Chapter Two: Light my Darkness

Naofumi looked down at the piece of paper that Elhart had given him. His mind flashed back to what the blacksmith had told him earlier.

"... slaveholder?" Naofumi asked confusedly. "You mean, they actually have slaves in this country?"

Just how vile was this place?

Elhart rested his elbows on the table and grasped his hands together. "I hate it too, but if you're not willing to trust anyone, they're your best bet. Along with that, buying a slave instead of actively searching for party members would get you the least amount of attention from your enemies."

Naofumi didn't like it. But Elhart's explanation made a lot of sense.

"The man you need is named Beloukas. He set up shop in the city some years ago. Short and nasty little guy, gives me the creeps." The blacksmith shuddered while Naofumi gave him an incredulous look.

"And you want that guy to join my party?"

"Damn it brat, don't be a smart***!" He took a deep breath. "As I was saying, officially he dabbles in monster trading and raising, but it's just a front for his real business. If anyone would be willing to sell anyone a slave, it'd be him."

Naofumi fumed in his seat. "Why does slavery even exist here?"

"I don't know how it is in your world, kid, but over here, slavery is part of the status quo." Elhart put it simply. "Her Majesty has tried to abolish the whole system in Melromarc altogether, but the nobles backing the throne aren't having it."

"... I hate this place even more now," Naofumi grumbled out, unable to believe that he was actually considering it. Why the hell should he save this world if he had to use a system so, so…

"Fine! But how can I be sure that they won't betray me too?!" Naofumi asked heatedly.

Elhart was almost unable to believe that he was talking about this, with a hero of all people. "A slave can't go against what their master orders them to do, no matter what the order is. They have a special slave crest branded on them that binds them to their master. With it, they're unable to lie. Unable to steal. In short, they're unable to harm you or turn on you in any way unless you allow them to. Otherwise, their crest punishes them."


Naofumi put his hand to his chin in thought. It almost sounded too good to be true, yet it was cruel too... But whether he liked it or not, he didn't know what else to do. "And where do I find this... Beloukas fellow?" He asked.

Elhart went to the counter, grabbed a piece of paper off it, and gave it to Naofumi. "Look for an alleyway with this description and follow the instructions."

Naofumi glanced at the paper quizzically. " that an advertisement pamphlet or something?"

"Don't get the wrong idea, brat." The blacksmith quickly replied, sounding nervous. "I would never spread word of that place, this is just something that one of my customers gave me today. Some lesser noble lady, looking for a gift for her husband. She thought that it was weird that I had no apprentices and suggested that I should get myself a slave of the Lemo race to help around the shop. … Actually, come to think of it, I could have sworn that I threw it away, why was it back on my counter again… well, whatever." He said in disgust. "This old man still has a long time left in him before he'll ever think of hiring an assistant. And a slave would be my last choice!"

"No, no that's not what I meant." Naofumi awkwardly replied. "It's just that I, uh..." He sounded hesitant.

"You what brat? Spit it out!" Elhart snapped in annoyance.

"I can't read it, alright!" Naofumi angrily snapped back.

"Huh?" The blacksmith blanched.

"These letters don't make any sense to me. It looks like a bunch of gibberish."

There was an awkward pause between them for a moment. Then, Elhart sighed as he began reading it to him. "Wait, how am I supposed to remember those directions?" Naofumi asked.

"Damn it, kid, here," He handed Naofumi another sheet of paper and a writing utensil. With that, he spent the next little bit reading over the letter as Naofumi wrote it down in Japanese so he could read it.

Elhart gave a look over once Naofumi was done. "Yep, I can't read that." He muttered. "You'll just have to hope you jotted it down right."

"... As long as this slave can fight for me, I'll be just fine," Naofumi said defeatedly. He got up to walk out.

"Oh, and shield kid." Naofumi turned his head to look back at the blacksmith. "Before you leave the Capital, make sure to bring whoever it is here. I'll have any weapons and armor you might need out and ready for you to choose before you go. I'll prepare a warm bath too since I've been able to smell slaves before I've seen them." He said seriously.

"... Why are you doing this old man?" Naofumi asked.

"Doing what?"

"Why are you helping me? What do you have to gain here?"

Elhart shrugged. "I could gain a potential customer in the future when it's all over. Or maybe I'm just the good Samaritan." He then gave Naofumi a serious look. "You might not believe me when I say this, but I trust you kid. Not only because you're one of the Cardinal Heroes, but because I think you still have a good heart in ya despite what they did. I want to see you keep it so you can beat those blokes and prove that you're not a villain like they say you are." He said seriously.


"If you help out a criminal, they might look at it as an act of treason," Naofumi said flatly.

Elhart laughed in response. "I supply at least half of all the weapons and armor around here. If they want to arrest me for helping someone out, I guess I could move my business somewhere else and wait for them to come crawling back to me. I'm sure they'd beg for me to come back when they run short on everything." He said with mirth in his voice.

The blacksmith's reaction almost caused Naofumi to smile. Almost.

He turned to face the doorway again. "If you did that, it might just make my day." He said.

'A good heart, huh… yeah, we'll see about that.'


