It was just after dawn once again as I entered the adventurer's guild. I was used to waking up this early, and with nothing better to do I had decided to work until everyone else was ready to go.
When we had returned yesterday, we found the guild working to count and store the cabbages that had flown through. After turning in the quest our group had split up for the day. I had left to help out the other staff members while the rest of our group celebrated their first successful mission.
Making my way inside I take in how empty the place looks. I could only see one obviously tired clerk in the booths and I could make out Luna cleaning a table near the back. I nod in greeting to the clerk who returns it while I walk over to her.
"Good morning." I get her attention and lean up against a nearby table. "It's awfully quiet today."
Luna jumps and turns around to face me. "Shirou! Sorry, I didn't hear you come in. Good morning!"
"I didn't mean to startle you."
"No, no." She waves her free hand in dismissal. "It's my fault. I'm still tired after harvest season. After all the excitement yesterday, I imagine everyone is. That's why almost no one is here."
She yawns and shakes her head to try and stay awake.
"Thanks for all the help with transporting the cabbages. Without your help all of us would have had to spend a couple more hours working."
I shake my head. "All I did was move some baskets back here. Most of the difficult work was done before I arrived."
Luna sighs. "You make it sound so easy. Not everyone can pick up and load those things like you can."
When I had met up with the other staff members yesterday, all I had really needed to do is take baskets full of cabbage, load them on carts, and then unload them when we brought them back to the adventurer's guild. It wasn't difficult work at all.
The most interesting part had been the cabbage itself. On request, I had been allowed to bring one back to my camp and investigate it. It turns out that it really was just a head of cabbage. When it was 'killed' its eyes faded and a perfectly normal vegetable was left behind. I could only wonder what had led to these enchanted plants in the first place. I had seen some far stranger things in my life, but this was certainly up there.
"Anyway, I'm here to work. Where do you need me?" I change the subject.
"Hold on!" She exclaims and steps closer to me. "You only get to work if you agree to accept payment this time. It's very kind of you to help without taking a reward, but I told you before that the guild can't have non-staff members working here, and for you to count for that you need to be paid. No more of this 'I'm repaying a favor' stuff, got it?" She pokes my breastplate.
I had refused payment for my shifts yesterday because I was only doing them to stay busy and out of a desire to help where I could. We had this argument then, and when Luna found out I had intended to pay for my groups meals she had waived the payment and refused to accept my eris. Still, my payment would have been more than the meals cost, so I had counted it as enough to repay the kindness she had showed me when I first arrived.
I hold up my hands in defeat. "To think I would be forced to accept payment even after refusing it. Truly I ended up in a strange place."
"You're the strange one." She mumbles to herself while looking around. "Anyway, I don't think there is anything you need to do right now. Most of the cleaning is already done and I doubt any customers will show up anytime soon. Oh, I know! You cooked lunch for your party yesterday right? They seemed to really enjoy it."
"Have you had breakfast yet?" I shake my head and she continues. "I haven't either. Could you go to the kitchens and cook something with cabbage in it for us? We need to start using it since we have so much and if you can make something good, you can start working in the kitchen full time instead of cleaning. We always need more help in there. Besides, I want to know more about you and this will give us a chance to talk." She winks.
A meal with cabbage as the focus? I'm sure I could come up with something.
"Would you like some tea to go with it?" I smirk confidently as I right myself and prepare to head off.
"That would be lovely." She beams.
It seems I would be taking over the kitchen earlier than expected.
- God's Merciful Gift Upon This Undeserving Hero-
A few hours later I finally regrouped with the rest of my group.
Chris had stopped by for breakfast a couple hours ago and then hurriedly left saying she already had a job today. After that, everyone else gradually showed up and I ended my shift after cooking us all an early lunch.
Kazuma sat opposite me in between Darkness and Aqua, while Megumin sat next to me. We all were taking the time to enjoy our lunch.
"This is basically just a salad. How in the world does it taste so good?" Kazuma mutters as he finishes his meal.
"A lot of practice." I answer having just finished my own cabbage stir-fry.
"Even the chefs back home couldn't make anything this amazing. Your cooking skill is really impressive." Darkness compliments.
Megumin suddenly turned and grabbed my arm. "You'll cook for us from now on right? I don't want to go back to the food from before you."
I guess that was kind of touching? What was with the strange expression on her face?
"Just remember that you have to actually pay this time. I won't cover all of your meals again." I remind them. "Moving on, what mission are we taking today?"
"Uhh…" Kazuma groans. "I don't know. I haven't even thought about it."
"It's still the Large Toad's mating season, right? I won't wear armor this time, so I'll definitely get their attention…" Darkness trails off as a blush covers her face.
"No!" Aqua and Megumin shout simultaneously. Their coordinated refusal was somewhat impressive.
Darkness wasn't listening though. "Although being ignored by the toad was good too."
I can only imagine she was embarrassed after yesterday's disaster. Even after chasing it, the toad had wanted nothing to do with her.
