Author: Thedude3445 (Page 2 of 12)

Chapter 93: That Was Fun. Let’s Head Back.

I’m not actually an [Adventurer,] you know.

From what Rare told me, for the first year of my life with the Destiny Deck System, I was actually a [Demigod,] the most powerful and most deadly class in the entire list. There is no one who has ever controlled these powers and lived to tell the tale… Except for me, apparently.

So I was a [Demigod,] but thanks to a sealing spell by Miss M (Mestopholees) and Malia, my powers were trapped and my memory was erased. Due to some complicated methods that are hard to explain, I was able to live again in physical form via an astral projection. But that projection was given the [Adventurer] class.

When I was killed by a carriage, The Goddess reincarnated me on Earth, and that took not only my astral projection, but my original body as well. You would expect that I would revert to my original [Demigod] class, but instead I kept my [Adventurer] class.

I wonder what that means. I wonder what my powers truly are if I have some sort of second layer [Demigod] class hidden underneath.

And… I absolutely, certainly will not tell Francis or Delta. This is not something for them to know, not until I have all the answers. Francis, in particular, would freak out far too much to handle.

I learned a terrible truth.

Oh, and that reminds me: I unlocked a new achievement. I wonder what that will give me?

I look once more at my Achievements Board:

Level up for the first time.✓Join the Adventuer’s Guild.✓Draw a Rank 8 card.   Eat a food with a Quality Rating of at least 850.   
Obtain your first map.✓Duel another System user.Sleep at 10 inns.✓Customize your HUD. Pray to The Goddess every day for a week.(Progress: 0/7)Gain 10 DP in one day.✓Unlock and use the Costume Changer.  
Complete the tutorial softwae.✓Travel over 100,000 miles.(Progress: 65%)Sleep at 125 inns.(Progress: 44%) Defeat a member of royalty in battle.Kill your first monster.✓Fight a B Rank opponent.   
Defeat the boss of an Apex Lair.Uncover buried treasure.Adjust the System Personality settings.✓Use the Wedding function and marry another System user.Become drunk to the point of passing out. Keep going.Draw a Rank 5 card.✓Frighten a goblin away from its gold.Perform a stunt so impressive that a bystander shouts “Superb!”Slay a Skeleton Army General.Kill an unarmed opponent.
Kiss someone while underneath a waterfall.Reach E Rank.✓Access your Sorting Scepter to assess your options.  Reach the Top 16 of the Grand Tournament.Sail over 10,000 miles. (Progress: 92%)Soak at 15 hot springs.✓Rescue a damsel in distress.✓Recite the Great Commandments of the Adventurers 5 times.
 Reach C Rank.     Defeat a [Toxin.]Make love under the twilight moon.✓ 
        Obtain six Inventory Slot cards.Go undetected by ten opponents for five minutes.
       Perform a triple jump.Discover a new location for the first time.✓Figure out a terrifying secret.✓
    Obtain a Dragon skull.   Defeat 100 enemies in a single day.Travel over 1,000 miles in one day.
   Draw 1000 cards.(Progress: 65%)Draw 100 cards.✓Draw 10,000 cards.(Progress: 6.5%)    

The new achievement: Now that I have figured out a terrifying secret, I get a new reward! Though some might say that knowledge itself is its own reward.

But the true reward for this achievement is…

A boomerang scythe?!

In The Goddess’s name, I got a brand-new cool item!

It appears right in my hands, which of course freaks out all of the people around me.

Luckily, I have an empty inventory slot, so I can poof it away very quickly.

However, Delta gets a good enough glimpse to get extremely suspicious.

By the way, we had a great time exploring the city of Santa Barbara today. It was not anything spectacularly new, but it was some interesting sights, with several gained, and 81 Destiny Points in total.

The zoo in particular was extremely fun. I met a whole tribe of otters who seemed extremely interesting. When I greeted them it caused a ruckus with the zookeepers, but I sorted things out fairly well. At least, I didn’t get in any fights. That would have been unbecoming for a Very Important Dude.

Now, of course, with lots of shopping done and lots of sights finished, it is about time for the three of us to depart Santa Barbara and continue our trip down to the fabled land of Los Angeles, where many legendary events await. That is why we are approaching the Amtrak station once again.

Francis is busy streaming a game called Chibi-Robo Park Patrol on his 3DS. Delta is busy side-eyeing all the people also going to the Amtrak station. They almost all appear to be tourists.

“I don’t like the looks of this,” she says to me. “If all these other people are trying to leave too, customs is going to be a nightmare. I doubt we’ll leave before nightfall.”

“What is customs?” I ask.

“Hell, pretty much. Just waiting in offices and being bored and then being slightly stressed out.”

“That does indeed sound like Hell, though The Goddess herself confirmed that Hell, in fact, does not exist.”

“Oh yeah, that.” Delta rolls her eyes.

We reach the front of the line pretty soon afterwards, as it appears that people disperse very quickly from this customs place. It must not be as difficult as Delta says.

A blonde, shirtless man with nasty look in his eyes stops us dead in our tracks. He says nothing.

We wait for him to speak, either to berate us or to ask us to buy a ticket or do some blackmail-filled demand for our possessions, but he does none of that.

“Hello,” I say. “We would like to depart from Santa Barbara city so that we can be on our way with our journeys.” I would like to have seen the Great Barbara Games a little bit more, but we must be getting on our way so that we can reach closer to Los Angeles, our ultimate goal for the time being.

“No,” the man says.


He shakes his head. “No trains out until next week.”


The man takes a closer look at me. “Listen, Mister… Solbourne, wasn’t it? You are King Bodhi’s Guest of Honor. Her Very Important Dude. Bro, if you missed the Great Babrara Games… That’d be the opposite of gnarly.”

I sigh, but only internally.

Yes, I could easily defeat this man and most of the soldiers of Santa Barbara who would come to face me. But that would still leave us with little progress and stuck in a hostile nation. I’d run out of Life Points sooner or later, as long as they sent enough men my way.

So I take the threat with solace and decide we’ll be staying here for a little bit longer. I am extremely “pissed off,” as Delta would say, and I am not going to do much about it.

But I’m not going to take it sitting down. Nor will I take it merely standing up. I’m not some sort of passive being to be pushed around—I’m Eryk Solbourne, future hero of Earth! And nobody’s going to stop me!

Special: The Santa Barbara Zoo (The Otter Chapter)

This is the story of an otter.

It is not like the beavers on Mystix. It does not have a history and a culture, let alone a Great Dam War to mourn over. It is simply an otter. No magical powers, no language.

Its full scientific name is Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Mustelidae Lutrinae Lontra canadensis, but it is more commonly referred to as the North American river otter, or simply the common otter. It is not altogether a special animal, as it is abundant and in no real danger of extinction anytime in the near future.

Otters are a mighty species with few natural predators, at least in their North American variety. In the water, they are nearly invincible; while animals like alligators and orcas can hunt and kill them, they rarely intersect and thus the river otter remains supreme. On land, they are sometimes hunted by wolves, bears, dogs, and even bobcats. But they are crafty and quick creatures that do not easily fall prey to predators.

Except for humanity, of course. Natives living on the land in the past considered otters to be royal creatures in some places, and to be foreboding spectral figures in other places. They were hunted for their meat, or it was a taboo for them to be harmed. It depended on the location. The Cherokee have folktales about the trickster animal named Otter, who often played with fellow trickster Rabbit.

Then… Trappers from France came later on and hunted the otters down for their fur. Humans love fur. Humans can make clothing and fabric out of fur. They do not have much fur themselves, so they need to take from other animals to warm themselves. Trapping and hunting became so common for the otter that their numbers dwindled quickly.

Then came the oil spills, the coal acid, the mercury in the water, the too-warm winters… Otters are sensitive creatures, and what humans have done to this world hurts them every day. But, fortunately, they are also strong creatures. They have powers far beyond what humans can expect, in tenacity and adaptation. They make every effort to survive, every day, and they will fight against the poison and overhunting in the only way they know how—by living their lives.

