"We learn something by doing it. There is no other way."
- John Holt


Sometimes I even amaze myself.

Not because of how great or awesome something I do is. Doing something awesome isn't really all that spectacular when you can actually break it down into the steps that comprise the action.

No I'm amazed because despite how smart I know I am... I can be one hundred percent bonafide BONEHEAD from time to time.

I mean, look... It took Junpei, six time world champion martial artist, and all around BLOCKHEAD of Those Who Hunt Elves to point out something I should have realized on my own.

Don't get me wrong. I'm no idiot, and I have very good excuses for not realizing this sooner, but I really SHOULD have realized it sooner.

See, it breaks down as thus after a bit of thought. Washu's nanomachines provide dedicated high-speed repair of the internal components of my body. It's not quite regeneration, but it's very aggressive healing. And quite honestly, it's not everything you'd expect it to be, because it still HURTS, and it has nasty side effects if I'm not careful.

But these things provide me with the ability to heal from most physical injuries so quickly that if anyone back home found out about it, I'd be in a lab somewhere giving up half my blood so they could study it.

While this has been useful in keeping me in good enough condition to stay more or less on my feet, I have completely overlooked a rather useful side effect.

See the human body is built to adapt to the conditions it is in. If you're a slouch, the body degenerates to the point where it functions effectively at this level (If you call being a couch potato 'effective'...). If you're a high performance athlete, the body adapts to the conditions present in that situation. Fitness training is all about creating artificially harsh conditions on your body in order to improve it.

In many anime and manga series, as well as any typical Chinese martial arts flick, you'll see characters take advantage of the body's adaptability. It's a simple logic. The harder you train, the stronger you get. Which is true... Somewhat...

The problem is that in reality, such harsh training regimens are not possible because the body can only handle so much before it starts to break. Pain is not some mental block you have to push through to become Mr. Incredible. It's a very real nerve impulse informing the brain that what you are doing is LITERALLY ripping your body apart.

When you train, you are deliberately injuring yourself, if only slightly.

It is only after these micro-injuries, to coin a term, that the body must then heal and adapt so that it can withstand these stresses the next time. This is why every well-informed physical training instructor will tell you to alternate between the type and intensity of workouts from session to session.

The body has to heal.

Anyone crazy or stupid enough to try any of those absurd training montage sequences would quickly discover that they don't actually work, and would more likely end up in the hospital than in the winner's circle.

However, if the body could heal fast enough, if not faster than the training routine could damage it, you could theoretically train as hard, and as fast as you could metabolize the energy.

What Junpei effectively pointed out without realizing the sheer brilliance of the situation, is that with the super aggressive healing of Washu's nanomachines, I had the one key ingredient that separated that kind of crazy-stupid physical training from reality.

Assuming I had enough food to permit the routine, I figured that I could pack two weeks worth of physical training into a day. Basing off an eight-hour 'daytime' period that is. Since normal training regimens had alternating routines for each day. You usually get three or four training days in a week for any particular muscle group. With super-fast healing, there is no need to space those days out. I could literally string together eight one-hour strength training sessions with small 'healing breaks' between them.

Expanding on that I realized that if the aggressive healing was dealing with broken bones, damaged tendons, and torn muscles, I could literally train well beyond what constituted normal 'safe' methods without lasting damage. I could seriously push my body until I was literally tearing my muscles, and it would still be healed in a very short amount of time. And I would still get positive results.

That thought made me stop and blanch. That wouldn't simply make this a training from hell in name, it really would be a form of training straight from hell. Because there's no fucking way that I would do that kind of damage, and not feel it. I had a throbbing hand to remind me of that.

It was enough to derail my excitement honestly. Being as pain-averse as I am. The idea of deliberately torturing myself in the name of strength seemed counter-intuitive to getting strength so as to avoid future pain.

Undecided as I was on how to deal with this revelation, I decided to simply do as I was told for the time being. Without a ton of food to offset what would certainly be the world's most insane training regimen, I'd more likely starve myself to death.

