Chapter 256 – Standing on Top
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The sight of Rheia made Saki groan a little.  Her excitement reminded her of Seiji.  Rheia’s expression was more refined and complex.  Something else colored her.  It felt even more important than the one rested on top.

‘Great…the real fight, even though it’s been challenging just keeping up with her this entire time.  Now things are getting serious.’  Blowing a hole in the wall and damaging the city did nothing even to faze the woman.  She hoped it would surprise her or slow her down, anything to turn the fight in Saki’s favor.  Yet it seemed to have created the opposite effect.  It seemed actually to make her even more enthusiastic, as if she wanted to see more of what Saki could think up.

At the end, all that happened was that Rheia became rejuvenated for the fight.  Any hope for an end disappeared.  It wasn’t as though Saki had a notion it could be ended.  The last few minutes proved that to her.  It just felt like some progress might have been made.  She started to get used to the movements.  Yet she did not know what to expect next from Rheia.

Staring had to end.  Rheia already looked ready for the next stage.  Saki was as ready as she could be.  A blast of plaster, stone and wood came from behind Rheia as she leapt forward.  Secondary effects puffed out from cracks along the building’s fourth and fifth floors.  A split second later, Rheia slammed into Saki, fists clashing.

Time started to move normally as the weight of Rheia started to bear down.  Behind them, the building Rheia crashed into started to crumble from the fifth floor collapsing into the fourth.  However, a few seconds later cracks and smoke came up around Saki’s feet.  The roof couldn’t support her with the force applied.  That it managed to hold out for four seconds was a miracle.

As Saki fell into the room below, Rheia leapt back, but Saki grabbed her ankle at the last moment.  Spinning her around and down, her body blew through all of the floors of the building completely destroying the whole thing in seconds.

Adding to the throw, Saki kicked several larger pieces of debris as she fell towards where she sent Rheia.  Their speed blasted smoke from the crumbling building away, clearing a path to the woman.  Explosions of dirt, debris and dust filled the whole building almost immediately from the impact.

Stopped at the second floor, Saki dangled to look down at what happened.  All around her, the building creaked painfully.  It wanted to be released from the pain it felt, but held together.  However, it didn’t last for long.  From below, a crack echoed up signaling the demise of the building’s life.  Already carved up inside, it lost support from one side as it started to lean, taking Saki with it.  ‘Must be her doing…’  She released the broken stump of wood that held her from falling.  The rest of the building began to rain down around her.

It gave her enough of a slowed landing to the ruined ground floor, but she couldn’t see where Rheia hid in all of the smoke.  Her head turned around in search through the impossibly thick cloud.  She couldn’t even hear anything from the deafening sounds of the building falling around her.  Chunks of debris blew out some of the veil, but still didn’t reveal anything.

Then suddenly like a freight train in the dead of night, it appeared.  Out of the curtains of dust and dirt came a fist.  Saki only saw it in the split second before it hit.  In the next moment, she felt the air stinging her face.  It was almost two seconds later that she actually felt the pain of the punch, by which point she had already slammed through ten buildings.

Eventually, she came to a stop, but didn’t know how far it had been.  Broken parts of the building she laid in fell around her.  The tunic she wore was in shreds again.  She had the benefit of Yuki repairing it between the fights, but she was already taking more damage than any of the other fights from just a single punch.

She pushed the debris off her to allow her to stand.  Her body felt like a bell rung by an overly excited child.  “Damn…”

Noise in the distance alerted her eyes to the wake of destruction she left behind.  Through all of the holes punched through the walls of buildings, she saw Rheia coming for her.  It wasn’t over.  “This fight has only just begun!”  Saki slipped into a defensive stance preparing for the next round.

Chapter 256 – Standing on Top

The next clash of the two fighters blew out the first floor of the building Saki stopped in, bringing the rest of it down around them.  They continued to exchange glancing and deflecting blows while it came down.

Watching her movements carefully, Saki grabbed Rheia intending to throw her, but was countered with a reverse.  Rheia landed on her feet at a heavy angle coming off debris.  She pulled on Saki with the motion and started to turn the reverse into her own throw, but Saki reversed the counter.  Dropping her to the debris Saki tried for a pin.  ‘I never imagined that my classes would come in use this much.’  Only another split second was needed to finish the hold, but it broke.

Rheia overpowered her in a surprising display of strength.  She lifted her up with just one arm from a poor position.  Then she kicked Saki up into the air to blow her out of the rubble.  Shards of the building flew off in all directions.

It hurt, yet surprised her more.  ‘She’s stronger than me?!  What sort of inhuman strength did she give herself?  How am I supposed to stop that?’  Questions had to end.  In the next moment, the leader of the Titans appeared in front of a still soaring Saki.  She actually matched the speed perfectly as if she was floating with Saki.  ‘Can she fly too?!’

