Magnus: Sorry for the extended delay, but Cursed Blood takes precedence, and it requires much more work and atention to detail. Don't worry, this story will be updated, and I'll work on it until the story is properly finished.

Disclaimer: For the X time, this story is not going to follow canon.

Edit: This chapter has been Beta'ed by Vandenbz.

Chapter 9

The Cheater

The Kingdom of Belzerg was renowned for being fair, just, and somewhat tolerant to unconventional ideologies. This assessment was most obvious when taking a look at the religions based on the Goddesses, Eris and Aqua, the sovereignty given to the Clan of Crimson Demons, and of course, their questionable kindness to demi-humans.

While many countries had asked about why the Empire, which was considered the strongest nation, remained on such friendly terms with Belzerg's royal family, few actually understood why it was vital for the world to allow the kingdom to operate with such absurd freedom.

It produced Heroes.

The first Hero, and every single one of them after him, came from Belzerg. This fact resulted in several unwritten treatises that all nations held with the Royal Family, one of such, included the oath to never start a war with the Kingdom due to the production of heroes being the most important resource for the world. This oath extended to nearly prohibiting duels from happening, especially between promising adventurers.

Leading to now…


The entirety of the Guild Hall had fallen silent. Dozens of startled stares were now directed towards the two young adventurers. One was known as the Ace of Axel, a promising young Swordsmaster with a powerful Relic Weapon; the other was commonly referred to as the Raising Star of Axel, a quirky Druid wielding strange magic.

"A what now?" Izuku's question may have thrown Kyouya out of balance, but for the rest of the adventurers, it was a perfectly reasonable question to ask.

The green-haired boy was a Spellcaster, the blond guy was a Warrior. To the audience at large, the challenge was unreasonable.

"A duel." Kyouya repeated, his voice lower, but still serious, "If I win, you'll free Lady Aqua from this ridiculous debt!"

There was a moment of silence as everyone waited for the rest of the challenge to be issued, and even longer for a rejection. When no other words came from the blond Swordsmaster, Izuku felt the need to push the issue further.

"And… if I win?" Izuku's question seemed to irk the self-proclaimed hero.

"What do you mean by that?" Kyouya asked with a twitching brow, "Things will remain as they are."

The silence that resulted from such a declaration came from the room's inability to understand the gall of the young warrior.

"I refuse." Izuku replied, and then turned to continue with his meal. His companions followed suit, infuriating the blond in the process.

"What?!" Kyouya screamed in outrage, unable to believe that someone would turn an honorable duel down, "You are not supposed to refuse a duel!"

Murmurs began to erupt amongst the onlookers; however, instead of calling up Izuku's cowardice, the voices began to criticize the blond Swordsmaster.

"Actually…" Megumin began to reply instead of the young Druid, directing a smug grin toward the self-proclaimed hero, "You didn't issue a duel. Your wording is closer to an extortion. Aren't you ashamed of yourself?"

Kyouya gaped like a fish out of the water, seemingly unable to understand what part of his heroic speech could be considered an attempt at extorting the young Druid.

"You are demanding high value things through threats of violence, that's extortion." Izuku explained after taking a sip from his beverage, which thankfully had no alcohol, "Don't get me wrong. Even if you were to offer a proper duel, I would still refuse."

"What was improper about my demand for a duel?!" Kyouya asked aloud, anger evident in his voice, "Honorable warriors are not supposed to refuse duels!"

There was yet another moment of silence in the Guild Hall. None of the veteran adventurers could believe their ears. It was one thing was to try extorting the young Druid, but quite another to not understand the laws of the kingdom.

"To begin with…" Darkness broke the silence as she returned from the desk, closely followed by the companions of the blond warrior, "If you are going to demand something through a duel, you must offer something of similar or greater value. Otherwise it's extortion."

Kyouya looked like he had just swallowed something very sour. He wasn't used to being lectured, especially on his sense of justice.

