Age 749, Wednesday, April 30, Shore to the east of Fry Pan Mountain.
The mountain of a man barreled past me as I leapt to the side, narrowly dodging his axe with a flash of panic that was almost instantly suppressed by Gamer’s Mind, placing me in a state of absolute calm.
“[Mana Shield].” I activated the skill with a mutter, feeling the drain of my mana commence. At best, I’d be able to hold the shield for a minute, with it offering me minimal protection— barely 50 damage.
In a fight like this, though, I would take what I could get.
With that thought in mind, I got back to my feet and rushed the giant, crossing the distance between us with a massive leap, both my legs extended to deliver as much damage as I could.
My feet slammed into his back with great force, but it only moved him a few steps forward. He hadn’t even grunted from the blow, merely raising his hand to scratch at his chin!
That had been enough to kill one of the pirates, and this man had just shrugged it off like it was nothing— like a fairly irritating bug bite.
I jumped back in time for him to smash the ground open with the blunt side of his axe, casting Observe to assess the situation.
King of Fry Pan Mountain
Turtle School Student
Ox-King – Lv 32
HP : 15,500/16,000
Rep: 0/10,000 Hated
Description: Referred to as the Emperor of Demons, the Ox-King has been killing those who trespass onto his kingdom grounds, suspecting their foul intentions and believing they are out to get his riches.
He wants to beat you to death for daring to sully his daughter.
Battle Power: 100
I only did 500 damage? His Ki was down a thousand points, as well. Why?
Possibly a similar skill to my shielding ability— that was the extent of my thoughts before he lobbed the axe, the implement of death spinning with great speed.
Like father like daughter, I thought and dove to the side, the axe tearing through a number of trees and leaving a path of devastation in its wake, the ground shuddering with trees impacting the ground.
This man’s attack and defense were monstrous. Even if I were to unload all my remaining Ki on him, he would still be above 14,000 HP, assuming his own Ki didn’t absorb the blow.
I should have been feeling hysterical, but all I felt was the cold calm of Gamer’s Mind asserting itself over me.
There was no need to doubt myself.
Fight in the moment, Ten.
Ignore your instincts to flee.
Watch him closely!
Find his weakness!
The Ox-King barreled towards me once more, mistaking my lack of movement for defeat. Within seconds, he was on me, his massive arm coming down in a wide arc.
I stepped inside his guard, using his heavy arm to maneuver myself under his armpit, driving my fingers into the soft flesh, disabling his arm for the time being.
As he stared in surprise at his immobile left arm, I pointed both hands in the man’s face.
“Ha!” My palms erupted with all of my remaining power, the blast exploding at point blank range in his face, with enough force to send me stumbling back slightly.
I heard the man’s groan and made to run to the shore, knowing this was the only chance I had at escaping.
A moment later, I felt a strong grip on my leg before I was lifted in the air and mercilessly smashed into the ground.
My ears ringed with the harsh impact, pain suffusing into my whole being, not allowing me to think. I felt myself shifting once more, realizing the man had never let go my leg.
I blinked, and found myself staring into the angry snarl of the Ox-King.
“So, you thought you could come into my kingdom and steal my treasure!?” He growled in his deep voice. I didn’t answer for a moment, merely looking at his HP, which was sitting at 13,000.
I found myself flying as the man threw me like he would his axe, crashing through a tree and embedding into the boulder behind it— right next to his axe which was embedded into the stone.
I lay there for a few moments, my body totally out of my control as I stared up into the sky, the red glow of the fiery mountain blocking out most of the stars, with the exception of a scant few, as well as half moon proudly above us.
I got up slowly, the feeling of dizziness and tiredness slowly fading into a background buzz, held at bay by Gamer’s Body.
If I were any other person, they’d likely be too out of it to even form any thoughts.
I called up my Status Sheet.
Occupation: The Gamer
Level: 7 (4,200/8,000 XP)
STR: 30 (43.8)
VIT: 50 (73)
AGI: 28 (40.88)
INT: 29 (37.41)
WIS: 25 (32.25)
Battle Power: 10
That was it, I was almost completely spent.
One more hit and I was done for. Dismissing the window, I assumed a stance, watching as the Ox-King slowly walked into view.
“You’re not running away.” He said in confusion as he finally stood a few feet from me.
His snarl was gone, replaced by a mix between a grimace and a confused purse of his lips. His voice was no longer the overpowering sound it had been earlier.
I barked a laugh.
“Is there even a point?” I gestured to my shirt, riddled with bullet holes and further torn by the sheer brutality of the fight against the giant before me. “I’m at the end of my rope. I already had to deal with those pirates, and then you came out of nowhere trying to kill me.”
A long moment passed.
