“Good morning, Mr. Victor, Your Majesty.” Malfy saluted the rulers of Murmurin, backed by two bug-like fiends in suits. The demon didn’t seem perturbed by the people turned to gemstones all around them.
“Hi, Malfy!” Victor waved back, inviting them to sit around a table Mot had conjured in the central square. The fomor glared at them with malice from the other end, his bottle in between them.
“Minion, I admit I have mixed feelings about the situation,” Vainqueur complained, his whole body buried under a mountain of precious stones next to the table. Only his head and waving tail jutting out of it. “I hate fairy tricks, but my current situation is even comfier than my hoard.”
“Why don’t you escape?” Victor asked. Since Mot couldn’t kill, Vainqueur could probably escape, if he tried to. Or so he hoped. Considering the genie’s malicious actions, the vizier had sent Rolo to attend to the trapped citizens around town, in case the wish had put them into threatening situations.
“That fairy being the greatest evil to grace my sight since Furibon, I cannot do so without melting or trampling the gems,” Vainqueur replied, knowing his priorities. “This is the perfect trap for a dragon.”
“As per our lobbying campaign, we will handle this on the empire’s behalf,” Malfy said, presenting his lawyers. “This is Mr. Nick, and his partner Mr. Scratch. They have defended innocents as respectable as the Wicked Witch of the West, Dracula, and Fantômas. They famously obtained a dismissal in absentia during the Jesus vs Judas case.”
“Self-defense,” one of the lawyers said. “The key is always self-defense.”
“Okay, so to explain the situation again, Mot here,” Victor pointed at the fomor, “can grant wishes but twists them no matter how hard I try to word them well. He caused all the chaos around here and wants me to explicitly wish for his freedom in exchange for returning Murmurin to normal. However, if set free he will be allowed to kill with his wishes, and of course, he intends to double-cross us.”
“Ah, I see,” the first lawyer, Mr. Nick said. “You want to draft an agreement where you keep all the benefits of the previous wishes, remove the negative effects, and ensure that there will be no repercussions.”
“I want to keep all of my statues,” Vainqueur specified.
“Standard Faustian case law,” the other lawyer replied, Victor not understanding their jargon. The fiend opened a briefcase full of documents. “We already prepared a first draft, according to your specifications.”
“Can I trust you not to screw us over with the wording of the wish?” Victor asked, just in case. He had already set up his strategy with Malfy before arranging the meeting, but they remained fiends.
“Mr. Victor, I take this unlawful fairy competition in our core business very seriously,” Malfy replied. “Mr. Mot also disrupted our plans and bottom line by petrifying Chocolatine. This is corporate war.”
Victor almost considered reneging on the deal to keep Chocolatine off his back but brushed off those thoughts.
“If I cannot take revenge on this country, I will settle for the death of every first-born,” Mot declared with mock kindness.
“First, we insist that you sign a non-disclosure agreement before beginning the negotiations.” The demon handed a document to Mot.
“He turned everyone for miles into gems, and you want a secrecy agreement?” Victor frowned.
“Dear client, I assure you that this is part of our perfectly calculated strategy,” the lawyer replied, Mot conjuring a feather and signing the NDA with frozen blood. “We will handle it.”
“Can it be done before this evening?” Victor asked. “I have a very important date then.”
“You consider me less important than a beastly woman?” Mot hissed, his pride wounded. “Perhaps I should turn you into a monster at nightfall, so you can never find rest.”
“I’m sorry, but I’ve died twice, once after being impaled by an even more psychotic fairy than you,” Victor replied. “After that, every threat feels like a letdown. Also, the joke is on you here.”
“I will not raise Friend Victor again,” Vainqueur repeated. “I almost died from a stroke last time.”
“The matter will be settled in time for your date with Lady Chocolatine,” Malfy promised, ever obsequious.
“I specify that ‘liberated from the bottle’ shall not be constructed as ‘liberated from living,’ as clause thirteen-five implies,” Mot said, pointing a frozen finger at the second paragraph of page eighty-seven. “I want an addendum saying that I shall not be transferred into another container right after I fulfill the wish.”
“Minion, I do not understand,” Vainqueur complained, as the fiends edited the text in response. “Are we winning?”
“I dunno,” Victor replied, but the lawyers’ frustration didn’t seem good to him. “How are things going?”
“His law-fu is powerful,” the first lawyer admitted, speaking low so Mot wouldn’t listen. “Very powerful. But we can do better.”
“I am about to do what mortals call a pro-lawyer move,” his fiendish partner said, dramatically cutting off a word and writing another.
“I change the introduction line from ‘wish that you do’ by ‘wish that you shall.’”
