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Disclaimer: I don’t own Rising of the Shield Hero. It belongs to Aneko Yusagi.

 

Note: Most of my information comes from the manga the anime. Other than that, I had to use some of the wiki’s as I don’t have access to the Light Novels; let me know if I got something wrong. Spoilers ahead.

 


 

 

Naofumi’s eyes felt heavy, his head felt like it was filled with cotton. Where am I? He thought dazedly. Last thing he remembered was browsing in the library, killing time; then he found the weirdest book. The Record of the Four Holy Weapons, a strange, worn book that he found with the manga. Curiosity won him over and he decided to take a look. It was about four heroes who each wielded a Holy Weapon, the sword, spear, the bow, and the shield respectfully, and were destined to save another world from calamity. While an admittedly overused concept now a days, it still was a fun read despite the concept and a bitchy princess. However, while the first three had been described in detail, when he got to the shield hero, the pages were blank and then. Nothing.

Nothing but a pounding headache. What happened? Did I pass out and I’m in the hospital? He could vaguely remember having a dream but it felt at times like a nightmare. What it was about, he couldn’t tell you. When he tried to remember, the details continually slipped through his fingers like water, getting fainter and fainter every time.

“L’Arc…worked?”

“…sure…should be safe…comes to worst we have....”

He could hear a pair of voices having a quiet conversation in a corner. He couldn’t put a name to the voices, but they sounded familiar…somehow.

He managed to force his eyes opened and immediately shut them with a small whine of pain as he nestled deeper into the soft pillows under his head. He wondered briefly if this what a hangover felt like as the voices quieted down.

“Hey, are you alright there?” A masculine voice asked.

Naofumi opened his eyes once more to take stock of his current location. He was in a modest looking cottage or a cabin; he was lying on a bed with extremely comfortable sheets, there was a table with some clay bowls on top, four chairs, and a bookcase. To his left was an open window that showcased a scenic view of a forest and a crystal-clear lake. Naofumi stared, this is definitely NOT a hospital room. In fact, I’m not sure if I’m even in Japan right now!

In the corner, sitting at the table were two of the most oddly dressed people he’d seen outside of cosplay conventions. One was a beautiful woman with long, teal hair pulled into a braid and blue eyes. She was wearing a dark blue skirt with a red scarf around her waist, a white blouse, a silver head piece, dark sleeves and what looked to be armor covering her torso as well as various jewelry coving her body. The other was a red haired and red eyed man. He had on a black and red vest, dark pants with similar looking armor to the woman and had a tattoo on his shoulder. What was most alarming was the huge scythe the man had lightly propped over his shoulder.

Um, once again, where am I and who are these people? He thought anxiously. Have they kidnapped me? He gave them a long look. Though looking at them, they don’t look like kidnapper’s and honestly, they look more like they’re going to a convention then hostage takers…yet the scythe is bit of a red flag. However, that doesn’t explain where I am…

“Um, Kiddo?” the man asked in concern. “You with me?” He slowly approached the young man with his empty hands held out in front of him. It was as he was trying approach an easily startled animal that could attack him at the slightest provocation.

Naofumi for his part blushed, as he’d been staring at them quite rudely. “Ah! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to stare, um, yes I’m fine.” He said, with an apologetic smile on his face as he bowed his head.

The man, for some reason, froze with a dumbfounded look on his face while the woman had an equally astonished expression. Noticing the weird looks, Naofumi grew somewhat nervous. “Is something the matter?” He asked nervously.

The man blinked and put on a strained smile, “O-oh nothing is the matter. I was wondering if you were all right, you were unconscious for quite some time.”

“Really? Weird, it doesn’t feel like it.” The younger man said, reaching up to rub his head when he paused feeling an unfamiliar weight on his arm. He glanced down and his eyes widen at the (familiar?) shield attached to his arm. “W-what the heck!? Where did this shield come from!?” He yelped, trying to get the defensive item off; no matter how hard he pulled, it wouldn’t budge.

“You…you don’t recognize that shield?” The woman asked quietly, her eyes widening in surprise.

“Of course not!” Naofumi answered, ignoring the feeling he got from the shield. Sadness and anger? “But for some reason, I can’t get it off? It feels like someone superglued it to my arm.”

The two shared a long silent look, like they were having a private discussion that Naofumi wasn’t quite sure what it was about. They came to a decision and the man carefully sat at the edge of his bed. “You really don’t recognize that shield on your arm?” He asked, dead serious.

“I already told you no. Why, is it important?” Naofumi answered with a scowl, it looked more like a pout.

The man smiled for a bit before pulling back into a frown. “Perhaps. If you don’t mind me asking, what’s the last thing you remember?” He asked seriously, looking like he was trying to solve a very complex problem.

Naofumi was taken somewhat aback and hesitantly answered, “Umm, I was reading this weird book at the library. I think it was about four heroes that were meant to save another world, but when I got to the page about the Shield Hero, it was blank. Next thing I know, I’m in this bed.” After telling the man his short tale, the man thought about it for a moment and then his jaw dropped.

“So, you really don’t know…You don’t know anything.” He breathed in shock while the woman gasped, dismayed.

Naofumi looked at the two of them with a growing sense of dread, he felt like he was missing a very critical piece of information. But try as he might, he just didn’t know what. Deciding he didn’t want to linger on it any longer and wanting to get rid of the strange tension, he changed the subject. “If you don’t mind me asking, who exactly are you? I’m Naofumi Iwatani by the way.”

The man looked at him for a moment before grinning at him, “Heh, sorry about that, where’s my manners? My name is L’Arc Berg, at your service.” He said with a small bow. The woman hesitated for a moment, before she broke out in a beautiful smile. “I am Therese Alexanderite. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Same to you. Do you think you could tell me where I am. This doesn’t look like it’s in Japan.”

“Oh, this is my cottage.” L’Arc answered with a grin. “It’s just outside Shroud*, the capital of the Veil* continent.” He said in a matter of fact manner.

Naofumi, for his part gaped at him. “Um what? I’ve never heard of either of those!”

“Really? That’s strange, it’s one of the larger cities, though I suppose you could’ve come from one of the smaller towns near the border of the country of Sylvant*, but you still should’ve at least heard about it.”

“Um, that name doesn’t sound familiar either.” Naofumi said, a sense of foreboding made it home in the pit of his stomach. “Where exactly did you find me anyway?”

“Oh, not too far from here, you were unconscious on the ground with some weird clothing on.” L’Arc answered with an easy grin, missing a look from Therese.

Naofumi did a slow blink, then faceplanted in the pillow. I’ve been Isekai’d!

 


 

 

The following days were strange to Naofumi, once he got over his shock of being transported to a different world. Both L’Arc and Therese were extremely kind to him and L’Arc even let Naofumi crash in his cottage until he figured out what to do. Whatever had happened that left him stuck in this fantasy world, must’ve drained him; because when he tried to leave the bed, he all but collapsed in exhaustion. After that incident, the two natives insisted that he remained in bed while they took care of him.

Naofumi tried to tell them it wasn’t necessary, but they wouldn’t budge an inch. Still, Naofumi wasn’t one to sit idly by. While he couldn’t get out and experience this new world himself, he could question his self-proclaimed care givers to get an idea on both this world and themselves.

