Chapter Two: The Heroes
I heard the sound of people marveling at something and suddenly was awake again. My eyes weren’t ready to focus on anything, but I pointed them straight ahead anyway. There were men in robes, looking at me in awe, and apparently speechless.
“What’s all this?”
I turned in the direction of the voice and discovered three other people there. Like myself, they didn’t seem to know what was going on.
I scratched my head.
I’d been in the library only moments before, but then… why? And just where was I?
I flipped my head left and right and found that I was in a room. The walls were made of stone. Is that what they call brick? Regardless, I don’t think it was anywhere I’d been before. And it certainly was not the library.
I looked at the floor. It was covered in geometric patterns that had been painted in some sort of florescent material. There was also an altar of some kind. It looked like something magical, straight out of a fantasy.
We were standing on the altar.
Wait a second, why was I holding a shield?
I was holding a shield. It was feather-light, and fit my hand perfectly. I couldn’t figure out why I was holding it though, so I went to put it down, only to find that I was unable to do so. It was like it was stuck to me.
“Where are we?”
Just as I was wondering the same thing, the man next to me, the one carrying a sword, asked some men in robes.
“Oh Heroes! Please save our world!”
The four of us shouted in unison.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
But the appeal of the robed men sounded familiar, like something I’d read on the Internet.
“There are many complications in this situation, but to offer a simple answer to your question, we have just completed an ancient ceremony and summoned you four Heroes.”
Yes, that was it. There was a really good chance that it was all some prank, but there seemed nothing wrong with hearing them out. Besides, it’s more fun to be pranked than to prank someone else, anyway. I don’t mind that sort of thing. I think it’s fun.
“Our world teeters on the brink of destruction. Heroes, please lend us your strength,” said the robed men, bowing very deeply to us.
“Well, it wouldn’t hurt to…” I began to reply, but the other three guys spoke up quickly.
“I don’t think so.”
“Yeah, me neither.”
“We can go back to our world, right? We’ll talk about your problems after that.”
What? Did they think it was okay to speak to someone like that? Someone that was bowing to us out of desperation? Why couldn’t they save their conclusions until after they’d heard the bulk of the situation?
I glared at them in silence, and soon the three of them were looking me over. What were they smiling about? We could all feel the room growing tense.
What jerks! I bet they were actually happy to be there. Think about if it were true! They’d get the chance to have adventures in another world. It’d be a dream come true! Sure, it’s a cliché, but still, couldn’t we at least hear them out?
The guy with the sword looked like he might have been in high school. He pointed his sword at the robed men and nearly shouted, “Don’t you feel any guilt for calling people into your world without their permission?”
“Besides,” said the guy with the bow and arrows, “Even if we save you and bring peace to your world, you’ll just send us back home, right? That just sounds like a job to me.” He was glaring at the robed men.
“I wonder how much you’ve considered our opinion on this. I wonder how it could be worth our while? Depending on how the conversation goes, keep in mind that we might end up enemies of your world.”
So that’s how it was. That’s what they wanted. This is when they try and figure out their standing and demand a reward. Well, they certainly were an outspoken, confident bunch. I felt like I was somehow losing to them.
“Yes, well, we would very much like you to speak with the king. He will discuss future compensation with you in the throne room.”
One of the robed men, apparently their leader, leaned against a very heavy looking door until it opened, at which point he pointed in the direction we were to go.
“I don’t think it really matters who we talk to, but whatever.”
My outspoken companions complained as they left the room in the direction indicated. I didn’t want to be left alone, so I followed them out.
We walked out of the darkened room and down a hallway made of stone. How should I describe it? The air felt fresh… and I can’t think of any other words for it. Vocabulary has never been my strong suit. We were able to steal a glance through a window, and the scenery took our breath away.
The clouds were high, high in the sky for as far as you could see. There, below us, a town spread out from the building we were in, all the houses lined up pretty, just like one of those European cities you’d see featured in a travel brochure. I wanted to pause for a minute and take it all in, but there was no time. We were hurried past the window and down the hall, and soon enough we arrived at the throne room.
“Huh, so these kids are the four Holy Heroes?”
An important-looking older man was sitting there on the throne. He leaned forward as he spoke. He didn’t make a good first impression on me. I just can’t stand people who condescend.
“My name is Aultcray Melromarc XXXII, and I rule these lands. Heroes, show me your faces!”
I almost yelled at him to shut up, but I caught myself just in time. I guess he was in a position of authority, and he seemed to be a king of some sort.
