>How are you feeling?
Janice stretches as we walk towards Echo Bay’s headquarters. She’s wearing the cloak, so people aren’t paying us much mind.
>Better. As far as the effect of the charging… we’ve managed to stagnate the loss.
>Good, but that’s provided I don’t use my power for anything but charging you, probably.
>Indeed, but as long as we act conservatively our time is extended tremendously.
I realize something odd, but since I’m not dead, there must be an explanation.
>Why didn’t I disappear when you unsynched with your horns?
Janice immediately takes this chance to speak at length about magic.
>Aha, an astute observation. Summoning magic creates a special link between the summon itself and the focus used for the binding spell. It’s one of the reasons summoning is primarily practiced by drator, as anyone using a cheap focus will experience a more difficult time maintaining their summons. So, when I unsynched from my horns, it did not sever the ties between you and the other White Knights to my horns themselves. They would have to completely run out of tention for you or the knights to fade.
That’s good. I assumed there was some gimmick because she didn’t refuse outright to attempt my idea. At least it wasn’t “you have three minutes before you disappear.” We soon arrive at the headquarters where two vehicles await us. Parviz waves us over.
>Good morning, friends! Are you ready to experience the joys of modern technology?
I’m not really looking forward to a road trip on these poor dirt roads in these old cars, but I’m really curious about the technology itself. Parviz continues speaking.
>Your guardians will ride with our escort in front of us. Jani, and Anon will join me in my vehicle. I will be your driver for today.
Parviz looks ecstatic. It’s like he’s a sixteen-year-old kid just getting his license; extremely eager to show off to his friends. Joker, Duelist, and Juggler get up on the back of the truck in front. Immediately, Joker begins introductions between them and Parviz’s personal guards. Have fun with that one. Janice and I get in the backseats of Parviz’s vehicle and settle in. I reach behind myself… No seat-belts. Right. I’m so used to them.
>Are you young’uns ready for the experience of a lifetime? Do not fear, for I am an expert driver!
>I think we’ll be fine. “Though this is my first time in a car,” I’m not really scared. I’m sure Janice is o-
I look over, and Janice’s hands are gripping her seat tightly. She looks visibly shaken. Parviz begins speaking to one of his employees standing outside of the car. I lean over and whisper to her.
>Are you okay? Didn’t you tell me you’ve summoned and ridden on magic horses and beasts?
>Correct, but I can speak to those! A car can’t reassure me of my safety.
On Earth, at least in the first world, children ride in cars as early as infancy. They learn as soon as they are born. A recluse like Janice hasn’t experienced something like this in her whole life. I attempt to console her.
>It’ll be fine. As far as I’ve seen, this planet’s vehicles are virtually silent. The massive trucks I drive every day are twenty times as large as this car, and a hundred times as loud. You’ll be okay.
>A-alright. I’ll try to calm down.
>Are you both ready? Our escort is clear to go!
Parviz doesn’t wait for our response. He takes out a medal-like object and holds it up to a dull metal plate on the steering column. Janice jumps a little bit when the car begins to hum at a low frequency. The truck ahead of us pulls ahead, and soon Parviz “steps on the gas.” We start moving quietly along the road. Eventually, we hit a steady top speed of what feels like around ~30mph. The road is wide, but is still just dirt and gravel, anything faster, and we’d be bouncing around. Janice begins to calm down.
>Splendid, isn’t it? Technology truly is a beautiful thing. Nothing like it.
Using the hand-crank and rolling down the window, I see endless plains around us. Blue paints the sky; nary a single cloud tarnishing the expanse above. The earth and grass pass us by steadily. I realize something and turn to talk to Janice.
>Carsickness is common for people who don’t ride often. Try not to look out the window for too long, or it’ll make you nauseous.
Janice nods her head and looks down. Parviz speaks up, surprised.
>Anon, you know of carsickness? Have you ridden before?
>Ah, I’m not sure. It sort of just came to me. Maybe I’ve done it in the past, but my amnesia caused me to forget?
Slipped a little bit.
>Not entirely a shame, because you have the pleasure of experiencing your first car ride not once, but twice!
>So what’s this technology called? Does it have a name?
>A name? This is simply a “car” or an “automobile.”
>No, I mean what do you call technology in general?
Parviz seems confused.
>You’ve lost me, boy, technology is just technology. I’ll be happy to explain more about cars, though.
Uhuh. Let’s ask something else.
>What powers this car?
>Why, a yuminium battery, what else would? Have you honestly forgotten that much? I will have to give you a crash course; otherwise you won’t know your head from your feet when we arrive in Boarding!
>Yuminium can be used for things other than spells? I saw a lamp at the market, but I just assumed that it was an oddity on its own.
Janice speaks up, her voice a little shaky.
>Y-yes, I neglected to mention. Yuminium is not o-only used to facilitate spellcasting… but is also used to power vehicles… a-and other technology. This… is my first time seeing it up close…
>Rightly so! Yuminium is the backbone of our society. The streetlights lining our streets, the trolleys, cars, stoves, our factories… It’s the great mover, and powers the light of yusurdom itself! There’s a reason the yuze is backed by yuminium, as nothing on Cyberia is more valuable!
Factories… So the world must be undergoing something like an industrial era. Magitek?… Tention powered tech. Heh, “Tentek.”
>Before we set off, you waved something on the side of the steering wheel to start the car. Was that a “key?”
>Yes, that was my personal key for my baby here. Almost impossible to duplicate! Unless you held a knife to my throat! Contains my “password” for starting the vehicle. I don’t quite know the intricacies, but it functions without fail!
