Paragon Of Destruction 20 Aftermath
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Arran knelt by his friend's motionless body. Now that the danger was gone, he immediately worried about Amar, who had been struck by an Academy mage's attack.
To his relief, as he knelt he could hear Amar groan. He was in pain, but at least he had survived. Others, Arran knew, had not been as lucky.
Amar opened his eyes. "Did I get him?" he immediately asked, though speaking the words took him some effort.
"You did," Arran said. No point in telling him right now that it had taken half a dozen initiates to bring down the Academy adept.
"b.a.s.t.a.r.d broke my arm," Amar said. Cradling his limp right arm, he slowly sat up, wincing as he moved his injured body. "So did we win?" He looked toward the rest of the monastery grounds, and a look of astonishment appeared in his eyes.
Arran nodded. "Master Fireheart defeated them."
Following Amar's eyes, Arran looked out over the monastery grounds. The sight nearly made him sick.
Barely a building still stood standing. Wherever he looked, the grounds were filled with wreckage and debris. His heart sank when he saw that many bodies lay among the ruins.
At that moment, Adept Kadir approached them. Despite his own injuries, the man had immediately started checking up on the injured initiates after Master Zhao had defeated the last of the Academy mages.
"Is he alright?" he asked Arran, voice thick with worry.
"He's well enough to speak for himself," Amar said, a forced grin appearing on his face. He was clearly still in great pain.
"It's all because of me…" Arran said. "All of this… it's my fault."
"No," Adept Kadir said. There was a slight tremble in his voice. "This is Windsong's doing. He's the one who invited them. He's the one who caused this." Arran noticed he did not use his master's t.i.tle.
"But they came here for me," Arran said.
Adept Kadir did not have a reply. It was true, Arran knew. Had he not come to the monastery, none of this would have happened. The Academy had come for him, and him alone.
"They would have." The voice was Master Zhao's, who had appeared unseen. "You think they would send an army's worth of mages just for a single initiate?"
Adept Kadir cut in. "You're saying they planned this?"
"They planned a slaughter," Master Zhao said. "They just failed to antic.i.p.ate whose it would be."
"But why?" Arran asked. It made no sense. Windsong had offered to help the Academy. Why would they attack him and the monastery?
"The Academy does not abide rivals," Master Zhao said. "In the past, Windsong's monastery was small enough to be ignored. But this…" He gestured toward the monastery grounds. "This could never last."
"Then why didn't they act earlier?" Adept Kadir asked. He did not sound convinced.
"Until now, Windsong wasn't worthy of their attention," Master Zhao said. "Yet as the monastery grew, so did the danger. Without Windsong's invitation, it could have been a few more decades before they came, but they would have come eventually."
"Where is Windsong now?" Arran asked, remembering that Master Zhao had said he had not killed the man.
"Long gone, I a.s.sume," Master Zhao replied. "I do not imagine he has much interest in dealing with either us or the Academy."
"Then what of the rest of us?" Adept Kadir asked.
"You must flee," Master Zhao said. "Gather up your wounded, warn the townsfolk to leave, then head deep into the mountains. Once the students are ready to strike out on their own, send them away."
"Abandon the monastery? Just like that?" Sorrow filled Adept Kadir's voice.
"You have no choice," Master Zhao answered. "Once the Academy discovers what happened here, they will send more mages. Anyone left here when they arrive will die."
"But how can we escape them?" Adept Kadir asked. "Even if we leave the monastery and head into the mountains, they can easily track us."
Master Zhao reached into his robe and retrieved a small object, which he handed to Adept Kadir. Arran could not see what it was, but Adept Kadir's eyes lit up when he received it.
"This should help you hide," Master Zhao said. "It won't be enough if they put serious effort into searching for you, but for the time being, their focus will be on finding me." A glint in his eye, he added, "I will make sure to draw their attention."
Adept Kadir was silent for a moment. "When will you leave?" he finally asked.
"Now," Master Zhao answered. He turned to Arran. "Say your goodbyes."
Arran turned to the others. He had not expected to leave them so soon, but he understood that Master Zhao would allow no delay. If what his master said was true, then the Academy would soon send even more fearsome mages after them, and there wasn't a moment to waste in fleeing.
It took him some moments to say his parting words to Adept Kadir, Amar, and Jiang Fei. Arran had thought they would be bitter toward him because of what happened, but all he found in their words was sorrow and regret.
Finally, Adept Kadir handed Arran a small book, telling him to study it when he had time. Arran accepted it gratefully, already suspecting what it would be.
As they left, Arran could see that Adept Kadir had already begun to look after the initiates, ordering them to take care of the wounded, while checking on the most severely injured ones himself.
The sight caused him to feel some pain in his heart. He still remembered how content Adept Kadir had been when they first arrived, and how the man had told him about his dislike for travel.
Now, Arran knew, Adept Kadir would be forced to flee, and it might be a very long time before he found another place like his beloved monastery.
Arran and Master Zhao reached the gate not long after. Up close, Arran could see that little was left of both the gate and the surrounding wall, and he hoped the guards had fled before the Academy mages arrived.
Suddenly, a voice sounded. "Archmage Fireheart!"
They turned around, and Arran was surprised to see Jiang Fei running toward them, carrying a large bag that looked to have been packed in a hurry.
"Archmage Fireheart!" she called again.
Then, she got down on her knees and pressed her head against the ground. Arran boggled at the unexpected sight.
"Please take me as your apprentice!" she said as she rose to her knees.
Arran's eyes went wide with shock. Jiang Fei becoming Master Zhao's apprentice? The very idea seemed ludicrous. And why was she calling Master Zhao "Archmage"?
"You think I'm an Archmage?" Master Zhao sounded amused.
"I know you are!" Jiang Fei said. "No Grandmaster could be that strong!"
Master Zhao examined her with a thoughtful expression. "You would leave the others behind to join us?" he finally asked.
"The monastery is gone," she said. "Whether I leave now or later, I will have to find a new path."
"But why join us?" Master Zhao asked. "You must understand that our journey will be a dangerous one."
"Your power," Jiang Fei said bluntly. "You are the strongest mage I have ever seen. If I learn from you…" She fell silent, and a slight blush appeared on her cheeks.
Master Zhao chuckled. "Very well," he said. "I will allow you to travel with us. Although I must warn you… you might not find what you expect."
"I'm willing to accept your teachings," she said. "Whatever they might be."
"If you are to join us, there is one small thing I must do first," Master Zhao said. "Stand up."
Jiang Fei stood up, then looked at Master Zhao somewhat anxiously. With a wave of the man's hand, the air around her suddenly grew blurry — a sight that was familiar to Arran by now.
When the air grew clear again, in Jiang Fei's place stood a short, bald, middle-aged man.
For a moment, Arran gaped in astonishment. Then, despite the day's events, he found himself struggling to contain his laughter.
"What is it?" the man asked in Jiang Fei's voice.
"I will tell you later," Arran said.
Paragon Of Destruction 20 Aftermath
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Paragon Of Destruction 20 Aftermath summary
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