Age 749, Saturday, June 15, Central Square
“We are now preparing the main event of Central’s Martial Arts Games!” The head announcer, a man who I’d seen on TV as an announcer for various martial arts related events— widely known for his work at the World Tournament— spoke clearly.
“In the meantime, while we wait for the stage to be cleared… participants, please gather yourselves up!” The announcer said, one of the aides at his side with a small jar with folded up pieces of paper within.
“What’s going on at the stage?” I asked curiously as the group in which I stood approached the man.
“Some flashy show to warm the crowd up.” One of my fellow participants shrugged uncaringly, flashing me a quick look as she tucked a green lock of hair behind her ear.
I gave her a nod of thanks, before the distracting voice of the exuberant announcer took my full attention.
“Now, then!” He smiled for a second, adjusting his sunglasses and pointing towards a chart on the wall, depicting a tournament bracket, numbers set on the each individual starter branch.
“I’m sure you all know how it goes, but for those who don’t— we’ll be doing a lottery to determine the order of the battles.” He gestured to the man holding the jar. “When your name is called, please come up and pull a number.”
“Ten, please come forward!” He called out.
Guess I was first, I thought as I went ahead and grabbed a piece of paper. Unfolding it, I saw my number.
“Number eight.” I said, showing them the piece of paper. One of the aides wrote my name under the corresponding number.
“You’ll be in the fourth battle.” The announcer said, before turning to the piece of paper once more. “Wryce!”
A green-skinned crocodilian grunted and presented himself, pulling out a piece of paper.
“Four.” He called out and the aide wrote his name on the chart.
“You’ll take place in the second battle!” The announcer stated. “Next, we have Blue!”
The tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed man wearing only a pair of pants approached the announcer and his aide, pulling one of the papers. “One.” He read off, showing them the paper.
“You’ll be in the first battle.” The announcer noted. “And then… Batara.”
An older fellow with brown hair in a ponytail and a beard, in an old and worn dark green gi walked towards the aide, pulling out a piece of paper. “Seven.”
Ohh, that meant he’d be fighting me.
I perked up, immediately casting [Observe] on the man as another aide began to write his name on the chart.
Batara – Lv 23
Race – Human
Age – 34
Rep: 0/10,000 Neutral
Batara lives for the art, training in it since he could walk. He enters this tournament from time to time to brush up on his skills, and see if the world had produced any substantial fighters he can pit himself against.
He is currently sizing you up as a fighter.
Battle Power: 70
This guy was pretty strong.
“Next, we have Suruna!” The announcer called out. The green haired girl from before pulled one of the papers.
“Five.” She said clearly, returning to her initial spot next to me, sending a wink my way.
I snorted, still more focused on Batara’s stat sheet than anything else.
“Pamput!” The announcer called out, finally managing to distract me with the familiar name.
Wait a second… Oh, it was the action star! He starred in Crushing Fist and Silver Hearts! He’s so cool!
Everyone’s expression changed.
“Uh… Did I say that out loud?” I asked, scratching the back of my head. Everyone nodded in the affirmative as Pamput merely sent me a grin and grabbed a piece of paper from the jar.
“Two.” He called out, before turning to me, grin still on his face as the aide wrote his name next to Blue’s. “It’s always nice to meet a fan, heh. Good luck on your round, that old man looks pretty strong!”
“Th-thanks, Mr. Pamput!” What the hell, why didn’t Palm tell me a fucking movie star was going to be in this thing?
I stared down at my travel worn brown shirt and pants. I must’ve made a shitty impression on the guy.
“Smooth, kid.” The green-haired woman— Suruna, I reminded myself— sent me an amused smirk.
“Yeah, yeah.” I waved it off with a sigh as the announcer read the rest of the names.
Chirin, a bald monk with six incense burns on his head, as number three; he would be fighting Wryce in the second match.
And finally, number six was Rodo, a sumo wrestler judging by his garb, shape and size. He would be fighting against Suruna in the third match.
