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Paragon of Destruction - Chapter 207

Published at 12th of August 2019 08:26:25 PM

Chapter 207

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"Open up!" Arran knocked on Snowcloud's door, louder than the previous time .

"I'm coming," her muffled voice sounded from behind the door . It opened a moment later, revealing Snowcloud's flustered face . From the sweat on her forehead, Arran could tell she had been in the middle of a training session . "What is it?" she asked .

"We're going into town," Arran announced .

"I can't," Snowcloud replied without hesitation . "I have to practice my Body Refinement . "

Arran gave her a flat stare . "After six months of ceaseless training, an afternoon off won't make a difference . "

"Brightblade told us not to draw attention," she retorted .

"She also told us to enjoy the town," Arran said . "If she intended that to mean we should stay in our rooms, she would have picked a nicer inn . "

"I won't risk it," Snowcloud said . "You can go if you want, but I'm staying here . "

She moved to close the door, but before she could, Arran blocked it with his hand . "You can either come along by yourself, or I'll throw you over my shoulder and carry you, the locals' attention be damned . "

"You wouldn't!" Her eyes went wide at the threat, and she stared at him mistrustfully for several seconds . Then, she let out a sigh . "Fine . If it's that important to you, I'll come along . Wait for me in the common room . I'll be there in a quarter hour . "

Arran smiled at her brightly, then turned around and headed down the stairs, to the small inn's common room .

When they had arrived three days earlier, Brightblade had given them a few brief instructions, then left for the capital at once . After that, Snowcloud had spent all her time locked in her room, her fervor in training not the least bit diminished now that they had reached their destination .

Arran, meanwhile, had spent his days exploring the town .

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Alder's Farm, as it was called, wasn't particularly large, but its location near the Ninth Valley's gate meant that it saw plenty of traffic . And that meant the town was filled with numerous inns, restaurants, and little shops .

Initially, the change of surroundings was like a breath of fresh air to Arran . After six months in the wilderness, he had relished the chance to be among people again and to eat things other than the vast mountain of dragon meat he carried in his void ring .

Yet as the days passed, his worries about Snowcloud grew .

He had hoped that her spirits would improve once they returned to civilization, but instead, it seemed things had only gotten worse . Where she had previously been quiet, she had now withdrawn herself completely . And from what Arran could tell, things were only getting worse .

Finally, he had decided to put an end to it . He could not solve her problems, but he would not simply stand by while watching her descend further down this path .

Perhaps dragging her outside would accomplish nothing, or perhaps it would only make matters worse . But whatever the case, he would not give up without even having tried .

When Snowcloud arrived in the common room a quarter hour later, she no longer looked like she had just stepped out of a battlefield . Rather than a worn training outfit, she was now wearing a simple black robe, and her hair was combed and tied back .

Arran gave her a smile when he saw her, then quickly took her hand and guided her outside .

"Where are we going?" she asked . "What was so important that you couldn't handle it alone?"

"To start," Arran began, "there's an excellent little restaurant nearby . They serve fresh flatbread and some kind of herbal paste that tastes like nothing you've had before . The roasted chicken is pretty good, too, not to mention the vegetable stew . And you should really try—"

He kept talking as he dragged Snowcloud along, fearful that if he gave her even the slightest chance, she would still change her mind .

Yet she didn't, and barely an hour later, they were sat inside a small restaurant, the table in between them filled with empty plates .

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"You were right," Snowcloud said, dabbing up a last bit of sauce from her plate with a small chunk of bread . She ate it in a single bite, then continued, "It's good . But why did you insist on me coming along?"

Arran hesitated before answering, briefly wondering whether he should tell her the truth . "I'm worried about you," he said . "You haven't been the same since you spoke to your grandfather . I can't make you tell me what happened, but I'm not going to watch you wither away, either . Whatever is wrong, closing yourself off from the world isn't going to help . "

Snowcloud slowly shook her head . "I know you mean well, but this isn't something you can decide . "

"Sure I can," Arran replied . "I might not be the best talker, but I'm strong as an ox . If need be, I'll pick you up and carry you with me for however long it takes . "

At this, a trace of a smile formed on her lips . "The strength of an ox, and the wits to match it," she said with a sigh . "All right then . Where are we going next?"

"No idea," Arran replied with a grin . "Let's find out . "

They left the restaurant not long after, then headed into the town .

For nearly two hours, they walked around aimlessly, visiting various stores and — at Arran's insistence — several of the small food stalls that lined the streets . Mostly, however, they just walked, watching the crowds as they passed .

"It's so peaceful," Snowcloud said, curiously looking at the people around them .

