“Greetings, freshmen cadets. Once again, I am Lieutenant Sobolvich and I am in charge of your first trimester in the Vorona Corps academy program. You will not enjoy your time under my care. Over the years since opening the corps up to humans we’ve learned that many of you don’t really want to learn from us, you just want the diploma we hand out at the end. It is my job to ensure that no one undeserving uses our institution to promote themselves and so I will be pushing you past your limits. I will be forcing you to realize you are stronger than you think and I will be dragging you, kicking and screaming, towards that revelation. It is ultimately my job to shape you into something that can meet the standards you set for us or encourage you to give up quickly and stop wasting the time and resources of our organization.


“However, even after you do me the favor of dropping out, your performance as a tamer still reflects on us. Therefore my officers and the ranking cadets serving under them will also be working to pack your heads with as much knowledge and skills to keep you and the pokegirls who will depend on you alive even after you give up on becoming one of us.


“To explain further is the first of my officers, Sergeant Letitia Mekhamusume-Vorona. Sergeant.” The Mongoosed stepped down and the towering tech-girl took her place in front of the assembled cadets. 


The address was short and to the point. It was stated multiple times that more would be explained to those that made it to the end of this first trimester and emphasis was placed again on the fact that the staff expected more cadets to drop out. Isaac wasn’t sure if it was a true expectation or psychological manipulation. Coursework would be basic tamer competencies with the opportunity to diversify once they made it into their second trimester. The trimesters ran through spring and summer, summer and early autumn with a long break for the harvest season, and then winter into spring to finish the year. Ranking cadets would be working to mentor the freshmen as part of their advanced courses as well as engaged in the hunts that would take place. It was concluded with an explanation of the camping supplies they were to be granted, the promise that they would be hauling said supplies in more cross country foot travel in the morning, and a warning that anyone violating after-dark quiet time would receive two weeks of remedial fitness courses under the senior disciplinarian cadets.


Isaac had already received his pokedex device and the training uniform he and every other freshman cadet were wearing. The supplies issued contained more sets of the same uniform and the most notable piece of camping equipment were the small yurts. A yurt was a type of nomad dwelling used by Eurasian steppe nomads for centuries. They were tents with expandable circular walls formed by criss-crossed poles and shallow conical roofs. These were made of contemporary materials but were very worn and patched. The freshmen cadets were promised better equipment if they didn’t drop out by the end of the trimester.


By the time the shelter was set up, dinner was eaten, and utensils washed, there wasn’t much left to do in the day other than settle in to sleep. At least until Jin wriggled next to Isaac on their bedroll, pressed herself against him and looked up at him with the corners of her mouth pulled up in mischief and her eyes cast slightly downward in demure anticipation. “Isaac. It’s not quiet time yet.” Rationally Isaac would have declined after having fought off exhaustion the entire day. However, the eagerness of his companion put him in a state of mind where rationality rarely was employed. They did still have a some time...




“What if I’m broken?” Jin asked with a voice full of dejection as she rolled up the cloth wall of their yurt. Today was all about mastery of breaking down and setting up camp. So they were to pack up and walk until mid-morning. Then they’d make camp and receive an inspection. Once all of the cadets had their camp evaluated by the staff they would break camp again, walk until midday, and repeat the process. The same for mid-afternoon and early evening. It wasn’t a task that required extensive focus so Jin’s mind was entertaining worrisome thoughts. “What if I never form a bond with you?”


Isaac was arranging roof poles to be lashed together. “How do you know you’re not bonded?”


“I should just feel it, shouldn’t I? Something is missing, I’m a defective pokegirl.”


“It’s only been two times. Sometimes pokegirls resist bonding, especially strong willed ones.” Jin looked even more defeated at the insinuation she was willful. “It’s not a bad thing. I’m sure it will happen, we’re still getting used to one another. Besides, how do you know I’m not the broken one?” Jin’s worry subsided some, and she put on a weak smile to acknowledge Isaac’s attempt to comfort her.

Jin woke up the morning of the third day of academy feeling no more content or bound to Isaac and her dissatisfaction only intensified as the morning activities of running, climbing, and swimming were revealed. The sergeant leading the cadets also was lecturing them on choosing ideal campsites. Awareness of environmental dangers from weather, like flooding, objects falling from intense winds, or lightning strikes, as well as where to set up in order to minimize being happened upon by ferals that were moving throughout the wilderness. Avoiding obvious paths that were trampled into the ground and also avoiding setting within range of the shore of any bodies of water. The latter also reduced the chance of encountering biting insects on top of wild pokegirls if the body of water happened to be still.


While it seemed dangerous for the academy to send students out into the wilderness, even near wilderness, and task them with basic conditioning exercises, that assumption didn’t take the presence of the older cadets in addition to the freshmen. Being more experienced and proven they were engaged in much more complex, cooperative exercises to secure the training area under the supervision of most of the academy staff. They were the ones keeping watch at night as well; again under supervision of the sergeants. Isaac could see the cadets or sergeants that formed the closest perimeter every so often, attention almost always out away from his class’ training efforts. They communicated through synchronized codex devices.


