Tenser And Tenser
The moment I make it home, Hermann calls for me. “Yeah, give just give me a second.” I hang up my clothes, wondering if I should bring out a thicker jacket. It’s October, and it’s starting to get colder.
I seat myself on a chair in the kitchen, opposite Greyscale and Hermann. I still have problems thinking of them as friends. Today Greyscale is barefoot, with ratty, dirty jeans, a flannel-shirt and a snapback with the word ‘juicy’ stitched on it. In contrast, Hermann is wearing black socks with a white ‘H’, black pants that are not jeans, n west made complete with a handkerchief, and he smells faintly of some cologne.
“Sup?”, I ask, a bit guarded. About 30% of my concentration is on Hermann, who called me here. The rest is on Greyscale, because I expect an attack any minute. The moment he attacks, I will pull eight helixes from Verde, I’ll grab the letter opener atop the microwave, and I will aim for his head. I won’t hit him of course, but you never know if you don’t try.
“We’ve been doing some talking”, Herman says after some consideration. Greyscale glares at him. Hermann continues, undaunted. ” We think that it was a bit hasty to decide that you shouldn’t be trained-” Greyscale opens his mouth to say something; there is a dull sound, not unlike what I’d imagine bones to make under crushing force, he whines”- and we think that we might be remiss.” Hermann gives Greyscale a look.
“The members of the Flight might view martial arts has something those ‘pink-apes’ came up with, but you have to agree with me when I say that those ‘pink-apes’ have been mildly successfull in their pursuit of different ways of fighting”, Hermann lectures. Greyscale grumbles.
“The Teutonic Knights?”, Hermann tease.
“White-wearing assholes the lot of them”, Greyscale responds.
“The Iga were cunning”, Hermann says. “Hebimaru shouldn’t have taught them about cloudfire. As a punishment, his wings were removed. That says it all”, Greyscale concludes.
“Why, wasn’t Fafnir killed-” It happens so suddenly. One moment they’re sitting next to each other, chatting, teasing, like friends, then they’re fighting. The moment Hermann says ‘Fafnir’, Greyscale puts a hand around my godfather’s throat. He in turn responds by grabbing the offensive arm, and he does some kind of grappling move, followed by a pop and then Greyscale is clutching his arm.
They break apart, and I sprint between the two of them, before they can resume their fighting. “Whoa, whoa! Calm down!” Greyscale resockets his arm. Hermann massages his bruised throat. I can hear someone starting a car outside, in-between the silence. “I think that I’ll be going now. Good luck with your boxing, Rune”, Greyscale says, and leaves promptly, but not before slamming the door as a final fuck you.
I look at Hermann, looking for some kind of answer. And then he curses, which is so weird. Hermann rarily curse, not withstanding a ‘damn’ or two. “I should not have said that. I really should not have said that.”
“I see… wait, boxing?!”
“Hold out your hands”, Hermann orders. I hold out my hands.
“Make a gap between your thumb, and the rest of your fingers.” I make penguin-flippers of my hands.
Hermann cinches two old gloves on my fists, and he listens carefully to the sound the velcro makes. “Hmm yes, good, good.”
We’re standing on the backyard of the villa, and if I haven’t previously mentioned it before, it’s because… well neither me nor Hermann is usually here. I mean, what would we do? A barbeque for two? Ridiculous. Exercise? Fallowfell is surrounded by a primordial forest, and at last count, we have five, no six gyms.
Hermann snaps his fingers in front of my eyes. I blink. “Focus.” He takes a step back, and brings his fists up to lip level, creating a a space between his arms that looks like a wide triangle. “Imitate my stance.”
I put my gloved fists slightly under my chins, and I recreate the stance. “Your fists need to be higher”, he nitpicks. “Ah come on. They’re plenty high already.” The look he gives me could curdle milk. I raise my fists higher. “Your legs and waist are all wrong. Your knees should be a little bent, your legs a little more apart and lower your head.” I spread my legs further, and bend my knees.
“Little more”, he continues. I am beginning to tire at that word. ‘Little’ more he says. “Alright, that is fine. Now-” “Are you going to tell me what kind of punch I am supposed to make with a stance like this?”, I interrupt.
