"Okay, Nyx, so to throw good punches here's what you gotta do. You're right-handed, right?"
"Yeah," I nodded at Murray, who had recently become my very enthusiastic fighting teacher. I wasn't sure what right/left-handedness had to do with fighting, but I decided to not question it; Murray knew what he was doing.
"Okay, so turn your left side towards your opponent, then. Not a lot, just a little. And then lean back on your right leg for stability," Murray instructed, standing beside me and doing exactly that as an example.
"Alright..." I said, rotating to the side and leaning on my right leg like instructed.
"Now put your dukes up! Left hand up near your eye, and right striking hand by your chin," Murray demonstrated this next step as well, and very enthusiastically at that. He was probably the most cheerful fighting teacher in the whole world.
I did as told, looking over to Murray to silently ask if I was doing this right. Fighting very much put me out of my element; It was clear to everyone that I had no idea how to. And I was pretty sure that learning was going to be tough, but I was willing to deal with it.
I had committed myself to this, and damn if I wasn't gonna do it right. I was clearly going to need to know how to fight at least semi-effectively. Especially if more of Contessa's henchmen were going to be involved...
"Yeah, just like that!" Murray commended me for getting it right so far. "Now, don't tuck your thumbs into your fist, that'll just break 'em. Wrap your thumbs around your other fingers. And make sure to punch with the part of your fingers between the first two knuckles, for maximum kickass-ness!"
Again, I did as instructed. So far, the whole posture and pose thing was pretty easy. But as soon as we got to the actual fighting, I was prepared for things to take a nasty turn.
"Great! Now, if you wanna throw a good punch, you gotta lean into it with your lower body just as much as your upper. Step into your punches and launch your fist straight at your foes!" Murray explained, throwing a few punches at the air as an example. "Keep your arm straight; Just aim right for 'em!"
Yeah, here it was. The part where I figured things would go a bit wrong. Maybe I knew how to do this in practice, but I probably wouldn't be strong enough to put up an actual fight, would I? Regardless, I followed Murray's example, albeit with more hesitation and less power.
"Yeah, awesome! Though you wanna put more oomph into it! You're beating up bad guys, you gotta knock 'em down for the count!" Murray advised, then tapped his chin thoughtfully. "I think there's a punching bag in the van, lemme go get it!"
And then he was off, searching for his 'bad guy' analog. I relaxed my posture as I watched him go, and brushed my hair out of my face. Probably should have found a hairclip or something...
I jumped a bit at the voice that came from behind me, before remembering that Murray and I weren't alone. "Jesus, Sly, I almost forgot you were here,"
The raccoon laughed from where he perched backwards on a chair. "Yeah, I'm good at that,"
"Yes. Yes you are," I replied, sighing as I calmed down from that little scare. "But I guess I'm having fun? Haven't broken anything yet,"
"Let's hope it stays that way. If you break something other than your enemy, you might be doing it wrong," Sly said, giving me one of those sarcastic smirks that he's so fond of.
"Yes, I am very aware of that, Sly. Thank you," I replied sarcastically, smirking back at the raccoon.
Sly shrugged. "Just making sure,"
"Found it!" and then Murray was bounding back into the room, carrying a beat-up punching bag over his shoulder (How I missed seeing that in the van I'll never know). He proceeded to hang it from a hook on the ceiling. "Okay, Nyx, you ready? Show me what you got!"
"Yeah, I guess so," I sighed, getting back into proper stance. Okay, had to give this my best shot, right?
"Remember; Don't break anything," and there was another sarcastic comment from Sly...
"Thanks for the reminder, Sly," I replied dryly. I then took a breath, and threw the hardest punch I felt I could manage at the punching bag.
"That was great!" was Murray's response. "And you're only gonna get better!"
"Well, I certainly hope so," I replied. "Would suck to learn something and never get any better,"
"Which you will! Mark my words!" Murray responded. At least one of us wholeheartedly believed that.
I nodded. "Thanks. I'm gonna try to remember that,"
Murray smiled at me, and then dove into the next section of his lesson. "Alright, so now you know how to throw a punch. But where do you hit? You go for the soft spots! The nose, the ribs, the throat, stuff where bones aren't all in the way!"
"Don't forget manhood if you're fighting a guy. That'll definitely take him down," Sly chimed in from his perch.
"Wow, didn't know that you condone fighting dirty, Sly," I laughed.
Sly shrugged. "Hey, if it gets you out of a fight alive,"
"Yeah, that'll work if you've gotta, but that's a cheap move!" Murray said, waving it off with his hand. "If you've gotta go below the belt, a kick to the shins will work, too,"
"Okay, I think I got all that," I said slowly. "Ribs, nose, shins, throat, and if absolutely necessary; Kick him where the sun don't shine?"
"Yeah, you got it!" Murray replied. "And don't forget to make super quick jabs at your foe. Make 'em quick, but make 'em strong!"
I nodded again. "Quick and strong, got it,"
"And don't forget your head! If you smash your forehead against a guy's nose, that's gonna hurt a lot!" Murray added.
