Kai continued to blast Tez with lightning, but the half beast monstrosity no longer took any significant damage. Every passing moment seemed to make him stronger, the aura of power rising around him in waves that grew thicker and more violent.
Warning. Mana reaching close to 10/100. System cannot allow the host to tap into more mana unless the host will risk critical damage to his mind.
Kai felt his vision blur and his head ache as his mana dipped, but at the least, he felt relief seeing Aya and the remaining four kappa jump into the stream and swim away.
It only took a few seconds for him to reach his mana limiter, and the dark clouds around him faded away.
Without the clouds to boost his lightning, Tez went from a slow walk to a sprint, dropping his club – if he even had the sanity to use it anymore - and pushed past the weakened lightning.
He crashed into Kai. The force was immense. Easily enough to shatter Kai's ribs, and he wheezed as Tez tried to bite down at his head.
Again, Kai barely managed to raise his arm to block his head, and Tez's jaguar mouth clamped down on it. All the while, Tez's tackle carried Kai back.
Kai healed his broken ribs.
Host restoration initiated.
Biomass level: 100>90/100
Continued damage registering. Auto-restoration initiated. Warning levels will be given when biomass levels reach 50 and 25.
At the least, he had more than enough biomass to survive for a little bit.
With his breath back, he loosed as much electricity as he could, but Tez was basically a tank of muscle and wild willpower – there was no stopping him at this point if Kai's storm cloud boosted lightning from before could not.
Tez continued to carry Kai backwards, and soon enough, they fell into the stream. Unfortunately, Kai could not dislodge Tez, and the jaguar man latched onto Kai.
Clawed fingers dug into his arm and side, and Tez snarled as he flailed in the water, trying to snap at Kai's throat like a wild animal, for at this point, he basically was just an animal.
Kai knew things were bleak.
He did not have enough mana to damage Tez. The hanzaki corpse was too far away to try and sample, and Tez would never give him the time. Manifesting the suiko or kappa bloodlines to move in the water would take a full minute – no, that was not happening either.
But he was not going to let himself die here either. He had to avenge his mother. It might not have been much to live for, but if he died without fulfilling what his mother would have wanted, he would never forgive himself through any number of afterlives.
Sensing host's desire. Sensing significant danger to the host. Searching for more effective alternatives than breaking the mana limiter…
Possible solution: it is possible to tap into more mana by compromising essence integrity. By going beyond a 50% loss to integrity, the host will slowly become a different being, but at the same time, will gain additional and significant mana reserves belonging to said foreign body.
Warning: Losing drastically more than 50% essence integrity may cause an irreversible and continuous mutation into a different being.
"I don't care," gargled out Kai as he felt Tez bite out a chunk of flesh from his shoulder. The heavy current tossed and turned them up and down the water, making it hard for Tez to really get a solid bite on Kai, but it was only a matter of time before it happened. "Do it!"
Kai willed himself to manifest the Nue's bloodline. More and more and more of it. His arms grew larger, the tiger fur becoming thicker and shaggier. A mane of waving white hair grew out around his neck, and his face morphed, no longer becoming humanoid in shape. Jutting fangs replaced his teeth.
Essence Integrity: 60>40%
Black fur began to cover his body. His feet began to change their bone structure, starting to look like they belonged to a four-legged creature. A scaled green tail began to sprout from his tailbone. He started to grow bigger, muscle mass padding his once fragile human body until now he was the same size as Tez.
Essence Integrity 40-30%
The jaguar man bit into Kai's arm, but could no longer sink his teeth fully through the thick, protective hide. Kai looked at the creature and roared a loud, shrill, bone shaking shriek not in pain, but in challenge.
With monstrous strength, Kai grabbed Tez's arms and then swung him around as they kept moving down the current. He slammed the jaguar man into one of the many rocks floating in the stream, and the rock cracked from the impact.
The jaguar man growled and swiped at Kai's face, leaving five lacerations bleeding on his red, ape-like face. Kai snarled back with just as much feral rage.
Continual essence degradation detected…
The system's voice trailed off, disappearing into the increasingly deeper void that Kai's original consciousness faded into.
Now, there was only to fight and to hunt. To kill this challenger that had encroached on Kai's territory and killed his own.
The jaguar man swiped and swiped, and Kai dodged with bestial instinct, his hairs and whiskers growing ever more sensitive to movement through their thermal sensing.
The current grew stronger and kept sweeping the two down, and soon enough, the crashing of the great waterfall leading down the mountain became audible.
Kai slammed both his tawny paws on the sides of the jaguar man's head, his claws sinking into a deadly grip.
