“I’m surprised Your Majesty wanted to join me on this one,” Manling Victor said, guiding his master to a valley near Murmurin. “I thought you considered ruling minion work.”
“The vile Furibon has returned, Friend Victor,” Vainqueur reminded his trusty sidekick. “My empire is no longer safe. We must remain vigilant, and prepare for the dark times ahead.”
There was still one of those conmanlings to deal with, but with Furibon’s escape, Vainqueur had decided to put his revenge on hold. The dark lich, whose imprisonment had only made crueler and bitter, would doubtlessly take revenge for his shameful defeat.
And the Emperor would be ready to defend his hoard once again. “While I trusted you to Do the Thing, I shall now take a personal interest in managing my Empire and build its defenses against invaders. I shall also order the minions build me an arena.”
“A great, shining arena where my subjects can shower me with gold every week!”
The dragon and his lackey oversaw the valley, or rather, the crater created by the Iron Eagle when Vainqueur threw it there. The dwarves had taken over the area and turned it into an open scrapyard, scavenging the ship’s remains while building forges and workshops nearby. They had also created strange metallic constructs that the dragon couldn’t identify.
More surprising, his eccentric guests had started rebuilding the Eagle itself, pulling back its wings and polishing its cannons.
Marbré, the dwarf’s leader, waited for them next to it alongside two bodyguards. “Emperor Vainqueur, Grand Vizier Victor!” he saluted them, as they landed on his side. “Welcome! You come back to us triumphant!”
“Hi, Marbré,” Victor replied on both his and his master’s behalf.
“First, let me congratulate you on exporting the revolution across borders,” the dwarf said, Vainqueur puffing his chest. “Twice, you have killed an elf imperialist, and crushed a fairy-sponsored counter-revolution.”
“Yes, yes, you are too kind,” Vainqueur replied. “But now is not the time for praise. Now is the time for action! We are at war!”
“Have you given a look to the golem’s head?” Manling Victor asked, annoying his master by underestimating the threat of Furibon in favor of that tin can.
Manling Victor had insisted that they bring back the golem for the dwarves to oversee, but carrying it and the looting bag had proven too tiresome for Vainqueur. The dragon had settled on taking the head and some gears, before dumping the rest in the ocean.
“It is one of the most fascinating pieces of technology I have seen yet,” the dwarf replied. “I recognize the fomor Mag Mell’s handiwork, but the core mechanisms look similar to those of the Eagle. Our engineers have only barely begun studying that machine, and it will take us weeks to disassemble it.”
“Clearly, the fairies elaborated this entire operation to free the vile Furibon from his seal,” Vainqueur said. “We must prepare ourselves for his return, and this means strengthening our military.”
“Your Majesty, I believe these events are unconnected—”
“Manling Victor, you are my adviser, but I won all the wars,” Vainqueur cut him off. “Do you not see the great conspiracy trying to take me down? How it all fits?”
“Your enemies are the enemies of the Averagist Revolution, and you can count on us to support you.” Marbré nodded, the dwarf seeing the bigger picture. “We will lend you our strength and expertise.”
“Then show me.”
The dwarf ambassador waved a hand at the Iron Eagle. “As you can see, we have analyzed this elf weapon, and in two weeks, it will work again. It shall, without a doubt, become the backbone of your country’s military, and allow you to cross the ocean to export the revolution across the world.”
Vainqueur remembered something. “Minion, the vile Furibon, who is evil and must be destroyed again, said his phylactery was hidden on another continent. If sealing could not keep him imprisoned, we have to find his soul, and destroy him for good.”
“Yes, Your Majesty, but there are eight continents since Atlantis is still a thing on Outremonde. Do you really intend to explore all of them?”
“I will spare no effort to see the lich destroyed,” Vainqueur ordered with a firm nod. “I want this machine painted gold and staffed with minions. It shall no longer be called the Iron Eagle, but the Piggy Bank.”
His piggy bank.
“Your Majesty, I do not want to be the one to say it, but…” Manling Victor struggled to find his words, while the dwarves remained stone-faced. “The name is not… not very good.”
“I am a dragon,” Vainqueur replied. “It shall be known as the Piggy Bank.”
Friend Victor let out a strange sound. “Why not Flying Gold?”
“That sounds too imperialistic,” Marbré contested.
“See?” Vainqueur replied. “Manling Victor, leave the names to me and focus on our class progression. Doubtlessly, our enemy has learned his lesson, and the tricks we used to put him down shall not work again. I expect you to research further ways to increase our strength.”
Speaking of classes… while Marbré gave them a tour of the weapon forges, Vainqueur let his minion handle the discussions for a moment to check on his new features.
Congratulations! Due to meeting entry requirements through your [Crested] Perk and [Gladiator] levels, you can convert some of your levels into promoted Classes! Stats will not be affected, but Perks will.
You can combine [Gladiator] with [Emperor] into [Augustus], or [Gladiator] and [Witch Hunter] into [Godhand].