"Even so…" The blond girl that followed Kyouya began to say, trying to get behind her leader, "He shouldn't refuse…"

"Anyone challenged to a duel has the right to refuse. That is the law." Darkness continued, glaring at the girls that seemed to think that the blond Swordsmaster was some kind of true Hero, "The only types of duels that cannot be refused are duels of honor, and magic duels."

The blond warrior grinned at the last bit.

"So, if I challenge him to an honor duel…" Kyouya started, just to be interrupted yet again.

"Are you a noble?" Megumin asked, her smug smile screaming that no matter the answer, she had already won.

"Ugh…" The blond Swordsmaster didn't seem to want to reply, but knew he had to, "I… have no title…"

"Only nobles can issue a challenge for an honor duel. And even if you were such, only nobles can accept such challenges." Darkness' explanation finally killed the mood, leaving Kyouya with a face of defeat, and Izuku with a grateful smile.

Darkness felt something swelling inside her chest, the feeling of being useful was making her feel so good that she could hardly describe it in words. Then someone else decided to join the conversation…

"He can still issue a magic duel." Aqua spoke, earning shocked faces from all around her, "Most people believe both individuals need to be spellcasters, but it only requires them to be able to cast at least one spell, regardless of potency."

Izuku felt betrayed.

While spellcasting classes had the wider variety of spells, most other classes had a couple of spells at their disposition. They were minor tricks, utility spells, and tiny attacks that paled in comparison to those of Clerics, Wizards and Druids. But they had them.

One quick glance at Kyouya, and Izuku knew that the duel was now unavoidable. The smug 'hero' was sliding his fingers around his adventurer card, obviously selecting a minor spell to be able to proceed.

Two hours later, outside the Guild Hall…

The crowd gathered outside the hall was restless, but not happy. Izuku and Kyouya were about to duel; one was a Druid, the other a Swordsmaster. It was unfair, and everyone was worried.

"Do you two understand the rules?" Luna asked aloud, feeling sick that she was the one forced to officiate the duel… it had been sickening enough to deal with the contract of said duel.

The blond warrior had been really upset after learning that he still had to offer something of equal or greater value to what he wanted to obtain, but he was confident on his skills, and his divine treasure. That's why he offered his precious Relic Weapon known as Gram, as he couldn't offer less for the freedom of his Lady Goddess.

As usual, the contract also included a safety clause stating that he could pay fifty million eris instead… not that he had them in his pocket.

"Yes, I do." Kyouya replied, unsheathing his sword. He was grinning, earning scowls from the audience, as his actions were borderline villainous.

The rules stated that no spells could be cast between the acceptance of the duel and the moment it officially began. Reading weapons didn't break this rule, much to Izuku's disadvantage.

"I do…" Izuku replied, grimacing at the prospect of engaging in combat with someone who should have been a friend in this strange world, "I just wish we could have resolved this peacefully."

Luna and pretty much everyone else nodded in agreement.

"You had your chance when I told you to forgive her debt." Kyouya's rebuke just earned him further face-palms and groans, for no one had forgotten how he had demanded things in an irrational way, "Now you must face the consequences of your stubbornness!"

Luna threw a distressed look at Izuku, silently begging him to surrender, and file a complaint against this sort of deplorable behavior. Izuku just sighed and waved at her to not worry about it.

Luna was understandably confused at the smug expressions of Izuku's companions.

"Remember that duels don't have to be to the death. BEGIN!" At Luna's shout, the duel started.

Kyouya quickly slid into motion. Right foot thrown forward, to counterbalance swinging his sword back. Left hand placed over the blade to activate the different effects that would grant him instant victory. And tracing his path with his mind, to prevent mishaps.

The blonde Swordsmaster traced the entire move in one second. He intended to blindside the foolish Druid, hitting his head with the flat of his sword, so the duel could end instantly and without bloodshed. It was the heroic thing to do…

Then he noticed he couldn't move his sword…

"What?!" Kyouya was caught off-guard by the sudden resistance.

