Category: Arc 3 – Tests and Fighting (Page 1 of 3)

Chapter 42: Backlash

“Absolutely not!”

“You can’t do it,” Francis.”

“But… No, I can!”

I sit inconspicuously in the corner of the room while Francis and his mother and father enter a bit of a tiff.

By tiff, of course, I mean a whole lot of yelling. An extraordinary amount of domestic conflict, in fact. I have been in a tumultuous family situation myself with my fathers and two of my very dramatic siblings, but usually that devolved into roughhousing and displays of honor, not this argumentative squabbling.

“Listen, Francis,” his father begins. “You—”

“No, listen here,” Francis interrupts. “I’m sick and tired of you acting like I’m some black sheep. I make just as much money as you and that’s without getting into huge debt for eight years at med school. I’m not going to suddenly become some poor loser just because I take a few weeks off.”

His mother scoffs. “What do you mean, ‘take off?’ Honey, we love you very much, but you don’t even have a real job. How are you going to take off from something you don’t have?”

“I have a Wikipedia page, you know.”

“And do your wikipedias pay the bills?”

“When the hell have I ever not paid the bills? I have so much in savings that I could take a year off no sweat, thanks to living with you. I’m so confused by all this.”

His father shakes his head. “If only you had a real job, maybe—”



When his parents don’t respond, Francis continues. “I love you very much, Mom and Dad. But you’re putting a stranglehold on my life that I can’t deal with.”

“A stranglehold…”

“You can’t be serious…”

“I already had to deal with Julie tonight and had an hour-long talk with her to tell her about what’s going on. So I’ve already had a lot of shit thrown at me and nothing you can say is going to be any worse than what she dealt. Sorry, but you two just aren’t Julie Rafati enough.”

This woman…

The more I hear of her, the more frightened I become…

At this comment, Francis’s father seems absolutely flabbergasted. “You’re saying…”


“Julie herself approves of your little adventure?”

“Well, ‘approve’ isn’t exactly the right word, but she didn’t murder me, and while she may not speak to me for the rest of the year, Delta is joining us just like we asked.”

“Well, if Julie says it’s okay, it can’t be TOO bad,” his mother says. “She’s got a good head on her shoulders about this sort of stuff.”

“You’re trusting Julie’s word over mine… You know, if you want Julie and Delta as your daughters, you should adopt them!”

“I don’t like this new tone of voice you’re raising with us, young mister,” his mother says as if Francis is an adolescent boy. “We’ll have you know we did everything we could for Delta when her parents kicked her out. And we’ve helped Julie since she moved to San Fransisco. We aren’t the bad guys here, as much as our children think we are.”

“Hey now, I’m not nearly as bad as you-know-who,” Francis says. “I mean, not that I’m bad. I’m doing just fine.”

“We don’t use that name in our house,” says Francis’s father.

“I didn’t use her name!”


“I’m not going to end up like her,” he tells his parents with heavy determination. “That’s out of the question.”

There is a lot more aguing going on in the Bacall family, but I begin to tune most of it out. The conversation goes around in circles with no side relenting on the idea that they are the morally superior one. It’s a bit exhausting, and worst of all, I don’t think this kind of debate is at all unusual for the household. For as loud and impassioned it is, it feels like just another day for the three of them.

It’s too much for me.

Francis’s father continues to refer to me as if I am not in the room, calling me a suspicious pink haired deviant and a sign of how far Francis could fall if he continues on his silly adventures across cyberpace meeting strange men and bringing them home. He does not seem to judge the blossoming relationship that Francis and myself—our newly forged friendship will be sung in the tale of the most powerful friendships to have ever friended—but he does seem excessively concerned for the well-being of his son. I believe sons should always be protected, but to the extent that they cnanot go on adventures? That is unthinkable.

Eventually, the debate ends with the acceptance that Francis, Delta, and I will indeed be beginning our Amtrak Adventure starting tomorrow. The two parents unceremoniously go to bed, and the father even says he won’t be awake in time to see him go.

It’s confusing, but I try not to dwell on it too much. There is a lot on Earth I do not understand, and it will take a very long time for me to come to that point. If I reach S-Rank too quickly and ascend above everyone else, I may never spend enough time to figure out what life on Earth is really like. So part of me almost wishes my journeys here would be a lot longer than they look to be.

After everything, Francis and I head back into his bedroom. Without saying anything to me, he gets to work. In a huff, he pulls out a large suitcase and begins packing clothes and video games and computers as if he is going to leave this house forever.

“What is it you are doing?” I ask.

“I’m packing for our trip,” he tells me. “This is everything I’m gonna need for a few weeks around the country.”

“All of that?”

“Well, yeah. I mean, we aren’t…”

“You surely can’t take all of that,” I say. “That’s an incredible load that will prove extremely inconvenient for you. Have you ever travelled for long periods of time before?”

“Yeah, when I was doing my big college trip in high school, my parents and I went to the Northeast… in our car…”

“Cars are like carriages,” I say. “They are a misleading way to overestimate the amount of items you will need on any given adventure. You don’t need a suitcase that large. In fact, I’m not sure my inventory slot could even hold something so big.”

“Inventory slot… Oh, wait a minute, if I packed a smaller suitcase, couldn’t you just store it in your inventory? Don’t you have three cards for that?”

“That’s a good idea,” I say, “but two of those slots are open for weapons. I need to pull those out at a moment’s notice. The third is—Oh, in The Goddess’s name, I completely forgot.”


“I have a large back filled with monster loot and other items simply sitting in my inventory. It’s from all the way back on my last day on Mystix.”

“Monster loot?!”

“Yes. Perhaps… Well, maybe that is something worth investigating later on, eh?”

“Yeah, let’s deal with that tomorrow. For now, I’ll try and pack only the essentials. For you and me both. One small suitcase, and maybe a backpack too.”

“That sounds a lot more reasonable.”

Francis sighs. “I wish my parents understood me… My fans on my stream are going to understand, I’m sure. But them…”

“They are very strict parents.”

“They just want the best for me,” he says. “But they think you and I are… Well, they think I’m going to get hurt, and so they’re overreacting a bunch about it.”

“Perhaps, Francis Bacall, you use your streaming fans as a surrogate for the accepting parents you wish you had,” I say. “It seems obvious to me that with your sister’s death and your parents’s doting attitude and your best friend concealing a pregnancy plan from you, the anonymous denizens of the internet are the safest people for you right now.”

“….Gosh, Eryk. That hits really hard. What the hell?”

“Oh, sorry.”

“Wait. ‘Sister’s death?’ My sister isn’t dead.”

“Oh, from the way you discussed her, I just assumed…”

“No way. Taylor’s alive and kicking. And, unfortunately, you’re probably going to meet her during our adventure. She ran away from home after she got pregnant at fifteen and it turned into this huge ordeal and now… Well, it’s a story for another time. A really stupid story.”

“I’d like to hear it.”

“And I’d like to see all that monster loot,” Francis says. “For now, we need to finish packing and then we can go to sleep.”


The night draws to a close, and I’m left wondering just what it is that makes my dear friend Francis tick.

Chapter 41: Good/Not Really

“You made it. You actually friggin’ made it.”

The man, our driver from a few days ago, is absolutely elated to see us. I think his name is Kumar? I can’t quite remember because it’s been a little while…

Either way, he’s embracing Francis as if they are long-lost lovers, and Francis is clearly uncomfortable with all of it. I feel obliged to step in and tell Kumar to “back the hell off,” as Delta always says to me, but I decide it might be a bit rude.

The building here, one named Riff’s Cafe, is a dark restaurant with sparse lighting, mostly directed to one big stage in the center of the room. It’s structured so similarly to the fight club from earlier in the day that my body instinctually tenses up.

I sure did defeat a lot of opponents back then, didn’t I…

“Yeah, I sure am here,” Francis says. “You’re Kumar, right?”

“Yes I am! God, I can’t believe Francis Bacall knows my name!” Kumar shouts. “Bro, you gotta hear my gig tonight.”

“What was your band again?” Francis asks.

“Good/Probably. We’re the top upcoming pop punk band in all of San Fran. Hey, drop an RT on us and we’ll send you a shirt. I know you’ve got some hella tight followers on your platforms.”

“Heheh, yeah…” Francis nervously laughs.

“Okay, just take a seat in the VIP area right here,” Kumar says, beckoning us to a random empty table in front of the stage, “and sit back while you enjoy the friggin’ show.”

He leaves us as quick as he came. The three of us sit down and Delta immediately presses the button to call a server over.

“Why did we choose to come to a place like this?” I ask. I look over the menu, which consists mostly of cold sandwiches with names that appear to be puns, but since I don’t understand any of them it is hard for me to know for certain.

“Remember the whole evil Persian Mob thing from like an hour ago?” Francis asks. “We had to find a place to let things cool off for a while, somewhere they’d never look for us.”

“And this restaurant is that place? How come?”

The server arrives at the table. “Welcome to Riff’s cafe,” they say. “What’ll ya be getting?”

“Whiskey, bottle service,” Delta says. “Rocks.”

Francis tilts his head to the side. “Delta, I wasn’t really planning on—”

“Just for me, don’t worry.”


Francis and I order soft drinks and something called “chicken fingers.” I was not aware that chickens had fingers on this world, let alone that they were considered a delicacy enough that people would eat them in a somewhat low-key restaurant such as this one.

Our chat now turns to the most important subject there is: What to do next.

“I want to fight a lot more people,” I say. “Bring me as many gangsters as you can locate.”

“No,” both of them say at once.

“Wh…Why not?”

“We don’t want to die,” they say, again in unison.

“Okay, so then, what do you propose?”

“Well…” Francis lowers his head and sighs for a moment. “It’s not a certain thing yet. I still need to convince Delta’s wife about it.”

“And I still need to face the fallout for it,” Delta adds.

“But we might both be taking a couple weeks off work to help you with all this. In fact… I’ve already looked into all the Amtrak train schedules.”


“Um, a really big vehicle that transports many people across entire regions.”

“Like a caravan, but powered by the magic that is electricity…” My eyes glimmer with the possibilities that electricity can bring. For all of the wondrous creations I have laid eyes on thus far, what more is there in store for me? Just how splendid a land is this place we call Earth?

“Yeah, and if the plan goes well, we’re going to take you around the United States. We’ll tour around the country, show you all the cool sights and tasty food that will help you level up. Then after we’ve done as much as we can… Uh, that’s as far as we’ve planned out for you.”

“So what you’re saying is…” My heart can hardly take hearing these words. It’s beating so fast.