One such conversation was as follows:

“Hey, L’Arc, I was wondering…”

L’Arc looked up from the apple he was peeling with a smile, “What’s up, Kiddo?”

Naofumi frowned, re pouted at his elder. “I really wish you wouldn’t call me that.”

The elder laughed and ruffled his hair, much to his annoyance, “Sorry, but you look so cute when you try to look angry.”

The younger man blushed, while he knew that teasing was L’Arc’s way of showing affection, it never failed to catch him off guard when he was called cute by the elder. From what he had seen from of the two’s interactions was that this world was more open to public displays of affection. Despite knowing these facts and knowing he wasn’t in Japan anymore; he couldn’t help be surprised when they heaped affection on him, both physical and through compliments. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that he was being complimented by an admittedly attractive guy and he couldn’t help but feel embarrassed and a little flattered.

Jeez, who just outright says that to a guy he just met a few days ago, Naofumi groused mentally. “Anyways, I was wondering what happened to my clothes.” He asked, fingering the light, black shirt and green pants he was currently wearing.

“You mean the ones you were wearing when we found you?” L’Arc asked causally, leaning against his chair.

“Yeah.”

“Oh, we got rid of them.”

“What!?”

“They were filthy. And when I say that, I mean ruined. No matter what we did, we couldn’t get the stains out and they were falling apart, so we threw them away. And between you and me they weren’t that good. Their defensive rating was garbage and they had absolutely no perks.”

“Maybe so, but that doesn’t give you the right to throw my stuff away!” He scolded the red head, punching the elder in the shoulder, who laughed it off. “Argh, that’s 4,000 Yen down the drain!”

“4,000 yen? That sounds like a lot of money for that quality of material.”

Naofumi decided to let it go in favor of the new venue of information. “That reminds me, what sort of currency does this world have anyways?”

L’Arc pulled out four coins, “We use these. Cooper is the lowest, silver is the second lowest, then gold, and finally platinum the highest. Basically, it goes in increments of 100. So, 100 cooper equal silver, 100 slivers in one gold and so on. Oh, and FYI, in trade, silver is the most widely used form of currency.”

“Hmm, good to know.” Naofumi nodded, the talk of his clothing and what happened to them forgotten.

 


 

 

To be honest, Naofumi was starting to get a little stir crazy. It’s been a week since he found himself Isekai’d and he’s been stuck in this cottage since. Don’t get him wrong, he liked L’Arc and Therese, a lot, but he was feeling much better now and he wanted to explore! He’d gotten over his shock the first day and the two had the excuse of him being weak, but come on, it’s a new world and to be honest he was starting to feel like a burden.

So, on the seventh day here, he climbed out of bed and into the kitchen area he’d miss when he first woke up to whip something up. Both as a way to thank the two for taking care of him and as a way to bribe them into letting him out to explore.

He was pulling out cooking ware when he heard the door to the cottage open. Thinking it was either L’Arc or Therese, he didn’t turn around.

“Oh, you guys are here early. I was just about to make something.”

Silence.

Frowning slightly, he turned around to see neither L’Arc or Therese, but a person he didn’t know. Standing in the door way was a woman looking at him strangely. She had extremely pale skin, long, straight black hair, red eyes. She was wearing a dark purple kimono with a pair of fans in her obi, and a pair of geta. Naofumi stared back at her, one, because he didn’t know who she was; she was the first person he’d seen outside of L’Arc and Therese. And two, she was extremely pretty.

“Um hello?” Naofumi said, breaking the staring contest they’d been having.

“…Hello.” She greeted, not breaking her gaze. Her stare was starting to get to him and he started fidgeting.

“Erm, do you know L’Arc and Therese?” He knew this cottage was actually something like their hunting lodge and that L’Arc and Therese lived somewhere in the capital, so it wasn’t much problem with him squatting here for the time being. Plus, he didn’t think it was on any maps, so it was more than likely that this woman was an acquaintance of theirs.

“Yes, they’re my teammates.” More silence. “My name is Glass.”

“Oh, my name is Naofumi Iwatani, they’re letting me stay here for a while.”

“I know. They’ve told me about you. A hero from another world…”

“Excuse me?” Naofumi blinked, “I was dropped into another world, yes. But I don’t think that makes me a hero.” He told her depreciatively holding his hands up. “In fact, all I’ve done since I got here was lie around all day in bed.”

“But you are.” She said with an intense, searching stare, almost as though she was expecting something from him, like to attack her for some reason. “That shield on your arm proves it.”

“The shield?” Naofumi asked, cocking his head to the side, like a curious puppy. To be honest, Naofumi had been doing his best to ignore the shield. Thankfully, it didn’t seem to have any special properties except sticking to his arm and it was small enough not to get in his way.

“Yes. It is one of Four Cardinal Weapons.” She said, walking up to the man to tap said shield’s green gem. “Whoever is chosen by it is destined to save their World.”

‘Save their world,’ that was strangely worded. I get the feeling that there’s more to that statement other than the obvious. Naofumi thought, but said, “I think you’re getting a little ahead of yourself. I’m just an ordinary college student, not some hero. I can’t exactly slay dragons with a shield and to be honest, it doesn’t seem special beyond being very clingy. Maybe it’s a replica or something?”

She frowned somewhat, probably at being dismissed, but continues, “I know it is the one I’m talking about.”

“How?”

“Because it is a Legendary Weapon, like my Fans.” She said, holding them out. It was a bladed, black fan with a purple gemstone in one of the main sections.

“Really?” Naofumi questioned. “But I thought the four weapons were the bow, sword, spear, and shield?”

“No, those are the four Cardinal Weapons, I am one of the Seven Vassal heroes. The Cardinal Heroes are in charge of saving their World while the Seven Vassal heroes serve the Legendary Heroes and to help them save the World, no matter what or how they do it…” She trailed of ominously, then continued, “While not as powerful as the Cardinal weapons, I’m still stronger than the average adventurer and my fans share some of the same features as the main four.”

“Oh, so there’s actually eleven heroes in total?” Naofumi asked.

“Well, technically, yes. But at the moment we’re missing a few. We are currently missing two Vassal heroes and one of our Cardinal Heroes…went missing.” A look of pain crossed her face but she pressed on. “The weapons choose their wielders, no matter who or what you are, if you’re chosen, then you’re a hero. The Four Heroes are summoned from another world, while the Vassal Heroes are chosen from their own World. If one of the Heroes should fall, a new wielder is chosen. Incidentally, L’Arc is the Scythe Hero. He could fill you in more if you’re interested.”

“Really?”

“Mm.”

“So, this is the Legendary Shield…Out of curiosity, was the Hero who went missing, also the Shield Hero?” He asked with quiet dread.

To his relief, Glass shook her head, “Thankfully, no. She was the Hunting Hero, she had gone missing a few years ago, but no one has given up on her yet, not until we find out what happened, so there is still hope.” She finished with a sad smile,

That’s a weird way to say Bow Hero, Naofumi thought privately before patting her on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, I think she’s out there somewhere.” He tried comforting the Fan wielder.

“Thank you.” She said with an unconvinced smile, while it was still there, the tension in the air had lighted.

