Month: March 2020 (Page 1 of 2)

Chapter 29: Three Scenes and Some Thoughts About Various Subjects

The car trip back home.

It’s actually a bit quiet. I think all of us are pretty tired, and though the sun is still high in its warm summer glow, it’s starting to get pretty late.

I have 35 Destiny Points now. That’s enough to draw two Destiny Cards and still level up if I ever need. Though, with over 12,000 LP still remaining, it doesn’t seem like that will be a particularly difficult task for the time being.

For some reason, I expected that bear to be a tougher fight, especially if I was tasked with defeating it without harming it whatsoever. But it turns out that my [Strength,] [Power,] and [Deftness] are simply too high for a beast like that to overcome.

On Mystix, even the most fearsome of non-magical animals tend to be easily overcome by warriors with the Destiny Deck system within themselves. From the looks on the faces of my two companions, though, it doesn’t seem like humans on Earth have much of any attack power to overcome something as massive as a bear without weapons.

“You were great back there,” Francis says. “I didn’t know you were such a good wrestler!”

“I didn’t either,” I say. “It was quite stressful at first, but eventually I got the hang of it and it clicked into place.”

“So cool…”

“Still, I am confused about one thing,” I say. “Why did we leave the bear unharmed? We could have skinned its fur and sold it for a great price.”

“Uh, well…” Francis rubs the back of the neck. “Earth is a bit weird, isn’t it?”

“We don’t do that here,” Delta says simply. “We aren’t animal killers.”

“You let beasts like those roam free? Surely they kill thousands a year.”

“No, only about four or five people are killed by bears every year.”

“In the entire world?!”


“With beasts that size?!”

“We have a lot of weapons on Earth. Honestly, this car alone could kill almost any animal on the planet.” Delta is quiet for moment. “There aren’t many bears left anymore. Humans are too good at killing the things that scare us. Now animals are the ones scared of us.”

“I see…”

“So we don’t kill animals if we can help it. And that’s final.”

I nod. “That makes much sense. I shall heed your word as best as I can.”

“Thank you,” she says.

“Though… I could have felled that bear with a single shot of my arrow,” I say. “It would have been glorious. I could have done it with one hand tied behind my back.”

“Eryk… You can’t shoot an arrow with one hand,” Francis tells me.

“That’s patently untrue. I do it all the time. I did it when we were at that convention yesterday.”

“You… did?”


“That’s not true. That’s impossible.”

“Search your feelings. You know it to be true.”

“….No,” he says. “No.”

“Fair enough.”

With my stomach less utterly destroyed than it was several hours ago, I eat more convenience store snacks, gain [+3 DP,] and enjoy the rest of our trip back to San Fransisco.

Mt. Diablo was an interesting and beautiful place. If that is what Earth has to offer, then I am quite excited to see the rest of this wide world.


We’re back in the crowded city and nearly back to Francis’s house. I enjoy watching the bizarre sights around me. Despite what I have been told, I see people with green and orange hair quite frequently while I stare out at the street. In fact, there ia even a man whose ear lobes have been stretched out significantly and giant rings implanted in them. It looks tremendously painful but oddly fashionable; he is likely a warrior of some kind.

“After I drop you off I’ll return the rental car and then have a nice dinner with the old ball and chain,” Delta says.

“Broccoli casserole again?” I ask, still not sure what casserole is. Or broccoli.

“No.” She pauses for a moment. “Just normal dinner.”

The car stops outside Francis’s house, but rather than unbuckle his seat belt, Francis leans in closer to Delta and says, “So about the baby thing.”

She sighs. “Yes, the baby thing. Your parents told you, didn’t they?”

“They told me it was a secret because you thought I would be embarrassed about how badly I am doing in life.”

“That’s… your parents talking, not me,” she says. “I haven’t told you anything because… Well, I’m still thinking about it.”

“And why are you giving thought to this decision still?” I ask.

“Butt out,” Delta snaps. “This is between me and Francis.”


“So you aren’t for sure going to have a baby?” Francis asks.

“I… have discussed this quite a bit with Julie recently.”

“…Oh, I see. I understand. Julie wants it.”


“And if Julie is determined about something…” Delta trails off. Her facial expression does not change, but her eyes shift.

“I apologize for intruding again, but who is Julie?” I ask.

“Huh?” Francis seems confused. “Oh. Julie is Delta’s wife. She’s, um… a little intense. And kind of scary…”

“Don’t say that,” Delta says. “Julie is…”


“Julie is a determined person.”

Francis shrugs. “You can tell her no if you really don’t think you’re ready. I mean, you’re twenty-two. Is it really time?”

“I’m ready,” she says. “Physically, financially, psychologically, I’m ready.”


“Well…” Delta’s composure starts to break.

From what I can gather, Delta’s wife, someone who has a reputation for being a passionate and serious individual, is very adamant about starting a family, but Delta herself is not quite ready. That is an intriguing and yet perplexing thought. Delta herself is such a serious individual that seeing her embroiled in something like this is—


“Wait,” I say. “Babies.”


“Yes, babies. How in The Goddess’s name do two women have babies?”

Delta’s composure returns completely. “You know what? Get out of the damn car. I’ll meet you tomorrow after I run some errands. Hurry, get out.”

We climb out as fast as possible and she speeds away.

“Oh, Delta,” Francis sighs. “I hope she ends up alright. I’ve hardly seen her like this.”

“Seriously, I must know. How do two women conceive a child together?”

“Um, Earth has a lot of cool technology stuff that—” Francis groans. “You know what? It’s really complicated. Let’s just go inside. I’ll pull it up on my computer later and show you or something.”

“Earth is an endlessly fascinating place.”

“Uh, yeah. If you say so.”


I lay on the roll-out mat, staring up at the ceiling while Francis lays on his side in bed and tries to get some sleep.

Possibly for all the sugar I ate as a part of the snacks I consumed today, I am having significant troubles in falling asleep. I am wide awake, as if I could go outside and become a defender of justice who fights any and all who commit wrongs against innocent people.

But instead I’ve just been introspecting for a while while wearing some nice soft sleepwear clothing known as “pajamas.” It’s an extremely comfortable situation, even if the topics in my mind are not.

Some of that introspection requires some extra thought. So, even if it may be a little rude, I begin to speak.

“Francis? Are you awake?” I ask.

“Mhm,” he mutters. I’m not quite sure he is.

“Have you ever been in love?” I ask.

“Um, Eryk, that question is a little…”

“Because I have,” I say. “And yet I chose Earth over love.”

He doesn’t respond.

“I died without saying goodbye to Malia,” I say. “My lover for years. And yet when our car crashed and I died again, The Goddess gave me a second chance. She said I could reincarnate on any world of my choosing, even Mystix again. But I chose Earth. For some reason, despite everything, I chose Earth again.”

“Really…?” Francis yawns. “That’s… silly, isn’t it?”

“Perhaps. I was so excited about the prospect of returning to Earth and becoming its ultimate champion, its very first S-Rank Hero, that I didn’t truly consider the magnitude of my decision. To be frank, I was an idiot.”

“Did this Malia girl really mean that much to you?”

“I loved her. Love her, rather. I wish the very best for her and hope that she will have a long and happy life in her second century on Mystix.”

“Second… century?”

“Ah, yes. She is an elf, and a little over a hundred years old as well.”

“God, that sounds…”

“She has much experience under her belt. She was my most valued ally first, and a lover second. But… I do miss her touch. I miss the romance and passion.”

“Ehh… Can we not talk about this right now?” Francis asks. “I’d like to go to sleep.”

“I apologize. I was merely stricken by an odd feeling after I learned of the predicament with Delta and her wife. I never had a similar conundrum, but… it’s one I can relate to, somehow.”

“In what way?”

“Choosing. Choosing between duty and honor, or love and family.”


“Maybe that choice isn’t such a binary thing. But I know not.”

“Goodnight, Eryk.”

“Oh. I apologize again.”

He once again doesn’t respond. A few minutes later, he begins snoring.

I lie awake on my mat wondering about these same things, but eventually I drift into slumberland myself.

Chapter 28: The Great Test (Part Four)

The mother bear leaps out from the outcrop and lands with a resounding thud in front of us.


The cub looks at its mother with curious eyes and prances over to her. But then halfway there it turns around and scurries over to Francis’s leg.

The mother is not at all pleased with the situation.

“P-p-p-please go away,” Francis says with chattering teeth. “Good bear, good bear…”

“I assume this is not a friendly animal,” I say.

“Correct,” Delta says, staring blankly at the beast in front of us.

