Category: Arc 4 – The Paso Robles Incident (Page 2 of 4)

Chapter 65: A Cult of Karens

Francis on one side of me, and Delta on the other. We are a motley crew, a powerful trio of interesting people.

And right now, we three have been captured and bound to chairs in the middle of an admittedly very nice dining hall. There is a fancy glass chandelier hanging from the ceiling, and a long table filled with various bottles and dishes and cut meats.

In front of us are many hooded people, mostly middle aged women, who stand before us, hands clasped together. Off to the side is Pablo Rosas of Paso Robles, also wearing a hood but looking a lot more solemn than I’ve ever seen him. He almost looks hurt, perhaps because he was unable to give this grand introduction himself. I do not suppose he enjoys his spotlight being taken in a way like this.

The head woman of this organization, Karen, stares at me with a suspiciously kind stare.

“You have finally come to our residence,” she says. “We are so glad for you to have joined us.”

Her smile is wicked. Truly devilish in the way that even Thalia herself back on Mystix couldn’t match in her angriest of days.

Delta, herself among the more powerful of women I have ever met, takes this in stride. Even strapped to a chair and being faced by many intimidating hooded figures is not enough to dampen her very harsh spirit. “Hey, we’re not the manager,” she says. “We didn’t do anything to you.”

At this, Karen growls. Quite literally, in fact. “Do not use these offensive slurs at me. I care not for managers or some conniving little bitch’s witty retorts.”

“Uh, okay. Whatever boomers say goes, I guess.”

Karen takes a bucket of water conspicuously laying on the floor and splashes it all over Delta.

Delta shuts up for a little while longer after this.

I don’t like this. Not one little bit.

Being bound up like this, tied to a chair, even with my immense strength I cannot make a move. Or, I suspect, I could theoretically break these knots and bindings were I to make a great effort, but surely Karen and her cohorts would notice. I would either come to great harm, or my two friends would in my place.

It is a dilemma that frustrates me to no end…

Karen begins to go on some sort of fevered rant about the true power of Paso Robles, its industries of olive oil and wine and how the city would use its luxuries and friendly lite-tourist atmosphere to carve out a place in the California travel industry. I dare not recount it in full, for it is not something that I suspect you will be interested in hearing. To be frank, I did not find much of any interest in it myself, especially after she began speaking of how the liberals in Sacramento are ruining the state and forcing everyone to give up their God-given rights. I’m not sure what any of that means.

Sometimes I wonder what these people on Earth would feel if they found out that the deity with control over them is The Goddess, and that she is not exactly playing a direct role in anything that happens here to begin with… I dare not reveal it to the whole world, lest it cause major panic and pandemonium.

Anyway, as she continues to rant and rave about subjects she appears to be passionately interested in, I decide to take a look at my options when they do come. Here, for reference, is my Destiny Card selection for the moment:

Blinding Rush: Rank 1. Doubles speed and agility. Cost: 215 LP.
Clone: Rank 3. Make a clone for 5 minutes. Cost: 1000 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.

My only cards at disposal are [Clone,] [Blinding Rush,] and [Transmigrated Spirit,] none of which could help save me from my current state of captivity.

That means… it’s time to draw a new one!

I still have 10,070 Life Points, even after losing quite a bit while knocked out (which is a bit strange, if I do say so myself). Therefore, I can draw using my Life Points with no real repercussions…

[-1,033 LP.]

[9,037/15,000 LP.]

Ouch, that one really hurt.

Oh well, though. That’s okay, because I now have a new Destiny Card:

Fireball: Rank 1. Shoot a fireball. Cost: 10 LP.

Oh. That’s… One of the most basic cards in my entire Destiny Deck, yes.

That’s pretty much useless unless I want to set the entire building on fire.

“…increase the Quality of our Citizens,” Karen says, finishing up her rant. “That is why we must take new citizens and weed out those who have not been performing as well as possible. Paso Robles is all about that.”

Delta and Francis look absolutely out of their minds. Glazed over like, well, a donut. There is little other we can do about our situation than zone out and hope we somehow transmigrate into a new realm filled with cultivation and high-powered beings, after all.

“So, would you three like to be initiated as citizens of Paso Robles?” Karen asks.

At this, Pablo Rosas steps forward and stands abreast to her. “They are fine. They are of good Quality,” he says. “They enjoyed the hot springs of their own accord. We didn’t even have to force them to do it.”

“True, true… Then we shall begin Selecting them,” she says. She puts the hood over her face and it becomes shrouded in shadow like all her other compatriots. “Then, let us bring out the tables. The Wine Tasting Ritual shall begin shortly.”

Chapter 64: Miss M’s Retribution + My Predicament

My dream. I’m dreaming again.

I’m in that place again.

The cave.

I still have no idea where this cave is, or what that brightness outside may be.

Or why I am a ghost on Mystix but only when I am dreaming.

Honestly, there are a near infinite amount of questions I can be asking but I have a strong doubt any of them will be answered in any way.

It may not be my place to learn that kind of information, as such a low-level being. On Earth, a D-Rank hero seems to be a considerable power upgrade to most who roam that world. On Mystix, I am just one of millions of D-Rank heroes, and when those heroes are alive they’re obviously much stronger than me.


I can’t even say THAT is true. There is so little information.

And Miss M has left me in this cave all on my own.

And again, on this night, she is not back.

Actually… I don’t believe it is actually night for me back on Earth. I am having some trouble remembering how I ended up unconscious, but that might be for the best, because I do not usually fall asleep in such a state where I cannot even remember how I got there. I also rarely dreamt up until I got to Earth, so this further compounds things.

It is a pitiful existence, being a ghost like this, simply staying in one place or moving at such a slow rate that I may as well be floating aimlessly on a gentle current in a stream.

If only I could access my HUD, I could at least pass the time by sifting through my stats and possibly even entertaining the thought of reactivating the Personality feature on the status boxes. But like I am in this corpoeral form, it is not possible to do any of that.

I must simply float and wait.

Float and wait…

Float and—


It’s her.

It’s Miss M!

She’s finally here for me! After all this time, she’s finally back!!!

“MISS M!!” I attempt to leap at her for a hug.


I’m a ghost.

I can’t hug people, let alone leap.

But here she is, Miss M.

She’s so much taller than she was when we were on Team Fanghook together. She’s over five feet tall, and while she’s still pudgy and hardly menacing from appearance alone, she has a new sort of elegance about her that makes it clear that she was once a demon queen. The bandages and burns that covered her when we last met are no longer present, and her hair is more neatly trimmed from its prior disheveled look. How she managed to do that in just a couple days along with whatever perilous tasks she likely had to do is beyond me.

However she looks, Miss M has finally returned to this spot in this mysterious cave and we can finally embark in whatever enigmatic quest she has set us upon.

“If you’re here, then let us embark,” I say.


“Uh, what?”

“Eryk, you’re too hasty. Don’t you remember why I left you here in the first place?” she asks.

“N-not really…”

“I was bringing an old friend back. All my adventures to get to here, all of the life I’ve risked and friends I’ve betrayed, and it’s finally gotten to me. I don’t want to be a villain anymore, Eryk. I’m done sacrificing things. So, for once in my life, I’m doing the right thing.”

“Miss M, you’re not a villain. You’re helping me—”

“We never said this would help you,” she snaps. “You must remember that I’m a bad person. I’m a damned demon queen, after all. I’ve never been one for altruism. Even if I’m doing the right thing, it may be for the wrong reasons.”

