As orange as the sun was Klyle’s fur, caught in the light it shone like golden fire. Taking up his flank were five hundred lions, roaring as they stampeded toward a bewildered enemy.
Klyle had returned, that Master Specter whom the Coalition feared above all others.
“Chimera!” Klyle shouted as he sprinted, switching to all fours as his body underwent a change, from lion-man to lion-monster.
One by one his legion of lions dove into him, their bodies absorbing themselves into him, adding their size to Klyle. Klyle grew in length and bulk, doubling and tripling his mass.
The bigger he got the more of his lions that could jump into him at a time, exponentially increasing his form.
In vain enemy soldiers fired upon the legion, their terror growing at the same rate Klyle did.
Shots bounced off his thick hide as he ran through the Coalition’s battle formation. Amidst all the soldiers Klyle kept his pace, ignoring anyone not in his immediate path, which were trampled under his massive paws.
At last the final lion jumped into the creature Klyle had become. The Chimera slid to a halt and let out a deafening, pulsating roar. The sonic waves emitted from that sent men flying like an invisible bomb blasting them away.
The Chimera had two fierce lion heads, a tail with a eighty more lion heads deformed to be narrow like that of a snake. It stood its hundred meter body on six building sized limbs. In length the Chimera was three hundred meters from head to flank, the tail adding another sixty meters.
Its fur was as thick as a man and could slice apart a human merely by brushing against them. The claws tore to shreds tanks and artillery, while the snake-lion heads on the tail stretched out in different directions killing with razor fangs.
The Chimera barreled through the ranks of the hapless Coalition army. Thousands perished and still thousands more would meet the same fate. Klyle stormed across the siege, making rounds across Garghent. A behemoth of unstoppable fury, Garghent’s ace, the scourge of the Coalition, the Lion Legion.
The defenders, still holding the broken walls of Garghent, under command of the twelve Generals, with every soldier they had available, charged to break the enemy.
The day began as bright and sunny, but swiftly degraded into a smog of gunpowder and black rain poured as a result of all the ash and sulfur entering the atmosphere.
A failed counter assault could spell the end of Garghent, but with so many Specters and the Master Specter Klyle, losing was hardly a possibility.
Millions of the Coalition’s less experienced soldiers broke and ran for the hills, plains and forests to reach safety. The leaders of the Coalition attempted to rally their forces but even they couldn’t deny the immeasurable and horrific damage the Chimera inflicted upon them.
Klyle bounded seamlessly around the battlefield, its carnage and footprints leaving the only trace of its presence.
It would be one thing to fight a monster of such proportions and deadliness, but add to that the fact Klyle was a renowned warrior, a Master Specter, and a soldier of almost a century. He knew the hearts of men, what could break them and how they think and more importantly how to exploit that innate weakness in humans.
He struck randomly, never staying in place too long. With so many millions of enemies he needed his existence to be noticed by as many as possible. Leaping and bounding from one regiment to the next until he encircled Garghent, and then again and again throughout the rain blackened day.
Those who survived each encounter with the Chimera would carry with them the fear of something closer to a god than a man. That kind of fear spreads like an ocean wave, spilling blindly and coating the nearest person and from there outward indefinitely.
The rest of Garghent’s force should not be discounted as well, some of the defenders had made quite a name for themselves during the last several weeks.
The fact the siege had reached its critical stage so earlier in a years planned invasion was either a sign of a vastly incompetent and miscalculated blunder on the organization, logistics and coordination of the attackers from the beginning or there was a level of subterfuge and sabotage so meticulously set up that the invasion was meant to fail years before it ever began.
Conspiracies such as the latter are not generally given much credence as one would have to accept that Garghent not only had agents in seven other metropolises that held offices high enough to propose such an invasion and alliance in the first place, planning the siege and the formation of the Coalition of the Sister for perhaps decades before but a meticulous defense plan that couldn’t fail even under duress of fifty million attackers. One could even point out the explicit orders from Garghent’s military commanders to avoid killing any of the Coalition’s leadership.
