"I'll let Professor Peach know you two aren't feeling well," Yang said with a smile as she closed the door to their room. That smile wasn't just for Ruby's and Weiss's benefit. Blake's usually bright friend had found a new level, much like Ruby had. Blake rarely heard Yang whistling a tune, but she was doing it this morning. It was starting to get annoying by the time they left the dormitory. "You are a bit too happy even by your standards. This is more than just winning the pool."806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡXiuxSnM8Dh
"That certainly is helping," she glowed, "but mostly it's seeing my sister truly happy. You know how I told you during our second semester about losing our mother and how it affected me?" It was a good thing that Beacon's campus was inordinately large for the number of students that went to it. It allowed for conversations to be mostly private between buildings or Blake thought this one wouldn't take place till later.806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡxhlfuBxIIR
Blake knew exactly what conversation Yang was talking about. It might have saved her life, and that wasn't an overstatement with how obsessed she was back then. "Yes, what does that have to do with it?"
"I never really told you how it affected Ruby." There was no one they could see in earshot, Yang none the less started to talk in hushed tones. "It's true that she doesn't really remember her mother, but that doesn't mean she didn't feel the lack, especially as she got older. She hides it well, but there has always been a shadow on her happiness. You've never seen her without that shadow, but I have. That means to you she's been acting normal, but I've known better. This is her. Couldn't you tell the difference?"
That had been impossible not to see. Even when she was mad at Yang and trying to hurt her there had been a feeling of joy. "She did seem happier. I just assumed it was the newness of her relationship."
"Yes that's part of it, and when they settle that shadow may return," the blonde powerhouse said. "I really don't think it will though. I have a feeling."
Blake accepted that instantly. If anyone knew how Ruby ticked it was Yang. "Ok. What about Weiss? Do you think she will be okay?" Blake was deeply worried about her friend, and she could see her going back into her depression even with Ruby to keep her from the darkness. This could be a team effort to help one of their own.806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡYLGgCpAzVy
"That's trickier," Yang said, paralleling Blake's thoughts. "I mean, to lose your family is bad enough, but knowing just why she was so frosty when we first met..." Yang shook her head, some of her earlier joy lost when contemplating the condition of their friend. "I don't think her self-esteem will come back without help. Ruby will keep her happy, but you saw it last night. Her name was where her confidence started. Without it I think she won't be able to see the rest of what makes her great."806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ34xDu7Ja7E
"I agree." Blake decided to let Yang in on her plan. "I have an idea that might help. I could have her work with me on the White Fang."
"You mean patrolling with you?" Yang asked with confusion. "I thought us not being faunus would just get in the way?"
Blake shook her head. "No, that isn't what I need help with. I need help planning how to get where I want White Fang to be. She has knowledge that would be essential."
"You're going to be ambitious beyond reason, aren't you?" There was worry in her voice, and Blake could guess why.
"Maybe. This won't be easy, but don't worry. I won't push myself like I have in the past."806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡVQCbd1ORya
"Good," Yang approved. "Then I say go for it. Making use of her, especially in a way that only she can, will only help her ego."
Blake nodded, then went into deep thought. Yang let the conversation die, which Blake was thankful for. It had taken time but her friend had learned when it was okay to talk to Blake and when Blake needed to be left to her thoughts.806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡopjN32HWCN
The biggest problem was Weiss's relationship with Ruby, of all things. It was new and Blake didn't want to separate the two. She wanted to be sure they had the time they needed to truly cement their relationship. Ruby was essential to Weiss's well being, and now Blake knew it was helping Ruby get past her own demons.806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡQFq89TH02b
At the same time if Weiss was going to help her Blake would need to bring her completely in. This was going to need a lot of planning, and she was pretty sure Weiss was going to bring up things she hadn't thought of. That's one of the reasons Blake needed her.806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡQvdnkMwo1S
Where was the balance?
