Enjoy!

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Strength Of Will

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Age 749, October 16, Evening, Location Unknown

Unknown POV

Listless pain. That was all he knew and understood.

He was powerless, helpless; no, he was less than helpless.

At least the helpless could rage against their situation, if impotently. He thought and even that action alone was a heavy drain on what meager reserves he possessed. What a joke.

He opened one eye so slightly that the many scientists in the large chamber around him wouldn't have noticed. The black eye gleaned everything it could before he lost all his remaining energy and closed it.

He'd been moved to yet another location, from the looks of the various opened boxes lying around the laboratory. They were still in the process of setting up. His sensitive ears picked nothing up from beyond the walls of his confined space— just the strong hum coursing through the viscous liquid around him and deafening him to any noise coming from the outside.

The creature would have grimaced in disgust if he could have; these humans were learning quickly. They had correctly deducted his ability to hear the slightest of sounds and compensated accordingly.

Unable to do anything other than thinking, for these same humans had removed his limbs long ago, the creature pondered his situation for the umpteenth time. He would have regenerated them, but he did not have the energy to open his eyes, let alone regrow his limbs.

The liquid he was encased in, to make things worse, was laced with some kind of sedative that kept him constantly in a weakened state.

Was this to be his destiny now— to be trapped in a sterile environment as a mere subject of the humans' feeble scientific inquiries? He dared to open his eye again, seeing the scientists arguing amongst each other while holding long sheets of paper with detailed diagrams and graphs, occasionally pointing at him.

Yet, none looked his way. It was as if he wasn't even there. He felt rage envelop him at being dismissed so easily. Did they not know who he was?

Did they not know of the destruction he had wrought, the lives he had taken, and the fear he had instilled in the hearts of his enemies?

His face twitched with fond amusement from within the container, a movement just as imperceptible as the opening of his eyes. He remembered the joy he had felt when he had destroyed entire cities with a flick of his wrist, and the thrill of hearing the screams of his victims.

He stilled again. Now, as he floated there, he thought, not for the first time, that his reign of terror had ended before it had the chance to truly begin. He was trapped, helpless and alone, with nothing but his memories to keep him company. The once mighty Demon King was reduced to a mere shadow of his former self, and the realization filled him with despair.

Such a thing was unforgivable, rage inducing even, but he mastered himself. It would not do to show his hand so early again, lest they dose him even further than before.

No.

He was a master of battle and tactics, and in this particular battle, it seemed that he needed to be exceedingly patient to stand even a sliver of a chance. Patience and a strong will were required, and he had plenty of both.

After all, he would not have become the great King he was, otherwise.

Yes. He thought. I will bide my time. I will pretend to be weak.

He only needed to wait; the fools thought that, by taking his blood and injecting it into their soldiers, they would be able to gain an advantage in their war against the existing bodies of government.

And they had succeeded, to a point. The 'Greenlight Serum', as the scientists of this place liked to put it, had increased their soldiers' strength manyfold, some even nearing his own in the prime of his youth!

Were it any other circumstance, he may have decided to ally himself with these people, at least temporarily, as they seemed to have similar goals. However, after the things they had done, the humiliation and pain they'd made him endure, he knew that was never going to happen.

For all their meticulous planning, his captors had made one grave mistake. They had failed to account for his tenacity.

The fools could not grasp the situation they'd unknowingly created. By sharing his essence, his… DNA, as the scientists put it, with the humans, they had empowered them, true; but they had also unwittingly bound these same people to him.

All it would take was a sufficiently strong mental command, and they would fold to his will.

But he had to wait. He could not show his hand, just yet. Patience was bitter, but its fruit was always sweet.

Oh, no. I'll certainly kill every last one of the scum— in time. He thought as he slowly succumbed to unconsciousness once again, fully expecting to be in a new location the next time he awakened. But first, I will wait until they learn more about my body. With their knowledge, these foolish scientists will inadvertently devise the ability to strengthen me beyond anything I have thought before. And then, after my new children have matured some, I'll be taking back what's mine.

