My name is Victor Dalton, and if you read this, then it means that I am dead. Again.
As he wrote down his will, the Vizier realized that this line had lost its impact.
In his will, the Vizier distributed his belongings between his friends. Chocolatine had the lion’s share with ownership of his manor, but he also rewarded Malfy, Jules, Isabelle, and Charlene with his magical items. Allison would get custody of Vainqueur Junior; Kia, of Gorynych and his horse. He also donated all his undead servants to Camilla’s church, as thanks for training him personally.
He knew that he had done everything he could to achieve immortality, with enough back-up plans to recover from his potential fourth death. But he remembered vividly how Mell Odieuse murdered him before she earned any levels.
One day, Victor’s luck might run out, or he could confront something capable of stealing his soul the [Reaper] way. He had followed enough Evil Overlord seminars to know that no one was invincible and to prepare for the worst.
After writing down everything, Victor put the scroll near his desk, then moved to the window. He had rented the local inn’s biggest bedroom, a condo decorated in an elegant, minimalist, Japanese style. Vainqueur was arguing with the other dragons in the private baths, which should leave the Vizier with a day off to do as he wished.
|[Skeleton Key] activated!|
Someone knocked on the door. “Come in,” the Vizier asked, Jules and Malfy stepping inside. The necromancer carried a scroll in hands, and the fiend a pile of papers.
“Sir,” the necromancer bowed respectfully, before examining his scroll. “Every hour of your day off is booked. You start with a training breakfast with Kia Bekele, a morning walk with your pets, the Infercorp shareholder assembly, blood tea time with Charlene after sundown, a dinner with miss Chocolatine, and then your suicide.”
“You don’t think I will make it?” Victor asked.
“Sir, only one out of twenty people have survived the Kamacybele, and the ones who do often lose their soul,” Jules replied calmly. “Statistically speaking, while you possess exceptional abilities, I must assume the worst. Thankfully, in your case death will be the metamorphosis into the undead you were always meant to be.”
“And your soul will reincarnate as a demon afterward,” Malfy nodded. “This is the very definition of a zero-soul emission scenario.”
“Please don’t make my corpse a zombie though,” Victor pleaded, suddenly wondering if leaving his remains for Jules to manage was a good idea. “A handsome skeleton or vampire I can handle, but no zombies.”
“Sir, you need to be alive for vampirism to take root, and your disease resistance makes that a moot point.”
Victor realized that the necromancer hadn’t promised anything. “What about Allison? Isabelle?”
“Miss Chocolatine invited Allison to the dinner, so I booked both at the same time,” Jules replied. “As for Isabelle Maure, she had a medical rendezvous and couldn’t make it.”
What was up with her lately? Victor promised himself to investigate later. “Since I’m having Chocolatine sleep over tonight—”
“Miss Allison set the protection spells in the building,” Malfy said. “Also, you should be happy to learn that I commissioned the ‘Close Team Building’ special for your shareholder assembly. All your succubi associates will attend, alongside our horizontal office interns.”
Did the demons even know to have an assembly without drugs and whores? Still, since the fiend had stuck with the Vizier through almost everything, being nothing but loyal and supportive, Victor overlooked it.
“Malfy, I know you wish to be [Mook Promoted], but my perk won’t let me and I don’t understand why,” Victor said. “I mean, you helped us with Akhenapep! What more should you need?”
“I have figured it out,” Malfy explained. “It appears that my superior’s continued existence prevents social mobility. He is expected to have his Chocolatine severance package soon.”
“Anything I can help with?”
“No.” The fiend shook his head. “Although, if I could ask a favor…”
“Anything for a friend,” Victor said.
“Then here is the bill to legalize hellhound fights.” Malfy handed him a paper. “Which should prove a trendy alternative to all those underground hobo arenas.”
“You sponsor hellhound fights?” Jules asked.
“No, but my nephew opened a start-up in that field. He is family, and as a member of the government, it would be rude not to give him a state monopoly.”
