The outside of the huge building is yet another sign that I am in a new world vastly different from my own. As soon as Francis and I step out through the magical, self-moving doors, I am greeted to a bright green field with hundreds more beings of all races and hair colors.
It is distractingly sunny today. I thought the weather was nice back in that small town of Bellatrix, and that good weather may have been what got me killed. I hope that this does not hold true here, or else I may start to make a habit out of being hit by speeding carriages.
For such a large building, I was surprised to see almost everyone walking. No horses, and certainly no carriages. Even in this large green field bisected by a long paved walkway, there was nary a soul who did not carry themself on their own two feet.
And yet, for all the inconvenience, it did appear that people here were not overly muscled. Francis, next to me chatting away about his “channel,” had a touch of plumpness to him, living life like he were a wealthy lord’s boy. Many of the people around us looked the same. And yet, it was clear none of them held titles of nobility or came from long-standing families. They did not have the modern convenience of horseback, and yet they were still well-fed and well-rounded individuals all the same.
“...only ten thousand subscribers, and even then I had a kid come up to me and tell me she watches me. This was a kid, I tell you. Eight or nine at the most. I can’t tell you how that kind of feeling hits you. It’s just... Wow.” Francis looks up into the air and appears to be holding back tears with how he is shaking.
“Fascinating, I see,” I say.
I have not been listening to Francis as most of what he talks about is confusing and irrelevant to me. His fraudulent, fake pink hair, a wig to cover darker hair underneath, has already put me off of him, though I do appreciate his willingness to help me train and grind more Destiny Points. But even when I do attempt to listen to him, the words he says are baffling.
Perhaps he is telling me all about his world’s system; he keeps mentioning “channels” and “subscribers,” and I do imagine that there could be some sort of patronage system. If people literally donated their magical energies and levels to their favored champions who would go on adventures and provide rewards in return, it would create for a quite interesting society. However, Francis does not appear to be a hero in any sense. I couldn’t see a man like Francis fighting enemies or protecting his clan. So I doubt his ramblings have anything to do with this world’s system.
It is finally clear to me, though, that this is not the world The Goddess told me about. This is not a walking city, and there are no kaiju here. I have landed somewhere completely different.
Even if I am unable to become an S-rank hero by taking down the strongest kaiju monsters, though, I will still become an S-rank hero here in this unknown world. I am Eryk Solbourne, and that is what I will do.
“How powerful are cosplays?” I ask.
“Wh... Huh? What do you mean?” Francis responds, uselessly.
“I mean what level are the cosplays? I’m trying to gain more Destiny Points, which are the only way I can level myself up. But if your world is a lot more powerful than mine, then these cosplays might not be a good idea for me...”
“Aw, don’t be shy,” Francis says. “You’ve got a really cool outfit and I know you’ll take some really cute pictures as long as you remember to pose.”
“Posing is something Malia told me I am quite good at.”
“A... friend. She was a friend.”
“Interesting name. Tell her I said hi. Or, tell her Francis said hi.”
“I can’t,” I say. “She lives in another world.”
“Ha, I feel that sometimes. Long-distance friendships really can seem like you’re communicating across universes or some kind of nonsense like that. I saw this movie called The Lake House once that was kind of like that. Really romantic. Had Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. I really recommend it.”
I chat with Francis a while longer as we make our way to the cosplays that I want to farm for DP. As best as I can surmise, this world runs on a lot of media. Stories of the fictional sort that people pass to each other and bond over. Not unlike the great poems of Mystix, but in a more permanently recorded form. It would be like books but if they were scribed in a mass-produced way. I wonder if magical systems would be able to replicate books more easily here...
Here we are. The cosplays. It is a giant field of grass with two trees by the side of the paved walkway. There are probably a thousand beings camped out, mostly human but some elves and other unknown races as well.
“Here’s the cosplay area,” Francis says. “Everyone’s doing photo shoots and all that fun stuff. So let’s get going! Do you want me to do a selfie with you or something? We can be Blaze and... Whoever you’re cosplaying as.”
