Hachi retrieved the folder from San, skimmed through the contents, then whistled. “First they take Shi out, and now they’re fobbing a failed experiment on us. Guess we’re moving down on the totem pole.” At the mention of Shi's name, San tensed ever so slightly, but he forced himself to relax.
“So, what, she’s brain dead?” said Nana, advancing on the girl. Nana's expression was cold, but the girl still didn't move, even as Nana crouched to get a better look at her. Roku moved, apparently to get a better angle from which to study the girl's face, but San noted that the cat had positioned himself partly between her and Nana.
“Well, no,” said Hachi. “But she’s not trained, whatever the handlers are saying. She doesn’t speak any Xin. This is why they wanted you to learn Common.” Hachi looked up briefly at San before poring over the documents again. “I don’t know why they didn’t keep her in training, or at least… No, nevermind.” He shook his head. “But if they brought her here, I guess she’s our problem now.”
Which meant that if this failed, it would reflect on them.
“Screw this. I’m not babysitting some little freak, fae or no fae,” said Nana, stubbing out the remnants of her cigarette on the wall. “You take her if you want, but leave me out of it.” She made for the door, then slammed it shut behind her as she went.
Hachi, watching her go, could only sigh. It wasn't a surprise that Nana would react that way, and none of them had been expecting her to contribute to the task of... whatever it was they were going to do with the girl. But Nana's departure only reinforced the uncomfortable mood that had settled over them after the handler had pushed the girl into the room.
“We’ll figure something out,” said Roku. He was still watching the girl, though what he was looking for at this point, San didn’t know. If the cat was faking the lack of concern in his voice, he was doing a good job of it. For the first time, San wondered whether a creature like Roku had any sort of job security here.
No one said anything to contradict Roku's words, but no one spoke of what would happen if they didn't manage either.
Three months after Rei’s introduction, Hachi caught San after one of his training sessions with the little fae girl. The two of them both stopped, and by now Rei was looking at San for cues even outside the closed setting of the little training room.
Hachi caught the line of her gaze, and arched a brow at San.
“-You go back first,-” said San, in Common. Rei lingered a moment longer, and for a moment San wondered if she would obey. But then she walked off, and Hachi pulled San aside.
“You’ve been working with her,” he said, indicating Rei with a toss of his head. San said nothing. This much was common knowledge among the unit. Hachi was too busy, Nana wasn’t willing, and between himself and Roku, San was the better suited. Now Hachi fixed him with a considering look. “Is she any good?” he said.
San considered his words. “They didn’t train her at all before we got her,” he said. This wasn’t a mark in Rei’s favor, but he had to say it, to put everything else into context. Nothing he did would have seemed noteworthy if she had had the proper course of training, being little more than the basic skills expected of an agent.
“And what can she do now?” said Hachi.
“She’ll follow basic commands. Break, regroup, hold her position. I think she sees in the dark better than we do. She’s quiet, and she picks things up quickly, even if she doesn’t talk.” He watched her slender figure recede into the dimly lit halls of the Watchful Ones’ underground warren. “Enough for a scout.”
“She actually understands what you’re saying,” said Hachi, whistling low. “Your Common’s getting better.”
San said nothing. The lessons with Robin still left an unpleasant taste in his mouth, even this long after their conclusion.
Hachi rubbed at his chin, a thoughtful look on his face. “You really think she could work?” he said. It was an offhand question, but San could sense the weight behind it. If they did this, they were putting the unit’s reputation on the line. And if Rei started working with them, they were going to have to put their lives on the line too, at least a little. It always took some faith to start working with a new addition, but usually they came with a guarantee of basic skills from the training bracket. Usually, they were verbal.
There would be no going back if he said yes. But he had always known that. And there was no going back in general, really.
“She’ll be green,” he said. “But I think she’ll learn.”
“Well, alright then,” said Hachi, pushing off the wall that he had been leaning against. Idly, he dusted off his hands. “They’ll want to evaluate her, of course.”
“I’ll give you the details as soon as I have them.”
Days came and went without a word; and then, from Hachi, a quiet tip-off about a date. “The usual room is fine,” Hachi said. “You have one you’ve been using, right?” San nodded wordlessly, privately a little relieved. He had been trying not to concern himself with the specifics of the evaluation, since there was nothing he could do to influence them, but he thought Rei might be more comfortable if she was doing everything in the same room she had grown used to, at least.
Having someone else there watching would be different, but there was no getting around that aspect of it. This was the best he could reasonably have hoped for.
