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Chapter 28

Age 749, Sunday, September 9 (Night), Forest near Red Ribbon Base

Just keep running.

The thought kept repeating itself as I rushed my way through the thick brush of the forest, the sound of jets and other planes filling my ears.

I hadn’t been caught, as of yet. It had only been around ten minutes since my daring escape from General Blue and the Red Ribbon Army.

Having consumed a [NutriBar] and some water on the go, I nervously— though that nervousness quickly changed to impassivity due to [Gamer’s Mind]— kept checking on my stats.

Amazing as my recovery was supposed to be, I noticed that it wasn’t going as fast as expected. I was about to consult my [Status Sheet], when-

+3,800 XP!

+4,200 XP!

What’s this? I thought in confusion as I continued to run.

Why had I suddenly gotten experience?

Had I accidentally hit someone just now?

I frowned and launched a few probing tendrils of power, invoking [Insight] but only scanning trees, bugs and other assorted critters.

Nothing.

What had that been?

That’s when it hit me. The other two— Blue’s flunkies, they’d likely just died from their injuries. I barely reacted to the new information, [Gamer’s Mind] quickly reducing it into nothing.

Oh, how I hated this skill, and yet it was the only thing which kept me alive.

The indignity of having to use it again would have bothered me, if the passive hadn’t muted most of my emotions.

Discarding such thoughts, I focused back on the matter at hand and pulled up my [Status Sheet].


Name: Ten
Occupation: The Gamer
Level: 27 (15,680/28,000 XP)

Race: Human
Age: 14

HP: 11,042 ; [18,597/33,597] [Poison Gas]
MP: 10,780 ; [ 3,500/37,047] [Poison Gas]
Ki: 14,883 ; [21,500/45,283] [Poison Gas]

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]


I’d been poisoned? The air smelled exactly the same as it always did. I frowned and called up the debuff’s explanation.


[Poison Gas]: You have inhaled airborne toxins. Your regenerative effects are severely lowered.

Duration: 9h50m


“That… doesn’t really explain it. I thought [Gamer’s Body] stopped this sort of thing from happening?” I muttered, speeding up my escape attempt, wanting to get out of here as fast as I could manage.

[Gamer’s Mind] had kept me going in the fight against Blue and his now-deceased flunkies, but [Gamer’s Body] had been pulling its own weight the whole time.

Dealing with toxins, damage which should have turned me into a fine, bloody mist. I imagined what it would be like to have my lungs erupt in fiery agony; airborne toxins usually did that sort of thing.

I remembered a time I read about what mustard gas was capable of— blisters all over the skin, inside of the lungs— it would make me shiver just imagining it.

That is the sort of torture the Red Ribbon Army had tried to inflict on me, and the entire world was their target.

Perhaps I should pay a visit to South City… I believe you have family there? A mother. Perhaps some friends at school. Blue had said.

The fury which threatened to rise up was quickly shunted into whatever void [Gamer’s Mind] liked to throw things into.

I continued to run for the next few minutes, until the forest ahead of me was awash in flame. The explosion’s blast wave slammed into me with the force of a freight train, causing me to stumble into a roll.

I quickly got to my feet, staring at the sheer destruction ahead of me. Acres upon acres of forestland, reduced to a fiery mess.

I looked up to see the source of the explosion, a hoverjet of some sort, armed with missiles as tall and as wide as the Ox-King.

With that thing in the air, I would not be able to escape with any sort of effectiveness. I hid behind one of the trees at the very edge of the destruction, watching as the hoverjet began to position itself to begin another sweep with its missiles.

I moved slowly, bending my knees and reinforcing them with Ki.

-500 Ki!


Ping!

Due to your quick thinking, you’ve created a new-


I willed the notification away— I would check every single one after the crisis was over— and leapt towards the hoverjet, easily reaching the vehicle in question and ripping the door off its hinges with a solid motion.

“Hostile! Fire!”

I stayed on top of the vehicle as the soldiers inside began to freak out at the sudden attack, bullets flying out of the opening.

Eventually, the firing stopped, allowing me to hop into the flying vehicle and throwing all four of its occupants out, not even considering their wellbeing.

