Chapter 5: A sword in the hand is a fist to the face

Three days had passed since Fursona Online's hacker incident in the coliseum, though there was still no news about it as of late. According to Ferdinand's theory, the group known as the Gate Hackers would have to be a very impressive group of hackers to stay out of the administrations radar. The foxnuki suggested it would be best to find out more about them after his email to the video about them was played off as a joke by the administration. Kageichi had been busy with college work to get the chance to play, but he managed to make a few changes to his character; asking an artist friend taking a major in animation, he switched his old character picture and placed in his panda's newest look. His fursona was still his wonder panda, but with a few alterations; it was a red and white panda now, no pink ears or tail, no yellow spots on his chest, no purple nose, just a red and white panda. His new red eyes were covered by his new red spots with markings that seem to go down and curve under them, streaks of red went down his cheek going through his spots, the rest of him, his arms, legs, chest, tail, and nose were all red. Ichi's new attire connected more to his martial artist class than his samurai class; he wore a pair of black fingerless gloves, a black vest and pants with gold streaks on the sides and front, his sword in a black sheath wore a pair of gold bells hanging at the end of its handle and it was tied to his waist by a red sash with a bigger gold bell hanging at the end of it.

Where is Kageichi now you ask? Now that it was the weekend he was finally able to get back on and play, he figured the rest of his friends had leveled up higher than him already so he decided to take an advanced quest by himself to level up quicker. So far though, that mission seems to be putting a number on him. Ichi found himself in the air, thrown right into a bunch of trees in the forest of the Sengoku era the damage bringing his health down to what was now 35 percent. He stood back up wearily, the pain from the last attack showing itself from the scratches and claw marks on his stomach. "Ngh! Now I know why MMO's always suggest making a party, soloing is hard."

The quest was to take down a chimera in the forest, its high pitched roar rung in the panda's ears as it got closer. It walked towards him on all four hooves, a chimera hybrid of boar and hedgehog named Blaze Tusk. Its tusks coming out of its mouth seem to be made of fire, its breath burning the grass under it as well. It had been half an hour since Ichi had started to fight it and by wasting two healing potions he only managed to bring its health down to half. "Pain in the ass boar, now I'll have to waste another potion on you, guess I'll have to take this up a notch if I want that EXP of yours."

Drinking one another potion to raise his health to the max, he pulled on his gloves and made a run towards it. The giant boar's fire tusks began to form together, creating a large fireball. It fired at Ichi burning the ground as it shot out; the panda jumped high into the air and unsheathed his claws from his paws. "From Volume 2 of the bear style: Staggering Claws!"

Kageichi slashed right into the Blaze Tusk's eyes, blinding it and making the large beast take wince in pain. Now was his chance to pull off a critical combo. "Bear Style: Grizzly Combo!"

The panda's claws slashed at the boar's face twice, following up his attack with a powerful kick that shot it into the air. Ichi jumped after it but was surprised as the Blaze Tusk fired its spikes at him, he managed to quickly dodge but the boar caught him; it turned into a ball and dived slamming him into the ground with a powerful impact. The damage was a critical but that didn't stop Ichi; he grabbed the boar while it was in ball form and with all his strength he threw it off. He saw his chance and unsheathed his sword, looking at its health it was down to 35 percent in health. "Now's my chance, time for that EXP!"

Before he could deal the final blow, Ichi felt a burst of air shoot pass his cheek as something shot at the Blaze Tusk's head. It was an arrow that struck the beast destroying it until it was just nothing but data. The screen for the EXP points earned showed, but it wasn't given to the panda at all. "What… The… Fuuuuuck!"


The giant red panda looked around as he heard the sound of laughing behind him. There was a panda just like him standing on a branch, though this one had the regular black and white color; what was even stranger was that this one was skinny and not chubby like he was and wore futuristic clothes. A white sleeveless shirt with brown straps that matched his shorts and a gold shoulder plate on his right, he wore a red scarf on his back as well. The bow he had been using had changed into a long sword, Ichi glared at him angrily. "Hey, that was my EXP you stole!"

