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“What’s taking you so fucking long?” I asked into party chat.

I looked down at my wrist before I remembered I didn’t have a watch in this world. It was supposed to be a high fantasy setting, after all, and smart watches weren’t exactly high fantasy.

At least not in the form I was used to. I thought about the current time and it appeared in front of me in faintly glowing letters. I’d just have to get used to summoning menus with my mind instead of glancing at my watch for info.

Also? That readout told me it’d been at least ten minutes since Kristoph was supposed to be here.

“Kristoph?” I asked. “You out there man? What’s going on?”

“You’re not the one trying to avoid those assholes,” Kristoph said. “They’ve been tailing me ever since I respawned. It’s like they knew where I was and how to get me.”

“That’s not all that hard to figure out,” I said. “If I was running an operation like that and I had someone I wanted to make miserable I’d make sure my guys were staking out all the respawn locations. From there it’d be easy enough to follow you and make you miserable.”

“You think way too much about this stuff,” Kristoph said. “Like you seriously have a problem.”

“Yeah I have a problem,” I said. “Those assholes at Horizon killed my sister, and if they’re here in this game trying to ruin my good time then you bet your ass I’m going to make them, and anyone who claims to represent them, fucking pay for it.”

Honestly I was having some trouble with this conversation. I didn’t like talking about Diana. I tried not to think about her too much, but every time I thought about vengeance against Horizon I was thinking about her.

And I thought about that vengeance a lot.

“Yeah, yeah,” Kristoph said, then there was a string of curses.

“Something wrong?” I asked.

“I think they spotted me,” he said. “Not good. Not fucking good at all!”

I sighed. “This isn’t going well at all.”

“You’re telling me,” Kristoph said. “I’m the one whose ass is hanging in the breeze without any PVP protection. I really fucking wish someone told me about that before I hit that idiot.”

“You and me both,” I said. “If you still had that protection and hadn’t pissed them off then you might be here already and we might be doing something productive!”

The sooner Kristoph got his Player Killed ass out here to the edge of town, the sooner we could get down to the business of figuring out a way to ruin Horizon’s plans, whatever they were, in this game. I had some half formed ideas, but I didn’t know enough about this game world yet or what Horizon was doing operating so blatantly in the game for a plan to truly come together.

“Damn it!” Kristoph spat.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Look up,” Kristoph said.

I looked up, expecting to find one of those airships that buzzed low over Nilbog every half hour or so, but I didn’t see anything.

“I meant look up from your heads up display, idiot,” Kristoph groused. “Not literally look up in the sky.”

I grimaced and turned to face Kristoph’s direction, that was something the party interface showed on the minimap that was always in the top corner of my HUD which was useful, and sure enough there Kristoph was just down the street.

I didn’t see what the problem was. Then the two assholes who’d obviously been using some sort of stealth ability to trail Kristoph stepped out of the shadows and closed in on him.

Clearly he’d had been close enough to sense them before I could see them. I shivered as I remembered some of the bone chilling sound effects from older MMOs that let you know a stealth character was about to seriously fuck you up.

“I take it this means you didn’t lose them?” I asked.

“I’d hoped I’d lost them,” Kristoph said. “This fucking game should really tell you when there are rules that can accidentally flag you for PVP.”

“And it wouldn’t have mattered because you would’ve gotten so mad that you tried to attack that guy anyway,” I said. “I keep telling you getting mad just lets other people get you. That’s my number one play.”

“Good for you. Now are you going to do something to help me here?” Kristoph asked.

“What am I supposed to do?” I asked. “You’ve got a couple of higher skill stealth dudes who are about to bend you over and have their way with you. I’m not into the idea of making that a foursome.”

“I think they’re chicks, not dudes,” Kristoph said.

“Well then,” I said. “That sounds like it’d be right up your alley.”

“Yeah, when I talk about wanting a threesome this is not what I had in mind,” Kristoph growled.

