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Darius was no hot-blooded fool. On the contrary, he was quite the cowardly young man. A certain individual had noticed this aspect in the young man and sought to rectify it, resulting in the young man completely letting go by becoming Indomitable.
Darius could hear his heart beating…
… like a war drum inciting him to battle.
It thrummed like it would leap out of his chest and soar through the air, the rhythmic muscular contractions guiding it through the sky. It pounded like the roar of an army on the march.
His heart’s racing boiled his blood with an intensity completely alien to him, bordering on pain. Something festered inside him, raging like an unfettered wave wandering across the open seas.
Darius subconsciously charged toward his foe and failed to notice that he was nearing it faster than he had thought. After all, while he ran for it, it slithered to him, and it was much faster.
By the time he noticed, the serpent was only a few steps away, but it was not too late. Darius knew he had one more step of space, and he intended to use it wisely.
His hammer was attached to his right arm while his left arm was free. Darius quickly took his last step, his foot landing with as much force as he could exert.
The step induced a small shockwave that made dust clouds rise, not a threat to the serpent at all, so it hurtled forward with the same intense vigor. Darius’s previous step had been taken by his left foot, so his free left arm dangled to his side, completely unprotected. The serpent made this its target, widening its large maw and revealing sharp fangs. When it was just a few centimetres from biting off Darius’s hand, it happened.
A heartbeat resounded, followed by a flash glinting from Darius’s right.
Before the serpent could register anything else, its head collapsed. Darius smashed it into the ground with a force unnatural for a boy to possess.
It was at this point as Lara prepared to confront her foe that a loud noise stopped her and the serpent dead in their tracks. It sounded as if thunder had struck down from the ninth heaven. It was a roar so loud and intense that Lara could not help but cover her ears.
The girl and her foe slightly shifted their heads, only to be utterly gobsmacked. There was no serpent: only Darius, a headless coil writhing about, and a five-meter-wide crater in the ground.
“It’s over? Just like that?”
Lara couldn’t understand what had happened. As far as she was concerned, Darius was strong but not this strong. The jade serpents were powerful creatures not to be underestimated. Since Lara had trained and Darius had not, she had assumed she would finish her fight before him because she had the assistance of Spirit Arts while it was obvious that Darius did not. According to her logic, if he had them, he would have used one by now. Lara gazed at her opponent, yet the two-headed jade serpent was also befuddled. It could not understand how its partner had been disposed of so quickly by someone who seemed so weak.
Spirits had the innate ability to judge a human’s strength just by looking at them. This often allowed them to escape fights they could not handle. When these two spirits had intuited that Darius was a very, very weak two-star Spiritknight of the first step, they had been confident in dispatching him. They had disregarded Darius even though he was one star above them in energy.
Despite that energy levels were a sign of strength, beings with the same energy level could have significant disparities. The best sign of strength was often not the energy level but the intensity radiating off an opponent. The more spirits one killed, the more bloodlust their body tended to release. Take a human being, for example. If a person killed thousands of people, they would end up giving off an air of bloodlust.
That blood lust would be something that human beings would instinctively feel. However, spirits had a much more sensitive intuition than human beings and were able to detect bloodlust to a finer degree, so the jade sea serpents had doubted that Darius would be a threat.
Lara was drenched in quite a bit of bloodlust. Her bloodlust was intense enough for the two-headed sea-jade serpents to be apprehensive and want to approach the fight cautiously. The serpent had had only a small hope that it would be able to quickly deal with her, but results often differed from expectations.
To its side, its partner was gone, leaving only Darius holding a bloody hammer. Darius himself could not understand what had really happened, but he didn’t care because he had dispatched his opponent and that was what mattered. After dispatching his opponent, Darius gripped his hammer and glared at the two-headed serpent that Lara faced.
Lara wasn’t quite sure what happened because a moment later, the two-headed serpent she had been supposed to battle trembled and slithered away. This was an odd scenario she had never before experienced. Of course, she had seen spirits flee powerful practitioners, but she had never thought the sea serpent would run away from a person at the same level. It was something that did not make any sense to her.