Distracted, Saki took a spinning kick that sent her flying back to the walls of the city.  She tumbled end over end through the air seeing the wall coming up fast on her.  Controlling her body was impossible.  Unlike Yumi, she couldn’t float and had no special powers.  All she could do was react.  Just as she was about to hit the wall, she fixed her legs to try to absorb as much as they could.

The effect still left a deep crater in the wall.  Once the force stopped its control over her body, she slid down the rough curved stone until she could stand.  ‘She can fly…’ she noted, finding Rheia standing out in the air from the last attack.  ‘She just does whatever she wants.  It’s like she can do what she needs no matter the situation, but it only seems that way.  I know from Yuki, if you plan out your powers well enough, it can be very flexible.  She’s not the head of the Titans for no reason, she’s likely found the perfect setup to do all of this.’

Saki jumped out of the crater to get to the top of the wall.  “She’s quite troublesome.  I’m not sure how to beat her.  Even playing defensively with throws and pins isn’t getting me anywhere.  All of my past tricks do nothing.  I’m going to have to find some new tricks if I stand a chance.”

It seemed the waiting was enough for Rheia.  She jumped off the air charging for Saki.  Watching her was the only thing she could think to do.  It was the only way she kept up in the flurry of attacks.  ‘Huh?’  For less than a second, she thought she saw a hiccup in Rheia’s movement.  It was so slight and brief she could only write it off as eyestrain.  Details like that couldn’t cloud her mind in the middle of the fight.

Blocking and deflecting, their dance on the top of the wall played out like someone messing around with the fast forward and play buttons on the remote to a video.  Despite the clear advantage of Rheia, Saki managed to keep pace with her.  ‘I think I might actually be getting used to this speed.  I’m so used to only moving and acting briefly that I haven’t actually had to think and fight at this speed.  It feels like I’m in a completely different world every time we exchange blows.’

A flip from a counter sent Rheia slamming into the wall.  Chunks of stone shot out from her back pounding the surface.  Before the cracks even had time to finish, she recovered and spun around her leg to trip Saki.  In the next motion, she made an impossible leap from lying down to a flying spin kick to Saki’s stomach.

Another minor crater formed in the wall.  All of their fighting started to turn the wall into the surface of the moon.  Craters and cracks ran throughout the top.

Saki rolled away from a follow up punch.  ‘Again…’  The brief skipping or hitch popped up again.  It didn’t change the fact that Rheia kept attacking, but something was strange about her movements.  ‘It’s not fluid like it should be.  Why?’

Jumping back to her feet, she couldn’t ask another question.  ‘I don’t have time for this…’  She had to keep up with the pace Rheia set.  It might have been easier for her to follow the movements and see them coming, but she still needed her concentration.  A moment of distraction would leave her flat on her back.

However, amongst the fight, it wasn’t something that she could throw away.  During the fight, she kept seeing it more.  She couldn’t ignore it.  Her whole attention focused on every slight movement Rheia made.  In such a situation, how could she not see when things changed?  They were moving at a pace that almost felt like a normal speed, despite the reality.  She became so adjusted to it.  The infrequent slip-ups stood out.

It was as though they were in a flawless dance.  Every action flowed seamlessly between the next.  And then for some unknown reason, a trip broke everything.  Then it became the only thing to focus on.  It was everything and the dance was missing.

‘What’s going on?’  As she focused more and more on the mistakes, Saki started to find patterns.  It always occurred between attacks, when she was doing the least amount of action.  However, as she saw it before it didn’t have a location it relied on.  She saw it happen in the air and on the ground.  In the air, it was more noticeable as the skip was larger.  ‘What could be causing that?  Why would she do it?  It’s not something that she needs.  If anything, it slows her down, despite still keeping pace with me.’

Because her mind focused too much on what it meant, the fight turned around on Saki.  She couldn’t keep up with the speed while sorting through her thoughts.  More craters and destroyed buildings came as a result.

Buried in rubble, deep in the city, Saki had a moment to herself.  In the distance, she could see Rheia flying towards her.  ‘It’s there again.  Like so many times.  When she jumped off the building, it looked like she dropped for a fraction of a second.  Like gravity remembered it was supposed to do something…  Gravity…’  It came back to her, the fight she had on the wall.  She recalled her slipping a couple of times.  ‘It didn’t feel right even though I just waved it off as not being used to the situation.  If I think about it, it was like gravity pulled on me for a short period.’