The jet’s radio was going crazy— it was General Blue, screaming into it. I would have had a nice little chat with the fellow, but the jet was spinning out of control, and I wasn’t exactly keen on trying to stabilize it.

+800 XP!

+850 XP!

+1,000 XP!

+500 XP!

Note to self, I thought as I dropped out of the jet, watching it veer its way into the treeline, where it exploded magnificently; learn how to fly jet vehicles.

I heard a ping, showing that I’d gained another notification, but kept my eyes peeled for any other interlopers— ah, there. It was another one of the jet engines, likely sent by Blue to reinforce the first.

I slowly moved back into what little undamaged forestland remained, waiting for the opportune moment to initiate another launch.

There.

-500 Ki!

I leapt once more, intent on wrecking this vehicle as well. I only reached its top, when the metal roof beneath me was ripped into shreds, revealing an enraged looking General Blue.

His once immaculate uniform was now torn and burned in places, his hair singed and ruffled, and his eyes were crazed.

I had only a split moment to react as the man laid into me with his telekinetic power.

-200 HP!

-45 MP!

-1,000 MP!

[Mana Shield] came alive at once absorbing the remainder of the damage and tearing the hoverjet apart, sending us both flying down into the burnt husk of the forest.

-100 MP!

I managed to drop into a roll to mitigate the impact.

“You didn’t think you could just walk away from me, did you?” Blue’s clear, commanding voice cut through the smoke and fire. “Though, I’ll admit to being surprised you made it this far, with the poison and all… How you’re still able to breathe at all is a miracle.”

I slowly stood, deactivating [Mana Shield] in order to conserve energy. I took stock of my stats, gritting my teeth at the low numbers.

Half HP, half Ki, almost out of MP…

What kind of damage had Blue taken, on the other hand?


Intrusion detected.

Intrusion cleared.


“Your mental prowess is impressive.” The man praised as he took a few steps forward, a light blue aura surrounding his form.

I didn’t bother to correct him on the matter, instead trying to gauge what state he was in.

He was obviously not at peak strength, the damage done to him in our previous fight should’ve been substantial.

Still, he looked like he was fighting fit.

We circled each other warily, though I kept my eyes peeled for any reinforcements. I didn’t wish to get hit by another tank shell again.

Blue initiated by rushing towards me at blinding speed, his roundhouse kick barely missing my head as I swiftly stepped back before rushing into his guard and sending a fist into his stomach.

Instead of doubling over, as I’d expected him to, my fist only crashed against his blue energy, the momentum sending him flying back, but seemingly doing no damage whatsoever.

I stared at the man warily, watching him slowly get back to his feet, a cruel smile forming on his face.

“Did you think you were the only one with special shielding abilities, boy?” Blue gloated. “You thought that I would remain weak after you defeated me in the Central Games? You won’t have such an easy win this time.”

“It wasn’t an easy win.” I replied despite myself.

“Unlike you, I watched those recordings. You were holding back.” The man scoffed, rushing me again, forcing me to dodge and weave past his strikes. “Even now, you hold your full strength back!”

I made no further reply, focusing on dodging every move the man made. I leapt over another kick, straight into his punch, which I managed to redirect with a well executed parry.

In response, he spun slightly, transfering all of his momentum into his elbow, slamming it into my collarbone and sending me flying to the side.

-2,500 HP!

No sooner had I got to my feet than a fist impacted with my face, sending me tumbling into the scorched earth once again.

-1,500 HP!

“How does it feel to be so humiliated?” I felt the man’s knee press itself over my back as he grabbed my arms and held them behind my back. “You thought you could defeat us, Ten. What a foolish child. We are the Red Ribbon. Do you know why it’s called that?”

I struggled to move out of his grasp, and found that I couldn’t. He was just that much stronger than I was.

Or maybe his lock was simply that effect.

He laughed at my attempts. “You’re actually quite strong! One wonders as to how you achieved such strength, when, months ago, you barely had a fraction of the power you now have.”

A moment of silence passed as I racked my mind on what I was supposed to do.

“Not that it matters, I suppose.” He spoke airily. “Soon, you’ll be dead, and then we’ll go after your family, as well as anyone who’s ever had any association with you.”

