“Oh, that’s really damn good,” Delta says. “Like, shit.”
“What? You can’t be—holy wow, it’s really that good,” Francis says. “I would never have expected this in my entire life.”
“Let me try, let me try,” I whine.
“Wait a damn second, Eryk,” Delta says. “Let us savor this before you start dinging out of control.”
“I don’t... it’s not ‘out of control...’”
We currently are sitting in the back of a very fancy vehicle being driven by the mysterious but seemingly very nice man named Pablo Rosas of Paso Robles. Indeed, he showed me his government-issued ID card, and it really does say “Pablo Rosas of Paso Robles” as his name. It appears he is so enthusiastic about his town that he has added his town name to his surname in an attempt to identify with it more.
The car has a very wide backseat, and the entire car is slightly extended from normal. I am told that, if extended much further, this would qualify as something called a “limousine,” but it is still a normal length like this. It just has enough space back here that it can fit a table and a small flat-screen television.
We now have the contents of our very quick take-out trip to the restaurant Rusty Flames, a Chinese-Italian fusion joint. I do not know what any of that means. Francis and Delta, on the other hand, very much do. All of it looks very delectable, but they have called first eats so that I can get way more Destiny Points way more quickly.
“I really just.. never thought something like this could possibly be tasty,” Francis says. “Szechuan beef and lotus roots and... fried pasta and tomato sauce? It’s weirdly great. I don’t even get why.”
“Yeah, it goes against most of my tastebuds, but... Yeah.” Delta says. “Julie would hate this, though. She’s got very specific tastebuds, so we usually never even try restaruants like these in the first place.”
Francis scoffs. “Very specific tastebuds? More like, a fussy eater who won’t grow up and eat adult people food.”
“I’m going to slap that egg roll out of your hand,” she snaps. “Don’t you dare insult my wife’s awful picky eating habits.”
“I forgot, only you are allowed to make fun of your wife for eating peanut butter sandwiches for every single lunch for the past five years.”
“I’m not joking, I’m going to punch you in the face if you think it’s okay to say anything about the fact that Julie and I went to a four-star restaurant and she ordered the macaroni and cheese because she thinks steaks and caviar are gross.”
“Sounds like an interesting woman, your wife,” says Pablo from the front seat. “Is she on this trip too? Are we going to have another person joining our crew and finding out the true value of Paso Robles, the greatest city on Earth?”
“Uh, no,” Delta says. “She’s back in San Fransisco. She’s a professor at San Fransisco State University, so she can’t do stuff like this. Also she hates adventures.”
“This woman grows more ominous every time I hear about her,” I say. “I feel like I am destined to do battle with her someday.”
“You probably will the moment we get back home,” Delta tells me. “I told her a bit about you, and I don’t think she got a very good first impression. I think she wants to harm you physically for convincing me to come along on this trip.”
“That is something... I do not know if I should have been told so directly,” I say, the pit of my stomach suddenly turning in anxiety. As scary as Delta sometimes is, she has seemingly taken a bit of a liking to me over these past few days. Her wife Julie, on the other hand, has developed a negative image of me without even meeting me. And her reputation, her very aura, is nerve-wracking. Even if she didn’t hate me, I would be intimidated.
I fear for the battle that will inevitably come should Eryk Solbourne and Julie Rafati come to meet one another.
Francis wipes his tomato-covered face with a napkin. “So we’ve got Szechuan spaghetti, lasagna egg rolls, ginger alfredo noodles, and... What’s this pizza-looking thing?” he asks Pablo.
“Oh, that’s a special item known as ‘pisa you bing.’ It’s based off this really hilarious pun that only a restaruant in Paso Robles would be genuis enough to come up with. See, the story is that when Marco Polo traveled to China way back in the old days, he found this food item known as ‘cong you bing,” which is a scallion pancake made with dough, spring onions, and lots of nice flavors. They say he brought that recipe back to Italy and turned it into the pizza we know today. Of course, that’s all fake and pizza was around way before Marco Polo was born, but it turns out that Rusty Flames has made their own cong you bing based on pizza, so now it’s got pepperoni and a thicker breading and cheese. It’s still filled with spring onions though, so it’s super tasty.”