Delta raises an eyebrow. “Is…?”

I take a deep breath. “So what you’re saying is… We’re going on an adventure?!”

“Yes,” Francis says. “An adventure of a lifetime.”

“Yes! Indeed, this is the greatest thing I have heard in ages. This calls for a huzzah!”

“Huazzah!” Francis shouts.

“Huzzah!” I shout.

We both stare at Delta, and she gives a look that suggests she would rather perish than join in our celebrations.

The server comes back and lays some glasses and a bottle of liquor on the table. Delta puts two small cubes of ice into a glass, fills the rest with alcohol, and downs the entire thing. She wipes her face and says, “Huzzah.”

“Yeah!” I shout.

“Julie’s going to kill me, but fuck it, huzzah.”

“But before we can go on any adventure,” I say, “we need a team name.”

“No,” both Francis and Delta say.

“Yes,” I say back. “Yes we do. We cannot thrive without a team name. This is a demand from yours truly.”

Delta sighs, then pours herself another glass. “Alright. But don’t make it something shitty.”

“I will do my best,” I say. “We need a team name that evokes just how important Destiny is. How we can seize our fates and make great things of ourselves, as long as we believe in the Heart of the Cards. Team… Heart of the Cards…?”

“You are the only one with the system, though,” Francis says.

“Ah, that may be putting too much spotlight on myself,” I say. “It would be unfair, then, considering you two are systemless.”

“Systemless…” Francis’s eyes go wide.

It clicks in my mind as well. “Oh. Systemless. I see, I see…”

Delta is now a quarter of the way through the bottle of whiskey and now wears an unsettling smile on her face. “Systemless? I know the perfect team name,” she says.

“Me too,” Francis says.

“As do I.”

“Well then,” Delta says. “I guess we’re about to go on an adventure as…”


All three of us shout it at once:

“Systemless Squad!”

“Systemless Squad!”

“Team Normals!”

Delta and I stare at Francis until he lowers his head onto the table.

“I thought it was a good name…” he mutters.

Now that we have christened ourselves the Systemless Squad, I take a celebatory swig of whiskey and start to feel really great. The chicken fingers are great (I gain a destiny point for them, too, so now I’m at 41 DP), the atmosphere is lovely, and Kumar’s band finally comes out to play about halfway into our meal.

“Welcome to Riff’s Cafe, and we are Good/Probably!”

They’re terrible.

But none of that matters, because the Systemless Squad is about to begin a real adventure!

Chapter 40: Level Up! It Only Took Three Extremely Long Days To Accomplish It!

Okay, I’m finally going to decide what Destiny Cards to scrap out of everything I have, so I can safely draw one more card without dying.

I am down to [1,756/15,000 LP.] Not good by any stretch of the imagination, I’m sure.

But the limit for drawing a new Destiny Card in sacrificial Life Points is between 500 and 1500, at least at D-Rank. Higher ranks increase that range, but for now, at least for a few seconds, I can endure the maximum damage and still get one extra card.

I really want that [Clone] card that I saw with [Foresight] earlier today…

Actually knowing all the Destiny Cards you are going to draw ahead of time is a bit boring. It’s almost flat-out dull in a way. Aside from the fact that it’s incredibly useful for planning out strategy, I almost regret doing it. Because there is sadly only one card that I will ever be drawing with this next one.

Anyway, as for my current hand, which is full at the moment:

Super Hearing: Rank 1. Increase sonic perception abilities dramatically for five minutes. Cost: 70 LP.
Blinding Rush: Rank 1. Doubles speed and agility. Cost: 215 LP.
Skill Check: Rank 1. Examine the variables around you. (There is a small chance that your next action will go exceedingly well or exceedingly poorly.) Cost: 50 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: Pistol.
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.

I have to scrap one of these cards. Just one. I could use one, too, I guess, but that costs Life Points, something I am dangerously low on at the moment, obviously.

For the maximum amount of Destiny Points, obviously aside from the inventory slots which I absolutely will not sacrifice for any reason, is [Transmigrated Spirit.] Scrapping the [Transmigrated Spirit] card, since it is a rank 3 card and scrapping gives half the rank back in Destiny Points (rounding down), would give me a total of 2 new Destiny Points.


I kind of like [Transmigrated Spirit.] The spirit you get is determined by a great many obscure and confusing factors, but overall it is a great way to mess up a combatant and even get a fatal blow in if the spirit is powerful enough. If you are lonely, the spirits are usually good to chat with as well.

Not that I would ever be lonely with my dear companions Francis and Delta by my side, but still…

Instead, there is only one logical card for me to scrap. It is one that I have held in my reserve for a very long time, but have been unable to use this entire time.

Yes, I am referring to:

Super Hearing: Rank 1. Increase sonic perception abilities dramatically for five minutes. Cost: 70 LP.

What a poor card. It is so useful, the Life Point cost is fairly low, but… I just never found a use for it.

I pull the card over on my HUD to the Destiny Deck itself, where I drop it in the swirling vortex and it crumbles into ash.


[+1 DP.]

[66 DP.]

At least rank 1 cards still give 1 Destiny Point, instead of half a point or something ridiculous.

Now I can draw my final card with Life Points.

Here it does—


[-1337 LP.]

[417/15,000 LP.]

That is the lowest I have ever been in my entire life with Life Points. I feel like my life force is draining from me even as I merely look at it… Augh…

Well, here’s my new card, at least…

Skill Check: Rank 1. Examine the variables around you. (There is a small chance that your next action will go exceedingly well or exceedingly poorly.) Cost: 50 LP.

I will admit that, even when I knew exactly what card was coming with all of this, I am still incredibly disappointed to be so near literal death and to have drawn such a generic and boring card.

But now I’m only one card away from drawing [Clone.] I can’t wait to use that someday!

My physical state must be deteriorating rapidly, because Francis has grabbed me by both my shoulders now.

“Eryk! Eryk, are you okay? Talk to me buddy!”

“The idiot actually drew another Destiny Card, didn’t he?” Delta asks.

“Don’t… Worry about me…” I mutter.

I say this like I’m in serious danger, and technically I am, but I have 66 Destiny Points right now. That’s over halfway to a third level-up—I’m nearly invincible right now!

I use 25 Destiny Points. They drain out of me and surround my spirit like a sparkling aura.

[-25 DP.]


I start to sparkle more brightly than even the glitter on those costumed women from the fight club.

Francis is dumbfounded. “Eryk…”

“Don’t worry; this takes a few seconds,” I tell them.


I am now a Level 18 [Adventurer,] at D-Rank. And let’s see what stat bonuses I’ve gained:

Strength20 (+4)
Agility6 (+1)
Defense12 (+1)
Charisma6 (+2)
Power49 (+3)

Wow, that’s pretty impressive stuff!

It took a long time for me to level up, but here it is. One step closer to reaching my ultimate goal.

[+15,000 LP.]

I am also fully restored as well.

I hop up on the bench and do a little dance. It’s called my “I leveled up and am now extremely happy about it” dance. I do it every time I go up a level, but this is the first time I’ve done it on Earth!

“You did it!” Francis shouts. “You actually did it!”

“Yes, I did it,” I say. “I am now level 18, which means I am a mere fifty Destiny Points away from leveling up enough to increase my rank to C-Rank!”

“Wait a minute,” Francis says. “This calls for a celebration.”

“A celebration?” Delta raises her eyebrow. “Don’t you think the Persian mob is probably actively looking for us like, right this instant? Shouldn’t we get the hell out of here?”

“No way!” Francis shouts. “I know a place where we’ll be safe. Somewhere literally nobody will ever think to look.”

I stop dancing. “Oh? Where might that be?” I ask.

“An indie pop-punk show.”

Special: Eryk’s First Adventure on Mystix

Eryk Solbourne was not always a hero in Team Fanghook. He was not always an [Adventurer] who explored Mystix and fought villains of various sort.

But for the past six months, he has been a part of the Dstiny Deck System, and he has been training up his skills as best as he can. And this training is about to lead to his first-ever adventure. He has recently joined the Adventurer’s Guild, and on a trial basis is being brought along by the [Warrior] Borguk on a journey that will soon prove to be utterly formative to the rest of his life… And his next life as well.

With 18 Destiny Points in hand, he is almost to the next level. Soon, he will reach past F-Rank and become an E-Rank [Adventurer.] The Achievement Board will finally become active to him, and he will be able to gain more Destiny Points and more Destiny Cards even faster.

Eryk has been waiting for this moment for a very long time. Since he was a child, since the attack on North Spire, he has dreamt of becoming a hero that could avenge his homeland and bring glory to his people.

Or, nominally it would bring glory to his people. In his heart of hearts, there is a much simpler, much easier explanation for why he wants to achieve these goals: he wants the glory. He wants to be the one who succeeds, who gains the fame and fortune that comes with being the world’s greatest hero.

He wants his name, the Solbourne legacy, to be etched in the history books forever. Even if he won’t admit to his passions beyond simply avenging his homeland, it is clear how he truly feels.

And so with that in the back of his mind, Eryk trains outside his tent, practicing the art of swordplay and keeping each of his forms steady and solid.

He stares at the sunflower in front of him. Imagines it as a vicious enemy, perhaps a werewolf or a vampire, or even a mummy. Gets a grip on his handle. Slices. Sheathes it back as quickly as he can.

The quick draw sword slice.

The sunflower in front of Eryk splits in half vertically, its two sides bending down by the stalk and then snapping away from each other.

He bends down and collects the sunflower seeds he has gained by defeating this mock enemy. They make for a scrumptious meal. But not as scrumptious as another Destiny Point would be.

Malia steps out of the tent and stretches, letting the full brunt of her body be exposed to the rising sun. The morning light bounces off her elven skin and she glows like no human ever could.

Eryk tries not to stare. He attempts to glance away… but finds himself unable to avert his eyes.

Malia catches him, shakes her head, and smiles. “Do you like the view?” she asks.

“Your beauty never ceases to amaze me,” I say. “I don’t know if it’s your whole race, or if it’s just you, but… I can’t help but stare. I apologize if that is upsetting to you in any way, but you are simply radiant.”

“Oh, it certainly isn’t upsetting to me,” she says to him. “Gaze on me and give me the company I so dearly crave.”

And so Eryk lays down his sword. He sits down in the grass and watches her perform some morning stretches. The sun rises, and so does the young man’s spirits as he looks on the most beautiful woman he’s ever laid eyes on.

The people of North Spire hold a prejudice to those who marry or sire children with those from outside the North Spiran towns. An elf would be so far away from that that it is no longer a human that he would be dealing with.