And she was ready, more or less--- as ready as she could be, he supposed. She had most of the basic skills down, and anything after this would be refinement of the foundation she had, and desensitization.
And San didn’t want to subject her to any of that, especially the latter, without knowing if there would be a need for it. But if there wasn’t… If they decided against keeping her… San didn’t know. Then it would be over, he supposed. One way or another, after this, things would be different.
Too late, he wondered if he ought to have lied, downplayed her progress so they could postpone this a little longer. After the verdict was issued, there would be no undoing it. But if he had delayed too long, the higher ups might have decided of their own accord that there was no use for such a slow-moving project. At any rate, they had a date now. The only thing San could do was make sure Rei was as ready as she could be.
To that end, as soon as he received the date, he sat with her in their little training room.
She was alert at once, or what passed for alertness with her; it was subtle, as all her cues were subtle, but the points of her ears were sharp, and there was a slight tension in the way she held herself. She was even looking at him, and San supposed he was hiding his unease less well than he had thought, if that was the case.
“-At ease,-” he said, but she didn’t relax. But then, he didn’t either. He forced himself to try, and smiled at her as though there was nothing wrong. As he did, her ears faltered, drooping slightly.
This wasn’t working. He might as well cut to the heart of the matter. “-In a few days,-” he said, “-we’ll have an evaluation. A little test. Roku and I are part of a team, and we… work in the city. We want to show our boss what you can do now. If you do well, you’ll start working with us.-”
It was a gross oversimplification, but San’s Common was still somewhat limited, and it was the best explanation he could come up with. But even if he could have put the full truth of the situation into words for her, he wouldn’t have done it. The reality of working for the Watchful Ones was a grim thing, and he felt she would work better if she could be spared of it as much as possible.
Rei blinked at him. “Do you not want to?” he said gently. It had occurred to him that she might reject the idea, and there would be very little he could do for her if that were the case. But she shook her head, and he allowed himself a small, shallow laugh. “Then will you work with us, if you pass?”
She nodded once, solemnly. San smiled. “Thank you,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
At his words, Rei looked down at her feet. San ventured a guess at her thoughts. “You’ll pass,” he said, though he didn’t know whether he was trying to convince her or himself. “I’ll be there with you, and we’ve practiced. We can practice more now, just to be sure.”
She nodded, and San rose to his feet. “Okay,” he said. “Let’s start with some running…”
The trainer sent down for the evaluation was a woman, older, with stern features and a hard mouth. She carried a scroll with her, and her eyes narrowed when she saw Rei. “This is it then?” she said. “The fae?”
“Her preliminary codename is Rei,” Hachi supplied. He was the one who had guided her to the training room, where San and Rei waited at the door. At his words, the trainer gave a derisive snort.
She strode into the room at a brisk pace, and took a seat at the small table and chair that had been set up for her. The rest of the room was laid out the way it might have been for one of San’s training sessions, rough obstacles constructed from crates set up around the place to make a crude and simple maze.
“-Quiet,-” San said to start them off, and then, “-Break.-” Rei’s gaze lingered on him for a moment, and he wondered briefly if she was freezing up. But the moment passed, and she moved away from him.
Normally he would have acknowledged her then, but with the trainer there, he didn’t. He moved on to the next command. “-Hide.-” At his signal, she ducked into the maze and out of sight, with such speed that it looked rehearsed. And, to some extent, it had been.
San took the occasion to hide himself as well, on the opposite side of the maze from where she had entered. He felt a slight temptation to glance at the trainer, to see if he could read anything from her expression, but he knew there would be nothing to see there that would help them. He had to pretend, as he had told Rei to pretend, that this was no different from their usual sessions.
It was more difficult than he had anticipated. He had only ever been responsible for his own performance before, and that was something within his control. But there was a limit to how much he could help Rei here, which did little to set his own mind at ease.
Still, she had done nothing wrong so far. And now, with San in hiding, it was Hachi who gave the next command. “-Find San,-” he said, his deep rich voice ringing differently in the small practice room than San’s softer, younger tenor.
Here, San held his breath. They hadn’t practiced this--- he had warned her that it was coming, but Hachi had other things to do. And with her doing her best to be quiet, San couldn’t track her movements either. It should have been a good thing--- it was a good thing--- but up until the moment when she found him, he had no way of knowing how she was faring.
He couldn’t praise her, but he gave her a little smile. He could get away with that much, he thought. Hachi used his smiles very deliberately, and Juu had smiled pretty much all the time.
