"There are no accidents."
- Master Oogway, Kung Fu Panda
"Definitely a loop," I commented between mouthfuls of rice. "The order is exactly the same. Three worlds and counting."
"Well that simplifies things," Washu's voice crackled in my ear. "If this loop keeps up predictably, you'll end up meeting everyone you've already met, and things should start to settle down as they become accustom to your appearance and method thereof."
"Yeah," I commented. "Assuming nobody's pissed at me too much of course..."
"Why do you say that?" the scientist crackled back.
Heh... Funny story that.
Well, to fill people in on what happened between Hinata, and my latest meal of plain old rice. I took two DREWEL tablets and found a place to crash before the effects could kick in.
The same routine as before: I find a spot to crash, Luna lies on my chest, and off we go as soon as I passed out.
I would like to say for the record that I feel the most rested seemingly after I wake up from dreams. Must be that REM sleep or something. I don't know. But for once after a week, I dreamed.
And boy, did I dream.
This particular dream seemed straightforward enough. I sat down in front of my computer to play some Mortal Kombat. My favorite characters were Scorpion, Mitsurugi, Heihachi, Luna, and Evangeline AK McDowell.
This time around, I selected Luna and equipped her with extra plasma grenades. The first battle would be Luna Vs Excel-Excel and took place in the Super Secret Lair of ACROSS under the vantage of Lord Ilpalazzo.
It was an easy fight considering Excel had no effective attacks and spent half the match taunting.
I admit, things started to get weird when I smashed her through the wall and continued the fight on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Though Motoko just dropped to her knees when her health points ran out.
Round two against Narusegawa started with a Shouryuken that I managed to block before taking the smash ball and gaining Luna's Final Smash. A move where in Luna summoned up some mana and called in a B-1b that I was flying in Flight Sim X to drop cluster bombs. Eliciting a loud single crack... Which was odd for a cluster bomb, but not too concerning since I won.
With the sub-boss thoroughly defeated, it was time to face the final boss.
Omega Chuck Norris.
This lasted about as long as you'd expect it to. Chuck has no hit box, so he just cracked his knuckles, and roundhouse kicked the sun right into Luna.
Which of course, frustrated the snot out of me, causing me to throw the controller down, as it was the fifth time I attempted to defeat Chuck... And as usual, like every other time, her turned to me as a car slammed down next to him and said:
'Okay, you really need to wake up...' In Airi's voice.
That wasn't right...
When I came to, my brain tried to process exactly what kind of scene I was looking at. I'm not sure entirely what transpired, but Luna was standing over me, one hand closed over Ritsuko's pistol, holding it just enough off angle to keep the girl from using the weapon, and her other hand closed around Junpei's wrist, which in turn had a hold of the felis-sapien's neck...
It took me another thirty seconds of blank staring before my mind actually caught up with the situation.
Being fixated on Chuck Norris talking in Airi's voice, and the subsequent mental assessment that she really COULD act to pull something like THAT off had that kind of effect on a groggy mind.
Once I realized I was sitting right in the middle of a Mexican Standoff however, my mind did its best to make with the peacekeeping.
The reason for the hostilities was actually Senbei. Though the little guy's stealth was impeccable, Celcia could feel his demonic aura clear as day the moment she woke up. Of course, she thought it was Luna, freaked out, and pretty much set the others in motion.
That left me with a bit of explaining to do.
They of course, wanted to know what happened the week before. As like all my other locations, when I vanished there was a loud pop. I'm pretty certain now that the pop was the sound made because air was filling the space I had occupied. Either way, the sound had startled Mike into coming to a dead stop, throwing Junpei right off the front of the tank, and would have thrown Airi if she hadn't had the sense to actually hold on knowing a cat spirit might be prone to random pit stops.
Trying to explain where I had gone, and why, was no easy task. But even as I explained myself, I mentally confirmed what I had noticed in terms of patterns. I really was looping...
Giving the shorthand, idiot-proof version of my adventures in the last week so that Junpei would understand it was the easy part. It was convincing Celcia that Senbei was only 'Evil' on paper that was the killer here.
