Paragon of Destruction

Chapter 7 The Black Pill

Several days had gone by since their encounter with the bandits, and despite his earlier words, Master Zhao had still not begun teaching Arran magic.

Each time he asked Master Zhao when they would begin training, the answer was the same: "Soon."

After a week, Arran was beginning to lose hope.

Then, one morning, as Arran was starting his morning practice with the sword, Master Zhao unexpectedly stopped him.

"Not today," the man said. "Today, you set your first step on the path to becoming a mage"

Arran immediately felt an eager grin appear on his face. "When do we start?" he asked, barely able to contain his excitement.

"Right now," Master Zhao answered. He produced two scrolls from his robe, which he handed them over to Arran. "First, study these."

Arran sat down, then picked one of the scrolls and unrolled it.

Immediately, his face went sour. The scroll was filled with writing, but it used peculiar symbols he had never seen before.

"I don't know how to read this," he said. He half expected Master Zhao to announce that before Arran could learn magic, he would first have to learn the scrolls' strange language.

Arran's heart sank at the thought. If he had to learn to read a new language, it would be months if not years before he could start to learn magic.

"It's magic, not literature," Master Zhao said with a grin. "Whether you understand the symbols does not matter. As long as you focus your attention, you will draw out the magic contained within the scrolls."

Arran sighed in relief.

He stretched out, then set to work. Folding out the scroll in front of him, he began to focus on the strange symbols.

Almost immediately, he could feel a strange tingle in his mind, like an itch in the back of his head. It was as if with each symbol he inspected, some small change occurred within him, though he could not say what that change was.

It took him some hours to work his way through the first scroll. When he finished studying the final symbol on the scroll, the tingling feeling in his mind disappeared and the scroll crumbled in his hands.

Arran looked at Master Zhao in alarm. He still remembered what had happened when he was tested at the Academy. Seeing the scroll crumble, he feared that something had gone wrong once more.

Master Zhao merely gazed at him, a calm look on his face. "Very good," he said. "You've finished the first. Take some rest, then move on to the second."

Arran did what Master Zhao said. After grabbing some food from the cart, he sat down again. As he ate, he tried to sense whether something had changed within him.

He was disappointed to find nothing out of the ordinary. If reading the scroll had done anything, he was unable to sense it.

He was a bit disheartened, but he set all thoughts of failure aside as he moved on to the second scroll.

Once more, he started studying. The symbols in this scroll were different, but whether there was any different meaning in them, Arran could not say.

Again, he felt a strange sensation in his mind as he meticulously worked his way through the scroll, and again, the scroll crumbled when he reached its end.

After finishing with the second scroll, Arran once more tried to sense if something had changed within him.

He closed his eyes, then focused his attention inward, trying his hardest to sense something magical within him.

Nothing happened.

"Trying to see if it worked?" Master Zhao asked, laughing.

"Something should have happened, right?" Arran asked uncertainly.

"Something did happen," Master Zhao said in response. "You've just acquired two new Realms, Fire and Shadow."

Arran was confounded. "But I don't feel anything," he said.

Master Zhao nodded. "That's quite normal. Usually, it takes students years if not decades of study and meditation before they can sense and access their Realms."

Arran's face twisted. Years, or even decades? At that rate, he would be an old man before he became a real mage.

"But we don't have that much time," Master Zhao said. "In your case, I will use a shortcut."

"You have a quicker way?" Arran asked hopefully.

"Of course." Master Zhao took something from his robe, then held it up. It was a jet-black pill the size of a marble.

"What's that?" Arran asked, some hesitation in his voice. While he liked the idea of skipping years of training, there was something vaguely unnatural about the pill's appearance, as if it did not belong in this world.

"This is a Realm Opening Pill," Master Zhao answered.

"A Realm Opening Pill?" Arran knitted his brows. "Didn't I just open two Realms?"

"You acquired two Realms," Master Zhao said. "What the scrolls did was create tiny connections between you and those Realms. This pill will tear open those connections, strengthening them and allowing you to draw Essence through them."

Arran frowned. The word 'tear' did little to reassure him. "Is it dangerous?" he asked.

"You'll feel some slight discomfort as the pill does its work," Master Zhao replied. "Other than that, it's perfectly safe."

Reluctantly, Arran put the pill in his mouth, then forced himself to swallow it.

A few moments passed without Arran noticing anything. Then, slowly, he began to feel a warmth spread through his body.

"This isn't so—" As he began to speak, suddenly the heat within his body increased, as if the blood in his veins had been replaced with boiling water.

Screaming loudly, he turned toward Master Zhao, face warped in pain as he tried to tell the man that something was horribly wrong. Yet the pain overwhelmed him, causing his muscles to cramp and spasm to the point where he found himself unable to form words.

Trying to beg for help, he extended a shaking arm toward Master Zhao.

Master Zhao did not respond. Instead, he just looked at Arran quietly, observing him with a look of interest.

The pain was unlike anything Arran had ever experienced before, and it kept growing more intense with each passing moment. Every time he thought it could not possibly get any worse, he quickly discovered that he was wrong

It wasn't long before Arran found himself completely unable to move, his muscles locked up with anguish. All he could do was lie on the ground and endure the torture.

At first, he feared that he was dying. Soon, as the pain grew stronger and then stronger still, he wished that he would die — anything to stop the agony.

How long it lasted, he did not know. It could have been hours, or days, or even weeks — to Arran, the pain seemed neverending.

Finally, his mind was unable to endure any longer. The world turned dark, and his consciousness slipped away.


Arran awoke with a start, seeing the stars above him in the night sky. His body was trembling, and for a few moments, his mind was entirely blank.

Then, he remembered.

"You lying bastard!", he shouted in rage, looking around to see where Master Zhao was. When he found the man, he growled with fury.

"You!" He extended his hand toward the man. "You told me—"

At that moment he went silent. A small flame had appeared in his palm.

Anger forgotten instantly, Arran stared dumbly at the fire that rose up from his hand.

"Is this…?"

"Congratulations," Master Zhao said. "You're using magic."

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