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“How much money did you get from the Auction House anyway?” Keia asked.

“We’re talking tens of thousands,” I said.

Her face did that thing where her eyes went all distant. No doubt she was checking something on the wider Internet. No doubt that something she was checking was the current exchange rate of gold to dollars.

I could tell when she found that exchange rate and had done some of the basic math in her head, because her eyes went wide.

“Holy shit,” she said.

“I know, right?”

“I mean you’re not like super wealthy or anything,” she said. “But you’re worth more money than anyone on our level!”

That deflated me just a little. There was nothing like having the girl of my dreams telling me that I wasn’t quite at the level of badass I was just aspiring to in my boasts to take some of the wind out of my sails.

“Well that’s still pretty good,” I said. “It’s more money than I’ve ever had too.”

Not that I’d ever had all that much money to begin with, but still. That was a hell of a lot of cash floating around in my virtual bank account. More money than I ever thought I’d see, that was for damn sure.

Suddenly the whole world felt like it was opening up for me. I’d been worried about what I was going to do when I inevitably graduated high school and was forced to strike out on my own thanks to dear old dad not believing in providing room and board after graduation, but with the money I had here I could get a down payment on a decent small efficiency apartment in a part of the arcology where I didn’t have to worry about tweakers trying to rob my ass with that kind of money.

Sure it wouldn't last forever, I’d have to be careful with it, but still. I was suddenly doing pretty well for myself.

And I was going to have to keep that a secret from my parents. The last thing I needed was for them to see the money I was pulling in and suddenly start treating me like a piggy bank. I didn’t think my mom would do that, mostly because she spent all her time catatonic on the couch, but I sure wouldn’t put it past dear old dad.

"If I might," Trelor said.

"What's that?" I asked, my head still spinning.

"If you have a chance it might be a good idea for you to take some of the money you just earned and reinvest," he said. "You might find that you can turn that little windfall you got from those potions into something even bigger. Maybe even beat Horizon at their own game?"

He wiggled his eyebrows at that last bit, and I saw another world of possibilities opening up in front of me.

"Damn," I said, envisioning a world where I was competing with Horizon for supremacy on the Auction House.

I wouldn't be just needling them and pissing them off by creating embarrassing videos or reselling some of their gear that, at the end of the day, they’d already been paid for by the time I lifted it from their stooges and tossed it up on the Auction House at a discount.

No, if I took them on in the Auction House, if I took a shot at creating a crafting empire that could somehow rival what they were shoveling onto the markets, then I’d be getting them in the only place that truly hurt a soulless multinational corporate conglomerate that was slowly taking over its corner of the world: right in the pocketbook.

"I think we need to take some risks," I said, my decision made.

I just hoped Kristoph and Keia would go along with me on this audacious plan that was starting to form in the back of my head, because it was going to be tough to pull off without some help. I glanced at Trelor, but what he’d said about being here more as a cheerleader was fresh in the back of my mind.

Besides, if I was going to pull something off then I wanted it to be because I did it myself. Not because I got a leg up from a Lotus employee. Unless, of course, I was getting that leg up by exploiting something he’d inadvertently let slip.

"What kind of risks?" Keia and Kristoph asked almost at the same time.

“We need to get to a forge so I can make some goblinsteel gear, and then hit that gear with spell infusions. If that starter sword I infused is anything to go by then I imagine we’ll start pulling down some serious scratch with decent weapons made of ore from a raid instance.”

"You keep saying we," Keia said. "What does that mean, exactly? You're making a shitload of money, and I hate to sound like this, but what's in it for us?"

Me and Kristoph both turned and blinked at her in surprise. I’d thought we had a good thing going, and I felt a touch of panic rising in me as her words washed over me.

She’d never struck me as the gold digging type, but I’d just admitted to having a shitload of money. At least it was a shitload of money by the relative terms of where we came from. Was that going to change everything?

"What do you mean what's in it for you?" I asked, my brain still trying to catch up with what she’d said.

We're in this together,” Kristoph said. “That's how it's always been. Sure it was usually me and Conlan, but you’re part of the three musketeers now! All for one and one for all, and that includes the spoils!”

Keia looked between the two of us in surprise. Maybe she'd spent so much time dealing with Torian and Horizon and all the dick moves they were constantly pulling that she had trouble believing she'd found people who’d actually be honest with her.

“Admittedly the spoils are usually the two of us splitting a painful death as a result of whatever cockamamie scheme this idiot has come up with, but if we share in painful deaths then we share in riches too, right?” Kristoph said, slapping me on the back.

I nodded. I also couldn’t help but smile. It warmed my heart that Kristoph wouldn’t doubt me even for a moment.

"You're serious," she said after a long moment of looking between the two of them. "You’re making a bunch of money on the Auction House with this crafting stuff and you're just going to share it?"

"Well sure," I said, suddenly embarrassed at all this talk of money. She’d been into me before this little windfall, but I was also well aware that money could change things.

I mean I wasn’t personally aware, having never had much money to my name as I’ve already covered, but I’d heard other people talking about it.

“Besides. None of this would be possible without you. You’re the reason I have all this ore in the first place. You’re the reason I found the Spellcrafting table and unlocked the ability.”

Sure after talking with Trelor I had the feeling that I would’ve unlocked the Spellcrafting skill tree eventually regardless of that trip out to the goblin mines, but it was also true that Keia’s help had significantly advanced the timetable for unlocking those skills.

I was suddenly glad that all the kissing and the confession of who we were in the real world had happened before I realized I was going to be making money hand over fist.

