"Well, I did the best I could," Wyndia offered as she held out the gloves and rabbit hat.

"Hey, I ended up doing most of the work you know," Naofumi added as they looked to the Skeleton.

"It is fine. This will cover me enough that I shouldn't… immediately be attacked," The skeleton said, sliding on the gloves and the hat.

We had found ourselves outside shortly after Wyndia had completed her work, Naofumi retouching the fabric so as to properly fit our new guest's hands and head.

"Now all that's left is to see how Skull Face holds up in a fight," River offered.

Idly looking about, I took note of the other two Filorial children running to and fro with swords in hand before reviewing the aftermath of the most recent fight. Many discarded corpses littered a fair portion of the village as well as their destroyed armor and scattered arms.

"We are at no loss for weaponry," I commented as I idly found my way to a basic spear and sword, "Why not choose one that catches your attention?"

The man looked around, humming, "Nothing's really catching my socket…" He mumbled after a solid minute of searching, frowning. "Perhaps we can just spar and see what happens? I teleported instinctually earlier, perhaps the rest will come with time?"

"I do not hold-"

"Hollow!" Naofumi shouted as he walked between us, "Why don't I take this one? We don't want you to accidentally kill him, you know?"

Ah, unfortunately Naofumi made a decent point… "Then I shall allow you this fight, Sir Naofumi."

"Unlike you, I will go easy on him," Naofumi quipped before assuming the form of an Elder Baldur, the darkened carapace shifting slightly upon his back and arms as his claws flexed slowly, "So, how we doing this?" His voice had not changed despite his current bug form.

Looking at Naofumi, the man frowned. "I have a feeling…" Hesitantly, he spread his hands to the sides. Light glew, even from under his gloves. Seven thunderous cracks went through the air, as seven floating hands orbit in a semi-circle above the man's head.

Naofumi took a gulp before curling up, his body tearing into the earth as he began to spin rapidly. In a near instant, Naofumi was gone as he sped forth in an attempt to run the Skeleton over.

"This is him holding back!?" Wyndia shouted in surprise.

"Master Naofumi has an incredibly low attack stat," Raphtalia commented.

The skeleton's eyes widened. One of the hands, one with green in its center, flashed. A green dome formed around the skeleton, blocking the shield heroes charge. Bouncing off harmlessly, Naofumi landed into another spin before setting off and sliding in from the side, launching himself this time instead of simply rolling in for impact.

The dome blocked the attack again, the green light from the hand steady. "How am I doing this…?" Mumbled the skeleton, looking up at the hands, "And what do the rest of you do…?"

"Hey! Focus on the fight!" Naofumi shouted in reprimand as he charged again and launched skyward, falling onto the barrier as his form became that of Hegemol's. His fist collided with the barrier with more force than expected.

A singular, small, barely noticeable crack appeared in the barrier for a moment… before immediately sealing back up.

"Man that thing's hard to break," Naofumi muttered before winding his arm back, feathers sprouting from his fist as a torrential wind encased his arm, "Hey batter! SWING!" The fist shaped hurricane collided against the barrier, earth and gravel being torn from around the two.

"Lets try you…" The skeleton man mumbled, looking at the orange one. Reaching out, the orange one floated a bit in front of him, still in the barrier. It gleamed, and suddenly Naofumi found himself surrounded by little orange orbs.

"I swear this looks exactly like the Hellzone Grenade…" Naofumi muttered before reinforcing Hegemol's body with the natural body armor of the Elder Baldur and curling in.

Not saying a thing, the skeleton man watched as the orange centered hand flashed again, causing an explosion from each of the orbs and kicking up black smoke, obscuring everyone's vision of the Shield Hero.

"AUGH! I KNEW IT!" Naofumi shouted before he dispelled the smoke, "I mean it's not like that hurt, but still!"

"Optimal attack."

"Incredible defense," River continued.

"Aye, but how long can he keep at it?" Bargram questioned just as a new pair of feet made themselves known.

"What the devil is going on?" Aultcray questioned as he approached with princess Melty in tow.

"It looks like an exhibition match, father," The purple haired child commented, "It must be the new stranger the others were talking about."

"The… Skeleton," The once king murmured before sighing, "And so close to tomorrow's Wave at that."

