Although they didn’t go out frequently, the special company still made a half-dozen trips in just as many months. William was glad that the outings were so infrequent, because even though it took him some time to recover in between missions, he wasn’t holding up everyone else. At the very least, it only took him one or two weeks to recover and not a whole month.
William found that he at meat more now. There were practical reasons for it, such as needing the iron it contained to replenish the blood he was losing. Not from wounds in battle, but from his coughing fits. There were frequent enough that blood loss was becoming a real concern, even if each individual one only cost William a small amount of blood. Though, even that was becoming less true. William was also taking supplemental medicines to help with blood production. William wasn’t sure if they actually helped, but he was sure that believing they would help was better than believing they wouldn’t, whether they were medicine or not. Still, William’s preferred method of treatment was eating more meat, and he had really developed his taste for it since going to Qinshan. Maybe he had just had too much fish… except that wasn’t it, since he still found fish meat quite tasty.
Although the missions the company was sent out on were for the sake of training them, it wasn’t like they were without danger. After all, real combat was that way. Even though they had a numerical and usually even tactical advantage, the company didn’t get by unscathed. As they got better coordinated, there were fewer injuries and deaths, but even heavily outnumbered, demons weren’t pushovers. Many of the deaths were from the warriors from Ustil. It wasn’t that they were weaker, in fact they were some of the best soldiers in the group. However, they still died. They intentionally took danger onto themselves to protect others. This was especially obvious in their desire to protect William and the others who could use Shattering the Soul. Yet, even though they took the heaviest casualties, they never complained, and only seemed happy about it. When William asked, they just said that the whole mission revolved around destroying the Demon King, so their lives were necessary sacrifices. William understood and appreciated their devotion… but no matter how much he understood, he still didn’t like that sacrifices were necessary.
Thus, following proper tactics was the best way to keep them and the rest of the company safe. That included letting them take the brunt of the attacks, even if William wanted to move forward to help lessen the pressure on them. However, that could lead to them having to break formation to protect him or the others, putting them even more at risk. Thus, William remained cautious in his positioning. Even so, it wasn’t like he never found himself in danger. Battles were unpredictable, and a seemingly safe position could suddenly turn into a group being flanked on several sides.
The situation William found himself in seemed safe, as far as battles went. He had allies around him, and everything was flowing well. William found himself facing off against a demon by himself, which wasn’t a problem as long as the battle didn’t drag on. William was strong… in ki, if not in body. He had ki defenses ready, and a magical robe as well to take whatever force slipped through that. William’s opponent used a spear, which meant William only really had to worry about thrusting attacks. However, his opponent was stronger than he was expecting. William was forced back a step at a time. He made sure his retreat wasn’t into enemy forces, because if he let that happen he could easily be stabbed in the back and die without being able to do anything. Around him, the battle was going well, and William could hold off his opponent long enough to receive assistance… or find an opening himself. Then, there was a thrust, and William prepared to dodge. The attack was strong and fast, and William also deflected with Chris. That could leave an opening in his enemy to exploit… but he couldn’t dodge as he wanted to. A fallen demon had grabbed his ankle… one who was not quite dead. Unfortunately, not quite dead demons were still strong. William found himself on the ground, and instead of creating an opening in his enemy, he was now in a bad position.
A thrust came toward William’s chest… but even in his position he wasn’t helpless. He deflected with Chris, and got off with a mere gash on his chest… compared to having his heart impaled. The demon gripping his ankle was still annoying, but William was too busy deflecting with Chris to strike him. Still… he was in contact with William. William diverted some of his energy to launch a soul attack. It wasn’t optimal by any means, but at least he couldn’t miss. Calling the attack Eternal Dream instead of Let Go of My Ankle seemed a bit pretentious, but it worked. The demon was dead… or at least unconscious. Unfortunately, the demon with the spear had gathered his own ki for a strong attack, and William was still in a bad position. He could block with Chris… but if he was slightly off, the attack would just scrape off of Chris’s surface and pierce his chest. William didn’t have a good angle to parry, and he wasn’t sure if he could roll out of the way fast enough. There wasn’t enough time to have Chris start any kind of magic, nor to communicate it to him. The attack was already coming, and William moved.
Afterwards, he wasn’t sure what course of action he had chosen. That was because there was a loud explosion, and a blinding flash of light. A lightning bolt. William thought that was actually unfair to call it though. He’d seen wizards use lightning bolt spells, and even done them himself… or rather, Chris had. Chris’ versions were weaker, but he’d seen some pretty respectable lightning bolts in his previous life. They almost matched up to real lightning in power, and could be even more deadly since they were directed intentionally. As the lightning came, William felt the electricity course through him, spasming his muscles. Even so, when he could see again, he wasn’t dead. In fact, besides a few scorch marks on his robe… even through the magic and ki defenses, he was basically fine. If he compared himself to the demon in front of him, he was perfectly healthy. That was because, even though William had gotten shocked… he wasn’t actually directly hit. Instead, the demon had been, with a bolt straight from the sky. The demon had fallen to the ground, and William saw the top of his head. It was charred and burnt… burning, even, as some flames smoldered gently. William sat up, and saw several holes in his chest and abdomen where the lightning bolt seemed to have gone in and out of him.
William looked directly up into the sky. It was a clear day… and of course William didn’t expect natural lightning to have such good timing, nor to have such strange movement patterns. Around the battlefield, William could see the battle was wrapping up… and several curious looks around him. William knew that none of the wizards in the company were powerful enough to create such a lightning bolt, and they likely wouldn’t have fired it into the middle of the battle either. Still, since it had come from the sky, with proper accuracy it wouldn’t be a friendly fire problem as much as a bolt parallel to the ground might… though William’s hair standing on end showed that it wasn’t necessarily as precise as he might have wanted. On the other hand, he wasn’t dead, so he wasn’t going to complain too much.