Naofumi looked at the descriptions on the paper, and then at the alleyway in front of him. He'd followed the directions to the letter. And this alleyway matched up to what the note said. Now, he was supposed to wait for Beloukas to spot him out as a potential customer before proceeding…

He couldn't afford to waste too much time standing there. He didn't know what time it was at night or when the soldiers would come out looking for him. He just knew that if he didn't find the Slave Trader soon, bad things outside of his control would start happening.

He took in a deep breath to calm himself. 'It's okay. If this works out, I'll have someone or a couple of someones who can farm for me. We'll be able to take down monsters together and be able to make enough to have a somewhat decent living while on the run. And maybe, if I'm lucky, these slaves might know of a place or two where we could hide between the waves.'

His mind kept on trying to bring up the fact that whoever this slave or slaves turned out to be could also stab him in the back, slave crest or not. He repeatedly pushed the thought away though. They were definitely annoying, but if they helped him to survive, he'd keep the pessimistic part of him around.

"Hey, look at what we have here boys."

Naofumi looked up, hoping for the Slave Trader, but... 'Ah... great.' Three riff-raff-looking guys approached him from the alleyway. Their levels appeared as LV? in his HUD.

He hoped that didn't mean they were way more powerful or something. Again, why did he have to lack knowledge about how RPGs work?

"Looks like we caught ourselves another customer late at night." The big guy in the middle said.

"I wonder how much money he has for us." The smallest of the three who looked like a rogue said excitedly.

While the guy looked small, he didn't look too creepy for a thief. "I have no interest in fighting you three," Naofumi said to them in a calm voice. "Please leave me alone."

"And who says we want a fight? Is it wrong to want to talk with a fellow stranger?" The guy on the left asked, pulling out a knife from his belt. The other two also pulled out similar weapons.

"Yeah, with the equipment you're wearing, it might be more than worth it to talk for a little while!" One of the rascals said excitedly. "And then maybe you could spare us humble folk a pretty coin or two along the way!"

The three were caught off guard when Naofumi started to humorlessly chuckle. "Seriously, you really want to waste my time with those puny things." He said as he raised his shield.

One of them growled and rushed forward to stab Naofumi. "Let's see you laugh when this is sticking out the other end of your-" He was saying.

Naofumi swung sideways. The shield slammed into the guy's wrist, knocking the knife off-course and making it stab into the ruffian's own shoulder. "Augh!" The robber screamed in pain as he tried to pull the knife back out.

Naofumi then slammed his shield into the man's face and pushed. The ruffian fell back to the ground, but Naofumi grimaced when the actual damage he did registered as 0. It looked like it had been because of him pushing with his STR stat that the guy actually fell.

The other two hoodrats backed away in surprise. "Are you sure you want to talk to me now?" Naofumi calmly asked, before his face took on a crazed look. His legendary weapon glowed brightly on his wrist. "Or do you filth want to scuttle back to where you belong before I decide to kill you!?"

Three screams sounded at the same time, and all three ran away from Naofumi. Absolutely frightened out of their minds. Naofumi laughed evilly behind them. "That's right, run! Run like the scum you are, you cowards! Ahahahaha!"

Naofumi had the same crazed look he'd made on the spot for another moment, making sure the three screaming would-be thieves were long gone before he suddenly leaned against the wall. Breathing in and out from the fear that had almost made him freeze up when he saw the knife coming for him.

'Holy hell! I'm so lucky that my shield knocked his attack back on himself. Who knows how that could have gone down otherwise...' His thoughts turned to frustration again. 'Damn it! I don't have any good offensive abilities against monsters or even common crooks! If I don't find that slave-trader soon...' He couldn't finish the thought. His future was looking bleaker by the second.

"Hmmm, looks like you could use some help, good sir."

Naofumi looked down at the source of the voice.

A short, creepy-looking little man wearing a traditional circus ringmaster's tuxedo stood in the alleyway. The suit part ranged in color from black to grey, the shirt underneath was a clean white, and what looked like a purple feathery vest stuck out from underneath the suit around his neck like a crown. He also wore glasses with a small chain attached to the right side, a pair of white alchemist gloves, a black top hat, and a red bow tie finished up the weird outfit.

His smile spoke volumes in creepiness.

"What are you talking about?" Naofumi asked coldly.

The short man lightly chuckled. Even that sounded creepy. Naofumi knew he'd found the man Elhart had described. It was definitely the creepiest little man that he'd ever met.

At least, he found it highly unlikely that he'll ever meet anyone creepier than this.

"Hmmm, I saw the way you handled those common crooks. It was unbelievable if I do say so myself, good sir. But no matter how good a man is, he can't always win a fight using only a shield, hmmm." The man chuckled again while twirling his mustache.

Naofumi turned back the way he was going. If he was to appear eager, then he'd be overcharged. Maybe so much that he wouldn't be able to afford any slaves.

"Whatever weapons you're offering, I'm not interested." He said while walking away.

"Oh, but what I'm offering you is a service that is far more convenient, good sir." The man said, walking up behind him.


Naofumi stopped and looked down at him, his face expressionless. "And what would that be?"

"Interested, are we good sir?" Beloukas pressed.

"Go away," Naofumi responded, turning away again.

