Paragon Of Destruction 156 Leaving The Castle
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Stoneheart and Tuya saw them off as they departed, offering them wishes of good fortune on their travels, along with several small gifts.
Tuya gave Arran fifty Essence Crystals, which she said was a token of grat.i.tude for his help in disposing of the army. Arran accepted it gracefully, not bothering to point out that she'd taken twice as much for the armor he'd used. Tuya, he suspected, would have been able to easily handle the matter herself had she wanted to.
Stoneheart, on the other hand, had little to offer but his grat.i.tude. The tall novice had last his own void bag in battle months earlier, and it appeared that Elder Naran had confiscated all the belongings of the novices they'd defeated in battle.
The giant Elder himself, finally, did not appear. From what Snowcloud said, he'd locked himself away weeks earlier, and it seemed that the departure of Arran and Snowcloud wasn't enough for him to break his seclusion.
Arran couldn't help but be surprised by this. He had expected that Elder Naran would at least want to see the results of the hunt on his Blood magic. And the results were worth studying, Arran thought — after all was said and done, he was at least three times as strong as he had been before the Tempering.
Moreover, there was an unexpected benefit, and a major one at that. While the Blood magic had made Arran much stronger, he could tell that although the effect was similar to that of Body Refinement, the two things weren't the same, and existed independent of each other.
Although Arran hadn't had the time to carefully study it yet, he knew he could still strengthen his Body Refinement separately from the Blood magic, and that the two things would both strengthen him in subtly different ways. This meant he would be able to benefit from both, and would likely be able to advance much faster than he could otherwise.
All considered, there was much to investigate, but it seemed Elder Naran had even more important things to handle. Still, Arran suspected that the Elder would not pa.s.s up the opportunity to study him the next time they met.
While Arran didn't mind being let off easily this time, a small part of him was disappointed — there was another matter he had wanted to ask the Elder about.
Ever since the battle, he had noticed a subtle change in his starmetal sword. While it had always been an excellent weapon, it seemed that after taking thousands of lives, it had somehow improved.
It had grown sharper and heavier, and at times Arran thought he could sense a subtle but vicious aura coming from the weapon, as if it had absorbed some small part of the violence of battle.
He had asked Snowcloud about this, of course, but although her expression grew thoughtful when he told her, she eventually sighed and told him that she didn't know enough about enchanted weapons to explain what had happened.
The first few days of their journey were smooth, and it wasn't long before they had left behind the castle and the large valley that surrounded it. Soon, the farms and small villages that dotted the countryside grew spa.r.s.er, until finally, they disappeared entirely.
Arran found himself wondering what the reason for this was. The land here looked just as fertile, if not more so, and any farmer should be glad to have it.
The only explanation he could think of was that they had moved outside the area protected by the castle and that here, the region was too dangerous for most farmers and villagers.
When he asked Snowcloud, she couldn't answer the question either, but she didn't seem to think it important. Right now, Arran could tell, her mind was fully focused on the remaining two ingredients.
As they traveled, Arran continuously used his Shadowsight to observe the area around them. Whatever dangers the region held, he would not be caught unawares or allow them to be ambushed.
On the fourth day after they left the castle, he suddenly found a group of four people several hundreds of paces behind them. While the group wasn't moving in a hurry, it wouldn't be long before they caught up with Arran and Snowcloud.
"We're being followed," he said quickly. "Four people, just a few hundred paces back. Should we run?"
Snowcloud shook her head. "I expected this," she said. "Just wait, and follow my lead."
There was no time for Arran to ask for further explanation, and he responded with a nod.
After they stopped, it only took a few moments for the other group to appear. When they approached, Arran saw that the four were dressed like mages. At their head was a handsome young man with wavy brown hair and a slightly arrogant countenance.
"Why are you following us?" Snowcloud called out, a commanding tone in her voice.
"Lady Snowcloud," the young man said, giving her a nod that was slightly too small to be polite. "We saw you leave the Soaring Sun camp, so naturally, we followed you."
