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The Espadas School of Self Defence and Swordsmanship!

202 Fall (early November), a Saturday morning (probably after So Cruel and Beautiful)

 

Davyd Palahniuk had graduated from the Claremont Academy a few months ago, but still wasn't quite sure what to do with himself.   He'd had a few ideas, and one of them -- after overhearing Uncle Sasha gripe about "government spooks" -- had been worming its way through his mind for about a year.  He'd tried doing his own research on it, but, due to the idea's nature, he could only get so far.  But then he remembered someone who had (it was rumored) fist-hand knowledge with the idea, someone he'd met (briefly) last April

 

The idea gained traction.

 

And so he had returned to The Espadas School of Self Defence and Swordsmanship!, dressed plainly and simply -- brown khaki pants and a long-sleeved gray tee -- and knocked on the front door.

 

Should I have called ahead?  I probably should have called ahead.  Or maybe not calling ahead was the right move?   The initiative, the element of surprise...

 

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Saturday morning was a popular day for classes, which meant Talya was downstairs and dressed in what she usually wore for teaching. The blonde woman that opened the door didn't resemble Talya at all, and yet it wasn't even much makeup. Clothing, posture, body language transformed the stunning spy into an attractive twenty-something that was right in the pocket of pretty but not pretty enough to be memorable. With her hair straightened and pulled back in a braid and a loose tanktop over exercise clothes, she fit right in among the college students that often flocked to the Saturday morning class. Which, of course, was entirely the point. 

 

Talya opened the door for Davyd, just as the class finished up and smiled, popping the illusion of normalcy like a soap bubble as Bombshell's sharp edge smile briefly flickered across her features before vanishing behind a blandly polite smile and an indiscernible American accent that could have come from anywhere, really. "Hello, Davyd. Come on in. Class is just wrapping up. Are you here to see Erik?" Talya asked, pulling him out of the way before the women from the morning class started to file their way out of the dojo, chattering and smiling - occasionally waving at Talya who replied with the same bland smile and a laconic wave that seemed to somehow encourage ignoring her. 

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Horroshow

 

Davyd did not recognize Talya at first, and assumed she was one of the students, before she gave herself away.  "Wow, that is... uh, I mean," he stammered, "I'm not here to see Erik, no.  Well, uh," he tilted his head slightly as more questions bubbled up in his mind, "maybe later, but not now.  I was hoping to speak with you.  And about, ah," he scratched the back of his head, "about the stuff you did... I mean, the rumors are that you..."  He laughed nervously to himself, "<wow, this is a lot hard than I'd expected>," he muttered in Ukrainian.

 

He cleared his throat, stood up straighter, and slowly exhaled.  "Let me start over, yeah?  I graduated from Claremont a few months ago, and I'm still trying to figure out what to do with my life.  And I thought I could maybe ask you for some... career advice."

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Over by the mats recently in use by the students, a lanky boy in an oddly-outdated pageboy haircut wearing a DOJO STAFF sweatshirt was hard at work with a towel and bottle of spray sanitizer. Owain spared a glance for Talya and her visitor but he took it to be not really any of his business who the...who one of the ladies of the house met with. So instead he got back to work sanitizing, his singing as he worked occasionally making it over to the two of them as they spoke. "Lully, lullah, thou little tiny child...Bye bye, lully, lullay....Thou little tiny child...Bye bye, lully, lullay." 

 

Neko's arrival was a bit more direct. Her geta clattering on the floor as she came up behind Talya and Davyd, she bowed automatically to the latter before turning to address one of the mistresses of the house. Her ears and tail hidden from Davyd's eyes, she looked like any other Asian girl, albeit with carefully-coifed bright white hair and a well-used kimono that made her look like she'd stepped out of a costumed drama. "Talya, it-oh! I am sorry, you are with someone," she said, making to withdraw. 

 

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"It's alright, Neko. This is a former Claremont student," Talya said, starting in the false American accent and finishing sounding much more like herself as the last of the students cleared out. She nodded towards the door, "Davyd, this is Neko. She and Owain are staying with us when they're not busy at school." Talya inclined her head towards Owain as she stepped away to flip the 'back in fifteen minutes' sign that perpetually hung by the dojo door and flip the lock in place. Fortunately, even if they had to cancel a class to deal with other matters these days, there wasn't much financial concern thanks to Talya's finances - though it was still a topic not much talked about in the house; just one of those situations that Talya quietly stepped in to address if there was a concern. 

 

That done, she gave Davyd her full attention, pulling herself up to perch on the countertop. It was tacitly clear that Neko and Owain could loiter should they chose to. "Career advice, hm?" She tipped her head, taking Davyd's measure. "Well, you're no thief so is it soldier or spy that you've come to pick my brain over?" 

 

She shifted, dropping her teacher's aide persona and assuming her superhero mannerisms instead. It was a million tiny details, her body language became more flamboyant, her posture more languid and the smile as sharp as dagger's edge even if she wasn't wearing the red lipstick that had been her signature for decades. "I can't imagine that Headmaster Summers sent you my way for advice about either, so I assume this is entirely your own choice?"

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Horrorshow

 

He smiled at the two, waved to Owain and nodded to Neko, "pleased to meet you.  So you're both at Claremont?  Good, good," he nodded, "that's a great place.  They helped me out a lot with my, ah," he glanced around, looking out for any lingering students but finding none, "with my abilities.  And with, y'know, regular school stuff."

 

He turned back to Talya, eyes widening a bit as he took in all the tiny changes she'd made in so short a time.  "Wow, and I thought I was," he whispered to himself, then shook his head to re-focus.  "Ah, right, well, you're right, Summers has nothing to do with this, it's all my doing"  A small part of him wondered if that was completely true, what with the rumors of her having so many plans and schemes and subtle ways to influence students.  "And I'm no thief, not by training, though I could probably be a pretty good one, yeah?"  He held up one hand and made his fingers elongate to about three times their normal length, then pulled them back to normal.

 

"I'd rather not be a soldier, but I have had thoughts about being a spy.  Slipping into places, getting others to give up information," his body shifted again, this time completely changing into a copy of Talya herself.  He held it for a few seconds, then shifted back to his original form.  "So, yeah," he nodded, "I was hoping to talk with you some about that.  If, ah, if now's a good time."

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Neko turned and waved her arms at Owain, who looked up to catch her signal as she pointed across the dojo floor to the residential quarters. A startled look on his face, the boy bolted to his feet and darted quickly for the basement stairs, where he disappeared just as a low, regular rumbling came from what Talya could recognize as the laundry room.

 

Luckily the noise didn't last long past Owain's disappearance. "Oh, um, okay." Neko colored slightly as she turned back to Davyd and Talya. Slowly she took in the conversation, sorting through what was being said in her limited English, her eyes widening as Davyd demonstrated his abilities. He's changing his shape - but there is no magic to him at all! Is he some sort of alien? She couldn't remember the name of the shapeshifting aliens that had first come to Earth after the war, but she knew they were one of the many frightening things that existed in these days. Figuring there could be no harm in letting Davyd see her true nature, she relaxed slightly, her ears seeming to unfurl from atop her head and tail curling around behind her. 

 

But then she really took in what was being said, and tensed all over, ears up and tail poofed slightly. She shot a look at Talya. It was not her place to say anything here but she certainly had thoughts. Davyd was older than her but he didn't look so old as all that. He was a boy. Talya and Erik had told her and Owain that the wars were over and that young people were young people now. Was that still true? 

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