“So, I was about to make something, is there anything you’d like me to make?”

“Green Tea would be lovely.”

Naofumi shot her a grin and turned away to grab the nearby apron, completely missing her surprised look. As he was cooking, the two of them struck up a conversation. Coincidently, the Hunting Hero had also came from Japan, so the two of them started exchanging stories about their countries. While still guarded, the young woman eventually let her guard down and started smiling in earnest. All throughout the conversation, Naofumi couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d just passed a test. About what, he couldn’t be sure. He was just finishing up when L’Arc and Therese walked in. The two had started drooling the moment they walked in.

“Wow, Kiddo, something smells really good.” L’Arc said, before stopping dead to stare at Glass, who was busy sipping her tea.

“Glass.” He said after a moment. “I wasn’t expecting you here. What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to see the Shield Hero for myself. All I had to go off was what you two say, and I wanted to confirm it myself.” Naofumi looked between them nervously. The previous atmosphere was completely absent, leaving the room tense. He could tell there was a covert conversation going on, but he knew that it was about him.

“And what do you think?” L’Arc asked, with a strained smile, his hand resting on his hip.

“He makes a decent cup of tea.” She said with a smirk, taking a sip. “He has my approval.” With those four words, the tension disappeared, leaving Naofumi to wonder if it was even there to being with.

“Heh told ya! Now, I don’t know about you but I’m hungry and it’s an absolute crime to let this delicious food get cold!” L’Arc cheered, fixing himself a plate. Therese, who was quiet during the exchange profusely thanked him for the meal.

“Mmm…” L’Arc moaned. “This is the best thing I’ve ever tasted.” He said, shoveling more food into his mouth.

“Yes, this is excellent! Thank you so much Naofumi!” Therese said, her cheeks filled reminiscent of a hamster. Glass was quietly eating, easily matching L’Arc’s pace, but in a more proper manner.

Naofumi smiled, embarrassed at the compliments and shook his head. “Come on you guys, it’s not that great-.”

“No, no, no! Don’t sell yourself short. This is literally the best thing I’ve ever tasted!”

“It’s just simple Hamburger Steak, rice, and some vegetables…”

“I’m serious! This is better than what my head chef makes!” He crowed with sparkling eyes as he shoved more food into his mouth. “Naofumi, would you please come work for me?” He asked semi-seriously.

“Uh, I don’t-”

“Or better yet!” L’Arc clasped Naofumi’s hands together. “Please marry me!”

Naofumi was putting lobsters to shame as he blushed dark red and sputtered, too embarrassed to speak.             L’Arc was still talking, fantasizing “I can see it now, I’m coming home from a long, hard days’ worth of adventuring, I’m covered in blood and scratches. But when I walk in the door, my nose is assaulted by the most delicious scents imaginable. There in the kitchen is Naofumi, who had cooked me a feast that could rival the gods.” He gave the tomato boy a sly look and a wink. “And he’s wearing an apron. Just an apron. He comes over to me and-.”

“Uwah! Knock it off!” Naofumi yelled, beating the elder, who was laughing uproariously, with the closest weapon, a towel, overhead. The two women laughed at their antics. After a few minutes, Naofumi sat down to eat his meal, still extremely red in the face. “By the way L’Arc, you mentioned a head chef? I didn’t know you owned a restaurant as well as being an adventurer. That must be difficult.” Naofumi commented.

The three traded looks before bursting out in laughter, much to the younger man’s confusion. As his laughter subsided, L’Arc said, “Oh Kiddo, I keep forgetting you don’t know.”

“Know what?” Naofumi asked, getting irritated.

Therese answered him, “L’Arc is a king. King of Shroud, to be exact.”

Naofumi stared at her for a moment then his jaw dropped. “A King!?” He shouted, sounding oddly high-pitched. “You!?”

“Yep” L’Arc answered, popping the p. “It’s a small kingdom, but it’s a pretty good gig. It’s not as glamourous as owning a restaurant, but it pays the bills.”

Naofumi sat there stunned, “Wow.” He said after collecting his thoughts. “I wouldn’t have ever guessed.”

“Oh, that hurts.” L’Arc said in a mock offended manner and dramatically holding his chest. “I’ll have you know that I’m multi-talented. After all, I’m a King, an adventurer, and a Vassal Hero all rolled into one handsome package. But that is just scratching the surface, you’d find I have plenty of other talents as well.” He gave the younger a wink. “That is, if you’d marry me.”

“You were serious about that!?”

“Hell yes! I want to monopolize your cooking! And I’m willing to do whatever it takes to do it.”

Naofumi buried his burning face in his hands. “You’re incorrigible.”

“I try~”

 


 

 

Naofumi really loved this world.

L’Arc, Therese, and even Glass were extremely fun to be with. For the last few weeks, they decided to party with him so he could finally explore this world. He was caught off guard when he saw their levels when they partied up. They were in the late 70’s to low 80’s while he was only at level 1. The three told him not to worry about it, saying it would be essentially cake walk to them and that they were more than happy to watch over him. He had also been given some amazing armor that fit like a glove, though he was too keen on the name. Barbadian Armor +1? I’m supposed to be a hero, for crying out loud. He groused mentally. But they said it suited him just fine and he should wear it. Though he was still somewhat nervous when they took him on quests that required at least being level 50; he still trusted that they could protect him while they fought and power him up so he could return the favor.

While it did suck that he absolutely no attack power to speak of, especially those on a higher level, and the other three had to do the actual do the killing; he had a lot of fun power leveling and unlocking his shield. He had been given a cliff note guide on how to power up weapons by absorbing both monsters remains and/or items to unlock and power up new shields. When he started doing that, the three experienced heroes were shocked when he started unlocking a shit ton of shields from a few scraps of monsters. According to them, usually people unlock two or three weapons from absorbing specific types of material, what was unusual is unlocking whole branches of his skill trees all at once.

After some thought, Naofumi reasoned that it was probably because his weapon was of the Cardinal variety and/or because he absorbing higher grade materials right off the bat. He still didn’t understand the alarmed looks the three gave each other when his shield started unlocking like crazy. Weird.

Still, he felt like he created a solid bond with them.

Glass was a kind of distant older sister towards him. While she was polite and cordial towards him, she kind of held him at arm’s length. She is always watching him, out of the corner of her eye whether they’re fighting or traveling towards quests. He’d like to think it was her way of watching out for him, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that she was expecting something from him. The only thing he could think of is maybe she’s waiting to be reminded of the missing Cardinal Hero. He could tell from how she told her stories about the hero that she was extremely close to the missing hero. She always sounded happy to tell someone about her good friend, but at the same time melancholy as she doesn’t know what happened to her. Maybe she’s expecting a lot from me as a Vassal Hero because I’m a Cardinal Hero.

Despite her reservations about him, in battle she was a literal Glass Cannon, pun very much intended. She hit hard and fast, often killing whatever it was in her way with a single swipe of her fan. The downside is that she consumes a huge amount of SP per an attack so she mostly has to make due with simple attacks. Not to say she’s no slouch with physical attacks, but he could tell it wasn’t as effective as her special’s, even when used on lower leveled monsters. It also wrecked hell on her stamina and her attack range. Naofumi had to stick somewhat closer to her than the other two because while she’s great with long range, she needs quite a bit of room for attacks and some of the smarter monster’s know that and go for her. On the bright side, it really helped him with his blocking techniques.

