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Personal Failings

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”Ruby Rose!” I banged on the door. ”I know you're in there! Come out this instant!”

I sighed and pinched the bridge of my nose to ward off a headeache. How Ozpin could ever think this irresponsible little brat would make a good team leader was a mystery.

I raised my voice again. ”Ruby! I know you're in there, I checked the reservation scroll! You can't hide from the exam forever!” I tried to pound on the door again, but it opened inwards and I inadvertently knocked the aforementioned dolt on the head. I didn't apologize; she'd spared me the effort of doing it intentionally.

She winced. ”Ow! Hi, Weiss.” She rubbed her head with one hand, while keeping the door half-closed with the other. ”I'm not hiding. I'm actually thinking really hard about my responsibilities.” She tried to put on a serious face, but I could see through her evasion.

I crossed my arms over my chest and gave her my second-best glare. (The best was reserved for actual catastrophes.) ”Need I remind you that you shouldn't worry about your performance at the Vytal Tournament if you fail? No amount of swinging your stick around will defeat the make-up exams and extra essays.”

Ruby glared right back. ”She's a sniper scythe, and would prefer to be addressed as such.” The tiny girl (she's at least an inch shorter (yes, my heels count (shut up))) tried to worm her way through the half-ajar door and past me. ”Secondly, it's not about the tournament.” After closing the door to the training room behind her back, she fiddled nervously with her compacted sniper stick. ”I can't tell you what it's about yet. So...”

On a hunch, I drew Myrtenaster and rotated to an ice Dust chamber, firing a blast some length down the corridor behind where she had stood even when I began the motion. Ruby faceplanted into the floor, jerked out of her Semblance-fueled escape by a clump of ice binding her shoe to the floor. Her weapon clattered and slid out of her reach, and I could stroll leisurely after her as she ineffectually tried to pull her foot loose. I pointed Myrtenaster at her nose. ”Ruby Rose, if you know what is good for you, you will accompany me for a study session, and leave this training nonsense for after the exam.”

She turned her face away and huffed. I could imagine the delightful pout of utter defeat on her face. ”It's really important and secret,” she said.

”Convince me.” She sounded serious enough that I could afford her the illusion of hope.

She glanced around the corridor, spotting a few onlookers who seemed suitably impressed by my comprehensive domination of the primitive black-and-red amoeba. ”Not here,” she stage whispered, ”and you have to promise not to tell Yang.”

I raised a questioning eyebrow. She'd had my attention – skipping on her studies had earned her that – but now she had my interest. ”Very well. I suppose I can hear you out before setting you straight.” I began chipping away at the ice imprisoning her boot with Myrtenaster's tip.

After she had retrieved her weapon, she fished her scroll out of her combat skirt's pocket and flashed it to the electronic lock, which beeped to admit us into the training room. What greeted me was a mystifying sight. The middle of the room was littered with the remains of disposable Grimm training dummies. In the very center, a single humanoid model stood like the pagan idol of some grisly sacrificial devotion, with only a few nicks and scratches here and there. While the disposable dummies were individually cheap, she appeared to have gone through several dozen. I couldn't exactly claim to know her financial status, but it had to have been a significant part of her discretionary spending for the month.

Ruby sat down on the bench that bordered the wall next to the door. She cradled Crescent Rose in her lap and pulled her knees up. ”I'm thinking about changing my role in the team,” she whispered.

I sat down to her right and placed Myrtenaster on the bench beside me. ”And what is that supposed to mean? You are already the team leader and primary striker. What more could you want?” Aside from her voluminous relationhip with cookies, I had never thought of our team leader's personality as particularly ambitious.

She swallowed hard and stared at the dinged-up training dummy. ”I'm thinking I should move to a covering role. With my speed, I can take care of both flanks and the rear. Blake can take over as the striker.” She began to speak faster, rushing through her explanation. The girl seemed to shrink with every word, like a balloon letting out air. ”With me and Yang on defense, we could up our survivability by a lot. Do you think we can rearrange our team name? I'm gonna quit as leader. I recommeded you to Ozpin.” She glanced at me and smiled sadly. ”You wanted to lead, and I'm sure you'll do a great job.”

She couldn't have surprised me more if she'd grown horns on the spot. I stared at her until she coughed nervously.

