Written to inventrix‘s and Kuro-Neko’s request/commission after I Should Visit, Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV and Part V; 2500 words
“…you might consider, in due time, why some people’s children seem to know so much more, coming to Addergoole, than others’.”
Regine watched the woman walk down the stairs, her mink tail bobbing. She watched her open the back door and head out into the back yard, where Feu Drake was telling the toddler some convoluted story.
It was a question she had not given too much thought, she was forced to admit, if only to herself. Some students came in with basic or no educational background; some came in nearly college-educated. Some knew what a Kept was, what a promise was, what hawthorn was. Some learned those things the hard was during the course of their time at Addergoole.
It did make it harder to shock them into Changing, but the tight, Ellehemaei-full environment did what surprise did not.
She realized Cynara was looking at her. She could ask, of course. She raised her eyebrows; that often sufficed.
Cynara smiled back at her, a small thing and enigmatic. “I’ll tell you the half I don’t think even you will think to forbid. The rest you’ll have to figure out for yourself, I’m afraid. I won’t do future generations that disservice.”
Regine coughed politely. “You would say that the oaths are a disservice?”
“To keep our children intentionally in the dark about any part of their heritage? To set them up to be targets to predators like Tethys, like Alika, like Delaney?“
Regine noted the names she chose with interest. The Keepers of her son and her grandson, that made sense. But – “Not Eriko?”
“Eriko is a childish, spiteful, blind person.” Cynara listed the words as if she was passing sentence. Regine was suddenly struck by a recollection of a young Sigruko speaking of her “Aunt Cya.” “But she is not a predator. As I was saying – yes. Yes, the oaths are a disservice, especially to those without the wherewithal to get around them. And as for how – we make friends, Director, simple as that – something you instilled in us, if we didn’t come with the skill. We make friends.” Her smile was suddenly very bright. “Someday, perhaps, I’ll introduce you to Bambi the Impaler, speaking of friends.”
Regine found herself raising her eyebrows yet again. “That sounds… not so friendly.”
“It’s a long story, like all of the best stories are. Now, where were we?”
“I think it’s best we were leaving.” Regine had been given a number of things to think about. She wanted to retreat to the quiet of her office to consider them all in the proper context.
“Oh, but you haven’t seen the dojo yet!” It was very hard to tell with Cynara, but Regine thought it possible that the woman was sincere. “It’s not going to be a complete tour without that.”
“Perhaps another time,” Regine murmured. She doubted she would return here for many years, but it was the polite excuse.
“I would quite like to see this dojo. Sa’Hunting Hawk has spoken very well of it.”
Once again, Feu Drake foiled her. Regine wondered, in some irritation, why she had hired him after all.
“Well, then, I suppose go we shall,” Regine allowed with poor grace.
“Oh, good.” She was either a supremely good actress – which Regine would not put past her – or Cynara was genuinely relieved. “I’m sure Inuzama will be glad to see you. This way. Upsie, Kovi, that’s a boy.” She swung the boy up onto her hip and led through the back yard of her cy’ree house. Watching her tail sway again, the little blonde child riding happily on her hip, Regine was struck with an unfamiliar thought. She was watching a stranger, a woman entirely at home in her own skin and entirely a cypher to Regine.
“Have you visited here before?” She pitched her question quietly, for Feu Drake alone, but was not naive enough to believe she would not be overheard.
He raised his eyebrows at her. “Oh, no, I haven’t been to Cloverleaf since it was nothing but a couple of walls and three houses. But Cya and I have kept in touch over the years. She writes letters,” he explained, and then, with a little smirk, continued. “Of course, she sends them via teleporter, but that should surprise no-one.”
It struck Regine, finally, what sounded wrong about his discussions of his former student. “You’re not fond of informality. As a matter of fact, I believe you said this situation called for formality.”
“And so it does. We are guests in another Ellehemaei’s territory. Why would you – ah.” The surprised realization had to be feigned. “Perhaps you speak of me referring to jae’Doomsday as ‘Cya.’“
“It’s a nickname. I’ve never heard you use a nickname before.”
“No.” Cynara’s voice came from in front of them; she didn’t bother turning around. “You were there at my naming ceremony, the graduation, sa’Lady of the Lake.”
“I attend very many naming ceremonies. Seventy-five or so since yours. But I certainly would not forget your Name; not with it being so explosive.”
