Life is beautiful, filled with colours, wonders, and spectacles beyond imagination to be enjoyed or experienced. In this way, it was always worth protecting.
Demi-Humans young and old had long since understood the meaning of this statement, as they were more in tune with nature than ordinary humans. They knew what to cherish, and understood that sometimes, the best weapon may not be that which takes away life, but that which protects it.
Hence, the Legendary Hero of the Shield had always been held with the highest regard to Demi-Humans.
In contrast, it wasn't as if humans were unfamiliar with the beliefs and customs of the Demi-Humans, but it was just that they'd never really believed in them. To them, the strongest shield was akin to the strongest weapon. A shield didn't qualify in their eyes, for it symbolized passivity, and inability to kill the obstacles before it.
This was a key belief in the Cult of the Three Heroes which excluded the Shield Hero.
In Melromarc, the primary religion was that of the Three Heroes, making a majority of its people biased in their views.
One such person served as the Guard Captain stationed in Ryute Village. He along with many fellow guards were actually part of Ryute Village's local militia. They weren't officially part of Melromarc's armies, and were more of an emergency reserve unit.
"Undead!" The Guard Captain called out a warning, commanding in the middle of a dozen lightly armoured men while clicking his tongue.
The Wave's opening near Ryute Village practically spelled 'the end' in the Guard Captain's eyes. The number of undead and locust enemies was staggering in number, many having already infiltrated past the village's walls.
It was difficult enough to scrounge the resources and man power to combat them, but the Guard Captain had been forced to thin his defensive line thinner and thinner in an attempt to expunge the enemies already in the town. Obviously, his efforts weren't working.
"Captain, what do we do!" A nervous new recruit called out.
The Guard Captain hesitated. The smart choice was to abandon this unit and use the time to reorganize and contact soldiers from neighboring villages. Or at the very least, consolidate their remaining forces, and mount a better defence while protecting a smaller area.
The citizens could be evacuated to the town hall, and then pray that they'd be able to live through everything.
Where were the three heroes?
The Guard Captain tightened his grip around his sword while pushing back against the undead before him. A sudden stab to his throat nearly killed him right then and there, but he maneuvered away at the last second and delivered a debilitating counter attack which lopped the attacking undead's head off.
He panted for breath, and wiped the sweat off of his brow.
"Dammit," he cursed.
Shouldn't the Heroes have appeared along with the wave? Isn't that how it was supposed to happen, so where are they? The village won't be able to stand up to this.
The Guard Captain felt like a suffocating feeling of despair setting in.
"We're going to die, aren't we captain?" Another young solider called out. "The village is lost."
The Guard Captain had no words to reply other than to keep swinging his sword to the point of exhaustion.
This was when it happened. When the Guard Captain had finally expended all of his strength and could no longer muster the motivation to dodge the incoming blows, a shout called out to him in the dark.
A shield of air manifested, blocking the attack before a figure bashed his shield and staggered the undead and locust half-breeds back.
The Guard Captain was stunned, trying his best to fit the figure before him to any f the Three Heroes he knew, yet falling short when he noticed the man wielded neither a sword, spear, or bow.
The emerald gem adorned upon the center of the figure's shield shone with a radiant luster of twilight.
The Shield Hero? The Guard Captain didn't know how to feel, but he was relieved that a Hero had come and watched with rapt attention.
"Raphtalia, now!" A child Demi-human tanuki clinging onto the Shield Hero's back stabbed over the Shield's Hero's shield with a sword, decapitating the undead in front of her. Said Tanuki then shied back to hide behind the Shield Hero's back.
The Guard Captain was stunned when thereafter, another demi-human child wielding a red spear killed the undead as if they were blades of grass. The weapon in her hand seemed potently effective against the undead, as none dared approach it as if it were cursed.
"Keel, I'm coming!" The Tanuki called yelled while hopping off of the Shield Hero's back and joining into the fray.
The Guard Captain blinked. This was all just so surreal.
Meanwhile, Naofumi, the Shield Hero was growing exasperated at the inaction of the guards.
"Go! What are you all waiting for?!" Naofumi grumbled, his expression strained. There was just one of him with his shield, and too many people in the village to protect at once. "Hurry and reorganize yourselves!"
"R-Right," the Guard Captain and the small unit took off at once to consolidate their remaining forces in the village.
Keel and Raphtalia were making short work of the enemies in front of them due to their increase in levels and experience, but Naofumi was exasperated.
"Keel, Raphtalia, you both promised to stay close to me if you wanted to participate!" He chastised out of goodwill. "You can't just fight on your own out of arm's length, or out of sight, I won't be able to cover you then if an accident occurs."