Okay, you try to explain to a person who's worldview was based on something similar to Dungeons and Dragons character alignments about the Yin Vs Yang balance of 'Good' and 'Evil', or the humanized approach to such personalities. Explaining it to Luna had been easy comparatively. Celcia was more deeply entrenched in her bias thanks to being the Elder of common elves, and their greatest sorceress.
Airi was helpful here, being the calm center of the group. She more readily understood what I tried to explain and managed to calm Celcia down by citing that she believed everything to be okay. If Airi thought everything was cool, that seemed to be good enough for Celcia.
Explaining that Luna was a magical transforming cat was easy. The group was familiar with outlandish magic and transformations, and she had popped into human form to protect us from retaliation.
The question that got me was: How did I manage to sleep through the shouting?
Short answer? I downed over four times the amount of something that normally about knocked me out with a regular dose.
Longer answer? The above, and the fact that back in military training I learned to sleep in a room filled with other guys, blaring a stereo at full blast, and dealt with a field training exercise that involved CS-Gas by grumbling, turning over, and going back to sleep.
Yeah, if you're tired enough, you can sleep through anything.
Except maybe Motoko attempting to punt your rib cage out the window... But if you can sleep through that, you're effectively in a coma.
Once I had all the mandatory explanations out of the way, things seemed to calm down. Honestly, Those Who Hunt Elves were some of the most rational of the groups I've landed in. After the kind of wakeup calls I got from other worlds, including Love Hina. Not having to immediately start plotting for my survival was rather welcome.
Then it was a matter of giving Luna and Senbei the basic run down of this world. Once I had explained the basic plot to her, Luna's response was rather blunt.
"What is it with you and these strange worlds with their messed up plots?"
I wasn't about to let her get away with that.
"You've read Berserk. You have no room to talk."
Breakfast was set up a short time after that. Those Who Hunt Elves were getting low on supplies, so the meal was rather Spartan. Senbei agreed to stay invisible as not to provoke Celcia. Even in panda form, she's still the best sorceress in this world.
Airi had commented in a conversational tone how I seemed to have picked up my own team of capable characters once she got a look at Luna's transformation a bit better, and Senbei's flamboyant but otherwise obvious power. I admit, I had my own little crew of misfits similar in effective function to the 'team' that was Those Who Hunt Elves. But I did point out that nobody on my 'team' was as dedicatedly specialized as hers.
Finally, while I ate, I decided to give Washu a brief update on the where and when of things.
"No reason," I continued my thread of conversation with Washu with a shrug at empty air. "Its just not all my landing points are exactly the best places to be. Those cyborg girls... The ones who sent me back to Ayeka's room half-dead? Villains."
"Ugh..." Washu sighed. "Of course. The crazy Spaghetti guy..."
"Scaglietti," I corrected.
"Yeah him," Washu's tone indicated a nod. "That does prove to be worrisome. At least for you. From what you indicated to me though those elite cyborgs would be little more than cannon fodder to Ryoko. But for you..."
"Yeah," I sighed. "Any ideas?"
"Probably nothing you could put to any use," the Scientist continued. "You know them a lot better than I do, so technically you're more an expert on them then me."
Washu saying anyone's more an expert in something than her?
"You can't just pop into full Choushin form and like, I don't know, go check it out yourself?" I asked.
"That would be cheating," Washu chided.
"Cheating?" I asked. "I don't recall reality having any rules on what one can and cannot do aside from DON'T DIE."
"It's cheating as far as I'm concerned," Washu's tone indicated her to be waggling her finger at me. "As they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely."
"I think it hits a plateau at some point," I deadpanned. "Considering the power you have with just a step to the left of Tuesday, you're hardly as corrupt as you would otherwise be."
"Are you kidding?" Washu's voice almost cackled. "I can do any damn thing I want if it so irks me. The reason I don't LOOK corrupt to you is because what I WANT to do happens to coincide with what everyone else wants or needs."
"Copout..." I muttered.
"I heard that."
"I'll let Ayeka have her way next time you're here instead," Washu seemed to have some mischief in her voice there. "After all, you've been unofficially recruited as her new retainer."
"Has anyone ever mentioned how utterly two-faced you are at times?" I asked in a sarcastic tone.
The mischief in Washu's voice was stronger than ever.
"Big words from the low man on the totem pole."
"It's not like you care..."
