Richard had his head on his empty tray. Meals were one of his few breaks… and he didn’t feel like wasting the energy to sit up straight.
Elena tilted her head and looked at him. “Is it really that bad?”
Susan was the one who answered, without even lifting her head from her own tray a few seats over. “Uuuughhh.” That wasn’t a particularly articulate response, but it got the point across.
Anna herself was actually eating nearby. Richard was certain she was doing at least as much as them, but she didn’t seem tired at all. “I don’t want my son and my niece to die young. This is the best for them.”
“Only if your training doesn’t kill us,” Richard complained from his tray.
“Don’t be silly, you won’t die. I know what you can handle.”
Elena just shook her head. “I don’t think I could handle anything like that. I’ll just stay on campus and only occasionally travel out with guards, thanks.” Not that her guards would let her leave campus without a good reason, since she’d been attacked. Even if she wasn’t the target, and was uninjured, she wasn’t allowed to leave. She recognized the wisdom in that… and she was interested in continuing her focus on her studies anyway.
Jot just shrugged. “I could probably use some more long range combat training myself… though really I’d just want to survive until I got into short range combat.”
Soon it was time to go to class, and after that Richard and Susan would have more training.
Because Richard wasn’t training for the military, though the training itself was harsh, it allowed him some leeway for how to progress. Thus, he tried different things. Some of them didn’t work, and some did- but he was informed that they would not work in the future. Any sort of reckless maneuver didn’t usually work, though perhaps he didn’t have the skill to pull it off. He wasn’t exactly constrained by normal human limits, but he couldn’t really say he was beyond them yet either. Susan and Richard tried one tactic where one of them was a distraction while the other moved to a better position. Though that could work, it became less useful against more opponents, when it was harder to pin them down with just one person, and there were more people to watch for changes in position. If they were noticed, the one who was changing position might get shot… and the one serving as the distraction and providing covering fire was more vulnerable anyway.
There were tactics that worked, and Richard came up with his favorite just by playing to his strengths. He had been thinking about what he could do. There were so many different guns, and while he could often hit a target with a variety of them, he didn’t feel like he was particularly skilled in the area of marksmanship. He put in the effort, but the results weren’t particularly impressive. At close range, Richard was much more effective. That was natural, but it went beyond what was expected from a change in distance. Richard knew why it was very quickly. His extra senses from his energy body didn’t cover a very large distance, but when people were within the effective range, he had a much better grasp of their position. This was helpful not only for hitting them, but for getting cover from their shots, and just locating them in general.
Because closer combat was to his advantage, Richard took it even further. The first time he did, he was in a match against Susan. He moved through the cover carefully, approaching close to her. As he continued to get close, she was taking cover behind something about the size of a shipping container. He found himself on the other side. Richard was quite impressed with how good she was at hearing him approach, and her reflexes were getting better every day. If he came around the corner, he foresaw a situation where he aimed to shoot her, but she dodged and got him instead. Even if he just leaned his torso or an arm around, she was accurate enough that he didn’t feel like he had good odds- at least not as good as he wanted. While getting shot in the training gear wasn’t even close to the worse pain Richard had experienced, that doesn’t mean he wanted to invite more. Even so, he still rounded the corner… but at a speed that was much faster than she could get an accurate shot on him. He wasn’t any better off in that category, but that didn’t matter. She moved, a predictable action if not direction, and shot at Richard… or at least in his general direction. He managed to stay well out of her firing arc in the second or so it took him to reach her, and then he grabbed and disarmed her of her weapon.
After that incident, Richard would have expected her to complain that it wasn’t fair. It really wasn’t. However, she didn’t complain. Richard realised that, though she had been a timid girl when they first met, that didn’t mean she didn’t have courage or drive. She had just been completely unsure of how to react to a normal world. After having been thrust into combat training, she never once complained that it was unfair, even when it clearly was. They often went up against teams much bigger than their, if they even had a team. Just as often, though slightly decreasing as time went on, they lost such altercations miserably. Even worse was when they went up against Anna, because then they always lost miserably. That wasn’t fair… but she didn’t complain. So, when Susan became more adept at keeping Richard further away where she was more comfortable, he couldn’t complain about that either.
During Richard’s training with his mother she was an opponent, teacher, and occasionally something like a commander. The first one was mostly a lesson in despair. The second one was just fine, and the third one he appreciated greatly, because when she called out commands or relayed information about enemy positions, she was quite clear.
In the end, though, Richard spent a lot of time training with his mother… but none with his father. That was strange, because he had come to understand that his father was quite capable in combat as well. When he asked his mother about it, the answer was simple. “Training with him would provide no benefit for any foreseeable combat situation. Maybe at a later time, but you wouldn’t learn anything with him as an opponent. Meanwhile, I am much more knowledgeable about weaponry and tactics, in both practical and theoretical terms.”
“I see. I’d still like to go against him at least once, I think.”
“That can be arranged,” Gilbert smiled. “Though it would be best to do so when you’re fresh, and not exhausted like right now.”
“I’m not sure if I’ll ever not be exhausted again. Also, when did you get here?”
“When did I get here? Well, maybe I was always here, watching. Or maybe, I came just now.” He pulled out bags from behind his back. “Actually I just got here now, with dinner. Eat up.”
Richard did so, while he wondered what to expect from a match of sorts with his father. He didn’t really know, except him appearing from nowhere rather unexpectedly. Except, if he was anticipating it, would it really be unexpected?