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“And how will you be splitting the profits?” Conrad Steele, Damien’s attorney friend asked. I sighed. “Will this ever end?” I thought as Damien began to explain our plan.

If you’ve never had to work with a lawyer to file articles of incorporation, let me tell you you’re not missing anything. The entire process was long and tedious. I still don’t get why the government needs half of the information they do.

Still, at least Damien’s friend agreed to do it for a flat fee rather than charging us by the hour. I shuddered to think of that bill, even if Damien was the one footing it.

After talking for the better part of the day, Damien and I had more or less worked out the terms of our business relationship. I’d initially thought we’d form a partnership, but Damien suggested we go for a corporation to limit our liability and allow for easy expansion. As the one bringing the key product that would determine our success or failure, naturally my percentage share of the company was larger. However, Damien was providing the starting capital for things like hiring lawyers. He would also be in charge of the day to day running of the company, though I retained the right to manage all aspects of dungeon creation and subsequent management.

After talking things out we agreed on a 60-40 split in terms of shares, with the mutual understanding that if we ever needed to bring on someone new using the shares as a hiring incentive we’d take it from both of our shares in equal amounts with the provision that I didn’t have to go below 51%. I trusted Damien to an extent, but I wasn’t about to test whether that trust was well placed.

After agreeing to it Damien called Conrad to set a time to meet to finalize the agreement. He’d agreed to meet us that night. I figured he’d maybe witness it, have us sign some simple form, and stamp it with a seal or something. Instead, he’d made us sit down for hours to try to get our articles of incorporation just right. On some level I appreciated his attention to detail; it was reassuring that our lawyer was putting a lot of thought into this. But mostly I just was annoyed and wanted to be done with the whole thing.

The longer it took the more I doubted my decision. How well did I really know Damien? Not at all frankly. We’d barely met. For all I knew he was lying about his business expertise. Heck, he could even be lying about being a member of the Rust family. But even as I had that thought I quickly dismissed it. He’d put his name as Damien Rust on the articles of incorporation, so if it was a fake name then the entire document would be null and void and I wouldn’t be bound by it. Besides, his story was too ridiculous to be a lie. And the voice in my head saying that the best lies are those too ridiculous to think of as a lie could go stuff itself.

“That’s just about it, only one thing left to add, and you’ll be good to sign.” Conrad’s voice snapped me out of the spiral of doubt that my thoughts had formed. “What’s that?” I asked, wondering what could possibly be left. It felt like we’d covered everything and then some.

He grinned. “The name of the corporation.” I let out a startled chuckle. I hadn’t even thought about that to be honest. I looked to Damien questioningly. He shrugged. “I don’t know. We could call it Thorn Corporation I suppose.” I shook my head. “No, it should have your name in it too. How about Thorn & Rust corporation?”

“No way,” Damien shot down the name. “It can’t have Rust in the name unless you want to draw the attention of my family early on. With Rust in the name and me being a shareholder, both of which will be public record, they’ll find me. I wouldn’t be surprised if my parents try to kidnap me back to the corporation, out of embarrassment at having me run around if nothing else.”

I shivered a little. Provoking the Rust Corporation was like asking for death, at least for a little start up company like ours.

“Why not try something that relates to your product?” Conrad suggested. It was a good suggestion. I guessed he must have overheard a lot of conversations like this when he helped people set up their companies.

Damien pursed his lips thoughtfully. “How about Renewable Dungeon Corporation? That should give people an idea of what we’re all about.”

I shook my head. “It sounds too lifeless. Like we’re talking about oil or something.” Creating a dungeon that was self sustaining wasn’t just changing an attribute of the dungeon, it was completely altering its essence, creating an ecosystem that life can thrive in.

I suddenly felt enlightened. “How about Living Dungeon Corporation, or Living Dungeon Corp., for short?” Damien mouthed the name before shrugging. “Sure. It’s less of a mouthful. And I suppose it still gets the point across.”

Conrad looked at the two of us. “So, Living Dungeon Corporation? You’re in agreement?” We exchanged looks before nodding. “Alrighty then,” Conrad said, finishing entering something into the holopad he’d been using to draft the documents. “Now I just need you both to verify the contract on your status screens.”

I nodded and pulled up my status screen. But as soon as I did a barrage of notifications hit me all at once. I stared at the screen in shock, trying to absorb all the sensory input.

The first notification I read said, “Congratulations, you have successfully created a level 1 dungeon. Your Create A Dungeon skill has reached level 2! Keep fighting young man!” I tapped the notification to dismiss it and began going through the others. I received a notification that I had satisfied my end of the contract for Q&A Jelly and that a monthly direct deposit had been set up for my share of the profits. The contract still showed up but it had moved from my active tasks to passive tasks.

I quickly read through the notifications until I reached the last one. It read: “Congratulations you overachiever! You’ve managed to create a sustainable ecosystem in one of your dungeons. You’ve received the title: Dungeon Ecologist. Now go back to hugging a tree or whatever!”

My eyes widened. I couldn’t believe I’d received a title. Titles were incredibly rare in this world, as they only went to the people who first achieved something. Titles, when equipped, had unique benefits. There were even rumors that titles were the key to developing Hidden Classes.