Fishing through the pile of stuff that had fallen out of my pocket earlier, I had found Washu's suit manual.

I also found Motoko's Tanto. Man... I thought I gave that back to her. I must have repocketed it while we were messing with that beam saber. Assuming the loop will loop back to start here in a few days, I'll be extra sure to give it back to her next time.

Anyway... Manual. Read. Now.

I'll have to thank Washu for another favor she did for me here. I've read military technical manuals... Quite frankly, my time in Satcomm School learning how to read those manuals ALONE was more than justified for what you had to do later. Because attempting to find anything cold turkey would have resulted in mental failure. Washu apparently understood how to write a manual in plain English. Literally, plain, ENGLISH.

Aside from the cleaning instructions, which had been my last read. I indeed found the warnings and details on the suit that probably would have kept me from busting my hand.

It was in the section labeled 'Degrees of Protection'.

It broke down something like this. While it was a one piece, the suit was not all one solid level of protection from head to toe. Around critical areas, such as my rib cage, it had a hardened layer of soft armor that would stiffen if subjected to a concentrated blow. Some kind of crystallizing gel did this. Any normal human dumb enough to try punching me in the solar plexus would think they punched concrete. This was intended to protect me from cardiac or pulmonary trauma however, and did not have full body coverage. The other issue was that the gel was brittle when it crystallized. As a result, while it would stiffen to resist a blow, it would 'shatter' and allow extreme blows through. Good for punches and small bullets... Bad for war hammers, high caliber bullets, and megaton punches.

Other parts of the suit also had varying levels of protection. The major joints were protected by slightly stiffened materials while the outside segments of my arms and legs had a carbon nanotube weave to reinforce them against blows I might be using my arms or legs to block.

There was some heavy reinforcement stiffening for my ankles, knees, elbows, and wrists. The last of which explains why I didn't completely trash my wrist when I threw that punch.

However, in order to allow me access to my digits, the protection of the suit tapered off to almost paper-thin before it ended at the second knuckle for each digit. It seems that while the suit could perfectly duplicate the tactile sensitivity of the fingertips, the tradeoff for the suit's protective layer for the sensitivity of the fingers was about even. Meaning that putting the suit around the tips of my fingers would have been meaningless unless I dumped the sensitivity for protection. So Washu just left my fingertips unprotected, finding it unlikely that they would be subject to any dangers if it came down to it. Apparently she thought it was more economical that way.

Kind of both right, and wrong there... But I guess that was my own fault, not hers.

A warning box noted that the suit's enhanced strength settings did nothing to increase the stiffness, density, or otherwise level of protection provided by the suit. It merely increased muscular torque via base-strength amplification through surface structures that mimicked muscle movement below. Or at least, something like that. The plain English explanation Washu left in Parenthesis said effectively: 'It wraps around your body and pulls.'

Reading that box twice, I realized another reason to try and get in shape.

The way it increased my strength was through base-strength amplification.

If I read that right, it means that it wasn't hard set on a certain strength level, but rather took whatever strength I had, multiplied that, and I'd get a new value. The stronger I was, the stronger the max value at sixteen-X would be. As I was, the strength boost would make me powerful, but if I were in tip-top physical condition, I'm GUESSING I'd be pretty close to the physical level of a baseline Galaxy Police body enhancement. Just without the durability.

Maybe... I'm not sure. I don't have a benchmark for it.

It was almost as if Washu designed this thing deliberately to coax me into applying myself constructively if I wanted any kind of real benefit.

Knowing Washu, that was likely to be the case.

Of course, what I really wanted to know about, was that skip-dash thing Washu spoke of.

"This is so cool..."

I looked up from my required homework at Ritsuko's comment. The girl had found my leatherman in mess. It hadn't really struck me, but Ritsuko loved tools as well as weapons.

"Where'd you get this?" she asked.

"My dad gave it to me years ago," I shrugged, turning back to my manual. "It's old, but useful."

