The distant clanging of a red spear sailing through the air echoed and reverberated before being caught in a firm grip and flourished to rest its butt-end over the ground.
Silence was all that ensued beyond a cloud of dust, dirt, and debris showering glass and fragmented rocks down over head from the heat and power of a fiery blast. Lingering winds and magical energy gave way to a type of tension eating away at all logic and commonality.
Shivers travelled down people's backs.
Small flames and embers flittered towards the horizon, the soft orange glow giving way to the crackling noise of burning wood and fire; parts of tall grass and dried reeds igniting in the dreary stillness.
None of this seemed normal, or on the scale of what others were generally used to including the soldiers of Melromarc and the Four Summoned Heroes. Itsuki, Ren, and Motoyasu had no recollection of such a weapon or mechanic in each respective game they assumed the world to be, and gulped lightly.
Only Naofumi had an inkling of an idea of what Shirou had just used.
Shirou called it a Noble Phantasm, the weapons of a Hero of humanity crystalized in legend. Until now, he'd never really thought much of them, and that Shirou had only been over inflating their capabilities, but looking at things now, he probably wasn't joking when he said they could level mountains or cleave a continent asunder.
'W-What did he say the classifications were again?'
Naofumi felt his throat dry as he tried to recall some of the information he hadn't taken too seriously in the beginning, and cautiously wiped away a nervous sweat, his hands clammy.
'Oh God, he was serious about those too…'
Naofumi could hardly imagine it, let alone comprehend the gravity of power one would need to possess such a thing, but he was starting to believe in their existence and implications nonetheless.
Of course, this wasn't the first time Naofumi had arguably seen Shirou do something beyond explanation, but Shirou had always laughed it off when Naofumi had asked him to use something stronger when they went EXP farming. Shirou had argued that stronger weapons weren't required for the sake of efficiency as Monsters weren't going to just group up to be smited in droves. Most of the stronger ones were more-often-than-not solitary in their rule.
Farming between Shirou and Naofumi was simply Shirou Tracing an arrow of adequate strength and firing with unerring accuracy at a monster's weak points to save magic energy. For Shirou who had lived as a magus with small reserves of magic energy, he was fairly frugal in its use despite Naofumi knowing the Magic stat was all Shirou ever leveled other than Constitution and Agility.
This was beside the point though.
At the center of the spear's impact, a crater was formed several meters deep and hundreds wide. Fissures and winding cracks spread from all around, large boulders and rocks tumbling into the depression.
The husk of the chimera was all that could be seen at the center, scorched, blackened, and mottled with holes pierced all the way through, the corpse began to fade into ash as it collapsed.
Just like that, the Raid Boss Ren, Motoyasu, and Itsuki had been trying to solo on their own was defeated with the unleashing of the red spear's power.
"No, a Seven Star Weapon?!"
"Wait, weren't there rumours that a fifth hero was summoned?"
The chatter of the soldiers and citizens of Ryute village filtered into Naofumi's ears, but the context and significance were largely lost to him. All that he could see was a type of fervor and alarm gradually making its way through all those spectating, and largely ignored by Shirou who stood at the center of it all.
Off to the side, Ren, Itsuki, and Motoyasu were only now truly beginning to understand what sort of opportunity they had missed on the day they first assembled their Hero parties.
Naofumi could see it on their faces, the sheer dumbfoundment and disbelief.
Honestly, Naofumi couldn't blame them as his attention shifted back to Shirou.
This guy…Naofumi would call hacks, but the hacker was on his side, so he honestly didn't know how to feel.
Taking in a deep breath, Shirou nodded after verifying the Raid Boss's demise. Thereafter, he frowned while recalling the present state of his Reality Marble. It was honestly quite pressing, and his concern would have been palpable to Keel who was near him if he currently didn't look so damn cool in her eyes right now.
She was down on her butt, having been blown back from the fierce gales and shockwave of Gae Bolg's activation. Her legs were sprawled out in front of her while her hands were pressed behind her to support herself in a seated position.
A faint smile crossed Shirou's lips, the sight of her childish awe easing the tension.
"Whoa…" The exclamation leaked out from Keel's open mouth without warning, the heat wafting in the air blowing warmth across her face and forcing her to shield it. Her dog ears were twitching, the tail on her back wagging back and forth animatedly.
She looked over.
"A-Ah aaagh!" She scrambled to catch the red spear in time due to her absence of mind. Floundering, she caught the spear by the shaft with both hands after nearly fumbling and dropping it. "T-This is?"
She stared at him in a daze, and he with earnest encouragement.