“That sounds exceedingly silly,” Francis says. He tries a slice. “And it turns out it’s very good too.”
“Okay, now it’s Eryk’s turn,” Delta says. “Let the dings begin.”
“I can’t control my dings... Why can’t you just not tell anyone about the dings...”
Sure enough, I try all four of the food items—the szechuan noodles, the ginger noodles, the egg rolls, and the pizza pancake.
Francis can barely contain his giggles. Delta stares at me with a smug sense of satisfaction evident on her face.
Well, now I have 49 Destiny Points, at least. Only one more to go and I’ll have the ability to level up twice in a row.
“Say, where are we headed now, anyway?” I ask. “I forgot to ask that until this moment because of the very tasty food.”
“We’re on our way to the best example of why Paso Robles is so lovely—our famous Olive Oil Farm!” Pablo exclaims. “Here you can sample all sorts of lovely, tasty, healthy olive oil. Then you can see our olive farms and pick some for yourself.”
“That sounds so very fun,” I say. “I’d like to do all of that. Cooking oils are always an interesting thing in my eyes, because they last so long when made, and you can use them with practically any food. They are an essential item for traveling [Adventurers] because of that durability and versatility; they will immediately spice up any bland vegetables or lean meat and allow you to cook a wide variety of meals no matter where your camp has been set up or what ingredients you may have. I am a big fan.”
“Good to hear! I may have to kidnap you and force you to become a Paso Roblan, because you are just adorably great about your interest in all things Paso Robles.”
I laugh, though Francis puts a hand on my shoulder in a defensive posture.
We soon arrive at a large field with a farm one central large building. This place is, of course, the Olive Oil Farm. The name is a bit of a misnomer, since one does not directly “farm” olive oil, but rather produce it through the olives that are actually farmed here. It is named that way mostly because of the marketing gimmick that goes along with its cute name.
Also, it does indeed have an olive oil tasting area, where you can try out various forms of olive oil and try to refine your own palette. Knowing that Destiny Points come from the best of foods... Wait a minute, does oil derived from vegetables and fruits count as a food? Or is it a drink, in a twisted, strange way? I... I don’t actually know the answer to this, and I’m worried that this will all end up being a waste of time.
We park and step out, and I immediately—
—get a Destiny Point thanks to witnessing this beautiful farm for the first time.
That’s pretty nice.
Well, time to try out this Olive Oil Farm!
It was all a waste of time.
Olive oil counts as a drink, so my sampling of it did not affect anything. And I tried some freshly picked olives, yes, but they weren’t particularly tasty in my opinion. Pablo insisted that olives are an amazing and delectable treat, but that maybe they need to be put in a salad, or pickled in a jar, before I can truly appreciate them. I somewhat doubt that.
Well, I got one Destiny Point for coming here, so I guess it wasn’t the biggest waste of time in the world, but I feel weirdly exhausted already, and it’s only the middle of the afternoon. I don’t like feeling that way at all...
Our next stop is one that Pablo Rosas of Paso Robles talks about so frequently that it is nearly his signature trademark—scenic, historic, landmark, glorious Downtown Paso Robles. It’s got all the greatest shops in the city, apparently, and has maintained its trademark rustic beauty since the city was founded back in pioneer times, whatever that means.
It looks fairly impressive, though not quite as distinct in its notability as I would have expected. It looks like a more technologically advanced version of a mid-sized city square I could find in Mystix, at least if I could reach the semi-arid, more mountainous coastal regions near the continent known as Forex.
“I think it’s time to let you three go for a little while,” Pablo says. “I must depart to help other new visitors who want deep inside their hearts to find the greatness of my city. You must stay here to enjoy the sights and sounds of the scenic downtown. Try as many shops and restaurants as you please. Make yourself at home. If this becomes your new home, you will be much happier, so I encourage you to try and fit in as best as you can.”