As is the case with reality, those who seek to explain it will always shape it to their own conclusions. Who is to say what Garghent has done? If such powers could execute as expertly a plan as leading an alliance against themselves that was doomed to fail, how would the common person have the prescience of knowledge to somehow figure it all out where whole governments and cities could not? Ah, but that is part of the conspiracy so the argument goes!
Perhaps such a designed plot is unnecessary when considering the popular opinion of Garghent being further from hate than the distance that hate is to love.
Subtle nudges, tips and leaks of intelligence could have been enough to enact such a war council that could propose an annihilation of Garghent. Politics run as deep as ancestry does so it is no surprise that many would seek Garghent’s humbling and violent end.
Whatever the cause that millions had to die for, die they did. The Coalition was in tatters. Their armies split and beaten, routed and retreating. Their own Specters had not stayed long or else were defeated by Garghent’s Specters, most had been on contracts anyways and did not commit to the cause itself, only to its money.
Klyle turned his feral eyes on the swarm of tiny humans scrambling away from him, toward survival. The siege was over.
Klyle let himself dissolve, steam rising from him as he shrunk in size. A pungent stench hung in the air from his resetting transformation and the countless bodies beginning to rot. The crows and other scavengers would enjoy their feast soon.
Klyle stood, on his own two feet now, melted down to his original half-man, half-lion form. He stretched his shoulders and cracked his neck.
“I knew you were strong, but I never imagined the scale.” Klyle to turned to see the speaker was Hales and standing among her were most of his former students, Yillo, Uana, Hido, Abagene, Jillian, Talayia, Xander, Bria, Hijo, Magun, Dartan, Jid, Meanu, Veron, Genjam, Bregan and Emilo. They had aged considerably and curiously all had their Aspects activated.
“It is good to see you lads. That was Chimera and I’ll never use it again.”
“Why not?” Hales asked.
“It requires a large population of lions to use. They would never refuse to help me but I cannot justify bringing so many to their deaths for a war that doesn’t involve them.”
“That explains your melancholy.” Hales pointed out.
“Aye, but think nothing of it,” Klyle dismissed, and looked at the group standing serious and fierce. “You lot have developed into impressive Specters.”
“It’s not good enough.”
“I know the feeling.” He agreed. “I sense you have something on your mind.”
“We need more training. We want to become Masters.” Others nodded in agreement.
Klyle rubbed his chin and saw that some wore the outfit of captains and even one in the garb of a General. “It is not something that can be done overnight. Besides, the has seen enough fighting, surely.”
“The war has ended. We have time.” Xander said.
“True,” Klyle admitted and crossed his arms. “So what do you all suggest?” Klyle’s chatoyant glinted.
“The area is clear. The enemies are gone. The skies are blackened by ash…” Bregan observed.
“Ah, and here I thought you’d come to greet your old trainer. I can tell you are weak seeing as you waited until I was back to normal.” He grinned, knowing his words provoked them.
“Rematch us.” Talayia started.
“Right here, right now.” Jillian finished.
“On two conditions.”
“Which are?” Hales asked.
“All of you at once.” Klyle raised a finger. “Try to kill me.” He raised a second.
Hido found a small stone, “when it lands, the fight begins.” She tossed it in the air and the anticipation alone seemed to slow down time. The rock reached its apex, changed momentum, and fell down. The soft noise of the rock bouncing on the ground was muted by the intense action that the Class of the Savant broke into.
Talayia shot knives, Magun fired cannonballs, Uana exhaled her ice and Hales launched her stars. Klyle’s first move was to land in front of Emilo, who had no choice but to hold his breath and turn statue. His positioning meant that the initial flurry of attacks was blocked by Emilo.
