William was sitting and thinking. He had been overconfident in the fight with the forest dragon. Before that, he had the feeling that he could defeat anything by himself. He hadn’t thought about it exactly in that manner, because he would have realized what a ridiculous idea it was. If he discounted that he still had thought he needed help to fight the Demon King, he had subconsciously been thinking of himself as one of the strongest in the world. After all, it was hard for most people to resist William’s soul techniques. Though most people and even magical beasts would be susceptible, there were still actually quite a few individual who at least had a good chance to kill William first, and that didn’t count group efforts. In the case of the forest dragon, however, William hadn’t been entirely incorrect.
He felt he could have defeated it, resistant scales and all, if he had used Shattering the Soul. That technique had a great penetrating power. However, William couldn’t directly take that attribute of Shattering the Soul and use it in other techniques, though he had some idea of how he could still make that useful. Shattering the Soul itself it was actually the easiest to use on something with a weaker soul but high defensive power because it could go through any defenses, after which starting the chain reaction in a weak soul was almost trivial. Of course, that still required a large difference in the strength of the souls in question, or a proportionately larger amount of proficiency.
Han Xinya didn’t know about Shattering the Soul. Although he was training people to be better at soul techniques for the Order, he didn’t want to be tied down, and thus couldn’t learn about that secret. That meant that William had to come up with his own methods to have offshoot techniques, though having the general instructions from Han Xinya had helped greatly. Previously, William hadn’t been too worried about penetrating enemies defenses, because he thought he could overpower them or just ignore them, in the case of purely physical armor. The forest dragon made him realize how foolish that was, and so he started on a piercing technique. This was almost exactly like the penetrating part of Shattering the Soul, except more focused on creating weaknesses for subsequent attacks. This require having less depth of penetration, in exchange for creating a “larger” hole through which subsequent attacks could follow. This would work against static defenses such as enchanted armor or robes, but against active ki defenses or magical barriers, he would have to quickly follow up with another attack or the hole would be repaired. Magical armor would sometimes repair their weaknesses, but usually more slowly, and it was usually not relevant in battle. William didn’t know what he would call the new technique, but perhaps it didn’t need a name. Instead, it was really only useful as a preliminary move before the true attack.
William spent about a year training, the first month or so of which was spent fully recovering from his remaining wounds. He couldn’t train as hard during this period, and certainly not with the staff. During this period, he received some word of what was happening in Ostana. There was word of many arrests and prosecutions, with much harsher punishments than people were used to… but no harsher than was truly deserved. For some, that meant death, since they were directly colluding with the demons against the country. With the dissolution of the wizard’s guild and the sweeping changes among the nobles, Ostana was changing. That was probably for the best, and William thought he had given it too much credit as a good country when he was Archmage, and it had been worse off when he came back as Yu Hui’Lam. It was better that it change now, even if it was a bit weaker than optimal. It would be even worse if the traitors had not been caught, and William hoped there weren’t any more that hadn’t been found.
After his year of training, William couldn’t stand waiting around any longer. Perhaps if he had less notice of the upcoming war he might have been less antsy, but it was still almost a dozen years before the war would start- give or take a few years. William spent time helping people train in Shattering the Soul, but he was still young so it was awkward for some people to learn from him. Though Han Xinya’s training was less directly applicable, he fit the role of teacher better. Besides, there was only so much teaching about a particular technique that could be done, and then much more time was required to actually practice. William felt like his contributions there were becoming less important, and the Order agreed.
When William requested something else to do, it took some time for him to receive any actual assignment. Though there were always things the Order needed done with their limited members, they were hesitant to assign William to some of the more potentially dangerous ones. He had one of the largest potentials in the area of the soul and Shattering the Soul in particular, so they weighed the cost of putting him at risk versus the potential benefits. Eventually, something came up that he was suited for and should not carry too much risk.
He was assigned to go to the city of Qinshan, on the northwest coast of Liaoyang. There were reports of people who trained in demonic cultivation methods. William was suited to go there because he had developed good senses, at least for things like determining cultivation methods. It was rather hard to tell if people were projecting another type of ki that they trained in and hid the ki from the demonic methods, but William’s perception technique was directly related to the soul. This made it a job suited to him. Though he might not immediately recognize it in someone, it wasn’t a problem if it took some time. He was being sent to live there, just gathering information. Perhaps he would not notice on the first meeting, or the second, but as he went around the city he would just have to find out who, if any, practiced demonic cultivation methods. He was not to try to infiltrate anywhere, but just to observe. There was also a small chance that demons seeking potential traitors would arrive in the city, and William would be able to spot them much more quickly. After all, their main method would be demonic, and thus much harder to conceal with something else.