The breakfast with Kia was… awkward.
She had eaten her eggs and bacon, but she hadn’t touched her coffee, milk, or orange juice. She stared at the liquids like a zombie at a brain.
“So, uh… you’re doing alright?” Victor asked, having traded his armor for casual clothes to put her at ease. Clearly it hadn’t worked.
“I’m managing,” she lied.
It was even worse than he thought. “I know you are feeling vulnerable, and that you may have some dark ideas in mind,” he said, trying to preempt an accident. “You should consider using [Protection from Chaos] or [Protection from Evil] when we interact.”
“Mithras gave me the talk about unprotected charisma checks.”
Wow, did the entire pantheon refuse to have them interact? “Then you safely confide in me,” the Vizier said, having taken Camilla’s advice about friendship seriously. “Your mood is getting worse and worse. It cannot just be about alcohol.”
“No, it isn’t,” she admitted. “Everything tastes like saltwater.”
Victor frowned. “Wait, even coffee?”
“Coffee, and milk, and juices." Kia's eyes darknened. "The bartender was wrong. She didn't stop at alcoholic beverages."
“Everything but unsalted water tastes like saltwater!” She had tears in her eyes. “Even potions!”
It would have been kinder for Seng to sink her country, as she had threatened. “Kia I promise I will do everything to solve this,” he swore. “I have called upon my godly patrons. Just be patient.”
“Thanks, but I just want to think of anything else right now,” she grumbled. “When are we hitting the road again?”
“In a few days. Thanks to [Harvest], I have found the location of the fomors’ Exp Farm, but I will need a bit more time to gather every piece of information available.”
“You have all of Mag Mell’s knowledge kept within it; it will probably take months to get everything,” she said, sighing. “Maybe we can train then? I want to focus on something, anything!”
“I have some time.” Victor nodded. “I thought I could finally get around to using [Perk Forge] and fuse the unnecessary Perks.”
“Leave it to me,” she said, latching on the first opportunity to focus on martial matters. “We’ll review your monster perks and find the best combinations in no time.”
Choice registered. You combined [Blood Fountain], [Sonic Scales], and [Vampire Kiss] into [Blood Pulse].
[Blood Pulse]: Technique, Sound effect, 80 SP. You can emit a sonic pulse causing the blood of every creature within three hundred and fifty meters to boil, causing massive [Blood] damage and death on a failed [Vitality] check. A successful [Vitality] check avoids death but causes a [Strength]/[Vitality] debuff.
Choice registered. You combined [Blackfyre], [Bad Breath], and [Corroding Poison] into [Noxious Fire].
[Noxious Fire]: Technique, 1 SP per second. You can unleash purple, poisonous flames from your hands, feet, or mouth; half the damage is [Dragon] type, the other [Unholy]. Contact with the flames and the smoke will inflict the [Corroding Poison] ailment on victims, bypassing Poison Resistance and downgrading Immunity.
“Babies?” Junior asked, upon looking at Gorynych. Out of the entire menagerie, Victor only kept these two monsters leashed as they toured the city’s outskirts
Unfortunately, he had been forced to leave the Tarasque behind to avoid a mess. That creature just never stopped eating stuff, to the point that Goblina had even not-so-subtly encouraged him to take it away as soon as feasibly possible.
“No, Gorynych has no sister-wife yet,” the zmey replied, somehow being able to understand the mimic. Their tamer was happy to see them get along. “But Gorynych will hump anything! Like horses!”
“Sorry, but no,” Noirceur said, Buzz Jelly leaping off from its back to Dodolion’s, and back again. “Being a single mother mare is a pain, thank you.”
“Can you actually…” Victor asked, but didn’t dare finish it.
“Dragons can breed with anything,” the horse replied, shuddering. “Anything. Where do you think my ancestors got their cool flaming hooves?”
Charlene was radiant tonight, dressed all in white and pampered like a princess.
