Chapter 1: Don't Fear (The Reaper)
It wasn't the altitude that put Ruby on edge.
The chatter from the other students aboard the airship filled the air with a distracting buzz. None of them were looking at her, but she could still feel their eyes crawling on her back, itching to pull off her hood and expose her.
Before last night, Ruby never felt the need to hide. It wasn't her way. Today, however, her hood was her sheath, a veil that separated her from the rest of the world. Red like blood, it poured down from the top of her head to cloak her shoulders and flow outwards like a cape. She had it for so long that she couldn't remember a time when she had been without it.
With nobody waiting to invade, she was left alone to ponder her thoughts, her actions. Or watch the news playing on TV.
"Roman Torchwick was killed last night after attempting to rob a dust shop in Vale," Lisa Lavender reported. "Witness reports say that the person responsible was at the dust shop and apprehended Torchwick's cohorts, before fatally wounding the notorious criminal in pitched combat. The combatant's identity remains undisclosed at this time."
A smile bloomed across her face. She had a chance.
"In other news..."
If she closed her eyes, she could let the rocking of the ship and Lisa's droning tone lull her to sleep and drift away to some far-off land.
The shock flitted through his face, the moment stretching on for eternity as the light in his eyes began to burn out. His cane fell, hitting the rooftop with a clatter. He followed suit, a puppetmaster whose strings were sheared. Blood gushed from his body, a roaring waterfall that was red like roses and –
Ruby's eyes ripped open. Silver eyes. They were striking and vivid, like her lucid memories, a presence as constant as the neverending news cycle.
Lisa was covering a budding Faunus rights protest now. Some of them had to hide, too, but it wasn't exactly the same. They were victims of something outside their control. She wasn't.
Before last night, she never would have known that her eyes meant anything, but it was the first thing Professor Ozpin noticed.
Beacon Academy loomed in the distance, a series of ornate buildings with a tower that almost met the sky. It was her new home. She would had to meet new people. Prove it to herself that she deserved to be there like everyone else. Prove that Ozpin's trust in her wasn't misplaced.
In spite of everything... she was looking forward to it.
Ruby wanted to be a red blur, speeding away and weaving around anyone in her way like a hawk in the sky, flying to the beat of her own rhythm.
Instead, she walked out of the plane at a restrained pace. Thanks to Yang's message, Ruby knew the exact time and place they'd reunite, allowing her to take in the sights.
Up close, Beacon Academy was even more majestic than in pictures. It had an abundance of green and red trees, along with gray concrete paths that were smoother than ice. Spring was in full gear, bringing with it a relaxing atmosphere that brightened Ruby's mood.
All the clothing she saw formed a rainbow of colour. If red was her favourite colour, black was definitely in second place. Most of her clothing was black, and everything except her stockings was trimmed or laced with red. It looked stylish and hid stains of all kinds. Ruby couldn't ask for more.
Her future comrades were engrossed in their own conversations, and some of them were chatting about Torchwick's death. They weren't talking about her, but she heard whispers about a scythe, and willed herself to move faster. The last thing she wanted to do was be around when someone connected the dots and spotted her.
Ruby kept herself occupied by the academy's trappings instead of the people inhabiting it, until she saw her sister leaning against a tree. As soon as they made eye contact, Yang made a beeline towards her, grinning in delight.
"Ruby, you made it! How are you feeling?"
She did her best to smile. "I'm all right. I could be better."
"You should be! I still can't believe we get to attend Beacon together. Isn't that great?"
"It sure is," she said, drawling the words out.
Yang's grin faltered. "Something wrong, Ruby?"
Ruby's lip jutted out. She didn't mean to be such a downer, it just came out like that. She had to find a way to keep Yang from prying too closely.
"Did you see the news?"
Her eyes lit up, like a blazing inferno. "I sure did. Man, I'd really like to meet the guy who wasted Torchwick and shake their hand! Why'd you ask?"
"Just wanted to know, I guess."
Ruby barked off a laugh, but it came off pretty awkward and felt pretty embarrassing.
"Well, now you know. I guess we'll be hearing more about it, huh? After all, it's not every day that something like this happens!"
That wasn't what she wanted to hear, even though she doubted she'd be so lucky. Ruby started to curl up into herself. She just wanted school to start already.
"You sure nothing's wrong, Ruby?"
Yang had clutched Ruby's shoulders, smiling all the while. Ruby tried to slither out of her sister's grip, but Yang wouldn't budge: she was strong and stubborn as an ox, and she'd only get stronger the more she tried to resist.
Ruby sighed, deflating like a spent balloon. "I'm just kinda nervous."
Yang finally let go, but her hands were moving up towards her hood.
"Let's get this out of the way."
