Reviewed in 05/21/19 for spelling mistakes and wrongly written name. (Motoyasu was being written as Moyatatsu or Moyatasu)

Shield Hero (Shall I show you a True Shield?)

Does the hero always win? All fairy-tales finish when the heroes save the day, however, is reality like that?

"I'm the Shield; my duty is to protect. If a hero is not enough, I shall become whatever is necessary. Devil, demon, Demon Lord. I need defense, defense that surpasses the gods. To protect those whom I have been left with, to fullfil my duty. I am Shield Hero"

"I am the Shield!"

You know~

Waking up atop some strange magic circle, wearing your most comfy jersey and suddenly finding a shield strapped to your arm is weird enough on its own.

Now add up the man in priestly garbs bowing down and shouting at him, well, you'd have to forgive Naofumi if he was thinking this was some fever dream due to being hit too hard on his head by that damn falling book.

"Please, Oh Brave Heroes, save our world!"

Iwatani Naofumi was a rather easy-going person. 20 years old, a rogue-ish appearance with his wild black hair, and on the third period of his Economics College Course. He was fairly sure he was no hero. He glanced to his side, seeing other three men close to him atop the dimly lit stone formation.

A tall, blondie with a charming aura about him was holding a simply decorated spear embedded with a red gem in the guard.

A shortie with black hair and a serious face. He had a plain sword with a blue gem. The boy, if his height was anything to go about, looked miffed and had a bit of a pale face.

The last one was holding a bow. He was looking at the weapon in fascination, his soft, girlie looks taking some of the seriousness off his face.

The man (priest?) once more tried to gather the attention of the heroes.

"Oh, Noble Heroes, we have used an ancient ritual that allow us to summon your aid when times of calamity befall our world. We plead your assistance!" The quartet of "heroes" looked at each other, each having a wry smile.

"We will surely explain everything you need to know, but for now please, follow me. I will take you to our king. He asks of your presence on the throne room."

"Sure, guide us there." The blondie with the spear says in a super casual tone.

"I guess we have little choice, but follow the original plot huh?" Bow guy softly says.

"Hmph." Black haired sword boy nods.

"Please take us to the king." Naofumi says, scratching the back of his neck. As he does this, he takes the chance to look around the room. All he manages to see are other mages, or what he assumes to be, all wearing hooded cloaks. They looked to be extremely tired, some collapsed on the ground. I suppose magic can be tiresome?

As they followed the head mage, Naofumi took a glance of one of the window holes of the descending tower. The scenery was pretty amazing, luscious land dotted with buildings akin to a medieval painting. Even the air he was breathing seemed better, purer.

Their descent took some time, time which Naofumi took to ascertain his body's condition. So far, he felt normal, great even. His body seemed full of energy and vigor, something you wouldn't expect of an economy course student.

Ten minutes of walking later and the four heroes found themselves in front of a magnificent door guarded by knights in armor. They uncrossed their spears from the door, and after a few polite knocks from the mage, they were allowed to enter.

They approached the supposed king, an elderly looking man wearing fancy, purple and golden garbs and a golden crown with a purple gem embedded in the center. All around him were many fancifully dressed individuals, their low whispers a constant echo in the throne room. The guarding knights around the place stayed quiet, but their presence was hard to ignore, considering the shine of their polished armor pieces.

"I am Melromarc Aultocray the XXXII, King of Melromarc. Heroes, please introduce yourselves." Naofumi's first impression of this man was not the most pleasant. The king kept looking at them as if they were lower than him. His tone was dry and rather focused, not like the mage from earlier.

"Well, I suppose introductions are a must after all. I'm Kitamura Motoyasu, 21 years old and a university student." Spear guy, Motoyasu, said with pompous manner, a quick movement of his spear displayed some skill with polearms.

The black-haired teen scoffed and walked two steps forward. "I'm Amaki Ren, age 16. Highschool student." Short and to the point, Sword boy (Ren) stated his piece.

"I am Kawasumi Itsuki, 17 years-old. I'm also in highschool." Itsuki's introduction was quite polite and posh, his every move seemed to be calculated to please the eyes.

Naofumi took a breath and moved to introduce himself.


"Motoyasu-sama, Ren-sama and Itsuki-sama, correct?" Aultocray cut Naofumi, eyes solely focused on the three in front of him.

Weird, but I guess I don't stand out…

Naofumi raised his hand, making the king look his way.

"Forgive me, eh, your majesty, but you seemed to have skipped me." A quick exchange of eyes happened. Naofumi second-guessed himself, but he swore he saw contempt inside Aultocray's eyes as the king looked over him.

"Oh yes, the Hero of the Shield. Go on," Again, Naofumi sensed hidden hostility towards him.

