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Chapter 1: The Claw Hero

[And a round of applause for our competitors, ladies and gentlemen! That was a hard fought battle and to the victor go the spoils!]

A loud cheer and round of enthusiastic clapping filled the cavernous stadium of Zeltoble's famed public entertainment venue, human, demihuman and beastman alike looking down on the raised fist of the latest bout's victor, their competitor being carted off by medical teams as their blood painted and congealed the sands.

Today was an unusually busy one, even by the spectacle-driven and wildly popular standards of the kingdom's most famous coliseum. Typically accepting around ten thousand seats and spectators for most events, today it had packed in as many as thirty-thousand bodies, all spots both opulent and economical packed to the brim as the rest of the city came to a near standstill. Today was the famed Gauntlet competition where soldiers, mercenaries, adventurers, assassins or whatever brand of person could try their hand at attaining fame and fortune by risking life and limb.

It was a simple affair made all the more attractive by its uncomplicated nature. Applicants had to apply at least a week in advance, undergo a skill and level check and then show up at the designated time for their matches, which would be against other opponents of similar talents.

The true appeal lay in how all of the many hundreds of competitors were shoved into a single, massive bracket that would ultimately culminate in the two most powerful entrants. And through it all underdog stories would abound. A skilled level 10 would quickly do away with the others, gradually working their way up against other high rankers who also beat down the rest of the level 20s, all while a similar weeding process would chip away at the other higher leveled applicants as the cream of the crop ended up facing off against other lucky or skilled competitors.

And an applicant could, at any time, withdraw from the competition, earning higher rewards based on where they ended their run...or they could continue the climb, risking a loss and taking home nothing. It was a constant balancing act of risk versus reward, of knowing your opponent and your limits...and the Gauntlet, for all of its battles, had a reputation as a relatively bloodless event, ensuring even the squeamish would watch and sign up as skilled doctors, medics and referees were on standby to call the match...it wasn't deathless, but it wasn't for lack of trying.

[And next on our list are two very notorious faces, one no stranger to the coliseum and the other a mysterious newcomer going only by the name of Narvas! Let's hear it for our cherry gladiator!]

The thousands clapped and whooped with a respectable amount of enthusiasm, the mysterious warrior trope no stranger to the games but the level 28 human played the part well, using a concealed claw weapon to quickly make his way through the ranks of prior opponents as he strode onto the sands with a confidant smile, sharp yellow eyes standing out in stark contrast to his tanned skin and short, spiky white hair while unremarkable armor adorned his athletic frame, his height nothing to write home about...in fact he had been shorter than a great many of other opponents, barely topping 1.7 meters.

[And now, a known and controversial figure in the ring, welcome to the sands none other than Gartuk the Ripper!]

A towering, level 39 orc passing two meters raised his bulky arms skyward, the crowd either not having much reaction, cheering wildly or even booing as the beast confidently laughed, armed with sparse plate mail complimented by spear and shield.

Gartuk had a reputation of killing his opponents despite the competition's desire to not have that be a commonplace occurrence, his four prior opponents either ending up dead or crippled. It was honestly a shock when Narvas agreed to the match, creating quite the stir among the crowds.

Sure, levels weren't everything...but eleven—never mind the considerable experience Gartuk had—was quite the stretch, especially against a foe that had no compunctions against using lethal force.

"Hah! Brave little human, you are. But maybe a little too brave, yeah? Bitten off more than you can chew, eh? Don't worry, I know how to make it painless...if you ask nicely."

The young man met the orc's boasting with a bored expression, lazily stating, "I'll do you one better. Withdraw right here, right now and I won't humiliate you like a little bitch in front of the whole stadium. Sound good?"

Gartuk's expression became positively bloodthirsty.

"Gonna have fun making you bleed, little human."

Before their smack talk could continue the announcer hefted their voice amplification tube, shouting, [And the match begins! Five...four...three…]

The crowd began to count down with him, voices reverberating throughout the coliseum as the orc settled into a crouched stance, snarling at the Human who merely smirked at him in kind.

