Disclaimer: Shield Hero and its plot was originally written by and belongs to Aneko Usagi (whom'stever they are) Credit also to the artists/screenwriters/translators for the Anime (which I will be using as a basis for the most part, as well as some of the manga adaptation)

Naofumi Iwatani by initial appearance seems to be an odd young man who looks younger than the age he claims to be: unruly hair and thickly framed glasses hiding bottle green eyes rimed with dark circles and long eyelashes. A wiry build, lost in baggy clothes, that did not fit their new designation as the "Shield Hero," after being summoned to a new world. With a large canvas messenger bag slung across their narrow chest accentuating their spindly frame, he looked like a high schooler that could be blown over by a strong gust of wind rather than a college student. However, the even glare he's been leveling at everyone and everything in clear view since appearing in the castle was not one that belonged to an anxious teenager but someone who has a tenure of reading up on fantasy and medieval political buggery to know never to take things at face value when told they were magically whisked away to another world to be a "hero." First appearances can be deceiving, and grand promises of wealth or fame often lead to being used and destitute by the end of it all. Sadly, Naofumi's fellow abductees were too taken in by their surroundings to notice this fact, and well... everyone seems to be to full of the mood to notice another detail.

[Naofumi Iwatani]

[age: 20]
[Height 161cm]
[Occupation: University Student (full-time)]
[Hobbies: Anime, Manga, RPG games, Cooking, Gardening, Model Building, Sleeping]
[Birthday: October 4th]
[Blood type: B]

[Sex: Female]

Prologue: 48.9%

I wake up blearily in a cold sweat a full thirty minutes before my phone alarm is queued to go off. My vision slowly adjusts to blue glow of my computer monitor and the lamp lit streets through the curtains. The drifting fragments of my dream lose focus but the impression I am left with reminds me of the painting, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog.

Art History was a fun elective first year...

I reach over to grasp the neck of the water bottle I keep by my bed and sit up to twist the cap off before taking a swig. I lean an arm on my raised knees, mulling over the fleeting sensations of an ocean breeze, the sound of a rubber ball being followed by a child's footsteps on a rocky outcrop, the noise of birds overhead, and the sharp glare of sunlight.

"What a weird dream."

I glance over at my laptop computer monitor, where behind the lock screen I last left my nearly completed marketing assignment open as well as the log in window for the online RPG I was playing sporadically whenever I hit a mental wall and needed to decompress. I might as well quickly log on and squeeze in a daily quest before I go on my morning run.

I walk over to take a seat in front of the computer, wake it from slumber, and tap away at the keyboard.

MMORPGs are something I've only been able to dip my toes in during the end of high school, when I got my own personal laptop with the money I saved up from my part time jobs combined with the gift money I got for graduation and over the holidays that year. And even then, the lack of a powerful graphics card made it harder to try any of the newer, higher fidelity games. So most of the gaming I played on my computer were single-player experiences.

I suppose that would qualify me as a bit of a gaming otaku, but I was never given any support in my more nerdy interests by my parents growing up to really foster that mindset. Beyond an occasional DVD of a movie or show that was popular with kids my age my folks rarely gave me anything digital as a gift. They didn't want to indulge that particular un-feminine habit beyond a few mainstream handheld games, and probably wished I was more interested in shoujo manga, (I mean I still read those too) than having me sneak a secondhand Famicom I got from a thrift store in my room when I was 13. Honestly, they probably should have put more effort into raising me as a girl before middle school if they are going to complain about the interests I latched onto growing up.

I'd always hear other couples at family gatherings ask my parents about my name being uncommon for a girl after realizing that, yes, the scrawny short haired moppet in shorts and a tee-shirt running around with the boys roughhousing is in fact female. To which my parents would respond that they already had the name and baby clothes picked for a boy, but it turns out that ultrasounds and nurses can still be incorrect nowadays. So basically they were too lazy to alter their initial plans for me. And since they were preparing to have a boy eventually, it wouldn't hurt to save money to keep buying clothes that a boy could wear for the older (female) sibling to pass on to the younger (boy they were counting on) now would it?

