Paragon Of Destruction 91 Darkfire's Decision
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Arran looked at Darkfire in shock. There were many things he had feared could happen in Hillfort, but Darkfire changing his mind about joining the Shadowflame Society was something he hadn't expected.
"You're staying here? In Hillfort?" he asked again.
Liane stood up. "I'll let the two of you talk in private," she said in a muted voice. She gave Darkfire a meaningful look, then left the room.
For some moments, neither Arran nor Darkfire spoke, Arran still processing the news and Darkfire seeming almost fearful to say the words.
Finally, Darkfire let out a deep breath. "I'm staying here," he confirmed. "At least for now."
"Because of her?"
"Because of her."
"You only just met her," Arran said. "And you spent years trying to be recruited."
"You're right," Darkfire replied, an uncomfortable look on his face. "I spent my entire life waiting to join the Shadowflame Society, and now that I have the chance, I'm pa.s.sing it up for a woman I met just a few days ago." He sighed. "You must think I'm an idiot."
"I'm just wondering what the h.e.l.l is going on," Arran said bluntly. "You disappear for a few days, and now you've suddenly changed your mind about everything?"
Darkfire knitted his brow in thought, seeming to struggle to find the right words. Finally, in an uncertain voice, he said, "I think I might love her."
"And you're certain of that?" Arran asked. "Despite not knowing she even existed just two weeks ago?"
"I'm not certain — not at all," Darkfire replied. "But if I stay here, I can still be recruited later. If I leave now, there will be no going back for years to come."
"So you're going to give up on the Shadowflame Society?"
"No," Darkfire said. "I talked it over with Liane, and we agreed that we'll join together, eventually."
"Why not now?" Arran said, a small spark of hope rising within him. If Liane wanted to join as well, he thought, she could simply join them.
"Liane has no training," Darkfire said. "If she traveled across the border, she wouldn't be able to protect herself. And if we protected her instead, she'd only be a burden to you, and to the rest of whatever group we joined."
Arran was about to say that he would gladly help Darkfire protect Liane, but then, he remembered Stoneheart's recruits. Beyond the border, Liane would be like them — useless, unable to fight off even the smallest threat, and more likely to die than not.
He was only barely confident that he could protect himself, so how could he possibly offer to protect another?
"You're planning to train her?" he finally asked, understanding that taking Liane across the border wasn't an option.
"I am," Darkfire said. "If I teach her Body Refinement and swordplay, she should be strong enough in just a few years."
"You're making a terrible mistake," Arran said. Then, with a sigh, he produced two Realm scrolls from his void bag, one Fire and one Wind, and pushed them into Darkfire's hands. "Give these to her. You can teach her the Windblade spell yourself."
Darkfire looked at him in confusion. "Why are you doing—" he began.
"If you're going to train her, you might as well do it properly," Arran interrupted him. "When I become a novice, if you're still in Hillfort, I'll come and recruit the both of you."
"So you're not angry?" Darkfire asked, a look of relief on his face.
"Of course I am," Arran said. "And I do think you're an idiot."
With a shrug, he continued, "But it's your choice, not mine. And if you're willing to pa.s.s up joining the Society after waiting for all those years, I doubt anything I could say would make a difference."
They spent several more hours talking after that. Even if there was little more to be said, they both understood that they would soon part ways, and that this was one of the last times they would talk.
When Darkfire finally left, Arran sat in silence for some time. Then, he closed his eyes, and began training Body Refinement.
In the days that followed, Arran tried his best to prepare for the tournament, but he had trouble staying focused, his thoughts wandering both to Darkfire's choice and his own path.
Once more, he would have to continue his journey by himself.
Since he had fled Fulai City, he had met many people, but all of them had disappeared along the way. Master Zhao, Amar, Adept Kadir, Jiang Fei, Lord Jiang — it seemed like every friend he made was destined to leave.
And now, Darkfire would follow their example, once more leaving Arran to continue alone.
Although some part of him was angry, he knew couldn't blame Darkfire for the decision. While they had become friends in the months since they met, they were nowhere near close enough that he could expect Darkfire to set aside his own desires for Arran's sake.
He had helped Darkfire with a Realm Opening Pill, of course — but then, Darkfire had initially rejected the gift. That he accepted it after Arran insisted could hardly be taken as an obligation to spend years at Arran's side.
Yet despite knowing this, Arran still felt a sting of betrayal in his heart, no matter how much he tried to convince himself that Darkfire's choice was his own to make.
Nevertheless, as the tournament approached, Arran shared several meals with Darkfire and Liane. Some part of him had wanted to dislike the woman who had taken away his friend, but he was almost annoyed to find that she was both kind and smart.
Still, if he did not exactly dislike her, he couldn't bring himself to like her either. Liane seemed to sense this, and whenever the three of them met, the atmosphere was somewhat uncomfortable.
Eventually, the night before the tournament, Arran found himself in the palace garden, sharing a bottle of wine with Darkfire.
This time, Liane wasn't present, and Arran suspected that she had chosen to give the two friends some time alone.
"Have you decided yet? What you're going to do?" Darkfire asked.
"I have," Arran said. He had given the matter some thought, and there was only one path he could see that would help him. "I'm going to lose."
"Lose?" Darkfire frowned, as if he was uncomfortable with the idea of intentionally losing a fight.
"I'll win the first few matches, then lose before I make it to the last round. If I show myself to be a disappointment, the strongest novices should lose interest, and I can join a less prominent novice."
"But won't you be safer if you join a stronger novice?" Darkfire asked, his brows knitted in thought.
Arran shook his head. "Across the border, Stoneheart and the others will be most concerned with each other. The less they think I matter, the better my chances of slipping away unnoticed while they fight."
Darkfire nodded slowly, although he did not seem entirely convinced.
"There's one more thing," Arran said. "I need you to ask Liane for a favor."
"Liane?" Darkfire's eyes went wide with surprise. "I didn't think you… Nevermind, whatever it is, she'll help. What do you need?"
"I need her to find a suitable novice for me to join," Arran said. "I don't know enough about them to make a good decision, and I don't have the time to find out."
A smile appeared on Darkfire's face. "She can definitely help with that," he said. "In fact, I'll go ask her right now."
Paragon Of Destruction 91 Darkfire's Decision
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Paragon Of Destruction 91 Darkfire's Decision summary
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