When morning came, Mac still wasn’t quite sure what to expect. True to his word, Bluster hadn’t bothered him again the night before, but Mac had learned, as he lay there trying to sleep, that he had no idea where to report to, what to bring, or anything. Mac cursed himself for not being able to master his own fate, but got himself up and ready, listening for any indication that Bluster was awake. Mac managed to get everything he thought he’d need, then sat in the main living area for twenty minutes before he decided that he didn’t want to take any chances. Leaving his trident leaning up against the wall, he went and knocked on Bluster’s bedroom door. Loud snoring greeted him, and a cold sweat beaded on his brow. If Bluster woke up late, then Mac would be late, too. Again he cursed himself for being thrown out of orientation.
“Hey! Bluster! Are you awake?” The silence that greeted him gave him hope that he might have woken his new friend up, but the next door rattling snore made Mac kick the door in frustration. The door. Maybe it was unlocked. He held his breath without realizing that he was doing it, but reached out a paw to try the knob. It was unlocked. His breath whooshed out of him in relief, and he hurriedly walked through the doorway. Bluster was on his back, one arm thrown over his face, mouth hanging wide open, and a little bit of drool in the fur around his mouth. It would have been comical, if Mac hadn’t been in such a rush to get going. He called his friend’s name over and over, but the bunny didn’t wake up. Sighing heavily, he reached out and gently shook Bluster’s shoulder. All that accomplished, was Bluster rolling over, almost taking Mac’s arm with him. Growling low in his throat, Mac jerked his arm back. He put both paws on Bluster’s shoulder, and shook him hard enough to rattle the bed. Bluster’s eyes opened sleepily, and he smiled when he recognized his friend.
“Morning, Mac. Ugh. What time is it?” He yawned widely while Mac told him the time. Bluster froze mid yawn, giving Mac a grotesque view of his face. “Oh no, we’re going to be late!” Bluster dove out of bed, getting himself dressed in half a minute, while his words sank into Mac’s consciousness.
“What do you mean we’re going to be late?!? What time are we supposed to meet and where? You’re the only one who knows anything right now! Why didn’t you tell me before you went to bed last night? If we don’t get kicked out today, it’ll be a miracle.” By the time he’d finished talking, Bluster was done. The two of them left their room, Bluster in the lead, and Mac was taking care to mark each and every turn down the corridors that they were coming to. He didn’t want to rely on Bluster anymore. Not that the bunny wasn’t turning out to be a fun guy and a friend, but Mac didn’t want to be reliant on anyone but himself. A commotion ahead of them drew his attention, and his paw tightened on his trident.
“Of all the rotten luck!” Someone swore up ahead of them, and as they went around a corner, they found themselves face to face with Xela. She froze when she saw them, her paw resting lightly on the hilt of one of her scimitars. Mac hated himself in that moment. He hadn’t wanted anyone to be afraid of him, except those that deserved it, and seeing the little flicker of fear in her eyes cut him to the quick. “Come to laugh?” Her tone was bold and defiant, and Mac had to admit that he admired it.
“No, we’re just rushing to the first class.” Bluster had barely let the words out of his mouth before he barreled headlong down the side corridor that was just in front of them. Mac wanted to say something to her, maybe apologize for how he’d acted the night before, but he didn’t want to be late, so he just shrugged and followed his friend.
Xela didn’t know what to think. It felt like she was given a gift just now, because she’d been trying to find her way around the halls for the last two hours. She’d woken up in the middle of the night, afraid that she was going to be kicked out of the Academy because she was going to be late for the first course, and her heart had been in her throat ever since. Every little noise had her paws reaching for her blades, and one loud scrape had actually made her draw her twin swords, heart pounding. It had turned out to be nothing, or rather, someone far away scraping a door, but that didn’t help her, because she hadn’t seen any bunnies to ask where to go. When she’d run into Mac again, she’d wondered if he was going to give her a hard time, or try to get some revenge for getting thrown out of orientation. It had honestly shocked and surprised her that he had seemed almost apologetic. They were late, however, and he wasn’t going to stand around talking. She let go of her fear and hurried behind the two bunnies, hoping against all hope that they would lead her to where she needed to go.
