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The time of the final battle had come.

Vainqueur had to give it to the lich. Furibon may be wicked, he did honor his word. At noon, on the appointed day, he teleported on Dodo Island, backed by his supporters and a huge orc.

Meanwhile, V&V’s supporters dwarfed them in numbers. Fiends, moonlanders, mounts, and a flock of dodos had gathered to encourage the winning team, carrying banners with Vainqueur’s name on it.

“I spared no expenses, Your Majesty,” Manling Victor explained, as he revealed the final deck. “I refreshed this deck with forbidden cards from all corners of the multiverse, Happyland, the Elemental Planes…”

“And even from the cursed Planet Moon?” Vainqueur asked, Manling Victor nodding gravely. Even now, the dragon glimpsed Tasty Malfy and the squid Thul-Gathar among their supporters. “If we are to defeat Furibon, we must resort to extreme measures. May the Elder Wyrm forgive us.”

The orc conjured a massive wooden table with magic, allowing both the lich and Manling Victor to sit at each side, the crowd surrounding them. Vainqueur remained behind his chief of staff, to give him orders while he manipulated the cards with his tiny hands.

“I am Manitou, the arbiter of this battle of Monster Poker,” the orc declared, who would also provide the special effects. “On one side… the tactical genius, Furibon of the Counterattack!”

Everyone but the lich’s supporters booed him. Even the dodos!

Knight Kia didn’t count. “This is stupid,” she said. “A card game of all things…”

“The gods play cards,” Thul-Gathar replied in his slippery tongue, “This is duel of fate.”

“On the other,” Manitou extended a hand to Vainqueur’s side of the table. “The invincible duo, dragon and minion, brain and brawn… V&V!”

This time, the cheers became deafening, the dragon raising his head with pride at his genius being recognized by all.

“I will remind everyone of the new Monster Poker standard format rules,” Manitou explained. “Each of you will play with a deck of forty cards minimum, and you cannot have more than three copies of a card in your deck. You have ten spots on your dungeon zone, five for minions, five for traps. Spells can be used from the hand, and equipment can be added on top of your minion card.”

Both Furibon and Vainqueur’s minion shuffled their deck, the rivals glaring at one another. Five giant coins floated behind each side.

“You start with a hoard of five gold coins, representing your life. If you have no minion to defend yourself, a enemy can destroy a coin. If your hoard is depleted, you lose; same if you have exhausted your deck and can no longer draw at the beginning of your turn.”

“Five coins is too little for me, and too much for a pauper like him,” Vainqueur told Furibon.

“A pauper you will become after I am done with you, wyvern,” the lich replied with sadistic glee.

“Now, I put these face-down special cards in the middle of the field.” Manitou set five cards in the middle of the table, close enough for each player to barely grab them. “At any point, you may switch cards of your hand with these. They can be extremely powerful… or completely useless. It’s a gamble, but such is the spirit... of Monster Poker!”

“There is one thing I will not budge on: you cannot discuss strategy together,” Furibon warned V&V. “Dalton, you can state the obvious and encourage your master as any supporter can, but no tactical advice. This is between me and the wyrm.”

“My minion is my hand,” Vainqueur declared with pride. “The hand that shall crush you!”

“The wages are such,” Manitou concluded. “Should V&V prevail, Furibon shall surrender to an eternity of atonement through minionship. Should Furibon win, V&V shall be bound by a restraining order, and their entire hoard shall be turned to lead, permanently, as a fine. Finally, the loser shall surrender his best card to the winner!”

Vainqueur’s heart skipped a beat. His mind refused to accept the thought of losing, but the danger was real. The fate of the true gold, of all the world’s wealth, laid in his hands.

“Now.“ Each party put a deck to their side and drew five cards. “Battle!”

[King of Games] activated!

“[IWIN!]” Vainqueur gloated, revealing the five cards, automatic victory combination.

“Or so you think,” Furibon replied, showing a card from his hand. “For you activated the hand spell, [Dice’s Reroll].”

An illusion of a twenty-faced dice appeared above the board, canceling the [IWIN!] message.

