“Wait, wait, don’t kill me, don’t kil—”
Vainqueur poked his hundredth demon in a row, a monstrous rat the size of a manling, crushing it between his claw and the ground below. Like an insect, the creature died without making a sound.
Nothing. No level, and no treasure.
With a growl of disappointment, Vainqueur tossed the corpse on the pile of demon meat which had yet to be turned into undead. “I am out of sheep, Your Majesty,” Chocolatine informed him, who stood next to a second, bigger pile of slain cattle. “Do we move to pigs or children?”
“No,” Vainqueur replied, bored to death. Even his chief of staff had asked for a break after the eightieth, and the dragon started to understand why. He couldn't take the tediousness of the process anymore.
Level grinding was no fun at all.
As if reading his master’s mind, Manling Victor joined them, carrying papers under his arm. “Is Your Majesty done bullying Satan?”
“Minion, I cannot get that eleventh level of [Witch Hunter]!” Vainqueur complained while Chocolatine left to feed some demon corpses to her remaining cattle. “Is the system broken?”
“Your Majesty, I told you, the greater your level, the more you receive an experience penalty to gain a new one. Repeating the same activity over and over by killing weaker opponents is good before level twenty, but afterward, the system rewards fighting opponents who can fight back.”
“So I am stuck at level ten in [Witch Hunter] until I destroy Furibon, who is evil and must be destroyed.”
“Pretty much.” His class manager read the documents Manling Henry had once given him on class progression. “Okay let see your new Perks so far… [Spell Purge]… [Witch Burning], your fire attacks bypass magical resistance and inflict additional holy damage, so your breath should be doubly effective against undead like Furibon. [Lesser Magic Resistance], meaning you can shrug off weaker spells. [Exorcism I] allows you to learn and cast Tier I exorcisms, and [Hunter’s Resolve] gives you a bonus against attempts to control your mind.”
“The Exorcism Perk does nothing,” Vainqueur complained.
“Spells or spell-like effects are organized into tiers of power, from one to ten. You do not gain access to them automatically, though; the Perk only allows the owner to learn and cast them. At this point, Your Majesty is the ultimate anti-magic tank.”
“What is a tank?” It sounded awesome.
“It means nobody hits harder than Your Majesty,” Manling Victor flattered him, before whistling at the pile of treasures Vainqueur obtained from his training. “So the next item on your war agenda is the recruitment of new minions. Is Your Majesty sure they want to deal with it personally? You sounded okay with me recruiting the kobolds on my own.”
“This is different, Minion Victor. We are not hunting weaklings, but Furibon, who is evil and must be destroyed.”
“Is Your Majesty going to repeat that every time they mention him?”
“Yes, minion, because this is war and everyone must know!” Vainqueur sat and observed the line of applicants waiting outside the orchard, mostly kobolds, but also other unique monsters.
“In total,” said Victor, “We have one hundred kobolds applicants. I also ordered Croissant to send us inhabitants with class levels above twenty, which include a troll, a dryad, and a golem. Does that cause His Majesty problems?”
“Minion, I do not discriminate. All creatures are equally inferior to me. I will always fight for the right of everyone to become my emergency food.”
“Your Majesty is truly ahead of their time.”
“Of course, since I am a dragon.” Vainqueur turned to the applicants, clearing his throat to make an announcement. “V&V is more than an adventurer company! You are part of my treasures! Do you shine enough to be part of my hoard? Do you have what it takes to become a true minion?”
“He’s looking at us!” One of the kobolds chirped to the rest of its warren, led by Red.
“Quick, lower your spine in obedience!” Red forced the animal down. “Please excuse my cousin, Your Majesty.”
Ah, yes, minion nepotism. An insidious slippery slope leading to complete lack of discipline. However, since kobolds had been helpful and zealous so far, Vainqueur decided to examine them first. “You will be interviewed as a set,” Vainqueur said, who couldn’t be bothered to check every one of them individually.
