Rare, Miss M, and Malia are circled around in a formation, holding up their weapons—a staff, a dragonsword, and a bow and arrow—to an enemy shrouded in darkness.
“What the hells?”
“Shit!” Miss M shouts. “Not this again!”
“You know,” I say, “I really wish we could better understand the link between my spirit and the dragonsword. The fact that we continue to be mixed up when it comes to the ethereal nature of the inventory system is quite strange to—Oh, what is that?”
A gigantic spider-like creature approaches our circle, and all three of my teammaates tense up. Every step the monster takes shakes the ground.
And then, two more appear from different sides.
“Is there any way I could—”
“—help with anything?” I ask.
We are now in a large conference room. A seven-foot-tall human person dressed in chrome armor leads a presentation.
Or, rather, they were leading a presentation up until the moment I appeared.
“This is what we mean,” Miss M says. “This is why we have to reach North Spire immediately.”
The armored person gulps. “North Spire...” they begin. “You can’t be serious. This, this thing... Surely if the New Slayers got their hands on it...”
“That is irrelevant,” Rare says, “because that will absolutely not happen.”
“The New Slayers are not to be trifled with,” the armored person says. “I beg you to reconsider. We are having enough trouble with the Beaver Empire as it is. Why would we make an obvious sacrifice to our forces in the way of engaging a foe that is not currently—”
Malia slams her fist on the table. “This isn’t about your geopolitical bullshit. This is about saving Mystix from the ultimate threat.”
They back away. “Do with our forces what you please. You proved your worth in the Battle of West Timor.”
“Damn right we did,” says Miss M.
“Um, may I intrude and ask what is going on here?” I raise my ghostly hand. Nobody responds, though. All of them except for the clearly freaked out armored person ignore me as if I do not exist.
“I really hate this,” I add. “You are always doing this to me! Leaving me in the dark about everything, having me run around like a blind man searching for some answer to a puzzle, when I don’t even have the first clue of the nature of my task to begin with! It’s a real drag on my spirit, and I can’t fathom why you continue—”
“—to make me confused about every—”
“Shut up, Eryk,” says Rare.
Now, the three of them are standing before a large wall made of stone and with spikes at the top.
“No, I won’t shut up,” I say. “Stop bullying me around or we won’t fix the special plan or whatever because I’m going to wake up and go back to Earth and you will have to be content to wait on me to come back. Because if I am so important, then you have to let me have some say in this.”
Rare sighs. “Eryk, this ‘Earth’ of yours isn’t real,” they say. “It is merely a fabrication of your sleeping mind. On the other side of this wall is North Spire, and then soon the catacombs where your comatose body has been laying for the past century or more, protected from the perils of life and aging.”
They nod, slowly and deliberately as if they are making an effort to shield my feelings from shattering. “Whatever The Goddess did to you, it is not some sort of fancy reincarnation. You are not living as a powerful being on another world. Miss M told me all about your supposed adventures, and I can say with certainty that you are simply having fanciful fits of fantasy. You are a powerful being on this world, and your entire life as an [Adventurer] has been a lie created by none other than yourself.”
“You’re telling me that... What? I cannot bring myself to understand your words.”
“I want to tell you the truth so that you don’t feel betrayed once we reach your body, Eryk,” they say. “You are not a ghost. You are not living in a world without elves or beavers. What you are experiencing right now is something called ‘paramnesia.’ Your inability to separate fantasy from reality is the reason that you are unable to unlock your true powers... and it seems The Goddess has gone out of her way to make sure that you never did so.”
“But wait... The Goddess couldn’t have—it’s not possible.”
“You are just a pawn in a larger game, Eryk Solbourne. But you are the most powerful pawn the entire game possesses.”
“Like a top-tier character in Royals of Foreign Legends,” I say. “Francis told me all about it.”
“There is no Francis,” Rare says. “But soon you shall understand just how important you really are. You will be given a chance to remember all you have forgotten. And you will help us bring down the terror of The Goddess once and for all.”
I... I’m too baffled to figure out how to respond to anything they are saying right now.
“All we have to do is get through eight hundred thousand New Slayers soldiers,” Miss M says. “And if I die, Eryk’s ghost dies with me.”
“Well then, let us get started,” Rare says.
“Got it, boss.”
—examine my surroundings once more, and the three companions I have are now bloodied and bruised. Malia in particular looks like she has gone through absolute hell. A two hundred year old woman in battle is not likely to end up very well, after all.
We are in the deep catacombs of the North Spire. I have never been in a place like this before. Buried graves and tombs and hidden treasure from so many eons past that some of it probably predates the first-ever S-Rank Hero.
Miss M’s glowing fiery hair (a new sight from her that is probably a sign that she has regained a large portion of her original powers as a demon queen) gives a faint glow to this pit, but everything else is shrouded in darkness. My friends on Mystix sure do enjoy living their lives in dark caverns sometimes.
“And here we shall find your body,” Rare says. “According to my records, it was stored... here.” They point and a hidden door opens all on its own.
And we enter the Tomb of Eryk Solbourne.