Ricky's day had begun on the wrong foot and had only spiraled downhill from there. He woke up late for classes and rushed to get ready, but in his haste, he stumbled and tripped down the stairs. To add insult to injury, he burned his toast and had to leave without breakfast. He’d been late a few times before for class and really couldn’t afford to miss out on another lecture. He couldn’t stand the look of quiet disappointment he’d see on his parents faces when they heard he was missing classes again.
He really did try, just some days he couldn’t work up the energy to get out of bed. Let alone handling the mental load of completing his assignments, on top of everything else that he had to do day by day. He berated himself each time he fell short, knowing how much his parents had done to provide him with a loving home. They were good parents by any standard he could think of, they fed him well he had never wanted for good well fitting clothes or shoes. They bought him toys and video games when he was younger and they tried hard to connect with him. To give a shit about the activities he threw himself into. Despite their unwavering support, Ricky found it difficult to explain to his parents that he had little interest in the activities they encouraged him to pursue. He merely used them as distractions to silence his mind and avoid dwelling on the countless things that were subtly wrong with his life.
But he couldn’t help it, when he looked in the mirror he felt only pain, when he opened his eyes in the mornings he had to struggle to not just close his eyes and cry he had to go to war with his own mind and body just to get up and get dressed, put on a bit of deodorant to hide that he hadn’t showered in days and dragged a comb through the messy black hair that was just long enough to obscure part of his face. Make some small attempt to hide the dark bags under his tired eyes. Despite forcing a smile, his expression looked pained and strained, failing to reach his eyes or alleviate the slump in his shoulders.
Ricky loathed his appearance, feeling awkward and self-conscious about being too tall, gangly, and thin. The changes that came with puberty only made him feel more uncomfortable. After all, once puberty hit he started growing hair everywhere and started to stink. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't make peace with his body or bring it into harmony with how he thought it should look. He instead could only work to convince himself that these changes were just a part of being a man, and that he should accept them.
Every time he caught his reflection on any surface in the mirror he saw sunken lifeless eyes with dark bags under them a listless expression. He couldn't pinpoint the cause of his troubles, but surmised that perhaps life was just taking a toll on him. But that was life these days wasn’t it? You got up way too early to go to a school you hate, to be surrounded with people you hate, and learn to force yourself to sit through lectures on topics that you just can’t bring yourself to care about. He’d taken a business major because that was a nice normal middle of the road college course load to take, nobody could fault a business degree. He rushed out the door and down the street class started in half an hour and he had to catch a train to make it on time. It would be cutting it short and he’d be out of breath but he could just make it if he sprinted for the platform.
He dashed leaping over some garbage bins and practically slid around a corner by the time he made it to the platform he was huffing and puffing and a thin sheen of sweat had started to dampen his clothing but he had made it just in time and now he could relax some. He bent forwards resting his hands on his knees and working to catch his breath. There were a handful of other people on the platform, a couple of students that he recognised the uniforms of, and some of the business people that hadn’t made it to work just yet. It would be a quiet train ride but that was normal enough. What did catch his eye was a girl standing near the yellow safety line near the edge of the platform close to the tracks. She had long hair that caught the light as it blew in the gentle morning breeze. She was wearing a hoodie with a logo for the same college that he attended, but he swore he had never seen her before. Was she new? Would It be rude to ask, no no it would be way more awkward if she just ended up being someone that had gone to the same school as him for years and he just hadn’t seen her before.. And beyond that he was disgusting and didn’t want to come off as a creep. Or at least any more of a creep than he already was by default for staring at a girl who was in all likelihood just going about her day like everyone else.
He sighed and tore his gaze away when he heard the horn, the train was coming, a glance down the tracks told him what he already knew from experience. The train's lights could be seen in the distance as it headed for the platform and he watched with muted apathy as it approached. Something made him pause though, some nagging thought in the back of his head made him turn away from the oncoming train and back towards the girl that was standing near the edge, nobody was looking at her of course. Humans tended to be drawn towards movement and loud noises so the people that did glance up were looking towards the train.
Nobody could see her face, that look in her eye, the grim determined set to her jaw. It was an expression that Ricky knew well for he’d seen it on his own face now and then, he could recognise that particular call of the void well. She had no intention of living through the end of the day. He simply stared at her as time seemed to freeze. The train was coming, she was standing near the edge of the platform. The puzzle pieces slotted into place quickly into his head. She was going to jump, time seemed to speed up again rapidly jerking forwards, his heart leapt into his throat. When he made that realization he was already moving. pushing through the crowd, his heart hammering and his shoes slapping against the concrete of the platform. What was he doing? He was no hero. Just a dumb kid, he didn’t have the time to think his actions through.
For a heartbeat their eyes met and he was sure that the shock on her face mirrored his own. But she, like him, had already started to move; she was pushing forwards one foot already off the platform. She was falling there was no question of that so when he reached the edge a hand already extended to catch her wrist. He heard a shout behind him on the platform. His sprint hadn’t gone unnoticed. He grabbed her wrist but her bodyweight already in motion only pulled him forwards working right along with his own momentum, he was falling too. The only thing he could do was wrap his arms around her and squeezed closed his eyes as they both fell forwards in front of the train.
He wasn’t sure what he was waiting for exactly, an impact? A sudden loss of consciousness maybe? He should be dead or at the very least in a coma. But nothing happened, as the seconds dragged on and nothing happened save for that sensation of slowly falling forwards did he open his eyes. Immediately blinded by the bright white light that filled the endless expanse of void around him. He tilted his head glancing around, was this the afterlife? Why did he still feel like he was falling? Where is the girl? He didn’t see her anywhere, so maybe she was okay then? It would be nice, a nice little thought to take to his next life, that in his last moments he had done something worthwhile.
