I admit that I thought the room would contain Nenvari so when I stepped into it and saw the three chests with three familiar faces behind them I stumbled to a stop.
Meeks, Phenic, and Korren waited for me.
Above me, the last line turned into concrete trapping me in the boss room.
I cleared my throat. “Aren’t you all supposed to be fighting up there? Is it done already?”
“I can’t believe she still hasn’t figured it out,” Phenic said.
“Figured what out? Are you guys hiding a secret from me?”
“It’s not exactly a secret, Miss,” Meeks said. “We just don't always explain to others that we’re not fully here.”
“Technically,” Korren said, “we’re temporary clones created to protect the floor and the miners.”
“So your real bodies are still up there fighting?”
Phenic flicked the tip of his nose. “Our real bodies are safe in the break room having lunch.”
Korren crossed her arms and raised a brow at him. “Although, when we saw the infiltration team nearly reach the heart I had to step out to shut down the mine. With it down they can’t fully kill it.”
“Which I still say was unnecessary,” Phenic said. “If we’d all stepped out, we could have taken care of them.”
“Obviously, we couldn’t risk that!”
“Guys! I’m glad you’re all safe, but what are you doing here?”
Meeks smiled. “We’re here to give you one last gift before you fight Prince Nenvari.”
“Three gifts to be exact,” Korren said and lifted the lid of her chest. A new bow flew out. It was made entirely from Cold Steel and pulsed with magic.
My eyes grew wide. “I thought Cold Steel wasn’t good for bows?”
Korren grinned. “Usually it isn’t, but I know a good artificer or two. It also helped that I made quite a bit of money off those treasures you found in the jadinfray caves.” She made a give me motion. I flew over and handed her my weapon. With a gesture, she had each bow rise and spiral towards each other. A bright light stung my eyes, and I turned away. When I peered back, they had merged into one. This new bow shimmered with a bright light and flew toward me. I gripped its surface and felt metal beneath the brightness. It warmed my hand. Magic vibrated under my fingertips.
“This should make your arrows extra deadly when you shoot them at Prince Nenvari.”
“Thank you!” I put my bow away and hugged her tightly. “I’m going to miss you.”
When I stepped back, I saw her lower lip tremble a little and her eyes water. She blinked rapidly and cleared her throat. “I’ll miss you too, Kelly.”
Phenic coughed, and I turned to him. “So, I noticed that you managed to win our bet, after all.”
I grinned. “I sure did!”
He tossed over an inventory cube that held 700 Crystals. I quickly transferred them over and threw it back.
“Since you won’t see me again, you should probably ask your three questions now.”
In my rush to get down here, I’d almost forgotten about those! Plus I had to ask them in a non-questioning question.
“Um, I get the feeling that Princess Yoishay will make a good bargaining chip to force Nenvari to change our deal.”
“Should you phrase it in such a way that makes him have to change the challenge or have something worse happen, then there is a large chance you could.”
I nodded. “I’m looking for ideas on how I can defeat him.”
He chuckled. “When facing a superior enemy, the only chance an inferior can succeed is if they use surprise to their advantage.”
I scowled. Even I could figure out something like that. I couldn’t think of what else to ask him, so I grinned.
“It would be good to know if you’ll miss me.”
“Miss Kelly Knight. You have brought a significant amount of frustration to my life in such a short time. But you’ve also brought humor. Yes. I will miss you.”
He coughed, his shoulders tensed and he blushed brightly. He flew down to rest a hand on the treasure chest.
“I know I don’t usually handle your pickaxe upgrades, but I was able to get you this.”
The lid opened. A gorgeous pickaxe with Irish knots carved into it appeared. It flew towards my bow and disappeared into it. I willed the pickaxe to show so I could take a better look at its intricate design.
“Despite what I’ve said. You’ve helped me win quite a few bets. This is thanks for that.”
“Wait. My durability hasn’t gone up at all.”
His cheeks turned a darker shade of purple. “That’s because this will give you the ability to spend 5 durability to destroy boulders.” He harrumphed and crossed his arms.
With a broad smile, I gently hugged him. His tiny arms wrapped around my neck briefly before he said, “Do stop clinging to me.”
I let go. “Thank you! I do believe I’ll miss you too, you cranky old man.”
He snorted and looked away.
I turned to Meeks who wore a sheepish smile. “Ye’ll have to open this gift yerself when we’re gone. Ye see, Miss, I managed to find a lost memory that should shed some light on the real situation.”
“It’s a memory stolen from Nenvari.”
“How did you find it?”
He winked. “An old miner still has connections.”
“Will it help me defeat him?”
“That depends on how ye use it. Either way, it’s too dangerous for us to see, so this is goodbye. I hope I never see ye down here again.”
I bit my lip, and a tear made its way down my cheek. I flew over and hugged the dusty miner. “I’ll miss you and your dumb romance novels.”
“I’ll miss ye too. Be good, Kelly.” He hugged me back and then all three disappeared. I wiped the wetness from my face and sniffed.
This was it. From this point forward I was entirely by myself. No Mr. Black, no Korren, no Phenic and no Meeks. But I had their lessons. Hopefully, that would get me through this.
I opened the last chest.