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Steel Sponge

Sub-Tropical Academy

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Rated TV-PG-V

PLOT: 6 teens from ordinary school win a transfer to a pre-martial arts academy in Rio from a contest, where they are mentored by Spongebob and friends. Also where they meet a specialist named Armando. The 6 will be trained to defeat the academy's rival, whom are planning a special attack.

Characters:

Levi Bouldermore: Main character who shows a lot of responsibility and confidence. Mentored by Spongebob.

Terrence Butler: One of Spongebob's students, the troublemaking bad boy of the group.

Dustin Steele: One of Spongebob's students with great nerve, but tends to act nervous and shy most of the time.

Jasmine Nimbus: One of Sandy's students who is a lady at heart, showing more of a passion for beauty than karate.

Sonia Nightingale: One of Sandy's students who took ninja classes beforehand, she has an egocentric and mischievous attitude.

Amber Clover: One of Sandy's students, a comforter type who takes no interest in sports, though is willing to participate.

Clifford Heeley: One of Armando's students who is the least brave of them all and easily gets frightened.

Jeffrey Marshall: One of Armando's top students, a dedicated overachiever.

Liam Atkins: One of Armando's least-composed students who looks up to his master. Born a girl, he transitions during his time at the academy.

Official Release: March 9th, 2012

I have to make another post because the edit button and all that doesn't work unless I have Google Chrome, and I'm having technical difficulties because most of my files are now EXE's, and I have to fix that.

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I don't want to wait until March for stuff.

*trollface*

Problem, JCM? Yeah, I'm pretty aware that you're increasing your post count but still...I have stuff to do before premiering it, if that's not worth waiting until March, then I don't know what is.

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Here it is. Of course, it would have been longer, but you all know I was a bit in a rush.

1. The Transfers

Spongebob and Sandy appeared, waiting around near the docks. Unlike underwater, they were on land, located in the tropical environment of Rio de Janeiro, not too far away from them is a karate facility. Another person around with Spongebob and Sandy was a human named Armando.

“Well it’s almost time,” said Spongebob.

”And what is it time for? Would it be time to show them around our karate classes?” Sandy asked. “Plus, it was uncanny enough to be mentoring humans. Hopefully this batch will do as well as the others.”

“That’s what we have Armando for, Sandy.” Spongebob said, “Besides, what can go unnatural with 8 of those guys?”

“It looks like our first one is arriving,” said Armando.

The first one arriving by boat was a male named Dustin. He simply steps out and meets Spongebob, Sandy, and Armando.

“I think I’m going to like this place,” said Dustin.

“Hopefully you will,” said Spongebob.

“He probably digs the sponge, everybody does,” Armando said to himself.

“It’s such an honor to actually meet you, Spongebob,” said Dustin, “It’s also great seeing you Sandy.”

“Howdy, Dustin is it?” she said.

“Oh, you’ll just love the karate academy, I’m here to make things fun, though it’s going to be a bunch of work, I guess. And this is Armando, the other mentor assigned to 2 of 8 of the contest winners,” Spongebob introduced.

“Yeah I remember the contest, how’s it going Dustin?” Armando said.

“Uh…I’m…fine,” he said shyly.

“Well, since you’re here, you can go inside our karate center, where you will eventually be registered and be assigned with your uniform, you don’t want to catch a cold,” said Spongebob, and Dustin leaves the dock. “

“Its summer,” Sandy pointed out.

“But it’s almost fall,” Spongebob responded.

“Okay, 7 more, I can see the next one arriving,” said Armando.

The next one arriving by boat was named Levi, looking smooth while getting off and entering the dock.

“So you’re supposed to be holding this in Rio?” Levi asked.

“We were being perfectly clear about it, you must be Levi,” said Armando.

“And you’ll love it here, trust me. I’m Spongebob, this is Sandy, and that is Armando,” Spongebob greeted.

“I’m really going to enjoy wasting half of my senior education with a talking sea sponge and a talking underwater squirrel,” Levi said sarcastically.

“Come on, y’all show some spirit,” said Sandy.

“He still likes me, right?” Armando added.

“Anyways, the karate center is nearby where you will be in registration for our classes, along with an assigned uniform, I’ll be seeing you later,” Spongebob said as Levi leaves the dock area. “See, it doesn’t look so bad.”

“Hold on, we have our third one,” said Armando.

The next one arriving was a female, known as Jasmine. She walks slowly out of the boat.

“My, oh my, monsieur, you look really dashing in real life, Armando,” said Jasmine.

“I told you there would be somebody to win the contest for me,” Armando said to Spongebob and Sandy.

“Howdy there Jasmine, I’m Sandy, this is Spongebob-“said Sandy.”

“Arrêt, I didn’t want to talk about you, I am especially here to admire Armando here, isn’t that right, monsieur?” Jasmine said.

“This is mainly for our karate classes, for your information,” said Sandy.

“Oh, I’d love to join your silly old classes de karate,” said Jasmine.

“Okay, good-bye, just go in the karate center and do what we mentioned before with the other two arrivers,” Sandy replied, “That one is definitely not going to pass this academy,” she deadpanned.

“Relax Sandy, we sincere service with a smile,” said Spongebob.

“I thought that was your Krusty Krab motto,” Sandy responded.

“And here comes student number four,” said Armando.

The next one was nowhere to be seen, as the boat shows emptiness.

“Okay, where’s our other assigned student? This person was supposed to be here faster than a barefoot jackrabbit on a greasy griddle-“Sandy said.

“Are you looking for me?” A voice said, revealing a female participant named Sonia, using her art of surprise by sneaking up to them. “A well-known student in ninjutsu doesn’t need a boat.”

“But this is karate,” said Sandy.

“From our applications, you must be Sonia,” said Spongebob,” It’s nice to see you. I’m Spongebob, this is Sandy, and Armando-“

“Yeah, whatever you say. So now I register myself into your karate class now, right?” Sonia interrupted.

“Yeah, it’s that way, we’ll be seeing you in about an hour or less,” said Sandy.

“It looks like that one is savvy enough to pass our academy,” Spongebob said about Sonia.

“Here comes our next one,” said Armando.

The fifth one to arrive was a male known as Terrence, with a bored looking expression on his face, and simply steps out and enters the dock area.

“Hello, you’re Terrence, right?” Spongebob questioned, “Anyways, as karate mentors, we bet you’re going to enjoy yourself as much as we do!”

“Don’t tell me how to live my life in here; I never agreed to have a free visit to Rio and such, so leave me alone!” Terrence said.

“We’re Spongebob, Sandy, and Armando, in case you don’t know,” Spongebob added.

“Whatever, can you just show me where you assign my freedom…my Tae-Kwon-Do class or something before you ruin my patience?” Terrence said.

“Y’all mean karate?” Sandy said.

“The karate center isn’t too far away from this area,” said Armando, “looks like we got a bad-ass around here.”

“Exactly, now don’t bother me again,” said Terrence and leaves the dock area.

“Now we just need three others to come here!” Spongebob said.

“I can see the next one,” said Sandy.

The next one arriving was a female named Amber, waving around until getting off the boat.

“Hello Amber, I’m Spongebob, this is Sandy, and-“Spongebob was saying, before getting interrupted.

“OH MY GOSH, I’ve never been so thrilled to be in a karate-related academy, especially when I don’t really know karate, but that’s okay because I’m going to love it here and there’s just so many likely positive things to say about how excited I am being here!” Amber said.

“Yeah, pretty enthusiastic yourself, I could have confused you for Spongebob,” said Sandy.

“Oh, you’re welcome Sandy,” said Spongebob.

”Well, if you don’t like work, then you might change your mind,” said Armando.

“You don’t assign homework right?” Amber questioned, “That wouldn’t be a huge problem, where do I sign up on this gig?”

“It’s right over there,” Armando said, pointing to the karate center, thus Amber leaves the dock area.

“Okay, just two more and we’ll get this party started,” said Spongebob.

“Number 7 is on his way,” said Armando.

The next one arriving was a male named Clifford, who was quivering over the boat. It took almost a minute for him to get off the boat.

“Hello there Clifford, I’m Spongebob-“

When the boat steamed, Clifford jumped and almost got drenched from jumping off the dock.

“And this is Sandy and Armando,” he continued. “Any questions you’d like to give?”

“Don’t make me stay here! My parents forced me into this! Please don’t be too harsh on me!” Clifford said in a panicked tone.

“Take it easy, our academy’s quality in manners and such is very divine, you’ll be able to like it here,” said Spongebob.

“Or you won’t be able to tolerate it and end up with a splinter,” said Armando, “Just saying. The karate center is nearby where you are registered along with your copy of a uniform,” with that, Clifford ran off.

“Yeah, he’s definitely not going to pull it off,” Armando said about Clifford.

“Give him a chance, Armando. We’ve had other poorly experienced students, right?” Spongebob said, “Now there’s just one more, where is Olivia?” He asked.

The last boat arrived with Olivia, who simply runs up to Armando once she got off the boat.

“Howdy Olivia, allow me to introduce ourselves as Sandy, Spongebob, and Armando, we’ll be your karate mentors,” said Sandy.

“I am so excited to see you here, Armando!” Olivia said, still glomping him.

“We don’t have all day Olivia, we’ll show you around our academy once you register,” said Sandy.

“This was mainly for a karate class? I thought this was for a free trip to Rio with Armando,” said Olivia, and leaves the dock area as requested.

“Great, now we can add up to our karate classes, right?” Sandy asked.

“We should now,” said Spongebob.

“They better not get into any trouble,” Armando added.

In the next scene, Spongebob is shown introducing his three assigned students to his class. The regular class uniforms were a t-shirt with blue sleeve stripes along with a yellow handkerchief.

“Alright everybody, as we all knows, we got some lucky contest winners, and I’m proud to present our three lucky newcomers for my class, starting with Levi Bouldermore,” he introduced.

“Thanks, I appreciate your kindness,” said Levi.

“Hmmm, I’m much better than that,” Terrence said to himself.

“Next up, I would like to introduce Terrence Butler,” Spongebob continued.

“Yeah, don’t talk to me,” said Terrence.

“And lastly, we have Dustin Steele,” Spongebob said.

“Uh…hello,” Dustin said shyly.

“In this class, we train the best we can in order to cause downfall to the opposing karate organization,” said Spongebob, “Hopefully, as you all can get along well, nothing can go wrong.”

The next scene pans to Sandy introducing her pair of new students. The regular class uniforms were t-shirts with somewhat gray sleeve stripes along with a red handkerchief.

“Howdy folks, since today, we’ve got a fresh new collection of new students to attend our academy, first I would like to introduce Jasmine Nimbus,” Sandy introduced.

“Fantastic, but of course, I’m not here for your finest indoor sports, while I find this establishment quite impressionnant anyways,” said Jasmine.

“Next we have Sonia Nightingale,” Sandy continued.

“That’s right everybody, you’re looking at the new, fresh, and generous addition to this place,” said Sonia.

“Lastly, we have Amber Clover,” Sandy finished.

“Hey everybody, I am so thrilled to be here and we might get along very well, I am quite excellent with socializing! I wish I can say more, but-“Amber said.

“Yeah, you all get the point. Hopefully, nothing can go wrong,” said Sandy.

The next scene pans over Armando introducing his two assigned students. The regular class uniform was t-shirts with black sleeve stripes

“Well, it’s not as big as usual, nor lacking as it seems, but I got a couple of new recruits in this here academy. Gentlemen, I introduce to you Clifford Herring,” he said.

“Hello…please don’t hate on me, I can do the best I could!” Clifford said cowardly.

“Fascinating, and this is Oliver Atkins,” Armando continued.

“Thank you guys, I’m going to love being in this class!” Olivia said.

“In my class, we succeed like there’s no tomorrow, and nothing can go wrong…maybe, just maybe,” said Armando. “So Oliver, it’s going to be nice having you around here.”

“And you flatter me,” Olivia said, technically in disguise.

“Yes, and that your disguise isn’t going to fool anybody,” said Armando, taking off Olivia’s fake boy guise.

A few minutes later, we see a detention room, with Armando, Spongebob, Sandy, and Squidward standing around.

“Come on, have a woman like me have some fun!” Olivia said, being dragged by a student named Jeff.

“No, no, no, no, this place feels extremely unsanitary, let me go!” Jasmine said, being dragged by Squidward.

“Get me out of here or else!” Terrence exclaimed.

“Welcome to my world,” said Levi.

“I was framed I tell ya! I was framed!” Dustin exclaimed a bit.

“Please, what did I ever do to get detention? Or better yet, why do we have one?” Sonia questioned.

“This place looks interesting…or not,” said Amber.

“Please don’t lock me here or anything, I am truly innocent for all my doings!” Clifford said.

“Do you know why we called all of you here?” Sandy asked.

“Of course they do, and they’re going to explain it for me,” said Squidward. “And goodness, this is just pathetic! First day, and you all already got yourselves detention! Now, what you do have to say for yourself, mister juvenile delinquent?” He said to Terrence.

“Levi and I were fighting,” said Terrence.

“And Terrence was brutally retaliating and such,” said Levi.

“Enough with you two, but fighting solves no problems at all,” said Squidward and turns to Dustin Steele. “So, how did you get detention? I bet your other friend as something to share as well,” he said referring to Clifford.

“I was framed, okay!? Please let us be!” Dustin and Clifford said simultaneously, with Dustin’s tone quite deadpan, and Clifford’s tone cowardly as usual.

“We got double, there must be some relation with you both,” said Squidward.

“Yeah, I don’t think so. To be honest, it’s not too bad being around in detention with you, Squidward,” said Dustin.

Squidward then turns to Sonia and says, “What do you have to say for yourself, “Miss Show-off?”

“I was showing off in a less harsh way, do you understand? People need to learn what needs to be learned, am I free to go yet?” Sonia responded.

“You wish.”

“Then you’re despicable! You’re despicable to heck!” Sonia replied.

“Keep this up and you might get double detention,” Squidward said and turns to Jasmine, “Now you tell me how you got here.”

“Oh come on, just because I have to use my make-up just once doesn’t mean I should be in this jail cell!” Jasmine said.

“You got in trouble for not taking interest in Sandy’s class, you numbskull!” Squidward exclaimed and faces Amber, “While you must have gotten very less interest to participate.”

“Oh I can participate, but fighting is not normal for me, just don’t get me detention again!” Amber said.

“Well, that is up to you. And that leaves Olivia,” said Squidward as he faces her. “Posing as a boy in Armando’s all-male class, what were you thinking!?”

“It’s just that I idolize and like Armando so much that I have to co-exist in his class, please let it slide!” Olivia said.

“While you guys have the rest of the half-hour in detention with Squidward, we have a special assignment for 8 of you guys, and Armando’s special student, Jeff, is coming with,” Spongebob announced, “Does that sound like fun?”

“I’m Jeff by the way,” he greeted.

“Nope,” said Levi.

The scene then goes to the 8 students with the assigned mission.

“We’re going on a mission?” Jasmine questioned.

“While y’all can discuss your little flashbacks about what happened before detention, you 8 are convenient enough to possibly get along and do a mission for us,” said Sandy.

“What’s our assignment again?” Levi asked.

“Find a member from the Shadow Bark organization and stop him at any costs,” said Spongebob, “A constellation prize would be an upgrade on your belts, good luck!”

“They better show up alive,” Armando muttered, “Just saying.”

Edited by Steel Sponge

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2. Fortress of the Shadow Bark

Jeff and the other 8 recruits were seen walking along the woods to find the Shadow Bark.

“Who is the Shadow Bark anyways? This all just seems too unreal,” said Levi.

“Yes, but you’re all obviously new and unfamiliar to these parts,” said Jeff, “I’ve achieved enough for a black belt, and you all could get a different colored belt by the time this mission is over, but I’m betting that can’t happen.”

“So what if you have a bunch of medals and stuff for the honor you got in the martial arts? We probably have our own dexterity in fighting like you do! I can’t believe it’s all this in our first day.” Levi said.

“Right now, I want to know how all of you were trouble,” said Jeff.

”Well, we just met you, and I think you’ve already known, you were there after all,” said Levi. “I and that other troublesome guy fought.”

“That seems very original,” said Jeff, “It was already clear to know you got detention like that.”

“I am meant to be trouble, I’ve done all sorts of criminal-minded acts,” said Terrence.

“Yeah, I guess I was expecting that,” Sonia added.

“So you have spoken Sonia, what brought you into trouble?” Jeff questioned.

“You don’t have to know! I wasn’t intending or bargaining myself into detention,” said Sonia. “I was just being normal and somewhat boastful about my times in the arts of ninjutsu.”

“What about the wacky comments about the other students, such as “amateur?” Amber pointed out. “Of course, I don’t really know what that means.”

“Maybe those are fighting words, but that octopus doesn’t have to take disciplinary actions against that,” said Sonia, “Some people deserve to criticize, like the way you criticized us.”

“Such brave words you’ve given me, Sonia,” said Jeff.

“Yes, and I would honestly say it’s a displeasure of meeting you,” said Sonia.

Jeff glanced blankly through that comment. He carries on and says, “You’ll get used to me, I have likeability to. How about you, Dustin Steele, anything you like to share? Clifford can also express it, if he’s bold enough.”

“Um…I…just got framed….nothing too…serious,” Dustin said shyly.

“I don’t think I can hear him,” said Terrance.

“It’s just that…I don’t like…answering…questions…” Dustin continued.

“Spit it out, we’re all friends here,” said Levi.

”Not a chance,” Terrance said, in response to Levi.

”IT WAS JUST A MISTAKE! I didn’t mean to get into trouble at all,” said Dustin, loudly at first.

“Okay then, would you express to me who got you into this?” Jeff asked again.

“Last time I’ve heard through him, I think he considers his name as “Chase,” Dustin answered. “Yeah, Chase is going to taste his own medicine after we’re through with this.

“Hustle up, overachiever, my feet are already sore,” said Sonia.

“Now Clifford, did you end up in the same situation as Dustin?” Jeff asked.

”Yeah, I’ve came across Chase, his manner was very unpleasant, my first day meant that I already want to go home!” Clifford said.

”Don’t let your cowardly actions ruin this mission, you’re bold somewhere out there, but I see a bit of over-exaggeration in you,” said Jeff. “How did this Chase person mess with you and Dustin, as you could both remember?” He asked.

“Something probably…childish, like…accusing me…of violet actions toward him,” Dustin said softly.

“Yeah, I guess it was like that,” said Clifford.

“That guy is lucky I couldn’t retaliate, almost like if he wasn’t for real either,” said Dustin.

“Hmmm…we’ve already know how Olivia got stuck in the middle with the rest of you, let’s see if Amber has a simple explanation,” said Jeff.

“It’s weird, you’re giving us all these questions and you’re not in regular staff of this academy or anything,” said Levi.

“Well, Sandy basically told me I wasn’t really doing anything,” said Amber, “I’m not really the type of person who fights.”

“And that’s practically the point of being part of this academy: to fight to gain honor,” said Jeff, “also to defeat other martial arts clans, such as the Shadow Bark.”

“Are there anybody else besides the Shadow Bark?” Terrance questioned.

“No other indications from me,” Jeff responded, “And that leaves…Jasmine Nimbus.”

“I’ve ending up in the gutter because my unreasonable teacher caught me for my lack of interest in karate activities,” said Jasmine, “and I spent most of my time with makeup and stuff.”

“Hopefully, you will get used to Sandy,” said Jeff. “One way to find the Shadow Bark is through the woods, which are in right now.”

“I don’t like the sound of the woods,” said Clifford.

”Nothing will hurt you…except the Shadow Bark; you also have all the other students here for your defense.” Jeff said to Clifford.

“Stop referencing the Shadow Bark, it won’t be a big deal anyways,” said Levi, “as to the fact that is could only be a rookie assignment.”

”Perhaps not,” Jeff thought.

”Who are the Shadow Bark anyways?” Jasmine questioned.

“Hey, I think I can see their fortress,” said Jeff and starts walking close to it.

“That was convenient enough,” said Olivia.

”So, we have to just fight them?” Levi asked.

”Yes, captain obvious, I fought these guys before,” Jeff answered. “Now let’s forge on.”

“I think I’ll stay out of this…” said Clifford.

”You won’t get an honorary belt without your participation,” Jeff said.

Jeff and the other recruits then appeared in the fortress of the Shadow Bark clan. In the shadows were the faces of the said group, but certainly, their eyes are only visible.

“Looks like the academy’s favored student has shown up,” said one of the members.

“Yeah, and we’re also part of the academy, we just met,” said Levi, “Show yourselves now.”

One of the members step out, revealing his average cloak, it also came alongside his karate belt, which was a 3rd degree black belt. He says, “So, Spongebob’s academy has new members, and you’re showing them off to me right now.”

“Yeah, and your fortress was practically easy to find,” said Sonia.

“That doesn’t matter…what matters is that I’m prepared for a fight,” he said.

“These guys are unfamiliar too, what kind of karate clan are they?” Levi asked, as the other members of the Shadow Bark stepped out. They were also partially in their cloaks and karate uniform. They were specified as certain type of fish.

”The Shadow Bark are people known to Spongebob’s kind, from what I know,” said Jeff.

”We are a group arranging from silver and golden carp,” the first person said, “I am Zhong, the rest of the clan and I are under the influence of our master, who we call Udon.”

“Yep, this is definitely getting weird,” said Olivia.

“Does this fight involve weapons?” Terrance asked out of sight, “I just want to know what grounds we’re dealing with here.”

“We’re going to use our basic karate skills against you and the other students you brought with,” Zhong said to Jeff. “You don’t stand a chance, you’re probably the only best student Spongebob and Sandy’s academy ever had.”

“Nobody is best, anybody in our academy could be as skilled as me, or Sandy…or Spongebob…or Armando…you get the point.” Jeff replied.

“Such noble words….now fall,” Zhong replied and gives a surprise attack against Jeff.

“So, we’re just going to beat these guys, like we’d normally do?” Levi said.

“Jeff’s word may mean something, I’m eager to fight, but very less likely in a bloody mess,” said Dustin.

Jeff proceeds into attacking Zhong by a simple kick attack through his chest, but it was blocked. Zhong grabs Jeff’s active foot, and flips him around. With swiftness, Jeff gets his head back in the fight and does multiple punches, managing to hit Zhong. Zhong then attacks with his foot through Jeff’s ankle and then gives Jeff a face punch, putting Jeff onto the floor, but still willing and able.

“Zhong looks really strong, how are we going to defeat him?” Levi thought.

“You guys, the other members of the Shadow Bark, deal with those new students! I already have myself reserved with Jeff,” said Zhong.

There were 8 other members of the Shadow Bark present, surrounding the new academy members.

“I hope Jeff is going to do alright,” said Dustin.

“Again, we ought to fight like we’d normally do, even if we probably don’t know how,” said Levi.

”I know how,” said Terrance and punches one of the Shadow Bark members. “Apparently, if that’s not karate, then I don’t know what is.”

“Then you might as well keep it up, Terrance,” said Levi.

Terrance precedes beating around with one of eight of the other Shadow Bark clan members. He punches and kicks it around and takes some hits until one was down.

Levi begins his attempts of his fighting skills and starts by karate kicking one of seven of the members of already said clan. The other Shadow Bark member counterattacks a few times, Levi manages to dodge one of them. Eventually, Levi finishes off the next one with his punches.

Sonia was already enthusiastic and steady for her turn against one of the next members. When fighting against one, Sonia was already swift with her attacks, and dodges at any chance she could get. She then knocks the next one down, leaving five other members in battle.

Dustin begins his attempts with skills of fighting, at half of the time, he gets hit, and other times he succeeds. With the great chance he gets, and without serious damage, he was able to knock out the next member.

“I don’t know how I’m going to beat one of these guys, I’m not the fighting type, much like Amber and Clifford,” said Jasmine.

“Just try, what matters is kicking their asses,” said Levi.

With Levi’s advice, Jasmine gives a shot, and gives a damaging kick against the next attacking Shadow Bark member. She gets hit a few times and eventually defeats the other Shadow Bark member in the process. In Amber and Clifford’s cases, they were cornered. With Jasmine on the side of Amber, and Levi on the side of Clifford, they both succeed into defeating the other two Shadow Bark members.

“Hopefully, you both will be more influenced into fighting with us,” Levi said about Amber and Clifford.

“Well, thanks for saving me,” said Amber.

There was one other member left, at the hands of Olivia. She knew she could pull it off like the others, with a series of a few karate kicks and hits, she succeeded as well. When it was all over, the students were partially damaged from the fighting they’ve done. From Jeff’s perspective, he unfortunately fell to Zhong.

“Those other students may have gotten guts against my other recruits of our clan…but you still can’t defeat me,” said Zhong.

”True…but I’m not giving up at all,” said Jeff.

”Well, we’re going to have to skedaddle for now,” Zhong continued, “You better watch out.”

With that, Zhong and the other members of the Shadow Bark left the fortress.

“We’ve proven ourselves worthy,” said Sonia, “So we’d be honored for what we’ve just done, right?”

“Yeah, it was Levi’s motivation that got us to victory, aside from you, Jeff,” said Dustin.

”Also my general skills,” Terrance added.

“Let’s get back to the academy,” said Jeff.

The scene was back at the academy, while back at the academy grounds, it was sundown.

“Clifford and I haven’t done really much, but we’ve stopped most of the Shadow Bark,” said Amber.

“It was me who helped the others while Terrance was a great advantage, Jeff was by himself though,” said Levi. “Do we get any type of endorsement with our belts or something?” He asked.

“For you and Terrance, yes, but not for everybody else, they have a lot to go through,” said Spongebob.

“I will have a new mission directed for you guys by tomorrow, it would be much better for the rest of you, would y’all agree?” Sandy said.

“Uh…I…agree on that,” Dustin said softly.

“We all agree, things will be better by tomorrow and hopefully I’ll get an upgrade as well,” said Olivia.

“Please, I’d be first…not that I’m totally going to boast about it,” said Sonia.

“But yeah, we better rest for a better tomorrow,” said Spongebob.

