Paragon of Destruction - Chapter 53

Published at 12th of August 2019 08:29:12 PM

Chapter 53

Arran followed the man away from the castle . For a time they walked in silence, with Arran following a short distance behind the man he had thought was one of Captain Yang's guards .

Several times, they encountered patrols, but after a wave of the man's hand, the patrols hurried past, almost seeming afraid . With some concern, Arran realized it wasn't him they feared .

"Who are you?" Arran finally asked .

Now that he got a better look at the man, he was certain that he was not just a guard . There was a certain confidence in his manner, bordering on arrogance, that reminded Arran of Lord Jiang and Master Zhao .

The observation filled him with unease . He had joined the man on the belief that he could easily defeat him if needed, but now, he was beginning to suspect that he had gravely underestimated the man's power .

"Call me Panurge," the man said .

The name sounded odd to Arran, as if it was a title rather than a real name . He was becoming more certain by the second that the man was altogether different from what he pretended to be .

"Do you work for Captain Yang, or does he work for you?" Arran peered at Panurge as he asked the question . He was already confident of what the real answer was, but he wanted to see the man's reaction .

"I'd call it a partnership of equals," Panurge said calmly . "Our side — Chaos, as you call it — we aren't big on hierarchy . "

"So you really are on the side of Chaos?" Arran asked .

He remembered what Senecio had told him earlier, and his heart sank as he realized that he had stumbled into a conflict that stretched far beyond what he could see .

"In a way," Panurge replied . "Although it's not so much a side as it is a belief . "

"A belief?" Arran frowned as he considered the answer . "Then what do you believe in?"

"Freedom," the man replied without hesitation . "The Academy believes that this world needs control, and that they are the ones to provide it . My associates and I disagree . "

"Then you're not after power?" Arran asked doubtfully . Even if Panurge's words sounded appealing, he did not trust the man in the slightest .

"My own power is enough," Panurge said . "I do not need to lead others, or be led by them . "

"What about the Herald?" Arran asked . "Wasn't he your leader?"

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Panurge laughed, as if Arran had just told a hilarious joke . "The Herald was tasked with protecting our stronghold from the Academy, but he was no more a leader than I am . " Scowling, he added, "Although I suppose he wasn't much of a protector, either . "

"The man who killed him… he talked about a war," Arran said . "He said that this world was on the verge of being lost to Chaos . "

"Lost to the Academy," Panurge said . "For those like you, it would be a blessing . "

"Those like me?" Arran asked . "What do you mean?"

"People with Realms the Academy calls forbidden, and other magic of the more interesting kind . The ones who are hunted by the Academy for their powers . "

"You know about that?!" Even if he knew Panurge was more than he pretended to be, Arran had not expected him to know this much . By now, he was beginning to think half the world knew about his forbidden Realm .

"Of course," Panurge answered simply .

"What do you want from me?" Arran asked bluntly . Sick of being the only one who didn't know what was going on, he could no longer bring himself to feign politeness .

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"Want? From you?" Panurge shook his head with a laugh . "You have nothing to give me . There is something I could offer you, however . "

"What is it?" Arran asked, instantly wary of anything Panurge had to offer .

"You could join us," the man said . "I could take you beyond the Empire's borders, where you would be protected from the Academy . In time, you might become truly powerful . "

"Why?" Arran asked . "I'm an initiate, barely even worth calling a mage . Why would you be interested in me?"

"Because despite your youth, you have already done some interesting things . " Panurge laughed . "Weak though you are, you're already causing a stir in the Empire . If you manage to master that Realm of yours, this world will surely see some excitement . "

"What if I refuse?" Arran was of no mind to join Panurge, no matter what the man said . Between the lies and the idea of making an enemy out of Senecio, there was nothing in the man's offer that appealed to him .

"Then I will let you leave . " Panurge shrugged . "If you avoid being caught by the Academy, your journey will still be worth watching . But you would be wise to think well before rejecting my help . "

"If you want to help me, why the lies and the trickery?" Arran could not help but ask the question .

Panurge's behavior baffled him — if the man had offered to protect him from the Academy two weeks earlier, he might have accepted the offer . But instead, he had offered nothing but lies and deceit .

"Because that's his nature," a voice suddenly spoke .

Arran turned toward the voice, and he was startled to see Senecio's short figure standing just a few paces away . The old man seemed to have materialized out of nowhere, but although his appearance caught Arran off guard, Panurge merely smiled .

"Senecio," Panurge said . "I wondered when you would show yourself . "

"I killed your pet," Senecio said .

"So I noticed," Panurge replied . "It's why I came, although I arrived just a moment too late to stop you . " With a look at Arran, he added, "But I did find something else that caught my interest . "

"Step away from him, boy," the old man said . "He's more dangerous than you realize . "

Although Arran doubted the latter part — he already thought Panurge had the power to kill him at a whim — did as Senecio said and stepped away from Panurge . If a fight broke out between the two, he did not want to be anywhere near it .

"He has more reason to fear you than he does me," Panurge said . "At least I won't kill him for the crime of existing . "

For several moments they stood in silence, the two men about ten paces apart, calmly watching each other as Arran slowly backed away . From what he could tell, they might attack each other at any moment .