Paragon of Destruction - Chapter 128

Published at 12th of August 2019 08:27:48 PM

Chapter 128

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"We'll talk about the Essence Crystals later," Arran said. "First, let me take a look at that wound."

Snowcloud nodded, wincing as she gazed down at the arrow sticking from her leg.

As Arran inspected the wound, he saw that although the arrowhead was embedded deeply in Snowcloud's thigh, it did not look like it had struck the bone.

"I'm going to pull out the arrow," Arran said. "Are you ready?"

"Do it," she said, clenching her jaw.

Carefully, Arran took the arrow firmly in his hand. Then, with a single quick movement, he pulled it from Snowcloud's leg.

She cried out in pain for a moment, gasping as the sharp arrowhead sliced through her flesh once more on its way out.

"All done," Arran said. Then, he took a bottle of water from his void bag and carefully cleaned the wound. With the arrow gone, it didn't look nearly as bad — though it was deep and oozed blood, it seemed like a clean cut that should heal well enough.

"I'll take it from here," Snowcloud said, taking out a small flask from which she poured a thick liquid over her injury. She groaned as she rubbed the liquid into the wound, but whatever the liquid was, it stopped the bleeding.

While Snowcloud bandaged her leg, Arran reached for his shoulder to check the damage he himself had sustained. Yet to his surprise, he found only a shallow cut in his shoulder, and the gash on his arm seemed to have healed already.

This gave him some pause.

Even if his injuries had been less severe than Snowcloud's, they had certainly been worse than they were now. And while years of Body Refinement had caused his body to heal rapidly, it had never recovered anywhere near as fast as this.

For a moment, he considered the possibility that the Essence Crystals had something to do with it, but he quickly rejected the thought. Powerful though they might be, there was no reason to think they would have such an effect.

Then, an uncomfortable realization set in, as he remembered his encounter with the eyeless creature.

After the events at the fortress, the burn on his face had healed far more quickly than it should have. He had not given it much thought at the time, but now, he suspected the creature had done something that made a lasting change to his body.

Though the power was welcome, its source caused him concern. From what he had seen of the creature, he doubted anything it could impart would be benign. And if it had given him some kind of new power, he doubted it came without a cost.

"Hey!" Snowcloud's voice interrupted his thoughts.

"What is it?" Arran asked, pulling his thoughts back to the present.

"I asked if you have any injuries," she said, holding up the small flask she had used to treat her own wounds.

"Nothing worth mentioning," Arran said. "Let me just get the loot, and we can be on our way. I'll tell you about the Essence Crystals once we're out of here."

Snowcloud looked on with a somewhat disapproving gaze as he looted the bodies, but Arran ignored her expression. Even if she would rather pass up treasures than rob the dead, he had no such compunctions. Treasure was treasure, and the dead did not need it — dead enemies least of all.

He was disappointed to find that none of the mages seemed to carry much of value. There were a few low-quality Essence Crystals and several scrolls, but other than that, he found nothing of interest.

"I wonder why they attacked us," Snowcloud said as she looked on, a frown on her face.

"No need to wonder," Arran replied. "One of them was at the trading house where I bought my Essence Crystals. He must have informed the others that I was carrying treasure."

It was the only explanation that made sense. Although both Snowcloud and Arran himself had plenty of enemies, none would be foolish enough to attack them with so little strength.

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"How many Essence Crystals did you manage to buy in the city?" Snowcloud asked, a curious look on her face.

"Hundreds," Arran replied, although he did not say just how many hundreds of the crystals he actually had. After the events with Lord Sevaril, he had decided he would not speak freely of his possessions anymore — not even to friends and allies.

Still, Snowcloud's eyes went wide in surprise at his answer, but then she chuckled. Arran was relieved to see that she wasn't upset, even if his lack of discretion had resulted in her being wounded.

"No wonder you drew their attention," she said, shaking her head. "And I take it you've already used most of the crystals?"

"I've used a few hundred," Arran said, understanding that there was no point in hiding that. "But I still have a decent number left to train further."

"Using those right now won't do you much good," Snowcloud said. "I'm sure you've already discovered that the more crystals you consume, the weaker their effect becomes. And with what you've taken already, control won't be your bottleneck for at least the next few years."

"My bottleneck?"

"You already had a strong body and powerful Realms when I met you," Snowcloud said. "And now, you also have the control you lacked earlier. But your Sense is still weak, and your skill at using magic is downright poor. Those are the things you'll need to improve to grow stronger."

The explanation made sense, and Arran nodded thoughtfully. "Then how do I do that?"

"You'll develop your Sense by using it, and by purifying Essence," she said. "Even if you don't need the crystals, purifying Essence is one of the best ways to train your Sense. As for your skill… that will require practice and training, and lots of it."

"What kind of training?" Arran asked.

"Spellcasting and sparring," Snowcloud replied instantly. "Only by actually using magic can you become better at it. It's like playing the lute — a good instrument and nimble fingers will only get you so far. At some point, you'll have to start putting in actual work to progress."

Arran sighed at her answer. Although he knew she was right, he much preferred shortcuts over having to spend endless hours in training. But it seemed that he had finally run out of shortcuts.

"So when do we start?" he asked. If work was the only way forward, he might as well get started as soon as possible.

"When we're a few days from the city," Snowcloud said. Then, with a look at her leg, she added, "And when this is healed."

After that, they continued on their way, leaving the dead bodies of their would-be robbers behind.

Snowcloud limped as they walked, but she refused Arran's offer to carry her, giving him a cold stare for even suggesting it. At this, Arran shrugged — if she wanted to suffer needlessly, that was her business.

When evening finally fell, Goldhaven had already faded far into the distance. Yet still, Arran did not feel entirely safe. The botched robbery had reminded him that even small mistakes could come back to haunt him, and there was no lack of mistakes and indiscretions in his past.
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