Chapter 16:

The Truth?

The Swordmaster and the New God


    I froze in place. “How do you know about that?” I asked cautiously. Emilia was staring at us, eyes not moving an inch. Her glare was sharp and stern, like a teacher lecturing a misbehaving student.

      “I was the one that shoved you into her. Sorry for that, but it was the easiest way I could think of breaking the sequence.” Her voice sounded brisk, almost like ice.

      “Breaking the sequence? I'm afraid I don't follow Emilia.” I said. Austin seemed to be just as lost as I was, while Evelyn had a blank expression, something that was rare for her. I couldn't read her, but I got the slightest vibe of… was that anger? No, I had to just be imagining it.

      “Have you ever had something suddenly go haywire, glitch out for lack of a better word. Maybe you tripped over a rock, and suddenly the rock wasn't there anymore, or maybe you asked a weird question, and had a garbled mess of a response by someone from Enfar, have monsters suddenly split in half after hitting them in a weird way, both halves in perfect health? Same question for you Austin.”

      “Yeah, several times actually,” I said. “There was one time with a goblin king we killed; he seemed to split in half after Austin shot his head with a bullet.”

      “Oh yeah, there was also the guild receptionist who looked like a Fall-in NPC, who apparently really wanted to find the imposter.”

      I smacked my head, groaning. “I'm in another world, and I still can't get away from those jokes. Thank you Austin, thank you so so much.”

      “It's what I'm here for. By the way, I saw you vent dude. Kind of sus”

      “Uggggggggggg.”

      Emilia looked at us both, her lips pressed together in a tight frown. I needed to get this back on track, or else we would be turned to dust by one of her punches. “Anyway, those are examples of breaking the sequence, or sequence breaking; the one surefire way to tell where we are, the Demon Lord’s lands. It happens to also be known as Hell's Simulation.

      “Hell’s Simulation?” It sounded like someplace in a western fantasy novel, the location of the Dark Lord, the western version of the Demon Lord.

      “This place looks exactly like a light novel, with its kingdom in distress from the Demon Lord, right? So naturally, the New God takes people from our world at random and plops them down somewhere in Palsu to fight him. To help, he gave us statuses and video game stats and skills so we could survive and save the kingdom. Does that all sound right to you?” Emilia asked.

      “Yes…”

      “Doesn't that all sound completely stupid to you? What kind of being would base a world off of Japanese light novels? I could be dead drunk, and I wouldn't do something so stupid!”

      “Well, I mean you have a point…” I said.

      “Exactly! There's no way a place like this could actually exist. We're in a mirage, created by the Demon Lord. This whole place is a trap, designed to get certain summoned ones to go to the Demon Lord's castle.”

      Austin spoke up. “So we’re in a computer simulation, like one of those stuck in a video game thing?”

      “Not a simulation created by computers, but magic. Real magic, not the rudimentary skills you have available here in Palsu. The Demon Lord cast a spell over the land, creating what we have here today, a trap.”

      Everyone was silent, no one daring to say a word. A simulation? I guess it would make sense, but I couldn't believe it. Everything felt so real. No simulation could create this. No Emilia had to be lying. She was crazy, probably using a skill to make the old woman go crazy. That didn't explain the other glitches, however. There was no way she caused the goblin king or the Ronoe receptionist to freak out like they did. Still, there had to be another reason. This wasn't a movie, this wasn't a light novel. This was real life. Being summoned to another world was crazy enough. Generic light novel plots are not good enough to have a twist like this.

      Finally, the silence was broken. The one to break it was not me or Austin, but Evelyn, who was grasping her stomach, laughing. “That's the funniest thing you’ve said. Were you in a simulation? I didn't take you as someone not right in the head. You Earthers are always bringing your crazy conspiracy theories here, this is just another one of them. I don't know what Sequence Breaks you’re talking about, but they're clearly just figments of your imagination or maybe hallucinations.”

      “That's not how hallucinations work, and you know it! People don't just mass hallucinate the same thing, especially multiple completely healthy people. Last I checked, these two are not exactly schizophrenia patients!

      “Maybe you’re the crazy one then, including everyone else in your delusion. Besides, if you really had something happen to the potions seller, then why didn't I see it?”

      Emilia opened her mouth as if to say something, then closed it again. She looked like she really wanted to say something, like her life depended on it, but was keeping her mouth closed for whatever reason. “I- I can't say.”

      Of course you can’t. You're just making all this up after all. Any normal person would discredit this in a heartbeat. Ok, riddle me this. Why did the Demon Lord Create all this? If he just wanted summoned ones, he could have sent his forces out into Palsu, kidnapping them left and right. There's no need to put us in a simulation just for that.”