I was tempted to ask Damien about it, but I quickly dismissed that thought. I couldn’t let anyone know I had a title. Titles were a huge part of strength. Even though my title likely wouldn’t have that sort of effect given that it was related to the Dungeon Maker class, it still would draw the wrong sort of attention to me. I wouldn’t be surprised if the government stuck me in a lab somewhere until they were able to quantify the effects of the title.

Speaking of, I hadn’t had a chance to read it yet. I went to look at it, but before I could an impatient voice interrupted me. “Earth to Basil! Hello? Are we signing these articles of incorporation or what?”

I dismissed the status screen and saw Damien standing in front of me looking annoyed. I waved a hand. “Sorry, I hadn’t checked my notifications after making the dungeon before. I was looking through the changes to my skill.”

He shook his head. “Man, there’s a time and a place you know? Wait until later. Let’s finish this up.”

I nodded, relieved that he bought it. I quickly pulled up my status screen and looked for pending tasks. I quickly found the task. It was titled: “Incorporate! Can’t do it on your own? That’s fine just get someone else to do it for you!” I shook my head. I was starting to suspect that Janus had a strange sense of humor. I read through the articles of incorporation carefully, not wanting to repeat my mistake from last time.

I didn’t need to worry though. Conrad had done an excellent job and he hadn’t snuck anything in there. I was suddenly grateful for him walking us through everything as he did it. It made it much easier to understand the legalese when I read through it this time.

I quickly hit accept and the pending task moved to active tasks. At the same time Conrad nodded. “Great, you’ve both accepted, so we’re good to go. I hope you don’t mind, but I won’t stick around for congratulatory drinks. It’s late and my wife is waiting for me. She was not happy that I accepted work this late at night.”

Damien clapped a hand on his shoulder. “Thanks for doing this! Tell Ellie that I’ll buy dinner next time to make up for keeping you so late.” Conrad clasped hands with him before heading off, quickly flagging down a hovertaxi.

Damien turned to me. “I don’t suppose you want to drink?”

I shook my head. “It’s late and I still want to go home and explore the changes to my skill.”

Damien sighed. “Alright, I suppose I won’t drink alone then like some kind of alcoholic. In place of a toast let me just offer this: I’m looking forward to working with you.” He extended his hand. I took it and shook hands. “So am I.” We parted ways and I walked back to the dorms. It was late, but the entire city was aglow. Literally, manalights and various devices and machines cast ethereal light. In places it looked like sunlight through water, in others like firelight cast from a campfire. Different stylistic choices clashed in a cacophony of light and the sounds of the city at night filled the air as the smell of sweets and fried foods filled the air as the street vendors sought to bring in late night foot traffic. Crowds gathered around street performers, rogues using their balance and acrobatic talents to do amazing tricks and mages using minor illusion spells to create movies that played out in front of people. Periodic sparks and flames exploded from people using fire magic to create breathtaking sparklers and firecrackers. Whistles rang out as local Guardians cracked down on the fire magic, issuing tickets to the offenders.

Asance had a very strict policy towards fire magic. In a city built primarily of wood, where the public dungeon was formed from a tree, fire control was naturally paramount. It wasn’t uncommon for fire mages to receive dirty gazes, and the spells they were allowed to use in the dungeon were extremely restricted. Naturally water magic gave an advantage when fighting fires, but magic fires were a different story entirely. Some materials would burn so hot that they couldn’t be put out. Entire floors of the dungeon had been burned out before, taking years to recover.

I avoided the scuffle as the Guardians cuffed some of the street mages that resisted using mana shackles. Resisting the Guardians was a fool’s errand.

I quickly made my way out of the bustling downtown area, navigating my way through the campus back to my dorm. I felt my tiredness hit me as I closed the door to my dorm room behind me, my body suddenly feeling heavy and my eyes struggling to stay open.

I stripped my clothes and showered quickly then changed into my sleep clothes and lay down in bed. Even though it was getting harder to keep my eyes open by the second, I forced myself to do so as I pulled up the status screen. I navigated to my titles and quickly tapped on my new title. It read: Dungeon Ecologist. Having spent the time to study dungeons, you are now knowledgeable enough to understand how their ecosystems work. As a result, your affinity with dungeons you create has increased! If you don’t provoke them, most beasts and monsters in the dungeon won’t attack you.

Before I could take the time to think about what that meant, I lost the fight against my eyes as they finally drifted shut. My mind gradually faded into darkness as sleep took me into its comforting embrace.

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A note from Andrew Reise

For those who follow on Discord, sorry for the delay!  I forgot I had family obligations to take care of today.  I will attempt to get the next chapter of Grave of Heroes out tomorrow!  It will only be on Moonquill!  Join my discord for notifications about releases!


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About the author

Andrew Reise

  • United States

Bio: Author. My novels at the moment include Luxury Cafe Owner and Grave of Heroes. Luxury Cafe Owner is complete at 57 chapters and available to read on Amazon. The first book in the Grave of Heroes series, Evil Star, is on the back burner. I have decided not to do serialized releases for it, and to release it all at once on Amazon. My latest LitRPG series, Dungeon Ecology, is currently being released chapter by chapter here and on Moonquill!

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