“The pain…” Vainqueur’s chief of staff complained as Brandon Maure gored him through the chest with his blade, before smirking. “Thanks.”
The Demon King raised his head. “Indeed, there is no greater pleasure than dying by the blade of Brandon—”
“No, thanks for getting close…” The minion grabbed Maure with his free hand. “Black Curse!”
A black aura surrounded Brandon Maure, instantly draining him of his vibrancy and strength.
All of Brandon Maure’s enhancements have been removed, and all his stats reduced by one stage!
Brandon Maure can no longer recover HP while [Black Curse] remains active!
Enraged, and only able to use physical attacks, Vainqueur raised a fist and lunged to hit Brandon Maure with a roar. The moth moved to dodge but reacted slower than before; he couldn’t run away this time.
"NO TOUCHING MY HOARD!"
And so Vainqueur punched him.
The dragon's enormous fist hit Brandon Maure with such furious strength, that it made the arena tremble and caused a blast of wind on impact. The sheer might of the blow shattered the bones in the fiend's body, and sent him flying. Maure went through the flames, the arena’s wall, and then through the stands without stopping.
An entire part of the arena collapsed after the blow, Manling Victor watching on with a terrified look.
Vainqueur, meanwhile, managed to calm himself upon realizing what happened.
“I hit him!” the dragon gloated. “I finally hit the moth!”
You punched Brandon in the face! By punching a major demon lord into temporarily ‘retreating’, you gained a level in [Gladiator] and a level in [Kaiser]!
+60 HP, +3 STR, +1 VIT, +1 SKI, +1 AGI, +1 INT, +2 CHA, +2 LCK
You earned the [Victory Fist] and [Summon Herald (Victor Dalton)] class Perks.
[Victory Fist]: You gain advanced proficiency in unarmed combat; your physical attacks can now harm even intangible opponents as if they were tangible.
[Summon Herald (Victor Dalton)]: At will, you can summon your monster herald and trusty chief of staff Victor to your side; this is a teleportation effect. If an effect should prevent teleportation, you can ignore it with a successful Charisma Check.
Warning: You have reached the level 30 class ceiling. You will no longer be able to gain additional levels until you use a [Crest]. You can still gain perks through special deeds, but your experience gains are set to zero.
“Later, minion.” The notification said, ‘temporary retreating,’ and he hadn’t regained his rightful Emperor title. “The moth yet lives!”
“Yeah, I figured it wouldn’t be easy…” Victor glanced around the arena, a hand on his bleeding chest and using the scythe to stand up straight, his eyes settling on the crystals. “The princesses…”
“These fairy crystals curse on touch with their magic,” Vainqueur explained, the fomors having fashioned that damn spell to annoy the dragon race. He grabbed back his princess bag and activated his now favorite perk. “[Spell Purge].”
|Charisma Check partially successful! [Fairy Crystal] weakened by [Spell Purge]!|
He smelled Knight Kia and her flying cattle coming, circling the arena. Her griffin was burned around the wings. “You have Merveille?” the knight asked. “Good, let’s use the Agarthan Warp Stone and get away, quick!”
Get away? From whom? “Not without my Crest, the moth's head, and a tribute of cattle, Knight Kia.”
“Have you destroyed the plane?” Victor asked her.
“I damaged a wing, but that woman… she’s an archmage of some sort and she packs a punch. Then Brandon Maure teleported there and ordered the plane launched! They staffed it with an army!” Noticing Manling Victor’s wound, she cast a spell on him at once, “[Greater Healing].”
A golden light enveloped his chief of staff, the chest wound closing. Victor let out a sigh of relief, and so did his master; he had worried his chief of staff would die from the blood loss like his fragile kind usually did.
Still furious, Vainqueur prepared to take flight and hunt the moth when the stench of fairykind filled his nostrils. Flying through sorcery like Furibon, that woman, Melodieuse, descended from the skies, glaring down at them.
“I tire of you, Claimed,” the fomor said to the manlings, before turning her attention to Vainqueur. “Leave, dragon. You have no business interfering. Take your slaves with you, and I will order the princeling to let you rule Murmurin unchallenged.”
The dragon finally recognized the smell. The fomor Mag Mell’s. Was she that fairy in disguise, or another of its spawns? No matter. “I fear no one, and especially not a grass-eater! Go back to your forest, fairy!”
“Then perish. [Call the Hunt].” A torrent of purple smoke surrounded the fairy, and four monstrous, elephant-sized black hounds made of dark shadows materialized around her. The creatures let out roars as they landed among the arena’s ruins, charging at the dragon and Manling Victor.
Fairy hounds. Warbeasts the fomors once created to fight dragons, and whom Vainqueur slew by the dozens in his younger days.
The first of them lunged at the dragon, who backhanded it away against the very last of the arena’s walls with his free hand, collapsing it on the abomination. Much to Vainqueur’s astonishment, his body reacted on its own, finding more entertaining, better ways to punch and poke the beasts as they came into range.
