A/N: Set in LH eps 1 to 3. (A little dialogue used from 3.) Also, I'm going by the LN in that most monsters do leave bodies behind; though demi-humans like goblins still disperse.

Well. Nyanta felt an ear twitch as he balanced on the slope of a townhouse roof. I doubt this was supposed to be in the update.

In the theater one always had to be ready to improvise. A broken prop, a missed cue; an actor suddenly too ill to go on. And part of that improvisation, as he tried to teach his students, was to take a moment to read the audience. Did they want humor? Horror? Heroics? All of the above, and then some?

Currently, it seemed, he had an audience of one.

Ah, good. Then I may test my improvisation, before I attempt it in front of an upset crowd.

Judging from the shouts and screams drifting up from the streets below, it'd be a tough crowd, indeed.

Nyanta mentally bowed to himself, and took his first careful step.

Hmm. Not unlike performing a kitsune. Up on the balls of the feet and step lightly, lightly. He flexed his toes, feeling how they gripped on tiles. Not quite the same as he was accustomed to in bare feet. Which was only to be expected, given his feet were not, in fact, bare, but covered with fur and Cat Fairy Boots.

It seemed like the most bizarre dream. Especially since nothing hurt anymore.

Dance is a lovely mistress, but a harsh one.

He'd always told the youngsters in Debauchery Tea Party that he was an old man; and in truth, he was. Not old as most of the world would think, but dance used the body hard. He had aches and pains many in their seventies would wince at. He could still dance well enough to teach, and oh it was a joy to see youngsters learn to turn fumbling bodies into practiced grace. But he paid for it. Always.

Yet here and now, in a Swashbuckler's fur and elegance, nothing hurt.


Warmth on one side of his whiskered face, where morning sun brushed away the shadows of night. A slight chill to most of his body, where the roof-shadow fell across it. A hhhooo of doves fluttering away from a chimney to search for scattered crumbs in the streets.

If this was a dream - and it seemed at once too strange and too ordinary to be a dream - it was a remarkably persistent one.

Gingerly, he essayed another step. So far, this was working-

Tile slipped.

The next painful minute answered the age-old question: do cats always land on their feet?

...I meant to do that.

A few bumps and twinges later, Nyanta was back on another rooftop, checking the displays an ungraceful swipe of his hand had opened. Items, abilities... friends list.

Hmm. Pity I logged into Susukino, instead of Akihabara.

Well - yes and no. True, there were four others from Debauchery Tea Party in Akihabara, and it would be pleasant to have those he trusted at his back in such an unusual situation. On the other hand, there were more players in Akihabara in general, most days; and he had no doubt Shiroe and Naotsugu had their hands full. Shiroe, especially. The famous Strategist would be up to his glasses in trying to untangle this snarl of events, and likely half out of his mind with worry.

Naotsugu will find him. Those two work well together.

Nazuna, he wasn't worried about at all. She would find her guildmaster, Nyanta was certain of it; and Soujirou was probably dancing for joy at this very moment. The young Samurai would carry the West Wind Brigade on an unstoppable wave of optimism, no matter what strangeness this new world threw at them.

He'd better, Nyanta thought pragmatically. Nazuna is a Foxtail, and if that avatar has similar effects to a Werecat - a certain amount of panic would be quite understandable.

Foxtails, after all, had at least one tail - though they could hide even that with magic, if they put effort into it. He could only imagine what Nazuna felt like. The disorientation from having a Werecat's slit-pupiled vision was quite enough to deal with.

At least Werecats can see colors.

He was fairly certain all the colors of the rainbow were there, though perhaps the leaves were a bit greener than they should be. Or perhaps that was just Seldesha. This world seemed far more alive than Tokyo.

Colors or not, light did seem brighter now. Daylight made him blink a bit, and noon had been purely uncomfortable. He was certain he could still fight, but he'd want to choose his position. Staring into the sun would be very unpleasant.

Hmm. And if I should have to fight... Nyanta reached for his rapiers, testing his grip. Gloved fingers seemed more than capable, though the hard sense of claws at his fingertips was unsettling. It wasn't at all like wearing false nails for a role on-stage. With those, there was always a sense of separation between flesh, bone, and the hard layer of art.

Here and now, he pressed a thumb against a hilt, deliberately putting pressure the wrong direction. Ah, yes. These were definitely rooted in flesh and bone. Ow-

Nyanta stood still on the rooftop, surprise overriding any mere twinge. Yes; that had been his ears flattening. Most unsettling.