[Two...one!]

Gartuk coiled his legs, preparing to charge-

"Freeze Terra!"

-and the crowd collectively gasped as the wrapping around the human's right arm was torn free, revealing a jagged and icy claw with a glowing silver gem set in its center, many of the more savvy observers instantly recognizing such an iconic object as a Vassal weapon.

The mysterious, unnamed warrior was actually a Seven Stars hero?

The price of admission had never seemed more worth it.

The ground screamed as the young man rammed his arm into it, a wave of ice spreading outwards from the impact point and quickly immobilized Gartuk's feet, the orc recovering from his shock as he ripped his armored boots free with raw strength, carefully planting his feet on the slick surface...and Narvas was already taking advantage of the brief distraction.

"Expel Flames!"

Jagged ice was seamlessly replaced with dark and molten charcoal, the Vassal hero using his weapon to shoot out a pillar of fire that accelerated him across the ice at a frightening pace, closing in on the orc as it readied itself to meet his charge.

The coliseum held its breath, Gartuk roaring a challenge as with a burst of speed no doubt enhanced by some skill his spear blurred towards the human, air parted violently in its wake-

"Air Burst!"

-and a claw of glittering white metal and flapping fabric contorted the man's body out of the path of the spear, the orc now dangerously out of position as the Vassal weapon shifted forms once more to a hefty claw, drill-like blade attached to the outer part of Narvas' arm.

A grin of triumph lit up the male's features as he brutally punched the side of Gartuk's skull...and the stadium, as one, flinched at the wet CRUNCH that followed as the drill attachment punched through the orc's head, brains and skull fragments pelting the sand with dull thumps.

The pair of duelists locked gazes for the briefest of moments...and then Gartuk slumped backwards as Narvas pulled his weapon free, the crowd unleashing a titanic roar at the complete upset victory.

[Not only does he defeat a competitor many levels over himself it seems we had a Vassal hero in our midst the entire time! I don't know about you, ladies and gents, but I'm not going to be forgetting this show for a long time to come!]

Amidst the cheers, applause and announcements the young man confidently made his way back to the waiting room, lips tilting upwards in a wry grin.

"Well, I figured this would make a splash...just maybe not such a big one."


"You're sure you don't wish to continue, sir hero?"

"Yes, I am absolutely sure. I caught Gartuk off guard and took him out that way...a prepared and wily level 50 swordswoman isn't a good matchup. I'll take my winnings now, please."

Emphasizing his words with an impatient glare the attendant finally handed over his winnings—thirty gold pieces—as he quickly departed before anyone else could accost or recognize him, word of his upset victory and appearance likely still contained to the venue, at least for the moment.

Considering how fast word of mouth could spread when gossipers were suitably motivated he gave himself no more than one day before the entire damn city knew of his appearance and actions...he'd have to move quickly before anyone with less than altruistic motives came calling. Not everyone in this world would welcome the emergence of a new Vassal hero with open arms.

Sliding through the crowd with liquid motions—Claw transformed into a simple bracelet—Narvas made his way to the commercial district of the city, the distant roar of the crowd a muted thing as commentary garbled into nothing as he left the towering stadium behind, lightly tossing the bag of coin a few times before pocketing it away in his inventory.

"While it's practically chump change considering the kind of money that passes through that place on a regular basis it should be enough for my current purposes...now lets spin the wheel, shall we?"

Casting a quick glance around to make sure he wasn't in immediate danger of being spotted the young man lifted the Vassal weapon to his lips, whispering, "Alright, Zhua...you're up."

The Claw shifted from an unremarkable bracelet into a strange, golden gauntlet with rolling blocks of gears and symbols that quietly clacked and twitched as Narvas glanced at his HUD with an expectant look.