Eryk would probably never marry anyone but a North Spiran. But the fact his mind diverted itself to such a thought is a sign of just how deeply she cares for the woman in the apple of his eye right now.

“Every moment I see you, Malia, you seem at peace,” he tells her.

“Is that so?”

“It may be my love that has blinded me.”

She looks at him, keeping her neutral smile but with a twinkle in her eyes suggesting something more. “Love, you say?”

“Yes, love, I say,” he says. “Out here in this grassy plains, overlooking the Furtherfelt Mountains and the Felthand Lake, I could rest here forever with you. I wish nothing more than to stay sitting, watching you exercise and seeing your glistening body against the sun’s glimmer. If I could keep you here in this moment for the rest of time, I would take it. Therefore, I will consider my feelings love.”

She chuckles. “Eryk, you have such a strange manner of speech.”

“It’s the North Spiran accent. My apologies.”

Eryk knows it’s a lie, all he said just moments ago. He knows his ambitions for the glory of becoming the first S-Rank hero in a millennium far outstrip any feelings he holds towards Malia, no matter how strong they may be at the moment. But he can’t help but say it anyway, because a part of him truly does hold the opinion that the current status quo would be perfect.

If only he wasn’t a part of the Destiny Deck System and a member of the Adventurer’s Guild, he could abandon everything in an instant.

Of course, Malia was too. Perhaps the two of them could become an adventurer duo, exploring only the outlying areas around the Furtherfelt Mountains and fighting the monsters that take roost here across the four seasons.

It would never work, but it is an interesting thought for Eryk to ponder on. A fruitless fantasy is all it will ever be.

“Do you know when the others will return from their scouting trip?” Eryk asks.

“No, I do not,” she answers. “I expected them back last night. But it seems we will have the area to ourselves once more. Will you spend the day training again?”

“Perhaps,” Eryk answers. “Or perhaps I will spend the rest of the day soaking in my affection for my companion.”

“You know,” Malia says, “just because I am letting you look on my body does not mean we are lovers. It does not mean I will let you sleep with me.”

“I figure it is merely a matter of time,” he says, “before my tremendous strength and compassion win you over.

“Unlike Thalia I have some sort of standards when it comes to men.”

“I will strive to meet those standards, then,” he says. “Tell me what they are and I will conquer them.”

“Make me some breakfast and I’ll consider it,” she says.

“Right away.” He gets up and start back towards the tent to gather supplies.

“Wait,” she says, “I need to get some clothes on first. I’ll follow you in.”

Eryk and Malia enter the tent together.

After a moment of discussion, they decide to stay in there a while longer.

And they end up missing breakfast entirely.


“Hey, Eryk, what’s that over there?” Malia asks, pointing to a distant object in the sky.

Eryk squints his eyes and tries to make it out, but it seems like merely some sort of vague fuzzy square floating in the air to him, to his human eyes.

Malia notices how hard he is trying to make it out and kisses him on the cheek. “I’m teasing you,” she says.

“What? Why would you do such a thing?”

“It’s funny seeing you try things,” she says to him. “You’re always trying so hard at everything you attempt. You never give anything less than the full amount of effort you have in you. That’s probably why we’re here together now, you know. Besides Borguk, nobody on Team Fanghook wanted a new F-Rank hero to babysit. But as team leader our orc friend won us over and now here we are. You refused to give up and now…”

“And now I’ve shared every part of me,” Eryk says foolishly. He thinks he’s being romantic, even though he comes off more as an insecure child. Malia finds it endearing, though.

The two of them sit not too far away from the grassy field, on top of a large stone that overlooks a large hill. At the bottom lays a crevice that leads to a small river. In one direction, that river leads off to Goddess knows where, somewhere vast and unexplored, most likely. In the other direction, it leads to the Furtherfelt Mountains, where at this moment a great war is brewing between Dwarves and Yostians. The full-scale battles have not yet broken out, but anyone informed with the news is well aware of what is going on now.

The full-scale battles are of no concern to the two [Adventurers] sitting on a stone in a grassy field as insects buzz by, however. They are concerned only with getting to know one another more closely.

“Thank you for joining Team Fanghook,” says Malia.

“You’re welcome for allowing me on Team Fanghook,” says Eryk.

It is difficult to ascertain what is going on in Eryk’s mind right now. Is he proud of everything he has accomplished so far? Embarrassed for how weak he still is compared to his teammates? Guilty for how he is holding them back? Too overwhelmed by his passions for the woman beside him to care about any of those things? It is hard to tell, because the only look on his face is a crooked smile.

“Tell me your favorite color,” Eryk says.

Malia is taken aback. “Favorite color?”

“Yes. What color do you like the best?”

“I didn’t really know adults could have favorite colors,” she says. “I don’t think I’ve thought of a question like that in decades.”

“Well, think about it now, then tell me.”

“Hmmm…” Malia seems lost in thought. Perhaps she is genuinely considering his question, or perhaps she is considering what kind of a man would ask a woman her favorite color. Either way, she finally answers, “Teal.”

“Teal? Why that one?” Eryk asks.

“You seem shocked. Almost offended.”

“No, I’m just curious.”

“Well then, if you must know,” Malia says, “I like green because of its gentle, natural feel, and I like blue because of its cool, refreshing feel. Teal is the combination of both those things.”

“So it’s cool and natural?”

“Gentle and refreshing.”

“I see,” Eryk says.

“What’s yours?”

“Pink,” Eryk answers immediately. Malia giggles, but Eryk merely tilts his head to the side. “What? Pink is my favorite color. Is there anything wrong with that?”

“Well, it’s not exactly unexpected, but…”

“It’s okay to like pink,” he mutters. “Just because I’m… doesn’t mean…” He begins to sulk.

Malia pats him on the back. “You know, let’s switch to a new question. My turn.”

His head perks up. “Oh?”

“What did you want to be when you grew up?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” Eryk says. “I want to be the first S-Rank Hero in generations. I want to become the best there ever was.”

“You misheard me. I asked, what did you want to be? I mean, when you were a child, what dreams or ambitions did you have? What were you dead-set on becoming before you grew up?”


“Yeah, do you understand.”

“I do. That’s… that’s a bit of a tough question, though. I may have to ponder on it.”

“Oh, well then, I’ll start,” Malia says. “I wanted to be an architect. My parents were both architects in the elven city of Thy’lia, and so I wanted to follow in their footsteps. Up until the time I became an adult, which in elf years is about age fifty, I tried as best as I could to become an architect who would change the world with her artistic buildings.”

“What stopped you?”

“I’m very bad at math…” Malia sighs.

“What’s math?”

Malia sighs again.

“So, do you remember your childhood well enough now?” Malia asks. “What did you want to be when you grew up?”

“Well, the difficult part of answering that question is that life on North Spire is a bit different than the typical one. We are almost entirely farmers, as you recall. And our family traditions are very strong when we are in those that are not farmers. My fathers had already planned out my entire life from the moment I was born. I was to be a civil servant who managed the crop inventories and moved product from city to city. That was to be my sole task in life, and so most of my childhood was centered around tasks of physical strength and endurance, for I would be the one who physically carried all of that product.”

“Wait, ‘fathers?’ You have two fathers?”

“No, I have six,” Eryk says, blushing from embarrassment. “I, well, I am aware that North Spiran culture is not the same as other places, but this is one area I do not usually like to bring up because of some of the prejudice involved…”

“No, don’t worry, I’m okay,” Malia says. “I don’t know much about your people, I will admit. I apologize for my ignorane. Could you explain?”

“Of course, he says. “The family clans on North Spire are large and do not necessarily follow any blood descent. They consist of a group of fathers who raise the younger generation and take care of the older generation, with one Forefather who represents the entire family in larger North Spiran affairs, sometimes being held as a ceremonial hostage at the capital town. Men and women and others alike can become fathers, so long as they are selected by the others and then elected by the adults of the family. Some families only have two fathers. Some have many. It simply depends.

“The Solbournes are a special family in that all of our fathers are men. It is not necessarily romantic or sexual in nature, though I always had my suspicions about some of my fathers. I found the entire Solbourne patriarch to be a stifling experience that drove out many of the young women I called sisters. They found other families to join, to marry into, or even struck out on their own. Rarely did they stay Solbournes.

“And so that’s all I have to say. North Spire is an interesting place, and sometimes people dislike it, but it is the only family I have ever known… at least until Team Fanghook.”

“Aww,” Malia says. “I don’t think it’s that weird.”

“But you do think it’s weird in part…”

“Well, it’s not the same kind of culture I grew up in, that’s for sure. But life is different when you’re in a race that lives for 350 years, huh…”

“I guess we’re both different in our own ways.”

The two begin to hold hands.

The sun is cresting, inching closer to sunset as every moment passes. The two are not yet a couple, nor will they be for some time after this day. But their romance surely blossoms now.

Malia leans in and nestles her cheek against Eryk’s. He giggles and puts a hand through her hair. The two of them are so far apart, in age and combat prowess and culture and even favorite colors. None of that stops them from being together here and now.

They remain silent in their own way, watching the not-yet-sunset in the afternoon skies.

“What IS that thing out in the distance, though?” Eryk asks, finally.

“Oh, yes, you humans and your poor eyesight,” Malia says. “That there is a flying mollusk. It’s a gigantic shelled creature that floats around the skies and eats small microbes and the occasional bird.”

“That… that’s an animal? A beast? I had suspected it was merely a persisent cloud, but… By The Goddess’s name, that’s a real living creature?”

“It’s harmless unless you’re flying in the air. Or unless you make it angry.”

“It appears to be coming this way, though…”

“It’s also a very slow creature,” she adds. “Even if it’s headed this way, it won’t be to this spot for another… maybe day? Could even be longer if it decides to linger.”

“Well, what shall we do then to pass the time?” Eryk asks. He kisses Malia on the neck.”

“Here? on this rock? No way.”

“I didn’t mean to suggest…”

“When are our companions ever going to return?” Malia asks. “I’m almost starting to worry about them.”

“I like to think The Goddess is intervening, giving us plenty of free time to hold down our place and seek out more information about the region.”

“So you’re saying we should be exploring,” Malia says. “You might be right. While the others are out there doing, well, whatever it is they’re doing right now, we should be doing more than sitting around and training. We need to harvest some plants. Find long-lost treasure. Maybe find some skeletons with armor and weapons left behind.”

“Ah, yes,” Eryk says. “The [Adventurer] way. We will traverse the lands and uncover as much profit as there is to be found in such a place as this.”