I chuckled and started towards them despite my grousing. I didn’t have a plan yet, but I was looking at my surroundings as I kept Kristoph talking. Always be moving, even if you had no idea what the hell you were moving towards or what the fuck you were going to do when you got there. That was my motto in life.

“Again I’d like to stress that I could really use an assist here,” Kristoph said.

“And again I’d like to stress that I have no idea what the fuck you want me to do,” I shot back, taking in the distance between him and the stealthers moving in on him.

“Come on,” Kristoph said. “You’re the one who’s always coming up with the evil plans to screw people over. Come up with something that’s going to screw over these bitches on my ass!”

“Yeah, well I’m not sure about this one,” I said. “If I try to attack then I’m flagged for PVP, and the next thing you know two guys are bending me over too and I’m screwed.”

“I told you they’re chicks,” Kristoph said. “And one of them looks like she’s about our level. Pretty sure she was in that circle earlier.”

“Doesn’t change the fact that I’m not going to die because of mistakes you made,” I said. “Sorry man, but you’re on your own on this one.”

Of course I had no intention of leaving Kristoph on his own for this one, but I also wanted my buddy to sweat just a little before I swooped in for a dramatic rescue. Assuming I could pull off a dramatic rescue.

“So is this one of those times where you’re saying you’re not going to rescue me but you’re totally just saying that because you need me to react like I think no rescue is coming, or do you seriously not have anything this time?” Kristoph asked.

“Hey, what can I say?” I asked. “You got yourself into this situation. Why should you expect me to bail you out of it?”

“Because that’s what friends do?” he said.

I was moving through the shadows the entire time. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do, but I was sure that Kristoph was right. I wasn’t leaving my friend to be ravaged by these motherfuckers.

Even if another ganking was the least Kristoph deserved for starting a fight he couldn’t win.

“Come on man,” Kristoph said. “You have to have something that…”

“Enough talking,” I said.

“I fucking knew it!” he said, accompanied by a fist pump.

“You know you doing stuff like that to tip off the bad guys that we’re doing something is exactly why I don’t tell you when I’m planning something like this,” I said.

“Sorry,” Kristoph muttered. “What am I doing?”

“Duck into that alley ahead and to your right,” I said, looking at a dark alley on the minimap that looked just right for my purposes.

“Are you fucking kidding?” Kristoph asked. “If I go in there it’s only going to give them a good spot where they can do the bending over in private!”

“Yeah, well in a narrow alley like that you’re also going to be able to take them on one at a time,” I said, an idea finally clicking into place out of the half formed notions I got looking at the situation. “You’re sure the one in there is lower skill level?”

“Oh yeah, let me do a quick pause to inspect her stats and let you know,” Kristoph said.

I waited. “Well?”

“I wasn’t fucking serious man!”

“Fine,” I sighed. “If you’re not going to help me then you’re going to listen to me. Get your ass in that alley.”

“Are you planning something?” Kristoph asked, sounding uncertain again. I’d never told him I was helping him, after all. He’d just assumed. “Because if you’re planning something this would be a great time for you to tell me all about it. I don’t want this to be one of those times where your plan working relies on me not knowing what the fuck the plan is.”

“Get used to disappointment,” I said.

I was almost on them now. I pulled out my starter sword I’d never used and held it over my head, but I was very careful not to actually do anything stupid with said sword. I didn’t want to accidentally hit either of these idiots stalking my buddy.

Now that I was close enough I could see Kristoph was right. They were both ladies. Not that I had any issue with messing with a lady who had it coming.

“Yo, she-bitch,” I said.

They both jumped. They’d been so focused on Kristoph that they hadn’t noticed me walking right towards them them. They both turned to glare at me.

The one on the left looked a lot more impressive than the other one. Kristoph might not want to take the time to do an inspect, but I did just to be sure of what I was dealing with.

Sure enough the one on the left was decked out in that stupid Horizon Dawn Syndicate gear. The one on the right wasn’t nearly as impressive. She had some stuff with extra stats, but they were pretty basic and all bore the name “Horizon Initiate pants of what the fuck ever” which made it clear who’d been in early access and who was a noob.