The otter here knows none of that, though. Otters on Earth are not sapient beings. They cannot perceive of a world beyond their own and do not really care what goes on beyond their sphere of vision. This otter, in particular, is being held in captivity at a zoo. The Santa Barbara Zoo, in particular.

Its entire family has lived in exactly this way going back dozens of generations. In captivity, river otters can live for as many as twenty years, and this otter here has known its current life, with great pleasure, for the past twelve. It has grown fat in its years and loves that it brings more attention to it from zookeepers and parkgoers. People love to feed it even more.

Today, this otter, who has no idea what goes on beyond the walls of its enclosure, is busy basking in the sun to dry off its wet fur. Such fur would have been priceless to a trapper two hundred years ago. Such fur is priceless now to the otter it belongs to now.

When it raises its head to look outside its enclosure, it sees interesting new faces. It is immediately attracted by an unnaturally bright pink color that approaches. Therefore it hops up onto its feet and scampers up to get a better view.

From up above the mighty enclosure walls are three human beings, one of whom is a pink-haired, pink-eyed male with a pleasant face. His name is Eryk Solbourne, and he is absolutely delighted to see an otter here on Earth, especially one so rotund and beautiful. But the otter does not know any of that. It simply thinks that the visual stimuli of this interesting individual is worth checking out.

They stare at each other for some time, as the other two humans say things that the otter cannot comprehend. Pink eyes agains black, meeting each other with intent, intense immensity.

And then, the pink human leaps over the enclosure wall and lands right in front of the otter.

The otter jumps back.

All of the other otters stop what they’re doing and approach the pink human—but not too closely.

This is the first time something like this has ever happened. The otters simply do not understand what to expect.

Even when the zookeepers rush out to contain the situation, shouting words incomprehensible to animal ears, the otters stay interested.

Whoever this pink human is, he is truly a remarkable person. The otters know that extremely well. If the zookeepers cannot see it, that is because they are merely human. The animals of the world who survive and adapt to growing danger and inhospitable conditions—they are the ones who know a hero when they see one.

Chapter 92: Jump Ultimate Stars for the Nintendo DS


It is a bit odd to eat breakfast at a grand dining hall when only three people occupy the entire table. There is room for dozens, but for now it is only us three.

Apparently, King Bodhi was going to make a morning greeting to her Very Important Dudes, but she and most of her guard had to leave early. At this very moment, they are aboard a pirate ship, raiding a cruise ship that got too close to Santa Barbaran waters.

So they are in a war, while we are sitting here twiddling our thumbs and eating breakfast. Later today we will travel to the Santa Barbara Zoo to take a look at the interesting animals as well as other nearby sights, but for now we are simply eating in relative silence. The members of the guard who remain here are very much the quiet type, and do not wish to converse with us.

To be fair, though, this breakfast is quite good. Poached eggs and orange slices, which are good, but the truly amazing food here is something called oatmeal. It is oats and grains mashed up into tiny pieces and then with milk brought to life in a sort of soupy way.

It’s rich, with a cinnamon-esque flavor to it.

It’s so good that I must say… I love it!


[+1 DP. Total 74 DP.]

Wow, I am so glad that I always love Earth food. If I loved it any less, that would probably be somewhat tragic, because all these new Destiny Points are amazing.

What is not amazing is the fact that every Destiny Point I gain could lead me one step closer to falling into someone’s master plan and being used as a tool for nefarious deeds.

Someone, somewhere, wanted me dead enough to kill me on Mystix as an astral projection and do whatever complicated stuff that resulted in. Rare, on Mystix, openly wants me to return to overthrow The Goddess herself. And here on Earth, I was told by those two South African Secret Service agents that I need to keep as low a profile as possible or else people may find and capture me.

Everywhere I go, I am always involved in stupid plots! I hate it almost enough not to want to gain Destiny Points anymore. But… the allure is very strong. I very much want to have more progress in my goal.

Despite everything, I still want to become an S-Rank hero. Despite all the horrible stuff I learned in my dream last night. Despite learning that I was lied to and manipulated, both to become a villain and to join Team Fanghook all that time ago. Somehow, that does not hamper my quest here on Earth, and I do not know why.

But maybe seeing Francis’s smiling face beaming at me is the reason.

“Hey, Eryk, when you’re finished with your breakfast, come over to this side of the table. I wanna show you a new game. Er, an old game, but a new game that I bought yesterday. You know what I mean.”

“A new game? Is this a fighting game to help my Destiny Points? If so, I will bound over there immediately!” I engulf the last few bites of oatmeal and leap over the dining hall table. For style I do a few flips in the air before I land on the other side with a graceful finish.

It’s impressive enough that Delta claps afterwards. Or that is part of her patented sarcasm. I am not sure.

I sit down next to Francis and he presents to me his 3DS. “This is a game called Jump Ultimate Stars,” he says. “It’s like a big crossover of a bunch of anime and manga characters, but from almost twenty years ago so everything is pretty outdated. Don’t worry, I don’t know any of the characters either. The short of it though is that you get to play as all these weird dudes with powers and you jump around platforms fighting other weird dudes with powers. You get it?”

“No, but I will try my best.” I take the game from him.

“So pick whatever character looks the best.”

“I like this funny man with the yellow hair and big muscles,” I say. “He reminds me of myself, despite the lack of pink. I think I will choose him. His name is… Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo? I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I. Maybe he was in some popular show from—wait a minute, how did you read that? This game is in Japanese.”

“The symbols? They are Elven runes,” I explain. “I thought you knew this.”

He shakes his head and tries to ignore what I just said. “Okay, Eryk, now start the battle. I guess if you can read the menus then you know what to do.”

I shrug. “I don’t see what all your fussing is about. Okay, battle started.”

The game has simplistic graphics with moving artwork that is not as advanced as what I have seen on the televisions or computer screens around my travels. It is even primitive compared to the graphics I have seen on my own phone. But the style is nice and I am quite fond of it, overall.

I lose my first few battles; the controls are very tight and it is very difficult to fight against the power of this Goku fellow who seems to be wiping the floor with every player.

But beside me, helping me out, is my friend Francis.

I love my friends.

Oh, I finally win a match! I defeated the mighty Goku! I even destroyed his companion Bejita! Yay!

[+1 DP. Total 75 DP.]

“I did it! Huzzah!” I exclaim.

“You’re the best!” Francis exclaims back.

“Do I have time for another round before we visit the zoo?” I ask.

“Well, it’s a portable game, so you have as much time as you want.”

“Oh, right. But… Just one more match before we go. I have 75 Destiny Points, which is just one away from three consecutive level-ups. I want to achieve this!”

“Oh, alright.”

I win one more match, and then we wrap everything up so that we can go on our newest adventure into Santa Barbara. Today is going to be a great day.

And yes, I get that nice-sounding ding giving me my 76th Destiny Point. I love it so much.

Chapter 91: Systemless

It was me.

I was the one who attacked North Spire and destroyed many of its towns and villages. I am the one responsible for all the pain and suffering my people have endured over these last few years.

All because I wanted to become an S-Rank [Demigod.]

The power such a class would provide is immense. Everyone knows this. But [Demigod] class system users almost always die within their first year alive. They consume much more in Life Points per minute than the average class users, and their Destiny Card skills are much more powerful and costly than anyone else’s.

To say that I myself possessed such power, and not only did not die, but thrived… I cannot fathom it.

I was already A-Rank… I was so close to my goal already. But in the process I had become a villain. My conquest for power was such that it consumed entire nations, that it had cost the lives of countless innocents.

But that isn’t a part of me now. I do not feel that same drive. I cannot, because I am not a bad person. Right?


I am not a bad person, but I am despicable. I am a monster in the clothing of a docile sheet ghost. I’d give a Gnoll’s eye to erase what I did. But alas, only my memory could be erased.

I am a monster—but Rare looks at me with the widest of grins. They are pleased to have finally revealed all this to me, as if it were some sort of game.

“How could you keep all this from me?” I ask, my voice cracking. “How could you erase my guilt and expect me to accept it with gladness?”

“It’s not your fault, Eryk,” they say. “You were used by the Slayers as a tool. They manipulated you into joining them and then made you their leader.”

