After he informed the Order of what he had found and heard their plans, he still had several awkward weeks of waiting. Most of the awkwardness was caused by Zhu Fang. After all, as far as he knew he and William were still friends. It only made things worse when he asked William if he was feeling alright. William didn’t really have an answer for that.
When those from the Order finally arrived, William wanted nothing to do with the whole situation. However, no matter how much he wanted that, he was still involved. The Order had decided, based on William’s information, that the Zhu clan needed to be exterminated. William didn’t disagree rationally- it was the best option. Even so, he felt like it was the wrong choice. Still, he didn’t say that to anyone.
The people from the Order of the Watchful Sentry arrived in small groups over several days, and William couldn’t help but admire how relatively quickly the Order could call so many strong figures to a particular location. There were around three dozen of them, mostly middle aged or older. That was to be expected, because they had all passed the third or fourth major breakthroughs in their respective cultivation methods. That made them the cream of the crop throughout all of Liaoyang. Though individual combat strengths could still vary significantly at the same level, William knew that these martial artists weren’t pushovers. Though the Zhu clan outnumbered them, that included those who couldn’t fight. Only about half of the one hundred members had any significant training. William knew what the results would be.
When asked, William declined to go with the group. Perhaps it was the coward’s way out, but he made the choice nonetheless. William could only imagine what was happening at the Zhu clan. He imagined guards being struck down. Perhaps one of them would raise the alarm, waking the clan. Some of them would get to their weapons and fight… but all of them would die. There would be screaming and terror. At least, for a short time. After all, the members of the Order were good at what they did. William took solace that there wouldn’t be any unnecessary suffering involved, and the deaths of the Zhu clan would be as swift as possible.
Though he imagined the scene, from where he was all he could hear was the sound of the night, peaceful and quiet. For some reason, the contrast made it worse. William was too lost in his speculations to keep track of time, but eventually those from the Order returned. He could tell the job was done.
Few people noticed the disappearance of one fisherman from the city of Qinshan. If they had, they might have connected it to the destruction of the Zhu clan… or they might not have. Nobody really knew what happened, except that they must have angered a very powerful group. Those who lived near to the clan grounds had seen some figures leaving, but didn’t dare to approach. It was only after a day that anyone approached, to find the Zhu clan members all dead. Beyond that, however, everything seemed as expected. The wealth of the Zhu clan had not been taken, and everything seemed to be in place. Though no one noticed, the only thing missing was a single scroll containing a cultivation technique that had been in a hidden room.
William travelled with a few members of the Order to the headquarters, in the city of Fengzhou, approximately in the center of Liaoyang. Most of the members dispersed to return to where they were normally stationed, but several members and William went to report on the mission success. William was intimately involved with the whole mission, even though he wasn’t physically involved in the final result, so he had to be present.
The Order didn’t keep any large, impressive headquarters. At least, the building was no larger than those around it. William and those with him went into a meeting chamber. There, they met with several leaders of the Order. It was rather straightforward, and most of the information had already been reported. After the reports, everyone in the room was witness to the destruction of the Zhu clan’s demonic cultivation technique. Before that, it was verified by carefully having different people look at small sections of the scroll. Though technique scrolls usually automatically transferred an image to the mind of those studying them, that could be intentionally avoided. Such caution wasn’t really necessary, but no one wanted anyone to suspect they might practice the technique, even though it would easily be discovered. Even more so, they would likely have to review the scroll to clear up some points. Cultivation techniques were more difficult to learn than combat techniques, because they set up the foundation for everything. The destruction of the scroll itself was a simple case of lighting it on fire and watching it burn to ash. Though such a scroll could last through the ages if untouched, they were not so durable as to avoid intentional destruction.
After that, William received some commendations and rewards. They felt rather empty, but he accepted them gracefully. However, he couldn’t help but wonder if he had done the right thing. The Zhu clan hadn’t been proved to be on the demons’ side… but there was always that risk. There had been no documents detailing where the technique had come from, and whether there was any arrangement to work with the demons for it. In summary, nobody knew for sure, except the deceased members of the Zhu clan.
William returned to the Yu clan, as he had no interest in further assignments for the Order. He believed the Order was doing its best to ensure humanity survived, but he still had trouble with the idea of acting without certainty. Perhaps that just made him weak, unable to make a choice unless he was completely convinced of something. Even though it bothered him, William believed that with the information he had, the choice was the best one, but he would rather have not made such a choice at all. It was so easy when people were like Cecil Lockridge and blatantly admitted to wrongdoing, it had made William forget that things could be different.
There was one thing that William didn’t want to think about, but he ended up doing it anyway. He wasn’t really sure why he was so upset. Was it because of the uncertainty of the situation? That was certainly part of it, but there was more. He was also upset because of his friend Zhu Fang. William knew he wasn’t in a great state to think clearly, but he still thought about them anyway. He was most certainly upset because of Zhu Fang. If he had tried to exclude him from what happened, that would have made everything pointless. However, the thought passed his mind that he might not be sad for Zhu Fang as for himself. After all, William was the one who was missing some of the fun times they had spent together. It was a stupid thought, although it was a tiny bit true.
The idea of Zhu Fang being sacrificed for the greater good also bothered William. He thought it was reasonable, but what if it had been someone else? What if it had been Yu Li, or Dong Xin, or Lila? Would he have still done it? What if it had been himself? The answer for some of them was that he wouldn’t, but that was because he knew them better. It was hard to say what he would do if there were actually real risk of them being traitors, but it he didn’t believe there was, or would have been in the case of Lila. As for himself… he knew he was not a traitor, but if there was evidence brought to him that what he was doing was wrong, would he give himself up? He thought he might. Would he sacrifice himself for the greater good? He would, in fact he even planned to. He intended to go down fighting the Demon King… assuming he made it that far. Was it the right thing to do? William thought so, but even if he was wrong… there wouldn’t be anything left of him to regret it.