When Richard was hanging out with Elena and Jot, nothing was different. Everything was the same, but it felt different. Not entirely different, but knowing that someone was a princess does have some effect on your perceptions about them. Richard knew Elena was a princess, although he couldn’t have proved it. However, he felt that the Noxian hadn’t been wrong about that. He just seemed to be a terrible person.
Elena had always felt kind of like a princess. She’d been off by herself, and she acted very proper and polite. Richard also thought she was beautiful, which any good princess should be. Well, nobody would say otherwise about a princess, anyway. However, Elena also felt like a normal person. Although she didn’t enjoy much of popular culture, neither did Richard. She enjoyed reading books, which was likely a more “appropriate” pastime. Still, she ate food like a normal person, and appeared to have feelings and everything that a “normal” person could be said to have.
Richard was sitting in the cafeteria looking contemplative. Jot and Elena were discussing something about one of their classes. Richard was in the class too, of course, but he didn’t seem to be paying attention. Hiroshi had started hanging out with the group, at least sometimes. Richard liked him, whether he was a really bad ninja or was just crazy.
Then, mostly out of nowhere, Richard spoke up. “Jot. Can you teach me?”
Jot looked at him seriously. “Well, I can try, but don’t you already know this?”
“Huh?” Richard blinked and thought for a second. “Oh, yeah. I do. I meant to fight.”
“You still want to me to teach you martial arts?”
“Yeah, I think it would be a good idea.”
“I can,” Jot paused for a bit, “But why don’t you ask your dad?”
Hiroshi raised his eyebrows, “Actually-” he instantly cut himself off, “Nevermind.”
Jot thought for a moment. “Your father seems to know many people. He should know somebody who can teach you. Also…”
“Also what?” Richard asked.
“They’d be human.”
Richard actually looked taken aback at this comment. “Oh yeah… right.” Richard sat in silence for a while longer. Then he sighed. “Maybe… I don’t want to be human anymore.”
Jot crossed his arms and tilted his head. “Oh?”
“It’s just… being human seems overrated. I mean, I’ve almost died twice now.” His eyes flickered towards Elena for a second. “If I wasn’t human, it probably wouldn’t have been so close. I mean, I only survived by not really being human anyway.”
Jot thought for a while, then responded. “I think you should stay human.”
“It feels right.” Jot nodded, as if that was all he had to say on the matter.
Finally, Elena chimed in. “You know, he doesn’t have to stop being human to take on some traits he wants, right?” She started marking things off on her fingers. “Senses, antibody production, maybe other things. Plus, it’s not like you’ve reached the limit of human potential yet. There’s no need to rush into change.”
Richard thought this over for a little longer. “Well, you guys are probably right. However… I’d still like to learn from Jot, if I can.”
“Hmm…” Jot scratched at his chin in a thinking gesture he had picked up from Richard.
“You can’t? Or… are you not allowed to teach a human?”
Jot looked at Richard for a bit more, then said, “Well, it should work out. It’s not going to be easy though. Your muscles will need… a lot of work. After that, we’ll see how it goes.”
Richard clapped one hand onto his bicep. “Hey, I’m a lot stronger than I used to be! Not that I was particularly strong before… Well, thanks, Jot.”
Hiroshi suddenly spoke up, “Hey, can you teach me too?”
Jot frowned in thought for a moment.
“Actually, I can just be his sparring partner. I don’t think I have the build for Xevaronian styles. At least my physique should be closer to his than a Xevaronian.”
Jot looked over Hiroshi carefully, then nodded. “You should do fine.”
For the first few days, training for Richard consisted of him performing exercises until he collapsed. Sure, in 1.5 standard gravities, Richard had to work much harder than he was used to for the majority of his life. Richard’s muscle had increased slightly since he’d come to Maropa, but not that much. His training was a rather pathetic sight. Since he trained in the Xevaronian Martial Arts Association’s gym, he almost expected to be laughed at by the Xevaronians there. Instead, they seemed to ignore him, although not in a hurtful way. Perhaps they would have laughed at a Xevaronian for such weakness, but it was expected of a human, so there was no shame to be had. That was what Richard felt, anyway, though their expressions were inscrutable.
Hiroshi, on the other hand, kept up with Richard without looking tired. So much for being closer to Richard in physique… Except, of course, the Xevaronians were just that superior in build.
When the next day arrived, however, Richard was ready to try again. He never felt tired from the day before, and showed an improvement every day. Not much, but another lap or a few more push ups. Jot, who was closely monitoring Richard’s progress, noticed this.
“Richard. Your muscles aren’t tired the next day?”
“Nope. I feel just fine the next day.”
“What do you mean?”
“When do you feel better? Morning? After breakfast?”
“Umm… after dinner? I mean, I guess I still feel tired then, but my muscles don’t hurt. It’s really painful before then.”
Jot smiled in an exaggerated manner. “Then, I think we can push you a bit harder.”
Richard almost ran away right then. How could he do any more than going until he collapsed? However, he trusted that Jot didn’t intend to cripple him. Maybe not his knowledge of human limits, but certainly Jot’s intent.
From then on, whenever Richard collapsed from exhaustion, Richard was given something by Jot: a Cal Pal. After he ate one of those, he could continue for a while longer. However, after that he was truly exhausted, and didn’t recover until morning. Out of curiosity, Richard read the label on a Cal Pal, and was surprised on what he saw there. It was basically a bar of sugar, fat, and protein. Calories. He discovered why the bars felt so heavy, as well. Inside a single bar there were 3000 Calories. More than a day’s worth of food… for normal humans. Obviously, Richard didn’t fit on that list based on what he ate.
Richard soon discovered that Jot as a teacher, while still his friend, was a much more serious and intimidating person. He never let Richard quit before his actual limits, and he was good at pushing him just a bit further than he’d ever thought he could go.
After two weeks of this, Richard was declared “fit enough for the basics”. This was his second chance to run for his life. For some reason, he didn’t take it.