Vainqueur hated frost.
He had taken residence in the southern Albain Mountains because he thought that it would deter thieves, but the chilly air of his beloved mountains couldn’t compare to that of the so-called Winter Kingdoms. Located north of the Nightlands, this vast expanse seemed entirely covered in snow; even now, in the middle of the day, a weak hail kept bothering his flight.
“It’s cold…” Manling Victor shook like a tree while flying at his master’s side. Even his heavy clothes didn’t protect him. “It’s horribly cold!”
“We will leave as soon as I get my gold,” Vainqueur reassured him.
He couldn’t wait to go to the Moon.
That was possibly Manling Victor’s greatest idea since he decided to lovingly serve Vainqueur forever. If the Emperor couldn’t complete quests or monsters on this planet, he would move on to another, without competition! The Moon would become his hunting ground, V&V’s newest conquest!
What could possibly go wrong with this plan?
“According to the map, the third name on Your Majesty’s list, Cornelia Stormwind, should be nearby,” his minion said. “I wonder if she will pay Your Majesty too.”
Vainqueur hoped so as well, as the dragon and his minion flew above a frozen lake and then a snowy forest of spruce and pines; the dragon had left his bag behind so they could explore the area to his leisure without him fearing for his new gold.
The red wyrm noticed a flying shape whose white color meshed well with the snow approaching them. “Hello, Vainqueur!” A small ice dragoness saluted him, while they crossed paths in the skies. “Strange to see you there!”
“Snowsweep.” Vainqueur recognized her from his feast. “I am looking for a lesser creature called…”
“Cornelia Stormwind,” Manling Victor provided the name,
“That good for nothing elf?” The dragoness shrugged. “She has taken control of this forest after I caught its ruling princess. I guess you will find her breeding with a pine tree nearby. Why are you looking for her? She is no princess material.”
“She has insulted me,” Vainqueur replied. “She owes me a tribute of gold and cattle.”
“Good luck catching her then,” the dragoness replied. “But, if you are snooping around, can you tell my little brother Windi to come home? He has not returned from his latest quest, and I am starting to worry for his safety.”
“I will,” Vainqueur promised, nodding at the other dragon while she left to search further south.
“That’s the fourth dragon we’ve met so far,” Manling Victor said, as he and his master circled the forest from above.
“Most of my kind prefer the cold of the north than the south’s warmth.” Why frost dragons outnumbered their better cousins was beyond Vainqueur; and that climate reminded him why he preferred heat. While his [Ring of Elemental Resistance] may shield him from the discomfort of the cold, he still felt it.
Vainqueur sniffed the air, trying to locate the elf grasshopper. He noticed multiple scents spread around the forest, dozens of manlings, elves, beastkin, and even…
“Manling Victor, stay close to me,” Vainqueur ordered, suddenly on edge.
“I smell a disgusting fairy on the ground,” the Emperor said, trying to pinpoint its location; failing that, he would burn the entire forest, to be sure.
“Look there!” Manling Victor pointed his scythe at shapes emerging from the clouds and flying straight at them. One looked like a dragon from afar, and Vainqueur identified the other as a gryphon rider.
Was that Manling Kia and Jolie?
No. The “dragon” was a silvery, winged serpent, a frost drake; and one carrying a manling knight on its back at that! A lightly-clad elf woman with bluish skin and white hair rode the gryphon, wielding a metal machine similar to Renoir’s [Kalachnikov]; and he noticed a third form, that of a manling brunette in a strange furred dress, flying through magic between them.
Each of them had a strange ring of light floating above their heads.
“Your Majesty, watch out!” Manling Victor warned, “She has a hunting rifle—”
The woman on the gryphon pointed her metal stick at Vainqueur and fired a strange lead, rounded arrow at his belly.
The projectile bounced off his scales.
“Lead!” Vainqueur exclaimed with mock pain, a hand on the point of impact. “My only weakness!”
“Really?” the woman on the gryphon asked, as she and the others closed in.
“No,” Vainqueur replied, retaliating with a fireball while she was distracted. “Weaknesses are for manlings!”
The projectiles did make his scales itch a bit, but the dragon ignored the feeling.
The trio dispersed to dodge the fireball, showing annoying quickness at it. While Friend Victor almost cut the drake’s head with his scythe, forcing the beast on the defensive, Vainqueur tried to eat the tasty gryphon with one bite.
