A few weeks later, a trio of a small girl, a young man, and a woman walked through the streets of the now broken city. The girl ran around far faster than a typical child normally could, showing that her physique would clearly be considered supernatural by pre-system standards.
The teenager was smiling cheekily as he chatted with the woman. That is until the girl ran up to him, holding a small object in her hand, that with a second look, was clearly a broken dagger handle.
“Look, look! I found this! Do magic!” she said, proudly presenting the weapon to her mom and the teenager.
“Woah, nice find. Now watch this,” the young man said as the dagger began floating and spinning in the air.
As with every other time he did it, the small girl began giggling as she tried to grab hold of the dagger again - her mother stepping in before she could get a chance.
“Seo, you know you aren’t allowed to play with sharp things,” Kim said, having noticed a few of the sharp edges on the handle.
“But mooom!” she cried.
“Ms. Kim is right; only big kids like me are allowed to play with them. Like me,” William said as he floated the dagger into his hand, and with a swift motion, made it disappear into himself. “Tada!”
The girl giggled as William returned the smile. It didn’t take long before Seo rushed off again to explore the small city they had just entered.
It was a bit over two weeks since they had returned to Earth and began their partnership. William had thoroughly enjoyed their time, though they did have a few awkward conversations about certain emotions. A particular one he vividly remembered from just two days ago.
“Are you sure I am not a damn… you know?”
“William, thinking a child is cute does not make you attracted to them. It just means that your natural empathy exists. It is a biological trait developed for you to want to defend a child and care for them. Also, you just experienced a phenomenon called ‘cute aggression’ earlier. It is very normal to want to squeeze cute things; I have it too,” she said comfortingly.
“And you are 100% sure? A psychopath is one thing, but a goddamn child predator? Yeah, rather just cut off those emotions permanently again if that’s the case,” he said, shivering a bit at the thought.
“Is it not more interesting why you find the thought so abhorrent?”
“What?” he asked, confused.
“What logical reason do you have to find just the thought of it so terrible? Where does your disgust stem from?”
“It’s… thinking of someone doing twisted shit to someone like mini-you just seems fucked up. As for why… hm… it just is? Like she’s a little kid and all,” he answered, still thinking.
“Once more, why, though? You have no remorse or hesitation when killing people, and your brother was even younger. What makes doing ‘that’ with a child more disgusting than murdering that child outright?” she said provocatively. William was clearly seeing that she was uncomfortable even asking the question.
“I… it just fucking isn’t cool, alright? Killing is different. You know, like when you go hunting. There is no reason to extend the animals suffering more than necessary. Killing is quick, and then it is done. It is an act that has utility. While…that… is just fucked up,” he said, seriously wanting to change the subject. But she didn’t let him.
“But what if they take pleasure from it? Like you take pleasure in extending the suffering of your targets? Do you not like to play around with your victims before you end their lives? What makes what you do different?” she challenged once more.
“Okay, I get it… no killing kids. Sheesh,” he sighed, as he couldn’t help but look at Seo running around happily in front of them. Yeah, not like kids have proper levels and give any experience anyway… no reason to.
“I know this isn’t easy to talk about; I am not particularly fond of it either. But it is important for you to understand why you do things and what kind of emotions push you to do these things. Even before your change, you found playing with your prey fun, from what you told me. It is clear that it stems from your innate desire for power, but why doesn’t this desire extend to all aspects of your life?” she said.
“Who says it doesn’t?” William answered half-jokingly.
“Why didn’t you force me to help you but instead offered to create what you yourself identify as a partnership? Why agree to take Seo with and protect her too? You didn’t need to, but you did so anyway. You can’t tell me there were purely utilitarian reasons behind it.”
“True… I knew I wanted you to help me due to our prior interactions, and when I saw Seo, I didn’t really feel like I had much of a choice but to take the both of you. As for why I wanted a partnership… well, I doubt you could do your job without also having a measure of power in the relationship, and because… well, I respect you, I guess,” he answered, feeling a bit embarrassed. Damn that honesty rule.