What is, is. Let's see if this can be turned to any advantage, shall we?

Odd. When he tilted his ears just so, he thought he heard... crying.

Whiskers bristled, as Nyanta shifted his shoulders. Furred or not, he was a Swashbuckler and a gentleman. And no true man walked away from a lady's tears.

Griefers. Despicable.

Nyanta peered through the night, fur ruffled and unhappy. The youngster had lost the players taunting her for the moment, ducking into an alley when a few People of the Land had had their carts crash together; a nervous horse had shied away from a brandished ax at just the wrong time, and by accident or quick thinking the little redhead had managed to slip through the gray-cloaked Sorcerer's blind spot.

Why is a high-level magic-user going after a child?

From the look of her equipment, the young girl couldn't have been more than level 20. And from the simple way she sobbed, tears just flowing, scrubbed away by her sleeve, she was at least as young as her avatar appeared. So he hadn't introduced himself yet. He didn't want to frighten her; and from the words she got out between tears, the little Druidess was chatting to someone she trusted. Perhaps all would be well.

Marielle? His ears pricked at the name. Could she mean the guildmaster of Crescent Moon?

If so, then she was a young player, and he should introduce himself after all. The Crescent Moon Alliance was a guild for new players to have fun while learning the game. But now this was no game, and all the youngsters might be in over their heads.

Aren't we all. Well, time to neaten up a bit before I present myself to the lady-

"She's over there!"

No fool, the Druidess squeaked and ran.

How did they find her? Nyanta wondered, pacing the girl across the rooftops as he picked out her pursuers; at least three, and none of them low-level. She wasn't in line of sight, and none of them looks like a Tracker.

How would have to wait. He and the ruffians were still moving easily, not in the least fatigued by their mad dash. But the young Druidess was panting, one hand going to her side in a way that made Nyanata wince in sympathy. She was young, and stubborn, but she wasn't likely to be able to run much longer.

Time to even the odds.

He leapt into the alley in one long bound, sweeping the surprised girl up in his arms with a quick, "Eeek!" Took one running step, and jumped-

Alley floor to just below the roof crest, in one bound. As Soujirou would say, awesome.

"My apologies for not introducing myself," Nyanta said cheerfully, dashing off over the dark rooftops as a bolt of magic missed them. "I beg your indulgence. Allow me to put a bit more distance between us and those miscreants, first."

"Um... okay?"

A middle-schooler's voice. Poor girl. "A few more blocks should suffice, I believe..."

Two minutes later, and he set her down on an unoccupied balcony, stepping back to give her a courtly bow in the moonlight. "I am Nyanta, a Swashbuckler of no current affiliation. May I have the honor of knowing the fair damsel's name?"

"Um... ah... Serara, Druidess of the Crescent Moon Alliance!" Her bow was quick and heartfelt, as she blushed. "Thank you so much, Nyanta! I was... really, really scared."

She still was, by that tremble where her fingers gripped her wand. And who was he to blame her? "Ordinarily, I would advise a young lady being harassed to contact a GM," Nyanta observed. "However-"

"I did!" Her shoulders straightened, like a kitten fluffed out at a strange dog. "I mean, I did before... all this. That Demikas bully and his gang - they were being mean to a level 8 Sorcerer. Who does that? So I told them to quit that, and I told her to just go through the transport gate to Akihabara and find Guildmaster Marielle, and she did, and I was just going to explain everything to the GM before I went through the gate, and..." She trailed off, swallowing what threatened to be another bout of tears.

"Indeed," Nyanta nodded. "And." He rested his hands near his rapiers, arms akimbo. "Well. For now it seems our adventures will be a bit more present than usual..."

His ears twitched.

"This way!"

"How annoyingly persistent." Nyanta strode across the balcony to peer into the night. A magic light was bobbing their direction, showing the way for those who lacked night-sighted eyes. "Miss Serara. It seems they have some way of tracking you." He could think of a few possibilities, but the most likely was also the most twisted. "Do you know if anyone in the Brigandia guild has friend-listed you?"

"That's why I wanted to talk to a GM!" Small hands were twisting on her wand again. "Demikas said- he said I couldn't get away from him, that I was on his list..."

As he'd thought; and despicable indeed. Once someone was on your friend list, you could find them anywhere. Outside a city that generally only gave you a rough location, but if both parties were in the same city zone?

