“...no serious injuries, but the damage done to the Vendor Hall appear to be catastrophic. One officer broke a leg during the chase.”
Some mysterious voice relays the reports of our escape from the convention center. It appears to be coming from the front of the horseless carriage. I cannot fathom how.
So much of this world, this Earth, is strange to me. Everything feels so bizarre, like it is an approximation of everything I knew in my original life, but altered in these ways that seem to make everything easier. Or perhaps more complex, in some ways.
A horseless carriage appears like it would make for a quite efficient use of resources. Horses take many years to raise and train, not to mention the food and rest they require. Creating some sort of vehicle that can operate fully on its own is something out of a dream to me.
And yet, it is a dream that I am living.
I wonder... is this all some dream? Will I wake up soon and find myself in a tent with my arms wrapped around Malia, feeling the touch of her lips as she presses them against my waking face?
The pangs of guilt, of longing hit my heart like a Rank 1 Destiny Card pull.
Malia, Miss M, Borguk, Thalia... They will never know what truly happened to me. They will either think I ran off with the loot and took all the riches for myself, or they will think something terrible must have happened to me. But either way, they will never find their answer.
So much for becoming a valuable member of Team Fanghook. So much for proving to the world that North Spirans aren’t some backwoods hicks with no smarts and no skills. Now I’m in a new world where everything is so different, so dreamlike in its modernities that I can’t help but feel it is all fake.
How I long for the sensation of Malia’s fingertips against my cheek. Even right now, I would give much to see her, to see everyone, one last time and tell them what happened, where I went.
But... I don’t think I’d go back. Not yet, at least.
Earth is such a new and exciting place for me.
A real chance to finally become the S-Rank [Adventurer] I’ve dreamed so much about! This world has no system, at least from what Francis told me. But I DO have a system. I’m... special!
Just the thought of being someone so unique and unprecedented makes me giddy. Imagine the possibilities for a system-powered hero to save a world with no system in place to help them grow or level-up? A whole world of weakling pre-F-Rank non-heroes with not a clue of what they’re missing out on!
I’m going to obliterate all expectations.
Francis, who has been silent for a while, looks across the horseless carriage to me and notices me nearly vibrating in my seat from the sheer excitement. “What’s got you all riled up?” he asks.
“You say there is no system on Earth, correct?”
“No, uh, RPG system or anything like that. We’re just everyday average humans.”
“And the elves? The catkin?”
“Uhh... No, we don’t have those.”
Delta, the woman in the front seat who is steering this large contraption, sighs loudly. She must think that Francis is a very dull person. I do not disagree, but I find that a valuable part of his charm.
“Nonsense,” I say. “Of course you have elves and catkin. I saw plenty of them at the Miller Lite Memorial Convention Center.”
“No, that was... cosplayers.”
“Cosplays? I thought we went out to the field to fight them, but I couldn’t see any. I thought at the time that that was a consequence of my altered system being incompatible with that of your world, but if it truly turns out that there is no system here... Then I shall have to admit I am quite confused.”
“You wanted to fight... wait, Cosplays... OHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” Francis slaps himself in the forehead. “It makes so much sense now. All of this ridiculous silliness is a series of increasingly idiotic misunderstandings. I’m a clown, aren’t I?”
“You’re a clown,” Delta says.
“If that is what you wish to be,” I say, “The [Clown] class has many advantages for its non-combat abilities. They say your charm can triple overnight by the time you reach C-Rank [Clown] status.” When nobody replies to me, I add, “I realize that you must not understand anything I am speaking of. I apologize.”
“No, no, it’s fine. You’re the one who’s brand-new to this world. I’m not good at... Gosh, I’m sorry, Eryk.”
Delta sighs again. “Francis,” she says. “Francis...”
“I know what it looks like!” he exclaims. “Really, this guy right here has magic powers, I swear. He can poof weapons into his hand like nothing. He summoned a friggin’ lightning sword and blew up a tree! There is something special about Eryk and we need to help him.”
“I do indeed require assistance,” I say. “I am still unfamiliar with the customs and cultures of this world, and at times I feel that I have embarrassed myself. Such as with this ‘cosplays’ situation that I am still unaware of.”
“Listen, ‘Eryk,’” Delta begins. “Francis is one of the most popular streamers on Y-Cast, but he is a very emotionally vulnerable young man who is far too trusting for his own good. If you are toying with him, and I find proof of that, I will obliterate you.”
“...I understand, ma’am.”
“Don’t call me ma’am. I’m twenty-two, for Christ’s sake.” She sneers at me through the rear-view mirror.
“I understand, Delta Rafati.”
“Now, to answer your question,” she tells me, “Cosplayers are people, not fantasy creatures to kill. Cosplay means ‘costume play.’ It’s people dressing up, just like Francis over there, and presumably just like you in your Blaze Blitzer outfit.”
“I still do not understand why people keep calling me that...”
“You look just like him,” she says.
“I know, doesn’t he?” Francis laughs. “It’s crazy. He really has no idea what the Dungeon Core Saga Series is, Delta. Can you believe it?”
“I wouldn’t know what it was if you didn’t constantly talk about it.”
“But you’re not a gamer.”
“Neither is he.”
“I am not a gamer,” I say. “I do not know what that means.”
Delta lets out yet another sigh. It is getting to the point that I wonder if she has some sort of illness relating to the action. I worry for her. “So you’re from a fantasy world where there’s dungeons and dragons, ghouls and ghosts and goblins, wizards and warriors, toejams and earls, right?”
“Not all of those things exist, though I can indeed confirm that dungeons, dragons, wizards, and ghosts are all aplenty in the world of Mystix. I’m not sure what a t—”
“But Earth isn’t like that. No RPG system guiding your destiny. No elves and orcs and sexy catgirls. Everything you saw at the convention was humans in costumes, because humans are the only race on Earth.”
“So you’re saying, no golems.”
“I doubt it.”
“Beavers, like the fancy little creatures that build dams with their tails and live in the rivers.”
“Oh, no, those exist,” Delta says. “I mean we are the only species of higher intelligence.”
“So beavers on Earth don’t like to go to the local pub and tell stories...”
“No, they do not.”
I felt devastated. Only humans. An entire planet of one race. Even if that race is my own, how am I supposed to live without the thought of ever seeing a demonspawn or a minotaur ever again?
Francis puts a hand on my shoulder and looks at me with sympathy. “Cheer up, buddy,” he says. “Earth’s a great place. Even if our beavers can’t talk.”
“I’m never going to get to hear another story about the Great Dam War of 478, ever again...”
“You can hear lots of other war stories from humans!” he exclaims. “We have lots of wars. America has been at war nonstop for over eighteen years now. That’s a lot of stories!”
“I’d like to hear them sometime.”
“And maybe you will. But first, I think we need to hear your story. Mind if you tell it to us?”
For some reason, this cheers me up. Cheers me up a lot. “Only if I tell it over a pint of mead and a cut of lamb,” I say. “I have a grand tale to tell the two of you.”
“I have a better idea,” Delta says. “I’m pulling into Burger Box.”
Surely the home of Earthian cuisine, the likes of which I have never before conceived of. Already today I have consumed combos. What shall be next?