The eight students, and Jeff, then went for their respective cabins to sleep away the rest of their first day at the academy.

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It should also come to my expression that I'm now planning on giving out new eps of this spin-off on a monthly basis.

 

3. Feudin' in the Forest

 

'It’s been over a week since we started to enroll in this academy,' Levi narrates. 'There has been no special assignment based on the Shadow Bark, whoever they were. It’s weird getting to know some fishy friends and foes living in dry land. I have yet to still get along with everybody.’

 

‘-For example, Terrence has been beating me around at times after practice. No matter what, we only seem to act out as bitter rivals. Nowadays, when he starts making trouble, I’m the one usually ending up in downtime, like what happened to Dustin and Clifford on the first day. It’s as if he wants me to be pulled out of the program, but I can’t blame him and his behavior.

 

I’ve been trying to get Jasmine and Amber into the martial arts business, but they enjoy being best friends than taking any of my advice, but that’s one improvement from the 7 of us. Obviously, Dustin is just too timid to talk with me, Clifford apparently fears me, and Olivia would just care less. It’s going to take a while to gain trust from them.

 

Also, about that last assignment, it wasn’t anything much, but we had to do some kind of escort while fending off a group of black belt attackers. It ended up being poorly done and there was no upgrade involved. Some of us had the same problems we’ve had, like Clifford’s lack of confidence, Jasmine throwing off the fights, Sonia’s self-indulgence, and Terrence’s pushiness.

 

Now we’re meant to have another assignment this time. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get used to being mentored by a talking sea sponge and being around my classmates.’

 

“That does it! You’re going to get it real bad now!” Terrence exclaims, threatening Levi and slamming his fists against the wall.

 

“Are we ever going to cut this crap?” Levi asks. “It’s like whatever I do, you go to the extreme.”

 

“You mess me up almost every time,” Terrence replied. “How am I supposed to enjoy being here with you trying to take responsibility of my training, acting like I can’t do anything? That also doesn’t help how you’re treated like the teacher’s favorite.”

 

“Now that you’ve mentioned it, I guess I was like that…”

 

Levi flashes back to an event from the week’s worth of karate lessons, shortly before one of Terrence’s meltdowns against him.

 

“Good job class,” said Spongebob. “We got most of these things in order: posture, confidence, stability, and being in tip top shape in the best ways possible! Especially Levi has got it covered for his training.” He complimented.

 

“Yep, no problem at all,” Levi responded.

 

“Of course, this splendid also came from Terrence and Dustin!” Spongebob added. “The rest of this class can learn a thing or two from the three of you.”

 

“What do you mean?” Levi spoke up, bemused by Spongebob’s words. “There are some things about Terrence’s practice that didn’t seem right…”

 

Terrence overhears Levi’s little criticism and inquires to him, “What are you saying about me right now?”

 

As Levi was continuing on with his discussion over Terrence, all the other students have left from their practices while Spongebob is still watching over the boys’ conversation.

 

“You seem to have a powerful force,” Levi assesses, “but whatever you do to act, you’re impatient with the moves of another attacker and go right ahead most of the time.”

 

Terrence was shown to have his fierce attitude growing, already fed up with what his classmate has to say.

 

“You see, this is one reason why I can’t help but bear a grudge against you!” Terrence argued, “Don’t make me start this instant!”

 

“Could you at least listen to me, though?” Levi retorts. “I can’t forget to mention that he’s not in perfect balance in front of an attacker. That lesson we had, I can see him losing control of his stability.”

 

Immediately after Levi was still criticizing, Terrence strikes him through the room, damaging the walls.

 

“That’s going to need some repairs,” Spongebob said and laughs nervously.

 

“Try telling that to everyone else and they’ll pack a punch on you,” said Terrence, “just like I did!”

 

“You never learn, do you?” Levi said after standing back on his ground. “Maybe you’ll be proven about your martial arts abilities against anybody like me!”

“I suppose you want a challenge right now!” Terrence exclaims.

“Could we all at least get along for once?” Spongebob questioned.

 

Outside of the senseless arguing Levi and Terrence were still going over, Dustin was seen with Jeff, who has overseen what was going on.

 

“Naturally, they seem to be fighting,” said Dustin.

 

At the time Terrence and Levi were threatening each other with martial arts based attacks, Spongebob takes the time to interrupt by smacking both Levi and Terrence across with his palms.

 

“Sorry guys,” Spongebob forgives, upon hitting them. “I’ve been doing myself a lot of kah-rah-tah in my life, but I know what I had to do when things resort to violent manners.”

 

Levi and Terrence paused as they looked at Spongebob and reacted astonishingly. They decided to stop fighting afterwards.

 

“Anyway, don’t forget to have fun for our next lesson! You’re both free to go now,” Spongebob finished.

 

The flashback ends as it returns to Levi’s dilemma with Terrence, still being threatened.

 

“What gives you the right to do that anyways?” Terrence asked. “You’re the boss of nobody, while the talking sponge is apparently the boss of us.”

 

“I’m taking my chances of becoming a leader, that’s why,” Levi answered.

 

“Certainly, you’re doing a bad job at that!” Terrence replied. “It will only make you into an asshole. As you keep talking back about how I do my fighting, I ought to finish you before class right now!”

 

As Terrence was about to give Levi an intense pummel, the class bell chimes for everyone to attend their academy classes. Terrence gives in and starts walking over to Spongebob’s karate class.

 

“Saved by the bell, huh? I never thought that would be stopping you,” Levi said before running off to his and Terrence’s class.

 

Panning over to their class, Spongebob was now giving out an announcement as the class was almost over.

 

“That should conclude our lesson for now,” said Spongebob. “I won’t be surprised if two of my other students start having problems after this, but I’d like to announce that you’re all free for the next three days!”

 

Eventually, Spongebob dismisses the class but halts Levi, Terrence, and Dustin before they were out the door.

 

“However, I need you three to stay here for a moment,” said Spongebob.

 

“Great, what do you want?” Terrence asked.

 

“I hate to make thinks look more stressful, but first off…you remember those 6 other friends of yours you went along with, right?” Spongebob questioned.

 

“It was for one mission and we were in detention all together, what’s your point?” Levi asked back.

 

Spongebob stops for a few seconds and answers to them, “I’m giving you and the others another assignment during your expected three day break.”

 

Terrence gets out of his crisscross position and slams his hands on Spongebob’s desk.

 

“And none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for Levi’s attempts to make himself as a teacher like you!” Terrence exclaimed. “Am I right? And now you’re throwing a curveball at us and giving us an assignment while your other students can go have a ball and drink some lemonade!?”

 

“The thing is, this is what Sandy suggested and I decided to agree on this,” Spongebob continued. “This doesn’t mean this will stop you from having a good time!”

 

Sandy appears in front of Spongebob and then says, “Whatever you say, little square dude.”

 

“Now, the reason why this is being dun’ is because you three and the others rank the lowest on the current reports based on your skills.” Sandy explained. “This assignment could be your chance to be able to receive another upgrade on your fields if y’all do successfully.”

 

“What is this going to be, though?” Levi asked again.

 

Sandy, Spongebob, Armando, Jeff, and the 8 other students then appear outside for the announcement of the next assignment.

 

“You will all be in groups of three. You each will go with your assigned teammates and into this forest,” Armando explained.

 

“It will be an expedition of some sort. Each of you is to protect a group of sages who guard the mythical koi statue. The place that treasures that object should be at least 40 miles away from these training grounds. The deal is that the forest is grouped with suspicious members of the Shadow Bark and you must thwart them as soon as you can, considering that they might have something to do with wanting that statue. To add up to it, the last time people have been wandering around that forest, traps have been laid around and have captured some students.”

 

As Armando was explaining the part about the traps, a scene shows some students getting netted, coming in contact with sleeping spores, and getting darted respectively.

 

“Whatever the means, y’all have to reach the tower and ain’t letting the statue fall into the pockets of anybody else,” said Sandy.

 

“What happens if we don’t, then?” Sonia asked.

 

“It’s hard to explain, to be honest,” Sandy responded.

 

“Now I just have to group you guys,” Spongebob announced. “The first division will consist of Levi, Jasmine, and Olivia.”

 

“Thank you so very much,” Terrence uttered with the feeling of relief, “Levi better not mess up those two other girls though.”

 

“The second part of the division will be made up of Dustin, Amber, and Clifford.” Spongebob continued.

 

“We’re going to have a good time together!” Amber cried out. “I hope Jasmine will be alright though…”

 

“I guess….that’s sounds alright...to me,” Dustin says quietly.

 

“Lastly, the third group will be made up of Terrence, Sonia, and Jeffrey,” Spongebob finished.

 

“Not bad,” said Sonia.

 

Time moves forward to minutes before 9 as the assigned groups were lined up. Terrence then walks over to Levi.

 

“You’re lucky that I can’t give you the beating I could have given you before class,” Terrence said to Levi.

 

“And you’re lucky that you don’t have to suffer with me during this “expedition,”” Levi responded, making a comeback. “It looks like we’re stern rivals after all. You do have skill, since you didn’t have problems defeating Zhong with the rest of us, but like I said before, you did need a few pointers.”

 

“How about I make things interesting before you go?” Terrence suggests. “It will be worth your life in this academy.”

 

“Are you saying you want a bet?”

 

“Now you know what I’m trying to word with here,” Terrence continues. “If you and your teammates fail to reach that tower before me, my long anticipated punch for you will be harder than intended. That’s not all. You will also have to prove that you’re not a leading man and only a normal student, your martial arts tactics are nothing worth, and you will force yourself to leave the program!”

 

Levi thinks about it for a moment and then gives him his response: “That depends, what if I manage to succeed? What are you going to do?”

 

“You’ll still pay the price if you actually beat me to it. I’ll still pummel you. In return for your success, I’ll give you my record collection.”

 

“You don’t have to do that…”

 

“But I can if we’re going to call it a deal.”

 

“You have a record collection?” Olivia asked Terrence, breaking the conversation a bit.

 

“How about you get yourself a jock strap and stuff it?” Terrence responds rudely. “But you know that was only a metaphor.”

 

“Ugh, you and your dirty sense of humor,” said Jasmine.

 

After thinking real hard, Levi gives Terrence an uneasy handshake, calling the bet a deal.

 

“By the way, I hope you get your ass handed by whoever you run into,” Terrence hollers over to Levi.

 

“Alright, now that you fellow students have been warmed up, it should now be time the assignment would begin,” said Armando.

 

“Now do your best and prove yourselves as the best fighters this academy has ever had!” Spongebob cries out encouragingly.

 

The 9 students entered the forest and split up into their own ways through the lush green area. The main perspective was focused on Levi’s group alongside Jasmine and Olivia, as the three of them were normally wandering around at the time.

 

“So, are there any chances that none of us will make it back?” Levi questioned. “That’s only what I’m wondering.”

 

“A fool would believe in a fable like that,” said Jasmine. “I suggest that we don’t talk about dechets and talk about boys instead.”

 

“You mean like Armando?” Levi asked.

 

“That’s what I was thinking!” Olivia said. “You just got to admire Armando! I also feel glad that nobody is making a big deal about being in that all boys’ class, so I stayed.”

 

“Good for you two, now let’s focus on why we are here and how important it is to work together,” said Levi. “We need a strategy and I’ll start off with the leader, in which I will be.”

 

“How come you get to be the leader?” Olivia asked.

 

Levi gets stumped through trying to explain this over as he appears speaking nervously.

 

“If anyone could be the leader, Jasmine could do the job for once,” Olivia suggested. “By the way, we’re both aware of how your leadership role can make you a little too touchy…”

 

“Look, the point here is…” Levi was trying to say.

 

“Or I could be the leader of this group,” Olivia continued.

 

“Yeah, for a girl who’s usually having her mind revolved around Armando, even Olivia could be a better leader than you,” said Jasmine.

 

“Listen to me!” Levi shouted out. “I’m not trying to sound demanding, but a leader would have to pay attention to whatever hits right at us like that barb over there, wait a minute-“

 

The barb overhead was going straight through and cuts part of Levi’s right arm and keeps going until it sticks to a tree. Levi, Jasmine, and Olivia then look over to a cloaked fish out in the distance, who threw the sharp object.

 

‘I can see the point of the Shadow Bark, but a uniform unlike that would be more formal,’ Levi thought and then speaks out to the cloaked individual.

 

“I reckon you’re part of the Shadow Bark organization.”

 

“You’re wise than I thought,” the mysterious fish said and laughs deeply and sinisterly.

 

“I’m ready to fight!” Levi said confidently. “That is if I can get your name first…”

 

“I am Min,” he introduced. “You would regret fighting me, considering that you three are not even close to mastering your current rank.”

 

Min then gives himself the honors to shows off his face, revealing a stingray resemblance other than his noticeable long barb connected to his body.

 

“There’s more than meets the eye,” he continues. “Not only was I a martial artist, I was merely a soldier. Technically, I never really got around to finishing off my education in karate, but I’m still a graduate. In my days as a solider though, I’ve had it rough…”

 

“This guy’s boastful backstory is slowing me down from beating Terrence at his own game,” Levi says to himself as Min continues rambling. “Nothing personal here, but we’re on a mission and about you is……that you’re in our way!” Levi barks.

 

Levi runs over, raising his fist against Min and attempting to punch through him. However, Min rapidly gets out the way of Levi’s aim and twists his right arm with his arms made out of needles. Jasmine and Olivia gasped in awe and showed concern of Levi in anguish.

 

“They say karate means empty hand,” said Min. “The odds of me having hands are indeed empty, as well as my legs. In case you haven’t noticed, I go under the Chil dan rank, and that I can also specialize in the weaponry required through martial arts.”

 

Min takes out a barb under the form of a bo and faces Levi, still on the ground.

 

“Here’s one made from a poison object, now taste my sting!”

 

Levi rolls out of its way and gets back up to resume his fight with Min.

 

“That doesn’t sound fair, using weapons in front of someone with just bare hands!” Levi said.

 

“The use of weapons is probable in karate, or kobudo, but you haven’t known since you’re a beginner…” Min responded. “Now you’re starting to know too much for your rank, I suppose.”

 

Levi runs back over to Min and tries to give him a rousing kick through the gut, but Min dodges and shuffles his needle crafted feet to make part of the battlefield filled with spiky barbs, all around him and Levi.

 

Min dashes over and uses his artificially spiky feet to strike Levi sideways while Levi tempts not to budge. Levi now appears with a face with puncture marks and jumps over to aim at Min to give him a kick, but gets his arm grabbed by one of Min’s spiked arms. Min brings out his barb-like bo and attempts giving Levi a whack, only for Levi to duck and use his strong enough force to break through his arm and jump back to the untouched spot he was in before. Levi’s right leg now appears streaked with blood as the spikes tore through that part of his pants.

 

‘How does he do it?’ Levi thinks to himself. ‘I never thought I could be matched up with a stingray without arms or legs and create them to benefit his fighting ability.’

 

Min runs back over to Levi for a swift kick and continued to do damage to him as Levi was about to land on the field loaded with needles until he moves himself to land outside of the battlefield.

 

“You two aren’t going to help me?” Levi asked Jasmine and Olivia. “You both are just going to sit in the sidelines?”

 

“Didn’t I tell you that I never intend to fight?” Jasmine responded. “You’re the only one in the group who appears to have the brawns. I’m not as dumb as you think.”

 

“That doesn’t mean that you two aren’t fighters and meant to be!” Levi replied. “I can go on, but starting to work as a team would be nice!”

 

Min was now making his next move by using his barbed bo and attempting to hit Levi across with it before the perspective fades to black.

------------------------------

NOTES/TRIVIA:

 

Character Debut(s): Min

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This has been delayed long enough, but now it is complete:

 

 

4. Lonely Boy

 

On the other side of the forest, the next perspective shows Dustin, Clifford, and Amber roaming around with their feet hurting.

 

“My feet might be burning,” said Clifford. “We better stop or I get some kind of infection.”

 

“Just keep going, you’re not going to die,” Dustin said while Clifford stopped to lie against a tree and has his soles positioned wide across.

 

“That’s the first time I’ve seen you spit out a sentence,” Amber said to Dustin. “We can unwind and have a picnic here, unlike whatever our teachers said.” She then lies down somewhere on the sturdy ground.

 

“You’re like this too, Amber?” Dustin whispered. “You see, this is rather too peaceful, because….I don’t know, uh…anyone from the Shadow Bark is going to make an ambush assault and we need to keep watch. We’re on a mission after all…”

 

“Huh? We can’t hear you,” said Amber.

 

“Clifford, that tree’s got moss!” Dustin informed with a louder tone.

 

Upon realization, Clifford draws his hand away from the green-moss covered tree and starts panicking.

 

“What’s green moss going to do to me!?” Clifford asked.

 

“I don’t know, the mentors never told me about bringing a forest guide!” Dustin responded. “Let’s see, as far as I know, moss contact could result into deep hallucinations. Just scrape it off, before your situation starts looking much worse.”

 

“We should come back to the forest later and return to the campus to see a nurse!” Clifford exclaimed while still breathing anxiously.

 

“Not to worry, Amber is your nurse!” Dustin replied.

 

“I am?” Amber said, dumbfounded. “If he puts it that way, then you can trust me with tending to your wound, Clifford.”

 

“So far, this is worst set-up I’ve been in,” Dustin said to himself. “Somehow, Amber and Clifford are going to shape up.”

 

A shake and a tramp were heard all around the forest and caught the attention of the three students. As they turned around, a shadow appeared in the distance and rushed towards the trio with a swift trounce.

 

“And it’s already too late to seek our enemy,” Dustin added, groaning from the attack he took.

 

The trio released themselves from the ground and stood to keep watch of their sudden opposing force.

 

“Why type of Karate was that?” Dustin whispered.

 

“This mission isn’t fun at all. We have to get out of here immediately!” Clifford cried.

 

Dustin held Clifford’s shirt to keep him from running and then said, “No, it looks like we have to make haste with….”

 

The enemy now approaches the sub-group without casting a shadow while slowly walking near them, threatening them with his fists. He was cloaked like the others and his appearance was based on the catfish.

 

“They call me Chao Jin of the Shadow Bark!” He introduced. “I am the greatest, the top of my league, the biggest name and all-around Karate mogul!”

 

“Oh, you really mean?” Dustin said with a doubtful tone.

 

“I’m cunning like a cat…fish, I got the eye of the tiger, I have the senses of a hawk, and I have a really vast style of Karate that you three amateurs have never seen!” Chao boasted. “What’s your name, mister?”

 

Dustin didn’t really bother to try and say a thing and just mumbled without speaking any words.

 

“Catfish got your tongue….?” Chao asked. “Ok, so my jokes are not really over the top, but as part of Udon’s commands, you and your two friends shall fight me, alright?”

 

“I may be totally nervous right now….but I will fight you singlehandedly,” Dustin replied.

 

“We would like to help,” said Amber.

 

“Do you two want to fight?” Dustin asked.

 

“Oh, I don’t even want to look!” Clifford said anxiously.

 

“I get it. You’re too scared to fight against me!” Chao continued. “I can see by how you feel, especially when those two friends of yours don’t even have the guts. With a belt color like that and that lack of pride, I can just kill you instead of wasting time with you.”

 

Dustin’s face grows more anxious as Chao threatens to pin him down. His teeth grits and then suddenly belts out:

 

“Oh how I wish I was never part of this mission!” He said in both a panicked and frustrated tone. “Not only am I such a loser, everyone else I come to know is worthless!”

 

“Indeed, I am still the world’s figurehead master of karate!” Chao said. He then grabs a Kama and puts it near Dustin’s lips. “This is too easy.”

 

To defend himself from the kill and escape the clutches, Dustin notches Chao on the shoulder on the left hand and punches his abdomen for his right hand. Dust forms between their feet and Dustin then takes the swift retreat from near Chao’s stance.

 

“Do you still want that fight?” Chao asked and then lunges back to Dustin. As he got closer, Dustin resulted into trying to sprint away. “You’re crazy trying to run from me! How about we go to my favorite dojo?”

 

“Dustin, be careful!” Amber called out.

 

“Go back to the campus grounds for all I care! I can do this myself if you two aren’t going to give me support!” Dustin shouted out.

 

“So I guess we better head back and throw off the mission?” Clifford asked towards Amber.

 

“We just can’t follow Dustin’s orders since we follow as a team. Dustin must be pretty grumpy and selfish for someone who’s been speaking more words now,” Amber replied. “I guess we should go. Now I can have another makeup and try out my new lip gloss!”

 

An hour later, Clifford and Amber hurried back to where Spongebob, Sandy, and Armando were hanging around.

 

“We got out! We were in danger and Dustin is still out there!” Clifford cried.

 

Armando scoffs the moment he realizes Clifford and Amber ran out of the forest.

 

“That ain’t laughing matter, but the mission isn’t over until it’s over!” Sandy said. “Why didn’t y’all try to rescue Dustin? And what’s that stuff on Clifford’s hand?”

 

“Uh-oh, looks like I didn’t get all that moss out of him,” said Amber, “but Nurse Amber is right beside you!”

 

“But what if I’m going to die!?” Clifford suddenly exclaimed.

 

“I certainly can tell you what that green moss could do to you, just don’t panic,” said Sandy. She gives an examination to where Clifford’s moss stains were attached and then explained, “This doesn’t seem to be some kind of regular moss…”

 

Sandy then gently chops off the pieces of moss to tidy up Clifford’s hand, which causes the student to flinch a bit.

 

“See the particles of your skin that have been chewed off from your arm?” Sandy continued. “There’s something about the moss that I’m not entirely familiar with.”

 

“What matters the most about your current failures of this important mission is lack of teamwork,” said Spongebob. “I’d be happier if I see you two and Dustin going out to protect the statue, because everyone knows how beautiful teamwork is!”

 

“The thing is that Dustin went to face this one guy from the Shadow Bark by himself,” said Amber.

 

“The Shadow Bark….then that means…oh, I just remembered! One of them is associated with the dangerous form of moss!” said Armando. “Hallucinations, skin deformation, sickness, and throat suffocation could form whatever one of those happens by chance!”

 

“It’s dangerous, but Dustin could die if y’all both don’t go back into the darn forest to find him,” Sandy responded towards Amber. “We could go into the forest, but we’ve assigned the task to our current slackers.”

 

“I also feel that you two could use an advantage, so take these,” Armando said and gave them two pieces of rubber-like cloth. “The moss is contagious after all. Cover yourselves as soon as you both can.”

 

As Clifford and Dustin go back into the forest, Dustin was shown distant from Chao in his battlefield. It was a cave with a tree planted around. Walls were filled with moss.

 

“So, what brings you into our place?” Chao asked.

 

“I…..Amber, Clifford, and I were supposed to protect a statue. We were expecting someone from the Shadow Bark on the premises,” Dustin explained.

 

“There’s a chance that you’ll pass if I lose all my gas on your fighting skills,” Chao replied. “Show me what you can do – or DIE!”

 

Chao sets up the first assault and hits Dustin with a good kick to lift him up before Dustin descends and touches the walls.

 

I shouldn’t have expected him to signal our match, Dustin thought. “I was just spacing out a little. Trust me, I’m not weak!”

 

Dustin runs closer to Chao’s range, but gets himself knocked down again through Chao’s roundhouse kicks. Dustin hanged on from the first strike, but from the second foot, Dustin lowered to the ground.

 

“Maybe you’re not weak and I’m just the very best!” Chao remarked. “Come at me, I won’t be able to clean up your blood yet…or even your body!”

 

This guy is bloodthirsty. Dustin thinks to himself again and gently gets back up. His eyes show how much more nervous he looks now in front of his opponent. I wonder how the others are getting through with the mission now. I even wonder what Clifford and Amber are doing at the time…

 

Now shown was Levi continuing his fight with Min. Levi got out of the way of his opponent’s bo and then keeps himself in his stance and just lays a glimpse at Min. He turned his head around….

 

“This guy’s going to keep trying to tire me out,” Levi said, directing to Jasmine and Olivia. “I am not fodder!”

 

“The more you pressure us into this…” said Olivia.

“If I go down, you two are going down with me, but in a way that this guy’s going to knock you both down as well!” Levi retorted.

 

“Well, I don’t like your tone and how improper you are,” said Jasmine. “Besides, this is just a karate match, that Shadow Bark member never says it’s a fight to the death.”

 

Min’s prickly right foot then lunges over by Levi’s shoulder or a roundhouse kick, but Levi keeps his guard, ducks his head, and edges his way out from his attack. Levi then goes up to a tree and attempts a flying kick against Min, but it gets blocked as Min retrieves his bo. Levi then tries blocking himself from his bo while trying to kick against his non-barbed spots. Levi tries a knifehand strike to Min’s head, but he fails to give out the attack as Min pokes Levi through his bo hitting his gut and then gives him a kick through the right foot. Levi could feel poison settling in his body, affecting his balance.

 

“How about the fact that Min’s techniques consist of trying to poison me?” Levi asked, once again over to Jasmine and Olivia. “I think I need a doctor.”

 

“Sorry Levi, but we’d best give up this mission,” said Jasmine.

 

“Well, actually I did have some medical training, but that doesn’t mean I have a first aid kit with me,” Olivia added.

 

“For now, I’m sorry about this but…” Levi said before grabbing Jasmine, then swinging her around. He orchestrates a flying kick against Min, and she hits him without intending to.

 

“Levi, what the hell were you thinking!?” Jasmine cried out.

 

“Can you fill in for me?” Levi requested. “You’re a karate student. Sweating through your body from all the fighting, having an upper-hand against whoever you face, improving your self-defense, doesn’t that feel good?”

 

“I’m surprised I haven’t said this yet, but I want to dropout,” Jasmine replied.

 

“Well, I can’t blame you.” Afterwards, Levi went almost out-cold and spread himself, lying on the ground. Obviously, Terrence is doing fine and I’ve got no chances left to win that petty bet. He thought to himself.

 

Now among the other group’s perspective, Terrence, Sonia, and Jeff were walking along their path of the forest.

 

“This is starting to feel like a cakewalk,” said Terrence.

