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Chapter 18

Age 749, Wednesday, Noon August 7, Uranai Baba’s Palace.

I sat serenely near the water, merely existing in tune with everything around me. It was almost all I’d done in the past two weeks and a half, since unlocking the true power of my [Meditation].

I barely paid attention to the chime signifying that the skill had gained another level.

Meditation (Lv 30 – 4% / Active, Passive): Both wizards and martial artists have learned how to harness the power of meditation to improve their bodies as well as their minds. It purifies magic and Ki and allows the user to more freely use his power. Actively increases HP/Ki/MP regeneration by 200%. Passively increases STR, AGI, VIT, INT and WIS by 39%.

Breaking out of my meditative state, I got to my feet and began to run, exiting the palace and running along the shoreline of the great lake.

Yet, I still felt one with the world around me, my Ki continually reaching out to touch anything it could reach. Windows popped up every time my Ki touched an object or animal, showing me the corresponding target’s statistics.

You’ve gained +1 VIT!

Ki User has gained a level!

Ki User (Lv 26 – 12%/Passive): Ki is like a muscle, the more you exert it, the more powerful it becomes! 35% Increase in your Ki pool.

Insight has gained a level!

Insight (Lv 45- 1%/Active): Having incorporated your Ki and magic power in the skill, Observe has evolved into Insight. The higher the skill, the greater the data obtained. Insight will show your target’s HP/MP/Ki, their level, age, race, as well as their battle power.

20% Ability to go unnoticed past an enemy’s mental resistance.

I would have barely recognized myself two weeks ago, I thought as I stopped to practice a few Tiger Kata, feeling my currently unenhanced body protest against the weighted clothing bestowed on me by Uranai Baba’s powers. Magic Materialization, she called it.

I’d already seen major gains from it, and so I dutifully went through all of the motions, before running through the motions of the Palm Karate Style, punching, elbowing, kneeing and kicking at an invisible enemy.

You’ve gained +1 STR and AGI!

I kept going, not tiring out in the slightest. [Gamer’s Mind] might have been a major hindrance to me, but [Gamer’s Body] was the complete opposite, allowing me to train almost nonstop without any risks.

I’d been seeing gains like this since Uranai Baba had given me the weighted shirt, pants, and armbands— though, my stats were increasing by increments of 2 and 3 when I was first starting out.

Still, progress was progress, I thought after another hour of training. I heard a chime coming from the palace, Baba had likely finished with her customers, for now.

I brought my [Status] window up and read through its contents.

Name: Ten
Occupation: The Gamer

Level: 21 (7,200/22,000 XP)
Race: Human
Age: 14

HP: [5,770] ; 13,148
MP: [6,663] ; 10,238
Ki: [7,605] ; 17,332

STR: [74] ; 130.98
VIT: [85] ; 150.45
AGI: [77] ; 136.29
INT: [78] ; 107.64
WIS: [82] ; 113.16

Points: 62

Battle Power: [78.7], 139.2

Weighted BP: 40

It was interesting, I had once thought it was odd that the old Master Roshi had two different Battle Powers, but it made perfect sense now. He had his base state, and then his enhanced state.

Of course, he likely wasn’t able to keep up his enhanced state at all times, which is why he only used it sparingly, where I could do it with no issue due to [Gamer’s Body].

I’d checked.

The palace came into view. I frowned at the sight.

There was a group of five men wearing gis waiting in line as another couple walked out of the building looking pleased. The men eyed me as I walked past them.

One of them grabbed my shoulder, giving me a shove. “Back of the line, kid.”

I snorted, and continued walking. “I live here.”

The same man made to follow me, but was stopped by the Ghost Usher’s appearance, telling the group to wait as Uranai Baba was taking a short break.

Fortune-telling was a tough job, after all. I snorted in amusement.

“Ah, Ten.” Baba greeted, offering me a bottle of water. “You’re back.”

I nodded in reply, taking the bottle and drinking greedily from it. I might not have been able to physically tire, but my body still required water and the like.

