William sat in one of the courtyards of the Yu clan. This particular one had a rock garden, and the rocks swirled in interesting, almost magical patterns. Of course, the patterns were not actually magical. For one thing, very few people in Liaoyang could use magic, even if magical formations worked in such a manner. Magical formations were never actually mystical or mysterious. Instead, they were precise, and needed to be made out of specific things. William supposed it was somewhat like a magical circuit board, but it was on a much larger scale and didn’t do anything as complicated. At best, a magical barrier made by a formation could prevent things such as fireballs and lightning bolts by blocking things with high amounts of energy. This would also stop arrows and such. However, it would also block attacks from the inside unless it was specifically set up to be directional, which was much harder to do. In addition, such a barrier took a large amount of energy to maintain, and even more when it was attacked.
Meanwhile, the large formations in Eclea and Ustil were different. They didn’t actually physically prevent anything. In Eclea, it seemed to detect people entering or exiting the border. Although the amount of energy required to cover the area that it was over was significant in total, any one part was not. Thus, it was maintained mostly by local mana, though William presumed there were also other clever tricks to use other types of energy as well. Eclea seemed good at that. Meanwhile, the barrier in Ustil merely confused the senses of people trying to get to a certain area. That probably took more energy on a per-individual basis, but there were also less people who would be going to that particular part of a desert. William supposed it might not be able to stop particularly large groups, or armies, but that depended on where the power came from. Regardless, leading a large number of people through the desert toward there would probably be a logistical nightmare.
William sighed. He was trying to relax by looking at the rock garden, but instead ended up thinking about barriers and war. When he sat by a stream, the sound of it relaxed him, but he couldn’t help but think about how the flow of the water might be used as an energy source. That part was fine, but when he continued to think about a river being dammed up to prevent water from getting to a city under siege, it bothered him. The war was far enough away that he didn’t have to think about it all the time, but he did anyway.
Yu Huan came to William to spar, practicing soul techniques. This was useful for both of them. Even William, who found he was quite talented, still needed other perspectives. Practicing his techniques on his own or even against things such as a giant scorpion wasn’t sufficient. Of course, practicing Shattering the Soul was hardest of all. It wasn’t something that should be used casually, even if it weren’t for the potential dangers to the user. William knew he would, at some point, have to try it on something bigger than an insect, but he would certainly have preferred not to. Fortunately, he still had feelings on how effective it would be. He couldn’t confirm it with Shattering the Soul directly, but he could confirm it with the other soul technique he had derived from it.
The technique he had used to kill the giant scorpion in Ustil he decided to call “Eternal Dream”. It was rather pretentious, but all technique names were that way, so it was really just following tradition. Practically, it was a technique that attacked the soul, causing unconsciousness or death. Shattering the Soul focused on penetrating into the depths of the soul, exploding and then causing a chain reaction of sorts. Meanwhile, Eternal Dream merely attacked the “outside” of the soul, creating an impact that disrupted it. If Shattering the Soul failed, it would have basically no effect- perhaps slight damage, and that might even open the way for another attempt at Shattering the Soul to be more effective. However, Eternal Dream just focused on providing a huge impact to shock the soul. On things with relatively stronger souls, it could range from stunning them momentarily to knocking them unconscious- hence the “Dream”. If the soul was weak enough, or the attack strong enough, then it would cause death. That was where the name broke down somewhat. Perhaps if William didn’t know for sure that reincarnation happened, death might be an eternal dream, but “unexpected nap” didn’t really make for a great name.
As far as William could tell, such an attack wouldn’t cause permanent damage to the soul, and would certainly not destroy it and make it unable to reincarnate. William was rather certain he could come up with a technique that would cause permanent or at least very lasting damage to the soul, but he wasn’t sure what good that would do in most circumstances. Generally, it would be easier to just kill an opponent, and William didn’t feel like maiming an enemy was particularly something that should be the goal. Making them retreat, capturing them, killing them, these were all fine depending on the circumstances, but generally there was no need to cause permanent harm when it wasn’t even more effective.
Yu Huan had studied all of the techniques claiming to be soul techniques in the Yu Clan library, as well as some that were possessed by the Order of the Watchful Sentry. A good number of them really had nothing to do with the soul at all, but there were also some that did. She shared what she had learned with William, and they discussed what that might tell them about the actual nature of a soul. William had some ideas, but many of his theories were also guesswork. As near as he could tell, ki cultivation took place within the soul, or in a place overlapping with the soul. As would be expected from a soul, it had no reaction to the body, or purely physical actions. Magic, however, also seemed to be connected to the soul. However, since William couldn’t experience it himself, it was harder to know for sure. Demons, for example, all had the potential to use magic, and their horns enhanced magic as well. This implied that magic might be related to the body in some manner as well. On the other hand, it could be that horns just worked somewhat like staffs and gems, as an assisting tool. William knew that the demoness had more details on such things, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to ask about those particular experiments.
William and Yu Huan also practiced soul techniques with members of the Order. Some of the older members were quite good, and had some proficiency in one or a few soul techniques. As for people not from the Order, it wasn’t a good idea to openly exchange techniques with them, since it wasn’t sure if they could be trusted. In addition the word of what they were planning might get out, on purpose or by accident. The fewer people who knew, the better.