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  1. Unless one is a total coward, or a total pacifist, holding one's own in a fight was an essential skill. As Prince Blueblood was resolved not to be the first, and lacked the mental and moral fortitude for the second, some training was in order. A lot of training, actually, in light of his recent 'diplomacy' in Whitescar. To this end, he'd asked a friend of his to help him brush up on the basics. He'd reserved the back gardens of Canterlot palace for the purpose, since the grass and flowers would provide a softer landing place than the floor of a gymnasium. He wondered, briefly, if it would be worthwhile to install a training room in the manor while he waited for Java to arrive... ~ And as if by queue, the stallion arrived. He'd announce his prescence if he could, but his jaws were currently occupied carrying a rather heavy duffle bag for his little tutoring session today. He was being lead by one of the castle guards whom held the typical aloof expression. Though this did lead the stallion into wondering about something. Did the prince just do this often enough that the guards paid no mind? Or had he reframed from alerting the guards of his activities to prevent a crowd. But then... his eyes turned to their destination, where he could see the Prince waiting... in a field of flowers. The stallion's brow quirked a bit at the unusual location. Sure... the flowers might be softer than a gym mat. But if the prince was so concerned about keeping up apperances... he should be glad that the stallion he invited was carrying something that doesn't say "This is a date and not training." ~ If the Prince was not caring about appearances, it was a sign of how nervous he was. Misconceptions were one thing, but pain was quite another. The prospect of pain was at this point more of a worry than the prospect of rumor circulation. What that said about Blueblood's courage was for a psychologist to analyze. "Ah, there you are Java. You may leave us, officer." He waved the guard away, probably not assisting his case. "Did you come with a lesson plan? I wasn't sure where you were planning to begin." ~ The stallion looked back to the guard who was leaving. He could of sworn he saw his expression cracking. Looks like the barracks will have some racy story telling happening tonight. The stallion shook his head some and then finally dropped the bag to the ground. "You... didn't think about this location did you? I kinda knew that stallion back when I was in the navy. So... in his eyes... a prince and a stallion - whom's barndoor is know to swing both ways - alone, behind the castle?" The stallion waited, giving the prince a flat stare. He waited for some signs of that sinking in before finally sitting down and giving a light nod. "But yeah, I came with a lesson plan. My sister and mother might end up killing you if I don't get you practicing some of the basics. These things I'm gonna show you are technically designed for earth ponies. But it applies just as well for the other two races." ~ Blueblood returned Java's flat stare with a blank one. It took a minute for the little hamster in the Prince's head to get the wheel up to speed, before realization dawned. "Eh, what? Oh. Oh!" The unicorn sighed, being a little too high-bred to actually face-hoof. However, it was too late now. He'd just have to deal with... whatever story was cooked up by the guard to explain this situation. Saying that he'd brought Java here just for 'sparring practice' would probably not help the situation in the slightest. "I didn't expect you to try to teach me magic. I'm actually half-decent at that part, it's the rest that I'm rubbish with." Vain as he was about his looks, Blue was honestly humble about his skills. At least, after his due humiliation at the hands of the Caribou King. And Sigrun, for that matter. Being swatted like a golf ball will knock the cockiness out of any pony. ~ The stallion lowered his head down, and bit down on a zipper, and pulled it down the length of the bag. He was only half listening, only because he actually expected to hear this exact thing the moment he stepped up to the palace gates. "Right right..." he hummed as he now bit down on a sack and gave it a light tug. There was a sound of shuffling as a few items spilled out of the bag in the wake of netted bag of tennis balls. "So... firstly I'd like to ask a few questions," he mumbled around the bag. He then set it down and pulled it open. Tennis balls were a really good training excercise when it came to teaching ponies how to move, and dodge. Raised reflexes, and in some cases taught ponies how to deflect oncoming punches if they were too scared. It was a win reguardless if done right or not. But... Java wasn't working with a boxer... or a fighter. No... he was working with the prince... so that required a lighter touch. "How good of a dancer are you?" ~ Blueblood blinked at the question. For a moment, he wondered if Java really had something like a date in mind. This was not a notion he wished to overly encourage. "Well... decent. It's one of the many things expected of a Prince." The tennis balls he saw emerging from the bag only served to deepen his confusion. "Look, I'll admit I haven't been to many dojos or