Chapter 22:

Leaving a Lie

The Swordmaster and the New God

      It ended up taking two days to get to Deridh, traveling through the grassy hills of Palsu. I had stumbled upon a small village shortly after I had teleported back, stumbling into the town center then promptly collapsing. My memory was hazy for a while after that, my consciousness drifting in and out. From what I remembered, they had carried me into one of the wooden homes lining the town center, a hotel maybe? There, someone came over and gave me a red-looking potion to drink.

      Its effects were instantaneous. I felt my wounds grow hot, almost like they were burning. Despite that, it didn't hurt. Instead, it was like a warm shower, feeling calm and relaxing. A few seconds after I felt my body fully heal, my mind fully went to sleep, my body temporarily shutting down.

      According to the villagers, I was only out for around six hours, but it felt like an eternity. Dreamless sleep had overwhelmed me, making me feel refreshed when my body got its energy back.

      I left soon after that. They had tried to get me to rest, concluding that I wasn't healthy yet, but I insisted I had to go the moment I got directions. There were several times that I wanted to make jokes, ease their nerves. Nothing came to me or seemed funny. My mind was always good at making jokes; I always had a quip I could pull out, usually made up on the spot. This was the first time I truly had nothing. I could only listen and talk seriously, unable to ease their worries about me.

      Around an hour after I left, I realized that I hadn't even gotten the name of the village or any of the people that had helped me. Not that it mattered. None of this was real. There was no point in learning the name of a place that existed only to trap you, people who couldn't really think. None of this was real. There was no point in learning anything about it unless that knowledge would help me destroy Palsu.

      Luckily, it didn't take long to find Emilia. She was at a bar near the adventures guild, drink in hand. Her face looked calm and composed, without any signs of a blushed face. Good. I had half-suspected that she would have left town by now, leaving Palsu.

      I walked up to her, pulling the barstool next to her out. She raised her eyebrows when she saw me, a hint of surprise showing on her face. “Well, I didn't expect to see you so soon.”

      “Same.” Neither of us said anything for a few seconds, the silence seemingly stretching for an eternity. Then, finally, Emilia broke the silence.

      “What, no joke? That's not like you. Where's the jab about me not being twenty-one? The mugs right in my hand, the easiest joke of all time. You Americans love to talk about that, ignoring the fact the drinking age is sixteen in Germany” I didn't say anything immediately, allowing the silence to sneak back in.

      “I should have voted no. I'm sorry about that.” I finally said.

      “There's nothing we can do about it now. The past is the past, after all. Now tell me what happened before this crap starts actually affecting me. You look like you really want to talk.” She took a long swig from her glass mug, the brown liquid inside traveling down her throat.

      It took a while to explain everything. Emilia listened to me intently, asking me questions about whatever she could, wanting to know everything about the castle and the Demon Lord himself. By the time I was done, she had completely emptied her mug, a new one now in her hands.

      “So multiple personalities huh, I didn't see that one coming. I get why you went now, even if you got away by sheer dumb luck. That stone that Kazuma gave you is called a safety gem, an item that teleports you away once from mortal danger. I didn't know there were any still in Palsu. When Palsu was created, it took everything that used to be here, mainly the fallen kingdom of Alt. Most of the manmade objects and weaker magical objects disappeared, teleported to the Demon Lord’s castle if I had to make a guess. There were some exceptions though, like the gem or your sword.”

      “My sword? Is that the reason it was able to harm the Demon Lord while Kazuma’s sword disintegrated?”

      "Yep, only objects from outside, or leftover ones that were untouched in the creation of Palsu, can harm the Demon Lord. Your sword especially would probably be good against him. I won't be able to tell until we leave Palsu, but I have a feeling that it's magic. Only magic imbued in objects works here, and while a normal sword would be able to hurt the Demon Lord, cutting off a limb is another matter entirely.” Emilia sighed, taking another swig of her drink.

      “What now?”

      “Well, that's up to you. Austin, there are two paths here to take, staying in Palsu or leaving it. Palsu may be a giant trap, but it's not hard to live in. As long as you stay in a city, nothing will attack you, and money is more than easy to get. Palsu provides an easy life, long as you can deal with everything around you being fake.

      “I'm leaving. There's no point in staying, especially now that Kazuma is gone.”

      “Emilia shrugged. “I figured. Doesn't hurt to ask. Some people like it here, the ease of life being too hard to give up.”

      “Idiots.” I wanted to find those people and drag them out of Palsu myself. They were living a lie. Worse, they knew they were living a lie and didn't care. Part of me didn't want to believe that people like that existed, though I knew better. Kazuma had died trying to defeat the Demon Lord, yet these people were content to live right under his nose.

      “Anyway, leaving Palsu is not too hard; you just have to cross the border. I’ll show you how to do it when we get there. It's not too far from Deiridh, only around a week away north of us.”

      I stood up from the barstool, the chair legs dragging against the floor. The noise of the crowded bar dampened the sound, but the scraping could still be heard through the chatter. “So we leave tomorrow then?”

      “Works for me. There is no reason to be stingy with money, by the way. Gold coins are only valuable here in Palsu. Also, I have a talisman to change the properties of objects so they can go outside the border, so if there's anything other than your clothes that you want me to use it on, let me know.”

      I nodded, then started walking out of the bar, only to stop a few steps later. “One more question, why didn't you tell us what Evelyn actually was. I only agreed to go to the castle for information, but Kazuma went because it wanted to. We could have prevented this if he had changed his mind.”

      “I didn't want to give her more ammunition. Besides, it wouldn't have done anything. Kazuma was infatuated with her, more than any other Earther I’ve tried to rescue. He was dead the moment they met. Also, every time I've told people that it has always backfired on me; things like her are too good at debating that. I guess you could say they've been programmed to counteract anyone saying they're not real.”

      “How many other people have you tried to save before, by the way?”

      “Hmm… More than I can count, especially a few years ago. The only reason I was sent back to the Demon Lord's realm personally was that we detected someone with an incredible high fate getting summoned. Most of the people I tried to help died and most of the survivors chose to stay in Palsu. You're only the third person I will be helping leave Palsu.” Emilia took another giant swig of her drink, finishing it off again. “Think it’s starting to kick in. I'll see you tomorrow.”

      “Bye.” Emilia turned back towards the bar as I walked out. I needed to find an inn as soon as possible. I’d go crazy walking around, looking at all the fake creatures around me. The red hair made me furious, reminding me of Evelyn. It wouldn't take long for me to snap, causing more attention than I needed. As my mind wandered, I knew one thing. I would get revenge, I would defeat the Demon Lord, and I would do it myself no matter what it cost.