Chapter 13:

The Outer Sect III - "Cultivation and You!"

Destiny Marine

Technically, Isaac’s bed was only relatively comfortable and relatively new compared to his old one in Patuxet. It lacked that familiarity that set his body at ease when he drifted off to sleep. But considering how long of a day he had, Isaac immediately fell asleep moments after hitting the bed.

Bugle calls awoke him the next morning. Isaac assumed that sooner or later, he would have to assemble for some sort of morning roll call, but all he had today was orientation. He almost drifted back to sleep since had about an hour to kill, but the crashing sound of firing artillery made him jolt out of bed. Only one blast fired; it must’ve been all part of the morning routine.

He was too tired to really check out his room last night, so he gave it a quick look-through now. There wasn’t much to see - bed, desk, chair, along with a small closet. Despite how barebones it looked, Isaac knew regular soldiers had to sleep in the barracks together, so he appreciated what he had. A uniform had been left out for him - the military fatigues consisted of a white undershirt, tan jacket, and tan pants. A green greatcoat similar to the ones Reed and Mackenzie wore hung in the closet, but a look through his window confirmed a sunny day without a cloud in the sky, so he decided against donning it.

That just left one remaining question - what to do with the page from Greg's journal? Isaac couldn’t assume any of his possessions would be safe in a military-owned room, but he also didn’t want to keep it on him in case something happened. He ultimately decided on stuffing it within a sock and stuffing that inside a pants pocket and stuffing that in the back of the closet. He would have to find a better spot later on.

With that settled, all that was left was to go out and seize the day. He fixed the collars of his jacket and stepped outside; the air was slightly chilly, but that also meant it was slightly warm. A whiff of cigarette hit his nostrils; Reed had been waiting outside his door, leaning against the wall. When she noticed his presence, she tilted her head and smiled. “Let’s get going. Got a big thing to show you today.”

She flicked her cigarette over the edge of the walkway; down below, a clerk was pushing a barrel full of letters. The cigarette fell inside and the pile of paper immediately caught on fire. The clerk swore and hastily removed his jacket to swat out the flames. Reed remained quiet as she watched the procession, smoke drifting upwards past her.


Now that it was light out, Isaac could make out more of the base as he walked with Reed. Just as he thought, the base was bigger than Patuxet and filled with thousands of people; some large formations marched around, others scurried as individuals or in small groups. Trucks drove down paved roads past barracks and officers. Reed led Isaac toward the massive keep at the back of the base, but they ended up approaching a smaller brick building off to its side. Two people waited for them there; Isaac recognized the black-haired boy as Dan from the night before. The other, a redheaded girl, rang no bells.

“Morning, Reed,” Dan called out with a wave. He held his staff in the other hand. “Not serving any punishments today?”

“Not until four,” Reed answered. The redhead’s nose wrinkled for a moment when the smell of cigarettes arrived with Reed; Isaac noticed an odd breeze in the air afterwards that knocked the smell away.

Dan extended his hand. “Apologies for not introducing myself yesterday, Isaac. My name’s Dan Turner. I’m the Chief Midshipman of Squad 1. If you’ve met Mackenzie, she serves in the same capacity for Squad 2. And Reed here is the Chief Midshipman of your squad - Squad 3.”

Reed ahem’d. Dan just shook his head. “Sorry, but your request to have Squad 3 officially referred to as Squad Reed was denied."


The two men shook hands. Dan consistently spoke in a pleasant, well-meaning tone. The increasingly cynical, world-weary side of Isaac (what the span of fourteen hours in a major city does to a person) made him suspect that Dan was hiding something, but for the moment, he seemed right as rain, and he possessed a firm handshake. Always the sign of a trustworthy man.

“Each squad consists of three cultivators,” Dan continued. He gestured to the redhead. “This is Babs Morang. She’ll be the third member of your squad.”

Babs sized each of them up; she was between Reed and Isaac in height. She kept her hands behind her head in a carefree pose, an auburn ponytail squirming its way to freedom underneath them. The sleeves of her jacket had been rolled up to the elbows, revealing a hint of well-developed muscle. Her eyes tried to look lackadaisical, but there was a fire beneath them. Unlike Reed's skirt, she wore the same tan pants as Isaac, but these were rolled up to the ankles.

Her jaw moved methodically; Isaac’s confusion at the sight was answered by the popping of a pink gum bubble. “Hmm,” she finally said, her voice dripping with fire. “By the end of this week, it’ll be called Squad Babs.”

Isaac just sighed, but Reed’s eye twitched as she jabbed a dramatic thumb at herself. “Just for your information, I’m the Chief Midshipman here. I’m Circuit 1C, I can use a kickass sword, and I’ve opened the meridians in both of my ears to employ a secret family Sound Deafening Art to avoid blowing open my own ear drums, thank you very much.”

Well, it’s not much of a secret anymore.

Another bubble popped. Babs looked unimpressed. “You're too easy to read. It's not about your accolades - it's about the fight in you. I won't ever back down from a fight, but if you had to choose between pursuing justice and pursuing a sandwich, you'd no doubt decide on the latter."

The way her hands shook, Reed looked like she was about to blow a fuse. But at the last moment, she just sighed, glanced off to the side, and muttered, “Damn, she’s good.”

Dan clapped his hands. “Alright, now that everyone’s been introduced, we can get on with orientation.” That seemed to lift Reed’s spirits, and she ushered them along after Dan inside the building. They walked down a long hallway, passing by clerks and janitors, until Dan took them into a large room. The window blinds were closed and Dan didn’t turn on the light; the room was empty except for a row of chairs, a projector in the back, and a screen in the front.

We’re watching a movie? Well, that would explain why Reed’s excited.