They have a map right to her, whenever they wish.

"Not to worry, Miss Serara." Nyanta smiled, and held up a finger. "This problem, we may solve."

Ah. A kitchen, a chef's tools, and fresh ingredients. The tea ceremony might be one way of practicing Zen, but for soothing rattled nerves, cooking was far better.

"You... you bought this place?"

Nyanta smoothed his whiskers, seeing Serara's wide eyes and embarrassed hunch of shoulders. "What is the worth of mere gold, if it cannot be used to lighten the burdens of a young lady? Besides. If we do not know how long this will last, it is only sensible to have a haven from an uncertain world, nyan."

Serara ventured another step into the elegant kitchen, breathing in the scent of fresh bread and tomatoes. "And they really can't find me here?"

"It is an advantage of owning a zone," Nyanta nodded, slicing the ingredients for a simple pair of sandwiches. He might not be physically tired, but it'd been a stressful day for both of them. "It's likely they will guess you are still in Susukino, but they won't know where." He assembled one sandwich, and smiled at her as he handed over the plate. "Perhaps you'd like to tell Guildmaster Marielle you're all right?"

"Oh - yes! Thank you!" Her blush went even pinker. "Thank you so much, Nyanta!"

One less problem, then. Nyanta put together his own sandwich, trying not to think too hard as he traced a neat spiral with mustard on one side of the bread. They were fed, warm, and - for the moment - safe. Or as safe as anyone could be in this world. Theoretically, the permissions he set determined who, and what, were or were not allowed to enter this zone.

In the game. Now? I'd rather not find out firsthand if a giant would be held back by a mere threshold.

Thought, gamers being gamers, it was quite likely someone had already tried.

Hah. Nyanta smiled, putting away the condiments before he bit into his creation. Then the next step, tomorrow, is to visit the marketplace. And listen to tales of what has been done, and not done, and why.

Though there was always the chance that waking up tomorrow, none of this would have happened.

We'll see. He dabbed at his whiskers. Tomorrow.

"So, Susukino is still safe from the monsters, but the monsters are still out there?" Frowning in concentration, Serara poured noon tea for both of them.

"So it would seem." Nyanta sipped his cup, thinking about the fear he'd felt breathing in Susukino's streets. "I wonder if there are more monsters. There are certainly more People of the Land about than there were in Elder Tale." Enough that the city actually felt crowded. Oh, nothing like a modern city like Tokyo. But for every Adventurer he saw, there were at least eight People of the Land at work and in the streets. There had never been so many when Seldesha was a game.

Heads-up displays or not, this is no game.


Nyanta set out the confections with a smile. "I might try to make these myself later, but it will be a bit tedious to get it right. We don't have a candy thermometer... what is it?"

Serara had broken off a piece of peanut brittle to chew, and was now looking bewildered at the rest of it. "Nyanta? It doesn't taste like anything."

He raised bewhiskered brows. "It doesn't taste like peanuts?"

"No." Serara chewed, and swallowed, and looked even more confused. "It doesn't taste like anything. It's like... limp rice crackers."

That didn't make sense. Nyanta could hear it crunch between her teeth. "Hmm."

Breaking off a shard, he tried it.

Pfaugh! What in the worlds?

It looked like peanut brittle. It crunched like peanut brittle. But the taste?

The young lady is absolutely correct. Limp rice crackers. Bland crackers, at that.

"Someone has committed a terrible offense against the very soul of cookery," Nyanta declared. "Help me in the kitchen, if you would. We must identify the suspect ingredient!"



Skewered, the last goblin dissolved into energy.

Nyanta gathered up the fallen gold absently, troubled by exactly what had happened to his enemies' bodies. Those sparkles of colored light were entirely too much like the game for comfort. And yet other monsters he'd killed did leave bodies behind. Why the difference?

I wonder if Shiroe will have some ideas, when we meet again.

For now, he'd verified what he'd left Susukino to test; his skills with a blade were at least as honed as they'd been at the peak of his stage career. If not better.

Unfortunately, his weren't the only skills he had to worry about.

At least getting in is easier than getting out.

Up a tree, across the upper level of a ruin; scurry quietly up and down and through a small maze of crystals that led almost to the city wall-

Aha. Just where I thought they'd be.

