Chapter 13:

The Beginning of the End

The Swordmaster and the New God

      In the morning, I walked down towards the hotel lobby to meet up with everyone else. Our hotel, the Shady Tree, was weirdly lacking wood. Instead, it was mostly made of stone. If I hadn't known better, I could have been convinced that I was in the knights' headquarters. The pattern of the stones even looked the same.

      I went down the last stair and entered the lobby. It was huge, about twice the size of the Sleeping Sheep’s lobby. The stone ran up the walls, with torches hanging between the many open windows, letting all the smoke out and fresh air in.

      Servers bustled about, serving breakfast to all the hungry guests sitting in the lobby. Sitting at one of the wooden tables near the entrance to the inn sat Evelyn, Emilia, and Austin. Apparently, I was the last one down.

      I walked towards the table, trying hard not to stare at Evelyn. I still remembered her warmth from yesterday, the fuzzy feeling that she caused whenever she was around. I could feel her breath on my lips still. We just needed to convince Austin and Emilia. Evelyn seemed confident that we could get Austin, but I was not sure. Austin was always one to do his own thing. Getting him to agree was probably a coin flip.

      “Hey Kazuma, what took you so long, dude? Isekai protagonists should be full of energy, ready for their next fight! You look like a zombie.” Austin welcomed me to the table with his usual banter, though it seemed weaker than normal. Usually, he would say something at least somewhat funny. I guess Austin was losing his touch.

      “That stupid parade last night kept me up. Give me a break, dude.” There was no way I was going to tell Austin what actually happened. He would make fun of me until the end of time.

      “Wow, you really called the parade stupid. Are you racing to get canceled or something?”

      “You have to be famous to get canceled.”

      “Don't worry. You'll find a way. Have you looked in a mirror Mr. S ranked adventurer?”

      I ignored Austin and sat down next to him. If I kept feeding him, his taunting would never stop. Besides, I had to convince him about the Demon Lord’s castle. Getting to that subject as fast as possible was probably the best move. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to go. Killing the Demon Lord, and becoming a hero. Those were two things I wanted to do. I was an Isekai protagonist. There was no way I would lose. I even have a cheat ability. He would probably go down in a single shot from a rifle.

      Before I went to bed yesterday, Evelyn had given me an idea. I had woken up early this morning and had tried to use my mana to create a sniper rifle, but failed. However, I found out that I had enough mana to create parts of the sniper rifle. Half of a sniper rifle now sat in my inventory, waiting to be finished once my mana regenerated.

      “Ok, so the question is what do we do next. I'm assuming you guys are fine when it comes to money, Kazuma being an S rank and all, so we have a little time to plan everything out.” Emilia started the conversation. It felt weird like this was something normal. I felt like I was part of this world now.

      “Well actually, Evelyn and I have an idea on what to do next,” I said. Everyone turned to us while Evelyn turned slightly red and looked down at her feet. “So I was talking to Evelyn, and she brought up the idea of heading to the Demon Lord’s castle to take out the Demon Lord,” I spoke slowly and carefully, making sure not to mix up my words. This was Evelyn’s idea, and I wanted to honor it.

      Everyone looked at me again, with varied reactions. Evelyn was red as a tomato while Austin seemed unsure on how to respond. Emilia was the interesting one. She seemed unsure of how to react. Part of her seemed shocked, while another part of her seemed almost resigned like she was expecting this. Of course, there was no chance of that right?

      “Kazuma, you usually have better jokes than that. You are aware that jokes are supposed to be funny, right? This just sounds suicidal.” Austin looked at me quizzically.

      “No, I'm being serious. We have two S ranked adventurers, an A rank and a B rank. No one can say we're not a strong party. Were balanced too. Evelyn stays in the back while you charge in as our main attacker. I back you up while Emilia serves as the tank or replaces you as the main attacker.” In light novels, the party always seemed to stress about balancing themselves out, and we were in a good situation. We could all back each other up and fight well together. There was no reason not to challenge the Demon King.

      Austin frowned. “You know who the Demon Lord is, right? Do you think that we can take someone like that? I'm sure that people much stronger than us have tried and failed. We've been in this world for around a month. There's no way that we're strong enough to take on someone like the Demon Lord yet. Think Kazum, Think!”

      “But you are!” Evelyn looked up from her lap, looking poised. She had probably been composing herself earlier. “No one has gone to the Demon Lord’s castle in years. The closest adventurers have gotten is to the outer edge of Deirdh, where the Edge of Life falls. Everyone is too scared to go, so we have just left the Demon Lord to stay on our doorstep, not doing anything but playing defense. You guys can change that! You three are some of the most powerful people I've seen since I left my village. The whole army of Palsu probably couldn't take one of you down. If anyone can take the Demon Lord down, it's our party.”