I raise my sword and enter an attack mode. “I just want to know how powerful these enemies are. Will I have a problem defeating any of them?”
“No selfie, huh... I really thought I was getting pretty well-known by now...”
“Actually, um, where are the cosplays?” I ask. “I see no monsters.”
“The cosplayers are all around you. What are you talking about?”
All... around me?
But... I can’t see any monsters.
And that’s when it hits me.
I’m a foreign system in a foreign world. I may not be integrated into this realm correctly, thanks to whatever problem beset The Goddess. It could be that I can’t even see the enemies that I need to be fighting!
Suddenly, it hits me that I could be in the worst possible position for survival. Level 1, base-rank enemies, something as weak as slimes or gondola-men or sheet ghosts, could surprise me and attack me relentlessly.
What can I do?
Only one thing.
I swing my sword forward in a decisive, powerful slash. And then I do so again, one step forward.
“Cosplays, beware,” I shout. “I cannot see you, but I can defeat you.”
Francis takes a couple steps back, presumably to give me space to fight these invisible monsters. I take that opportunity to broaden my range, and I stab forward into the air.
Will I be able to feel when a blow connects? Or will I only know if I fulfilled an [Adventurer] class action when I hear the ding to alert me of a new Destiny Point? A mystery I shall soon unravel.
I slam my sword onto the ground, ripping up a patch of grass and sending its blades flying everywhere.
Still no Destiny Points. I need 5 more DP. Just 5 more. Please, please invisible cosplays, please attack me so I can kill you!
At this moment, a man with dark blue hair and a long black overcoat runs over to my location and pulls out a sword of his own.
He points his sword at me. “Hey, you’re Blaze Blitzer! My eternal rival!” he shouts.
I look back at Francis, who raises his index finger and says, “That guy is cosplaying Geralt Swashbattle, Blaze Blitzer’s main opponent. Their second battle is an iconic fight scene that people love to reenact.”
“Who is Blaze Blitzer, again?” I ask.
“Do you really not know who he is? Have you never played the Dungeon Core Saga Series before, not even once? You look just like the main character from that game. Seriously, dead-on, besides the sword. He usually uses a lance.”
“I know not of any dungeon cores or any main characters. All I know is that if this Geralt Swashbattle wishes to spar with me, I will be more than willing to give him a taste of my steel.”
I step up to Geralt and point my sword back at him. “I have no qualm with you, friend. I only wish to defeat the cosplays. However, I cannot see them because—”
Geralt stabs at me and I narrowly dodge before the sword would have pierced my flesh. “Engarde!” he shouts. “Your youth will be mine!”
“I am a youth, but I am a powerful one,” I say.
“Th-that’s not your line,” Geralt says. “You’re supposed to say, ‘My power level will absorb the heavens!’”
“That would be a large exaggeration, at least at this point. I’m only a D-Rank [Adventurer,] after all.”
Instead of responding, he attacks again. This time, it’s a slow enough swing that I can block it with my sword—
And the blow is so strong—
That my sword snaps his cleanly in half!
The hilt and blade separate in two with so little effort that it is like my sword has sliced butter.
Geralt looks at me with dazed confusion and clearly the jealousy of an easy defeat.
“I won’t punish you further,” I say, “but back in my world, a defeat this overwhelming would allow me to humiliate you with a spanking. Just know that I have the honor to spare you from something like that.”
“You asshole!” he shouts. “You broke my sword! What the hell?”
“I... I don’t understand.”
I look back at Francis. He is looking at his small square again.
“That cost me a hundred and fifty bucks. You better pay me back.”
“I refuse. I won, with absolute fairness I might add.”
“You’ll win jack shit when I beat your ass in.” He turns around and shouts to the field of beings behind us, “Hey, Daniel! Jeremy! Jaiden! C’mon over here and check this guy out!”
At this, three more young men in powerful-looking armor approach me.
It seems that I’ve upset a local custom, or perhaps I’ve misunderstood the PVP systems of this world. Either way, I’m about to be paid back in full for my victory... with another duel, this time significantly less fair.
I raise my sword once again and prepare to fight for my life. I will kill if I must.