Blake was thankful for classes for a second day in a row. Yesterday it was to avoid Weiss, fearing her friend would reignite the fight from last night. Today it was giving her something else to occupy her thoughts because she wasn't coming up with any answers.806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ3E6vW6l1TU
Between her first and second class for the day she went to her favorite spot to read. Reading was her great escape, but it also helped her think. In this case it was only serving to keep her relaxed. She kept an eye out for Weiss and Ruby as well. She knew what they were up to, but she didn't know how long they would take. It wasn't that it was any of her business, but talking to Weiss was the only real solution. Weiss could decide how deep she was willing to go. It was her decision to make, not Blake's she realized.
Unfortunately she didn't see them until the very beginning of their next class. Weiss's favorite, Advanced Dust Manipulation. Yang sat next to Blake on the level above Weiss and Ruby. Yang elbowed Blake with a lopsided grin and whispered "Their hair's still wet." Blake just answered with a sour look. She did notice that Weiss wasn't wearing her coat. It didn't surprise her, but it did look out of place.806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7K3E4avpLq
After class she finally had her chance. She found the rest of their clique pulling aside Ruby to undoubtedly tease her without mercy. By now Yang had told the others what had happened last night and this morning, except for what Weiss wouldn't want shared. Even with their friends in JNPR.806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡtcvTTQABM1
She'd also gotten her winnings. At the beginning of each month they had been betting on which day the two would end their denial. The bets were small, but over two years they added up.806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡKFMXuZytHn
It was as good of a chance as any. "Weiss, can we talk?"806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡuelzOQ61NW
"Of course," Weiss smiled brightly. Blake didn't react to it but she was several levels beyond surprised. Weiss didn't smile brightly. Dating Ruby was doing wonders already. We always knew her and Ruby were going to get together eventually, but I don't think any of us could have predicted this, Blake thought to herself as they walked to the side. Blake picked the same spot she had been reading at earlier. It was quiet and a bit secluded without actively hiding. Perfect for what she needed.806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ5Bl7DuWu77
Blake noticed Weiss make an inconspicuous glance to be sure Ruby was still in line of sight. Ruby was obviously providing more than love. Weiss's shoulders had stiffened up when she'd walked away, and with that look they had again relaxed. Ruby was also Weiss's security against her depression and perhaps herself. Blake tucked that piece of information away.806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡpN2FpBtWaY
"So, what do you need to talk about?" her voice sounded as happy as that smile had indicated. It was eerie. What did Ruby do to her?
Remembering the last time she approached the subject, Blake was nervous regardless of how happy Weiss appeared. Hesitantly she asked "Remember when I told you I found a piece of the White Fang?" Blake very closely watched her friend's expression, trying to ready herself for anything.
"Yeeeees," her friend said slowly as if she was the one ready for the attack. This actually put Blake at ease.
With a lot less fear of a possible backlash she told Weiss "I could still use your help, if you are willing."
Weiss let out a breath that Blake hadn't known her friend was holding. "I would be happy to," she said with obvious relief. "Thank you." Blake simply nodded knowing exactly what Weiss was thanking her for. The previous argument was truly forgiven and forgotten. "But how can I be of use? I'm not able to do much anymore." Ah yes, the self-doubt. Hopefully this will help with that.806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9FPC4tWntS
"I have an idea, but I'm not sure how to go about it. I want to bring the pieces of White Fang back together under a new name, and a new method, to bring about our equality."
Weiss nodded. She had straightened her back slightly as she faced a problem other than herself, and one she was comfortable helping with. "Consolidation with a total rebranding, complete with new mission statement. That could work, so long as no one realizes the connection between the new and the old."
"It was Jaune's idea." Blake admitted.
"He is smarter than I used to give him credit."
Blake was curious how deeply Weiss's emotional wounds went. "Smarter than you?"806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡsmBISM42tw
"Possibly in some areas," she said with real humility.
