My ponderances at the Burger Box have lead me to wonder what it was that made me pick the [Adventurer] class to begin with.
In fact, my memories of when I first accepted the system are somewhat hazy, now. It has only been two years, but I was so caught up in the exhilaration of starting a new phase of my life that I remember almost none of the specifics.
Why [Adventurer?] Why did I want a class that required such vague Class Actions? Had I been a [Hunter,] a [Lord,] even a [Butler,] surely I’d have had a much wider variety of Class Actions I could take here on Earth. But I had to pick [Adventurer.]
“Why don’t you switch classes, then?” Francis asks.
We are headed out of the Burger Box and back into Delta’s horseless carriage. Again, she sits in the front, while Francis and I sit in the back.
“Don’t forget to buckle up,” he adds, forcing me to attach this seat belt.
“This infernal thing is useless against a real monster,” I say. “I hate it.”
“Well, it’s better than getting thrown out the window.”
I sigh. “As for your question of class-switching, it is possible only when one has possession of a Sorting Scepter, the magical item that grants system access to beings on Mystix. I will go ahead and assume those do not exist on Earth.”
“Good assumption,” Delta says.
“Plus, if you switch your class, your level resets to 1, and your rank resets to F. You essentially start from the beginning all over again. I do not wish to do that, even if it is possible to add an entirely new set of helpful cards to your Destiny Deck by doing so.”
The horseless carriage begins to move, with Delta steering it. We go back onto a busy street filled with many other horseless carriages. I wonder, do they even have horses in this world?
“Where are we going?” Francis asks.
“I’m dropping you two off at your house,” Delta responds. “The old ball and chain wants me back for dinner. We’re having broccoli casserole.”
“And broccoli casserole is more important than helping Eryk?!”
“He has nine days left to heal himself. We have plenty of time.”
“I agree with the woman,” I say. “I am not worried about anything but finding opportunities to level up. My health is of no importance as of yet.”
“Well, fine, then…”
“One thing I am considering, though,” I say, “is discarding one of my Destiny Cards.”
“Oh, of course, I forgot to say. When you discard a card from your hand, you gain half its rank back in Destiny Points. Rounding down, that means my Rank 5 [Absorb] card is worth… 2 Destiny Points.”
“Oh, that’s exactly how much you need to level up, isn’t it? That’s great!” Francis exclaims.
“Of course, it would be foolish of me to waste the full heal that comes with a level-up when I still have so many Life Points left, so I will not discard this card and heal myself until things become dire. But either way, that is a great assurance that we will need no hurry for me to figure out how I can gain more Destiny Points.”
“Well, that’s pretty good,” Delta says. “But wh—”
I feel a sudden burst of air, and then—
A loud sound, like an explosion.
The entire horseless carriage is flying through the air, and, strapped into the vehicle, so are the three of us.
It is bizarre to think that it is even possible to commit such an act in all of existence. Nearly unfathomable.
But here I am.
My hands on the object of my dreams. A big hunk of meat within my grasp.
I savor the taste. The succulent aroma, the pungent tang, the stinging overload of salt.
I have become one with the meat.
For the first time in my life, I have begun to eat something known as a “hamburger.” For the life of me, I cannot think of a single piece of food I have ever eaten that comes close to the flavor, the texture, the all-around quality of the item in my mouth at this exact moment. The Goddess, strike me down for saying this, but I believe this is as close to perfection as one can reach.
“You, uh, enjoying that burger?” Francis asks. He sits across from me in the booth to this extremely fancy restaurant, fittingly named Burger Box.
I do not reply, as I am currently devouring my sixth sandwich in a row. I simply cannot get enough, and my muscles are nearly literally thanking me for the meat. It is being absorbed into my body even as I eat.
“You’ve, um, got some ketchup on your armor there,” he says. “I’m just going to…” He takes a paper handkerchief and wipes the red liquid off my breastplate.
“Are we quite done?” Delta asks, sitting next to Francis and crossing her arms. It appears she is showing me a sign of weakness in deference to my abilities, but she has also suggested things that make me wonder if she is as polite and courteous to me as things seem. Quite a complicated fellow.
“I wish to continue savoring this delectable feast,” I say. “However, I know our time is short. So I must tell you what you wish to know.”
“Yes, please tell us how it is you ‘came to Earth,’” Delta says.
“Well, it is a special tale that will shock as much as it may delight. The tale of Eryk Solbourne, D-Rank [Adventurer] from the realm of Mystix, is a storied one, and it may be nothing like what you may find on Earth.”
“This sounds really cool,” says Francis. He grabs a “french fry” and dips it in the red, tangy sauce spread out on a paper handkerchief.
“It all starts in North Spire, a mystical region filled with large towering mountains and the people who live on them. We North Spirans are a simple folk, content to farm for haven roots and live a quiet life. We are often considered outcasts by the rest of human society, for our pink hair and pink eyes are a surefire sign of low intelligence and provincial naivety in the eyes of anyone who sees us.”
“Your hair and eyes are real?” Delta asks.
“Of course. Unlike the fool Francis here, I am the real thing. A real North Spiran, rather than a sick impostor.”
“I told you, I’m cosplaying Blaze Blitzer,” he says. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know your culture was some fantasy racial minority…”
“Are pink-haired beings common here?”
“No, we only have natural hair colors on Earth. Black and brown and blonde and gray and sometimes red. Anyone else has a wig, or they dyed their hair.”
“So all those people at the convention center…”
I can’t help but frown at that. My status as an outsider, not only on Mystix but on Earth as well… grows more obvious. “Well, I shall persevere.”
“Or you can dye your hair,” says Delta.
I continue with my history. “North Spire was a peaceful place until several years ago, during my childhood. The Slayers, a great force of mercenaries and monsters, attacked our land and made a martyr out of a great number of people. My family, my own people, attacked indiscriminately by savages. Ever since that day, I swore vengeance.
“I would become the first S-Rank hero in a millennium and defeat any who would defy peace and prosperity in Mystix. I would become the great protector of the realm and make sure no group like the Slayers ever came forth again.
“But it would be a tough path. From the moment I accepted the system, the moment I took the [Adventurer] class, I began a perilous journey that has been fraught with hardship. I joined Team Fanghook, an Adventurer’s Guild outfit that explored the world, resolved conflicts, and raided dungeons, and spent two years with them. I found companionship, I found combat, and most of all, I found love.”
Delta twitches at this. “You…” She does not continue her thought.
“It was on one final mission, where Team Fanghook fought a malevolent necromancer, where I finally left this world. Being only a D-Rank hero after two years, the other team members decided I should not advance into the lower levels of the dark dungeon and asked me to return to the surface to sell our loot so far at the nearby village.
“It was when I reached that village that I found children playing in the street as a speeding carriage came down the road in their direction. I had to act.
“I saved them, but… Not myself.
“When I awoke, The Goddess herself gave me the opportunity to be reborn again in a new world, with a new chance to become the hero I was meant to be. She told me that my memories would be reset and my system would be erased, but… Something happened. I ended up here on Earth, with everything intact, all the way down to my Destiny Cards the same. My Life Points had been restored to maximum, but that was it.”
“You…” Delta is still unable to say what she wishes, it seems.
“Wow, that’s story’s kind of…” Francis begins.
Then, in unison, they say, “You really do have an RPG origin.”
“Uh, nevermind,” Francis says. “So you arrived here on Earth after all that, and so you were very confused because the convention was probably the absolute worst place on the entire planet for you to be reborn, huh. Poor thing.”
“I adapted, thanks in large part to the two of you. Now, I know that costumes are very common here, and that cosplays are not monsters.”
“So, what the hell are Destiny Cards and all that?” Delta asks. “You keep mentioning them like they’re something we should know.”
“Ah, that would be more complicated to explain to someone not already integrated into the system,” I say. “But I shall do my best. You see, when you accept the system on my world, you gain the ability to level-up and improve your skills. You also have the ability to draw Destiny Cards from your Destiny Deck, gaining magical abilities, typically one-time use, that can provide you tremendous help in combat and elsewhere.