"I am not involved in your conflict," Snowcloud replied. "As you well know, I support neither the Soaring Sun nor the Waning Moon. Since you know this, why are you following us?"
The young man smiled. "Of course I'm aware of your unique situation," he said. "But with you spending time at the Soaring Sun camp, it would not be unreasonable to think that you may have decided to pick a side." His face hardened somewhat, and there was a hint of a threat in his voice now. "Why did you visit them?"
"I haven't joined the Soaring Sun," Snowcloud said, her voice icy. "And my business is my own."
"Regretfully, I cannot accept that," the young man said, sounding not at all regretful. "If it was my decision, I would not interfere with your journey. But when it comes to our conflict with the Soaring Sun, my orders are strict. However, if you follow us back to the Waning Moon camp, I'm certain the Elders will clear the issue up quickly."
"This camp of yours, how far is it?" Snowcloud asked, her expression pensive.
"Just under three weeks of travel," the young man replied. "But once you've explained your visit to the Soaring Sun camp to our Elders, I'm confident they will lend their aid in resolving whatever matters brought you here." With a meaningful look at Snowcloud, he added, "And surely, you know that we can offer more than our enemies."
Snowcloud hesitated for several moments, a thoughtful look on her face. Finally, in a softer voice, she said, "Very well. We'll come with you."
She began to walk toward the group of novices, gesturing for Arran to follow her.
The young man gave her a charming smile. "I'm glad you decided to be reason—"
Before he could finish the words, four streaks of white fire suddenly shot out from Snowcloud's hand, one toward each of the novices. The surprise attack, while not powerful, was fast enough to cause them to stagger backward.
Arran rushed forward, his sword drawn in an instant. He had been wary from the start, and the moment Snowcloud attacked, he was ready.
It only took the novices a moment to recover from Snowcloud's attack, but by then, Arran's blade had already taken one of them through the throat. He swung his blade at a second one, and the young woman quickly threw up a Wind s.h.i.+eld to block it.
Yet as the novice defended from Arran's attack, another white stream shot from Snowcloud's hand, piercing through the woman's head. Her body collapsed to the ground at once.
In less than a moment, two novices already lay dead, but the remaining two seemed to have recovered from the initial shock. The handsome young man threw a spell at Snowcloud that she only barely dodged, while the final one — a square-jawed man who looked to be in his late twenties — focused on Arran.
Arran ignored Snowcloud and the handsome young man, focusing his attention on his own opponent. He rushed forward, sword in his right hand while he threw a Battering Force attack with the left.
The man blocked the attack easily, then countered with a white-hot fireball as he drew his own sword. Arran used a Force s.h.i.+eld to block the attack, but it was stronger than he expected, and he was pushed back several paces.
Before he could rush his opponent, the man launched another attack — Wind, this time — and Arran was sent back further, his Force s.h.i.+eld now brought to the brink of collapse.
The situation was bad, Arran knew. If he could reach his opponent, killing the man would be easy. But in a ranged fight, he was easily outmatched.
With no other options, he threw a barrage of magic attacks at the man while das.h.i.+ng toward him — a Battering Force attack, then a Windblade, then several fireb.a.l.l.s. Yet the man easily blocked the attacks, and a vicious look appeared in his eyes as he formed a blazing fireball in his hand.
Yet right at that moment, a ma.s.sive ball of Wind struck the man from the side, staggering him and causing the fireball in his hand to dissipate.
Arran did not hesitate. Before the man could recover, Arran's blade came flas.h.i.+ng toward him. Even so, he managed to deflect the first blow, but the second took off his arm, and the third his head.
With a breath of relief, Arran turned to Snowcloud, who was standing next to the handsome young man's charred corpse. She had finished off her opponent quickly, it seemed, and had intervened just in time to save Arran.
Although he was relieved at surviving the short but brutal battle, he gave Snowcloud a questioning look. "Care to explain why we just killed four novices?" he asked, looking at the dead bodies that surrounded them.
Paragon Of Destruction 156 Leaving The Castle
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Paragon Of Destruction 156 Leaving The Castle summary
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