"You're right, I don't."
"Figures," I grumbled. "I'm the most interesting pet project to come along since Tenchi, and you won't even suspend your own damn rules to investigate my situation more accurately."
"If I went and did that every time I ran into a little snag," Washu crackled back. "Like when Kagato locked me in the Souja... I wouldn't have found myself where I am now. Part of running a successful experiment is not to wander around messing with it in an attempt to get the results I'm looking for. I may be a 'goddess' by your terms, but I'm still a scientist."
"Okay," I sighed. "Point taken... You don't want to dip your finger in the petri dish. Fine. Compared to you I'm an Amoebae."
"Now," Washu sighed. "That's an unfair assessment. I never once implied that I didn't care or thought of you as a single celled organism."
"I might as well be," I shook my head. "I'm the three, maybe four dimensional life form, having a conversation with the twelve dimensional life form. I've only got three degrees of freedom compared to your twelve."
"Six to twenty-four," Washu corrected suddenly. "You get a degree of freedom for position AND velocity in each dimension."
"My point still stands," I shook my head. "I'm so low down on the food chain that compared to you, I'm a bacteria... Or rather, a drawing on a sheet of paper... "
Then I paused.
"Heheh..." I chuckled. "That's kind of funny because a week ago YOU were the drawing."
"Life is a bit funny that way," Washu chuckled back. "But don't think for a second that I'm going to be that cruel to a sapient life form. You know me better than that. Just because I'm aware of four times the Axis values you are does not make you any less of a person to me. I'm not Doctor Clay."
"Yeah, okay" I sighed, slightly let down. I was hoping for an easy way out of this mess. Real life does not care about difficulty levels. At least I can be thankful Washu sees sapient beings as near-equals. So that's at least a plus. OH! Speaking of sapient!
"By the way," I continued. "I think I might have a hypothesis on what's making me jump."
"Oh?" Washu's voice became really interested. "Got an idea as to the cause?"
"Maybe," I replied. "It's mostly the pattern here. For each of my jumps, beyond the obvious landing in bed next to a girl... My landings have been with what in my reality, is a select pick of my fictional favorites."
"Like something or someone has read my mind," I continued. "Took a pick of all the females from fictions I knew very well, and then lined them up and set me loose."
"Strange coincidence," Washu hmmed, then her voice became more serious. "Except that's not a coincidence. There's no way that level of sophistication is coincidence. That's sapience."
"That's what I was thinking," I replied. "Something with an intelligence is doing this to me. Given what I know it could be you or one your sisters-"
"Which wouldn't make sense considering that even I'm lost here," Washu cut in.
"Or you're lying your ass off," I pointed out. "But as credit to you, I don't see you being that blatant about it. A fake mystery just doesn't seem like your style. Maybe Tsunami through Sasami's influence as a prank..."
"She can't do it while her powers are restricted though," Washu pointed out. "Tokimi restored our seals after we cleaned up that little mess Z made of space time."
"And Tokimi didn't seem to be doing anything herself," I continued at a mumble. "Too curious for that unless she was acting. She seems like the type who would hide and watch rather than get right in the middle of it... Which just leaves me with a ROB."
"Rob?" Washu asked.
"Random Omnipotent Being," I filled in the gap. "Back home on a web board there. We'd create random what-if scenarios involving fiction. And rather than trying to come up with plausible excuses for a scenario, we just slapped a catchall on them. We'd say some random omnipotent being, a ROB, made everything happen for its own amusement."
"This Rob character sounds like a real jerk to do that for mere amusement," Washu commented back.
"Like I said, just a catchall." I shrugged. "You literally pick any random, effectively omnipotent being from a list of existing ones and say they did it. That could be any 'god' or 'goddess' in all of fiction, including you."
"I'm not omnipotent," Washu pointed out. "By its very logic an omnipotent entity must be singular, otherwise there is a paradox where in multiple omnipotent entities should be able to interfere with each other, but cannot. Or can, when they should not. There is a breakdown in the logic... Which means that one way or the other, they aren't omnipotent. This logic in itself is how my sisters and I realized that we couldn't be omnipotent. There can be only one."
