It has certainly been a long time since we indulged ourselves in the lovely art of shopping for new items. In fact, aside from a brief trip to buy a phone for me at Paso Robles, I don’t think we have really done any shopping of merit. Some junk food to help me gain Destiny Points here, some toiletries from vending machines there. Certainly no shopping that would make The Goddess herself raise her TV-shaped head in awe.

Time for a shopping spree!

Two million Barb Bucks appears to be a very good sum of money, at least by my estimate. As we entered this mall we are currently in, I saw a food stand with an apple, and that apple was marked at twelve Barb Bucks. I asked mathematics genius Francis how many apples we could buy, and he said about 150,000! That is a lot of apples! A gross of apples, even.

So with the expectation of up to 150,000 apples’ worth of goods to buy ahead, we enter this Santa Barbara Kelly Slater Memorial Plaza with blazing hearts set on one thing—spend spend spend!

“I love spending money,” I say to my two best friends on all of Earth.

“I never took you for a big shopper,” Delta says. “Especially when you carried all that loot around without even selling it.”

“Well, one must get the best prices for their goods before they can spend it,” I say. “I still have many items with which I could potentially barter, if we run out.”

“I really hope we don’t run out,” Francis says. “I don’t want to be poor again. I haven’t been poor in a really long time…”

“You have never been poor in your life, Francis,” Delta says. “You’re like the encyclopedia image for white privilege.”

“So are you!” he retorts.

“Persians are not white!”

“Iran is literally ‘Aryan’ in Persian.”

“We are not getting into this again.” Delta turns to me. “Eryk, let’s spend so much money our heads spin, okay?”


“Oh, fine,” Francis whines.

Because we lost everything from our hotel room in Paso Robles, all the way down to our clothing, we will have to replace all of it. I guess, technically, we could have gone back to the hotel after defeating the cultists and avoiding the rebel forces, but the city was going up in flames already and we didn’t want to risk it.

So now with nothing but the clothes on my back, our phones, and two million Barb Bucks, we’re ready to go.

First up: clothes shopping.

Clothes are one of the most interesting things in all of human society. They are what set us apart from each other and make us the fun, unique, productive sentients we are. They are expressions of personality, of taste, of the souls deep inside each and every one of us. These statements appear redundant and unnecessary, but I can assure that they are all necessary when talking about the cultural power of what we wear.

So imagine my surprise when I try on some nice outfits and my two friends give me suspicious and annoyed glares! The life-sized plastic dolls in front of the store showed some very nice outfits that interest me quite a lot. But after I change into them, it is as if I am committing some sort of crime…

I simply don’t understand Earth culture, even after so many days here…

“Eryk, you can’t…” Delta sighs. “I get it, I know, it’s just…”

Francis also sighs. “Sorry, Eryk.”

“What? I did nothing wrong!”

“You can’t wear skirts and blouses, Eryk,” Francis says. “That’s girl clothes.”

“But… That is ludicrous!” I exclaim. “I look stunning in this flowery pink dress, do I not? Pink is the color of power and honor in North Spiran culture. We compliment our hair and eyes with our manner of dress, and that extends to our casual everyday wear as well. I have long awaited my day to try on an outfit that suits me.”

I twirl around to let my skirt flow around in the air for a moment. It is striking.

“It’s just one of those modern injustices,” Francis explains to me, though I can hardly comprehend it. “For some reason, in the past two hundred or so years all clothes were just divided up into what’s acceptable and what’s not for girls or boys or others, and our entire culture is shaped by it. Nobody knows why skirts are only for girls but that’s just how it is now.”

“Why I never… How could the world be like this? I don’t really understand it at all.”

“Neither do we,” Delta says. “It’s just the way it is.”

“So I can’t wear skirts…”

They both shrug. “Well, you CAN,” Delta says.

“So I can, but it will not be socially acceptable in any way?”

They both shrug again. “We do live in California,” Francis says.

A fiery spirit builds up within me. “You know what? No! Skirts are a fundamental part of the honor of North Spire and I will not abandon it for some silly Earth culture nonsense. All six of my fathers wore skirts for formal occasions and as summer wear. I will do the same.”

They both shrug yet again.

And with that last shrug round, I make my purchase final with a set of six different skirts and blouses, along with swimwear to accommodate the fact that we reside in a beach city and may want to go to the ocean.

After this, it is time to gain fashionable clothing for the other two members of the Systemless Squad.

Francis’s choice of clothing seems to be entirely made up of t-shirts with graphic logos on them, as well as button-up plaid shirts to go over it. It seems a bit too hot for two layers, but then again I have been sporting an overcoat for much of my journey thus far. He also buys oversized shorts that have a large number of pockets. They appear to be referred to as “cargo shorts,” whatever that means.

Delta, on the other hand, goes into the changing room with a gigantic bundle of clothing in her arms and stays in there for what seems like eons.