Victor, not so much. He struggled to focus as he brought his tea to his lips, the world dark beyond the windows; from the noise, Vainqueur was still arguing with his fellow dragons. “Victor, you look terrible,” the vampire said, noticing his exhaustion. She hesitated between the Dwarf Blood Whiskey and the Goblin Blood Beer, before settling on the Sparkling Elf Vodka.
“I had an intense demon shareholder assembly,” he said, drinking a [Healing Potion], “and I am spent.”
And he hadn't even touched any cocaine.
“What are you doing right now?”
“We have multiplied the Nightblades’ profits by three,” Charlene said with pride. “I am proud that we moved their core business away from murder and theft to what a criminal syndicate should truly be about: blackmail, extortion, and money laundering. Fewer risks, more profits; that is my motto.”
“That’s great, but I was asking about more casual activities.”
Gods, it sounded even more awkward than in his mind. Even Charlene seemed confused… and a tiny bit ashamed. “I’ve been reading novels.”
“Oh,” he said. After trying to find a subject of conversation other than Murmurin’ management, he decided to cut to the heart of the matter. “Usually we only meet to talk about work or sleep together. I suddenly don’t get the feeling we know each other very well.”
“I am a workaholic, so I love talking about work,” Charlene replied. “As for knowing each other, we are colleagues with benefits. Nothing more.”
“I lost a friend recently, and I realized that I took most people for granted,” Victor replied. “Like you, Charlene. I mean, you have done a wonderful job setting up the V&V Empire as the semi-stable nation that it is today, and I never asked what you liked outside of work.”
“Semi-stable?” She smiled, revealing her vampire fangs. “You are so cute, Vic. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t take you for granted too.”
“Oh?” Victor quickly caught himself. “Don’t take me wrong, I’m glad, but I’m surprised. We didn’t start off on the best terms.”
“I thought you could be replaced, but Murmurin almost collapsed in days when you took a break,” she replied, sounding still distressed over it. “And no offense, you were an immature screw-up the first time we met, and not that handsome either. You’ve changed for the better, physically, and mentally.”
Victor crossed his arms at the ‘not so handsome part,’ but tried to take it in strides. At least it was proof of his improved Charisma. “I appreciate the attention though,” Charlene said, relaxing sipping her blood drink. “The last person who tried to know me better did it to fatten me up for food.”
“Maybe we start with exchanging book recommendations,” Victor said.
She made a terrible face. “You promise you won’t judge?”
“Why would I?” Victor asked, surprised, as Charlene put a red book on the table. The Vizier took it, reading the title on the cover.
“‘The Breeding Frenzy, by Anonymous Super Bard,’” Victor said while flipping the page. “Chapter one, summary: the Dragon gets his minion at last.”
As he started reading the first lines though, he felt an invisible, overwhelming pressure take over the room. A malevolent shadow crawling on his back, death itself moving its icy hands on his shoulders.
“It’s bad, I admit it,” Charlene said, while a supernatural power compelled Victor to keep reading the hellish, poorly written script. “But it gets so bad, it becomes entertaining.”
“‘Minion, you have failed to breed on your own too many times,’ said the dragon as he put his mighty claw onto his manling’s legs.” Victor kept reading, finding the anonymous dragon and his trusty Vizier disturbingly similar to Vainqueur and himself. “‘Now, it is time for me to take the matter in my own hands. To put my eggs in you!’”
Then came the details, and the icy hands moved to his neck—
Victor managed to close the book, the wail of a thousand screaming souls silenced in the background. He panted heavily, having barely survived. “Who wrote that?” he asked Charlene. “So I can strangle them?”
“Vic, is something the matter?” Chocolatine asked as she served the main course of the meal.
“Nothing,” he replied, scratching his shoulders. “I still feel the icy hands…”
“You have read one of Pink’s novels,” Allison said, sitting on his left while Chocolatine moved on his right; she placed a bonsai tree near the dinner table, apparently having bonded with it to move around better. “I heard they get worse. I don’t know how, but they get worse.”