When I had first seen Darkness, I had mistaken her for Saber. Between the blond hair, the cold face, and the knightly armor I had been baffled for a few seconds before all the other details struck me. Darkness was a good bit taller than Saber was, with much longer hair and a different style and color of armor. Still, Darkness' demeanor and role as a knight remind me of her.
"Well that's out. Let's think about this logically then." Kazuma begins. "We're all still low level so we can't do anything too difficult. Unfortunately it's the high level quests that pay the most. So with that in mind, our goal should be on leveling so that we can get better quests in the future."
"That makes sense. Then let's take a quest with a bunch of weak enemies for me to blow up!" Megumin rubs her head against her staff.
"No." Kazuma shakes his head. "That would be dumb. If we were leveling you we'd want a quest with a single enemy that would die in one explosion. Besides, out of all of us you are the highest leveled."
Megumin pouts. "Then who are you trying to level?"
Kazuma rubs his chin for a second. "Well the weakest of us is Aqua. I just don't know how the hell we're supposed to get her experience points."
"Wait what! How am I the weakest?" Whines Aqua. "As goddess, I should be stronger than a NEET like you by default!"
"Well let's see. How should I put this…" Came his deadpan reply. "In the three battles we've been in you've been either bait or completely useless. You do no damage because you refuse to use a weapon other than your fists and you constantly end up in trouble. Beyond that, you are still level one aren't you? How are you not the weakest?"
Well, that wasn't an incorrect analysis.
"That's not fair!" Aqua's eyes begin to water. "Those monsters resisted my God's Blow! Besides, I'm an Arch-Priest and a goddess! I know all kinds of healing spells, so I'm way more useful than a basic Adventurer class like you."
"Hey Megumin?" Darkness whispers, but we can all still easily hear her. "Why does Aqua keep calling herself a goddess?"
"Kazuma told me she does that sometimes. Just ignore her and she'll stop."
Darkness nods and turns to Kazuma. "Kazuma, if your frustration is getting to you please take it out on me instead of this poor deluded maiden! She doesn't deserve it!"
Kazuma twitched violently and Aqua bursts into tears.
I sigh and rub the bridge of my nose. This is going nowhere fast.
"Enough." I interject. "Stay focused. We were looking for a mission that Aqua could do?"
"Well, it's difficult because Arch-Priests don't have many offensive spells." Darkness explains. "As a result, in parties like this the healer is usually the lowest leveled. If we are trying to level Aqua, our best bet would be quests with undead since her healing spells would hurt them."
Kazuma nods his head. "So things do work that way here? Then that would be our best option."
"What do you mean by undead?" I ask. There are several kinds of undead I know of, and none of them were good.
"Are you serious? Everyone should know about the undead. You know like skeletons and zombies?" Kazuma says shocked.
Skeletons and zombies? I had heard about zombies from my time watching TV back in high school, as they were popular in horror movies back then, but I was much more familiar with them in terms of the Dead Apostles. During my brief time as an Enforcer I had sometimes come across cities infested with moving corpses, and the resulting searches for their creators had led to some of the darkest points in my life. The loss of life was devastating and there was something incredibly painful about cutting down enemies that were just innocent civilians not too long ago.
Skeletons were much less common, but I had been unlucky enough to encounter them too. During the Holy Grail War, Caster was fond of reanimating bones and using them for ambushes and assaults since they were dangerous and difficult for any non-Servant to deal with.
This group wasn't ready to face either of them, much less something that can create them.
"I don't think we should take any missions with undead as a part of it. None of you are ready for it."
"Eh…?" Everyone else at the table suddenly looked confused.
Kazuma rubs the side of his head. "Shirou, the undead are like the easiest thing to kill in RPGs. I know you're still new to all this, but they really aren't a big deal."
Aqua, having recovered from earlier rejoins the conversation. "Especially with me around! No undead can stand up to my abilities!"
"No, you don't understand. These enemies are far more dangerous than some overgrown amphibians. And where did you get this absurd idea about healing them?"
"Look it's difficult to explain. It'll be a lot easier just to show you, although this is all for nothing if there isn't a quest available in the first place." Kazuma stood and Darkness moved to let him out. "Since we know what we're looking for, I'll go check the quest board." He left to begin his search.
There was an uncomfortable moment where no one spoke.
"So uh…?" Megumin breaks the silence. "Do you have a history with undead or something? You're acting almost like you are scared of them."
Scared wasn't a good word for it, more frustrated with their complete lack of self-preservation.
I sigh. Unfortunately I wasn't surprised by this information. Wasn't that why I stuck around in the first place? I had feared they would get themselves killed if I left and it seems I was correct in that assumption.
"I've fought what you call undead several times before and many of those times I've barely escaped with my life. These enemies… they just aren't something any of you are prepared for." I try to explain.
"You've fought them before? If you didn't have a priest I can see how that would be a problem." Darkness mused.
"Well don't worry, I can't stand the undead either! As abominations against the gods, I'll definitely purify all of them!" Aqua exclaims raising a fist.