Beloukas laughed to himself. "You've got that look in your eyes that I just adore. You're every bit the man the rumors said you'd be."

Naofumi narrowed his eyes slightly. "Rumors huh, so, you already know who I am."

"Of course I do, Shield Hero sir." He raised his face, and Naofumi could have sworn he saw a gleam behind those glasses of his. He suddenly realized no facade he put up would work. Beloukas knew how desperate his situation was.

"If you really want my help, then follow me and we can discuss business. Though if my source is correct, we won't have much time to discuss the details of your transaction, hmmm." He said humorously.

'So I am going to get arrested…' Naofumi's shoulders fell. So much for acting. "Alright. I'm interested." He said honestly.

"Splendid!" Beloukas said.

"But you better not waste my time, or else!" Naofumi added with a low growl.

"Of course, I would never dream of it, good sir! Follow me!"

A few minutes later

"Right this way, good sir," Beloukas said, opening up the flap of a large circus tent hidden in one of the shadier parts of the Capital.

Naofumi looked around at the street one more time. He still wasn't familiar with the town's layout because of only being in it for a day. 'I hope I'll be able to retrace my steps back to that alleyway. That's the only way I know back to Elhart's shop...' He put the little note away and entered behind Beloukas, looking around the interior of the large open tent.

Candles lit up the countless cages all around them, most of which were covered in tarps. The ones that were uncovered appeared to be empty for the most part. And the ones that weren't held people in them that either didn't move and smelled of death or looked back at him with sunken hopeless eyes.

For a moment, Naofumi wondered if this was what hell looked like.

"So, what kind of slaves do you have to offer, Beloukas." He asked.

"Ah, you already know my name then, Sir Shield Hero?" Beloukas asked rather curiously.

"Yes. Let's get on with it," Naofumi replied coldly. His Business Teachers at college would be screaming at him for displaying poor business tact, but he didn't care. He just wanted to grab a slave or two and GO! He didn't even care if they became more expensive or not.

Since he was normally quite stringent with his money, that was saying something.

Beloukas laughed his cold response off. "Of course of course. After all, I run the largest slave-trading business in Melromarc! I'm sure I'll have something here that'll fit your needs!"

Naofumi looked hard at the man. "And they won't betray me?" He asked for confirmation.

"Yes. These slaves are incapable of betraying their masters. I guarantee it, good sir." Beloukas responded as if he already knew what had happened to Naofumi no more than an hour ago. They continued walking past various cages as Beloukas gestured around. "We keep all our slaves in line by placing them under the effects of a curse. A strong seal-based curse. If they misbehave it can even take their very lives." He grabbed the top of his hat. "A very effective countermeasure for betrayals if I do say so myself, hmmm."

So, Elhart hadn't been lying after all… though killing a slave for disobedience seemed a little overkill...

Naofumi hoped he'd never have to use that option. He wished he could be heartless and say it was because it'd put him back at square one... but killing someone so inhumanely didn't appeal to him.

"Well, I know you don't have all night to make your choice here Shield Hero. So what do you think of what you've seen thus far? Any choices… sticking out, hmmm?" Beloukas waggled his eyebrows.

He shuddered. "Nothing so far." It was hard to tell with all these slaves looking so dirty. He didn't even know their price range. How could he possibly buy only one when they all looked like they needed help?-

Wait, he was the one that needed help! This wasn't the time to let his morals get in the way!

"Then let me show you over here, great Shield Hero!" Beloukas led him excitedly onto another part of the tent. "Yes, you have a very keen eye on you! I can tell you have the makings of a wonderful patron in my shop!"

"That'd depend on if I'd come back or not," Naofumi said dryly.

"Ah, yes. Forgive me my tongue brave Shield Hero sir. Your coming back would depend on how merciful the Princess and the Church would be after tonight now that you know of their plans. I was just so caught up in the moment of doing business with one of the great heroes of our age that I lost my train of thought!" Beloukas said apologetically, yet with that great splendor and twirl in his step that was already becoming familiar to Naofumi.

How did this small guy already know so much? That made him even more creepy than before. Just how many people were in on the conspiracy that he'd overheard?

"Just get on with it," Naofumi complained.

"Yes yes, right this way, hmm."

As they continued on, Naofumi looked around some more. He'd thought at first that Elhart and Beloukas had meant human slaves. But most of these creatures didn't look so… human to him. Some of them didn't even look like they were alive.

"Some of them don't look human." He finally pointed out.

"I can assure you they still are, technically," Beluoki responded.

Naofumi frowned, again being reminded of the lack of knowledge.

"Tell me more. I don't know much about this world."

"The creatures that look mostly human but aren't are what we refer to as demi-humans. Don't let the name fool you, of course. It is just a term in our language used to represent all the other races in this world." Beloukas gladly explained as they walked by cage after cage. "The males are mostly used as servants or for manual labor while the females…" A creepy smile came onto his face. "Can vary depending on what their master uses them for."

Naofumi's gaze hardened. "That set of rumors is false and you know it," He said harshly.

"Of course, good sir!" Beloukas gladly said. "Anyways, where was I… ah! Then we have the Beastmen who are demi-humans whose appearance leads more towards the animal side. They're often used as bodyguards or gambled on as participants in death matches."