"I said EFFECTIVELY omnipotent," I corrected. "Someone like you at full power, or Tsunami, or Tokimi... You could effectively claim omnipotence and nobody would be able to call you on it. So they don't have to be literally omnipotent."
"If that's the case," Washu continued. "This is one clever Rob. Tokimi's been hunting around since I called her in. And we both know she's not easy to sneak around."
"I just hope it's not the plot of some Magnificent Bastard," I sighed.
"Z, but less angry," I replied.
"Oh!" I suddenly remembered. "Speaking of plots... You should have seen what I pulled off yesterday."
"Now what did you do?" Washu asked slyly.
"Do you recall what Mihoshi did the other day and the whole causality involved?" I asked.
"Your 'Rule of Funny' if I recall," Washu commented. "Make another prediction?"
"Better," I smirked. "I weaponized it."
Washu made the most unusual sound at that point. It sounded like choking. I think I actually surprised her...
Wait. Surprised Washu? Wow...
"You're kidding!" she finally spoke up. "You controlled causality?"
"No! No." I quickly waved my arms though she couldn't see it. "I wish I had, but nothing quite that extreme. I managed to put together a little plan that used the Rule of Funny as a catalyst so I could talk to Motoko."
"You took advantage of a causality pattern?" Washu clarified. "That quick? And you pulled if off without a hitch? NOT BAD!"
"Well," I began. "I never said I pulled it off without a hitch, but it worked well enough for me to have a conversation with Motoko."
"Hmm..." Washu came back. "How'd that go?"
"I think she'll be okay," I replied. "She thought she'd killed me. Which explains a lot."
"Oh my..." Washu sighed. "So it was traumatic shock after all. I was afraid of that. If she thought she killed you, that could leave lasting mental scars."
"I know," I grimaced. "But she seemed to come around once I got to talking. A few gifts helped too."
"What?" I asked. "What's so funny?"
"Well," Washu began. "First you get that Rei girl to dote over you, then Ayeka's become concerned with you, and now you're giving presents to a swordswoman. Keep it up and you'll be married by the end of the month!"
"DON'T EVEN GO THERE!" I snapped. "At the rate the causality conventions are playing out, you just tempted fate and invited Seto to play matchmaker with me. If it results in anything like the arrangement going on in that house, if the infighting doesn't kill me, the resulting heart attack will! I'm not so stupid as to think juggling a harem would be anything BUT stress."
"I kid, I kid," Washu replied. "I know you're touchy about it, so lighten up."
Then she paused before continuing.
"So she's okay then?" the scientist crackled. "At least that problem's out from under you."
"Yeah," I sighed. "I wish I didn't have to make an enemy to do so. I scared the crap out of Naru to get her to back down... Busted my hand in the process."
"You did what?" Washu's voice became indignant. "I just fixed you and you've already gone and broken something else."
"Tell me about it," I rolled my eyes and stared at my wrapped hand. "I've broken more bones in the last week than the rest of my entire life. I'm well aware of how much breaking body parts hurts at this point."
"How'd you manage it?" she asked.
"I put my hand through a wooden beam at eight times physical strength," I shrugged. "I realized a little late that enhanced strength doesn't mean enhanced durability."
"You didn't read the manual..."
"Pardon?" I asked.
"I gave you a manual," Washu continued in a condescending tone. "If you had read it, you wouldn't have busted your hand. I detailed a number of potential issues with the enhanced strength including durability limitations as well as side effects on your physical stamina, and instructions on how to safely skip-dash and power jump."
"Skip-dash?" I asked.
"How much did you actually read?" Washu asked.
"I got as far as the cleaning instructions," I admitted.
"Oh for crying out loud!" Washu snapped. "I didn't design that suit and write a thorough operations manual on it for you so you could fumble about like a goofball. In case you forgot from our little safety brief the other day. That thing is DANGEROUS if misused. Not only to others but also to yourself! I figure someone as self-conscious as you would have the sense to read it. "
"I'm sorry!" I snapped defensively. "But I've been busy! I haven't had time for more than a glance-"
"MAKE TIME," Washu snapped. "That equipment is not a toy! I expect you to have the same respect for it as you have for live weapons. That's why I let you have it after all."
"Okay!" I threw my hands up despite nobody being there. "I get it! Chill!"
