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Greedy fools, all of them!

Vainqueur could smell their treachery. They all lusted for his hard-worn gold. “Minions, get out!” the dragon called from outside the pyramid, crushing the statue of the vile Furibon underfoot. “Minions! Minions!”

He had activated the Blinkblink ring, turning invisible to catch them in the act of stealing. For the dragon knew, deep in his heart, that they were busy pilfering his treasure.

Why, they even dared not to acknowledge their emperor’s order!

“Minion!” Vainqueur summoned his friend to his side when no one answered. Manling Victor appeared next to the dragon, a strange, worried look on his face. “Here you are!”

“Y-your Majesty.” The dragon sensed hesitation in his voice, as he looked for his master. “W-where are you?”

“Shush, minion,” Vainqueur said, his lackey looking at his general direction. “I’m using my Blinkblink ring to surprise them.”

“Them?”

“The traitors! Tasty Malfy, Untasty Allison, they are traitors and thieves! I can feel it in my bones!” The very thought infuriated him. “But you… not you, my chief of staff. You are the only one I can trust. Because you worship me more than anything. You still love me, right?”

“Y-yes, of course!” Manling Victor reassured his master. “I owe you my life!”

“Yes, you do. That is why I can trust you. Because you are my friend. Not like the others, those ingrates. Now, where are they?”

“I, I do not know!” Manling Victor said. “We separated earlier to look for Furibon!”

“A mere excuse to hide their duplicity!” Vainqueur illuminated his minion’s mind, dispelling his idealistic delusions. “They must be stealing as much gold as they can before they escape! We must find them!”

“I—I heard them talking about another temple in the city!” Friend Victor said, remembering an important piece of evidence. “I can lead you—”

“LEAD?” Vainqueur’s roar made his friend stumble. “Where?!”

“It’s, it’s the verb, Your Majesty, the verb!”

Vainqueur calmed himself, but only barely so. “Minion, do not play tricks on me. My patience is at an end.”

“Certainly, Your Majesty…” Manling Victor cleared his throat. “I can guide you to the temple and then we will interrogate them.”

“I will have them kiss my finger,” Vainqueur said. “If they love me as you do, they will. Not like the others.”

“About that…” Manling Victor trailed, as if afraid of the answer. “Where is Chocolatine?”

The dragon briefly hesitated about sparing his friend’s feelings but decided he should better be warned of what they were up against. “I had to do it, minion. She was fifty.”

“Fifty what? Years? Werewolves live that long?”

“Fifty kilos,” Vainqueur explained.

Manling Victor opened his mouth, before noticing her near the plaza.

The gold statue of Chocolatine, still holding the treacherous Felix in her arms, and that greedy look still on her face.

“I had to do it, minion,” Vainqueur told his friend, who looked at the statue in horror—horror at her treachery. “They lusted for my gold with their greedy eyes, then tried to turn me into treasure… after I gave them a minion job! Do you know the unemployment rate among your kind, Manling Victor? You do not, and you do not want to know. While I achieved full employment!”

“I…” Friend Victor was speechless at the revelation.

“She was full of lust for my gold!” Vainqueur ranted. “She would have turned you to gold too, but I saw it coming! I saw them both coming, her and that money-grubbing cat! How you may ask?”

Manling Victor said nothing, listening to his master’s wisdom.

“I have a sixth sense to detect a minion’s inner shininess: the Shiny-ing!” Vainqueur ranted to his servant. “I can tell how much they will weigh in gold! I can! Because I am wealthy in gold, but poor in minions! Do you know how much a kobold is worth?”

Intelligence check successful!

“The average kobold weighs twenty kilos, and we have more than five thousand of them! Which translates into a hundred tons of gold, if we do not fatten them first! Imagine the size of my hoard afterward, minion!”

“I… I can’t…”

“Because you lack imagination,” Vainqueur replied. “But we will start with the traitors first. Allison weights forty-five kilos, and Malfy more than one hundred-twenty kilos.”

His chief of staff answered with a quick nod and immediately flew towards the new temple. Vainqueur followed on foot, invisible and subtle. Now that he thought of it, Icefang probably weighed tons in gold; after rubbing his superior wealth to his face, he could add his rival to it.

