A/N: Yeah, I admit I'm about four weeks later than I wanted to be with the release of this chapter. That said, it's also well over 2x as long as I wanted it to be. You probably know what to expect from me by this point. :P
Expect the next update in any amount of time, really. I have no schedule for these things anymore, no matter how hard I try.
A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu
Chapter 47: An Old Idea Made New
Though the storm was long gone, it was still a continuation of hell in Mohatu's forsaken world. His mouth was so dry that his tongue stuck to his teeth, and his lonely was so hurt that he was still attempting to speak with imaginary figures in his head. Even better yet, he was just waiting for the moment he could finally end his existence.
But that moment wasn't going to come quickly enough—not on chance and circumstance alone. He had tried waiting to die for the past few days, but now, things were different. Now, Mohatu knew he had to take matters into his own paws. If he wanted to die, he was going to have to kill himself.
And that was exactly what he was going to do. One quick jump, and it would all be over.
Despite the fact that his wounds were healing, Mohatu had been through as many nightmares as there were weeds on the ground. In each one he had been mauled. Each time he plummeted to a more and more vivid death, every one identical. At first he was just falling into a black void, but with each subsequent dream, the fall revealed more of itself. He was falling into a ravine, not entirely dissimilar to his current location.
Now, Leo's dreams were so closely mirroring reality, that the only way he knew they were nightmares was because he did, eventually, wake up to find himself in fully-functional condition. That was the worst part about it; no matter how many times he tried to let himself die, he still found he was living a life more horrendous than death.
But not anymore, he decided.
This was Mohatu's reasoning. This was why he soon found himself sitting by the edge of that familiar cliff, with his front paws so carelessly draped off the side. It was hardly any lion's guess what he was thinking of doing—all he had to do was take a short step, and his reality would come to match the comfort of his nightmares.
He knew what he planned to do. He understood the permanence of the action completely, but there was something preventing him from doing it, however small that something was.
That something was contained beneath the place Mohatu sat. It was just a ravine, sure; though to the lion, it was so much more. It was the place he had fought Ganji, and he knew it by instinct. This was one of the many places where he had almost died, and Mari had saved him. It was a location that was no doubt trying to swallow Mohatu in his bittersweet memories, if ever such a thing was possible.
Strangely, Mohatu did everything in his power to avoid thinking of it. He didn't look down. He simply couldn't. The outcome: a lion in stagnation. He made no effort to jump, but he didn't back away, either.
"Mari..." Mohatu's voice called out again, much like he had done so many times before. It was yet another attempt to summon his long lost companion—just one of many. He didn't speak particularly loud, but based on the quiescence of the world around him, he knew the sound could be heard from several horizons away. He didn't need to raise his voice.
"I..." he tried to continue, but the weakness of his tongue was matching his true form. Not only was he starving himself, but he had not a drop of water in his throat since his world fell apart. In addition, without seeing Mari in front of him, Mohatu found it difficult to even try conversing with her. The end result was a poorly-negotiated whisper, with a hesitant crispiness in his speech.
As he called, he seriously started to wonder. Was he losing his mind? Had he really communicated with the lioness he loved so dearly—was it possible that she had a ghostly form like Algenubi and the other ancient kings? Was it true that there was some way they were communicating, or was it really all in his head? Had he lost every ounce of sanity he had left?
The answers eluded him initially, but based on Mari's lack of reaction, the truth was becoming increasingly obvious. The time he spent thinking of Mari was just an illusion he made up, or so it seemed. Mari hardly talked back even at the time, and she definitely wasn't doing so now. More and more, Mohatu was alone, and his awareness of this fact was increasing.
"I... can't do this anymore," Mohatu said. He gazed out at the skyline, expecting some sort of response from above. Much to his disappointment, of course, he never received any such thing. Not even the ancient kings seemed to be up there anymore. It wasn't like talking to clouds, but rather something more akin to a big, blind void in the universe.
"If there is anything..." he continued, "any reason why I shouldn't..."
Mohatu closed his eyes. As much as he was hoping that Mari would say something and intervene, she clearly wasn't doing so. "All I need is something... anything," he pleaded. "Just some reason to live... and I promise, I won't do it."
But alas, Mohatu found no such reason. The twilight sky remained as still as it ever was. Without any movement to reference, time was no less paused than it had ever been.
Patiently, Mohatu awaited Mari's response. After a time, however, this patience drifted. He could only wait so many minutes before the pain he felt inside became too much. It had already grown to tremendous heights, and if Mari's last remaining essence was going to ignore him, there was little more he could take.
"If you don't tell me anything, I'll do it," he threatened. "I'll end it, right here... if that's what you want... if that's how we can be together again..."
Leo finally conceded to his desire and looked down and into the chasm below. His two front paws were already dangling over the edge, but up until this point, he had made every effort possible to prevent himself from leaning into that valley. It was only now, with his face pointed downward and his blood rushing into his head, that the inevitable happened.
A steep slope existed below Mohatu's paws, jagged and littered with the occasional desert shrubs. On the other side of the valley, many rocks shielded a number of cavities in the sidewall—those were the entrances to Giza's underground cave network. The bottom of the valley was stained with blood, bones, and ground flesh. Even the sands down there were scratched, except in the lower dips where a murky shade of water pooled and reflected the crescent moonlight.
It was no surprise that Mohatu remembered exactly what had happened down there, including every word, breath, and twitch. That vision blew into his mind, now more vibrant than ever.
Suddenly, Mari leaped down, crushing the lead attacker's skull beneath the heavy weight of her paws. Ganji died instantly, before ever realizing what had happened. The poor knight became the instant victim of a 260 kilogram lioness falling roughly fifteen meters—something that could only be described as a pancake effect with a slightly satisfying crunch.
"Mohatu!" Mari yelled from among his attackers, catching their attention immediately. Her position atop a dead, squished knight was more than enough to shake things up a bit.
Much like the lions he was fighting, Mohatu jumped upon hearing the lioness's beautiful voice. That clean, familiar sound was beyond just a little pleasing to hear. "Mari? What are you—"
He responded so ignorantly, like he seriously didn't expect Mari to come to the rescue. Of course, past Mohatu had not yet discovered how good Mari was at that. He still had a lot to learn about how badass a lioness could be. This fight was only the beginning of that revelation.
Regardless, several other voices screamed out in terror, obviously the voices of Past Mohatu's attackers. Whereas Mohatu reacted with a jolt of pleasant surprise, his opponents scattered and fled with their quivering tails. Suddenly, the fight had erupted into a battle.
Not just any battle, but a winnable battle for the duo of heroes.
"I'm not going to let you take them all yourself," Mari replied, trying to keep it simple before finishing up what he had started. As much as she wanted to tell him right then and there what she should have understood long ago, a battlefield was no place for such conversations. "We're in this mess together," she finished.