“Excellent.” A grin grows from ear to ear on my face. This is perfect. Almost TOO perfect.

“Delta, if we die,” Francis says, “I just want you to know I support your decision, even if you don’t want to tell me.”

Delta glares at him. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“You two having a baby, I mean.”

“What? How the hell did you find—Ugh, this is the worst possible time to mention that.”

“Sorry. I just think we’re about to be mauled by a friggin’ bear!”

“Let’s survive this and I’ll talk about it later, okay?”

“Okay, I—Eryk, what are you doing?”

I approach the mother bear even closer. I stare into its eyes and keep my smile wide. I step forward and poof out my bow and arrow from my inventory.

The mother bear glares at me with intense anger. She knows we’re about to have our duel. But she doesn’t know the swift pain that death will br—

“Eryk! No!” Francis shouts. “Stop right this instant!”


“Don’t hurt the bear or I’ll never forgive you!”


The bear snarls at me. Its sharp teeth are bared to me and with just one swipe it could take my Life Points down to near-zero.

I need to fight.

“You can’t hurt it. It’s just an animal and it’s got a cute baby bear right here.”

The cub makes a cute sound.

“I really think that we should kill this before it kills us,” I say.

“Don’t kill it! Please!”

“…Defeat it, but leave it completely unharmed?”

“Please!!! I don’t want to be an animal murderer…”

“You will not be an animal murderer; merely an accomplice of one.”


“Okay, fine,” I say. “Fine. I will defeat the bear without causing it any injuries. That, or I will fail, be mauled, and you will be responsible for my death.”

“Well, you don’t have any ID and so you’ll never go missing, so as long as we hide your body nobody will ever catch us,” Delta says.

That was a little bit too well-thought-out for my liking, so I decline to respond to her.

“Fine, then. Leave it to me. The hero, as always.”

“Don’t be an ass, Eryk,” both say simultaneously.

Declining to be an ass, I step up closer to the bear.

The mother bear is about to attack me. The bear cub is still playing with an absolutely terrified Francis.

[12,336/15,000 LP.]

My time to strike is now.

“Engarde!” I shout.

I leap at the beast—

It freezes in shock— then raises up on its hind legs and gets ready to strike.

That’s a bit of an odd move, I think, since it is now somewhat vulnerable. And luckily that plays right into my hands. Literally.

I grab the bear by its front legs and hoist it up in a swift throw. It catches itself before it tumbles over on its back, and wobbles for a second before becoming steady. It stands upright like a human.

“Bears can stand upright?!” I yell.

“Yeah, isn’t it adorable?” Francis asks.

“I wish you were more terrified,” I say. “Because I am.”

But, terrified or not, I won’t allow myself to be bested by a monstrous animal. I grapple the bear’s hands and begin my battle tango.

It roars and snaps at me, but I move my head out of the way. I refuse to let go of its arms even as it struggles as much as it can.

The fear is creeping in—the fear of Eryk Solbourne, D-Rank [Adventurer] and future hero of Earth!

I wrestle the bear to the ground. It trashes and swipes but I’m too close to it to make any effort.

We’re tumbling around. First I’m on top, then it rolls over and it’s on me. Then we roll over and I’m on top of it. It’s growing more tired, less fearsome, the longer I hold it down.


“Roar back at you, you beast!”

It throws me off of it and then rolls back on all fours.

I beckon it closer, but when it charges I jump out of the way. It turns around and does the same thing, and then I hop over it—

—and land right on its back!


I ride the bear like a horse, but even as it bucks I stay steady. Try as it might, the bear is fully under my control.

When I feel like it’s had enough, I jump back off with a stylistic backflip, the glint of my arrow’s tip shining from the sun above.

When I land on my feet and take a bow, the bear loses itself. It wobbles, raises its head… then collapses on the grass.



[+1 DP.]

Delta and Francis are speechless.

The bear cub stands upright and claps its hands.

“That is how you defeat an enemy,” I say. “My tutorial is concluded.”

“Holy shit,” Francis finally says. “You actually wrestled a bear to submission. You…”

“We should leave these bears the snacks I left unfinished,” I say. “That shall be our reward to them for allowing me a Destiny Point.”

“Yeah and we should probably get out of here before the mama bear wakes up,” Francis says.

“Agreed,” Delta says.

We leave some snacks, gather up the blanket and cooler, and run back to the car as fast as we can.

Our Great Test has concluded.

Chapter 27: The Great Test (Part Three)

Francis throws a punch in the direction of my stomach, but I flashstep away from it and avoid it with milliseconds to spare.

He tumbles to the ground and skids along the grass. “Owww, ouch ow owie.”

“I knew it!” I shouted. “You brought me here to kill me!”

“No,” Delta says. “Eryk, no—”

I pick Francis up and hoist him over my shoulders. “You will not take me from my life!”

“You’ll have done that yourself if you throw my best friend,” Delta says. “Calm the hell down and let’s explain like rational adults instead of acting like morons like Francis just did.”

I understand what she’s saying. I set Francis down gently on his feet and try not to think about the fact he just tried to attack me seconds ago.

And in the possible event that this is another trick and they’re trying to ambush me again, I make sure to check my stats and Destiny Cards just to make sure I’m prepared.

[12,444/15,000 LP.]

[34 DP.]

And my Destiny Card hand:

Transmigrated Spirit: Rank 3. Summon an otherworldly spirit to assist for five minutes. Cost: 444 LP.
Super Hearing: Rank 1. Increase sonic perception abilities dramatically for five minutes. Cost: 70 LP.
Kaio Blast: Rank 3. Doubles combat stats for 2 minutes. Cost: 500 LP.
Minor Heal: Rank 2. Gain 1,000 LP. Cost: 0 LP.
Inventory Slot: Rank 4. Store an item here to retrieve for future use. Current item: Satchel (Size: Extra Large).
Inventory Slot: Rank 4. Store an item here to retrieve for future use. Current item: (Empty)
Inventory Slot: Rank 4. Store an item here to retrieve for future use. Current item: Bow and arrow.

This is all fine and well, though I sorely miss my glorious short sword that was obliterated by a truck during my bout with Buddy, the awful used car dealership man.

If I have to fight my two friends, I’m not going to hold back. Not for anything.

Before they even begin talking, I quickly do a double-move:

First, I use the [Minor Heal] card that’s mostly just a waste of space in my inventory.

I feel a rush on the inside—

[+1000 LP.]

[13,443/15,000 LP.]

—and now I’m healed.

Then, with a Life Point drain, I draw a card—


[-1100 LP.]


[12,343/15,000 LP.]

Well, let’s see what the new card is:

Foresight: Rank 4. See the next five Destiny Cards in the Destiny Deck. Cost: 140 LP.

That’s… an extremely useful card, actually. However, it’s completely useless in a combat situation, so it was a bad draw. My Destiny is not always what I wish.

“Are you even listening to me?” Delta asks.

“Yes, every single word,” I say with an extreme hint of suspicion.

“You look more suspicious than Francis when he keeps saying all that weird stuff to me all day,” she says. “So clearly you’re not.”


“Our third test today is about Destiny Points and fighting,” she says. “We’re going to do a mock fight to see if you can gain points that way.”


“What did you think we were actually trying?”

“I, um, I don’t know.”

“Well, now that you know not to take it seriously, we can—”

“No, this won’t work,” I say. “Fighting alone is not what gives [Adventurers] Destiny Points. It is the act of defeating an an enemy. If you did not tell me that this wasn’t a serious fight and I had thrown Francis like I intended, I perhaps would have earned a Destiny Point. As it stands now, though, that will never happen.”

“Dammit, that’s what I was worried about,” Delta said. “I just didn’t know if you’d injure him or not if you threw him really far.”

“Aw, you care about me,” Francis says.

“I owe a great deal of debt to his parents, so I would be in a lot of trouble if he came to serious harm.”


“Well, I can say that there is no way to earn Destiny Points from fighting unless it is a serious deal. Training, sparring, and play fighting simply will not work. You could have asked me, you know.”

“We know…” Francis looks downtrodden. “My main plan was a huge bust…”

“It was no bust,” I tell him, though mostly to calm him down since it was a fairly stupid idea. “I appreciate your help. You have been very valuable to me in my quest for Destiny Points.”

“Aw, thank you.”

“No, thank you.”

“No, thank YOU.”

“No, th—”

“Thank you, but I’m done with this conversation,” Delta says. “If there is no way to fight either of us and gain points, then I guess that’s bunk. We’ll have to find some other way to help you.”