“But it all comes at the cost of Life Points. The cursed amalgamation of your entire essence. Every action you take, whether that be using a Destiny Card, fighting, or even simply breathing, drains Life Points from your total. If you hit zero… You die.”
“Ah, yeah, you told me about that before,” Francis says. “It’s like HP, Stamina, and Magic all pooled into one stat. Isn’t that a pretty interesting system, Delta?”
“Maybe for gamers.”
“Yes, I still do not quite know what those terms mean, but it is certainly like a pooled source of all our energies put together. And we can only heal in two ways—one, by drawing Destiny Cards with a heal power, which is a rare occurrence, or by leveling up, which raises one’s LP back to full.”
“And your Life Points right now?” Delta asks.
“Out of a total of fifteen thousand, my Life Points right now are at…” I look at the top of my HUD to see the current total. “13,065,” I say.
“Just a little bit over nine days left,” Francis says, “assuming you don’t do anything but sit there and breathe in and out and don’t get too hungry or anything.”
“Correct. I have little over a week to level up.”
“And how do you do that?” Delta asks. For some peculiar reason, despite her cold expression towards me, she seems to be somewhat interested in my situation. She sure is asking plenty of questions, at least.
“To level-up, I must collect and spend 25 Destiny Points. At D-Rank, that is. The number will increase if I increase to C-Rank someday.”
“And to get these point things…?”
“Ah, that is more complicated. Gaining Destiny Points is a somewhat unknown aspect of the entire system, still not fully researched even by our top [Mages.] We know that it is heavily correlated with something we call Class Actions, or the fulfillment of the destinies of the class we choose. As an [Adventurer,] my class actions consist of combat, exploration, and discovery. The more monsters I defeat, the more places I discover, the more I shall gain Destiny Points.”
“And so if you don’t kill a lot of stuff, you’re going to die in like a week.” Delta shakes her head. “You’re shit out of luck on Earth, then. Indiscriminate fighting isn’t exactly accepted these days.”
“Well, the Class Actions for [Adventurer] are indeed somewhat vague as far as research has shown. Fighting may not be the primary method, as much as it may be other things. Indeed, in my time at the convention center, I gained three Destiny Points without truly attempting it.”
“One was for discovering the delicacy known as combos. The other two are mysterious, but they came to me upon successfully evading capture by those blue-uniformed fellows.”
Delta shakes her head, as is her habit, I have discerned by now. “Wow, just… wow.”
“I have twenty-three Destiny Points now, so I only need two to be able to level-up.”
“So we need to cart you around the country, getting you involved in mayhem and fights over and over again until you miraculously get these points just to keep yourself from dying?” Delta suggests.
“That’s a terrible idea, Delta,” Francis says. “We can’t just let Eryk get arrested. What will they do with him? Probably as soon as they find out he’s some fantasy magic guy the government spooks will come around and dissect him like he’s E.T.! We don’t want that to happen to Eryk, now do we?”
“I was being sarcastic.”
“I can offset the Life Points drain somewhat for now,” I say, “with use of one of my cards known as [Minor Heal.] I had been saving it for an emergency, but… This may be one.”
I activate the [Minor Heal] card. A blue glow swirls around me for a brief moment, then enters through my heart.
The two of them must have seen the card activation, because their eyes are wide open in surprise.
“He really isn’t bullshitting,” Delta mutters.
“Told you,” replies Francis.
“Now, because of that, I have one empty slot in my Destiny Card hand,” I say. “My hand has seven slots in total, but three are in use as inventory slots, and three more have cards in them already. I shall list them for you.”
Transmigrated Spirit: Rank 3. Summon an otherworldly spirit to assist for five minutes.
Super Hearing: Rank 1. Increase sonic perception abilities dramatically for five minutes. Cost: 70 LP.
Absorb: Rank 5. A healing attack that drains LP from the target. Must have direct contact. Cost: 0 LP.
“A rank 5 card is one of the rarest you can acquire, so I hope you know the sheer value that [Absorb] adds to my repertoire,” I say.
Francis is elated to hear these. “So you have those three, plus that heal thing you just did, plus that energy sword thing you did way back in the park. You have so many cool powers! You’re like the world’s most versatile superhero.”
“You may say that, but with these cards being one-time use, it is highly difficult to keep a consistent set of abilities on-hand. Literally.”
“Then draw another one,” Delta says.
“I do have an empty slot, but there are only two ways to draw a card from my Destiny Deck. One, the traditional method, is by spending 5 Destiny Points. I have 23, so that is not impossible. However, I do wish to level up soon, so I do not want to take the risk. Two is the less traditional method, accomplished by sacrificing one’s own Life Points to summon a new card. This is randomized between 500 and 1,500 Life Points, and in the upper bounds can be extremely costly, especially if you draw a lower-rank card.”
“But you should still do it,” Delta repeats.
“I do have a fondness for keeping my Destiny Deck at maximum cards, even at the cost of my Life Points, so I will indulge your request.”
Here it goes…
That was far too many points! That was even more than the [Minor Heal] card I just used!
Regardless, here is the new card I have drawn:
Minor Heal: Rank 2. Gain 1,000 LP. Cost: 0 LP.
“Well, what was it?” Francis asks. “Something cool?”
“It was.. erm, another [Minor Heal] card.”
“Is that good?”
“Well, considering I spent 1,211 Life Points to draw it…” I sigh.
So does Delta. “So we really need to find you a way to level up before you end up killing yourself, huh?”
“Perhaps that is the best course of action.”
I do not know how the course of my path to heroism will continue. It should fill me with great anxiety, and yet it does not. The only thing it fills me with is anticipation, happiness, and… hunger.
“May I order another of your ‘hamburgers?’”
Francis takes out some coins and hands them to me. “Yeah, sure thing…”
“…no serious injuries, but the damage done to the Vendor Hall appear to be catastrophic. One officer broke a leg during the chase.”
Some mysterious voice relays the reports of our escape from the convention center. It appears to be coming from the front of the horseless carriage. I cannot fathom how.
So much of this world, this Earth, is strange to me. Everything feels so bizarre, like it is an approximation of everything I knew in my original life, but altered in these ways that seem to make everything easier. Or perhaps more complex, in some ways.
A horseless carriage appears like it would make for a quite efficient use of resources. Horses take many years to raise and train, not to mention the food and rest they require. Creating some sort of vehicle that can operate fully on its own is something out of a dream to me.
And yet, it is a dream that I am living.
I wonder… is this all some dream? Will I wake up soon and find myself in a tent with my arms wrapped around Malia, feeling the touch of her lips as she presses them against my waking face?
The pangs of guilt, of longing hit my heart like a Rank 1 Destiny Card pull.
Malia, Miss M, Borguk, Thalia… They will never know what truly happened to me. They will either think I ran off with the loot and took all the riches for myself, or they will think something terrible must have happened to me. But either way, they will never find their answer.
So much for becoming a valuable member of Team Fanghook. So much for proving to the world that North Spirans aren’t some backwoods hicks with no smarts and no skills. Now I’m in a new world where everything is so different, so dreamlike in its modernities that I can’t help but feel it is all fake.
How I long for the sensation of Malia’s fingertips against my cheek. Even right now, I would give much to see her, to see everyone, one last time and tell them what happened, where I went.
But… I don’t think I’d go back. Not yet, at least.
Earth is such a new and exciting place for me.
A real chance to finally become the S-Rank [Adventurer] I’ve dreamed so much about! This world has no system, at least from what Francis told me. But I DO have a system. I’m… special!
Just the thought of being someone so unique and unprecedented makes me giddy. Imagine the possibilities for a system-powered hero to save a world with no system in place to help them grow or level-up? A whole world of weakling pre-F-Rank non-heroes with not a clue of what they’re missing out on!
I’m going to obliterate all expectations.
Francis, who has been silent for a while, looks across the horseless carriage to me and notices me nearly vibrating in my seat from the sheer excitement. “What’s got you all riled up?” he asks.
“You say there is no system on Earth, correct?”
“No, uh, RPG system or anything like that. We’re just everyday average humans.”
“And the elves? The catkin?”