 

“If Spongebob and Sandy think we’re the lowest in the class, they obviously haven’t seen me in action enough,” Sonia gloats.

 

“We could be facing someone from the Shadow Bark anytime soon, but we haven’t been warned yet,” said Jeff.

 

A rustling from the trees could be heard and already made the group stop at their tracks.

 

“Never mind then, what was that?” Jeff questioned.

 

The next type of noise to filter around the path was the sound of feet stamping through the ground. The group looks around again, and they see someone dressed in black, swiftly running across the forest before disappearing.

 

Back to Clifford and Amber, they returned to the three-path forest, and lead themselves to one to try and find Dustin.

 

“This place still makes me feel uncomfortable,” said Clifford.

 

“There’s nothing to worry about,” Amber responded. “Unless we run into an enemy, we’re in real danger. You can help fight the Shadow Bark off, right?”

 

“There’s something you don’t understand about me with martial arts, but here’s another thing,” Clifford replied, “why don’t you fight back as well?”

 

“It’s just not the type of thing I would do and I feel that would violate my own being,” Amber replied. “Also, if we’re going to find Dustin, we should also provide service with this medical kit Sandy gave to us. It was a good thing Armando acknowledged cases of injuries in order for us to have this.”

 

In a flashback to the time when Amber and Clifford just re-entered, Sandy was shown tossing the first aid kit into their hands.

 

“I give you two permission of using this, especially since your other cooperative is in danger. Hopefully he isn’t killed in action,” said Sandy.

The brief flashback ends as Amber and Clifford spot Min with Jasmine, Levi, and Olivia.

 

“Oh man, we took the wrong way! Now we have to get out of here quick with that guy in the way!” Clifford said.

 

“No, I can see that Levi is hurt over there, so better share what we have of our supplies,” Amber responded. “Take these!”

 

Amber runs over to Olivia and tosses around some of the medical stuff to her. Min sees Amber and tries to attack, but she manages to get out of range and return to Clifford’s side.

 

“So, shall I continue this fight while that Levi person is still knocked out?” Min asked.

 

“Well, like from what he was trying to imply….I guess this is the choice I have to make,” Jasmine stated.

 

“If we’re going to save Dustin, our only choice is to fight back against Chao, as soon as we find him,” Amber said to Clifford, while running back to their original path.

 

“Right,” responds Clifford.

 

Back to the area of Chao and Dustin’s match, Chao kicks Dustin to the ground, scratches on each of their faces. Dustin’s face turns ill as his vision appears to much different from before he started the fight. Moss was around his arms and legs, causing him to see the battlefield much differently. He tries to strike Chao with one of his hands, but at the wrong direction. Chao attacks Dustin with his next kicking attack through sliding from the side of his posture. As Dustin continues, his hallucinations still cause his vision to be blind-sighted as Dustin still fails to envision the opponent while Chao has no problem of losing his guard or anything. Among the things up Chao’s sleeve, he attacks Dustin through a barrel-sided type of kick, an aerial knifehand strike through the side of his neck, flipping him over from left to right, and also continues away through the basics of karate attacks to try and vanquish the student.

 

“I can’t take anymore….this is the end of me….” Dustin groaned.

 

“Dustin, you’re here! Are you alright?” Clifford called over. Dustin could see an image of Amber and him blurred.

 

“Amber, Clifford, is that really you two from afar?” Dustin asked.

 

“He’s got moss on him, he’s really wounded alright,” said Amber.

 

“Wait a minute, moss!? I can’t believe I haven’t noticed that!” Dustin said out of agape.

 

“Here’s some medicine while we quickly scrub off the moss off you,” Amber continued while she and Clifford avoid Chao.

 

“If you’re feeling great, you can fight off Chao, but for now, we’ll fend him off for you,” said Clifford.

 

“Are you really sure?” Dustin asked. “Huh, I don’t really know what’s going on since the time I starting fighting Chao….”

 

As the moss was cleared off, Clifford and Amber position into the fight with Chao. Chao provides a chopping attack against Clifford. His hands and feet were then shown to be covered with moss upon a closer examination. The moss slid away from Clifford, as he tries to give him a kick, with little effect due to little power.

 

“Come on Clifford, show some spirit and do harder on the impact of your hits!” Amber said.

 

Amber proceeds by then kicking Chao with more effect, but he keeps his stance.

 

“So, my way of fooling my other fighters is to see if they could try and keep from contact of my attacks, now that you two probably have figured it out,” Chao explained. “I control this dangerous moss around me and it helps sweep away my opponents. It’s cute seeing you two picking a fight with me at this time, but you’re still pushovers to me!”

 

“Are you ready, Clifford?” Amber asked.

 

“I believe I can do this-“Clifford responded, then gets interrupted when Amber gently kicks his left leg. “What was that for!?” He cried out, with a teary and angry tone.

 

“Chao hit you, now we better prove ourselves that we can defeat him, right?” She replied, while lying about Chao hitting Clifford’s leg.

 

Continuing the fight, Clifford kicks Chao from the side of his abdomen and manages to deal more infliction on him. Chao slides near Amber and Clifford to grab them both and attempt his kicks on both, but Amber and Clifford gives them a cross-handed strike and then jump out from his attack. Chao then gives out the next move with a swift flying chop and hits the duo. While Amber and Clifford still try to damage Chao, Dustin eventually comes to their side on the field. He runs over and swings his leg around to strike Chao successfully. Dustin does more of his variety of kicks against Chao, while rapidly trying to block each other. Dustin still manages to wear out Chao through his next kicking move. Dustin, Clifford, and Amber then finish him off with a series of swift chops and Dustin’s one last kick into doing enough damage on Chao to have him commit his defeat.

 

“So, you guys do have the fighting spirit, especially when I was almost about to kill the nervous one,” said Chao.

 

“I sure the nervous one, but thankfully we did well,” Dustin said, while rubbing the back of his head.

 

“See what happens when you try to fight him alone, though?” Amber asked towards Dustin.

 

“But before, you two weren’t trying to help me fight him!” Dustin argued.

 

“That was when Spongebob, Sandy, and Armando convinced us to resort into fighting back the moment we decided to quit, so we admit we were being jerks quite a bit, same for you being a jerk to us hours ago,” Amber replied.

 

“In fact, I think we’re just about ready to guard that statue,” Clifford added.

 

“Fine then, I won’t bother you three anymore, but I’m still going to report this to Min and Udon sensei,” Chao said and runs out of the battlefield.

----------------------------

NOTES/TRIVIA:

 

Character Debut(s): Chao Jin

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5. The Ninja Code

 

Terrence, Sonia, and Jeffrey were walking along their path in the forest.

 

“My feet are sore and there are no suspicious enemies in sight, this is boring.” Terrence said. “On the bright side, we’re going to be the first pair to reach that tower! Take that, Levi!”

 

“I think you’re laying it too thick, you’re too much on the competitive side,” said Jeff. “This mission means more to us with staying in the academy than trying to outmatch somebody.”

 

“Too much on the competitive side, you say? Maybe the same can be said about you!” Terrence exclaimed. “You know nothing between me and Levi, NOTHING!”

 

“I’m not feisty! I was just saying that you should calm down about your rivalry with Levi,” Jeff retorted.

 

“I may be as competitive as Terrence, but what matters is that I’m awesome!” Sonia uttered.

 

Afterwards, she was shown keeping up with path by jumping through trees and hanging upside down the branches, glancing towards Terrence and Jeff. “Who cares about all the others anyways?”

“This girl is starting to speak to me,” Terrence commented.

 

“My point is that I am my own team, and so should you two be. This is where we’re all supposed to be and we are strong, but we are also independent and born free!” Sonia said. “So I’m going to find the tower in my own way. But I’m still going to blend in with this division so that my instructor would still be proud of me.”

 

“Not following your advice,” Jeff responded. We’re getting closing anyway.”

 

Suddenly, the trio heard some more rustling from the shrubs, as well as the rustlings from the tree leaves and tiny creaks from the branches.

 

“Man, these forests are haunting me,” said Jeff. “I’m hearing these strange noises again.”

 

“Alright, whoever you are, come out!” Terrence cried out.

 

After a moment of silence follows, Sonia says, “You guys are being paranoid.”

 

All of a sudden, a group of vague, shadowed figures popped up and seized Sonia. After Terrence and Jeff heard a soft yelp from their cooperative, the shadows quickly jumped up near a tree without notice.

 

“Great, Sonia is missing,” said Terrence.

 

“And we’ve got to go find her!” Jeff restated.

Meanwhile, Levi, Olivia, and Jasmine were still in the middle of a fight with Min.

 

Levi was still in his intoxicated state, and was left unconscious. However, Levi was beginning to see something unusual. He appeared in an empty, void, place. However, someone else was in front of him. That person was an unfamiliar face.

 

“What is this?” Levi questioned.

 

“You’re in the dream world, built from your unconsciousness,” it said.

 

“Who are you?” He asked.

 

“I’m a figment of your imagination. I know what there is for me to know…Levi Bouldermore,” it replied. “And you can call me by whatever you want.”

 

“Okay then, “Dream Monk,” I don’t know how long I’m going to keep talking with you, but I last remembered getting in a fight with Min of the Shadow Bark.”

 

“So you’re one of those karate enthusiasts who fight against crime to defend yourself and those who can’t defend themselves?”

 

“That’s what I am, in a nutshell.”

 

“Other than your little goal you’re keeping up with, I am here to tell you that you’re here to save the world.”

 

“What’s that supposed to mean!? All I did to get in the karate academy was a contest!”

 

“The whole bit about saving the world? That has nothing to do with what you’re doing right now. Your future will behold that destiny and you’ll see what I mean soon enough.”

 

As the named “Dream Monk” was speaking, he was fading away within the white void.

 

“From the looks of it now,” the Dream Monk continued to speak, “your intoxication is clearing up, so sayonara!”

 

Levi let out a gasp as Jasmine and Olivia were trying to extract the poison at the scene of the battle. The viewpoint from his eyes quickly zoomed away from the dream world and into reality. He saw his two cooperatives first thing after regaining consciousness.

 

“You both saved me, I now feel grateful being around you two!” Levi said.

 

“Why would we ever leave you to die?” Olivia pointed out.

 

“Watch out for those spikes!” Jasmine warned.

 

Levi got out of way from Min’s Bo, managing to dodge and regain himself in battle.

 

“How long has Min been guarding against us?” Levi asked.

 

“He’s been holding us up for three hours,” Olivia answered. “He’s too powerful, Levi!”

“Are you going to help me? I’ve been trying to get you two into fighting this guy off, and he’ll keep trying to kill us until he admits defeat,” Levi replied. “Pretend he’s going after Armando next.”

 

Hearing Levi’s words, Olivia cracks her knuckles as Jasmine tries to give herself a fighting pose.

 

“Well that worked,” Levi deadpanned. “His weak spot must be somewhere under his gi, so do what I’ll do!”

 

Levi then aims for the center of Min’s body. Min prepares to block against Levi with his Bo, but then Levi goes under and upper-cuts him. Shortly after, Min threatens to give Jasmine a kick with one leg, but Jasmine barely dodges and lightly gives the opponent a kick. Olivia does the same, as Min then swings around his Bo to whack the three. Levi jumps up and stomps Min down with his swift right leg kick into his gut (if he has one.). Levi then gives Min a series of punches until hitting a hard surface. Levi proceeds by trying to give it a chop, but only for Min to strike his Bo. Jasmine retaliates by trying to give Min a low kick as Olivia attempts a knife-hand strike. Min regains balance and slides his feet to kick Jasmine and Olivia to a tree.

 

“Try harder!” Levi exclaimed. “Fighting this ass is our only option!”

 

Oliva then runs over to Min and gives out a damaging leg sweep. As Min was going to strike with his Bo, Olivia managed to block.

 

“She’s actually fighting for herself!” Levi said with a surprised look. “You think you got what it takes, Jasmine?”

 

“I believe you and Olivia can take him down without me,” said Jasmine.

 

“Fine, fashion freak, we’ll leave you alone,” Levi retorted.

 

Jasmine became furious. “You don’t say my love for fashion in vain!”

 

“I’ll take back the insult once we all take down Min, because I got more where it came from, you granola eating swine!” Levi continued.

 

Levi’s words prompted for Jasmine to strike a fist against Min as hard as she could. Olivia continued to try and fight off Min as Levi went for the hardest surface within him. With a break on through his gut from Levi’s hard knuckles, he sees a mechanical body connected to Min’s head, arms, and legs.

 

“So you folks have figured it out,” said Min. “That’s not important. I can still fight!”

 

Min then retaliates with the three fighters with his Bo, in which they each blocked. Levi continues off with a low kick, Olivia comes next with a double sided punch, and Jasmine sends Min and his body flying with a rising kick. Min attacks again with a flying front kick aimed for Olivia. She ducks from it as Levi then takes the fray to block Min’s incoming punch with his knuckles before he slams him with a knife-hand strike. Levi unleashes the finishing touch against his opponent by striking him with his left elbow, subsequently punching him through his gut with his left leg.

 

“For a group of rookies, I’m surprised to see you three give me the upper-hand,” Min groaned.

 

“All it had to take was to motivate these two into teamwork,” said Levi. “I also learned some things, knowing that I needed to defend myself somehow.”

 

“I admit that I have lost, I’ll just lie here for someone of the Shadow Bark to come and take me,” Min replied.

 

“Finally, we can pass through. Hurry up! we’re far behind by Terrance’s group!” Levi commanded.

 

As the group sprinted around the forest, Jasmine gave Levi a bit of a death glare.

“I hate you so much right now,” said Jasmine.

 

“I said I take back the insults I’ve made, don’t worry,” Levi responded. “It was what I had to do to motivate you into the sport.”

 

“That still wasn’t very nice!” Olivia said.

 

 Prior to defeating Min, Sonia appeared in what looks like the inside of a large tree. A group of people in black cornered in front of her. They looked to be ninjas. Sonia felt devastated until they showed a sign: they’ve done a greeting that she would understand.

 

“You guys didn’t have to kidnap me, but I’m surprised to see my old ninjutsu classmates!” Sonia said.

 

One of the members of Sonia’s ninja class removes his mask and shouts out, “We have found our friend, Sonia!”

 

“Okay yeah, so now that you guys have had your celebration, what exactly brings me here?” Sonia asked and shifted her eyes towards the student in front, named Tobey.

 

“We’ve heard that you have gained new blood in the rainforests of Rio de Janeiro,” says Tobey. “Now we want you to come back to us, join our force again!”

 

“Yeah, about that, I’m not technically out of the ninja game, but I got a knack of learning some new tricks like good old fashioned karate!” Sonia replied. “I got two other amateurs waiting for me, so I need to get out of here.”

 

Tobey gave a laugh before Sonia was going to leap out of the tree hole. He also seemed to be faking a smile.

 

“Sure, just head along back to your new friends. Go on and take Taekwondo, Boxing, or even Sambo, I don’t give a damn,” now sounding seriousness, Tobey then says, “Then again, you either leave us or you’re out of our program for good! Do you realize our code, Sonia? Do you realize!? Who enters the ninja troop stays in the ninja troop!”

 

“You’re acting crazy, anything that the others got to say?” Sonia questioned.

 

The other, unveiled, members of the ninja troops exchanged different conversations. Still trying to leave, Sonia, however, was then confronted by another ninja of her class at a high-rank: Cyrene, pointing a dagger to Sonia’s neck.

 

“Stick with us, or deal with some pain!” Cyrene threatened.

 

“I’m in a middle of finding a tower, so if you all want me to stay, I don’t want you guys to foil me from my mission,” Sonia responded.

 

“You said you had some other “friends,” with you, right?” Tobey reassures.

 

“They’re far from friends, but I’m grouped with them.”

 

“Then I request you to get rid of them. Go for the kill if possible!”

 

As Sonia retreated from her ninja troop’s hideout, the next perspective shows Terrance and Jeffrey, calling out for Sonia.

 

“This is a serious low. We’ll be marked down for sure if we go on to the tower without Sonia,” said Jeff. “And I never want that to happen to me!”

 

“It sucks to be Sonia, whatever happened to her,” Terrance remarked.

 

“Oh shut up!” Jeff replied, giving Terrance’s shoulder a nudge.

 

Once again, they heard the noise of rustling leaves.

 

“There it is again, we must stay alert!” Jeff said.

 

“Eh, it’s probably just another false alarm,” Terrance restated.

 

As they didn’t suspect, a group of ninjas jumped out and spread around to corner the two students. They were especially surprised and relieved to see Sonia with them.

 

“Sonia, where were you!?” Terrance asked.

 

“Sorry we lost you on our tracks, are we cool?” Jeff asked.

 

“I’m sorry boys. I’m with my real fighting family here!” Sonia responded.

 

“Who are your friends in black robes, thinking they can just change your mind and turn your back against us?” Terrance asked again.

 

“We are Ninja Academy Troop 56, Sonia is one of us and she’ll be one of us for as long as we please!” Tobey argued.

 

“Alright, we’ll take you on, no rush,” Terrance said, “even if it means we’re up against Sonia!”

 

With some of the troop members in standby, the fight begins as Terrance gives Tobey a swift low kick. Tobey swipes at Terrance with a small katana. He then jumps behind Jeff to do the same to him as Sonia performs a leg sweep on Terrance. Cyrene, hidden from the treetops attacks Terrance and Jeff with shuriken and successfully hits. Tobey then grabs Jeff’s right fist to swing him sideways and then kick him. Sonia was now behind a tree and jumps up, walking backwards on a branch, keeping watch on Terrance and Jeff. She hears Terrance approaching and Sonia so then spreads from the tree branch to hide away and then upper-cut Terrance with a kick from her knee. Jeff tries to attack Tobey, but several times, his punching gets blocked by his katana and then resorts to kicking him in the shin. Off-guard, Jeff nabs an opportunity to attack Tobey, but gets stricken by Cyrene with a knife-hand technique before tossing some throwing stars. Cyrene eventually gives Jeff a flying kick as Terrence tries to block from both Sonia and Tobey. He momentarily gets damaged from Sonia’s ankle knick and reverse punch combo as Tobey flings a kunai near Terrance’s right arm. Cyrene, Tobey, and Sonia now have Terrence and Jeff cornered with a kunai held in their hands.

 

“You’re dead meat!” Cyrene exclaimed.

“It’s over for a couple of lousy karate students like you,” Tobey taunts.

 

“Don’t you remember what you’re here for, or what these people are doing to you, making you beat us to death?” Jeff said to Sonia.

 

“I do remember, but I stick with my old family, as part of their code, even if they force me into it,” Sonia responded.

 

“Are these people even working with somebody or another group?” Jeff questioned.

 

“As a matter of fact, we are. We’ve been hired by the Shadow Bark to keep you guys from getting across this forest, as far as our relationship with them goes,” said Cyrene.

“Wait a minute. You people are working with the Shadow Bark?” Sonia asked in a confused manner.

 

 “Yes, and if you completely decide to side with us, you’ll be living the life as a highly skilled ninja to outmatch everyone in your way, no holds barred. Does that sound like a good idea?” Tobey offered.

 

“If being in your lifestyle means being a criminal….then no!” Sonia answered and snagged Tobey’s katana.

 

Sonia then proceeds to whack her ninjutsu classmates with said katana, including Tobey and Cyrene. They both tried to counterattack and use their known techniques against Sonia, but to no avail. After taking out the two, Sonia then goes after the rest of the ninja troop, knocking them out one by one. Sonia takes several deep breaths with sweat running through her body.

 

“So you’re on our side after all,” said Terrance.

 

Sonia then runs off with Terrance and Jeff.

 

“Hey Sonia, get back over here!” Tobey called out, Sonia cocked her head to look upon her worn out ninja troop teammates. “Come on, are you still a part of our ninja troop or not? We’ll try and make you comfortable if you change your mind!”

 

“Forget you and forget me being a part of your ninja code,” Sonia hollered back. “For now, I resign!”

 

“Tower with the koi statue, here we come!” Terrance exclaimed.

 

“Someday, you’ll regret it, and you’ll always be with us,” Tobey said to himself, glaring at Sonia’s group.

 

The split groups were each shown racing for the tower, currently panning over to Dustin, Amber, and Clifford.

 

“I think my lungs are going to break,” Clifford worried.

 

“I can see the tip of the tower from here, we’re getting closer!” Amber said.

 

We’re going to make it…. Dustin thought.

 

Last to be shown were Levi, Jasmine, and Olivia, still trying to get ahead of the others to the tower.

 

“I need to be there before Terrance does,” Levi says to himself.

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6. For Whom the Bell Tolls

 

Levi, alongside his associates Jasmine and Olivia, saw himself running up north towards a shrine in the distance, which was hoisted by a single set of steps. Along two differing directions were the other two pairs with Terrence, Sonia, and Jeff making their way to the shrine right from the perspective of Levi’s group while Dustin, Amber, and Clifford was going left from said group’s perspective. The closer that the two of them got to the shrine, Levi and Terrence immediately ran faster the other members of their respective group once they saw each other. At the same moment, the two made the first step on the treads leading to the shrine and climbed up to the entrance, thus resulting in…

 

“Hey…I think…we’ve tied!” Levi said towards Terrence while out of breath.

 

“No…there has to be one winner!” Terrence responded, also out of breath.

 

“You two are pathetic,” Sonia remarked, making her way up the steps to the shrine.

 

“Shut up!” Terrence jeered towards Sonia. “Maybe I would’ve been able to stay ahead if Jeff and I haven’t had to find you and drag you back into our group!”

 

“I was kidnapped by my old ninja troop that I thought was still important to me,” Sonia argued. “What would I have done? I know I couldn’t have trusted them, but I didn’t know why they wanted me back when I suckered myself into rejoining them.”

 

“Well, damn you anyway!” Terrence argued.

 

As the group of six was stalled in the squabble, the last three students came running over to their spot from the left side.

 

“We made it…did we miss anything?” Dustin asked.

 

“You just missed a little spat that I got into, but it’s not important, so just forget about it,” said Sonia, leaving Terrence to set aside the words he could’ve then said.

 

The nine students made their way high up the steps. There, they got a closer look at the interior of the shrine. The roof the building was curved. Outside of the shrine stood a bell, covered by a fenced, wooden structure and a roof structure much like that of the shrine. The entrance made the shrine appear to be dark inside and beneath it was an arch shape surrounding it. Before the students could make a step inside, a group of five sages came outside.

 

“Are you the pupils that Master SquarePants and Master Cheeks spoke of?” One of the sages asked. “We’ve been notified that a group of people like you would be coming.”

 

“Yep, that’s us,” Levi confirmed.

 

“Good, we’ve been expecting and needing you for our task,” another sage spoke. “Come with us inside now.”

 

Per the sage’s command, the nine students immediately got inside of shrine where they then saw the renowned koi statue at the center and between the wooden beams supporting the shrine’s structure.

 

“So, what do you need for us to do?” Olivia asked the group of sages.

 

“Sit beside us and the statue and we shall tell,” another sage spoke. “Our need of assistance involves a tale passed down to us from several generations past.”

 

“Can I just ask why SpongeBob, Sandy, and Armando needed all of us for this?” Jeff inquired. “Who are all of you anyway?”

 

“Ah yes, we shouldn’t forget to introduce,” said one of the sages. “We are sages. We collect and dedicate our lives to stories of old. I am Cong. My colleagues go by Shui, Wen, Ling, and Ju-Long.

 

After the academy students exchanged each other’s names to the sages, one of the wise men, Wen, then spoke “Now, let me explain why you were all requested to be here. This shrine has a great deal of history for us to share, so listen well. We dedicated this sanctuary to a koi spirit named Jin Li. Jin Li is renowned as the “Incarnation of Resolve.” The story of the koi spirit goes back to a time where this world was mostly ruled by the sea. Jin Li sought to keep the world at peace for as long as it was able. One obstacle Jin Li faced was in the form of a Siamese carp named Dao Gou, who was termed as the “Incarnation of War.” Much like other legendary beings of Jin Li’s time, the koi fought with Dou Gou every so often, and every so often the koi won against the carp. It may sound crazy to be true, but it is a matter of fact that this place used to be a sight for one of Jin Li and Dou Gou’s battles, so we built this shrine and erected a statue of the very koi both in Jin Li’s honor.”

 

“Long ago Jin Li’s body had left the face of the Earth,” Shui continued explaining, “but its spirit lives inside of this statue. Long story short, we requested for Jin Li’s spirit to possess the statue by making contact with the koi in the spirit dimension. That place is a world much like our own, except that it’s a place where ordinary beings can see, talk, and even feel the bodies of the spirits that reside there. Great spiritual abilities can also allow for spirits to coexist in the world of the living.”

 

“So, what does all this have to do with our mission we’ve been assigned?” Levi asked.

 

“We’ve been contacted by the head of the Shadow Bark,” Cong responded, “He gave us a warning that the spirit of Dou Gou, the Siamese carp, is coming to take the shrine for their own selves. We need you all to assist in summoning Jin Li from the other side of the world to fend off Dou Gou, for the greater amount of support we give to Jin Li, the greater the strength it receives.”

 

“To be able to enter the spirit dimension, one must have a very composed mind,” Shui adds. “So, tell me, have any of you tried meditation before?”

 

Jeff, Sonia, Dustin, Clifford, and Amber each voluntarily affirmed to the sage’s question while Sonia then responded, “I’ve learned about meditation before since it was an important lesson in the ninjutsu arts. I pushed myself through the ranks without it anyways, so I’m not very skilled at that.”

 

“There’s nothing wrong with reacquiring knowledge about a subject you’ve learned in the past,” Shui continued. “As for the rest of you, consider this mindful practice as a new learning experience.”

 

“So this is another lesson about karate we have to know?” Levi asked.

 

“We have a job to do for these people, so this is still a mission,” Jeff reaffirmed. “Also, if I could make a suggestion, the leader of the Shadow Bark is trying to take this shrine for himself and the rest of his group with Dou Gou’s spirit at his side.”