“Pink?” Victor almost choked. “She wrote this crap? Why? Why would anyone?”
If the perfect argument against freedom of speech existed, it was that book!
“You are always with Vainqueur, and you became half-dragon…”
“Shush, Allison, he needs the right recipe to take his mind off those silly books!” Chocolatine said with pride, presenting her masterpiece: a stuffed pig missing its head, with vegetables for Allison. “And the right people.”
“Indeed,” he said, putting his hand on her own. “Thanks for setting this up, Choc. We’re definitely going on a culinary tour if I survive the Kamacybele.”
“Of course you will!” she laughed. “You have [Monster Rider]! You are overprepared!”
“I’m not so sure,” Allison replied, less enthusiastic. “Even experienced Cybele priests never dare to undertake it. I still don’t know what to make of this [Fiendish Rake] class.”
“You are a priestess of the goddess of pleasure,” Victor pointed out. “Your job is to oversee orgies!”
“She is the goddess of forests, pleasure and knowledge,” Allison turned defensive. “It is different. We have primal wisdom wild orgies, not frivolous ones.”
Yeah, right. “You’re just jealous you can’t bear witness.”
“A bit.” Although it was for her own protection; and unlike Victor, she wasn’t eager to die again. “Shouldn’t a simple orgy be enough to access [Fiendish Rake]?”
“According to Ludvic Van, my level is so high that nothing short of the Kamacybele will get me into the class,” Victor replied, as he cut the pig and vegetables, before serving everyone. “I still want to get it, mostly for the Charisma and diplomatic applications.”
“Please tell me that you don’t intend to make a truce with the fomors by sleeping with them,” the dryad giggled. “Not that I wouldn’t mind a peaceful solution.”
“Vainqueur managed to talk a Tarasque into submission, I figure I can do the same.” He tasted the stuffed pig, and found it perfect. “Choc, I love it.”
“You better appreciate it, he took a long time to fatten,” she replied happily. “But don’t eat too much. I want to finish what we started in the Thaoten Empire, and I have the sacrificial altar ready downstairs.”
Victor sighed, but accepted the sacrifice. “As you wish,” he replied, briefly kissing her on the lips, while Allison watched with a strange expression. “You won’t mind, Al?”
“I am worried about you,” the dryad said. “You should be training instead.”
“Goblina proposed something like that, alongside buttering me up with all protective spells known to her mages,” Victor replied. “But with the hopefully final battle with the fomors approaching, I figured I should focus on making time for my loved ones. You included.”
The dryad smiled sheepishly. “Thanks Vic,” she said, “And that reminds me I have yet to pay you back for convincing Vainqueur to raise me up.”
“Just drink for both of us, since I am now immune to alcohol.”
Allison shook her head, as if he had said something stupid, before exchanging glances with Chocolatine. “What?” Victor asked.
“It’s a secret,” Allison replied.
“As long as it doesn’t involve that insufferable cat,” the [Reaper] replied.
“It’s fine, Felix lives on in both of us now,” Chocolatine replied cheerfully.
Victor looked at the meat in his plate.
On a closer look, it didn’t look like a pig all that much...
“Can I take another bite?”
Finally, the time had come.
Victor had prepared extensively, wearing his full plate armor, having drank his fill of potions, and cast twenty-five buff spells he knew. And he still felt naked before the storm to come.
“Are you ready yet?” Victor asked as Ludvic Van started drawing a summoning circle around his bed, the moon now high in the night sky. “My buffs will expire at this rate.”
“I found myself distracted by a most entertaining book I found in your trashcan,” Ludvic replied.
“And you… you survived it?”
“I wish I could meet the author,” Ludvic Van replied, “I have so many tales worth committing to paper.”
“That’s a great idea!” That Victor would make sure never became reality.
“Anyway, I finished preparing the beacon,” the dandy said as he completed the circle, taking a few steps back, “Now she must accept the invitation, but since I sent it myself as her chosen, she has no reason to refuse.”
“And I am ready.”