“You mean, you’re not here to steal my treasure?” The big man said in a mix of surprise and suspicion. “Why should I believe you? Plenty have tried that old trick, lying to try and get away after getting caught red handed!”
He looked to be preparing to barrel towards me again.
I snarled, a great rush of anger suffusing in my body for a few seconds before [Gamer’s Mind] smothered it in an absolute sea of calm.
“You may try to kill me.” I stated in a monotone, preparing myself for death as I assumed the stance Kai taught me, fingers bared in a claw-like grip. “But you will not get off easy.”
The man stopped for a moment, taking my measure, before he made to rush towards me once more.
This was it.
The final moment.
“Dad! Dad, stop!” A voice cried, stopping us both in our tracks. Turning to the source, I realized who the sound belonged to. The girl; Chichi.
Was she here to help him finish me off?
Princess of Fry Pan Mountain
Chichi – Lv 14
Rep: 5,000/10,000 Well Liked
Description: The Princess of Fry Pan Mountain, Chichi is a kind girl, who hopes to find a man worthy of her charms, beauty and smarts. Nevertheless, be wary of angering her, as her wrath knows no equal.
She is currently confused, unsure of how to feel about you, as you attacked her but also saved her life. She likes you.
Battle Power: 25
I guessed not. What the hell? How did I go from Neutral to Well Liked? I’d only given her.. CPR..
Oh. My face was beginning to feel hot as I realized the implications.
Who the hell decides they like someone because they received CPR?
It made no sense!
“Chichi! You’re all right!” The man completely changed his demeanor, running towards his daughter in what almost seemed to be a comical fashion, hugging her tight against him. “I was so worried! Did that man hurt you, sweetie!?”
I kept my stance, realizing this situation was about to get a whole lot worse.
“No, he didn’t!” She said, before looking a little confused. “Well, he did, but he made up for it by saving my life!”
“B-but he put his lips on yours!” The giant argued, pointing at me.
Chichi blushed profusely at the man’s loud words, covering her face at the very mention of it. I could feel the heat rushing to my cheeks as well.
“No, dad.” She shook her head, face still a bright pink. “I was drowning.”
A moment passed before the man made an overly long grunt of understanding. Then, he turned to me. I still kept my stance, watching his every move.
“Still, that doesn’t excuse him trespassing on my land.” Ox-King declared.
“Was I supposed to let the pirates kill me?” I asked blithely, tensing as he began to walk back towards me. “It was either fight them at sea where they could pick me off with guns, or I could go into the woods and ambush them, maybe make it out alive.”
“…” Ox-King stared at me for a long moment, before giving a long, and loud guffaw.
I stared in bemusement, wondering what the guy was thinking right at this second. Weren’t we going to fight?
“You’ve got guts, boy.” Ox-King moved towards me, mouth set in a severe expression before finally stopping a few feet from me once more.
I tensed, waiting for the strike to come— but it never did.
Instead, he extended his hand.
I stared at it, completely dumbfounded by the gesture.
“I respect that.” He said, extending his hand further and gesturing for me to shake it.
I didn’t move for another second, before old instincts kicked in and I shook his hand with all of the strength I could muster.
“My, you’re a strong one, aren’t you?” He grinned, shaking my hand wildly. If he raised his hand even further, I’d be thrown around again! “What’s your name, boy?”
“It’s Ten.” I replied as I pulled my hand away, scoffing at the comment he made. “Strong? None of my moves had any effect on you!”
The Ox-King guffawed once again as his daughter moved towards us to stand by his side. “I would have been surprised if they had! Though, that final move of yours did pack quite the punch…”
I nodded, glancing at Chichi and accidentally making eye contact with her. She looked away, blushing and smiling as she did so. She actually looked pretty cute— No, Ten. Focus.
Don’t look at the girl who likes you.
Ox-King looked between us, a strange grin sporting his features for a moment, before he boomed. “I am the Ox-King, King of the Fire Mountain! And this,” He gestured at Chichi, who eep’ed and gave a short bow. “Is my beautiful daughter, Chichi!”
“Err… Pleased to meet you.” I said, not quite sure of the situation currently playing out.
“Dad!” She said in embarrassment, but the old man laughed it off. A few moments later, however, his mood turned serious.
“Who trained you, boy?”
I blinked, before answering. “Just the master of a local dojo in South City. He taught me the ins and outs of the Tiger Style.”
“I’ve seen a few master martial artists using it over the years. It’s quite the impressive style.” The giant commented lightly, wiping at his goggles with a piece of cloth. “I saw the men in the forest. That was your doing?”
I nodded silently, noting that I barely felt anything over the men who’d lost their lives tonight. Was this another effect of [Gamer’s Mind]— taking away my empathy?