Now, a skip dash was-

"Can I have it?"

I looked up from my manual again.

"My Leatherman?" I asked. Ritsuko grinned and nodded.

"Fraid not," I shook my head. The schoolgirl frowned and pouted.

"Why not?" she asked.

"Because I said no," I shrugged, turning back to my manual.

"I let you have my shotgun," she pointed out. "That's probably a lot more expensive than this."

Oh... She's going to try and guilt-trip me like my sister. That's a road well traveled. It's reached the point where it's pretty straightforward. When my sis calls, she wants something. If it's important, I help. If it's trivial or if she asks me if I've got twenty bucks... I'm broke. The hard part is getting her to spit it out instead of trying to beat around the bush and walk me right into it. And one of her tactics that I am well aware of has always been the guilt-trip.

"Irrelevant," I came back. "I said no."

"But why not?" she asked again. Unless she gets a logical answer, she's going to keep on pestering me. And I have a manual to finish reading as required by the Professor.

"Look," I continued. "I don't have any other tools, and I can't exactly haul around a tool chest. That's why I grabbed it in the first place."

Ritsuko pouted a bit. My excuse must not sound very valid to her. Hell, it probably looked selfish to most people. It sounded selfish to my own ears! I mean, I asked for, and got her shotgun, and I'm flat out telling her 'no' when she asks for something of mine. But I have my reason. It's not like I'm trying to be mean here. I just might need that tool at some point. And if I give it to her, I'll wish I hadn't. Sometimes it sucks to be the nice guy well aware of how something like this looks. It makes you feel guilty inside. It makes me feel like I'm being an ass. And I don't like being an ass.

"You can hold on to it for the day," I sighed. "I'll need it back before I leave though."

Ritsuko still pouted a bit. However, the compromise seemed to placate her for the time being as she went back to fooling with my Leatherman while skimming part of my IET handbook.

She found that helping me put my stuff back into my pocket right before finding my leatherman. It came as little shock that she knew how to read it. At this point, trying to determine what was something I actually remembered, and little unexpected aspects that seemed logical in hindsight had kind of blurred together.

"Number twelve," she read aloud, and in rather impressively good English. "Side of Neck. A sharp blow to the side of the neck causes unconsciousness by shock to the Carotid artery, Jugular vein, and Vagus nerve. For maximum effect, the blow should be focused below and slightly in front of the ear. A less powerful blow causes involuntary muscle-spasms and intense pain. The side of the neck is one of the best targets to use to drop an opponent immediately or to disable him temporarily to finish him later."

Ritsuko reached up absentmindedly with her free hand and felt the side of her neck.

"Cool..." she uttered, tracing the length of one of the veins down into her shoulder. "It's like those pressure point moves from a martial arts movie. I think I get why Junpei didn't want to teach me that one time."

Pressure point?

I paused from attempting to read on skip dashing again and mimicked Ritsuko's motion, tracing a vein in my neck down to the base where my shoulder met.

Couldn't be...

I moved my hand up to the place indicated from what Ritsuko had stated, and gave it a weak press with my good hand. Feeling just a slight pang, I proceeded to trace the action down my neck, tapping lightly until I could feel the same thing while I traced the motion a second time.

Could it?

I gave the spot where the base of my neck met my shoulder a few taps, feeling a similar, if slightly buried pang.

No way...

The same spot where that old crone Cologne had tapped me with her ugly stick, knocking me out. Oh for Christ's sake, my IET book comes with an encyclopedia of all the basic pressure points! I can't believe I forgot about that!

I'll have to review them later so I can give the old hag a shock. I'll read it as soon as I'm done with the skip dash.

Now, a skip dash was-

I lowered my suit manual again suddenly with a frown as a dot connected in mid sentence. HOW did Cologne do that with a light tap? I just tapped the spot myself and didn't exactly knock myself out doing so. And did the chemicals in her little chocolate sleep prevention remedy really cause it to delay several seconds? It's not magic. I'm immune to magic. So the affect was definitely some kind of really complex physical event. Considering whom it was. There was a logical explanation combined with a simple fact that she's That Damned Good. I'm sure of it...