[Luck Enhancement (Medium) – Active]

[Causality Preference (Medium) – Active]

[High Roll Correction (Medium) – Active]

[Fate Mesmerism (Small) – Active]

Grinning at the plethora of luck-enhancing bonuses brought on by a fair amount of resource investment and the Gambler's Grasp Narvas allowed himself to pick up the pace, boldly striding deeper into the business districts as the Claw sent the occasional pulse of intent and purpose that turned what would have been blind wandering into a purposeful stroll, food and raw material stalls or guilds passing by until he arrived at a collection of easily collapsible houses and tents, the entire area containing its own brand of excited energy as rich—or at least fairly wealthy—patrons perused the available wares, interspersed with the occasional mercenary or soldier.

Slave traders drew all sorts of types, after all.

Allowing fate to guide him the man made his way deeper into the bowels of the sprawling complex, quietly whistling to himself and not really paying much attention to any of the 'wares' on display-

"Oh hoh, to see the famed and newly arrived Claw hero among my most humble abode...are you perchance here to spend your recently earned coin?"

-and kept a grin under wraps as a fashionably dressed man with top hat and monocle approached him, instead idly commenting, "It seems news of my showing has already reached out this far. Either you have excellent ears or I vastly underestimated the speed rumors in this town can reach."

Smiling indulgently at Narvas the man demurely replied, "Or perhaps your showing was just that impactful. It's not everyday that a Vassal hero appears out of nowhere, wows the crowd and then disappears without so much as a spoken word to anybody else...but I suppose you only recently were chosen by the Vassal weapon, were you not? Why else would you be seeking slaves instead of more established companions?"

Not seeing any particular reason to disabuse the man of his notion—he wasn't even that far off the mark—Narvas shrugged, stating, "So was this merely a social call or can I ask you for assistance in purchasing worthwhile companions?"

Grinning as if the holidays had come early the man gestured to his establishment, grandly proclaiming, "But of course, dear hero! The opportunity to personally select the future companions of none other than a Vassal wielder is a once in a lifetime opportunity! Now, what do you seek in particular, dearest customer?"

Letting his Claw continue to tick away Narvas said, "I need anywhere from two to four slaves who have strong combat capability, whether that be immediate or future. No preferences as to whether they're male or female but I would prefer them to be demihumans or monsters. An even spread of those with magic inclination and physical skills is also a necessity."

Nodding to himself the man motioned for Narvas to follow, commenting, "No preference for gender? So you are building a party geared towards efficiency rather than, ah...pleasure?"

Shrugging to himself the young man explained, "If they all end up guys, no biggie. That just means we'll be visiting the red light district inbetween our work. And if they're all girls? Well I suppose having a harem would be an interesting change of pace, assuming I get that lucky."

The slave trader chuckled, happily stating, "Oh, a practical sort, are you? Most interesting, my dear hero...most interesting. Were most people to be put in your position of having absolute power over an individual they would be more...hedonistic, is the word."

Fighting down the urge to laugh at the man—he had no idea—Narvas idly replied, "I'm not most people, apparently. Now, the slaves?"

"Of course, of course! As a matter of fact, here we are now!"

Grandly sweeping aside the flap of a large tent Narvas was lead into an interesting bit of showmanship and marketing, all combined into one. Scattered around the room were various sitting areas, decorated with simple chairs and rugs as a collection of plainly dressed but obviously cared for slaves were put on display for potential buyers, this obviously being the more high-end side of things.

"Now, as for your potential companions we have...plenty…"

Ignoring the man's sales pitch Narvas let his weapon guide him, following the skeins of luck and fate like a bloodhound does a scent, wandering around the expansive tent and passing over several possible individuals without a backwards glance.

A scaled man with powerful muscles but calm disposition, flirty snake-woman, confidant werewolf, regal demihuman with dog ears and tail...all were ignored, Narvas continuing his walk as the slave trader followed in his wake, curious as to what he was doing...and with zero warning Narvas came to a halt, looking off to the side with a laser-focused stare.

