Well, either way, he knew she was listening to him, since her attention had moved away from the crates. “Today’s game… Let’s start with some new signals first. If I say, ‘break’, I want us to split up. You can go anywhere you like, as long as it’s away from me. And if I say ‘regroup’, we come back together. Do you think you can do that?”
In a real mission setting, it was a little more complicated, but it also wasn’t something that could be broken down into a rote signal. Those words did always mean what he said they would mean; it was just that she would have an assigned route or directive to take, and finding their way back to each other would become more complicated than simply coming back together in an empty room.
But he had already taught her to wander through mazes, so she wouldn’t be going in wholly unprepared.
And in all likelihood, the rest of the unit wouldn’t be relying on Rei much, at first.
Rei gave no response, but that was typical. “Let’s try,” he said. “Break.”
For the moment, he participated by following his own signal as well, walking away from Rei. After a moment’s pause, she did the same. “Good,” he said. “And now we’ll regroup.” San walked back towards Rei, and she followed his example. “That’s it,” he said. “See how easy it is?
“Let’s try again. Break,” he said. This time she was a little faster on the uptake, and San himself started a bit more slowly, so they began walking away from each other at roughly the same time. “And regroup.” They walked back together. “Good. Now, break.”
Rei didn’t hesitate to move away from San this time. Thinking he ought to change it up a bit, instead of asking her to regroup right away, he said, “Stay.”
It had been a while since they had last practiced, so he wondered if she would have trouble remembering. But Rei froze, and San silently noted that her recall was up to par. “Good. Regroup.” Rei did as he asked, walking towards him until they were back together.
She stood closer to him now than she used to, he noticed. In the beginning she had been… wary, he realized, now that he could read her better. In retrospect, even with her blunted affect, even though she had retracted so much inside herself and seemed at a glance deadened to the rest of the world, she had been wary. Maybe even scared. She had maintained a certain distance from San when he asked her to come to him, and from Roku too, to a lesser extent.
That shouldn’t have been, and wasn’t, surprising. San had always expected trauma, though whether or not that was mixed in with other things…
The dossier they had been given had been deliberately sparse on that kind of detail. But she came up right next to him now, close enough to touch.
“Do you think you can try it on your own now? I’ll say the words, but I’m not going to move.” He didn’t want her to be following his movements rather than the verbal signal, and sometimes a ‘break’ left one agent posted at their splitting point, so it was important that she got the concept now. “Ready? Break.”
She moved away from him at his signal. “Good. Regroup,” San said. She came back to him. “Good. Break… Now stay. Stay… Regroup.” This time, when she came back to him, he explained a little more of what he wanted from her. “We only have the one little practice room here, but when we play later, ‘break’ doesn’t just mean ‘go away a little bit’."
They were limited by the space they were allotted, but he could at least explain the concept to her. She was intelligent enough to understand, and he hoped that would be enough. "You might have to keep walking for a while, into other places by yourself, where you won’t be able to see where I am anymore. You keep going until you get to where you’re supposed to go, or until you’re asked to stop. Can you do that?”
He paused, not waiting for an answer but for her to absorb what he had told her.
“Let’s practice. When I say ‘break’, you keep moving until I ask you to stay or regroup, okay? Break.” At his signal, Rei moved away from him again. Just like he’d asked, she kept going, and when she came up against the wall, she moved along it to get further away from him.
“Okay. Stay,” he said. She stopped on his signal. “Regroup.” She came back to him. “That’s good. One more time. Break…”
They practiced for a little while longer, mostly to drum the signals into her mind, but by the end of it, San felt confident that she could follow those signals. They weren’t, after all, very complex, and there were only the two new ones to remember. They kept at it long enough that he didn’t have a chance to teach her anything else before the session wound down, but sometimes that was the way of it. There would be time tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.
The handlers hadn't seen fit to set a deadline yet. San hoped it would stay that way.
“At ease,” he said, once he felt like they had come to a good place to stop. “You did well today. Tomorrow we’ll work on something else.”
By the time of their next session, San had cleared the entire room of objects. The leftover crates from the time before had been removed, and the room was empty the way it had been when they first began using it. It felt a bit strange, to have it so clean after weeks of it being occupied by makeshift courses he had set up for Rei to use. But since it wasn’t needed anymore, it was better that the room stayed as uncluttered as possible, especially with what he wanted to work on next.
“Today we’re going to do something a little different from what we’ve been doing,” said San. He took out a bit of chalk and began marking the floor with it, setting the marks a certain distance apart. “It’s less like a game, and more like… exercise.” Did she exercise before, he almost asked, except habit caught him up short.
They didn’t ask about anyone’s past lives here, not even Roku’s, though the story of how a cat came to work with the Watchful Ones had to be a bit unusual. It was a courtesy, or maybe the culture, within the Watchful Ones. They weren’t allowed to talk about it; in training, he had been told to leave it behind. And even if you couldn’t, even if you remembered--- and San was sure that many people did remember--- you wouldn’t ask about anyone else’s either.