"I see. But they both fall under the same category?" Naofumi asked. They might make for good party members if they were meant for combat.

"Indeed. And since this country practices human supremacy, and demi-humans are thought to be closer to monsters… well, life can be quite hard for them here. As such, they're treated as slaves."


Naofumi felt a small pang of pity for the creatures around him. He'd thought he had it tough. By the sounds of it, these creat- no, people. They'd had it rough for nearly their whole lives. And for the ones who were dead, they'd had to endure it all the way to the end.

His fists clenched. He didn't even know these people, why did he care that they were suffering?

They were nearing a line of fancier, larger cages when Naofumi heard coughing to the side. He looked and saw one lone cage on the ground covered with a tarp. It seemed odd for it to be all alone without any other slave cages around it. Despite that, he walked up to the cage and pulled the tarp out of the way.

Inside was a small girl, dressed in nothing but ragged clothing. The look on her face may as well have said she was already dead. Her eyes, the pupils being a dull red, stared at nothing. Her long brown hair was unkempt and full of knots. Fleas could be seen crawling through her hair. He was hit with such a smell that he almost fell back when he smelled it.

It wasn't that she just stank. He smelt the familiar scent of iron around her. Or, a better term, blood.

Only the sight of her weak hands gripping the chain attached to a collar around her neck showed that she was still alive.

It was a saddening sight to behold.

'A girl...' The pessimistic part of his brain tried to compare this girl to Myne. How he'd want to make Myne look that way-

Just as quickly, he shook away the thought. He hadn't had weeks to be hardened by Myne's accusation, nor did he as of yet have people accusing him to his face. This was a little demi-human girl. She had no connection to that damn bitch. Looking her over, he saw long black scabs around the back of her neck that disappeared under the rags of her back.

Had she been tortured?!

Instead of a pessimistic thought, he felt a moment of connection with her. It was like she was reflecting on how he felt on the inside with her outward appearance.

"Good sir, over here!" Naofumi set the tarp back in place and approached Beloukas. "I'd recommend a creature like this for a high-class gent such as yourself," Beloukas said, uncovering a tarp from a cage and revealing a very dangerous-looking black-furred wolfman gripping the bars of the cage menacingly. Naofumi stared down at it. "It's level 75, and highly capable in battle," Beloukas informed.

Level 75... Naofumi was still stuck at level one. 'A beast like that would allow me to level up in no time…'

It was a tempting offer, but then he looked back at the girl's lone cage. He felt the pessimistic part of him screaming again.

That girl wouldn't be able to help him at all in her horrible condition! She was probably one of the youngest slaves here!... A wave of fresh sympathy for the girl and her plight went through him again, nonetheless.

"Hmmm, are you not interested in my best merchandise?" Beloukas asked, covering the wolf again with a look of uncertainty on his face.

"... You know as well as I do that I could never afford your best merchandise," Naofumi replied dryly, before looking down at the beast-man's cage again. Another thought suddenly crossed his mind, and he voiced it. "Besides, I doubt it's in its best condition if you don't have it out as a bodyguard for the rest of your... wares."

Beloukas recovered and laughed with glee. "Indeed! You have a finer eye for detail than I thought, good sir!" He said happily.

Naofumi heaved an inward sigh of relief, glad that his hunch had been correct.

"This wolfman was a wonderful participant in death matches back in its day, but unfortunately, after breaking its arms and legs in a match, the thing just couldn't keep up anymore. It still hasn't fully healed from the experience either. And so, I'm selling him for the low price of 15 gold pieces." Beloukas explained.

"... I see," Naofumi said calmly. 'So it'd be no good at defending itself against monsters in the state it's in. Even then, 15 gold pieces way more than what I have. I was right that I couldn't afford it.' The pessimistic part of his mind went silent.

He had a feeling most of the slaves here would be out of his price range.

"Well if you don't want my best, let me ask you a question. Exactly what kind of slave are you in the market for?" Beloukas asked curiously.

Naofumi again looked back at the tarp-covered cage behind him. He couldn't see her level on his HUD, it appeared as LV?. What he could see was that her HP bar was low. She was in the beginning stages of an unknown sickness he didn't have the skill to identify. Lastly, there were those worrying wounds he'd noticed around her neck. If she wasn't helped out soon, then her weakened state could possibly kill her. Or her sickness could develop into something worse that'd definitely kill her.

"I just want a cheap slave. Like, say, that one there." Naofumi said, pointing to the cage.

Beloukas and Naofumi approached, and the Slave Trader moved the tarp away to look closely at the girl who was still staring off into nothing. "Are you sure you want her, good sir? Her kind's not well suited for combat or manual labor." He started chuckling as she coughed. "Plus, with her sickness and everything else, this mangy raccoon's not long for this world. I'd recommend-"

"Why should you care?" Naofumi said calmly, his eyes staring down at Beloukas. The creepy man felt a pleasurable shudder pass through him at the strength of Naofumi's glare. "With all those problems, that sounds like a cheap slave to me."

Beloukas felt that shudder pass through him again, and he laughed with pleasure. "Ah yes, you got me there, good sir!"

While the two of them were talking, the half-raccoon girl had slowly closed her eyes. But then she awoke screaming, shocking Naofumi. She closed back in on herself, whimpering in fear.