“But this changes the entire meaning of the text!” Mot protested.
“You have the right to keep silent,” the lawyer replied, the fiends at the table exploding into diabolical laughter. Victor merrily winced at their terrible sense of humor.
“And this agreement shall not allow, under any circumstance, the designated Mot, henceforth called ‘the wish granter,’ to torture, negatively impact, kill…”
|Vitality check successful! [Sleep] ailment negated.|
“Ah!” Victor’s eyes snapped open before he could fall asleep.
“Stop lazing around!” Vainqueur said. “We are almost done!”
“We are?” The fierce battle of law, wits, editing, and contractual wordplay had lasted for hours until the sun had lowered in the sky; while Victor struggled to stay awake, the dragon had the willpower to follow the negotiations.
“We have agreed on a satisfactory four hundred pages compromise,” one of the lawyers said, presenting Victor with a massive pile of papers. Mot was reading a copy. “We are currently reviewing its terms.”
“The gist of it is this, the negative effects of the wishes will be removed, and the positives, such as your newfound full treasury and the emperor’s statues, will remain,” Malfy explained. “Mot shall be set free, but will not be allowed to do anything harmful to V&V’s members, allies, and subjects for the next fifty years.”
“You may live, but your kind will know death and suffering.”
“But I can still kill the fairy?” Vainqueur asked, eager for payback.
“Doing so will void the agreement,” the lawyer warned, while Vainqueur and Mot hissed at one another. “I would recommend that you make peace and forget this failed joint venture. Win-win.”
“I don’t call letting him kill the rest of the world while sparing us a fair deal,” Victor falsely protested, for the sake of his plan.
“It is not?” Malfy asked, genuinely confused.
“I would have preferred to kill you as well, manling,” Mot said. “But this is the best you will get. I am not budging on anything else.”
“I agree with my chief of staff, an outcome where I do not kill the fairy does not satisfy me,” Vainqueur said angrily. “I am a dragon. My kind won the dragon-fairy war, I must defend my honor.”
“What did you say?” Mot’s empty eyes turned into fiery stars. “You dragons did not win, we gave you gold so you would stop bothering us!”
“You granted us a gold tribute after your shameful defeat!” Vainqueur replied angrily, he and the fairy started to argue which version was the truest.
“Can you add an addendum where His Majesty and the fairy can duel each other without voiding the entire agreement?” Victor suggested to the lawyers, before turning to Vainqueur. If everything went according to his design, then it wouldn’t be necessary, but better safe than sorry. “Would that be alright?”
“Yes!” the dragon nodded. “Once the gems are safe and out of the way, nothing will stop me from feasting on his bones!”
“Fine!” Mot snarled back, as the lawyers edited the contract. “If you wish to join the cohorts of the dead, Vainqueur, I shall oblige!”
“There,” Malfy said, handing out the final versions of the agreement to both Victor and Mot. “If that is satisfactory, Mr. Victor, can you make your wish?”
Victor faked reading out the front page, focusing on the empty space in between the sentences. “That sounds good,” the vizier said, while Mot nodded. “Vainqueur is going to kick your ass, djinn.”
“As if,” the djinn replied. “Fifty years is the blink of an eye for a fomor, Victor. Your time will come.”
“Then, Mot,” Victor read the first sentence of the contract. “I wish that you fulfill this contract in full, to the letter.”
“Finally, I waited so long!” Mot couldn’t restrain his glee, as he raised a hand to snap his fingers for the last time. “Your wish, and my freedom, is granted!”
With his finger-snap, Mot released a wave of magic which covered all of Murmurin; an energy pulse far mightier than the first one. Victor watched on with amazement, as the chaos around them ended as suddenly as it started; the petrified citizens turned back into flesh and bone, and the gem mountain keeping Vainqueur trapped split in two, as Moses did with the sea.
Much more worryingly, Mot’s spine escaped from the bottle, trailing a lower half with it. The skeletal fairy lord stood on two legs, dancing on his feet. “Free, free!” the creature rejoiced, unaware of Victor’s trap. “Free at last!”
“You will be free to see the insides of my bowels!” Vainqueur replied, the red dragon to extending his wings with a fearsome roar.
“If you like gold so much, dragon, gold you will be!” Mot snapped his fingers.
And nothing happened.
Vainqueur looked down at his claws, in case the transformation was gradual, before raising his head with smugness. “Hah! Punny fairy, I did not even need a stat check to ignore your attack!”
“I said gold you would be!” Mot snapped his fingers a second time, then a third. “Why is it not working?”
“Because your magic is no match for me,” Vainqueur replied arrogantly.
“Actually, this is Mr. Victor’s doing,” Malfy replied, the lawyers nodding.
