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“SURPRISE ATTACK!”

Invisible thanks to his blinkblink ring, Vainqueur unleashed a mighty poke at a golem, turning it into scrap. His finger felt sore, having felled dozens of these puppets since he began searching for his missing minion.

So he switched hands, crushing an undead minotaur with his right index finger claw.

The tunnels had grown smaller and tighter the further underground Vainqueur smashed through, eventually leading them to an underground, crumbling mausoleum. The number of suicidal monsters eager to die to him, however, had only increased. Bandaged mummies, skeletal fighters, and clay golems had emerged from hidden chambers to swarm them.

Vainqueur would have loved nothing more than burning them with his breath but lacked the space to do so without harming his niece or take flight. What was it with architects refusing to make areas sized for his kind?

At least each of these warmups left a treasure behind, from gems to golden rings. Vainqueur’s [Born in Purple] Perk had returned to him, much to his joy.

Knight Kia, who had finally let go of her dragon-riding obsession to fight on foot, cut through hordes of ancient undead warriors like butter. Her sword shone like the sun, empowered by a glowing aura. Meanwhile, Jolie swallowed a bandaged elf corpse with her mouth, letting out a belch.

At long last, Vainqueur finished smashing the last of the golems, the mausoleum turning silent.

Congratulations! You earned a level in [Gladiator].

 

+30 HP, +2 STR, +1 VIT, +1 AGI, + 1 CHA, +1 LCK.

“It’s getting harder as we go down,” Knight Kia said, sheathing her sword.

Harder? No, tiresome, especially since he only got a level out of it. Vainqueur looked at the exit, finding it smaller than the previous. He could barely slip his neck through!

“They get tastier,” Jolie said, her belly full of dusty undead meat. “Dry food is the best food!”

“I am not squeezing through a dusty tunnel again!” Vainqueur complained; he already had sand sullying his claws. “I will make a bigger one!”

“Your Majesty will collapse the whole floor on us if you do that,” Knight Kia protested.

Vainqueur grumbled. While he would undoubtedly survive it and didn’t care if Knight Kia didn’t, he wanted to protect his niece.

“MINION!” Vainqueur shouted. “MINION! Get back here! I am not digging further down!”

Charisma check failed. You could not overcome the anti-teleportation effect.
“No one is more charming than I am!” Vainqueur replied. “Revise your poor judgment! Minion! MINION!”

 

His chief of staff popped up among his new treasures, a bottle in hand and with a new goblin minion.

“Ah, minion, here you are!” Vainqueur rejoiced, the system having finally recognized its mistake.

Both his minion and the goblin looked around, Vainqueur realizing that he hadn’t negated his invisibility. “Blink,” he said, revealing himself in his full glory, the blue critter speechless at the sight.

“Vic, good to see you alive!” Knight Kia rejoiced almost as much as the dragon, before noticing the bottle the half-dragon carried. “You have found the artifact?”

“Yep, and here is Mot,” Friend Victor pointed at the goblin following him. Seeing a dragon for the first time had floored the critter, who glanced up at Vainqueur in silence. “I see you didn’t waste time.”

“When you teleported away, Vainqueur broke the ground which revealed pathways down,” the knight told him. “We have gone down seven floors since.”

“There’s a dangerous mummy waiting at the bottom, Akhenapep,” Friend Victor said. “He’s very tough. In the eighty level league, according to my Monster Insight. I managed to talk him out of killing me, but the next one to wake him up will not share that mercy.”

“This mummy is just as dangerous as King Balaur.” Knight Kia sounded excited at the thought. “I knew there was something worth fighting down there. I will bring my whole party to finish him off.”

“King Balaur?” the blue goblin, Mot, asked. “The first dullahan? He is still around?”

“Kia killed him,” Manling Victor said, the goblin’s eyes widening in surprise.

“Pff, he was only the second calamity of this age,” Vainqueur replied, puffing his chest. “Neither can this mummy compare to me.”

“Oh, it is an elf mummy, right?” Jolie asked, salivating at the thought. “Where does it make its nest? Does it have friends?”

“At the bottom of the dungeon, in a hidden crypt,” Manling Victor said. “Since Mot wished me up, maybe he can help us skip the floors.”

“No I cannot,” the blue goblin said. “No wish can negatively affect the creator of my bottle, Akhenapep. I cannot wish him away, teleport armies to his doorstep, or cause the tower to collapse. You will have to fight your way through.”

