+The Audience+


I took stock of my surroundings as I rolled to a crouching position.

Firstly, Yoyo behind me. That was good. I didn't lose him like I did back then.

Three other people to my sides, dressed casually. Combat experience was likely minimal.

Sword in hand. Not familiar, but something in the back of my head told me it was mine.

Robed and hooded men in front of me. Potential enemies. Current manner: non-threatening.

Architecture was old-fashioned. Looked sort of like MicFortress, which implied these robed men could use magic. Also potential explanation for being here.

"Oh brave heroes, please-"

Having analyzed enough, I stood and levelled my weapon at the men in front of me.

"Who are you and where did you take me?!" My eyes glared harshly into theirs. Combined with the sword at their throats, the crowd took a step back in fear.

"One, stop!"

I turned around to look at my brother, taking in his condition.

No visible injuries. Clutching at stomach, most likely nausea. Condition is not critical.

"We're not here to make enemies yet." He stood shakily. Whatever got us here didn't seem to agree with him.

I raised an eyebrow. "Yet?"

"Depends on what they do in the immediate future, doesn't it?"

I smiled bitterly. On the one hand, it was good that he was learning to become cautious in strange situations. It could very well save his life.

On the other, I couldn't help but feel guilty. As though the remainder of my paranoia from my wandering days was what was molding my brother's potential early stages of cynicism.

The leading robed man, who had his hood down as well as a circlet around his head, spoke up nervously. "O-Oh brave heroes, please save our world!"

I turned back to them, any sign of warmth leaving my body language. "Explain," I bit through grit teeth.

The sense of drama he was obviously trying to project was stunted by his nervosity in the face of my aggression. "There's-There's a long and complicated story behind this, but we've summoned you Four Cardinal Heroes here using an ancient ritual." He paused, no doubt to let it sink in for us. "Our world teeters on the brink of destruction. We beg you, O brave heroes, please grant us aid!"

"Well," One of the people started, "I guess I could hear you out-"

He was immediately interrupted by one of the others. "Not happening."

I turned to the guy with a raised eyebrow. He was wearing green formal-ish wear. Probably a uniform for private academies. Looked the age for the part too.

I mentally tagged him as "Boy."

"What he said. We can go back to our world, right? We'll talk about your problems after that." The man on the other side of me stepped forward a little.

I glanced at him. His attire was far more casual than even the third man who was furthest from me. He was attempting to project a "relaxed professional" stance but the way he held his spear screamed "newbie" at me.

I tagged him as "Fancy Man" and elected to speak, ensuring that my tone was, while no longer hostile, still frosty. "As much as I'd like to hear you out, I'm also peeved at the way you brought us here without even asking for consent. If lack of remorse is a characteristic trait in this place you'll find it much, much harder to earn my cooperation."

"Brother…" I could hear Yoyo facepalm behind me.

"Plus," Boy piped up, "If you throw us out after peace is restored, we'd have worked for nothing.

"How willing are you to accommodate us?" Fancy Man drawled, resting his spear on his shoulder. "Depending on your answer, we might end up becoming your enemies."

Jeez, what even was this guy? Updating his tag from "Fancy Man" to "Dick".

"Um-First, we'd like you to have an audience with the king of our country, Melromarc."

Hm...Never heard of such a place in Cier. Guess that cements that we're in a different world entirely.

"You can negotiate your rewards after that, so please…" he trailed off nervously.

I considered the offer. It wasn't much of a choice really. If Yoyo and I wanted to make it back home, support from the ruling body of the region would make things far easier.

Then again, like Dick had said, it all depended on how willing the region was to accommodate us.

I turned to my brother and raised an eyebrow. He shrugged and whispered, "All yours, just don't kill anyone undeserving."

I turned back to the group of cultists–or whatever they were–and spoke curtly. "Fine then. Lead us to him."

"I suppose we could consider the offer." Boy sighed in attempt to be dramatic.

"Not like our demands are going to change either way." Dick grinned confidently.

I turned to the last guy who was staring at us in bemusement. "You coming?"

"Huh? Ah-uh, yeah, I am."

He was dressed casually in a green and white sweatshirt and, while at ease, seemed far more cautious about this whole scenario than the other two who came with us.

Probably the most sensible person out of the other three.

I tagged him as "Uninflated Head" as I turned with my brother and stalked after the other two who'd already gone.


+Support of the Sword Hero+


"So these four men are the Four Cardinal Heroes of ancient legend?"

We were standing in the middle of an elaborate throne room, with guards at the walls on both sides of us. In front of us were a pair of thrones, and in the one to my left sat the decorated man who was speaking to us.

His hair was all gray, a crown adorned his forehead, and lines were etched across his face, a symbol of his age.

I wondered to myself if his age was a sign of his wisdom, or a sign of his wisdom fading.