      “Really, then I guess you have a point…” Austin was quiet as he thought about something. That was not the reaction I was expecting from him. Where was the sarcasm, the dumb jokes? Maybe Evelyn was right about Austin.

      “I don't think this is a good idea. The Demon Lord has ruled so long for a reason. Sure officially, no one has clashed with him in hundreds of years, but there's still a multitude of people who have gone missing who were last seen right by the border. We may be more powerful than average, but strength may not be enough to take the Demon Lord down.” Emilia spoke extremely carefully, almost like she was tiptoeing around something.

      “Sure, but those were all low level adventurers who got too full of themselves. No one formidable has disappeared around the border in years. The knights are too well organized for that to happen. Besides, how do you know we're not enough to take him down? Have you ever met him? I guarantee you that at most, he is slightly more powerful than your average demon. Sure us normal people struggle against demons, but you guys can one-shot even the most powerful ones. Kazuma, Austin, do you remember that ape demon, that was a great demon, yet you destroyed it in one shot! The Demon Lord should be nothing to you three. Heck, you can probably destroy the castle in one punch, Emilia.”

      Evelyn sounded annoyed. I had never seen her talk anywhere close to this before. I thought about what she said. We had destroyed all those demons easily; there was a reason Captain Walkins was so surprised with how quickly we destroyed the demons. We had even destroyed the ape demon. I couldn't remember what my appraisal said about the demon. I was glad Evelyn remembered.

      “Oh, you stupid Alexa!” Emilia pounded the table and stood up. She looked furious.

      “What's an Alexa?” I whispered to Austin.

      “I think it's an insult here, like the name Karen back on earth.” He said.

      Emilia continued. “Going to the Demon Lords castle is suicide, and you know it. Heck, you're from Enfar, they drill that into you the day you're born. Why do you want Kazuma and Austin to march to their deaths? I don't know. What I do know is that as long as I'm in this party, I can't allow this.” Despite sounding furious, Emily spoke calmly and carefully. It was almost like listening to a Japanese businessman lecture about something he was passionate about.

      “Yeah, because you have so much say. You just hitched a ride with us like a day ago. I don't care how high and mighty you think you are, Ms. S rank, but around here, you don't rule the show. I've actually been in this party for more than an hour, so you should be listening to me, you pathetic third wheel.” Evelyn, on the other hand, was not calm and composed. She scrambled and shouted, letting every word be filled with hostility.

      Emilia started to say something, then stopped. Agitation was clear for all to see on her face. “There's no point in fighting about this. We both clearly have our minds made up, and Kazuma practically worships you, so of course, he will say yes. It's all up to what Austin votes. If he says yes, then we will go to the Demon Lord's castle. If he says no, then we will discard any notion of this ridiculous suicidal idea. Does that sound good to you?”

      “Very. Better pack your bags, not that you have much to pack.” Evelyn said. I couldn't tell if that was an insult or not. Girls are weird.

      Austin looked from girl to girl. All eyes were on him now, staring intently at him, as if looking into his very soul. He seemed uneasy, muttering under his breath. If I had to guess, he was probably weighing his options. I just had to hope that Evelyn was right. If she was, then there was no way that Austin would say no.

      “Ok, I've thought about it, and I agree that we should go to the Demon Lord's castle,” Austin said.

      Evelyn looked elated while Emila looked pissed, but neither said anything. “So Emilia, are you going to still travel with us, or are we going to leave you here? Austin asked her. I hadn't even thought of Emilia leaving, but it somewhat made sense. She had just joined our party and barely any time had passed since her first day with us. Also, she completely disagreed with our decision. In any normal light novel, she would have already been gone or kicked out more likely. Austin was right, this really was where creativity went to die.

      “I'm going with you of course, at least all the way to Deiridh,” she said. Seemingly, I was way off the mark. Maybe this world had hope yet. “When do we leave, tomorrow?”

      Evelyn shrugged. “How about the day after tomorrow? That's when we check out of our rooms, plus that gives us some time to get everything situated.”

      “That sounds good to me. I'm going to go get some supplies.” Emilia started to walk towards the door. “I'll see you guys later.”

      We all went separate ways, getting ourselves ready for something that could be the challenge of a lifetime. I thought long and hard about it. When I got to Enfar, I had the goal of helping people and becoming able to do large tasks, instead of an army of small ones. This was my chance to do the largest task of all, saving the world.