“It forces you to send your five [IWIN!] cards to the crypt, cancel the effect, and draw five more cards to replace them,” Furibon explained. “Did you truly think I would not do my research? I know you always win with your first hand, so I prepared accordingly.”

“But how could you be sure to draw that counter on your first turn?” Manling Victor asked, suspicious.

Furibon chuckled. “I trimmed my cards.”

“You cheated!” Vainqueur roared. “Disqualify him!”

“Card tricks are not against the rules of Monster Poker,” Tasty Malfy noted. “Neither is the use of Perks like your [King of Games].”

“Monster Poker is all about outside the box thinking!” Manitou shouted while Furibon’s supporters kept shouting his name. Vainqueur grumbled as Manling Victor had no choice but to discard the winning hand. Yet, the dragon smiled inwardly, as he would win with the next draw.

For he had three copies of the [IWIN!] card combo in his deck.

“I am not finished,” Furibon declared, revealing a new card. “By sending cards from your hand to the crypt, I can activate this spell from my hand: [Harem Ban]!

The card’s picture represented a paladin in shining armor, chasing away five monster girls, a boy, and a slime.

“It forces you to send every copy of the cards you discarded this turn, from your deck to the crypt.”

Vainqueur blinked, as the words registered. “What?!”

Before he knew what hit him, ten cards magically moved from his deck to the crypt, his two remaining copies of the [IWIN!] series destroyed. The dragon fumed with shock and fury, as he could no longer pull off his favorite combo.

Impossible… no one had survived past his first draw before!

“What’s the matter, wyvern?” the lich taunted him. “Speechless?”

“That’s Furibon of the Counterattack,” Manitou said with a smirk. “Always one step ahead.”

Vainqueur clenched his fangs but kept his cool as his minions chanted his name, drowning out his nemesis’ taunts. “You have only delayed the inevitable, lich,” the dragon declared, as Manling Victor drew five cards. “I trust in my Vizier’s deck! It has more winning strategies within than you have ribs!”

Furibon snorted, as Vainqueur could finally resume his turn. While it was no winning hand, his minion had drawn powerful cards.

“I summon the level 10 minion [Goblin Hero],” Vainqueur declared, a red-capped green goblin appearing on the field, wielding a tiny sword.

A minion’s level represented their power; if two minions with the same level fought, they destroyed one another. Minions with a level above 30 were Crested Minions and needed the tribute of a weaker minion on the field to appear. While epic minions, with a level above 60, were so powerful that they each had an individual, unique summoning method.

“[Goblin Hero] allows me to summon an extra minion each turn, so long as they are level 10 and below. I choose the [Kobold Commander].”

A purple kobold joined the goblin, fist-bumping it.

“[Kobold Commander] allows me to add a Crested minion from my deck to my hand,” Vainqueur didn’t even have to tell Manling Victor which one, for it symbolized his own vow of minionship. “The [Scythe Lord].”

“Obviously,” the lich said. “But you cannot summon him this turn without a special effect.”

Vainqueur ignored the lich. “Since I cannot attack on the first turn, I place a trap in my dungeon zone and I end this round.”

With a wall of minions to protect his hoard, the dragon had nothing to fear.

Or so he thought!

“I discard two minions from my hand, [Wicked Priest] and [Fortress Knight],” Furibon threw almost half his hand into the crypt. “Which allows me to summon this minion per its special effect!”

A skeletal warrior clad in tight, green clothes appeared, wielding a curved blade and a familiar, crimson capote. His level, 60, appeared right next to his head. “[Undead Matador]!”

“Be wary, Your Majesty, this creature cannot be destroyed in battle!” Manling Victor warned his beloved master, “and he can attack a hoard directly!”

“Indeed, and I equip him with [Metal Glider],” Furibon summoned a miniature plane right below the monster’s feet, allowing him to fly. “Which grants my matador the ability to attack twice a turn!”

Which he did.

The matador flew over Vainqueur’s defenders, and swiftly cut through two of his coins. The dragon reeled from the pain of watching his hoard depleted, while Furibon added his final card on the board. “I place a trap in my dungeon zone, and I end my turn.”

