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Birds of a Feather

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I recognized her from an earlier match when she ran up to me following our fight. Ruby Rose, the latest of Beacon's prodigies. She was all abuzz with adrenaline, telling me how much she admired my part in BRNZ's strategy as well as my axe rifle, and eagerly asked if I'd designed the weapon myself.

"Oh," I said brightly, a little off-guard by her enthusiasm. I rubbed at a crick in the back of my neck; that Valkyrie girl had put a serious ache in me that wasn't likely to fade any time soon. "Yeah, I did actually." I tugged it out of the loop on my belt and flipped it into its axe state like I'd learned to do in Shade Academy's color guard. There were practically stars in Ruby's silver eyes. I straightened up a little; it was nice to be appreciated, even after a mortifying loss like that.

She listened with rapt attention as I went over the basic design of the rifle, how I'd picked out a scope for it, the design of the Dust cartridges I fired and how that affected the aim and kick of the gun. The kid even surprised me by asking some rather astute questions about it, whether I'd gone with a fixed or variable scope, what the threading was like in the barrel.

"You know a lot about snipers too, huh?" I asked, a smile tugging at my lips at her excitement.

Ruby scuffed her boot bashfully, a hint of a blush coloring her cheeks. "My weapon is a little like yours," she confessed. "It's a high-calibre sniper scythe. I built mine myself too."

My smile shifted into a proper grin. "A fellow sniper, huh? I knew I liked you." I reached out and ruffled her hair, making her face go three shades redder. "We'll have to meet up sometime before the festival is all over and trade sniping tips."

"Really?" Her voice was practically a squeak of delight. I chuckled.

"Yeah, why not? It'll be fun."

"Yeah!" Ruby grinned and stuck out her hand. I clasped it firmly and gave it a good shake. Her smile dimmed a watt or two briefly as something evidently occurred to her. Then: "By the way, uh... what was your name again? I don't think I caught it," she said apologetically.

I gave her a little crooked smile and stuck my rifle back into its leather frog at my hip. "May Zedong. Pleasure to meet you."