“Now that all the battles have been decided.” The announcer said, already moving ahead of us and beckoning us to follow. “I’ll explain what the rules are. You will face off against your opponent in a single round, with no time limit.”
Each of us shared a glance with his/her opponent, before staring back at the announcer.
“You can win by knockout, by throwing your opponent out of bounds, or by forcing them to forfeit!” He continued, before stopping and giving everyone the sternest look he could muster. “Take note: attacking with deadly force, or the use of tools is strictly prohibited. Any such attempt will end with your immediate disqualification. Is that understood?”
The group grunted and muttered in agreement, some, like the crocodilian fellow looking a little annoyed at that. The door of the gymnasium opened, cutting off whatever thought I had going, as the stage in question came into view.
A large square of white marble, surrounded on all sides by bleachers filled to the brim with spectators, who cheered as they saw our group appear.
Scanning the crowd, I managed to pick out Master Palm, who had front row seats to the event. I smiled and gave him a wave, before looking around, really taking in everything for a long moment.
“Thank you all for coming!” The announcer grinned at the crowd, his suit straining against his body as he made grand gestures at our group. “Are you all ready for the main event?!”
The responding roar of the crowd hit me like a palpable weight, sweeping me away with its sheer frenzied energy and making me feel like I could take the world on, myself.
“Without further ado, Battle #1!” The announcer gestured for the fighters to take their positions. “Blue vs Pamput!”
Pamput leapt onto the stage, flipping a few times in midair, lightly landing on his bandaged feet, before sending a few imaginary kicks and punches, playing to the crowd.
Meanwhile, Blue had simply walked onto the stage, giving his opponent a mix between a bored and lazy stare. Intrigued, I cast [Observe] on both of the fighters.
The results were surprising.
Action Star, The Grappler
Pamput – Lv 19
Race – Human
Age – 23
HP : 4,500
Rep : 0/10,000 Disliked
Description: Pamput is a pro Muay Thai fighter, having won a worldwide tournament in the past. He hopes to win this tournament and put a stop to some movie critics calling his moves fake.
He is currently sizing up his opponent, Blue.
Battle Power: 62
Red Ribbon General
Blue – Lv 25
Race – Human
Age – 27
HP : 9,000
Ki : 3,000
Rep: 0/10,000 Neutral
Description: A General of the Red Ribbon Army, Blue has unde-rg0ne m4ny 3nhanc3me-? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Error, psychic interference rebuffed Observe. Observe level not high enough to compensate.
What the? How did he— a psychic?
He looked around suddenly, eyes narrowed dangerously in an attempt to.. Scout something?
Had he detected my attempt at [Observing] him?
I gave the man a wary gaze. I would watch him closely, this match. With a level and HP like his, I had no doubt he was likely as powerful as the Ox-King.
“Pamput has made a name for himself in a previous worldwide martial arts tournament, as well as one of the most popular movies of all time!” The announcer stated with a grin as the crowd cheered— especially a rather large group of women, who were seen waving flags and various posters depicting Pamput’s name and face.
The announcer turned to the shirtless Blue. “Facing against him is the unknown; Blue! Blue is a rookie, and has never participated in a martial arts tournament, but he has proved his worth by defeating every single contestant in the preliminaries through sheer skill and power alone!”
The crowd gave the man some polite applause, likely expecting him to get creamed by the much more famous movie star, Pamput.
I now knew better.
“Let the battle begin!” The announcer hopped off the stage.
Pamput opened his mouth to say something, but didn’t manage to get very far, as Blue simply rushed him, throwing a flurry of punches aimed to disable his opponent.
Pamput shifted his body, taking those punches head on but avoiding being disabled, instead choosing to grapple with his opponent. With a sweep of his foot, the two fighters were down on the ground!
“And Pamput gets his opponent down on the ground, risking a few hits in the process!” The announcer called out. “Can Blue break Pamput the Grappler’s hold, or will he be forced to forfeit?”