"Sorry, but you snooze you lose." The panda replied, he jumped off and disappeared into the trees.

"Dammit… you bastard!"

The panda sighed as he walked back into town, still angered by the panda boy that took his experience points and chance to level up. He was so distracted by it that he didn't notice the two familiar players that passed by.

"Kageichi, is that you?"

"Huh?" The panda turned back to see a bear in nothing but a loincloth and a modern style clothed fox with a guitar on his back that was very familiar to him. "Hey, if it isn't Xavier and Akita, long time no see guys."

"Dude, what's with the awesome new look?" Akita replied.

"Oh I figured I'd give my fursona a little alteration, cool right?"

"Well I kind of liked the old look." Xavier answered.

"What, no way that looks badass especially with those streaks on his face he looks like a cyborg." The fox argued.

"I did like my old look, but my friend in college did make it for me and I like it." He smiled. "So what have you guys been up to?"

The three talked about their days as they walked over to an item shop, after telling them about his little intrusion by another player Akita couldn't help but laugh, though he stopped after a simple bonk on the head by Xavier. "Ow alright I'm sorry, that totally sucks about losing all that EXP. Did you get a look at the guy's name?"

"I caught a glimpse of his name above his head, I think it was… Storm Farron I think?" Ichi replied. "When I find that skinny panda, I'm so gonna whoop his butt."

"I know it sucks to lose your chance to level up by someone else, but don't get obsessed by it ok Ichi?" Xavier said. "You can always find another high level monster."

"Yeah I guess so."

"Hey you said that the guy was a skinny panda right, he had a big sword on his back too right?" Akita asked.

"I didn't see him put it on his back, but yeah he had a bow that turns into a long sword why?" Ichi asked.

"Isn't that him over there?"

The three turned to where Akita had pointed to, and in the middle of town they saw the same skinny panda Ichi had saw in the forest. He opened a holographic screen and summoned the Time Dial in front of him.

"Hey! You get back here; I've got a score to settle with you!" Ichi yelled as he ran as fast as he could to get to him.

"Time Jump!" The future panda noticed Ichi charging at him, sticking his tongue out as a tease he was instantly teleported to another time before the larger panda could grab him.

"Dammit, Akita, Xavier we're going to the medieval era!" He told.

"Huh, why are we going there?"

"I managed to catch a glimpse of his screen, that's where he's heading." He quickly added the two into a party with him and put up the time jump option. "Come on, let's get going."

"This'll be fun." Akita smirked.

"I guess I should be the one to make sure you two don't go overboard." Xavier sighed and joined in just as the Time Dial opened.

Storm chuckled as he was teleported to the medieval town, but before he could set out he noticed another player standing in front of him; it was a large Kodiak bear in knight's armor with gold streaks on the arms his face plate opened to show his eyes. He wore green cloth as a "Huh?"

"Good day to you young man, my name is Benjamin Eldegard." The bear replied. "I'm looking for strong players around level 30 to help me in a quest to save this town's king."

"The town's king, there's a quest for that?" He asked.

"Yes and he's in terrible danger by the infamous monster, The Tongues of Hell." Benjamin answered. "A giant two headed dragon that kidnapped the king and took him to the dungeon known as the Ashes Falls."

"Interesting…" Storm was intrigued; he opened a screen for his map and noticed the Ashes Falls was a mile off from the town. "I guess I could take the quest."

"Marvelous, just let me send you an invite and we can-huh?" The bear was surprised when the young panda walked passed him. "Hey, just wait a second while I invite you."

"I don't need your help; I'll be taking care of it on my own." He told as he walked off to the dungeon. 'I can handle things on my own; I don't want anyone getting hurt because of me…'

"Please wait; you don't know what you're getting into." The bear turned and was about to chase after Storm, but the bear stumbled as he was bumped from behind by Kageichi who had just appeared from the Time Dial. "Oh I'm so sorry; I should've got out of the way."

"Oh no it was my fault I wasn't looking." The panda assured.