The sensation of gravity dragging him downwards hadn’t let up in the slightest, he was still falling forwards still being dragged down by the momentum, and some primal instinct in his head started to scream that he was in danger. He ‘fell’ and fell and fell until the white void around him started to twist and fold in upon itself. It started slow at first but steadily ramped up becoming harder to process and watch with each passing second. His mind started to hurt as a particular odd twist of reality around him brought into sharp focus non-Euclidean geometric shapes and impossible angles and breaks in the form of the void around him. His eyes throbbed and his skull pounded suffering under the strain of trying to process the sight of reality breaking down around him, twisting and tearing in ways that were, should be impossible. It tore at his mind and the strain built and built until he could do little but scream into the expanse. Just when it seemed like it would all become too much and he would simply break under the pressure his momentum halted. The void around him shattered like breaking glass and he tumbled back into reality.
He had landed on smooth well worn stone, it was cool to the touch. His mind was still burning, straining under the weight of the incomprehensible sight he had been subjected to. Reeling to try and latch onto something comprehensible and landing squarely on the smooth stone floor he was kneeling on. His bare knees felt the unyielding nature of the rock, and felt how cool it was. Slowly his mind came down from that agonized high rolling slowly back down using the understanding that this was real. The floor was real. If he looked up he would see something normal, something comprehensible. A voice reached his ears but he didn’t understand it, he simply didn’t have the processing power to comprehend spoken words right then.
“An ostentatious summoning! How rare for the gods to grant us two heroes!”
More was being said but Ricky wasn’t paying them any mind, he was still reassuring himself that the floor was real and not about to start melting into an incomprehensible horror. Slowly when his mind caught back up with his situation and he lifted his head did the full weight of his current situation dawn on him. He seemed to be in some kind of church? It was far larger and more fanciful than any church he had stepped foot into before, with a high vaulted ceiling that seemed to be nearly a hundred feet over his head. Great pillars and decorative arches hung with tapestries and were adorned with intricate carvings. None of the iconography stood out to him as something recognisable. Where was this? Was this the afterlife? He lifted his head and slowly looked around. There were people here, at least they looked like people, some were wearing elaborate robes like priests, and others were wearing what looked like medieval plate armor. What? He blinked his mouth opening and closing was this an.. Isekai?
He slowly looked around the room taking in each little detail, from the grand stained glass windows to the fanciful nature of the weapons and armor on display. To the group of people talking to his body… wait. He stared at the man that could have been his twin, the same hair, the same tired eyes, the same clothes he had put on that very morning. Slowly he tilted his head and glanced down at himself. What greeted him was not the expected flat chest and shabby t-shirt. Instead his eyes landed on a hoodie with a logo for the university he attended, a slight swell to his chest that wasn’t quite obscured by the baggy nature of the hoody, a much smaller body than the one he had been expecting. He raised a hand and it was thin and dainty, with morbid fascination he reached up and took a handful of the now much longer locks of brown hair that ringed his face.
W-Wait a second! Was he in the girl's body?! Then was that? He turned his head to look over towards the person that could have been his twin. Was that his actual body over there?! If he was in her body was she in his?! He was interrupted from his musings by one of the fancifully dressed people placing a hand on his shoulder.
“Miss hero? Are you alright?” he was looking at Rick with concern, was he okay -ignoring that he was just called miss that was a reasonable assumption to make all things considered and he would just ignore the feelings twisting in his guts when he thought about it. What was the best move? To admit that this wasn’t his body? To hide that until he could talk to uh… the person piloting his body around? No, he just needed to talk to the priest. Keep it quiet for now with luck the two summoned people can figure out a way to get their proper bodies back. He stood slowly, trying his very best to ignore how much shorter he was now than before.
“Ah.. no I’m sorry I was just distracted, uhm It was a little overwhelming to find myself here and the.. Journey wasn’t pleasant.” He winced remembering the nearly mind shattering pain that had twisted through his head from the sight of the twisting impossible shape of the void. The priest was giving him a confused and concerned expression.
“Miss hero.. Do you stare into the void? You could have merely closed your eyes.” He blinked, opened his mouth and then closed it again. He could have just closed his eyes, and he had stupidly stared into the thing that was causing him pain. He felt his cheeks heating up flushed with shame.
“I-It was merely for a few moments, b-but it stunned me..!” He protested perhaps a bit too loudly judging by the few glances that his outburst drew. The priest was smiling, a soft almost patronizing gesture, ah great the man thought him a fool.
“Regardless it does my heart good to hear that Miss Hero is well. Your companion is already hearing this explanation so please allow me to give you a run down of the basics Miss Hero.” She nodded as if to tell the man to continue. Right information, this was an isekai right? They hadn’t met an oddly beautiful deity on the way in so they needed the information from the locals. Was there a system here? Would they get classes? Powerful skills?
“We welcome you to this humble Drerokar kingdom, you have arrived here as the result of a summoning ritual to call forth noble hero’s who will lead the world of men against a threat most dire. You see every century or so a [Lord of Monsters] will arise and the gods will grant us the ability to call forth a champion to match. The [Hero].” Ricky nodded along and this seemed to be fairly standard stuff for this kinda setting. He had after all read his fair share of manga and webnovels featuring remarkably similar premises.
“While you may ask why summon people from another world when our own might be more used to the way things work here? Well the answer to that is quite simple, [Hero]es receive quite a bit of a boost from the gods than we do, few of us ever reach the greatest heights that one can reach but for [Hero]es its quite common.”
That too wasn’t an uncommon trope, Ricky was following along so far. “What would come to pass if we succeed… what happens should we fail?” The priest seemed to give him a little slime at that.
“Well quite simply should you succeed you’ll have saved the world and earned the undying adulation of the people.” If there was a way back home the priest would have led with that he was sure, but if he spent years fighting monsters and becoming a mighty and famous person, would he really want to go back to the tedium and suffering of the modern world he had come from? Sure he would miss his family but, what if time was linear? And if he found a way back years had passed his family had moved on. Maybe it was for the best to just give up on going home and give it his all to make a new life here… once he had his body back.
“Now Miss Hero, if you would open your [System], you need only concentrate on doing so.” Ricky did just that, frowning as he tried to call forth the system expecting blue boxes since everything else so far had fallen right into the right tropey cliches.