Looking at his weapon, he noticed that the hilt had been thoroughly enveloped by thorny vines. These vines, however, originated from cracks in the ground below him. Then he noticed more vines coiling around his foot…

"GHAAA!" Kyouya couldn't help the high-pitched scream of surprise as he was suddenly turned upside-down, his body now suspended in the air a couple of meters from the ground. His sword Gram, his beloved divine treasure and badge of honor and authority, was now firmly tied to the ground by thorny vines.

"KYOUYA!" The blonde's followers screamed in distress, unable to believe that their leader was now in such a precarious position.

It took Kyouya a couple of attempts to stop reaching for his sword before he tried to reach for the utility knife in his boot.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you." Izuku's calm voice earned everyone's attention, "It is already difficult to stop you from falling into the Iron Thorns."

One look at the ground below him was all it took for the Swordsmaster to freeze.

Just above his head, a bed of long and sharp spikes awaited him. It was obvious that his armor would not protect him, and without the passive bonuses of Gram, he would probably not survive being impaled.

"Can you surrender?" Izuku asked with a mellow smile, and a sweet voice, "Please?"

The crowd began to snort, and then laugh at the scene. While Druids were indeed spellcasters, their spells were more in line with active skills, making them closer to martial classes than magic ones. Luna was openly laughing at having pieced together what had happened.

Izuku had never moved while the duel was being prepared, and had instead used his vine whips to prepare a trap.

"CHEATER!" Kyouya screamed, both full of fear for his life, and outrage at being defeated when he was supposed to be the heroic victor, "YOU CASTED A SPELL BEFORE THE DUEL STARTED!"

"You demanded a magical duel, what else did you expect?!" Megumin shouted in response, going as far as eye-posing, "To bring a sword to a magic duel, HOW LUDICROUS!"

To be honest, Izuku had no idea if his plan would properly work, or be allowed at all. But his guess was that since he hadn't cast anything between being challenged and the start of the duel, moving his vines would be considered a similar act to reading a battle stance.

"Mister Kyouya." Luna called from her spot, serving as referee for the duel, "When I asked if you understood the rules of a magic duel… you said yes."

The laughter was getting louder now, and both duelists were blushing. One felt humiliated, the other didn't know how to handle such a level of attention.

"I suggest you to take the offer to surrender, Mister Kyouya." Luna continued, using a more serious tone, "If you die to his spell… he will be free of criminal charges. And your party members will inherit your debt."

Izuku winced at that, nearly deciding to retract the Iron Thorns. Magical contracts were brutal when enforcing their contents and clauses.

Kyouya glared at Izuku for what felt like hours. His eyes screamed that the verdanette was a cheater, a coward, someone without honor… a villain…

In the end though, he surrendered. Deprived of Gram, and in a position where the only other option was a painful death, he decided to live to fight another day. When Izuku placed him down though…

"You little…" Kyouya snarled as he marched toward Izuku, his intentions obvious, even if he wasn't wielding a weapon against the Druid.

"DON'T YOU DARE!" Darkness shouted as she jumped between the blond warrior and her charge.

Seeing the beautiful Crusader brandish her blade at him like he was the bad guy gave Kyouya pause. Unfortunately, his followers had a different idea.

"HOW DARE YOU TARNISH KYOUYA'S IMAGE?!" The blonde girl screamed as she appeared behind Izuku, brandishing a short sword.

The Thief had used the skill Lurk, and then decided to go for a sneak attack. Izuku had been blindsided…

But Liza hadn't.


The sickening sound seized everyone's attention, just to find that the weapon had been reduced to shards.

Liza had moved so fast that no one had noticed her blur into motion, and used her unbelievable powerful jaws to shatter the sword like it was a toothpick. By the time the blonde had a chance to react to the destruction of her sword, Liza had moved again, clasping the thief's neck with her reptilian hand.