“I suspect you might be underselling the goodness within your own heart,” I say. “You have always been known to be a little bit hard on yourself, and this situation seems to be very similar. I implore you to look less critically at your own actions! Anything you do to help me will be of infinite benefit to your overall person.”

“You really aren’t listening to me. I’m—” Miss M sighs and presses her tiny fingers against her temples. “It doesn’t matter. All I want to say is that an old friend of yours is going to show up any second, and it’s going to be a real shocking twist that you’re going to be very excited by. Or disgusted. Or a little bit of both. Just… be prepared.”

“You’re starting to scare me, Miss M,” I say. “What do you…”

“It’s only a few minutes before I REALLY scare you. The reason for your being here will finally be revealed.” Miss M crosses her arms and looks down in some sort of deep contemplation. I notice finally that she has a giant dragonsword strapped to her back. Why is that there and not in her inventory?

All of these strange occurrences, and the biggest one of all hasn’t yet begun to pop in my mind. I just wish I could remember what it was that I was supposed to be thinking about… It feels so strange to me that… I don’t even know.

And then all of my worries, all of my doubts are cast aside in an instant.

The glow of a thousand radiating angels bursts into the cavern coming from the same direction that Miss M emerged from.

It’s an old friend, indeed.

“Miss M, you’re a complete bastard,” I say, a smile spreading across my ghostly face wider than a cheshire cat witnessing a heinous crime. “You’re a bastard who—Wait, what?”

Wh… WHAT?!

And then everything gets really wet all of a sudden.


My eyes pop open and my great strength attempts to burst out of the many bindings holding me down.

But by the time I become fully conscious, I realize that there is no escaping for me. Not from… Uh, I have no idea.

I was just dreaming, but my memories have become hazy and forgotten after mere seconds.

Where am I? Who am I? Just kidding on the second one, as I am clearly Eryk Solbourne, D-Rank [Adventurer] as I always have been and always will be, but I do wish I knew why I was in a bunch of bindings right now.

And then it hits me.

I am being quite literal when I say that. Another bucket of water splashes over my face, ice cold and most definitely helping me wake up now.

Now I finally see that I am strapped to a chair in front of a large table. Francis and Delta are in the same predicament, with Francis sitting on my left and Delta sitting on my right.

In front of us, I would of course be expecting Pablo Rosas, the purveyor of Paso Robles who captured us. He is currently nowhere to be found.

Instead of him are several figures who are cloaked, but with their faces plainly visible. They are… all middle aged women with fair skin and complexions.

One of the women takes off her hood to reveal graying curly hair. She puts a nametag over her left breast to signify herself. The name reads… Karen.

“Welcome to Paso Robles,” Karen says. “We have been expecting you for a long time.”

“You… have?” I ask.

“We always keep an eye out for prospective new residents of our wonderful town,” she says. “You are one of many to have caught our attention.”

I gulp reflexively. “Who are you?”

“My name is Karen,” says Karen. “And my organization is going to make sure that you three becoming loving and permanent members of the Paso Robles community. We expect the best of you.”

A wave of uncertainty washes over me.

I have no idea what I’m dealing with here. Not at all.

Special: Julie Rafati, Associate Professor

This is Julie Rafati.

She is the woman in the pantsuit standing in a lecture hall that seats eighty-five. The woman talking about the basic principles of macroeconomics to a room full of teenagers. The woman gawked at by many of the libido-crazed women and men who aren’t listening to a word she’s saying.

But we cannot see inside the mind of Julie Rafati. She is not a mind in which this story can view, and unfortunately that means we can only be passive observers to the action that follows.

Despite that, we can know these things:

Julie Rafati, born Julie Khatree, is from Augusta, Georgia. Her parents run a hotel.

Julie is adopted.

Julie is twenty-five years old.

Julie has been married to Delta Rafati for three years, since February 2020.

Julie is an Economics professor at San Fransisco State University.

Julie’s favorite film is Mystic Pizza.

Julie’s favorite video game is Gaia Online.

Julia’s Deviantart username is TrintyxOfxWonder.

With those things in mind, we can watch as she teaches about the concepts of supply and demand, as she draws a crude graph on the chalkboard and as students copy that graph down onto their notebooks (the ones not distracted by staring at her, that is).

Her teaching is effective. The students paying attention understand easily. They figure out what she is trying to say and even how real-world examples can apply. She talks about the pandemic a few years back and how prices fluctuated rapidly based on these very principles. The students feel satisfied, and their minds grow further attuned to the modern world.

Even when this class is held at eight in the morning, the students are still engaged. They’re still energized enough to learn and grow in ways that will prepare them to take advantage of life in the real world, for a career they do not yet have.

And when it’s over, the atmosphere in such a classroom remains quite pleasant, and persists throughout the day. Julie teaches two more of the same class, going over the exact same subjects, and they go exceedingly well just the same.

Julie keeps a smile on her face throughout. It may take a few cups of coffee for her lessons to stay as consistently fast-paced as they are, but the happy expression never fades, not until she is back in her office, sitting at her desk and reading through her print newspaper. Only then do the ends of her mouth finally turn downwards.

It has been a long day for Julie, but at 2 PM her classes are finally done. She sits in for office hours, which no student has scheduled her for as of yet. It doesn’t seem likely that one will show up…

Which, of course, mean that one does. It’s Amanda Yates, a sophomore who is already quite well-known around campus for her diligence, sometimes in negative ways by professors who are subjected to her inquisitive visits and relentless pursuit of top grades.

“Professor Rafati?” Amanda asks with two taps on her already-open front door. “Are you in?”

“I’m in,” Julie says, beaming with a smile. “What a pleasure to see you here today! Come in.”

Amanda comes in, but does not sit at the chair that is in front of Julie’s desk. Instead, she stands, posture tall, with a piece of paper in her right hand. “I need to talk to you about this essay.”

“Oh, what is it? You know, I really enjoyed that piece. You certainly understand the concepts of the free market in a way your classmates really haven’t reached yet. I almost want to poach you for an Economics major one day, if you’ll think about it.” Julie laughs softly. “Oh, but I guess you’re dead set on that PoliSci degree, aren’t you?”

“It’s not…” Amanda grumbles something unintelligible. “I’m trying to figure out why you gave me a 93. What did I do wrong? How can you justify taking off seven points? You didn’t write any criticisms on the paper, so how am I supposed to know?”

Julie clasps her hands together. “Amanda, you’re a good student.”

“Th-thank you, but…”

“Why don’t you take a seat? You’re getting too worked up.”

Hesitantly, Amanda sits down, though she keeps her posture up straight. “Professor…”

“Your paper isn’t perfect. In fact, nobody’s papers are perfect. There’s always problems that you can learn from to fix your content and research for next time. College is all about these learning experiences.”

“We both know that’s not what college is about,” Amanda says. “We both know it’s an exercise of corporate America to shackle young people with debt and to instill conformist liberal ideas in impressionable minds as a requirement for getting a decent job. It’s not about learning. It’s about money.”

Julie laughs, hands still clasped. “Oh, Amanda. You really are a PoliSci major. Why don’t you go relax at home and come back tomorrow? You look so stressed out.”

Julie’s tone is sweet and calm, but Amanda’s grows increasingly at edge.

“A 93 brings my overall grade down, Professor. I need…”

“A 95 is nothing to sneeze at. You’ll be fine. Better than fine. You might even win some scholarships if you apply.”

