This nightmare of a man possessed terrifying strength, speed, power, regeneration, adaptability… if he stood still and let them attack they still couldn't do him any harm. In addition he bore a sword that could cut bone like tofu. Like the grim reaper, a god of death, he was invincible.
"No, not perfect!" Cloudhawk railed against Roste's domineering aura, shouting his defiance. "I don't think he can keep it up!"
Hellflower and Hyena were enlightened and inspired by the boy's words. Yes! He had to be right, there were limits to any power. The energy in Roste's cells couldn't be limitless, so if they kept up their attack he would continue to weaken until eventually he burnt out.
Roste hacked at the sturdy scales of a lizardman attacker and brutally split him from skull to coccyx. The Academician was covered in the blood of the mutant beasts but never once did his blackish-green eyes change their dull expression. "Everyone has their limits. I am no exception. But do you think you few are capable of forcing me to reach it? Do not overestimate your power."
Roste cleaved apart two more beasts as he spoke. Each action seemed at ease, almost lazy. There was no indication that he was tiring out. The creatures he killed were the fruits of his labor, built through his own efforts and yet he cut them down without the slightest hesitation. The lives he took were worth less to him than rotten wood. In his ambitious heart there was only progress and the tools needed to achieve it, leaving no space for the respect for life. Under his heartless assault the animals were pushed back step by step.
Today either he died or everyone else did. There was no third option!
Two transformed soldiers attempted a sneak attack against the rebels from both flanks. Hellflower, ever vigilant, lifted her guns and unloaded several shots into both of them. There was a bullet for each aimed at their skulls which punched right through the sturdy bone. Mutant soldiers were sturdy, but their bodies were not impenetrable.
However as she was busy dealing with them Roste made his move. No one barred his path and so he was on them in a blink. Hellflower didn't even have time to stagger backwards but Cloudhawk stepped up in her defense. The exorcist staff whirred in his hands and as his cloak flapped in the artificial breeze Cloudhawk disappeared.
Hyena refused to be pushed back. Steeped in the throes of bloodlust he charged ahead, without regard for his own safety. His words were almost indistinguishable, not human but the roar of an alpha wolf commanding its pack. All the mighty beasts around, faced with the threat of death, summoned every ounce of ferocity bred into their bones. Without fear or hesitation they charged at the Academician.
Though they were creatures of the wilds, they had emotions. They felt rage! They yearned for life and freedom!
Many were bred in captivity and from a young life suffered pain that made them beg for death. Unthinkably agonizing experiments and terrible drugs stimulated brain development, imbuing them with the capacity for memory and critical thought. With it came emotion, and underneath it all that unyielding feral spirit which made them refuse to be cowed.
Days of torment turned into months, turned into years. They were forced to watch as their own brethren were drained of blood and marrow. It did not escape notice that their numbers were constantly dwindling. The only thing these tortured, mutated creatures could hold on to was hatred. It was a loathing that brewed in their hearts for years.
Roste was the culprit! It was all because of him! Countless nights of random killing, of being eaten alive were fresh in their memory. He consumed them to fuel his own need and hunger.
Roste was the root of their fear and the focus of their enmity. At last they could act on that all-consuming anger, to kill the hateful demon who'd imprisoned them!
The Academician faced Hyena, the frenzied shapeshifter leading his brethren in their desperate charge. A taunting light glimmered in his hateful eyes. This pitiful man, he thought. The beast had consumed what remained of his humanity. Keeping him alive was a danger to the wastelands. It is time to eliminate this failed experiment.
Hyena was as strong as Greenland Outpost's former leader, Hydra. Roste had capabilities on the same level as the Bloodsoaked Queen.
At her peak the Bloodsoaked Queen could destroy the likes of Hydra without breaking a sweat, he was nowhere near her level. It was the same between Roste and Hyena. The shapeshifter was fast, but his maker was faster!
The Academician's cane sword split the dim light of the lab like a comet, light glinted off the steel like a flash of lightning. Without any fancy moves, without any wasted motions, he thrust forward. Simplicity in its purest form, but leaving Hyena no way to dodge or block.
Looking upon him it was like Hyena was giving his heart away. Roste's sword was poised to run him through as though he were made of paper when Cloudhawk appeared from the ether. In that crucial moment the young warrior materialized between them with his exorcist staff held high. A burst of energy pulsed forth as staff met sword and amidst the sparks Roste's deadly sword was knocked off course.
However, it was not far enough to miss Hyena completely. The shapeshifter suffered a nasty gash but it did not slow him down in the least. He unleashed all of his stored up energy through his fist into Roste's chest. As expected the Academician's flesh hardened into a thick shell just before impact. But this time Hyena's blow left a mark.
Cloudhawk followed on his heels with the exorcist staff. A tempest of energy blasted outward.
Roste could retaliate but Cloudhawk was too precious, he was loathe to harm the young demonhunter. In turn, Cloudhawk was emboldened with this knowledge. If he were anyone else then fighting up close in this way would be a death sentence. He would have been stomped into paste right away.
"Now! Before it's too late." Cloudhawk hollered. "Attack!"
