Age 749, Saturday, June 15, Central City – Mark’s residence
I stared at the woman opposite of me for a second, considering her latest question.
“I don’t actually have a plan for the future, per se.” I replied, with an almost uncaring shrug. “For now, I want to see the world and train hard. That sort of thing.”
“But, what about having a job? Finding a nice girl?” She asked incredulously. “That’s all part of growing up, you know.”
I stifled the urge to roll my eyes.
Mark’s mom was a very… Quaint person.
When I’d spoken of martial arts training, she’d started talking about how the world tournament was fake, referring to it as a bunch of tricks and nonsense.
I did not like her.
Thankfully, Mark had come to the rescue and pretended to be in pain, drawing her attention away from me at that very moment.
When I’d agreed to stay the night at the woman’s place as thanks for saving her son, I hadn’t expected it all to be so unpleasant.
It’s not that there was anything wrong with the small apartment they lived in, no. After a whole month of trekking in the wilderness, sleeping on soft-ish ground and waking up to patting myself for bugs and dusting myself off, an actual bed had been a godsend.
It was just his mother, Jess, that I had a problem with.
A quick [Observe] on her had shown that she knew about her son’s extracurricular activities, but didn’t comment on it as it helped her pay the bills.
It also showed that she didn’t want me here, but felt compelled to repay the debt she believed she owed me. I hadn’t bothered using the skill on her the night before, too ecstatic about having a place to stay the night.
She opened her mouth to say something else— probably more ‘advice’ on how I should live my life— but I stood up abruptly, cutting her words right off.
“Sorry to cut this short, but I must leave.” I gave the lady a tight smile and forced bow, before making my way to the door. “Thank you for your hospitality. Perhaps I’ll see you later, Mark. Good bye.”
As soon as I was out the door, I hurried down the stairs and away from the building, not really in the mood to deal with the annoying woman.
I checked my watch; it was still pretty early in the day, but I made my way to Palm’s dojo— likely, he was wondering why I never bothered to stay the night.
It took a bit over an hour to get there, the streets being highly unfamiliar, and the directions people gave me generally unhelpful.
But, eventually I reached the open gates of the complex and walked into the familiar courtyard, where Master Palm was busy running a group of students, who seemed to be in the mid to late 30s, through their katas.
“Ah, Ten. I wondered where you were.” He finally noticed me, before turning to the group. “Jon, keep things slow, controlled. You’re all doing very well. Keep it up.”
“Hello, Master Palm.” I said, smiling. “I’m sorry I didn’t come back last night. Someone assaulted me in the night; I apprehended him and sent him off to the police.”
The man blinked, not having expected such an answer.
“Is that so?” He asked, looking me over curiously.
“Yes.” I nodded. “I hope you weren’t waiting for me.”
“I did wait a little.” The man admitted with a shrug of his shoulders, before telling that same student, Jon, to slow down once more. “He’s too eager to go through the forms.”
“Yes.” I agreed with a snort. “I’m sure he’ll get the hang of it with practice.”
“As with all things.” Palm nodded amiably, before eyeing me with a small smile. “So, how was the restaurant?”
I grinned at that. “Delicious food. It was exactly what I needed after my long trip.”
“I am glad.” The old martial artist nodded, before giving me a curious look. “Was there anything else you wanted?”
I laughed a little. “Ah, not really… I came to apologize for not staying the night; I didn’t think of anything else, afterward. I don’t actually have any plans…”
Palm hummed in thought, before making his way deeper in the complex. “Watch over these students for me, will you? I’ll be back in a moment.”
“Uh, sure!” I said, giving the group of much older men and women a nervous look. Some had stopped to stare, muttering to themselves about being ditched, while others had adhered to their kata, ignoring everything else in the world.
“What is this, I didn’t pay the guy so that he could leave.” One said, disgruntled by the sudden departure. Others began to stop their kata, distracted by the loud one.
Uh, how to deal with this… What did Master Kai do when someone acted like a whiner?
I smiled as I recalled his words.
“Now, now.” I said, plastering an easy smile on my face. “Don’t go blowing hot air everywhere just because you can’t do the form.”
I looked to everyone else. “Everyone, please resume your kata, and try to not get distracted. It’s important that you burn these forms into your muscle memory, that way you’ll be able to perform the moves later. Jon, raise your arm a little when you punch— that’s it, there you go.”
It seemed to work, as the group obeyed and continued to work on their forms, except the one man I’d chastised.
He’d taken offense, I realized as he threateningly made his way to me.
“Listen here, kid.” He started, but didn’t get far as I fixed him with the same kind of glare Master Kai would give his unruly students. The remaining students, fortunately, weren’t distracted again, my advice having rid them of doubt.