Klyle flicked Emilo in the shoulder. To Emilo’s surprise and horror, he felt the flick. Emilo was on the ground with a bruise already forming, his Steelskin interrupted. The message was clear, no amount of defense would be strong enough to stop Klyle’s attacks.
Genjam made a circle with his hand and a cage sprung around Klyle. The Lion punched through it and the blue and black particles returned to Genjam’s cloud.
Hijo charged Klyle but a gut punch made him stop in his tracks. Hijo tried grabbing Klyle’s fist to hold him in place but Klyle swung his arm overhead and sent Hijo flying. Klyle was met by a gushing spray of a seething clay Synthesis. It hardened instantly due to Uana’s Gale, creating a shell to hold Klyle in place. Bria unleashed a storm of ribbons over Klyle. Hales set a cluster of meteors and stars to tightly orbit Klyle. Meanu sprinted around the whole perimeter, setting her green Candle flames randomly in the air.
Jid emerged from his Hunter state, “his freshest wound looks like a tank shell hit his chest but it’s practically healed over. It’s our only opening!”
Magun let his cannon swell while Abajem flew around slicing Klyle. Genjam donned his Cerulean Knight and prepared his lance.
Dartan finished writing his Rule in the air. “It’s ready Jillian! I increased how much adrenaline your body can release by six point four times. You’ll tear yourself apart if Hido doesn’t use Guardian on you. You’ve got three minutes.”
Jillian ran, using her Alacrity to fuel her muscles beyond normal human limits and readied herself to deliver superhuman punches. Yillo, red and burning, stood on a different side of Klyle. Veron sent a viper from her Jinx slithering to Klyle to deliver a paralyzing bite.
The Class of the Savant had devised this plan as they gathered to meet Klyle. Now they stood around him, trapping him in place in order to launch an attack with all their powers.
The combined barrage of fire, explosions, sharp objects, muscle and ice slammed into Klyle. Their execution had been efficient, meticulous despite having only less than an hour to come up with the strategy. They all knew what needed to be done. They knew what Klyle was capable of, knew their own strengths and limits, knew that the initial attack would count for everything. Klyle had trained them after all, were they even the slightest bit sloppy he’d have considered himself a failure as a teacher.
Seeing Klyle devastate the Coalition, what a Master was truly capable of, it spurned the group of Specters to seek that power. The passion for battle and the limits of power were endless, how could they refuse to challenge their master?
“Too weak!” Klyle shouted and roared. The force split the mass of clay and planets surrounding him, shattering the ice frozen on him, extinguishing the green flames and dazing the nearby melee Specters.
Klyle took those out first. A quick double punch drained Yillo’s Paroxysm and incapacitated him. Klyle appeared to Jillian next. His fist jabbed out and Jillian tried to stop the punch with her own. Hido was knocked from her feet from the collision as her Guardian had been protecting Jillian.
Jillain fell a second later when Klye’s second fist brought her down.
Abajem flew in and cut Klyle’s back shoulder. She was too slow to leave and Klyle grabbed one of her mantis legs. He tore it off and ripped apart the rest of the Metamorphose. Klyle leapt away from another barrage of ranged attacks and pounced on Xander next. His first attack missed as Xander slipped. Xander failed to counter and tripped again. This time Klyle roared at Xander, stunning Xander’s muscles and allowing for a kick that knocked the wind out of the Karma Aspect.
Hijo charged Klyle and slammed into the Lion. Klyle sent a cross to smash Hijo’s jaw. Hijo reeled but pressed the attack, snarling and growling. Klyle grabbed Hijo’s throat and slammed him to the ground. Hjio struggled but couldn’t escape.
Emilo, in his gargoyle form thought he had an opening while Klyle dispatched Hijo. Klyle backhanded Emilo with his other hand and knocked out the Steelskin Aspect.
