Chapter 21:

The Death of a Hero

The Swordmaster and the New God

     I should have been sick, throwing up from not just the pain but the image pounding itself into my eyes. Kazuma lay on the ground, his body split in two. Blood oozed from his torso and waist, the two ends covered with blood and organs. He was dead, right in front of me. The Demon Lord had gripped him, holding him up to devour. It was all I could do to stall for time; I even was able to cut a tentacle off, finding a blind spot to kill him once and for all.

      That was not to be. The tentacle that shot out from the wound felt like a ton of bricks, sending me flying into the wall. I tried to get up, my body rebelling against me, refusing to move. All I could do was watch, watch as Kazuma’s body slowly got crushed. An aura filled with glowing particles floated off of his body, struggling to return to Kazuma. His body struggled, fighting for its life until it snapped. That was the moment that Kazuma disappeared, and his body went limp. A few seconds later, and it was all over for his physical form as well. The tentacles contracted until his body snapped in half. Falling to the floor.

      I wanted to be afraid, cower in fear at the sight in front of me. I couldn't feel fear; however, no matter how hard I tried, there was nothing I could do. Not even the death of my best friend could break this curse.

      The Demon Lord seemed to be looking at Kazuma’s corpse, drool leaking from its mouth. I couldn't really tell where it was looking; it had no eyes. I sat there, waiting. It was coming for me next. There was no way it would not take the meal, even if I was inferior to Kazuma. The ‘child’ had said I had high fate, perfect for what the Demon Lord wanted, even if he just had a huge meal.

      It looked at me, then surprisingly turned the other way. The Demon Lord’s tentacles slithered on the floor as it walked away into the hallway. This was my chance.

      I looked at myself, assessing the situation. My arm was broken beyond belief, unusable, and because of my ripped satchel, there was no chance of getting a healing potion. Several of my ribs pounded inside my chest; they were broken, no doubt about it. I would have to buck up, deal with the fact that my body was wrecked and fight through the pain. I had to live to take the info from the Demon Lord to Emilia. If I didn't, all this would be for naught. Kazuma was always talking about wanting to do good. Sacrificing himself to get that information out would be the way he would want to go, helping to fight evil with his last breaths.

      I took a deep breath, then housed myself up on my good arm. Pain shot throughout my whole body. It was like being executed from a firing squad, bullets seemingly hitting every part they could.

      After a few seconds, I was able to steady myself. That was the one good thing about the lack of fear; it allowed me to stay calm. I would have freaked out a long time ago without it. Actually, that's probably why it was a thing. No one would go to the Demon Lord’s castle normally. It was only the lack of fear that let people go, their blind sense of optimism having nothing to counteract it.

      I took one step towards the door, making sure to keep my balance. Every step was pure agony, but I fought through the pain. It’s not like I had a choice. As I walked, the torches around me started to dim, assumedly the magic of the Demon Lord running out. I had to hurry up. Without light, I would never find the door.

      The time to get to the door felt like an eternity, but I was there; that was all that mattered. It was a struggle to keep coherent thought. The strain on my mind almost matched my body.

      The iron handle felt cool to the touch, almost stinging my hand. I gave a great tug as the door opened towards me, letting the cool air of the hallway wash over me. I stumbled into the dark hallway, the wooden door slamming behind me.

      Arched windows lined the hallway, letting light from the lightning outside flow in. The castle seemed to moan at me, tempting me to stay in its clutches. Considering what this world actually was, the chance the castle was actually moaning was sadly not zero.

      I started to stumble through the long hallway, keeping myself as quiet as I could. I couldn't see any demons in the hallway, only stone, stretching as far as my eyes reached.

      Time flew around me, stretching and compressing like a spring. Some stretches of the hallway flew by me, making me feel like I was moving a million miles an hour. Other parts stretched out, taking an eternity to travel a single step. It felt like time was fluid, always changing.

      I stumbled again, almost falling to the floor as I saw the door. The faintest hint of the demons ringing reached my ears. Crap. The ringing sounded muffled like the stone was keeping the sound trapped. My hearing had been boosted exponentially for some reason. None of my skills seemed to contain or affect hearing, so I was at a loss.

      The demons seemed to be right on the other side of the door, and the outside of the castle seemed to be after that. I didn't have any proof, but my enhanced hearing let me sense stuff like that, almost like echolocation.

      I recovered, slowly limping over to the door. When I reached my goal. I stopped to compose myself. Most demons seemed somewhat audio-oriented. The demons we (met)meant outside the castle didn't start attacking until Kazuma screamed at them. Maybe I could use that to my advantage.