“No more Destiny Points? Then this place was mostly a waste to come to, wasn’t it? Aside from the lovely view, that is.”

“Not a waste YET.” Francis points over to the forest. “Punch those trees!”

What? “What?”

“Hurry! They’re enemies! Go punch them!”


“Yes! They’re evil trees!”

“I don’t believe you,” I say.

“Wh—why not?” Francis asks.

“You’re trying to trick me into defeating an ‘opponent’ even though it’s just an inanimate object.”

“Th—You really think that?”

“I’m no idiot, Francis Bacall,” I say. “I am Eryk Solbourne, and while I may be a newcomer to this world, I am not easily fooled!”


“There really is a rustling in those trees, though,” Delta says. “Don’t you see it?”

Huh? What does she mean? I look out in the forest and—

A baby animal runs out into the outcrop and approaches us. It is tiny and cute and surprisingly very friendly.

“Aw, what a nice animal,” I say.

Francis and Delta are in massive shock. Their faces have gone so pale I’m worried they’ll both faint.

“E-e-e-e-eryk,” Francis begins. “T-that’s a bear cub.”

“A bear cub?”

Delta isn’t stammering like Francis, but she looks visibly shocked as well. “A baby bear.”

“So this is the child of a larger animal, you mean?”

“Yeah… A lot larger.”

“I have never seen a bear before,” I say. “If they are this cute, I’d quite like to meet—”


Oh, there it is.

Chapter 26: The Great Test (Part Two)

After another hour of driving…

I’m starting to get antsy, I must admit. For how far away from San Fransisco we now are, it’s somewhat disoncerting to me. Just this morning I was in a vast city filled with towering buildings and people everywhere I could see. Now I am travelling on a small road with only forest and grass around.

If I didn’t trust the judgment of my two friends so much, I’d start to suspect they brought me out to the wilderness to murder me. But they would never do that. I’m too likeable and nice.

“We’re almost to the spot,” Delta tells us.

“’The spot…?’” Francis seems confused for a second, then goes, “Oh, the spot! Right.”

“I do not follow,” I say.

“We used to come here all the time,” Francis says. “It’s a special spot right near Mt. Diablo where you can see the whole mountain and it’s beautiful.”

“Fitting name, too, considering the circumstances,” Delta says. “We first came here the day after I got my license. I was so sick of living with my conservative asshole parents that I took their car without asking, drove all the way out here with a few friends, and we just hung out all day in the sun. They never said a word, so I kept doing it.”

“Your parents cared about conservation?” I ask.

“No, no,” Francis says. “She means like, her parents are really religious Persians so they were super strict and didn’t accept her very much.”

“Don’t know why they even bothered living so long in San Fransisco, the gayest damn city in the planet, if they were just going to act like jerks about everything,” Delta says to herself.

“Where do they live now?” I ask.

“Orange County.”

“Oh, I see. You know, I’m very religious, too,” I say. “My faith in The Goddess is absolutely unparalleled.”

“I mean, that’s not…” Francis tries to find the right words. “You met The Goddess, right? So you have proof.”

“I never needed proof.”

“What I mean is, neither do they, even though they’re… wrong?”

“Not necessarily ‘wrong,’” I say. “Perhaps the religions on Earth are all permutations of the same belief systems across all worlds. There are so many of them, and I saw a very informative computer panel showing a great many of them all at the same time. It was one of the most overwhelming yet satisfying experiences in my life thus far.”

“Like that awesome part in the second Matrix movie,” Francis says. “I wanna go there.”

“I think you have to be killed in a noble sacrifice,” I say. “And also be a North Spiran or the reincarnation of one. Something like that. We are apparently some sort of Chosen People.”

“That’s… really awesome.” Francis is too in awe to say anything more.

We drive for a little while longer, up a winding mountain path and then back down into a valley area. We reach an outcrop surrounded by trees, with a little stream passing by, and, as promised, a great view of Mt. Diablo.

“We’re here,” Delta says. “The spot.”

“I had my first kiss here, you know,” Francis says.

“I lost my virginity here,” Delta adds.

“You… What?!”

“I’m lying.”

“…Oh. You’re so mean to me, Delta.”

We step out of the vehicle. Delta takes the large cube, a cooler filled with waters and snacks (please don’t make me eat more junk food), and brings it out to the middle of the outcrop.

I take a look at the view of the mountains.


I’ve seen a great many sights in my time on Mystix. I’ve travelled across continents, visited remote islands, fought battles in gigantic caverns, and yet I never get sick of sights like these.

The world is beautiful. Earth, just like Mystix, is filled with wonder and adventure. Sights like Mt. Diablo here are a testament to that.


[+1 DP.]

“Ah-HA!” Francis shouts. “We were right! We wre friggin’ right!”

“What? Wait. Oh! I got a Destiny Point!”

“He got a Destiny Point!”

“Yes, he got a Destiny Point.”

“I can’t believe it!” I say.

“I really can believe it.” Delta sets down the cooler and rolls out a blanket. “That is exactly what the [Adventurer] class is supposed to be about, right?”

“Yes, but you’ve been here many times before. [Adventurers] are only supposed to get Destiny Points for finding places that are far-off or secret, long-lost or sparsely populated. Places where other [Adventurers] have seldom ventured.”

“And you are literally the first [Adventurer] to ever visit here… Wow!” Francis exclaims. “Do you know what that means?”

“Yes. It means every single new landmark and natural beauty, every hidden city… It’s all mine for the taking. Hundreds… No, thousands of Destiny Points for the taking.”

“Yep,” Delta says calmly. “And this test means our job has become that much easier.” Delta sits down on the blanket. “Come on. Let’s have a picnic.”

“What do you mean easier?” Francis asks.

“What’s a picnic?” I ask.

Delta ignores me, so I sit down on the blanket anyway. “It’s easier because that means we might not have to rely so heavily on food just to keep Eryk alive,” she says. “You were the one who suggested going to a scenic spot. Did you really not think of this?”

“Honestly, I thought it’d fail… I was banking on the next part of the test being a lot more important.”

“And it might be, but I’m not taking chances on it,” she says. “Hey Eryk. You need to drink some water. Hurry. You too, Francis.” She digs into the cooler and takes out three large bottles filled with, presumably, water. The bottles are made of metal.

“Oh, thank God,” Francis says. “For a second there I thought you’d bought a bunch of plastic bottled waters and helped kill the planet just a little bit more.”

“I’m not evil,” she says as she hands the metal bottles to us. “Well.”

I take the metal bottle and begin drinking from it. It’s some of the coldest, sweetest, most refreshing water I have ever drank in my entire life.

But still no Destiny Points. I’m starting to think liquids just don’t count like foods do…

I finish the entire bottle. Apparently all those snacks earlier had dehyrdated me to the point that I really could chug the entire thing. I’m impressed!

“Okay, now that that’s out of the way…” Delta cracks her knuckles and then stands up. “Eryk and Francis, come over here.”

We leave the blanket and go stand over by a tree stump. Delta gets up on that stump and looks at us like a taskmaster.

“Is it time?” Francis asks.

“It’s time,” Delta says.

“I wish you’d be more transparent in explaining things to me,” I say.

Francis backs up and raises his fists. “Okay, Eryk Solbourne. I’ll explain things to you. We’re about to fight.”


Francis charges.

Special: The Class System and a Japanese-Fusion Diner

The three of us—Delta, Francis, and myself—sit at a table in a very interesting restaurant called “Takeshi’s Joint.” It appears to be the first time either of them have ever been here, because they are perusing the menu with great interest.

“Ramen cheeseburgers…” Francis mutters. “And I thought the matcha chips were weird. This is something else.”

“I’ve heard of this place before,” Delta says. “Back when I was dating Haru in high school.”

“I remember that. Whatever happened to Haru?”

“I haven’t checked in years. Probably far more successful and popular, as usual.”

“You sound bitter. At least now you’re married and moving up in life and probably some other stuff I don’t know about or you don’t want me to know about…”

Delta looks at him in confusion. Yes, Francis is still bitter about the fact that, apparently, Delta and her spouse are having a baby soon. Does that mean Delta is already pregnant? She doesn’t look pregnant, at least…

“Anyway,” Delta says, ignoring Francis’s sass, “this place is apparently very good. The perfect fusion of gross American fast food with gross Japanese restaurant food.”

“Gross, but good?”

“Gross, but good is what I have heard.”

“Hm, then I think I’ll start off with the vegan konnyaku fries,” Francis says. “What do you want, Eryk?”

“Please… no more food…”

“Oh yeah.”

