- One very long week after Manling Victor’s departure...
“Vainqueur! Vainqueur! Vainqueur!”
Carried by the voices and adoration of his fans, Vainqueur descended upon his Golden Colosseum while the roof opened on its own. The sun shone on the glittering golden walls of the majestuous building, the citizens on the stands blinded by the light.
“Yes! I am your emperor! Love me!” Vainqueur unleashed a stream of flames on the sandy ground of the arena, turning it to glass. The dragon circled the whole Colosseum before sitting on his royal promontory, which supervised the entire Colosseum. Batling Charlene waited at his side, protected from the sun by a heavy umbrella.
Only the presence of his Friend Victor would have made Vainqueur happier. Almost all of the city’s population had gathered into the overcrowded stands to praise him; and Jolie, who had returned early from her errand in Gardemagne alongside her minions, had been granted a spot on a smaller promontory opposite to his. Vainqueur had one built for his dragon guests, for he was a wyrm with a sense of hospitality.
While Batling Charlene had shamelessly copied the design of the late Maure’s arena— may that wretched fiend be forever grounded in the afterlife—Vainqueur loved his Colosseum, for every wall, every stone, had been coated with gold. He already imagined the day where he would reveal his hoard and pile it in the Colosseum’s midst, before the eyes of the envious Icefang.
“Minions!” Vainqueur roared to the crowd. “Welcome… to my Golden Colosseum! A place where the best of minions can fight for dominance! A place, where you will see your emperor crush those who threaten the peace! A place of glory, glamour, and gold! And a place where you can find the perfect breeding partner!”
|[El Presidente] activated.|
He quickly surveyed the audience, finding that many minions held a letter in hand. Batling Charlene had managed to distribute them in time.
“Each of you has also received a printed Letter of Breeding!” Vainqueur explained. “Each letter assigns you a number, and provides you with a list of other numbers; those of the perfect breeding partners, selected by me, your beloved master!”
He had spent many nights reviewing Corpseling Jules’ records, crafting entire trees of potential minion combinations.
“The letter also contains the coordinates of a location where compatible numbers must gather at the end of the day!” Vainqueur declared. “There, if you take the time to search, you will find the perfect soulmate, hidden among the choices presented to you!”
By turning this important matchmaking into a game, Vainqueur’s tactic would force his minions to exchange between themselves, to foster bonds while trying to find the perfect mate.
As expected, his announcement was warmly welcomed, for so long as the dragon lived, none of his minions would die unloved.
Congratulations! By creatively encouraging your minions to get busy, you have earned one [Dungeon Breeder] level! You earned the [Monster Husbandry] Class Perk!
+30 HP, +1 STR, +1 VIT, +1 SKI, +1 AGI, +1 INT, +1 CHA, +1 LCK
[Monster Husbandry]: Your minions gain +5 to checks against negative status ailments, with their future children gaining permanent Resistance to [Disease], [Paralysis], and [Poison]. The conditions for your minions to spontaneously evolve into higher forms are lowered; promoted minions keep their previous class levels.
No longer would he suffer from poor goblin stock; the dragon would ensure the new generation would be up to his standards, dedicating their entire bloodlines to the betterment of his hoard.
“Now, welcome the minions who passed the preliminaries!” Vainqueur ordered. “Each of them granted a Crest for their prowess! Each of them with the power to shake the walls of this arena, and paint the sand with sweat!”
A golden door opened in the area below, the contestants walking into the arena under the acclaims of the bloodthirsty crowd.
Junior, as expected, was the favorite; the overgrown mimic had scared away all his opponents with fangs and blades. His spawn, Buzz Jelly, had also secured a place, leaping after its adoptive parent.
Barnabas the troll followed after them, covered head to toe in heavy armor and carrying a heavy mace as his weapon. Jules the Necromancer, ever discreet, slithered with his hands together next to Rolo the golem. The sixth contestant, Miel the angel, stuck her tongue out at Malfy in the stands, having defeated the fiend in the preliminaries to secure her spot.
Batling Charlene suspected that the angel only entered the tournament to beat her rival, and get ‘free exposure.’
While the audience kept acclaiming the contestants, who bowed before the emperor amidst a ring of molten glass, Vainqueur immediately noticed problems with the line-up.