“Uhh...” Francis starts to respond, but then stops.
We step out of the white-plated car and the white-suited man drives away as quickly as he came. Now we are semi-stranded in the middle of an unfamiliar city, with naught but our trusty phones to save the day.
Or... their phones, I guess.
“What shall we do?” I ask.
“I mean, my first instinct is to get the hell out of here as fast as humanly possible,” Francis says, “but I can’t get a refund on the hotel room and I don’t wanna risk Pablo finding out we’re leaving and confronting us at the train station.”
“We could kill him,” Delta suggests.
“Or we could enjoy ourselves and leave Paso Robles when we’re ready in about forty-eight hours,” Francis says. “Plus, we can go shopping now!”
“Shopping... Like, the thing we could have done just as well yesterday in one of the biggest cities in the country?”
“Uh, yeah. Well...”
“If we are shopping, perhaps I should acquire clothes that fit me better, rather than Francis’s clothing items that are a bit oversized for my stature,” I say.
“We could do that,” Francis says. “And you still need a replacement for your sword, right?”
“Yes. I hadn’t even thought of that. But if I buy a new weapon, I’ll have to carry one of my other two on my person at all times, most likely my gun because that one is lighter.”
“Uhhhhh okay let’s not buy a replacement weapon right now,” he says. “Let’s... Oh! We can buy you a cell phone!”
I’m so shocked I can hardly speak.
A cell phone... for me?!
By The Goddess’s name, I had hardly even considered the possibility of such a thing.
“There’s a Boost Mobile across the street,” Delta says. “Might as well.”
“Yeah, then we can find each other if we ever get split up for some reason,” Francis says. “But this also prevents Eryk from getting into any cool water-based fights without breaking it...”
“Worth the cost,” Delta says. “I’m NOT dealing with the inevitability that he gets lost and separated from us for a week’s time and we’re just stuck looking for him the whole time.”
“True... Okay, Eryk, it’s decided. You’re getting a cell phone, and only the best one money can buy!”
“The very, very best one?”
“Absolutely... not. Only the kind of best one in a very affordable price range.”
And that was the day I became a proud owner of Blackberry Pie V2.
“What is this place?” I ask. “There’s so many flashing lights and moving pictures... It’s a bit overwhelming. Must we really go in here?”
“Of course,” Francis says. “It’s the, um, historic Downtown Paso Robles Arcade Game Center, the oldest video game arcade in the world.”
“No, but I need to post a video game related thing on my Twitter so people know I’m still jamming.”
He holds the camera of his phone up to himself and says, “What’s up, Bac-Nation?”
He begins rambling about all sorts of video game stuff and shows himself in front of some arcade game. I assume these are just more types of video games, but with mre experimental control options than the ones they give at home. Some of the games have guns for controllers, while others have steering wheels, and other are entire vessels you must enter to play.
I look for one with a more familiar control scheme, and find one called Street Combat Warriors III: Parrying Edition. It has one control stick and six buttons, and an inviting gameplay scenario where characters must beat each other up in hand to hand fighting. This is a lot like that game I saw at the convention all those days ago...
I insert a quarter out of the money that Francis has given me, and I start playing to the best of my ability. I choose a character named “Posey Paul,” who looks like a real funny man from the way he jiggles around. He is surely the kind of fighter who looks to be without threat but is actually a deadly warrior. And, also, he has pink hair like me.
I drop into my first battle, against a schoolgirl named Sakurako. It’s a tough bout with the two of us dueling one another, launching energy blasts at one another, and generally just going at it in an absolute rumble.
It’s very fun!
And after three rounds and a very tense match, I claim victory over my nonexistent opponent. I am the winner of my first-ever fighting video game match.
So video game battles work too...?
That is... very good to know.
[Total: 52 DP.]
I am just about to start another match when—