"No please accept my apologies."

"No accept mines, please I insist."

"No I insist."

"Enough just get to the point already!" Akita exclaimed, cutting them off of their little apologetic skirmish.

"Hehe right, oh hey you mind if I ask something knight dude?" Ichi asked. "I'm looking for a player that might've come through here; did you see a skinny panda wearing future gear and a sword on his back?"

"Oh yes I did, and he's in terrible danger." The knight answered. "He's heading to the Ashes Falls, but he has no clue what the boss is like besides that it's a dragon. We have to save him and the king before its too late."

"Wait wait wait… how tough a boss we're talking about?"

"Are you seriously asking that right now?" Xavier sighed.

"Well hey if we do this then we might get a bunch of EXP I just wanna know what we're dealing with." Kageichi smirked.

"I'll explain on the way, right now we have to hurry before it's too late!" Benjamin exclaimed.

After the long mile walk, Storm finally reached the Ashes Falls. It was a large cave that once he went inside was covered in ashes. It covered the inside of the cave; the bones of fallen heroes that once try to venture inside were also covered in ash. With a calm expression he readied his sword and went inside, but in actuality he was scared to death. He wondered if it would have been better if he kept Benjamin around, he sighed at the thought and tried to reaffirm that this was the best option. "It would be best, that way no one will get hurt… now then."

Storm reached for his sword as he got into an open area in the cave, the skeletons around him began to reanimate with swords in their hands. "I'll have to get rid of these guys if I wanna continue on."

The skeleton warriors charged at him one by one, he swung his sword and blew them away with one swing. Storm jumped into the air and sliced one in half, as a skeleton came from behind he blocked its sword and kicked it into the air. His began to transform, shifting into a large bow he summoned an arrow and fired at its head while the skeleton was in midair. He fired multiple shots destroying the skeletons around him, and as one got to his face he fired an arrow straight through its head destroying it before it made contact. His bow switched back to sword form and placed it back onto his back before continuing onwards into the cave. Storm found some of the interesting areas of the cave, the more open areas had piles of ash and used them in interesting ways, he could see ash falling down like rain and there was even a small stream of ash flowing not far off from him.

'I can't believe how amazing this game still looks; I never thought virtual reality would be so amazing.' He thought. Storm continued on until the ground beneath his feet began to shake; he could sense the impending danger and readied his sword. "So it's here, the dungeon boss."

The ground shook more with every step as the monster stepped closer, its large clawed feet made craters with each step it took, its black scales shined even in the dim light, its tail full of spikes swung left and right and its blood red eyes pierced at the panda with both heads full of sharp teeth. The dragon's name floated above its heads, The Tongues of Hell it was called. At a level of 39, Storm couldn't help feeling his paws tremble, but he kept his sword at the ready and made his attack; he charged at the dragon and attacked its chest with his sword. Stabbing it deep inside he failed to notice the dragon's left head breathing green smoke. 'Smoke, does it cause some sort of status effect?'

Storm quickly pulled out his sword and jumped away just as the right head shot out tiny sparks; it reacted with the smoke and caused a large explosion that threw the panda through the raining ash and into a wall. His health went down to 93 percent, he knew it would've been worse if he didn't move out of the way before so this time he decided to attack at a distance. His sword transformed into a bow and he began to fire his arrows at the dragon. The Tongues of Hell unleashed its gas as a projectile and caused it to explode with sparks, but Storm quickly dodged out of the way and attacked again with his arrows. "Shock Shot!"

Storm pulled another arrow; he charged it with electricity as he aimed it at one of the dragon's heads and fired. The attack landed a critical hit on the right head's left eye, the electricity from the arrow shocked and paralyzed its head for a limited time, but it was enough to stop it from making explosions. "Now I've got you!"

He switched his weapon back into a sword and went for another attack, but he went too soon; The Tongues of Hell attacked with its tail, shooting its spikes as projectiles and landed a direct it on Storm's chest and legs. He fell on his back and in the pain he realized he couldn't move he became paralyzed to the point that he couldn't even pick up his head. The large beast crept ever so slowly; its right head had recovered and was moving again while the left spewed gas all over the panda's body. 'No, with so much gas… this'll be the end for me.'

