“Close,” he said. “It was three. Let’s try again. How many now?” He held up one finger this time. Maybe it was because the shape of it was distinctive, but it took Rei less time to answer this one. She held up one finger in return. “Yes, that’s right. And now, again. How many?” Four fingers this time. Rei stared at them, then held up four fingers, though the motion was slow and hesitant.
“Mhm. See, you’re getting better,” he said. “It’s all about focus." San thought back to his own training, the brief explanations he'd gotten. "In the dark, we can’t see colors, so there’s only shapes--- dark and light. Focus on that, and concentrate on what they can tell you, instead of looking for things that aren’t there. You’ll only get more frustrated if you keep trying to see the way you would if there’s light.”
Rei blinked at him once, and then, as if coming to some sort of decision, pointed to his hand. “Oh, again? Alright. How many now?”
They practiced like that for the whole session, and by the end of it her success rate had increased somewhat. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better progress than last time, and now it felt as though they were getting somewhere again. So they tried it again, the next time and the next, first with just one of San’s hands, and then two; and then picture cards. When she could reliably identify the cards to their partners, San felt that it was time to move on again.
“We’re learning something new today,” he said, at the start of another one of their sessions in the little training room. “Do you remember when we played the hiding game? How you couldn’t hear me or Roku, after a while?”
She didn’t answer, but he could see one of her cats’ ears angled towards him, so he knew she was listening.
“I’m going to teach you to move like that too. Quiet. You’re small, you’re light. It’ll be easy. At first you’ll have to concentrate, but eventually you won’t even have to think about it.” Indeed, it was almost harder now for him to make noise and take up space than it was for him to do what he had been trained to, slinking along in the shadows like a ghost. He had to be able to do either, as the occasion called for--- sometimes they needed to bluff or occupy a cover identity, and then any hesitation would give him away. But Rei was probably never going to need a ‘day persona’. A little thing like her, too uncommon to be forgotten, would have no business operating in plain sight.
“Walk to me,” he said. “Just how you normally would, for now.” She did, after a short pause, and he listened carefully to see if he could hear anything when she moved. “Your skirts,” he said immediately, since that was the thing that caught his attention first. “This time when you move, see if you can be quiet. Walk without disturbing the cloth as much as possible.”
In all honesty, the simpler solution would be to get her something fitted, without so much loose cloth to rustle around. Even that wouldn’t be perfect, but it would be easier for her, and a lot less liable to make noise. But it was a pretty dress that she was wearing; it certainly didn’t look like the kind of thing that the Watchful Ones would have chosen. Most of the agents here didn’t get to keep much, if anything, from their old lives.
He was willing to bet that in Rei’s case, they just didn’t have anything made for someone of her size, and decided it wasn’t worth the hassle.
If he requested it, they would find the time. It was for the sake of making her more effective, and by now the rest of the unit had the impression that San was getting somewhere with her, so she might be of use to them at some point. But once they did, she wouldn’t get her old dress back. And given even her current state, he’d like not to take any more away from her than had already been taken.
If she couldn’t learn to move quietly in what she liked to wear, then the decision was out of San’s hands. Better to have her in something she didn’t like than to have her removed and ‘retired’.
Then all this work would have amounted to nothing, and she would be dead. But for now, they would see if she could do it, first.
Her first attempt was to hold her skirts with her hands, but San ruled that out right away. “You might need your hands for something else,” he said. “You don’t know if you’ll always have them free to do that. Try walking quiet again, and go slowly if you have to. We’re just starting, so it’s okay.” She did as he instructed, and again, San tried to listen for any sign of moving cloth. She had slowed her pace down far enough that there wasn’t much disturbance. “Good. Better. Now again, quiet, and a little faster.”
A little faster wasn’t a problem just yet. “Good. One more time, quiet,” said San. In this manner, they managed to determine the fastest she could walk as-is without making a noise.
It wasn’t a very impressive speed. She was already so small, and walking slowly only slowed her down further.
But they could remedy that, perhaps. “Walk with your legs a little further apart. No, not so much that you would have trouble walking. Just a little, like that. And--- here, see if you can copy what I do.” He demonstrated for her. “See how I place my feet? Mind them, and walk this way. Now you try.” Rei mimicked what he had done, and on a first attempt, it did seem to be a bit quieter. It was hard to say though, since he was the one doing the instructing, and he wanted her to do well. Besides which, she already wasn’t very loud.
Better to assess her with his eyes closed. So San sat down, and said, “Walk, and be quiet. Let me see if I can hear you.”
At first, he couldn’t hear anything. And then a slight rustling caught his attention, and he turned in that direction. When he opened his eyes, she was there.
“It was a good start,” he said. “It’s hard to concentrate at first, isn’t it? But let’s try again. The more you practice, the easier it will be.”
The session turned into what many of their sessions had then become: repeating the same thing until sheer force of habit kicked in and made it natural, or at least easier, for Rei. it wasn’t the most efficient way to do things, but it was what San found worked best with her so far. And there was some merit to it over other methods. When it became second nature, you didn’t forget about it in a moment of nervousness or anger. And she would need all the advantages she could get, all things considered.