“I could have stopped at any time. And because I didn’t, my brother Vince is dead, and my homeland was attacked.”

“Yes, those are indeed consequences of your foolishness, but that is because of your foolish nature. You are too quick to trust and too slow to understand when those around you have ulterior motives to their actions.”

Like the long vacation trip that Delta and Francis and I have been taking for the past several days. It is ostensibly to help me gain more Destiny Points more quickly, but it has also become clear that the trip was a last chance for Delta and Francis to fix their friendship and deal with their family issues before adulthood inevitably pushes them apart. I was simply the catalyst for it.

But I recognized that fact quite quickly. I am smarter than I look. Calling me a fool is itself a fool’s work!

“Then how can I trust any of you, who have kept information from me and lied to me for years of my life?” I ask.

Rare shakes their head. “You can’t. Because we have ulterior motives as well.” They beckon to Miss M. “All Miss M wants is her original powers and title back.” Then they beckon to Malia. “And this love-struck elf just wants to see you happy, no matter the cost. You were not happy when you left the Slayers, and you most certainly will not be happy now that you know all this.”

“That… That time has long passed, Rare, and you know it,” Malia says. “All I want now is to atone for my mistakes.”

“And atone you have.”

“What about you, dear sibling Rare?” I ask. “What is your ulterior motive?”

“Well, at first my motive was simply my oath to keep you safe and protected at all costs,” they say. “But once I saw the horrors wreaked upon you by the Destiny Deck System, once I opened my eyes to the greater world of Mystix… that all changed.”

They clasp their hands together. “The system is a scam by The Goddess. All beings on Mystix can use magic if they know the right methods. But this invader, this ontological parasite gifts us “stats” and “skills” by leeching off our very life force and has captured our entire society. It builds and thrives thanks to its nature of progression, and none of us have been the wiser… until now.

“Eryk Solbourne, we need your power. We need an S-Rank hero who can help us overthrow The Goddess and restore the true magic. You must come back to Mystix in full. I do not know the way. I do not know the methods required to transmigrate you back here. But somehow, some way, we will make it happen. Because we have to destroy the monster who has ruined our world. The Goddess must fall.”

“You know, I really must correct you on something,” I say to Rare. “You continue to mention that The Goddess is a nefarious villain of sorts, but… I am not quite so sure you are right about that. I have met The Goddess, after all. She has a funny appearance, something like a ‘robot’ that you might see on Earth, with a TV head.”

“What are you… You’ve met The Goddess?!”

“Of course. That is how I was reborn on Earth. She let me go and kept my powers and system. Though I believe it may have been an accident.”

Rare shakes their head. “You must be mistaken. But do not worry. We will bring you back to Mystix as soon as we can.”

“I… see.”

Rare seems absolutely dead-set on this plan. I do not think they are taking the idea of being wrong very well. They truly seemed convinced that I was not reincarnated on Earth… But I most definitely was.

“Well then, I guess we have a plan. But that means that we have a promise to fulfill.” Rare turns to Miss M. “Mestopholees, you have completed your end of our bargain.”

“Yeah, and it only took a hundred damn years,” she snarks.

“I will grant you the final bits of your power back to allow you to return to your demon queen status. From then on, your life is free.”

They hold their hand over her head and a wave of energy builds around them both.

A snapping sound rings out.

Miss M grows six inches in height, and her hair grows much longer, much more fiery. With a black suit and red tie, and breasts of an impressive size, it is clear that this woman truly is the royalty of demonhood.

She gives a toothy grin and her hair flows around like the wind is blowing harshly (there is no wind, obviously). “I am Queen Mestopholees, and you are all peons! Yes!” she screams.

Miss M—er, Mestopholees, blasts a beam of energy into the ceiling and explodes the next three floors up.

“That felt so good,” she says. “I’m finally back.”

“And you are free to return to your domain, if you so wish,” Rare says.

“Nah. I like you three. Plus, we’ve got a big battle ahead of us.” She places her hand to the side of her head and scrunches her eyes shut. “Yes. The New Slayers are sending in a new force. An entire army of [Toxins] are headed this way. They will reach the Tomb of Eryk Solbourne within the hour.”

“Well then, we must fend them off,” says Malia.

“I’m real excited,” Mestopholees says.

“And I as well,” Rare says.

The battle is about to—



Oh, I woke up…

Francis and Delta are both cuddling up to me and pressing their faces against mine. They are so very warm.

This bed is so soft and comfortable, and so are my friends.

But then, why do I feel such horror?

Chapter 90: About My Tomb

“The tomb was sealed!” Rare shouts. “Where did you go?!”

The three of my companions, Rare, Miss M, and Malia, frantically search around my grave for any sign of my body. There is none.

The room is barely large enough to fit two people standing comfortably. There is no method of escaping except through the barrier we just unsealed. Clearly, I am not here.

“The spell was broken,” Rare says. “That has to be the way it happened. The Goddess herself broke the spell and genuinely transmigrated the body to another world, just like Eryk said. Earth isn’t some illusion. It’s… real.. I just… I can’t believe it.”

“You were wrong?” Miss M asks in a way that is simultaneously horrified and smug. “Rare Solbourne was wrong?”

“What spell?” I ask. “Please give me some answers now; I really need them to understand!”

Rare sighs. “After I was forced into hiding, I used the powers of Malia, a trusted advisor of my secret father’s, and Miss M, a demon queen I defeated in ritual combat whose powers I sealed away until she completed my bidding. Together, they performed one of the most important spells in Mystix history: they contained your powers, preventing your Life Point death but also trapping you in a permanent stasis. They erased your memories, placed you in a hidden grave, and let your subconscious mind create the Tomb of Eryk Solbourne all on its own.”

“And I did all of this as an F-Rank [Adventurer,] because that is what I was by the time you left my life,” I say.

I look over to Malia, who refuses to make eye contact with me.

All those years we spent together… She was my lover, but moreover she was my friend. How could she dangle me along like a puppet on strings? How could I have ever been anything to her other than a plaything to keep track of?

“Eryk, your [Adventurer] status is a re-classing,” Rare continues. “We used a sorting scepter to override your original class and give you a safer, more relaxed lifestyle. We highly suspect that this is not a permanent solution, especially if your ghost is finally returned to the rest of your body. It is not what you wanted, and we know that your spirit is too strong to contain forever.”

“What in The Goddess’s name was I? A [Lord] or something?”

“You were—are—a [Demigod,]” they say.

“A [Demigod?!]”

The one class that is random chance, one in a hundred thousand. The ultimate curse of the Destiny Deck System—a class unchosen by any, but instead randomly given to those who are unlucky enough to receive it. And all fall to a cruel and unusual fate afterwards.

That was me?

But… how?

“You were the first [Demigod] to survive past one year as far back as our records go,” Malia says. “The entire world was watching you, wondering what you would do next. And those around you wanted nothing more than to control your power for themselves. That is why Rare called us in. We whisked you away and gave you a simpler life.”

“Did I use all that power to fight the Slayers?” I ask. “Did I save North Spire and never even know it?”

All three of them look down precariously.

My heart sinks as I realize what Rare is about to say.

“You… were the founder of the Slayers,” Rare explains. “In that year of your life, Eryk Solbourne, you created a vast army and conquered entire nations. Some say you were tricked into it. Others say you wanted revenge for something. But only I know that you were simply trying to level up.”

“You know me too well, dear sibling.”

“In less than a year, you reached A-Rank. A-Rank as a [Demigod] and leader of an entire army. If it were not for your love for your family, you would have stomped over all of North Spire as well.”

“But… North Spire WAS attacked. That was the reason I became a hero in the first place.”

“You became an [Adventurer] because North Spire was attacked, yes,” they say. “Out of grief and regret for what your army had become and the brother you had lost, you went into exile. That was when Miss M and Malia took you in and cast that massive spell.”

“All I wanted to do was become the first S-Rank hero in milennia…” I mutter. “This all happened because I was too ambitious. Too foolhardy.”

“And you’re doing the same thing again on Earth, aren’t you?” they ask.

I nod. “But I’m just an [Adventurer.] Not a [Demigod] anymore.”