Genjam thrust his spear at Klyle’s legs, knowing he couldn’t defeat Klyle by himself. He was aiming to at least deal some damage to slow the Master down before he got taken out. Klyle crushed the spear and destroyed the Cerulean Knight armor with another hit. Genjam fell and in another instant, Bria, whose ribbons were blown away by another roar, was knocked out next.
With all the melee Specters finished off, Klyle turned his eyes to the ranged Specters.
Hales was his first victim, the forty meter wide star she had grown wasn’t strong enough to survive a roar from Klyle. She could do nothing close range after that and Klyle dropped her.
Bregan, Magun and Uana had grouped together to concentrate their fire but Klyle was too fast and too impervious to be affected. They were defeated and Jid, Meanu and Dartan didn’t have the kind of powers to fight back against Klyle.
Only Talayia remained and her black Stiletto allowed her to escape a couple of attacks. That was until Klyle ran to Talayia’s black blade before she could teleport and rethrow it to a new location. Klyle finished her off as well.
The Class of the Savant that was here were all on the ground, nursing one injury or another. Klyle never hurt them past minor bruising and injury, but enough to effectively take them out of the fight.
The fight was over but Klyle was already walking away, they failed to notice how Klyle had sustained dozens of wounds as they lay groaning from their own. He had blood pouring freely and a score of burns and shrapnel sticking in and out of him. His breathing wasn’t as light as when he started.
A General came from the scene, meeting Klyle on his way back. He was the head of the Military faction, Draje.
“Welcome back, Klyle. It seems your former students hosted a rather strange homecoming party for you.”
“Aye, they wanted a training lesson.”
“It looks as if they weren’t the only ones who learned something!” Draje chuckled, noting Klyle’s injuries. “Getting rusty are you, Lion?”
Klyle grinned and spread his hands. “It’s been less than two years and I’m seeing a lot more grey in your hair, my friend. Perhaps old age is making you senile for I’m as fresh as a newborn calf!”
“Eh, there was a time when I believed you were immortal.”
“Knowing secrets lessens the magic of it all, doesn’t it?” Klyle pondered.
“That secret will always be kept to myself.” Draje vowed seriously.
“I know, you’d never even tell your closest family if they had something in their teeth!”
Draje scowled at the insult but changed subjects. “They are good, aren’t they?”
“I went through over a dozen lions fighting them. Good is an understatement. It’s a pity the whole class is not together.”
“We will make do, Klyle. You think they can become Masters? Another war like this and Garghent will truly fall, at least without enough Specters.”
“To be honest, the process for becoming a Master is beyond even my comprehension. All we can do is train them and create the environment to push their limits constantly.”
They walked in silence for a few minutes, the city looming closer and closer.
“This will take time to rebuild.” Draje gestured the ruined walls and corpse ridden plains. “Our generation is reaching its conclusion. What if the new generation of Specters do not see our vision? We can hardly even control the Headless.”
“I’ve had the same concerns. But fighting them today, I can say for certain that the Class of the Savant will continue our dreams. I could sense that much by the way they struggled. The path we’ve laid for them is the one they want to travel on. If we push too hard they’ll leave us.”
Draje nodded, looking more relieved. His expression changed after that suddenly, “don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I plan on dying any time soon!”
“Aye, if you say so.” Klyle said sarcastically.
“As much as we deserve to die, we won’t, Klyle. We’re too strong for that. Our vision is righteous.”
“I don’t know if I’d use the word righteous, we are damned a thousand times over, Draje. But we believe in it. The Aspect is the way to free this world from war and suffering.”
Draje’s eyes were shining in malignant humor. “Even if the Aspect is largely the cause of said war and suffering.”
“But then we are too old to change our ways, aren’t we?” Klyle said with equal solipsism.
“Of course.” Draje smiled. “Come, Amenais wishes to see you. He would like to discuss the next step of the plan.”
“Ah, is the old bastard finally ready to start conquering other cities?”
“Ask him yourself, his answer might excite you.”
“Well then, lead the way General. We wouldn’t want to keep the world waiting.”