Other projectiles flew at them from the forest itself, a massive lightning bolt and a shining arrow. His beautiful ring helped him shrug off the spell like the lead projectile, but the arrow…
Vainqueur felt excruciating pain when it hit him in the belly, blowing up a scale.
|[Arrow of Dragonslaying] inflicted double damage!|
The red dragon snarled in anger, even as his scale immediately started growing back.
|[Master’s Shield] activated! You gained the [Regen] Status.|
“[Battlefield Voice].” A booming, womanly voice echoed through the forest below, although Vainqueur couldn’t pinpoint its source. “Knightsbane, Dalton! My name is Cornelia Stormwind! Lay down your weapons, you are surrounded!”
“Surrounded by dead manlings? I am not impressed!” Still, the dragon guessed that she wouldn’t pay him his due. “Come out of your forest and fight, grasshopper!”
“I will! You have been looking for me, Vainqueur Knightsbane? I’ve been waiting for your coming for months! [Defensive Gambit]!”
|All of Cornelia’s troops gained the [Physical Ward] Status. Physical damage will be reduced by fifty percent for five minutes.|
A thin layer of golden light covered each of their attackers, but it didn’t matter to Vainqueur. He would eat all of her minions if he had to.
“Minion, take care of the flyers, while I smoke out the insects below!” the dragon ordered, diving down while his ‘wingmate’ targeted the flyers with hellfire.
Opening his maw, the great calamity unleashed a torrent of flames below, turning the snow to steam and incinerating everything else to ashes in its path. The dragon flew in a straight line, killing anything there, and causing animals and manlings to flee the flames and smoke.
“[Impending Doom]!” Cornelia shouted on the ground, disappointing Vainqueur.
|A random attack will hit you in the near-future. Your Luck will determine its severity.|
Vainqueur inhaled, deciding to create a circle of fire around the forest and trap his foes on the ground inside it.
“[Ice Shards]!” the drake rider shouted, as he broke past Manling Victor’s defense. He pointed his fingers at Vainqueur, firing icicles at him. The dragon didn’t even bother dodging, the projectiles bouncing off his mighty body.
The drake rider grunted, before turning to the flying manling in a dress. “Krona, The dragon has protection against elemental attacks!”
“[Curse of Winter]!” the woman replied, blue dust trailing after her fingers.
|Charisma check successful! You ignored the curse!|
“A [Witch],” Manling Victor recognized the type of caster, busy keeping the gryphon rider at bay with hellfire. “Your Majesty, we must take her down first! She’s a debuffer!”
“A debuwhat?” Vainqueur growled back, distracted from burning the forest.
“She makes her enemies weaker and inflicts status effects! In short, she’s distilled pain!”
“[Curse of Weakness]!” the witch replied, targeting Vainqueur with hand movements.
Vitality check successful! You laughed at her puny power!
“My spells can’t affect the dragon!” the witch shouted. “His stats are through the roof!”
“Manling toddler, you do not understand,” Vainqueur mocked her. “I am not fighting you. You are fighting me!”
“You… argh!” The witch’s face turned red with fury.
|[Taunt] successful! You successfully applied the [Berserk] status to Krona! The witch is too pissed to spellcast!|
The manling immediately flew straight at Vainqueur, too blinded by her rage to see the madness in her action. “Krona!” The gryphon rider immediately moved to try and intercept her ally, but the Emperor reacted faster.
He blasted both of them with a massive fireball, incinerating them.
But when the smoke cleared, both the witch and the elf reappeared, albeit grievously injured, and without either their magical barrier or halos. The gryphon didn’t revive either, causing the rider to fall with a scream. “[Gravity—]!” the witch cast a spell on the gryphon rider, slowing down the fall harmlessly.
“Dalton can heal the dragon by flying near it!” Insect Cornelia snarled, her words reverberating through the forest. “Separate them!”
“On it!” The witch cast a spell at Manling Victor, who charged straight at her with his scythe. “You’re going down! [Gravity+]!”
Before either member of V&V could react, an invisible force pulled Friend Victor to the ground.
|[Master’s Shield] canceled! You have lost the [Regen] Status.|
“Minion!” Vainqueur shouted in worry, as his minion landed in the forest.
“Hah!” The witch gloated, before freezing as the furious Emperor glared at her. “Uh oh.”
As fast as lightning, Vainqueur punched her. The blow sent her flying and crashed as a bloody smear on the ground below.
“Krona!” the drake rider shouted, while the vengeful Vainqueur turned to him next. “Cornelia, Krona’s dead!”