Past Mohatu raised his paw into the air and moved aside, as one of the attacking lions swatted at him. "No! Mari! Stop! You'll be killed too!" he yelled, beginning to show emotion in his voice once again. "I know what I have to do."
Mohatu's ears perked up. His eyes dilated to twice their normal size. Mohatu realized something: past Mohatu came to that spot to die, much like he was doing now. Past Mohatu was fighting a battle he knew he could not win, and Mari was telling him that he could win. She was there for him, and in being there, she changed everything.
As strange as it seemed, it was almost as though past Mari was speaking to present Mohatu directly.
"No, you don't!" Mari retorted. "You're hurt and confused and... I'm sorry," the lioness continued, trying to keep her eyes clear and her mind focused as three opponents approached her with aggression. Facing off against her enemies was much more difficult than she imagined it would be, only seconds prior.
Mari stepped back, trying to give herself a bit more space between her attackers. At the same time, she looked around, also attempting to find a way to use the nearby terrain to her advantage. In reality, all she could see were the many dead bodies from the lions that Mohatu had just killed. "...and good God, you killed four of them already?"
"It was a trap," past Mohatu yelled, as his voice began to crack. "Ganji lured me down here," he continued, protecting himself from a continuous onslaught of strikes from a different three lions. "I didn't want to... but they won't stop! I only asked him to take me to Rex!"
A surge of anger filled Mari's heavy heart, as she faced off against her own opponents.
Suddenly, past Mohatu ceased fighting, and left himself open to attack. One of his opponents had delivered a successful blow to his hind legs, causing him to nearly fall to the ground. "Just... go on without me," Mohatu mumbled. The regret in his voice was unmistakable, as he looked back at all the harm he had caused within his short lifetime.
His energy was running out, and the situation was growing a bit more hopeless by the second. He had fought for quite some time, but, like all things, it would soon be brought to an end.
Or so he thought.
"No!" Mari yelled back. She took a quick look at her paws for a moment, before fixing her eyes on a single opponent. "You don't have to... I'm here to help!"
Present Mohatu almost jumped. Did he not have to...? Was she...?
Mohatu had to pause the memory in his mind for a second. He had to wait. Was past Mari actually speaking to past Mohatu and present Mohatu?
She said they were in it together. She acknowledged that he was hurt and confused, and even apologized for it. Then she said he didn't have to, and that she was there to help. This was all coming together as very strong evidence.
"Die, you assassins!" one of the attackers yelled among them.
"And that's why," Mari added, jabbing her paw into that attacker's eyes to blind him, before leaping over to past Mohatu's position.
Quickly, Mari stepped between the defenseless past Mohatu and his attackers, using her long and golden body as a meat shield. "No one is innocent in this war," Mari retorted, clenching her teeth at past Mohatu's adversaries. As another one approached, she swatted him away.
"I've killed other lions too," Mari admitted. Seeing that none of the other warriors were ready to attack again, she quickly rubbed her head under Mohatu's mane. "I don't want you to die, and I don't want to die either," she continued, "so let's kill these guys and get outta here!"
"You don't want me to die too?" past Mohatu asked, with his voice sounding as if he was on the verge of tears. Normally, he would not have asked such a question, but it seemed to escape his mouth. Obviously, what he thought was not true, but his broken mind could not see the truth.
All the while, Mari lowered her head to dodge two simultaneous attacks from her enemies. "No!" she yelled softly. "I never said anything like that!"
Although he still felt incredibly remorseful, past Mohatu returned Mari's initial nuzzle, before showing his teeth again to his opponents.
For present Mohatu, that was all the evidence he needed. Mari really didn't want him to die. He had it in her very own words; no other proof was necessary.
Quite literally, she was the only lion to stand beside him. That thought warmed his heart a tiny bit, even if it was only for a second. Despite all the chaos that he had caused, Mari was strong enough to be able to pull through it all with a clean conscience. In a strange link from past to future, Mari bridged the gap with timeless, unconditional love.
Suddenly, past Mohatu stepped forward, until he was standing directly parallel to the lioness. He grinned at her deviously with a wink. "Let's do this."
"Alright," Mari smiled back, finally having convinced her companion that she hadn't just brought him into the desert to watch him die. "You get the one on the left, and I'll get the one on the right," she whispered.
"You got it," past Mohatu replied. With a second surge of energy, he ran forward and launched himself at the attacking lion in front of him. His opponent fell back into the ground, with the larger lion looking down on him. From there, past Mohatu's basic instincts took hold, and he killed another opponent while two more attempted to attack him.
All the action seemed to blur together, into one furious moment of terror. Past Mohatu neither felt any pain, nor did he feel the effects of his attacks. There was no battle, no fight, no deliberate action. It was only a swarm of instinct, nothing other than the flickering essence of survival in its purest form.
The same held true for Mari, as well, but to a lesser extent.
She allowed one of her adversaries to lunge at her. In a daring move, she ducked, and used her favorite technique to send her attacker tumbling into a side cliff of the valley. It had never failed her, not even once, and not even against the king.
As she waited for the next lion to attack, Mari positioned herself so that he would lunge forward into the previous attacker's body. Not to the lioness's surprise, her plan worked perfectly. While her opponents had strength in numbers, they did not have strength in intelligence.
Obviously, an intelligent lion wouldn't be loyal to the king, anyway.
But regardless, Leo was the most skilled warrior in all of Africa, and Mari had been learning from him ever since she was a cub, up until late adolescence. Together, as a team, they were a force to be reckoned with. It was apparent that none of their opponents could even begin to match them.
After Mari's careful maneuvering, only two lions remained in fighting condition, which Mari and past Mohatu managed to finish off quite easily, with various biting attacks.
Shortly after, a painful ring of silence filled the air surrounding the battleground. The numb sensation slowly caused Mohatu's conscious to finally slip back into reality.
"So," the lion stated dizzily, "I guess we won..."
As the dust settled and the blood of the bad lions finished spilling into the dirt, Mari rubbed her head under Mohatu's mane once again. "I'm sorry I put you through all of this, but you just need to trust me a little while longer... until we're safe."
"Okay, okay... I trust you. I've always trusted you," past Mohatu purred slightly, embracing the warm lioness's sudden display of affection. "I don't know what I was thinking."
Present Mohatu looked down at all that had happened, before his eyes returned back up to the sky. Now, he knew what he was going to do. He was going to trust Mari for just a little while longer... until he was safe.
Though Mohatu had originally tried not to remember that one night, he was now glad that he did. Perhaps Mari really did exist in some spiritual form, and perhaps that was her message. Even if it wasn't true, the thought brought him one thing he never thought he'd have again: hope.