One of the beasts attacked Manling Victor, who blocked the jaws with his scythe before they could snap him in half. Knight Kia immediately rushed to help him, summoning her Solar Judgment on the creature; a beam of light hit the fairy hound in the back, vaporizing half of its body.
The fomor engaged Knight Kia in an aerial battle, raining down fiery stones and sharp spears of ice while the flyer dodged every one of them. The knight quickly closed the gap between them and tried to slash the creature in half, only for Melodieuse to quickly catch the sword with her hand, not bulging.
“[Darkest Fe—]” Melodieuse summoned a spell, only for Knight Kia to punch her in the face with her free hand. It didn’t harm the fairy, but it did distract her enough for the knight to free her sword and put back distance between them.
“She is delaying us!” Knight Kia shouted, before invocating Solar Judgment on the fomor, blasting her with light. Vainqueur heard a deep, powerful sound approaching. “Use the stone!”
Never! A true dragon does not run, because he cannot die!
Vainqueur ignored her, as one of the hounds he poked to death collapsed into smoke, leaving behind a pile of gold. The dragon immediately pulverized a second one with a fireball, eager for more treasure. “Minion!” he called to Manling Victor, who had managed to fend off his own opponent with his scythe. “Quick, grab my gold!”
“Your Majesty, I think we should listen to Kia!”
“Minion, a true Emperor does not run!” Vainqueur replied as he finished off the last of the fairy hounds with a stomp, and a cloud’s shadow began to cover the area. “What should I fear?”
Manling Victor raised a finger at the skies, Vainqueur following it.
The giant metal bird flew high above the arena, casting it in its immense shadow. Strange, spear-shaped iron talons pointed at them, while the left wing let out some smoke. “Vainqueur!” The voice of the moth elf came from the iron bird, the dragon noticing him through the beast’s window eye. “You have slighted Brandon Maure long enough!”
Sweet, the moth had come back to die. “I will slight you as long as you do not recognize me by my title!” the dragon roared, extending his wings proudly…
Then a magical circle appeared beneath Vainqueur’s feet. “What is this?” he wondered, glaring at the fomor witch in case she intended to attack with it.
“Death,” the fomor witch replied, dusting off her burnt robes before vanishing with a veil of darkness. One of the spear talons fell from the bird, then flew straight at Vainqueur, propelled by strong winds.
“Vainqueur, Victor, flee!” Knight Kia immediately grabbed a stone from under her armor with her free hand, vanishing alongside the griffon.
“Holy sh—” Manling Victor immediately ducked behind his master, who also put the princess bag behind him for safekeeping.
Before Vainqueur could react, the spear hit him in the face, detonating on contact with a blast of sharp, blinding light; the explosion unleashed a blast of compressed wind in all directions, blowing off stones, dusting the flames, and making the dragon collapse to the side.
His entire body itched.
You have taken massive damage from the Wind Spear! Critical health, [Dizzy] ailment!
You are below a fourth of your health!
[Bravo Bull] activated!
“He survived?” The moth sounded very angry above. “How the Heaven did he survive a weapon made for castles?!"
"I am..." Vainqueur forgot his next words, stumbling on his boast, "Unforgettable..."
Four, maybe five more magical circles appeared below Vainqueur, and more spear talons fell from the iron eagle.
“Okay, we’re done!” Manling Victor said, whom Vainqueur’s body had shielded alongside the princess bag. “Hoard, hoard, hoard!”
As the spears flew towards them, the world changed; in the blink of an eye, Vainqueur was back in his hoard, surrounded by his precious jewels and coins.
“It worked.” Victor collapsed on the gold, and for once, Vainqueur did not complain about him touching his hoard. He was too exhausted to chastise him. The Agarthan Warp Stone in his chief of staff’s hand turned to dust. “By the gods, that was close...”
“I’m not feeling well…” Vainqueur collapsed on his hoard, the warmth of the gold soothing him. His eyes moved to the princess bag, damaged but the content intact, his eyelids falling… “I’m not… I’m not well…”
“We almost died, your Majesty,” Manling Victor said something stupid. “I would settle on feeling not well rather than dead.”
“Nonsense, death is… death is a birth defect… only mammals suffer from it, like pain…”
But he did feel pain. If Vainqueur could suffer, then… maybe he could die too?
No. No, it was impossible. Vainqueur was the biggest and strongest of his kind. He could not suffer from a disability, unless every other dragon had it.
The horrible truth dawned upon Vainqueur, like a revelation from the Elder Wyrm itself. The darkest possible conspiracy theory among dragonkind, proven!
Death was not a disability!
|Congratulations! For figuring out that yes, dragons are mortal, you earned +1 INT point.|
His chief of staff glanced back in silence, and Vainqueur twitched.
Victor collapsed on his bed with his clothes on, more tired than ever. That plan did not work. At all.
They almost died!
Vainqueur almost died. Vainqueur! Brandon Maure was alive and vengeful, his magitech plane functional. If they hadn’t pissed him enough to develop a grudge, then taking his princesses and punching him did.