“Now then, I shall begin with an explanation. This country, no, this whole world is on the brink of destruction.”
Seems like a rather regal introduction. The other guys with me spoke up. “Well, I guess that makes sense, considering you’d call for us from another world.”
I’ll try to summarize the king’s story:
There was a prophecy about the end of the world. Many waves would appear, and they would wash over the world, again and again, until nothing remains. Unless the waves were repelled and their accompanying calamities avoided, the world was doomed. The prophecy was from long ago, though the time it spoke of was now, this very moment. There was also a large and ancient hourglass that would signal the times. The hourglass predicted the arrival of the waves, and its sands began to fall one month ago. According to legend, the waves would come in one-month intervals.
In the beginning, the citizens of the land mocked the legends. However, when the sands in the hourglass began to fall, a great calamity visited the land. A fissure appeared in the country, Melromarc, a fissure to another dimension. Terrifying and horrible creatures crawled out from it in great numbers.
At the time, the country’s knights and adventurers were able to repel the advance of the creatures, but the next wave was prophesied to be even more terrible.
At this rate, the country was doomed, having no way to ward off the impending disaster. Considering the situation nearly hopeless, the kingdom decided to summon heroes from another world.
That about sums it up.
Oh, by the way, it seems like the Legendary Weapons enabled us to understand the language of that world.
“All right,” said one of my companions. “I think I understand where you’re coming from. But does that mean you are basically commanding us to help you?”
“Seems all fine and good… for you”
“I agree. All this sounds pretty self-centered to me. If your world is on the road to destruction, just let it burn. I don’t see what it has to do with us.”
I could tell by the condescending giggle he struggled to hide that he secretly thought that this was all really cool.
Well it was my turn to speak up next. “As they have said, we don’t have a responsibility to help you. If we dedicate our time and lives to bringing peace to your kingdom, do we get anything besides a ‘thanks and see you later’? I mean, I guess what I really want to know is if there is a way for us to get home. Could you tell me anything about that?”
“Hmmm…” The king shot his vassal a sidelong glance. “Of course we are planning on compensating you all for your efforts.”
The heroes, including myself, pumped our fists in celebration. Yes! Phase one of negotiations: complete.
“Naturally,” continued the king. “I’ve made arrangements to support you financially, and also to provide you with whatever you may require, in thanks for your efforts on our behalf.”
“Oh yeah? Cool. Well, as long as you’ll promise us that, I don’t think we’ll have a problem.”
“Don’t think you’ve bought us off. As long as we aren’t enemies, I’ll help you out though.”
Why did they all have to act so superior all the time? Think about where we are! Do you really want to make an enemy of the king? Still, I guess it was good to get all the particulars out of the way in advance rather than risk losing everything down the road.
“Very well then, Heroes. Tell us your names.”
Wait a second—I just noticed something. Doesn’t all this sound similar to the book I’d been reading in the library? The Records of the Four Holy Weapons?
A sword, spear, bow…and yes, a shield.
Even the four heroes were the same. Could I have somehow gotten pulled into the world of that book? I was starting to mull these things over when the kid with the sword, the Sword Hero, stepped forward and introduced himself.
“My name is Ren Amaki. I am 16 years old, and a high school student.”
The Sword Hero, Ren Amaki. He was an attractive young guy. His face was handsome, and he was relatively short, maybe 160 centimeters. If he cross-dressed, you’d mistake him for a girl in an instant. His face was so composed. His hair was black, and cut short. His eyes were sharp, and his skin was white. Overall he gave off a cool impression. Like a quick, slender swordsman.
“All right, I’ll go next. My name is Motoyasu Kitamura. I’m 21, and a college student.”
The Spear Hero, Motoyasu Kitamura. He came off as light-hearted and kind, something like an older brother. His face was at least as well kept as Ren’s, the type of guy who was sure to have a girlfriend or two. He was probably around 170 centimeters. His hair was pulled back into a ponytail. I normally don’t like ponytails on men, but it seemed to suit him. Overall he seemed like a caring, older brother.
“Ok, my turn. I’m Itsuki Kawasumi. I’m 17, and still in high school.”
The Bow Hero, Itsuki Kawasumi. He looked like the calm, piano-playing sort of character. How to explain it? He seemed vain, and yet, at the same time, he held some unrevealed strength. There was something indefinite about him. Something vague. He was the shortest among us, probably somewhere around 155 centimeters. His hair style was slightly wavy, as if it had been permed. He was like a soft-spoken younger brother.