She didn’t have any more time to think.  Rheia slammed into the building, smashing it to pieces as Saki jumped out.  Tossing some of the debris at the last location, she tried to slow her down.  ‘If I think about it like that, then that would mean…!’  A surprising thought came to Saki.

Breaking through the smoke of the ruined building, Rheia gave chase.  She caught Saki in mid-air still trying to reach the next rooftop.  Reaching it wasn’t a problem, she just did so in a painful way.  Back on a surface, even if it was two floors down from the roof, Saki countered Rheia’s next attack by throwing her through the wall into the adjoining room.  ‘If it’s what I think, then my only shot is then.’

Saki charged through the wall like a bulldozer, sending chunks of wall debris everywhere.  She immediately met a kick to the face.  Dropped to her back, her foot smashed through the floor to drop both of them down another floor.  While they fell, she grabbed a hold of the broken floor to use as a grip as she kicked Rheia out of the building.

Once kicked from the room, Saki leapt up to the top of the building.  She stared watching the numerous buildings the Atlantean rammed through before stopping.  ‘Too far, I won’t make it.’  Closing the distance a little, Saki landed a few buildings away.  She had to stay watchful and react fast.  She wouldn’t get much time.  The window was surprisingly small, but she didn’t understand their powers deeply enough to know how it compared.

‘If I’m right, the way her power works isn’t the way I assumed.  This actually does make more sense, but it’s crazy to think she could be doing it all like that.’

Rheia emerged from the ruins of the building falling in around her.  The rubble did about as much as it did to Saki, caked powder on her skin and clothes.  However, that was the least important thing.  The difference in their distance and height required Rheia to fly.  She leapt out of the second story floor.

‘There!’  Saki jumped to action, disappearing.  She pushed her body as fast and hard as possible.  The time frame was so small, even her reaction being too slow would cause her failure.  ‘I have to hit that ‘lag’ time in her movements.  It’s when she’s turning off her power and setting new rules up.  It’s insane to imagine, but she’s always turning it off and on constantly altering her powers to the exact needs at the moment.  But it is her one moment of weakness, the only time she’s completely normal.’ 

Inside her mind, she tried to count out the time she had figured out.  The whole perception of time became completely skewed to Saki while she existed at such a speed.  When she counted it out she had five seconds to clear what was easily fifty meters.  She couldn’t answer how long it was in the real world.  Such time was completely incomprehensible to her, it was too slow, an eternity of a crawl.

‘Two seconds…’  Almost there, she was halfway there.  She would make it.  ‘Three!’  It would be the blow that would end their struggle.  The dragged out stalemate would finally end.  She could find Yuki after it ended.  ‘Four!’  An arm’s reach was all she needed.  Her fist was ready.  The strength dialed back enough not to kill her, but to leave her unconscious.  A kill would be unnecessary.

The hit landed.

Saki smiled with success.

Nothing.

“Huh?”  Her punch did nothing.  No impact at all.  Then suddenly a spinning back kick slammed into her face even faster than before.  Saki shot out blasting through buildings like a cannon.  ‘What happened?!  Did I get the timing wrong?  Is it not what I thought?’  In confusion, she didn’t even try to control her body.  The wall came up and exploded.  Another hole punched through the wall.  Just outside of the wall a massive explosion of earth leapt into the air from Saki’s crash.  Layers of old earth displaced in an instant followed by more stone.

Everything hurt.  Her mind was numb.  ‘What’s going on?  I’m in the city, but I thought…’  Old buildings crumbled around her just from the mere sight of her, as though anything she stared at decayed.

Rheia appeared at the top of the hole staring down at her.  “You’re the first one to figure it out.  Though I guess, you’re the first one I’ve fought with for this long.  So someone else might have been able to figure it out.  You had the right idea, but I figured out a while ago that you were clued in on the little secret.  I was waiting for you to put it together and to act on it.  So I left in a little fake, just for you.”

“Damn…” muttered Saki.  All of the strength left her body.  The one chance she had was even fake.  ‘She’s too strong and clever.  How am I supposed to beat someone like that?’

“Please hear me everyone!  You must listen!”

‘Huh?  Is that Yumi’s brother?  In my head?  She must have hit me harder than I thought if I’m hearing him.’

“Everyone please stop with the questions…I barely have any strength, just listen…  I know the truth finally.  I know what Ayumi’s goal is.”  Part of what he said blurred out of her mind from the pain.  Blood slowly fell over her face.  But she immediately snapped to attention when she heard Yuki mentioned.  “Yuki Hayashi will die!  This truth is that Atlantis’ secret is not what any of us thought!  They…”

Stone and earth cracked suddenly under Saki.  Her hands tensed up breaking free from their hold.  The look in her eyes changed, developing harsh shadows.  “YUKI!”

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