Well, that was good to hear. At least she was able to recognize her skills and knowledge weren't useless, though that was not the overconfident answer that she would have received before her trial had begun. Maybe that would be a positive turn for her friend. That overconfidence often got her into trouble.
"Right," Blake said, and then returned to their conversation. "To pull those pieces together I will need a very convincing 'mission statement.' Protests didn't work, and of terrorism isn't an option."806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8H0l9OYYrk
Weiss nodded, "I can see you have an idea."
"More of a concept really. Could we put financial pressure on businesses that are discriminating against us, and encourage them to have fair policies?"
"There are ways, I think. It'd be easier if we had financial backing," Weiss started, winding her way into the subject. "Also until you manage to get the White Fang, or whatever you're going to call them, together you aren't going to have enough manpower. There is also the possible backlash from large companies like the Schnee Dust Company." Weiss paused for a second after mentioning her father's company, but after a deep breath she continued. "If they try they could cause bad publicity which would undercut your cause."
Weiss went on with further ideas and possible complications until Blake held up a hand to stall her friend. "Okay, you've already brought up several points I hadn't thought of, and I'm sure you can come up with more. So the question is where do we start?"
Again that smile, and this time with real humor. "We're going to start with a makeover."
Blake's jaw dropped. "A what?"806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡJwsR87pq7q
"A makeover," her friend repeated, looking entirely pleased with herself. "You aren't going to inspire anyone looking like a Huntress, except for people who want to fight. That isn't the crowd you want."
"But..." Blake wasn't sure what she was going to say after that, and Weiss didn't give her a chance.
"No buts. You asked for my help, so that's where we're going to start." Weiss's voice was now taking on a more commanding tone.
Blake was a bit too distracted to appreciate it. "You want me to look like a business woman?" She tried to picture herself in a business suit, and just couldn't. It wasn't her.806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡZfLt1tdSer
With a practiced ease, Weiss said "no, business types will likely make people nervous. You're trying to get companies to end their abuse. You don't want to look like one of them. I want professional, but relaxed."
Blake's mental image refocused with her now wearing a button up shirt, opened at the neck, and a pair of slacks. It was almost worse than the first image. "I understand what you're saying, and I'll do it because it will help. I won't like it though."
"Oh, I think I can fix that too," Weiss said with the confidence Blake had hoped to inspire in her friend, and was now inclined to regret.
"When?" she asked, sounding beaten, because she was.
"Let's do it Saturday. The sooner we start the faster we'll finish."
There was one other subject to talk about, the one that Blake had been the most distracted by. "What about Ruby? I don't want to monopolize your time."
"I'll talk to her about it. She might come, but if not we can make the trips short." There was stress behind the words. If Ruby said no Blake would talk to her. If she couldn't get Ruby to change her mind she would find an excuse to cancel for this weekend. Her plan may take years to complete, a week wouldn't change much in the scheme of things.
A bell sounded indicating that next classes were going to begin in fifteen minutes. The short talk she had planned went a lot longer than she intended. "We can talk details later," Blake said. "Go save your girlfriend from those wolves we call friends."
Weiss nodded and turned around, walking to the group. Blake noticed a little more of the swagger in Weiss's steps that had been missing before. It wasn't all back, but it was a good start. Reminding her that she had more to offer than a bank account, or fighting, was already providing dividends.
Blake was fidgety on the ride into town. She had always dressed nicely she thought, and had grown accustomed to what she thought of as her style. The prospect of change was unnerving, as most change was. She might even go so far as to say it was frightening. It was funny, she'd faced down entire packs of Beowulfs by herself without batting an eye yet a new shirt was making her break out in a sweat. It'd be funny to anyone who wasn't her at that moment anyways.
"I can never get bored of this view!" Ruby exclaimed, looking out the window of their transport. Everything was right in the world for her, and Yang was correct: she was more excitable than she had been which was frightening considering what her old level was. "Weiss, come look. I can see the merchant district! That's where we're going to shop, right?"