 

“Yes! That is our thoughts exactly,” said Ling. “Anyways, should we start the meditation lesson now?”

 

All of the students agreed as Shui then said, “Now the key to travelling to the spirit dimension is to have great focus on the mind. It’s a fairly easy process. Get into a lotus position or a simple sitting position. Stay still and completely relax your body. Keep your eyes closed and just focus on your thoughts until you see yourself on the other side.”

 

Following the advice of the wise men, all nine of the students positioned themselves with the sages to meditate. Each blanked out their vision to focus mainly on their minds. Shortly afterwards, they saw themselves inside of the srhine with eyes wide open. They viewed the koi statue, which was now emitting a visible golden glow. However, the first noticeable thing Levi noticed while now inside the other side of the world was the “Dream Monk.”

 

“Why are you here?” Levi questioned. “Do you show up whenever I’m asleep now?”

 

“I came to you when you were at near-death,” the Dream Monk responded. “I also came to give you guidance and from the looks of things, you seem like you could still use some.”

 

“Do you ever go away at some later point?” Levi asked again.

 

“Perhaps if you feel like you no longer need any guidance, I will come away,” the Dream Monk replied.

 

“Alright,” Cong said towards the students once they were now all aware of their current surroundings. “To summon Jin Li’s body from inside the statue, we all must touch it gently.”

 

“I could explain more about myself and of my purpose, but right now, there’s no time for that,” the Dream Monk continued. “You have your mission and your time is now.”

 

“Everyone else can see you right?” Levi asked.

 

“No they cannot. I exist in the dream world and in the spirit world, but I am your conscience and so I can only coexist with you.”

 

“I’ll be happy to have you off my back, whatever it is that I’d do to make it happen.”

 

The Dream Monk watched as Levi, alongside the sages and his other classmates, walked over to the koi statue to feel it until he saw the body of the koi spirit phase out from the effigy.

 

“Can we call our job done now?” Terrence asked the sages.

 

“We’re not quite done here,” Cong responded. “We also need you and the others to stay beside Jin Li and protect it.”

 

After Levi felt the energy from the statue being released, he turned his head to look around the shrine. That was when he suddenly spotted a peculiar spirit approaching the shrine. Remembering the sages’ warning about a Siamese carp spirit, he instantly realized that it was Dou Gou and it was already summoned by the Shadow Bark.

 

Levi then asked the sages, “Is that the spirit that you’ve all been warning us about? If so, then I say we got some real trouble on our hands.”

 

“And so it is.” Ling said. “We knew this was going to happen eventually.”

 

“Just leave the battle to Jin Li, young student,” Ju-Long urged. “This spirit dimension does not allow for us humans to interfere in the affairs of spirits.”

 

“I’m still going to help the koi spirit though,” Levi replied. “Nothing says that I can’t, right?”

 

“In protecting Jin Li, you must protect its statue,” Shui adds. “It must never touch it.”

 

Listening to Shui’s command, Levi turned his head around to see the koi statue, standing tall and still as it does. He then turned his head back around to gaze at Dou Gou, who was reaching closer to the shrine. At that moment, the Dream Monk appeared in front of him once again.

 

“I can sense that you’re on to something,” the Dream Monk remarked. “What is it that you’re planning?”

 

“I’m going to prove my leadership skills,” Levi replied. “I’m going to give Dou Gou a surprise attack.”

 

“Are you being serious?” The Dream Monk then asked.

 

“I’m positive. I’m going through with this.”

 

“Is this your way of defending Jin Li, or are you going to do this for yourself? If I must stop you, Levi, you should leave it to the masters of the shrine. They know what they are doing-

 

However, while the Dream Monk continued trying to speak to Levi, the teenage student’s eyes were very focused on Dou Gou.

 

“Here it comes…I’m going for it!” Levi cried out.

 

“Levi! You’re the only one who can listen to me! As your conscience, please stop yourself! One thing you should know, humans and spirits cannot interact the same way! Levi!”

 

Levi leapt once as Dou Gou entered the shrine. Jin Li was preparing a strike until the koi spirit saw Levi spring into action. Levi’s classmates, except for Jasmine and Olivia, and the sages came rushing over to where Levi when they noticed what he was doing. Levi couldn’t listen to his associates calling out for him to back away as he aimed to grab Dou Gou’s tailfin with both hands. However…Levi saw as his hands went through Dou Gou’s tail. Dou Gou then relocated its body to lock on Levi. With not enough time to react, Levi looked around to see that Dou Gou was about to plunge into him until Terrence hurried over to push him away from Dou Gou.

 

“Dude, what the hell you were thinking!?” Terrence exclaimed towards Levi.

 

“I was trying to help Jin Li,” Levi groaned.

 

“Look,” Terrence replied as he then grabbed Levi’s head and then turned it so he could see Dou Gou landing the first hit on Jin Li. “What you just did was give our enemy a head start.”

 

The sages and the nine students then came hurrying back over to the koi statue per the mission to stay by Jin Li’s side. That was when they all saw Dou Gou charging close to the very statue before getting interrupted by Jin Li itself, continuing their clash. Levi stopped to pant as he returned back to his intended spot as the Dream Monk returned in his sight.

 

“Because you look awfully stressed, Levi, I should give you some important advice before something else happens for you,” the Dream Monk warned. “Keep your focus. If you don’t, you won’t be able to sta-“

 

At that very moment, Levi’s vision changed. He glimpsed at the sages and his classmates sitting alongside him in front of the koi statue, but their bodies were still and there were no spirits in sight. That was when Levi noticed that he had been snapped back into the real world.

 

“Goddamn it!” Levi cried out while he held both sides of his head tight with his hands. “I’ve let myself out.” Bringing the mission back into his mind, Levi let go of his hands to reposition himself. He breathed in and out, closed his eyes back shut, relaxed his mind and body, and he then thought to himself, No big deal. I can get myself to return to the spirit dimension easy…

 

Returning from his brief exit, Levi saw as the two spirits were still clashing with each other and that the sages and his classmates stayed put beside the koi statue.

 

“It’s nice to see you back again. You better not jinx anything again,” Terrence chided towards Levi.

 

“I won’t. I’ve learned my lesson,” Levi responded.

 

“So you’re definitely not one to follow directions most of the time,” the Dream Monk uttered. “Just another bit of advice, you should keep your temper.”

 

“Shut up,” Levi muttered.

 

Jin Li and Dou Gou were in the midst of their battle as Dou Gou was ready to slam Jin Li with a charging attack. The Siamese carp spirit had also lowered its jaws, in preparation to damage Jin Li with a snap of its teeth. Jin Li narrowly avoids the attack as it then hits Dou Gou with the slap of its tailfin before then slamming into the carp spirit. Dou Gou charges again, but is outmatched as Jin Li then fires a bright yellow beam from its mouth to successfully hit the carp spirit. At that moment, the koi spirit noticed that Dou Gou had barely any energy left to keep fighting, as it stopped. Jin Li, the sages, and the nine students saw as Dou Gou turned its back and began to slow swim away from their sight, guaranteeing that the koi spirit is still the keeper of the statue. Jin Li stared at the Siamese carp spirit until it ultimately decided to return to its post, phasing back inside the statue.

 

“It’s best that you all leave this place now to stay safe,” Cong advised. “For sure, this situation turned out dangerous.”

 

Following the sage’s order, Levi, Terrence, Jasmine, Sonia, Amber, Jeff, and Olivia instantly returned to the real world through their thoughts while Dustin, Clifford and the five sages remained in the spirit dimension. Before Clifford could focus on leaving the area, he glimpsed at the Siamese carp slowly turning its back. As he saw it charging into his and Dustin’s direction, Clifford abruptly returned to the real world from the shock and hurried over to Dustin’s side to see that he’s still in his relaxed state.

 

“Dustin, please wake up!” Clifford cried out, shaking Dustin’s still body.

 

Back inside the spirit dimension, Dou Gou saw as Dustin instantly disappeared from the world, prompting for him to pause at that very moment and continue to swim away from the shrine.

 

Dustin saw his point of view instantly change to see what was causing the tugging sensation that loosened his focus. Immediately after Dustin returned from the spirit dimension, the five sages appeared awakened.

 

But then came a surprise waiting underneath the shrine’s entrance. It was karate master Udon himself.

 

“I hope you all don’t mind that I’ve dropped by here,” he spoke. “I need to make sure that my plan was making progress as it should be.”

 

“We’ve had some trouble, but that acquaintance of yours shouldn’t be bothering Jin Li now, Udon,” says Wen.

 

“I suppose you’re the big bad leader that our teachers have been telling us about,” said Levi.

 

“What were you planning to do in taking this shrine from us anyway?” Ju-Long asked Udon, “I’m betting it’s only so you could turn a profit.”

 

“My intentions are a secret kept by the Shadow Bark,” Udon continued. “But I’ll at least say that I have other reasons for this upheaval.”

 

“Wait until Master SquarePants and Master Cheeks hear from you,” Ling retorted.

 

“I would be pleased if they do know,” Udon replied. “If you people already want me to leave, I can already show myself out. A loss is a loss, but we will meet again.”

 

Udon then bowed and, in an instant, made his exit by shrouding himself in the darkness and vanishing quickly afterwards. Meanwhile, the five sages escorted the nine students out of the forest and back to the academy where SpongeBob, Sandy, and Armando were waiting for them.

 

“Wow! I’m so glad you all made it back here in one piece!” SpongeBob beamed.

 

“Do y’all care to tell what happened?” Sandy questioned.

 

“It’s a long story, but we can tell you all about it,” said Jeff.

 

“These students faced a dangerous foe, but each of them did well,” Shui commented. “…Each of them except one, however. It’s late, so tomorrow we’ll report their performances back to you.”

 

“Fair ‘nough,” Sandy responded and turned her head towards the nine students, telling them, “Tomorrow afternoon, SpongeBob, Armando, and I will give you your reports from the mission.”

 

Tomorrow morning, the nine students have all gathered at their respective classrooms to continue their karate lessons. After every hour of lecture was up, the time came for SpongeBob, Sandy, and Armando, to discuss upgrades and of their respective past performances to the nine students.

 

“After collecting all the information about the mission from all of you and from the sages, we can conclude that you’ve all done well,” Armando announced.

 

“We also have some wonderful highlights to share,” SpongeBob added.

 

“We commend Amber for coming to the aid of Levi’s group by delivering them medical supplies to help save Levi,” Armando spoke. “Sonia, we never expected you to get tied up in a situation with your old ninja troop, but we salute you for proving your loyalty to this academy by choosing to stick with your classmates. Jeff, you did excellent as usual, but it’ll still take a lot more to add to your black belt. Dustin, even though you needed the help of Amber and Clifford during your fight, you still managed to cooperate with them and show the enemy that you have guts. Not only that, but the sages told me that you have a very strong mind. Clifford, you showed your bravery by saving Dustin from an unexpected danger. Jasmine and Olivia, you both managed to show some of the techniques you’ve learned, but most of all, you two gave a lot of support for Jin Li by staying beside the koi statue at all times. Terrence, your disputes with Levi were distracting for some of the students, but you pulled through especially after you saved Levi from an attack in the spirit dimension.”

 

Levi waited patiently as the three karate masters were about to mention him.

 

“And of course, that leaves you, Levi,” said Sandy.

 

“What kind of consolation prize do I get?” Levi asked eagerly.

 

“We highly appreciate your fighting spirit and your determination, but…” SpongeBob was saying “…we’ve talked to your partners Jasmine and Olivia about your behavior during the mission, and we’ve decided to come to the agreement that you really need to work on that if you want to be ahead of the other classmates.”

 

“Meaning…?” Levi continued to ask.

 

“Levi, we all know how important this place is to you,” said Sandy, “but y’all need to understand that the academy does not revolve ‘round you. We know too that you like playin’ the leader, but there are some things that don’t make you a leader. You shouldn’t have forced Jasmine and Olivia in the fight with one of the Shadow Bark members you’ve faced. You didn’t have to drag yourself into the fight with Dou Gou. You did a darn good job like everyone else, but there are some things y’all need to learn if you want to be on the right track.”

 

“But Jasmine and Olivia openly refused to fight during our mission!” Levi argued. “Yet you’re giving them extra points for helping. I helped out too! Not only did I get my two partners to use karate, I did most of the fighting for them!”

 

“And you got me to fight by firing insults at me,” Jasmine informed.

 

“Shut up, I said I took them back!” Levi fumed. “You and Olivia were the ones who were backing out in the first place!”

 

“Yes, but we were in great panic,” Jasmine responded to Levi, “and if it weren’t for Amber’s help, we would’ve quit the mission to take us back to the academy and bring you to a nurse.”

 

“What about Terrence?” Levi questioned. “He was acting like a jerk to some of you during the mission!”

 

“Hey, I wasn’t the one who thought it was a bright idea to interfere with a fight between two spirits,” Terrence pointed out.

 

“Can y’all just calm the heck down?” Sandy ordered. “…Levi, you see what I mean now when I said that your behavior needs to change?”

 

“Levi, you still handled the mission well. For that effort, we’ll only upgrade you to a yellow belt, but for everyone else, we’ll double them up to a green belt,” SpongeBob announced.

 

Levi gave a deep sigh and then muttered, “Fine by me. I’ll do better.”

 

The afternoon turned to night as Levi was shown inside of the dojo’s bed space. He laid back wide awake, staring at the ceiling with his hands at the back of his head, unable to stop thinking over his past actions. Out of frustration, he threw his pillow at a window before getting up, dressing himself into his regular clothes, carrying his belongings, and finally slamming the sliding door, leaving his uniform and yellow belt in the room.

 

Levi now appeared outside of the academy, steadily walking over to the dock area.

 

“I’ve always wanted to be appreciated as a good leader,” Levi mused. “Everything I tried to do about leadership…was I all wrong?” Levi mused. “Screw this karate school. They’re all probably better off without me.”

 

Upon reaching the docks, Levi stood there impatiently and firmly. That was until Udon suddenly appeared next to him.

 

“Say, what brought you here?” Udon asked the teenage student.

 

“I’m wondering the same thing,” Levi responded. “Do you apparently have nothing better to do than find people like me?”

 

“Sorry, where are my manners?” Udon continued. “We haven’t gotten the chance to know each other, have we? I am Udon, but if you please, call me Master Udon.”

 

“I’m Levi and none of my business matters to you because I’m leaving anyways,” Levi replied. “I’m done with karate and I’m done being here.”

 

“I feel bad to see you feel this way. Do you care to explain to me why you’re leaving the academy behind?”

 

“Why do you care? It’s just that I don’t feel like I’m in the right place there, nor do I feel like I’m as good as everyone else.”

 

“Well…I think you’re excellent and I know one place you’ll surely feel more at ease.”

 

“I don’t trust you. I’ve been told numerous times that you’re a dangerous person who wants to take down my old academy, but you’re being nice to me.”

 

“Say what you will about me. Master SpongeBob, Master Sandy, and I have had our troubles, but I prefer to leave that in the past. My troop of fighters, they are ruthless, but we like to seek determined and strong fighters like you. Besides, you are leaving your old academy behind. You should have no care for what happens to it, right?”

 

“Maybe, but I’m not interested in whatever it is you want from me. I’m not as strong as you’re saying I am.”

 

“But don’t you want to be stronger? If that’s what you wish to be, then I suggest you should come follow me to my keep. It’s alright if you don’t want to join me. That is completely your decision.”

 

Finishing his talk with Levi, Udon strutted into the dark forest and left Levi’s sight. Udon’s talk had left Levi thinking about his own objectives in life. It was then that Levi decided to saunter into Udon’s direction until he left himself to ponder inside the dark forest. Levi walked on until he saw a large tree with a large black hollow.

 

From the inside was a place that resembled a large conference room. There stood Udon exposed as well as eight of the other members in cloaks. The eight members sat with bended knees as their master Udon make his way to a podium.

 

“People of the Shadow Bark, it is time to call roll.” Udon announced. “Zhong.”

 

“Present,” Zhong, the snakehead member spoke.

 

“Rico…”

 

“What’s up?” The piranha member said.

 

“Karmen…”

 

“Right here,” the catfish member spoke.

 

“Feng…”

 

“Greetings,” the arowana member stated.

 

“Alyssa…”

 

“I’m here,” the candiru member confirmed.

 

“Lamar…”

 

“Good evening,” the tigerfish member replied.

 

“Tadashi…”

 

“Present,” the zebra bullhead member spoke.

 

“And Daisuke...”

 

“Present, master,” the silver carp member sounded.

 

“For those who are not aware, we are missing two members,” Udon announced. “Min had to take a leave of absence after having to sustain injuries from his previous match and Chao Jin left us with a note of resignation as he expressed that he ‘does have the heart to keep fighting schoolchildren.’ However, we have already got someone willing to fill in one for one of those two empty spots. He may be a human, but I’m sure that you will all be able to cooperate with him. Without further ado, I’d like to welcome Tobey into our Shadow Bark family!”

 

Tobey, adorned in the same cloak as the other members of the Shadow Bark, appeared upon Udon’s introduction. He walked nearer to the other members and sat beside them.

 

“It’s a pleasure to be serving you,” he spoke. “The other members of my old ninja troop will probably gang up on me and call me a traitor, but as long as they’re still partnering with us, I don’t think they’ll mind it much. I don’t have much experience with karate but I’ve had experience from another form of martial arts, so I think I’ll be able to handle myself here.”

 

“Very well, that should conclude tonight’s meeting,” said Udon.

 

Before all the Shadow Bark members would leave their place, Udon saw Levi entering the group’s base of operations.

 

“Hold it, it seems that we have another willing replacement member,” Udon announced.

 

“I never agreed to that,” Levi asserted.

 

“Huh, I didn’t know we were expecting someone else,” Tobey commented.

 

Stepping out from the podium, he hurries over to confront Levi and then says to him, “I’m guessing that you have made up your mind.”

 

“I’ve only just come here to look around,” Levi reassured. “I see your hideout still looks as dark as ever, if only slightly more revealing than the last time I saw it.”

 

“We are the Shadow Bark after all,” Udon replied. “I would be pleased if you could stay because I have a deal to strike up with you before you could make your choice.”

 

“What kind of deal are we talking about?” Levi inquired.

 

“I know a way to give you great martial skills without having you go through months of training,” Udon explained. “I can transfer those powers to you.”

 

“Thinking about it for a moment, Levi then responded, “Okay…I’m interested. Show me how it works.”

 

“Listen, everyone,” Udon said, referring to the other members of the Shadow Bark, “return to your posts. I just need a moment with Levi alone.” As each of the other members has done as directed, Udon continued to Levi, “The first step is to enter the spirit dimension with me. Perhaps you already know how to do that?”

 

“You bet I already do,” Levi said and got into his usual relaxed position.

 

In a snap, Levi saw himself inside of the spirit dimension with Udon. Additionally, the Dream Monk reappeared beside him while he also saw Dou Gou by Udon’s side.

 

“Here’s how the deal will work, young Levi,” Udon was saying. “If you consent, I will let Dou Gou transfer its battle skills to you. It will require a few days to become adjusted to them, but in no time, you will become a karate expert.”

 

“Will it hurt?” Levi questioned.

 

“The process, perhaps, but you’ll feel just fine afterwards,” Udon replied. “So, do we have ourselves a deal?”

 

“Are you sure you want to go through with this?” The Dream Monk asked Levi.


“Yes,” Levi answered. “I’ve made up my mind.”

 

“You are free to make your own choices. I won’t keep pestering you, but you should remember, you’re making a very unwise decision,” the Dream Monk finished.

 

After Levi gave his word to Udon, the Shadow Bark’s master gestured for Dou Gou to charge into Levi’s body. As the Siamese carp spirit entered his system, Levi bent over and groaned from a sharp pain, holding his hands on his head until Dou Gou exited through Levi’s body, commencing the end of the process.

 

“Now, for a test,” Udon continued. “This is just so you know how these abilities lent to you feel. Go ahead and try to block me.”

 

Udon prepared a back fist attack against Levi. Immediately before Udon would strike, Levi got into a position and used the hand block technique. Udon then prepared a knifehand strike, which Levi then manages to instantly block and shortly afterwards counterattack with the same knifehand technique. Udon then tested Levi with several other karate techniques, some of which Levi managed to evade as well as some that ended up hitting him.

 

“The test is a success. Let’s return to the real world now, shall we?” Udon said. As commanded, Levi focused on his mind to return to the Shadow Bark’s base with Udon. “How did it feel?”

 

Levi gave a small chuckle and then responded to him, “I think…I feel much better like this.”

 

“There are some things you’ll need to practice before I send you out on a mission, so for now, put this on.” Udon then gave Levi a piece of cloth to wrap around his eyes. As instructed what to do, Levi had instantly wrapped the garment around, covering his eyes. “Once your time has come I will give you your task, but before I can send you out, you must answer this one question: do you accept your loyalty to the Shadow Bark?”

 

“Yes I will...Master Udon,” Levi said solemnly.

-------------------------------------------------
NOTES/TRIVIA:

Character debuts: Jin Li, Dou Gou, Rico (excluding Rebirth of a Storm), Karmen, Feng, Alyssa, Lamar, Tao, Daiyu, the five sages of Jin Li (Cong, Shui, Wen, Ling, Ju-Long)

Spoiler

-Levi voluntarily leaves the academy and joins Udon's Shadow Bark organization.
-Dou Gou transfers its fighting skills to Levi.
-Tobey, from Sonia's old Ninja Academy troop, joins the Shadow Bark.

 

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7. Armando’s Choice

 

Levi was shown facing his new karate master Udon, though the long, dark cloth wrapped over and tied around his eyes rendered him unable to see anything in his sight.

 

“How about we already start putting your senses to the test?” Udon suggested before getting into a fighting position. “…Hajime!”

 

In a flash, Udon leapt in front of Levi and raised, with his right fin, a high punch technique. Dou Gou’s alertness transferred to Levi’s mind as he then managed to barely block Udon’s attack. Udon then started using kicks from his left leg then to his left before throwing more punches afterward. Levi counterattacked with his own legs and continued to block Udon’s punches by blocking and ducking. Udon got closer to Levi’s blurred sight to land a right-handed knifehand strike, which Levi also blocked with his left hand. Immediately after the technique failed, Udon lifted his right leg for a kick before then using the high punch technique with his left then right fins. Levi reacted quickly to all these actions by dodging and then blocking before landing a hit on Udon with a right-handed knifehand strike.

 

“I see that you still do your karate well, Dou Gou,” Udon complimented.

 

While Levi’s back was turned and while he had no sense of warning, Udon snuck close by him and nailed him with one kick and a high punch.


“But there are moments where you’ll slip up. Sometimes, things will get to you before you could even sense them,” Udon continued. “Until you feel like you’ve mastered this portion of your training, you’re still going to practice while blinded.”

 

Yes, Master Udon,” Levi deadpanned.

 

“Now that you’ve finished swearing your oath to our dojo, I have one task to assign you.” Udon ordered. “Tomorrow night, we return to Jin Li’s shrine. We shall strike and this time, we’ll surely win.”

 

“Is that all you need me for?” Levi asked.

 

“No, no, we’ve only just begun doing business with each other,” Udon reassured. “You’re the one that I had Dou Gou lend his strength to. That’s a big responsibility. And most folks say that with great power comes great responsibility. Here though, the principle isn’t quite the same. What matters most is that with those powers, you’re not only helping yourself, you’re also helping me, and the rest of the Shadow Bark. Do you understand, dear Levi?”

 

“…Understood,” Levi responded before both he and Udon returned with a bow.

 

“Oh, and you know how you weren’t able to converge with spirits…?” Udon was saying as he pressed his right fin on Levi’s shoulder. “Now that you’re connected to Dou Gou, that problem of yours is fixed. You’ll see what I mean, tomorrow night.”

 

In an instant, the Shadow Bark was shown later on that day and time, standing in front of the opening to the shrine of the koi spirit. The shrine’s five sages were all crowded together to look upon the group in horror. Levi stepped closer to the statue. To the great surprise of the sages, Levi started glowing bright blue and his consciousness was transported to the world of spirits while only spending a moment focusing on his mind.

 

Inside the spirit dimension, Levi sensed Jin Li’s presence. Closer and closer he had confronted the spirit. Detecting Levi’s unusual aura, Jin Li sensed malevolence within him and launched into attack. Without fear and hesitation, Levi struck the spirit with a knifehand strike, inflicting a small amount of damage against it. As Jin Li continued on, Levi was still quick to counterattack and damaged the spirit with a variety of karate techniques until the koi spirit appeared to be feeling worn out. At that moment, Levi grabbed Jin Li by the tail, swung it and against the shrine wall, before assaulting the koi spirit with his karate skills until it signaled its surrender. The possessed Levi saw as Jun Li flew a distance away from its post. After the job was done, Levi returned back to the real world.

 

“Has the koi been taken care of, my faithful student?” Udon asked Levi.

 

“It flew out of the shrine like a coward,” Levi responded.


Udon turned around to face the five sages and then spoke to them, “As much as it would pain for you all to know this, the keeper of your shrine has been crushed by Dou Gou. That means that this shrine now belongs to its spirit. Just sell this place to me and I will do none of you any harm.”

 

“This shrine is not for sale or profit,” said Ling. “Just leave us be and take it.”

 

“Fine,” Udon grumbled. “Let’s go, students. We’ll find more business elsewhere.”

 

After the five sages voluntarily escorted themselves out of the shrine, Levi felt something peculiar as Dou Gou left his body to possess the koi statue, which now formed into its image.

 

“If you require Dou Gou in your timely need, you just call for it in the spirit dimension,” Udon muttered to Levi.

 

All of the Shadow Bark members followed and focused their eyes on Udon, who motioned for them to return to their base. Tobey, however, looked back at the shrine and then stared at Levi.

 

So, Udon has given you a connection to a spirit, Tobey thought, with anger in his mind. Why…why couldn’t that be me!?

 

The next morning, at SpongeBob and Sandy’s dojo, Armando is shown in his den, walking over to the sliding door that leads to his classroom before a note underneath it caught his attention. Picking it up and examining it, Armando’s eyes widened as he saw a symbol of the Shadow Bark emblazoned on it, prompting for him to open the door to SpongeBob and Sandy’s office.