He called down lightning. It was unlike anything before. For once, it reached a semblance of the might that the real Nue had on the spring. An ear shattering crack blasted across the clearing as a bolt of thunder came straight from the sky, slamming down into Tez.
The thunder strike caused the water around Tez to surge outwards before boiling into steam in a superheated instant. The salty water conducted the enormous amounts of electricity, causing brilliant golden arcs surging everywhere in a cacophony of roars and crackles.
At its epicenter, Tez stiffened, the mass amount of lightning blowing apart most of the right side of his body, revealing bare ribs and black burnt organs.
Now this was power. The type of power that he sought. Absolute power that defied any resistance. Absolute power that would let him…let him…
What would it let him do again?
Why did he need this power again?
It did not matter.
Kai growled in contentment, ready to throw the silly creature that had dared to challenge him away.
The sound of the waterfall drew very near now.
Kai prepared to leap out the water and leave. He would hunt down his prey. The other intruders that had dared to step into his territory and harm him. He would not let them escape.
Tez's one remaining eye flashed in a final moment of recognition.
A recognition that was very much human, the madness of his transformation leaving his broken body for just a second before death took him fully. He saw where Kai looked, read his intent, and gathered a surge of strength that defied death itself.
He reached down to his waist and then in one swift motion, stabbed into Kai's eye with an obsidian dagger.
Kai roared in pain as he writhed. Black lines of burning sensation ran across the wound in his eye, scribbling over his face in an ancient script.
He growled and called down another bolt of thunder from the heavens, and this time, when that pillar of destructive energy crashed down into the water, it utterly blasted apart Tez's corpse into tiny burnt chunks.
Kai flailed in the heavy current, trying to dislodge the knife, but before he knew it, he felt himself falling, thrown off the edge of the clearing and hurtling down the side of the mountain.
He would fly back up. Hover over the skies, sense the trees with his thermal sense, and pick out the running prey that had wronged him. He would savage their bodies and feast on their bones.
But the storm clouds that could carry his body did not come at his beckon.
He kept falling, hurtling, and tumbling in the air as he picked up speed. He called for the clouds again, this time with more will.
Little gatherings of inky black swirls started to float around him, but they were not nearly enough to carry him. He needed more.
But more would not come. He kept willing it, and every time he did, a little more of the cloud formation would start to condense, but not enough to fly, and the forested ground drew near.
With a final spurt of will, enough of the clouds formed that they could break his fall, hovering him a few dozen feet above a little island of trees and grass. It was a patch of land, one among many, that floated atop the enormous lake the waterfall in the clearing fed down into.
He landed on it, panting as he tried to regain mana. Something was wrong with his body. His power was not flowing properly, and he could sense it was due to the dagger in his eye.
Now that there was nothing to distract him, he used his paw to grasp the tiny dagger and dislodge it, a spurt of blood spattering on the grass.
He growled in displeasure, tossing the knife aside. The wound would heal later. He vaguely remembered something that usually helped him heal, but no matter.
Hunting and devouring and sleeping would take care of it.
"Damn, kid, you look like shit."
Kai swiveled around on all fours; his body now more acclimated to the posture. He emitted a low, deep growl, crackles of lighting surging around his fur. His super-heated breath fogged the much colder air around the lake, surrounding him in a wispy aura laced with electricity.
A human walked up, his gait a slow stroll.
Kai flared his nostrils and his hair stood on end, taking a sensory profile from the man, but it was not any of the humans from before. Although the human's face was familiar in a distant way, like a half-remembered image form a dream.
Regardless, his predatory instincts flared up – humans were prey. And Kai was growing hungry. He growled and tensed his muscles, sending out multiple arcs of lightning towards the man.
The human crossed his arms together, letting the lightning hit him. There was the sound of impact. The scream of lightning and the bright, flashing golden light as destructive currents coursed throughout the human.
But then the lightning died down. The human cracked his neck and rolled a shoulder. There were scales around his arms, and now they glowed with a dull gold, the electricity absorbed into them.
"Whew, so we're gonna go down this road, are we?" said the human. "Well, kid, can't blame you. If I'd found you sooner, this whole mess wouldn't have happened in the first place. Now then, come on."
Kai barely understood the human's words. They slurred in his mind, some of the words recognizable, some it starting to sound like meaningless gibberish. But he did not think anymore.
He acted on instinct, and his instinct told him to attack, for this human triggered his survival instincts, and they were wired to fight. He roared as he leaped towards the human, his claws bared and ready to swipe down.
In an instant, he found himself staring straight up at the sky, coughing out blood and wind. The human's face loomed over him.
"Sorry. But this is for your own good." The human's fist sailed down, filling Kai's vision with darkness.
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