“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?