Ariston Ilias’ home was a bit bigger than William had expected, but mostly because he was expecting a hut. That was what he imagined a reclusive wizard living in. Instead, it was just a relatively small house. William would have described it as “cozy”.
William knocked on the door.
“Coming!” William heard from beyond the door. “Who is it?” came the question as the door opened creakily. An old man stood there, but he seemed relatively healthy. At least his back was straight, and his eyes seemed good. Those very same eyes looked over William, taking in his mage robes, as well as Chris. “I don’t teach combat magic.” His eyes moved over to Chris and half-frowned.
“Don’t worry, that’s not what I’m here for. However, I was hoping to ask you about the records.”
“The records?” Ariston shook his head. “Did they change the time requirements?”
“Not as far as I know. I graduated five years ago, actually.” William didn’t want to sound arrogant or anything, but it was the truth.
Ariston scratched his chin. Sadly, there was no beard there. Well, William was slightly disappointed anyway. “Then, did Professor Farman die?”
“No, he’s still alive. At least, he was yesterday.”
“Ohh? Really?” He looked over William again. William was glad the robe concealed his more-than-wizardly muscles.”Then you… must be pretty good. Or older than you look. Well, come inside so we can talk.”
William was older than he looked, but not in the way Ariston meant. He followed him inside to a small dining table that only had two chairs. One of them was dusty. “I found out about you from the records. You were the one who updated them last. I understand if you don’t want to talk about it, but…”
“I don’t.” Ariston grimaced. “But I should. There aren’t going to be many more people asking.” Ariston paused for a few moments. “What can I tell you, then?”
“Well, I noticed some things when reading the records, especially the numbers. There wasn’t any mention of the trends I noticed, so I wasn’t sure if it wasn’t known, or just wasn’t written down.”
“Well, there are less wizards. Not total, but… there are about a quarter less wizards based on the population than there were one thousand years ago. Well, the numbers remained the same until three incarnations of the Demon King prior.”
“That many less? Maybe it’s just this generation?” Ariston didn’t look like he actually thought that was the problem, just that he hoped it was.
William shook his head. “Since the Demon King learned some form of soul magic, the numbers have been gradually decreasing. They slightly recover each generation, then become much worse again after the Demon King appears.”
Ariston leaned back in his chair and breathed out a long breath. “Really. Well, if anyone else noticed… they didn’t write it down, and they didn’t tell me. That seems like something someone should have written down. I read everything to be passed on to the next Archmage, but there wasn’t any indication of anything like that.”
William sighed. “It’s honestly not looking good for the future. Fighting off the Demon King has worked in the past, but this is just going to get worse. I’m not sure if it’s having an effect on the knights or anyone else, though.”
“It might also be good to check with people from Liaoyang. Though they are far, the Demon King’s appearance affects them as well. They send their warriors to fight as well.” Liaoyang was the country to the west, where Zhan Shengrui was from. “Other countries as well, if it can be done. Maybe the kingdom has records, if we can access them. I’m not the only one you’ve told, am I?”
“No, I told one of the professors I trust as well, he was going to consult with some others.”
“Good. This isn’t something that can be done by one person. Especially not one so young as you, since people might not listen, even if they should. I suppose I may be needed to pull up some old contacts… assuming they are not too old, anyway.” Ariston half laughed at his terrible “joke”. “Although I would like to stay here and enjoy my retirement in peace, I suppose the future of… the world, possibly, is worth it.”
Even though there was a potential major problem in the future, it wasn’t something that required rushing preparations. Indeed, it would be generations before anything would happen. Except, something had to be done now, to figure out what preparations needed to be made. William wasn’t sure what he could do, or even the wizards, to help the future. Optimally, of course, they would kill the Demon King and stop his reincarnations. However, that would require… well, William didn’t know what. That was the whole problem.
They could bind the Demon King, or seal him away, but William thought that was a disaster waiting to happen. Plus, it would be even harder than just killing him, and there was already enough issue with that. The other option that William could think of…
Well, to fight fire with fire. More specifically, to fight destroying souls with destroying souls. If they could figure out the soul magic that the Demon King used, it might be able to be used to destroy him, likely preventing future reincarnations. Assuming they could figure out how it works, and use it, without killing themselves. William didn’t doubt there was a high difficulty associated with soul magic. Ethically… well, William was fine using it on just the Demon King. Not that he would be there to do that.