"Right, I'm Iwatani Naofumi, Twenty-years-old, I'm also a university student." It seemed that only Naofumi found this situation awkward, seeing as the other three were waiting for him to finish his piece.

The mage took center stage, spreading his arms and approaching the four Japanese men. "Oh heroes, if you could please confirm your status so we can properly proceed." Status? Naofumi didn't let his confusion appear on his face, but he could see something shining at the corner of his vision. You mean this…

He flinched when the icon suddenly expanded, displaying several charts.

"You guys haven't figured this one out yet? The little box at the bottom right of the screen or whatever." Ren said, rather annoyed at something.

Motoyasu exclaimed. "OHH! You right! Let's see, it says here that I'm the Spear Hero." The spear hero looked rather excited; Ren shook his head sideways and Itsuki maintained a rather polite smile.

Naofumi kept his eyes on his screen. He also felt giddy, but the numbers in front of him cut his excitement.

-[Iwatani Naofumi Shield Hero Lv.1]-

-[Equipment: Small Shield (Legendary Equipment), Otherworldly clothes.]-

"That's fine and dandy, but our levels are at one." Naofumi stated out loud, the other heroes also taking notice of the detail.

"We would like to ask of you four that you strengthen your Legendary Weapons before the next Wave of Calamity. The fate of our world rides on your shoulders, oh noble heroes." The mage from before spoke again, and Naofumi remembered that they still had not been explained the why of their summoning. However, before he could voice his concerns, Ren spoke out.

"About these Waves of Calamity and whatnot, you haven't even explained why we are here. Hoping for our cooperation, yet withholding information from us; I hope you don't take us for fools." Harsh words came from Ren, Motoyasu and Itsuki suddenly assuming a semblance of a stance.

"That's right! You can't expect us to work for free, right? Say, if we were to fight in these waves you speak off, what guarantee do we have that you won't simply send us off with our hands empty after we beat it?" Motoyasu spun his spear and clanged the butt end on the ground. Itsuki didn't anything else, but his hand pulling the bowstring was enough.

Naofumi, although a bit startled by the sudden aggression of his fellow heroes, had to agree to their line of thought. Being an Economics student, one thing that had been engraved in his mind was that "Nothing is free, everything has a price". While his kinder heart told him to help regardless, his mind called out details of his trip here so far.

Shiny armor, fancifully dressed individuals, pompous attitude. These details didn't point out to a distressed nation being attacked.

He shifted into a more defensive position, holding his shield in front of his vitals. Precaution was never enough.

"Rest easy, heroes! It would bring utmost shame upon our nation to not reward their saviors. Of course, you'll receive rewards, glory and fame. We ask that you trust in our word and fight the waves." The king spoke loudly, many of the nobles around them also nodding and lightly clapping to their sovereign's words. Naofumi couldn't help but notice the many pieces of jewelry adorning the king's hands as he continued speaking, explaining the reason behind the hero summoning.

Aultocray said that since ancient times, Waves of Calamity came over the world from a dimensional crack in the sky, pouring in all types of demons that threatened the world with destruction. Heroes were summoned to help combat the demons, their strength necessary to end the Waves as they would become harder and harder to fight off.

A large hourglass called The Hourglass of the Dragon's Era was said to count down the time between the waves, with the first one having already happened three days ago.

As the king finished his explanations, Naofumi pondered about what he heard and compared it to the book he read.

The Waves check out, the name of the country too. It being a monarchy, the summoning of fours heroes with four holy weapons. There was, however, one thing missing. In the pages of the book, just before he felt the blankness enter his mind, it was stated that a princess would cause discord among the heroes and that she would be the one to bring the end of the world.

So far, Naofumi had not seen anyone princess-like among the court. Not to toot his own horn, but he guessed that the grand summoning of the four holy heroes would be something important enough to warrant the presence of the entirety of the royal family. So far, only the king occupied his throne, the seat of the queen was empty and the one he assumed to be the seat of the heir of the throne was also empty.

"Heroes, let us feast your successful summoning. A banquet is being prepared, so please, rest for now. We shall have our maids summon you when it's time for the feast.

"Very well." Motoyasu once more hit the butt end of his spear on the ground.

"Hmph." Ren scoffed, waiting for the maid.

"…" Itsuki stayed silent, his fixed smile plastered over his face.

Naofumi quickly peeked at his status as he waited. A few seconds after the king's parting words, a maid came over to them.

"Please heroes-sama, follow me." She motioned for them to follow, which they promptly did. As they all walked the decorated halls, Moyatatsu was quick to get close to the maid, striking conversation rather easily. The woman broke into conversation with the spear hero, soft giggles already leaving her as she guided them into another fancy room.

