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Chapter 27

Age 749, Sunday, September 9, Red Ribbon Outpost

“So, this is where they took it.” I sat in a bush in the woods just outside of the outpost, watching the soldiers mill about the place, completing their drills and duties.

Large robotic monstrosities were being installed and thoroughly examined over by teams of engineers.

Tanks were every which way.

There were a lot of soldiers, and a good amount of cameras considering the hasty construction of this site, which meant that sneaking undetected in would be a tall order.

A direct assault— I almost laughed at the thought.

Am I truly going to bum rush an entire army— not just any army, but one viewed as the most powerful in the world?

I shook my head. This was only a single outpost. Scanning the various soldiers showed that their Battle Powers mostly ranged from 20 to 35, with a few 40-80s thrown in— apparently successful test subjects to whatever genetic engineering the scientists on hand were capable of.

Disconcerting, knowing that General Blue had a similar level of power to these mere grunts, the last time we met.

How much had he been… improved since that day? With dedicated training, ample resources and further enhancements…

With luck, he wouldn’t be here.

Just then, as if the gods were trying to spite me, I spotted the man in question.

“Fuck. So much for luck.” I swore under my breath, ducking a little more in the bush, just in case.

General Blue looked even more imposing than he did during the Central Games. I dared not reach out and feel his power— his psychic ability could detect me, in some way.

Baba had touched on the topic for a time, also possessing similar mental prowess.

That’s part of the reason why I’d developed [Insight] the way I did. I’d made some progress with the skill, but its risk of detection was not something I could chance.

In fact, I probably shouldn’t have scanned any of the soldiers, in the first place.

That was a stupid move on my part. It was only luck that I hadn’t come across another psychic.

Perhaps the ability could only be unlocked in a scant few, I mused as I watched Blue like a hawk.

The General made the rounds, watching his soldiers train, two other soldiers trailing behind him dutifully, one male, one female.

I didn’t dare scan any of them, but at least I could see their names and levels over their heads.


Red Ribbon General
Blue – Lv 37


Red Ribbon Colonel
Navy – Lv 26


Red Ribbon Captain
Turquoise – Lv 28


The General had indeed improved, though I had no inkling as to how much.

His two underlings had levels that one couldn’t simply scoff at, either.

This was probably going to be tough.

“The question is.” I mouthed quietly, watching the soldiers go about their duties. “How do I sneak in?”

I circled the outpost, using my [Sneak] skill and the forest brush as much as I possibly could.

I reached a set of barracks, which seemed more sparsely populated, and not possessing much in the way of surveillance.

I stifled a snort, remembering a few soldiers’ stories of their shenanigans in the barracks, back when I played online games.

Likely, this was something similar, and the surveillance would be considered minimal.

I smiled slightly, before psyching myself up and making my way in the barracks at a sedate pace, keeping my head down and entering the tent.

They must have all hands on the ground if there’s absolutely no one here. I thought as I fumbled through the tent, trying to find any clothes.

I passed a tent flap, showcasing dozens of beds in the enclosed space. I did not envy the soldiers at all.

By the foot of each bed, lay a few piles of uniforms.

I checked through a few, finding one that seemed a little large for me- not that it mattered. Anything in my [Inventory] seemed to adjust itself to my size.

I equipped the uniform and checked myself over.

A light olive monstrosity, I would have stuck out like a sore thumb- if everyone here wasn’t wearing it, that is.

I double checked the outfit’s badges for the rank. It wouldn’t do to mess this up by not responding to the rank of the soldier I was impersonating, would it?

“Private.” I mouthed a few times as I left the sleeping area and made my way out of the barracks, fixing a stony look upon my face as I walked the outpost grounds, calmly and slowly moving between tents and buildings, avoiding cameras and ignoring all the piling notifications.

My [Sneak] skill must be having a field day. I realized with a small bit of amusement. I froze for a second, seeing General Blue ahead of me.

He hadn’t noted my presence yet, so I turned to the left and found myself facing an angry looking officer.

“What’re you doing here, private!?” The man was a grizzled old fellow, angry lines marring his weathered face. He was missing an eye and his front teeth.

“I, er…” I stalled, glancing at Blue for a moment, before fixing my gaze back on the increasingly annoyed officer.

“Another one of you fuckers got into the beer stash again, huh?” He had a savage grin on his face, but there was hardly any mirth to it. He swatted my leg and I fell to the floor in shock at his audacity.

He loomed over me, fury in his eyes. “Give me fifty.”

“Fifty?” I said in confusion, before my eyes widened in realization.

“Make that a hundred!” The officer snarled as I began my push ups, pretending to have trouble with them.