“Manling Victor, draw!” Vainqueur ordered, his partner obeying. “I call—”

“Not yet,” Furibon said, revealing his trap. The picture showed a manling accepting a poisoned apple from Mag Mell. “I activate the trap, [Fairy’s Poisoned Gift]. By paying one coin, I can draw until I have six cards in my hand.”

“You would sacrifice your own gold?” Vainqueur could only watch as the lich descended into depravity, turning a coin to lead and drawing cards to refill his hand. “You shall not get away with it! I sacrifice [Goblin Hero] to call my level 53 [Scythe Lord]!”

His mighty servant rose from the goblin’s ashes, a wicked, armored reaper of souls, swinging a scythe of screaming ghosts. The card that represented Manling Victor’s faith in his master, and dedication to him.

Vainqueur reminisced about the trials they undertook to complete the ultimate deck. Manling Victor had been skeptical about this card battle, almost as much as Knight Kia; but as they completed their harrowing spiritual journey through Dodo Island together, he had finally understood his destiny. To help his master defeat evil, at Monster Poker!

Words could not describe the ordeals the two faced to earn the [Scythe Lord]... but through them, they won this card’s allegiance.

And with it, they would win!

“When [Scythe Lord] is summoned, I can revive any minion from my crypt as an Undead Type.” [Goblin Hero] returned from the dead, a tiny skeleton animated by [Scythe Lord]’s will. “And my reborn minion’s effect activates, allowing me to bring another reinforcement! The level 10 [Slime Knight]!”

A childlike blue slime swinging a tiny sword joined the minion army, bravely standing next to the [Scythe Lord].

“I see V&V strategy now,” Manitou mused. “A beatdown deck.”

“Beatdown?” Knight Kia asked, having zero knowledge of such a high-stakes, intellectual game.

“He will summon as many minions as he can to overwhelm his foe,” Manitou explained. “It’s a good strategy… but of no use against Furibon’s immortal defense!”

“None of your creatures can defeat my [Undead Matador],” the lich taunted his rival.

“Which is why I activate my trap, [Ultimate Minion Sacrifice],” Vainqueur revealed his trap. “Two of my minions will give their life to destroy any one of yours!”

His [Goblin Hero] and [Kobold Commander] bravely rushed at the matador, exploding upon contact. When the dust settled, all of them had perished. Vainqueur almost cried a tear of regret, but decided to honor the sacrifice through victory.

“Minions, take back his hoard!”

Furibon chuckled, as a ghostly armored knight appeared right in front of his hoard, parrying scythe and slime. “What?!” Vainqueur’s eyes widened.

“Remember the [Fortress Knight] I discarded earlier?” the lich taunted him, the ghost vanishing. “By removing him from the crypt and from the game permanently, I can shield my hoard from attacks this turn.”

Argh, the lich had planned for everything! “I place two traps in my dungeon zone and I end my turn, coward!”

“Coward I may be, but the winning one,” Furibon replied, drawing. “I activate the spell [Adventurers’ Guild Reinforcements], which allows us both to draw two cards.”

Both rivals increased their hands by two, Furibon chuckling as he drew the second one. “You know, Vainqueur, when you challenged me to battle, there was one card that I immediately added to my deck, before even considering my overall strategy. A card I knew would bring you to your knees. A card I just drew.”

The dragon remained strong and proud. “Bring it.”

And so, Furibon cast the most wicked of spells. “[Lead Buster]!”

One of Vainqueur’s coins turned to lead and then collapsed into dust.

The dragon froze for a few seconds, reliving the darkest days of the War of the Hoard. The dark times when Furibon roamed the world freely, murdering baby coins and abducting minions to his cursed fortress. Vainqueur had flashback of the conflict, of baby coins screaming in agony and minions dying all around him.

No, Vainqueur thought, forcing himself back to reality. He could not let the lich sink its claws into his mind.

“Next, I activate the spell, [Vampire Raid],” Furibon revealed his newest card “While I cannot summon normally this turn, we can both call every undead in our hands to battle, so long as they are level 60 and below.”

