San was satisfied with the progress that she had made. He didn’t know how much help this was yet in terms of her seeing anything; he couldn’t really ask her about it, since she remained nonverbal, even when she didn’t seem actively uncomfortable, and so the only way to do it was to set up tests she couldn’t pass any other way. But he could do that in the sessions to come. What he could tell was that she had gotten used to moving in the small, confined path that he had set up for her, which was still an improvement.
The next session saw the return of the obstacles, but San had deliberately left a smaller gap this time. It wasn’t as small as his first iteration of the maze, but it was a smaller gap than the second, and he knew that she could tell right away after seeing it.
“Do you think you can do it?” he said. She stood at the entrance, one hand resting on the side of a crate, looking down into the dark of the path. “It’s the same as yesterday, just not as much room. If you need to go slow, then go slow. And if you feel nervous, remember to breathe like we talked about before, okay?”
His little pep talk seemed to help, and she went in of her own accord not too long after that. San still listened for any sound from the maze, but more as a way to ascertain how well she was navigating than to catch her out in making noise.
Interestingly, even though the path was narrower this time, she bumped into things less than her first attempt the day before. Granted, she was still going slowly, but that was to be expected, especially for her first attempt at the new maze.
When she came out, he said, “That was pretty good. You only ran into something twice, I think. How was it? Not so bad?”
She came and sat next to him. San was, inwardly, a little surprised. She hadn’t done that before. He had been under the impression, up until now, that she didn’t do much of anything of her own accord. She had been pretty much just as the handlers’ dossier promised: capable of following basic commands. They didn’t say, ‘and not much else’, but that had become apparent within hours of knowing her.
”They’re not expecting her to fight, so if she can do things, then that should be good enough,” Hachi had said. The situation made him uncomfortable too, enough that San could see it.
But then, Hachi didn’t hide things from them, or at least, not as much as he could have.
San hadn’t understood it at first, but now he thought it might have been Hachi’s way of building camaraderie among the unit.
“Are you tired?” San said to Rei. He didn’t look at her, instead tilting his head back so he could look up, where the ceiling of the room was lit very dimly with little lights. They weren’t stars, but it was something, at least. “You can rest a moment if you’re tired. Let’s try again when you’re ready.”
She didn’t say anything, and he didn’t either, after that. But he was thinking--- it was hard not to. Even such a small thing like this… He hadn’t quite allowed himself to think it before, since it wasn’t useful, but now he wondered if she really was regaining what she had lost, bit by bit. Healing from the trauma, as it were.
He didn’t know whether that was a good thing. It ought to have been--- would be, if things were simple. But this wasn’t a place of healing, and these training sessions weren’t meant as rehabilitation for a wounded soul. They were preparing her for work, to become like the rest of them, and if what he did here wasn’t enough, then she would simply come undone again when the time came. And then what happened to her, or to the rest of them…
Rei rose to her feet, and the moment passed. San forced himself back to the present, to focus. “Are you ready?” he said. “Let’s try again then. See if you can get through without bumping into anything this time.”
She went through the maze a second time, and didn’t hit anything, so he asked her to go a bit faster the next time.
She moved more easily through the maze on her subsequent attempts, and though she never quite hit a running pace, it was clear that she had some confidence in doing it by the end of the session. But then, San had never seen her run before, and didn't expect it of her now.
San repeated the exercise one more time, this time with the gap reduced to what it had been at the beginning, where there was just barely enough room for Rei to move through at all. He didn’t rush her as she investigated the maze, taking the time to watch her body language, checking again for any sign of nerves. But the general impression he had was that, while she wasn’t eager to go in, she wasn’t necessarily stressed about the idea of it either--- not enough to hesitate or shut down, when the time came.
And that would be enough, as far as he was concerned.
It wasn’t necessarily that agents had to be fearless. Indeed, some of the trainers that San had worked with had been of the opinion that a good dose of fear was a healthy thing in the agents they trained. Fear would keep them from making foolish, reckless decisions; fear would keep them humble.
It was only necessary to know how to push through it when you had to. And if she could push through this, then he would call himself satisfied.
“Do you think you can do it?” San said. “You don’t have to go quickly.”
She answered him by facing the entrance of the maze. “Go then,” said San, and she did. He moved to the other end to wait for her, settling himself there. It wasn’t an easy course, and she would be trying to move quietly, the way he had taught her, which would slow her down further.
So he anticipated that he would be waiting a while, but he had a good idea by now of how long it ought to take her, and at what point he ought to start feeling concerned by the idea that she had gotten stuck somewhere in the middle.