 

“Huh, what’s the emergency, Armando?” SpongeBob asked.

 

“It’s a message from the Shadow Bark,” Armando spoke.

 

Armando then handed the note over to SpongeBob. Examining the small note, he read, “Master sponge, Master squirrel, it’s been a while since we’ve talked. I am writing to inform you that we have one of your own students on our side, and that we have taken control of the koi spirit’s bell shrine. If you want your old student back, I challenge any one of you, even Armando, to try and retrieve him from us.”

 

“This is from Udon,” Sandy remarked, “ain’t no doubt about it.”

 

“It really worries me to that he would take one of our students without our notice,” SpongeBob was saying. “But who did he take?”

 

As the three karate masters were about to ponder on the situation, Terrence slid the office door open shortly afterwards.

 

“Have any of you seen Levi?” Terrence asked. “I haven’t seen him all day yesterday, nor have I seen him this morning.”

 

“That solves it then,” Sandy declared. “That old, no-good, cheating little rascal took Levi!”

 

“Yeah, that sounds a lot like Levi was the one who got taken, or rather willingly joined them,” Terrence replied. “The last time I saw Levi, he was really upset.”

 

“Hey, let’s not jump to conclusions,” said Armando. “I don’t think Levi would be the type of person who would willingly join our rival academy. Nevertheless, Levi seems to be in real trouble and we have get him back, no matter the risk.”


“Hey, what’s going on?” Sonia asked as she, Jasmine, Amber, Dustin, Clifford, Olivia, and Jeff had all now stepped onto the scene.

 

“I bet y’all have the same question that Terrence had,” Sandy assumed.

 

“I haven’t seen Levi since two days ago,” Dustin said softly.

 

“None of us have,” Jeff added.

 

“I was going to ask you all if any of you seen my book, because it’s gone!” Amber uttered.

 

“What kind of book, Amber?” SpongeBob questioned. “Also, when did you last have it?”

 

“It’s my textbook on Nursing and I’ve last had it since yesterday,” Amber answered. “I know I last put it inside my locker.”

 

“Don’t worry about it, Amber,” Clifford reassured. “I can find it for you.”

 

“Why would you bring a book about nursing to a karate class?” Jasmine inquired towards Amber.

 

“Well, I could think of some very good reasons for that,” Sonia remarked.

 

“If you’re all wondering where Levi has gone, then we have some important news to share,” said Sandy.

 

Before Armando could continue, everyone in the room heard the sound of a large bell chiming outside, coming from Jin Li’s shrine as they all thought. The sound of the bell then prompted for the karate masters and their students to head outside of the academy. There, they saw Jin Li’s five sages walking towards to the facility, seeking its masters.

 

“You’re all here, just in time to see us,” said Wen.


“We heard what happened to that shrine. It was Udon’s doing, was it?” Sandy responded.


“It was, all right,” said Cong. “Not only that, but he had a strange boy with him, he was blindfolded and he had a connection to Dou Gou’s spirit.”

 

“Did that guy happen to be Levi?” Armando asked.

 

“We don’t know,” Cong replied. “Especially since his eyes were covered up, we couldn’t recognize him. Our main issue is that Dou Gou has taken control over Jin Li’s shrine and the bell now rings for Dou Gou when anyone makes contact with the spirit.”

 

“What happened to Jin Li?” Sandy asked.

 

“It left the shrine behind and just disappeared after it lost to Dou Gou,” Shui explained. “We’ve tried to call for it in the spirit dimension, but Jin Li wouldn’t answer us. Either it’s because we lost our connection to the spirit, or it’s something else.”

 

“So, let me get this straight,” Terrence was saying, “Levi has gone missing, and it ties all down to the Shadow Bark.”

 

“Presumably, yes,” Armando responded.

 

“And one of you three,” Terrence continued, referring to Armando, SpongeBob, and Sandy, “is going to bring him back to this academy. Come on, you know what Levi did during the last mission. What good has he done for me or for anyone else here?”

 

“As much as I hate to admit it, I would’ve been expelled or dead if it weren’t for Levi’s demeanor, despite how loathsome he acted during my mission with him and Jasmine,” Olivia commented.


“One of the utmost important rules to the academy code is that no student gets left behind,” Armando replied. “That’s why I’m going to carry out this task like I’ve done other times when the Shadow Bark got hold of some of our students.”


“You’re leaving!?” Olivia and Jeff both exclaimed.

 

“At my best, I could return with one of our students in a matter of 2-3 days, but I might be gone for a week or so,” said Armando. “It should be for only that amount of time before I return. But…if I’m not back in a week, Jeff, you’re in-charge of teaching my class.”

 

“Are you sure you’ll be able to handle this all on your own?” Olivia inquired. “What if you never come back? Who will I look up to then?”

 

“What about me?” Jeff asked. “I’ve never been prepared to handle such a big responsibility. You’re a karate master while I’m just a simple black belt.”

 

“I’ve known karate for years. I’ve learned not to fear danger, no matter what hits me. Even if I leave without a trace, you can still look up to me, Olivia. Keep me in your heart and maybe then, things will turn out better.”

 

“I will, I’d die for you, you know.” Olivia responded, with the tone of her voice coming off as rough from her sadness.

 

“I bet you have a sappy speech about me too, right?” Jeff remarked. “Why are you entrusting me to teach an entire class if you don’t return?”

 

“I’m putting my trust in you Jeff because I know you,” Armando continued. “I know you can try to handle a hard situation. You are my top student.”

 

Jeff became speechless for a moment before then saying to his karate master, “I understand…Master Armando.”

 

After SpongeBob, Sandy, and the eight students were done saying their goodbyes and wishing good luck to Armando, he was on his way to begin his expedition to find Levi. Olivia and Jeff were in tears upon his departure as the rest waved him farewell.

 

Time passes as the sun out in the horizon was close to setting while Armando stopped to rest beside a tree in the forest. As Armando stopped on his tracks, he kept his eyes looking around the view to see if there were any suspicious enemies waiting to ambush him.

 

No sign of the Shadow Bark anywhere, Armando thought. Not yet. Earlier, they should’ve heard of someone coming to retrieve Levi and start laying a trap on me. Still, I keep my eyes on anything suspicious. Udon’s troop can tend to be very cunning.

 

One moment that Armando turned around, he saw the image of the strange student as the five sages described for a brief moment. After he disappeared from Armando’s sight, Levi then suddenly attacked him from behind with a single kinfehand strike. It was after that moment that Armando now saw the reformed Levi in the flesh.

 

“You…” Armando groaned. “You’re the one that the five sages told me about. Are you…Levi?”

 

“You must be Armando, one of the masters from our rival academy,” Levi spoke. “Am I Levi? You can figure that out yourself.”

 

“Are you here for a fight?” Armando questioned.

 

“I’m here to take you in to our fortress. The Shadow Bark would like to see you, especially Udon.” Levi replied. “But I do very much would like a fight.”

 

“Then it’s settled.” Armando replied. “This is for Levi!”

 

In an instant, Armando and Levi commenced their fight. Levi jumped high up towards Armando. Upon landing, Levi struck Armando with a series of punches. Armando attempted to do the same against Levi, who was quick to dodge each and every one he tried to use. Levi then provided a few kicks to damage Armando before laying in some more punches. At that moment, Armando tried to block Levi’s attacks, but they were of no little use as Levi was able to easily detect and hit at his weak spots. Armando continued to use his blocking strategy as a façade before he could lay a surprise hit against Levi with a high left-leg kick. Levi quickly regained composure and then began hurling punches against his opponent. To try and counter against Levi, Armando used the same strategy, although still appearing outmatched by Levi.

 

Dammit, he’s so fast and flexible. I can barely keep up with him! Armando thought as he was still clashing with Levi, blocking and counterattack with all his might. He isn’t even breaking a sweat. What options do I have here?

 

As Armando was beginning to lose his focus, Levi used his opportunity to slam Armando against a tree with a high punch. Armando regained his composure and leapt against Levi, blocking and countering his techniques while he was still able.

 

“You don’t appear to be human, you’re like a fighting machine,” Armando groaned. “Where did you get these skills from?”


“From…my new master!” Levi exclaimed while trying to resist Armando. “Most of all, I’ve acquired them from a new friend known as Dou Gou.”

 

Levi continued to overwhelm Armando by landing a few swift kicks to bring him down on the ground. Armando, displaying his persistent fighting spirit, stood back up and kept trying to hold Levi off.

 

“I won’t throw in the towel,” Armando said. “Not until I’ve finished my goal. Not until I know the truth…”

 

Armando now began to change his strategy. He leapt and aimed for the piece of cloth that was wrapped around Levi’s eyes. Levi quickly sensed Armando’s action and stopped his technique with a high kick from his right leg. Armando got up once more and as quickly as he could, he removed the cloth from Levi’s eyes. At that very moment, Armando realized that the mysterious fighter was the student that he had been searching for and Levi could again see everything that his eyes could see.

 

It is him…Levi… Armando thought, in a state of shock.

 

“Look what you’ve done,” Levi reprimanded, staring at his loose blindfold before preparing to wrap it back over his eyes. “I’ve been ordered by my karate master to fight while blinded at all times until he said that I’ve perfected this part of my training. Hopefully, this can be a secret kept between us…”

 

As Levi lost focus on the fight, Armando immediately saw his chance to strike against him while his guard was still down. After one knifehand strike, and a few swift kicks and punches from Armando, Levi regained his composure and clashed with his opponent once more.

 

“What happened to you? Why are you fighting alongside the Shadow Bark?” Armando demanded.

 

“That was my decision….my decision alone,” Levi replied. “We can keep this up all night if I have to, but I can’t keep master Udon waiting…”

 

Armando was too shaken up to keep trying and hold off Levi. With a barrage of kicks and punches, Levi had knocked Armando unconscious and he then began taking him to the Shadow Bark fortress.

 

The next morning, Armando awoke surrounded by Levi, Udon, and the rest of the Shadow Bark.

 

“Hey!” Armando chided, his eyes directly pointing at Udon. “Someone here tell me what’s going on! What did you do to Levi?”

 

“What did I do to Levi?” Udon replied. “We gave him a fix to show his ultimate fighting spirit. That’s all.”

 

“Now why am I here?” Armando asked. “What did you want with me?”

 

“We knew that by sending you our message about one of your missing students that you would come to his aid,” Udon explained, “and that it would bring you into our grasp. While Levi is happy to be a part of our clan of fighters, you don’t have to be one of us…but however, there is one thing we needed to inform you about, which is why we forced you here.”

 

“What is it that you needed to tell me then? Spit it out!”

 

“Just a while ago, I’ve had Levi take down all the masters of your family dojo, and so I have claimed it as ours.”

 

“Why are you forcing Levi to do this kind of work for you? I suppose that this is part of some money-making scheme you’re planning.”

 

“Not entirely, that would be very cliché of me.”

 

“Whatever compromise you’re trying to make with me, forget it! My family’s business is not for sale!”

 

“Oh, Armando, I’m afraid it’s too late to keep such a promise. Besides, I do have a compromise that you may have to agree to. You see, the members of your family that own the dojo have already agreed to sell it to me. Since you have partial ownership to that dojo, I can’t claim it until you agree to sell it to me.”

 

“What will you do if I refuse?”

 

“Then your family will be punished, financially, and the more you decline, I might consider physical means.”

 

Udon’s previous suggestion had made Armando feel very nervous and could barely any more after hearing those words.

 

“The decision is yours Armando. Think hard about it as you may.”

 

Armando thought long and hard about Udon’s proposal, seeing how he can’t fight his way out of it. He finally spoke to him, “Okay…if giving up the dojo to you means you won’t hurt my family, then it’s all yours…”

 

Upon hearing Armando’s answer, Udon expressed a joyful grimace on his face.

 

“…but can you agree to one condition?”

 

Udon’s grin stopped as Armando continued to speak. “I’m listening.”

 

“I’ll do whatever it is you request me to do, as long as they do not involve using karate for anything ruthless. That way, I will prove my loyalty to you,” Armando continued, “and if I refuse to do any of your requests, I will agree to sell you my family’s dojo.”

 

“You drive a hard bargain, but…very well, it’s a deal,” Udon concluded. “I’ll still allow you some freedom from our code, but starting tomorrow, I’ll provide you with my demands, and you will follow them.”

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8. Can We Talk

 

It has been nearly a week since Armando began his time as a servant for the Shadow Bark. Today, Armando had been ordered by Udon to keep watch of the fortress without raising suspicions of breaking his own promise. It didn’t take a while before Armando began to feel lonesome and approached the Shadow Bark brethren for some small talk. As time passed on, Udon was still out, but once as he noticed that Levi was off the job, Armando took the opportunity to try and speak to him.

 

“Hey Levi, it’s funny to think we both went from being part of SpongeBob and Sandy’s karate academy to now serving the Shadow Bark,” Armando conversed with a nervous look. “Except that you willing joined them while I forced myself to join to let my family and I keep our dojo.”

 

“Yeah, funny,” Levi deadpanned. “Not funny as when I creamed you the other day.”

 

“Come on, Levi,” Armando replied. “Don’t you know who I am, or do you at least remember me?”

 

“I know you,” Levi replied, “but I don’t feel like talking to you right now. Okay?”

 

As Levi distanced himself from Armando, the spirit in which he referred to as the Dream Monk appeared again right before his eyes.

 

“Have I ever told you how very annoying I think you are?” Levi sneered.

 

“Can we talk?” The Dream Monk asked. “It’s a simple request.”

 

“No thanks, I know what it is you’re going to try and say to me,” Levi replied. “It has something to do with how I’m making a lot of terrible mistakes, doesn’t it? I feel better here and so my mind has been made up.”

 

“I wouldn’t be lying to you if I said that I was still going to try and convince you to change your current ways,” the Dream Monk replied.

 

“Then you can talk to my hands.”

 

Using the powers of Dou Gou within, he grabbed the Dream Monk by the head and crushed his neck. His head and body now appeared separate and on the floor, but not at all did he feel alarmed. Levi walked away after leaving the Dream Monk ripped apart.

 

“We spirits will always pick ourselves back together and stick with you for as long as we need to,” the Dream Monk finished. “Someday, Levi, you’ll realize the wrongs of your actions…”

 

After being unable to make a conversation with Levi, Armando had now made his way over to reach out to one of the other pupils, Karmen, the catfish.

 

“Hey there, I’m clearly new to this place, so I thought maybe we could to get know we each other better,” Armando greeted. “I’m Armando, and you are…?”

 

“Karmen,” she spoke with a dull tone.

 

“Well, do you think you can tell me about why you’ve joined the Shadow Bark?” Armando asked. “Or how about you tell me about how or why your other folks joined?”


“Why do you want to know?” Karmen asked back.

 

“You know…just to get to know people.”

 

“Master Udon informed us that we cannot make bonds in this dojo. It is a form of rebelling, he said.”

 

“But Master Udon is not here right now.”

 

“Fair enough point, but I prefer not to talk to you right now…”

 

Drifting away from Armando, with the sound of her cloak rustling around, Karmen had ended the conversation.

 

“If Master Udon comes back and asks you, tell him that I’ve been doing my job all day,” Armando hollered.

 

Back at SpongeBob and Sandy’s karate academy, Jeff was shown outside of Armando’s classroom, having already carried out a lecture for him in his absence. It was also the first day that he had to cover for his job. Jeff sat beside the sliding door with exhaustion and stress. He stayed there minutes until Dustin walked by to see him.

 

“Um…hey Jeff,” Dustin mumbled. “How did it go with the teaching? Are you upset because Armando still hasn’t come back yet?”

 

“I don’t know,” Jeff muttered. “Did I do as good of a job as Armando does?”

 

“What’s the problem?” Dustin asked. “You can tell me.”

 

Jeff spoke up and then responded to Dustin, “I just don’t personally see why Armando put his trust in me for when he’s in trouble. No one can do his job better than he himself can.”

 

“So you are stressed out about Armando being gone for almost a week,” Dustin assumed.

 

“That’s not the only thing,” Jeff continued. “Between us, I don’t feel like I’m good enough to take Armando’s place. I know I’m a top student for his class, but from time to time, while I’m in Armando’s class, I keep striving to be better until I feel like that I am. Having to take care of Armando’s teaching job, I think I did okay. I was familiar with several of the lessons I lecture the students about, and that’s due to my experience in karate. …And then there’s the thought that I have to lead a classroom of students if I have to assign them missions. I haven’t felt like I’ve been good at leadership since after I, Terrence, and Sonia did our big mission together. Just thinking about my lack of leadership skills is what stresses me out most right now.”

 

As Jeff finished his confession, Dustin responded to him, “I wouldn’t take it so hard. Although…that’s odd for me to say since I have done some things that I’ve regretted so much to the point where I’ve become the person that I am.”

 

“Now you have to tell me about your feelings since I’ve told you about mine.”

 

“Okay, but this is going to feel weird because I haven’t been good at conversations ever since. Um, about three years ago…I was a bully. In fact…I was intimidating and violent as one. After I, uh...bruised a kid so badly that it led me to being kicked out of one school…that one time, my parents decided to take me to a therapist. That was when he talked to me about these things…that I’ve done and how terrible they were. That was also when he introduced to meditation. The first time I’ve tried it…I’ve, uh, felt calm, I’ve felt relaxed and I’ve felt…different. Because I knew how much it had helped me improve as a person, I’ve practiced it regularly ever since and that’s why I’m…I’m…just a big softie.”

 

After Dustin was done with his own talk, Jeff then said to him, “You know, I can’t help but recall the time when you were at the koi shrine and you were so composed in that tranquil state you had yourself in. The fact that you’re so good at meditation is impressive in itself.”

 

“Thanks. …However, I came to you because I wanted to be better at karate and I needed to hear what you think I should do.”

 

“So do I,” Jasmine chimed in as she now appeared in front of Dustin and Jeff.

 

“Whoa, what’s up, Jasmine?” Jeff said. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here with us.”

 

“What were you two talking about?” Jasmine asked.

 

“We were just talking about some of our insecurities,” Jeff replied. “I don’t think you’d be up for that.”

 

“Faux,” Jasmine replied, “There’s something that I need to let out.”

 

“Well, let’s hear it then.”

 

“The real reason as to why I’ve signed for the contest to become a karate student goes back to about a year and a half ago while I was in France. I was alone in the big city of Paris when I was mugged by a group of terrible men. They made away with most of my belongings. My phone, my money, my accessories, my gift cards, they took it all. I’ve tried to tell a police officer about the incident, but he couldn’t help me because he thought the crime wasn’t serious enough because I was too young and he thought that I was just overreacting. The officer still offered for me to let my parents know that I needed a ride back home and thereafter, they told me about how I should’ve learned to defend myself. That’s when I knew about martial arts. I was very hesitant at first because it is my nature to be a lady figure and not to partake in rough sports, but still, I needed to learn how to defend myself. I’ve settled for karate as I’ve felt it was the least rough form of martial arts to me. Because of the way I tend to be, it’s been very hard for me to get invested in learning karate, but I’ve always tried to keep it mind that I need to keep going so that no one will ever see me as that stupid girl who never learned about self-defense.”

 

“Wow, that’s terrible that you had to go through all that, Jasmine,” Dustin commented.

 

“Dustin, Jasmine,” Jeff spoke. “If there’s something you two should really know about karate, it was something that Armando told me about it. At times, he would tell me that he devoted himself to the sport for it meant being able to overcome obstacles and then helping others do the same. Karate never meant to be anything ruthless to him. It was through that piece of advice that I learned how to love the sport myself. I may not have the time to help you two become better at karate, but you both should at least take that advice at heart.”

 

“That’s why we wanted to talk to you,” said Dustin. “You may not think you’re great, but if you ask me, I think you are great. You’re more than just that too, you’re the most trustworthy guy I know.”

 

As Dustin finishing sharing his encouraging words to Jeff, Jeff then wrapped his arms around Dustin and Jasmine out of delight.


“Thanks for telling me, I’m feeling better now,” Jeff finished.

 

Clifford was now seen trying to approach Amber at the lockers. As he assumed, Amber’s book on nursing went missing again.

 

“Hey Amber, can I talk to you about something?” Clifford asked.

 

“Okay, what did you need to tell me?” Amber inquired.

 

“You know how your nursing textbook somehow went missing a few times?” Clifford replied. “Well, I’ve been afraid to tell you this at first, but…I’ve been taking it from you without asking.”

 

Expecting absolute shock, Clifford was pleasantly surprised to see that Amber was feeling content after having told her the truth.

 

“If you wanted to borrow it, you could’ve just asked, but why have you been taking interest in it?” Amber replied.

 

“It has to do with a long story in my life. Since we’re close enough friends, I’d thought you’d be the first that I would share it with.”

 

“You can tell me anything that has been bothering your little head.”

 

“Okay…the story begins with my family. I come from a mother, who is a lawyer, and from a father who…is a kickboxer. That shouldn’t sound bad at all, but when you have a dad like him who is crazy about the sport, you’d understand better. At one point in my life, he had high expectations of me becoming a kickboxer like him and forced me into practicing it with him later on. Now, I am proud of the career that my dad partakes in, and when I’ve practiced boxing with him, he’s soft on me, but the more and more that he had me exposed to the sport, the more that I just felt…sick about it. After so many times that I had to see his boxing matches, after he got me to practice boxing by doing it against other kids, after he would scold me for being too soft on said kids, I couldn’t handle to see people getting hurt and in pain anymore…”

 

As Clifford kept trying to tell his story, tears began forming in his eyes while the tone of his voice turned rasp.

 

When my dad signed me into a boxing camp without my own approval that was when I had enough. After that, I stumbled across the contest. I entered it in hopes that I could be forced to escape from something that I never wanted to with my own life, but with the Shadow Bark threatening us, I’ve never felt safe here. So, that’s why I’ve been a huge wimp all this time, Amber.”

 

After Clifford finished telling his story to Amber, he had a feeling like she would be traumatized by it, but Amber expressed feelings of consoling and responded to him with a hug. That tender feeling had also allowed for Clifford to cease his crying.

 

“That way you’ve told your story, it was so brave of you,” said Amber. “You might just even be the bravest person I’ve known.”

 

“Then I shouldn’t be afraid to tell you why I’ve been taking your book,” Clifford continued. “I entered the contest to enroll in this academy for more than just avoiding boxing camp. I know how important it is for me to learn about self-discipline and self-defense and I’ve wanted to learn them without having to deal with pain. Even if I couldn’t be able to know karate, I still wanted to be a great help.”

 

“What does all that have to do with my textbook on nursing?” Amber asked.

 

“I’m getting to that. Because I’m the kind of person who cannot stand seeing people hurt and in pain, I feel like the best kind of person I would be is the kind that could help make it all go away. I was surprised to see you carrying around that book on nursing, Amber, because that’s a part of what I’ve wanted to be later in life: a nurse!”

 

Clifford’s last sentence had left Amber feeling surprised. After going silent for a moment, she then asked him, “You mean like…a doctor?”

 

“No, no, no, no, no, no!” Clifford confirmed. “I want to learn to be a nurse.”

 

Once again, Amber had stopped for a moment to think of what to say of his confession. She smiled and then said to him, “Then we both karate fighting nurses ought to stick together. Oh, by the way, do know why I really entered the contest?”

 

“No, why did you?” Clifford asked eagerly.

 

“I just wanted to land a job there as a potential academy school nurse,” said Amber, “Just learning how important karate is for most people, I think now I’d like to learn a handful about it myself!”

 

“Still, it would be more interesting to see more medical experience involved in karate,” Sonia remarked, who had suddenly appeared inside the room to open her locker.

 

“Oh, hey Sonia,” said Amber, “What are you doing here?”

 

“What does it look like?” Sonia responded. “I have stuff that I need to take out of my locker.”

 

Amber and Clifford took a glimpse at the inside of Sonia’s locker and examined her old ninja troop uniform.

 

“Hey Sonia, if you don’t mind, can you tell us about your time at your old ninja academy?” Amber asked.

 

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Sonia muttered as she closed her locker door shut.

 

“Come on Sonia, we’re classmates,” Amber beamed, “you can tell me!”

 

“What was that you said about medical experience in karate, though?” Clifford asked. “What did you mean by it?”

 

“If you two could stop asking me questions, I’ll be willing to confess some things about myself,” said Sonia.

 

Listening to Sonia, both Amber and Clifford went for quiet.

 

“It’s a matter of fact that I was a part of a ninja troop some time ago,” Sonia acknowledged. “You two may have already known as well that I have been bragging about being a top ninja student. Do you know what I’m really good at though?”

 

Both Amber and Clifford shook their heads in response.

 

“…Being a big fat liar,” Sonia continued with a slight smirk. “Shocking, isn’t it? The truth is, I was never a top ranking ninja student. Even while I learned certain fighting techniques from my former friends at the academy, I never had real fighting experience as a ninja either. In my old troop, I was a medical ninja and it was my job to look after my folks and supply them with medical care.”

 

“Like a nurse!” Amber added.

 

“I don’t get it though, why would you lie about this?” Clifford asked Sonia.

 

“I fibbed so that I could get people to like me,” Sonia responded. “But since I realized my bragging was annoying others and because that habit lead me to being lumped in with students like you both, I’ve toned it down.”

 

“You still had a good, memorable time at that ninja academy, right?” Clifford replied.

 

“Wrong,” Sonia replied. “I resigned from my old ninja troop after something serious happened. It was during one of our missions. My best friend died in action and I didn’t notice until my former friends Tobey and Cyrene put the blame on me for Laura’s death because it was supposed to be my job to look after her. I didn’t know what happened to Laura, but I knew I should’ve looked after her.”

 

“Aw, that was a sad story, Sonia,” Amber sniffled.

 

“Yeah,” Clifford concurred, with small tears in his eyes.