Once again, Vainqueur’s supreme genius had worked out in his favor, for Manling Victor had added a few of those critters to the deck. Regaining his presence of mind, the [Augustus] immediately summoned the only undead in his hand: [Zombie Averagist].

A rotting dwarf from the underworld, [Zombie Averagist]’s level equaled the average level of all monsters on the field, narrowed to the lowest number.

“As for me, I call a level 60 [Vampire Witch], and my favorite minion…” Two monsters appeared on Furibon’s side, a vampire dressed like a wizard, and a golden skeleton atop a throne of gems. “[Golich, the Wealthiest Undead], level 58!”

[Zombie Averagist]’s level grew to 44. While Vainqueur had more minions on his side, none could defeat any of Furibon’s own.

“When [Vampire Witch] is summoned, I can add one copy of a spell in my crypt, from my deck to my hand,” Furibon said, bringing out a card, “Guess which one?”

Vainqueur’s eyes widened, as he braced himself for impact.

“[Lead Buster]!”

The dragon’s hoard shrunk to only one coin, much to the audience’s horror. “That’s how Furibon will win,” Manitou analyzed. “A Monster Poker battle is a mental marathon. Vainqueur is a dragon, and so vulnerable to stress… while as a brainless undead, Furibon will always keep a cool head.”

“His Majesty has faced worse odds, and came out victorious!” Malfy reminded the dragon, the minions cheering him up. “Happyland stands by you! BLEEP his soul!”

“Now, my servants, attack!” Furibon ordered, his [Golich] unleashing a tsunami of gold against the weaker [Scythe Lord].

“You set off my trap, [Level Switch].” Vainqueur revealed one of his face-down cards. “Our minions switch levels during a single battle!”

His [Scythe Lord], now stronger, leaped over the gold tsunami and cut down [Golich], destroying him. The sight of the gold throne vanishing with it broke Vainqueur’s heart. That cursed lich used psychological warfare to weaken him.

“You have only brought time, Vainqueur!” Immediately, the lich ordered his vampire to attack the victorious [Scythe Lord], and this time, she skewered him with an icy spike.

“Minion, I could not protect your card,” Vainqueur apologized to Manling Victor, as the [Scythe Lord] vanished into dust.

“You did what you could,” his Vizier comforted him. “He will return. A chief of staff’s job is never done!”

Once again, Vainqueur relieved a flashback of his training days on Dodo Island, as Manling Victor practiced his winning draw hour after hour, night after night. His minion had remained determined to fulfill his duty, no matter what!

The words gave Vainqueur his faith in himself back, as Furibon added four more traps and ended his turn. Immediately, the ground on his side of the field opened, [Golich] rising back from the crypt atop his hoardlike throne.

“As long as I have more coins than you, wyvern,” Furibon rubbed the wealth inequality to the dragon, “[Golich] will return from the dead at the end of my turn.”

“Minion, he is using the power of gold against us!” Vainqueur panicked.

“It has begun,” the orc nodded. “Furibon’s fearsome Undead Lockdown. He will slowly deplete the enemy’s hoard while reviving his minions again and again.”

“Indeed, it seems that I have secured—”

“Do you not dare say it!” Vainqueur interrupted the lich, who grinned smugly in response.

a serious lead.”

The dragon growled, Manling Victor putting a hand on his scales to calm him. “We can still win,” his Vizier reminded him, drawing.

“I activate two of my four traps,” Furibon revealed two of his face-down cards before Vainqueur could react. “[Return of the Lich King] and [Signs of the End Times].”

The first card revealed itself, boosting Golich’s level to 68. “All revived minions on the field will gain ten additional levels,” Furibon explained. “This card will remain in the dungeon zone until it is destroyed.”

As for [Signs of the End Times]... The trap revealed itself, showing a picture of the wicked god Sablar. A counter of three appeared on it. “Minion, what does this card do?” Vainqueur asked.

“On your third turn after its activation, Furibon will summon an extremely powerful Epic minion,” Manling Victor warned his master.

Neither the card nor its user could be allowed to survive that long. They had to win. For the dragonlings, and the baby coins.

