Chapter 17: Shrimp?

Now, the whole royal family held their breaths, wondering if he had survived the waterfall. After ten minutes, just as they thought he was dead, Darius emerged from the water, panting as he clambered onto the river banker, much to Lionel’s dismay. Exhausted and out of breath, he was met by an entire troop of spirits waiting for him. The Emperor and co. marveled at the young man’s lung capacity.

They had followed the river scene and seen all that had happened; thus, they could determine his best course of action. However, Darius himself had no time to stop and think as one of the man-sized beasts attacked. Darius instinctively swung his hammer, instantly killing the spirit. He was far too frightened to even marvel at his ability to kill a spirit.

To most people, spirits were extremely frightening. They were far more capable than most other frightening beasts. Even the weakest of these primates could massacre a pride of lions. Thus, killing your first spirit was quite an achievement. Darius couldn’t care less as he was far too occupied with staying alive.

Still, more and more crowded forward as Darius battered each one with a single swing, sending corpses flying in all directions, but there just seemed to be no end to the things. In the stands, those watching Darius fight couldn’t help but watch in awe. It was as if he had an endless amount of energy.

“Just what kind of body does he have to have so much stamina? Lionel, where on earth did you find this boy?” The Emperor thought as he eagerly stroked his chin.

Darius continued to swing and swing, but after a few hours, they wore him down.

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That was when Darius noticed something, these weren’t individual spirits, they were just one! He felt incredibly stupid about having fought for hours all for nothing. After a while, he finally determined the presence of a large spirit at the back of the pack. It looked similar to the rest but much bigger. Darius saw the way it would reach inside itself, its hands temporarily phasing out, and then yank out four smaller versions of itself, who would join the fight. That was why the spirits felt like they were endless, because they were.

Darius knew what he had to do. He cleared a path towards the original spirit, battering its replicas away as he moved through. As soon as it was within reach of his hammer, Darius used all the energy he had left to leap up into the air and swing down with all his might, bringing the full force of his hammer down onto the original copy.

Boom!

Again, everything in the forest stopped moving. This was the second time a deafening thunder had rung out through the forest while accompanied by what felt like a small earthquake. All the other participants were stricken with fear at the thought of a roaming immensely powerful spirit while all the spirits were equally scared by the possibility of an immensely powerful human. Unfortunately for the spirits, they were right.

The hammer vibrated in Darius’ hands as the copies of the spirit he had destroyed vanished. All that was left of the corpse was a mess of blood and guts.

Darius collapsed onto the ground. He was tired and hungry and not quite sure what to do now. The jungle air was thick and humid, so the various flies did not hesitate to swarm the dead spirit’s corpse.

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Darius was riddled with small cuts and scratches, the biggest one being a large gash where he had hit his head earlier. It was bleeding profusely as he wiped some of the blood off his forehead.

He knew he couldn’t stay in one place for long, so he walked up to the river and rinsed his forehead with some of the water.

Can this whole f***ing day just end already?

As he cleaned his wounds, he noticed something move on the riverbed but wasn’t quite sure what it was. He had no idea what he was seeing. A giant claw undulated in the water, slowly opening. Whatever creature it belonged to was buried underneath all the silt. In hindsight, Darius would later acknowledge that watching the claw instead of running as far as he could have had been a bad idea, but at the moment, he simply observed it, when with an explosive crack, a bomb exploded beneath the water, launching a geyser into the air.

Darius was thrown by the blast that destroyed trees and started fires through stray embers. For just a moment, Darius felt like he burned in the middle of a river. The blast vaporized the water in the river, which was probably why he was able to survive because much of the energy was dissipated.

A gigantic, disfigured bullet shrimp burst out of the river. Darius’s survival instincts outweighed his current pain and dizziness. It let out a loud roar as it charged towards him, razing everything in its path.

Due to its size, it was slow on land even though its legs were disproportionately long for its body. Despite this, Darius didn’t hesitate. He pushed his battered body up and ran for his life. The territory around Darius quickly became foggy as all he concentrated on was running. With the adrenaline coursing through his veins he rapidly trekked over the uneven terrain. He could hear the beast following behind him, using its large pincers to level any trees that dared block its path. Although it was far too slow to ever catch up with Darius, its trump card over him was slowly approaching.

Darius, however, knew that it would take a while for its claw to fully prepare, so he still had some time to think of his options and find an escape path. This had worked for him until he had run up a hill, realizing this too late, he didn’t have time to slow down. When he reached the peak of the hill, he went flying and then promptly fell and face-planted into a small clearing where an attractive girl with navy blue hair was slaughtering an enormous, hideous two-headed jaguar-like spirit.

With precision, she gracefully decapitated the left head with one of her short broadswords, causing the limbs on the left side to go limp and making it all too easy for her to finish off the other side. The giant cat-like spirit used the remaining one of its two tails to whip at the girl. However, in the girl’s mind, there was no need to dodge that kind of attack. With a single swipe, the tail flew off with its own momentum and landed just behind her, still wriggling on the ground. The sting of her blade caused the spirit to yowl in pain.

The spirit then swiped at her with razor-sharp claws, but those too were sliced off. Just as she was about to go in for the kill, something that flew out from nowhere slammed into her.

The force of it knocked her onto the ground while Darius face-planted into the ground just in front of her. This was not how he had expected things to go. She quickly recovered and stood on her feet to discover a bloody Darius lying on the ground. She became enraged at the commoner who dared to fall on her and was about to execute him when he raised his arms and shouted, “Wait! Something’s coming!”

He pointed to the hill in the direction he had just come from.

She looked back at the hill, “What’s come-“

Snap!

Boom!

The hill was instantly demolished. Soil and debris rained over the clearing. The blast pushed them both back as a rampaging shrimp charged through the cloud of destruction. The girl sized it up and bolted, with Darius promptly following suit.

The pursuit was on again as Darius followed the girl wherever she went. The monster bulldozed everything in its path just behind them.

“A variant! You brought a d**n variant! What the heck is wrong with you?” she screamed. Darius acted as if he had heard nothing as he ran for his little life. “You brought this thing. I hope you have a plan to kill it!” Lara screamed as the two of them ran through the forest with incredible speed.

“I was hoping you could help me out with that. I’m not sure what ‘it’ even is!” Darius screamed back.

Lara almost tripped when she heard this. She assumed that the replacement Lionel brought would have at least some knowledge of spirits, but it seemed that he had no clue.

Lara thought fast. The claw was almost fully unraveled, and this time the blast would almost certainly kill them both. She was familiar with this species and knew that each time it unraveled a claw, a blast would follow. This was without a doubt a variant, which meant it would be much more devastating. She saw a dark spot in the distance. Realizing it was a cave, she had an idea.

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