[Name]: Ricky Greene
[Level]: 1 0/30
[skills]: [susceptibility] [Will of the Saintess]
He blinked, what was this? It was clearly his name but that class? [Saintess]?! That had to be because of this body! The girl was meant to be a [Saintess]! He could only hope that when they changed their bodies back things would be fixed. His mind briefly conjured up an image of his previous body dressed in the usual sort of flowing, revealing yet somehow holy outfit worn by saintesses in amine and shuddered. Nope no, not gonna happen, when he got his body back the class thing would be fixed absolutely and totally 100% not thinking about anything going wrong! He blinked and refocused on the priest.
“Uhm, it says that my class is [Saintess]?” there was an off emphasis to the word when he said it like it carried weight. The man lit up with a bright smile.
“A [Saintess]! How lucky!” his voice was not quiet and Ricky immediately noticed the attention it drew, from the other robed people and even a few of the knights. Ah.. if this was a church and those were priests… [Priests]? And those knights were [Paladins] then it would only stand to reason that they would be a little excited with the appearance of a [Saintess]. But Ricky's heart started to race as he surveyed the scene. The priest's bright smile started to look a little sinister to him now, and he couldn't shake the feeling that something was amiss. The extra attention that the priests' outcry drew from the knights and other robed figures only heightened that sense of suspicion.
“Please my Lady [Saintess]! This humble servant of the gods is pleased to welcome you!” His smile seemed all the brighter now and a few other priests were moving over in Ricky’s direction, that earlier sense of suspicion started to bloom into dread. Was it the kind of fantasy world where the [Saintess] was kidnapped by the church and locked away in some tower to be used as a prop? Ricky tensed up a bit hunting for some excuse to stave off what was coming, but he felt entirely like some little prey animal caught in the gaze of a mighty predator.
It wasn’t until an arm landed on his shoulders and he was pulled against someone's side that he broke from that state. It was his own arm over his shoulders… his old arm? God it was weird to think about that. The body that had once been and would be his again… The girl.. The [Hero]? Sure that was neutral enough. The [Hero] had draped an arm over his shoulders and pulled him in against their side.
The Hero turned to the priests with a smile. "My friends, can't you see that the [Saintess] is tired and overwhelmed? Perhaps it would be better to return to our rooms and start fresh in the morning. We are eager to learn and train, but let's not push ourselves too hard." Despite the [Hero]'s amicable words, there was a hard edge to their voice and their fingers dug into Ricky's shoulder. Ricky couldn't help but feel a strange flutter in his core. He opened his mouth to protest being grabbed, but the Hero was already leading him out of the room and into the hall. Ignoring the sounds of indignation behind them, the [Hero] must have quite some pull here to be able to simply walk out when it was clear that the church wanted something from the [Saintess].
Ricky supposed that it would be in the kingdom's best interest to not piss off the one person that would stand between them and total destruction, it only made sense to give the [Hero] some leeway. Though he doubted this would be the last time the church tried to separate the two of them, clearly this was the kind of setting where a [Saintess] was locked away for exclusive use of the church. He might just be forced to rely on the [Hero] at this rate.
As they walked in relative silence, Ricky suspected that both of them had things they wanted to say that were best saved for a more private venue. The [Hero] gestured to a maid, demanding to be taken to their rooms. The Hero seemed to be adapting to Ricky's body better than he ever had. They walked with their back straight, and exuded a quiet sort of confidence that Ricky had never once felt himself. The deep resonant voice that had been his bane instead became a commanding tone that drew and held one's attention. He might just have to admit that the girl made a better him than Ricky ever had. Not that he didn’t want his body back just…
They arrived at their room, and the [Hero] asked the servant to bring them something to eat before leaving them alone. Once the door closed, the Hero finally let go of Ricky's shoulder, allowing him to step back and put some distance between the two of them. Ricky started to speak first.
"What was that all about?" Ricky said, his confusion evident in his voice.
"I'm glad that you're not hurt," the [Hero] replied. "It would be a shame for my attempted savior to end up mistreated in this world. Since you're only here because of me, it's only fair that I protect you."
Ricky blinked, surprised by the [Hero]'s response. He hadn’t expected that sort of response. He had expected a bit… more? Something different.
"But what about our bodies? They were swapped!" Ricky asked. "Don't you want yours back? Isn't this crazy, how are you so calm!? They expect us to go fight a whole war for them!"
The questions poured out of Ricky, but the [Hero] just shrugged their shoulders and shook their head.
"Slow down, there's a lot to unpack here," the [Hero] said. "Am I calm? Yes, because I got everything I wanted. Do I want my body back? No, I don't think I do. This body is much more convenient for me. And besides, that one seems to suit you rather well, Miss [Saintess]." The Hero smirked.
"As for the rest, we'll figure it out. In this world, it's my turn to protect you, so don't worry about a thing."
Ricky just huffed, crossing his arms over his chest, only having to take an extra moment to adjust the position of his arms when he accidentally crushed.. His? Her.. the body’s chest in an uncomfortable way. Shooting a glare to the [Hero] when he caught sight of the amusement on his fellow summons face.
“Your turn to protect me huh… that's the second time you’ve said that.” Ricky shook his head slowly, this was absolutely not at all how he expected this conversation to go. The [Hero] seemed fairly at ease and had not expressed any interest in reclaiming their original body. Ricky was stuck but there was one more important thing.
“Uhm what’s your name, I’ve just been calling you ‘The [Hero]’ in my head this whole time..”
“I have no desire to go by my old name, it simply wouldn’t fit, much the same that your old name doesn't fit you anymore.” The [Hero] shrugged. “Just call me Liam.” Ricky sighed, shifting in place and stepping over to plop down in one of the chairs.
“Hahhh.. Fine then Liam. I’m Ricky.” God that name felt wrong on his tongue and certainly did not sound appropriate with the lighter feminine tone of voice that he spoke with now. The [Hero], Liam just clicked his tongue.
“No no that won’t do, a pretty Miss [Saintess] like you should have a proper name. I’ll just call you Rin from now on.” Ricky blinked, opening his mouth to protest when a familiar system menu popped up in front of his face.
