“You are certain, Manling Victor?” Vainqueur asked, upon looking at the strawberry cake, which his lackey had moved in front of the fairy crystals. “This seems like a waste of good food.”
“Positive,” his Doer of the Thing said. “Come on, try.”
“[Lesser Demonbane]!” Vainqueur cast the exorcism spell with his finger, a ray of light hitting the cake. While the food remained unharmed, a dark, crimson aura escaped it, letting out a terrible scream.
You have exorcised: Demon Strawberry Cake.
“It worked, Manling Victor!” His very first spell! “I am a wizard!”
The dragon had spent days in his cave, practicing the spells that Corpseling Jules taught him. Since Vainqueur never bothered to learn how to read manling language, he had the corpseling teach him how to read scrolls and grimoires.
The dragon picked it up very quickly. Vainqueur could have sworn it took him years to learn to speak his minions’ primitive tongue, centuries ago.
“It should work well against Brandon Maure,” his lackey said. “His enhancements make him dangerous, but if Your Majesty hits his demonslayer weakness with exorcisms, they should dispel them.”
“Then I eat him,” Vainqueur nodded in agreement.
“My turn then…” The minion raised his scythe like a staff. “[Death Candle].”
A tiny spirit made of bluish, ghostly flames appeared above the cake, like a candle. It stared at Manling Victor with two yellow spots of eyes without a word. “Nice. I can use the scythe to spellcast. Must be that [Scythe Lord] perk.”
“Minion, my guests cannot eat ghosts,” Vainqueur pointed out, the flame spirit looking at him next. “You should learn to summon demons, like tasty Malfy.”
“One tier at a time, Your Majesty.”
“Have you found a way to break the fairy crystal curse?” Vainqueur asked, looking at his beautiful trapped maidens. “While they make for great decoration, we dragons prefer talking, singing princesses to stuffed ones.”
“Unfortunately, nobody in Murmurin has powerful enough magic to shatter them. Malfy said his company may have the necessary tools, but he must ask his executives. Charlene also informed me King Roland Gardemagne will come personally to, I quote, ‘Recover his niece, meet with the self-proclaimed Emperor of Murmurin, and grant unto him a boon for his service.’ I think he will bring stronger sorcerers with him, maybe Kia.”
“Self-proclaimed nothing!” Vainqueur contested angrily. “I am Emperor!”
|Your [Emperor] Class is no longer recognized.|
|Your [Emperor] Class will be unrecognized until you defeat: Brandon Maure.|
“He already should have,” Manling Victor replied. “Kia must have damaged his flying fortress enough to delay him. I promoted every able-bodied minion I could find, asked everyone to prepare for a siege, bought weapons from Malfy—”
“Bought?” Vainqueur glared at his minion, horrified. His lackey couldn’t be desperate enough to embezzle his treasure!
“With my own money,” Victor reassured his master, although it still shocked the dragon. “All of this to say, I wouldn’t worry about Maure coming. The only question is, when, and with how many soldiers.”
“How many steaks,” the dragon corrected him. Vainqueur almost wished for that moth to come on his Bragging Day, so he could stylishly smash him before his brethren. Almost.
Someone frantically struck the vault’s doorbell, causing Vainqueur and Victor to look at the gate. “Open!” The spells set by his spellcaster minions causing the vault’s door to widen and reveal the Kobold Rangers.
“Birds, Your Majesty!” Red the Kobold said, panicked. “Big birds in the sky!”
“Birds?” Manling Victor panicked. “Maure has a fleet?”
“More than one!” Blue panicked as well. “Half a dozen with great wings and breathing smoke!”
“Minion, those are not iron birds,” Vainqueur clarified, energized. “They are here! Prepare the appetizers!”
Manling Victor started to panic. “But, but, but they should have arrived tomorrow!”
“Ah, yes, I forgot to inform you that, unlike your kind, dragons are smart enough to be early when a feast is involved, so they can eat the best parts ahead of the competition.”
“Is Your Majesty subtly implying my kind is mentally challenged?” Manling Victor tried to defend his kind’s nonexistent honor. “We humans have ten intelligence on average, more than most species.”
Pfft, no way, Vainqueur started at nine.
The average manling started at ten?
“Menu,” Vainqueur spoke up, his voice ice cold. “Show me my original intelligence score, before I gained the Class system.”
|Pre-class INT score: 8.|
“Your Majesty? Why are you twitching? You’re scaring me.”
“Menu,” Vainqueur repeated, this time his voice more ominous. “What is my correct score?”
|Pre-class INT score: 8.|
|Pre-class INT score: Square Root 64.|
“Yes, Your Majesty?”
“Tell the other minions to prepare the snacks. Hurry!” The kobolds scampered off, Vainqueur closing the door’s vault behind them. “Minion Victor, remember what I told you. You shall second all of my boasts, not speak unless addressed by a dragon first, and you will repeat that I am good, smart, and wealthy every time I am mentioned.”