Suddenly, Amanda’s posture relaxes. She leans in close to Julie’s desk. “I get what this is all about. I know why you gave me a 93. You want me to ‘earn those bonus points’ by coming in here and sucking your cock. Is that what you want? Because I’ll do it. I’ll report you to the board, but I’ll at least do it first.”

“But I don’t have a cock.” Julie leans back in her chair and unclasps her hands. “Amanda, I took points off because you repeated yourself in redundant paragraphs that only existed to push the pagecount further. And because you changed the margins to 0.9 inches on all sides. I always take two points off for that last one.”


“Why don’t you go home and have some dinner, go out with some friends, get drunk on vodka sodas, and we’ll both forget about this conversation?”

“I…” Amanda gulps. “I don’t have any friends yet. And I’m only eighteen.”

“Well, I wish you good luck in finding friends and a fake ID.”

Without another word, Amanda stands up and leaves Julie’s office.

Julie’s smile remains for another fifteen seconds, and then it goes away once again as she returns to reading the newspaper. It doesn’t return again until she looks at herself in the bathroom mirror at home, a few hours later.

A faint pink can be seen in her otherwise red hair. Her roots are growing back in. She pulls out her phone and immediately schedules an appointment with her specialist hair stylist for a coloring. After that, she continues to look at herself in the mirror for a while, testing out different kinds of smiles she can use.

After that, she goes into her kitchen, empty and silent without her wife around, and makes a peanut butter sandwich. Then, when she is still hungry after finishing it, she makes herself another.

With no notable programs currently airing on the summer season of TV, and especially nothing airing now in the late evening, Julie ends up going into her bedroom and turning the rest of the lights in the house off.

She gets out her laptop, opens up her web browser, and scrolls over to the bookmarks folder labeled as “Research Documents 7/2018.” In there, she peruses the various items of interest, whether that include two men, or two women, or potentially even a combination of three. But before she can decide on an option, she receives a text message.

It’s from Delta, her wife of three years who is currently going on an adventure with her best friend Francis and someone who Julie has never met. Julie sees the message and on her face appears a smile of a very different sort from usual.

Delta: hey julieJulie: Good evening, darling. :)Julie: How are you doing?Delta: we just got to paso robles todayDelta: kinda weird place so farDelta: whats up w youJulie: Oh, nothing special. I was about to watch some porn.Delta: oh coolDelta: right now im watching this movie called chasing amy, you ever heard of itJulie: I can’t say I have.Delta: its pretty goodDetla: kinda weird but its a kevin smith thingJulie: I never really liked the guy’s work.Detla: clerks is great thoughJulie: Well that’s your opinion :)Delta: anywayDelta: i love youJulie: I love you too, Delta.Delta: you know what, dont watch porn just yetJulie: And why is that?

A few minutes pass and Julie waits for a response. For a moment, it appears as though Delta has fallen asleep or something like that, but finally Julie receives a few new messages, all of them pictures.

Pictures of a certain type that were obviously shot with a sense of artistic ambition with interesting angles, even if they did not necessarily succeed.

Delta: how you you like themJulie: They’re wonderful! :DJulie: You haven’t sent me any of these since I moved to San Fransisco. It’s been so long!Delta: yeah bringing us back to the good old daysDelta: weve done this shit beforeDelta: we know how the game rollsJulie: Yes. It may be lonely for a little while, but I’m going to be very happy to see you return.Delta: yeah me tooDelta: i love you so muchJulie: And I you.Julie: I can’t wait to start a family with you, Delta. :)Delta: yeah i guess we didnt finish that convo did weDelta: well im still thinking about it and idk still yet butDelta: i know how much it means to you so maybe we can do itJulie: Yeah. It’ll be great.Julie: Are you feeling well?Delta: uh yeah i guess whyJulie: No reason.Julie: As for myself, I’m feeling great. Especially after your message.Delta: make good use of those photosDelta: and send me some but i wont get to use them for a bitJulie: Duly noted!Delta: k see youJulie: Good night.

That certain smile stays on Julie’s face the rest of the night and into the next morning.

We cannot see into Julie’s head. We cannot say for sure how she is feeling. So this smile is all we can use for evidence.

Chapter 63: Listen, I Didn’t Say We Were Smart

“The height is a little bit more intimidating when you look at it from this angle…” Francis says.

The three of us, once again still in the hot springs bath and still buck naked (how many hours has it been by now?), are standing over the edge of the glass-free window and to the grass on the ground below.

It’s a two story drop. I’ve probably survived a four story drop or two in my time as an [Adventurer,] but I tended to have skills to help me or Thalia’s magical spells to soften damage. So this height is still considerably intimidating now.

“Just remember to hit the ground with your feet flat, your knees bent, and then keep the momentum going with a run or a roll. You’ll be fine if you do that.”

“This is exactly what characters do in Royals of Foreign Lands when they need to minimize fall damage,” Francis says in some sort of quiet awe.

“I’m really worried about, you know, being naked and people seeing us,” Delta says. “Maybe it’s not as bad for you two, but I got a little bit of a different situation here.” She beckons down to her genitals.

“What? You think it’s any better for us? That’s so unfair!” Francis exclaims. “It’s even more embarrassing because—”

“Let’s cease our usual series of silly banter and get on with our escape plan,” I say.

They both nod in return.

So our plan is simple, since Francis is a genius of planning things in clear ways:

First, we take our towels and dry off. That’s only natural. We will keep these towels with us so we can use them if the time comes that they are necessary.

Second, we will leap out the window. It is wide and there is no glass barrier, so it is an easy task in and of itself, but we must take care to land properly on the grass two stories below, or else we will injure ourselves. I would like for my Life Points not to go down from an event like this, so I will take great caution here.

Thirdly, we will find another bath on the first floor of the building and sneak into it to pretend like we were there all along. To be honest I’m not entirely sure how a hot springs works when it is two stories high, but I will leave that question to the wonders of modern Earth technology.

Fourthly, we will call on the clerk attendant to help us retrieve our personal belongings which were left outside the original bath and are too dangerous to get ourselves lest we be spotted by Pablo Rosas himself.

Fifthly, we will call a vehicle over to the back entrance and escape before anyone finds out what happened.

And so it’s a very simple plan. We put it into action as quickly as we can…

Until the third step, that is.

“It’s locked,” Delta says. “The window is locked. There’s glass pane windows on the first floor, and they are locked.”

“That,” Francis says, “is not something I had counted on.”

“Well, what shall we do?” I ask. “What is there for us to do? Could we summon a driver and simply leave our lost possessions behind? Surely they will accomodate our unclothed status if we give extra money.”

“We can’t even call an Uber without our damn phones,” Delta replies.

“Oh, right. Why did we leave our phones in those receptacles again?”

“Because phones will break if you leave them in super steamy rooms,” Francis says.

“What a shoddy design flaw.”

“Yeah, I’m thinking the same thing…”

Our next improvised phase of the plan comes with very little deliberation:

We run back through the front entrance of the hot springs and scramble through the lobby.

The clerk at the front stares at us nonchalantly, as if she were completely unfazed by our being naked and also sprinting.

“Have a good day,” she says.

We run past her and into the baths towards our own room. As we continue going up the stairs at a blizting speed, Francis chuckles, and remarks, “I thought running naked would be really painful, but I don’t feel a thing.”

“You’ve never run naked before?” I ask.

“You have?”