 

“I know bragging and lying wouldn’t bring Laura back, so I’ve stopped,” Sonia continued. “The real reason why I’ve entered a contest to join this academy is so that I could prove to my old ninja troop that I don’t deserve them as much as they don’t deserve me.”

 

“That’s cool,” Amber remarked, “So, do you think you can tell us some stuff from when you were a medical ninja?”

 

“Since you two are dedicated nurses, I think I can teach you a lot through my own experience. Maybe we can become a medic team for the academy.” Sonia concluded.

 

In another room, Olivia was shown sitting up with her arms crossed and her head slightly down. It came to Terrence’s mind that he would pay her a visit and try to console her about Armando. As Terrence stepped inside the room, he stood right next to Olivia.

 

“You know, this is your fault that Armando’s been for almost a week now,” Olivia uttered.

 

“I know you’re upset,” said Terrence, “and I know that I’m the least you’d expect to be acting nice to you, but you need to go. We’ve been wondering where you were.”

 

“Just leave and take your self-righteous attitude with you,” Olivia fumed.

 

“Come on, I can’t be as bad as Levi,” Terrence replied. “Armando went to look for him, so Levi is pretty much the main reason why he’s been gone for a while…not to sound rude about it.”

 

“Yeah, and the last time I’ve known him, he forced me to fight one of the Shadow Bark members, then I had to issue a complaint to Masters SpongeBob, Sandy, and Armando about his behavior, then he left, and Armando had to start a search for him and…now I can’t help but think that this is my fault.”

 

“Why would any of this be your fault? You spoke up about Levi, that’s all.”


“You must have a big crush on Levi if you’re so obsessed with talking about how much you hate him.”

 

“Well, you’re so obsessed with Armando that you probably want to marry him.”

 

“It’s not like that!”

 

Olivia’s outburst had caused for silence to fill the room.

 

“Please just leave me alone,” Olivia continued. “I especially don’t want to see your face here/”

 

“…I’m sorry that I’ve been acting like a dick for most of my time here,” Terrence replied. “I understand you need time to be alone. I haven’t been used to being nice to others for most of my life, but I’m still here because I thought I’d know what’s wrong. I know it has to do with Armando and I’m just curious as to why he means so much to you.”

 

“Armando defines the kind of person that I am, not because I’m in love with him or such, but because I admire and look up to him.” Olivia explained.

 

“Sure,” Terrence replied. “You idolized him so much to the point where you dressed up as a guy to be in his class until Armando decided to let you be in his class.”

 

“That’s another thing. I’ve told Armando this once, and I was planning on telling any other guy besides you, but I’ll let you in on this since you’re the only person I’m talking to right now. Terrence…I’m not Olivia.”

 

“…Okay. What’s your point, though? Are you trying to say that you’re actually Oliver or-“

 

“I’m getting to that. For most of my life, I never felt like I was a girl. That was the main reason why I wanted to be part of Armando’s class. When I asked him if he would still like me if I changed to become my true self, he supported me and let me stay in his class. That’s the main reason why Armando means so much to me.”

 

“So let me get this straight…you want to be a boy because you’ve always been one.” Armando’s student simply nodded. “So should I be calling you Oliver now, or what?”

 

“No, you don’t have to call me that. I’ve been thinking more of a name that better suits my style. Call me…Liam,” he said.

 

Terrence paused for a moment before standing back up and then replying to Liam, “Well, from now on, you’re Liam.” Before Liam could say more, Terrence continued, then saying to him, “By the way, I think you should tell the others about the real you.”

 

“I don’t know,” Liam replied. “I’m afraid some just won’t understand me.”

 

“Why should you be afraid to express your true self?” Terrence asked. “If someone has a problem with you, do what I do by fighting them back until they have to listen.”

 

“You see, before I would leave the academy, I was going to ask Armando if he could help with me making a medical transition to a boy and I had a feeling like you would tell SpongeBob and Sandy to have go through it right now…”

 

Terrence walked over to the sliding doors and then said to Liam, “That’s because I am going to do that for you. Let’s go, Liam.”

 

“Not before I could tell you one more thing.”
 

“What is it?” Terrence asked, looking somewhat annoyed.

 

“I just wanted to say to you thanks for actually understanding me,” Liam finished. “I’m starting to feel better now.”

 

The small look of annoyance in Terrence’s face at that moment had now turned into a defiant look. Before Terrence and Liam could talk with SpongeBob and Sandy, the two karate masters are shown having a discussion of their own.

 

“It’s funny to look back when Udon scammed me for the King of Karate title so I could buy a condo,” said SpongeBob. “Now it’s scary to think about how Udon has a real karate squad of his own and he’s posing a serious threat.”

 

“I wouldn’t worry so much about him, that rascal is probably just trying build some fancy money-making scheme,” Sandy joked.

 

“The Shadow Bark may really have kept Levi and Armando for them, so what do we do?” SpongeBob asked.

 

“Of course, we need to devise an attack if they’re going to plan an assault against us!” Sandy answered.

 

“To get through to Levi, we may have to recruit the students that are close to him and they’re still behind in their own training, except for Jeff.”

 

“Then we all need to hustle. Who knows when Udon will threaten us again?”

 

It was at that convenient moment that the smartphone in their office started to ring, showing an unknown caller. SpongeBob and Sandy both presume that it’s Udon calling them.

 

Before SpongeBob was to pick it up, Sandy said to him, “I’ll take it from here, little square dude.” Answering the call, she then spoke, “I reckon this is Udon, ain’t it?”

 

“Yes,” Udon’s voice spoke gravely from the phone.

 

“If this is about taking our academy from us, then forget it!” Sandy exclaimed. “There ain’t no way you’re going to stop us!”

 

“I was expecting that you would say that, squirrel,” Udon responded. “The Shadow Bark won’t come for you soon and we have other business affairs to attend to, so I can’t stay to chat.”

 

“Then what are y’all callin’ for?” Sandy asked.

 

“To give you a warning,” Udon replied. “We’re saving the best for last while we handle our own work. We should be done in a matter of three weeks until we infiltrate your academy…unless, of course, you sign an ownership contract where you’ll have to give up your academy to me.”

 

“Not a chance, we’ll train our students until they feel like they can take you and the Shadow Bark on.”

 

“Good luck with that, but you two remember, your time is running out.” Udon finished before hanging up.

 

“Now we really have to hustle, or we’re in serious trouble!” SpongeBob frowned.

 

Before Sandy would continue to encourage SpongeBob, the two karate masters heard a knock on the door. Opening it, they saw Terrence and Liam standing there.

 

“Oh, Terrence and-“said SpongeBob.

 

“Liam,” Terrence interrupted, “This is not Olivia and she-“Realizing his words, Terrence bit his tongue for a moment and continued, “I mean he must now go by Liam. He wants to go through a medical transition to be his true self and we came to ask if you could help us do it as soon as possible.”

 

SpongeBob smiled for a moment and responded, “We’d loved too.” As his face returned to a worried look, he then said, “But we may need Liam in the next three weeks before the Shadow Bark attacks our academy. If he’s going to make that transition now, he will have to stay in the hospital for at least two weeks until we can have him take classes again.”

 

“By the way Terrence, what make you want to help one of our students all of a sudden?” Sandy asked. “We didn’t expect for y’all to change your behavior just now.”

 

“Liam and I just had a talk,” Terrence replied. “Are you two still going to do it, though?”

 

“It will be a risk if it means that Liam will be behind on his training, but for his sake, we will do this as soon as possible,” SpongeBob replied. “Sandy is also a scientist and she knows a lot of good doctors that can help Liam with his transition!”

 

Sandy laughed a bit and then said, “Yeah, you bet I do!”

 

“Wow, thanks so much!” Liam exclaimed before he, SpongeBob, and Sandy, shared a small hug.

 

“We’ll schedule an appointment for you with a doctor tomorrow morning,” Sandy informed. “You’ll have to be away from our academy for a while, but you’ll be excused from your classes until you’re well enough to continue your training.”

 

After wishing good luck to Liam before he went to one of the academy’s bedrooms, Terrence stood next to the sliding doors to ponder.

 

It actually feels good to do something good for someone, Terrence thought. Maybe later, I’ll take the courage to tell the others about why I’m here.

 

The day after that meeting, SpongeBob and Sandy had informed Jeff to tell Armando’s students that Liam is going to be away for a while. Afterwards, SpongeBob and Sandy reached out to Terrence, Dustin, Jasmine, Sonia, Amber, and Clifford to tell them that they need to catch up with their own training within three weeks. Due to each of them having increased their motivation to move up in the ranks, the aforementioned students have all managed to go up to earn an advanced green belt within two weeks.

 

SpongeBob and Sandy assembled their students, Jeff, and as well as Armando’s students for an announcement after those two weeks had passed for Liam to be able to return to the academy.

 

“Welcome everyone,” SpongeBob announced. “Just so you all know why we have you all here, we have an announcement to make. You all may be aware that Levi and Armando have been absent since the past three weeks and we have come to the conclusion that they are being held by the Shadow Bark against their wills. In the coming week, the Shadow Bark will try and launch an attack against our academy.”

 

“Please do not be alarmed,” Sandy then spoke. “SpongeBob and I will take care of this situation. In addition, we’ve decided to draft some of the students that appeared to very close to Levi and Armando for this mission, and they are Terrence, Dustin, Jasmine, Sonia, Amber, Clifford, and a new student that will be joining us as of today.”

 

“One of Armando’s students, Olivia, will no longer be with us in this academy, but taking her place is a young boy named Liam,” SpongeBob continued. “Come on out now, Liam!”

 

Hearing his cue, Liam opened up the sliding doors behind SpongeBob and Sandy and walked next to them, showing the students his new and improved self. The students, including the ones who were most familiar with him, recognized how much he had changed. His hair was still blonde, yet it was cut to a shorter length (but not too short), and resembled more like a guy’s hairstyle. His facial features also changed to match his intended appearance. Liam was surprised to see how happy most of the students felt to see his new self. Liam’s classmates and as well as his past mission partners were the most joyful to see his transition upon their own realization of whom he formerly was. Terrence stood at the back of the crowd with the proudest look of approval that Liam had ever seen.

 

“He will be joining us in our mission next week,” said SpongeBob. “Jeff, Sandy, and I will be in our groups of four. With Levi and Armando still gone, two students from those respective classes will take their place.”

 

“So without further ado, let’s hear it for one of SpongeBob’s top students, Diego, and one of Armando’s profound students, Chase,” Sandy announced.

 

At that moment, a Hispanic and a Caucasian teen both stepped up next to Liam and the two karate masters.

 

“It’ll be honor to be serving them,” Diego commented.

 

Chase didn’t speak, but he exchanged a mean look towards Liam. Trying his best to ignore him, Liam turned his head away to face the crowd of students.

 

“Before the time comes before we face the Shadow Bark, we will announce our plans,” said Sandy.

 

“Okay students, you can all return to your original posts. Class is dismissed.” SpongeBob concluded

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
NOTES/TRIVIA:

Character debuts: Chase (outside of mentions from earlier episodes), Diego
-Liam (formerly Olivia) transitions as of this episode and now officially goes by said name.

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9. Then Came Chase

 

It was now the day of the showdown. In their respective posts, both the Shadow Bark and the karate academy were making preparations.

 

Udon had given his pupils their task in which direction to attack the enemies while he had tasked Armando to guard the Shadow Bark fortress. While Armando easily took Udon’s order for him, he couldn’t help but think about being saved by SpongeBob, Sandy, and their students. Thoughts about returning to his family and saving his family dojo from Udon’s contract were also on his mind. Focusing his mind on the academy he served for again, there was especially one particular person that he couldn’t stop thinking of, and how worried that person must feel that he has been absent for weeks. That person was Liam (or rather, Olivia, based on the image that he has only seen of him). While at his post, Armando saw as Levi was the last person arranged for the dojo’s attack formation. Knowing that the Shadow Bark was treating him like he is their secret weapon, Armando didn’t feel phased, but he was still feeling concerned for him, hoping that he too would be saved from Udon’s grasp.

 

That same morning, SpongeBob, Sandy, and Jeff were making their arrangements for their counterattack against the academy. They had already tasked themselves to lead the students in the mission, as well as to cover for them in the need of any student. Sonia, Clifford, and Amber were the first to be drafted in a group of three and were accepted as the emergency retaliation and medical team upon their request. The other two teams were arranged by SpongeBob and Sandy themselves with Terrence, Dustin, and Jasmine being on one team and Liam, Diego, and Chase being on one team.

 

Considering that he only had one week of training, Liam hustled on advancing his skills well enough to reach the regular green belt rank. Diego and Chase had reached the same rank as Liam while his other six colleagues were still ahead of him as they would earn their brown belt during their last week of karate training.

 

“I never thought that I would make it this far,” Clifford commented on his rank. “When I first started, I never wanted to be part of this school, but now I know so much about karate almost as much as I do on nursing.”

 

“Sure you do, but you better not be acting like a massive pussy like you were on your first few missions,” Chase remarked.


“He and Amber wouldn’t have gotten this kind of help if it weren’t for me,” Sonia chimed in. “Even then, they are talented in helping themselves and helping out others. They have matured as much as I have in the past few weeks.”

 

“Tell it your old ninja troop if you ever decide to come back to them, begging on your knees,” Chase retorted.


Sonia paused for a moment upon Chase’s comment. She then turned around to face him and responded, “I don’t owe them a single thing. They’ll be owing respect to me after I’ve done my job in taking down the Shadow Bark. The same goes for you too.” After she spoke this to him, she left Chase alone to go back to her group members.


“That guy is a real jerk,” Amber remarked.

 

“Yes he is, and you two shouldn’t waste any of your time with him if he’s going to act like this during the mission,” Sonia informed.

 

Chase went back to see his team members, Liam and Diego, entering the room where the two settled themselves in.

 

“Hey Chase,” Diego greeted, “Since we’re each on the same team, we need to talk about our own strategy in this mission.”

 

“Personally, I don’t think we need much of a strategy to rely on,” Chase responded. “We just attack whatever member of the Shadow Bark we face up against. If we don’t know what style of fighting they’re using, we can figure it out ourselves.”

 

“You look like you could use some meditation,” Diego replied. “It is essential to our training and you’ll feel too stressed to fight if you don’t try to free your mind at least once.”

 

“Come on, I know a lot more about karate than those three flunkies outside do,” Chase then said, referring to Sonia, Clifford, and Amber.

 

“He has a point,” Liam said to Chase, defending Diego. “Besides, whoever you’re talking about, they have a higher belt rank than we do, you know.”

 

“Oh hey, if there’s anything we need to add to our strategy, Olivia can make herself damn sure that she doesn’t get in our way by prioritizing too much on her guy crush Armando,” Chase heckled.

 

“His name is Liam,” Diego asserted. “We’ve gone over this several times this week.”

 

Before Diego spoke up, Liam was ready to lash out at Chase with his own words, but he responded to Chase, “Everyone else here in this academy is important to me as much as Armando is. Don’t forget, he’s your master too.”

 

“What do you two want from me? I’m taking this mission as seriously as I can.”

 

“Would it kill you to act more respectful to us, now that today is the day that we face off against the Shadow Bark?” Liam asked. “Since you’ve been partnered with us, you’ve been nothing but disrespectful and unhelpful to us.”

 

“Why would I have to? The sponge, the squirrel, and our master have been teaching us about karate too kindly and someone needs to reach out and get everyone to grow a spine. Armando made the worst mistake by surrendering to the Shadow Bark and putting Jeff in-charge because he wasn’t taking things seriously enough!”

 

Liam and Diego were now completely speechless, as they were hesitant to continue arguing with him.

 

You know what, if you two don’t want my help, then you both can form a strategy yourselves!”

 

Out of sheer anger, Chase exited the room and slammed the sliding door behind Liam and Diego.

 

Outside of the previous room, Chase encountered the other group, which was comprised of Terrence, Dustin, and Jasmine.

 

“That kid is brattier than you are, Terrence,” Jasmine teased.

 

“Oh shut up,” said Terrence.


“Yeah, we shouldn’t talk to him,” Dustin suggested.

 

“By the way, now should be a very good time to discuss our plan for this mission,” Jasmine informed.

 

“I’m feeling very nervous about it right now, but I feel like I should be able to handle it,” said Dustin.

 

“Our strategy should be simple,” Terrence spoke. “You two find someone from the Shadow Bark to fight while I take care of Levi. He’s going to want a fight against me, so it will have to be that way.”

 

“Should we back you up when you’re in trouble?” Jasmine asked. “The Shadow Bark have made it seem like they’ve turned Levi into a dangerous enemy yet we don’t know that they’ve done to make him that way.”

 

“It’ll be interesting for me to find out myself,” Terrence replied. “If I get seriously injured, I can at least call on Sonia, Amber, or Clifford. Also, speaking of Clifford, you’re starting to sound like him.”

 

“Once Clifford and I subdue one of the enemies, we’ll still be on your side,” Jasmine replied. “That would be my plan for us.”

 

Terrence spoke no further and silently walked out from the conversation. Jasmine and Dustin saw as he went back to his side of the boys’ communal bedrooms.

 

He’s such a loner, yet he’s spent so much of his time on Levi, Jasmine thought, I could only wonder why he’s that way.

 

The time had now shifted into dusk, where it would be moments before the Shadow Bark’s surprise attack. The sages from the bell tower of the koi spirit were on the lookout for any suspicious presence out on the horizon and within the forest. All of the students assigned for the academy’s mission were still inside the facility, beside Jeff, SpongeBob, and Sandy. Sonia, Clifford, and Amber were packed with medical supplies. The rest of the students, including the medical team, carried phones in the case of an emergency. Per the tradition of the art of karate, the students were empty-handed, but they all expressed a look of determination.

 

After the sun came down, the sages arrived to report SpongeBob, Sandy, and Jeff, about a few suspicious onlookers zooming across the forest. They further said that foes within their perspective had the appearance of a catfish, a piranha, and a zebra bullhead. Upon this news, Jeff and the two karate masters have ordered for the students to step out and focus on their surroundings to apprehend one of Udon’s fighters. Terrence, Dustin, Jasmine, and Sonia headed north and had gone the furthest away from the academy. As part of Sonia’s strategy, she had Clifford and Amber stay in middle ground between the enemy lines and the academy. The last group stayed nearest to the academy building, taking a left path before hiding amongst the trees, in their plan to ambush the ambushers.

 

Once Liam, Diego, and Chase had spotted three figures beneath them, they would confront Karmen, Rico, and Tadashi, those in which that had made the nearest distance to the academy. The three students got into a fighting position as the three Shadow Bark members looked at them with anticipation.

 

“It’s just a bunch of green belts,” Rico remarked. “We can handle them easy. Right, Tadashi?”

 

“That depends on Karmen’s hunch,” Tadashi spoke. “I say they’re skilled and determined enough to take on us.”

 

“My predictions tell me that they don’t have the upper hand,” Karmen spoke.

 

“Well, when she’s right, she’s right,” said Tadashi.

 

“What are these guys talking about?” Diego asked his other two associates.

 

“I don’t know and I don’t care, we’re here to prevent anyone from the Shadow Bark from making way to our academy!” Chase said.

 

“If you’re all here for a duel, then let’s have ourselves one right now,” Tadashi declared. “There is only rule: if one of us loses, one of us will retreat. If one of you loses, then the victor deserves further access to your academy.”

 

“I’ll take on the feisty one,” Rico said, referring to Chase. “He seems a lot like someone who’s asking for a match with me.”

 

As Rico positioned himself in the direction Chase was facing, Liam and Diego repositioned themselves to face Karmen and Tadashi respectively.

 

“Yeah, I can take you on,” Chase tormented to Rico. “You’ll be surprised to see how my own karate training has paid off compared to Diego and Olivia.”

 

To resist Liam’s urge to call Chase out, Diego placed his left hand on Liam’s right shoulder to calm him.

 

“We’re here to avenge our academy, as well as to take back Armando and Levi from your master!” Liam denounced.

 

“I don’t need to speak for myself, but so just you’d all get a good idea of who we are, I’m Rico and these are my two associates, Karmen and Tadashi,” Rico disclosed. “I’ve known karate long before transferring myself to the Shadow Bark. The most interesting thing about that is that I’ve transferred from a different dimension.”

 

“I don’t care who you are, let’s fight already!” Chase exclaimed.

 

Without hesitation, Chase started his karate match against Rico and began hurling several karate techniques knew one at a time. Rico took the damage he was receiving from his foe. However, he was standing formidably against Chase and was focusing on his opponent’s strategy while resisting the attacks.

 

“Doing nothing to stop me, huh?” Chase taunted. “Yet you wrote us off for our belt colors!”

 

“I sure have made myself open to your techniques. You’ll see why soon enough,” Rico responded.

 

It was at the moment that Rico saw that Chase slowed down with his attacking that Rico stopped resisting and used his skills to counter. Rico started by grabbing Chase’s leg to interrupt his high kick technique and landing a punch straight into his ribcage. Chase tried to resist the damage that he took while Rico was able to land another hit on him by then kicking him in the abdomen with his left leg fin. Chase continued to try and attack Rico with his original strategy, but Rico would consistently block his techniques before landing a swift hit in his lower abdomen, then his hips, and then the lower part of his neck until his opponent lost balance. Liam and Diego were putting up a good fight against their respective opponents but they would lose focus as they saw, with horror, Chase being wounded by Rico.

 

“Seeing the way you fought me, you didn’t seem to have a specific strategy,” Rico insulted. “You were also too heated to focus on my techniques. You are pathetic.”

 

Chase peered up at Rico with a genuine, terrified look on his face. He got up before Rico could strike him anymore and scurried away north from the forest.

 

“Hey, this isn’t over until one of us says it’s over!” Rico exclaimed, chasing after his opponent.

 

In a hurry, Liam took out his emergency phone to contact Amber. As his called was picked up, he spoke through the device, “Amber, this is Liam. If you see Chase, tend to his injuries. He’s been seriously hurt by one of our enemies!”

 

“Do you know where he’s going?” Amber asked.


“He should be heading to wherever you and the rest of your group are,” Liam replied. “Isn’t that where you are? From where Diego and I are, we’re pretty close to the academy.”

 

“Then I think he’s coming to where Clifford and I are,” Amber replied.

 

“When you find him, tend to his injuries, and then call me again when you do. Diego and I are in the middle of a match, so I can’t say more.”

 

“Don’t worry and be safe,” Amber finished.

 

Liam continues his respective fight with Karmen. He avoids a high kick from her and quickly blocks her imminent punch. Afterwards, Liam attempts a regular punching technique against Karmen. Liam’s opponent blocks, but Liam then switches for his left hand to strike her lower abdomen and then sweep her feet with a high kick attack to the same area. Karmen keeps still as she then uses a left-handed knifehand strike technique against Liam while he counters it with a knuckle punch. Karmen then uses her right fin to strike at Liam’s left hip before he would strike at her right hip with his right knuckles. Liam then unleashes a left-sided high kick into Karmen’s abdomen before then damaging her with a right-handed knifehand strike. This finishes Liam’s match against Karmen as she declares defeat.

 

Diego’s opponent, Tadashi, appeared to be more of a formidable foe as he has been able to block most of his kicks and punches. Tadashi was fast to react to Diego’s techniques and somehow Diego had to find his weak point as Tadashi appears to not need to change eye contact to block or shift techniques. Diego realized this while he was fending off Tadashi’s attacks and countering them while moving around at the same time. He now waited for Tadashi to make his next move as he decided to lower his guard. Diego predicted a quick knifehand strike from Tadashi that he manages to block with his left hand. He then presumed that Tadashi would try a high kick, which he blocks with his right hand.

 

Stopping again to think more on Tadashi’s strategy, Diego jumped into the opposite direction to strike Tadashi from behind with spontaneity. Diego then predicted that Tadashi would strike with a knuckle punch without turning around. At the moment that Tadashi turns around to try and land another knuckle punch with his other hand, Diego uses a high kick technique from his left leg to land a hit on Tadashi. With Tadashi now trying to regain his focus, Diego continues to land hits on Tadashi with a few punches to his middle abdomen, and then to the sides. Tadashi stays still as he then blocks Diego’s next punch with his left hand and then grabs the left arm Diego was using with his right hand. Predicting that Diego would try to strike with his right hand, Tadashi swipes out one of his fins out of Diego’s left arm to block and then readjust the technique for his left fin for a quick knifehand strike. At that same moment, Diego swung around his right arm to shift his position and land a hit on Tadashi, into his left hip. Diego then slides over with a quick high kick attack into Tadashi’s abdomen. This causes for Tadashi to lose balance as he is now unable to regain the strength to continue his match, accepting defeat.

 

“We’ve underestimated the both of you,” Tadashi remarked. “Per Udon’s orders, I must retreat to report this.”

 

To Liam and Diego’s surprise, Karmen stood idly, facing the two students while Tadashi made a run back to the Shadow Bark’s fortress.

 

Karmen focused her eyes on Liam and said to him, “You are one of Armando’s pupils. I have the ability to make accurate predictions, but I could already tell by the look in your eyes.”

 

“Why should I listen to someone whose group had kept my karate master hostage?” Liam asked.

 

“I know how important he is to you,” Karmen continued. “I should return to my master to tell him about my loss, but there are some things that I need to tell you. You were a good fighter, but I’ve been having visions of a terrible fate that would be done to me, so I wasn’t able to focus on doing my best in our match. I have to follow my master’s orders, but I’m willing to tell you where we’ve kept Armando.”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but if you please, you can show me where,” Liam replied.

 

Karmen pointed a finger to the left direction, as a hint of where the Shadow Bark’s base is located.

 

“I’m sacrificing my own life by helping you, but I’ve already made up my mind that this I would accept my impending fate than stay with the Shadow Bark.” Before Karmen would finish, she strutted over to a right path in the forest and then spoke, “After you find Armando, tell him to also give his thanks to me…”

 

As Karmen finished her talk, she disappears from the sight of the two students by zooming out into the right direction of the forest’s greenery. Afterwards, Liam and Diego began to take the path that Karmen advised them to take while Amber and Clifford are now shown to be looking around for Shadow Bark members and as well as Chase.

