“Tonight, I dine on turtle soup!”
So vowed Vainqueur Knightsbane, as he rose up with a dizzy head and a heart full of wrath. Dirt and grass covered his beautiful scales, the trail his landing had caused going on for hundreds of meters.
The Tarasque’s blow had sent him flying for miles, his golden theater a distant glow collapsing on itself; which angered him even more. The dragon noticed a cloud of dust moving at full speed towards that goblin’s city, far away from Vainqueur himself. The beast would not take its mind off its target, leaving its enemy behind to return to its deadly course.
To a dragon, being ignored numbered among the greatest of insults; right behind having their hoard turned to lead.
Vainqueur almost took flight to chase after the giant in his fury, before stopping himself. Their last clash had shown the dragon that while stupid and lacking in finesse, the beast could match him in brute force. Even his mighty [Geomancy] and a [Charged Attack] could not put it down for long.
Vainqueur needed a strategy.
Should he recall Manling Victor and make use of his [Master’s Shield]? That dinosaur cheated with its regeneration, it would only be fair to return the favor. The idea was tempting, but the dragon quickly decided against it. Minions existed to make his triumph greater; to admit that he needed them to win his battles would be shameful. Also, the Vizier had already been given a mission, to find that cursed fairy Mag Mell and end his meddling once and for all.
Also, he would only receive a golden shower if he won a duel.
No. For the sake of his pride and income, Vainqueur would win this battle on his own.
What else could help? The Emperor oversaw the battlefield, noticing the fragments of powerstones left behind by the mountain’s destruction. These shards had empowered his breath and geomancy both; they even helped send a rocket to the cursed planet Moon!
A magnificent idea crossed Vainqueur’s mind.
Quickly, before the Tarasque had enough time to outpace him for good, the dragon flew and grabbed every crystal he could get his hands on. Vainqueur selected only two kinds, for he had standards: the red ones, as beautiful as his own scales; and the green ones, to complement the other color.
These ones glowed a little and made him a little sick, but certainly, they couldn’t damage his health. He was a dragon after all.
When he had his arms full, Vainqueur chased after the dinosaur. He waited for his ring to cast [Hasten]... but it never did.
“Ur-Ring, quicker!” the dragon ordered his trinket. Having been hastened itself, the Tarasque now moved faster than Vainqueur could follow. “Quicker I said!”
|[Ring of the Dragon Ur-Pharaoh] can only cast [Hasten] once per day.|
Once per day? What kind of shoddy minion work was that?
Vainqueur strained against the wind, putting all his might into flying faster. His wings flapped so hard, that they raised clouds of dust and uprooted plants on the ground.
Tapping into energy reserves he always knew he had, the dragon flew faster than ever. Faster than the wind. Faster than—
|Agility check successful!|
Vainqueur caused a shockwave as the world became a blur, powerstones slipping from his claws. His crown almost fell off, and probably would have had it not been anchored to his horns; his vision turned into a tunnel, singularly focused on the distant Tarasque.
By now, the rampaging beast had reached the walls of the goblin city, threatening to punch his bloody way through.
Vainqueur couldn't care less about it, but the dragon had said that he would stop the beast beforehand. His honor as a dragon demanded that he triumph. “For my hoard!” the dragon roared, before swallowing his unshiny powerstones.
His stomach hurt, as his inner furnace struggled to incinerate the crystals.
|Warning: You have taken [Fairy] and [Nuclear] damage!|
What did fairies have to do with these stones? They always found a way to ruin his day.
In any case, Vainqueur finally reached the Tarasque and hit it from behind, preventing it from smashing through the walls.
Instead, the collision propelled both of them through!
Vainqueur tackled the surprised and much larger Tarasque, pinning it to the ground by slamming its head against the pavement. The beast was both bigger and stronger than the dragon, forcing him to use every ounce of strength to keep it down.
Just in time for his stomach pain to stop.
Congratulations! Through assimilating a heavy dose of [Fire] and [Nuclear] powerstones, your [Dragonbreath: Fire] has evolved into [Dragonbreath: Atomic Fire]!
It will now inflict an additional fifty percent [Nuclear] damage, and give cancer to the survivors!
Vainqueur opened his mouth and fired.
His mighty breath turned into blinding, white flames; the same that the Elder Wyrm used to craft the sun in ancient times. He unleashed it right on the Tarasque’s ugly face, melting its flesh away.
The beast let out a roar and freed itself, slamming Vainqueur against a pagoda with one hand. The tower collapsed behind the dragon, crushing a horde of goblins and fairy hounds beneath tons of stone.