Vainqueur analyzed the situation. With the current field, [Zombie Averagist]’s level increased to 46; not enough to defeat any enemy minion. The dragon glanced at the five special Poker cards, feeling, deep within his bones, that they held the key to victory. Trusting his instinct, the dragon decided to make an exchange.

“I invoke the Poker Equation, and switch two of my cards!” Manling Victor dramatically raised his hand, having practiced the ‘miracle draw’ technique for three days. In an instant, he exchanged two good cards with two almighty ones.

“How predictable!” Furibon revealed a trap, representing a werewolf spying on a gathering of kobolds at night. “[Moonlight Sabotage]! I send one of your hand’s cards to the bottom of your deck, where it will stay even after your deck is shuffled, and allow you to draw a new one in return!”

Vainqueur could only scream in rage, as one of the two almighty cards was buried below his deck while Manling Victor drew a replacement. Still, the other was more than enough. The dragon and his Vizier exchanged a look, nodding at one another.

“I use the almighty, [Supreme Fusion],” Vainqueur revealed the cheat spell. “I can fuse three monsters from my deck, moving them to the crypt, and the result will arrive at the beginning of my next turn.”

The ultimate, all-powerful minion.

“Next, I sacrifice my [Slime Knight] to summon a stronger minion, [Excalighost].” His slimy champion transformed into a living, floating ghostly blade with a Level of 60. “Which means my [Zombie Averagist]’s level rose to an average of 62!”

His dwarf grew stronger from the power of shared mediocrity, demolishing the [Vampire Witch] with his mighty Equality Punch attack!

“Then I activate the spell, [Level Cap],” Vainqueur used the last card in his hand. “All minions whose level has been artificially increased will be destroyed!”

“You are going to destroy both my [Golich] and your [Averagist] if you do this!” Furibon didn’t understand such an advanced strategy.

“I am counting on it!” A powerful magical light cleared up the field, leaving only [Excalighost], “And now you are wide open. Minion!”

The sword immediately cut one of Furibon’s coins, finally bringing down the bastard’s wealth from four to three.

“Finally, I then activate my remaining face-down trap, [Loot Finder],” Vainqueur revealed the final part of his masterful, genius move. “I can remove a multiple of five cards from my crypt from the game, and I gain an additional coin for each.”

Removing fifteen cards and voluntarily keeping a few special ones in the crypt for later, Vainqueur watched gleefully as his fortune increased from one to four, overcoming Furibon’s own. “Now that I am the wealthiest of all, [Golich] will remain in the crypt where he belongs.”

“He broke the lockdown!” Kia shouted, now excited by the battle.

“And Furibon has no cards left in his hand,” Malfy noted, while the lich’s supporters remained stone-faced. Furibon himself let out a snarl of frustration; clearly, his only remaining trap couldn’t help him out of this situation.

“Ready to give up, lich?” Vainqueur taunted him.

“Furibon will not give up.” Everyone glanced at the orc commentator. “He is a true duelist. So long as he believes in his deck, his cards won’t let him down.”

The lich simply drew.

… and chuckled. “Perfect. I discard the Level 0 [Card Djinn] from my hand!”

A bottle materialized on the field, a tiny blue goblin peeking from within.

“When discarded, [Card Djinn] allows us both to draw five cards from our deck,” Furibon said, both players increasing their hands’ size from zero to five while the genie vanished.

Why add a card that helped his opponent as much as himself? A look at his depleted deck told Vainqueur why.

“Minion, how many cards do we have left?” Vainqueur asked, worried.

“Only seven,” Manling Victor replied grimly.

That lich bastard intended to force Vainqueur to deck out!

“First of all, I activate the spell [Unjust Tax],” Furibon played the most evil card in his entire deck. “Each time you lose a coin this turn, I will gain one in return.”

Did that mean the lich expected to bring down Vainqueur’s wealth this turn? How?

“You are not the only one with three copies of a card, Vainqueur. [Lead Buster]!”

One of the dragon’s four coins turned to lead, a golden copy appearing on Furibon’s side; inverting their net worth!

“Next, I use the spell [Minion Recycling].” A brown, colored smoke-spewing cup appeared behind Furibon. “Which allows me to recycle one of the spells I used this turn by discarding a minion from my hand. [Lead Buster]!”