"Oh, I guess I should mention this girl's previous owner really loved his torture. You should have seen her when she first arrived yesterday!" Beloukas said, before chuckling again.

Naofumi's eyes slightly widened. He'd already guessed it, but to think someone would torture a little girl like her?! He looked at her more closely, and those scab marks poking out around her neck looked like lash marks…

Red filled the corners of his vision. This amount of cruelty was just… was just...

"Hmmm. Are you still certain she's the one you want, good sir?" Beloukas asked more seriously. "I won't have many other cheap options for slaves available for the next couple of days, but I'm sure we could find something else in your price range that isn't dead yet-"

"No. I've decided," Naofumi said with a scary face.

"I'll take her."

The girl, as if becoming aware of her surroundings, at last, looked up at Naofumi. His face made her clutch her chain in fear. If only she knew it wasn't being directed at her. Beloukas, on the other hand, started shivering in glee.

Naofumi got down on one knee, and she looked away. "N-No…" She whimpered.

"How much?" Naofumi asked. He worked on calming himself down before he really felt like killing something, or someone.

Beloukas opened his mouth to say some obviously high price. But seeing the dark look Naofumi still had, a look that said he had no time to deal with any crap, Beloukas pleasurably reconsidered. "I'm selling her for 40 silver."

"Fine. Come on then Slave Trader, let's get this over with so I can leave." He said to the short man, not bothering to address him by name. "I've wasted enough time as is." At least he'd learned some more about this world, for better or for worse. And he'd gotten a slave too.

"But of course, good sir." He replied happily. With the swish of a key, Beloukas opened the cage. Naofumi grabbed the girl by the wrist, pulling her behind him out of the cage. "No! Let me go!" She tried to shout, but her voice came out raspy, followed by a coughing fit. Her other hand weakly hit against the one holding her wrist.

"Come on. I'm going to be your new master, whether you like it or not." Naofumi said. This was for the best. And maybe this wasn't such a bad purchase. Even in her condition, she was still trying to fight him. However, he couldn't have that. He'd have to help her fight monsters in the future.

"No, I don't want to!"

Even if he felt horrid for doing it.

Soon, they were in the central room of the circus tent. The little girl had stopped struggling and now waited to the side, kneeling in the fetal position. "All you need to do is add your blood to this ink here and then we'll be able to get started," Beloukas said, pointing to a bowl full of ink.

Naofumi glanced at it. "Why do I need to add my blood to it?" He blandly asked.

"Ah, for this type of slave crest to work, it requires the blood of the master to be added to this special mix of ink before I apply it to the crest on her chest. That way she'll be tied only to you and no one else." Beloukas explained happily. The little girl cringed in fear on the ground.

Wondering if he even could get cut, Naofumi raised his hand over the bowl. Beloukas did the honors, cutting a small cut at the end of Naofumi's index finger with a knife. It was odd how easy it was with his high defense stat. Naofumi barely even felt it. The blood dripped into the bowl, giving a slightly lighter hue to the black ink in it. He also noticed that the gemstone on his Shield started to glow when the ink was nearby.


"Now, let us begin," Beloukas said, carrying the bowl and a brush over to the quivering raccoon girl. At first, she tried to weakly cover the crest on her chest with her hands, but a slight push from Belouka's hand was all that was needed to move them out of the way of her rune. Quicker than Naofumi thought possible, he painted the rest of the crest over it using the ink from the bowl, and it glowed a bright purple. Sealing the slave pact.

"Uhrgh!" The girl bit her lip in pain, almost drawing blood.

"What's with that?" Naofumi asked, trying to hide the worry in his voice.

"Oh, nothing to worry about." He must have failed to hide all his worry. "The pain will dissipate soon." He said as the little girl continued to cry out weakly in pain. "It's just an effect that shows how willing a slave is to work with their new master. It fades away as the girl loses her will to fight against her new master's will." He said with glee, looking back down at the girl who was now on all fours. "Besides, that slave crest will make it impossible for her to defy you. Isn't that what you wanted, good sir?"

Naofumi continued to stare down at her. As he watched, an alert appeared on his screen. The word Contract was first, followed by her stats and a list of rules for the slave crest. Also, to his slight surprise, her HP Bar and other stats moved under his in the top left of his HUD. The title (Companion) was placed next to her name; which was as yet unknown to him. Slave A.

Was that what was supposed to happen when Myne joined his party… Though he found it weird that this girl had a title like (Companion) instead of something like (Slave) or (Party Member).

He shrugged it off. He'd look it up in the help guide later.

"There now, she's all yours," Beloukas said. He happily waited behind his desk for payment.

Naofumi took out what he'd placed in his shield along with eleven extra silver from his pouch. "Here's your money, just like we agreed," Naofumi said, setting the money on the desk before he walked over to the little girl. She was still coughing and crying from being in pain.

"Um, sir. There's one extra here," Beloukas said behind him, holding up the pouch.

"That's your commission. If I ever do come back, I'll expect good treatment." Naofumi responded. 'And so that way I don't have to pay for both her and the slave crest together.'

"Why, of course, good sir," Beloukas said happily.