Raphtalia appeared guilty, her shoulders drooping and pupils dilating, but Keel made a face while pointing ahead of her at the blur of steel and carnage further away. "But Shirou's-"
"Shirou's the DPS, of course he shouldn't stay next to me all the time. He wouldn't be used effectively then. If I'm the tank, then he's the ranger, warrior, or mage," Naofumi lectured naturally.
Keel looked to the red spear in her hand, then the sword in Raphtalia's. What were they, decorations?
Keel wrinkled her nose.
"Keel, Raphtali!" Naofumi was being serious. This was no time to quibble while in a battle zone.
"Coming!" Raphtalia came running, leaping back up to cling onto Naofumi's back, but Keel was hesitant, almost indignant until another voice with greater sway intervened.
"Keel, listen to Naofumi. He's doing it for your sake," Shirou called out while cutting apart several undead and dematerializing his swords thereafter.
The entire area around the Hero of the Shield's party had temporarily been cleared. Ever since the Wave began, the party had been driving out the undead and locusts that had managed to enter Ryute Village.
With their aid, the situation was gradually stabilizing, yet Keel appeared aggrieved at the babying.
She was a Demi-Humans; her physiology was different from ordinary humans. Right now, her mentality really did reflect her physical age, granted she could still be considered a kid as an eleven-year-old.
Keel opened and closed her mouth while looking between Shirou and Naofumi, before biting down on her lip petulantly as if she was being wronged.
She just wanted to help…
She sulked, but still made her way to Naofumi with a disheartened sniff.
"Neither of you have much combat and gaming experience. You can help more next time, alright?" Naofumi coaxed once Keel drew near.
It had no real effect, other than Keel digging her heel into the ground. Moreover, she blinked. Gaming? What did playing games have anything to do with combat? She supposed to 'tag' could improve one's escape skill, but why not just jog? Meanwhile, Raphtalia nodded in earnest, soaking in whatever Naofumi taught her.
Noticing this, Keel took another blow.
I thought you were on my side, Keel grumbled inwardly at Raphtalia's behaviour, but shook the sentiment off a second later. She'd rather see this kind of Raphtalia than a despondent one.
"Shirou, we've driven out the enemies that made into the village already." Naofumi observed carefully, eyes scanning for any more adversaries in the village but finding none.
Naofumi nodded decisively. "I'll defend from here and make sure that no more harm comes to this village." The ruined building and injured citizens were already weighing on his conscious. If he had just acted sooner with Shirou, perhaps they could have saved more people.
Seeing Shirou hesitate on the suggestion, Naofumi elaborated further.
"We've got things handled here," Naofumi nodded his head before glancing out beyond Ryute Village's shattered walls. The village attackers were dealt with, but the dimensional tear caused by the Wave was releasing a seemingly endless supply of enemies not counting the ones already sieging the village. Soon enough, the village would fall unless something was done.
Sucking in a breath, Naofumi stared indecisively at Shirou.
"Their numbers are going to be a problem, and if it's you, you have the most firepower," Naofumi reckoned. "I don't want to send you off on your own, but there's too much of a chance for undead to sneak into the village should I leave with you. Therefore, I'll protect what needs to be protected while you clear the rest in the perimeter. Once the perimeters safe, we can go after the Wave boss with Motoyasu and the rest."
Naofumi gave Shirou a deep look before sticking his thumb out. "Do your bullshit thing," he encouraged much to Shirou's chagrin.
"Its not bullshit, it's magecra- you know what? Fine. Call it what you will," Shirou gave up on trying to convince Naofumi to call his ability either Magecraft or Tracing. It just wasn't going to stick with the man.
Just as Shirou and Naofumi concluded the specifics of their plan of action, new developments arrived.
"Hero of the Shield, we've come to assist!" The same Guard Captain from before had returned with a platoon of stationed Melromarc soldiers. There was at least fifty of them, and they could be spread out to help defend as there was practically no more enemies in the village.
This changed everything.
With the guardsmen around, Naofumi would no longer be restrained to protecting Ryute Village.
"I'll back you up," Naofumi immediately decided while walking up beside Shirou. "You get buffs when I'm near you, since I play a support role. Not to boast, but I'm definitely more durable than you, so you won't have to worry."
At Naofumi's words, Shirou had no rebuttal. Naofumi had focused on a plethora of support spells gathered by extracting material from deceased monster parts or plants to unlock various new shields.
"Lets hurry, the sooner we finish this, the less people will die," Shirou said resolutely.
On this statement, Naofumi could agree.
Just as Naofumi and Shirou were moving to take action, someone else eagerly thought she would be coming along.