[Level]: 1 5/30
[skills]: [susceptibility] [Will of the Saintess]
“W-wah! How did you do that?! You changed my name in the system just like that?!” Rin’s voice was raised, almost shouting. Liam seemed to be almost entirely nonplussed by the reaction.
“Right, you look a lot more like a Rin than a Ricky, it just makes sense.” It was said with such finality and self assuredness that any further protest just died on Rin’s tongue.
“F-fine..“ Rin glanced about the room, they had been preoccupied with the conversation before to pay much attention but if this room was reserved for the [Hero] and there was usually only [Hero] summoned then it was no surprise that there was only one bed. “Uhm.. where should I sleep?”
So far Liam had already been fairly possessive with them, they had assumed at first it was just because Rin was using the [Hero]'s old body and they wanted it back but.. They didn’t, so what then? Liam had already moved over towards the bed and sat down on the edge tugging off the shoes that Rin had put on that morning. But paused to glance over at the [Saintess] when that question was posed.
“Obviously on the bed with me, I can’t risk letting you out of my sight with those church types itching to snatch you up.” Rin blinked and shifted in place. Nope that was.. No way!
Rin was taken aback “W-what but you’re.. A-and I’m-!” and was subsequently cut off before those protests could grow to numerous.
“And? Are you going to try something Rin?” Rin just closed their mouth. No They absolutely had no intention of starting anything. Sure they were technically a girl right now but that didn’t mean they were going to suddenly start being into guys! And especially not that face, a face that Rin Had spent every day for the past few years hating.
"But it's just not appropriate!" Rin protested weakly, turning their head away to stare at a wall.
It was a lame excuse, obviously and Rin was almost certain that it would be brushed aside by Liam but still! The [Hero] had already started to act oddly and Rin couldn’t figure out why. They were so lost in thought they didn’t notice that Liam had stood up and stepped over to the chair that Rin was sitting on and while the [Saintess] was lost in thought Liam just scooped that much smaller body up. Ignoring the indignant squeak and protests and hauling the [Saintess] over to the bed depositing them on the sheets.
“Tell me [Saintess], you want your old body back don’t you?” That made them stop protesting and freeze for a second before nodding.
“Then you should take responsibility for this body that used to be yours right?” That drew a shaper frown to Rin’s face. Trying to puzzle out what exactly Liam was getting at with that sort of statement. The [Hero] continued to speak.
“And if we do trade back and this body is yours, then that body is mine, and I should be able to do with it as I please.” Now that picture was starting to bloom in Rin’s head, The look of realization quickly morphed into shock, then horror and finally a petulant glare.
“W-what no that’s… You can’t expect me to just go along with that!” Rin shifted making to roll towards the edge of the bed and sit up but was stopped before they could move at all Liam's hands darted out and wrapped around their wrists dragging them up and pinning Rin’s wrists over the [Saintess] head.
“And who would stop me if I wanted to? I’ve read enough Isekai to know that the [Hero] class has to be pretty damn powerful, and we already proved earlier that even the church isn’t willing to step on my toes, so who exactly, little [Saintess] would stop me if I wanted to?” Rin's face blanched and their squirming and protesting came to an immediate and sudden stop. They just started wide eyed up at Liam. Hadn’t the [Hero] said something about protecting them? Then what was this?! Nothing they said was wrong exactly, Thinking about Rin would be shocked if previous [Hero]’s hadn’t taken advantage of their status to get away with all kinds of things. If a [Saintess] was normally property of the church, then pretty much only the [Hero] could claim one for their own use.
The tension in Rin’s body started to melt as they stopped squirming and withered under the gaze and grip of the [Hero]. Tears started to well up in the corners of the [Saintess]’s eyes. Perhaps they had been a fool, for thinking otherwise.
“What then do you want from me..” The [Saintess] asked in a quiet voice, they felt quite trapped between becoming a prisoner of the church or the so-called hero’ possessiveness, powerless to resist and left with little choice but to submit to the desires of others?
Liam's response was chillingly confident. “It's quite simple, Rin. Haven't you read enough Isekai stories? The [Saintess] is usually the hero's first party member and harem member.”
Rin's eyes widened in disbelief. “What? No way! I won't let you turn me into a participant in your weird fantasy, Liam. Just because we're stuck together doesn't mean you can do whatever you want with me.”
Rin felt a surge of anger and fear. They renewed their struggle to free their wrists from Liam's grip, but he held them firmly in place. They were beginning to understand that their new body and the class it had come with had made them vulnerable to those with power and influence in this world, and that they would have to really try hard to maintain their autonomy and dignity. Beyond that there was no way that they would ever end up falling for this possessive jerk of a [Hero]!
After Rin's outburst, Liam's expression hardened, and the air in the room seemed to thicken with tension. For a few moments, neither of them spoke, and Rin was acutely aware of the weight of Liam's grip on their wrists.
Finally, Liam spoke, his voice low and dangerous. "You don't have much of a choice, Rin. You're in no position to refuse me, and you know it."
Rin's heart pounded in their chest as they struggled against Liam's hold. "Let me go, Liam. You can't do this. I won't let you."
Liam's grip tightened, and Rin winced in pain. "You won't let me? You're in no position to make demands, Rin. You're mine now, and you'll do as I say. Unless you want me to just turn you over to the church and roll the dice with what they want from you?"
Rin's fear turned to anger, and they glared up at Liam with defiance in their eyes. "I won't be your plaything, Liam. I won't let you use me like this."
Liam's expression softened slightly, and he released Rin's wrists. "I don't want to use you, Rin. But you have to understand, we're in a dangerous situation. The church wants you, and they'll likely keep trying to get to you, to separate us so they can take you away. I'm trying to keep you safe."
Rin rubbed their sore wrists and glared at Liam. "I don't need your protection, Liam. I can take care of myself. Of course it's just convenient for you that ‘keeping me safe’ means keeping me close at hand and at your mercy!"
Liam shook his head. "No, Rin. You can't. Not in this world. You're too valuable, too important. You need someone to look out for you, and I'm the only one who can do that." Regardless of any other motivations he wasn’t wrong there. Rin was level 1 there had to be hundreds of people who would happily take the [Saintess] in ‘for her protection’ though that could be a simple assumption, what did the [Saintess] class have that made it worth any of this? .