For a single instant, his face split into a mad grin before the expression was smoothed over, appearing as a simple sleep-induced twitch if anyone had even bothered to look at him.

Yes, he would have his revenge, and become all the stronger for it.

The humans will rue the day they thought they could defeat I, The Demon King Piccolo!

oooo

Age 749, October 17, Just Before Dawn, Korin's Tower

Ten

Have to keep going. I thought, gritting my teeth as I was forced to stop for a second, feeling something tugging at the rope. I quickly turned my head, ready for yet another fight with Chichi, only to see that she was still unconscious.

Still, I linked my energy with hers, invoking [Insight]:

oooo

Greenlight Cataclysm
Chichi - Lv 41

Race - Human / Ņ̴̻̻̯̠͔͎́̎͐̏̈̿͑̚̚͜a̶͇̙̬̬͇͠m̶̛͎̤̅́̇̓e̵͙͉̩͚̗̊̆̓͐̉́̔̇̚ḱ̷̙̳̯̮̦̦̳̬̹͂̔̄͘̚͜i̸͕͙̮̗̦̺͍̞͋̍́͝ȧ̷̦̕͘͠n̵͓̙̼͉̳̒̉͗͌͐͜ͅ
Age - 14

HP: 4,250/52,000
Ki: 500/63,000 [Drained]
MP: 600/600 [Locked]

Rep: 20,000/100,000 Loved

Description: The Princess of Fry Pan Mountain, Chichi has been subjected to a cruel experiment by the Red Ribbon Army, greatly increasing her power at the cost of taking her will away and setting her against the love of her life.

She is currently bound and unconscious.

Battle Power: 155

oooo

I stared at her debuffs as well as her health points for a bit longer than necessary, feeling like I couldn't even trust my own system before letting out a sigh and resuming my climb.

Who can blame me? I thought, keeping my breathing as calm as I could manage. Strangely enough, this climb had actually begun to tire me, something which I thought wasn't possible.

[Gamer's Body] should have been mitigating any and all effects related to pain, and yet the tiredness was still there. My body wasn't sweating, and my muscles still felt no pain, and yet I couldn't seem to shake the urge to let go and just rest.

Perhaps it was my mind that was tired; yes, that had to be it.

I'd been essentially running on mental fumes for over a day, and still there seemed to be no end in sight. My eyes went up the tower to try and check to see how far I had to go, but a cloud formation had blocked the rest of the path— had been for a while.

I suppose I should be glad that it hasn't rained on me. Yet. I thought, hurrying my pace. There couldn't be much left to climb. I'd been at it for so long, and I hadn't been going particularly slow, either.

My eyes went down to the unconscious form of Chichi for a split second before I hurried my pace. I wasn't in the mood for yet another fight; I'd had to restrain her five times, so far.

While I could do so a sixth time, I was just— tired.

"Just keep climbing." I muttered and redoubled my efforts, passing into the cloud and shivering at the sudden sensation of moistness and cold. The shock was enough to make me go as fast as possible, though I had to be careful not to slip off the wet surface of the tower.

Me and my big brain. I thought in annoyance at myself; this was worse than rain. Even with [Gamer's Body], I felt the chill in the air move under my skin and seep into my bones.

I grit my teeth at the uncomfortable sensation and kept going. How much worse would it have been without the inherent defenses given to me by the system? The wind howled, pulling Chichi and the rope away from me and forcing me to adjust my position on the tower.

"Easy does it." I said, moving myself to the side where the wind would be forcing me into the stone. "Just keep going, Ten."

I continued to climb, unwilling to concede defeat so easily. No, I was better than this. I would make it up there, victorious, and Chichi would finally be healed.

That was all there was to it.

As if to answer my sudden drive, I emerged from the cloudline and felt a great warmth wash over my back. The sensation of heat on my skin was a welcome relief from the biting cold. The Sun had reached out its golden fingers to brush away the frost and embrace me in its warmth, energizing me further.

I closed my eyes and stayed in place, drinking in the heat for a long moment before turning my gaze upwards again. My eyes widened, because I finally saw something different than the endless stone pillar.