Therese is what he could describe as a ‘mom’ friend. She was a fearsome mage that used her jewels to essentially fry her enemies to a crisp as well as healing their wounds. When she wasn’t fighting, she was always watching over the group and worrying over any scratches that didn’t heal as quickly as others or browbeat them if they got careless. That being said, the bluenette did have her quirks; she had a very firm fixation on jewelry. Now, he knew it wasn’t out of greed or vanity; but because of her method of attack.

He had never heard of attacking via jewelry, but what did he know, it was their world. He could understand taking care of weapons, but she outright treats them as if they’re actual people. It got even weirder when one shield granted him a crafting skill, she outrighted begged him to create her a piece of jewelry. He warned her that he wasn’t that skilled and it might be shoddy, but Therese wouldn’t hear of it. There was also that weird habit of her making him hold a ruby bracelet from time to time. Whenever he asks why, she’ll just smile and say it gets needy sometimes, like a child towards its parent.

L’Arc, well he was definitely the close ranged fighter. He had a habit of rushing head long into battle and swinging his Scythe around, like a demented grim reaper. Needless to say, out of all of them he usually left the battles more injured than anyone, much to Naofumi’s and Therese’s chagrin. Naofumi couldn’t explain it, but when he sees injuries on the older man’s body or even the girl’s, he feels both sick and helpless. He knew the level gap between them was huge, but he couldn’t help but feel the sting of failure when he sees L’Arc or either of the girls hurt. He was the Shield Hero for crying out loud, what good was he if he couldn’t protect any of his companions!? (He ignored the fact that he felt worse when it was the handsome reaper was the one injured.) Nope I’m not going to touch that.

It also was nice that L’Arc was just a fun, easy going person to be around, almost like an older brother. Honestly, you’d never think that the red head was a king by his personality, he was always so easy going and was at times so childish! Like the times he’d whine about waking up early or snatching food off either Therese’s or Glass’ plates when it’s Naofumi’s turn to cook. (Which was all the time.) There was also L’Arc’s habit of teasing Naofumi by saying he’d make a great wife someday and usually finding little excuses to touch the younger man. Nothing indecent, but always hugging him, ruffling his hair, or leaving his arm wrapped around the younger’s shoulder a bit longer than normal.

Not that he was complaining or anything! Naofumi assured himself as he was busy making stew while fending off the thieving hands of his friends trying to sneak a bite, L’Arc being the main culprit. In the privacy of his own mind, Naofumi admitted that there were times the elder was the king he claimed to be. In battle the red head had a commanding aura to him that made Naofumi want to obey him and his drive to defeat his enemies was extremely admirable.

There was also that time, earlier that morning, that Naofumi was caught by a monster and was injured in the battle. L’Arc snapped, was the only way Naofumi could describe it. Watching from the grip of the giant werewolf like creature; he watched the normally carefree and easygoing man turn dark and emotionless, he could still feel the white-hot fury rolling off the elder in waves even now. L’Arc easily took down the beast after and when he was sure Naofumi was safe, he returned to his regular self, complete with the mother-henning. Almost like flipping a switch. Even after assuring the three natives he was alright, Naofumi couldn’t forget the look on L’Arc’s face. He couldn’t help but feel assured by L’Arc’s fierce protectiveness as well as Therese’s and Glass’ quiet concern.

Naofumi can definitely say with confidence that he was enjoying himself. This world was everything that he’d imagine being Isekai’d, but better. He wasn’t powering up alone, there wasn’t a threat of death hanging over his head, and he already had three people he’d trust with his life. Don’t get him wrong, he does feel homesick at times wondering if he could ever go home and sometimes the fights with monsters was as scary as it was exhilarating. However, he wouldn’t trade this for the world.

But…

There was something off about this situation. Sometimes, when staring up at the night sky, Naofumi can’t shake the feeling that there’s something he’s missing. Something deep beneath the surface was bubbling up, but Naofumi can’t for the life of him put his finger on it. Perhaps because this world seemed so peaceful; outside the vicious monsters. It might just be him being genre savvy, but in every Isekai book or anime he watched or read, there is always a looming threat overhead. No matter the circumstances, the main character is usually drawn into the chaos and almost always ends up saving the world.

So far, he heard nothing about it, no wars, no genocides, no freak incidents, no nothing; however, in some of the towns they’d been to, he could feel an undercurrent of anxiety and fear. Granted, no one looks concerned, but he could feel the undercurrent of tension in the air. There’s also Glass’ little speech she’d given him when they first met. ‘It is one of the Four Cardinal Weapons. Whoever is chosen by it is destined to save their World.’ It’s a possibility that there is something going on, but L’Arc and the others are just shielding him because he was still so weak and they don’t want him involved until he could actually defend himself. Yet you would think that he would’ve heard something in town or on the road.

Looking at his shield in its default state, he couldn’t help but wonder why he was summoned. Because he was summoned to save the world. Glass made that very clear. But by who and why? He was just an otaku college student, not some legendary hero and from what he’d seen there is no looming disaster off the horizon.

But that doesn’t answer the question of why there are heroes right now. He knows that there are supposed to be eleven heroes at a time, but right now there are only four he knows of, including himself. He was sure that there where others running around, he just didn’t know them. Maybe the world ending crisis would only truly start when all eleven heroes were together or maybe it comes in waves and for every wave a new hero appears.

The main question however, who was it that summoned him? According to L’Arc, they had found me near the side of the road and in a ragged state. Which didn’t make any sense, shouldn’t summoning a hero be a big deal? He felt that summoning anything would require a lot of work, preparation, and ceremony, at least according to everything he’d read. So, if someone or something went through all the trouble of summoning him, why did they just abandon him off to the side. While it really hurts my ego, maybe whoever it was were disappointed that they got me and washed their hands of me. Naofumi thought negatively. Either that or the spell just drops the summoned in a random spot and its sink or swim like, kind of like in the animal kingdom.

There’re also the silent conversations or looks his traveling companion’s exchange when they think he wasn’t looking. He didn’t know why, but he sometimes catches them glancing at him out of the corner of their eyes, their eyes filled with some unknown emotion. Sometimes guilt, sometimes concern, sometimes suspicion. Those kinds of looks are frequent whenever he smiles or whenever he strikes up a conversation. It’s like they expecting me to say or do something and they’re surprised when they don’t get the expected result. Surprised, but pleased. Still…

I don’t know what, but I know that they are hiding something from me. He thought as he closed his eyes and fell asleep.

 


 

 

Red.

The sky was blood red.

Not only was it red, there were giant whirls in the sky and they were colored psychedelic blue, green, and purple, looking almost like bruises. Raining down from said whirls were dark shapes. Monsters.

Naofumi blinked and looked down, he was wearing the armor L’Arc and Therese had given. He looked down and his jaw dropped, he was standing on top of what seemed to be a giant, armored shark that was easily the size of a cruise ship. Nearby the titanic fish was a whole fleet of ships that had seen better days. Some were drunkenly leaning to the side while others were in the process of sinking, but all were smoking as though they were recently on fire. He didn’t know why but he felt…bad? Guilty? But he didn’t do anything, he was all the way over here.