“Rangers!” Red called, the Kobold rangers adopting a pose. “After the chief promoted us as minion lieutenants, we gathered every able-bodied kobold we could find!”
“Minion Victor, you promoted them on your own?”
“Uh, yes, I did. Is that a problem?”
“No, no, I am proud of your initiative. You acted like a true chief of staff.” Vainqueur had so many offices to assign. “When I remember the day you begged me to become my minion, back when you were but a purposeless thief adrift, I am amazed by your growth.”
The minion glanced at him with his big eyes. “Your Majesty, that is not how I remember our meeting.”
“Then you know to trust my version, which is now the official one,” Vainqueur focused on the new recruits. “V&V only recruits the best of the best. Are these kobolds battle-tested?”
“Not yet, Your Majesty, so we made them interns,” Blue said. “Unpaid interns.”
“I am so proud,” Manling Victor said.
“Then they will be on probation, and the responsibility of the Kobold Rangers,” Vainqueur agreed. “While they will be too weak to fight Furibon, they can help carry the treasures we find.”
“You heard that?” Black turned to the other kobolds. “You are all interns!”
The kobolds cried in joy, some hugged one another, and one collapsed due to a heart attack. Vainqueur dismissed them. “Next.”
“Next is the dryad and the steel golem. Apparently, they come as a set.”
“No,” Vainqueur decided immediately. “Steel golems are not minion material.”
“What? Your Majesty, why not? They’re super strong!”
“Minion Victor, have you considered the logistic?” Vainqueur chastised his chief of staff. “We cannot eat it if we are out of food.”
“But he could hunt it for us, then!”
Vainqueur frowned. “Only if the dryad is fat enough for two, then.”
The two candidates walked towards Vainqueur. The golem looked like an armored knight two heads taller than the average manling. Its steel armor had rusted, and it wore an old straw hat and a bag of grains. The dryad was like the rest of her kind: a tasty, green-skinned humanoid looking exactly like a manling, with fully black eyes and long black hair. She hid her legs beneath a robe of flowers and vines while leaving the top exposed. Vainqueur found her a bit too thin, but she seemed appetizing.
“You’re olive-skinned,” said the minion, distracted by the female’s mammaries. “Like an actual olive.”
The tasty dryad glared at him. “Do you have something against colored people?”
“No, no, of course not! Some of my best friends have colored scales! It’s just... it’s a fantasy land, I haven’t seen any non-white, non-furry humanoid since I left the United States.”
“United States?” The dryad’s eyes widened in recognition. “Where? New York?”
Minion Victor’s eyes widened. “You too were reincarnated—”
“—in that other world?” she finished the sentence at the same time, both smiling at the other. “Although not as a human. Can’t complain though, this body is way better. I lucked out.”
“Yeah, I heard an unlucky claimed became a slime.” Since the minion seemed familiar with the creature, Vainqueur let him take over the interview. “Where do you come from?”
“Morocco, but I’m half-Spanish on my mom’s side. You’re a ‘Murrican, aren’t ya?”
“Chicago boy all the way.” Minion Victor showed up his sleeve, revealing dice and moon tattoos on his skin. The dryad responded by pointing a mark on the back of her neck, representing a spiral-shaped flower. “Oh, that’s the brand of Cybele right? The sex and fertility goddess?”
“Ah, yes, because that’s the only thing people pay attention to with her. She also the goddess of forest and knowledge, you know? She’s very wise and ancient.”
“Sorry, I’m not too religious. Especially since people here worship a human abducting dice or a tentacled horror. Still, you sound pretty happy with your own claimer.”
“I am. I was gonna die a very dumb death, and this marvelous goddess appears to me and says, ‘Allison, would you like to live again and restore the land?’ How could I refuse?”
“She appeared to you directly instead of just branding and throwing you aside?”