“You’ve already adapted to our lifestyle, I see.” Malia laughs. “Why don’t we begin our little mini-adventure?”

“It is a more promising thing than simply sitting on this large stone for the rest of time.” For all his talk about staying here forever with Malia, it was clear that his heart was set on adventure and growth. For he was a true [Adventurer.]


“We sure got a lot of stuff,” Eryk says, carrying an oversized backpack filled with loot of all sorts on his back. It is so heavy it would break a normal man’s back just by putting it on. However, Eryk has trained his whole life for this sort of job. He is a North Spiran whose job was the public service of all the farms in the town. with the Destiny Deck System inside of him, his power is even greater than ever before. He is strong enough to carry all of it. He could carry even more if he wanted.

Malia is very good at treasure gathering, it turns out. She has so many talents. It’s quite incredible, Eryk thinks.

“Yeah, we found more junk than I ever thought some random grassy plains would ever have. I wonder if there was a war here long ago, or even a small village. These golden coins… I don’t recognize the insignia on them at all.”

“We’ll hopefully fetch a lot more coins than those once we trade in all these items to the Guild office, right?” Eryk tries to look back and catch a glimpse of all they have found, but fails to move his neck far enough back.

“The Adventurer’s Guild always offers a bad rate for rare items,” Malia says. “Especially for the kinds of things that aren’t in their yearly catalog. Regular treasure and monster loot, yeah, the flat rate is probably better than hawking your wares around to every shopkeep you encounter, but I’d never sell, say, that stone tablet we found, to the Guild office and get the generic ‘ancient artifact’ rate.”

“The Guild offices are convenient, but not optimal. I see,” Eryk says. “I am still a novice at all of this. Thank you for informing me of it.”

“It’s not a problem at all. Team Fanghook is one of the savvier teams, you know, so it’s good we found you first.” Malia inserts another item into Eryk’s bag. “We’re not exactly SUPPOSED to be selling our loot to third-party vendors in large amounts, but hey, as long as we’re a little discrete about it…”

“What was that that you put in my bag?” he asks.

“A plant root I found a moment ago. The flower looked pretty. I want to take it to an herbalist and have them [Generate Seeds] on it.”

“Are you thinking of starting a garden? As a travelling [Adventurer?]”

“No,” Malia laughs. “I’m just starting a seed collection. Whenever we stay somewhere long enough, I like to plant some of the seeds and tend to them until we leave. Maybe the seeds sprout, maybe they die, I don’t know. Either way, I’ve left my mark and if The Goddess wills it, a pretty flower or two may grow.”

“That’s nice.”

“You know, Eryk, if that bag is too heavy for you, I can put it in my open inventory slot.”

“Oh!” Eryk shouts. “I have one of my own, actually!” He poofs the large backpack into his inventory slot. It disappears with its only trace of existence being a tiny cloud of smoke that dissipates in seconds.

“What is your hand like, anyway?” Malia asks. “I don’t think we talk shop all too often so I don’t know.”

“Talk shop?”

“That means talk about our work directly. About the Destiny Card and system stuff. I mean, how far along are you?”

“I’m still F-Rank, so I only have five cards in my hand right now…”

“What are they?”

Eryk pulls up on his HUD the list of Destiny Cards he has in his hand right now:

Super Hearing: Rank 1. Increase sonic perception abilities dramatically for five minutes. Cost: 70 LP.
Blaze Up: Rank 3. Creates a flame aura around the user. Cost: 300 LP.
Fireball: Rank 1. Shoot a fireball. Cost: 10 LP.
Inventory Slot: Rank 4. Store an item here to retrieve for future use. Current item: Backpack (Large).
Skill Check: Rank 1. Examine the variables around you. (There is a small chance that your next action will go exceedingly well or exceedingly poorly.) Cost: 50 LP.

“…and that’s all of them,” he says after he finishes listing them all off.

“Wow, you have a long way to go, don’t you?”

“I very much do. But for someone with only 5,000 LP, using Destiny Cards at all is quite dangerous for me.”

“But aren’t you like Level 55 already?” she asks. “Why don’t you just rank up and get double the Life Points?”

“I’m trying to gain better stats while I can. Leveling up is very easy still, and I’d like to keep it that way.”

Malia shrugs. “Whatever works best for you.”



“Say… isn’t that large mollusk thing supposed to be a day’s journey away from us or something?”

Malia looks off in the sky and sees what Eryk is referring to. “Yes… Um, that’s not supposed to be coming that quickly.”

“How long do you think it will be at this point before it arrives over here…?”

“It’s looking like…” Malia gulps. “Maybe ten or fifteen minutes. It’s coming kind of quickly.”

The creature looms in the distance, but now with more of a grasp on it, Eryk can see just how massive the sky mollusk is.

And how tiny he is in comparison.


Eryk holds up his blade.

Malia holds up her bow and arrow.

The mollusk makes a loud screeching sound that reverberates throughout the entire field. It is already angry. For all the reassurances Malia had about the beast, it appears that it has practically no sense of ease about it whatsoever. It is aggressive, angry, and its many tentacles are writhing about like it is about to attack at any moment.

Such a large creature normally feeds off only the tiniest of animals. It is a bottom-feeder in anything but location. The sky’s quadrillions of microbes make for a tasty food source for this flying shelled creature, and in the best of times it is not the kind of creature that would even consider floating this close to the surface, let alone actually attacking anything. But little did Malia know when she made her statement earlier, but the rainy season has been unusually weak this year in this specific region. It is nearing a drought, and the lack of water in the atmosphere has kept the number of microbes much lower than most years.

This mollusk here, this one looking at the young human man and the elven female and imagining them to be a tasty snack, has not fed to satisfaction in almost a month. It has begun the starvation process and is feeling a great deal of pain.

At this moment, the mollusk either wants to be put out of its misery, or it wants to end its misery with a great feast.

And these two large sacks of meat look to be exactly the kind of morsel it so desperately craves right now.

Malia takes a step back, then fires an arrow. It bounces off the mollusk’s shell and shatters in the air.

“That armor’s too strong for arrows,” she says.

Eryk takes a look at the creature. He recognizes its familiar look of hopelessness, of great ambitions but with little ability to realize any of them. This mollusk must be feeling a lot like Eryk does right now, he thinks. Even in the middle of a battle with the monster, he forms some sort of kinship with the monster, almost like it is a sibling of his own.

In Eryk’s entire childhood, he had twelve siblings. Most were far older, adults who even had kids of their own. His older sisters had mostly left and formed their own clan called Solbirth, where four sisters acted as the family fathers and raised a competing branch of produce carriers. After all of them, Eryk only had two siblings worth truly considering siblings in the more traditional sense of the word.

The mollusk lashes out with its tentacles. Eryk jumps out of the way. The large whip-like limbs thrash against the ground and tear up all the grass. Eryk lands and skids on the dirt, just in time to make another jump to avoid being smashed aside.

The mollusk emits a loud screeching sound. It is completely unlike a roar, utterly dissimilar to anything Eryk or Malia has ever faced in combat before. They have fought dragons, they have dismembered Dwarven Spiders, and they have decimated entire armies of Scream-Pigs. And yet the mollusk is wholly unique in its high-pitched, unsettling voice.

Eryk ducks and avoids another tentacle. Malia fires another arrow, but it is quickly blocked by a quick turn that leads to the arrow’s metal colliding with the thick chitin of the monster’s shell..

All this time, Eryk holds his sword tightly. He holds it with delicacy, but with enough firmness that it would crush the throat of any human neck held with int. His sympathy with the mollusk grows even deeper as he sees just how far the beast is willing to go to satiate itself. He is going to kill the monster, but it will take an emotional gut punch to do it.

Eryk had two sibligs back in North Spire. One was a brother his same age named Vince. He liked sports quite a lot. Rollball was his favorite one; he loved rolling balls and spinning them around the rollball courtyards when he was done with his daily chores. He loved forcing Eryk to play against him even though Eryk was terrible at sports. Eryk’s strength was always his strong suit, but in rollball, when the goal was to kick and toss with precision and aim towards a specific target, he could not even muster a single victory against Vince.

The two were close. Quite close, in fact. But Eryk was much closer with his other sibling, a child named Rare. They were born under mysterious circumstances to a father whose identity was somewhat uncertain. The blood relationship was irrelevant, but still a source of bickering and controversy for years to come. Rare didn’t have many friends growing up due to the stigma about their uncertain family status, and the Solbourne family’s reluctance to fully accept them. But Eryk was quite fond of them. Their interest in books and learning was something that Eryk never fully related to, but it was something that reflected upon him regardless.

Eryk learned how to handle loss and competition with Vince. But he learned how to read, learned how to anaylze and predict things with Rare. Vince and Rare were never very close, but Eryk was close with both of them.

Then after North Spire was attacked, both of them were conscripted into the militia to avenge the region and destroy the enemies who raided and killed so many North Spirans.

And then after less than two months, the news about the two of them was revealed.

Vince had been killed in a botched invasion attempt. He was the only survivor of his squad after the fight had been lost, but upon retreating back to allied lines, he was hit by friendly fire.

One Solbourne gone.

Rare had been pushed away from the front lines due to low physical ability, and they were put on guard duty most nights. One night, around the exact same time as Vince’s death, Rare disappeared. They went absent without leave. They never showed up again. To this day, nobody has ever found any trace of Rare’s existence, even with the distinctive and incurable physical marker that all North Spirans possess with their hair and eyes.

Two Solbounres gone.

Eryk, then the youngest surviving member of the family of his generation, was thrust into a status he never wanted. He was content with a life of civil servitude and simple living that used his strength for what it was worth economically. Now he was being expected to learn the rituals and mannerisms of a future Forefather. Without inter-family adoptions, something quite frowned upon in North Spiran society without a marriage involved, the Solbourne family would have to rely fully on Eryk’s abilities to lead the way for the years to come, once the current crop of fathers aged out of their statuses.

For what it was worth, Eryk tried. He attempted to understand what it meant to be a leader to a family of dozens, tried to fit into the role of someone who was proper and masculine, parenting and compassionate. He did not succeed, however. He failed more miserably than a beaver reminiscing about the Great Dam War after too many drinks at the local pub. And unlike that hypothetical beaver, Eryk did not have anyone else to ramble to about his worries. With Vince and Rare gone, it was up to him to do everything, and he had no friends to speak of that he could trust far enough to divulge his most inner of worries.

It should have been Eryk, he always thought. It should have been him who was sent to war, not him who was tasked with staying behind to keep the family business afloat during difficult times. His only strength was his strength. He had no ability to be a good leader. He had no cunning or intelligence to speak of. In fact, he was quite dumb, even for a North Spiran. He had absolutely no business becoming the Forefather for the Solbourne family, and everyone knew it.