Maybe they didn’t care to be reminded. He knew that the memories were an uncomfortable place for him. Even without knowing her circumstances, he thought it was likely the same for her. If there were good memories, then it was a reminder of what she had lost. And if there weren’t, then they weren’t worth trying to go back to, especially not to answer a simple, offhand question.
“We’ll start standing on this line over here,” said San, motioning to one of the white lines he had drawn on the floor. “When I say, ‘sprint’, I’d like you to run as fast as you can to the other side. Don’t stop until you reach the other line.”
She took a moment to process what he had said to her, then took her place where he had indicated, along the white line closest to herself. He wondered if she could do it. He had never seen her carry on at anything other than a walking pace before. “Are you ready? Sprint.”
He had a stopwatch with him too, to measure the time. He didn’t bring it out for use just yet, since he wanted to see if she could run at all first, and they wouldn’t be pushing for a good speed until she could do that consistently.
But what he wasn’t telling her was that he was teaching her this so she could get away from danger if it arose, and there was a critical speed to maintain, at least for a short burst, to get out of the way of an incoming strike. Eventually he would need her to run at that speed, and not less.
He knew that he was going to have to explain eventually. But not now, not when he could still teach her a little more without that knowledge.
It was what he had asked her to do, so maybe it shouldn’t have surprised San so much when she did run from one side to the other, like he had told her to. And it wasn’t fast, not nearly as fast as she needed to be. But it was a start. She had done it.
“Good,” said San. “Can you do it again? To the other side. Sprint.”
She did, but this time she was even slower than her last attempt. It wasn’t a great distance for a human, but for someone of her size, it was a pretty big gap. The trouble was, if she couldn’t manage even this much, then there wasn’t much of a point.
By the time she reached the other side, she was breathing hard. San had never seen that before either, but then, she had never had to exert herself to this extent in any of their sessions.
He thought about how she was always standing or sitting, perfectly still or close to it. In all their weeks together, he had never seen her do anything else when left to her own devices. And even here, she had always been walking. She wasn’t overweight, not if her kind followed roughly human proportions, but she also didn’t eat much.
If she had anything in the way of muscle tone, it must have atrophied already. San resisted the urge to sigh. This was going to take more work than he had thought.
“Alright, let’s rest a bit.I’ll give you five minutes, and then we’ll walk a bit before trying again,” he said. He was going to have to push her, but this, building up the body, was something that really couldn’t be rushed. He didn’t know if she would stop trying to listen when it hurt too much, but even if she didn’t, you could set yourself back by doing too much, too quickly.
He let her rest for the time he had given her, then asked her to walk with him, back and forth, for a while. Only after they had done that did he ask her to sprint again, just the twice, between the two points.
They repeated this cycle a few times before San called the session to a close. It had been a short one, but he had to revise his plans somewhat.
The next day, when they returned, there was a tub filled with water in the room.
Rei’s attention immediately went to it, but San said, “Not now. That’s for later. Let’s start with a few warm-up exercises.”
Since he was having to condition her for running pretty much from scratch, he had to take all the necessary precautions. He taught her a few basic stretches, and was a little surprised to find that while she wasn’t fit, she was fairly flexible. More flexible than he had any reason to expect she would be.
Once the warm-ups were complete, he had her walk around a bit under the guise of practicing the things she had learned in their past sessions.
And then they returned to what they had been doing last time.
“Are you ready? Sprint,” he said. Rei, who had been standing on one of the lines, ran towards the other line. Once she got there, San let her have a few moments of rest before giving the signal again. “Sprint.” Again, her pace slowed, but now that he knew that it was coming, it didn’t faze him. “Okay, regroup. Now, break. Stay. Regroup… Come back to the line. Sprint.” They cycled through this a few more times before San moved on to something else.
Start: Swim, Step Up
“Do you know how to swim?” he said. “We’ll be trying a bit of swimming this time. I know you’re tired, but it’ll help make you stronger, so you can run faster later. Here, hop on.” He stretched out a hand to her, laying it flat on the floor. “I’ll give you a lift into the tub.”
It was too tall for her to climb, and they hadn’t had a step ladder handy for anything as small as Rei was.
A few weeks ago, or even one week ago, he might not have thought to ask her to let him carry her. He had remembered how she had stayed away from him, in the beginning. It had left a distinct enough impression that he hadn’t tried to make contact with her all this time, excepting when he absolutely had to. But the fact that she had stood next to him before, that made him wonder if she might be more amenable to the idea now, especially if he had a reason for it.
She stared at his hand for a long moment, and he thought maybe it was too soon after all. But then she bent down, easing herself knees onto his palm, and held onto his sleeve with both hands.
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
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