The forest smelled of dung and paupers.
Vainqueur always knew this day would come. The day when pitchfork-wielding peasants, fairies, and minion strikers, envious of his well-deserved wealth, would gather in a great rabble host and try to bring him down. The emperor of all knew that in this time of need, he would be called to serve as the final bulwark of dragon civilization against the forces of the rebellion.
“Do you see him?” a pauper leading a small group of three manlings knights with swords asked; Vainqueur immediately recognized her as the pegasus rider. The weather impaired them as much as it did the dragon himself, forcing his preys to advance against the snow. Each of them carried that strange ring of light above their heads. “I can’t distinguish anything with this hailstorm, but I saw him crash nearby.”
These lawless savages had treacherously stolen his minion, isolating him from his master; and now they moved to encircle him.
Time to show them which species won the class struggle.
“SURPRISE ATTACK!” Vainqueur declared as he squashed a knight into a bloody smear. Thanks to his blinkblink ring, he had managed to mesh with the snow, moving with the stealth of a cat between the trees. The magical shields Cornelia Stormwind had summoned made the manling much harder to chew than usual, but the dragon was hungry enough to make the effort.
“We’re under attack!” the pegasus rider shouted a warning while firing her lead weapon at random, only for Vainqueur to bite her in half.
“How… invisible!” One of the few remaining manlings cursed, unable to distinguish Vainqueur, “He’s invisible!”
“Dragons don’t run invisible ambushes!” the other replied. “They’re dumb as bricks!”
Vainqueur twitched in anger. “I have sixty-four in intelligence!” he corrected them, before tossing the manlings against trees with his tail, causing the plants to collapse on their back.
Much to his frustration, the four annoyances popped back after death, albeit wounded; while they immediately attempted to retreat, Vainqueur blasted them with a fireball. His flames resisted the hail and spread to the trees.
“Vainqueur demolished Erik’s team in the north!” Cornelia’s voice echoed through the trees and causing snow to fall from the leaves. “The golem will be there soon. Green Boy, Drake, Wizi, ensnare him!”
Vainqueur snorted at those words, before noticing the ice drake rider flying above him, having traded his weapon for strange crimson rods whom he set alight. Unlike the dragon, his winged serpent didn’t seem impaired by the hail.
Vainqueur opened his mouth to blast him from below, but the rider dodged the attack. “Here!” the cavalier shouted.
The forest shook, as the roots of the trees sprung out of the ground and snow. These tendrils immediately attempted to ensnare Vainqueur, who burned them with his fiery breath.
The drake rider above tossed his crimson rods to the ground near Vainqueur’s location; each detonating as soon as they hit the ground or the dragon’s flames. One of the blasts hit the dragon to the left, making his scales feel itchy.
|You have taken weak damage.|
Worse, a magical circle appeared near Vainqueur on the ground, an enormous black sphere falling on it from above and causing a crater where it stuck. The paupers sniped him from afar!
As the root attacks and bombardment grew more intense, Vainqueur let out a roar and charged through the forest to find a better battlefield, tossing trees to the ground and stepping on any manling unlucky enough to be on his path.
Within minutes, Vainqueur exited the forest to reach the shores of a frozen lake, sliding on the ice surface before regaining his footing. The hail battered his scales and wings in the open field.
|You are taking passive damage from the [Hailstorm].|
“To the lake!” Grasshopper Cornelia ordered, and soon enough, her pack emerged from the fiery forest to face Vainqueur on the battlefield.
In total, thirteen creatures came after him, the drake rider included; Vainqueur recognized mages, rogues, and knights among them, a true pack of adventurers united to die by his hand. Most were manlings, but they included elves, one dwarf, a beastling, and even a green-skinned, meaty orc.
At the far end of the rear, Vainqueur noticed an elf woman with pale skin and blue hair riding a unicorn; wearing a heavy, bear-fur mantle and an icy crown, she looked like the leader.
And at her side… was a fairy in disguise.
While he had taken the shape of a white-bearded manling wearing a crimson cloak and hat, Vainqueur recognized the frail-looking insect for a fomor. The creature gave him a crooked smile, playing a song with its pipe made of bone.
“Mell Lin!” Vainqueur recognized that abominable trickster. He should have known he was behind this rabble revolt. “Have you come to see the back of my hand again, pied piper?”