So Eryk Solbourne reached an agreement with the family. He would depart. He would not renounce his family claims, and would instead embrace them. He would leave with the pretense of a cultural ambassadorship to enrich the cultural understandings between North Spire and the other regions of the continent. However, he knew, and his fathers knew, that he had no such intentions of spreading the good news about his culture to the rest of the world. He didn’t truly have any intention of even returning to North Spire until he was old, fat, and long ago having proven himself as a hero.

That was when Eryk discovered a sorting scepter. That was when Eryk accepted the Destiny Deck System within himself. That was when Eryk Solbourne began his journey towards becoming an S-Rank [Adventurer,] the likes of which Mystix has never seen before.

And all of that history inside of Eryk Solbourne is what has led up to this moment. This battle between the giant sky mollusk on one side, and Eryk and Malia on the other.

Eryk knows that he is not praised by many. He is a disgrace to some, a failure to most. He has spent over six months lingering in F-Rank, something few to no heroes would ever do, and now in this particular battle he is at a significant disadvantage.

Even with a few [Minor Heals] consumed just yesterday, he still only has 4,100 Life Points at his disposal, thanks to the extremely low cap for F-Rank heroes. A few well-timed and deadly strikes by the mollusk could end his life.

And yet Eryk is not at all worried about it. He is even smiling.

Malia fires off arrow after arrow, each one of them breaking upon impact. It’s quite useless, but she is hoping to gain the attention of the monster just long enough for Eryk to strike.

He has not swung his sword yet. In this entire fight, he has simply stood and jumped and dodged, for that is the thing that is currently keeping him steady.

He waits for the final strike. The only strike he needs.

The mollusk is a pitiful creature. Perhaps nearly as pitiful as Eryk himself. He would never, ever admit to himself that he is a weakling and hates himself, but in his heart of hearts, in the invisible and inaccessible Destiny Card that makes up the contents of his soul, Eryk has a deep and unceasing hatred for himself. It is the kind of burning and passionate hatred that simmers like an ember below a boiling pot and doesn’t go away for years. Doesn’t go away for decades. Because of this hatred he sets goal after goal for himself, setting his ambitions to succeed in realms that are so far beyond his reach that he will surely fail them.

Of course he couldn’t become the next forefather of the Solbourne family.

Of course he couldn’t become a C-Rank Hero in six months or less.

Of course he can’t become an S-Rank Hero, is the thought that refuses to enter his conscious mind, but that swirls through his subconscious at every non-waking moment.

If the mollusk is anything like Eryk right now, it is crying on the inside, and its screeching is merely a simple plea for help.

Eryk decides to put the creature out of its heavy mystery. He figures out the correct angle, understands how to get past the tentacles, and how to strike it down in just one blow.



He sends out a weak magical Destiny Card skill that blasts into the mollusk’s shell. It burns it, but does no serious damage other than shocking the beast into a moment of stun.

And with everything set, Eryk leaps forward.

He moves his sword around like a conductor’s baton, tracing the correct motion he has trained for for ages.

Eryk Solbourne is no hero, not yet. But he is at least strong enough to slice off the mollusk’s tentacles and stab it in the face.




All in one swing, in one motion, he has ended the mollusk’s life.

When Eryk lands, so do a dozen tentacles that were disconnected from the attack. They were not even the target; merely a distraction from the real target—the mollusk’s brain. Brains are the only thing that can keep an animal functioning, after all. It doesn’t matter how dumb or smart it is, if its head is gone.

The mollusk loses its ability to float and crashes onto the ground. Its body is still stuck to the enormous shell. The shell rolls around for a second before collapsing on its side. The body then oozes out slowly.

“Ew,” Malia says. “That’s really gross.”

Ding! [+1 DP.]

All of that, and they only got a single Destiny Point each out of it… Eryk shakes his head in disappointment.

He does not know this, but he has entered a new stage of his life with the events of this day. With his first act of real romance with Malia, and his furious victory at the hands of the sky mollusk, he has forged a new destiny for himself. The Destiny Deck of his life has been reconfigured.

But the adventure isn’t quite over yet.

Soon, the other three members of Team Fanghook arrive. Thalia, with her magely books and low-cut dress and snide looks at everyone around her. Borguk, with his towering height and brotherly demeanor and gigantic axe hoisted on his back. Miss M, with her short stature and demon’s tail and grumpy glare as if she is extremely tired and ready for a nap.

They are finally back from their recon mission, and now the real mission is ready.

“What in The Goddess’s name took so long?” Eryk asks them, holding in no regard any idea of courtesy or politeness. He does not defer to the added experience that these three hold over him. He wants answers and that is what he will obtain.

“We got involved in some nasty stuff,” Borguk says. “These beasts in the sky kept attacking us everywhere we went. We could barely reach the castle in time for the summoning to begin.”

“Plus, there’s some war between the Dwarves and Yostians out in the mountains,” Miss M adds. “They’re real jerks! They’re planning some big battle and it’s getting in our way big time. We’ll have to find a brand-new way around the mountains so we can avoid getting smushed in the crossfire.”

“The only one who’ll get smushed is you, short stuff,” Borguk says with a hearty laugh.

Miss M crosses her arms and huffs.

“I see that you two have been keeping busy,” says Thalia, pointing to the carcass of the sky mollusk. “This is the same sort of monster that kept attacking us, too.”

“Very strange…” Malia says, putting her hand on her chin in deep ponderance of the confusing situation they find themselves in.

“Well, hopefully we killed enough that they won’t be coming around these parts anymore,” Borguk says.

“I certainly hope so,” Malia says. “This one was a real pain to fight.”

Does Eryk feel the same way?

No, not really, he realizes.

He doesn’t wish to see fewer and fewer of these sky mollusks, even if they are rampaging beasts unlike anything he has ever seen before. This one was hardly a difficult opponent, and its attacking seemed more akin to an untrained child than a real combatant. It was desperate, hungry, and lonely.

All of those things applied to Eryk too, in a way.

If they hunted the sky mollusks to extinction, there would be nothing left of them. They would become a memory. Is that all the weak are made to be? Cannon fodder for those stronger than them? If so, Eryk needed to claw his way out of this. Eryk needed to become stronger, more capable, more of a hero.

In all of this, Eryk makese a declaration to himself never to harm creatures clearly weaker than himself. It is beneath him, and even if it earns him Destiny Points, it would harm the world of Mystix overall if people were to kill too many of these weak creatures and lead each of them to a permanent extinction.

Of course… Eryk does not keep the promise he makes to himself at this moment. He forget he ever makes it, in fact.

All he remembers about this day is what he and Malia did, and then the thing he is about to do:

Rank up.

Eryk uses his Destiny Points to level up one more time, then to increase his rank. The process is long, colorful, and not worth remembering except for itse end result. Eryk is now an E-Rank Hero and that is what matters to him now.

10,000 LP.

Six Destiny Card slots.

The ability to use Life Points to draw Destiny Cards.

He has it all now.

And because of that, the memory of the poor mollusk fades from his mind. The promise he makes to avoid harming innocent creatures disappears into the obscurities of his unconscious, the same place where his self-hatred squirms around in dark corners.

Who cares about any of that when you’re an E-Rank Hero?


Later, deeper in some woods off in the distance from the Team Fanghook camp, two figures stand in relative silence.

These two figures are Malia and Miss M. Miss M, usually content to let her low height be the laughing stock of her party, now floats in the air so she will be at eye level with the woman across from her.

They do not smile.

They do not make small talk.

They simply get right down to business.

“Tell me what happened with Eryk these past two days,” says Miss M. “Has he performed well?”

“He’s done extraordinarily,” Malia says. “Better than we could have predicted.”

“The mollusk was threatening enough, wasn’t it? I tried to make it look as menacing as possible, but give it a bit of a sad side to it,” Miss M says. “Conjuring monsters at that short a notice is very hard, though. You gotta give me a further notice.”

“I’m sorry,” Malia says. “I wanted to give him a pick-me-up. He seemed a little down lately.”

“Well, now that he has finally reached Rank E, I guess he’ll be out of moping mode for a while, eh?” Miss M does a little twirl. “We’re doing a good thing, right?”

“Good is not something we can decide. We only do what we must, and history will judge us. Whether we are good or bad is for our descendants to decide.” Malia lowers her head. “He doesn’t have a clue. I promise.”

“My mind wipe worked? Completely? Absolutely? I expected no less of myself, but I’m still shocked it was so successful.” Miss M chuckles. “If you really think this was the right thing to do, then we can try it again the next time something happens.”

“I feel terrible about it,” Malia says, “but it’s the only way to ensure the survival of Mystix.”

“The only way to ensure The Goddess does not take her wrath out on all of us.”

“The Goddess will be the least of our worries if Eryk Solbourne remembers the truth,” Malia says.

And with that, their meeting is over.

Chapter 39: An Aftermath and an Appellation

My vision briefly shows a familiar face.

The world around me is dark. My body cannot move. Nor can my eyes avert themselves from this person in front of me.

I try to speak. Try to say something to this person so that I can convey the emotions I am feeling. Nothing comes out.

Instead, the figure in front of me, the person so I am so fully aware of, lets out a voice I could place anywhere:

“Thought I’d find you here.”

Tears want to come out of my eyes.

They don’t come out, though.

In fact…

I’m fairly sure I don’t have tears anymore.

Here in this moment, in this place, with this person, it becomes clear to me that there is a very specific reason I have felt the way I do for so long.

With the entire forest around me, I realize—

“Eryk! Wake the hell up!”



Francis slaps me across the face. “Eryk! You better be alive or I’m going to kill you! I’m going to friggin’ kill—oh, you’re awake.”

“Wh…What happened?” I ask. My senses are groggy and I feel very light headed. Did I pass out or something? Where am I?

I take a look around. I’m on a bench, while Delta and Eryk look down at me while they stand in front of me. It’s still night time.

My HUD is starting to blink to notify me of danger zone.

[3,014/15,000 LP.]

Oh, boy… I remember what happened now.

We were chased by the Persian mob, those Royal Tiger guys, and then I got shot with a gun, and then I used [Kaio Blast] to take them out and…

I forgot how much energy it takes out of you to use [Kaio Blast.] The Life Points cost is fairly high as it is, but it also is an extremely exhausting skill by itself. If I wasn’t so tired from all the fighting at the fight club, maybe I’d have done better, but…


65 DP.

I did pretty good today, didn’t I?