“Your Majesty, I have been meaning to ask, could we please avoid mentioning classes and levels?”
“Minion, I have rediscovered this ancient dragon system,” Vainqueur reminded his Doer of the Thing. “Why wouldn’t I brag about it?”
“Because other dragons will compete with you over treasure if they learn to access it.”
Oh, he was worried about his master’s safety and long-term dominance. Adorable. “Good, that will keep me sharp,” Vainqueur replied, embracing the challenge. “It would do no good for my reputation if I was the strongest of my kind because they are all weak; does anyone boasts about being the best manling? Or the best troll? No, because nobody wants to be the best manling. Everyone wants to be the best dragon because dragons are awesome.”
“But your greed—”
“Minion, while there is nothing greater than my hoard, I will brag fairly. Silence invites accusations of fraud, and I shall prove that I earned my wealth. Finally, without this system, I would not have had the power to cure the curse of the evil Furibon, who had to be destroyed. Other dragons must know in case the lich is ever released from his seal.”
Manling Victor put his hand on his face. “I knew this day would come…”
“Of course, I told you,” Vainqueur replied, before making use of that [Dungeon Owner] Perk of his. With a thought, he teleported atop the highest of his castle’s tower, under the bright sun.
Vainqueur glanced at his territory, finding that his minions had finished refurbishing the castle as he commanded, even adding a stone crown to the tallest tower. Perfect.
“MINION!” Vainqueur summoned his chief of staff at his side, before giving a majestuous roar as his manling almost fell from the tower.
Above, six dragons answered with roars of their own, the flock descending to nest on the various towers’ roofs; the minions staffing the castle stopped briefly to look at them through the windows, and Vainqueur didn’t chastise them for it. Being in his company was already an honor, more of his kind was an overdose to their senses.
His first guests were, as he expected, his close family, among them his favorite cousin, the brown wind dragon Genialissime. A clutch of three dragonlings the size of poneys followed him, the children he had gained custody of after mating with Blightswamp. Each of them was black like their mother, but Vainqueur hoped they had inherited the father’s intellect. He also noticed his niece, the red dragon Jolie, all grown up.
Unfortunately, there was one exception: a white, frost dragon with icicle spikes growing out of his back, smugly staring at Vainqueur with smug blue eyes. “Icefang,” Vainqueur said in the old dragon tongue, glaring at his hated rival. That smug lizard had grown almost as big as the great red dragon. “Still unable to breed?”
“Vainqueur, still poor?” Icefang replied with a jab of his own, flying above the castle without bothering to land, a very foppish manoeuver. “And it is Great King Icefang now!”
“I was never poor!”
“Compared to me, you are!”
“Your hoard is made of silver!” Vainqueur contested, refusing to be upstaged on his big day. “It does not count! It does not shine enough!”
“Wealth knows no limits!” Icefang shouted back. “I hope for you that you can back up your boasts, for I will count every coin!”
“Then you will count until the end of time!”
Besides the natural rivalry between red and frost dragons—since the reds were obviously bigger and wealthier—Icefang had made it his life’s purpose to upstage Vainqueur as the greatest of all dragons, spending all his time while awake gathering a bigger hoard, beautiful princesses, and the finest of minions. He always failed, and a fifty-years nap had only worsened his bitterness.
Vainqueur would show him the true meaning of rich.
“Uncle Vainqueur!” Vainqueur’s niece Jolie landed on a tower near his own. She had grown into a small but elegant red dragon, bigger than an elephant. “Happy Bragging Day!”
“Jolie, you have grown bigger!” Vainqueur saluted his niece, as he did his cousin. “Good to see you too, Genialissime!”
“How could I miss my dear cousin’s Bragging Day?” the wind dragon replied happily, his clutch of dragonlings landing on their father’s back. “Children, I present you your first cousin once removed, Vainqueur Knightsbane. Vainqueur, this is Courageux, Sage, and Fort.”
“Money?” one of the dragonlings, Courageux, asked, with his father’s big eyes.
“How much?” replied his sister Sage, while the third tried to speak the word ‘gold.’
“Oh, they are saying their first words!” Vainqueur rejoiced, Genialissime nodding with paternal pride. "They have your eyes."
“Thank you, but we must discuss an important subject.” Genialissime scowled. "A great enemy is in our midst.”
“The evil Furibon,” Vainqueur replied grimly.
“Your minion messengers told us of the Goldslayer Furibon, and his insane scheme to turn the world's gold to lead,” Icefang said. “Where is he?”
“I defeated Furibon, and my lackey, Victor,” Vainqueur put his hand behind the shy Manling Victor’s back, pushing him at the forefront, “sealed his twisted soul inside his scythe. Manling Victor, show them!”
Manling Victor, anxious at so many dragons looking up at him, raised his weapon, showcasing the dark soul kept within. “Manling Victor does a great service to dragonkind, keeping this depraved lead-lover sealed,” Genialissime declared. “I propose that no dragon eats Manling Victor until he dies fulfilling his sacred duty.”