“Also the tunnels are too small for dragons,” Friend Victor said. “Unless we polymorph Your Majesty and his niece into smaller shapes somehow.”

“Like what, a manling?” Vainqueur asked.

“Yes?”

...

Vainqueur erupted into laughter until he struggled to breathe, making Manling Victor frown. “Good… good one, minion. Seriously, I am not clearing out a hundred floors again. We have the bottle, the quest is finished, and we need to get my new shinies back to my hoard. Time to claim my reward.”

“About that,” Manling Victor frowned. “The quest giver forgot to mention the content of the bottle.”

“You said Mot wished you up?” Knight Kia asked. “Is it a genie in a bottle?”

“Yes, phenomenal cosmic powers and all, although not limitless.”

“What kind of goblin is this?” Vainqueur asked, smelling the creature. The scent seemed disgustingly familiar but too faint for him to remember why.

“I am a djinn,” the goblin replied, “I grant my master’s wishes.”

“Like a chief of staff?” Vainqueur asked.

“Yes, except this one is blue,” Victor replied with his strange flat tone.

“I can grant any wish from the owner of the bottle, within limits,” said Mot.

“Like only three wishes?” Victor asked.

“You can make as many wishes you want, Master Victor, but I can only fulfill yours.”

“A minion’s minion?” Jolie asked, looking at the goblin with her big, curious eyes, much to his discomfort.

“If someone wants to become my master, Master Victor has to transfer ownership of the bottle or be killed for it. Now that I think of it, if my master gets killed and then revived, maybe it would count as ownership transfer…”

“I am not paying millions to raise Manling Victor again,” Vainqueur brushed the creature off. “What wish can you grant, chief of staff of my chief of staff?”

“You don’t want me to transfer ownership to you?” Friend Victor asked, ever eager to please his master.

“I am too good to claim my indebted minion’s hoard for myself.”

“What wish can I grant?” Mot repeated. “Good question. But a better question would be, what wish can I not grant? My powers are great, but they cannot overcome those of the gods or powers which rival my own. Neither can I affect the entire world. A city I can manage, but nothing bigger.”

“Can you turn a city into gold?” Vainqueur asked, suddenly very interested.

“Certainly, but no take-backsies. I cannot wish a previous wish away. I can make a wish which can counteract the effects of a previous wish though if you word it nicely. Finally, I cannot kill anyone directly, and no time-travel.”

“Okay, let’s make a deal right there,” Manling Victor said. “I’ve read the stories of your kind, and it would be better for everyone if you didn’t twist the meaning of our wishes.”

“I would never do that, Master Victor,” the goblin replied with a grin. “But what do you propose?”

“If you grant the wishes without nefarious side-effects, I will let you out of the bottle all the time, and I will consider wishing for your freedom.”

“I’m not comfortable with the considering, Vic,” Kia said with a frown, while the genie listened with a stone-cold face. “He’s a slave trapped in a bottle.”

“Knight Kia, he is no slave, but my minion’s minion,” Vainqueur replied. “It is the second most pleasurable experience his kind can ever know, after being my direct minion. He is free to do as I wish.”

“I accept your kind offer, Master Victor,” the genie said, showing his teeth. “In fact, I will gladly continue to fulfill your wishes after you free me, out of the kindness of my heart.”

“Yeah… no offense, but I don’t really trust you right now,” Victor said. “I’m not releasing you until after probation. Also, the quest giver Barsino wants the bottle.”

“Yes, only the bottle,” Knight Kia pointed out. “We can give it to him after releasing the genie first.”

“I’m pretty sure he wanted the full wish-granting package.”

“Master, what can this quest giver provide that I cannot top with a wish?” the genie asked, eager to stay with the better team.

“Exactly!” Vainqueur said. Minion subcontracting at its finest! “Tell me where these cursed adventurers are, now!”

The genie looked up at Vainqueur, then turned to Manling Victor for a translation. “Mot, I wish to learn the location of the members of the Blue Rose Legion, a disbanded adventurer company from Barin.”

Mot snapped his fingers, a scroll magically appearing in his hand. He opened it, revealing a map of the continent and other landmasses that Vainqueur did not recognize. Four red crosses formed on the paper, dispersed across the world, a name picture above them.

“Each cross is one of them,” Mot said. “I took the liberty to have them move on their own with the target, master.”