Rin sighed and looked away. They knew Liam was right, but they didn't want to admit it. They were trapped in this world, with no way out, and Liam was as of right now their only ally. But that didn't mean they had to like it.
"Fine," Rin said, finally. "But I won't be your harem member, Liam. First of all, that's just weird, this is your old body and that's mine I just… gross."
Liam smiled, his eyes lighting up with amusement. "Hmm hmm, a Tsundere type is good too.”
That comment made Rin splutter, if They denied it it would only play into the archetype assigned to them by the stupid jerk of a [Hero]. She huffed out a quiet sound instead opting to simply ignore that comment. If what Liam had said already was true then the [Hero] was treating this like his own personal Isekai story, where obviously he’d be able to build a harem of attractive and powerful women. But wasn’t this real life? Maybe the whole… dying and void jump thing had scrambled the hero’s brains a bit and he was in some kind of shock induced fugue state?
The hero just smirked at her and returned to disrobing, tossing the button up shirt onto the floor next to his shoes. “Come on, let's get to bed. We have a big day ahead of us, and I certainly have no intention to waste any of it.” leaving Rin to fill in the implication that they would be left behind if they didn’t keep up.
Rin just grumbled. “Mmh… goodnight.” and closed their eyes, keeping their back to the [Hero].
The next morning, Rin woke up to find themselves alone in the bedroom, Liam was gone. They were relieved to have some space to themselves and took the opportunity to collect their thoughts and dress in some clothes they found in the closet. Unsure if it was magic or just preparation that ensured they fit rather comfortably. Riding pants, a chest wrap, tunic shirt and belt. Certainly not what one expected to find a [Saintess] wearing. Rin couldn't help but worry about this new world and their place in it, Liam’s obvious possessive behavior was concerning and people of this world hadn’t made a good first impression.
Rin balled a hand into a first, they needed to find a way to escape this fate. If it wasn’t Liam pressuring them then it would be the church or someone else. They would have to take matters into their own hands, even if it meant going against the church and the so-called [Hero]. Rin marched for the door but paused as they came across a mirror on a vanity stand. Alone and without any real desire to rush to Liam’s slide like a puppy, they stopped and leaned forwards taking a good look at their hair and face. This body used to belong to that girl but for the time being it was Rin’s so... Shouldn’t they take care of it? Maybe even take some time to enjoy it while it lasted? It had none of the issues that had plagued them in their last one, it wasn’t tall and gangly. It was small and cute, with bright blue eyes and brown hair. The bangs hug low just teasing at the top of that face’s eyes and otherwise hung low nearly to their waist. A hand came up and pinched at the hair pulling it forwards and letting it slowly fall back into place.
They should at least put in the basics of effort to care for it, one of the drawers on the vanity had a brush and Rin took some time to drag it through their hair to work out any knots and tangles that had formed overnight. When Rin was satisfied with it they set the brush down, took one last look at themselves in the mirror and finding their efforts satisfactory moved towards the door poking their head out into the hallway they looked around. Nobody was there waiting for them, but hadn’t they just decided to take some initiative with their life?
Rin just took a deep breath and set out resolving to learn as much as they can, they wanted to become strong enough to not have to fear anyone. So they wouldn’t have to let Liam push them around and maybe they can figure their head out. They had a lot to think about after all.
Liam was more than happy with this situation, he - for that’s what he was despite his parents insistence that it was just a phase and would pass - was more than happy with ending up in a fantasy world it was just the perfect bit of punctuation to end off a shitty life.
He had grown up in a wealthy home with parents that cared more about having a ‘perfect’ and ‘happy’ family to show off to the other ‘perfect’ little families at the country club. He had grown up constantly being subjected to the judgment, both subtle and overt for every little aspect of his life. From being the sort of person that liked playing outside in the mud and expressed an interest in sports. But oh no, not the safe, acceptable sort of sports that a girl should be interested in; figure skating, gymnastics, volleyball. No no Liam had liked football, boxing and wrestling. Things had only gotten worse as he got older and started to directly act out refusing to wear dresses, embarrassing them in front of their peers. It had been an altogether frustrating childhood. At least they had both agreed that fencing was an appropriate sport for him to play, it was perhaps the one thing that he and his parents agreed upon.
Liam had grown up looking in the mirror with venomous hate, he hated having long hair, he hated that his body had taken after his mom’s side of the family and was short and delicate. Years of effort had packed a small amount of muscle onto that frame but to Liam’s eyes it looked ridiculous.
Even when he had finally worked up the courage to flat out tell them about his gender identity they had merely acted like he was sick. Like his identity was just a bout of confusion and that the right combination of therapy and medication could make it all go away. It was by sheer luck that morning that Liam had found the filled out forms for some bullshit conversion therapy camp, hidden away in a pile of mail on the kitchen table. It had been a blow to what was already a delicate mental state. His parents would rather send him away to be tortured than just accept him for who he was? Well it was no wonder then that Liam had been in such a state that he had just grabbed the first set of clothes that came to hand and marched out of the house.
Right down to the train station, at first he had just been intending to just hop on board and ride it for as long as he possibly could just get off wherever and figure things out from there, butas he stood there on the platform waiting for the train it gave some time for his brain to catch up with him. Giving him time to just realize his parents would file a missing persons report he would be found and dragged back home and his parents would have one more excuse to use to ship him off to try and have his very identity tortured out of him. The more he thought about all the ways it could go wrong, the more he just started to feel a bit more rigid, why did he deserve any of this shit? There was a steadily growing rod of iron in his stomach, a solid manifestation of indignant rage, and grim determination. Fuck it, maybe he should just step off the platform in front of the train.
The more he thought about it the more that idea appealed to him, maybe his death would shock his parents into changing their ways… probably not they would just mourn the death of their ‘perfect daughter’ and play it for sympathy with the other assholes they hung around with. The train's horn blared and he just smiled, turning his head to glance towards it. For a few moments he felt free, ready to step forwards and end it all. But some lingering pull made him turn his head, those eyes that had been staring down the headlights of the train turned towards the crowd and met another's gaze. Liam must have looked like a deer in the headlights to that person. A person that was shoving through the crowd running towards them, he was tall with a mess of short cropped hair, he looked tired.