Another mystery for me to solve...

I'll back burner it for later.

A skip dash was-

"Have you cleaned the Mossberg?" Ritsuko suddenly interrupted.

"What?" I turned to look at her, dropping my manual. "Where the hell did that come from?"

Ritsuko just held up the IET handbook, indicating that she'd skipped around a bit from the striking points to the information on the M-16A2 assault rifle. Notably, the section on cleaning.

"Just curious," she shrugged.

"No," I turned back to my book with a shrug. "I haven't."

Now, a skip dash-

"What?"

My manual slapped down on my leg as I turned to the gun-slinging schoolgirl.

"You know you need to clean a firearm after each use!" she berated. "If you don't it could fail on you at the worst possible moment! What kind of soldier are you to not clean your own weapon?"

"How about one who's been run ragged for a week straight, tired to the point of delirium, injured several times, and DOESN'T have a cleaning kit?" I asked with a little more than a hint of sarcasm in my tone as I punctuated the last one.

Ritsuko's next comment, probably to tell me that whatever I was about to say was no excuse, died in her throat. Her mouth hanging open before she snapped it shut with the audible clack of her teeth.

"Oh," she stated sheepishly. "Sorry..."

"Not your fault," I turned back to my manual.

A skip-

"Hey-"

OH FOR THE LOVE OF...

I slapped my manual down AGAIN and glared daggers at the schoolgirl. It was just like my mother! Every time I sat down to do something she needed something else. And it would always be just seconds after I sat down. Never any other spacing... Never telling me anything while I was actually available. It was INFURIATING.

"WHAT?" I snapped.

Ritsuko looked slightly taken aback at vicious glare I leveled on her.

"What'd I say?" she asked.

I closed my eyes and breathed for a second. Calm down. Relax. She doesn't know that drives me bat-shit insane. Out with the bad, in with the good.

"Nothing," I turned to her again. "Pet peeve... What'cha need?"

"Let me see the Mossberg," Ritsuko instructed. "Since you couldn't clean it, maybe it would be a good idea for me to look at it."

Okay, can't argue there.

I carefully reached to the side and thumbed open my portal. Noting as I did so that my hand was throbbing a bit less in its wraps. I wonder how long it'll be until I can get use out of it again. Being half-cripple makes me more dependent on assistance than I'd like.

"You'll have to reach in and grab it," I indicated. Case in point.

Ritsuko crawled over and did her best not to step on my knee as she fished around in the bizarre hole in the air before pulling back with the barrel of the Mossberg in her hand. Then with only a backward glance at the portal before I shut it, returned to her place to inspect the firearm. In a few deft moves, she worked the action and checked to make sure the chamber and tube were clear. Then she paused, scrunched up her face, and stood back up.

"Should be in..." she began. Then dashed over to where Mike was parked observing Luna and Junpei and climbed up on the tank.

I turned to watch the catgirl for a few seconds as she observed and mimicked several moves from Junpei before making an instructed lunge at him, only to be thrown on her back. The fighter then turned to her and gave her a quick critical eye before tapping her arm with his foot. Pushing it slightly.

Luna nodded and rolled to her feet. Junpei went through another set of motions, and they repeated the routine. I noted offhand that the dress Luna had been wearing since we left Washu's lab was starting to look like it had seen better days. It was a practical piece. Cute, but modest enough for activity. And resilient... But two days without washing and now getting thrown around in the dirt was starting to show on it. Considering Luna's borderline manic obsessive-compulsive fit yesterday about getting a bath, it was probably secretly driving her nuts.

Come to think of it, I probably need a bath too. I didn't get one yesterday. And today wasn't looking good either. Not in the middle of nowhere anyway.

'Clang!'

