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“Ye look like ye saw a ghost miss,” Meeks said. “Was the jadinfray that terrifying?”

“What?” I said, startled out of my thoughts.

“The black mind-controlling spirit creature that loves holes and small flora,” Korren said.

I stared at her dumbfounded and then I realized she’d just described the tentacle monster. “It’s called a jadinfray? No, don’t answer that. More importantly.” I stood up and walked over to Korren, determined to think of anything else besides Mr. Black. “You have to be the third-floor boss.”

“Third-floor Protector,” she corrected.

Phenic groaned. “Why admit it?”

“Unlike fairies, dark elves do not lie. Besides, knowing in advance can’t give her any more of a head start than she already has thanks to your loss.”

“That’s a low blow for you.”

“Besides,” I said, “it’s pretty obvious that she is. I mean, you and Meeks were the first and second floor bosses, so... duh.”

“The girl has a point,” she said.

I figured it was a long shot but asked anyway, “Can you tell me what kind of test awaits me on your floor?”

“Guess.”

“Wait, guess? Not, 'No?'”

She nodded with a smirk.

“It has something to do with weapons doesn’t it?”

“Correct. And don’t ask about specifics because I can’t answer.”

“Then can you, at least, tell me how to upgrade my weapon so I can defeat a jadinfray?”

“To upgrade your weapon’s damage I need four diamond keys.”

“Stop right there! Are these keys literally made from diamonds? Because that sounds like they’d be worth a small country.”

“What? Diamonds? I suppose they’re worth more than gold but even in your realm they’re not uncommon, just controlled so they appear worth more than they really are.”

“I think I’m going to get a headache.”

“You have a spurious body. Aside from outside forces, your head can’t ache,” she pointed out.

“Okay, I’ll get you your 4 diamond keys.” I turned to Meeks. “From all the mining I did during the boss battle I have ore worth 18,000 coins. How much can I upgrade my durability?”

He scratched his beard causing dust to puff out of it.

“Not as much as ye’d think. Yer next 4 should cost 550, the next 7 I can let ye have fer 800, the 7 after that’ll be 1100, and the 6 beyond that’ll be 1600. To make short work of the math, ye can get 18 upgrades.”

“Wow! I guess that’s what happens when I focus on collecting ore as quickly as possible.”

“Unfortunately, ye’ve reached the point where upgrading is gonna get harder.”

“At 1600 an upgrade, I guess it will. I’ll have to do most of my mining down on the third floor.” I sighed. “I really wish there was some kind of teleport system like we had for the boss room.”

“Sorry, Miss. Miners don’t have anything like that.”

I placed my bow on the table and Meeks took out 18 crystals with 4 different sizes and clarity. They shot into my weapon, one after the other increasing my durability from 164 to 236.

When he finished I turned to Phenic.

“I still have honey to give you in exchange for Crystals. Also,” I held my had out and grinned. “I’m here to collect the first half of my bet.”

He opened a pouch on his belt and several hundred crystals flew out and into my inventory, bringing me up to 515, including the ones I received from destroying or collecting the honey during my time spent in the boss room.

“A pleasure doing business with you,” I said.

He harrumphed and crossed his arms. “I’ll give you another crystal if you can bring me the rainbow feathers from a bird's nest.”

“But I don’t want to hurt the birds. I mean, they’re cute feathery birds.”

“You didn’t have a problem killing spiders or badgers.”

“Spiders are creepy and badgers are mean. They attack me without reason. From what I’ve experienced, the birds are only protecting their nest.”

“I’m not forcing you to kill them.”

“Please give me a different task.”

He sneered at me. “Fine. Kill two jadinfrays.”

“Two!”

“You said you wanted a different task. Take it or leave it.”

“Fine. I’ll take it.”

I walked to my mine and flew down. Part of me urged myself to jump into a mushroom trap or two so I could make sure Mr. Black was okay, but time didn’t matter in the gray. The next time I saw him seconds or decades could have passed to his perspective.

To stop myself from thinking too hard I pressed my ring finger to my thumb and dove in with my goals in mind.