“You haven’t noticed the overpowered cards? The massive boosts of power you can pull out of nowhere? Your abilities are not gone, Eryk. They are merely sealed. And one day, at the time of greatest need, you are going to become an S-Rank hero, just like you’ve always dreamed of. You are going to change the fabric of Mystix. We just have to make sure that you are doing it for good. Because this is the perfect opportunity to finally end The Goddess’s reign of terror, once and for all.”

Rare smiles.

I can’t even gasp, I’m too taken aback.

[Achievement Unlocked: Figure out a terrifying secret. Redeem for a reward in the Achievements Board.]

Chapter 89: Dare to Dream

“Oh look, Eryk’s back,” Miss M says the moment my ghostly figure appears back in front of everyone.

“Yes, I am here,” I say. “Uh, what were we doing again?”

I look at my three companions from Mystix who I haven’t been able to meet for an entire day already. Oh, they are not looking in top shape whatsoever, I realize. Malia is filled with cuts and bruises all over her body, and her armor has dents in several precarious places. Rare’s domineering physique has faded and their signature long hair has been torn to shreds. Miss M looks better than the two, now nearly human-sized and sporting fiery red hair, but aside from her outward appearance, her eyes alone tell me how exhausted she is.

“We spent a day fending off the New Slayers outside. They’re just sitting out there waiting for us now,” Miss M says. “All I wanted was to get my cool suit and tie back so I could be a real demon queen, but so far it’s just this stupid hair.”

“Well, at least you’re okay,” I say.

“You have no damn clue how hard it’s been. You can’t even get hurt when you’re here! Why are we even protecting you?”

Rare puts a hand on her shoulder. “It is not Eryk’s ghost who we protect, Queen Mestopholees,” they say. “It is his body, which lies just inside this door.”

“Wait, I thought we entered the Tomb of Eryk Solbourne already,” I say. “I could have sworn it…”

“Yes, we entered the tomb,” Rare says, “but the tomb is much bigger than you may have thought. It has six subfloors and is guarded by an undiscerning patrol of stone golems. With the New Slayers pursuing us this far in already, we have to be even more careful that we do not reveal your body’s hidden location to them.”

“Six subfloors… all for me? Truly? That is quite odd. What in the world could ever make me so important? I am not even a C-Rank [Adventurer,] let alone someone worthy of a castle-sized tomb!”

Rare, Malia, and Miss M exchange glances. “We will explain that in time,” Rare says.

“When we reach the body, I hope,” I say. “Where is it, anyway?”

“Well, we… don’t know that. We, as much as anyone else, were left in the dark to the true location so that none of us could easily locate you. The tomb was buried deep underground, it’s patrolled by stone golems, and the tomb itself is laid out like a maze… These placeholders were put here for a very good reason. And one of those is because of me myself.”

“Because of you, Rare? Please, you must elaborate on something. I am failing to comprehend any of this, and none of you are ever telling me!”

Rare looks to their two companions and nods. They nod back and depart in opposite directions. “We are splitting up to better cover ground. If one of us figures out where your body may be, we will meet back here and regroup.”

“A dear friend of mine has said something very important to me,” I say, referring to Francis. “He says, ‘Never split the party.’ I tend to believe him in that regard.”

“I have not heard a phrase like that before,” Rare says, “but the real reason we have split is because I need to explain something to you. And I would prefer to do so gently.”

“I see.”

I actually cannot see very well at all, down here in the darkness. Rare has some sort of night light spell activated, so that their eyes shine like a cat’s and creates a glow around them, but it is still extremely difficult to see. I understand why finding my resting place would be such a task.

“Did you ever wonder what happened to me, Eryk?” Rare asks. “Where I went, and why?”

“Of course I did. Every day. But I know now that you went into that mysterious mountain to train your skills up without the use of a system.”

“Well, that’s not the full details. Let me explain.” Rare begins their speech. “The reason Vince died and I fled at the same time? It was no mere coincidence. It was not a simple fact of the Slayers War. It was a targeted assassination. Vince was not killed by friendly fire. Rather, it was far from friendly. Killers from all over Mystix had been hired and trained to eliminate the Solbourne family, one by one, until Eryk was all that remained.

“I was brought up from birth to be your protector, Eryk. Our fathers knew that, one day, you would become much more than you were ever capable of understanding. I do not know how they would discover such a thing before you even accepted the Destiny Deck System, but our fathers were a powerful group.

“My secret father, the one from whom I directly descend and whose name I am sworn not to reveal, ordered me into hiding after Vince was murdered. And so, in a twist of irony, in order to protect you with my life, I went into exile. I hid and trained for a hundred years to become the most powerful being on all of Mystix… aside from you, of course.

“I was never as far away as you may have thought, though. For my two companions Malia and Miss M kept you on a tight leash while you were a part of Team Fanghook. They made sure you would never stray too far from your comfortable path, and we made sure that your progression followed a natural path. That is… until the Slayers stepped in and sabotaged everything.”

“Wait, if I’m supposedly dead, here in this big tomb, then how did I become an [Adventurer?] What about Team Fanghook?”

“You were never ‘alive’ in the true sense for any of that,” they say. “You were always an astral projection given physical form. It takes an incredible amount of magic to conjure up such a being, which is why you are currently in a normal ghost form. It’s simply too much energy for your body here underground to keep up a physical form after all the damage you suffered from the carriage crash.”

“But… Malia and I…”

“I can confirm very much so that you were an astral projection,” Malia says as she phases right through me and appears beside Rare once more. “We had many great times together, Eryk. I know you just as well as you know yourself.” She turns to Rare and says, “We found him.”

“Excellent. Then we can go.”

We begin walking and following Malia to this supposed location. Rare casts a stealth spell so that the stone golems do not detect us.

“I was never alive, and yet I still died in a carriage crash anyway…”

“It was much more than a carriage crash,” Rare says. “It, too, was an assassination. The Slayers, or whoever else it could have been, figured out that you were not truly alive, and decided to kill off your astral form for the time being. Why they did this is beyond me, but I worry our coming here may only accelerate their plans. There is nothing else we can do, though…”

Miss M joins our party and we finally find a door that is absolutely, certainly the room where my body is located. My grave, within my tomb, within the catacombs, within my homeland, within my home world.

It is currently sealed. Very tightly sealed, with enough barriers in front of it that it takes the combined magical force of all three of them to get through. And then one more physical barrier, a gigantic rock that Rare pushes aside with one fist.

“You see, Eryk, whoever assassinated you did so because they want you for themselves. In truth, you are not some mild [Adventurer.] You are—”

The door opens.


[+1 DP.]

[Total: 73 DP.]


We see an empty casket. Nothing else. Not a speck of dust.

“You are not in your grave?!”

Chapter 88: A Slow Night

Should I level up? Should I wait? What about increasing my rank? What should I do?

Augh! There are just too many options for me here. I’m so indecisive sometimes; it may be my fatal flaw when it comes to non-combat situations. If I am in a life or death situation, I am able to make the correct move almost every single time. But if I am in a situation that could impact my life or death weeks or months down the line, then my brain simply freezes up. I am like one of Francis’s video game characters, but without being played. I sit idly by as the person controlling me refuses to touch the control stick or the screen (there are different control methods depending on the device, something that perplexes me sometimes).

I have 71 Destiny Points, which can easily level me up twice, and nearly three times.

But the main quandry here is, as always, my Life Points…

I have only lost about 1,600 since I leveled up, as I am currently at [13,565/15,000 LP.] That is nowhere near where I want to be when I level up.

And it might be said that given my two and three quarters level-up opportunities, that I should not be so stingy with my Destiny Points, especially when I am in a place where there do not seem to be any credible threats… And yet, I continue to wonder what the right option is.

If I level up one more time and reach Level 20 at D-Rank, I will be able to rank up to C-Rank anytime I want, no cards or points required. That will increase the burden of my level-ups from then on—I believe it is 30 Destiny Points per level-up after ranking up—but as an advantage it will give me 20,000 Life Points at a time, and an extra slot in my Destiny Deck.