“What are you doing here, farmer, instead of taking care of my food supply?” the dragon asked Rolo. The golem did not even need a Crest.
“Rolo wanted to try gladiator battles,” the golem said with enthusiasm. “Rolo has interests other than farming!”
Vainqueur couldn’t scold such dedication to the sport. However, he counted only six of them, out of eight. “Minion Charlene,” the dragon whispered to his Arena Architect. “Where are Sweet Chocolatine and Untasty Allison? You told me they passed.”
“Allison is sick, and Chocolatine volunteered to help her recover her health. Since you intend for a minion… ‘gathering’ after the tournament, and Allison is the priestess in charge of these events, I thought better to let her rest. Why? Is this a problem?”
Yes! Vainqueur could not hold a one-on-one tournament with only six fighters! There would be an odd number on the second turn! His eyes surveyed the stands, the solution instantly coming up upon catching sight of Jolie.
“Minions,” Vainqueur addressed the crowd. “You came here for a show, and I will give you the best of the best! A battle the likes of which you have never seen!”
His fans whistled and clapped at his announcement, their bloodthirstiness pumping him with energy.
“To honor the presence of my beautiful niece, Jolie,” Vainqueur’s niece’s head perked up, the minions clapping at her. “I will inaugurate this Colosseum by dueling her in a minion battle, using the six contestants as my fighters!”
His ‘champions’ exchanged glances, while his niece squealed in happiness at the surprise. “Uncle, I accept the challenge with great joy!” said Jolie. “My Kobold Rangers and my Kia will fight for my favor!”
Vainqueur winced at her wording, but his disgust was drowned by his excitation, as the crowd kept chanting, “Battle, battle, battle!”
“Each dragon trainer can select up to six minions,” Vainqueur laid down the rules. “Any trainer can switch between their minions at any time, but cannot support their pets with either Perks or items. Neither can minions summon other minions, and a minion who can no longer fight is considered out. The match will end when all of a trainer’s minions have fainted.”
|[King of Games] activated.|
Vainqueur’s mind explored every possible team combination, every minion management tactic that could help him prevail. The dragon had experience and power on his side, but Jolie had a legendary minion on her team… and the emperor’s one remained unavailable. This may prove a close match.
But if his minions managed to defeat Knight Kia before Jolie’s eyes, then he could finally destroy the blinding respect his niece had for her!
Vainqueur observed his champions with delight, the perfect strategy assembling in his mind.
After a few minutes, Jolie’s team, made of the Kobold Rangers and Knight Kia, entered the arena and faced the other contestants. Knight Kia, in particular, seemed eager to fight all but Angel Miel, a detail the dragon memorized for later. He knew that Jolie would keep her precious ace for last.
“Buzz Jelly, I choose you!” Vainqueur roared, his slimy champion hopping at the center of the battleground.
“For Empire!” the slime shouted with patriotic pride.
Jolie sent Black Ranger into the fray first, who immediately opened the hostilities with volleys of purple magical projectiles. The jelly hoped around them, while the grown-up kobold escalated to throwing lightning bolts, arrows of flame, and basic spells.
Vainqueur briefly marveled at how quickly the reptile had mastered magic—and found himself vexed that he himself still struggled with [Geomancy].
“Slime, use tackle!” Vainqueur ordered, giving his old kobold minion no mercy in this battle. “Find a chink in his defense, and smash him!”
“[SpaceZ]!” Moving almost faster than the eyes could follow, the tiny slime hit poor Black Ranger and ferociously slammed him against a golden wall. When Buzz unstuck itself, the reptile laid defeated, his bones broken by the brutal attack.
“Black Ranger is…” Batling Charlene began, as Vainqueur glared at her for her complete lack of enthusiasm in her announcements. “Black Ranger is unable to continue! The victory belongs to the slime!”
“I recall my Jelly, and send Angel Miel to take its place!” Vainqueur announced while the crowd cheered for their chosen slime, to shake things up.
“Blue, go crush that puny angel!” Jolie said in return.
“No, Jolie!” Knight Kia protested. “This is a terrible idea!”
Indeed. Blue was a priest type, and so from what Vainqueur understood, weak against an angel type. What a costly tactical mistake!