Naofumi said nothing as he looked down at the little girl with an indiscernible look. She stared back up at him defiantly. This lasted only for a moment before Naofumi suddenly reached down, making her automatically whimper and crouch down while covering her head. Instead of a painful strike, however, she felt herself being lifted up. She opened her eyes in surprise and found herself sitting on her new master's elbow, with him holding her close to his body while her head peeked over his shoulder.

"Let's go. We have somewhere to be." He said coldly as he carried her out. The smell of blood and other things hit his nose.

The girl struggled weakly for only a few seconds before falling limp. She started sniffling.

Her life was about to get worse all over again. She wanted to go home. She wanted to see Rifana one last time before she died.


"It was a pleasure doing business, good sir! I hope we meet again! After your name is cleared of course, hmmm!" Beloukas said to his back. Naofumi didn't look back to respond. And he exited the tent.


Beloukas chuckled lightly to himself.

"Well done, Beloukas."

A dark, masked figure appeared from the shadows. Beloukas didn't look surprised in the slightest. "May I ask how you knew he'd choose her?" He asked.

"I didn't. I daresay, I only did what I felt was best." The mysterious lady said.

"Hmmm, so her Majesty doesn't know?" He asked.

"... No, she does not. The others left several days ago to inform her of the illegal summoning and the plots that we had discovered. They tasked me with staying behind to find a way to help the Shield Hero survive."

"If you wouldn't mind humoring another question then, why that girl, specifically?" He asked.

"..." The mysterious lady looked down through her mask at Beloukas, judging him for a moment... "I daresay, I still don't know if I made the right choice." She admitted. "Much of my time has been spent rushing around, trying to find the right slave among a small group of nearby slavers and nobles." She stared at the entrance. "I felt that with his planned betrayal, he would need someone with a kind heart to help him… I only hope that I was right in that regard."

"Hmmm… Well, either way, I'm getting goosebumps all over just thinking about what they'll accomplish together!" Beloukas said excitedly.

"Yes… let us hope that they will succeed." The mysterious lady said. Her shoulders slumped since there was nothing else she could do for now. "I daresay, the safety of our world very well depends on the Heroes' survival."

Several minutes later, Naofumi looked back behind him up the alleyway. It was still the middle of the night, and there was no one out and about yet. Despite that, he'd already almost walked into a squad of knights shortly after leaving the large tent and the shady part of town behind him with the little girl in tow. It had sounded like they were looking for someone, but he wasn't willing to take any unnecessary risks to find out who it was they were searching for. Besides, he felt like he already knew the answer to that particular mystery.

'Let's see. If I remember right, I went over there on my way back from Elhart's shop.' He peeked out of the alley to look at the street.

The girl he'd bought remained silent in his arms. Her hands were clasped together in front of her, and her head looked down as if she was feeling guilty about something. He looked one way up the street that he didn't recognize. Then he looked the other way and breathed a sigh of relief when he noticed the blacksmith's shop.

'Alright, maybe we can- hell!' He quickly pushed himself back to hide in the alleyway. A squad of Knights he hadn't noticed coming up the street jogged by the alleyway. They had serious expressions on their faces while their hands rested on the hilts of their sheathed weapons.

'Damn, that was close.' He looked back out of the alleyway again to make sure the coast was clear. The girl remained silent. Awaiting her orders from her new master.

"I guess I should ask what your name is." He said in a bland tone while observing the street.

The little girl didn't speak. She continued to stare silently down at the ground from his arms. "I said I should know your name," Naofumi said again, a hint of irritation creeping into his voice.

The girl cringed as if she was expecting to be hit by her new master. He looked back down at her, noticing her reaction. He sighed inwardly. Though he still wanted to act cold and indifferent to this world, he couldn't forget what this little girl had gone through. All he knew about was the torture. He could only imagine what else she'd gone through.

"Look," Naofumi set her on the ground and crouched down next to her. "I'm not going to abuse you like your previous masters. I need you to survive, and you'll need me too if you want to survive. So, can you tell me your name?" He asked her calmly.


The little girl slowly looked up at him. His face was still expressionless and hard to read, so she couldn't tell if he was lying or not. "I-I'm R-Raph-R-Raphtalia." She finally spoke weakly.

"... Raphtalia, huh?" He tested the name on his tongue again. The name updated on his HUD. After feeling he had it down, he got up and looked back up the street. "Listen, Raphtalia, I don't know what exactly your previous masters did to you. But I'm going to try to not be like them, okay?"

Funny, he was willing to tell her that even when he wasn't willing to trust her in the slightest. Yet the little girl looked up at him, her eyes wide with surprise. 'I wonder how long it's been since anyone tried to be kind to her... poor girl.'

Seeing that the coast was clear, he grabbed her gently by the hand. "Come on, we don't have much time, Raphtalia." He said.

"... Yes, master." Raphtalia followed her new master, her tail twitching slightly in curiosity behind her. She hadn't been a slave for long, but for some reason, it felt like an eternity had passed since anyone had spoken such gentle words to her. At least, what she was able to discern as gentle words despite his indifferent tone. It didn't make him any less scary, but it drew in her curiosity like a mouse to cheese.