“Gojira!” Vainqueur suddenly realized that the tiny people of this city were busy fighting monsters, running in fear of both the dragon and his current opponent. “GOJIRA!”
The Tarasque let out a fearsome roar and stopped trying to move through the city. Instead, it focused on the dragon, slamming him against the ground, and then throwing him against another building.
Activating [Victory Fist], Vainqueur engaged the beast in a brawl; or what could pass for one. Since the Tarasque was twice larger than the dragon, Murmurin’s Emperor must have looked like a child trying to beat up its parent.
The dragon waited for an opportunity and focused on defense, avoiding the monster’s fists as they pounded the pavement into craters, often decking his foe in the head whenever he could afford to. While he moved faster than his enemy could hit him, any punch from the dinosaur would be lethal, while Vainqueur’s own felt no more inconvenient than slaps.
Just fighting in the city caused buildings to collapse around them, and houses to turn into paste.
Finally, the Tarasque briefly tripped on the debris of its own making, Vainqueur using the opportunity to grab it by the arm, turn its weight against it, and toss the monster to the side. The creature rolled on the ground and crashed against some kind of military garrison, stones falling on its back.
While the Tarasque was busy trying to get back on, Vainqueur prepared his trump card. “[Charged Attack]...”
The Tarasque emerged from the debris with a roar, just in time for Vainqueur to unleash his devastating breath. This time, his flames turned bright green; a blast so destructive that it devastated the entire district on impact, melting the ground below and vaporizing anyone unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity. The holy fire turned stone to ashes, and flesh to steam.
The dinosaur walked through the breath, its flesh falling from its bones. It struggled to charge through the flames, slowly yet perilously coming closer. Yet Vainqueur held his ground, his blinding blast powerful enough to nearly toss him off his back.
The fateful blow never came.
When Vainqueur was finally out of breath, only the Tarasque’s charred skeleton stood before him amidst a sea of molten stone. All flesh, every organ had been stripped away by the dragon’s mighty flames, leaving only a towering mass of bones and an empty carapace behind.
“Victory!” Vainqueur raised his arms to the skies. “None can stand before me!”
Finally, he had won!
Once again, he had proved the innate superiority of dragons over all other reptiles. And it had only taken destroying half a city!
Vainqueur’s joy knew no bounds… until the skeleton twitched.
The dragon froze, astonished, as tendons, veins, and then flesh regrew over the bones. Layers upon layers of meat, and then scales, claws, and very angry eyes. Within seconds, the Tarasque had fully recovered.
Except now, it shone green.
|Congratulations! The [Tarasque Emperor] is now [Radioactive]!|
Vainqueur was too shocked to dodge the next blow.
The Tarasque headbutted the dragon so hard, that he felt his ribs break for the first time in his long, long life. The blow propelled Vainqueur through a pagoda, then another, and finally against the walls of the imperial palace four streets away. The blow briefly knocked the dragon out, his vision blurring.
|Warning: Critical Health! [Bravo Bull] activate—|
As he regained consciousness, Vainqueur suddenly realized the absurd truth.
He had found the one creature in the world that he couldn’t defeat with force.
The Augustus took some solace in that the creature couldn’t defeat him either, locking them in an endless duel, but not much. Dragons were at the top of the food chain! They didn’t share that spot with some dumb dinosaur!
“I refuse to accept this!” Vainqueur said, vowing to defend the honor of his race. He regained his footing, absentmindedly crushing a giant spider and a goblin squad under his feet. His gaze noticed Goblina and her guard fighting nearby, but the dragon ignored them. He only had eyes for the giant reptile charging at him right now.
If brute force wouldn’t do… then Vainqueur he would use his brain! He, who started with the amazing root sixty-four Intelligence score before the System increased it tenfold, would find a solution!
“Menu!” Vainqueur quickly opened his stat screen, reviewing all the Perks he had accumulated over his glorious adventurer career. Maybe he had gained something which could give him the power to win.
His eyes quickly scanned his long, long list of abilities, including some he never used. [Hunter’s Resolve], [Imperial Authority]...
… [Monster Empathy]?
|[Monster Empathy]: You can make a Charisma Check to improve the attitude of monsters toward you, making them friendlier. This ability works even on wild monsters such as Beast types. Monsters who hate you for a personal reason or mindless automatons such as golems will ignore the Perk.|
The very first perk he earned from [Dungeon Breeder], and that he never found any use for. The dragon suddenly remembered what his minion had said, after the final battle against the Forgotten One.