      Emilia glowered at Evelyn. “We don't know. All we know is that the Demon Lord wants people with high fate, and this simulation acts as a filter to leave only those with high fate alive to head to the castle, killing all those with low fate.

      “So you don't know why the simulation exists, and the main way of checking is only accessible to you, Kazuma, and Austin. You can't even get your own story straight. Next time you make up something like this, at least have answers to the most basic of questions. There's no way either of you believes this, right?” She looked at Austin and me.

      I wasn't sure what to believe. Emilia’s answers made sense, but they sounded ridiculous. A simulation. Evelyn was right. Emilia's story has so many holes it made it hard to believe her. Besides, I wanted to believe Evelyn. I knew her for way longer and trusted her with my life. I liked Evelyn; there was no way I would believe the word of a girl I only somewhat knew over her, no matter what Emilia said.

      “Oh, I know why you're doing this,” Evelyn smirked. “You didn't want us to go to the Demon Lord’s Castle, so this is your response. How pathetic is that? You didn't get your way, boo-hoo. Life doesn't revolve around you.”

      “Don't be ridiculous. I'm not that petty. No, it's not worth discussing this with you.” She turned away from Evelyn towards Austin and me. “You have to believe me. Evelyn is just trying to lure you to the Demon Lord’s Castle. She's working with him to get you killed. Emilia tried to speak calmly, a tiny bit of desperation seeping into her voice.

      “Oh, I'm doing what now? This story is getting worse by the second. No human would ever work for the Demon Lord! I'm doing this to destroy him! Unlike you, I can't afford to live in my own world up in my head and have to face reality.”

      “Come on, If you go to the Demon Lord, you die. Think about it. What else would explain all the Sequence Breaks? I know that we're in a simulation; I've been outside it! Have you heard a single thing about another country, a map of the world, or at least the continent? I bet you've only seen Palsu, right? That's because it's the only country in the simulation. There's no evidence of literally any other countries existing here, don't you think that's strange?” Emilia was in full panic mode now. She sounded desperate like she would do anything to keep us in the city.

      Austin was staring at Emilia intently, taking in every word. He truly looked undecided on who to choose, which I couldn't understand. Emilia sounded like a raving lunatic. Why would he ever even think about trusting her over Evelyn? Evelyn was too virtuous to even think about lying about something like this. She was way more trustworthy, and it wasn't close.

      I had to speak up. This was embarrassing. I should have never allowed Emilia to join the party. Her ranking blinded me. What a fool I was. “I'm sorry, but there's no way you expect us to believe you, right?” I walked over to Evelyn and stood by her. “I'm not letting myself be swayed by the ramblings of a crazy person over someone I trust. I'm going to the Demon Lord’s Castle with Evelyn, and you’re more than welcome not to join us.”

      “Trust me, I have zero desire to get myself killed. I’m just asking that you give me a chance. I've been gone for four years, working with the kingdoms outside to destroy this place. Why do you think I'm not more popular, despite being S-rank?”

      “My decision is final Emilia. I'm not changing my mind, no matter how much you beg me. I can't speak for Austin, but I don't think he’ll get swayed by such a dumb story.” Evelyn beamed up at me with pride, she was so cute when she smiled. No way I could say no to a face like that.

      All eyes were on Austin now, who wasn’t saying a word. His face gave away nothing. It was like watching a poker player. They could have nothing or a full house, and you would never know by looking at their face. When he finally spoke, he looked at Evelyn. “Hey Evelyn, how long have you been an adventurer?”

      “A few years, maybe four. Why?” Evelyn looked just as confused about the question as I was.

      “Have you been taking requests that whole time, somewhat consistently?”

      “Yeah. Not when I travel, but whenever I'm in town, I always take a request or two for money.”

      “That's not what the guild said when I checked with them in Calpa. According to them, you take requests maybe once a year and always a bunch in a short burst. I don't think it takes that long to travel between cities. Palsu is not exactly a huge country, you know.”

      “I just take a bunch of private requests, ones not reported to the guild. You told me about doing a request like that with the merchant Geovanni.” Why was Austin going down this path? I couldn't grasp what he was thinking. There's no way that he believed Emilia, right?

      “Ok, I'll go with you guys.” Austin hefted up a leather satchel onto his shoulder and threw a similar one towards me. It rattled as I caught it, the supplies inside shifting from the throw.

      Emilia looked down, crestfallen. “I'm not going to convince you, am I?”

      “No. I prefer to listen to sane people personally.” I said.

      “Very well. On the minuscule chance that you survive, I'll be here, waiting.” She spoke softly, recomposed from her outburst earlier. She walked towards the giant exit and out the guild, turning the corner outside. Just before she disappeared from view, I saw a single tear fall from her eyes onto the ground.