Keel moved to follow, an expectant expression over her features, but it wasn't to be.
Shirou's brow twitched when he saw Keel running up to him. He wasn't trying to be biased here, but death could come at any time on a battlefield, and well, uhm- Keel used a spear.
Nothing good ever comes from Lancers skirting the line between life and death.
"Keel, stay here and protect the village," Shirou cautioned.
Keel kicked at the ground indignantly as Shirou and Naofumi left her behind before quickly noticing an anomaly.
"Raphtalia?" Keel called out dumbly, only to then spot Raphtalia still latched onto Naofumi's back from earlier like a baby koala, seemingly without Naofumi protesting. She was giving Keel an apologetic look.
Why her and not me too?!
Keel made to chase, but unlike Shirou and Naofumi who plowed through the undead and locust hybrids outside the village, her constitution was mediocre in comparison. She couldn't chase after them even if she wanted to with the undead in the way. Moreover, Shirou may get cross with her as he asked her to stay and protect the town.
So, then how about Raphtalia?
What made them so different, when they endured the same level of growth through accumulated experience?
Keel stiffly looked down at her chest and recalled Raphtalia's figure with growing realization.
Was it because she was growing up flat?
Where was the justice in this world!
Contrary to Keel's thoughts, the truth was more of a mistake than anything. With Shirou saving Keel, and Naofumi buying Raphtalia at the beginning, each of them took primary care of one child respectively in most cases. This was why Raphtalia was more attached to Naofumi than she was with Shirou, and vice versa with Keel.
While Shirou remembered to caution Keel to remain in the village, Naofumi had overlooked this action and forgot to leave Raphtalia behind in the spur of the moment. It didn't help that Raphtalia noticed what was going on and had the gall to keep quiet about it while inwardly apologising to Keel.
"I can fight too!" Raphtalia insisted, swinging her sword whenever an enemy drew close like Naofumi had taught her to do. She almost lost her balance until Naofumi adjusted his position to reorient her. Raphtalia obviously didn't notice.
"See, see!" she beamed. "I can do it!"
Naofumi glanced helplessly at Shirou, and knew that he'd made a mistake that bound his own hands. "Sorry. I'll keep watch over her. There's no point turning back now," he lamented apologetically.
Shirou didn't press the matter now that it was already done, and instead cleared out a five-meter circle to give some breathing room.
Presently, there were too many undead and locusts. They weren't anything too strong, but their numbers were pressuring Ryute Village.
"Here," Naofumi placed a hand on Shirou's shoulder. "I'll channel some buffs and give you some of my magical energy. I've been min-maxing and my MP pool is quite high," he said.
Shirou nodded in gratitude, despite not knowing some of the gaming jargon Naofumi was using. By this point, he just attributed MP to a Magus's usable Od.
"Air Shield – Swift Shield- Shell Shield - Iron Shield - Ball Shield."
A flurry of shield buffs bolstered Shirou's capabilities through agility, durability, defence, and evasion, and light feet. Air shield for example provided the light feet buff, while durability belonged to Iron Shield.
Feeling the boost to his parameters, he felt as if he could take on even a Servant right now.
Naofumi scratched at his cheek, drawing Shirou's attention as it seemed like Naofumi wanted to say something.
"I don't know how it was for you in your world, but I can trust in your character," Naofumi began, gratitude written all over his face. "You were the only one to stick up for me back in the palace too, of course Myne was there, but I'm going off track. I'll get to the point. You haven't been going all out during our farming trips, have you?"
Shirou's silence at Naofumi's question was telling.
Whether it was due to energy consumption, or a lack of necessity, Shirou had never really had the need to push himself too hard.
Naofumi let out a nervous laugh as the pressure of being surrounded by a literal swarm of enemies gradually got to him. No matter how many they'd defeated so far, more would just fill their place. They needed some sort of AOE attack to wipe them all out in instant.
"I think now would be a great time to go all out? Yeah?" Naofumi encouraged a tad jittery. "No, seriously. I mean it." Durable as he was, his health still goes down with each hit and there was also Raphtalia.
"I'll do what I can," Shirou said seriously, already stepping forward while Naofumi raised up his shield and let out an aura of protection buff.
So long as Shirou was within range, Naofumi could continuously support him. There would be no need to worry about consumption.
Shirou breathed in, then out, his mind shifting inward into a focused state.
-Visualize it, and make it whole, this the was first step.
To be a magus is to walk with death, the sensation similar to crossing on tenterhooks; a tightrope with no support, bumbling and differing in the dark.
The enemies around him were nothing strong, and if numbers were all they were, then this aspect was one that he could compete with.
Judging the concept of creation.