 

“One of the Shadow Bark guys haven’t found us yet,” said Amber. “That should be good since we also need time to find Chase. By the way Clifford, if you want to, you can tend to Chase’s wounds.”

 

A rustling from the trees could be seen and heard southward. As Amber and Clifford turned around to see where it was coming from, they saw Chase and Rico running closer to where they watched. They both stopped as they saw the two medical fighters. Taking a look at Rico, Clifford was already feeling frightened and intimidated. Amber got a hold off Chase’s right arm, but before she could decide to take on Rico, Clifford suddenly got in front of him.

 

I should be too squeamish for this fight… Clifford thought …yet, my heart is racing at such a fast pace. This is must be what it feels like when you have to step into a fight to defend someone. Even though I can’t consider Chase as a friend, I can’t afford for this guy to keep hurting him. “Amber!” He then exclaimed. “You care for Chase’s injuries while I fend off this guy!”

 

As Amber began to lay down Chase and reached for her medical supplies, Chase slaps her left wrist and says, “Don’t touch me, I’m fine! My injuries aren’t bad!”


“Yes they are,” Amber asserted. “What were you doing with that piranha guy? I’m seeing a lot of bruises on you.”

 

“You mean Rico? I was just trying to fend him off. He’s beaten me up a lot, but I wasn’t ready to end my fight there, so I just ran from him…you know, so I could tire him out.”

 

“You tried to run away from a fight?” Amber questioned. As Chase expressed a look of guilt on his face, Amber then said to him, “It is okay, Chase. Clifford has run away from a few fights. He’s just never the kind of guy who picks fights unless he needs to step into them.”

 

“Like right now?” Chase responded.

 

“I wasn’t expecting him to jump in to finish the fight for you like that, but that’s a part of why I like him so much.”

 

“Say, where’s your other friend, Sonia?”

 

“She said that she was going into hiding to spy on the Shadow Bark guys and keep watch of everyone in this mission. You can say that her past experience as a ninja has paid off.”

 

Before Clifford would start his karate match with Rico, Sonia appeared far from the academy building, having just examined Terrence, Dustin, and Jasmine. Terrence had yet to find Levi while the other two also had yet to meet their opponents. Before Sonia could continue to hide within the greenery, she was confronted by someone familiar to her.

 

“Hey, you still remember me?” Tobey spoke.

Sonia took notice of how Tobey was dressed the same way as his other colleagues from the Shadow Bark. In that instant, she made a realization.

 

“Tobey…” said Sonia. “I knew before that you were somehow siding with the Shadow Bark…but why…?”

 

“Why did I join them? That’s a good question,” Tobey responded. “After I was notified that the Shadow Bark had two of its members leave, I knew I had to take an open spot. Because I was getting bored of being around my ninja troop and because I heard about Master Udon offering a great deal of power to someone, I decided to cave in try something new, just like how you abandoned us for that joke of a karate academy.”

 

“I didn’t want to admit this before, but I quit my old troop because I no longer wanted to be a part of it,” Sonia replied. “I decided that after I lost my friend Laura.”

 

“Oh yeah, I cannot forget about that tragedy either. I am ordered by my master to fight whoever my eyes meet with, so you have no other choice than have a karate match with me. If you’d like, you can consider it a fight for old time’s sake.”

 

“Whatever you say, but I’m only here to defend my academy, my classmates, and to get information about the Shadow Bark!” As Sonia said this, she got herself in a fighting position, raising her right arm forward.

 

“Sure, I’ll be willing to tell you what it is that I have to share for a match,” Tobey said while forming his fighting stance. “I’ve learned a handful about karate myself too, so this will be an interesting fight.”

 

The main perspective returns to Clifford and Rico for their karate match. Clifford kept a lot of focus on Rico’s techniques, being able to block most of his attacks. Clifford tried his best to resist when Rico jabs him at his lower abdomen before then giving him a swift kick to his lower jaw. Clifford continued to keep balance as he thinks about how to get past Rico and his offensive style of karate. At that point, Clifford had now thought that he just needed to keep trying to block Rico’s attacks to until he sees a change in his strategy. Rico was still striking Clifford with his techniques at times, but Clifford remained to use his strategy.

 

What is this kid trying to do? Rico thought. Is he only trying to wear me out? If he is, it’s not working. If he’s just going to keep blocking, I’ll have to change that.

 

Clifford would eventually see Rico change his routine as he grasps his left arm. Before Rico could try and grab Clifford’s right arm, Clifford reacts quick enough to hit Rico with a knuckle strike. With Rico now caught off-guard, Clifford then uses his high kick technique on Rico’s higher abdomen, although doing feeble damage. Rico then attempts to use a knifehand strike on Clifford, but it gets blocked. Rico now uses a high kick attack to strike Clifford in the chest, but Clifford resisted his blocking stance. Predicting that Rico would try to take a hold of both his arms again, Clifford, in quick succession, folds his arms behind his back and attacks Rico with a high kick from his left leg. Clifford now shifts techniques by laying a right-handed knifehand strike on Rico and then using his left hand to attack him with a knuckle punch.

 

Then, Rico decided to change his strategy again by attempting to block Clifford’s next punching move to throw him off-guard. There, Clifford had stopped to see what Rico was going to do now and then he looked down to see him trying to do a sweeping kick. Clifford narrowly dodges the low sweep as Rico hurled a knuckle punch, which Clifford also managed to block.

 

I have to keep fighting, Clifford thought. As long as the thought of saving the lives of others is still kept in my memory, I have to keep on moving forward.

 

Clifford was now about to lay another knifehand strike against his opponent. Rico then decides to block the next hit. After his brief blocking, Rico lifts his left leg fin for a high kick while Clifford counters it with his own left leg. Clifford lowers his body to lay a knuckle punch into Rico’s lower chest before shifting his leg stance strike him with a kick from his right leg. Both Clifford and Rico were now feeling burned out from fighting and knew that either one of them was going to have to go down. Clifford inched himself back and ran over to try and land a powerful enough punch on Rico while his opponent jumped and prepared for a quick kick to his gut. Realizing his chance, Clifford quickly ducks lower at the precise moment that he would strike his right hand at Rico’s chest. Rico flops into the ground, unable to regain his stance.

 

“I hate to admit that I lost a match to the likes of you, but I admit defeat,” Rico groaned while lifting his legs back up. “I must report this to Master Udon!”

 

Rico runs out into the direction of the fortress, but due to the injuries he had sustained, he was struggling to keep at his intended speed. Right after he was finished with his fight, Clifford returned to where Amber was, who’s still treating Chase’s injuries.

 

“Oh man, Rico really left some marks on me,” Clifford spoke.

 

“I guess I could start treating your injuries after all that hard work you’ve done,” Amber suggested.

 

“No, I can take care of myself!” Clifford replied with a flustered tone while his cheeks turned red. “I think I should take over in taking care of Chase for right now.”

 

“You were amazing back there, Clifford,” Amber complimented.

 

“Thank you.”

 

“Hey lovebirds, how much longer until I can return to fighting?” Chase asked.

 

“I think you’ll be fine until half an hour more…or until you decided to stop being a jerk,” said Amber.

 

“Why do you say that?” Chase argued.

 

At that moment, Chase, Clifford, and Amber saw as the three leaders of the mission arrived at their post.

 

“Did you call for them, Amber?” Clifford asked her.

 

“Of course I did, we could use some extra help if those Shadow Bark guys are going to keep coming for us,” Amber answered.

 

SpongeBob, Sandy, and Jeff each examined Clifford and Chase’s injuries. SpongeBob spoke, “How bad does it look?”

 

“Chase’s injuries should be better soon, but Clifford got bruised up by one of the Shadow Bark guys,” Amber explained.

 

“Once I’m better, I can then prove that you all needed me for this mission,” Chase boasted.

 

“You’ll have to improve your social skills first, though. I could’ve told you earlier, but I’ve noticed how you’ve been treating your classmates, especially Liam,” said Jeff. “You were discriminating him by referring to him as the opposite person.”

 

“So? Why shouldn’t I call her Olivia?” Chase complained. “Why should I so suddenly be referring to her as Liam, and as “he” now? What if I’m calling her Olivia out of respect?”

 

“Hey, keep up that attitude and we’ll have to take y’all back to the academy and call yer parents,” Sandy warned.

 

“If I promise to be good, can I still stay for this mission?” Chase asked. “I won’t afford to sit out of it!”

 

“You owe some of your classmates an apology for your actions, so promise me you’ll do that during the mission,” said Jeff, “and promise us you’ll also call Liam by his actual name.”

 

“We could help you understand some things better, but I’m afraid we’ll do that later, ‘cause I see trouble ahead,” Sandy said, pointing over to two members of the Shadow Bark approaching the group. They appeared to be Feng and Alyssa.

 

“Step aside, I can take care of one of those guys,” said Chase.

 

“Not while your injuries are still being treated,” Jeff reminded.

 

“Come on, this is my chance to show my worth!” Chase argued.

 

“I’m afraid there’s no stopping you.”

 

Clifford then saw as Amber stepped up close to where Alyssa was while Jeff and Chase focused on Feng.


“Don’t worry about me, Clifford,” Amber said in a reassuring tone. “I would like for this to be my turn.”

 

“If you need us, Sandy and I will cover for you,” SpongeBob proclaimed.

 

“Then I’ll stay here if any of you need my assistance,” Clifford added.

 

As the fights against two more members of the Shadow Bark would commence, Terrence, Dustin, Jasmine, appeared to still be finding a target. Presuming that most of the members of the Shadow Bark had gotten closer to the academy, Terrence had now just directed for Dustin and Jasmine to split while he’s still on the search for Levi. Levi, on the other hand, was shown to be hiding in the dark within the greenery from Terrence, waiting for the right moment to attack…

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10. Ascending from the Shadows

Jeff and Chase have just begun their match with Feng while Amber was fending off Alyssa. Upon Feng’s request, the match started as a one-on-one between him and Jeff. Feng hurled a swift right-handed knifehand strike. Jeff reacted fast enough by blocking it. As Feng predicted this, Feng jabbed Jeff with his left-handed knuckle strike before his opponent took aim. Jeff tried to resist his blocking stance until Feng attacks again by striking Jeff’s left arm with a swift left-handed punch. Keeping his ground, Jeff waited as Feng made his next move by throwing punches one hand at a time. Jeff tries his best to avoid Feng’s hits, by moving his own body around and waited for the moment where Feng would shift techniques by lifting his right leg fin for a high kick. Jeff managed to block it as he then attempts to use a right-handed knifehand strike to hit Feng, but it was blocked by his opponent. Seconds after using his blocking move, Feng returned to physical techniques by using a high kick attack against Jeff with his left leg fin.

Jeff decided to back himself further from Feng’s attacking range to think over getting past his strategy. Jeff ran and got behind Feng, waiting for him to react with a punch or a kick. Predicting either one, Jeff blocked with his arms covering his face and then covering his body. Feng tried to counter the blocks with a quick shift between kicks and punches. Taking advantage in the change of strategy, Jeff now tried to use a low kick against Feng’s legs with his right leg before then sending out a knifehand strike to hit Feng. Feng jumped backwards and dashed, preparing a swift and painful kick to Jeff’s stomach. Seeing Jeff’s attempt to block, Feng jumped behind him and struck him with a fisted punch to his back. Jeff reacted soon enough to turn around and sweep his right foot through Feng’s legs. Feng resisted and then blocked another one of Jeff’s punches. Jeff inched back once more and waited for Feng’s next move. Jeff returned to his blocking stance seconds before Feng swung his right hand for a knuckle strike. Upon seeing Jeff’s block, Feng quickly raised his right leg fin to hit Jeff’s lower abdomen. Jeff resisted as he then tried to sucker in a punch to Feng’s side with his left hand. Thereafter, Feng grabbed both of Jeff’s hands for a second before laying a knifehand strike on him with his left hand. Jeff stepped back from Feng again to keep his strength.

He seems to be good at karate as I am, Jeff thought. He’s reading my moves very well. What should I do now?

While Jeff was focusing on his thoughts, Feng jumped close to where his foe had positioned himself and continued to attack him. At that point, Jeff could only block until he could see Feng shift his techniques. As he saw Feng using a punching move, Jeff went for a high kick to his chest with his right leg, interrupting Feng’s attack in the process. Anticipating Feng’s next attack, Jeff continues to block as Feng goes for a high kick. At that moment, Jeff readjusts his arms fast enough to hit Feng with a knifehand strike to his upper abdomen before he could block. Seeing how Jeff is now trying to read his moves at his rate now, Feng sought to change his strategy and made became open for a hit. Jeff hesitated and returned to his blocking position. Feng then jumped behind Jeff to try and lay a punch to his back, but Jeff reacted quick enough to turn around and block it. Predicting the block, Feng then unleashed a swift high kick with his right leg fin and into Jeff’s stomach.

“There’s a secret to your skills, isn’t there?” Jeff said, clenching his stomach but still standing up.

“This is all from my own acquired knowledge of karate.” Seeing Jeff in considerable amount of pain, Feng then said to him, “We may both be of the same rank. However, I have the higher ground.”

Clifford turned around to see Jeff in his current situation with a look of horror. He bent himself up but he stopped in an instant when he saw Chase jumping himself straight into the match with a flurry of techniques before Feng raised his right leg fin, sweeping and aiming it through that same direction towards Chase’s neck, thereafter making him hit the ground. In less than three seconds, Chase regained his position.

“Chase, you shouldn’t be interfering like this,” said Jeff. “Your injuries still haven’t even waned.”

“So?” Chase muttered. Raising his voice now, he sputtered out to his acquaintance, “That doesn’t mean I can’t continue fighting, isn’t that what we’re all doing here!? I don’t care about these guys and how skilled they are. I don’t care about my injuries. You, Master SpongeBob, and Master Sandy have all entrusted me in protect the academy. That’s all I care about right now.”

“If you want to help me, don’t leave this all to yourself,” Jeff responded.

“If two against one is how it’s going to be, then I’ll play along,” said Feng. “I can handle this challenge since of yours is very miniscule in fighting.”

Chase continued to fight against Feng and went for a left leg swipe to one of Feng’s legs. Feng dodged the attack with ease while his focus on Chase left Jeff an opportunity to attack him. After puncturing Feng with a simple knuckle strike with his right hand, Jeff noticed the strategy Chase was going for. Feng then quickly blocked Jeff’s next attack where he was using his right hand to punch. While Feng blocked, Chase did light damage to him with a knifehand strike to his back. In that instant, Feng turned to try and swipe Chase with a right-handed strike. Chase dodged the attack while Jeff did a few jabs on Feng’s backside.

Realizing the strategy from his two opponents, Feng changed his eye contact level by shifting his focus from Chase to Jeff every few seconds. Feng was able to continue landing some kicks and punches on Jeff. However, Chase kept dodging while landing a few occasional, soft hits on him and Feng appeared to be blocking the attacks less. Seeing how Feng was trying to catch up with him and Chase for their strategy, Jeff was able to land more of his kicks and punches onto Feng. This slow and steady strategy went on until Feng sustained enough damage to continue and then raised both of his arms in a gesture to end it.

“Fine…the victory is all yours,” Feng uttered. Peering towards Jeff, he then said to him, “But keep in mind that this is just because you got extra help.”

“You said you could handle us both one on two, but it turns out you couldn’t multitask that well,” Jeff remarked. “Have you noticed that yourself?”

Feng paused for a moment. He hanged his head low and then responded to Jeff, “There’s more to karate that we both need to learn, as it seems.” Afterwards, he raised his head back up and gestured towards Alyssa

During the same time as Jeff’s fight with Feng, Sandy and Amber were taking part in a match with Alyssa. The student and her instructor stood next to each other as they waited for Alyssa to make her move. Alyssa raised her left leg towards both Sandy and Amber to strike. Sandy leapt over to dodge the imminent attack while Amber ducked. Afterwards, Sandy landed a punch and then a kick against Alyssa. Alyssa then blocked the next punch from Sandy and hurled around her right arm with a knuckle strike technique, which Sandy also managed to dodge. Alyssa rotated her head to notice Amber ready for her attack. Alyssa shuffles backwards from one of Sandy’s kicks and turns to face Amber. Before Amber could land a punch on her, Alyssa blocks and then uses a sweeping kick to throw Amber off-balance. Amber flipped herself back up in seconds and tried her techinique again, landing a hit on the left side of Alyssa’s abdomen, but also sustaining a left fin punch from the opponent.

Alyssa turns back to focus on Sandy to notice that she’s going for a flying kick. Alyssa interrupts Sandy’s attack, using her right arm to block it. Focusing back on Amber, Alyssa blocks her right-legged kick with her other arm. With Amber and Sandy attacking from two different sides, Alyssa jumps backwards to reposition herself. Sandy hustles closer to Alyssa and prepares a rising kick move and waited for Alyssa to block. Upon seeing her opponent block, Sandy grabs her left arm and, anticipating a kick, slides herself from Alyssa’s aim to then knock the opponent with a right then left-handed knuckle strike. Amber launches the next attack against Alyssa with a knifehand strike. Anticipating for Alyssa to block or dodge, Amber shifts techniques at the heat of the moment. Seeing Alyssa duck, Amber swiped her left leg to hit Alyssa with quick enough succession. Amber then hits Alyssa’s lower abdomen with her right-handed knuckle strike.

To better sustain herself in the match, Alyssa changes her position again by jumping distantly over Sandy and Amber. Alyssa then waited for either of the two to make another move. Alyssa attacks Amber first before she would prepare using a technique with a knifehand strike. Predicting for Sandy to make the first attack, she blocks one of her punches and then one of her kicks. Waiting for Alyssa to change her stance, Sandy lands a knifehand strike on her and then goes for a rising knick with her right leg. Before Alyssa could counter or block the technique, Amber strikes the back of Alyssa’s left heel with a low kick. Alyssa turns around in an instant and swings her left fist towards the left side of Amber’s abdomen. At that same moment, Amber struck her with a punch to Alyssa’s lower abdomen. Alyssa then strikes Amber with rising right-legged kick before turning her back to face Sandy. Alyssa jumps over Sandy’s sweeping right kick to dodge and then prepares a right-handed knuckle strike against her. To fend her off, Sandy interrupts the attack by pressing one of her palms onto it until Amber strikes back at Alyssa with a strong enough kick from her left leg to reduce her composure. Sandy then let go of Alyssa’s fist and then swiftly uses a knifehand strike before Alyssa could block it. Amber finishes the match with another sweeping kick. Having been reduced enough, Alyssa gestures to them her defeat.

“Golly, Amber, you’ve done a mighty fine job keeping up with me!” Sandy remarked.

“I didn’t think I would be able to. After all, I’ve learned to be good at karate from you,” Amber responded.

 At the time Sandy and Amber succeeded in their match against Alyssa, Jeff and Chase were finishing their job with Feng.

“Alyssa,” Feng called out to her. “We must return to our fortress now.”

“I hear you loud and clear,” Alyssa responded.

Like so, the two members of the Shadow Bark retreated from the forest. They walked out of the sight of the rival academy students and masters to better endure the damage they’ve been dealt.

“Hey Jeff, since I’ve helped, does this mean that I can still take part in this mission?” Chase asked.

“You still have to apologize to some of your fellow classmates,” Jeff reminded. “Under that one condition, we shouldn’t have to excuse you from this task.”

Having listened to Jeff’s words, Chase walked over to Clifford and Amber, saying to them, “I’m not used to saying things like this, but I want to say that I’m sorry for how I acted towards you two. I would also say the same to Diego and…Liam, once I catch up to them.”

“That’s fine,” said Clifford. “I heard from Liam that you feel like we all need to grow a backbone. That was what I did when I took on Rico.”

“Yeah, but you should really be apologizing to Liam,” Amber advised.

“Wow, you two matured much more than I am,” said Chase. “It feels so weird, but I also can’t help but feel like an idiot.”

“Although we had fought a few times, I can’t deny that when you’re right sometimes, you are right,” Clifford replied.

“Right now, you should just work on your social skills,” Amber joked.

“Okay, so now what do we do?” Chase questioned. “Should we go and find the Shadow Bark’s hideout now?”

“We should and find the other students first,” SpongeBob suggested. “In the case of which any of them are injured, Sandy and I should have a medic on our side. Clifford, I need you to be with me.”

“I’m right behind you,” Clifford responded.

“Then I’ll have Amber accompany me,” Sandy added.

“Chase, you’ll stick with me for now,” said Jeff. “Also, I shouldn’t forget to tell you this, you did a good job helping me out back there.”

Somewhere else in the thickets now, Sonia appears to have already begun her match with Tobey. For their first move, the two both touched their own fists, attempting the knuckle strike technique on one another. This repeated as Sonia and Tobey used their left fists. Shortly after, Tobey lifted his right leg to hit Sonia in the lower abdomen. Sonia remained stiff and provoked with another knuckle strike. At that subsequent moment, Tobey blocks Sonia’s attack and then tries a sweeping low kick. Reading his moves as she was able, Sonia manages to dodge the incoming attack and swings her left leg to hit Tobey in the right side of his abdomen. Sonia then began to throw punches and at that moment Tobey got into his blocking stance. While in the stance, Tobey threw some high kicks against Sonia one leg at a time. While taking the hits, Sonia sustained it hard enough to keep herself focused and able-bodied.

Sonia now put her last strategy to a halt and waited for Tobey to shift his fighting stance. Tobey got near to Sonia to land a knifehand strike, for his foe to narrowly block. Sonia continued with right-handed punch, aiming and then striking Tobey’s right upper chest. Sonia then tried a rising kick from her left leg. Tobey slides left from Sonia to dodge and he then uses his right hand to try and land a knuckle strike. Sonia halts it by catching it with one of her hands and then hits Tobey with a right-legged kick. Sonia then uses the knuckle punch technique with her right hand. Tobey blocks and prepares to strike Sonia with a punch to her gut. Predicting this moment, Sonia sways herself away from the attack and then lands a punch on Tobey’s middle-left abdomen. Tobey retaliates by jumping away from Sonia’s incoming kick and landing with a flying right-legged kick and then a knifehand strike with his left arm.

Sonia and Tobey now both look to have used half of their energy using karate moves on each other as they continued to stand firm in their fight. Tobey continued it by launching himself close to Sonia again to hit her with a knuckle strike. Sonia evades by ducking and then getting into her blocking stance. Tobey jumped back to where Sonia positioned herself and swiped at her two feet with a left-legged kick. Sonia kept her stance and then tried a right-legged rising to Tobey’s lower abdomen. Tobey endures the hit before then lowering himself to block Sonia’s next kicks. As Sonia changed her battle stance, Tobey went for a swift knuckle strike. Sonia retaliates by blocking his next punch and hurling a couple against him with each hand before landing a knifehand strike on him with her left arm. Anticipating for Tobey to block now, Sonia got into the same position. She drew herself nearer to Tobey and then tried a high right-legged kick. Tobey then touches Sonia’s right-sided body with a right-legged sweeping kick to try and get Sonia to reposition herself. Sonia remains in her current stance as she then lands a couple more kicks on Tobey before then shifting her fighting position to throw some punches. Predicting this, Tobey dodges the first few. Sonia uses a high kick technique to hit Tobey once more before being able to land a couple knuckle strikes on his upper chest.

Both Sonia and Tobey were low in stamina, but they still stood with a good deal of vigor. At this very moment, the two had ceased fighting.

“This is good enough time for us to take a rest…” Tobey grumbled. “It’s not over until one of us stops. I’m not giving up, are you?”

“No,” Sonia muttered. “I have to put an end to my past history with the ninja troop once and for all.”

“Why did you even leave us to learn karate?” Tobey asked.

“Well, why did you and the rest of the ninja troop end up here?” Sonia retorted.

The force of Sonia’s words left Tobey silent for a moment. He then said to her, “We were invited here by the Shadow Bark. We accepted their offer when we heard that you were settling there from your folks. At first, we tried to talk you back into our troop for the sake of the ninja academy code. I have decided to cross a different road like you have and that’s because Master Udon held such great power that I wanted. Despite that, I try to keep myself close with my fellow ninjas. Now I’m curious to know why you abandoned us since I never knew why, specifically.”

“…It was out of respect for Laura,” Sonia spoke, “who died during a mission where it was my job to ensure that she stays alive.”

“Oh yeah, you were our main medical ninja of our squad,” Tobey replied. “It was amusing during our reunion and you were acting like you’re hot stuff. Now I have to admit after sharing this match with you that you do have fighting talent. You might even be as good as that Laura girl, but I prefer not to bring up that girl who’s always been one step ahead of us in our group, upstaging me, and eating away my pride. …It’s too bad I had to poison her.”

That very sentence Sonia heard Tobey utter left her speechless and frozen in place. The expression on her face shifted from sadness to complete shock to sheer rage.

“I said too much already, I know. Had I told you earlier, your precious heart wouldn’t handle it, but I figured you would understand if I told you now. Okay, enough talk now, let’s-“

Sonia, without hesitation, threw a hard-hitting punch on Tobey’s right jaw. Tobey was taken by surprise from the impact.

“You cold-blooded murderer!” Sonia exclaimed.

Being so filled with anger, Sonia was hurling several karate techniques against Tobey in a fast rate. Tobey allowed himself to take most of the hits all while hardly wincing at Sonia’s sporadic attacking. Without saying another word, Tobey retaliated by catching Sonia’s fists and then unleashing a sweeping kick with enough force to make her go off-balance. Tobey keeps Sonia pinned down as he then continues to do damage on her with hard kicks and then rolling in hard punches until Sonia stopped herself from moving.

“You’ve made yourself out to be like that stupid bitch,” Tobey insulted. “You’re trying to outmatch me and you’re getting in my way.”

“If you feel like killing me too, then do it,” Sonia muttered.

Taking into account of Sonia’s provoking statement, Tobey began raising his fist close to Sonia with powerful force. As Tobey’s fist reached close to Sonia’s face…he stopped.

“No, you’re not worth it,” Tobey spoke. “You’re better as just my target practice for a much bigger price on the head that I’m after.”