[Augustus]: a glamorous emperor ruling through fabulous charm, bread, and circus. Specialties: Unarmed, All Melee Weapons, and Leadership. Major growths in Strength, Skill, Charisma, and Luck. Perks affected: Noblesse Oblige.
[Godhand]: A melee-fighter empowering his fists with magical effects to take down mages. Specialties: Unarmed, Anti-magic, Status Ailments, and Self-Buffs. Major growths in Strength, Skill, Vitality, and Agility. Perks affected: Witch Burning, Hunter’s Resolve, Exorcism.
Choice registered! Your [Gladiator] and [Emperor] levels have been transformed into [Augustus] levels. [Gladiator] and [Emperor] are no longer accessible.
[Noblesse Oblige] replaced with [King of Games].
[King of Games]: Whenever you face a check in a game or game-like situation, you gain a stat bonus equal to your Charisma divided by four.
“We have already started smelting weapons for your armed forces, in partnership with your troll smith,” the dwarf declared, bringing Vainqueur back to reality.
“We should be ready for any outside attack, but I can’t say the same for infiltration,” Manling Victor said, before turning to his master. “Is your Majesty happy with the dwarf’s work?”
“Almost,” Vainqueur replied. “Dwarf Marbré, my kind has once again proved its superiority over all of life, completing quests and leaving me without honest, richly rewarded work. For the sake of my hoard, I must now turn my eyes to a new frontier, and the gold mine up in the skies.”
“The Moon, yes.”
“Thanks the gods, Your Majesty says it the right way,” Manling Victor flattered his master. “Also, this is a literal mission from god.”
“Gods are the drug dealers of the people,” Marbré replied with a stone face. “You will outgrow them.”
“I could fly up to the Moon, but I would burn so much fat I would become skinny and ravenous,” Vainqueur said. “I would have to eat every cow in sight and hibernate, which would leave my hoard unattended. Henceforth, Dwarf Marbré, find a way to send me to the Moon without any effort from my part.”
“How could Your Majesty fly to the Moon without breathing air?” Manling Victor asked a silly question.
“Manling Victor, I breathe fire, not air.” Vainqueur rolled his eyes at this idiocy. “How could you forget that after all that we have shared?”
“True, that was a stupid remark,” Manling Victor replied with a flat tone.
“Indeed, which is very unlike you.”
“Grand Vizier, if I may, what makes you say there is no air in space?” Marbré the dwarf asked.
“Because there isn’t,” Manling Victor replied. “My kind… or rather, those of my homeworld of Earth, already managed to send people to space. It’s a big, dark, empty void.”
“That…” Marbré considered the question. “That makes our war against the sun much more difficult than expected.”
“And there isn’t air on the moon… I think.” Manling Victor marked a short pause. “Come to think of it, maybe I should ask Thul-Gathar. But I am ninety-nine percent sure there is neither air nor gravity in space.”
“I should have known the cowardly sun would build a fortress between justice and him,” the dwarf replied. “Moon Beasts favored by the Moon Man have interplanetary teleportation as a special Perk, but they cannot bring anyone with them. But thankfully, we may have a solution. A rocket.”
“A rocket?” Vainqueur and Victor asked at once.
In response, Marbré led them to a bigger, half-built version of the Wind Spear which Maure tried to kill Vainqueur with.
“Yes, Grand Vizier Victor?”
“That’s a primitive missile, not a rocket.”
“What difference does it make?” Vainqueur asked, curious.
“This is a bigger replica of the Wind Spear Maure used against us! It’s a weapon, not a transporter!”
“Our Sunslayer was built purely for non-threatening purposes,” the dwarf replied with a flat tone. “We have absolutely no intention of attacking anyone with it.”
“There are bombs on this thing!” Manling Victor protested. “I can smell the gunpowder from there!”
“Bombs are people too, Lord Victor. They react to imperialist aggression by blowing themselves up, true, but who is to say they should be barred from boarding a rocket—”
“Certainly travel should be allowed to everyone, even bombs. And I can assure you that our rocket never exploded in the past.”
“Wait... I received complains of quakes while we were away,” Manling Victor said. “That was your doing?”
“Our rocket never blew up. It was sabotaged by elf bourgeois infiltrators before the flight because they feared the revolution.”
“Furibon,” Vainqueur guessed. “He is already at work among us!”
“Right,” Manling Victor said with a strange tone.
“And as you pointed out if we manage to send someone up, it must survive in a vacuum,” Marbré insisted. “Bombs are small and do not breathe.”
“What does size have to do with this?” Vainqueur asked with a worried frown.
“Our device needs gravity powerstones, which are extremely rare, to propel itself past the clouds,” Marbré replied. “The more weight, the more stones needed. We cannot afford to waste any of our supply, so the prototype should be able to fly small passengers before we create a model sized for Your Majesty. And unfortunately, none of our test pilots survived the tests so far. This slows down progress.”
“Yeah, speed hurts," Victor said, "There were a few victims in the space race at home, and while we don't have magic, we are way ahead of this world in matters of technology."