Isaac had the sort of disposition that drove him to always be looking for some sort of threat and found himself paying attention to the way the cadets and sergeants were talking into their devices to predict what was going on in the wider training area. A few times he noticed that chatter would intensify and individual positions would shift and flow. Sometimes sounds that could have been pokegirl combat could be heard, but he never saw anything occurring. His attention waned though as he spent his reserves of willpower to fend off physical exhaustion, so he did notice but not really process one last fit of excitement growing in the distance as he concentrated on throwing one leg in front of the other to keep up with the pack of jogging cadets and their pokegirls.


Then there was a mass of thick grey skin and muscle in the form of a Rhynodame barreling down on the clump of youth.


Isaac had subconsciously been interpreting the approach of something of a suitably disturbing combination of massive and fast moving so his body was preparing to act without conscious input from his higher thoughts, but the explosion of panic around him saw him smashed into and knocked to the ground. He saw a flash of Jin flailing to get free of the fleeing mob and picked her screaming his name out from the din. That and the thundering footfalls hammering out a gallop reverberating through the ground with an origin that felt almost on top of him.


He had to get up.


He rolled away from the danger and rose.


Something searing and bright crackled over his head and smashed against the charging beast-woman hybrid. She roared in pain and the tempo of her stride faltered. Someone crashed into Isaac and grabbed him about the waist and tumbled off to the side with him. Something that sounded awfully like a member of the panthera genus roaring a challenge broke over the crashing of bodies, dirt, and vegetation. Then what Isaac only recognized as meat splitting, bone breaking, and fluid spilling before a tortured scream of dying pain.


A pokeball was thrown and a warm red light blinked while the ball rocked and whirred musically. The feral Rhynodame was captured.


Isaac found himself in the arms of a taller, older, and stronger young man in the heavier tactical uniform the operating ranking cadets wore. His piercing grey eyes were focused on the threat he had tackled Isaac away from, but what he saw caused him to relax and look down with concern to Isaac, only to lock eyes with the younger boy looking up at him.


Isaac’s entire conscious process seized up for a moment. Then he saw a shallow jagged cut on the jawline of his rescuer. Isaac reached up to place his fingertips near it and muttered the incantation for one of Chandrakanta’s first aid spells. It wasn’t potent enough for him to aid anyone seriously wounded, but it could take care of incidental injuries like this. His rescuer pulled his face away momentarily “Wha- Oh, thank y-”


“ISAAC!” Jin’s cry pulled her tamer’s focus away and he pulled his self away from that of his striking savior’s.


The Witch ran up to him and threw her arms, no, no she only had one arm, around his neck. “Jin, your arm!” He pulled her off of him so he could see the charred red stump. Okay it was most of her arm but there still weren’t any discernible fingers.


“Oh, eh-he-he,” Jin’s laugh was weak and unconvincing. “I guess I charged my Mana Bolt too much. I- uh. I’m okay. I can go through a healing cycle.” Under her breath, while she stared at the carnage, Isaac thought he heard her whisper to herself, “-never this much before…”


Isaac and Jin were swept away by the sergeants and Isaac could only catch a glimpse of the older cadet who saved him being furiously yelled at by a blood drenched Pumara. “They were being serious?!” He thought that was probably what she said.




“I have to be broken,” Jin wailed. “We went through a life or death situation yesterday and did nothing but ta- have sex,” she stopped, fiddled with a strand of hair and wriggled in place. Isaac had asked her to have sex with him as soon as they were back in their own yurt. Those words, not tame. And he said she could ask him for sex too. Not tame. But it wasn’t working!


“Jin,” Isaac said firmly. “Trust me. It’s not you.” Jin was in the mind to hold onto her sorrow but Isaac had stated that confidently. Isaac almost never sounded that certain of something unless he was certain, and Isaac had high standards of certainty.


“It’s you? Should I call them?” Jin asked in a conspiratorial whisper that would have been more suspicious to an eavesdropper than casual speaking tone.


“No, no I don’t know why yet and they’re…” When the Rhynodame had attacked, Chandrakanta had tried to blind teleport to him based on the delta bond positional feedback but was off by a few thousand meters. She had only encountered speculation on the possibility of doing such a thing before her attempt. The three veterans all perceived his return to relative calm before she could try again and they all met up at Astoreth’s house to decompress. “They’re busy.” Busier than he and Jin had been. Isaac was becoming somewhat fearful for the approaching celebration of his birthday.


Jin’s face held a tension pulling everything together as she failed to determine which of her conflicting feelings to express. “Do you know how to fix it?”


“No Jin, I don’t know why it’s not working but I know it’s something… Something I didn’t know to add. And Jin. I can’t stop you from going feral either. It’s like nothing’s happening.”


“No! It’s really good!” Jin blurted out with alarming intensity and readiness. “But… but I don’t want to go feral… What are we going to do?”


“I’m sure your big sisters will help you out,” Elena, Astoreth, and Chandrakanta had started referring to themselves as such in regards to Jin. Well Chandrakanta had, Elena didn’t mind one way or another, and Astoreth warmed up to the idea quickly after the first time Jin thanked her while referring to the infernal as such. It was also a useful shorthand to refer to them collectively. “So we need to let them know soon.”