A dozen animal experiments dashed forward. Poisonous lizardmen spat acid at the Academician, wolfmen belched caustic fumes, and giant rats skittered forward ready to sacrifice their explosive bodies. All of them charged, ready to face death without blinking.
Hellflower raised a large caliber rifle and leveled it at her target.
She hit Roste right in the head, the bullet striking so hard that he lost his balance and fell to the ground. The animals set on him, trying to rip him apart.
His cane sword whined and shuddered like a weapon from the depths of hell.
It was as though he was paralyzed, and yet he fired up from the ground so quickly the creatures on top of him were blown backward. Anything in the path of Roste's high-frequency sword was severed and several of their animal allies were sliced to ribbons. A fog of blood surrounded the Academician several feet in diameter and the walls were painted with the remains of his victims.
Roste himself was showing signs of damage. Even if he were made from steel inside and out, after such quick and ferocious attacks he couldn't have escaped without injury. Hellflower's shot to the head had ripped off a section of scalp revealing fractured bone beneath. Severe injuries marked his back, torso and arms.
Only, it was no use!
Roste's fractured skull knitted itself up in seconds, so fast they could see his flesh grow over the patch before their very eyes. The other injuries healed just as quickly and it made the defenders' hair stand on end. There was no way they could beat him, not like this. Even with fresh animal attackers coming in waves, even with all of them fighting with every fiber of their being, they still couldn't cause him any permanent damage!
However Roste seemed to fear the present danger. Most especially the threat came from Hellflower and her gun. It packed an incredible punch, and as unlikely as it was to penetrate his skin it was better to be safe. She had to be dealt with quickly.
She aimed and fired again, this time pointing the barrel toward his eye socket. Roste flung himself to the side, fast enough to protect his eye but not fast enough to stop the passing bullet from tearing off the skin from one side of his face.
Without expression he slowly bent his knees, coiling like a spring. He gathered up pressure then released it all at once to shoot out like a cannon ball. He broke through the crowds of vicious beasts while at the same time a pair of meaty wings slithered out of his back. After a moment he stabilized and traced an arc through the air.
"Motherfucker! He can fly!"
Cloudhawk stared in disbelief when the wings appeared from Roste's back. Compared to the eagle before, they were weak, the freakish mutation didn't allow for effortless soaring. But they were good enough to allow him to glide, and high above the animals he avoided their sharp claws and jagged teeth while he headed for Hellflower. He came down toward her with his cane sword held tight in both hands.
She turned white as a sheet. Hellflower wanted to run but she was caught in his sights, it was too late.
The grating sound of metal on metal made her teeth grind.
He was channeling his psychic energy through the staff, and once again used it to deflect Roste's sword. However even his relic weapon was only able to protect them from so many blows. What's more the Academician's strength was overpowering. Although Cloudhawk had grown stronger through the last torturous week, it felt like having a mountain dropped on top of him. The force of the impact nearly forced him to his knees. His joints popped audibly from the strain and he could tell his right elbow and shoulder had been dislocated.
Hellflower stared wide-eyed at the edge of Roste's blade, stopped inches before her nose. A single bead of sweat rolled off her forehead. Without even thinking she pulled the trigger and her gun fired point blank into their foe's chest. The Academician was blasted backward but spread his wings in mid-air to regain balance.
Kcha! She instinctually pulled back the rifle bolt and cleared its chamber, the empty casing rang as it hit the ground. Bang! She fired again and this time her shot tore through one of his bat-like wings. Academician Roste hit the ground like a kite with its string cut.
Hyena was on top of him in an instant, claws bared.
Roste was faster, though, and met Hyena with a kick from his powerful leg. The shapeshifter was knocked back while Roste lunged at him once again with his sword. This time Cloudhawk was too far to help, even if he engaged his invisibility cloak. Hyena had to face his creator on his own.
It was a close call, but a figure even larger than Hyena came tearing through.
The wolf matriarch was faster than the other creatures and covered dozens of feet like a bolt of silver lightning. Its mighty clawed forelimbs struck Roste square on his shoulders and the inertia flung the Academician back more than thirty feet. The other mutant wolves caught up and began to gnaw at the evil man's arms and legs.
Hovering over him the matriarch opened her maw wide and coated him in caustic fog. It poured over Roste's head and face, and being at least ten times stronger than that of a typical rotwolf even steel would melt under a direct gust.
Roste was weakened through the course of the fight, his abilities had begun to wane. Even so he wrenched an arm free from the tearing jaws of the wolves and jabbed his cane sword into the matriarch's body. The wound was harsh, deep, severing her spine.
Hyena screamed, a wail full of rage and anguish. "No!"
Piteous whines arose from the others in their pack but the matriarch never stopped. For five full seconds she released her noxious cloud over the Academician, turning even the ground into a bubbling pit.
Roste screamed at her in mad fury. He hacked at her waist until it was cut apart. With his left arm he struck her jaw and shattered her teeth. The upper part of her body was knocked several feet into the air while organs spilled from her wounds and over the ground. What remained of the matriarch lay in a bloody heap several feet away. She pawed at the air for a moment longer. Then her vibrant green eyes went dark.