That was when Blue made himself known. “Something the matter here, Drill Sergeant Drax?”

The Drill Sergeant in question quickly saluted his superior, judging by how his feet went into attention. “No, sir! Just teaching this private what happens when you decide to get into the officer’s alcohol supply, sir!”

Blue snorted and continued to walk away, his two flunkies not saying a word as they followed him. “Carry on.”

“With pleasure, General!” But Blue was already gone. Drax the Sergeant focused his attention back onto me. “How many are you at, Private!?”

“Twenty, sir!” I pretended to be having trouble.

“I’d have done twice as much by now!” He continued to grill me as I slowly completed the exercise, selling the illusion that I was just a helpless new recruit. “My grandma could do better than you!”

“Yes, sir!” I sped up slightly, feeling a little annoyed. “Sorry, sir!”

“That’s better, you’re putting your all into it! Not that it’s much, soldier!” He threw encouragement with insults in. “Where the fuck did they recruit you from, some prissy town?”

This continued on for a while, until I finished my set.

“That was a pathetic performance, private.” Drax said and made to shoo me. “Get out of my sight!”

You don’t have to tell me twice. I thought, but nodded and shouted: “Sir, yes, sir!”

“Fuckin’ smartass.” I heard him mumble as I walked away from the guy, turning a corner with a sigh of relief. I continued to go deeper in the outpost, passing a few buildings before I was sure the Drill Sergeant wasn’t following me.

I slid into a small nook between the buildings, one that didn’t look like it had any surveillance, before pulling the Dragon Radar out and checking it over.

Pressing the button, I zoomed in and read the information. The signals were coming from the building to my right, if my distance calculations were correct.

Not that it helped overmuch. I stared at the five-storey building, specifically its walls.

Thick walls of steel, an entranceway that was set up in a manner which would allow the soldiers to entrench an enemy for hours if they reached this far.

This was a building meant to keep people out and withstand a bombing or five. I felt myself swallow in anticipation.

How did they set this thing up so fast? Of course, that’s when I noticed something interesting.

Underneath the Red Ribbon Army logo, there were the remnants of another.

It’s been painted over, but this is definitely the Capsule Corporation symbol. I thought. I’d have recognized it anywhere.

Were the Capsule Corporation, and by extension Bulma, in on this? Was it all a ploy from Bulma to send me on a wild goose chase while she had possession of the remaining Dragonballs?

Her character sheet had not shown a hint of this, but that power had been tricked before- though usually by super powerful hags, enhanced psychics and my own father.

My nerves began to settle. There was no way Bulma could have engineered all of this. Maybe Capsule Corp sold it to the Red Ribbon Army, at some point.

It was also possible the army had stolen the supplies- I wouldn’t put it past them. Why would Capsule Corp design something like this, anyway?

In either case, it reflected badly on them. They either planned to supply the Red Ribbon with more arms and war machines, or they were planning on doing this for their enemies.

They’d mostly kept their online presence squeaky clean, but seeing this building spoke of another side of the famous company. A side where they are merchants of death and destruction.

I stifled a sigh, wondering, not for the first time, if I should re-enable [Gamer’s Mind]. It would aid me in this particular mission, but part of me simply refused to even consider the possibility of using it- unless it was strictly necessary.

Determination welled up in me as I saw a group of soldiers marching towards the building. Now or never. I left my hiding place and made to join the group.

“Who’re you?” One of them questioned.

I tried to smile, but it came out like a wince. “Name’s Conrad. Private. Drill Sergeant Drax thought I wasn’t working hard enough, so he’s making me work another shift.”

That seemed to break the group’s tension, as a few chuckles ran through the crowd.

“He is a right old cunt, isn’t he?” The soldiers jibed and joked as we entered the building.

“Tell me about it.” I huffed in genuine annoyance. In the middle of a quest which could decide the fate of the Earth, the guy had me doing pushups and making fun of me.

I noticed the bathroom sign and made an immediate go for it.

“Where are you going?” The first soldier who’d spoken to me- the leader of their group, I realized- asked. “Assignment’s this way.”

I turned to him and rolled my eyes, acting the part of the incompetent employee. “Let’s just say I’m taking a little bathroom break.”

The leader frowned in displeasure, before shaking his head. “Your funeral, kid. I’m sure Drax will enjoy tanning your hide for this, later.”

He turned to his men. “Let’s go.”

“Yes, sir!” They said and, as one, left through the elevator. I snorted as I shook my head, entering the bathroom and locking myself into one of the stalls.

All things considered. I thought as I pulled out the Dragon Radar again. This is going pretty well.

The security must have been lax because this outpost had been built in a hurry. There was no other explanation for this.

