Chapter 20:

Why Can't I Feel Fear?

The Swordmaster and the New God

      The second we stepped into the throne room, torches flared to life around us. It was rather plain, with giant pillars lining a red carpet, leading all the way to the humongous throne at the end of the room. The torches mounted on the stone walls flickered, giving the throne room uncertain light.

A single man sat lazily on the throne, the only sign of life I could see. He wore a long black robe, stretching down to his ankles. A white button shirt laid on his chest under the coat, shining brightly in the firelight.

He stroked his brown beard as he stood up, his hair revealing its full length down to his chest. “Welcome, Kazuma, Austin. You arrived faster than I would have ever dreamed.” He spoke in a deep, smooth voice, surprising me.

Austin immediately pointed his sword at the man. “How do you know our names, Demon Lord?”

“Oh, so you’ve already guessed who I am? You would be surprised by the number of people who think I can't look human. The answer to your question should be obvious, however. I know you’ve suspected since you met it.”

“Crap, it was Evelyn!” Austin spit on the ground in annoyance, regaining his composure.

Evelyn? No, no, no, no! There was no way she could have. I needed to speak, to raise an objection. “Wait, wait, no,” I said, trying my best to keep my voice calm. “There's no way! She can't have been working for you. Why would a human ever do that?”

“I wouldn't say it worked for me, more like it followed its programming. Evelyn isn’t alive per se. She’s like an AI, but with no code, a robot made with magic. The only purpose it served was to lure you two here, both of you with high fate.”

Fate? No, I had to have heard wrong! Emilia had talked about how the Demon Lord wanted people with high fate. Was she right? Had I gotten myself killed? No. This was the Demon Lord. He had to be lying, trying to throw us off our guard.

“I assure you, I'm not lying. The least I can do is tell you the truth about this world before you die. I'm glad I was able to hold out.” The Demon Lord suddenly clenched his stomach, his face contorted in pain, then went back to normal, going back to laying on his throne. “I'm not sure we have much time, though.”

“Why would you want to tell us? You want to kill us anyway. I don't think that knowledge is going to help us much when we're dead,” Austin said.

“You've got a point... Although, thinking about it, I probably tell people more for my own sake than anyone else's.”

Austin slightly lowered his sword. He looked confused, shaken as if the Demon Lord was throwing him off.

“Anyway, I'm sure you want to know why I created this place, why I lure people here, just to kill them. To be honest, I'm not quite sure myself.”

“Wait, you kill all these people, and you don't even know why?” I was furious. First, I find out Evelyn may or may not exist, then I find out this?

“Sadly, you are correct. One day, I woke up, right here in the throne room, with no memories, no idea who I was. My mind was split, literally. I had two thoughts at once—my own, and… another's. I was confused, wanting to hide, to live in peace. The other voice wanted the opposite. It wanted to kill, destroy. That voice’s only goal was to spread more evil throughout the world. It was then that I found out my purpose. All I knew about it was a number, it kept calling itself the fifty six... something”

“To kill people? Oh, how noble of you!” Austin had to restrain me from charging up to the Demon Lord's throne. I wanted to kill the Demon Lord. Thoughts of his death filled my mind. It was all I could think about.

“When I woke up, unaware of where or who I was, I was not alone. There was a being next to me, one that called itself a child. It told me it had created this world and that I was the culmination of his efforts, a being of pure good and pure evil. A clone and the original all in one. It wanted to see what I would do now, giving me free rein of this world created just for me.”

I stopped struggling the second the Demon Lord spoke about the ‘child.’ I (remembered our meeting with that entity, and I remembered the oppressive presence that enveloped my very soul. If what the Demon Lord was saying contained no lies, then we were doomed to fail. The Demon Lord couldn't have known about our meeting with the ‘child.’ It was simply too powerful for that to be the case. Unless Evelyn told the Demon Lord about it…

“You see, I need fate to survive. I consume it like you humans consume food. I always try my hardest to put off my hunger, but even I can only take so much. Whenever my hunger reaches a certain level,it always comes out. With a specimen like you, Kazuma, the evil part of me is more eager than normal to consume you.” The Demon Lord said.

“Specimens like me? Sure I have a rare class, but the classes are fake anyway, chosen by this world to help lure us here.” My anger had mostly faded, replaced by confusion.

“Your fate is higher than any other human on this planet. You should be a hero somewhere, or maybe a famous politician. You have the fate of a famous protagonist, yet you are here. To me, that’s like a big juicy steak.”

I thought back to what the ‘child’ said. Its words were extremely similar, to a weird degree.

“Have you noticed your luck stat is extremely high and did not change when you went to level two? The luck stat consists of your fate, aura, and destructiveness, or how often bad things happen to you. This world then determines how much of each you have and sends you to me if your fate is high enough.”

Austin snickered. “So we were dead from the beginning?”