“New guests.” I said after a gulp. “Usher’s talking to them right now. They look like fighters. I didn’t really scan them, so I can’t really say how strong they are.”

She looked at me for a moment, before waving it off. “You’ve already defeated the previous group single handedly.”

I shrugged with a slight wince. “Yeah, I probably should’ve disabled my passive effects back then, but—”

“Yes, you wanted to see how you stacked up against others.” Baba rolled her eyes, before staring down at her crystal ball. She hummed, before cackling and looking at me.

“Perhaps this is the best time to test your aptitude at magic.” Baba grinned. “You will keep your weighted clothing and remain unenhanced. You will defeat them using basic fighting, as well as your current repertoire of magic.”

I frowned, but nodded, focusing my attention to Ghost Ushers and the cocky fighters standing behind him— each one an adult, musclebound and menacing.

“We’re here for our fortune to be told.” The lead man, a great big, bald fellow in a red gi grinned fiercely, his cronies chuckling along with him.

“Is that so…” Uranai Baba seemed almost amused. “Very well. I charge 10,000,000 Zeni for my services.”

The grin never fell off his face. “We don’t have that much, but we want to fight your warriors for it— that’s the other deal you have going on, isn’t it? We defeat your warriors, and you tell us a fortune for free.”

“That is indeed how it goes.” Uranai Baba confirmed after a second of silence, the look in her eyes shifting from amused to slightly expectant. “You’ll only be going against one fighter in this instance.”

She pointed at me.

The group stared at me for a long moment, before erupting into laughter. “He’s just a pipsqueak! You expect us to fight this runt?”

I felt the great swell of irritation, but pushed it down with the practiced ease of someone who’d gone against terrible odds and made it out in one piece.

I walked towards the arena, waving for the men to follow me. They threw insults the whole way to the arena, but followed me regardless.

QuestDefeat the Challengers” forcibly initiated!

Uranai Baba has made you fight yet another group of muscle heads out to get a free fortune out of her. This time, however, she staked the result solely on the fight against you. You must defeat every single one of the challengers while you’re effectively handicapped, or suffer Baba’s annoyance.

Reward: 5,000 XP, ?
Failure Penalty: Decreased Rep with Uranai Baba

I stared as the fighters stood on the bridge, arguing between each other, likely choosing who was to be the first in their line up.

Eventually, one of the fighters stood before me, flexing his impressively sculpted muscles under his gi.

I wondered what he’d think if he saw my muscles— covered as they were by my weighted, long sleeve shirt, I had no way to tell.

My Ki reached out, latching onto the brown haired man and invoking [Insight].

Strong Fist Student

Moran – Lv 13
Race – Human
Age – 22

HP: 3,000
Ki: 800

Rep: 0/10,000 Neutral

Moran is a student of the Strong Fist, a style specializing in blunt force, meant to snap and crush bone. He is here to aid his master in acquiring a free fortune.

He is planning on giving you a beatdown.

Battle Power: 48

The man before me grinned, showing a few missing teeth as he sank into his stance. It was somewhat similar to a karate stance, though a little less formal and more.. Forward, I figured?

It reminded me of Mark, that night he had been fighting for profit. I wondered if he was still doing that, before shaking my head and refocusing on the matter at hand.

“Begin!” Baba cried, and the match was on.

I watched him rush towards me, launching a roundhouse kick that would’ve been sure to knock me out, but I backed away slightly, having seen it coming a mile away.

As I backed away, I lashed out at his exposed knee with a kick, sending the much older man tumbling down with a cry of agony.

Stepping back a moment, I stared as he attempted to get back up, only to fail midway through, unable to put any weight on his damaged knee.

“I didn’t break it.” I finally broke the silence. “But, if you keep going like that, you just might. I suggest you rejoin your group— let someone else try.”

“Who—who are you?” The defeated man asked.

“My name’s Ten.” I replied.

“South City’s Ten!?” One of the fighters answered in shock. “I knew you seemed familiar! You won Central’s Martial Arts Games!”

I blinked.

That felt like a lifetime ago— current me could easily destroy the me that won the tournament.