“I’m here to help Rolo with his farming project.” The dryad gave the golem a pat on the back, “He had been praying to Cybele for someone to maintain him while he continues farming, and I was an auto-engineer on Earth. Golems aren’t like cars, but I manage. No more nine to five desk job. Anyway, I renamed myself Lys here, because it sounds cool, but my true name is Allison. You can just call me Al.”
That made too many names. Vainqueur subtracted her some points.
“Enchanted, I’m Victor,” the minion replied while showing his bright teeth to the female. Unfortunately, his desire to breed led him astray. “I thought golems weren’t self-aware?”
“One percent of them wake up with free-will. Rolo is one of those. Since he has a soul, he even has class levels. Sixty-seven, all [Farmer].”
“Really?” Victor blinked. “That’s the highest level [Farmer] I’ve ever met. He has more levels than the Shining Knight!”
“Rolo refuses to take levels in anything but [Farmer],” the dryad clarified. “At least until his goal is realized.”
“I, Rolo, have a dream!” the golem farmer pumped a fist. “To see the red desert green again!”
“So I remembered right, the area used to be greener,” Vainqueur rejoiced.
“It was, before the Sablaris dried out the region,” the golem said, its voice brimming with anger.
“The Sablawhat?” Vainqueur repeated.
“The Sablaris were a dark elf empire ruling most of the southern continent, Ishfania, and Barin,” Alison said. “Cultists of Sablar the destroyer eventually took it over, hence the name; to hasten their patron’s goal of universal entropy, they caused a magical cataclysm that turned their entire empire into a red desert. Brandon Maure, the bastard of a demon lord and a dark elf, then took over the ruins of Ishfania with summoned monsters.”
Vainqueur noticed he could listen to long monologues without being bored now. Was it the result of new intelligence points? “Since you’re from Earth too,” Allison continued. “Did DiCaprio win an academy award at last?”
“Yes, but not for the Wolf of Wall Street.” The dryad seemed disappointed. “I know, I think they gave him a consolation prize after that movie.”
“Maybe I should move to that world’s North America and open a better Hollywood then. That’s unjust.”
“That world’s North America?” the minion picked up.
“You haven’t looked at a full map of the Mistral continent?”
"Only that of Gardemagne's southern regions."
Noticing Manling Victor’s embarrassment, tasty Allison cast a spell, vines growing out of the ground and forming a map with names whom Vainqueur didn’t recognize.
“That looks like a rough map of Europe with the countries’ frontiers all wrooooong…” the minion suddenly left the word hanging, as if reaching a realization. “No way…”
“Outremonde is a magical mirror of Earth,” said Alison, “With pretty big differences. I mean, they have an Atlantis-like island in the Atlantic Ocean, Malta is flying, and the—”
“Minion,” Vainqueur put back the interview on track, “We are here to discuss their future as meat shields, not friendly chit-chat.”
“Yes, yes, Your Majesty. What is your level, Allison?”
“Twenty-four, mostly [Druid] and [Vestal].”
“Nice. You can serve as a healer while we storm the dungeon.”
“Storm the dungeon?” the tasty creature frowned. “As a dryad, I cannot physically leave a mile away from my orchard without dying.”
So she couldn’t leave the village. That settled it. “You are both fired,” Vainqueur immediately ‘congratulated’ the golem-dryad duo.
“You did not employ us,” Alison countered.
“You are still fired. You are no longer emergency food. Now you are just food.”
The two wisely decided not to linger any longer. “Before you go,” Victor asked sweet Alison. “Do you want to have a drink somewhere?”
“Only if it's on you,” she replied while showing her teeth, the vine map vanishing behind her.
The minion watched the two leave while looking at the female’s behind. “Minion,” Vainqueur sighed. “You should ask her to breed and get on with it.”
The minion’s face turned red. “It worked last time, but I think it’s a bit too early there.”
“Minion, if you want to put your eggs in a female, you need to impress her with the size of your hoard. Show her your shiny gold before asking them to breed. Females also do the same to entice males but be sure to check the size of their treasure. You do not want to let paupers take care of your eggs.”