He tried to wound the dragon with ice shards, but Vainqueur retaliated with his dragonfire. His flames turned the ice to steam, but the annoying insect glided around the attack. Another projectile came at him from the forest, yet it missed by a wide distance and exploded above the clouds.
“Bring the fight to the ground, while we activate the golem and summon reinforcements!” his master replied, before casting a spell. “[Predict Bad Weather]!”
The drake rider immediately flew back to the forest, while the hail grew in intensity. The ice turning hard as stone and itching Vainqueur’s scales on contact.
|The weather worsened! [Hail] became [Hailing Storm]! You will take residual damage while exposed to it!|
Cursing as the hail hammered his wings, Vainqueur flew towards the ground, but not to pursue the drake.
His minion needed him.
“Blink,” Vainqueur said, turning invisible, and ready to eat every last one of them.
Strength check partially successful! You can move normally on the ground, but you cannot fly.
Victor grunted as he rose up from the snow. He had managed to make a semi-respectable landing after the law of gravity came calling, but it hurt like Happyland!
He barely had the time to get up, then he heard a detonation near his location. A big, fire-propelled projectile flew above the woods and towards Vainqueur. His scythe ready, Victor immediately moved towards the source, while the projectile exploded harmlessly.
He found a small group hiding beneath strong, tall trees, allowing them to weather the increasingly violent hail. One elf woman in a bear coat, carrying a bone bow which his [Eye for Treasure] Perk immediately identified as a [Bow of Dragonslaying]; a figure covered by a white cowl and cloak, hanging back; and a fellow human with red hair, a bag of rockets, and a big, big rocket launcher.
A rocket launcher.
They had a rocket launcher.
Victor immediately used [Observer] on the trio and try to guess their level.
Emile Lavere, level 30 (Outlaw 15/??? 15)
Vladimir “Gunman” Finnickson, level 33 (Artificier 15/Alchemist 7/Ballistician 6/Gunner 5)
Judith Mazel, level 34 (Archer 20/Huntress 8/Sniper 6)
Lavere? Like the Nightblades’ leader? Could it be...
“You missed?” the elf archer mocked his ally.
“I missed?” the human with the rocket launcher gasped.
“How could you miss?” the elf archer reprimanded him. “How could you miss a giant dragon with a bazooka?!”
“I don’t know! Stop shaming me, and fire! Knightsbane’s getting closer!”
“Each of them except the cowled one have the [Halo] effect, in addition to their magical shield.” Furibon noticed the white ring of light above their heads. “They will revive with one HP once if killed.”
Not if he trapped their souls first. Victor noted that they must have had at least one healer, though; and a high-level one at that.
The cowled fighters suddenly glanced in Victor’s direction, revealing the lifeless white skin and crimson eyes beneath. “The lackey’s here,” he whispered with a low, raspy voice.
Okay, Victor really, really didn’t want to go through with that part, but it was Vainqueur or them…
The vizier threw his scythe at the gunner, his weapon hitting him in the back before he could pull the trigger. The scythe pierced through the magical barrier, and cut through the flesh.
|Critical Hit! [Slayer of Men] inflicted super effective damage!|
His body collapsed on the snow, blood dripping from the wound. Victor thought he should have felt bad about killing a fellow human being; while he had helped, he never carried out the finishing blow himself.
Instead, Victor felt… nothing special.
Congratulations! Through your fleeting membership of a criminal syndicate and one-shotting a fellow human in a vicious, dishonorable way, you earned a level in [Assassin]!
You earned the [Lethal] Class Perk!
+30 HP, +2 SKI, +1 AGI, +1 INT, +1 CHA, +1 LCK
[Lethal]: Your armed attacks have a chance to inflict Insta-Death (Luck divided by two).
The gunman’s soul was drawn into Victor’s scythe, the halo vanishing. His [Helheim] bypassed their protections!
The archer hastily turned in his direction, while the cowled figure revealed two daggers dripping with poison. “I hated Legolas!” Victor shouted as a war cry, before blasting both of his foes with hellfire.
The cowled fighter turned into white mist before the flames could hit him, furthering Victor’s suspicions, but his teammate couldn’t dodge. She took a blast of infernal flames to the face, stumbling back. She launched her arrow, the projectile hitting a pine tree’s bark.
“Hilda, Dalton ambushed Emile’s team,” Cornelia’s voice echoed from afar. “Do your job and hit him hard!”
Damn! How did she know?
