23 – Cuckoo

You listen the squat Earth Aspect rip into Chiyoko, you decide you need to do something. You were never one to sit by and let bullies have free reign. All of the fights you have gotten into has been against bullies.

“Excuse me?” You raise your hand. “I have a question.” The Quiver twitches, telling you that this is a bad idea.

The Chuzei ignores you and continues on Chiyoko’s various flaws.

You break out of line and go to tap the man on the shoulder. The Quiver has gone past twitching to being itchy. The Quiver doesn’t break out of line. The Quiver waits until he is needed.
When you go to tap him, the Chuzei attempts to grab your hand. You barely manage to pull your hand back before he grabs it.

He reaches out again and this time you are too slow to dodge him. The Chuzei firmly grabs you by the arm and says “What are you doing out of line, Nitei?”

“I have a question.” You try not to squirm in the Earth Aspect’s grip.

“Oh? You have a question?” The Chuzei looks amused. “Let’s hear your question then.”

“Do you have a problem with incontinence?” you ask. When the Chuzei doesn’t answer, you continue. “Because the amount of shit coming out of your mouth is amazing. I have never seen….”  The other three try not to laugh at your comment.

“Do you think this is a game?” The Quiver gives you a warning, but you ignore it.

“No, Sir. I just figured if you are going to dish it out, you can take a little too.”

The Earth Aspect studies you. He then drags you aside. In a low voice, so he cannot be overheard, he says “I know all about you, Cnead. A little cuckoo among our hatchlings. You think I don’t know why you are here? You may have fooled the headmaster, but you can’t fool me. I’ve worked with your kind before. I know what you are thinking. You think that I am some piece of shit Dragonblooded. But I do have one power over you. One power that trumps every little trick you have… I can Send. You. Home.

Your heart pounds as you consider the implications of this. If you get sent home, you’ll fail in your mission. Leave Wanahton here all alone. Akachi, Sasha, everyone would be disappointed in you. Who knows how long it will be before they send you on another mission? Maybe a whole year!

This asshole has you by the balls, you realize.

The Chuzei shoves you back in line and shouts “Give me fifty pushups now, Cuckoo!” Having no real choice, you start counting them off. “No! You are counting wrong! Every time you open your mouth the first and last words out of it will be Sir! Do you understand me? Now start over! ”

“Sir, yes, Sir!” You restart you count and remind yourself that Akachi said that you’ll only be here for a few weeks.

The Chuzei notices the other three Nitei. “What are you staring at? Get down there and join him. Dragonbloods are a team. When one screws up we all screw up! Do you understand?!”

“Sir, yes, sir!” The others join you on the floor.

“Good. Cuckoo, give me an extra seventeen pushups. Actually, whenever I tell you to do pushups, always give me seventeen more. Why? Because I fucking said so. “

“Sir, yes, Sir!” Seventeen extra pushups? This is horse shit.

“And what do you say?”

“Sir, yes, sir!” Akachi was totally lying when he said that this wasn’t a punishment. How could this NOT be a punishment?

“No, Cuckoo. Don’t they teach you manners where you are from? What do you say when someone gives you something?”

“Sir, thank you, sir!” you say, slightly breathless. Counting out loud and doing pushups at the same time is more difficult than you thought.

“You are learning, Cnead. Good job.“ The Chuzei paces in front of the group. “By the time I am done with you, you will all be thanking me. You might hate me. You might think I am a big bully. Boo Hoo Hoo. I don’t give a fuck what you think. It’s my job to turn you hatchlings into dragons. And by the Immaculates, when you leave me, you will be dragons that the Shogun can be proud of.“

He then comes to a stop in front of you. “Except for Cuckoo here. He’s a lost cause for that.” You ignore him and continue counting your pushups.

“Now pack up! We are heading to the dorms. No, no!” You and the rest of the group begin to get up from the ground to grab your duffels. “Finish your pushups first. Great Dragons, now you got to start over!“

The rest of the next few weeks continues in a similar manner. The Chuzei is rather detailed oriented and accepts nothing less than perfection. Every day is stream of repeats of the various menial task. You never realized how easy it was to screw up walking up the stairs or making your bed.

All thoughts of wandering around the school at night come to naught. All you want to do when you get back to your bunk is sleep. Except for that first day, the Chuzei does not allude to your status as a Sidereal again. Except for your nickname, Cuckoo.

Actually, the Chuzei give all of you nicknames. Masaru is “Oh shit”, from his flub on the first day. Aiko is “Worm”, short for Bookworm. Chiyoko is “Pokey”, because she is slow to get up in the mornings.

It isn’t until the third week, you realize that you no longer fight the Quiver. You simply don’t have the energy to anymore. That is when you recognize that it isn’t trying to control your actions. Svante Visscher is who you are, but Cnead Svante is simply a role you play. Once you become the Quiver, life get easier. You become one arrow in many. The Chuzei does not call you out on mistakes as much.

Still there are some advantages to being here. The three Dragonbloods in your circle are infinitely more interesting than the godbloods that were your classmates back in Yu-Shan. Masaru introduces you to the world of Manga. Each week at mail call, he receives a fat stack of them. Kill Sword Fire, Metal Gods, even Pretty Dragon Princess Meru. He reads them all and is happy to let you borrow his copies.