“Well, yes, of course. From time to time.”

“What a weirdo.” He giggles. “And it’s a good thing Delta here has the chest of a teenage boy because otherwise this might be killing her.”

“Can we go five minutes without discussing my breasts?!”

“I must agree on that, Francis,” I say.

“You too, with all your pervert gawking at me!”

“…My apologies.”

We find our bath and run over to the storage bins. All our clothes and phones and other items are still here, just like normal.

And no sign of Pablo or anyone else at all.

It seems safe.

We all get dressed as quickly as we can.

“This seems kinda suspicious,” Francis says.

“I disagree,” I say. “I sense nothing.”

Delta stares at her baggy clothing and mumbles to herself. “….maybe I should get more form fitting…”

“Oh, if you sense nothing, then it should be OK I guess,” he says. “Let’s get—”

“Ah, there you are!” Pablo exclaims as he steps out from a random bath. “I’ve been looking all over for you. Are you guys ready to experience a new day at Paso Robles?”

I step in front of my friends. “Get back,” I warn him. “I am Eryk Solbourne, D-Rank [Adventurer.] I defeated the Persian Mob.”

“You defeated like five guys, not the whole mob,” Delta says, unhelpfully.

“What?” Pablo tilts his head to the side. “But you only just got here. You are already threatening me, but I did nothing to harm you… I only want to help you.”

And then, from each of the baths that were not occupied by ourselves, out steps a different hooded figure. Six in all. They have us surrounded on both sides.

“What are we gonna do…” Francis asks.

“I’ll just have to use one of my best Destiny Cards,” I say. “I will—”

I feel a sharp pain at my neck.

Then I look down and see a piece of metal sticking out of it. A dart of some sort.

[New status effect: Slumber.]

Oh, no…

“You’ll be loving Paso Robles in a few hours,” Pablo Rosas says. “Just you wait.”

Darts hit Francis and Delta as well, but I can’t see what’s happening to them for much longer because my vision blurs.

“You… Fiend…”

“I’m a good friend indeed,” he says.

I collapse on the floor and black out.

Chapter 62: An Escape While Still Naked

“Will you let him in?” the clerk asks us.

Delta, Francis, and I each stare at each other in horror.

After all our sneaking around, all our foolish decisions to stick in Paso Robles instead of leave as soon as possible, we have been met by a fate that could have been expected by anyone that isn’t us: Pablo Rosas has found us again.

If he enters this bath, there is nowhere we can go to escape him. Nowhere for us to run if he attempts to do something unsavory such as force us to listen to the full unabridged history of the town without leaving the waters until he is finished.

“What do we do?” Francis asks, his eyes wide with terror. “What do we do?”

“No thank you,” Delta shouts to the clerk from behind the door.

“Okay,” she says. “I’ll let him know.”

“Wait! Don’t let him know,” she adds. “Stall him.”

But the voice does not respond. The woman must already be gone…

Francis stands up, briefly, showing off a triumphant pose of defiance (and also his bare body and certain surprisingly robust features). “We won’t stand for the tyranny of a man who wants to keep us chained in the shackles of fear! We are the Systemless Squad! A trio of best friends who will stop at nothing to achieve the goal of having fun, kicking ass, and gaining Destiny Points! Some wimp named Pablo ain’t gonna stop that!”

Reflexively, Delta and I begin to softly clap.

He continues. “We have to figure out a really great plan but that’s the easy part because we always think of the very best plans. We’re naked and stuck in a giant bath and all our stuff is in cubbies outside, but that’s just a minor disadvantage. We’ll figure out how to overcome any obstacles that stand in our way. Or…” He sits back in the water. “Or maybe we’re doomed.” He sinks down lower until all but his head is submerged. “Maybe if we wait a while he’ll go away on his own…”

“I’m not dealing with that. I hate getting pruny,” Delta says. “Even torture is worse than that.”

“Are you serious?” I ask.

“No, screw you,” she responds.

I take the insult in stride. “Well then, I think that we are far from doomed. Until that last part, Francis’s words have inspired me and invigorated me spirit. With that in mind, I feel that we should assess our options the best we can.”

“And we can do that… how?” Delta asks.

It is now my turn to stand up from the bath and bare my full body (and its unsurprisingly robust features, which Delta stares at in disgust) to the other two. “I can use my [Skill Check] card and illuminate the variables which lay hidden in this very room!”

Here is the card, for reference:

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.

That is exactly what I need.

Here it goes!

[Skill Check!]

[-50 LP.]

[12,157/15,000 LP.]

Numbers and percents appear all around me. My entire field of vision from head to toe is covered in data for me to analyze.

“What do you see?” Francis asks. “What does it… do?”

“I can see the chances of everything. I can see the status of various items around me. I can even sense your own vitalities…”

“That’s creepy,” Delta says.

“Much less creepy,” I say, “Is my ability to predict the chances of death at any given moment. The floors are slippery and the chances of us falling are over 15%. The soap here has enough germ killing power that it could be a handy weapon against certain bacterial monster types. This window out here looks intimidating, but it appears it would be relatively safe to jump out of it, at least for Delta and myself. Francis has a 3.5% chance of breaking his back if he jumps.”

“The window…” Francis mutters. “Interesting…”

“I can examine more stats than I ever have access to normally,” I continue. “For instance, this soak has decreased my Life Points drain by twenty percent; rather than losing a Life Point about once every sixty seconds, it takes about a minute and fifteen seconds. In addition, my health seems to be in good order, with my BPM at 112 and my brainflow at optimal levels. Curiously, my libido is at a 68.9% level, though I do not feel that I would be willing to act on such a thing.”

“Heh,” Francis chuckles. “I guess we are all naked in a hot springs together. If only Delta weren’t gay and I wasn’t straight, we could totally h—”

“Shut…” Delta shudders too much to finish her sentence.

After Chasing Amy, I completely understand.

I take a look at my two companions and their own vitals.

Interestingly, Francis’s health is in perfectly good order despite his out of shape physical features. He is proof that looks can be deceiving. And despite his crude remark, his own libido is at a mere 2.2%. Am I truly that unattractive?!

Delta’s stats are a bit off for what I would expect from a normal twentysomething woman. It’s almost like…

Wait a minute.

There’s another vital sign right below the water. Right in Delta’s lap, there’s another stat chart with BPM and nutrition and other things.

Delta… Are you…

I sit back down in the water and let the warmth soak over me again (a very relaxing sensation, by the way). I give Delta a long, hard look, but she doesn’t seem to understand and instead simply sneers at me.

She doesn’t even know, does she?

I have no idea how to delicately broach a subject like this…

“Delta, did you know that you’re—”

No! That’s not the correct way to do that! Even I’m smart enough not to blurt that out in the middle of a scene like this.

“What did I know?” she asks.

“Did you know that you’re a really beautiful woman?”


Whew, saved.

“You know, I think we can avoid Pablo Rosas,” Francis says. “I think I have an actual plan.”

“You do?” I ask.

“Yeah, if we just go out the window, we can escape through the back.”

“Without our phones, or our clothes,” Delta adds.

“We’ll have to go back inside and get them,” he says. “It might be a bit embarrassing, but at least we have some towels to cover up with I guess.”

“There’s a 1.2% chance I accidentally strangle myself with a towel when we jump out the window,” I say.

“Uh, ok… But we can escape out the window, then climb into ANOTHER bath. That way we can ask for the clerk who will retrieve our things without letting Pablo Rosas know, and then we can escape out the window again and bam, everything’s solved.”