All Mohatu needed was one little sign, and he had his sign. For now, that was good enough. He turned his tail around and set his sights toward a more comforting place. Maybe sometime he would jump to his death, but that time was not going to be tonight.
Tonight, Mohatu was going to do something different entirely. After hearing Mari's voice play back through his head, it was time for a new set of plans. Tonight was going to be a night of change. That meant no more waiting to die from dehydration; instead, Mohatu made his first steps toward the waterhole.
"Okay," Mohatu whispered. "I heard you. I won't jump. You want me to live, you want me to be safe, so I'll... I'll do that." Though it was just one small step for a feline, it marked the turning point of something far more spectacular. Starting with Rafiki at the waterhole, many more events were to be set in motion that night.
Rafiki was a baboon of disproportional eccentricities. Even Zuria had taken to calling him the "creepy monkey" on occasion, and with good reason. He was surely an odd creature. Sometimes proudly so, other times not so much.
As it so happened, now was one of those other times.
Usually, Rafiki did not worry about what to say. He either knew the correct way to express himself, or he just didn't care about what any lion thought. This was one of those times when neither held true. He had so much to say and so much to ask. It was of such high importance, he found himself feeling a little nervous. That feeling was a very strange thing coming from him, considering his usual demeanor.
But Rafiki knew what he knew, and even more importantly, he knew what he didn't know. It was never an easy thing to tactfully approach a suicidal lion, but to approach the very lion who held the destiny of the kingdom—now that was something of a much more grandiose scale. This wasn't just the stuff of legends; this was like mixing bleach and ammonia in a shell, and then setting the whole damn thing on fire.
One little slip-up, and Rafiki knew he'd probably be welcomed to a series of claws in his throat, and that was putting it very, very mildly. All things considered, if Mohatu was as mentally unstable as Zuria claimed, there was high doubt that any of this was going to be pretty. Having seen Mohatu walk away from the valley's edge with his own eyes, the baboon had every reason to remain careful.
With all of that in mind, Rafiki followed Mohatu and approached the drinking lion maintaining utmost caution. At the same time, he also tried to make it appear as though he wasn't trying to approach cautiously. His normal rhythmic hums and dances died the moment he set his foot on the ground, and in its place came a serious, genuine look of concern. His tail, however, moved with the usual strokes of silliness.
Mohatu, not surprisingly, kept his head low. Though he was feeling a little better now, he still had a long way to go before he'd ever feel normal again. His tongue was working several hundred times a minute, bringing in fresh gulps of water with each stroke upward. The water splashed up and rejuvenated Mohatu's entire face, but the greatest relief came from the cool moisture he desperately needed in his throat. After so long, it was quite the sensation.
So much so, in fact, that he didn't know or care that Rafiki was standing behind him.
"Mhm," Rafiki nodded. "Good water."
Even still, Mohatu didn't respond. He continued his gulps, each one as loud as a rambunctious little cub singing at the top of their lungs.
"This is my favorite place to urinate," the baboon grinned, jokingly of course. It was only a lighthearted gesture, but it was enough to catch Mohatu's attention. "Little wind, and only the finest water... for only a mandrill's finest pee."
Mohatu's ears shot backward, first. Then followed his eyes, which almost turned inside his head. Next came an onslaught of swash, as the water-saliva concoction in Mohatu's mouth came spraying back out. "You..." he growled, catching his breath at the end.
"Nooooooooo, hahahaha," Rafiki grinned. "I use the tree, like everyone else!"
Mohatu's response was another annoyed grunt. "Make up your mind."
"I have," Rafiki replied. He stepped forward with that, and brought the container of his weapon closer to Mohatu's nose. "The question is: have you made up yours?"
Well, there it was. Rafiki felt a wash of accomplishment as he steered the conversation in the right direction. Now, it was Mohatu's turn, and his response was critical for determining where to go next.
"About what?" Mohatu barked back. "I know better than to keep my toilet beside my waterhole. That's gross."
"Noooo," Rafiki replied. "I mean your responsibilities, silly!"
At that precise moment, something clicked in Leo's head. It all made sense to him; he knew what Rafiki wanted now, and it wasn't anything he liked to consider.
"Whoa, no, no, no, no no..." the lion snapped. His sudden change in attitude was most apparent. In the blink of an eye, he went from being slightly bitter to being outright defiant. "Don't tell me you're just here to make me go back—NO! I LOST. IT'S OVER. I'M DONE!"
"King Leo!" Rafiki addressed the lion with a scolding taste, like he was speaking to a disobedient child. This was the first time he had ever spoken to Mohatu in such a way, and he wasn't sure how effective the approach would be. Still, he had to give it a try. If Mohatu was going to be so hostile, Rafiki had to assert himself in kind. "You have a responsibility to make this right..."
"Oh, do I?" Leo retorted sarcastically. He didn't take too kindly to the thought, and he rejected it without any significant consideration. There was something Rafiki didn't understand—many things, actually. Rafiki didn't know a damn thing about being a king, or any of the responsibilities that entailed. He didn't know what happened with Mari, or what really transpired in that pyramid. Rafiki was a fool, sprouting his ignorance about like a trigger-happy nutcase.
"That's... no!" Mohatu asserted himself. He couldn't have made it any clearer: he did not want anything to do with the kingdom anymore. He was so hostile to the idea, he stuck his paws in the dirt like concrete pillars. "That's not going to happen. The only reason why I was ever even here is because of Mari... I'M DONE NOW."
"So you think..." the baboon insisted in his usual ways, albeit more sternly. The deliberate implantation of his weapon to the ground followed his fluid tail movements. "If you believe in what she fought for, then you will—"
"I don't want to hear it; don't try that crap on me," Mohatu spat. Now he was taking the accusative side, before the baboon ever had a chance to explain himself. "I have made up my mind, and I'm not going to do anything."
Rafiki's response at that moment was surprisingly simple. He distanced himself from his voice, so that his words had the weight to sink in. "Then everything you are and everything you've worked for is gone."
"And if you thought otherwise," Leo continued, "you're an idiot."
Of course it was all gone; Leo knew it no other way. The thought of believing otherwise was a step above baffling. Mohatu couldn't fathom it. Only a blockhead in the ripest stage of retardation would consider such a thing. Without question, having that blind taste of hope was the truly insane thought.
"I do think otherwise, and I am an idiot," Rafiki nodded simply.
Mohatu gave him the paw. "Just go. Don't waste your time on me."
In response, Rafiki stood still for a moment. He wasn't going to give up now—he could tell that he had hit a sensitive spot, which meant he was just now getting started. However, on the contrary, this probably wasn't the best time to defy Mohatu's wishes. All in all, it wasn't an easy situation for the baboon to be in. Far from it.