“I’m not going to listen to some snot nosed punk tell me what to do.” He said with a harsh glare. “The old man was bad enough— damn waste of my money, don’t know why my girlfriend suggested I do this shit.”
“So you believe you’re wasting your money?” I replied in a mix of bafflement and amusement.
“What else could this be, huh?” The guy spat on the floor, breaking through the group’s concentration again. “Just dancing around doing a whole lot of nothing. This isn’t fighting.”
“Mastering your kata is an important part of your training.” I started to explain, but he got in my face again.
“How about you prove it then, huh kid?” He said in a challenging and condescending tone. “If this kata is so important, how about you put your money where your mouth is?”
I snorted, staring at the “Lv 6” tag above his head.
I supposed this would be a good way to break in the style I’d learned from the quest yesterday.
I sank into the initial stance of the kata the students were performing, beckoning the man to come get me, casting [Observe] as he hesitated.
Kanro – Lv 6
Race – Human
Age – 32
HP – 700
Rep – 0/10,000 Greatly Disliked
Description: Plagued by constant anger issues, Kanro the Arrogant Blowhard spends his days raging at anything and everything in existence, hoping to feel better about himself by bringing others down.
His behavior has caused his girlfriend to almost leave him, but he convinced her to stay by taking her suggestion and learning a martial art.
He currently plans on beating the crap out of you
Battle Power: 6
Okay… I didn’t need that much information, yeesh.
I gave the older man a bored look, motioning him to come on, a smirk plastered on my face. He went in what I assumed to be a very poor mix of a boxer’s stance as well as the standard stance for the particular kata Master Palm had everyone run through.
I didn’t move, merely waiting for him to attack.
A few moments passed, with him hesitating a few times, before finally losing patience and sending a right hook to my face, hoping to floor me in a single hit.
I smiled, going through the motions of the kata, parrying his hook with my left hand and sending a straight punch into the man’s solar plexus.
The results were instantaneous; the man staggered back and fell on his ass, his breathing temporarily cut off by the force exerted on him.
“And that, is why you should follow the forms.” I said, looking over to everyone else. Judging by their impressed faces, they seemed convinced. “You start them off slow to get yourself used to the movements, and when you get better at it, you can practice them at high speed in actual combat situations. But! you have. To. Start. Somewhere!”
“Well said, Ten!” Palm said as he appeared out of the complex, holding two pieces of paper in his hand. “Resume your kata, everyone. I will speak to you of proper behavior in a later session, Mr. Kanro.”
The beaten man only glared at me as he went back into his group and mutinously continued to practice.
I shrugged, already having banished the nuisance out of my thoughts.
“That was an impressive use of our kata, considering you’ve never trained here. Even if it’s one of our simpler ones.” Master Palm pointed out, still holding on to the two pieces of paper. “The moves were perfectly executed, even.”
“Ah, I’m a fast learner, I guess.” I shrugged it off, unwilling to explain how exactly I’d learned his school’s moves. “The fighters you put me up against yesterday had a common thread in their technique, it wasn’t too hard to figure it out, especially seeing these students perform their kata today.”
“…You have no idea how remarkable that is, do you?” Palm said. “Exceptional student, indeed. Kai was right, son.”
I waved his compliments off, changing the subject. “What are those papers, Master Palm?”
“Ah, these.” Distraction, success! “There’s a tournament being held today. I imagine you’d be interested, as you’re a traveling martial artist.”
“Oh, really?” I asked, taking the papers in question. One was a flyer, which stated:
Central’s Martial Arts Games
Come one, come all! We welcome all challengers!
The competition will be held on Saturday, June 15, 749, in Central Square! Come with your filled out form before noon, or you won’t get a chance to take part!
Do you have what it takes to win the prize pool of 1,000,000 Zeni?
The text was covered with drawings of various fighters having showdowns, as well as depictions of confetti flying around everywhere.
The other paper was an entry form.
1,000,000 Zeni, though; that was half a year’s worth of expenses that I could send to my mom, make things easier on her. I knew that funding my little martial arts journey hadn’t been cheap— she’d dipped into her savings account to do it.
I frowned, feeling something’s off. “Why give this to me, though, Master Palm?”
“Hmm?” He replied. “How do you mean?”
“You must have students of your own participating in this thing, so is it really okay if I sign up?” I asked bluntly.
“Ho, ho!” The man grinned, stroking his goatee. “Confident in your success, are we?”
“I wouldn’t say that…” I trailed off, thinking of the Ox-King or Master Roshi, two men who still far outstripped me in sheer power and ability. “The world’s a big place— I’ve already come across a few people stronger than me. But, I think I have a good chance at winning this!”