Pamput grabbed Blue’s arm, pulling it behind his back, and began to twist it in the wrong direction. “Give up, or I’ll snap your-“
That was as far as he got, as Blue planted his feet on the ground, lifting the both of them from a prone position, much to the awe and delight of the crowd.
In a quick motion, Blue leaned slightly forward, before smashing the back of his head against Pamput’s face, forcing the star to let go of his arm and stagger back.
“Incredible!” The announcer shouted over the roar of the crowd. “Through sheer strength and force of will, Blue has turned what would have been a quick loss into an advantage, landing a solid blow onto Pamput without looking the worse for wear! Could he be able to win!?”
Blue didn’t even give Pamput a second to breathe, rushing him once again, dodging past his almost drunken swipe and landing a solid punch in his solar plexus, sending him down on the ground.
The movie star scrambled to get back up, but Blue was having none of that— he grabbed Pamput and threw him bodily over the edge of the stage, where he landed with a thud in the grass, much to the horror of the Pamput Fanclub.
“Contestant Blue wins! Who could have predicted this turn of events!” The announcer shouted excitedly. “What an upset! The favorite to win the tournament has been defeated by a total unknown!”
The crowd, minus the Pamput Fanclub, cheered wildly for the newcomer, who barely acknowledged their praise with a nod and walked off the stage, sitting near one of the walls as Pamput was carried away by what I assumed to be his agent.
I winced for the guy— I guessed he was only good for acting, rather than actually fighting in tournaments.
Or maybe that one tournament he won wasn’t all that important?
Either way, it didn’t really matter all that much.
I’d never even known he was an actual practicing fighter, so I doubted his popularity would tank in any way, shape or form.
More importantly, Blue looked like he didn’t even break a sweat, just sitting there like nothing mattered. At this point, I had already surmised that he hadn’t detected my attempt at [Observing] him, so I was probably safe.
It was either that, or he was already onto me and I just didn’t know it.
That particular thought sent a chill up my spine.
“Onto the second battle!” The announcer called out as Chirin the monk and Wryce the crocodilian faced off in the ring. “Begin!”
I threw [Observe] on the two of them— their stats were even lower than Pamput, I noted, focusing my attention away from the fight and onto the rest of the fighters.
I felt the absolute calm of [Gamer’s Mind] settle over me, allowing me to think clearly.
I could still win this, but did I really want the Red Ribbon Army’s attention on me?
I wasn’t a fool.
Everyone knew of the Red Ribbon Army— they were a force to be reckoned with. No one dared challenge them; they were so powerful and organized that even Earth’s Military Forces were completely useless against them.
“And the winner of the match is Chirin through a ring-out!” The announcer’s cry cut off my attempt to center my thoughts. “And what a marvelous throw that was, using Wryce’s sheer strength against him at the last moment!”
The crowd cheered wildly as I considered my options.
My [Observe] had served as a decent distraction— I’d gotten plenty of information before he’d exerted his influence over the results.
It wasn’t impossible, I just needed to mess with him during his next fight.
That’s when a new quest window popped up.
Tickling the Red Ribbon
“Do not tickle a sleeping dragon”, the saying goes.
Yet, you’re brave enough— see: stupid— to do it anyway! Distract General Blue during his next match and glean as much information as you can without being caught!
Reward for getting him thrown out of the ring: 10,000 XP, +5 WIS
Reward for simply wearing him down: 3,000 XP, +3 WIS
Failure Penalty: General Blue will be very suspicious of you, and that’s never a good thing.
I pressed accept— he’d likely already have his eye on me when I made it to the final round, anyway.
Those guys liked to get their hands on whatever impressive fighter caught their eye.
For a moment, I worried for the safety of my mother, but realized it probably wasn’t such a huge deal.
My name was a pretty common one, all things considered, and I looked nothing like mom.
Plus, I never put anything in my address section, merely stating that I was from South City.
That didn’t really mean much of anything.
