William found that he was buried up to his shins in the ground. That was the consequences of his soles having a small surface area compared to how much force had been applied… specifically that of a giant crab weighing a couple tons falling on him… or the greater force with which he had knocked it back. Not that he was stuck. He merely lifted his feet and went with the other warriors to attack the soft underbelly of the giant crab.
Relatively soft, anyway. Fortunately, the crab couldn’t right itself- at least not while surrounded- and since it couldn’t do much more than flail, it was easy for someone to break its underbelly. Once its shell was cracked open, it was trivial to kill it.
One of the warrior’s commented to William, “That was a rather impressive feat, to flip it over like that.”
William nodded in acknowledgement, “I was somewhat assisted by my body training technique.” Of course, he wouldn’t say how much of that was actually body training, but ki hadn’t been as big of a part of that as he hoped they assumed. “That thing was a magical beast. There should be a core somewhere… near its mouth, I think.”
Fortunately, that distracted everyone. William didn’t want people asking too many questions. It was already a problem if they scrutinized him closely. After all, he still technically had horns, so if someone used their ki senses to probe him… he would reject that. It was considered extremely rude to probe too much… though of course if you were subtle enough perhaps people couldn’t tell you were looking. Telling people’s cultivation levels usually relied on the energy they emitted, passively or actively. William was confident he could stop any casual inspections, and probably even if people tried to do more. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have even come to Liaoyang.
The rest of the trip went smoothly, though William noticed he got a lot more glances and casual probes. He could imagine what people were thinking. Why did someone strong like him sign up for this sort of guard duty? The merchants themselves knew what he was being paid, and he could have gotten much more working for someone who needed and could afford someone better.
That made William think about something though. He was strong now. Not just his muscles, though they hadn’t been stronger. In his second life, he had been situationally strong, but really Lila had much more power behind her. The demon lord they had defeated hadn’t been that strong in the grand scheme of things. His half-effective body training and using Chris for magic were adequate, but not good. In his third life, he had fought the Demon King. Not alone, but he had destroyed him. He had gained mastery over ki to a level he had never expected to reach, though he supposed he hadn’t expected it to exist at all. He felt he had gained significant personal strength by that time. Now, he was a gevai. He had a stronger body… could use magic himself… and he was almost a strong in ki as he had been before.
It made him wonder why gevai hadn’t taken over the world. Not that he was advocating for that, like the Demon King. He just wondered how a group that seemed naturally superior hadn’t come out in a more dominant position. Had it just been poor leadership from the Demon King? Was it the lower birthrates? That seemed like it might have mattered, but with basically unlimited lifespans, the bigger limits would be how many resources were available. If they took time to grow the population, they could have achieved a better ratio of gevai to humans, even with a lower birth rate. So, was it just poor planning?
William considered a number of things. First, though gevai could have basically limited lifespans, most of them didn’t. They still got old and died between one and two gross of years, on average. Perhaps that was a factor as well. Perhaps it was the culture… or maybe there was something else to it. Certainly, the poor leadership had been stupid. From what he knew, they drafted more people than the gevai could properly give up for any of their wars, and with a lower population to begin with, they didn’t have enough time to recover. There had to be something more to it, but William didn’t know what.
William spent several years wandering through Liaoyang, but felt no traces of the Demon King. Either he had learned to conceal himself or… he wasn’t in or near any city. He might not even have been in the country at all. He could be coming around later… or he might not at all. It wasn’t clear. William couldn’t do much about it but keep his eyes and ears open for any news.
Of course, he still trained. Magic wasn’t something he could train on the road, which also slowed down his body training. Even so, he stopped in many big cities for a month or more. As for ki training… he was stuck until he could finish removing the last of the soul necrosis. However, that goal was actually within sight. He had been making good progress, and thought that perhaps eleven parts in twelve were removed. There was only one slight problem. Perhaps because Marek didn’t know the whole situation, he was wrong on the timeframe for the danger it presented. It had begun to more rapidly mutate into a dangerous form. William found that destroying the soul necrosis even caused damage to the surrounding soul and through that, his physical body. Leaving it behind would definitely be worse, because it would become more dangerous and likely cause damage on its own. Once he realized this, he ceased travelling and prepared to remove the last of it, once and for all. The Demon King would have to wait. Hopefully, he wouldn’t do anything in the next several months… Though William thought the probability of that was low.