Chapter 0:

The Loss of a Friend

The Swordmaster and the New God

      As I laid on the stone ground of the Demon Lord’s castle, I could see eyes looking at me from every direction, hiding in the dark. They screamed and shouted, a ringing sound echoing throughout the hallway, but they didn’t approach me. I just have to lay still; the fewer movements, the better. If I could only do that, then I could survive. It was funny in a way. I should have been scared, terrified at what I had just seen. I should have been shaking, crying out for my life, but I was not. I didn't feel any fear, no matter how hard I tried. If it wasn't for that accursed angel, then I could have reacted normally, felt like a real human being, but that was not to be the case. I guess I should have been thankful. There was no way I would have survived up until now with fear. The feeling of missing something, having a part of you taken away, however, was unbearable.

      The Demon Lord had disappeared after he got exactly what he wanted. I was just extra scraps. I wasn’t even worth the time for nobility like him, at most an extra to the main dish. He had left without even a glance at my broken body. The pain had ravaged me, my voice groaning out in pain. Sure the pain retreated, but I was hardly better for it. It would have been easy for him to kill me with a snap of his fingers. Apparently, I wasn’t worth the effort. I possessed exactly what he wanted; that had only made me a target. I understood what the Demon Lord was thinking. Nothing on this planet compared to him. We had fallen for his plan hook line and sinker.

      I had been summoned with my best friend to this world. We traveled together, learning as we survived our new environment, teaming up with people we met along the way. Earthers were everywhere in the village that the "angel" abandoned us in. Friends and acquaintances were easy to make because of that. It had been exciting traveling from village to village, training as we prepared to destroy the Demon Lord. How incredibly naive we were.

The smell of fresh blood permeated around me, not that I could do anything about that, I happened to be the source. All my healing potions were gone. They were destroyed earlier after my bag broke. Just my luck. I should have expected something like that from that pathetic excuse of a human.

      I assessed my situation as the demon's red eyes continued to stare into my soul. I had only the bare essentials when it came to supplies, and my satchel was useless with a torn-out bottom. At least the sword at my waist was still in one piece. Breaking it would be hard for any creature, even a Demon Lord. My meager supplies were the least of my problems considering that I had a broken right arm and probably a few broken ribs. The pain throbbed throughout my body, making the simple task of sitting almost unbearable. Even the slightest movement felt like a bullet ripping through my body. I wanted to scream, groan, cry, but those options weren't available to me if I wanted to live. The second I let my voice slip, I was dead. Holding the sword with my broken arm was out of the question. My skills allowed me, in theory, to be just as good with my left arm as I am with my right, but theory doesn’t always turn out well in reality.

      I was almost out of options. If my friend was here, I would have stood a chance. He would have found a way out of this predicament in a heartbeat. We messed up. It was only the two of us vs. the entire Demon Army. That should have been an easy matchup. Our heads got big, and our egos swelled. We knew something was wrong in this new world and thought that we would be the ones to fix it. We thought Isekai protagonists could fix everything. Sadly, real life is not a light novel. Because we overestimated our abilities and underestimated the Demon Lord, my friend was dead. He had died because of me. I had helped kill the only person in this world that I could trust unconditionally. I should have been sad about his death; instead, I felt a perverse desire to laugh. All of this was so stupid, so ridiculous that it didn't feel real. I felt like I was in a simulation, clawing around some video game dungeon. Reality hadn't hit me yet. My friend had wanted to take on the Demon Lord, and I should have stopped him. If the demons ended up devouring me, then it was what I deserved.

      I couldn’t let that happen. I still had a job to do, and self-deprecation wouldn’t help with that. I slowly rose, careful not to make a sound. The second I did, the demons would come rushing toward me, and I would join my friend, wherever he was. Once I was standing, I looked toward the end of the room through the faint light of the moonlit windows. A dark silver door loomed over me, even at this distance, my exit. If I got through it, then no obstacles remained between me and the outside of the castle. I would be free.

      I had to take what I learned to everyone else. We had learned things from the Demon Lord that completely changed everything we knew about this world and connected many pieces. Not that anyone would believe us, of course, except for her. We should have listened. What idiots. If I didn’t make it out, then my friend's sacrifice would be in vain.