"Take it back," he snorted.
"R-Really? But its too much. It went all booom, and woosh! And then bang-"
"Keel. We got this weapon for you, remember?"
Keel shut her mouth closed, the clack, audible, as her teeth came down a little too hard. A shudder traveled down her back. She was quivering ever so slightly. When was the last time she ever got treated so well by someone other than her parents?
No, she didn't have parents anymore.
She had to be strong. It's what her father would have wanted. She was raised as a boy, to be a man and tough things out in the hard times.
Keel held back the ensuing outburst of emotion, hesitation and eagerness flickering across her eyes. The way she stared at the spear was no longer the same as before, fingers curled around the shaft tightly as anticipation and fantasy of a kickass spearman took hold in her mind.
Then she recalled the raiding and destruction of her village, and subsequent capture into slavery. Her life had truly been hard, but through it all, she'd always tried to remain positive and smile. There was no reward for it, nor recompense, but she'd never expected anything anyway.
Yet just this once, something stirred within her, a sensation of being truly moved as if her struggles truly did have reimbursement.
It is in this path that we follow that allow the meeting from stranger to stranger.
'Be happy Keel. Surely your future will be bright.'
The smiling face of the man who raised her buried deep within her resurfaced with its familiar love and compassion from a father to their child. This same warmth was reflected in honest bronze eyes across from her.
'This really was just too much.'
She giggled, then laughed while rubbing at the moisture accumulating in her eyes with her forearm's, unwilling to let go of the spear if even for a moment. "Thank you. Thank you really…" she sniffled before she squawked from a hand tousling her hair.
"He can't be serious about this," Motoyasu and the other spectators nearby had no words for what they were seeing. "He's giving that kind of power to a child!"
"Lord Motoyasu, perhaps you should coax the child?" One of his party members suggested.
Motoyasu could suddenly feel several distinct stares leveled on him, causing him to hesitate on how to answer. Even Ren and Itsuki had standards, and scamming a child wasn't one of them.
Naofumi said nothing while seeing how cheerful Keel looked. She was practically nuzzling her head against Shirou's palm in satisfaction.
As long as she was happy, there was no need to consider anything else- or actually…
A twitch formed over Naofumi's brow.
He glanced from Keel's spear, then to the sword in Raphtalia's possession. Everyone in the Shield Hero's party knew that the weapons bought from Erhard's shop were put up by Shirou in order to make cash. Now, the thought that Shirou sold away items of this calibre caused Naofumi's buttcheeks to clench from missed opportunity. They could have made a fortune if Shirou was more business savvy.
Then again, Shirou was a hack and could probably make more of such weapons with his Tracing or whatever.
The thought allowed Naofumi to relax, but then to promptly and carefully redirect the tip of Raphtalia's sword away from his and everyone else's direction. He'd noticed stars practically glittered over her pupils. Raphtalia, like Keel, must have realized the potential hidden within the blade in her hand.
Speaking for himself, Naofumi didn't want to find himself the test dummy of whatever that sword could do. Instead, he walked over towards Shirou.
"I can't believe you weren't lying about how strong these Noble Phantasms can be," Naofumi whispered.
"…ah, sorry." For a second Shirou didn't register Naofumi and Raphtalia's approach, too caught up with Keel and his own matters. "Can you repeat that?"
"Forget it. It's not important, just that I should probably stop taking your words at face value and put them into more consideration," Naofumi deadpanned. "Well, what should we do now? Mine and the others invited us to a celebratory banquet for the successful completion of the Wave, but between you and I, I heard many are curious about what you did to the Wave."
Shirou's brows knit together at Naofumi's reminder of his impulsiveness.
"The three of you can go ahead to the banquet without me. There's something I need to do."
"Are you sure? From how everyone's talking about you, you're practically the star of the show."
"Then all the more reason. Word of advice though, don't let yourself be dragged into anything. Keel has good senses, so if she feels that there's something wrong, you should listen to her."
"Right," Naofumi drawled. Evident to everyone, but he didn't seem to be putting much caution for himself. He would later blame it on over inflated ego from leveling too fast and outpacing everyone else.
Shaking his head, Shirou could nod at Keel. "Please look out for him."
"Yes!" Keel responded righteously, hopping onto her feet and vigilantly looking in Mine's direction as if she were one Shirou was warning against. Well, whatever her gut told her shouldn't be wrong.
"The soldiers are getting ready to leave with the townsmen to a temporary shelter. This is your last chance to come with us," Naofumi joked.