…Wow, the advantages truly do outweigh the disadvantages here. I don’t understand my indecision at all. Even as it stares me in the face, I simply cannot make the leap and sacrifice those points. Not after that scolding Francis gave me about how important it is to waste as little of my time on stats and cards and as much time on ranking up.

Once I reach C-Rank, it will take another 600 Destiny Points for me to be able to reach B-Rank, if I recall correctly. That is not a small sum by any means. Will I be able to reach that in just a matter of weeks? That is the reason we are on this trip, but… It is tough to know.

Right now, the three of us are riding up an elevator in the Santa Barbara Castle, heading to our Very Important Dude Suite (or VIDS for short). Only the “most righteous and truly gnarly” of people are allowed to be here, and King Bodhi herself granted the suite to us. I am very pleased about this, even if something gnaws at me that I should be more on my guard than I currently am.

For what it is worth, Francis and Delta are having a good time. They both seem much happier than when we were in Paso Robles. I like to think that our trip there helped heal some of the tension, whether that was due to the soothing hot springs or the chaos of warfare. My guess is the hot springs; you simply cannot spend hours in a bath naked with your friends and fail to grow closer together. That is the mark of true friendship.

“I can’t wait to get in there and collapse in a chair and start playing Electroplankton all night,” Francis says. “I’ve been antsing for it, and you know what happens when I’m antsing!”

“Do you need insect repellent?” I ask.

“Oh, Eryk,” he says, “I really have to show you some fighting games I bought. If you really get Destiny Points just from winning fighting game battles, then you’ve got to try these out. Uh, tomorrow, at least. Tonight’s gonna be all night all 3DS streaming.”

“Do you think there’s room service?” Delta asks. “Or maybe tons of alcohol so I can—shit! Dammit! Augh…”

Francis snaps his head over to her. “What’s wrong?”

“I can’t drink b—” She cuts herself off. “Nothing.”


“Seriously, nothing. I was just thinking about a text Julie sent me. Yeah, that.”

The elevator dings (a ding somewhat reminiscent of my Destiny Point ding, I will add) and opens to our suite!

Holy The Goddess, it is huge. It is nothing like the hotel room we had in Paso Robles. The television is gigantic. The smell is not of mild mildew but of pleasant lilac. And the bed, while the same size as the hotel, is adorned with satin sheets and pillows that look far too comfortable to truly exist. I fear I could fall asleep just touching such a bed.

Beside the bed there is a sofa with chairs next to it, and a small table in the center. Resting on that table is an ice bucket with a bottle of wine chilling inside. I would surely partake if not for my truly heinous thoughts about drinking alcohol so soon after the Paso Robles Incident. I may not be able to drink again for a month.

Delta groans loudly.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“One bed, again. It’s like we’re in a BL comic but somehow I’m here messing everything up.”

“If that is to say that this BL of which you speak refers to the growing love between myself and dear Francis Bacall, then let me assure you that my affections towards him remain fully pure and platonic in nature. There is no romance involved.”

Francis doesn’t seem to be listening to anything we are saying; he is already over to the other side of the room, gazing at the wide variety of soft drink cans in the fridge. “There’s fourteen flavors of Bustable Lemons soda in here!” he shouts.

“Really? That’s so diluting,” Delta says. “The choice overload will ruin most consumers who—wait. Ugh, even when I’m on vacation I can’t stop thinking about marketing.”

“Oh, right, you were in the business of advertising soft drinks, Delta. I forgot about that,” I say.

“I do my best for nobody to know where I work or what I do.”

“You should take pride in what you do! Bustable Lemons should bring a smile to the faces of your friends and family.”



The two of them explore the suite, while I step out onto the balcony and look out at the evening sky of Santa Barbara. The purple glow of the sky accents the orange roofs dotting almost every house, and the Pacific Ocean hums gently in the distance. From this far up, the beach has a soft, creamy texture, as if I could reach out, scoop it up, and consume it like I would an ice cream cone.


[+1 DP. Total: 72 DP.]

You know, while I’m being indecisive about levels, I should probably deal with my Destiny Card hand, at least…

Empathetic Link: Rank 7. Create a Mental Link with a target sentient being. Cost: 5500 LP.
Drop: Rank 1. Make someone fall over. Cost: 80 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.
Transmigrated Spirit: Rank 3. Summon an otherworldly spirit to assist for five minutes. Cost: 444 LP.

As you can see, I have a vacancy that must be addressed. And it can only be addressed in the best of ways—


[-953 LP.]

[12,599/15,000 LP.]

And here is a brand new card—

Kaio Blast: Rank 3. Doubles combat stats for 2 minutes. Cost: 500 LP. Holographic.

Oh, it’s HOLOGRAPHIC [Kaio Blast!] Wow!

I haven’t gotten a holographic card in so long that it brings some sense of nostalgia to my heart. I love it. Holographic cards do not provide any extra bonus, but they give an extremely flashy animation whenever I use them. They are extremely valuable to certain Destiny Card collectors who like to show off their best cards, back on Mystix.

I’ll have to surprise Francis and Delta later.

For now, the three of us are clearly beat. Almost in unison, we each collapse on the bed. First me, and then Francis and Delta climb on and squish me into the middle.

A one-bed night once again… I wonder how it got like this.

Francis cuddles up to me, getting a little bit too close for comfort at this moment. He is a very warm person, and so is this room. “Could you please move?” I ask.

“Nope,” he says. He winks at me.


“That’s what you get for being in the middle,” Delta says. She takes the TV remote and turns the gigantic screen on. It shows the local news—Santa Barbara Kingdom TV.

Yay, parades! The TV shows a large procession of marching surfers and skateboarders and BMX riders while thousands of onlookers cheer them on. A light, fun music with brassy and electric sounds rippling through the speakers. I believe they call this “ska music.” Apparently this parade happened earlier this day while we were shopping and it was very energetic. I’m sad we missed it.

“Wow, what a great nation this must be,” I say.

“This is all just propaganda, you know,” Delta says. “They’re a really unstable country so they have to double down and make sure everyone is patriotic or else someone might topple King Bodhi and take over.”

“That’s awful… What heinous people would do such a thing?”

“Who knows? Extreme sportsmen are honor-bound. They go by a strict code of rules… but not all the people here are extreme sportsmen. You never know what the future holds. Or at least that’s what I read in some New Yorker article once.”

“New Yorker… What does that mean?”

“I’ll tell you when you’re older,” she says. “Hey, Francis, do you want to watch something?”

We both look over to Francis. He has his headphones in and has plugged his new 3DS gaming system into his phone. He does not speak, but he does make silly faces every now and then.

“Oh, he’s streaming. Okay, so he’s basically dead to us. Eryk, want to watch something?”

“Besides this patriotic display of enthusiasm from the Santa Barbarans on TV?”

“Yes, besides that.”

“Oh, then, what about another movie? As long as it isn’t… um… Chasing Amy.”

Delta’s face goes red. “Oh, uh, of course. Yeah, that was a bit awkward. We don’t have to talk about that anymore.”

“That ending…”

“We do NOT have to talk about that anymore.” She flips over to the “on demand” section of the TV channel listings. “Here, we can watch a super awful bad movie and you can learn the joys of crappy media.”

“It is good to like bad things?”

“Ironically, yes,” Delta says.

“I don’t quite understand, but do go on.”

“Well, here’s one movie I’ve heard a lot of. It’s an older film called Gigli. It stars Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, and it was so bad that it killed the director’s career and ruined the actors’ relationship. I don’t know much about it but I bet it’s horrible.”

“And so it being horrible will be… good?”

“Yes. You’ll see.”

“I guess I shall. I hope to enjoy it a lot.”

We watch Gigli.


Things start to get awkward once Jennifer Lopez’s character is introduced.

We don’t talk much for the rest of the evening.

Chapter 87: Watching the Games

I, Eryk Solbourne, am confused!!!

Just moments ago, I was staring at the listings of various ice cream varieties at this beachside food stand. Now, ice cream is something that certainly does exist on Mystix, but I tended to stay in the warmer climates where such a delicacy was rare and often nonexistent.

