“Hey! Max!” Justin called out, finding the cabin door unlocked as he let himself in. Seeing no one about, he shouted down the stairs, “You up yet? We’re gonna be making lunch before we go out again!”
When he received no answer, he headed down below while Shades started on the dishes. At the bottom of the steps, he saw the door to Max’s cabin hanging open, just like the bathroom door, revealing both rooms to be empty. Instead of Bandit cat-napping as usual, framed in the square of noonish sun, he spotted Max’s laser sword.
As he entered the tiny, cut-out space of floor not occupied by bed, he nearly tripped over Max’s boots.
For some reason he couldn’t quite place, this bothered him. I mean, he always used to run around in bare feet back in Paradise… but couldn’t recall ever seeing him set foot off the ship without wearing his boots. Not liking the idea of Max’s prized possession just lying around in a seaport like this, he put it in his coat pocket, to give to his friend later.
“Hey, Shades,” Justin told him as he came back up, “it looks like Max isn’t here.”
“Which means he left the door unlocked,” Shades muttered, shaking his head as he started cooking lunch. “I keep telling him we’re not in the Konas anymore…”
“He also left without his laser sword,” Justin pointed out.
“Maybe he did get tired of waiting for us, and headed out to the arena without us,” Shades replied, noting that some of the fruit he picked up yesterday was also missing. “After all, I heard they don’t allow guns in there, so maybe he thought it applied to all weapons.”
“Maybe…” Though in all the time Justin had known him, Max treated that blade as a personal treasure, though he had to admit it was still more possible he may have just forgotten it. “But he also forgot his boots.”
“You serious?” Shades looked up from his task for a moment, then said, “Perhaps he went in sandals instead. Though I didn’t hear anything about the fights being in bare feet, he may have heard different.”
“You mean he might actually be fighting, while we could be betting on him?”
“I didn’t say that,” Shades told him. “I just mean he might have at least considered the possibility of competing, that’s all. Besides, wherever he went, he took Bandit with him, so he should be alright. Then again, if he did go to the arena, they probably don’t allow animals, so he might be back sooner than he expected.”
“Or he could have just gone out for a walk.” Justin decided that perhaps he was just jumping at shadows, given how restless both he and Bandit seemed to get while they were out at sea.
“Most likely,” Shades concluded. “Either way, they’ll probably be back by the time we’re done eating. If they’re not, then we’ll go to the arena first, since he was so excited about going there before we leave. As it is, we’re going to miss most of the first and second tier matches… Guess we’ll have to take quality over quantity.”
After all, they had tried to go yesterday, but it seemed the arena was only open on certain days, so this would be their last chance, if they were planning to leave tomorrow morning.
“Sounds like a plan to me,” Justin agreed, “but I’m still taking my laser staff.”
“Probably a good idea,” Shades conceded, “as long as you keep it concealed. I’m told they have scanners that detect most types of guns, so we would have to stop by here to stash our own guns, even if we weren’t eating, as well. But still, going to and from, there’re still some pretty shady characters in this town.”
“You got that right,” Justin muttered, hiding his double-barrel power pistols behind the lounge cushions, where they would not be apparent to anyone who might break into the ship while they were away, but still quickly and easily accessible to anyone who knew where to find them in a pinch. Perhaps it was the prospect of being reduced to close-quarters combat if attacked, or perhaps all this talk about watching fights and studying techniques, but he found himself wondering, “Say Shades, would you mind if I ask you something about your fighting style?”
“I think you just did,” Shades answered, then, “Sure, I guess. Ask away.”
“Tell me,” Justin asked, “how the hell do you hit so hard anyway? I mean, Max I can see,” being one of the strongest people he’d ever met, “but…”
Justin cocked his head, not quite sure what his friend meant by that.
“Hmmm…” Shades thought for a moment, then asked, “If I were to punch you in the face, in a real fight, where do you think I’m aiming?”
“At my face, right?” Wondering if this was some kind of trick question.
“Not quite,” Shades explained, remembering when Master Al explained this principle years ago. “In a real fight, I’m actually aiming for someplace a couple inches behind your head. In martial arts, that’s the meaning of follow-through.”
“You serious?” Though it sounded plausible enough, there was a part of Justin’s mind to which that sounded too simple. Too good to be true.
“Seriously serious,” Shades assured him. “Just watch some of the fights later. You’ll see the difference.”
A short while later, Shades finished preparing lunch, and the two of them sat down to eat, continuing their free-flowing discussion of martial arts.