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Paragon of Destruction - Chapter 212

Published at 12th of August 2019 08:26:20 PM

Chapter 212

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"A demonstration…" Grandmaster Solin's furrowed his brow as he considered the proposal, then finally gave Brightblade a nod . "Very well . We will see if your skill justifies your demands . "

He led them outside the building, stopping several mages along the way and sending them off to fetch various people, including several high-ranked members of the House of Swords . It seemed the Grandmaster intended for the demonstration to have an audience .

This briefly puzzled Arran, but after giving it a moment's thought, he understood the man's reasoning .

If the Grandmaster gave in to Brightblade's demands, the decision to lavish resources upon a group of outsiders would certainly raise questions . Having the House's other leaders witness her strength would answer those questions before they could be asked .

And should Brightblade fail to impress… well, then there would be no need to accept her demands . Instead, Grandmaster Solin could claim it as a validation of his own students' training — a sign that despite decades of peace, the House of Swords could still produce fighters to match the other Valleys .

Whatever the outcome, the Grandmaster would benefit .

Half an hour after they left the building, they were stood at the edge of an empty training field, waiting for the last of the audience to arrive . There were already at least fifty mages present, and none of them looked weak . Master Kallias was among them, along with a number of other mages who looked to be Masters and Grandmasters .

Finally, Grandmaster Solin decided that there were enough onlookers, and he moved forward to face the crowd .

In a loud voice, he said, "Novice Ilena, step forward . "

At his words, a brown-haired young woman in a simple training robe stepped out from the crowd and onto the grass . Her movements were graceful and her eyes confident, and Arran immediately knew she would not be a weak opponent .

"Novice Ilena is one of my personal students," Grandmaster Solin said, pride in his voice . "Despite her youth, she's already mastered several sword styles, and her technique is flawless . Even against adepts, she wins more often than not . "

He glanced at Arran and Snowcloud, then turned to Brightblade . "If either of your students lasts more than a few minutes against her, I will be most impressed . "

Brightblade raised an eyebrow, a glint of amusement in her eyes . "Snowcloud, you will face the novice . Don't hold back . "

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At once, Snowcloud did as she was told, stepping onto the grass and drawing her sword . Though she was outwardly calm, Arran knew her well enough to see that she was filled with excitement at the battle ahead .

Little wonder, he thought . She had spent the past half year training in swordsmanship and Body Refinement, but she had not yet had the chance to test her skills . During their journey from the Sixth Valley, there were only Arran and Brightblade to spar against, neither of whom she could match .

Now that she could finally put her newly acquired skills to practice, Arran had little doubt that she would make the most of the opportunity .

"Begin," Grandmaster Solin called out .

The word had barely left his mouth when Snowcloud and her opponent charged at each other, their swords meeting just seconds later .

The first few moments of their clash saw each fighter unleash a rain of blows upon the other, and briefly, it was difficult to see which of them held the upper hand in the exchange .

The Ninth Valley novice was easily the more skilled of the two, her practiced movements effortlessly combining multiple sword styles . She was neither careless nor timid, pressing forward with graceful yet powerful attacks . And as she fought, she continually used feints and flourishes to distract her foe .

Snowcloud, on the other hand, fought in the sparse but efficient style she had learned from Brightblade . Every movement she made offered the threat of injury, and although she lacked her opponent's grace, her simple but utilitarian attacks weren't easily blocked or deflected .

That alone would not have allowed her to match her opponent's superior skill, but she also held the advantage in strength and speed . Every attack the novice made was blocked before it could be completed, while every blow Snowcloud struck caused her opponent to wince in shock .

After barely a minute, Arran knew the fight was Snowcloud's .

The Ninth Valley novice was skilled, but she had little defense against her opponent's strength . Each time their swords met she was staggered, the grace fading from her movements as she braced to withstand the blows .

That alone was enough to decide the match, but Arran could see that Snowcloud's attacks rocked not just the novice's body but also her mind . Her confidence had quickly faltered, and now, she winced before each exchange, fearful of facing Snowcloud's blows .

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"It seems your student will soon best mine," Grandmaster Solin said to Brightblade . "Though I noticed that she uses but a single style . "

"A battle is not a dance, Grandmaster," Brightblade replied . "A single style used well is more valuable than a dozen used poorly . "

As if to emphasize Brightblade's point, Snowcloud suddenly stepped up her attacks . Her movements grew faster and more forceful, and soon, her opponent was stumbling backward, desperately trying to ward off the assault .

It was no use . Snowcloud now revealed strength she had hidden earlier, and she launched into a savage flurry of blows that caused her opponent to stagger back even further . A moment later, the novice's blade went flying, and Snowcloud's sword came to a halt just before the panicked girl's neck .

A subtle smile on her lips, Snowcloud gave the novice a small bow . As she sheathed her sword, several people could be heard clapping among the crowd that had gathered around the field .

