Paragon of Destruction

Chapter 31 Lord Jiang

Chapter 31 Lord Jiang

Arran opened his eyes slowly and stared at the white wooden ceiling above him. He wondered where he was and, more importantly, how he had come there.

When he tried to sit up and look around, he felt sharp stabs of pain in several parts of his body, and he realized he still had some injuries.

"Easy, young man," a woman's voice sounded from the back of the room. "You've only just returned from death's doorstep. It'll be a while before you're up again."

Hearing the voice, Arran ignoring the pain and forced himself to sit up. When he finally succeeded, he saw a small gray-haired woman sitting on a wooden chair in the back of the room.

"Not much for listening to advice, are you?" She sighed. "Very well then. I would have suggested you rest some more, but now that you're awake, there are some people who should know about it."

The woman stood up and walked out the door, leaving Arran behind.

As he waited he studied the room, and he found that it was spacious and attractive, with carved wooden fringes bordering the ceiling, and intricate ink drawings decorating the walls.

Not long after, the door opened once more, and a large man with a black beard stepped inside the room. Arran felt a surge of relief when he saw that closely following behind the man was Jiang Fei.

The man was about Arran's height, but he was almost as wide as he was tall, with massive bulging shoulders and arms, and a barrel-sized belly. Covering his bulk was a black silk robe with golden embroidery and red trimmings, and together with his long black hair and wild beard, it made him look like a figure out of legend.

"It seems like the young man who caused Little Fei so much worry is finally awake." The man laughed, then added, "These past two weeks, my little niece barely left your side."

"Uncle!" Jiang Fei flushed brightly.

As he looked at her, Arran saw that her hands were covered in bandages, and he wondered what had happened.

"But now, there are matters we must discuss," the man said. "Young man, there are some things I need to know, and it's best if I hear them now."

"Lord Jiang?" Arran wasn't sure how to address the man.

"That is my title — one of them, at least — but call me Uncle Bear," the large man said. "From the looks of it, we might be family soon enough." He glanced at Jiang Fei, then gave Arran a wink.

"Uncle!" Jiang Fei said again, a mortified look on her face.

"Well then — Arran, right?" the man said.

Arran nodded, somewhat dazed at the man's behavior.

"Can you tell me what happened after Little Fei took the Realm Opening Pill?" Lord Jiang looked at him intently.

Arran gave Jiang Fei a questioning look, and she nodded. He understood that she had already told the man about what had happened.

"After she took the pill," Arran began, "the Academy mages started to talk among themselves. Their leader, Stormleaf, said that he planned to detain Jiang Fei for using a Realm Opening Pill, and that he wanted to use her to gain influence within the Jiang Clan."

Jiang Fei's eyes went wide, but Lord Jiang simply nodded.

"As I expected," the large man said. "The Academy has long been trying to infiltrate the Jiang Clan."

"I would never betray the clan!" Jiang Fei looked incensed at the suggestion.

"Then they would have taken you to the Academy and executed you for using forbidden magic," Lord Jiang said. "Perhaps not as useful as controlling you, but it would still have given them an excuse to harass our clan even more than they do now."

Jiang Fei paled as she heard this. "I'm sorry… I had no idea they would use it against us."

"It's not your fault," Lord Jiang said flatly. "Had you refused the pill, they likely would have killed you right there. You and your companion."

The large man turned back to Arran, then said, "But the story doesn't end there, does it? You used some magical item to defeat them, I take it — perhaps something this Master Fireheart of yours gave you?"

Arran's heart skipped a beat when he understood that Jiang Fei had told the man about Master Zhao. But with Lord Jiang already aware of most of his secrets, he knew there was no point in trying to hide any details.

"When I understood what they were going to do," he said, "I knew I had to act. But I couldn't defeat them by myself, so I…" He paused before continuing. "I took the Realm Opening Pills that Master Fireheart gave me."

Lord Jiang merely nodded, as if he had already suspected this. "More than one, I assume?" he asked.

"Ten," Arran said.

For a moment, the man's eyes went wide with shock. Then, to Arran's surprise, he burst into laughter.

"You took ten Realm Opening Pills? Ten?!" His massive body rumbled as he laughed. "You swallowed half a kingdom's worth of treasure, used it to kill an Archmage, and lived to tell the tale? Well done! Well done indeed!"

"Archmage?" Arran paled. "Is he…?"

"Dead?" Lord Jiang was still shaking with laughter. "Very much so. Dead, shredded, and mostly incinerated. All you left for us to find were his skull and his void bag." With a grin, he added, "The bag and its contents are yours, but I hope you don't mind if I keep the skull."

"What happened after?" Arran asked, ignoring the last words.

The only thing he remembered was the world going black as he lost consciousness, but he knew that at that point, there was still more Essence within his body than he could possibly have survived.

"I could see your display from here," Lord Jiang said. "As could any mage within a week's travel. Naturally, I went out to investigate with some of my men."

Arran nodded slowly, remembering the ocean of Essence that had raged within his body. He hadn't known just how big of a spectacle he had caused, but he knew it would not have been inconspicuous.

"When we arrived, we found several dozens of square miles of devastated lands," Lord Jiang continued. "In the middle of it all was Little Fei, kneeling over a naked young man."

"Naked?" At this, Arran blanched.

"After I woke up," Jiang Fei said with a small blush, "everything around the campsite was destroyed. I found you a mile or two from the camp, and the Essence must have burned away your clothes. Even when I tried to cover you with a robe, the Essence that was still flowing from your body burned it away in seconds."

Arran looked at Jiang Fei's bandaged hands. "Did I cause that?"

She hesitated, then nodded slightly. "I tried to help you, but there was too much Essence…"

"You probably would have died if we had not found you," Lord Jiang cut in. "As it was, I managed to seal off some of the Essence within you." His face turned serious. "I have to warn you, it's only a temporary solution."

"Temporary? So I'm still in danger?" The words did not take Arran by surprise. Remembering the vast torrent of Essence that had filled him, it was to be expected that there would be some after-effects.

Lord Jiang turned to Jiang Fei, then said, "Little Fei, could you give us a moment alone? There are some things I need to discuss with your companion."

She nodded, although she seemed reluctant to leave the room. With a last worried look at Arran, she finally stepped outside.

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