Paragon of Destruction - Chapter 246

Published at 12th of August 2019 08:25:46 PM

Chapter 246

Jovan woke Arran an hour before dawn the next day, though this time with a knock on his door rather than an admonition not to sleep in the hot spring .

He ate breakfast by himself . While both Doran and Anthea had spent the night in the mansion's guest quarters, neither of them had awoken yet, and he did not begrudge them a good night's sleep — not enough to have Jovan wake them, at least .

More than that, however, he enjoyed the quiet time before the day began in earnest . Another three weeks of study lay ahead, and he treasured the opportunity to spend some moments doing absolutely nothing .

But the quiet breakfast soon came to an end, and as he headed for the Matriarch's mansion, he prepared himself for the day ahead . Whatever the Matriarch had in store for him, he had no doubt it would be difficult .

He found her at the training grounds in her garden, already waiting for him as the first light of day shone down upon the trees around the large stone circle .

"I trust your training with Brightblade went well," she said in a calm voice that betrayed neither disapproval nor encouragement . She handed him a void bag, then continued, "Before we start your studies for the day, take this . "
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Arran accepted the bag, and a quick scan with his Sense revealed that it contained an ample supply of Essence Crystals along with three memory amulets .

The crystals were welcome but unnecessary — he still had hundreds left from the previous month, along with the thousands he'd already had before that . The amulets, meanwhile, he expected would contain his study materials for the month ahead .

"Two of the amulets contain information on various shields and wards," the Matriarch explained . "We will begin your work on those later this month . The remaining one contains various beginner spells that make use of Earth Essence . I expect you to begin studying those immediately in your free time . "

Arran rejoiced at her words . If she expected him to study in his free time, it meant she intended for him to have free time — a considerable improvement over the previous month .

"You will find," she continued, "that Earth Essence is quite different from the types of Essence you already know . Rather than allowing you to summon its element directly, it allows you to control matter that already exists in this world . This makes it considerably slower to use, but it brings advantages, too . Observe . "

She walked toward the edge of the stone-paved circle, then raised her right hand . Barely a second later, a thick earthen wall shot up from the ground outside the circle .

She turned back to Arran . "A shield like this surpasses Force and Wind shields in strength . An attacker has to defeat not just the Essence that binds it, but also the material from which it is made . And if you withdraw your Essence, the physical object will remain, albeit in a far weaker state . "

Arran Sensed that she withdrew her Essence from the wall, but just as she had said, it remained standing even without Essence supporting it .

"However," she continued, "being a physical object, seals and formations can be used to bolster it . Watch closely . "

Again, she raised her hand, then began to create a seal that enveloped the earthen wall . The work took her over a minute, but then, she lowered her hand once more .

Arran did not study the seal to know it was powerful . Its complexity was obvious — well beyond anything he could do — and the strands of Essence from which it was made ran through every inch of the wall, like a framework to strengthen and support it .

"Needless to say, a well-prepared mage with an Earth Realm and a strong knowledge of seals is a force to be reckoned with," she said . "Given enough talent and time to prepare, there are few enemies who pose a threat . "

"Does it work on stone?" Arran asked, his curiosity not yet satisfied .

"It does, after a fashion," the Matriarch replied . "Earth and stone are similar enough that Earth Essence can be used to control stone, though a Stone Realm will achieve better results . Naturally, I will provide you with one of those, eventually . "

Arran furrowed his brow in thought . "What about metal? Can it be controlled like that?"

If metal could be controlled similarly, then a Metal Realm would have obvious uses in combat . Being able to control enemies' swords would be invaluable .

"It can't," the Matriarch said . "Metal Essence is wholly different . It allows one to change rather than control the material — but the process is slow, and is mainly useful in enchantment . But that's a matter for a different time . For now, your mind should be focused on today's studies . "

Arran nodded, though he could not help but be slightly disappointed .

The Matriarch walked back toward the center of the stone circle, then faced Arran again .

"Now," she said, her eyes narrowed as she looked at him . "What did she teach you?"

It soon emerged that the Matriarch was every bit as petty as Brightblade . She spent the better part of the week going over everything Brightblade had taught Arran in ridiculous detail, intent on discovering and fixing even the slightest oversight .

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When she learned that Brightblade had begun teaching him the Shadowflame spell, she frowned in disapproval .

"Ridiculous," she said . "You are nowhere near ready to learn that . But…" She shook her head, then sighed . "If she's already teaching it to you, there's nothing for it but to fix whatever mess she's making . "

While the Matriarch's care in poring over Brightblade's teachings was excessive to the point of absurdity, it benefited Arran no small amount . Being exposed to the conflicting views and insights of two powerful mages meant his knowledge grew rapidly .

Only after the Matriarch had dealt with Brightblade's teachings did she continue with the rest of Arran's studies, teaching him various simple Earth spells and seals before moving on to proper shields and wards .

Naturally, he took efforts not to reveal the extent to which he had opened his Earth Realm, and if his progress was a bit too fast to be normal, the Matriarch showed no interest in it . She had said she did not intend to delve into his past, and as far as Arran could tell, it was a promise she meant to keep .

When he finally began his studies into shields and wards, Arran immediately found himself intrigued .

With his physical strength and skill in close combat, a way to defend himself from ranged attacks was exactly what he needed . And if his talent wasn't quite extraordinary, he made up for that it in effort and enthusiasm .

Still, a single month wasn't anywhere near enough to cover the subject, and Arran spent the next three months engrossed in it, studying shields and wards until even his dreams were filled with them .

His visits to Brightblade's estate and the constant rivalry between his two teachers allowed his skills to advance at a rapid pace, and with each passing month, his understanding of magic grew markedly .

Doran and Anthea watched his rapid progress with astonishment .

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Since they were at his mansion more often than not, they regularly trained together, and although the gap in magical ability between them and Arran was large — they were adepts, after all — it grew smaller by the day .

Oraia, on the other hand, witnessed his development with what could best be described as horrified awe .

Arran had a considerable talent for Shadow magic to begin with, and since Brightblade had decided to instruct him in it, the Matriarch had naturally followed suit . Moreover, the years Arran had spent studying Master Zhao's Shadow seals and his near-constant use of his Shadowsight meant he was well-practiced in controlling Shadow Essence .

This allowed his skill to advance with leaps and bounds, and each of his training sessions with Oraia left her glancing at him as if he was a monster .

It barely took him two months before he learned how to conceal small moving objects, and he immediately put this to use to conceal his void ring .

The amount of Essence this required was small enough that he could maintain it indefinitely, and the exercise of maintaining it even while training other things further helped his progress .

All considered, Arran was more than satisfied with the situation . His studies were intense but productive, and even if he had little free time, after the first month the Matriarch no longer pushed him beyond his limits — though she still took care to ensure he never fell short of them, either .

After yet another week at Brightblade's estate, Arran found himself walking back to the House of Seals with a feeling of calm contentment . The weather was sunny and the roads not too full, and he knew that there would be a good meal and a soft bed waiting for him back at the mansion .

But then, he Sensed something he hadn't encountered in a long time — the hurried gathering of Essence that came before a serious attack . And even in the split second before the attack was launched, he could Sense that there were a handful of different sources, each of them with considerable power .

After months studying shields, Arran instinctively responded by raising a thick earthen wall from the ground . A mistake, he knew even as he finished the spell — Earth Essence was too slow to defend against an unexpected spell .

He barely had time to utter half a curse as half a dozen streaks of white-hot Fire Essence slammed into his body, hitting him at the same moment he completed the shield .