“…Not a terrible idea at all,” I say. “Except, can we truly trust the clerk to do what we ask?”

“The only other option is to take a bus back and hope that they don’t drop us off at the nudist colony instead.”

“Nudist colony? What’s that?”


It sounds like a plan. Let’s get it into action.

Chapter 61: Being Naked and Examining My Achievements Board

So I guess it’s time I explained the Achievements Board to Delta and Eryk, something I have been putting off for a very long time.

“So I guess it’s time I explain the Achievements Board to you two,” I say. “This is something I have been putting off for a very long time.”

“No shit,” Delta says.

“It has never proven to be incredibly relevant… Until now, I guess.”

The three of us are still taking a hot mineral bath together in the Yuletide Lounge, a hot spring that overlooks a magnificent vineyard termed the Great Grape Gardens. It is the single greatest moment of my time in Paso Robles so far, and I am enjoying it with great stride.

“So what is it?” Francis asks. He’s still cuddling up to Delta, who currently has her arm around his shoulder. “What exactly is the achievement system in your, uh, system?”

“The Achievements Board is a list of one hundred different tasks that grant rewards when completed,” I explain. “These rewards are often trivial or silly, such as weapons that are usually outdated, or ceremonial trinkets. Sometimes the rewards can be greater, but it is unknown what will be rewarded until you trigger the achievement, because the exact reward varies depending on your rank, level, and race.”

“So it’s a dynamically scaling loot system, essentially…” Francis seems absorbed in thought, like he has pondered this very design even longer than I have.

“It’s really no big deal,” I say. “It’s one of the many minor features of the Destiny Deck System that I have mostly deemed unnecessary.”

“Features you haven’t told us anything about until it’s convenient?” Delta asks.

“Well… I’m sorry. I should have given a more thorough explanation of my entire system. It would be easier if I were simply able to find a Sorting Scepter and bring it to Earth to grant the two of you the ability to choose your own class, though. You’d gain access to the system and would quickly understand everything that I already do.”

“And we’d be tied to the whole Life Points thing that will slowly kill us,” she adds.

“Well… Yes.”

“But wait, you just got an achievement for… what?” Francis asks. “Soaking in the hot springs?”

“Yes, apparently,” I say. “I cannot see all one hundred achievements; the only ones visible to me are those I have completed, and those adjacent to the completed. This one I succeeded at all on its own: ‘Soak in fifteen hot springs.’”

“What a weirdly specific achievement.”

“That’s the fun of it,” I tell him. “The whole Achievements Board is a bonus to help ease new users into the Destiny Deck System, by giving them concrete and sometimes lofty goals to reach for. Each board is geared towards its specific class, and so my [Adventurer] board is filled with tasks to help me succeed at exploring, fighting monsters, and trying new things.”

“Can we… see it?”

“Uh, not that I know of. But I guess I can list the whole board to you…?”

Well, here it goes:

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

“That really is a lot of achievements,” Delta says. “Some of those aren’t even possible to complete on Earth, either. Most of them maybe.”

“Your system has a personality?” Francis asks.

“I turned it off,” I say. “Trust me. It was not something you would want on all the time. It can speak out loud all on its own…”

“But it’d be a new friend! We’d be a team of four interesting quirky folk, not just three!”

“I really have to agree with Eryk on this one,” says Delta. “Please never turn this system personality thing back on.”

So next for me is to claim the reward for achieving the hot springs achievement. I wonder what it could be?

Here it goes…


[+3 DP.]

[51 DP total.]

“I heard a ding!” Francis shouts.

“Yes, and by The Goddess’s name was it a ding!” I exclaim. “Three Destiny Points awarded to me. Wow.”

“So we’ve been sitting on a possible Destiny Points goldmine this whole time and you never even told us,” Francis says. “On one hand that makes me mad at you and we’re going to talk after this. On the other, holy crap, we have a whole new set of tasks to strive for!”

“Indeed, indeed,” I say. I don’t want Francis to be mad at me, though… I really should have told him about some of the features the system gives me, it’s just… I never really thought about some of them. The most the Achievements Board has given me is a single gold bar for reaching E Rank back in the day. There wasn’t even an achievement for reaching D Rank, for some reason…

Well, anyway, for now we can continue relaxing in the bath with absolutely zero interr—

Knock knock.

“Hello, Mr. Bacall and party?” a voice asks, one belonging to the woman from the front desk who put me at a noticeable unease. We don’t answer immediately, but she doesn’t hesitate to continue. “There is one Pablo out here asking to join you in the bath. He is quite nice. Shall I let him in?”

Pablo Rosas is here…

Chapter 60: A Nice Hotsprings Bath (Fanservice Chapter)

I throw off my shirt and pants and underwear in one fell swoop, so fast that the clothes haven’t even hit the ground by the time I’ve grabbed a towel and wrapped it around myself. Delta sneers at me, but Francis stares in amazement.

Francis attempts the same maneuver, but then trips over his feet trying to get his pants off.

I put away my clothes and belongings (which so far include just my phone, a granola bar, and a ziploc bag with paper currency) into a bin and slide it into a shelf. There appear to be no protective measures against someone stealing these items if they so wished, though I assume the Yuletide Lounge has other security measures that can prevent theft. At least, I hope so. Otherwise I will have overestimated the intelligence of the people of Earth even further. Don’t they know gremlins or other such non-sentient beasts could enter and take all the items in an instant?

“I’ll be the first to enter,” I say, “since if there are any heinous villains or vile traps, I will be the one to fend them off before letting you come to harm.”

“Okay,” Delta says. “Just don’t cannonball into the bath please.”


“Never mind.”

“Uh, very well then.”

I enter the bath room, which consists of a few buckets of water to wash oneself off with, a pleasant blue tile floor, and steam permeating every inch of the air. There is a wide glass-free window-like opening. I’m not quite sure if it counts as a window if there is no glass. But either way, right in front of the bath is a window that lets out all the steam and also allows a great wide look at the Great Grape Gardens of Paso Robles, the same vast vineyard I viewed a few minutes earlier in the front entrance.

This is not quite a natural hot springs like I would have wished for, though the creepy woman at front promised that the water is from a natural hot springs and the building was simply designed around it. But I must say I prefer a bath built from rocks, one where the calming sense of nature surrounds you completely. One of the downsides of Earth’s magnificent societal advancements is that the path to nature is quite a lot harder. Even the vineyard out there is man-made, as beautiful as it may be. It gives me some sense of longing, but one I can’t quite describe.

Well, a bath is a bath, especially one with the enriching properties of scalding hot mineral water. If it is as powerful a bath as the ones I sometimes partook in back on Mystix, soaking for long enough will give me the [Soothed] status effect, which will slow my non-combat Life Points drain for around a day. That’s great!

So I take off my towel and set it on a rack, and then wash myself off with the shower to rid myself of the germs and gunk accumulated over the day. And then when I am ready, I stand up and—

Oh, Francis is in here now.

We meet eyes.

And then I look down instinctively and back up at him.

Francis is completely naked, and so am I. His body is curvy and soft, just like I always expected, but much hairier in the chest and elsewhere. He has the figure of a hearty lumberjack after a winter’s break, more powerful than a video game player should be. And… While I can never say I have felt this way in my life before… I am somewhat uncomfortable. Also I haven’t taken my eyes off him in upwards of fifteen seconds.