“What are you saying?” Sonia asked.

“I’m talking about the guy who blew in from your karate academy,” Tobey continued. “Master Udon exchanged some special powers over to that Levi dude. He took that once in a lifetime chance from me and I’d love nothing more than to fight him and take his skills for my own.”

Sonia continued to lay herself on the ground, bruised up and bleeding from her nose, mouth, and knees, as Tobey spoke to her.

“I could say more but I have to return to my Shadow Bark folks since it looks like I won this fight. You did me a good favor by getting yourself too carried away back there.”

As Tobey finished his talk, Sonia watched as Tobey bolted away from the forest path, making a left exit. After several minutes had passed, Sonia stood and then squatted back down with a look of defeat.

Tobey, you piece of shit… Sonia thought. I hate to admit it, but you may be right. I know I’m not welcome anymore as a ninja, but if I’m not good enough at karate to crush you and your stupid ego, what am I good for? …Should I just quit?

While Sonia continued to ponder, SpongeBob and Clifford arrived at the scene and noticed her on the spot.

“Oh my god,” Clifford cried out, “Sonia!”

As he and Clifford rushed to Sonia’s side, SpongeBob asked her with a visibly worried look, “What happened?”

“Tobey happened,” Sonia groaned. “He’s with the Shadow Bark and I lost to him.”

“Do you know where you went off to?” SpongeBob asked again.

Sonia answered by pointing in the same direction she saw Tobey escape to.

“Then I’ll tell Sandy and Amber to make their way there as well. Clifford, you stay here to tend to Sonia’s wounds,” SpongeBob instructed.

“Wait!” Sonia uttered. “Take me back to the academy. I deserve to be taken home…I’ve accomplished nothing in this mission.”

“Sonia, did the guy go through to your head too?” SpongeBob said. “You shouldn’t be saying these awful things.”

“Why shouldn’t I!?” Sonia sputtered. “I joined and then left the ninja academy just to be unable to prevent a good friend of mine from being killed and I wound up in this damn academy only to fail defeating the same guy who…Laura…I’m sorry…”

Wait a minute. So that guy, Tobey… Clifford thought. A look of shock filled his face as he came to the troubling conclusion on his own.

“Sonia, I know how you’re feeling,” SpongeBob continued. “You shouldn’t quit because of Tobey, nor should you listen to what he says. You have not failed at all during this mission. You risked your own life to help all of us protect the academy and get closer to taking down the Shadow Bark. Even if you have lost in a fight, that failure should convince you to try and succeed, am I right?”

Hearing SpongeBob’s motivating words, Sonia had the will to try and get herself back up, but she then lowered herself back down due to her injuries.

“I will stay here, but I can barely move right now.” Sonia groaned.

“Can you tend to your own injuries, or do you need my help?” Clifford asked.

“I prefer that you lend a hand for me,” Sonia replied. Tobey…You got on my bad side too many times now. Sooner than later, I’ll make you regret that you’ve ever crossed me.

A peculiar figure in uniform appeared to be eavesdropping on the conversation beside the greenery.

I knew Sonia was a convincing liar, but is it all true? Cyrene thought. Has my experience with Tobey really been a lie?

Dustin and Jasmine were now shown near the location of the Shadow Bark fortress.

“Bonté divine, where is Terrence?” Jasmine said. “Is he still looking for Levi?”

“I’m betting Terrence already found Levi and they’re in a fight to the death,” Dustin replied, “or at least I hope it doesn’t go that far for them.”

Nearby, the two academy students could see Zhong, Daisuke, and Lamar guarding the area.

“Great, there’s three of them,” Dustin muttered in a sarcastic tone.

“So, you’ve made it up to this point,” Lamar spoke.

“A good few people that we knew were from the same academy as them passed us by to reach our fortress,” said Daisuke before focusing his eyes on the two students. “Nonetheless, it’s off-limits unless you take us all down!”

“Ha, I recognize these two when we first saw them and I took charge of fending off the brats,” Zhong taunted.

“We’ve improved since we last faced you, right Jasmine?” Dustin said.

“Say what you will. Defeating you both will be fun,” Zhong responded.

“You’ll have to get through me first!” SpongeBob uttered, rushing over to Dustin and Jasmine’s side. “If you all please to not hurt these students, I will show you my handful of kah-rah-tay.”

Near the Shadow Bark fortress now, Armando is seen to be guarding it from the outside. While he stayed firm in his place, he could see Liam and Diego in the distance, already recognizing that they’re from the academy.

They’ve really come all this way for me and Levi, Armando thought. I feel proud for that, yet I am also feeling sick to my stomach. I’m worried that Levi will show up soon to do real harm to them. I’m worried that Udon and the others will punish me if they’re surveying me and can read my thoughts. Udon…Master Udon has his mind so focused on this counterattack so at any moment, he could raise the rest of his defenses. What I’m especially worried about though is that I have to accept there’s other choice than to accept a fight with my own students. SpongeBob and Sandy’s academy needs to be saved, but my family’s dojo won’t if I back out from the Shadow Bark. I’m the one that needs saving, so someone please, get me out of this…

While Armando left himself into his thoughts, Liam and Diego trudged their way closer to the keep that he was guarding. Beside the roots and branches of the fortress, a wall of shadows with pairs of eyes could be seen.

“Armando, we found you…” said Liam.

Looking all around him the other members of the Shadow Bark and back at two of his own students that have approached him, Armando had a sincere, shaky feeling that Liam and Diego couldn’t see.

Behind the entrance of the Shadow Bark fortress, Terrence was surveying the forest until someone jumping in front of him as an act of surprise. Knowing whom he was expecting, Terrence wasn’t fazed.

“I’ve been expecting you…Terrence,” Levi said with a grim tone.

“So have I,” Terrence replied. “I guess that means we know each other very well, even though we’re enemies.”

“I’ve had this massive itch to wipe the floor clean with you, I could just taste it.”

“Let’s put an end to this whole thing – right here, right now.”

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11. Monk’s Medication

The karate match between Terrence and Levi had already begun. Levi dashed straight towards Terrence, packing up a punch with sheer force. Expecting Levi to use something with immense force, Terrence got into a blocking position to endure the attack. Levi jumped back from the resistance and then went for a flying right-legged kick. Still in his defensive disposition, Terrence jumped away from the attack. Levi remained on the offensive and dashed closer to Terrence to land a knuckle strike to his gut. Still, Terrence’s stance was the same.

I could attack, Terrence thought. Leaving him like this while I try to evade his every move is the best possible strategy I have to fight him until he’s worn out.

Levi continued off by trying to hit Terrence with a variety of techniques, growing impatient by Terrence’s unwillingness to provoke. Terrence took most of Levi’s hits on him, yet he still remained in his blocking stance and sustaining his damage. Changing the pace, Terrence then jumped away from one of Levi’s imminent punches. Leaving himself open to Levi’s techniques, Terrence changed his stance. Predicting Levi to take the bait, Terrence quickly shifted back to a blocking stance once as Levi rushed over to try a knuckle strike with his right then left hand. Before Levi could try another punch, Terrence tried a low and swift left-legged kick. At the moment Levi realized that Terrence was responding to his moves, his opponent shifted his stance and then used a knifehand strike. Levi, able to react fast enough, dodged Terrence’s attack and then returned with a right then left-handed knuckle strike, and a high kick. Sustaining the damage, Terrence goes back to parrying as Levi continued off by throwing more punches. Terrence now tried to hit Levi with a sweeping right-legged kick to his left leg, but of course, Levi was able to avoid it. Terrence gets into his fighting stance again and waits for Levi to attack. Observing him using a flying left-legged kick, Terrence jumped out of the way of the attack. Levi came running after Terrence, who was now dodging the several kicks and punches he was trying to throw at him until Levi caught up to him and landed a simple punch to his upper chest.

The way he’s attacking is not normal. He’s very fast too. Terrence thought. Has he always been like this since he was brought into the Shadow Bark? What did those people do to make him into this fighting machine?

As Terrence pondered on his current strategy, he noticed that Levi vanished from his sight. Levi was now zooming around the field to try and distract Terrence. For his own safety, Terrence returned to his blocking stance while Levi jabbed at him every few seconds until he stopped at his feet. Appearing far centered from Terrence’s range now, Levi then turns around and opens himself up to Terrence’s attacks. Terrence stayed in his parrying position, anticipating for Levi to rush over and try to break it. With good enough timing, Terrence used a forceful, rising left-legged kick when Levi attempted a knuckle strike. The hit pushed Levi a few feet away from Terrence, who had then shifted to his fighting position. In a matter of two seconds, Levi rushed back to Terrence again. Seeing Terrence go back to his parrying stance again, Levi reacted by hurling several punches and kicks against his foe. Terrence took and endured a lot of Levi’s hits all while finding his chance to strike back when he saw Levi being too carried away to focus on any move he would sneak against him. Seeing his opportunity, Terrence unleashed a swift sweeping kick, hitting both sides of Levi’s middle abdomen with his right leg, then his left. Levi jumped the very moment he felt the damage being dealt to him. Terrence managed to land another hit on Levi as he launched a knuckle strike, which barely touched his left arm. Focusing his mind back on attacking Terrence, Levi stopped himself in the instance he saw Terrence going back to his blocking stance.

“Come on!” Levi exclaimed. “Keep giving me what you got or I’ll have to get more serious!”

 Levi jumps up, aiming near Terrence and packing in a forceful punch. Terrence, observing his opponent’s move, edges himself out of Levi’s aim. Getting back on the ground, Levi confronts Terrence to resume his fist fighting technique. Terrence swings at Levi’s legs with a left-legged kick. Afterwards, Terrence prepared for his left arm to hit Levi’s chest with a knuckle strike. Levi then grabbed Terrence’s fist with his own left hand and then used his right to land a hard-hitting knuckle strike onto Terrence’s gut before he could react quick enough to avoid it. Terrence felt sincere pain from the hit and jumped of Levi’s line of attack to curb it. While Terrence returned to parrying, Levi returned to face him with his techniques. He then launched a variety of karate moves unto Terrence, jabbing him in places including his face, nose, throat, chest, stomach, legs, shoulders, and forearms. Sustaining the pain from Levi’s brutal fighting style, Terrence started to bleed from his nose and his mouth.

At that point, Terrence returned to his fighting stance, seeing how it’s the sole option to fight against Levi in his serious manner. Levi continued to strike at Terrence with hard-hitting punches and kicks. Terrence resorted to using his blocking technique sparingly while using his own sheer amount of force to hit Levi, dodging one of his incoming knuckle strikes by ducking and then managing to strike him with a rising left-legged kick and then landing a right-handed knuckle strike on him thereafter. Levi retaliates by throwing punches at Terrence’s throat and stomach and then swiping at Terrence’s legs with his right then left legs, scraping them in the process. Levi continued by using a knifehand strike, which Terrence was able to block. Out of precaution, Terrence also managed to block a high kick attack from Levi by lowering his parrying hand to Levi’s leg. Terrence then hit Levi with a knuckle strike technique through his left arm and then this right. Levi, sticking to his brutal strategy, responded by swinging a punch, aiming for Terrence’s left jaw. Terrence jumped further from Levi as Levi’s fist hit him.

“I know something’s going in your head, Levi…” Terrence was saying, looking bloodied and battered from the match, “but you’re a dumbass if you think you have the right to call yourself an expert at karate, if you are going to continue fighting like this.”

“Shut up,” Levi responded.

“Before I give myself the right to be silent, I have to know why and how you’ve become what you are now.”

Levi was hesitant to answer. All he wanted to do is see Terrence get wasted by him or keep fighting him until he was forced to admit defeat. Right now, he wanted nothing more than to be rewarded. Resuming the fight, Levi jumped near towards Terrence and struck his abdomen with a right-legged flying kick. After that was another barrage of punches and kicks that Terrence had no other option to dodge or block. As Terrence returned to his defensive tactics, Levi zoomed around the field with an occasional hit to lay on him. Terrence stuck to his blocking stance and kept himself alert for when Levi would change his strategy. Levi then reappeared in front of Terrence and threw a couple hard-hitting knuckle strikes to continue reducing Terrence’s stamina. After taking several more hits from Levi, Terrence was knocked down, signifying automatic defeat.

When Levi knelt to Terrence’s side, he saw several visible bruises on him, his mouth and his academy shirt drenched in blood, his arms and legs covered in scrapes. However, Levi began coming to his own senses when he also noticed that Terrence’s breathing had shortened. Levi then lifted part of Terrence’s body to see if he could respond. Afterwards, Levi realized that Terrence is out-cold as well.

...

Inside Terrence’s mind, the world around him was black, but he felt like he was falling beneath. Aspects from Terrence’s own life were visualized in his own mind while he saw himself floating in a world of nothingness.

Levi… Terrence thought. I’ve hated you since we got to know each other. I hated your ego. I hated how you were always taking the backseat in teaching me things you think I should know about karate when it turns out that I know more about it than you do.

As Terrence continued to ponder, images of his younger self with a taller figure appeared in his mind. Inside his head, he also heard a voice that said,

“You love your big brother, don’t you!? If you know, you would stay away from my stuff!”

From that fragment, Terrence’s younger self was pictured with bruises on his body, and with a few scrapes on his arms and legs. They were shown to be inside of a living room.

In some ways, you were like him, and I didn’t want to admit it to you because it would anger you in the same way that…

The next fragment of Terrence’s memories once more expressed a visual of his younger self with his relative. They both appeared with messed up hair, dirty clothes, and a share of bruises on their bodies. The vision showed them outside of their own home in the dark. On one hand, the older figure was holding an empty bottle of alcohol and an empty wallet was beside Terrence’s feet.

“I hate you! And if you have a problem with that, you can just go for all I care!”

“Do you want me to keep this up? I’m not afraid to do another number on you. You should know that.”

“I’ve stopped being afraid of you for quite some time. I grew a spine, isn’t that what you’ve wanted?”

“…If only we could get along, Terrence, I’d be happy for once. I’m going back inside. I’ll be in my room. I don’t want you talking to me from here on out…”

You got carried away, Levi, but so have I, before and after I met you. I could still remember when I made a bet with you that one day, in which you would have to leave if I get ahead of you, and since that day, you abandoned us…

The next visual memory of Terrence showed his younger self looking inside of his brother’s room with horror. A chair was knocked over. The very face of his brother was wrapped tight by a rope around the neck. Below him was a piece of paper that read-

“I’m sorry for everything, Terrence. Take care of yourself and your family for me.”

–Tyson”

Like my brother, you might have made your decision on your own, yet I can’t help but think that this is my fault. I have nobody to blame besides myself for having been like my brother in spades by picking fights with you because there was no else I’ve looked up to after I lost him. I should’ve listened to my own advice…

 “What gives you the right to do that anyways?” Terrence asked. “You’re the boss of nobody, while the talking sponge is apparently the boss of us.”

Terrence was now reminiscing of a moment shared between and Levi at the academy.

“I’m taking my chances of becoming a leader, that’s why,” Levi answered.

“Certainly, you’re doing a bad job at that!” Terrence replied. “It will only make you into an asshole.”

I should’ve listened to my brother earlier…

Another memory of Terrence’s younger self and his brother were visualized in his mind. They were inside a living room.

You can’t possibly protect yourself at all if you don’t try to defend yourself from me and keep throwing around weak punches like that!”

Yet I’ve listened to you. I’ve realized that now while I was fighting you just now…

Terrence’s mind then showed another visual of Levi, saying some things to him…

“You seem to have a powerful force, but whatever it is you do to act, you’re impatient with the moves of another attacker and go right ahead most of the time.”

“Could you at least listen to me, though? I can’t forget to mention that he’s not in perfect balance in front of an attacker. That lesson we had, I can see him losing control of his stability.”

Because of that, I could never regret having met you like how I couldn’t ever regret having a brother like Ty. It didn’t take some time for me to realize how important Ty is to me. Though it took some time for me to realize that you’ve helped convinced me to be more of a better person and make better memories for myself...

After this thought, more visual memories came to Terrence’s mind, from Terrence and Tyson sharing an apologetic hug beside a broken trophy, to the two conversing about their similar tastes in music, to Tyson lending younger Terrence his collection of records, to Levi respectfully refusing Terrence’s offer of being given his records, to Terrence talking with Liam about his identity, to Terrence helping his classmates improve their skills.

I wish I could save my brother. I wish I could be able to save the academy. I wish I could be able to save my own life. Most of all, I could’ve been more patient with you, Levi, and I wish I could be able to save you, and that’s the truth…

...

The world around Terrence changed in a flash of white light. He no longer looked as though he was floating inside a dark void. The background was now all white, but then he saw something peculiar in front of his eyes.

This looks like the spirit world. Terrence thought. What am I doing here?

“Terrence…that is your name, am I correct?” The Dream Monk asked.

“How would you know?” Terrence spoke with a grave tone.

“I brought you here because you were near certain death,” the Dream Monk replied. “If you want to know about Levi, his appearance should be on cue after he sees you in your physical state…”

Outside of the spirit world for a brief moment, Levi was shown to be standing beside Terrence’s body, with his blindfold unwrapped around his eyes. Realizing that Terrence had been made comatose by his own abilities, Levi let out a scream before the scene around him faded into the world of spirits. During that moment, Dou Gou’s spirit body appeared in front of him.

When Terrence saw Levi being brought into the spirit world, he took a passing look at him and then took a cautious glimpse of Dou Gou. When the eyes of Levi and Terrence met each other, they both turned their heads back out of guilt.

“Levi, Terrence…Go ahead, I know there’s something you want to say one another,” said the Dream Monk.

Both Levi and Terrence remained silent and trying to avoid making eye contact with each other. However, the pair opted to taking slow steps further to meet face to face. During this time, Dou Gou rushed closer to where Terrence was, preparing to attack. That was until Jin Li suddenly arrived to cease it and side by Terrence.

“Ah, so it seems that Jin Li was waiting for someone like him to be there,” the Dream Monk said to himself.

Levi and Terrence continued to walk further and further to each other at a slow pace until they were close enough to look at one another in the eyes.

“Levi…I regret some of the things that I’ve done to make you drive yourself away from the academy,” Terrence spoke. “I shouldn’t have been such a dick then. I got that trait from my brother, who I saw a lot in you.”

“No, you’re not the main reason why I left…” Levi droned.

“Then what is?” Terrence asked. “So far, I can only see how your fighting abilities were as intense.”

“Yes, Master Udon lent me Dou Gou to enhance my abilities.” Levi replied, pausing for a moment before then continuing on to tell Terrence, “I…I didn’t think about whether or not I was doing karate for all the wrong reasons because my connection to Dou Gou helped me feel better about myself, and now I feel like I’ve gone too far. I never wanted to make you dead. Dou Gou has been controlling part of my mind and my moves. I don’t deserve to keep doing karate, or use any other fighting methods for the rest of my life because of what I did.”

“So, why did you leave the academy? Go on and tell me already!”

Levi paused again. After half a minute, he confessed, “I was frustrated with myself. After the whole koi statue mission, I faced the fact that I was as much of an egomaniac that you said I was. For a long time, all I’ve wanted was to be better than everyone else. Since I was young, I was always ignored and pushed around by others. I was never at the top of any of my classes, and I never got myself involved in anything important. When I heard about this contest where I could enroll at the karate academy, I saw it as an opportunity to be at the top and be a good leader. I didn’t treat myself like a leader in the Shadow Bark, but I let my goal go over my head. Now that I admitted my mistakes, I don’t care about having all that glory anymore. I don’t deserve it…and that’s all I want to say to you, Terrence.”

Upon Levi finishing his statement, the spirit world that filtered around him and Terrence went silent.

“Before you return to the physical world, Levi, I have a question for you,” the Dream Monk uttered. “Now that you’ve admitted your faults, do you know what you want to do now? Do you want to stay or leave the Shadow Bark? I can’t force you change your mind about karate, but I can at least ask you this.”

“I don’t know,” said Levi.

“Then I’ll leave Jin Li to decide for you,” the Dream Monk replied.

Upon the Dream Monk’s directions, the koi spirit charged straight at Levi’s Siamese carp spirit, opening its jaws to swallow it, only for Dou Gou to phase through.

“As it seems, you and Dou Gou have grown attached for Jin Li to be unable to break the connection.” The Dream Monk said. “Jin Li should know what do from here on out.”

Jin Li then split itself into two properties, each representing half of the koi spirit for their smaller size. One half came over towards Levi while the other came to Terrence’s side.

“Levi, until you’ve decided which side you prefer to be on, you will have half of Jin Li’s power, while your rival will have the other half of Jin Li,” the Dream Monk declared. “Oh…and before I bid farewell, I should mention who I am. Of course, I am a living spirit. I go by the name of Takahashi and I am the bridge between humans and spirits, now you know. Call me that or “Dream Monk” if you wish. Anyways, I’ll see you two later…”

The spirit world surrounding Levi and Terrence disappeared along with the spirits as they reappeared in the spot they had their karate match. Terrence, who was still covered in blood and bruises, was at a shock when he noticed that he could stand and move around again. He glanced over to see Levi, whose head was turned to face a hollow path of the forest.

“I’ll consider this match a victory on my part, although I’m not proud of it.” Levi uttered. “I still have a job to do at the Shadow Bark, so I’ll be returning there. Try and catch my trail if you will, I don’t care.”

In a single dash, Levi disappeared within seconds. Without a clue about his route to the Shadow Bark fortress, Terrence entered the same path that Levi took.

Elsewhere in the forest, Clifford is seen walking with Sonia, covered in his bandages, yet also limping from her wounds.

“I have to say, Clifford, you do make a good nurse,” Sonia remarked.

“Thanks for the compliment,” said Clifford. “So, did Tobey really kill your friend?”

“I don’t need to repeat myself,” Sonia replied. “I don’t want anything more to do with my old ninja troop. I shouldn’t be able to take on the Shadow Bark like this, but I still want to make it there along with the others.”

All of a sudden, a shadowed figure jumped towards Sonia, grabbing her, and then jumping back to a tree branch that contained other obscured folks.

“Hey, who are you?” Clifford said to the figure.

The shadowed figure, while holding onto Sonia and along with their confidants responded to Clifford by jumping from branch to branch. This ambush has lead for him to come chasing after the unknown individual.

Once again, in another part of the forest, just outside of the Shadow Bark’s keep, Liam and Diego confronted Armando.

“I’m glad to see that you’re safe, Armando,” said Liam. “You may not recognize me, but I am Liam, a student of yours who once pretended to be a boy there. Long story short, I don’t have to pretend anymore.”

“I’m happy to see that my folks at the academy have come,” Armando responded. “However, per Master Udon’s orders, I have to guard this place and fend off anyone who tries to enter.”

“Why do this, Armando?” Liam asked.

“I can’t explain right now,” Armando replied. “Just let me lose then you and your friend will be fine.”

“I’m sorry that it has to be like this, Liam,” said Diego.

“I know what to do, so don’t worry about me,” Liam responded.

The karate match between Liam, Diego, and Armando commenced. For most of the duration, however, it was a tame fight in due to Armando and Liam’s refusal to strike at each other. The two threw several kinds of punches and kicks, but they kept dodging or holding them back. Diego was the only one who was comfortable about landing a hit on Armando, although his hitting was light. This match went on for nearly half an hour and it came to a stop when Liam and Diego were low on energy. Armando, on the other hand, still had a good amount of stamina. With the match over, Armando came over to Liam and Diego to embrace them. Armando, looking into Liam’s eyes, was reminded of Olivia in his mind.

“It is you…” Armando whispered. Stepping himself aside from his two karate student, he then said, “Liam, Diego, let’s go inside the Shadow Bark’s fortress, now.”

“No, you have to get out here!” Liam said.

It was then that the rest of the Shadow Bark group, within the roots of the fortress, moved and took Diego away within seconds.

“Help me!” He cried out.

“Diego!” Liam exclaimed.

Armando, holding onto Liam and making a dash into the entrance of the Shadow Bark fortress, then says to him, “Udon knew that you guys would be coming here, so he came prepared. He should’ve also figured out by now that I’ve betrayed him, so we need to make it to him, before-“

Armando’s words were interrupted by the sight of Udon appearing right in front of him and Liam.

“What do you think you’re doing with one of our targets, Armando?” Udon asked with a grin.

Armando was left tongue-tied as the obscured Shadow Bark members appeared right behind him.

In the other parts of the forest, Terrence, Sandy, along with Amber, and Jeff, along with Chase, continued on their own paths in finding the Shadow Bark’s fortress. As for SpongeBob, Dustin, and Jasmine, they are shown to be wrapping up their respective karate matches with Daisuke, Zhong, and Lamar. Based on the marks and bruises on the three academy fighters, they have struggled and yet endured in their fights. SpongeBob finished his fight against Daisuke with a low, sweeping kick while Dustin finished Zhong with a right-handed knuckle strike to his chest and Jasmine laid a strong kick and then a punch onto Lamar. The three Shadow Bark members had declared defeat.

“Dammit, they have gotten better since I last saw them,” Zhong muttered.

“Now you know…we’ve improved,” Dustin panted towards the opposing fighters.

“We’ve actually done it,” says Jasmine. I also feel excited about this too.

“Since you three lost, you’ll have to tell us where you have kept Levi and Armando,” says SpongeBob.

“Okay, okay, you all defeated us fair and square,” Daisuke responded. “We’ll give you the location of our fortress, but keep one thing in mind: there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to us.”

Upon Daisuke’s command, several members of the Shadow Bark, whilst obscured besides their ominous, glowing eyes, dashed near towards SpongeBob, Dustin, and Jasmine.

“Lucky for you three, they may take you to Levi and Armando too,” Lamar teased while he and his other two comrades made a run to where the fortress was located.

Dodging the swarm of Shadow Bark associates while they can, SpongeBob, Dustin, and Jasmine ran across the forest, trying to keep up with the trail of their enemies.

“I already figured that the Shadow Bark would come prepared like this!” Jasmine said.

“On the bright side, we should be able to make it inside that fortress,” SpongeBob added, “unless those guys catch us.”

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