The moment seemed to drag on that second stretching out and becoming an eternity. The features of his face burned into Liam’s mind. Ha, that's the kind of face that Liam had always wished he had. The stranger reached out and caught Liam’s wrist, but it was too late and he was falling forwards and his body weight dragged the other person forwards with him. For the first time since he’d arrived on the train platform Liam felt a small spasm of guilt. A shame that his escape would mean dragging someone else to their doom.
Arriving in the other world had been a total shock, he hadn’t even been sure it was real at first. It had all been way too convenient, he got a body that suited him perfectly? He was a summoned hero? Liam had read his fair share of manga and watched his fair share of anime so he was almost checking off the list of tropes in his head. Monster lord? Check, summoned hero? Check. System with classes and skills? Double check. It was so obvious that it might as well have announced with a neon flashing sign that it was a dream. A fever dream cooked up but his anime obsessed brain in its dying moments. Well since it was so kind as to give him this playground he should play along right? Just see what kinds of things his dying brain could cook up for him and have as much fun as he could.
[Name]: Liam Jameson
[Level]: 1 0/30
[skills]: [Swordsmanship] [The Hero Stands Tall]
He was intrigued by the seeming vagueness of the system and was just in the middle of getting an explanation of it from the priest he was talking to when a shout drew his gaze across the room. He hadn’t even noticed that a second person had arrived with him until one of the priests practically shouted.
“A [Saintess]! How lucky!” It drew Liam’s gaze over and he saw a body that he instantly recognised. His old one, the one he hated on him. But seeing someone else with that face? He didn’t hate it, and since this was all likely the fever dream produced by his dying mind he could do whatever he wanted right? He was the [Hero]! What could they do to stop him? If he wanted to walk across the room and make the [Saintess] his then who could stop him?
The Priests looked a little off though, they were looking at the girl like she was a piece of meat being dangled in front of predators. No that wouldn’t do at all. He flashed a big bright cocky smile and strode over wrapping an arm around the girl to pull her in and he just started talking. He wasn’t even sure what he was saying, only that they didn’t stop him from leaving the room and taking the girl with him.
She had been nervous in a cute sort of way, but introduced herself as Ricky, no no that wouldn’t do at all. She was cute and needed a cute name to go with that face, especially if she was going to be his.
“No no that won’t do, a pretty Miss [Saintess] like you should have a proper name. I’ll just call you Rin from now on.” he felt a surge of satisfaction and watched her reaction to his words, she seemed shocked and protested but well. This was his dream wasn’t it? He was the [Hero] he could do whatever he wanted. He could just scoop her up, pin her down on the bed and make her his, why not? He was dead, dying anyway and there were no consequences. But as he loomed over the girl pinned on the bed he just... Couldn’t.
There was some niggling doubt that maybe this was real, and if it was then this was the person that tried to save him, surely giving it some time wouldn’t hurt right? If it was a dream then the inconsistencies would start to make themselves clear. He just let her go and quickly made excuses to go to sleep. He’d figure things out over the next few days. There's no way a fever dream would stay consistent and coherent for an extended period of time.
The next morning the pair had started training, him with the knights learning the intricacies of swordsmanship, and Rin with the mages learning to harness the magical powers that being a [Saintess] brought. It turned out that while some things learned fencing and wrestling carried over a lot of it absolutely didn’t, footwork carried over partly but well they still had plenty to learn. Still they were strong and capable and this body just felt right and the more they put it through its paces the better it felt.
No this world, this world was where they were meant to be, and they had to believe that the same was true for Rin. At some point that morning it had hit them that this was real and that of course that meant they had made the right choice to pull back. They had gotten up early before the sun was up and went for a walk around the castle taking in the sights, sounds and thinking things over. Before heading to the yard where the knights were training, one night's sleep was a poor substitute for therapy, but strenuous physical activity was a decent enough distraction.
The weeks spent in training had forced the two of them to start getting along, Rin had little choice but to lean on the [Hero] for protection, but that didn’t mean they had to dislike each other and far from it, despite her best efforts she found herself enjoying his company. That first night might have been an anomaly, she could probably write it off as the stress of dying and being dragged to a new world. Still she was wary of him when they were alone.
It was only to be expected right? He had displayed alarming behavior and Rin had precious little choice in this life. But despite trying to remind herself of these things, she couldn’t help but listen when he spoke. She couldn’t help but catch sight of him out of the corner of her eye and pay attention. There was a magnetism to him, maybe it was just something inherent about being a [Hero] but few people got quite as ‘stuck’ on him as she did.
She didn’t want to blame it on feelings or anything like that, it would be absurd to start falling for Liam, that was her old body after all there was no way she could fall in love with her own face! She could only blame it on the one bad skill in her status, [Susceptible], she’d gathered from the few people that she had spoken to about it that it was considered to be almost a curse, a skill that made you weak to peer pressure, bullying and outside influence certainly sounded bad. But it also sounded exactly like who Rin had been before, Ricky had just been someone that went along with the flow of things, there had been a sort of malaise that affected his life that he hadn’t been able to shake until recently. Liam seemed to have a skill that enhanced his charisma and made people pay attention to him, and her own skill made it way worse, she couldn’t help but listen when he spoke. She couldn’t help but stare at him when her eyes drifted that way.
She just shook her head and grimaced, here she was supposed to be practicing and she was thinking about that jerk. She forcibly turned her back to him and returned her focus to something far more interesting. Magic, Rin certainly would never pretend to be so aloof as to not think magic is cool as hell, and as the [Saintess] she was a powerful magic user, she was still a novice of course but she was picking things up quickly enough. Channeling mana was like flexing a new muscle, and she was shaping the ethereal powering into steadily more complex shapes and patterns with each passing day. Steadily building up her speed and reflex so that she could cast spells on the fly when it came time for live combat. Doing her absolute best to not think about Liam, and his stupid face and stupid skills.