Still, the Red Ribbon were a wily and aggressive sort. You couldn’t deal with them with any form of passivity; that was how people got themselves killed.
I would have to beat Blue so badly that the Red Ribbon wouldn’t dare going against me.
It seemed that I would have to focus hard on my training, after this. The 7-Star Dragonball quest could wait, I thought as I shoved my hand in my pocket, brushing my hand against the crystal ball in question.
“Suruna slips through Rodo’s grasp yet again, displaying incredible agility in face of Rodo’s sheer power!” The announcer shouted, drawing my attention back on the stage.
Suruna was running all over the stage, messing around with Rodo as he made clumsy attempts at chasing and grabbing at her, breathing hard with every step he took.
I supposed it wasn’t all that surprising— Sumo wrestlers could be fast at times, but generally speaking they were slow in comparison to someone purely specializing in speed, as Suruna was.
Granted, none of her hits actually seemed to damage the much bigger man, but that didn’t really matter.
Soon, he would tire himself out and leave himself as easy pickings.
No matter how durable you were, once you were exhausted, you left yourself vulnerable to attac— and there it was.
Rodo had let his guard down for just a second, but that was all a fighter of Suruna’s caliber had needed.
She dashed behind him, performing a double handed smash to the back of his neck, sending the giant man tumbling to the ground, knocked out completely.
“And Rodo is down! One! Two! Three! Four! Five! Six! Seven! Eight! Nine! Ten!” The announcer counted excitedly, pointing towards Suruna. “Suruna wins by knockout!”
The crowd cheered and whistled as Suruna gave everyone a wink, much like she’d done for me earlier.
“Truly a set of amazing bouts!” The announcer continued unabated, swinging his microphone as he grinned to the crowd. “Up next is the last battle of the quarter-finals, before we take a twenty minute break to allow our fighters to recuperate!”
“Here, we have another rookie going up against a veteran of this tournament!” The announcer called as Batara and I took the stage, the crowd looking a little confused as they got a better look at my rather travel-worn and young appearance.
To be fair, the other guy also looked like shit, too.
“This is Ten’s first time participating in the tournament, but, like our mysterious contestant Blue, he’s also displayed great aptitude in fighting, defeating his opponents with youthful exuberance!”
“Batara, is a returning veteran, who loves to participate in the tournament in search of any fighters worthy of his notice! Will Ten’s youthful exuberance outshine Batara’s old experience and wisdom?” The announcer waxed poetic for the crowd, not noticing Batara’s grumble about being called old.
“Let the match… Begin!”
The crowd cheered but I stayed in place, settling into my Tiger stance as I focused on the man in front of me.
The man spread his legs, greatly lowering his center of gravity, extending one hand toward me while the other was raised behind him— ready to claw at me if I came close to him.
Losing patience with the man, I broke stance and moved closer to his position, flanking him from the left in an attempt to strike at his exposed left side.
Batara turned in time to dodge the strike and grab at my foot, grunting in exertion as he pulled me closer to him, his previously raised hand coming down to strike at my head, his fingers glowing with Ki.
Eyes wide in alarm, I twisted to the side, narrowly avoiding a knockout strike, his fingers merely grazing me as I swiped at his face, my palm slapping loudly against his head and sending him staggering back.
That much from a graze?
“Impressive.” The man said as the crowd gasped in surprise, before roaring with approval. “I didn’t expect a brat two decades my junior to actually hurt me…”
I peeked at his stats as he spoke.
Batara – Lv 23
“You shouldn’t lose focus in a match!” The man yelled, rushing towards me, sensing an opportunity as he noticed my peeking away for a moment.
His strikes were enhanced through channeling Ki to his fingertips, I noted as I dodged a few dangerous swipes.
It was an ingenious technique; it worked like my Mana Shield but used Ki instead to harden his fingertips enough for them to be used like true claws, rather than the flimsy flesh around thin bone it really was.
I could tell the older martial artist was getting irritated by my lack of retaliation, but he managed to master himself and redouble his efforts, increasing the speed with which he swiped his enhanced fingers.