“Even Jolie is full of greed, minion,” Vainqueur said. His shiny-ing sense told him she lusted for his hoard; all the time she behaved like a lovable niece, he now realized that she only wanted the inheritance.

“Your Majesty isn’t considering turning his own niece to gold?” Manling Victor asked with a strange tone.

“I…” Vainqueur marked a short pause, as his head began to hurt. His shiny-ing told him how much his niece weighed, which made him happy, but a part of him screamed, ‘Vainqueur, no!’

Charisma check successful! You temporarily regained your empathy!

“Of course not,” Vainqueur said, horrified that the thought even crossed his mind. “She is worth more than gold to me, no matter how much I spoiled her.”

Manling Victor let out a sigh of relief.

“But I am cutting her out of my will, and you too, for the sake of fairness. I will keep everything for myself.”

He would simply turn himself to gold after doing the same with his empire, becoming part of this grandiose hoard of El Dorado. He would stay the richest dragon forever until the sun died out in the sky!

Vainqueur entertained these shiny thoughts for the entire trip, as his favored minion led them to a new golden pyramid, albeit one different from the others in architecture. The statues represented giant insects, and the stairs circled the pyramid towards the top like a coiled worm.

Vainqueur sniffed the air. “I do not smell the treacherous minions nearby…” The dragon glanced at his beloved lackey. “But I can smell the lich’s odious odor on you, minion. You should bathe, and very quickly.”

“Yes, of course,” Manling Victor said, as he landed on the stairs towards the flat top. Vainqueur tried to climb them up as well and…

BAM!

He hit his head against an invisible wall. The dragon hit it with his free hand, then blasted it with flames, to no avail. “Wow, I guess I will just catch the minions inside!” his chief of staff said with a strange tone. “I will get going—”

“Wait here, minion,” Vainqueur said, activating his trump card. “[Spell Purge].”

His ultimate Perk activated, weakening the barrier and stripping him of his invisibility.

His chief of staff recoiled in horror.

For it was true that Vainqueur had changed a little. Some of his scales had turned golden, empowering by his newfound [Curse of Greed]. He also carried a long, golden axe in his hand. His eyes must have shone with the glitter of gold.

As for the axe? He had found it laying around. The dragon had no idea why, but he had the compulsion to take it with him. Still, just like Ogron’s weapon the past year, it was a constant struggle for the dragon to wield it within his claws.

Still, he immediately smashed the barrier with it. “Here is Vainqueur!” the dragon snarled, the weapon shattering the invisible wall and collapsing it.

Nothing could stop the power of gold! He even felt his shiny-ing flare up, stronger than ever.

Empathy negated by [Curse of Greed].

The dragon’s shiny-ing activated, making him suspicious of his chief of staff’s strange behavior. He had been acting shifty for the past hour, and it bothered Vainqueur.

He sniffed his chief of staff and noticed the smell of Tasty Malfy and Untasty Allison on him. He would have shrugged it off as the consequence of close proximity, but the scent seemed a bit too strong.

Like he was wearing them. “Minion Victor, have you been hiding the traitors from me?”

“O-of course not!”

Having known his chief of staff for so long, Vainqueur didn’t need magic to identify the sentence as what it was.

A lie!

His chief of staff lied to him!

No, no, his friend would never do that. That was his imagination. But his shiny-ing told him there was only one way to be sure. “Minion,” Vainqueur presented him his royal free hand. “Kiss my claw.”

Gold-to-be Victor froze in place.

“Minion, I won’t hurt you! I only want to touch you!” Vainqueur insisted, wagging his hand at him. “If you truly love me, you will kiss my claw!"

Much to his consternation, his lackey hesitated, as if torn between his loyalty and treacherous compulsions. Vainqueur prepared to grab him by force...

“Okay.” His chief of staff straightened up. “I will kiss your hand, Your Majesty.”

“Yes, you will, because I am your master.”

“No,” Manling Victor replied, quickly adding before the infuriated dragon could chastize him. “I will kiss your hand because you are my friend, Vainqueur… and because I trust you.”