It was at the edge of my vision, but it seemed to be some kind of sphere— was that the place where Korin resided? I grinned and resumed my climb, maintaining the current pace.

Falling all the way back down when I was basically there, simply because I'd gotten impatient… Yeah. Didn't want that.

After a minute of climbing, I checked again. The sphere had grown closer, looking to be the size of a house the closer I got to it. I'm glad it isn't a hallucination.

Finally, I found myself at the base of the structure, seeing a hole which led to the inside.

With a flex of my muscles, I leapt away from the tower, grasping at the bottom of the hole and lifting myself up in one smooth motion.

Then, I pulled my rope up, taking Chichi into my arms before walking up the spiraling steps ahead, which lead to the center of the structure, an empty chamber which was open from all sides, showing the world around me.

Taking a few steps forward, I stared over the edge of the railing down at the vast world below.

"It almost feels like a dream." I murmured to myself as I tried to grapple with the reality of my current situation. "I climbed all this way…"

"I assure you." A deep voice came from behind me, startling me beyond anything I'd expected. "This is no dream."

I swiveled in place suddenly, fist cocked back for a split second before it went flying towards my target.

I hit nothing but air.

"What the…" I said in sheer confusion.

"Over here, kid." The deep male voice now came from my left, and I turned to see its source somehow staring at me with eyes scrunched closed.

"...A cat?" I said slowly as I continued to stare at the diminutive creature before me.

It was a fat little white-furred cat standing on its stubby hind legs and holding onto a staff. All in all, it didn't look particularly imposing.

And yet, above the creature's head, I could see its nametag.

God Of Martial Arts
Korin - Lv ?

It was unbelievable, and yet it was right in front of me. This was, without a doubt, Korin of Korin's Tower; the supposed legendary master who watched over these lands for centuries.

Just what was I dealing with, really?

"M-My apologies." I said, giving the cat a bow. "You… aren't what I expected."

"And what did you expect?" The cat waddled a few steps forward as he scratched a fur-covered chin. "A wise, frail old man with hidden power? An old crone sitting on a floating crystal?"

Those descriptions were very specific— suspiciously so.

I narrowed my eyes even as I exited my bow. "You know Master Roshi and Uranai Baba, I take it?"

"Know them?" Korin said, letting out a loud laugh. "I trained them both, kid. And here you are, a once-in-a-millenium prodigy from both of their respective worlds."

"A prodigy." I repeated, shaking my head. "That isn't…"

"Oh? Is that not what you are, Ten?" Korin finished for me as he walked past me towards the edge, gesturing for me to follow with his cane.

Passing by Chichi, Korin stopped and let out an impressed noise.

"Ho…" He said, looking over the tied up, unconscious woman. "That is a very nice trick, child— but you didn't think it would work on someone of my experience, did you? I can sense the subtle fluctuations in your energy, as clear as day."

Instantly, Chichi's green eyes opened and she broke through her bindings without any trouble before rushing the cat, her ki-coated hand zooming towards his face, as sharp as the most lethal of daggers.

"Watch ou—" I stopped what I was saying when I saw the venerable master's staff gently move past her guard, twisting her arm with a simple tug that sent her crashing into one of the pillars with a loud crack.

A moment later, she fell to the floor with a thud. Before she could even recover, Lord Korin was already standing atop her body, his staff pressed into her back, holding her in place with ease.

"...Out? Huh?"

"You didn't think a young kitten like this could get the better of me, did you?" Korin said, his voice still serene despite the pointless thrashing of Chichi beneath his staff.

"...I suppose not." I said as I approached the girl carefully. I began to concentrate my Ki. "Keep her still— let me put her back to sleep."

I was stopped by the outstretched paw of Korin, forestalling my imminent action. "Your method will not work any longer, kid. I'll do it."

Then, a moment later, he moved. I almost didn't see it— his paw reached and tapped both sides of the girl's head, destabilizing her flow of power before she could even react.

A moment later, she stilled.

"There." Korin said, taking his staff off of her chest and hooking it behind her leg, dragging her towards a bed which magically appeared out of nowhere. He placed her on top before tapping his staff against it.