"Really, there's something dire I need to look into." Shirou pinched the bridge of his nose. He was never one for high-class social events or being lavished with praise and attention for an action he needed no compensation or recognition over. Besides, assessing the state and usability of his Reality Marble was a more pressing concern than bestowing honours.
"Well, if you say so, but I think you'd disappoint everyone else," Naofumi shrugged before snickering. "Ren, Motoyasu, and Itsuki look ready to grill you for answers, or whatever's on their minds."
"Again, all the more reason why it's not worth the hassle right now."
Word was spreading about the fifth summoned Hero that had arrived alongside the Four Legendary Heroes. Before, no one thought anything of it, but soon after the capability Shirou had just displayed was revealed, many would begin to question if there was a special meaning to the Fifth Hero. Why else would he have been summoned alongside the rest?
"I'll meet you in the capital as soon as I can," Shirou nodded before getting ready to leave.
"How will you find us?"
"I have my ways, so you don't have to worry. Besides, if an emergency comes, you can message me with a PM or whatever."
Naofumi shrugged. "I'll keep it in mind. Take care of yourself."
Grunting, Shirou gave a small wave at Naofumi, Keel, and Raphtalia before heading off into the distance before he was surrounded by soldiers and excited Ryute villagers.
Keel's eyes followed after Shirou's figure the entire way until she couldn't do so anymore. She pursed her lips before Raphtalia hopped off of Naofumi's shoulders and nudged Keel's side in a gesture of comradery.
"Let's go, you two." Naofumi began walking off, absently signalling with his right hand for them to follow. "We don't want to be left behind, and I'll say this now, but I don't know the way back."
Naofumi had turned his back to Keel and Raphtalia for just one moment before the abrupt ding of a notification sounded and the Wave party-experience came rushing in all at once now that this Wave of Calamity was concluded.
The distinct sound of cloth and fabric tearing echoed from behind him followed by cluttering armour.
"Keel, Raph..tal..i..a…?" Naofumi called before his words trailed off dumbly when he looked behind him.
Two girls had transformed into two women. Worse, the children's clothes and armour didn't quite make the transition, only their mental states.
"Eiiieaaah! Lord Naofumi don't look, I'm not ready!"
Naofumi looked anywhere but Raphtalia who was barefoot, red-faced, and desperately trying to cover her modesty preserved only be strips of clothing. Rather, he chose to focus on Keel who now looked like she was wearing a thin sports bra and the shortest tight shorts he'd ever seen hugging her curves way too alluringly.
He'd heard that children grow fast, but this was ridiculous!
He hurriedly wrapped his arms around their shoulders and covered them with his mantle looking like some sort of pimp- oh fuck.
He glanced up, and regretted it immediately.
No. D-Don't stare at me like that! It's not what you think!
Finding himself in a rather isolated part of a forest adjacent to Ryute village, Shirou eased his thoughts and found a tree to rest his back against. Closing his mind to outside distraction, he ignored the presence he could feel observing him from afar. It was the very same one that had been attempting to follow him and Naofumi from the start. However, there was no intention to do harm, so he let it be this time considering the situation with his Reality Marble.
In any case, the shadow left without doing anything a few moments later, likely just as rattled as everyone else from Gae Bolg's strength and resulting destruction.
He entered a meditative state the moment he felt he was truly alone, focusing inward all at once.
The world of his inner reality appeared before his mind's eye; a land filled to the brim with an uncountable number of swords and bladed weapons.
The scenery was familiar, the representation of who he was and ever will be marred only by the sheer inconsistency he could now sense openly.
In the far reaches near the corner of his inner world, an area of roaming undead and confused man-locusts were milling about.
By this point, it was perfectly clear to him what had transpired. His inner world had fused with the world on the other side of the Wave. By nature of his Reality Marble, it had rewritten the laws of space and time to expropriate its own properties upon the world itself.
He'd 'swallowed' what was likely a dying world on the other end of the Wave. Now that world was within him.
Recalling how he couldn't Trace any swords he desired, he focused and tried to see how this problem worked.
Focusing on a specific Noble Phantasm, the hammer of a metaphysical gun cocked back and remained idle as Shirou focused on the sword in particular in his inner world. It shone with magical energy wishing to draw it forth, but like moths to a flame, the energy attracted the undead who tried eating or touching it.
What promptly appeared in Shirou's hand as a result was another femur as an undead interrupted the Tracing process and lost a limb for it.
He had to somehow find a way to stop the undead from interfering like the man-locusts who just watched on curiously in this new world they found themselves in.