"Read the manual!" Washu reinforced. "I mean it. If you've got downtime, which with a busted hand you no doubt do, you should be studying."
"Okay," I replied, switching to a tone reserved for responses to motherly nagging. "I will!"
"And don't think you can fool me with that nag-response tone either," Washu intercepted my intent. "I'll know if you read it with two questions flat."
"WASHU!" I all but snapped. "I UNDERSTAND! I'll READ the MANUAL."
Besides, I want to know what this skip-dash thing is.
"Good," she replied, her voice returning to its more carefree nature. "I'll be checking up tomorrow to make sure. Anyway... I've got data coming in from the beacon you deployed. It'll take a few days observation to get adequate readings, but good job there. Don't forget to deploy one here."
"Right," I nodded. "I'll make sure of that."
"Okay," Washu commented. "Catch you later!"
"Later," I replied.
"Wow," Junpei chuckled from behind the bowl of rice he was inhaling. "She really chewed you out didn't she?"
"Well," Ritsuko cut in. "He's got new and sophisticated equipment. If she just told him to read the manual, I can only say that she's right. Just look at his hand."
"I saw," Junpei commented evenly. "He'll be in that wrap for weeks. With his hand out of commission like that, he's nearly crippled."
"I've still got a gun," I commented with a scowl.
"I'm no genius," Junpei shook his head. "But we both know you can't even use THAT effectively without two hands. Ritsuko, isn't that thing like, hand-clicked?"
"Pump-action," the schoolgirl corrected the fighter. "But you're right. Without two hands, the action can't be worked efficiently. He'll be a sitting duck after the first shot."
"It's not THAT bad," I grimaced. "I should be healed by this afternoon."
Airi raised an eyebrow and spoke up.
"How to you figure that?"
"Nanomachines," I explained in a word. "I won't go into details, but Washu injected me with them in order to help me bounce back from injuries... Seeing as I'm much more prone to injury than anyone else."
"Super fast healing?" Celcia blinked from behind a bite of bamboo. Sheesh, I thought the panda gag was just a gag. She must have altered taste buds in that form. "That's amazing-"
"It doesn't matter," Junpei voiced up suddenly. "The hand is one of the most complicated parts of the body. He needs to leave it ALONE until it's fully healed. There are too many small bones to go toying around. Because if one of them doesn't heal correctly, he really will be nearly crippled."
"And just what would you know about it?" Celcia snapped.
"There are two-hundred and six bones in the human body," Junpei pointed out. "And twenty-seven of them in the hand alone. If he punched a large wooden post hard enough to break it, he probably fractured the second, third, fourth, and fifth metacarpals. And most likely have compound fractures to the proximal phalanges, if not outright shattered them."
Everyone blinked, and stared in mute shock at Junpei.
"What?" he asked.
"Someone shoot me," Ritsuko commented. "I swear I just heard Junpei using complex medical terms..."
"It makes sense to me," Airi spoke up. This caused Celcia and Ritsuko to turn to her with a gape.
"He's a fighter," she pointed out. "He would know how the human body is built, because he has to know how it's built in order to fight better."
"I... suppose that makes sense," Ritsuko blinked.
"You mean you guys don't?" Junpei looked on flabbergasted, completely missing the point. "Man, you're missing out on some cool stuff."
And Junpei launched into an explanation about the mechanics of bipedal locomotion, eliciting a pair of vacant expressions from Celcia and Ritsuko. Airi just took a sip of some tea she had managed to produce from somewhere with a neutral look on her face.
"Hey," Luna elbowed me gently and learned in. "Why's his talk about the hand bugging them so much?"
"Because he's got an IQ of eighty," I mumbled back.
Luna's eyes went wide and she blinked twice.
"Eighty?" she asked. I just nodded.
"He's a blockhead!" she hissed. "Even Usagi's smarter than him!"
"I know," I replied. "But when it comes to fighting, he's hyper competent to the point of absurdity."
"Isn't it obvious?" Airi softly commented. Both Luna and myself gave her a curious glance.
"He's a savant," she stated, adding a cryptic smile. "If he were just a straight up moron, he'd never been able to pick up those kind of skills."
"You have a point," I motioned after a pause. "That explains a lot. If you guys ever manage to get home, you should suggest he get tested for autism. Might explain why he has the social grace of a mudslide."
