Sasha Vasiliev, Vucari
After pizza, we went to our room. It wasn’t anything special; two single beds, two desks, two nightstand and two closets. Karee put down her things and began undressing, removing her armor without any shame or hesitation despite being clearly naked underneath.
As I put down my things, I could just feel the rattling in my lungs from binding for too long. Wearing my binder for the whole trip had been a terribly idiotic move. Although I was normally shy about changing, something about Karee made me at ease, probably the fact she hadn’t hesitated to strip. After relieving the pressure with a few cough, I put on a baggy shirt which hopefully would hide my shape. When I turned around I noticed Karee was giving me a look.
“Are you well? You…” She paused before faking a cough.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m fine.”
“You said you were male to the others, did you?”
“Yeah, it’s just that I’m well… I’m transgender.” I said biting my lip.
“Is that the human word for it?”
“You were born with the body of a female but have the spirit of a male? Is that transgender?”
“That’s one way to put it.” I said with a nod. It wasn’t the best way to put it, but with our limited communication and her literally alien culture, it was good enough.
“We call you Rhaskru.” She said before pausing for a moment, clearly searching for her words. “It means family of Rhas.”
“Rhasnel, one of first companion to leader Raskhan. He was like you. Tzari like him are Rhaskru in his honor.”
“In his honor?”
“No shame in being transgender.”
“I didn’t know you Tzaries could also be trans.”
“Humans do not listen to us, make their own story about us to make us bad people or monsters. But for Tzari there is no hate on female, Raskru, color of skin or choice of mate.”
“That sound really nice.” I sighed. “I wish we were like that.”
“I am sorry.”
“Thank you… I should probably got to bed soon, I’ve lost track of how long I’ve been up for.”
Karee nodded. “Rest well, Sasha.” She said before leaving the room.
I slept in wolf form that night. It was a thing with me, I always struggled to find sleep when in human form, tossing and turning, thinking about everything and nothing all over. But the different headspace given to me by my animal forms always soothed my mind, with the wolf being one of my favorite.
I woke up to the smell of bacon and coffee coming to my snout. When I stirred up, I saw that Karee had already left so I quickly got dressed. Because of the trip there, I had to leave my binder off and instead stacked on several loose layers so I wouldn’t have to see my body.
I went down and joined some of the others in the kitchen rather than take a shower. Much to my irritation, Clarke —along with a tall dark skinned girl who had introduced herself as Abigail the night before— was the one who was making food and in large quantities by the looks of it. Clarke quietly dropped a plate of bacon and eggs and I muttered a thank you but we didn’t interact any further.
Once breakfast was over, we as a group left for our first class of the year, given in the Dojo which was part of the training center. As we lined up inside, the teacher came to us wearing his full superhero costume; A dark armored costume strapped with pouches and gadgets. His face was hidden behind a bird shaped mask and red goggles.
“Good morning students.” He said, his voice baritone and projecting through the dojo. “I have the honor of introducing you to Ravenhold. An honor you will surely not enjoy within the next few minutes. It’s my job to teach you how to fight, with or without powers, but to do that, I have to see what you already know so we’ll be going through a series of battle. But I do warn you, I do not pull my punches and I do not expect you to.”
He went through the line and the first two who went before me had their asses kicked painfully and brutally.
“Your turn kid.” The Rook said pointing at me. “Please don’t be as disappointing as the others were.”
I looked around and at my clothes. Although I could pull biological mass in or out of my metaphorical butt, anything I carried wasn’t affected, clothes included. Rather than strip in front of everyone, I quickly transformed into a rat and snuck out my clothes, now lying in a pile at the ground. Once I was freed, I transformed into a large brown bear, charging at him.
In answer, he threw some caltrops on the ground and I tried to stop but the momentum behind my charge kept me going, one of the spikes driving itself on my front paw. I grit my teeth in pain and transformed again, becoming a gorilla. The caltrop fell as soon as I shifted, unable to stick to the gooey transitional state.
I looked around and found the Rook charging toward me. I readied for his charge only for a bright flash and bang to throw me off balance. I hadn’t even noticed the flashbang…
He rammed his staff to sides and then punched me in the throat. To say it wasn’t pleasant would be an understatement. I tried to escape, turning back into a rat but as soon as I shrank, he grabbed me with a hand, squeezing tight… So I turned into a whale, the explosive increase in mass sending him backward. I quickly switched to wolf form and looked around. Unfortunately, the Rook was ready for me, he shot me with something and the next thing I knew I fell on the floor rocked by spasm. He came closer and put the blunt side of his knife against my throat.
I growled but didn’t fight. I shifted into a tiger and the change cleared the pain away before going back to the others.
“Aren’t you going to transform back?” Harley, one of my classmate, asked.
Rather than go back to human form, I switched to parrot form. “Can’t! Be naked!” I said. I’d actually practiced speaking in that form in case I’d need to.
“You look adorable, can I pet you?”
They stepped forward and reached down. I answer, I changed into a porcupine and they drew their hand back.
“Buuuuzzkiiiill.” They said, dragging the word along. “But you know, that power has to be crazy kinky.”
In answer I just switched back to tiger form and glared at them. I could feel my other forms would need some time to heal from the fight and that left me with Tiger as the best option for that moment. The others went for their turn and only Harley did well. At least until it was Karee’s turn.
“Your turn Tzari.” The Rook declared.
“No.” She said in a bored neutral tone.
“No?” The Rook asked, the confidence in his voice replaced by surprise.
“I don’t fight for show. I don’t fake fight.”
“Then don’t, give it your all. I can take it.”
“I love that cockiness. Let’s see if you can back it up. If you don’t you’ll have to explain to Kiorga why you were kicked out.”
Karee let out a snarl, exposing her teeth, stepping forward weapon in hand and her armor powering up. Out of all of us, it was Karee really shined. She was fast, she was strong and she had the technological advantage against him. Everything he threw at her, both literally and metaphorically was dodged, blocked or ignored. Before we could even process what had happened, she was on top of him, savaging him.
“There.” She snarled. “Happy?”
“Fuck.” He coughed. “I’d heard a lot about you lords, but always thought it was bullshit.”
Then out of nowhere, he laughed.
“Alright students. Class is dismissed.” He then said. “I suggest you get changed and showered before your next class.”
We didn’t argue, going to the gym’s lockers to clean up. Thankfully there were very private stalls. I brought my clothes into one, holding them in my tiger-mouth and changed back to human form before getting dressed again.
“You power was really cool.” Ruth said. She was a giant lizard-like paramorph the size of a bear, but unlike me she couldn’t shapeshift. She was admittedly kind of goofy looking, with beige-colored leathery skin on her large belly and scales of the same color on her back. “So can you transform into anything?”
“Yes and no. It’s kind of complicated. I can transform into any animal but first I have to ‘study’ them for lack of a better word. I need to look at them, see how they move, how they act until the switch in my mind clicks.”
“Can you turn into dinosaurs or what about dragons and stuff?”
“No. I just can’t get that connection from just bones or recreations. I can get it through videos, but typically not pictures unless I have a lot to work with. Oh, I forgot to mention, I can’t change into another human form. And obviously, I can’t change into fictional creatures.”
“Still a really cool power.”
“Thanks?” I answered without thinking. Was that the proper answer? I had no idea.
We finished getting cleaned up and went for the next class; homeroom. Hopefully, that one would have less ass-kicking involved…