All was as dark as the blackest abyss.
It was far from silent though. And it smelled of honeyed cake.
“Is he waking up?” Chocolatine asked, having been at Victor's side since he fell into a coma. “Is my delicious cake working?”
“No,” Allison said. “No sign of recovery.”
“Can I take a slice?” Goblina asked, followed by some noise. “Ouch, the cake bit me!”
“That happens at random with Choc’s [Monster Patissier] class,” Allison said. “Ludvic, is there no way to hasten the recovery?”
“Tempt him back to the physical world, with the promise of greater pleasures.”
“I made the smelliest cake ever! If only Felix was alive, I could have cooked him… he seemed to really like my Stuffed Garfield recipe.”
“Choc, maybe we should tell him?” Allison suggested.
“But I wanted it to be a surprise!” Silence. They must have all been staring at her. “Vic, you know that sacrificial altar I keep pestering you about? The one with the goat?”
“Since Choc is meeting both of us, and you saved my life… I thought I could replace the goat.”
“Choc, is it working?”
“Just a twitch.”
“Damn, I was certain it would wake him up," Allison sighed, "I am sorry, but I have run out of ideas.”
“Not me,” Goblina said, followed by a loud sound. “Oh, look at that. A million gold coin purse slipped from my pocket and fell on the ground! Enough to buy lots of stat-boosters! My, what would happen if someone were to pick it up before me?”
“His fingers moved, but only a tiny bit,” Chocolatine said.
“Enough with the carrot,” he heard a new voice. Charlene’s. “Time to try the stick.”
“That’s… Charlene, you’re not considering reading him that book? It almost killed him the first time!”
“Exactly. Reading the ‘Breeding Frenzy’ out loud will force him to wake up or die!”
“He’s twitching!” Charlene rejoiced. “I am opening the book! I am about to read it!”
No, no, no!
“Wait, you’re killing him!” More noises to his right, as if they were fighting. “Give me that!”
“That’s enough!” Allison’s voice echoed. “Out, everyone! Out, out, out, we let him rest!”
“No Pink literature!”
Charlene grumbled, he felt soft hands briefly hold his own, and then the sound of a door closing.
Phew. He wouldn’t have survived past the first chapter.
How long would he have to stay this way though? It must have been days at least.
“Slimy one.” His totem animal’s voice echoed in the darkness, a call to action. “Slimy one, you must wake up.”
‘I’m trying!’ he complained, unable to articulate his words. He lacked the strength to even open his eyelids, let alone return to his [Black Grail]!
“Your dragon is in danger and needs your stickiness. The Hateful One is growing stronger. You must focus on your glue. Use the glue, Slimy One!”
Use the glue? Like what, his bonds?
Alright, focus on Vainqueur. Focus on your friends, focus on the mess that Murmurin will become once you’re gone.
Nope. Nothing. He should have known it only worked in movies.
Was that Felix’s voice?
Wait, what was that warm burden on his lap?
“Ooooo!” Felix’s voice hissed. “I’m haunting you! For the sin of eating me, I will haunt your lap, minion!”
In retrospect, he should perhaps remain asleep and stop dealing with this nonsense.
“And now I shall make a litter out of your body!”
Victor’s eyes snapped open.
Felix the cat hissed in surprise, while the Vizier’s hand lunged at him like a snake. The cat attempted to leap away from the bed, but Victor caught him by the neck.
“You feel very solid for a ghost, Felix.” The [Reaper] narrowed his eyes at the overfed cat, a screen suddenly appearing.
|Congratulations! For meeting its requirements and witnessing the goddess of pleasure’s true face, you earned a level in the prestigious [Fiendish Rake] class! You earned the [Planeloved] class perk!
+30 HP, +1 VIT, +1 SKI, +1 AGI, +2 CHA, +1 LCK.
[Planeloved]: You can teleport to a different plane of existence of your choice on a successful Charisma check, except Earth; the more familiar you are with the target location, the more precise the transportation. Additionally, you gain a permanent Charisma bonus equal to half your total level rounded down (currently +36).
Was this class worth it? Was it worth the pain of having his soul torn from his body from the mere sight of Cybele’s beautiful face? Was it worth spending days trapped in his own body, unable to move a muscle?
Yes. Yes, it was.
The bedroom’s door opened, Allison, Chocolatine, and Ludvic rushing in. “Vic!” the dryad called, beaming in happiness like the werewolf. “You’re awake!”
“I told you he simply needed time,” Ludvic said with a shrug. “The multiverse has so much to offer.”
“Felix!” Chocolatine focused on the feline with primal hunger. “You are alive?”
“Begone, cateater!” The feline struggled, but couldn’t escape Victor’s hand. “You cost me a life out of nine!”
“Felix, this is wonderful!”
Chocolatine grabbed the cat from Victor’s hands and held him against her chest.
“I can cook you more than once!”