Being held high, the Thief couldn't find sufficient leverage to ease the pressure on her throat, so she started to asphyxiate. Liza didn't seem to care in the slightest, limiting herself to growl at her captive.

"Wait!" The other girl tried to intervene, but was quickly slammed into the ground face-first.

"Chika suggests you don't move." The Black Harpy was quick to say, her foot spread over the back of the girl's head with her wicked talons easily digging through the nearby stone and dirt, "Chika's talons are sharp and hard. You don't want to get cut by Chika's talons by accident."

The girl couldn't even scream as her eyes locked on the frightening scythes that were holding her down.

About an hour later, inside the Guild Hall…

Kyouya and his party were currently sitting down at a table close to the counter. The three all had downcast looks of shame on their faces.

"Assaulting a fellow adventurer right after having an unnecessary duel." Luna chastised the party of self-proclaimed heroes, making them wince at being told off about their crime, "If Izuku hadn't forgiven you, you would be stripped of your licenses, and your cards would be marked. Do you understand how severe that is?"

Of course they understood. The mark the attendant was talking about would mean that they would be made outlaws, just one step away from having bounties over their heads. For Kyouya, that meant falling from the path of heroes, into the darkness of villainy.

"Now I hope you have the payment for your loss." Luna's words brought only dread to the assembled party, who had just cashed in a quest, "Magical contracts can be cancelled if both parties agree, but the contracts signed for duels, especially magic ones, cannot. Are you aware of the penalties that may be incurred if you try to cancel, or downright refuse to pay?"

The usual penalty, among mages, was having half of their mana cut, paying with their power for their stupidity. For those who didn't have enough mana, the results could be lethal.

The party of three was really nervous now. They had a grand total of fifty million eris at their disposal, but thanks to several deals with the blacksmiths, the rent of their high-class room at an expensive inn, and their overall tendency to spend large amounts of money between quests left them with only a stark future ahead.

And Kyouya wasn't just going to hand over Gram.

The best case scenario had them looking forward to three months of sleeping in the stables and eating just twice a day…

"We can pay with services, right?" The blonde girl suddenly asked, earning a raised eyebrow from the attendant.

Inside a private room…

The ceremony of liberation had been a success, with the abhorrent seals that marked Chika and Liza as slaves now gone. No longer would they have to fear dying if they were separated from their master. No longer could a single command activate a source of indescribable pain. They were free. Even if they only wanted to remain in close proximity to their dear Izuku.

Izuku didn't know where to look…

"It-it's done… it's finally over…" Izuku muttered, more like a stutter, his eyes glancing everywhere in the room, except at his demi-human friends, "Now you can…"

Megumin was quick to interrupt, her adorable pout and rosy cheeks betraying her seriousness.

"Now it's my turn to work on the fake seals." Megumin said, quickly setting the ink and pencil down, "Let's start with Chika!"

Izuku grunted, feeling exhausted, though he wasn't actually doing anything in terms of the seal removal and Megumin's fabrication. Resisting the impulse to ogle the naked bodies of the ex-slave-girls was getting harder. Especially with said girls doing absolutely nothing to shy away, try to cover themselves, or even say they were uncomfortable.

The only other one sharing Izuku's unease was the petite Arch Wizard, who couldn't quite hide her envy at looking how well developed Liza was… hence why she started with Chika, who was just as flat-chested as her.

"That tickles." Chika said with a smile, having the fake seal drawn on her chest.

"Can I leave now?" Aqua asked, looking defeated upon having to perform such a heretical service, "I feel like drinking myself into oblivion right now."

Aqua hadn't expected Izuku to win the duel. She had intended to escape from her contract by having the other guy win with his divine sword, but the little Druid had a knack for thinking outside the box. She still hoped that the Swordsmaster had really meant to take her out of Izuku's party, because she wanted to be pampered, not worked to the bone.

"Do we still need her here, Megumin?" Izuku asked; glad to have something else to focus on, besides the naked bodies of his girls.

