Having a long period of downtime was good for William’s training, if not for the progression of his overall plans. His training continued to progress steadily in all areas. His recent experiences at Stamford Pass had been very useful for his magical training… especially his ability to manipulate large amounts of mana. William had the Demon King to thank for that, since William gained a chunk of his magical abilities as well as those of others. William loved being able to do magic, but he would have given it up to not have the Demon King at all, even though it meant he wouldn’t be experiencing his current life at all.
His body training progressed smoothly, but there was nothing particularly exciting there. Being stronger and faster was always better… and he was also harder to kill. It wasn’t to the point where he could ignore a sword stab, but his muscles and bones were denser and stronger, which meant an attack at the same power became progressively less dangerous. His enemies might become more dangerous with him, but William thought he would be growing faster more quickly. He couldn’t be sure about the old lords, but their advantage lay in their long history and not so much their speed of growth over any short period.
His main advantage was in his ki cultivation, and more importantly the strength of his soul. He had no idea what they had attained in other areas, but the Demon King was certainly an exception in the strength of his soul. William had still shattered his soul into pieces, and he was only stronger now. The Demon King had been weakened from a long battle, but William was confident he could now destroy him in his peak form, if given the opportunity. As for actually fighting with him in other ways… William wasn’t sure. He certainly made a more efficient use of mana, but the Demon King had been able to wipe out large swaths of people with his magic. William wasn’t sure if he was capable of that, but it didn’t really matter. The old lords would be easier to destroy than the Demon King- William would just need to take care of his own safety to make sure they wouldn’t kill him first.
News taking time to travel worked as a double-edged sword for William. It meant no new orders had yet been able to reach him- or more importantly any armies or strong lords. However, it also meant that it took longer for the humans to gather and debate. He spent months wondering if they would meet with him, and whether orders would arrive first.
Of course, if orders did arrive, William would just ignore them. They would still cause problems, however. It was better for him to be done before any orders could reach him. If he managed to get the humans to withdraw their forces from gevai territory, nobody could complain. If they did, he would have more justification for saying they just wanted to lose more gevai lives. News was already being spread about the truth, though it was veiled in the cover of rumor. It wasn’t quite time to announce everything to the world.
Finally, however, a messenger came. It was a human messenger, obviously quite nervous about approaching a gevai camp… but he was escorted to William. He stumbled over his words as he tried to deliver his message. “Sir- uh… great lord?” He obviously wasn’t sure what manner of address was appropriate. It took a moment for William to figure out what was wrong, but then it hit him. This man was from Ustil, but speaking Ostanan. No wonder he was so clumsy. “You are… the Ostanan-speaking lord?” He looked him over up and down, his eyes lingering on the crystal staff in William’s hand.
William nodded, “That is correct. I am Lord Rutten.”
The messenger held out a scroll, and William took it. As he read it over, he nodded. “You may return. Tell your leaders I will meet them at the agreed upon location.”
The messenger bowed, and nervously backed away. He then turned, but kept glancing over his shoulder even when he was out of the camp, as if he couldn’t believe he got out of a gevai camp alive. William shook his head. What as the point of killing a messenger- especially one with a message he had asked for? A single human would have been worth nothing even if it were some sort of deception or trap.
“Jordan,” William turned, “I will be heading out with my personal guard.” He pointed to a map, “We’ll head to here.” The location was a few days away, at the edge of the forest.
Jordan nodded. “Yes, sir. Might I point out that the location is… very open.”
“I suppose that is the point. Don’t worry, I’m not afraid of a few arrows or something. Because it’s open, Joel will be able to see their moves and respond appropriately. If the letter is correct, they won’t have more than a few companies with them anyway. If they have more, I will reconsider approaching. Optimally, there will be no conflict at all. That’s the whole point of this.”
“Very well. Be careful, sir.”
The few days riding through the forest felt like months. William hadn’t had much to look forward to but waiting for the past few months, so something finally happening made it seem all the more eventful. He wanted to start negotiations right away, to save lives on both sides- and not entirely for moral reasons. In a practical sense, he wanted as many gevai alive as possible for… future events.
The forest started thinning out, and then it disappeared completely. As it did so, William saw six companies of humans waiting. Far in front of them was an open tent, basically just a cover from the sun. There were a handful of people and mounts already there. “Okay Joel, form up here. You know what to do, but remember not to act first no matter what.”
“Yes, sir!” Joel was more specialized in combat than Jordan. That was why he was the head of William’s personal guard, and not a commander. Jordan was needed back with the rest of the troops to handle them, especially if something unexpected happened.
As William rode closer to the tent, he realized something was wrong. The tent style was familiar. As he looked out over the troops, he recognized they were warriors from Ustil. The messenger had been from Ustil as well, even though he’d spoken Ostanan. Was it a trap? If so, they brought inadequate numbers. William frowned. It might be something even worse than a trap.