lunedì 8 settembre 2014

The Rising of the Shield Hero: Volume 1 Chapter 2

Brave introduction

"Oh..."

I awoke to the sound of murmuring voices.
For some reason, a bunch of guys in robes were staring right at me.

"What the...?"

I shifted my attention toward this new voice, and realized I was surrounded by three guys who were apparently in the same situation as me. I tilted my head in confusion. What the hell was going on? Wasn't I just in a library?

No matter which direction I looked, massive stone walls loomed over me. Or maybe they were brick? I couldn't tell. At any rate, I'd definitely never been in a building like this before in my entire life. Beneath me was an altar, with a strange pattern drawn on it in glowing paint. It looked like a magic circle you'd see in an anime or something.



Wait, more importantly... when did I get a shield? It was strangely light, and almost felt like it was clinging to my arm. This was too weird. I tried to drop it, but no matter what I did it refused to come off.

"So, are you guys going to tell us where we are?"

The guy with the sword called out to one of the robed men. And in response...

"Oh, honorable Heroes! Please, save our world!"
"...Huh?"

We all replied in unison.

"What do you mean by that?"

This way this conversation was heading felt strangely familiar. Like something I might have read before in a web novel, maybe?

"You must have many questions, but time is short. You are the chosen Heroes, summoned here by an ancient ritual."
"Summoned...?"

Right. Okay. Obviously I couldn't wrap my head around that one, but I figured it was probably best to just go along with it and hear him out.

"Currently, this world is teetering on the edge of destruction. We pray of you, please, lend us your power!"

The robed man bowed.

"Man, so much talking."
"This sucks."
"Right?"
"Can we go now?"

The other three people summoned here with me spoke up, interrupting my efforts to smoothly progress the conversation. And not only that, to answer in such a way...
Listening to people when they were talking to you was just basic manners!
As if they could hear my silent rebuke, all three of them turned to face me.

...For some reason, they were smirking.

It almost seemed like they were enjoying themselves.
I mean, if this was actually real, and we had really been transported to another world... well, I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel like a dream come true. But that was all the more reason to pay attention, right?

"Don't you guys have any shame at all, suddenly dragging us here without our permission?"

The guy with the sword - he looked to be in his late teens - brandished his weapon.

"Even if you send us home when the job is done, that's basically just using us as slave labor, you know?"

The guy with the bow voiced his agreement with a glare.

"You get where we're coming from, right? Keep in mind that depending on your answer we might have to become your enemies."

I could sympathize with what they were saying. It was our right to confirm our situation, and whether or not we'd be rewarded for our efforts. Still, to raise their weapons like that... these guys had some serious balls. Somehow I was starting to feel outclassed.

"P-Please, at least have an audience with the king before you do anything rash. You can discuss the details of your compensation there."

One of the robed men opened a heavy-looking door and gestured us inside.

"Well, I guess that's that."
"Seems like it."
"Though, talk is talk, even if it's a king."

With that, the other three guys headed toward the exit. I followed behind them, so as not to be left behind. Compared to the dark room we'd started out in, the stone hallway was bright and lively.

...The air here smelled sweet. I wasn't really sure how else to describe it.

On top of that, the scenery we could see through the row of windows lining the walls was positively breathtaking. Clear blue sky, far as the eye could see, hung over a townscape straight from medieval Europe. However, we didn't have long to marvel at the spectacle before we were ushered through the hall into a large audience chamber.

"Oh? So these are the Heroes of old?"

A self-important old man was looking down at us with an appraising gaze. I couldn't put my finger on it, but something about him made me uneasy. If I had to guess... it was his eyes. There's no way I could ever like somebody that looked at other people like that.

"I am the king of this country, Aultcray Melromarc the 32nd. Raise your heads, Heroes."

I resisted the urge to point out that none of us had our heads lowered. I wasn't an expert on courtly manner, but at the very least I knew better than to talk back to a king.

