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Fanfic / A New World on her Shoulders

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Cover art by Attjioe

A New World on her Shoulders is a RWBY Alternate Universe Fic written by Flagarach.

Diverging from the events of the series' canon, this story follows what would happen if Ruby saved an SDC official from a kidnapping and got to attend Atlas instead of Beacon, if Vale was deemed too dangerous for Weiss, and if Penny was given the chance to be part of an actual team. All the while Yang tries to make a team out of two ex-convicts and her mom's adoptive daughter.

Not to be confused with Holding the World On Their Shoulders, another RWBY fic set in Atlas with a very similar name.


A New World on her Shoulders provides examples of:

  • An Aesop: The old Specialist, Huovi Muinainen, gives one to Clover regarding following orders. Yes, one should follow the orders of their superiors, but to the spirit of those orders and not to the letter. Should they be followed to the letter, it could lead them down a dark path. Fittingly, Huovi is based off the old man from the Aesop fable titled "The Old Man and his Sons".
  • Adaptational Badass: Ciel is shown to be a highly capable fighter here while in the main series, she never fought at all and was more or less just a slot to fill on Penny's team.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: As a result of Ruby's story taking place in Atlas rather than Vale, elements and characters of later Volumes (Winter, Jacques, Ciel, Cordovin, Pietro, etc.) show up much earlier and are much more prominent. Even Grimm like the Leviathan appear earlier than their original debuts.
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  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Adam is less unhinged here than he was in the series.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: Canonically, Vernal and Raven had a professional relationship of subordinate and master, albeit they were much closer than the rest of the Branwen tribe. Here, Vernal is regarded as Raven's adopted daughter.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Jaune like Ilia, but Ilia likes Blake, who doesn’t like her back because she’s straight.
  • Ascended Extra: Due to Ruby's main plot-line taking place in Atlas, characters such as Ciel, Penny, Winter, and Ironwood get much more focus and interaction thanks to the change in setting, with Ciel and Penny being on Ruby's team. On the Vale side, Ilia and Vernal get more development than they did in the main series since they are members of Yang's team.
  • Bait-and-Switch: When Ruby first arrives in Vale, she acts like an overly stoic, no-nonsense soldier, making Yang afraid that Atlas sucked all the fun and joy out of her younger sister. She's quick to realize it was all an act to mess with her, and Ruby drops the performance and acts like her normal self.
  • Bait the Dog: At first, it seems as though Jacin is a pretty nice guy who offsets Elvio's jerkassery. A few moments later reveals that he's about as much of a jerk as his friend is, only better at laying on the charm before the façade fades.
  • Bare-Fisted Monk: Ciel doesn't use any weaponry and primarily relies on unarmed combat in battle, which makes her rather unique among the inhabitants of Remnant who all use some form of a Mix-and-Match Weapon or just a weapon in general.
  • Bare-Handed Blade Block: A variant. During the battle with the White Fang on the Sternenstaubm, Ciel catches Kitty's sword strike using her elbow and knee. She then proceeds to shatter the sword.
  • Bastard Angst: Otto has some deep rooted issues with being born a bastard due to how his birth rendered his mother destitute.
  • The Big Guy:
    • Yang is both this and the leader of team VYBA.
    • Penny is naturally the strongest member of team SCRP thanks to her robotic strength mixed with her deadly blade weaponry.
  • Blackmail Backfire: Ruby tries to convince Weiss to use any blackmail material she has on Winter so they can get past her. Winter retorts that she has far more blackmail material on Weiss than she has on her, so any threats her little sister can make are rendered null and void.
  • Blue Blood: Atlas tends to have a heavy emphasis on the elite and noble classes of their society. Among team SCRP, Weiss and Ciel are the daughters of individual noble families, and Penny is the daughter of one of the most esteemed scientists in Atlas with similar prestige to his name.
  • Boobs-and-Butt Pose: Ruby draws Gaia in this manner, with Gaia even mentally lampshading how the pose would break her spine if she ever tried that in real life.
  • Bridal Carry: Penny carries Ruby like this to get her to Ironwood's initiation speech on time in Chapter 1-Start.
  • The Bully: Both Jacin and Elvio are this, functioning as the Atlas academy equivalents of Team CRDL.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Discussed and ultimately zig-zagged. Adam lashes out at Captain Morgen for letting the Faunus suffer at the hands of the SDC and others like them. Morgen retorts that he legitimately wants to, but he really can't do anything because it would cost him his job and potentially put his employees out of work. The most he can do is ensure that the Faunus that work directly under him are well cared for and respected.
  • Cold Sniper: Huovi is this to Ruby's Friendly Sniper. They even get into a discussion regarding what it means to be a sniper.
  • Cool Old Guy: Huovi Muinainen, being the leader of the Ace Ops, as well as a Reasonable Authority Figure.