“I think I’ll just have an ebifurai milkshake,” says Delta. “I think watching Eryk eat all that junk food has ruined my appetite.”

“You’re just weak.”

“There you go again with the weird hostility,” Delta says. “Until you talk about what’s wrong I can only tell you to shut up and stop being a child.”

The waitress, wearing robes with red-and-white stripes, comes over to our table. But she’s wearing wheels on her shoes for some reason, so she rolls over rather than walking.

“Kon’nichiwa,” the waitress says in a bored tone. It immediately translates to “[Good afternoon]” in my head and I have no idea why. What was just said is so familiar to me, and yet… “What’ll you be having?”

“Ebifurai milkshake,” Delta says.

“Same, plus vegan konnyaku fries,” Francis says. “Oh, and some dashi sauce on the side please.”

“And for our pink mister?” the waitress asks.


“Are you sure? The bacon natto is really nice you know. Only three dollars. Try some?”

“No, just water…” My stomach pains at the mere thought of tasting any more food, let alone things I have yet to even try.”

She shrugs, takes our menus, and rolls away on her roller shoes.

“I haven’t seen a woman move around like that since the last [Lordess] I met,” I say.

“Lord what?” Francis asks.

“Oh, [Lordess,] one of the classes you can choose from on Mystix.”

“Lordess… is that even a real word?” Delta asks.

“On Mystix it is. [Lordess] class heroes have many abilities that are extremely envied among other classes. Alas, it is only for female users who use the Sorting Scepter.”

“Only female users… Sounds really transphobic,” she says.

“Yeah, that wouldn’t fly in today’s world,” Francis says.

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Like, in our world, sometimes people are born in a body that doesn’t match their brain so they have to transition later in life.”

“Oh!” I exclaim. “That’s in Mystix too. When you use the Sorting Scepter, it will give you the option to select [Lordess] if your mind is female, regardless of your body, even if you yourself don’t realize it yet.”

“So you just have a free testing kid for gender identity that’s easily accessible to the entire world? Wow. That’s just… I know a lot of people that could have used that,” Francis says. “A lot of girls on my Y-Cast chats would kill for a Sorting Scepter just for that.”

“Hm. I never even really considered it until now. With all of Earth’s technology, you have nothing to detect a body-mind mismatch? That seems awfully inconvenient with how many people could face problems in life. I know elves in particular have this particular mismatch up to thirty percent of the time. I imagine humans are maybe one in a hundred, but even that’s what, hundreds of thousands of people? How many humans are on Earth, anyway?”

“Eight billion.”


“What does [Lordess] do, anyway?” Delta asks.

“Well, as the female counterpart to [Lord,] which is a class locked to males and any other beings, [Lordesses] have a great many roles in society, though their Class Actions for gaining Destiny Points consist of, if I recall correctly, inspiring beauty and loyalty, and acting as a leader in any capacity. [Lordesses] are usually found in the upper classes of society, since they are the ones best-equipped to take full advantage of its many great abilities. Though, the Adventurer’s Guild had quite a few [Lordesses] in its ranks and I was proud to have served with a few during the Xerox Campaigns. How I would love to have skills like [Charm] and [Strength Dance] in my Destiny Deck…”

“Oh, so each class has got its own Destiny Cards and all that. Interesting.” Francis plays around with some toothpicks and pretends to swordfight himself. He is like a child, but in a nice and innocent way.

“Yes, that’s correct. Each rank of each class has its own Destiny Cards. If I am so lucky to reach C-Rank in the [Adventurer] class soon, I will have a whole host of new cards added to my Destiny Deck that I could draw. And even if you change classes, those cards will remain, so many people like to get to D or C-Rank in one class just for the skills, then use the Sorting Scepter again and change to a new class. Their stats are reset each time, but they grow much stronger overall thanks to their wide-ranging abilities. In fact, my old orc friend Borguk used to be a [Chef] before becoming the [Adventurer] he is today.”

“But you never did that?”

“No. I only joined the Destiny Deck system two years ago after my people were attacked and savaged by the Slayers, so I am only D-Rank in my first class. It takes around that long to reach the beginning of D-Rank for most people, so I am advancing more quickly than most. However, I have no intention of switching now, even if I could. My goal is to become S-Rank, the first in a millennia, and that is what I shall do.”

“So… [Lordess] and [Adventurer…] what other classes are there, again?” Francis asks.

The waitress comes back with two ebifurai milkshakes, whatever those are.

“There are twenty classes in all on Mystix. Do you really want me to list all of them?”

“Yeah, sure,” Francis says. He takes a spoonfull of his milkshake. “God, this is good.”

Delta, showing not a bit of emotion on her face, says, “I agree. I like this a lot.”

“Well okay, here are the twenty classes, the entirety of the Destiny Deck system:

“[Adventurers,] those who explore and fight for the glory of their people;

“[Warriors,] those who take pride in combat, bloodshed, and power:

“[Thieves,] those who steal, break locks, and cause mayhem undetected;

“[Bards,] those storytellers who invigorate others and turn history and myth into song;

“[Hunters,] those who raise, breed, capture, or kill animals of all sort, either for sport, companionship, or food;

“[Lordesses,] those women who both lead and serve with dignity and grace;

“[Lords,] the men and others who turn power into money and charm into power;

“[Crafters,] those builders who are skilled enough to create technology, houses, potions, or even weapons;

“[Summoners,] those who use great magic to bring forth and conjure creatures, spirits, and other beings to help serve them and others;

“[Chefs,] those who cook and bring great taste to the world;

“[Undead,] those who exist after life, who subsist on otherworldly power and seek to expand the range of shadow and darkness;

“[Tacticians,] those whose strategies and advice can turn nations and win hearts;

“[Merchants,] those sellers who bring their wares to far-off places and cheer up worn-out faces;

“[Supremes,] those whose reputations matter more than life itself;

“[Farmers,] those who farm;

“[Butlers,] those proud few whose subservience to higher status give way to a greater unity in the whole;

“[Toxin,] those who cast themselves out from society and health in exhange for skills unheard of;

“[Mages,] those who cast spells, create potions, and study the inner workings Destiny itself;

“[Priests,] those who bring peace, who heal souls, who teach minds;

“and finally, [Demigods,] those whose destiny has brought them power greater than any mortal should ever wield.”

“This shake really is good, really,” Francis says. “Uh—Oh, yeah, nice stuff Eryk.”

“Were you listening?”

“Yeah, of course, definitely, always listening,” he says. “I like that one class with the funny name. [Supreme?]”

“[Supreme] is considered the very worst class,” I say. “Its Class Actions are limited to impressing others around you with magnificent stunts, and its Destiny Cards are far too singular in helping that one specific Class Action type.”

“So [Supremes] are like really bad social media influencers who don’t even have the internet?”

“I am not sure what that means, but probably.”

“What in God’s name is a [Toxin?]” Delta asks.

“I’m not entirely sure. I’ve never met or even heard of one before. The Sorting Scepter tells us it changes our entire makeup and our Life Points drain at twice the speed, so nobody ever chooses it.”

“So they’re like mutants in some bad cyberpunk movie. Wow, how fitting for a high fantasy world.” Delta rolls her eyes. “Besides the Sorting Scepter Lord/Lordess thing, there has not been a single thing you have said about your world that is even slightly appealing.”

“We have an entire race of people with pink hair and pink eyes,” I say. “Earth doesn’t have that.”

“I said ‘even slightly appealing.’”

Delta breaks my heart once more.

“I for one would pick the [Bard] class. I bet streaming would count as a Class Action,” Francis says. “I’d totally sing, too.”

“Please don’t,” Delta says.

“I bet Francis is a great singer,” I say. “He has the spirit of a child and, likely, the voice of an angel.”

“See, Delta? I have the voice of an angel.” He beams with pride.

“And the spirit of a child, especially now that you’re spilling your milkshake on your lap.”

“Oh no!!”

We hand him some napkins very quickly and he cleans himself off.

“I think I would like to be a [Demigod,]” Delta says. “I would like to rule the planet.”

“You can’t choose [Demigod,] actually,” I explain. “It is a random chance, one in a hundred thousand, that when you pick one class, you will end up a [Demigod] instead. And it is typically a cruel and unusual fate for all who are cursed to receive it.”


“The power of the [Demigod] class is so immense that, for F-Rank heroes with only 5,000 Life Points to start out with, it can lead to death almost immediately. Almost every Destiny Card drawn will have a cost of hundreds upon hundreds of Life Points, to the point that drawing skills whatsoever is almost pointless until the hero reaches a high rank. Most [Demigods] perish within their first year.”