The cat screamed in fear, but much like Victor before him, he couldn’t escape the iron pull of Chocolatine’s bosom.
“I am so glad you made it, Vic,” Allison said, helping him stand out of bed. The Vizier stretched, noticing his scythe next to the nearest wall. “I thought you wouldn’t make it.”
“Yeah, I guess I built up a tolerance to gods after being claimed by half the pantheon.” At this rate, he might try to collect them all. “She was really nice though. If Camilla hadn’t come up first, I might have prayed to her more often.”
“How did she look?” Allison asked, stars in her eyes. “Cybele? How did she really look?”
“She was… have you ever watched a good Death Note movie?”
“I can only imagine it.”
“Exactly,” Victor replied, snatching his scythe and feeling complete once more. “Also, about that goat bit...”
“You heard everything?” Allison seemed a bit embarrassed, putting a hand in her hair. “After you recover, handsome.”
“Aw,” Chocolatine pouted in disappointment. “Can I get the chain and the knife out of storage early?”
The things he did for lust.
Ludvic put his hands on both Allison's and Chocolatine’s shoulders. “Since he is awake, I need to have a talk with him. Could you give us five minutes alone?”
“You aren’t going to lead him to his near-death again?” Allison frowned. “I can’t handle another extended vacation.”
“It’s fine,” Victor said, before joking. “It’s a matter of state diplomacy.”
The dryad struggled to believe him, but did so anyway; she took Chocolatine and the doomed Felix with her, before closing the door behind.
“Have you taken a level in [Fiendish Rake], my apprentice?” Ludvic asked after Victor cast a [Lock] spell on the door, his protegee nodding. “How much charisma with the bonus?”
“One hundred fifteen. One hundred thirty-five with [Monster Kin] active, and five to ten more with [Seducer].”
“Good, you should be able to talk your way out of anything short of a dragon’s jaw. Be very wary when you reach the one hundred fifty thresholds, because you will be on every stalker’s radar. A three-digit Charisma stat is a double-edged sword that must be handled with care. With great persuasion, comes great responsibilities.”
Yeah, Ludvic could probably talk his way to world domination with a Charisma stat as high as his own. “You think I could talk down a fomor?” That was one of the main reasons he had taken this class, alongside improving his dating life.
“It is worth a shot, but speaking from experience, I strongly suggest you keep a hidden fortune to get an emergency revival,” Ludvic said, before handing him a bag. “Here are a few items that I wished I had when I was your age: a [Ring of Friends] to buff your Charisma in a pinch, an [Amulet of Repulsiveness] like mine, and a [Belt of Genderbending], which inverts the sex of anyone wearing it.”
“Thanks, I appreciate it.” The Vizier bowed in thanks. “But I’m not sure I will have any use for the belt.”
“You told me that you could cast tier VIII spells. One of them, [Fetch], allows you to create temporary duplicates of yourself.”
Victor blinked, upon realizing what was implied. “Isn’t that a bit narcissistic?”
“When you want something done right, sometimes you must do to yourself.”
“I feel like you operate on a higher level of existence that I can scarcely understand,” the Vizier admitted. “I will take the belt just in case it can be useful, but I doubt I will ever go that far.”
“It will come with age,” the dandy replied, before clearing his throat. “Victor, your dwarf friend has arranged for my trip to the Moooooon; by now you should have everything to shine on the road to pleasure. But before I leave this planet in search of new sensations, I have a few words of advice I must impart onto you.”
“Please teach me, senpai.”
“Use your [Planeloved] perk and an eighth-tier spell to create your own private corner of the multiverse, then furnish it as the most expensive resort possible. Opportunities never come twice, so always be ready to teleport your date there; but never reveal its location to anyone else, and always stash it with weapons, potions, and emergency rations.”
“I was already planning to do that,” Victor admitted. “Mostly as a private sanctuary.”
“Good.” Ludvic patted him on the back and looked at him straight in the eyes. “Next, there will come a day, which I feel will be very soon in your case, when you have an accident. You think the protection ward worked, but it didn’t; that well-endowed troll matron will say your two species can’t reproduce, but they can; or that eight-legged telepathic spider is a deranged stalker who will do anything to keep you in her web. Do you follow me so far?”
“... yes?” Victor said, a bit uncomfortable with the subject.
“When that happens, I want you to look at the sun.” Ludvic turned him towards the windows, pointing at the skies. “You look at that bright guiding star.”
“And then you run. You run as fast as you can. They will shout your name, try to hold you back, but you don’t listen. You run, you run and you keep running until your legs can’t carry you anymore. And then you use your wings and you fly away some more.”
“That’s a bit cowardly and irresponsible, now?”
“When you have a spawn in every web, you will understand. Next, the most important advice I can impart. No matter how cute she looks, no matter how much you pity her or how tempting, do not ever, and I mean ever, touch—”
Victor left his bedroom for a devastated wasteland and exchanged the best mentor ever for a giant red dragon.