Fortunately for him, there was a slight interruption. The two were no longer alone; now the old king Algenubi had joined the verbal fray. Of course, he had a lot to say about this as well. "You know, Leo," he abruptly chimed in, "your stupidity continues to amaze me. For once the monkey is actually right about something, and you don't even listen. A pity, really."
Mohatu looked up to the ghost in the night sky. "What...?"
"Okay, okay," Algenubi calmed himself, but only briefly. "I'll spell it out for you. Your own foolishness almost gets you killed, but instead of correcting your mistake, what do you do? You run off!" His ghostly form lunged through the sky, striking up lights and thunder with rapid releases of energy. "You run and hide in the desert... thinking that's gonna bring your little girl back. What a joke, really..."
Algenubi covered his face with his paw. "Oh dear. Please tell me this is a joke..."
Rafiki shook his head. Knowing the condition Mohatu was in, he knew this wasn't going to end in any vicinity of well. Mohatu, meanwhile, stood dumbfounded by the personal attack Algenubi had made.
Algenubi's ghost cocked his head to the side. He then set his front paws down on a nighttime cloud and crossed his hindlegs. "What is it, Leo... why is this such a shock to you? Have you never heard of the circle of life? Do you not understand the very laws of the universe, those which you are currently bound to?"
"I understand completely," Mohatu insisted. "She's gone forever, and it's all because of you! I know what you did... it's you and your kind! You caused all of this!"
The ghost picked his teeth. "So you don't know. As I said, what a pity."
"You've ruined everything," Leo spat. He looked back at the very beginning of his memories, before he and Mari had ever gotten involved in the whole expedition. He knew it all began because of Algenubi, and placing the blame on someone other than himself was strikingly easy to do. It was Algenubi's fault that Mari had died, and his fault that they couldn't live a peaceful life together.
"How so?" Algenubi backed up. "In what way?"
"You brought us here to die!"
"Only according to your own limited understanding," the ancient king explained. "I have led you on the right path, even up to this point. Yet, you continue to follow your own selfish desires, and instead battle me at every turn. It is your shortsightedness that has led you to this position, not mine."
"You haven't helped a bit!" Leo retorted.
Algenubi inhaled a deep breath. "And that's where you're wrong. So wrong, so very wrong. You would not be here, if it was not for my divine influence."
"Exactly," Leo actually agreed, though not thankfully so. That said, he still spoke with a certain, unmasked hatred for the ghost. "I'd still be with Mari."
"Right..." Algenubi murmured with distaste. "Color me the bad guy, I see. You don't understand my intentions, therefore I'm evil. Alright. Would it kill you to set your biases aside for a single moment, and presuppose—even incorrectly, if you so believe—that I am, in fact, trying to help you? This unfounded hostility you perceive is the result of your own actions, not mine. Should you have the capacity to comprehend it, you'd so see the truth already."
Mohatu flattened his brow and lowered his ears.
The ghost of the old king scowled. "Let me ask you. Do you even understand why I am here? Do you understand even the smallest nature of the prophecy? Have you learned nothing about the laws and traditions that have governed us for millennia? You should know we are by no means the evil, lawless beings of pure hatred that you choose to believe we are. Wake the hell up! Open your eyes, and see the truth!
"The truth," Algenubi continued, "We seek only knowledge, power, and the overall betterment of ourselves. These are all things we rightfully strive for through our own determination and willpower. In what way is becoming a better, stronger lion ever a bad thing? To dismiss such ideas as evil is to dismiss the entire notion of evolution and adaption. It is to deny yourself strength... which is precisely what you've chosen to do."
"I'm not listening to your lies," Mohatu whined.
"Such stubbornness, I see. What malicious intent do you suppose I have? It was never my intention to bring you to your so certain demise—oh, no, that was not why I intervened. I... we, collectively, have nothing to gain from an unfair competition. What you misunderstand at this very moment is exactly the thing you were supposed to gather weeks ago."
Algenubi paused before he continued his lecture, taking note of Mohatu's confuzzled gaze. "This isn't complicated. If you would take the time to consider why I brought you here, you might actually learn something. You were once very knowledgeable on a respectable number of things, but it has since been lost on you. This was your chance to regain your lost knowledge. Your old library was sitting right in front of your face, and you still didn't get it!"
Leo blinked. For a moment, something almost did sink into his head. Was he not supposed to fight Rex? Was he not supposed to make that one critical move? If he was only at Giza for knowledge, then that meant he did slip out of line. Mohatu could barely swallow the thought—that meant this was his fault.
Leo covered himself. "Then what was I supposed to learn?" he growled, but his voice almost turned into a whine.
"Our culture, our traditions, and your place among us," Algenubi answered. "You were supposed to uncover the prophecy and understand your precise role in the events to come. You were supposed to find all that which Mari took from you, and regain that strength you once held. But you... you... learned... NOTHING! I have tolerated you in the past, but this is unbearable!"
"I have learned all of that," Mohatu argued. "Everyone hates me and wants me dead... even you. Don't think for a minute that I haven't found my place, because I have. That place is nowhere but the bottom pit of hell... dead, where I belong."
Algenubi groaned. "Must you be so overly dramatic?"
"It's true, all true," Mohatu admitted.
"No, it's not, you incompetent imbecile. If you knew your place, you would know what you need to do," Algenubi professed. "You're getting stuck on this one little tiny part of the circle of life, instead of allowing it to run its course. You're fighting against the inevitable, and that is a losing battle. Not even an unstoppable force can counter the nature of an immobile object."
"Every being, every creature that has ever existed on this Earth has two main objectives: to kill, and to reproduce. This is what we strive for, this is what we live for... this is why we exist. It is the ultimate truth... you cannot counter this. All of what we call life is killing and copulation. We kill so we can copulate, and we copulate so we can kill. It's a continuous, self feeding cycle: the circle of life."
Algenubi grinned, noticing now that Mohatu was a little more willing to pay attention. "There are, of course, exceptions... like for creatures where the killing and the mating intertwine. In those instances, it's more like one big bang of life—everything else suddenly doesn't matter."
The old king raised his paw. "Except, the problem in those cases is that it's still an early concept that's under development. Right now, it's at a stage where one of the mates is offed after they're finished with the process. It's all a bit misguided and not very productive for both sides. Some spiders are really stubborn about not changing it for the better, but hopefully we'll be getting somewhere in the next few thousands of years."
"That is wrong; do not listen to him!" Rafiki warned. He finally yelled loud enough so that he could chime in over the ghost's overbearing voice, although he still wondered if his words would even be considered by Mohatu.
"Shut up!" Algenubi demanded. "You know nothing, monkey!"
"At least my head is not in the clouds. Haha!"
