William found himself with just one piece of soul necrosis left. One, out of thousands, probably tens of thousands. However, though it was so small as to barely be noticeable, this part was much more intimidating than the others. Maybe it was that it had been around longest and had the most time to fester, but the one immediately before it had been merely unpleasant. William thought it might have always had this strange vileness he now felt radiating from it, but he couldn’t sense it before.
Regardless, he made sure to fully prepare. It would be a shame to come this far only to mess up at the last moment. He was already placing wards on the rooms he stayed in to keep people from noticing him, and while they were simple due to being nonpermanent they would keep out casual intrusion. More importantly, they would keep people not looking for something from noticing in the first place. William also made sure to gather all of the ki he could muster. He couldn’t imagine needing his entire spiritual sea’s worth of ki just for one little speck… but that was no reason to be careless about it.
After he was ready, William started the process of destroying the last piece. It was immediately obvious there was something different. Once he surrounded it to attack with ki, it reacted. Before, while the soul necrosis had caused trouble when being destroyed, it had never actually done anything. However, this speck moved. More importantly, it attacked. William felt like it was a knife dragging along the inside of his soul, cutting it open.
William quickly responded with more force. He gathered his ki and increased the pressure on the last piece of soul necrosis. It was hard to grind it to nothing with it moving around, though his efforts slowed it significantly. William quickly involved magic as well, because he could sense the vile little speck was significantly more powerful than it had appeared. As he attacked it, it continued its counterattack. Everywhere it went, it left behind a trail of damage. Though it was small, it moved quickly and erratically, causing a significant amount of harm. As the mana reached it, William felt it try to resist, and resist it did, at least compared to the other passive pieces of soul necrosis. It only slowly unraveled, and as it grew smaller, it seemed to be more dense, as each bit was more tiring than the last. However, it was still only a tiny speck, and its power was limited. William finally saw the last wisp of it erased, and he could feel the difference. His whole soul was now free of soul necrosis. A part of it was damaged, but he could recover that, and even that small portion wasn’t nearly as bad as it had been two dozen years earlier.
William assessed his condition. He hadn’t expended even a quarter of his ki… but if there had been two or more pieces with a similar strength to the final bit, he wasn’t confident with his chances. Likewise, if he had been slower in eradicating them, he thought they would have grown stronger. If he was attacked when unprepared or tired, it could have been devastating if there were more of them. Fortunately, there weren’t.
For the first time in his current life, William found himself with a healthy soul… minus the bit of damage he had just taken. However, he could repair that. He had already started, in fact. The most important part was that the black goop, the soul necrosis, was gone completely. Then, once he finished recovering, his soul would actually be whole for the first time in… dozens of years of memory, and nearly two gross years of actual time.
Then, after that, he could cultivate. Not just to recover his former strength, but to increase it. Rotational Soul Pressure had already reached its limit, and though Han Xinya had mentioned that it would be able to continue to be effective somewhat after that as time passed, it wouldn’t be enough. He would need something else.
William knew a number of cultivation techniques, but hadn’t practiced most of them. The most important thing, though, was finding something that was right for him. Elemental affinities were important, but William… didn’t have any. Except, he didn’t know that, did he? That was tested on the basis of magical potential, but he’d been completely been unable to do magic before. Since becoming able to do magic… he hadn’t bothered with a test. However, in practice he had felt no real difference between different sorts of magical tasks. There was nothing he was particularly skilled at. Not that he wasn’t skilled, but nothing came more easily than anything else. At least, nothing that fit in the box of traditional elements.
However, not all affinities came in the way of traditional elements. They had to be felt out through practice, though perhaps there was a way to test for them that had not yet been perfected. Among martial artists, some were adept at generating pure force behind their attacks- using ki in the form of kinetic energy. While this could be considered as having “stronger” ki, when used in other ways they would find it was normal or even weaker. Not everything fit into elemental boxes.
There was only one thing William found about himself that actually seemed significant. Though people had been surprised at how smart he was as a child, that of course was going off of prior knowledge. He hadn’t been particularly impressed by his learning speed in any category. Except in areas related to the soul. Perhaps he had been lucky to pick up the right ki techniques when he had first started truly cultivating, but he thought he was drawn to them for a good reason. Even using magic to affect the soul was relatively easy, and soul techniques were supposed to be some of the most difficult to learn. Perhaps it came from having a strong soul instead of some sort of natural talent, but regardless he learned quickly and people were impressed. There was no reason not to play to his strengths.
Apart from Rotational Soul Pressure, he only knew a few cultivation techniques related to the soul. He had learned the one Marek told him for the sake of Lila, but he agreed that the technique was simple… and that he didn’t need a simple one. It was good for Lila to practice, because she could work at it and grow stronger without any particular need for talent, but it wouldn’t be optimal for William. He could do something more. Han Xinya had gone over at least the basics of some other techniques with him, but William didn’t like any of them. If it was some other subject, rejecting them just because they didn’t feel like would be incorrect… but in terms of ki cultivation, that was perfectly reasonable.
William thought about learning more, and picking from among them. That could work, and Marek would likely accommodate him. However, he hadn’t volunteered any such methods. Perhaps there was a reason behind it, or perhaps not. Even if there was no reason behind it, William still found one. He knew enough about what he wanted that he could judge whether something was suited for him. In that case, why could he not create one on his own? It wasn’t a crazy idea- after all, every cultivation technique was created by someone at some point, and it wasn’t like William lacked experience. The only question was what it would be… and if his ideas would even work as he envisioned them. Either way, he had to try.