Bluster burst through a door, and Mac pulled up short behind him. Bluster had taken two steps into the room and just stopped, making it hard for Mac not to run into him. When he stepped out from behind his friend, he saw why. Every bunny in the room was staring at them. It was pretty obvious that we were the last ones, and that they were most certainly late. Mac could feel embarrassed heat rising in his face, and he wanted to look away, to hide, anything to get out of the spotlight. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the way things were done for an honorable bunny. He stood there, shoulders back, not proud, but defiant. He was trying to dare them to say something. At least he’d made it, and he was here. He swore to himself right then and there that this would never happen again. He wouldn’t stand for it. Since everyone was already staring at the door, they all noticed when Xela made her way in, too. She’d tried to hide in the shadows, moving slowly, and if they weren’t all already looking that way, she would have gotten away with it. As it were, she was caught, and she froze, cheeks pinking almost prettily. Mac forced himself to drag his eyes away from her.
“It’s so nice of you to join us this morning. Had you been even thirty seconds earlier, you would have been on time.” Mac’s heart sank as he recognized the speaker as the scarred bunny that seemed to be everywhere when he did something wrong, even inadvertently. Mac thought about making some kind of excuse or joke, but the look on the bunny’s face quelled his courage. Xela didn’t answer, either, and Mac found himself admiring her even more for her ability to assess a situation and come to the same sort of conclusion that he did. “The three of you will hang back after the class is dismissed to discuss your punishment.” His tone brooked no argument, and Mac just sighed heavily. This was not how he’d wanted to start his career at the Academy. Part of him wondered if he should even bother trying to help Bluster get places on time, because he didn’t forgive very easily, and right now he was already on the scarred bunny’s bad side.
The course began, and it was more of an introduction to what life at the Academy was going to be like. Mac slumped into his seat, doing his best to be invisible. Bluster looked like he was taking mental notes on everything their instructor was saying, and Xela looked like she was trying to melt into the floor. Mac’s eyes began to wander as he listened, and he wondered what exactly their punishment would be. He was so preoccupied by looking out of the lone window in the room, that he hadn’t noticed the rest of the class be dismissed until he heard the scraping of chair legs on the stone floor. It quickly jolted him out of his daydream, and he got stiffly to his feet. He wasn’t used to sitting for so long, and he hoped that when they had to test their mettle against one another, it wouldn’t be after a long lecture where they were confined to seats. If that were the case, Mac wasn’t sure if he’d be able to perform very well. He was still bound and determined to prove that he belonged here, a full two years ahead of schedule, and every little bit of negative attention that attached itself to him made him more determined to outshine it with some sort of achievement.
Xela listened intently to everything that the scarred bunny was saying, even making notes in a notebook she’d brought with her. She was mortified that everyone had seen her come in late on the first day, but there was nothing else for it, now. She’d take her punishment and move on, hopefully not drawing any ire from any more instructors. Xela was making a vow to herself to be the best student that the Academy had ever seen, when the movement of the other bunnies told her that class was over. She got warily to her feet, and followed Bluster and Mac up to the podium. All three of the young bunnies had butterflies in their stomachs, and more than a little fear of the scarred bunny.
“I trust that you will no longer be late to classes after today, but as it stands, you were late, and every action has a consequence, whether good or bad. In this case, it’s going to be bad. You’ll be spending the rest of the day cleaning out the animal pens. Come with me.” Mac bit down on his retort and followed the crowd that had gathered behind the instructor. All of the younger bunnies felt like they were children again, and their father was chastising them for acting out. They wound their way through the halls, finally emerging into the early afternoon sunlight. All around them chickens pecked the ground, ducks ran around quacking at each other, and there was even a small pen of sheep. It wasn’t much, by any means, but it helped to supplement the kitchen for all of the warriors in training, so it was kept as fully stocked as possible. The smell was overwhelming, however, once they crossed the threshold into the barn at the far end of the compound. Mac wrinkled his nose. He could tell right away why the barn was kept as far from polite society as possible. “You will work hard to make this barn spotless, then refill it with fresh food, water, and hay for the animals. When you think that you’re finished, you will find me, and I will come out to inspect your work. Any questions?” Though he asked them that, his glare told them that they shouldn’t bother to ask him a damn thing. He spun on his heel and walked away, leaving the three of them gaping after him. Mac waited until he was out of earshot before taking charge of the situation.
“Ok, so we have our orders, let’s see if we can get this organized into simple tasks. That way it won’t seem so overwhelming to all of us. Bluster, you take the duck pens, Xela, you get the chickens, and I’ll take the sheep.” Neither one of them brooked an argument for reasons of their own. The trio set to work.