Sure I didn't think Keia was the kind of girl to care about a guy suddenly developing a fortune, I had the example of how frustrated she'd been with Torian when he tried to win her affections by throwing around Horizon’s money to impress her, but still. If I’d come into this money before she acted interested in me then there would’ve always been a question in the back of my mind wondering if she was only interested in me because I had money.

Not a lot of money, in the grand scheme of things, but a shitload of money by the standards of a bunch of teenagers who'd grown up well below the poverty line in the dodgier parts of a forgotten level of an arcology.

“I’ll give you a one third cut of everything I earned while I was with you right now if that's what you want," I said. “If that’s what it takes to prove myself then it’s yours. You could do whatever you wanted with that money. No questions asked.”

I was terrified she’d take the money and run. I wouldn’t fault her for it. Life was hard where we’d grown up, and that was enough money to change her life.

"Wouldn't be a good idea though," Kristoph said. "If what Trelor says is true then we probably want to take the time to reinvest anything we've made, you know?"

"He's right," I said. "And that's where we're going to have to take some risk."

She looked between the two of us and her mouth compressed into a thin line. I was far from a mind reader, but I got the feeling she was seriously considering whether or not she should take a payday now, or go along with us and get a potentially much larger payday down the line if things went well.

Then she shrugged and her face broke into a smile that was positively radiant.

“You idiot,” she said, leaning in and hitting me with a smack and then a kiss. “There was never any question that I’d go along with you. I just wanted to see how serious you were.”

I breathed a sigh of relief that I hadn’t even realized I was holding. It looked like we’d both been testing each other there, and it looked like we’d both passed each other’s tests.

For now.

"If I was into a guy for the money then I would've been digging for gold with Torian and all that Horizon cash he’s throwing around," she said, leaning in and hitting me with a kiss that curled my toes. It took Kristoph clearing his throat to pull us away from each other, and even then she stayed close to me. "You can rest assured I'm in this because I like how you do things. Kissing included."

That was good for a blush from yours truly. It was nice to know my ability to suck face in the game was a part of the reason why she was staying loyal to me and Kristoph, and not the fact that she was digging for gold.

I grinned. “I knew you weren’t the kind to date a guy for money.”

“It’d take the kind of girl who dates for money for Torian to ever get any,” Kristoph grunted, which had everyone in Trelor’s Oddments laughing.

When the laughing died down Keia locked eyes with me and smiled. She also blushed just a little. Like she was flattered that I thought so highly of her.

“Really?” she asked.

“Of course,” I said. “You told me time and again that you weren’t into the whole gathering and crafting thing, so it should come as no surprise that gold digging isn’t your thing.”

That one didn’t get the same laughs as Kristoph’s quip about Torian’s sex life. Keia’s eyes narrowed. Kristoph and Trelor both groaned.

“Tough crowd,” I muttered.

I cleared my throat. “Right. The way I see it, we can try to get into that forge on the town circle, but that's going to run the risk of them trying to kill us.”

“Risk?” Keia said.

“Right. That’s going to result in them killing us, and maybe us taking out other players and some goblins on accident and ruining the reputation I’ve been spending so much time building when I blow shit up,” I said. “That would be bad, so we need another option.”

"What other option?" Kristoph asked.

"I think I know what he's going to say," Keia said.

"We know there are forges out there in the game world,” I said. “So if the forge in the town square isn’t available to us then we have to go find a forge out there.”

“Oh no," Kristoph said.

“Are you thinking the forges in the mines by the raid instance?” Keia said.

"No way," Kristoph said.

"None other than,” I said.

"Excuse me," Kristoph said. "Admittedly I wasn't out there with you guys when you were flirting in the mines, but it seems to me like it's a really bad idea to cart a couple of low skill players into an area that's being patrolled by Horizon Dawn and surrounded by angry goblins who probably won’t stop to ask us if we’re part of Horizon Dawn before they kill us quickly and painfully."

“It’s a risk," I said. "But if we go out there where we can use the forest as a cover then we have a chance of getting into one of those mines and crafting this stuff without running into Horizon Dawn. One guard keeping a half-assed watch at a mine entrance is going to be a hell of a lot easier to get around than a bunch of Horizon Dawn assholes creating a human chain to stop us.”

Kristoph shook his head. "I don't like this idea at all, and I know when I don't like an idea is usually right around the time you push me into doing it and everything works out. So why not? I've already died a few times in this game. It's not like it could hurt if it happens one more time!”

“Probably a lot more than once,” Keia muttered, earning a sickly glance from Kristoph.

I grinned and slapped Kristoph on the back. I ignored Keia’s quip. Mostly because she was probably right on the money, and I didn’t want to think of that. "That's the spirit! Now let's get over to the Auction House. We're going to have to get a bunch of stuff out of my vault, and it's going to take all three of us carrying it to avoid too much encumbrance."

"What about our armor and weapons?" Keia asked. "If we're going to do something risky like this then shouldn't we equip ourselves with some good gear? At least better than the low level crap you’re running around in right now?”

“But I can’t craft stuff without a forge,” I said.

“Don’t need to craft stuff to get base weapons and armor other people have crafted,” Keia said. “It’s not gonna be goblinsteel stuff, Horizon Dawn has that market locked down, but it’ll be better than what we have.”

“I guess it won’t be the end of the world if we don’t get to the mines tonight,” I said.

Besides, I figured some time spent scouring the Auction House for gear that had useful spell infusions seemed like a good investment of my time if we were going into the belly of the beast to find a working forge.

"Yeah," I said. "It might be a good idea to invest in some gear. Let’s hit the Auction House!"

I laughed. Torian and his asshole friends were spending so much time keeping me from the forge, never realizing that what they really needed to be keeping me away from was the Auction House that they thought they’d dominated.

I was going to show them.

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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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