"I am the king of Melromarc, Aultcray Melromarc the 32nd." That's a long line of Aultcrays. "Name yourselves, heroes."

I took the initiative. "Edwin Ferris. 35. Apprentice of the Dojo. You can call me 'One'."

Dick went next. "Motoyasu Kitamura, 21 years old and a college student."

Tag updated to "Motoyasu".

Boy went after him. "I guess I'm next. Itsuki Kawasumi. 17 years old, and a high schooler."

Tag updated to "Itsuki".

My brother took a breath to speak, but was interrupted by the king.

"So Edwin, Motoyasu and Itsuki, is it?"

My eyes narrowed coldly. "I count five people in front of you. Dismissiveness does you no credit, Your Rudeness."

Yoyo turned an incredulous gaze to me and whispered harshly, "Brother! Don't antagonize the ruling party!"

"You mustn't be so disrespectful." Itsuki spoke to me in reproach.

"But of course. My apologies, then, your royal majesty." I drawled, making sure to drown my words in as much sarcasm as I could without breaking the illusion of formality.

I'll admit, I was probably a little too confrontational about it, but him glossing over Yoyo's presence instantly put him on my shit list.

The man on the throne scowled at me, but simply replied through equally gritted teeth. "King is fine."

Shaking his head in shame, Yoyo turned to the asshole who probably didn't deserve my brother's respect. "Arthur Ferris. 24. Apprentice of the Dojo and I go by 'Yoyo'."

"And lastly, me. I'm Naofumi Iwatani. I'm 20, and a college student."

Tag updated to "Naofumi".

He didn't so much as give either my brother or Naofumi a second glance. "I suppose I owe you all an explanation."

My teeth could probably crack cierium fiber, but Yoyo squeezing my arm kept me from doing something rash. Brutally murdering a person of royalty, no matter how big a pain in the ass they were, came with repercussions, after all.

Naofumi was a bit more vocal about his treatment. "Are you ignoring me?" he muttered quietly.

"My country, Melromarc, and the entire world is headed toward destruction…"

The gist of the explanation was this: There was an apocalyptic prophecy in this world, detailing the arrival of events called "Waves," each of which brought about calamities that must be thwarted or the world would end. Every country in the world had this thing called an "Ancient Dragon Hourglass" which counted down the time remaining until the next wave's coming. The first Wave came about before our summoning, but they'd managed to repel it with local military force. The ones taking place after though, are even more potent.

So long as Waves will happen, the hourglass would keep trickling. As it stands right now, there was about a month remaining until the next wave.

The question I had, but knew better than to voice, was where were the other countries in all this? If the whole world's in peril, then what about the rest of it outside Melromarc?

I knew better than to voice it because I doubt they omitted the other countries from their narrative so that we can ask of them.

Propaganda was the same everywhere, apparently.

"We underestimated the might of the Waves." By this point the sun was starting to set. "We realized once we've experienced one that only the Four Cardinal Heroes could counter the horrors. And thus, we have followed the ancient legend and summoned you. We have no time to lose!"

"Brother…" Yoyo tugged at my arm.

I turned to him and he whispered to me. "This is the plotline of the game I wanted to show you."

I nodded in understanding and turned back to the king. "Well, I can appreciate the situation a little better now. That said, I hope you weren't expecting us all to be charitable and ask for nothing in return."

"Of course not." The man standing next to the king's throne looked like a shriveled prune with skin the colour of parchment. Combined with the slicked-back hair, it gave off an unsettling vibe.

I could take him on, no question about that, but he didn't feel pleasant to be around.

I tagged him as "Sleaze Bag".

"Once you repel all the waves," he continued, "we shall obviously reward you handsomely."

"Will you now?" smirked Motoyasu, "So long as we have your word I suppose."

"Don't stab us in the back and we shall have no issues." I drawled.

"Yeah, we can't have that." Yoyo muttered beside me.

"Just don't try to have us serve you at your beck and call." Itsuki grinned in turn.

"R-Right…" Naofumi muttered his agreement and promptly put his hand to his forehead in what was likely exasperation. He was probably denouncing our arrogance and overconfidence.

Then again, he probably didn't know I had the skill to back my claims up.

"I trust we have an agreement." The king spoke from his throne. "Then, heroes, please check your statuses."

Naofumi proceeded to ask an excellent question that I wanted to ask as well. "What's a 'status'?"

I had no clue, but apparently my brother did. "Look in the bottom right corner of your field of vision. There should be an icon there."

I checked, and sure enough, there it was.

"Now try focusing on it."

A sizeable window popped up in front of me at that, detailing a number of odd terms I decided I'd go over later. My focus lay on the number set in the largest font size, which said "Level 1".

...How was I supposed to fight like this?

And judging by the comments I heard from the others, they were in agreement over that.

