Chapter 11:

An S-Rank's Power

The Swordmaster and the New God

      “So you abandoned us, in a city I've never been to before, to get a quest?” I sounded exasperated, I knew as I was talking to Austin. Apparently, he had run to the adventures guild by himself to grab a request. Why we couldn't do that together, I wasn't sure. To make it worse, he grabbed the most generic quest imaginable, killing wild flame wolves.

      “Last time, the receptionist got her dialogue looking like an American rpg. I don't want to deal with that again. Also, you can't say much. You got another freaking party member! Do cute girls just flock to you dude when I'm gone? You have zero defense now Mr. Isekai protagonist, you're even starting your own harem,” he said.

      “I don't know. I mean, the girls have to like me to have a harem, and there's no way that happens with either of them.”

      “Uh-huh,” Austin stared at me like I was an idiot. Was I missing something? Knowing Austin, he was just trying to pull my leg somehow.

      Austin walked in front of me on the worn dirt path. The flame wolves were apparently three hours-ish out from Calpa, just outside the range of the knights. Luckily, the trek back wouldn't be that far. I was looking forward to a soft bed.

      “I think I see something up ahead.” Emilia pointed to a chunk of trees ahead of us. Smoke was rising from the treetops, slowly becoming thicker. Flame wolves weren't normally found roaming in forests, instead preferring mountainous environments according to Evelyn. They could easily cause forests to burst into flames, making their removal a priority. 

      “Good catch Emilia. Guess Kazuma chooses his harem girls well.”

      Emilia rolled her eyes. “I'm ashamed that I know what that means. I swear, you Americans are just getting worse."

      “We have just become more aware of our true potential. Non-Americans can't grasp the freedom we possess. You simply don't possess the stars and stripes, flowing behind you as you move, the bald eagle flying overhead. Until you experience that, life is literally 1984.”

      “Wow, us Europeans really have it rough.” Austin and Emilia continued to bicker. Unlike Evelyn, Austin treated Emilia like he did everyone else. The silence and seriousness that he had with Evelyn was an oddity. With most girls, he would try to crack jokes with them all the time, yet I hadn't seen him crack one with her that didn't involve me. I'm surprised that he could restrain himself, and I didn't even know why.

      We sped up towards the smoke. Our new armor made it easier to move because apparently school uniforms weren't made for combat. Emilia wore a white dress that flew in the air as she walked. She seemed to be getting warm. What looked like steam appeared to be rising off of her, evaporating into the air where she walked. If my memory was right, she said her class was Apocalyptica. Her class was probably as rare as mine. That made me excited, she probably had attained the level to use her class to its full power. It wasn't every day I got to see a true S rank in action.

      The trees enveloped us as we veered off the beaten path. The unkempt grass ran up to my socks. Plants popped up in the sea of green, getting smushed from our feet as we trampled over them. The wall of trees broke around us as we entered a clearing in the thick forest.

      A group of wolves was laying in the clearing, the grass burning around them. The wolves' fur seemed to be made of fire, red hot and burning. The fire around them slowly spread among the blades of grass, but the flame wolves appeared to not notice. They were relaxing, some with their pitch black teeth out.

      Several of the flame wolves noticed our footsteps as we ran towards them, their heads turning to us. I pulled out my sword. I was no Austin, but these seemed easier to deal with than demons.

      Austin and I charged in with our swords, slashing at the flame wolves. They immediately scattered, creating a circle around us. A trail of fire followed their footsteps. We needed to end this soon, or else the whole forest would be caught on fire.

      I ran left towards a group of flame wolves while Austin ran the other way. I cut through a wolf and went to attack the others. More and more wolves emerged from the forest as we fought. There had to be at least a hundred, and they just kept coming. The wolves set their coats on fire as they entered the clearing, charging at us.

      Evelyn was standing in the center of the ring, sending bolts of fire at the wolves. They sailed through the air, hitting their mark every time. The only issue was how little the wolves were affected. The flame wolves seemed to absorb the bolts, making their flames larger.

      Emilia, on the other hand, was just standing beside Evelyn, smoldering now. It was hard to see her face half the time with all the smoke coming off her. She seemed to be watching us, not making a move. Was she testing us? I couldn't think of any other reason why she was just standing there unless her abilities took time to charge.

      I took a wolf and slashed at the flaming fur. My blade went through the flames, causing no damage to the wolf itself. I jumped back towards the center of the clearing. Their numbers were starting to overwhelm me, with no end in sight. I kept slashing over and over again. Wolves fell with every slash, but as soon as one fell, there were two more to take their place. I looked back at Austin. He was running from wolf to wolf, killing each one with one strike. His pink blade was like a ribbon as it flew through the air, a ribbon stained with death.