  • The Corrupter: Vernal is at Beacon largely on Raven's orders to try and convince Yang to join their tribe.
  • Crazy-Prepared: After his wallet got stolen, Roman rigged it to explode in the event that anyone else attempts to steal it from him.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: Ruby is completely on the losing end of her fight with Winter, but she does manage to just barely hold her own, even impressing the Specialist with her skill in scythe combat.
  • Dirty Coward: According to Otto, Jacin and Elvio only target those they think are weaker than them. Show some backbone, and they'll stay away.
  • Ditzy Genius: Penny, due to being an android, has a mind akin to a super computer that makes her one of the most intelligent students in Atlas, managing to get perfect scores where her teammates (including Weiss and Ciel, both of whom are extremely intelligent) struggle. Her social skills, however, are completely lacking and she's very Literal-Minded.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • Ilia and Blake comment that Ruby will be fine so long as she doesn't get paired up with a Schnee. The readers pretty much know that Ruby and Weiss are partners.
    • While in Argus, Weiss wonders what "talented mastermind" managed to become Pyrrha's partner. Oh Weiss, if only you knew.
  • Enemy Mine: The White Fang and the SDC hate each other to the core, but when the Leviathan appears, they stop fighting each other and team up to take out the enormous Grimm due to it being a much bigger threat both figuratively and literally.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: Weiss comes to believe that anyone who's The Ace is likely to be an arrogant jackass and puts Pyrrha, one of the sweetest, most kindhearted people around, in that category.
  • Exact Words: The exact rules regarding the Atlas initiation were "you're considered to have finished initiation if you manage to return to Atlas Academy." Instead of going through the Grimm infested forests back to the airships, Ruby, Weiss, Ciel, and Penny avoid the armies of Atlas so they can make it back to the academy the opposite way.
  • Expy: Pretty much every OC is based off either a character or celebrity from another show, comic, or form of media.
    • Team RGAL is based off teenage superhero sidekicks: Robin Bates (Robin), Gaia Greene (Terra), Ace Byre (Winter Soldier) and Laura Wolff (X-23).
    • Team JZME is based off famous musicians and singers: Jacin Michaelis (Michael Jackson), Dylan Zimmers (Bob Dylan), Marlin Kingston (Bob Marley), and Elvio Jayhouse (Elvis Presley).
    • Team CROT is based off characters from famous Shakespeare plays and tragedies: Cordelia Leir (King Lear), Romy Julie (Romeo and Juliet), Otto Moore (Othello), and Tidus Andronicus (Titus Andronicus).
    • The teachers at Atlas, barring those that also appeared in canon, are based off robots and/or their creators from other media: Colt Schwaren (The Terminator), Katt-Grumm and Tiger Iron (Kokonoe and Iron Tager), Professor Shade (The Vision), and Lieutenant Commander Soong (Lieutenant Commander Data).
    • Members of ship crews are based off pirates and privateer ships: Morgen Hind (The Golden Hind galleon and Sir Henry Morgan), Tick J. Roger (The Jolly Roger), and Pearl Swann (The Black Pearl).
    • Huovi Muinainen is based off the Old Man from Aesop's "The Old Man and his Sons".
    • Team YYCY (Icy) are all based off the Investigation team from Persona 4.
    • Team ACUA (Aqua) are based off the main characters from KonoSuba.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Between humans and Faunus, as per the norm. Ilia frequently fears being subject to this and is also very distrustful towards humans, and at least one student in Atlas outright insults humans and calls General Lagune an example of human stupidity. Cordovin even explicitly praises Team SCRP for not having any Faunus members.
    • Averted with Jacques. Morgen states that he has no true racism towards Faunus at all, he just doesn't care about anyone other than himself and sees people as tools to be exploited. It just so happens that Faunus are the easiest to exploit. This is even reflected when Jacques would have liked for his daughter's team to have a Faunus member for basically what amounted to a diversity hire to improve his family's image with the Faunus.
    • Atlas' racism towards Faunus comes up when Marrow is stuck working on crossing guard duties due to this trope, despite the fact that he's a Junior Specialist.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Jaune and Team CRDL end up becoming friends after they all end up having to face an angry Yang together.
  • Flying Brick: Penny has more Super Strength and Super Toughness than any normal Huntress-in-training even without her Aura and can fly via her jet-pack.
  • Foodfight!: In Chapter 1-6, teams VYBA and JNPR team up against team CRDL in a food fight, with team CFVY backing them up.
  • For Want of a Nail:
    • Ruby ends up saving an SDC official before Torchwick's robbery, and is sent on the fast track to Atlas instead of Beacon.
    • Jacques deems Vale to be too dangerous for Weiss, so he sends her to Atlas academy instead.
    • Weiss is made the leader of her team rather than Ruby, so their arguments are somewhat different. In addition, Ruby becomes The Lancer of her team rather than Weiss.