"It will take us years, if not decades, to create a rocket capable of reaching the Mooooon, but it would be much faster if we had pilots who could survive test flights," Marbré said, "We need a test subject who is highly resistant to physical damage, does not need to breathe, and small enough to fit in a very narrow space. Such creatures aren’t raining—”
Vainqueur’s eyes widened. “Minions, they do!”
“To send to the Moon,” Victor replied to his pet. That exchange sounded a lot better in his mind.
After the whole jelly rain fiasco, Victor had turned one of the farms into an improvised shelter, which Junior had turned into its new lair. While Akhenapep had advised to distribute cats to control the population, Murmurin’s citizens had instead latched onto jellies. Slimes had become popular pets, and those eager to adopt one had to first gain Junior’s trust before they could return home with it. Victor counted thousands of the tiny creatures looking at Vainqueur in awe from behind a fence.
“Moon sky?” Junior pointed a finger at the clouds.
“Yes, the planet,” Vainqueur invited himself in the conversation.
“No!” Junior hissed in response, moving between Vainqueur and the fence. “Children!”
“Okay, I will not lie, the dwarf’s device looks shoddy,” Victor admitted. “But I will have Barnabas help. We will make sure our tester is as safe as possible.”
“Minion, stop arguing with your pet, this is ridiculous,” Vainqueur cut in, the dragon turning to Junior. “I understand that you wish to protect your progeny, but this is for my own good.”
Strangely, Junior seemed to hesitate at Vainqueur's words, but still didn't bulge. “Danger!”
While Vainqueur glanced down at the mimic with annoyance, Victor’s mind furiously worked on finding a peaceful solution before the dragon ate his own pet for the defiance. Fortunately, the sound of a large crowd stepping towards them interrupted the argument.
The second he recognized the newcomers, Victor suppressed a sigh of agony.
“Prophet, we have heard of your divine mission, and have come to offer our help!” The cult of the Moon Man had gathered, from its squid priest to its lowest member. Worse, they had grown in numbers, followers of the deity from all across the Mistral Continent having traveled to Murmurin to follow in their prophet’s footsteps. “We shall all give our hands for the creation of the glorious ark!”
“Guys, thanks, but this is a very delicate matter,” Victor said, trying to let them down gently. They had become relatively harmless since he laid down rules for them to follow, but their zealousness frightened him a bit. “We are just figuring out a way to—”
“I offer my child!” A squid-like humanoid presented Victor with a viscous tadpole. “He is moist and ready for the sacrifice!”
"Sacrifices are forbidden!" another cultist replied. "Learn the proper doctrine!"
“I will gladly offer my jelly pet Finky as the chosen slime!” A werewolf presented Victor with a pink slime, slipping through his fingers. “Please, bless him!”
“Take my life if needed!” A werewolf all but threw herself at his feet. “I am ready to be martyred, so my children can reach the Promised Land!”
“Me first!” The cultists all but began to shove one another out of the way.
“Friend Victor, how great that you have found such zealous minions,” Vainqueur spoke up with appreciation, “I am so proud.”
Victor closed his eyes and sighed. He was starting to wonder if he should go Old Testament on them; a lot of prophets didn’t show as much patience as he did with this insanity.
No seriously, how could this madness end well?
A cute, kitten-like voice made itself heard, Victor glancing at its source; the cultists fell silent to imitate him.
A blue jelly with two big, yellow eyes, had jumped on the fence. “Moon!” it said, before hopping at Victor’s feet. “Moon!”
“Danger!” Junior shouted back at the jelly with a disapproving voice.
Victor watched Junior and the jelly have a heated one-word argument, unable to fully understand the gist of it. From afar, it did look like the discussion he once had with his parents about abandoning his stupid dreams about becoming a professional Youtuber to go to university.
“Moon moon!" The slime was a lot better at arguing back than Victor ever was though. "Sword rocket!”
“Sword rocket?” This argument took Junior aback, the chest turning to Victor. “Sword rocket?”
What? What did he miss? “It’s, uh, it’s pointy yes.” Wait, how did it know? Did the slime watch the tests?
“Sword rocket…” Junior turned back towards its adopted child, “Moon?”
“Moon,” the jelly replied with steely determination in its cute, tiny eyes.
“Back,” Junior pleaded. “Alive.”
“Sword live,” the jelly replied with a kind, affectionate tone. Junior patted it on the head, the creature turning to Victor next, “Moon?”
“Uh…” At this point, Victor had abandoned all hope of making sense out of it. “Yes, you will go to the Moon. One day. Maybe.”
It would probably take years, if not decades, for their ‘space program’ to reach it even with magic, but with Vainqueur and a deity dead-set on the idea… they had to succeed eventually.
“The chosen jelly will lead us to the Moooon!” the cultists cheered the jelly and began to utter prayers to their god. “Lä Moon Man cf’ayak’vulgtmm, vugtlagln vulgtmm!”
|Congratulations! Thanks to your encouragement, Buzz Jelly gained a level in [Stuntman]!|
“Mooooon...” The blue slime gazed at the skies with longing.