Chapter 264 – Almost Human
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The reality was Nereus hit Chiharu with numerous attacks.  Still small, they began to add up.  She lost more blood with each failure.  “I’m tired of hearing your voice!”

“Because I’m right,” he replied calmly, halting her attack.  Nereus turned her around and threw her into the ground.  However, Chiharu escaped from his grasp and came on the offense again.  He could stop her all day.  The amount of energy it expended was insignificant against such a beast.  “The way you are I can only see anyone following you dying.  Failure of any leader is the death of those that follow them.”

Chiharu suddenly stopped.  While blind, her hearing still worked perfectly.  His annoying voice continued to fuel her, until now.  “Death?  Dead…my men…”  Images from her raid on the Higoshi Clan’s stronghold returned to her.  She led her men on an attack for revenge for them killing her grandfather, yet she failed them.  Men died listening to her.  She failed.

“You’re not a leader, you’re just a failure.  A mindless beast, barely better than the dirt you stomp on.”


Just a failure.

‘Worthless?  They’re dead because of me.’  Her body started to shake.  She couldn’t move.  All she could see were the images of her men.  They were all dead before.  ‘I killed them.  I failed them.’  Chiharu completely lost sight of Nereus.  The world disappeared.  Everything went black.  ‘I’m no leader.  I fail at everything I do.  I have to rely on others for my success.  I’m nothing.’  The light left Chiharu’s eyes.  Her body was lifeless.

She was dead to the world.

“Chiharu…  Chiharu!”

A young Chiharu turned her head up catching the ball she bounced.  It only took a moment to find who called out to her.  “Mommy!”  She ran up to her mother standing at the doorway.

“There you are my dear!”

“Mommy!”  Suddenly blood sprayed over her face.  Confusion painted the young child’s face unable to react to what happened.  Blood continued to pour out soaking her in crimson.  “Mommy?”

Her mother collapsed on the deck completely lifeless.  Behind her, her father laid face down in a pool of his own blood.  Scattered everywhere blood painted the walls and doors with men broken.

A complete bloodbath.


Chiharu ran through the room into the hall trying to escape it.  She only saw more and more death wherever she went.  No matter the hall she turned down, she could not escape.  Tears streamed down her face.


“Grandfather?”  She turned around, suddenly older, her normal age.  Her eyes widened in shock to see him completely covered in blood.

“Why?  Why did you fail me?”

“But I—“  Turning away, she fled from him as well.  Only to come across even more dead.  They seemed to be everywhere.  She slipped on a pool of blood trying to turn away again.  It dragged her towards the pile of dead.

“Lady Chiharu…”

“Why Lady Chiharu…”

“Why did I die?”

“I-I-I…”  Chiharu couldn’t answer.  The mass of dead fell over top of her.  She slid further into the abyss.  Completely soaked in crimson.  So soaked that it became a new skin for her.

She was completely lost.

Chapter 264 – Almost Human

“Please hear me, everyone!  You must listen!”

It was distant at first, but grew stronger.  Somehow the voice penetrated through everything.  It shattered everything held around Chiharu.  She awoke mentally in a void.  The nightmare passed for the moment.  She had some relief.  However, someone intruded into her mind, despite how helpful it unintentionally was, she hated the feeling.

“What are you doing in my head?”  The way his voice reached her seemed as though he stood next to her.  However, no matter how she turned about in the space he was nowhere to be found.

It didn’t take long for him to start getting into the details.  She picked up on the more manipulative wording he made before clarifying himself.  Yet it did end up affecting her more than she thought.  The idea of the weakling left to rot or being tricked and lied to the whole time, she wasn’t sure what part of it actually affected her. 

“Damn, the weakling’s always getting himself into trouble.  Makes me wonder why I even thought he’d be worth my time.”

Awakened from the other world, Chiharu stared a little more clearly at Nereus.  The experience left her a little bothered, her past still haunted her.  It was something that she could never out run.  However, the whole thing gave something that she needed at the moment, a sober mind.  All of the wasted energy on emotions that clouded her head flipped her view.  She could finally see correctly.

“You’ve returned.  Have you made a decision?”

“Yes.”  Chiharu retrieved her tanto to slide into an offensive stance.  “I’m fighting.  I don’t care about your tests or what you think might or might not be human.  I know who I am and that’s all that matters.”

“Is that so?”  Water spun around Nereus in response to Chiharu's declaration.  He seemed ready to finish things with her.  “Then I will continue to remind you of the truth.”

“The only truth is that I’m going to knock your arrogant ass off your pedestal.”

“It’s not arrogance, only truth.”

Chiharu sighed, he was a broken record.  More depressing was that he seemed to believe it actually.  ‘He’s not actually saying those things to taunt me like I thought.  He just genuinely seems to believe completely in what he is saying.  What sort of twisted upbringing did he have to warp his mind like that?’  With the emotions and rage removed from her eyes, Chiharu saw Nereus in a completely different light.  It was actually hard to be angry with him.  She almost pitied him for not knowing better.  “Yeah, yeah, let’s just get this going.”

He still seemed less interested in being proactive.  So it was Chiharu that took the initiative to strike first.  She had no plan, just needed to start something.  As she went through the first few attacks, she planned to watch and figure something out.  However, the first strike told her so much more about him than she expected.

Like always, it guided straight to his hand to block.  She expected that, but she didn’t expect to see or feel what she did during it.  ‘How did I miss that before?  It’s so obvious…’  Chiharu needed to be sure, but it seemed her mind had been more clouded than she realized.  Attacking a second and third time, she verified it.