“For as long as the Evil Furibon remains sealed, I welcome this motion,” Icefang said.
“Uh, thanks…” the manling said, taking a step back as the dragons’ eyes turned intense.
Genialissime whistled. “Vainqueur, your chief of staff can speak and understand dragon?”
“I taught him well,” Vainqueur boasted. He knew Manling Victor would reflect well on him!
“That is because Your Majesty is good, smart, and wealthy,” his lackey confirmed. “Not necessarily in that order.”
“Anyone can teach draconic,” Icefang replied. “Nothing to brag about. The dragon language is pure and simple, even the lesser species can learn it!”
“Are you implying that dragon speech is on the same level as the manlings’ backward language, Icefang?” Genialissime replied, offended. “Teaching a member of the lesser races our complex and noble language demands extraordinary effort, and that primitive humanoid speaks like a native!”
“While I am proud that my unparalleled genius spilled onto my chief of staff, how do you find that less bragworthy than defeating the evil Furibon?” Vainqueur asked, incensed they did not cheer his great victory.
“You cannot boast about it,” Icefang replied. “Since according to your own War of the Hoard, which my own chief of staff found poorly written, by the way, Manling Victor delivered the final blow and sealed the evil Furibon. You could not have destroyed the lich for good on your own, so it does not count.”
“I agree, unfortunately,” said Genialissime. “The boast goes to Manling Victor alone.”
“But he is my minion!” Vainqueur protested. “I chose him, prepared him! When I found him he was but a homeless thief! I made him the best chief of staff in the world!”
“You can boast about your great choice of minion, which is bragworthy, but it would not be fair to claim the death of Furibon as your own, Vainqueur,” Genialissime said. “I am sorry, cousin, I cannot give you full points for this boast.”
“This is an indignity!” Vainqueur replied angrily. “I will not stand by this! Look at the castle I claimed from the lich! See the towers? See the lava?”
“Mmm… seven towers.” Icefang hesitated, even he admiring the architecture. “Good. It is a very good castle.”
“It is the greatest castle in the world, brimming with my dragon majesty! Hundreds of undead minions built it!”
“But can it fly?” Icefang nitpicked, ignored by the others.
“Uncle Vainqueur, you have undead minions?” Jolie blinked in awe.
“Hundreds of them!” Vainqueur boasted, the dragons amazed by this status symbol. “Those I do not eat, I raise!”
“Uh, you eat still minion meat?” Jolie complained, less enthusiastic than before. “Should you brag about it?”
“My niece is a cattletarian,” Vainqueur told his confused chief of staff with a sigh. “She only eats non-speaking animals and cattle.”
He found that dragon movement ridiculous since every creature had the fundamental right to be eaten by him. Discriminating made them no better than manlings.
Also, he had heard that she let her minions ride on her back, which he found socially offending. He hoped that her teenage rebellion phase wouldn’t last another century.
“Manlings and other sentient beings have souls, like us,” Jolie said, most of the other dragons rolling their eyes or snickering. “Yes, eating them and abducting their princesses is morally wrong.”
“Except elves,” Vainqueur told his chief of staff. “Elves are fine.”
“While I applaud your stand on not eating my kind, why not extend that mercy to elves?” Manling Victor asked. “They’re people too.”
“Your chief of staff is badly trained, Vainqueur,” Icefang said. “He speaks out of turn.”
“No, it is fine, I will explain cattletarianism to him, too!” Jolie replied, before turning to Manling Victor and speaking with a teacher-like tone. “Manling Victor, elves are not people. They are elves. They eat grass like cows, and they make the best princesses.”
“Have you released the one I caught for your first Bragging Day back into the wild?” Vainqueur asked his niece, who dutifully nodded. “Good. Every dragon must be mindful of preserving the wildlife.”
“Princesses are an endangered species in the north due to wanton dragon overhunting,” Icefang lamented. “I wish more of my kind was environment-conscious.”
“Blightswamp has been trying to find a way to preserve them by raising them in captivity,” Genialissime said. “However, she has yet to find the way noble ladies evolve into princesses. She thinks they need knights to undergo the metamorphosis.”
“Princessness only happens in the wild,” Icefang replied with contempt. “Also, where is the sport in raising princesses at home? The hunt is half the pleasure.”
While he despised Icefang, Vainqueur could not agree more. He had considered using his [Dynasty] Perk to create nobles and then princesses, before realizing it would dilute the value of wild maidens.
Sensing the spotlight getting away from where it belonged—on Vainqueur—the Emperor of Murmurin made a bold move. “While tomorrow shall be my true Bragging Day, before all my other guests, as a reward for your quick arrival, I shall present you a sneak peek of my magnificent hoard!”
“Ohoh, that should be amusing,” Icefang said. “I’m sure you can’t even bathe in it!”