"UGH!" Mohatu groaned. "BOTH OF YOU! LEAVE!"
"Not yet, I'm not done here," Algenubi insisted. "What you need to realize, Leo, is that you must go beyond the circle of life. To reach transcendence, you must accept it, but not let it bind you in pity. You spend too much time chasing after females, and too much time dwelling on the consequences of death. If you are ever to fulfill your place, it is imperative that you see beyond this... and instead see the truth.
"Everything you see, everything you know and love... is just a grain of sand in the desert. Mari is just one lioness—she marks just one point in all of existence. Life, life itself, is much more broad than any one being. Life itself is not bound by the constraints of time or emotion... it is vast and endless. Right now, you too are but a grain of sand... but you have the potential to be so much more. You can expand beyond that, but you first have to let yourself."
"It is you, Leo, in the way of yourself. You have an entire desert before you, but you sickeningly cling to the one grain of sand you know. You refuse to see anything else; you cling to your falsified dogmatism... you refuse to open your mind... and you deliberately reject every rational thought you have!"
Mohatu couldn't hold in his tears. He covered his eye with his paw, and tried to mute the sounds of Algenubi's voice from his brain. The ghost made his love seem so small and meaningless, and he felt the one thing that mattered to him shatter from the words.
"Does this make sense to you?" Algenubi asked with heavy condescension. "Do you get it now, or does Rex need to smack you around again?"
"It doesn't matter," Mohatu cried. "I don't care. I never wanted any of this. I'M DONE! NOW GO AWAY!"
"Pity," Algenubi spat bitterly. "It's a shame you listen to neither truth nor reason. When the lioness you so worship realizes the mistake you're making, you're going to have so much to explain." As his form started to fade, his grin only became more noticeable. "Good luck with that, fool. You're a sorry excuse for a king."
With the voice of the ancient gone and only a shallow breeze at the waterhole remaining, Leo turned himself around and hid his face from the baboon. After all this, he wanted nothing more than to cry. It was a lot to take in, but the only part that really passed through Mohatu's fur was the way he felt insulted.
Sure, the ancient kings were hardly all that nice to Mohatu, but he had never seen Algenubi so furious and agitated. Leo felt as though he had just been disowned—by Mari, Rafiki, and even more so his ancestors. He didn't know or understand what was going on; all he knew now was that he was hurt. He already wished to leave the world behind, but leaving wasn't enough. At this point, nothing could fix his spirit, not even death.
Irked and tormented, the lion wept. He didn't make a sound, and he didn't show his face to anyone—though his defeated posture was unmistakable from any angle.
Rafiki, however, had learned a lot from the conversation. It wasn't the first time he had seen a ghost, but Mohatu's reaction told him everything he needed to know. As he had deduced, this was all about Mari. Mohatu was struggling to deal with the loss, and that was why he was acting so irregularly. It made sense now, at least for the most part.
In many ways, Rafiki didn't necessarily disagree with what the ghost had said. Much of what Algenubi attempted to explain had a grain of truth to it; there were just a few little things that Rafiki understood differently.
First and foremost, the baboon had a different conception of the circle of life. This alternative view gave Rafiki an idea, and he now knew how he could help Mohatu out of his situation... provided the lion was willing to listen.
"Mohatu..." Rafiki called.
The lion didn't move. He sniffed, but he refused to answer. The last thing he wanted was to talk to anyone right now. He wanted little more than his own death, and that was final.
"I understand now," Rafiki continued warmly.
This did not stop Leo from crying. In reality, it hardly changed a thing. Mohatu wasn't willing to listen, and he wasn't willing to let Rafiki see his distorted and tear-stained face.
The baboon drew closer, despite his best judgement otherwise. After a long and rather awkward pause, he tapped Mohatu on the shoulder. "Mari would like to speak to you," Rafiki said.
Mohatu remained still as a rock. "It's not true," he whined.
"Nooooooooo," answered Rafiki. "It is true. Follow me, and I will show you."
"To where?" Mohatu demanded to know. He blinked his eyes this time, now twitching his tail slightly with a hint of interest.
"You follow, you see."
Rafiki lead a weary-eyed Mohatu through the inner corridors of the great pyramid. Each step for the lion was long and arduous, like he was making his way ever closer to the bottom of an abyss. The daunting torchlights on both sides of the passageway would normally have served to light the way, but now all they seemed to do was drain his energy.
Everything drained Mohatu's energy, to be perfectly honest. He had nothing left to live for, and no energy left to bother dealing with even the smallest of life's shenanigans. It was by nature of a miracle alone that he was even able to follow the baboon, against even his strongest wills to return to the chasm and plummet to his death.
Yet, that said, it was true that Leo had picked up on part of Rafiki's sudden confidence. This led to another brew of questions in the lion's head—questions that would only be answered in due time.
"The circle of life is not a flawed idea," Rafiki explained as he walked. "There is a certain perceivable truth to it, but that truth is not what the kings would have you believe. It is an idea correct in principle, but flawed in presentation."
Despite the baboon's ramblings, Mohatu remained quiet as he followed. He was, more or less, lost in his own head. Holding any sort of discussion about such a strange matter was not possible. He merely bit his tongue and nodded during the pause.
Rafiki stopped in the middle of the passageway. At that point, he rested upon his stick and waited for Mohatu's slow tail to catch up. With a friendly gaze, he invited Mohatu to sit with his other hand. "Look there," he whispered. "What do you see?"
Mohatu sighed. He wasn't necessarily willing to play along, but he did so anyway. "It's just a wall..."
"The light," Rafiki answered. "You see the light."
"Raise your paw to it," Rafiki said. "You can comprehend the light. It is physical. It, for certain, exists. It is a body you can touch and see. It has color, figure, size, sound, taste... these things define the light. You know it is a light because it possesses these exact qualities, these qualities you know and recognize as being the qualities of a light."
The light emitted a small amount of heat, which caused Mohatu's pawpad to tingle. He consequently retreated, and shifted his focus back to Rafiki.
"Your paw is hot, yes?" Rafiki asked.
"Good," Rafiki nodded. "Now..." he began again, as he set his hands against the stone wall of the corridor. He wrapped his fingers around a wire running lengthwise down the walkway, and used his strength to pull the wire from the wall. The force of tension caused it to snap, and with a short buzz, the copper wire split in two.
Consequently, every light in the passageway went to black. Everything grew darker than night, and this darkness persisted for several seconds before Mohatu finally said something. "What did you do that for?" he asked.
"Simple. Look at the light," Rafiki said. "Where did it go?"
This question left Mohatu genuinely confused for a second. Sure, he would have been crazy to say that the light went somewhere, as it was obviously still the same light. It was just that something about the light changed, and he could no longer call it a light. "It umm..."