“Uhh… No, we don’t have those.”
Delta, the woman in the front seat who is steering this large contraption, sighs loudly. She must think that Francis is a very dull person. I do not disagree, but I find that a valuable part of his charm.
“Nonsense,” I say. “Of course you have elves and catkin. I saw plenty of them at the Miller Lite Memorial Convention Center.”
“No, that was… cosplayers.”
“Cosplays? I thought we went out to the field to fight them, but I couldn’t see any. I thought at the time that that was a consequence of my altered system being incompatible with that of your world, but if it truly turns out that there is no system here… Then I shall have to admit I am quite confused.”
“You wanted to fight… wait, Cosplays… OHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” Francis slaps himself in the forehead. “It makes so much sense now. All of this ridiculous silliness is a series of increasingly idiotic misunderstandings. I’m a clown, aren’t I?”
“You’re a clown,” Delta says.
“If that is what you wish to be,” I say, “The [Clown] class has many advantages for its non-combat abilities. They say your charm can triple overnight by the time you reach C-Rank [Clown] status.” When nobody replies to me, I add, “I realize that you must not understand anything I am speaking of. I apologize.”
“No, no, it’s fine. You’re the one who’s brand-new to this world. I’m not good at… Gosh, I’m sorry, Eryk.”
Delta sighs again. “Francis,” she says. “Francis…”
“I know what it looks like!” he exclaims. “Really, this guy right here has magic powers, I swear. He can poof weapons into his hand like nothing. He summoned a friggin’ lightning sword and blew up a tree! There is something special about Eryk and we need to help him.”
“I do indeed require assistance,” I say. “I am still unfamiliar with the customs and cultures of this world, and at times I feel that I have embarrassed myself. Such as with this ‘cosplays’ situation that I am still unaware of.”
“Listen, ‘Eryk,’” Delta begins. “Francis is one of the most popular streamers on Y-Cast, but he is a very emotionally vulnerable young man who is far too trusting for his own good. If you are toying with him, and I find proof of that, I will obliterate you.”
“…I understand, ma’am.”
“Don’t call me ma’am. I’m twenty-two, for Christ’s sake.” She sneers at me through the rear-view mirror.
“I understand, Delta Rafati.”
“Now, to answer your question,” she tells me, “Cosplayers are people, not fantasy creatures to kill. Cosplay means ‘costume play.’ It’s people dressing up, just like Francis over there, and presumably just like you in your Blaze Blitzer outfit.”
“I still do not understand why people keep calling me that…”
“You look just like him,” she says.
“I know, doesn’t he?” Francis laughs. “It’s crazy. He really has no idea what the Dungeon Core Saga Series is, Delta. Can you believe it?”
“I wouldn’t know what it was if you didn’t constantly talk about it.”
“But you’re not a gamer.”
“Neither is he.”
“I am not a gamer,” I say. “I do not know what that means.”
Delta lets out yet another sigh. It is getting to the point that I wonder if she has some sort of illness relating to the action. I worry for her. “So you’re from a fantasy world where there’s dungeons and dragons, ghouls and ghosts and goblins, wizards and warriors, toejams and earls, right?”
“Not all of those things exist, though I can indeed confirm that dungeons, dragons, wizards, and ghosts are all aplenty in the world of Mystix. I’m not sure what a t—”
“But Earth isn’t like that. No RPG system guiding your destiny. No elves and orcs and sexy catgirls. Everything you saw at the convention was humans in costumes, because humans are the only race on Earth.”
“So you’re saying, no golems.”
“I doubt it.”
“Beavers, like the fancy little creatures that build dams with their tails and live in the rivers.”
“Oh, no, those exist,” Delta says. “I mean we are the only species of higher intelligence.”
“So beavers on Earth don’t like to go to the local pub and tell stories…”
“No, they do not.”
I felt devastated. Only humans. An entire planet of one race. Even if that race is my own, how am I supposed to live without the thought of ever seeing a demonspawn or a minotaur ever again?
Francis puts a hand on my shoulder and looks at me with sympathy. “Cheer up, buddy,” he says. “Earth’s a great place. Even if our beavers can’t talk.”
“I’m never going to get to hear another story about the Great Dam War of 478, ever again…”
“You can hear lots of other war stories from humans!” he exclaims. “We have lots of wars. America has been at war nonstop for over eighteen years now. That’s a lot of stories!”
“I’d like to hear them sometime.”
“And maybe you will. But first, I think we need to hear your story. Mind if you tell it to us?”
For some reason, this cheers me up. Cheers me up a lot. “Only if I tell it over a pint of mead and a cut of lamb,” I say. “I have a grand tale to tell the two of you.”
“I have a better idea,” Delta says. “I’m pulling into Burger Box.”
Surely the home of Earthian cuisine, the likes of which I have never before conceived of. Already today I have consumed combos. What shall be next?
“What the hell?! What the hell did you DO?!” Francis screams.
“I think I messed up,” I respond.
Now people are running, screaming, not just the two of us. The uniformed men still pursue us, but in a practical sense, they, too, are running away from the burning disaster in the Vendor Hall.
A list of reasons that firing a fire arrow in the middle of a crowded indoor shopping district is not a good idea:
Arrows have a high probability of hitting people. My arrow did not hit anyone, but it very well could have injured or killed an innocent civilian.
Using weapons in enclosed areas causes panics. Panics cause stampedes.
Fire is very dangerous. It can hurt a lot of people.
Fire burns uncontrollably. Shopping areas have many flammable objects. Fires grow quickly when there are many flammable objects nearby.
I will admit that mistakes were made. These mistakes could potentially be leading to catastrophic, cascading failures.
Some hero I am.
A D-Rank [Adventurer?] Me?
Well… You know what? It did stop the pursuit, for the most part. There’s so much screaming and so much panic over the growing fire behind us that the uniformed men are unable to keep up. Some of them even peel off to attempt to contain the chaos.
One of the uniformed men trips and falls over himself.
[+1 Destiny point.]
Thank you HUD for giving me another Destiny Point to use later on. I sure hope that guy is okay, though. I would be awfully miffed to learn that the damage I am currently causing is to the detriment of everyone else around me. I would much prefer the damage to be temporary and something we can eventually remember and laugh at.
Francis, whose wrist is still in my firm grip, is hyperventilating. He is no longer screaming, as I believe he has mostly given up on attempting to rationalize the situation.
I am a true hero. One of the greatest heroes, indeed. That’s twenty three Destiny Points, if you are one to keep track. I certainly am.
We exit the Vendor Hall, where some sort of magical system at the ceiling has activated and begun spraying jets of water down to douse the flames below. Now, we are in the main hall. It, too, is rife with people running, a frenzy of exactly the kind of active action that makes being an [Adventurer] so fun.
I love this!
At the front entrance, the same uniformed man from before, the one who checked my sword, stands in front, a stick in his arm, raised with a shaky grip. “S-stop right… there…” he mumbles.
“Have a nice day, sir,” I say as we run by. He does not attempt to attack or apprehend us, in the end.
We have again exited the convention center and now we are running to our next destination…
“Where are we supposed to be going?” I ask Francis. I slow down my running speed and then let Francis go.
There’s a loud screeching sound in the distance.
“You hear that?” he asks. “That’s police sirens. The cops are coming to arrest us.”
“For such a minor trespass? What a foolhardy group. I will strike them down with the tip of my blade.”
“N-no, you don’t have to do that. In fact, don’t do that at all. Running is much better than fighting on Earth, because when you hurt people on Earth, you get sent to prison.”
“Practically worthless, this world.”
Francis shrugs. “Well, we need to get out of here, like, right this instant.”
“Well, I had a chance to send some texts while we were running from the cops. You may be good at one-handed bow and arrow shooting, but I’m good at one handed texting. You never know when something like that will come in handy!”
“I don’t understand anything you are saying, but go on.”
“Well, I sent a few messages that are going to prove very useful in the near future.”
“The near future?”
“By the new future, i mean right about…”
“I don’t, er, see what you are referring to,” I say.