"No, her part is done." Megumin replied, finishing with the fake seal on Chika's flat chest, "Aqua, you can leave if you want. You may want to talk down that crazy guy before he attempts to do something equally idiotic."

Megumin's voice accurately described how bothered everyone was. Izuku really hadn't wanted to engage in that duel, and when the time to cash in came, he even wanted to void the need to pay. Finding how unavoidable the magic contract was had turned out to be quite the low blow for the young Druid, who felt like he had ruined innocent bystanders. All because Aqua seemingly wanted the duel to happen.

"I'll be going then." Aqua replied as she turned to walk away, before she stopped by the door, "You really don't mind if I leave the party?"

Aqua's voice carried all her hurt feelings. She was a goddess, a divine being, meant to be worshiped by the masses. The idea of not having any importance for the group hurt, especially since both Izuku and Megumin knew her identity.

"You are, and always have been, free to go if you feel uncomfortable in our party." Izuku replied, neutrally, leaving the choice completely in the hands of the blue-haired Arch Priestess.

"I see…" Aqua replied with a somber voice. Her body language spelled her intent; she was going to abandon the group.

"You are also welcome to return at any time." Izuku added, just before the bluenette opened the door to leave.

Aqua lingered there for a few seconds, but then departed the room. The atmosphere became lighter, and all the occupants let out a sigh. Izuku was actually sad, for he knew that Aqua was going to leave. He wasn't going to stop her, nor beg for her to return; he wasn't going to change to suit her needs, and he didn't expect the same from her. If she was happy in another party, then she had the right to choose that party over his.

"So…" Megumin's voice broke the chain of thoughts that was tormenting Izuku, "Which one do you like more?"

Izuku looked up at Megumin who waved towards the demi-girls, purposely pointing at their exposed breasts. The smug smile told Izuku that there was no way out of this dilemma, and he couldn't possibly come up with a correct answer. That they were nude, and seemingly enjoying how he looked at their bodies, only made things… harder… for him.

"It's ok, Master." Chika suddenly interrupted, giving little jumps in place as a show of happiness, "You still keep us both, so you can choose who makes you happier!"

Izuku knew that the choice had become even harder, especially when Liza nodded at Chika's words. Megumin impatiently tapping her foot wasn't helping, at all.

A little bit later…

Izuku finally managed to escape the room. He was visibly flustered, blushing like a tomato and feeling like a pervert.

"Not a word." Izuku said to his girls, who nodded without hesitation, or stopping happily smiling.

Once it became obvious he couldn't answer the impossible question, Megumin decided to push things further with a mischievous smile. Pushing Chika close to the blushing Druid, she had requested that he take a closer look, and when Chika had agree to such, she had taken his hand to grope the breasts of the Black Harpy.

As expected of a virgin with great respect for women, he had tried to bolt away, tripping over his own feet, and landing face-first… on Liza's breasts.

The albino Gator-girl limited herself to patiently caressing his hair while he regained his footing. Izuku had developed a nosebleed by then, and his brain had nearly short-circuited, when Chika decided that the instigator should join too! After all, the avian girl said, she had already slept with them. Megumin soon found out that having Izuku's hands on her flat chest felt… oddly satisfying, and incredibly embarrassing.

"Not a word." Megumin repeated, blushing almost as much as the young hero.

Chika and Liza, now fully dressed, acted like nothing weird had happened.

Walking to their usual table, Izuku didn't fail to notice that their familiar Arch Priestess-shaped headache was now absent. Izuku also didn't fail to notice that one of Kyouya's followers was occupying Aqua's place…

"Umm… hello?" Izuku greeted as he sat down at the table, closely followed by his equally confused group, "Did something happen?"

The question had been directed to Darkness, who was sitting there in stunned silence. It took several seconds for the perverted Crusader to even begin to react. There was a shudder, a sigh, and then a face-palm…

"This girl…" Darkness began, taking a weird tone, as if trying to show pity, but unable to stop feeling pleasure, "Was left behind by their party as payment!"

