William once again returned to Ostana. Although letters were nice for keeping up communication, meeting in person was even better. Though, William had more reasons than that to go. Just sitting around training made him feel like he was doing nothing. Besides, he needed to take a break sometimes, and a change in setting could be beneficial.
Fortunately, travel didn’t have any effect on his health. Perhaps if he were going on foot, but he didn’t need to sneak around anywhere, so riding with a caravan was better in many ways. William found it rather easy to forget he was sick at all. As long as he didn’t overexert his body, he felt normal. As long as he wasn’t coughing up blood, he just felt like a normal person who wasn’t up for a lot of exercise.
Upon arriving in Canta, William went to see all of his friends and acquaintances. He wasn’t sure what Knight-Commander Tyler counted as. She looked a lot like Lila, but she wasn’t his friend. Maybe a comrade, but certainly more than an acquaintance. Maybe that would have been different if William had more reason to spend time with her or she wasn’t so busy. Though she was old enough to be his mother, if William relied on strict age guidelines for who he was friends with he would have no friends at all. Everyone would be too young by far… Except Lorelei, who would be too old.
William had to admit that Lorelei was part of the reason he wanted to come back to Ostana. She never visited any other countries. In Liaoyang, her demonic cultivation would easily be recognized, and in Eclea her illusions would likely be dispelled, among other things. There wasn’t any reason for her to go to Ustil, and she wouldn’t have been able to enter the capital which was the only interesting part.
He had thought of some interesting questions for her. Ki would protect the soul if called upon in a defensive manner… to lesser or greater degrees. Some types of ki cultivation also made the soul stronger. William knew that magic could theoretically be used to defend against soul attacks, but not how specifically. It wasn’t like creating fire where he knew how the chemistry and physics worked. Did body training do anything for the soul? It didn’t seem like it would. It was pretty clear that body and soul were separate.
Lorelei actually took time to think that over. “Hmm… results are inconclusive. Measuring the strength of the soul is inexact, and so it’s hard to tell. Sometimes souls strengthen over time, and it may have relations to extreme effort, such as occurs in body training. However, I haven’t really seen any clear information on the topic.” She thought for a few moments longer. “I once saw something about body training increasing the ties between soul and body. I thought that it might mitigate effects of damage on the soul but haven’t actually tested that.”
William thought about that. If it were true, then his Soul Severing ability might be more easily resisted by them… but only compared to a normal person. William didn’t have any reason to go around killing people engaged in body training, and later in the war with the demons, there wouldn’t really be time for clinical observations. He had heard that on average demons had slightly stronger souls than humans, though there could be any number of factors behind that. Lorelei had even admitted that the research just might have been biased to make demons seem better. Of course, the Demon King was an exception to anything that talked about averages, and Lorelei had verified that his soul was very strong. She didn’t spend enough time around him to see if his body training in each life had any effect on his soul strength increased, and she certainly didn’t want to be observing closely enough to see the probably small effects.
As an inevitable occurrence during one of their discussions, William had a coughing fit. It wasn’t that talking a lot changed that, just that they spent enough time together discussing things that it was bound to happen eventually. Lorelei didn’t seem concerned, until she noticed a little bit of blood on William’s hand. “What’s that?”
“Blood. I’m sure you’ve seen blood before.”
“That wasn’t really the question. Why are you coughing up blood?”
“I see. Would you mind describing the symptoms?”
“I can, but there isn’t a cure. It’s a disease that sometimes appears in my mother’s family.” William went on to describe the symptoms, including the coughing and weakness of body. He also described the medicine he was taking to keep it in check.
“Hmm. You’re right, even we don’t have a cure for that.”
William tilted his head inquisitively. “Why would you even look for one?”
“We get sick too, you know.”
“Yeah, but it’s a family disease.” There wasn’t a good way to say genetic disease, so William approximated.
“So? We have families too. I know of at least one group whose members occasionally suffer from the same thing, though we have stronger bodies to begin with so it drags on for a much longer time.”
“I see.” William nodded. William thought about it, but something felt off. It made sense that demons could have genetic disease too, but… William shook his head. “It can’t be the same thing though. Just something similar.”
“Any why is that?”
“Well, it’s… related to the people who have it, right? I have it, and an uncle of sorts I’ve never even met, and a few others I know of. Maybe elsewhere there are people who are only related by a dozen or more generations back have it. However, even if they have something similar, the people you know of are demons, so it can’t be the same thing.”
“Hmm. Did you know humans and elves could have children together? The same is true of elves and my people. That could be the connection… long in the past, before the Demon King.”
“Oh. Then the question arises, what about humans and demons?”
Lorelei shrugged. “There aren’t any records of that. Of course, nobody is going to try that now. I don’t think anyone is interested in trying just to find out, based on how much we kill each other. Even I wouldn’t, because I would draw the line at experimenting on my own family. I suppose that might not be too bad, but I’d rather not create children that would probably die in just a half-dozen of dozens of years.” She looked at William directly, “Or less.”
William just stared blankly for a few moments. “Well, since I’m human the age thing is pretty much set if I were to have any children. Though I would really rather not have the chance of passing on an especially short life.”