“You’re safe,” Francis says. “I’m so happy…”

“I’m happy too…” I say.

“You’re a friggin’ hero, Eryk,” he says. “A friggin’ hero.”

A “Friggin’ Hero…” That is a title I have never been given before. And it is an appellation I will accept with the utmost honor and grace that I can muster.

“Well, I’m going to bleed out of Life Points in an hour or two if we don’t patch up this wound…”

“I wasn’t in the Girl Scouts for twelve years for nothing,” Delta says. “Give me a minute to dress it.”

“Delta…” I say, weakly,”Aren’t you a bit cold?”

She rolls her eyes. “It’s summer in California. Tanktops are okay. Don’t worry about me. Let’s just worry about you.” She adjusts the former dress shirt and tightens it to be a more effective bandage. “That’s about all I can do for now. Does your magic power card thing have anything to help here? Otherwise, we’ll need to get you to a hospital, stat.”

“Actually… That reminds me,” I say. “I used my skill card [Foresight] earlier to allow myself to see the next five Destiny Cards I will draw. I could heal this if I drew another card, but…”


“It either costs 5 Destiny Points, or I could risk losing between 500 and 1,500 Life Points…”

“Can’t you just level up?” Francis asks.

“I certainly can, but I have a better plan.” I sit up on the bench, pull up my Destiny Deck, and sacrifice Life Points to draw not one, but two cards to fill my open slots.

That’s incredibly risky, and I know I’m an idiot for doing it while I am actively bleeding and injured, but I trust in the Heart of the Cards.

C’mon… Yes!

[-800 LP.]

[-665 LP.]

That adds up only to 1465 LP. That gives me…

[1,521/15,000 LP.]

And my next two cards, as was already shown to me earlier today:

Minor Heal: Rank 2. Gain 1,000 LP. Cost: 0 LP.
Skill Check: Rank 1. Examine the variables around you. (There is a small chance that your next action will go exceedingly well or exceedingly poorly.) Cost: 50 LP.

“There it is,” I say. “A [Minor Heal] for me to utilize. It gives me back 1000 LP, but if I just alter the skill use and redirect it all…”

[Minor Heal.]

Wooshing, glowing, blinding light—

[+1,000 LP.]

[2,511/15,000 LP.]

And thanks to my precision use of [Minor Heal,] my gunshot wound has been sealed up a little bit more. I’m not sure entirely how it works, and only the best of potion makers on Mystix could really tell you in detail, but I managed to heal myself in exactly the place that needed it the most.

I unwrap the makeshift banadage around my arm and show off the newly closed wound.

“That’s the power of the Destiny Deck System,” I tell Delta and Francis. I hand Delta her dress shirt, but she pushes it away.

“So you’re not about to die anymore?” Francis asks.

“I believe I’m still hurt enough that I’m losing about 2 LP per minute, but I’m at 2,509 LP now, so that will last me a bit of a while, I believe.”

“21 hours,” Francis says. “Well, about 21 hours.”

“I might as well level up, right?” I ask rhetorically. “But first, let me use the last of my Life Points to draw some extra Destiny Cards.”

Delta looks at me like I’m insane. “Um… Why?”

“Well, once you level up, you are fully healed. The goal is to have as few Life Points as possible so that you can know you have exhausted the maximum number of options you have. So that means either fighting and exploring until you’re on death’s door, or splurging on Destiny Card draws. I prefer the latter, especially since I’m getting closer to that achievement for drawing a thousand cards.”

“Wait, you have achievements in your system thing?” Francis asks. “You’ve never brought that up!”

“Yes I have. I think so. I am pretty sure I have. Or maybe it was only in internal monologue…”

“Definitely not.”

“Well, I’ll explain later. First things first, let’s draw another card!”

[-749 LP.]

[1758/15,000 LP.]

As expected, it’s [Blinding Rush] again:

Blinding Rush: Rank 1. Doubles speed and agility. Cost: 215 LP.

That’s okay of course, but it does mean that I can’t draw any more cards without using or discarding one of the ones in my hand already. Should I do a discard? Or should I simply count my losses, thank The Goddess, and level up?

Chapter 38: I Never Knew What Guns Were Until Today

The Persian mobsters are now so close to us I can actually see them. We’re on a street with a series of bright orange lamps illuminating everything. Theoretically this should reduce their aggression because it would be more likely for them to be caught and apprehended. However, it does not appear they care about law enforcement considering they are firing their very loud guns with zero hesitation.

By the time they reach us, they slow down and lower their weapons, but they are clearly very, very angry. One of the mobsters is crying a little bit, which makes me wonder if one of my well-placed instinctual arrow shows must have done worse than merely maim one of them.

They keep yelling things in Farsi, the tongue that I do not understand but Delta indeed does.

“Translation?” Francis asks.

“You don’t want to know,” Delta says.

“Fair enough.”

“I’m going to have to injure them all quite heavily, aren’t I?” I ask.


I poof my bow and arrow back into my inventory, crack my knuckles, and say, “Good. I’ve been waiting for a challenge for a while.”

[5,554/15,000 LP.]

I should probably not get shot this time. Luckily, they aren’t shooting anymore, but they’re probably about to start.

Well, let’s look at my Destiny Card inventory…

Super Hearing: Rank 1. Increase sonic perception abilities dramatically for five minutes. Cost: 70 LP.
Kaio Blast: Rank 3. Doubles combat stats for 2 minutes. Cost: 500 LP.
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.

There are quite a few cards I could use but most of them aren’t going to help in an immediate danger situation. There’s only one or two options that will work at all.

Yep, this is going to be a pretty easy choice.

[Kaio Blast!]

[-500 LP.]

[5,053/15,000 LP.]

A red aura emerges around my body. My hair begins waving around in the air as if a strong gust were blowing through.

“Stop harrassing me and my friends!” I shout.

In an instant, I’m already in close quarters to the mobsters. They can’t shoot their guns without hitting each other. And they’re too panicked to fight back at first. And that’s my opportunity to strike.

One punch and I send three of them flying. I sweep my foot across the ground and trip another.

I am completely surrounded by mobsters.

At every angle I turn, there are more men around me than I can possibly keep away from me. Some point guns at me, other raise fists or blunt weapons.

It’s too bad, huh?

Too bad they didn’t bring enough men.

I begin a flurry of attacks.

A punch here, a kick there. A jab against him, a knee into her stomach. I’m not really paying attention to what’s going on anymore. I don’t need to.

My instinct has become super. Nay, ultra. My ultra instinct has taken over and is doing all of the fighting for me.

I direct my attention to Francis and Delta. They stand on the sidelines watching me do battle. They look on in horror as my body snaps the wrist of a man reaching for his knife, and then as my body throws that knife into the knee of another.

They do not respect me. They do not cheer me on.

They are just like the audience at the fight club. My power is so great that it flat-out scares them.

And that fact scares me.

I toss a mob woman so far she lands in a tree by the sidewalk and has to hang on for dear life. She screams out.

“Hang in there!” I shout. Or rather, the part of me in control of my own actions is. The rest of me is still fighting.

There’s only a few mobsters still standing. Two of them run away the moment I glance at them. Another fires a bullet at me. It whizzes past my head. He fires again… but the gun only clicks. He has no more bullets.

I step over an unconscious person on the ground and walk up the man, still holding the empty gun pointed at me. I slap it away. He stammers something in Farsi.

I flick him in the nose and the force pushes him to the ground.

Fight over.

In the end, I didn’t keep track of the constant dinging sounds. But it looks like I’m up to 65 Destiny Points, so there must have been something good out of all this fighting.

Just one more thing to do before I call this finished… I bend down and pick up someone’s gun, then poof it into my empty inventory slot. That’ll probably help me someday in the future.

Then, finally, [Kaio Blast] wears off.

The energy of my fighting disappears in a wisp.

[4,688/15,000 LP.]

That’s nice…

I collapse on the ground and pass out.

Chapter 37: When Bad Bros Bounce

Several loud bangs come from behind.

Francis is screaming his lungs off, much like he was when we made our escape from the convention center all those (two) days ago. Only now, I find myself doing the same.

“Aaaaaaaahhhh!” I scream.

For her strength and constitution, Delta does not scream. Her expression is as solid as ever. However, I will admit that she is gritting her teeth and grimacing as if she has been shot with an arrow, holding onto the bags of money more tightly than a mother beaver would her children.

“Get back here!” one of the men chasing us shouts.

“Who are these people?” I ask.

“The Persian mob,” Delta says. “The Royal Tiger gang who run an opium empire across the West Coast. They must have found out we were stealing their identity to sponsor you in the fight, and… Well, we’re about to die is all I’m saying.”

“What are these bullet things they keep shooting at us?”

Francis is still screaming too loudly to even hear my question. Delta has to answer once again, saying, “Guns and bullets are like bows and arrows except they are much smaller and can kill you instantly. Luckily it looks like they’ve got that famous Persian Aiming skill going on with how accurate they are.”

“The Persian race is famous for its gun accuracy?”

“Famous for being extremely bad at it,” she says. “C’mon, we’re almost out.”

As soon as Delta says this, I feel a pain in my right arm.

A very, VERY sharp pain.

And then I hear the loud banging sound.

And then—

[-2450 LP.]

We make it outside and Delta slams the door shut behind us. “That’ll buy us fifteen seconds. We just have to make it somewhere super public and they’ll stop following us. Probably.”

“We run towards the street lamps for good lighting, right?” I suggest.

“Holy shit!” Francis yells. “Eryk, you got shot in the arm!”

“Huh?” I look at my left arm. There is a hole in my forearm. It is currently bleeding.


Suddenly, I feel the pain rush into my brain and all over my body, and I can’t help but yell out. I got shot in the arm!

Ow, ow, ow, ow…

[-20 LP.]

[-20 LP.]

[-20 LP.]

I’m starting to bleed profusely. Significantly. And my HUD is refusing to give me even a moment to reflect on that fact without constantly popping up notifications that I am losing Life Points.

I’m down to almost 6,000 LP…

Delta throws off her dress shirt, leaving only an undershirt behind, and wraps it around my arm. She makes a tight knot and says, “Buck up. Let’s run.”

The dress shirt goes from white to red in seconds, but the bleeding has slowed. I’m only losing about -5 LP per second now, instead of tens and tens of it.

The door behind us rattles like it’s about to open. It’s made of solid metal, but it clearly won’t stay shut for long. So the three of us take off running towards the nearest source of light as fast as we can.

“I can’t believe Eryk got shot,” Francis says. “I knew fight clubs were dangerous, but what were we thinking?”

