Paragon Of Destruction 53 Words Of Chaos
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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 t.i.tle 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 partners.h.i.+p 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 a.s.sociates 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?"
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.
"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.
Paragon Of Destruction 53 Words Of Chaos
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Paragon Of Destruction 53 Words Of Chaos summary
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