He looked at me for a moment, trying to get a read on me and likely failing.
If my [Gamer’s Mind] blocked a cloud of magic that seeped into your essence from sensing my intent, then I doubted a man I’d only known for a day could manage to do it.
“None of my students are ready for it, so I never signed anyone up for it.” He admitted, before looking to me with a grin and a pen in his hand. “So, are you still interested?”
I smirked back, taking the proffered pen and beginning to fill the form out, the piece of paper pressed against the wall so I could actually write on it instead of tearing through the the paper.
With that done, I looked toward the old man, who was sending his students home, the time for their session having ended.
“So, um… How far is Central Square?” I asked, ignoring the baleful glare I got from the Kanro fellow as he exited the premises, a sullen look on his face.
“I will take you there, lad.” The older man smiled, nodding to one of his instructors as she took over for him, giving me a mildly curious glance as we exited the premises, heading toward an older looking car. “I was already planning on attending it as a spectator- to scout out the possible competition my kids will have in the future, you see.”
Unlocking the doors with a press of a button, the man entered his vehicle, stopping midway to give me an amused look, as if to say “what are you doing, just standing over there?”
I shook my head and entered the old hunk of junk. Well, old it may have been, but it was obviously well taken care of judging by everything’s spruced up appearance.
Old Man Palm didn’t comment on it, though I could tell he was amused by the grin he sported.
The trip to the Central Square took about an hour, with me listening to the old master speak, as well as answering a few questions here and there.
Questions such as “what brings you to Central City?” or “Will you be participating in the World Martial Arts Tournament?”
I kept things brief and simple, often avoiding the need to lie to the man.
Obviously, he wouldn’t have believed a word of what I was saying if I admitted to needing to save the universe by getting stronger through using powers that turned life into a video game.
I honestly doubted anyone could wrap their heads around something like that.
So, I stuck to the whole “journey towards enlightenment” schtick. I’m sure he could tell that the answer was a little forced, but he would likely attribute it to me being an unsure little kid on a journey, rather than the outright lie it was.
“You get off here, lad.” Palm said, unlocking the doors as he pulled up by the sidewalk leading toward the competition sign-in booth. “You just hand them the form, and someone will lead you to where you’ll be fighting.”
“Sounds simple enough.” I said, giving the master a grateful nod and exiting the car. “Thank you for the advice.”
“Good luck!” He said, before driving his car around the corner, likely looking for a place to park the old thing. I wondered why he didn’t just put it in its capsule for a moment, before shrugging the thought of.
Wasn’t my business.
With a short-lived sigh, I moved towards the sign-in booth, avoiding and brushing past the many people in my way.
None looked like actual participants, but they were happy standing around in big groups, ruining everyone else’s time by masquerading as roadblocks.
Granted, I was likely being unfair to these people, but this was one of my pet peeves, damn it!
I really didn’t like when folks did that crap; if you were just standing still, it wouldn’t be too much to ask for if you stood still at the sides instead of acting like a roadblock.
The receptionist, a bored looking teen a few years my senior, who was fighting an uphill battle against acne, gave me a once over before speaking.
“The spectator sign-in booth is at the other side of the Square.” He stated, pointing behind himself.
“Thanks, but I’m here to participate.” I gave a tight smile, placing the form through the slot in the glass window.
The receptionist gave me an incredulous look for a moment, before shrugging and muttering under his breath about suicidal kids.
He read the form over, taking a few notes into his computer, and printing out a sticker with the number 94 on it. Did that mean I was the 94th participant in this?
How many more were going to sign up?
“Are you aware of the tournament rules?” The kid spoke as he typed at his computer, not even looking at me.
“Not really, no.” I admitted. “This was more of a ‘spur of the moment’ kind of thing, if you take my meaning.”
“Right.” He rubbed at the bridge of his nose, giving me an annoyed look. “So, here’s the basics of it. You’re going to participate in a few preliminaries, until 8 people manage to land a spot in the Tournament proper. Then, we go tournament style.”
I nodded, urging the boy to continue.
So, he did.
“There will be four quarter-finals, two semi-finals, and a final match. I’m sure I don’t have to explain that tools of any kind are prohibited in the tournament. If you get caught using one, you’re disqualified.” He explained with a bored air. “If you win the final match, you get 1,000,000 Zeni. There’s no prize for second place. You either win it all, or get nothing.”
“That sounds fair.” I said with a nod.
“Plus, you have to have a deposit of 5,000 Zeni to participate.” He added in, smirking at my annoyed look in reaction to that.
