Paragon Of Destruction 201 Barrier
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"Could someone silence this delusional child?" Elder Feng's voice held a hint of annoyance, but no more than that.
"Let him speak," Elder Naran said sharply. Then, he turned to Arran. "Are you certain?" There was doubt in his eyes, but he did not dismiss the idea outright.
Arran hesitated before speaking. "I am," he finally said. "Mostly."
Ancestral Seal or not, he'd recognized the formation almost immediately. Although it was larger and formed from Fire instead of Shadow Essence, the pattern it used was a near-perfect match for the seal on his Destruction Realm. And after years of having the seal inside him, he could not possibly fail to notice the likeness.
That alone would not have given him confidence in breaking it, of course. The seal was something he could not break, and had the formation exactly matched it, he would have had no way to deal with it.
But where the strands of Essence in Master Zhao's seal formed a perfect whole, that was not the case with the formation. While its parts were the same, it was as if they had been pieced together by someone who did not know what he was making — someone who had blindly followed instructions to create something he did not truly comprehend.
As Arran knew all too well, the seal's biggest strength was exactly its perfect unity. Each strand of Essence was linked with all the others in an intricate pattern that seemed to lack any weak spots, making it all but impossible to dismantle.
Yet in the formation, this unity was absent.
To someone who had not spent numerous infuriating hours tangling with the real seal, the formation's weaknesses would have been near-impossible to see. But to Arran, they were unmistakable.
"By all means, let the youth have a go at it," Elder Feng said. The annoyance in his voice had disappeared, mocking amus.e.m.e.nt now taking its place. "Perhaps he will see what dozens of Elders failed to notice."
Some of the mages chuckled in derision, but Arran ignored them. His concentration was entirely focused on the formation, and he slowly approached it, stopping only when he was close enough to touch it.
For the better part of an hour, he meticulously studied the formation, making note of all the ways in which it differed from the seal on his Destruction Realm. Each of these differences represented a weakness, and Arran took care not to miss any of them.
"Not as easy as it looks, is it?"
Even without seeing Elder Feng, Arran knew there was a satisfied smirk on the man's face. Yet if the Elder's intention was to distract, he would be disappointed — even without the Patriarch's life at stake, Arran would not easily give up this chance to practice his seal-breaking skills.
As Arran continued his work, some grumbles occasionally sounded from the mages who stood waiting, but each time, a quick word from Elder Naran was enough to silence them.
Finally, Arran had learned all he could, and he was certain he knew how to break the formation. All it would take was to interrupt the strands of Essence in a specific order, without giving them time to reinforce each other.
The broad grin that appeared on his face lasted only a moment, however, because then, a horrible truth dawned on him.
While he knew what to do, he lacked a way to actually do it.
In his focus on defeating the pattern, he'd forgotten that there was a crucial difference between Master Zhao's seal and this formation.
The seal existed inside him and was created using his own Essence. He could manipulate it with just a thought — that he had failed to defeat it was solely because he lacked the knowledge to do so.
But the formation was a different matter altogether. Rather than manipulating it with his thoughts, he would have to block each strand of Essence using magic — and there were thousands of strands in the formation.
He knew the task was beyond him, but he could not give up — if he did, the Patriarch would die and the traitors might yet achieve victory. And if that happened, both he and Snowcloud would be in grave danger.
A frown crossed his face as he considered what to do, but then, he set to work.
First, he created a small Force s.h.i.+eld, which he used to block one of the strands of Fire Essence. The s.h.i.+eld held, and he quickly dismissed it, replacing it with a smaller one. He did this several times, soon finding the strength that was needed to block a single one of the formation's strands.
Then, he began to create more of the s.h.i.+elds, as many as he could handle. But for all his physical strength, his skill at magic was lacking, and he barely managed to form two dozen small s.h.i.+elds before he reached the limit of what he could control.
That was far less than he needed to break the formation — even a hundred times as many would not be enough, and Arran was already struggling to control this much. Actually breaking the formation with his current level of skill would be utterly impossible.
Yet at that moment, an idea dawned in his mind. It would be dangerous, but…
"Enough of this," Elder Feng said. "The young man clearly doesn't know what he's—"
The Elder went silent as Arran stepped into the formation.
The idea was as simple as it was mad. Although Arran could not break the formation, he could target its weak points to force open a crack just large enough for him to pa.s.s through unharmed, two dozen tiny Force s.h.i.+elds blocking key points of the formation.