Aiko mostly keeps to herself, reading. Occasionally she questions you about your background. You worry that perhaps she overheard you and the Chuzei talking on that first day, but after a while she stops quizzing you and accepts your presence. Besides you, she is the only other one in the group to not get mail.

And there is Chiyoko. The majority of the time, you have to stop yourself from staring as you watch her go through her sword katas every evening. There is something entrancing about the way her fire orange hair flows as she gracefully moves though each kata. One evening, she invites you to join her. She asks Aiko to let you borrow her practice sword. Aiko pulls out her sword and takes a glance at Masaru. The Water Aspect is oblivious to the exchange, as he is rereading the newest Pretty Dragon Princess Meru.

Chiyoko teaches you the various sword katas. They are different than the ones you learned from your Sifu and you make mistakes. You feel lightheaded as Chiyoko touches your arm and gently corrects your pose. Next to Chiyoko’s flowing grace, you feel like a clumsy idiot. Yet the next evening, she invites you to join her again. Aiko willingly gives up her practice sword and seems happy to have her evenings back for reading.

You find yourself seeking Chiyoko out when you stand in line. Once you realize that what you are doing, you stop. You do not want the Chuzei to call you out on that. But after you stop, you notice that Chiyoko usually sits next to you in chow hall. It must be coincidence, you think.

You occasionally see Wanahton around the school. One day he is in the chow hall, serving the students. The next he is a trader, talking to one of the instructors. You feel guilty about your mission. So one day you purposely screw up so badly that the Chuzei sends you to the kitchens to help peel potatoes. Unfortunately where you go, the rest of the circle follows.
You sit there a peel a never-ending pile of potatoes with a dull knife, wishing for the peeler in your kitchen back in Yu-Shan. As you try to find a way to talk to Wanahton without the others overhearing, you hear Wanahton offer to work late tonight to clean out the grease traps.

Late at night you slip out of bed and head towards the kitchen. As you cross the dark courtyard, you shed your false identity and for the first time in weeks, you are Svante Visscher, Chosen of Secrets. You are surprised to discover that you feel naked wandering the halls without wearing the Quiver. Thankfully you reach the kitchen without being discovered.

Wanahton is there, cleaning out the grease traps. He grunts a greeting at you and goes to wash his hands. He leans against the counter. “How are you liking the school?”

“It’s horrible! No wonder Dragonbloods are always in an awful mood if they all have to go through this!”

Wanahton pulls out his pipe and lights it. “It’s my fault you are here. I suggested that you be sent to a school in Creation. A real school.” He sighs, smoke escaping his mouth as he does. “A Dragonblooded Millitary Academy isn’t what I had in mind.”

“Well, I can leave as soon as we finish this mission.” You look down at the floor, embarrassed. “I haven’t had time to do any searching. I think the headmaster knows something. She didn’t want Sifu teaching here.”

“She doesn’t want you here either.” You look up surprised. “I overheard her talking to one of the deans. Headmaster Raijin is one of the few Dragonbloods that aware of our existence and knows enough to resent our interference.”

“No wonder she assigned me to Chuzei Enki’s circle. That guy is an asshole.”

“I don’t know much about your Chuzei, but from what I see that is the way all Chuzei are. “ Wanahton takes another puff from his pipe and goes back to talking about the mission. “I haven’t made much progress either. I have not seen any signs of Yozi or Wyld activity here. The only unusual thing that has happened is that one of the students disappeared a few weeks ago. A wood aspect by the name of Teoh Hitomi. It was a dead-end of course. Someone saw him in the town bar a few days ago. Just another truant. It’s all very frustrating.”

The sound of the far kitchen door opens. You and Wanahton look at each other and he points as a storage room. You quickly hid in the storage room as he goes back to the grease traps. While in the storage room you can hear Wanahton talk to someone. One of the instructors is inquiring about food for an offsite trip for tomorrow. Wanahton gives her some information, but apparently that did not satisfy her. She leaves in a huff, looking for the head chef. Wanahton waits for a moment and then lets you out of the store room. “You better head back to bed before she comes back with the chef. “

You quickly leave the kitchen and head towards your room. When you reach the courtyard, you stop to make sure no one is around. The courtyard is dark on this moonless night. Clouds obscure the Maidens from view. A strong wind blows across the courtyard, stirring up dead leaves. You are about to step into the courtyard when you are given Prior Warning that walking through the courtyard would be a bad idea right now. You stop. You pull back into the shadow of the chow hall and wait.

Soon the night breeze carries the stench of blood. You freak out for a moment thinking of blood ape that attacked you on the night of your exaltation. You still carry the scars from when it grabbed your leg. Calming yourself down, you realize that what you smell is fresh blood, not the rotting blood of a blood ape. You look around for the source of the smell.

A dark figure emerges, weighted down by a heavy burden. You watch cross the dark courtyard when suddenly the figure pauses, as if it senses that it is being watched. With an audible thud, the figure drops its burden and bolts.

What do you do?

  • Run after the retreating figure
  • Investigate what the figure dropped
  • Go back to Wanahton
  • Other

((OOC: Oooo…. Something is happening! ))

((In other news, apparently Svante’s exaltation scene on the Archive Site is the number one search result for “Exalted Blood Ape” on Bing! ))