Etherchain, Book 1: Lost in Infinity

Chapter 2

Welcome to the Hotel Existentia

My eyes opened, and I realized I had in fact been asleep. Had what just happened been all a dream? The girl said it had all been in my head, but what did that mean? I certainly felt like I existed, if the fury of my stomach was any indication. Maybe it was a premonition, and I'd need to remember and focus on myself to combat an actual threat to my very existence.

"Ah, good. It worked."

I sat up and turned to the left, and I was now looking into the face of that same girl from the dream-vision-thing. I gave a startled shout and fell out of the bed.

"Hmhmhm, so this the realization of your focus. I've got to say, I'm a little surprised. I didn't think you were that type."

"What type?"

She chuckled. "I'll let you see for yourself a little later."

"So what is this place?"

"It's your hotel room. Apparently they need enough medical staff around-the-clock here that no one bothers to report someone that's been comatose for a year."

I looked around. It was indeed a hotel room. One bed, unmade, thanks to my having just gotten out of it, a window that revealed a bustling city, viewed from high above its streets, a set of shelves with a TV...

" I've been asleep for a year in a hotel I don't remember checking into? How has no one noticed?"

"Oh, just the usual for this planet - alien invasions, rogue mutant attacks, collateral damage."

"Collateral damage? From what?"

"Perchance you've heard of someone calling himself Iron Man?"

"Not particularly, but I think I can see what you're getting at." 'Iron Man' sounded like a superhero's name. Superheroes have a tendency to attract trouble to themselves - trouble that usually never gets resolved without colossal amounts of property damage. They also inexplicably attract other superheroes, which attracts more trouble... and so on. My memories may have been erased, but my knowledge seemed to be at least somewhat intact, especially about all things media. "So, we should get to someplace safer to have a talk then?"

She laughed again. "I'm not going to let you leave before you get a good look at yourself. Go on~" I could almost hear the tilde at the end of that. Truly uncanny.

As expected of the average hotel room, there was a small bathroom attached to the "bedroom". It looked... kind of how you'd expect a normal hotel bathroom to look like, with the little shampoo bottles and plastic cups so you can get a drink of water.

Of course, it also had a mirror. That was the important bit.

My reflection was wearing an unadorned deep blue shirt. His hair was not-quite-blonde, not-quite-brown, barely hanging over the forehead in the front. His face was clean-shaven, a feat that I have found impossible to replicate completely, and his eyes... what color was that? Blue... no, green... no, blue... argh, I couldn't decide. No, I still can't decide. Of course, that meant I had all that, too, including the ever-so-slightly tanned skin.

But something else struck me at that moment. That girl looked like a video game character. I wasn't sure which one, but it was definitely there. The possibility that my brain had constructed a multiple-layered dream was definitely there, but why would it fake memory loss?

Eh. I'd deal with it later.

As I emerged from the bathroom, the girl spoke up, saying, "Oh, by the way, I brought you a present from someone. I've left it just over there."

In one of the corners of the room was a gigantic bag. It looked extremely heavy, and despite the fact that it was larger than I am, it looked like it could fit more stuff into it. I pointed at it. "Uh, is that it?" I asked.

"Yes. Go on, open it up." She rested her umbrella on her shoulder. I didn't notice she had an umbrella, but there it was.

Cautiously, I walked back across the small, beige-walled room to open up the bag. It looked like something Santa Claus would use, except that it was made of leather. While undoing the drawstring, I immediately noticed that the bag was jam-packed with coins, barely any of which looked like they were from the United States. I knew more about U.S. coins than those of any other country, so I guess that's where I'm from originally.


"You remember less than I thought. Call me Yukari. But yes?"

"Who knows me and has this much money?"

"She's a mutual acquaintance of ours. Check the tag."

The tag, which I had only just now noticed, bore a couple of unreadable Asian characters - probably Chinese or Japanese. It read simply, 'I heard you might need this. -小町'. Come to think of it, most likely Japanese, seeing that 'Yukari' sounded like a name that belonged to a Japanese high school student (probably more than one). The problem was that there were way too many different kinds of coins in the bag for it to have been from anyone that wasn't a coin collector, but there were enough duplicates in it to make that an implausibility.

Who was this girl? She looked like a video game character, she knew someone that was apparently rich in upwards of 30 countries' currencies...

"Think fast."

Yukari tossed some sort of short rod at me.

Boom. Headshot.

It wasn't that serious, but considering it was a blunt metal object, it hurt quite a bit. I picked up the offending bar and examined it. It looked like a very slim lightsaber handle.

Was I a Jedi in my past life or something?

No, that couldn't have been it. This thing had too many dials and switches for it to be a lightsaber. And that hand guard looked a whole lot like a pistol trigger...

As if on cue, the device shifted around its mechanisms until it was a pistol. A fair amount had been ejected from it somehow, and fell to the floor, forming an identical one. Mysterious forces were clearly in play here.

"Oh what now, are they going to turn into some big fancy rifle thing?"

They did indeed turn into a big fancy rifle. It, too, was larger than I am.

"It's good to see that still works. Ms. Kawashiro will be most pleased, as will another of my associates."

That was it. I'd had enough games for one morning, and I wanted answers.

"I'll only ask this once - Who. Are. You? Don't play games with me, miss."

"I am Yakumo, Yukari, Magical Being - or 'Youkai' - of Boundaries, Watcher of the Illusionary Worlds, and a representative of Etherchain."

I forgot this one was done. I know I'm a little terse, and I should work on that, but work with me here. If you have any suggestions for me, please speak up. The review function is there for a reason you know. How else am I supposed to know how I'm doing?

Sorry for the lack of ponies still - they'll be in Chapter 4, I promise. Or maybe even an Interlude.