Ruby tried to bat Yang's hands away, but it was to no avail as she just pushed her hood down, revealing her face to the whole world. She tried to pull it back up, but time passed without nobody actually looking at her, so she let it be.
"There we go! See, Ruby, there's nothing to worry about."
Ruby frowned, looking at the concrete path lying ahead of them that was waiting to be trampled on.
"Easy for you to say."
"I say it because it's the truth."
When Ruby faced her, Yang was still smiling, but it was softer, soothing her nerves.
"Trust me, Ruby, you belong here. You'll be making lots of new friends and showing everyone how awesome you are, and before you know it, you'll forget you were ever nervous."
What Yang was saying was stuff she might have been concerned about if there wasn't any blood on her hands. She actually was worried that people would see her as some little kid or someone special, but that might also mean they'd see her as a little killer if they learned the truth.
"Uh, Yang? Can you stay with me until everything's sorted out?"
Yang squeezed her shoulder. "Of course I can."
Ruby smiled, in spite of how she was feeling on the inside. "Thanks."
She could always rely on her older sister to be there for her.
As they made their way to the academy, Ruby found herself thinking less about how things could be at Beacon. Yang's enthusiasm helped, as she'd talk about little things that Ruby could easily respond to.
Ruby also took in all of the amazing weapons she saw. She put a lot of care into her own weapon, so she was almost tempted to find out if someone was as passionate as she was about everything that was anything about weapons.
Then she heard people talking about Torchwick's death, and she shelved that idea.
Ruby saw someone hauling a ton of silver suitcases on a luggage cart. She made eye contact with her, but the haughty glare the girl in white sent her way made her regret doing that.
"What do you think she's carrying in those things?" Yang asked.
"I don't know," Ruby said.
"You think she needs some help?"
Ruby noticed a pair of butlers carrying other suitcases that looked just as expensive.
"Looks like she already has some help."
"I guess she does, huh?" Yang grinned. "I don't know about you, but why don't you go ahead and ask her, Ruby? That rapier of hers looks cool, so you guys can talk about that. If everything goes well, she might end up being your first new friend!"
Ruby took another look at the girl with the white hair, who was dusting off her suitcases. They looked really expensive.
"What are you looking at?" she asked.
Ruby flinched. She had to think of something quick.
"Those swanky suitcases," Yang said. "What's inside them, your shoes?"
The girl huffed. "For your information, these suitcases are carrying premium Dust. This is a combat academy, not a fashion school."
Yang wasn't deterred, even if Ruby was ready to bolt.
"Good to know. I just thought a girl with your fashion sense wouldn't be caught dead without a spare outfit."
"Of course I wouldn't, but these capsules are more important, which is why I'm carrying them myself."
Yang had a point: with her white dress and the way the inside of her white jacket and matching boots were lined in red, she seemed more like a princess from an icy land than an aspiring huntress.
Ruby took in a deep breath, steeling herself. Who she was didn't have to matter. If Yang could talk to this crabby girl, then so could she.
"What kind of Dust do you have in there?" Ruby asked.
The girl smirked. "All sorts: fire, lightning, ice. You name it, I have it, and it's all thanks to the Schnee Dust Company."
"And that rapier lets you use that Dust, right?"
"Of course it does." She unsheathed her rapier, letting Ruby see the cartridges embedded along the guard. "I load a cartridge, then with Myrtenaster here, I use the cartridge. I can switch to whichever one I need."
The rapier was so sleek, so sharp that examining it made Ruby's mouth start to water. She really wanted to know more about it. The thing was, she didn't want to push too hard when she barely knew this girl, so maybe she could do something to break the proverbial ice.
Ruby looked at Yang, who grinned and gave her a thumbs-up. Buoyed by her support, Ruby pulled out her own weapon and transformed it into its full size.
"This is my scythe, Crescent Rose. It can shift between a scythe and a high-impact sniper rifle. Isn't it great?"
"It certainly is interesting, I'll give you that much."
The girl took a closer look at Crescent Rose, and slowly, her eyes began to expand, something like recognition flickering across them.
"Quick question, did you hear about the dust robbery that happened last night? Of course you have. I heard that someone with a red scythe was involved. That wouldn't happen to be you, would it?"
Ruby froze. She wasn't prepared for someone to ask her about it, not yet.
"How did you know that I heard about it?"
The girl rolled her eyes. "Who hasn't heard about it? I'm from Atlas and I heard about it, so unless you've never heard of television or newspapers, then you know about that dust robbery."
"Whoa, let's not get too rowdy here," Yang said, disarming smile locked and loaded.
"Please. We're having a civil conversation, and besides, it's not like there's only one person with a red scythe in the world. If she wasn't involved, all she has to do is say so."