It was rather large, containing expensive furniture, four splendid beds, beautiful tapestry and an exit leading to a veranda. As the maid exited the room and closed the doors, the heroes sat on their beds and relaxed somewhat. "I guess that's royalty for you, huh?" Ren said as he examined the curtains of the room.

"The setting is rather cliché, but I guess it has its charm." Itsuki let out as he looked at his bow.

"Right? The plot is somewhat similar to Emerald Online." Motoyasu was also eyeing his spear, doing a few basic thrusts to test the weapon.

"What are you talking about? This is just like a VRMMO I used to play." Ren also did some experimental swings with his sword.

Naofumi was feeling a bit lost here, seeing as he never heard about such things. He was an otaku alright, but he was pretty sure something like VRMMO was only in experimental stages.

"You all must be confusing this with something totally different. This is one of those A.I manipulated games that came out recently." Itsuki, Naofumi's last light, was also speaking nonsense.

He released a sigh.

"Naofumi!" Motoyasu and Itsuki came to Naofumi, the spear holding blonde calling out to him. "Tell him that I am right! You also played it, right?" The duo came close to stepping inside his personal space, ushering him to agree with one of them.

"Look, I have no idea of what you guys are talking about. There was is no Emerald Online, no VRMMO, and no A.I game, or anything like that, you know?" The trio of Ren, Itsuki and Motoyasu looked at him weirdly. "I guess that the closest thing you would find related to that would be WoW or some recently created MOBA right? In first place, VR is still in experimental stages and whatnot." Ren rose his brows at Naofumi's words.

The four heroes started a discussion, comparing some basic notions that couldn't be different, right?

Well, apparently not, considering no answer matched with each other. The current Japanese Prime minister, the person on the 10-thousend Yen bill, and even the current year. All different answers for each of the heroes.

"Are you telling me that we all came from different versions of Earth? That is crazy!" Naofumi stated the group's thoughts. They all were huddled together, sitting on Ren's bed, and now each was left to ponder on their own for a while.

After a few minutes of hard thought, Motoyasu was the first to break the silence.

"Well, not that it matters any way! Let's focus on another thing." The blonde hoped that someone would bring another topic, but their conversations mostly died down. "Wait, Naofumi, your weapon is a shield?" Naofumi once more became the focus of the group as eyes settled on his shield.

"That's right, Shield Hero and all that."

Motoyasu let out a disappointed breath and shook his head sideways.

"You know, don't take this personal, but in Emerald Online, Shield Bearers were bottom tier trash!" That was…something. "Their initial defense is high and all, but there are no high-level shield users. Hell, a shield isn't even a weapon, it's more like protective gear." Itsuki nodded along with Motoyasu's words. Ren was merely letting the situation play out, content on staying neutral.

Naofumi felt a little pissed off, but he could understand the blonde. When you heard weapon, you didn't exactly picture "Shield" in your mind; that, however, didn't mean he was taking this sort of talk towards him without firing some heat back.

"Anything can be a weapon, you know! I mean, even a spear or a sword can be used as a shield if the need arises." The three others paused, Motoyasu even assuming a pensive pose. Truly enough, you could block and defend with their weapons, but that just proved their practicality. Come on, for god's sake, it was a shield. What could it do?

"Besides that, these are Legendary Weapons! The possibilities are endless. Maybe I can find a shield that has a high attack." Naofumi said, standing up and going to the veranda. He leaned on the marble railing, watching the city. New possibilities, wonders and adventures were just waiting for him out there, he just needed to grab them and work hard. Sure, it seemed like he had stumbled upon a setback, but maybe he could equip a sword and focus on developing his attack.

Just as Naofumi finished his thoughts, he felt static ran through his fingers, giving him a shock. He almost shouted at the unexpected pain, but just as it arrived, it was gone. He grumbled, but his menu popped up, a notification shining brightly.


[Breach of Sacred Agreement! A hero may only use their Legendary equipment to fight. Holding another weapon with the intent to fight breaches the Holy Agreement.]

What the hell? Naofumi looked at his shield, eyes focused particularly at the green gem in the center. Possessive little thing, aren't you? Telling me I can't fight with anything aside of you. You're not exactly sharp, you know? A ping like noise sounded in his mind as another menu popped up for him.

-[Help Section]-

[The Legendary Weapon is capable of assuming various forms, as long as the user has unlocked them and has the necessary requirements for their use. Absorb various materials to unlock new Shield Series and strengthen the holy weapon.]

How neat! This is really awesome! Naofumi kept messing with his new found function. He noticed that his skill tree for the shields was full of locked entries, many more also had question marks. Even as he looked and messed with the menu, a few new shield entries kept popping up, all of them locked by level.

