The moment would soon be coming, and Ren knew it. After learning the important basic points, he would soon be ready for the offensive and defensive programs. He needed to be ready, and as soon as possible. Mostly for himself, because he was not sure when he would meet HER again.
He maintained the balance of his electric programs while pressing buttons on the cash register. Lan checked when he came for his afternoon coffee. Within two weeks he was able to balance the surges without thinking about it, while he was seated. During those two weeks Lan had also practiced Ren in delivering Single Blasts while seated, thus practicing power shifts and returns to balance.
Ren hated how slow Lan was going with him.
“Are these Straight Blasts the only thing I’m going to do?” he asked, already feeling bored.
“Of course not,” Lan assured him. “But this is where your distinction from me comes in. For the next few weeks, you’ll tell me what you learn from those notebooks I told you about.”
“The electric programmer before me,” Ren said.
Lan nodded. “After you tell me what you learned, we’ll practice it here, one encode at a time. Just the basic ones. You still need to go to advanced programming, after all.”
After mastering variations on the Straight Blast and the simplest of the electric program encodes, Lan stopped him from learning any others. Ren glared at him again.
“Stand up, Ren,” was all Lan said.
Still glowering, Ren grabbed his crutches and lifted himself to standing.
“Maintain balance,” Lan said.
Quite frankly the redhead no longer sounded like himself. Rather, he sounded like an imitation of a master, or something like that. That master’s voice made Ren obey, in spite of himself. He corrected the distribution of the electric program codes, grabbing well at his crutches to keep himself standing.
But just as Ren managed to stand well with balanced codes, Lan shot fireballs at his crutches, throwing them out a few meters away. Ren immediately dropped to his knees.
“Stand up, Ren.”
“Give me back my crutches, you crazy redheaded firestarter!” Ren blurted out, stuck on his knees and frantically searching for the crutches.
“Later,” Lan said, as he walked and retrieved the forearm crutches. “Stand up. You do know how, right?”
“Are you mocking me?”
“Not really. Do you want my help?” Lan offered a hand.
“No, thank you,” Ren snarled.
“Very well. At each change in movement toward standing, you’ll have to shift the balance of your electric programs. Make sure you don’t overdo it and use too much. Move slowly for now.”
Ren corrected his codes while on all fours.
“One leg up. Correct the balance.”
It was still a stable position that Ren quickly adjusted to.
“Other leg up. Keep arms on the ground to keep stable. Correct the balance.”
This was a less stable position that shifted balance quickly. Ren had to use more of the electric codes for this position. But in a rapid movement this would not be a position he would keep for a long time.
“Now lift yourself up to standing.”
Ren did so, with a quick surge of electric programs.
Ren evened out the distribution of electric programs.
Lan smiled and nodded as he walked around Ren. Then he strolled around the open field, Ren’s crutches in his hand, while Ren stood like an idiot in front of a shady tree.
Lan returned to Ren after around ten minutes of strolling around. “Are you tired?”
Ren was indeed tired, but was not going to admit it. “I’m fine,” he said.
Lan pushed him from behind and brought him back to his knees.
“Stand up, Ren. Unless you want to sit for a while.”
Ren growled but slowly lifted himself to standing again. He did know where Lan was going with this. It was just annoying. “Why, by all He controls, are you doing this for me?” he asked as he panted.
Lan shrugged. “Bei asked me to.” He placed the crutches at Ren’s feet.
Ren raised an eyebrow. “That can’t be the only reason.”
Lan turned his back on him, and placed his hands in his trouser pockets. “I owe Beika. A lot of things,” he said quietly.
Finally the day came when Ren greeted Soji good morning, standing up, without support from the crutches or the sofa or any chair. He challenged him to come toward him.
Without a word, the chief did come closer, and held his shoulders, pushing him backward. Ren managed to step back with one leg, keeping his balance. Soji swiped at his arms; Ren planted his feet and tried his best to defend but had trouble, for Soji would swipe again where he evaded. Soji dove to hit his abdomen but Ren swerved and barely managed to avoid it.
The chief ducked and dove and swung at his legs. Ren tripped and fell in a heap, falling back onto the sofa.
Ren blinked. When the guy said he was a former soldier, he wasn’t kidding. There was order and efficiency in the way he moved. Ren had seen Rowan kick and punch, but hers were a street-hardened style that was rough and furious. Soji’s movement were not like that; they were smooth, silent, and deadly.
“Wow, you’re good, sir,” he complimented.
Soji ignored it. “First, never let enemy attack feet. Major weak point. Never let them come close. Is only way you survive.”
That point was very obvious.
Actually, Ren was surprised to realize that he was not tired at all, despite standing and even stepping backward and forward. He did not feel the need to sleep off the early-morning exercise. He shook his head happily.
“Will be able to stand ten minutes?”
Ren scratched his head. He was not sure about that.
“Training useless if you cannot fight ten minutes,” Soji said intently.
Ren sighed and looked down at his weak legs. They would always weight him down. And yet, he still wanted to learn, to train, to see how far he could go. “But…but…”
“No worry, Sereno,” the chief grinned and sat down beside him. “You ready now.” He took up some nearby loose paper and a pencil, and drafted a training sequence.