***

I reached the third floor in 20 minutes. Apparently, Phenic’s boss room doubled as a training room for speed-mining. It cost me my armor charge and left me with the low durability of 74/236.

I searched my map for a hole in the wall but couldn’t see one. Below me were two Copper ore next to an energy ball so I moved down and collected those, bringing my tank up to full.

At the edge of my map I could see a TNT crate next to a purple box. I flew down until I was 5 away from the crate. Fortunately, my bow charged as I neared. I shot my arrow at the explosive. A wave of heat and sound hit me.

According to my map the TNT blew up 3 blocks to either side of it but did not touch the diagonals. This included the box that had been below it. A shimmering key flew into my inventory and was listed under the name, “Diamond key.”

I stopped the Death Mind technique and took out the key, my curiosity biting at me to take a peak.

I thought a diamond key would have the same shape as a skeleton key. It did not. The key, if I could call it that, appeared fist-sized, roughly cut, and sparkled with imbued magic.

Some greedy part of me really wanted to keep it, sell it and live off the money earned. I could pay for Matt and I to go to college. We wouldn’t have to work during school either since this would totally pay for it. Of course, it was highly unlikely that I’d be able to keep anything from this realm after I defeated Nenvari, so what was the point of imagining the impossible?

I sighed and checked my map for holes once more. There, at the corner of my map, near the wall, a doorway sat like a Death Saving Crystal goldmine.

After invoking my mental technique I flew towards it, finding several boulders of light resting nearby.

I crept up to the hole and stopped 2 blocks away. The jadinfray crept out of the cavern like a many-fingered hand digging out of a grave.

I floated back several, down 1 then over 1 more so I floated directly under a light boulder.

The creature twisted its arms into its bullet form and shot after me. It had to slow down to fall one. I jumped back just before it reached me, crushing it with the light ball.

I released my mental technique and placed a hand to my pounding chest. That thing was so creepy! If I could, I’d avoid them.

Oddly, I did not get anything from the creature to hand over as proof of its death.

The cave it left behind appeared empty so I drifted into it. The doorway opened into a nearly vacant 3x3 cavern that had 15 yellow mini cubes hovering in the center square.

I touched one and heard a voice in my head.

Looks like your weapon isn’t charged! Want me to charge it?

No! Pick me! One of the other cubes said and spun.

No, me!

I nearly staggered with shock. Here was a way to charge my weapon. They were also semi-intelligent, which was a little disturbing but I could get past that if I tried.

With everything that I’d experienced lately I hadn’t even thought about charging my weapon externally, but it made sense. If these dark fae used weapons like my bow outside the mine, they would have to charge it in a way that didn’t require kinetic energy. These jiggly boxes were the answer.

I collected all fifteen and left the cavern, determined to check with Korren about their use and how to purchase more.

Unfortunately, I was so distracted by my thoughts that I ran right into a pair of slithering vines that wrapped around my legs and waist.

I used my will to jerk out of their grasp but ten more vines shot out, bound my limbs together and pulled me towards a rotten smelling flower.

You are—

“No.”

The jagged fangs slit my skin sending my blood down its pitcher. Screams tore from my throat. Pain. Blackness.

The gray world chilled my skin and a cloaked figure with a scythe stood before me. This reaper had a feminine silhouette and wielded a scythe with a powerful and streamlined form.

I clenched a fist to calm the rage that burned within me.

“Where is Mr. Black?”

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A note from DragonOfRochester

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story! This was the hardest chapter I’ve had to write in a long time. Not because of the content, but because I was so very sick when I wrote it. Fortunately, I’m feeling a little better today so hopefully, I was able to do an okay editing job on it. 

This chapter's procrastination is brought to you by the audiobooks, Feyroll by Andrey Vasilyev and Chronicles of a Royal Pet: A Princess and an Ooze by Ian Rodgers.

I wrote this chapter while listening to "Barely Breathing" as performed by Duncan Sheik and, "I Just Wanna Run" as performed by The Downtown Fiction.

 


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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