He glanced and tried to read more about the locked shields, but even their names were unavailable. He smiled, pleased about his discovery. He almost rushed to tell his fellow heroes about his news, but as he kept glancing at his menu section, something called his attention.

It was fairly hard to spot, considering that this world did not have the lighting his world have, but he managed to see it. An outline, vaguely shaped like a human, was perched on the roof, what he supposed to be the head was staring at the open windows of the heroes' room. What gave it away was the shade of black clothing it wore. Being such an Otaku, Naofumi researched many nerd-like things, including things about the accuracies of the ninja in his world. He found out that black was rather easy to spot in darkness, and that real ninjas used darker shades of blue or grey to hide from sight.

He looked at his fellow heroes and was about to call them, but a knock on their door sounded first.

~Knock knock~

"Heroes-sama, the king has called for you. The banquet in your honor is served." The muffled voice of the maid from earlier sounded behind the door. The three inside the room answered that they were coming.

Naofumi looked away from the door and back to where he saw the suspicious shape, finding nothing as he looked around. He scratched behind his neck, wondering if he was seeing things.

"Naofumi." Ren called him out. "The other two already went ahead. I'd still like to eat something, so hurry up." While the tone was rather passive-aggressive, Naofumi thanked that someone had waited for him.

"Thanks for waiting Ren. Let's go!"

After the dinner, the heroes came back to their room. Tomorrow would be the day that they would embark on their journeys; as such, they would receive some financial backing from the king to really kick things up.

Naofumi laid on his bed, wondering about the day's events. His reception had been clearly different from the rest of the heroes, seeing as the Aultocray made an effort to remember their names, whereas he merely called him Shield Hero or Shield. The eyes were windows to the soul, as they would say back in Japan, and right now Naofumi was not seeing a welcoming reception for him.

He was not expecting people to bow and worship the ground where he stepped, but he'd thank some neutral treatment, at the very least.

He sighed.

The Shield Hero once more opened the menu of his status, looking once more at his skill tree. Seeing the many types of different shields made him all the more eager to unlock, discover and thinker. He focused on the one shield unlocked at his level, the information popping up. He also discovered that he was the only one able to see this screen.

-[Legendary Shield (small)]-

+Fully unlocked.

+Bonus skill: Magic Protection (max)

He focused on the bonus skill, the screen growing a bit to display the effects of the shield.

Magic Protection: A aura that fully surrounds the hero, said aura displays the same defense capabilities as the hero's defense status.

This world really feels like a game, doesn't it? He pondered to himself. Maybe he had started the day on the wrong foot, but nothing that a good night of sleep wouldn't fix.

He turned and tossed for a while, trying to find a good position. It was messing like this that he found out he could move the shield anywhere he wished, so long as it stayed in contact with his body.

Next day

Throne room.

After the heroes woke up, they were immediately summoned by the king to the throne room.

It seemed Ren was not a morning person, considering his face was extra scowling as the four of them stood in front of the old king. Naofumi himself was trying to stifle a yawn by pretending to be messing with his shield.

"Noble heroes, I hope you had a most wonderful rest. Today you will embark on your journey to defeat the waves and to help you on this most perilous task, we have acquired the best adventures in the city." At the king's prompt, the doors opened and twelve adventures poured in and presented themselves. Mages, scouts, warriors. It was certainly a different bunch.

"Now adventurers, choose the hero whom your heart wishes to serve." Naofumi almost voiced his confusion at the event, but he guessed that he could not force people to help him. He closed his eyes and waited for the noise of shuffling feet to end before he opened them again.

To his utter bafflement, not a single person had opted to stay behind him. Ren had five followers, Itsuki had three and Motoyasu had four. Naofumi normally would not be jealous, but the smug blonde almost had an all-female troupe following him, excluding the one guy in that group.

"This certainly is a unique situation." Aultocray sounded troubled. A nobleman came to speak on his ear, the king looking in deep thought for a moment. "It seems rumors about you have been circling around the castle. It might also be a charisma problem." The king stroked his white beard as he pondered.

Naofumi looked at his fellow heroes with somewhat pleading eyes. "Could you guys please help me out?" The other three looked at their followers.

"Anyone that can't keep up will be left behind." Ren stated, his serious face keeping the scowl from earlier. No one of his followers moved, all of them nodding to the sword hero. He simply shrugged his shoulders. At least he tried.

"Well, considering our numbers, an equal division would be the most optimal." As per Itsuki's words, Naofumi felt some hope. "However, we can't simply disregard their feelings. Their choice is their choice." Hope was shot down immediately.

"Can't fault a guy for being popular, can you?" Motoyasu's smug was annoying for sure. Ryajuu (Japanese slang term for a social normie) bastard.