But if he made even the tiniest error, he would be pierced by a thousand strands of Fire Essence. And all that stood between him and death was his skill at magic — an embarra.s.sing weakness at the best of times, and something he now sorely regretted neglecting for so long.
He forced the crack in the formation open further, then quickly took another step forward as it closed behind him.
"He will cause a disturbance in the formation!" Elder Feng cried out, a trace of panic in his words. "He'll kill us all! We can't let him continue!"
Arran knew it was nonsense. He was the only person who was in danger. But in his struggle with the formation, he could not spare the attention to refute the man's ridiculous claim.
"We can, and we will." Elder Naran's tone held a barely veiled threat of violence as he dismissed Elder Feng's concerns.
"If you want to join this man in death, I cannot stop you," Elder Feng said, his voice close to shouting. "But I will leave — I will not throw away my life so easily!"
"You will stay!" The giant Elder's words thundered through the hall, and what had been a veiled threat a moment ago now became a promise. "You will stay, or you will die. Do you think us foolish enough to believe your lies? You will remain here, to be judged by the Patriarch when he awakens."
"You dare accuse me of treason?!" Elder Feng cried out in a shrieking voice that contained fear and fury in equal measure. "You dare—"
Arran tuned out the commotion behind him. All his attention was needed to maintain the crack in the formation. Feeling that his control would not hold much longer, he hurriedly took another step forward.
Just one more step now, and he would be through the formation. He repositioned the s.h.i.+elds, then moved again — and found an invisible barrier blocking the way. The inner formation.
He had hoped there was some s.p.a.ce between the two formations, but with his control on the verge of collapse, it was too late to turn back. And even if he could, the conflict between the Elders was on the verge of erupting into battle, and Elder Feng doubtless wasn't the only traitor in the group.
There was no choice but to push forward and hope that the inner formation would accept him. It was a distant hope, but not an absurd one. He suspected that the Patriarch somehow controlled the inner formation, and if so, there was a chance he would be allowed inside it.
He pushed again, and again found himself forced back. But this time, there was some give in the barrier. A sign, perhaps — or maybe just vain hope. Either way, he could only try again.
He made a third push, and this time, he met no resistance at all. He stumbled forward, and the outer formation immediately snapped shut behind him.
As he got to his feet and looked at the body on the platform before him, he heard the Elders go silent. Even in the heat of conflict, they had seen what had happened.
"I must borrow your body. Do not resist; I mean you no harm."
It took Arran a moment to realize that the voice was inside his mind, and by then, his body was already turning around, completely outside his control. There was no question of resisting it — he had become a mere observer in his own body, his actions no longer his to decide.
He raised his arm and pointed at Elder Feng. "Traitor!" he said in a voice that was not his own. "In your l.u.s.t for power, you betrayed both me and the Valley, allying yourself with the Society's enemies and causing thousands of our own to die. Both your rank and life are void."
The Elder did not get a chance to say his final words. Even as he spoke, Arran felt the Patriarch draw upon a vast reservoir of Essence, channeling staggering amounts of Fire and Shadow Essence into his body. Then, in an instant, the two types of Essence fused perfectly, and a thin stream of invisible flame shot toward the traitorous Elder.
Arran could feel the attack as if it was his own, but even so, the spell was too fast for his mind to follow. It had struck like lightning, and only when he saw Elder Feng topple to the floor with a hole burned through his forehead did he realize what had happened.
"Traitor!" he said again, pointing toward a different Elder.
In less than a minute, a dozen Elders and Grandmasters died. Some tried to defend themselves, while others begged or fled, but the outcome was the same for each of them. Using Arran's body as a conduit for his power, the Patriarch swatted them like flies.
Finally, Arran's eyes were turned to the survivors. "Elder Naran," he heard himself say. "Take Snowcloud and your Elders to the throne room and wait there. The rest of you, purge the Valley of traitors. Take the Seventh Valley spies alive, and kill the others. Now leave!"
The gathered Elders and Grandmasters did as he said at once, a mixture of fear and reverence showing on their faces.
Only Snowcloud showed something different — concern, Arran thought. Yet Elder Naran hurriedly guided her out of the hall, and moments later, none were left but Arran, the Patriarch's shriveled body, and a dozen dead mages.
As Arran looked at the scene, the Patriarch's words sounded in his mind once more.
"As for you… There is much in your memories that interests me."
Paragon Of Destruction 201 Barrier
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Paragon Of Destruction 201 Barrier summary
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