Suddenly the ground beneath him fell away and he was falling.

He fell until he hit the ground hard on his knees. He was now in a fancy decorated chamber, he barely had time to blink when he was suddenly surrounded on all sides by spears. The floor before him started to rise in front of him until he was kneeling before a platform. On the platform and sitting on one of the two thrones was a richly dressed man who looked like a king, but what was most disconcerting was his face; it was scribbled out. Like a child scribbling the face out of a magazine with a black marker.

Out of nowhere four more figures appeared, two on either side if the man, all with their faces scribbled out. On one side was a boy with black hair and blue clothing holding a sword. Next to him was another boy with blonde hair and yellow clothing holding a bow. (Wait I thought the Bow Hero was a girl-) The man on the other side has also blonde but dressed in red and wielding a spear. However, the last one was a shapely female with bright red hair. Her face was scribbled out like the rest but for some reason the sight of her filled him with so much anger and hatred that it surprised him. Why do I hate her so much? He had barely time to think before the suspected king pointed at him accusingly.

“Cursed Shield Hero! You stand accuse of raping my daughter ___” He roared from the throne, his daughter’s name lost in an inarticulate garble.

What!? He tried to speak but he found his voice missing, he could only stare wide eyed as the female started shaking and leaped into Red Guy’s arms.

“It’s true! He barged into my room and forced me down and-!” She wept, but to Naofumi he could only hear a high-pitched laugh as though she was getting sadistic pleasure from ruining his life. Soon the men started to joining in on taunting the lad.

“Bastard!”

“Rapist!”

“Scum!”

Naofumi tried to deny it but for every yell, he was weighted down more and more until he was bend in half by the weight of the accusations. More and more voices joined in, each cursing his name, laughing at him, accusing him. His head started to pound as hatred and anger stared to fill him. On his arm his shield’s gem turned blood red turned a menacing black with blood red designs. Black flames blasted out, burning the scene in front of him to a crisp.

Suddenly he was standing in front of a row of cages, next to him was a short, rotund man dressed in fancy Victorian clothing. He was showing him a werewolf offering him it for 15 gold pieces. (That’s way too expensive! He’s trying to rip me off! Wait what’s going on) Like the people earlier their faces were scrawled out.

“Showing me your most expensive slave knowing I can’t afford it huh?” He found himself saying in an emotionless tone. Slave!? What the hell am I saying!? He tried to shout but found himself trapped in his own body. His legs carried him away from the weird man towards another cage, covered by a sheet. Moving it aside, he saw a little girl with long brown hair kneeling on the cold, hard floor. She had on a dirty, threadbare dress; her hands were in shackles. Strangely she seemed to have the ears and tail of a tanuki, like everyone else her face was missing, but he could feel sadness and despair emanating from her unseen eyes. Naofumi could feel his heart breaking just looking at her.

“That demi-raccoon is diseased and has a mental disorder.” The slaver was saying. “I’m having a hard time with her myself. Her previous owner loved torture; you see. I doubt she’ll last much longer.” He said blandly, like he was talking about the weather instead of a dying little girl.

“I’ll take her.” He was saying as the girl looked at him and the scene changed again.

This time he was in some sort of quarry. Next to him was the same girl as before, only it looked like she’d aged a few years and now was an adult woman. They were accompanied by what looked like an overgrown chocobo with white feathers and like the rest had no face, just like before they were scribbled out. In front of them looked to be the rotting corpse of a dragon.

They were armed with pick axes as though they were going to break the corpse apart, Naofumi could understand why. He could see a dark miasma rising out of the corpse that can’t be anything but deadly and he could smell its rancid flesh even here. Wait smell? You can’t smell in a dream. Can you?

Suddenly the corpse started shaking and it rose to its full high. If it wasn’t a decomposing corpse it would’ve looked majestic in Naofumi’s opinion. The dragon swung its head to glare it’s glowing red eyes at him. All around him the scenery turned black and grey, as though time is stopping. The woman and the bird were frozen in place, their eyes wide in both wonder and horror; neither of them moving or even blinking.

It was just Naofumi and the zombie dragon.

Said dragon looked him up and down and made a growl of annoyance.

DAMNABLE HERO, WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU!?

Naofumi grabbed his ears in pain as the dragon roared in his mind.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOUR PAIN, YOUR ANGER, YOUR HATRED!?

“What are you talking about!?” He yelled at the dragon.

HMPH, THOSE CURSED INTERLOPERS ARE BEHIND THIS! YOU WERE SO MUCH BETTER BEFORE! THEY HAVE TURNED YOU WEAK!

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

REMEMBER! REMEMBER WHAT THOSE CARDINAL HEROES AND THE KING HAS DONE TO YOU!

Suddenly, Naofumi’s mind was bombarded by visions of the hall where those people were accusing him of rape, over and over again. Soon others joined in, the Red Guy fighting him and the Red-Haired Girl cheating, the jeering, the taunts, and the looks of disgust was replaying over and over in his mind.

“S-Stop it!”

REMEMBER! The dragon bellowed.

Naofumi fell to his knees in pain, hot tears rolling down his cheeks. Grasping at his head as though to block out the dragon’s roars or to stop the images from assaulting his mind. The Black Shield stared to glow and Naofumi’s armor was replaced with an ominous pitch-black armor with clawed gauntlets and long, spiked shoulder guards. Staring wide-eyed down at his arms he saw bright red hexagons covering them, filling with so much power but with so much rage he couldn’t contain it.

With a roar, he blasted the dragon away with eerie black flames and collapse in exhaustion.

As the flames died down, he was back where he started, but was no longer on top of the shark, instead he was on one of the destroyed boats. He was back in his original armor and his shield has changed into a large ghostly white shield with three red eyes and a ghoulish grin for decoration. He saw something out of the corner of his eye and turned towards it. He froze, there was the tanuki girl, the giant bird, and a young girl with long blue hair pulled into pigtails as they prepared for battle. The girl like everyone else so far didn’t have a face, however, he could clearly L’Arc and Therese near the strange group. Unlike everyone else he’d seen; their faces were clearly visible. The two had their weapons at the ready facing against their three opponents on top of the shark.

“What’s going on!? Why are they fighting?” He whispered to himself when he saw something coming right for him. He brought his shield up to deflect the attack, when the dust cleared, his eyes widened. Standing in front of him with a hostile expression on her cold face was Glass. She was crouched over as if in pain, but she was glaring at him with both annoyance and anger.

“Glass!? What is going on!? Why are you attacking me!?” He yelled. Glass didn’t even twitch or gave any indication that she heard him. She rushed towards him, he instinctively held the shield up and yelled, “SOUL EATER SHIELD!” His eyes widened in shock as she screamed in absolute agony as the shield pulled purple energy from Glass as she nearly collapsed.

What the hell is happening!? He thought in horror as the Fan Hero climbed to her feet. “Enough of this Glass! This shield drains SP, but it seems to drain your very life force. You’ve lost!” His body spoke without his permission. “The Wave will die down if you retreat. Just end this!”