He also needed to let one “big sister” in particular know about something else. Jin’s alarming familiarity with losing fingers to reckless spellcraft.

That would come after the fourth day of the trimester from hell, a phrase the freshmen cadets had picked up from their seniors. The day’s activity was jogging, always jogging, and a lot of conditioning for individual muscle groups. Pushing things, pulling things, carrying things. Pushing yourself up, pulling yourself up, carrying your pokegirl, another cadet, or one of the sergeants. Not Sergeant Letitia, the Mechamusume was at least three meters tall, but her more reasonably sized fellows.

Day five was particularly miserable for Isaac as it focused on throwing. He’d never developed much of a throwing arm in his previous life so his aim was wildly inaccurate and earned himself one of the lowest scores of the day.

Day six was a twelve hour quiz for all of the freshman cadets. The sergeants picked out a cadet at random to ask the question. A wrong answer meant everyone was required to perform so many seconds or repetitions of an exercise. A right answer meant everyone was required to perform half that. Isaac redeemed his throwing arm by never earning a full set.

It was day seven when things changed from their usual pace. Exercise was only in the morning and lighter than the previous six days. The rest of the day would see the freshmen cadets split into small groups. Each squad of cadets would spend the next week out in the wilderness that the senior cadets had been constantly sweeping for ferals. Some of the Junior and Senior ranked cadets were enrolled in a leadership program so they would be commanding squads of cadets from all ranks in team hunting exercises.

Isaac and Jin decided to report to their squad leader a bit early. Isaac’s name came close to first after the list of freshmen cadets was split in half. Isaac had a knack for manual processes so they had gotten rather efficient at breaking down camp. Jin was less inclined to drag Isaac off for a tryst since he had shared that he identified the issue lie with him.

Isaac was still worried for her because he could still catch glimpses of the stress building in his pokegirl. He hadn’t become consciously aware of any breakthroughs in the matter of correcting his own metaphysical nature though so he did his best to persist, just as his Witch was doing.

They reached the temporary station where their squad leader was waiting and Isaac found his mind freezing up again as soon as he met the eyes of the older cadet. They were bright hazel and held a captivating suggestion of intelligent and attentive nature. He’d looked into these eyes before, a few days ago. The older cadet smiled; a winning and confident gesture that was too perfect not to be practiced. “Ah, hello! Markiyan, correct? I was hoping we'd meet again.”

This was the same older cadet that had tackled Isaac out of the way of the Rhynodame. Jin covertly nudged Isaac’s side to pull him out of his mental lockdown. She’d noticed his reaction to being held in the older cadet’s arms and also learned about Sasha from the big sisters. She didn’t show any signs of jealousy at the idea; mostly fascination. Isaac broke free from the spell of physiological arousal and stood at attention. There wasn’t an official salute within the academy but there was still protocol to follow without the arm gesture. “Yes sir.”

“Cornelius Vardan Paza the Eighth, Junior ranked cadet. I’ll be taking care of you as well as freshman Antonov and Borisov. Welcome aboard.”

“Thank you, Paza sir.” The smile wavered and Isaac caught a hint of detest.

“You’re the first to show up and I don’t really have anything for you to do until the others arrive. You have my permission to take it easy for a while.” The smile was back and something was tugging at Isaac’s psyche still.

Vardan was taller than Isaac so that Isaac’s eye level was right about at the tip of Vardan’s nose. His physique was toned and lean and his fair skin was practically flawless as far as Isaac could tell. His face was tall and narrow with the chin, jaw, and brow ridge slightly pronounced. His lips seemed just a bit glossy, but maybe Isaac was focused on them too much. He was dressed in the cadet’s exercise uniform but his body wore it so perfectly it seemed like an entirely different ensemble. It was also embellished with a sigil Isaac hadn’t seen before. A nude man and Sphinx in her taming form on either side of a shield with its surface divided into four quarter fields. The patch was embroidered with gold colored thread and the figures mimicked classical Greco/Roman style.

The young man caught Isaac’s admiring gaze and he smiled again, dropping his head to hide a bit of laughter in his eyes seeing the discomfort of the younger cadet. “Relax, Markiyan. It’s just my Charmer trait.”

“Oh, yeah.” Something came to Isaac’s mind and he spoke without considering why he would  share such a thing. “That only intensifies attraction, though. It wouldn’t work if I wasn’t…” Isaac couldn’t finish his sentence from the feeling of fire on his cheeks and ears.

Vardan blushed some too and looked genuinely caught off guard. He recovered quickly though. “Okay, but what about the fact that I outrank you? Wouldn’t it be improper?”

“I… yeah. You’re right.” Vardan laughed.

“No, I’m not. Cadets can date freely. I just wanted to make sure you were thinking clearly. I get some guys who get way too hot headed and pushy over it.”

“It’s fine if you don’t want to-”

“No, I might want to as well.” Vardan looked Isaac over and the corner of his mouth cocked into a grin. “But we need to talk more first. Why don’t you have dinner with me this evening? Bring your Witch too. She seems to be enjoying this.”