This was a peculiar problem, but one that wasn't impossible to solve given the understanding he had over himself and his own Reality Marble. Everything within it represented him, and allowed him to comprehend whatever object or thing it may be.
He just had to separate the swords and blades from the undead.
Speaking of which, perhaps he could start this process by extrapolating on the clues he already had before him.
This was his inner reality. His will to be carried out.
If he could Trace out all manner of weapons within by analyzing them and calling them out, then would this be any different?
He extended a hand out before him, and like willing out a sword in his Tracing, he targeted an undead within his Reality Marble and spoke the words.
A flash of light, and the clacking of bones sounded in front of him.
If Rin were here, her brow would certainly be twitching and regaling him with all the manner of oddities that befell him.
Well, wasn't this interesting?
Then came the thought of what other Waves would bring.
In a far-off location hidden from most aristocracy in Melromarc, a woman seated on a small throne blinked owlishly at the absurd things she'd just heard.
The woman, beautiful and fair skinned brought a fan over her face to hide her stupor. She had regal purple hair tied up in a bob with collarbone-length bangs hanging on either side of her similarly matched royal gown. She had purple eyes and wore pale purple lipstick.
Fitting really, purple was the colour of royalty, and her name was Mirellia Q Melromarc, Queen of the kingdom.
"Truly?" Her voice drawled with astonishment. "The Fifth summoned is that capable?"
Before Mirellia was one of her trusted shadows she'd sent to keep watch over Aultcray and the Kingdom in her absence. The latest task of this shadow concerned the Shield Hero and his party, knowing the prejudice her citizens and husband had for this particular hero.
She'd been worried, concerned even.
Mistreating the Shield Hero could very well lead to war with the Demi-Human nation, and war between themselves was the last thing this world needed.
This particular Shadow before Mirellia was the very shadow sent to tail and monitor Shirou and Naofumi from the start.
"The fifth hero is unlike the rest. At the very least, I believe he's the most mature and understanding of what the duty placed upon him as a member of the Shield Hero's party entails. He also harbours no animosity towards demi-humans and would surely be popular with those in Siltvelt considering the Shield Hero's own amicability with Demi-Humans."
"Finally, someone sensible you mean?"
"By all accounts. However, I advise caution. He's dangerous, perhaps more so than even the heroes and no one yet knows how he stopped the wave without defeating the Wave Boss."
"A mystery then. This fifth hero is either a saving grace, or a heralder of troubling times. For my own selfish sake, I believe him to be of charitable character and integrity, but I'm biased at this point." Mirellia pursed her lips, biting down on them while regarding the shadow. "You reported that this Shirou had had a meeting with my husband?"
"Yes," the shadow nodded. "I was there when he confronted Lord Aultcray."
Mirella's throat dried, her tongue wetting her lips even as she clutched the hand rests of her throne tighter.
"And the King…H-He's come back to his senses?" There was hope bleeding out in her tone; almost pitiful in the manner it pleaded for acknowledgment or confirmation.
It was no wonder, considering their views.
It was quite evident what Mirella's Shadows thought of Aultcray's capabilities as of late, but they didn't know the Aultcray Mirellia knew: The Hero and brilliant strategist she fell in love with during the waring era of Melromarc.
Peace had made the man she loved soft.
A mischievous devil of a doted daughter exacerbating the problem.
"A letter from the King, your majesty."
Mirellia put away her fan as an aide interrupted her shadow's debriefing. Frowning, she slumped at her shadow's lack of an answer, and instead took the offered letter in hand before dismissing everyone to be alone.
The shadow and aide both left with a bow, leaving Mirellia to sigh and lean herself back into her throne in order to think.
Slowly, she ripped the seal and pulled out the parchment in the envelope, gasping as she noted the familiar penmanship of her husband. Only a single sentence was written to her in bold.
'I'm sorry for making you wait.'
A soft tremor coursed through her body, and deep into her heart.
She laughed lightly, mist accumulating over her eyes as she stifled a sniffle.
"You trash," she murmured fondly, letter crinkling from the emotional grip she had over it. "If you knew you were wrong, then be a man and don't write it in words but say it in person…"
This fifth summoned, what sort of magic did he use- no. It didn't matter.
The Church of the Three Heroes were growing restless as of late. Perhaps it was time to implement interventions?
She owed this Shirou a debt, and perhaps he could even be the key to stopping these waves to begin with?
His actions in Ryute Village spoke for itself, but only time could tell.
Thanks for reading, and sorry for delays. I wasn't feeling too well, and working this past week only made me more worn out.
Next update: Vasto of White
P a treon. com (slash) Parcasious
The Lonely Peak
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