Apparently we were all Japanese, though I would be pretty surprised to see a foreigner here anyway.
Oh, my turn already?
“I guess I’m last. My name is Naofumi Iwatani. I’m 20 years old, and a college student.”
The king looked down at me condescendingly. I felt goose bumps crawl up and down my spine.
“Now then. Ren, Motoyasu, and Itsuki, correct?”
“Your Grace, you’ve forgotten me.”
“Ah yes, pardon me, Mr. Naofumi.
So the old guy was a little slow on the uptake. But you know… I was still feeling somehow out of place among them all there. And now he forgot to include me in such a short list?
“Now then, Heroes. Please confirm your status, and give yourselves an objective evaluation.”
What did he mean by status?!
“Excuse me, but how are we supposed to evaluate ourselves?” asked Itsuki.
Ren sighed loudly, like he couldn’t be bothered to explain it to us. “You mean to say that you all haven’t figured it out yet? Didn’t you realize it the moment you arrived here?”
Oh come on, he just knew everything. Was that it? Guess he was some kind of genius.
“I mean,” he went on, “Haven’t you noticed any weird icons hanging out in your peripheral vision?”
But since he mentioned it… if you looked off vaguely, and focused on the soft edges of your field of vision, there were little marks there. I could see them too.
“Just focus your mind on that icon.”
I did, and heard a soft beep, just like I was sitting in front of a computer, and the icon expanded to take over my field of vision. It was like opening an Internet browser.
Class: Shield Hero LV 1
Equipment: Small Shield (Legendary Weapon)
There were still quite a few things listed, but I decided to ignore them for the moment. So this is what the king meant by status? Wait. Just what the hell was all this? It felt like I was in a game.
“Level 1… That makes me nervous. “
“Good point, at this rate, who knows if we’ll even be able to fight at all.”
“What is all this?”
“Do these things not exist in your world, oh Heroes? You are experiencing ‘Status Magic.’ Everyone in this world can see and use it.”
I was amazed at how normal everyone seemed to think it was, this numerical expression of your physical body.
“And what are we supposed to do? These numbers seem awfully low.”
“Yes, well. You will need to go on a journey to further polish your abilities, and to strengthen the Legendary Weapons you possess.”
“Strengthen them? You mean these things aren’t strong right from the get-go?”
“That is correct. The summoned Heroes must raise their Legendary Weapons by themselves. That is how they will grow strong.”
Motoyasu was spinning his spear and thinking. “Why don’t we just use different weapons while these ones are bulking up? Seems smart to me.”
That did seem like a good idea. And besides, I was stuck with a shield, not even a weapon in its own right. I’d better get another weapon.
Ren cut in to clarify, “We can work all that out later on. Right now, we should focus on improving ourselves, just like the king has asked us to do.”
It was so exciting! We were heroes summoned from another world! It felt a little like manga, but anyOtaku worth his salt would jump at a chance like this. My heart was pounding in my chest, and I couldn’t get myself to calm down. It looked like the other heroes around me felt the same way.
“Are we going to form a party? The four of us?”
“Wait just a moment, Heroes.”
Just as we were preparing to set out on an adventure, the king spoke again. “The four of you should set out separately, to recruit your own companions.”
“Why is that?”
“According to the legends,” he began, “The Legendary Weapons you possess will interfere with one another should you form a party. Both your weapons and yourselves can only grow when you are apart from one another.”
“I don’t really understand all that, but if we stay together, we can’t level up, right?”
Huh? Everyone found instructions near their weapons. We all began to read at the same time.
Attention: the Legendary Weapons and their owners will experience adverse effects if they fight together.
Caution: it is preferable that the Heroes and weapons are used individually.
“I guess it’s true then…”
But why did all of this sound so much like a game? It was like I’d been transported into a game. Anyway, games don’t feel this real, and there were real humans living here, so I guess it was still a reality of one kind or another. Still, the system reminded me of a game nonetheless.
The instructions on the weapons went on at great length and detail, but there wasn’t enough time to read them right then.
“So you think we should try and form our own parties?”
“I will attempt to secure travel companions for you all. Regardless, evening draws near. Heroes, you should rest for the night and prepare for departure on the morrow. In the meantime, I will find companions for you from the village below.”
“Thank you very much.”
We all thanked the king and retired to our room for the night.