"It looks like you will have to gather your own followers, Sir Shield. Fear not, we shall provide you with slightly higher funds for your journey. I take that all agree with this?" The three offensive heroes nodded, and Naofumi sighed.

Guards came and delivered to each hero leather bags that were full of metal coins. Naofumi's was slightly larger, but he managed to hold it without problems.

"Each of you had been given 600 silver coins, except Sir Naofumi who has 800. Please use these funds to equip yourselves and your party accordingly and push back against the evil that assails our land." The four heroes exclaimed "Hai!" and moved to exit the castle. As they exited the castle gates, Naofumi bid the other three farewell.

He felt someone starring at him, but did not look back. His stomach had been rumbling for a while, their early summon to the throne room not allowing the opportunity for breakfast. The shield hero observed the city in his high place close to the castle's gate.

Seeing as he was alone and had no knowledge of the city layout, he opted for the best option available. Buying information. He approached the castle guards, which seemed annoyed at his presence, but still talked to him. A few complimentary words, a few silver coins and the Japanese man was well on his way to the market place, a rough city map in hand.

He walked with an easy step, eyeing the many stalls and inns serving foodstuff. Many onlookers eyed him, his strange clothes an uncommon sight for sure. The hero thought about his choices and timeframe, and opted for a common street stall. After having his fill, and receiving a great deal of change in copper coins, he opted to walk the business district.

One apparent problem was the fact that he could not read any of the signs that had words on it. He scratched his neck, wondering what he was to do. Many signs had symbols, representing what they meant, so taking that fact in stride, Naofumi entered a building with a sword and anvil crossed together, hoping it be a weapons dealer or a blacksmithing shop.

As he opened the heavy wooden door, the hero saw many different sets of weapons and armor. He complimented himself, smiling as he looked around the shop. Behind the counter stood a tanned man wearing simple clothes and over it was a leather apron.

"Hey there kid, looking for a good weapon?" The man had an easy smile, hands pointing to some of his merchandise. Naofumi approached the man.

"What do you have in terms of defense?" The man rose his brow, looking at the shield in his arm. "Yeah, I'm kind of the Shield Hero, and my weapon is a bit obsessive over me."

The smith let out a surprised noise. "Hmm, you are one of them fancy heroes summoned, guess the rumors were true. Pleasure meeting ya' kid, name's Erhart. Well, to what do I owe the visit of a hero in my humble shop?" Naofumi smiled at the humble man.

"Some armor, I guess. Nothing too heavy and easy to move with would be a good start. Besides that, I don't think I really need anything…" Naofumi pondered a while. Then, he remembered. "Yeah, if you could bring some ore and some ingots, that would be good." Erhart searched under his counter for some time before he put atop the counter a few pieces of armor.

"Depending on how much you want to spend, we have got some these options. Boiled-leather armor, Reinforced leather, Chainmail, and plated armor. Each of these go for about 150 to 250 silver pieces." The smith pointed to the armors, giving the price of each as he pointed and explained the benefits of each piece. "About those ores and the ingots, why do you want them? I've got some to spare."

Naofumi picked the Boiled-leather armor, examining the flexibility. "I told you that I'm the Shield Hero, right? The shield is magical, so it can become stronger if I absorb different materials; I'm hoping to find something that will increase my offensive power." He placed the armor back in place and after examining the others, he chose the chainmail. It offered some considerable protection and didn't hinder movement.

"Magic Shield, huh? Mind if I take a peek at it?" Naofumi offered the arm with the shield, Erhart bringing a monocle-like lenses and looking in concentration at the magic gem in his shield. The tanned man sighed, disappointed with something as he scratched the bald spot on his head. "Can't really tell you anything about it. Only thing I got from it is that the magic gem on it is quite powerful." The tanned man hummed, going in a room. He came back soon after, carrying many materials with him.

"Here, try feeding your shield these. Let's see what it does." As he set the materials on the counter, Erhart extended his open hand to Naofumi. "Little guarantee first, since I don't know if you will try to dash as soon as you have what you want!" As if Naofumi would try to! The man looked like he could strangle a bear with those arms of his.

He pretended to be offended, and grumbling, placed his leather purse atop the counter. "This dissuade you about that?" Enhart laughed with gusto, slapping Naofumi across the back, almost making the hero crumble.

"I like you, An-chan (Young one)! Come one, let's see what your shield is all about!" Naofumi picked an iron ingot, looking at it and hoping what he read yesterday to be true. He approached the ingot to the green gem, the crystal shining with vigor. It began sucking the iron ingot, consuming about half the ingot before it stopped.

-[Iron Shield unlocked!]-

[Iron Shield]

-Increase in defense +8 (potential locked)

Bonus skills (locked): Reinforcement, Slashing resistance (small), Piercing resistance (small), Blunt resistance (small).