Rafiki interrupted Mohatu's train of thought. "It cannot still be there. The light was bright, hot. It emitted a faint aroma of burning metal. Touch it, feel it, perceive it. It is no longer the same light. The light does not possibly remain. It is gone."
"Because you changed it," Mohatu added. "You pulled that thing out, and now it's just a hunk of metal."
"Exactly," Rafiki now smiled. "The light was just an arrangement. Changing the arrangement, I made it anew. It existed in a state of metal and energy. Neither the metal nor energy disappeared, it only changed."
Rafiki rejoined the two ends of the wire, and with a spark, the rows of electric torches ignited once more. "So you see?" he asked as he leaned against the wall. "The light remains, but the arrangement of the light changes—on or off."
"On now," Rafiki continued. He then pulled the ends apart, and cut the flow of electricity to the lights. "Off now." Again, he repeated the process. "On, off. On, off. On—"
"Stop that," Mohatu flattened his ears.
By Mohatu's wish, the baboon complied. "So you see, the light comes from a power source deep below us. It is water. The water flows. This releases energy, and this energy is applied to the metal through the wire. If it is connected, the energy heats the metal and creates the light. Without the energy to draw from, there is no light."
Mohatu listened slightly, but regardless, he wasn't at his most attentive state.
"What about your paw?" Rafiki asked. "Is it still hot?"
Mohatu lifted his paw a little before he answered. The question woke him slightly. "Yeah, a little..."
"When you neared the light, the energy within transferred to your paw. When you placed your paw back on the ground, the energy left your paw and dissipated to the ground... where it is now being reincarnated with the flow of water. It is all connected, in a cycle... a circle."
"Yeah," Mohatu agreed cautiously. "But what does this have to do with Mari?"
"Nothing is gone. Nothing is destroyed. There is only change," Rafiki explained.
Mohatu, however, remained skeptical. As much as he wanted to believe that Mari wasn't really gone, that was the irrefutable truth. He saw her die... he saw what remained of her body buried beneath the sand. It was an awful, traumatic image he could never forget.
"You see," Rafiki added, "when you dig a hole in the sand, you create a mound. The sand doesn't change... its arrangement does. You and I are arrangements, too. Mari's arrangement may be gone, but she herself is still alive, everywhere, even inside us. Her energy cannot be destroyed. Mari will always be with us."
"But she's dead!" Mohatu almost started to cry again. "She's in the ground... gone!"
"When we die, our bodies become the grass," explained the baboon. "All living creatures rely on the grass for survival... from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope. The antelope eat the grass. You eat the antelope. You feed from that energy, and you too will someday provide the energy for the cycle to continue."
"I thought you said Mari wanted to talk to me...?" Mohatu whined. The disappointment in his voice was so apparent, he was hardly even paying attention to anything else.
"She does," Rafiki nodded. "Mari is everywhere. She is the grass, the sand, the sky, the water, the clouds, the light, the wall, and the air you breathe. She is all around you... she has merely changed arrangement. You only have to open your senses, and you will find her all around you."
Rafiki shifted his weight from the wall and stepped closer to Mohatu. He made a fist with his free hand, and tapped underneath Mohatu's chest with it. "She is in there, too."
Mohatu's neck bent backward a little. He felt a shiver inside his gut, like there may have been a bit of truth to what the baboon was saying. "She lives... in... me?"
"Yes," Rafiki answered. "You feel pain right there, yes? You miss her?"
Leo closed his eyes. "So much..."
"You think something is in there, yes?" asked the baboon. "Something heavy, cold, painful..."
"Yeah... I feel like I ate a pile of rocks," Mohatu winced. "I thought it would go away, but it won't."
"Something is there," Rafiki repeated himself. "Something that was not there before. That is proof she has not gone... she has only changed arrangements. You do not recognize her as you do not recognize the light when it is off—but it is still the light, and still the same Mari."
"I don't like her like this," Mohatu groaned.
"Then breathe," Rafiki replied. "Slow. In through the mouth, then out through the nose. You are tense. Relax... close your eyes... think of flowing water. Feel the tension release in your paws. You are getting calmer..."
Mohatu did as he was told, though he had some minor doubts about how this whole meditation and relaxing thing was going to work.
Meanwhile, Rafiki continued with his business. "Concentrate on your breathing. You are relaxed... very very relaxed. You can feel the sun on your fur. The grass beneath your paws is a vibrant green, and you smell a freshness in the air. It is spring. The birds are chirping as they gracefully glide across the sky. The zebra gallop freely across the landscape. The trees sway gently in the wind, and cast their soft shadows on the ground below."
"This isn't working," Mohatu sighed. "I still feel heavy..."
"Let it go," the baboon nudged Mohatu gently. He stroked his hand through the lion's mane, combing it without applying any pressure. "Feel the weight inside you... and drop it. Release it. Externalize it."
"How do I do that?" he asked.
"Imagine you are rolling over. You now have your back against the warm grass... and you are looking up at the clouds. The weight you feel is not cold. It is getting warmer. It is taking shape. You feel something on top of you, something heavy. It is not pain. It is living, breathing, soft..."
Mohatu glanced up at the weight above him. He could feel something pressing against him, no doubt about that. Yet, it had no form. It felt as though the weight was coming from some undefined mass inside his heart, not something definite pressing down from above.
Yet, the pressure tingled a little. It shifted, in and out slightly. Its rhythm formed a pattern, like the breathing of an animal. It went up and down with its intensity, and the predictability became increasingly apparent as time passed. A certain warmth continued from there, and with it came a purr that was not Leo's own.
The first objects to appear were the whiskers. Between them formed a muzzle, and above that, a pair of eyes identical to Mari's. The object formed a lioness's head, and the head rested right above Mohatu's heart. It was soft, warm, and breathing—very much alive.
At once, Mohatu found himself beneath a jolt of excitement. He closed all his limbs inward, and hugged the lioness with all his strength. He was so happy he felt his entire body squirm with warmth, and the object he enclosed within himself embraced the hug.
"MARI!" Mohatu yelled ecstatically.
She smiled in response, almost laughing. "Hey... that's alright, now don't squish me! Yeah, I missed you too... but sheesh! Take it easy with those hugs, or else you're gonna break me in half... again!"
A tear dropped from Mohatu's eye. "You're actually... alive... and... talking to me..."
"Of course," Mari leaned back and placed her paws up on Mohatu's mane. She kneaded at his fur slightly, trying to make herself comfortable. "There is nothing," Mari asserted herself, "I promise, nothing will ever tear us apart."
The image faded just as quickly as it formed. The entire interaction was as brief as it was intense. It was like Mohatu had just been transported to an alternate universe somewhere, his mind now far more open and free than it was just moments prior. What he saw seemed so vivid, so lifelike, he struggled not to interpret it as an instance of reality.