whatnot, but... really, what in the name of Tartarus is all that, and what does it have to do with fighting? Or dancing? and what does dancing have to do with it anyway, I didn't ask you here to dance." ~ The stallion tossed it up in the air with a cheeky grin. "Well you don't have to get uncomfortable with the question, Blueblood. I think we established already that I don't exactly have any romantic interest in you. Annnd if I did, I think I'll be a red smear on the wall if Crusader found out." He paused at that. Then thought about it. Blueblood really was the mare's first date. Would she be furious? Maybe? "Er... actually I don't know about that... BUT POINT IS..." he quickly blurted out. He caught himself, gave out a light cough, and started again. "The point is... fighting is a lot like dancing. There are stances, your hoofsteps, your holds, your tosses, your ducks, your wances, et cetera. Your hoof and body movement are going to be incredibly important in later lessons and survival." "So... it's imperative that we get you started on this now. The fact that you can dance means I can actually skip ahead a bit. But I need to know how far." ~ Admittedly, yes, Java had said that, but one could never be sure. At least, Blueblood never was. Chalk it up to vanity and habit, but the Prince always subconsciously assumed that any expression of attraction in the past, even just a look, was something that had to be kept in mind for all future interactions. Living among the neuroses of the upper class had probably warped his judgment on that point, but that was probably why he'd been attracted to Star Crusader in the first place. Her stoic countenance was straightforward, rather than enigmatic, coy, or disingenuous. Although, that didn't provide him with any more knowledge than Java about how she would react when the inevitable rumors reached her. That would probably depend on how much she took after her mother. Yeesh, disturbing thought. The Prince banished it to the back of his mind, forcing himself to pay attention. He nodded along to the explanation. "That... that makes sense." He began to stretch his legs, loosening up in preparation. "So... the tennis balls?" ~ Java felt it absolutely unnecessary to bring this to the Prince as lightly as possible. He signed up for this, and he knew that he may end up with some bruises. The stallion raised one up and looked to the stallion with a deadpan serious expression. "I'm going to throw these at you." He waited for some time, before continuing. "Your goal is to keep as light on your hooves as possible, and try to dodge as many of these balls as you can. But... if you want to improve, you're gonna have to dodge them with as little movement as possible." ~ The deadpan delivery at least served to make the matter relatively clear. Even the Prince wasn't completely dense. "Oh, alright then. Seems simple enough." He'd handled tennis balls before, though he'd never actually played the game. Thus, he knew then as light spheres of fuzz, and not as whizzing projectiles ricocheting from the court. Hence, the relaxed expression as he prepared himself for the initial test. "You may begin when ready." ~ The stallion blinked, wondering if the Prince actually knew the difference in strength that a good number of earth ponies actually had over pegasus and unicorns. But... he seemed fairly confident enough. That said... the stallion decided to start it off on "easy" mode for now. He scooped up another ball into his wrist, now creating two possible projectiles. He gave the pair a squeeze to hold them in place as he reared back. A second later, his body lurched forward, hurling the two balls at the same time at the awaiting stallion. But perhaps now would be a good time to annotate what easy mode is. Easy mode details the rate at which balls were thrown... and not speed. So... that being said... Java might have accidentally sent two balls hurling at the Prince... as hard as he could... as fast as he could throw them ~ Until a sufficient time of training shall have passed to trump one's inborn instincts, or to put it more bluntly, until a pony conquers his bad habits, he defaults to them. Thus, instead of dodging, Blueblood immediately threw up his hooves to guard his face, trying to deflect the balls with magic at the same time. Since his eyes were covered, this did not go well. "Ow..." He waved his left forearm; the impact stung. "Ah... let's try that again, shall we? I didn't think they'd be that fast." ~ The stallion gave an understanding nod, and waited for the stallion to get himself situated. "Alright... here's a bit of advice. Do not focus on the ball all the way. Focus on how my hooves are moving the moment I let go of the ball. Then how it moves for just a second. Don't follow it. It's path won't change much after that." ~ "Right.... watch the hooves, not the balls. Got it." Nodding at the sage advice, he readied himself once again. This time, it worked a bit better. He didn't flinch automatically, though he only dodged one. "Mph.... didn't think they'd leave a mark." ~ The stallion sent another set out after waiting for the prince to ready up. "Relax... you'll get the hang of it soon enough. And then we can move faster. Now... get your feet moving. You don't have to stay in the same position." ~ They say the third time's the charm. In any case, the third time, Blueblood didn't get hit. Granted, the way in which he dove head-first to dodge was probably not the most efficient use of his energy, but his alertness was high, at least. "Ptuh!" He spat out he bit of dirt that got into his mouth. "Well, that's a bit better, I suppose." ~ The stallion blinked as he watched the prince eat that dirt. This... might take longer than he had initially expected. But, at least the prince is showing signs of improvement. That is always a benefit. "Er... right. I'm gonna ask you to stay on your hooves. The last place you want to be in any sort of fight in close range... is on the ground. Good way to give your opponent domination over you." ~ "Oh... er, right." The image of a certain caribou jarl standing over him, sword in hand, was more than enough to drive home the wisdom of sensei's words into Blueblood's head. He got to his hooves with alacrity, brushing them down with a bit of vigor. "Well, at least I'm starting to see why it's all gone wrong for me before. Don't know why my parents neglected to give me lessons." ~ The stallion tossed a tennis ball up in the air, and caught it with the opposite hoof as he reguarded the stallion for a moment. "Well... Equestria is mostly at peace. So... the need for learning how to fight is slim I'd imagine." He then thought for a moment, "Really, I think only Luna and Celestia knows how to brawl when it comes to the royal family." He then tossed the tennis ball to the prince. "Here, I think it might help to see another do it." he hummed as he kicked the rest of the sack towards the stallion. "Just throw the balls at any rate you want, then watch how I react. But, I want you to really watch how I move my hooves and where my eyes are looking. ~ Blueblood could not remember himself the last time he'd seen either of his Aunties 'brawl.' True, they'd fought, with magic, but that didn't seem to count. Especially since Celestia had still ended up captured by invading changelings. Twice. The Prince set his game face; he wasn't going to be subject to such a fate if he could help it. Not again. He picked up a few tennis balls out of the sack, picking up one with his hoof and two with his magic. "Alright, let's see how you handle this, then!" Java might have known that Blue had played cricket back in the day. He was not so good at the bat, but had been a decent bowler back in the day. The windup was elaborate, but the force with which he threw the tennis ball was justification for the odd run and hopping start. The other two followed after, somewhat irregularly. This would not be an easy pattern to dodge... ~ The stallion set his hooves in motion. His body bouncing on just the toes a bit lightly, never quite leaving the ground but almost like he was raising and lowering himself just by the toes alone. Java kept his eyes on the prince as he threw the first round of pitches. The first one caused the stallion's eyes to fidget when he noticed how quickly it left his focus, and entered his peripheral vision. Now, Java was actually surprised by the first pitch he had seen come from the buck. He had never really pictured him to be the star bowler for a cricket team. But... well this as proof enough. The next two... seemed a bit sloppier... but intentional. The stallion's body shifted to the right, just as his body dropped for it's next bounce. And just as his body rose up, the shift in the angle caused him to slide off to the side. His hooves all moved at the same time, hardly falling behind one another. It almost looked like he was just scating across the ground as he drew his hooves back under him. The first ball, whos impact would have been the right side of his body, now tore through the air in a curve passing his left cheek. On his next drop, the stallion skipped a beat when it came to rising back up. This time the next balls flew over his head and back. ~ Blueblood had to admit, he was impressed. He'd never seen a batter move like that before. Well, except for Willow Proudhoof when he knocked one of his leg bowls for six, but even Willow only had to deal with one ball at a time. "Ah... I think I see it now. It really is like dancing. More like a rapid tango than a waltz." ~ The stallion rose back up, moving a hoof to rub his left eye. That... came a little close to actually beaning him right in the eye socket. Yeesh. "That's right. But... push come to shove. If canes don't work for you, try pelting the poor sod with rocks." He grunted. Before moving his hoof a in a gesture to recollect the tennis balls. ~ "I'll keep that in mind." Indeed, given how much a hollow ball could sting, a solid rock would be quite the weapon. Of course, so would pretty much anything that came to hoof. "I've known wine bottles to work pretty well, too. I'm more likely to have them to hoof, given the sort of places I'm usually seen at." The Prince began to ready himself again, trying to get a feel for how Java had kept so light on his toes. He closed his eyes, trying to imagine music. A strain from some long-ago ball traveled through his brain; humming it under his breath, Blueblood felt his limbs loosen and free themselves. "There, now let's try this again..."
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