Sitting in a corner and trying to make herself seem as small as possible was a demihuman girl of perhaps eleven years old, adorned in a simple robe of white while her silvery-grey hair, fox ears and dual tails drooped noticeably as his gaze fell upon her, light red eyes averting themselves with impressive speed.

"Ah, you have quite the discerning eye, dear customer...she is a demihuman of the fabled 'Kitsune' tribe, as I understand it. And she has quite the pedigree behind her. Alas, the poor thing's parents ran afoul of some less than good luck, thus she came to end up in my hands."

Narvas briefly flicked his eyes in the man's direction before ignoring him, instead eyeing the girl more closely, noting that she was only level 3, which was fine with him.

Stepping forward so that he could kneel by her side—putting the young girl on a higher plane than him—the Claw hero neutrally inquired, "Do you have a name, miss?"

Her jittery eyes briefly alighted upon his strange gauntlet, ears momentarily flicking in confusion before she quietly responded, "Kayla, sir."

"Kayla, then. Do you have any specialties that you were taught here, any unique skills?"

Raising herself up proudly—or at least not so that she was slumped over—the demihuman replied, "I can read, write and perform advanced arithmetic...although I have not received much in the way of combat training."

Narvas noted how she seemed almost proud of that last admission, as if daring him to pick a slave that couldn't battle.

...Zhua didn't lie, he knew she had it in her.

"Understood. A pleasure to meet you, Kayla. Starting today—and unless the gentleman over here intends to skin my wallet for every last coin he can—I shall be your new master. My name is Narvas, Narvas Taylan."

Trepidation and worry was clear to see on the demihuman's features as her eyes widened at that proclamation, not given any time to think too heavily about it as the young man was already moving, the owner of the slave market snapping his fingers as she instinctively followed in their wake, trying not to let her apprehension and fear show. Thankfully there were no further demands made of her as Narvas walked around the rest of the room, not following any specific path or looking at any particular individual until he'd completed the circuit, turning to the well-dressed man before stating, "We're done here. Do you have any bargain or discount areas?"

"Oh? I assure you, you're winnings will be more than sufficient to cover the cost of one or more high-grade slaves, dear hero."

The yellow-eyed male merely held his peace, staring at the immaculately dressed individual before he eventually chuckled, motioning for Narvas to follow in his wake as Kayla hurried to follow after them, the hat-wearing male musing, "Heroes are quite the unusual customer, aren't they? What did you see in the little demihuman here that you didn't in the others?"

Kayla's ears perked, nervously squeezing her hands as her new master seemed to think about that for a moment...and confidently replied, "Potential. The capacity for greatness. Let's leave it at that."

Tilting her head in confusion at the vague answer Kayla gave the tan-skinned male a befuddled look, completely unsure of what he meant by that but for the moment just thankful he hadn't said her beauty or anything along those lines...that sort of response would have almost certainly consigned her to being set up as some kind of courtesan or whore.

"Hmm...oh well, everyone is entitled to their secrets. Now, here we are at the more...affordable individuals."

While by no means a slum or any other dumpy locale the area designated for the less expensive slaves was noticeably plainer. Rough fabric instead of serviceable textiles, rickety furniture and display podiums while a few holding cages were dotted throughout the area, containing rabid monsters or defiant slaves as they glared at the trio, Kayla's tail curling nervously at the heated gazes.

Once more Narvas ignored the scenery around him, instead idly strolling among the twisting pathways of the bargain isles while his Claw twisted and turned with steady motions, the demihuman and slave trader allowing him his silence...until, just like last time, his eyes abruptly snapped towards one of the cages which had its door unbarred.

The reason for such a negligent bit of attention to security was swiftly revealed, as the slaves within all had debilitating injuries of one kind or another that obviously kept them from moving or at least making any kind of clean get away as they rested atop of simple but modestly clean cots.

Boldly passing by them the Claw hero came to a stop in front of a sprawled and listless figure, a rabbit-eared demihuman girl maybe thirteen years of age with white hair smudged by dirt while bright red eyes of bloody crimson sightlessly stared at the ceiling, her legs askew and bent in odd angles.

