Chapter 7:

The Road to Calpa

The Swordmaster and the New God

      I stretched as my body tried to wake itself up. We had just gotten on the move again, heading towards the capital, Calpa. It was over a week's journey on foot from Ronoe, and my body refused to adapt to sleeping outside. I just got sorer and sorer. Stretching was the only thing I could do, and even relief from that was temporary. I wanted a bed or at least a pillow. It was fine, though. I could weather through something like this. It would be better when we got to Calpa. It would be great there, I was sure of it!

      “Life is pain.” Austin was walking next to me on the cobble road. He was slouched over and looked like a zombie. The black rings under his eyes seemed to be spreading. His footsteps sounded like a horse’s stomp as he dragged his feet along.

      “I’m sorry. If I knew that you two weren’t used to walking from town to town and sleeping outside, I would have recommended getting a horse and carriage.” Evelyn looked down at her leather shoes.

      “It's fine. Our bodies will just have to get used to stuff like this anyway. If anything, this is a good thing.” I said.

      “I don't know. I like my body more when my muscles aren't screaming like they’re being waterboarded.” Austin started to walk ahead of us, looking half asleep.

      I ignored Austin and looked around us. While we started in green grasslands, we were in some sort of wetland now. If it weren't for the road, my feet would have been soaked. Vegetation was all around it, submerged in around two centimeters of water. It reached over the edges of the wide road, sometimes coming far enough in that we had to move to avoid the sprawling foliage.

      Evelyn pointed out plants here and there, and some of their properties. A startling amount of them were poisonous. One of them could even kill with a single touch. Knights had begun coming out once a month to clear the roads which had cut down on unsuspecting travelers dying from inadvertently touching the wrong plant at the wrong time. Because of the knight’s work, no unsuspecting traveler had died in a while, according to Evelyn.

      “So, what's it like in Japan?” Evelyn came up to me and asked. She looked up towards my eyes. It was cute how she looked at me, her big brown eyes like a puppy’s.

      “It's similar and different to Palsu. When it comes to the weather, for example, it's extremely similar. It rains more in Japan though. When it comes to how the two places look, however, it's a different story. In the city where I'm from, there are buildings all over as far as you can see. The smallest ones are around seven meters tall, and the tallest are higher than the clouds.”

      “The clouds? How do they even create buildings that tall? No material could hold that much weight!”

      “Some can. We use the same materials that you use for swords here in Palsu, steel and iron.”

      “How do you create a mold for something like that? Just getting enough iron seems hard enough, much less smelting it all. You would need more blacksmiths than we have in the entire country.” Evelyn seemed fascinated by the buildings. I had her undivided attention. She was cute, in an adorable way.

      “I'm not sure, to be honest. People way smarter than me figured problems like that out. There's also a stylistic difference in the buildings, especially compared to what you have here.”

      “How are they different?”

      “It's hard to describe. The architecture around here is reminiscent of the architecture of a place called Europe back in my world, with the castles and wooden homes.”

      “I've heard of that place. Most of the heroes with yellow hair say they're from Europe, or a place called America. Are they different places, or are they right next to each other? I know here in Palsu, hair color is a good indication of where you're from, but we don't have anyone with yellow hair.”

      “They're pretty far apart. Many Americans are actually from Europe. America is a country made up of a variety of people from all over my world. There's no other country like it. Also, what do you mean by yellow hair?” I asked.

      She pointed towards Austin with his bright blonde hair. “People with hair like him. Whenever people see someone like him, they know they are a hero. Yellow hair doesn't exist in Palsu.”

      “We call hair like Austin’s blonde back on Earth, not yellow. Also, Austin is one of those people from America you were talking about.” Austin seemed not to hear our conversation, while slowly starting to wake up. His posture seemed better and he looked a tad more energetic.

      "Wait, he is? I thought he was from Japan like you were.” Evelyn tilted her head slightly to the side.

      “Yeah, Austin’s a foreign exchange student from America,” I said.

