Chapter 1:

The End Before a New Beginning

The Swordmaster and the New God

      I wiped my hand on my brow as I surveyed my hard work. In front of me lay a garden with several newly planted flowers poking up from the brown wet earth. A sense of accomplishment washed over me, seeing the rainbow of colors brighten up the rooftop.

      My science teacher, Ms. Kobayashi, had randomly walked up and asked me for some help with her garden on the roof, and I had agreed immediately. It was an inconvenience, but I could pull through. I enjoyed doing little stuff here and there to help make my community a better place to live. It was my calling in the world.

      As I turned to go, I heard a deep voice coming up the stairs. “Hey Kazuma, you up here, dude?”. I turned at the sound of my name to see a boy in a school uniform standing there. His school uniform was a mess, like normal. He always had a way of making it look disheveled. What a special talent. Today, half of the buttons were undone, and his white undershirt was completely visible on his right shoulder.

      “And you wonder why everyone calls you a great representative of your country,” I called out to him. The disheveled student was Austin Huber, a foreign exchange student from America. Sadly, he was also my classmate in our third year of high school. Somehow, he had become my best friend here at Kobe High.

      “They’re all just jealous that I’m the only one that’s truly free, being American. Anyway, did you finish your little gardening project?”

      “Yeah, got it done just before you arrived. I need to tell Ms. Kobayashi, and then we can be on our way.” I said.

      He lit up when he heard the news. “Great! I’ll meet you at the bookstore in around thirty minutes then?”

      “You know it’s only a five-minute walk, right?”

      “Sure, but we’re talking about you here. The chance of you not running into someone and doing some task for them is somehow in the negatives. I’ve never seen you turn down a request from someone in need. Besides, it only takes five minutes when everything goes right. The chance of having no traffic and not getting stopped once at a stoplight is next to none.”

      “Of course I’m going to help someone who is in need. Unlike you, I'm not a monster. My goal in life is to simply make the world a better place, one small deed at a time. Also, what’s with you thinking so negatively? There’s nothing that prevents everything from going right, and traffic is never too bad.”

      Austin groaned while looking like he wanted to die inside. “I don’t get how, but you actually have the personality of Kirito from Shield Art Online. But, unfortunately, we mere mortals over here don’t have the luxury to think as you do.”

      “For every person who thinks like you, I’ll just work two times harder.”

      “Yeah yeah, so I will see you in forty minutes?” he asked, walking back towards the stairs.

      “You just added ten minutes!”

      “And I feel like I should add more. Who knows, if things go as you think they will, I’ll see you in fifteen minutes.” His voice bounced at me from the stairs as he disappeared from sight.

      “I’ll show him,” I muttered under my breath as I followed him down the stairs, jogging to Ms. Kobayashi's office to report on the garden as fast as I could.

      Forty minutes later, I stood outside Books Shoten, the local bookstore. On my way to report to Ms. Kobayashi, I had run into the student council president, who asked me to help deliver some papers to a few teachers. Unfortunately, the teachers’ classrooms were on the opposite sides of the building. Still, I couldn’t exactly say no, so I ran around the school for around twenty minutes before reporting to Ms. Kobayashi. After I gave her the update, I ran to the bookstore as fast as I could

      After I rushed inside, I darted past all the shelves and display stands and went straight for the light novels. I slowed down and looked at my surroundings to see Austin leaning against a white wall, book in hand.

      Despite how Austin looked and acted, he was a huge fan of otaku culture, especially light novels. The first time I discovered that my heart felt like it would fail on me from the shock.

      He looked up as he heard my footsteps. “So, who was right?” He asked with a smug-looking face.

      I was quiet for a second as I thought of a response. “Try being a good person, and then you’ll understand. Good people like me have a higher calling than you normal folks.” I said to Austin. There was no way that I was going to let him get the upper hand on me here.

      “Way too much effort. Even if we normal folks tried to complete with your daily schedule, we couldn’t without feeling exhausted. Were not all lucky enough to be born with the personality of an isekai protagonist. Speaking of, come check this out,” he said while holding up the book he was reading. Its cover had a girl with white hair on it with a cityscape in the shape of a triangle behind her.

      “You’re acting like you haven’t seen the show three times already. Besides, I don’t have every aspect of an isekai protagonist. As you like to remind me constantly, I don’t have a girlfriend. Your average isekai protagonist would have one by the time they turn ten.”

      “Well, you have to go to another world first. Otherwise, half of the name doesn’t fit. You're just a protagonist.”

      “Because that’s going to happen. I’m happy enough with volunteering and school. Going to another world sounds fun, but I wouldn’t do it if I had to lose everything I already have.”

      “You never know. The Chiefs won a Superbowl not too long ago.”

      “I have never seen a football in my life, Austin.”

      “And you’re missing out. You like soccer too much here in Japan. What’s the point of it? They score once an hour, only using their legs while constantly running the whole time. No breaks at all! There’s no entertainment in that. Your superstars could be scoreless for a week and still be considered heroes. At least you like baseball here…” Austin continued to ramble on about the Japanese and sports as I tuned him out. Whenever football got brought up, he always began a rant about the superiority of American Football. On his first day of classes, he heard about a football club at the school and put on pads and his helmet just to find out that what they call football back in America, we call soccer. Ever since that day, he had a burning hatred for soccer.

      I looked around the bookshelves while Austin rambled on. The store we were in had a huge selection of light novels to choose from. As much as I made fun of Austin for his love of light novels, I was probably just as big of a fan. When I moved to one of the shelves in the corner, a book caught my eye.

      I grabbed the tan book and pulled it off the shelf. It was leather with a thick cover, making it stand out from the smaller and shiny light novels surrounding it. On the front cover was a picture of a girl with red hair smiling sadly while she seemed to be looking me in the eye. I tried to read the title, but the Japanese print was all gibberish. It was like the author had chosen kanji, one of the three written parts of Japanese, at random and mixed up the order before placing the characters haphazardly on the cover. Under the kanji, however, was a line of English. I tried to read it using my limited skills but got nowhere. At least, unlike the Japanese print on the cover, the English actually looked like it formed words.

      My mind immediately went to Austin, who was still leaning against the same wall where I had found him, probably still complaining about soccer. When I walked back over, he was doing exactly that. His voice was barely audible as he looked through the books on the shelves, but I could hear the words “soccer” and “fake football” come out of his mouth when I got close to him.

      I tapped him on the shoulder, making him jump. Austin was incredibly athletic, so when he jumped, he got really high. “Having fun up there in orbit?”

      “More fun than you ever will. Finally ready to admit the truth about soccer?”, he asked.

      “I don’t want to betray my country just yet. Anyway, can you read this?” I held out the leather book, and he took it, analyzing the English.

      “Hmm… This is really ancient English, but I’ll try to decipher it Kazuma.” Austin cleared his throat before continuing, “Thou is the tale of a high school inhorn man who is't wast did summon to anoth'r w'rld by reading a booketh and the title. Those gents wenteth upon the landeth and defeat'd the goodyear l'rd with the class of thy chosen louk.” He was quiet for a second before speaking again. “Sure sounds like a light novel title.”

      Just as I opened my mouth to respond, the ground below us started to glow. A swirling, purple light appeared, slowly moving into a circular pattern and then speeding up so that the circles became blurs. I stood in stunned silence, watching the purple light before turning toward Austin. His face was bewildered as he opened his mouth to speak, but before he could utter a word, a bright light shot up from the middle of the circle. The light expanded and engulfed us, teleporting us away from the world that we knew.