>I… don’t remember.
I drop the towel I’m holding in shock. Not only do I not recall my own name, but I had a dog. I don’t remember her name either. My boss’ name is also missing, as are any of my extended family and all of my acquaintances.
>I don’t remember my own name or the names of anyone I’ve ever met in my life. What the hell?
Janice’s eyes narrow and she puts her hand on her chin, cupping her elbow with her other hand. She thinks for a time while my thoughts jumble around, before speaking resolutely.
>That was probably my doing. I had no choice. In order to complete the binding of a summon, an aspect of the spirit’s ego is sacrificed to help compel them to serve their master. It was an unavoidable risk, as I wasn’t certain if you would have disappeared into the aether if I didn’t immediately bind you. Summoned spirits are only temporary unless bound, and if I chose to leave you be there was no telling if you would have vanished entirely, or been sent back to the spiritual plane. I had to gamble with your memories, and it seems I lost the bet.
Silence fills the room before I open my mouth again. I laugh in a defeated way before speaking softly to myself.
>Fuck, man. Can I never catch a fucking break with this shit?
Janice waits for me to continue.
>Well, this sucks. Based on your silence you don’t know a way to return my memories either. This’ll just have to be another thing I ask your gods for I guess. I’ll just have to deal.
I exhale as if exhausted before picking up the towel I dropped. Janice speaks up.
>You’re taking this rather well, for someone ripped from his home and family, with not even their names to remember them by. I was certain you would either be stricken with grief or angered beyond belief at myself for stealing your memories.
>Let’s just say that I’ve dealt with a long history of bad circumstances, and this is just another notch on the rifle. So, let’s get started then. You say we can work out an agreement, but what would you have me be doing?
>First I need to assess what you’re capable of. We’ll head to the training grounds where I can get a read on your abilities, and we’ll go from there.
Janice has me place the towel on a nearby worktable, and we head out into the halls together. Periodically one of her minions will appear carrying something or doing cleaning work in the building. Sometimes noise is heard in rooms we pass by, presumably caused by more of the creatures.
>What are these guys anyway? They’re all the same looking, but are they the only thing you can summon? Do they have names?
>They are called White Knights and are the most common being I successfully summon from the spiritual plane. Each individual knight doesn’t have a name, but each possesses a unique skill brought with them when they are summoned with which I use to differentiate them.
>So you can summon other things? Is summoning rare or will I be seeing guys like these everywhere?
>Summoning magic is more or less a lost art, and I would be surprised to see other practitioners out in the world, but as I do not leave here often it’s possible that there are other summoners out there. I can summon things like mounts, or I can temporarily summon powerful beings specifically tailored for combat. My experiments have only gone so far because my power is limited.
>You’ve said before that you don’t leave home. Is there a reason?
We continue walking, and Janice waits a bit before replying.
>I’ve said that you’re more than likely a Yusur, but I’m not actually a Yusur myself. If your world lacks magic, it’s likely you’ve never seen horns like these on another person before. Let’s just say that my kind aren’t welcome in most places.
Janice motions to her crimson red horns as we continue down the halls. I begin speaking again.
>I don’t know if your language considers this a negative term, but in my home, we call horned people “demons.” They only exist in fiction, but there are just as many stories of good demons as bad ones. You haven’t tried dragging me into hell yet, so I’d consider you the former at the moment.
The word “demon” comes out of my mouth in English, because my mind doesn’t conjure up an equivalent in the new tongue I’m using. So I guess I can only automatically speak words that have similar meanings in this worlds language? Janice pronounces it slowly before giving her opinion.
>”Demon,” huh. It sounds foreboding, like a being of disaster and suffering.
She sighs dejectedly. I get the feeling that my own definition of what an evil demon is matches this world’s perception of Janice and her people.
>Sorry, it was just an observation. For the record, demons don’t usually save peoples lives and offer to help them return safely home. You seem to be doing just that, so far.
Janice nods her head then collects herself, before beginning her lengthy explanation of what it means to fight. She seems to enjoy talking about magic. A White Knight waves energetically to us as we pass by, and I wave back while listening.