    • Because Ruby wasn't in Vale at the time, Roman got away with his robbery unopposed.
    • Since Ruby isn't around in Vale, Vernal goes to Beacon to try and get Yang to join Raven's tribe due to the lack of positive influence surrounding her.
    • Because the in-canon events that led to their canon break-up haven't happened yet, Blake and Adam are still together at the start of the story and Blake is still connected to the White Fang when she gets to Beacon.
    • Penny getting arrested alongside Ruby causes her robotic nature to be revealed much earlier and to more people.
    • Thanks to Yang, Pyrrha and Jaune end up dating each other where he canonically didn't learn about her feelings for him until Volume 3.
  • Fun with Acronyms: It's RWBY, so this goes without saying.
    • SCRP (Scorpio): Weiss Schnee, Ciel Soleil, Ruby Rose, Penny Polendina.
    • VYBA (Vibrant): Vernal Branwen, Yang Xiao Long, Blake Belladonna, Ilia Amitola. This one in particular was a pain for Beacon staff to come up with.
  • Groin Attack: When Marrow accidentally insults Huovi by calling him too old, Huovi points his gun at Marrow's crotch and threatens to shoot him there.
  • Has a Type: Jaune states that he likes girls with ponytails, as shown when he starts crushing on Ilia and when he and Pyrrha start their relationship.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Ciel's Semblance allows her to know her exact location and the correct time based off sky and astrological patterns, which comes very much in handy when her team needs to know exactly where they are and what direction they need to go.
  • Heroic BSoD: Played for Laughs with Ruby. After Tiger Iron demolishes her shelter and he and Katt-Grumm proceed to give her a good grade for a solid A-frame, Ruby is completely out of it. By the time she comes to her senses, she's in combat class.
  • Hidden Depths: Team CRDL are apparently rather good with music, even forming a boy band.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Weiss states that she wouldn't want Pyrrha to be her partner because she assumes her to be an egotistical smug know-it-all. These traits tend to fit Weiss at her worst more than they do Pyrrha at all. Ruby even has to hold back on telling Weiss that she's basically describing her worst qualities.
    • Ironwood is willing to cheat the system to allow Ruby and Penny to be on the same team, but Ruby points out to him that this goes against the ethos emphasized in his introductory speech to the new students, namely that a Huntsman never cheats or lies. Ironwood is actually proud of Ruby for calling him out on this and considers her to have amazing potential for a future Huntress.
  • Identical Stranger: Marrow is this to Otto despite there being no relation. It's to the point where Marrow can impersonate Otto with ease.
  • Incompatible Orientation: In Chapter 2-4, Jaune persists in trying to get a date with Ilia, who is a lesbian and in love with Blake. Also goes the other way as well since Blake is straight and can't return Ilia's feelings even if she wasn't already taken.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Despite all the differences, Ruby and Weiss end up on the same team, just with their positions reversed. Likewise, Blake and Yang also end up on the same team.
  • Just Following Orders: Similar to canon, Ace Ops - particularly Clover - justifies their arresting and use of equipment for pursuing criminals against student teams as adhering to protocols. An older Specialist picks this apart when Clover invokes this trope.
    Clover: But they broke the law old man! I was just following orders!
    Huovi Muinainen: Don't give me that you whippersnapper! Yes, you should follow orders, but that is pointless if you forget why those orders were made in the first place. If you keep on following orders to the letter instead the spirit, then one day these orders of yours will stab you in the back!
  • The Leader:
    • Unlike canon, Weiss is the leader of her team.
    • Yang is given leadership of Team VYBA, despite the name implying that Vernal would be team lead.
  • Male Gaze: In Chapter 2-5, all of the other members of team VYBA joke about how Blake has a very attractive butt, much to her embarrassment.
  • Mythology Gag: There's a large number of them to other RWBY media outside the main canon, mostly from RWBY Chibi.
    • In order to draw a crowd (and Ruby by extension) during initiation, Ciel, Penny, and Weiss decide to set up a musical performance, with Penny activating P3N-3 protocols.
      Penny: Do not worry Weiss. I am DJ ready!
    • Ruby takes being called a brat by Team SVLR about as well as she did when Ragna called her one.
    • Roman complains what the point of a Wi-Fi feature on his blaster gloves is if it drains the battery too fast.
    • A store in Argus sells plush toys of Pyrrha that call her "The Great One".
    • Weiss's summoned sword elicits this response from Ruby:
      Ruby: Aww, look at your stubby little sword. It's adorable!
    • Ruby calls her and Weiss "besties better than the resties."
    • Weiss misses all her butlers, especially her cake butler.
    • During one of Jaune's confession's to Ilia, he wears a latex face mask a la the in-universe rock band SMOOCH or the Lunatic Jester Brigade.