No. No, I felt empathy. I just didn’t feel empathy for pirate scum, I realized.
“A very dangerous style indeed. In the wrong hands, well… It certainly speaks of your strength of character if you don’t use it against the weak and helpless, instead turning it to those who do.” He said gravely, before his eyes lit up as he recalled something. “Did they also teach you how to harness your inner power?”
“Ah, no…” I denied, wondering what I should tell the guy.
He was trying to kill me just a few minutes ago, after all. Hell, he could change his mind at any moment and finish me off at his leisure.
It wasn’t like I could put up much of a fight if he did.
I supposed it didn’t matter if he knew.
“I taught myself.” I finally said at his curious demeanor.
That seemed to get a reaction.
“Just a boy, and already able to use your inner power?” Ox-King said in amazement, his daughter mirroring his look. “That’s unheard of! Even the Master hadn’t…” He trailed off.
I frowned at his words, but gave a mental shrug for the moment.
“Well, um…” I started, not really knowing what to say. “Since I’ve established that I’m not a pirate, may I be allowed to leave?”
“Ah, you mustn’t! In your current state, going back to sea could cause you great harm!” The big man exclaimed, giving a short glance to his daughter before moving his gaze back to me.
“You must stay the night with us. It is the least we could do, after taking care of the pirates for us and our trying to punish you for it.” He finished, trying to give an amiable smile. To my surprise, I found myself relaxing.
“All right.” I agreed, suddenly feeling very drained. Was it a de-buff?
I shook that thought off.
Who wouldn’t be exhausted after a night of running from pirates, hiding in a forest, killing pirates, hiding from a giant of a man, then expending half of my power, only to then fight the big hulking man I likely wouldn’t have won against even if I was at full power?
The Ox-King noticed my sagging form, but didn’t comment on it as he led the way to a nearby town, close to the base of the fiery mountain.
Looking around, I noticed something was off. the town was empty, replete with dust and trash. The houses looked totally abandoned, with the exception of one— the one we were headed to.
We passed a small courtyard, its center filled with a pile of bones.
For a moment, I felt myself come back to attention.
Was that what was going to happen to me?
“Those are just a few dead pirates.” The Ox-King explained, noticing my alarmed look. “They killed our last neighbor, and so I delivered justice unto them. They sit in the main yard as a reminder to any who attempt to prey on our community.”
A few seconds passed as we drew closer to the Ox-King’s home.
“Well, I say ‘community’, but it’s a fact that we haven’t had a proper kingdom in many years now.” Ox-King admitted sadly as he opened the door to his home, Chichi running inside and going straight up the stairs, pausing for a few moments to glance in my direction with a bright pink blush.
I followed the man and his daughter inside, feeling oddly refreshed as a burst of cool air hit my face.
In the excitement, I hadn’t noticed how hot my body felt until I came into the air-conditioned home.
I supposed Fry Pan Mountain had caused the sweltering heat. Flames going strong for years likely had that kind of effect on the weather.
It actually made sense as to why the forest had seemed especially dry when it was April. Ecosystems quickly changed when the weather did.
Pulling my shoes off and leaving them at the door, I entered the household proper. Hearing the Ox-King’s call, I went further inside, into the living room, where the man was calmly sat on the positively huge couch.
Not exactly how I’d expected the house of a King to be.
But then again, his castle was up the fiery mountain. It wasn’t like he could move it down here. I gave a mental shrug before sitting on the couch opposite of his. He gestured towards the table in front of me, on which a bottle of water sat.
I grabbed the bottle, casting [Observe] as I did so.
Bottle of Water
Description: Your basic bottle of water. Keeps your body hydrated so you can exert yourself for longer. 10% Increase in HP/Ki Regeneration.
My Observe had never been fooled in the time I’ve had it. I gave the large man a nod of thanks, before taking a long drink of the water. “Thank you, Mr. Ox-King.”
The man grunted in reply, before staring at me for a long moment.
“So, South City, you said?” The man said lightly. I nodded in reply. “Quite the long way from home, and alone to boot. What brings you here?”
I took another long gulp of water, before replying.
“Well, as I said, I was learning at a dojo in South City, but its master told me that he had nothing left to teach me after around a month of learning.” I started to explain, but was cut off.
“A single month?” The man seemed incredulous at what I’d said. “Remarkable.”
I gave a nod of confirmation. “So, he told me to seek another man out for further training.”
“Another man, you say..?” Ox-King queried, pulling his goggles off to show me his dark eyes. “It wouldn’t happen to be the Muten Roshi, would it?”
Ox-King smiled wider at the look of surprise I gave him. He looked me over.
