“My life began so simple,” Pablo Rosas begins.
In the midst of a burning building whose fires are spreading across the great vineyards around it, this leather-clad man begins what is commonly known as a villain monologue.
I am quite unsure if I have the patience to listen to it. Seconds ago, we were fighting to the death. What has changed to make him shift into such a mode?
He sniffles softly, and continues. “I was born in Philadelphia. West Philadelphia, born and raised. With just my mother by my side, there was nothing else for me in life but going to school and trying to make ends meet in the depths of poverty.
“We were poor. So poor I drank water out of a pickle jar. We simply didn’t have any glasses of water after a certain young me shattered those we once had. My mother sent me to boarding school when I was eight, I thought, but the only thing I learned there was how to make pipes in a factory for nineteen cents an hour.
“When I became a teenager, I got in one little fight. My mother became extremely frightened and sent me to live with my Aunt and Uncle in Bel Air, here in California. It was a nice high school for the rich and wealthy, but it was not a place suited for me. I set off quickly to find myself somewhere better. I longed for romance and adventure. For conquest and glory.
“Had I grown up in the Middle Ages, I surely would have been like Matt Damon or Pedro Pascal in the hit movie The Great Wall. I would have traveled from Europe to China and had great journeys once I arrived there, though in real life I doubt those same alien monsters would have faced me.
“It was when I set off from Bel Air that I came across the city of Paso Robles, when I encountered Karen and her cult for the very first time. I had come to this city back when it was still only focused on its main industries of wine making, olive oil, hot springs, and white people. It was interesting, but it did not yet have the massive appeal that it would soon come to have with its many restaurants, and even a shopping mall. Paso Robles High School, for as noble as its Bearcat mascot was, did not have an impressive football record at that time.
“That all started to change... but only after I arrived. Because that was what sparked Karen to begin her plot to make Paso Robles great again. I was the first young person, the first outsider to step foot in the town in over three years, she told me. Whether or not this was true was irrelevant. She treated me like a king, and I took that opportunity to bask in my Pedro Pascal-esque glory, if only for a short time.
“But I soon realized this was a trap. I was being forced to stay in the city, to become its mascot of sorts. I would be the prototype of many to come, the secret warrior who would bring the rest of Paso Robles into greater spotlight at any cost. We would enhance our growth industries, we would attract outside investors, and most of all we would convince young people to move here more often.
“So there I was, now the enforcer and under captivity. What was I supposed to do except accept it? What could I do but embrace my newfound, coerced love for Paso Robles with all my heart and hope that some day, somewhere, I could...”
I tune out after this point. I realize that Pablo Rosas has no intention of ending his monologue anytime in the near future, and I get the signal from Eryk and Delta that we may have something to discuss.
“Yes?” I ask them.
“I think we can go,” Francis says.
He nods. “Like, I think we can just run and he won’t notice in time to catch up.”
“Is that honorable on Earth?” I ask. “Running from your opponent? It feels... craven, in a certain way.”
“Yeah, it’s fine,” he says.
“Let’s get out of here,” Delta says. “I really need to ask you about—Uh, nevermind.”
We both know what she’s referring to. That can most certainly wait.
“Well then, let’s leave,” I say.
We three run away from the vineyard and go as fast as we can to the parking lot, where Pablo Rosas’s car is parked and ready to steal.
About fifteen seconds after we bolt, Pablo Rosas finally realizes that we are gone.
“...fighting power. With just that many cups of olive oil a day, you can increase your strength by—Wait a minute, where’d you go?”
What a poor man.
What a sad individual. He seems like me, in a way. Brought to a new place, sucked up in a whole world he had no say in, and then becoming an incredibly strong warrior in the process... We could have been friends.
Instead, we are nothing more than minor opponents on the field of battle.
In the distance, I can hear him shouting. “Wait up! I just wanted you to know about my life! Guys!”
But we don’t turn around. We get in his car, Delta hotwires it, and we drive away from the flames as fast as we can.
By the time the embers fade out of view, I get a familiar sensation.
Never in my life have I humiliated someone so badly it counted as a victory in battle.
I savor this moment with a devilish grin. One more step in the path to becoming an S-Rank Hero.