They were trained by a variety of experts, and over that time they grew closer. That first evening hadn’t been forgotten but it certainly faded in relevance for the pair. They had settled into a more comfortable friendship, as some sort of accord had to be made with them sharing a room out of fear that someone might try and grab Rin in the night. Things between them had only improved when they were finally ready to leave the castle and make for the wilderness, finally leaving behind all the people that they had to look out for. Travel was fairly easy at first but they were still close to civilization and traveling along roads camping in fields and passing through smaller towns and cities.
The awkward flirting only grew more evident and harder to ignore as the days passed and it was one night many weeks into traveling that Rin found herself poking at the fire with her staff. Did she like Liam? Maybe, probably. But it was certainly hard to be certain since they had those complimentary skills, [Susceptible] and [The Hero Stands Tall] It was nearly impossible for her to not succumb to his influence, when he spoke, when he looked at her it just bulldozed what objections she had in the moment. What made up for that was the simple fact that Liam hadn’t used that to do anything other than defuse tension or get her to talk when things got quiet. Despite the things said on that first night, he hadn’t tried to sleep with her since.
Why did that fact upset her?! When she had arrived in this world she had been so concerned with going home, with becoming…. That man again. She hadn’t even really considered what it meant to live in this world, and maybe just live as ‘Rin’ forever. If she was living as Rin forever then could Rin find love? Settle down when all of this was dealt with? Was that something that she wanted? It was a lot to think about and despite having ruminated on these and many similar questions she hadn’t come to any conclusive answers on her own.
That made it hard to settle on her feelings about Liam, some part of her was disgruntled that he hadn’t pushed it since that day. Part of her was afraid that that was just the skills talking and not her. Could you love someone that could literally force your opinion to change? Someone that if they wanted to could completely override your consent and autonomy? Maybe she was exaggerating the effects of the skills they might not have that power but it sure felt like it was hard to breath and think straight when he was looking her in the eye and gently talking with her.
The sound of sudden weight dropping next to her made her squeal aloud breaking from her thoughts and falling off of the log she was seated upon, landing on her ass with an audible ‘oof’ and glaring up at Liam who had dropped into the seat next to her. He had a smirk on his face as he looked at her.
“Should pay attention when you’re on watch, someone might sneak up on you.” Still the admonishment was light and joking and she grumbled pouting at him in turn.
“S’fine I set up wards and stuff..” She would have noticed if anything broke her wards and it was way easier than staring blankly into space hoping to spot something moving out there. Rin picked herself slowly up off the dirt brushing off her robes and settling back onto the fallen log with Liam.
These mornings were the most awkward, neither of them really had a great idea of how to start the many many conversations that needed to be had and neither of them were quite ready to just get up and go about the day. So they sat in awkward silence watching the fire. Time passed like that for a few moments longer, Rin was still running those same questions over in her head that she had for the past few hours. She shook her head side to side and opened her mouth to start that conversation they had been putting off.
“Liam I’ve been mea-”
“Rin, Over the-” Only to have Liam start speaking at the same time both of them pausing giving each other a sheepish smile and beginning the awkward shuffle of ‘oh no you go first, no no you’ that only ended when Rin just grumbled out a ‘Fine!’ and started speaking, haltingly at first as she tried to condense weeks worth of questioning and thoughts down into a few simple words.
“I have been thinking… a lot, about everything and you, and I.. maybe don’t want that body back anymore. You can keep it.” That wasn’t what she had intended to say but it was a fine enough starting point right? Something to get the grease of the conversation wheel going. She swallowed and shook her head. “What I mean to say is that, maybe it’s not so bad… being Rin that is and uh.” this was it, trying to say what had been on her mind all this time. She turned to glance up at Liam, the [Hero] had a brow raised with a slight smirk to his face. Smug jerk.
“I’m not really sure if it's just the stupid skills but uh maybe, there's a small chance that I kinda… I like being around you! And maybe I don’t hate your stupid smug face! Humph!” She turned her head away from him, in a useless attempt to hide the crimson flush that had burned its way across her face. It was an attempt at least, but no matter how she tried she couldn’t get anything more out.
Liam on the other hand just shook his head, a dry sort of chuckle rolling from his lips. It was an offhand comment back then but well who was to guess that he would be so on the money with Rin? She absolutely had some tsundere like qualities to her especially in moments like this. He just smirked.
“Well well, thank you miss [Saintess], I’m glad that you’re comfortable and of course I rather like how you wear that body so it’s all yours to do with as you please.” he reached out a hand ruffling the girls hair as she huffed and grumbled. “But well I wanted to... apologize for that first night. It's not much of an excuse but it was ah... Bit of a shocking day all things considered and I'm sorry I acted inappropriately.”
Rin wanted to protest, for some godforsaken reason her first instinct was to reassure, but she clamped down on that urge. Liam -had- been wrong, they both knew it and trying to pretend otherwise was a foolish thing to do. She just pursed her lips and let out a slow breath.
“Its.. fine, well not fine, but like. You’ve shown that it was an anomaly and I.. Trust you. I guess.”
It was a fine enough starting point, and from there conversation flowed easier. They spoke of the past good memories from earth, and eventually of the bad things from earth. It was the first time that Rin had heard Liam’s story in full and it put into context what exactly that day had been to Liam back when he wore this face that she now did.
Rin talked of her own changes, she hadn’t come to this world with an already defined sense of self, of gender and expression and it had taken a long time to come to terms with it. To fully let ‘Ricky’ die and just be Rin. From there things changed quickly, somehow the veneer of space, of worry between the pair disappeared bit by bit.
The first time they shared a kiss it had been an almost innocuous affair, Rin had been setting up the tent and building up a fire and Liam had just returned from the woods with some game he’d hunted for them to eat. He’d walked over to the fire plopped down on the ground next to her, they had shared a look and then kissed. Neither of them could really articulate why it had happened but it had and it broke the damn. From that day on they kissed often and very rarely did they fall asleep anywhere but each other's arms.