>How common is owning a car?
>Not very, as their price out-ranges the purse of the common yusur. Though, more and more vehicles are rolling out of factories to greet the streets every day! It won’t be long until everyone that breathes owns one of these glorious examples of the triumph of society!
Janice is just looking down with her eyes closed. I spot Joker waving at us from the back of the truck ahead. Reaching my arm out the window, I wave back. Many hours pass as I make idle talk with Parviz. Every hour or so, Parviz honks the horn of the car, and we take a ten-minute break. Janice eagerly welcomes the chance to leave the vehicle and walk around.
It soon becomes dusk, and eventually, we hit farmland. The road splits off periodically, and sometimes I see trucks in the distance just patrolling the edges of the fields. Parviz informs me that they’re city-funded patrols, a mixture of bards working for cheap and city personnel meant to protect the farms from monsters and bandits. Rarely, I see the odd tractor pulling this or that. Parviz informs us that the city is soon approaching. The edge of Boarding comes into view.
The road eventually becomes sturdier, slowly turning to cobblestone as we approach. Buildings like these still stand in cities on Earth, but not to this scale. It’s a little overwhelming to see a city this old, but I’m not too worried. More and more vehicles pass us by as we cross the threshold and come onto the main street. A trolley passes by in front of us. It’s the evening, so I assume that these roads are “sparsely populated” compared to mid-day. Eventually, we park in a small lot near a building with the familiar Echo Bay above the entrance. Parviz speaks excitedly.
>We’re here, we’re here! Well? How was it? A long, calming road-trip would ignite anyone’s soul!
>It was great, I appreciate you taking us the rest of the way. We owe you one.
Janice slumps in her seat, exhausted.
>It was nothing that great, I had business here regardless, and was going to make the trip by myself. The company is always pleasant; if anything you were doing me a favor!
>Do you know of a place we can stay while we’re in Boarding?
>I do, I do! One of Echo Bay’s finest hotels is near here in the city center a few blocks down from the Bardic Guild headquarters.
Parviz turns off the car and gets out; Janice and I follow. The knights jump off of the truck and come to meet us. Joker speaks up.
>That was really neat! Can we get ourselves a car, Master?
Janice responds with a tired voice.
>I think… we will abstain for now.
Parviz gives me directions to their hotel. It’s not too far from here; about a five minute walk. I ask, and Janice confirms that she’s capable of making the trip. If this is the industrial era, there are definitely at least horse-drawn carriage taxi services available, but she insists that she’s alright. We begin to make the trek. People pass us by, but give us no mind, luckily. They really do look like people from the industrial era. The streetlights nearby all light up simultaneously. I wonder if this “tentek” can detect low-light? Shit is magic after all. Eventually, we find the hotel. It’s not difficult to spot, because its sign uses the same color scheme as Echo Bay’s other buildings. A male receptionist greets us inside.
>Welcome to the Log-Out. Will you be staying with us?
>Yeah, Mr. Parviz said to show this to you.
Parviz explained that I should just show the letter of recommendation at the hotel as well, to prove that I’m not just claiming to be associated with him. The receptionist mostly just glances over the letter, presumably checking for the seal at the bottom. He hands it back to me.
>Guests of the president himself, welcome. We’re proud to offer you the family rate. How many beds do you need?
>The knights are my summons and don’t need sleep. We need two beds.
He looks at me, then the knights, then at Janice, who is still wearing the cloak. Smiling all the while, he doesn’t seem to break character or act as if anything is out of place.
>Understood, one room will be 8 yuze per night. We also accept Karmics.
Must be another currency. I hand over a 10 yuze coin, and he makes change. An eager bellboy in his lower teens leads us to our room on the second floor. Janice takes off her cloak and places it on the coat rack at the door. She takes a moment to explain the charging process to the knights, who each nod their head. She must not want to alarm them. The knights, ever full of energy, all sit at the table present in the room. Joker pulls out a deck of cards and begins to shuffle it. I wonder what they’re going to play? Janice speaks to me.
>I’m utterly drained, but we must not neglect to charge my horns. Might we get started so that I may rest?
>No problem. Lay down this time, because last night you collapsed the moment you unsynched.
Janice lies down on one of the two beds, pulling the covers over herself. She’s already about to fall asleep. I stand over her.
Janice concentrates for a bit but seems to unsynch faster than before. She’s not really that used to it yet, though.
Not wasting any time, I grab one of her horns, synch, make three shitposts, and unsynch.
>Done. Good night.
She doesn’t say anything, but nods. I turn off the lamp in the room and eventually lie down on my own bed. It feels like it’s been a long journey so far. I was taken from home, ended up with this strange crew on a strange planet. Magic is real, and I can cast it. Now I’m about to become what amounts to a mercenary in an unknown country. It’d be an understatement to say that I’m worried, but I have to pull through, for the people back home; though their names escape me. However, there’s one thing that bothers me. It keeps popping up in my mind, a nagging insect mocking me, but out of reach to swat. Nobody else seems to notice the elephant in the room, the not-so-subtle monster.
You think I wouldn’t fucking notice? White Knights, Boarding, Signature, “yuze,” Cyberia… This hotel is fucking called the Log-Out. E-Bay? “The Four Great Channels?” Invisible Status? My power is shitposting on a fake magic computer. How many other things are named after internet terms? That piece of shit T has been offline since he last messaged me. I haven’t gotten the chance to interrogate him yet. Am I actually comatose? Is this all some fever dream? It all feels real as it can be. I did get shot with an arrow after all. My mind swims for a while, but I eventually fall asleep.