At the end of the day I owe our loan shark 500,000 pix. I am 200,000 short. Partly this is my fault: I replaced our store’s carpets with a cutesy-wutsey bunny rabbit design, and this scared away our heretofore faithful clients. I invested in books and cut-price treasures which nobody wanted. I took pity on a con artist and bought furniture at a grossly inflated price to try to get to know her better.
And now I’m facing down the wrong end of 200,000 pix. My thumbs ache with anticipation. I can do this: if I open the shop for all four shifts today, and make 50,000 a shift, everything will be fine. I throw out the carpets; pull the drapes off the counters. My fairy advisor tells me our shop is now slap bang in the middle of the Store Atmosphere Grid: halfway between darkness and light; halfway between gaudy and plain. All things to all people. Let the customers roll in.
On my first shift five customers come by. A little girl buys some candy from a vending machine, and a young man sells me a durian.
LEVEL UP! I can now carry 25 items while exploring a dungeon.
This is of no use whatsoever.
Meanwhile, I have less money than before: 296,720 pix.
I sob briefly into the keyboard. But when I press the “open store” button for the second shift, something terrifying happens. A message scrolls by in menacing white letters as dramatic music plays.
“Women have come in great numbers, looking for valuable items!”
WOMEN HAVE COME IN GREAT NUMBERS, LOOKING FOR VALUABLE ITEMS.
5, 10, 15 of them pour into the shop, and keep on coming. A pair of golden scales is forced roughly into my hands, three weeks’ worth of display case dust staining my pristine overalls.
“How much?”, says the customer.
“30,000 pix?”, I venture.
She hands me the cash and sweeps out. She doesn’t even look back.
So, by degrees, anything precious or pricey is rooted out and brought to the sales counter: alembics, golden statues, suits of silver armour, gauntlets made for war. At one point a lady comes up empty handed, throws me a conspiratorial glance and whispers softly into my ear: “do you have anything valuable?”.
Why, that I do. I offer a charm worth 15,000 pix.
“You just don’t understand”, she says, and leaves.
Eventually, the crowd subsides. And at the end of the shift, the total at the top of the screen reads:
I can’t quite believe my eyes. It’s a miracle.
And that is how, at 11 am on the final day of the month, 20 women saved an amazing little girl from financial ruination.
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