Paragon Of Destruction 202 The Patriarch
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Although Arran had given no voice to his fear, it was clear that the Patriarch knew his thoughts without needing him to speak any words.
"While your memories are of interest to me, I would not harm you for them. I would not offer you such poor repayment for the help you've given me and Snowcloud."
Arran breathed a sigh of relief. The Patriarch had no reason to lie — if he intended harm, there was absolutely nothing that Arran could do to stop him.
"Before anything else, please bring me the cure for that wretched poison. Heavens know I've had to endure it long enough."
Arran understood that the Patriarch could easily force him to deliver the cure. That he did not do so was likely intended as a token of goodwill — a good sign, if nothing else.
"A token of goodwill? In part, I suppose. But I would not lightly force an ally to do something — not unless it was absolutely necessary. Now hurry up. A few drops of blood sprinkled across my body's lips should be enough."
Ignoring his unease at having his thoughts read so easily, Arran approached the Patriarch's motionless body, then used his sword to make a deep cut across his hand. In the brief moment before it healed again, he released a thin stream of blood across the shriveled body's lips.
"Excellent! With this, I should recover in a matter of weeks!"
The Patriarch's casual words hid a deep sense of joy, and Arran needed little imagination to understand that after decades spent trapped in his own body, the prospect of freedom was no small matter to the man.
"Now, if you'll allow me to use your body again, I can take care of Elder Feng's formation. If not, you will have to wait until I recover and remove it myself. But I think you'd prefer not to spend the next few weeks locked in here with a withered old man and a dozen corpses."
Arran quickly agreed. He had no desire to spend another hour in the room, much less several weeks.
Once more, he could feel the Patriarch take control of his body. A moment later, he could feel Essence rus.h.i.+ng into his body — far more than he would be able to control himself.
Several hundreds of strands of Essence formed, then slowly stretched out towards those parts of the formation that Arran had previously recognized as its weak points. Yet just before they touched it, they unexpectedly dissipated.
"Attacking these weak points would be an effective way of destroying the formation, though it would not help you against a more skillfully made version. I do not know who taught it to Elder Feng, but he did a supremely lousy job at it. Had he used one of his own formations, you would not have pa.s.sed it so easily — but then, his work would have been easy to recognize."
With a start, Arran realized that the Patriarch was offering him instruction — rather than just breaking the formation, he was showing how it could be done.
"Of course," the Patriarch's voice came. "It would not do to waste an opportunity like this. Now pay attention."
In quick succession, he demonstrated nearly a dozen different ways to attack the formation, with each providing Arran new insights on the functioning of seals. It was like watching a master craftsman at work, and with the Patriarch using Arran's body, even the slightest detail was easy to see.
Finally, the Patriarch's words sounded in Arran's mind again. "But the most effective way to break a formation is through a counter-formation."
In the blink of an eye, the Patriarch formed an impossibly intricate pattern consisting of thousands of strands of Essence. Although most of it was beyond Arran's understanding, he could tell that the pattern was like an opposite of the one used in the formation.
When the pattern was finished, it suddenly grew in size, expanding until it perfectly covered Elder Feng's formation.
Like a candle being snuffed, the formation dissipated in an instant, not a trace of it left behind.
The scene left Arran in awe. The Patriarch's skill was beyond anything he could have imagined. And as he observed this, an idea formed in his mind. If the Patriarch could destroy Elder Feng's formation this easily, then perhaps he could remove Master Zhao's seal as well.
"I could, but I won't," came the Patriarch's reply. "That seal is more valuable than the Realm it covers. Study it well, and once you are able to break it, you will have made a first step toward becoming a master of seals yourself."
Arran nodded silently, understanding that the Patriarch was right. And now that he knew that seals and formations were essentially the same thing, he realized that mastering the skill would bring him tremendous benefits.
"But perhaps I can do something else for you. If you remain here a little longer, I can give you some small pointers on how to properly use magic."
"All right," Arran replied quickly.
"Pay close attention. This opportunity will not come again, and it will save you years of study."
The Patriarch gathered a large amount of Essence in Arran's body, then began to cast a series of spells.
The spells were all ones Arran already knew — Windblade, Force s.h.i.+eld, and Battering Force — but the difference between his own versions and the Patriarch's was like night and day. Even limiting himself to an amount of Essence that Arran could control, the Patriarch's spells were somehow far more powerful.
Yet with the Patriarch using his body, it was as if he was casting the spells himself, and in a few short minutes of observation, he gained more understanding than he had in years of practice.
"Of course, they can also be used with different kinds of Essence."
The Patriarch cast the spells once more, but this time, he used other types of Essence. The Windblade became a Force Blade, the Force s.h.i.+eld a Shadow s.h.i.+eld, and Battering Force became a violent storm.
"Practicing the variations will improve your skill, and also help you develop a greater control of Essence — something you are desperately lacking."
Arran did not dispute this. He knew well that control of magic was a weakness of his, and one that he needed to address sooner rather than later.
"Next, I will show you a new spell. It's called Flamestrike, and you have already seen it used more than once. Learning to cast it will not only give you a powerful new attack but also qualify you to become a novice."
The Patriarch crafted an intricate spell, far more complex than the previous ones, and a moment later a thin stream of white-hot Fire Essence shot from Arran's hand like lightning.