"You know what!?" Naofumi continued to shout as a hauntingly familiar Shield began to orbit around him, "Why don't we stress test that bubble!" I did not know how or when Naofumi gained a Shield of the Dreamweaver Moths, but as it passed him, he slammed both fists into it before splitting it in two, "Block this! ORA!" A spike adorned fist collided with the bubble with great speed before the second fist followed closely behind until he began to build momentum against the barrier, "ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA!"

The skeleton frowned, looking upon the spiderweb cracks. Looking up at his hands, he tilted his head, "I wonder…" He mumbled. Raising both arms, suddenly the colors of the hands went from a rainbow, to all green. The shield strengthened, becoming less opaque and sealing all the cracks.

Refusing to stop, Naofumi doubled his efforts before his body began to fade in and out until, with a pop, he returned to his normal form… with a few differences. Grey lines appeared upon his cheeks just under his eyes, pale white plates adorned the top of his hands and his base Shield was now a glistening pale white, "Okay… why don't we call this… a draw…" He panted as sweat dripped from his chin.

"I believe you would be quite exploadable right now," The skeleton said, the hands going back to the rainbow of colors, the shield still up, "I think that means I win."

"Don't you… sass me," Naofumi retorted as he lazily lift up a finger before falling to his knees, his griffon and Raphtalia immediately rushing to his side, "Aw… fine, I'll admit I lost."

"There is no shame in loss, Naofumi," I muttered as he was held upright.

"Says the bug who hasn't lost once here," He said with some snark.

"Oh I'm certain you would have lost sooner if Malty were here," Aultcray scoffed with a grin.

"So you admit it!" Naofumi shouted at the once king before flinching, "Wait… you admit it?"

"I am not so cruel, Shield Hero," Aultcray said simply as his daughter sneezed and quickly said 'Bullshit'.

"Dear me, the pollen this year is simply dreadful," She stated as if in wonder as her father simply groaned and looked away in shame, "Good sir, as rightful heir to Melromarc's throne, I welcome you to our kingdom," She stated as she walked to the skeletal man, "Princess Melty Q. Melromarc at your service."

"And hello to you as well, Princess," The skeleton said, lowering the barrier as his hands vanished, "I would tell you my name, but I appear to be struck with a bit of amnesia currently, so I don't quite know it myself."

Giggling while hiding her mouth with a hand, the young princess gave a playful curtsey, "Oh it's quite alright, though I never expected the undead would be fighting for us. Normally our Shadows would have spread rumor of your existence so as to smooth over your… stay, but my pig headed harlot of an elder sister-"

"Melty!" Aultcray shouted, utterly scandalized.

"Has taken the throne…" The young princess relented, "Honestly, it's a wonder things haven't erupted into chaos yet."

"Why does this sound like a horrible thing?" The skeleton questioned sarcastically.

"Because it would seem Melromarc's knig- ah… that was sarcasm," Strange, I feel like a fool.

I honestly like this sudden change within you.

Looking to Fera, I could see a smile upon her face as she stared back. This was… is. Nice.

"Anyway, Void corruption aside," River threw out, "So long as things stay inside that town and don't start eating things they shouldn't…"

"By the gods, MY WIFE!" Bargram shouted, "This close to the Wave and surrounded by… BY THOSE THINGS!?"

"WOAH! Woah, easy there big guy," River said as she attempted to placate the man, "We have a dragon, remember?"

"Hollow, I need to go!" Bargram pleaded.

"You will need to ask Wyndia as it is her father you wish to fly upon."

"Oh! We can pick up the town blacksmith!" Wyndia declared, "I'll go get dad!"

-Itsuki-

Gardening. It was such a lucrative thing really. Calming… relaxing… monotonous. Repetitive. Boring.

Boring was good however. Itsuki wanted boring. He liked boring. He needed boring. Boring meant none of the plants in his little region's garden would come alive. Boring meant that he could help the villagers and keep his sanity all at the same time. It was a win win.

Now if only Ryshia would stop walking away with so many cuts…

"Fueeehh~" The girl whined as she nursed another cut upon her hand, quickly wrapping a prepared bandage around the wound.

"Are you sure you want to keep helping me, Ryshia?" Itsuki asked more out of concern for his partner who vehemently nodded.

"I want to spend as much time with you as I possibly can before the Wave tomorrow!" The noble girl declared before putting on an embarrassed smile," That-that-that-that is to say so long as you… want me. Here I mean!"

Sighing, the boy smiled as he took her hand and started to lead her away, "I don't think I'd want anyone else by my side right now. Thank you so much for this, Ryshia-san."