"Now, I shall explain the current situation. This country - nay, the very world - is on the path to ruin."

Basically, it was like this:
A prophecy existed which predicted the end of days. It spoke of wave after wave of calamity which would beset the lands. If nothing was done, the world itself would fall into ruin.

And, the year of the prophecy had finally come. The sands of the ancient Dragon's Hourglass had begun to run once more. According to legend, the Dragon's Hourglass was supposed to serve as a monthly warning system for the Wave of Calamity. At first the people had written it off as mere superstition. However, disaster struck the instant the final grain of sand fell, just as the legend said.

A dimensional fissure appeared over Melromarc, and a vast horde of monsters spilled out from within. Though the country's knights and adventurers just barely managed to subdue them, the next wave was expected to be even stronger. There was no way they would be able to stop the calamity a second time. And so, the leaders of the country decided to enact the ancient summoning of Heroes, in hopes that they might be saved.

...By the way, our ability to communicate with the people of this world was apparently a boon granted by the legendary weapons we all held.

"Uh-huh. So, you expect us to just work for free, then?"
"That's sure convenient for you."
"...It really is selfish, you know. Dragging us into a problem that doesn't have anything to do with us."

Judging from the way they were smiling earlier, they obviously weren't really upset. So why were they speaking so brazenly? It was probably time for me to speak up and smooth things over.

"Well, it's true we have no obligation to help you. And suppose we do save the world, only to get sent home empty-handed after all our hard work? Nobody would take a risk like that unrewarded."
"Urk..."

The king shot a glance toward one of his retainers.

"Of course, it goes without saying that we were planning to richly compensate you for your efforts."

The four of us clenched our fists excitedly. All right! That was more like it.

"Besides that, we could also prepare discretionary funds to support you on your journey. It's a small price to pay to ensure your cooperation in saving our world."
"Oh? Well, as long as you make it a promise..."
"Don't think that means you own us, though. We're just cooperating for as long as you stay on our good side."
"...That's right."
"Yeah."

Geez, again with the condescending attitude. Making an enemy of this country was the absolute worst thing we could do right now. If that happened, the little progress we'd made in this negotiation so far would totally fall apart!

"Now then, Heroes. Tell me your names."

That's when I realized. All of this was just like the book I had been reading earlier. Sword, spear, bow, and shield. It couldn't be a coincidence that the weapons were the same. As unbelievable as it seemed, could we have somehow ended up in the world of that book...?

While I was wrapped up in my own thoughts, the others began their introductions.

"My name is Amaki Ren, age 16. I'm a high-schooler."

The Sword Hero, Amaki Ren. A total pretty-boy.
He stood a petite 165cm (roughly), with delicate, sincere features. In fact, he was so pretty you might even mistake him for a girl if he dressed up in drag. His hair was short, with brown streaks. With his long-slitted eyes and light skin, he was the very image of a cool, slender swordsman.

"I'll go next, then. The name's Kitamura Motoyasu, college student, 21.

The Spear Hero, Kitamura Motoyasu. An easygoing older-brother type.
Though his features were more traditional, he was easily on par with Ren in the looks department. If you told me he'd dated two girls at the same time before, it wouldn't surprise me at all. Even his hair was chic, tied back into a long ponytail. It was a feminine cut, but somehow he made it work. All in all, he seemed like a helpful and reliable guy.

"Oh, me now? My name is Kawasumi Itsuki. I'm a 17-year-old high-school student."

The Bow Hero, Kawasumi Itsuki. A mature youth with the air of a pianist.
There was a fragility about him, yet at the same time an unshakable strength. Honestly, it was hard to get a read on him. He had nice hair, though: wavy, with a bit of a perm. He seemed nice enough, for the quiet, little-brother type.

I couldn't help but be a little thankful everybody was Japanese - not that I had anything against foreigners, mind you, it just would have been a little shocking to see one here.

...Crap, was it my turn already?

