My dream comes quickly.
I am still a ghost, and still in a dire predicament.
As it was when my dream ended, I am at the bottom of a deep, dark canyon somewhere in North Spire. If not for my translucent body that cannot be harmed by any known means, I would surely be destroyed by now, because my ghostly self is buried underneath a deep pit of rubble.
There’s dead bodies nearby, and soft moans of the injured far off in the distance. I myself cannot do anything about it, however.
Just like many other dreams I have had lately... I stay still and wait. Wait for whatever it is that will come to embrace my future here.
Why did Rare make such a foolish gambit? All they did was further enflame the hearts of the New Slayers and cause them to find out that their precious “Amaranth” still exists in some form.
And, more importantly, why did Miss M, or rather the Demon Queen Mestopholees, do what she did? The reason I and so many others are down here is due to her thunder whip attack, and the battles that have surely ensued since then could have been prevented if not for her... I don’t know. Treachery?
I hate all of this. This whole aspect of me as a device, an obtainable trinket that must be captured like a piece in a board game. Rather than existing as a living being, I am merely a source of power for those wishing to manipulate the events around them.
Why can I not make any choices for myself? Why must these people sacrifice themselves or betray others in order to find me and use me?
I do not find out the answers on this night. For as long as I sit here at the bottom of the canyon, nothing changes.
And then I wake up feeling wholly unsatisfied.
A group of butlers come into the bedroom, turn on the lights, and begin clapping loudly to wake Francis and me up.
The bed is so comfortable... and being alone is so nice... I cannot permit such rudeness from these lowly servants!
“Avast!” I shout, pretending that I have awoken in the middle of a battle or something of that nature. “Strike at me, ye foes! I dare you to strike!”
The butlers run away screaming, and so Francis and I get another half an hour to sleep.
Next time the butlers come in, they do so very quietly and gently.
“Ah, yes, what is it that you wish?” I ask.
“Masters Solbourne and Bacall, we will help ready you for the morning,” one mustached butler says. “You must be dressed in your best outfits for the luncheon later today.”
“A luncheon? What for?” Francis, mostly already awake, asks from the bottom bunk.
“To celebrate Victoria’s latest commercial release, of course. All the neighbors will be here.”
“Ugh... Fine. Pick me out something that looks kinda nice but I can still walk around in,” he says.
“I wish for my own custom outfit,” I say. “Anything that compliments my North Spiran heritage—er, my North African heritage. Yes, that sounds real enough.”
“We will build it for you,” the butler says. “First, though, we would like to escort you to breakfast. Lordess Bacall and Master Rafati are waiting on you.”
“Lordess Bacall... She really is the worst...”
Still in our pajamas, we head into the dining hall once more and find Taylor, Delta, and Victoria all here chatting about whatever. It was probably a very interesting conversation, seeing as Delta isn’t quite as furious as she usually looks.
“Oh, Uncle France, Victoria was so excited to see you,” Taylor says. “We’ve been waiting so long I was worried you’d never show up.”
Victoria giggles, but the rest of us recognize the barely passive aggression emanating from this sisterly figure.
Francis sits down, and then Taylor gets up and scurries over to... me? Huh?
She whispers in my ear, “Let’s talk after the luncheon. I got a tip for you that’ll really help you out. Don’t say anything, just nod.”
We sit back down together, and Francis gazes on me with extreme suspicion. And I completely understand; I’m just as confused, myself.
And so the breakfast begins. French toast and pancakes and all that overly sweet American food I missed so much. Santa Barbara’s food was rigid and strictly healthy, while in Simi Valley I was forced to live off of vending machine food for a few days just to survive. I’ve mostly exhausted the easy Destiny Points to gain from food, except at the cooler of restaurants, but it does not stop my great enjoyment of meals of all varieties.
“What will you do at the luncheon?” Taylor asks us. “It’s going to be a great networking opportunity. All the big names in the neighborhood will be there, and a few studio executives too. I invited T-Swift, too, but she still hasn’t responded. I really hope she shows up so I can meet her...”
“T-Swift’s busy with the Purity Campaign, last I heard,” Delta says.
“Oh, right. She won’t be here, then. Dang it. Well, at least Victoria will have a few B-list celebrities to network with, won’t she?” She pats her daughter on the head a few times.
“We were planning on traveling, actually,” Francis tells her. “Eryk is here for the first time, so we wanted to show him a lot of the sights and sounds of the city.”
“Oh, nonsense. You’ll be here for a few days, so that’s more than enough time to go exploring. Today, you’re going to be with me, big brother. Then you can spend more time with your sweetheart tomorrow.”
“For the last time,” Francis snaps, “I’m not—He’s not my... Ugh, you’re the worst.”
Taylor looks away from him and looks to Delta and me, with her hands clasped together and her chin resting on them. “Say, have either of you ever heard about what happened with Dalton?”
Francis’s face turns completely flushed, either from anger or embarrassment. Likely both.
I know nothing about what she speaks, so I keep my mouth shut.
Delta, though, looks at Francis with curiosity. “Say, what DID happen to Dalton? I haven’t seen him in years. Never even occurred to me there was a reason for it, though. Did...” She stops herself as if something in her brain has clicked. She does not continue speaking.
“You two were pretty close, weren’t you?” Taylor asks faux-innocently. “I guess that kind of friendship doesn’t last, though. High schoolers are always—“
“Shut up! Taylor, you’re just making everything worse.” Francis gets up and, without even doing the dignity of pushing his chair in, storms out of the dining room. His french toast is left mostly uneaten...
Taylor sighs loudly. “He’s got to control that temper of his, that Uncle France. Victoria, you better not be an angry kid.”
Victoria giggles and then drops her fork on the floor.
Taylor winks at us as if we are in on some sort of joke. Mostly, I just have the urge to slap her, except that my strength would probably be so great that it would injure her, something I do not wish.
What is this about a “tip” she wishes to share with me? I am... uneasy about it, and everything here.