William hadn’t really thought about how long the time commitment of his current goal was. It would be years, minimum, to dozens of years. That meant it could be basically as long as any of his lives except the first. That was an intimidating thought. Though Lorelei had come and gone before, since they were waiting and searching for the Demon King it wouldn’t make sense to leave. At the very least, they needed to be close enough to react to any news.
Even so, there wasn’t much to say when leaving. “I’ll miss you.” William didn’t know why he admitted that, but he felt he had to say it.
Lorelei grinned, “I’ll miss you too. We’ll meet again… well, I would say soon, but I suppose it won’t feel like it for you. But hey, maybe the Demon King will show up early, and we can destroy him and spend the rest of the time celebrating.”
William laughed, “That would be nice.”
The trip to Domaro was relatively quick. After all, there were a number of caravans going in that direction, and the roads were good. Even so, it was still a trip of about two weeks. What surprised William most was how many cities were along the way. Several small towns had turned into prosperous cities, and there were a few whose name William didn’t even vaguely recognize.
What surprised William the most, though, was when he got to Domaro. The city itself was much the same, though the walls had grown outward some. The city itself also spilled beyond even the extended walls. However, beyond the city was… nothing. Specifically, William couldn’t see the Endless Forest. William found someone to ask about it.
“What tiny country town are you from? Domaro hasn’t been on the border of the Endless Forest in generations. They started really cutting the forest back to make the roads safer… and even get room for a few towns.”
William couldn’t find out exactly how extensive the deforestation efforts were, but from the fact that he couldn’t see the forest it was significant. Of course, this was only one city on a very large border, but from here he could see a half dozen miles to the north and south. All he saw were farms, or empty fields.
Because of the change in the situation, border checks weren’t performed near Domaro anymore. That was fine with William, because he didn’t have anything to serve as a passport or form of identification. He planned to get something in Liaoyang, if necessary, but it would be better to pass through the forest without going through any official border. By now, the borders should have some way to check for illusions or demons… right? William wasn’t sure, but he would rather not bet on poor security- or even lack of a wizards who happened to be looking for magic close enough.
When William got close enough to the border, he left the main roads. He learned that they would still be watchtowers along the border of the forest, but they were mainly there to warn when magical beasts left the forest or if soldiers were coming. One single person going into the forest… well, they wouldn’t send anybody after him. Perhaps they might send warnings along to road to watch for him there, but if he never returned to the road, at least not in Ostana, there wasn’t much they could do. As long as he didn’t travel too close to the road, he wouldn’t be bothered… by people, anyway.
When William finally saw the forest, got a better understanding of what was going on. Mostly, it was cut back on the edges of the road, though as a whole it likely formed a wedge shape going into the forest. Thus, they cut down the trees with the least travel distance to the rest of Ostana, and based on the various wagons he’d seen, sold them elsewhere in Ostana. Perhaps they even traded some with other countries, if there were rare woods. William heard that there were soldiers protecting both the roads and the loggers, which seemed necessary when dealing with monster-infested woods. It seemed like a dangerous profession, but since he was about to travel through the forest alone, he supposed he couldn’t say much.
William passed between two scout towers, though since he could barely see them on the horizon, they likely didn’t see him, unless they happened to look at the right time. Then, he was in the forest. It wasn’t a problem not to get lost. The trees weren’t so dense as to block out the sun, among other methods of navigation, and William just had to travel west. He actually had a compass, though it wouldn’t work in certain areas due. In addition to normal magnetic interference, mana could cause something similar. William also wasn’t sure how close magnetic north was to the north pole, but he knew he was quite a distance away from either, so it wouldn’t matter much.
Though William was confident in travelling through the Endless Forest, he still proceeded with caution. There were quite a number of dangerous magical beasts, and though he could defeat most of them in single combat, they wouldn’t necessarily give him that luxury. However, he could sense things from far enough away to avoid most of them if he used his ki senses, or even his hearing. At night, he found whatever the safest kind of shelter he could, and trusted in Chris to wake him up if anything was coming. William didn’t want to exhaust himself in dangerous territory, so he would have to go a few weeks without working on the soul necrosis much. William didn’t think it should be an issue… but he knew if he got lazy about it, it could sneak up on him.
William actually travelled more than half of the distance without incident, but about a week into the forest, he heard the sound of combat. With it were people’s voices. He wasn’t sure why anyone would be this deep in the forest, except perhaps for the same reason as him. Regardless, he would go look… he didn’t have to involve himself if things looked bad.