"Awesome!" Naofumi exclaimed, immediately switching to his new shield. It didn't change much from the original design, gaining a more graphite-like color and seemingly becoming more rugged around the edges. He deposited the half-consumed ingot piece on the counter and grabbed the next material without even looking, so great as his enthusiasm with the sudden increase in status.

[Raw Iron Ore Shield unlocked!] [Black Iron Shield unlocked!] [Silver Shield unlocked!] [Raw Silver Ore Shield unlocked.] [Steel Shield unlocked] [Bronze Shield unlocked] [Copper Shield unlocked] [Raw Copper Ore Shield unlocked] [Iron Sand Shield unlocked] [Whetstone Shield unlocked] [Rope Shield unlocked] [Coal Shield unlocked]

His defense status jumped rapidly as he continuously feed material after material to his shield. Erhart was a bit afraid of the glint in Naofumi's eyes as the hero eyed one thing after another, wondering what he could stuff into his shield.

"Easy there An-chan, you even fed it the rope I had set aside for you. I won't be able to feel at ease in my own shop if you keep feeding anything that isn't nailed to the ground to that shield." Even as the man spoke, Naofumi's head snapped into the blacksmith's direction.

"You're a genius, Old man! Do you have nails? Sell me them, let's see if I can get a boost to my attack. All I got so far were defense bonuses and some skills." Naofumi was truly on fire today!

"Alright, alright, just calm down and don't break anything, else you pay for it, in cash!" The tanned blacksmith shook his head sideways and searched his smithy for the nails. He came back with a handful of them, some thick and some thin. The hero eyed the little metal rods as if hungry, making the smith smirk as he settled the nails on the counter.

Immediately, the hero grabbed a few different types. Once more his shield's gem shone and absorbed the different nails. As the duo waited, the Japanese's eyes watered.

-[Iron Nail Shield unlocked]-

[Iron Nail Shield]

-Increase in attack +2; Increase in defense +5

+Passive skills: Building proficiency(small).

+Bonus skill: Spiked-counter.

-[Iron Stake Shield unlocked]-

[Iron Stake Shield]

-Increase in attack +4; Increase in defense +7

+Passive skills: Nail-spiked defense(locked) (Temp. defense +2).

+Bonus skill: Blunt Spike.

Naofumi almost shouted to high heavens. Finally, some offensive power!

He calmed down and apologized for his behavior. He also asked Erhart about things such as field equipment and camping gear. To his luck, the tanned man had such items available, although they costed a pretty penny. In total he had spent about 350 out of his 800 silver coins. After some more moments of small talk, Naofumi exited the shop. Now, he finally looked somewhat adventurous, dressed in chainmail and carrying a big backpack.

He exited the city gate and watched in awe the fields around the city. He managed to catch the figure of his fellow heroes in the distance, excelling at dealing with round, leather-like creatures. Their followers mostly watched and talked to the heroes, no doubt explaining questions and helping.

Naofumi released a sigh. Well, at least I got some sweet bonuses back on Old man's shop.

He walked down the road, eyes the fields in hopes of finding a mob. Best get accustomed to combat now and learn his role as a literal tank. He rolled his shoulders, not really accustomed to the weighty backpack and resisting the urge to scratch his itchy back. The weight of the chainmail also was something new, making his movement somewhat awkward.

As he approached a stretch of the field, his vision caught movement in the bushes. He raised his shield in anticipation of finally having his first fight. He approached the moving shrubbery, hoping to coax out whatever was hiding in there.

An orange ball shot at him with some decent speed. He managed to parry the bouncy enemy from his shield, the violent leather ball snarling with its cuteish maws. He stood in front of this weirdly cute enemy, and prepared for a face-off, not noticing the other balloons surrounding him.

He rushed to punch first, his fist connecting square with the ball, yet not really doing much. There was some damage, the leather seams of the creature almost breaking apart. He punched again, however, the balloon bit on his fist. He expected to feel pain at the bite, the sharp teeth certainly seemed enough to break skin.

Imagine his surprise when he felt absolutely nothing. There was a slight pressure where the teeth were pushing, but no pain, not even a mild annoyance. He was about to punch the balloon again when suddenly, a dozen of the round creatures jumped at him, biting down wherever they could.

He felt no pain, but he bet he looked utterly ridiculous with the balloons hanging on him akin to Christmas decorations. The soft green aura around his body also wasn't helping his case.

He changed his shield, from the simple form from before to the only his available shield (level 1 hell), the [Iron Nail Shield]. Said shield looked like a black slab of thin metal had been notched several times and the resulting thin strips pushed down. He wondered how he could attack with that thing without looking like some weird kamikaze.