“Minion, you are awake.” Victor froze, for Vainqueur sounded more solemn than he had ever been. His right eye had also a new, thin claw scar, as if someone had just recently applied a healing spell to it. “Good. I have a question of the utmost importance.”
“Where do dragons go when they die?”
Victor frowned, and then looked around. Kia was casting spells on a Gorynych statue among upturned houses, near a pile of reptile corpses. The Vizier recognized Icefang and two dragons among them.
It didn’t take him long to guess what happened. And he didn’t know what to say.
So he simply put his hand on his grieving friend’s leg. “Your Majesty, why are you asking me?”
“Because I do not know myself,” Vainqueur replied grimly. “I never asked before.”
The whole misadventure had left a bitter taste in Vainqueur’s mouth, and not because he hadn’t even gained a level out of it. His right eye still itched a bit, even after Knight Kia healed it.
He should have been happy for Icefang’s demise; he had even considered doing the deed himself in the past.
But for all their faults and foolishness, Icefang and his party were dragons. They deserved better than this.
“Big V took a hit for Gorynych,” the healed zmey said, as Vainqueur oversaw Manling Victor reanimating the nagas as undead while Knight Kia prayed in a corner. Even on a hard day like this one, the minion labor division would remain absolute. “Gorynych is sorry…”
“You are a poor, inbred excuse of a minion,” Vainqueur said, Gorynych making three sad faces. The emperor remained silent for a few seconds, before adding with more warmth. “But you are still my minion.”
The zmey raised all of his heads, wagging his tail. “Big V cares for Gorynych!”
“I do not!” Vainqueur turned his back on the zmey and ignored him. “Report, minions.”
“I can only revive them as mindless undead,” Manling Victor said. “The souls cannot be returned to their bodies so long as Mell Odieuse holds them. Or if they can, none of my spells are powerful enough to.”
“Maybe draining them is what allowed her to reach level sixty in such a short time,” Knight Kia wondered, after ending her prayer. “She did mention digesting them.”
“You can eat souls for easy levels?” Knight Kia glared at Manling Victor. “I mean, it’s interesting academically speaking. I would never do something that vile.”
Since he lacked the funds to raise one dragon, let alone three, Vainqueur decided to give Icefang’s party a worthy funeral. The thought of being reanimated by a minion would be unbearable to their living selves, and the emperor owed them that much respect.
He gathered his breath, and then unleashed a holy nuclear fireball at the three dragon corpses, setting them on fire.
Vainqueur thought he should add a few words, as the corpses burned bright before the group’s eyes. “I met Icefang while capturing one of my first northern princesses,” the wyrm declared, “I was young, and he was smaller. I introduced myself as the Great Calamity of the Age, with a hoard full of gold. He answered that his hoard of silver was equally valuable.”
Manling Victor remained silent as if expecting more. “Wait, that’s it?”
“To deny the supremacy of gold was a crime I could never forget,” Vainqueur confirmed. “He had been my self-proclaimed rival ever since. He was never successful, but he managed to become the leader of a dragon group and push me a little. A good dragon needs a rival to keep them sharp. What is gold without silver to compare its shininess to?”
But now he and his fellows were gone, and they would not be forgotten like Furibon.
“The fairy will pay for her crimes against dragonkind and minions both,” Vainqueur declared. “She may be half-dragon, half-Furibon, but I will destroy her all the same.”
“She cancelled my [Prayer] spells and my [Solar Judgment],” Knight Kia said as if anybody cared about her. “It never happened before. I asked Mithras, and he answered that one of her [Dracolich] Perks negates most of my [Paladin] abilities.”
“It would make sense that she took levels in a class that can counter the person who killed her predecessor,” Manling Victor pointed out. “And with a [Heroic Crest], she will keep growing stronger.”
The [Paladin] shook her head. “I just wasn’t good enough.”
“You were not,” Vainqueur agreed. “But I do shoulder some of the blame. I thought my breath would have been enough to finish that abomination when I should have trapped her in my beautiful theater first.”
“That’s why Kevin always insisted we have a well-oiled strategy before confronting high-level opponents,” Knight Kia said, fired up. “We need better plans, and I need new classes.”
“We need a Tarasque,” Manling Victor added.
“Yes,” Knight Kia said. “She can’t be allowed to win. No matter what.”
“Odieuse won’t become a goddess, Kia,” Manling Victor nodded. “I swear.”
“No, she won’t, because we will beat her to it, minion,” Vainqueur declared. “When we return to Murmurin, instead of celebrating my victory over Icefang, I will call upon a Dragon Conclave to deal with the fairies.”
“A Conclave?” His doer of the thing asked.
“A great gathering of dragons never seen since we won the first fairy war,” the wyrm explained. “Bragging Days are for bragging; Conclaves are for war.”
His two manlings exchanged glances. “How many dragons will attend?”
“If I have my way, and I always do,” Vainqueur looked at the burning pyre, “All of them.”