Weiss let out a big sigh, and pinched the bridge of her nose as if she had hit her last nerve. She had maintained the mood that had so surprised Blake, but her old mannerisms were back in force. "Yes. Are you going to be like this all day? Some of us are taking this seriously."806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9eS3qTck5v
Ruby didn't deflate or look the least bit dejected, but she did slow down. "I am too Weiss. Blake needs the best from us right now, but enjoying the view isn't going to slow the bus down any, so why not enjoy it for the moment?"
"Oh, alright. Just stop bouncing off the walls for a minute and I'll try to enjoy the sights. Fair?" Ruby nodded, and reached out a hand to lead the way, then hugging her girlfriend from behind with that smile she didn't seem to be able to get rid of.
They really are good for each other, Blake thought. They are extremes in so many ways which gives them balance, yet they have enough in common that they can relate to each other. A small smile crossed the corner of her lips, enjoying the sight.
The two lovers stayed that way the rest of the trip, Weiss actually leaning into the embrace after a few minutes, sharing a moment of bliss. Blake wished she could have a similar feeling about then rather than the dread of what was to come.
Looking a lot more relaxed than Blake was, Weiss lead her to the trade district with Ruby in tow. The first store they hit had an assortment of items, none of them where remotely near what Blake would have looked at. In fact she had seen this store before, from the windows, and continued walking without a second thought.
"I thought you said no business suits."806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡKOVO8Z3fzT
"No, I said it would be relaxed but professional. Trust me, I've been thinking on this and I'm sure you will like what I came up with. Have a seat, and let me find a couple of items."806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡKTxzz6qP3h
Blake did exactly that feeling completely out of her depth. It wasn't that she was against dressing up; she just wasn't sure about this kind of dress. She did trust her friend and she hoped Weiss was right but this shop was full of button up shirts, slacks, and ties. This was not a place she belonged.806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡsD9fUHghwa
Fifteen grueling minutes later Weiss returned with a few sets of pants and shirts, each in multiple sizes. Blake looked at them skeptically. "Try these on and find the ones that fit the best. I picked out these because they won't restrict your movement at all. Look here, here, and here. There are extra panels to allow for high kicks, rolls, and just about any other maneuver you can think of."806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡH8lEbqNy5O
Blake watched Weiss point out the spots and had to admit that she was right. She'd be able to fight in these. They wouldn't provide any kind of protection if she was hit, but neither did her current clothes. That's what Aura was for, and her catlike reflexes. Still, it didn't look like 'her.'806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡtIgxSTwwW9
Without a word Blake grabbed the clothes and went to the changing rooms. She discovered Weiss was a good judge of sizes quickly. She had picked three sizes of each item, and every time it was the middle size that fit the best. There was a small thrill putting the shirts on she had to admit. They were one-hundred percent silk and the feel of it on her skin made her usual clothes feel like burlap. Looking even more dower than she usually did, she stepped out and waited for the laughter. Ruby at the least would find this suit funny.806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡTcdYQZU0yx
Weiss simply nodded. "Not perfect, but it is what I'm going for." As she had predicted Ruby put her hand over her mouth to try not laughing and failed. "Now put your coat on." That surprised Blake. Her leather trench wasn't anything like a suit. It was leather, for starters. It had the button straps on the shoulders for holding gloves, and matching straps around the wrists.
Blake nodded with approval. "It's not the clothes that make a look, it's the accessories. One last item to add to give you an idea of what I'm going for; at least from what they have in this store." Weiss threw something at her and Blake caught it reflexively.
Blake looked at the piece of fabric blankly. A tie? Was Weiss insane? "No, you've reached my limit. If I wanted a noose I'd make it myself."
"It isn't what I want, but they don't have clip-on ties here."
"Clip-on?" she knew what they were, but her brain was still trying to catch up with the concept. Guys wore ties, not girls.
"They look like the real thing," Weiss informed her, unaware of what had just gone through Blake's head. "but it's only held on by a single clip. Someone pulls on it and it'll instantly come off."