‘I’m right.  That’s actually quite simple, though…’  Chiharu sheathed her sword with her checks completed.  Ready, she disappeared moving straight for Nereus.  Stealth attacks were unnecessary.  Her fist lined up directly for him, but hit sudden resistance.  It was hard for her to describe, but simply felt like thick air.  The density was enough to draw her out of her speed and slow down her fist significantly.

She could see him already moving his hand and her hand being guided down to him.  An exterior force pushed and acted like a guide rail.  Anything else rather than the opened path was so thick it was too easy to take the least resistant course.  However, she understood it now.  She pushed with her strength altering the course.  Her fist missed his palm and hit square in his chest knocking him back a meter.

Staggered and surprised, Nereus took a moment to pause.  A shallow cough came up from the hit, though he wasn’t injured from it.  Once he recovered, Nereus looked back at Chiharu with a different look in his eyes.  He actually seemed to be seeing her.  “So you might actually be alive after all.”

Chiharu cocked her eyebrow up at his response.  “That’s an odd way of saying I figure out your defense.”

“Since you seem to potentially be worth taking a little more seriously, I’ll cease my defensive stance.”  The water around him suddenly came to a complete halt.  Out of the surface shot several long cone shaped forms.

Chiharu evaded them with ease as they moved almost too slowly for her.  It was the first time he acted on his own rather than a counter to her.  ‘So he can actually make offense, but if this is all he’s got it’s going to be disappointing.  Now that I know what’s going on, it’s completely changed.’  However, when she started to move for her next strike, the first water cone, already passed her, shrank and grew quickly in size before exploding.

A little surprised by the secondary effect, she wasn’t able to dodge everything.  Not knowing what it did, she preferred to not be hit, but it only felt a little warm.  She was certain she saw some steam trailing off it as it exploded.  ‘Steam?  He boiled the water?’

Questioning it didn’t have the time.  He already went into his second round of attacks.  They varied in being perfect cubes flying at her.  The speed significantly increased over the last forcing her to stay aware.  One barely clipped her and it felt like a wrecking ball slammed into her.  It knocked her off balance, but nothing she couldn’t recover from.  ‘I can manage this sort of pace, this battle…’  Her confidence returned seeing his attacks.

‘I’ll need to try to end this quickly if I can.  I can’t be certain of the others' fights and if the weakling is in trouble as the brother says, then I can’t spend time on this man for long.  I came all the way out here because of him…’

The fight finally found its rhythm.  No longer one sided, both sides had to be in effort.  Dodging remained Chiharu’s focus, while testing his defenses.  They naturally changed after she broke through.  The density increased, but he no longer guided her around in the same fashion.  He didn’t allow her much time to test before running with another water attack.

‘I mostly just used her as an excuse.  She saved me.  So I guess I was grateful, but she was strong and unyielding.  Nothing seemed to stop her.  She was everything that I…’

Dancing around the Field, water started to build up on the grass.  When Chiharu ran out it splashed.  The number of water attacks continued to increase, each adding more to the developing swamp.  It didn’t slow her down for now, but she worried about the conditions as the fight dragged out.

‘She was most of the reason, but there was something odd about the weakling.  He had a strange strength that I didn’t understand.  I wanted to know more…  I thought it might be important…’

As Chiharu tasted more of Nereus’ attacks, she began to get an understanding for them.  She realized he could alter the density.  It was always water, normal water, nothing magical or supernatural.  He always used natural laws to govern it.  Even though he could make it so much more with different properties, it was purely science driven.  Even though such a conclusion still left her with one question that was at the core of everything that he did.

What was his theme?  What was the single answer that tied together everything?  It might have been scientifically explained what he did, but it didn't answer how he created water.  She didn’t have that answer yet.

‘Though once we were in this strange land, I saw the sister step up.  I could see what she wanted and others followed her.  I had to know more, see how it worked.  I needed…’

Every action Chiharu made went towards figuring out his power.  She knew if she figured out the final piece that she would be able to defeat him.  It was a lot of weight on a single bit of intelligence.  Yet, she knew despite the progress made against him without it he still had the advantage.  The unknown quality of his power held great versatility that she couldn’t fully predict.

Water continued to rain down over the Field.  It actually surprised her that he kept it around, but it made her cautious.  All of it could be part of his plan.  Despite his more aggressive state, she didn’t feel he still fought seriously.  It seemed like he held back most of his tricks still.  A fact that concerned her a little.

‘I know…  They have something…something I…’  Chiharu slid over the water soaked grass.  Small waves splashed around her.  Her hand gripped against the water to slow down her movement.  He actually countered rather than blocked her.  Inconsistency was the only consistent thing she could say about his method of fighting.  It made it difficult to react.

Finally, she came to a stop several meters away from Nereus.  She felt the water drip down her fingers.  ‘I need it.  This won’t be the end.’  Chiharu stood up, tightening up her hold of her kunai.  She rubbed her fingers over her thumb on her free hand feeling a little off about something.  ‘I know what I lack and until I obtain it…  I won’t stop following them…watching them…  What I desire… What I need…’

Chiharu reaffirmed her resolve.  Nereus’ comments struck a painful point on her.  But it was behind her now.  She knew the path in front of her once more.  It was all clear.

Suddenly water jumped up all around her.  It rotated in tendrils that slowly grew wider.  They all converged to a point in front of Chiharu forming a sphere of water.  A moment later, a jet of water shot out from the sphere like a cannon straight for Nereus.