He blinks a few times in response to my staring and steps into the bath without washing off first.

I gather my bearings and do the same.

The water is extremely hot—

Ouch, for a second. I’ll have to acclimate myself and step in slowly—



Amazing. Just fantastic. If baths counted as a Class Action for [Adventurers,] I’d probably gain two Destiny Points right here on the spot (this is a joke; one cannot gain two Destiny Points for the same action in almost any case.)

My body heats up and relaxes in exactly the way it always needed. It’s been approximately one week since I came to Earth and I’m incredibly tired to say the least. This is a much-deserved break from the rough and tumble world of the Destiny Deck System. No Dragons here. No Persian Mob. No disconcerting Paso Robles fans. No wondering about the mysteries of what Miss M was trying to bring me to. Just sitting (laying?) in this large pool of mineral water.

Francis gives me a weird look, probably from how I was acting earlier. I try not to meet his eyes.


I blame Delta for all of this.

She’s the one who told me that whole spiel about how Francis thinks extremely highly of me and considers me a great friend, or even a “sweetheart” or whatever. She used the word “crush,” but I’m still a bit unsure of the meaning behind that. Either way, now I have to wonder…

Wait minute, why did he not stare at me when he saw my naked body? What, am I not chiseled and muscular enough to warrant an emotional response from my appearance alone? Does he not appreciate the fine form of the human body as much as I do? If so, that is a sad case. The human body is beautiful in all shapes and sizes. It is our own artwork which we carry around with us, and I will not—

I see Delta enter the bath room. She, of course, removes her towel and shows off her naked, nearly completely hairless body. With a flat chest, prominent abs, and wide hips, Delta is picturesque in the classical sense—I have seen few paintings that have captured the essence of feminine beauty in such a way as her. I stare at her and take in the art that The Goddess crafted before she steps into the bath and her features disappear below the murky water.

She glares at me harder than I’ve ever seen her do before.

“You have literally not even a speck of decency in that shriveled up cranium of yours,” Delta says.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“You know exactly what you mean, you pervert,” she says.

“Pervert? What did I do to offend you so?”

“You’re gawking me like a real creeper,” she says flatly. “I thought we… you know, after Chasing Amy…”

“Chasing Amy? Francis asks.

My face lights up with the distinct burn of a blushing face. “Ah, yes, that’s right… Chasing Amy…”

“Yeah, so…”

“My apologies,” I say. “I did not mean to imply—Well, I will admit I find you very physically attractive—that I was examining you for lewd behaviors. I was simply taking in your physical form, which is at the peak of womanhood. You deserve to have your likeness sculpted into a statue and put on display in a gallery.”

She sighs, and leans back at the edge of the bath, putting her arms behind the back of her head and looking slightly upwards. “I get it. You’re from a different world and all, so it’s not quite the same. It’s super fucking weird, but I’ll take the compliment.”

“Maybe I’m desensitized from seeing Delta naked like a billion times since we were six,” Francis says, “but I really don’t see where you’re coming from with all this.”

“Hey!” Delta shouts.

“Just kidding.” He giggles.

“I have doubts about that…”

Francis scoots across the bath and gets up right next to Delta, resting his head on her elbow. “Isn’t this great?” he asks. “It’s so relaxing.”

“Besides Eryk being here, yeah I guess so.”

He lets out a long, pleasant sigh, completely unlike the one Delta just gave towards me. “This was a good choice, Delta. I’m really starting to feel better.”

“…Are you?”

“Yeah. Being with you, just spending time hanging out with my bestie. It’s been forever since we could just… You know, have fun.”

“It does feel nice,” she says. “But are you sure you’re…” she trails off, apparently not to directly bring up how upset Francis was yesterday after something he didn’t want to tell us about.

“Yep, for sure,” he replies. “Rest, relaxation, and adventuring across the United States.”

“Or at least California. I don’t know if we should go all the way out past LA, should we?”

“And not let Eryk see the Grand Friggin’ Canyon?”

“True, true,” she says. “I haven’t even seen the Grand Canyon.”

My mind puzzles with the possibilities of what such a grand canyon could be like that it’s become its own proper noun. That interests me a lot.

“Well then, it’s decided,” he says.

“I guess it is, Francis.”

The two continue leaning back and soaking in the steamy atmosphere of the hot springs.

I watch them and a small smile grows on my face. It’s starting to become clear to me why they were so eager to help me, why they were so happy to go on this big adventure with me. Sure, I’m in great need of help and they are the ones who will bring me into becoming the first S-Rank Hero in generations. But I think they just wanted to escape the pressures of Earth’s stressful adult life and hang out with each other.

I really respect that.

Hanging out is really fun, after all. Taking a nice relaxing bath with your friends in a mineral water pool and—


[Achivement Unlocked! Soak in 15 hot springs.]


[Visit the Achievements Board to collect your reward.]

“I did it!” I exclaim. “I got a new achievement!”

Both of them look at me with absolute confusion and speak in unison: “Achievement?”

Chapter 59: Entering the Hot Springs, I Notice Something…

“I just don’t believe it…” Francis groans.

“Why not? It has most certainly happened. I can verify it. I have now 52 Destiny Points.” (It’s a lie, since I only have 47, but I’m playing coy about that extra card I drew at the hotel.)

“But it’s just so…”

“So what?” I ask.

“So stuuuuuupiiiiiid….” Francis groans. “Video games are not supposed to be any sort of substitute for real life. They’re a distraction, like entertainment. That’s the exact opposite of adventuring!” He throws his hands up in the air.

“Tough talk for someone whose entire life revolves around playing games,” Delta tells him.

We are outside the entrance to the Yuletide Lounge, a world-famous hot springs that sits right in front of a vast grape vineyard. People from all over the realm flock to visit and soak in the warm baths. However, today it seems relatively empty, which is either a good thing for our attempt to hide from Pablo Rosas, or a bad thing because it makes us a lot easier to spot.

Now that I think of it… there really have not been many people in Paso Robles these past couple days. I’m not sure how I feel about that, now that I think about it…

“I’m just saying, this adventure is utterly pointless if we could have just kept Eryk at home playing games. I could have made a ton of money off teaching a dude from medeival times how to play games and recording it all.”

“You would really use me as such a cheap vessel for monetary gain?” I ask.

“Yeah, probably… Sorry, Eryk, but you’d make so much money as a streamer. Especially if you used a spell every now and then.”

“Perhaps… But, Francis, how are young people donating their disposable income to you when you are here with us on this trip, rather than at home on your computer setup?”

Francis flashes a smile. “Well, I do got a super special secret: Sometimes, I stream mobile games! Like Boys Frontline and Star Wars: Girls’ Love Idol Team and Jelly Joy, that sort of thing. Not as many people watch, and I can’t stream my voice or face very much, but it still attracts a few viewers somehow. Kids really wanna watch me play games.”

Delta glares at him. “Completely and utterly defeating the purpose of a vacation, you continue to work. That’s my explanation for it.”

He puts his arm behind his shoulders and rubs the back of his head. “Well, I love video games, what’s a guy gonna do…”

“I think video games are potentially a quite interesting medium of entertainment, especially if they reward me Destiny Points,” I say. “Perhaps I should be the one playing mobile games in my spare time.”

“When we finish setting up your phone, maybe we can,” Francis says. “But anyway, let’s stop talking shop and enter this shop!”

“It’s not a shop, it’s a hot springs,” Delta says.

