Of Space and Bachelor’s Degrees Chapter 65

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LXV

Richard found that exercising his body was fun. He wouldn’t want it to be his only source of fun, but he had come to enjoy it as time went on. Even the pain that came from straining muscles, while not pleasant, was tolerable. Compared to the pain of real injuries… or Noxian poison, it was really very little. He could actually tell he was getting tougher, not just mentally but physically. His body was better able to resist damage… and that was good if something he couldn’t fight tried to kill him. Not that something falling on him was actually doing it of any volition of its own, but the point remained. Richard’s body wouldn’t stop a knife- though his muscle might make it cut or stab less deeply- but his skin was now tough enough to resist paper cuts. He hadn’t tried much more than that, because he wasn’t interested in self harm, even for the sake of research.

There were a few new faces around. It was a new year, after all. Though the galaxy was a big place, it was also filled with a similarly large number of people. Maropa University was prestigious enough to attract people from many different places, and Xevaronians were of course among them.

Today, there was one more face Richard didn’t recognize. Perhaps he was a latecomer, joining the school late… or just wasn’t interested in Martial Arts immediately. However, the second idea was quickly discarded. Although all Xevaronians were strong, Richard could tell which ones were “muscular” and which ones were not. Their change in body definition wasn’t as significant visually as humans, but it was still there. This man was definitely one of the muscular ones, so perhaps he had just been a bit slower with his intent to join.

The man looked older. Jot and the other Xevaronians were older than Richard, but that really just put them at the level of being full adults instead of just barely being adults. This man seemed to be closer to middle aged- for a Xevaronian, even. There was nothing wrong with that, but it stood out.

In addition to his lateness and age, Richard felt something else. He wasn’t sure what it was, but he had a strange expression when he looked at Richard. Richard couldn’t exactly place it. The man approached Richard. “Let us spar.” His voice was gruff, and his request was abrupt. Still, Richard had no reason to refuse.

There wasn’t any particular space reserved for sparring. The entirety of the gym’s floor was padded, thus there could be many spars going on in parallel. The two of them just found an unoccupied area, not too close to anyone else. The spar started off in a normal manner. Richard and the Xevaronian exchanged a few testing blows, and feints. Though Richard wasn’t as powerful as a Xevaronian, he was just as quick as some of them. As his training had advanced, he had actually become a useful sparring partner, instead of the other sparring with him just for his own benefit.

As they sparred, the man threw out an unexpectedly fast punch. It struck Richard directly in the ribcage, knocking him onto his back. The punch contained more power than the Ulph that had previously hit Richard… but Richard was both stronger and more prepared than that time. He jumped back with the blow, so he merely had his breath knocked out of him instead of most of his ribs broken.

Richard knew it would take him more than a few moments to recover. The man walked over to Richard, but instead of offering a hand to help him up, he stomped on Richard’s stomach. There was nothing Richard could do but somehow tense his stomach muscles, hoping to blunt the impact. He couldn’t even roll to the side. An overwhelming pain struck him, and as his body drifted into unconsciousness Richard finally recognized the expression- unbridled hostility. Richard wondered why.

As Richard found his physical body unconscious, he could only watch as another stomp headed down, and this one would likely do even worse damage to his internal organs than would already be done. Richard almost wished there wasn’t a part of him that could still be conscious in this case so that he didn’t have to watch his own death. At least it didn’t hurt. However, his energy body was conscious, so he could see Hiroshi grab him and pull him out of the way. That was good, Richard wanted his internal organs to stay both internal and in relatively the same shape… or exactly the same shape, if he could. A number of other Xevaronians were rushing over to help as well.

Richard couldn’t really hear with the energy part of him, at least not in the way ears did. That said, he could still feel the vibrations of sound, to some degree. Thus, when he felt his body trembling, he knew there was shouting. Very loud shouting. Ah, that was Jot.

—–

“WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?” Jot shouted with a force that caused one of the Xevaronians standing next to him to unconsciously back away, even though he wasn’t the one being yelled at.

The man turned to face Jot. “Just doing some cleanup.”

Jot strode angrily forward, and though he was no longer shouting, his words carried just as much force. “Your actions are entirely inappropriate for a spar with a brother. Explain yourself or be expelled from the Association.”

The man shook his head. “Humans can’t be brothers in the association. They are weak, as you see.”

“Oh?” Jot’s voice, which usually contained little trace of emotion, grew icy. “In that case, you are trying to commit murder? In that case, you are both expelled and under arrest.”

“You are the ‘master’ here? Hmph, well not anymore I suppose. I am taking over here. Third tier master. In fact, you are the one who will be expelled for speaking to me like that, and this human… I suppose we can just toss him out the door.”

Jot shook his head. “You come in here and disrespect the rules of the Association, then want to use the rules to kick me out? Well, actually, I do follow the rules. It’s too bad you don’t know them. I didn’t cede my position to you, and you came to my gym. I am well within my rights to expel you if I want to. If you want the authority to expel me, you’ll just have to take it.”

“I even gave you an easy way out. Fine, I officially challenge you for leadership of this place.”

Jot grinned in response, but in a manner that was completely without mirth.

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