“I will prove myself to the great niece!” Blue insisted, raising his holy staff.
“Strike me, and I shall turn the other cheek,” Angel Miel said, confusing both her master and opponent by joining her hands together.
“Attack!” Vainqueur ordered, but the angel refused to obey him. That kind of thing always happened with traded minions! “Now is not the time to disobey your master!”
“Here I go!” Blue Ranger exploited the opportunity, incanting a spell and summoning a sphere of flames. “[Fireball]!”
The undead launched the projectile at the angel, only for the sphere to extinguish itself before it could even burn her wings. “What?” the priest protested, trying to summon a new one. “[Fireball]! [Fireball]!”
Yet his magic failed him.
“To strike an angel, except in self-defense, is against Mithras’ scriptures!” Kia warned. “He won’t grant you his power if you attack first!”
“This is ridiculous!” Blue complained. “I can lose my phenomenal cosmic power by breaking a stupid rule? I knew I should have turned to the Moon Man!”
“By striking against Heaven, thou undead shall be punished!” Angel Miel said, tightening her hands. “[Judgment]!”
A beam of light, weaker than the one Knight Kia once used on Vainqueur long ago, fell from the skies and hit Blue in the head. When the shining flash weakened, the poor ranger laid unconscious in the middle of a small crater.
“Blue Ranger cannot continue,” Charlene decided. “Miel is the victor!”
“Excellent, my bird of victory!” Vainqueur congratulated his minion, most of the audience clapping while the fiends remained silent. “You have followed my perfect strategy to the letter!”
“You planned this, Uncle?” Jolie asked with amazement.
“Of course,” Vainqueur said. No need to trouble her young mind with the thought that he may be fallible.
“I owe this victory to my superior heavenly education, and afterlife insurance,” Tasty Miel spoke to the audience. “You too can take care of your soul, by subscri—”
“Next!” Vainqueur roared before the angel could bore him to sleep. “Junior!”
“Treasure treasure!” The excalitrap replied in mimicspeak, while Pink Ranger took the field against it with a harp in hands.
“Pet of my minion, go easy on my bard!” Vainqueur asked, who while ruthless in a game, still wanted Sweet Pink to sing his praise later. “I will not tolerate you harming her too grievously!”
Not that he needed it, for Junior seemed to hesitate at striking the bard on its own; perhaps moved by a strange kind of familiarity. In response, Pink began to sing a powerful lullaby about swords coming to punish the naughty mimics. The excalitrap stumbled, threatening to fall asleep, and forcing Vainqueur to recall it for later.
This time, the dragon sent Barnabas. The troll wasted no time in trying to smash poor Pink with his mace, but the smaller reptile proved herself slippery and quick, dodging attacks while stringing her harp. The musical instrument released powerful shockwaves
Yet every time the sonic attacks seemed to damage Barnabas, his bones put themselves back in place, or his wounds closed.
|[Troll Regeneration] activated.|
As expected, the troll would recover from whatever damage his enemy could inflict, wearing down Pink even if he couldn’t hit her. However, Jolie seemed to have a few surprises in store. “Use the scary story!” she shouted to her minion. “Use the scary song!”
Pink Ranger began to play a dark, sinister song, a dark aura wearing down Barnabas. “Bad to the Bone, chapter one…”
Vainqueur trembled as Pink sung a heretical, scary song. Terrible rhymes sung a nameless lich’s warped, obsessive love for a dragon, and his desire to turn his hoard to dust to get his rival’s attention all for himself. Many in the audience seemed to throw up as Pink shamelessly went into adult-only details, grossing out even her troll opponent.
|Pink Ranger’s [Requiem for a Lich] prevented [Troll Regeneration] from activating!|
When Pink next used a sonic attack, the troll staggered but didn’t heal again. Yet, eager to make his master proud - and the cursed song end - the blacksmith kept pursuing the bard, shrugging off her attacks with single-minded determination.
In the end, the cat and mouse ended when Barnabas tackled Pink while bleeding from the sonic damage. Proving herself as frail as she was quick, one blow was enough to defeat Pink, but the troll collapsed from the strain of the song, unable to go on.
“Double knock-out!” Batling Charlene decided when neither contestant could rise up.