Victor suddenly remembered that one of the Blue Rose members had levels in [Astrologer], thus someone specialized in divination. She probably scried the vizier from afar, while guiding her team.
The vizier quickly rushed to recover his scythe, then mercilessly cut down the burning archer before she could recover. Once again, his Perk combination bypassed the enemy’s buffs.
|Critical Hit! [Slayer of Men] inflicted super effective damage!|
While he sensed his victim’s lifeforce heal his bruises, Victor dodged a sneak attack from the cowled rogue. The strange figure had materialized right behind him.
“Hellfire,” the cowled rogue rasped, dodging Victor’s scythe. “And here we only came with standard [Rings of Fire Resistance].”
Smart, but not enough to stop Vainqueur’s breath or the unholy effects of hellfire. Victor used [Monster Insight] to confirm his theory.
Alchemical Vampire Spawn (Undead/Humanoid)
Strong against Moon, Darkness, Unholy, Blood, Frost, Drain, Insta-Death, Disease, Poison, Fatigue, Sleep, and Beast.
Weak against Necromancy, Holy, Fire, Life, Berserk, Manslayer, and Deadslayer.
A Nightblade infiltrator and vampire assassin sent to distribute dragonslayer weapons among disgruntled adventurers; also tricked Icefang by leaving messages in dungeons which others cleared first. Uses a cloak and the weather to avoid death by sunlight, and never forgets his vampire mommy’s birthday.
A vampire. He was right. “Hey, I know your boss! She has money stashed in our vaults!”
The undead assassin responded by trying to slice his neck with his daggers. Both engaged in a deadly dance of blades, unable to hit the other, while a rumbling noise began to echo through the trees.
Something was approaching. Something big.
A piper song began to echo through the woods, Victor instantly recognizing the melody as the Ride of the Valkyries. A gloomy, piper remix of the song, but the famous song all the same.
|???’s war melody raised his pawns’ Strength and Vitality by one stage!|
And Cornelia kept issuing commands from her hiding place, “[Fabian Strategy].”
|Cornelia’s troops can now better avoid attacks!|
Damn! The support members empowered the party from the cover of the forest, and according to the smoke rising in the sky, they had intercepted Vainqueur before the two partners could rejoin. Victor had to finish off this rogue before reinforcements arrived, and go help his partner.
A fiery rift through space opened to his left, dashing his hopes.
Victor parried a blue spear with his scythe, as a cavalier in heavy armor emerged from the rift. He, or she, rode a massive black stallion, with a mane and hooves made of fire. The knight attempted to feint him with a second, crimson spear, forcing Victor to retreat to avoid impalement.
|Sigismund “Sigi” Twinspear, level 36 (Cavalier 20/Spearsman 11/Chaos Rider 5)|
His [Eye for Treasure] Perk also identified the effects of his weapons. One spear inflicted Frost Damage, the other Fire. Victor could ignore the latter, but the former would hit him really hard.
While the vampire rogue tried to flank Victor, the nightmare horse let out a wail, a fiery portal opening right in front of the cavalier. The rider and his mount crossed it, the tear closing right behind him.
Worse, he noticed three new shapes braving the hailstorm, and rushing at his location. He and Vainqueur were fighting an entire Adventurer Company!
No. These guys fought in small groups of three to four. V&V faced several parties working together. All above level thirty, and some of them sporting Earth weaponry.
It was a full raid!
“Wait, are we the raid bosses?” Victor choked, as the dark rider reappeared and tried to trample him. It became harder and harder to dodge attacks from both opponents at once. “Hey! Why? What did we ever do to you?”
“You stole our jobs, you BEEP!”
The vizier blinked. “I beg your pardon?”
“You told the dragons how to do quests, and now we can’t get any!” the cavalier, Sigi, glared at him. “They kill monsters and clear dungeons faster than anyone else can! Our Adventurer Company was ruined because of you!”
That was their reason? “Hey, shouldn’t you be happy we made the world a safer place?” Victor argued back.
“Not if it leaves us jobless!”
Okay, maybe he and Vainqueur increased the adventurer unemployment rate, like every government in the world, but that was no reason to murder them!
Unfortunately, the other three arrived and helped surround Victor. A tanned, strongly built woman with short blonde hair carrying an enormous warhammer on her back and a whip in hand, seemed to be the leader. She was backed up by a tiger-like humanoid wearing only crimson pants, and a two-handed swordsman in heavy plate armor.
“Five on one,” Furibon noted. “I guess this is the end for you. Again.”