Which is why instead of getting spoiled with attention and gifts from mother and father as an oldest son, I was given the unofficial title of placeholder child with no expectations beyond passing on whatever I grow out of to my little brother, and to act as a good example of dutiful progeny to him. So, very quickly, I learned to separate my family life from my personal life for my own sake.

My habit of running in the morning is just another one of the routines I have made for myself to give me some peace and isolation while being productive enough not to be hounded by my parents. A lot of after school clubs and a few sports teams were joined with that same goal in mind.

After logging on, I clicked on quest giver and glanced at the requirements underneath the short blurb of dialogue from the NPC. Perhaps one of the gripes I have against fully investing into an MMO is the mechanical drudgery behind the quest and battle systems in almost each iteration I have played so far. I suppose such large games that get content added to it on a regular basis can't afford to be too complex in gameplay or story. The biggest draw to these games is the player interaction and communities that form, after all. So having everything be simple at its core but scale up in complexity with class, weapon, and ability customization is what would be the optimal set up for both casual and hardcore players to enjoy.

Personally, I prefer how series like Monster Hunter and Dark Souls handle multiplayer, with more skill based game mechanics and more care in creating a unique setting and atmosphere for the world you explore. Rather than just "generic picturesque euro-centric village A" or "glowing magical forest B" that is pretty much a staple of every fantasy game to the point of repetitiveness.

The current game I'm playing is not exempt.

A viking looking male humanoid with the frostbitten blue tinted skin that was my avatar lunged at the group of enemies I needed to farm. An earth shattering overhead swing of his equipped greataxe sent out a shock-wave of ice, while a swirling cyclone of frost pulled the stunned enemies in range of another swing. I'm trying out a magic tank build that focuses on stunning and slowing enemies down, hacking away while an aura field deals chip damage. My saber tooth tiger animal companion supports mauling any helpless enemy that still have HP left while my abilities are on cool down.

I don't really have a favored class or play style. I've worn many hats and taken on whatever party role is needed to synergize with my team online (likewise at the table with pen and paper.)

And while that mindset makes it easy to party up with strangers to grind out quests, I have yet to really stick with a guild or friend group online since I would inevitably bow out if someone else joins who is a better player suited for my current roll. No one has ever really messaged me that I should return and stay with the group after breaking off, so I've never really felt regretful about it, figuring that player turnover happens all the time and that the idea of finding "nakama" in an online game is just something to write about in web comics and light novels.

I do occasionally get a pm from a former party member on my friends list asking how I am, but its mostly out of courtesy and usually preamble to a request for help on a quest or boss farming.

My phone buzzes and plays a little jingle, indicating I should wrap up and get ready for my run before anyone else wakes up in the house. A few more monsters shatter after being encased in ice and I gather the dropped items before quick traveling to the quest giver. I play the daily Gacha mini-game and see if I can pull a rare item before logging out, and it just turns out to be a small amount of in-game currency.

After a few minutes of changing out of my sleeping clothes and a quick trip to the bathroom, I'm quietly walking past my younger brother's room in the hall. I strain my ear to hear the faint sound of some slice of life anime he probably fell asleep watching.

While my parents' laissez faire approach to parenting me allowed more personal freedoms, (albeit with some restrictions and in exchange for arguably being outright emotionally neglected by them) they had nothing but high expectations and ridged schedules for my brother to meet almost as soon as he left kindergarten. While we were still both young, I was around more to have him latch on to me and escape the house to blow off steam by playing with the older neighborhood boys I palled around with. Sometimes he just tagged along whenever I did errands, or we'd even go to the library together and I would read to him in a corner of the kids section. I did not particularly enjoy or hate how clingy and demanding for my attention he was, figuring, 'well that's just how babies are.' Even though I myself had no memory of latching onto anyone like that, besides maybe the granny who would let me help her take care of her garden in the summer up the road.