Then again, anyone who wasn’t me would probably have great trouble sneaking in here. I stifled a snort as I began to triangulate the Dragonballs’ location with the radar; that headstrong kid, Goku— he’d probably rush into the hail of bullets without a second thought.

The dots were a few meters nearby— wait, no. They were probably on an upper floor. The ground floor would be a stupid place to put them, after all.

I sighed, placed the radar back in my [Inventory], and exited the bathroom, making sure to wipe my hands against my clothes to maintain the illusion of my having used the bathroom.

I adjusted my cap as I avoided the cameras, making my way to the elevator. A man in a lab coat joined me as we waited for the telltale chime— and there it is. The elevator doors slid open, and we entered.

I made sure to let the other man go in first, following him through as I read the words above his head.

Techie
Norman – Lv 5

Promising. I should follow him.

I pretended to look at the available list of floors before averting my gaze.

“You’re heading to the labs, too?” The scientist gave me a dubious look.

I wanted to swallow nervously, but I gave a jerky nod instead. He narrowed his eyes at me.

“What would a private need with the tech department?” The man said suspiciously.

Think fast, Ten!

“Ah, well I’m pretty good at tech.” I scratched the back of my head nervously. It wasn’t technically a lie.

“‘Pretty good, huh?’ We’ll see about that.” The man’s eyes lit up with a fire, even as he gave me a disdainful sneer. “Your lot usually wrecks whatever we make for you, anyway. What’s your name, Private?”

“Conrad, sir.” I provided the name I’d used earlier, before bowing slightly. “I hope to be useful to the department.”

“As I said, we’ll see about that.” The man repeated. “My name is Norman. I’m one of the lead scientists of this facility. You’ll be answering to me.”

“Sir?” I feigned confusion. A chime accompanied the elevator doors opening, revealing a very sophisticated laboratory, filled with many implements I’d read about in my studies, as well as many others.

“Well, assuming your skills are up to par..” He said, waving it off as he exited the elevator. “I’ll be your boss, basically. Come along now; let’s get your reassignment confirmed in the system so we can get to work.”

Damn!

I hadn’t taken that into account. Of course, they’d have checks in the system to confirm things like this!

I steadied my breath, knowing it wouldn’t do to freak out at a time like this.

Guards were stationed at each corner of the laboratory, still as statues, eyes lazily watching me follow the scientist towards the desks on the side of the room.

A shine of something orange caught my eye, and I turned my gaze to the two missing Dragonballs. There they were.

“All right.” Norman’s voice grabbed my attention once more. “Let’s see here… What did you say your name was, Private?”

“Conrad.” I replied, already turning my attention to the four armed guards.

There wouldn’t be any way I could take out all four of them at once without raising any alarms.

Not that it mattered— I knew I would have to fight my way out of this place no matter what.

“That’s strange… I don’t see it anywhere…” The scientist muttered loud enough for me to hear— that was my cue.

Even as Norman the techie was turning to me with a suspicious look, I had already vaulted over the many tables and equipment of the lab, using my body weight to knock the first guard down.

A swift chop to the neck, and he was out. In the moment of shock that rippled through everyone, I rushed another guard, tackling him hard into the steel wall and activating my [Mana Shield] with a whisper.

-45 MP!

The remaining two guards opened fire as the alarms started ringing.

-400 MP!

-500 MP!

-450 MP!

I felt the impacts on me, impressed with these men’s accuracy, especially considering I’d just come at them out of nowhere— but it wasn’t enough for me to spare them.

Two rushes, two strikes, and all the guards of the guards were down for the count.

“Y-you!” Norman the techie seemed shocked at what I’d done as he glared at me. “You won’t get away with this!”

I didn’t reply, merely rushing to the center of the room and grabbing the Dragonballs, stashing them in my [Inventory].

I quickly made my way to the elevator, walking past the frightened looking scientists and not even glancing in Norman’s direction.

“You think you can steal from us? We’re the Red Ribbon Army!” He snarled as I reached for the elevator’s button— the alarm ringing at full swing.

I blinked; the button was tinted red now. A security measure?

I turned to the techie. “How do I get out of here?”

“Haha!” He laughed in my face, a cruel sneer on his lips. “There’s no way out for you, ‘Conrad’. This whole place is on lockdown. The elevators won’t work, the stairways are locked shut, and the entire army’s already on its way. No windows, 6-inch thick steel walls… You’re finished!”

I stifled a snort, before pulling my radar out and checking to see where the Dragonballs in Chichi’s possession were. To my right— ah, west.

I turned to the wall and extended my hand, gauging how much I’d need to throw in the attack.