“[Dispel Magic]!” A mage wearing symbol-covered robes pointed a finger at Vainqueur’s direction, removing his invisibility. Many in the adventurer army gasped at the sight of his crimson scales.
“He’s huge!” one of the mages, who dressed like a bedsheet ghost, gasped in awe of the dragon’s majesty.
“Odie, don’t stand there, summon an eidolon,” the mounted elf ordered, revealing herself as Grasshopper Cornelia.
“Y-yes!” the bedsheet ghost made strange movements, but Vainqueur reacted first. The dragon opened his mouth and attempted to burn the entire adventurer pack with fiery doom.
“[Enhanced Rune Barrier],” the symbol wizard reacted, creating a yellow, symbol-covered shield around the army. Although it cracked, the protection deflected Vainqueur’s breath, much to his annoyance. The flames started melting the snow and ice nearby, albeit not enough to destroy the lake’s surface.
“[Summon Snow Dancer]!” The bedsheet ghost finished his ridiculous dance, a white magical circle forming next to him. A lithe statue of ice with hair made of mist materialized within it. Superficially looking like an elf, the creature had blue crystal blades attached to her arms, and a white mask hiding her face. Thin strings linked her limbs to the bedsheet mage, like a puppet.
“Minion!” Vainqueur shouted, eager to be reunited with his chief of staff; if they summoned reinforcements, so would the Emperor. “MINION! Get back here!”
“He’s calling Dalton!” Cornelia warned as the barrier dispelled, allowing her warriors and the ice creature to charge at Vainqueur.
“[Ninjutsu: Seal Perk]!” A manling whose every patch of skin was covered in a black bodysuit made hand signs, and the dragon instantly felt weakened.
Your [Summon Herald (Victor Dalton)] has been sealed by Ninja Weeb!
You will not be able to use that Perk as long as Ninja Weeb stays on the field!
Her minions let out a shout of enthusiasm, while Vainqueur scoffed. He had crushed insect armies in the past, and he would do so again; even if he had to kill them twice.
The adventurers divided into various groups to encircle Vainqueur. At the front, the dragon faced the Snow Dancer, a buff manling behemoth with a huge hammer, a knight whose bronze armor was covered with runes, and a dwarf dressed as a priest. The drake rider joined them, providing aerial support.
Ninja Weeb and a piglike orc smelling of herbs and dung moved to his left; while an elf bowman riding a horse flanked him to his right.
Elfling Cornelia stayed at the rear, alongside Mell Lin the Pied Piper, the Runemaster, a scantily-clad catkin, the Summoner, and a mage wearing a black cloak and a wizard hat.
“Spell Purge!” Vainqueur activated his favorite Perk and charged at Cornelia, ready to trample anyone in his path. The scantily-clad catkin began to dance, the fairy played a song, and the runemaster raised a barrier to protect the rearguard.
|Dancer Felix’s [Witchcat Tango] raised the magical power of the enemy mages!|
The front team intercepted Vainqueur, the hammer-wielding manling jumping at the dragon with his weapon raised. The dragon poked him out of the way, but surprisingly, the monkey survived the blow, crashing on the ice and quickly moving back to his feet. The Snow Dancer, sliding on the ice with incredible speed, sliced at Vainqueur’s ankle and quickly avoided a counterattack.
|[Frostblade] inflicted a super effective hit! You have taken medium frost damage!|
“[Waifu no Raiton]!” Ninja Weeb joined his hands to make a strange sign, firing a lightning bolt at Vainqueur, while the orc breathed a storm of petals. The dragon’s scales deflected both attacks, the emperor instead backhanding the bronze knight. “Can’t pierce the dragon’s defense!”
“Sneak attack, the druid will switch to support,” Cornelia directed, turning to the black wizard at her side. “Wizi, use your strongest spells; all-out offense!”
“[Lesser Demonbane]!” Vainqueur cast at the Snow Dancer as she moved to attack again, hitting her. Both the creature and its summoner stumbled, making Vainqueur wonder if the latter possessed his minion. Before he could move to finish it off, the bowman rider fired an arrow at him from the side, while the drake rider prepared to throw more bombs. The archer fired first, Vainqueur raising an arm in the way and grunting on impact.
|[Arrow of Dragonslaying] inflicted double damage!|
Moving with exceptional speed, Vainqueur seized the horse before it could dash away, the archer with it, and threw both at the drake rider. The surprised cavalier couldn’t evade the improvised projectile, the fighters crashing on the frozen lake.