Manling Victor grabbed the map, frowning as he examined it. “They’re pretty far apart.”

“That one, Dextra, is in the Gardemagnian city of Noblecoeur,” Kia said after glancing at it. “But the others are in other countries. The fallen Harmonian League to the east, the Winter Kingdoms to the north, and the vampire kingdom of the Nightlands.”

The Winter Kingdoms. Icefang’s dominion. “Minion, summon them to this room,” Vainqueur ordered. “So that I may eat them.”

“They are too far away, and most too well-protected magically, for me to forcefully teleport them here,” Mot said. “I cannot teleport someone from across the world against their will.”

“What about teleporting us to them?” Manling Victor asked.

“Oh, good idea,” Vainqueur nodded. “Can you teleport us back to my hoard as well? I do not want to burn fat by flying on the return trip.”

“That wish I can grant, but I cannot teleport an entire army to their doorstep.”

“I recognize one of the names,” said Knight Kia, after examining the map more closely. “Garland Renoir, a high-level Scorcher. He and his mercenaries managed to escape to the east before the Shining Crusade could catch him. He still has a hefty bounty on his head.”

Good. Vainqueur would get paid doing something he would have done for free. But first… “Manling Victor, can your chief of staff wish for a Crest?”

“I already found one down there, but good question,” Manling Victor turned to his goblin, “Can you create a crest? Maybe a legendary one?”

“Trust me, Master Victor, while I so dearly wish I could,” the genie said, grinding his teeth. “I cannot affect the Class System in any way. No free Crests, nor level, nor magical stat boost.”

“Then can you—”

“A powerful divine magic protects Crests from being located through supernatural means,” the genie interrupted Manling Victor, frustrated with the subject. “I am sure that part was intentionally meant to screw my kind over.”

“You are disappointing, minion of my minion,” Vainqueur told the djinn.

“Your Majesty, please don’t mock my debt-solving plan,” Manling Victor replied. “Mot, you can create gold from nothing, right?”

“Ah. Ah, yes, wealth is easy. Magical items too.”

“I can erase my debt!” Manling Victor said, before frowning. “You can create magical items?”

“Vic, this may be the reason Barsino wanted it in the first place,” Knight Kia said, although she frowned suspiciously at the genie. “While not all that powerful, Mot’s powers have great military applications.”

“Not all that powerful?” The genie glared back at the paladin. “Half of my limitations are because of this damn bottle! If you want real power, you will have to free me first.”

“Can you summon princesses?” Jolie asked.

“Jolie, there is no bragging in having a princess delivered to your lairstep,” Vainqueur reprimanded his niece. “You have to work to catch them!”

“But I want to have a princess tea party! I will put ribbons in their hair, I will wear a hat, and then we will laugh while putting our claws on our mouth!”

“In any case, genie or not, V&V is already unstoppable,” Vainqueur replied. “Who won the two Wars of the Hoard? All I hear is that Friend Victor is now ready to start paying back his debt. Come to me, my chief of staff.”

Manling Victor approached, Vainqueur putting a finger on his tiny head. “I, Vainqueur the Great, Emperor of Murmurin, Ishfania, and the Albain Mountains,” the dragon declared, “bestow upon you the everlasting blessings of my golden Dynasty!”

“This doesn’t make any sense—” Manling Victor shut up, as a light surrounded him.

Through your [Dynasty] Perk, you granted a [Noble] level to your chief of staff.

 

Due to your minion’s status, his [Noble] class evolved into [Grand Vizier].

“Now, Manling Victor, ask your minion to bring us home. I shall issue my first wishes atop my ever-growing hoard.”

 

“So what will it be first?” Manling Victor asked. “Turning Icefang’s treasures to snow?”

Vainqueur gasped in horror at his chief of staff’s ruthless suggestion, as did Jolie. “Minion Victor, I cannot do something so horrible to a dragon, even my hated rival. He shall be humiliated, but I will first use my wishes responsibly. I shall start by destroying one of the greatest threats to dragonkind everywhere.”

“Fairies?” Jolie’s head perked up, as did the genie.

“No,” Vainqueur shook his head. “A foe more terrible, more insidious, more nefarious.”

The dragon marked a dramatic pause, as all eyes looked up to him, before raising a fist to the ceiling.

“I, Vainqueur, will wish for the extinction of lead, until the end of time!”

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Void Herald

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.

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