Francis’s demeanor collapses. “I thought it would be so cool if I timed it dramatically…”
About thirty seconds later, a horseless carriage pulls up in front of us, with a woman seemingly piloting this thing all by her lonesome. The window inside rolls down, magically by itself, and she leans over to say, “I’m here. Get in.”
We get in.
The “police sirens” grow louder and louder as they draw closer. But, miraculously, before their new contingent of horseless carriages arrives at the convention center, ours has already departed the scene. We have escaped the wrath of those who wish to do us harm.
Francis and I both sit in the back seats, with this mysterious woman in the front. She looks back at me through a rear-view mirror, and then at Francis.
For what it is worth, though, Francis seems completely preoccupied looking at me.
He shakes his head. “That back there, that was…” He looks at me more closely. Then he raises a hand, as if to strike me. “That was… really frickin’ fun.”
His hand is still raised. I keep my face back just in case he means to slap me.
“Oh, uh, this is supposed to be a high-five,” he says. “You’re supposed to clap my hand.”
“Clap? How would one… Ah, I see.” I raise my hand and slap it against his.
“Ack!” Francis reels backwards.
The woman in the front eyes me again. “This man. He’s it?” she asks.
“Isn’t he so… cool…?” Francis asks, fighting through the apparent pain.
“The radio said there was a fire caused by two pink-haired cosplayers. Thousands of dollars in damages.”
“I do not believe I have had the pleasure of making your acquaintance,” I say to the woman. “My name is Eryk Solbourne, a D-Rank [Adventurer] from the world known as Mystix. I am new to the Earth, so I wish to apologize for any burdens I may cause while I am learning the customs and systems.”
“Quite the catch,” the woman says.
“Her name is Delta Rafati,” Francis tells me. “Delta’s my best friend. She may be a little direct sometimes, but she means well.”
“Ah, I know well the pitfalls of dealing with those who are at times overly confident in their own ability to communicate,” I say. “This Delta woman must be too enthused with her skills to understand tact and reason. Well, I prefer someone more blunt, anyhow.”
“I’m going to throw him out of the car in about fifteen seconds,” Delta says.
And thus ends our adventure at the Miller Lite Memorial Convention Center. Now, in the middle of this horseless carriage, it is clear to me that my adventure has only just begun. We have escaped the prologue, the tutorial to the rest of my life. Now it will be time to begin my real journey. I will become the first S-Rank Hero in millennia, even if I do so on a brand-new world with brand-new rules. It is the goal I set out for myself, and I will achieve it at any cost.
In commemoration of today’s great successes, winning a battle against many foes, defeating a paper-made skeleton, and starting a fire to escape mysterious uniformed pursuers, I deserve a bonus. And that bonus, as always, will be drawing a Destiny Card.
I pull up my Destiny Deck and sacrifice Life Points to draw a new card.
The new card is—
Absorb: Rank 5. A healing attack that drains LP from the target. Must have direct contact. Cost: 0 LP.
…Wow! A Rank 5 card! That’s just about the rarest you can get. And to boot, it’s a Destiny Card that has the ability to heal me if my Life Points get low. What a boon. What an absolute boon.
Yes, I am indeed thinking that this is going to be an adventure worth chronicling.
I have been chased many times before in my life, but this is perhaps the strangest time I have ever run from anything.
For one, it is in the middle of the Miller Lite Memorial Convention Center, inside its Vendor Hall where thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, are gathered in the greatest bazaar my eyes have ever shown me. There are so many people, so much going on, so many sounds and colors, paintings and “video games,” that I am having a hard time processing it all.
It’s too packed. Running away like this is the same as bolting through the middle of a battlefield, only you are not allowed to hurt anyone because everyone involved is presumably an innocent bystander.
I say presumably, because there are still plenty of armored individuals with swords, axes, and decks of cards that I assume are energy infused throwing weapons.
For two, I have to run with my hand holding Francis’s wrist. He’s not in shape and he’s dragging me down like crazy. Keeping him from the blue-uniformed officers, likely of the local militia or guard unit, creates an even greater burden on me.
“Stop! Halt!” a uniformed man shouts.
For how inconvenient the crowds are, at least they are hampering our pursuers just about the same amount.
I don’t have any Destiny Cards I can use to my advantage, and I certainly can’t throw around my sword wildly. So there isn’t anything I can do to stop them from pursuing me.
Ah yes, that’s right.
I do have an option—
My bow an arrow!
I draw my bow and arrow out from my inventory, poofing the items into my free hand almost instantly. I’m still running, still holding Francis’s wrist, but I’m doing a great job at setting all of this up.
You see, I am an expert at bowmanship, and that includes setting up a shot and firing my bow with just one hand. It’s a very valuable skill.
And I launch my arrow behind me to make sure that it stops the officers.
“Now that I am no longer hungry, I can prevent any extra loss of Life Points.”
“You’re going to have to explain that one to me,” Francis says. “What are life points?”
“What… That is very difficult to explain. Do you not have a similar system in your world? Your ‘Earth,’ as you call it?”
Francis and I make our way through this convention center building, entering something that is apparently called the Vendor’s Hall. A vast array of sellers tout their wares and push upon consumers as many products as possible. My senses, not yet attuned to the Earth’s interesting culture elements, are having a tough time soaking in everything around me. It is so overwhelming that I can hardly notice any one thing in particular.
In general, though… I can say there is a lot of artwork on display at these various vendor booths. Most of this artwork is of women, and most have sizeable bosoms. Some even greater than sizable—they are downright large.
“We have no ‘system,’ on Earth,” Francis tells me. “We are not an RPG.”
“So you do not grow in skill or strength? The beings here simply stay static your entire lives?”
I scoff. “Then surely you have a system. On Mystix, we have to accept the system ourselves to gain control of our HUD and our class system, but everyone who lives, regardless of accepting the system or not, is still under its control and influence. Otherwise the [Inspect] ability would be useless in giving the user stat charts.”
“I don’t know what to tell you. We don’t have that stuff.”
“Well, we don’t have Life Points or whatever, and that’s a fact. What are they?”
“They are… the stat that make up every being’s entire self. They tell us how much of our essence, our health remains. Every action we take or receive, whether that is a magic skill or an injury, a nice nap or even just breathing, will affect the amount of Life Points that remain. D-Rank [Adventurers] have a cap of fifteen thousand Life Points, and so we must be very careful to conserve ourselves.”
“Ah, that makes sense. It’s like HP, Stamina, and Magic all rolled into one. Sounds like a nice modernization for a streamlined battle system.”
“Uh, perhaps. Life Points do indeed take from our stamina when we overexert ourselves, and are subtracted each time we use a Destiny Card, which is a type of magic.”
“How do you heal, you just eat some tasty snacks?”
“No. We can only heal by leveling up, which restores us to full Life Points, or by drawing a Destiny Card that heals, but that one is slightly rare and not a recommended strategy.”
“Fascinating. It’s like someone deliberately designed your system to work on a balance of give-and-take… Say, what’s your Life Point stat at now?”
“Right now? I have 13,820/15,000 LP. I lose about one point per minute from breathing, but so far I have not exerted myself except for the actions I performed during my combat against Geralt Swashbattle.”
“That wasn’t a combat. And also, you lose a point every minute? Dang.” Francis looks into the air and holds up fingers. I believe he is attempting to perform math equations. “So you have like, ten days to live if you don’t level up. Pretty harsh.”
“Approximately. I’m impressed you figured that.”
“I did major in computer science. My arithmetic skills are superb.”
“Indeed they are.”
In front of us is a booth that sells what appear to be more moving paintings, like the characters fighting each other that I saw earlier in the day. Several boxes display these moving paintings, with images going around on their own, jumping and flashing with bright colors.
“What are these things, these moving paintings?” I ask.
“Moving—Oh, man, you really do come from a fantasy world. These are video games. Or, as people in the streaming business like to call them, money makers.” He giggles at his own joke. Or, joke is what I assume that last sentence was supposed to be. I don’t understand it.
“Video games. So they are a game.”
“A game… And you can play it. I see.”
“Yes. You see that controller there?” He points to a square with several buttons on it, one shaped like a cross. I pick it up. “You can use this controller to move the character on the screen. Press A.”