“I’d probably pick it anyway,” she says.

“You cannot pick it, but fair enough.”

“And out of all those classes, [Adventurer] was the one you picked,” Francis says. “Maybe you wouldn’t even be here if you’d have become a [Summoner] or something. Just think about it.”

“Mhm. But [Adventurer] was the only class worth considering if I wanted to enact vengeance and justice on the Slayers. Gaining power from traveling to new locations and fighting enemies both? That was too good to pass up.”

“Did you do it?”

“Do what?”

“Enact vengeance on the Slayers.”

I shake my head. “Not even close.”

“Well, maybe you will someday if you return to Mystix,” Francis says.

“I won’t return. I can’t. I died there. And now my body is on Earth. The Goddess herself warned me that this transmigration is permanent. No do-overs.”

“Oh. Well…”

“No worries. I’m here now on Earth, and I will become its hero at all costs.”

The waitress comes out with Francis’s konnyaku fries and dashi sauce. The smell is so pungent it makes me nauseous

“Food… Ugh…”

I run to the bathroom again.

[-60 LP.]

Chapter 25: The Great Test (Part One)


[+1 DP.]


I’m up to 30 Destiny Points now.

I’ve gone through three different flavors of combos, including ranch dressing, cheese pizza, and Southern gravy, and all three have been absolutely delicious, even if the names of these flavors remain somewhat engimatic to me.

“This is amazing,” I say. “This is spectacular. I love food. I love everything.”

We are driving in the car, and I have a fold-out tray on my lap containing more snacks and food and drinks than I could possibly have imagined up to this point. And I thought vending machines were interesting, but it turns out convenience stores like Fami here are even greater!

“How long was that one?” Delta asks, not looking at me since she is driving to wherever it is we are going.

Francis presses a button on the stopwatch app of his phone (yep, I’ve been learning a whole lot about the terminology on this world, and I’m even starting to get a hang of how to use their “cool af” slang terms). “The ding happened after forty-eight seconds this time,” he says.

“It’s getting longer the more varieties of combos he tries,” she says. Give him one more pack.

“Here you go, Eryk,” Francis says. “Christmas combos.”

“What does ‘Christmas’ mean?”

“Oh, it’s a special holiday where we give each other presents and spend time with family,” he tells me. “If you’re still around by then—” He cuts himself off. “If you are still on Earth by then, we can celebrate it together!”

“That sounds quite fun. But why is the filling in these combos colored red and green?”

“That’s Christmas colors. Normally that’d sound like mold, but… Wait a minute, give that package back a second.” He examines the wrapping (which is made of an interesting and magic-borne substance known as “plastic”) and heaves a sigh. “The expiration date on this one was April. Delta…”

“It’s probably fine.”

“Ah, true. Okay, Eryk. It’s perfectly safe to eat.”

“You don’t seem as confident in that assertion as I would like.”

“Don’t worry about it! Combos can survive nuclear fallout probably.”

“New clear? What?”

“Uh, nevermind.”

I take out the Christmas combos and munch the delectable snack.

Well… It would be more delectable if I hadn’t already tried three flavors back-to-back that were just as tasty.

In fact, the sweetness and spiciness combined don’t do nearly as much for me as the other combos have so far.

“It’s pretty good.”


“I’m still eating them. The filling is the same texture and the preztel bits are about normal, but the green filling’s cake-like flavor does not compliment the chili-like taste of the red filling.”


I finish the bag and take a swig of Dr. Thunder, a “soda” drink that has bubbles in it, to wash the snack down.

“No ding,” Francis says.

“Sounds about right,” Delta said. “Too many similar foods in a row and his taste buds are starting to cancel themselves out.”

“Well, maybe it’s just that the flavor itself is really terrible?” Francis asks. “It is pretty infamous in the snacking community.”

“No, I quite like it,” I say. “It’s just not quite amazing as compared to the other foods.”

“So the system only registers food discoveries if you’re genuinely impressed by what you’re having.” Francis resets his stopwatch app and considers things. “So force feeding you the other fifty snacks may backfire in the end.”

“Force feeding…?”

Francis tosses a blue plastic bag my way. I catch them. “Try these. Cool ranch flavor chips should destroy your taste buds the first time.”

“I highly doubt that. After the sheer might of combos, you truly think that providing me with these dor–”

My tastebuds explode with an insane, delectable mix of salt and spice in such a way that it feels cold and hot at the same time. Wow!

Just one chip in, and—


{+1 DP.]

I’m up to 31 Destiny Points.

“Now try this one.” He throws a red bag at me labeled “nacho cheese flavor.”

“But I only had one chip—”

“Try it.”

I eat the red bag of chips. It’s fine. The powdery flavoring on each chip is fun to lick off with my tongue before I eat the rest of the chip. In fact, it’s so fun that—


[+1 DP.]

“Hmmm.” Francis does not seem particularly enthused by the result here. “Already up to twenty-seven seconds on the second bag.”

“Concerning,” Delta adds.

“Try this one—” He throws yet another bag, this one green. “—and make sure to pay really close attention to the taste. Let it soak in.”

The flavor reads as “Limited Edition matcha flavor.”

“What’s matcha?”

“Green tea, he says.”

“I do enjoy myself a warm glass of green tea,” I say. “But in chip form? We shall see.”

I devour the bag in seconds.

That was… really, really good.

I don’t even understand how it was that good.

And yet…

I’m starting to feel a little gross for some reason.


“That bad?”

“No, I’m the one who’s bleh.”

“If you’re going to throw up, roll down the damn window or I’ll kill you,” Delta tells me.

“Not that kind of bleh. Just… I feel like I’ve started putting on weight and I only just started eating.”

“That’s the magical power of junk food,” Francis says. “You’ll probably want this to cure your stomach issues.”

He tosses a red plastic bottle containing soda… Except it looks more like a magical healing elixir bottled up in an Earth-like fashion.

“You have potions on Earth? That’s amazing!” I exclaim. “If you have potions, then I could probably restore my Life Points even without leveling up or skills. I just assumed you wouldn’t have too many [Priestess] class heroes here— Oh wait, this isn’t actually a potion, is it?”

“No, it’s called Faygo Redpop.”

“Sounds like a potion if I’ve ever heard of one…”

I take a swig and its sickly-sweet sugar zips down my throat, burning and healing me simultaneously.

I hate it, and yet I love it at the same time.

And… it’s not helping me feel any less disgusting. Actually, I’m feeling even worse.

“Okay, with that palate cleanser out of the way, time for your next snack.” Francis hands me a puffy yellow bar. “This is called a yoo-bar. It is the most delicious confection on Earth.”

“Is it really…?”

“Yes. Try it.”

I unwrap the yoo-bar.

It strikes me as quite wasteful that all these plastic wrappers are being used for one person’s snacks. I have created quite an amount of garbage in a very short amount of time. Will these plastics be reused, or simply thrown into the rubbish? If it is the latter, I will feel very guilty.

The yoo-bar enters my mouth. My teeth press upon the yoo-bar. My tongue touches it.

I feel nothing but sugar.

Even after swallowing the entire snack, my mouth is simply a mass of sugar and cream filling.

A full minute passes and I let the residue of yoo-bar soak over my entire being.

“That was horrible.”

“Oh no…”


[+1 DP.]

“And yet… I really enjoyed it as well.”

“Booyeah! 32 Destiny Points already!” Francis exclaims.

My stomach gurgles. “Yes, but at what cost…”

[-5 LP.]

At what cost indeed.

[12,643/15,000 LP.]

“You’re trying the very finest of American junk food, you know.”


“Oh, it’s the country we live in. The United States of America. Land of the free, home of the brave, all that.”

“I would very much like to learn about Earth’s many kingdoms and empires, but I’m not sure if I’m in the right mindset at the moment,” I say. “My head is spinning. I think I consumed far too much sugar and salt for one human.”

“Oh, you can wash that all down with a Diet Coke then,” he says. “No sugar.”

“Francis, really, stop torturing Eryk,” Delta says.

“But it’s for science…”

“We already know enough. Eryk gains a point for any brand-new food he tries that truly impresses him, but if he tries too much in a short period of time, the effect is reduced and eventually stops. We know too many types of the same food probably do the same thing as well. And junk food does to him about what it does to any normal human. Therefore, we should put him on a strict rotation of food types until he’s tried almost everything good that’s easy to make or cheap to buy.”

“Wow, Delta…” Francis’s jaw drops. “I didn’t know you were doing such thoughtful analysis.”