Mohatu opened his eyes, and his senses suddenly went blank. He found himself back where he was, with Rafiki right beside him.
"You saw her?" Rafiki asked.
The lion's breathing returned to normal from its slow state. He was a little jumpy now, and after seeing Mari, he was more than willing to listen to everything Rafiki had to offer. "Yeah... what happened? Was that really her?"
The baboon nodded. "Her remaining essence is preserved inside you, like the heat in your paw after you touched the light. Mari is everywhere, all around us. Whenever you wish to speak with her, you must only calm yourself and focus your thoughts on her. You will see her, and she will speak to you."
As crazy as it seemed, the thought did make sense. That explained why he thought he had seen Mari as a ghost, and it also explained why he had such vivid memories of her. "I..." Mohatu began, a little embarrassed to admit this at first. "I saw her before. I think she has been trying to talk to me. I've just been ignoring her... I don't know if I'm crazy, or..."
"Come," Rafiki gestured with his empty hand. He continued his walk down the passage, heading for the pyramid's ancient library. "That is good," he added. "You have a strong link to your inner spirit, it seems. You will find... in time, communicating with her will be easier. This will help you make peace from the grief."
"Okay..." Mohatu followed along, albeit somewhat slowly.
"I have more for you to see," continued Rafiki. "I know what the ghost was referring to."
Again, another change of attitude followed from Mohatu's end. "So you're with them?" he accused.
"No," Rafiki answered without hesitation. "You may consider me a neutral bystander. I have seen both sides of this conflict, watched every event unfold. I uncovered the prophecy as you did, so long ago. I saw... I knew..."
Mohatu's ears perked forward. He wasn't sure what to think, or whether or not he could even believe the strange creature—but he remained curious, nevertheless.
"Do you know what the prophecy actually says?" Rafiki asked.
"I don't know, and I don't care," Mohatu quickly replied. "I've put all that behind me; I'm not the same lion I used to be."
"That's what you think. But the prophet is the lion to resurrect the kingdom beyond its former glory," the baboon explained. He spoke slowly but clearly, almost causing Mohatu to shiver as the words entered his ears.
"Not me," Mohatu insisted.
"Once, there was a lion who was so sure of himself. He believed with absolute certainty that he and he alone was destined for that very greatness. He amassed a pride of lions greater than anyone had ever seen, and with one savage strike, he brought his nemesis, Musashi, to her death. So proud of himself, he was... and so sure of his capabilities, he gathered the attention of an ancient race of lions.
"Instead of returning home, the lion and his younger brother followed their ancestor's guidance. Together they found Giza, discovered the prophecy, and established their new kingdom. Months passed, and the kingdom grew. Their territories expanded, and their influence became impeccable. Strong they were, yes, but fate proved the king's one critical fault—"
"I know how this ends..." Mohatu sighed, slightly frustrated.
"His fault was his overconfidence," Rafiki explained. "Like the ancient kings before him, Leo refused to acknowledge his vulnerability. He did not think himself fallible, as he had never truly experienced a challenge. He knew no humility."
"Leo failed because he was never the prophet," Mohatu retorted.
"Exactly," Rafiki agreed. "Leo wasn't. You are."
"No, I'm not." It wasn't a very strong argument, but it was all Mohatu could think to say until he caught his breath. "That's not me. Mari would kill me if I ever became the king, and I wouldn't want to live like that. Don't give me this destiny garbage... it's up to me to decide how to live my life, and that's not what I choose. I'm done with this kingdom business... I just want to live a life like any other lion!"
"I think you will find that is not what Mari wanted for you."
"Really?" Mohatu jumped. "Whoa... no! What did you ever know about her?"
Rafiki had to think for a moment, before he could give an answer. In fact, Mohatu was right in thinking that Rafiki didn't have much to back up such a statement. It was true that he didn't know the lioness very well. That said, there were a few key points that made him think what he proclaimed to know. "I saw her fight for you," Rafiki answered. "I know she trusted you..."
At the library's entrance, Rafiki stopped and planted his weapon into the floor. He leaned against it, gathering his thoughts before he said something that he imagined would be profound. "Mohatu...?" Rafiki asked slowly, waiting for the lion's full attention.
Mohatu stopped, and gazed uncomfortably at the baboon in the center of the passageway.
"These are hard times... not just for you, but for everyone around you. We live in an era of war and violence. The kingdom's rebirth was a response to this, but it has done no better. One lion is capable of fixing this, and Mari believed that lion was you."
"Sorry," Mohatu scowled, "but it's not." With that, he turned around and proceeded to leave. He did not want to listen to any more of Rafiki's senseless attempts at persuasion. Mohatu made his decision long ago, and that was final.
"Wait, wait, wait!" the baboon yelled.
Mohatu paused. "What...?" His patience had been wearing thin for hours, but yet he still unable to free himself from the baboon.
"There is still something I have to show you," Rafiki continued. "In here..."
Mohatu followed, but more so out of compliance rather than any actual interest. He was almost sure that he would not like what he was about to find, yet something inside him also begged him to figure out what that thing was. It was typical behavior for a feline, really.
"This is the library," Rafiki announced. He lifted his hand up, gesturing to the many rows and shelves of books. "In here you will find many things, some of which as old as these pyramids themselves."
Mohatu's eyes widened ever so slightly. He walked into the room, only a little impressed by what he saw. "I've seen this all before..."
"Something I found may be of interest to you," Rafiki continued. "Over here."
Rafiki bent down and picked up a thin sheet of a rock-like substance. As he removed it from the shelf, he placed it in plain view for Mohatu to read. "Can you read it?" he asked.
Our civilization is built around four simple principles. These are the four pillars of strength, and understanding each is the key to achieving greatness:
1. There is no universal truth in the circle of life, only within ourselves. Truth is synthetic; it is the artificial product of life.
2. There is no authority, only ourselves. We are not significant without first proving our superiority through our own power. Power is acquired only through knowledge and skill. Without proving superiority, victory is meaningless; it is superficial.
3. There are no Gods, only ourselves. We decide what is important, and what we must do. Whether we live or die is our own decision to face, and we all have the ability to face it ourselves.
4. The strong survive, the weak die. This is the circle of life, and all is permitted.
"I've read this before," Mohatu sighed. "Minerva showed me..."
"But do you agree with it?" Rafiki asked, pointing a finger at Mohatu's nose.
"You must examine this philosophy for what it is," the baboon continued. "The kingdom is structured so that the strongest leads... and the strongest must prove superior. If you go back to prove yourself the king, your kingdom will follow your lead."
"That's not true," Mohatu whined. "Everyone hates me..."