As his arm lowered, the shield brushed against one of the balloons and he saw a message pop-up. Counter activated. The thin strips rapidly jutted out and pierced the three balloons clinging to his leg.

Enemies defeated.

EXP gained +3.

He certainly felt happy for the kills, although a bit less so when he saw the amount of experience he gained. His SP bar had also been drained, leaving what he assumed to be the magic bar untouched. He repeated the process about four times, killing all the clinging enemies.

Enemy defeated.

Enemy defeated.

Enemy defeated

Exp gained +9.

Am I going to have to spend the day grinding away like this to level up? His eyes trailed down to the leather strips the creatures had dropped. How about these?

-[Orange balloon Shield unlocked]-

Defense of +2? I guess each point matters. Business class had taught him one thing, never underestimate the small numbers. Even dust, if pilled high enough, could become a mountain. No matter how small, he would accept any advantage he could.

He continued like this for a few hours, his hard work nicking him a level up. Not that level 2 was that of a big difference. He had unlocked a couple of other Balloon Series Shields, the only difference between them was their colors and the little bonuses they gave.

He took a break, eating an apple-like fruit as he looked over the result of today's hard work. The many +1 added to his already high defense made Naofumi wonder. If he took off his chainmail and faced the balloons in his normal clothes, would he feel their bite?

The sun was slowly setting over the horizon, coloring the sky in a deep orange hue. Red, yellow, orange melted in the sky to form a stunning scenery over the green fields. It was breathtaking.

He finished his snack, munching the rest of the bitter fruit, and grabbed his heavy pack. As he hoisted the heavy weight on his back, a feminine voice called him out.

"Ehh, hello Sir Shield Hero." He turned to the source, finding a beautiful woman. She had red hair, a fair face and a proportionate body. She was dressed in leather armor and had a sword sheathed on her waist. Naofumi remembered her from earlier in the day; she had joined Moyatatsu's group.

"H-hey there." He hated his little stutter, curse his non-existential charming skills. "What-, how can I help you?" Real smooth Naofumi, just buttery smooth.

"I don't know if you remember me, but I was one of the adventurers that was summoned to assist the heroes. My name is Malty." She had charm, that's for sure. Her speech was soft in the ears, and she eyed him with conviction. "I was accompanying Moyatatsu-sama, the Spear Hero, but seeing you all alone here has touched my heart. No soul should be alone in such a perilous travel! If you'd allow, may I travel with you, Sir Shield?"

Naofumi's heart skipped a beat and he was sure he was blushing like an idiot. Calm down, you fool! She just wants to travel together. Buying equipment is pretty expensive and with a big group one would have to split the money even more. I guess I'm a fair alternative!

"Y-you sure Moyatatsu won't mind? I mean, you chose his group first and all." Pathetic excuses left his mouth. He really was not experienced when it came to girls.

Malty offered him a puppy-hurt, apologetic expression, and he sputtered, trying to not make her feel unwelcomed.

"It's not a problem! Not a problem at all!" He flailed around and she giggled at his foolishness. He released a pleased sigh at her renewed expression. Naofumi fixed his shoulders and pumped his chest up, trying to sound as courageous and as charismatic as possible. "It will be an honor having you accompanying me, Malty!"

"Thank you, Sir Shield Hero." He almost deflated when she called him like that once more. "Say, shall we head back to the city? It is darkening, and the monsters become more active and ferocious in the night." She stated.

"Yeah, let's go."

Back in town and inside a cozy inn, Naofumi and Malty were enjoying dinner as she explained the map, which he had bought from Erhart old man earlier in the day.

"Heading past Ryute Village there is a beginner's dungeon. Drops won't be anything worthwhile, but with our current equipment we should easily gain experience and increase our levels." Malty pointed the general area on the map, Naofumi nodding as he tried to estimate the distance. "This map isn't the most recent out, but we won't get lost following it."

"Getting the hang of a real battle, huh?" He murmured to himself, enjoying the supple taste of their meal. He had paid a little more for something above average, and so far, his steak was superb. He focused on Malty as she grabbed the wine bottle she had ordered and offered to fill his tankard; he had been drinking an orange-like juice.

"Care for some wine, Sir Shield Hero?" There it was once more. Maybe she was shy or not used to calling men by their name, but the way she only called him by a title irked him somewhat. She seemed to have no problem calling Moyatatsu by his name, why was it different for him? I'm to fixated in small details. Maybe it's nothing…

"Not really. Thanks for the offer." He answered. Naofumi wasn't bad with alcohol. To be fair, he never got drunk when he partied with his few friends back in the university in Japan; lightly buzzed at most. That made so that he was normally the one that had to take care of the drunkards and make sure they didn't destroy anything. Due to that, Naofumi avoided drinking alcohol.