“You?” The chief of staff couldn’t suppress a sly smirk, as Mot glared at him. “How? I checked the text for every loophole!”
“I know,” Victor replied, Vainqueur having halted his threats to observe the scene, “While I hoped our lawyers might succeed, there was no way to trick someone as experienced as you with the wording alone. At best, they would bind you to a compromise we could have lived with. But I knew that as a cunning, paranoid genie, you would obsess on finding the complex loopholes in the text and miss the trap right on the front page. Letting you believe you could solve the aftermath with a fight wasn’t planned… but would have made for a nice back-up.”
The genie immediately grabbed his copy of the contract, checking the fine print of the first page for a loophole.
“I noticed something, back in the tomb,” Victor explained, as the genie failed to notice. “You couldn’t see Vainqueur due to his invisibility ring. That made me wonder if, in spite of your enormous power, you had limits. Since fairies are always bound by obscure rules in tales, I suspected fomors were no different. You had to end up trapped in a bottle somehow.”
“Your point being?” Mot asked, annoyed.
“You can’t see the invisible words.”
To punctuate his declaration, Malfy cast a spell on the contract. “[Invisibility Purge].”
Words appeared in-between the sentences, a hidden wish addendum which the fairy had unwittingly fulfilled. “After granting the wish detailed in this contract, the wish granter will lose all use of his powers,” the genie read out loud, shaking with anger, “unless invoking the penalty clauses.”
For a few delectable seconds, Mot remained mute in his shock and fury… and Vainqueur began to laugh.
“But… but…” the fomor let out a scream of frustration.
“Vizier stratagem fifty-four,” Victor said. “You will not double-cross a being stronger than you are. Instead, you will set up things so they screw themselves on their own.”
“I did not consent to this!”
“I wished that you fulfill the contract in full to the letter. It's not our fault if you didn't contest the invisible fine print. And as you said yourself… no take-backsies.”
“Oh, don’t worry, we have been slipping fine print in our contracts since Happyland achieved independence from Heaven,” one of the lawyers said with smug contempt. “You lost to the very best.”
“This is fraud! This is fraud!”
“I guess we will have to ask the authorities to investigate your claim,” Malfy gloated, as he turned to the chief of staff. “Am I right, Mr. Victor?”
“Case dismissed,” the vizier shrugged. “We’re the government. It’s not fraud if we do it.”
“Tricked by my manling!” Vainqueur taunted the fomor, too amused to attack. “As expected of my Vainqueurized chief of staff!”
Mot screamed angrily, tossing the table aside and attempting to murder Victor with his bare hands. Vainqueur, showing surprising speed, raised a hand to squash the fairy, but he didn’t need to.
Bound by his own magic’s letter, Mot ended up sucked back into his bottle. He vanished inside before a second passed, for good this time. “Oh, the hidden penalty clause,” the first lawyer commented. “I did not think he would invoke it so soon.”
“He should have read the fine print,” Victor said, as he picked up the bottle back, “Now he’s never getting out again.”
As he had suspected, Mot was bound by the rules of his own power.
“I am surprised that it worked,” Furibon said from within the scythe, having observed the plan from start to finish. “I thought the fairy would not be bound by words it didn't notice.”
“And I’m surprised you didn’t rat us out in exchange for freedom,” his holder admitted.
“Trusting a fairy seemed as smart as turning a dragon’s hoard to lead.”
“I’m glad you learned.”
“Good job, Manling Victor,” Vainqueur congratulated him earnestly. “Now we can send that bottle away from my sight and keep the gems.”
Kia would be the most unhappy. She had missed another battle.
Congratulations! For skillfully tricking a fomor on behalf of your dragon master, you earned two levels in [Monster Knight (Red Dragon)]! You earned the [Master’s Shield] Class Perk.
[Master’s Shield]: as long as you are within fifty-feet of your master, Vainqueur Knightsbane will enjoy the benefits of the [Regen] Status.
60 HP, +20 SP, +2 STR, +2 VIT, + 2 SKI, +1 AGI, +2 INT, +2 CHA, +2 LCK!
By reaching level twenty in [Monster Knight (Red Dragon)], you maxed out the class! You can no longer take levels in it, but you gained the capstone ability [Fright Knight].
[Fright Knight]: Technique, 50 SP. You exude a sinister aura for five minutes, forcing anyone perceiving you to succeed on a moderate difficulty Charisma check, or be afflicted with the [Terror] ailment and have their Strength and Charisma decreased by one stage. A successful save only negates the [Terror] ailment.
Well. Now they had defeated this enemy, Victor had to face a much more terrifying foe.
Chocolatine was waiting.