“Are we there yet?” Vainqueur asked for the hundredth time, as they flew over yet another stinking human village.
“Nope, sorry,” manling Victor replied, his eyes set on the map he struggled to keep pace with the wind. “Ogron was last seen near Haudemer, and this is Pointin.”
“How do you know?” Vainqueur lambasted his minion guide. They had flown all the way across the land, almost reaching the western sea; yet missed the target. “All of your dirty villages look the same!”
“Oh, Your Majesty, I believe the next one will be the right one.”
“And how so?”
“Because of the fires, Your Majesty.”
Indeed, a column of fire rose from the west, on the coast. Vainqueur squinted, noticing a small city under assault by a large group of manlings.
Vainqueur approached the city and circled it from above to take a good view of it and the nearby beaches. It was larger than the villages they had visited, with stone houses and a wooden extension leading into the sea itself; a port welcomed a dozen floating buildings the manlings called ships. Quite a few of the inhabitants hastily tried to board them.
A large group of manlings, around eighty, attacked the city from the north, axemen slaughtering people like pigs while bowmen set the roofs of nearby buildings on fire. Dozens of corpses littered the stony ground, while defenders used carts as improved barricades to slow down the invaders’ progress.
A monstrous, fifteen-foot tall cyclops led the manling attackers, swinging a large two-handed axe which cut soldiers in half with each blow. Arrows and spears bounced off his thick green skin, as he tossed carts away with every step.
Incensed at them not stopping to marvel at his arrival, Vainqueur let out a mighty roar from above, and it did the trick. Everyone looked up at him, freezing at his crimson majesty, their faces draining of colors.
“A dragon!” one of the defenders shouted on the ground. “Ogron has a dragon!”
“Ogron? Aha, finally!” Vainqueur chuckled. “Minion, on whom do I land?”
“The attackers, Your Majesty.”
Vainqueur descended in the streets below, the manlings fleeing at his sight; but not fast enough. His landing blew away nearby houses and crushed half a dozen latecomers.
Only the cyclops hadn’t run, glaring at his men with its single eye. “Cowards! Dragons aren’t scary!” he shouted at them.
“Of course not, they are amazing,” Vainqueur replied, releasing his minion on the ground. The defenders cowered behind the barricades, unsure how to take this turn of events. “Which of you is Ogron the Ogre?”
The cyclops struck the ground with his axe, pulverizing stones and making the street tremble. “I am!”
Vainqueur looked at the cyclops, then burst out laughing, the one-eyed meat responding with a glare. “No seriously, which of you is Ogron?”
“Your Majesty, this is Ogron,” the minion said.
“Minion, this is a cyclops, not an ogre. Ogres have two eyes.”
“Yeah, I know, but that’s Ogron the Ogre anyway. I’ve seen his poster.”
“You goddamn righ’,” the one-eyed ogre said with rising frustration. “Ain’t no other Ogron! I traveled to this country to figh’ and make war for Gardemagne! I bled dry, and instead of gold, the king gave me a dirt poor farm! Ogron ain’t no farmer, he is a warrior! Ogron will not stop until—”
Vainqueur zoned out at that point, too confused by the eye paradox. All he could notice were isolated blabbering, “Ogron, Ogron, Ogron, pirate! Blah blah, flee the country! Ogrongron, knights!”
“—and that is why Ogron will sail these boats!”
“Minion, if he is a cyclops and not an ogre, why is he called Ogron the Ogre?” Vainqueur ignored the one-eyed ogre. “It doesn’t make sense!”
“Ogron is called Ogron the ogre because...” the cyclops said with a low growl, swinging his axe with impatience and showing his bloodied teeth. “Ogron eats people.”
“You too?” Vainqueur looked at the cyclops with a new, fresh gaze. He was just fat enough around the angles, with plenty of meat…
The cyclops let out a roar, raising his axe to swing it at Vainqueur. “You die—”
Vainqueur took a bit out of the giant’s upper torso, swallowing a third of the corpse in one go. He sprayed blood all over his mouth, too ravenous to care. Everyone looked at Vainqueur as he digested the cyclops’ eye and head, the manlings having all turned pale for some reason.