Glass just glared at him in response, “End this? No, we will continue. That is the only way to save my World from the Waves!”

What is she talking about!? What Waves?! What does she mean this is the only way to save the world!? He thought frantically as she charged towards him, he deflected and triggered his shield again, draining her life force once again. “Give up, you’re going to kill yourself at this rate!”

“Never! As long as there’s breath in my body, this won’t end and I will continue coming after you again and again! I must to save my World!” She staggered to her feet. “The only way to be rid of me is to kill me; that is how you save your world and this is how I save mine! You are fighting to protect this world right!? Well I’m fighting for mine! Everyone on my world is waiting for us to return triumphant, for them I will put everything I have into saving the world!”

She yelled, rushing towards him with renewed vigor. Naofumi was overcome by a strange feeling of reluctance and doubt and was knocked away onto his back from her frenzied attack. Just then the tanuki girl joined them she quickly rushed to his side, blocking Glass’ attack, sending the tanuki staggering backwards.

“____! Why are you here!? Get back!”

She was shouting something, but he couldn’t make it out. It was as if she was talking underwater from far away. As she was shouting, she never took her eyes off Glass who seized this opportunity to attack.

“AIR STRIKE SHIELD!” He yelled, summoning a green translucent shield to block her attack and sent her staggering. He thought for a moment, wondering if he should use the black shield.

“What’s the matter Shield Hero?” Glass taunted. “Not going to use your Black Shield? What happened to protecting this World?”

“Glass.” L’Arc’s voice rang out. A bottle came flying towards Glass, which she caught in midair. Naofumi turned to stare at L’Arc as he and Therese boarded the ship.

“L’Arc. We only have a few more minutes left.” She informed him after finishing the bottle. At that moment a timer appears over their heads, rapidly counting down.

“Yep. I guessed we really under estimated these Heroes.” He said, rubbing his neck, before side eyeing Naofumi, “Well, one of them at least. The other three could be taken out pretty easily.” Why are they targeting heroes? The black-haired man wondered, staring intently at the trio.

“Hey Glass, I was wondering if we could do Plan B, like we’ve talked about.” He said with an easy-going smile, sending both Naofumi and the unknown girl on guard. What is he planning? “I think it would be easier in the long run and it might be even easier on our conscience.”

Glass gave him a hard look.

“I think She would approve of this plan, rather than the alternative.” He said pointedly.

“…Fine. Make it quick.”

L’Arc grinned, causing Naofumi and the girl to be on their guard. Right before his eyes, L’Arc vanished. Naofumi looked around wildly when he felt an intense pain in the back of his neck. As he was falling, two strong arms wrapped around his waist and he was suddenly next to Glass and Therese, and he was being held in a bridal carry. L’Arc’s face was fixed in a smile, but all Naofumi could see was his dark eyes staring down at him, flat like a shark’s. As his eyes closed, he could hear familiar voices ring out.

“Naofumi-sama!”

“Master!”

“Sorry, Kiddo…This is for your own good…”

 


 

 

Naofumi’s eye snapped open and he sat up panting heavily. Looking around he could see he was back at the campsite, with his three companions still fast asleep. He couldn’t help but flinch at the sight of Glass and the memory of her frenzied attacks on his person. Wanting to get away, he got to his feet, grabbed his armor, and snuck away. They had set up camp near a forest, so he had passed by multiple trees until he reached a clearing with a rotting tree in the middle.

He sat down heavily and placed his chin on his clasped hands. What the hell was that dream? What did it mean? Who were those people? Why was I fighting Glass? Try as he might he couldn’t find any answers. No one except L’Arc, Therese, or Glass he recognized; but for some reason, all of those people, despite being faceless, looked familiar.

As he was thinking, his fingers reached up to play with the purple gemstone in the center of his chest plate. If Naofumi didn’t know any better, he would think it was glowing in the moon light. Just as he was about to return to camp, he straightened abruptly when he heard the nearby bushes start rustling. Shit! Why did I go so far away from camp! This was bad, even power leveling with the group, he was only level 35, which compared to the average level of 55 of the monsters, he was not in a very good position. Compounded with the fact he had no offensive skills except for very costly reflective skills, he was very much screwed.

The tension however, was released when a very harried L’Arc burst from the brushes, looking frantically around. His face broke in relief when he caught sight of Naofumi, but he quickly turned angry as he stomped over to the younger.

“Naofumi! What the hell were you thinking!?” L’Arc shouted angrily, foregoing his usual pet name as he roughly shook the younger man by the shoulders. “Do you know how worried we were when we woke up and saw that you weren’t there! Damn it, we thought you’d run off or gotten eaten! Do you know how worried I-we were!?”

Naofumi felt his face and eyes burn with shame and guilt, he didn’t mean to worry them. “I-I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be gone for so long.”

The anger left L’Arc’s face as he sighed. “Damn it kid, you looked like a kicked puppy. I’m not angry, I was just scared, we all were. Just, just don’t do it again.” He ran a hand over his face before pulling the younger into a hug.

“I won’t I promise.” Naofumi said, returning the hug.

L’Arc pulled out a round stone, it was basically their version of a cell phone, to tell the girls that he’d found Naofumi and would be returning to camp. After enduring their worried scolding and the frank relief that he was safe, Naofumi was starting to feel somewhat scummy. I didn’t mean to worry them; I didn’t even think I was gone that long.

Noticing Naofumi’s expression, L’Arc gave him a wane smile and ruffled his hair. “Hey Kiddo. We’re not mad.” He gently repeated, the pet name returning, letting Naofumi know that all was well. “We thought something must’ve happened as your blankets were empty and your armor was missing.”

“I’m sorry.” Naofumi apologized again, the sight of L’Arc’s cold eyes flashed through his mind. “I just had a nightmare, I wanted to clear my head.”

“Do you want to talk about it? I’ve always been told that its better to talk about your nightmare, because they tend to follow you even in your waking hours if you just repress them. I think it would be for the best that we don’t have a repeat of you running off, but it’s completely your choice.” The red head offered.

Naofumi debated for a moment, on one hand he didn’t want to tell the older about it because he and the others played a primary part in it and he didn’t really want to make it seem like he thought they were bad people, dream or not. There was also what the dragon was saying but he dismissed it as a fragment of his subconscious. But on the other, he trusted them more than what a stupid dream told him and maybe, just maybe he could get some answers.

So Naofumi started describing his nightmare, from start to finish, leaving nothing out, no matter how small or minor the detail. They eventually migrated towards the fallen log as it was a long story. Throughout it all, L’Arc face never changed. L’Arc just sat quietly with a poker faced just listening, not even twitching. Naofumi could feel his anxiety rising and rising the longer he talked without L’Arc even moving.

Finally, Naofumi’s voice tapered off into the silence of the night as the two men sat together as the atmosphere turned heavy from uncertainty. L’Arc sighed and ran his fingers through his hair and turned his head towards the stars. The elder finally looked him in the eye and finally said.

“Naofumi…there’s something I need to tell you. Something I should’ve told you some time ago.”

Naofumi looked, down avoiding the eyes. “Yeah…I’ve had a feeling.”

“Okay to start with, this World is on the brink of Ruin. It might not seem like it but we’re teetering on the edge of destruction.”

