He hadn’t told very many people about his dream. Famke knew, but she just kind of tutted and told him “maybe someday.” She said that it was unrealistic and that if they were lucky, maybe they could eventually get rooms in the Miner’s Quarters or over in the Wharf. Everyone told him it was impossible, a pipe dream. No one had ever told him it wasn’t even worth the effort.

The runner’s take on the situation was that he should save up whatever he could for a few months and join one of the caravans out of the city. Forget the Rose District, and Denid. She said he could head to Eron or Kor, or maybe up to Vetania. Maybe even jump continents and head over to Estaia and find work in Portanul or Harstole. Hundreds of towns and cities would offer better opportunities, more money, better housing, and better air. Why would he fight so hard to move up in a town that didn’t need or want him?

What hurt was that in a way, she made sense. It would be easier to leave, to just pack their bags and make a fresh start somewhere else. But that was the thing about the Haze Runners: they didn’t put a lot of stock in home. They would run wherever they were needed, traveling the world, flitting about from town to town, never really settling down. She would never understand. He didn’t want to start somewhere else. He couldn’t even conceive of it. She might as well have asked why he didn’t just fly to get around. It was a good idea, and had its merits, but it wasn’t actually possible. He was born in Denid. He would live in Denid. And he would conquer Denid. Someday he would live in the Rose District. Someday he would win. Leaving would just be giving up.

Famke thought she could win by staying the course, working hard, proving herself, and taking the city a little at a time. She was smart, but Holden knew the city, and he saw the realities. He knew that drastic change took drastic risk. Though she hadn’t meant to, Famke had given him an idea. It wasn’t a good idea, he was willing to admit. It multiplied the risk he was taking by a huge margin, but then, it wasn’t really a risk at all, was it? He knew the outcome of the fight, he knew the odds the bookies were giving, and he knew that the money he’d managed to scrounge up wasn’t going to be enough. Payouts like this only happen once in a lifetime. So it was time to really up his game. He passed a gap in the buildings that offered a view of the Rose District, and nodded to himself. Shoot for the moon, he thought. It’s time to win.

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