-10,000 Ki!

Ha!” My hand exploded with power as the large ball of Ki impacted against the wall, tearing through it with ease.

I watched it go further, through the flimsier adjacent building— exploding with force enough to make everything in the current room shake and even topple over.

+500 XP!

+550 XP!

+530 XP!

+570 XP!

+600 XP!

+500 XP!

+550 XP!

+300 XP!

+800 XP!

+200 XP!

+700 XP!

+40 XP!

+20 XP!

+60 XP!

+50 XP!

+10 XP!

+500 XP!

I froze for a moment, staring at the notifications and my hand in astonishment. That had been way too much power!

Not the time, Ten. I chided myself, ignoring the cries of shock of the people around me. I can use this as a smokescreen.

I quickly leapt into the dust, harshly crashing into the ground and running off in the direction of the remaining Dragonballs- albeit at a slow pace so as not to arouse suspicion.

None of the soldiers on site even tried to stop me, though a few did make loud proclamations of my traitorous nature.

My confusion only lasted for a few seconds, before realizing they likely thought I was a cowardly deserter, turning tail and running at the first sign of trouble.

So much for the fearsome prowess of the Red Ribbon Army. I sneered, trying to keep the thoughts of all the people I’d just killed out of my mind. Killers and immoral scientists, I tried to justify.

Reduced to experience points. Part of me laughed at the thought.

I shook the thought off. I would have time for this later. I continued to suppress all thoughts save escaping as I reached the edge of the forest.

Home free.

Just as I was about to activate [Sneak] and run off into the sunset, I felt a power settle itself over my form, locking me in place.

Debuff!

[Chains] – 3 seconds.

I managed to struggle out of the hold, but not before my way was cut off by a pair of soldiers- I recognized the names above their heads. They were Blue’s squad; Navy and Turquoise.

“Imagine my surprise.” I froze, recognizing the voice behind me as well. “When I saw that the winner of the Central Games was getting harrassed by our very own Drax.”

General Blue himself was here, and he’d known my intentions from the beginning. How?

“Of course, I thought you’d been a new recruit- so I kept an eye on you.” Blue walked past me, standing in between his two subordinates.

He stared me down with his blue eyes, grabbing his cap and throwing it to the side. It was strange seeing him in an army uniform; a double breasted shirt, with the Red Ribbon logo patched into it in different spots; baggy, dark blue pants tucked into black jackboots, reaching up to his shin.

I’d made sure no one was watching me, and yet he’d somehow kept an eye on me?

“Not that kind of eye, young Ten.” He smirked, tapping at the side of his head.

Realization dawned.

“You understand, then?” Blue turned his nose up at me as I activated [Gamer’s Mind] with no hesitation. “You never had a-“


Intrusion detected.

Intrusion cleared.


All three of them reflexively flinched as my passive’s mental barriers did the equivalent of slamming the door in their faces- a thick, steel door, only good for bashing people with.

I seized the chance, mercilessly rushing and driving my fist into Blue’s stomach and launching two [Ki Ball]s at my remaining opponents.

-1,000 Ki!

-1,000 Ki!

I didn’t waste any time, ignoring the resulting explosions of power and dashing into the forest as I re-equipped my weapons and armor, feeling the boost to my magic supply and speed.

Speaking of speed…

-500 Ki!

I launched into [Sprint], trying to escape the premises as fast as possible. I managed to gain some distance between myself and Blue before I felt the effects of the restraining power again.

Debuff!

[Chains] – 3 seconds.

“That was a clever trick you just pulled.” Blue was back, his two flunkies renewing the debuff with little effort. The two were cut up and bleeding, but they did not seem to register the damage inflicted. “I wonder how? A martial artist with the ability to shield his mind, out to steal our Dragonballs..?”

I said nothing to him, my mind furiously attempting to figure a way out of this. I mentally called up my [Status Sheet].


Name: Ten
Occupation: The Gamer

Level: 27 (7,680/28,000 XP)
Race: Human
Age: 14

HP: 11,042 ; [33,597]
MP: 10,780 ; [35,450/37,047]
Ki: 14,883 ; [33,500/45,283]

STR: 119 ; [233.24]
VIT: 116 ; [227.36]
AGI: 142 ; [278.32]
INT: 100 ; [145.00]
WIS: 100 ; [145.00]

Points: 0
Battle Power: 125.7, [246]


“Perhaps you are part of another sect of our illustrious army.” Blue mused, eyes lighting up with cruelty. “Maybe we should pry you open and see what makes you tick? Perhaps torture you for the information beforehand.”