Vainqueur’s first loss of minion, but he still held the lead. The struggle wasn’t to win, but to keep most of his team in reserve for when Knight Kia would take the field. Kobold minions dragged the wounded contestants off the area to recover.
“Prepare to face your dooooom!” Yellow readied himself for battle, clad in golden armor and carrying a sword of light.
“An undead [Paladin]?” Batling Charlene seemed astonished. “It’s possible to be both?”
Vainqueur hesitated to send Angel Miel, before deciding to keep her in reserve for the true threat. He hesitated between which minions to use when one of them volunteered on its own.
“Sword!” Junior grabbed its sword lure with a hand to wield it. Yellow took a step back in fear at the sight of the bigger ‘swordsman,’ but held steadfast in his resolve.
“[Elemental Saber: Fire]!” Junior wreathed his sword lure in flames and raised it high under the sunlight.
|Junior’s Sword will now inflict additional [Fire] Damage!|
Both fighters exchanged a series of parries and swings, Yellow showing surprising finesse, while Junior embodied relentless power. For a moment, it seemed that both would remain locked in a long duel.
That lasted until Junior lost patience. “[Phantom Blade]!”
The excalitrap raised a free hand, a spectral, fantasmal curved saber materializing in its palm. Before poor Yellow could retaliate, the overgrown mimic unleashed a savage flurry of blows with both weapons, forcing the paladin on the defensive.
While to Vainqueur’s eyes, the mimic lacked any sense of technique, it more than compensated with speed and frenetic fury. Yellow managed to hold his ground for a few seconds, but the moment he failed to parry one strike, Junior shattered his arm with a well-placed swing, before savagely battering him into unconsciousness. The excalitrap let out a victorious roar, before viciously smashing his opponent’s blade underfoot.
With that ranger down, Jolie had only two minions left; her strongest. As expected, Red Ranger took over to avenge his kin, a blade in his left hand and a musket in the right.
“Sword defeat,” the mimic told Red menacingly, swinging both his blades.
“This is not like before!” the raptor replied, casting spells. “[Skill Up], [Agi Up]!”
Junior used his deadly fury of attacks again, but moving at a speed exceeding even that of Pink, Red easily dodged each and every strike. The more he avoided it, the more the mimic grew angrier and sloppier.
“Junior, return to me!” Vainqueur ordered, but the mimic ignored him. “MINION! GET BACK HERE!”
But the beast refused to listen, too obsessed by the thought of crushing its opponent’s blade.
Eventually, after driving the bigger monster mad with frenzy, Red circled around it and shot Junior in the ankles. Junior stumbled, then collapsed as the raptor hit all its legs. Red then jumped on the creature’s back while avoiding the twin swords, riding the beast like a bull while needling its back.
Eventually, exhausted, the mimic stopped struggling and admitted defeat.
“Sorry, mimiczord,” Red Ranger apologized while he leapt off the creature, as other kobolds dragged the monster out of the arena.
“Tinfoil!” Vainqueur ordered. “Prove yourself!”
The golem farmer happily faced Red, boasting of his power before the smaller minion. “Rolo will make a sheep out of you!”
“If you can catch me, that is!”
“Rolo will, for Rolo has an ace,” the golem said. “[Hasten].”
Vainqueur recognized the word as one of the vile Furibon’s spells; the match had ended before it began.
As he did against Junior, Red attempted to circle around the golem, shooting at his ankles… but the construct bull rushed him with incredible swiftness, time itself seemed to accelerate around the machine. Surprised, Red attempted to fall back, only for Rolo to punch him right in the chest.
Vainqueur winced as he heard Red’s ribs cave in with a sickening crack, the poor minion knocked out in one blow. The raptor, stronger than his fellows, struggled to put himself back on his feet but eventually collapsed under the strain.
“You did well,” Jolie comforted her minions, before glancing at her final champion. “Kia, avenge them!”
“Angel Miel, go!” Vainqueur ordered, switching minions again. The trap was set.
“I don’t want to fight you, Miel,” the knight said, as both fighters faced one another.
“Me neither, my friend,” the angel replied, once again praying. “So I shall stand there, leaving my fate in the hands of the heavens and waiting for you to fall in guilt after striking me.”