Vainqueur stumbled back from the illusory onslaught, his heart broken.

“Last but not least, since I discarded my [Card Djinn], I can still summon a minion this turn. The one from your worst nightmares’, wyvern.” Furibon raised a card to the very skies. “The legendary [Gold Eating Insect]!”

“Impossible!” Vainqueur shouted, the skies darkening from the coming of this monstrous, ancient evil. “We dragons destroyed every single trace of their existence!”

“Not all of them,” Manitou said grimly. “A single copy of the card survived this ancient dragon purge, protected by the legendary order of duelists.”

It appeared, exactly like in Vainqueur’s most sinister memories.

A tiny golden ant, whose single level couldn’t hide its aura of pure evil.

“During each of my turns, this vermin will devour part of your wealth!” Furibon raised a finger, the insect launching himself at one of Vainqueur’s two remaining coins.

“No!” The dragon screamed in horror, relieving through the darkest moment of dragonkind. The ignoble animal swallowed the coin whole, bypassing [Excalighost], and popped up another one on Furibon’s side.

In one round, the lich had reduced Vainqueur’s wealth to one and increased his own to six.

“Finally, I set a trap,” Furibon said, “and I end my turn.”

With his master’s newfound, ill-gotten wealth, [Golich] returned from the crypt, joining the vicious insect; once again, [Return of the Lich King] increased his level to 68, more than Vainqueur’s remaining monster.

So it was with a heavy heart that Vainqueur ordered his chief of staff to draw.

“You have pressured me thus far, Furibon,” the dragon declared, as the enemy trap’s counter fell to two. “But this ends now.”

For at long last, his ultimate minion had come!

“Behold, the most powerful champion a dragon could ever want!” Vainqueur hyped up his ultimate card, as [Supreme Fusion] summoned it on the field with a flash of burning light. “[Vainglorious, the Ultimate Three-Headed Dragon], level 90!”

His arrival cowed all onlookers.

For it was a vision of perfection; an immense, majestuous, three-headed dragon, each of his heads crowned! His mighty roar inspired fear in even the lich’s cold black heart.

“A zmey!” Gorynych wagged his tail.

“A dragon!” Vainqueur snarled back. “That can attack three times in a row! More than enough to demolish your army! As for your hoard, I play the spell [Hungry Master’s Call]! It allows me to summon a number of minions whose combined levels are below that of my strongest champion on the field!”

Namely, he could summon all three minions in his hand!

“Behold my army!” Vainqueur boasted, as two level 10 [Slime Knights] and one white-furred, level 25 [Werewolf Girl] hit the field, bringing his army to five. “Attack!”

His mighty dragon obeyed his master, two of his heads incinerating the [Gold-Eating Insect], and that cursed [Golich]. Then, the last head led the assault, all minions charging at Furibon’s coins.

Only for a ghostly knight to block all their attacks.

“Remember the card I discarded to use [Minion Recycling]?” Furibon gloated. “Another copy of [Fortress Knight]!”

“Damn!” Manling Victor cursed, as the enemy’s hoard escaped destruction.

“It is fine, minion,” Vainqueur reassured his chief of staff. “Our army will finish him off next turn. I set one trap, and I end my turn.”

The situation favored them. He had an invincible card in play, an army, and Furibon had emptied his hand last turn.

Still… the lich kept two face-down traps in play, with one he had been sitting on for numerous turns now. Did he keep it as a last resort? What about the new one? What if he had another dangerous, instant coin destruction card in reserve?

Not that Vainqueur doubted of his victory, but… the dragon held his breath.

Furibon dramatically drew a card, looked at it...

And let out a snarl of sheer rage. “I end my turn,” Furibon said bitterly, unable to use his newest card. “[Golich], return to me!”

The immortal undead prepared to return, but Vainqueur put a nail in his coffin by revealing his own set trap: [Golem Dysfunction].

“My trap prevents an enemy minion’s summoning and cancels its effect permanently,” Vainqueur revealed with smug satisfaction, the picture of a golem’s wreckage crushing [Golich]. “Your undead servant will never return!”