Could I really trust in that? Aqua was without a doubt a goddess, and should know what we were up against better than anyone else in our group. Still, I had been around her for a couple days now and what I had seen has not inspired confidence.
With any luck there would be no such quest available and we could pretend this conversation had never come up.
"Hey, I found one. Just a short ways from town there is a graveyard where zombies have been spotted at night. The quest is to destroy them and whatever is making them." Kazuma returns holding a sheet of paper.
Root damn it! And it was close to Axel as well? Even if I didn't want to drag any of this group into danger, this quest had suddenly become a priority. I absolutely would not allow the dead to spread into the city. I would far prefer if Kazuma and the others stayed behind so I could take care of this myself. Fighting while defending them would put me at a disadvantage, regardless of how much energy I had to throw around now.
Kazuma, having read something in my expression, broke me out of my thoughts. "If you don't want to go Shirou, you don't need too. Aqua will be doing most of the work and if it looks dangerous we can just run."
So they would go without me? Damn these reckless children. It seems I wasn't left with much choice.
"I'm going, however you must promise me one thing." I glare at all of them. "If things get dangerous do not run away immediately. Instead, stay close to me until I can create an opening so that we can retreat together. I can only protect you if you don't go off on your own."
"Wait was all this…?" Megumin laughs quietly to herself. "As expected of my rival, not letting single opportunity go to waste."
I continue glaring. I would not compromise on this.
"I still think you're over estimating them, but if it makes you feel better we'll follow that plan. If things do go poorly the most important thing is that all of us escape." Kazuma agrees. "Still, the quest doesn't start until tonight. What do we do until then?"
All I can do now is hope things work out well.
"Oh I know!" Aqua exclaims. "Let's get some more food and drinks. I'm hungry!"
"We ate like twenty minutes ago…" Kazuma deadpans. "This is why we never have any money. Wait I have an idea." He reached into one of the pockets of his tracksuit and pulled out his guild card. "I'm level three now, so I have a couple skill points. How do I use them?"
That caught my attention. Use them? What did he mean?
Darkness leaned over and pointed at something on the card. "See the learnable skills section here? Oh right, you're the adventurer class so it's blank. For you, you will need someone to show you the skill you are trying to learn and it will appear here. Then you'll buy it with skill points."
"So I'll learn them just like that?" Kazuma turns to me. "You said you'd teach me archery right Shirou? We have some time, so why don't we just do that now?"
"Wait." I say taking out my own card. "What are you talking about? Are you saying these cards can teach you things?"
"You didn't know that? I know you learned magic without it, but how do you think the rest of us learned? Magic is really complicated." Megumin says surprised. "Have you really not spent any points? Besides your magic, I've seen you use Archery skills and you got a job here in the guild so you must have at least some of the household skills. You could do all that before you got a guild card?"
Up until this point I had been treating the guild card as if it was something like a Servant card. Something that kept track of stats and abilities and served as a sort of reference sheet for what a person could do. But if what they were saying is true…
"How does it work? When I got the card all the things I could do were listed on here already, but I didn't put any information into it other than some simple information like my name and age."
"I can answer that one." Aqua gets our attention. "The guild card is linked not only with you soul, but your mind as well. Us goddess' knew when we created it that people who already had skills would be annoyed if they had to relearn things they already knew. So we made it so that when the card is created everything you know how to do is listed under your skills. After that it was easy to make it go both ways. Whenever you learn new skills the information on how to use them is inserted directly into your head!"
What…! This card is absurdly dangerous!
Darkness nods. "I learned all kinds of defensive skills that way, but I don't know any offensive ones. Not that I'm in any rush to learn them… Anyway, Aqua you really should stop calling yourself a goddess. Just about everyone knows this information, and you really shouldn't try to use it to impersonate a goddess."
"But I really am a goddess! I am! I am!" Aqua whines as her eyes water.
"What do you mean you are in no rush to learn offensive skills…?" Kazuma rubs his forehead.
I wasn't listening anymore though.
I was staring at the card I held in my hand with new found wariness. If this thing was really connected to both my mind and soul what would happen if it was damaged or destroyed? What if someone else got a hold of it?
I considered destroying it with Rule Breaker for a second before dismissing the idea. While doing so should just annul the bond between the card and myself, there was a possibility that something could go wrong and I could hurt myself by being reckless. Beyond that these cards seem to be common for many purposes in this world. The guild kept track of quests through them, and it seemed they were used as resumes for employment as well.
Still, I had been far too carefree with this thing before. I need to be far more careful with my card in the future.
With that decided I turned to the other piece of information I had gained. This card could teach me skills.
Did I want to risk it? Doing things that mess with your mind is foolish, but these cards were wide spread in this world right? Surely it wasn't too dangerous.
Perhaps it would be best to look at what skills I could learn. It's possible there was nothing I cared about available to me and that would solve the issue.
I tapped the learnable skills section and a list appeared. I start reading through them looking for anything that caught my eye. There were a few types of magic listed, which was a little interesting since I had thought it impossible for me to learn other types, and quite a few skills that I had no idea what they meant. Still, nothing really-
Could I really learn that? I blink a couple times but the words don't disappear.
