Chapter 147

Fighting Vince was infuriating. In his time at Lander, Roy had fought people who were more skilled than he was, faster than he was, and had unexpected talents he couldn’t utilize, but he’d never encountered someone quite like Vince. For one thing, the silver-haired young man could predict movements with startling accuracy. It was different than Chad’s method, where he reacted instantly thanks to his accelerated brain. Vince didn’t seem to react at all: instead he anticipated. By the time Roy’s attacks were close enough to touch him, Vince had already deflected or dodged them and begun a counter. He’d talked about being trained since he was a child, but Roy had never taken the time to appreciate just how much ability came with that sort of dedication. By the end of the first day it was clear that, from a technical perspective, Vince’s level of skill was something Roy would likely never achieve.

Of course, none of that mattered in a real fight, where Vince’s deflections and attacks would fail miserably against his opponent’s ridiculous strength. That was the even more annoying part for Roy, knowing that if he let loose he could win, and then having to hold himself back. Not that his attempts were entirely successful; within the first week he accidently broke Vince’s right arm twice and cracked a few of his ribs.

Camille had not been pleased.

By the time the third week rolled around, Roy’s control had progressed enough to where fractured bones were more exception than expectation, though Camille was still taking a lot of bruises off Vince at the end of each session. Roy had to admit, despite his initial hesitance to spend what little free time he had in this endeavor, it was generating noticeable results. He was getting better at fighting someone who wasn’t super tough, and he was slowly learning how to take on yet another type of opponent. The training was paying off... for him.

“Oooof.” Vince’s breath flew out of him as Roy punched a little too hard, broke his guard, and sent a fist deep into his torso. The smaller boy collapsed to the ground as he struggled to get air into his lungs. Roy took a few steps back so as to allow his friend time to recover. He’d gotten the wind knocked out of him a few times by Chad, he knew it was a very unpleasant experience.

“You okay?” Roy asked once Vince’s frantic gasping had become less shallow.

“Been... better,” Vince panted. “Been... worse... too.”

“I hear that.” Roy hunkered into a squatting position while he waited; it seemed like Vince was still going to need a bit before he was ready to go again. “I have to ask something, and for once I don’t mean to be an ass about it. Are you sure you can absorb punches?”

“In theory,” Vince replied, his words steadying along with his inhalation of oxygen. “I’ve gotten a tennis ball or two.”

“Yeah, but a fist is a fair bit stronger. Especially mine. I just felt like I should bring it up, because it’s been nearly a month and you haven’t absorbed even one yet.”

“I know. Trust me, I know. I’m still trying to figure out the knack for it.”

“The knack?”

Vince nodded, rocking back to a sitting position instead of staying on his hands and knees. “Every type of energy is a little different. When I absorb or shoot something unintentionally it’s all instinct, but to do it with reliability, I have to find out what strategy works best.”

“You lost me.”

“It’s hard to explain if you don’t have this type of ability, but electricity is probably the best example. Remember how I couldn’t get it to shoot straight over more than a few inches all last year?”

“I remember you frying the electrical system during our first ranged training,” Roy reminded him.

“Right. Well, in working with Professor Fletcher, I realized the problem was that I was trying to shoot it like I did fire. Flames are easy: you just point them and let rip. Electricity is trickier. If I just blast away then I get the splitting issue.”

“So how do you shoot lighting?”

“I picture the spot I want it to hit, focusing on all the electricity inside of me and how little there is in that object by comparison. I think of it as a giant imbalance, so when I strike all I’m doing is creating a link to achieve evenness.”

“Huh. Sounds complicated.”

“A little, but it’s what works for me. Others might do it differently. Anyway, the point is that every energy has a subtle variety, and finding the knack is just me figuring out how to interact with it.”

“Not to rush your process, but you might want to step it up on figuring out kinetic energy. We don’t have a shitload of time left.”

“I know,” Vince sighed. “I’ve been trying everything I can think of, but none of it is working. I still don’t know how I took the energy out of that table, or the tennis balls.”

“No clue on the balls, but the table is obvious: instinct. You did it because you had to do it, otherwise it would have wrecked you.”

“Probably,” Vince agreed. “Too bad I can’t get the same instinct when sparring.”

“Maybe you can,” Roy said, standing back up. Vince followed suit and the two moved back toward the area they’d been training in. “I have an idea. Don’t fight me anymore, just block.”

“What will that do?”

“On its own, nothing,” Roy admitted. “But there’s another piece to this. I’m going to try and break your arms.”

“Excuse me?”

“That’s why I don’t want you dodging or deflecting. Take the blows. This is going to help me learn how strong my punches need to be to just barely break bone.”

“I see. So either I absorb the energy, or I get a shattered arm.”

“Yup. Let’s see if your self-preservation instinct kicks in after a few fractures.”

Vince started to object, on grounds of basic sanity, then thought better of it. Roy was right: he didn’t have many weeks left, and mastering a new technique was time consuming. If he could do this, it would mean a whole new dimension to his fighting abilities. A skill like this could easily be the difference between a win and a loss. His team needed him to be stronger. Vince was not going to let one of his friends get booted, not because of him. He raised his arms into a basic guard position.

“Whenever you’re ready.”