Santa Monica, another beautiful beach area. If not as grand and luxurious as the independent nation of the Kingdom of Santa Barbara, it still has its perks, like being just a short subway ride away from the rest of downtown. Compared to the long and laborious path of the Amtrak, it is nearly outright teleportation. But then again, the ride also is not nearly as comfortable.
This is one of the better parts of Los Angeles, I will admit. I am not completely certain if this is actually grouped in with the city of Los Angeles itself, but in spirit I cannot do but say that it is the furthest reach, the gleaming speck in a city that is otherwise devoid of color and life.
I am greeted by warm store signs such as “Tourists, Please Shop Here,” and “No Taxes For Out-Of-Staters,” and even “Tourism Themed Restaurant.” Santa Monica seems very much geared towards the attraction of outside guests, likely due to an overly hospitable environment. I like it.
Francis and I have gone to the Santa Monica Pier, where workers stand outside of small shops and arcades and call out that tourists get 10% off all items. Francis is particularly interested in the arcade, trying to see if they have a copy of Dungeon Core Classic, an old arcade game produced twenty-something years ago. It is, of course, not here, because this is an arcade for tourists and not for enthusiasts. But he had intel that one was here just a year or two ago, so his false hope was allowed to flourish.
That didn’t go well for his emotional state, needless to say. Francis has been in a dour mood ever since the arcade failed to show promise. Even as we sit off the edge of the pier, looking at the ocean together with cotton candy in our hands (a sure [+1 DP] from me, I will say), he merely mopes.
“I think I’m just depressed or something,” Francis says. “It seems like a series of ridiculous events all conspiring to ruin my mood, but maybe it’s been this way for a while and I just haven’t noticed until now.”
I munch on the instantly evaporating sugary fabric of my treat and let his thoughts sit in silence and hopefully wash into the Pacific Ocean waves.
“Maybe I’ve been looking for an out for a while, you know?” he asks rhetorically. “The streaming life is fun, but it’s not what I want to do for the rest of my life. And I make a lot, but not enough to, you know, make a bunch of great investments and retire at 30 or something. If only I had invested in GME back in 2021, I’d be a billionaire by now...” He makes a strange motion with his hands as if he is making... diamonds? I am unsure. “But, yeah, I think these adventures we’ve had are some of the best parts of my entire life. And at the same time, I’m also getting in a worse and worse mood with each passing day, and I’m too much of a moron to understand why.”
“Don’t deprecate yourself. It is not befitting of a man of your caliber.”
“...Thanks. And I’m not a moron about it, anyway. I totally do understand why. It’s because I’m just losing my whole stable life all of a sudden and I’m really bad at dealing with it. My streaming stuff is probably gonna end, I’m probably gonna move out of my parents’ house soon, I’m probably gonna stop being as close with Delta once she becomes a mom, and I’m probably gonna lose you once this trip is over. It’ll be a new part of my life. And not one I’m looking forward to.”
I pat Francis on the back, and for some reason I keep my hand there. “You won’t lose me. Or anything, as long as you don’t want it to change.”
“But maybe I DO want it to change. Uh, most of it. Not you. I really don’t want you to change. I mean, I’ve only known you... what, a couple weeks? Less? I can hardly keep track anymore. You’re such a good friend, though, and...”
It all runs through my head now. Everything Delta had told me on the train all that time ago. Everything that peeks through when I catch Francis taking a glance at me.
Does Francis love me?
His eyes are sparkling from the sunset in front of him. To I must be radiating from its cool glow.
“Francis, have I ever told you how important an ally you are to me?” I ask.
“Then, shall I reward that allyship?”
“...Huh? What does that even—“
I move in with my neck and head and press my lips against his.
The sweet sensation of a kiss.
It has been so, so long since I have kissed anyone. And the feeling here is... Well, the taste of cotton candy certainly overpowers it, I’ll admit. But other than that, it is something magical.
That is, for the two and a half seconds before Francis pushes me away and stands up on his feet.
“What the fuck was that?!”
“I kissed you,” I tell him.
“Yeah, I know. I’m asking why!”
“I don’t understand the question.”
Francis wipes his mouth in disgust. “You can’t just... Why would you do that? You aren’t supposed to kiss your friends! Even in your stupid fantasy world, it’s not okay to just kiss people without asking!”
“It’s certainly not okay in Mystix. That much is correct. But Francis, I thought you... wanted it.”
“What, because I’m such a good ‘ally?’ You think you’ll ‘reward’ me with some smooch? You’re such an idiot, and you don’t even realize it. What the hell, dude?”
“I... I am genuinely baffled. You are correct about all of that talk of idiocy. My ignorance is wide.”
Francis stomps off after a second and I lose track of him.
I simply sit here at the pier, wondering what went wrong. I thought he loved me. Delta even said so. But he rebuffed my advance of romantic intent.
I guess... I DON’T love him, do I? What is love, anyway? I’ve had so few romantic relationships in my life that it is hard for me to pinpoint any surefire signal. I don’t know how I feel about Francis, so what gives me the right to assume how he feels about me?
I really messed up.
The only way to fix this is to finally discover what Francis really feels, and why, and to address that with honesty. But our level of communication is not excellent. Even if I find him, I am not sure if he will forgive me for some time.
There is only one path I can take to fix this, one spark that lights up in my mind and refuses to go away...
A Destiny Card.
Empathetic Link: Rank 7. Create a Mental Link with a target sentient being. Cost: 5500 LP.
The Life Point cost is steep, especially when I am some ways away from enough Destiny Points to level up. But the skill is necessary. I will do what I must to make Francis happy.