Participate in Central’s Martial Arts Games
Reward for winning: 15,000 XP, 1,000,000 Zeni
Reward for participating: 2,000 XP
Failure Penalty: Nothing
Participation requires 5,000 Zeni
Palm hadn’t said anything about that. Luckily, I had more than enough left over to cover this entrance fee.
Fishing in my pocket, I pulled out the required bills and handed them to the kid who then pressed a few buttons on another screen, his motions telling the system that was an acceptance of the quest.
“Perfect.” He said, finally looking at me properly. “An aide will be with you shortly to guide you to the small gymnasium where the preliminaries are taking place.”
“Right.” I nodded gratefully, moving to the side of the booth. “Thanks for the information.”
A few minutes of dull waiting later, a rotund man called out my name, holding a clipboard in his hand and looking around.
“That’s me.” I got his attention.
“Ten from South City, correct?” He asked again as he approached me.
“Correct.” I smiled, nodding. “Lead the way.”
Moving through the crowds with a grace only achieved by veteran customer service workers, the aide guided me to gymnasium B, opening its door and gesturing me to go inside.
The sound of fighting hit my ears, referees calling fights left and right, causing many of the would-be participants to huff and puff in various emotions ranging from irritation to outright rage.
I was made to stand there and wait for a while, as there was still a little time left for registration to be over. I supposed it was a good way of managing the time— while waiting for people to fill up, they started matches in the earlier divisions.
And so, I just watched people fight each other. No one in this gym was under level 13— every single one of them, as far as I could tell, had received some form of training, if not necessarily martial arts.
I was the youngest one here, however.
“Will numbers 94 and 25 step onto the ring?” One of the referees called out, gesturing toward the stage she stood upon. “Numbers 94, and 25- ah, there you are.”
I hopped onto the stage without a word, standing calmly with a hand on my hip and watching my first opponent climb onto the stage.
It was a large, bald and bulky man who was obviously a bodybuilder, judging from how absolutely ripped his muscles were.
He flexed his impressive looking muscles for the crowd, showing off the coiled strength lurking within his perfectly chiseled muscles.
Meanwhile, I stood in place, merely staring at my opponent in utter boredom, for I knew the truth with the use of [Observe], clearly my most broken skill.
Tonwon – Lv 14
Race – Human
Age – 22
HP : 3,000
Rep : 0/10,000 Neutral
Description: Tonwon is a narcissistic bodybuilder whose sole purpose in life is to look as beautifully muscled as he can possibly be out of a sense of vanity and a need to brag to others about it.
He is currently planning on defeating you in the fight. He’s happy he got paired with an easy runt.
Battle Power: 30
An easy runt, huh? My eyebrow twitched in irritation.
“And… Begin!” The referee called, slashing her hand down between us and dashing backwards to be safe from our attacks.
The man wasted no time, sprinting towards me and letting loose with all of his strength, aiming a left roundhouse kick toward the side of my head, hoping to knock me flat on my back instantly.
At least, that was his plan.
Jumping back to avoid his kick, I rushed back into his guard, grabbing his foot in the process, and let loose with a few punches to his sides, feeling his ribs creak with the impact before I let go of his foot.
The bodybuilder fell on his ass from the blow, the pain of the strike I’d inflicted on him almost completely dominating his thoughts, which took his attention away from the timer that started the moment he was knocked down.
“Number 94 wins!” She said with a grin, watching the crowd mutter among themselves about the display I’d just showed them.
I walked off the stage, waiting for my next turn. Had I already become too strong for any base martial artists? Maybe the main event will be a little more interesting than this.
“Will numbers 94 and 102 report to the stage, please!” The same referee called out.
I took my position, watching my opponent take his, watching me carefully.
Kato – Lv 17
Race – Wolf-Type Human
Age – 29
HP : 4,000
Rep: 0/10,000 Disliked
Description: Kato is an ambitious martial artist, hoping to get his name and face out there so that his school will become famous and make him lots of Zeni.
He is currently feeling unnerved by your lack of presence, though he doesn’t understand why.
Battle Power: 42
These guys… They barely compared to Mark, who was younger than I was. Kato could probably give the kid a run for his money, but to fight against me..?
“Begin!” The referee called out, backing away quickly as the dark blue wolf-man dashed towards me, his sharp claws extended to strike at my throat.
Dodging his swipe was laughably easy, I noted as I grabbed hold of his arm, pulling him to me while sending a harsh knee into his stomach, sending him crumbling just like the previous participant.
At least I got something out of it, I thought as the referee once again declared me the victor of that very short bout.
Maybe I’d hyped myself up needlessly for this…
“Should’ve just went to the library. Still, 1,000,000 Zeni, though.” I muttered in irritation as I hopped off the stage, hoping the next few fights weren’t a total bore-fest.
Sadly, they were.