“Does Your Majesty only reproduces with the wealthy?”
“Of course not. Why would I put my eggs in another dragon? More dragons meant more competitions for my hoard later. No, minion, breeding is for creatures like you, who die all the time and must perpetuate their species before it goes extinct.”
Come to think of it, since other dragons meant no more competition for hoards, and he may be paid for killing his kind… Vainqueur pondered the moral problem of hunting his own kind for money, before deciding it would wait for the destruction of Furibon.
“Also, Manling Victor, no breeding harassment between minions, that causes tensions and minion wars.”
“That is why I waited until after you fired her before making a move,” Manling Victor replied, before the next candidate showed up, a tall, lanky green troll with green hide and a tusked, piglike face. “This is Barnabas.”
“A troll?” Vainqueur squinted. “I burned a lot of them recently.”
“I noticed,” the troll replied. “You killed everyone I knew when you destroyed the Woods of Gevaudan. The good thing is, I hated everyone I knew.”
“What is your level, Barnabas?” Manling Victor interrogated him after clearing his throat.
“Twenty-one, [Blacksmith], [Merchant], and [Alchemist]. Mostly [Blacksmith]. I make weapons, don’t wield them.”
“You’re hired,” Vainqueur said immediately. “I promote you to my official armorer. You will work on dragon-sized items at once.”
“Sure, if I can I get new raw materials.” Victor pointed at the pile of items which dropped during Vainqueur’s training. “That will do.”
And so ended the recruitment. “That was fast,” said Victor, as Barnabas immediately went to work.
“That was effective,” replied Vainqueur. “Next?”
“Chocolatine and Croissant, whom you already ‘recruited,’ both have class levels that could help for the dungeon. Chocolatine because we need a healer, and Croissant, because we need a meat shield for the traps and I hate him. I wish we had a decent level spellcaster with us for the raid, but we’ll have to make do with what we have.”
“It will do, minion. It will do.”
Congratulations! For recruiting a vast adventurer company meant to cater to your noble desires, you gained a level in [Noble]!
+30 HP, +10 SP, +1 VIT, +1 AGI, +1 INT, +1 CHA, +1 LCK!
You earned the [Stipend] class perk!
[Stipend]: You gain a monthly stipend of four hundred gold coins multiplied by your total level.
Vainqueur’s eyes widened in pure, unbridled joy, as a huge pile of gold materialized right in front of him with a bright flash of light.
By the elder wyrm, he had waited so long for this moment! Four hundred per level? Once Vainqueur reached level one hundred, that meant forty thousand coins a month, half a million the year! He would swim in a vast ocean of shiny gold and—
“[Transmute Gold to Lead].”
The coins turned to lead with a flash of black magic, causing Vainqueur’s heart to skip a beat. He immediately glanced at the source of the disaster, sitting atop the pile of demon corpses.
Furibon! His bony finger still cackled with his foul sorcery!
“That was for blowing up my library, you dimwit lizard," said the lich, before adopting a taunting tone at Vainqueur's silent hatred, "It is true what they say… silence is golden.”
Furibon insisted so much on the word, Vainqueur was paralyzed by fury.
“Your Majesty,” Victor butted in. “Use [Spell Pur—”
Snarling with rage and reacting before his minion could finish, Vainqueur attempted to smash the lich the dragon way, but the undead teleported away while cackling. Instead, Vainqueur’s hand smashed onto the pile of demons, creating a crater and causing a small quake.
“Holy Hell, Your Majesty’s strength points are showing,” Minion Victor complimented his master, as if it could cheer him up.
“No more waiting, Minion Victor,” Vainqueur declared, his heart set on vengeance. “We raid the dungeon tomorrow!”
He already imagined the treasure that Furibon would drop.
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Bio: I'm a European warlock living in the distant realm known as France, spending half my time writing and the other half managing magical websites. I post Magik Online on my main website and RR both on Wednesday, and Vainqueur the Dragon twice to thrice weekly.