“I see,” she said, no longer talking for a while. “Thank you.”
He couldn’t help but look at her as she smiled at him. Her hair had long been washed and was now the long silky hair he remembered. Her clothes were no longer torn, but a robe he had ‘acquired’ from someone he made sure didn’t need it anymore.
It was a good memory, despite only being two days old, despite the rather harrowing conversation before, that is.
One may wonder how exactly their relationship could truly be considered a partnership as William currently appeared to hold all the power. Still, the reason was exactly due to their contract - a karmic contract to be more accurate.
Karmic contracts were an interesting thing. William had been given a token from Eversmile to make it as he hadn’t learned how to properly do it himself yet. The contract was the kind that couldn’t be broken easily without both party’s consent. And if one did break it… well, it wouldn’t end well.
A good case would be getting a bad karmic curse. A bad case would be instant death. He still wasn’t quite sure how it worked, but it didn’t really matter much. Because even if he broke the contract, he didn’t give a damn.
Because as William had said: he was unique. Enough so for even the system to recognize it.
[Bloodline of the Bondless One (Ancient)] – Grants resistance to passively creating karmic bonds. Increases ability to comprehend bonds and manipulate them.
A bloodline. The reason his master had been so willing to make him a student. As to what exactly it did… well, the first part about passive karmic bonds was apparently the overpowered part, while he mainly noticed the second one during his practice after he had awakened it.
William didn’t know that he had apparently always had it, but it was only awakened when Eversmile blessed him. He even got the skill as part of the blessing-title-thing. His master had warned him not to mention his bloodline and that most information out there in the multiverse was fake, spread on purpose by those with powerful bloodlines like him. He totally got that; he would have done the same thing.
Anyway, back to karma. What he did learn about karma was that karmic bonds between two people are a two-way street. Normally when a bond is created, there is a connection going from person A to person B and from B back to A. But what happens if one of those is missing?
Well, according to his master, that would be nearly impossible without an incredibly powerful skill, coupled with great insight into the concept of karma. If the bond goes from A to B, there will always automatically be a bond back the other way.
This is also the reason why a single party cannot simply sever karma. You may cut off your own part, but the karmic bond will always exist if the other party doesn’t also sever all karma. And even if it is severed, to truly 100% sever it is once again nearly impossible.
Which is where his bloodline comes in. If he is person B in the other example, then while person A establishes a karmic bond with him, he won’t just automatically return that bond or have a weaker bond. Which effectively means that he could more easily sever his own karmic connections.
Now, what does this help with? First of all, he could sever any contract such as the karmic contract simply by working on not actively forming his part. To make it even better, the other party was still bound by the agreement like if he was too. Well, unless the person had just a sliver of insight into karma… it only worked with weaker people, but it was still nice.
Eversmile had told him that his bloodline meant so much more than simply that, but honestly, that part was good enough for him already. It meant he wasn’t shackled down by some otherworldly law, or worse, his own promises.
Which isn’t to say he had any plans on breaking his deal with Ms. Kim. He just didn’t like the thought of being unable to break it.
“So, where to now?” he asked her.
As said, it was a partnership. And since William didn’t have any particular target or location in mind, he just let her direct them. Because while he didn’t have any family or friends he gave a damn about, she did.
“They lived in the inner city, just through here. Though I must admit it is a bit hard to recognize a lot of the area due to the destruction,” she sighed.
“Want some help? If they’re close, I should be able to locate them,” he asked, offering his karmic expertise.
“An ability of mine. Quite effective at finding people you have a connection with. It was the same skill I used to find you,” he answered, not intending to share any real details.
“It would certainly be useful. What do you need me to do?” Ms. Kim asked.
“Just take my hands, and I am gonna give it a go,” he said, offering up his hands. “It is my first doing it, though, so not sure if it will actually work.”
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” She grabbed his hands without hesitation, and William couldn’t help but notice how soft her hands were. Shaking his head, he closed his eyes and began reading the threads of karma.
