As predicted, most of the rest of the passage through the mountains was uneventful. If they had taken the time to search for the easiest passage, they might have avoided any trouble at all. However, though it was somewhat dangerous, they hadn’t found themselves in true peril. Of course, the easiest way would have been to go through any of the large passes which were fortified. However, William didn’t want to bet on the magical defenses there not being able to detect them. He also didn’t want to go there and see that they neglected keeping them running, because that would be depressing. Either way, it was best not to go near humans and cause a possible incident. Past the border, there would be less scrutiny, especially if they avoided any places rich enough to get wards installed.
They were just here to gather information, so it was best they avoided anything risky. It was entirely possible that the Demon King wasn’t even in Ostana or Liaoyang at all. That chance of nothing actually bugged William, but they had nothing better to go on. It was also too important to just ignore. At least William didn’t have to worry about a limited lifespan… as long as he managed to take care of the soul necrosis, and that could be done anywhere.
The northern parts of Ostana looked much as William remembered them, with forests and fields after they came out of the mountains and hills. It was odd to think that last time he was near here, it was likely that none of these trees were around. Not that there weren’t trees that lived that long, but these weren’t the right types.
As William and Lorelei travelled, they kept up hooded cloaks. Having their disguises active all the time was not the best idea, but they also weren’t going to risk people seeing different colored skin and possibly horns from a distance. As they got close enough to regular civilization, they disguised themselves whenever they were passing by people on the road, not that many were travelling up toward the north. Mostly, only a few soldiers or trappers.
William missed having a carriage, but he found that Lorelei’s walking pace was very quick, and he didn’t have trouble keeping up. It was still nice to be able to just sit and talk or perhaps cultivate, but that wasn’t possible while walking. Still, William made sure to use his ki as it recovered naturally or when they stopped for a rest, as the soul necrosis was still a problem.
William found it strange, but he knew it had to be destroyed. He just wasn’t entirely sure where it came from. He was worried that it was formerly parts of his soul, and though that might have been somewhat true, he didn’t feel any gaps in his memories so far. In addition, ‘underneath’ each part was some more of his own memories, so any bits that were missing could be attributed to normal forgetfulness or that. That left the greater probability that it was not formed from pieces of soul at all… or that it was mostly composed of the soul of others. The latter was actually William’s dominant theory. That made him think he was incredibly lucky to get by with his soul being as it was. Certainly, critically wounded, but not irreparably so. “Chris, do you remember much about the destruction of the Demon King? Specifically, the explosion and aftermath.”
William only asked when they could stop for the evening, so it would be easiest for Chris to communicate by writing in the dirt. “Not that much. Well, everything was bright and explody. I got thrown through the air and ended up very far from the center. Then, everyone was dead and it was very painful and sad.”
“Oh. Sorry to bring up bad memories. You said it was painful? Can you feel pain.? Or was it just…”
“I can. That was the first time I was injured, so I didn’t know I could.”
“You were injured? But you look fine…”
“Well, I got better. I had cracks and stuff, but nothing broke off. After a while of absorbing mana, I got better. Umm, a very long time, but I don’t remember how long. I was mostly recovered before Lorelei found me, so less than a gross of years I guess?”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. I actually thought I might get destroyed with the Demon King and you. Instead, I got injured, then I got better. Plus, you lived through that, which made me happy even though I was sad for a long time.”
“I’m still glad you chose to work with me, but I still don’t know why.”
“I liked you. Maybe it was just good timing, because I was thinking maybe I should do something when you first showed up, but I liked the way you talked to me instead of just trying to control me.”
“To be honest, I didn’t even know you could understand words at first. So, I was just lucky there.” William shrugged. Without Chris, he didn’t think his second life would have gone nearly so well. He wondered how that would have affected everything afterwards, but he didn’t like the idea.
“Still, some people before got the idea that I could understand words, but they treated me like I was stupid. I am stupid, but that still wasn’t nice.”
“You’re not stupid. It’s just hard for you to think quickly, probably because you don’t have… well, a brain.”
“I’m a little stupid. I’ve never really thought of anything new or exciting. You do that… and Lorelei does as well. Lila… does that and gets blown up. More than normal.”
“But you’ve been a big help with figuring out how to do a laser better. I didn’t even describe them that well at first…”
“Hmm, I think maybe I’m better at that since I’m a giant crystal? We’ve already spent years…”
“People spent quite a long time on making them work to begin with… and to be honest we started with only a bad memory of how they work, and were missing some of the critical underlying information. I think we’ve been doing pretty good, and most of the advances in usefulness were yours.”
“Hmm… well thanks! Either way, shooting lasers is pretty fun. It’s like… *brrrrr*” Chris made an exaggerated trembling and a slight hum, then slammed against the ground. “You know, except with a laser instead of hitting stuff. I never thought light would be so dangerous.”
“Everything is dangerous, with enough of it.” William frowned, “Speaking of dangerous, I have some cleanup to do in my soul still.” William sat down to meditate. Step by step, he would clear out his soul. Then, he would only have to worry about the Demon King, even though he shouldn’t have been a problem anymore if things had gone right.