A nostalgic thrum echoed in the air, crackling with an unseen force that spread out; a board appearing in his mind comprised of numerous pathways and twenty-seven primary circuits.
Hypothesizing the basic structure.
Energy channeled through the pathways, once, then twice, before numerous paths lit up all at once within the image in his mind.
Duplicating the composition material.
His eyes hardened, his muscles tensing from a wave of heat that exuded out with him at its core. Magic Circuits worked much like modern appliances. The more energy expended, the greater the heat produced.
Imitating the skill of its making.
His eyes stared across at the ensuing horde while at the same time taking in Naofumi's resoluteness, Raphtalia's courage, and the air of terror saturating Ryute Village's citizens.
Sympathizing with the experience of its growth.
The inner pathways of the inner board in his mind overflowed with energy such that tendrils were bursting out of the seams before it all transitioned into the cocked hammer of a gun.
Reproducing the accumulated years.
Blue light glimmered around his pupils.
Hundreds of swords formed in the air, and fired off consecutively. Each sword shot would be instantly replaced by another, stunning everyone who witnessed the feat into silence.
The pelting noise of crashing steel echoed out like a machine gun in all directions, slaughtering the undead and locusts alike with unparalleled sharpness and volume while leaving plums of debris in their wake.
Holes and cracks mottled the ground, the edges of blades erected over the entire area as a cloud of dust drifted upward.
"…" Naofumi couldn't get a word out. He'd seen Shirou do many things before and talked about things called Noble Phantasms, but the sight before him now took his breath away.
What these mundane yet sharp weapons lacked in quality compared to a Noble Phantasm, they made up for in volume.
Shirou turned his gaze, and where he stared, a hail of steel would descend.
Naofumi didn't know what others in Ryute village were thinking, but he reminded himself once more that he'd struck the gold mine even if Shirou had been the only one to join his party.
With Shirou, he paused in his attack when the enemy forces were whittled away into only remnants of their former numbers. However, he paused for a different reason.
The more enemies he defeated, the closer he ended up getting toward the dimensional crack expunging them. Subsequently, the energy and laws surrounding the crack could be better felt...and it was familiar.
It can't be?
He didn't bother with anything else. He took off, his features solemn as he moved to get closer to the dimensional tear, shooting swords out at random towards any enemy who blocked his way.
If it was just a feeling or idle observation before, now there was no denying it as he arrived as close as he could get to the dimensional tear.
Upon viewing the opening of the Wave of Calamity up close, disbelief welled up from within him while he furrowed his brows and frowned.
No, it was more like entire worlds.
What mattered was that the energy and principles exuded from the Wave of Calamity's dimensional tear were near identical to the energy fluctuations he exuded when deploying his inner reality. This led him to the conclusion that the worlds were fighting for dominance to overwrite the other.
Was this really happening? More importantly, wasn't there something that he could do with this discovery?
If the Waves of Calamity were in fact the unharmonious effect of merging two worlds, one consuming the other, then what would the interference of a third do? At the very least, could it stop this spatial distortion if he forcibly took control of the space and used the repellant forces to stop the merging process?
He knew the effect of the reality within him rewrites the nature of actuality to impose his own constraints and laws on the world without fail just like these two worlds were doing, but would it do more harm then good to experiment?
It was a wild thought, and he didn't know if it was possible.
He knit his brows in consternation, but he couldn't stay idle for long.
Undead and inter-dimensional locust hybrids were still continuously pouring out from the dimensional tear at an alarming rate.
"Shirou, what are you doing?!" Naofumi called out to him. "There's still the Wave Boss after this!"
What was he doing? Why was he hesitating?
Shirou gritted his teeth.
He was never one to hesitate when it came to helping others. It was worth a shot, and at the very least the burden would be on him.
Every world had numerous lives, and if he could repel the clash of two worlds using his own by exerting his will on them, then it was his obligation.
He raised a hand out in front of him, an inexplicable sensation saturating the air shimmering with the glimmers of fire.
A decision was made.
"I am the bone of my sword."
In this moment, time seemed to freeze; the counters on every single hourglass in the present world flickering at an alarming rate until just for a moment, they vanished.
Elsewhere, the observant eyes of a Foreign God, the 'World Eater,' shone with luminescent light.
Meanwhile, on the battlefield, everything changed immediately.
Fate was a fickle thing, and more often than not, outside the rules of expectation.
Four Legendary Heroes should have been summoned, but a mysterious Fifth never before mentioned in legend had also arrived. If the Four Heroes could change the course of this world with their presence, then what could an unaccounted fifth do?
There was meaning to everything, giving rise to new stories and myth.
Thanks for reading!
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