“You thought I was just the driver? I have a vested interest in this too, you know. The sooner Eryk figures out his shit, the sooner he can leave us in peace.”

“You really don’t like me much, do you?” I ask.

“Not at all, and I think Francis fawning over you is going to turn you into even more of an airheaded bimbo than you already are if we’re not careful.”

Francis says, “Hey! I’m not fawning! Eryk is just my frien—”

“I agree that there is a risk I could become too foolhardy and too singularly focused on my goals to be of much use to you,” I say. “That is why I hope you will keep me balanced.”

“Like being your id and superego to your ego,” Delta says. “Listen, I’ve been down this toxic friendship route plenty of times before and I’m not about to play nice with someone I think will—”

My stomach gurgles loudly. “Actually, I think I may be sick after all.”

We quickly pull over at the nearest restaurant and I rush into the bathroom as quickly as possible.

Junk food was once the ultimate savior in my life. Now, just one day later, I’m already beginning to despise it.

Earth is wonderful, but… Maybe I shouldn’t overdo it.

Chapter 24: Driving Out of Town + Convenience Store

“So Delta, how’ve you been?” I ask from the back seat of the brand-new car she has rented for our trip today. The fact someone could simply up and borrow something as expensive and large as a car is beyond my comprehension. Who would loan out something at such a great risk? Earth is in incredible world.

“I’ve been better,” she answers.

“I’ll bet there’ve been some good things in your life, at least,” Francis says. His tone seems cheerful, but his expression seems quite suspicious.

“Um, that was a weird way to phrase that statement, and a bit passive-aggressive,” she says.

“No, I’m being completely sincere,” Francis lies.

I think he’s upset about his parents telling him that Delta is looking to have a child. Once again, I feel like an outsider who should not at all be involved in this situation. It is awkward, to say the least.

“I like being your friend,” I interject. “You two have shown me great kindness, and going out of your way to help me has only solidified my feelings towards you. Perhaps one day we can grow our emotional bond even further.”

“Wow, that’s really sweet,” Francis says. “Someone’s got to help you, and I’m glad it’s us.”

“No comment,” says Delta.

“I do have one question, though, before we really get going,” Francis says. “About your system and all that.”

“Ask away. I should be able to answer it.”

“How come food doesn’t do anything?” he asks. “I mean besides give you Destiny Points sometimes.”

“Uh, hm. I’m afraid I don’t understand your question.”

“I mean, in most video games, if you eat food, you restore health and stuff like that,” Francis tells me. “A piece of meat will restore 20 points, a roast steak will restore 60, an apple will restore 5, that kind of thing. How come it doesn’t work for you?”

“I have never really thought about it,” I say. “Hmm… Well, my best guess would be that the system on Mystix simply doesn’t work that way. It adds onto your essence, your soul, but it does not change the way your body works in any fundamental way. Being hungry reduces your total Life Points faster than if you are well-fed, just as a bleeding gash from your arm or a deliberating disease.”

“So if you get your head cut off all of a sudden, that’s 15,000 Life Points gone, just like that?”

“Yes. Our meter is reflective of our life essence. Killing us brings that to zero.”

“Wait. If the system is reflective… but you lose one point per minute just standing there…”

“The Destiny System is poisonous to sentient life, yes,” I explain. “It is a well-known fact and one that every single person on Mystix is taught about and warned of before they decide whether or not to use the Sorting Scepter and accept the system into their being. In order to power ourselves up, we must let the system drain us as well. We are merely a vessel for the greater strength dwelling within us. One day, perhaps, the system will unleash itself upon all who have accepted it and unlock our full potential, but if that is done, it could come at the cost our very beings.”

“Eryk,” Delta says. “Have you ever heard of HP Lovecraft?”

“No. Why?”

“No reason.”

“Well, then, how come sleeping slows down the Life Point drain, then?” Francis asks.

“Because the system is unable to sap away our life force as quickly when our minds are not active. It is quite simple, really.”

“Okay, enough of this stupid talk,” Delta says. “Time for our first stop on your RPG point system thing.”

“Ah, the first test?” I ask.

“According to the extremely detailed notes Francis texted me, yes,” she says.

We pull over and park at a store with a blue and green sign that reads, “Fami.”

“What does ‘Fami’ mean?” I ask as I get out of the car.

“It’s just a name,” Delta says.

“Actually!” Francis hops out in front of us and points his finger high. “’Fami’ is an abbreviation for ‘Family.’ It’s all about displaying the warm and welcoming feeling of the store, like we’re all one big happy family.”

“Oh, so ‘Fami’ means ‘family,’” I say.

Delta stares at him blankly.

Francis’s expression fades immediately. Without another word, we enter the Fami.

I wonder what kind of place this is. Why are we coming here for my Detsiny Point training, anyway?


Immediately, I am hit with the realization of what is contained inside.

Row upon row, laid out like a general store I am so familiar with. And yet… It’s all amazing-looking food products, technology of all sorts!

It’s the most convenient-looking general store I could ever imagine!

But… why are we here? That is the question I want to ask.

“Why are we here?” I ask.

“Grab everything that looks tasty, and everything that looks nasty,” Delta says. “This is the first part of our test. The junk food trials.”

The junk food trials…

I feel like I’m in paradise.

Chapter 23: Breakfast & Classes & Parents

I must provide an update to my personal logs on just how advanced Earth is. In getting through the morning routine to groom myself, Francis has introduced me to so many new items of interest that I can hardly comprehend it.

He has shown me the wonders of the “shower room,” a place where, once you move some metal devices, hot water will pour out in a steady stream. No need to find a fresh body of water or to heat your bath with a fire underneath or even to use cleansing skills—this shower can clean you off with extreme ease. I must have stayed in that shower for thirty minutes, just because I was so happy to feel so warm.

There are also two magic electrical devices of intense utility I used. One is known as the “washing machine,” which, as the name suggests, washes things. But unlike the shower which washes people, the washing machine washes clothing items. In this case, I removed my clothing and armor, replaced that with a fresh outfit provided by Francis, and tossed my dirty items in the machine. Then, after they became fresh and washed, I threw them into the “dryer,” which is a shorthand for “drying machine” I believe. Somehow, through Earth’s vast magical enterprise, this machine takes wet things and removes the water. After just an hour’s time across these two devices, my clothes that were dirty and grimy became like brand-new. I shall adorn them tomorrow with great pride.

I have also been introduced to something known as a “clock.” It is in fact one of the most valuable pieces of technology I have ever seen, and one that is so commonplace on Earth that the Bacall household has dozens of them littered throughout the home. They are like sundials in that they tell the time. But unlike sundials, they work no matter where you are and do so with exact precision. You can know the exact minute, even the exact second that you currently reside in. On Mystix I had heard of cities with large towers whose bells struck every hour, but never something so exact, and certainly never something so ubiquitous it appeared en masse in a single humble home.

I groomed myself with an electrical hair drying device, a toothbrush that has a special teeth-cleaning sauce, and a cream that, when lathered across my face, makes my skin soft and shiny. I feel like a whole new man! It’s incredible!

After being utterly pampered in the life of luxury during my early morning grooming, I put on the outfit Francis gave me—an oversized shirt with a picture of a funny-looking man along with a pair of blue trousers with strange-feeling fabric and an incredibly tight waistline—and then I head downstairs to eat breakfast.

Waiting for me at the kitchen table are Francis and his two parents, sitting in front of plates filled with various meats and vegetables and fruits. I hope I haven’t left them impatient by my grooming.

“Earth life is so wonderful,” I say.

“Looking real handsome in that Cowboy Jack shirt,” Francis’s mother says. “Oh, Francis, you remember when you won that shirt? That was such a nice day. You’ve lost so much weight since then, too.”


“You tried so hard at that game! But that boy really whooped you good, didn’t he?”

“Mom, please…”

“What do you mean?” I ask, sitting down in front of my empty plate.

“Grab what you want,” Francis’s father tells me. I nod and take the entire plate of sausages. He gives me a disconcerted look, but I’m not sure why.

“Francis used to be so obsessed with his little Cowboy Jack video game,” his mother says. “He got so good at shooting the targets and doing the duels that he went to a big tournament when he was, oh, thirteen I think. It was so adorable.”

“That was… ugh, Mom, it’s so embarrassing.”

“And cute,” she adds. “You got to the semi-final round, the top four people playing the game, and then when you got beat you cried so hard the game people took you backstage and gave you a second free T-shirt just to calm you down.”

