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“You have guards in front of the local government centers and everything,” I said. “But that doesn’t mean you’re in charge of anything. That just means you have some of your guildmates standing out there in all sorts of weather because you want it to look like you’re running things around here, but I know that couldn’t be farther from the truth.”

Torian glanced around the room, and he seemed to realize for the first time that things might not be going as well for him as he’d thought. No, people from Horizon Dawn were glaring at him right along with the goblins who already had good reason to hate the bastard.

“You need to get out of here,” Torian said. “If you don’t then you’re going to seriously regret it.”

“No, you’re the one who needs to get out of here,” I said. “And this is the only chance I’m going to give you to get the hell out of here.”

That finally broke through the tension, though not necessarily in the way I was hoping for. Torian threw his head back and laughed, and some of the other Horizon Dawn people laughed right along with him.

Some, but not all. I couldn’t help but notice that there were quite a few of them who were edging towards the door. Maybe they were thinking about all the times I’d seriously fucked with them when they thought they were winning. Moments where they’d been gathered together like sardines in a can, like they were now, which had presented me with a perfect opportunity to kill all of them deader than dead because they were stupid enough to group up.

I grinned a slightly unhinged grin. Of course they’d all finally learn to not group themselves together on the one occasion when I didn’t have any intention of fucking with them. At least not like that.

“Do you have any other idle threats you’d like to make?” Torian asked.

“Not really,” I said. “I’m simply giving you this one last chance to get out of this town and vacate without me kicking your ass. I didn’t say anything when I started here, but I’m saying it now. It’s my mission in life to fuck with Horizon anywhere and everywhere I can, and I’m not going to stop until I get you out of here.”

“I’d like to see you try,” Torian said.

I hit a button and something started to play over my shoulder. It was muted, but it’s not like I needed to have the sound on for this particular display. No, everyone in this room probably had a good idea of what was going on in that video because it’d gone viral in a big way.

I could see the dawning realization in some eyes, though other people were taking a little longer to realize how important it was that they were seeing a screencap of the famous Horizon GM killing from a first person perspective.

“I came to this game because I wanted an escape from Horizon, and then I discovered that those assholes followed me. I didn’t like that, and you guys started fucking with me which really wasn’t a good idea. I’ve bested you every time we’ve gone up against each other, and I’m about to take over this town. I’m telling you this now because I figure we can do this the easy way or the hard way. The easy way is you get the fuck out of here and I never see you again. The hard way is I kill every one of you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Most of that was a boast, of course. I figured it was still a tossup as to whether or not I could pull this off, and I figured if I could use my reputation to get some of the Horizon Dawn people to get the hell out of there then there was a better chance I’d ultimately win. And on the off chance that I convinced Torian and all his buddies to leave town permanently that was all the better. It’d give me that much more time to consolidate my power around here before the inevitable backlash hit from all the other territories Horizon had taken over.

Torian’s eyes went wide. He stared at the recording in disbelief. his mouth worked a few times like he was trying to get something out, but it was pretty clear from the way nothing was coming out that he was having trouble coming up with anything.

“That was you?” he finally breathed when the video got to the point where the GM went down. “You’re the asshole who killed that GM?”

“None other than,” I said, sketching a bow. I felt a presence at my sides. Keia, Kristoph, and Rezzik coming up behind me to act as backup. “And I’m about to do to you what I did to that asshole. How’s that feel?”

Only Torian didn’t react in quite the way I’d been expecting. No, he smiled. Which seemed just a touch odd. he shouldn’t be smiling when I was in the middle of threatening the asshole. He should be running for the hills. He should be so terrified of what was about to happen to him that he surrendered immediately.

There were more people from his guild streaming out the door. As though they didn’t want to be caught dead in whatever was brewing here. And there was a good chance they would be caught dead considering everything that was going down. Which was just one more thing that smelled wrong about all this. They shouldn’t be this confident when all their backup was leaving.

Only there was Torian, Gregor, and Kravos standing there looking at me like a piece of meat or something. Not exactly a comforting sort of look coming from those assholes.

“Do you have any idea what kind of fucking reward there is for capturing your ass in the game and telling Horizon who you are?” Torian asked. “Fuck. I’m going to be rich!”

And with that he lunged forward, his sword out, and I knew that I’d made a huge mistake. That I’d gotten too cocky. That I’d given up entirely too much information about myself, and now Horizon would know exactly who the fuck I was and what I was doing in the game.

Fuck.

The sword coming at me was caught by Kristoph’s warhammer which shot out to stop it. Only this time the reaction was a hell of a lot different from previous encounters Kristoph had with these guys. Mostly because he had armor and some skill points to go along with his desire to fight these assholes instead of being the game world equivalent of a crying babe begging for a beatdown by responding to their taunts.

He brought his hammer up and caught Torian on the chin. The asshole flew back and slammed into Gregor and Kravos who were in the middle of pulling out a set of daggers and showing off some fireballs, respectively.

They went down in a pile. There were other Horizon Dawn people gathered with their weapons drawn, but there were also plenty of goblins in the room which meant I couldn’t use my favorite ability to get rid of a bunch of Horizon Dawn people at the same time.

Not when there were goblin NPCs in the room who’d be dead and gone if I pulled something like that. I wasn’t going to do that to them. Not when they were so close to joining my side.

“Damn it,” I growled, pulling a gem out of my inventory and holding it up.