Instantly, bindings erupted from the bed, holding her to it. They glowed with a subtle golden hue.

"This should do, for the time being." Korin said, nodding with satisfaction as he turned back to me, gesturing for me to follow him to the edge.

I did so without question, too shocked to say anything.

The both of us stood there for a few moments, staring out in the ethereal beauty of the sunrise for the longest moment before Korin spoke again.

"She won't be escaping anytime soon." He said by way of explanation. "The harder she struggles, the more energy the bindings take from her— if she even wakes up from the magical sleep It induces in her."

I let out an incredulous breath and shook my head, impressed. "After all the trouble I had bringing her down… You do it instantly— and neutralize her while you're at it! Incredible."

"Ah, I wouldn't beat myself up too much over it." Korin said, noticing the unease and self-reproach lurking just under my skin. "You might be a prodigy by all metrics, but don't forget that you're still fourteen years old, after all. I daresay many people in this world have got more than a few years on you, kid. And age automatically means…"

"Experience and wisdom." I finished for him, not feeling particularly better from his words.

"Exactly." Korin said before chuckling. "And yet, despite your inexperience, you've already achieved quite a bit, haven't you?"

I didn't answer, instead shaking my head. "I only did what I had to. What was asked of me, and what anyone would have done were they in my position."

"Is that so… Ventured into the Demon World to stop a foreign army from invading the Earth— the same army your father, who was well into his adulthood, sacrificed everything to merely delay nearly a decade past." Korin listed, startling me with the information. "Putting a stop to the Red Ribbon Army's attempt to secure the Dragonballs, as well as other parties— we have been watching. Your actions are not what anyone 'would have done', from my own experience anyway."

I felt a chill creep up my spine when he said that.

"We." I repeated slowly. "You and… The supposed 'guardian far above Korin Tower'."

"So the Dragon has deigned to tell you that much, eh." Korin said, chuckling to himself as he scratched his chin. "Though why Shenron would deem it appropriate to… I wonder."

What is he talking about? I wondered but didn't dare voice my concerns out loud.

Korin stayed quiet for another second before he stepped away from the edge, standing at the center of the large chamber. "Care for a little test?"

"I…" I opened my mouth to deny him instantly before shaking my head. Arguing with the centuries old martial arts master who decided whether or not I got to progress past this point wasn't wise.

"No, it wouldn't be wise at all." Korin said and laughed again at my shocked expression. "Who do you think taught Baba that little mind-reading trick, hm?"

"Hmph." I looked away for a moment before turning back to Korin. "It's not that I'm against the idea of a test… It's just that I'm not at a hundred percent."

"Ah, yes." Korin said. "Your inability to reach a state of meditation and your existing… Status effects, I believe you call them?"

I twitched but nodded in confirmation.

Korin reached to his side, producing a small object from… somewhere on his person. I got a little closer to look at it, but I couldn't make it out from this distance; it looked to be the size of a small pebble, though.

"Catch." Korin said and flicked the object to me with his thumb, sending it flying towards me.

I caught the projectile without thinking, staring at it for a few seconds as I took it all in. "A green bean? Huh."

I didn't say anything further, knowing that there was likely something more to this item. And so, I invoked [Insight], my eyes widening at the information displayed in front of me.

"This is…"

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Senzu Bean

Rarity: Legendary

A magical bean that can instantly restore a person's health and energy. Using a Senzu Bean will replenish the player's HP and Ki to their maximum level, cure all non-disease status ailments and provide the consumer with ten days of satiety.

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"Ridiculous." I finished dumbly. "This little bean can do all that?"

I read the description, and yet it still boggled my mind. Satiety for ten days? Healing both HP and Ki to full? Just what was the drawback, exactly?

"How…" I said, staring at the bean with no small amount of wonder. "This thing could solve so many problems in the world. Hunger, injury, malady…"

"I presume that Baba has already taught you the basics of alchemy?" Korin said abruptly.

I blinked in surprise, remembering the old crone's lessons. "An element of sacrifice lies within the art of potion making, whether it be in the acquiring of alchemical ingredients, growing them or the mixing process itself."