“Minhion, shyclopsh tashte like shalty pihg!” Vainqueur chewed on the giant’s flesh, finding the taste too sweet to stop with one bite. “Sho good! I wansh more!”
“What about some human bandit snack to go with the taste?” Manling Victor suggested, pointing a finger at the cyclops’ pale followers.
They looked a bit too sick now, but Vainqueur approached his muzzle to smell them closer; at least one of the archers had soiled himself, so the dragon made a face. The bandits panicked at his approach, running away from him screaming.
Vainqueur wondered if he should pursue them, then decided he would rather eat the rest of the cyclops than run. He absentmindedly grabbed a large chunk of a house’s stone wall, and tossed it at the fleeing manlings, crushing many of them like insects. The others sped up even faster after that, and Vainqueur returned to his meal.
He ate the rest of the one-eyed ogre with two more bites and let out a belch.
You gained a level in [Noble]! +1 STR, +1 VIT, +1 CHA, +1 LCK! You earned the Class Perk: [Snobbery]!
[Snobbery]: your attacks inflict five percent more damage on non-noble targets, and you receive five percent less damage from non-noble assaillants.
“Minion, I leveled up!”
“Sweet, how many stat points did you win?”
“Four, minion,” Vainqueur replied proudly, before realizing he had no idea what that meant. “Minion, where do stat points go?”
“You can check your class and stats by saying ‘Menu’ out loud.”
“Your Majesty didn’t notice?”
“Of course I noticed,” Vainqueur spared the minion’s feelings. “I always noticed. I was just testing your knowledge. And you have passed.”
“Truly an honor,” the minion replied with gratitude.
“Menu!” Vainqueur said, the word making hungrier than the ogre. A series of words appeared out of nowhere in front of him.
Level: 3 (Noble 3)
V&V? Double Vainqueur!
A heavy silence had fallen on the area, and Vainqueur realized the manlings defenders looked at him with open eyes.
“Minion, the ambiance feels too heavy,” the dragon said. “Sing my praise to cheer it up.”
Manling Victor immediately raised a fist. “Vainqueur, best dragon!” He turned to the silent manlings behind the barricades, raising his other hand to encourage them, “Vainqueur, best dragon!”
“Vainqueur, best dragon!” a urine-smelling man said. Eventually, the other manlings joined in.
“Vainqueur, best dragon!” “Vainqueur, best dragon!” “Vainqueur, best dragon!”
Much better. “Thank you, thank you, I deserved it,” Vainqueur said, licking the blood on his lips. “I, Vainqueur, am an adventurer coming to rescue you! See the plate? See the lead plate? Now bring me your cattle!”
They fed him only a cow and two pigs, which disappointed Vainqueur slightly, but he was too full from the cyclops to complain.
Vainqueur had made his nest on the beach next to the city, resting on the warm sand as he digested his meal. Even if he had saved the city, he noticed quite a few ships leaving it regardless, fleeing as far away from him as possible. The dragon ignored them and toyed with this ‘menu’ power.
“Menu,” he said, the words appearing, before saying it again. “Menu.” The words disappeared. He did again, finding the process strangely addictive.
After five minutes of playing, Vainqueur noticed the minion returning with two other manlings, one female—not a princess—and the other male. The former was an adult with large mammaries, long blonde hair and that strange clothing the manlings called a dress; the other was an old, frail male with a grey beard and a hat, but otherwise perfectly plain.
Vainqueur still had trouble telling one monkey from another. They all looked the same at first glance.
“Your Majesty,” minion Victor said. “This is the mayor of Haudemer, and its innkeeper, Miss Lynette, and the village’s Class Scholar, Henry Bright. I briefed them on your career choice.”
“Your Majesty Vainqueur, on behalf of Haudemer,” the female manling said, bowing deeply, “As thanks for saving the city, allow me to grant you the city’s highest honors, the keys to—”
“Where is my money?” Vainqueur cut her off.
“Already covered, Your Majesty,” Victor replied, while the female remained speechless from the blunt rebuke. “The local guildhall reported your deed to the Duchess, who will send men at arms to deliver the reward soon.”
The mayor coughed. “Please allow me to offer you free lodging at my inn for a week, free of charge. It would be a pleasure to have you around.”
