Paragon of Destruction is a web novel made by Tomvandyke.
This webnovel is presently Ongoing.
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Read WebNovel Paragon of Destruction Chapter 278 A Quiet Place
It took Arran two days to reach the mountains, and along the way, he encountered several of the iron mines that lay within the foothills. The mines had their own small villages, filled with hardened workers and rough taverns where they could spend their hard-earned coin.
Arran avoided these villages as best he could, taking care to pa.s.s each of them unseen. A traveler would draw little attention, but there was no point in taking needless risks, no matter how slight. He did not believe anyone was following him, but if he was wrong, he wouldn’t give them an easy time of it.
When he reached the mountain range, he ventured forth without delay, eager to reach his destination.
The journey among the mountains proved difficult. It was obvious that few people ventured here, with many of the paths leading along the steep slopes neglected and narrow. And the further Arran went, the spa.r.s.er the paths grew, with the last of them ending barely a week’s travel into the mountains.
Yet although there were no more paths to follow, Arran didn’t stop.
For another two weeks, he journeyed deeper into the mountains, making his way across slopes, valleys, and forests that hadn’t been touched by human feet in centuries. The route was tortuous and often dangerous, with treacherous cliffs and ravines regularly blocking the way ahead, but Arran knew this was the only way to find the true seclusion he sought.
After three weeks of travel through the inhospitable terrain, he was confident that he had gone far enough that no others would find him. Here, out in the wilderness, there was no chance of unwelcome encounters with other people, whether intentional or by accident.
Still, he spent another week in search of a suitable location for his training. With several years of study ahead, it wouldn’t do to settle for any random place.
His search was rewarded when he came upon a small valley, hidden from view between two steep ridges and closed at all sides but one, with an icy stream running down its center. At once, Arran knew it was perfect, and his excitement grew further when he discovered a large cave at the far end of the valley.
The cave wasn’t empty, he soon discovered. It held a monstrous bear that was nearly twenty feet tall, doubtless grown strong from countless years of consuming Natural Essence.
When the beast charged at Arran with a loud roar, he could not help but grin in delight. It was as if this place had been made for him.
He made quick work of the bear, then carefully butchered it. The meat wasn’t nearly as potent as the dragon’s meat in his void ring, but it was still a treasure worth saving. The dragon meat would not last forever, after all.
Next, he spent several days creating wards and formations, further concealing the valley and blocking people outside from Sensing any Essence used within the area. The protections weren’t perfect — Arran’s lacked the skill to fool powerful mages for anything but the smallest objects — but at a distance, none would see through them.
And in the remote valley, that would be more than enough.
Satisfied with the protections, Arran’s next step was to build a shelter. It took him the better part of a day to create a crude residence used his Earth and Stone Realms, and if the result wasn’t exactly pleasing to the eye, it was st.u.r.dy and comfortable enough to satisfy his needs.
Yet as he cast a pleased look at the results of his labor, he was reminded of the task ahead. And at that, feeling of worry set in.
Brightblade expected him to learn Shadowflame within two years, and he was painfully aware of how little his efforts in the Ninth Valley had accomplished. For months, he’d tried to merge Shadow Essence and Fire Essence — the first step in casting Shadowflame — and for months, he’d failed to make even the slightest progress.
Still, there was nothing for it but to try. If he was lucky, perhaps the months of travel had brought him an unexpected insight.
This sliver of hope quickly disappeared, however. After a week of training, the only new insight he gained was that he still faced the same barrier that had plagued him in the Ninth Valley. He could bring Shadow and Fire Essence together, but no matter what he tried, trying to merge them was like mixing oil with water.
The lack of progress frustrated Arran to no end. The Shadowflame spell was one that every adept in the Shadowflame Society had learned, and he knew that many of them were less skilled than he was. But somehow, they could do what he could not.
Perhaps that wouldn’t have been so bad if Arran was a regular mage, but he had advantages no others enjoyed. He had more Essence Crystals than he knew what to do with, and more than that, he had the memory of the Sixth Valley’s Patriarch casting the spell using his body.
That should have made the task far easier for him than it was for others. And yet, he hadn’t made even the slightest bit of progress. He was stuck, with no idea of how to advance any further.
He could continue on his current path, of course, and simply attack the problem until he conquered it. But based on his efforts so far, he had little confidence that the path would bear fruit at all, much less in a matter of years.
It felt like he was missing something, and until he figured out what it was, he suspected that all the determination in the world would not help him achieve his goal.
But then, a thought came to him — one so simple and obvious he cursed himself for not considering it sooner.