”Sorry, Weiss, I didn't ask you before sending the letter to Ozpin, but I figured the offer was still open.” Her eyes were beginning to dart back and forth between my eyes and her shoes.

”Why?” I muttered. I licked my lips and cleared my throat. ”Why, Ruby? What's all this about? Despite your... numerous points of further development, you're still an... adequate leader.” Wouldn't do to swell her ego too much.

She leaned back and looked at the ceiling, slowly rocking Crescent Rose in her lap. Her eyes seemed a little misty. ”Back in the caves, I made the call to go after the train. We all nearly died. Yang nearly died.” She sniffed. ”And that's not even the worst part. When I think about all the people in that square when the Grimm came out... If we hadn't been on that train-” her voice cracked. ”I'd make the same call again. And that's why I can't lead.”

I couldn't see the chain of thoughts that could possibly lead to such a conclusion. ”You answerd the call of duty. We all knew what we signed up for when we entered Beacon.” I raised my hand to put it on her shoulder, but hesitated. The look of pain on her face told me I'd said exactly the wrong thing. I lowered my back into my lap.

”It's not just about us. It's about dad, about all our families.” She swallowed hard and wiped her eyes on her sleeve. ”If I was wrong to take that much of a risk with our lives, I'm a bad leader by definition. And if it was the right decision...” She trailed off and closed her eyes. It took me a moment to notice the minute shaking of her chest and shoulders.

To dust with propriety, I thought, and wrapped my left arm around Ruby's shoulders. She made a small noise halfway between a hiccup and a sob and leaned into my side. ”I think you made the best decision you could at the time,” I offered.

”That's what scares me,” she said. I pulled out my handkerchief and dabbed at her face while I waited for her to elaborate. ”If mom was right, I've h-hated her for no reason all these years. What kinda huntress leaves her family, to die on some silly mission, right?” She blew her nose into my handkerchief. (Ew.) ”So there. I'm either incompetent, or a hypocritical jerk.”

I carefully folded my handkerchief snot-side in and placed it on the bench. I didn't exactly know what to say. I absentmindedly stroked her hair while thinking of some way to cheer her up. Seeing Ruby, the hyperactive, lively little dolt like this was wrong on some profound level. An obvious distraction presented itself. ”So... what have you been practicing?” I nodded towards the training dummies.

She shook off my arm and stood up, unfolding Crescent Rose. ”I hafta to protect all of you. I want to know that when we go on a mission, no matter how bad things get, we won't d– that we're all coming home. So...” She motioned with her scythe towards the humanoid doll, suddenly seeming very determined. ”New techniques.” She grabbed my wrist and hauled me up. ”Go stand in front of the doll. I'll show you.”

I walked up to it and turned to face Ruby, who had moved into the corner of the room, about twenty feet away. She held her scythe at the ready and took a position like she was going to leap towards me. ”Should I be armed?” I asked.

She squinted, rubbed her eyes – which didn't do much to improve the redness of her face – and shook her head. ”This is for cases when you need immediate help, like if Myrtenaster is jammed, or something."

I scowled at her. ”Myrtenaster doesn't jam. It's a revolver for precisely that reason.” Well, it very rarely jammed, and that was mostly due to substandard dust cartridges.

”Just stand still.” The gleam on the blade of her oversized murderstick reminded me of the damage the presumable teammate stand-in doll had suffered to its extremities.

I opened my mouth to protest, when she disappeared in a flurry of rose petals. I heard air rushing past me and a series of very sharp sounds, and saw afterimages of a crescent blade all around me, perilously close to my body. Half a second later Ruby was back where she'd started, and the pieces of the practice dummy exploded in all directions behind me, its head rolling across the room until it came to rest against Ruby's foot. I slowly closed my mouth.

Ruby's face was a mask of horror. Her mouth opened and closed like she was a fish out of water.

I swallowed and made sure I still had all my limbs intact. I hadn't felt any pain, so that was supposedly a good sign. Had she ruined my combat skirt? I grew more confused as a glance at my body and feet revealed nothing out of order. I turned around, seeing bits of the finely diced dummy, and... a long bundle of white hairs.

I raised a trembling hand to feel my ponytail, which now terminated in a severe line at the level of my ear.