In less than a second, Darkness got a vine wrapped around her head, specifically covering her mouth.

"So…" Izuku began, again, this time looking at the girl, "What happened?"

Now that he could look at her more closely, Izuku could notice her pink hair, childish facial features, and of course, how revealing her outfit was. The eyes of the girl in question gleamed with unshed tears, and it was obvious that she was fighting her need to cry.

"This is your entire fault, you cheater!" The girl finally replied, "If you hadn't cheated in that duel, I wouldn't be here, and Kyouya's name wouldn't have been ridiculed!"

"First, Izuku is not a cheater. He is a Druid, and fought like a Druid; the other guy was at fault for not expecting the obvious." Megumin was quick to defend Izuku, quickly followed by energetic nods from both Chika and Liza, "Second, you still need to answer his question. Why are you here? We were expecting that ridiculous sword, or a sack of gold."

The pinkette was taken aback, and looked ready to start a verbal fight. But then her demeanor changed, giving the impression of being left without strength.

"I signed a contract to pay instead of Kyouya." The girl finally replied; while she wasn't loud, the surrounding adventurers quieted all of a sudden, "He and the others went to take quests to gather the money. While they do so, I'll work for you, paying the debt bit by bit."

Izuku had a shocked look on his face, and Megumin seemed to share the same sentiment. Just as quickly as he had gagged the masochistic Crusader, he removed the vine silencing her. Darkness looked more upset at having her new toy removed than for being silenced in the first place.

"Tell me this is a joke!" Izuku nearly begged to the only one who could dispel this horrible scenario.

"I'm afraid it is not." Darkness replied in all seriousness, "I can't believe she is this lucky!"

Izuku wisely decided to ignore the now babbling blonde Crusader.

"Okay… let's clarify a few things." Izuku started, giving a worried look to the pink haired girl, who still looked ready to start crying, "What do you mean by working for me?"

Izuku was understandably worried about all of this. First, what kind of bastard left a girl as payment for a debt of such caliber? Second, what kind of person agreed to shoulder such a burden? And third, what the hell did he do to deserve this?!

"Don't get any weird ideas, you freaking demi-lover!" The girl shouted while leaning away from him, while crossing her arms in front of her chest, as if trying to protect her virtue, "This is only a formality! Kyouya is surely about to finish his quest and walk in with the money to free me from your filthy hands!"

Izuku, unable to comprehend what was going on, turned to Megumin for help.

"That probably means that she is shouldering the clause of the magical contract. Everything she earns, will be given to you as compensation, at least until the debt is paid in full." Megumin's explanation finally answered the main problem, and then she continued, "Demi-lover is an imperial slur. It means someone who loves demi-humans like they were humans… it doesn't hold too much weight in this kingdom though."

Izuku quickly understood that it was still some sort of insult. He decided to take it as a badge of honor though.

"Alright… I'm done with today." Izuku finally recognized his exhaustion, surprising the pinkette, but earning nods of approval from the rest of his party, "Let's go to our room to get as much rest as possible. Tomorrow…"

Izuku took a moment to look at his party, and then take a look at the newcomer. The Pinkette was taking turns between glaring at him, and looking at the entrance of the guild, obviously expecting the Swordsmaster to enter with a sack full of gold to rescue her.

"You know what? We can use a free day after everything we went through." Izuku's words shocked his girls and the perverted Crusader, who had expected yet another day full of work from their leader, "Tomorrow we laze around and simply have fun together!"

Cheers followed his declaration.

Izuku decided that no one should suffer for the aftermath of the duel. A duel that had left him scarred.

No one had gotten hurt, arrested, or worse. And still, he felt dirty. Izuku had taken from someone through right of conquest, an archaic concept that went against his core values, and because of that, one girl was now left in utter despair. It didn't take a genius to understand that the girl had been abandoned.