Judging by the cat deity's nod of approval, that was the right answer.

"Indeed. Very good." Korin said, moving towards the center pillar and gesturing for me to follow. "Observe."

Korin pressed the tip of his staff against a small space of the pillar and pried it away, revealing…

"The bark of a tree?" I said, eyes wide with realization. I took a step back in shock before heading to the edge and looking down the tower. "Wait. The tower is… actually a tree? Reaching up this high?"

"Indeed it is, young Ten." Korin said, closing up the plate before joining me. "It is a tree that has been growing for many centuries, requiring much nourishment and sacrifice. The Karinga Tribe have watched over it and defended its sanctity over the generations with their life's blood, spilling it into the very earth it draws sustenance from."

I looked down at the bean in my hand again. "This was… Nurtured with the blood of countless humans."

"And the carcasses of all living organisms it can reach— it's a tree, after all. It will reach into the depths of the earth for sustenance."

I absorbed his words for a few seconds before raising another point.

"Karinga Tribe." I repeated, eyes wide. "A tribe dedicated to you?"

"Not something I particularly enjoy." Korin said, grumbling. "But I do not control what the denizens of the world below decide they wish to worship. My task is merely to guide the next generation of worthy martial artists to new heights. Nothing more. So, are you going to eat that?"

"Right..." I said, turning my gaze down to the bean in the palm of my hand. "Well, here goes."

I bit into the bean, mashing it in my mouth before swallowing it down. Weirdly enough, it tasted of fish and had the texture of celery, a combination I'd have never imagined before.

The effect was instant. I felt my power pulse before it skyrocketed, causing a strong wind to blow outwards with me as its epicenter.

Ignoring Korin's surprise, I closed my eyes, feeling my wellspring of Ki and realizing that it had been completely replenished before I even realized what was happening.

The last effects of the burns faded as well as those of the fatigue both physical and mental, leaving me feeling refreshed and strong again. "This is… incredible. I'm actually fully healed."

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Name: Ten
Occupation: The Gamer
Level: 39 (32,500/52,000 XP)

Race: Human
Age: 14

HP: 61,075
MP: 54,445
Ki: 82,317

STR: 145 ; [304]
VIT: 157 ; [324]
AGI: 200 ; [405]
INT: 136 ; [197]
WIS: 132 ; [191]

Points: 5

Battle Power: 170, [344]

oooo

"Quite the rush, isn't it?" Korin's voice interrupted my examination, bringing me back to reality. "Well, are you ready for your test?"

I gaped at him for a moment before getting myself under control.

"Yes." I said, nodding with a smile. "I suppose I'm more than ready."

"We'll see about that." Korin said, showing me a toothy grin. "Your test is to land a blow on me. Feel free to use your little sensing trick on me beforehand, if you wish to know how strong I am."

I only stared at him, invoking [Insight] before he changed his mind:

oooo

God Of Martial Arts
Korin - Lv ?

Race - Deity
Age - ?

HP: 150,000
MP: 175,000
Ki: 250,000

Rep: 0/10,000 Neutral

Description: Korin of Korin Tower. He stands watch over the Land of Korin and aids the worthy who wish to reach the next level of martial arts.

He is patiently waiting for you to finish assessing his power.

Battle Power: 250, ?

oooo

His power was lower than mine! And yet… Why did it feel like there was a massive gulf between us, regardless of battle power? His HP and Ki stats were beyond ridiculous!

And why did it feel like I was the one left in the dust?

I went into my stance, drawing a sound of recognition from the cat.

"Tiger Style, huh?" He said, and I immediately knew I'd failed some kind of test. "A style based around ambush tactics and a strong, yet linear offense— what do you do when your opponent is faster?"

I didn't answer, instead rushing towards his position and lashing out with a quick swipe, hoping to end the fight before it even began.

My strike hit nothing but air, with Korin's staff pressing down on my right wrist as he used it to swing into my guard. I retaliated with a straight left aimed at Korin's face, but he jumped above it, swinging the staff down at me.