"Dazzling the stage!" Catching as much as he could from his position, Storm could see a flash or red attacked the right head of the dragon with a powerful kick. As it landed above his head he realized it was Kageichi who saved him. "The Galactic Pretty Boy! Kageichi Ka-crap!"

The Tongues of Hell sparked the gas creating a giant explosion in the whole area; Kageichi quickly grabbed Storm and ran out of the way just in time. As he escaped, Xavier, Akita, and Benjamin attacked it as a distraction. "Damn thing totally ruined my epic intro. Say you ok?"

"You again, you saved me?" Storm asked.

"Pretty lame of you to go to fight a boss without knowing its skills, the spikes that come from its tail causes a strong paralysis that lasts an hour." Ichi explained. "Nobody has any panaceas so you'll have to wait for a while."

"But why did you…" The skinny panda was caught off by another explosion.

"Look I'll talk later; right now I gotta help my friends."

"Wait you don't know about its other attacks, it can breathe a gas then uses it for an explosion with sparks."

"That sounds familiar… and gives me an idea." Kageichi headed back into the fight, just as the dragon fired its spikes at Ben and Akita he quickly dashed out in front of them and stomped the ground. "Bear Style Defense: Iron Belly!"

The spikes hit Kageichi at his belly, but they didn't pierce through; flexing his stomach he shot the right back giving the Tongues of Hell the damage, though unlike Storm it was still able to move. "Damn, so I guess its own attack won't paralyze it."

"Great timing, but now we have to figure out how to beat this thing." Akita replied, as of now the monster's health had went down to 65 percent.

"I actually have an idea, hey Benny can you charge that arm cannon of yours?" Ichi referred to Benjamin's weapon, his right arm transformed into a cannon with magic runes around it similar to the video game megaman.

"Yes I can, but why?" He asked.

"Okay, charge your attack while we give you a distraction."

"Look out!" Xavier rushed in as one of the heads lunged out at them, he shapeshifted his head into a wolf and took a bite at its neck. It tried to shake him off, but his fangs were plunged deep into its scales.

"Charge up quick, Akita you lend support!" Ichi unsheathed his sword and dashed out to help Xavier. "Boulder Slash!"

"Song of Empowerment!"

Akita played his guitar, using his magic to enhance Kageichi's attack. The panda stabbed his sword into the ground and swinging his sword upwards he launched the rocks from underneath as projectiles at the dragon's chest; Xavier took the chance to let go of its neck and attacked again with monstrous claws. He slashed at the monster's necks and jumped before its tail could hit him, but he couldn't dodge in time from the spikes; one shot at him and hit his shoulder, though it was only a graze and he could still move, it still caused his health to fall significantly.

"Okay, what's the plan?" The bear asked the panda.

"Gotta wait first." He answered.

"Wait for what?" Akita replied.

"I'm fully charged and ready to fire, just tell me when Kageichi." Benjamin called, his cannon filling with magical energy and condensing it into a powerful shot.

"Wait for it…" Kageichi watched as the Tongues of Hell's left head stretched out, its mouth opened as green gas began to fill inside of it. "Now, fire at its mouth!"

Without hesitation, Benjamin fired a powerful blast into the left head's mouth. The blast reacted with the gas and created a large explosion from the inside. The Tongues of Hell fell on its back from the critical blow; its remaining health had drastically fallen to 35 percent. "This is it, Xavier, Akita let's finish it!"

Xavier was the first to attack; he transformed himself into a triceratops and charged at the dragon, using his horns he launched the monster into the air.

"Starlight Finale!" Akita played his guitar gathering magic around him in small spheres of light; they fired out dealing blows around the dragon's body juggling it in midair.

"Bear Style: Black Bear Kick!" Kageichi jumped above the dragon's body, and with a powerful kick-er… chop?

"How is that a kick!?" Everyone exclaimed.

