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Soon, the other three members of Team Fanghook arrive. Thalia, with her magely books and low-cut dress and snide looks at everyone around her. Borguk, with his towering height and brotherly demeanor and gigantic axe hoisted on his back. Miss M, with her short stature and demon’s tail and grumpy glare as if she is extremely tired and ready for a nap.

They are finally back from their recon mission, and now the real mission is ready.

“What in The Goddess’s name took so long?” Eryk asks them, holding in no regard any idea of courtesy or politeness. He does not defer to the added experience that these three hold over him. He wants answers and that is what he will obtain.

“We got involved in some nasty stuff,” Borguk says. “These beasts in the sky kept attacking us everywhere we went. We could barely reach the castle in time for the summoning to begin.”

“Plus, there’s some war between the Dwarves and Yostians out in the mountains,” Miss M adds. “They’re real jerks! They’re planning some big battle and it’s getting in our way big time. We’ll have to find a brand-new way around the mountains so we can avoid getting smushed in the crossfire.”

“The only one who’ll get smushed is you, short stuff,” Borguk says with a hearty laugh.

Miss M crosses her arms and huffs.

“I see that you two have been keeping busy,” says Thalia, pointing to the carcass of the sky mollusk. “This is the same sort of monster that kept attacking us, too.”

“Very strange...” Malia says, putting her hand on her chin in deep ponderance of the confusing situation they find themselves in.

“Well, hopefully we killed enough that they won’t be coming around these parts anymore,” Borguk says.

“I certainly hope so,” Malia says. “This one was a real pain to fight.”

Does Eryk feel the same way?

No, not really, he realizes.

He doesn’t wish to see fewer and fewer of these sky mollusks, even if they are rampaging beasts unlike anything he has ever seen before. This one was hardly a difficult opponent, and its attacking seemed more akin to an untrained child than a real combatant. It was desperate, hungry, and lonely.

All of those things applied to Eryk too, in a way.

If they hunted the sky mollusks to extinction, there would be nothing left of them. They would become a memory. Is that all the weak are made to be? Cannon fodder for those stronger than them? If so, Eryk needed to claw his way out of this. Eryk needed to become stronger, more capable, more of a hero.

In all of this, Eryk makese a declaration to himself never to harm creatures clearly weaker than himself. It is beneath him, and even if it earns him Destiny Points, it would harm the world of Mystix overall if people were to kill too many of these weak creatures and lead each of them to a permanent extinction.

Of course... Eryk does not keep the promise he makes to himself at this moment. He forget he ever makes it, in fact.

All he remembers about this day is what he and Malia did, and then the thing he is about to do:

Rank up.

Eryk uses his Destiny Points to level up one more time, then to increase his rank. The process is long, colorful, and not worth remembering except for itse end result. Eryk is now an E-Rank Hero and that is what matters to him now.

10,000 LP.

Six Destiny Card slots.

The ability to use Life Points to draw Destiny Cards.

He has it all now.

And because of that, the memory of the poor mollusk fades from his mind. The promise he makes to avoid harming innocent creatures disappears into the obscurities of his unconscious, the same place where his self-hatred squirms around in dark corners.

Who cares about any of that when you’re an E-Rank Hero?

***

Later, deeper in some woods off in the distance from the Team Fanghook camp, two figures stand in relative silence.

These two figures are Malia and Miss M. Miss M, usually content to let her low height be the laughing stock of her party, now floats in the air so she will be at eye level with the woman across from her.

They do not smile.

They do not make small talk.

They simply get right down to business.

“Tell me what happened with Eryk these past two days,” says Miss M. “Has he performed well?”

“He’s done extraordinarily,” Malia says. “Better than we could have predicted.”

“The mollusk was threatening enough, wasn’t it? I tried to make it look as menacing as possible, but give it a bit of a sad side to it,” Miss M says. “Conjuring monsters at that short a notice is very hard, though. You gotta give me a further notice.”

“I’m sorry,” Malia says. “I wanted to give him a pick-me-up. He seemed a little down lately.”

“Well, now that he has finally reached Rank E, I guess he’ll be out of moping mode for a while, eh?” Miss M does a little twirl. “We’re doing a good thing, right?”

“Good is not something we can decide. We only do what we must, and history will judge us. Whether we are good or bad is for our descendants to decide.” Malia lowers her head. “He doesn’t have a clue. I promise.”

“My mind wipe worked? Completely? Absolutely? I expected no less of myself, but I’m still shocked it was so successful.” Miss M chuckles. “If you really think this was the right thing to do, then we can try it again the next time something happens.”

“I feel terrible about it,” Malia says, “but it’s the only way to ensure the survival of Mystix.”

“The only way to ensure The Goddess does not take her wrath out on all of us.”

“The Goddess will be the least of our worries if Eryk Solbourne remembers the truth,” Malia says.

And with that, their meeting is over.

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Thedude3445

Bio: I like to watch movies.

Avatar art by Mikayla Buan. https://twitter.com/mikayla_buan

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