The weapon broke through my hastily formed guard, driving a lance of pain through my forearm and sending me sliding backwards on the stone floor.

-1,000 HP!

I snarled and brought my Ki to bear against the wave of disorientation that followed his strike, only to find that it did not answer my call.

What the—

But that's as far as I was able to think before Korin was on me again, moving past my guard with painful ease and striking at my shoulders and knees.

[Mana Shield]!

-45 MP!

-700 MP!

-650 MP!

-275 MP!

The attacks struck against my body, doing no damage to me physically, but I felt the old Master's energy reach past my shield of Mana, destabilizing my Ki further.

It was then that Korin took a step back, scrutinizing my attempt to regain control of my power with an air of intrigue and amusement.

"You're pretty resilient, you know." Korin complimented, but the words only served to annoy me. "I daresay most people— even those well trained in the use of Ki— would not have known how to counter my move."

"Resilient— that's a very inventive way of saying I'm a really good punching bag." I said in return. I huffed, trying to get myself under control.

"True enough. With your speed, I shouldn't even be able to hit you, you know."

"And yet you are." I said, frowning at his words and feeling like he was just messing with me for the Hell of it.

"And yet I am." Korin repeated, nodding at me. "Not trying hard enough, are we?"

"I don't…" I said, feeling defensive. "I don't think I can…"

"You don't think you can… what?" Korin said with a knowing expression.

I glared. "You know what I'm going to say. I can't go all out against you— every time I've had to summon up all of my power, well…"

I threw a look towards Chichi, who was still lying unconscious in bed.

"I don't want to accidentally hurt Chichi." I said. "Or accidentally damage the tree, or destroy your home."

"Your friend will be fine." Korin assured me, hefting his staff with one hand. "Observe."

He then threw the staff straight at her, business end first.

I balked at his actions even as I mindlessly rushed forward to save Chichi, only to stop and realize that the staff was frozen in midair.

No, not frozen. I thought. Just slowed down by a great deal.

"Like it?" Korin said as he walked past me and gestured at the staff. "An advanced spell that only works in an extremely limited way— the closer an attack reaches, the slower it moves, thus —"

"Negating any damage!" I said with wide eyes that turned into a frown as I tried to make sense of it. "But that wouldn't necessarily work on Ki attacks."

"It does to a point— obviously I'm not saying you should be throwing your strongest attacks at me." Korin said, sounding a little exasperated.

"But the test—"

"— is meaningless if I kill you or you kill me." Korin cut me off before he snagged the staff and leveled it at me. "Now come at me."

I stared at his staff for a single moment before rushing him once more, [Mana Shield] reactivating with a thought.

-45 MP!

Korin continued to slip past every strike, every attempt at grabbing him, punishing me with each failure.

"Too slow!"

-800 MP!

"Are you even trying to win?"

-500 MP!

"You can do better than that!"

-600 MP!

Every counterattack he landed successfully injected Ki beyond my shield, affecting my ability to channel energy and therefore use ki blasts, but I persevered, instead focusing my attention on better regulating my inner flow of power to counteract the cat master's systematic attack on my energy.

You can't break me down. I thought even as I began to slowly shift my body so as to mitigate Korin's strikes against my body.

Hits that would have tripped me up or knocked me down now only felt like minor annoyances. Eventually, I knew that I would be able to block them out.

The surge in confidence bolstered my enthusiasm, and I rode the wave as fast as I could, intensifying my offensive.

A few feints, and I maneuvered him to the edge.

"Ha!"

-500 Ki!

-500 Ki!

I sent two [Ki Balls] to Korin's sides and rushed forward. The energy collided with the floor, not damaging it much but trapping my opponent in place.

Right where I wanted him.

You're mine! I thought and threw the punch that would end the fight.

It was then that I felt my body seize up, and I fell flat on my face. It took all I had to force my head up so I could look at my opponent.

Korin, however, didn't laugh, or gloat, or even say anything, only waddling forward to me, the constant tap of his cane being the only sound present.

"What did…" I struggled to say. "What did you do to me?"

"I've subdued you." Korin said simply. "While you have a considerable amount of Ki, you have little to no real control over it. You blast it around like a brute with barely any subtlety."

