“I’m such a coward…”
He jumped out of the bed, feeling as fatigued as before he had fallen asleep. Darius decided to shower.
Returning, he found a black uniform and boots waiting along with a letter instructing him to put them on and eat while waiting for further instructions. He did so and waited until about eleven AM when Darius heard people walking outside.
Curiosity getting the better of him, he walked to the door. Looking through the peephole, he saw several other nobles wearing the same black uniform as him being led somewhere.
At that moment, Darius noticed an attendant approaching his room. Cracking open his door, Darius greeted the man. Surprised to find Darius waiting for him at the door, the attendant reported, “My lord, it’s time you enter the briefing room with the other nobles.”
As Darius was about to leave the door, the attendant waved his arm and hurriedly said, “No need. If you would kindly step onto the platform, my lord.” The man waved at a large black circle in the middle of the room. Darius reluctantly walked toward it, not sure what would happen.
The platform gradually descended, speeding up until it jerked, and Darius was suddenly standing in a small conference room filled with eighteen-year-olds who didn’t hesitate to stare at him. None spoke a word.
Stumbling off the platform, Darius felt incredibly awkward. Due to his royal entrance, all eyes rested on him. This was the worst situation he had dreamed of: being surrounded by a bunch of stuck-up teenage nobles who could tell he wasn’t one of them the moment he stepped off the platform.
“Good evening, lords and ladies.” An attractive voice sang from the top of the stairs. A beautiful woman stood on a platform in front of the candidates. Two other women stood behind her, each with a saber strapped to their side.
The test administrator was, in the eyes of all men, the perfect woman. Her curvaceous body resembled a perfect hourglass figure with flawless skin and a charming face. She was the kind of woman nations would war over.
Darius’s heart skipped a beat examining her form. She wore a white blouse and a short black pencil skirt. She exuded confidence and intelligence. To Darius, she was the kind of woman who he would have sworn existed only in the fantasies of men. Her black hair and red eyes epitomized feminine enticement.
“I will be your test administrator today. Today is the first low-level challenge. We are currently on the ground floor of the academy, known as the arena. Here, you will prove yourselves worthy of inheriting your parents’ legacies. The following tests will require you to use your skills, intelligence and bravery to make it out alive, let alone pass the test.”
A wave of gasps and murmurs spread throughout the crowd as the woman spoke.
“I can’t believe it’s her!”
“I heard that she was a qualified Spiritknight by the time she was fifteen!”
“Wrong! She was fourteen!”
“I heard that she’s close to being a titled knight!
Hearing the murmurs around him, Darius figured out one thing. This woman was a genius! To become a Spiritknight at fourteen? Darius was already 18, and he was still struggling to even enter the Spiritsmith guild as an assistant! Such a prodigy was worlds apart from him. She knew her identity as a celebrity would make a fuss; however, she would not let it interfere with executing her orders.
“For the lower ranking nobles, this will be your first and only test. For the highest ranking nobles, however, this test will be the first of several. If you don’t have a weapon already, one will be provided for you based on the outcome of your smiter tests. Oh, and one last thing: make the first kill count. For most of you, your parents will be watching. Don’t disappoint.”
With that, the lady disappeared. It was clear to everyone she had been a mere hologram. Two platforms appeared where she had been standing with smiters on top of them. One with the inherited smiters, the other with smiters that had been selected for certain candidates. These smiters were the only weapons that could destroy spirits. The sight of them was what made everything that had happened feel real. Darius felt nervous. The rumors were real.
“Crap, I never took a Smiter test!” Darius muttered while scanning the various weapons with engraved names engraved. He panicked at the thought of going in there completely defenseless. When the platform Darius had come down from descended once more, it carried an old hammer with the name ‘Darius Omen’ on the haft.
Darius hadn’t known this, but his hammer had been a smiter all along. The other contenders snickered at the sight of the worn weapon.
“Hey, you, what’s your name?” A particularly smug-looking young man asked. Darius knew that his temporary status granted him immunity from them, so he spoke with confidence, “My name is Darius Omen.”
The young man scrunched up his face as if in deep thought before saying, “Omen? I don’t think I’ve heard of that house before. But then again, the lower houses are barely better than peasants.”
Everyone looked at Darius, disgust plainly written on their faces as they backed away from him as if he would pass some sort of commoner virus if they came near him.
“It’s because he’s not from any house.” A girl’s voice emerged from within the crowd. “He’s my brother’s substitute.”
The girl walked out of the crowd, scrutinizing Darius carefully. After a few minutes, she primly announced, “Clearly, Lionel has no intention of passing the test.” Her short black hair covered part of her beautiful face, shading one of her striking azure eyes.
If Darius had to use just one word to describe her, it would be ‘hot.’ She wore a small leather jacket and a red tank top revealing her midriff, showing off her amazing curves. Her cargo pants did nothing to hide her slender legs. With two longswords strapped on her back, she oozed a warrior chick feel, which as a matter of fact, was what she was. Lionel’s twin sister, Lara, took pride in her martial arts talent as well as her impressive intelligence. Darius was certain he had never seen anything this sexy in his entire life.
Lara noticed the way he stared at her and immediately felt disgusted. Although he wasn’t the first guy to look at her like that and was definitely not going to be the last, she was not willing to accept this insulting gaze from a hick commoner like Darius. She lunged at him so fast that even with his incredible agility and reflexes, he only felt a blur approaching with the wind.
Drawing one of her swords with her left hand, she pressed it against Darius’s neck, drawing a line of blood. On closer inspection, her hair wasn’t black but rather a deep navy blue. For all his fear of impending death, he enjoyed the berry smell of her hair. Darius’s heartbeat quickened.
“I don’t care if you’re Lionel’s substitute or not. If you look at me like that again, I’ll slit your bloody throat.” Darius froze, petrified. Although the other nobles wouldn’t dare lay a finger on him because of who he was substituting for, if she was really Lionel’s sister, then there was a good chance she could and would do it given the right justification.
At that moment, the administrator’s voice rang out, “All participants, please stand on one of the platforms and await entry into the arena.”
Lara sheathed her sword and backed away to stand on one of the platforms. The other nobles opened a path for her. With her demeanor and rank among the nobles, she was not to be taken lightly.
All the nobles shuffled toward the circular platforms on the floor. As Darius proceeded to the one nearest him, he was quite violently waved off by one of the nobles. To them, he wasn’t really one of the competitors; he was just cannon fodder for the real nobles.
Fear gripped Darius so tight that he didn’t even notice this happen. His heart raced, and the room spun as he stumbled toward the next free platform. He could barely grip his hammer with his sweaty hands as they descended into the arena. Nevertheless, he had held it for so long, it now felt no different from an extension of his own body, offering some faint comfort. It was the only thing calming his frayed nerves in this perilous situation. It was then that they arrived at the intended location, a dense, green rainforest; it was surprisingly realistic. Darius heard various insects and birds chirping as the rising platform abandoned him in the dense, green thicket.
“Participants, your first challenge is simple. Survive the day.” The administrator’s voice boomed throughout the arena.