“Is there a lava bath?” Vainqueur asked.
“A lava…” the female frowned. “No, Your Majesty, no, we do not have a lava bath.”
No lava bath as a basic accommodation? They truly were backward peasants. “I will sleep on your hot sand, but my minion probably does not have my quality standards.”
The female made a strange face, while the minion concurred, “Certainly not, Your Majesty. I will be sure to enjoy a good, warm bed.”
Vainqueur brushed the matter off, focusing on that Class Scholar, who began to speak up. “Great Vainqueur, your friend Victor told me your majesty needed advice on the class system—”
“Majesty, with a capital M,” Vainqueur corrected him. “Also, what is a friend? Some kind of minion?”
Henry blinked. “How can you… does Your Majesty have the [Super Senses] perk?”
Vainqueur checked his menu, noticing it among his ‘personal perks.’ “Ah, yes, I do. How do you know?”
“It’s a Perk common among highly perceptive species, such as beastkins.”
“Henry is our city’s class expert, advising us on how to develop our career, stats, and perks,” Lynette told the dragon. “Although I didn’t know a dragon could get one.”
“Me neither!” Henry exclaimed, “This a new discovery! I couldn’t wait to discuss with Your Majesty about it!”
“Me too,” Vainqueur nodded. “Now, what is this system exactly?”
“It’s a powerful supernatural system unlocked by the god Dice during his first rolling spree, back when it was still a sentient dice artifact,” Henry explained, already losing Vainqueur’s attention. “Classes represent powerful roles, which grant us immense powers when we tap into them.”
“Are you sure dragons did not create it?” Vainqueur pointed the obvious hole in his logic.
“Your Majesty, historical research show the class system appeared with Dice, who is the very first recorded instance of an intelligent being gaining a level in a class. Even if Dice never claimed to have created it, evidence shows that it activated it first.”
“So you have no proof dragons did not create the system first,” Vainqueur replied.
“Er, yes, maybe, but this would go against every research we ever did, all species combined.”
“So this is a dragon-created system to grow stronger and richer, I get it,” Vainqueur said, minion Victor putting his hand on his face for some reason. “Now, manling Henry, I want to get more levels in Noble.”
“Are you sure?” the manling sounded confused, “The noble class is a hit or miss, with either situational ones like [Aristoradar], which help sense true or false nobles, or strong ones, such as [Stipend], which grants money every month.”
“Free money?” Vainqueur’s head perked up, the sudden gesture startling the manling trio, “When?!”
“Noble level nine!” the scholar cowered.
“And then? I gain diamonds at eleven? Tell me!”
“None of the other perks of the noble class increase money gains,” Henry continued, trembling under the dragon’s gaze, before adding hurriedly. “But there are very good perks, like [Privilege], which allows you to ignore one attack a day.”
“Why would I need it? I already ignore your attacks all the time!”
“That is true indeed,” the minion said.
“What else can make me richer?”
“Merchant,” Victor said with a laugh. “Or Banker.”
“But merchant is a minion’s work!” Vainqueur protested.
“Crafter classes tend to get better material rewards, compared to other classes,” Henry said. “But maybe it would be better if I started from the beginning, please?”
Vainqueur sighed, already bored by the professorial tone. “Go on…”
“Classes are divided into five categories. Fighters, the best at direct combat and warfare; Spellcasters, who gain strong magical abilities; Rogues, who focus on tricks and social perks; Crafters, who create items or empower existing effects; and the rare Monster classes, which are only available through deals with monsters. If Your Majesty wants to get richer, Crafter classes like Alchemist or Merchant would indeed work better.”
“A dragon does not hold a shop,” Vainqueur replied proudly. “What else? How many classes can I get?”
“As many as possible, although one cannot get farther than level 100 in total, everything combined. When a person reaches level 100, they level up into the God class, becoming true deities, but no longer able to grow further. Also, the higher your total level, the harder it is to gain new levels, even if a class’s entry conditions are low. You will need ever greater challenges to reach a new level. I see with my Class Screen perk that you have three levels in Noble, so you could probably level quickly to level nine with a good training regiment.”
