My dream. I’m dreaming again.
I’m in that place again.
I still have no idea where this cave is, or what that brightness outside may be.
Or why I am a ghost on Mystix but only when I am dreaming.
Honestly, there are a near infinite amount of questions I can be asking but I have a strong doubt any of them will be answered in any way.
It may not be my place to learn that kind of information, as such a low-level being. On Earth, a D-Rank hero seems to be a considerable power upgrade to most who roam that world. On Mystix, I am just one of millions of D-Rank heroes, and when those heroes are alive they’re obviously much stronger than me.
I can’t even say THAT is true. There is so little information.
And Miss M has left me in this cave all on my own.
And again, on this night, she is not back.
Actually... I don’t believe it is actually night for me back on Earth. I am having some trouble remembering how I ended up unconscious, but that might be for the best, because I do not usually fall asleep in such a state where I cannot even remember how I got there. I also rarely dreamt up until I got to Earth, so this further compounds things.
It is a pitiful existence, being a ghost like this, simply staying in one place or moving at such a slow rate that I may as well be floating aimlessly on a gentle current in a stream.
If only I could access my HUD, I could at least pass the time by sifting through my stats and possibly even entertaining the thought of reactivating the Personality feature on the status boxes. But like I am in this corpoeral form, it is not possible to do any of that.
I must simply float and wait.
Float and wait...
It’s Miss M!
She’s finally here for me! After all this time, she’s finally back!!!
“MISS M!!” I attempt to leap at her for a hug.
I’m a ghost.
I can’t hug people, let alone leap.
But here she is, Miss M.
She’s so much taller than she was when we were on Team Fanghook together. She’s over five feet tall, and while she’s still pudgy and hardly menacing from appearance alone, she has a new sort of elegance about her that makes it clear that she was once a demon queen. The bandages and burns that covered her when we last met are no longer present, and her hair is more neatly trimmed from its prior disheveled look. How she managed to do that in just a couple days along with whatever perilous tasks she likely had to do is beyond me.
However she looks, Miss M has finally returned to this spot in this mysterious cave and we can finally embark in whatever enigmatic quest she has set us upon.
“If you’re here, then let us embark,” I say.
“Eryk, you’re too hasty. Don’t you remember why I left you here in the first place?” she asks.
“I was bringing an old friend back. All my adventures to get to here, all of the life I’ve risked and friends I’ve betrayed, and it’s finally gotten to me. I don’t want to be a villain anymore, Eryk. I’m done sacrificing things. So, for once in my life, I’m doing the right thing.”
“Miss M, you’re not a villain. You’re helping me—”
“We never said this would help you,” she snaps. “You must remember that I’m a bad person. I’m a damned demon queen, after all. I’ve never been one for altruism. Even if I’m doing the right thing, it may be for the wrong reasons.”
“I suspect you might be underselling the goodness within your own heart,” I say. “You have always been known to be a little bit hard on yourself, and this situation seems to be very similar. I implore you to look less critically at your own actions! Anything you do to help me will be of infinite benefit to your overall person.”
“You really aren’t listening to me. I’m—” Miss M sighs and presses her tiny fingers against her temples. “It doesn’t matter. All I want to say is that an old friend of yours is going to show up any second, and it’s going to be a real shocking twist that you’re going to be very excited by. Or disgusted. Or a little bit of both. Just... be prepared.”
“You’re starting to scare me, Miss M,” I say. “What do you...”
“It’s only a few minutes before I REALLY scare you. The reason for your being here will finally be revealed.” Miss M crosses her arms and looks down in some sort of deep contemplation. I notice finally that she has a giant dragonsword strapped to her back. Why is that there and not in her inventory?
All of these strange occurrences, and the biggest one of all hasn’t yet begun to pop in my mind. I just wish I could remember what it was that I was supposed to be thinking about... It feels so strange to me that... I don’t even know.
And then all of my worries, all of my doubts are cast aside in an instant.
The glow of a thousand radiating angels bursts into the cavern coming from the same direction that Miss M emerged from.
It’s an old friend, indeed.
“Miss M, you’re a complete bastard,” I say, a smile spreading across my ghostly face wider than a cheshire cat witnessing a heinous crime. “You’re a bastard who—Wait, what?”
And then everything gets really wet all of a sudden.
My eyes pop open and my great strength attempts to burst out of the many bindings holding me down.
But by the time I become fully conscious, I realize that there is no escaping for me. Not from... Uh, I have no idea.
I was just dreaming, but my memories have become hazy and forgotten after mere seconds.
Where am I? Who am I? Just kidding on the second one, as I am clearly Eryk Solbourne, D-Rank [Adventurer] as I always have been and always will be, but I do wish I knew why I was in a bunch of bindings right now.
And then it hits me.
I am being quite literal when I say that. Another bucket of water splashes over my face, ice cold and most definitely helping me wake up now.
Now I finally see that I am strapped to a chair in front of a large table. Francis and Delta are in the same predicament, with Francis sitting on my left and Delta sitting on my right.
In front of us, I would of course be expecting Pablo Rosas, the purveyor of Paso Robles who captured us. He is currently nowhere to be found.
Instead of him are several figures who are cloaked, but with their faces plainly visible. They are... all middle aged women with fair skin and complexions.
One of the women takes off her hood to reveal graying curly hair. She puts a nametag over her left breast to signify herself. The name reads... Karen.
“Welcome to Paso Robles,” Karen says. “We have been expecting you for a long time.”
“You... have?” I ask.
“We always keep an eye out for prospective new residents of our wonderful town,” she says. “You are one of many to have caught our attention.”
I gulp reflexively. “Who are you?”
“My name is Karen,” says Karen. “And my organization is going to make sure that you three becoming loving and permanent members of the Paso Robles community. We expect the best of you.”
A wave of uncertainty washes over me.
I have no idea what I’m dealing with here. Not at all.