Mom, dad. Kai. Dyran. Baba. Akkuman and the others. My friends at school. Old Palm in Central City. Mark.

Chichi.

No.

I felt [Gamer’s Mind] dissolve with my will as I allowed myself to be filled with anger and despair.

“Your mental walls have fallen, as well?” Blue taunted. “Perhaps I shall keep you alive for the interrogation, instead. I will—”

-45 MP!

I covered myself in my [Mana Shield], let my feelings grow to blinding levels before opening my palms and pointing them at him, injecting every bit of my rage and despair into my Ki.

It was foolish of him to keep my hands behind his back.

-20,000 Ki!

Ha! The blast exploded in the man’s midsection point blank, and the world turned white with agony.

-2,310 MP!

-14,000 HP!

I felt my body embed itself into the scorched earth, the light and noise of the explosion completely obscuring what happened to Blue.

When the light and dust finally began to die down, I found myself staring at the clear, starry sky of the night, the sound of fire crackling the only thing remaining.

I felt the pain coursing through my body, [Gamer’s Body] doing very little to mitigate the effect— or was this the watered down version of what I’d truly have been feeling in a situation like this?

I had no answer to that, I blearily thought as I began to take stock of myself. With some effort, I managed to pop myself out of the earth, noting the man-shaped indentation I’d formed in it.

All around the indent, there was a massive crater, one which had been created by my power.

“I’m still alive.” I muttered in astonishment, quickly pulling my [Status Sheet] up and grimacing at the horrible numbers.


Name: Ten
Occupation: The Gamer
Level: 27 (18,830/28,000 XP)

Race: Human
Age: 14

HP: 11,042 ; [400/33,597] [Poison Gas]
MP: 10,780 ; [ 0/37,047] [Poison Gas]
Ki: 14,883 ; [500/45,283] [Poison Gas]

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]

Current BP: 10 [Near-Death]


I was so close to death it wasn’t even funny.

A weak cough from my right made itself known. Instantly, I tensed and warily moved to the side, feeling my body protest heavily against the motions.

It was General Blue— or, whatever was left of him, I should say.

His charred form lay on its back, the explosion having separated his lower body from his upper body.

His left arm had been blown off, but his right flexed as he struggled to get a hold of himself.

I stared at the broken husk of the man, feeling absolutely no sympathy for him. I had hoped the blast would have completely obliterated him.

His one remaining eye finally settled on me, the other one now only a burnt out husk, contorting into an ugly look of rage.

The half-corpse tried to speak, to move, to call up whatever remained of its power at me, but no sound came out.

Nothing happened.

I did not have any more words to say.

I pulled [Stinger] out and drove it through his ribcage, into his heart, watching as the rage in his remaining good eye turned glassy, until there was nothing left of him but dead, charred meat.

+10,000 XP!

I heard a series of pings but paid no attention to them, instead focusing on leaving the area before any reinforcements made their way here.

In my current state, I doubted I would last very long, if at all. Even a few bullets could have killed me.

I quickly passed the zone of charred earth, through a few more patches of untouched forestland— the army seemed to be in disarray, after the death of their troops and three of their most valuable commanders— and into the vaguely familiar, wild hillsides north of the Ox-King’s home.

After an hour or so’s worth of running, I finally recognized landmarks I’d crossed in the past and found my way to a very familiar looking camping spot.

I remembered sleeping here, many months ago, before I’d made my way to Central City. It was a spot I’d found while randomly exploring the area, nestled into the hillside and hidden from above by the trees around it.

I roughly stumbled into the spot, using the cave wall to hold myself up and closely listening to any flying vehicles— a surprise sneak attack, maybe.

Finally, after minutes of absolutely nothing, I dropped to my knees in exhaustion.

I was still alive. Blue was dead. His flunkies were dead. I’d crippled the Red Ribbon Army— for now.

My family was in danger, assuming the now-former General Blue wasn’t stingy with his information. It would make sense, our fight was public knowledge, and they’d used my previous abilities as some baseline to improve his by a ton.

He hadn’t counted on my Ki abilities having improved so much. Still, that had easily been one of the most difficult fights I’d ever taken part of.

I tried to continue that line of thought, but my body was no longer responding, the exhaustion having completely shut it down.