“Not necessarily; Emilia got smart and ran. The borders of this world are reachable, and you can pass through them with no issue. Heck, I've had kidnapped humans escape to the outside before. The human who introduced you to this world, Lilith, was able to get away a while ago. The only reason you're dead is that you didn't run when you had the chance. I'm sorry.”

Austin aimed his sword back at the Demon Lord, his face set in stone, and I joined him soon after. There wasn't much to say. I was wrong. We had lost. All I could do now was fight, fight to survive.

“So I see we're done talking, very well.” He stood up, then immediately clenched his stomach in pure agony. This time, the pain didn't cease. “I'm sure the other me will have a few words about what I'm about to do to you, but do not be alarmed. There's a door behind my throne that will open when the other me comes out, some joke by the child, I'm sure, giving the humans who make it here a chance. Go through a few demon-infested halls, and you will be out of the castle. You won't stop being chased until the end of the demon realm, but I'm afraid that's the best chance I can give you.”

The Demon Lord collapsed on the ground, his body shaking as he seemingly fought with himself, his fists looking like they wanted to keep something inside, pushing on his chest. He then looked up at us, a sad smile on his face. “Run.”

His whole body imploded, revealing a dark void in its place. The darkness collapsed in on itself, letting out a malevolent aura. Then, it exploded. Limbs shot out, followed by a torso, then the head. It was the Demon Lord. Other than his expression, however, he looked almost exactly the same. He wore an evil smile, eyes full of anger. “What a delicacy I have before me. I can't believe I had to wait, truly a tragedy.”

“You have to catch us first.” Austin’s expression had completely changed, replaced with a confident smile. His mouth was twitching, though. It was all he could do to smile, keep a brave face. He was nervous; anyone could tell.

There was no fear present in either of us. I should be scared, running away in pure terror. It was this world, this accursed world! Not asking the Demon Lord why we couldn't feel fear was a mistake.

“Oh, you will have to wait, Austin Huber. I'm here for Kazuma, the main course.” The Demon Lord turns his blood-red eyes to me, almost paralyzing me on the spot. The sheer intensity was enough to make me flinch. “Now, let the fight begin.”

Before I could do anything, the Demon Lord started to transform. His limbs shrank, retreating into his body while grey tentacles replaced them. Slime from the tentacles dripped onto the floor, making a splash every time. Finally, his head split open, revealing a circle of sharp teeth around his now grey neck. The clothes disintegrated from the slime, leaving a grey, alien-like body. After two more tentacles shot out from his sides, the transformation was complete; the true form of the Demon Lord was upon us.

“What, that's it?” Austin’s sword started to change color, glowing green. “I thought the Demon Lord would be a bit scarier than this.”

“AGGUUUUGH” As a response, the Demon Lord charged at us. He was fast, going at least a hundred kilometers an hour. It was all I could do to dodge.

I landed on my feet, immediately charging at the beast. One of the first things I noticed was that it couldn't turn well. It took a few seconds after the charge to change directions. I was open. I could finish this right now!

My sword flew towards his neck, faster than I had ever swung before. He couldn't react in time! The sword was going to cut his neck! We were going to win! The second my sword touched the Demon Lord, it started to dissolve. I watched in disbelief as first, the blade disappeared, then the guard. I stood still, staring as the handle disintegrated in my hands.

The Demon Lord snarled at me, then wrapped its tentacles around me. I struggled, trying to maneuver my way out of the slimy appendages grappling me. Nothing worked. They were squeezing me; I couldn't breathe. I felt my bones start to stretch, then snap one by one. I was a goner. There was nowhere to go.

A green light appeared next to me, slashing at the tentacles. I felt the demon Lord’s grip loosen as one of his appendages flew off his body, letting me breathe. I turned in excitement as I saw Austin running circles around the Demon Lord. “You can win this, Austin!”

He smirked, slowly getting closer to the Demon Lord. I couldn't see any eyes, but it followed Austin as best it could, keeping track of his location. Austin momentarily stopped, then charged at the Demon Lord, sword glowing bright green.

I immediately saw what he was going for. All the tentacles were either out of range or holding me. Austin had found a true blind spot. I didn't know why, but his sword could damage the Demon Lord. He could do what I couldn't!

Suddenly, a new tentacle shot out of the Demon Lord, replacing the wound oozing without blood. It punched right into Austin’s chest, sending him flying backward into the wall. I heard bones snapping from the tentacle itself and the force of the landing.

The Demon Lord focused his attention on me, tightening his grip. My already broken bones fractured into tiny pieces, I couldn't breathe, my lungs were on fire. Yet, despite that, I wasn't afraid. Why wasn't I afraid? Why couldn't I at least be allotted the luxury of fear? I wanted to cry, sadness washing over my body.

I felt the Demon Lord start to suck something out of me. There was no breeze, yet I felt a force greater than a hurricane blowing at my soul. I could feel myself leaving my body, my soul stretching as it tried to keep itself together. The pain was immense. I couldn't think, I couldn't fear, I could only hurt as my soul had its fate drained and finally snapped in half.