Eryk holds up his blade.
Malia holds up her bow and arrow.
The mollusk makes a loud screeching sound that reverberates throughout the entire field. It is already angry. For all the reassurances Malia had about the beast, it appears that it has practically no sense of ease about it whatsoever. It is aggressive, angry, and its many tentacles are writhing about like it is about to attack at any moment.
Such a large creature normally feeds off only the tiniest of animals. It is a bottom-feeder in anything but location. The sky’s quadrillions of microbes make for a tasty food source for this flying shelled creature, and in the best of times it is not the kind of creature that would even consider floating this close to the surface, let alone actually attacking anything. But little did Malia know when she made her statement earlier, but the rainy season has been unusually weak this year in this specific region. It is nearing a drought, and the lack of water in the atmosphere has kept the number of microbes much lower than most years.
This mollusk here, this one looking at the young human man and the elven female and imagining them to be a tasty snack, has not fed to satisfaction in almost a month. It has begun the starvation process and is feeling a great deal of pain.
At this moment, the mollusk either wants to be put out of its misery, or it wants to end its misery with a great feast.
And these two large sacks of meat look to be exactly the kind of morsel it so desperately craves right now.
Malia takes a step back, then fires an arrow. It bounces off the mollusk’s shell and shatters in the air.
“That armor’s too strong for arrows,” she says.
Eryk takes a look at the creature. He recognizes its familiar look of hopelessness, of great ambitions but with little ability to realize any of them. This mollusk must be feeling a lot like Eryk does right now, he thinks. Even in the middle of a battle with the monster, he forms some sort of kinship with the monster, almost like it is a sibling of his own.
In Eryk’s entire childhood, he had twelve siblings. Most were far older, adults who even had kids of their own. His older sisters had mostly left and formed their own clan called Solbirth, where four sisters acted as the family fathers and raised a competing branch of produce carriers. After all of them, Eryk only had two siblings worth truly considering siblings in the more traditional sense of the word.
The mollusk lashes out with its tentacles. Eryk jumps out of the way. The large whip-like limbs thrash against the ground and tear up all the grass. Eryk lands and skids on the dirt, just in time to make another jump to avoid being smashed aside.
The mollusk emits a loud screeching sound. It is completely unlike a roar, utterly dissimilar to anything Eryk or Malia has ever faced in combat before. They have fought dragons, they have dismembered Dwarven Spiders, and they have decimated entire armies of Scream-Pigs. And yet the mollusk is wholly unique in its high-pitched, unsettling voice.
Eryk ducks and avoids another tentacle. Malia fires another arrow, but it is quickly blocked by a quick turn that leads to the arrow’s metal colliding with the thick chitin of the monster’s shell..
All this time, Eryk holds his sword tightly. He holds it with delicacy, but with enough firmness that it would crush the throat of any human neck held with int. His sympathy with the mollusk grows even deeper as he sees just how far the beast is willing to go to satiate itself. He is going to kill the monster, but it will take an emotional gut punch to do it.
Eryk had two sibligs back in North Spire. One was a brother his same age named Vince. He liked sports quite a lot. Rollball was his favorite one; he loved rolling balls and spinning them around the rollball courtyards when he was done with his daily chores. He loved forcing Eryk to play against him even though Eryk was terrible at sports. Eryk’s strength was always his strong suit, but in rollball, when the goal was to kick and toss with precision and aim towards a specific target, he could not even muster a single victory against Vince.
The two were close. Quite close, in fact. But Eryk was much closer with his other sibling, a child named Rare. They were born under mysterious circumstances to a father whose identity was somewhat uncertain. The blood relationship was irrelevant, but still a source of bickering and controversy for years to come. Rare didn’t have many friends growing up due to the stigma about their uncertain family status, and the Solbourne family’s reluctance to fully accept them. But Eryk was quite fond of them. Their interest in books and learning was something that Eryk never fully related to, but it was something that reflected upon him regardless.
Eryk learned how to handle loss and competition with Vince. But he learned how to read, learned how to anaylze and predict things with Rare. Vince and Rare were never very close, but Eryk was close with both of them.
Then after North Spire was attacked, both of them were conscripted into the militia to avenge the region and destroy the enemies who raided and killed so many North Spirans.
And then after less than two months, the news about the two of them was revealed.
Vince had been killed in a botched invasion attempt. He was the only survivor of his squad after the fight had been lost, but upon retreating back to allied lines, he was hit by friendly fire.
One Solbourne gone.
Rare had been pushed away from the front lines due to low physical ability, and they were put on guard duty most nights. One night, around the exact same time as Vince’s death, Rare disappeared. They went absent without leave. They never showed up again. To this day, nobody has ever found any trace of Rare’s existence, even with the distinctive and incurable physical marker that all North Spirans possess with their hair and eyes.
Two Solbounres gone.
Eryk, then the youngest surviving member of the family of his generation, was thrust into a status he never wanted. He was content with a life of civil servitude and simple living that used his strength for what it was worth economically. Now he was being expected to learn the rituals and mannerisms of a future Forefather. Without inter-family adoptions, something quite frowned upon in North Spiran society without a marriage involved, the Solbourne family would have to rely fully on Eryk’s abilities to lead the way for the years to come, once the current crop of fathers aged out of their statuses.