We finally enter the Yuletide Lounge hot springs. It seems to be a normal office building akin to anything else I’ve seen on Earth; there is a small, fake tree in the corner with seating against the walls and clean tile floor. A woman in a suit looks on with vague happiness while standing behind a counter that has some papers and pens on it.

And the woman stares at us with a vague sort of pleasantness.

“Welcome to the Yuletide Lounge Hot Springs,” she says. “We are so glad for you to have come to Paso Robles today to visit this spot in particular. Will you be enjoying a nice hot bath today?”

“Yep, that’s the plan,” Francis says.

I keep looking at her, though she never looks my way. “…”

“Will you want a public bath or a private one? How many? Would you like complimentary olive oil?”

“Private bath, and uh, just one,” he says. “No thank you to the olive oil.”

She doesn’t respond for a moment. Her expression remains unchanged. “Very well, then,” she says, finally. “Sign in and we can get you paid and set up for a nice bath in a room overlooking the Great Grape Gardens of Paso Robles.”

“The Great Grape Gardens…?” I ask.

She beckons a hand. “Yes, look out that window. You can see one of the world’s most beautiful grape farms. We use this to make wine. We use wine to bring visitors. We are a very happy city.”

I look out the window and see a vast vineyard stretching out as far as the eye can see, all the way to the mountains in the distance. By The Goddess’s name, that’s beautiful.


[+1 DP.]

Oh, I have 48 DP now. As Earth people like to say, sweet! I pump my fist lightly.

The woman notices me and tilts her head to the side, expression unchanged.

But as my two Earth friends seem not to be saying…. very un-sweet.

She’s… a little bit unsettling.

This whole place is very unsettling.

It has that sort of atmosphere of… I don’t know. A cave full of treasure, but also full of mimics? It feels calm and peaceful, but my guard is up at all times. I’m even instinctively checking my Destiny Card hand just out of habit:

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.
Blinding Rush: Rank 1. Doubles speed and agility. Cost: 215 LP.
Clone: Rank 3. Make a clone for 5 minutes. Cost: 1000 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.

There are a great many strategies I can take at a moment’s notice, especially with a card as versatile as [Blinding Rush,] but I do not feel like I should be going around and wasting these cards, sometimes I quite often say.

Why even have these Destiny Cards if I’m just going to sit on them for long periods of time? Well… You never know when you will get in a combat situation so perilous that you end up using four cards at once.

I don’t necessarily suspect that today will go like that, but…

“Okay, your bath is in Room 20C. Enjoy at your leisure.” The lady clasps her hands together like she is fawning over the fact that we are deeming this place of business worthy of partaking in.

I look at Delta, and she keeps a neutral face, but I can tell she’s thinking many of the same things I am.

I look at Francis, and he’s got his tongue stuck out. “Woo-hoo!” he shouts. “Let’s get naked and take a piping hot bath!”

Is that how I look to other people whenever I become foolhardy?

Chapter 58: I Ponder My Worries; Delta’s Secret is Revealed

After what seems like an eternity of waiting, we take action.

Yes, I know that I, Eryk Solbourne, am not someone who is typically seen as a cautious person. In just the past few days, I have done certain things that one could charitably consider “hasty.”

For example, within hours of my arrival on Earth, I had acted with zero hesitation with an assumption that this was a world where kaiju roamed freely and the humans on the planet were relegated to living on giant moving cities. I fought and nearly killed innocent cosplayers in the thought that they were aiding a monster invisible to my system.

For example, shortly after meeting Francis Bacall, my dear friend, I destroyed a cardboard skeleton standee, fled from the San Fransisco Police Department, set fire to a convention center seller hall, and beat up a man named Buddy because he said mean things about my friends.

For example, I was given the chance to be resurrected back on Mystix and to potentially reuinte with my lost love, my own elf lover Malia, and instead decided to go back to Earth where my life was constantly at risk and my system gnawed away at my very being.

For example, I eagerly wrestled a bear into submission the moment it threatened me without any regard to etiquette or care.

For example, without any regard to the way people perceive me, I entered an underground fighting ring and handily disposed of every single contender in the entire building, then defeated mobsters from a far-off land known as Persia.

For example, I…

Well, I think it’s obvious. I am a hasty person, and one that sometimes commits actions that do not have the optimal outcome thanks to my not thinking things through. Sometimes I feel that this may be my charm, that people are attracted to someone they can rely on to always be prepared for large-scale and dynamic action, but someone who also must be looked after and protected. It is part of what makes Eryk Solbourne the man he is.

So then, knowing all of this, it must come as a surprise that I am feeling heavy trepidation right now, that I am the one in my trio of friends who is urging caution and wanting to stay back.

In this twisted, possibly sinister city of Paso Robles, even someone like Eryk Solbourne can become a worrisome figure. That fact alone should give some pause.

But I am not the one leading the charge in this hasty endeavor. It is instead my dear friend Francis.

Using our best collective sneak skills (and sadly because I am an [Adventurer] rather than a [Butler,] I do not have the access to Destiny Cards that would give all of us amazing stealth abilities), we exit our hotel room. We do not take our things, for reasons I am currently not quite sure about. It VERY MUCH seems to me like the best course of action would be to take our next train ride out of Paso Robles and leave this creepy place behind!

But no. Instead, we climb aboard a public bus, tap our IC Cards (these are magical cards, similar to the hotel room key cards, that store money and can be used to pay for transportation and even vending machines), and go off on our next day’s adventure.

“I am not quite certain this is the best course of action…” I say.

“Don’t worry,” Francis says. “We’re going to get our money’s worth out of this trip! I promise! You’re going to get so many friggin’ Destiny Points.”

“But the amount we had to sneak just to get around that Pablo Rosas man… it’s some pretty unsettling feelings I am having right now.”

“I kinda feel it too,” Delta adds. “I’m really not sure we should do it. But… We can’t leave yet. Not right now when the heat’s still high. So might as well enjoy our trip. I’m looking forward to the hot springs, anyway.”

“As am I,” I say. “I have not enjoyed a hot springs in a very long time! It excites me.”

“Good on you,” she says. “Me neither, so this might be fun.”

“You know, Delta, you’ve changed,” Francis says.


“You sound a lot more chill lately,” he tells her.

I can see the very pores of her face start to shift. Her relaxed expression morphs into the same stern, angry scowl that Delta Rafati is famous for. In an instant, she is anything but “chill.”

Francis shrugs. “I’m just saying… You’re starting to be back to your old self a little bit.”

“My old self… Fuck off.”

“Did you know Delta used to be cutesy and happy all the time?” Francis asks me. “When we were teens she always dressed in gothic lolita fashion and listened to pop music all the time. Absolutely an adorable human being. Super chill about everything.”

“Really?!” I exclaim so loud it makes other people on the bus look back at us. “Delta was cute? I can hardly fathom it.”

“The cutest little lesbian you’ve ever seen,” he says. “Just by being around her back then I met almost every girlfriend I ever had. Some of them dumped me for her though.”

Delta growls. “Everything Francis is saying is a complete lie, Eryk. Don’t listen to him.”

“It seems extremely plausible, I must say.” I rub my chin and try to picture in my mind’s eye a younger version of Delta, one where her bangs are cut short and she has a frilly pastel dress (yes, I know what gothic lolita is—we have that fashion style on Mystix too). It’s very difficult for me to imagine it being real, I must admit.

