From kc_obrien‘s prompt “dojo, scarlet, thunderstorm,” and it wants to be the same world as the Foundation and the Library, but pre-apoc. Written in 15 minutes on Write or Die.
The silk sheets were strewn around the dojo like long streaks of blood, bright and shiny and scarlet.
They were not even the first thing she noticed, though; by the time she’d gotten that far, she’d already noticed that the building inside the couryard had no windows, and that the walls were very thick, the doors heavy and with double deadbolts.
She hadn’t walked all this way to turn around now, even if that was the goal of the trappings – intimidate, weed out the weak, weed out those who weren’t suited. But (even if, in the core of her heart, she wasn’t certain she was suited), she was determined not to be weeded out. She had a stake in this, a stake beyond the blisters on her feet, beyond the road dust and the gnawing hunger in her stomach.
She bowed to the tatami. Her feet, blisters or no, were at least clean, as were her hands; the attendant at the first gate had seen to that. She’d also taken all of her possessions and locked them into a storage locker, everything except the clothes on her back.
It had the feel of a pilgrimage, or an imprisonment, and, from what she had been told, it would be a little bit of both and, in the long run, less of either and more of an apprenticeship.
It would be wrong to say that she was either eager or nervous. Both of those emotions had had a long time to work out of her system. She had been walking, after all, for weeks. In that time, every emotion she had about this place had come, and, in the slow repetition of her feet on the dusty road, faded.
Outside, a gong rang, echoed by a thunderclap. Through the door she had left open behind her, she could feel the wind whipping up. A storm was coming. She had known that before she began her journey, though: a storm was coming, and it would wash away levees and dams, villages and cities. What it would leave in its wake, what would be left, remained uncertain.
But what she would have here, in the dojo, would be an education that would serve her in almost any world; there were some things that were nearly universal. What she would have here would prepare her for her future, and so she had come, in lieu of summer school, to learn.
“Strip.” The voice was as loud as the thunder, and so close behind her that she wondered how she could have missed them coming up behind her. “You bring nothing, except your self, into the school.”
Such had the attendant at the gate said, but she still struggled with the blush as she stripped off her dusty pants and sweat-stiffened T-shirt. She almost hesitated at her bra and panties, but the blisters on her feet reminded her that she was already invested. The lavender underwear joined the rest in a tidy pile on the floor.
“Drop to your fours,” the voice commanded. She balked, now, but her knees, after all, and her palms, were less blistered than her feet. She dropped to the mat, arching her back as attractively as she could.
From here, the world looked different. She could see a doorway ahead that only came to the current height of her shoulders, draped in another swath of scarlet. She could see the smooth spots in the mat where others had come before. She could see where she had lain aside her pride, and where she had, in doing so, only reinforced it.
She bent further, and kissed the mat.
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