I saw quite distinctly that the price of a vanilla ice cream cone was set at 120 Barb Bucks. The true conversion between one dollar and Barb Bucks has eluded me for quite some time, but this seems like a reasonable price for a commodity such as a frozen treat. However, it is not 120 Barb Bucks anymore. It is 134.

Why? What happened? Do my eyes deceive me? Is this a sign that my entire life on Earth is an illusion like my sibling Rare suggested? Or is this a devious trick by the Santa Barbarans to force “shoobies” to pay more money for the same good?

All of the ice cream prices have changed, in fact. They were all around the same number, but now the pecan butter flavor is 800 Barb Bucks while the mint chocolate flavor is a measly 98. How does anyone make a life out of this city if they do not know the price of bread or have the knowledge that their morning coffee cake will be just as reliable as the day before?

“Sir, Mister ice cream man,” I say to the grizzled, bearded, overweight man manning the ice cream stand, “are the ice cream prices truly shifting up on that board as we have our own conversation?”

The man groans. “Ugh, shoobies. Yes, the prices change. It’s just the way we do things around here. It’s all tied to the wavecoin. I don’t get a say over it. Neither do you.”

“I see…” I rub my chin with my fingers and try to figure out a path.

“What’ll it be, kid? Hurry up. You’re holding up the line.”

“I will choose…” I stare at the board of prices very carefully. They have shifted once again. Now mint chocolate chip is up to 800 Barb Bucks, in a horrible twist of fate. The cheapest one now seems to be… fish and chips. But that’s what Delta and I ate for lunch! (By the way, from a few new meals I’m up to 70 Destiny Points, but I forgot to say anything about it.) Could such a meal be had in the form of ice cream? Well, it’s only 65 Barb Bucks, so I might as well try it. “I will choose the fish and chips ice cream! Three, please.”

The ice cream man scoffs. “Your funeral.”

“No, sir, this is not a funeral. This is a celebration of good taste.”

He does not respond. I assume this is because I have “owned” him with the power of my words. So I swipe my phone across a beam of light, and it beeps. Apparently, the currency has transferred from me to him. All automatic, all digital. I don’t understand any of it, especially not when I was forced to pay 67 Barb Bucks per cone instead of the 65 I expected.

I carry all three ice cream cones with one hand and walk further into the beach, close to the shoreline where many people are gathered to watch the tides flow in and out. I find Delta and Francis and hand them their ice cream.

“Oh, hey, how’d it go, buying something on your own for the first time?” Francis asked. “Was it cool and fun?” He takes the fish and chips ice cream cone and eyes its golden crispy flakes with mild curiosity.

“I am no child, you know,” I tell him. “I have purchased and sold many goods in my life. Likely far more than you.”

“I don’t know, man. I have a merch shop and everything,” he replies.

“Eryk, what flavor is this?” Delta asks as she licks the ice cream tepidly. “It doesn’t… taste right.”

“The prices at the ice cream stand kept changing every minute or so, and I was unable to pinpoint the cheapest item very carefully. But, as far as I am aware, the cheapest item at the time of my purchase, and the one I chose, was fish and chips flavor.”

Delta spits the ice cream out. “Bluh!”

Francis recoils back. “Fish and chips? That sounds awful.”

“In what way?” I take a few bites of the ice cream myself. It has a rich, savory flavor, with a hint of vanilla added in. Quite delectable. “I find no qualms with this whatsoever. It is an enjoyable treat.”


[+1 DP.]

[Total: 71 DP.] Yay, More Destiny for me. I ought to level up again soon, but then again I have some pretty big choices in that regard…

“Maybe for a weirdo!” Delta shouts. “This is disgusting.”

Francis looks at the ice cream again, and then tries it himself. After a moment of reflection, he smiles. “It’s really bad, but I think I like it.”

“That is not a sentiment I can find much solace in, but I will respect your opinion nonetheless,” I say to him.

Delta, annoyed, throws her ice cream cone on the ground.

“Don’t litter!” Francis exclaims. “That’s rude!”

“It’s biodegradable. Don’t worry,” she says.

Just then, several beachgoers approach us, doing that famed “punching their fist into their palm” gesture. One of them shouts, “Hey! Look at these shoobies dropping their crap on our beach!”

Francis and I glare at Delta. This may be the first time that she is the direct cause of our problems, and not one of us two. She deserves all of this scorn.

“We do not mean to offend! It was a misunderstanding as to the nature of your disposal programs.” I try to reason with them, but it does not succeed at all.

“Let’s pound these kelp crusts!” one of the surfer men suggests, continuing to hit his fist against his palm. Actually, all of them are still doing it, locked in a rhythmic sync. For some reason, I can hear the sound of snapping echoing from behind me. I figure a large brawl is about to break up.

But then, when they get a better look at us, or more importantly me, those menacing looks vanish almost instantly. I think they know of my power.

“Actually, uh, you know,” one of them says, “these guys are those heroes from Paso Robles that King Bodhi’s been talking about, right? I guess they get to live. Yeah.”

“Oh, right… Better not upset King Bodhi by gutting her VIDs too much.”

One of them points at Delta with a stern finger. “You shoobies better not be doing stuff like this anymore. We got our eyes on you.” He is wearing sunglasses, so it is impossible to know whether or not he is telling the truth.

Still, they leave us be. I am glad that my friends will come to no harm, but I am sad that I cannot “grind” up Destiny Points, as Francis often says, by pummeling all of these surfers until they no longer provide me any points due to their weak nature. Let us hope that something arises wherein I can defeat a large number of opponents for maximum progress.

I hear that in some parts of Mystix, those with the Destiny Deck System as a part of their person do not perform the normal Class Actions that allow them to gain ranks. Instead, they sit and perform specialized meditations. They cultivate new achievements that exist solely on the planes of existence created in their own minds. For instance, an [Adventurer] in those places does not simply explore new realms, try new foods, or defeat opponents. No, an [Adventurer] there opens their third eye and cultivates imagined experiences that result in a feeling of accomplishment and a sense of awe. They are able to gain Destiny Points from the comfort of their own mind.

It is not something I could ever do; I am simply not patient enough to undergo something as rigorous and measured as cultivated meditation. But I wish I could. It would be remarkable to see a man as tall and muscled as me levitating in midair as I cultivate new powers.

Here on Earth, I doubt cultivation is even possible, so I will decline to think of that further, and instead think solely on the potential for new Class Actions in front of my eyes.

And there is one right there in front of my very eyes…

The Great Barbara Games, a festival celebrating the anniversary of Santa Barbara’s independence from California, is going on right now. Many surfers ride the waves on their surf boards, spinning around rapidly and performing amazing tricks. A hauntingly beautiful tone of a language I cannot place croons out over the speakers, and the surfers move in sync with it.

“What is this music?” I ask Francis. “Do you know?”

“This is Yamashita Tatsuro,” he says. “He’s the main Japanese City Pop musician from way back in the seventies and eighties. This song is… “Sparkle,” I think it’s called? I forget. But he’s like the Beach Boys, just Japanese.”

“What is this ‘Japanese’ you speak of? I hear only… Wait a minute. Is this Elven? Wait, ‘Sparkle,’ that’s it. I can make out some of the words now.”

Francis opens his mouth to speak, but then puts his hand on his jaw and pushes it back shut. He declines to press any further on the matter.

So Earth has the Elven language, but not the Elven people. Malia would be interested to hear that. Thalia, too, were she still alive back on Mystix. Alas…

I am still immersed by the synchronized surfing competition going on. These women and men and others who simply glide along the surface of the water on wooden boards, taking no heed to the fact that they are in serious danger if they ever fall off or are otherwise overtaken by the waters.

No sense of fear. Only excitement. Only passion and ambition.

These surfers are like me.

Very interesting, indeed…

Special: Francis Rants About Video Games

Francis loves video games.

So do most people on Earth in the year 2023, after all.

Video games are a multi-billion-dollar industry that entertain billions of people every year in all facets. Fandoms emerge for the smallest possible titles, and entire political movements form from those gamers who rise up from their chairs and march in the streets.