“Doesn’t matter!” The leader called out. “He can’t beat five people back to back with no rest. Get in there, Dorek.”

Another man with an unfortunately huge nose stepped forward, settling into his stance—

“Forget waiting!” The leader shouted at his underling. “Just attack him with everything you’ve got!”

I had no time to check this fighter out, I realized as he rushed me like his friend did. Did they have no sense of propriety?

He went on the offensive, attempting to barrel into me. I dodged the odd move, and made to counter, but the man stopped, stepping away with a cautious eye.

Ah, he’d learned from his friend’s inglorious defeat, hadn’t he?

Not that it mattered. Let him keep his distance.

-800 MP!

[Dazzle].” I incanted, waving my right hand from left to right, as if I was wiping a window.

The other fighters made quips, or looked confused as to what I was doing, until my enemy— Dorek, I reminded myself— began to freak out, running off the platform and away from me as fast as he could.

“What the hell was that!?” The leader shouted at his underling, who didn’t even acknowledge him as he ran back into the palace, screaming all the way. He turned back to me. “What did you do, boy!”

I didn’t answer, merely smirking in amusement at the sight.

[Dazzle] really was a useful spell, I thought with glee.

It was the first spell the old hag ever taught me. Quite simple, really, it put an enemy under an illusion for a short period of time. The illusions were random, and simply meant to distract someone for a bit, giving me the chance to knock them out with a good whack to the head.

I guessed that the man had seen something he was afraid of— that was probably distracting. Magic could be a cruel bitch sometimes, I was slowly beginning to realize.

“Next!” Baba called out, ignoring the protests of the leader. “You wanted to get your fortune told, but believe it’s unfair that your enemy uses magic?”

That shut him up— for a few moments, anyway. “Can we come at him, all at the same time?”

I latched my Ki and magic onto theirs immediately, reading through the three windows quickly as Baba turned to look at me, an inquisitive look on her face.

Strong Fist Prodigy

Laren – Lv 18
Age – 20
Race – Human

HP: 4,000
Ki: 1,400

Rep: 0/10,000 Disliked

An expert at the Strong Fist Style, Laren has been personally taught by the master for years, and even occasionally teaches the classes.

Laren is currently planning on defeating you, to avenge the insult you’ve leveled towards their dojo with your dirty tactics.

Battle Power: 63

Dirty tactics? They were about to fight me three-on-one! I read through the others.

Strong Fist Student

Fan – Lv 11
Age – 17
Race – Human

HP: 2,700
Ki: 200

Rep: 0/10,000 Neutral

Only recently having unlocked his Ki, Fan wishes to become a great student at the Strong Fist school.

He does not wish to gang up on a kid, no matter how strong he is, but he will do as his master commands.

Battle Power: 35

Strong Fist Master

Nogona – Lv 24
Age – 35
Race – Human

HP: 6,000
Ki: 3,000

Rep: 0/10,000 Greatly Disliked

A greedy man, Nogona wishes to know the numbers for the next lottery so that he can make it big and no longer worry about expenses for his dojo, as well as the lawsuit leveled against him for being too “hard” on his students.

He also wants to break a few of your bones for disrespecting him.

Battle Power: 83

Wow, the last guy really needed some anger management classes, I thought as I dismissed the windows. “I’ll do it. I’ll fight them all at once.”

“Very well.” Baba said, eyes glinting in mischievousness as the three older fellows faced off against me. “You may begin.”

Frowning in concentration, I slapped my hands together and molded the magic.

-1,500 MP!

[Accelerate].” I incanted, glowing yellow for a moment.

You are now under the [Accelerate] buff!

Accelerate: Increases movement speed by 35% for 5 minutes.

I ducked and weaved past the three men’s charges, grabbing onto the weakest one and throwing him right into the water.

The other two didn’t even give the screaming hapless boy a second glance, continuing their relentless onslaught even as he splashed face first into the lake.

Even with my spell-enhanced speed, it was all I could do to avoid their combined onslaught.

The two worked well as a team, defending each other’s blind spots, and alternating their attacks to disorient me.

-800 MP!