I press A.
The character in the video game jumps!
“And you can move left or right. I’m glad you’re starting off with a simple one. I was always a big fan of the Howdy Hot Dog series. Tight platforming, great graphics.”
I continue to play this game, this “Howdy Hot Dog.” I do so for a longer time than I can track, because it feels to me the longer I play this game, the slower everything around me goes. Five minutes in the game is like twenty seconds in the real world.
It’s like I’ve been transported into yet another new world, just by playing a game. Is this what transmigration truly feels like?
After some unknown period of time playing the game, jumping over characters and throwing bowties at foes, Francis taps me on the shoulder. He is carrying a bag on his arm, and is now wearing a hat over his fake pink hair. The hat has a logo on it that I do not recognize.
“About ready to go?” he asks.
“I have not vanquished this video game yet, so I am not ready.”
“Yeah, but I already finished buying all the rare import games I need for my segment next week, so we are going. We need to head out before Delta gets to the convention center to pick us up.”
“Oh, I guess I haven’t been too… Sorry about that! These past couple hours have been so overwhelming,” he says. “I haven’t told you about my whole plan, even though it involves you. See, if you’re really brand-new to this world, there’s gonna be a lot of stuff to sort out, and I want to help you out. So I want you to come with me when my ride gets here.”
“You wish to help me.”
“Of course, Eryk. No cute, confused young man deserves to go it alone in this harsh world we call modern life.”
“Indeed. If ever I were to have a wise mentor, I would be honored if it were such a—”
Before I can react with my mind, my fist has already blown off a head. Another fist shatters a body completely.
And then I see what I attacked so fiercely…
Does that mean… a necromancer, here?
But wait. This skeleton looks a bit odd, despite being human-sized. And it is not made of bone. It came apart into a billion pieces so easily that it couldn’t have been any material harder than… paper?
“My Skeletor standee!” a man shouts. “You asshole!”
Francis stares at me. “Again?”
Several blue uniformed men, like the one from the entrance I met earlier, come into the Vendor Hall just seconds later. They are running towards us, in fact.
“Stop right here!” one yells. “You two with the pink hair!”
“You are correct. I am not from around here. I am from Mystix.”
“It’s… not just a roleplaying thing? I thought you were just…”
“I do not understand what a roleplaying is.”
“Can I… touch it?”
“You would be electrocuted.”
“But it’s so shiny.”
This is essentially the way my conversation with Francis goes for the next several minutes.
When I activated my [Energy Sword] skill card and summoned a weapon made of pure electricity, I almost immediately scared off the cowardly foes who had attempted to intimidate and attack me just seconds earlier. However, I also scared off all of the innocent civilians around me as well, and caused something of a mass panic.
In the end, the energy sword was good for little more than burning a tree to the ground and mentally scarring people for life. In only a few minutes, the weapon fades from my hand and its bolts fade back into the ether from whence they came.
But this energy sword did seem to accomplish one major thing—it finally gained the attention of one Francis Bacall, who up until now had apparently been taking everything I said as… a joke? No, I don’t understand it either.
What a strange man.
We leave the cosplay field, where it turns out there is no such thing as “a cosplay,” as in a being referred to as a cosplay that exists as a low-level monster to grind up levels with. It was something of a misunderstanding. As are several more things I have encountered in these past few hours in this brand-new world. Perhaps my haste to increase my rankings and become a powerful hero were not advisable when I did not know the nature of the world to which I had been transported.
In fact.. I knew practically nothing about this place.
“Francis, what is the name of this world?” I ask.
“I, uh… Wow, you really aren’t from around here.”
“No. My world’s name is Mystix. It is a land of adventure, with a dozen continents and half a dozen wars going on at any given time. From chaos breeds heroism, as the ancients say.”
“Well, this place is called Earth. We only have six continents, or seven if you count Europe, but we definitely have more than half a dozen wars going on. We’re kind of bad at this whole humanity thing.” Francis chuckles nervously. “I just stick to video games, mostly.”
“Earth… Earth. That’s an interesting name,” I say. “What does it mean?”
“It means dirt, I think. What does, uh, Mystic mean?” Francis darts his eyes around as if he felt suspicious at himself simply for asking that.
“Mystix? It means ‘Hall of the Great Heroes’ in the Elven tongue.”
“Oh indeed. Earth and Mystix. Just two worlds among thousands ruled on by The Goddess.”
“The great deity who rules all and decides the fates of all mortals. You know, The Goddess.”
“Never heard of her. Here on Earth we talk about God and Jesus and Buddha and stuff.”
“Well, uh, none of that’s real,” I explain. “I literally met The Goddess and she sent me to Earth for some reason.”
Francis remains silent for a moment, and then says, “So my entire belief system about the afterlife is a lie.”
“Might could be,” I say with a certain dignified condescension, as if my own entire belief system hadn’t been shattered just hours earlier.
We reenter the large building, whose name is the Miller Lite Memorial Convention Center, I have now learned. My grasp at this world, this Earth, is improving every moment. Soon I’ll even learn what a Convention Center is.
Our first problem arises the moment we try to step past the gate. A portly man in a blue uniform and hands in his pockets eyes us up and down with a disgruntled snarl. Then he steps closer to me and gazes at the sword at my side.
“Let me see that.”
“I apologize, but I cannot hand that to you,” I say. “This is my sword, my trusted weapon. Any time that danger is near, I will need to wield this sword to fend it off. It is very important.”
The man looks at me, then at Francis, then off to the side. He mumbles, “Fucking convention season.”
“I’m sorry, officer,” Francis says. “He’s still too deep into roleplaying mode.”
“Well, tell him to let me see the prop sword and check if it’s safe, or he doesn’t get back in.”
Francis’s eyes go wide. He looks at me with an obvious panic that I don’t quite understand.
Well, if we must get in…
I hand the sword to the man for his inspection. As soon as he feels it, his eyes, too, go wide.
“What the hell… Kid, are you bringing a real-ass sword into a convention center? What are you doing?”
He gives the sword back to me and takes out a cubic device of some sort. “This is Officer Blake, over. We have a kid with a real sword here. What do I do with him? Over.”
A voice appears, coming apparently from the cube itself. “Did you take the sword from him? Over.”
“Uh, no I did not. Uh, over.”
“Well, take it! Over.”
I realize what may happen here, and, with the sword still in my hands, I do the easiest thing to resolve all of this issue—
I poof the sword back into my empty inventory slot.
There. No more sword to be a hassle to anyone. It reduces my defensive powers tenfold, but it allows us to reenter the convention center, at least.
The portly man looks at me like I’m a ghost. (Technically, I am one. Let’s not get into that, though.)
“Nevermind. Situation resolved, over.”
“Sorry about that, over.”
“You’re okay, over.”
Francis and I walk into the convention center again and I am immediately greeted by countless people of all shapes, sizes, and hair colors. My eyes have trouble keeping up with all of this.
“Back there,” Francis says. “With the police guy. What did you do with your sword?”
“Oh, that. To resolve a tense situation peacefully, I removed my sword from the active plane by storing it in my empty inventory slot.”
“You have, um, inventory slots.”
“Yes. In my world’s system, as a D-Rank hero, you are allowed to have up to seven Destiny Cards on your person at any given time. Most of those cards are a one-time skill or ability that expires after use, but I am lucky to have inventory cards that allow me to store items for future use without having to carry them on me. I think that is one of the most useful abilities an [Adventurer] can have, so I keep three inventory cards with me at all times.”
“Okay, I need to stop you there for an important clarification,” Francis says. “You said ‘my world’s system.’ And what you seem to be describing is some sort of video game stuff.”
“I do not know what ‘video game stuff’ means.”
“Are you talking, like, RPG system?”
“What does RPG mean?”
“Um, like, do you have stats and levels and all of that?”
“Yes, of course. Obviously. I’m in the [Adventurer] class, Rank D. My current level is 17, very close to being able to rank up to C and gaining the [Inspect] ability. As for my current build, My [Power] stat is currently 46, due to some leveling flukes I experienced back when I was an E-Rank hero. Most of my other stats are underwhelming, I am sorry to admit.”