I messed up a dodge, my opponent taking advantage of my unbalance by flanking me from the right, both of his hands digging into to me— one in my right shoulder, and another in my left, sending me tumbling back.
“And Batara managed to land a devastating blow on Ten, laying him out on the floor!” The announcer yelled into his mic as I slowly forced myself to my feet. “One! Two! Thr- And Ten gets back up! Incredible! He must be the strongest fourteen year old I’ve ever seen!”
“You have my praise for managing to take that blow, boy.” Batara said, tipping his head to me in a show of respect, before re-assuming his initial stance.
“But, you have already lost this match. My strikes have greatly hindered the mobility of both your shoulders. How will you fight without use of your arms?”
I didn’t reply, merely dashing towards the man and sending a surprise elbow to his face; he attempted to retaliate, but it was too late.
The blow ended up knocking him down on the ground, his eyes still wide with shock as I went down with him, landing a knee in his gut followed by a harsh punch to his chin, knocking the man out.
I stood back up, backing away quickly as the announcer shouted in surprise at the turn of events. “And, Batara is down! One! Two! Three! Four! Five! Six! Seven! Eight! Nine! Ten!”
Martial Arts has leveled up three times!
Physical Endurance has leveled up twice!
You have gained a level!
Occupation: The Gamer
Level: 15 (100/16,000 XP)
STR: 48 (77.28)
VIT: 62 (99.82)
AGI: 45 (72.45)
INT: 35 (45.15)
WIS: 37 (47.73)
Battle Power: 83.2
Martial Arts (Lv 31 – 23%/Passive): Many ages ago, the first people watched animals in nature, marveling at their different methods of catching prey; the ferociousness of the tiger, the patience of the mantis, and so on. Naturally, they began to emulate their movements and taught others to follow these same movements. Passively increases STR, VIT and AGI by 32%.
Physical Endurance (Lv 27 – 55%/Passive) – The body’s durability increases, allowing for less damage taken. 29% Decrease in Physical Damage Taken.
The crowd cheered as the announcer waved for a few aides to come in. “In an even more astounding upset than the fight between Blue and Pamput, Ten the rookie has managed to defeat Batara, a known veteran of this tournament!”
The crowd roared wildly once again, but I paid them no mind as I got off the stage, taking my place among the other fighters while I quickly read through all of the notifications I’d received.
“Let’s all give a hand to our four remaining fighters!” The announcer shouted from the stage, gesturing towards us. “Ten! Blue! Chirin! Aaaaand, Suruna!”
The crowd hooted and cheered for a few long moments, before the announcer started speaking once more. “We’ll resume the matches as the break is over! Our next battle shall be between the surprising fighter Blue, against the Orin Temple Monk Chirin! Who will win?”
We were provided chairs as well as water. Taking few long gulps of water, I moved my chair, putting it against the wall and relaxing into it, initiating [Meditate] to recover the remainder of my HP while positioning myself in such a way that it looked like I was taking a nap.
Faintly aware of the world around me, I tried to figure out how exactly I wanted to distract Blue during his fight.
It would be nice if Chirin won by a ring-out through my interference, but I highly doubted that would be the case.
His battle power put him under Pamput, his HP was nowhere near Blue’s, and he didn’t even have a Ki pool!
But, I could provide him with an opportunity to, at the very least, cause the man some damage— hopefully enough damage to ease my own match against the man.
Plus, it could prove to be a good test to see how well he could withstand an [Observe] while being distracted in a fight.
“And the break is over!” The announcer called, breaking me out of my meditation as the crowd began to cheer.
A quick check to my stats showed that I was back to full health— good.
“Will the fighters Blue and Chirin come to the stage?” The announcer adjusted his sunglasses, watching as the two calmly stepped onto the stage, facing each other, their stern gazes almost identical to each other.
“First Semi-Final Battle… Begin!” The announcer called out, and I began to focus.
Hopefully I made it through this in one piece.