For what it was worth, Eryk tried. He attempted to understand what it meant to be a leader to a family of dozens, tried to fit into the role of someone who was proper and masculine, parenting and compassionate. He did not succeed, however. He failed more miserably than a beaver reminiscing about the Great Dam War after too many drinks at the local pub. And unlike that hypothetical beaver, Eryk did not have anyone else to ramble to about his worries. With Vince and Rare gone, it was up to him to do everything, and he had no friends to speak of that he could trust far enough to divulge his most inner of worries.
It should have been Eryk, he always thought. It should have been him who was sent to war, not him who was tasked with staying behind to keep the family business afloat during difficult times. His only strength was his strength. He had no ability to be a good leader. He had no cunning or intelligence to speak of. In fact, he was quite dumb, even for a North Spiran. He had absolutely no business becoming the Forefather for the Solbourne family, and everyone knew it.
So Eryk Solbourne reached an agreement with the family. He would depart. He would not renounce his family claims, and would instead embrace them. He would leave with the pretense of a cultural ambassadorship to enrich the cultural understandings between North Spire and the other regions of the continent. However, he knew, and his fathers knew, that he had no such intentions of spreading the good news about his culture to the rest of the world. He didn’t truly have any intention of even returning to North Spire until he was old, fat, and long ago having proven himself as a hero.
That was when Eryk discovered a sorting scepter. That was when Eryk accepted the Destiny Deck System within himself. That was when Eryk Solbourne began his journey towards becoming an S-Rank [Adventurer,] the likes of which Mystix has never seen before.
And all of that history inside of Eryk Solbourne is what has led up to this moment. This battle between the giant sky mollusk on one side, and Eryk and Malia on the other.
Eryk knows that he is not praised by many. He is a disgrace to some, a failure to most. He has spent over six months lingering in F-Rank, something few to no heroes would ever do, and now in this particular battle he is at a significant disadvantage.
Even with a few [Minor Heals] consumed just yesterday, he still only has 4,100 Life Points at his disposal, thanks to the extremely low cap for F-Rank heroes. A few well-timed and deadly strikes by the mollusk could end his life.
And yet Eryk is not at all worried about it. He is even smiling.
Malia fires off arrow after arrow, each one of them breaking upon impact. It’s quite useless, but she is hoping to gain the attention of the monster just long enough for Eryk to strike.
He has not swung his sword yet. In this entire fight, he has simply stood and jumped and dodged, for that is the thing that is currently keeping him steady.
He waits for the final strike. The only strike he needs.
The mollusk is a pitiful creature. Perhaps nearly as pitiful as Eryk himself. He would never, ever admit to himself that he is a weakling and hates himself, but in his heart of hearts, in the invisible and inaccessible Destiny Card that makes up the contents of his soul, Eryk has a deep and unceasing hatred for himself. It is the kind of burning and passionate hatred that simmers like an ember below a boiling pot and doesn’t go away for years. Doesn’t go away for decades. Because of this hatred he sets goal after goal for himself, setting his ambitions to succeed in realms that are so far beyond his reach that he will surely fail them.
Of course he couldn’t become the next forefather of the Solbourne family.
Of course he couldn’t become a C-Rank Hero in six months or less.
Of course he can’t become an S-Rank Hero, is the thought that refuses to enter his conscious mind, but that swirls through his subconscious at every non-waking moment.
If the mollusk is anything like Eryk right now, it is crying on the inside, and its screeching is merely a simple plea for help.
Eryk decides to put the creature out of its heavy mystery. He figures out the correct angle, understands how to get past the tentacles, and how to strike it down in just one blow.
He sends out a weak magical Destiny Card skill that blasts into the mollusk’s shell. It burns it, but does no serious damage other than shocking the beast into a moment of stun.
And with everything set, Eryk leaps forward.
He moves his sword around like a conductor’s baton, tracing the correct motion he has trained for for ages.
Eryk Solbourne is no hero, not yet. But he is at least strong enough to slice off the mollusk’s tentacles and stab it in the face.
All in one swing, in one motion, he has ended the mollusk’s life.
When Eryk lands, so do a dozen tentacles that were disconnected from the attack. They were not even the target; merely a distraction from the real target—the mollusk’s brain. Brains are the only thing that can keep an animal functioning, after all. It doesn’t matter how dumb or smart it is, if its head is gone.
The mollusk loses its ability to float and crashes onto the ground. Its body is still stuck to the enormous shell. The shell rolls around for a second before collapsing on its side. The body then oozes out slowly.
“Ew,” Malia says. “That’s really gross.”
Ding! [+1 DP.]
All of that, and they only got a single Destiny Point each out of it... Eryk shakes his head in disappointment.
He does not know this, but he has entered a new stage of his life with the events of this day. With his first act of real romance with Malia, and his furious victory at the hands of the sky mollusk, he has forged a new destiny for himself. The Destiny Deck of his life has been reconfigured.
But the adventure isn’t quite over yet.