I jumped as Ritsuko dropped an ammo box down next to me and started opening it up, revealing that what had once housed fifty-cal rounds had been retasked with holding a large assortment of wire brushes, and a few bottles of CLP. After doing that, the schoolgirl quickly picked the Mossberg back up and began skimming a small white manual she'd also been holding.

After a few seconds, stopping to check the weapon was clear one more time. Ritsuko began to dismantle it between glances at the manual.

"Oh yeah, it's a mess," she commented as she quickly broke the weapon down into its constituent parts. "Someone cleaned it I think, but there's still fresh carbon scoring. How many rounds did you put through this?"

I thought about it for a second. Washu had me go through a shit load of rounds for practice on top of all the rounds I fired before then. I lost count after about sixty.

"Probably about a hundred," I concluded.

"A hundred?" she deadpanned. I nodded. Ritsuko then rolled her eyes and inspected the inside of the barrel. "Where'd you get the extra rounds? Didn't you take something like fifty?"

"Washu," I shrugged. Ritsuko "Oh'd" and proceeded to make me twitch over so slightly by looking right down the killing end of the Mossberg's barrel. The whole weapon was in pieces at this point, and the barrel was little more than a tube, but that didn't stop me from involuntarily tensing up just thinking about it. That's how bad the drills had hammered the weapons safety routines into me. Then again, my three months were spent with a company that was half-filled with delayed entry program recruits between their Junior and Senior years in high school. The sheer amount of unbridled STUPID concentrated into that group pretty much required it.

Tearing my eyes away from the girl, lest have a nervous breakdown from watching her, I turned back to notice Luna was nodding to Junpei before wandering over to me, looking slightly wobbly as she did so.

"Ugh..." Luna moaned as she collapsed on the ground next to me. Then with a squint, followed by a pop of evacuated air, she was feline again. "I have never been this tired... Ever."

Ritsuko looked up at the small balloon-like crack, then smirked at the feline.

"What?" Luna asked, her left ear twitching a few times.

"Junpei worn you down already?" Ritsuko grinned.

"Worn me down?" Luna replied as she proceeded to sprawl herself out sideways against my leg. "Try worn raw. Really... Gods, I never realized just falling down could be so much... WORK."

"I thought cats always landed on their feet," Ritsuko frowned.

"I'm expanding my horizons," Luna replied sarcastically from behind closed eyes. "He was teaching me what I needed to know about safely landing on things other than all-fours, just in case."

"Oh..."

"You okay kitty?" I asked.

"A bath..." Luna moaned. "A bath, a warm blanket, and a nap in a sunbeam. Maybe some tuna and milk after that and I could die content."

"Heh..." I scoffed. "You sound like me."

Luna opened one eye, letting just a slight human-esque smirk grace her feline features as she looked up at me.

"A few days ago," she began. "I learned reality is a lot bigger than I first expected. I discovered my entire life is someone else's entertainment, and that entire populations know everything about me. Now I'm being dragged along for the ride. I've been attacked by a martial arts kitten, turned into a clock by a demon who'd make Beryl hide under the deepest rock she could find, cuddled by a goddess in a child's body, attacked by a short tempered swordswoman. And now I'm taking a crash course in fighting arts from a world martial arts champion with an IQ lower than a klutzy child who barely manages to get passing grades in school."

Luna closed her eye again and rolled her head around to bask in the mid-morning sun.

"I probably sound like you because..." she paused. "I understand you. I may not know everything you seem to know. But I understand you."

Luna belted out a cat-yawn, her tongue curling back to reveal needle sharp teeth.

"And in that way," she continued. "I think someone finally understands ME."

"Kind of hard not to," I shrugged. "Not in the mess we're in. Anyway... You gonna' take a nap?"

"I think I'll take fifteen," the feline stretched out. "I think I've earned it."

"I hear you," I rolled my eyes. At least she can sleep whenever she wants. After a moment, with no more comments coming from Luna, I reached down and picked up the suit manual again.