The trio took their seats while Dan got the projector started in the back. “Pay attention. This is crucial for your future success.”

Babs kept her hands behind her head, Reed kicked her legs beneath her chair, while Isaac tried to focus.

Whimsical sounding trumpets played as the black-and-white reel started up. The title cards played.








Wait, didn’t she say Reed was her first name? He glanced over at her, but she interrupted him with enthusiastic pointing. “Take a look at screen, Isaac!”

The title cards switched to the first scene. Amid some static, Reed appeared on screen, washing a plate. “Cultivation provides the backbone for the modern military,” a narrator explained, his voice warm and slow, clearly annunciating each word. “Every year, we have new cultivators joining us. Hello there, young man, are you ready to join the wonderful world of cultivation?”

After a moment, Reed gave a faux surprised look at the camera and set her plate down. “Oh, hi, I d-d-didn’t see you there. I sure AM.”

“That’s fantastic,” the narrator said. Reed gave an exaggerated lunge towards the edge of the screen, but the narrator interrupted her. “Woah, not so fast, my friend. Before starting your cultivation journey, you've brushed up on the facts, right?”

Reed looked at the camera. “F-facts? Do you MEAN the furry animal?”

The narrator chuckled. “Almost! I said facts - the laws and regulations concerning cultivation usage.”

Reed swung her arm in front of her and snapped her fingers (it took a second try to make the sound). “Aw, but who cares ABOUT laws and r-regulations?”

Isaac glanced at the real Reed. Her delivery in the reel was consistently off-kilter, full of stuttering, and the camera only served to make the copious amounts of sweat coursing down her face glisten. Yet the real Reed seemed mesmerized by her own performance.

“Now, now. The facts are important.” The narrator’s voice went cold. “Improper use of the Rddhi can lead to utter catastrophe.”

More static. The reel now showed Mackenzie standing in front of a blackboard with symbols and phrases on it. The warmth in the narrator’s voice returned. “Now, let’s go over the basics.”

Mackenzie’s blonde hair shone and she delivered her lines perfectly. “There are four main aspects to cultivation. The first is Circuitry - no, not the wires in your walls! Circuitry refers to the stages of base cultivation. There are eight Circuits total, and each stage contains three substages - A, B, and C.”

She tapped on another area of the blackboard. “The next aspect is your Foundational Technique. When the Rddhi is unlocked, each person will gain a personal Foundational Technique. While a Foundational Technique will generally be basic usage of one of the eight elements - Sky, Lake, Fire, Thunder, Wind, Water, Mountain, and Ground - perhaps you’ve unlocked a special one!” Mackenzie seemed to give a knowing, confident glance at herself when she said this. Isaac supposed his bare-fisted knuckles might’ve been a little special, too.

“Next comes opening meridians,” Mackenzie continued. “Meridians are special points within your bodies. By unlocking the Rddhi, you’ve already opened the central meridian - the dantian. Next up is opening further meridians.”

One more tap on the blackboard. “Last but certainly not least are Arts. Arts are special techniques that anyone can acquire. Using an art requires opening a meridian first. By opening a meridian in your legs, you can acquire movement arts; by opening one in your nose, you can acquire a smell art. Eyes, ears, heart, brain, soul - any body part can have an Art attached to it!”

“Thank you!” the narrator said. “To make things easier, we have a handy-dandy acronym to remember.”

Four phrases came on the screen.





“When in doubt, remember the word CAMF!”

I see, Isaac reflected. To get stronger, I just need to focus on my CAMF.

“To see how to actually improve the four, let’s ask this young man here.”

Dan balanced on his pole via a single foot in a field when he faux-noticed the camera on him for the first time. His delivery was also flawless and he spoke in a polite tone. “Improving cultivation comes down to breathing and meditation. One breath in, one breath out, over and over. Each inhale takes in Rddhi energy, while each exhale expunges impurities like pollution, metals, and revolutionary thoughts. Our forebears at the Wachusett Sect could cultivate in the great outdoors, but the necessities of modern living requires us to train in cities. Don’t fret! The Navy base has a large field in which cultivators may meditate. Need something more personal? We have underground chambers as well. Even your own room would be a great spot to meditate - that’s why you each get your own!”

Dan nimbly leapt down from his pole, landing softly on the grass. “There are also public parks and gardens across Narragansett in which you may meditate. Careful, though! While we have worked tirelessly to make Narragansett safe and secure, you must remain vigilant of revolutionary forces conspiring against the state! You never know when they may strike.”

With her part over, Reed had fallen asleep. The rest of the film detailed some rules - among them were: don't attack your fellow Navy recruits; only attack Army recruits if they start something; avoid the State Police. Isaac himself found himself blinking to keep himself awake when the film finally came to an end.

The projection disappeared as Dan strolled back to the front. “I hope everybody found that enjoyable,” he said with no hint of sarcasm in his voice. “Morning assembly will be at seven AM tomorrow in the fields, so Isaac and Babs, don’t be late. After that, you’ll break into classes and the like. As for the rest of today though, I suggest you get started on meditation, just to get a feel for it. You'll also be allowed to go off base today if you so desire, though you'll need to be back by nightfall since we have a curfew."

He turned the lights on; Reed hissed as she awoke. Dan just stifled a laugh. “I have my own matters to attend to today - Reed, would you be able to help them?”

“No can do,” she admitted. “I have to clean the PT boats today.”

Dan looked at Isaac and Babs sympathetically. “Sorry about that, then. Guess you two will be on your own for the day. No worries if you can’t get the breathing down - your instructors will drill it into you starting tomorrow.”

The emphasis on drill made Isaac suspect the instructors wouldn’t be as polite as Dan. The four ended up reconvening outside the building, where Dan and Reed bade their farewells. That just left Isaac and Babs.

She grinned.