“We’re idiots,” Delta says. “Morons with no brains.”

“I don’t know about any of that,” I say. “I gained a significant number of Destiny Points, after all. Today has been very fruitful.”

“It won’t be fruitful if you die of blood loss,” Delta says.

“You’re a very mean person, Delta,” I say. “I appreciate that about you.”

“Thank you.”

We reach a well-lit street away from the warehouse. I can hear gunshots in the distance, as if the Persian mob members are simply shooting as their natural mode of existence. Perhaps the ease of firing a gun makes them a lot less valuable to use than a bow and arrow. I would know that bows are a precious weapon that… Wait! I have a bow and arrow now. I could use that.

I stop running. I poof the bow and arrow into my hands. Well, my right hand, at least. My left arm is in too much pain to move right now.

Francis and Delta stop, and in unison, shout, “What are you doing, Eryk?”

“I’m going to stop them once and for all,” I say. “I’m going to kill these mobsters.”

“Horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad idea,” says Delta.

“Please don’t,” says Francis.

“Too late.”

With only one arm operable, I set up my famous one-handed bow shoot manuever. It is the kind of move that is nearly unprecedented for those who are not absolute experts, and just seeing it shocks the spirits out of my two companions.

I fire three arrows in rapid succession, and each one of them flies through the night. I cannot see, only hear my targets.

And then I hear the screams reverberating from the distance. All three were direct strikes.

I nod. “That’s how you get it done,” I say to myself.


[+1 DP.]

[55 DP.]

“Too bad there’s like fifteen more of them and they’re going to catch up with us in five seconds,” Delta says. “Wish you had thought of that.”

“Oh. Perhaps it would have been best for me to have thought of that instead of attacking.”

Well, no time now. I guess I have to fight all of them at once.

“Bring it on!” I shout.

They shout back in Farsi and I can’t understand any of it.

Chapter 36: Boy, is This a Battle! …Is This a Battle?

Foo Fighting Fred jumps onto the stage and begins writing around doing weird-pitched yells like he is an expert martial artist.

“I do not expect this to be much of a challenge, but I would like to get to know you,” I say to Foo Fighting Fred. “Pray tell, where do you come from?”

“Dover, Delaware!” Hiya!” He mimics a kicking attack in the air.

“I have not heard of such a place yet, but I wish to visit it. Are all of your people like you?”

“What does that mean? Hey, I’m not actually Chinese, okay? I’m Hmong, and I just needed a stage gimmick. Don’t tell anyone please.”

“Your mannerisms are fake, and played up for the audience? Oh, you’re following the rules of the Rainbow Circuit fighting club quite well, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, you too, right? You’re like some cosplay anime twink except no giant sword allowed.”

“In the Goddess’s name, what is a twink?!” I shout, just loud enough that the noise of the crowd fades into near silence again. “People keep using this word, and it confuses me a great deal…”

“Well, I’d tell you, but…” Ding ding ding! Fight start.

Foo Fighting Fred zips around, bobbing and weaving and trying to get a close position on me.

He jabs, fingers forward—

I catch his wrist.

“Uh oh,” he says.

“Uh oh indeed,” I say. “Goodbye.”

I toss Foo Fighting Fred and he lands somewhere in the crowd, far off-stage.


And also, Ding! [+1 DP.]

The audience erupts into an upracious chorus of boos.


Three women, each of them wearing color-coded suits of pink, blue, and yellow, enter the stage. They have frilly dresses and deep scowls on their faces. The girl in pink, if I did not know about the deception of “cosplayers” earlier, would have been a dead ringer for a North Spire resident. However, I know that she is merely a fraud masquerading as one of my people.

“Okay, in this corner, we have a tag-team battle going on,” DJ Koin, the announcer, says with little emotion left in her voice. “Normally, we here at the Rainbow Circuit fight club would not condone anime in any form or fashion. We still do not endorse anime and recommend you never watching it, but our newest team is a desperate measure against a truly despicable enemy. This is Team Prescription, here to give the medicine that is PAIN.”

The three women do a strange salute.

“I would like to introduce myself to the three of you,” I say. “My stage name is Blaze Blitzer, and I am a new combatant here ready to ‘kick the butts’ of any and all foes, to put it like my friend Francis Bacall says.”

“You know Francis Bacall?!” the blue one shouts. “Wow!”

“So, normally, we’re all supposed to fight separately, but they told us to attack you at once, so here we are,” the pink one says. “We’re Team Prescription, the magical girls from our favorite anime series Byouin ga Takasugite, Doushyoukana?!.”

“Cure Sally, why are you telling this jerk all this?” the yellow one asks. “Can’t we just fight him already?”

“I thought it’d be proper, Cure Holly. What do you think, Cure Billy?”

“It doesn’t matter to me,” the blue one, Cure Billy, says. “I just want to meet Francis Bacall. Is he here? Can I see him?”

Ding ding ding ding!”

“Oh, time to fight,” says Cure Sally, the pink one.

They charge at me at once.

I knock them out in seconds.

Sadly, I only get one Destiny Point for the whole thing.


The bearded man in the black suit from when we first entered the warehouse now steps onto the stage and rips the tie off his neck.

“Listen here, punk, I’m gonna beat your ass in if it’s the last thing I do,” he tells me.

“What is your name, though? I’d like to learn all about my opponents before I defeat them, so that I can honor your memory. Not that you will face serious injury or death, but a name and backstory will help cement you in my mind for years to come.”

“You’re making fun of me,” the man says. “I’ve been at this place for eight years, and you’re the first person to make fun of me. That ends now.”

The announcer announces, “Is there anyone else who might be willing to challenge Blaze Blizter? Anyone at all?” We are waiving all entrance fees, and giving you eighty percent off all concessions just to try it out. Anyone is welcome. This is DJ Koin, and if nobody else wants to fight him I may be contractually obliged to do it myself. I highly recommend that you do not make DJ Koin fight this guy herself. She is not a good fighter, trust these words from the woman herself!”

The man shakes his head. “They just assume you can beat me. They don’t know just how built I am.”

“What does that mean? Built? Are you a building?”


I shove my palm in his chest. He flies backwards, hits the ropes, then bounces back to where he was. He skids to a stop in exactly the same spot he was standing before.

“…I… But…”

I uppercut him and he’s knocked out in seconds.


Only the Destiny Point dings this time. [+1 DP.]

I’m up to 53 DP by now, with opponent after opponent facing me and losing pretty badly. I now have enough Destiny Points for a level-up, which is quite amazing in my opinion! I don’t really have to worry about my Life Points at all, as long as I have a few seconds to level up in between battles.


“Who’s next?” I ask.

The crowd has mostly left the warehouse by now. The stragglers remaining are shouting obscenities at me and someone even throws a can of beer in my direction. It nearly collides with my face, but I swat it away—

Right at the perfect angle to hit the woman who threw it in her own face, knocking her out.


[+1 DP.]

[54 DP.]

I am very glad that that counted as a battle.

The announcer heaves a loud sigh that reverberates throughout the arena. “I think the Rainbow Circuit fight club is doomed. Our reputation is shot and our fighters are all unconscious. Therefore, it is time for me to enter the ring myself. I just pray I will last longer than that kung fu guy did. Oh—oh, wait, we might be in luck. The boys are here.”

Delta and Francis run up to the edge of the stage again.

“Oh, hello, my two dear friends,” I say. “What might be your inquiry now?”

“Let’s take the winnings and get the hell out of here,” Delta says. “Now. Right now.”

“Why? I’m getting so many Destiny Points right now. At least until the grind becomes less effective and these weak opponents stop producing any points for me, I want to make the most of it.”

“We need to get out of here!” Francis shouts. “C’mon!”

“But I see nothing wrong with at least fighting the obnoxious announcer, right? She surely deserves it after all those mean things she said about those cosplay girls.”

“Oh yeah, you know that blue one, Cure Billy or whatever? She gave me her number. Isn’t that sweet? I got a phone number from a fan! And, uh, a girl too! The girl part is important because she is presumably a very attractive lady whenever she is not wearing a magical girl costume.”

“Ah, yes,” I say. “She mentioned you when—”

“Stop chit-chatting and let’s run before the mob thugs attack!” Delta screams.

Then a tiny object whizzes past my face.


“What was that?” I ask.

“A bullet. Let’s GO!”

I hop off the stage and look behind me.

Dozens of men armed with strange-looking weapons are in hot pursuit.

Chapter 35: My Brawl Barely Begins

[10,439/15,000 LP.]

Looking at my first opponent, a hulking, huge muscle-bound man I can only describe as savage, the first thing that pops up in my mind is my current Life Point meter. I’m down 4,600 Life Points, approximately, and that may come to bite me in the posterior if it turns out that my combat skills are not matched against this extremely powerful man.

The crowd, consisting of a large number of men and women and others who stand extremely close to the elevated arena, cheers wildly and so loudly that I can barely hear the announcer speaking even with his voice projected throughout the entire room.

“Welcome to another match,” the announcer says. “I’m DJ Koin and this is the Rainbow Circuit Beatdown!” She screams incoherently, which leads to the rest of the crowd joining in. The man across from me on the stage does as well.

I wish I knew where Delta and Francis were… I mean, I’m sure they’re in the crowd watching, but as long as I can’t pick them out of the crowd I have no chance of feeling any way but alone.

Being alone is fine, though. It alleviates me of any responsibility to protect anyone around me. I can focus on myself and myself only. I just… kind of like being alone with other people around me to reassure me and give me confidence.

“So, our next match is another long-time hero of ours, Bonesaw McReady! Yeeeeeeeaaaah! Welcome Bonesaw back for another night of no-holds-barred, absolutely brutal, death-risking combat! It’s all highly illegal, but Bonesaw is exactly the man to participate in some illegal combat situations!”

Cheers. So, so many cheers.

“Yes!” the man known as Bonesaw screams. “I, Bonesaw, am a man who is prepared. In other words, Bonesaw is READY!”

The cheers continue, defeaningly boisterous in their vicious energy.

“In the other corner is a brand-new contestant. You may know him as the protagonist of the Dungeon Core Saga Series, but only if you’re a turbo-nerd who plays video games for sissies!”

The cheers disappear. They are replaced with boos, and those boos are just as loud. They are, of course, directed solely towards me. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to take something like that.

“This Blaze Blizter nutjob thinks he can defeat Bonesaw McReady. What do we say to that?”