>I don’t know how your culture sees magic, but since it truly exists here, there isn’t much in the means of “fictional portrayals” of magical systems that don’t exist. Tention Magic is the art of using energy gathered from attention, and performing before the gods themselves to conjure miracles. The weaker your performance, the lower the output. The Four Great Channels are constantly observing the Yusurs and grant them a boon when their art and talent entertain the always vigilant, always disgustingly bored gods. “Tention” can be gathered from any living being that can fulfill the act of observing. Animals give a minimal amount of tention as they cannot properly appreciate most performances, and Yusurs that can comprehend the meaning behind a dance or a song grant the most tention. Some scholars have found that even plants can give tention via touch, though minuscule.
I get the feeling if I could shitpost like back home, I’d be the most powerful mage in the universe. Janice hands me a simple looking bronze dagger with a small blood red gem embedded in the grip before speaking again.
>This stone is made of Yuminium and is the primary conduit with which tention users cast their spells. The purity of a piece of Yuminium determines how much tention it can hold, and any excess energy dissipates and is wasted. This dagger is rather weak but works as a tool to figure out your strength. Have you ever seen a gem like this before?
I study the embedded gem. It looks kind of like cinnabar. Thanks, geologybro, I miss your angry rants about how bismuth is fake nigga shit. I’d like to say it’s otherworldly, but it’s literally otherworldly. After a second, I realize that I have actually seen this material before.
>Are your horns in any way related to this mineral?
>Ah, very observant. My horns are indeed pure Yuminium. One of the many reasons I do not approach Yusur settlements is because of this. I could be targeted by brigands who would easily attempt to kill me for my horns to sell off.
>If your horns are that powerful, I’d assume the difference between them and this dagger is enormous.
>Yes, I build up all the tention I need once a year all at the same time, which is stored in my horns to sustain my livelihood and the knights until I need to perform again.
>If you don’t go to Yusur towns, how do you gather tention?
It seems like I’m really good at hitting touchy subjects because Janice pauses for a bit before replying.
>I’m technically a “rogue performer,” one who does public performances illegally. Every year around the same time I sneak out at night with the White Knights and execute a massive fireworks show near the city of Boarding. This unsolicited spectacle gathers enough tention to last me about a year before I do it all over again. I have to do it at a different time and place every year as to not be caught, and I abscond as soon as the final rocket fires. I was working on a fireworks launcher when you came to see me. I’ll explain more later, we’ve arrived.
We come to what appears to be the fort’s barracks, equipped with a section devoted to training. There are archery targets and training dummies, all of them quite worn by repeated use. Against the walls are armor and weapon racks which hold damaged and rusted equipment. There are a few White Knights doing practice swings, and there’s one juggling colored balls in the corner. They notice our entry and stop what they’re doing to approach. The juggler speaks excitedly to us in a surprisingly gruff tone.
>Master, you’ve brought the Yusur! Is he going to show us his skill?
>Yes that’s right, he’s here to learn tention.
Janice turns to me.
>Ah, yes, you were summoned without any tools. That’s contrary to what usually happens when I summon a White Knight. Do you have any talents? Can you sing or dance?
I think for a bit, but nothing comes to mind. I can’t fix a car that isn’t here, I don’t have a gun, and my dog isn’t present to do a trick. None of these seem like skills that would be worth “performing” anyway.
>Not really, I could dance a little, but I’m not practiced. I don’t know about my singing voice.
>This is quite the predicament. Even though the White Knights nor I can provide you with tention, if you perform for the gods they can grant you enough power to cast a weak spell. What to do…
My true talent lies in the degenerate act of shitposting on the internet. Obviously, that will do me no service here. God, I’m going to miss it. Nothing beats riling up idiots on 4chan. As I bemoan my current circumstance, I fail to notice that time slows down to a crawl before eventually stopping. Soon I realize that nobody in the room is moving except for me. What? In my mind’s eye, I see it. A computer monitor bleeds into existence in front of me. A keyboard manifests itself underneath the monitor. My right-hand rests naturally where a mouse would be and is greeted by the familiar plastic texture. The monitor turns on, and on the screen is an old version of internet explorer on a website called 4chan.net.