"I'll keep that in mind," Airi regarded me with a wary gaze.
"And that's why a slap to the ears makes an effective disorientation attack," Junpei concluded.
"Hell has frozen over," Ritsuko commented.
"Hey," Luna ribbed me again. "Are you going to finish that?"
I glanced at the catgirl for a moment in annoyance. I don't like being pestered for my food. But then I remembered. Seeing as this was Luna... And what I was thinking was starting to pan out more and more...
"I gotta' eat too," I muttered. "These nanites burn body fat."
"You're still hungry after three bowls?" Ritsuko blinked. "Junpei's twice your size and eats that much."
"I... I'm just hungry," Luna blushed. "I've been really hungry lately. I don't get it."
"I think you should stay in your cat form more," I voiced.
"What?" she asked. "Why? It's easier to talk to you guys like this."
"I think I understand what he's getting at," Ritsuko interrupted. "It's your body mass. A compact feline requires a lot less food than a fully grown human."
"The bigger you are, the more you need to eat," Airi intoned ahead of a sip of tea.
"It's not just that," I pointed out. "Luna, you're eating as much as Junpei. A six-foot tall heavy built fighter. He's over twice your size."
"That's a lot of calories," Ritsuko furrowed her brow. "I doubt just maintaining a full sized human body requires that much."
"Not a normal human body anyway," Celcia chimed in.
"Luna," I began. "Do you have even the slightest clue just how strong you are?"
"What's that got to do with it?" she asked.
"Something I've been observing for a while now," I shrugged. "But after the way you handled Motoko..."
I turned my head.
"Hey Junpei," I began. "Do me a favor..."
"What?" the fighter asked in annoyance.
"Push Luna down," I pointed with my utensil hand.
Everyone looked at me like I was nuts, including Luna.
"Are you kidding?" he grimaced. "Her frame's no bigger than Ritsuko's... She doesn't have the strength to resist."
"I'll bet you that last bowl of rice you're wrong," I indicated Junpei's remaining bowl. I might not have warned anyone up to this point. But the short version put simply: I don't gamble.
"What exactly are you trying to prove?" Luna asked in confusion.
"Just work with me here," I shrugged. "It's something you really just have to realize for yourself. Come on Junpei, just try and push her down."
"I'm telling you," Junpei stood up. "Her frame's like Ritsuko's. Agility is more her field."
"Shut up and knock her down already," I interrupted.
Junpei walked over to where Luna was now standing. Then shrugged.
"Luna," I began. "Plant your foot and resist."
Luna looked at me for a moment, then shrugged and did as she was told.
"Sorry kitty," Junpei shrugged, then reached out to give her a shove.
Luna braced herself and shoved right back.
One second later, the six-foot tall, six-time world champion stumbled backwards in surprise.
"What the?" he began.
Junpei tried again, same result.
"Okay," he furrowed his brow. "This time I'm serious."
And Junpei rushed the felis-sapien, intent to physically overpower her. For a few seconds, they locked hands and started to strain against each other. Then, to everyone's surprise save mine, Luna started to slowly gain ground.
"No... WAY!" Junpei grit between his teeth. "How can such a tiny frame pack this much... STRENGTH?"
"I knew it," I laughed. "I was right."
"What?" Ritsuko asked.
"Luna retains feline muscle density in her human form," I provided.
"She WHA-WHOA!" Junpei lost his concentration and was promptly overpowered by the catgirl less than half his size.
"Hmmm..." Airi nodded. "So it's like a chimpanzee then. Even though smaller, an adult chimpanzee is several times stronger than a human more than twice its size, and could easily rip your face off with its bare hands."
"Exactly," I nodded. "That's why she's burning through so much energy. That's why she's so hungry."
Luna blinked and looked at her hands in surprise.
"Really?" she asked.
"Really," I smirked. "And it's not just the muscle density I've noticed, but the balance, control, reaction time, and sensitivity. You may look human, but you're still a CAT. Luna, you are a PREDATOR."
Luna continued to blink in confusion for several seconds before the realization started to dawn on her face.
"I'm ..." she began.
"Nature's killing machine," Airi filled it in. "Only better, you're SMART."