As I was saying, with a powerful chop he decapitated both of the Tongues of Hell's heads cutting through with his claws like a knife through butter. The dragon was destroyed, becoming nothing but bits of data as a holographic screen played saying they were victorious. Kageichi saw another screen pop up and smiled with glee, along with the other monsters on the way here he had reached level 32. "Awesome, three level ups in one day and I got to use my psyche out technique. Today was an awesome day."

"Are you this much of a goofball in real life?" Xavier chuckled.

"Not at all, I'm actually the quiet type." The panda replied.

"This was great, thanks to you three I was able to complete my quest." Benjamin smiled. "Now the only thing I have to do is rescue the old king."

"Could've sworn I heard someone behind the dragon so you can check there, Akita can you come with me?" Ichi asked.

"Sure, for what?"

The panda grabbed the fox's paw and lead back to where he left Storm's body, the skinny panda looked back to as far as his eyes could see, his body still paralyzed from the previous attack. "You think you got a song to fix him?"

"Oh yeah, you should've asked me before: Ambrosia." Playing from his guitar, Akita began to envelop Storm's body in a green light. It radiated for a few minutes and then disappeared. "There we go, you'll be able to move now."

The young panda realized he was right, he began to have feeling in his legs again, and he moved his fingers and felt them as well. As he got back up, he looked back to Kageichi and the others. "Why did you help me?"

"Because you needed the help silly, and I did want to pay you back for taking my kill." Ichi sighed. "Though I guess with all that's happened I can let it go."

"I… I didn't want anyone to get in my way." He shook his head. "No, I just didn't want anyone getting hurt because of me. I've been like that since I started this game."

"And that's why you were in this predicament… you were acting too serious and cool." Kageichi patted his head and smiled. "It's ok to show that you're scared to do something on your own, it's also ok to ask for other's to help and depend on them. That's what games like this are all about, and it's also a great place to make friends."

"But… I don't know where to start." Storm eyes fell to the ground but soon returned as a gloved hand reached out to him; it was Ichi who looked at him with a warm smile.

"How about this then, why don't I be your friend?" He said gently. "I'll be your friend, and all of my friends will be your friends too. What do ya say?"

The younger panda had no words to say, he smiled softly and took his paw in his own. Storm pulled himself back up just as Xavier and Benjamin came to see with the aged king. He sighed and politely bowed at them. "Please forgive me for all of this trouble; I should've gone with you from the start Benjamin. I'm sorry for saying I didn't need your help."

"Aww think nothing of it, after all you also contributed in saving this land's king." The knight smiled as he petted the king's head, an old beaver king that is.

"I should say sorry to you as well Kageichi, this started cause I took your kill before so please." He bowed down before the older panda. "I want you to go ahead and hit me."

"Huh, are you serious right now?" Kageichi asked. "I mean if you're sure you want to I guess I could."

"Yes I am, so go ahead and don't hold back because we're-!?"

Hold back was an understatement; Kageichi jammed his gloved fist straight into Storm's face and threw his head directly into a wall. The other's watched in pure fear as the red panda laughed an evil, maniacal laugh. "Hahahaha, oh man that felt great!"

"Haven't you ever heard of self restraint, you could've hit a minor for all you know?" Akita exclaimed.

"Yeah that reminds me, hey Storm how old are you?" He asked nonchalantly.

"I-I'm fourteen… ow." Storm groaned as he got back up, but he had a goofy on his face even with the pain coming from it. "I'm ok though, don't worry. I could tell that senpai was holding back."

"Senpai, who me?" Ichi asked.

"Of course senpai, you're cool and collective and have awesome strength." The young panda blushed. "I hope that I can become just like you one day, so please teach me your ways senpai!"

"Hehe, looks like someone got himself an apprentice." Akita chuckled.

"More like a love stuck puppy." Xavier chuckled and everyone joined in on the joke.

"Please teach me all you know senpai, I want to learn!"

Kageichi sighed 'A sword in the hand is a fist to the face… though now it feels like I'm the one who's been punched.'