"Oh, sorry. Guess I'm last. The name's Iwatani Naofumi, and I'm a 20-year-old college student."

The king stared at me, contempt in his eyes. A chill ran down my spine.

"Hmm. Ren, Motoyasu, and Itsuki, eh?"
"...Uh, Your Majesty? What about me?"
"Oh, my. My sincerest apologies... Naofumi."

This old guy was unbelievable. It was already glaringly apparent that I was the odd man out here, but he didn't have to rub it in like that!

"Now, if everybody could please confirm their statuses?"
"Huh?"

Status? What the heck was a status!?

"Umm... how do we do that, exactly?"

Itsuki timidly asked the king for help. But, at least he seemed to have some inkling of what they were talking about. I was completely lost!

"What, you guys didn't notice it the moment you got here?"

Ren seemed genuinely shocked that we could be so ignorant. The smug, know-it-all look on his face was totally irritating.

"There's a sort of icon in your peripheral vision, right?"

Eh? He was right. I hadn't noticed it before, but there really was a strange mark floating there.

"Just focus your consciousness on that."

Focus my consciousness? I still didn't really get it, but I tried it out anyway.
...Ping! The icon suddenly expanded into a browser-like window that filled my entire field of vision.

Iwatani Naofumi
Class: Shield Hero Lv. 1
Equipment: Small Shield (Legendary Weapon), Otherworldly Clothing
Skill(s): None
Magic: None

Within it, various data was presented in an easy to digest manner. So this was a "status", huh? It was just like something out of a game!

"I'm only level one? ...What a pain in the ass."
"Yeah, can we really fight like this?"
"Uh... more importantly, what the heck is this?"
"Do you not have status magic in your world, Heroes? Here, it is something that anybody can use."
"No kidding?"

Apparently the ability to quantify and observe their actual physical parameters was considered normal in this world.

"Anyway, what should we do from here on out? Being such a low level is making me uneasy."
"Ah, about that. We would like you to go on a journey to polish your skills and strengthen your legendary weapons."
"Strengthen our weapons? They're legendary, right? Shouldn't they be strong from the start?"
"I am simply relating the contents of the legend. It is written that 'the summoned Heroes will grow and strengthen their legendary weapons.'"
"Again with the legends. So can we at least use something else until these things are strong enough to be useful?"

Motoyasu spoke up, twirling his spear absentmindedly. He had a point. After all, my "weapon" wasn't even a weapon, it was a shield. Obviously I would need something else to survive.

"We can worry about that later. For now, we should just focus on getting stronger like they asked."

Being summoned as a Hero in another world...
I was overflowing with things I wanted to try. I mean, come on. There was no way I wouldn't be fired up in a situation like this! The others must have felt the same way, I was sure of it.

"Well then, should the four of us party up?"
"Wait just a moment, Heroes."
"Hmm?"

The minister stopped us as we were preparing to head out on our journey.

"The four of you are to gather companions individually, then set off on your own separate journeys."
"Oh? And why is that?"
"It's quite simple. According to legend, the weapons you carry naturally repel each other. Should you operate together as a group, you will do nothing but impede each other's growth."
"I'm not sure I get it, but basically you're saying we can't get strong unless we work alone?"

Hmm? Some sort of help message had suddenly appeared over my shield.


Caution!
Working together with your fellow legendary weapon holders will be detrimental to your progress.
Please try to operate separately as much as possible.


"Looks like it's the real deal..."

What was with this game-like explanation, though? It was like we had really fallen into the world of a game. At any rate, it was nice know that the legendary weapons came with a user's manual. I would have to make time to read through it all later.

"So then, we need to gather companions, I guess?"
"On the contrary, we will gather companions for you - the best of the best, have no worries. However, the day grows late. For now, rest yourselves and gather your strength. Your journey begins tomorrow."
"Thank you."
"Yeah, thanks."

Leaving behind words of gratitude, we relocated to the guest quarters prepared for us by the king.

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