"Gives a new meaning to using your head I guess," I said. "Let's hope my opponents aren't five miles taller than me,"
"Even if they are, a few good body blows should bring 'em down so you can reach," Murray suggested. Meanwhile, Sly was busy laughing at my 'using your head' joke.
"M'kay, note taken. What's next?" I asked.
"I'm glad you asked! Fights aren't gonna stay in one place, right? So you gotta keep moving! Duck and weave, and keep moving all around your foe; Make him guess at what's coming next!"
"Hey, that might be the easiest part!" I gleefully decided. "I'm a cat, we're meant to be quick,"
"Yeah! Natural skill!" Murray excitedly agreed. "Now, you know the basics, now use 'em! Let the punching bag have it!"
Feeling a bit more confident about this idea, I moved back into fighting stance, and started giving the punching bag the best beating that I could. It probably wouldn't be much, but I was at least determined to give it my best.
"There you go!" Murray cheered as I assaulted the punching bag. "Now move around! Get 'em from all angles!"
Oh yeah, had to move around, fights don't stay stationary. I did as instructed, and began darting from side to side, still throwing punches; Low to high and everywhere in between.
"Alright, you've got it! Now throw some kicks in there!" Murray advised.
So I did, I gave the punching bag a low sweep to the left, and then punched it back to the right. And then I kicked it head on, which would have send a person tumbling back.
And then I had to stop for air. Yeah, I'm not the most in-shape person you'll ever meet. I was seriously wondering how Murray kept up with someone like Sly.
I brushed my hair out of my eyes again, and wiped the sweat off my face. I pushed my glasses back up onto my nose, and tried really hard to catch my breath. Fighting is hard, I decided then. Really, really hard. Even when it's just a punching bag, keeping up stamina and going long enough to actually win a fight was not easy.
"You okay?" Murray asked, placing a large hand on my shoulder.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm good," I panted. "Just let me catch my breath,"
"Take your time, you're doing great!" Murray said, lightly clapping me on the back.
"Yeah, but punching bags don't punch back," I laughed. I may have been laughing about it, but I was indeed worried about how I'd fare again another person who was actually fighting back.
"That's why I'm here,"
I looked up increduously as I watched Sly get up and cross over into our little fighting ring. He'd left his cane over by his perch, too...
"You're not serious?" I demanded.
"'Course I am. Figured it'd be more fair to pit you against someone a bit more your own size," Sly replied, grinning at me.
"But. But I. I can't fight you, Sly! You're one of my best friends, I can't just go all out and fight you!" I complained.
"Sure you can. I can take a hit, trust me. I've been electrocuted, remember?" Sly said. "Now c'mon, show me what you've got,"
And then Sly did one of those cocky 'bring it on' hand flaps that you see in movies all the time. I sighed. "Alright, fine. But only because you're too cocky for your own good,"
"See? You've already got a reason to wanna win," Sly replied, grinning and moving into his fighting stance. "Come at me,"
I sighed again and fell into stance as well. Okay, this was a real fight now. I didn't want to hurt Sly somehow, but I needed to learn how to fight against an actual person who wouldn't severely injure me if I lost.
Sly raised an eyebrow, clearly waiting for me to throw the first punch. Ladies first, right? I took a quick inventory of the raccoon; His stance was rather low, as he was used to fighting while also being stealthy. Which made anything other than his face hard to aim at...
Deciding to just go for it, I aimed a quick jab at Sly's face, making sure to not put too much power behind it. This was just a sparring match, right? We weren't meant to actually hurt each other.
But Sly apparently wanted to make it incredibly hard for me to just land one hit. As soon as I moved, so did he, dancing around my fist like it was nothing.
"Be prepared for everything," Sly purred. "Did you expect me to stay in one place?"
And then there was something sweeping my legs out from underneath me, and I was laying on the floor in literally no time flat. I hadn't been expecting that at all...
"You alright?" Sly moved to stand in front of me, offering me a hand up.
"Yeah, I'm fine," I replied as I gave him my hand and let him pull me up. My butt hurt some from where I'd landed on the floor, but I was otherwise fine.
"Good to know that you can take a hit. Figured that dropping you to the floor was better than knocking you out," Sly replied.
"And they say that chivalry is dead," I jested, raising an eyebrow.
Sly shrugged, grinning. And then he did something that I did not expect Sly to do, considering what he'd just said. It took me a moment to process the action and the pain, but then I realized what he'd done right before my knees hit the floor.
He'd sucker punched me. The dirty little...
I couldn't find the words to finish that thought as I tried to catch my breath. Right, so he'd dropped me on my ass to make sure I could take a sucker punch? Man, what a gentleman? I knew that learning to take a hit was part of the training thing but geez, Sly. I couldn't help but be a bit mad at him.
As I wheezed and tried to catch my breath, Sly knelt down to be eye-level with me. "Remember; Be prepared for everything, Nyx. When you're out there fighting, it might not be a fist coming at you,"
Right, it might be a knife or a gun. "Yeah, I knew that. But damnit, Sly, was that necessary?" I panted, looking up at the raccoon through my bangs. Man, my hair was getting long, I definitely needed hair clips...
