Jake had a headache. Not the kind of figurative headache, but the literal kind. It felt like he was constantly smashed in the head with a sledgehammer while wearing a motorcycle helmet. At the same time, his body hurt as he had countless bleeding holes all over.
In his surroundings, corpses of dead fish floated, polluting the area around him. Jake had killed eight of them so far, all of them rotten through by his Touch of the Malefic Viper, while the fish had also taken some damage simply by simply being in the water around him, that hadn’t been the primary killer. The blood he was constantly leaking out had been infused with Blood of the Malefic Viper was the source of this pollutant, and it had ultimately resulted in the fish leaving him alone for the most part, yet still circling him.
He had also tried to release his poison mist but found it useless. The water simply consumed and suppressed it instantly. The only reason his blood worked was due to the tangibility of the toxicity being bound to the blood. Touch of the Malefic Viper also didn’t do shit if he just used it on the water. He also tried doing some stupid stuff like trying to absorb the mana with his new space cube, but spatial items always had the issue of needing to deposit an object. Turns out an ocean’s worth of water didn’t count as an object.
However, what ultimately saved his ass hadn’t been all of his poison or his arcane-affinity or any of his usual go-to’s. No, it had been the Expert Stealth skill coupled with his cloak. He had wrapped it all around him and focused on Expert Stealth to try and meld into the environment. It hadn’t worked, to begin with, as he still had to kill the fish already aware of him, but once those had died, it seemed to work - kind of.
The fish circling him didn’t do so because they were aware of him but because of the blood of their brethren. They knew this was a ‘special spot’ but not why. Jake, wrapped in his cloak, once more focused on comprehending his surroundings, which was the cause of the headache.
Jake knew the affinity surrounding him was solely the water-affinity. His Sense of the Malefic Viper told him that, and Jake also knew he had that affinity himself based on his talks with Villy. Not because he had been tested, but because, according to Villy, every human who started at G-grade had it. Something about water being the basis of life in their newly integrated universe, making everyone have it by default.
With that in mind, he knew he just had to explore the affinity and learn of it to become able to filter it out with his Sphere of Perception. It should be easy… but it wasn’t. For it wasn’t only the water-affinity dominating his surroundings, but something more than that.
A concept Jake wasn’t certain what was. All he knew was that it mixed incredibly well with the water and was the primary cause of the pressure upon him. It was clearly related to water in some ways…
Was it gravity? Just weight? Jake wasn’t sure. He had no idea how far down he was and if it was just sheer water pressure. Wait, was water pressure a concept in itself? His head was filled with many questions, making it only hurt more.
Time slowly passed as Jake slowly tried to filter out the excess information in his sphere. The first thing he did was focusing on limiting its scope from the usual few hundred meters down to only a few dozen. Usually, he didn’t really ‘look’ at his sphere when it was just that large; it more functioned as a passive detection system, only alerting him to movement, working especially well with his danger sense to alert him of potential dangers.
However, as had been shown before, like just after his evolution to D-grade, it could also be a bit of a double-edged sword at times. Jake didn’t have the passive assistance of the system to help him not overload his brain but had to solely rely on himself. He was lucky in the sense that his bloodline was semi-self-regulating, in that he would instinctively try to avoid things that would cause severe harm to him.
His bloodline wasn’t omnipotent, however, and ultimately relied on Jake himself. Which was why he sometimes needed to step up with his more conscious mind, like in his current situation.
Ever so slowly, his sphere shrank. He analyzed and took in the mana around him with Sense of the Malefic Viper. He kept trying to identify the concept but couldn’t exactly put a name on it… but he did get a good feeling for what it did.
The concept wasn’t as simple as just being water-pressure. Water pressure would solely be a physical force, while this was not. It didn’t only pressure the physical water around him, but also the mana density and even Jake mentally. It simply compressed and pushed on everything. In some ways, it did remind him of what the Lighttail Monkeys did.
Yet it wasn’t entirely the same, as this clearly wasn’t some magical attack, but simply how the environment worked. Also, the fish were clearly unaffected by it based on their agile movements. If they were under the same pressure as Jake, they sure as hell wouldn’t waste their energy swimming around as they currently were.