The girl gave a happy 'fuehh' as she dreamily allowed herself to he whisked away, only to yelp again as her ankle had been caught in a snag, "Oh why me…" She murmured before reaching down and freeing herself and walking away from the garden-

"Feed me~"

Only to flinch and turn to Itsuki, the boy stock still and frozen in horrified silence.

"Feeeed me~"

Turning around, the pair looked back and found small faces in the flowers and produce of the garden, bulbous eyes opening as a cacophony of noise began to erupt.

"Feed me~"

"Feed meee~"

"Feed me!~"

"Feed me…"

"No! No no no no no!" Itsuki shouted, "I'm not doing this today! I'm just going to drop honey on everyone and call it a day!"

"Must be blood!" A voice from a cluster of berries called out.

"Wh- bu- does it have to be human?" Ryshia asked with frightened curiosity, thankful she was at a safe distance.

"Feeed mee~" The childlike pleas from the garden rang out.

"Does it have to be mine!?" Ryshia asked again only to receive a monotone 'Feed me' in response before passing out.

Groaning, Itsuki looked at the now patch of children and shouted, "I was trying to have a moment here!"

"We're sorry papa~" The garden girls called out.

Pinching the bridge of his nose, Itsuki took hold of his partner and started to drag her back to the castle, thankful that the Legendary Bow gave him some extra strength.

"Gardens filled with plant girls, bee hives worshipping me as a god, giant holes in the sky spitting out world ending monsters… what's next!?" Itsuki shouted as he walked into his home.

"Are you sure the Bow Hero isn't here?" A tomboyish voice called out, "It's really imperative that I speak with him."

Humming in annoyance, Itsuki caught sight of a green haired, crimson and yellow feathered, scantily clad woman hunched over his desk and pestering Rino who only sat there in uncomfortable silence.

Thankfully…

"Lord Itsuki is currently tending to a matter of great importance," The honey bee princess replied for the bunny girl.

"In other words, that means scram!" The wasp princess added forcefully.

"You don't understand! I've been sent here straight from Siltvelt and I need to get into contact with him!" The feathered woman pleaded.

"Siltvelt, that's the Demi-Human kingdom, isn't it?" Itsuki asked, surprising the young woman who smiled at him with relief in her eyes.

"Oh thank the gods! Sir Bow Hero-"

"My name is Itsuki," The child hero interrupted, the envoy nodding quickly as he placed Ryshia on to a large chair, "State your business."

"I was sent here by my clan, one of the ruling families of Siltvelt to hopefully convince you to join Siltvelt in defense of the Waves," The woman said as she bowed. Now that he was looking at her, she looked a lot like a rooster if he was going to compare her to anything.

"Your name?" Itsuki asked as the trio of girls at his desk made way for him.

"Raiza of the Suzaku clan," The rooster replied, Itsuki finding a ledger and jotting down the names.

"Hey, boy toy," Zerradia whispered to Itsuki and looking at Ryshia, "You two have a bit too much fun?~"

"Zerradia, not now. I'm working," Itsuki replied calmly enough, much to the wasp's chagrin.

"So, miss Raiza, you're here to recruit me?" Itsuki asked as the rooster girl nodded, "Any particular reason? I mean no disrespect, but what can you and your kingdom offer me that I don't have here?"

"Oh… oh uh…" Raiza was a little beside herself as she tried to think of something reasonable, "Well, I understand that young males, especially young male heroes-"

"No."

"Well then, higher pay?" Raiza offered worriedly.

"I'm already lord of my own region," Itsuki stated with a fed up and bored look.

Groaning, Raiza slumped and knocked her head on the desk, "Slaves?" This however caught Itsuki's attention.

"Yeah, no. I'm not going to allow you to sell out your own people to me…" Itsuki replied quickly, "But. Siltvelt is the home of the Church of the Shield. What do you know of him?"

"Everything! I can give you everything you want to know!" Raiza shouted excitedly.

"Then let's start with the Heroes' secret method to raising Slaves…"

-Motoyasu-

"Has he been…"

"Yes."

Motoyasu, Hero and wielder of the Legendary Spear, sat hunched in on himself within the basement of Melromarc's inn and cradling his chittering centipede and muttering to himself pitifully. If only those watching him could see the nightmares that plagued him in the living world. The accusations, the voices, the doubts, the memories of death.

"Why did you betray me Motoyasu? For her?"