By the time most novices were ready to become adepts, they would have spent at least two decades studying magic. And not just that — most of them had trained incessantly from childhood, focusing all their efforts on improving their skills.
Yet Arran had gotten his first taste of magic barely six years earlier, and since then, he had spent much of his time on things other than magic. Expert teachers and numerous Essence Crystals had helped him progress rapidly, but compared to other mages, he still lacked years of experience.
With Shadow Essence, that wasn’t much of a problem. Between his Shadowsight and the various concealment spells, he used it constantly — enough that doing so had become nearly as easy as stretching his arm or waving his hand.
But Fire Essence was a different matter. He had used it when he first learned magic and when he studied Flamestrike, but other than that, he had mostly ignored it. It was among his strongest Realms, second only to Shadow, but its only use was in attacking. And for attacks, Arran relied on his sword rather than his magic.
The lack of experience hadn’t stopped him from learning Flamestrike, but now, he suspected he had hit the limits of what he could do with Fire Essence. And if that was the case, his only way forward was to get more practice.
He sighed, already feeling weary at the task ahead. At least for the next few months, there would be none of the hunting and fis.h.i.+ng he had hoped for.
But he steeled his resolve, then sealed off his Realms — all of them but Fire. He needed no distractions for what was to come — not until he could control Fire Essence with ease.
Deciding where to start was an easy matter. While the Forms were of little practical use, they were perfect for practice — simple yet strict, emphasizing control more than strength or knowledge.
And so, he began his training.
For a full month, he did nothing but eat, sleep, and use Fire Essence to practice the Forms. Every day, from the moment he awoke until the moment he fell asleep, he controlled Fire Essence, bending it to his will and forcing it to follow his commands.
The Forms proved every bit as suited for this as Arran had hoped. Simple and straightforward, they allowed him to focus purely on the act of commanding Fire Essence, without the distracting complexity of spells. And although his knowledge of the Forms improved as well, most of his progress was in building his mastery of Fire Essence.
At last, he had begun to build the foundation he had previously lacked. And where many mages were limited by their lack of Essence Crystals or the weakness of their Realms, Arran faced no such obstacles.
Just as Snowcloud had said years earlier, his bottleneck was a lack of practice. And now that he truly put effort into addressing that weakness, he advanced with leaps and bounds.
It wasn’t long before Arran recognized the mistake that Brightblade and the Matriarch had made in teaching him. They had instructed him as if he was already a practiced mage, constantly driving him to learn complex new spells.
He had managed to keep up by relying on the strength of his Realms, the control he’d gained from consuming numerous Essence Crystals, and the knowledge he’d gleaned from the Sixth Valley’s Patriarch.
But through all of that, he had lacked the foundation of a true mage. In a way, he had learned to run without knowing how to walk, and only now did he begin to appreciate how much of an obstacle this lack of a proper foundation had been.
After the first month, he was certain that he had made the right choice.
Already, the constant use of Fire Essence had brought him a level of control well beyond what he had before, and he knew there was more progress to be made. With a thought, he unsealed his Shadow Realm, then resumed his training using both Fire and Shadow Essence.
Using Shadow Essence as well was a step up in difficulty, albeit a small one. He had already mastered it to a far greater extent than Fire Essence, but practicing with two types of Essence provided enough of a challenge to allow his foundation to strengthen further.
He decided against unsealing any of his other Realms, however.
Years earlier, Master Zhao had urged him not to open any Realms until he mastered the ones he already had. Back then, Arran had not known what mastering a Realm meant, but now, he was finally beginning to understand just what it entailed.
Mastering a Realm, he realized, wasn’t just being able to use its Essence to cast spells. Rather, it was achieving a level of control where Essence was as easy to command as one’s own body. And that, he knew, required endless practice and few distractions.
He trained like this for the first six months after his arrival, never stopping for anything other than a quick meal or a night’s rest. He cast no spells during this time, either. Instead, he solely used the Forms, using their simplicity to stay focused on the task of controlling Essence.
Most of the progress he made was in his control of Fire Essence, but he found that his command of Shadow Essence also improved. While he had used it every day for years already, endlessly repeating the strict Forms gave him a finesse and precision that he had not previously possessed.
Yet after half a year of fanatical training, Arran’s progress slowly ground to a halt.
By now, using any of the Forms with Fire or Shadow Essence was no more difficult than raising his hand, and he knew that further repet.i.tion would bring him few gains.
This didn’t upset him in the least. It meant he had completed his first step toward building a proper foundation. And now, it was time to take the second step.
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