Naofumi quickly looked around when they got to the door and rapped his knuckles on it. Within seconds, Elhart opened the door for them. "Good, I was wondering if you had been found by the knights on patrol-" He stopped talking when he saw the little girl huddled behind Naofumi.

"We're good for now, but I don't know how long that'll last. Also, by any chance, did you get that bath ready?" He asked, using two fingers to plug his nose.

Elhart looked down at the girl. 'Hmmm. Not the sort of slave I expected him to get... Poor thing doesn't look like anyone else would have bought her, looking like that...' "Yes. I already have it prepped upstairs. It's behind the third door on the right." He said, letting them in.

Naofumi led the young Raphtalia up the stairs. Once they got to the specified door, he opened it and looked inside. It wasn't a modern bathroom like what he was used to, but at least they weren't at the stage where they had to bring water buckets in to fill a tub or throw their crap out of a bucket onto the street.

Though, after the way he learned the Capital had been planning on treating him, he honestly wouldn't have minded doing such a thing out of spite.

Shaking himself from the thought, he found that, true to Elhart's word, the bathtub (an expensive luxury for such a time period that the old man had gladly purchased for himself) was already filled with warm steamy water. 'I'm liking this old man more by the minute.'

"We don't have much time. I'm expecting you to be bathed and ready by the time I come back up with a change of clothes for you." Naofumi said.

"Master?" Raphtalia asked, pulling on the sleeve of his chainmail. "Why are you letting me use a bath?"


Naofumi, very slowly, looked down, struggling to maintain a calm expression. 'Seriously? Her previous owners didn't even allow her to bathe!? What the ****ing hell!' Red hot anger flared through his veins once again. Anger which he masked under indifference. "One, you stink. And two, I don't want you to get even sicker than you already are now just because you haven't been able to eat or bathe properly for who knows how long." He explained. "Now hurry it up." He finished before closing the door behind him.

The auburn-haired demi-girl stood there, staring in awe at the door, and then at the tub.

"Master's, allowing me to take a bath." She said again in disbelief. Had he… had he actually meant what he said earlier? About not abusing her... Whatever her thoughts on her new master were, it was that he was definitely going to be different than the other two. Her tail wagged happily behind her as she wriggled out of her rags and jumped like the little kid that she was into the bathtub filled with warm water.

Water sloshed over the edges and then slowly became tinted red as she sunk down to her face in it. She glanced to look to the side and noticed a bottle of bath foam staring back at her. The perfect addition to any bath.

She briefly wondered if she should ask her master for permission. But he'd said they didn't have long, and it was staring so temptingly at her. So the little girl smiled widely and grabbed it.

Naofumi stood next to the counter, watching as Elhart ran around his blacksmith shop. "So, want to tell me why you bought a little demi-girl?" Elhart asked, looking at Naofumi. The stink-eye that Elhart was giving him said it had better not be because of what the rumors were saying and him thinking it was okay to validate those rumors.

"There weren't that many healthy slaves to pick from. She was also one of the cheapest options that I saw," Naofumi said coldly while looking to the side.

"... and by the looks of it, she's been through hell." He admitted blandly at the end.

It was enough that Elhart dropped the stink eye. 'So the kid does still have a heart in him. I'm glad to see he hasn't been corrupted completely yet.' "Do you think she'll be able to fight for you? If you asked me, she looks a little skittish." Elhart replied.

"I don't know. Maybe," Naofumi groaned, adjusting the collar of the green cloak that Elhart had given him to wear over his cloth chainmail. What was he thinking when he bought that girl?! He needed someone that could fight for him, not some little girl with a disease! "I'll work around that when I get to it."

Elhart stared at Naofumi for a moment more. He let out a small sigh, and then came over with what he'd collected. He didn't like it much, but at least the girl was in better hands now. And he figured that eventually with the way things were going, the safest place for such a girl would be next to one of the heroes.

Especially the one assigned the weapon to protect.

"Then here's a small dagger for her to start out with. And once she's more comfortable with fighting, I have a feeling that this small preowned iron sword will come in handy." He said, showing the other weapon before sheathing them and giving them to Naofumi so he could store them in the pack.

So he could touch weapons, but not when he had the intent of using them in combat. Yeah, like that made any sense. Thanks freaking Legendary Shield. Not.

Elhart also gave him a whetstone and some oil to help with their maintenance. He put these in the pack too.

"How about clothes? Do you have anything that fits her size?" Naofumi asked.

Elhart pulled out a small set of clothes from under the counter that he'd put away after Naofumi led Raphtalia upstairs. The colors were faded from use, but they looked like they'd work for now. "I honestly don't know how well they'll fit. Heck, if you're really intent on leveling up and surviving, she might grow out of them within a few weeks." He said.

"... What do you mean... grow out of them?" Naofumi asked.

"Don't tell me you don't even know that much, kid," Elhart said in surprise.

"Give me a break. I've only been here for two days." Naofumi complained.

"Relax, I'm just messing with ya." Elhart laughed. "Let's just say that Demi-humans are a bit unusual compared to people like us. They are able to accelerate their natural growth by leveling up." Elhart said.

"What?" Naofumi said in disbelief. "Is that a joke? Are you messing with me again?"