I could actually learn a healing spell?
I knew such magecraft existed, Rin had known several types of healing magecraft, not to mention all the times I had seen similar ones employed against me. Even the pitiful goddess across from me was said to be able to perform them. But despite my best efforts I had never been able to learn any of the spells I had seen.
The reason why was due to my element and origin of Sword. My magecraft was very narrow in scope and I couldn't really do anything else. I had swords that could passively heal their user during battle, swords that could absorb life force and redistribute it, and swords that could even grant regeneration under the right circumstances. However every single one of them was never meant to be used to heal another person other than their original wielder. Most of these effects barely worked for me, and only because I traced them.
A swords purpose is to harm after all. I had accepted that a long time ago. The only way I could save others was through fighting.
Yet I was now being offered a way to learn something I thought impossible.
How many times had I watched someone die because I could do nothing for their wounds?
My hand moved and selected it.
Something clicked in my mind.
"Shirou is something wrong? You've been quiet for a while now." Came Kazuma's voice.
I smiled sincerely, for the first time in a long time.
"No, nothing is wrong."
I could feel it.
Here in this world, I was closer to my dream than ever before.
- God's Merciful Gift Upon This Undeserving Hero-
"Is this the place?" I ask.
"It would seem so. Wait just a second, I'm going to speak with the owner." Shirou says as he enters the building.
Shirou had agreed to teach me the archery skill, but had insisted we find an archery range. After asking around we had found out that one existed on the edge of town. With nothing better to do Darkness and Megumin had followed us, while Aqua stayed behind to eat another meal.
Now we were waiting to see if Shirou could convince the owner to let us use this place for practice.
Seriously what the hell was up with that guy? Every time I think I understand him he does something new to confuse me.
I was beginning to piece together his backstory. Since he was from Japan like me he was likely in the Archery Club during his time at school. That's how he knew archery. For his cooking ability it's possible he became a chef or something after high school since he was a few years older than me. His conjuration magic had been his blessing after he died and was sent here. That would account for all the skills he knew before he met us.
Still there were so many things about him that made no sense. The image of him firing that massive bow, along with how he so easily carried Megumin back when we first met him made no sense for someone who became a chef after high school. He was just in too good shape. He also seemed to have an intense dislike of the undead. Maybe he was really religious or something before he died? That didn't sound right though. And what was with that smile back at the guild hall?
"Kazuma this is boring." Megumin complained.
"How is that my problem? Go find something else to do then."
"Such harsh words… Hey Kazuma, I find this dull too. Reprimand me as well!" Pants Darkness.
What had I done to deserve dealing with these people?
Mercifully the door opened and Shirou returned.
"We'll have the archery range to ourselves for the next hour. Come inside."
We entered the range and Shirou left again to get a practice bow for me. Along the back wall was a single bench that Megumin and Darkness quickly claimed leaving me to stand and wait. I took the time to take in my surroundings.
I had dropped out of high school, but I still remembered the look of the dojo back at my old school. Comparing the two, I would say this place was slightly larger with a more western style design. Overall it was very mundane feeling with little more than the targets and a bunch of empty space.
Despite that, I was getting excited. There was a certain air here, a quiet that was uncommon in other places. This was the place I would learn archery. This is where I would learn my first skill as an adventurer.
"Are you ready to begin?"
Shirou had returned with a wooden bow and some arrows.
I was so ready for this.
"Let's do it!" I hold out my hand to receive the bow.
He shakes his head and doesn't give me the bow.
"There are some things you need to know before I'll let you try shooting. Usually there are a number of things we would need to go through before we reach this step, but due to our limited time I will be skipping over some things. First, I will explain exactly what I will be teaching you. You may already know this, but there are several different styles of archery."
Wait seriously? Isn't archery basically just drawing and shooting an arrow? There can't be that many ways of doing it.
"I am experienced in two different styles, and combine elements of both to use a style specifically to play to my strengths. Naturally, the same style would not play to yours. Instead, I will teach you a little of both and we will continue from there based on what works well for you."
What does that even…? This was not how I thought this would be going. "Slow down, I'm getting lost. What do you mean by different styles? How would yours not work for me? Is it because nonsense with swords you do?"
Shirou shakes his head and moves over to stand facing the targets. "It may be easier to demonstrate. Watch closely, I will show you Japanese style archery first."
He held up the bow and nocked an arrow on the right side of the bow while moving into what was obviously a form of some kind. After a second he released the arrow and it sailed down the range striking the center of the target.
It was nowhere near as far as I had seen him shoot yesterday, but I was still impressed. Was I really going to be able to do that?
"Japanese archery is above all else a mental discipline. The process and the mindset behind it are critical to its success, and the ability to visualize what you want to do will be how you improve in this style. Of the two styles I know, it's also much more flexible. As you improve you will learn to make shots while running or on horseback."
That sounded really cool…!