In the end, he needn’t have worried over that idea. She showed up at the other side well within his expectations, apparently no worse for wear. “How do you feel?” he said. “Do you think you can do it again?”
There was no hesitation in her this time, when she turned back to face the maze again. “Good,” said San. That was the outcome he had hoped for. It was easier, he thought, to give her something to do to cope with the discomfort of being someplace small like that, something else to focus on besides the feeling of her surroundings pressing in on her.
And now that she had experienced it enough, she was desensitized to the point that she could focus on a task.
He had her go through the course a few more times for good measure, but at this point it was almost more of a formality than anything else. It was time for them to move on to something that focused more on her ability to see.
End: Accept Enclosed Spaces
Their next session still involved a maze, but this one had been more time consuming to set up, since now it was a maze in the truest sense of the word, with different branching paths that came to dead ends interspersed throughout. There were also signs on some of the walls, pointing to one intersection or another. Those would comprise the bulk of the test--- to see if Rei could see in the dark well enough to read them, and to follow them to the correct path.
He explained as much to her, when he brought her into the room. “The game is a little different today,” he said. “You remember the maze, how there was only one path before, so you couldn’t get lost? This time there’s a lot of paths, so you’ll have to be careful.”
He took out a piece of paper with an arrow painted on it, the same kind that she was going to see throughout the maze that he had set up. “I left signs in there for you. If you follow them, you’ll be able to find the way out faster. Which way is this one pointing?” It would be bad if she couldn’t read the arrows, so it was better to find this out here and now, rather than lose the progress they had made these past few sessions by ending up with her lost and distressed in the first real maze she had encountered.
But the signs were easy to understand, and fortunately, fairly universal. Rei took a look at the sign and pointed in the direction that the arrow indicated on it.
If she could see that much, then this shouldn’t have been a problem for her, but he already knew that she could read off picture signs in the dark. This was more of a test to see if she could use that in a practical way, navigating around in the dark.
A final test, as it were. If she could do this, then he had taught her what she needed to operate out in the field, and past that point, their time was better spent honing her other skills. Already several shortcomings came to mind, namely the speed at which she moved… But that was a problem for a different session.
It had become customary for him to ask her now, and the question had, in turn, become a cue for her to begin. She didn’t bother waiting for a signal from him this time, and went through the maze of her own accord.
And as always, San went to the other side to wait.
She didn’t make enough noise anymore for it to be worth trying to listen in on her progress, so he had nothing for company for the moment except his thoughts. He wondered if she would do well; he wondered if she had an inkling in there somewhere of what he was trying to prepare her for. It was apparent that she did understand what they were saying, so long as they spoke in a language she knew; and now he wondered if she understood, at least a little, what they were saying in Xin too.
It didn’t take her very long to pass through the maze, all things considered. Certainly not long enough to signify that she had gotten lost at any point. “Did you find the way okay?” he asked, though it was a moot question, since she couldn’t have gotten out so quickly unless she had, or unless she had just been very lucky. Somehow he doubted it was the latter.
She turned back to the maze, but this time, San shook his head. “It’s alright,” he said. “That’s it for today.” She turned back to him, blinking; she must have been quite surprised to show even that much on her face. “It is a short session today, isn’t it? We’ll do something different tomorrow. No more playing around in the dark, at least for a while.” And the next time they did, it would be a real mission, nothing at all like this.
San’s intent was to teach Rei to move quickly as the next part of her training, but he figured this was a good time to get a couple of other things out of the way first. They were simple, so he didn’t think it would take her very long for her to get the idea, but it was important that she learned these things here, now, where making a mistake had no real consequences. Once she was in the field with them, there was no telling what could happen, and hesitation when it came to following simple cues could put her or someone else in danger.
The two of them went to the room that had become their usual place for these sessions. It was small and out of the way, so San had little competition for its use from other agents and handlers, and many similar rooms existed elsewhere.
The larger rooms were more often occupied, and Rei herself was so small that she didn’t really need more space. Today it was empty of other things, or at least as much so as San was able to make it in the intervening time. There were still a few crates and other things left over, all of them shoved into a corner of the room.
Rei stared at them as she walked into the room, but San said, “No, not today. I just didn’t have time to clear those out, that’s all.” She looked to him next, or at least, sort of. He had noticed as of late that she sometimes directed her attention apparently at thin air, but upon closer examination, it was just to the side of something she might conceivably have been interested in. He wondered if that was what she was doing right now, with him.
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