"Is what she said true Motoyasu? Do you love her and not me?"

"Do you not feel the love I have for you Motoyasu?" Memories of a knife being stabbed into his chest caused the Spear Hero to flinch.

"The only one who can die with Motoyasu is ME!" The phantom pains of a different knife stabbed into his chest caused more tears to fall from Motoyasu's eyes.

"Die For US Motoyasu!" The twin stabs towards his heart that sent him to this dream world… for it to turn out to be a nightmare in waiting.

At the door of the basement, Flynn and Haven stood in worry for the broken hero.

"Don't you think we should-"

"Yes."

The bug enthusiast and noble lady kept a constant back and forth as they watched over the disgraced and broken hero. It was truly quite a lot to take in, knowing that your princess was an evil witch in disguise and the man she condemned was innocent upon all accounts.

"So should I-"

"No."

The pair had started a small exchange of words from the moment their Hero had trudged inside, neither truly making a move to comfort in the hopes he would snap back to his chipper self on his own. This would not be the case.

"I'll go," Elena finally offered as she sighed and made her way down. She had to stop and flinch as the centipede, Petra, looked at her and hissed, "Easy. I'm not going to hurt him."

Petra hissed softly as if questioning her intentions and her integrity and desire to help the one who she loved? If these feelings she has for Motoyasu can be considered love, her skeptical mind whispers in the back of her head.

Elena could not answer; she only hoped her intentions outweighed her doubt. She hoped just as Motoyasu stirred.

"E-Elena?" The lost eyed blonde asked as he looked up, "Wh-why are you here? Just leave me alone…" His voice shook with fear and hurt, Petra's chittering the only thing that placated him as the insect nudged his cheek.

He looks at Elena again while fear and hope combat in his soul. On one half of her side she looks angelic and peaceful smiling at him as she gently reaches out to touch him.

On the other hand her other side looks demonic and fear inducing with a sanguine grin that offers only pain as she looks to be holding a knife and whispers dark nothings. Her demonic hand tenderly holding a blade dripping with what he thinks is his own blood.

His mind was torn between two ideals of women in his life. Will she be an angel here to save him or another demon here to sentence him to another living hell.

"Hey, blondie?" The angelic half called out with worry.

"Kitamura~" The demon added with sickening sweetness.

Outside of his warring mind's eye, Elena was frowning as she tried to figure out how to approach the situation. A part of her wanted to reach out, another wanted to stay put and make him move. Groaning, she tried calling out to him while kneeling and scooting closer, "Hey… Motoyasu. Talk to me."

"Why?" He asked with absent eyes, cold sweat falling from his face, "Why are you doing this?"

"Because you're a mess?" Elena asked, "You haven't eaten all day. You look dead… I know. I know I messed up. I couldn't help you even if I wanted to. She'd just… and you. You didn't exactly make things easy for me!" She quickly bit back her outburst as it only frightened the man more, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry…" was all he could stutter as it looked like the demonic half of Elena was getting ready to stab him and blame him for all her woes. It always happened when he fell in love. He could never put up the courage to decide who he loved if forced to choose.

"Please… I don't want to choose again…" He muttered, much to her confusion, "I don't want to die again…"

"Again?" She asked worriedly. There had been a rumor that the Heroes had all died before being summoned. Was this his fear? To die unloved? "What do you want from me?" She asked, "What do you need to get off your ass and smile again?" Elena being distracted by Motoyaus she didn't notice the extra arms on his back reach out for her.

Elena is surprised when she feels something grip her shoulders. Before she can gasp, she is pulled from where she was standing towards Motoyasu and Petra. Expecting impact, she braces herself for pain… only to feel a tender embrace as a dampness started to build on her dress.

Elena realized what happened... She can only slightly return the hug she was pulled into as Motoyasu cries and whimpers on her chest.

"Come one blondie, I know you're stronger than this. Let's go get some drinks to cheer you up," Elena spoke as she felt a sudden weight on her chest. She looked down and saw that Motoyasu had passed out with his eyes finally closing. Huffing slightly in frustration while also slightly blushing. Elena bent down and sat on the ground as Motoyasu would not let go of her and started to cuddle her. Blushing a little more Elena could only pet Motoyasu's hair and hum a small melody her parents sang to her when she was small.

"Get some rest blondie. I know you need it..." Little did either of them notice the glowing tears falling from Motoyasu's eyes and mixing into Elena's skin causing it to glisten and shine.