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Paragon of Destruction - Chapter 218

Published at 12th of August 2019 08:26:14 PM

Chapter 218

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"Masters?!" Snowcloud's voice was filled with disbelief . "You want us to become stronger than Masters? Before we even become novices?"

"You're already a novice," Brightblade pointed out . "And yes, I want you both to have the strength of Masters before you assume the title . "

"In a year?" Arran stared at Brightblade in astonishment .

He had not forgotten how he had faced two Masters in Uvar . And while he had won that battle through trickery, the memory of the woman exploding half a mile of treeline with a single gesture still filled him with awe .

The idea that he could learn to rival such might in a single year seemed not just impossible, but positively ludicrous .

Seeing Arran's baffled expression, Brightblade laughed . "It isn't as impossible as you assume," she said . "In fact, you're already closer than you might think . While Masters might beat you in magical skill—"

"And Essence reserves," Snowcloud interjected .

"Knowledge, too," Arran added .

Brightblade gave them an annoyed glare, then sighed deeply .

"Yes, their advantages are many," she admitted . "But you have your own strengths . Your resistance to magic exceeds theirs, as does your physical strength . Develop your strengths and address your weaknesses, and your potential is greater than you realize . "

"But why can't we become novices?" Snowcloud asked .

It was clear that she was still displeased with her loss of status, though Arran could not see why — as far as he was concerned, titles mattered little .

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"Safety," Brightblade replied . "Once you become novices, you will be required to go into the borderlands, and I have little faith in this supposed peace . With the strength of Masters, you will be able to properly defend yourselves . "

"We already spent over a year in the borderlands," Snowcloud countered . "Without anyone protecting us . "

"And how many times did you come close to dying?"

Neither Snowcloud nor Arran had a reply to that .

"You will remain in this Valley until you have the strength to protect yourselves," Brightblade said . "I will not allow you to waste your lives — nor my efforts in training you . "

The tone of her voice made it clear that this was not a matter of debate, and with that, the discussion came to an end .
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They spent the remainder of the night talking about lighter matters — Brightblade seemed especially enthusiastic about the food in the Ninth Valley — but Arran's mind kept wandering to the journey ahead .

No matter how he looked at it, matching Masters in less than a year seemed impossible . Yet that was what Brightblade expected of them .

The next morning, they awoke shortly after dawn . Having to continue their search put Brightblade in a foul mood — she seemed to take the estate's failure to appear in front of her as a personal affront — and they walked silently along the edge of the mountains .

They spent most of the morning searching, and it was nearly noon when Brightblade's eyes suddenly went wide with surprise .

"You have to be kidding me…" She looked at an unremarkable curve in the stone before her with a mixture of shock and annoyance .

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It was a location they'd passed at least three times already, but none of them had noticed anything out of the ordinary . And even now, Arran wasn't entirely certain what it was that Brightblade had noticed .

"Follow me," she said, starting forward without waiting for their replies .

Arran soon found that the unremarkable curve in the rock actually concealed a narrow path into the mountains . Precariously twisting and winding its way upward, it could only barely be considered a path, yet that seemed the intent of those who had originally made it — it was clearly not intended to be found easily .

They followed the path for nearly an hour, climbing ever higher . But then, suddenly, after taking yet another sharp turn, they emerged in a small valley .

Barely half a mile long and perhaps two hundred paces wide, a small stream ran through its middle, and the banks on either side of it were filled with shrubs and trees .

Yet the most eye-catching part of the valley lay at its center, where a large stone mansion stood . Built in a simple but robust fashion, it vaguely resembled a fort, with thick walls that seemed capable of withstanding a great deal of punishment .

Brightblade looked at the mansion with a satisfied expression . "The Grandmaster did well," she said . "Very well indeed . Come, let's have a look . "

They quickly made their way into the mansion, and found that it was even larger than it looked . At a guess, Arran thought it could comfortably hold several hundreds of people — although its dusty state suggested that nobody had entered it in decades, if not longer .