“You certainly are at a level advanced enough to start his training.” Ox-King noted, scratching at his beard absentmindedly. “Certainly more advanced than when I’d started.”
“Wait.” I exclaimed in surprise. “You were taught by this Master?”
“Yes.” The large man confirmed with a grin. “I was his second best pupil! Second only to my friend, Gohan!”
Of course, it made sense: the ridiculous durability, the high HP, Ki and Battle Power stats, it had to have been the fruit of the training Master Roshi gave. But, if he was trained by Roshi, that means…
“Do you think you can tell me where he is?” I asked, ignoring my sheer exhaustion for a moment. “The rumors I’ve heard and research I’ve done all point to a small, remote island east of the archipelago near here.”
“Is it truly?” Ox-King sounded ecstatic all of a sudden, before realizing what I’d asked and sagging slightly in the couch. “I’m afraid I don’t know where the Master is, boy. If I did, I would humbly ask that he put the fire of the mountain out for me!”
Put the fire out?
At my confused look, the large man continued to speak. “There’s this special fan, the Bashosen; a fan with magical powers, you see. With a single wave, it can raise a typhoon; with a second wave, a thunderstorm; and, with the third wave, a monsoon!”
I processed the man’s words, wondering whether that item actually existed or not. It seemed a bit too powerful to be real, I thought.
Then again, a few months ago, I wouldn’t have believed I was able to take a shotgun blast at point blank range and survive to tell about it.
“You want the monsoon to take care of the fire, I’m guessing?” I tried, taking another gulp of water.
“Exactly.” The great big man nodded emphatically, before he turned his gaze to me. “Might I ask a favor of you, then, my boy?”
You tried to kill me not an hour ago, I wanted to say.
“Um, depends on what it is you want.” I said, instead. “I might say no.”
“Understandable, after what I’ve put you through.” Well, at least the guy had the decency to admit when he’d royally fucked up— heh, get it, royally fucked up? Cause he’s a king? “I would request that you retrieve the Bashosen from the Master, and help me put the fire out from the mountain?”
I wanted to say no, but he looked so hopeful…
Out Of The Frying Pan And Into The Fire!
Seek out Master Roshi, retrieve the Bashosen and put the fire of the mountain out for good!
Reward: 15,000 XP, ?, Greatly Increased Rep with Ox-King and Chichi.
Failure: Reduced Rep with Ox-King and Chichi.
Accept / Deny
Pressing on accept, I replied with the first smile I had that night.
“I’ll do as you ask.” I replied with a nod.
“Great!” Ox-King stood up abruptly, clapping his hands with a meaty smack. “Allow me to escort you to the guest room, I’m sure you’re in need of a good rest, after your long night.”
I followed him with a mutter of thanks, glad to sleep in a real bed after so long.
Age 749, Thursday, May 1, Town at the Base of Fry Pan Mountain
You’ve slept in a bed! HP, MP, and Ki fully restored!
Ping! Due to recovering from the worst beat down of your life, you gain +2 to STR, +2 to VIT, 1 level in Martial Arts and 3 levels of Physical Endurance!
My eyes went wide at the new notification, pulling up my Status and the relevant skills.
Occupation: The Gamer
Level: 7 (4,200/8,000 XP)
STR: 32 (47.04)
VIT: 52 (76.44)
AGI: 28 (41.16)
INT: 29 (37.41)
WIS: 25 (32.25)
Battle Power: 54.9
Martial Arts (Lv 17 – 82% / 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 18%.
Known Styles: Tiger Style
Physical Endurance (Lv 21- 45%/Passive) – The body’s durability increases, allowing for less damage taken. 23% Decrease in Physical Damage taken.
I stared at my full stats for another moment, dismissing all of the windows and clenching my fist, feeling the raw power within. With a smile, I got off the bed and carefully scrutinized my surroundings.
It wasn’t much of a room, if I had to be honest. The design was spartan— there was a bed, a chair and a small table. That was it.
My eyes roved over the table, seeing a note attached to it. Curious, I took the note and read through its contents, only to frown. It was just a bunch of random doodles— probably some discarded or forgotten piece of paper.
Placing it back on the table, I moved back to lie on the bed, sighing as I recalled the events of the night before. Three men had lost their lives to me, last night.
“Is it my fault?” I muttered to myself, before shaking my head almost immediately after. Now that I had clarity of thought, it all seemed quite simple, really.
I’d given them a fair few chances to leave. The first was by trying to escape with my boat. The second was trying to outrun them in the forest. Two ample chances, and they instead decided that living wasn’t their preferred mode of existence.
I shouldn’t have been feeling guilt over it.
So, why did I keep hearing the sound of spines snapping and throats being crushed?
There was no answer.