“So, what might your name be?” I ask the blonde, curly haired shirtless, shoeless man leading us down the streets of Santa Barbara.
It feels like we have been walking through the beach and the streets for so long now. Maybe even weeks. Is this going to be like Paso Robles all over again, where something so innocent and fun will be so lengthy and filled with violence that it feels like two days are stretched into months?
Most likely, yes.
So I want to break the ice with this young man who may very well come to serve as one of our closest allies, or one of our fiercest foes, in case we need to have an interesting and tragic understanding of his personality and past, just like we did with Pablo Rosas, that leather wearing warrior.
“My name’s Matt,” the man says. “Matt Schroeder.”
Behind me, Delta scoffs. I do not know why.
Francis, as usual, is more busy with using his phone than actually interacting with the world around him. One day I suspect that his undoing will come from accidentally walking into a precarious hole or even being hoisted away by an oversized eagle. He will not see his fate until it is too late, due to his obsession with all things mobile.
“So, Matt, what brings you here to the beautiful Santa Barbara?” I ask.
“Brings me? Bruh, I’m like, from here? I’m born and raised here?”
“Oh, of course. I imagine that a large percent of the people here must be natives, considering the universality of curly blonde hair and surf culture. It is a lot like North Spire in that way, as my people have many physical commonalities as well.”
“Listen,” Matt says. “I don’t care about your shoobie shit. I’m just scared of getting pummeled by your fists, so I’m taking you to the King. King Bodhi that is.”
“What does shoobie mean? I have never heard the word before.”
He rolls his eyes. “Only a shoobie would say such shoobie-like things.”
“I feel scorned. I very much wish I was not scorned…”
“Now you know how it feels to be a Californian,” Delta says from behind me.
“I see, I see… Matt, I must ask. What are your hobbies and interests? Is surfing the primary fuel for your spirit of life, or do you have more to yourself?”
He turns back to me and glares. “You speak as if surfing is not The Path. But it is. We live for the waves. Right now here on Earth, we’re just riding on the currents of modern society, like, man. And the Great Macking… Well, that’s what comes after we take our boards past the beyond, over the edge of the Earth.”
“Edge of the… Huh?”
“Actually, don’t explain it to him,” Delta says. “I think Eryk’s head would explode if he tried to comprehend flat earthers.”
“I am beginning to wonder if Delta might be correct… But, um, besides surfing?”
“I like me some rollerblades. Parkour sometimes. A little moto here and there. Improv documentary shoots. Whatever’s extreme. Only the most extreme sports ever.”
“Extreme sports, huh? What about rollball?”
“Never heard of it.”
Delta chimes in. “Improv documentary shoots. Is that real?”
“Yeah, of course,” Matt says. “They added it to X Games a couple years back. You gotta film the most dangerous and extreme stuff in a limited time period, preferably while performing bunches of stunts. You capture real life. Real people. Extreme people.”
“You know, lady, you look like someone who’s got a lotta film in her. Wanna go back to my place after this and talk about the best in cinema? I could teach you all about Goodfellas.”
“Fella, that’s no good.”
“That’s a hella tight answer, and I respect it, but, like, could you, like, actually come? I wanna explain Pulp Fiction to some cool new dudette.”
“No. I don’t watch movies for edgy teenagers, especially not edgy teenagers who are 25 years old.”
He sulks and stops talking to us for the duration of our trek, except to briefly narrate certain items to us.
For one, we pass two gargantuan statues made of marble that are erected on either side of the road. Both are men on boards and on slopes, but with extremely different poses and emotions.
On the left is a statue to a man named Shaun White, a famous professional snowboarder. On the right is a statue to a man named Tony Hawk, a skateboarder so revered that Matt has to give a short prayer to him as we pass him by.
I hear Delta mutter something along the lines of, “…not even snow in Santa Barbara…”
When I finally see Santa Barbara Castle, my heart sinks into the netherrealms of tension. My trepidation increases threefold.
This place is massive—a grand palace of archaic brick design and many out of place pillars. King Bodhi must live here. And befitting to royalty, it has a contingent of fully armored (in under armour) knights that guard the building in all directions with their trusty surfboards (and machine guns).
The more I look at the castle, the more I realize…
Oh, hooray! Huzzah! I now have 63 Destiny Points in total. I am so happy that this castle counts as a new location discovered!
If only I were A Rank, I could probably unlock the permanent skill [Fast Travel,] which would allow me to transport myself to any location just by thinking about it in a special HUD-like way. I wonder if that would even allow me to return to Mystix with my body fully intact?
Well, anyway, the rumors of [Fast Travel] are just that; it is unsure whether even the most seasoned [Adventurer] can make use of something so complex.
But if I can… then I will surely return here one day in the future.
Matt leads us into Santa Barbara Castle.
We enter the throne room, adorned with shirtless men and bikini-wearing women and so, so many surfboards laying about. Before I even see the King, I bow my head to the ground in a form of respect, and mouth some Ancient Elven words of honor. These words would supposedly give me magic power if I were to recite them in the correct cantor and rhythm, but that is surely not what I want at the moment.
“It is most certainly a great honor to meet you, King Bodhi,” I say. “My name is Eryk Solbourne, and I wish for safe passage through your lands, as well as the exchange of currency and some form of lodging. I request all of this using only my reputation as my stake.”
Suddenly, a soft, shrill voice lets out a chirpy laughter.
I look up and at the throne.
King Bodhi is here.
But what I did not realize is… King Bodhi is actually a teenage girl?!