Izuku couldn't help but wonder why that guy, Kyouya, didn't offer all his money, his gear, or even work off the debt himself. It was pretty obvious that the bastard wasn't going to come back, not when it meant losing everything to save someone who meant so little as to leave behind over money.

"It's okay… Kyouya is already on his way back…" The girl muttered to herself while looking down at the empty table, "Any minute now… he is going to come through that door… with a smile on his face…"

Her vision was beginning to cloud over with tears. She couldn't understand why. Why her, and not the other girl. Was it due to her skill at opening locks? Or… did she have better skills in romance? Maybe Kyouya really liked her more seductive antics? Her lack of decorum? Or… was the bluenette the replacement she had feared all this time?

As the pinkette began to fade into the darkness of her own mind, a plate full of fried frog appeared before her.

"Izuku bought this for you, miss." One of the waiters announced, earning the attention of the pinkette, "He also said that when Kyouya returns, you can look for him in the inn across the plaza."

The pinkette nodded in confusion, trying to rationalize this outcome as a cheap trick to gain her trust. She still ate the food though, as she hadn't had a chance to eat since returning from the previous quest.

Next day, late morning…

Izuku and company arrived at the guild hall, not to take quests, or to barter for goods. They just wanted a quick bite to eat before moving to the shopping district, pay a visit to Wiz, and finally waste time relaxing in order to gather strength for their next quest-taking spree.

They didn't expect to find the pinkette sitting at their table, much less see her with bags under her eyes.

"Are you alright?" Izuku meekly asked after a few minutes of silence.

The girl pouted, really hard, as if trying to resist. But in the end she gave in, and began to answer.

"I had to sleep in the stables. It was horrible!" The girl said, her voice sounding somewhat distressed.

"The stables?" Megumin asked, horrified at the news, "Didn't your party rent a room at the inn?"

The petite Arch Wizard knew very well that sleeping in the stables was very dangerous. Girls needed to sleep in groups, or have trustworthy male companions, as there was no shortage of perverts in Axel. Such a danger was exactly why she had opted to sleep inside a hollowed tree trunk.

"Kyouya left town yesterday, he returned his key." The haunted reply told its own story, one that revealed how little hope the girl held now about being saved, "Kyouya left me… he didn't even leave me any money to buy food…"

As tears began to flow from the eyes of the broken girl, Izuku and his girls exchanged glances, worried looks now intertwined with glances full of pity. Without exchanging a single word, the party came to an agreement.

"Why don't you order something? My treat." Izuku suddenly said while handing the menu to the girl.

"The magical contract may drain any eris you earn, but we can still give you anything you need." Darkness offered, knowing now by heart how Izuku managed the team.

"We'll have to go over a couple of rules though, like the sleeping arrangement." Megumin added, noticing the flinch of the pinkette, as well as the lack of verbal rebuttal, "But that can wait."

Izuku's chuckle forced the girl to finally look at him, at his face… his eyes. The boy looked sincere, even more than Kyouya.

"Yesterday we met under bad pretenses; let's start again." Izuku said, reaching out for a handshake, "My name is Izuku Midoriya, and I'm a Druid, nice to meet you."

The girl was taken aback. She actually expected this party to start laughing at how she was abandoned, her current helplessness, and the fact that she was at their mercy.

Instead they all seemed to be ready to help her stand once more after such a disgraceful fall.

"I'm Megumin of the Crimson Demon Clan." Megumin presented herself, not failing to make a pose.

"My name is Darkness, The Sword of Izuku!" Darkness decided to join the Chunni act… at least, Izuku hoped it was an act.

"Chika!" The black harpy revealed her name to the new girl.

"I… Liza." Izuku decided that it was the best the gator-girl was willing to say.

"I…" The pinkette started, seemingly overwhelmed by the warm welcome, "My name is Aela… nice to meet you."

As Aela took Izuku's hand, the boy decided that he was going to do everything in his power… to make Kyouya regret his choices.

Magnus: For those of you wondering, Aqua is not yet beyond redeeming.