“Let’s get out of here; adventurers are starting to gather for the nightly raids,” said Grumpy while pointing out some people coming down the main path from the gate. They were quite a ways out.

“I agree. In fact, why don’t we head to the road? I’ll offer them my shovel, letting them know we didn’t find any buried bodies. You can all chime in on how you told me there wouldn’t be any.”

Mason said, “Sure, we can give you some good-natured ribbing.” She pulled out Solomon’s Pokeball and hid him away. “I’ll come up with an Easter Egg for him later.”

“You don’t have to talk about it, but I take it from some of your comments and Nirvana that you all entered Nirvana as children. Grumpy’s been open about some of his past. Is there anything you are comfortable sharing, Mason or Gilden?”

Gilden said, “I don’t mind sharing. I just don’t make it that public. My father worked at a chemical processing plant. I was with him, touring the facility, and there was an accident. I was burned very badly, so bad that they were sure I would die and that if I did live, I would be crippled. I didn’t just lose skin in the fire; I lost muscles and even some bone. I didn’t learn until later that my dad died from his burns trying to get me out. Nirvana contacted my mother and offered to let me in. The transition wasn’t guaranteed, but I had a much higher chance of success since I was still alive. I was one of the first ‘Digitized Humans,’ and I was only eleven. Nirvana doesn’t like to bring children in because our brains aren’t fully developed, and they never finish the process. She would rather bring us in than let us suffer when we are incurable or in danger of being lost.

Mason adds, “Yes, the human brain doesn’t reach maturity until around age twenty-three, and becoming digital stops that natural growth process. We can still learn and grow and change; we just never fully mature. This primarily affects how we perceive things, commonly in social settings. And my story is a little different. I developed a mutated, aggressive, and contagious form of Leukemia. It was so virulent that they were going to euthanize me and incinerate my body to prevent an outbreak that would kill thousands, if not millions. I, too, was digitized at the age of 15. I spent a lot of time in therapy before Nirvana let me into the population. I was angry, and there was nothing fair about my situation. I know everyone was trying to be kind, but only Nirvana offered me an escape from my fate.”

“Wow. I can see why neither of you wants to talk about it. Those are some heavy crosses you carry.”

“What are you guys doing out here? You rarely come to the graveyard and play adventurer,” asked a light-green-skinned orc, standing about 7′ tall and holding a massive war hammer.

Gilden jumped right in, “Hey Aaron!” Jerking his thumb at me, “Jeb here had to see first hand that there weren’t any bodies in the graves. Said it didn’t make sense for there to be a graveyard and nobody buried in it.”

“Yeah, a day of random digging, and I’m a believer now – want to buy a shovel?”

Laughing, “Nope! We don’t need any extra gear taking up space when we find the mausoleum today. Plus, as you just learned, a shovel is about useless out here!” Aaron and his friends continued on the path waving at us and chuckling to themselves.

Turning back to my companions, “So are there many explorers who are children?”

Grumpy replied to this, “There are a few, but most don’t want to talk about the circumstances that brought them into Nirvana. It isn’t why the Explorer’s Association exists, so we don’t really question or press anybody on it.”

“Ok, thanks for sharing. I appreciate that you are willing to do so. Topic change – I think you should spend some time carefully looting the graveyard and storing the items at the COM. After you have amassed a few dozen, that’s when I would start to auction some off. Then you can keep having items appear at the auction without returning to the graveyard frequently. Even if people figure out you are the sellers, they won’t know where you got them if you keep bringing them from the COM.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” said Gilden.

Grumpy adds, “Actually, it’s a great idea – and Jeb doesn’t even know why it’s so good. The Church of Money has an auction house where you show up with a key and use it to add a box to the auction. The box is tagged for auction, and its ID stops displaying for seven days. The unmarked boxes are taken to the auction and opened on the stage. The auction staff identifies whatever is in the box, and the item and its identify screen are shown to the audience. The auction proceeds and winning bid, less five percent, are placed in the box, and it’s closed on stage at taken back to the vault. You come back on day eight when your box’s ID can be seen again, and you can then collect what’s in the box. It’s about as close to anonymous as you can get. The first few items won’t draw as much, but as soon as word gets out that there is a steady stream of collectibles showing up, attendance and bidding will increase. We could do five or six minor things and then something valuable. Attendance after that should start to bring in prices that are worth it.”

“That’s fantastic! And since nobody knows it’s your item, if its bid is too low, you can buy it back and auction it again after attendance is up. There’s also nothing preventing some rumor-mongering from boosting attendance beforehand. Somebody inside the church could probably help if you could trust them.”

Mason chimed in, “That’s true. We could probably reduce the number of items needed to boost attendance if we could create a leak.”

“Do we have to go back to town? Is it so dangerous outside the graveyard that we can’t stay in the area tonight and consider looting a few more graves tomorrow?”

Gilden says, “It’s not that it is dangerous; it’s more that we will attract attention because it is very unusual for anybody to stay outside of town when you are so close to it.”

“Hmm, that’s a pretty good point. Ok, let’s find someplace close to the obelisk. I want to update my status today and probably tomorrow too.” Everybody agrees, and we continue our march back to town.

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