Their bombs detonated, blasting them apart and causing part of the frozen surface to collapse; the orc mage was caught in the blast and then fell into the icy water.
The archer and the drake rider both reappeared wounded on the lake’s icy surface, next to the hammer-wielder; the ring of light above their heads gone. “[Multi-Heal]!” The dwarf priest extended his hands, unleashing a pulse of golden energy around himself. The wounds of the warriors near him closed instantaneously.
Realizing that their magical protections shielded them from his physical attacks, Vainqueur switched to his breath, and cooked everyone in sight. His breath incinerated the drake rider, the archer, and the barbarian, killing the first two and causing the third to run around screaming in pain. The dwarf managed to dodge, while the Snow Dancer and the bronze knight hammered at his legs with their needling attacks. Enlightened, Vainqueur tossed the bronze knight into the open crack in the lake, watching him struggle to stay afloat before sinking.
Wizi the Black Wizard finished casting a spell, throwing a sinister sphere of black energy over the protective barrier, the projectile hitting Vainqueur in the back. His whole body had begun to feel itchy, but not as much as it did when he fought Maure.
You have taken medium Unholy damage!
You have lost twenty-five percent of your HP!
“The druid and the rune knight haven’t resurfaced, boss,” the catkin dancer panicked. “He’s tearing us apart!”
“We’re down half the team!” the Summoner panicked, while Vainqueur kept trying to incinerate his icy minion. “And what is Hilda doing? She should have killed the lackey already!”
“Knightsbane has lost more than one thousand HP and cannot regenerate!” Cornelia shouted, as if it was something to boast about; only the fairy didn’t panic, happily playing his pipe amidst the chaos. “Keep whittling him down! It’s life or death!”
“Yours!” Vainqueur taunted them back, in between two fiery attacks. Ninja Weeb, who had slipped past his notice, reappeared to leap at the dragon, sword in hand.
“Sayonara, reptile!” The blade connected with Vainqueur’s head…
The manling barely had the time to choke at his incompetence, before Vainqueur bit him in half.
He reappeared a few feet away, but Vainqueur didn’t mind. He tasted like fish food, and couldn’t wait to eat him again. “Invincible!” the dragon boasted, cheering himself up. “Vainqueur, Vainqueur, Vainqueur!”
Then the ground shook, as a new challenger stepped out of the forest. Vainqueur turned to face the new suicidal adventurer and found himself facing a golem instead.
A huge golem, almost as big as the dragon himself. A mechanical titan in heavy, knightlike plate armor, the automaton wielded a long sword as long as his own tail and a rounded shield with a strange hole at its center. Its face was a skull-shaped helmet, meant to intimidate manlings, and it stank of fairywork.
“That is the best challenge you fairies can provide?” Vainqueur scoffed. He hoped he would get a good treasure out of killing this walking tin can.
The golem ignored his words and charged at him, its shield raised. The dragon responded by humming and then blasting it with dragonfire...
… and it kept going.
Vainqueur’s eyes widened in shock, as he increased his output; yet the golem kept charging, the shield deflecting the flames.
A mighty thunderbolt hit Vainqueur from behind, making him stumble and interrupting his attack.
|You have been hit by [Impending Doom]!|
Vainqueur barely had the time to regain his footing, before the golem reached him and slashed at his chest, cutting through his scales and shedding blood.
|[Dragonslayer Claymore] inflicted heavy damage!|
How could it be?
His flames burned brighter than the sun!
Meanwhile, Victor was fighting for his life; against his foes and poison.
You have taken passive [Poison] damage!
You have lost half your HP!
The vizier ignored the message, focused on anticipating the furious strikes of the Warmaster. He dodged, but couldn’t avoid the crusader’s weapon aiming for his chest. A sixth wound opened below his nipple, and he barely avoided the horseman’s spear aiming for his head. The rider opened another rift before Victor could retaliate, vanishing once more.
He had managed to kill the crusader once with the help of the summoned undead, only for that tincan to return from death and heal. That warrior wasn’t dangerous as much as resilient, flanking him to make the Warmaster’s job at hitting his chest easier.