“Punch? Oh this is just the basics. If you do well, I might let you throw one or two.” “Why-” “Rune”, he interrupts this time. “I don’t know how to phrase this, and I know that you value truth in all things, so I will be frank. Your motor-skills are subpar.” That stings. It stings because it is true, and like the masochist that I am, I love the truth, despite how it might hurt me. He continues. “This poses some serious obstacles to teaching you any kind of martial arts. Karate. Muay Thai. Ju-jitsu. Savate. Pankration. So I have decided to teach you boxing, which is a relatively simple way of defending yourself. Now I use the word ‘relatively’ because while boxing may look simple, it’s not.”
I start to raise my head, feeling a slight ache in my neck after crouching in an unfamiliar position for so long.
Hermann frowns at me, and I resume the stance. “There is no name for the stance you’re currently using, but I think we shall call it the Bull-stance for brevity’s sake. The point of this stance is to allow you to charge an opponent, and once you’ve closed the distance, hit him with your punches.” “But I don’t know any punches.” “Yet”, Hermann answers. “But that will come later. For now I just want you to be able to ‘hug’ an opponent.” “I got it. Charge an opponent, get him real close. But… who will be my opponent?”
Hermann mutters something that to my ears sound like ‘stupid dinosaurs’, which I take it to mean that Greyscale would have been my opponent. ” In any case, I will be your opponent.” “You?”, I say. I try to say as it as neutrally as humanly, or in my case, inhumanly possible, but I am afraid I come off as a bit condescending.
“Yes, me. I wasn’t always an accountant you know.” He stabs a finger in my direction. “Come little boy.”
I charge him like a bull. Hah, this will be easy as pie. Hermann’s left hand glints, and it is only through Greyscale’s numerous attempts to embarrass me that I manage to avoid the two-pronged iron-poker currently centimeters from my eyes.
“What? You didn’t think that’d I make it easy on you?”, Hermann offers with a smile.
Alright. This time I charge him from the left, while initially making a move to the right. Hermann slams the poker down with a overhand blow, and I feel my collar-bone snapping. I fall on the ground, clutching my left shoulder. My first response is to scream, to ask what the hell he is doing, that this is training. I quickly quash it.
The barrowman isn’t going to offer my any favours, and this new world, this world of supernaturals isn’t fair. I hear a sound like wings unfurling and a roar that shakes my soul. I give Hermann a decidedly nasty smile. Verde is awake.
/Some help pretty, please?/ There is a responding crunch, and the bone heals. /Be careful Rune. There is a limit to this kind of healing. Magic. Mass. Our body will eat itself in order to heal, if you do not take care./ Got it./
I get up and take the stance again. /Eight helixes./ Magic flows through my body, sharpening my senses. I charge Hermann, certain that my supernatural speed will overtake him. The iron poker meets me at eye-height with blinding speed, and I dart to the right, only to have the damn thing follow me.I bend my head back, avoiding the poker with lesser margin than I’d like.
Hermann lowers the poker, and raises one hand. “Do you know what you just did? That move?” I shake my head. “It’s called swaying, an defensive move usually used for attacks aimed at one’s head. Sway your head back, let them overreach, and then sock ’em good in the face. And second, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed… but your fists are dropping.”
I look down. He’s right; my fists are beneath my jaw, where they previously had been at nose height. “Again.” /Rune, I have an idea./ Do tell./ I think… I think that we should bat the poker away./
I take the stance, determined to get the better of Hermann. I have many flaws, but giving up sure isn’t one of them. /I don’t know any punches though./ You will not need to. When Hermann brings the poker in orbit of your face, simply extends your arm up in an upper arc, from elbow to fist, and hit him with everything you got in the other hand. But heed my advice and wait for it./ Tricky… I like it.
I charge Hermann, and let him hit me with the poker. That’s once. I attack him once more, but this time he trips me. That’s twice. I make an obvious move to the left, then right, then left again which Hermann stops by grabbing the poker with both hands and swinging it like a sword. I sway back–
— and I go for the throat.
Hermann brings back the poker and I bat it away with my right fist. His torso and face is open for my left first and I punch him with all I got. My fist misses his face and I have got so much momentum that I punch the ground.
I don’t know who is the most surprised; me that I missed, Hermann that I managed to bat away the poker, or Verde, who is laughing his ass off.
Hermann lets go off the poker and turns around, his back at me. “With that we’re done for today. Tomorrow we’ll start punching lessons.”
He starts to shake. Is he sick? Having a seizure?
And then he starts to laugh.Ah.
“Real funny guys.” I stomp inside the villa. “Assholes. All of you.”