Shirou lifted his bow once more and nocked another arrow. This time the arrow was on the left side of the bow, resting a little above his left hand, and the bow was at a slightly different angle.
This was how he held it yesterday!
Once more, the arrow struck the center of the target, and I could tell it had gone a little further in than the other arrow.
"That was Western style. It's a little faster and hits harder, but it lacks the versatility of Japanese style. Still, I favor it for its added range and better ability to pierce armor. Do you have any questions?"
Who knew archery was so complicated? I had never heard of any of this stuff before in video games. Thankfully I think I understood what he was saying. One was more powerful but less mobile, and vice versa for the other.
But damn, he knew both of those styles? That killed my theory from earlier on his past. If he was in archery club in high school he probably would have only learned Japanese style. Why was this guy's backstory so confusing? Where the hell did he learn all this?
"I have a question."
I flinch and turn around to find the voice. Megumin had her hand raised in the air as if we were in a classroom and it was clear she was the one who had spoken.
I had forgotten they were even here. I guess I had been too caught up in moment.
At Shirou's nod Megumin continues. "So the difference is basically just what side of the bow the arrow is on? Couldn't you just say that?"
Is that really all she got out of all this?
Shirou rubs the side of his head with his free hand. "No, that's not it at all. Where you paying attention? There are many differences between the two."
"Aren't you taking this a little too far?" Megumin deadpans. "It's not cool if no one understands what you are talking about."
"Eh?" Shirou looks baffled.
Did she not believe him or something? That was something I hadn't considered, was Shirou…?
No, I had definitely seen difference in the two stances. This wasn't like with his magic a couple days ago, all the explanation he gave made sense this time. There was no way he was making this up. I would trust that Shirou was right on this. Besides, he was an archer and Megumin wasn't. It's not surprising this is something she doesn't understand.
"I have a question too." Darkness speaks up. "What is a 'Japanese' and what does archery have to do with the west direction?"
Shit, I had forgotten they were here to hear that as well! I need to come up with something believable and quick. They can't know that we are basically aliens brought here by gods.
"Uh… Shirou and I are from a faraway country called Japan that's really far to the east of here! And it's called western because it's from the west of Japan!" I desperately try to convince them, shooting Shirou a look asking for help.
"If nothing else, we are from the same homeland." He agrees.
Megumin tilts her head. "So you both are from this 'Japan'? That would explain why your names are strange in the same way."
"I don't want to hear that from you." I respond flatly.
"Anyway, Kazuma we still have limited time here today. Let's get back on track." Shirou brings my focus back to what we were doing. "The second thing we need to discuss before you can start practicing is whether you want to use the guild card. Aqua said that for you to learn skills, someone would have to teach you how to use it first. The thing is I'm not sure what counts as taught for the purposes of learning skills, or even how much it would teach you if you bought it. Do you wish to learn without it, or would you like to buy the skill first?"
Learn without buying it…? To be honest, I hadn't even thought of that. "How long do you think it would take for you to teach me? If I could skip a bunch of practice, it would be better to just buy it."
"You misunderstand the question." He shakes his head. "Regardless of whether you use the guild card or not you will need to practice. What I'm asking is if you want to rely on the card or not."
Rely? I'm sure my confusion showed on my face, because after a moment Shirou began expanding on what he meant.
"How best to describe it…? When we were talking about learning skills earlier at the guild, I decided to learn one. I know how to do it now, but not why it works. It's like I was given a sheet of instructions, where if I follow the steps I should get the result that I want, even if I don't know the details of why."
So that's how it worked? I think I get it, what Shirou is worried about is what I would learn if I bought the skill. If I just got the instructions and didn't try to learn more than that, it would be difficult for me to improve. At the same time if all I got from it was the instructions, I could just learn that from him and save my skill points.
Still, since this is the first skill I'm learning I'd like to use the guild card. I liked the idea of learning abilities just like in a video game.
"I understand what you're saying. However I feel that it would probably be easier to learn more about archery if I could do it in the first place. I'll just have to remember there is more to it." I decide. I reach into my pocket and retrieve my guild card. In the section labeled 'Learnable Skills' there were two skills listed.
'Archery' and 'Hawk Eye'
Hawk Eye sounded like an archery skill, but I only had two points available. I probably needed archery first for it anyway. I would have to ask him about what it does later.
I select Archery and my skill points go down by one. I wonder what style I would learn.
Shirou was right, this is weird.
Something didn't make sense anymore!
I point a finger at the man in front of me.
"Yesterday you shot a toad from a kilometer away! My effective range is forty meters! How the hell did you do that!?"
I had been so distracted yesterday by the fact Shirou had used a sword instead of an arrow that I hadn't really considered the distance of the shot. I figured it was just the archery skill or perhaps the bow he used, but I knew better now. That shot was even more absurd than I thought!
"Are you still stuck on that? What's far more interesting is that you already know your effective range without ever holding a bow. The bow you use is an important part of how much range your shots have. I wonder, what is telling you your range?" The bastard mused.