It was easier to just let the misunderstanding go. "I see. If they're so good, why don't they have them here?"
"Most people think of them as cheating," Weiss shrugged with a look that told Blake she didn't think much of those people. "or something only a lower class person would use. In other words it's too cheap for their standards."
"Then why do you want me to even try it?" And why do you want me to dress like a guy? she asked mentally.
"It's because I want you to see the full effect that I'm going for. It'll go back to the rack after."
Blake looked at Ruby questioningly, hoping for her opinion. Preferably she was hoping for a reason to get out of this. She was left with only disappointment. "Don't ask me. This is her home turf, and she knows what she's doing."
Trying to decide if Ruby really meant what she was saying, or if she was just being biased, Blake shrugged her shoulders. "I'll trust you and get what you have so far. Put the noose away." Blake handed the tie back to Weiss with obvious disgust. "Go check out while I put some real clothes on."
Ruby started snickering at that, and then answered her scroll as it chimed, Yang's face on its display. "Yes? I think so, we're just shopping. Why? But... That important?" Blake was hearing Yang's voice on the other side (There are advantages to having four ears) and knew that she was laughing the entire time, and not saying a thing. What was Ruby up to? She had been obviously bored for the last half hour, but Blake didn't think she'd leave just because of that. "No, no. As long as I'm gone for a short time it'll be ok." A sour look hit Ruby's face though Blake knew it was an act. When had Ruby become such a good actress? "I assume you got that?" she said to Weiss.
Weiss looked ready to fall apart, but she nodded. Ruby rushed up to her lover and held her, trying to console her. "I'll be as quick as possible," she said, giving her a passionate kiss. "I'm sorry, and I love you." That one Blake believed, and believing in her leader she didn't say a thing to Weiss. She was, however, going to get some answers out of Ruby tonight.
With a wave Ruby was gone. A few minutes later her and Weiss were ready to leave, Blake's clothes in hand, and moved on to their next destination. Weiss certainly knew the trade district well.
Blake reflexively looked at the window and found what she had hoped wasn't there. "Wait."
Weiss stopped and looked back at her friend. "It's already too late to change your mind. We have the expensive items now, so the least you can do is get the couple of items left."
"It isn't that. It's that," Blake said, pointing at a picture of a dog's head with a 'don't' symbol over it.
"So they don't allow pets."806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡD7F0Tjkubu
"No, that symbol means they won't serve faunus," Blake advised, feeling a residual feeling of anger and fear from her youth. "It isn't worth going in. Let's just go to the next shop."
Weiss looked at the sign closer in shock. "But that's ridiculous!" In hind sight she had to admit she'd seen the signs before, but had assumed they were exactly what she'd told Blake: No pets. It wasn't like she had any faunus friends before Beacon. Wasn't that the final straw that had left her without a family? An insult towards Blake, insinuating that she wasn't worthy to be in their company? "What kind of shopkeeper would turn down a paying customer? Getting paid for their merchandise is what they do!"806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡNg2aK3V0FN
Blake shook her head sadly. "Not all. Some let their prejudices be greater than their greed."806Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡgKhByjWoIg
"I don't believe it. I'll get him to do it. I may not be a Schnee anymore, but they won't know that. They can't afford to piss my family off."
Weiss was swearing. That wasn't good. She was too proper, normally, to reduce herself to such things. "Don't..." it was already too late, as Weiss entered the shop. Not knowing what else to do Blake followed hoping she could get her friend out before she made too much of a scene.
"Of course we have a clip-on tie in that color." the merchant was saying.
"Good, get it for us so I can see how it looks on my friend."
It was only a couple seconds, but feelings too tangled too identify rose up in Blake. She wanted to flee, seeing the disgust on his face. She hadn't tried going into a shop that was run by a bigot since she was a child and she'd learned then what hate looked like. Those childhood fears rooted her to the ground. I'm not that child anymore. I'm a Huntress. This guy can't hurt me. He is nothing. she told herself, but that child couldn't be calmed.