Victor hated to agree with him, but his odds didn’t look good. And meanwhile, the rumbling noise kept getting closer and stronger… “If I die there, I have something to tell you.”
“Oh? Do tell.”
“You’re a giant, bitter pain,” Victor declared bluntly, before softening the blow. “But I’m going to miss you a bit. We had fun.”
“Just go die already.”
Victor used [Observer] on the newcomers, trying to find the weak link in their formation.
Hilda Brightside, level 36 (Warmaster 20/Warrior 12/Reaver 3/Whip Master 1)
Tiger Jajang, Level 39 (???)
Sven Ironguard, Level 35 (Crusader 30/Heavy Knight 5)
“A Crusader? What the Happyland is a Crusader fighting me, and five-on-one at that?”
“You steal souls, raise undead for a living, and register as slightly evil to my [Karma Scan], Victor Dalton!” the holy knight replied. “While we fight for truth, justice, and the adventurer way!”
Oh come on, Victor received a label because he followed one evil overlord’s seminar?! “Evil? You’re fighting with a vampire assassin!”
“You dragon racist,” the vampire deadpanned, waiting for an opening to strike again.
“He’s a thug, your dragon master is a conqueror!”
“Anyway, let’s just kill him,” the Warmaster cut the discussion short, her voice strangely soft and meek. “Jajang, please.”
“Yeah,” the tiger replied, joining his hands so fast Victor could barely follow. “[Accelerated Flame Pillar].”
Before he knew what hit him, a pillar of fire erupted beneath his feet.
It didn’t inflict much damage, but it distracted Victor at a key moment. The Warmaster’s whip coiled around his scythe and pulled it back towards its wielder, disarming the vizier.
Victor cursed under his breath, but the other adventurers didn’t give him any time to retaliate. The horseman vanished through a fiery rift, while vampire assassin immediately moved to strike at Victor, his dagger piercing through his clothes and cutting flesh at the left shoulder.
|Vitality check failed! You have been [Poisoned]!|
“Nice scythe,” the Warmaster said with a cheeky smile upon seizing it. “[Sunder Weapon]!”
Seizing the scythe with both of her hands and bringing down on her knee, the Warmaster broke Victor’s weapon in half.
Instantly, the dozens of souls contained within escaped at once, Furibon’s cackling specter at the forefront. Victor’s eyes widened in panic, while the Warmaster threw the weapon’s remains on the ground and switched her whip for the warhammer. “[Lightning Smash]!”
Victor just narrowly avoided having a hammer bash his skull by side-stepping, the Warmaster shattering the pine tree right behind him like a kitkat bar.
Realizing he was hopelessly outmatched, not to mention surrounded, Victor summoned will’o wisps with [Death Candle]. While they barely slowed the opposition, it allowed him to reach the corpses of his two victims. “[Animate Dead]!”
As the corpses rose, Victor activated his new Perk, praying whoever insane god listened to for victory. “[Fright Knight]!”
A dark aura surrounded him, the atmosphere growing oppressive as his zombies faced the opposition. “Even if I die,” Victor promised, trying to channel his inner edgelord, “I am dragging you with me down to Hell!”
Your enemies’ Strength and Charisma decreased by one stage!
You inflicted [Terror] on: Tiger Jajang and Emile Lavere.
Both the vampire and tiger froze in dread, before instantly retreating; the undead by turning into mist, and the other by straight-up running away.
“Cowards!” The crusader shouted, a powerful light surrounding his blade, while the warmaster cracked her neck.
Victor prepared to blast them with magic when a pine tree fell nearby. By now, the rumbling had become overwhelming, for the thing responsible walked nearby.
The vizier barely caught a glimpse of the enormous creature crushing everything on its path, of its metal frame shining with magic… of this twisted parody of a knight, which looked like Rolo’s big, big evil brother.
His [Monster Insight] activated on its own.
Talos Mark III
Talos Golem Prototype (Artificial/Fairy)
Strong against Dragon, Fire, Physical, Magic, Status Ailments, Spirit, Mind-Control, and Frost.
Weak against Water, Lightning, and Fairy.
The Mell clan’s newest weapon against mortalkind. A golem made of Earth technology animated by fomorian magic, meant to slay dragons and humans alike. A relentless automaton, it inflicts [Dragonslayer] damage with its sword, possesses a mounted cannon in its shield, and breathes virulent poison.
But hey, it’s flawed goods! Your boss can take it!