Chapter 11: Crushed Dreams

It was all these lined people who had made the buzz he had heard. The line seemed endless as Darius went toward the receptionist’s desk. The people in the lines eyed him suspiciously as he walked by, but Darius didn’t care much. He had more important business to attend to.

Every few meters or so were larger gaps between the scroll cubbies where marble statues adorned in armor and brandishing large swords towered, watching over the lines.

“What’s with these people and all the statues?” Darius wondered as he walked through the sea of people.

Ding!

A loud noise echoed throughout the crowded hall. Everyone became quiet as the hum and chatter of people droning on subsided. This happened so suddenly that Darius heard his own footsteps as he walked through the hall, drawing everyone’s attention.

He stopped and stilled like one of the statues. The people crowding the hall lost interest and looked ahead where the sound rang from.

Although Darius hadn’t noticed this, it had taken him almost two hours to get this far into the crowd. Only now could he see a large wooden desk with eight specks sitting around it.

From there, a loud, crisp voice said, “Attention all applicants, we will process your requests now.”

“Finally,” Darius muttered as he ran to the front desk. All eyes were on him as looks of disgust were thrown his way. Several scoffs could be heard from deep inside the lines.

The clerks at the front desk watched Darius with cold, uncaring faces. Subconsciously, Darius felt their scorn for him, his manner, his clothing, but he brushed it aside and bit the bullet: he had waited too long for this. Consciously, Darius wasn’t quite sure what they were thinking or feeling, but he wouldn’t be surprised if they were void of all emotions with the way their cold, calculating eyes never revealed a thing.

“I’m here to apply. My name is Darius O-“

“Save it. Whoever you are, if you want to apply, you’ll have to wait in line like everyone else. And you are not a someone,” one of the older clerks spoke. His calm face crumbling and betraying him, allowing Darius to recognize hints of disgust and annoyance.

It was also then that it dawned on Darius that everyone there had come to vie for one of the few Spiritsmith spots.

“This must have been why prince Lionel thought I would change my mind once I came here.” Darius thought as he scanned the long lines that stretched on forever into the white horizon. The hall was so large that he couldn’t even see the other end.

“One in ten thousand, huh?” He sighed as he looked over them all. Even Darius had to admit that they looked far more skilled and qualified than he was. Clearly, Lionel had known all along what it would be like and had wanted Darius to see it for himself before accepting the prince’s offer. Right now, Lionel’s deal looked better than ever.

As Darius stood, dumbstruck, and contemplated his next actions, the clerk in front of him ran out of patience.

They all eyed him as if scared he was about to steal something. As far as they were concerned, someone like him could never be a Spiritsmith. It would be a complete disgrace to the noblest of professions.

Finally, the oldest clerk who Darius had just talked to had had enough. Standing up he said, quite frankly, “Young man, whoever you are, I’m giving you some advice. Leave this place immediately.”

Darius said nothing as he looked at the clerks, disdain plainly written on their faces.

“It’s obvious you don’t belong here, boy. Someone like you isn’t worthy of even stepping foot in here. Go back to whatever s***-stained hell-hole your kind crawls out of and never show your face here again.”

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Darius was crushed. He felt as though he were breaking. “You didn’t even-“

“Didn’t even what, boy? Hmm?” The clerk cut Darius off before he finished his sentence. “We didn’t even give you a chance? Look around you, boy! Most of these applicants are from noble families! Even noble families will send their own heirs to vie for the mere chance to gain the honor of becoming Spiritsmiths, and you actually expected us to choose you over them?” The clerk snorted.

“I-I am noble.” Darius whimpered, remembering what Lionel had said the previous night.

“Please, you’re not fooling anyone, boy. In fact, quite frankly, you’re testing my patience. Do you think we haven’t seen this before? Another backwater hillbilly who thought he could just walk right in, desecrating these sacred halls, and have a chance?”

Darius didn’t know what to say, he lowered his head in shame.

“You know what, boy? I’ll indulge you.” The clerk brought out a machine with two metal cylinders connected to it by various wires. “This detects your natural affinity to spirits. Go on, boy. Hold the cans.”

Darius wearily picked them up, already knowing what the results would be. As he gripped them, the clerk watched a dial connected to the cylinders. The dial barely twitched before stopping. The clerk’s satisfaction with the result was obvious as his wrinkled face broke out into a smug grin.

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“I knew it. I knew from the moment you walked in here that you were nothing but garbage. How did you even expect to become a smith with such a low affinity to spiritual essence? Pathetic!”

*Editor’s note*

Wow, this chapter made me feel like college apps.

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