Marek knew he was of no use in a war, not that anyone would ask him to participate anyway. If they even remembered that the Archmage had once had a brother, most would think he was dead now. Even those who had seen him recently would consider him dead. But he was not dead, only dying.
Why was he dying? He had wondered that, but time made it exceedingly clear. Gevai did not have to get old, but they would anyway. Marek’s sister was the same age as himself, within a few dozen years, but she was still young. Marek could not speak for why others grew old, but he knew for himself quite clearly. He was dying because he was afraid of dying. He knew that many of the old lords were similarly afraid, but lived nonetheless. However, their situation was different. Living was the goal for them, but Marek had another goal.
His sister talked about how unpleasant the Demon King was, how unfortunate it would be if he completely wiped out humanity. After all, if they were all dead, how would she study them? She had slightly changed her opinions in recent times, but that didn’t matter to Marek. He had long felt sympathy for the gevai who died in the repeated pointless wars, but his reason for wanting to destroy the Demon King was more because of his own training.
Marek had not trained in soul techniques and that branch of ki cultivation because he wanted to destroy the Demon King, but because he excelled in that area. That was why when he had been on a battlefield with the Demon King and seen a soul destroyed, he could feel the wrongness, much more strongly than the others. Marek was not a fan of pointless wars with the humans, but killing them didn’t make him feel much of anything. However, seeing a soul destroyed, he was filled with a sensation so foul it could not be described. It was as if the most disgusting worms crawled over him and through him after spending time in a pile of refuse. It was like eating spoiled eggs topped with rotten fruit. More importantly, it was so strong that there was no way the Demon King himself hadn’t felt it.
If the Demon King felt it, and yet did it again… he was an abomination that couldn’t be tolerated in the world. It wasn’t something Marek could describe. It wasn’t a crime against people such as murder. With murder, someone died, people were upset, lives were ruined… but the world moved on. With a soul being destroyed, Marek got a different feeling. Something was erased, lives stopped being lives… and the world would not move on. It was something that couldn’t be tolerated, something that should not exist. Even so… he had to learn it himself.
The Demon King died, but yet he lived. Reincarnation. Killing him would do no good, and any other solution would similarly be temporary. Except destroying him, the way he destroyed others. That became Marek’s goal, and he developed a technique that could do so. It was perfect. It would surely work… but Marek didn’t use it. At first he had the excuse of not having an opportunity, but that clearly wasn’t the case as time went on. Chance after chance passed by, but he didn’t take them.
He was afraid. He knew what it felt like from the outside to have a soul destroyed… what would it feel like if it happened to him? The thought terrified him, and he knew it couldn’t be avoided. Destroying the Demon King would destroy himself. So he didn’t do it. That was why he grew old.
If he had been less afraid, he would have destroyed the Demon King, or died trying. He would not have grown old- because he would have been dead, but also because he would have been trying. If he had been more afraid, if avoiding death had been his only purpose in life… Marek thought he actually would be young and healthy. If he only took steps toward that, he could have achieved it. Instead, he did nothing.
Marek found it unfortunate, but that was the way of things. Was he a coward? He didn’t think so. No one would have done what he didn’t do. Who could ask such a thing from him?
Then he heard. There was someone who took up his mantle. They wanted to destroy the Demon King. Of course, the young man known as William died without even seeing the Demon King, but he worked to make sure it would happen. That barely piqued Marek’s interest when his sister told him. Then… the man was alive again. He reincarnated, like the Demon King. Not like any others, who remembered a few things, or many things vaguely. Instead, he remembered everything. Even so, he continued on with his goal. Marek took notice, but knew he would give up. Nobody could make that sacrifice.
Then he heard the news. The Demon King had died. That was normal, but his sister brought better information. Where the Demon King had died, there was now only a giant crater, and the vague remnants of pieces of dead souls. The human who liked the name William had done it. Marek knew he must not have known what would happen. He must have been misinformed, because otherwise how could he face his own death, his own annihilation- especially after experiencing life more than once.
Then he heard. The man was alive again… or the Demon King was, with pieces of him. Marek had smirked inwardly. He had known it wasn’t something someone could do. William had bet on surviving. Marek was old and had little energy, but the possibility that it was really William had been enough for his sister to persuade him to search his soul and memories.
That was when Marek found that he was wrong. William knew he would be annihilated, what would happen when he destroyed the Demon King… but he did it anyway. At least at the final moments, he truly knew. He had been mistaken about his own strength, ironically, but he made the choice. Was he a saint of some sort? Marek didn’t think so. Instead, Marek realized it was he himself that was inadequate. His own soul was about as strong as William’s, and his training had surpassed him. He could have succeeded, and possibly even survived and reincarnated… but he didn’t even try. Thus, he would die. William thought that Marek could possibly destroy one or two of the fragments of the Demon King, and then he would die- but that simply wasn’t the case. Marek had no strength left to destroy a fragment… and he was already dead. However, he wasn’t going to let that stop him.