Eryk’s day in Los Angeles has gone quite poorly.
Clone Eryk, on the other hand, has quite enjoyed his. Right now, in the late afternoon, He and the lovely Taylor Bacall walk through a dingy neighborhood, one where graffiti covers the brick walls, and not the pretty kind either. If not for Taylor’s radiance, he would be extremely bored by the proceedings.
He knows he only has about a week to live. He knows that, by the end of this, he will be reabsorbed into the original Eryk, and all his distinct experiences as an individual, all his memories, will be collapsed into a vague blip that the original will barely regard.
Therefore... he will make the best of things. He will enjoy life to its absolute fullest. After honoring his promise to go with Taylor, he is going to have a completely different life dedicated to the only thing that truly matters in life: Fun.
As Clone Eryk and Taylor step into a sleazy, sweat-smelling office on the second floor of a run-down building, all he can think about is what great party destinations this city has in store for him.
Not this... Well, he isn’t quite sure what it is, but he doesn’t much care.
“I’m suddenly not so sure about this place,” Taylor says. “But I got it on really good advice that we’re in for a good time here. That South African guy really convinced me here.”
“Even if it’s bad, at least I could spend time with you,” Clone Eryk says.
“...Don’t hit on me.”
“But I distinctly recall the suggestion that you are ‘aggressively heterosexual.’”
She rolls her eyes. “Not with my big brother’s boyfriend. God, I’m NOT doing a threesome, if that’s what you’re hoping for. Done enough of those to last a lifetime.”
Boyfriend? Clone Eryk is a bit too confused about this to really continue the conversation.
But he doesn’t have to: They’re here at the office room, labeled with a sun-faded plate that reads: “Master Keitou.”
They knock and then step in.
It’s small, filled with clutter, smells of dog hair and cigarette smoke. Piles of paper that go up to Clone Eryk’s thighs just laying on the floor. A window is open, and a an elderly woman of East Asian persuasion stares at them from her under-sized, book-covered desk.
“Eryk Solbourne, how nice to see you,” she says in thickly accented English.
She must be seventy-five, eighty at the youngest. And, of course, she is smoking.
“Yo,” Eryk says. “What’s going on here? Cleaning day?”
“Don’t be rude,” Taylor whispers. “Sorry, Eryk isn’t from around here.”
“I know. That is why I want him.”
“This is for, like, a movie role, right?” Taylor asks. “You’re that big producer?”
“Is my name not Master Keitou?”
“Well, yeah, but you kind of work in... Not the place I expected.”
“This office is rent-controlled. I have worked here since seventy-nine, and I will work here until I am seventy-nine.” She says this with the kind of chuckle that suggests that she is most certainly not under the age of seventy-nine.
“Well, it’s kind of a dump,” Taylor replies. “I guess that’s why you don’t get much work anymore, because—“
Keitou snaps so loudly it reverberates across the entire office in a brilliant echo.
Then she speaks loudly in Japanese—
And Taylor instantly falls asleep. She passes out on the patchy leather couch across from the desk, leaving just Clone Eryk and Master Keitou here in the scene.
“You know,” Keitou begins, “there exists a famous fairy tale from my homeland. The ‘Tale of the Bamboo Cutter.’ An elderly couple discovers a beaming, shining baby in the woods and raise it as their own. But this baby matures into girlhood, then womanhood in the blink of an eye. Princess Kaguya, they name her.
“She’s gifted with great, unimaginable beauty, but she wants no part of what the others wish to give her. She is courted by all varieties of men, even the Emperor himself, but she does not wish it. She sends them all on impossible tasks to win her love, and they give up or perish along the way.
“Finally, it is revealed that Princess Kaguya is not of this world. Her glowing radiance hails from the moon, and she has been sent down here as punishment for some unknown crime. After a period, the moon people come back to retrieve her, and despite her greatest resistance, they take her back. She returns to her original world, but only after completely changing everything around her.
“They say that is a tale from ancient Japan. But it is actually much older, and much more reflective when you learn that fact. Wouldn’t you say so, Eryk Solbourne?”
Clone Eryk did not inherit so many of the smarts of the original Eryk. But even he is able to make the connection here. Princess Kaguya is not a story of Earth. It is a story of Mystix and Earth together. The connection given to these two worlds by The Goddess herself. The powers of the [Demigods.]
“That wasn’t Japanese you spoke,” Clone Eryk realizes. “That was Ancient Elven.”
“You’re a system user. You’re from Mystix!”
“Correct as well.” Keitou stands up and shakes Clone Eryk’s hand. “I suppose this is your first time meeting another system user on Earth. Well, it’s mine too. I am pleasured to make your acquaintance.”
Another Destiny Deck System user, and Clone Eryk is the first person to meet her. Keitou’s ears, covered by her hair, just barely hide the slight pointedness to their tips.
He suspected there were ulterior motives to this arranged meeting, and now he knows exactly what they were.