Narvas cast an Appraisal on the girl, noting that she was level 4 and had apparently suffered some kind of spinal injury that kept her legs from working properly, the male nodding to himself before turning to the bemused slave trader with a cool disposition.

"I'll take her and call it a day. Throw in a Mortis potion as well while you're at it, as well as a change of clothes for the both of them."

Blinking at the sudden dismissal the slave trader inquired, "You do not wish to continue your search, sir hero?"

"No, I've got everything I came for."

"Hmm...could I perhaps interest you in a game of chance, then?"

Raising an eyebrow at the offer the slave trader expanded upon his statement with, "My son, Beloukas, has recently come up with the idea of a monster raffle, where unhatched and identical eggs are placed in a prize pool and for a fee one may take any single egg of their choosing. It would be quite the confidence booster if one of the Vassal heroes was to partake of his novel invention."

Smirking at the proposal Narvas agreed with a nod of his head, the slave trader vanishing into the crowd to no doubt acquire the items needed for completion of the transaction as the young man turned his attention to the now awake and wary demihuman, Kayla dithering for a moment before walking closer to her new master, unsure of where she was supposed to go.

"You're...buying me?"

Noting that while her words and tone were beaten and exhausted she was by no means down for the count Narvas crouched next to her as she slowly forced her upper half upright, staring into his eyes with a searching gaze as he stated, "I am. More to the point, I'm also going to be fixing that injury of yours. Take it easy for the moment, I'll explain more when we're out of Zeltoble."

Hesitating for a second before nodding in understanding the Demihuman stated, "My name is Lenia, master."

Staring at her for a moment the young man's lips quirked in what looked like a brief smile, tone amused as he responded, "And I'm Narvas Taylan. It's a pleasure to meet you, Lenia. And this here is Kayla, I'll be purchasing her right alongside you."

The two girl's eyes met, both conveying silent greetings and shared wonder at what their new master—who had thus far been not the most talkative—was actually like once they were fully registered to him.


"And with the addition of the clothing, potion, two slaves and two picks of the monster eggs your total will come out to a total of ten gold and three-hundred silver, dear hero."

Nodding at the listed amounts—not particularly caring that it was inflated slightly, he was the ultimate winner of this transaction—Narvas turned his attention to the large tray of nearly identical monster eggs, a well-dressed clone of the older slave trader eagerly watching the Claw hero look over the collection with a discerning eye.

"What do you think, Zhua? Any particular one catching your eye?"

The Claw seemed to clack and whirr out a response as the hero smirked, reaching out at seemingly random and withdrawing a pair of eggs, both twice the size of his closed fist and warm to the touch.

"I'll be taking these. You've got a good business going here, kid. Keep at it and who knows? Maybe other heroes will see its value."

The young Beloukas practically glowed at Narvas' words, the Claw hero carefully having Lenia drink the potion as her body quickly began to stiffen and freeze, the complete lack of movement ensuring that her back injury wouldn't be exacerbated as the older slave trader carefully offered, "I know of a few healers throughout the city that would be more than happy to attend to the demihuman, sir hero...and I possess more than a few means of recovery myself-"

"For a price, correct?"

"Naturally."

The two Monster eggs were handed off to Kayla, the girl taking them as she shifted uneasily, clearly unsure of where or what she was supposed to do in regards to her master as he tenderly scooped up the bunny girl into his arms, asking, "Any pain, Lenia? Blink once for yes and twice for no."

Two blinks—her mouth and throat frozen up by the potion—were his response, the young man nodding as he turned to the slave trader and his progeny.

"I'll get my own doctors. See you around."

Chuckling at the brusque dismissal the slave trader responded, "Of course...I look forward to future business between us, sir hero."

"Not likely. I've got everything I came for and I'll never have to see this place again."

Keeping those thoughts to himself Narvas motioned with his head, ordering, "Come along, Kayla. I want to get Lenia looked at before the potion wears off."