"We don't serve animals. Get her out of here before she makes a mess on the floor." Those eyes; She knew he would hurt her if he was given the chance. One foot moved backwards as if she was pushed.
"Her name is Blake, and she is my friend. Don't insult her again," Weiss said levelly, though her anger was clear.
"How nice, you've named your pet," he was looking at Weiss with pity now, as if she was dense. "You're one of the idiots who try to let them think. You know it's a useless act. Either you're disappointed, or they bite the hand that feeds them like the White Fang did."
From Weiss's posture Blake knew she was reaching her limit and soon her temper would be at its boiling point. Finding her voice Blake said "let's go Weiss. He isn't worth it."
"Control your bitch's ungrateful tongue, and get out of my shop faunus lover."
The shopkeeper obviously did not know who or what he was talking to. He was assuming that Weiss was just a girl, and a small one at that, so his bulk would be enough to not only get them to cower, but to hurt them. It was a mistake he regretted immediately as Weiss's temper broke free. In one smooth motion her fist went up, connecting with his chin. His head bounced backwards and he was unconscious as he fell to the ground like so much dead weight.
"Weiss, did you..?"
"He'll live, but he's going to have a headache when he wakes up, which is not enough in my book but any more and the law could be called." She was still seething. Blake on the other hand was used to it. It was depressing, but it was what it was. Leaving the shop Blake shook off the feelings and the memories that had caused them.
"You know, he could call the law already. He didn't do anything wrong. He has the legal right to not provide service if he doesn't want to. You were the one who became aggressive."
"But that's wrong!" she yelled in outrage
Blake felt the need to make a point. "Feel that anger? Imagine how much worse it would feel if he was talking about you like that. Imagine you grew up with it. Imagine if you'd seen friends, family, and lovers beaten for no other reason than you had horns. Think about what it would be like if you were the one getting beaten. Can you understand now why the White Fang became what it did?" She said it calmly, hiding her anger as much as possible, but it burned in her stomach. This is what her friends didn't understand. Couldn't understand, and why the need for equality burned so brightly within her.
"I didn't know..," Weiss said, her anger draining out of her quickly along with most of her energy. "I just thought it was a little snub now and then, maybe a bit of bullying."
"In a way it is," Blake lied for her friend's benefit. If anything the shop keeper had been mild when compared to some. She had seen lynchings for less than this. "Let's go, I'm sure we can find a shop that will have what you're looking for that isn't filled with hate."
Weiss nodded, and headed to the next shop. "It's gotten worse, actually," Blake said, warmed up to the subject. "Because of what the White Fang did many of those who weren't bigoted became scared of us. They lash out for different reasons but the result is the same."
Her teammate nodded her understanding. "This is going to be a lot harder than I thought it would be." She looked at Blake, "but we will do it. We have to." Blake was touched. While Weiss had accepted that not all faunus were scum long ago, she hadn't shown the need to help, not like this.
Two hours and several shops later, and twice as many shops that wouldn't serve faunus, Weiss was satisfied with the clothes she'd gotten Blake. Each shop with that sign seemed to harden Weiss's resolve a little more. The fun had been taken out of their shopping, so it was a much more mechanical process. Blake didn't protest anything Weiss picked out, and Weiss picked out the minimal items needed to complete one outfit.
Ruby had shown up at some point. She tried to bring the joy back, and failed. Weiss told her what had happened, and with understanding even Ruby fell silent. The view on the trip back went unobserved, though the two lovers embraced each other for mutual support.
This wasn't the world as it should be, but it was the world they lived in. Beacon was a safe harbor. Ozpin was very careful on who was admitted to his Academy, so there at least it was reduced to minor teasing. Blake knew the change of environment to something familiar and safe would do much to improve everyone's mood.ns 188.8.131.52da2