“Okay, so you’re like, a character from a LitRPG,” Francis says. “I’m sorry, what was your full name again, Eric?”
“My name is Eryk Solbourne.”
“Eric Soulborn. Like, ‘born from a soul.’”
“No, Eryk Solbourne, meaning, ‘The boundary of the sun.’ It is a common surname for the people of the North Spire, due to our proximity to the sun.”
“I’m just… Wow, just wow.” Francis bursts out laughing. “And it’s all real, too.”
“Yes, of course?”
Francis takes that square from his pocket and puts it up to his ear.
“What is that infernal contraption, anyway?” I ask.
“This? It’s a phone. Oh, sorry, Eryk. Just a sec.” He turns away from me and seems to conentrate deeply on the “phone” at his ear. He says to no-one in particular, “Oh, hello. Are you off work yet? Yeah, I’m still there. Yep, I got both of them. Yep, like sixty times. Okay, that’s just rude.”
“Francis, are you okay?” I ask.
He raises a hand up to motion for me to shut up. “Yeah, the reason I called is because I need you to pick me up. I have someone and—yes, he’s a he. You don’t—okay, you said it.” Francis rolls his eyes. “Listen, you won’t believe anything I’m saying right now so I’ll just show you when you get here. Thank you so much. Kisses and hugs. Bye-bye.”
He lowers the phone again and slides it into his trouser pocket.
“Sorry,” he says. “I was calling someone on my phone. But I guess you’ve never seen a phone before, have you?”
“I know not what a phone is.”
“It’s a device where you can send messages or call people anywhere in the world. Nifty, huh?”
“Seems fake to me. An illusion, surely.” I turn from Francis and set my eyes on the row of large contraptions that appear to vend food and drink, most standing together on the other side of this grand hall. “One thing that is not an illusion is my hunger. My Life Points will drain much more quickly if I am hungry, so I wish to procure nourishment.”
“You got any cash?” Francis asks. “Of course not. Here, I’ll give you a dollar. Or… Okay, I have no cash. I’ll swipe my card for you…”
I look at these machines. These machines that vend items. Vending machines. They contain so many items that look not at all familiar to me. What is a “coca-cola?” Some sort of red potion? And in another vending machine, A clear bag with extremely tiny pastries inside. The packaging labels these pastries as “Combos.”
Actually, these look quite interesting. Whether or not they are any good remains to be seen, but I think I will try some.
I reach to retrieve the combo package—
And cannot do so because there is glass in the way. What a strange inconvenience. A very confusing one, actually. Why would they put such an irrelevant barrier in between my reach and the food item? For freshness, perhaps?
So I punch through the glass and take it. A waste of perfectly good glass, but, oh well.
I tilt my head to the side. “What’s wrong?”
“You just…” He does not continue his thoughts.
Whatever he is upset about, I imagine it will pass in due time. I open the package of combo micro-pastries and eat a few of them.
[Ding! Destiny Point.]
And that delectable taste counts as a Class Action, too.
The many other armored beings around us turn to look. One of them shouts, “Look, honey. A fight!”
Geralt Swashbattle, apparently a foe of mine or something of that sort, is armed only with his fists, but the others carry blunt weapons in their arms. I’m not prepared to face them all on at once if they’re as skilled as their multi-colored hair would suggest.
I’ve aimed my sword in a defensive position, ready to strike in any direction they will attempt to pierce into. I worry about the main with a lance, but he is not in any formation yet, so I feel that I will be able to avoid him in time.
But four men at once will still be tough. I’m not ready for all of them at the same time.
I look to Francis, hoping he will explain this world’s system to me or just about anything about how to win in this battle. But instead, he doesn’t seem occupied at all by the engagement I have entered into. He is merely looking at the small square in his hand, cracking a smile as he looks at whatever the square may be showing him.
“Francis Bacall!” I shout. “Are you looking at this?”
“Huh? Oh, I was just tweeting—” Francis looks up and see what’s going on. “What the hell is going on?”
“These foes wish to strike me down,” I say. “I will defend myself with my life.”
Francis steps out in front of me, getting between me and the group. “Alright, break it up. No fighting at Comic Festivalia!”
The four stop. “Y-you’re…”
One gasps. “It’s Francis Bacall…”
The four rush up to Francis and begin chattering away about whatever. I take a step back, but I do not lower my guard. Whatever is going on, it is clear that Francis is a more valuable ally than I had expected. However, I do not trust his ability to keep them calm, no more than I can trust that Francis is a North Spiran, which he clearly is not despite his false pink hair.
I’m in deep trouble if the four rush me, unless I continue to guard as much as I can.
Actually… I wonder if it is only four.
My eyes dart around the field. I see no cosplays, or any small monsters for that matter, further confirming to me that this world’s systems and its enemies are invisible to my eye. But I do see many more humans dressed in the same kinds of outfits as the four men in front of me. Some not only have the same hair, the same outfits, but they look near-identical even down to facial structures. Two light-skinned, bright-yellow haired women with pointy noses and frilly outfits carry themselves regally and carry sword-scepters in their hands. They look the spitting image of the same light-skinned, bright-yellow haired man with a sword-scepter and a pointy nose that is part of the group led by Geralt.
So there is a chance, nay, a probability that these four are working with an even larger group who may be encircling me in a perimeter so they can ambush me the moment I least expect it. It is devious, as well as genius.
Again, I pull up my system HUD and look at the bottom of my field of vision, where I have six out of seven Destiny Card slots filled. Three are inventory, and three are Skills:
Energy Sword: Rank 2. Summon a temporary lightning sword that lasts for five minutes. Cost: 160 LP.
Minor Heal: Rank 2. Gain 1,000 LP. Cost: 0 LP.
Super Hearing: Rank 1. Increase sonic perception abilities dramatically for five minutes. Cost: 70 LP.
None of these will save me in a pinch, or make me more adept before the battle actually starts. The [Energy Sword] card is promising except that it is an unpredictable weapon and could be dangerous to any civilians nearby. Plus, if I use [Energy Sword] now, I won’t be able to use it later if I come against even deadlier enemies…
Something like [Blaze Up] would be better, because I could gain a fire aura that would limit the ability for most people to get close enough to attack. They’d have to use long-range weapons like bows and arrows, but my reflexes are much better at fending those types of attacks off.
I don’t want to have to draw another Destiny Card, but… I’m too concerned with the problems at hand and the best bet may be to test my luck.
I open up the Destiny Deck, a swirling pit of black and purple representing the past, present, and future of my very soul. My essence compressed into a series of cards.
Actually, I say that I have opened up the Destiny Deck, but I can’t actually see it. It doesn’t physically appear in front of me or block my view of the four men and Francis in front of me. There is nothing I have to do to see the Destiny Deck—it is simply a part of me in the same way language or mathematics would be to someone well-educated. I am acutely aware that the Destiny Deck is a swirling vortex of darkness and fate, but I have never actually seen it before. It’s more like… a feeling.
But here it is, my Destiny Deck. I cannot see what the heart of the cards has in store for me, as I cannot take a peek into the future (at least without the [Foresight] skill).
I have 20 Destiny Points, but I want to save those for my next level-up. Level-ups for D-Rank heroes cost 25 DP, which is so close I can nearly taste it. For how often battling gains DP, it is possible this very battle, depending on its intensity, will push me past the edge.
So I will draw a Destiny Card with an alternate method: by sacrificing Life Points to draw one.
It is an ability that most classes have, including [Adventurers.] But it is not a recommended one, especially not for a D-Rank hero of any class; our LP cap is a mere 15,000, and since leveling up is the only way to fully heal, it can be extremely risky. You can draw a Destiny Card with your LP, but it will cost a randomized amount from 500 to 1,500. When you’re in the heat of battle, this could mean the difference between life or death.
But I have no other choice.
I draw a Destiny Card with the very force of my spirit.
Searing pain shoots through my veins, through my heart, through the very being of my soul.