      The flame wolves were retreating from Austin and all heading towards me. That's why I kept getting overwhelmed by their pure numbers alone. Thanks, Austin, what a good friend.

      I backed up even more. If Austin was letting all the flame wolves come to me, I would just have to return them, like a good friend. The flame wolves followed me, stepping over their dead companions. Their growls were getting louder and louder as they charged towards me. If only my skills were actually useful. I needed all my mana to create a single gun. What an S rank.

      “Ok, time for me to step in.” Emilia took a small step forward, her hand smoldering with smoke. She walked towards me, looking unconcerned. She seemed to be muttering something under her breath. We slowly approached each other. I was being pushed back by the endless army of flame wolves, while she strolled over. She casually lifted her fist as she got close, pulled it back, and threw a punch.

      The world itself shook as the punch landed. It was like a nuke, the force all pushed in front of me. Blood red flames poured from the punch, blasting into the forest. The flame wolves were shredded, nothing remained of them, or the forest. For miles, the forest was disintegrated, replaced with a canyon created by the blast. It burned bright red as the bloody flames ate the ground itself. The flames slowly got smaller until they disappeared, leaving the dirt by itself. No wind flowed, all the currents pushed away from Emilia’s blast

      Emilia sighed. “I thought I restricted it more than that.” She shook her hand, which was now free of smoke. Her white dress had burned away, revealing a white set of light armor under it. The breastplate had some sort of crest on it. A white Chinese dragon was circling three crossed swords. The two swords on the outsides were blue and green respectively, while the one in the middle was red.

      “Wait, that was restricted?” Austin had finished off the last of the flame wolves and was walking over to us.

      “For that spell, yes. My class amplifies any spell I cast, if it's from this place or not. That's where the smoke was coming from earlier. I was trying to condense the power, so this wouldn't happen. I underestimated the level of power, however. I would have helped earlier if it wasn't for that,” she said. The sunlight glimmered off her white armor, it was like looking at a sheet of marble.

      “So that's what an S rank is like. Kazuma, I think we need to revoke your membership. I think D rank may be a better spot for you.” Austin said.

      “You’re just jealous. The second I get enough mana, you will be bowing down at my feet, begging me to create you a better stick.”

      “Please, I don't care how shiny a class you have. You will never create a better stick than the one I have now. It's so long, and heavy, the perfect size and weight. Better sticks truly don't exist.” Austin hefted up his sword from the demon infested castle. It never seemed to deteriorate in quality or get dirty. Blood slid right off without an issue. Just holding the sword straight up resulted in the blood dripping off, gravity pushing it down. If anything, it was in better condition than when we found it.

      “I'm impressed, Emilia. You’re stronger than I imagined.” Evelyn came walking over from the remaining flame wolf corpses.

      “It's nothing. The wolves are not that strong, they simply overpower you with numbers. I happen to specialize in area damage.” Emilia sounded formal as she spoke to Evelyn. Her attitude towards Evelyn had been like that ever since she asked to join the party, even though I couldn't guess why. Girls were weird.

      “You say that it was easy. I could never do something like that. My flames did nothing to the wolves. I've never felt so useless. I'm sorry.” Evelyn looked embarrassed, shifting back and forth as she spoke. It was true that she didn't do much, but that wasn't really her fault. The wolves were simply a bad matchup.

      “It's not your fault. You were incredibly useful during the demons, plus you’ve been useful this whole trip! One bad day doesn't make you useless Evelyn. I think you did great, especially compared to me. I was getting overrun out there!”

      She quietly laughed. “I guess you’re right. I'll just have to prove myself next time.” Her weak smile was adorable. I wanted to hug her, tell her everything would be ok. I wasn't sure how much she would like that, however.

      Emilia crossed her arms and turned away from us, her arm guards clanking against each other. I wanted to say something but kept my mouth shut. Was the timing just a coincidence, or did I do something she didn't like?

      I turned to Austin, who seemed to be analyzing the situation. His face was expressionless as he looked at us. If something was truly wrong, Austin would step in. He understood girls way better than I did after all.

      No one said anything for a few seconds. The only noise breaking the awkward silence was the crackling of what little fire remained, slowly dying out. Emilia's blast had doused most of the fires from the air pressure alone.

      It was unsurprisingly Austin who broke the silence. “Hey guys, how about we go back to Calpa? Sleeping in a real bed sounds slightly better than camping on what is essentially a graveyard now.”

      “That sounds good to me,” Evelyn spoke up. “This forest is creeping me out anyway. Any objections?”

      We all agreed and took the long road back to Calpa, excited to sleep on real beds and have hot meals.