"Y-yes, master."

Hiding her fear and apprehension at the sudden change of pace—the entire process of her life being bought had taken barely an hour—the demihuman nonetheless followed in Narvas' wake, ensuring that the eggs were held tight at all times.

For a while she wondered if she should try to make conversation or simply remain silent, eyes flicking every which way as she mentally debated with herself-

"Relax, Kayla. Or failing that at least don't worry about having to say anything at the moment, we'll have a chance to ask each other questions and swap stories once Lenia is healed, alright?"

Blinking at the sudden statement she nonetheless mastered herself, replying, "Understood, master."

"Good. In here."

Wondering why they were wandering into an abandoned alley Kayla nonetheless followed, hiding behind her master's back as a collection of rough looking types that had been loitering around affixed them with smirks full of nothing but ill intent...and without shifting her fellow slave a centimeter Narvas flipped the group a single gold coin, blandly stating, "That's your toll fee. Now get lost."

The Demihuman almost had a panic attack at the action. Sure, she wasn't the most street wise of individuals but even she knew that showcasing such wealth to thieves and muggers wasn't likely to make them go away so much as it would encourage them.

Sure enough they wildly grinned at the prospect of more wealth-

-and their leader, a tattooed and scarred man, held them back, staring at the weapon attached to her master's arm with narrowed eyes.

"...C'mon, boys. You heard him. Tolls been paid and we've got a bunch of partying to do."

"Huh? Boss, this idiot-"

"Now."

No further argument was brooked as the leader steered his goons in the opposite direction of Narvas, the pair briefly trading looks before they were gone, the young man wordlessly taking up their recessed position as Kayla nervously followed, his weapon changing forms into a strange, swirling spiral of blue metal as he tapped it on the cobbled and broken ground, light flaring in a circle around them as he nodded in satisfaction.

"...Wait, it changed forms? Does that mean he's a-"

"Try to remain calm, Kayla. First time teleportations aren't easy for most people."

"Eh? Teleportation? Are you-"


"-serious?"

The demihuman blinked rapidly, squinting and then un-squinting her eyes as she tried to make sense of what had just happened. One moment she was in Zeltoble's alleyways and then the next she was in a...forest?

Gazing around in complete bewilderment the girl pinched herself, wincing at the jolt of pain and confirming that this was indeed reality.

Her master had, somehow, managed to transport them an unknown distance in the blink of an eye, the girl paling as she rapidly connected the dots. His strange weapon, title of 'sir hero'...her master was either a Legendary hero or one of the Vassal heroes.

She nervously gulped, warily eyeing the man as he ignored her jittery movements, instead shouting out into the forest with, "Sylphy! I've got a person in need of help!"

For a few moments nothing much happened and then the lush greenery and hardy wood seemed to almost...shine. As if an invisible sun had suddenly peeked around the clouds and cast everything into its radiance, despite the fact that the tree canopy was thick enough to stifle even the slightest traces of sunlight.

"Narvas~! It's so good to see you again!"

A light, fluting voice echoed through the treetops that was quickly joined by a dozen others, all shouting out greetings as the man gained a small smile, Kayla gaping at the sight that greeted her.

Fairies. And lots of them, all winging towards her master with joyful expressions as the leading one quickly wrapped her arms around the male's neck, squeezing happily as he stated, "As much as I wish we had time to socialize, Sylphy, I need your help. She's got a bad injury, likely something to do with her spine and I trust all of you to do a better job than some doctor or healer in the capitalist nirvana of this world."

"Capitalist?"

Shaking his head at the fairy's confused words he gently set Lenia down on the ground, asking, "Can I trust all of you to help?"

Who Kayla now knew to be Sylphy lost much of her innocent and carefree joy as she looked down at the wounded demihuman, lips pursing as she resolutely nodded, clapping her hands as the rest of the gathered forest-dwellers turned their attention to her, the fairy stating, "All right, let's get to work and help her out! The Claw hero and friend of the fairies is asking for our aid and we're going to give it!"