I’m still well off, as long as I can level up in the near future. But let’s see what new card I have drawn:
Transmigrated Spirit: Rank 3. Summon an otherworldly spirit to assist for five minutes.
That is… not going to help me for this battle, at least not in any direct way. The skill [Transmigrated Spirit] is notoriously finicky and the summoning process is so convoluted that it is practically randomized itself.
Oh, well. I might as well give up with the idea that I’ll ever be lucky in this life. Time to make my own luck.
Activating… [Energy Sword!]
I let go of the sword from one hand and lower it to the ground. In my free hand, I feel a surge of power exuding, and a growing brightness that threatens to blind me.
A loud shocking sound blasts from my hand and then finally, the crackling, sparking energy sword forms fully in my grip. Logically, this should be shocking and killing me, but this is what magic is all about. A deadly weapon of electrocution that to me feels like a soothing, smooth slab of metal against my palm.
The four men and Francsis immediately turn around.
“I will not let you ambush me,” I say. “My life is not yours to control.”
All four men start backing away, and Francis moves to my side, ceasing to be a human shield for our coming brawl.
“Y…Y…” Geralt, once my fiery rival, now has nothing to say at all, it seems.
“You’ve never seen power like this,” I take it. “You’re fools, then. I wasted this skill on someone like you, who would threaten my life but with no effort to back it up.”
“As you once said, I will say back to you: Engarde.”
I slam the energy sword on the ground in front of me. A surge of electric power surrounds me, much like an aura of electricity, and the grass around me burns up and turns to ash. All that is left is the soft dirt below my feet.
By the time I have raised the sword back into the air, all four men have begun to run away. They have shown their true faces as cowards. And I will not let cowardice go unpunished. I hoist the sword up in the air, and a bolt of lighting goes from the sword into the air.
The sky darkens.
The bolt crackles down.
One of the two trees in the field, the one nearest to the four men, is struck, bursting into flames and crashing into a pile of embers and dust within seconds.
Every single person in the field is now running away from me. There are screams and I can even hear crying.
I’m starting to wonder if I have run into some misunderstandings, here.
Despite everything, though, Francis is still here. He stares at my energy sword, mouth agape.
He says nothing.
Neither do I, for a moment. I simply bask in the glory of the fight. Then, I suggest to him, “We should go back into the large building. I am quite famished.”
The outside of the huge building is yet another sign that I am in a new world vastly different from my own. As soon as Francis and I step out through the magical, self-moving doors, I am greeted to a bright green field with hundreds more beings of all races and hair colors.
It is distractingly sunny today. I thought the weather was nice back in that small town of Bellatrix, and that good weather may have been what got me killed. I hope that this does not hold true here, or else I may start to make a habit out of being hit by speeding carriages.
For such a large building, I was surprised to see almost everyone walking. No horses, and certainly no carriages. Even in this large green field bisected by a long paved walkway, there was nary a soul who did not carry themself on their own two feet.
And yet, for all the inconvenience, it did appear that people here were not overly muscled. Francis, next to me chatting away about his “channel,” had a touch of plumpness to him, living life like he were a wealthy lord’s boy. Many of the people around us looked the same. And yet, it was clear none of them held titles of nobility or came from long-standing families. They did not have the modern convenience of horseback, and yet they were still well-fed and well-rounded individuals all the same.
“…only ten thousand subscribers, and even then I had a kid come up to me and tell me she watches me. This was a kid, I tell you. Eight or nine at the most. I can’t tell you how that kind of feeling hits you. It’s just… Wow.” Francis looks up into the air and appears to be holding back tears with how he is shaking.
“Fascinating, I see,” I say.
I have not been listening to Francis as most of what he talks about is confusing and irrelevant to me. His fraudulent, fake pink hair, a wig to cover darker hair underneath, has already put me off of him, though I do appreciate his willingness to help me train and grind more Destiny Points. But even when I do attempt to listen to him, the words he says are baffling.
Perhaps he is telling me all about his world’s system; he keeps mentioning “channels” and “subscribers,” and I do imagine that there could be some sort of patronage system. If people literally donated their magical energies and levels to their favored champions who would go on adventures and provide rewards in return, it would create for a quite interesting society. However, Francis does not appear to be a hero in any sense. I couldn’t see a man like Francis fighting enemies or protecting his clan. So I doubt his ramblings have anything to do with this world’s system.
It is finally clear to me, though, that this is not the world The Goddess told me about. This is not a walking city, and there are no kaiju here. I have landed somewhere completely different.
Even if I am unable to become an S-rank hero by taking down the strongest kaiju monsters, though, I will still become an S-rank hero here in this unknown world. I am Eryk Solbourne, and that is what I will do.
“How powerful are cosplays?” I ask.
“Wh… Huh? What do you mean?” Francis responds, uselessly.
“I mean what level are the cosplays? I’m trying to gain more Destiny Points, which are the only way I can level myself up. But if your world is a lot more powerful than mine, then these cosplays might not be a good idea for me…”
“Aw, don’t be shy,” Francis says. “You’ve got a really cool outfit and I know you’ll take some really cute pictures as long as you remember to pose.”
“Posing is something Malia told me I am quite good at.”
“A… friend. She was a friend.”
“Interesting name. Tell her I said hi. Or, tell her Francis said hi.”
“I can’t,” I say. “She lives in another world.”
“Ha, I feel that sometimes. Long-distance friendships really can seem like you’re communicating across universes or some kind of nonsense like that. I saw this movie called The Lake House once that was kind of like that. Really romantic. Had Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. I really recommend it.”
I chat with Francis a while longer as we make our way to the cosplays that I want to farm for DP. As best as I can surmise, this world runs on a lot of media. Stories of the fictional sort that people pass to each other and bond over. Not unlike the great poems of Mystix, but in a more permanently recorded form. It would be like books but if they were scribed in a mass-produced way. I wonder if magical systems would be able to replicate books more easily here…
Here we are. The cosplays. It is a giant field of grass with two trees by the side of the paved walkway. There are probably a thousand beings camped out, mostly human but some elves and other unknown races as well.
“Here’s the cosplay area,” Francis says. “Everyone’s doing photo shoots and all that fun stuff. So let’s get going! Do you want me to do a selfie with you or something? We can be Blaze and… Whoever you’re cosplaying as.”
I raise my sword and enter an attack mode. “I just want to know how powerful these enemies are. Will I have a problem defeating any of them?”
“No selfie, huh… I really thought I was getting pretty well-known by now…”
“Actually, um, where are the cosplays?” I ask. “I see no monsters.”
“The cosplayers are all around you. What are you talking about?”
All… around me?
But… I can’t see any monsters.
And that’s when it hits me.
I’m a foreign system in a foreign world. I may not be integrated into this realm correctly, thanks to whatever problem beset The Goddess. It could be that I can’t even see the enemies that I need to be fighting!
Suddenly, it hits me that I could be in the worst possible position for survival. Level 1, base-rank enemies, something as weak as slimes or gondola-men or sheet ghosts, could surprise me and attack me relentlessly.
What can I do?
Only one thing.
I swing my sword forward in a decisive, powerful slash. And then I do so again, one step forward.
“Cosplays, beware,” I shout. “I cannot see you, but I can defeat you.”
Francis takes a couple steps back, presumably to give me space to fight these invisible monsters. I take that opportunity to broaden my range, and I stab forward into the air.
Will I be able to feel when a blow connects? Or will I only know if I fulfilled an [Adventurer] class action when I hear the ding to alert me of a new Destiny Point? A mystery I shall soon unravel.
I slam my sword onto the ground, ripping up a patch of grass and sending its blades flying everywhere.
Still no Destiny Points. I need 5 more DP. Just 5 more. Please, please invisible cosplays, please attack me so I can kill you!
At this moment, a man with dark blue hair and a long black overcoat runs over to my location and pulls out a sword of his own.
He points his sword at me. “Hey, you’re Blaze Blitzer! My eternal rival!” he shouts.
I look back at Francis, who raises his index finger and says, “That guy is cosplaying Geralt Swashbattle, Blaze Blitzer’s main opponent. Their second battle is an iconic fight scene that people love to reenact.”