The lich clenched his fists, now completely vulnerable for the final blow.

“My final turn,” Vainqueur dramatically declared, his minion preparing to draw as [Signs of the End Times]’s counter dropped to one.

“Indeed!” Furibon finally revealed the mysterious trap, representing a broken clock. “[Kingu Kurimuzon]! I skip one turn of time for each of us!”

Before Vainqueur knew what hit him, the very world briefly distorted into a flash of red, the counter of [Signs of the End Times] hitting zero. The card exploded, summoning the lich’s own ultimate minion.

“Here it comes.” Furibon raised his hands, as a monstrous, colossal minion appeared on his side. “[Fomor King Balaur]!”

The creature that appeared was no mere large and mighty dullahan, but a colossus matching Vainqueur’s own ultimate dragon in level. A knight with burning blue flames for a head, and wielding a mighty axe of flesh and bones.

“You created a card after that bastard?!” Knight Kia shouted in outrage at Manitou.

“When summoned, [Fomor King Balaur] destroys all minions on my enemy’s side,” Furibon revealed, the titan raising his axe. “This power cannot be countered, and for each card destroyed by this effect, you, Vainqueur, must send an equal amount from the top of your deck to the crypt. And I count five.”

Which left Vainqueur with…

“One card!”

The crowd shouted, as the enemy minion brought down his axe and cut through Vainqueur’s entire army; and in flagrant defiance of historical accuracy, even the dragon! Manling Victor had no choice but empty the deck down to one; the final card he could draw.

It took a moment for Vainqueur to process the sight, as his entire crowd of admirers had fallen silent, while Furibon’s few fans sung his name in admiration.

The dragon only had one card in his deck. The magical card. If Vainqueur didn’t end it this turn, Furibon could simply skip his turn and automatically win. And with one coin left and no protection, the lich could always attack if his rival somehow replenished his deck.

Vainqueur had been backed into a deadly corner.

The dragon glanced down at his chief of staff, who looked back with eyes full of determination.

No. The battle wasn’t over. So long as he breathed.

“Now, draw your last pathetic card, Vainqueur,” Furibon said, his colossal fairy swinging its axe.

“This deck, crafted by my minions, contains no pathetic card!” The Emperor prevented Manling Victor from drawing. “But before I end this, I want to ask you something, lich!”

“Ask away, but be quick. I want to end this farce and be done with this period of my life.”

“At no point did you exchange your cards with the mystery ones,” Vainqueur pointed out. “Why?”

The spellcaster scoffed. “Why rely on luck when you can decide your own fate?”

“Is there no place in your black heart for surprise and showmanship?”

“No,” Furibon replied bluntly. “Be it at cards or in life, practicality, predictability, and sound strategy will always prevail.”

Vainqueur had expected something so base. “And this is where you are wrong. For you have not considered one key element. What separates a beautiful dragon like me, from the likes of you.”

“Your friendship with Dalton?” Furibon mocked him.

“My popularity!” Vainqueur roared, rousing his fans. “For when you play a card, it is carried only by your own strength! While every move I play is supported by the love and wishes of thousands of minions! And they won’t let me lose!”

And so, carried on by the cheers of Vainqueur’s admirers, Friend Victor drew the ultimate card and revealed it. A kobold raised from the dead by his beloved dragon master.

“[Minion Revival]!”

“That card cannot revive any minion above level 60!” Furibon cackled, before freezing. “No…”

“Yes! I revive [Scythe Lord]!” The undead warrior rose from the dead, his effect immediately activating. “Who can revive any minion in the crypt, ignoring its summoning conditions! And with your [Return of the Lich King] still active, both gain ten levels!”

His majestuous, three-headed dragon returned from the dead, his level skyrocketing to 100. With one head, it blasted the fairy lord, and then two coins of Furibon’s hoard with the others.

“I still have four coins left, and you only one minion,” Furibon boasted about his stolen wealth. “You lost with dignity, but you still failed.”

“Have you forgotten the last card in my hand, Goldslayer?” Vainqueur had Manling Victor reveal it. “The spell, [Unfusion]!”