“Well it’s not, and I hate Francis forever,” she says. She crosses her arm and looks out the window, ignoring the two of us for the rest of the bus ride. Francis continues to snicker quietly for the entire time as well.

I for one am still extremely nervous about our trip to the hot springs. Yes, it will be something that is absolutely relaxing in a way I have not felt in years, but… must we really stay in Paso Robles another day? Is this truly a wise decision?

We’ll have to see…

Chapter 57: I Think We Will Decide To Exit Stealthily



There is something very important I forgot to do. It is something that is actually so important that I am practically kicking myself for not doing it.

Earlier, yesterday in the arcade, I used my [Skill Check] Destiny Card in order to check the variables around me and make sure that that old man was safe.

Of course, that old man, apparently named Old Man Jenkins, was not a threat at all it turned out, and died shortly after warning Delta and me in a way so cryptically I can hardly understand it. But if I hadn’t used that [Skill Check] card, I am convinced I would have escalated it into a duel. I highly doubt I could have earned a Destiny Point from defeating an opponent of that caliber of weakness. Even the Destiny Deck system is not that lenient.


Because of that card usage, I now have an empty slot in my hand! I have one more card I can draw, and of course because of my use of [Foresight] two days ago, I know exactly what it will be.

I’m so excited.

Now, one important question is this: which method shall I use to draw this Destiny Card? Shall I sacrifice five Destiny Points out of my current total of 52 DP? Or shall I sacrifice a randomized number of Life Points out of my current total of [12,324/15,000 LP?]

It is a tough question.

With over 12,000 LP at my disposal, I have plenty of Life Points to spare as long as enemies do not use guns against me or anything as deadly as that. However, it has become clear to me over the past few days that guns are actually quite common on Earth, or at least in this California place. Many people own them, much like any self-respecting woman or man or person would carry around a dagger for self-defense. Only, daggers can only cut and maim except with deadly precision and many strikes, while guns look to kill with a single well-aimed blow. Even a simpleton such as myself could likely kill someone with a gun.

That scares me a little bit, and makes me leery about sacrificing my Life Points quite as often as I otherwise would.

However, with 52 Destiny Points at hand, this also means I have a full TWO level-up opportunities. I cannot easily level up while in the midst of a battle, no, but as long as I survive to the end of one, I will easily be able to heal again.

Even with all that in mind… I am going to take the safe option for now: I will draw this Destiny Card with my Destiny Points, rather than risking a massive Life Points drain.

So here it goes. I open up the Destiny Deck, peer into its swirling vortex, and contribute five Destiny Points into its gaping maw.

[-5 DP.]

[Total: 47 DP.]

And soon, I get my new card:

Clone: Rank 3. Make a clone for 5 minutes. Cost: 1000 LP.

Yes, there it is!

[Clone,] a brand-new card I have never used before in my life.

Of course… that 1000 LP cost is huge and ill-advisable in any circumstance that does not have extreme danger involved, but as the saying goes, with great power comes great risk. It is my responsibility to use this reward as best I can.

And I make a promise to myself, deep inside my heart, that I will only use [Clone] when there is an opportunity for a hilarious prank.

It is now written in the stone that is my very soul.

May The Goddess hear this and make sure I follow through.

Now my current Destiny Card hand looks like this:

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.
Blinding Rush: Rank 1. Doubles speed and agility. Cost: 215 LP.
Clone: Rank 3. Make a clone for 5 minutes. Cost: 1000 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.

Even though I have this new card with great untapped potential, it is also clear to me that I am still lacking in cards with great combat potential, which has been a persistent problem plaguing me from the moment I was hit by the carriage on Mystix and was reborn here on Earth. While [Blinding Rush] will be mildly useful and perhaps extremely so if I am only facing one or two foes, it stands alone here. [Transmigrated Spirit] has a decent chance of being useful in combat, but the random chance element of it means that I still do not want to waste it unless necessary.

Still… Now that I have drawn [Clone,] the entire roster of cards I was able to see with the skill [Foresight] has finally been used up. I am now once again completely in the dark about what Destiny Cards I can get next… and that’s extremely exciting! I wonder what I’ll get next? I really hope it’s something ice-related.

Okay, so… Now, where were we?

Ah, yes, breakfast with my two best friends.

Changed out of our pajamas and each of us have taken a shower and groomed in the (somewhat cramped and confusing to operate) shower room, the three of us are ready for another day of adventuring in Paso Robles.

If… that is actually what we want to do.

From the looks on the faces of my two dear companions, I am not sure that is what we will end up doing, to be truthful.

All three of us are eating extra donut sticks along with coffee (which I am still not quite enthused by, due to its strange bitter strength in combination with being a hot drink that does not mix well in my mouth). It is the same small breakfast as yesterday, but instead of being in a nice train car, we are sitting on the unmade bed of our hotel room, since there are no tables or anything of that sort.

Of the three of us, Francis is the one who looks the most happy right now, for some reason. Whatever was his problem yesterday, he seems to have gotten past it at least in part. I am glad for that.

Delta notices, too, as she says, “Looking good today, Francis.”

“Thank you,” he replies. “I’m feeling pretty excited about today.”

“Uh, really?”

“Of course,” he says. “We still have a whole day left here in Paso Robles to do whatever we want. I guess there’s still some local delicacies we can look for to have Eryk try, and maybe another nice piece of nature or something?”

“Oh, Francis, are you… sure about that?” I ask. “I was certain you weren’t going to want to stay here another day. This is actually quite surprising to me. What has changed?”

“What’s changed?” he asks. “Nothing at all. We’re on an adventure to help you get as many Destiny Points as you can possibly earn in as short a time as possible, and it’d be silly to waste that with… uh, another train trip.”

“You just don’t want to pay for an expensive hotel in the next city,” Delta says.

“Not true! Well, somewhat true, but I really think Paso Robles has a lot to offer. I… I feel like I cut our adventure short yesterday, and I’m really sorry about that. We’ll make up for it today, okay?”

“You cut nothing short,” I tell him. “Actually… We were looking to escape that situation ourselves, and we were very fortunate for you to have arrived when you did.”

“…Really? Uh, can I ask why that is?”

“Oh, probably something to do with the old guy who warned us to leave the city as quickly as possible and then died at our feet,” Delta says.

“The… WHAT?”

“Listen,” Delta tells Francis, “that Pablo Whatever guy is really shady. Like, besides his obsessive interest in this town. There is something else going on here, and we really don’t need to come in contact with him again.”

“I wonder…” I get up from the bed and walk out to the balcony, which overlooks the front parking lot and the bus stop.

…There he is. Standing in front of his car, waiting for us.

Pablo Rosas is there.

“We probably should not go out the front door,” I suggest.



“Wait, wait. We can still get out of this,” Francis says. “If we go out the back entrance and I get us an Uber or something to meet in exactly the right spot, he’ll never notice us. We can go wherever he want, and he’ll probably never find us because the place is too big.”

“That sounds reasonable,” Delta says. “But where the hell do you want to go?”

Francis and I look at each other, then at Delta. “Hot springs!” we shout in unison.

“Oh. I see.”

“Then we can do a little wine tasting, maybe,” Francis says.

“No way,” Delta and I say, also in unison.


“No Wine Country, please,” she says. “Trust me.”


So our new plan is soon to be enacted. If we can get past Pablo Rosas, we will be in the clear to enjoy another great day on the most adventurous vacation known to man.

I merely hope that nothing goes terribly wrong. Because that would be quite unfortunate.

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