Perfect. Knight Kia couldn’t hit Angel Miel without losing the favor of her so-called godly patron, which would soften her for the later fights. Vainqueur wouldn’t lose sleep over sacrificing an unruly minion if it meant taking down that cursed manling.
“Yeah… not gonna happen.” Knight Kia pointed a finger at the bird. “[Banishment].”
Angel Miel popped out of sight without a sound. Vainqueur blinked in surprise, as did the audience.
“I sent her back to Heaven,” Knight Kia explained. “She can’t fight anymore, so it should count as a victory?”
Charlene looked up at Vainqueur, who grumbled in frustration. Technicalities... “Miel is unable to continue,” the Batling said. “The victory belongs to Kia Bekele.”
That was bad. Vainqueur had counted on the angel at least weakening the legendary minion, but her poor performance disappointed him. The dragon sent Buzz Jelly to soften Manling Kia up, counting on the slime’s immense resistance to damage to wear down the knight.
The cosmic jelly immediately hopped and prepared to launch itself at Manling Kia. “[SpaceZ],” it muttered with its adorable voice.
Meanwhile, Kia adopted a strange position, holding her blade in the direction opposite to her foe, with one hand around the pommel and the other at its end. “[Iaijutsu Counter]!”
|Warning: Kia Bekele will counter any single-target Physical attack and inflict four times the damage!|
Four times? Vainqueur panicked. “Jelly, stop—”
The patriotic slime launched himself at blinding speed at the knight, who hit it with her sword in the middle of the jump. The flat part of her blade hit the jelly’s face like a staff, the ground below them trembling from the aftershock.
Yet Kia’s strike prevailed, sending the jelly flying through the clouds like a cannonball. Vainqueur didn’t even see it land.
“Buzz Jelly cannot continue! The winner is Kia Bekele!” While Knight Kia expected applause, the audience instead booed her for striking at a national hero. The manling sulked without a word, her face grim.
Vainqueur sent Rolo next, growing tense. The knight had disrupted his perfect strategy without even trying! He hoped that the world’s most powerful farmer could match the power of this eyesore.
“[Hasten],” the golem accelerated time around himself and charged at the knight, seemingly to smash her with his fists.
Knight Kia immediately adopted the same defensive stance as last time, preparing to retaliate with a fearsome counterattack.
Instead, Rolo hit the ground with both fists at the last second, causing the entire arena to shake and throwing debris in all directions. Kia was hit head on, disrupting her defense, and allowing the golem to land a punch on her shoulder.
However, while a single blow had demolished Red, it only managed to dislocate the manling’s shoulder.
“Finally, a challenge!” Knight Kia rejoiced as she leaped back to put distance between both fighters, raising her blade to the skies. “[Solar Judgment]!”
A massive, blinding ray of light fell upon the golem, pinning him to the ground.
“[Full Heal].” A green aura surrounded Knight Kia, healing all her wounds and putting her shoulder back in place. She then quickly threw a miniature sun at the golem with her free hand, Rolo powering through. “How many HP do you have?!”
“Enough!” Rolo replied, engaging his opponent in close combat.
What followed was a repetitive cycle of Knight Kia and Rolo exchanging blows, the manling backing down to heal herself back to full health, before jumping back into the fray. For a while, both seemed evenly matched.
But the longer the duel lasted, the more Vainqueur grew worried. The farmer didn’t recover from his wounds, while the knight did. The battle had turned into one of attrition… and the golem didn’t have the advantage.
In the end, it took twenty-five minutes for Knight Kia to finally bring Rolo down, beating him into scraps with her sword after she wasted too many SPs to keep casting strong spells. Kobold servants dragged the body out of the arena, alongside those of the other contestants, leaving Kia victorious, but exhausted.
But it didn’t matter. What mattered was that Vainqueur had lost almost his entire team, while Knight Kia remained mostly unharmed, even if SP deprived. The dragon only had Jules the Necromancer left, the corpseling clearly aware, deep in his bones, that he couldn’t win.
Impossible! Who could save Vainqueur’s honor from defeat at the hands of this accursed knight?!
A portal suddenly opened in the middle of the arena, answering the dragon’s prayers.