“I-I figured as much.” Naofumi admitted. “Glass mention something along those lines when we first met. About how the Four Cardinal Heroes are summoned and meant to save the World with the Seven Vassal’s.”

“Yes. We are being besieged by what is known as the Waves of Calamity. They are events where the sky cracks open and releases hordes upon hordes of demons and monsters, killing anything in their path. They are called Waves because they appear in intervals at set times and they can appear anywhere. While we can track when a Wave will hit, there’s no telling where it will hit. So, all people can do is to brace themselves and hope the Wave isn’t nearby or they live to see to the end. You can tell when a Wave hits because the sky turns blood red and there are literal cracks in the sky that pour out monsters.”

Just like in my dream, Naofumi quietly thought, not interrupting the red head.

“To combat these Waves, the 4 Cardinal Heroes and The Seven Vassals are supposed to destroy the ‘Boss Monster’ so to speak thus ending the current Wave and train for the next ones until they recede. Sounds simple right?”

“Yes.” Naofumi nodded.

“However, what a lot people don’t realize is that there’s more to the Waves than they’ll ever imagine. Because we’re not the only people suffering from the Waves, but other Worlds are experiencing the Wave as well. Beyond those cracks in the sky is another World fighting for their own survival. Complete with their own set of Heroes, people, and legends.”

“Really!?” Naofumi cried out wide eye. It’s like and Isekai in an Isekai! “And what? Are you suppose to join together and combat the Waves? Like one huge crossover?”

L’Arc shook his head sadly, almost guilty to break this young lad’s expectations. “No. It’s actually quite the opposite. We are supposed to go to other World’s and kill their Heroes and thereby allow that World to be consumed by the Calamity.”

The was a ringing silence that filled the air following L’Arc’s declaration. Naofumi was frozen, staring at his friend in horror.

“W-what? Y-you kill other Heroes!?” He shouted, horrified and a little sick.

“Yes.” L’Arc stated grimly, looking at the younger’s terrified eyes with the same flat look from his dreams. “Don’t get me wrong. I hate it. I hate it so much. But on the other hand, we have no choice, Glass and I. It’s either bloody our hands with the blood of Heroes or let our World be consumed. I think I don’t need to tell you which option we prefer.”

“So that’s what she meant…” Naofumi whispered to himself. “I always thought she worded it strangely, putting emphasis on ‘their; and ‘our.’” He looked at L’Arc, dead serious. “So what? That’s what we’re suppose to do!? We just go around to other Worlds and kill people!?”

“Naofumi-.”

“That’s it isn’t it!” He yelled, cutting of the man. “We are pulled from our home world’s just to fight to the death with other saps just like me!? In some sort of sick tournament slash gladiator death match!?”

“Naofumi-!”

“So, I was summoned just to be a glorified meat shield while others kill each other with their whole worlds on the line! I can’t- I can’t! Killing monster’s is one thing with you guys. But I-I can’t help you kill a real person-.”

“NAOFUMI!” L’Arc finally snapped, causing Naofumi to close his mouth with a snap of his own. “You were not summoned here to fight-.”

“Well, duh!” Naofumi snarled, momentarily taking L’Arc aback, “Newsflash! I CAN’T FIGHT! I’m less than useless in this death battle! Yes, I can out last attacks but that means shit if they all ganged up on me. I’d be a bloody smear!”

“Let me finish! You were not summoned here to fight! In fact, you weren’t summoned here at all!”

That temporarily took the wind out of Naofumi’s sail’s, but he quickly got his second wind with, “I don’t know if you noticed, but yes I was definitely summoned here.”

“No. I mean you weren’t summoned by anyone HERE. You weren’t supposed to be here at all!”

“But aren’t I Cardinal Hero? Didn’t you just say you needed me to kill other heroes!?”

“What I meant is that you’re not the Cardinal Hero here. You’re a Cardinal Hero summoned by another World, one outside of this one.”

Naofumi was struck speechless at that and just stared at the older as he said in the quiet voice, “But the book- the book said that the Cardinal Heroes was the sword, spear, bow, and shield. Wasn’t the hero who went missing the Bow hero?”

“No, she was the Hunting Hero; just like in other worlds, we all have our own personal set of Heroes, complete with their own unique weapons and legends associated with the previous holders. No two worlds have the same Cardinal Weapons; yes, one might have something as a Vassal weapon in one world but have it as a Cardinal Weapon in another or vice versa, but no set of Cardinal Weapons are the same.” He stressed. “So that means, you’re not the Cardinal Hero here, Naofumi, you can’t fight for our world.”

Everything was silent for a while as Naofumi processed the bomb shell that was just dropped. “But how did I get here? If I wasn’t summoned from here. How did I get here instead of where I’m supposed to be?”

“I can’t tell you that Kiddo.” L’Arc said truthfully, rubbing his neck.

“If-if you knew I was one of those Heroes from another World that’s standing in your way. Then why? Why didn’t you leave me where you found me? Or why didn’t you kill me? Why go though all the trouble of taking care of me or leveling me up when you’re just going to kill me in the end?” He asked, feeling tears running down his cheeks, from what he couldn’t tell. Stress? Fear? Betrayal?

“We didn’t know you were the Shield Hero…” L’Arc said, sounding far away, like he was remembering something from long ago. “When Therese and I first saw you, we thought you were just another traveler, beaten down by the world. When we saw that you had the Shield, we thought it was a mistake, maybe even a replica and we had hoped…” He trailed off before pulling the unresisting Naofumi into a hug. “Then we got to know you, the longer we got to know you, the more hesitant we were to bring you harm, until we reached a point where we couldn’t even imagine hurting you.” Naofumi said nothing, just soaking in the heat from the older man. They stayed like this for a while, just listening to the crickets chirping and L’Arc’s heartbeat.

Finally, Naofumi broke the silence, “So what now?” He felt L’Arc’s smile through his hair.

“Simple, don’t fight.”

“Okay…okay…I don’t want to fight you, Therese, or Glass. I don’t want to fight any of you.” He clenched his trembling hand in the back of the man’s shirt and braced himself. “Just…please… make it quick.”

“Hm?”

“Killing me. Don’t draw it out. Just quickly, please.” He repeated, closing his eyes. There was a moment of stunned silence then he felt a sharp pain in his head.

“Ow!” He yelped rubbing his forehead where L’Arc flicked it.

“Idiot, weren’t you listening? I’m not going to kill you.” He said with a firm voice but a soft smile. “None of us are.”

“But weren’t you just saying you need to kill the heroes of other World’s to save yours?”

“Yes, we did. But here’s the thing: we’ve already killed the Shield Hero.”

Naofumi looked at him in incomprehension. “Erm…I’m still alive. No, wait, did you just hit some sort of secret pressure point or something? Because I feel fine.”

L’Arc laughed, with a touch of bitterness. “No, I mean we killed the previous Shield Hero, about a month ago in fact.” He looked at Naofumi and said in a tone that brook no argument, “The Shield Hero was a miserable man who had a chip on his shoulder as well as the weight of the world on it. To be honest, I think he loathed the World he was summoned to and in all sincerity, I can’t blame him. From what I’ve learned, it was that the country he was summoned by had a lot of prejudice against him due to his predecessors.”