“-Sprint,-” he said, to get her to move away from him. Rei sped off into the maze again. San let her get some ways away before he said, “-Regroup.-” She made her way back to him.
And then Hachi cut the lights, dimming them down to almost nothing.
“-Stay,-” San said, and moved to the other side of the maze.
It was another stretch of silence, but at least this time he had something else to focus on besides his own thoughts. When he reached the other side, he said, “-Regroup.-” This time, Rei picked her way through the maze towards him, navigating by sight. She didn’t take long to reach him, but then, the maze had been constructed in human proportions. Mostly. There was one stretch near the end where she had to navigate a narrow path to reach him, but she didn’t hesitate. She went straight through, and didn’t stop until she was at his side.
And then, as a finishing touch, he leaned down and laid out a hand. “-Hop on.-” She looked up at him; she must not have expected that, though it was something she knew from their training sessions long before.
But again, the pause was just a brief one, and she walked onto his hand as though she was perfectly comfortable with it. He walked with her, balancing carefully, back to the table where the trainer sat. “-At ease,-” he said, and set her down on the table.
She didn’t relax. She stood, still as a doll, staring at the floor. San had some idea how uncomfortable this must have been for her, but they needed, as much as possible, to preserve the appearance that they weren’t coddling her or making any allowances. To do any less would be to jeopardize her chances here.
“Hmm,” said the trainer, in a tone that was hard to read. The scroll she had with her was spread out on the table, but San carefully kept his gaze averted from it. If she had written anything there, he didn’t know. "You're still working with her in Common?"
Twilight-Claw: Hey Ridelys, I still got a Sarane Fidelity Egg if your interested in trading your Green Drake for it, you'd have another shot in trying for it then.
May 31, 2020 1:11:44 GMT -6
Ridelys: If you can barter someone else's champion voucher off them for a gold hen, I'm happy with that too. XD \ Otherwise, I'm open to hearing offers.
May 30, 2020 21:19:39 GMT -6
Aster: Hey, if you don't want that green drake, I'd be happy to offer on him :U Alas, I don't have a gold hen either
May 30, 2020 21:18:03 GMT -6
Ridelys: Well, like I said, I'd have to get lucky.
May 30, 2020 21:13:55 GMT -6
Ridelys: I have a feeling its going to be a long one unless I get lucky.
May 30, 2020 18:19:31 GMT -6
Riku: Good luck with your golden egg hunt, BD! <3
May 30, 2020 15:40:20 GMT -6
Jack: Thanks for the notice!
May 28, 2020 10:05:26 GMT -6
Darky: Heads up: there's a chance you might notice Trepuldra images having loading issues on June 3rd, for about 3h. No need to panic, Veebimajutus just notified there's going to be some scheduled maintenance, is all x3
May 28, 2020 10:05:06 GMT -6
Fiera Ferella: right??? i was really hoping i could find one of those pachee before the season was out.
May 26, 2020 18:51:32 GMT -6
Fanged: Oh wow that's an awesome garden find FF
May 26, 2020 18:13:26 GMT -6
Riku: Oh how perfect! I woke up wanting to post (unexpected, but yay) and saw I had a reply. <3 Meant to be.
May 26, 2020 6:40:43 GMT -6
Twilight-Claw: I really, really love all the updates that have come~! <3
May 24, 2020 2:12:37 GMT -6
Fiera Ferella: np!!! I hope y'all like it!
May 23, 2020 13:45:06 GMT -6
Riku: What an awesome update, staff! Thanks for that! <3
May 23, 2020 12:06:52 GMT -6
Jack: All have been found!
May 23, 2020 9:53:27 GMT -6
Jack: Might want to be on the lookout for anything... odd
May 22, 2020 23:51:22 GMT -6
Fiera Ferella: Yeah it’s definitely a coincidence but wow did it work out well for us! XD
May 22, 2020 6:43:27 GMT -6
Silver: I'm pretty sure that was just a coincidence, but it sure feels lucky!
May 22, 2020 2:07:09 GMT -6
Riku: So did you guys make this hosting switch perfectly RIGHT before pb broke? >.< Thaz crazy. It’s a huge relief and I’m very glad we’ve come to this. <3
May 22, 2020 1:41:01 GMT -6
Fiera Ferella: It’s free up to a certain number of GB, which we haven’t hit yet.
May 21, 2020 6:46:33 GMT -6