Francis Bacall, of course, is one part of that massive industry. A drop in the bucket, when all is said and done, but still an influencer to the highest degree. What he says directly impacts the opinions of hundreds of thousands of followers. Those followers then spread that message to others, and soon enough, Francis’s words go viral.

A year ago, he single-handedly revived the once-dead phenomenon known as “All Your Base Are Belong To Us” simply by making enough aggressively ironic memes about it on Y-Cast streams. Soon enough, Zero Wing returned to the cultural sphere and CATS himself became the brand spokesman for Red Bull in a few commercials. Somehow, Lionsgate picked up the rights to a Zero Wing movie, with Antoine Fuqua in talks to direct. Francis himself, of course, did not receive a cent for any of that. But it demonstrated the sheer power his personality could demonstrate.

Eryk Solbourne may be a strong, overpowered warrior of fists and fury, but Francis Bacall is a strong, correctly powered warrior of voice and keyboard.

And the next project he wants to embark on? Playing all the DS games of his childhood and introducing them to a whole new generation of streaming fans. He wants to innundate gaming culture with curiosity and nostalgia for what may have been the greatest period in all of video game history.

If he does it right, he has a chance to finally get Chibi-Robo to become a relevant franchise… but he has to do it right.

And, also, he has to actually find the games to be able to stream them.

Thus begins Francis’s new frantic quest to search for old video games in what some might consider a manic episode but Francis considers a new step in his career. Also technically he can use these games to help Eryk out but whatever.

This Get N Go here is pretty big, a lot bigger than a Gamestop would have been (RIP). And seeing as this may be one of the only used game stores in the entire Kingdom of Santa Barbara, it is likely to be the best selection they’ve got.

Francis has already figured out a streaming plan. His phone has a micro-USB port, and he knows that he can probably find a capture card somewhere in the store since that streamer boom in the early 20s oversaturated the market with countless products that were quickly discarded by the masses. Theoretically, if he just runs a Windows 7 virtual machine off his phone and uses one of those capture card programs, he’ll be able to stream 3DS games just fine. It will probably be harder in practice, but that’s the tough part of doing your day job while on a massive road trip to help your friend become a hero.

So as long as he has the ability to stream in his free time, that’s gonna be all he needs to keep the Bac-Nation going.

The Nintendo 3DS, first released in 2011, was the first hands-free 3D gaming system ever, and remains that way. Well, the model he has here is a New 2DS XL so it doesn’t have any of that, but still. The 3DS was the successor to the most popular handheld of all-time, but in the end sold far less due to a decline in casual gaming in the early 10s. Smartphone games took over and everyone caught the gacha game bug. But you can’t beat the classics, and the DS and 3Ds have got’em all.

The first game, already in his hands, is none other than the classic Electroplankton! It’s an interactive musical experience where you use plants and tiny fish to create sounds and, uh, do other stuff. It’s hard to explain, he realizes. The game is mostly known now for the awful Super Smash Bros. stage, and that is very sad because it could be so much more than that.

He’s already thinking of all the jamming tunes he could make with the game to impress Bac-Nation, then maybe get in a fake feud with Markiplier so they can both compete to make the best Electroplankton songs, and then bam it all goes viral for a week or two.

Another game just bred for post-ironic memery is the forgotten gem Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure. It’s a good game that is very stressful, yeah, but it’s also got an amazing selling point—an old gentleman explorer character who looks goofy and can be repurposed as a fake sex symbol among those whose irony knows no bounds. Francis expects to see deepfaked Henry Hatsworth porn within a month after that game goes viral.

But wait, no, he’d probably be better off playing something a bit better-known and more fondly remembered, such as Kid Icarus Uprising. Most people have forgotten the game by now, but as soon as they remember the soundtrack and Pit’s awful puns and the addicting crafting system, they’ll be sucked right back in. Maybe Francis could help influence Nintendo to get off their asses and make a new one?

Then, maybe after that, he can help redeem all of society by giving Codename: S.T.E.A.M. a fair shot. The fact that they live on an Earth like this… Where a video game about steampunk fighters—sorry, steampunk fighters such as Abraham Lincoln and Tom Sawyer fighting against aliens who are trying to gain control of the Necronomicon—ended up flopping bigtime… it’s a travesty and a sign that Francis lived in one of the bad timelines, for sure. You can play as Ike from Fire Emblem for some reason! Why did this game even flop?!

…Probably because Francis didn’t play it, and neither did anyone else.

Steel Diver and its online-only sequel Steel Diver Sub Wars are two more prime candidates for a stupid walk through memory lane, too, and they are both here for just 20 Barb Bucks each. Why are they so cheap? Because Nintendo printed way too many copies due to not having enough games on their system. Nobody cares about Steel Diver… but everyone has a copy, and each store has about twenty in reserve.

Francis still isn’t sure how the money conversion works, though. Right now, the price says it’s worth 20 Barb Bucks. But he could have sworn that five minutes ago when he went down this aisle and it was only 17. The financial advisor Brett did say that prices change dynamically because they are tied to a cryptocurrency… but does that really extend to the prices on the shelf of a used game store?

Ugh, this place is awful. He really hopes they can leave soon.

Ooh, a copy of Picross 3D! But puzzle games don’t really work for streaming. He’d buy it, but he wouldn’t have time to truly treasure it.

You know, though? He really does need some games that will be guaranteed to help Eryk out in his own quest. Streaming is good, but they still have no idea the extent of what Eryk’s Class Action allowances are. He got a point for winning in a fighting game, but will it be the same if he beats, say, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia? It’s a mystery.

So Francis should buy a few fighting games just in case.

Too bad that the 3DS and DS don’t really have very many of those…

The only ones here are a bunch of crappy anime fighting games. Not even Eryk could find those interesting… Well, the most famous one Jump Ultimate Stars, a big crossover of a hundred different mangas, is here and not too expensive, only 250 Barb Bucks—wait it’s 510—wait it’s 337. But that game is actually an import, and it’s all in Japanese. Will Eryk be able to follow along with that game? Well, if he needs help, Francis will be glad to lean over his shoulder and get really close to him to guide his way through the menus and tutorials.

In the end, the only games he finds that are convincingly enough of fighters that they will definitely work for Eryk are Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects (he’s never heard of it) and Naruto: Ninja Destiny (some retro anime thing).

Those will have to do…

Francis loves video games. He wishes he could spend the entire day in Get N Go, reminiscing about titles like Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol and Pocket Card Jockey and other games of his youth. Alas, he is on a journey, and that journey requires sacrifices.

He still spends like seven thousand Barb Bucks on video games, though.

Chapter 86: We Haven’t Gone Shopping In a While… Or At All, Really

It has certainly been a long time since we indulged ourselves in the lovely art of shopping for new items. In fact, aside from a brief trip to buy a phone for me at Paso Robles, I don’t think we have really done any shopping of merit. Some junk food to help me gain Destiny Points here, some toiletries from vending machines there. Certainly no shopping that would make The Goddess herself raise her TV-shaped head in awe.

Time for a shopping spree!

Two million Barb Bucks appears to be a very good sum of money, at least by my estimate. As we entered this mall we are currently in, I saw a food stand with an apple, and that apple was marked at twelve Barb Bucks. I asked mathematics genius Francis how many apples we could buy, and he said about 150,000! That is a lot of apples! A gross of apples, even.

So with the expectation of up to 150,000 apples’ worth of goods to buy ahead, we enter this Santa Barbara Kelly Slater Memorial Plaza with blazing hearts set on one thing—spend spend spend!

“I love spending money,” I say to my two best friends on all of Earth.

“I never took you for a big shopper,” Delta says. “Especially when you carried all that loot around without even selling it.”

“Well, one must get the best prices for their goods before they can spend it,” I say. “I still have many items with which I could potentially barter, if we run out.”

“I really hope we don’t run out,” Francis says. “I don’t want to be poor again. I haven’t been poor in a really long time…”

“You have never been poor in your life, Francis,” Delta says. “You’re like the encyclopedia image for white privilege.”

“So are you!” he retorts.

“Persians are not white!”

“Iran is literally ‘Aryan’ in Persian.”