Where was I? Oh yeah!

A skip dash was-

"Hey," Junpei flopped down across from me, causing me to snap the small paper booklet shut with an irritated growl. Junpei seemed oblivious to it however.

"How's the hand?" he asked.

"Oh, swell..." I replied with a touch of my irritation coming through as sarcasm. "It only feels like it's been dipped in fire. Quite an improvement from earlier when it felt like it had been dipped in a HOTTER fire."

"I know how you feel," Junpei smiled, placing a hand on the back of his head. As he did so, I did my best to let my irritation evaporate. "I once smashed up my hand sparring with my buddy Saitoh. Drove me nuts for a month!"

"How'd you manage that?" Ritsuko commented with a sly look.

Junpei laughed slightly.

"It's a silly mistake actually," he looked away. "I had him cornered and went for a finishing move. He stumbled, and I struck the corner post."

Ritsuko stifled a laugh.

"No padding?" I asked. "On the post I mean..."

"Some guy removed it so their kid could have something to play with," Junpei grumbled. "A little girl was using it for a fort."

Ritsuko squinted in confusion.

"Really?" she asked.

"Yeah..." Junpei shrugged. "Must have been some military commander. He had a dozen guys with him, and he was teaching them a total mess of close quarters techniques. I had half a mind to tell him off, but I wasn't quite as good as I am now, and those military commander types have a habit of hiding how good they really are until they take you apart."

And then Junpei grinned.

"Nice guy though. You'd have liked him Ritsuko. After I busted my hand, he bought me all the curry I could eat when he saw what happened. I ate so much curry it made me sick."

Ritsuko blanched and turned back to the barrel she was working on.

"Yech! I didn't think there was a limit to how much curry you could eat. You talk about it like it's the only thing in your diet."

"Hey," Junpei frowned. "I can't help it if I haven't had a decent curry in six months. It's not exactly easy to find around here."

I'll remember to keep curry on my 'To Acquire' list.

"I'm surprised you didn't turn yellow from all the curry you ate," Ritsuko snarked. "Seriously. That can't be good for you."

The two began to bicker slowly back and forth at that point, much to my chagrin. I'd never get through my manual at this rate.

"I give up," I announced to nobody in particular. I'll finish reading when I'm not getting interrupted every five seconds. Where did Airi and Celcia wander off to? I hadn't seen the two since breakfast. Piichi was around here somewhere. I'd seen that little bear-thing munching on a leaf earlier.

Coming out of my thoughts, I noticed the two were staring at me.

"What?" I asked. Junpei just shrugged, and Ritsuko mimicked the action before turning back to the disassembled Mossberg.

"Anyway," Junpei continued. "Where was I? Oh yeah! After busting my hand, I took to wearing hand protection all the time. Even a little bit extra helps. A cloth wrap is a good start, strengthens the metacarpals-"

I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Ritsuko's face started to blank when Junpei hit that word. She still couldn't believe he was capable of intelligent thinking.

"-When you tighten your fist. I used that until I could afford to buy myself some fighting gloves. I made the mistake of buying some cheap horsehair ones at first. Let me tell you. Waste of money. I threw the first pair out in less than a week. After that, I stuck with cloth wraps until I saved up enough money to get some pro gear."

Junpei held up his hand, displaying his finger less fighting gloves. Thick red padding squares protected the beginnings of each finger, and a large thick piece of padding covered the entire backside of his hand.

"I bought these," he continued. "A pretty good set too. First pair lasted me four years. This is my second pair."

Well, I always wondered what exactly the gloves were for aside from obvious 'fighting accessory.'

"I'd suggest," Junpei looked at my banged up hand for a moment. "That if you're going to go about punching anything else, you get a set of gloves too. Or even, hell... Use that weird glove you have. It looked rather sturdy. And those metal claws on the end could be useful."

I nodded; thinking about the one good bit of decent advice the fighter was giving me. At least I have a way to put Jail's glove to good use.