"Noooooo," Rafiki insisted. "The kingdom has no loyalty. None. Defeat Rex, and you become the king. Become the king, and you can change these rules... you can change history."
"But it's not what Mari would want!" Mohatu argued. "She wouldn't want me to become the king... she wouldn't want me to die for this stupid cause! Why can't I just forget about this and be happy with her... or whatever is left of her?"
"Because that is not what she wants."
"I don't want to fight anymore! I don't want to die like she did! I'M DONE!" Mohatu insisted.
Much to Rafiki's misfortune, there was little more he could say. Though he needed to show Mohatu his capabilities, he had no such way to do so. Mohatu was likely the prophet, and he was likely able to defeat Rex—this, Rafiki knew. Yet, for some reason, Mohatu couldn't see his own potential.
The baboon sighed. He lowered his shoulders, and with that expression of defeat, he gave up. There was nothing more he could do, at least not at that moment. "Mohatu..." he said as he gave a final bow, "I don't hate you, Mari doesn't hate you, and no one else hates you. I want to see you succeed, and I hope that someday, you can be the hero that we all have hoped for."
Mohatu closed his eyes, and again, almost started to cry. "I'm not good enough..."
Rafiki approached Mohatu, and carefully wrapped his arms around the lion's mane. He pulled the feline into a much-needed hug, which erased a great deal of tension after all the senseless arguments between the two.
"It is late; I need to head back to my tree," the baboon said. "You should get some rest. I will be back tomorrow."
"Yeah," Mohatu whispered with his crying voice. "Okay, I'll see you in the morning."
For some reason, the greeting hurt Leo a little more than he thought it would. It reminded him of the way he would always tell Mari goodnight, and the way they always parted on friendly terms. Things sure did change, and it felt weird and unnatural talking to anyone else so late at night.
As the baboon left, things went from bad to worse. Mohatu's loneliness gripped him tight, and he really struggled to make himself tired. He was a victim to his pain once again. There was no way he could sleep in such a state of mind.
After a bit of hesitation, Mohatu gazed back over at the books on the shelves. One in particular was already open, and sitting with its pages out in plain view. It looked as though someone was keeping it there for a reason, like the page was left open like that intentionally.
Despite the lump in his stomach, Mohatu walked over and gathered a look at that open page. What first caught his attention was a detailed sketch of something that looked like a lion, but had a very weird facial structure and fur texture. As his eyes came into focus, Leo struggled to figure out what the image was supposed to be rendering. As a result, he began to read the text below it. Yet again, his curiosity got the best him.
Section 32: Tigers
The tiger (figure 32.1) is bigger, stronger, and more powerful than even the best leonine warrior. In northern India, our mortality rates against the Yong dynasty are as high as 98%. Other regions have reported similar losses. Across all territories owned by the kingdom, the kill to death ratio is as low as 1:12 for knights, and as low as 1:255 for those less experienced. As such, even with proper training, these beasts pose a challenge that only the most revered lions can overcome.
The stats are a slaughterhouse of mind-bending numbers, but it all comes down to the result of three factors: stealth tactics, greater strength, and higher survivability. As tigers are very similar to us anatomically, these advantages make combat exceptionally difficult. Killing a tiger is the ultimate victory for any lion, and any such action marks the pinnacle of a warrior's proficiency. It is a feat that requires an expert's level of skill and a lifetime of preparation.
Despite their lack of manes, tigers have the ability to take significant punishment, and still be able to dish it out. Their survivability is incredible, which makes one-on-one combat significantly more challenging for the lion. But even that advantage does not account for their tremendous successes against us. A greater part of the tiger's striking victories in many key battles is the result of the tactics they employ against us.
The tiger's advantage in strength is most frightening when coupled with their bipedal fighting stance. Whereas a common lion's natural fighting style revolves around the use of a single paw for attacks, tigers naturally fight with two paws (figure 32.2). They are able to stand strong on their hind legs, making their critical zones harder to hit while also leveraging twice the strikes. As a result, turnfighting is the only viable tactic. Even still, this requires a high level of experience with the dual-paw form.
Like a charging rhino, the tiger is an energy fighter. They rely on stealth and momentum to make their kills—if spotted, they will likely not attack. Their doctrine requires them to be sneaky, lethal, and precise. They will attack when you least expect it, and give you no hope of survival. The energy they gain from their initial ambush is always used to make the one lethal move. Often, there is no fight, only a sudden death.
Countering these creatures requires a high level of awareness, and at the minimum, another lion to provide combat support. The only way to effectively battle a tiger is to have strength in numbers. Due to the increased speed and agility, the lioness is able to counter the tiger a little more effectively, but numbers are still needed to overcome the relative lack of strength. For male lions, there is no possible advantage over a tiger in a one-on-one fight, making the situation all the more difficult.
Running from a tiger is often the best choice. As larger, heaver cats, tigers are not able to match our speeds. Tigers are easy to spot with their bright orange coats and dark black stripes, and since running is a viable tactic, battles can be manipulated so that a tiger is not engaged on unfavorable terms. Consider the formation shown in figure 32.3, this illustrates the "hammer and anvil" method for countering tiger attacks. A small, agile female is in position A, to lure the tiger into a trap set by lions B, C, and D...
By this time, Mohatu's eyes had cleared up again. He wasn't on the verge of crying anymore, despite the fact that he still felt incredibly sad.
Leo licked his paw, and almost considered turning the page. Sure, trying to read such ancient text was no easy task, but he was finding it to be at least a little interesting. Never before would Leo have thought that such a cat existed—especially a cat larger and stronger than his own kind. The notion of a large, orange creature with black stripes seemed almost laughably fictitious.
Could it really be? Was there a cat so strong, that it could even give a leonine warrior a hard time? This seemed incredible, impossible even. Mohatu always imagined that he was at the top of the food chain, but he now questioned it. Perhaps it was true that he wasn't. That ancient text sure suggested otherwise.
Mohatu released a strong yawn before he turned away from the page. Alright, so perhaps he was a little tired. Reading had hurt his eyes, so he was now ready to relax his ocular muscles and keep his eyelids closed. He turned away from the book, and walked a little way into the center of the room, where he stretched himself out over the library's floor.
As he started to feel that heavy mass in his chest, Mohatu cuddled his paw around his heart. He pretended Mari was with him, and spoke to her as though she actually was.
"Heh..." he sighed. "If only we were tigers..."
Though he seemed ridiculous considering the thought, it actually made him smile a little. "If you could come back to life as one of those, and help me kick Minerva's ass... that would be the greatest thing ever."
On that notion, Mohatu rolled to his other side and set his head down on his tail. "Goodnight, Mari. No matter what form you decide to take, I'll still love you."