After some time, a new Pharaoh was born. And she did not like these new people and how numerous they were. This Queen Nora (Yay! I'm the queen of the castle in this story! Shush, Nora. I'm trying to tell a story) was scared. Since they were not Vacuan like she, they may rise up with their enemies and strike her down. And so, she tasked them with hard labour. She forced them into slavery and made them build great cities for her. And when these new people continued to grow and multiple, she knew what she must do next. She ordered for all the newborn to be killed. (In the real story, it was just the newborn males)
At the same time as Queen Nora's command was issued, a baby was being born. She was Ruby. Scared for the life of the child, Ruby's mother placed the baby Ruby into a basket and sent her adrift in the Nile River. She ordered her eldest daughter, Yang, to watch over her Ruby to ensure her safety.
And baby Ruby was left afloat down the river, while Yang watched over her. All the while soldiers were breaking into houses and slaughtering every newborn in sight. Ruby's basket finally settled into a calm patch of water where the Pharaoh's daughter, Pyrrha was bathing. Seeing the small baby, she realizes that she was one of the new people. But her compassion was aroused, and she knew she had to keep the girl safe from harm. And so, she took the baby home and named the girl Ruby.
As a young woman, Ruby was treated like the true granddaughter of Queen Nora that she was. But, when she left the palace, she noticed a Vacuan soldier, Ren, beating a slave. First, she admonishes him for doing such a thing. Then, when Ren persists in his attack on the slave, Ruby kills him to protect the slave. (gasp! Hush Nora.)
The next day, Ruby sees two slaves fighting. Breaking up their fight, she asks them, "why are you two fighting each other? Are you not of the same people?"
One slave, Jaune, spoke back to her, "who are you to criticize us for fighting with one of our own, when you have killed a Vacuan?"
Realizing that this Jaune had seen her kill the soldier, she runs away from the empire, fearing for her safety.
Ruby stays away from the empire for many years. She makes a new life for herself. She gets married to the daughter of a Shepherd, Weiss, and she settles down as a shepherd herself, helping to care for her father in law's flocks.
At the same time, the many slaves back in Vacuo are treated worse than before. More whippings and punishments. Less food. More grueling work. They cry out to their god, hoping for salvation from their torment. Their cries and pleas reach their god and He knew he had to take action.
Back to Ruby. While tending to her flock, she comes across the strangest thing she had ever seen. It was a burning bush. But, no matter how long it burned for, the flames did not engulf the bush and the bush did not burn. And in that burning bush, she heard the voice of god. He instructed her to go back to Vacuo and free His people. She must do so with the help of her sister Yang.
And so, Ruby does just that. With the help of her sister Yang, she goes to speak to Queen Nora. To the queen, Ruby said, "Let my people go."
And the queen did not take heed. Instead, she made the work of the slaves that much harder. The slaves would now need to collect their own straw to make bricks, instead of having their taskmasters giving it to them. Ruby warns Queen Nora that if she does not let her people go, then great disasters will befall on the empire of Vacuo. And still Queen Nora does not listen.
So, the god of the slaves and of Ruby brings forth ten disasters. Ten plagues down onto the people of Vacuo. First, Ruby commands Yang to strike the Nile river with her staff. In doing so, the water turns to blood.
Next, frogs swarm the land. After, lice follow. Then wild beasts. Then a pestilence which kills all the cattle and sheep and horses and other domestic animals. Then all the people of Vacuo are plagued with boils. Then hail descends from the sky. And because it is so hot, the hail melts into molten fire.
After each plague, Ruby and Yang once more return to Queen Nora and ask her to "let my people go." And each time, she refuses. But, after this seventh plague she finally relents. Just as she was about to let them go, she stops. For the god of the slaves was not done with Queen Nora and the people of Vacuo. So, He hardens her heart and when Queen Nora speak again, she refuses to let Ruby's people go.
And with each plague, only the Pharaoh and people of Vacuo were stricken. None of the slaves were caught in this torrent of disasters. Their god was protecting them
And the plagues continue. Next came a swarm of locusts which devoured all the crops and food. And them, the land was covered by a darkness as black as pitch.
And then Ruby warned her people that there was just one plague remaining. She ordered all the slaves to sacrifice a lamb or a kid (a young cow, not a child, Nora) and coat the doorframes of their houses with its blood. And that night, while the slaves had their late-night meals, the final plague descended on the people of Vacuo. Just like the Pharaoh had killed all the first born of the slaves, god killed every first born in the land. Only passing over the houses that had blood on their doorframes as Ruby had ordered.
Now, with the death of her eldest child, Queen Nora finally relents and tells Ruby that she and her people can leave. Ruby, knowing that Queen Nora may rescind her offer at any moment, tells her people to leave at once without waiting even for their bread to rise.
As they run away from the land, Queen Nora's heart is hardened once more, and she sends out her armies to stop the slaves from leaving.
And the slaves are trapped. On one side is a great sea. On the other, the attacking armies of Vacuo. So, Ruby, with her staff, raises her arms and splits the sea in two, allowing her people to cross freely. And once all are passed through, she lowers her arms and the sea closes, drowning all the armies that had attacked.
"And that, my friends, is the story of Passover," Blake concluded. "At least a very simplified version of it."
"Neat!" Nora said, still munching down on snacks. "Still, what's with the bread?"
"Well, in memory of how my people did not have time to wait for their bread to rise, during this time, we do not allow for our bread to rise either. The unleavened bread they ate was called matzah and so too is ours."
"Did I really have to kill all those Vacuans?" Ruby asked.
"Yes Ruby. Yes you did."
"I feel like I heard that story before…" Jaune finally says, stroking his chin.
Blake shrugs, "it wouldn't surprise me. Multiple religions nowadays can trace their origins to this story. There were even some movies about it. But, I am fairly certain that only my culture actually celebrates this holiday."
"Well, thank you for sharing this piece of your culture with us, Blake." Weiss says magnanimously. "If there is anything else you could need of us to make your time easier or better, please let us know."
"Actually…" Blake began, "there may be one thing. Well, on the first and second nights of Passover, we have big feasts called seders. In my family, the first one is usually done with only the close family, but the second we like to share with friends. So… would you like to join me for tonight's seder?"
Blake finished her question with a timid, almost sheepish voice. Unsure if her friends would want to join her for such an event. But, Ruby of course was the first to put her thoughts at rest. Because a big cheer erupted, and they all agreed. And that night they joined her for a big seder. And even Yang enjoyed her piece of matzah.