"That reminds me," the fighter continued. "Get up. I have a few things I need to teach you too."

"What?" I asked. "Now?"

"Yeah," Junpei shrugged as he stood up. "The cat's not the only one who could use a martial arts lesson. I need to teach you a few basic things or you'll end up busting that hand all over again."

"Shouldn't we wait until my hand's better before trying anything?" I queried.

"Nah!" Junpei waved it away. "We just need one hand for this."

"At least wait for Luna," I pointed down at the cat using my leg for a pill- now when did she go and do that?

Cats...

Junpei glanced at Luna, then shrugged.

"I guess," he replied. "Easier if I teach you both at the same time anyway."

Twenty minutes later (Luna took a longer nap than she thought), I found myself standing between Luna on one side, and Ritsuko on the other. The latter had quickly finished cleaning the Mossberg and had reassembled it after examining the reflex smart sight Washu had installed.

It had taken a little arguing with Junpei about how he wasn't going to teach her. But when I jumped in and pointed out it was probably better if she at least knew the basics, he relented. It took a slightly contrived 'what-if' scenario where Junpei might end up under some magic user's mind control (to which Ritsuko sniped quietly that Junpei didn't have a mind to control.) and would need Ritsuko to at least have enough knowledge to fight back if it came down to that.

He emphasized loudly to her several times that the only thing she should be using any martial arts for would be to get an opening so she could run away and get him.

The lesson?

How to correctly punch without destroying your hand. How useful... I had to use my opposite hand to follow the lesson.

"It's very important!" Junpei continued as he demonstrated. "That when throwing a punch, you have correct placement of your fingers. Never, EVER tuck your thumb inside your hand if you don't want it crushed."

Junpei tucked his thumb in, and I nodded mutely. I'd seen this before in basic. Don't put your thumb inside your fist. The moment you strike something it's effectively inside a vice. CRUNCH. There goes your thumb. Have a nice day.

"Most styles will teach you to tuck it off to the side," Junpei continued, showing the two girls. "One derivative however places the thumb on top."

Junpei rotated his thumb to place it on the top of his fist, pressed against the second knuckle of his index finger.

"You might find this variation useful," he pointed at me. "It adds a little strength to the fist in that position. Which is useful because the goal of getting a good punch in is to connect with the knuckles on the first two fingers first. With the metal claws on that glove of yours, having the thumb tucked on top will line that claw up with your punch like a sharp spike. Which should really help to drive home the point."

Damn puns...

"Keep a natural twist to the arm," Junpei kept on rolling. "Your fist should be vertical, but twisted slightly inwards. And when punching, remember this. Out like an arrow, in like your opponent's on FIRE. Kitty-"

Junpei pointed at Luna.

"Tell me why."

Luna blinked, not expecting to be quizzed.

"Uh..." she began. "So nobody can grab your hand?"

Junpei cocked his head to the side.

"I was going to say, so you can throw another punch." he shrugged. "But that'll do."

Figures the answer Junpei would be looking for would be the most aggressive.

The fighter continued to explain the mechanics of a good punch. The power bind the blow comes from the body, not the arm. You put your mass bind a punch, and it becomes devastating. But it doesn't end there. Putting your mass behind a punch requires good contact with the ground to brace your stance. A good punch starts in the feet. Pushing off with the back leg as you throw a blow almost guarantees that everything you have will channel into those contacting knuckles.

As a rule I had picked up a long time ago that Junpei reaffirmed: You don't punch your target; you punch BEHIND your target. Through it...

Luna seemed a bit surprised about that. But Ritsuko quickly caught on and explained that the intent of punching through and behind a target ensures that you will impart all of your force into the strike before you begin to draw your arm back.

Junpei then proceeded to explain and walk us through six variations of punch. Straight, jab, cross, hook, uppercut, and twist...

The entire routine lasted an hour as he coached and corrected Luna, warned Ritsuko about a dozen more times that the only thing she should do with a punch is use it to break for it. And reminded me that no matter how strong someone was, poor footing would sap a punch of most of its force.