"But I had you trapped!"

"Trapped by weak blasts such as those?" Korin said, shaking his head. "I could have walked through them. They would've certainly hurt, but I've dealt with painful wounds in the past. I would have been fine had I taken them— not that there was any need. You were not able to repulse my attacks completely, and so this allowed me to co-opt your own body, thus disabling you."

"I…" I said, shaking my head slowly as feeling began to return to my body. I pushed off of the floor with some effort and slowly assumed a seated position. "I thought I flushed the foreign power out."

"Oh you got rid of most of it, which is why you didn't end up disabled for hours, but instead seconds. However." Korin's voice turned dark as he appeared before me, the sharp bottom of his staff digging into my neck before I could do much as open my mouth. "It is more than enough time to end your life, if I so choose."

I opened my mouth before closing it; instead, I took in what had just happened. I had failed Korin's test.

Despite being weaker than me, Korin had defeated me so soundly it wasn't even funny.

And yet… it was, in a twisted way.

"I lost." I said and chuckled, overwhelmed by both relief and despair as Korin backed away from me. "I actually lost."

It was a bewildering mixture of joy and sorrow, and yet it was freeing in its own way. The relief I felt was palpable, a weight lifting from my soul, as if months of stress had suddenly evaporated into thin air. It was a moment of pure catharsis, a cleansing of the spirit.

"You okay there, kid?" Korin said in concern.

"I…" I said and managed to stop myself from descending into hysterical giggles again. "I lost."

"Yeah, you did." Korin said, nodding. "You didn't think you were going to win every fight you took part in, did ya? Pass every test?"

Part of me had, actually. I hadn't lost a real fight, besides the one with the Ox-King, until this point. The Central City Games, Baba's fighters, the trip to the Demon World, Goku, the Red Ribbon Army… I hadn't lost any of those fights.

It was true that I'd been cutting things a little close, but in the end I still had plenty of energy in reserve.

And here I was, defeated while still mostly at full power against someone weaker than I was in terms of Battle Power. It hadn't even been a contest.

"I—" I was forced to stop again when I felt my throat constrict. "I have to pass. I can't fail here. There's so much that I need to fix. So much at stake. I can't stop here."

I felt the tip of Korin's staff press against my neck again. "And how far would you go to accomplish your goals? Don't think about it, just answer."

"As long as I didn't hurt good people, I'd do anything to fix things." I said without thinking.

"Hmm…" Korin said and tilted his head to the left minutely. "So, what do you think?"

Huh? Who was he talking to?

"An intriguing one." A deep, peaceful voice said from that direction, and I turned my gaze to see a strange man standing outside of the balcony, on a flying carpet.

No, calling that person a man would've been wrong. I'd never seen a human like this.

His skin, black as the deepest night, glistened under the sun, an ebony sheen that contrasted with the light grays and whites of the tower. A pair of pointed ears protruded from the base of the turban he wore. The creature wore a very small vest seemingly tailored to his unique physique. Beneath the vest, loose, white pants billowed around thick legs, their fabric contrasting the dark shade of its skin.

Above him floated the name:

Popo

There was no level or any indicator. I hadn't even felt him there until he announced himself.

"Intriguing, is he…" Korin said, trailing off a bit before resuming. "Does that mean that the boss—"

"Oh, yes." Popo said. "Of course. That is why I came down."

"Skipping the need to use the [Power Pole], and everything, huh?" Korin said, impressed. "Must be important."

"What does this mean?" I said, thoroughly confused.

"It means, kid." Korin got my attention again as he bonked me lightly in the head. "Means that you passed. You may go and see Kami."

I stared at the venerable master for only a second before dropping down on my hands and knees, ignoring all notifications that began to pop up. "Thank you, Lord Korin. One last thing; Bora, the man who guards the territory at the base of the tower—"

"Not to worry, kid." Korin said. "I'll deliver a senzu to him, myself."

I passed. Even though I'd lost horribly, it wasn't all for nothing— Chichi would get the help she needed.

And that was all that mattered, really.

oooo

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