Three Brigandia troublemakers; two DPS and a mage, it looked like. Loitering mostly in the wall's shadow, watching for any players who might take it into their heads to leave the city.

Ah, if only I had an Assassin with me.

Pity. It would have been a perfect setup. Still, he had his own resources to fall back on, and those were nothing to sneeze at.

Studying their positions, Nyanta permitted himself a small grin. The Brigandia players might be high-level, but he doubted they'd truly immersed themselves in the game. Their formation was meant to catch an ordinary party. And why not, given at level 90 it would take most players at least even odds to win?

Levels aren't everything.

He'd played Elder Tale for a very long time, exploring the nooks and crannies of that fantastic realm on his own, with guilds, and with Debauchery Tea Party. Find the right quests, the odd little chains of events that most power-gamers blew right past, and there were much more interesting things to gain than levels.

I am Nyanta the Fog-Silent.

He waited for a cloud to cover the moon, and leapt.

The Title-given ability wasn't the same as a Silent Move. He had to physically cross the space, and he could still be seen if someone happened to be looking. But unless a player was high-level, and concentrating... all they'd see was a patch of fog.

"Chilly up here tonight..."

Nyanta dropped down into Susukino's streets, waiting for more shadows before he set out back to Serera.

The situation isn't desperate. Yet.

Not yet. But Susukino had certainly reached the level of difficult. A solo player's chances of getting from here to Akihabara without dying were vanishingly small. Serara was a low-level healer, but together they probably could do it - if Brigandia hadn't been poised to leap on them both the moment Serara set foot outside his door.

Nyanta puffed out his whiskers, frustrated. One on one, he had no doubt he could defeat Demikas. But even for such a dashing Swashbuckler as himself, all of Brigandia was a bit much.

If only gryphon whistles worked inside town!

Truth to tell, it was possible they might. He hadn't had the opportunity to try. Gryphons were fast and impressive... and visible targets. Take enough damage in Elder Tale, and a rider would be automatically dismounted. He didn't know if that would still happen in this world, but atop a gryphon in midair was the last place he wanted to find out.

Even if it doesn't happen - if the NPCs are alive, the gryphons likely are as well. If they're alive, they can be hurt. And if Brigandia would threaten a girl, they will slay a monster.

So. Unless he could gain at least two minutes for his gryphon to land, be mounted, take off again, and get out of spellcasting range, all he would succeed in doing would be to deliver Serara gift-wrapped into Demikas' hands.

All this fuss because one griefer couldn't find something more important to do in a whole new world than torment a young girl. Hmph.

At least he and Serara had found far more interesting things to do with their time. He thought he'd about identified the problem with the peanut brittle. If he had, then this world was very strange indeed-

Oh dear. That smelled like something burning.

"I'm sorry, Nyanta..."

"No, no; don't be sorry, Miss Serara." Nyanta tipped the bubbling purple goo off the plate, into a pot to clean out later. "Every experiment brings us closer to the truth." He had to shudder, nonetheless. "That was supposed to be toast?"

Serara fluttered her hands, as if uncertain whether to tend to the remaining bread or the plate first. "I don't know what I did!"

"Young lady, I can't think of anything you could have done that would create that from bread and a warm fire," Nyanta said frankly. "In some ways, this world is far more realistic than the Elder Tale we knew. In others... I can only say it's very strange." He straightened, as if hideous purple slime were merely a minor inconvenience, of no consequence to a true lady or gentleman. "So! What have we learned?"

"Um... I can't cook?"

"And that, in itself, is unusual," Nyanta declared. "On Earth, I am certain your toast would have been-"

"Burnt," Serara mumbled, shoulders slumped.

"Perhaps singed," Nyanta allowed. False flattery would only make the girl feel worse. "Still, this would not have happened. So, it would seem it is not that you can't cook; it is that something quite odd happens when you try. You can still make food from the menu?"

Serara sighed, and trudged down the kitchen to a bowl of apparently perfect porridge, dusted with brown sugar. "It just tastes like sugary mush. It doesn't even taste like brown sugar!"

"Very curious." Nyanta picked up the purple-stained plate, and held out his free hand. "May I borrow your washcloth?"

That earned him a stubborn frown. "If I made a mess, I'll clean it up!"

"I have no doubt that you would," Nyanta said courteously. "What I wish to determine is if I can." Cloth in hand, he essayed a firm scrub.

The plate crumbled.

