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.”