Elhart shook his head. "Nope. That's part of the reason why the demi-humans are hated here. They can mature physically, mentally, and emotionally by leveling up. I've seen it for myself too… anyway, I'd recommend preparing for that. If you do manage to get her to fight monsters, stay close to a town. Either that or pick up sewing. You're going to need it if you don't want a hormonal demi-human walking around you with clothes several sizes too small for her." Elhart said, waving it off to check around his shop for anything else that could possibly be of use to Naofumi.

Naofumi blanched. He knew he should have asked for more details. This could cause all sorts of problems later on! Now he not only had her sickness and wounds to worry about but the additional problems of puberty, clothes, etc. that he'd have to address!

Screw fantasy worlds! They always had unexpected rules to screw you over with!

"Oh, and make sure she has the birds and the bees talk too. She'll need to be prepared for adulthood if you level her up."

"Oi! Shut your damn mouth old man! I'm not planning on doing anything like that!" Naofumi bellowed at the laughing blacksmith.

"Dig your own grave then if you want, kid."

Naofumi decided to assume that Elhart was just pulling his leg. Though he had no reason other than his growing distrust for people to not believe it. "Hmph." He crossed his arms and pouted.

It looked like Elhart was going to explain something else when he looked at the back room of his shop. "Oh, I almost forgot. I also have a meal ready to go on my table that you can bring with you." He disappeared and quickly reappeared with it, already packaged and ready to go. "I figured whatever slave you brought might need some nourishment." He said, sounding a little more cheerful than before.

Naofumi looked at the weapons, then at the clothes, then at the meal. "How much is it going to cost for all this?" He asked skeptically. He was down to 158 silvers.

Elhart put a hand on his shoulder. "Consider this on the tab. I trust that one day you're going to come back, and you'll visit my store again with plenty of money when you do."


Naofumi tried his best to hide his surprise, but in the face of such kindness, he could only do so much before tears gathered in the corners of his eyes. He turned away to hide them. "Damn you, old man." He tried to sound angry.

At least there was one good person in this cold-hearted dark world.

Elhart laughed. "Seriously, it's nothing. Besides, I get the feeling you'll treat that little girl better than how you're going to be treated by the rest of Melromarc. I just wanted to help you do that." He said while leaning back on the counter.

Naofumi was turned away, but a small smile slowly crept onto his face. Looking oddly out of place with all the tears running down it. 'Yeah, I'll treat her well. At least, I hope I do…'

Bam! Bam! Bam!

A loud banging sound came from the door, ruining the moment he was in. "Open up! In the name of the King!" A knight yelled from the other side of the door.

Elhart froze in his posture and looked to Naofumi. "You gotta go, bro."

Bam! Bam! Bam!

"I order you to open up, or we will resort to using force!" The knight yelled again.

"Stop the racket! I'm coming already!" Elhart yelled loudly towards the doorway.

Naofumi quickly grabbed the pack while Elhart shoved the food into his arms along with a map. "I'll distract them while you two sneak out through the back. If it helps, there's a place a few hours south of here called Lute Village. Use it as a means of selling monster materials or whatever else you find. I also have some friends there. I'll pass messages along to them to keep an eye out for you so they can warn you of any trouble." He said.

Naofumi nodded and made to run for the stairs. "And Shield Hero." He looked back at Elhart. "Good luck."

Naofumi said nothing but gave him an affirmative nod before running up the stairs.

Elhart sighed, gave his neck a nice pop, and went to the door to answer the pesky Royal Knights.

'Because trust me, you're really going to need a whole lot of damn luck, kid.'

At the end of a chapter, Hero Clips are merely extra scenes that are non-canon for the most part. They are only meant for comedy. Enjoy.

Hero Clips!


"Hmmm, so you've been running around the past few days, good sir?"

"Yes, I have."

Beloukas and the mysterious lady stood in the slave tent. The cages all around were gone.

"How much sleep have you gotten the last few days?" He asked.

"... I daresay, I do not know." The lady's posture sagged. She looked tired.

"When was the last time you slept!?"

Her only response was a deep sigh. She'd been so overworked lately, she had no idea.

"Hmmm, then how about I give you a stamina potion for the road, good sir!" Beloukas gladly offered.

"Yes, I daresay, that would be greatly app-" She stopped speaking as she looked into his wide, expectant grin. What was the creepy little man plotting now-

"That'll be ten silvers, please!"


He was completely fearless even in the face of her deadly glare. In fact, he was receiving even more pleasurable shudders than when the Shield Hero glared at him.

Maybe it was a fetish of his?

"You slimy little bastard." She angrily muttered. 10 Silvers for a stamina potion, that was highway robbery!

"Ahahaha! You flatter me, good sir! Now, 15 silvers please!" The midget had no fear in him whatsoever as he raised the price.

Everyone can be a client if you're greedy enough.

In the end, the mysterious lady gave Beloukas the money. And after drinking the entire potion in one large gulp, she disappeared in the blink of an eye.

"Hahahaha! Safe travels, good sir!" Beloukas laughed giddily at her departure.

The mysterious lady hoped she wouldn't have to go by Belouka's place anytime soon.

And she really hoped she'd get a moment to rest too. Gods knew how she needed it after doing everything by herself.

Till Next Time