What could she be doing in there? The entire time I have known her, she has worn nothing but formal clothing like dress shirts and skirts. Her style is as plain as an overcooked haven root.

But then I remember something—

—something that I completely forgot about until just now—

—something that completely redefines who Delta Rafati is in my mind—

—just as she exits the dressing room in her new dress.

She used to be a gothic lolita fashion fan! That type of clothing so popular it crosses into both Mystix and Earth. And right now she is wearing just such a dress!

It’s black and white, filled with frills and flowing all the way to the ground. There is even a bow tie at her breastplate that enhances her bare neck. If she had access to the correct dark makeup, she would already be fully ready to present herself as a Queen of Darkness.

Francis and I are both so shocked by this turn of events that we are unable to speak whatsoever.

And because neither of us speak, Delta’s neutral expression turns into an annoyed frown. “If it’s that bad, just say something, you assholes,” she says.

“No, no, you misunderstand,” I say. “It is wonderful. But it is simply… unexpected.”

“Yeah, didn’t you, like, totally lambast the entire concept of gothic lolita fashion a couple days ago?” Francis asks. “I can distinctly remember you saying that you hated me and wanted me to die when I talked about your cute phase.”

“Well… I changed my mind,” she says, her voice quivering. “I’m not some monolithic structure. I’m a human being. And… a cute one, too.” She certainly is giving off no hint of cuteness from her voice and expression, that is for sure.

“You’re really gonna wear that dress around Santa Barbara? Really? Just to help out the team?” Francis claps his hands together. His eyes sparkle. “What a wonderful human being. A lovely little gal.”

“No matter what I’m wearing, I can still punch you out.”

“What caused such a radical shift in your demeanor?” I ask. “Was it the perils we have faced these past few days? Was it the lack of fashionable sense here in Santa Barbara among the locals? Or was it that you believed you might be upstaged by my wonderful purchases that—”

Delta grabs me by the shoulders—

But lets go instead of pummeling me as she had a furious hankering to do. “Sometimes, Eryk, you just gotta shut up.”

“Yeah, Eryk,” says Francis. “My cutie pie here doesn’t have to answer all your rude questions.”

She glares at Francis and then goes back into the dressing room.

When she comes back out, she is again wearing her business casual outfit. In her arms are more sets of dress shirts and pants. No dresses.

…We defeated her. We poked fun at Delta’s demeanor so much that she immediately ceased her endeavor towards gothic lolita fashion. We are bullies.

I feel so guilty about this…

Well, at least we have actual sets of clothing now. And, soon after, we purchase suitcases as well so that we can fit our clothes into those portable wheeled boxes that make Earth travel so much more convenient. On Mystix, one must either use a horse, a zebra, or a carriage to transport large amounts of goods. Otherwise, it all must be carried on one’s back. Here on Earth, though, one can carry a large amount on their back and then roll two large suitcases behind, one on each hand. I imagine with great coordination one could even carry two in one hand.

Imagine the amount of materials one could move with the power of suitcases! It is like a home away from home, all wrapped up neatly in wheeled boxes.

Next, we take a stop at a place called “Get N Go.” It is some sort of electronics store. Here in the shop I see many of the same character artwork and visual design of the convention I was first reborn in all those days ago. The nostalgia flows into me. Oh, those simple times when I did not know what a cosplay was.

This store takes Francis for a wild ride of sorts. He frantically searches here and there and everywhere. He picks up many plastic cases and runs up to me. “Yo! There’s so many games I’ve got to show you,” he says. “Like Fortune Street. Man, you’d love that one. And Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime. And Stardew Valley. Plus, like, the whole Dungeon Core Saga Series. All of it.”

“I do not understand…”

“It’s video games! If winning in video game battles gives you Destiny Points, then you need to play a ton of them, and so portable games are exactly what we need,” he explains. “Anytime you’re not doing cool stuff like trying new food and seeing new sights, you should be grinding up your skills in the Foodie’s Enigma game. Or maybe the Blessed Time game.”

“Grinding… I forgot what that means already.”

Francis doesn’t answer, as he is immediately distracted by other plastic devices. “Holy crap, a used 3DS on sale for forty bucks! I gotta get this. Man, I haven’t played one of these in forever…”

“3DS. What is that?” I ask.

Delta answers for him. “Some stupid video game junk. Don’t worry about it.”

“I wonder if I can stream on this thing if I hook it up to my phone somehow…” Francis rambles to himself.

I turn to Delta. “What will become of him?”

“Nothing good,” she says. “We need to leave before he starts explaining old games to us for the next two hours.”

“I see… That does not sound like a pleasant fate. Might we go get something to eat?”

“You ever had fish and chips?”

“Never,” I say.

“Then let’s go get some.”

We leave the Get N Go video game store while Francis continues to look at all of the used games. I can hear him rant to himself all the way until I shut the door behind me.