"Wait a second!"
Everyone turned to stare at Junpei.
"She's a catgirl?" he asked.
Oy vey... Mister Eighty IQ strikes again.
"How come she doesn't have cat ears or a tail?" he asked. "Aren't catgirls supposed to look like that?"
I could almost feel the collective facepalm at this point.
Luna turned to look at the tank, her eyes wide.
"Is that vehicle-"
"Cat spirit," I commented nonchalantly. "Remember?"
"Oh yes of course," Luna tried, and failed to hide her unease. "Cat tank."
Cat Girl, Cat Rabbit/Spaceship, Chinese cat ghost, Cat Tank. It's a good thing I like cats. The number of feline or feline-based characters I have or could be running into around just begs to make fun of a person who doesn't like cats.
"What were you saying?" Luna continued after she collected herself.
Luna blinked, then blushed.
"Aww, that's sweet," she stated. "Thank you."
"What's he saying?" I asked.
"He says I'm very pretty whether I have whiskers or not," Luna smirked.
"Awww..." Ritsuko smiled, then got up and patted the T-Seventy Four on a headlamp. "You're a regular Romeo aren't you Mike?"
"Great," Junpei grumbled. "Now the tank's making passes at people."
"I think it's cute," Celcia commented.
I snorted once holding in a brief laugh. A tank making passes at a girl. Granted, they're both cats inside, but still... Man, you can't make this stuff up.
"So anyway," I continued. "I suggest you stay in cat form if you don't need to do anything Luna. That should allow you to conserve energy."
"I understand," the feline commented. And with a loud pop that startled everyone save me, returned to her more compact form.
"Whoa," Junpei blinked. "That trick's probably useful."
"You have no idea," I replied. "She got into a fight with-"
I stopped. Ah yes, one of the reasons I was in a hurry to get here.
"I'll SHOW you," I smirked, backing away to thumb my portal opening.
Those Who Hunt Elves had mixed reactions to the hole in thin air appearing. Airi kept her neutral face; Ritsuko almost instantly had the same reaction I did. I guess this kind of thing was up her alley too. Which reminded me. Under no circumstances am I letting her know just what kind of ammunition I picked up for the Mossberg.
Junpei and even Celcia seemed to look slightly more confused. Though, the former more so than the latter.
Of course, the reaction might instead have been because I was promptly struck in the face by several brown shirts, a shotgun, and a backpack.
"What the?" I began as I stumbled backward, only for Luna to quickly resume human form and catch me before I could fall on my bad arm.
How did? Why did everything- OH!
'Speedy Thing goes in. Speedy Thing comes out.'
"Motoko," I sighed. "Next time I'll warn her."
"What happened?" Luna asked.
"Conservation of momentum and a quick max entropy," I sighed as I thumbed the portal shut. Then looked at my shirts all scattered on the ground. "So much for clean laundry."
"I'm afraid I don't follow," Luna shook her head.
"I won't bore you with details," I replied. "Instead just remind me not to THROW anything into the portal."
"I'll keep that in mind," Luna commented as I dropped to a knee and fished up my backpack. After a few moments fumbling with it, I pulled out my camera and turned to Junpei.
"Hey," I began. "Take a look at this."
With a few presses, I had the video of Luna and Motoko's fight playing on the camera's tiny LCD screen. The camera recorded sound, but had no speakers for playback.
"Hmm..." Junpei stared, then pulled the camera out of my hands. "That swordswoman's good, but she's letting her emotions get in the way."
"Motoko's not important there," I cut in. "Watch LUNA."
The fighter nodded and continued to watch as Luna successfully landed after being tossed in the air by Motoko's attack. Junpei furrowed his brow and watched more intently all the way up to the point where Luna threw herself into the air.
"Nice!" he commented. "I would have never have thought to use an ability like that."
"How good do you think she is?" I asked off hand.
"She's not bad for an amateur," Junpei handed the camera back to me. "But she needs someone to actually teach her."
"Does she?" I raised my eyebrow, then glanced aside at Ritsuko and Airi. Maybe...
"Tell me," I began. "How much martial arts do you think a cat can learn in eight hours?"
"Wait," Luna blinked. "WHAT?"
