"Are you sure this is the best place?" Daz asked.
He and Rose were now in a brightly-lit casino that was filled with an assortment of gambling devices and games like slot machines and card-game tables.
The two of them were in one of the many restaurants that were inside of this massive casino. They had chosen a Korean-based one. Well, it was alien, of course, but the food they served was similar to that of their eastern heritage. Daz wasn't sure why Rose insisted they came here - of all of the restaurants - but she was enjoying her sundubu-jjigae. The softness of the tofu apparently felt great on her tongue.
"I'll be honest with you. No, it's not," Rose admitted.
Daz threw her a quizzical look. She took a sip of her coke and sighed. "Our grandmother, Ran Hamilio. She's in this casino... somewhere. I figured if she got hungry, she'd come here to eat."
The reaper nodded. "You want to meet her? Okay. I don't particularly care." The only family member of theirs that Daz had any feelings for, was his father, none of which were positive. "Have Maddy and Vanessa responded?"
Rose nodded. "They'll be here in about twenty-minutes. Order some food if you're hungry. This place has a twenty-four-to-one time ratio. Most of the gambling rooms do. The system clearly wants idiots to throw their points away. Anyway, it's perfect for me. It'll give me enough time to make serious progress on cracking this storage skill of yours."
"I'll just get some coffee," Daz replied with a shrug.
Vanessa was the first to show up after fifteen minutes had passed. Ten minutes after that, Madison walked into the restaurant. A lot of eyes turned her way due to how good looking she was. Even more attention was afforded to her when she sat down at Daz's table.
Naturally, after his fights with Aila and Larry, Daz's face had become known to every living survivor on the planet. Right now, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to call him Earth's most famous man.
"Well, I'm off to go earn some points. Who wants to come along?" Daz said to his table's occupants.
Madison immediately said, "Me, come." She'd rather not be left without Daz. She didn't want another situation to happen like with Kieran.
Rose didn't raise her eyes from her triple-screened laptop, but she replied, "Sure. I can work while you abuse your instincts." She moved her chair with her mind and rolled it out from underneath the table.
Daz laughed softly. "Well, I'm only using what I have at my disposal."
"I know," Rose said. "By the way, I've already ordered the androids here to notify me if Ran shows up, so we don't need to worry about that."
"That's good." Daz looked at Vanessa. "Are you coming with us, or would you rather stay here for now?"
Vanessa shook her head. "I'll come with. I've never been to a place like this before. I'm kind of excited."
Rose gave her a slightly condescending stare. "You'll lose all of your points. Just watch Madison and Daz. They were born for this stuff."
Daz raised an eyebrow. "Maddy too?"
Madison tugged at his sleeve. "Mmm. Power, Alteration. Remember, ATM?"
"Right..." Daz hadn't forgotten, but he hadn't asked her about her esper ability either. He needed to do that soon. 'Will the trick she used on the ATM all those years ago even work on a slot machine run by the system? It seems a lot more direct than my instincts... Whatever. I'll trust her. If she's confident, then there's no harm in letting her gamble a bit.'
"Well, for now, let's go to the slots. I feel like I'll be the most successful there," Daz declared.
No one disagreed, so he and the three girls went to the section of the casino that was dedicated wholly to slot machines.
There were rows and rows of the devices. Some offered a grand jackpot of a few thousand merit points, others offered millions.
"Hmm... Not that one... Not this one... Ah! There we go," Daz mumbled like a lunatic as he walked down an aisle of slots with a grand prize of five-million merit points.
"Finally found one? I feel like you've checked at least two-hundred of these damned machines already," Rose complained.
Daz shrugged and sat down at his chosen machine's stool. "I wanted a winner. I'm more surprised that Maddy hasn't rigged one of these things yet."
Madison shook her head. "Plan, alteration, cards."
Daz held his chin. "I guess that makes sense."
Vanessa was shaking nervously as she read the slot machines information. "M-Minimum price of o-one-hundred-thousand merit points to play?! Isn't that too risky, Daz?!"
He laughed in response. "Didn't Rose explain my esper abilities to you?"
"Esper abilities? Ah! Is that related to your 'instincts' and Madison's 'alteration'?" the confused teen asked.
Daz silently nodded and smiled. He turned his head to face the machine once more. "So, how do I use this thing?"
A heavy sigh escaped his little sister's mouth. "There's a limit to sucking with technology. Hit the big fat play button. It'll take your merit points. After that, pull the huge glowing lever on the right side of it. Really, how could you not know that?"
Again, Daz's shoulders moved to express his lack of concern. "I never cared to learn before the apocalypse. I'm making an effort now, aren't I?" he asked as he pushed the button. Immediately, his merit points dropped by one-hundred-thousand points, as promised.
Rose wanted to retort, but Madison was glaring at her in the same way that a mother would to a misbehaving child. In response, she held back her words and coughed awkwardly before burying her face in her laptop's screens once again.
Daz smiled when he saw this interaction between the two people that he loved the most in this world out of the corner of his eyes. Vanessa, once again, felt complicated and envious emotions over her new friend's 'parents'.
Daz held his hand on the machine's lever and quietly prayed, "You've yet to fail me, instincts, don't start now," and pulled it.
