William still wasn’t sure whether or not he should turn in the Zhu clan to the Order. However, even as he struggled with what he would ultimately do, he still continued to gather information. He spent enough time around their grounds to determine that most, if not all, of the members practiced that same demonic cultivation technique. After he had felt Zhu Fang use the ki from that particular technique, it was easier to subtly detect it in others. Conversations with Zhu Fang became awkward and short, because William already felt guilty about using his friendship to collect evidence.
William spent a month gathering evidence and contemplating what he should do. As for the evidence… in some ways it was extremely conclusive, but in another it meant very little. Besides finding out about the demonic cultivation technique, there wasn’t much of anything. William wasn’t going to risk sneaking into forbidden areas of the Zhu clan to find anything more. The clan seemed smart, so he doubted they would have a written record of working with the demons to betray the human race. Even if they did plan to work with the demons, it certainly wouldn’t be with the knowledge that the demons wanted to completely wipe out humanity. Even if they had heard that, the demons would have tried to convince them otherwise.
Every thought William had led onto another one, before eventually they looped around to the start. He couldn’t really make any progress on that thought chain. What did he really know? He knew they had a cultivation technique that originated from the demons. Could they have found it, been given it, or stolen it, not in conjunction with a promise to betray humanity or Liaoyang or even just Qinshan? It was possible. In that case, it was just unwise to practice it given the feelings about demons, but perhaps they weighed the benefits against the drawbacks.
If they weren’t working with the demons, it would be fine to leave them alone. However, if they were… a betrayal at the wrong moment, even from a known source, could change the flow of the war. It could even cause it to be lost. If the betrayal came precisely when the plan to destroy the Demon King was enacted, he could survive or at least die normally, which would then cause him to be prepared the next time, if humanity even got that chance.
William had to think deeply about the problem. With the various ways they could have gotten the cultivation method, what was the chance they got it directly from the demons in relation to working with them in some way? William wasn’t sure. He could throw numbers at things, but he couldn’t know. Still, numbers didn’t hurt too much. He considered what it would mean if there was a one in four chance of betrayal. That didn’t seem unreasonable, since the demons certainly were attempting to get traitors, and they already had in Ostana. The Zhu clan likely had this technique for a long time, perhaps even generations. That didn’t really mean anything to the demons, since the plans had been going on for a long time. Still, at a one in four chance, William would absolutely have to recommend the Order exterminate the Zhu clan.
That said, the numbers might be much lower. Say it was one in a gross, one out of one hundred forty four. In that case, if it was a tipping point in the war, it would be indirectly responsible for tens of millions of deaths. Even if they were only responsible for a similarly small one in one hundred forty four of those deaths, that would still be well over a thousand. The Zhu clan had around one hundred people. Even if William valued his friendship with Zhu Fang at one hundred or a thousand people, it was still right to report them. That didn’t even count the fact that the demons would be destroying the souls of many people, which was much worse than just killing them.
William didn’t want to reduce lives to just numbers, neither those of the humans he didn’t know nor the lives of the Zhu clan. William had known many people in the Order for almost two dozen years. He trusted them, and agreed with the idea that Demonic influence needed to be wiped out. The only reason he was hesitating was his friendship with Zhu Fang. He had known him for only a year. William knew they were certainly still hiding many things between the two of them. While it was possible that Zhu Fang was a nice fellow just as he seemed, he might not be. Even if he was, he could still be misguided, or the only person in the clan who wouldn’t betray humanity.
Finally, William came to his decision. He couldn’t bear to take full responsibility for this situation upon himself. He didn’t even have to. After all, he did have people he trusted who he could rely on to come up with an answer that was better than just his thoughts alone. Finally, William sent a message to the Order, reporting what he found as was his purpose in coming to Qinshan. He reported that the Zhu clan trained in a demonic cultivation method. There was no further evidence to tie them to the demons. As for the rest of the city, he had found no hints of demonic influence. William had managed to closely observe at least a few members of each of the other large clans and organizations in the city. If they had trained in a demonic cultivation method as a whole like the Zhu clan, he would have figured it out. Thus, if they were influenced by the demons it would likely be only certain key members, information William alone could not find. William made no mention of his speculation on the probability of the Zhu clan being traitors, except to point out there was no particular evidence toward that beyond possessing the demonic cultivation technique.
William knew that didn’t absolve him from any consequences of his actions. However, even though he probably could influence the decision in whatever direction he wanted, he wasn’t going to make it himself. After that, all he could do was wait to see what the response was.