A collection of enthusiastic cheers rose from the assembled group as Kayla took the opportunity to more closely examine the monster apparently very familiar with her master.

While most of the fairies were no taller than a Human child of seven or eight years of age they all had the bodies of adults, possessing clear maturation simply in shrunken form...and Sylphy was someone Kayla knew most would consider a beauty of divine nature, songs and poems being composed simply by nature of her existence.

Bright blue hair and glowing eyes of a similar color while gossamer wings gently fluttered from her bare back, modesty covered only by vibrant azure leaves that clung to her slight chest while a skimpy pair of panties accentuated her delicate hips, legs covered by glistening leggings while pointed ears twitched with expressive emotion.

And the rest of the faeries were just as pretty, regardless of gender as they clustered around the wounded demihuman, reaching out with glowing palms and shimmering wings as they began to to work, Kayla's eyes widening as she could actually feel the ambient magic in the air as the group went about their craft.

"Incredible, aren't they?"

She jumped as Narvas was suddenly standing right beside her, eyes locked onto the proceedings as he continued with, "I've seen plenty of healing magic used in my journeys, but the faeries themselves are really something else."

Deciding to simply nod in agreement the fox-eared girl returned to watching her fellow demihuman slowly but surely return to full health, skin regaining its vitality while, almost ten minutes in, her legs began to twitch and jump, the effects of the potion wearing off as her eyes and mouth began to work soundlessly, awe clear to see in her expression.

Eventually the ordeal came to a close, light fading from the forest as the faeries wiped sweat from their tiny brows, Sylphy kindly setting a hand on Lenia's shoulder as she softly instructed, "Take it slowly, try to sit upright and tuck your legs beneath your body, don't try to stand just yet."

The rabbit-eared girl, with an expression of tender disbelief, slowly and clumsily dragged her lower limbs across the ground into an awkward tucked position...and that simple movement caused her expression to light up, tone full of raw hope and disbelief as she whispered, "I...I can move?"

Trembling fingers tenderly poked at her limbs, sensation no doubt perfectly transmitting as her bright ruby eyes lit up with joy, Sylphy's recommendation promptly ignored as she unevenly heaved herself to her feet, toes curling and flexing across the soft grass as she gave a few experimental hops-

-and Narvas had to catch her as she toppled over, a slight smile appearing on the man's features as he stated, "Maybe you should try following Sylphy's advice, if only for a few minutes."

"Oh, umm...my apologies. I was just very happy and-"

The fairy giggled, waving her hand as she cheerfully replied, "No, I understand...but do take it a little bit easy, we don't want to have to heal you all over again."

Kayla walked forward, marveling at the power of their healing craft as the fairies began to say their goodbyes, flapping their wings and rising into the air-

-before the two demihumans froze as they were embraced or kissed with rather familiar intensity by boy and girl faeries alike as they laughed and flew, even Narvas not escaping their attentions before only Sylphy was left behind, the two younger girls staring at their master with befuddled expressions, the man simply shrugging.

"Fairies are extremely affectionate towards those they like. And they like me so naturally they assumed they should like you as well."

"...Oh."

Unsure of how to respond—and in all honesty still feeling quite overwhelmed by the succession of strange events that seemed determined to occur in as quick a fashion as possible—Kayla merely nodded, Sylphy floating up towards Narvas as he gently held her close, the faerie happily inquiring, "So where are you going to go next, Narvas? Do you want to stay a few days? We'd be happy to have you!"

Smiling at the offer the young man nonetheless replied, "Sorry, Sylphy...but for the time being I need to focus on getting Kayla and Lenia to a proper level of strength, as well as increasing my own. It's a Vassal hero's duty, after all."

While obviously put out by the response she seemed to understand it just fine, the faerie sadly responding, "Okay then...be safe, alright? And be sure to come visit whenever you can, alright?"

Replying with a quick kiss on the forehead and light hug the young man replied, "Of course. And I'll be sure to swing by here first chance I get."