      I took one step towards the door, then another. Every step barely made a sound in the hall. The demon's screeching made small noises like my footsteps almost silent. I could hear the creaking of the castle over the demons, reacting to my every step. the castle itself seemed to be watching my progress, its floors determined not to let me go. I felt the demon's eyes follow me as I walked, the screeching getting louder and louder. I was halfway to the door now. My ribs ached, and my arm screamed as I held it in my other hand. I debated taking out my sword, but my chances were at best fifty-fifty with a good arm. A broken one reduced that to near zero.

      My hair started to stand on end. Goosebumps populated my arm. It felt like a cold winter breeze had started to flow throughout the hallway. I looked behind me and saw that the demons had started to circle me so that I couldn’t see the door or even the opposing wall. The demons were a wall in themselves. A wall that was slowly moving; matching my speed and would kill me the second I made a sound. I still couldn’t make out the form of the demons, instead only seeing their bright red eyes. If I could tell what kind of demon they were, my chances of survival would go up. The only thing I knew was that they were not of the intelligent variety. If they were, I would have been dead a long time ago.

      The door got closer and closer with every step until I was right on top of it. I reached for the bronze handle and then stopped. My body wouldn’t move. I was stuck in a place like a statue. No matter how much I struggled, I couldn’t get anything but my eyes to move.

      The floor seemed to rotate under me, and my body twisted in place to face the wall of demons behind me. Unfortunately, the demons were not the only thing there. The Demon Lord had parted the demon wall and was staring right into my eyes. He was as tall as a human could get and had a handsome face with a brown beard. His appearance was a lie, however. When he started to fight, his true form emerged; something so unbearable to see that a few people had gone insane from one glace. We had heard stories before entering but had underestimated The Demon Lord. Just another example of our egos getting too large and costing us later.

      “I’m sorry that I made you wait so long. Your friend was just so delectable that he took a little longer than normal for me to finish. I do wonder what you were doing out here. Don’t tell me you thought escape was an option or that I viewed you like leftovers?”

      I wanted to respond more than anything. I couldn’t take him making fun of my friend right in front of me; it was too much. My mouth wouldn’t move, however, no matter how hard I tried. It was locked shut. All I could do was breathe a little harder as he continued to talk.

      “You are still a juicy specimen, even if you don’t compare to your little friend. I just figured that you would wait in my throne room until it was your turn. You’re much tastier when your still alive, you know.” The Demon Lord spoke in a deep voice as he shot down every hope that I had one by one.

      He slowly walked towards me as the lesser demons scattered away from him, giving him space. They had become silent when he had appeared, letting his footsteps ring throughout the room. When he got around halfway towards me, my pocket started to glow with a bright white light. It makes him stop momentarily, but he continued as fast as he stopped.

      I had no idea where the glow was coming from. All my magic items except my sword and some of my clothes were lost when my satchel broke. It was still the only hope I had. I focused all the magic and energy that I could toward the light. I couldn’t tell if it did anything, but moving my hand to touch it wasn’t an option, so this was the best I could do.

      The light got brighter as the Demon Lord moved closer. Despite not knowing what it was, he didn’t change his pace as he walked towards me. I was not exactly in a position to complain, considering that the slower he walked, the longer I lived.

      When the Demon Lord got close to me, he lifted his arm up; then swung it down. It was coming right towards my head at an astonishing speed. The force didn’t seem to be enough to kill me outright but more than enough to knock me out.

      Just as his hand reached my forehead, light covered my whole body. I was in a field of grass as far as I could see. But, unlike the Demon Realm, the sun was shining all around me as I sat, stunned.

      Laughter rang out from my mouth as I took a pale grey stone out of my pocket. My friend was gone and still saving me. He always talked about how I was so strong and could solve any problem, yet he was always the one who solved them. Without him, I would have died a long time ago.

      I stood up while clutching the stone in my hand. With his last act, my friend had bought me a chance. I still could save myself and the people I cared about. After all, that’s what a god would do.