Which naturally begged the question, why weren’t they affected? Was it some passive skill? Perhaps they were affected but were just used to it, and this was their norm? Crazy insane physical stats making them god amongst fish outside of water? Either way, before Jake could figure it out, he would have to actually be able to see what the hell was going on.
Jake focused his mind and entered meditation as he slowly explored the area around him. He began filtering out certain kinds of information and found that it helped to focus on one of the fish. The fish appeared to just be made of water in his sphere, yet it was also an autonomous creature separate from its living environment.
With it as a catalyst, Jake began separating the fish from what was around it. He began trying to discern the details of the creature, filtering out the atmospheric mana that dominated the water he found himself trapped in.
One small detail at a time, he began seeing the fish. It was long and eel-like as he expected, but it had visible scales covering its entire body contrary to eels. Jake didn’t detect any gills, but it did have four large fins on the side of its body. The head was the most peculiar of it all.
It had a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth and a long sword-like nose. The sword’s edges were jagged, and Jake felt toxins embedded on each of the jagged edges, making the entire nose look a bit like a poisoned saw.
As the fish became more and more defined, its surroundings also began standing out more. It became murkier, the darkness fading as Jake focused on filtering all the “sameness” away. He naturally also focused on Sense of the Malefic Viper to correctly identify the water-affinity mana as he also became more familiar with that.
Ever so slowly, he began to see. The immediate surroundings of the fish were the first to come clear, and it left a trail of clearness as it swam. It spread and spread, and soon the area around 30 meters of him became visible to his Sphere of Perception.
One problem down… next up, how the hell do I move properly.
As mentioned, Jake knew how to swim already. He had even done some light training for fun in his pond, and while water did inhibit movements, the depths he currently found himself in took that concept to the extreme. He felt like he was a human from before the system stuck in water, and-
Wait, is that it?
All this time, he hadn’t thought of the most obvious reason why the water was harder to move in… it was simply because it was water. No, not normal water, but magic water.
Water was harder to move in due to friction and the higher density of water. You had to always displace some amount of water whenever you moved, the same as you had to with air. Of course, water made this harder. Soil and sand even harder as you technically could move in loose soil; it was just a damn struggle – something anyone who had ever been buried in sand at the beach could attest to.
After the system, this displacement in both water and sand had become far easier. Jake was simply far stronger than before, making it incredibly easy to move some water with a light motion. Yet what happens if this density was amplified - If this denseness and friction were heightened to a supernatural level by making it a concept.
That is what Jake was currently experiencing. It wasn’t that it was some other concept mixing with water... it was simply a concept naturally born of much water-affinity being together.
The reason had been so simple all along. It was because Jake was stuck in magic water, not normal water.
He had a strong feeling his insight was right, and it also allowed him to see his surroundings more clearly. The mana was simply so damn dense because magic water didn’t only compress physical space but also the magical space. It also explained the mental pressure. In fact, he had a feeling that perhaps his soul was getting pressured.
Jake was happy at his realization. There was just one issue: what the fuck to do with it?
Sure, now Jake knew he truly was just stuck in super magic water, and that was why it was so dense, but that didn’t magically make him able to move about in it. Furthermore, considering how much harder it was to properly analyze the affinity, he was also damn certain his water-affinity was pretty crap compared to his dark-affinity.
But… there had to be a solution. For this, Jake once more turned to the fish. These creatures were utterly unaffected by this denseness. In fact, the water seemed to give way wherever they swam. His first thought was that their bodies were coated in some kind of barrier displacing the water, but he couldn’t detect any.
Next up, he wondered if they simply were immune due to system-fuckery and them being fish. However, that didn’t seem to stick either, as clearly, they were doing something. He felt magic from them, a constant hum of mana. It was passive, but there, a bit like when his own Limit Break was active…
At least it became clear that whatever method these fish applied wasn’t external but internal.
Which made Jake consider if he was able to copy it… because as he currently was, he couldn’t fight for shit. The fish also kept circling him, so he couldn’t move without them noticing him… actually, he had a feeling his cover wouldn’t last much longer. The blood was thinning around him as it was slowly spread out and floated away. This meant him hiding under his cloak would soon begin standing out more.