But after I moved up into middle and high school I started filling more of my time with extracurricular work and part-time jobs to keep myself out of the house for as long as I possibly could. I barely saw my younger brother outside of breakfast and dinner time. So, I was unaware of how my parents strict regimen for him had left him without an outlet. By the time I was living on campus for my first year of college, his mental health reached a tipping point. He started lashing out and rebelling: dying his hair and getting his ears pierced (oh, the horror...)

Our parents, not knowing how to handle this, called me to come and talk down their son from his delinquency before he got a tattoo or something.

I spent a long weekend dragging his ass to the local arcades, the movie theater, and bought us train tickets for a daytrip to Tokyo where we walked in and out of all the little comic and anime merch shops buying whatever piqued his interest and stuff I knew was quality mental junk food. The end of the day we were hanging out at the old park near our house talking about everything that was weighing heavy on him. How he was envious of my freedom growing up but knew that our parents clearly favored him and how that ate at his conscience. When he became a freshman he found out that I was bullied in high school by a group of mean girls and about an... incident that made things pretty difficult for me from sophomore to senior year, and when I needed support from mom and dad they basically left me high and dry. I told him not to worry about it and not to let other people deny him his ability to enjoy life. I've already spent enough time feeling sorry for myself for being in a shitty situation, and it was in the past now.

I suppose my parents' offer to house me for the rest of my college schooling along with an allowance for any expenses I would have is their way of making up for the past as well as compensating me for getting my little brother back on track. Although I don't have much faith in their generosity at this point; I have enough money in my savings just in case the deal turns sour and I need to put distance between us again.

For now, My only concern is what route to take on my jog.

I open the front door to the slowly brightening dawn sky.


(Warning long A/N incoming:) Hello, been a while since I posted any fanfiction on this site. I'm sure many of you probably know this, but adulthood is very time consuming. Recently I've just had a major life change (those will happen more as life goes on) and I really wanted to do something to get my creative juices flowing and make content again. Writing fanfiction is something that can be done after a long day of work in-between meals and chores, also a good way to gauge how much writing you can get done in short bursts. I always try to approach writing fic with the challenge of "Can I adapt to the same narrative flow of the original media in my writing, while also doing my own thing?" Sort of like, if you were a story-boarder on a show you love or were given the ability to write your own spin-off of a series: how would you do it (without it being a self indulgent mess)?

Shield Hero is a series that I was introduced to while it was going through a lot of critical reception (you probably also already know about that) And while people were getting upset that the main character has "character flaws" that don't make him 100% likeable and other people were praising it for being "not like other stories of its genre" I was researching it (-cough-reading web/light novel spoilers-cough-) and was like "Oh, I see what your doing, story!" And while there are some parts of it that do make me go (Hmmmm...) at it's direction, I can appreciate the overall narrative for what it is. I'm a sucker for the "Rejected Savior" archetype and "Redemption Stories" with a side of "Found Family?" (-chef's kiss-) Is it a perfect story? No. Is this fic my attempt at making it perfect? Heck no. But like... When presented a character that literally says "I was betrayed by a woman now all woman are garbage in my eyes." it's hard not to have the thought of "Ah... But what if?... You were also a woman?" (Nani?!) And I went searching for Fanfiction that explored this very concept, and was disappointed how quickly I read through them all (at least the ones I could find.) I mean you can find Rule 63 art no problem, but surprisingly very little AU that delves into the concept of how different Naofumi as a character would be as a female "somewhat of an otaku" in Japan who was put in the same situation as the original? There are some fics already written that I think do a good job of taking into account of the butterfly effect and how social roles and hierarchies would have affected Naofumi's growth as a person had he been born the opposite sex (and not just "he's the exact same person except biologically.") I'd like to give a shout out to the authors of these fanfics in particular as their takes on the idea helped me to write the female Naofumi I'm writing for myself:

I Need a Hero(ine) by ShirakiNagi (ao3)
Mother, May I? by KlonoaDreams (ao3; ff)
Ascent of the Shield Maiden by ChibiFoxAI (ao3)
The Hero and the Princess by CatClouds (ff)
Instinctual Shield by LookingOutIndigo (ao3; ff)

Funnily enough, a few of these fics are also "isekai'd into an isekai" stories (which is like -inception noise-)