Cynara and Feu Drake laughed as if they were sharing a joke – and, it seemed, they were. Cynara turned this time, smiling. “Sa’Hunting Hawk said much the same thing. I think our crew name just causes everyone to think everything we do is explosive. Bulldozer. Lightning Blade. …Taste the Rainbow. Red Doomsday. My Name isn’t about explosions, Director.” She shifted her child on her hip in a way that somehow drew one’s eyes directly to his puckish face. “It’s about preparations. And what we’re discussing isn’t my Name – it’s just that trick Professor Drake pulled with my given name.”
“Names connect a child to their father. Given some of the…” Feu Drake looked at a loss for a moment, a situation Regine had seen only a few times in all the years she had known him. “Some of the issues surrounding this particular father – Cya’s, that is–”
“There are issues surrounding him?” Regine found her eyebrows shooting up.
“As several of my students were once fond of saying, ‘volumes.’ The issues around Enion Dayton are too many to list out here, but let us simply say that I thought it best to provide a bit of distance. I believe it’s worked.”
“Haven’t heard from him in decades.” Cynara sounded particularly cheerful. Regine was finding herself just a little bit lost.
“I don’t see what that has to do with…” It hit her. “Ah. You gave her a Name and, at the same time, you changed her name. From Cynara to Cya.”
“Exactly.” Drake smiled, looking far too pleased with himself. Regine found she could not fault him for that.
“Very interesting. I should ask Ambrus how that has worked for him throughout the years.”
“Oh, is he still with you? How interesting.” Cynara gestured across the green. “Here we are. The dojo.”
Like all the other buildings here, the dojo gave the appearance of being a suburban house. This one had a bit more of Japan in the lines and the color choices, but it was, after all, called the dojo and the domain of one professor Inazuma. Regine expected no less.
“There are going to be children underfoot, of course. There are always children here.” Cynara’s – Cya’s – smile was quite wide and pleased with herself. “Mind your step and stay off the mats, and you should be fine.”
Inside, a classroom of pre-teens were going through some basic kata. Cya set down her son; he made a quick bow to the mat and hurried around the class towards the instructor.
Regine brought her gaze away from a small gathering of children with the Aelfgar familiar features to look at this Professor Inazuma.
She had to look twice. Many of Aelfgar’s descendants bore a resemblance – but this one was rather distinctive in many ways. The scar on his left cheek was new, however.
“Daddy!” The child ran up to Inzauma – Leofric, no matter what he was calling himself, that was Leofric Lightning-Blade – and held his arms up. Laughing, Leofric scooped the boy up into a hug.
Regine realized she was staring. More, she realized Cya was watching her and smiling.
“Mags – Professor Sweetflower – is fascinated by them. Viddie and Mai and Kovi, I mean. And then Tilden and Sweetbriar and Tangle. I imagine you have some children like that at Addergoole, too?”
Regine nodded, not truly paying attention to her answer. Three children, over something like sixty years, from the same two parents. She had read theories…
…and Cya was suggesting that Ce’Rilla and Viðrou also had three? Regine’s fingers were itching to study that data.
She smiled, instead. “So this is the dojo.”
“And Professor Inazuma.”
Leofric was making his way over to them, somewhat hampered by his son attempting to wrap around both of Leo’s legs. “I see.”
Cya was smiling. “It’s not as if, say ‘Mike VanderLinden’ is the Professor’s original name. Or ‘Laurel Valerian?’ Feu Drake? Some of our teachers took on pseudonyms.”
“Professor Aegislaw,” Professor Drake offered.
“Him, too. Kheper,” she explained for Regine’s benefit. “They’ve seen the dorms and the dining hall, but the classrooms are all full. I hope you don’t mind being interrupted, Leo.”
“Of course not,” he replied cheerfully. “Class, this is Feu Drake and Director Avonmorea of Addergoole.”
The students all bowed, very properly. Regine nodded politely back to them while Feu Drake executed a lovely Japanese-style bow.
Regine was, she had to admit, reeling. She sought refuge in manners older than the world they were currently living in. “You seem to be doing very well for yourself here, Leofric, jae’Lightning Blade.”
“We are.” He smiled back at her, seemingly unfazed. She wondered if he was doing as Cya had seemingly done, and hiding his fury behind a smile. She wondered what his fury would look like.
“It’s a lovely school. And I’m sure Luke is pleased to see you’re teaching combat?” She did not wish to start another argument, not today. Luckily, Leo seemed to have no interest in arguing at the moment, unlike his crew-mate.
“Oh, that’s just secondary. I’m the math and science teacher.” His smile was entirely disarming.
“Ah.” Her eyebrows shot up. “Very good indeed. Do you, ah, do you find it challenging?”
He shook his head. “Nah, not at all. I love working with kids, and it’s nice to use my ancient PhD for something.”