      “And proud of it! I like Japan and all, but nothing compares to the nation of America, with the bald eagle flying high and freedom everywhere you go. The air, water, even the land. We are the nation of the lucky few; the ones that are truly free.” Austin was standing tall and proud. Any signs of his weariness had completely disappeared. He went from looking like a zombie to being an animated bundle of energy faster than I could blink.

      “Americans also tend to be a bit nationalistic at times,” I said.

      “Hey, we’re just extremely patriotic! Sure, I have an American body pillow that I sleep with every night on my American bed under the American flag, but I care about other countries too. They just can’t compare to the greatness and freedom of America!” Austin sighed, looking like he remembered something precious to him.

      “Like I said, nationalistic.”

      “Wow, you really care about your country a lot. Unfortunately, we seem to not care about our national pride at all. The second we figured out how to make Earth-like shirts, we all just abandoned our normal wear. You don’t really see it around here, but I'll be shocked if we see any Enfar clothes outside of the adventures guild when we get into the capital. I wish we were a bit more patriotic.” Evelyn pouted and puffed her cheeks out. I think I was in love with this girl. I had never felt like this before, my heart pounding whenever I was around her, the butterflies in my stomach. She was perfect.

      Austin looked at Evelyn. His eyes bore into her, and his mouth creased downwards. It was like earlier at the inn. I’d thought I just imagined that, but I guess not. I turned to meet Austin’s eyes, but he turned away from me. “Hey, what’s that over there?”

      What looked to be a garrison of knights was standing ahead of us in the road. Their silver armor reflected the sunlight, making it hard to look directly at them. As we got closer, I realized that there was a reason they weren’t moving. The garrison looked broken, with several knights injured and pieces of armor dented. The knights themselves looked exhausted, with most of them slouched over or sitting down on the road. They were grumbling to themselves, and I could feel an aura of worry coming off of them.

      One of the knights saw us and walked over, his broken armor clattering around as he approached. He seemed to be the leader, judging by how everyone gave him space when he walked. He removed his helmet, revealing a strong face with a scraggly brown beard.

      “My name’s Captain Walkins of the kingdom of Palsu. Are you three adventurers?” The Captain looked apprehensive as he spoke, fidgeting with his helmet and shifting his legs.

      Austin spoke up. He sounded like nothing was wrong. I didn’t imagine his reaction to Evelyn, did I? “Yes. I’m A rank, while my companions are B and S ranked respectively.” Austin gestured to each of us in turn.

      The captain’s expression lit up when Austin mentioned my rank. “That’s great. If it would be possible, we have a request for you. My garrison was tasked with defeating the demons infesting a nearby abandoned castle, but as you can see,” Walkins gestured to his men, “We failed in our task. I’m not sure how much we can pay, but I’m sure if all my soldiers group our money, we can get enough to pay an S rank fee.”

      “We’ll do it for five hundred gold.” I looked towards Evelyn and Austin for approval. I could help someone. There weren't many chances to do things for people here, at least not yet, so I had to take every task I could. The bigger the task, the better.

      “Are you sure? S rank requests can easily cost a million gold or more. There's no way that I could take the services of one for so little.” The Captain sounded shocked at my amount. I understood why, but it was kind of sad at the same time. I guess good deeds are truly just as rare here as on Earth.

      “I was thinking of doing it for free, but we have to eat. Besides, I'm not exactly that strong, even if I'm S rank. Both of my companions are probably much stronger than me.” I said.

      “Nonsense. I appreciate you trying to humble yourself, but the guild doesn't make mistakes. I'll take your offer, but I'll owe you tremendously. If you ever need anything, don't hesitate to ask if you're ever in Calpa.” He had such faith in me. I had to succeed now. I may not really deserve S rank at the moment, but I would have to live up to it.

      “Hey Evelyn, can you get the details from Captain Walkins? You know the area better than I do,” I asked.

      “Sure, no problem.” We traded places as I tried to prepare myself. I had faced orcs and goblins, but the demons seemed like something that would be even more challenging.