“Your Majesty, this is going to sound very cliche… but don’t you defeat your enemy when you make peace with him?”
At long last, Vainqueur finally understood what Manling Victor had tried to convey.
The dragon had treated the reptile like an enemy when it should have been considered a potential minion! All he had to do, was to show this beast reason and convert it to minionship!
“[Monster Empathy]!” he activated the [Dungeon Breeder] perk, just as the Tarasque lunged at him, claws first. Vainqueur extended his arms, channeling the spirit of dragon forgiveness upon this rueful heathen.
|Charisma check with a -30 malus for castrating the [Tarasque Emperor] once…|
-30? But it regenerated! Nothing personal!
The Tarasque’s claws stopped within an inch of Vainqueur’s neck.
The [Tarasque Emperor]’s attitude moved from hostile to neutral.
Floored by the dragon’s charisma, the Tarasque couldn’t bring itself to harm a true dragon anymore.
So, without skipping a beat, the creature immediately turned its back on Vainqueur and continued its course towards the hoard half a world away.
“Wait!” Vainqueur ordered, moving in front of the beast to make it stop. “How can you wish to destroy my hoard? My beautiful hoard? Why will you not turn the other coin, as I did?”
The creature looked at Vainqueur with its horrible eyes, and let out a series of grunts; [Monster Empathy] translating these signals into rough feelings. Pictures of Murmurin flashed in the dragon's mind, of his overflowing hoard.
“Destroy, destroy, destroy!”
Such was the looping thought implanted in the creature’s head, driving it insane with rage. A magical compulsion that forced it to move forward, to ignore the pain and the glory of a dragon.
“Thou are possessed by the lead spirit,” Vainqueur said, putting his hands on the creature’s shoulder. “Accept the Elder Wyrm, of which I am the messenger, and you shall be freed from fairy sin! [Spell Purge]!”
Vainqueur bathed the Tarasque in his holy energies, expelling the darkness that took root in its heart. Through the power of his boundless charisma, the beast was soon purged of fairy sin.
|Charisma check successful! You lifted the [Mag Mell's Geas] from the [Tarasque Emperor].|
And lo and behold, Vainqueur won.
Instead of a bloodthirsty, rampaging beast, without Mag Mell’s ritual driving it mad, the Tarasque immediately became placid. No longer did the fairy’s curse force it to chase after the sacred hoard. It had seen the light of Vainqueur's words, and accepted his message of minion peace.
Instead, the Tarasque conveyed a single intent through the empathy bond.
“We shall feast upon cattle, as master and minion,” Vainqueur declared, patting the creature’s carapace. “Serve me and you will never be hungry again; and never shall I! For you shall be my minion, now and forever.”
“Only in emergencies,” Vainqueur reassured the beast. “Only in emergencies.”
The creature seemed to lack the intellect needed to understand the concept, but the promise of free food pacified it.
“Did you... did you befriend that?” Vainqueur glanced down, noticing Goblina nearby. The goblin and her forces had slaughtered the fairy thralls, her tiny armor plastered with blood. Clearly, she had been left floored by Vainqueur’s evangelization power.
“I tamed that,” the dragon corrected. “The Tarasque embraced the light of Hoardism and shall henceforth be my minion.”
“Well I guess we won, even if you caused more damage than the invading army,” the tiny goblin said, looking at the trail of destruction the two reptiles left behind. "Hey, who attacked us in the first place?"
Vainqueur extended his arms again, expecting a golden shower for his victory. After all, he had won this battle alone.
But after a minute of waiting, the dragon realized that his minion had been mistaken.
Making peace with your enemies did not count as defeating them!
Congratulations! For befriending and taming the [Tarasque Emperor], you earned three levels in [Dungeon Breeder]. You earned the [Alpha Magnetism (Scales)] class Perk!
+60 HP, +30 SP, +1 STR, +3 SKI, +2 AGI, +3 INT, +2 CHA, +2 LCK.
[Alpha Magnetism (Scales)]: Lesser reptilian creatures see you as an alpha worth following. When interacting with [Reptile], [Aquatic], and [Amphibian] creatures, they must succeed on a Charisma check or prostrate themselves in submission; this is a [Mind-affecting effect].
The Tarasque fell before Vainqueur and raised its stinger, a new thought competing with its hunger in this hour of peace.
“Not with me,” Vainqueur replied, before pointing his left index claw at his new minion. “But I have the perfect island for you!”
Two species saved from extinction.
Vainqueur couldn’t wait to brag about it.