With a calm and steady swagger, Darius emerged from the bushes into the clearing, instantly gaining the attention of his foes. Before he had restrained his bloodlust, but the moment he appeared before his enemies, he let loose, making his presence known. The moment he released his bloodlust, the wolves collectively howled while the vulture cawed, soaring into the sky, its feathers flapping madly like a flustered chicken.
Traditional spirits had the trait of attacking on sight, especially if they faced someone on the same step of strength. However, the wolves and vulture did nothing except make noise.
“As expected, the creatures have somehow been conditioned to be defensive of the flag, seeing as they didn’t attack me on sight,” said Darius. He didn’t seem to be talking to anyone in particular, but his words were heard by all within the vicinity.
As soon as Darius got within 20 meters of the wolves, they lunged at him as one. Their ability was nothing to scoff at, and they reached within striking distance of Darius after a mere two seconds. Darius switched his grip from his hammer’s shaft to the strap and started twirling the hammer about like a pendulum.
A few sounds that resembled metal hitting metal rung out. Three wolves were hit by the whirling hammer and shot back like bullets from a gun. They crashed into their surroundings and made no movements afterward besides for a few occasional twitches. The wolves that had been about to make a move suddenly faltered and hurriedly jumped back.
They then howled together toward the skies, gathering their intent. Then they moved. Instead of directly attacking Darius, they cautiously surrounded him, decreasing the distance between them step by step with their fearsome fangs exposed, thirsty for his blood.
“The wolves are capable of learning strategies while under the influence of the alpha. Thus, it’s best to dispose of it as soon as possible. They are fast, but their defence is weak, and their individual strength is just as bad,” commented Darius with a deadpan expression.
He calmly waited for the wolves to get within a few meters. Then, he spun his hammer again. The hammer was incredibly heavy, so winds swirled about Darius. This scene made the wolves pause in caution. They were indeed afraid of Darius or rather of his hammer.
Darius’s plan of attack regarding the wolves was simple. Since their movement speed was greater than his, all he had to do was cut off their routes of attack. Darius started moving forward while madly twirling his hammer. The wolves wanted to attack, but the howling winds around Darius literally screamed the danger of such lunacy.
Low-level spirits were usually dumb and cared little for their lives, but these wolves were special. Somehow, the examiners had modified them, making them more wary than usual. After all, the more intelligent a creature was, the harder it was to kill.
Darius moved forward step by step. He was slow, but his gait was steady. Determination shone from his eyes while he eyed the flag. Then, while he was twirling his hammer, it happened.
A large collision sent Darius off balance. An incredible shockwave spread out from the epicenter of their impact, blasting the surrounding wolves away. Darius slid back from the force of the blow but quickly regained his balance, warily glancing at the skies above.
The vulture flew above him, making its intentions clear. It was now targeting him, and its strength was nothing to scoff at. Darius had almost lost control of his hammer. If it were not for the fact that he had been twirling it and gaining momentum all the while, he doubted that he would have been able to match the bird in a head-on confrontation.
‘It’s ugly but not stupid. It will patiently wait for the opportune moment to strike; this is not an easy creature to deal with. Armed with prodigious strength and the mobility gifted by flight, Lara has no chance: looks like we’ll have to do as planned, but first…’
Darius regarded the wolves as they approached closer and closer once more, tightening the net of bodies they had cast around him. From time to time, the vulture would screech from above, making its presence known. It was clearly an intimidation tactic.
Darius was also worried about something else: the bird had not yet revealed its unique ability, the kind unique to every single variant. Using its normal strength as a measuring stick, this unknown ability would be nothing to scoff at. The question was, how would he get it to reveal its ability? Without that information, the vulture could tip the tables with a single trump card at any moment. As the wolves closed in, Darius went deep into thought.
‘The bird is quite the opportunist. Employing intimidation tactics and tacit cooperation with the wolves, it seems quite intelligent. Are spirits at this level supposed to be this smart?’
Darius was unsure because he had no experience to lean on. He had only battled his first spirit a few days ago. The old man had told him a lot, but knowledge was not a replacement for experience. After all, it was better to walk a thousand miles than to read a thousand books. Such was the difference between wisdom and knowledge.
“As planned, we will have to aim straight for the flag. On my signal, we’ll begin. Get ready. Be as quick as possible!” Darius shouted. The wolves were getting uncomfortably close. He was tempted to twirl his hammer like before, but the bird above made him hesitate. Since it flew above them all, it had a clear view of everything, so it would be difficult to fool.
‘You think you can control everything just because you can fly?’
Darius snorted and twirled his hammer once more, stopping the wolves in their tracks yet again. The vulture saw this as a provocation and screeched.
It immediately dove down, aiming straight for Darius. Just before it hit him, Darius made sure to take stock of the alpha’s position. Then, he shouted, “Now!”
Lara knew this was the signal Darius had referred to. Still, she was slightly hesitant, but she remembered his previous words: “Do you trust me?”
She sighed and sped off in his direction, hoping for the best.