As soon as Lara’s opponent left, the exam concluded. Lady Katya and the old man in the control room were quite impressed with what they had seen, especially the old man. He kept stroking his beard while muttering, “good” whilst Lady Katya sat gobsmacked. Such an intense, brutish display by a weak Spiritknight was quite surprising, especially when the knight was one like Darius who lacked training. Katya and her two bodyguards didn’t quite know what to think. They stole glances at the old man, wondering if he had played a part in Darius’s surprise show.
As soon as Darius was confident that the spirit had truly left, he felt his body weaken. He loosened his grip on the hammer, causing it to fall onto the ground with a thud. Darius felt his legs lose their strength as he flopped to the ground. The blood pumping in his veins slowed, and his body immediately returned to a normal, albeit slightly weakened, state. The insatiable bloodlust he had had a few moments before disappeared as if it had never been there.
Now, the original cowardly Darius took command of his mental state, and the coward in Darius was not at all happy with what had happened. He scratched his head in a manner that made him seem somewhat insane. Darius shakily stood and paced up and down. “No, no, no, no. This cannot be happening. This cannot be happening! What the hell just happened? Something is very wrong here!”
It was obvious to Lara that Darius was unaware of what had just happened to himself. While she knew what an Indomitable was capable of, it seemed Darius himself was not as knowledgeable. This led to a situation where Darius feared he had been possessed by some evil spirit or something else along those lines.
He perfectly remembered the events that had enfolded, but from his perspective, it appeared as if he had been dreaming. The moment the hammer had slipped from his grasp, his normal self had come back. He was now awake, and he could not believe what had just happened.
“Alright, they did quite well. Let them rest. The third exam will be administered tomorrow,” said the old man after some thought.
“As you wish… sir. May I know how to address you, sire?” Lady Katya curtsied as she looked down, trying to prod some information out of the old codger, but he was far more crafty than he appeared.
“Oh, there is no need to worry about that, you can call me anything! I’m just an old man, is all,” said the old man as he laughed. As soon as he finished laughing, the old man walked out of the control room, snickering like a naughty boy up to mischief.
One the guards finally broke the confused silence and said, “Lady Katya, the next exams are quite difficult. As it stands, it is unlikely that the duo will succeed. Surviving the last one seems like an impossibility to me.”
Lady Katya sighed as she sat down, massaging her temples. “Orders are orders, especially if they come from such a high up place. Even someone with my status has their hands tied.”
“Then what do we do, Milady?” asked the other guard.
“Continue following his orders but monitor that young man carefully. It is quite clear that he is the old man’s target this time ‘round. Also, investigate the boy’s history. Dig up every piece of information you can. We have to find out whatever we can about him.”
Lady Katya placed a delicate hand on her flawless chin in thought. “I don’t know who you are, old man, and I may not be able to figure it out. However, I will find out who that boy is!”
Darius sat listlessly on his bed. His eyes were empty as he processed the day’s events.
“I became a Spiritknight. I killed spirits. I have a Smiter. I killed… it.”
Too many incredible things had occurred to Darius today, none more important than his battle with the Jade Sea Serpent. Remembering what had happened in his childhood, the visage of the serpent-like spirit that had killed his sister, Darius could not help but bite his lower lip and squeeze his shoulder with his free hand.
That memory had plagued the boy’s mind for as long as he could remember. Now, today’s events had caused it to return to the forefront of his mind.
“I didn’t run. I didn’t cower. Despite what happened, I wasn’t scared.”
Darius looked at his open right hand and wondered, “What the heck happened to me? When I touched the hammer…”
That’s when it hit Darius, “That’s right! The hammer! I haven’t done today’s quota!” As Darius’s thoughts pulled together, he quickly ran to the door, only to have it slide open before he could open it himself.
“Looking for this?”
The old man who had taken Darius through the ceremony walked in unannounced. The hammer floated above his palm in what seemed to be a bubble.
Darius pointed at the old man with a shaking finger. “Y-y-you!”
“You know, back in my day, it was considered rude to point fingers, but I guess things do change after a few centuries,” said the old man whilst shaking his head.
Darius blinked his eyes, trying to clear the fog that must be covering his mind. He dazedly questioned, “Uhm, did you just say centuries?
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