The dragon emperor frowned, his minion climbing down the stairs toward his beloved dragon until he was right in front of his scaled hand. Manling Victor took a long deep breath, closed his eyes, and prepared to kiss his master’s finger.

He would be perfect as a statue, the most beautiful of Vainqueur’s collec—

Charisma check successful! You temporarily regained your empathy!

No.

No!

“Wait!” Vainqueur hastily distanced his hand from his minion, although his body refused to budge. “Wait, minion!”

So did he.

Empathy negated by [Curse of Greed].

No, this was a ploy!

The minion pretended to obey, hoping his master would change his mind at the last second! Such a subtle trickery, only a dragon could uncover it.

“Kiss my…” Vainqueur’s throat tightened. “Kiss my…”

No!

What was he doing? That was his friend, the one minion he had sacrificed his entire hoard to raise from the dead! The one destined to follow Vainqueur all the way to godhood! He was worth more to the dragon than any weight in gold!

Gold…

If he transformed everything he had to gold, he would never be able to keep every part of his treasure in sight. Thieves would pilfer his statues, and share them with paupers. And then… and then…

It would create inflation!

Intelligence check successful!

Too much gold in circulation would make him poorer!

It had to stop!

[Curse of Greed]—

Curse nothing! “Go away!” Vainqueur willed it, and the universe obeyed. “Vainqueur Knightsbane bows to none!”

Charisma check successful! [Curse of Greed] negated by [Dragon Arrogance]!

Instantly, Vainqueur’s scales regained their crimson luster, and the overwhelming pressure of the shiny-ing vanished from his mind.

Congratulations! For successfully breaking the [Curse of Greed]’s hold over yourself through the twin powers of dragon-minion friendship and economical theory, you have earned a level in [Kaiser]!

+30 HP, +10 SP, +1 STR, +1 VIT, +1 SKI, +1 AGI, +1 INT, +1 CHA, +1 LCK.

“Your Majesty did it!” Manling Victor congratulated his master. “I knew you could shrug that curse off!”

“Who else but a dragon, Friend Victor?” Vainqueur grumbled. He glanced at the axe in his hand, before casually tossing it away. “A dragon-chief of staff bond of trust is unbreakable.”

No sooner did he say it, that the consequence of his recent actions dawned on him. “I turned my minions into gold,” the dragon panicked. “I turned my sweet, lovable minions into cursed gold.”

“Yes, and if we want to change that, then we still have work to do.” Manling Victor put a hand in his boxer, before bringing something out. “You can come out!”

Instantly, black specks inside the palm of his hand grew larger, eventually transforming into a bug fiend, a dryad, and…

“FURIBON!” Smoke came out of Vainqueur’s nostrils.

“I saved your servants from yourself, wyrm,” the undead replied haughtily.

“I wish there was another place where to hide,” Allison said, looking traumatized. “But Your Majesty took us by surprise.”

The dragon didn’t care, his eyes set on the undead in their midst. He should have known the lich would be linked to this disaster! “Minion, get out of my way, so I can burn the lich to cinders!”

“I hate you too, Knightsbane,” Furibon replied bluntly. “But we both have allies trapped by the city’s curse.”

“We need to cooperate,” Manling Victor said. “With Your Majesty’s destruction of the barrier, not only can we move all in, but whatever is trapped there will try getting out. I have no idea what kind of creature lays in wait inside, but the more numerous we are, the better.”

“Cooperate? With the goldslayer? The enemy?” Vainqueur almost snarled ‘never,’ before the picture of Sweet Chocolatine summoning fiends that he could poke flared in his mind; as well as Felix flattering him in a very exquisite way.

Eventually, his concern for his minions overcame his hatred for Furibon.

“Temporarily,” Vainqueur warned with a threatening tone. “Very temporarily.”

The lich let out a shrug, Manling Victor putting a hand on his shoulder. “Let’s go,” he said, the group turning towards the pyramid.

Ready to claim their rightful loot.

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About the author

Void Herald

Bio: I'm a European warlock living in the distant realm known as France, spending half my time writing and the other half managing magical websites.

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