Throwing [Dazzle] on the second strongest one, Laren, I moved the fight away from the guy, engaging in high speed melee with the Strong Fist Master.

“You dodge well, boy.” The old man begrudgingly praised as we split apart, hearing a splash of water indicating Laren’s disqualification. “But can you take a hit?”

I blinked, an idea forming in response to the challenge presented.

“Give me your best shot.” I said confidently, focusing on the remainder of my magic. I had to time this just right.

It was one of the newer skills I’d unlocked, but its use was extremely limited, with a ridiculous cooldown between uses.

The large man grinned victoriously as he watched me assume the horse stance, ready to receive whatever punishment he planned on doling out.

He dashed towards me, his face an expression of exertion as he launched the strongest punch he could manage at me, hoping to end the fight in one shot.

Too late.

-3,000 MP!

[Ironize]! I incanted, feeling my MP bar deplete almost completely as the skill took effect, turning the consistency of my skin and bone into hard steel for the moment it took the man to land his punch.

-400 HP!

A loud snap was heard as his fist impacted my chin, not moving me in the slightest.

The older man stared at me in incomprehension, before the pain kicked in, making him cry out in agony as his two students were pulled out of the water and escorted to the bridge.

I stared at him for a second, watching as he sank to his knees, the fight completely taken out of him.

“I surrender!” He cried out and made a break for it, his students following him like lost little chickens.

Uranai Baba slowly floated towards me, watching as the men ran along the shoreline, entering a flying car and flying off into the distance— probably towards a hospital or something.

“Defeat the Challengers” complete!

You have single handedly defeated five martial artists with no rest, under your weighted clothes, and without any passive enhancements to your attributes.

+ 5000 XP!

You have gained two levels in Martial Arts!

Martial Arts (Lv 40 – 12%/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 41%.

Known Styles: Tiger Style, Palm Karate Style

“Well done, Ten.” Baba praised as I dismissed the windows. “You’ve greatly improved over the past two weeks of your tutelage.”

“Thank you, teacher.” I replied as I took a deep breath, following the old woman as she began to float back into the main hall.

“I actually might have a job for you, soon.” She divulged after we came back inside. Her crystal ball glowed slightly in tune with her words.

“A job?” I repeated, sounding dubious. “Another band of fighters again?”

“Not quite.” She retorted, staring and focusing into her crystal ball. “I’ve been getting a strange feeling north of here. Negative energy swirling around the world.”

I stared into her crystal ball, latching my energy onto it, before flinching at the sheer wrongness of it.

“What is that?” I asked outright.

“I’m not sure.” She rubbed at the bridge of her nose. “But it’s weak, still. Part of my agreement with the gods is that I oversee issues such as this.”

“You want me to deal with this, then?” I surmised with a frown.

“I would have sent the others, but Mummy-kun is still recovering from his last fight.” Baba explained. “Dracula Man and Akkuman are preoccupied with another duty, far north at the Yunzabit Heights.”

“I’m your only choice, then.” It all made sense. “Is that what you were calling me for, earlier? Well, before the interruption..”

“They proved to be an adequate test.” Baba waved the last part off. “You defeated five men, each either close to your suppressed level of strength, or surpassing it entirely. You’re ready for this.”

Quest Alert

Demon Bane” forcibly initiated.

Head north, and investigate the disturbance in the world’s flow!

Reward: 15,000 XP, ?
Failure Penalty: Death, Annihilation

“Judging by the look on your face, I can see that you’ve discerned some disturbing information.” Uranai Baba commented.

“The quest’s name is ‘Demon Bane’.” I divulged.

“Even now your powers continue to surprise me.” Baba said, eyebrows raised. “Limited precognition? Or just a fancy naming sense?”

“I’m not sure either way.” I replied honestly.

“Whatever it is, be careful out there. You leave tomorrow.” Baba said seriously, uncharacteristically so. “The spot I felt this shift— it’s near where I felt your father last before…”

Whatever reply I had died in my throat. I cleared it a few times, before swallowing the lump down harshly.

Maybe I can finally get some answers..?

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