“Yeah, an XXXL size that I never could have even worn…”

“They thought I’d be a big man just because my son was a bit fat,” his father says. “They didn’t know I was a skinny fellow myself.”

Francis gives his father an angry glare.

“And so that oversized shirt is what I wear now?”

“No, you’re wearing the first one they gave me…” Francis says.

“You used to fit in this?” I ask. “At age thirteen?”

He nods slowly, his cheeks flushed red.

“My, you must have been a valiant warrior back then. I would like to have seen those days.”

He continues to blush, but he looks a little bit less upset now. I will admit I feigned ignorance in this situation to make him feel better. He seems extremely embarrassed by being overweight, and I want him not to feel upset about something like that. So pretending that I don’t understand the situation is probably the best way to move past this.

“Well… Cowboy Jack is still a really great game,” Francis says apparently to himself.

“I know not what a ‘Cowboy’ is, but I did know a few interesting women named Jac back on Mystix,” I say. “I had some really good time with the Jacs, actually.” I gulp down a few sausages, which are good, but not an unfamiliar enough food to elicit anything like a Destiny Point gain.

I continue: “Each of the Jacs were members of different races, one elf, one human, one hexen, one mermaid, one beaver, all controlled by a core Jac personality, a sphere of glowing energy known as a golem. Normally golems take inanimate objects to form a body, but this one instead took the minds of many sentient beings and used them as puppets of sort. However, their original selves were not erased fully, and so each Jac was actually a separate woman in a way. They were very fun ladies. We went on a nice adventure together, fighting the Resurrected Dragon God who had come to the mortal plane to fight us for his boredom. We defeated him, but it came at the cost of the elf and hexen Jacs. It was a tragic time.”

The entire table goes silent for about a minute.

“I really don’t understand these damn video games,” Francis’s father says.

“Oh, Arthur, be a little bit more understanding,” his wife says. “Your son and his, uh, new friend, are just interested in different stuff than we were.”

“We didn’t have time to be interested in this useless crap,” he says. “We were in medical school. Our son is just sitting at home playing video games all day and inviting over strange pink-haired men.”

“I’m right here, Dad…” Francis says.

“Listen, it’s perfectly fine that you’ve got a nice hobby, he tells him, “but one day you’ll have to bring home the bacon, Francis.”

“I made eight thousand dollars this month…” Francis mumbles. It does not appear that either of his parents heard him, or at least they have not acknowledged that fact.

“Y’know, you’d be a lot better off if you followed Delta. She’s got a college degree. She’s working at a nice company. She’s married. You know her dad told me they’re thinking about having a kid? What a nice couple.”

“Wait, Delta wants kids? She’s sure never told ME that!”

“Honey, she probably doesn’t want to embarrass you for how little you’ve progressed in life,” Francis’s mother says.

“I am doing just fine!” he shouts.

“Fine is subjective,” his father says. “Your mother and I are fine because we are eye doctors with considerable income who help people’s lives. You having a lot of fun shouting at a camera at two in the morning isn’t the same kind of fine.”

“I just wanted to have a nice family breakfast…”

I decide to sit here and eat without speaking a word. This is not a conversation I am meant to be in, and even though I am present, I am much better off pretending to be a ghost.

The scrambled eggs are quite good, however.

Soon, after breakfast is finished and the dishes have been washed (with a dish washing machine, even?!), there is a faint beeping sound from outside the house. It sounds a lot like the annoying alarm that woke me up this morning, but only beeps one time.

“There’s our girl,” Francis’s mother says.

“Sometimes I feel like you love Delta more than you love me…” Francis looks absolutely defeated. “C’mon, Eryk. Let’s go outside and start our trip.”

“Our trip for Destiny Points!”

“Oh, are you doing another adventure thing like when that Pokey Go thing was real popular?”

“No, Mom, this is…” He sighs and stops speaking.

“I am quite excited,” I say. “We shall have an adventure like no other.”

“You better keep Francis in line,” his father says. “If he ends up like Taylor, I’m gonna blame you and personally come and kick your ass.”

“I do not fully understand, but I will accept your threat as promise,” I tell him. “I shall do my best.”

We leave the house and find a white car idling on the road in front of the yard. Inside, Delta is waiting.

Francis yells, “Shotgun,” and hops in the front seat. I take the back and sit next to large cube.

“What is this?” I ask.

“A cooler,” Delta says. “Lots of water. We’ll need it. Trust me.”

“Man, nice rental,” Francis says. “So much leather everywhere… it even smells fancy.”

“I’m just happy Julie uses the bus,” Delta says, very little emotion coming from her voice. “I can return this car when we’re done for today.”

“Yeah, it’s a good thing San Fransisco has good public transportation.” Francis nods in agreement with himself. “If we lived in most cities in America, a car is so necessary that a wreck like yours would ruin a family for weeks, especially if the insurance parts don’t come out favorably. Here, though, there’s enough buses and trains that you can get where you need to go without having to worry too much. I’m really glad for that. Maybe one day the rest of America will have public transportation that isn’t terrible.”

“I’m not quite sure why you are saying any of this,” Delta says.

“I as well do not understand,” I say. “Are we going to begin our journey?”

“Yep,” Delta says. “Buckle up.”

We obviously do, after what happened last time we drove.

And now… the adventure for Destiny Points begins!

I look at my Life Points:

[12,860/15,000 LP.]

The sundial is flowing, and my Life Points tick away. May we accomplish great things today in our discoveries.

Chapter 22: Haunting


I feel like I’m so much lighter than ever before.

I’m floating off the ground, like my [Agility] stat has gotten so high that I can outright defy gravity. As much as I attempt to ground myself, my legs refuse to move.

This is strange.

My body responds only vaguely to my actions. I want to move forward, and I move, but it’s more like I’m pushing myself that way, not making the effort myself.

Right now, I am in some sort of unfamiliar wood house. The fireplace is smoldering and a full set of dinnerware is laid out on a small dining table, but there is no-one here.

I walk past the dining table and keep going. I try to stop myself, but it isn’t working. I’m about to hit the wall, run right smack into it—

—but for some reason, now I am outside, safe and unharmed.

It is nighttime. I am in a small wooded area, just trees and forest critters skirting about. I am paid no mind even by the squirrels right by me. It’s as if they don’t even know I’m here.

In fact, I’m not sure I know I’m here, either.

My mind boggles. Where am I? What am I doing here? Who am I?

The sky is dimming, turning from sunset to dusk, the colors around me fading into dark. But now is the first time I notice that I can see everything. I mean everything. In a full 360-degree turn, my eyes show all sides around me at once.

Just taking in this view makes my skin crawl. Or it would, but I can’t seem to feel anything right now. Why am I seeing such a vivid image of the world around me? Why am I near this small wooden house and this small wooded forest? What kind of person am I supposed to be?

A wolf passes me by, growling. Behind her are several small pups that she guards with great care, nearly in attack mode at whatever is nearby. It seems to be aware of my proximity, but it cannot see me. Cannot smell me. It barks and snarls, lunges in a random direction, but does not take heed that I am standing—floating—right next to her.

I go deeper into the forest. Perhaps my answers will be found in here. With the night sky coming into itself and the moons rising, the forest has become like a cave. It draws me in with its pitch-black essence, its foreboding sense of dread.

The further I go, the less I can see. The full-circle view around me becomes so dark I can make little to nothing out. And the night predators do not stalk, do not attack. My body continues to move unheeded by even the tree roots sticking out of the ground.

What is happening here…?

Suddenly, I realize something very important.

I have no HUD.

No health bar to show my Life Points. No skill list. No achievements board. I cannot even pull up the Destiny Deck.

Whoever I am, I’m not me.






What is that infernal racket?


I sit up off the mat I slept on, wide awake.

My HUD is here. I’m in Francis’s bedroom. Light beams in through the window.

It was all a dream. That makes sense. It felt so vivid and lifelike, but it was probably merely a result of all of the horrible deaths I have been through in the last day.

Still… I don’t know. I am going to have to wake up a little bit more before I can let these feelings pass.

Beside me on the bed rests Francis, who looks more comfortable than I’ve ever seen anyone in my life. He truly looks like he’s gotten the best sleep of any human to have ever lived.


“Marky Mark, stop, you’ll…” Francis mumbles something in his sleep.


“Francis, what is that sound? It woke me up very suddenly.”

“Huh… I…” Francis snaps awake. “Oh! Eryk!”


“Sorry!” He hops out of bed and rushes over to his computer desk, where his phone is currently charging with the magic of electricity.


The annoying sound cuts out.