Jake’s hiding place already stood out, but as the blood and corpses stopped functioning as cover, he was certain the fish would discover him. While his cloak and Expert Stealth were nice, he was ultimately still free-floating in the middle of the water.
He needed to at least find a way to make himself semi-able to fight back. Those eight he had killed so far had come with him losing over half his health pool and forcing him to drink a health potion, and currently, he detected over ten in his immediate surroundings. Jake was not looking forward to dealing with all of them at once.
Now, how the hell do you manage to be unaffected, Jake asked the fish. He didn’t get any answer.
No, he knew he needed to scan them somehow. He needed to be able to see their interiors… and the only way he knew how to get a better look was through Sense of the Malefic Viper, more specifically, on a poisoned foe. At least, that is what he needed to develop his own method. For now, he just needed to find a way to survive and put up a fight.
Jake was in his current state at less than ten percent solely due to his environment. Swinging a sword was slow as fuck, bow out of the question, any magic he summoned consumed far more resources than reasonable, and even his poison was significantly weakened as he couldn’t summon his mist.
There was only one thing that had improved. Now Jake could see, at least somewhat. As he became able to perceive his surroundings through his sphere, he also slowly became able to see with his eyes. Everything was still murky, but now he could at least make visual contact with his foes, which meant Gaze of the Apex Hunter was back on the menu.
Just as he was about to formulate a plan, the situation changed. A fish seemed to spot Jake hidden behind his cloak. It at least made an abrupt motion as it shot towards him, nose-first.
Not so easily this time!
Jake narrowly dodged by swimming to the side, grasping the fish under his arm as it squirmed. It did cut up his side and his arm a bit, but he managed to hold it. He infused Touch of the Malefic Viper into it as he tried to carefully see the inside of the fish’s body.
Emphasis on tried, as just when he began, another fish came. Jake was forced to let go of the first one as he pushed it away. The second one charged Jake as he froze it with Gaze right at the last moment. It stopped swimming but still floated straight towards him. Jake had, at this time, managed to get both his scimitar and Nanoblade out.
He stabbed the frozen fish with the scimitar as he purposefully soaked the Nanoblade in the blood from some of his wounds to poison it. The Scimitar of Cursed Hunger didn’t look or feel any different than before his encounter with Eron, except he felt its hunger even more than before. Clearly, the curse and, in concert, the weapon had both become more powerful.
A third fish dove for him, and Jake turned his head to also freeze that as he skewered it on the Nanoblade. With a fish on each blade, he was at an impasse as yet another one came towards him. Thinking fast, Jake raised his foot as it came barreling into him. It hit him on the boot, completely failing to do any damage to Jake’s awesome footwear. His foot did hurt like hell, but not as much as the fish that had its nose bent from the impact.
Jake struggled as he was pulled in different directions from the fish squirming on his swords. They struggled and tried to swim away and get themselves lose. He saw how every fin-movement displaced a humongous amount of highly condensed water, making it difficult to keep hold of his weapons.
He failed to react as yet another fucking fish came from behind, and as he couldn’t turn his head, he failed to even use Gaze. He angled himself to not be hit in a too bad spot but still had the damn fish pierce him through his stomach.
With a bit of reluctance, he let go of one of his blades – still binding a string of arcane mana around it - as he infused his gloves with arcane mana and grasped the nose that came out of his stomach. He began infusing it with Touch of the Malefic Viper to poison that one, too. It quickly decided stabbing Jake was a bad time and backed away in what Jake saw as an almost impossible motion. It seemed to almost swim backward as the sword nose exited him, leaving yet another nasty wound.
Jake yoinked back his sword with the string, the fish getting off the blade, and the one on his scimitar had also managed to dislodge itself and had now retreated. None of the fish attacked him right away but were nursing their wounds or being apprehensive with their attack. Some of the fish were poisoned, and the one he had grasped first was on death’s door, but there were still many more.
Overall? Jake was having a very shitty time.