The faerie blushed at his actions before responding with a more intimate peck on the lips, floating up high as she turned to the two demihumans, stating, "Be sure to take care of yourselves, he tends to do crazy things and don't be afraid to tell him to slow down, okay?"

Unsure of how to respond to such an ominous statement both Demihumans settled for a nod, Narvas turning on his heel before saying, "Come along, you two. And don't be afraid to say you're getting tired, Lenia. Like everyrone said I'd rather not have to get you healed all over again after doing it the first time."

"Yes, master."

The bunny girl's response was swift and sure, both her and Kayla trading brief glances before following in the Vassal hero's wake.

They were more than a little curious about what, exactly, was going to become of them given their master's thus far mysterious and aloof actions.


I don't remember my death. And I don't really remember much of the life lived in this new world in this new body...no family, no contacts...no summoning ritual.

All I know is that, against all odds, I'd been dropped into the world of Shield Hero through completely unknown means and for completely unknown motives within a body that wasn't mine. All I'd had to guide me was the Vassal Claw attached to my right arm, offering the occasional nudge or direction for me to follow...sometimes I did, sometimes I didn't.

I'd had my own ideas on how to progress, once I'd come to accept the reality of the situation and that for whatever reason canon events hadn't yet occurred...Hell, Siltvelt hadn't even been beaten back by Melromarc, although there were rumors of a growing war in the wings.

But, more than anything else, I knew I needed to change as a person.

While the circumstances of my death may have been hazy the life before it was perfectly clear. And who I had been before being brought to this world? Nobody special. Just a first world guy with a few friends and steady job, perfectly capable of getting along with just about anyone and doing decently in life.

The world of Shield Hero would chew who I was up and spit out the bones, especially since I was now a Vassal hero who would be a constant figure of interest for those of this realm, an individual to either manipulate, exploit or assassinate. Look no further than what happened to the Spear, Bow and Sword heroes from canon...even Naofumi didn't do so well, only remaining functional due to an incredible support group that focused on keeping him sane and relevant.

Me? The harshest mental trauma I'd been subjected to in life was occasional schoolyard bullying (which isn't even a unique experience since the vast majority of kids experience that in one way or another) and the most agonizing pain was the occasional broken bone or bad cut that needed painkillers and stitches. I'd been thrown into a world of chaos and madness in the clutch of a cruel and sadistic Goddess...and I needed to change. I needed to change if I wanted to live, if I wanted to enjoy being alive in this world.

I had anywhere between two to three decades before canon would assumedly begin, two to three decades to avert a great deal of tragedy and heartache that needn't happen in the first place.

I'm going to do it. Partly because I don't have a choice, partly because I can. Yes, there will be plenty of hardship on the road ahead—hell, the previous two years since I became the Claw hero haven't been a spring picnic—and I'll have to essentially redefine who I am from the ground up...but, hey.

I've played a few games in the past and know of how to exploit them, know of all the bullshit the Vassal and Legendary weapons can pull off. With all of this knowledge at my disposal, well…

Why be a Hero, when you can be a God?


And here we are at the first of my stories to be published after a few months hiatus!

This will be a completely original story that will not delve into the 'canon' events of the main light novels or web novels, only borrow a few key plot points or societal trends that wouldn't change over the course of just a few decades. A few characters will pop up here and there in past roles but that's about the extent of it. If you're looking for Naofumi then I'll save you the trouble of waiting, he's not going to show up in this story.

Additional note there won't be a whole lot Excel spreadsheets of stats and numbers in this story, except when needed to properly convey progress or give an idea of the relative 'power levels' between characters. I'll be focusing far more on the actual strategy and implementation of game mechanics in a real world setting rather than the raw numbers.

And with those two caveats out of the way (and if they didn't kill your interest) I'll see you in the next chapter!

PS: You can go to Imgur and look up user bk201vi592 for images (that aren't mine, I can't draw for shit) of the characters, might have to toggle the old and new listings for them to work.