"Sorry," Sly replied softly, clearly meaning the sentiment. "But experience is the best teacher, they say,"
Then he was offering me a hand up again. I sighed and took it, letting him pull me back to my feet. My abdomen still hurt from where he'd hit me, but I figured I couldn't lay on the floor forever. Had to learn to take a hit and keep going. I'd barrelled through that window and kept going, right? Just had to apply that to other stuff.
At least Sly hadn't punched me as hard as he could have. I'd seen him fight before, and I knew that he could put more power behind a punch than that. Murray might be their strongman, but Sly is a force of his own. I'd seen him take out dudes twice his size with one sweep of that cane.
And I needed to learn how to effectively do the same thing.
In the moments between Sly pulling me up, and our hands disconnecting, a devious idea crossed my mind. And before I could change my mind, I decided to go for it. As Sly opened his mouth to say something, I very quickly landed a punch to his ribs, catching him somewhat off-guard.
I then drove my heel into his shin, strafed around him as he made an attempt to hit back, and tried swiping his legs out from under him like he had done to me. It worked, partially, causing him to lose his balence and drop to one knee.
But that's where my good luck ended. Before I could even think of what to do next, Sly had somehow rotated from his one-knee position, to yet again sweep my legs out from under me with the other of his.
I collided with the ground again, though I was sort of expecting it this time. I looked up at Sly with a look that was just barely too mild to be called a glare.
Sly pulled himself up off the floor, and I followed suit. I was a bit miffed by his little tricks, but at least I was learning how he fights. I'd win one day if I learned enough, right?
Sly on the other hand, was grinning at me. "Nice work. You're learning,"
"Good to know I'm doing something right," I replied, also smiling even though I was still a little angry with him. But one can't stay angry at Sly for long, I'd learned.
Sly smirked. "Wanna go again?"
"Yeah, I think I'm getting the hang of this," I replied.
A short kick to Sly's left leg had him off balence and open for attacking, so I darted around him to sweep the other leg out from under him. He went down, but very quickly sprang back up a bit to try doing a low sweep-kick.
I saw this coming, of course, and had already moved out of the way. No sooner than his leg had cleared me, I swung mine into his shoulders, toppling him over again. From here, I tackled him, pinning him to the floor. "Do I win yet?"
Sly smirked that all-too-familiar cocky smirk. "Not yet,"
And then I was being flipped over Sly's head, and onto my back. The landing had me dazed for a second, but despite it I rolled back onto my feet as quickly as I could. A punch to my shoulder almost had me down again, but I managed to duck and regain my balence before Sly could try anything else.
I used a high sweeping kick to deflect the next punch aimed at me, and tried to aim a quick punch at Sly's face. Unfortunately, he caught it. I punched again with my other fist, but that was caught, too.
"Looks like we've reached an impasse," Sly purred.
I glared at him for a short moment, before an idea hit me. "Is that another French word I don't know?"
And then I ducked underneath his arms, freeing mine in the process, and headbutted him in the chest. I jumped back afterwards, expecting the punch that he aimed at me. Before he could entirely reevaluate where I was, I leaped forwards again, throwing all my weight onto his upper body, which sent both of us tumbling to the ground.
We grappled for a moment, before Sly ended up on top, grinning at me. "We've got to stop meeting like this, you know,"
I smiled back. "Agreed,"
And then I'd given him a taste of his own medicine, and flipped him off of me. He hit the wall behind us, and I quickly sprang back to my feet to spin and face him again.
However, he didn't make any move to fight back after he got up onto his feet again. Instead, he started laughing, and brushed his hair away from his eyes. I raised an eyebrow, wholeheartedly expecting this to be another one of Sly's dirty tricks.
"You learn fast," Sly said, entirely relaxing his posture, telling me that this fight was over. "Good job,"
"Does this mean I finally win?" I asked, pushing my glasses back up to their proper place.
Sly approached me and clapped me on the shoulder. "Yes, it does. Congrats, after four weeks you finally beat me into submission,"
"Well, I wouldn't say 'submission'," I corrected him. "You're still conscious, aren't you?"
"Yeah, figured I'd give up and let you win before it came to one of us knocking out the other," Sly shrugged.
"Oh, so you let me win?" I asked, crossing my arms in mock annoyance.
"I have no doubt that you would have won anyways," Sly assured me, fluffing up my hair with his hand.
I swatted his hand away, making an embarassing squeaking noise. My hair was enough of a mess, I certainly didn't need his help. "Are you sure about that?"
"Mhm. You can ask Murray for the final verdict, but I say you're ready," Sly said, smiling warmly at me.
I heaved a sigh and smiled wide. "I honestly thought I'd never get to hear that,"
"Yeah, well, don't get too cocky, okay? You've still got more to learn before you're allowed to do that. You got lucky in the evidence lockup, and luck can't last forever," Sly informed me, still smiling but still being serious about what he was saying.
"Trust me Sly, I know," I replied. "This job is all about skill, and lots of it,"
Sly nodded. "Definitely. And it's gonna take time to build up experience, but you're a fast learner, I'm sure you'll get used to it in no time,"