“We are not getting into this again.” Delta turns to me. “Eryk, let’s spend so much money our heads spin, okay?”


“Oh, fine,” Francis whines.

Because we lost everything from our hotel room in Paso Robles, all the way down to our clothing, we will have to replace all of it. I guess, technically, we could have gone back to the hotel after defeating the cultists and avoiding the rebel forces, but the city was going up in flames already and we didn’t want to risk it.

So now with nothing but the clothes on my back, our phones, and two million Barb Bucks, we’re ready to go.

First up: clothes shopping.

Clothes are one of the most interesting things in all of human society. They are what set us apart from each other and make us the fun, unique, productive sentients we are. They are expressions of personality, of taste, of the souls deep inside each and every one of us. These statements appear redundant and unnecessary, but I can assure that they are all necessary when talking about the cultural power of what we wear.

So imagine my surprise when I try on some nice outfits and my two friends give me suspicious and annoyed glares! The life-sized plastic dolls in front of the store showed some very nice outfits that interest me quite a lot. But after I change into them, it is as if I am committing some sort of crime…

I simply don’t understand Earth culture, even after so many days here…

“Eryk, you can’t…” Delta sighs. “I get it, I know, it’s just…”

Francis also sighs. “Sorry, Eryk.”

“What? I did nothing wrong!”

“You can’t wear skirts and blouses, Eryk,” Francis says. “That’s girl clothes.”

“But… That is ludicrous!” I exclaim. “I look stunning in this flowery pink dress, do I not? Pink is the color of power and honor in North Spiran culture. We compliment our hair and eyes with our manner of dress, and that extends to our casual everyday wear as well. I have long awaited my day to try on an outfit that suits me.”

I twirl around to let my skirt flow around in the air for a moment. It is striking.

“It’s just one of those modern injustices,” Francis explains to me, though I can hardly comprehend it. “For some reason, in the past two hundred or so years all clothes were just divided up into what’s acceptable and what’s not for girls or boys or others, and our entire culture is shaped by it. Nobody knows why skirts are only for girls but that’s just how it is now.”

“Why I never… How could the world be like this? I don’t really understand it at all.”

“Neither do we,” Delta says. “It’s just the way it is.”

“So I can’t wear skirts…”

They both shrug. “Well, you CAN,” Delta says.

“So I can, but it will not be socially acceptable in any way?”

They both shrug again. “We do live in California,” Francis says.

A fiery spirit builds up within me. “You know what? No! Skirts are a fundamental part of the honor of North Spire and I will not abandon it for some silly Earth culture nonsense. All six of my fathers wore skirts for formal occasions and as summer wear. I will do the same.”

They both shrug yet again.

And with that last shrug round, I make my purchase final with a set of six different skirts and blouses, along with swimwear to accommodate the fact that we reside in a beach city and may want to go to the ocean.

After this, it is time to gain fashionable clothing for the other two members of the Systemless Squad.

Francis’s choice of clothing seems to be entirely made up of t-shirts with graphic logos on them, as well as button-up plaid shirts to go over it. It seems a bit too hot for two layers, but then again I have been sporting an overcoat for much of my journey thus far. He also buys oversized shorts that have a large number of pockets. They appear to be referred to as “cargo shorts,” whatever that means.

Delta, on the other hand, goes into the changing room with a gigantic bundle of clothing in her arms and stays in there for what seems like eons.

What could she be doing in there? The entire time I have known her, she has worn nothing but formal clothing like dress shirts and skirts. Her style is as plain as an overcooked haven root.

But then I remember something—

—something that I completely forgot about until just now—

—something that completely redefines who Delta Rafati is in my mind—

—just as she exits the dressing room in her new dress.

She used to be a gothic lolita fashion fan! That type of clothing so popular it crosses into both Mystix and Earth. And right now she is wearing just such a dress!

It’s black and white, filled with frills and flowing all the way to the ground. There is even a bow tie at her breastplate that enhances her bare neck. If she had access to the correct dark makeup, she would already be fully ready to present herself as a Queen of Darkness.

Francis and I are both so shocked by this turn of events that we are unable to speak whatsoever.

And because neither of us speak, Delta’s neutral expression turns into an annoyed frown. “If it’s that bad, just say something, you assholes,” she says.

“No, no, you misunderstand,” I say. “It is wonderful. But it is simply… unexpected.”

“Yeah, didn’t you, like, totally lambast the entire concept of gothic lolita fashion a couple days ago?” Francis asks. “I can distinctly remember you saying that you hated me and wanted me to die when I talked about your cute phase.”

“Well… I changed my mind,” she says, her voice quivering. “I’m not some monolithic structure. I’m a human being. And… a cute one, too.” She certainly is giving off no hint of cuteness from her voice and expression, that is for sure.

“You’re really gonna wear that dress around Santa Barbara? Really? Just to help out the team?” Francis claps his hands together. His eyes sparkle. “What a wonderful human being. A lovely little gal.”

“No matter what I’m wearing, I can still punch you out.”

“What caused such a radical shift in your demeanor?” I ask. “Was it the perils we have faced these past few days? Was it the lack of fashionable sense here in Santa Barbara among the locals? Or was it that you believed you might be upstaged by my wonderful purchases that—”

Delta grabs me by the shoulders—

But lets go instead of pummeling me as she had a furious hankering to do. “Sometimes, Eryk, you just gotta shut up.”

“Yeah, Eryk,” says Francis. “My cutie pie here doesn’t have to answer all your rude questions.”

She glares at Francis and then goes back into the dressing room.

When she comes back out, she is again wearing her business casual outfit. In her arms are more sets of dress shirts and pants. No dresses.

…We defeated her. We poked fun at Delta’s demeanor so much that she immediately ceased her endeavor towards gothic lolita fashion. We are bullies.

I feel so guilty about this…

Well, at least we have actual sets of clothing now. And, soon after, we purchase suitcases as well so that we can fit our clothes into those portable wheeled boxes that make Earth travel so much more convenient. On Mystix, one must either use a horse, a zebra, or a carriage to transport large amounts of goods. Otherwise, it all must be carried on one’s back. Here on Earth, though, one can carry a large amount on their back and then roll two large suitcases behind, one on each hand. I imagine with great coordination one could even carry two in one hand.

Imagine the amount of materials one could move with the power of suitcases! It is like a home away from home, all wrapped up neatly in wheeled boxes.

Next, we take a stop at a place called “Get N Go.” It is some sort of electronics store. Here in the shop I see many of the same character artwork and visual design of the convention I was first reborn in all those days ago. The nostalgia flows into me. Oh, those simple times when I did not know what a cosplay was.

This store takes Francis for a wild ride of sorts. He frantically searches here and there and everywhere. He picks up many plastic cases and runs up to me. “Yo! There’s so many games I’ve got to show you,” he says. “Like Fortune Street. Man, you’d love that one. And Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime. And Stardew Valley. Plus, like, the whole Dungeon Core Saga Series. All of it.”

“I do not understand…”

“It’s video games! If winning in video game battles gives you Destiny Points, then you need to play a ton of them, and so portable games are exactly what we need,” he explains. “Anytime you’re not doing cool stuff like trying new food and seeing new sights, you should be grinding up your skills in the Foodie’s Enigma game. Or maybe the Blessed Time game.”

“Grinding… I forgot what that means already.”

Francis doesn’t answer, as he is immediately distracted by other plastic devices. “Holy crap, a used 3DS on sale for forty bucks! I gotta get this. Man, I haven’t played one of these in forever…”

“3DS. What is that?” I ask.

Delta answers for him. “Some stupid video game junk. Don’t worry about it.”

“I wonder if I can stream on this thing if I hook it up to my phone somehow…” Francis rambles to himself.

I turn to Delta. “What will become of him?”

“Nothing good,” she says. “We need to leave before he starts explaining old games to us for the next two hours.”

“I see… That does not sound like a pleasant fate. Might we go get something to eat?”

“You ever had fish and chips?”

“Never,” I say.

“Then let’s go get some.”

We leave the Get N Go video game store while Francis continues to look at all of the used games. I can hear him rant to himself all the way until I shut the door behind me.

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