The last thing I saw before I lost consciousness was the wall of the cave.


I woke up to the sound of a ping.

Purely on habit, I called it up and began to read, ignoring the stiffness of the motion and the general feeling of exhaustion that came over me.


You have slept on the hard rock floor of a cave!
10% HP/MP/Ki restored!
Status Effects partially mitigated.


So, that’s why everything felt so stiff… Wait.

Quickly enough, I felt the alarm encompass my being, forcing me to quickly sit up, checking my surroundings and listening for anything out of the ordinary.

Minutes passed with nothing happening.

I sighed as I slowly scooted back, pressing against the cave wall as I tried to get my emotions under control.

“I took on the Red Ribbon Army and won.” I said slowly.

“I almost died.” I added. “My HP was almost zero.”

It was a chilling thought. Any more damage and it would have all been over. Intellectually, I knew, for a fact, that there was life after death— the ghosts the Baba employed, as well as my venture into another realm, were plenty proof of that.

Still, the mere thought of it sent chills down my spine.

But you’re not dead. Part of me replied, keeping me focused. And you’ve still got to meet up with Chichi and the others, as well as warn your parents of the eventual retaliatory strikes the Red Ribbon Army is sure to launch.

I had to keep moving, I thought as I tried to get up— with absolutely no luck. What was wrong with me?

I frowned, instead pulling up all of the notifications I’d been ignoring up to this point, maybe there was something which would explain my current situation.

There were the expected increases to my [Sneak] skill, a few level ups to [Insight], one level up to [Ki Ball]

I read through it all.


For using stealth to sneak into the Red Ribbon Army base, utilizing your [Techie] skill to lie well enough to be led into their research department, you’ve received +10 to INT/WIS


After managing to survive the lethal onslaught of several platoons of well-armed soldiers, you’ve received +10 to STR/VIT/AGI!


Sneak (Lv 35- 10%) – You’re a ninja! Well, not really, but you have enough wherewithal to not prance around in the open where things can spot and kill you easily. 39% chance of staying unnoticed. Attacking while in this state will yield a critical strike; however, you will lose your [Concealed] buff as soon as you show yourself.


Insight (Lv 50- 84%/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.

25% Ability to go unnoticed past an enemy’s mental resistance.


Ki Ball (Lv 45 – 23%/Active): Since time immemorial, living creatures have learned to harness their life energy and bring it to the surface. The Ki Ball is the most basic of techniques.

It has a base cost of 300 Ki and deals 1055 damage. Further damage will require more Ki, at the same ratio of cost. Note that the Ki Ball will become larger and slower the more Ki you inject into it.


Having fought against General Blue, your [Martial Arts] skill has levelled up twice!

Martial Arts (Lv 52 – 3%/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 53%.

Known Styles: Tiger Style, Palm Karate Style


Quest Complete

Red Ribbon of Blood and Death

You’ve uncovered the Red Ribbon’s secret plot: to take the Dragonballs and make a wish!

You stormed their outpost, destroyed their Dragonball locator and annihilated their most powerful soldiers!

Reward: 100,000 XP, +5 INT, +5 WIS


You have gained multiple levels!



Name: Ten
Occupation: The Gamer
Level: 31 (10,830/32,000 XP)

Race: Human
Age: 14

HP: 12,911 ; [4,400/40,205]
MP: 13,597 ; [4,600/43,495]
Ki: 17,402 ; [6,200/54,190]

STR: 129 ; [255.42]
VIT: 126 ; [249.48]
AGI: 152 ; [300.96]
INT: 115 ; [166.75]
WIS: 115 ; [166.75]

Points: 25

Battle Power: 135.6, [268]

Current BP: 50 [Post-Battle Exhaustion]


Hm… I’d lost the effect of the [Poison Gas] and [Near Death], but was now under the effect of [Post-Battle Exhaustion] instead.

Just what did that entail?

I pulled up the effect’s description.


Post-Battle Exhaustion: You cannot move in any measurably useful way due to the extreme stresses you put on your body.

Duration: 2h40m


So much for easily healing up from any situation, I thought morosely as I pulled a [NutriBar] out of my [Inventory] and began to eat, knowing I was going to be stuck here for a while.

I hope Chichi’s doing well.

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