“That was my alarm,” he says. “Sorry for not warning you. I guess you don’t have alarms in your world. Or clocks.”

“A what?”

“Oh, boy, I really need to figure out what you have in your world…”

Whatever a clock is, it sounds like something I should be embarrassed about not knowing.

“Anyway, it’s time to get ready and eat some breakfast,” he says. “We’ve got a long day ahead of us!”

That we indeed have. And despite the very disturbingly vivid dream I had, I have no less excitement for the trials we shall endure. I will earn as many Destiny Points as possible!

Special: Royals of Foreign Lands

This is a description of Francis Bacall’s streaming session on the night of Thursday, June 8th, 2023:

Francis looks back at his newfound friend, Eryk Solbourne, who sleeps peacefully on a roll-out mat next to the bed. It must be late, maybe past midnight or even one in the morning. Francis feels the weight of his lower eyelids sagging down, the glaze of his computer’s blue glow passing through him like cosmic rays.

It’s been hours since he started streaming Royals of Foreign Lands. He has participated in sixteen ranked matches and gotten up to Star Platinum Class. Just four more and he can unlock this month’s new skin. And yet he’s lost eight of the last ten matches. He’s too tired to continue.

His mouse hovers over the “end recording” button. After all, he promised to help Eryk in the morning. He and Delta are going to help him figure out how to earn new RPG points in this decidedly un-RPG world. A good night’s sleep’s exactly what he needs to keep himself going.

And even as he thinks these things, his mouse has already returned to the primary monitor. His face has morphed into a pleasant, inoffensive happy shape, into whatever his viewers will like for him to appear as. After all, the Francis Bacall of Bac-Nation is not the Francis Bacall who is Eryk’s friend. He is still in his streamer mode, and so he can let that mode subsist while the rest of him takes a nice rest.

He will rest and let his streamer side coast on sheer personality. No skill, no thoughts, just a bad sleep schedule and a faint smile.

“Hey Bac-Nation,” Francis says to the tens of thousands still watching the stream even this late into the night. To them, he is a friend. He is a valued ally in the night, helping them through insomnia, through turmoil, through the waves of blue feelings that stain cheeks, stain brains. Francis doesn’t know them, doesn’t really connect with them. He’s never alone, and yet he’s never been so far apart from everyone he knows. But these people trust him, follow him, stay with him in the wee hours as he cures blue feelings with blue light.

Francis is a streamer, and his job isn’t something he can simply quit on.

Knowing that, knowing what he means to these people, knowing what those people mean to him, he clicks the giant green button and hops into his next ROFL session.

Royals of Foreign Lands is a truly interesting game. Once, a long time ago, it started as a 4X strategy title known as Foreign Lands. You build a kingdom, control its destiny, and clash against the other kingdoms that wish to control a hegemony in this vast world. The game was popular in a niche community but never grew too far beyond that.

That was, until someone created a certain mod. One where you directly play as the heroes of your kingdom. It put a new spin on the genre, combining the excitement of action and combat with the strategy and tension of grand strategy. With these concepts married, a fuse was lit.

Now, just a few short years after that mod, the entire Kingdom Battle genre has exploded into its own. The developers turned it into an official release and released it as Royals of the Foreign Lands, where you play as a kingdom in a vast, near-limitless world and expand your reach and influence by doing battle. When you enter combat, you go into a battle arena where you control one Royal of choice and lead your armies to victory.

The game’s vast single player campaigns can eat up hundreds of hours at a time, with dozens of Royals to hone and master and deep, intricate strategy necessary to play through the story. But, fortunately for Francis, the main draw of this title is its massive multiplayer component. In the story, kingdoms from various realms enter a shared subspace where they do battle, trade resources, and join forces to fight in co-op missions. In the game, this means your 4X kingdom in the single player mode is merely a training ground for the real gameplay.

Francis’s favorite part of ROFL is the Royal Royale mode. You work with two teams of a hundred players and all their armies combined, but once your hero dies, you are out for good. No respawns. With battles this massive, the most powerful computers on the planet are required for victory. With most of the planet far too underpowered to enjoy the mode in at its full extent, it’s up to streamers and their powerful setups to save the day.

Royal Royale is host to two hundred players per match, and in any given game, up to a hundred, even a hundred and twenty of them are streamers. Spectators can watch a battle from a dozen different viewpoints at once, get insight that none of the players have, and truly experience what it is like to watch a battle unfold.

The appeal is strong, and the money is big. Royals of Foreign Lands has become Francis’s iconic game, and he won’t stop playing until his fans stop paying.

Maybe that will happen someday.

But right now, they’re cheering him on like a hero.

The chat still pops with messages from dozens of people at once. It’s hard enough to follow that he has a second feed next to it that shows only the messages from trusted friends or longtime followers, and even then he has to look closely or he will miss the conversation entirely.

“shifter sucks,” writes The_True_Hudson_Hawk. “hes a piece if sh** and heths way hotter”

“I don’t like Heth,” Francis says. “The rope chain thing is weird, yo.”

“who was that blaze blitzer guy at the start,” asks Annoying_Staircase_of_Enlightenment.

“Blaze Blitzer guy? What—” It hits him that he’s been streaming so long that Eryk was still awake when he first started playing. It’s been a long night. “Oh. That’s my friend. I met him at Comic Festivalia today.”

“hot bf,” writes Lunar_Spectral.

“super hot,” adds Emperor_Zodhead

Instead of taking the bait, Francis decides to pretend he didn’t see those messages. Since when were his chat followers getting as annoying as his parents?

“heyy sup gang,” writes Late2theParti. “whats around here fam a lams”

“I was thinking about wrapping up for the night soon,” says Francis. “But I think I’ll play one more round. Gonna be Vexarian this time.”

“Vex sucks,” writes The_True_Hudson_Hawk.

“u mean vex sux,” chimes in NotAUniverseCop

“I like Vex!” Francis exclaims. “He’s hella cool. Three swords. That’s one more than two!”


“u just like playing on easy mode”

“vex x heth”

“stop shipping in the chat”

“shipping = ban”

“francis x thehawk”

“Hahahaha, oh you guys,” Francis says. “Okay, I’m dropping in.”

Francis starts the session, his last for the night. His character Vexarian, a tri-swordsman sits in the Mighty Airship which floats over the battlefield. His character is next to ninety-nine others which will choose when they want to hop off and land into the fray.

There is only one shot at victory. No respawns, no do-overs. He has only one chance for his team to win and reap all the EXP benefits.

As the airship flies over the town near the mid-lane called 2Nite, Francis decides to hop off.

“Here we go my bois,” Francis says.

2Nite is a casino town that minions love to get in big fights at when the battle starts pushing them off from the main lanes. Players love to spend time there grinding out money by ransacking the shops and making sports bets, but things can quickly get out of hand if too many playes from opposite teams arrive.

And that’s why Francis loves it so much. It always descends into chaos, which is why it’s so popular in streams. In fact, streamers drop here so often that games sometimes descend fully into 2Nite control battles.

That’s what will certainly happen here. When Francis lands, he is accompanied by two Blue Team comrades— A Heth player called Haven_Custos and an Alter Sky player named Williamson2020. All three land with great haste and immediately start blowing up the casino buildings.

The minions haven’t even arrived yet and they’re already clashing with Red Team’s feistiest Royals. It’s an all-out duel.

“Help me! Help me!” shouts Haven_Custos, who is already being ganked by an enemy Shifter.

“I’ll help you,” Francis says— but the poor Haven_Custos is already dead by the time he reaches them. “They were a valuable ally. We will lament our loss.”

Red Team has seventy players left, and the first turrets have fallen. Blue Team still has ninety-six players. The battle is going poorly even just as it’s begun.

“Aight, fam,” Francis tells his streamer audience. “We gonna go out swords a blazing.”

“gl francis,” writes The_True_Hudson_Hawk.

Along with his remark, there are many, many messages that contain simply the letter “F.”

Francis raises all three of his characters’ swords and attacks blindly into the mid-lane.

He dies in about fifteen seconds, but it’s a fun run. He loses a rank, but it’s a fun run.

“That was lit,” Francis says, faking panting. “Royals of Foreign Lands is the best. K, I’m heading off to beddy-bye. So beddy-good-bye to you.”

He turns the computer screen off. What a waste of time.

But as long as he entertained his followers, that is good enough for Francis.

He turns off his computer, gets up from his chair, and heads off to bed. Taking extra care to step over Eryk, not on him, he hops into bed and drifts off to sleep.

One day he will do something better than be a streamer. But for now it’s okay.

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