"What is all this anyway?" Naofumi turned to the two men we were facing.

"Status magic," Sleaze Bag answered, "it's an ability exclusive to the heroes."

"What are we to do?" I asked. Now that all the context and exposition was out of the way, it was time for the briefing.

"You are all to go on an adventure so that you can develop and upgrade the legendary weapons that you have equipped to you."

Yoyo snorted quietly. "Yes," he whispered in a stereotypical fancy accent, "develop and upgrade the legendary weapon, the bringer of death, the ultimate killing tool! The! Yoyo!"

I held back from snorting, but smirked at that regardless.

The suggested course of action made sense. Yoyo has introduced me to enough games for me to know that Level 1 was the lowest of the low. Rock bottom, as it was.

I don't think this sword could've sliced through butter even if I swung with all of my admittedly limited might.

"So these aren't maxed immediately?" Naofumi looked at the shield on his arm. "Mine's not even a weapon though…"

"Couldn't we just use other weapons until these are suitable?" Motoyasu asked as he cycled through multiple "stances" with his spear.

He was so amateurish it was causing me physical pain to watch it.

"We'll figure that out as we go," I muttered as I turned away from the sad excuse of a spearman that stood next to me, "as of right now, training ourselves takes priority."

"If we formed a party together," Naofumi started, "we could-"

"One moment, heroes." We turned to look at Sleaze Bag, who'd interrupted Naofumi. "You will all be recruiting and adventuring separately."

Why? That's stupid as heck. If we're all going to fight the waves, we should at least learn to cooperate so that we could work efficiently as a team.

I said as much to Sleaze Bag, to which he responded, "It is said that the legendary weapons repel each other by nature. If you work together, it apparently hinders their development."

That was single-handedly the most stupid thing I've heard today, but it was unfortunately confirmed as fact by a window popping up.

{HELP}

When two or more wielders of the Legendary Weapons operate together, it causes an adverse reaction in the weapons. Working separately is highly advised.

Well, crap.

Guess we're sticking it out on our own.

"The sun is about to set." No shit, king. "Rest up tonight and set forth tomorrow. In the meantime, we'll gather the best of the best to form your parties."

I smirked inwardly. 'Unless you somehow summoned Alfa as well, there's no way you have the "best of the best". Besides, Yoyo's the only person I really need in my party.'

A lady dressed in a gown stepped forward. "We've prepared rooms for all of you. Please follow me."


+Support of the Sword Hero+


Night had fallen, we'd eaten our fill, and we were now in one of the rooms provided for us.

"Guess being a hero of legend has perks associated with it." Motoyasu leaned back into the wall as he sat on the drawers. "The girl who showed us here was a looker too."

'Well, deciphering this guy's character isn't difficult at all.' I smirked internally as I went through my menu.

This whole status thing was giving me headaches, and this menu layout was far from intuitive. By which I mean I'd accidentally closed it several times before I got the hang of it.

My "ATT" stat, which I assumed meant "attack", was fairly high, as was my "MAG" stat, presumably magic. In contrast, both my "P. DEF" and "M. DEF" stats were below average, but my "DEX" stat was easily my best stat.

Based on the {HELP} menu, this meant that I could hit fast and hard, but couldn't really tank hits well in turn.

Just the usual, then.

There was also a number of "affinities" in the menu, each affinity at level 0, and each one being of a different element. I presumed that those went up the more I fought and levelled.

The "Small Sword" in my hands was not terribly impressive to me, but it's a weapon, and it's all I had at the moment, so it'd have to do.

"Hey," Naofumi spoke up, prompting me to look up from my menu analysis, "isn't this kinda like a game?"

"You mean it is one." Motoyasu shifted his seating position on the dresser. "It's exactly like Emerald Online."

Naofumi's response is a deadpan, "What is that?"

Motoyasu balked. "Wha-are you serious? It's super famous!"

"Never heard of it." I muttered.

Though, to be fair, with all my years on the road, there was very little I'd actually heard about that was "mainstream," as Yoyo called it.

"What are you going on about?" Itsuki interjects, "It's not a world out of some online game, it's from a console game called Dimension Web."

"Not what I'm familiar with." Yoyo shook his head. "It's a VRMMO, one of the first of its kind too. Plotline and mechanics are all pretty much the same as Brave Star Online."

Motoyasu finally stopped "relaxing" on the drawer–that pose would not be the first thing coming to mind at the thought "relaxation"–and stood up. "Let's review the information we have." He turned to me. "Edwin, right? Can we take VRMMO literally?"

"Call me One." I answered, "I'm not intimately familiar with the concept, that's more my brother's cup of tea, but I'm certain that his information is accurate."

He turned to the others. "You guys get what that means, right?"

"I think a sci-fi game I'm familiar with explored the concept." Itsuki answered.