And any of her hits would kill him.
Only his [Fright Knight] technique had saved his life, weakening his foes enough to allow him to resist so far. So far.
“[Crit Up]!” the Warmaster buffed herself up, each of her stray strikes smashing a tree. Victor summoned another will’o wisp as a buffer, the crusader destroying it almost instantly.
|Warning: you will soon run out of SP!|
“I know!” Victor shouted, finally finding an opening in the crusader’s defense and blasting his face with hellfire. This time, the warrior cooked in his armor and fell dead on the back.
|Vitality check successful! You shed off your [Poisoned] Status.|
Okay, that left only the Warmaster and the Rider. He could do this! Victor unleashed another fireball at his foe, but the woman jumped out of the way; he prepared to fire a second and—
|You ran out of SP.|
Out of mana!
Without any other chance at survival, Victor made a final dash to reach the corpses of the other adventurers he killed.
Most precisely, the bazooka.
Unfortunately, the atrocious sensation of an ice spear piercing his back dashed his hope, making him collapse in the snow.
Super Effective hit!
Warning: critical health!
You have fallen below twenty-five percent HP!
“Finally!” the nightmare horseman declared, he and his beast standing in front of Victor with both spears raised. “I thought he would never go down!”
“He got Sven,” the Warmaster replied sadly. “We’ve got to kill him and help the others. I can still hear the battle from afar.”
“Yeah, yeah,” the horseman replied, preparing to trample down Victor with his horse. “See you in Happyland, assh—”
In a blink, the rider had been turned to dust, his twin spears falling on the snow, and his horse stopped in confusion.
Victor’s eyes widened, as a dark lich had popped into existence between the Warmaster and her prey. “Mine!” the undead snarled, before casually killing the hammer warrior with a crimson ray of light, “Mine, mine, mine!”
“Furibon?” Victor couldn’t believe it. “You saved me?”
“Mine,” the lich replied, as he zapped the Warmaster and the Horseman dead a second time when they returned from the dead. Unfortunately, he sounded more pissed rather than friendly, “[Enhanced Binding Cold]!”
As the lich spoke, chains made of ice appeared around Victor, binding him like a ham on the snow.
“Now, I can kill you myself.”
Of course, he wouldn’t save him. The vizier cursed under his breath, trying to melt the chains with hellfire.
|You ran out of SP.|
The Lich repaired Victor’s scythe with a spell, grabbed it, and then raised the weapon above its previous holder’s head, “It will be just like old times… except I will be the one to carry you around making your eternal existence unbearable.”
“Joke is on you,” Victor pointed out. “The soul trap only works if I carry out the final blow.”
“Oh.” The lich sounded disappointed but quickly recovered. “I guess I will settle on killing you the old fashioned way, then.”
“Wait!” Victor insisted, “Don’t I get a last request?”
Oh, come on!
Furibon lowered the scythe and preparing to behead his former captor. Victor’s awaited the end… but the blade stopped within an inch of his neck. “You are not screaming?” the undead asked.
“Oh, you know, it’s my third time,” Victor shrugged. “It still sucks but you get used to it.”
“Make an effort,” Furibon ordered. “I did not save you for our relationship to end like this.”
Why was the lich dragging his demise? Unless… unless…
Unless he secretly didn’t want to go through with it.
“You have Stockholm Syndrome,” Victor realized.
“You have Stockholm Syndrome!” Victor rejoiced, as the lich couldn’t go through with the execution. “I knew it was contagious!”
“Shut up!” Furibon snarled, trembling but unable to go through with the kill. “I do not care! I do not… I am not sick!”
“I wanted to die too when I caught it,” Victor reassured him. “You get used to it after a while.”
“That is it!” The lich cursed in an ancient language, well and truly furious at his inability to kill Victor for good. “I am so done with you and that giant wyvern! I hope the fomors turn you both to lead!”
And with that final curse, Furibon teleported away in a flash of light, taking Victor’s scythe with him.
The chains binding Victor soon dispelled, leaving him disarmed in the snow, and facing the now riderless nightmare horse. The vizier glanced at the corpses of the adventurers—mostly their equipment—and then the beast.
No, that... that would be ridiculous...
He couldn’t resist.