The slot machine's display screen began spinning wilding as gold bars, cherries, '7's, 'X's, oranges, lemons, and lastly, some large bright blue 'M's appearing one after the other.
From what the index key on the left side of the machine was saying, five 'M's in any direction was required to win the five-million jackpot.
The seconds ticked by along with the ringing of the symbols. Eventually, it stopped with four 'M's going diagonally down from the top left to the bottom right with a single '7' acting as the fifth symbol.
|Congratulations! You have won [2,575,000] merit points!|
|The total merit balance of the host is now: 21,046,641 [+2,575,000].|
"Y-You won..." Vanessa was left speechless, as were the few people that had followed his group here after recognising him.
Daz turned back to face her and grinned devilishly. "I've only just started."
|Congratulations! You have won [42,500] merit points!|
|The total merit balance of the host is now: 27,380,641 [+42,500].|
"Just under ten-mil total. A good haul, but this was the last slot machine that I'll win from, I'm pretty sure," Daz announced.
The crowd following him sighed with disappointment. Many of them were wishing for him to fail at least once, even if it was only on the less profitable machines. However, he had yet to lose even a single merit point on any one of the machines.
Of course, there were plenty of people that were thrilled each time he won. Some of them had even approached him and asked him about his declaration during his fight with Aila, so he had spent some time trying to convince them that joining Fort Skip was nothing but a good idea.
Madison clung to his side and asked, "Now, cards?"
Daz nodded and gave his attention to the group of maybe two-hundred people that were surrounding him, Madison, Rose and Vanessa. "For those of you that wish to see me lose my money, please, feel free to challenge me at the card tables. They are my next target."
The crowd's response varied.
"Eh? He's going to play card games? Like poker and blackjack?"
"I guess. We should be able to knock him down a peg or two, right?"
"But... should we? Wouldn't we offend him?"
"Nah. He challenged us. Plus, you saw him fight that middle-aged uncle dude, right? He seems fair."
"Hmm. You've got a point. I guess I can spare some points. I wanna see if his luck is universal or not."
"Hahaha, I'm just gonna watch. He's pretty cool."
"Who's that girl hugging his arm? She's really cute."
"Is she even legal? Don't think about it, bro. Even if most governments are gone now, that shit will get you killed if you're caught."
"You two! Be quiet! That's his girlfriend!"
"Yeah! I heard he's really protective of her. Some retard earlier didn't recognise him despite his halo and tried to grope her."
"I saw that. Didn't he glare at the guy and then unleash some sort of aura? The guy toppled over like a dead bear and started foaming at the mouth. The system didn't even punish him for attacking someone in this place. Don't fuck with him. It's a bad idea."
"Right. He's a decent guy, but he doesn't take kindly to his people getting messed with."
"... Would he treat me like that too if I joined his base? Hmm..."
Daz was happy that most of the conversations were talking kindly of him or were respectful. Very few were against him or hateful of him. This was perfect. It was exactly what he'd planned.
Rose led him, Vanessa and Madison to the card tables before she said that she wanted to leave for the Korean-styled restaurant. She hadn't said that Ran Hamilio was there, but that, instead, she was simply tired of moving so much so wanted to stay still and drink some soda.
The three of them accepted that and said goodbye. Daz had warned her to message him instantly on his auction phone if anyone tried to start trouble with her. He wasn't good with technology, but he knew how to receive a text at least. Rose agreed and wheeled herself away.
Daz felt like he would be best at poker-based games since those were heavily bluff-focused. He still didn't have a perfect grasp of his new emotions yet, but his new Holy Earring of Tranquility was doing a lot of the heavy work for him in that regard. He also had his instincts to help him scope out his opponents as well as his newly increased luck.
He sat down at a table of the world-famous and incredibly popular Texas Hold'em. A few feet away, Madison and Vanessa were sitting at a table of low stakes blackjack. Vanessa was just playing for fun, but Madison had said that she wanted to test her alteration on this game first before she went to a high stakes table. In far fewer words, of course.
On one of Rose's three laptop screens, a display of Crusher obliterating the record of the strength challenge in the champion centre was being played. Shortly after that, she returned to the general centre and met up with Dorian once again before crushing her old record in that one's strength challenge.
A second later, it changed to a display of Mu beating the final trial in the tests of endurance. 'Hmm. Big Bro's chains really fucked him up, huh? He's a lot more tolerant mentally now thanks to that. He's dangerous. I need to keep a closer eye on him. Should I dedicate some effort to tightening his collar? That might piss off the system... Still, he's heavy baggage, so it might be worthwhile...'
A second part of her consciousness was focusing on another screen which was syncronised with her left hand. It was showing the progress of her attempted crack on Daz's new inventory-style skill.
The final part of her mind was split between feeding herself with her free hand and playing the game that occupied the centre screen: A very simplistic-looking game where there was no real goal and you were free to mine up the world and shape it as you wished.
Suddenly, she paused her game and raised her eyes to look at the woman that had sat down in front of her. A Korean girl who appeared no older than maybe twenty-five had occupied the seat on the other side of Rose's table and was staring at her peacefully while she held her chin in both of her hands and smiled.
She had a perfect figure and model-like features. Her long black hair flowed down to her back, but the sharp look in her eyes showed her immense wisdom.
"Hi," Rose said as she took a sip of coke. "Nice to meet you, Grandma."
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