Nyanta blinked at the fragment of white ceramic still in his grasp, now cracking into dried electric-blue clay. "...Nyan."

A few more experiments produced mixed results, and no small degree of headache. Ingredients had taste; food recipes made from the menu or bought at the market, did not. For him, cleaning anywhere outside the kitchen or the dining table was an unmitigated disaster. For Serara, trying to cook food had equally abysmal results. Yet she could scrub and peel vegetables, or start the oven warming; while on his part, so long as he was washing things he intended to cook with, nothing would go wrong.

It almost seemed to be as much mindset as action. So long as he was acting as a Chef, food and dishes behaved as they should. But Chefs did not, as a rule, polish floors; the results were nerve-wrenching when he tried. Likewise, if what Serara did fit the duties of a Maid, all was well. She could clean, polish, and mend to her heart's content. And she could prepare ingredients to be cooked. But so much as mix milk and eggs together in a bowl for an omelet, and purple goo would be everywhere.

When I find whatever changed the very laws of physics in this world, I'm going to give it a very stern talk. Nyanta rubbed at the base of one ear, and smirked. Better; I'll let Shiroe do it.

Amusing as that image might be, if he were right, the implications could be catastrophic. The People of the Land he'd observed could turn their hands to anything they needed to, to survive. Adventurers couldn't.

We will either have to cooperate with each other to a greater extent than players ever have, Nyanta thought wryly, or we'll need to make alliances with the People of the Land.

Both options that had their own risks. And both of which were swiftly becoming untenable in Susukino, thanks to Brigandia.

I thought I rescued Serara that night. I may, to a great extent, have rescued myself.

The average person had no idea how much one's mood could be brightened by a neat, clean abode; or how much it could be corroded by a disordered one. He would be willing to bet a significant portion of the despair in Susukino came from how helpless the players found themselves. Certainly, they could slay goblins and terrorize innocent shopkeepers. But at the end of the day, how were their lives better?

When Serara cleans and mends to keep herself occupied, she knows she is doing something truly helpful to us both. Something I, with all my levels, cannot. Nyanta straightened, regarding the curled peel on his knife, swirls of mouthwatering red and near-white flesh. "This house is so clean. I'm sure you'll be a great wife someday."

Sitting down, the Druidess fidgeted in her chair. "Th-that isn't true... really."

Ah, to be that young again, in the first blush of sorting out what made one's heart sing. "How are those people who are coming for you doing?" Nyanta wondered, dropping the curves of peel into a waiting pot.

"Oh, yeah." Serara sat up straight. "Marielle, our guildmaster, contacted me. She said they'll probably arrive tomorrow, before noon."

"So soon?" He blinked as he held up the teapot, calculating distance and dates. Less than four days, to cover a distance horses would only manage in two weeks, and cross the Lyport Channel. So far as he knew, in this world so like Elder Tale, the only way to do that would be...

Nyanta smiled. "That's pretty impressive," he mused, pouring hot water over the peel to shred it into a delicately flavored warm drink. "I wonder what these people who are coming for you are like."

He waited until she was occupied with a small scroll he'd managed to find at a bookseller's stall, then opened his friends list.

The only way to travel that fast would be gryphons. And the only way to summon gryphons, was to have the whistle from the Hades Breath raid. There were thousands of level 90 players in Akihabara, who knew how many of them might have gryphon whistles...

But I know four who definitely do.

Nazuna and Soujirou were still in Akihabara. Shiroe and Naotsugu-

They're just across the Channel. Most likely, in the Depths of Palm.

Shiroe and Naotsugu were coming to Susukino. With a third player Shiroe must trust; most likely either a healer or a DPS.

Meaning at about noon tomorrow, Demikas was going to get a very nasty surprise.

Nyanta's smile gleamed in green eyes, as he contemplated just how much he was going to enjoy handing Brigandia their collective heads.

This is going to be so much fun!

A/N: I'm improvising some backstory for Nyanta, based on our few canon clues. Chief among them the fact that Nyanta calls himself an old man, while Shiroe thinks he's middle-aged. There are some careers that take a heavy toll on the body, even in modern life. Put that together with Nyanta's studied gallantry, his gentle treatment of Serara's obvious crush, and the simple fact that he manages to be graceful walking on his tiptoes. Yes, his body, like any Adventurer's, knows how to move. But he's used to trusting his body to know what to do - which is not a common skill at all. So, dance instructor seemed like a possible fit.