When Snowcloud returned to Brightblade's side a moment later, Grandmaster Solin looked at her with interest .

"Most impressive, initiate," he said, then turned to Brightblade . "Your student did well, but your own opponent will prove a greater challenge . "

In a loud voice, he called out, "Adept Doran, please step forward . "

A young man stepped out from the crowd and entered the training field . He looked to be in his mid-twenties, with unruly brown hair and a short scruffy beard . While he was as tall as Arran, he was considerably more muscular, with massive shoulders and a thick neck .

His expression pleased, Grandmaster Solin said, "Adept Doran is one of the greatest talents of his generation . In physical combat, he is the strongest adept not just in our House, but in the entire Valley . You will certainly earn my admiration if you manage to defeat him . "

"I will not be the one facing him," Brightblade replied . She turned to Arran . "Ghostblade, step forward . "

"What?!" The Grandmaster's eyes went wide with shock . "You want a mere initiate to face an adept? Don't be foolish . You already proved your students' strength — there is no need for this . An initiate cannot—"

"Grandmaster," Brightblade interrupted him . "I promised you a demonstration . Watch closely . " She motioned for Arran to enter the training field . "Show your skill, but do not go overboard . "

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Arran wasn't surprised that he would be the one to face the adept — he had suspected as much the moment Brightblade told Grandmaster Solin to fetch his strongest adept .

Without delay, he stepped onto the grass, then drew his sword and faced his opponent .

"Begin!" Grandmaster Solin's call sounded a moment later, though his voice held no enthusiasm . It was clear that he expected little from the battle .

At the Grandmaster's call, Arran and his opponent approached each other cautiously . Neither of them attacked with the fury that the previous fighters had shown, both intent on getting the measure of their rival before committing to serious attacks .

They circled each other several times, engaging in half a dozen tentative exchanges .

Just this was enough for Arran to know that he was thoroughly outclassed . The man before him was vastly more skilled than Snowcloud's opponent had been, and he showed none of the novice's weaknesses .

He did not waste energy on spectacular flourishes, nor did he needlessly switch between styles . Instead, he fought with ruthless efficiency, attacking only when he spotted openings in Arran's defense .

That Arran was stronger than the adept offered only a small advantage . Unlike the novice before him, this man was clearly experienced in facing stronger opponents, and rather than facing Arran's forceful blows head-on, he smoothly deflected them .

If Arran fought at full strength, he might still have overpowered the man, but that wasn't an option — when Brightblade told him not to go overboard, he knew she meant he should not reveal all his strength .

While he attempted to find a solution, he sustained several cuts on his arms . None were deep, but it was clear that the adept was growing more aggressive as his insight into Arran's skills increased .

Arran clenched his jaw, then made a decision . He had to end the fight quickly, or there would be no way to win it — not without exposing his strength, at least .

He launched a sudden attack, leaving his left shoulder open as his sword darted out at his rival . As expected, the adept took advantage of the opening, and Arran winced as he felt the man's blade cut deeply into his flesh .

Yet that was exactly what he had hoped for . The adept's strike wasn't enough to give Arran a real opening, but it was enough for him to counter with an attack that forced the two fighters into a bind, the distance between them briefly closed .

That was all Arran needed .

While their swords were pressed together, he rammed his left fist into the other man's midriff, hitting the adept right below the ribs .

To his credit, the adept did not collapse instantly . Instead, he coughed loudly as he tried to pull back, still holding up his sword despite his obvious pain .

But Arran had already anticipated this, and before the man could retreat, his left hand shot out again .

This time, he seized his opponent's swordhand with his left hand and jerked it out of the way, then used the opening to slam the pommel of his sword into his opponent's face .

The adept's eyes briefly went blank, and when he recovered a moment later, Arran's blade was already at his throat .

Without a word, Arran pulled back his sword and sheathed it .

"Good fight," the adept said, a broad smile appearing on his bloodied face . For all his skill, it seemed he wasn't a poor loser .

"Likewise," Arran replied, giving the man a friendly nod .

As he turned and headed back to Brightblade's side, he noticed that the crowd had gone completely silent . He didn't know whether they were impressed by his victory or appalled by his tactics, but it didn't matter — he had won .

Grandmaster Solin gave him a pensive stare . "Remarkable," he said . "Most remarkable . You took a serious injury just to secure victory . "

"He's the better swordsman," Arran said with a shrug . "But I'm the better fighter . " He didn't mention that the wound had already healed in the few moments it took him to return .

Brightblade scraped her throat . "You've seen Snowcloud's strength and Ghostblade's ruthlessness," she said . "Now, I will demonstrate my skill . "

Grandmaster Solin frowned . "I doubt Adept Doran is in a state to go another round," he said . "I could have another adept fetched, but none are as good as him . "

Brightblade shook her head, a smile on her lips . "Your adepts are no match for me," she said . "But perhaps you are?"

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