“I really can’t believe you, Eryk.”
“You stupid idiot!”
“Seriously, Eryk. Why did you do this?”
“You absolute pea-brained fool!”
“Couldn’t you have consulted us, like, a little bit?”
“We’re going to become slaves because of you!”
Two scolding voices—one shouting, one calm.
I normally would assume that the shouts come from Delta, but in this case, she is the one berating me with cold words. Francis is the one whose emotions have flared up here.
In the middle of the night, on a deserted beach near Castle Barbara, I practice surfing while discussing today’s events with my closest friends who stand on the sand.
“Surfing” is a bit of a misnomer, considering it is low tide. Moreso, I am practicing board balance and practicing the use of my viscosity skills to manipulate the water around me.
“Discussing” is also a bit of a misnomer, considering that my friends have not let me speak much at all as they continue to insult my intelligence and wisdom.
“Whatever’s gotten into you,” Delta says, “clearly it’s making you a lot dumber than usual.”
“Extremely dumb!” Francis adds. “I don’t want to stream for the rest of my life! Especially not as a slave! Augh!”
“I don’t wish to explain my reasoning to you,” I tell them. “It is far too complicated.”
Delta looks at me pointedly. “Shoot.”
“I mean, explain yourself.”
“I just said…”
“You think we’re simpletons who don’t understand poor old Eryk Solbourne. You think we don’t notice you’ve suddenly become brash and assertive and overall kind of a prick. So you’ll keep things a secret from us like some edgy anime character. Right? That’s what you mean?”
“Just tell us what’s going on, dude!” Francis exclaims.
Oh well. I might as well inform them of everything. It’s been long enough, at least, that I may credibly accused of being untrustworthy.
“I’ve been having dreams,” I say. “Dreams where I am back on Mystix. Where I am back home just where I died. But they are not dreams, in fact. They are actual, real life, and I can gain Destiny Points there just the same as here. But, on Mystix I am a ghost. I died on that world, but due to some complicated magical spells, my spiritual residue remains.
“I have worked with former teammates to uncover the secrets behind this mystery, and I even reunited with my long-lost sibling Rare, who had hidden away for decades. But it turns out that I was lied to.
“I was never simply a D-Rank [Adventurer,] like I have been led to believe. All along, I was a [Demigod] whose mind had been wiped. For years I was a heinous villain, a member of the notorious army known as the Slayers. But I can remember none of it. All I have are false memories of being a happy explorer and having a lover who would embrace me each night.
“Knowing that your destiny, your ultimate fate, has been misleading all along… You wouldn’t understand. My entire path to becoming an S-Rank Hero may be simply the strategy of my chessmaster sibling, or of some Slayer villains I am not aware of. I cannot fathom that I may be fulfilling a villain’s goals simply by achieving my own.
“So… I have decided to forge my path on my own terms. No more complicated plots. No more dictators telling me what to do. I’m going to be an S-Rank Hero and nobody can stop me or use me. Especially not some small little girl who thinks I can be her slave.”
And that is my speech to my friends.
They are flabbergasted. Naturally. I would be too, were I in their circumstance. Does anything I say make any sense to someone who has grown up all their life in the normal, systemless world of Earth? Likely no.
When I was reborn on a systemless Earth… with a system, I first thought it wonderful that I could be in such a wide open place as the first [Adventurer] to ever discover so many places and things. But now I see it as a curse of sorts. I’m tied forever to my past, whatever that past may be. I can never become truly independent because I am stuck like this, in a strange limbo of worlds.
“I can’t believe you never told me any of this…” Francis says. “I thought we were friends…”
“I’m sorry, Francis,” I say. “I didn’t want to overwhelm you or Delta. I knew you are under a lot of pressure, especially with helping me, so I decided to keep all of this Mystix ghost tomfoolery away from you. And if you decide to hate me now, then I will accept it. I deserve your hatred, after all.”
Francis, without speaking, turns around and runs away, back towards the castle.
Delta looks at me, then over to Francis, then back to me. She nods at me and scrunches her mouth. Then she runs off to follow Francis away.
Leaving me alone to deal with all my anger and frustration.
I deal with it by ignoring it, just as I always do.