Finally, he decided that we had the concept down well enough that he called a halt. He spotted Celcia and Airi coming back up the road from a town in the distance and wanted to break for lunch early. That was, until Celcia shook her head.

"I'm afraid we can't," the Pandafied elf commented. "We finished off what we had at breakfast."

"And from the looks of local prices," Airi continued. "We're going to have to get odd jobs."

"Not again," Ritsuko moaned. "That stupid burger job had me considering bringing Mike to work. I wanted to kill every one in the drive through. AND THIS WORLD DOESN'T EVEN HAVE CARS!"

"It can't be helped," Airi near lectured the younger girl. "I didn't expect the scare we caused to have such an adverse effect on the local economy."

"What scare?" I asked. "I hope it's not my fault. I've got enough problems as it is."

"Oh," Airi smirked. "Don't worry. It was because of the fires in the fields when Celcia launched the decoy operation. There wasn't much damage, but apparently it gave people the impression that we were going to go around burning food crops in the area. Someone probably went and spread rumors looking for a bit of a profit."

"Scare mongering," I grumbled. "Sounds like assholes."

"Indeed," the actress shrugged. "We're used to it though. Kind of goes with the territory of Those Who Hunt Elves."

"So we're- You're broke," I corrected myself.

"We're always broke," Junpei grumbled. "Seems that we can't ever catch a break. And when we do, we blow it."

An actress, a teenager, and a moron... Not exactly the pinnacle of sound financial investment if you ask me. If 'Those Who Hunt Elves' happened to include an accountant, maybe this wouldn't happen to them.

Still...

"So you haven't figured out a way to make some easy cash with YOUR combined talents?" I asked with a touch of chagrin. You've got to be kidding me. Even after all this time, they can't put their talents to commercial use?

"Those Get Rich Quick schemes never work," Ritsuko pouted. "Only an idiot would try them."

"Yeah," Junpei voiced in. "I tried a few things to make some quick cash... Didn't work."

Silence.

"You're not thinking like people from another world," I frowned. I can't believe Junpei walked into that one. I mean I can, but even he should have noticed. "Surely with all the stuff you've got, you could make a quick buck."

And then I glanced at Piichi... OH YEAH!

"Hold on," I turned and did my best to one-arm my way up onto Mike while the other three watched. Junpei finally got fed up with my struggling and gave me a helpful boost.

"Thanks," I nodded before hauling the hatch open.

A few seconds looking around inside the depths of the tank and I found what I was looking for. When I emerged, I threw a half-used roll of toilet paper at Junpei.

"What is?" he began. Luna simply backed away looking a touch grossed out.

"How much is that worth?" I asked. The moment I said that, Airi's composure completely broke and she slapped herself in the face. Somebody knows where I'm going with this.

"Uh... Crap," he commented cluelessly.

"Bad puns aside," I turned to Celcia. "Celcia, who are the only people who use that soft rolled paper?"

Celcia blinked at the question.

"Well," she began. "The only ones who use it are the royalty, and the rich..."

She stopped and her mouth fell open.

"It's worth a fortune," Ritsuko blinked.

"Exactly," I smirked. "If you sell it..."

"We'd be rich," Airi nodded as she removed her hand from her face. "I can't believe I overlooked that."

"It gets better," I laughed, then pointed at Piichi. "You're a rolling toilet paper manufacturing plant."

There was a long, exaggerated silence where I did my best to keep from laughing my ass off.

"So this animal's crap is worth a crap-load of money?" Junpei asked, holding up the squeezebly soft roll.

I nodded with a huge shit-eating grin from the top of Mike's turret.

"Dimensional Economics One-Oh-One," I began. "Everything on you is either worthless, or priceless."

Those Who Hunt Elves stared back, thunderstruck. In retrospect, that sounded awesomely wise.

I am SO keeping that one-liner.