      I slowly creaked the door open, the hinges squealing in pain. The walls were covered with demons, light poking through the gaps in the horde. My feet slowly entered the room while I supported myself against the door.

      I could see the exit right in front of me, not a demon in the way. For whatever reason, the demons kept clinging to the walls, making that ringing noise while staring at me with their bright red eyes.

      My body moved through the demons, desperation starting to set in. I was so close, freedom only a few steps away. The rest would be easy once I was out of the castle, despite what the Demon Lord said. My legs were perfectly fine, and one of my arms still worked. Using my skill speed demon, I could get out of the Demon Realm faster than I could blink.

      A few steps in, though, I fell onto the ground. Luckily, the demons didn't all come charging towards me. Maybe the fall wasn't loud enough? I didn't have enough time to think about that. I re-assessed my situation as the red eyes continued to stare at me. I still had only the bare essentials when it came to supplies, and my satchel was useless with a ripped-out bottom. There was no point in even carrying it anymore. My sword was still in one piece. Breaking it would be hard for any creature, even a Demon Lord. The main problem was that, along with a few of my ribs, my right arm was broken and I wouldn’t be able to hold a sword or do anything useful with it. My skills allowed me, in theory, to be just as good with my left arm as I am with my right, but theory doesn’t always turn out well in reality.

      I was almost out of options, I just had to reach the door, reach the door, and all my problems would be solved. That would sustain me. I needed it too.

      I took one step towards the door, then another. Every step barely made a muffle in the hall. The one good thing about the demons' screeching was that it made small noises like my footsteps, almost silent. Their eyes followed me as I walked, the screeching getting louder and louder. I was halfway to the door now. My ribs ached, and my arm screamed as I held it in my other hand. I debated taking out my sword, but with this many demons, my chances were fifty-fifty with a good arm. A broken one reduced that chance to near zero.

      I looked behind me and almost swore out loud. The demons had started to encircle me, moving closer step by step. A moving wall that would kill me if I sneezed. Things just got worse the farther we got in the castle.

      I turned back and refocused on the door. Looking at the demons would just be wasting time, something that was slowly turning into a luxury. My feet moved slowly closer and closer to the door until I was right on top of it. I reached for the bronze handle, freedom within reach then stopped. My body was frozen, paralyzed.

      The floor seemed to rotate under me and my body twisted in place to face the wall of demons behind me. Only, the demons were not the only thing there. The Demon Lord had parted the demon wall and was staring right into my eyes. He was as tall as a human could get and had a handsome face with a brown beard. His appearance was a lie, however. When he started to fight, he showed his true form, something so unbearable to look at that a few people had gone insane from one glace. We had heard that before entering but had underestimated it. Just another example of our egos getting too large and costing us later.

      “I’m sorry that I made you wait so long. Your friend was just so delectable that he took a little longer than normal for me to finish. I do wonder what you were doing out here. Don’t tell me you thought escape was an option or that I viewed you as leftovers? You are still a juicy specimen, even if you don’t compare to your little friend. I just figured that you would wait in my throne room until it was your turn. You’re much tastier when you're still alive, you know.” The Demon Lord spoke in a deep voice as he shot down every hope that I had one by one in a few sentences

      He slowly walked towards me as the demons scattered away from him, giving him space. They had become silent when he had appeared, letting his footsteps ring throughout the room. When he got around halfway toward me, my pocket started to glow with a bright white light. It made him stop momentarily, but he continued (delete "on") on as fast as he stopped.

      I had no idea where the glow was coming from. All my magic items except my sword and some of my clothes were lost when my satchel broke. It was still the only hope I had. I put all the magic and energy that I could toward the light. I couldn’t tell if it did anything, but I couldn’t move my hand to touch it, so this was the best I could do.

      The light got brighter as he got closer. Despite not knowing what it was, he didn’t change his pace towards me. I would be dead the second he got to me, so I couldn’t really complain about his pace. It just bought me more time.

      When he got close, he put an arm up and swung it down. It was coming right from my head. The force didn’t seem to be enough to outright kill me but more to knock me out.

      Just as his hand reached my forehead, the light covered my whole body. I was in a field of grass as far as I could see. But, unlike in the Demon Lord’s castle, the sun was shining all around me as I sat, stunned.

      Laughter rang out from my mouth as I took a pale grey stone out of my pocket. Finally, I was free, using the freaking object Kazuma gave me to escape, the stupid treasure from the goblin’s cave. What a good friend I was.

      I gathered myself together. My first objective was to find Emilia as fast as I possibly could and hope that she was close, hoping that she would accept my apology. I needed to get that info to her as fast as possible, and hopefully escape this hell.