“What do you want noob?” the early access chick asked.

She was tight leather from top to bottom with swords at her sides. The way she fit into that tight leather added a few points on the hotness scale. The only thing missing to complete the ninja look was a mask over a pretty face that was knocked down a couple of notches on the hotness scale because she had the sort of look that said she couldn’t wait to stick those daggers in me.

“What the fuck are you doing messing with my friend?” I asked. “You think your little lowbie friend there isn’t woman enough to take him out on her own or something, so you have to make it an unfair fight?”

The better equipped girl’s eyes narrowed. She glanced between me and Kristoph, then made a little jerking motion with her head. The newer player hesitated, looking between me and Kristoph, then shrugged and turned on Kristoph.

The meaning was clear. Maybe the newbie didn’t like the idea of taking someone on one on one, maybe it was her first time, but she was going to do it if that’s what she was ordered to do.

“I know who you are,” the early access chick said. “You’re that little shit from earlier. The one with the mouth? Torian told me all about you. Were you stupid enough to drop your PVP flag little lowbie? Didn’t learn the lesson Gregor taught your friend?”

She said that last bit in a singsong voice. I got the feeling this girl was the worst kind of MMO PVPer. The kind of asshole who took pleasure from ruining other players’ good time. Particularly lower level players who couldn’t fight back. The kind of ganker who never went to an actual PVP arena where they would have to rely on some level of twitch skill instead of an overwhelming skill point and gear advantage.

Not the kind of person I appreciated, but exactly the kind of person I enjoyed taking out when I got the opportunity. There was nothing more satisfying than ganking a ganker.

“I had to flag myself for PVP if I’m going to save my friend, right?” I asked, licking my lips and trying my best to look very nervous about the fact that this girl was advancing on me. I was going for the sort of look I imagined someone might get after dropping their PVP protection and realizing that might not be the best of ideas.

“Yes,” she whispered, her voice almost as quiet as the whisper of her scabbards as she drew her swords.

Glowing red runes ran up and down their length, and when I did an inspect the swords had the Horizon Dawn Syndicate name stamped all over them, but they might as well be called Noob Cleaver considering what she was about to do with them.

“Yes I’d say you would have to do something silly like dropping your protection if you want to save your friend,” she said, confirming that it was something a person could voluntarily do by means other than attacking another player. I’d worried I might be tipping my hand by claiming to do something that wasn’t even possible.

She held a sword out to point at me as she held the other one up and at the ready. “Want me to introduce you to PVP in Lotus little noobling?”

I had no intention of letting on that what I’d said about my current PVP status and what was going on with my actual PVP status were two very different things. A ganker wouldn’t be able to conceive of a situation where I could save my friend without fighting it out unfair and square with the game’s PVP mechanics.

I wasn’t an idiot, but if she was enough of an idiot that she’d take an enemy at his word then I wasn’t going to do anything to disabuse her of that notion.

I did have to admit that her sword looked impressive. Those red runes glowed and crackled with magical kickassery, and I wondered if there was a way to craft items with magical bonuses like that in the game.

I could worry about that later though. Right now I was more concerned with information. Well, information and getting this bitch away from Kristoph so he had a fighting chance against that lower level hunter.

Which meant getting the one in front of me away from him without letting on that I was still totally protected from her attacks. Until the opportune moment.

So I turned and ran.

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About the author

Daecrist

Bio: Hi! I'm a working writer who's been doing this full time since early 2015. I got my start in the Kindle romance boom, and I'm finally getting around to publishing stories under my own name!

I live in the Midwest with my wife, kids, and cats. Most days find me sitting in front of my computer typing out stories for your enjoyment!

I'm currently releasing Spellcraft. The tale of Conlan, a gamer who loves finding ways to exploit game systems, and how he uses those unique skills to battle a soulless multinational entertainment conglomerate who killed his sister and is trying to take over the gaming world!

Spellcraft is currently released on a chapter a day schedule.

I hope you enjoy my work. Thanks for reading!

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