He broke off, looking over Naofumi’s shoulder as though seeing someone who was no longer there. “I’ve heard that right after he was summoned; he was accused of a heinous crime and stripped of his possessions and had to endure the scorn of his fellow heroes and the very people he was meant to save. No one but a few good people believed in him and just believed in the lies and vicious rumors spread about him. I’m pretty sure if it weren’t for the kindness of the too few people he had, he would’ve completely broken and either killed himself or become the monster they’d wanted.”

L’Arc leaned back and closed his eyes sadly, “I think by the time we met him his situation was getting better due to his heroics and his name being cleared of the false charge. Alas the damage was already done, he was suspicious of anyone who came near him, bar the few people he trusted wholeheartedly. He despised both his fellow ‘heroes’ and the World he was summoned to. Compared to us, who loved our World so deeply and had a solid bond with each other. Than to him who loathed the World and had to deal with his incompetent teammates. He didn’t stand a chance, but he did make us work for it, so he earned my respect. I can’t say the same for his fellow heroes.” He glared to the side at the thought of them, “A bunch of inept weaklings who thought they were all that, because they were ‘heroes.’ Sad to say it was myself, Therese, and the Shield Hero who were the ones to kill the Boss Monster before we fought. They were knockouted by the blowback of my Scythe and sat out for the rest of the battle while the Shield Hero and his party fought us.”

“That sounds…familiar.” Naofumi said quietly “Almost exactly like my dream. Do you think I was experiencing his memories?”

L’Arc hummed, gently carding his finger’s though the younger’s hair. “Possibly, though I only met him towards the end. I’m probably not the best choice to ask. All I know is that he’s gone and you’re here in his place.”

“That really doesn’t answer my original question though, about what do I do now and how killing me is not the answer?”

“Jeez Kiddo, if you keep talking like that and I’ll start to get concerned. Like I said before, don’t fight.” He cut off Naofumi by placing a finger over his lips, “You see, there are certain rules and etiquettes Worlds have to follow when summoning their Cardinal Heroes. You see, they must have the Four Heroes at all times from when they summon them. The Waves become more and more difficult as time progresses, so if they even lose one hero, the other three become useless. When that happens, the World would be better off killing the rest and summon a new batch and let the former party members train them. Mostly because the Cardinal Weapons are a picky lot, as you can only summon their users. And there’s that pesky rule where you can’t summon a new hero while the other three weapons are still active, baring of course the initial summoning. Say if the spear hero fell in battle you can’t just say, ‘oh well, time to summon a new spear. Let’s have the others train him, they won’t mind.’ No, as long as the heroes he was summoned with are alive, you can try all you like, but you’re going to either be stuck with the three until they die or the World is destroyed.”

Naofumi nodded, “I think I understand. It seems a little brutal though.”

“The Waves are brutal Kiddo, if it weren’t, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place. Thankfully it’s not the same for Vassal Weapons, as the weapon has an entire World to choose from. That’s why it’s so important that we keep you here, safe and sound.”

Naofumi blinked, then his eyes widen in understanding, “I see, they must’ve killed the previous Heroes after the Shield Hero…died. But for some reason, instead of me going there, I wound up here and not where I’m supposed to.”

“That’s it.” L’Arc said in a sing song manner. “With you being here, they can’t get any new heroes, they’re stuck with those three greenhorns. Maybe they might’ve been a better lot than their predecessors but without the fourth one, they’re finished. So, it’s in our best interests to keep you alive and well.” He said with a shark’s grin.

Naofumi could only swallow at how brilliant and cruel this plan was. “That seems kinda cruel…”

“It was a cruel World, Kiddo.” L’Arc said seriously. “I’m going to be blunt, that Would was not worth saving and I’m pretty sure your predecessor would’ve agreed, although don’t quote me on that. They, for no good reason, dragged one of the Heroes that was supposed to save them through Hell for no reason other than petty squabbles. When the World is in danger, you’re suppose to aid the ones who are risking life and limb to help you. Not put one through hell and spoil the rest until they’re useless all because you don’t like one more than the others. And-.” He broke off to gently take the younger by the chin and leaned closer into Naofumi’s face. “I can bet you good money they would’ve done it again to you too. And Naofumi, I like you too much to let you go through that. I don’t want you to go through what he did. I don’t want you to become that broken man who could only see liars and traitors. Just ask Therese or Glass, they’d agree with me.”

“I-I understand, L’Arc.” Naofumi said, blushing at how close their faces were. “I don’t know how I feel about the knowledge that I’m the one who is supposed to either save or destroy either of the two worlds.”

“Yeah, I suppose it’s a huge weight on your shoulders when you put it that way.” The elder laughed, scratching his cheek.

“Although, if what you said about that other World is true, then it’s not really that much of choice. It was only for a brief moment but, if what I went through in my dream was just a quarter of what he experienced…then I have to agree that World is better off destroyed.”

“Got me there, Kiddo.” He laughed as he stood up and offered his arm for the younger. “Come on, let’s go back to the girls. They must be thinking we’re either fighting a monster or rolling around on the forest floor.”

“L’Arc!” Naofumi shouted, his blush returning in full force, yet he still took the arm and stood up. They were about to leave when the bush nearby started rustling. They both dropped into fighting stances, both of there gazes fixed on the bush when a small, brown tanuki jumped out.

The three of them had a staring contest until the two men burst out laughing, startling the raccoon dog.

Finally, L’Arc stopped laughing and held out his hand to Naofumi. “Let’s go back and try to catch as much sleep as we can. I think we had enough tension and hard conversations for the week. After all, we still have to complete our current quests.”

Naofumi grinned and took the hand without hesitation. The two men smiled and left the clearing.

Leaving the tanuki alone.

 

 


 

 

Author’s note: Well hoped you enjoyed my 12,000 words of me rambling about a head cannon I had since L’Arc and Therese was introduced. Let me know how you liked it.

 

*I couldn’t find any of the names associated with Glass’ world anywhere so I made these names up.

 

Summary: In this AU, before and during the third Wave, Theresa and L’Arc convinced Glass that they should kidnap Naofumi and keep him imprisoned in their world in order to completely cripple Melromarc’s fighting capability. As they can’t summon a new Shield Hero because Naofumi isn’t dead, Melromarc is stuck with three heroes that could only withstand one or two more waves, even without the other world’s interference. And because Naofumi is still alive, Melromarc can’t summon a new set of heroes, essentially leaving Melromarc up the creek. For extra insurance, they decided to use an item/spell to essentially ‘reset’ Naofumi’s shield to lv. 1 as a precaution to prevent him from escaping, as well as a pot of ink on standby in case he attempted to escape.

However, the item worked a little too well, not only did it reset his level and skills to zero; it also erased Naofumi’s memories of Melromarc, leaving them with his pre-betrayed self. So, imagine L’Arc and Therese’s surprise when instead of being confronted by an irate, depowered Naofumi that was sure to end with him being branded. They instead got an adorable, innocent Naofumi that trusted them immediately. Not ones to look a gift horse in the mouth, they quickly endeared themselves to Naofumi all the while inwardly cursing Melromarc for breaking the young man into the one they once knew.