He was fairly sure that this world would not have anything stronger than his world, so he would not make a fool out of himself; however, old habits die hard, and he wasn't feeling like drinking anything this soon in his journey. Maybe later, when he'd have more comrades, they could share a drink after a day of hard-fought battles.

Mallty seemed disappointed at his refusal, her eyes dropping a bit. He stayed strong in his decision. Her eyes focused on his, she spoke. "Sir Hero, did you know that Melromarc is a matriarchy? Normally, a man rejecting a woman's invitation for a drink is unheard of." She slowly moved the bottle closer to his side of the table.

"A matriarchy, huh?" He paid no attention to her subtle moves as he wondered where would the queen be. If Melromarc was truly a matriarchy, the queen should've been the one to meet Naofumi and the heroes, not King Aultocray. Something wasn't adding up.

Naofumi finished the last of his meal and downed his drink. "Malty, I'm going to sleep first. Can we meet here at breakfast?" He asked her. She looked straight at him for a few seconds before smiling.

"Sure, breakfast it is!"

"Good night!" He bid her and moved from their table.

He entered his room and dropped his heavy baggage close to the bed. He also took off the chainmail and rolled his shoulders, before also removing his boots.

Naofumi pondered about today's events. The most recent piece of information he had received made the seed of doubt that he had filed away in the corner of his mind sprout.

Why was the queen's throne empty if she was such an important figure? Where was she? Why was he perceived by the castle guards as an eyesore? Why did no one wanted to help him? Why, suddenly, there was a beautiful woman wishing to join his, previously empty, party? Why did the king hold such contempt in his eyes when he spoke to him?

Naofumi gave up on sleeping and sat on the small chair his room had. He looked over his current possessions. He grabbed both the maps he had purchased today and spread them over the small table, close to his mostly full bag of money. The hero examined the city's map for a while; it wasn't a complicated map to be honest.

Making sure he memorized all the details of the city map he fed the parchment to his shield. For the first time, his shield only absorbed the map and nothing happened; he didn't unlock a new shield. Curious as to why, Naofumi unconsciously grabbed the next map and almost fed it to his shield.

He glanced at the second map, this one being even easier to memorize than the first. He gulped in some air and did the motion in one flow, feeding more parchment to his shield.

-[Cartographer's Shield unlocked]-

[Cartographer's Shield]

-Increase in defense +1

+Passive skills: Cartography proficiency (medium); Terrain-recognition proficiency (small).

+Bonus Skill: World Map.

Naofumi equipped the shield. His shield morphed into something akin to a binder. He opened the cover, the inside of the shield resembling a sci-fi screen from a manga he had read a while back. It seemed alive, showing little details of the areas he had been and coupled it together with the maps he fed the shield. There was even a little dotted trail following the locations of today.

He also grabbed a few silver and copper coins from his bag. He wondered if he should really be testing his ideas with money. Hey! Nothing ventured, nothing gained! He brought first the copper coins onto the gem, which promptly sucked it greedily. While nothing happened again, Naofumi could feel something inside of him stir, almost as if the shield was asking for him to continue. He followed his gut, putting a few silver coins over the gem. It shone.

-[Currency-Holder Shield unlocked]-

[Currency-Holder Shield]

-Increase in defense +2

+Passive skill (locked): Calculation proficiency(medium)

+Bonus skill: Void Bank storage

His new shield was weird. It seemed more of a gauntlet with a small rectangular chest over the forearm, the gem atop the chest. He opened the chest and could see the inside of it, nothing out of common, just chest colored silver. Taking the name of his current bonus skill in stride, Naofumi grabbed his last copper coins.

He dropped them inside the little chest and they fit rather easily. He tried putting more coins, all of them fitting perfectly inside, giving him the view of a little treasure pile accumulating inside one corner of the chest. This, legit, breaks so many laws of physics. Does this world actually follow the same laws?

As he kept tinkering with his shield and his skills, Naofumi forgot about his earlier, more worried thoughts. To be honest, he was putting them aside, hoping that his line of thought was wrong and he was merely seeing things were there were none.

He fell asleep over the table, his shield, default state, serving as his pillow. He was never aware of the presence that entered his room and got closer to his back.

The presence was quiet, avoiding making any loud noises. The person tried to move the backpack close to the bed, but found the monstrous weight to be too much to bear. It examined the Shielded Hero, hoping to find something of value. When it found no coins and no wallet close by, the presence huffed, visibly annoyed.

It did a last round over the room, only grabbing the close chainmail and leaving soon after.

Naofumi would only wake by mourning, with loud bangs over the wooden door of his room.