He had to prepare Murmurin for war because his gut told him Maure would make that promised detour to bomb the region, and very soon. He had ordered the Kobold Rangers and Jules to sound the alarm at the first sign of a giant bird in the skies, and he hoped Kia would warn Gardemagne.
“No one can save you,” Furibon taunted him from within his weapon. “You can no longer take levels, and my master commands the most powerful weapon in the world. You shall all die, so very soon.”
As his mind worked furiously on methods to protect his charges, Furibon’s words made Victor turn to the lich’s soul. “You can help.”
“Even if we can’t level up without Crests, I can learn Necromancy spells, and Vainqueur can learn Exorcisms,” Victor pointed out. “You’re an archmage, you must know many of them.” He would also ask Jules for training tips.
“Teaching you and that dragon magic? Never!”
Annoyed, Victor shook the scythe like a dog with a treat, Furibon’s soul hitting the blade’s limits while he did, much to his annoyance. “This will not—” The adventurer swung harder. “Okay, okay, stop swinging me! Only you! I do not know any Exorcisms, and I do not want to be around that dragon!”
Good. Victor gave the lich a respite. “We begin tomorrow,” he said, his eyelids heavy.
Before he could sleep, a bright, soothing light lit up in the room. Victor immediately raised his head, worrying Maure had teleported an assassin to him.
Instead, he found an angel at his bedside.
“Mister Dalton,” the heavenly beauty said, her voice soothing him. The creature took the shape of a blonde, eerily beautiful woman, with shining green eyes, large silver wings, and a magnificent white dress. “I am the angel Miel. I have come to save your soul.”
“Am… am I dying?” Victor asked, horrified. Was Maure’s blade wound cursed?
“No, but you almost did,” the angel replied. “Every year, hundreds of thousands of neutral-aligned, unclaimed mortal souls end up in Hell by accident. You escaped once, but you may not be so lucky next time.”
“Are you saying I will go to Hell if I die now?” The angel nodded. Victor would have loved to say he was surprised, but after everything he did, it didn’t. “But I’ve been Claimed by two gods, shouldn’t I go to them after death?”
Not that he wanted to go to Dice, but he could settle for the Moon Man.
“You do not worship them, and those deities are chaotic,” the angel replied. “You will find no salvation with them. No, Mister Dalton. The only way to avoid damnation is to take the proper Karma Insurance. It is not too late for you.”
Oh, come on.
“By insuring your karma, giving us some of your Special Points every month and all of them when you die, you can avoid eternal torment,” the angel continued her sales pitch. “Please consider taking our ‘Hellfire Protection Plan’, or else you will be tortured forever when you die. We angels care about your safety.”
“Or at least you care about my SP.” Victor squinted at her.
“We use them to send guardian angels to orphans and heal the sick,” the angel defended herself. “If you do not give us SP, you are committing a sin.”
Was she trying to guilt-trip him? Victor started to understand what Malfy had said by angels having killer marketing. Then again… “What are your insurance plans?”
The angel blinked. “You are interested?”
“What, wasn’t it the point to sell them to me?”
“You are my first client, and the higher-ups said you were a very difficult case.” She smiled at him, like a telemarketer. “They think Redemption Chasing is a dirty job, and that you would never see the light.”
Had he such a terrible reputation upstairs? “Look, I already have very pushy offers from below, so give me a rundown.”
“Yes. First, we have the ‘Halo Health Insur—”
In a blink, Victor landed in Vainqueur’s vault, his back against the gold and the angel nowhere to be found.
“Ah, minion.” Vainqueur glanced down at the surprised Victor. The dragon pointed at the crystalized princesses, whom he had put atop his hoard like candles. “First, I cannot break these crystals no matter how hard I punch them. Find a way to free my princesses.”
“H-how did you teleport me there?”
“I summoned you,” Vainqueur replied as if the answer was obvious.
“You can do that? How?”
“I call ‘Minion’ and you show up,” the dragon replied, as a matter of fact. “Now, anytime I need you, I no longer have to find you. You can fulfill my requests without wasting time.”
As the implications dawned on him, Victor wanted to scream, but his voice died in his throat.
“Secondly, after much thinking, I have come to accept that,” Vainqueur seemed to practically force himself to speak the next words, “that death is not a birth defect.”
“Yes, Your Majesty, death comes to all of us,” Victor replied to Vainqueur, unsure what to make of the dragon’s reaction. He had said it with the solemnity of someone discovering the Earth hadn’t been flat all along. “Except maybe the gods.”
‘They can,’ Furibon replied from within the scythe.‘They just do not stay dead. How do you think someone had the idea of lichdom?’
Better not mention that idea. A dracolich would solve the meat problem, but also cause new, bigger problems.
“Which makes reaching level 100 all the more important,” Vainqueur declared. “You will find two Crests, so that I may blow up that giant bird, eat that grasshopper, and never die.”
“Two Crests?” Victor frowned.
“Yes, for the two of us,” Vainqueur clarified, his tone similar to one talking to a stupid child. “Minion Victor, I told you to become immortal. Do not make me repeat myself.”
Victor would still take the angel insurance.
Just in case.