    • While she was sleeping in Chapter 2-5, Weiss mumbles how she's "Not at all a know-it-all."
  • Named by the Adaptation: Ozpin's past life as the King of Vale never had a name given beyond his title. Here, he's named King Exodus.
  • The Needless: As an android, Penny does not require any sustenance to survive. This includes, food, sleep, heat, and oxygen. This creates a problem for her since she's unable to enjoy things like tasting food due to not having the ability to taste things. After her teammates learn the truth, they request that Ironwood and Pietro work on giving her the ability to taste food, which they do after two weeks.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Despite Ruby, Penny, and team RGAL helping save Mantle from a Grimm attack, they are arrested because it's against the law for first and second year students to wield weapons in Mantle without the approval of a professional Huntsman.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: Inverted. Ciel is revealed in Chapter 2-5 to have a lot of self-worth issues about how she Can't Catch Up to her teammates and she states that this is part of the issue. Had she been put on any other team, she'd have fit in great, but she ended up on the team with a grade skipping prodigy, someone who has one of the most powerful Semblances in the world, and the first ever mechanical life-form capable of generating Aura.
  • Not so Above It All: Weiss berated her teammates for playing video games while they were supposed to be on guard duty, but after the mission, she plays with them and becomes just as competitive a gamer as Ruby. She even gets bummed out when her favorite character gets nerfed.
  • O.C. Stand-in: Given that nothing is known about him canonically beyond being a deceased Ace Ops member, Huovi is basically the story's version of Tortuga, with that being confirmed as his nickname.
  • Original Character: Several, many of whom are expies, as detailed above. Also an inevitability since half the story is set in Atlas Academy, which canonically had no other students explored outside of Team FNKI and Ciel.
  • A Pirate 400 Years Too Late: Captain Tick's personality and appearance is that of the swashbuckling scurvy-dogs of the past, much to the annoyance of his crew, who better fit as Ruthless Modern Pirates in appearance and armaments.
  • Power of Friendship: Weiss tells Ruby that she was finally able to perform a summon thanks to a desire to make her friends happy. Ruby even lampshades this.
    Ruby: So...are you trying to say that friendship is magic?
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Ironwood is both the general of Atlas and headmaster of the Atlas academy, but he's also an upstanding and understandable mentor, not at all getting angry when Ruby crashes in during his speech and even gives her good advice when she and Weiss have an argument.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After Ciel shatters her sword, Kitty decides to do the smart thing and jump ship.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sins of the Father:
    • Downplayed and it's more "Sins of the Uncle", but Winter doesn't hold a high opinion of Ruby due to her past experiences with Qrow, even admitting that she's going to enjoy beating Ruby more than she should because of it.
    • Flynt has a "Once a Schnee, always a Schnee" mindset and treats Weiss like she's just as bad as her father.
  • Team Chef: Ruby fills this role for Team SCRP, since she at least has basic cooking experience while the rest of her teammates don't know how to cook at all. She later becomes much more skilled in this category, as seen in chapter 2-3, where she cooks soup for her entire team.
  • Token Minority: This is brought up when Jacques meets with his daughter for the first time in the story. He actually would have liked for his daughter's team to have a Faunus member specifically to function as nothing more than a diversity hire to quiet his critics.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: After the events of the Forever Fall incident, Cardin and his teammates stop bullying Jaune and become much nicer to him, even going so far as to help him get a date with Ilia and give him some comfort when he gets turned down.
  • Trauma Button: Captain Tick has two: Silver Eyes and Scythes, both of which Ruby hits. This is because of what happened to his grandmother, Tock, when she fought Maria.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Each chapter is divided into two stories. The first half of each chapter focuses on Team SCRP in Atlas, while the second half focuses on team VYBA in Vale. Volume 3 of the story (which is set around where Volume 2 begins) is where the two plots converge in Chapter 3-Start.
  • Vague Age: While Vernal looks young enough to pass for a Beacon student, her actual age is unknown. Given that she's an orphan from a destroyed village, even she admits that she doesn't know what her true age is, with her being anywhere from the same age as Yang to being a case of Older than They Look.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Yang and Vernal's entire relationship can be summed up as "we hate each other, but we've got each other's backs".
  • What If?: What if Ruby went to Atlas Academy instead of Beacon, among other what ifs.
  • The Worf Effect: While she puts up a decent fight, Ruby could only hold her own and retreat against Winter, showing how large the gap in skill and ability is between a Huntress-in-training and a seasoned professional.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: After helping out in bringing Blake back and seeing them in action, Adam outright calls Yang and Vernal this.
  • You Didn't Ask: When the rest of her team ask why Yang never told them she was bisexual, she simply replies that it never came up in conversation before, so why mention it?
  • Younger than They Look: Penny physically resembles a seventeen year old teenager, but she's actually just over a year old.