"Feels strange, doesn't it?" Arran looked around with some wonder as well . "Nobody trying to kill us, no enemy mages to deal with . It's almost like we're commoners . "

Snowcloud nodded . "It's been a long time since I felt like this . "

Time passed quickly while they walked through the town, and for the first time in months, Arran heard Snowcloud's laugh again . Although it was obvious that her troubles were still hiding just below the surface, her mood seemed better than it had in a long time .

It wasn't long before dusk came, and the light of day began to fade . When they passed one of the large parks the town held, Snowcloud glanced over, then said, "Let's go inside . "

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There were few people in the park, and for some time, they silently walked along its winding footpaths . But then, Snowcloud suddenly spoke .

"They're dead," she said . "My parents… Grandfather told me they were killed . "

Arran did not know what to say, but after a moment, he wordlessly reached out and pulled Snowcloud into a tight embrace . For several minutes, they stood there like that, silent except for the sound of Snowcloud's sobs against Arran's shoulder .

When they let go, her eyes were red with tears . "I spent all these years hoping I could save them, like some foolish child . And they were already dead . "

"There's nothing foolish about hope against the odds," Arran responded . "Especially when you're fighting for the people you love . "

"That's the worst part," Snowcloud said, her eyes downcast and her voice miserable . "I don't know if I love them . I barely even remember them . When they left I was a small child, and those years I dreamed of saving them, I just wanted to have parents again . I didn't just fail to save them, I even failed to keep their memory alive . " Tears welled up in her eyes once more .

Arran shook his head . "You didn't fail . You completed your mother's final task and saved your grandfather . That was more than anyone could have expected from you . "

"I know that . " She sighed dejectedly . "But no matter what I know, it still feels like I failed . And I can't even avenge them . Grandfather refused to tell me who their murderers are — he said that if I went after them, I wouldn't survive . "

"He knows who murdered them?" Arran raised an eyebrow at this . If the Patriarch knew who the murderers were but hadn't dared take action himself… a chill ran down his spine at the thought .

"He does . And if Grandfather isn't confident in facing them, then I don't stand a chance . "

"That's why you've been training so hard?" Arran asked, finally beginning to understand Snowcloud's behavior over the past half year . "You want to hunt down your parents' murderers?"

"I know it's a ridiculous plan… the idea that I could become stronger than Grandfather…"

"Nonsense," Arran replied brusquely . "We will both surpass him, and when the time comes, I will help you slaughter the people who killed your parents . "

At this, a small smile formed on Snowcloud's face . "Thank you," she said . "Maybe together, we can succeed . When you're at my side, I feel like—"

Before she could finish the words, they were interrupted by the sound of stumbling footsteps coming toward them . Their senses sharpened by half a year in the borderlands, the sound immediately drew their attention, and as one, they turned toward it .

Yet rather than a threat, what they found was a novice . He was unsteady on his feet, with a faltering pace that suggested he'd imbibed more than a few bottles of wine beyond his limit . But although his eyes were only half-open, it was clear that he was heading toward them .

When the novice was a few paces away, Arran smelled that he reeked of booze . Then, suddenly, the young man took several quick steps forward, and his hands stretched toward Snowcloud . "A pretty girl like you should—"

The novice staggered back, a red imprint of Snowcloud's palm on his face . The drunkenness disappeared from his eyes at once, rage now taking its place .

"You bitch!" he cried out, drawing his sword . "I will—"

In an instant, Arran appeared between Snowcloud and the novice . Snowcloud's sword was already half-drawn, but with his left hand, he blocked her from completing the draw . And at the same time, the palm of his right hand slammed into the novice's chest .

The novice was sent tumbling to the ground, coming to a stop a dozen paces away . Arran did not worry about the young man's condition — he had restrained his strength, and other than five or six broken ribs, his opponent should be fine .

The novice struggled to get back to his feet, and when he finally succeeded, he pointed his sword at Arran . "Don't you know who I am?! I will—"

"You will shut your idiot mouth right this second!" a voice said sharply .

Arran quickly turned toward the newcomer, and saw that the person who had spoken was a middle-aged man who was standing on the path a short distance behind them . Tall and gaunt, his features were as sharp as his voice, and there was disgust in his eyes as he looked at the novice .

"This young man just saved your life," the man said . "You should not squander that undeserved gift so lightly . Now go to your teacher and request a punishment . If I find it lacking, there will be a second one of my choosing . Now leave!"

The novice paled at the man's words, but then, he bowed deeply and ran off .

"Useless!" the man grumbled, voice thick with displeasure . Yet as he turned to Arran and Snowcloud, a satisfied smile appeared on his face . "The two of you, however, appear to have some potential . "

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