Chapter 19: Bringing the Hammer Down

Its segmented shell was so tough that no matter how hard he hit it, he barely made a dent. Instead, he staggered from the recoil of his own attacks.

“When I said do something, I meant something more along the lines of shutting up. It’s useless. The armor’s too tough. I, and, I hope, you, are well aware of how to deal with this spirit. It would take a Spiritknight Smiter of at least the second step to destroy it.” Lara’s voice echoed from the back of the cave. Whatever class this creature was, there was no defeating it. It was willing to kill them at the cost of its own life. She slumped against one of the cave walls and watched Darius’s hopeless attempts.

Darius wouldn’t stop. He was not going to die there, not if he could help it. He slammed the beast again and again, over and over, until he felt himself slip away. His thoughts faded into the background, and his body acted outside of his own accord.

Bang!

Bang!

Bang!

Bang!

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He started sloppily. He had to concentrate. At first, something didn’t feel right as he hit it, but soon he found his rhythm and got into the groove of it. Each time he struck the shrimp, the cave violently quaked, causing dust and debris to crumble off the walls. It was as if earthquakes rumbled inside the cave.

Bang!

Bang!

Bang!

Bang!

Each strike was more perfect than its predecessor. The shockwaves released were could knock someone off their feet. Even Lara felt them from the back of the cave. In this trance-like state, Darius let himself go as his strikes became more and more precise. The sounds it made was familiar, and so were the vibrations the hammer made each time. As he relentlessly continued hammering the shrimp, he felt something happening. A sensation he knew all too well rushed like a tidal wave through his body, engulfing his very being as the shrimp itself entered a trance-like state.

Darius knew that what he was doing wasn’t damaging the shrimp at all. He was doing something else to it. It was reshaping it into something else…

He had now achieved a certain frequency. He wasn’t sure how or why this was the perfect frequency, but he could just tell using everything from the way the hammer felt as it landed on the shrimp’s hard shell to the way it sounded. Something told him this was right. He perfected his skill to the pinnacle, hitting the exact same spot the exact same way.

Bang!

Bang!

Bang!

Bang!

Lara watched in awe. She had seen this once before when she visited a forge many years prior. As far as she was concerned, there was no mistaking it: Darius was smiting!

“How is this possible?” she muttered as she watched Darius mold the shrimp. It shrunk, the energy inside compressed by Darius’s hammer.

Far above the dome in the skies, an old man held his belly while laughing aloud. “Splendid! Splendid! This boy was born to be a Spiritsmith! I have to get my hands on him!”

Usually, smiting could only be performed on dead spirits, and most Spiritsmiths used machines to detect the right frequency with which to smite a particular Spirit corpse, which was a long, arduous process, especially for beginners. Yet, Darius was able to find this frequency himself. Six years of striking the anvil had taught him what it would be.

Bang!

Bang!

Bang!

Darius’s body burned inside, but after six years, he was more than used to this feeling. At this point, the shrimp crudely formed a large round sphere. There was nothing it could possibly do to them now, and the mouth of the cave was open, but Darius didn’t stop. He continued. He didn’t even realize it, but subconsciously, he counted the number of strikes. The hours flew by as he mumbled so low that Lara couldn’t hear it.

“Nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-eight, nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine… ten thousand!” He shouted the last one as he put all he had into this strike.

Bang!

Bang!

BOOM!

He tossed the hammer aside and fell to his knees. Although he was sweaty and out of breath, he was far from tired. The sphere was now about the size of a tennis ball.

Lara walked slowly up to him, not quite believing what she had just seen. When did you? How did you?… Who are you? So many questions flooded her mind that she wasn’t quite sure what to say until one rose above the rest,

“What are you?!?”

The formation broke as the two eighteen-year-olds were left standing in the empty arena. Darius slowly rose to feet, turning to look back at her he said,

“My name… is Darius Omen.”

In a room on the second floor, a woman stood in front of several monitors but paid close attention to only one of them. It was a video of Darius smiting the spirit in the cave.

“And you said he’s not from any guild?” she asked, never taking her eyes off of the screen.

“No, my lady,” one of her two personal Spiritknight guards said. They too were intrigued by this young man’s amazing speed, stamina, and strength. It was the sort that only coalesced after intense refinement of the body, not to mention that he had just smited a spirit using a smithing method. Such a thing was unheard of.

“Keep a close eye on him for me. I need to study that hammer.” She cocked her head to the side and sighed, “Interesting…”

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“Yes, Lady Katya. In the meantime, the formation has ended,” The other Spiritknight announced.

“Very well. Michelle, how did this batch do?” She gracefully glided over to a spectacled woman who was analyzing information on a holographic computer screen. Lady Katya could only ever worked with women. Her beauty was the only thing matching her intelligence. Most men, nobles included, could barely contain themselves around her, let alone focus on anything other than her amazing body. The lust evident in their eyes repulsed her.

She was only twenty-two years old and already the test administrator and Master of Formations at the academy. Her two trusted bodyguards, Mara and Opal, were both three-star Spiritknights of the third step. Born from the highest of orders, they stayed by her side at all times. On more than one occasion, they had protected her from lust-filled men who couldn’t control themselves, carrying out swift and merciless executions when their nobility statuses made it otherwise possible.

“Of the twenty nobles that entered, two died, three were critically injured, and eight are ready to become spirit knights, Princess Lara included. We collected all the spirit Dantians and have Spiritsmiths refining them as we speak. They should be ready to perform the Rite of Cultivation in a few hours,” said a spectacled lady who sat in front of one of the control panels.

“Good. Now that we’ve separated the wheat from the chaff, the real game can begin. What about the boy?” she asked.

“The Dantian from the replicating spirit is being refined, but after examination, the Smiths say that the Dantian the boy created himself is, as they put it, perfect. It’s of the Indomitable class. I already have people looking into him for you.”

“Alright then, project me.”

- my thoughts:
I (the editor) got the flu, which sucks, so dunno how chaps will work.
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