Still their purpose in this world wasn’t a simple one, and more often than not their days were fraught with danger and conflict. Rin had heard it said that rarely did anyone surpass level 150 but the both of them had long past that barrier and started reaching towards the realm of legends. Almost every town they had passed through needed some kind of assistance or had some problem that either the [Hero] or the [saintess] could solve and really it had seemed natural that they do so.
They fought powerful monsters, and criminal organizations. They met with the other Chosen races in their remote enclaves and holds, but more than all of that they traveled. The world was a beautiful place and together they had seen some of its most remote locales. Still there was a reason they were here. An overarching goal that hung over their heads like the grim portent of doom that it was. The [Lord of Monsters] existence had been confirmed and it was their duty to stop them before they could lay siege to the known world. So they had gathered their supplies and set off. The first order of business was to weaken the [Lord of Monsters] army by slaying their generals. The powerful highly evolved monsters that could organize and lead their brethren. The journey to hunt these creatures down was long and grueling but well, who better to handle it than them?
The first of the lot had been held up in a remote abandoned fort near to the Edge of the World. The name for a mountain range that no [Explorer] or [Cartographer] had come back from crossing.
Rin had to admit that Liam wore that body better than she ever had, that lanky awkward body had filled out and moved with a casual sort of grace and power that Rin never could have replicated, she could even admit that he looked cool swinging a sword around. They had a bit of trouble here and there but the pair of them working together had surpassed any challenge they had come across so far. They had just defeated one of the [Lord of Monsters]’s generals and the monsters throne room was cracked and ruined displaying for anyone to see the fury of the battle that had just taken place, both the [Hero] and the [Saintess] were breathing heavily but at the same time a sort of energy had filled the air.
This was the first major success they’d had since setting out and both of them were feeling the high of accomplishment. Rin practically floated over to Liam, grabbing at his cloak to tug it out of the way.
“You didn’t get hurt anywhere right? Cuz we might have landed in a fantasy world but that doesn't mean you get to hide injuries for a later dramatic reveal.” The Hero just chuckled a hand coming up to ruffle her hair.
“I’m fine, I’m fine, really not hurt at all. Why are you worried about me?” Earning him an exaggerated pout and ‘harumph’ from the [Saintess] as she turned on her heels to walk over and poke at the monster's body with her staff.
“Who would be worried about your dumb ass?”
The snort from the [Hero] told her exactly how much he believed her when she said such things but she couldn’t help it. Lima would say something and her heart would leap into her throat and she would vomit out the first string of words that came to mind. The monster did not move as she poked at it. Proving that it was well and truly dead if the fact that it had been beheaded didn’t give that away.
“So.. what now? I’m sure that the kingdom will want us to come back with news that this guys dead, so they can throw a stupid parade or whatever..” But she certainly had no desire to go back there. With time distance and a lot more levels under her belt it was more of a risky proposition to try and kidnap her and while there were a lot of skills and all kinds of strange magic out there Rin just wasn’t all that worried for her own safety. After all she had the ultimate dead man's switch in Liam, who wouldn’t hesitate to turn his rather substantial might upon anyone that targeted her. No, it just wasn’t worth it to take weeks to hoof it back to civilization and sit through a lot of pointless pomp speeches when they could just keep pushing on to the next barrier, kill the next monster and see what happens when this was all said and done, when they defeated the demon lord, [Lord of monsters] whatever. But while she was thinking about greater next steps and the larger plan, the [Hero] had other ideas.
Strong arms wrapped around her waist and ignored the indignant squeaks of protest that emanated from the [Saintess]. Liam plopped down on the throne that once belonged to the general and deposited Rin in his lap. She grumbled, head tilted back to eye him, the [Hero] was just smiling down at her, an expression that to all the world would look serene, but to her who had spent weeks with the insufferable jerk? Well it said a great many things.
“Why do you get like this every time?” After all it was becoming something of a pattern after a hard fight, Liam would get that smile on his face and then well… Well Rin’s face was already flushed.
“ah , dearest Rin I might be hurt from the battle and have the healing powers of the prettiest [Saintess] to heal me.” Liam was mocking her, she could tell, she had been watching the whole fight and while the jerk was certainly bruised up a bit he wasn’t hurt. Still It -had- worked on her once or twice in the past, checking him over for injuries and ending up ah… accidentally stumbling her way into a more intimate moment with the [Hero]. She grumbled reaching up a hand to swat at his arm.
“You’re fine I was watching the whole time.. You’re just fishing for an excuse.” She grumbled turning her head away with a huff.
“It seems to me that you’re just embarrassed, you get just as worked up don’t you? If you want to blame anything you can blame this body’s sex drive~” Liam tugged the [Saintess] a bit more firmly against his chest, hands brushing down from her torso over her thighs. Leaving the girl squirming in his lap and letting out a huff.
“H-hey! D-don’t say that like it’s my fault! I was never this… depraved! When that body was mine!” but her protests really only earned her a chuckle from the [Hero], and well her words didn’t quite reflect the reality of the situation, her hands were just as busy as his own, slipped back to tug at his belt buckle.
It was an awkward shuffle for those few moments where they pawed at each other, neither of them quite willing to take that step to separate long enough to actually get their clothes off. Words fell away as lips crashed together and tongues danced, together a soft whine rose from her throat. A response to Liam’s hands peeling the heavy robe she wore from her body and tossing it unceremoniously across the room.
Underneath she wore a simple tunic and leggings but those too gave way under the relentless insistence of the mighty [Hero], Rin on the other hand couldn’t rely on sheer brute strength to get what she wanted but she had a great many other tools under her belt. Would some find it wasteful to use magic for such a task? Perhaps those people would also in all likelihood be prudish boors and not the sort of people that one would want to hang out with at parties. A quick movement and a snap of her fingers cast the spell that sent Liam’s clothing scattering around the room much like her own.
Petty? Absolutely, she had enough magical power and control that she could have neatly folded, repaired and cleaned his clothing but he’d tossed hers all over so she did the same. Now free to do as they had intended they held little back and it wasn’t till sunrise that they slumped exhausted in the broken remains of that hall, lounging on the throne that had once belonged to a powerful monster and in that moment? Rin could say that she was truly happy.