"Don't dodge the question!"
"What are you getting upset for? I already told you, that shot wasn't anything special. My range in good conditions with that bow is about four kilometers."
Four kilometers. Was he serious?
Of course he was. He had already proven himself capable of that.
What kind of overpowered bullshit is that? How is that in anyway fair?
Once more, any understanding I had of his past was ground to dust. This ability was just as inhuman as conjuration. There is no way he was capable of this back on Earth. What the hell is this guy?
Some of the information I had gotten when I learned Archery had been about the normal range of bows.
My range was average, barely enough for this archery range and wouldn't be increasing much anytime soon. Shirou, on the other hand, could snipe someone on the other side of Axel.
My first skill as an adventurer was a joke.
Maybe I should have learned magic instead. That sounded far less headache inducing.
- God's Merciful Gift Upon This Undeserving Hero-
A few hours later we had met back up with Aqua, gathered some supplies to make dinner, and left for the graveyard. We were camped a few minutes away to wait for nightfall. Shirou had started cooking while the girls and I had taken seats on rocks and stumps a ways from him. Whenever he wasn't looking in my direction I took the chance to glare at him.
"Did something happen between Kazuma and Shirou? Kazuma is brooding a lot more than usual." Aqua asks.
Megumin was too focused on the cooking food to notice and after a minute Darkness shrugs. "He's been like that ever since earlier."
I wasn't brooding! I'm trying to spontaneously develop magic powers and light Shirou on fire with my mind.
Maybe I was brooding a little.
This situation was my fault and I knew it, not that it made it any less painful. I had hyped myself up for learning archery, I had been so excited to finally start being an adventurer who could do things. That's why it hurt so much when it turned out as just another thing I was average at.
It wasn't even like there was anything wrong with the Archery skill. Shirou had let me shoot and I was able to hit the targets. We found out I had learned the forms for western style archery from buying the skill. Shirou had even complimented me on how well I was doing. It's just compared to what I had already seen it was really under whelming.
Everything in this world kept turning out like that for me. I had average stats and no skills to speak of, and I could only have the most basic class. Everything I did ended up as mundane, from working as a construction worker in the first week to the community baths to sleeping in the damn stables.
Wasn't this supposed to be a fantasy world? At this point I wouldn't be surprised if even magic ended up dull.
"It's ready, come eat." Shirou calls for us.
How could I stay mad at him when his cooking was the most fantastical thing in this world?
Dinner was a quiet affair, since all of us were too busy eating to talk. The sun began to set and the sky started getting darker. It was a little strange to actually see it happen. Back in Japan I had never just watched a sunset, and here I was always bathing or in the guild hall at this time.
"So you all still insist on doing this?" Shirou asked and when none of us said anything against it he continued. "Very well. Then let's discuss strategy."
"Well we could just move on to any nearby hill, who cares how far away, and just let you snipe them all." I mutter.
"That would be the sane course of action, yes." He agrees.
That was meant to be a jab you idiot.
"But you can't! This is supposed to be my mission, I need to defeat them!" Aqua whines. "Besides, piercing weapons don't work on undead. Archery won't do anything."
"You'd be surprised…"
"Look, Shirou. All we are going to do is go in, see if Aqua can do anything or not and then go from there. We just need to kill a couple of zombies and a zombie maker. This doesn't need to be complicated." I explain.
With how against this he was I was beginning to think he might be jinxing us.
"I can! This will be easy for a goddess like me!" Aqua raised a fist.
He sighs and shakes his head. "You're being far too flippant. Just remember what I told you earlier, if things get dire stay close to me."
Megumin strikes a pose and smirks. "I can't just let you have all the fun. If the undead dare to appear in great numbers, just stay behind me! I, Megumin, will blow them all away with the strongest of magics!"
"Great numbers of undead…? An undead horde…!" Darkness squirms.
I pinch the bridge of my nose. "Let's just get this over with."
The sun was down now, as we began making our way to the graveyard. Thankfully the moon was bright tonight and we didn't need anything like torches to see. As we got close, Shirou halted us.
"Enemies, five targets visible, one wearing a cloak while the others appear undead. Could be more where I can't see."
He could see them that well? I suppose that shouldn't surprise me considering his absurd ability with archery.
"A cloaked enemy?" Megumin wonders aloud. "Something doesn't seem right. That doesn't sound like a zombie maker."
"The cloaked one is making a magic circle. The other four are just wandering around." He continued to describe.
"Aqua is an Arch-Priest, so we should be fine if it's just undead." Darkness takes out her sword.
"We can't let them finish that circle, it's unlikely to be good for us. Trace on." Shirou's great bow appeared in his hand.
Aqua starts running towards the grave yard. "No! This is my chance to prove I'm useful! Don't you dare take this from me!"
That idiot! What is she doing!?
The bow vanishes and Shirou sprints after her. "Aqua, don't be reckless! There could be traps or more enemies!"
The rest of us could only start running after them ourselves.
