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“You cheated!”

Phenic flashed a smug grin. “I’m no cheater.”

My vision changed and I recognized the top of the boss room.

“You have two charges on your armor! How is that not cheating?”

“You’re only angry because you didn’t know I had them until I was forced to use them.”

“Let me guess. You didn’t use it those other times because you didn’t need to.”

“Of course I didn’t,” he said. “No point in showing all your cards while the game is still being played.”

The drumbeat played once more.

“Speaking of which... You have 72 more chances to defeat me. Are you feeling lucky? I know I am.”

The gong sounded and this time I accidentally gave him a head start.

***

Anger and frustration built inside of me as he won time after time. There had to be something I was missing.

Mr. Black wasn't any help either since he'd told me everything he could. I didn’t push him for more. The last thing I wanted was for him to show up emaciated again.

As I traveled down the thin room for the 58th time I couldn't take it anymore. I grabbed my charged bow, saw the fairy fly a few squares away from our shared wall, aimed my arrow at him and let loose.

I expected it to hit the coarse wall and shatter into a thousand sparks of light. Instead, the badger on his side took the blow and disintegrated.

It shocked me so much I let him gain another block on me.

His speed hadn’t changed. Did he not realize what I’d discovered?

All this time, I'd assumed I couldn't hurt him because it was a race. But I was a Battle Miner, so why couldn’t I attack him? At the very least I should be able to for 4 squares into his side of the mine.

Had Phenic’s misdirections been played at levels so deep that they kept me distracted from even guessing something so simple?

I lost focus and slammed right into a honey trap, and then a mushroom trap.

“Would you care to continue, Miss Knight?”

I glared. “Why do you always have to be so cryptic with everything?”

He didn’t respond.

I sighed. “Would it have been so hard to tell me that I could attack Phenic through the wall?”

“I should stay a neutral party. It’s part of my responsibility and that responsibility is what I am. What I need to be.”

I stared into his face. Its apathy reminded me of who he was when we first met.

“I don’t believe that.”

The silence between us grew like a flood in the desert.

“Do you have a plan?”

“Yes. I’m going to be patient. It’s the only way.”

“Then, good luck.”

***

I stared across the room into Phenic’s eyes for the 83rd time hoping that this would be my opportunity to fight back.

He yawned. “Are you ready to give up now?”

“Never!” I put my hands on my hips and grinned. “How about you give up.”

He snorted. “Be realistic.”

I rose a brow. “You be realistic.”

His smirk made him look so smug. I wanted to punch his face.

The gong sounded and I bolted into my side of the room.

I collected ore after ore, bypassing the first few single traps. My bow charged just before I hit a badger room and I barreled straight through it. The monster followed and adrenaline hit my system.

A row of honey traps blocked my passage, but I used my charged arrow to blast a hole in it and burst through. The badger stayed behind to eat one of the remaining traps.

Phenic had had trouble with his badger and fell two blocks behind me. He ran into the trap and teleported to 1 in front of me.

I knocked out a block under a box to get to an ore and collected a platinum key.

Phenic missed that ore and gained a head start on me.

I wouldn’t let him keep it. I shot through a spider cage, collected an aluminum ore and dodged a huge tower of ice boulders. They fell after me but I sidestepped in time and collected another aluminum.

Phenic trailed behind me by a block once more.

My weapon charged. I clenched my fist around it and focused, my attention split between planning several steps ahead and on phenic’s position.

I dodged a mushroom trap. He crashed into it and teleported to one square ahead of me.

The yellow finish line appeared at the edge of my mind map.

This was my chance!

I collected a boulder of aluminum at the center of my map and shifted right two. He shifted left, bringing us closer together.

Using my map I aimed my arrow at where he would be and released.

When he entered that block my weapon’s energy blasted him. Instead of him dying, the area 3 squares around the fairy turned into glass.

It didn’t matter because he stilled as if trapped in the glass while I continued down and shattered the yellow finish line.

I grinned so wide my mouth hurt. For the first time in too long, I’d actually won!

My body swayed from side to side and I moved my arms like I churned butter. I couldn’t help myself.

With a glower, Phenic broke the glass blocks and lowered into the end room. “You actually won. When did you figure it out?”

“About 25 races ago.”

“And you kept it to yourself the whole time?”

“What was it you said, ‘Why reveal all your cards when the game is still on?’”

“Close enough.”

We teleported to the top of the room. A wind deposited us outside where the three chests sat like three beautiful Christmas gifts.

“Now you have a choice. A weapon, a new pickaxe or knowledge.”

“Knowledge.”

“Are you sure? With what’s waiting for you next I highly recommend you upgrade your weapon.”

“Knowledge.”

He sniffed disdainfully. “Have it your way.”

Phenic, the weapon chest, and the pickaxe chest disappeared.

“Hey!” I yelled into the echoing room. “Didn’t you want to talk after? Also, what was that glass thing?”

Only silence answered me.

I opened the chest instead. A book flew out and zoomed into my inventory. Its title appeared in my mind, An Introduction to The Garden of 1000 Kindnesses, Basic Magic Casting and the Realm Under the Hill.

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A note from DragonOfRochester

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story! 

I admit that I could have been more speedy with this release. I completely blame the combination of listening to the audiobook, Hero of Thera by Eric Nylund while playing Skyrim.

Also, you can follow me on Twitter @RochesterDragon and on Facebook


About the author

DragonOfRochester

Bio: Rochester has a degree in Videogame Art and Design and 8 years of industry experience. She challenged herself to write a LitRPG with a nonstandard game type and post the result here.

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