"I've read about them in LN's." Naofumi was leaning back into the couch.

"I'm the guy who plays them, so I'd hope so." Yoyo grinned.

"Just to be sure, let's check our general knowledge." Motoyasu put his hands to his chin. "Who's the person on the thousand-yen bill?"

Wait, what?

He gestured with his spear. "One, two–"

"–Noguchi Hideyo."

"–Yawara Gotaro."

"–Yuda Masato."

"–What the fuck is 'yen'?"

Me and Yoyo both said the last one in unison.

Everyone looked at each other in confusion at the answers.

And then a barrage of questions started.


+Support of the Sword Hero+


"Looks like the three of us–" Itsuki gestured to himself and the other two heroes, "–are all from different iterations of Japan while you guys–" he gestured to us, "–are from a different world entirely."

"I'll say," Yoyo nodded in agreement. "I've never heard of a 'Japan' or 'yen' in Cier, and I can't fathom someone not having heard of master Hyun or at least the Dojo."

"To think they'd manage to bring in heroes from differing universes," Naofumi mused, "the magic they employ is truly potent. And I really can't believe that three of you played games that are all but copies of this world. Why am I the only one unfamiliar-" I coughed pointedly. "-sorry, one of the two unfamiliar with this?"

Yoyo and the other heroes gave him a calculating look.

"Wh-What's going on?"

"Well...initially, I just thought it was because you're the Shield Hero," Itsuki admitted, "but if not even the Sword Hero's terribly knowledgeable about this…"

Oei, are you implying something, kid?

Motoyasu turned to the high-schooler. "You too, huh?"

"What are you guys talking about? Is there something wrong with the shield?"

Motoyasu turned back to Naofumi with an eyebrow raised. "All righty, big bro Motoyasu's gonna get you up to speed on the basics. As far as I know, the Shielder class, which specializes in shield usage…" he paused long enough to let Naofumi ask, "Yeah?" before continuing with, "...is one for losers. No high-level player plays it."

There was a pause.

"No!" Naofumi's yell could've been heard across the city. Hopefully the walls were soundproofed.

He turned to Yoyo and Itsuki. "What about your worlds?"

Yoyo looked apologetic. "Sorry."

Itsuki didn't. "Likewise."

"Theoretically," I mused, "shields shouldn't be discounted as a weapon simply because of its designed purpose. It may be made to defend, but it's still a weight hanging off the arm. Clobbering someone with such a weight should be able to at least put someone out of commission."

"That's if real life applied, One." Yoyo butted in. "I think it's safe to say it doesn't, what with menus and stats and all that."

I conceded that point.

"So, what's the terrain here like?" Motoyasu questioned as Naofumi fell sideways onto the couch.

"Similar to what we should be familiar with so long as your worlds have forests." Yoyo responded.

I tuned out of the conversation and began fiddling with my menu again.

"So far I'm equipped with this [Small Sword] and these [Otherworld Clothes], huh?" I muttered to myself. "No real bonuses from the clothing. I suppose that's to be expected." I took a glance at the full {HELP} menu...and immediately dismissed it. It would be too long a read for right now, seeing as Yoyo was planning on going to bed soon to get some rest for tomorrow.

"Alright! I'm going to give it my all!"

My eyes snapped to the balcony as I stood, dismissing the menu. Since when did Naofumi get over there?

Shit, am I getting too lax? I missed something as obvious as a person walking around!

"Right…" Motoyasu muttered, then continued. "We have to head out on adventures tomorrow. Let's head back to our rooms and get a good night's sleep."

I tapped Yoyo on the shoulder and jerked my head as he looked up. He nodded, stood, and followed.

We're going to have a long day tomorrow.


A/N:

I'm back.

After possibly the longest time of radio silence.

Then again it's not as though I'm popular so I don't have to fear a riot.

Yet.

So after the ill-thought-out idea that was Team Gemini, it took me a while before I decided to write some more Fanfiction. During that time I got into stick-figure fighting animations, and then Rising of the Shield Hero.

Even before this, when I found the Duelist Demo for One, I'd been putting him in crossover-like events in my mind to see how he'd do in such scenarios.

Thus, this was given form. A story from the perspective of One as the Sword Hero, with Yoyo along for the ride. I'm not putting this in a crossover section because I'm not certain where the section for RHG or similar catefories are.

For the purposes of this story, I'd given One and Yoyo full names, with "One" and "Yoyo" being monikers more than anything. Kind of hard to introduce oneself without a proper accepted name. And I highly doubt they'd accept One and Yoyo as given names.

Don't expect frequent updates. I type when I feel like it, and writer's block exists.

I own not Rising of the Shield Hero, One, Yoyo, or Cier. All rights are reserved to their respective creators.

I think that's all I have to say here.

See you all around.

EDIT: Found an error and removed it. Nothing major.