Shirou catches her quickly, but the damage had been done. We had made a bunch of noise and I could see the cloaked figure approaching us.
"Who are all of you?" Came a woman's voice from the figure. "What are you doing out here?"
"Lich!" Aqua yells at her. "How dare you appear here!"
Lich? As in the top tier boss undead, Lich? Why the hell was something like that here?
"What is the purpose of that magic circle?" Shirou asks with an intense glare. I had seen him glare before but never like this. I wasn't even the one he was looking at and I felt uncomfortable.
"I-I create it to send restless souls to the afterlife. P-Please, I don't want to fight, I just want to talk." She stammers out.
"To talk…?" He repeats to himself.
Could we trust her? Did we have a choice? I don't think we could fight a lich.
"How arrogant, that isn't the job of a Lich! Watch as a real priest like myself purifies this entire place and you at the same time!" Aqua raises her hands. "Turn Undead!"
A blinding light appeared suddenly from her spreading quickly. I could see the four zombies Shirou had seen earlier vanish entirely, along with a bunch of other blue lights that I could see coming out of the ground. The cloaked woman staggered backwards.
And then it was over. Within a second, Shirou had smacked Aqua's hands down and that ended the spell.
"Ow!" Aqua cries. "Why did you stop me?!"
Well never mind then. I guess we could.
I probably would have stopped her too, if I was close enough. The Lich had just said she didn't want to fight. I'd feel guilty if we attacked someone like that.
Shirou ignored Aqua. "You wanted to talk, so let's talk. Why are you here?"
The woman righted herself and pulled off her hood revealing a beautiful face. Her eyes darted between us, stopping for a second on me before speaking. "Thank you for sparing me, my body was almost purified. My name is Wiz, and I live in Axel. Erm… your friend is right, I am a Lich, an overlord of the undead. Because of that, I can hear these poor people wandering here. So I come here every few days to help the souls of the dead pass on."
Was this woman actually a good person? This isn't what I thought a Lich would be like at all.
"You said the magic circle was for that as well. Do you have any way to prove it?" Shirou continued pushing.
"I'm sorry, that was a powerful spell your friend just cast, I doubt there would be any spirits left for proof. All I can ask is that you believe me…"
Why did I feel like I was looking at a kicked puppy? It was hard to imagine this person doing bad things.
"There were other undead here as well. Did you create them?" Shirou's merciless barrage of questions continued.
"Not intentionally!" Wiz waves her hand in front of her. "As a Lich, souls inside of intact bodies around me automatically revive. I was going to send them to the afterlife too."
Shirou was quiet as he considered this.
Aqua became agitated with his silence. "You can't actually believe her! She's a Lich, just let me cast Turn Undead again!"
I disagreed. "She seems like a normal person. I don't think she's done anything wrong, and if she was helping the dead than we are at fault here…"
Megumin and Darkness shrugged at my sides. I imagine they were just as confused as I was. We had expected a battle not a moral dilemma.
Shirou made up his mind. "I want to see the magic circle. I have some experience with them, so I may be able to work out exactly what it does."
Wiz nods. "That's fine with me. I'll lead you to it." Our group began making our way to where the magic circle was. "About my question earlier, who are all of you? We still haven't been introduced."
I took the opportunity to introduce us. "The guy in red is Shirou, blue is Aqua, yellow Darkness, this little girl is Megumin, and I'm Kazuma."
Huh, I had never noticed how color coded we were before. We just needed some pink clothes for Megumin to complete the set.
"Why am I the little girl?" Megumin says in despair.
Wiz smiled at us. "It's nice to meet you all. Ah, here is the circle." We came into a clearing with a large, almost finished magic circle in the center.
"This is…!" Shirou exclaims. "I do recognize this. It's an exorcism circle I've seen used before by the church. By why…?" He sighs and turns to Wiz. "I'm sorry, this appears to have been a grave misunderstanding." Aqua moved to say something but a glare from him silenced her.
"It's alright, I understand I must have seemed suspicions making a magic circle in a graveyard at night. I'm just glad the church finally sent a group to take care of this graveyard."
"But still, I almost…" Shirou shakes his head. "Anyway you're mistaken. We aren't from the church, we're adventurers."
"Is that true? But, you're wearing a holy shroud and traveling with a Priest and a Crusader… They still really haven't sent anyone?"
Is that what that red thing was Shirou was wearing? I just thought it was some kind of cloak or something. Another thing to ask him later.
Darkness having sheathed her sword joined the conversation. "Why would you be waiting on the church as a Lich?"
Wiz shot a look at Aqua before explaining. "I've been looking after this graveyard for a while now. The priests in town aren't interesting in looking after it because it's for the poor… When I saw you, I had hoped the church in town had finally sent someone to take care of it."
So that's how it was. We all looked at Aqua who started squirming.
"Why are you all looking at me, this isn't my fault! I've only been here a couple weeks, and those priests probably are followers of Eris…"
"We'll take care of it from now on. Aqua is an Arch-Priest, and this isn't far from town." I decide. If we didn't this kind woman might be attacked again by mistake.
