William woke up. That was unexpected. Even more so, he woke up quickly. He could tell this, because in the hallway in front of him was the old man… covered in sweat and meditating. Headmistress Lorenz was standing in front of him, smiling. “Don’t move okay? Otherwise, this could be dangerous.” Then, she began chanting, it was just gibberish, but William could see the mana gathering. It came through the open cell door and swirled around her, and around William. Don’t move? As if he could. Keeping his eyes open was the limit of his energy right now. Then, Lila’s chant stopped. William had expected something like lightning, or anything equally impressive, but there was no light, and only a slight sound. Just a popping sound… no, perhaps a handful or two of them at the same time. William didn’t have time to think about it, as he fell face forward onto the floor and passed out again.
When he once again regained consciousness, he was on a bed, in a room. His room. This was where he stayed at the academy. He tried to sit up, but it was a lot of effort, so he just rolled to the side. He saw Chris standing vertically next to the bed… though at William’s movements, Chris started flipping around the room, finally coming to stop right in front of William’s face. “Good to see you again too buddy.” That was about all the energy William had.
He wasn’t sure how long he dozed for, but he found himself started awake by the sound of the door opening. William saw Chris flip over to the door, colliding with the entering figure with a very solid sound. “Hey! Be careful! I might spill the soup.” Lorelei stood there, with her arm blocking what seemed to have been a strike toward her head. “Besides, you were the one who said he was the Demon King, no use taking it out on me.” Chris flopped over on the floor, dejected. Lorelei pulled up the single chair next to William’s bed. “Soup?”
“…Sure.” Lorelei helped him sit up, then fed him a spoonful. It wasn’t amazing. Typical fair for the academy cafeteria, but better than what he’d been getting for quite a while. Plus, the atmosphere was much better. “Not planning to kill me anymore?”
Lorelei sighed. “Sorry about that. We had to be sure… We didn’t expect you to… well… still exist, frankly. We weren’t sure if the Demon King would have some way to conceal who was in control if he knew what was happening.” She shrugged. “I hope it wasn’t too painful. My brother doesn’t have the most… finesse.”
“I’m not going to say it was the most pleasant experience… but dying this last time was worse.” William sighed. “I’d really rather not go through either of those things, though. You said… your brother?”
“Yes. The old man.” She fed William another spoonful of soup.
“How do de- um, gevai get old?”
Lorelei’s grin covered her whole face. “Oh it is you. Well, honestly… we don’t know. Exactly. In my brother’s case, probably because… he gave up.”
“He decided he was done with life, so he was?”
She shook her head. “Oh no, he would love to continue his life. That was the problem, really. He just had an ambition, and failed to act on it. Honestly, he’s lasted quite a long time aging. He’s very stubborn, but that’s not quite enough.”
“What ambition? What do you mean he failed to act on it? If that’s not too personal…”
Lorelei waved her hand dismissively. “He doesn’t really deserve to keep that secret, if he cares. He wanted to destroy the Demon King. He even developed a technique to do so. Yet, he didn’t do it. He didn’t fail… he just didn’t try.”
“Your brother… is the one who created Shattering the Soul?”
“Precisely. He even had the power to destroy the Demon King, but he was afraid of the consequences if he failed… or even if he succeeded. It was after that he started aging… if slowly. Now, he’s just a shrivelled old man with at most a few dozen years left.”
“Gevai are completely unfair. A few dozen years still? I didn’t even hit three dozen in my previous life.”
“Oh, don’t give me that kind of complaint when you’ve lived three lives. You sound like a baby. Wait, you had another one, right? In another world? Was that true?”
“I’m going to ask you so many questions about that. After you sleep. I feel like your answers would be disappointing right now.”
“Good idea.” It didn’t take long after William’s head hit his pillow to fall asleep for his first real sleep in quite some time.
“So, how did you survive?” That was the first question Lorelei asked when William woke up.
“I don’t know. I guess my soul was just strong enough. It was… uh… very close. My soul almost disintegrated, I think.” William paused. “What should I call you? I really only know you by your pseudonym.”
“Why not just call me Lorelei then? You could call me Cinzia, but it’s not like anyone really calls me that. Mostly they call me “that wizard lady” or things significantly less nice. Names are really only useful as identifiers anyway.”
“I got pretty attached to being William. Oh, right. I survived, but the Demon King… you were talking about fragments or something?”
Lorelei nodded seriously. “It wouldn’t be exactly correct to say he survived, but he’s not entirely gone. Apparently he had enough soul that even when it was blown into smaller chunks, each of them was still viable. At least, that’s the current theory. I wasn’t sure how well the destruction worked exactly, since I stayed away from the battle. I only saw the aftermath. Thus, I stayed on alert for his return. Fortunately, I managed to convince Chris to help me. He can sense them if they’re close enough, but of course they could also sense him.”
“Unfortunately his survival makes a lot of sense. When he was killing wizards, I think he was adding bits of their soul to his own. Thus, he had a lot of soul to go around.” William paused, “I have no idea how much each piece will remember.”
Lorelei shrugged. “I have no idea. There’s no way I’m going to let them live and fuse together or something, if they can do that. Of course, working together in multiple bodies wouldn’t be great either. Thus, we’ve been working on finishing him off. Perhaps with you… that can be faster.”