“The Scorchers are pressured by knights of the Shining Crusade, adventurers out for their bounty, and men of the King,” Lynette said. “Ogron’s band attacked us to board ships to escape the country, and Haudemer is less defended than other ports. Which means they may return.”
“Good, free experience,” Vainqueur replied. “That way I won’t have to burn fat to chase them.”
“Oh, by the way, I gained a level in Monster Squire when King Vainqueur made me his chief of staff,” Victor butted in the conversation. “Ever heard of it? It might come in handy.”
“Monster Squire?” Henry frowned. “No, I never heard of this class. What kind of perks does it have?”
“Monster Kin, which makes me buddy-buddy with monsters.”
“This may be a monster class,” Henry said. “Monster classes are classes which are usually only available through deals with intelligent monsters or fiends. Somehow, your promotion fulfilled the class’ entry condition. Amazing.”
“Yes, yes, all my minions bask in my brilliance,” Vainqueur said, impatient. “Now, what class can make me rich in a good, dragon way?”
Henry frowned, thinking. “Gamblers have good, balanced stat growth for an unpromoted class,” he finally said. “C in Health Points, C in Special Points, D in strength, D in vitality, A in skill, C in agility, A in intelligence, B in charisma, and, the best for last, S in luck. A jack of all trades with a strong focus on luck, and several useful perks to farm gold.”
“What is this gibberish?” Vainqueur started having a headache. “Unpromoted?”
“Every time Your Majesty gains a level in a class, your stats have a chance to increase according to that class’ stat growth,” the manling continued. “D is a one in four chance, C one in two, B three in four, and with A, you always win a point. S means you always get two points instead of one, and E means you never gain anything. Promoted classes are classes only available if you reach sufficient level in another class, so Gamblers open the path to—”
Boring! “Minion Victor, you are now my official class manager,” Vainqueur said when he couldn’t take it anymore, “This is a very important job, the most important you will ever receive. You deal with this.”
“Me?” manling Victor frowned. “Didn’t you want to learn everything about the system yourself, Your Majesty?”
“I, as a dragon, have too much on my hands to learn every single detail… that is why we dragons have minion laborers do it.”
Lynette and Henry exchanged glances, with Vainqueur tiring of their presence. “Leave,” he said, resting in the sand. “Minion, stay a bit longer.”
The two monkeys left hurriedly, leaving the dragon alone with his favorite audience. “Merchant,” Vainqueur complained. “I am not paid enough for this, minion.”
“What? But it went so well!” the minion tried to cheer him up, “Free lodging, Your Majesty! I even got an anonymous letter from an admirer! With so many single maids in town, maybe I have a shot.”
The manling sighed at Vainqueur’s puzzled look. “A shot at getting laid, Your Majesty.”
“Getting laid?” After some deep thinking, Vainqueur guessed the meaning. “Ah, ah, you want to breed! To put your eggs in a female manling!”
The minion said nothing, then gave him a strange, empty stare. “You had to say it like this,” he complained. “Your Majesty's phrasing ruined it for me.”
“No, no, minion, the problem lays elsewhere,” Vainqueur corrected him, “You will never succeed unless you take a bath.”
“A bath, Your Majesty?”
“Minion, I wanted to spare your feelings before your fellow monkeys, but you stink like beetle dung! You will never breed with that smell!” Manling Victor lowered his head in shame, his master deciding to cheer him up. “Minion, I swear to you as your master, I will do everything in my power to ensure you breed and perpetuate your species.”
The minion’s head sprung up so fast, Vainqueur thought he would snap his neck. “Wait, what, really?”
“Of course I will! That way I can renew my stock of minions within the year.” The minion didn’t get it, so Vainqueur detailed his logic. “If you breed well and your females lay their eggs before winter, then I should have a new tribe of minions available by next summer. No more goblins, all manlings. I will even let you use my cave for a nest if you need it.”
“We humans don’t grow as fast as—Wait, goblins lay eggs?”
“All the time,” Vainqueur nodded. “Manling, I, Vainqueur, order you to take a full bath, for your own good. These peasants have no lava bath, but there’s the sea right next to us.”
“I will settle on a hot bath at the inn, Your Majesty.”
“Then go breed, and sin no more!”