Instantly, his three-headed revived champion divided into its components: three beautiful crimson, level 60 wyrms.

The lich’s confidence crumbled, right as the dragons shattered one coin each while their fans exploded into cheers. “Carry this pain with you to the grave, Furibon!” Vainqueur shouted, as the [Scythe Lord] prepared to give the coup de grace, “It is by doubting my popularity, that you reinforced it!”

With a resigned, disgusted look, the lich raised his hand. “[Troll Button].”

The final trap on Furibon’s field revealed itself, representing a troll smashing a big red button with explosions in the background.

“When I lose my last coin, I can destroy one of the enemy’s.”

Vainqueur’s last coin exploded, right as [Scythe Lord] cut Furibon’s own.

The illusions collapsed into nothingness, revealing the lackluster, final result to every onlooker.

“A draw?!” Every supporter from both sides shouted at once, pissed. Furibon looked away, bitter.

“I demand a rematch!” Vainqueur snarled. “Immediately!”

Enough!”

The Emperor glanced at his favorite manling, who rose up from his seat before making his way to the lich. “Furibon,” Manling Victor looked deep into his foe’s eyes. “Through this battle, I think I understood you.”

“This is ridiculous,” the lich said.

“Not so much,” Manling Victor said, seizing Furibon’s final card, “[Troll Button]. A card that can never allow its user to win, and whose only use is to force a draw… so a new battle can take place. You could have switched this card for another, one that could have helped you win, but you didn’t.”

Furibon fell silent, the chief of staff’s words taking root in his cold, dead heart.

“Deep down, you enjoy this rivalry. You don’t hate us enough to give it your all, but Vainqueur bothers you just enough that you wish to deny him victory. This card…” Manling Victor raised Furibon’s ace, that of a big fat troll smashing a button with a smile. “This card represents your true feelings!”

Manitou the orc had tears in his eyes at the sight.

“We fought side by side once,” the Vizier finished, “If you both come clean, we won’t have to continue this endless, pointless struggle.”

“Of course we have,” Vainqueur declared. “He is the Goldslayer, the enemy.”

“Your Majesty, this is going to sound very cliche,” Manling Victor cleared his throat. “But don’t you defeat your enemy when you make peace with him?”

The dragon blinked, having difficulties processing the concept. Making peace with Furibon? After what he did?

“I… I apologize.”

Vainqueur immediately looked at his nemesis.

“I apologize for turning your hoard to lead, Knightsbane,” Furibon struggled to spit out every word, but did so sincerely. “I acted on impulse, and I regretted my act ever since. I will not do it again. There, I said it!”

With that out of the lich’s empty chest, his empty gaze settled on Vainqueur.

After everything… after everything, the lich had asked for a dragon’s pardon.

“I… I… I...f…” The dragon struggled to find his own words. “I...f…”

“I forgive you?” Manling Victor tried to help.

“I forget you!” Vainqueur finally said it, with tears in his eyes.

The lich remained speechless, while Manling Victor facepalmed in shame at the sight of his beloved master crying.

“Go and sin no more, I forget you!” Although it took him all his strength, Vainqueur took the high, dragon road, and granted Furibon mercy. “I forget you, Goldslayer! I forget you!”

The lich exchanged a glance with the Grand Vizier. “That’s the best you will ever get,” Manling Victor said, smiling and extending his hand. “Bygones be bygones?”

Furibon examined the hand with apprehension, before finally shaking it. “Bygones be bygones.”

And so, at long last, as fairies and wyrms once did, surrounded by the cheers and tears of minions…

Liches and dragons, at long last, made peace.

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A note from Void Herald

100th chapter! 

I want to thank all of you for supporting Vainqueur across this long journey; it's a big milestone in the life of any long-running series, let alone a comedy one. I mean, 100 chapters and still somehow in the best-rated top 5? That sounds a bit surreal when I say it. 

So, yeah, thanks for following that strange dragon story. I'm just happy that it entertained you all the way to this moment.

And if it's not obvious yet, I love Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic the Gathering. Level-ups will be next chapter.

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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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