"This will need cleaning," Brightblade said . "The two of you, get to work on that . " With a broad smile, she added, "And while you clean the mansion, I'll inspect the valley for hidden dangers . "

Arran glared at her back as she disappeared out the door, then turned to Snowcloud . "How do you suggest we do this?"

"Wind Essence," she replied . "It shouldn't take more than an hour . "

Relieved, Arran gave her a nod . He had feared they'd have to sweep the entire giant building by hand, the possibility of using Wind Essence not even occurring to him — another reminder that he'd neglected his magic for far too long .

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With the use of magic, it barely took them an hour to remove the decades of dust that had gathered in the mansion, and if they didn't exactly leave it spotless, Arran figured the result was good enough .

Brightblade entered the building again shortly after, with Arran briefly wondering whether she had remained away just long enough to miss the cleaning .

Yet there was a serious look on her face when she approached them .

"At the back of the valley," she began, "there's a path that leads further into the mountains . Under no circumstance is either of you to go there . "

Naturally, this sparked Arran's curiosity, and he asked, "Where does it lead?"

"For you? Death . " She took a breath, then continued, "The path leads further into the mountains, beyond the formations protecting the Ninth Valley . There are dangers there that even I cannot take lightly . If either of you enters without my protection, you will almost certainly die . "

"What kind of dangers?" Snowcloud asked, her brow furrowed . Although she had grown up in one of the Valleys, she clearly knew no more than Arran about the dangers the mountains held .

Brightblade shook her head . "That's no concern of yours . Not yet . For now, all you need to know is to stay away . Understood?"

She gave Arran and Snowcloud a questioning look, and only when they both nodded in acknowledgment did the tension on her face lessen somewhat .

"Next," she went on, "I found some old inactive formations around the mansion . Nasty things — enough to cause even strong mages more than a little trouble . Naturally, I've reactivated them . "

She reached for her void bag, and a moment later, she held up two silver coins . There didn't seem to be anything special about them, except for a large X-shape that had been crudely burned into each of the coins .

She handed Arran and Snowcloud a coin each, then said, "Keep these on you when you approach the mansion . They contain a sliver of my Essence, and you'll be able to pass the formations unharmed . If you try to do so without them, the results will be… unpleasant . "

Arran hurriedly nodded in response . Although he had Sensed no sign of any formations when they entered the mansion, anything that Brightblade considered dangerous was something he had no intention of testing .

"Now, with that handled, I think it's time for Snowcloud to receive the Tempering she so desperately needs . "

Snowcloud's eyes went wide with surprise . "Right now?"

"Right now," Brightblade confirmed .

She turned to Arran, then said, "You should spend these weeks working on your Destruction Realm . You won't get this amount of free time again soon . " With a slight frown, she added, "If anything dangerous appears in this little valley, hurry back to the mansion . Unless you're up against an army of Archmages, you'll be safe here . "

"All right," Arran said . Although he had plenty of questions, it was obvious that those would have to wait until Brightblade finished Snowcloud's Tempering .

"Oh, before I forget…" Brightblade had already begun to head for the hall, but she suddenly turned back to Arran . "I doubt you'll be able to keep from practicing those styles you're learning . If you do, try not to use the same series of techniques more than once . "

Arran gave her a puzzled look . So far, that was exactly what he had been doing . "Why not?"

"You're not learning a dance, with a set order of movements," she replied . "Properly learning a sword style means learning to combine its techniques in any order . That's what you should be practicing — and it's something those fools at the House of Swords seem to have forgotten . "

Before Arran could reply, she turned around and left the room . Snowcloud followed behind her, and Arran only had time to quickly say, "Good luck!" before she was gone as well .

Arran sighed, realizing that he would spend the next few weeks alone in the mansion while Snowcloud underwent her Tempering in the basement .

Then, he walked out the door and into the valley, finding a quiet spot under a tree next to the stream . It was time to begin studying the seal on his Destruction Realm .

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