"Oh would you? Thank you so much!" She reaches into her cloak and pulls out a business card, which she hands to Shirou. "Here, if you need to find me I run an item shop in town. If you need any help please let me know."
I guess security was a bit lax if a Lich could set up a shop in the city.
"Thank you for all the work you've done for this place. I really can't apologize enough for earlier." Shirou says solemnly.
"It was the least I could do." She smiles softly. "If there isn't anything else, I'd like to head back. I have to open shop in the morning."
With that, we said our good byes and she left.
After a moment, Megumin spoke up. "So what about the quest? There wasn't a Zombie Maker to defeat."
Well it can't be helped. We'd just have to say we couldn't do it. Damn it, we really needed the money too.
"I'll speak with the other staff. Aqua should have some undead listed, and I can arrange for a scout to prove the graveyard is clear. I'll just say there wasn't a Zombie Maker here and if there are no more problems, we'll get the reward." Shirou saved our quest.
It seems a little dirty, but having a party member in the staff has paid off.
- God's Merciful Gift Upon This Undeserving Hero-
Another chapter down! I know I said a week last time, but it ended up being three… Everything just seemed to keep happening at once. At least this is basically a double chapter, since the average one is about 5000-6000 words and this is 9000. I'm sorry, but rest assured I have no intentions of dropping this fic. I'll update whenever I can.
So I'll take some time to address some reviews like I usually do. On Shirou's appearance, he doesn't look like he does in high school. The way I imagine him is in his early twenties, basically how Archer looks but with red hair still and untanned. I probably should have been clearer on that, and will likely add a better description in an earlier chapter since doing it now would be a little weird.
Shout out to Mingyu for guessing closest to the skill Shirou would learn first. When thinking about what he could learn, it occurred to me that learning Heal would be incredibly significant to him. I hope I made the moment touching enough, that was probably what I spent the most amount of time working on.
On the straight man trope that a few people mention, Kazuma and Shirou serve that role in different ways. Shirou is far more accepting of extreme feats and magical abilities, but takes combat far more seriously, while Kazuma is the opposite.
Let's take some time to talk about design. I received a lengthy review on criticism for this fic and I really appreciate that. I'm a novice writer, and stuff like this really helps me put things in perspective and consider things I might otherwise miss. The first part talked about the clash between Shirou and the characters, and how it doesn't work for the tone I've gone with. Unfortunately there isn't really much I can do on that. If you think a cynical Shirou isn't funny, and I've failed to convince you with my story telling then all I can do is apologize. I think it's funny and fits well and that's why I went with it. Perhaps there was some better word choice I could use or some extra jokes I could make to make it work, but I don't know how and that's my fault as a novice writer.
The second major point is POV, and how it's strange to change it mid chapter in first person. I understand this criticism well, so let me try to explain why I do it that way. Both Fate/Stay Night and Konosuba are written in first person, so naturally I thought it would make more sense to do the same instead of third person. From there, since Shirou and Kazuma are both protagonists, I felt it was important to be able to follow both of them for plot and character development reasons. At the same time that also means they are likely to be the only two perspectives the reader sees, with maybe an occasional extra one if the situation demands it. The problem then comes when a scene happens where the other doesn't know what is happening. For example, in this chapter Kazuma doesn't know Shirou talked with Luna in the morning or that learning Heal was important to Shirou or even that he learned Heal. Shirou doesn't understand why Kazuma became depressed during training and so on. This means I need to switch perspectives for the readers to get the full story.
There are a couple solutions. Releasing shorter chapters that only go until there is a perspective shift is an option, but I dislike it because I feel it could lead to unfinished feeling chapters. I could hold it to release the entire chapter at once, but releasing several chapters at once seems wrong somehow and it would barely be different from this. I could also just focus on one person per chapter, but as with the example that means missing character development and things that character isn't there for. That's why I've done it this way. I'd love to hear what you guys think about this problem.
**Edit2: I've removed the extra paragraph on skills and the point costs. I realized that it really doesn't matter and just serves to make people upset I changed it.
**Edit: A review pointed out something else I forgot to talk about here, the archery. I'm not an archer, nor have I ever used a bow. The information I presented was my best try at summarizing what the styles are good at. I browsed forums, watched youtube videos, and looked on wikis, but I fully acknowledge I could be wildly wrong. I had to have some kind of explination though for archery since Shirou was teaching it, and while there are only a couple paragraphs on it I realize some people know way more than me about archery and would find it off. I tried my best, but this stuff is complicated and not nearly as easy to research as I would wish. If someone really knows about this stuff and wants to share to correct what I got wrong, I'm willing to go back and change it, but know that we'll never really get a deeper discussion on archery than this in this fic.
Lastly does anyone play Fate/Grand Order? I know that's kinda not related, but with the Extra CCC event just around the corner I'm looking to fill out my friends list since I have like 45 open slots. Doesn't matter if you're new or a vet. I'll post on my profile more about that if you are interested.
Thank you for tolerating my story!