In his mind’s eye, he saw thousands upon thousands of threads extend out from Kim. Most of them so ethereal that he wasn’t even a hundred percent sure they were actually there. The threads didn’t actually go anywhere but simply hung in the air.
All except for five. One of them was directly connected to William himself. Its strength and intensity were relatively strong, but it was nothing compared to the thread right beside it. A powerful, almost golden, thread extended to the child playing behind them. The most powerful karmic connection he had seen since he started practicing this whole karma thing.
But neither of those was what he looked for. Instead, it was the three threads extending towards the inner city she pointed to before. One of them was significantly stronger than the two others. Likely only one friend or family member, and two she wasn’t quite as close to.
Opening his eyes, he smiled. “Let’s go.”
“You found them?” she asked, not quite believing him. He had just taken her hands and closed his eyes for ten seconds before letting go again.
“Three people you have some kind of connection with right this way, milady,” he said, making an exaggerated motion towards where she pointed before.
“Do you know who?” she asked quite a bit of expectation in her voice.
“Let us hurry then!”
“Alright.” He turned towards the girl as he yelled, “Seo, time to go! It’s flying time!”
With an excited scream, she bolted back towards him.
At the same time, he took out a large disc of metal from his armor that he quickly enlarged to make it long enough for all of them to stand on. The disc also had small appendages to hold feet in place, making it safe-ish.
“I still can’t believe you convinced me to fly on that thing. Much less Seo,” Kim said as she stepped on the giant disc.
“Come on, you secretly like it, don’t ya?” he teased, getting only a small smile in return. No denial, though.
Seo, of course, absolutely loved flying on the disc.
The two of them laughed as they took flight and whooshed through the air towards where he had tracked the karmic threads. The speed of the disc was limited more by the child on board than William’s own capacity for speed. However, he had to admit that keeping it afloat was quite expensive mana-wise.
As they got closer, William quickly saw far more people than just the three they were looking for. An entire camp had been built in what was once a park, with several make-shift tents and other structures scattered about.
Turning to Ms. Kim. “I think Seo needs to sleep.”
She nodded as she picked up the oblivious child. Putting her mouth to her ear, she spoke in a weird ethereal voice. “Sleepytime.”
With those words, the small girl fell over in her mother’s arms, already asleep. It was the standard procedure they had agreed upon when meeting other humans. The situation was unpredictable by default, after all.
Their intrusion did cause quite the commotion also. Several people spotted them flying towards the camp, and he could hear several yells as they tried to muster a response to a possible attack.
At the behest of Ms. Kim, he landed outside of their camp, several watchful gazes drilling into them. And like last time they met other humans, he let her take the lead once more also. On a side note, he had learned that being a group carrying around a sleeping kid didn’t exactly add to their intimidation factor.
“I am sorry for the scare; my companion and I are here looking for a close friend of mine,” Kim said, practically yelling at the six men who stood cautiously watching them at the edge of the camp.
“Who?” one of them yelled back.
“Her name is Mary; she is my friend. But would it not be easier for us just to enter and look around ourselves? We have it on good authority she is here,” Kim tried to argue, hoping to reunite with her friend as soon as possible.
The men turned to each other and muttered in hushed voices. Scowling back towards her and William several times before finally turning back to them.
“Fine, you and the girl can come in, but the guy is staying out here,” the man said.
“Why can’t he enter with us? We truly mean no harm and-“
“He gives me the creeps, and we can’t see his level. That reason enough?” one of the other men said.
“I don’t give a shit what you say; he ain’t comin’ in,” the same guy said, cutting her off. “And if you keep up this bullshit, you can fuck right off too.”
Ms. Kim was momentarily unsure what to say as William stepped forward.
“Now now, that is no way to speak to a lady, is it?” he said, a big smile on his face. “Besides, why are we even arguing? Are you boys not under a serious misconception here? What makes you think I give a flying fuck if you allow me to enter or not?”