Ruby shook her head. She didn't want to lie, but at the same time, she didn't want to spill the beans and make a mess when she didn't have to.
Yang's smile flipped upside down. "Give Ruby a break. She doesn't have to answer you if she doesn't want to."
The girl scowled. "Well, excuse me for being curious! Who are you to tell me what to do?"
"I'm her sister, so be nice, got it, princess?"
It looked like she was about to explode, but then, the girl in white scoffed. "I'm just asking questions. If Ruby can't answer, then maybe she's guilty. How would you – "
"Stop!" Ruby said. "How do you expect me to answer you if you're being so pushy? I don't even know your name and you're already asking me about some random rumours you heard over the news!"
Ruby put her hands to her mouth, then she dropped them and glared. After how she lashed out, there was no point in backing down, even if she just wanted this conversation to end.
"The name's Weiss Schnee, and don't you dare forget it. You'll be seeing me again, Ruby, Ruby's sister. I will get to the bottom of this rumour, mark my words."
"I'm Yang," Yang said. "Next time we cross paths, you'd better not try anything. Rumours or not, you can't bully Ruby around."
Weiss clicked her tongue. "Whatever."
Mercifully, Weiss sheathed her rapier and walked away, suitcases and butlers in tow. Yang swivelled to face her, smiling wryly.
"I really liked how you handled that."
Ruby returned Crescent Rose back into a more manageable size and holstered it at the small of her back. "She was going too far."
Yang chuckled, her long mane of blonde hair bouncing around her shoulders. "Well, if you keep that up, you'll have nothing to worry about. Those stupid rumours got nothing on Ruby Rose!"
Ruby rubbed the back of her neck. Yang's support was really reassuring, but if she knew the truth, would she be so enthusiastic?
It wasn't that she murdered someone and buried their corpse in a dirty back alley, but she still killed a man when she could have tried something else.
The prospect of admitting it sat in her gut like encroaching lava on an idyllic village, because Yang wasn't dumb: someone would say something, Yang would put the pieces together and BAM, things would never be the same. If Yang was ever afraid of her... Ruby shoved that thought into the dark recesses within the back of her mind, the same place her nightmares went.
She looked around. Other than a girl reading a book, the courtyard they were standing in was mostly uninhabited. So she pulled Yang to the edge of the courtyard.
"What's going on?"
Her concern was clear to see in her lilac eyes. It made what Ruby wanted to say easier to stomach.
"What if those rumours were true?"
"What, that someone with a red scythe killed Roman Torchwick? What's next, you're going to tell me that this someone has a red hood and an awesome older sister?"
Yang was actually smiling. She wasn't afraid or disgusted. Sure, they were sisters, but this wasn't supposed to be happening.
"Well, in that case..."
Yang extended her hand, like she wanted a handshake.
"Would you do me the honour, Ruby?"
Ruby looked at her hand like it would bite. "I thought you were joking when you said that."
"I'm dead serious, 100% of the time."
Yang was fighting back a laugh, so Ruby decided to play along and shake her hand. Yang had a firm grip, but beneath her gloves, she knew her hands were soft like the fluffiest pillows. Then Yang pulled her in close and hugged her.
"What's going on, Yang?"
Ruby's hands were at her sides, as she wasn't sure if she wanted to return the hug or get out of dodge.
"Nothing. Just thought you could use one of these."
The edges of her eyes started to burn. "I thought..."
"I'm proud of you, Ruby."
"Of course I am. I knew you were special, but you beat Roman Torchwick! If you've seen the types of people he hangs out with, you'd know how cool you were for taking him down."
Coming from Yang, the same person who roughed up a vibrant club and took out a local information broker in the process, her immediate and unconditional acceptance shouldn't have been all that surprising.
Still, relief flooded through her entire being. Ruby wrapped her arms around Yang's back and hugged her sister. She was probably staining her sister's brown jacket with her tears, but she didn't care.
When she let go, Ruby rubbed at her eyes, sniffling a little.
Ruby nodded. "I am."
Yang smiled. This time, Ruby was able to return it.
"Great. Do the teachers know about what happened to Torchwick?"
"They do, but Professor Ozpin decided to give me a chance. He said I was defending myself, that I could learn how to do that better here at Beacon."
Yang whistled. "Wow, that's great, isn't it?"
"It's better than what I expected."
"It's the perfect chance for you to build your own reputation. If I were you, I'd own these rumours, keep folks like Weiss from using it against you. But whatever you choose to do, I've got your back."
"Right. You're right. Thanks, Yang."
Yang beamed. "Any time."
Not everyone would see things Yang's way, but Yang was proud of her, and for now, that was enough.