“No Friggin’ Way!” the entire crowd shouts at once as if it is some sort of slogan or something. Perhaps it actually is one. And I am the target of it…

“Will Bonesaw beat his record of a three-minute victory?” the announcer asks. “Will he be able to keep his opponent conscious for over three whole minutes?”

“No Friggin’ Way!”

“Then let the battle begin the moment the bell rings!”

Bonesaw, my opponent, steps up to me and sneers. “Hey freak show! You’re going nowhere. I got you for three minutes. Three minutes of PLAYTIME!”

“Freak show? That’s so rude,” I say. “I am not a freak at all. An anti-freak, if you will.”

He responds by shoving me back.

[-20 LP.]

I bounce onto the ropes holding the stage corner barriers together. And just as quickly, I am moving forward again, right into Bonesaw’s trajectory. he pushes me again in a new direction and I tumble onto the ground.

[-20 LP.]

The crowd is cheering, but a lot more softly than before. They don’t seem quite as enthused right now.

“C’mon, Blaze!” the announcer shouts. “Don’t die on us this quick!”

Okay, I’m starting to get a hang of what’s going on here. This isn’t such a complicated little fight club after all. He’s pushing me as a warmup just before he starts the real blows. And so as he winds up for his first real punch, I run clear in the opposite direction of the stage.

“Hey! Get back here!” Bonesaw shouts. He runs after me, but by the time his momentum has grown, I dash past him and go back to the side of the stage I was at before.

His agility is low, even if his power is high. Even with this small an arena, he is clearly outmatched. And thus my worries have already disappeared.

Bonesaw growls. “What’re ya doin’ over there?” he asks in a huff.

“Staying away from you,” I say. “You know, that is a cute outfit. Did your wife perhaps give it to you?”

“Actually,” he says, “my husband made it for me. He made it for me and gave me this glove to go with it as a gift for our tenth anniversary last year. You don’t got a problem with that, do ya?!”

“I don’t understand what you mean, but I hope you will understand this—” I jump into the air and raise my feet forward. They collide with his head and I jump, using his face as a platform. A few twirls in the air, I land gracefully, I do a little bow, and the fight is over in one attack.

Bonesaw tumbles around for a moment, raises a finger like he’s about to respond to my statement, and falls over unconscious.


That was the announcer’s bell.


That was me. [+1 DP.] Now I’m finally up to 40 Destiny Points, which is quite incredible I think. I’m very happy about it.

I’m down to [10,380/15,000 LP,] which means I barely broke a sweat that entire fight.

And then it hits me… the crowd is silent. There’s no cheering going on.

“Bonesaw…” the announcer begins, as if she were announcing a funeral, “…has been defeated. Blze Blizter is our new winner.”

Nothing. Absolute silence, besides a cough here and there.

It’s a bit awkward up here like this…

“I, uh, proclaim victory,” I say loudly. “Blaze Blitzer will defeat any challenger that… steps in…” I want to sound all energetic and hyperactive, but the crowd isn’t responding very well…

There’s some soft booing going on, but definitely no cheers.

I won the fight, didn’t I? What is going on here…

“Well, um, I guess Blaze Blitzer will be facing our next opponent once we clear out the ring and get everything sanitized,” the announcer says calmly. “This is DJ Koin and I guess, um, concessions are now twenty-five percent off, but only for the next five minutes. Get your pizza slices while they’re hot, I guess.”

The crowd starts to thin out, and then Delta and Francis run up to the edge of the stage.

“You were so awesome back there!!!” Francis shouts. “Holy crap! Can I livestream this to my followers? Is that even legal?”

“Please don’t stream this,” Delta says. “But idiot questions aside, you did good, Eryk. Did you gain a Destiny Point?”


“Then good. We’ve got some nice earnings for the night too. Keep on winning so we can get filthy rich, and I guess so you can get more powerful or whatever too.”

“Will do!” I salute.

Whatever challengers face me, even if they are ten times as powerful as Bonesaw, I will face them with as much vigor as I can muster.

The only problem is…

None of the challengers afterwards end up being as powerful as Bonesaw…

Chapter 34: A Very Dangerous Proposition… For Them

This is the address we were given. A warehouse deep in the middle of some dark neighborhood of San Fransisco. There is nobody around but us. Nothing but dimly lit street lamps and rustling wind.

(Warehouses are large buildings where stored items are kept by their owners. Much like a house that holds wares.)

“Is this truly the place for the fight club?” I ask.

“This seems about right,” Francis says. “You are completely certain you want to do this, right? No reservations at all? Because I’m certainly real reserved about it.”

“I am an [Adventurer,] Francis Bacall,” I say. “Fighting is what I am made for. It is my grandest purpose.”

“That’s true, but fight clubs on Earth aren’t… Well, they’re definitely not the nicest places to be. We don’t have gladiator arenas or whatever anymore.”

“And what a shame that is,” Delta says. “We could use some good old fashioned public violence these days.”

“You’re so mean, Delta.”

“I’d like to nominate most of my coworkers to be the first ones to enroll in the modern gladiator program. They can fight against killer robots and attempt to wrestle bears.”

“No more bears, please…” Francis shudders.

“Well then, let us enter,” I tell the two of them. “Let us begin our time at the fight club.”

[10,464/15,000 LP.]

That’s how much I have on me now. Not a huge amount depending on the severity of whatever fighting I may do here, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.

We get ahead of our past selves by advancing into the warehouse, where there are stacks of boxes piled high everyhwere. It’s quiet and dim, but in the distance I can hear something. Something like… cheering?

A large beareded man in a black suit and glasses stands in front of a cooridoor of boxes that leads in the direction of the cheering sounds. If I didn’t know better, I’d suspect this man was several generations removed from giant ancestry. He is incredibly tall and bulky. Almost as if he could pounce on the three of us and we’d immediately fly out of the building from the sheer force of the attack. It is as if he were a “pouncer” or something like that.

“Names and fighter IDs,” the large man says.

“I’m Omid Rigi,” Delta says with the pitch of her voice a lot lower than normal. “Royal Tiger liason. I’m here to submit my contestant for the night.”

The man narrows his eyes and looks at her deeply. “We ain’t got a Royal Tiger notification for tonight.”

“You are mistaken,” she says. “Check again.”

She glares at him as deeply and forcefully as she has ever glared at me, perhaps even more so. After a moment, he bites his lip and his posture slumps a little bit.

“Alright,” the man says, writing a name on a piece of paper in his hands. “Tell me who the Royal Tigers are entering.”

“We have a new contestant. His name is Blaze Blitzer,” she says.

“What? No, you cannot call me—”

“Shut up, pink-haired dog.”

I shut up.

“Okay, the man says. “Blaze Blitzer. That name sounds familiar… But okay, I trust you. First time here. Enter through this way and find yourself to the new contestant registration booth. Ask for Shaniqua.”

“Understood,” I say. “Thank you f—”

“What did I say, dog?” Delta barks. She turns to the man and says, “These white boys and their mouths.”

“I know it,” the man says. “Have fun with your contestant, Mr. Rigi.”

We enter through the cooridor of boxes and once we are out of earshot of other people, Francis gives Delta a wild-eyed smile. “Mr. Omid Rigi? You actually got away with that?”

“I actually got away with that,” Delta says, her expression mostly unamused. “It’s about the way you carry yourself. Maybe I’m a courteous young office lady when I’m at work. But I can also be a Persian mob man just by projecting myself enough. That’s all it takes.”

“Well, I’m sure your completely flat chest helped a lot too,” he says.

“Fuck you.”

“I bet that dude back there thinks you’re a total twink. Maybe he’s into that. Want me to go ask him?”

“Once again, fuck you.”

I don’t follow their joking, but perhaps one day I will come to understand any of what they are saying.

We approach the main room of this warehouse, where the cheering is now much louder. In fact, there is a large crowd standing around an arena of sorts. I try to look closely to figure out what exactly is going on, but I have too much trouble with it and give up. I’ll find out soon enough anyway.

We finally find the new contestant registration woman, where a woman by the name of Shaniqua sits there tapping away at her phone.

“Um, hello?” Francis asks.

The woman snaps into focus and gives a bright smile. “Why, hello there! Welcome to the fight club. First rule of the fight club is, of course, have fun! This your first time here?”

“Yes, it is,” I say. “I have a strong desire to participate in the fighting tonight, if that is something that is at all possible for you to accomodate.”

“You talk kinda funny, but I guess we can pencil you in. You got the cash to enter with?”

Francis sighs and hands over an unsealed envelope. “Here’s the entry fee. His name is Blaze Blitzer, and he is being sponsored by the Royal Tiger gang.”

“Yes, and I am Royal Tiger liason Omid Rigi,” Delta says.

Shaniqua eyes Delta suspiciously, but doesn’t say anything to her. Delta blushes but doesn’t lose her composure. “I’ll buy that for now. M’kay, Blaze Blizter. You know the five rules of fight club?”

“I know only the first one, which you have already graced me by telling.”

“Hmm… You sure you’re ready to fight tonight?”

“Ready as ever!”

Shaniqua shrugs. “Okay. Rule number one. Have fun. We always gotta have fun, even when we’re getting the crap beaten out of each other. Rule two is, if you are standing, you’re in the fight. If you’re laying on the ground for more than ten seconds, you’re out. If you’re touching the floor outside the ring, you’re out.”

“Ah, so it’s like the martial arts tournament I participated in back on Mystix,” I say. “I did not progress past the first round, but—” Delta elbows me and I shut up.

“Rule three is, no groin shots, even to the ladies. Rule four is play up the drama. Make the crowd go wild. If the crowd’s dead, so are your chances of winning. Rule five is, the concession stand isn’t free, even if you’re a contestant. Got all that?”

“I do, I do. I understand completely.”

“Good, then,” she says. “As a new contestant, you’ll be up against some of the veterans tonight. If you make it out in one piece, maybe you can come back to play another day. If you actually win any fights, you can keep going and increasing your earnings. That all good?”

“Crystal clear,” I say. “May I fight now?”

“Wait, first, whatever the heck happened to that guy who recruited us to come here?” Francis asks. “I never got a clear look at him, but…”

“Oh, you got recruited?” Shaniqua asks. “That was Earl. He never shows up around here. He’s a bit shy. But he likes running fight clubs wherever he goes, and he really likes finding new fighters. If you ever see him again, make sure to say hi for me.”

“Will do,” Francis says. “Okay, Eryk, are you ready?”

“As I have said many times in the past few minutes, YES! Let me fight already!”

A bell rings, and the crowd cheers. “We have a new winner! It’s Ulric the Stampede!” an announcer shouts.

“Right on time,” Shaniqua says. “Get up there and do your best.”

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