Arran immediately recognized the spell. He had seen Snowcloud use it many times against their enemies, and he knew its power could not be underestimated.
The Patriarch cast the Flamestrike spell a dozen more times, each time doing so slowly and carefully. Arran knew that learning it himself would be no simple matter, but this lesson was invaluable — it would save him years of practice, if not more.
"Another spell you should learn is Shadowcloak. You have some small skill at using Shadow Essence already, and with your physical strength, mastering it should be particularly useful to you. Observe."
Again, the Patriarch began to cast, demonstrating the Shadowcloak spell several dozens of times. It was far more complex than the Flamestrike spell, but still, Arran thought he had a good chance of learning it in less than a year.
"Your idea of using that Duskcloak to study the Shadowcloak spell is a good one, but as you can see, there are some important differences between how the spell and the artifact work. So learn from the cloak, but remember what I showed you."
Arran nodded, his attention fully focused on remembering every single detail of what he had been shown.
"Finally, one last spell — the one for which our society is named. Learning it will qualify you to become an adept, and mastering it will make you a threat even to Grandmasters. Behold — Shadowflame."
The Patriarch began to cast, and Arran recognized the spell as the one he had used against the Elders. Except this time, the Patriarch cast it slowly, taking care to demonstrate each step involved.
The Shadowflame spell seamlessly fused Shadow and Fire Essence, then used it in an attack that vaguely resembled the Flamestrike spell. Only it was clear that this spell held far greater power, and Arran thought…
Before he could even finish the thought, the Patriarch's words sounded in his mind. "You are correct. Executed perfectly, other mages cannot Sense the Shadowflame spell. Few mages ever achieve that level of mastery, but those who do are feared by all."
Arran did not need to ask whether the Patriarch had mastered it — the answer was obvious. And equally obvious was how terrifying the spell would be, especially in combination with the Shadowcloak spell. With these two spells, a mage would be able to strike from the shadows, killing enemies without ever being seen.
"Indeed," came the Patriarch's answer. "But note the Shadowcloak's weakness, which you have already discovered. What you call Shadowsight — a good name, I think — can be used to detect those who use it. There are ways around that, but none of them are simple."
Arran furrowed his brow, engraving both the spells and the Patriarch's words in his mind.
While the lesson had barely taken an hour, he knew its value was beyond compare. Even if this was the only reward he would get for saving the Patriarch, it was already worth it — and many times over, at that.
"Once you leave, tell Elder Naran to give you scrolls for these spells, and have Brightblade provide you and Snowcloud with instruction. You need to practice while the memories are still fresh in your mind."
Arran nodded quietly, though there was no need for the reminder. After what he had been shown, he was br.i.m.m.i.n.g with anxiousness to put it into practice.
"But now, you should go. I must focus on recovering. Have Elder Naran take you and Snowcloud to my estate, and do not leave it before I return. Before the last traitors have been dealt with, the Valley won't be safe for either of you."
With that, Arran could feel the Patriarch's presence disappear from his mind.
For a brief moment, he stood there silently, pondering what had happened. He still did not understand how the Patriarch had entered his mind, but it had been a blessing beyond anything he could have hoped for.
Finally, he began to head toward the exit, an eager smile on his face.
When he emerged into the throne room, he found Elder Naran and the others waiting for him. And before he could so much as say a word, Snowcloud rushed toward him, embracing him tightly.
Several moments pa.s.sed before she let go, and when she did, Arran saw a look of utter relief in her tear-filled eyes.
"I was so worried," she said. "I didn't know what Grandfather would do. I feared he might take your body for his own, or worse."
Elder Naran chuckled. "As I told you, there was no need to worry. Your grandfather may have been unconscious throughout your youth, but I've known him for centuries. Terrifying though he can be, I've never seen him treat his friends and allies with anything but absolute loyalty."
Despite his words, Arran could see that the giant Elder was relieved as well. Even if he trusted the Patriarch, the situation had clearly caused him some worry.
After that, Arran detailed what had happened and relayed the Patriarch's instructions, and the others' eyes went wide with surprise.
"You don't know how lucky you are," Elder Naran said. "What he did for you… there isn't an Elder who wouldn't give his right hand for that. Experiencing the Patriarch's magic like that will allow you to reach a level of understanding that few of us ever achieve."
At these words, Arran frowned. "But you can already cast these spells, can't you?"
"Not like the Patriarch," the Elder replied. "Achieving the insights needed to cast spells perfectly is something that takes centuries of study. But you — you've witnessed it first-hand. When you struggle, you will know exactly what to improve." He smiled wistfully, then added, "With enough time, you might well surpa.s.s me."
"There can be no doubt of that," Brightblade said, a broad grin on her face. "Not only will he have the Patriarch's insights, he'll also have a teacher far more skilled than you."
They left the palace not long after, Snowcloud holding Arran's arm tightly as they headed for the Patriarch's estate.
Sounds of battle could be heard in the distance, but for the first time in years, Arran felt no worry — with the Patriarch cured, allies at his side, and Snowcloud next to him, the future looked unusually bright.
Paragon Of Destruction 202 The Patriarch
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Paragon Of Destruction 202 The Patriarch summary
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