“Your armor won’t protect you from this,” Ludvic said bluntly. “Either you survive, or you don’t.”
“It’s too late to go back.” Victor shook his head. “Will there be pain?”
“If you fail, you will be vaporized in the blink of an eye, with no check allowed.”
“No checks allowed?”
“No checks allowed. Do not touch her, or your soul will explode from the ecstasy with no check allowed either. You just pray, and watch.”
And so Victor fell to his knees, praying to Camilla. Out of all the deities that claimed him, she was the one who helped him the most. He did place a little prayer to Deathjester and Shesha though. He knew it probably wouldn’t help, but prayer was a man’s last refuge.
“I’m ready,” he said, rising up. “I prepared my whole stay in Outremonde for this moment.”
“Then step into the circle. Once I cast the spell though, I will have to teleport out and lock the room behind. I survived the sight once, but I am not tempting my luck. May the goddess smile on you.”
Victor took a long, hard breath, and then stepped inside the circle.
The second he did, a green barrier of light formed behind him, trapping the Vizier within his own bedroom. Ludvic Van popped away, abandoning him to his fate.
Victor remained silent and still for a minute, the bedroom deserted.
“Victor Dalton.” The voice was like music, as she appeared on the bedside. A hooded woman covered with a dress of moss, with only her green hands remained visible. “I have received your invitation.”
“Lady Cybele,” Victor said respectfully, a chill down his spine. The tone was warm, affectionate, but he couldn’t glimpse at what was under the hood for the life of him. “You know me?”
“Of course. You served me well in destroying Sablar’s wicked city, and making the desert of Ishfania green again.” She put a hand on the sheet. “Lay on the bed, and relax. You are among friends.”
He obeyed, tense as Happyland, and careful not to touch her.
“I have been observing you for a while, ever since Deathjester messed with my relationship table,” Cybele explained with kindness, although the Vizier didn’t understand half of it. “And you are indeed as easy as they said. It pleases me.”
Victor probably should have taken it badly, but she made it sound like praise. “Uh… thanks.”
“While I am most certain that you will never be claimed by Mithras for your promiscuity, you have earned my favor. Few men have proven themselves worthy, but you did. I shall reward your dedication to hedonism and nature appropriately.”
Victor felt something burn on his left ass cheek.
You earned the [Claimed by Cybele] personal perk!
[Claimed by Cybele]: When you level up, you have an additional 10 percent chance to gain an HP or SP boost. You are immune to [Enthrall], [Charmed], and STDs.
“Now, I know that you have called me for a purpose,” she said, putting her hands on her hood. “You want a level in the [Fiendish Rake] class.”
“Could I get it without the dangerous part?”
“Unfortunately not,” the goddess shook her head. “But you only need to see my face for a second. If you survive this harrowing experience and remain sane, your hand must immediately reach for the potions.”
“Will it be like Ludvic?”
“I roughly had the same Charisma stat as Ludvic when I ascended. Since my Perks have been upgraded to a divine level, now my face as goddess of pleasure is a weapon of mass destruction. The last mortal to see it turned into a pillar of salt, and even my fellow gods cannot help but pleasure themselves in my presence.”
“That sounds… inconvenient.”
“It is,” she said with a heavy sigh. “Since this feature destroyed my dating life, I entertain myself by setting up other couples instead. Like yours. I lost track of how many times Isengrim petitioned me to set you up with his priestess.”
“Well it worked out,” Victor replied. “I still don’t understand why, but it worked out.”
“It did,” she said, sounding as if she knew something that he didn’t. “Now, are you ready?”
She removed her hood, and the room exploded in a flash of fire.
Vainqueur "Best Dragon" Knightsbane
Level: 75 (Augustus 30/Witchfinder General 14/Kaiser 17/Dungeon Breeder 10/Geomancer 4)
Victor "Slimy One" Dalton
Level: 72 (Monster Knight: Red Dragon 20/Reaper 30/Moriarty 11/Chaos Rider 4/Weathermaker 7)