I felt my blood run cold for the briefest of moments before the emotions were leached into the void of [Gamer’s Mind]. My most hated skill was currently the only thing keeping my head in the game.

I’d be angry about that if the emotion wasn’t being sucked away. Instead, I focused on the matter at hand.

The two flunkies weren’t letting me move. Maybe I could wait in the moment between their uses of the skill to escape?

No. They were too well-trained for that, I realized.

“Or, perhaps I should pay a visit to South City… I believe you have family there? A mother. Perhaps some friends at school.” Blue got my attention once more, his smirke going wider. “Oh, you believed we wouldn’t know about your history? You, who defeated me at the tournament?”

My dread was quickly dealt with, and my mind worked even more furiously for a way out of this.

But, there was no way out of this, was there? No, I had to stand and fight.

They thought me helpless. Unable to move, unable to use my Ki. Their knowledge of me was limited. I would hammer them like I’d hammered General Blue the first time around- with my mind.

I focused my will on the two holding me down, repeatedly invoking [Insight].

I watched the various popups detailing their character sheets- the edited texts showing their struggle at keeping my mind at bay from digging its claws deeper in theirs.

I watched their faces drain of color as I, quite literally, spammed the skill at them until they lost the focus required to hold me still.

Blue, on the other hand, looked livid. “It was you who’d breached my defenses, that day!”

Now free, I waved my hand at the lot of them, as if I was wiping at the air.

They thought themselves the only ones capable of tricks- but they would know terror for threatening my family.

-2,400 MP!

[Dazzle].” I cast the spell and made them experience the hellscape of the Demon Realm, the suffocating, smoky air. The dead forests, the scorched earth. The demons and the undead lurking at every corner, rushing at them with tooth, nail and claw.

The two flunkies dropped to the floor and flopped like fish as they clawed at the sides of their heads, screaming in terror.

General Blue, on the other hand, was down on his knees, eyes closed in focus and his two hands pressed tightly into his head.

He was fighting the illusion. Soon, he would break out.

Not that it mattered, I thought as I pulled [Stinger] and ended the life of his flunkies with a stab each, before turning the blade on him.

Blue opened his eyes and moved, just in time to intercept my stab and use my momentum to throw me into a nearby tree. I crashed through a tree or two before I was stopped by the third, falling to the ground in a heap.

-2,000 MP!

I made to move against the man, but the sight of an entire company of men, flanked by no less than three tanks stopped me short.

“Fire, men!” Drax, the Drill Sergeant, roared. The men roared in turn and began to shoot at me.

-800 MP!

I mustered my will and threw another [Dazzle] at the General, very glad that I was able to weather the assault, thanks to [Mana Shield], as well as my natural speed.

-300 MP!

-400 MP!

-350 MP!

-800 MP!

-600 MP!

-650 MP!

-700 MP!

-45 MP!

-500 MP!

-1,000 MP!

I tried to make it to the General, intent on ending his life, but the thrown grenades kept stopping my advance short.

He was out of reach, I realized as I continued to evade enemy fire, though I knew I couldn’t keep this up forever.

I leapt to the side, dodging one of the tanks’ shells, knowing it tore through several trees behind me.

There was an explosion near the spot I’d landed, sending me flying uncontrollably- right into the sights of another tank.

-4,000 Ki!

Ha!” My reaction was instinctive, the ball of Ki exploding against the tank and sending everyone flying. Even better, Blue got smashed in the head by the debris.

He did not get up. Before I could even think of examining the man’s unconscious form, I heard the cry of “Fire!”

I had a single moment to react, reinforcing my body with Ki, and casting [Ironize], knowing this wasn’t something I could dodge.

-3,000 MP!

My world exploded in fire.

-10,000 Ki!

-22,850 MP!

-15,000 HP!

The pain was unreal. I lost my sense of direction completely, but [Gamer’s Mind] furiously tried to retain its focus, with surprisingly limited success.

What a time to find out my limits!

Faintly, I realized I had been sent flying far back, away from the following gunfire and explosions.

I had just enough focus to activate [Sneak] before I smashed harshly into the ground, quickly rolling into a crawl away from the now cheering army.

I had no sense of where I was and my thoughts were a jumbled up mess, but two had gotten past the fog over my brain and settled in my soul.

I am alive.

Keep moving.

I kept repeating the two sentences over and over in my head, slowly regaining focus and control over my motor functions.

Crawling became walking on all fours, which graduated into full blown running.

I had succeeded in my mission, but I’d lost the battle- but that wasn’t even on my mind, focused as it was on the very act of escaping.

I hope Chichi is all right. The thought came unbidden, as I continued to run, the moon slowly rising in the starry sky above.

I would make it back to her. No matter what.

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