Paragon of Destruction

Chapter 19 The True Face of Magic

Chapter 19 The True Face of Magic

When Arran saw the smoking wreck of the building he had been in only moments earlier, he was certain that Master Zhao had died.

Yet in an instant more earsplitting blasts sounded, and although the smoke of the ruined building prevented Arran from seeing much, a sudden wave of fire shot out from amid the ruins, hitting another nearby building and sending scorched wreckage flying in all directions.

"We have to go!" Adept Kadir called out. "It isn't safe!"

As if to illustrate his words, a bolt of lightning shot toward them from the smoke, striking a tree only a few dozen paces away. The tree instantly exploded with a thunderous crack, and torn shreds of wood went flying everywhere.

Arran and the others immediately started to run, desperate to get away from the destruction behind them.

They had run several hundreds of paces when a huge object crashed into the ground in front of them. It took Arran some moments to grasp that the object had been a building — one of the small cottages that filled the monastery grounds.

Arran came to a halt and looked back. He was astounded at the devastation he saw. Half a dozen buildings had been flattened already, and a thick fog of smoke and dust filled the air.

The sky above them was filled with roiling black clouds, from which fire and lightning constantly erupted. Beneath his feet, he could feel the earth shake and tremble, and a barrage of deafening explosions and thunderclaps assaulted his ears.

Abruptly, a streak of fire burst down from the clouds with a booming roar. When it slammed into the ground a few hundred paces from Arran and the others, several buildings and trees were obliterated in a flash.

The monastery grounds were in chaos. Everywhere Arran looked, he could see lightning striking buildings and trees alike, giant fireballs raining down and consuming all they hit, and masses of rock bursting from the ground.

Arran felt as if he were an ant trapped in a fight between giants. The destruction he saw around him was beyond anything he could have imagined.

It was like the world was ending, he thought.

"I have to save the initiates!" Adept Kadir yelled, and he began to run in the direction of the training hall.

Adept Kadir's words brought Arran back to his senses. With a start, he realized that not just he and the others with him were in danger — the terrifying destruction being rained down upon the monastery grounds would endanger all the hundreds of people who were there.

Master Zhao had told them to flee and hide, but Arran followed Adept Kadir. He knew that the Academy was there for him, and he could not bring himself to hide while others died in his stead.

As they ran across the monastery grounds, ear-shattering blasts and explosions continued to sound, and the earth kept shaking and rumbling. In the corners of his eyes, Arran could see buildings being torn apart like leaves in a storm.

Finally, they neared the training hall.

Arran's heart nearly stopped when he saw three white-robed figures walking toward the training hall, where several dozens of awestruck initiates stood, their attention captured by the destruction that was unfolding before their eyes. They were oblivious of the danger that was approaching them.

One of the white-robed figures raised his hand, and instantly, an invisible force smashed into one of the initiates, sending his broken body flying backward.

The sudden attack sent the other initiates into chaos, and they immediately scattered in all directions, some trying to flee while others moved to the Academy mages.

Adept Kadir roared furiously, slashing his hand through the air. At once, the Academy mage who had attacked first was brought to a halt. A moment later, his body was torn into pieces, as if it had been slashed by a dozen invisible blades.

The two remaining Academy mages turned around with a jolt, but already Adept Kadir had unleashed an attack at one of them. It hit just as the man raised his arm to block it, and although the mage survived the attack, the slash of air cut through his wrist. He stumbled back in shock, blood gushing from his arm.

Without hesitating, Adept Kadir sent a vicious attack toward the last unscathed mage. The man blocked the attack with a handwave, then retaliated with a bolt of lightning that crashed into the air before Adept Kadir and caused him to stagger back.

With Adept Kadir locked in combat with the unharmed mage, Arran, Amar, and Jiang Fei attacked the wounded one, who had a stunned expression as he stared at the bloody stump where his hand had been.

Arran's attack hit first, a massive burst of Wind Essence that struck the dazed mage squarely in the chest. To his surprise, the man only barely stumbled. A moment later the mage was hit by the sword of one of the initiates who had remained to fight.

The man turned and the initiate was hit with a blow of invisible force that sent him crashing into the training hall, his body slumping to the ground. Yet as the mage attacked the initiate, he was struck by the attacks of Jiang Fei and Amar, whose swords cut into his body with furious blows.

Despite the blood that was gushing from his wounds, the mage struck out with his remaining arm. He hit Amar across the chest, and Arran's friend was sent backward several dozens of paces, finally remaining motionless on the ground.

By now more initiates had joined the fight, and the mage was struck again and again by their swords, oozing blood from at least a dozen wounds. Yet despite his wounds, he fought on, striking down several other initiates.

Unable to harm the man with magic, Arran rushed forward to join the other initiates. He raised his sword, then delivered a desperate blow to the man's neck. To his shock, it was like cutting into a massive tree — even though he struck with all his might, the blade barely sank an inch into the man's flesh.

He kept striking the man, over and over, as did Jiang Fei and the other initiates. Yet although the Academy mage had stopped attacking, he still remained standing, as if their blows barely harmed him.

After what seemed like an eternity, the mage finally went down, his body soaked with the blood of dozens of wounds.

Arran turned toward Adept Kadir, and he was relieved to see the man limping toward them. Although he looked severely wounded, behind him lay the lifeless body of his opponent.

He was about to call out to Adept Kadir when he froze in shock. Behind the man had appeared three more white-robed Academy mages, who were rapidly approaching. One raised his hand, and Arran realized the mage was about to attack Adept Kadir.

"Behind you!" he shouted, but he knew he was too late.

Just then, the thunderous noise that had roared through the monastery grounds came to an abrupt halt.

The three Academy mages stopped in their tracks, and it looked as if they were about to turn around. Yet before they could, a massive wave of fire surged toward them. When the fire disappeared an instant later, only three smoldering corpses were left.

A moment later, a lone figure appeared from the thick cloud of smoke and dust that filled the center of the monastery grounds.

Arran sighed in relief when he saw it was Master Zhao.

"Those were the last ones," Master Zhao said.

As Master Zhao approached them, Arran saw that the man was completely unscathed — not even his clothes bore any signs of the battle he had just fought.

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