"Cats are naturally graceful creatures," Airi commented, obviously realizing where I was going with this. "They have very fine control of their reflexes."
"Mike learned how to completely control of a tank in under a minute," Ritsuko shrugged. "I don't think that counts here though."
"Is this a good idea?" Celcia voiced in.
I looked back at Junpei, who hadn't quite caught on.
"So what do you say?" I asked. "Think you can teach Luna martial arts in a day?"
"WHAT?" Luna about shrieked.
Junpei looked at her, then at me, then at the rest of his team. When Ritsuko had asked him one time to teach her karate, he'd refused. But then again, it was an impulse request after she'd been mugged, and then rescued by Junpei. I knew full well that no master in his right mind would teach a student who was vengeance minded like that. Hopefully, Junpei would be a little more inclined to teach someone with Luna's potential.
"I can't teach her my style," he concluded after a long stare.
Ah damn... I was hoping-
"But I can teach her the basics" he appended. "She'll pick up on her own after that."
"But-" Luna began.
"Take it!" I snapped without waiting for her to finish, then quickly stuck my face in her ear and whispered.
"I'm practically handing you over to one of the best damned martial artists in any fiction I know. He can out-fight his enemies while stuck in Ritsuko's body. You'd be learning from the BEST. You can't buy that kind of training."
Luna blinked, and turned her head.
"But," she began. "Learn it in a day?"
"Learn what you can," I hissed. "Every little bit helps at this point."
Luna stared, working the thought over. I know I kind of threw this one at her from out of left field, but after witnessing just how 'powerful' Luna really was in the physical sense, and given the 'plots' I'm stuck in. A fully realized fighting catgirl would be a serious bonus to our predicament, not to mention Luna walks away with personal benefits.
"Okay," she nodded.
"Good," I smirked. "Junpei, she's all yours."
"What about me?" I heard Senbei's invisible voice comment in my ear.
"You stay quiet," I pointed out. "Celcia's scared shitless of you. And if push comes to shove, she's the most powerful magic user in this world. She might flip out and use a dragon summon spell. I doubt you'd get hurt, but if your bumbling results in my ass getting toasted, either you never get home, or when you do, pray to Hild Urd doesn't find out..."
"Hey," Junpei cut into my semi-private conversation. "I just noticed something."
I turned to face the martial artist.
"Have you lost weight?" he asked.
"Nanomachines," I shrugged. "They burn my fat to work."
"Hmm..." Junpei nodded. I'm not sure if he actually understood that. But as we had just seen, he's been known to surprise.
"Well, I thought maybe you'd been working out," he continued. "You probably need the extra strength."
"Yeah," I nodded. "A little more fitness wouldn't hurt."
"I was just thinking," Junpei continued. "Those no-no machine things... They heal you super fast right?"
"Yeah," I nodded. "Like I said, my hand should be good by the end of the day."
"So you'll be fully recovered from a month's injury in hours?"
"Yeeeeah..." I nodded. I thought I made that part clear.
"Well," Junpei continued. "If they can heal in a day what normally takes a month, wouldn't they heal injuries that take maybe a day or two in a matter of minutes?"
"Yeah, that would be logical," I nodded. Okay Junpei, captain obvious would like a word with you.
"That means you should be able to recover from a workout in the time it takes to stop for a meal," Junpei concluded.
What did he just?
"WHAT?" I asked, my mind already drawing conclusions on what he just said.
"An intense workout is essentially stretching and doing minor damage to muscle so the body can build on it during the healing process," Junpei commented. "If you can heal super fast, you should be able to pack months of training into a few days."
There was a long, silent pause as I froze in place and stared at the otherwise total moron. It was the first time I ever recall being struck THOUGHTLESS. What he just said, sounded as if had been delivered straight from the minds of every exploit crazy nut on the entire internet back home. I couldn't think up a response, I couldn't form a coherent statement in my head. It took several seconds of bluescreening before I realized what Junpei had just told me.
Junpei just told me how to exploit nanomachines to duplicate Training from HELL. Training from Hell that would WORK.
Once that clicked in my head, my mouth about fell off my face. I can't believe I hadn't thought about it! I mean! Super healing means ANY body damage, even intentional damage... Which means... Which means!
"JUNPEI YOU IDIOT!"