“Who is Blaze Blitzer, again?” I ask.
“Do you really not know who he is? Have you never played the Dungeon Core Saga Series before, not even once? You look just like the main character from that game. Seriously, dead-on, besides the sword. He usually uses a lance.”
“I know not of any dungeon cores or any main characters. All I know is that if this Geralt Swashbattle wishes to spar with me, I will be more than willing to give him a taste of my steel.”
I step up to Geralt and point my sword back at him. “I have no qualm with you, friend. I only wish to defeat the cosplays. However, I cannot see them because—”
Geralt stabs at me and I narrowly dodge before the sword would have pierced my flesh. “Engarde!” he shouts. “Your youth will be mine!”
“I am a youth, but I am a powerful one,” I say.
“Th-that’s not your line,” Geralt says. “You’re supposed to say, ‘My power level will absorb the heavens!’”
“That would be a large exaggeration, at least at this point. I’m only a D-Rank [Adventurer,] after all.”
Instead of responding, he attacks again. This time, it’s a slow enough swing that I can block it with my sword—
And the blow is so strong—
That my sword snaps his cleanly in half!
The hilt and blade separate in two with so little effort that it is like my sword has sliced butter.
Geralt looks at me with dazed confusion and clearly the jealousy of an easy defeat.
“I won’t punish you further,” I say, “but back in my world, a defeat this overwhelming would allow me to humiliate you with a spanking. Just know that I have the honor to spare you from something like that.”
“You asshole!” he shouts. “You broke my sword! What the hell?”
“I… I don’t understand.”
I look back at Francis. He is looking at his small square again.
“That cost me a hundred and fifty bucks. You better pay me back.”
“I refuse. I won, with absolute fairness I might add.”
“You’ll win jack shit when I beat your ass in.” He turns around and shouts to the field of beings behind us, “Hey, Daniel! Jeremy! Jaiden! C’mon over here and check this guy out!”
At this, three more young men in powerful-looking armor approach me.
It seems that I’ve upset a local custom, or perhaps I’ve misunderstood the PVP systems of this world. Either way, I’m about to be paid back in full for my victory… with another duel, this time significantly less fair.
I raise my sword once again and prepare to fight for my life. I will kill if I must.
The man in front of my has pink hair, the same distinctive shade as any North Spiran would have. The Goddess’s own Chosen People, as she told me.
And yet his eyes are brown.
North Spirans don’t have brown eyes. Their eyes are the same shade as their hair. I’ve never seen anyone even remotely have such eyes and such hair. North Spirans who marry outside of the region will not pass on their hair or eye color, nor their taste for haven roots.
Who is this man?
He looks surprised, even frightened. He certainly is no warrior, being a head shorter than me and not a bit of muscle on him. But then one moment later his surprises dies down and he resumes a cheerful smile. “Oh, why, hey there,” he says.
The man looks at me like I am an old friend.
I’m speechless. I don’t understand what’s going on.
He notices my stunned reaction and gives me a look. The crowd around is is still cheering wildly for the conclusion of the moving painting show we witnessed minutes ago, but for every word he speaks, I can hear them clearly. “I said, hello there. Did you see the match? So awesome, right?”
He chuckles. “Don’t worry, I won’t bite.”
I back up and grip my sword tighter.
Then he steps up to me and puts his arm around my shoulder. He hoists up a small square in his hand and raises it into the air above us both.
“C’mon, let’s do a goofy pose. Say, ‘Bac-Nation!’”
“Bac… What? Pardon?”
He indeed makes a goofy pose, but I am too dumbfounded to do anything but stare blankly at him.
When he finishes posing, he looks at the square—
Which has captured an intricately detailed painting of the two of us, just as we were.
I gasp. “What kind of sorcery is this?!”
“Bro, you gotta enjoy yourself,” he says. “It’s Comic Festivalia! Relax and have some fun. Looks like you could use some. Haha, just kidding. I’mma go back to the food court, actually. Wanna join me? I sure do love my Bac-Nation—”
“How did you create such a small painting with such accuracy? Tell me. Please.”
“Oh, you’re, uh, roleplaying, aren’t you?” he asks. “Yeah, I mean, I guess Blaze Blitzer wouldn’t know what a phone is either. Props for the dedication, as annoying as it is.” He says this with a wide, cheery smile.
“Blaze Blitzer? Who is that? Is he a foe?”
“Oh, I thought you were… Are you not cosplaying as Blaze right now?” he asks.
“I do not understand.” I raise my sword and point it in the man’s direction. “But I need information, and I want it now.” Never in my life would I hurt a defenseless man like this, but just the threat alone is sure to give me
It doesn’t appear to phase him whatsoever. “The information desk is right by the front entrance.” When I don’t change my expression, he adds, “Are you okay? Do I need to worry?”
“I am new to this world and I don’t understand its rules. What is the name of this place? What are its rules?”
“This is Comic Festivalia,” he says. “As for rules, you’re, uh, supposed to have a lot of fun. Buy merchandise of your favorite characters. Don’t smoke except in the designated areas. Uh, pointing your prop swords at people is probably not OK either. But I won’t tell if you don’t.” He closes one eye and then opens it back. I am even more confused.
“And who are you? Are you not… from North Spire?”
At this, I’m just starting to get annoyed. Every single minute, my Life Points drain a little bit more. Every single minute, I literally waste my life away while I could be climbing the ranks to become a powerful legendary hero.
This man is not a North Spiran. He may have pink hair, but he is not a denizen of Mystix. He is not one of The Goddess’s Chosen People. He is a fraud and of no use to me.
“Anyway, my name is Francis,” he says. “Francis Bacall. Maybe you’ve heard of me…?”
“I only just arrived here, I apologize.”
“C’mon, man… Two hundred thousand subscribers… Surely you’ve seen…” He begins mumbling something I cannot make out, though it is doubtful I would understand anyway.
“Well then, Francis Bacall, my name is Eryk Solbourne. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“But I’m… Everybody’s heard of me…”
“I wish to ask again, what system do you have?”
Francis’s answer is about what I expected. “Well, these days I mostly play on PC. I guess I have a Wii, but I don’t use it that much anymore except when my friends come over for Fortune Street.”
It is very expected for him to say things that I don’t comprehend whatsoever. I feel like this may become a running trend here.
“Well, my system is called the Destiny Deck,” I say. “In my world, everyone with a system is able to level up using Destiny Points they gain from their class. We gain Destiny Cards, one-time-use skills that can be used for all sorts of purposes, and we can gain new permanent skills as we climb the ranks as well. My class is [Adventurer,] so I can level up by fighting and by exploring. But leveling up is the only reliable way to heal my Life Points, and I wish to ensure that I can do so.”
“Oh, you’re into D&D and stuff? Me too. Y’know, as weird as you are, you’re kinda… I don’t know, man. I kinda dig your style. The pink contacts and everything really seals the deal. Love the suit too. You make it yourself?”
“You see, Life Points are a pool of all energy I possess, Rank D heroes have 15,000 LP, and it decreases automatically by one per minute from vital life functions. More if I’m fighting, using skill cards, or injured. Right now, it looks like I am still at 14,950, so I will be good for a while, but if your world has any dangerous foes to face, I doubt I could fight too many of them.”
He nods, but he does not respond. I am not sure if he is listening. In fact, now he has pulled out that square and has begun staring at it.
“The short of it is, I would like to face some easy combat situations to grind up my Destiny Points. Do you know of a place wherein I may do this?”
“You wanna fight?” he asks, clearly distracted by something. “Yeah, just go out to the cosplay area in the park outside.”
“Cosplay… Is that a type of monster? Where do I find this park?”
He chuckles and shakes his head slowly. “I shouldn’t be doing this, but… C’mon. I’ll show you there. You can get a lot of nice photos from people this way. Then maybe you’ll finally get bored of this roleplaying thing.”
“Lead the way.”
I have almost no clue what this Francis man has been saying for the past few minutes, but he is apparently leading me to an area where I can slay low-power monsters and soon gain the 25 Destiny Points I need to level up.
Cosplay… Whatever creature this refers to, I will slay many, many cosplays.