Still, in this case, she had enough of a natural advantage that it didn’t take her very long to get the hang of this. But her trials weren’t over yet; this was just the beginning.
Start: Accept Enclosed Spaces
The next session saw them in a darkened room full of obstacles, again. But this time the obstacles were woven much more tightly together, such that San wouldn’t have been able to get through them himself. This time, the maze was for Rei.
“Here,” he said, taking her to one end of the maze. “There’s only one path, so don’t worry about getting lost. But you have to be quiet. That means you have to make it through without bumping into anything. You can cheat a little by feeling along the edge, but I’d like it if you could navigate by sight as much as you can. The practice will help you get better.”
Rei took a step towards the entrance of the maze, and San waited a moment, watching her do it. It was her first time with it, so there was room enough for things to go wrong, and if she was uneasy, he wanted to be able to talk her through it. It would have been best if that didn’t happen, but the more time he spent with her, the more it became clear the handlers hadn’t even done basic things like desensitizing her to the conditions she would have to be working in before giving her over to them. It was possible she would freeze up like she had done once before, in which case he would have to intervene.
She didn’t freeze up exactly, but from her body language, San could tell that she was reluctant to go in. “Is something the matter?” said San. “Is it too small?”
She didn’t say anything, but the tension in her posture remained. San paused, thinking for a moment, then said, “Okay. Let me rearrange it a little.”
It was a lot of work to rearrange everything, since he’d set up quite a lot of obstacles, but at least most of them weren’t heavy. Rei was small enough that she would have trouble moving objects that were still fairly light for San to handle. It was cutting into their practice time, but San told himself that it was his own mistake for not anticipating this hang-up. For someone of her equivalent size… Well, even San himself hadn’t been comfortable in claustrophobic situations at the start.
But since it had come up, they would need to get her to get over that one too.
“Try now,” he said, having widened the gap to about double what it had been before.
It was narrower in some places along the path of the maze, and wider in others, just because he had had to rearrange everything in a hurry, but on the whole it ought to be better than it had been before. Rei approached the entrance and took a few short steps inside, then stopped.
San waited. It was hard to tell at this point if she was just testing the waters and seeing how she felt, or if she was seizing up again because she was too uncomfortable to go on. If it was the former, then there was no sense in pushing her; and if it was the latter, then he would have to talk her through it.
One moment slipped into the next. “Do you think you can do it?” he asked softly. She turned back to face him, which he took as a sign that she was ready.
“Okay, then let’s try. Quiet now, and remember, try to go by sight as much as you can.”
She didn’t precisely acknowledge her words, but she did turn around again and go back into the maze. And San, for his part, moved to the other end to wait for her, then sat there with his eyes closed, listening for any sign of noise.
There wasn’t much. All the noises he’d trained her out of before, prior to the maze, were absent. There were no footfalls, no swishing of skirts. She would be able to keep her dress, at least. But he did hear the occasional sound of something scraping against wood, or a very small thump, as though she had bumped into something.
It took her some time before she made it out to the other end. But that was nothing to speak to her about just yet.
They were aiming to acclimate her, to the cramped space and to moving soundlessly, while also honing her ability to see in the dark. It was a little too early to ask her to be doing all that at speed.
“It was a good first try,” he said. “I couldn’t hear your steps. I could hear it when you hit something, but I’m sure that will get better once you get used to looking out for things in the dark.”
Rei’s gaze was cast in the direction of the maze exit. San smiled. “Did you want to try again? Alright, go then. Remember to be quiet.”
On her second time through the maze, he heard almost nothing at all. It was becoming apparent that she had gotten down the general idea of moving quietly, and she must have remembered at least some of the maze layout from the last time around.
This much improvement in so short a time spoke more to a familiarity with the path than a drastic improvement in her ability to see where she was going, but a good memory was useful in an agent too.
“That’s better,” he said, when she came out near the door, where they had begun the session. “How is it, moving through the maze? Does it feel a little easier now?” She didn’t respond, but took up her place near the end of the maze again for another run, and he let her do it. For now, he didn’t bother rearranging the maze again. It was too much work, and she was just getting used to the new exercise, so he let her do that without disruption. They had another few runs of the maze--- though, since it was only one winding path, maybe it was a bit too much to call it a true maze--- and then called the session there.
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
Twilight-Claw: Is the site that is going to be used to host all those images also the type you'd need to pay for? (definitely noticed the broken images yeah. Photobucket feels like it is standing on its last legs. X3 )
May 21, 2020 0:13:57 GMT -6
Morgan: I'm just kinda nervous about them going down before things get moved over completely. It's prolly nothing to be worried about though. :3
May 20, 2020 22:13:15 GMT -6
Fiera Ferella: Thank goodness we're moving out of there? XD
May 20, 2020 21:59:22 GMT -6
Renathan: Ugh, photobucket has the images broke again. x3
May 20, 2020 21:18:53 GMT -6