The goblins looked at the gem quizzically, but the reaction couldn’t have been more pronounced from the Horizon Dawn people. They screamed and pulled away, obviously terrified since they knew what usually happened when I started tossing those gems around. I tossed the first one and the Horizon Dawn people gathered around jumped away from me. Then I tossed a second to the ground and turned away.

“Run!” I shouted.

I didn’t have to tell Kristoph and Keia twice. Rezzik seemed like he was in the mood to get the hell out of there too, for all that he’d pulled out one of the shiny new spell infused goblinsteel swords we’d made with the proceeds from our raid and looked like he was ready to use it.

We ran up some stairs to the second floor. From there it would be easy enough to get the hell out through a massive window that looked out on the building next to the bar. We’d made sure to scout everything out well ahead of time in case things went to shit.

Thank the developers for interactive environments that meant we could open or, in a pinch destroy, the window to get the hell out of this building now that things were going pear shaped.

“You’re going to fucking regret this!” Torian shouted from behind us. “I’m going to find you and kill your ass over and over, and then I’m going to turn you over to Horizon in the real world and we’ll see how you do when they hit you with destruction of virtual property!”

I rolled my eyes. Sure there were laws on the books that said someone could hypothetically get in trouble for destruction of virtual property, it was one of those laws that’d been put on the books long ago to cover people who went in and did malicious damage to code or to the hardware the code lived on. The sort of thing that was designed to protect the world of the future from vandals and thieves who might try to do harm, digitally speaking.

I’d never heard of someone trying to use that to go after someone for destroying virtual property, but if ever there were a bunch of assholes who might try to pin something like that on me it would be Horizon with their unique way of looking at the world and twisting laws to suit their lawyers’ interpretation.

Not that I thought that argument would hold much weight in court, but whatever. I really hoped it’d never get to that point in the first place.

“Come on,” I said, stepping out of the window and onto the roof of the building next to this one.

Rezzik jumped out onto the roof next, followed by Keia. Kristoph was the last, backing out of the window with his warhammer held out in front of him like he thought he might actually have to use it against those Horizon assholes. Only they weren’t streaming up the steps after us. Not yet, at least.

“What are they doing?” I muttered. “They should have realized those gems were a diversion by now.”

“A diversion?” Keia asked.

“Yeah,” I said with a grin. “I didn’t want to risk hurting the goblins in there, so I tossed some light gems to freak the humans in the room out and get them to vacate faster. I would’ve figured they’d realize by now that I was throwing duds and be after us, but I guess not.

“Maybe they got caught up in the crowd trying to escape down there?” Kristoph said.

“Is someone cooking something around here?” Keia asked, sniffing the air.

Kristoph sniffed right along with her, a goofy grin spreading across his face.

“That smells delicious, whatever it is!” he said.

I looked around and tried to find the source of that smell. There were all sorts of interesting smells that existed in this virtual world, but I’d never smelled anything quite like this. A glow over the edge of the place caught my eye, and I wandered over to the edge to have a look.

Something slammed into me and I worried that I might be pitching over the edge, but whatever it was hit me from an angle that let me fall to the side rather than over the edge. A moment later arrows flew through the air where my head had been just moments ago.

I breathed a sigh of relief. Someone was trying to kill my ass, and they clearly didn’t care if they accomplished it with arrows, or with the fires they were setting around the buildings on this block.

Interactive and destructible environments. It turns out that’s a double-edged sword.

“They’re burning the place!” I shouted. “We need to get the hell out of here now!”

“They’re also coming up the stairs,” Keia said. “Guess they figured out you were bluffing. Not sure why they’re burning the place and coming after us, but…”

She shrugged. The meaning was pretty clear. Why did Horizon Dawn do anything? Trying to burn a building down while simultaneously sending some of their people into said burning building wasn’t close to the stupidest thing I’d seen Torian and company do, after all, though I was going to have to actually do something about any assholes they were sending up through the building to take care of us.

The gem was in my hand without thinking about it. I’d done this so many times that the ritual for summoning a gem and hitting it with a spell infusion was instinctive. I held the gem up and it shone brightly in the night air, then I tossed it through the open window we’d just come out of.

I even caught a glimpse of the Horizon people coming up the stairs after us. It was none other than the three stooges. I had to give Torian credit where credit was do. At least if he was coming after me after giving the order to burn the building down around us he was willing to go in and take the risk himself.

Though that was probably giving the asshole too much credit. The more likely scenario was the asshole got so pissed off at the thought of me besting him, again, that he flew up those stairs in a rage once he realized the gems down there were duds, and didn’t stop to think about putting himself in mortal danger, digitally speaking, by following us up into the building he’d ordered burned down around them.

The three assholes also caught a glimpse of me peeking in through the window we’d so recently vacated. Torian was right in the front with his sword out. He grinned a cruel grin and scoffed as he saw turned to a wide-eyed look of terror as he saw the glowing gem rolling across the floor.

“You’re not getting me again, asshole,” he growled, that cruel smile never leaving his face. “I know you’re throwing duds!”

“Your funeral,” I said with a shrug.

I figured this couldn’t happen to better people. Their fate was sealed. I winked at the three as they all reached the top of the stairs and dove to the side.

Splinters of wood flew through the air behind me. One moment there was a second floor room with a window looking out across the roof, and the next there was nothing but a smoldering hole that’d held the overconfident leadership of Horizon Dawn, but no longer.

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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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