Regine coughed. “You – ah. I believe I’d forgotten you had a PhD. What in?”
He shrugged dismissively, still cheerful. “Physics with a focus on electromagnetism. Not a lot of reason to remember, the way the world is now. “
“Well…” Regine rallied with effort. ”In this city, here, it seems like it might apply?”
“More than most places. It’s a great city, isn’t it?”
“It’s an amazing city,” Feu Drake agreed. Of course he did. You’d thought he’d thought of the whole thing himself – which was a train of thought to consider.
Regine glanced over at him, then returned her attention to Leo. “It’s been very impressive so far.”
“That’s Cya for you.” Leofric was practically dripping with pride. Regine found her gaze drawn down to the toddler currently attempting to climb “Inazuma’s” leg, then back up to Leofric. What else had she missed?
She smiled politely. “I could only wish all Addergoole’s graduates were this accomplished.”
“That would definitely be interesting.” He smiled affectionately at the child. “I hope you’re being good for the visitors, Kou-kun.”
Sigruko suddenly made a great deal more sense. Regine found herself smiling at the clear parental love. Then the rest of what Leofric had said sank in. “Ah.” She considered every single Addergoole graduate achieving at this level. “Ah.“ She coughed. “Interesting indeed.”
“That reminds me, while you’re here, Director. I was thinking it might be educational for some of our students to visit Addergoole for a couple days. What do you think?”
Regine sputtered, her only consolation that Cynara was sputtering too, and, appearing to think it was a fun noise, so was Kovi. Leofric looked damnably innocent.
“I am… certain it would be educational, and that we could arrange something. I’ll, ah, make certain to send a note.” She nodded to Leofric. “It’s been a pleasure to see you again.” She found she meant it.
“Enjoy the rest of your visit.” He smiled and turned back to the class. Regine turned back to Cynara, uncomfortably on uncertain footing.
“It’s a busy school,” Cynara commented mildly. She gestured out of the dojo and led the way she’d gestured, bringing them back out into a sunny afternoon.
“Your children – your students – seem quite happy and well-adjusted,” Regine was forced to admit. “It would be difficult to realize, standing here, that the world had fallen to pieces out there.”
Just then, three of the children in question darted past. One was wearing kimono and hakama, the obi in a blue-and-yellow plaid that looked quite fetching. Another was in a grey-black-and-white plaid kilt with a grey sweater vest; he was wearing purple knee socks and tie.
The third, Regine noted, was in addition to the grey and pale blue accessories and the long black pants, wearing a collar that was, firstly, very much a collar, and secondly, stripped with the same purples of the kilted student.
“You allow Keepings here? I’m quite surprised.”
“This is me we’re talking about here. I can’t believe someone hasn’t mentioned my penchants to you.”
“You mean your, ah, Kept-of-the-Year?” It had taken a disturbingly long time for Luke and Mike to explain that to her, but they had, indeed, explained it. “It’s a bit surprising, considering how vociferous you are about the Keepings your crew endured.”
Cynara raised her eyebrows. She turned to look Regine flat in the face and her expression blanked. “Howard had a lovely Keeping. I had endurable Keeping. Zita had a necessary Keeping. And we all learned quite a few things from those Keepings, including that it is not the institution that is bad.”
The blankness vanished, replaced by another smile, this one dry and unamused. “Our older students explore mutually-agreed-upon Keepings under the supervision of both students’ Mentors. Cases of abuse are nipped in the bud, and we monitor the physical and emotional health of all involved for every step along the way. We take care of our students, Director.”
There was not so much of an implication as a clear accusation there. Regine studied the woman in front of her, ignoring the smile, crooked and fake. There had never been any warning signs in that Keeping – and, two years after Eris, they had all been looking. Of course, they’d missed the signs in Leofric, searching for violent abuse and overlooking emotional suffocation.
Regine nodded, very carefully. You left us to pick up the pieces.
She had done this woman a disservice. She had, as Feu Drake had suggested, quite a bit to consider.
We take care of our students.
“It is good,” she answered carefully, “Principal Red Doomsday, that you do. There is much to learn from here.”
“Well, that went quite well.” Feu Drake seemed quite perky as they left the city.
Regine eyed him sidelong. “You truly believe so?”
The smile faded from his face. “Yes.” He was the more serious Drake she had come to know. “Sometimes, she needs to remember that it is acceptable to be angry. And sometimes, you need to be reminded that you have done things worthy of that anger.”
Regine did not answer, lost in her own considerations of the trip. She had much to consider, indeed.
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